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ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR. Maurice Baring.
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ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
AND OTHER STORIES
ORPHEUS IN MAY FAIR
AND OTHER STORIES AND
MILLS & BOON, LIMITED
49 WHITCOMB STREET
Published August igog
Most of the stories and sketches in
this book have appeared in the
Morning Post. One of them was
published in the Westminster Gazette.
I have to thank the editors and pro-
prietors concerned for their kindness
in allowing me to republish them.
I. Orpheus in Mayfair
II. The Cricket Match
III. The Shadow of a Midnight
IV. Jean Francois
V. The Flute of Chang Liang
VI. " What is Truth ? "
VII. A Luncheon-Party
VIII. Fete Galante
IX. The Garland
X. The Spider's Web
XL Edward II. at Berkeley Castle
XII. The Island
XIII. The Man Who gave Good Advice
XIV. Russalka ....
XV. The Old Woman .
XVI. Dr Faust's Last Day .
XVII. The Flute-Player's Story
XVIII. A Chinaman on Oxford .
XIX. Venus ....
XX. The Fire ....
XXI. The Conqueror .
XXII. The Ikon ....
XXIII. The Thief
XXIV. The Star .
XXV. Chun Wa .
ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
HERACLIUS THEMISTOCLES MARGAR-
ITIS was a professional musician. He was a
singer and a composer of songs; he wrote poetry
in Romaic, and composed tunes to suit liis sunny
rhymes. But it was not thus that he earned his,
daily bread, and he was poor, very poor. ' To earn
his livelihood he gave lessons, music lessons during
the day, and in the evening lessons in Greek,
ancient and modern, to such people (and these
were rare) who wished to learn these languages.
He was a young man, only twenty-four, and he
had married, before he came of age, an Italian girl
called Tina. They had come to England in order
to make their fortune. They lived in apartments
in the Hereford Road, Bayswater.
They had two children, a little girl and a little
boy ; they were very much in love with each other,
as happy as birds, and as poor as church mice.
For Heraclius Themistocles got but few pupils,
and although he had sung in public at one or two
concerts, and had not been received unfavourably,
he failed to obtain engagements to sing in private
houses, which was his ambition. He hoped by
this means to become well known, and then to be
able to give recitals of his own where he would
4 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
reveal to the world those tunes in which he knew
the spirit of Hellas breathed. The whole desire
of his life was to bring back and to give to the world
the forgotten but undying Song of Greece. In
spite of this, the modest advertisement which was
to be found at concert agencies announcing that
Mr Heraclius - Themistocles Margaritis was willing
to attend evening parties and to give an exhibition
of Greek music, ancient and modern, had as yet
met with no response. After he had been a year
in England the only steps towards making a
fortune were two public performances at charity
matinees, one or two pupils in pianoforte playing,
and an occasional but rare engagement for stray
pupils at a school of modern languages.
It was in the middle of the second summer after
his arrival that an incident occurred which proved
to be the turning point of his career. A London
hostess was giving a party in honour of a foreign
Personage. It had been intimated that some kind
of music would be expected. The hostess had
neither the means nor the desire to secure for
her entertainment stars of the first magnitude,
but she gathered together some lesser lights a
violinist, a pianist, and a singer of French drawing-
room melodies. On the morning of the day on
which her concert was to be given, the hostess
received a telegram from the singer of French
drawing-room melodies to say that she had got
ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 5
a bad cold, and could not possibly sing that night.
The hostess was in despair, but a musical friend
of hers came to the rescue, and promised to obtain
for her an excellent substitute, a man who sang
When Margaritis received the telegram from
Arkwright's Agency that he was to sing that night
at A House, he was overjoyed, and could
scarcely believe his eyes. He at once communicated
the news to Tina, and they spent hours in discuss-
ing what songs he should sing, who the good fairy
could have been who recommended him, and in
building castles in the air with regard to the result
of this engagement. He would become famous ;
they would have enough money to go to Italy for
a holiday ; he would give concerts ; he would
reveal to the modern world the music of Hellas.
About half-past four in the afternoon Margaritis
went out to buy himself some respectable evening
studs from a large emporium in the neighbourhood.
When he returned, singing and whistling on the
stairs for joy, he was met by Tina, who to his
astonishment was quite pale, and he saw at a glance
that something had happened.
" They've put me off ! " he said. " Or it was
a mistake. I knew it was too good to be
" It's not that," said Tina, " it's Carlo ! " Carlo
6 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
was their little boy, who was nearly four years
" What ? " said Margaritis.
Tina dragged him into their little sitting-room.
" He is ill," she said, " very ill, and I don't
know what's the matter with him."
Margaritis turned pale. u Let me see him,"
he said. " We must get a doctor."
" The doctor is coming : I went for him at once,"
she said. And then they walked on tiptoe into
the bedroom where Carlo was lying in his cot,
tossing about, and evidently in a raging fever.
Half an hour later the doctor came. Margaritis
and Tina waited, silent and trembling with anxiety,
while he examined the child. At last he came
from the bedroom with a grave face. He said
that the child was very seriously ill, but that if
he got through the night he would very probably
" I must send a telegram," said Margaritis to
Tina. " I cannot possibly go." Tina squeezed
his hand, and then with a brave smile she went
back to the sick-room.
Margaritis took a telegraph form out of a shabby
leather portfolio, sat down before the dining-table
on which the cloth had been laid for tea (for
the sitting-room was the dining-room also), and
wrote out the telegram. And as he wrote his tears
fell on the writing and smudged it. His grief
ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 7
overcame him, and he buried his face in his hands
and sobbed. " What the Fates give with one
hand," he thought to himself, " they take away
with another ! " Then he heard himself, he knew
not why, invoking the gods of Greece, the ancient
gods of Olympus, to help him. And at that
moment the whole room seemed to be filled with a
strange light, and he saw the wonderful figure of a
man with a shining face and eyes that seemed
infinitely sad and at the same time infinitely
luminous. The figure held a lyre, and said to
him in Greek :
"It is well. All will be well. I will take your
place at the concert ! "
When the vision vanished, the half written
telegram on his table had disappeared also.
The party at A House that night was brilliant
rather than large. In one of the drawing-rooms
there was a piano, in front of which were six or
seven rows of gilt chairs. The other rooms were
filled with shifting groups of beautiful women,
and men wearing orders and medals. There was a
continuous buzz of conversation, except in the
room where the music was going on ; and even
there in the background there was a subdued
whispering. The violinist was playing some
elaborate nothings, and displaying astounding
facility, but the audience did not seem to be much
8 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
interested, for when he stopped, after some faint
applause, conversation broke loose like a torrent.
"I do hope," said some one to the lady next
him, " that the music will be over soon. One
gets wedged in here, one doesn't dare move, and
one has to put up with having one's conversation
spoilt and interrupted."
M It's an extraordinary thing," answered the
lady, " that nobody dares give a party in London
without some kind of entertainment. It is such
a mistake ! "
At that moment the fourth and last item on
the programme began, which was called " Greek
Songs by Heraclius Themistocles Margaritis."
M He certainly looks like a Greek," said the lady
who had been talking ; " in fact if his hair was cut
he would be quite good-looking."
" It's not my idea of a Greek," whispered her
neighbour. "He is too fair. I thought Greeks
" Hush ! " said the lady, and the first song
began. It was a strange thread of sound that
came upon the ears of the listeners, rather high
and piercing, and the accompaniment (Margaritis
accompanied himself) was twanging and mono-
tonous like the sound of an Indian tom-tom. The
same phrase was repeated two or three times over,
the melody seemed to consist of only a very few
notes, and to come over and over again with extra-
ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 9
ordinary persistence. Then the music rose into a
high shrill call and ended abruptly.
" What has happened ? " asked the lady. " Has
he forgotten the words ? "
" I think the song is over," said the man.
" That's one comfort at any rate. I hate songs
which I can't understand."
But their comments were stopped by the be-
ginning of another song. The second song was
soft and very low, and seemed to be almost entirely
on one note. It was still shorter than the first
one, and ended still more abruptly.
" I don't believe he's a Greek at all," said the
man. " His songs are just like the noise of bag-
" I daresay he's Scotch," said the lady. " Scotch-
men are very clever. But I must say his songs are
An indignant " Hush ! " from a musician with
long hair who was sitting not far off heralded the
beginning of the third song. It began on a high
note, clear and loud, so that the audience was
startled, and for a moment or two there was not
a whisper to be heard in the drawing-room. Then
it died away in a piteous wail, like the scream of
a sea-bird, and the high insistent note came back
once more, and this process seemed to be repeated
several times till the sad scream prevailed, and
stopped suddenly. A little desultory clapping
io ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
was heard, but it was instantly suppressed when
the audience became aware that the song was
" He's going on again," whispered the man. A
low, long note was heard like the drone of a bee,
which went on, sometimes rising and sometimes
getting lower, like a strange throbbing sob ; and
then once more it ceased. The audience hesitated
a moment, being not quite certain whether the
music was really finished or not. Then when
they saw Margaritis rise from the piano, some
meagre well-bred applause was heard, and an
immense sigh of relief. The people streamed into
the other rooms, and the conversation became
loud and general.
The lady who had talked went quickly into the
next room to find out what was the right thing
to say about the music, and if possible to get the
opinion of a musician.
Sir Anthony Holds worth, who had translated
Pindar, was talking to Ralph Enderby, who had
written a book on " Modern Greek Folk Lore."
" It hurts me," said Sir Anthony, " to hear
ancient Greek pronounced like that. It is im-
possible to distinguish the words ; besides which
it's wrong to pronounce ancient Greek like modern
Greek. Did you understand it ? "
" No," said Ralph Enderby, " I did not. If it
is modern Greek it was certainly wrongly pro-
ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR n
nounced. I think the man must be singing some
kind of Asiatic dialect unless he's a fraud."
Hard by there was another group discussing
the music : Blythe, the musical critic, and Lawson,
who had the reputation of being a great connoisseur.
" He's distinctly clever," Blythe was saying ;
" the songs are amusing * pastiches ' of Eastern
" Yes, I think he's clever," said Lawson, " but
there's nothing original in it, and besides, as I
expect you noticed, two of the songs were gross
plagiarisms of De Bussy."
" Clever, but not original," said the lady to
herself. " That's it." And two hostesses who
overheard this conversation made up their minds
to get Margaritis for their parties, for they scented
the fact that he would ultimately be talked about.
But most of the people did not discuss the music
As soon as the music had stopped, James Redd-
away, who was a Member of Parliament, left the
house and went home. He was engrossed in
politics, and had little time at his disposal for
anything else. As soon as he got home he went
up to his wife's bedroom ; she had not been able
to go to the party owing to a sudden attack of
neuralgia. She asked him to tell her all about it.
u Well," he said, " there were the usual people
there, and there was some music : some violin
12 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
and piano playing, to which I didn't listen.
After that a man sang some Greek songs, and a
curious thing happened to me. When it began
I felt my head swimming, and then I entirely lost
account of my surroundings. I forgot the party,
the drawing-room and the people, and I seemed
to be sitting on the rocks of a cliff near a small bay ;
in front of me was the sea : it was a kind of blue
green, but far more blue or at least of quite a
different kind of blue than any I have seen. It
was transparent, and the sky above it was like a
turquoise. Behind me the cliff merged into a hill
which was covered with red and white flowers, as
bright as a Persian carpet. On the beach in front,
a tall man was standing, wading in the water,
little bright waves sparkling round his feet. He
was tall and dark, and he was spearing a lot of
little silver fish which were lying on the sand
with a small wooden trident ; and somewhere
behind me a voice was singing. I could not see
where it came from, but it was wonderfully soft
and delicious, and a lot of wild bees came swarming
over the flowers, and a green lizard came right up
close to me, and the air was burning hot, and
there was a smell of thyme and mint in it. And
then the song stopped, and I came to myself, and
I was back again in the drawing-room. Then
when the man began to sing again, I again lost
consciousness, and I seemed to be in a dark orchard
ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 13
on a breathless summer night. And somewhere
near me there was a low white house with an open-
ing which might have been a window, shrouded
by creepers and growing things. And in it there
was a faint light. And from the house came the
sound of a sad love-song ; and although I had
never heard the song before I understood it, and
it was about the moon and the Pleiads having set,
and the hour passing, and the voice sang, ' But
I sleep alone ! ' And this was repeated over and
over again, and it was the saddest and most beauti-
ful thing I had ever heard. And again it stopped,
and I was back again in the drawing-room. Then
when the singer began his third song I felt cold all
over, and at the same time half suffocated, as
people say they feel when they are nearly
drowning. I realised that I was in a huge, dark,
empty space, and round me and far off in front of
me were vague shadowy forms ; and in the dis-
tance there was something which looked like two
tall thrones, pillared and dim. And on one of
the thrones there was the dark form of a man, and
on the other a woman like a queen, pale as marble,
and unreal as a ghost, with great grey eyes that
shone like moons. In front of them was another
form, and he was singing a song, and the song was
so sad and so beautiful that tears rolled down the
shadowy cheeks of the ghosts in front of me. And
all at once the singer gave a great' cry of joy, and
14 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR
something white and blinding flashed past me
and disappeared, and he with it. But I remained
in the same place with the dark ghosts far off in
front of me. And I seemed to be there an eternity
till I heard a cry of desperate pain and anguish,
and the white form flashed past me once more,
and vanished, and with it the whole thing, and I
was back again in the drawing-room, and I felt
faint and giddy, and could not stay there any
THE CRICKET MATCH
AN INCIDENT AT A PRIVATE SCHOOL
To Winston Churchill
IT was a Saturday afternoon in June. St
James's School was playing a cricket match
against Chippenfield's. The whole school, which
consisted of forty boys, with the exception of
the eleven who were playing in the match, were
gathered together near the pavilion on the steep,
grassy bank which faced the cricket ground. It
was a swelteringly hot day. One of the masters
was scoring in the pavilion ; two of the boys sat
under the post and board where the score was
recorded in big white figures painted on the black
squares. Most of the boys were sitting on the
grass in front of the pavilion.
St James's won the toss and went in first. After
scoring 5 for the first wicket they collapsed ; in
an hour and five minutes their last wicket fell.
They had only made 27 runs. Fortune was
against St James's that day. Hitchens, their
captain, in whom the school confidently trusted, was
caught out in his first over. And Wormald and Bell
minor, their two best men, both failed to score.
Then Chippenfield's went in. St James's fast
bowlers, Blundell and Anderson minor, seemed
unable to do anything against the Chippenfield's
batsmen. The first wicket went down at 70.
18 THE CRICKET MATCH
The boys who were looking on grew listless :
three of them, Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor,
wandered off from the pavilion further up the
slope of the hill, where there was a kind of wooden
scaffolding raised for letting off fireworks on the
5th of November. The headmaster, who was a
fanatical Conservative, used to burn on that
anniversary effigies of Liberal politicians such as
Mr Gladstone and Mr Chamberlain, who was at
that time a Radical ; while the boys whose politics
were Conservative, and who formed the vast
majority, cheered, and kicked the Liberals, of
whom there were only eight.
Smith, Gordon, and Hart minor, three little boys
aged about eleven, were in the third division of
the school. They were not in the eleven, nor
had they any hopes of ever attaining that glory,
which conferred the privilege of wearing white
flannel instead of grey flannel trousers, and a
white flannel cap with a red Maltese cross on it.
To tell the truth, the spectacle of this seemingly
endless game, in which they did not have even
the satisfaction of seeing their own side victorious,
began to weigh on their spirits.
They climbed up on to the wooden scaffold-
ing and organised a game of their own, an utterly
childish game, which consisted of one boy throw-
ing some dried horse chestnuts from the top of
the scaffolding into the mouth of the boy at
THE CRICKET MATCH 19
the bottom. They soon became engrossed in
their occupation, and were thoroughly enjoying
themselves, when one of the masters, Mr Whitehead
by name, came towards them with a face like
thunder, biting his knuckles, a thing which he did
when he was very angry.
M Go indoors at once," he said. " Go up to the
third division school-room and do two hours' work.
You can copy out the Greek irregular verbs."
The boys, taken completely by surprise, but
accepting this decree as they accepted everything
else, because it never occurred to them it could
be otherwise, trotted off, not very disconsolate, to
the school-room. It was very hot out of doors ;
it was cool in the third division school-room.
They got out their steel pens, their double-
lined copy books, and began mechanically copying
out the Greek irregular verbs, with which they
were so superficially familiar, and from which
they were so fundamentally divorced.
" Whitey," said Gordon, " was in an awful
wax ! "
M I don't care," said Smith. " I'd just as soon
sit here as look on at that beastly match."
" But why," said Hart, " have we got to do two
hours' work ? "
" Oh," said Gordon, " he's just in a wax, that's
And the matter was not further discussed. At
20 THE CRICKET MATCH
six o'clock the boys had tea. The cricket match
had, of course, resulted in a crushing and over-
whelming defeat for St James's. The rival eleven
had been asked to tea ; there were cherries for
tea in their honour.
When Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor entered
the dining-room they at once perceived that an
atmosphere of gloom and menacing storm was
overhanging the school. Their spirits had hitherto
been unflagging ; they sat next to each other at
the tea-table, but no sooner had they sat down
than they were seized by that terrible, uncomfort-
able feeling so familiar to schoolboys, that some-
thing unpleasant was impending, some crime,
some accusation ; some doom, the nature of
which they could not guess, was lying in ambush.
This was written on the headmaster's face. The
headmaster sat at a square table in the centre of
the dining-room. The boys sat round on the
further side of three tables which formed the
three sides of the square room.
The meal passed in gloomy silence. Gordon,
Smith and Hart began a fitful conversation, but
a message was immediately passed up to them
from Mr Whitehead, who sat at the bottom of one
of the tables, to stop talking. At the end of tea
the guests filed out of the room.
The headmaster stood up and rapped on his
table with a knife.
THE CRICKET MATCH 21
" The whole school," he said, " will come to the
library in ten minutes' time/'
The boys left the dining-room. They began to
whisper to one another with bated breath. ' ' What's
up ? " they asked. " What's the matter ? " And
the boys of the second division shook their heads
ominously, and pointing to Gordon, Smith, and
Hart, said : " You're in for it this time ! " The
boys of the first division were too important to
take any notice of the rest of the school, and re-
tired to the first division school-room in dignified
Ten minutes later the whole school was assembled
in the library, from which one flight of stairs led
to the upper storeys. The staircase was shrouded
from view by a dark curtain hanging from a Gothic
arch ; it was through this curtain that the head-
master used dramatically to appear on important
occasions, and it was up this staircase that boys
guilty of cardinal offences were led off to corporal
The boys waited in breathless silence. Acute
suspense was felt by the whole school, but by none
so keenly as by Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor.
These three little boys felt perfectly sick with fear
of the unknown and the terror of having in some
unknown way made themselves responsible for the
calamity which would perhaps vitally affect the
22 THE CRICKET MATCH
. Presently a rustle was heard, and the head-
master swept down the staircase and through the
curtain, robed in the black silk gown of an LL.D.
He stood at a high desk which was placed opposite
the staircase in front of the boys, who sat, in the
order of their divisions, on rows of chairs. The
three assistant masters walked in from a side door,
also in their gowns, and took seats to the right
and left of the headmaster's desk. There was a
The headmaster began to speak in grave and
icily cold tones ; his face was contracted by a
" I had thought," he said, " that there were in
this school some boys who had a notion of gentle-
manly behaviour, manly conduct, and common
decency. I see that I was mistaken. The be-
haviour of certain of you to-day I will not mention
them because of their exceeding shame, but you
will all know whom I mean. ..." At this moment
all the boys turned round and looked hard at Gordon,
Smith, and Hart minor, who blushed scarlet, and
whose eyes filled with tears. ..." The less said
about the matter the better," continued the head-
master, " but I confess that it is difficult for me
to understand how any one, however young, can be
so hardened and so wanton as to behave in the
callous and indecent way in which certain of you
I need not mention who have behaved to-day.
THE CRICKET MATCH 23
You have disgraced the school in the eyes of
strangers ; you have violated the laws of hospi-
tality and courtesy ; you have shown that in St
James's there is not a gleam of patriotism, not a
spark of interest in the school, not a touch of that
ordinary common English manliness, that sense
for the interests of the school and the community
which makes Englishmen what they are. The boys
who have been most guilty in this matter have
already been punished, and I do not propose to
punish them further ; but I had intended to take
the whole school for an expedition to the New
Forest next week. That expedition will be put off :
in fact it will never take place. Only the eleven
shall go, and I trust that another time the miserable
idlers and loafers who have brought this shame,
this disgrace on the school, who have no self-respect
and no self-control, who do not know how to behave
like gentlemen, who are idle, vulgar and depraved,
will learn by this lesson to mend their ways and to
behave better in the future. But I am sorry to
say that it is not only the chief offenders, who, as
I have already said, have been punished, who are
guilty in this matter. Many of the other boys,
although they did not descend to the depths of
vulgar behaviour reached by the culprits I have
mentioned, showed a considerable lack of patriotism
by their apathy and their lack of attention while
the cricket match was proceeding this afternoon.
24 THE CRICKET MATCH
I can only hope that this may be a lesson to you all ;
but while I trust the chief offenders will feel specially
uncomfortable, I wish to impress upon you that
you are all, with the exception of the eleven, in a
With these words the headmaster swept' out of
The boys dispersed in whispering groups.
Gordon, Smith, and Hart minor, when they
attempted to speak, were met with stony silence ;
they were boycotted and cut by the remaining boys.
Gordon and Smith slept in two adjoining cubicles,
and in a third adjoining cubicle was an upper
division boy called Worthing. That night, after
they had gone to bed, Gordon asked Worthing
whether, among all the guilty, one just man had
not been found.
" Surely," he said, " Campbell minor, who put up
the score during the cricket match, was attentive
right through the game, and wouldn't he be allowed
to go to the New Forest with the eleven ? "
" No," said Worthing, " he whistled twice."
" Oh ! " said Gordon, " I didn't know that. Of
course, he can't go ! "
THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT
A GHOST STORY
IT was nine o'clock in the evening. Sasha, the
maid, had brought in the samovar and placed
it at the head of the long table. Marie Nikolaevna,
our hostess, poured out the tea. Her husband
was playing Vindt with his daughter, the doctor,
and his son-in-law in another corner of the room.
And Jameson, who had just finished his Russian
lesson he was working for the Civil Service
examination was reading the last number of the
" Have you found anything interesting, Frantz
Frantzovitch ? " said Marie Nikolaevna to Jameson,
as she handed him a glass of tea.
" Yes, I have," answered the Englishman,
looking up. His eyes had a clear dreaminess
about them, which generally belongs only to fanatics
or visionaries, and I had no reason to believe that
Jameson, who seemed to be common sense personi-
fied, was either one or the other. " At least,"
he continued, " it interests me. And it's odd
" What is it ? " asked Marie Nikolaevna.
" Well, to tell you what it is would mean a long
story which you wouldn't believe," said Jameson ;
" only it's odd very odd."
28 THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT
" Tell us the story," I said.
" As you won't believe a word of it," Jameson
repeated, "it's not much use my telling it."
We insisted on hearing the story, so Jameson
lit a cigarette, and began :
" Two years ago," he said, " I was at Heidelberg,
at the University, and I made friends with a young
fellow called Braun. His parents were German,
but he had lived five or six years in America, and
he was practically an American. I made his
acquaintance by chance at a lecture, when I first
arrived, and he helped me in a number of ways.
He was an energetic and kind-hearted fellow, and
we became great friends. He was a student, but
he did not belong to any Korps or Bursenschaft,
as he was working hard then. Afterwards he be-
came an engineer. When the summer Semester
came to an end, we both stayed on at Heidelberg.
One day Braun suggested that we should go for a
walking tour and explore the country. I was only
too pleased,and we started. It was glorious weather,
and we enjoyed ourselves hugely. On the third
night after we had started we arrived at a village
called Salzheim. It was a picturesque little place,
and there was a curious old church in it with some
interesting tombs and relics of the Thirty Years
War. But the inn where we put up for the night
was even more picturesque than the church. It
had once been a convent for nuns, only the greater
THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 29
part of it had been burnt, and only a quaint gabled
house, and a kind of tower covered with ivy, which
I suppose had once been the belfry, remained. We
had an excellent supper and went to bed early.
We had been given two bedrooms, which were
airy and clean, and altogether we were satisfied.
My bedroom opened into Braun's, which was be-
yond it, and had no other door of its own. It was
a hot night in July, and Braun asked me to leave
the door open. I did we opened both the windows.
Braun went to bed and fell asleep almost directly,
for very soon I heard his snores.
" I had imagined that I was longing for sleep, but
no sooner had I got into bed than all my sleepiness
left me. This was odd, because we had walked a
good many miles, and it had been a blazing hot day,
and up till then I had slept like a log the moment I
got into bed. I lit a candle and began reading a
small volume of Heine I carried with me. I heard
the clock strike ten, and then eleven, and still I felt
that sleep was out of the question. I said to my-
self : * I will read till twelve and then I will stop.'
My watch was on a chair by my bedside, and when
the clock struck eleven I noticed that it was five
minutes slow, and set it right. I could see the
church tower from my window, and every time the
clock struck and it struck the quarters the noise
boomed through the room.
" When the clock struck a quarter to twelve I
30 THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT
yawned for the first time, and I felt thankful that
sleep seemed at last to be coming to me. I left
off reading, and taking my watch in my hand I
waited for midnight to strike. This quarter of an
hour seemed an eternity. At last the hands of my
watch showed that it was one minute to twelve.
I put out my candle and began counting sixty,
waiting for the clock to strike. I had counted a
hundred and sixty, and still the clock had not struck.
I counted up to four hundred ; then I thought
I must have made a mistake. I lit my candle
again, and looked at my watch : it was two minutes
past twelve. And still the clock had not struck !
"A curious uncomfortable feeling came over me,
and I sat up in bed with my watch in my hand and
longed to call Braun, who was peacefully snoring,
but I did not like to. I sat like this till a quarter
past twelve ; the clock struck the quarter as usual.
I made up my mind that the clock must have struck
twelve, and that I must have slept for a minute
at the same time I knew I had not slept and I put
out my candle. I must have fallen asleep almost
" The next thing I remember was waking with a
start. It seemed to me that some one had shut the
door between my room and Braun's. I felt for the
matches. The match-box was empty. Up to that
moment I cannot tell why something an un-
accountable dread had prevented me looking at
THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 31
the door. I made an effort and looked. It was
shut, and through the cracks and through the
keyhole I saw the glimmer of a light. Braun had
lit his candle. I called him, not very loudly :
there was no answer. I called again more loudly :
there was still no answer.
M Then I got out of bed and walked to the
door. As I went, it was gently and slightly
opened, just enough to show me a thin streak of
light. At that moment I felt that some one was
looking at me. Then it was instantly shut once
more, as softly as it had been opened. There was
not a sound to be heard. I walked on tiptoe to-
wards the door, but it seemed to me that I had
taken a hundred years to cross the room. And
when at last I reached the door I felt I could not
open it. I was simply paralysed with fear. And
still I saw the glimmer through the key-hole and
" Suddenly, as I was standing transfixed with
fright in front of the door, I heard sounds coming
from Braun's room, a shuffle of footsteps, and
voices talking low but distinctly in a language I
could not understand. It was not Italian,
Spanish, nor French. The voices grew all at
once louder ; I heard the noise of a struggle and
a cry which ended in a stifled groan, very painful
and horrible to hear. Then, whether I regained
my self-control, or whether it was excess of fright
32 THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT
which prompted me, I don't know, but I flew to
the door and tried to open it. Some one or some-
thing was pressing with all its might against it.
Then I screamed at the top of my voice, and as I
screamed I heard the cock crow.
" The door gave, and I almost fell into Braun's
room. It was quite dark. But Braun was waked
by my screams and quietly lit a match. He asked
me gently what on earth was the matter. The
room was empty and everything was in its place.
Outside the first greyness of dawn was in the sky.
"I said I had had a nightmare, and asked him if
he had not had one as well ; but Braun said he
had never slept better in his life.
" The next day we went on with our walking tour,
and when we got back to Heidelberg Braun sailed
for America. I never saw him again, although we
corresponded frequently, and only last week I had
a letter from him, dated Nijni Novgorod, saying
he would be at Moscow before the end of the
" And now I suppose you are all wondering what
this can have to do with anything that's in the
newspaper. Well, listen," and he read out the
following paragraph from the Rouskoe Slovo :
M Samara, n, ix. In the centre of the town,
in the Hotel , a band of armed swindlers
attacked a German engineer named Braun and
demanded money. On his refusal one of the
THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 33
robbers stabbed Braun with a knife. The robbers,
taking the money which was on him, amounting
to 500 roubles, got away. Braun called for assis-
tance, but died of his wounds in the night. It
appears that he had met the swindlers at a
M Since I have been in Russia," Jameson added,
u I have often thought that I knew what language
it was that was talked behind the door that night
in the inn at Salzheim, but now I know it was
JEAN FRANCOIS was a vagabond by nature, a
balladmonger by profession. Like many poets
in many times, he found that the business of
writing verse was more amusing than lucra-
tive ; and he was constrained to supplement the
earnings of his pen and his guitar by other and
more profitable work. He had run away from
what had been his home at the age of seven (he
was a foundling, and his adopted father was a
shoe-maker), without having learnt a trade. When
the necessity arose he decided to supplement the
art of balladmongering by that of stealing. He
was skilful in both arts : he wrote verse, sang
ballads, picked pockets (in the city), and stole
horses (in the country) with equal facility and
success. Some of his verse has reached posterity,
for instance the u Ballade du Paradis Peint,"
which he wrote on white vellum, and illustrated
himself with illuminations in red, blue and gold,
for the Dauphin. It ends thus m the English
version of a Balliol scholar :
Prince, do not let your nose, your Royal nose,
Your large Imperial nose get out of joint j
Forbear to criticise my perfect prose
Painting on vellum is my weakest point.
38 JEAN FRANCOIS
Again, the ballade of which the " Envoi " runs :
Prince, when you light your pipe with radium spills,
Especially invented for the King
Remember this, the worst of human ills :
Life without matches is a dismal thing,
is, in reality, only a feeble adaptation of his " Priez
pour feu le vrai tresor de vie."
But although Jean Francois was not unknown
during his lifetime, and although, as his verse
testifies, he knew his name would live among those
of the enduring poets after his death, his life was
one of rough hardship, brief pleasures, long
anxieties, and constant uncertainty. Sometimes
for a few days at a time he would live in riotous
luxury, but these rare epochs would immediately
be succeeded by periods of want bordering on
starvation. Besides which he was nearly always
in peril of his life ; the shadow of the gallows
darkened his merriment, and the thought of the
wheel made bitter his joy. Yet in spite of this
hazardous and harassing life, in spite of the sharp
and sudden transitions in his career, in spite of
the menace of doom, the hint of the wheel and the
gallows, his fund of joy remained undiminished,
and this we see in his verse, which reflects with
equal vividness his alternate moods of infinite
enjoyment and unmitigated despair. For in-
stance, the only two triolets which have survived
JEAN FRANQOIS 39
from his " Trent e deux Triolets joyeux and tristes "
are an example of his twofold temperament.
They run thus in the literal and exact translations
of them made by an eminent official :
I wish I was dead,
And lay deep in the grave.
I've a pain in my head,
I wish I was dead.
In a coffin of lead
With the Wise and the Brave
I wish I was dead,
And lay deep in the grave.
This passionate utterance immediately preceded,
in the original text, the following verses in
which his buoyant spirits rise once more to the
Thank God I'm alive
In the light of the Sun !
It's a quarter to five ;
Thank God I'm alive !
Now the hum of the hive
Of the world has begun,
Thank God I'm alive
In the light of the Sun !
A more plaintive, in fact a positively wistful
note, which is almost incongruous amongst the
definite and sharply defined moods of Jean Francois,
is struck in the sonnet of which only the first line
has reached us : " I wish I had a hundred thousand
40 JEAN FRANCOIS
pounds.' ' (" Voulentiers serais pauvre avec dix
mille escus.") But in nearly all his verse, whether
joyous as in the " Chant de vin et vie/' or gloomy
as in the " Ballade des Treize Pendus," there is
a curious recurrent aspiration towards a warm fire,
a sure and plentiful supper, a clean bed, and a long,
long sleep. Whether Jean Francois moped or
made merry, and in spite of the fact that he
enjoyed his roving career and would not have
exchanged it for the throne of an Emperor or
the money-bags of Croesus, there is no doubt that
he experienced the burden of an immense fatigue.
