Ten minute stories



image of the book's cover is unavailable.]





First Edition February 1914
Reprinted February 1914

All rights reserved


The Author wishes to thank the Editors of the Morning Post, the Westminster Gazette, and Country Life for permission to reprint in this volume stories originally published in their papers.







At the moorland cross-roads Martin stood examining the sign-post for several minutes in some bewilderment. The names on the four arms were not what he expected, distances were not given, and his map, he concluded with impatience, must be hopelessly out of date. Spreading it against the post, he stooped to study it more closely. The wind blew the corners flapping against his face. The small print was almost indecipherable in the fading light. It appeared, however—as well as he could make out—that two miles back he must have taken the wrong turning.

He remembered that turning. The path had looked inviting; he had hesitated a moment, then followed it, caught by the usual lure of walkers that it “might prove a short cut.{2}” The short-cut snare is old as human nature. For some minutes he studied the sign-post and the map alternately. Dusk was falling, and his knapsack had grown heavy. He could not make the two guides tally, however, and a feeling of uncertainty crept over his mind. He felt oddly baffled, frustrated. His thought grew thick. Decision was most difficult. “I’m muddled,” he thought; “I must be tired,” as at length he chose the most likely arm. “Sooner or later it will bring me to an inn, though not the one I intended.” He accepted his walker’s luck, and started briskly. The arm read, “Over Litacy Hill” in small, fine letters that danced and shifted every time he looked at them; but the name was not discoverable on the map. It was, however, inviting like the short cut. A similar impulse again directed his choice. Only this time it seemed more insistent, almost urgent.

And he became aware, then, of the exceeding loneliness of the country about him. The road for a hundred yards went straight, then curved like a white river running into space; the deep blue-green of heather lined the banks, spreading upwards through the twilight; and occasional small pines stood solitary here and there, all unexplained. The curious adjective, having made its appearance, haunted him. So many things that afternoon were similarly—unexplained: the short cut, the darkened map, the names on the sign-post, his own erratic impulses, and the grow{3}ing strange confusion that crept upon his spirit. The entire country-side needed explanation, though perhaps “interpretation” was the truer word. Those little lonely trees had made him see it. Why had he lost his way so easily? Why did he suffer vague impressions to influence his direction? Why was he here—exactly here? And why did he go now “over Litacy Hill”?

Then, by a green field that shone like a thought of daylight amid the darkness of the moor, he saw a figure lying in the grass. It was a blot upon the landscape, a mere huddled patch of dirty rags, yet with a certain horrid picturesqueness too; and his mind—though his German was of the schoolroom order—at once picked out the German equivalents as against the English. Lump and Lumpen flashed across his brain most oddly. They seemed in that moment right, and so expressive, almost like onomatopœic words, if that were possible of sight. Neither “rags” nor “rascal” would have fitted what he saw. The adequate description was in German.

Here was a clue tossed up by the part of him that did not reason. But it seems he missed it. And the next minute the tramp rose to a sitting posture and asked the time of evening. In German he asked it. And Martin, answering without a second’s hesitation, gave it, also in German, “halb sieben”—half-past six. The instinctive guess was accurate. A glance at his{4} watch when he looked a moment later proved it. He heard the man say, with the covert insolence of tramps, “T’ank you; much opliged.” For Martin had not shown his watch—another intuition subconsciously obeyed.

He quickened his pace along that lonely road, a curious jumble of thoughts and feelings surging through him. He had somehow known the question would come, and come in German. Yet it flustered and dismayed him. Another thing had also flustered and dismayed him. He had expected it in the same queer fashion: it was right. For when the ragged brown thing rose to ask the question, a part of it remained lying on the grass—another brown, dirty thing. There were two tramps. And he saw both faces clearly. Behind the untidy beards, and below the old slouch hats, he caught the look of unpleasant, clever faces that watched him closely while he passed. The eyes followed him. For a second he looked straight into those eyes, so that he could not fail to know them. And he understood, quite horridly, that both faces were too sleek, refined, and cunning for those of ordinary tramps. The men were not really tramps at all. They were disguised.

“How covertly they watched me!” was his thought, as he hurried along the darkening road, aware in dead earnestness now of the loneliness and desolation of the moorland all about him.

Uneasy and distressed, he increased his pace.{5} Midway in thinking what an unnecessarily clanking noise his nailed boots made upon the hard white road, there came upon him with a rush together the company of these things that haunted him as “unexplained.” They brought a single definite message: That all this business was not really meant for him at all, and hence his confusion and bewilderment; that he had intruded into someone else’s scenery, and was trespassing upon another’s map of life. By some wrong inner turning he had interpolated his person into a group of foreign forces which operated in the little world of someone else. Unwittingly, somewhere, he had crossed the threshold, and now was fairly in—a trespasser, an eavesdropper, a Peeping Tom. He was listening, peeping; overhearing things he had no right to know, because they were intended for another. Like a ship at sea he was intercepting wireless messages he could not properly interpret, because his Receiver was not accurately tuned to their reception. And more—these messages were warnings!

Then fear dropped upon him like the night. He was caught in a net of delicate, deep forces he could not manage, knowing neither their origin nor purpose. He had walked into some huge psychic trap elaborately planned and baited, yet calculated for another than himself. Something had lured him in, something in the landscape, the time of day, his mood. Owing to{6} some undiscovered weakness in himself he had been easily caught. His fear slipped easily into terror.

What happened next happened with such speed and concentration that it all seemed crammed into a moment. At once and in a heap it happened. It was quite inevitable. Down the white road to meet him a man came swaying from side to side in drunkenness quite obviously feigned—a tramp; and while Martin made room for him to pass, the lurch changed in a second to attack, and the fellow was upon him. The blow was sudden and terrific, yet even while it fell Martin was aware that behind him rushed a second man, who caught his legs from under him and bore him with a thud and crash to the ground. Blows rained then; he saw a gleam of something shining; a sudden deadly nausea plunged him into utter weakness where resistance was impossible. Something of fire entered his throat, and from his mouth poured a thick sweet thing that choked him. The world sank far away into darkness.... Yet through all the horror and confusion ran the trail of two clear thoughts: he realised that the first tramp had sneaked at a fast double through the heather and so come down to meet him; and that something heavy was torn from fastenings that clipped it tight and close beneath his clothes against his body....{7}

Abruptly then the darkness lifted, passed utterly away. He found himself peering into the map against the sign-post. The wind was flapping the corners against his cheek, and he was poring over names that now he saw quite clear. Upon the arms of the sign-post above were those he had expected to find, and the map recorded them quite faithfully. All was accurate again and as it should be. He read the name of the village he had meant to make—it was plainly visible in the dusk, two miles the distance given. Bewildered, shaken, unable to think of anything, he stuffed the map into his pocket unfolded, and hurried forward like a man who has just wakened from an awful dream that had compressed into a single second all the detailed misery of some prolonged, oppressive nightmare.

He broke into a steady trot that soon became a run; the perspiration poured from him; his legs felt weak, and his breath was difficult to manage. He was only conscious of the overpowering desire to get away as fast as possible from the sign-post at the cross-roads where the dreadful vision had flashed upon him. For Martin, accountant on a holiday, had never dreamed of any world of psychic possibilities. The entire thing was torture. It was worse than a “cooked” balance of the books that some conspiracy of clerks and directors proved at his innocent door. He raced as though{8} the country-side ran crying at his heels. And always still ran with him the incredible conviction that none of this was really meant for himself at all. He had overheard the secrets of another. He had taken the warning for another into himself, and so altered its direction. He had thereby prevented its right delivery. It all shocked him beyond words. It dislocated the machinery of his just and accurate soul. The warning was intended for another, who could not—would not—now receive it.

The physical exertion, however, brought at length a more comfortable reaction and some measure of composure. With the lights in sight, he slowed down and entered the village at a reasonable pace. The inn was reached, a bedroom inspected and engaged, and supper ordered with the solid comfort of a large Bass to satisfy an unholy thirst and complete the restoration of balance. The unusual sensations largely passed away, and the odd feeling that anything in his simple, wholesome world required explanation was no longer present. Still with a vague uneasiness about him, though actual fear quite gone, he went into the bar to smoke an after-supper pipe and chat with the natives, as his pleasure was upon a holiday, and so saw two men leaning upon the counter at the far end with their backs towards him. He saw their faces instantly in the glass, and the pipe nearly slipped from between his teeth.{9} Clean-shaven, sleek, clever faces—and he caught a word or two as they talked over their drinks—German words. Well dressed they were, both men, with nothing about them calling for particular attention; they might have been two tourists holiday-making like himself in tweeds and walking-boots. And they presently paid for their drinks and went out. He never saw them face to face at all; but the sweat broke out afresh all over him, a feverish rush of heat and ice together ran about his body; beyond question he recognised the two tramps, this time not disguised—not yet disguised.

He remained in his corner without moving, puffing violently at an extinguished pipe, gripped helplessly by the return of that first vile terror. It came again to him with an absolute clarity of certainty that it was not with himself they had to do, these men, and, further, that he had no right in the world to interfere. He had no locus standi at all; it would be immoral ... even if the opportunity came. And the opportunity, he felt, would come. He had been an eavesdropper, and had come upon private information of a secret kind that he had no right to make use of, even that good might come—even to save life. He sat on in his corner, terrified and silent, waiting for the thing that should happen next.

But night came without explanation. Nothing happened. He slept soundly. There was no{10} other guest at the inn but an elderly man, apparently a tourist like himself. He wore gold-rimmed glasses, and in the morning Martin overheard him asking the landlord what direction he should take for Litacy Hill. His teeth began then to chatter and a weakness came into his knees. “You turn to the left at the cross-roads,” Martin broke in before the landlord could reply; “you’ll see the sign-post about two miles from here, and after that it’s a matter of four miles more.” How in the world did he know, flashed horribly through him. “I’m going that way myself,” he was saying next; “I’ll go with you for a bit—if you don’t mind!” The words came out impulsively and ill-considered; of their own accord they came. For his own direction was exactly opposite. He did not want the man to go alone. The stranger, however, easily evaded his offer of companionship. He thanked him with the remark that he was starting later in the day.... They were standing, all three, beside the horse-trough in front of the inn, when at that very moment a tramp, slouching along the road, looked up and asked the time of day. And it was the man with the gold-rimmed glasses who told him.

“T’ank you; much opliged,” the tramp replied, passing on with his slow, slouching gait, while the landlord, a talkative fellow, proceeded to remark upon the number of Germans that lived in England and were ready to swell the{11} Teutonic invasion which he, for his part, deemed imminent.

But Martin heard it not. Before he had gone a mile upon his way he went into the woods to fight his conscience all alone. His feebleness, his cowardice, were surely criminal. Real anguish tortured him. A dozen times he decided to go back upon his steps, and a dozen times the singular authority that whispered he had no right to interfere prevented him. How could he act upon knowledge gained by eavesdropping? How interfere in the private business of another’s hidden life merely because he had overheard, as at the telephone, its secret dangers? Some inner confusion prevented straight thinking altogether. The stranger would merely think him mad. He had no “fact” to go upon.... He smothered a hundred impulses ... and finally went on his way with a shaking, troubled heart.

The last two days of his holiday were ruined by doubts and questions and alarms—all justified later when he read of the murder of a tourist upon Litacy Hill. The man wore gold-rimmed glasses, and carried in a belt about his person a large sum of money. His throat was cut. And the police were hard upon the trail of a mysterious pair of tramps, said to be—Germans.{12}



The little “Photographic Studio” in the side-street beyond Shepherd’s Bush had done no business all day, for the light had been uninviting to even the vainest sitter, and the murky sky that foreboded snow had hung over London without a break since dawn. Pedestrians went hurrying and shivering along the pavements, disappearing into the gloom of countless ugly little houses the moment they passed beyond the glare of the big electric standards that lit the thundering motor-buses in the main street. The first flakes of snow, indeed, were already falling slowly, as though they shrank from settling in the grime. The wind moaned and sang dismally, catching the ears and lifting the shabby coat-tails of Mr. Mortimer Jenkyn, “Photographic Artist,” as he stood outside and put the shutters up with his own cold hands in despair of further trade. It was five minutes to six.

With a lingering glance at the enlarged portrait of a fat man in masonic regalia who{13} was the pride and glory of his window-front, he fixed the last hook of the shutter, and turned to go indoors. There was developing and framing to be done upstairs, not very remunerative work, but better, at any rate, than waiting in an empty studio for customers who did not come—wasting the heat of two oil-stoves into the bargain. And it was then, in the act of closing the street-door behind him, that he saw a man standing in the shadows of the narrow passage, staring fixedly into his face.

Mr. Jenkyn admits that he jumped. The man was so very close, yet he had not seen him come in; and in the eyes was such a curiously sad and appealing expression. He had already sent his assistant home, and there was no other occupant of the little two-storey house. The man must have slipped past him from the dark street while his back was turned. Who in the world could he be, and what could he want? Was he beggar, customer, or rogue?

“Good evening,” Mr. Jenkyn said, washing his hands, but using only half the oily politeness of tone with which he favoured sitters. He was just going to add “sir,” feeling it wiser to be on the safe side, when the stranger shifted his position so that the light fell directly upon his face, and Mr. Jenkyn was aware that he—recognised him. Unless he was greatly mistaken, it was the second-hand bookseller in the main street.

“Ah, it’s you, Mr. Wilson!” he stammered,{14} making half a question of it, as though not quite convinced. “Pardon me; I did not quite catch your face—er—I was just shutting up.” The other bowed his head in reply. “Won’t you come in? Do, please.”

Mr. Jenkyn led the way. He wondered what was the matter. The visitor was not among his customers; indeed, he could hardly claim to know him, having only seen him occasionally when calling at the shop for slight purchases of paper and what not. The man, he now realised, looked fearfully ill and wasted, his face pale and haggard. It upset him rather, this sudden, abrupt call. He felt sorry, pained. He felt uneasy.

Into the studio they passed, the visitor going first as though he knew the way, Mr. Jenkyn noticing through his flurry that he was in his “Sunday best.” Evidently he had come with a definite purpose. It was odd. Still without speaking, he moved straight across the room and posed himself in front of the dingy background of painted trees, facing the camera. The studio was brightly lit. He seated himself in the faded arm-chair, crossed his legs, drew up the little round table with the artificial roses upon it in a tall, thin vase, and struck an attitude. He meant to be photographed. His eyes, staring straight into the lens, draped as it was with the black velvet curtain, seemed, however, to take no account of the Photographic Artist. But{15} Mr. Jenkyn, standing still beside the door, felt a cold air playing over his face that was not merely the winter cold from the street. He felt his hair rise. A slight shiver ran down his back. In that pale, drawn face, and in those staring eyes across the room that gazed so fixedly into the draped camera, he read the signature of illness that no longer knows hope. It was Death that he saw.

In a flash the impression came and went—less than a second. The whole business, indeed, had not occupied two minutes. Mr. Jenkyn pulled himself together with a strong effort, dismissed his foolish obsession, and came sharply to practical considerations. “Forgive me,” he said, a trifle thickly, confusedly, “but I—er—did not quite realise. You desire to sit for your portrait, of course. I’ve had such a busy day, and—’ardly looked for a customer so late.” The clock, as he spoke, struck six. But he did not notice the sound. Through his mind ran another reflection: “A man shouldn’t ’ave his picture taken when he’s ill and next door to dying. Lord! He’ll want a lot of touching-up and finishin’, too!”

He began discussing the size, price, and length—the usual rigmarole of his “profession,” and the other, sitting there, still vouchsafed no comment or reply. He simply made the impression of a man in a great hurry, who wished to finish a disagreeable business with{16}out unnecessary talk. Many men, reflected the photographer, were the same; being photographed was worse to them than going to the dentist. Mr. Jenkyn filled the pauses with his professional running talk and patter, while the sitter, fixed and motionless, kept his first position and stared at the camera. The photographer rather prided himself upon his ability to make sitters look bright and pleasant; but this man was hopeless. It was only afterwards Mr. Jenkyn recalled the singular fact that he never once touched him—that, in fact, something connected possibly with his frail appearance of deadly illness had prevented his going close to arrange the details of the hastily assumed pose.

“It must be a flashlight, of course, Mr. Wilson,” he said, fidgeting at length with the camera-stand, shifting it slightly nearer; while the other moved his head gently yet impatiently in agreement. Mr. Jenkyn longed to suggest his coming another time when he looked better, to speak with sympathy of his illness; to say something, in fact, that might establish a personal relation. But his tongue in this respect seemed utterly tied. It was just this personal relation which seemed impossible of approach—absolutely and peremptorily impossible. There seemed a barrier between the two. He could only chatter the usual professional commonplaces. To tell the truth, Mr. Jenkyn thinks{17} he felt a little dazed the whole time—not quite his usual self. And, meanwhile, his uneasiness oddly increased. He hurried. He, too, wanted the matter done with and his visitor gone.

At length everything was ready, only the flashlight waiting to be turned on, when, stooping, he covered his head with the velvet cloth and peered through the lens—at no one! When he says “at no one,” however, he qualifies it thus: “There was a quick flash of brilliant white light and a face in the middle of it—my gracious Heaven! But such a face—’im, yet not ’im—like a sudden rushing glory of a face! It shot off like lightning out of the camera’s field of vision. It left me blinded, I assure you, ’alf blinded, and that’s a fac’. It was sheer dazzling!”

It seems Mr. Jenkyn remained entangled a moment in the cloth, eyes closed, breath coming in gasps, for when he got clear and straightened up again, staring once more at his customer over the top of the camera, he stared for the second time at—no one. And the cap that he held in his left hand he clapped feverishly over the uncovered lens. Mr. Jenkyn staggered ... looked hurriedly round the empty studio, then ran, knocking a chair over as he went, into the passage. The hall was deserted, the front door closed. His visitor had disappeared “almost as though he hadn’t never been there at all”—thus he described it to himself in a terrified whisper. And again he felt the hair rise on{18} his scalp; his skin crawled a little, and something put back the ice against his spine.

After a moment he returned to the studio and somewhat feverishly examined it. There stood the chair against the dingy background of trees; and there, close beside it, was the round table with the flower vase. Less than a minute ago Mr. Thomas Wilson, looking like death, had been sitting in that very chair. “It wasn’t all a sort of dreamin’, then,” ran through his disordered and frightened mind. “I did see something ...!” He remembered vaguely stories he had read in the newspapers, stories of queer warnings that saved people from disasters, apparitions, faces seen in dream, and so forth. “Maybe,” he thought with confusion, “something’s going to ’appen to me!” Further than that he could not get for some little time, as he stood there staring about him, almost expecting that Mr. Wilson might reappear as strangely as he had disappeared. He went over the whole scene again and again, reconstructing it in minutest detail. And only then, for the first time, did he plainly realise two things which somehow or other he had not thought strange before, but now thought very strange. For his visitor, he remembered, had not uttered a single word, nor had he, Mr. Jenkyn, once touched his person.... And, thereupon, without more ado, he put on his hat and coat and went round to the little shop in{19} the main street to buy some ink and stationery which he did not in the least require.

The shop seemed all as usual, though Mr. Wilson himself was not visible behind the littered desk. A tall gentleman was talking in low tones to the partner. Mr. Jenkyn bowed as he went in, then stood examining a case of cheap stylographic pens, waiting for the others to finish. It was impossible to avoid overhearing. Besides, the little shop had distinguished customers sometimes, he had heard, and this evidently was one of them. He only understood part of the conversation, but he remembers all of it. “Singular, yes, these last words of dying men,” the tall man was saying, “very singular. You remember Newman’s: ‘More light,’ wasn’t it?” The bookseller nodded. “Fine,” he said, “fine, that!” There was a pause. Mr. Jenkyn stooped lower over the pens. “This, too, was fine in its way,” the gentleman added, straightening up to go; “the old promise, you see, unfulfilled but not forgotten. Cropped up suddenly out of the delirium. Curious, very curious! A good, conscientious man to the last. In all the twenty years I’ve known him he never broke his word....”

A motor-bus drowned a sentence, and then was heard in the bookseller’s voice, as he moved towards the door: “...You see, he was half-way down the stairs before they found him, always repeating the same thing, ‘I promised{20} the wife, I promised the wife.’ And it was a job, I’m told, getting him back again ... he struggled so. That’s what finished him so quick, I suppose. Fifteen minutes later he was gone, and his last words were always the same, ‘I promised the wife’....”

The tall man was gone, and Mr. Jenkyn forgot about his purchases. “When did it ’appen?” he heard himself asking in a voice he hardly recognised as his own. And the reply roared and thundered in his ears as he went down the street a minute later to his house: “Close on six o’clock—a few minutes before the hour. Been ill for weeks, yes. Caught him out of bed with high fever on his way to your place, Mr. Jenkyn, calling at the top of his voice that he’d forgotten to see you about his picture being taken. Yes, very sad, very sad indeed.”

But Mr. Jenkyn did not return to his studio. He left the light burning there all night. He went to the little room where he slept out, and next day gave the plate to be developed by his assistant. “Defective plate, sir,” was the report in due course; “shows nothing but a flash of light—uncommonly brilliant.” “Make a print of it all the same,” was the reply. Six months later, when he examined the plate and print, Mr. Jenkyn found that the singular streaks of light had disappeared from both. The uncommon brilliance had faded out completely as though it had never been there.{21}



There was a glitter in the eye of O’Malley when they met. “I’ve got it!” he said under his breath, holding out a tiny phial with the ominous red label.

“Got what?” asked Jones, as though he didn’t know. Both were medical students; both of a speculative and adventurous turn of mind as well; the Irishman, however, ever the leader in mischief.

“The stuff!” was the reply. “The recipe the Hindu gave me. Your night’s free, isn’t it? Mine, too. We’ll try it. Eh?”

They eyed the little bottle with its shouting label—Poison. Jones took it up, fingered it, drew the cork, sniffed it. “Ugh!” he exclaimed, “it’s got an awful smell. Don’t think I could swallow that!”

“You don’t swallow it,” answered O’Malley impatiently. “You sniff it up through the nose—just a drop. It goes down the throat that way.”

“Irish swallowing, eh?” laughed Jones{22} uneasily. “It looks wicked to me.” He played with the bottle, till the other snatched it away.

“Look out, man! Begad, there’s enough there to kill a Cabinet Minister, or a horse. It’s the real stuff, I tell you. I told him it was for a psychical experiment. You remember the talk we had that night——”

“Oh, I remember well enough. But it’s not worth while in my opinion. It will only make us sick.” He said it almost angrily. “Besides, we’ve got enough hallucinations in life already without inducing others——”

O’Malley glanced up quickly. “Nothing of the sort,” he snapped. “You’re backing out. You swore you’d try it with me if I got it. The effect——”

“Well, what is the effect?”

The Irishman looked keenly at him. He answered very low. Evidently he said something he really believed. There was gravity, almost solemnity, in his voice and manner.

“Opens the inner sight,” he whispered darkly. “Makes you sensitive to thoughts and thoughtforces.” He paused a moment, staring hard into the other’s eyes. “For instance,” he added slowly, earnestly, “if somebody’s thinking hard about you, I should twig it. See? I should see the thought-stream getting at you—influencing you—making you do this and that. The air is full of loose and wandering thoughts from other minds. I should see these thoughts{23} hovering about your mind like flies trying to settle. Understand? The cause of a sudden change of mood in a man, an inspiration, a helping thought—a temptation——!”


“Are you afraid?”

“No. But it’s a poisonous doctrine—that such experiments are worth while even if—if——”

But O’Malley knew his pal.... They took the prescribed dose together, laughing, scoffing, hoping. Then they went out to dine. “We must eat very little,” explained the Irishman. “The stomach must be comparatively empty. And drink nothing at all.”

“What a bore!” said Jones, who was always hungry, and usually thirsty. The prescribed hour passed between the taking of the dose and dinner. They felt nothing more than what Jones described as a “beastly uncomfortable sort of inner heat.”


Opposite them, at a table alone, sat a small man, over-dressed according to their standards, and wearing diamond rings. His face had a curious mixture of refinement and wickedness—like a man naturally sensitive whom circumstances, indulgence, or some special temptation had led astray. He did not notice their somewhat close attention because, in his turn, he was closely watching—somebody else. He ate and{24} drank soberly, but drew his dinner out. The “somebody else” he watched, obviously enough, was a country couple, up probably for the festivities due to the presence of a foreign Potentate in town. They were bewildered by big London. They carried hand-bags. From time to time the old man fingered his breast-pocket. He looked about him nervously. The be-ringed man was kind to them, lent them his newspaper, passed the salt, gave them scraps of favoured, kind, and sympathetic conversation. He was very gentle with them.

“Feel anything yet?” asked O’Malley for the tenth time, noticing a curious, passing look on his companion’s face. “I don’t feel a blessed thing meself! I believe that chemist fooled me, gave me diluted stuff or something——” He stopped short, caught by the other’s eye. They had been dining very sparingly, much to the disgust of the waiter, who wanted their table for more remunerative customers.

“I do feel something, yes,” was the quiet reply. “Or, rather, I see something. It’s odd; but I really do——”

“What? Out with it! Tell me!”

“A sort of wavy line of gold,” said Jones calmly, “gold and shining. And sometimes it’s white. It flits about that fellow’s head—that fellow over there.” He indicated the man with the rings. “Almost as if—it were trying to get into him{25}——”

“Bosh!” said O’Malley, who was ever the last to believe in the success of his own experiments. “You swear it?”

The other’s face convinced him, and a thrill went down his Irish spine.

“Hush,” said Jones in a lower tone, “don’t shout. I see it right enough. It’s like a little wavy stream of light. It’s going all about his head and eyes. By gad, it’s lovely, though—it’s like a flower now, a floating blossom—and now a strip of thin soft gold. It’s got him! By George, I tell you, it’s got him——!”

“Got him?” echoed the Irishman, genuinely impressed.

“Got into him, I meant. It’s disappeared—gone clean into his head. Look!”

O’Malley looked hard, but saw nothing. “Me boy!” he cried, “the stuff was real. It’s working. Watch it. I do believe you’ve seen a thought—a thought from somebody else—a wandering thought. It’s got into his mind. It may affect his actions, movements, decisions. Good Lord! The stuff was not diluted, after all. You’ve seen a thought-force!” He was tremendously excited. Jones, however, was too absorbed in what he saw to feel excitement. Whether it was due to the drug or not, he knew he saw a real thing.

“Wonder if it’s a good one or a bad one!” whispered the Irishman. “Wonder what sort of mind it comes from! Where? How far{26} away?” He wondered a number of things. He chattered below his breath like a dying gramophone. But his companion just sat, staring in rapt silence.

“What are you doing here?” said a voice from the table behind them quietly. And O’Malley, turning—Jones was too preoccupied—recognised a plain-clothes detective whom he chanced to know from having been associated with him in a recent poisoning case.

“Nothing particular; just having dinner,” he answered. “And you?”

The detective made no secret of his object. “Watching the crowds for their own safety,” he said, “that’s all. London’s full of prey just now—all up from the country, with their bags in their hands, their money in their breast-pockets, and good-natured folks ready everywhere to help ’em, and help themselves at the same time.” He laughed, nodding towards the man with the rings. “All the crooks are on the job,” he added significantly. “There’s an old friend of ours. He doesn’t know me, but I know him right enough. He’s usually made up as a clergyman; and to-night he’s after that old couple at the nex’ table, or my name ain’t Joe Leary! Don’t stare, or he’ll notice.” He turned his head the other way.

O’Malley, however, was far too interested in hoping for a psychical experience of his own, and in watching the “alleged phenomena” of his companion, to feel much interest in a mere{27} detective’s hunt for pickpockets. He turned towards his friend again. “What’s up now?” he asked, with his back to the detective; “see anything more?”

“It’s perfectly wonderful,” whispered Jones softly. “It’s out again. I can see the gold thread, all shining and alive, clean down in the man’s mind and heart, then out, then in again. It’s making him different—I swear it is. By George, it’s like a blessed chemical experiment. I can’t explain it as I see it, but he’s getting sort of bright within—golden like the thread.” Jones was wrought up, excited, moved. It was impossible to doubt his earnestness. He described a thing he really saw. O’Malley listened with envy and resentment.

“Blast it all!” he exclaimed. “I see nothing. I didn’t take enough!” And he drew the little phial out of his pocket.

“Look! He’s changed!” exclaimed Jones, interrupting the movement so suddenly that O’Malley dropped the phial and it smashed to atoms against the iron edge of the umbrella-stand. “His thought’s altered. He’s going out. The gold has spread all through him——!”

“By gosh!” put in O’Malley, so loud that people stared, “it’s helped him—made him a better man—turned him from evil. It’s that blessed wandering thought! Follow it, follow it! Quick!” And in the general confusion that came with the paying of bills, cleaning up{28} the broken glass, and the rest, the “crook” slipped out into the crowd and was lost, the detective murmured something about “wonder what made him leave so good a trail!” and the Irishman filled in the pauses with hurried, nervous sentences—“Keep your eye on the line of gold! We’ll follow it! We’ll trace it to its source. Never mind the tip! Hurry, hurry! Don’t lose it!”

But Jones was already out, drawn by the power of his obvious conviction. They went into the street. Regardless of the blaze of lights and blur of shadows, the noise of traffic and the rush of the crowds, they followed what Jones described as the “line of wavy gold.”

“Don’t lose it! For Heaven’s sake, don’t lose it!” O’Malley cried, dodging with difficulty after the disappearing figure. “It’s a genuine thought-force from another mind. Follow it! Trace it! We’ll track it to its source—some noble thinker somewhere—some gracious woman—some exalted, golden source, at any rate!” He was wholly caught away now by the splendour of the experiment’s success. A thought that could make a criminal change his mind must issue from a radiant well of rare and purest thinking. He remembered the Hindu’s words: “You will see thoughts in colour—bad ones, lurid and streaked—good ones, sweet and shining, like a line of golden light—and if you follow, you may trace them to the mind that sent them out.{29}

“It goes so fast!” Jones called back, “I can hardly keep up. It’s in the air, just over the heads of the crowd. It leaves a trail like a meteor. Come on, come on!”

“Take a taxi,” shouted the Irishman. “It’ll escape us!” They laughed, and panted, dodged past the stream of people, crossed the street.

“Shut up!” answered Jones. “Don’t talk so much. I lose it when you talk. It’s in my mind. I really see it, but your chatter blurs it. Come on, come on!”


And so they came at last to the region of mean streets, where the traffic was less, the shadows deeper, the lights dim, streets that visiting Emperors do not change. No match-sellers, bootlace venders, or “dreadful shadows proffering toys,” blocked their way on the pavement edge, because here were none to buy.

“It’s changed from gold to white,” Jones whispered breathlessly. “It shines now—by gad, it shines—like a bit of escaped sunrise. And others have joined it. Can’t you see ’em? Why, they’re like a network. They’re rays—rays of glory. And—hullo!—I see where they come from now! It’s that house over there. Look, man, look! They’re streaming like a river of light out of that high window, that little attic window up there”—he pointed to a dingy house standing black against the murk of the sky. “They come out in a big stream, and then{30} separate in all directions. It’s simply wonderful!”

O’Malley gasped and panted. He said nothing. Jones, the phlegmatic, heavy Jones, had got a real vision, whereas he who always imagined “visions” got nothing. He followed the lead. Jones, he understood, was taking his instinct where it led him. He would not interfere.

And the instinct led him to the door. They stopped dead, hesitating for the first time. “Better not go in, you know,” said O’Malley, breaking the decision he had just made. Jones looked up at him, slightly bewildered. “I’ve lost it,” he whispered, “lost the line——” A taxi-cab drew up with a rattling thunder just in front and a man got out, came up to the door and stood beside them. It was the crook.

For a second or two the three men eyed each other. Clearly the new arrival did not recognise them. “Pardon, gentlemen,” he said, pushing past to pull the bell. They saw his rings. The taxi boomed away down the little dark street that knew more of coal-carts than of motors. “You’re coming in?” the man asked, as the door opened and he stepped inside. O’Malley, usually so quick-witted, found no word to say, but Jones had a question ready. The Irishman never understood how he asked it, and got the answer, too, without giving offence. The instinct guided him in choice of words and tone and gesture—somehow or other. He asked who lived{31} upstairs in the front attic room, and the man, as he quietly closed the door upon them, gave the information—“My father.”

And, for the rest, all they ever learnt—by a little diligent inquiry up and down the street, engineered by Jones—was that the old man, bedridden for a dozen years, was never seen, and that an occasional district-visitor, or such like, were his only callers. But they all agreed that he was good. “They do say he lies there praying day and night—jest praying for the world.” It was the grocer at the corner who told them that.{32}



His intrinsic value before the Eternities was exceedingly small, but he possessed most things the world sets store by—presence, name, wealth—and, above all, that high opinion of himself which saves it the bother of a separate and troublesome valuation. Outside these possessions he owned nothing of permanent value, or that could decently claim to be worthy of immortality. The fact was he had never even experienced that expansion of self commonly known as generosity. No apology, however, is necessary for his amazing adventure, for these same Eternities who judged him have made their affidavit that it was They who stripped him bare and showed himself—to himself.