He was never quite warm enough ; always a little
hungry ; and never got as much sleep as he desired.
A place where he could sleep his fill represented
the highest joys of Heaven to him ; and he looked
forward to Death as a traveller looks forward to a
warm inn where (its terrible threshold once passed),
a man can sleep the clock round. Witness the
sonnet which ends (the translation is mine) :
For thou hast never turned
A stranger from thy gates or hast denied,
O hospitable Death, a place to rest.
And it is of his death and not of his life or works
which I wish to tell, for it was singular. He died
on Christmas Eve, 1432. The winter that year in
the north of France was, as is well known, terrible
JEAN FRANCOIS 41
for its severe cold. The rich stayed at home, the
poor died, and the unfortunate third estate of
gipsies, balladmongers, tinkers, tumblers, and
thieves had no chance of displaying their dexterity.
In fact, they starved. Ever since the 1st of December
Jean Francois had been unable to make a silver
penny either by his song or his sleight of hand.
Christmas was drawing near, and he was starving ;
and this was especially bitter to him, as it wa his
custom (for he was not only a lover of good cheer,
but a good Catholic and a strict observer of fasts
and feasts) to keep the great day of Christendom
fittingly. This year he had nothing to keep it
with. Luck seemed to be against him ; for three
days before Christmas he met in a dark side street
of the town the rich and stingy Sieur de Ranquet.
He picked the pocket of that nobleman, but owing
to the extreme cold his fingers faltered, and he
was discovered. He ran like a hare and managed
easily enough to outstrip the miser, and to conceal
himself in a den where he was well known. But
unfortunately the matter did not end there. The
Sieur de Ranquet was influential at Court ; he
was implacable as well as avaricious, and his
disposition positively forbade him to forgive any
one who had nearly picked his pocket. Besides
which he knew that Jean had often stolen his
horses. He made a formal complaint at high
quarters, and a warrant was issued against Jean,
42 JEAN FRANCOIS
offering a large sum in silver coin to the man who
should bring him, alive or dead, to justice.
Now the police were keenly anxious to make an
end of Jean. They knew he was guilty of a hundred
thefts, but such was his skill that they had never
been able to convict him ; he had often been put
in prison, but he had always been released for
want of evidence. This time no mistake was
possible. So Jean, aware of the danger, fled from
the city and sought a gipsy encampment in a
neighbouring forest, where he had friends. These
gipsy friends of his were robbers, outlaws,
murderers and horse-stealers all of them, and
hardened criminals ; they called themselves
gipsies, but it was merely a courtesy title.
On Christmas Eve it was snowing hard Jean
was walking through the forest towards the town,
ready for a desperate venture, for in the camp
they were starving, and he was sick almost to
death of his hunted, miserable life. As he plunged
through the snow he heard a moan, and he saw a
child sitting at the roots of a tall tree crying. He
asked what was the matter. The child it was
a little boy about five years old said that it had
run away from home because its nurse had beaten
it, and had lost its way.
" Where do you live ? " asked Jean.
" My father is the Sieur de Ranquet," said the
JEAN FRANCOIS 43
At that moment Jean heard the shouts of his
companions in the distance.
M I want to go home," said the little boy quietly.
" You must take me home," and he put his hand
into Jean's hand and looked up at him and smiled.
Jean thought for a moment. The boy was
richly dressed ; he had a large ruby cross hanging
from a golden collar worth many hundred gold
pieces. Jean knew well what would happen if
his gipsy companions came across the child. They
would kill it instantly.
" All right," said Jean, " climb on my back."
The little boy climbed on to his back, and Jean
trudged through the snow. In an hour's time
they reached the Sieur de Ranquet's castle ; the
place was alive with bustling men and flaring
torches, for the Sieur's heir had been missed.
The Sieur looked at Jean and recognised him
immediately. Jean was a public character, and
especially well known to the Sieur de Ranquet.
A few words were whispered. The child was sent
to bed, and the archers civilly lead Jean to his
dungeon. Jean was tired and sleepy. He fell
asleep at once on the straw. They told him he
would have to get up early the next morning, in
time for a long cold journey. The gallows, they
added, would be ready.
But in the night Jean dreamed a dream : he
saw a child in glittering clothes and with a shining
44 JEAN FRANCOIS
face who came into the dungeon and broke the
The child said : "I am little St Nicholas, the
children's friend, and I think you are tired, so I'm
going to take you to a quiet place.' '
Jean followed the child, who led him by the
hand till they came to a nice inn, very high up on
the top of huge mountains. There was a blazing
log fire in the room, a clean warm bed, and the
windows opened on a range of snowy mountains,
bright as diamonds. And the stars twinkled in the
sky like the candles of a Christmas tree.
" You can go to bed here," said St Nicholas,
" nobody will disturb you, and when you do wake
you will be quite happy and rested. Good-night,
Jean." And he went away.
The next day in the dawn, when the archers
came to fetch Jean, they found he was fast asleep.
They thought it was almost a pity to wake him,
because he looked so happy and contented in his
sleep ; but when they tried they found it was
THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG
To P. Kershaw
THE village was called Moe-tung. It was on the
edge of the big main road which leads from
Liao-yang to Ta-shi-chiao. It consisted of a few
baked mud-houses, a dilapidated temple, a well, a
clump of willows, and a pond. One of the houses
I knew well ; in its square open yard, in which
the rude furniture of toil lay strewn about, I had
halted more than once for my midday meal, when
riding from Liao-yang to the South. I had been
entertained there by the owner of the house, a
brawny husbandman and his fat brown children,
and they had given me eggs and Indian corn. Now
it was empty ; the house was deserted ; the owner,
his wife and his children, had all gone, to the city
probably, to seek shelter. We occupied the house ;
and the Cossacks at once made a fire with the front
door and any fragments of wood they could find.
The house was converted into a stable and a
kitchen, and the officers' quarters were established
in another smaller building across the road, on the
edge of a great plain, which was bright green with
the standing giant millet.
This smaller cottage had an uncultivated garden
in front of it, and a kind of natural summer-house
made by the twining of a pumpkin plant which
48 THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG
spread its broad leaves over some stakes. We lay
down to rest in this garden. About five miles to the
north of us was the town of Liao-yang ; to the east
in the distance was a range of pale blue hills, and
immediately in front of us to the south, and scarcely
a mile off, was the big hill of Sho-shantze. It
was five o'clock in the afternoon, and we had been
on the move since two o'clock in the morning.
The Cossacks brought us tea and pancakes, and
presently news came from the town that the big
battle would be fought the next day : the big battle,
the real battle, which had been expected for so long
and which had been constantly put off. There was
a complete stillness everywhere. The officers
unpacked their valises and their camp-beds.
Every one arranged his bed and his goods in his
chosen place, and it seemed as if we had merely
begun once more to settle down for a further period
of siesta in the long picnic which had been going on
for the last two months. Nobody was convinced,
in spite of the authentic news which we had re-
ceived, that the Japanese would attack the next
The sunset faded into a twilight of delicious
From the hills in the east came the noise of a few
shots fired by the batteries there, and a captive
balloon soared slowly, like a soap-bubble, into the
eastern sky. I walked into the village ; here and
THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 49
there fires were burning, and I was attracted by
the sight of the deserted temple in which the
wooden painted gods were grinning, bereft of their
priest and of their accustomed dues. I sat down
on the mossy steps of the little wooden temple,
and somewhere, either from one of the knolls hard
by or from one of the houses, came the sound of
a flute, or rather of some primitive wooden pipe,
which repeated over and over again a monotonous
and piercingly sad little tune. I wondered whether
it was one of the soldiers playing, but I decided
this could not be the case, as the tune was more
eastern than any Russian tune. On the other hand,
it seemed strange that any Chinaman should be
about. The tune continued to break the perfect
stillness with its iterated sadness, and a vague
recollection came into my mind of a Chinese legend
or poem I had read long ago in London, about a
flute-player called Chang Liang. But I could not
bring my memory to work ; its tired wheels all
seemed to be buzzing feebly in different directions,
and my thoughts came like thistledown and seemed
to elude all efforts of concentration. And so I
capitulated utterly to my drowsiness, and fell asleep
as I sat on the steps of the temple.
I thought I had been sleeping for a long time
and had woken before the dawn : the earth was
misty, although the moon was shining ; and I was
no longer in the temple, but back once more at the
50 THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG
edge of the plain. " They must have fetched me
back while I slept," I thought to myself. But
when I looked round I saw no trace of the officers,
nor of the Cossacks, nor of the small jhouse and
the garden, and, stranger still, the millet had been
reaped and the plain was covered with low stubble,
and on it were pitched some curiously-shaped tents,
which I saw were guarded by soldiers. But these
soldiers were Chinamen, and yet unlike any China-
men I had ever seen ; for some of them carried
halberds, the double-armed halberds of the period
of Charles I., and others, halberds with a crescent
on one side, like those which were used in the days
of Henry VII. And I then noticed that a whole
multitude of soldiers were lying asleep on the
ground, armed with two-edged swords and bows
and arrows. And their clothes seemed unfamiliar
and brighter than the clothes which Chinese
soldiers wear nowadays.
As I wondered what all this meant, a note of
music came stealing through the night, and at first
it seemed to be the same tune as I heard in the
temple before I dropped off to sleep ; but presently
I was sure that this was a mistake, for the sound was
richer and more mellow, and like that of a bell,
only of an enchanted bell, such as that which is
fabled to sound beneath the ocean. And the music
seemed to rise and fall, to grow clear and full, and
just as it was floating nearer and nearer, it died
THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 51
away in a sigh : but as it did so the distant hills
seemed to catch it and to send it back in the
company of a thousand echoes, till the whole night
was filled and trembling with an unearthly chorus.
The sleeping soldiers gradually stirred and sat
listening spellbound to the music. And in the eyes
of the sentries, who were standing as motionless
as bronze statues in front of the tents, I could see
the tears glistening. And the whole of the sleeping
army awoke from its slumber and listened to the
strange sound. From the tents came men in
glittering silks (the Generals, I supposed) and
listened also. The soldiers looked at each other
and said no word. And then all at once, as though
obeying some silent word of command given by
some unseen captain, one by one they walked away
over the plain, leaving their tents behind them.
They all marched off into the east, as if they were
following the music into the heart of the hills, and
soon, of all that great army which had been gathered
together on the plain, not one man was left. Then
the music changed and seemed to grow different
and more familiar, and with a start I became aware
that I had been asleep and dreaming, and that I
was sitting on the temple steps once more in the
twilight, and that not far off, round a fire, some
soldiers were singing. It was a dream, and my sleep
could not have been a long one, for it was still
twilight and the darkness had not yet come.
52 THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG
Fully awake now, I remembered clearly the old
legend which had haunted me, and had taken shape
in my dream. It was that of an army which on the
night before the battle had heard the flute of Chang
Liang. By his playing he had brought before the
rude soldiers the far-off scenes of their childhood,
which they had not looked upon for years the
sights and the sounds of their homes, the faces and
the spots which were familiar to them and dear.
And they, as they heard this music, and felt these
memories well up in their hearts, were seized with
a longing and a desire for home so potent and so
imperative that one by one they left the battlefield
in silence, and when the enemy came at the dawn,
they found the plain deserted and empty, for in one
minute the flute of Chang Liang had stolen the
hearts of eight thousand men.
And I felt certain that I had heard the flute of
Chang Liang this night and that the soldiers had
heard it too ; for now round a fire a group of them
were listening to the song of one of their comrades,
a man from the south, who was singing of the quiet
waters of the Don, and of a Cossack who had come
back to his native land after many days and found
his true love wedded to another. I felt it was the
flute of Chang Liang which had prompted the
southerner to sing, and without doubt the men saw
before them the great moon shining over the broad
village street in the dark July and August nights,
THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 53
and heard the noise of dancing and song and the
cheerful rhythmic accompaniment of the concertina.
Or (if they came from the south) they saw the
smiling thatched farms, whitewashed, or painted
in light green distemper, with vines growing on
their walls ; or again, they felt the smell of the
beanfields in June, and saw in their minds' eye
the panorama of the melting snows, when at a
fairy touch the long winter is defeated, the meadows
are flooded, and the trees seem to float about in
the shining water like shapes invoked by a wizard.
They saw these things and yearned towards them
with all their hearts, here in this uncouth country
where they were to fight a strange people for some
unaccountable reason. But Chang Liang had
played his flute to them in vain. It was in vain
that he had tried to lure them back to their homes,
and in vain that he had melted their hearts with
the memories of their childhood. For the battle
began at dawn the next morning, and when the
enemy attacked they found an army there to meet
them ; and the battle lasted for two days on this
very spot ; and many of the men to whom Chang
Liang had brought back through his flute the
sights and the sounds of their childhood, were
fated never to hear again those familiar sounds,
nor to see the land and the faces which they
"WHAT IS TRUTH?
To E. I. Huber
SITTING opposite me in the second-class
carriage of the express train which was crawl-
ing at a leisurely pace from Moscow to the south
was a little girl who looked as if she were about
twelve years old, with her mother. The mother
was a large fair-haired person, with a good-natured
expression. They had a dog with them, and the
little girl, whose whole face twitched every now
and then from St Vitus' dance, got out at nearly
every station to buy food for the dog. On the
same side of the carriage, in the opposite corner,
another lady (thin, fair, and wearing a pince-nez)
was reading the newspaper. She and the mother
of the child soon made friends over the dog. That
is to say, the dog made friends with the strange
lady and was reproved by its mistress, and the
strange lady said : " Please don't scold him. He
is not in the least in my way, and I like dogs."
They then began to talk.
The large lady was going to the country. She
and her daughter had been ordered to go there
by the doctor. She had spent six weeks in Moscow
under medical treatment, and they had now been
told to finish this cure with a thorough rest in the
country air. The thin lady asked her the name
58 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? "
of her doctor, and before ascertaining what was
the disease in question, recommended another
doctor who had cured a friend of hers, almost as
though oy miracle, of heart disease. The large
lady seemed interested and wrote down the direc-
tion of the marvellous physician. She was herself
suffering, she said, from a nervous illness, and her
daughter had St Vitus' dance. They were so far
quite satisfied with their doctor. They talked for
some time exclusively about medical matters,
comparing notes about doctors, diseases, and
remedies. The thin lady said she had been cured
of all her ills by aspirin and cinnamon.
In the course of the conversation the stout lady
mentioned her husband, who, it turned out, was
the head of the gendarmerie in a town in Siberia,
not far from Irkutsk. This seemed to interest
the thin lady immensely. She at once asked what
were his political views, and what she herself
thought about politics.
The large lady seemed to be reluctant to talk
politics and evaded the questions for some time,
but after much desultory conversation, which
always came back to the same point, she said :
" My husband is a Conservative ; they call him
a ' Black Hundred/ but it's most unfair and un-
true, because he is a very good man and very just.
He has his own opinions and he is sincere. He
does not believe in the revolution or in the re-
" WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 59
volutionaries. He took the oath to serve the
Emperor when everything went quietly and well,
and now, although I have often begged him to
leave the Service, he says it would be very wrong
to leave just because it is dangerous. ' I have
taken the oath,' he says, ' and I must keep it.' "
Here she stopped, but after some further questions
on the part of the thin lady, she said : "I never
had time or leisure to think of these questions.
I was married when I was sixteen. I have had
eight children, and they all died one after the other
except this one, who was the eldest. I used to see
political exiles and prisoners, and I used to feel
sympathy for them. I used to hear about people
being sent here and there, and sometimes I used to
go down on my knees to my husband to do what he
could for them, but I never thought about there
being any particular idea at the back of all this."
Then after a short pause she added : "It first
dawned on me at Moscow. It was after the big
strike, and I was on my way home. I had been
staying with some friends in the country, and I
happened by chance to see the funeral of that man
Bauman, the doctor, who was killed. I was very
much impressed when I saw that huge procession
go past, all the men singing the funeral march,
and I understood that Bauman himself had nothing
to do with it. Who cared about Bauman ? But I
understood that he was a symbol. I saw that there
60 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? "
must be a big idea which moves all these people to
give up everything, to go to prison, to kill, and be
killed. I understood this for the first time at that
funeral. I cried when the crowd went past. I
understood there was a big idea, a great cause
behind it all. Then I went home.
" There were disorders in Siberia : you know
in Siberia we are much freer than you are. There
is only one society. The officials, the political
people, revolutionaries, exiles, everybody, in fact,
all meet constantly. I used to go to political
meetings, and to see and talk with the Liberal and
revolutionary leaders. Then I began to be dis-
appointed because what had always struck me as
unjust was that one man, just because he happened
to be, say, Ivan Pavlovitch, should be able to rule
over another man who happened to be, say, Ivan
Ivanovitch. And now that these Republics were
being made, it seemed that the same thing was
beginning all over again that all the places of
authority were being seized and dealt out amongst
another lot of people who were behaving exactly
like those who had authority before. The arbitrary
authority was there just the same, only it had
changed hands, and this puzzled me very much,
and I began to ask myself, ' Where is the truth ? "
" What did your husband think ? " asked the
" My husband did not like to talk about these
" WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 61
things," she answered. " He says, ' I am in the
Service, and I have tc serve. It is not my business
to have opinions.' "
" But all those Republics didn't last very long,"
rejoined the thin lady.
"No," continued the other ; "we never had a
Republic, and after a time they arrested the chief
agitator, who was the soul of the revolutionary
movement in our town, a wonderful orator. I had
heard him speak several times and been carried
away. When he was arrested I saw him taken to
prison, and he said ' Good-bye ' to the people, and
bowed to them in the street in such an exaggerated
theatrical way that I was astonished and felt un-
comfortable. Here, I thought, is a man who can
sacrifice himself for an idea, and who seemed to be
thoroughly sincere, and yet he behaves theatrically
and poses as if he were not sincere. I felt more
puzzled than ever, and I asked my husband to let
me go and see him in prison. I thought that per-
haps after talking to him I could solve the riddle,
and find out once for all who was right and who was
wrong. My husband let me go, and I was admitted
into his cell.
" ' You know who I am,' I said, ' since I am here,
and I am admitted inside these locked doors ? '
He nodded. Then I asked him whether I could be
of any use to him. He said that he had all that he
wanted ; and like this the ice was broken, and I
62 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? "
asked him presently if he believed in the whole
movement. He said that until the 17th of October,
when the Manifesto had been issued, he had be-
lieved with all his soul in it ; but the events of the
last months had caused him to change his mind.
He now thought that the work of his party, and, in
fact, the whole movement, which had been going
on for over fifty years, had really been in vain.
' We shall have/ he said, ' to begin again from the
very beginning, because the Russian people are
not ready for us yet, and probably another fifty
years will have to go by before they are ready.'
M I left him very much perplexed. He was set
free not long afterwards, in virtue of some mani-
festo, and because there had been no disorders
in our town and he had not been the cause
of any bloodshed. Soon after he came out of
prison my husband met him, and he said to my
husband : ' I suppose you will not shake hands
with me ? ' And my husband replied : ' Because
our views are different there is no reason why both
of us should not be honest men/ and he shook
hands with him."
The conversation now became a discussion about
the various ideals of various people and parties
holding different political views. The large lady
kept on expressing the puzzled state of mind in
which she was.
The whole conversation, of which I have given
" WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 63
a very condensed report, was spread over a long
time, and often interrupted. Later they reached
the subject of political assassination, and the large
lady said :
u About two months after I came home that
year, one day when I was out driving with my
daughter in a sledge the revolutionaries fired six
shots at us from revolvers. We were not hit, but
one bullet went through the coachman's cap.
Ever since then I have had nervous fits and my
daughter has had St Vitus' dance. We have to
go to Moscow every year to be treated. And it
is so difficult. I don't know how to manage.
When I am at home I feel as if I ought to go, and
when I am away I never have a moment's peace,
because I cannot help thinking the whole time
that my husband is in danger. A few weeks after
they shot at us I met some of the revolutionary
party at a meeting, and I asked them why they
had shot at myself and my daughter. I could
have understood it if they had shot at my husband.
But why at us ? He said : ' When the wood is
cut down, the chips fly about.' 1 And now I don't
know what to think about it all.
" Sometimes I think it is all a mistake, and
I feel that the revolutionaries are posing and
playing a part, and that so soon as they get the
upper hand they will be as bad as what we have
1 A Russian proverb.
64 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? "
now ; and then I say to myself, all the same
they are acting in a cause, and it is a great
cause, and they are working for liberty and
for the people. And, then, would the people be
better off if they had their way ? The more I
think of it the more puzzled I am. Who is right ?
Is my husband right ? Are they right ? Is it a
great cause ? How can they be wrong if they are
imprisoned and killed for what they believe ?
Where is the truth, and what is truth ? "
MRS BERGMANN was a widow. She was
American by birth and marriage, and English
by education and habits. She was a fair, beautiful
woman, with large eyes and a white complexion.
Her weak point was ambition, and ambition with
her took the form of luncheon-parties.
It was one summer afternoon that she was
seized with the great idea of her life. It consisted
in giving a luncheon-party which should be more
original and amusing than any other which had
ever been given in London. The idea became a
mania. It left her no peace. It possessed her
like venom or like madness. She could think of
nothing else. She racked her brains in imagining
how it could be done. But the more she was
harassed by this aim the further off its realisation
appeared to her to be. At last it began to weigh
upon her. She lost her spirits and her appetite ;
her friends began to remark with anxiety on
the change in her behaviour and in her
looks. She herself felt that the situation was
intolerable, and that success or suicide lay before
One evening towards the end of June, as she
was sitting in her lovely drawing-room in her
68 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
house in Mayfair, in front of her tea-table, on which
the tea stood untasted, brooding over the question
which unceasingly tormented her, she cried out,
half aloud :
"I'd sell my soul to the devil if he would give
me what I wish."
At that moment the footman entered the room
and said there was a gentleman downstairs who
wished to speak to her.
" What is his name ? " asked Mrs Bergmann.
The footman said he had not caught the gentle-
man's name, and he handed her a card on a
She took the card. On it was written :
Mr Nicholas L. Satan,
I, Pandemonium Terrace,
Burning Marle, Hell.
Telephone, No. i Central.
" Show him up," said Mrs Bergmann, quite
naturally, as though she had been expecting the
visitor. She wondered at her own behaviour,
and seemed to herself to be acting inevitably, as
one does in dreams.
Mr Satan was shown in. He had a professional
air about him, but not of the kind that suggests
needy or even learned professionalism. He was
dark ; his features were sharp and regular, his eyes
keen, his complexion pale, his mouth vigorous, and
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 69
his chin prominent. He was well dressed in a frock
coat, black tie, and patent leather boots. He would
never have been taken for a conjurer or a shop-
walker, but he might have been taken for a slightly
depraved Art-photographer who had known better
days. He sat down near the tea-table opposite Mrs
Bergmann, holding his top hat, which had a slight
mourning band round it, in his hand.
" I understand, madam/' he spoke with an
even American intonation, " you wish to be
supplied with a guest who will make all other
luncheon-parties look, so to speak, like thirty
V Yes, that is just what I want," answered Mrs
Bergmann, who continued to be surprised at
" Well, I reckon there's no one living who'd
suit," said Mr Satan, " and I'd better supply you
with a celebrity of a former generation." He
then took out a small pocket-book from his coat
pocket, and quickly turning over its leaves he
asked in a monotonous tone : " Would you like
a Philosopher ? Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Aurelius,
M. ? "
" Oh ! no," answered Mrs Bergmann with
decision, " they would ruin any luncheon."
" A Saint ? " suggested Mr Satan, " Antony,
Ditto of Padua, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm ? "
" Good heavens, no," said Mrs Bergmann.
70 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
" A Theologian, good arguer ? " asked Mr Satan,
" Aquinas, T ? "
" No," interrupted Mrs Bergmann, " for heaven's
sake don't always give me the A's, or we shall
never get on to anything. You'll be offering me
Adam and Abel next."
" I beg your pardon," said Mr Satan, " Latimer,
Laud Historic Interest, Church and Politics
combined," he added quickly.
" I don't want a clergyman," said Mrs Bergmann.
" Artist ? " said Mr Satan, " Andrea del Sarto,
Angelo, M., Apelles ? "
"You're going back to the A's," interrupted
" Bellini, Benvenuto Cellini, Botticelli ? " he
" What's the use of them when I can get Sargent
every day ? " asked Mrs Bergmann.
" A man of action, perhaps ? Alexander, Bona-
parte, Caesar, J., Cromwell, O., Hannibal? "
" Too heavy for luncheon," she answered,
" they would do for dinner."
" Plain statesman ? Bismarck, Count ; Chat-
ham, Lord ; Franklin, B. ; Richelieu, Cardinal."
" That would make the members of the Cabinet
feel uncomfortable," she said.
M A Monarch ? Alfred ; beg pardon, he's an
A. Richard III., Peter the Great, Louis XL,
Nero ? "
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 71
" No," said Mrs Bergmann. " I can't have a
Royalty. It would make it too stiff."
M I have it," said Mr Satan, " a highwayman :
Dick Turpin ; or a housebreaker : Jack Sheppard
or Charles Peace ? "
" Oh ! no," said Mrs Bergmann, '* they might
steal the Sevres."
" A musician ? Bach or Beethoven ? " he sug-
u He's getting into the B's now," thought
Mrs Bergmann. u No," she added aloud, " we
should have to ask him to play, and he can't
play Wagner, I suppose, and musicians are so
" I think I have it," said Mr Satan, " a wit :
Dr Johnson, Sheridan, Sidney Smith ? "
" We should probably find their jokes dull now,"
said Mrs Bergmann, thoughtfully.
" Miscellaneous ? " inquired Mr Satan, and,
turning over several leaves of his notebook, he
rattled out the following names : " Alcibiades,
kind of statesman ; Beau Brummel, fop ; Cagli-
ostro, conjurer ; Robespierre, politician ; Charles
Stuart, Pretender ; Warwick, King-maker ; Borgia,
A., Pope ; Ditto, C, toxicologist ; Wallenstein,
mercenary ; Bacon, Roger, man of science ; Ditto,
F., dishonest official ; Tell, W., patriot ; Jones,
Paul, pirate ; Lucullus, glutton ; Simon Stylites,
eccentric ; Casanova, loose liver ; Casabianca,
72 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
cabin-boy ; Chicot, jester ; Sayers, T., prize-
fighter ; Cook, Captain, tourist ; Nebuchadnezzar,
food-faddist ; Juan, D., lover ; Froissart, war
correspondent ; Julian, apostate ? "
" Don't you see," said Mrs Bergmann, " we
must have some one everybody has heard of ? "
" David Garrick, actor and wit ? " suggested
" It's no good having an actor nobody has seen
act," said Mrs Bergmann.
" What about a poet ? " asked Mr Satan,
" Homer, Virgil, Dante, Byron, Shakespeare ? "
" Shakespeare ! " she cried out, " the very
thing. Everybody has heard of Shakespeare,
more or less, and I expect he'd get on with every-
body, and wouldn't feel offended if I asked Alfred
Austin or some other poet to meet him. Can you
get me Shakespeare ? "
u Certainly," said Mr Satan, " day and date ? "
" It must be Thursday fortnight," said Mrs
Bergmann. " And what, ah er your terms ? "
" The usual terms," he answered. " In return
for supernatural service rendered you during
your lifetime, your soul reverts to me at your
Mrs Bergmann's brain began to work quickly.
She was above all things a practical woman, and
she immediately felt she was being defrauded.
" I cannot consent to such terms," she said.
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 73
11 Surely you recognise the fundamental difference
between this proposed contract and those which you
concluded with others with Faust, for instance ?
They sold the full control of their soul after death
on condition of your putting yourself at their
entire disposal during the whole of their lifetime,
whereas you ask me to do the same thing in return
for a few hours' service. The proposal is pre-
Mr Satan rose from his chair. " In that case,
madam," he said, " I have the honour to wish
you a good afternoon."
" Stop a moment," said Mrs Bergmann, " I
don't see why we shouldn't arrive at a compromise.
I am perfectly willing that you should have the
control over my soul for a limited number of
years I believe there are precedents for such a
course let us say a million years."
11 Ten million," said Mr Satan, quietly but firmly.
94 In that case," answered Mrs Bergmann, " we
will take no notice of leap year, and we will count
365 days in every year."
" Certainly," said Mr Satan, with an expression
of somewhat ruffled dignity, " we always allow
leap year, but, of course, thirteen years will count
" Of course," said Mrs Bergmann with equal
" Then perhaps you will not mind signing the
74 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
contract at once," said Mr Satan, drawing from
his pocket a type- written page.
Mrs Bergmann walked to the writing-table and
took the paper from his hand.
" Over the stamp, please," said Mr Satan.
" Must I er sign it in blood ? " asked Mrs
" You can if you like," said Mr Satan, " but I
prefer red ink ; it is quicker and more convenient."
He handed her a stylograph pen.
" Must it be witnessed ? " she asked.
" No," he replied, " these kind of documents
don't need a witness."
In a firm, bold handwriting Mrs Bergmann
signed her name in red ink across the sixpenny
stamp. She half expected to hear a clap of thunder
and to see Mr Satan disappear, but nothing of the
kind occurred. Mr Satan took the document,
folded it, placed it in his pocket-book, took up his
hat and gloves, and said :
M Mr William Shakespeare will call to luncheon
on Thursday week. At what hour is the luncheon
to be ? "
" One-thirty," said Mrs Bergmann.
n He may be a few minutes late," answered Mr
Satan. " Good afternoon, madam," and he bowed
Mrs Bergmann chuckled to herself when she was
alone. " I have done him," she thought to herself,
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 75
" because ten million years in eternity is nothing.
He might just as well have said one second as ten
million years, since anything less than eternity in
eternity is nothing. It is curious how stupid the
devil is in spite of all his experience. Now I
must think about my invitations."
The morning of Mrs Bergmann's luncheon had
arrived. She had asked thirteen men and nine
But an hour before luncheon an incident hap-
pened which nearly drove Mrs Bergmann distracted.
One of her guests, who was also one of her most
intimate friends, Mrs Lockton, telephoned to her
saying she had quite forgotten, but she had asked
on that day a man to luncheon whom she did not
know, and who had been sent to her by Walford,
the famous professor. She ended the message by
saying she would bring the stranger with her.
" What is his name ? " asked Mrs Bergmann,
not without intense irritation, meaning to put a
veto on the suggestion.
" His name is " and at that moment the
telephone communication was interrupted, and in
spite of desperate efforts Mrs Bergmann was un-
able to get on to Mrs Lockton again. She reflected
76 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
that it was quite useless for her to send a message
saying that she had no room at her table, because
Angela Lockton would probably bring the stranger
all the same. Then she further reflected that in
the excitement caused by the presence of Shake-
speare it would not really much matter whether
there was a stranger there or not. A little before
half -past one the guests began to arrive. Lord
Pantry of Assouan, the famous soldier, was the
first comer. He was soon followed by Professor
Morgan, an authority on Greek literature ; Mr
Peebles, the ex-Prime Minister ; Mrs Hubert
Baldwin, the immensely popular novelist ; the
fascinating Mrs Rupert Duncan, who was lending
her genius to one of Ibsen's heroines at that moment;
Miss Medea Tring, one of the latest American
beauties ; Corporal, the portrait -painter ; Richard
Giles, critic and man of letters ; Here ward Blen-
heim, a young and rising politician, who before the
age of thirty had already risen higher than most
men of sixty ; Sir Horace Silvester, K.C.M.G., the
brilliant financier, with his beautiful wife Lady
Irene ; Professor Leo Newcastle, the eminent man
of science ; Lady Hyacinth Gloucester, and Mrs
Milden, who were well known for their beauty and
charm ; Osmond Hall, the paradoxical playwright ;
Monsieur Faubourg, the psychological novelist;
Count Sciarra, an Italian nobleman, about fifty
years old, who had written a history of the Popes,
A LUNCHEON-PARTY jj
and who was now staying in London ; Lady
Herman, the beauty of a former generation, still
extremely handsome ; and Willmott, the success-
ful actor-manager. They were all assembled in
the drawing-room upstairs, talking in knots and
groups, and pervaded by a feeling of pleasurable
excitement and expectation, so much so that con-
versation was intermittent, and nearly everybody
was talking about the weather. The Right Hon.
John Lockton, the eminent lawyer, was the last
guest to arrive.
" Angela will be here in a moment," he ex-
plained ; " she asked me to come on first."
Mrs Bergmann grew restless. It was half -past
one, and no Shakespeare. She tried to make her
guests talk, with indifferent success. The expecta-
tion was too great. Everybody was absorbed by
the thought of what was going to happen next.
Ten minutes passed thus, and Mrs Bergmann grew
more and more anxious.
At last the bell rang, and soon Mrs Lockton
walked upstairs, leading with her a quite insignifi-
cant, ordinary-looking, middle-aged, rather portly
man with shiny black hair, bald on the top of his
head, and a blank, good-natured expression.
" I'm so sorry to be so late, Louise dear," she said.
" Let me introduce Mr to you." And whether
she had forgotten the name or not, Mrs Bergmann
did not know or care at the time, but it was mum-
78 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
bled in such a manner that it was impossible to
catch it. Mrs Bergmann shook hands with him
absent-mindedly, and, looking at the clock, saw that
it was ten minutes to two.
" I have been deceived," she thought to herself,
and anger rose in her breast like a wave. At the
same time she felt the one thing necessary was not
to lose her head, or let anything damp the spirits
of her guests.
" We'll go down to luncheon directly," she said.
"I'm expecting some one else, but he probably
won't come till later." She led the way and every-
body trooped downstairs to the dining-room,
feeling that disappointment was in store for them.
Mrs Bergmann left the place on her right vacant ;
she did not dare fill it up, because in her heart of
hearts she felt certain Shakespeare would arrive,
and she looked forward to a coup de theatre, which
would be quite spoilt if his place was occupied.
On her left sat Count Sciarra ; the unknown friend
of Angela Lockton sat at the end of the table next
The luncheon started haltingly. Angela Lock-
ton's friend was heard saying in a clear voice that
the dust in London was very trying.
" Have you come from the country ? " asked
M. Faubourg. " I myself am just returned from
Oxford, where I once more admired your admirable
English lawns vos pelouses seculaires."
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 79
" Yes," said the stranger, " I only came up to
town to-day, because it seems indeed a waste and
a pity to spend the finest time of the year in
Count Sciarra, who had not uttered a word since
he had entered the house, turned to his hostess and
asked her whom she considered, after herself, to be
the most beautiful woman in the room, Lady Irene,
Lady Hyacinth, or Mrs Milden ?
" Mrs Milden/' he went on, " has the smile of
La Gioconda, and hands and hair for Leonardo to
paint. Lady Gloucester," he continued, leaving
out the Christian name, " is English, like one of
Shakespeare's women, Desdemona or Imogen ;
and Lady Irene has no nationality, she belongs to
the dream worlds of Shelley and D'Annunzio :
she is the guardian Lady of Shelley's ' Sensitiva,'
the vision of the lily.
' Quale un vaso liturgico d'argento.'
And you, madame, you take away all my sense of
criticism. ' Vous me troublez trop pour que je
d6finisse votre genre de beauteV "
Mrs Milden was soon engaged in a deep tete-a-
tte with Mr Peebles, who was heard every now and
then to say, " Quite, quite." Miss Tring was
holding forth to Silvester on French sculpture, and
Silvester now and again said : " Oh ! really ! "
in the tone of intense interest which his friends
80 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
knew indicated that he was being acutely bored.
Lady Hyacinth was discussing Socialism with
Osmond Hall, Lady Herman was discussing the
theory of evolution with Professor Newcastle,
Mrs Lockton, the question of the French Church,
with Faubourg ; and Blenheim was discharging
molten fragments of embryo exordiums and perora-
tions on the subject of the stage to Willmott ; in
fact, there was a general buzz of conversation.
" Have you been to see Antony and Cleopatra ? "
asked Willmott of the stranger.
" Yes," said the neighbour, " I went last night ;
many authors have treated the subject, and the
version I saw last night was very pretty. I couldn't
get a programme so I didn't see who "
" I think my version," interrupted Willmott,
with pride, " is admitted to be the best."
" Ah ! it is your version ! " said the stranger.
" I beg your pardon, I think you treated the subject
" Yes," said Willmott, " it is ungrateful material,
but I think I made something fine of it."
" No doubt, no doubt," said the stranger.
" Do tell us," Mrs Baldwin was heard to ask
M. Faubourg across the table, " what the young
generation are doing in France ? Who are the
young novelists ? "
" There are no young novelists worth mention-
ing," answered M. Faubourg.
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 81
Miss Tring broke in and said she considered
" Le Visage Emerveille," by the Comtesse de
Noailles, to be the most beautiful book of the
century, with the exception, perhaps, of the
" Tagebuch einer Verlorenen."
But from the end of the table Blenheim's utter-
ance was heard preponderating over that of his
neighbours. He was making a fine speech on the
modern stage, comparing an actor-manager to
Napoleon, and commenting on the campaigns of the
latter in detail.
Quite heedless of this Mr Willmott was carrying
on an equally impassioned but much slower mono-
logue on his conception of the character of Cyrano
de Bergerac, which he said he intended to produce.
" Cyrano," he said, " has been maligned by
Coquelin. Coquelin is a great artist, but he did not
understand Cyrano. Cyrano is a dreamer, a poet ;
he is a martyr of thought like Tolstoi, a sacrifice
to wasted, useless action, like Hamlet ; he is a
Moliere come too soon, a Bayard come too late, a
John the Baptist of the stage, calling out in vain
in the wilderness of bricks and mortar ; he is
misunderstood; an enigma, an anachronism, a
premature herald, a false dawn."
Count Sciarra was engaged in a third monologue
at the head of the table. He was talking at the
same time to Mrs Bergmann, Lady Irene, and Lady
Hyacinth about the devil. " Ah que j'aime le
82 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
diable I " he was saying in low, tender tones.
" The devil who creates your beauty to lure us to
destruction, the devil who puts honey into the voice
of the siren, the dolce sirena
" Che i marinari in mezzo il mar dismaga "
(and he hummed this line in a sing-song two or
three times over) " the devil who makes us dream
and doubt, and who made life interesting by per-
suading Eve to eat the silver apple what would
life have been if she had not eaten the apple ? We
should all be in the silly trees of the Garden of Eden,
and I should be sitting next to you " (he said to
Mrs Bergmann), " without knowing that you were
beautiful ; que vous etes belle et que vous tes
desirable ; que vous etes puissante et caline, que
je fais naufrage dans une mer d'amour e il nau-
fragio m'e dolce in quest o mare en un mot, que
je vous aime."
" Life outside the garden of Eden has many
drawbacks," said Mrs Bergmann, who, although
she was inwardly pleased by Count Sciarra's re-
marks, saw by Lady Irene's expression that she
thought he was mad.
" Aucun f drawback,' M answered Sciarra,
u n'egalerait celui de contempler les divins contours
feminins sans un frisson. Pensez done si Madame
" Count Sciarra," interrupted Mrs Bergmann,
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 83
terrified of what was coming next, " do tell me
about the book you are writing on Venice."
Mrs Lockton was at that moment discussing
portraiture in novels with M. Faubourg, and during
a pause Miss Tring was heard to make the following
remark : " And is it true, M. Faubourg, that
1 Cecile ' in ' La Mauvaise Bonte ' is a portrait of
some one you once loved and who treated you very
badly ? "
M. Faubourg, a little embarrassed, said that a
creative artist made a character out of many
Then, seeing that nobody was saying a word to
his neighbour, he turned round and asked him if he
had been to the Academy.
" Yes," answered the stranger ; "it gets worse
every year, doesn't it ? "
But Mr Corporal's pictures are always worth
seeing," said Faubourg.
" I think he paints men better than women,"
said the stranger ; "he doesn't flatter people, but
of course his pictures are very clever."
At this moment the attention of the whole table
was monopolised by Osmond Hall, who began to
discuss the scenario of a new play he was writing.
" My play," he began, " is going to be called ' The
King of the North Pole.' I have never been to the
North Pole, and I don't mean to go there. It's not
necessary to have first-hand knowledge of technical
84 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
subjects in order to write a play. People say that
Shakespeare must have studied the law, because his
allusions to the law are frequent and accurate.
That does not prove that he knew law any more
than the fact that he put a sea in Bohemia proves
that he did not know geography. It proves he was
a dramatist. He wanted a sea in Bohemia. He
wanted lawyer's ' shop.' I should do just the same
thing myself. I wrote a play about doctors, know-
ing nothing about medicine : I asked a friend to give
me the necessary information. Shakespeare, I
expect, asked his friends to give him the legal
information he required.' '
Every allusion to Shakespeare was a stab to
Shakespeare's knowledge of the law is very
thorough," broke in Lockton.
" Not so thorough as the knowledge of medicine
which is revealed in my play," said Hall.
N Shakespeare knew law by intuition," mur-
mured Willmott, " but he did not guess what the
modern stage would make of his plays."
* Let us hope not," said Giles.
" Shakespeare," said Faubourg, " was a psycho-
logy ; he had the power, I cannot say it in English,
de deviner ce qu'il ne savait pas en puisant dans le
fond et le trefond de son ame."
" Gammon ! " said Hall ; "he had the power of
asking his friends for the information he required."
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 85
" Do you really think/' asked Giles, " that before
he wrote ' Time delves the parallel on beauty's
brow,' he consulted his lawyer as to a legal metaphor
suitable for a sonnet ? "
" And do you think," asked Mrs Duncan, " that
he asked his female relations what it would feel like
to be jealous of Octavia if one happened to be
Cleopatra ? "
" Shakespeare was a married man," said Hall,
" and if his wife found the MSS. of his sonnets
lying about he must have known a jealous
M Shakespeare evidently didn't trouble his
friends for information on natural history," said
Professor Newcastle ; "his remarks on the cuckoo
and the bee are ridiculous."
" Ridiculous for a writer on natural history, not
for a playwright," said Hall. " I myself should
not mind what liberty I took with the cuckoo, the
bee, or even the basilisk. I should not trouble
ycu for accurate information on the subject ; I
should not even mind saying the cuckoo lays
eggs in its own nest if it suited the dramatic
The whole of this conversation was torture to Mrs
" Shakespeare," said Lady Hyacinth, u had a
universal nature ; one can't help thinking he was
almost like God."
86 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
" That's what people will say of me a hundred
years hence/' said Hall ; " only it is to be hoped
they'll leave out the ' almost.' "
" Shakespeare understood love," said Lady
Herman, in a loud voice ; "he knew how a man
makes love to a woman. If Richard III. had made
love to me as Shakespeare describes him doing it,
I'm not sure that I could have resisted him. But
the finest of all Shakespeare's men is Othello.
That's a real man. Desdemona was a fool. It's
not wonderful that Othello didn't see through
Iago ; but Desdemona ought to have seen through
him. The stupidest woman can see through a
clever man like him ; but, of course, Othello was
a fool too."
" Yes," broke in Mrs Lockton, " if Napoleon had
married Desdemona he would have made Iago
marry one of his sisters."
" I think Desdemona is the most pathetic of
Shakespeare's heroines," said Lady Hyacinth ;
" don't you think so, Mr Hall ? "
" It's easy enough to make a figure pathetic, who
is strangled by a nigger," answered Hall. " Now
if Desdemona had been a negress Shakespeare
would have started fair."
" If only Shakespeare had lived later," sighed
Willmott, " and understood the condition of the
modern stage, he would have written quite
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 87
" If Shakespeare had lived now he would have
written novels," said Faubourg.
" Yes," said Mrs Baldwin, " I feel sure you are
" If Shakespeare had lived now," said Sciarra
to Mrs Bergmann, " we shouldn't notice his exist-
ence ; he would be just un monsieur comme tout
le monde like that monsieur sitting next to
Faubourg," he added in a low voice.
" The problem about Shakespeare," broke in
Hall, " is not how he wrote his plays. I could
teach a poodle to do that in half an hour. But
the problem is What made him leave off writing
just when he was beginning to know how to
do it ? It is as if I had left off writing plays
ten years ago."
" Perhaps," said the stranger, hesitatingly and
modestly, " he had made enough money by writing
plays to retire on his earnings^ and live in the
Nobody took any notice of this remark.
" If Bacon was really the playwright," said
Lockton, " the problem is a very different one."
" If Bacon had written Shakespeare's plays,"
said Silvester, " they wouldn't have been so bad."
" There seems to me to be only one argument,"
said Professor Morgan, " in favour of the Bacon
theory, and that -is that the range of mind dis-
played in Shakespeare's plays is so great that it
88 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
would have been child's play for the man who
wrote Shakespeare's plays to have written the works
" Yes," said Hall, " but because it would be
child's play for the man who wrote my plays to have
written your works and those of Professor New-
castle which it would it doesn't prove that you
wrote my plays."
" Bacon was a philosopher," said Willmott,
" and Shakespeare was a poet a dramatic poet ;
but Shakespeare was also an actor, an actor-
manager, and only an actor-manager could have
written the plays."
" What do you think of the Bacon theory ? "
asked Faubourg of the stranger.
" I think," said the stranger, " that we shall
soon have to say eggs and Shakespeare instead of
eggs and Bacon."
This remark caused a slight shudder to pass
through all the guests, and Mrs Bergmann felt
sorry that she had not taken decisive measures to
prevent the stranger's intrusion.
" Shakespeare wrote his own plays," said
Sciarra, " and I don't know if he knew law, but he
knew le cceur de la femme. Cleopatra bids her
slave find out the colour of Octavio's hair ; that
is just what my wife, my Angelica, would do if I
were to marry some one in London while she was
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 89
" Mr Gladstone used to say," broke in Lockton,
" that Dante was inferior to Shakespeare, because
he was too great an optimist.' '
" Dante was not an optimist/' said Sciarra,
" about the future life of politicians. But I think
they were both of them pessimists about man and
both optimists about God."
" Shakespeare," began Blenheim ; but he was
interrupted by Mrs Duncan who cried out :
" I wish he were alive now and would write me
a part, a real woman's part. The women have
so little to do in Shakespeare's plays. There's
Juliet ; but one can't play Juliet till one's forty,
and then one's too old to look fourteen. There's
Lady Macbeth ; but she's got nothing to do
except walk in her sleep and say, ' Out, damned
spot ! ' There were no actresses in his days, and
of course it was no use writing a woman's part
for a boy."
" You should have been born in France," said
Faubourg, " Racine's women are created for you
M Ah ! you've got Sarah," said Mrs Duncan,
" you don't want anyone else."
" I think Racine's boring," said Mrs Lockton,
" he's so artificial."
" Oh ! don't say that," said Giles, " Racine is
the most exquisite of poets, so sensitive, so acute,
and so harmonious."
90 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
" I like Rostand better/' said Mrs Lockton.
" Rostand ! " exclaimed Miss Tring, in disgust,
" he writes such bad verses du caoutchouc he's
"It is true," said Willmott, " he's an amateur.
He has never written professionally for his bread
but only for his pleasure."
" But in that sense," said Giles, " God is an
" I confess," said Peebles, " that I cannot ap-
preciate French poetry. I can read Rousseau
with pleasure, and Bossuet ; but I cannot admire
Corneille and Racine."
" Everybody writes plays now," said Faubourg,
with a sigh.
M I have never written a play," said Lord Pantry.
" Nor I," said Lockton.
" But nearly everyone at this table has," said
Faubourg. " Mrs Baldwin has written * Matilda,'
Mr Giles has written a tragedy called Queen
Swaflod,' I wrote a play in my youth, my ' Le
Menetrier de Parme ' ; I'm sure Corporal has
written a play. Count Sciarra must have written
several ; have you ever written a play ? " he said,
turning to his neighbour, the stranger.
" Yes," answered the stranger, " I once wrote a
play called ' Hamlet.' "
" You were courageous with such an original
before you," said Faubourg, severely.
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 91
" Yes," said the stranger, " the original was very
good, but I think," he added modestly, " that I
improved upon it."
" Encore un faiseur de paradoxes ! " murmured
Faubourg to himself in disgust.
In the meantime Willmott was giving Professor
Morgan the benefit of his views on Greek art,
punctuated with allusions to Tariff Reform and
devolution for the benefit of Blenheim.
Luncheon was over and cigarettes were lighted.
Mrs Bergmann had quite made up her mind that
she had been cheated, and there was only one thing
for which she consoled herself, and that was that
she had not waited for luncheon but had gone
down immediately, since so far all her guests had
kept up a continuous stream of conversation,
which had every now and then become general,
though they still every now and then glanced at
the empty chair and wondered what the coming
attraction was going to be. Mrs Milden had
carried on two almost uninterrupted tete-a-tetes,
first with one of her neighbours, then with the other.
In fact everybody had talked, except the stranger,
who had hardly spoken, and since Faubourg had
turned away from him in disgust, nobody had
taken any further notice of him.
Mrs Baldwin, remarking this, good-naturedly
leant across the table and asked him if he had
come to London for the Wagner cycle.
92 A LUNCHEON-PARTY
" No/' he answered, " I came for the Horse
Show at Olympia."
At this moment Count Sciarra, having finished
his third cigarette, turned to his hostess and thanked
her for having allowed him to meet the most beauti-
ful women of London in the most beautiful house
in London, and in the house of the most beautiful
hostess in London.
" J'ai vu chez vous," he said, "le lys argente et
la rose blanche, mais vous etes la rose ecarlate, la
rose d'amour dont le parfum vivra dans mon
cceur comme un poison dore (and here he hummed
in a sing-song) : ' Io son, cantava, Io son, dolce
sirena' Addio, dolce sirena."
Then he suddenly and abruptly got up, kissed
his hostess's hand vehemently three times, and
said he was very sorry, but he must hasten to
keep a pressing engagement. He then left the
Mrs Bergmann got up and said, " Let us go up-
stairs." But the men had most of them to go,
some to the House of Commons, others to fulfil
The stranger thanked Mrs Bergmann for her
kind hospitality and left. And the remaining
guests, seeing that it was obvious that no further
attraction was to be expected, now took their
leave reluctantly and went, feeling that they had
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 93
Angela Lockton stayed a moment.
" Who were you expecting, Louise, dear ? "
" Only an old friend," said Mrs Bergmann,
" whom you would all have been very glad to see.
Only as he doesn't want anybody to know he's in
London, I couldn't tell you all who he was."
" But tell me now," said Mrs Lockton ; " you
know how discreet I am."
" I promised not to, dearest Angela," she
answered ; " and, by the way, what was the name
of the man you brought with you ? "
" Didn't I tell you ? How stupid of me!"
said Mrs Lockton. " It's a very easy name to
remember : Shakespeare, William Shakespeare."
To Cecilia Fisher
" HP HE King said that nobody had ever danced
A as I danced to-night/' said Columbine.
" He said it was more than dancing, it was magic."
" It is true/' said Harlequin, " you never danced
like that before."
But Pierrot paid no heed to their remarks, and
stared vacantly at the sky. They were sitting on
the deserted stage of the grass amphitheatre
where they had been playing. Behind them were
the clumps of cypress trees which framed a vista
of endless wooden garden and formed their drop
scene. They were sitting immediately beneath
the wooden framework made of two upright beams
and one horizontal, which formed the primitive
proscenium, and from which little coloured lights
had hung during the performance. The King and
Queen and their lords and ladies who had looked
on at the living puppet show had all left the
amphitheatre ; they had put on their masks and
their dominoes, and were now dancing on the
lawns, whispering in the alleys and the avenues,
or sitting in groups under the tall dark trees. Some
of them were in boats on the lake, and everywhere
one went, from the dark boscages, came sounds of
music, thin, tinkling tunes played on guitars by
98 FETE GALANTE
skilled hands, and the bird-like twittering and
whistling of flageolets.
" The King said I looked like a moon fairy,"
said Columbine to Pierrot. Pierrot only stared
at the sky and laughed inanely. " If you persist
in slighting me like this," she whispered in his ear,
in a whisper which was like a hiss, " I will abandon
you for ever. I will give my heart to Harlequin,
and you shall never see me again." But Pierrot
continued to stare at the sky, and laughed once
more inanely. Then Columbine got up, her eyes
flashing with rage ; taking Harlequin by the arm
she dragged him swiftly away. They danced
across the grass semi-circle of the amphitheatre
and up the steps away into the alleys. Pierrot
was left alone with Pantaloon, who was asleep,
for he was old and clowning fatigued him. Then
Pierrot left the amphitheatre also, and putting a
black mask on his face he joined the revellers who
were everywhere dancing, whispering, talking, and
making music in subdued tones. He sought out
a long lonely avenue, in one side of which there
nestled, almost entirely concealed by bushes and
undergrowth, a round open Greek temple. Right
at the end of the avenue a foaming waterfall
splashed down into a large marble basin, from which
a tall fountain rose, white and ghostly, and made
a sobbing noise. Pierrot went towards the temple,
then he turned back and walked right into the
FETE GALANTE 99
undergrowth through the bushes, and lay down
on the grass, and listened to the singing of the
night -jar. The whole garden that night seemed
to be sighing and whispering ; there was a soft
warm wind, and a smell of mown hay in the air,
and an intoxicating sweetness came from the
bushes of syringa. Columbine and Harlequin
also joined the revellers. They passed from group
to group, with aimless curiosity, pausing some-
times by the artificial ponds and sometimes by
the dainty groups of dancers, whose satin and
whose pearls glimmered faintly in the shifting
moonlight, for the night was cloudy. At last
they too were tired of the revel, they wandered
towards a more secluded place and made for the
avenue which Pierrot had sought. On their way they
passed through a narrow grass walk between two
rows of closely cropped yew hedges. There on a
marble seat a tall man in a black domino was
sitting, his head resting on his hands ; and between
the loose folds of his satin cloak, one caught the
glint of precious stones. When they had passed him
Columbine whispered to Harlequin : " That is
the King. I caught sight of his jewelled collar.' '
They presently found themselves in the long
avenue at the end of which were the waterfall and
the fountain. They wandered on till they reached
the Greek temple, and there suddenly Columbine
put her finger on her lips. Then she led Harlequin
ioo FETE GALANTE
back a little way and took him round through the
undergrowth to the back of the temple, and, crouch-
ing down in the bushes, bade him look. In the
middle of the temple there was a statue of Eros
holding a torch in his hands. Standing close
beside the statue were two figures, a man dressed
as a Pierrot, and a beautiful lady who wore a grey
satin domino. She had taken off her mask and
pushed back the hood from her hair, which was
encircled by a diadem made of something shining
and silvery, and a ray of moonlight fell on her face,
which was as delicate as the petal of a flower.
Pierrot was masked ; he was holding her hand
and looking into her eyes, which were turned
upwards towards his.
"It is the Queen ! M whispered Columbine to
Harlequin. And once more putting her finger on
her lips, she deftly led him by the hand and noise-
lessly threaded her way through the bushes and back
into the avenue, and without saying a word ran
swiftly with him to the place where they had seen
the King. He was still there, alone, his head
resting upon his hands.
In the temple the Queen was upbraiding her lover
for his temerity in having crossed the frontier into
the land from which he had been banished for ever,
and for having dared to appear at the court revel
disguised as Pierrot. " Remember/' she was
FETE GALANTE 101
saying, " the enemies that surround us, the dreadful
peril, and the doom that awaits us." And her lover
said : " What is doom, and what is death ? You
whispered to the night and I heard. You sighed
and I am here I " He tore the mask from his face,
and the Queen looked at him and smiled. At that
moment a rustle was heard in the undergrowth,
and the Queen started back from him, whispering :
" We are betrayed ! Fly ! " And her lover put
on his mask and darted through the undergrowth,
following a path which he and no one else; know; ; :
till he came to an open space where his squire
awaited him with horses, and they galloped away
safe from all pursuit.
Then the King walked into the temple and led
the Queen back to the palace without saying a
word ; but the whole avenue was full of dark men
bearing torches and armed with swords, who were
searching the undergrowth. And presently they
found Pierrot who, ignorant of all that had hap-
pened, had been listening all night to the song of the
night-jar. He was dragged to the palace and cast
into a dungeon, and the King was told. But
the revel did not cease, and the dancing and the
music continued softly as before. The King sent for
Columbine and told her she should have speech with
Pierrot in his prison, for haply he might have some-
thing to confess to her. And Columbine was taken
to Pierrot's dungeon, and the King followed her
102 FETE GALANTE
without her knowing it, and concealed himself
behind the door, which he set ajar.
Columbine upbraided Pierrot and said : " All
this was my work. I have always known that you
loved the Queen. And yet for the sake of past days,
tell me the truth. Was it love or a joke, such as
those you love to play ? "
Pierrot laughed inanely. "It was a joke," he
said. " It is my trade to make jokes. What else
can I do ? ; "
5? Yqu Iqvc the Queen nevertheless," said Colum-
bine, M of that I am sure, and for that I have had
" It was a joke," said Pierrot, and he laughed
And though she talked and raved and wept, she
could get no other answer from him. Then she left
him, and the King entered the dungeon.
" I have heard what you said," said the King,
" but to me you must tell the truth. I do not
believe it was you who met the Queen in the
temple ; tell me the truth, and your life shall be
" It was a joke," said Pierrot, and he laughed.
Then the King grew fierce and stormed and
threatened. But his rage and threats were in vain !
for Pierrot only laughed. Then the King appealed
to him as man to man and implored him to tell him
the truth ; for he would have given his kingdom
FETE GALANTE 103
to believe that it was the real Pierrot who had met
the Queen and that the adventure had been a joke.
Pierrot only repeated what he had said, and laughed
and giggled inanely.
At dawn the prison door was opened and three
masked men led Pierrot out through the courtyard
into the garden. The revellers had gone home,
but here and there lights still twinkled and nickered
and a stray note or two of music was still heard.
Some of the latest of the revellers were going home.
The dawn was grey and chilly ; they led Pierrot
through the alleys to the grass amphitheatre, and
they hanged him on the horizontal beam which
formed part of the primitive proscenium where he
and Columbine had danced so wildly in the night.
They hanged him and his white figure dangled from
the beam as though he were still dancing ; and the
new Pierrot, who was appointed the next day, was
told that such would be the fate of all mummers
who went too far, and whose jokes and pranks
overstepped the limits of decency and good breeding.
THE Refer endarius had three junior clerks to
carry on the business of his department, and
they in their turn were assisted by two scribes, who
did most of the copying and kept the records. The
work of the Department consisted in filing and
annotating the petitions and cases which were re-
ferred from the lower Courts, through the channel
of the Refer endarius, to the Emperor.
The three clerks and their two scribes occupied
a high marble room in the spacious office. It was
as yet early in April, but, nevertheless, the sun out
of doors was almost fierce. The high marble rooms
of the office were cool and stuffy at the same time,
and the spring sunshine without, the soft breeze
from the sea, the call of the flower-sellers in
the street, and the lazy murmur of the town had,
in these shaded, musty, and parchment-smelling
halls, diffused an atmosphere of laziness which
inspired the clerks in question with an overwhelm-
ing desire to do nothing.
There was, indeed, no pressing work on hand.
Only from time to time the Refer endarius, who
occupied a room to himself next door to theirs,
would communicate with them through a hole in
the wall, demanding information on some point
io8 THE GARLAND
or asking to be supplied with certain documents.
Then the clerks would make a momentary pretence
of being busy, and ultimately the scribes would find
either the documents or the information which
As it was, the clerks were all of them engaged in
occupations which were remote from official work.
The eldest of them, Cephalus by name a man who
was distinguished from the others by a certain
refined sobriety both in his dark dress and in his
quiet demeanour was reading a treatise on algebra ;
the second, Theophilus, a musician, whose tunic
was as bright as his flaming hair, was mending a
small organ ; and the third, Rufinus, a rather pale,
short-sighted, and untidy youth, was scribbling
on a tablet. The scribes were busy sorting old
records and putting them away in their permanent
Presently an official strolled in from another
department. He was a middle-aged, corpulent,
and cheerful-looking man, dressed in gaudy
coloured tissue, on which all manner of strange
birds were depicted. He was bursting with news.
" Phocas is going to win," he said. " It is
Cephalus looked vaguely up from his book and
Theophilus and Rufinus paid no attention to the
THE GARLAND 109
" Well," continued the new-comer cheerfully,
" Who will come to the races with me?"
As soon as he heard the word races, Rufinus
looked up from his scribbling. " I will come,"
he said, " if I can get leave."
" I did not know you cared for that sort of thing,"
Rufinus blushed and murmured something about
going every now and then. He walked out of the
room, and sought the Refer endarius in the next
room. This official was reading a document. He
did not look up when Rufinus entered, but went
on with his reading. At last, after a prolonged
interval, he turned round and said : u What is it ? "
" May I go to the races ? " asked Rufinus.
" Well," said the high official, " what about your
work ? "
" We've finished everything," said the clerk.
The Head of the Department assumed an air of
mystery and coughed.
" I don't think I can very well see my way to
letting you go," he said. " I am very sorry," he
added quickly, " and if it depended on me you should
go at once. But He," he added he always
alluded to the Head of the Office as He " does
not like it. He may come in any moment and find
you gone. Besides, there's that index to go on
with. No ; I'm afraid I can't let you go to-day.
Now, if it had been yesterday you could have gone."
no THE GARLAND
" I should only be away an hour," said Rufinus,
" He might choose just that hour to come round.
If it depended only on me you should go at once,"
and he laughed and slapped Rufinus on the back,
The clerk did not press the point further.
" You'd better get on with that index," said the
high official as Rufinus withdrew.
He told the result of his interview to his sporting
friend, who started out by himself to the Hippo-
Rufinus settled down to his index. But he soon
fell into a mood of abstraction. The races and the
games did not interest him in the least. It was
something else which attracted him. And, as he
sat musing, the vision of the Hippodrome as he had
last seen it rose clearly before him. He saw the
seaweed-coloured marble ; the glistening porticoes,
adorned with the masterpieces of Greece, crowded
with women in gemmed embroideries and men in
white tunics hemmed with broad purple ; he saw
the Generals with their barbaric officers Bul-
garians, Persians, Arabs, Slavs the long line
of savage-looking prisoners in their chains, and the
golden breastplates of the standard-bearers. He
saw the immense silk velum floating in the azure
air over that rippling sea of men, those hundreds
of thousands who swarmed on the marble steps of
THE GARLAND in
the Hippodrome. He saw the Emperor in his high-
pillared box, on his circular throne of dull gold,
surrounded by slaves fanning him with jewel-
coloured plumes, and fenced round with golden
And opposite him, on the other side of the
Stadium, the Empress, mantled in a stiff pontifical
robe, laden with heavy embroidered stuffs, her little
head framed like a portrait in a square crown of
gold and diamonds, whence chains of emeralds
hung down to her breast ; motionless as an idol,
impassive as a gilded mummy.
He saw the crowd of gorgeous women, grouped
like Eastern flowers around her : he saw one woman.
He saw one form as fresh as a lily of the valley, all
white amidst that hard metallic splendour ; frail
as a dewy anemone, slender as the moist narcissus.
He saw one face like the chalice of a rose, and amidst
all those fiery jewels two large eyes as soft as dark
violets. And the sumptuous Court, the plumes,
the swords, the standards, the hot, vari-coloured
crowd melted away and disappeared, so that
when the Emperor rose and made the sign of the
Cross over his people, first to the right, then to the
left, and thirdly over the half-circle behind him,
and the singers of Saint Sofia and the Church of the
Holy Apostles mingled their bass chant with the
shrill trebles of the chorus of the Hippodrome, to
the sound of silver organs, he thought that the
ii2 THE GARLAND
great hymn of praise was rising to her and to her
alone ; and that men had come from the utter-
most parts of the earth to pay homage to her, to
sing her praise, to kneel to her to her, the wondrous,
the very beautiful : peerless, radiant, perfect.
A voice, followed by a cough, called from the
hole in the wall ; but Rufinus paid no heed, so
deeply sunk was he in his vision.
" Rufinus, the Chief is calling you," said
Rufinus started, and hurried to the hole in the
wall. The Head of the Department gave him a
message for an official in another department.
Rufinus hurried with the message downstairs and
delivered it. On his way back he passed the main
portico on the ground floor. He walked out into
the street : it was empty. Everybody was at the
A dark-skinned country girl passed him singing
a song about the swallow and the spring. She was
bearing a basket full of anemones, violets, narcissi,
wild roses, and lilies of the valley.
" Will you sell me your flowers ? " he asked, and
he held out a silver coin.
" You are welcome to them," said the girl. " I
do not need your money."
He took the flowers and returned to the room
upstairs. The flowers filled the stuffy place with
an unwonted and wonderful fragrance.