It all began with the receipt of that shattering letter from his solicitors. He read and re-read it in his comfortable first-class compartment as the express hurried him to town, exceedingly comfortable among his rugs and furs, exceedingly distressed and ill at ease in his mind. And{33} in his private sitting-room of the big hotel that same evening Mr. Smirles, more odious even than his letter, informed him plainly that this new and unexpected claimant to his title and estates was likely to be exceedingly troublesome—“even dangerous, Sir Timothy! I am bound to say, since you ask me, that it might be wise to regard the future—er—with a different scale of vision than the one you have been accustomed to.”

Sir Timothy practically collapsed. Instinctively he perceived that the lawyer’s manner already held less respect: the reflection was a shock to his vain and fatuous personality. “After all, then, it wasn’t me he worshipped, but my position, and so forth ...!” If this nonsense continued he would be no longer “Sir Timothy,” but simply “Mister” Puffe, poor, a nobody. He seemed to shrink in size as he gazed at himself in the mirror of the gorgeous, flamboyantly decorated room. “It’s too preposterous and absurd! There’s nothing in it! Why, the whole County would go to pieces without me!” He even thought of making his secretary draft a letter to the Times—a letter of violent, indignant protest.

He was a handsome, portly man, with a full-blown vanity justified by no single item of soul or mind; not unkind, so much as empty; created and kept alive by the small conventions and the ceaseless contemplation of himself, the with{34}drawal of which might be expected to leave him flat as a popped balloon.... Such a mass of pompous conceit obscured his vision that he only slowly took in the fact that his very existence was at stake. His thoughts rumbled on without direction, the sense of loss, however, dreadfully sharp and painful all the time, till at length he sought relief in something he could really understand. He changed for dinner! He would dine in his sitting-room alone. And, meanwhile, he rang for the remainder of his voluminous luggage. But it was vastly annoying to his diminishing pride to discover that the gorgeous Head Porter (he remembered now having vaguely recognised him in the hall) was the same poor relation to whom he had denied help a year ago. The vicissitudes of life were indeed preposterous. He ought to have been protected from so ridiculous an encounter. For the moment, of course, he merely pretended not to see him—certainly he did not commend the excellently quick delivery of the luggage. And to praise the young fellow’s pluck never occurred to him for one single instant.

“The house valet, please,” he asked of the waiter who answered the bell soon afterwards—and then directed somewhat helplessly the unpacking of his emporium of exquisite clothes. “Yes, take everything out—everything,” he said in reply to the man’s question—rather an extraordinary, almost insolent question when he{35} came to reflect upon it, surely: “Is it worth while, perhaps, sir ...?” It flashed across his dazed mind that the Head Porter had made the very same remark to his subordinate in the passage when he asked if “everything” was to come in. With a shrug of his gold-braided shoulders that poor relation had replied, “Seems hardly worth while, but they may as well all go in, yes.”

And, with the double rejoinder perplexingly in his mind, Sir Timothy turned sharply upon the valet.

But the thing he was going to say faded on his lips. The man, holding out in his arms a heap of clothes, suits and what not, seemed so much taller than before. Sir Timothy had looked down upon him a moment ago, whereas now their eyes stared level. It was passing strange.

“Will you want these, sir?”

“Not to-night, of course.”

“Want them at all, I meant, sir?”

Sir Timothy gasped. “Want them at all? Of course! What in the world are you talking about?”

“Beg pardon, sir. Didn’t know if it was worth while now,” the man said, with a quick flush. And, before the pompous and amazed baronet could get any words between his quivering lips, the man was gone. The waiter, Head Waiter it was, answered the bell almost immediately, and Sir Timothy found consolation for{36} his injured feelings in discussing food and wine. He ordered an absurdly sumptuous meal for a man dining alone. He did so with a vague feeling that it would spite somebody, perhaps; he hardly knew whom. “The Pol Roger well iced, mind,” he added with a false importance as the clever servant withdrew. But at the door the man paused and turned, as though he had not heard. “Large bottle, I said,” repeated the other. The Head Waiter made an extraordinary gesture of indifference. “As you wish, Sir Timothy, as you wish!” And he was gone in his turn. But it was only the man’s adroitness that had chosen the words instead of those others: “Is it really worth while?”

And at that very moment, while Sir Timothy stood there fuming inwardly over the extraordinary words and ways of these people—veiled insolence, he called it—the door opened, and a tall young woman poked her head inside, then followed it with her person. She was dignified, smart even for a hotel like this, and uncommonly pretty. It was the upper housemaid. Full in the eye she looked at him. In her face was a kind of swift sympathy and kindness; but her whole presentment betrayed more than anything else—terror.

“Make an effort, make an effort!” she whispered earnestly. “Before it’s too late, make an effort!” And she was gone. Sir Timothy, hardly knowing what he meant to do,{37} opened the door to dash after her and make her explain this latest insolence. But the passage was dark, and he heard the swish of skirts far away—too far away to overtake; while running along the walls, as in a whispering gallery, came the words, “Make an effort, make an effort!”

“Confound it all, then, I will!” he exclaimed to himself, as he stumbled back into the room, feeling horribly bewildered. “I will make an effort.” And he dressed to go downstairs and show himself in the halls and drawing-rooms, give a few pompous orders, assert himself, and fuss about generally. But that process of dressing without his valet was chiefly and weirdly distressing because he had so amazingly—dwindled. His sight was, of course, awry; disordered nerves had played tricks with vision, proportion, perspective; something of the sort must explain why he seemed so small to himself in the reflection. The pier-glass, which showed him full length, he turned to the wall. But, none the less, to complete his toilet, he had to stand upon a footstool before the other mirror above the mantelpiece.

And go downstairs he did, his heart working with a strange and increasing perplexity. Yet, wherever he went, there came that poor relation, the Head Porter, to face him. Always big, he now looked bigger than ever. Sir Timothy Puffe felt somehow ridiculous in his presence. The young fellow had character, pluck, some touch of intrinsic value. For all his failure in life, the{38} Eternities considered him real. He towered rather dreadfully in his gold braid and smart uniform—towered in his great height all about the hall, like some giant in his own palace. The other’s head scarcely came up to his great black belt where the keys swung and jangled.

The Baronet went upstairs again to his room, strangely disconcerted. The first thing he did as he left the lift was to stumble over the step. The liftman picked him up as though he were a boy. Down the passage, now well lighted, he went quickly, his feet almost pattering, his tread light, and—so oddly short. His importance had gone. A voice behind each door he passed whispered to him through the narrow crack as it cautiously opened, “Make an effort, make an effort! Be yourself, be real, be alive before it’s too late!” But he saw no one, and the first thing he did on entering his room was to hide the smaller mirror by turning it against the wall, just as he had done to the pier-glass. He was so painfully little and insignificant now. As the externals and the possessions dropped away one by one in his thoughts, the revelation of the tiny little centre of activity within was horrible. He puffed himself out in thought as of old, but there was no response. It was degrading.

The fact was—he began to understand it now—his mind had been pursuing possible results of his loss of title and estates to their logical conclusion. The idea in all its brutal nakedness,{39} of course, hardly reached him—namely, that, without possessions, he was practically—nil! All he grasped was that he was—less. Still, the notion did prey upon him atrociously. He followed the advice of the strange housemaid and “made an effort,” but without marked success. So empty, indeed, was his life that, once stripped of the possessions, he would stand there as useless and insignificant as an ownerless street dog. And the thought appalled him. He had not even enough real interest in others to hold him upright, and certainly not enough sufficiency of self, good or evil, to stand alone before any tribunal. The discovery shocked him inexpressibly. But what distressed him still more was to find a fixed mirror in his sitting-room that he could not take down, for in its depths he saw himself shrunken and dwindled to the proportions of a....

The knock at the door and the arrival of his dinner broke the appalling train of thought, but rather than be seen in his present diminutive appearance—later, of course, he would surely grow again—he ran into the bedroom. And when he came out again after the waiter’s departure he found that his dinner shared the same abominable change. The food upon the dishes was reduced to the minutest proportions—the toast like children’s, the soup an egg-cupful, the tenderloin a little slice the size of a visiting-card, and the bird not much larger than a black{40}beetle. And yet more than he could eat; more than sufficient! He sat in the big chair positively lost, his feet dangling. Then, mortified, frightened, and angry beyond expression, he undressed and concealed himself beneath the sheets and blankets of his bed.

“Of course I’m going mad—that’s what it all means,” he exclaimed. “I’m no longer of any account in the world. I could never go into my Club, for instance, like this!”—and he surveyed the small outline that made a little lump beneath the surface of the bed-clothes—“or read the lessons having to stand upon a chair to reach the lectern.” And tears of bleeding vanity and futile wrath mingled upon his pillow.... The humiliation was agonising.

In the middle of which the door opened and in came the hotel valet, bearing before him upon a silver salver what at first appeared to be small, striped sandwiches, darkish in hue, but upon closer inspection were seen to be several wee suits of clothes, neatly pressed and folded for wearing. Glancing round the room and perceiving no one, the man proceeded to put them away in the chest of drawers, soliloquising from time to time as he did so.

“So the old buffer did go out after all!” he reflected, as he smoothed the tiny trousers in the drawer. “E’s nothing but a gas-bag, anyway! Close with the coin, too—always was that!” He whistled, spat in the grate, hunted about for a{41} cigarette, and again found relief in speech. My little dawg’s worth two of ’im all the time, and lots to spare. Tim’s real ...!” And other things, too, he said in similar vein. He was utterly oblivious of Sir Timothy’s presence—serenely unconscious that the thin, fading line beneath the sheets was the very individual he was talking about. “Even hides his cigarettes, does he? He’s right, though. Take away what he’s got and there wouldn’t be enough left over to stand upright at a poultry show!” And he guffawed merrily to himself. But what brought the final horror into that vanishing Personality on the bed was the singular fact that the valet made no remark about the absurd and horrible size of those tiny clothes. This, then, was how others—even a hotel valet—saw him!

All night long, it seemed, he lay in atrocious pain, the darkness mercifully hiding him, though never from himself, and only towards daylight did he pass off into a condition of unconsciousness. He must have slept very late indeed, too, for he woke to find sunlight in the room, and the housemaid—that tall, dignified girl who had tried to be kind—dusting and sweeping energetically. He screamed to her, but his voice was too feeble to make itself heard above the sweeping. The high-pitched squeak was scarcely audible even to himself. Presently she approached the bed and flung the sheets back. “That’s funny,” she observed, “could’ve sworn I saw something{42} move!” She gave a hurried look, then went on sweeping. But in the process she had tossed his person, now no larger than a starved mouse, out on to the carpet. He cried aloud in his anguish, but the squeak was too faint to be audible. “Ugh!” exclaimed the girl, jumping to one side, “there’s that ’orrid mouse again! Dead, too, I do declare!” And then, without being aware of the fact, she swept him up with the dust and bits of paper into her pan.

Whereupon Sir Timothy awoke with a bad start, and perceived that his train was running somewhat uneasily into King’s Cross, and that he had slept nearly the whole way.{43}



I saw him walking down the floor of the A.B.C. shop where I was lunching. He was gazing about for a vacant seat with that vague stare of puzzled distress he always wore when engaged in practical affairs. Then he saw me and nodded. I pointed to the seat opposite; he sat down. There was a crumb in his brown beard, I noticed. There had been one a year ago, when I saw him last.

“What a long time since we met,” I said, genuinely glad to see him. He was a most lovable fellow, though his vagueness was often perplexing to his friends.

“Yes—er—h’mmm—let me see——”

“Just about a year,” I said.

He looked at me with an expression as though he did not see me. He was delving in his mind for dates and proofs. His fierce eyebrows looked exactly as though they were false—stuck on with paste—and I imagined how puzzled he would be if one of them suddenly dropped off into his soup. The eyes beneath, however, were soft{44} and beaming; the whole face was tender, kind, gentle, and when he smiled he looked thirty instead of fifty.

“A year, is it?” he remarked, and then turned from me to the girl who was waiting to take his order. This ordering was a terrible affair. I marvelled at the patience of that never-to-be-tipped waitress in the dirty black dress. He looked with confusion from me to her, from her to the complicated bill of fare, and from this last to me again.

“Oh, have a cup of coffee and a bit of that lunch-cake,” I said with desperation. He stared at me for a second, one eyebrow moving, the other still as the grave. I felt an irresistible desire to laugh.

“All right,” he murmured to the girl, “coffee and a bit of that lunch-cake.” She went off wearily. “And a pat of butter,” he whispered after her, but looking at the wrong waitress. “And a portion of that strawberry jam,” he added, looking at another waitress.

Then he turned to talk with me.

“Oh no,” he said, looking over his shoulder at the crowd of girls by the counter; “not the jam. I forgot I’d ordered that lunch-cake.”

Again he switched round in his chair—he always perched on the edge like a bird—and made a great show of plunging into a long-deferred chat with me. I knew what would come. He was always writing books and sending{45} them out among publishers and forgetting where they were at the moment.

“And how are you?” he asked. I told him.

“Writing anything these days?” I ventured boldly.

The eyebrows danced. “Well, the fact is, I’ve only just finished a book.”

“Sent it anywhere?”

“It’s gone off, yes. Let me see—it’s gone to—er——” The coffee and lunch-cake arrived without the pat of butter, but with two lots of strawberry jam. “I won’t have jam, thank you. And will you bring a pat of butter?” he muttered to the girl. Then, turning to me again—“Oh, I really forget for the moment. It’s a good story, I think.” His novels were, as a fact, extraordinarily good, which was the strange part of it all.

“It’s about a woman, you see, who——” He proceeded to tell me the story in outline. Once he got beyond the confused openings of talk the man became interesting, but it took so long, and was so difficult to follow, that I remembered former experiences and cut him short with a lucky inspiration.

“Don’t spoil it for me by telling it. I shan’t enjoy it when it comes out.”

He laughed, and both eyebrows dropped and hid his eyes. He busied himself with the cake and butter. A second crumb went to join the first. I thought of balls in golf bunkers, and{46} laughed outright. For a time the conversation flagged. I became aware of a certain air of mystery about him. He was full of something besides the novel—something he wanted to talk about but had probably forgotten “for the moment.” I got the impression he was casting about in the upper confusion of his mind for the cue.

“You’re writing something else now?” I ventured.

The question hit the bull’s-eye. Both eyebrows shot up, as though they would vanish next minute on wires and fly up into the wings. The cake in his hand would follow; and last of all he himself would go. The children’s pantomime came vividly before me. Surely he was a made-up figure on his way to rehearsal.

“I am,” he said; “but it’s a great secret. I’ve got a magnificent idea!”

“I promise not to tell. I’m safe as the grave. Tell me.”

He fixed his kindly, beaming eyes on my face and smiled charmingly.

“It’s a play,” he murmured, and then paused for effect, hunting about on his plate for cake, where cake there was none.

“Another piece of that lunch-cake, please,” he said in a sudden loud voice, addressed to the waitresses at large. “It came to me the other day in the London Library—er—very fine idea{47}——”

“Something really original?”

“Well, I think so, perhaps.” The cake came with a clatter of plates, but he pushed it aside as though he had forgotten about it, and leaned forward across the table. “I’ll tell you. Of course you won’t say anything. I don’t want the idea to get about. There’s money in a good play—and people do steal so, don’t they?”

I made a gesture, as much as to say, “Do I look like a man who would repeat?” and he plunged into it with enthusiasm.

Oh! The story of that play! And those dancing eyebrows! And the bits of the plot he forgot and went back for! And the awful, wild confusion of names and scenes and curtains! And the way his voice rose and fell like a sound carried to and fro by a gusty wind! And the feeling that something was coming which would make it all clear—but which never came!

“The woman, you see,”—all his stories began that way,—“is one of those modern women who ... and when she dies she tells on her death-bed how she knew all the time that Anna——”

“That’s the heroine, I think?” I asked keenly, after ten minutes’ exposition, hoping to Heaven my guess was right.

“No, no, she’s the widow, don’t you remember, of the clergyman who went over to the Church of Rome to avoid marrying her sister—in the first act—or didn’t I mention that?{48}

“You mentioned it, I think, but the explanation——”

“Oh, well, you see, the Anglican clergyman—he’s Anglican in the first act—always suspected that Miriam had not died by her own hand, but had been poisoned. In fact, he finds the incriminating letter in the gas-pipe, and recognises the handwriting——”

“Oh, he finds the letter?”

“Rather. He finds the letter, don’t you see? and compares it with the others, and makes up his mind who wrote it, and goes straight to Colonel Middleton with his discovery.”

“So Middleton, of course, refuses to believe——”

“Refuses to believe that the second wife—oh, I forgot to mention that the clergyman had married again in his own Church; married a woman who turns out to be Anna’s—no, I mean Miriam’s—half-sister, who had been educated abroad in a convent,—refuses to believe, you see, that his wife had anything to do with it. Then Middleton has a splendid scene. He and the clergyman have the stage to themselves. Wyndham’s the man for Middleton, of course. Well, he declares that he has the proof—proof that must convince everybody, and just as he waves it in the air in comes Miriam, who is walking in her sleep, from her sick-bed. They listen. She is talking in her sleep. By Jove, man, don’t you see it? She is talking about the crime!{49} She practically confesses it before their very eyes.”


“And she never wakes up—I mean, not in that scene. She goes back to bed and has no idea next day what she has said and done.”

“And the clergyman’s honour is saved?” I hazarded, amazed at my rashness.

“No. Anna is saved. You see, I forgot to tell you that in the second act Miriam’s brother, Sir John, had——”

The waitress brought the little paper checks.

“Let’s go outside and finish. It’s getting frightfully stuffy here,” I suggested desperately, picking up the bills.

We walked out together, he still talking against time with the most terrible confusion of names and acts and scenes imaginable. He bumped into everybody who came in his way. His beard was full of crumbs. His eyebrows danced with excitement—I knew then positively they were false—and his voice ran up and down the scale like a buzz-saw at work on a tough board.

“By Jove, old man, that is a play!”

He turned to me with absolute happiness in his face.

“But for Heaven’s sake, don’t let out a word of it. I must have a copyright performance first before it’s really safe.”

“Not a word, I promise.{50}

“It’s a dead secret—till I’ve finished it, I mean—then I’ll come and tell you the dénouement. The last curtain is simply magnificent. You see, Middleton never hears——”

“I won’t tell a living soul,” I cried, running to catch a bus. “It’s a secret—yours and mine!”

And the omnibus carried me away Westwards.

Meanwhile the play remains to this day a “dead secret,” known only to the man who thinks he told it, and to the other man who knows he heard it told.{51}



The other day I came across my vague friend again. Last time it was in an A.B.C. shop; this time it was in a bus. We always meet in humble places.

He was vaguer than ever, fuddled and distrait; but delightfully engaging. He had evidently not yet lunched, for he wore no crumb; but I had a shrewd suspicion that beneath his green Alpine hat there lurked a straw or two in his untidy hair. It would hardly have surprised me to see him turn with his childlike smile and say, “Would you mind very much taking them out for me? You know they do tickle so!”—half mumbled, half shouted.

Instead, he tried to shake hands, and his black eyebrows danced. He looked as loosely put together as a careless parcel. I imagined large bits of him tumbling out.

“You’re off somewhere or other, I suppose?” he said; and the question was so characteristic it was impossible not to laugh.

I mentioned the City.{52}

“I’m going that way too,” he said cheerfully. He had come to the conclusion that he could not shake hands with safety; there were too many odds and ends about him—gloves, newspapers, half-open umbrella, parcels. Evidently he had left the house uncertain as to where he was going, and had brought all these things in case, like the White Knight, he might find a use for them on the way. His overcoat was wrongly buttoned, too, so that on one side the collar reached almost to his ear. From the pockets protruded large envelopes, white and blue. I marvelled again how he ever concentrated his mind enough to write plays and novels; for in both the action was quick and dramatic; the dialogue crisp, forcible, often witty.

“Going to the City!” I exclaimed. “You?” Museums, libraries, second-hand book-shops were his usual haunts—places where he could be vague and absent-minded without danger to anyone. I felt genuinely curious. “Copy of some kind? Local colour for something, eh?” I laughed, hoping to draw him out.

A considerable pause followed, during which he rearranged several of his parcels, and his eyebrows shot up and down like two black-beetles dancing a hornpipe.

“I’m helping a chap with his lease,” he replied suddenly, in such a very loud voice that everybody in the bus heard and became interested.

He had this way of alternately mumbling and{53} talking very loud—absurdly loud; picking out unimportant words with terrific emphasis. He also had this way of helping others. Indeed, it was difficult to meet him without suspecting an errand of kindness—rarely mentioned, however.

“Chap with his lease,” he repeated in a kind of roar, as though he feared someone had not heard him—the driver, possibly!

We were in a white Putney bus, going East. The policeman just then held it up at Wellington Street.

“It’s jolly stopping like this,” he cried; “one can chat a bit without having to shout.”

My curiosity about the lease, or rather about his part in it, prevented an immediate reply. How he could possibly help in such a complicated matter puzzled me exceedingly.

“Horrible things, leases!” I said at length. “Confusing, I mean, with their endless repetitions and absence of commas. Legal language seems so needlessly——”

“Oh, but this one is right enough,” he interrupted. “You see, my pal hasn’t signed it yet. He’s in rather a muddle about it, to tell the truth, and I’m going to get it straightened out by my solicitor.”

The bus started on with a lurch, and he rolled against me.

“It’s a three-year lease,” he roared, “with an option to renew, you know—oh no, I’m wrong there, by the bye,” and he tapped my knee and{54} dropped a glove, and, when it was picked up and handed to him, tried to stuff it up his sleeve as though it was a handkerchief—“I’m wrong there—that’s the house he’s in at present, and his wife wants to break that lease because she doesn’t like it, and they’ve got more children than they expected (these words whispered), and there’s no bathroom, and the kitchen stairs are absurdly narrow——”

“But the lease—you were just saying——?”

“Quite so; I was,” and both eyebrows dropped so that the eyes were almost completely hidden, “but that lease is all right. It’s the other one I was talking about just then——”

“The house he’s in now, you mean, or——?” My head already swam. The attention of the people opposite had begun to wander.

My friend pulled himself together and clutched several parcels.

“No, no, no,” he explained, smiling gently; “he likes this one. It’s the other I meant—the one his wife doesn’t approve of—the one with the narrow bathroom stairs and no kitchen—I mean the narrow kitchen stairs and no bathroom. It has so few cupboards, too, and the nursery chimneys smoke every time the wind’s in the east. (Poor man! How devotedly he must have listened while it was being drummed into his good-natured ears!) So you see, Henry, my pal, thought of giving it up when the lease fell in and taking this other house—the one I was{55} just talking about—and putting in a bathroom at his own expense, provided the landlord——”

A man opposite who had been listening intently got up to leave the bus with such a disappointed look that my friend thought it was the conductor asking for another fare, and fumbled for coppers. Seeing his mistake in time, he drew out instead a large blue envelope. Two other papers, feeling neglected, came out at the same time and dropped upon the floor. My friend and a working-man beside him stooped to pick them up and knocked their heads violently in the process.

“I beg your pardon,” exclaimed the vague one, very loud, with a tremendous emphasis on the “beg.”

“Oh, that’s all right, guv’nor,” said the working-man, handing over the papers. “Might ’appen to anybody, that!”

“I beg your pardon?” repeated my friend, not hearing him quite.

“I said a thing like that might ’appen to anyone,” repeated the other, louder.

He turned to me with his happy smile. “I suppose it might, yes,” he said, very low. Then he opened the blue envelope and began to hunt.

“Oh no, that’s the wrong envelope. It’s the other,” he observed vaguely. “What a bore, isn’t it? This is merely a copy of his letters to—er—to{56}——”

He looked distressingly about him through the windows, as though he hoped to find his words in the shop-letterings or among the advertisements.

“Where are we, I wonder? Oh yes; there’s St. Paul’s. Good!” His mind returned to the subject in hand. Several people got out, and swept the papers from his knee to the ground; and the next few minutes he spent gathering them up, stooping, clutching his coat, stuffing envelopes into his pockets, and exclaiming “I beg your pardon!” to the various folk he collided with in the process.

At last some sort of order was restored.

“——merely the letters,” he resumed where he had left off, and in a voice that might suitably have addressed a public meeting, “the letters to his tenant. There’s a tenant in the other house. I forgot to mention that, I think——”

“I think you did. But, I say, look here, my dear chap,” I burst out, at length, in sheer self-preservation, “why in the world don’t you let the fellow manage his own leases? It’s giving you a dreadful lot of trouble. It’s the most muddled-up thing I ever heard.”

“That’s because you’ve got no head for business,” he whispered sweetly. “Besides, it’s really a pleasure to me to help him. That’s the best part of life, after all—helping people who get into muddles.” He looked at me with his kindly smile. Then he turned and smiled at{57} everybody in the bus—vaguely, happily, his black eyebrows very fierce. Several people, I fancied, smiled back at him.

“Let’s see,” he said, after a pause; “where was I?”

“You were saying something about a lease,” I told him; “but, honestly, old man, I’m afraid I haven’t quite followed it.”

“That’s my fault,” he said; “all my fault. I feel a bit stupid to-day. I’ve got the ’flue, you know, and a touch of fever with it. But I promised Henry I would see to it for him, because he’s awfully busy——”

“Is he really!” I wished I knew Henry. I felt a strong desire to say something to him.

“——packing up for a trip to Mexico, you know, or something; so, of course, he finds it difficult to—er—to——” He looked gently about him. “Where the deuce am I?” he asked in a very loud voice indeed.

Several people, myself among them, mentioned the Mansion House.

“Dear me!” he exclaimed, gathering up parcels, envelopes, and various loose parts of his body—his aching body, “I’m afraid—I must be getting out. I’m in the wrong bus. I wanted Essex Street—up there by the Law Courts, you know.”

But I really couldn’t stand it any longer. I took him by the arm and planted him, parcels, papers, and all, by my side in a taxi. We{58} whizzed back along Queen Victoria Street, and on the way I sorted him out, buttoned his overcoat so that it no longer tickled his ear, rolled up his umbrella so that the points no longer got caught, and made him put on both gloves, so that he could not drop them any more. And I kept tight hold of him until we reached Essex Street. He talked leases the whole way.

“Thanks awfully,” he said at the end, smiling; “you’re always kind—if a little rough. But I’ll keep on the taxi, I think, now. The fact is, I find I’ve left the right lease at home after all—you know, the one about the house without the——”

I heard the rest, alternately mumbled and shouted at me, as the taxi whirred off into the Strand, bound for some unknown destination in Chelsea. It was impossible to help him more. But I should like to have heard what he said to (a) the chauffeur at the end of his journey, (b) to the solicitor. I should also like to swear that when he got back to his rooms he found the right lease had been in his pocket all the time.

I met him again the following day, but I had not the courage to ask him anything.{59}



His vagueness, apparently, is only on the surface of his mind; down at the centre the pulses of life throb with unusual vigour and decision. And I think the explanation of his puzzled expression and dazed manner—to say nothing of his idiotic replies—when addressed upon ordinary topics is due to the fact that he prefers to live in that hot and very active centre. He dislikes being called out of it.

Down there his creative imagination is for ever at work: he sees clearly, thinks hard, acts even splendidly. But the moment you speak to him about trivial things the mists gather about his eyes, his voice hesitates, his hands make futile gestures, and he screws up his face into an expression of puzzled alarm. Up he comes to the best of his ability, but it is clear he is vexed at being disturbed.

“Oh yes, I think so—very,” he replied the other day as we met on our way to the Club and I asked if he had enjoyed his holiday.{60}

“Awful amount of rain, though, wasn’t there?”

“Was there, now? Yes, there must have been, of course. It was a wet summer.”

He looked at me as though I were a comparative stranger, although our intimacy is of years’ standing, and our talks on life, literature, and all the rest are a chief pleasure to each of us. We had not met for some months. I wanted to pierce through to that hot centre where the real man lived, and to find out what the real man had been doing during the interval. He came up but slowly, however.

“You went to the mountains as usual, I suppose?” he asked, with his mind obviously elsewhere. He hopped along the pavement with his quick, bird-like motion.

“Mountains, yes. And you?”

He made no reply. From his face I could tell he had come about half-way up, but was already on the way down again. Once he got back to that centre of his I should get nothing out of him at all.

“And you?” I repeated louder. “Abroad, I suppose, somewhere?”

“Well—er—not exactly,” he mumbled. “That is to say—I—er—went to Switzerland somewhere—Austria, I mean—down there on the way towards Italy beyond Bozen, you know.” He ended the sentence very loud indeed, with quite absurd emphasis, as his way is when he{61} knows he hasn’t been listening. “I found a quiet inn out of the tourist track and did a rare lot of work there too.” His face cleared and the brown eyes began to glow a little. It was like seeing the sun through opening mists. “Come in, and I’ll tell you about it,” he added, in an eager whisper, as we reached the Club doors.

At the same moment, however, the porter came down the steps and touched his hat, and my vague friend, recognising a face he felt he ought to know, stopped to ask him how he was, and whether So-and-so was back yet; and while the porter replied briefly and respectfully I saw to my dismay the mists settle down again upon the other’s face. A moment later the porter touched his hat again and moved off down the street. My friend looked round at me as though I had but just arrived upon the scene.

“Here we are,” he observed gently, “at the Club. I think I shall go in. What are you going to do?”

“I’m coming in too,” I said.

“Good,” he murmured; “let’s go in together, then,” his thoughts working away busily at something deep within him.

On our way to the hat-racks, and all up the winding stairs, he mumbled away about the wet summer, and tourists, and his little mountain inn, but never a word of the work I was so anxious to hear about, and he so anxious really to tell. In the reading-room I manœuvred{62} to get two arm-chairs side by side before he could seize the heap of papers he smothered his lap with, but never read.

“And where have you been all the summer?” he asked, crossing his little legs and speaking in a voice loud enough to have been heard in the street. “Somewhere in the mountains, I suppose, as usual?”

“You were going to tell me about the work you got through up in your lonely inn,” I insisted sharply. “Was it a play, or a novel, or criticism, or what?” He looked so small and lost in the big arm-chair that I felt quite ashamed of myself for speaking so violently. He turned round on the slippery leather and offered me a cigarette. The glow came back to his face.

“Well,” he said, “as a matter of fact it was both. That is, I was preparing a stage version of my new novel.” All the mist had gone now; he was alive at the centre, and thoroughly awake. He snapped his case to and put it away before I had taken my cigarette. But, of course, he did not notice that, and held out a lighted match to my lips as though there was something there to light.

“No, thanks,” I said quickly, fearful that if I asked again for the cigarette the mists would instantly gather once more and the real man disappear.

“Won’t you really, though?” he said, blowing{63} the match out and forgetting to light his own cigarette at the same time. “I did the whole scenario, and most of the first act. There was nothing else to do. It rained all the time, and the place was quiet as the grave——”

A waiter brought him several letters on a tray. He took them automatically. The face clouded a bit.

“What’ll you have?” he asked absent-mindedly, acting automatically upon the presence of the waiter.

“Nothing, thanks.”

“Nor will I, then. Oh yes, I will, though—I’ll have some dry ginger ale. Here, waiter! Bring me a small dry ginger ale.”

The waiter, with the force of habit, bent his head questioningly for my order too.

You said——?” asked my exasperating friend. He was right down in the mists now, and I knew I should never get him up again this side of lunch.

“I said nothing, thanks.”

“Nothing, then, for this gentleman,” he continued, gazing up at the waiter as though he were some monster seen for the first time, “and for me—a dry ginger ale, please.”

“Yes, sir,” said the man, moving off.

“Small,” the other called after him.


“And a slice of lemon in it.”

The waiter inclined his head respectfully from{64} the door. The other turned to me, searching in his perturbed mind—I could tell it by the way his eyes worked—for the trail of his vanished conversation. Before he got it, however, he slithered round again on the leather seat towards the door.

“A bit of ice too, don’t forget!”

The waiter’s head peeped round the corner, and from the movement of his lips I gathered he repeated the remark about the bit of ice.

“I did say ‘dry’?” my friend asked, looking anxiously at me; “didn’t I?”

“You did.”

“And a bit of lemon?”

“And a slice of lemon.”

“And what are you going to have, then? Upon my word, old man, I forgot to ask you.” He looked so distressed that it was impossible to show impatience.

“Nothing, thanks. You asked me, you know.”

A pause fell between us. I gave it up. He would talk when he wanted to, but there was no forcing him. It struck me suddenly that he had a rather fagged and weary look for a man who had been spending several weeks at a mountain inn with work he loved. The pity and affection his presence always wakes in me ran a neck-and-neck race. At that “centre” of his, I knew full well, he was ever devising plans for the helping of others, quite as much as creating those{65} remarkable things that issued periodically, illunderstood by a sensation-loving public, from the press. A sharp telepathic suspicion flashed through my mind, but before there was time to give it expression in words, up came the waiter with a long glass of ginger ale fizzing on a tray.

He handed it to my vague friend, and my vague friend took it and handed it to me.

“But it’s yours, my dear chap,” I suggested.

He looked puzzled for a second, and then his face cleared. “I forget what you ordered,” he observed softly, looking interrogatively at the waiter and at me. We informed him simultaneously, “Nothing,” and the waiter respectfully mentioned the price of the drink. My friend’s left hand plunged into his trousers pocket, while his right carried the glass to his lips. Perhaps his left hand did not know what his right was about, or perhaps his mind was too far away to direct the motions of either with safety. Anyhow, the result was deplorable. He swallowed an uncomfortable gulp of air-bubbles and ginger—and choked—over me, over the waiter and tray, over his beard and clothes. The floating lump of ice bobbed up and hit his nose. I never saw a man look so surprised and distressed in my life. I took the glass from him, and when his left hand finally emerged with money he handed it first vaguely to me as though I were the waiter—for which there was no real excuse, since we were not in evening dress.{66}

When, at length, order was restored and he was sipping quietly at the remains of the fizzing liquid, he looked up at me over the brim of his glass and remarked, with more concentration on the actual present than he had yet shown:

“By the way, you know, I’m going away to-morrow—going abroad for my holiday. Taking a lot of work with me, too——”

“But you’ve only just come back!” I expostulated, with a feeling very like anger in my heart.

He shook his head with decision. Evidently that choking had choked him into the living present. He was really “up” this time, and not likely to go down again.

“No, no,” he replied; “I’ve been here all the summer in town looking after old Podger——”

“Old Podger!” I remembered a dirty, down-at-heel old man I once met at my friend’s rooms—a poet who had “smothered his splendid talent” in drink, and who was always at starvation’s door. “What in the world was the matter with Podger?”

“D.T. I’ve been nursing him through it. The poor devil nearly went under this time. I’ve got him into a home down in the country at last, but all August he was—well, we thought he was gone.”

All August! So that was how my friend’s summer had been spent. With never a word of thanks probably at that!{67}

“But your mountain inn beyond Bozen! You said——”

“Did I? I must be wool-gathering,” he laughed, with that beautifully tender smile that comes sometimes to his delicate, dreamy face. “That was last year. I spent my holidays last year up there. How stupid of me to get so absurdly muddled!” He plunged his nose into the empty glass, waiting for the last drop to trickle out, with his neck at an angle that betrayed the collar to be undone and the tie sadly frayed at the edges.

“But—all the work you said you did up there—the scenario and the first act and—and——”

He turned upon me with such sudden energy that I fairly jumped. Then, in a voice that mumbled the first half of his sentence, but shouted the end like a German officer giving instructions involving life or death, I heard:

“But, my dear good fellow, you don’t half listen to what I say! All that work, as I told you just now, is what I expect and mean to do when I get up there. Now—have you got it clear at last?”

He looked me up and down with great energy. By biting the inner side of my lip I kept my face grave. Later we went down to lunch together, and I heard details of the weeks of unselfish devotion he had lavished upon “old Podger.” I would give a great deal to possess some of the driving power for good that throbs and thrills{68} at the real centre of my old friend with the vague manner and the absent-minded surface. But he is a singular contradiction, and almost always misunderstood. I should like to know, too, what Podger thinks.{69}



A letter from my vague friend was always a source of difficulty: it allowed of so many interpretations—contradictory often. But this one was comparatively plain sailing:—

“You said you were going abroad about this time. So am I. Let’s go as far as Paris together. Send me a line to above address at once. Thursday or Friday would suit me.—Yours,

X. Y. Z.

“P.S.—I enclose P.O. for that 10s. I owe you.”

I received this letter on a Wednesday morning.

It was written from the Club, but the Club address was carefully scored out and no other given.

The “P.O.” was not enclosed.

In spite of these obstacles, however, we somehow met and arranged to start on Saturday; and the night before we dined together in that excellent little Soho restaurant—“ther{70}e’s nothing,” my friend always said, “between its cooking and the Ritz, except prices”—and discussed our prospects, he going to finish a book at a Barbizon inn, I to inspect certain machinery in various Continental dairies.

His heart, it was plain, however, was neither in the cooking nor the book, nor in my wonderful machinery. Like a boy with a secret, he was mysterious about something hitherto unshared. Happy, too, for he kept smiling at nothing.

“The fact is,” he observed at last over coffee, “I’m really a vile, simply a vile sailor.”

“I remember,” I said, for we had once been companions on the same yacht.

“And you,” he added, holding the black eyebrows steady, “you—are another.” When dealing with simple truths he was often brutally frank.

“What’s the good of talking about it?”

“This,” he replied, paying the bill and giving me the amount of the “P.O.,” “I’ll show you.”

He conducted me into a little box of a place bearing the legend outside “Foreign Chemist,” and proceeded first to buy the most curious assortment of strange medicines I ever heard of. Weird indeed must have been his ailments. I had no time for reflection, however, on the point, for suddenly turning to me by way of introduction, and allowing the eyebrow next the chemist to dance and bristle so as to attract his{71} attention, he mumbled, “This is my seasick friend. We’re off to-morrow. If you’ve got the stuff ready we might take it now.” And, before I had time to ask or argue, he had pocketed a little package and we were in the street again.

Never had I known him so brisk and practical. “It’s a new seasick cure,” he explained darkly as we went home; “something quite new—just invented, in fact; and that chap’s asking a few of his special customers to try it and give their honest opinions. So I told him we were pretty bad—vile, in fact—and I’ve got this for nothing. He only wants vile sailors, you see, otherwise there’s no test——”

“Know what’s in it?”

He shook his head so violently that I was afraid for the eyebrows.

“But I believe in it. It’s simply wonderful stuff; no bromide, he assured me, and no harmful drugs. Just a seasick cure; that’s all!”

“I’ll take it if you will,” I laughed. “I could take poison with impunity before going on the Channel!”

He gave me one bottle. “Take a dose to-night,” he explained, “another after breakfast in the morning, another in the train, and another the moment you go on board.”

I gave my promise and we separated on his doorstep. It was a lot to promise, but as I{72} have explained, I could drink tar or prussic acid before going on a steamer, and neither would have the time to work injury. I marvelled greatly, however, at my vague friend’s fit of abnormal lucidity, and in the night I dreamed of him surrounded by all the medicine bottles he had bought to take abroad with him, swallowing their contents one by one, and smiling while he did so, with eyebrows grown to the size of hedges.

I took my doses faithfully, with the immediate result that in the train I became aware of symptoms that usually had the decency to wait for the steamer. My friend took his too. He was in excellent spirits, eyes bright, full of confidence. The bottles were wrapped in neat white paper, only the necks visible; and we drank our allotted quantity from the mouths, without glasses.

“Not much taste,” I remarked.

“Wonderful stuff,” he replied. “I believe in it absolutely. It’s good for other things, too; it made me sleep like a top, and I had the appetite of a horse for breakfast. That chemist’ll make his fortune when he brings it out. People will pay a pound a bottle, lots of ’em.”

At Newhaven the sea was agitated—hideously so; even in the harbour the steamers rose and fell absurdly. Not all the fresh, salt winds in the world, nor all the jolly sunshine and sparkling waves, nor all that strong beauty that comes{73} with the first glimpse of the sea and long horizons, could lessen the sinking dread that was in my—my heart. Truth to tell, I had no more belief in the elixir than if it had been chopped hay and treacle.

My friend, however, was confidence personified. “The fact is,” he said, laughing at the wind and sea, “the real fact is I believe in that chemist. He told me this stuff was infallible; and I believe it is. The trouble with you is funk—sheer blue funk.”

We stuck to our guns and swallowed the last prescribed dose just before the syren announced our departure—and fifteen minutes later....

It was a degrading three hours; and the sting of it was that my friend, with a hideous cap tied down about his ears, a smile that was in the worst possible taste, and a jaunty confidence that was even more insulting than he intended it to be, walked up and down that loathsome, sliding, switchback deck the entire way. Not the entire way, though, for half-way across he disappeared into the dining-room, and returned in due course with that brown beard of his charged with bread-crumbs, and between his lips actually—a pipe. And, without so much as speaking to me, he paced to and fro before my chair, when a little of that imagination he put so delightfully into his books would have led him discreetly to pace the other deck where I could not see him. I thought out endless{74} revenges, but the fact was I never had time to think out any single revenge properly to its conclusion. Something—something unspeakably vile—always came to interfere; and the sight of my friend, balancing up and down the rolling deck chatting to sailors, admiring the sea and sky, and puffing hard at his pipe all the time, was, I think, the most abominable thing I have ever seen.

“Simply marvellous, I call it,” he told me in the douane at Dieppe. “The stuff is a revolutionary discovery. It’s the first time I ever ate a meal on a steamer in my life. Sorry you suffered so. Can’t understand it,” he added, with a complacency that was insufferable. I was positively delighted to see the Customs officer open all his bags and litter his things about in glorious confusion....

In Paris that night our little hotel was rather full, and we had to share a big two-bedded room. My friend groaned a good deal between two and three in the morning and kept me awake; and once, somewhere about five a.m., I saw him with a lighted candle fumbling at the table among a lot of little white paper packages which I recognised as his purchases from that criminal London chemist who had concocted the seasick cure.

It was at nine o’clock, however, while he was down at his bath, that I noticed something on the table by his bed that instantly arrested my{75} attention. Regardless of morals, I investigated. It was unmistakable. It was his own bottle of the seasick cure. He had never taken it at all!

Then, just as his step sounded in the passage, it flashed across me. He had made one of his usual muddles. He had mistaken the bottle. He had swallowed the contents of some other phial instead.

Revenge is sweet; but I felt well again, and no longer harboured any spite. There was just time to hide the bottle in my hand when he entered.

“Awful headache I’ve got,” he said. “Can’t make out what’s wrong with me. Such funny pains, too.”

“After-effects of the seasick cure, probably. They’ll pass in time,” I suggested. But he remained in bed for a day and a night with all the symptoms of mal de mer on land.

It was many weeks later when I told him the truth, and showed the bottle to prove it—just in time to prevent his telling the chemist, “I have tried your seasick cure and found it absolutely efficacious,” etc.

“What cured you,” I said, “was far more wonderful than anything one can buy in bottles. It was faith, sheer faith!”

“I believe you’re right,” he replied meekly. “I believed in that stuff absolutely.” Then he added, “But, you know, I should like to find out what it was I did take.{76}



Dutton accepted the invitation for the feeble reason that he was not quick enough at the moment to find a graceful excuse. He had none of that facile brilliance which is so useful at week-end parties; he was a big, shy, awkward man. Moreover, he disliked these great houses. They swallowed him. The solemn, formidable butlers oppressed him. He left on Sunday night when possible. This time, arriving with an hour to dress, he went upstairs to an enormous room, so full of precious things that he felt like an insignificant item in a museum corridor. He smiled disconsolately as the underling who brought up his bag began to fumble with the lock. But, instead of the sepulchral utterance he dreaded, a delicious human voice with an unmistakable brogue proceeded from the stooping figure. It was positively comforting. “It ’ull be locked, sorr, but maybe ye have the key?” And they bent together over the disreputable kit-bag, looking like a pair of ants knitting antennæ on the floor of some great cave.{77} The giant four-poster watched them contemptuously; mahogany cupboards wore an air of grave surprise; the gaping, open fireplace alone could have swallowed all his easels—almost, indeed, his little studio. This human, Irish presence was distinctly consoling—some extra hand or other, thought Dutton, probably.

He talked a little with the lad; then, lighting a cigarette, he watched him put the clothes away in the capacious cupboards, noticing in particular how neat and careful he was with the little things. Nail-scissors, silver stud-box, metal shoe-horn, and safety razor, even the bright cigar-cutter and pencil-sharpener collected loose from the bottom of the bag—all these he placed in a row upon the dressing-table with the glass top, and seemed never to have done with it. He kept coming back to rearrange and put a final touch, lingering over them absurdly. Dutton watched him with amusement, then surprise, finally with exasperation. Would he never go? “Thank you,” he said at last; “that will do. I’ll dress now. What time is dinner?” The lad told him, but still lingered, evidently anxious to say more. “Everything’s out, I think,” repeated Dutton impatiently; “all the loose things, I mean?” The face at once turned eagerly. What mischievous Irish eyes he had, to be sure! “I’ve put thim all together in a row, sorr, so that ye’ll not be missing anny-thing at all,” was the quick{78} reply, as he pointed to the ridiculous collection of little articles, and even darted back to finger them again. He counted them one by one. And then suddenly he added, with a touch of personal interest that was not familiarity, “It’s so easy, ye see, sorr, to lose thim small bright things in this great room.” And he was gone.

Smiling a little to himself, Dutton began to dress, wondering how the lad had left the impression that his words meant more than they said. He almost wished he had encouraged him to talk. “The small bright things in this great room”—what an admirable description, almost a criticism! He felt like a prisoner of state in the Tower. He stared about him into the alcoves, recesses, deep embrasured windows; the tapestries and huge curtains oppressed him; next he fell to wondering who the other guests would be, whom he would take in to dinner, how early he could make an excuse and slip off to bed; then, midway in these desultory thoughts, became suddenly aware of a curiously sharp impression—that he was being watched. Somebody, quite close, was looking at him. He dismissed the fancy as soon as it was born, putting it down to the size and mystery of the old-world chamber; but in spite of himself the idea persisted teasingly, and several times he caught himself turning nervously to look over his shoulder. It was not a ghostly feeling; his nature was not accessible to ghostly things.{79} The strange idea, lodged securely in his brain, was traceable, he thought, to something the Irish lad had said—grew out, rather, of what he had left unsaid. He idly allowed his imagination to encourage it. Someone, friendly but curious, with inquisitive, peeping eyes, was watching him. Someone very tiny was hiding in the enormous room. He laughed about it; but he felt different. A certain big, protective feeling came over him that he must go gently lest he tread on some diminutive living thing that was soft as a kitten and elusive as a baby mouse. Once, indeed, out of the corner of his eye, he fancied he saw a little thing with wings go fluttering past the great purple curtains at the other end. It was by a window. “A bird, or something, outside,” he told himself with a laugh, yet moved thenceforth more often than not on tiptoe. This cost him a certain effort: his proportions were elephantine. He felt a more friendly interest now in the stately, imposing chamber.

The dressing-gong brought him back to reality and stopped the flow of his imagining. He shaved, and laboriously went on dressing then; he was slow and leisurely in his movements, like many big men; very orderly, too. But when he was ready to put in his collar stud it was nowhere to be found. It was a worthless bit of brass, but most important; he had only one. Five minutes ago it had been standing inside{80} the ring of his collar on the marble slab; he had carefully placed it there. Now it had disappeared and left no trail. He grew warm and untidy in the search. It was something of a business for Dutton to go on all fours. “Malicious little beast!” he grunted, rising from his knees, his hand sore where he had scraped it beneath the cupboard. His trouser-crease was ruined, his hair was tumbled. He knew too well the elusive activity of similar small objects. “It will turn up again,” he tried to laugh, “if I pay it no attention. Mal——” he abruptly changed the adjective, as though he had nearly said a dangerous thing—“naughty little imp!” He went on dressing, leaving the collar to the last. He fastened the cigar-cutter to his chain, but the nail-scissors, he noticed now, had also gone. “Odd,” he reflected, “very odd!” He looked at the place where they had been a few minutes ago. “Odd!” he repeated. And finally, in desperation, he rang the bell. The heavy curtains swung inwards as he said, “Come in,” in answer to the knock, and the Irish boy, with the merry, dancing eyes, stood in the room. He glanced half nervously, half expectantly, about him. “It’ll be something ye have lost, sorr?” he said at once, as though he knew.

“I rang,” said Dutton, resenting it a little, “to ask you if you could get me a collar stud—for this evening. Anything will do.” He did{81} not say he had lost his own. Someone, he felt, who was listening, would chuckle and be pleased. It was an absurd position.

“And will it be a shtud like this, sorr, that yez wanting?” asked the boy, picking up the lost object from inside the collar on the marble slab.

“Like that, yes,” stammered the other, utterly amazed. He had overlooked it, of course, yet it was in the identical place where he had left it. He felt mortified and foolish. It was so obvious that the boy grasped the situation—more, had expected it. It was as if the stud had been taken and replaced deliberately. “Thank you,” he added, turning away to hide his face as the lad backed out—with a grin, he imagined, though he did not see it. Almost immediately, it seemed, then he was back again, holding out a little cardboard box containing an assortment of ugly bone studs. Dutton felt as if the whole thing had been prepared beforehand. How foolish it was! Yet behind it lay something real and true and—utterly incredible!

They won’t get taken, sorr,” he heard the lad say from the doorway. “They’re not nearly bright enough.”

The other decided not to hear. “Thanks,” he said curtly; “they’ll do nicely.”

There was a pause, but the boy did not go. Taking a deep breath, he said very quickly, as though greatly daring, “It’s only the bright{82} and little lovely things he takes, sorr, if ye plaze. He takes thim for his collection, and there’s no stoppin’ him at all.” It came out with a rush, and Dutton, hearing it, let the human thing rise up in him. He turned and smiled.

“Oh, he takes these things for his collection, does he?” he asked more gently.

The boy looked dreadfully shame-faced, confession hanging on his lips. “The little bright and lovely things, sorr, yes. I’ve done me best, but there’s things he can’t resist at all. The bone ones is safe, though. He won’t look at thim.”

“I suppose he followed you across from Ireland, eh?” the other inquired.

The lad hung his head. “I told Father Madden,” he said in a lower voice, “but it’s not the least bit of good in the wurrld.” He looked as though he had been convicted of stealing and feared to lose his place. Suddenly, lifting his blue eyes, he added, “But if ye take no notice at all he ginrelly puts everything back in its place agin. He only borrows thim, just for a little bit of toime. Pretend ye’re not wantin’ thim at all, sorr, and back they’ll come prisintly again, brighter than before maybe.”

“I see,” answered Dutton slowly. “All right, then,” he dismissed him, “and I won’t say a word downstairs. You needn’t be afraid,” as the lad looked his gratitude and vanished like{83} a flash, leaving the other with a queer and eerie feeling, staring at the ugly bone studs. He finished dressing hurriedly and went downstairs. He went on tiptoe out of the great room, moving delicately and with care, lest he might tread on something very soft and tiny, almost wounded, like a butterfly with a broken wing. And from the corners, he felt positive, something watched him go.

The ordeal of dinner passed off well enough; the rather heavy evening too. He found the opportunity to slip off early to bed. The nail-scissors were in their place again. He read till midnight; nothing happened. His hostess had told him the history of his room, inquiring kindly after his comfort. “Some people feel rather lost in it,” she said; “I hope you found all you want,” and, tempted by her choice of words—the “lost” and “found”—he nearly told the story of the Irish lad whose goblin had followed him across the sea and “borrowed little bright and lovely things for his collection.” But he kept his word; he told nothing; she would only have stared, for one thing. For another, he was bored, and therefore uncommunicative. He smiled inwardly. All that this giant mansion could produce for his comfort and amusement were ugly bone studs, a thieving goblin, and a vast bedroom where dead royalty had slept. Next day, at intervals, when changing for tennis or back again for lunch, the “borrowing” con{84}tinued; the little things he needed at the moment had disappeared. They turned up later. To ignore their disappearance was the recipe for their recovery—invariably, too, just where he had seen them last. There was the lost object shining in his face, propped impishly on its end, just ready to fall upon the carpet, and ever with a quizzical, malicious air of innocence that was truly goblin. His collar stud was the favourite; next came the scissors and the silver pencil-sharpener.

Trains and motors combined to keep him Sunday night, but he arranged to leave on Monday before the other guests were up, and so got early to bed. He meant to watch. There was a merry, jolly feeling in him that he had established quasi-friendly relations with the little Borrower. He might even see an object go—catch it in the act of disappearing! He arranged the bright objects in a row upon the glass-topped dressing-table opposite the bed, and while reading kept an eye slyly on the array of tempting bait. But nothing happened. “It’s the wrong way,” he realised suddenly. “What a blunderer I am!” He turned the light out then. Drowsiness crept over him.... Next day, of course, he told himself it was a dream....

The night was very still, and through the latticed windows stole faintly the summer moonlight. Outside the foliage rustled a little in the wind. A night-jar called from the fields, and a{85} secret, furry owl made answer from the copse beyond. The body of the chamber lay in thick darkness, but a slanting ray of moonlight caught the dressing-table and shone temptingly upon the silver objects. “It’s like setting a nightline,” was the last definite thought he remembered—when the laughter that followed stopped suddenly, and his nerves gave a jerk that turned him keenly alert.

From the enormous open fireplace, gaping in darkness at the end of the room, issued a thread of delicate sound that was softer than a feather. A tiny flurry of excitement, furtive, tentative, passed shivering across the air. An exquisite, dainty flutter stirred the night, and through the heavy human brain upon the great four-poster fled this picture, as from very far away, picked out in black and silver—of a wee knight-errant crossing the frontiers of fairyland, high mischief in his tiny, beating heart. Pricking along over the big, thick carpet, he came towards the bed, towards the dressing-table, intent upon bold plunder. Dutton lay motionless as a stone, and watched and listened. The blood in his ears smothered the sound a little, but he never lost it altogether. The flicking of a mouse’s tail or whiskers could hardly have been more gentle than this sound, more wary, circumspect, discreet, certainly not half so artful. Yet the human being in the bed, so heavily breathing, heard it well. Closer it came, and closer, oh, so elegant{86} and tender, this bold attack of a wee Adventurer from another world. It shot swiftly past the bed. With a little flutter, delicious, almost musical, it rose in the air before his very face and entered the pool of moonlight on the dressing-table. Something blurred it then; the human sight grew troubled and confused a moment; a mingling of moonlight with the reflections from the mirror, slab of glass, and shining objects obscured clear vision somehow. For a second Dutton lost the proper focus. There was a tiny rattle and a tiny click. He saw that the pencil-sharpener stood balanced on the table’s very edge. It was in the act of vanishing.

But for his stupid blunder then, he might have witnessed more. He simply could not restrain himself, it seems. He sprang, and at the same instant the silver object fell upon the carpet. Of course his elephantine leap made the entire table shake. But, anyhow, he was not quick enough. He saw the reflection of a slim and tiny hand slide down into the mirrored depths of the reflecting sheet of glass—deep, deep down, and swift as a flash of light. This he thinks he saw, though the light, he admits, was oddly confusing in that moment of violent and clumsy movement.

One thing, at any rate, was beyond all question: the pencil-sharpener had disappeared. He turned the light up; he searched for a dozen minutes, then gave it up in despair and went back to bed.{87} Next morning he searched again. But, having overslept himself, he did not search as thoroughly as he might have done, for half-way through the tiresome operation the Irish lad came in to take his bag for the train.

“Will ut be something ye’ve lost, sorr?” he asked gravely.

“Oh, it’s all right,” Dutton answered from the floor. “You can take the bag—and my overcoat.” And in town that day he bought another pencil-sharpener and hung it on his chain.{88}



Having dined upon a beefsteak and a pint of bitter, Jones went home to work. The trouble with Jones—his first name William—was that he possessed creative imagination: that luggage upon which excess charges have to be paid all through life—to the critic, the stupid, the orthodox, the slower minds without the “flash.” He was alone in his brother’s flat. It was after nine o’clock. He was half-way into a story, and had—stuck! Sad to relate, the machinery that carries on the details of an original inspiration had blocked. And to invent he knew not how. Unless the imagination “produced” he would not allow his brain to devise mere episodes—dull and lifeless substitutes. Jones, poor fool, was also artist.

And the reason he had “stuck” was not surprising, for his story was of a kind that might well tax the imagination of any sane man. He was writing at the moment about a being who had survived his age—a study of one of those rare and primitive souls who walk the earth{89} to-day in a man’s twentieth-century body, while yet the spirit belongs to the Golden Age of the world’s history. You may come across them sometimes, rare, ingenuous, delightful beings, the primal dews still upon their eyelids, the rush and glow of earth’s pristine fires pulsing in their veins, careless of gain, indifferent to success, lost, homeless, exiled—dépaysés.... The idea had seized him. He had met such folk. He burned to describe their exile, the pathos of their loneliness, their yearnings and their wanderings—rejected by a world they had outlived. And for his type, thus representing some power of unexpended mythological values strayed back into modern life to find itself denied and ridiculed—he had chosen a Centaur! For he wished it to symbolise what he believed was to be the next stage in human evolution: Intuition no longer neglected, but developed equally with Reason. His Centaur was to stand for instinct (the animal body close to Nature) combined with, yet not dominated by, the upright stature moving towards deity. The conception was true and pregnant.

And—he had stuck. The detail that blocked him was the man’s appearance. How would such a being look? In what details would he betray that, though outwardly a man, he was inwardly this survival of the Golden Age, escaped from some fair Eden, splendid, immense, simple, and beneficent, yet—a Centaur?{90}

Perhaps it was just as well he had “stuck,” for his brother would shortly be in, and his brother was a successful business man with the money-sense and commercial instincts strongly developed. He dealt in rice and sugar. With his brother in the flat no Centaur could possibly survive for a single moment. “It’ll come to me when I’m not thinking about it,” he sighed, knowing well the waywardness of his particular genius. He threw the reins upon the subconscious self and moved into an arm-chair to read in the evening paper the things the public loved—that public who refused to buy his books, pleading they were “queer.” He waded down the list of immoralities, murders and assaults with a dreamy eye, and had just reached the witness’s description of finding the bloody head in the faithless wife’s bedroom, when there came a hurried, pelting knock at the door, and William Jones, glad of the relief, went to open it. There, facing him, stood the bore from the flat below. Horrors!

It was not, however, a visit after all. “Jones,” he faltered, “there’s an odd sort of chap here asking for you or your brother. Rang my bell by mistake.”

Jones murmured some reply or other, and as the bore vanished with a hurry unusual to him, there passed into the flat a queer shape, born surely of the night and stars and desolate places. He seemed in some undefinable way bent,{91} humpbacked, very large. With him came a touch of open spaces, winds, forests, long clean hills and dew-drenched fields.

“Come in, please....” said Jones, instantly aware that the man was not for his brother. “You have something to—er——” he was going to use the word “ask,” then changed it instinctively—“say to me, haven’t you?”

The man was ragged, poor, outcast. Clearly it was a begging episode; and yet he trembled violently, while in his veins ran fire. The caller refused a seat, but moved over to the curtains by the window, drawing them slightly aside so that he could see out. And the window was high above old smoky London—open. It felt cold. Jones bent down, always keeping his caller in view, and lit the gas-stove. “You wish to see me,” he said, rising again to an upright position. Then he added more hurriedly, stepping back a little towards the rack where the walking-sticks were, “Please let me know what I can do for you!”

Bearded, unkempt, with massive shoulders and huge neck, the caller stood a moment and stared. “Your name and address,” he said at length, “were given to me”—he hesitated a moment, then added—“you know by whom.” His voice was deep and windy and echoing. It made the stretched cords of the upright piano ring against the wall. “He told me to call,” the man concluded.{92}

“Ah yes; of course,” Jones stammered, forgetting for the moment who or where he was. “Let me see—where are you”—the word did not want to come out—“staying?” The caller made an awful and curious movement; it seemed so much bigger than his body. “In what way—er—can I be of assistance?” Jones hardly knew what he said. The other volunteered so little. He was frightened. Then, before the man could answer, he caught a dreadful glimpse, as of something behind the outline. It moved. Was it shadow that thus extended his form? Was it the glare of that ugly gas-stove that played tricks with the folds of the curtain, driving bodily outline forth into mere vacancy? For the figure of his strange caller seemed to carry with it the idea of projections, extensions, growths, in themselves not monstrous, fine and comely, rather—yet awful.

The man left the window and moved towards him. It was a movement both swift and enormous. It was instantaneous.

“Who are you—really?” asked Jones, his breath catching, while he went pluckily out to meet him, irresistibly drawn. “And what is it you really want of me?” He went very close to the shrouded form, caught the keen air from the open window behind, sniffed a wind that was not London’s stale and weary wind, then stopped abruptly, frozen with terror and delight.{93} The man facing him was splendid and terrific, exhaling something that overwhelmed.

“What can I ... do ... for ... you?” whispered Jones, shaking like a leaf. A delight of racing clouds was in him.

The answer came in a singular roaring voice that yet sounded far away, as though among mountains. Wind might have brought it down.

“There is nothing you can do for me! But, by Chiron, there is something I can do for you!”

“And that is?” asked Jones faintly, feeling something sweep against his feet and legs like the current of a river in flood.

The man eyed him appallingly a moment.

“Let you see me!” he roared, while his voice set the piano singing again, and his outline seemed to swim over the chairs and tables like a fluid mass. “Show myself to you!”

The figure stretched out what looked like arms, reared gigantically aloft towards the ceiling, and swept towards him. Jones saw the great visage close to his own. He smelt the odour of caves, river-beds, hillsides—space. In another second he would have been lost——

His brother made a great rattling as he opened the door. The atmosphere of rice and sugar and office desks came in with him.

“Why, Billy, old man, you look as if you’d seen a ghost. You’re white!”

William Jones mopped his forehead. “I’ve{94} been working rather hard,” he answered. “Feel tired. Fact is—I got stuck in a story for a bit.”

“Too bad. Got it straightened out at last, I hope?”

“Yes, thanks. It came to me—in the end.”

The other looked at him. “Good,” he said shortly. “Rum thing, imagination, isn’t it?” And then he began talking about his day’s business—in tons and tons of food.{95}



They bumped into one another by the swinging doors of the little Soho restaurant, and, recoiling sharply, each made a half-hearted pretence of lifting his hat (it was French manners, of course, inside). Then, discovering that they were English, and not strangers, they exclaimed, “Sorry!” and laughed.

“Hulloa! It’s Smith!” cried the man with the breezy manner; “and when did you get back?” It sounded as though “Smith” and “you” were different persons. “I haven’t seen you for months!” They shook hands cordially.

“Only last Saturday—on the Rollitania,” answered the man with the pince-nez. They were acquaintances of some standing. Neither was aware of anything in the other he disliked. More positive cause for friendship there was none. They met, however, not infrequently.

“Last Saturday! Did you really?” exclaimed the breezy one; and, after an imperceptible pause which suggested nothing more{96} vital, he added, “And had a good time in America, eh?”

“Oh! not bad, thanks—not bad at all.” He likewise was conscious of a rather barren pause. “Awful crossing, though,” he threw in a few seconds later with a slight grimace.

“Ah! At this time of year, you know——” said Breezy, shaking his head knowingly; “though sometimes, of course, one has better trips in winter than in summer. I crossed once in December when it was like a mill-pond the whole blessed way.”

They moved a little to one side to let a group of Frenchmen enter the swinging doors.

“It’s a good line,” he added, in a voice that settled the reputation of the steamship company for ever. “By Jove, it’s a good line.”

“Oh! it’s a good line, yes,” agreed Pince-nez, gratified to find his choice approved. He shifted his glasses modestly. The discovery reflected glory upon his judgment. “And such an excellent table!”

Breezy agreed heartily. “I’d never cross now on any other,” he declared, as though he meant the table. “You’re right.”

This happy little agreement about the food pleased them both; it showed their judgment to be sound; also it established a ground of common interest—a link—something that gave point to their little chat, and made it seem worth while to have stopped and spoken. They rose{97} in one another’s estimation. The chance meeting ought to lead to something, perhaps. Yet neither found the expected inspiration; for neither au fond had anything to say to the other beyond passing the time of day.

“Well,” said Pince-nez, lingeringly but very pleasantly, making a movement towards the doors; “I suppose I must be going in. You—er—you’ve had lunch, of course?”

“Thanks, yes, I have,” Breezy replied with a certain air of disappointment, as though the question had been an invitation. He moved a few steps backwards down the pavement. “But, now you’re back,” he added more cheerfully, “we must try and see something of one another.”

“By all means. Do let’s,” said Pince-nez. His manner somehow suggested that he too expected an invitation, perhaps. He hesitated a moment, as though about to add something, but in the end said nothing.

“We must lunch together one day,” observed Breezy, with his jolly smile. He glanced up at the restaurant.

“By all means—let’s,” agreed the other again, with one foot on the steps. “Any day you like. Next week, perhaps. You let me know.” He nodded cordially, and half turned to enter.

“Lemme see, where are you staying?” called Breezy by way of after-thought.{98}

“Oh! I’m at the X——,” mentioning an obscure hostel in the W.C. district.

“Of course; yes, I remember. That’s where you stopped before, isn’t it? Up in Bloomsbury somewhere——?”

“Rooms ain’t up to much, but the cooking’s quite decent.”

“Good. Then we’ll lunch one day soon. What sort of time, by the bye, suits you?” The breezy one, for some obscure reason, looked vigorously at his watch.

“Oh! any time; one o’clock onwards, sort of thing, I suppose?” with an air of “just let me know and I’ll be there.”

“Same here, yes,” agreed the other, with slightly less enthusiasm.

“That’s capital, then,” from Pince-nez. He paused a moment, not finding precisely the suitable farewell phrase. Then, to his own undoing, he added carelessly, “There are one or two things—er—I should like to tell you about——”

“And luncheon is the best time,” Breezy suggested at once, “for busy men like us. You might bespeak a table, in fact.” He jerked his head towards the restaurant.

The two acquaintances, one on the pavement, the other on the steps, stood and stared at each other. The onus of invitation had somehow shifted insensibly from Breezy to Pince-nez. The next remark would be vital. Neither{99} thought it worth while to incur the slight expense of a luncheon that involved an hour in each other’s company. Yet it was nothing stronger than a dread of possible boredom that dictated the hesitancy.

“Not a bad idea,” agreed Pince-nez vaguely. “But I doubt if they’ll keep a table after one o’clock, you know.”

“Never mind, then. You’re on the telephone, I suppose, aren’t you?” called Breezy down the pavement, still moving slowly backwards.

“Yes, you’ll find it under the name of the hotel,” replied the other, putting his head back round the door-post in the act of going in.

“My number’s not in the book!” Breezy cried back; “but it’s 0417 Westminster. Then you’ll ring me up one day? That’ll be very jolly indeed. Don’t forget the number!” This shifting of telephonic responsibility, he felt, was a master-stroke.