THE GARLAND 113
Then he sat down and appeared to be once more
busily engrossed in his index. But side by side
with the index he had a small tablet, and on this,
every now and then, he added or erased a word to
a short poem in six lines. The poem began thus : -
7re/>t7rw (toi, ( VoSoK\eia, roSe <7re0o?.
The sense of it was something like this :
Rhodocleia, flowers of spring
I have woven in a ring ;
Take this wreath, my offering,
Here's the lily, here the rose
Her full chalice shall disclose ;
Here's narcissus wet with dew,
Windflower and the violet blue.
Wear the garland I have made ;
Crowned with it, put pride away ;
For the wreath that blooms must fade ;
Thou thyself must fade some day,
1 For a beautiful translation of this epigram, which is also an
exquisite English lyric, see Mr Andrew Lang's " Ban et Arriere-
Ban," under the title "Golden Eyes."
THE SPIDER'S WEB
To K. L.
HE heard the bell of the Badia sound hour after
hour, and still sleep refused its solace. He
got up and looked through the narrow window. The
sky in the East was soft with that luminous in-
tensity, as of a melted sapphire, that comes just
before the dawn. One large star was shining next
to the paling moon. He watched the sky as it
grew more and more transparent, and a fresh breeze
blew from the hills. It was the second night that
he had spent without sleeping, but the weariness
of his body was as nothing compared with the
aching emptiness which possessed his spirit. Only
three days ago the world had seemed to him starred
and gemmed like the Celestial City an enchanted
kingdom, waiting like a sleeping Princess for the
kiss of the adventurous conqueror ; and now the
colours had faded, the dream had vanished, the
sun seemed to be deprived of his glory, and the
summer had lost its sweetness.
His eye fell upon some papers which were lying
loose upon -his table. There was an unfinished
sonnet which he had begun three days ago. The
octet was finished and the first two lines of the
sestet. He would never finish it now. It had
no longer any reason to be ; for it was a cry to
u8 THE SPIDER'S WEB
ears which were now deaf, a question, an appeal,
which demanded an answering smile, a consenting
echo ; and the lips, the only lips which could frame
that answer, were dumb. He remembered that
Casella, the musician, had asked him a week ago
for the text of a canzone which he had repeated to
him one day. He had promised to let him have it.
The promise had entirely gone out of his mind.
Then he reflected that because the ship of his hopes
and dreams had been wrecked there was no reason
why he should neglect his obligations to his fellow-
travellers on the uncertain sea.
He sat down and transcribed by the light of the
dawn in his exquisite handwriting the stanzas
which had been the fruit of a brighter day. And
the memory of this dead joy was exceedingly
bitter to him, so that he sat musing for some time
on the unutterable sadness which the ghosts of
perished joys bring to man in his misery, and a
line of Virgil buzzed in his brain ; but not, as of
yore, did it afford him the luxury of causeless
melancholy, but like a cruel finger it touched his
open wound. The ancients, he thought, knew
how to bear misfortune.
Levius fit patientia
Quidquid corrigere est nefas.
As the words occurred to him he thought how
much better equipped he was for the bitter trial,
THE SPIDER'S WEB 119
since had he not the certain hope of another life,
and of meeting his beloved in the spaces of endless
felicity ? Surely then he should be able to bear his
sorrow with as great a fortitude as the pagan poets,
who looked forward to nothing but the dust ;
to whom the fabled dim country beyond the Styx
was a cheerless dream, and to whom a living dog
upon the earth was more worthy of envy than the
King of all Elysium. He must learn of the ancients.
The magic of the lemon-coloured dawn had
vanished now before the swift daylight. Many
bells were ringing in the city, and the first signs of
life were stirring in the streets. He searched for
a little book, and read of the consolation which
Cicero gave to Lselius in the De Amicitia. But
he had not read many lines before he closed the
book. His wound was too fresh for the balm of
reason and philosophy.
" Later,' ' he thought, " this will strengthen and
help me, but not to-day ; to-day my wound must
bleed and be allowed to bleed, for all the phil-
osophy in the world cannot lessen the fact that
yesterday she was and to-day she is not."
He felt a desire to escape from his room, which
had been the chapel of such holy prayers, the
shrine where so many fervent tapers of hope had
burnt, where so sweet an incense of dream had
risen. He left his room and hurried down the
narrow stone stairs into the street. As he left
120 THE SPIDER'S WEB
the house he turned to his right and walked on till
he reached Or San Michele ; there he turned to his
right again and walked straight on till he reached the
churches of Santa Reparata and San Giovanni. He
entered San Giovanni and said a brief prayer ; then
he took the nearest street, east of Santa Reparata,
to the Porta a ballo, and found himself beyond
the walls of the city. He walked towards Fiesole.
The glory of the sunrise was still in the sky, the
fragrance of the dawning summer (it was the nth
of June) was in the air. He walked towards the
East. The corn on the hills was green, and pink
wild roses fringed every plot of wheat. The grass
was wet with dew. The city glittered in the plain
beneath, clean and fresh in the dazzling air ; it
seemed a part of the pageant of summer, an unreal
piece of imagery, distinct and clear-cut, yet miracu-
lous, like a mirage seen in mid-ocean. " Truly,"
he thought, " this is the city of the flower, and the
lily is its fitting emblem."
But while his heart went out towards his native
town he felt a sharp pang as he remembered that
the flower of flowers, the queen of the lilies, had
been mowed down by the scythe, and the city
which to him had heretofore been an altar was
now a tomb. The lovely Virgilian dirge,
Manibus date lilia plenis . . .
His saltern accumulem donis et fungar inani
THE SPIDER'S WEB 121
rang in his ears, and he thought that he too must
bring a gift and scatter lilies on her grave ; handfuls
of lilies ; but they must be unfading flowers, wet
with immortal tears. He pondered on this gift.
It must be a gift of song, a temple built in verse.
But he was still unsatisfied. No dirge, however
tender and solemn ; no elegy, however soft and
majestic ; no song, however piteous, could be a
sufficient offering for the glorious being who had
died in her youth and beauty. But what could
he fashion or build ? He thought with envy of
Arnolfo and of Giotto : the one with his bricks
could have built a tomb which would prove to be
one of the wonders of the world, and the other
with his brush could have fixed her features for
ever, for the wonder of future generations. And
yet was not his instrument the most potent of all,
his vehicle the most enduring ? Stones decayed,
and colours faded, but verse remained, outliving
bronze and marble. Yes, his monument should
be more lasting than all the masterpieces of Giotto,
than all the proud designs of Arnolfo ; but how
should it be ?
He had reached a narrow lane at the foot of a
steep hill covered with corn and dotted with olives.
He lay down under a hedge in the shade. The
sun was shining on two large bramble bushes which
grew on the hedge opposite him. Above him, on
his right, was a tall cypress tree standing by itself,
122 THE SPIDER'S WEB
and the corn plots stretched up behind him till
they reached the rocky summits tufted with firs.
Between the two bramble bushes a spider had
spun a large web, and he was sitting in the midst
of it awaiting his prey. But the bramble and the
web were still wet with the morning dew, whose
little drops glistened in the sunshine like diamonds.
Every tiny thread and filament of the web was
dewy and lit by the newly-awakened sun. He
lay on his back in the shade and pondered on the
shape and nature of his gift of song, and on the
deathless flowers that he must grow and gather
and lay upon her tomb.
The spider's web caught his eye, and from where
he lay the sight was marvellous. The spider
seemed like a small globe of fire in the midst of a
number of concentric silvery lines studded with
dewy gems ; it was like a miniature sun in the
midst of a system of gleaming stars. The delicate
web with its shining films and dewdrops seemed
to him as he lay there to be a vision of the whole
universe, with all its worlds and stars revolving
around the central orb of light. It was as though
a veil had been torn away and he were looking on
the naked glory of the spheres, the heart of Heaven,
the very home of God.
He looked and looked, his whole spirit rilled
with ineffable awe and breathless humility. He
lay gazing on the chance miracle of nature till a
THE SPIDER'S WEB 123
passing cloud obscured the sun, and the spider's
web wore once more its ordinary appearance.
Then he arose with tears in his eyes and gave a
great sigh of thankfulness.
" I have found it," he thought, " I will say of
her what has never yet been said of any woman.
I will paint all Hell, all Purgatory, and all that is
in them, to make more glorious the glory of her
abode, and I will reveal to man that glory. I will
show her in the circle of spotless flame, among the
rivers and rings of eternal light, which revolve
around the inmost heart, the fiery rose, and move
obedient to the Love which moves the sun." And
his thought shaped itself into verse and he mur-
mured to himself :
L'amor che muove il sole e l'altre stelle.
EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY
BY AN EYE-WITNESS
( With apologies to Mr H. Belloc)
THE King had not slept for three nights. He
looked at his face in the muddy pool of
water which had settled in the worn flagstones of his
prison floor, and noticed that his beard was of a
week's growth. Beads of sweat stood on his fore-
head, and his eyes were bloodshot. In the room
next door, which was the canteen, the soldiers
were playing on a drum. Over the tall hills the
dawn was ruffling the clouds. There was a faint
glimmer on the waters of the river. The footsteps
of the gaolers were heard on the outer rampart.
At seven o'clock they brought the King a good
dinner : they allowed him burgundy from France,
and yellow mead, and white bread baked in the
ovens of the Abbey, although he was constrained
to drink out of pewter, and plates were forbidden
him. Eustace, his page, timidly offered him
music. The King bade him sing the " Lay of the
Sussex Lass," which begins thus :
Triumphant, oh ! triumphant now she stands,
Above my Sussex, and above my sea !
She stretches out her thin ulterior hands
Across the morning . . .
But the King, to whom these memories were
128 EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE
portentous, called for another song and Eustace
sang a stave of that ballad which was made on
the Pyrenees, and which is still unfinished (for
the modern world has no need of these things),
telling of how Lord Raymond drank in a little tent
with Charlemagne :
Enormous through the morning the tall battalions run :
The men who fought with Charlemagne are very nearly done ;
The wine is dark beneath the night, the stars are in the sky,
The hammer's in the blacksmith's hand in case he wants to
We'll ride to Fontarabia, we'll storm the stubborn wall,
And I call.
And Uriel and his Seraphim are hammering a shield ;
And twice along the valley has the horn of Roland pealed ;
And Cleopatra on the Nile, Iseult in Brittany,
And Lancelot in Camelot, and Drake upon the sea ;
And behind the young Republic are the fellows with the
And I brag !
The King listlessly opened his eyes and said that
he had no stomach for such song, and from the
next door came the mutter of the drums. For on
that night which was Candlemas Thursday, or as
we should now call it " Friday " the gaolers were
keeping holiday, and drinking English beer brewed
in Sussex ; for the beer of West England was not
to their liking, as any one who has walked down
the old Roman Road through Daglingworth,
EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE 129
Brimpsfield, and Birdlip towards Cardigan on a
warm summer's day can know. For a man may
tramp that road and stop and ask for drink at an
inn, and receive nothing but Imperialist whisky,
and drinks that annoy rather than satisfy the
great thirst of a Christian.
Outside, a little breeze had crept out of the
West. The morning star was paling over the
Quantock Hills, and the King was mortally weary.
" This day three years ago/' he thought, " I was
spurred and harnessed for the lists in a tunic of
mail, with an emerald on my shoulder-strap, and
I was tilting with my lord of Cleremont before
Queen Isabella of France. The birds were
singing in Touraine, and the sun was beating on
the lists ; and the minstrels of Val-es-Dunes were
chanting the song of the men who died for the
Faith when they stormed Jerusalem. What is
the lilt of that song," said the King, " which
the singers of Val-es-Dunes sang ? " And Eustace
pondered, for his memory was weak and he was
overwrought by nights of watching and days of
vigilance ; but presently he touched his strings
and sang :
The captains came from Normandy
In clamorous ships across the sea ;
And from the trees in Gascony
The masts were cloven, tall and free.
And Turpin swung the helm and sang ;
130 EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE
And stars like all the bells at Brie
From cloudy steeples rang.
The rotten leaves are whirling down
Dishevelled from September's crown ;
The Emperors have left the town ;
The Weald of Sussex, burnt and brown,
Is trampled by the kings.
And Harmuth gallops up the Down,
And, as he rides, he sings.
He sings of battles and of wine,
Of boats that leap the bellowing brine,
Of April eyes that smile and shine,
Of Raymond and Lord Catiline
And Carthage by the sea,
Of saints, and of the Muses Nine
That dwell in Gascony.
And to the King, as he heard this stave, came
visions of his youth ; of how he had galloped from
Woodstock to Stonesfield on a night of June with-
in eleven hours, with a company of minstrels, and
of how during that long feast at Arundel he made
a song in the vernacular in praise of St Anselm.
And he remembered that he owed a candle to that
saint. For he had vowed that if the wife of Wester-
main should meet him after the tournament he
would burn a tall candle at Canterbury before
Michaelmas. But this had escaped his mind, for
it had been tossed hither and thither during days of
EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE 131
conflict which had come later, and he was not loth
to believe that the neglect of this service and the
idle vow had been corner-stone of his misfortunes,
and had helped to bring about his miserable plight.
While these threads of memory glimmered in
his mind the small tallow rush-light which lit the
dungeon flickered and went out. The chapel
clock struck six. The King made a gesture which
meant that the time of music was over, and Eustace
went back to the canteen, where the men of the
guard were playing at dice by the light of smoky
rush-lights. The King lay down on his wooden
pallet, whose linen was delicate and of lawn, em-
broidered with his own cipher and crown. The
pillow, which was stuffed with scented rushes,
was delicious to the cheek, and yielding.
All that night in London Queen Isabella had
been waiting for the news from France. A storm
was blowing across the Channel, and the ships
(their pilots were Germans, and bungled in reading
the stars) making for the port turned back towards
Dunquerque. It was a storm such as, if you are
in a small boat, turns you back from Broughty
Ferry to the Goodwin Sands. The Queen, who
took counsel of no one, was in two minds as to her
daring deed, and her hostage trembled in an un-
certain grasp. In Saxony the banished favourites
talked wildly, cursing the counsels of London ;
132 EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE
but Saxony was heedless and unmoved. And
Piers Gaveston spoke heated words in vain.
The King, who was in that lethargic state of
slumber, between sleep and waking, heard a
shuffle of steps beyond the door ; a cold sweat
broke once more on his forehead, and he waved his
left hand listlessly. Outside the sun had risen,
and a broad daylight flooded the wet meadows
and the brimming tide of the Severn, catching the
sails of the boats that were heeling and trembling
on the ripple of the water, which was stirred by the
South wind. The King looked towards the window
with weariness, expecting, as far as his lethargy
allowed, the advent of another monotonous day.
The door opened. The faces he saw by the
gaoler's torch were not those he expected. The
King, I say, looked towards them, and his hands
trembled, and the moisture on them glistened.
They were dark, and one of them was concealed
by a silken mask.
Three men entered the dungeon. In the hands
of the foremost of the three glowed a red-hot iron,
which was to be the manner of his doom.
PERHAPS we had better not land after all,"
said Lewis as he was stepping into the boat ;
" we can explore this island on our way home/'
" We had much better land now," said Stewart ;
" we shall get to Teneriffe to-morrow in any case.
Besides, an island that's not on the chart is too
exciting a thing to wait for."
Lewis gave in to his younger companion, and the
two ornithologists, who were on their way to the
Canary Islands in search of eggs, were rowed to
" They had better fetch us at sunset," said Lewis
as they landed.
M Perhaps we shall stay the night," responded
" I don't think so," said Lewis ; but after a
pause he told the sailors that if they should be
more than half an hour late they were not to wait,
but to come back in the morning at ten. Lewis
and Stewart walked from the sandy bay up a steep
basaltic cliff which sloped right down to the beach.
" The island is volcanic," said Stewart.
" All the islands about here are volcanic," said
Lewis. " We shan't be able to climb much in
this heat," he added.
136 THE ISLAND
" It will be all right when we get to the trees,"
said Stewart. Presently they reached the top of
the cliff. The basaltic rock ceased and an open
grassy incline was before them covered with myrtle
and cactus bushes ; and further off a thick wood,
to the east of which rose a hill sparsely dotted
with olive trees. They sat down on the grass,
panting. The sun beat down on the dry rock ;
there was not a cloud in the sky nor a ripple on
the emerald sea. In the air there was a strange
aromatic scent ; and the stillness was heavy.
" I don't think it can be inhabited," said Lewis.
" Perhaps it's merely a volcanic island cast up by
a sea disturbance," suggested Stewart.
u Look at those trees," said Lewis, pointing to
the wood in the distance.
" What about them ? " asked Stewart.
" They are oak trees," said Lewis. " Do you
know why I didn't want to land ? " he asked
abruptly. " I am not superstitious, you know,
but as I got into the boat I distinctly heard a
voice calling out : ' Don't land ! ' "
Stewart laughed. u I think it was a good
thing to land," he said. " Let's go on now."
They walked towards the wood, and the nearer
they got to it the more their surprise increased.
It was a thick wood of large oak trees which must
certainly have been a hundred years old. When
they had got quite close to it they paused.
THE ISLAND 137
" Before we explore the wood," said Lewis,
" let us climb the hill and see if we can get a
general view of the island."
Stewart agreed, and they climbed the hill in
silence. When they reached the top they found
it was not the highest point of the island, but only
one of several hills, so that they obtained only a
limited view. The valleys seemed to be densely
wooded, and the oak wood was larger than they
had imagined. They laid down and rested and
lit their pipes.
M No birds," remarked Lewis, gloomily.
" I haven't seen one the island is extraordinarily
still," said Stewart. The further they had pene-
trated inland the more oppressive and sultry the
air had become ; and the pungent aroma they had
noticed directly was stronger. It was like that
of mint, and yet it was not mint ; and although
sweet it was not agreeable. The heat seemed to
weigh even on Stewart's buoyant spirits, for he
sat smoking in silence, and no longer urged Lewis
to continue their exploration.
" I think the island is inhabited," said Lewis,
" and that the houses are on the other side. There
are some sheep and some goats on that hill
opposite. Do you see ? "
u Yes," said Stewart, " I think they are mouflon,
but I don't think the island is inhabited all the
same." No sooner were the words out of his
138 THE ISLAND
mouth than he started, and rising to his feet,
cried : " Look there ! " and he pointed to a thin
wreath of smoke which was rising from the wood.
Their languor seemed to leave them, and they ran
down the hill and reached the wood once more.
Just as they were about to enter it Lewis stooped
and pointed to a small plant with white flowers
and three oval-shaped leaves rising from the root.
" What's that ? " he asked Stewart, who was
the better botanist of the two. The flowers were
quite white, and each had six pointed petals.
" It's a kind of garlic, I think," said Stewart.
Lewis bent down over it. "It doesn't smell,"
he said. " It's not unlike moly (Allium flavum),
only it's white instead of yellow, and the flowers
are larger. I'm going to take it with me." He
began scooping away the earth with a knife so as
to take out the plant by the roots. After he had
been working for some minutes he exclaimed:
" This is the toughest plant I've ever seen ; I
can't get it out." He was at last successful, but
as he pulled the root he gave a cry of surprise.
" There's no bulb," he said. " Look ! only
a black root."
Stewart examined the plant. " I can't make
it out," he said.
Lewis wrapped the plant in his handkerchief and
put it in his pocket. They entered the wood.
The air was still more sultry here than outside,
THE ISLAND 139
and the stillness even more oppressive. There
were no birds and not a vestige of bird life.
" This exploration is evidently a waste of time
as far as birds are concerned," remarked Lewis.
At that moment there was a rustle in the under-
growth, and five pigs crossed their path and dis-
appeared, grunting. Lewis started, and for some
reason he could not account for, shuddered ; he
looked at Stewart, who appeared unconcerned.
" They are not wild," said Stewart. They
walked on in silence. The place and its heavy
atmosphere had again affected their spirits. When
they spoke it was almost in a whisper. Lewis
wished they had not landed, but he could give no
reason to himself for his wish. After they had
been walking for about twenty minutes they
suddenly came on an open space and a low white
house. They stopped and looked at each other.
" It's got no chimney ! " cried Lewis, who was
the first to speak. It was a one-storeyed building,
with large windows (which had no glass in them)
reaching to the ground, wider at the bottom than
at the top. The house was overgrown with
creepers ; the roof was flat. They entered in
silence by the large open doorway and found
themselves in a low hall. There was no furniture
and the floor was mossy.
" It's rather like an Egyptian tomb," said
Stewart, and he shivered. The hall led into a
140 THE ISLAND
further room, which was open in the centre to the
sky, like the impluvium of a Roman house. It also
contained a square basin of water, which was filled
by water bubbling from a lion's mouth carved in
stone. Beyond the impluvium there were two
smaller rooms, in one of which there was a kind
of raised stone platform. The house was com-
pletely deserted and empty. Lewis and Stewart
said little ; they examined the house in silent
" Look," said Lewis, pointing to one of the
walls. Stewart examined the wall and noticed
that there were traces on it of a faded painted
" It's like the wall paintings at Pompeii," he said.
" I think the house is modern," remarked Lewis.
" It was probably built by some eccentric at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, who did it
up in Empire style."
" Do you know what time it is ? " said Stewart,
suddenly. " The sun has set and it's growing
" We must go at once," said Lewis, " we'll come
back here to-morrow." They walked on in silence.
The wood was dim in the twilight, a fitful breeze
made the trees rustle now and again, but the air
was just as sultry as ever. The shapes of the
trees seemed fantastic and almost threatening in
the dimness, and the rustle of the leaves was like
THE ISLAND 141
a human moan. Once or twice they seemed to
hear the grunting of pigs in the undergrowth and
to catch sight of bristly backs.
" We don't seem to be getting any nearer the
end," said Stewart after a time. " I think we've
taken the wrong path. They stopped. " I re-
member that tree," said Stewart, pointing to a
twisted oak ; "we must go straight on from there
to the left." They walked on and in ten minutes'
time found themselves once more at the back of
the house. It was now quite dark.
" We shall never find the way now," said Lewis.
" We had better sleep in the house." They walked
through the house into one of the furthest rooms
and settled themselves on the mossy platform.
The night was warm and starry, the house deathly
still except for the splashing of the water in the
" We shan't get any food," Lewis said.
" I'm not hungry," said Stewart, and Lewis knew
that he could not have eaten anything to save his
life. He felt utterly exhausted and yet not at all
sleepy. Stewart, on the other hand, was overcome
with drowsiness. He lay down on the mossy
platform and fell asleep almost instantly. Lewis
lit a pipe ; the vague forebodings he had felt in
the morning had returned to him, only increased
tenfold. He felt an unaccountable physical dis-
comfort, an inexplicable sensation of uneasiness.
142 THE ISLAND
Then he realised what it was. He felt there was
someone in the house besides themselves, someone
or something that was always behind him, moving
when he moved, and watching him. He walked
into the impluvium, but heard nothing and saw
nothing. There were none of the thousand little
sounds, such as the barking of a dog, or the
hoot of a night-bird, which generally complete
the silence of a summer night. Everything was
uncannily still. He returned to the room. He
would have given anything to be back on the yacht,
for besides the physical sensation of discomfort
and of the something watching him he also felt
the unmistakable feeling of impending danger
that had been with him nearly all day.
He lay down and at last fell into a doze. As he
dozed he heard a subdued noise, a kind of buzzing,
such as is made by a spinning wheel or a shuttle
on a loom, and more strongly than ever he felt
that he was being watched. Then all at once his
body seemed to grow stiff with fright. He saw
someone enter the room from the impluvium. It
was a dim, veiled figure, the figure of a woman.
He could not distinguish her features, but he had
the impression that she was strangely beautiful ;
she was bearing a cup in her hands, and she walked
towards Stewart and bent over him, offering him
Something in Lewis prompted him to cry out
THE ISLAND 143
with all his might : " Don't drink ! Don't drink ! "
He heard the words echoing in the air, just as he
had heard the voice in the boat ; he felt that it
was imperative to call out, and yet he could not :
he was paralysed ; the words would not come.
He formed them with his lips, but no sound came.
He tried with all his might to rise and scream,
and he could not move. Then a sudden cold
faintness came upon him, and he remembered
no more till he woke and found the sun shining
brightly. Stewart was lying with eyes closed,
moaning loudly in his sleep.
Lewis tried to wake him. He opened his eyes
and stared with a fixed, meaningless stare. Lewis
tried to lift him from the platform, and then
a horrible thing happened. Stewart struggled
violently and made a snarling noise, which froze the
blood in Lewis's veins. He ran out of the house
with cold beads of sweat on his forehead. He ran
through the wood to the shore, and there he found
the boat. He rowed back to the yacht and fetched
some quinine. Then, together with the skipper,
the steward, and some other sailors, he returned
to the ominous house. They found it empty.
There was no trace of Stewart. They shouted
in the wood till they were hoarse, but no answer
broke the heavy stillness.
Then sending for the rest of the crew, Lewis
organised a regular search over the whole island.
144 THE ISLAND
This lasted till sunset, and they returned in the
evening without having found any trace of Stewart
or of any other human being. In the night a high
wind rose, which soon became a gale ; they were
obliged to weigh anchor so as not to be dashed
against the island, and for twenty-four hours they
underwent a terrific ' tossing. Then the storm
subsided as quickly as it had come.
They made for the island once more and reached
the spot where they had anchored three days
before. There was no trace of the island. It had
When they reached Teneriffe the next day they
found that everybody was talking of the great
tidal wave which had caused such great damage
and destruction in the islands.
THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD
To Henry Cust
WHEN he was a child his baby brother came
to him one day and said that their elder
brother, who was grown up, had got a beautiful
small ship in his room. Should he ask him for it ?
The child who gave good advice said : " No, if
you ask him for it he will say you are a spoilt child ;
but go and play in his room with it before he gets
up in the morning, and he will give it you/' The
baby brother followed this advice, and sure enough
two days afterwards he appeared triumphant in
the nursery with the ship in his hands, saying :
" He said I might choose, the ship or the picture-
book." Now the picture-book was a coloured
edition of Baron Munchausen's adventures ; the
boy who gave good advice had seen it and hankered
for it. As his baby brother had refused it there
could be no harm in asking for it, so the next time
his elder brother sent him on an errand (it was to
fetch a pin-cushion from his room) judging the
moment to be propitious, he said to him : " May
I have the picture-book that baby wouldn't have ? "
" I don't like little boys who ask," answered the
big brother, and there the matter ended.
The child who gave good advice went to school.
There was a rage for stag beetles at the school ;
148 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE
the boys painted them and made them run races
on a chessboard. They imagined rightly or
wrongly that some stag beetles were much faster
than others. A little boy called Bell possessed
the stag beetle which was the favourite for the
coming races. Another boy called Mason was
consumed with longing for this stag beetle ; and
Bell had said he would give it him in exchange
for Mason's catapult, which was famous in the
school for the unique straightness of its two prongs.
Mason went to the boy who gave good advice and
asked him for his opinion. " Don't swap it for
your catty," said the boy who gave good advice,
" because Bell's stag beetle may not win after all ;
and even if it does stag beetles won't be the rage
for very long ; but a catty is always a catty, and
yours is the best in the school." Mason took the
advice. When the races came off, the stag beetles
were so erratic that no prize was awarded, and they
immediately ceased to be the rage. The rage for
stag beetles was succeeded by a rage for secret
alphabets. One boy invented a secret alphabet
made of simple hieroglyphics, which was imparted
only to a select few, who spent their spare time
in corresponding with each other by these cryptic
signs. The boy who gave good advice was not
of those initiated into the mystery of the cypher,
and he longed to be. He made several overtures,
but they were all rejected, the reason being that
THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 149
boys of the second division could not let a " third
division squit " into their secret. At last the boy
who gave good advice offered to one of the initiated
the whole of his stamp collection in return for the
secret of the alphabet. This offer was accepted.
The boy took the stamp collection, but the boy
who gave good advice received in return not the
true alphabet but a sham one especially manu-
factured for him. This he found out later ; but
recriminations were useless ; besides which the
rage for secret alphabets soon died out and was
replaced by a rage for aquariums, newts, and
The boy went to a public school. He was a fag.
His fag-master had two fags. One morning the
other fag came to the boy who gave good advice
and said : " Clarke (he was the fag-master) told
me three days ago to clean his football boots.
He's been ' staying out ' and hasn't used them, and
I forgot. He'll want them to-day, and now there
isn't time. I shall pretend I did clean them."
" No, don't do that," said the boy who gave
good advice, " because if you say you have cleaned
them he will lick you twice as much for having
cleaned them badly say you forgot." The advice
was taken, and the fag-master merely said : " Don't
forget again." A little later the fag-master had
some friends to tea, and told the boy who gave
good advice to boiljrim six eggs for not more than
150 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE
three minutes and a half. The boy who gave
good advice, while they were on the fire, took part
in a rag which was going on in the passage ; the
result was that the eggs remained seven minutes
in boiling water. They were hard. When the
fag-master pointed this out and asked his fag what
he meant by it, the boy who gave good advice per-
sisted in his statement that they had been exactly
three minutes and a half in the saucepan, and that
he had timed them by his watch. So the fag-
master caned him for telling lies.
The boy who gave good advice grew into a
man and went to the university. There he made
friends with a man called Crawley, who went to
a neighbouring race meeting one day and lost two
or three hundred pounds.
" I must raise the money from a money-lender
somehow," said Crawley to the man who gave
good advice, '* and on no account must the Master
hear of it or he would send me down ; or write
home, which would be worse."
" On the contrary," said the man who gave good
advice, " you must go straight to the Master and
tell him all about it. He will like you twice as
much for ever afterwards ; he never minds people
getting into scrapes when he happens to like them,
and he likes you and believes you have a great
career before you."
Crawley went to the Master of his college and
THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 151
made a clean breast of it. The Master told him he
had been foolish very foolish ; but he arranged
the whole matter in such a manner that it never
came to the ears of Crawley's extremely violent-
tempered and puritanical father.
The man who gave good advice got a " First "
in Mods, and everyone felt confident he would get
a first in Greats ; he did brilliantly in nearly all
his papers ; but during the Latin unseen a tem-
porary and sudden lapse of memory came over him
and he forgot the English for manubicB, which the
day before he had known quite well means prize-
money. In fact the word was written on the first
page of his note-book. The word was in his brain,
but a small shutter had closed on it for the moment
and he could not recall it. He looked over his
neighbour's shoulder. His neighbour had trans-
lated it "booty." He copied the word mechani-
cally, knowing it was wrong. As he did so he
was detected and accused of cribbing. He denied
the charge, the matter was investigated, the papers
were compared, and the man who gave good advice
was disqualified. In all his other papers he had
done incomparably better than anyone else.
When he left Oxford the man who gave good
advice went into a Government office. He had
not been in it long before he perceived that by
certain simple reforms the work of the office could
be done twice as effectually and half as expensively.
152 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE
He embodied these reforms in a memorandum and
they were not long afterwards adopted. He be-
came private secretary to Snipe, a rising politician,
and persuaded him to change his party and his
politics. Snipe, owing to this advice, became a
Cabinet Minister, and the man who gave good
advice, having inherited some money, stood for
Parliament himself. He stood as a Conservative
at a General Election and spoke eloquently to
enthusiastic meetings. The wire-pullers prophe-
cied an overwhelming majority, when shortly
before the poll, at one of his last meetings, he
suddenly declared himself to be an Independent,
and made a speech violently in favour of Home
Rule and conscription. The result was that the
Liberal Imperialist got in by a huge majority, and
the man who gave good advice was pelted with
After this the man who gave good advice aban-
doned politics and took to finance ; in this branch
of human affairs he made the fortune of several of
his friends, preventing some from putting their
money in alluring South African schemes, and
advising others to risk theirs on events which
seemed to him certain, such as the election of a
President or the short-lived nature of a revolution ;
events which he foresaw with intuition amounting
to second-sight. At the same time he lost nearly
all his own money by investing it in a company
THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 153
which professed to have discovered a manner
cheap and rapid of transforming copper into
platinum. He made the fortune of a publisher
by insisting on the publication of a novel which
six intelligent men had declared to be unreadable.
It was called " The Conscience of John Digby,"
and when published it sold by thousands and tens
of thousands. But he lost the handsome reward
he received for this service by publishing at his
own expense, on magnificent paper, an edition of
Rabelais' works in their original tongue. He
frequently spotted winners for his friends and for
himself, but any money that he won at a race
meeting he invariably lost coming home in the
train on the Three Card Trick.