“Right-O. I’ll remember. So long, then, for the present,” Pince-nez answered more faintly, disappearing into the restaurant.

“Decent fellow, that. I shall go to lunch if he asks me,” was the thought in the mind of each. It lasted for perhaps half a minute, and then—oblivion.

Ten days later they ran across one another again about luncheon-time in Piccadilly; nodded, smiled, hesitated a second too long—and turned back to shake hands.{100}

“How’s everything?” asked the breezy one with gusto.

“First-rate, thanks. And how are you?”

“Jolly weather, isn’t it?” Breezy said, looking about him generally, “this sunshine—by Jove——!”

“Nothing like it,” declared Pince-nez, shifting his glasses to look at the sun, and concealing his lack of something to say by catching at the hearty manner.

“Nothing,” agreed Breezy.

“In the world,” echoed Pince-nez.

Again the topic was a link. The stream of pedestrians jostled them. They moved a few yards up Dover Street. Each was really on his way to luncheon. A pause followed the move.

“Still at—er—that hotel up there?” The name had escaped him. He jerked his head vaguely northwards.

“Yes; I thought you’d be looking in for lunch one day,” a faint memory stirring in his brain.

“Delighted! Or—you’d better come to my Club, eh? Less out of the way, you know,” declared Breezy.

“Very jolly. Thanks; that’d be first-rate.” Both paused a moment. Breezy looked down the street as though expecting someone or something. They ignored that it was luncheon hour.

“You’ll find me in the telephone book,” observed Pince-nez presently.{101}

“Under X—— Hotel, I suppose?” from Breezy. “All right.”

“0995 Northern’s the number, yes.”

“And mine,” said Breezy, “is 0417 Westminster; or the Club”—with an air of imparting valuable private information—“is 0866 Mayfair. Any day you like. Don’t forget!”

“Rather not. Somewhere about one o’clock, eh?”

“Yes—or one-thirty.” And off they went again—each to his solitary luncheon.

A fortnight passed, and once more they came together—this time in an A.B.C. shop.

“Hulloa! There’s Smith,” thought Breezy “By Jove, I’ll ask him to lunch with me.”

“Why, there’s that chap again,” thought Pince-nez. “I’ll invite him, I think.”

They sat down at the same table. “But this is capital,” exclaimed both; “you must lunch with me, of course!” And they laughed pleasantly. They talked of food and weather. They compared Soho with A.B.C. Each offered light excuses for being found in the latter.

“I was in a hurry to-day, and looked in by the merest chance for a cup of coffee,” observed Breezy, ordering quite a lot of things at once, absent-mindedly, as it were.

“I like the butter here so awfully,” mentioned Pince-nez later. “It’s quite the best in London, and the freshest, I always think.” As this was not the luncheon, they felt that only common{102}place things were in order. The special things they had to discuss must wait, of course.

The waitress got their paper checks muddled somehow. “I’ve put a ’alfpenny of yours on ’is,” she explained cryptically to Pince-nez.

“Oh,” laughed Breezy, “that’s nothing. This gentleman is lunching with me, anyhow.”

“You’ll ’ave to make it all right when you get outside, then,” said the girl gravely.

They laughed over her reply. At the paydesk both made vigorous search for money. Pince-nez, being nimbler, produced a florin first. “This is my lunch, of course. I asked you, remember,” he said. Breezy demurred with a good grace.

“You can be host another time, if you insist,” added Pince-nez, pocketing twopence change.

“Rather,” said the other heartily. “You must come to the Club—any day you like, you know.”

“I’ll come to-morrow, then,” said Pince-nez, quick as a flash. “I’ve got the telephone number.”

“Do,” cried Breezy, very, very heartily indeed. “I shall be delighted! One o’clock, remember.{103}



“My dear chap,” cried Jones, throwing his hands out in a gesture of distress he thought was quite real, “nothing would give me greater pleasure—if only I could manage it. But the fact is I’m as hard up as yourself!”

The little pale-faced man of uncertain age opposite shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly.

“In a month or so, perhaps——” Jones added, hedging instinctively, “If it’s not too late then—I should be delighted——”

The other interrupted quickly, a swift flush emphasising momentarily the pallor of his strained and tired face. Overworked, overweary he looked.

“Oh, thanks, but it’s really of no consequence. I felt sure you wouldn’t mind my asking, though.” And Jones replied heartily that he only wished he were “flush” enough to lend it. They talked weather and politics then—after a pause, finished their drinks, Jones refusing the offer of another, and, presently, the elder{104} man said good-night and left the Club. Jones, with a slight sigh of boredom, as though life went hard with him, passed upstairs to the card-room to find partners for a game.

Jones was not a bad fellow really; he was untaught. Experience had neglected him a little, so that his sympathies knew not those sweet though difficult routes by which interest travels away from self—towards others. He entirely lacked that acuter sense of life which only comes to those who have known genuine want and hardship. A fat income had always tumbled into his bank without effort on his part, the harvest of another’s sweat; yet, as with many such, he imagined that he earned his thousand a year, and figured somehow to himself that he deserved it. He was neither evil-liver nor extravagant; he knew not values, that was all—least of all money values; and at the moment when his cousin asked for twenty pounds to help his family to a holiday, he found that debts pressed a bit hard, that he owed still on his motor-car, and that some recent speculations seemed suddenly very doubtful. He was hard up, yes.... Perhaps, if the cards were lucky, he might do it after all. But the cards were not lucky. Soon after midnight he took a taxi home to his rooms in St. James’s Street. And then it was he found a letter marked “Urgent” placed by his man upon the table by the door so that he could not miss it.{105}

The letter kept him awake most of the night in keen distress—for himself. It was anonymous, signed “Your Well-wisher.” It warned him, in words that proved the writer to be well informed, that the speculation in which he, Jones, had plunged so recklessly a week before would mean a total loss unless he instantly took certain steps to retrieve himself. Such steps, moreover, were just possible, provided he acted immediately.

Jones, as he read it, turned pale, if such a thing were possible, all over his body; then he turned hot and cold. He sweated, groaned, sighed, raged; sat down and wrote urgent instructions to solicitors and others; tore the letters up and wrote others. The loss of that money would reduce his income by at least half, alter his whole plan and scale of living, make him poor. He tried to reflect, but the calmness necessary to sound reflection lay far from him. Action was what he needed, but action was just then out of the question, for all the machinery of the world slept—solicitors, company secretaries, influential friends, lawcourts. The telephone on the wall merely grinned at him uselessly. Sleep was as vain a remedy as the closed and silent banks. There was absolutely nothing he could do till the morning; and he realised that the letters he wrote were futile even while he wrote them—and tore them up the next minute. Personal{106} interviews the first thing in the morning, energetic talk and action based upon the best possible advice, were the only form relief could take, and these personal interviews he could obtain even before the letters would be delivered, or as soon. For him that money seemed as good as already lost ... and tossing upon his sleepless bed he faced the change of life the loss involved—bitterly, savagely, with keen pain: the lowered scale of self-indulgence, the clipped selfishness, restricted pleasures, fewer clothes, cheaper rooms, difficult and closely calculated travelling, and all the rest. It bit him hard—this first grinding of the little wheels of possible development in an ordinary selfish, though not evil, heart....

And then it was, as the grey dawn-light crept past the blinds, that the sharpness of his pain and the keen flight of his stirred imagination, projecting itself as by these forced marches into new, untried conditions, produced a slight reaction. The swing of the weary pendulum went a little beyond himself. He fell to wondering vaguely, and with poor insight, yet genuinely, what other men might feel, and how they managed on smaller incomes than his own—smaller than his would be even with the loss. Gingerly, tentatively, he snatched fearful glimpses (fearful, they seemed, to him, at least) into the enclosures of these more restricted lives of others. He knew a mild and weak extension{107} of himself, as it were, that fringed the little maps of lives less happy and indulgent than his own. And the novel sensation brought a faint relief. The small, clogged wheels of sympathy acquired faster movement, almost impetus. It seemed as though the heat and fire of his pain, though selfish pain, generated some new energy that made them turn.

Jones, in all his useless life, had never thought; his mind had reflected images perhaps, but had never taken hold of a real idea and followed it by logical process to an end. His mind was heavy and confused, for his nature, as with so many, only moved to calculated action when a strong enough desire instinctively showed the quickest, easiest way by which two and two could be made into four. His reflections upon comparative poverty—the poverty he was convinced now faced him cruelly—were therefore obscure and trivial enough, while wholly honest. Wealth, he divined dimly, was relative, and money represented the value of what is wanted, perhaps of what is needed rather, and usually of what cannot be obtained. Some folk are poor because they cannot afford a second motor-car, or spend more than £100 upon a trip abroad; others because the moors and sea are out of reach; others, again, because they are glad of cast-off clothing and only dare “the gods” one night a week or take the free standing-room at Sunday concerts.... He suddenly{108} recalled the story of some little penniless, elderly governess in Switzerland who made her underskirts from the silk of old umbrellas because she liked the frou-frou sound. Again and again this thought for others slipped past the network of his own distress, making his own selfish pain spread wider and therefore less acutely. For even with a mere £500 his life, perhaps, need not be too hard and unhappy.... The little wheels moved faster. His pain struck sparks. He saw strange glimpses of a new, far country, a fairer land than he had ever dreamed of, with endless horizons, and flowers, small and very simple, yet so lovely that he would have liked to pick them for their perfume. A sense of joy came for a moment on some soft wind of beauty, fugitive, but sweet. It vanished instantly again, but the vision caught for a moment, too tiny to be measured even by a fraction of a second, had flamed like summer lightning through his heart. It almost seemed as though his grinding selfish pain had burned the dense barriers that hid another world, bringing a light that just flamed above those huge horizons before they died. For they did die—and quickly, yet left behind a touch of singular joy and peace that somehow glowed on through all his subsequent self-pity....

And then, abruptly, with a vividness of detail that shocked him, he saw the Club smoking-room, and the worn face of his cousin close before him{109}—the overworked hack-writer, who had asked a temporary £20, a little sum he would assuredly have paid back before the end of the year, a sum he asked, not for himself, but that he might send his wife and children to the sea.

Impulse, usually deplored as weakness, may prove first seed of habit. Whether Jones afterwards regretted his unconsidered action may be left unrecorded—whether he would have regretted it, rather, if the saving of his dreaded loss had not subsequently been effected. As matters stand, he only knew a sense or flattering self-congratulation that he had slipped that letter—the only one he left untorn—into the pillar-box at the corner before the sun rose, and that it contained a pink bit of paper that should bring to another the relief he himself had, for the first time in his life, known imaginatively upon that sleepless bed. Before the day was over the letter reached its destination, and his own affairs had been put right. And two days later, when they met in the Club, and Jones noticed the obvious happiness in the other’s eyes and manner, he only answered to his words of thanks:

“I wish I could have given it at once. The fact is I found letters on getting home that night which—er—made it possible, you see ...!”

But in his heart, as he said it, flamed again{110} quite suddenly the memory of that fair land with endless horizons he had sighted for a second, and the sentence that ran unspoken through his mind was: “By Jove, that’s {111}something I must do again. It’s worth it ...!”



It was her birthday on the morrow, and I set forth to find a suitable and worthy present. My means, judged by the standards of the big merchants, seemed trivial; yet, could I but discover the right gift, no matter how insignificant, I felt sure that it would please her, and so make me doubly happy. And the kind of gift I already knew, for I had a specimen of it in my humble lodgings; only of so poor a type that I was ashamed to offer it. I must find somewhere a much, much better one, if possible, perfect and without a single flaw. I went, therefore, into the great shops and saw a thousand wonderful and lovely things....

So particular was I, however, and so difficult to suit, that I wearied the salesfolk, and began to feel despondent. All that they showed me was so wrong—so cheap. In the matter of actual expense there was no disagreement, for I mentioned plainly beforehand the price that I would pay, or, rather, that I was prepared to pay. But in the nature and quality of the{112} goods there was no satisfying me at all. Everything that they spread before my eyes seemed ordinary, trifling, even spurious. Marvellously fashioned, and of the most costly description, they yet seemed somewhere counterfeit. The goods were sham. Already she possessed far better. There was nowhere—and I went to the very best emporiums where the rich and favoured of the world bought their offerings—there was nowhere the little genuine thing I sought. The finest that was set before me seemed unworthy. I compared one and all with the specimen, broken yet authentic, that I had at home. And even the cleverest of the salesfolk was unable to deceive me, because I knew.

“And this, for instance?” I asked at length, far from content, yet thinking it might just do perhaps in place of anything better I could find. “How much is this magnificent, jewelled thing, with its ingenious little surprise for each day in the entire year? You mentioned——?”

“Ten million pounds, sir,” said the man obsequiously, while he eyed me with a close and questioning glance.

“Ten million only!” And I laughed in his face.

“That was the price you named, sir,” he murmured.

I drew myself up, looking disdainfully, pityingly at him. And, though he met my eye, he hesitated. Over his tired features there stole{113} a soft and marvellous expression. Something more tender than starlight shone in his little eyes. And, as he answered in a gentle voice that was almost a whisper, I saw him smile as a man may smile when he understands a divine, unutterable thing. Glory touched him for an instant with high radiance, and a hint of delicious awe hid shyly in his voice. I barely caught the words, so low he murmured them:

“I fear, sir, that what you want is not to be had at all—in our establishment. You will hardly find it. It is not in the market.” He seemed to bow his head in reverence a moment. “It is not—for sale.”

And so I went back to my dingy lodgings, having made no single purchase. I looked fondly at my own little specimen, trying to imagine it had somehow gained in value, in beauty, almost in splendour. At least, I said to myself, it is not spurious. It is real....

And, sitting down to my table, I dipped my broken pen into a penny bottle of inferior ink, and began my birthday letter:—

“This is your birthday, dear, and I send you all my love——” Being young, I underlined the words describing my little present, thinking to increase its value thus.

But I did not complete the sentence, for there was another thing that I must find to send her, or she would be disappointed. And a birthday comes but once a year. But, again, though I{114} already possessed a tiny specimen of this other thing I sought, it did not seem to me nearly good enough to offer. Though genuine, it was worn by frequent use. Its lustre had dimmed a little, for I touched it daily. It seemed too ordinary and common for a special present. I was ashamed to send it.

So I set out again and searched ... and searched ... in every likely and unlikely place, even groping in the dark about the altars of the churches where I found by chance the doors ajar, and penetrating to those secret shrines where those who seek truth, it is said, go in to pray. For I knew that there was this other little present from me that she would look for—because she had need of it....

And my search was wonderful and full of high adventure, yet so long that the moon had drawn the hood over the door of her silver tent, and the stars were fading in the east behind the towers of the night, before I returned home, footsore, aching, empty-handed, and very humble in my heart. For nowhere had I been able to find this other little thing she would be pleased to have from me. To my amazement, yet to my secret joy, I found nothing better than what I had at home—nothing, that is, indubitably genuine. In quantity it was not anywhere for sale. It was more rare than I had guessed—and I felt delicious triumph in me.

I sat down, humble, reverent, but incommuni{115}cably proud and happy, to my unfinished letter. Unless I posted it immediately she would not get it when she woke upon her birthday morning. I finished it. I posted it just as it was—brief, the writing a little shaky, the paper cheap, blot, smudge, and all:

“...and my worship.”

And then, like a scrap of paper that enclosed the other gifts, yet need not be noticed unless she wished it, I added (above the little foolish name she knew me by) another tiny present—all that I had brought into the world or could take out with me again when I left it:

I wrote: “Yours ever faith-fully.{116}



Some idle talker, playing with half-truths, had once told him that he was too self-centred to fall into love—out of himself; he was unwilling to lose himself in another; and that was the reason he had never married. But Le Maitre was not really more of an egoist than is necessary to make a useful man. A too selfless person is ever ineffective. The suggestion, nevertheless, had remained to distress, for he was no great philosopher—merely a writer of successful tales—tales of wild Nature chiefly; the “human interest” (a publisher’s term) was weak; the great divine enigma of an undeveloped soul—certainly of a lover’s or a woman’s soul—had never claimed his attention enough, perhaps. He was somewhat too much detached from human life. Nature had laid so powerful a spell upon his heart....

“I hope she won’t be late,” ran the practical thought across his mind as he waited that early Sunday morning in the Great Central Station and reflected that it was the cleanest,{117} brightest, and most airy terminus of all London. He had promised her the whole day out—a promise somewhat long neglected. He was not conscious of doing an unselfish act, yet on the whole, probably, he would rather—or just as soon—have been alone.

The air was fragrant, and the sunshine blazed in soft white patches on the line. The maddening loveliness of an exceptional spring danced everywhere into his heart. Yes, he rather wished he were going off into the fields and woods alone, instead of with her. Only—she was really a dear person, more, far more now, than secretary and typist; more, even, than the devoted girl who had nursed him through that illness. A friend she was; the years of their working together had made her that; and she was wise and gentle. Oh, yes; it would be delightful to have her with him. How she would enjoy the long sunny day!

Then he saw her coming towards him through the station. In a patch of sunshine she came, as though the light produced her—came suddenly from the middle of a group of men in flannels carrying golf-sticks. And he smiled his welcome a little paternally, trying to kill the selfish thought that he would rather have been alone. Soft things fluttered about her. The big hat was becoming. She was dressed in brown, he believed.

He bought a Sunday paper. “I must buy one{118} too,” she laughed. She chose one with pictures, chose it at random rather. He had never heard its name even. And in a first-class carriage alone—he meant to do it really well—they raced through a world of sunshine and brilliant fields to Amersham. She was very happy. She tried every seat in turn; the blazing sheets of yellow—such a spring for buttercups there had never been—drew her from side to side. She put her head out, and nearly lost her big hat, and that soft fluttering thing she wore streamed behind her like the colour of escaping flowers. She opened both windows. The very carriage held the perfume of may that floated over the whole country-side.

He was very nice to her, but read his paper—though always ready with a smile and answer when she asked for them. She teased and laughed and chattered. The luncheon packages engaged her serious attention. Never for a moment was she still, trying every corner in turn, putting her feet up, and bouncing to enjoy the softness of the first-class cushions. “You’ll be sitting in the rack next,” he suggested. But her head was out of the window again and she did not hear him. She was radiant as a child. His paper interested him—book reviews or something. “I’ve asked you that three times, you know, already,” he heard her laughing opposite. And with a touch of shame he tossed the paper through the window. “There! {119}I’d quite forgotten her again!” he thought, with a touch of shame. “I must pull myself together.” For it was true. He had for the moment—more than once—forgotten her existence, just as though he really were alone.

Together they strolled down through the beech wood towards Amersham, he for ever dropping the luncheon packages, which she picked up again and tried to stuff into his pockets. For she refused to carry anything at all. “It’s my day out, not yours, remember! I do no work to-day!” And he caught her happiness, pausing to watch her while she picked flowers and leaves and all the rest, and disentangling without the least impatience that soft fluttering thing she wore when it caught in thorns, and even talking with her about this wild spring glory as though she were just the companion that he needed out of all the world. He no longer felt quite so conscious of her objective presence as at first. In the train, for instance, he had felt so vividly aware that she was there. Alternately he had forgotten and remembered her presence. Now it was better. They were more together, as it were. “I wish I were alone,” he thought once more as the beauty of the spring called to him tumultuously and he longed to lie and dream it all, unhampered by another’s presence. Then, even while thinking it, he realised that he was—alone. It was curious.{120}

This happened even in their first wood when they went downhill into Amersham. As they left it and passed again into the open it came. And on its heels, as he watched her moving here and there, light-footed as a child or nymph, there came this other instinctive thought—“I wish I were ten years younger than I am!”—the first time in all his life, probably, that such a thought had ever bothered him. Apparently he said it aloud, laughingly, as he watched her dancing movements. For she turned and ran up to his side quickly, her little face quite grave beneath the big hat’s rim. “You are!” That answer struck him as rather wonderful. Who was she after all ...?

And in Amersham they hired from the Griffin a rickety old cart, drawn by a still more rickety horse, to drive them to Penn’s Woods. She, with her own money, bought stone-bottle ginger-beer—two bottles. It made her day complete to have those bottles, though unless they had driven she would have done without them. The street was deserted, drenched in blazing sunshine. Rooks were cawing in the elms behind the church. Not a soul was about as they crawled away from the houses and passed upwards between hedges smothered in cow-parsley over the hill. She had kept her picture-paper. It lay on her lap all the way. She never opened it or turned a single page; but she held it in her lap. They drove in silence.{121} The old man on the box was like a faded, weather-beaten farmer dressed in somebody else’s cast-off Sunday coat. He flicked the horse with a tattered whip. Sometimes he grunted. Plover rose from the fields, cuckoos called, butterflies danced sideways past the carriage, eyeing them ... and, as they passed through Penn Street, Le Maitre started suddenly and said something. For, again, he had quite forgotten she was there. “What a selfish beast I am! Why can’t I forget myself and my own feelings, and look after her and make her feel amused and happy? It’s her day out, not mine!” This, somehow, was the way he put it to himself, just as any ordinary man would have put it. But, when he turned to look at her, he received a shock. Here was something new and unexpected. With a thud it dropped down into his mind—crash!

For at the sound of his voice she looked up confused and startled into his face. She had forgotten him! For the first time in all the years together, years of work, of semi-official attention to his least desire, yet of personal devotion as well, because she respected him and thought him wonderful—she had forgotten he was there. She had forgotten his existence beside her as a separate person. She, too, had been—alone.

It was here, perhaps, he first realised this singular thing that set this day apart from{122} every other day that he had ever known. In reality, of course, it had come far sooner—begun with the exquisite spring dawn before either of them was awake, had tentatively fluttered about his soul even while he stood waiting for her in the station, come softly nearer all the way in the train, dropped threads of its golden web about him, especially in that first beech wood, then moved with its swifter yet unhurried rush—until, here, now, in this startling moment, he realised it fully. Thus steal those changes o’er the sky, perhaps, that the day itself knows at sunrise, but that unobservant folk do not notice till the sun bursts out with fuller explanation, and they say, “The weather’s changed; how delightful! how unexpected!” Le Maitre had never been observant very—of people.

And then in this deep, lonely valley, too full of sunshine to hold anything else, it seemed, they stopped where the beech woods trooped to the edge of the white road. No wind was here; it was still and silent; the leaves glittered, motionless. They entered the thick trees together, she carrying the ginger-beer bottles and that picture-paper. He noticed that: the way she held it, almost clutched it, still unopened. Her face, he saw, was pale. Or was it merely the contrast of the shade? The trees were very big and wonderful. No birds sang, the network of dazzling sunshine-patches in the gloom bewildered a little.{123}

At first they did not talk at all, and then in hushed voices. But it was only when they were some way into the wood, and she had put down the bottles—though not the paper—to pick a flower or spray of leaves, that he traced the singular secret thrill to its source and understood why he had felt—no, not uneasy, but so strangely moved. For he had asked the sleepy driver of the way, and how they might best reach Beaconsfield across these Penn Woods, and the old man’s mumbled answer took no note of—her:

“It’s a bit rough, maybe, on t’other side, stony like and steep, but that ain’t nothing for a gentleman—when he’s alone ...!”

The words disturbed him with a sense of darkness, yet of wonder. As though the old man had not noticed her; almost as though he had seen only one person—himself.

They lunched among heather and bracken just beside a pool of sunshine. In front lay a copse of pines, with little beeches in between. The roof was thick just there, the stillness haunting. All the country-side, it seemed, this Sunday noon, had gone to sleep, he and she alone left out of the deep, soft dream. He watched those pines, mothering the slim young beeches, the brilliant fresh green of whose lower branches, he thought, were like little platforms of level sunlight amid the general gloom—patches that had left the ground to{124} escape by the upper air and had then been caught.

“Look,” he heard, “they make one think of laughter crept in unawares among a lot of solemn monks—or of children lost among grave elder beings whose ways are dull and sombre!” It was his own thought continued ... yet it was she, lying there beside him, who had said it....

And all that wonderful afternoon she had this curious way of picking the thoughts out of his mind and putting them into words for him. “Look,” she said again later, “you can always tell whether the wind loves a tree or not by the way it blows the branches. If it loves them, it tries to draw them out to go away with it. The others it merely shakes carelessly as it passes!” It was the very thought in his own mind, too. Indeed, he had been on the point of saying it, but had desisted, feeling she would not understand—with the half wish—though far less strong than before—that he were alone to enjoy it all in his own indulgent way. Then, even more swiftly, came that other strange sensation that he was alone all the time; more—that he was for the first time in his life most wonderfully complete and happy, all sense of isolation gone.

He turned quickly the instant she had said it. But not quickly enough. By the look in her great grey eyes, by the expression on the face{125} where the discarded hat no longer hid it, he read the same amazing enigma he had half divined before. She, too, was—alone. She had forgotten him again—forgotten his presence—radiant and happy without him, enjoying herself in her own way. She had merely uttered her delightful thought aloud, as if speaking to herself!

How the afternoon, with its long sunny hours, passed so quickly away, he never understood, nor how they made their way eventually to Beaconsfield through other woods and over other meadows. He remembers only that the whole time he kept forgetting that she was with him, and then suddenly remembering it again. And once on the grass, when they rested to drink the cold tea from his rather musty flask, he lit his pipe, and after a bit he—dozed. He actually slept; for ten minutes at her side, yes, he slept. He heard her laughing at him, but the laughter was faint and very far away; it might just as well have been the wind in the cow-parsley that said, “If you sleep, I shall change you—change you while you sleep!” And for some minutes after he woke again, it hardly seemed queer to him that he did not see her, for when he noticed her coming towards him from the hedgerow, her arms full of flowers and things, he only thought, “Oh, there she is”—as though her absence, or his own absence in sleep, were not quite the common absences of the world.{126}

And he remembered that on the walk to the village her shoe hurt her, and he offered to carry her, and that then she took her shoe off and ran along the grass beside the lane the whole way. But it was at the inn where they had their supper that the oddest thing of all occurred, for the deaf and rather stupid servant girl would insist on laying the table on the lawn for—one.

“Oh, expectin’ some one, are yer?” she said at last. “Is that it?” and so brought plates and knives for two. The girl never once looked at his companion—almost as though she did not see her and seemed unaware of her presence. Le Maitre began to feel that he was dreaming. This was a dream-country, where the people had curious sight. He remembered the driver....

In the dusk they made their way to the station. They spoke no word. He kept losing sight of her. Once or twice he forgot who he was. But the whole amazing thing blazed into him most strongly, showing how it had seized upon his mind, when he stood before the ticket-window and hesitated—for a second—how many tickets he should buy. He stammered at length for two first-class, but he was absurdly flustered for a second. It had actually occurred to him that they needed only one ticket....

And suddenly in the train he understood—and his heart came up in his throat. They were{127} alone. He turned to her where she lay in the corner, feet up, weary, crumpled among the leaves and flowers she had gathered. Like a hedgerow flower she looked, tired by the sunshine and the wind. In one hand was the picture-paper, still unopened and unread, symbol of everyday reality. She was dozing certainly, if not actually asleep. So he woke her with a touch, calling her name aloud.

There were no words at first. He looked at her, coming up very close to do so, and she looked back at him—straight into his eyes—just as she did at home when they were working and he was explaining something important. And then her own eyes dropped, and a deep blush spread over all her face.

“I wasn’t asleep—really,” she said, as he took her at last into his arms; “I was wondering—when—you’d find out——”

“Come to myself, you mean?” he asked tremblingly.

“Well,” she hesitated, as soon as she got breath, “that I am yourself—and that you are me. Of course, we’re really only one. I knew it years—oh, years and years ago....{128}



From Southwater, where he left the train, the road led due west. That he knew; for the rest he trusted to luck, being one of those born walkers who dislike asking the way. He had that instinct, and as a rule it served him well. “A mile or so due west along the sandy road till you come to a stile on the right; then across the fields. You’ll see the red house straight before you.” He glanced at the post-card’s instructions once again, and once again he tried to decipher the scratched-out sentence—without success. It had been so elaborately inked over that no word was legible. Inked-out sentences in a letter were always enticing. He wondered what it was that had to be so very carefully obliterated.

The afternoon was boisterous, with a tearing, shouting wind that blew from the sea, across the Sussex weald. Massive clouds with rounded, piled-up edges, cannoned across gaping spaces of blue sky. Far away the line of Downs swept the horizon, like an arriving wave. Chancton{129}bury Ring rode their crest—a scudding ship, hull down before the wind. He took his hat off and walked rapidly, breathing great draughts of air with delight and exhilaration. The road was deserted; no horsemen, bicycles, or motors; not even a tradesman’s cart; no single walker. But anyhow he would never have asked the way. Keeping a sharp eye for the stile, he pounded along, while the wind tossed the cloak against his face, and made waves across the blue puddles in the yellow road. The trees showed their under leaves of white. The bracken and the high new grass bent all one way. Great life was in the day, high spirits and dancing everywhere. And for a Croydon surveyor’s clerk just out of an office this was like a holiday at the sea.

It was a day for high adventure, and his heart rose up to meet the mood of Nature. His umbrella with the silver ring ought to have been a sword, and his brown shoes should have been top-boots with spurs upon the heels. Where hid the enchanted Castle and the princess with the hair of sunny gold? His horse....

The stile came suddenly into view and nipped adventure in the bud. Everyday clothes took him prisoner again. He was a surveyor’s clerk, middle-aged, earning three pounds a week, coming from Croydon to see about a client’s proposed alterations in a wood—something to ensure a better view from the dining-room window. Across{130} the fields, perhaps a mile away, he saw the red house gleaming in the sunshine; and resting on the stile a moment to get his breath he noticed a copse of oak and hornbeam on the right. “Aha,” he told himself, “so that must be the wood he wants to cut down to improve the view? I’ll ’ave a look at it.” There were boards up, of course, but there was an inviting little path as well. “I’m not a trespasser,” he said; “it’s part of my business, this is.” He scrambled awkwardly over the gate and entered the copse. A little round would bring him to the field again.

But the moment he passed among the trees the wind ceased shouting and a stillness dropped upon the world. So dense was the growth that the sunshine only came through in isolated patches. The air was close. He mopped his forehead and put his green felt hat on, but a low branch knocked it off again at once, and as he stooped an elastic twig swung back and stung his face. There were flowers along both edges of the little path; glades opened on either side; ferns curved about in damper corners, and the smell of earth and foliage was rich and sweet. It was cooler here. What an enchanting little wood, he thought, turning down a small green glade where the sunshine flickered like silver wings. How it danced and fluttered and moved about! He put a dark blue flower in his buttonhole. Again his hat, caught by an oak branch as he rose, was knocked from his head, falling{131} across his eyes. And this time he did not put it on again. Swinging his umbrella, he walked on with uncovered head, whistling rather loudly as he went. But the thickness of the trees hardly encouraged whistling, and something of his gaiety and high spirits seemed to leave him. He suddenly found himself treading circumspectly and with caution. The stillness in the wood was so peculiar.

There was a rustle among the ferns and leaves and something shot across the path ten yards ahead, stopped abruptly an instant with head cocked sideways to stare, then dived again beneath the underbrush with the speed of a shadow. He started like a frightened child, laughing the next second that a mere pheasant could have made him jump. In the distance he heard wheels upon the road, and wondered why the sound was pleasant. “Good old butcher’s cart,” he said to himself—then realised that he was going in the wrong direction and had somehow got turned round. For the road should be behind him, not in front.

And he hurriedly took another narrow glade that lost itself in greenness to the right. “That’s my direction, of course,” he said; “the trees has mixed me up a bit, it seems”—then found himself abruptly by the gate he had first climbed over. He had merely made a circle. Surprise became almost discomfiture then. And a man, dressed like a gamekeeper in browny green,{132} leaned against the gate, hitting his legs with a switch. “I’m making for Mr. Lumley’s farm,” explained the walker. “This is his wood, I believe——” then stopped dead, because it was no man at all, but merely an effect of light and shade and foliage. He stepped back to reconstruct the singular illusion, but the wind shook the branches roughly here on the edge of the wood and the foliage refused to reconstruct the figure. The leaves all rustled strangely. And just then the sun went behind a cloud, making the whole wood look otherwise. Yet how the mind could be thus doubly deceived was indeed remarkable, for it almost seemed to him the man had answered, spoken—or was this the shuffling noise the branches made?—and had pointed with his switch to the notice-board upon the nearest tree. The words rang on in his head, but of course he had imagined them: “No, it’s not his wood. It’s ours.” And some village wit, moreover, had changed the lettering on the weather-beaten board, for it read quite plainly, “Trespassers will be persecuted.”

And while the astonished clerk read the words and chuckled, he said to himself, thinking what a tale he’d have to tell his wife and children later—“The blooming wood has tried to chuck me out. But I’ll go in again. Why, it’s only a matter of a square acre at most. I’m bound to reach the fields on the other side if I keep{133} straight on.” He remembered his position in the office. He had a certain dignity to maintain.

The cloud passed from below the sun, and light splashed suddenly in all manner of unlikely places. The man went straight on. He felt a touch of puzzling confusion somewhere; this way the copse had of shifting from sunshine into shadow doubtless troubled sight a little. To his relief, at last, a new glade opened through the trees and disclosed the fields with a glimpse of the red house in the distance at the far end. But a little wicket gate that stood across the path had first to be climbed, and as he scrambled heavily over—for it would not open—he got the astonishing feeling that it slid off sideways beneath his weight, and towards the wood. Like the moving staircases at Harrod’s and Earl’s Court, it began to glide off with him. It was quite horrible. He made a violent effort to get down before it carried him into the trees, but his feet became entangled with the bars and umbrella, so that he fell heavily upon the farther side, arms spread across the grass and nettles, boots clutched between the first and second bars. He lay there a moment like a man crucified upside down, and while he struggled to get disentangled—feet, bars, and umbrella formed a regular net—he saw the little man in browny green go past him with extreme rapidity through the wood. The man was laughing. He passed across the glade some fifty yards away, and he{134} was not alone this time. A companion like himself went with him. The clerk, now upon his feet again, watched them disappear into the gloom of green beyond. “They’re tramps, not gamekeepers,” he said to himself, half mortified, half angry. But his heart was thumping dreadfully, and he dared not utter all his thought.

He examined the wicket gate, convinced it was a trick gate somehow—then went hurriedly on again, disturbed beyond belief to see that the glade no longer opened into fields, but curved away to the right. What in the world had happened to him? His sight was so utterly at fault. Again the sun flamed out abruptly and lit the floor of the wood with pools of silver, and at the same moment a violent gust of wind passed shouting overhead. Drops fell clattering everywhere upon the leaves, making a sharp pattering as of many footsteps. The whole copse shuddered and went moving.

“Rain, by George,” thought the clerk, and feeling for his umbrella, discovered he had lost it. He turned back to the gate and found it lying on the farther side. To his amazement he saw the fields at the far end of the glade, the red house, too, ashine in the sunset. He laughed then, for, of course, in his struggle with the gate, he had somehow got turned round—had fallen back instead of forwards. Climbing over, this time quite easily, he retraced his steps. The silver band, he saw, had been torn from the{135} umbrella. No doubt his foot, a nail, or something had caught in it and ripped it off. The clerk began to run; he felt extraordinarily dismayed.

But, while he ran, the entire wood ran with him, round him, to and fro, trees shifting like living things, leaves folding and unfolding, trunks darting backwards and forwards, and branches disclosing enormous empty spaces, then closing up again before he could look into them. There were footsteps everywhere, and laughing, crying voices, and crowds of figures gathering just behind his back till the glade, he knew, was thick with moving life. The wind in his ears, of course, produced the voices and the laughter, while sun and clouds, plunging the copse alternately in shadow and bright dazzling light, created the figures. But he did not like it, and he went as fast as ever his sturdy legs could take him. He was frightened now. This was no story for his wife and children. He ran like the wind. But his feet made no sound upon the soft mossy turf.

Then, to his horror, he saw that the glade grew narrow, nettles and weeds stood thick across it, it dwindled down into a tiny path, and twenty yards ahead it stopped finally and melted off among the trees. What the trick gate had failed to achieve, this twisting glade accomplished easily—carried him in bodily among the dense and crowding trees.

There was only one thing to do—turn sharply{136} and dash back again, run headlong into the life that followed at his back, followed so closely too that now it almost touched him, pushing him in. And with reckless courage this was what he did. It seemed a fearful thing to do. He turned with a sort of violent spring, head down and shoulders forward, hands stretched before his face. He made the plunge; like a hunted creature he charged full tilt the other way, meeting the wind now in his face.

Good Lord! The glade behind him had closed up as well; there was no longer any path at all. Turning round and round, like an animal at bay, he searched for an opening, a way of escape, searched frantically, breathlessly, terrified now in his bones. But foliage surrounded him, branches blocked the way; the trees stood close and still, unshaken by a breath of wind; and the sun dipped that moment behind a great black cloud. The entire wood turned dark and silent. It watched him.

Perhaps it was this final touch of sudden blackness that made him act so foolishly, as though he had really lost his head. At any rate, without pausing to think, he dashed headlong in among the trees again. There was a sensation of being stiflingly surrounded and entangled, and that he must break out at all costs—out and away into the open of the blessed fields and air. He did this ill-considered thing, and apparently charged straight into an oak that deliberately moved into his path to stop him. He saw{137} it shift across a good full yard, and being a measuring man, accustomed to theodolite and chain, he ought to know. He fell, saw stars, and felt a thousand tiny fingers tugging and pulling at his hands and neck and ankles. The stinging nettles, no doubt, were responsible for this. He thought of it later. At the moment it felt diabolically calculated.

But another remarkable illusion was not so easily explained. For all in a moment, it seemed, the entire wood went sliding past him with a thick deep rustling of leaves and laughter, myriad footsteps, and tiny little active, energetic shapes; two men in browny green gave him a mighty hoist—and he opened his eyes to find himself lying in the meadow beside the stile where first his incredible adventure had begun. The wood stood in its usual place and stared down upon him in the sunlight. There was the red house in the distance as before. Above him grinned the weather-beaten notice-board: “Trespassers will be prosecuted.”

Dishevelled in mind and body, and a good deal shaken in his official soul, the clerk walked slowly across the fields. But on the way he glanced once more at the post-card of instructions, and saw with dull amazement that the inked-out sentence was quite legible after all beneath the scratches made across it: “There is a short cut through the wood—the wood I want cut down—if you care to take it.” Only{138} “care” was so badly written, it looked more like another word; the “c” was uncommonly like “d.”

“That’s the copse that spoils my view of the Downs, you see,” his client explained to him later, pointing across the fields, and referring to the ordnance map beside him. “I want it cut down and a path made so and so.” His finger indicated direction on the map. “The Fairy Wood—it’s still called, and it’s far older than this house. Come now, if you’re ready, Mr. Thomas, we might go out and have a look at it....{139}



The little feathers of the dusk were drifting through the autumn leaves when we came so unexpectedly upon the inn that was not marked upon our big-scaled map. And most opportunely, for Ducommun, my friend, was clearly overtired. An irritability foreign to his placid temperament had made the last few hours’ trudge a little difficult, and I felt we had reached that narrow frontier which lies between non-success and failure.

“Another five miles to the inn we chose this morning,” I told him; “but we’ll soon manage it at a steady pace.”

And he groaned, “I’m done! I simply couldn’t do it.”

He sank down upon the bit of broken wall to rest, while the darkness visibly increased, and the wind blew damp and chill across the marshes on our left. But behind the petulance of his tone, due to exhaustion solely, lay something else as well, something that had been accumulating for days. For our walking tour had not{140} turned out quite to measure, distances always under-calculated; the inns, moreover, bad; the people surly and inhospitable; even the weather cross.

And Ducommun’s disappointment had in a sense been double, so that I felt keen sympathy with him. For this was the country where his ancestors once reigned as proprietors, grand seigneurs, and the rest; he had always longed to visit it; and secretly in his imagination had cherished a reconstructed picture in which he himself would somehow play some high, distinguished rôle his proud blood entitled him to. Clerk to-day in a mere insurance office, but descendant of romantic, ancient stock, he knew the history of the period intimately; the holiday had been carefully, lovingly planned; and—the unpleasantness of the inhabitants had shattered his dream thus fostered and so keenly anticipated. The breaking-point had been reached. Was not this inn we hoped to reach by dark a portion of the very château—he had established it from musty records enough—where once his family dwelt in old-time splendour? And had he not indulged all manner of delightful secret dreaming in advance?...

It was here, then, returning from a little private reconnoitring on my own account, that I reported my brave discovery of an unexpected half-way house, and found him almost asleep upon the stones, unwilling to believe the short{141} half-mile I promised. “Only another nest of robbery and insolence,” he laughed sourly, “and, anyhow, not the inn we counted on.” He dragged after me in silence, eyeing askance the tumbled, ivy-covered shanty that stood beside the roadway, yet gladly going in ahead of me to rest his weary limbs, and troubling himself no whit with bargaining that he divined might be once more unpleasant.

Yet the inn proved a surprise in another way—it was entirely delightful. There was a glowing fire of peat in a biggish hall, the patron and his wife were all smiles and pleasure, welcoming us with an old-fashioned dignity that made bargaining impossible, and in ten minutes we felt as much at home as if we had arrived at a country house where we had been long expected.

“So few care to stop here now,” the old woman told us, with a gracious gesture that was courtly rather than deferential, “we stand no longer upon the old high road,” and showed in a hundred nameless ways that all they had was entirely at our disposal. Till even Ducommun melted and turned soft: “Only in France could this happen,” he whispered with a touch of pride, as though claiming that this fragrance of gentle life, now fast disappearing from the world, still lingered in the land of his descent and in his own blood too. He patted the huge, rough deer-hound that seemed to fill the little room where we awaited supper, and the friendly{142} creature, bounding with a kind of subdued affection, added another touch of welcome. His face and manners were evidence of kind treatment; he was proud of his owners and of his owners’ guests. I thought of well-loved pets in our English country houses. “This beast,” I laughed, “has surely lived with gentlemen.” And Ducommun took the compliment to himself with personal satisfaction.

It is difficult to tell afterwards with accuracy the countless little touches that made the picture all so gentle—they were so delicately suggested, painted in silently with such deft spiritual discretion. It stands out in my memory, set in some strange, high light, as the most enchanting experience of many a walking tour; and yet, about it all, like a veil of wonder that evades description, an atmosphere of something at the same time—I use the best available word—truly singular. This touch of something remote, indefinite, unique, began to steal over me from the very first, bringing with it an incalculable, queer charm. It lulled like a drug all possible suspicions. And in my friend—detail of the picture nearest to my heart, that is—it first betrayed itself, with a degree of surprise, moreover, not entirely removed from shock.

For as he passed before me underneath that low-browed porch, quite undeniably he—altered. This indefinable change clothed his entire pre{143}sentment to my eyes; to tired eyes, I freely grant, as also that it was dusk, and that the transforming magic of the peat fire was behind him. Yet, eschewing paragraphs of vain description, I may put a portion of it crudely thus, perhaps: that his lankiness turned suddenly all grace; the atmosphere of the London office stool, as of the clerk a-holidaying, vanished; and that the way he bowed his head to enter the dark-beamed lintel of the door was courtly and high bred, instinct with native elegance, and in the real sense aristocratic. It came with an instant and complete conviction. It was wonderful to see; and it gave me a moment’s curious enchantment. All that I divined and loved in the man, usually somewhat buried, came forth upon the surface. A note of explanation followed readily enough, half explanation at any rate—that houses alter people because, like dressing-up with women and children, they furnish a new setting to the general appearance, and the points one is accustomed to undergo a readjustment. Yet with him this subtle alteration did not pass; it not only clung to him during the entire evening, but most curiously increased. He maintained, indeed, his silence the whole time, but it was a happy, dreaming silence holding the charm of real companionship, his disappointment gone as completely as the memory of our former cheerless inns and ill-conditioned people.{144}

I cannot pretend, though, that I really watched him carefully, since an attack from another quarter divided my attention equally, and the charm of the daughter of the house, in whose eyes, it seemed to me, lay all the quiet sadness of the country we had walked through—triste, morne, forsaken land—claimed a great part of my observant sympathy. The old people left us entirely to her care, and the way she looked after us, divining our wants before we ventured to express them, was more suggestive of the perfect hostess than merely of someone who would take payment for all that she supplied. The question of money, indeed, did not once intrude, though I cannot say whence came my impression that this hospitality was, in fact, offered without the least idea of remuneration in silver and gold. That it did come, I can swear; also, that behind it lay no suggestion of stiff prices to be demanded at the last moment on the plea that terms had not been settled in advance. We were made welcome like expected guests, and my heart leaped to encounter this spirit of old-fashioned courtesy that the greed of modern life has everywhere destroyed.

“To-morrow or the next day, when you are rested,” said the maiden softly, sitting beside us after supper and tending the fire, “I will take you through the Allée des tilleuls towards the river, and show you where the fishing is so good.{145}

For it seemed natural that she should sit and chat with us, and only afterwards I remembered sharply that the river was a good five miles from where we housed, across marshes that could boast no trees at all, tilleuls least of all, and of avenues not a vestige anywhere.

“We’ll start,” Ducommun answered promptly, taking my breath a little, “in the dawn”; and presently then made signs to go to bed.

She brought the candles, lit them for us with a spill of paper from the peat, and handed one to each, a little smile of yearning in her deep, soft eyes that I remember to this day.

“You will sleep long and well,” she said half shyly, accompanying us to the foot of the stairs. “I made and aired the beds with my own hands.”

And the last I saw of her, as we turned the landing corner overhead, was her graceful figure against the darkness, with the candle-light falling upon the coiled masses of her dark-brown hair. She gazed up after us with those large grey eyes that seemed to me so full of yearning, and yet so sad, so patient, so curiously resigned....

Ducommun pulled me almost roughly by the arm. “Come,” he said with sudden energy, and as though everything was settled. “We have an early start, remember!”

I moved unwillingly; it was all so strange and dreamlike, the beauty of the girl so en{146}chanting, the change in himself so utterly perplexing.

“It’s like staying with friends in a country house,” I murmured, lingering in a moment of bewilderment by his door. “Old family retainers almost, proud and delighted to put one up, eh?”

And his answer was so wholly unexpected that I waited, staring blankly into his altered eyes:

“I only hope we shall get away all right,” he muttered. “I mean, that is—get off.”

Evidently his former mood had flashed a moment back. “You feel tired?” I suggested sympathetically, “so do I.”

“Dog-tired, yes,” he answered shortly, then added in a slow, suggestive whisper—“And I feel cold, too—extraordinarily cold.”

The significant, cautious way he said it made me start. But before I could prate of chills and remedies, he quickly shut the door upon me, leaving those last words ringing in my brain—“cold, extraordinarily cold.” And an inkling stole over me of what he meant; uninvited and unwelcome it came, then passed at once, leaving a vague uneasiness behind. For the cold he spoke of surely was not bodily cold. About my own heart, too, moved some strange touch of chill. Cold sought an entrance. But it was not common cold. Rather it was in the mind and thoughts, and settled down upon the{147} spirit. In describing his own sensations he had also described my own; for something at the very heart of me seemed turning numb....

I got quickly into bed. The night was still and windless, but, though I was tired, sleep held long away. Uneasiness continued to affect me. I lay, listening to the blood hurrying along the thin walls of my veins, singing and murmuring, and, when at length I dropped off, two vivid pictures haunted me into unconsciousness—his face in the doorway as he made that last remark, and the face of the girl as she had peered up so yearningly at him over the shaded candle.

Then—at once, it seemed—I was wide awake again, aware, however, that an interval had passed, but aware also of another thing that was incredible, and somehow dreadful, namely, that while I slept, the house had undergone a change. It caught me, shivering in my bed, utterly unprepared, as though unfair advantage had been taken of me while I lay unconscious. This startling idea of external alteration made me shudder. How I so instantly divined it lies beyond all explanation. I somehow realised that, while the room I woke in was the same as before, the building of which it formed a little member had known in the darkness some transmuting, substituting change that had turned it otherwise. My terror I also cannot explain, nor why, almost immediately, instead of increasing, it subtly shifted into that numbness I have already{148} mentioned—a curious, deep bemusement of the spirit that robbed it of really acute distress. It seemed as if only a part of me—the wakened part—knew what was going on, and that some other part remained in sleep and ignorance.

For the house was now enormous. It had experienced this weird transformation. The roof, I somehow knew, rose soaring through the darkness; the walls ran over acres; it had towers, wings, and battlements, broad balconies, and magnificent windows. It had grown both dignified and ancient ... and had swallowed up our little inn as comfortably as a palace includes a single bedroom. The blackness about me of course concealed it, but I felt the yawning corridors, the gape of lofty halls, high ceilings, spacious chambers, till I seemed lost in the being of some stately building that extended itself with imposing majesty upon the night.

Then came the instinct—more, perhaps, a driving impulse than a mere suggestion—to go out and see. See what? I asked myself, as I made my way towards the window gropingly, unwilling or afraid to strike a light. And the answer, utterly without explanation, came hard and sharp like this—

“To catch them on the lawn.”

And the curious phrase I knew was right, for the surroundings had changed equally with the house. I drew aside the curtain and peered out upon a lawn that a few hours ago had been{149} surely a rather desolate, plain roadway, and beyond it into spacious gardens, bounded by park-like timber, where before had been but dreary, half-cultivated fields.

Through a risen mist the light of the moon shone faintly, and everywhere my sight confirmed the singular impression of extension I have mentioned, for away to the left another mass of masonry that was like the wing of some great mansion rose dimly through the air, and beneath my very eyes a projecting balcony obscured pathways and beds of flowers. Next, where a gleam of moonlight caught it, I saw the broad, slow bend of river edging the lawn through clumps of willows. Even the river had come close. And while I stared, striving to force from so much illusion a single fact that might explain, a little tree upon the lawn just underneath moved slightly nearer, and I saw it was a human figure—a figure that I recognised. Wrapped in some long, loose garment, the daughter of the house stood there in an attitude of waiting. And the waiting was at once explained, for another figure—this time the figure of a man that seemed to me both strange and familiar at the same time—emerged from the shadows of the house to join her. She slipped into his arms. Then came a sound of horses neighing in their stalls, and the couple moved away with sudden swiftness silently as ghosts, disappearing in the mist while three minutes later I heard the crunch of{150} hoofs on gravel, dying rapidly away into the distance of the night.

And here a sudden, wild reaction, not easy of analysis, rushed over me, as if that other part of me that had not waked now came sharply to the rescue, set free from the inhibition of some drug. I felt anger, disgust, resentment, and a wave of indignation that somehow I was being tricked. Impulsively—there seemed no time for judgment or reflection—I crossed the landing, now so oddly deep and lofty, and, without knocking, ran headlong into my friend’s room. The bed, I saw at once, was empty, the sheets not even lain in. The furniture was in disorder, garments strewn about the floor, signs of precipitate flight in all directions. And Ducommun, of course, was gone.

What happened next confuses me when I try to think of it, for my only recollection is of hurrying distractedly to and fro between his bedroom and my own. There was a rush and scuttling in the darkness, and then I blundered heavily against walls or furniture or both, and the darkness rose up over my mind with a smothering thick curtain that blinded everything ... and I came to my senses in the open road, my friend standing over me, enormous in the dusk, and the bit of broken wall where he had rested while I reconnoitred, just behind us. The moon was rising, the air was damp and chill, and he was shouting in my ear, “I thought you{151} were never coming back again. I’m rested now. We’d better hurry on and do those beastly five miles to the inn.”

We started, walking so briskly that we reached it in something over seventy minutes, and passing on the way no single vestige of a house nor of any kind of building. I was the silent one, but when Ducommun talked it was only to curse the desolate, sad country, and wonder why his forbears had ever chosen such a wilderness to live in. And when at length we put up at this inn which he made out was a part of his original family estate, he spent the evening poring over maps and papers, by means of which he admitted finally his calculations were all wrong. “The house itself,” he said, “must have stood farther back along the road we came by. The river, you see,” pointing to the dirty old chart, “has changed its course a bit since then. Its older bed lay much nearer to the château, flanking the garden lawn below the park.” And he pointed again to the place with a finger that obviously now held office pens.{152}



It began delightfully: “Where are you going for your holiday, Bill?” his sister asked casually one day at tea, someone having mentioned a trip to Italy; “climbing, I suppose, as usual?” And he had answered just as casually, “Climbing, yes, as usual.”

They were both workers, she a rich woman’s secretary, and he keeping a stool warm in an office. She was to have a month, he a bare three weeks, and this summer it so happened, the times overlapped. To each the holiday was of immense importance, looked forward to eagerly through eleven months of labour, and looked back upon afterwards through another long eleven months. Frances went either to Scotland or some little pension in Switzerland, painting the whole time, and taking a friend of similar tastes with her. He went invariably to the Alps. They had never gone together as yet, because—well, because she painted and he climbed. But this year a vague idea had come to each that they might combine, choosing some place where{153} both tastes might be satisfied. Since last summer there had been deaths in the family; they realised loneliness, felt drawn together like survivors of a wreck. He often went to tea with her in her little flat, and she accompanied him sometimes to dinner in his Soho restaurants. Fundamentally, however, they were not together, for their tastes did not assimilate well, and their temperaments lacked that sympathy which fuses emotion and thought in a harmonious blend. Affection was real and deep, but strongest when they were apart.

Now, as he walked home to his lodgings on the other side of London, he felt it would be nice if they could combine their holidays for once. Her casual question was a feeler in the same direction. A few days later she repeated it in a postscript to a letter: “Why not go together this year,” she wrote, “choosing some place where you can climb and Sybil and I can paint? I leave on the 1st; you follow on the 15th. We could have two weeks in the same hotel. It would be awfully jolly. Let me know what you feel, and mind you are quite frank about it.”

They exchanged letters, discussed places, differed mildly, and agreed to meet for full debate. The stage of suggestion was past; it was a plan now. They must decide, or go separately. One of them, that is to say, must take the responsibility of saying No. Frances leaned to the Engadine—Maloja—whereas her brother{154} thought it “not a bad place, but no good as a climbing centre. Still, Pontresina is within reach, and there are several peaks I’ve never done round Pontresina. We’ll talk it over.” The exchange of letters became wearisome and involved, because each wrote from a different point of view and feeling, and each gave in weakly to the other, yet left a hint of sacrifice behind. “It’s a very lovely part,” she wrote of his proposal for the Dolomites, “only it’s a long way off and expensive to get at, and the scenery is a bit monotonous for painting. You understand. Still, for two weeks——“; while he criticised her alternative selections in the Rhone Valley as “rather touristy and overcrowded, don’t you think?—the sort of thing that everybody paints.” Both were busy, and wrote sometimes briefly, not making themselves quite plain, each praising the other’s choice, then qualifying it destructively at the end of apparently unselfish sentences with a formidable and prohibitive “but.” The time was getting short meanwhile. “We ought to take our rooms pretty soon,” wrote Frances. “Immediately, in fact, if we want to get in anywhere,” he answered on a letter-card. “Come and dine to-night at the Gourmet, and we’ll settle everything.”

They met. And at first they talked of everything else in the world but the one thing in their minds. They talked a trifle boisterously; but{155} the boisterousness was due to excitement, and the excitement to an unnatural effort to feign absolute sympathy which did not exist fundamentally. The bustle of humanity about them, food, and a glass of red wine, gradually smoothed the edges of possible friction, however.

“You look tired, Bill.”

“I am rather,” he laughed. “We both need a holiday, don’t we?”

The ice was broken.

“Now, let’s talk of the Alps,” she said briskly. “It’s been so difficult to explain in writing, hasn’t it?”

“Impossible,” he laughed, and pulled out of his pocket a sheet of notepaper on which he had made some notes. Frances took a Baedeker from her velvet bag on the hook above her head. “Capital,” he laughed; “we’ll settle everything in ten minutes.”

“It will be so awfully jolly to go together for once,” she said, and they felt so happy and sympathetic, so sure of agreement, so ready each to give in to the other, that they began with a degree of boldness that seemed hardly wise. “Say exactly what you think—quite honestly,” each said to the other. “We must be candid, you know. It’s too important to pretend. It would be silly, wouldn’t it?” But neither realised that this meant, “I’ll persuade you that my place is best and the only place where I could really enjoy my holiday.” Bill cleared a{156} space before him on the table, lit a cigarette, and felt the joy of making plans in his heart. Francis turned the pages to her particular map, equally full of delight. What fun it was!

“All I want, Bill dear, is a place where I can paint—forests, streams, and those lovely fields of flowers. Almost anywhere would do for me. You understand, don’t you?”

“Rather,” he laughed, making a little more room for his own piece of paper, “and you shall have it, too, old girl. All I want is some good peaks within reach, and good guides on the spot. We’ll have our evenings together, and when I’m not climbing, we’ll go for picnics while you paint, and—and be awfully jolly all together. Sybil’s a nice girl. We shall be a capital trio.” He put her Baedeker at the far corner of the table for a moment.

“Oh, please don’t lose my place in it,” she said, pulling the marker across the page and leaving the tip out.

“I’m sorry,” he replied, and they laughed—less boisterously.

“You tell me your ideas first,” she decided, “and then I’ll tell you mine. If we can’t agree then, we’re not fit to have a holiday at all!”

It worked up with deadly slowness to the rupture that was inevitable from the beginning. Both were tired after, not a day’s, but a year’s work; both felt selfish and secretly ashamed; both realised also that an unsuccessful holiday{157} was too grave a risk to run—it involved eleven months’ disappointment and regret. Yet, if this plan failed, any future holiday together would be impossible.

“After all,” sighed Frances peevishly at length, “perhaps we had better go separately.”

It was so tiring, this endless effort to find the right place; their reserve of vitality was not equal to the obstacles that cropped up everywhere. Full, high spirits are necessary to see things whole. They exaggerated details. “It’s funny,” he thought; “she might realise that climbing is what I need. One can paint everywhere!” But in her own mind the reflection was the same, turned the opposite way: “Bill doesn’t understand that one can’t paint anything. Yet, for climbing, one peak is just as good as another.” He thought her obstinate and faddy; she felt him stubborn and rather stupid.

“Now, old girl,” he said at length, pushing his papers aside with a weary gesture of resignation, having failed to convince her how admirable his choice had been, “let’s look at your place.” He laughed patiently, but the cushions provided by food and wine and excitement had worn thin. Friction increased; words pricked; the tide of sympathy ebbed—it had been forced really all along, pumped up; their tastes and temperaments did not amalgamate. Frances opened her Baedeker and ex{158}plained mechanically. She now saw clearly the insuperable difficulties in the way, but for sentimental and affectionate reasons declined to be the first to admit the truth. She was braver, bigger than he was, but her heart prevented the outspoken honesty that would have saved the situation. He, though unselfish as men go, could not conceal his knowledge that he was so. Each vied with the other in the luxury of giving up with apparent sweetness, only the luxury was really beyond the means of either. With the Baedeker before them on the table, the ritual was again gone through—from her point of view, while in sheer weariness he agreed to conditions his strength could never fulfil when the time came. They met half-way upon Champéry in the Valais Alps above the Rhone. It satisfied neither of them. But speech was exhausted; energy flagged; the restaurant, moreover, was emptying and lights being turned out.

They put away Baedeker and paper, paid the bill, and rose to go, each keenly disappointed, each feeling conscious of having made a big sacrifice. On the steps he turned to help her put her coat on, and their eyes met. They felt miles apart. “So much for my holiday,” he thought, “after waiting eleven months!” and there was a flash of resentful anger in his heart. He turned it unconsciously against his sister.

“Don’t write for rooms till the end of the{159} week,” he suggested. “I may think of a better place after all.”

It was the tone that stung her nerves, perhaps. She really hated Champéry—a crowded, touristy, ‘organised’ place. Her sacrifice had gone for nothing. “Even now he’s not satisfied!” she realised with bitterness.

“Oh, if you don’t feel it’ll do, Bill, dear,” she answered coolly, “I really think we’d better give it up—going together, I mean.” Her force was exhausted.

He felt sore, offended, injured. He looked sharply at her, almost glared. A universe lay between them now. Before there was time to reflect or choose his words, even to soften his tone, he had answered coldly:

“Just as you like, Frances. I don’t want to spoil your holiday. You’re right. We’d better go separately then.”

Nothing more was said. He saw her to the station of the Tube, but the moment the train had gone he realised that the final wave of her little hand betrayed somehow that tears were very close. She had not shown her face again. He felt sad, ashamed, and bitter. Deeper than the resentment, however, was a great ache in his heart that was pain. Remorse surged over him. He thought of her year of toil, her tired little face, her disappointment. Her brief holiday, so feverishly yearned for, would now be tinged with sadness and regret, wherever{160} she went. Memory flashed back to their childhood together, when life smiled upon them in that Kentish garden. They were the only two survivors. Yet they could not manage even a holiday together....

Though so little had been said at the end, it was a rupture.... He went home to bed, planning a splendid reconstruction. Before they went to their respective work-places in the morning he would run over and see her, put everything straight and sweet again, explaining his selfishness, perhaps, on the plea that he was overtired. He wondered, as he lay ashamed and sad upon his sleepless bed, what she was thinking and feeling now ... and fell asleep at last with his plan of reconstruction all completed. His last conscious thought was—“I wish I had not let her go like that ... without a nice good-bye!”

In the morning, however, he had not time to go; he postponed it to the evening, sending her a telegram instead: “Come dinner to-night same place and time. Have worked out perfect plan.” And all day long he looked forward eagerly to their meeting. Those childhood thoughts haunted him strangely—he remembered the enormous plans all had made together years ago in that old Kentish garden where the hopfields peered above the privet hedge and frightened them. There were five of them then; now there were only two.{161}

But plans, large or small, are not so easily made. Fate does not often give two chances in succession. And Fate that day was very busy in and out among the London traffic. Frances, hopeful and delighted, kept the appointment,—and waited a whole hour before she went anxiously to his flat to find out what was wrong. In the awful room she knew that Fate had made a different plan, and had carried it out. She was too late for him to recognise her, even. In the pocket of the coat he had been wearing she found a sheet of paper giving the names of hotels at Maloja, pension terms, and railway connections from London. She also found the letter he had written engaging the rooms. The envelope was addressed and stamped, but left open for her final approval. She keeps it still.

What she also keeps, however, more than the recollection of real, big quarrels that had come into their lives at other times, is the memory of the way they had left one another at that Tube station, and the horrid fact that she had gone home with resentment and unforgiveness in her heart. It was such a little thing at the moment. But the big, formidable quarrels had been adjusted, made up, forgotten, whereas this other regret would burn her till she died. “We were so cross and tired. But it {162}might so easily have been different. If only ... I had not left him ... just like that ...!”



These three—the old physicist, the girl, and the young Anglican parson who was engaged to her—stood by the window of the country house. The blinds were not yet drawn. They could see the dark clump of pines in the field, with crests silhouetted against the pale wintry sky of the February afternoon. Snow, freshly fallen, lay upon lawn and hill. A big moon was already lighting up.

“Yes, that’s the wood,” the old man said, “and it was this very day fifty years ago—February 13—the man disappeared from its shadows; swept in this extraordinary, incredible fashion into invisibility—into some other place. Can you wonder the grove is haunted?” A strange impressiveness of manner belied the laugh following the words.

“Oh, please tell us,” the girl whispered; “we’re all alone now.” Curiosity triumphed; yet a vague alarm betrayed itself in the questioning glance she cast for protection at her younger companion, whose fine face, on the{163} other hand, wore an expression that was grave and singularly “rapt.” He was listening keenly.

“As though Nature,” the physicist went on, half to himself, “here and there concealed vacuums, gaps, holes in space (his mind was always speculative; more than speculative, some said), through which a man might drop into invisibility—a new direction, in fact, at right angles to the three known ones—‘higher space,’ as Bolyai, Gauss, and Hinton might call it; and what you, with your mystical turn”—looking toward the young priest—“might consider a spiritual change of condition, into a region where space and time do not exist, and where all dimensions are possible—because they are one.”

“But, please, the story,” the girl begged, not understanding these dark sayings, “although I’m not sure that Arthur ought to hear it. He’s much too interested in such queer things as it is!” Smiling, yet uneasy, she stood closer to his side, as though her body might protect his soul.

“Very briefly, then, you shall hear what I remember of this haunting, for I was barely ten years old at the time. It was evening—clear and cold like this, with snow and moonlight—when someone reported to my father that a peculiar sound, variously described as crying, singing, wailing, was being heard in the grove. He paid no attention until my sister heard it too, and was frightened. Then he sent a groom{164} to investigate. Though the night was brilliant the man took a lantern. We watched from this very window till we lost his figure against the trees, and the lantern stopped swinging suddenly, as if he had put it down. It remained motionless. We waited half an hour, and then my father, curiously excited, I remember, went out quickly, and I, utterly terrified, went after him. We followed his tracks, which came to an end beside the lantern, the last step being a stride almost impossible for a man to have made. All around the snow was unbroken by a single mark, but the man himself had vanished. Then we heard him calling for help—above, behind, beyond us; from all directions at once, yet from none, came the sound of his voice; but though we called back he made no answer, and gradually his cries grew fainter and fainter, as if going into tremendous distance, and at last died away altogether.”

“And the man himself?” asked both listeners.

“Never returned—from that day to this has never been seen.... At intervals for weeks and months afterwards reports came in that he was still heard crying, always crying for help. With time, even these reports ceased—for most of us,” he added under his breath; “and that is all I know. A mere outline, as you see.”

The girl did not quite like the story, for the old man’s manner made it too convincing. She was half disappointed, half frightened.{165}

“See! there are the others coming home,” she exclaimed, with a note of relief, pointing to a group of figures moving over the snow near the pine trees. “Now we can think of tea!” She crossed the room to busy herself with the friendly tray as the servant approached to fasten the shutters. The young priest, however, deeply interested, talked on with their host, though in a voice almost too low for her to hear. Only the final sentences reached her, making her uneasy—absurdly so, she thought—till afterwards.

“—for matter, as we know, interpenetrates matter,” she heard, “and two objects may conceivably occupy the same space. The odd thing really is that one should hear, but not see; that air-waves should bring the voice, yet ether-waves fail to bring the picture.”

And then the older man: “—as if certain places in Nature, yes, invited the change—places where these extraordinary forces stir from the earth as from the surface of a living Being with organs—places like islands, mountain-tops, pine-woods, especially pines isolated from their kind. You know the queer results of digging absolutely virgin soil, of course—and that theory of the earth’s being alive——” The voice dropped again.