Nor did he lose touch with politicians, and this
brought about the final catastrophe. A great
friend of his, the eminent John Brooke, had the
chance of becoming Prime Minister. Parties were
at that time in a state of confusion. The question
was, should his friend ally himself with or sever
himself for ever from Mr Capax Nissy, the leader of
the Liberal Aristocracy Party, who seemed to
have a huge following ? His friend, John Brooke,
gave a small dinner to his most intimate friends in
order to talk over the matter. The man who gave
good advice was so eloquent, so cogent in his reason-
ing, so acute in his perception, that he persuaded
Brooke to sever himself for ever from Capax Nissy.
154 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE
He persuaded all who were present, with the
exception of Mr Short-Sight, a pig-headed man
who reasoned falsely. So annoyed did the man
who gave good advice become with Short-Sight,
and so excited in his vexation, that he finally lost
his self-control, and hit him as hard as he could
on the head after Short-Sight had repeated a
groundless assertion for the seventh time with
Short-Sight died, and the man who gave good
advice was convicted of wilful murder. He gave
admirable advice to his counsel, but threw away
his own case as soon as he entered the box himself,
which he insisted on doing. He was hanged in
gaol at Reading. Many people whom he had
benefited in various ways visited him in prison,
among others John Brooke, the Prime Minister.
It is said that he would certainly have been re-
prieved but for the intemperate and inexcusable
letters he wrote to the Home Secretary from
" It's a great tragedy he was a clever man,"
said Brooke after dinner when they were discuss-
ing the misfortune at Downing Street ; "a very
clever man, but he had no judgment.' '
" No," said Snipe, the man whose private
secretary the man who gave good advice had
been, " That's it. It's an awful thing but he
had no judgment."
PETER, or Petrushka, which was the name
he was known by, was the carpenter's
mate ; his hair was like light straw, and his eyes
were mild and blue. He was good at his trade ;
a quiet and sober youth ; thoughtful, too, for he
knew how to read and had read several books
when he was still a boy. A translation of " Monte
Cristo " once fell into his hands, and this story
had kindled his imagination and stirred in him the
desire to travel, to see new countries and strange
people. He had made up his mind to leave the
village and to try his luck in one of the big towns,
when, before he was eighteen, something happened
to him which entirely changed the colour of his
thoughts and the range of his desires. It was an
ordinary experience enough : he fell in love. He
fell in love with Tatiana, who worked in the starch
factory. Tatiana's eyes were grey, her complexion
was white, her features small and delicate, and her
hair a beautiful dark brown with gold lights and
black shadows in it ; her movements were quick
and her glance keen ; she was like a swallow.
It happened when the snows melted and the
meadows were flooded ; the first fine day in April.
The larks were singing over the plains, which were
beginning to show themselves once more under
the melting snow ; the sun shone on the large
patches of water, and turned the flooded meadows
in the valley into a fantastic vision. It was on a
Sunday after church that this new thing hap-
pened. He had often seen Tatiana before : that
day she was different and new to him. It was as
if a bandage had been taken from his eyes, and
at the same moment he realised that Tatiana
was a new Tatiana. He also knew that the old
world in which he had lived hitherto had crumbled
to pieces ; and that a new world, far brighter and
more wonderful, had been created for him. As
for Tatiana, she loved him at once. There was
no delay, no hesitation, no misunderstandings,
no doubt : and at the first not much speech ; but
first love came to them straight and swift, with
the first sunshine of the spring, as it does to the
All the spring and summer they kept company
and walked out together in the evenings. When
the snows entirely melted and the true spring
came, it came with a rush ; in a fortnight's time
all the trees except the ash were green, and the bees
boomed round the thick clusters of pear-blossom
and apple-blossom, which shone like snow against
the bright azure. During that time Petrushka
and Tatiana walked in the apple orchard in the
evening and they talked to each other in the
divinest of all languages, the language of first love,
which is no language at all but a confused medley
and murmur of broken phrases, whisperings,
twitterings, pauses, and silences a language so
wonderful that it cannot be put down into speech
or words, although Shakespeare and the very
great poets translate the spirit of it into music,
and the great musicians catch the echo of it in
their song. Then a fortnight later, when the
woods were carpeted and thick with lilies of the
valley, Petrushka and Tatiana walked in the
woods and picked the last white violets, and later
again they sought the alleys of the landlord's
property, where the lilac bushes were a mass of
blossom and fragrance, and there they listened to
the nightingale, the bird of spring. Then came
the summer, the fragrance of the beanfields, and
the ripening of corn and the wonderful long twi-
lights, and July, when the corn, ripe and tall and
stiff, changed the plains into a vast rippling ocean
After the harvest, at the very beginning of
autumn, they were to be married. There had
been a slight difficulty about money. Tatiana's
father had insisted that Petrushka should produce
a certain not very large sum ; but the difficulty
had been overcome and the money had been found.
There were no more obstacles, everything was
smooth and settled. Petrushka no longer thought
160 , RUSSALKA
of travels in foreign lands ; he had forgotten the
old dreams which " Monte Cristo " had once
kindled in him.
It was in the middle of August that the carpenter
received instructions from the landowner to make
some wooden steps and a small raft and to fix
them up on the banks of the river for the con-
venience of bathers. It did not take the carpenter
and Petrushka long to make these things, and one
afternoon Petrushka drove down to the river to
fix them in their place. The river was broad, the
banks were wooded with willow trees, and the
undergrowth was thick, for the woods reached to
the river bank, which was flat, but which ended
sheer above the water over a slope of mud and
roots, so that a bather needed steps or a raft or a
springboard, so as to dive or to enter and leave
the water with comfort.
Petrushka put the steps in their place which
was where the wood ended and made fast the
floating raft to them. Not far from the bank the
ground was marshy and the spot was suspected
by some people of being haunted by malaria. It
was a still, sultry day. The river was like oil, the
sky clouded but not entirely overclouded, and
among the high banks of grey cloud there were
patches of blue.
When Petrushka had finished his job, he sat on
the wooden steps, and rolling some tobacco into
a primitive cigarette, contemplated the grey, oily
water and the willow trees. It was too late in the
year, he thought, to make a bathing place. He
dipped his hand in the water : it was cold, but not
too cold. Yet in a fortnight's time it would not
be pleasant to bathe. However, people had their
whims, and he mused on the scheme of the universe
which ordained that certain people should have
whims, and that others should humour those
whims whether they liked it or not. Many people
many of his fellow-workers talked of the day
when the universal levelling would take place and
when all men could be equal. Petrushka did not
much believe in the advent of that day ; he was
not quite sure whether he ardently desired it ; in
any case, he was very happy as he was.
At that moment he heard two sharp short sounds,
less musical than a pipe and not so loud or harsh
as a scream. He looked up. A kingfisher had
flown across the oily water. Petrushka shouted ;
and the kingfisher skimmed over the water once
more and disappeared in the trees on the other
side of the river. Petrushka rolled and lit another
cigarette. Presently he heard the two sharp
sounds once more, and the kingfisher darted again
across the water : a bit of fish was in its beak. It
disappeared into the bank of the river on the same
side on which Petrushka was sitting, only lower
" Its nest must be there," thought Petrushka,
and he remembered that he had heard it said that
no one had ever been able to carry off a kingfisher's
nest intact. Why should he not be the first person
to do so ? He was skilful with his fingers, his
touch was sure and light. It was evidently a
carpenter's job, and few carpenters had the leisure
or opportunity to look for kingfishers' nests.
What a rare present it would be for Tatiana a
whole kingfisher's nest with every bone in it
He walked stealthily through the bushes down
the bank of the river, making as little noise as
possible. He thought he had marked the spot
where the kingfisher had dived into the bank. As
he walked, the undergrowth grew thicker and the
path darker, for he had reached the wood, on the
outskirts and end of which was the spot where he
had made the steps. He walked on and on without
thinking, oblivious of his surroundings, until he
suddenly realised that he had gone too far. More-
over, he must have been walking for some time,
for it was getting dark, or was it a thunder-shower ?
The air, too, was unbearably sultry ; he stopped
and wiped his forehead with a big print handker-
chief. It was impossible to reach the bank from
the place where he now stood, as he was separated
from it by a wide ditch of stagnant water. He
therefore retraced his footsteps through the wood,
It grew darker and darker ; it must be, he thought,
the evening deepening and no storm.
All at once he started ; he had heard a sound,
a high pipe. Was it the kingfisher ? He paused
and listened. Distinctly, and not far off in the
undergrowth, he heard a laugh, a woman's laugh.
It flashed across his mind that it might be Tatiana,
but it was not her laugh. Something rustled in
the bushes to the left of him ; he followed the
rustling and it led him through the bushes he
had now passed the ditch to the river bank
The sun had set behind the woods from which he
had just emerged ; the sky was as grey as the
water, and there was no reflection of the sunset in
the east. Except the water and the trees he saw
nothing ; there was not a sound to be heard, not
a ripple on the river, not a whisper from the
Then all at once the stillness was broken again
by quick rippling laughs immediately behind him.
He turned sharply round, and saw a woman in
the bushes : her eyes were large and green and
sad ; her hair straggling and dishevelled ; she was
dressed in reeds and leaves ; she was very pale.
She stared at him fixedly and smiled, showing
gleaming teeth, and when she smiled there was no
light nor laughter in her eyes, which remained sad
and green and glazed like those of a drowned
person. She laughed again and ran into the
bushes. Petrushka ran after her, but although he
was quite close to her he lost all trace of her im-
mediately. It was as if she had vanished under
the earth or into the air.
" It's a Russalka," thought Petrushka, and he
shivered. Then he added to himself, with the
pride of the new scepticism he had learnt from the
factory hands : " There is no such thing ; only
women believe in such things. It was some
Petrushka walked quickly back to the edge of
the wood, where he had left his cart, and drove
home. The next day was Sunday, and Tatiana
noticed that he was different moody, melancholy,
and absent-minded. She asked him what was the
matter ; he said his head ached. Towards five
o'clock he told her they were standing outside
her cottage that he was obliged to go to the river
" To-day is holiday," she said quietly.
" I left something there yesterday : one of my
tools. I must fetch it," he explained.
Tatiana looked at him, and her intuition told
her, firstly, that this was not true, and, secondly,
that it was not well for Petrushka to go to the
river. She begged him not to go. Petrushka
laughed and said he would be back quickly.
Tatiana cried, and implored him on her knees not
to go. Then Petrushka grew irritable and almost
rough, and told her not to vex him with foolishness.
Reluctantly and sadly she gave in at last.
Petrushka went to the river, and Tatiana watched
him go with a heavy heart. She felt quite certain
some disaster was about to happen.
At seven o'clock Petrushka had not yet returned,
and he did not return that night. The next
morning the carpenter and two others went to the
river to look for him. They found his body in the
shallow water, entangled in the ropes of the raft
he had made. He had been drowned, no doubt,
in setting the raft straight.
During all that Sunday night Tatiana had said
no word, nor had she moved from her doorstep :
it was only when they brought back the dripping
body to the village that she stirred, and when she
saw it she laughed a dreadful laugh, and the spirit
went from her eyes, leaving a fixed stare.
THE OLD WOMAN
THE old woman was spinning at her wheel
near a fire of myrtle boughs which burnt
fragrantly in the open yard. Through the stone
columns the sea was visible, smooth, dark, and
blue ; the low sun bathed the brown hills of the
coast in a golden mist. It was December. The
shepherds were driving home their flocks, the work
of the day was done, and a noise of light laughter
and rippling talk came from the Slaves' quarter.
In the middle of the stone-flagged yard two
little boys were playing at quoits. Their eyes and
hair were as dark as their brown skin, which had
been tanned by the sun. In one of the corners of
the yard a fair-haired, blue-eyed girl was nursing
a kitten and singing it to sleep. The old woman
was singing too, or rather humming a tune to
herself as she turned her wheel. She was very old :
her hair was white and silvery, and her face was
furrowed by a hundred wrinkles. Her eyes were
blue as the sky, and perhaps they had once been
full of fire and laughter, but all that had been
quenched and washed out long ago, and Time,
with his noiseless chisel, had sharpened her delicate
features and hollowed out her cheeks, which were
as white as ivory. But her hands as they twisted
170 THE OLD WOMAN
the wool were the hands of a young woman, and
seemed as though they had been fashioned by a
rare craftsman, so perfect were they in shape and
proportion, as firm as carved marble, as delicate
The sun sank behind the hills of the coast, and
a flood of scarlet light spread along the West just
above them, melting higher up into orange, and still
higher into a luminous blue, which turned to green
later as the evening deepened. The air was cool
and sharp, and the little boys, who had finished
their game, drew near to the fire.
" Tell us a story," said the elder of the two boys,
as they curled themselves up at the feet of the old
u You know all my stories," she said.
"That doesn't matter," said the boy.. "You
can tell us an old one."
" Well," said the old woman, " I suppose I
must. There was once upon a time a King and a
Queen who had three sons and one daughter."
At the sound of these words the little girl ran up
and nestled in the folds of the old woman's long
" No, not that one," one of the little boys inter-
rupted, u tell us about the Queen without a heart."
So the old woman began and said :
" There was once upon a time a King and a
Queen who had one daughter, and they invited
THE OLD WOMAN 171
all the gods and goddesses to the feast which they
gave in honour of the birth of their child. The
gods and goddesses came and gave the child every
gift they could think of ; she was to be the most
beautiful woman in the whole world, she was to
dance like the West wind, to laugh like the stream,
and to sing like the lark. Her hair should be made
of sunshine, and her eyes should be as the sea in
midsummer. She should excel in all things, in
knowledge, in wit, and in skill ; she should be
fleet of foot, a cunning harp-player, adept at all
manner of woman-like crafts, and deft with the
needle and the spinning-wheel, and at the loom.
Zeus himself gave her stateliness and majesty, the
Lord of the Sun gave a voice as of a golden flute ;
Poseidon gave her the laughter of all the waves of
the sea, the King of the Underworld gave her a
red ruby to wear on her breast more precious than
all the gems of the world. Artemis gave her
swiftness and radiance, Persephone the fragrance
and the freshness of all the flowers of spring ;
Pallas Athene gave her curious knowledge and
pleasant speech ; and, lastly, the Seaborn Goddess
breathed upon her and gave her the beauty of the
rose, the pearl, the dew, and the shells and the
foam of the sea. But, alas ! the King and Queen
had forgotten to ask one guest. The Goddess of
Envy and Discord had been left out, and she came
unbidden, and when all the gods and goddesses
172 THE OLD WOMAN
had given their gifts, she said : ' I too have a
gift to give, a gift that will be more precious to
her than any. I will give her a heart that shall
be proof against all the onsets of the world.' So
saying the Goddess of Envy took away the child's
heart and put in its place a heart of stone, hard as
adamant, bright and glittering as a gem. And the
Goddess of Envy went her way mocking. The
King and the Queen were greatly concerned, and
they asked the gods and goddesses whether their
daughter would ever recover her human heart.
They were told that the Goddess of Envy would
be obliged to give back the child's heart to the
man who loved her enough to seek and to find it,
and this would surely happen ; but when and how
it was forbidden to them to reveal.
" The child grew up and became the wonder of
the world. She was married to a powerful King,
and they lived in peace and plenty until the God-
dess of Envy once more troubled the child's life.
For owing to her subtle planning a Prince was
promised for wife the fairest woman in the world,
and he took the wife of the powerful King and
carried her away to Asia to the six-gated city.
The King prepared a host of ships and armed men
and sailed to Asia to win back his wife. And he
and his army fought for ten years until the six-
gated city was taken, and he brought his wife
home once more. Now during all the time the
THE OLD WOMAN 173
war lasted, although the whole world was filled
with the fame of the King's wife and of her beauty,
there was not found one man who was willing to
seek for her heart and to find it, for some gave no
credence to the tale, and others, believing it,
reasoned that the quest might last a life-time, and
that by the time they accomplished it the King's
wife would be an old woman, and there would be
fairer women in the world. Others, again, could
not believe that in so perfect a woman there could
be any fault ; they vowed her heart must be one with
her matchless beauty, and they said that even if
the tale were true, they preferred to worship her
as she was, and they would not have her be other-
wise or changed by a hair's breadth for all the
world. Some, indeed, did set out upon the quest,
but abandoned it soon from weariness and re-
turned to bask in the beauty of the great
" The years went by. The Queen journeyed to
Egypt, to the mountains of the South, and the
cities of the desert ; to the Pillars of Hercules and
to the islands of the West. Wherever she went
her fame spread like fire, and men fought and died
for a glimpse of her marvellous beauty ; and
wherever she passed she left behind her strife and
sorrow like a burning trail. After many voyages she
returned home and lived prosperously. The King
her husband died, her children grew up and married
174 THE OLD WOMAN
and bore children themselves, and she continued
to live peacefully in her palace. Her fame and
her glory brought her neither joy nor sorrow, nor
did she heed the spell that she cast on the hearts
" One day a harp-player came to her palace and
sang and played before her ; he made music so
ravishing and so sad that all who heard him wept
save the Queen, who listened and smiled, listless
and indifferent. But her smile filled him with
such a passion of wonder and worship that he
resolved to rest no more until he had found her
heart, for he knew the tale. So he sought the
whole world over in vain ; and for years and years
he roamed the world fruitlessly. At last one day
in a far country he found a little bird in a trap and
he set it free, and in return the bird promised him
that he should find the Queen's heart. All he had
to do was to go home and to seek the Queen's
palace. So the harper went home to the Queen's
palace, and when he reached it he found the Queen
had grown old ; her hair was grey and there were
lines on her cheek. But she smiled on him, and
he knelt down before her, for he loved her more
than ever, and to him she was as beautiful as ever
she had been. At that moment, for the first time
in her life the Queen's eyes filled with tears, for her
heart had been given back to her. And that is all
the story." *
THE OLD WOMAN 175
" And what happened to the harper ? " asked
one of the little boys.
" He lived in the palace and played to the Queen
till he died."
N And is the story true ? " asked the other little
" Yes," said the old woman, " quite true."
The boys jumped up and kissed the old woman,
and the elder of them, growing pensive, said :
" Grandmother, were you ever young yourself ? "
" Yes, my child," said the old woman, smiling,
" I was once young a very long time ago."
She got up, for the twilight had come and it was
almost dark. She walked into the house, and as
she rose she was neither bowed nor bent, but she
trod the ground with a straightness which was
not stiff but full of grace, and she moved royally
like a goddess. As she walked past the smoking
flames the children noticed that large tears were
welling from her eyes and trickling down her
DR FAUST'S LAST DAY
THE Doctor got up at dawn, as was his wont,
and as soon as he was dressed he sat down
at his desk in his library overlooking the sea, and
immersed himself in the studies which were the
lodestar of his existence. His hours were mapped
out with rigid regularity like those of a school-boy,
and his methodical life worked as though by
clockwork. He rose at dawn and read without
interruption until eight o'clock. He then partook
of some light food (he was a strict vegetarian),
after which he walked in the garden of his house,
overlooking the Bay of Naples, until ten. From
ten to twelve he received sick people, peasants
from the village, or any visitors that needed his
advice or his company. At twelve he ate a frugal
meal. From one o'clock until three he enjoyed
a siesta. At three he resumed his studies, which
continued without interruption until six when he
partook of a second meal. At seven he took
another stroll in the village or by the seashore and
remained out of doors until nine. He then with-
drew into his study, and at midnight went to bed.
It was, perhaps, the extreme regularity of his
life, combined with the strict diet which he ob-
served, that accounted for his good health. This
i8o DR FAUST'S LAST DAY
day was his seventieth birthday, and his body was
as vigorous and his mind as alert as they had been
in his fortieth year. His thick hair and beard were
scarcely grey, and the wrinkles on his white,
thoughtful face were rare. Yet the Doctor, when
questioned as to the secret of his youthfulness,
being like many learned men fond of a paradox,
used to reply that diet and regularity had nothing
to do with it, and that the Southern sun and the
climate of the Neapolitan coast, which he had
chosen among all places to be the abode of his old
age, were in reality responsible for his excellent
" I lead a regular life," he used to say, " not in
order to keep well, but in order to get through
my work. Unless my hours were mapped out
regularly I should be the prey of every idler in
the place and I should never get any work done
On this day, as it was his seventieth birthday,
the Doctor had asked a few friends to share his
mid-day meal, and when he returned from his
morning stroll he sent for his housekeeper to give
her a few final instructions. The housekeeper,
who was a voluble Italian peasant-woman, after
receiving his orders, handed him a piece of paper
on which a few words were scrawled in reddish-
brown ink, saying it had been left by a Signore.
" What Signore ? " asked the Doctor, as he per-
DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 181
used the document, which consisted of words in
the German tongue to the effect that the writer
regretted his absence from the Doctor's feast, but
would call at midnight. It was not signed.
M He was a Signore, like all Signores," said the
housekeeper ; " he just left the letter and went
The Doctor was puzzled, and in spite of much
cross-examination he was unable to extract any-
thing more beyond the fact that he was a " Signore."
" Shall I lay one place less ? " asked the house-
" Certainly not," said the Doctor. " All my
guests will be present." And he threw the piece
of paper on the table.
The housekeeper left the room, but she had not
been gone many minutes before she returned and
said that Maria, the wife of the late Giovanni, the
baker, wished to speak to him. The Doctor
nodded, and Maria burst into the room, sobbing.
When her tears had somewhat subsided she told
her story in broken sentences. Her daughter,
Margherita, who was seventeen years old, had been
allowed to spend the summer at Sorrento with her
late father's sister. There, it appeared, she had
met a " Signore," who had given her jewels, made
love to her, promised her marriage, and held clan-
destine meetings with her. Her aunt professed
now to have been unaware of this ; but Maria
182 DR FAUST'S LAST DAY
assured the Doctor that her sister-in-law, who had
the evil eye and had more than once trafficked
with Satan, must have had knowledge of the
business, even if she were not directly responsible,
which was highly probable. In the meantime
Margherita's brother Anselmo had returned from
the wars in the North, and, discovering the truth,
had sworn to kill the Signore unless he married
M And what do you wish me to do ? " asked the
Doctor, after he had listened to the story.
" Anything, anything/' she answered, " only
calm my son Anselmo or else there will be a
" Who is the Signore ? " asked the Doctor.
" The Conte Guido da Siena," she answered.
The Doctor reflected a moment, and then said :
" I will see what can be done. The matter can be
arranged. Send your son to me later." And
then, after scolding Maria for not having taken
proper care of her daughter, he sent her away.
As he did so he caught sight of the dirty piece of
paper on his table. For one second he had the
impression that the letters on it were written in blood,
and he shivered, but the momentary hallucination
and sense of discomfort passed immediately.
At mid-day the guests arrived. They consisted
of Dr Cornelius, Vienna's most learned scholar ;
Taddeo Mainardi, the painter ; a Danish student
DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 183
from the University of Wittenberg ; a young
English nobleman, who was travelling in Italy ;
and Guido da Siena, philosopher and poet, who
was said to be the handsomest man in Italy. The
Doctor set before his guests a precious wine from
Cyprus, in which he toasted them, although as a
rule he drank only water. The meal was served in
the cool loggia overlooking the bay, and the talk,
which was of the men and books of many climes,
flowed like a rippling stream on which the sun-
shine of laughter lightly played.
The student asked the Doctor whether in Italy
men of taste took any interest in the recent ex-
periments of a French Huguenot, who professed to
be able to send people into a trance. Moreover,
the patient when in the trance, so it was alleged,
was able to act as a bridge between the material
and the spiritual worlds, and the dead could be
summoned and made to speak through the uncon-
" We take no thought of such things here/'
said the Doctor. " In my youth, when I studied
in the North, experiments of that nature exercised
a powerful sway over my mind. I dabbled in
alchemy ; I tried and indeed considered that I
succeeded in raising spirits and visions ; but two
things are necessary for such a study : youth, and
the mists of the Northern country. Here the
generous sun kills such phantasies. There are no
184 DR FAUST'S LAST DAY
phantoms here. Moreover, I am convinced that
in all such experiments success depends on the
state of mind of the inquirer, which not only per-
suades, but indeed compels itself by a strange
magnetic quality to see the vision it desires. In
my youth I considered that I had evoked visions
of Satan and Helen of Troy, and what not such
things are fit for the young. We greybeards have
more serious things to occupy us, and when a man
has one foot in the grave, he has no time to waste/'
" To my mind," said the painter, " this world
has sufficient beauty and mystery to satisfy the
most ardent inquirer."
" But," said the Englishman, " is not this world
a phantom and a dream as insubstantial as the
visions of the ardent mind ? "
M Men and women are the only study fit for a
man," interrupted Guido, " and as for the phil-
osopher's stone I have found it. I found it some
months ago in a garden at Sorrento. It is a pearl
radiant with all the hues of the rainbow."
" With regard to that matter," said the Doctor,
" we will have some talk later. The wench's brother
has returned from the war. We must find her a
" You misunderstand me," said Guido. " You
do not think I am going to throw my precious
pearl to the swine ? I have sworn to wed
Margherita, and wed her I shall, and that swiftly."
DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 185
94 Such an act of folly would only lead," said the
Doctor, M to your unhappiness and to hers. It is
the selfish act of a fool. You must not think of it."
" Ah ! " said Guido, " you are young at seventy,
Doctor, but you were old at twenty-five, and you
cannot know what these things mean."
" I was young in my day," said the Doctor,
' and I found many such pearls ; believe me,
they are all very well in their native shell. To
move them is to destroy their beauty."
" You do not understand," said Guido. " I
have loved countless times ; but she is different.
You never felt the revelation of the real, true thing
that is different from all the rest and transforms a
" No," said the Doctor, " I confess that to me it
was always the same thing." And for the second
time that day the Doctor shivered, he knew not
Soon after the meal was over the guests departed,
and although the Doctor detained Guido and en-
deavoured to persuade him to listen to the voice
of reason and commonsense, his efforts were in
vain. Guido had determined to wed Margherita.
" Besides which, if I left her now, I should bring
shame and ruin on her," he said.
The Doctor started a familiar voice seemed to
whisper in his ear : " She is not the first one." A
strange shudder passed through him, and he dis-
186 DR FAUST'S LAST DAY
tinctly heard a mocking voice laughing. " Go
your way," he said, " but do not come and com-
plain to me if you bring unhappiness on yourself
Guido departed and the Doctor retired to enjoy
For the first time during all the years he had
lived at Naples the Doctor was not able to sleep.
" This and the hallucinations I have suffered from
to-day come from drinking that Cyprus wine," he
said to himself.
He lay in the darkened room tossing uneasily
on his bed and sleep would not come to time.
Stranger still, before his eyes fiery letters seemed
to dance before him in the air. At seven o'clock
he went out into the garden. Never had he be-
held a more glorious evening. He strolled down
towards the seashore and watched the sunset.
Mount Vesuvius seemed to have dissolved into a
rosy haze ; the waves of the sea were phos-
phorescent. A fisherman was singing in his
boat. The sky was an apocalypse of glory and
The Doctor sighed and watched the pageant of
light until it faded and the stars lit up the magical
blue darkness. Then out of the night came an-
other song a song which seemed familiar to the
Doctor, although for the moment he could not
place it, about a King in the Northern Country
DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 187
who was faithful to the grave and to whom his
dying mistress a golden beaker gave.
" Strange," thought the Doctor, " it must come
from some Northern fishing smack," and he went
He sat reading in his study until midnight, and
for the first time in thirty years he could not fix
his mind on his book. For the vision of the sunset
and the song of the Northern fisherman, which in
some unaccountable way brought back to him the
days of his youth, kept on surging up in his mind.
Twelve o'clock struck. He rose to go to bed,
and as he did so he heard a loud knock at the door.
" Come in," said the Doctor, but his voice
faltered (" the Cyprus wine again ! " he thought),
and his heart beat loudly.
The door opened and an icy draught blew into
the room. The visitor beckoned, but spoke no
word, and Doctor Faust rose and followed him into
the outer darkness.
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
THERE is a village in the South of England
not far from the sea, which possesses a curious
inn called " The Green Tower." Why it is called
thus, nobody knows. This inn must in days gone
by have been the dwelling of some well-to-do squire,
but nothing now remains of its former prosperity,
except the square grey tower, partially covered with
ivy, from which it takes its name. The inn stands
on the roadside, on the brow of a hill, and at the
top of the tower there is a room with four large
windows, whence you can see all over the wooded
country. The ex-Prime Minister of a foreign
state, who had been driven from office and home
by a revolution, happening to pass the night in
the inn and being of an eccentric disposition, was
so much struck with this room that he secured it,
together with two bedrooms, permanently for
himself. He determined to spend the rest of his
life here, and as he was within certain limits not
unsociable) he invited his friends to come and stay
with him on any Saturday they pleased, without
giving him notice.
Thus it happened that of a Saturday and Sunday
there was nearly always a mixed gathering of men
192 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
at " The Green Tower," and after they had dined
they would sit in the tower room and drink old
Southern wines from the ex-Prime Minister's
country, and talk, or tell each other stories. But
the ex-Prime Minister made it a stringent rule
that at least one guest should tell one story during
his stay, for while he had been Prime Minister a
Court official had been in his service whose only
duty it was to tell him a story every evening,
and this was the only thing he regretted of all his
On this particular Sunday, besides myself, the
clerk, the flute-player, the wine merchant (the
friends of the ex-Prime Minister were exceedingly
various), and the scholar were present. They were
smoking in the tower room. It was summer, and
the windows were wide open. Every inch of wall
which was not occupied by the windows was crowded
with books. The clerk was turning over the leaves
of the ex-Prime Minister's stamp collection (which
was magnificent), the flute-player was reading the
score of Handel's flute sonatas (which was rare),
the scholar was reading a translation in Latin
hexameters of the " Ring and the Book " (which
the ex-Prime Minister has written in his spare
moments), and the wine merchant was drinking
generously of a curious red wine, which was very old.
" I think," said the ex-Prime Minister, " that the
flute-player has never yet told us a story."
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 193
The guests knew that this hint was imperative,
and so putting away his score, the flute-player
said : " My story is called, * The Fiddler/ And
he began :
u This happened a long time ago in one of the
German-speaking countries of the Holy Roman
Empire. There was a Count who lived in a large
castle. He was rich, powerful, and the owner
of large lands. He had a wife, and one daughter,
who was dazzlingly beautiful, and she was be-
trothed to the eldest son of a neighbouring lord.
When I say betrothed, I mean that her parents
had arranged the marriage. She herself her name
was Elisinde had had no voice in the matter,
and she disliked, or rather loathed, her future
husband, who was boorish, sullen, and ill-tempered ;
he cared for nothing except hunting and deep
drinking, and had nothing to recommend him but
his ducats and his land. But it was quite useless
for Elisinde to cry or protest. Her parents had
settled the marriage and it was to be. She under-
stood this herself very well.
V All the necessary preparations for the wedding,
which was to be held on a splendid scale, were
made. There was to be a whole week of feasting ;
and tumblers and musicians came from distant
parts of the country to take part in the festivities
and merry-making. In the village, which was
close to the castle, a fair was held, and the musicians,
194 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
tumblers, and mountebanks, who had thronged
to it, performed in front of the castle walls for the
amusement of the Count's guests.
" Among these strolling vagabonds was a fiddler
who far excelled all the others in skill. He drew
the most ravishing tones from his instrument,
which seemed to speak in trills as liquid as those
of the nightingale, and in accents as plaintive as
those of a human voice. And one of the inmates
of the castle was so much struck by the performance
of this fiddler that he told the Count of it, and the
fiddler was commanded to come and play at the
Castle, after the banquet which was to be held on
the eve of the wedding. The banquet took place
in great pomp and solemnity, and lasted for many
hours. When it was over the fiddler was summoned
to the large hall and bidden to play before the Lords
" The fiddler was a strange looking, tall fellow
with unkempt fair hair, and eyes that glittered
like gold ; but as he was dressed in tattered un-
couth rags (and they were his best too) he cut an
extraordinary and almost ridiculous figure amongst
that splendid jewelled gathering. The guests
tittered when they saw him. But as soon as he
began to play, their tittering ceased, for never had
they heard such music.
" He played in view of the festive occasion
a joyous melody. And, as he played, the air
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 195
seemed full of sunlight, and the smell of wine vats
and the hum of bees round ripe fruit. The guests
could not keep still in their places, and at last
the Count gave orders for a general dance. The
hall was cleared, and soon all the guests were
breathlessly dancing to the divine lilt of the fiddler's
melody. All except Elisinde who, when her be-
trothed came forward to lead her to the dance,
pleaded fatigue, and remained seated in her chair,
pale and distraught, and staring at the fiddler.
This did not, to tell the truth, displease her be-
trothed, who was a clumsy dancer and had no ear
for music. Breathless at last with exhaustion the
guests begged the untiring fiddler to pause while
they rested for a moment to get their breath.
" And while they were resting the fiddler played
another tune. This time it was a sad tune : a low,
soft tune, liquid and lovely as a human voice. A
great hush came on the company. It seemed as
if after the heat and splendour of a summer's day
the calm of evening had fallen ; the quiet of the
dusk, when the moon rises in the sky, still faintly
yellow in the west with the ebb of sunset, and pours
on the stiff cornfields its cool, silvery frost ; and
the trees quiver, as though they felt the freshness
and were relieved, and a breeze comes, almost
imperceptible and not strong enough to shake the
boughs, from the sea ; and a bird, hidden some-
where in the leaves, sings a throbbing song.
196 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
" Everyone was spellbound, but none so much as
Elisinde. The music seemed to be speaking
straight to her, to pierce the very core of her heart.
It was an inarticulate language which she under-
stood better than any words. She heard a lonely
spirit crying out to her, that it understood her
sorrow and shared her pain. And large tears
poured down her cheeks.
, " The fiddler stopped playing, and for a moment
or two no*one*spoke. At last Elisinde's betrothed
gave a great yawn, and the spell was broken.
" You play very well very well, indeed/ said
M But that sad music is, I think, rather out of
place to-day/ said the Countess.
" ' Yes, let us have another cheerful tune/ said
" The fiddler struck up once more and played
another dance. This time there was an almost
elfish magic in his melody. It took you captive ;
it was irresistible ; it called and commanded and
compelled ; you longed to follow, follow, anywhere,
over the hills, over the sea, to the end of the world.
" Elisinde rose from her chair as though the spirit
of the music beckoned her, but looking round she
saw no partner to her taste. She sat down again
and stared at the fiddler. His eyes were fixed on
her, and as she looked at him his squalor and rags
seemed to fade away and his blue eyes that glittered
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 197
like gold seemed to grow larger, and his hair to grow
brighter till it shone like fire. And he seemed to
be caught in a rosy cloud of light : tall, splendid,
young, and glowing like a god.
" After this dance was over the Count rose, and
he and his guests retired to rest. The fiddler was
given a purse full of money, and the Count gave
orders that he should be served refreshment in the
" Elisinde went up to her bedroom, which over-
looked the garden. She threw the window wide
open and looked out into the starry darkness. It
was a breathless summer night. The air was full
of warm scents. Lights still twinkled in the
village ; now and again a dog barked, otherwise
everything was still. She leant out of the window,
and cried bitterly because her lot was loathsome
to her, and she had not a friend in the world to whom
she could confide her sorrow.
" While she was thus sobbing she heard a rustling
in the bushes beneath ; she looked down and she
saw a face looking up towards her, a beautiful face,
glistening in the moonlight. It was the fiddler.
" ' Elisinde,' he called to her in a low voice, if
you want to escape I have the means. Come with
me ; I love you, and I will save you from your
" ' I would come with you to the end of the world,'
she said, * but how can I get away from this castle ? '
198 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
" He threw a rope ladder up to her. ' Make it
fast to the bar/ he said, ' and let yourself down.'
" She let herself down into the garden. ' We can
easily climb the wall with this/ he said ; ' but
before you come I must tell you that if you will
be my bride your life will be hard and full of misery.
Think before you come/
" ' Rather all the misery in the world/ she said,
* than the awful doom which awaits me here.
Besides which I love you, and we shall be very
" They scaled the wall, and on the other side of
it the fiddler had two horses, waiting tied to the
gate. They galloped through many villages, and
by the dawn they had reached a village far beyond
the Count's lands. Here they stopped at an inn,
and they were married by the priest that day. But
they did not stop in this village ; they sought a
further country, beyond reach of all pursuit. They
settled in a village, and the fiddler earned his bread
by his riddling, and Elisinde kept their cottage
neat and clean. For awhile they were as happy
as the day was long ; the fiddler found favour
everywhere by his fiddling, and Elisinde ingratiated
herself by her gentle ways. But one day when
Elisinde was lying in bed and the fiddler had lulled
her to sleep with his music, some neighbours,
attracted by the sound, passed the cottage and
looked in at the window. And to their astonish-
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 199
ment they saw the fiddler sitting by a bed on which
lay what seemed to them to be a sleeping princess ;
and the whole cottage was full of dazzling light,
and the fiddler's face shone, and his hair and his
eyes glittered like gold. They went away much
frightened, and told the whole village the news.
" Now there were already not a few of the
villagers who looked askance on the fiddler ; and
this incident set all the evil and envious tongues
wagging. When the fiddler went to play the next
day at the inn men turned away from him, and a
child in the street threw a stone at him. Presently
he was warned that he had better swiftly fly or
else he would be drowned as a sorcerer.
" So he and Elisinde fled in the night to a neigh-
bouring village. But soon the dark rumours
followed them, and they were forced to flee once
more. This happened again and again, till at last
in the whole country there was not a village which
would receive them, and one night they were
obliged to take refuge in a barn, for Elisinde was
expecting the birth of her child. That night their
child was born, a beautiful little boy, and an hour
afterwards Elisinde smiled and died.
M All that night the villagers heard from afar a
piteous wailing music, infinitely sad and beautiful,
and those that heard it shuddered and crossed
" The next day the villagers sought the barn,
200 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
for they had resolved to drown the sorcerer ; but
he was not there. All they found was the dead
body of Elisinde, and a little baby lying on some
straw. The body of Elisinde was covered with
roses. And this was strange, for it was midwinter.
The fiddler had disappeared and was never heard
of again, and an old wood-cutter, who was too old
to know any better, took charge of the baby.
" I will tell you what happened to it another day."
" We wish to hear the end of your story/' said
the ex-Prime Minister to the flute-player.
" Yes," said the scholar, " and I want to know
who the fiddler was."
This conversation took place at the Green Tower
two weeks after the gathering I have already
described. The same people were present ; but
there was another guest, namely, the musician,
who, unlike the flute-player, was not an amateur.
" The child of Elisinde and the fiddler," began
the flute-player, " was, as I have already told you,
a boy. The woodcutter who took pity on him
was old and childless. He brought the baby to his
hut, and gave it over to the care of his wife. At
first she pretended to be angry, and said that
nothing would persuade her to have anything to do
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 201
with the child, and that it was all they could do
to feed themselves without picking up waifs in the
gutter ; but she ended by looking after the baby
with the utmost tenderness and care, and by loving
it as much as if it had been her own child. The
baby was christened Franz. As soon as he was able
to walk and talk there were two things about him
which were remarkable. The first was his hair,
which glittered like sunlight ; the second was his
fondness for all musical sounds. When he was
four years old he had made himself a flute out of a
reed, and on this he played all day, imitating the
song of the birds. He was in his sixth year when
an event happened which changed his life. He was
sitting in front of the woodcutter's cottage one day,
when a bright cavalcade passed him. It was a
nobleman from a neighbouring castle, who was
travelling to the city with his retainers. Among
these was a Kapellmeister, who organised the
music of this nobleman's household. The moment
he caught sight of Franz and heard his piping, he
stopped, and asked who he was.
" The woodcutter's wife told him the story of
the finding of the waif, to which both the nobleman
and himself listened with great interest. The
Kapellmeister said that they should take the child
with them ; that he should be attached to the noble-
man's household and trained as a member of his
choir or his string band, according to his capacities.
202 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
The nobleman, who was passionately fond of
music, and extremely particular with regard to the
manner of its performance, was delighted with the
idea. The offer was made to the woodcutter and
his wife, and although she cried a good deal they
were both forced to recognise that they had no
right to interfere with the child's good fortune.
Moreover, the gift of a purse full of gold (which the
nobleman gave them) did not make the matter
" Finally it was settled that the child should go
with the nobleman then and there ; and Franz
took leave of his adopted parents, not without
many and bitter tears being shed on both
" Franz travelled with the nobleman to a large
city, and he became a member the youngest of
the nobleman's household. He was taught his
letters, which he learnt with ease, and the rudiments
of music, which he absorbed with such astounding
rapidity, that the Kapellmeister said that it
seemed as if he already knew everything that was
taught him. When he was seven years old, he
could not only play several instruments, but he
composed fugues and sonatas. When the noble-
man invited the magnates of the place to listen to
his musicians, Franz, the prodigy, was the centre
of interest, and very soon he became the talk of the
town. At the age of ten he was an accomplished
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 203
organ player, and he played with skill on the flute
and the clavichord.
M He grew up a tall and handsome lad, with clear,
dreamy eyes, and hair that continued to glitter
like sunlight. He was happy in the nobleman's
household, for the nobleman and his wife were kind
people ; like the woodcutter they were childless
and came to look upon him as their own child.
He was a quiet youth, and so deeply engrossed
in his music and his studies that he seemed to be
quite unaware of the outside world and its inhabi-
tants and its doings. But although he led a re-
tired, studious life, his fame had got abroad and
had even reached the Emperor's ears.
" When Franz was seventeen years old it
happened that the Court was in need of an organist.
The Emperor's curiosity had been aroused by what
he had heard of Franz, and one fine day the youth
was summoned to Court to play before his Majesty.
This he did with such success that he was appointed
organist of the Court on the spot.
" He was sad at leaving the nobleman, but there
was nothing to be done. The Emperor's wish was
law. He became the Court organist and he played
the organ in the Imperial chapel during Mass on
Sundays. As before, he spent all his leisure time
in composing music.
" Now the Emperor had a daughter called
Kunigmunde, who was beautiful and wildly roman-
2o 4 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
tic. She was immediately spellbound by Franz's
music, and he became the lodestar of her dreams.
Often in the afternoon she would steal up to the
organ loft, where he was playing alone, and sit
for hours listening to his improvisations. They
did not speak to each other much, but ever since
Franz had set eyes on her something new had
entered into his soul and spoke in his music, some-
thing tremulous and strange and wonderful.
" For a year Franz's life ran placidly and
smoothly. He was made much of, praised and
petted ; but now, as before, he seemed quite un-
aware of the outside world and its doings, and he
moved in a world of his own, only he was no longer
alone in his secret habitation, it was inhabited
by another shape, the beautiful, dark-haired
Princess Kunigmunde, and in her honour he com-
posed songs, minuets, sonatas, hymns, and
triumphal marches. As was only natural, there
were not wanting at Court persons who were
envious of Franz, his talent, and his good fortune.
And among them there was a musician, a tenor in
the Imperial choir, called Albrecht, who hated
Franz with his whole heart. He was a dark-eyed,
dark-haired creature, slightly deformed ; he limped,
and he had a sinister look as though of a satyr.
Nevertheless he was highly gifted and composed
music of his own which, although it was not radiant
like that of Franz, was full of brilliance and not
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 205
without a certain compelling power. Albrecht
revolved in his mind how he might ruin Franz.
He tried to excite the envy of the courtiers against
him, but Franz was such a modest fellow, so kindly
and good-natured, that it was not easy to make
people dislike him. Nevertheless there were many
who were tired of hearing him praised, and many
who were secretly tired of the perpetual beauty
and radiance of Franz's music, and wished for
something new even though it should be ugly.
" An opportunity soon presented itself for
Albrecht to carry out his evil and envious designs.
The Court Kapellmeister died, and not long after
this event a great feast was to be held at Court to
celebrate Princess Kunigmunde's birthday. The
Emperor had offered a prize, a wreath of gilt laurels,
as well as the post of Court Kapellmeister to him
who should compose the most beautiful piece of
music in his daughter's honour. Franz seemed so
certain of success that nobody even dared to
compete with him except Albrecht.
" When the hour of the contest came it took
place in the great throne-room before the Emperor,
the Empress, their sons, their daughter, and the
whole Court after the banquet Franz was the
first to display his work. He sat down at the
clavichord and sang what he had composed in honour
of the Princess. He had made three little songs
for her. Franz had not much voice, but it had a
206 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
peculiar wail in it, and he sang, like the born and
trained musician that he was, with that absolute
mastery over his means, that certain perfection
of utterance, that power of conveying, to the shade
of a shade, the inmost spirit and meaning of the
music which only belong to those great and rare
artists whose perfect art is alive with the inspiration
that cannot be learnt.
" The first song he sang was the call of a home-
going shepherd to his flock on the hills at sunset,
and when he sang it he brought the largeness of
the dying evening and the solemn hills into the
elegant throne-room. The second song was the
cry of a lonely fisherman on the river at midnight,
and as he sang it he brought the mystery of broad
starlit waters into the taper-lit, gilded hall. The
third song was the song of the happy lover in the
orchard at dawn. And when he sang it he brought
the smell of dewy leaves and grass, the soaring
radiance of spring and early morning, to that
powdered and silken assembly. The Court ap-
plauded him, but they were astonished and slightly
disappointed, for they had expected something
grand and complicated, and not three simple tunes.
But the nobleman who had educated Franz, and
his Kapellmeister, who were among the guests,
wept tears in silence.
" Albrecht followed him. The swarthy singer
sat down to the instrument and struck a ringing
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 207
chord. He had a pure and infinitely powerful
tenor voice, clear as crystal, loud as a clarion,
strong, rich, and rippling. He sang a love-song
he had composed himself. He called it ' The
Homage of King Pan to the Princess/ It was
voluptuous and vehement and sweet as honey,
full of bold conceits and audacious turns and trills,
which startled the audience and took their breath
away. He sang his song with almost devilish
skill and power ; and his warm, captivating voice
rang through the room and shook the tall window-
panes, and finally died away like the vibrations of
a great bell. The whole Court shouted, delirious
with applause, and unanimously declared him to be
the victor. A witty courtier said that Marsyas
had avenged himself on Apollo ; but the nobleman
and his Kapellmeister snorted and sniffed and said
nothing. Albrecht was given the prize and ap-
pointed Kapellmeister to the Court without further
" When the ceremony was over, Franz, who was
indifferent to his defeat, went to the chapel of the
palace, and lighting a candle, walked up into the
organ loft. There he played to himself another
song, a hymn he had composed in honour of
Princess Kunigmunde. It was filled with rapture
and a breathless wonder, and in it his inmost soul
spoke its unuttered love. He had not sung this song
in public, it was too sacred. As he played and sang
208 THE FLUTE PLAYER'S-STORY
to himself in a low voice he was aware of a soft
footstep. He started and looked round, and there,
was the Princess, bright in silk and jewels, with
a pink rose in her powdered hair. She took this
rose and laid it lightly on the black keys.
" ' That is the prize,' she said. ' You won it,
and I want to thank you. I never knew music
could be so beautiful.'
" Franz looked at her, and said ' Thank you.'
He had risen from his seat and was about to go,
but the light of his candle caught Princess Kunig-
munde's brown eyes (which were wet with tears),
and something rose like fire in his breast and made
him forget his bashfulness, his respect, and his
sense of decorum.
" ' Come with me,' he said, in a broken voice.
1 Let us fly from this Court to the hills and be
" But the Princess shook her head sadly, and
said : ' Alas ! It is impossible. I am betrothed
to the King of the Two Sicilies.'
" Then Franz mastered himself once more, and
said : ' Of course, it is impossible. I was mad.'
" The Princess kissed her hand to him and fled.
" At that moment Franz heard a noise in the
nave of the chapel ; he looked over the gallery
of the organ loft, and saw sidling away in the dark-
ness the dim figure of a deformed man.
" That night Princess Kunigmunde had a strange
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 209
dream. She thought she was transported into a
beautiful southern country where the azure sky
seemed to scintillate with the dust of myriads and
myriads of diamonds, and to sparkle with sunlight
like a dancing wine. The low blue hills were bare
and sparsely clothed with delicate trees, and the
fields, sprinkled with innumerable red, yellow,
white and purple flowers, were bright as fabulous
Persian carpets. On a grassy knoll before her
the rosy columns of a temple shone in the gleaming
dust of the atmosphere. Beside her there was a
running stream, on the bank of which grew a bay-
tree. There was a chirping of grasshoppers in the
air, a noise of bees, and a delicious warm smell of
burnt grass and thyme and mint.
" Near the stream a man was standing ; he was
an ordinary man, and yet he seemed to tower above
the landscape without being unusually tall ; his
hair was bright as gold, and his eyes, more lustrous
still, reflected the silvery blue sky and shone like
opals. In his hands he held a golden lyre, and
around him a warm golden cloud seemed to rise,
on a transparent aura of light, like the glow of the
sunset. In front of him there stood a creature of
the woods, a satyr, with pointed ears, cloven hoofs,
and human eyes, in his hairy hands holding a flute
made out of a reed.
" Presently the satyr breathed on his flute and a
wonderful note trembled in the air, soft, low, and
210 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
liquid. The note was followed by others, and a
stillness fell upon Nature ; the birds ceased to sing,
the grasshoppers were still, the bees paused. All
Nature was listening, and the Princess was conscious
in her dream that there were others besides herself
listening, unseen shapes and sightless phantoms ;
a crowd, a multitude of attentive ghosts, that were
hidden from her sight. The melody rose and
swelled in the stillness ; it was melting and ravish-
ing and bold with a human audacity. As she
listened it reminded her of something ; she felt
she had heard such sounds before, though she could
not remember where and when. But suddenly
it flashed across her that the music resembled
Albrecht's song ; it was Albrecht's song, only
transfigured as it were, and a thousand times more
beautiful in her dream than in the reality. More
beautiful, and at the same time as though it belonged
to days of youth and spring which Albrecht had
never known. The satyr ceased playing and the
pleasant noises of the world began once more.
The shining figure who stood before him looked on
the satyr with divine scorn and smiled a radiant,
merciless smile. Then he struck his lyre and
Nature once more was dumb.
" But this time the magic was of another kind
and a thousand times more mighty ; a song rose
into the air which leapt and soared like a flame,
imperious as the flashing of a sword, triumphant
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 211
as the waving of a banner, wonderful as the dawn
and fresh as the laughing sea. And once more
Princess Kunigmunde was aware that the music was
familiar to her. She had heard something like it,
a pale reflection of it, before, and she had heard it
in the chapel that evening, when in the darkness
Franz had played and sung the hymn that he had
composed in her honour. Only now it was more
than human, unearthly and divine. As soon as he
ceased an eclipse seemed to darken the world, a
thick cloud of rolling darkness ; there was a crash
of thunder, a flash of lightning, and out of the
blackness came a piteous, human cry, the cry of a
creature in anguish, and then a faint moaning.
" Presently all was still, but the dark cloud
remained, and she heard a mocking laugh and the
accents of a clear, scornful voice (she recognised
the voice, it was the voice of Albrecht), and the
voice said : ' Thou hast conquered, Apollo, and
cruelly hast thou used thy victory ; and cruelly
hast thou punished me for daring to challenge thy
divine skill. It was mad indeed to compete with
a god ; and yet shall I avenge my wrong and thy
harshness shall recoil on thee. For not even gods
can be unjust with impunity, and the Fates are
above us all. And I shall be avenged ; for all thy
sons shall suffer what I have suffered ; and there
is not one of them that shall escape the doom and
not share the fate of Marsyas the Satyr, whom
212 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
thou didst cruelly slay. The music and the skill
which shall be their inheritance shall be the cause
to them of sorrow and grief unending and pitiless
pain and misery. Their life shall be as bitter to
them as my death has been to me. Their music
shall rill the world with sweetness and ravish the
ears of listening nations, but to them it shall
bring no joy ; for life like a cruel blade shall flay
and lay bare their hearts, and sorrow like a searching
wind shall play upon their souls and make them
tremble, even as the scabbard of my body trembled
in the breeze ; and just as from that trembling
husk of what was once myself there came forth
sweet sounds, so shall it be with their souls, shiver-
ing and trembling in the cold wind of life. Music
shall come from them, but this music shall be born
of agony ; nor shall they utter a single note that
is not begotten of sorrow or pain. And so shall
the children of Apollo suffer and share the pain of
" The voice died away, and a pitiful wail was
heard as of a wind blowing through the reeds of a
river. And the Princess awoke, trembling with
fear of some unknown and impending disaster.
" The next morning Franz, as he walked into
the chapel to practice on the organ, was met by
two soldiers, who bade him follow them, and he was
shut up in the prison of the palace. No word of
explanation was given him ; nor had he any idea
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 213
what the crime might be of which he was accused,
or of his ultimate fate. But in the evening, when
the gaoler's daughter brought him his food, she
made him a sign, and he found in his loaf of bread
a rose, a file, and a tiny scroll, on which the follow-
ing words were written : Albrecht denounced you.
Fly for your life. K.' Later, when the gaolers
had gone to sleep, the gaoler's daughter stole to his
cell. She brought him a rope, and a purse full of
silver. He filed the bars and let himself down
into a narrow street of the city.
" By the time the sun rose he had left the city
far behind him. He journeyed on and on till he
passed the frontier of the Emperor's dominions
and reached a neighbouring State. By the time
he came to a city he had spent his money, and he
was in rags and tatters ; nevertheless, he managed
to earn his bread by making music in the streets,
and after a time a well-to-do citizen who noticed
him took him into his house and entrusted him
with the task of teaching music to his sons and of
playing him to sleep in the evening. Franz spent
his leisure hours in composing an opera called
" The Death of Adonis,' into which he poured all
the music of his soul, all his love, his sorrow, and
his infinite desire. He lived for this only, and
during all the hours he spent when he was not
working at his opera he was like a man in a dream,
unconscious of the realities around him. In a year
214 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY
his opera was finished. He took it to the Intendant
of the Ducal Theatre in the city and played it to
him, and the Intendant, greatly pleased, determined
to have it performed without delay. The best
singers were allotted parts in it, and it was per-
formed before the Arch-Duke and his Court, and a
multitude of people.
" The music told the story of Franz's love ;
it was bright with all his dreams, and sorrowful
with his great despair. Never had such music
been heard ; so sweet, so sunlit in its joys, so radiant
in its sadness. But the Arch-Duke and his Court,
startled by the new accent of this music, and in-
fluenced by the local and established musicians,
who were envious of this newcomer, listened in
frigid silence, so that the common people in the
gallery dared not show signs of their delight. In
fact, the opera was a complete failure. Public
opinion followed the Court, and found no words,
bad or strong enough to condemn what they called
the new-fangled rubbish. Among those who blamed
the new work there was none so bitter as the citizen
whose children Franz had been teaching. For
this man considered himself to be a genius, and was
inordinately vain, and his ignorance was equal to
his conceit. He dismissed Franz from his service.
All doors were now closed to him, and being on the
verge of starvation he was reduced to earning his
bread in the streets by playing his pipe. This also
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 215
proved unsuccessful, and it was with difficulty
that he earned a few pence every day.
" At last he burnt all his manuscripts, and went
into the hills ; the hill people welcomed him, but
their kindness came too late ; his heart was broken,
and when sickness came to him with the winter
snow, he had no longer any strength to resist it.
The peasants found him one day lying cold and stiff
in his hut. They buried him on the hill-side.
The night of his funeral a strange fiddler with a
shining face was seen standing beside his grave
and playing the most lovely tunes on a violin.
" The name of Franz was soon forgotten, but
although he died obscure and penniless he left
a rich legacy. For he taught the hill-people three
songs, the songs he had sung at Court in honour of
Princess Kunigmunde, and they never died. They
spread from the hills to the plains, from the plains
to the river, from the river to the woods, and indeed
you can still hear them on the hills of the north,
on the great broad rivers of the east, and in the
orchards of the south."
A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD
" "XTES, I am a student," said the Chinaman,
1 " and I came here to study the English
manners and customs."
We were seated on the top of the electric tram
which goes to Hampton Court. It was a bitterly
cold spring day. The suburbs of London were not
looking their best.
" I spent three days at Oxford last week," he
" It's a beautiful place, is it not ? " I remarked.
The Chinaman smiled. " The country which
you see from the windows of the railway carriages,"
he said, " on the way from Oxford to London strikes
me as being beautiful. It reminded me of the
Chinese Plain, only it is prettier. But the houses
at Oxford are hideous : there is no symmetry about
them. The houses in this country are like blots
on the landscape. In China the houses are made
to harmonise with the landscape just as trees
" What did you see at Oxford ? " I asked.
" I saw boat races," he said, " and a great many
ignorant old men."
" What did you think of that ? "
" I think," he said, " the young people seemed
220 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD
to enjoy it, and if they enjoy it they are quite
right to do it. But the way the older men talk
about these things struck me as being foolish.
They talk as if these games and these sports were
a solemn affair, a moral or religious question ;
they said the virtues and the prowess of the English
race were founded on these things. They said that
competition was the mainspring of life ; they seemed
to think exercise was the goal of existence. A man
whom I saw there and who, I learnt, had been
chosen to teach the young on account of his wisdom,
told me that competition trained the man to sharpen
his faculties ; and that the tension which it pro-
voked is in itself a useful training. I do not believe
this. A cat or a boa constrictor will lie absolutely
idle until it perceives an object worthy of its
appetite ; it will then catch it and swallow it, and
once more relapse into repose without thinking of
keeping itself ' in training.' But it will lie dormant
and rise to the occasion when it occurs. These
people who talked of games seem to me to under-
value repose. They forget that repose is the
mother of action, and exercise only a frittering away
of the same."
" What did you think," I asked, " of the educa-
tion that the students at Oxford receive ? "
" I think," said the Chinaman, " that inasmuch
as the young men waste their time in idleness they
do well ; for the wise men who are chosen to in-
A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 221
struct the young at your places of learning, are not
always wise. I visited a professor of Oriental
languages. His servant asked me to wait, and after
I had waited three quarters of an hour, he sent
word to say that he had tried everywhere to find
the professor in the University who spoke French,
but that he had not been able to find him. And
so he asked me to call another day. I had dinner
in a college hall. I found that the professors
talked of many things in such a way as would be
impossible to children of five and six in our country.
They are quite ignorant of the manners and customs
of the people of other European countries. They
pronounce Greek and Latin and even French in the
same way as English. I mentioned to one of them
that I had been employed for some time in the
Chinese Legation ; he asked me if I had had much
work to do. I said yes, the work had been heavy.
1 But,' he observed, ' I suppose a great deal of the
work is carried on directly between the Govern-
ments and not through the Ambassadors.' I
cannot conceive what he meant or how such a thing
could be possible, or what he considered the use and
function of Embassies and Legations to be. They
most of them seemed to take for granted that I
could not speak English : some of them addressed
me in a kind of baby language ; one of them spoke
French. The professor who spoke to me in this
language told me that the French possessed no
222 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD
poetical literature, and he said the reason of this
was that the French language was a bastard
language ; that it was, in fact, a kind of pigeon
Latin. He said when a Frenchman says a girl is
* beaucoup belle/ he is using pigeon Latin. The
courtesy due to a host prevented me from suggest-
ing that if a Frenchman said ' beaucoup belle '
he would be talking pigeon French.
" Another professor said to me that China would
soon develop if she adopted a large Imperial ideal,
and that in time the Chinese might attain to a great
position in the world, such as the English now held.
He said the best means of bringing this about
would be to introduce cricket and football into
China. I told him that I thought this was im-
probable, because if the Chinese play games, they
do not care who is the winner ; the fun of the game
is to us the improvisation of it as opposed to the
organisation which appeals to the people here.
Upon which he said that cricket was like a symphony
of music. In a symphony every instrument plays
its part in obedience to one central will, not for its
individual advantage but in order to make a beauti-
ful whole. ' So it is with our games/ he said,
' every man plays his part not for the sake of
personal advantage, but so that his side may win ;
and thus the citizen is taught to sink his own
interests in those of the community/ I told him
the Chinese did not like symphonies, and Western
A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 223
music was intolerable to them for this very reason.
Western musicians seem to us to take a musical idea
which is only worthy of a penny whistle (and would
be very good indeed if played on a penny whistle !) ;
and they sit down and make a score of it twenty
yards broad, and set a hundred highly-trained
and highly-paid musicians to play it. It is the
contrast between the tremendous apparatus and
waste of energy on one side, and the light and
playful character of the business itself on the other,
which makes me, a Chinaman, as incapable of ap-
preciating your complicated games as I am of ap-
preciating the complicated symphonies of the
Germans or the elaborate rules which their students
make with regard to the drinking of beer. We like
a man for taking his fun and not missing a joke
when he finds it by chance on his way, but we
cannot understand his going out of his way to pre-
pare a joke and to make arrangements for having
some fun at a certain fixed date. That is why we
consider a wayside song, a tune that is heard
wandering in the summer darkness, to be better
than twenty concerts."
" What did the professor say ? " I asked.
" He said that if I were to stay long enough in
England and go to a course of concerts at the
Chelsea Town Hall, I would soon learn to think
differently. And that if cricket and football were
introduced into China, the Chinese would soon
224 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD
emerge out of their backwardness and barbarism
and take a high place among the enlightened nations
of the world. I thought to myself as he said this
that your games are no doubt an excellent substitute
for drill, but if we were to submit to so complicated
an organisation it would be with a purpose : in
order to turn the Europeans out of China, for
instance ; but that organisation without a purpose
would always seem to us to be stupid, and we
should no more dream of organising our play than
of organising a stroll in the twilight to see the
Evening Star, or the chase of a butterfly in the
spring. If we were to decide on drill it would
be drill with a vengeance and with a definite aim ;
but we should not therefore and thereby destroy
our play. Play cannot exist for us without fun,
and for us the open air, the fields, and the meadows
are like wine : if we feel inclined, we roam and jump
about in them, but we should never submit to
standing to attention for hours lest a ball should
escape us. Besides which, we invented the founda-
tions of all your games many thousand of years
ago. We invented and played at ' Diabolo '
when the Britons were painted blue and lived in
the woods. The English knew how to play once,
in the days of Queen Elizabeth ; then they had
masques and madrigals and Morris dances and music.
A gentleman was ashamed if he did not speak six
or seven languages, handle the sword with a deadly
A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 225
dexterity, play chess, and write good sonnets.
Men were broken on the wheel for an idea : they
were brave, cultivated, and gay ; they fought, they
played, and they wrote excellent verse. Now they
organise games and lay claim to a special morality
and to a special mission ; they send out missionaries
to civilise us savages ; and if our people resent
having an alien creed stuffed down their throats,
they take our land and burn our homes in the name
of Charity, Progress, and Civilisation. They seek
but one thing gold ; they preach competition,
but competition for what ? For this : who shall
possess the most, who shall most successfully ' do '
his neighbour. These ideals and aims do not
tempt us. The quality of the life is to us more
important than the quantity of what is done and
achieved. We live, as we play, for the sake of
living. I did not say this to the professors because
we have a proverb that when you are in a man's
country you should not speak ill of it. I say it to
you because I see you have an inquiring mind, and
you would feel it more insulting to be served with
meaningless phrases and empty civilities than with
the truth, however bitter. For those who have
once looked the truth in the face cannot after-
wards be put off with false semblances/'
" You speak true words," I said, " but what do
you like best in England ? "
" The gardens," he answered, " and the little
226 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD
yellow flowers that are sprinkled like stars on your
green grass.' '
" And what do you like least in England ? "
M The horrible smells," he said.
" Have you no smells in China ? " I asked.
" Yes," he replied, u we have natural smells,
but not the smell of gas and smoke and coal which
sickens me here. It is strange to me that people
can find the smell of human beings disgusting and
be able to stand the foul stenches of a London
street. This very road along which we are now
travelling (we were passing through one of the less
beautiful portions of the tramway line) makes me
homesick for my country. I long to see a Chinese
village once more built of mud and fenced with
mud, muddy-roaded and muddy-baked, with a
muddy little stream to be waded across or passed
by stepping on stones ; with a delicate one-storeyed
temple on the water-eaten bank, and green poppy
fields round it ; and the women in dark blue
standing at the doorways, smoking their pipes ;
and the children, with three small budding pigtails
on the head of each, clinging to them ; and the river
fringed with a thousand masts : the boats, the
houseboats, the barges and the ships in the calm,
wide estuaries, each with a pair of huge eyes
painted on the front bow. And the people : the
men working at their looms and whistling a happy
tune out of the gladness of their hearts. And
A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 227
everywhere the sense of leisure, the absence of
hurry and bustle and confusion ; the dignity of
manners and the grace of expression and of address.