“States of mind also helping the forces of the place,” she caught the priest’s reply in part; “such as conditions induced by music, by{166} intense listening, by certain moments in the Mass even—by ecstasy or——”

“I say, what do you think?” cried a girl’s voice, as the others came in with welcome chatter and odours of tweeds and open fields. “As we passed your old haunted pine-wood we heard such a queer noise. Like someone wailing or crying. Cæsar howled and ran; and Harry refused to go in and investigate. He positively funked it!” They all laughed. “More like a rabbit in a trap than a person crying,” explained Harry, a blush kindly concealing his startling pallor. “I wanted my tea too much to bother about an old rabbit.”

It was some time after tea when the girl became aware that the priest had disappeared, and putting two and two together, ran in alarm to her host’s study. Quite easily, from the hastily opened shutters, they saw his figure moving across the snow. The moon was very bright over the world, yet he carried a lantern that shone pale yellow against the white brilliance.

“Oh, for God’s sake, quick!” she cried, pale with fear. “Quick! or we’re too late! Arthur’s simply wild about such things. Oh, I might have known—I might have guessed. And this is the very night. I’m terrified!”

By the time he had found his overcoat and slipped round the house with her from the back door, the lantern, they saw, was already{167} swinging close to the pine-wood. The night was still as ice, bitterly cold. Breathlessly they ran, following the tracks. Half-way his steps diverged, and were plainly visible in the virgin snow by themselves. They heard the whispering of the branches ahead of them, for pines cry even when no airs stir. “Follow me close,” said the old man sternly. The lantern, he already saw, lay upon the ground unattended; no human figure was anywhere visible.

“See! The steps come to an end here,” he whispered, stooping down as soon as they reached the lantern. The tracks, hitherto so regular, showed an odd wavering—the snow curiously disturbed. Quite suddenly they stopped. The final step was a very long one—a stride, almost immense, “as though he was pushed forward from behind,” muttered the old man, too low to be overheard, “or sucked forward from in front—as in a fall.”

The girl would have dashed forward but for his strong restraining grasp. She clutched him, uttering a sudden dreadful cry. “Hark! I hear his voice!” she almost sobbed. They stood still to listen. A mystery that was more than the mystery of night closed about their hearts—a mystery that is beyond life and death, that only great awe and terror can summon from the deeps of the soul. Out of the heart of the trees, fifty feet away, issued a crying voice, half wailing, half singing, very faint. “Help! help!” it{168} sounded through the still night; “for the love of God, pray for me!”

The melancholy rustling of the pines followed; and then again the singular crying voice shot past above their heads, now in front of them, now once more behind. It sounded everywhere. It grew fainter and fainter, fading away, it seemed, into distance that somehow was appalling.... The grove, however, was empty of all but the sighing wind; the snow unbroken by any tread. The moon threw inky shadows; the cold bit; it was a terror of ice and death and this awful singing cry....

“But why pray?” screamed the girl, distracted, frantic with her bewildered terror. “Why pray? Let us do something to help—do something ...!” She swung round in a circle, nearly falling to the ground. Suddenly she perceived that the old man had dropped to his knees in the snow beside her and was—praying.

“Because the forces of prayer, of thought, of the will to help, alone can reach and succour him where he now is,” was all the answer she got. And a moment later both figures were kneeling in the snow, praying, so to speak, their very heart’s life out....

The search may be imagined—the steps taken by police, friends, newspapers, by the whole country in fact.... But the most curious part of this queer “Higher Space” adventure is the end of it—at least, the “end” so far as{169} at present known. For after three weeks, when the winds of March were a-roar about the land, there crept over the fields towards the house the small dark figure of a man. He was thin, pallid as a ghost, worn and fearfully emaciated, but upon his face and in his eyes were traces of an astonishing radiance—a glory unlike anything ever seen.... It may, of course, have been deliberate, or it may have been a genuine loss of memory only; none could say—least of all the girl whom his return snatched from the gates of death; but, at any rate, what had come to pass during the interval of his amazing disappearance he has never yet been able to reveal.

“And you must never ask me,” he would say to her—and repeat even after his complete and speedy restoration to bodily health—“for I simply cannot tell. I know no language, you see, that could express it. I was near you all the time. But I was also—elsewhere and otherwise....{170}



She sent the servant to bed at half-past ten, and sat up in the flat alone. “I’ll let my cousin in,” she explained; “she may be rather late.” She read, knitted, began a letter, poked the fire, and examined her husband’s photographs on the mantelpiece; but most of the time she looked about her nervously, sometimes going to the door to listen, sometimes lifting the corner of the blind to look out upon the lights of North Kensington struggling with the blackness. The fog was thicker than ever. A rumble of traffic feeling its way floated up to her from below.

But at last the door-bell rang sharply, and she ran to let in the cousin who had promised to spend the two nights with her during her husband’s absence in Paris. They kissed. Both began talking at once.

“I thought you were never coming, Sybil——!”

“The play was out late—and the fog’s bad. I sent on my box this afternoon on purpose.”

“It came safely; and your room’s quite{171} ready. I do hope you’ll manage all right without a maid. Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come, though!”

“Foolish little country mouse!”

“Oh, it’s not that so much, though I admit that London still terrifies me at night rather; but you know this is the first time he’s been away—and I suppose——”

“I know, dear; I understand perfectly.” The cousin was brisk and cheerful. “You feel lonely, of course.” They kissed again. “Just unhook me, will you?” she added, “and I’ll get into my dressing-gown, and then we’ll be cosy over the fire.”

“I saw him off at Victoria at 8.45,” said the little wife when the operation was over.

“Newhaven and Dieppe?”

“Yes. He gets to Paris at seven in the morning. He promised to telephone the first thing.”

“You expensive little monkey!”


“It’s ten shillings for three minutes, or something like that, and you have to go to the G.P.O. or the Mansion House or some such place, I believe.”

“But I thought it was the usual long-distance thing direct here to the flat. He never told me all that.”

“Probably you didn’t give him the chance!”

They laughed, and went on chatting, with{172} feet on the fender and skirts tucked up. The cousin lit her second cigarette. It was after midnight.

“I’m afraid I’m not the least bit sleepy,” said the wife apologetically.

“Nor am I, dear. For once the play excited me.” She began to describe it vigorously. Half-way through the recital the telephone sounded in the hall. It tinkled faintly, but gave no proper ring.

The other started. “There it is again! It’s always doing that—ever since Harry put it in a week ago. I don’t quite like it.” She spoke in a hushed voice.

The cousin looked at her curiously. “Oh, you mustn’t mind that,” she laughed with a reassuring manner. “It’s a little way they have when the line gets out of order. You’re not used to playing the telephone game yet. You should call up the Exchange and complain. Always complain, you know, in this world if you want——”

“There it goes again,” interrupted her friend nervously. “Oh, I do wish it would stop. It’s so like someone standing out there in the hall and trying to talk——”

The cousin jumped up. They went into the hall together, and the experienced one briskly rang up the Exchange and asked if there was anybody trying to “get through.” With fine indignation she complained that no one in the{173} flat could sleep for the noise. After a brief conversation she turned, receiver in hand, to her companion.

“The operator says he’s very sorry, but your line’s a bit troublesome to-night for some reason. Got mixed, or something. He can’t understand it. Advises you to leave the receiver unhooked till the morning. Then it can’t possibly ring, you see!”

They left the receiver swinging, and went back to the fire.

“I’m sorry I’m such a timid donkey,” the wife said, laughing a little; “but I’m not used to it yet. There was no telephone at the farm, you know.” She turned with a sudden start, as though she heard the bell again. “And to-night,” she added in a lower voice, though with an obvious effort at self-control, “for some reason or other I feel uncomfortable, rather—excited, queer, I think.”

“How? Queer?”

“I don’t know exactly; almost as if there was someone else in the flat—someone besides ourselves and the servant, I mean.”

The cousin moved abruptly. She switched on the electric lights in the wall beside her.

“Yes; but it’s only imagination, really,” she said with decision. “It’s natural enough. It’s the fog and the strangeness of London after the loneliness of your farm-life, and your husband being away, and—and all that. Once you{174} analyse these queer feelings they always go——”

“Hark!” exclaimed the wife under her breath. “Wasn’t that a step in the passage?” She sat bolt upright, her face pale, her eyes very bright. They listened a moment. The night was utterly still about them.

“Rubbish!” cried the cousin loudly. “It was my foot knocking the fender; like this—look!” She repeated the sound vigorously.

“I do believe it was,” the other said, only half convinced. “But it is queer. You know I feel exactly as though someone had come into the flat—quite recently, since you came, I mean—just before that tinkling began, in fact.”

“Come, come,” laughed the cousin, “you’ll give us both the jumps. At one o’clock in the morning it’s easy to imagine anything. You’ll be hearing elephants on the stairs next!” She looked sharply about her. “Let’s brew our chocolate and get to bed,” she added. “We shall sleep like tops.”

“One o’clock already! Then Harry’s half-way across by now,” said the wife, smiling at her friend’s language. “But I’m so glad, oh, so glad, you’re here,” she added; “and I think it’s most awfully sweet of you to give up a comfy big house....” They kissed again and laughed. Soon afterwards, having scalded their throats with hot chocolate, they went to bed.{175}

“It simply can’t ring now!” remarked the cousin triumphantly as they passed the receiver dangling in mid-air.

“That’s a relief,” her friend said. “I feel less nervous. Really, I’m too ashamed of myself for anything.”

“Fog’s clearing, too,” Sybil added, peering for a moment through the narrow window by the front door.

An hour later the little flat was still as the grave. No sound of traffic was heard. Even the tinkling of the telephone seemed a whole twenty-four hours away, when suddenly—it began again: first with little soft tentative noises, very faint, troubled, hurried, buried almost out of hearing inside the box; then louder and louder, with sharp jerks—finally with a challenging and alarming peal. And the wife, who had kept her door open, without pretence of sleep, heard it from the very beginning. In a moment she found herself in the passage, and Sybil, wakened by her cry, was at her heels. They turned up the lights and stood facing one another. The hall smelt—as things only smell at night—cold, musty....

“What’s the matter? You frightened me. I heard you scream——!”

“The telephone’s ringing again—violently,” the wife whispered, pale to the lips. “Don’t you hear it? This time there’s someone there—really!{176}

The cousin stared blankly at her. The laugh choked in her throat. “I hear nothing,” she said defiantly, yet without confidence in her voice. “Besides, the thing’s still disconnected. It can’t ring—look!” She pointed to the hanging receiver motionless against the wall. “You’re white as a ghost, though,” she added, coming quickly forward. Her friend moved suddenly to the instrument and picked up the receiver. “It’s someone for me,” she said, with terror in her eyes. “It’s someone who wants to talk to me! Oh, hark! hark how it rings!” Her voice shook. She placed the little disc to her ear and waited while her friend stood by and stared in amazement, uncertain what to do. She had heard no ringing!

“You, Harry!” whispered the wife into the telephone, with brief intervals of silence for the replies. “You? But how in the world so soon?—Yes, I can just hear, but very faintly. Miles and miles away your voice sounds—What?—A wonderful journey? And sooner than you expected!—Not in Paris? Where, then?—Oh! my darling boy—No, I don’t quite hear; I can’t catch it—I don’t understand.... The pain of the sea is nothing—is what?... You know nothing of what ...?”

The cousin came boldly up. She took her arm. “But, child, there’s no one there, bless you! You’re dreaming—you’re in fever or something{177}——”

“Hush! For God’s sake, hush!” She held up a hand. In her face and eyes was an expression indescribable—fear, love, bewilderment. Her body swayed a little, leaning against the wall. “Hush! I hear him still; but, oh! miles and miles away—He says—he’s been trying for hours to find me. First he tried my brain direct, and then—then—oh! he says he may not get back again to me—only he can’t understand, can’t explain why—the cold, the awful cold, keeps his lips from—— Oh!”

She screamed aloud as she flung the receiver down and dropped in a heap upon the floor. “I don’t understand—it’s death, death!” ...

And the collision in the Channel that night, as they learned in due course, occurred a few minutes after one o’clock; while Harry himself, who remained unconscious for several hours after the boat picked him up, could only remember that his last desire as the wave caught him was an intense wish to communicate with his wife and tell her what had happened.... The next thing he knew was opening his eyes in a Dieppe hotel.

And the other curious detail was furnished by the man who came to repair the telephone next day. At the Exchange, he declared, the wire, from midnight till nearly three in the morning, had emitted sparks and flashes of light no one had been able to account for in any usual manner.{178}

“Queer!” said the man to himself, after tinkering and tapping for ten minutes, “but there’s nothing wrong with it at this end. It’s the subscriber, most likely. It usually is!{179}



To be too impressionable is as much a source of weakness as to be hyper-sensitive: so many messages come flooding in upon one another that confusion is the result; the mind chokes, imagination grows congested.

Jones, as an imaginative writing man, was well aware of this, yet could not always prevent it; for if he dulled his mind to one impression, he ran the risk of blunting it to all. To guard his main idea, and picket its safe conduct through the seethe of additions that instantly flocked to join it, was a psychological puzzle that sometimes overtaxed his powers of critical selection. He prepared for it, however. An editor would ask him for a story—“about five thousand words, you know”; and Jones would answer, “I’ll send it you with pleasure—when it comes.” He knew his difficulty too well to promise more. Ideas were never lacking, but their length of treatment belonged to machinery he could not coerce. They were alive; they refused to come to heel to suit mere editors. Midway in a tale that started crystal clear and definite in its{180} original germ, would pour a flood of new impressions that either smothered the first conception, or developed it beyond recognition. Often a short story exfoliated in this bursting way beyond his power to stop it. He began one, never knowing where it would lead him. It was ever an adventure. Like Jack the Giant Killer’s beanstalk it grew secretly in the night, fed by everything he read, saw, felt, or heard. Jones was too impressionable; he received too many impressions, and too easily.

For this reason, when working at a definite, short idea, he preferred an empty room, without pictures, furniture, books, or anything suggestive, and with a skylight that shut out scenery—just ink, blank paper, and the clear picture in his mind. His own interior, unstimulated by the geysers of external life, he made some pretence of regulating; though even under these favourable conditions the matter was not too easy, so prolifically does a sensitive mind engender.

His experience in the empty room of the carpenter’s house was a curious case in point—in the little Jura village where his cousin lived to educate his children. “We’re all in a pension above the Post Office here,” the cousin wrote, “but just now the house is full, and besides is rather noisy. I’ve taken an attic room for you at the carpenter’s near the forest. Some things of mine have been stored there all the winter, but I moved the cases out this morning.{181} There’s a bed, writing-table, wash-handstand, sofa, and a skylight window—otherwise empty, as I know you prefer it. You can have your meals with us,” etc. And this just suited Jones, who had six weeks’ work on hand for which he needed empty solitude. His “idea” was slight and very tender; accretions would easily smother clear presentment; its treatment must be delicate, simple, unconfused.

The room really was an attic, but large, wide, high. He heard the wind rush past the skylight when he went to bed. When the cupboard was open he heard the wind there too, washing the outer walls and tiles. From his pillow he saw a patch of stars peep down upon him. Jones knew the mountains and the woods were close, but he could not see them. Better still, he could not smell them. And he went to bed dead tired, full of his theme for work next morning. He saw it to the end. He could almost have promised five thousand words. With the dawn he would be up and “at it,” for he usually woke very early, his mind surcharged, as though subconsciousness had matured the material in sleep. Cold bath, a cup of tea, and then—his writing-table; and the quicker he could reach the writing-table the richer was the content of imaginative thought. What had puzzled him the night before was invariably cleared up in the morning. Only illness could interfere with the process and routine of it.{182}

But this time it was otherwise. He woke, and instantly realised, with a shock of surprise and disappointment, that his mind was—groping. It was groping for his little lost idea. There was nothing physically wrong with him; he felt rested, fresh, clear-headed; but his brain was searching, searching, moreover, in a crowd. Trying to seize hold of the train it had relinquished several hours ago, it caught at an evasive, empty shell. The idea had utterly changed; or rather it seemed smothered by a host of new impressions that came pouring in upon it—new modes of treatment, points of view, in fact development. In the light of these extensions and novel aspects, his original idea had altered beyond recognition. The germ had marvellously exfoliated, so that a whole volume could alone express it. An army of fresh suggestions clamoured for expression. His subconsciousness had grown thick with life; it surged—active, crowded, tumultuous.

And the darkness puzzled him. He remembered the absence of accustomed windows, but it was only when the candle-light brought close the face of his watch, with two o’clock upon it, that he heard the sound of confused whispering in the corners of the room, and realised with a little twinge of fear that those who whispered had just been standing beside his very bed. The room was full.

Though the candle-light proclaimed it empty{183}—bare walls, bare floor, five pieces of unimaginative furniture, and fifty stars peeping through the skylight—it was undeniably thronged with living people whose minds had called him out of heavy sleep. The whispers, of course, died off into the wind that swept the roof and skylight; but the Whisperers remained. They had been trying to get at him; waking suddenly, he had caught them in the very act.... And all had brought new interpretations with them; his thought had fundamentally altered; the original idea was snowed under; new images brimmed his mind, and his brain was working as it worked under the high pressure of creative moments.

Jones sat up, trembling a little, and stared about him into the empty room that yet was densely packed with these invisible Whisperers. And he realised this astonishing thing—that he was the object of their deliberate assault, and that scores of other minds, deep, powerful, very active minds, were thundering and beating upon the doors of his imagination. The onset of them was terrific and bewildering, the attack of aggressive ideas obliterating his original story beneath a flood of new suggestions. Inspiration had become suddenly torrential, yet so vast as to be unwieldy, incoherent, useless. It was like the tempest of images that fever brings. His first conception seemed no longer “delicate,” but petty. It had turned unreal and tiny, compared with this enormous choice of treatment{184} extension, development, that now overwhelmed his throbbing brain.

Fear caught vividly at him, as he searched the empty attic-room in vain for explanation. There was absolutely nothing to produce this tempest of new impressions. People seemed talking to him all together, jumbled somewhat, but insistently. It was obsession, rather than inspiration; and so bitingly, dreadfully real.

“Who are you all?” his mind whispered to blank walls and vacant corners.

Back from the shouting floor and ceiling came the chorus of images that stormed and clamoured for expression. Jones lay still and listened; he let them come. There was nothing else to do. He lay fearful, negative, receptive. It was all too big for him to manage, set to some scale of high achievement that submerged his own small powers. It came, too, in a series of impressions, all separate, yet all somehow interwoven.

In vain he tried to sort them out and sift them. As well sort out waves upon an agitated sea. They were too self-assertive for direction or control. Like wild animals, hungry, thirsty, ravening, they rushed from every side and fastened on his mind.

Yet he perceived them in a certain sequence.

For, first, the unfurnished attic-chamber was full of human passion, of love and hate, revenge and wicked cunning, of jealousy, courage, cowardice, of every vital human emotion ever longed for, enjoyed, or frustrated, all clamouring for—expression.{185}

Flaming across and through these, incongruously threaded in and out, ran next a yearning softness of incredible beauty that sighed in the empty spaces of his heart, pleading for impossible fulfilment....

And, after these, carrying both one and other upon their surface, huge questions flashed and dived and thundered in a patterned, wild entanglement, calling to be unravelled and made straight. Moreover, with every set came a new suggested treatment of the little clear idea he had taken to bed with him five hours before.

Jones adopted each in turn. Imagination writhed and twisted beneath the stress of all these potential modes of expression he must choose between. His small idea exfoliated into many volumes, work enough to fill a dozen lives. It was most gorgeously exhilarating, though so hopelessly unmanageable. He felt like many minds in one....

Then came another chain of impressions, violent, yet steady owing to their depth; the voices, questions, pleadings turned to pictures; and he saw, struggling through the deeps of him, enormous quantities of people, passing along like rivers, massed, herded, swayed here and there by some outstanding figure of command who directed them like flowing water. They shrieked, and fought, and battled, then sank out of sight, huddled and destroyed in—blood....

And their places were taken instantly by{186} white crowds with shining eyes, and yearning in their faces, who climbed precipitous heights towards some Radiance that kept ever out of sight, like sunrise behind mountains that clouds then swallow.... The pelt and thunder of images was destructive in its torrent; his little, first idea was drowned and wrecked.... Jones sank back exhausted, utterly dismayed. He gave up all attempt to make selection.

The driving storm swept through him, on and on, now waxing, now waning, but never growing less, and apparently endless as the sky. It rushed in circles, like the turning of a giant wheel. All the activities that human minds have ever battled with since thought began came booming, crashing, straining for expression against the imaginative stuff whereof his mind was built. The walls began to yield and settle. It was like the chaos that madness brings. He did not struggle against it; he let it come, lying open and receptive, pliant and plastic to every detail of the vast invasion. And the only time he attempted a complete obedience, reaching out for the pencil and notebook that lay beside his bed, he desisted instantly again, sinking back upon his pillows with a kind of frightened laughter. For the tempest seemed then to knock him down and bruise his very brain. Inextricable confusion caught him. He might as well have tried to make notes of the entire Alexandrian Library in half an hour....{187}

Then, most singular of all, as he felt the sleep of exhaustion fall upon his tired nerves, he heard that deep, prodigious sound. All that had preceded, it gathered marvellously in, mothering it with a sweetness that seemed to his imagination like some harmonious, geometrical skein including all the activities men’s minds have ever known. Faintly he realised it only, discerned from infinitely far away. Into the streams of apparent contradiction that warred so strenuously about him, it seemed to bring some hint of unifying, harmonious explanation.... And, here and there, as sleep buried him, he imagined that chords lay threaded along strings of cadences, breaking sometimes even into melody—music that rose everywhere from life and wove Thought into a homogeneous Whole....

“Sleep well?” his cousin inquired, when he appeared very late next day for déjeuner. “Think you’ll be able to work in that room all right?”

“I slept, yes, thanks,” said Jones. “No doubt I shall work there right enough—when I’m rested. By the bye,” he asked presently, “what has the attic been used for lately? What’s been in it, I mean?”

“Books, only books,” was the reply. “I’ve stored my ‘library’ there for months, without a chance of using it. I move about so much, you see. Five hundred books were taken out{188} just before you came. I often think,” he added lightly, “that when books are unopened like that for long, the minds that wrote them must get restless and——”

“What sort of books were they?” Jones interrupted.

“Fiction, poetry, philosophy, history, religion, music. I’ve got two hundred books on music alone.{189}



“But what seems so odd to me, so horribly pathetic, is that such people don’t resist,” said Leidall, suddenly entering the conversation. The intensity of his tone startled everybody; it was so passionate, yet with a beseeching touch that made the women feel uncomfortable a little. “As a rule, I’m told, they submit willingly, almost as though——”

He hesitated, grew confused, and dropped his glance to the floor; and a smartly dressed woman eager to be heard, seized the opening. “Oh, come now,” she laughed; “one always hears of a man being put into a strait waistcoat. I’m sure he doesn’t slip it on as if he were going to a dance!” And she looked flippantly at Leidall, whose casual manners she resented. “People are put under restraint. It’s not in human nature to accept it—healthy human nature, that is?” But for some reason no one took her question up. “That is so, I believe, yes,” a polite voice murmured, while the group at tea in the Dover Street Club turned{190} with one accord to Leidall as to one whose interesting sentence still remained unfinished. He had hardly spoken before, and a silent man is ever credited with wisdom.

“As though—you were just saying, Mr. Leidall?” a quiet little man in a dark corner helped him.

“As though, I meant, a man in that condition of mind is not insane—all through,” Leidall continued stammeringly; “but that some wise portion of him watches the proceeding with gratitude, and welcomes the protection against himself. It seems awfully pathetic. Still,” again hesitating and fumbling in his speech—“er—it seems queer to me that he should yield quietly to enforced restraint—the waistcoat, handcuffs, and the rest.” He looked round hurriedly, half suspiciously, at the faces in the circle, then dropped his eyes again to the floor. He sighed, leaning back in his chair. “I cannot understand it,” he added, as no one spoke, but in a very low voice, and almost to himself. “One would expect them to struggle furiously.”

Someone had mentioned that remarkable book, The Mind that Found Itself, and the conversation had slipped into this serious vein. The women did not like it. What kept it alive was the fact that the silent Leidall, with his handsome, melancholy face, had suddenly wakened into speech, and that the little man opposite to him, half invisible in his dark corner, was{191} assistant to one of London’s great hypnotic doctors, who could, an’ he would, tell interesting and terrible things. No one cared to ask the direct question, but all hoped for revelations, possibly about people they actually knew. It was a very ordinary tea-party indeed. And this little man now spoke, though hardly in the desired vein. He addressed his remarks to Leidall across the disappointed lady.

“I think, probably, your explanation is the true one,” he said gently, “for madness in its commoner forms is merely want of proportion; the mind gets out of right and proper relations with its environment. The majority of madmen are mad on one thing only, while the rest of them is as sane as myself—or you.”

The words fell into the silence. Leidall bowed his agreement, saying no actual word. The ladies fidgeted. Someone made a jocular remark to the effect that most of the world was mad anyhow, and the conversation shifted with relief into a lighter vein—the scandal in the family of a politician. Everybody talked at once. Cigarettes were lit. The corner soon became excited and even uproarious. The tea-party was a great success, and the offended lady no longer ignored, led all the skirmishes—towards herself. She was in her element. Only Leidall and the little invisible man in the corner took small part in it; and presently, seizing the{192} opportunity when some new arrivals joined the group, Leidall rose to say his adieux, and slipped away, his departure scarcely noticed. Dr. Hancock followed him a minute later. The two men met in the hall; Leidall already had his hat and coat on. “I’m going West, Mr. Leidall. If that’s your way too, and you feel inclined for the walk, we might go together.” Leidall turned with a start. His glance took in the other with avidity—a keenly-searching, hungry glance. He hesitated for an imperceptible moment, then made a movement towards him, half inviting, while a curious shadow dropped across his face and vanished. It was both pathetic and terrible. The lips trembled. He seemed to say, “God bless you; do come with me!” But no words were audible.

“It’s a pleasant evening for a walk,” added Dr. Hancock gently; “clean and dry under foot for a change. I’ll get my hat and join you in a second.” And there was a hint, the merest flavour, of authority in his voice.

That touch of authority was his mistake. Instantly Leidall’s hesitation passed. “I’m sorry,” he said abruptly, “but I’m afraid I must take a taxi. I have an appointment at the Club and I’m late already.” “Oh, I see,” the other replied, with a kindly smile; “then I mustn’t keep you. But if you ever have a free evening, won’t you look me up, or come and dine? You’ll find my telephone number in the book. I should{193} like to talk with you about—those things we mentioned at tea.” Leidall thanked him politely and went out. The memory of the little man’s kindly sympathy and understanding eyes went with him.

“Who was that man?” someone asked, the moment Leidall had left the tea-table. “Surely he’s not the Leidall who wrote that awful book some years ago?”

“Yes—the Gulf of Darkness. Did you read it?”

They discussed it and its author for five minutes, deciding by a large majority that it was the book of a madman. Silent, rude men like that always had a screw loose somewhere, they agreed. Silence was invariably morbid.

“And did you notice Dr. Hancock? He never took his eyes off him. That’s why he followed him out like that. I wonder if he thought anything!”

“I know Hancock well,” said the lady of the wounded vanity. “I’ll ask him and find out.” They chattered on, somebody mentioned a risqué play, the talk switched into other fields, and in due course the tea-party came to an end.

And Leidall, meanwhile, made his way towards the Park on foot, for he had not taken a taxi after all. The suggestion of the other man, perhaps, had worked upon him. He was very open to suggestion. With hands deep in his{194} overcoat pockets, and head sunk forward between his shoulders, he walked briskly, entering the Park at one of the smaller gates. He made his way across the wet turf, avoiding the paths and people. The February sky was shining in the west; beautiful clouds floated over the houses; they looked like the shore-line of some radiant strand his childhood once had known. He sighed; thought dived and searched within; self-analysis, that old, implacable demon, lifted its voice; introspection took the reins again as usual. There seemed a strain upon the mind he could not dispel. Thought circled poignantly. He knew it was unhealthy, morbid, a sign of these many years of difficulty and stress that had marked him so deeply, but for the life of him he could not escape from the hideous spell that held him. The same old thoughts bored their way into his mind like burning wires, tracing the same unanswerable questions. From this torture, waking or sleeping, there was no escape. Had a companion been with him it might have been different. If, for instance, Dr. Hancock——

He was angry with himself for having refused—furious; it was that vile, false pride his long loneliness had fostered. The man was sympathetic to him, friendly, marvellously understanding; he could have talked freely with him, and found relief. His intuition had picked out the little doctor as a man in ten thousand. Why had he so curtly declined his gentle invitation? Dr. Hancock{195} knew; he guessed his awful secret. But how? In what had he betrayed himself?

The weary self-questioning began again, till he sighed and groaned from sheer exhaustion. He must find people, companionship, someone to talk to. The Club—it crossed his tortured mind for a second—was impossible; there was a conspiracy among the members against him. He had left his usual haunts everywhere for the same reason—his restaurants, where he had his lonely meals; his music hall, where he tried sometimes to forget himself; his favourite walks, where the very policemen knew and eyed him. And, coming to the bridge across the Serpentine just then, he paused and leaned over the edge, watching a bubble rise to the surface.

“I suppose there are fish in the Serpentine?” he said to a man a few feet away.

They talked a moment—the other was evidently a clerk on his way home—and then the stranger edged off and continued his walk, looking back once or twice at the sad-faced man who had addressed him. “It’s ridiculous, that with all our science we can’t live under water as the fish do,” reflected Leidall, and moved on round the other bank of the water, where he watched a flight of duck whirl down from the darkening air and settle with a long, mournful splash beside the bushy island. “Or that, for all our pride of mechanism in a mechanical age, we cannot really fly.” But these attempts to escape from self{196} were never very successful. Another part of him looked on and mocked. He returned ever to the endless introspection and self-analysis, and in the deepest moment of it—ran into a big, motionless figure that blocked his way. It was the Park policeman, the one who always eyed him. He sheered off suddenly towards the trees, while the man, recognising him, touched his cap respectfully. “It’s a pleasant evening, sir; turned quite mild again.” Leidall mumbled some reply or other, and hurried on to hide himself among the shadows of the trees. The policeman stood and watched him, till the darkness swallowed him. “He knows too!” groaned the wretched man. And every bench was occupied; every face turned to watch him; there were even figures behind the trees. He dared not go into the street, for the very taxi-drivers were against him. If he gave an address, he would not be driven to it; the man would know, and take him elsewhere. And something in his heart, sick with anguish, weary with the endless battle, suddenly yielded.

“There are fish in the Serpentine,” he remembered the stranger had said. “And,” he added to himself, with a wave of delicious comfort, “they lead secret, hidden lives that no one can disturb.” His mind cleared surprisingly. In the water he could find peace and rest and healing. Good Lord! How easy it all was! Yet he had never thought of it before. He turned{197} sharply to retrace his steps, but in that very second the clouds descended upon his thought again, his mind darkened, he hesitated. Could he get out again when he had had enough? Would he rise to the surface? A battle began over these questions. He ran quickly, then stood still again to think the matter out. Darkness shrouded him. He heard the wind rush laughing through the trees. The picture of the whirring duck flashed back a moment, and he decided that the best way was by air, and not by water. He would fly into the place of rest, not sink or merely float; and he remembered the view from his bedroom window, high over old smoky London town, with a drop of eighty feet on to the pavements. Yes, that was the best way. He waited a moment, trying to think it all out clearly, but one moment the fish had it, and the next the birds. It was really impossible to decide. Was there no one who could help him, no one in all this enormous town who was sufficiently on his side to advise him on the point? Some clear-headed, experienced, kindly man?

And the face of Dr. Hancock flashed before his vision. He saw the gentle eyes and sympathetic smile, remembered the soothing voice and the offer of companionship he had refused. Of course, there was one serious drawback: Hancock knew. But he was far too tactful, too sweet and good a man to let that influence his{198} judgment, or to betray in any way at all that he did know.

Leidall found it in him to decide. Facing the entire hostile world, he hailed a taxi from the nearest gate upon the street, looked up the address in a chemist’s telephone-book, and reached the door in a condition of delight and relief. Yes, Dr. Hancock was at home. Leidall sent his name in. A few minutes later the two men were chatting pleasantly together, almost like old friends, so keen was the little man’s intuitive sympathy and tact. Only Hancock, patient listener though he proved himself to be, was uncommonly full of words. Leidall explained the matter very clearly. “Now, what is your decision, Dr. Hancock? Is it to be the way of the fish or the way of the duck?” And, while Hancock began his answer with slow, well-chosen words, a new idea, better than either, leaped with a flash into his listener’s mind. It was an inspiration. For where could he find a better hiding-place from all his troubles than—inside Hancock himself? The man was kindly; he surely would not object. Leidall this time did not hesitate a second. He was tall and broad; Hancock was small; yet he was sure there would be room. He sprang upon him like a wild animal. He felt the warm, thin throat yield and bend between his great hands ... then darkness, peace and rest, a nothingness that surely was the oblivion he had so long prayed for.{199} He had accomplished his desire. He had secreted himself for ever from persecution—inside the kindliest little man he had ever met—inside Hancock....