And, above all, the smell of life everywhere/'
" I admit," I said, " that our streets smell
horribly of smoke and coal, but surely our people
are clean ? "
" Yes," he said, " no doubt ; but you forget that
to us there is nothing so intolerably nasty as the
smell of a clean white man ! "
JOHN FLETCHER was an overworked minor
official in a Government office. He lived a
lonely life, and had done so ever since he had
been a boy. At school he had mixed little with his
fellow school-boys, and he took no interest in the
things that interested them, that is to say, games.
On the other hand, although he was what is called
" good at work," and did his lessons with facility
and ease, he was not a literary boy, and did not
care for books. He was drawn towards machinery
of all kinds, and spent his spare time in dabbling
in scientific experiments or in watching trains go
by on the Great Western line. Once he blew
off his eyebrows while making some experiment
with explosive chemicals ; his hands were always
smudged with dark, mysterious stains, and his
room was like that of a mediaeval alchemist,
littered with retorts, bottles, and test-glasses.
Before leaving school he invented a flying machine
(heavier than air), and an unsuccessful attempt
to start it on the high road caused him to be the
victim of much chaff and ridicule.
When he left school he went to Oxford. His life
there was as lonely as it had been at school. The
dirty, untidy, ink-stained, and chemical-stained
little boy grew up into a tall, lank, slovenly-
dressed man, who kept entirely to himself, not
because he cherished any dislike or disdain
for his fellow-creatures, but because he seemed
to be entirely absorbed in his own thoughts
and isolated from the world by a barrier of
He did well at Oxford, and when he went down
he passed high into the Civil Service and became
a clerk in a Government office. There he kept as
much to himself as ever. He did his work rapidly
and well, for this man, who seemed so slovenly in
his person, had an accurate mind, and was what
was called a good clerk, although his incurable
absent-mindedness once or twice caused him to
forget certain matters of importance.
His fellow clerks treated him as a crank and as a
joke, but none of them, try as they would, could
get to know him or win his confidence. They used
to wonder what Fletcher did with his spare time,
what were his pursuits, what were his hobbies, if
he had any. They suspected that Fletcher had
some hobby of an engrossing kind, since in every-
day life he conveyed the impression of a man who
is walking in his sleep, who acts mechanically and
automatically. Somewhere else, they thought, in
some other circumstances, he must surely wake up
and take a living interest in somebody or in
Yet had they followed him home to his small
room in Canterbury-mansions they would have
been astonished. For when he returned from the
office after a hard day's work he would do nothing
more engrossing than slowly to turn over the leaves
of a book in which there were elaborate drawings
and diagrams of locomotives and other kinds of
engines. And on Sunday he would take a train
to one of the large junctions and spend the whole
day in watching express trains go past, and in the
evening would return again to London.
One day after he had returned from the office
somewhat earlier than usual, he was telephoned
for. He had no telephone in his own room, but he
could use a public telephone which was attached
to the building. He went into the small box, but
found on reaching the telephone that he had been
cut off by the exchange. He imagined that he
had been rung up by the office, so he asked to be
given their number. As he did so his eye caught
an advertisement which was hung just over the
telephone. It was an elaborate design in black
and white, pointing out the merits of a particular
kind of soap called the Venus : a classical lady,
holding a looking-glass in one hand and a cake of
this invaluable soap in the other, was standing in a
sphere surrounded by pointed rays, which was no
doubt intended to represent the most brilliant of
Fletcher sat down on the stool and took the
receiver in his hand. As he did so he had for one
second the impression that the floor underneath
him gave way and that he was falling down a
precipice. But before he had time to realise what
was happening the sensation of falling left him ;
he shook himself as though he had been asleep,
and for one moment a faint recollection as though
of the dreams of the night twinkled in his mind,
and vanished beyond all possibility of recall. He
said to himself that he had had a long and curious
dream, and he knew that it was too late to remember
what it had been about. Then he opened his eyes
wide and looked round him.
He was standing on the slope of a hill. At his
feet there was a kind of green moss, very soft to
tread on. It was sprinkled here and there with
light red, wax-like flowers such as he had never
seen before. He was standing in an open space ;
beneath him there was a plain covered with what
seemed to be gigantic mushrooms, much taller than
a man. Above him rose a mass of vegetation, and
over all this was a dense, heavy, streaming cloud
faintly glimmering with a, white, silvery light which
seemed to be beyond it.
He walked towards the vegetation, and soon
found himself in the middle of a wood, or rather
of a jungle. Tangled plants grew on every side ;
large hanging creepers with great blue flowers hung
downwards. There was a profound stillness in this
wood ; there were no birds singing and he heard
not the slightest rustle in the rich undergrowth.
It was oppressively hot and the air was full of a
pungent, aromatic sweetness. He felt as though
he were in a hot-house full of gardenias and steph-
anotis. At the same time the atmosphere of the
place was pleasant to him. It was neither strange
nor disagreeable. He felt at home in this green,
shimmering jungle and in this hot, aromatic
twilight, as though he had lived there all his life.
He walked mechanically onwards as if he were
going to a definite spot of which he knew. He walked
fast, but in spite of the oppressive atmosphere and
the thickness of the growth he grew neither hot nor
out of breath ; on the contrary, he took pleasure
in the motion, and the stifling, sweet air seemed to
invigorate him. He walked steadily on for over
three hours, choosing his way nicely, avoiding certain
places and seeking others, following a definite path
and making for a definite goal. During all this
time the stillness continued unbroken, nor did he
meet a single living thing, either bird or beast.
After he had been walking for what seemed to
him several hours, the vegetation grew thinner, the
jungle less dense, and from a more or less open space
in it he seemed to discern what might have been
a mountain entirely submerged in a multitude of
heavy grey clouds. He sat down on the green stuff
which was like grass and yet was not grass, at the
edge of the open space whence he got this view, and
quite naturally he picked from the boughs of an
overhanging tree a large red, juicy fruit, and eat
it. Then he said to himself, he knew not why,
that he must not waste time, but must be moving
He took a path to the right of him and descended
the sloping jungle with big, buoyant strides, almost
running ; he knew the way as though he had been
down that path a thousand times. He knew that
in a few moments he would reach a whole hanging
garden of red flowers, and he knew that when he
had reached this he must again turn to the right.
It was as he thought : the red flowers soon came
to view. He turned sharply, and then through
the thinning greenery he caught sight of an open
plain where more mushrooms grew. But the plain
was as yet a great way off, and the mushrooms
seemed quite small.
" I shall get there in time," he said to himself,
and walked steadily on, looking neither to the right
nor to the left. It was evening by the time he
reached the edge of the plain : everything was
growing dark. The endless vapours and the high
banks of cloud in which the whole of this world
was sunk grew dimmer and dimmer. In front of
him was an empty level space, and about two miles
further on the huge mushrooms stood out, tall and
wide like the monuments of some prehistoric age.
And underneath them on the soft carpet there
seemed to move a myriad vague and shadowy
" I shall get there in time/' he thought. He
walked on for another half hour, and by this time
the tall mushrooms were quite close to him, and
he could see moving underneath them, distinctly
now, green, living creatures like huge caterpillars,
with glowing eyes. They moved slowly and did
not seem to interfere with each other in any way.
Further off, and beyond them, there was a broad
and endless plain of high green stalks like ears of
green wheat or millet, only taller and thinner.
He ran on, and now at his very feet, right in
front of him, the green caterpillars were moving.
They were as big as leopards. As he drew nearer
they seemed to make way for him, and to gather
themselves into groups under the thick stems of the
mushrooms. He walked along the pathway they
made for him, under the shadow of the broad,
sunshade-like roofs oi these gigantic growths.
It was almost dark now, yet he had no doubt or
difficulty as to finding his way. He was making
for the green plain beyond. The ground was dense
with caterpillars ; they were as plentiful as ants
in an ant's nest, and yet they never seemed to
interfere with each other or with him ; they in-
stinctively made way for him, nor did they appear
to notice him in any way. He felt neither surprise
nor wonder at their presence.
It grew quite dark ; the only lights which were
in this world came from the twinkling eyes of the
moving figures, which shone like little stars. The
night was no whit cooler than the day. The atmo-
sphere was as steamy, as dense and as aromatic
as before. He walked on and on, feeling no trace
of fatigue or hunger, and every now and then he
said to himself : "I shall be there in time." The
plain was flat and level, and covered the whole way
with the mushrooms, whose roofs met and shut
out from him the sight of the dark sky.
At last he came to the end of the plain of mush-
rooms and reached the high green stalks he had
been making for. Beyond the dark clouds a silver
glimmer had begun once more to show itself. " I
am just in time," he said to himself,;; " the night
is over, the sun is rising."
At that moment there was a great whirr in the
air, and from out of the green stalks rose a flight
of millions and millions of enormous broad-winged
butterflies of every hue and description silver,
gold, purple, brown and blue. Some with dark
and velvety wings like the Purple Emperor, or the
Red Admiral, others diaphanous and iridescent as
dragon-flies. Others again like vast soft and silvery
moths. They rose from every part of that green
plain of stalks, they filled the sky, and then soared
upwards and disappeared into the silvery cloudland.
Fletcher was about to leap forward when he
heard a voice in his ear saying
" Are you 6493 Victoria ? You are talking to
the Home Office."
As soon as Fletcher heard the voice of the office
messenger through the telephone he instantly
realised his surroundings, and the strange experi-
ence he had just gone through, which had seemed
so long and which in reality had been so brief,
left little more impression on him than that which
remains with a man who has been immersed in a
brown study or who has been staring at something,
say a poster in the street, and has not noticed the
passage of time.
The next day he returned to his work at the office,
and his fellow-clerks, during the whole of the next
week, noticed that he was more zealous and more
painstaking than ever. On the other hand, his
periodical fits of abstraction grew more frequent
and more pronounced. On one occasion he took
a paper to the head of the department for signature,
and after it had been signed, instead of removing
it from the table, he remained staring in front of
him, and it was not until the head of the depart-
ment had called him three times loudly by name
that he took any notice and regained possession of
his faculties. As these fits of absent-mindedness
grew to be somewhat severely commented on, he
consulted a doctor, who told him that what he
needed was change of air, and advised him to spend
his Sundays at Brighton or at some other bracing
and exhilarating spot. Fletcher did not take the
doctor's advice, but continued spending his spare
time as he did before, that is to say, in going to
some big junction and watching the express trains
go by all day long.
One day while he was thus employed it was
Sunday, in August of 19 , when the Egyptian
Exhibition was attracting great crowds of visitors
and sitting, as was his habit, on a bench on the
centre platform of Slough Station, he noticed an
Indian pacing up and down the platform, who every
now and then stopped and regarded him with
peculiar interest, hesitating as though he wished
to speak to him. Presently the Indian came and
sat down on the same bench, and after having sat
there in silence for some minutes he at last made
a remark about the heat.
" Yes/' said Fletcher, " it is trying, especially
for people like myself, who have to remain in London
during these months."
M You are in an office, no doubt," said the Indian.
" Yes," said Fletcher.
" And you are no doubt hard worked."
" Our hours are not long," Fletcher replied,
" and I should not complain of overwork if I did
not happen to suffer from well, I don't know what
it is, but I suppose they would call it nerves."
" Yes," said the Indian, " I could see that by
" I am a prey to sudden fits of abstraction," said
Fletcher, ** they are growing upon me. Sometimes
in the office I forget where I am altogether for a
space of about two or three minutes ; people are
beginning to notice it and to talk about it. I have
been to a doctor, and he said I needed change of
air. I shall have my leave in about a month's time,
and then perhaps I shall get some change of air,
but I doubt if it will do me any good. But these
fits are annoying, and once something quite un-
canny seemed to happen to me."
The Indian showed great interest and asked for
further details concerning this strange experience,
and Fletcher told him all that he could recall
for the memory of it was already dimmed of what
had happened when he had telephoned that night.
The Indian was thoughtful for a while after
hearing this tale. At last he said : "lam not a
doctor, I am not even what you call a quack
doctor I am a mere conjurer, and I gain my
living by conjuring tricks and fortune-telling at
the Exhibition which is going on in London. But
although I am a poor man and an ignorant man,
I have an inkling, a few sparks in me of ancient
knowledge, and I know what is the matter with
" What is it ? " asked Fletcher.
" You have the power, or something has the
power," said the Indian, " of detaching you from
your actual body, and your astral body has been
into another planet. By your description I think
it must be the planet Venus. It may happen to
you again, and for a longer period for a very
much longer period."
M Is there anything I can do to prevent it ? "
" Nothing," said the Indian. " You can try
change of air if you like, but," he said with a smile,
" I do not think it will do you much good."
At that moment a train came in, and the Indian
said good-bye and jumped into it.
On the next day, which was Monday, when
Fletcher got to the office it was necessary for him
to use the telephone with regard to some business.
No sooner had he taken the receiver off the tele-
phone than he vividly recalled the minute details
of the evening he had telephoned, when the strange
experience had come to him. The advertisement
of Venus Soap that had hung in the telephone box
in his house appeared distinctly before him, and as
he thought of that he once more experienced a
falling sensation which lasted only a fraction of a
second, and rubbing his eyes he awoke to find
himself in the tepid atmosphere of a green and
This time he was not near the wood, but on the
sea-shore. In front of him was a grey sea, smooth
as oil and clouded with steaming vapours, and
behind him the wide green plain stretched into a
cloudy distance. He could discern, faint on the
far-off horizon, the shadowy forms of the gigantic
mushrooms which he knew, and on the level plain,
which reached the sea beach, but not so far off as
the mushrooms, he could plainly see the huge
green caterpillars moving slowly and lazily in an
endless herd. The sea was breaking on the sand
with a faint moan. But almost at once he became
aware of another sound, which came he knew not
whence, and which was familiar to him. It was
a low whistling noise, and it seemed to come from
At that moment Fletcher was seized by an un-
accountable panic. He was afraid of something ;
he did not know what it was, but he knew, he felt
absolutely certain, that some danger, no vague
calamity, no distant misfortune, but some definite
physical danger was hanging over him and quite
close to him something from which it would be
necessary to run away, and to run fast in order to
save his life. And yet there was no sign of danger
visible, for in front of him was the motionless oily
sea, and behind him was the empty and silent plain.
It was then he noticed that the caterpillars were
fast disappearing, as if into the earth : he was too
far off to make out how.
He began to run along the coast. He ran as
fast as he could, but he dared not look round.
He ran back from the coast along the plain, from
which a white mist was rising. By this time every
single caterpillar had disappeared. The whistling
noise continued and grew louder.
At last he reached the wood and bounded on,
trampling down long trailing grasses and tangled
weeds through the thick, muggy gloom of those
endless aisles of jungle. He came to a somewhat
open space where there was the trunk of a tree
larger than the others ; it stood by itself and dis-
appeared into the tangle of creepers above. He
thought he would climb the tree, but the trunk
was too wide, and his efforts failed. He stood by
the tree trembling and panting with fear. He
could not hear a sound, but he felt that the danger,
whatever it was, was at hand.
It grew darker and darker. It was night in the
forest. He stood paralysed with terror ; he felt
as though bound hand and foot, but there was
nothing to be done except to wait until his in-
visible enemy should choose to inflict his will on
him and achieve his doom. And yet the agony
of this suspense was so terrible that he felt that if
it lasted much longer something must inevitably
break inside him . . . and just as he was thinking
that eternity could not be so long as the moments
he was passing through, a blessed unconsciousness
came over him. He woke from this state to find
himself face to face with one of the office messengers,
who said to him that he had been given his number
two or three times but had taken no notice of it.
Fletcher executed his commission and then went
uptsairs to his office. His fellow-clerks at once
asked what had happened to him, for he was looking
white. He saioTthat he had a headache and was
not feeling quite himself, but made no further
This last experience changed the whole tenor of
his life. When fits of abstraction had occurred
to him before he had not troubled about them, and
after his first strange experience he had felt only
vaguely interested ; but now it was a different
matter. He was consumed with dread lest the
thing should occur again. He did not want to get
back to that green world and that oily sea ; he
did not want to hear the whistling noise, and to be
pursued by an invisible enemy. So much did the
dread of this weigh on him that he refused to go to
the telephone lest the act of telephoning should
set alight in his mind the train of associations and
bring his thoughts back to his dreadful experience.
Shortly after this he went for leave, and following
the doctor's advice he spent it by the sea. During
all this time he was perfectly well, and was not
once troubled by his curious fits. He returned to
London in the autumn refreshed and well.
On the first day that he went to the office a
friend of his telephoned to him. When he was told
that the line was being held for him he hesitated,
but at last he went down to the telephone office.
He remained away twenty minutes. Finally
his prolonged absence was noticed, and he was sent
for. He was found in the telephone room stiff
and unconscious, having fallen forward on the
telephone desk. His face was quite white, and his
eyes wide open and glazed with an expression of
piteous and harrowing terror. .When they tried
to revive him their efforts were in vain. A doctor
was sent for, and he said that Fletcher had died
of heart disease.
BEFORE the bell had time to sound the alarm
a huge pillar of smoke and flame, leaping high
in the breathless August night, told the whole
village the news of the fire. Men, women, and
children hurried to the burning place. The fire-
men galloped down the rutty road with their
barrels of water and hand-pumps, yelling. The
bell rang, with hurried, throbbing beats. The fire,
which was further off than it seemed to be at first
sight, was in the middle of the village. Two
houses were burning a house built of bricks and
a wooden cottage. The flame was prodigious : it
soared into the sky like the eruption of a volcano,
and the wooden cottage, with its flat logs and blaz-
ing roof, looked like a sacrificial pyre consuming
the body of some warrior or Viking. In the light
of the flames the soft sky, which was starless and
flooded with stillness by the large full moon, had
turned from blue to green. A dense crowd had
gathered round the burning houses.
The firemen, working like bees, were doing what
they could to extinguish the flames and to prevent
the fire spreading. Volunteers from the crowd
helped them. One man climbed up on the edge
of the wooden house, where the flames had been
250 THE FIRE
overcome, and shovelled earth from the roof
on the little flames, which were leaping like earth
spirits from the ground. His wife stood below
and called on him in forcible language to descend
from such a dangerous place. The crowd jeered
at her fears, and she spoke her mind to them in
frank and unvarnished terms. It was St John the
Baptist's Day. Some of the men had been celebrat-
ing the feast by drinking. One of them, out of
the fulness of his heart, cried out : " Oh, how
happy I am ! I'm drunk, and there's a fire, and all
at the same time ! " But most of the crowd they
looked like black shadows against the glare
looked on quietly, every now and then making
comments on the situation. One of the peasants
tried to knock down the burning house with an
axe. He failed. Someone not far off was play-
ing an accordion and singing a monotonous
Amidst the shifting crowd of shadows I noticed
a strange figure, who beckoned to me. " I see you
are short-sighted," he said, " let me lend you a
glass." His voice sounded thin and distant, and
he handed me a piece of glass which seemed to be
more opaque than transparent. I looked through
it and I noticed a difference in things :
The cottages had disappeared ; in their place
were great high buildings with lofty porticos,
broad columns and carved friezes, but flames were
THE FIRE 251
leaping round them, intenser and greater than
before, and the noise of the fire had increased.
In front of me was an open court, in the centre of
which was an altar, and to the right of this altar
stood an old bay tree. An old man and a grey-
haired woman were clinging to this altar ; it was
drenched with blood, and on the steps of it lay
several bodies of young men clothed in armour,
but squalid with dust and blood.
I had scarcely become aware of the scene before
a great cloud of smoke passed through the court,
and when it rose I saw there had been another
change : in that few moments' space the fire seemed
to have wrought incredible havoc. Nothing was
left of all the tall pillared buildings, the friezes and
the porticos, the altar, the bay-tree and the bodies
nothing but the pile of logs which vomited a rolling
cloud of flame and smoke into the sky. The moon
was still shining calmly, and the sky was softer and
greener. On the ground there were hundreds of
dead and dying men ; the dying were groaning in
their agony. Far away on the horizon there was a
thin line of light, a faint trembling thread as though
of foam, and I seemed to hear the moaning of the
All at once a woman walked in front of the
burning pile. She was tall, and silken folds clothed
the perfect lines of her body and fell straight to the
ground. She walked royally, and when she moved
252 THE FIRE
her gestures were like the rhythm of majestic music.
The firelight shone on her hair, which was bound
with a narrow golden band. Her hair was like a
cloud of spun sunshine, and it seemed brighter
than the flames. She was walking with downcast
eyes, but presently she looked up. Her face was
calm, and faultless as skilfully-hewn marble, and it
seemed to be made of some substance different from
the clay which goes to the making of men and
women. It was not an angel's face ; it was not
a divine face ; neither was it a wicked face, nor
had it anything cruel, nor anything of the siren
or the witch. Love and pleasure seemed to have
moulded the flower-like lips ; but an infinite care-
lessness shone in the still blue eyes. They seemed
like two seas that had never known what winds and
tempests mean, but which bask for ever under un-
ruffled skies lulled by a slumber-scented breeze.
She looked up at the fire and smiled, and at that
smile one thought the heavens must open and the
stars break into song, so marvellous was its loveli-
ness, so infinitely radiant the glory of it. She was
a woman, and yet more than a woman, a creature
of the earth, yet fashioned of pearls and dew and
the petals of flowers : delicate as a gossamer, and
yet radiant with the flush of life, soft as the twilight,
and glowing with the blood of the ruby ; and,
above all things, serene, calm, aloof, and unruffled
like the silver moon. When the dying men saw her
THE FIRE 253
smile they raised their eyes towards her, and one
could see that there shone in them a strange and
wonderful happiness. And when they had looked
they fell back and died.
Then a cloud of smoke blinded me. When it
rose the full moon was still shining in a sky even
bluer and softer than it had yet been. The fire
was further off, but it had spread. The whole
village was on fire ; but the village had grown ;
it seemed endless, and covered several hills.
Right in front of me was a grove of cypresses,
dark against the intense glow of the flames,
which leapt all round in the distance : a huge
circle of light, a chain of fiery tongues and
We were on the top of a hill, and we looked down
into a place where tall buildings and temples stood,
where the fire had not penetrated. This place was
crowded with men, women and children. It was
the same shifting crowd of shadows : some shout-
ing, some gesticulating, some looking on indifferent.
And straight in front of me was a short, dark, and
rather fat man with a low forehead, deep-set eyes,
and a heavy jaw. He was crowned with a golden
wreath, and he was twanging a kind of harp. In
the distance suddenly the cypress trees became
alive with huge flaring torches, which lit the garden
like Bengal lights. The man threw down his harp
and clapped his hands in ecstasy at the bright
254 THE FIRE
fireworks. Again a cloud of smoke obscured
When it lifted I was in the village once more,
and once more it was different. It was on fire,
and it seemed infinitely larger and more straggling
than when I had arrived. The moon was still in
the sky, but the air had a chilly touch. Instead
of one church there was an infinite number of
churches, for in the glare countless minarets and
small cupolas were visible. There was no crowd,
no voices, and no shouting ; only a long line of
low, blazing wooden houses. The place was
deserted and silent save for the crackling blaze.
Then down the street a short, fat man on horseback
rode towards us. He was riding a white horse.
He wore a grey overcoat and a cocked hat. I
became aware of a rhythmical tramping : a noise
of .hundreds and hundreds of hoofs, a champing
of bits, and the tramp of innumerable feet and the
rumble of guns. In the distance there was a hill
with crenelated battlements round it ; it was
crowned with the domes and minarets of several
churches, taller and greater than all the other
churches in sight. These minarets shone out
clear-cut and distinct against the ruddy sky.
The short man on horseback looked back for a
moment at this hill. He took a pinch of snuff.
WHEN the ancient gods were turned out of
Olympus, and the groan of dying Pan shook
the world like an earthquake, none of all the fallen
deities was so disconsolate as Proserpine. She
wandered across the world, assuming now this shape
and now that, but nowhere could she find a resting-
place or a home. In the Southern country which
she regarded as her own, whatever shape or disguise
she assumed, whether that of a gleaner or of an old
woman begging for alms, the country people would
scent something uncanny about her and chase her
from the place. Thus it was that she left the
Southern country, which she loved ; she said farewell
to the azure skies, the hills covered with corn and
fringed everywhere with rose bushes, the white
oxen, the cypress, the olive, the vine, the croak-
ing frogs, and the million fireflies ; and she sought
the green pastures and the woods of a Northern
One evening, not long after her arrival (it was
Midsummer Eve), as she was wandering in a thick
wood, she noticed that the trees and the under-
growth were twinkling with a myriad soft flames
which reminded her of the fireflies of her own
country, and presently she perceived that these
258 THE CONQUEROR
flames were stars which, soft as dew and bright as
moonbeams, formed the diadems crowning the hair
of unearthly shapes. These shapes were like those
of men and maidens, transfigured and rendered
strange and delicate, as light as foam, and radiant
as dragonflies hovering over a pool. They were
rimmed with rainbow-coloured films, and sometimes
they flew and sometimes they danced, but they
rarely seemed to touch the ground. And as
Proserpine approached them, in the sad majesty
of her fallen divinity, they gathered round her
in a circle and bowed down before her. And one
of them, taller than the rest, advanced towards
her and said :
" We are the Fairies, and for a long time we have
been mournful, for we have lost our Queen, our
beautiful Queen. She loved a mortal, and on this
account she was banished from Fairyland, nor
may she ever revisit the haunt and the kingdom
that were hers. But Merlin, the oldest and the
wisest of the wizards, told us we should find another
Queen, and that we should know her by the poppies
in her hair, the whiteness of her brow, and the still-
ness of her eyes, and with or without such tokens
we should know, as soon as we set eyes on her,
that it was she and no other who was to be our
Queen. And now we know that it was you and
no other. Therefore shall you be our Queen and
rule over us until he comes who, Merlin said, shall
THE CONQUEROR 259
conquer your kingdom and deliver its secrets to
the mortal world. Then shall you abandon the
kingdom of the Fairies the everlasting Limbo
shall receive you."
Thus it came about that Proserpine became
Queen of the Fairies, and she ruled them well, and
the mortals in their farms and their cottages blessed
her because she took care that the goblins did their
work properly and earned the cream-bowl which
was set for them by the housewife.
It was one summer's day a long time ago, many
and many years after Proserpine had become
Queen of the Fairies, that a butcher's apprentice
called William was enjoying a holiday, and strolling
in the woods with no other purpose than to stroll
and enjoy the fresh air and the cool leaves and the
song of the birds. William loved the sights and
sounds of the country ; unlike many boys of his
age, he was not deeply versed in the habits of birds
and beasts, but devoted his spare time to reading
such books as he could borrow from the village
schoolmaster whose school he had lately left to
go into trade, or to taking part in the games of
his companions, for he loved humdrum fellowship
and the talk and laughter of his fellow-creatures.
The day was hot it was Midsummer Day and
William, having stumbled on a convenient mound,
fell asleep. And he dreamt a curious dream.
260 THE CONQUEROR
He thought he saw a beautiful maiden walking
towards him. She was tall, and clothed in dark
draperies, and her hair was bound with a coronal
of scarlet flowers, her face was pale and lustrous,
and he could not see her eyes because they were
veiled. She approached him and said :
M You are he who has been chosen to try to con-
quer my kingdom, which is faery, and to possess
it : if, indeed, you are able to endure the fierce
ordeal and to perform the three dreadful tasks
which have been appointed. If he who sets out
to conquer my kingdom should fail in any one
of the three tasks he dies, and the world hears
of him no more. Many have tried and failed."
And William said he would try with all his might
to conquer the faery kingdom, and he asked what
the three tasks might be.
The maiden, who was none other than Proserpine,
Queen of the Fairies, told him that the first task
was to pluck the crystal apple from the laughing
tree, and second to pluck the blood-red rose from
the fiery rose tree, and the third to cull the white
poppy from the quiet fields. William asked her
how he was to set about these tasks. Porserpine
told him that he had but to accept the quest and all
would be made clear. So he accepted the quest
without further talk.
Immediately Proserpine vanished, and William
found himself in a large green garden of fruit trees,
THE CONQUEROR 261
and in the distance he heard the noise of rippling
laughter. He walked along many paths to the place
whence he thought the laughter came, until he
found a large fruit tree which grew by itself. It
was laden with fruit, and from one of its boughs
hung a crystal apple which shone with all the
colours of the rainbow.
But the tree was guarded by a hideous old hag,
covered with sores and leprous scales, loathsome
to behold. And a laughing voice came from the
tree, saying : "He who would pluck the crystal
apple must embrace its guardian." And William
looked at her and felt no loathing but rather a
deep pity, so that tears welled in his eyes and
dropped on her, and he took her face in his hands
to embrace her, and as he did so she changed into
a beautiful maiden with veiled eyes, who plucked
the crystal apple from the tree and gave it to him
Then the garden changed its semblance, and all
around him there seemed to be a hedge of smoking
thorns and before him a fiery tree on which blood-
red roses shone like rubies. The tree was guarded
by a maiden with long grey eyes and flowing hair,
as of spun moonshine, beautiful exceedingly, and
a moaning voice came from the tree, saying :
" He who would pluck the rose must slay its
guardian." On the grass beneath the tree lay an
unsheathed sword. William took the sword in
262 THE CONQUEROR
his hands, but the maiden looked at him piteously
and wept, so that he hesitated ; then, hardening
himself, he plunged the sword into her heart and
a great moan was heard, and the fire disappeared,
and only a withered rose-tree stood before him.
Then he heard the voice say that he must pierce his
own heart with a thorn from the tree and let the
blood fall upon its roots. This he did, and as he
did so he felt the sharpness of Death, as though
the last dreadful moment had come ; but as the
drops of blood fell on the roots the beautiful maiden
with veiled eyes whom he had seen before stood
before him and gave him the blood-red rose, and
she touched his wound and straightway it was
Then the garden vanished altogether, and he
stood before a dark porch and a gate beyond which
he caught a pale glimmer. And by the porch stood
a* terrible shape : a hooded skeleton bearing a
scythe, with white sockets of fire which had no
eyes in them but which were so terrible that no
mortal could look on them and live. And here he
heard a voice saying : " He who would cull the white
poppy must look into the eyes of its guardian and
take the scythe from the bony hands." And
William seized the scythe and an icy darkness
descended upon him, and he felt dizzy and faint ;
yet he persisted and wrestled with the skeleton,
although the darkness seemed to be overwhelming
THE CONQUEROR 263
him. He tore the hood from the bony head and
looked boldly into the fiery sockets.
Then with a crash of thunder the skeleton
vanished, and the maiden with veiled eyes
led him through the gate into the quiet fields,
and there he culled the white poppy. Then
the maiden turned to him and unveiled her-
self, and it was Proserpine, the Queen of the
" You have conquered," she said, " and the faery
kingdom is yours for ever, and you shall visit it
and dwell in it whenever you desire, and reveal
its sounds and its sights to the mortals of the world ;
and in my kingdom you shall see, as though in a
mirror, the pageant of mankind, the scroll of history,
and the story of man which is writ in brave, golden
and glowing letters, of blood and tears and fire.
And there is nothing in the soul of man that shall
be hid from you ; and you shall speak the secrets
of my kingdom to mortal men with a voice of
gold and of honey. And when you grow weary
of life you shall withdraw for ever into the
island of faery voices which lies in the heart of
my kingdom. And as for me I go to the ever-
Then Proserpine vanished, and William awoke
from his dream, and went home to his butcher's
Soon after this he left his native village
264 THE CONQUEROR
and went to London, where he became well
known ; although how his surname should be
spelt is a matter of dispute, some spelling
it Shakespeare, some Shakespere, and some
FERROL was an intellectual, and he prided
himself on the fact. At Cambridge he had
narrowly missed being a Senior Wrangler, and his
principal study there had been Lunar Theory.
But when he went down from Cambridge for good,
being a man of some means, he travelled. For a
year he was an honorary Attache at one of the big
Embassies. He finally settled in London with a
vague idea of some day writing a magnum opus
about the stupidity of mankind ; for he had come
to the conclusion by the age of twenty-five that
all men were stupid, irreclaimably, irredeemably
stupid ; that everything was wrong ; that all
literature was really bad, all art much overrated,
and all music tedious in the long run.
The years slipped by and he never began his
magnum opus ; he joined a literary club instead
and discussed the current topics of the day. Some-
times he wrote a short article ; never in the daily
Press, which he despised, nor in the reviews (for
he never wrote anything as long as a magazine
article), but in a literary weekly he would express
in weary and polished phrases the unemphatic
boredom or the mitigated approval with which the
works of his fellow-men inspired him. He was the
268 THE IKON
kind of man who had nothing in him you could
positively dislike, but to whom you could not talk
for five minutes without having a vague sensation
of blight. Things seemed to shrivel up in his
presence as though they had been touched by an
insidious east wind, a subtle frost, a secret chill.
He never praised anything, though he sometimes
condescended to approve. The faint puffs of blame
in which he more generally indulged were never
sharp or heavy, but were like the smoke rings of
a cigarette which a man indolently smoking blows
from time to time up to the ceiling.
He lived in rooms in the Temple. They were
comfortably, not luxuriously furnished ; a great
many French books French was the only modern
language worth reading he used to say a few
modern German etchings, a low Turkish divan,
and some Egyptian antiquities, made up the
furniture of his two sitting-rooms. Above all
things he despised Greek art ; it was, he said,
decadent. The Egyptians and the Germans were,
in his opinion, the only people who knew anything
about the plastic arts, whereas the only music he
could endure was that of the modern French
School. Over his chimney-piece there was a large
German landscape in oils, called " Im Walde " ;
it represented a wood at twilight in the autumn,
and if you looked at it carefully and for a long time
you saw that the objects depicted were meant to
THE IKON 269
be trees from which the leaves were falling ; but
if you looked at the picture carelessly and from
a distance, it looked like a man-of-war on a rough
sea, for which it was frequently taken, much to
One day an artist friend of his presented him
with a small Chinese god made of crystal ; he put
this on his chimney-piece. It was on the evening
of the day on which he received this gift that he
dined, together with a friend named Sledge who had
travelled much in Eastern countries, at his club.
After dinner they went to FerroFs rooms to smoke
and to talk. He wanted to show Sledge his an-
tiquities, which consisted of three large Egyptian
statuettes, a small green Egyptian god, and the
Chinese idol which he had lately been given.
Sledge, who was a middle-aged, bearded man,
frank and unconventional, examined the antiqui-
ties with care, pronounced them to be genuine,
and singled out for special praise the crystal god.
" Your things are good," he said, u very good.
But don't you really mind having all these things
about you ? "
" Why should I mind ? " asked Ferrol.
" Well, you have travelled a good deal, haven't
you ? "
" Yes," said Ferrol, " I have travelled ; I have
been as far east as Nijni-Novgorod to see the
Fair, and as far west as Lisbon."
270 THE IKON
" I suppose," said Sledge, " you were a long time
in Greece and Italy ? "
u No," said Ferrol, " I have never been to Greece.
Greek art distresses me. All classical art is a mistake
and a superstition."
" Talking of superstition," said Sledge, " you
have never been to the Far East, have you ? "
" No," Ferrol answered, " Egypt is Eastern
enough for me, and cannot be bettered."
" Well," said Sledge, " I have been in the Far
East. I have lived there many years. I am not a
superstitious man ; but there is one thing I would
not do in any circumstances whatsoever, and
that is to keep in my sitting-room the things
you have got there."
" But why ? " asked Ferrol.
" Well," said Sledge, " nearly all of them have
come from tombs of the dead, and some of them
are gods. Such things may have attached to them
heaven knows what spooks and spirits."
Ferrol shut his eyes and smiled, a faint, seraphic
smile. " My dear boy," he said, " you forget.
This is the Twentieth Century."
" And you," answered Sledge, " forget that the
things you have here were made before the
Twentieth Century, B.C."
" You don't seriously mean," said Ferrol, " that
you attach any importance to these " he hesi-
THE IKON 271
" Children's stories ? " suggested Sledge.
" I have lived long enough in the East," said
Sledge, " to know that the sooner you learn to
believe children's stories the better."
" I am afraid, then," said Ferrol, with civil
tolerance, " that our points of view are too different
for us to discuss the matter." And they talked
of other things until late into the night.
Just as Sledge was leaving Ferrol's rooms and
had said " Good-night," he paused a moment by
the chimney-piece, and, pointing to a tiny Ikon
which was lying on it, asked : " What is that ? "
M Oh, that's nothing," said Ferrol, " only a
small Ikon I bought for twopence at the Fair of
Nij ni-Novgorod. ' '
Sledge said " Good-night " again, but when he
was on the stairs he called back : "In any case
remember one thing, that East is East and West is
West. Don't mix your deities."
Ferrol had not the slightest idea what he was
alluding to, nor did he care. He dismissed the
matter from his mind.
The next day he spent in the country, returning
to London late in the evening. As he entered his
rooms the first thing which met his eye was that
his great picture, " Im Walde," which he considered
to be one of the few products of modern art that
a man who respected himself could look at without
272 THE IKON
positive pain in the eyes, had fallen from its place
over the chimney-piece to the floor in front of
the fender, and the glass was shattered into a
thousand fragments. He was much vexed. He
sought the cause of the accident. The nail was a
strong one, and it was still in its place. The picture
had been hung by a wire ; the wire seemed strong
also and was not broken. He concluded that the
picture must have been badly balanced and that a
sudden shock such as a door banging had thrown
it over. He had no servant in his rooms, and when
he had gone out that morning he had locked the
door, so no one could have entered his rooms during
Next morning he sent for a frame-maker and told
him to mend the frame as soon as possible, to make
the wire strong, and to see that the picture was
firmly fixed on the wall. In two or three days'
time the picture returned and was once more hung
on the wall over the chimney-piece immediately
above the little crystal Chinese god. Ferrol
supervised the hanging of the picture in person.
He saw that the nail was strong, and firmly fixed
in the wall ; he took care that the wire left nothing
to be desired and was properly attached to the rings
of the picture.
The picture was hung early one morning. That
day he went to play golf. He returned at five
o'clock, and again the first thing which met his eye
THE IKON 273
was the picture. It had again fallen down, and
this time it had brought with it in its fall
the small Chinese god, which was broken in two.
The glass had again been shattered to bits,
and the picture itself was somewhat damaged.
Everything else on the chimney-piece, that is to
say, a few matchboxes and two candle-sticks, had
also been thrown to the ground everything with
the exception of the little Ikon he had bought at
Nijni-Novgorod, a small object about two inches
square on which two Saints were pictured. This
still rested in its place against the wall.
Ferrol investigated the disaster. The nail was
in its place in the wall ; the wire at the back of
the picture was not broken or damaged in any way.
The accident seemed to him quite inexplicable.
He was greatly annoyed. The Chinese god was a
valuable thing. He stood in front of the chimney-
piece contemplating the damage with a sense of
" To think that everything should have been
broken except this beastly little Ikon I " he said
to himself. " I wonder whether that was what
Sledge meant when he said I should not mix
my deities.' '
Next morning he sent again for the framemaker,
and abused him roundly. The framemaker said
he could not understand how the accident had
happened. The nail was an excellent nail, the
274 THE IKON
picture, Mr Ferrol must admit, had been hung with
great care before his very eyes and under his own
direct and personal supervision. What more could
be done ? "
u It's something to do with the balance," said
Ferrol. " I told you that before. The picture
is half spoiled now."
The framemaker said the damage would not
show once the glass was repaired, and took the
picture away again to mend it. A few days later
it was brought back. Two men came to fix it this
time ; steps were brought and the hanging lasted
about twenty minutes. Nails were put under
the picture ; it was hung by a double wire. All
accidents in the future seemed guarded against.
The following morning Ferrol telephoned to
Sledge and asked him to dine with him. Sledge
was engaged to dine out that evening, but said that
he would look in at the Temple late after dinner.
Ferrol dined alone at the Club ; he reached his
rooms about half-past nine ; he made up a blazing
fire and drew an armchair near it, He lit a cigarette
made some Turkish coffee, and took down a French
novel. Every now and then he looked up at his
picture. No damage was visible ; it looked, he
thought, as well as ever. In the place of the
Chinese idol he had put his little green Egyptian
god on the chimney-piece. The candlesticks and
the Ikon were still in their places.
THE IKON 275
"After all," thought Ferrol, "I did wrong to
have any Chinese art in the place at all. Egyptian
things are the only things worth having. It is a
lesson to me not to dabble with things out of my
After he had read for about a quarter of an hour
he fell into a doze.
Sledge arrived at the rooms about half -past ten,
and an ugly sight met his eyes. There had been an
accident. The picture over the chimney-piece had
fallen down right on Ferrol. His face was badly
cut. He was unconscious. Sledge telephoned for a
doctor. They put Ferrol to bed, and his wounds
were seen to and everything that was necessary
was done. A nurse was sent for to look after him,
and Sledge decided to stay in the house all night,
After all the arrangements had been made, the
doctor, before he went away, said to Sledge : "He
will recover all right, he is not in the slightest
danger ; but I don't know who is to break the news
" What is that ? " asked Sledge.
" He will be quite blind," said the doctor.
Then the doctor went away, and Sledge sat
down in front of the fire. The broken glass had
been swept up. The picture had been placed on
the Oriental divan, and as Sledge looked at the
chimney-piece he noticed that the little Ikon was
276 THE IKON
still in its place. Something caught his eye just
under the low fender in front of the fireplace.
He bent forward and picked up the object.
It was Ferrol's green Egyptian god, which had
been broken into two pieces.
To Jack Gordon
HART MINOR and Smith were behind-hand
with their sums. It was Hart Minor's first
term : Smith had already been one term at school.
They were in the fourth division at St James's.
A certain number of sums in short division had
to be finished. Hart Minor and Smith got up
early to finish these sums before breakfast, which
was at half-past seven. Hart Minor divided slowly,
and Smith reckoned quickly. Smith finished his
sums with ease. When half -past seven struck,
Hart Minor had finished four of them and there
was still a fifth left : 3888 had to be divided by
36 ; short division had to be employed. Hart
Minor was busily trying to divide 3888 by 4 and by
9 ; he had got as far as saying, " Four's into 38
will go six times and two over ; four's into twenty-
eight go seven times ; four's into eight go twice."
He was beginning to divide 672 by 9, an impossible
task, when the breakfast bell rang, and Smith said
to him : " Come on ! "
" I can't," said Hart Minor, " I haven't finished
Smith glanced at his page and said : " Oh
that's all right, don't you see ? The answer's
28o THE THIEF
Hart Minor wrote down 108 and put a large R
next to the sum, which meant Right.
The boys went in to breakfast. After breakfast
they returned to the fourth division schoolroom,
where they were to be instructed in arithmetic for
an hour by Mr Whitehead. Mr Whitehead called
for the sums. He glanced through Smith's and
found them correct, and then through Hart Minor's.
His attention was arrested by the last division.
" What's this ? " he demanded. " Four's into
thirty-eight don't go six times. You've got the
right answer and the wrong working. What does
this mean ? " And Mr Whitehead bit his knuckles
savagely. " Somebody," he said, " has been helping
Hart Minor owned that he had received help
from Smith. Mr Whitehead shook him violently,
and said : " Do you know what this means ? "
Hart Minor had no sort of idea as to the inner
significance of his act, except that he had finished
" It means," said Mr Whitehead, " that you're
a cheat and a thief : you've been stealing marks.
For the present you can stand on the stool of penit-
ence and I'll see what is to be done with you
The stool of penitence was a high, three-cornered
stool, very narrow at the top. When boys in this
division misbehaved themselves they had to stand
THE THIEF 281
on it during the rest of the lesson in the middle
of the room.
Hart Minor fetched the stool of penitence and
climbed up on it. It wobbled horribly.
After the lesson, which was punctuated through-
out by Mr Whitehead with bitter comments on
the enormity of theft, the boys went to chapel.
Smith and Hart were in the choir : they wore
white surplices which were put on in the vestry.
Hart Minor, who knew that he was in for a terrific
row of some kind, thought he observed something
ususual in the conduct of the masters who were
assembled in the vestry. They were all tittering.
Mr Whitehead seemed to be convulsed with un-
controllable laughter. The choir walked up the
aisle. Hart Minor noticed that all the boys in the
school, and the servants who sat behind them, and
the master's wife who sat in front, and the organist
who played the harmonium, were all staring at him
with unwonted interest ; the boys were nudging
each other : he could not understand why.
When the service, which lasted twenty minutes,
was over, and the boys came out of chapel, Hart
Minor was the centre of a jeering crowd of boys.
He asked Smith what the cause of this was, and
Smith confessed to him that before going into
chapel Mr Whitehead had pinned on his back a
large sheet of paper with " Cheat " written on it,
and had only removed it just before the procession
282 THE THIEF
walked up the aisle, hence the interest aroused.
But, contrary to his expectation, nothing further
occurred ; none of the masters alluded to his mis-
demeanour, and Hart Minor almost thought that
the incident was closed almost, and yet really
not at all ; he tried to delude himself into thinking
the affair would blow over, but all the while at
the bottom of his heart sat a horrible misgiving.
Every Monday there was in this school what was
called " reading over." The boys all assembled
in the library and the Head Master, standing in
front of his tall desk, summoned each division
before him in turn. The marks of the week were
read out and the boys took places, moving either
up or down according to their marks ; so that a
boy who was at the top of his division one week
might find himself at the bottom the next week,
and vice versa.
On the Sunday after the incident recorded, the
boys of the fourth division were sitting in their
schoolroom before luncheon, in order to write their
weekly letter home. This was the rule of the school.
Mr Whitehead sat at his desk and talked in a friendly
manner to the boys. He was writing his weekly
report in the large black report book that was used
for reading over. Mr Whitehead was talking in a
chaffing way as to who was his favourite boy.
M You can tell your people/' he said to Hart
Minor, " that my favourite is old Polly." Polly
THE THIEF 283
was Hart Minor's nickname, which was given to
him owing to his resemblance to a parrot. Hart
Minor was much pleased at this friendly attitude,
and began to think that the unpleasant incident
of the week had been really forgotten and that
the misgiving which haunted him night and day
was a foolish delusion.
" We shall soon be writing the half-term reports,"
said Mr Whitehead. " You've all been doing well,
especially old Polly : you can put that in your
letter," he said to Hart Minor. "I'm very much
pleased with you," and he chuckled.
On Monday morning at eleven o'clock was reading
over. When the fourth division were called up,
the Head Master paused, looked down the page,
then at the boys, then at the book once more ;
then he frowned. There was a second pause, then
he read out in icy tones :
u I'm sorry to say that Smith and Hart Minor
have been found guilty of gross dishonesty ; they
combined in fact they entered into a conspiracy,
to cheat, to steal marks and obtain by unfair means,
a higher place and an advantage which was not due
The Head Master paused. " Hart Minor and
Smith," he continued, " go to the bottom of the
division. Smith," he added, " I'm astounded at
you. Your conduct in this affair is inexplicable.
If it were not for your previous record and good
284 THE THIEF
conduct, I should have you severely flogged ; and
if Hart Minor were not a new boy, I should treat
him in the same way and have him turned out of
the choir. (The choir had special privileges.)
As it is, you shall lose, each of you, 200 marks,
and I shall report the whole matter in detail to your
parents in your half-term report, and if anything
of the sort ever occurs again, you shall be severely
punished. You have been guilty of an act for
which, were you not schoolboys, but grown up, you
would be put in prison. It is this kind of thing
that leads people to penal servitude."
After the reading over was finished and the
lessons that followed immediately on it, and the
boys went out to wash their hands for luncheon,
the boys of the second division crowded round Hart
Minor and asked him how he could have perpetrated
such a horrible and daring crime. The matter,
however, was soon forgotten by the boys, but Hart
Minor had not heard the last of it. On the following
Sunday in chapel, at the evening service, the Head
Master preached a sermon. He chose as his text
" Thou shalt not steal ! " The eyes of the whole
school were fixed on Smith and Hart Minor. The
Head Master pointed out in his discourse that one
might think at first sight that boys at a school
might not have the opportunity to violate the
tremendous Commandments ; but, he said, this
was not so. The Commandments were as much
THE THIEF 285
a living actuality in school life as they were in the
larger world. Coming events cast their shadows
before them ; the child was the father of the man ;
what a boy was at school, such would he be in after
life. Theft, the boys perhaps thought, was not a
sin which immediately concerned them. But there
were things which were morally the same if not worse
than the actual theft of material and tangible
objects dishonesty in the matter of marks, for
instance, and cheating in order to gain an undue
advantage over one's fellow-schoolboys. A boy who
was guilty of such an act at school would probably
end by being a criminal when he went out into the
larger world. The seeds of depravity were already
sown ; the tree whose early shoots were thus
blemished would probably be found to be rotten
when it grew up ; and for such trees and for such
noxious growths there could only be one fate
to be cut down and cast into the unquenchable fire !
In Hart Minor's half-term report, which was sent
home to his parents, it was stated that he had
been found guilty of the meanest and grossest
dishonesty, and that should it occur again he would
be first punished and finally expelled.
HE had long ago retired from public life, and in
his Tuscan villa, where he now lived quite
alone, seldom seeing his friends, he never regretted
the strenuous days of his activity. He had done
his work well ; he had been more than a competent
public servant ; as Pro-Consul he proved a pillar
of strength to the State, a man whose name at one
time was on men's lips as having left plenty where
he had found dearth, and order and justice where
corruption, oppression, and anarchy, had once run
riot. His retirement had been somewhat of a
surprise to his friends, for although he was ripe in
years, his mental powers were undiminished and
his body was active and vigorous. But his with-
drawal from public life was due not so much to
fatigue or to a longing for leisure as to a lack of
sympathy, which he felt to be growing stronger
and stronger as the years went by, with the manners
and customs, the mode of thought, and the manner
of living of the new world and the new generation
which was growing up around him. Nurtured as
he had been in the old school and the strong tradi-
tions which taught an austere simplicity of life,
a contempt for luxury and show, he was bewildered
and saddened by the rapid growth of riches, the
2Q0 THE STAR
shameless worship of wealth, the unrestrained
passion for amusement at all costs, the thirst for
new sensations, and the ostentatious airs of the
youth of the day, who seemed to be born dis-
illusioned and whose palates were jaded before
they knew the taste of food. He found much to
console him in literature, not only in the literature
of the past but in the literature of his day, but here
again he was beset with misgivings and haunted
by forebodings. He felt that the State had reached
its zenith both in material prosperity and intellectual
achievement, and that all the future held in reserve
was decline and decay. This thought was ever
present with him ; in the vast extension of empire
he foresaw the inevitable disintegration, and he
wondered in a melancholy fashion what would be
the fate of mankind when the Empire, dismembered
and rotten, should become the prey of the
It was in the winter of the second year after his
retirement that his melancholy increased to a pitch
of almost intolerable heaviness. That winter was
an extraordinarily mild one, and even during the
coldest month he strolled every evening after he
had supped on the terrace walk which was before
the portico. He was strolling one night on the
terrace pondering on the fate of mankind, and more
especially on the life if there was such a thing
beyond the grave. He was not a superstitious man,
THE STAR 291
but, saturated with tradition, he was a scrupulous
observer of religious feast, custom, and ritual.
He had lately been disturbed by what he considered
to be an ill-favoured omen. One night it was
twelve nights ago he reckoned the statues of
Pan and Apollo, standing in his dining-room,
which was at the end of the portico, had fallen
to the ground without any apparent cause and
had been shattered into fragments. And it had
seemed to him that the crash of this accident was
immediately followed by a low and prolonged wail,
which appeared to come from nowhere in particular
and yet to fill the world ; the noise of the moan had
seemed to be quite close to him, and as it died
away its echo had seemed to be miles and miles
distant. He thought it had been a hullacination,
but that same night a still stranger thing happened.
After the accident, which had wakened the whole
household, he had been unable to go to sleep again,
and he had gone from his sleeping chamber into an
adjoining room, and, lighting a lamp, had taken
down and read out of the " Iliad " of Homer.
After he had been reading for about half an hour
he heard a voice calling him very distinctly by his
name, but as soon as the sound had ceased he
was not quite certain whether he had heard it or
not. At that moment one of his slaves, who had
been born in the East, entered the room and asked
him what he required, saying that he had heard
2Q2 THE STAR
his master calling loudly. What these signs and
portents signified he had no idea ; perhaps, he
mused, they mean my own death, which is of no
consequence ; or perhaps which may the Fates
forfend some disaster to an absent friend or even
to the State. But so far and twelve days had
passed since he had seen these strange manifesta-
tions he had received no news which confirmed
As he was thus musing he looked up at the sky,
and he noticed the presence of a new and unfamiliar
star, which he had never seen before. He was a
close observer of the heavens and learned in
astronomy, and he felt quite certain that he had
never seen this star before. It was a star of peculiar
radiance, large and white almost blue in its white-
ness it shone in the East, and seemed to put all
the other stars to shame by its overwhelming
radiance and purity. While he was thus gazing
at the star it seemed to him as though a great
darkness had come upon the world. He heard a
low muttering sound as of a distant earthquake,
and this was quickly followed by the tramping of
innumerable armies. He knew that the end had
come. It is the Barbarians, he thought, who have
already conquered the world. Rome has fallen
never to rise again ; Rome has shared the fate of
Troy and Carthage, of Babylon, and Memphis ;
Rome is a name in an old wife's tale ; and little
THE STAR 293
savage children shall be given our holy trophies
for playthings, and shall use our ruined temples
and our overthrown palaces as their playground.
And so sharp was the vividness of his vision that
he wondered what would happen to his villa, and
whether or no the Barbarians would destroy the
image of Ceres on the terrace, which he especially
cherished, not for its beauty but because it had
belonged to his father and to his grandfather before
An eternity seemed to pass, and the tramp, tramp,
tramp of the armies of those untrained hordes which
were coming from the North and overrunning the
world seemed to get nearer and nearer. He
wondered what they would do with him ; he had
no place for fear in his heart, but he remembered
that on the portico in the morning his freedman's
child had been playing with the pieces of a broken
jar, a copper coin, and a dog made of terra-cotta.
He remembered the child's brown eyes and curly
hair, its smile, its laughter, and lisping talk it
was a piece of earth and sun and he thought of
the spears of the Barbarians, and then shifted his
thoughts because they sickened him.
Then, just when he thought the heavy footsteps
had reached the approach of his villa, the vision
changed. The noise of tramping ceased, and
through the thick darkness there pierced the radiance
of the star : the strange star he had seen that
294 THE STAR
night. The world seemed to awake from a dark
slumber. The ruins rose from the dust and took
once more a stately shape, even lordlier than before.
Rome had risen from the dead, and once more she
dominated the world like a starry diadem. Before
him he seemed to see the pillars and the portals
of a huge temple, more splendid and gorgeous than
the Temples of Caesar. The gates were wide open,
and from within came a blare of trumpets. He
saw a kneeling multitude ; and soldiers with shin-
ing breastplates, far taller than the legionaries of
Caesar, were keeping a way through the dense
crowd, while the figure of an aged man was it
the Pontifex Maximus, he wondered ? was borne
aloft in a chair over their heads.
Then once more the vision changed. At least
the temple seemed to grow wider, higher, and
lighter ; the crowd vanished ; it seemed to him
as though a long corridor of light was opening
on some ultimate and mysterious doorway. At
last this doorway was opened, and he saw distinctly
before him a dark and low manger where oxen and
asses were stalled. It was littered with straw.
He could hear the peaceful beasts munching their
In the corner lay a woman, and in her arms was
a child and his face shone like the sun and lit up the
whole place, in which there were neither torches
nor lamp. The door of the manger was ajar, and
THE STAR 295
through it he saw the sky and the strange star still
shining brightly. He heard a voice, the same voice
which he had heard twelve nights before ; but the
voice was not calling him, it was singing a song,
and the song was as it were a part of a larger
music, a symphony of clear voices, more joyous
and different from anything he had ever heard.
The vision vanished altogether ; he was standing
once more under the portico amongst the surround-
ings which were familiar to him. The strange star
was still shining in the sky. He went back through
the folding-doors of the piazza into the dining-
room. His gloom and his perplexity had been
lifted from him ; he felt quite happy ; he could
not have explained why. He called his slave and
told him to get plenty of provisions on the morrow,
for he expected friends to dinner. He added that
he wanted nothing further and that the slaves
could go to bed.
To Henry de C. Ward
HIS name was Chun Wa ; possibly there was
some more of it, but that is all I can re-
member He was about four or five years old,
and I made his acquaintance the day we arrived
at the temple. It was at the end of September.
We had left Mukden in order to take part in what
they said was going to be a great battle. I don't
know what the village was called at which we arrived
on the second day of our march. I can only re-
member that it was a beautiful and deliciously
quiet spot, and that we established ourselves in a
temple ; that is to say not actually in the temple
itself, but in the house of the priest. He was a
Buddhist who looked after the deities of the place,
which were made of carved and painted wood, and
lived in a small pagoda. The building consisted
of three quadrangles surrounded by a high stone
wall. The first of these quadrangles, which you
entered from the road, reminded me of the yard
in front of any farm. There was a good deal of
straw lying about, some broken ploughshares,
buckets, wooden bowls, spades, and other imple-
ments of toil. A few hens hurried about searching
for grains here and there ; a dog was sleeping in
the sun. At the further end of the yard a yellow
300 CHUN WA
cat seemed to have set aside a space for its ex-
clusive use. This farmyard was separated from
the next quadrangle by the house of the priest,
which occupied the whole of the second enclosure ;
that is to say the living rooms extended right
round the quadrangle, leaving a square and open
space in the centre. The part of the house which
separated the second quadrangle from the next
consisted solely of a roof supported by pillars,
making an open verandah, through which from the
second enclosure you saw into the third. The
third enclosure was a garden, consisting of a square
grass plot and some cypress trees. At the further
end of the garden was the temple itself.
We arrived in the afternoon. We were met by
an elderly man, the priest, who put the place at our
disposal and established us in the rooms situated
in the second quadrangle to the east and west. He
himself and his family lived in the part of the house
which lay between the farmyard and the second
enclosure. The Cossacks of the battery with which
I was living encamped in a field on the other side
of the farmyard, but the treasure chest was placed
in the farmyard itself, and a sentry stood near it
with a drawn sword.
The owner of the house had two sons. One of
them, aged about thirteen, had something to do
with the temple services, and wore a kind of tunic
made of white silk. The second was Chun Wa.
CHUN WA 301
It was when the sentry went on guard that we first
made the acquaintance of Chun Wa. His cheeks
were round and fat, and his face seemed to bulge
out towards the base. His little eyes were soft
and brown and twinkled like onyxes. His tiny
little hands were most beautifully shaped, and this
child moved about the farmyard with the dignity
of an Emperor and the serenity of a great Pontiff.
Gravely and without a smile he watched the
Cossacks unharnessing their horses, lighting a
fire and arranging the officers ' kit.
He walked up to the sentry who was standing
near the treasure chest, a big, grey-eyed Cossack
with a great tuft of fair hair, and the expression
of a faithful retriever, and in a tone of indescribable
contempt, Chun Wa said, " Ping ! " " Ping "
in Chinese means soldier-man, and if you wish to
express your contempt for a man there is no word
in the whole of the Chinese language which expresses
it so fully and so emphatically as the word " Ping."
The Cossack smiled on Chun Wa and called him
by a long list of endearing diminutives, but Chun
Wa took no notice, and retired into the inner part
of the house as if he had determined to pay no more
attention to the barbarous intruders. The next
day, however, curiosity got the better of him, and
he could not resist inspecting the yard, and observ-
ing the doings of the foreign devils. And one of
the Cossacks his name was Lieskov and he looked
302 CHUN WA
after my mule made friends with Chun Wa.
He made friends with him by playing with the dog.
The dog, like most Chinese dogs, was dirty, dis-
trustful, and not used to being played with ; he
slunk away if you called him, and if you took any
notice of him he evidently expected to be beaten,
kicked, or to have stones thrown at him. He was
too thin to be eaten. But Lieskov tamed the dog
and taught him how to play, and the big Cossack
used to roll on the ground while the dog pretended
to bite him, until Chun Wa forgot his dignity, his
contempt, and his superior culture, and smiled.
I remember coming home that very afternoon from
a short stroll with one of the officers, and we found
Lieskov lying fast asleep in the farmyard right
across the steps of the door through which we
wanted to go, and Chun Wa and the dog were
sitting beside him. We woke him up and the
officer asked him why he had gone to sleep.
" I was playing with the dog, your honour,"
he said, " and I played so hard that I was exhausted
and fell asleep."
After that Chun Wa made friends with every-
body, officers and men, and he ruled the battery
like an autocrat. He ruled by charm and a thousand
winning ways. But his special friend was Lieskov,
who carried the child about on his back, performed
many droll antics to amuse him, and taught him
words of pidgin Russian. Among other things he
CHUN WA 303
made him a kite a large and beautiful kite out
of an old piece of yellow silk, shaped like a butterfly.
And Chun Wa's brother flew this kite with wonderful
skill, so that it looked like a glittering golden bird
hovering in the air.
I forget how long we stayed at this temple,
whether it was three days or four days ; possibly
it was not so long, but it seemed like many months,
or rather it seemed at the same time very long and
very short, like a pleasant dream. The weather
was so soft and so fine, the sunshine so bright,
the air so still, that had not the nights been chilly
we should never have dreamt that it was autumn.
It seemed rather as though the spring had been
unburied and had returned to the earth by mistake.
And all this time fighting was going on to the east
of us. The battle of Sha-Ho had begun, but we
were in the reserve, in what they called the deepest
reserve, and we heard no sound of firing, neither
did we receive any news of it. We seemed to be
sheltered from the world in an island of dreamy
lotus-eating ; and the only noise that reached us
was the sound of the tinkling gongs of the temple.
We lived a life of absolute indolence, getting up
with the sun, eating, playing cards, strolling about
on the plains where the millet had now been reaped,
eating again and going to bed about nine o'clock
in the evening. Our chief amusement was to talk
with Chun Wa and to watch the way in which he
304 CHUN WA
treated the Cossacks, who had become his humble
slaves. I am sure there was not one of the men
who would not have died gladly for Chun Wa.
One afternoon, just as we were finishing our
midday meal, we received orders to start. We
were no longer in the reserve ; we were needed
further on. Everything was packed up in a hurry,
and by half -past two the whole battery was on the
march, and we left the lovely calm temple, the
cypress trees, the chiming gongs, and Chun Wa.
The idyll was over, the reality was about to begin.
As we left the place Chun Wa stood by the gate,
dignified, and grave as usual. In one hand he
held his kite, and in the other a paper flower, and
he gave this flower to Lieskov.
Next day we arrived at another village, and from
there we were sent still further on, to a place
whence, from the hills, all the fighting that was
going on in the centre of that big battle was visible.
From half-past six in the morning until sunset the
noise of the artillery never ceased, and all night
long there was a rattle of rifle firing. The troops
which were in front drew each day nearer to us.
Another two days passed ; the battery took part
in the action, some of the men were killed, and some
of the men and the officers were wounded, and we
retreated to the River Sha-Ho. Then just as we
thought a final retreat was about to take place,
a retreat right back to Mukden, we recrossed the
CHUN WA 305
river, took part in another action, and then a great
stillness came. The battle was practically over.
The advance of the enemy had ceased, and we were
ordered to go to a certain place.
We started, and on our way we passed through
the village where we had lived before the battle
began. The place was scarcely recognisable. It
was quite deserted ; some of the houses looked like
empty shells or husks, as though the place had
suffered from earthquake. A dead horse lay across
the road just outside the farmyard.
One of the officers and myself had the curiosity
to go into the temple buildings where we had en-
joyed such pleasant days. They were deserted.
Part of the inner courtyard was all scorched and
crumbled as if there had been a fire. The straw
was still lying about in the yard, and the imple-
ments of toil. The actual temple itself at the end
of the grassy plot remained untouched, and the
grinning gods inside it were intact ; but the dwelling
rooms of our host were destroyed, and the rooms
where we had lived ourselves were a mass of broken
fragments, rubbish, and dust. The place had
evidently been heavily shelled. There was not a
trace of any human being, save that in the only
room which remained undestroyed, on the matting
of the hard Khang that is the divan which stretches
like a platform across three-quarters of every
Chinese room lay the dead body of a Chinese
3 o6 CHUN WA
coolie. The dog, the cat, and the hens had all
We only remained a moment or two in the place,
and as we left it the officer pulled my sleeve and
pointed to a heap of rubbish near the gate. There,
amidst some broken furniture, a mass of refuse,
burned and splintered wood, lay the tattered
remains of a golden kite.
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