He opened his eyes and looked about him into a room he did not know. The walls were soft and dimly coloured. It was very silent. Cushions were everywhere. Peaceful it was, and out of the world. Overhead was a skylight, and one window, opposite the door, was heavily barred. Delicious! No one could get in. He was sitting in a deep and comfortable chair. He felt rested and happy. There was a click, and he saw a tiny window in the door drop down, as though worked by a sliding panel. Then the door opened noiselessly, and in came a little man with smiling face and soft brown eyes—Dr. Hancock.

Leidall’s first feeling was amazement. “Then I didn’t get into him properly after all! Or I’ve slipped out again, perhaps! The dear, good fellow!” And he rose to greet him. He put his hand out, and found that the other came with it in some inexplicable fashion. Movement was cramped. “Ah, then I’ve had a stroke,” he thought, as Hancock pressed him, ever so gently, back into the big chair. “Do not get up,” he said soothingly but with authority; “sit where you are and rest. You must take it very easy for a bit; like all clever men who have overworked{200}——”

“I’ll get in the moment he turns,” thought Leidall. “I did it badly before. It must be through the back of his head, of course, where the spine runs up into the brain,” and he waited till Hancock should turn. But Hancock never turned. He kept his face towards him all the time, while he chatted, moving gradually nearer to the door. On Leidall’s face was the smile of an innocent child, but there lay a hideous cunning behind that smile, and the eyes were terrible.

“Are those bars firm and strong,” asked Leidall, “so that no one can get in?” He pointed craftily, and the doctor, caught for a second unawares, turned his head. That instant Leidall was upon him with a roar, then sank back powerless into the chair, unable to move his arms more than a few inches in any direction. Hancock stepped up quietly and made him comfortable again with cushions.

And something in Leidall’s soul turned round and looked another way. His mind became clear as daylight for a moment. The effort perhaps had caused the sudden change from darkness to great light. A memory rushed over him. “Good God!” he cried. “I am violent. I was going to do you an injury—you who are so sweet and good to me!” He trembled dreadfully, and burst into tears. “For the sake of Heaven,” he implored, looking up, ashamed and keenly penitent, “put me under restraint. Fasten my hands before I try it again.” He{201} held both hands out willingly, beseechingly, then looked down, following the direction of the other’s kind brown eyes. His wrists, he saw, already wore steel handcuffs, and a strait waistcoat was across his chest and arms and shoulders.{202}



One night a Dream came to me and brought with her an old and rusty key. She led me across fields and sweet-smelling lanes, where the hedges were already whispering to one another in the dark of the spring, till we came to a huge, gaunt house with staring windows and lofty roof half hidden in the shadows of very early morning. I noticed that the blinds were of heavy black, and that the house seemed wrapped in absolute stillness.

“This,” she whispered in my ear, “is the House of the Past. Come with me and we will go through some of its rooms and passages; but quickly, for I have not the key for long, and the night is very nearly over. Yet, perchance, you shall remember!”

The key made a dreadful noise as she turned it in the lock, and when the great door swung open into an empty hall and we went in, I heard sounds of whispering and weeping, and the rustling of clothes, as of people moving in their sleep and about to wake. Then, instantly, a{203} spirit of intense sadness came over me, drenching me to the soul; my eyes began to burn and smart, and in my heart I became aware of a strange sensation as of the uncoiling of something that had been asleep for ages. My whole being, unable to resist, at once surrendered itself to the spirit of deepest melancholy, and the pain in my heart, as the Things moved and woke, became in a moment of time too strong for words....

As we advanced, the faint voices and sobbings fled away before us into the interior of the House, and I became conscious that the air was full of hands held aloft, of swaying garments, of drooping tresses, and of eyes so sad and wistful that the tears, which were already brimming in my own, held back for wonder at the sight of such intolerable yearning.

“Do not allow all this sadness to overwhelm you,” whispered the Dream at my side, “It is not often They wake. They sleep for years and years and years. The chambers are all full, and unless visitors such as we come to disturb them, they will never wake of their own accord. But, when one stirs, the sleep of the others is troubled, and they too awake, till the motion is communicated from one room to another and thus finally throughout the whole House.... Then, sometimes, the sadness is too great to be borne, and the mind weakens. For this reason Memory gives to them the sweetest and deepest sleep she has,{204} and she keeps this old key rusty from little use. But, listen now,” she added, holding up her hand; “do you not hear all through the House that trembling of the air like the distant murmur of falling water? And do you not now ... perhaps ... remember?”

Even before she spoke, I had already caught faintly the beginning of a new sound; and, now, deep in the cellars beneath our feet, and from the upper regions of the great House as well, I heard the whispering, and the rustling and the inward stirring of the sleeping Shadows. It rose like a chord swept softly from huge unseen strings stretched somewhere among the foundations of the House, and its tremblings ran gently through all its walls and ceilings. And I knew that I heard the slow awakening of the Ghosts of the Past.

Ah me, with what terrible inrushing of sadness I stood with brimming eyes and listened to the faint dead voices of the long ago.... For, indeed, the whole House was awakening; and there presently rose to my nostrils the subtle, penetrating perfume of Age; of letters, long preserved, with ink faded and ribbons pale; of scented tresses, golden and brown, laid away, ah how tenderly! among pressed flowers that still held the inmost delicacy of their forgotten fragrance; the scented presence of lost memories—the intoxicating incense of the past. My eyes o’erflowed, my heart tightened and expanded, as I yielded{205} myself up without reserve to these old, old influences of sound and smell. These Ghosts of the Past—forgotten in the tumult of more recent memories—thronged round me, took my hands in theirs, and, ever whispering of what I had so long forgot, ever sighing, shaking from their hair and garments the ineffable odours of the dead ages, led me through the vast House, from room to room, from floor to floor.

And the Ghosts—were not all equally clear to me. Some had indeed but the faintest life, and stirred me so little that they left only an indistinct, blurred impression in the air; while others gazed half reproachfully at me out of faded, colourless eyes, as if longing to recall themselves to my recollection; and then, seeing they were not recognised, floated back gently into the shadows of their room, to sleep again undisturbed till the Final Day, when I should not fail to know them.

“Many of them have slept so long,” said the Dream beside me, “that they wake only with the greatest difficulty. Once awake, however, they know and remember you even though you fail to remember them. For it is the rule in this House of the Past that, unless you recall them distinctly, remembering precisely when you knew them and with what particular causes in your past evolution they were associated, they cannot stay awake. Unless you remember them when your eyes meet, unless their{206} look of recognition is returned by you, they are obliged to go back to their sleep, silent and sorrowful, their hands unpressed, their voices unheard, to sleep and dream, deathless and patient, till....”

At this moment, her words died away suddenly into the distance, and I became conscious of an overpowering sensation of delight and happiness. Something had touched me on the lips, and a strong, sweet fire flashed down into my heart and sent the blood rushing tumultuously through my veins. My pulses beat wildly, my skin glowed, my eyes grew tender, and the terrible sadness of the place was instantly dispelled as if by magic. Turning with a cry of joy, that was at once swallowed up in the chorus of weeping and sighing round me, I looked ... and instinctively stretched forth my arms in a rapture of happiness towards ... towards a vision of a Face ... hair, lips, eyes; a cloth of gold lay about the fair neck, and the old, old perfume of the East—ye stars, how long ago—was in her breath. Her lips were again on mine; her hair over my eyes; her arms about my neck, and the love of her ancient soul pouring into mine out of eyes still starry and undimmed. Oh, the fierce tumult, the untold wonder, if I could only remember!... That subtle, mist-dispelling odour of many ages ago, once so familiar ... before the Hills of Atlantis were above the blue sea, or the sands had begun to form the bed of the Sphinx.{207} Yet wait; it comes back; I begin to remember. Curtain upon curtain rises in my soul, and I can almost see beyond. But that hideous stretch of the years, awful and sinister, thousands upon thousands.... My heart shakes, and I am afraid. Another curtain rises and a new vista, farther than the others, comes into view, interminable, running to a point among thick mists. Lo, they too are moving, rising, lightening. At last, I shall see ... already I begin to recall ... the dusky skin ... the Eastern grace, the wondrous eyes that held the knowledge of Buddha and the wisdom of Christ before these had even dreamed of attainment. As a dream within a dream, it steals over me again, taking compelling possession of my whole being ... the slender form ... the stars in that magical Eastern sky ... the whispering winds among the palm trees ... the murmur of the river’s waves and the music of the reeds where they bend and sigh in the shallows on the golden sand. Thousands of years ago in some æonian distance. It fades a little and begins to pass; then seems again to rise. Ah me, that smile of the shining teeth ... those lace-veined lids. Oh, who will help me to recall, for it is too far away, too dim, and I cannot wholly remember; though my lips are still tingling, and my arms still outstretched, it again begins to fade. Already there is the look of sadness too deep for {208}words, as she realises that she is unrecognised ... she, whose mere presence could once extinguish for me the entire universe ... and she goes back slowly, mournfully, silently to her dim, tremendous sleep, to dream and dream of the day when I must remember her and she must come where she belongs....

She peers at me from the end of the room where the Shadows already cover her and win her back with outstretched arms to her age-long sleep in the House of the Past.

Trembling all over, with the strange odour still in my nostrils and the fire in my heart, I turned away and followed my Dream up a broad staircase into another part of the House.

As we entered the upper corridors I heard the wind pass singing over the roof. Its music took possession of me until I felt as though my whole body were a single heart, aching, straining, throbbing as if it would break; and all because I heard the wind singing round this House of the Past.

“But, remember,” whispered the Dream, answering my unspoken wonder, “that you are listening to the song it has sung for untold ages into untold myriad ears. It carries back so appallingly far; and in that simple dirge, profound in its terrible monotony, are the associations and recollections of the joys, griefs, and struggles of all your previous existence. The wind, like the sea, speaks to the inmost memory,” she added, “and that is why its voice is one of such{209} deep spiritual sadness. It is the song of things for ever incomplete, unfinished, unsatisfying.”

As we passed through the vaulted rooms, I noticed that no one stirred. There was no actual sound, only a general impression of deep, collective breathing, like the heave of a muffled ocean. But the rooms, I knew at once, were full to the walls, crowded, rows upon rows.... And, from the floors below, rose ever the murmur of the weeping Shadows as they returned to their sleep, and settled down again in the silence, the darkness, and the dust. The dust.... Ah, the dust that floated in this House of the Past, so thick, so penetrating; so fine, it filled the throat and eyes without pain; so fragrant, it soothed the senses and stilled the aching of the heart; so soft, it parched the tongue, without offence; yet so silently falling, gathering, settling over everything, that the air held it like a fine mist and the sleeping Shadows wore it for their shrouds.

“And these are the oldest,” said my Dream, “the longest asleep,” pointing to the crowded rows of silent sleepers. “None here have wakened for ages too many to count; and even if they woke you would not know them. They are, like the others, all your own, but they are the memories of your earliest stages along the great Path of Evolution. Some day, though, they will awake, and you must know them, and answer their questions, for they cannot die{210} till they have exhausted themselves again through you who gave them birth.”

“Ah me,” I thought, only half listening to or understanding these last words, “what mothers, fathers, brothers may then be asleep in this room; what faithful lovers, what true friends, what ancient enemies! And to think that some day they will step forth and confront me, and I shall meet their eyes again, claim them, know them, forgive, and be forgiven ... the memories of all my Past....”

I turned to speak to the Dream at my side, but she was already fading into dimness, and, as I looked again, the whole House melted away into the flush of the eastern sky, and I heard the birds singing and saw the clouds overhead veiling the stars in the light of coming day.{211}



The Longest Day has in it for children a strange, incommunicable thrill. It begins so early in the morning, for one thing, that half of it—the first half—belongs to the mystery of night. It steals upon the world as though from Fairyland, a thing apart from the rush and scurry of ordinary days; it is so long that nothing happens quickly in it; there is a delicious leisure throughout its shining hours that makes it possible to carry out a hundred schemes unhurried. No voice can call “Time’s up!”; no one can urge “Be quick!”; it passes, true, yet passes like a dream that flows in a circle, having neither proper beginning nor definite end. Christmas Day and Easter Day seem short and sharp by comparison. They are measurable. The Longest Day brims with a happy, endless wonder from dawn to sunset. Exceptional happenings are its prerogative.

All this, and something more no elder can quite grasp, lay stealthily in Jimbo’s question: “Uncle, to-morrow’s the Longest Day. What{212} shall we do?” He glanced across the room at his mother, prepared for a prohibitive remark of some sort. But mother, deep in a stolen book, paid no attention. He looked back at me. “It’s all right; she’s not listening; but we can go outside to discuss it, if you prefer,” his expression said. I beckoned him over to me, however, for safety’s sake. My position was fairly strong, I knew, because the stolen book was mine, and had been taken from my work-table. Jimbo’s mother has this way with books, her passion almost unmoral. If a book comes to me for review, if a friend makes me a present of a book, if I buy or borrow one—the instant it comes into the house she knows it. “I just looked in to see if your room had been dusted,” she says; “I’m sorry to disturb you,” and is gone again. But she has seen the new book. Her instinct is curious. I used to think she bribed the postman. She smells a new arrival, and goes straight for it. “Were you looking for this?” she will ask innocently an hour later when I catch her with it, household account-books neglected by her side. “I’m so sorry. I was just peeping into it.” And she is incorrigible, as unashamed. No book is ever lost, at any rate. “Mother’s got it,” indicates its hiding-place infallibly.

So I felt safe enough discussing plans for the Longest Day with Jimbo, and talked openly with him, while I watched her turn the pages.{213}

“It’s the very beginning I like,” he said. “I want to see it start. The sun rises at 3.44, you see. That’s a quarter to four—three hours and a quarter before I usually get up. How shall we manage it, d’you think?” He had worked it all out.

“There’s hardly any night either,” I said, “for the sun sets at 8.18, and that leaves very little time for darkness. It’s light at two, remember.”

He stared into my face. “Maria has an alarum clock. She wakes with that. It’s by her bed in the attic room, you know.”

Mother turned a page noisily, but did not look up. There was no cause for alarm, though we instinctively lowered our voices at once. I cannot say how it was so swiftly, so deftly arranged between us that I was to steal the clock, set it accurately for two in the morning, rise, dress, and come to fetch Jimbo. But the result was clear beyond equivocation, and I had accepted the duty as a man should. Generously he left this exciting thing to me. “And suppose it doesn’t go off and wake you,” he inquired anxiously, “will you be sure to get up and make it go off? Because we might miss the beginning of the day unless you do.” I explained something about the mechanism of the mind and the mechanism of an alarum clock that seemed to satisfy him, and then he asked another vital question: “What is exactly the{214} Longest Day, uncle? I thought all days were about the same—like that,” and he stretched an imaginary line in the air with one hand, so that Mac, the terrier, thought he wanted to play a moment. I explained that too, to his satisfaction, whereupon he nestled much closer to me, glancing first over his shoulder at his mother, and inquired whether “everything knew it was the Longest Day—birds, cows, and out-of-door things all over the world—rabbits, I mean—like that? They know, I suppose?”

“They certainly must find it longer than other days, ordinary days, just common days,” I said. “I’m sure of that.” And then I cleared my throat so loudly that mother looked up from her book with an unmistakable start. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she exclaimed, with unblushing mendacity, “but d’you want your book? Were you looking for it? I just took a peep——” And when I turned to leave the room with it beneath my arm Jimbo had vanished, leaving no trace behind him.

That night he went to bed without a murmur at half-past eight. He trusted me implicitly. There were no questions: “Have you got the clock?” or “How did you get it?” or anything of the kind—just his absolute confidence that I had got it and that I would wake him. At the stairs, however, he turned and made a sign. Leading me through the back door of the Sussex cottage, we found ourselves a moment in the{215} orchard together. And then, saying no word, he pointed. He pointed everywhere; he stared about him, listening; he looked up into my face, and then at the orchard, and then back into my face again. His whole little person stood on tiptoe, observing, watching, listening. And at first I was disappointed, for I noticed nothing unusual anywhere. “Well, what is it?” my manner probably expressed. But neither of us said a word. The saffron sky shone between the trunks of the apple trees; swallows darted to and fro; a blackbird whistled out of sight; and over the hedge a big cow thrust her head towards us, her body concealed. In the foreground were beehives. The air was very still and scented. My pipe smoke hung almost motionless. I moved from one foot to the other.

“Aha!” I said mysteriously below my breath, “aha!”

And that was sufficient for him. He knew I had seen and understood. He came a step nearer to me, his face solemn and expectant.

“It’s begun already, you see. Isn’t it wonderful? Everything knows.”

“And is getting ready,” I added, “for its coming.”

“The Longest Day,” he whispered, looking about him with suppressed excitement and ready, if necessary, to believe the earth would presently stop turning. He gave one curious{216} look at the sky, shuddered an instant with intense delight, gave my hand a secret squeeze, and disappeared like a goblin into the cottage. But behind him lingered something his little presence had evoked. Wonder and expectation are true words of power, and anticipation constructs the mould along which Imagination later shall lead her fairy band. I realised what he had seen. The orchard, the cow, the beehives did look different. They were inviting, as though something was on the way. The very sky, as the summer dusk spread down it, wore colouring no ordinary June evening knew. Midsummer Eve set free the fairies, and Jimbo knew it. The roses seemed to flutter everywhere on wings.... The very lilac blooms had eyes.... I heard a rustle as of skirts high up among the peeping stars....

How it came about is more than I can say, for I went to bed with a whirr of wings and flowers in my head. The stillness of the night was magical, four short hours of transparent darkness that seemed to gleam and glimmer without hiding anything. Maria’s alarum clock was not beside my bed, for the simple reason that I had not asked for it. Jimbo and the Longest Day between them had cast a glamour over me that had nothing to do with hours, minutes, seconds. It was delicious and inexplicable. Yet at other times I am an ordinary person, who knows that time is money and money is difficult{217} to come by without uncommon effort. All this came for nothing. Jimbo did it.

And what did I do for Jimbo? I cannot say. His is the grand old magical secret. He believed and wondered; he waited and asked no futile questions; time and space obeyed his imperious little will; waking or sleeping he dreamed, creating the world anew. I shut no eye that night. I watched the wheeling constellations rise and pass. The whole, clear summer night was rich with the silence of the gods. I dreamed, perhaps, beside my open window, where the roses and the clematis climbed, shining like lamps of starry beauty above the tiny lawn.... And at half-past one, when the east began to whisper stealthily that Someone was on the way, I left my chair and stole quietly down the narrow passage-way to Jimbo’s room.... I was clever in my wickedness. I knew that if I waked him, whispering that the Longest Day was about to break, he would open half an eye, turn over in his thick childhood sleep, and murmur, as in dream, “Then let it come.” And so, a little weary, if the truth be told, I did all this, and—to my intense surprise—discovered Jimbo perched, wide awake and staring, at the casement window. He had never closed an eye, nor half an eye. He was watchful and alert, but undeniably tired out, as I was.

“Jimbo,” I whispered, stealing in upon him, “the Longest Day is very near. It’s so close{218} you can hear it coming down the sky. It’s softer than any dream you ever dreamed in your life. Come out—if you will—we’ll see it from the orchard.”

He turned towards me in his little nightshirt like a goblin. His eyes were very big, but the eyelids held open with an effort.

“Uncle,” he said in a tiny voice, “do you think it’s really come at last? It’s been terribly slow, but I suppose that’s because it’s such an awful length. Wasn’t it wonderful?”

And I tucked him up. Before the sheet was round his shoulder he was asleep, ... and next morning when we met at breakfast, he just asked me slyly, “Do you think mother guessed or saw anything of what we saw?” We glanced across the table, full of secret signs, together. Mother’s letters were piled beside her plate, a book beneath them. It was my stolen book. She had clearly sat up half the night devouring it.

“No,” I whispered, “I don’t think mother guesses anything at all. Besides,” I added, “to-day is the Longest Day, so in any case she’d be a very long time finding out.” And, as he seemed satisfied, I felt my conscience clear, and said no more about it.{219}



Field-Martin, the naturalist, sat in his corner arm-chair at the Club and watched them—this group of men that had drifted together round the table just opposite and begun to talk. He did not wish to listen, but was too near to help himself. The newspaper over which he had dozed lay at his feet, and he bent forward to pick it up and make it crackle with a pretence of reading.

“Then what is psychometry?” was the question that first caught his attention. It was Slopkins who asked it, the man with the runaway chin and over-weighted, hooked nose, that seemed to bring forward all the top of his face and made him resemble a large codfish for ever in the act of rising to some invisible bait.

“Something to do with soul measuring, I suppose, unless my Greek has gone utterly to pot,” said the jovial man beside him, pouring out his tea from a height, as a waiter pours out flat beer when he wants to force it to froth in the glass.{220}

“Like those Yankee doctors, don’t you remember,” put in someone else, with the irrelevance of casual conversation, “who weighed a human body just before it died and just after, and made an affidavit that the difference in ounces represented the weight of the soul.”

Several laughed. Field-Martin wheeled up his chair with vigorous strokes of his heels and joined the group, accepting the offer of an extra cup out of that soaring teapot. The particular subject under discussion bored him, but he liked to sit and watch men talking, just as he liked to sit and watch birds or animals in the open air, studying their movements, learning their little habits, and the rest. The conversation flowed on in desultory fashion in the way conversations usually do flow on, one or two talkers putting in occasional real thoughts, the majority merely repeating what they have heard others say.

“Yes, but what is psychometry really?” repeated the codfish man, after an interval during which the talk had drifted into an American story that grew apparently out of the reference to American doctors. For that particular invisible bait still hovered above the surface of his slow mental stream, and he was making a second shot at it, after the manner of his ilk.

The question was so obviously intended to be answered seriously that this time no one{221} guffawed or exercised his wit. For a moment, indeed, no one answered at all. Then a man at the back of the group, a man with a deep voice and a rather theatrical and enthusiastic manner, spoke.

“Psychometry, I take it,” he said with conviction, “is the quality possessed by everything, even by inanimate objects, of sending out vibrations which—which can put certain sensitive persons en rapport, pictorially as it were, with all the events that have ever happened within the ken of such objects——”

“Persons known as psychometrists, I suppose?” from the codfish man, who seemed to like things labelled carefully.

The other nodded. “Psychometrist, I believe,” he continued, “is the name of that very psychical and imaginative type that can ‘sense’ such infinitely delicate vibrations. In reality, I suppose, they are receptive folk who correspond to the sensitive photographic plate that records vibrations of light in a similar way and results in a visible picture.”

A man dropped his teaspoon with a clatter; another splashed noisily in his cup, stirring it; a third plunged at the buttered toast of his neighbour; and Field-Martin, the naturalist, gave an impatient kick with his leg against the arm-chair opposite. He loathed this kind of talk. The speaker evidently was one of those who knew by heart the “patter” of{222} psychical research, or what passes for it among credulous and untrained minds—master of that peculiar jargon, quasi-scientific, about vibrations and the rest, that such persons affect. But he was too lazy to interrupt or disagree. Wondering vaguely who the speaker might be, he drank his tea, and listened with laughter and disgust about equally mingled in his mind. Others, besides the codfish, were asking questions. Answers were not behindhand.

“You remember Denton’s experiments—Professor Denton, of Cambridge, Mass.,” the enthusiastic man was saying, “who found that his wife was a psychometrist, and how she had only to hold a thing in her hand, with eyes blindfolded, to get pictures of scenes that had passed before it. A bit of stone he gave her brought vivid and gorgeous pictures of processions and pageants before her inner eye, I remember, and at the end of the experiment her husband told her what the stone was.”

“By Jove! And what was it?” asked codfish.

“A fragment from an old temple at Thebes,” was the reply.

“Telepathy,” suggested someone.

“Quite possible,” was the reply. “But, another time, when he gave her something wrapped up in a bit of paper, taken from a tray covered with objects similarly wrapped up so that he could not know what particular one he{223} held at the moment, she took it for a second, then screamed out that she was rushing, tearing, falling through space, and let it drop with a gasp of breathless excitement——”

“And——?” asked one or two.

“It was a piece of meteorite,” was the answer. “You see, she had psychometrised the sensations of the falling star. I know, for instance, another woman who is so sensitive to the atmospheres of things and people, that she can tell you every blessed thing about a stranger whose just-vacated chair she sits down in. I’ve known her leave a bus, too, when certain people have got in and sat next to her, because——”

Field-Martin paid for his neighbour’s tea by mistake and moved away, hoping his contempt was not too clearly marked for politeness.

“——everything, you see, has an atmosphere charged with its own individual associations. An object can communicate an emotion it has borrowed by contact with someone living——” was a fragment of the last sentence he heard as he left the room and went downstairs, spitting fire internally against the speaker and all his kidney. He seized his hat and hurried away. He walked home to his Chelsea flat, fuming inwardly, wondering vaguely if there was any other club he could join where he could have his tea without being obliged to listen to such stuff.... He walked through the Park, meaning to cut through via Queensgate, and as he went he{224} followed his usual custom of thinking out details of his work: the next day, for instance, he was to lecture upon “English Birds of Prey,” and in his mind he reviewed carefully the form and substance of what he would say. He skirted the Serpentine, watching the sea-gulls wheeling through the graceful figures of their evening dance against the saffron sky. The exquisite tilt and balance of their bodies fascinated him as usual. He stopped a moment to watch it. To a mind like his it was full of suggestion, and instinctively he began comparing the method of flight with that of the hawks; one or two points occurred to him that he could make good use of in his lecture ... when he became aware that something drew his attention down from the sky to the water, and that the interest he felt in the birds was being usurped by thoughts of another kind. Without apparent reason, reflections of a very different order passed into the stream of his consciousness—somewhat urgently. Sea-gulls, hawks, birds of prey, and the rest faded from his mental vision; wings and details of flight departed; his eye, and with it his thought, dropped from the sky to the surface of the water, shimmering there beneath the last tints of the sunset. The emotion of the “naturalist,” stirred into activity by the least symbol of his lifelong study—a bird, an animal, an insect—had been curiously replaced; and the transition was abrupt enough to touch him{225} with a sense of surprise—almost, perhaps, of shock.

Now, vigorous imagination, the kind that creates out of next to nothing, was not an ingredient of his logical and “scientific” cast of mind, and Field-Martin, slightly puzzled, was at a loss to explain this irregular behaviour of his usually methodical system. He stepped back farther from the brink where the little waves splashed ... yet, even as he did so, he realised that the force dictating the impulse was of a protective character, guiding, directing, almost warning. In words, had he been a writer, he might have transposed it thus: “Be careful of that water!” For the truth was it had suddenly made him shrink.

He continued his way, puzzled and disturbed. Of the mutinous forces that lie so thinly screened behind life, dropping from time to time their faint, wireless messages upon the soul, Field-Martin hardly discerned the existence. And this passing menace of the water was disquieting—all the more so because his temperament furnished him with no possible instrument of measurement. A sense of deep water, cold, airless, still, invaded his mind; he thought of its suffocating mass lying over mouth and ears; he realised something of the struggle for breath, and the frantic efforts to reach the surface and keep afloat that a drowning man——

“But what nonsense is this? Where do these{226} thoughts suddenly come from?” he exclaimed, hurrying along. He had crossed the road now, so as to put a greater distance, and a stretch of wholesome human traffic, between him and that sheet of water lying like painted glass beneath the fading sky. Yet it pulled and drew him back again to the shore, inviting him with a curious, soft insistence that rendered necessary a distinct effort of will to resist it successfully. Birds were utterly forgotten. His very being was steeped in water—to the neck, to the eyes, his lungs filled, his ears charged with the rushing noises of singing and drumming that come to complete the dread bewilderment of the drowning man. Field-Martin shook and trembled as he crossed the bridge by Kensington Gardens.... That impulse to throw himself over the parapet was the most outrageous and unaccountable thing that had ever come upon him ... and as he hurried down Queensgate he tried to calculate whether there was time for him to see his doctor that very night before dinner, or whether he must postpone it to the first thing in the morning. For, assuredly, this passing disorder of his brain must have immediate attention; such results of overwork could not be seen to quickly enough. If necessary, he would take a holiday at once....

He decided to say nothing to his wife ... and yet the odd thing was that before dinner was half over the whole mood had vanished so{227} completely, and his normal wholesome balance of mind recovered such perfect control, that he could afford to laugh at the whole thing, and did laugh at it—what was more, even made his wife laugh at it too. The fact remained to puzzle and perplex, but the reality of it was gone.

But that night, when he went to the Club, the hall-porter stopped him:

“Beg pardon, sir, but Mr. Finsen thought you might have taken his hat by mistake last night?”

“His hat?” The name “Finsen” was unknown to him.

“He wears a green felt hat like yours, sir, and they were on adjoining pegs.”

Field-Martin took off his head-covering and discovered his mistake. Finsen’s name was inside in small gold letters. He explained matters with the porter, and left the necessary directions for the exchange to be effected. Upstairs he ran into Slopkins.

“That chap Finsen was asking for you,” he remarked; “it seems you exchanged hats last night by mistake, and the porter thought possibly——”

“Who is Finsen?”

“You remember, he was talking so wonderfully last night about psychometry——”

“Oh, is that Finsen?”

“Yes,” replied the other. “Interesting man,{228} but a bit queer, you know. Gets melancholia and that sort of thing, I believe. It was only a week or two ago, don’t you remember, that he tried to drown himself?”

“Indeed,” said Field-Martin dryly, and went upstairs to look at the evening papers.{229}



The first thing I saw of him was the dome of his bald head and the strip of wandering black hair that strayed across it like a bit of seaweed left by an ebbing tide. The rest was hidden behind the opened newspaper which he devoured while waiting for his luncheon. He was a little man. I saw the tips of square boots with knobs on them projecting beneath the table, and later I noted that his nose was aquiline, and that he had large comfortable ears. He may have been something in a Forwarding Office; he was not spruce enough for banking or insurance circles. He read that evening edition as if the future of the race depended on it.

Then the girl, a lackadaisical, bird-like creature, brought his plate of “braised beef an’ carruts” swimming in thick brown gravy, and set it down with noisy clatter upon the marble table. He was so absorbed that the dishes came as a surprise; and as he looked up, startled, the paper descended softly upon the thick brown gravy. This was the first disaster; for when he lifted{230} it to find his place the columns of print resembled a successful fly-paper. He looked round at everybody, bewildered. For the moment, however, I was so interested in the wandering strip of seaweed on his skull that I hardly noticed his efforts to free the newspaper, himself, his neighbours, and the cruet-stand from the adhesive entanglement of this portion of his luncheon. There was a sound of scattering—then the girl had somehow managed it for him with her grimy napkin. But that remnant of a tide forgotten, as I came to regard it, fascinated me. It strayed, lonely as a cloud; it was so admirably fastened down; the angle, curve, and general adjustment had been evidently chosen with so much care. Its “lie” upon that dome of silence had been calculated to a nicety, so that it should relieve with the best possible effect the open waste around it. It was like a mathematical problem. Only when his grave, dark eyes met mine did I realise that I was staring rudely.

But long before my own hurried luncheon came, the difficulties in which this stranger opposite was involved had fascinated me afresh. The contents of the now mutilated evening paper absorbed him to the point of positive conflict. It may have been the racing news, police reports, or a breach of promise case; it may have been some special article and leader, or it may have been merely advertisements, perhaps; I cannot say. But his efforts to read and eat at the same{231} time made me wonder with a growing excitement for the final issue of the battle. Had I not been alone, I would have laid a bet—with odds, I think, against “braised beef an’ carruts.”

He did it all so gravely and so earnestly, aware of the claims of both contestants, yet determined to be conscientious. Determined he most certainly was. A man doing anything with all his heart is always interesting to watch, but a man solemnly doing two things at once wins admiration and respect as well. My sympathies went out to him. I longed to give him hints. And the only time my attention wandered from this contest between news and nourishment was when I watched that strip of lonely seaweed rise and fall, vanish and reappear, with the movement of his head in eating. The way it dived to meet the fork, then rose again to greet the paper, was like the motion of a swimmer among waves.

He arranged his sight so cleverly, dividing it in some swift, extraordinary manner, yet without squinting, between the occupants of the arena. An eye and a half on each alternately seemed to be the plan, the extra half left over being free to bring immediate first-aid when needed; but his mind, I felt, was really with the paper all along. The nourishment was pleasure, the news was duty. There was heroism in this little man.

He would heap his fork with a marvellously{232} balanced pyramid of beef and carrots and bread, smear it over with thick gravy, top it with a dash of salt—all with one hand, this!—then leave it hovering above the plate while he looked back keenly at the paper, searching to find his place. For between mouthfuls he always lost his place. It distressed me till he found it again, my interest centred on the piled-up fork. But what distressed me even more was that every time he found it and shot an eye back again to the loaded implement—that pyramid tumbled! Three times out of four, at least, it dropped its burden in this way; and the look of weariness, surprise, and disappointment on his face at each collapse was almost more than I could bear—in silence. He looked at that fork as some men look at a dog—with mortified astonishment. “I’m surprised at you,” his expression said, “after all those years, too!” I longed to ask, “Why did you add that carrot to the top? You might have known by this time——!” But his own expression said quite plainly, “I built you up so very carefully—all with one hand, too. You really might have stayed!”

My own tension became too keen then for mere amusement. I found myself taking sides alternately with the beef and paper. I was conscious of a desire to steady the fork for him while he read, and then to guide it straight into his mouth. For it next became most painfully{233} obvious that he rarely found the opening—at the first attempt. With that over-loaded, over-balanced fork, a dripping carrot perched on the apex of the pile, he jabbed successively his lower lip, his cheek, his chin, and once at least the tip of his nose, before the proper terminus was reached and delivery accomplished. Small beauty-spots of brown remained dotted here and there to mark the inaccuracy of his aim and the firmness of his persistence.

For he was so patient. Both jobs he did so thoroughly. I began to wonder if he did two things at once at other times as well: whether, for instance, he buttoned his collar with one hand while with the other he led that strip of seaweed into safety for the day’s adventure. Surely, it seemed, he must excel at those parlour tricks which involve patting the breast with one hand and rubbing it up and down with the other simultaneously. Something of the sort he surely practised. Although the way, with a piece of bread speared on his fork, he groped all round the table for the gravy that was cooling on his plate, made me question his absolute skill sometimes.

He was too absorbed to notice things around him. The stout, bespectacled woman, for instance, who sat beside him on the leather couch, might not have existed at all. The way she looked him up and down, hinting for more room, was utterly lost upon him. So was the{234} way she moved her glass of steaming milk and her under-sized bananas to and fro to dodge the paper he constantly flapped beneath her very nose. He took far more than his proper share of space, and she clearly resented it most bitterly, yet was afraid to speak. The movements of her glass and fruit were like a game of chess: he played the stronger gambit and forced her moves. She sulked—and lost.

The girl came up and whisked his unfinished plate away, asking him with a sideways bend of the head, bird-like rather, if he wished to order anything else, and his face shot up above the edge of the paper as though she had interrupted him in the midst of a serious business transaction.

“Didn’t I order something, miss?” he was heard to inquire resentfully, one eye glued still to the sheet.

“Nothing not yet,” came the disinterested reply.

“Bring me sultana pudding hot—no, cold, I mean—with sauce, please,” he said, as if remembering some quotation learnt by heart—and down he plunged once more beneath that sea of print.

But with the arrival of the cold sultana pudding came the crisis of the battle. For the pudding was slippery. It stood on end amid its paste-like sauce, impatient of amateur attack, inviting more skill than evidently he possessed. He caught my warning eye once or twice upon{235} him, but disregarded it. These whole-hearted people never take advice. Smothering the toppling form with sugar, he seized a fork and aimed; but, before striking, buried his eyes again in the paper. The shot flew wild. The pyramid of dough went slithering round the plate as though alive, scattering sauce upon the marble table. A second shot, delivered with impatience, took off the top and side. He speared the broken piece—still without looking up to direct it properly—gathered a little sauce and sugar on the way; then, flushed with success, the face turned sideways towards the paper, rushed recklessly for his mouth—and bit an empty fork. The load had slipped aside en route; or, rather, the paper, holding the best position in the field, had taken it prisoner. For it fell with a soft and sticky thud into the column nearest to his waistcoat. This time he spooned it up, and for a little time after that he had success. The paper and the pudding ran neck and neck along the home-stretch. He read with absorbing interest; he ate without waste of attention. I watched him with amazement. This performance of a divided personality must be given somewhere every day at the luncheon hour. The mood of the afternoon hung probably upon its accomplishment without disaster. The pudding had dwindled to its last titbit without attempting further ausflüge, and his eyes had just begun to feast upon a{236} freshly turned page of the newspaper, when, crash, bang—there came complete discomfiture.

Drunk with success, he made a violent misdirected shot. He had waited long for that titbit, had nursed it carefully, keeping a little pool of sauce and sugar especially for it, when this careless aim sent it flying off the plate several inches into the middle of the table. The woman with the milk and the banana gave a little scream—of indignation. He turned abruptly, noticing her presence for the first time. He realised that he had edged her almost off the couch. He also realised, with the other eye, that the bit of pudding lay beyond redemption or recapture. Several people were watching him. He could not possibly, without total loss of dignity, restore it to an edible condition. He shunted down the seat with the sideways movement of a penguin, quietly replaced the errant morsel on his plate, called for his bill, then waited resignedly with a sigh, a defeated man.

Our eyes met in that moment full and square across the room. “I told you so,” mine said; “you were too reckless with it.” But in his own there shone a look of misery and regret I shall not easily forget. For a single instant his face vanished behind the crumpled but victorious paper, to emerge, scarlet, a moment later with the strip of seaweed drawn out of its normal bed into an unaccustomed route towards one{237} tilted eyebrow. In his distress the man had passed a hand absent-mindedly across his forehead. The woman, putting on her spectacles, eyed with relief his preparations for departure. He went. But he took the paper with him.

And through the window I caught my final glimpse of him as he climbed outside a passing omnibus. He was small and rotund. His eyes shone in a flushed and disappointed face. His coat-tails spread sideways in the wind. Like an irate and very swollen sparrow he looked, defeated in some wretched gutter combat, yet eager for more, and certain to return to the arena as long as life should last—about the luncheon hour.{238}



It is a curious reflection, though of course an obvious one, that wind in itself is—silent; and that only from the friction against objects set in its path comes the multiform music instantly associated with its name. The fact, too, that so potent a force should be both silent and invisible readily explains its common use as a simile, and a beautiful one, for Spirit. Like flame, that other exquisite simile of spirit, how clean it licks, how mysteriously it moves, how swiftly it penetrates! And so subtly linked are they that the one almost seems to produce the other—the swift hot winds that beat about a conflagration; the tongues of fire that follow a fanning draught—“the wind that blew the stars to flame!” True inspiration seems certainly born of this marriage of wind and fire. How singular—have you ever thought?—would be the impressions of a man to whom the motion of air, as wind, was unknown, when first he witnessed the phenomenon of a twenty-knot breeze. Imagine a people that knew not wind{239}—how they would tremble to see the tree-tops bend; to hear the roar, the whispers, the sweet singing of all Nature about them for the first time; to know the sounds and movements of the myriad objects that but for wind would be silent and motionless from one year’s end to another! To me, it has always seemed that such a revelation might be far more wonderful than the first torrent of light that beats upon the eyes of a man who has been blind.

And so one comes to a further suggestive reflection: that objects all possess their own particular sound or voice that the winds love to set free; their essential note—that specific set of vibrations lying buried in their form—of which, as some curious doctrines of the old magic assert, their forms, indeed, are the visible expression. In this region—pondering the relation between sound and shape—the imagination may wander till it grows dizzy, for it leads very soon to the still more wonderful world where sound and colour spin their puzzling web, and the spiritual phenomena of music cry for further explanation. But, for the moment, let only the sound of wind be in our ears; for in wind, I think, there is a sweetness and a variety of music that no instruments invented by men have yet succeeded in approaching so far as sheer thrill and beauty are concerned.

Each lover of Nature knows, of course, the{240} special voice of wind that most appeals to him—the sighing of pines, the shouting of oaks, the murmur of grasses, the whirring over a bare hillside, or the whistling about the corners of the streets—the variety is endless; and there can be no great interest in obtruding one’s own predilection. Only, to know this music thoroughly, to catch all the overtones and undertones that make it so wonderful, and to absorb its essential thrill and power, you must listen, not for minutes, but for hours. If you want to learn the secrets of the things themselves, betrayed in the varying response they give back to the winds that sweep or caress them, lie leisurely for hours at a time and—listen.

How, from the high desolation of mountain peaks it blows out—terror, yet from the sea of bearded grain calls with soft whispering sounds such as children use for their tales of mystery; from old buildings—the melancholy of all dead human passion, yet from the rigging of ships the abandon of wild and passionate adventure: wind, clapping its mighty hands among the flapping sails, or running with weary little feet among the ruined towers of broken habitations; sighing with long, gentle music over English lawns, or rushing, full of dreams, across vast prairies over-seas; kissing a garden into music, or blundering blind-eyed through dark London squares; racing with thoughts of ice down precipices and dropping, as through spaces of{241} sleep, into little corners of oblivion in waste lands of loneliness and desolation, or sighing with almost human melody through the keyhole and down the farmhouse chimney.

From the curtained softness of the summer sky these viewless winds sift silently into the heart, to wake yearnings infinite. From some high attic window, perhaps, where you stand and watch, listen to that wind of sighs that rises, almost articulate with the pains and sorrows, the half-caught joys, too, from that crowded human world beneath the sea of roofs and tiles. Winds of desire, winds of hope, winds of fear and love. Ah! winds of all the spirit’s life and moods ... and, finally, the wind of Death! And wind down a wet and deserted London street, shouting its whistling song, its song of the triumphant desolation that has cleared the way for it of human obstruction—how it sings the music of magnificent poverty, of heavy luxury, and then of the loneliness bred by both! And you see some solitary figure battling forwards, and hear that curious whistling it makes over the dripping umbrella.... Ah! how that wind summons pictures of courage in isolation, and of singing in a wilderness! “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, yet canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth” ... for wind is, indeed, of the nature of spirit, and its music, crowded with suggestion, as some{242}times, too, with memory and association, is, in the true sense, magical.

“Where is thy soul? Thou liest i’ the wind and rain,” says the poetess to the “Beloved Dead”; and in another passage the sound of wind brings back for her the phantom face of the departed: “But who shall drive a mournful face from the sad winds about my door?” Shelley, more than any other, perhaps, loved wind and wind-voices, and has the most marvellous and subtle descriptions of it in his work. Though he so often speaks of the “viewless wind,” one cannot help thinking that in his imagination lay some mental picture of wind—in the terms of sight. He saw the wind. For him it had colour as well as shape. He saw bright sylphs—spirits of air—which “star the winds with points of coloured light, as they rain through them,” and “wind-enchanted shapes of wandering mist” that for his inner vision were “snow-white and swift as wind nursed among lilies near a brimming stream.” And, alone among poets so far as I know, he had that delightful conception of solid, smooth surfaces of wind upon which it is possible to run and dance and sleep. His verse is alive with spirits “trampling the wind”; “trampling the slant winds on high with golden-sandalled feet”; or climbing the hills of wind that run up into the highest peaks of heaven. The “Witch of Atlas” not only rode “singing{243} through the shoreless air,” but also “ran upon the platforms of the wind, and laughed to hear the fireballs roar behind.” And it is the Chorus in Prometheus Unbound that so exquisitely “weaves the dance on the floor of the breeze.”

But for less gifted mortals there are certain effects of wind that seem to me to approach uncommonly close to actual sight, or at least to a point where one may imagine what wind ought to look like. Watch the gusts of a northwest wind as they fall in rapid succession upon a standing field of high barley, beating the surface into long curved shadows that bring to mind Shelley’s “kindling within the strings of the waved air, Æolian modulations.” One can see the velvet touch of those soft, vast paws, and the immense stretch of the invisible footsteps that press the long stalks down and as suddenly sweep away and set them free again. And with the changing angle of the myriad yellow heads the colour also changes, till gradually there swims upon the mind the impression of some huge and shadowy image that flies above the field—some personal deity of wind, some djin of air. One almost sees the spirit of the wind....

It is fascinating, too, to stand opposite a slope of wooded mountains, near enough to distinguish the individual swing of each separate tree, yet far enough to note how the forest as a whole blows all one way—the way of the wind. Also—to hear the chord of sound as a whole,{244} yet mark the different notes that pour out of the various trees composing it. In some such way—one wonders, perhaps!—the Spirit of God moves over the surface of men’s minds, each swinging apparently its own individual way, yet when seen in proper perspective, all moving the one way—to Him. And the voices of all these separate little stray winds—who shall describe them? Creep with me now out of the house among these Jura vineyards, and come up into the pine forests that encircle the village. Put your ear against that bosom of the soft dark woods where the wind is {245}born—and listen! Find the words if you can——!



All trees, doubtless, appeal in some measure to the sense of poetry, even in those who are not strictly speaking lovers of Nature; but the pine, for many, seems to have a message more vivid, more vital than the rest: as though it possessed some occult quality that speaks not merely to the imagination, or to the general love of Nature per se, but directly to the soul. The oak for strength, the ash for mystery, the birch for her feminine grace and so forth; but the pine, like a sharp sword, pierces straight through to that inner sense of beauty which accepts or rejects beyond all question of analysis. The personality of this “common” tree touches the same sense of wonder that is stirred by the presence of a human personality, strong beyond ordinary; and worship is ever subtly linked with wonder.

The analogy is interesting. The pine plants its roots where more showy trees faint and die; straight, strong, and sweet to the winds, it flourishes where only gorse, heather, and toughly obstinate things can live. Out of the rock,{246} where there seems not earth enough to feed a violet, it lifts its sombre head undaunted; scorched by the sun, torn by the blast, peering into dreadful abysses, yet utterly fearless, and yielding so little that the elements must pluck it up by the roots before they can destroy it. Only lightning can break it. At a height above the sea that means death to other trees, it climbs singing, “rock-rooted, stretched athwart the vacancy”; and even when the main army halts, stragglers are always to be seen, leading forlorn hopes into the heart of desolation beyond. And if, amid the stress of conditions, it cannot look well, it is content to look ill, showing a dwarfed and stunted figure to the skies. Only then, ye elemental powers! what strength in the gnarled roots, what iron resistance in the twisted trunk, what dour endurance in the short, thick limbs! It assumes the attitude of the fighting animal, back to the wall.

High mountains are full of vivid pictures of this courage against Titanic odds. For the pine tree has the courage of its convictions—fine, simple, tenacious—as it has also that other quality of the strong soul: the power to stand alone. “Some say there is a precipice where one vast pine is frozen to ruin o’er piles of snow and chasms of ice ’mid Alpine mountains.” No one who has canoed on Canadian lakes and seen those frequent rocky islets, each with its solitary pine, can have ignored that there is something{247} strangely significant in the sight of that slender spire rising out of the heart of loneliness—something that thrills, and thrills deeply, into the region beyond words. Unsheltered, beneath wide skies, remote from its own kind, the tree stands there, splendid in its isolation, straight as a temple column and prepared for any shock. “Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam,” of course—but there is more than the pathos of Heine’s poem in its unapproachable loneliness: there is the spiritual suggestion of personality—this upright, self-sufficing tree upon a rock, buffeted by winds and waves, asking no sympathy and dreading no possible fate. The picture, symbolic of the strong soul, conveys the inevitable parable.

Compared with other trees, too, the pine does not change. One knows, of course, the tips of tender green that come with May and turn a pine wood into a sea of bewildering beauty. But, though deciduous, one is never aware that anything is lost; its branches never thin; it puts out, properly speaking, no buds. And the monotony of a pine forest is merely a defect of its great quality of constancy. In summer its shade is deeper, its recesses more cool than those of other woods; and in winter, just when most trees are leafless and unable to fight, it bears the full weight of the snow and meets the whole force of the destroying winds. It stands to face disaster when others faint or run. The analogy with man is again striking and complete. Yet{248} its qualities are not merely negative. More than most, it gives out—without reward, often without recognition; for the great forests that sweeten the world with their balsam, and their life-giving odours, stand most often in the deserted regions of the earth, unseen, unknown. And, by their death, they become more useful still, journeying over all the seas. In the true sense, most ascetic of trees, accepting discipline that good may come for others, not for themselves!

Like the vital human personality, too, what “atmosphere” it has! What it lends of suggestiveness to the commonest landscape—a few pines clustered on the hill; a sombre group among the green trees in the plain! In the suburban garden even, or rearing its dark crest against the hoardings of the street, how its picturesqueness spreads about it! It is the gipsy among trees, and its perfume, like the wood fire, sets the blood aflame for wandering and for the lonely places of the world. At the sight of it one thinks, perhaps, of the stone pine “into which the forest has whispered its gravest and sweetest thought,” and at the same instant is caught away to that other revelation where it stands by the sea. For, by the shore of southern seas, it betrays a scarcely suspected touch of melancholy, gentle and pathetic in its essence, feminine almost, that makes the heart yearn for lovely and impossible things. One sees it there, rooted among golden sands, and gazing across{249} a waste of purple sea, the wash of whose waves is hardly to be distinguished from the wash of wind through its own branches....

The mystery of the pines, too, seems to hold a peculiar quality unapproached elsewhere in Nature: it subdues without terrifying, inspires awe without distress, and is more human than the mystery which belongs to mountains, sea, or desert. The fairies come out from the pine woods; for no other woods conceal so gently, yet hold within their velvety recesses such possibilities of revelation. To meet them unexpectedly is to experience a thrill of subtle suggestion. Among tamer trees, suddenly to come upon these black, vigorous things, contemptuous of soil, independent of sympathy, thriving where others droop or die, is to know a leap of the imagination, an increase of vitality, as when, among a crowd of common souls, one finds a man—strong, radiating confidence and hope. Their very darkness stimulates. One cannot conceive such trees stooping to any kind of show. “Lowland trees,” says the author of Modern Painters, may “show themselves gay with blossoms and glad with pretty charities of fruitfulness,” but the pines “have harder work to do for man and must do it in close-set troops.” While other trees “may turn their paleness to the sky if but a rush of rain passes them by, the pines must live carelessly amidst the wrath of clouds,” and “only wave their branches to and{250} fro when a storm pleads with them, as men toss their arms in a dream.... You cannot reach them, cannot cry to them; these trees never heard human voice,” he says, speaking of their inaccessible multitudes among the precipices; “they are far above all sound but of the winds. No foot ever stirred fallen leaf of theirs. All comfortless they stand, between the two eternities of Vacancy and the Rock; yet with such iron will that the rock itself looks bent and shattered beside them—fragile, weak, inconsistent, compared to their dark energy of delicate life, and monotony of enchanted pride—unnumbered, unconquerable.”

And there is no sound in Nature quite so wonderful as that faint spiritual singing of pine trees, that gentle whirring of a forest when soft airs are moving—that säuseln, susurrement, whispering. Midway in the wood, of course, a pine forest shouting in a free wind is simply the sea shouting on a sandy shore; close the eyes, and it is impossible to tell the difference; it is tumbling surf, mellowed by distance, tossing, instead of spray, the flying odours of their needles’ frankincense. But when only stray puffs come a-wandering, and other trees are silent, listen at the skirts of a pine grove, and hear those ghosts of sound that fall from nowhere, that thin away to a mere ghost of sighing, and then come running back to you over the motionless crests. For pines can answer the wind apparently without{251} moving. No other sound can faint as this does—or sing alone; among the stragglers at the edge of the wood you may hear distinct solos. Isolated pines respond to a wind you cannot feel; and a tree at your side will sigh and murmur, while another six feet away keeps silent. Almost as though the wind can consciously pick and choose when and where it shall shake “the clinging music from their boughs,” so that “low, sweet sounds, like the farewell of ghosts,” are heard.

Wherever they are found, whether they “fledge the wild ridgéd mountain steep by steep,” or gather in greater concourse like “fallen flakes and fragments of the night, stayed in their solemn squares,” these trees, for some imaginations at least, seem charged with a potent symbolism. And, from the particular, they sweep the mind across continents to the general. Their shadows rest upon a nation, as Ruskin puts it, and absorb and mould the life of a race. “The Northern people, century after century, lived under one or another of the two great powers of the Pine and the Sea, both infinite.... Whatever elements of imagination, or of warrior strength, or of domestic justice, were brought down by the Norwegian and the Goth against the dissoluteness or degradation of the South of Europe, were taught them under the green roofs and wild penetralia of the pine.{252}



With an audacity of outline denied to them in the softer seasons, the Alps rear themselves aloft in Winter more grandly self-revealed than at any other time—still with their brave and ancient pretence of being unconquerable. The black and white become them best; and they know it: the savage, iron black that seems pitiless, and that shining, silvery white that dazzles so piercingly. They are really not summer things at all, but creatures of the winter—the short, brilliant day of icy keenness, and the long night of tempest, wind, and drifting snows. Then, at least, clothed so simply in their robes of jet and ermine, they stand in something of their old true majesty, solemn, forbidding, terrible. Summer, as it were, over-dresses them, with its skirts of emerald-bright meadows and fringe of purple forests, and all its flying scarves of painted air and mist. The colours are so brilliant, the skies so soft, the flowers climb so high. Then winter comes, undressing them slowly, from the head and shoulders downwards,{253} till they emerge, austere in black and white, naked and unashamed beneath the skies.

The associations of summer, of course, help very largely to emphasise the contrast. Those stubborn peaks that lie in January beneath forty feet of packed and driven snow, on many a morning in July and August carried twenty tourists prattling to one another of the sunrise, sucking thermos flasks, giggling of the hotel dances to come, not a few having been bodily dragged up, probably, by guides and porters overburdened with the latest appliances for comfort and ease. And the mere thought of them all somehow makes the Alps—dwindle a little. But in winter they become free again, and hold uninterrupted converse with the winds and stars. Their greatest characteristic becomes manifest—their silence. For the silence of the Winter Alps is genuinely overwhelming. One feels that the whole world of strife, clamour and bustle, and with it all the clash of vulgar ambitions among men, has fallen away into some void whence resurrection is impossible. Stand upon one of the upper slopes in mid-winter and listen: all sound whatsoever has fled away into the remotest comers of the universe. It seems as though such a thing had never existed even, the silence is so enormous, yet at the same time more stimulating than any possible music, more suggestive than the sweetest instrument ever heard. It encompasses the sky and the earth like an immense vacuum.{254}

In summer, there would be bells, bells of goats and cows; voices, voices of climbers, tourists, shepherds; people singing, pipes playing, an occasional horn, and even the puffing and whistling of at least several funiculaires in the valley. But now all these are hushed and gone away—dead. Only silence reigns. Even above, among the precipices and ridges, there is no crack and thunder of falling stones, for the sun has hardly time to melt their fastenings and send them down; no hiss of sliding snow, no roar of avalanches. The very wind, too, whirring over this upper world too softly cushioned with thick snow to permit “noise”—even the wind is muted and afraid to cry aloud. I know nothing more impressive than the silence that overwhelms the world of these high slopes. The faint “sishing” of the ski as one flies over the powdery snow becomes almost loud in the ears by comparison. And with this silence that holds true awe comes that other characteristic of the Winter Alps—their immobility; that is, I mean, of course, the immobility of the various items that crowd their surface in summer with movement. All the engines that produce movement have withdrawn deep within their frozen selves, and lie smothered and asleep. The waving grasses are still, beneath three metres of snow; the shelves that in July so busily discharge their weights of snow into the depths stand rigid and fastened to the cliffs by nails of giant ice. Nothing moves,{255} slides, stirs, or bends; all is inflexible and fixed. The very trees, loaded with piled-up masses of snow, stand like things of steel pinned motionless against the background of running slope or blue-black sky. Above all, the tumbling waters that fill the hollows of all these upper valleys with their dance of foam and spray, and with their echoing sweet thunder, are silent and invisible. One cannot even guess the place where they have been. Here sit Silence and Immobility, terrifically enthroned and close to heaven.

The Alps, tainted in summer with vulgarity, in winter are set free; for the hordes of human beings that scuttle about the fields at their base are ignored by the upper regions. Those few who dare the big peaks are perforce worthy, and the bold ski-runners who challenge the hazards of the long, high courses are themselves, like the birds, almost a part of the mountain life. The Alps, as a whole, retire into their ancient splendour.

Yet their winter moods hold moments of tenderness as well, and of colour, too, that at first the strong black and white might seem to deny. The monotony of the snow-world comes to reveal itself as a monotony of surface only, thinly hiding an exquisite variety. The shading is so delicate, however, that it eludes capture by words almost. Half unearthly seem to me sometimes the faint veils of tinted blues, greys, and silvers that lie caught upon those{256} leagues of upper snow; half hidden in the cuplike hollows, nestling just beneath the curved lip of some big drift, or sifted like transparent coloured powder over half a hill when the sun is getting low. Under boulders, often, they lie so deep and thick that one might pick them up with the hands—rich, dark blues that seem almost to hold substance. And the purple troops of them that cloak the snow to the eastward of the pine forests surpass anything that summer can ever dream of, much less give. The long icicles that hang from branch or edge of stones, sparkling in the sun while they drip with sounds like the ticking of a clock, flash with crowded colours of a fairy world. And at the centre of the woods there are blacks that might paint all London, yet without suffering loss.

At dawn, or towards sunset, the magic is bewildering. The wizardry of dreams lies over the world. Even the village street becomes transfigured. These winter mountains then breathe forth for a moment something of the glory the world knew in her youth before the coming of men. The ancient gods come close. One feels the awful potentialities of this wonderful white and silent landscape. Into the terms of modern life, however, it is with difficulty, if at all, translatable. Before the task was half completed, someone would come along with weights and scales in his hand and mention casually the exact mass{257} and size and composition of it all—and rob the wondrous scene of half its awe and all its wonder.

The gathering of the enormous drifts that begins in November and continues until March is another winter fact that touches the imagination. The sight of these vast curled waves of snow is undeniably impressive—accumulating with every fresh fall for delivery in the spring. The stored power along those huge steep slopes is prodigious, for when it breaks loose with the first Föhn wind of April, the trees snap before it like little wooden matches, and the advance wind that heralds its coming can blow down a solid châlet like a playing-card. One finds these mighty drifts everywhere along the ridges, smooth as a billiard-table along the surface, their projecting cornices running out into extensions that alter the entire shape of the ridge which supports them. They are delicately carved by the wind, curved and lined into beautiful sweeping contours that suggest suddenly arrested movement. Chamois tracks may be seen sometimes up to the very edge—the thin, pointed edge that hangs over the abyss. One thinks of an Atlantic suddenly changed into a solid frozen white, and as one whips by on ski it often seems as though these gigantic waves ran flying after, just about to break and overwhelm the valley. Outlined on a cloudless day against the skies of deep wintry blue—seen thus from below—they present a spectacle of weirdest beauty. And the{258} silence, this thick, white-coated silence that surrounds them, adds to their singular forms an element of desolate terror that is close to sublimity.

The whole point of the Winter Alps, indeed, is that they then reveal themselves with immensities of splendour and terror that the familiarity of summer days conceals. The more gaunt and sombre peaks, perhaps, change little from one season to another—like the sinister tooth of the old Matterhorn, for instance, that is too steep for snow to gather and change its aspect. But the general run of summits stand aloof in winter with an air of inaccessibility that adds vastly to their essential majesty. The five peaks of the Dent du Midi, to take a well-known group, that smile a welcome to men and women by the score in August, retreat with the advent of the short dark days into a remoter heaven, whence they frown down, genuinely terrific, with an aspect that excites worship rather than attack. In their winter seclusion, dressed in black and white, they belong to the clouds and tempests, rather than to the fields and woods out of which they grow. Watch them, for instance, on a January morning in the dawn, when the wild winds toss the frozen powdery snow hundreds of feet into the air from all their summits, and upon this exaggerated outline of the many-toothed ridge the sunrise strikes in red and gold—and you may see a{259} sight that is not included in the very finest of the summer’s repertoire.

But it is at night, beneath the moon, that the Winter Alps become really supreme. The shadows are pitch black, the snow dazzling as with a radiance of its own, the “battlements that on their front bear stars” loom awfully out of the sky. In close-shuttered châlets the peasants sleep. In the brilliant over-heated salons of hotels hundreds of little human beings dance and make music and play bridge. But out there, in this silent world of ice and stars, the enormous mountains dream solemnly upon their ancient thrones, unassailable, alone in the heavens, forgotten. The Alps, in these hours of the long winter night, come magnificently into their own.{260}



Sometimes, in a moment of sharp experience, comes that vivid flash of insight that makes a platitude suddenly seem a revelation: its full content is abruptly realised. “Ten years is a long time, yes,” he thought, as he walked up the drive to the great Kensington house where she still lived.

Ten years—long enough, at any rate, for her to have married and for her husband to have died. More than that he had not heard, in the outlandish places where life had cast him in the interval. He wondered whether there had been any children. All manner of thoughts and questions, confused a little, passed across his mind. He was well-to-do now, though probably his entire capital did not amount to her income for a single year. He glanced at the huge, forbidding mansion. Yet that pride was false which had made of poverty an insuperable obstacle. He saw it now. He had learned values in his long exile.

But he was still ridiculously timid. This{261} confusion of thought, of mental images rather, was due to a kind of fear, since worship ever is akin to awe. He was as nervous as a boy going up for a viva voce; and with the excitement was also that unconquerable sinking—that horrid shrinking sensation that excessive shyness brings. Why in the world had he come? Why had he telegraphed the very day after his arrival in England? Why had he not sent a tentative, tactful letter, feeling his way a little?

Very slowly he walked up the drive, feeling that if a reasonable chance of escape presented itself he would almost take it. But all the windows stared so hard at him that retreat was really impossible now; and though no faces were visible behind the curtains, all had seen him. Possibly she herself—his heart beat absurdly at the extravagant suggestion. Yet it was odd; he felt so certain of being seen, and that someone watched him. He reached the wide stone steps that were clean as marble, and shrank from the mark his boots must make upon their spotlessness. In desperation, then, before he could change his mind, he touched the bell. But he did not hear it ring—mercifully; that irrevocable sound must have paralysed him altogether. If no one came to answer, he might still leave a card in the letter-box and slip away. Oh, how utterly he despised himself for such a thought! A man of thirty with such a chicken heart was not fit to protect a child, much less a woman.{262} And he recalled with a little stab of pain that the man she married had been noted for his courage, his determined action, his inflexible firmness in various public situations, head and shoulders above lesser men. What presumption on his own part ever to dream ...! He remembered, too, with no apparent reason in particular, that this man had a grown-up son already, by a former marriage.

And still no one came to open that huge, contemptuous door with its so menacing, so hostile air. His back was to it, as he carelessly twirled his umbrella, but he “felt” its sneering expression behind him while it looked him up and down. It seemed to push him away. The entire mansion focused its message through that stern portal: Little timid men are not welcomed here.

How well he remembered the house! How often in years gone by had he not stood and waited just like this, trembling with delight and anticipation, yet terrified lest the bell should be answered and the great door actually swung wide! Then, as now, he would have run, had he dared. He was still afraid; his worship was so deep. But in all these years of exile in wild places, farming, mining, working for the position he had at last attained, her face and the memory of her gracious presence had been his comfort and support, his only consolation, though never his actual joy. There was so little foundation for{263} it all, yet her smile, and the words she had spoken to him from time to time in friendly conversation, had clung, inspired, kept him going. For he knew them all by heart. And, more than once, in foolish optimistic moods, he had imagined, greatly daring, that she possibly had meant more....

He touched the bell a second time—with the point of his umbrella. He meant to go in, carelessly as it were, saying as lightly as might be, “Oh, I’m back in England again—if you haven’t quite forgotten my existence—I could not forgo the pleasure of saying how do you do, and hearing that you are well ...,” and the rest; then presently bow himself easily out—into the old loneliness again. But he would at least have seen her; he would have heard her voice, and looked into her gentle, amber eyes; he would have touched her hand. She might even ask him to come in another day and see her! He had rehearsed it all a hundred times, as certain feeble temperaments do rehearse such scenes. And he came rather well out of that rehearsal, though always with an aching heart, the old great yearnings unfulfilled. All the way across the Atlantic he had thought about it, though with lessening confidence as the time drew near. The very night of his arrival in London, he wrote; then, tearing up the letter (after sleeping over it), he had telegraphed next morning, asking if she would be in. He signed his sur{264}name—such a very common name, alas! but surely she would know—and her reply, “Please call 4.30,” struck him as oddly worded—rather.... Yet here he was.

There was a rattle of the big door knob, that aggressive, hostile knob that thrust out at him insolently like a fist of bronze. He started, angry with himself for doing so. But the door did not open. He became suddenly conscious of the wilds he had lived in for so long; his clothes were hardly fashionable; his voice probably had a twang in it, and he used tricks of speech that must betray the rough life so recently left. What would she think of him—now? He looked much older, too. And how brusque it was to have telegraphed like that! He felt awkward, gauche, tongue-tied, hot and cold by turns. The sentences, so carefully rehearsed, fled beyond recovery.

Good heavens—the door was open! It had been open for some minutes. It moved on big hinges noiselessly. He acted automatically—just like an automaton; he heard himself asking if her ladyship was at home, though his voice was nearly inaudible. The next moment he was standing in the great, dim hall, so poignantly familiar, and the remembered perfume almost made him sway. He did not hear the door close, but he knew. He was caught. The butler betrayed an instant’s surprise—or was it overwrought imagination again?—when he gave his name.{265} It seemed to him, though only later did he grasp the significance of that curious intuition—that the man had expected another caller instead. The man took his card respectfully, and disappeared. These flunkeys, of course, were so marvellously trained. He was too long accustomed to straight question and straight answer; but here, in the Old Country, privacy was jealously guarded with such careful ritual.

And, almost immediately, the butler returned with his expressionless face again, and showed him into the large drawing-room on the ground floor that he knew so well. Tea was on the table—tea for one. He felt puzzled. “If you will have tea first, sir, her ladyship will see you afterwards,” was what he heard. And though his breath came thickly, he asked the question that forced itself up and out. Before he knew what he was saying, he asked it: “Is she ill?” Oh no, her ladyship was “quite well, thank you, sir. If you will have tea first, sir, her ladyship will see you afterwards.” The horrid formula was repeated, word for word. He sank into an arm-chair and mechanically poured out his own tea. What he felt he did not exactly know. It seemed so unusual, so utterly unexpected, so unnecessary, too. Was it a special attention, or was it merely casual? That it could mean anything else did not occur to him. How was she busy, occupied—not here to give him tea? He could not understand it. It seemed such a{266} farce, having tea alone like this; it was like waiting for an audience; it was like a doctor’s or a dentist’s room. He felt bewildered, ill at ease, cheap.... But after ten years in primitive lands ... perhaps London usages had changed in some extraordinary manner. He recalled his first amazement at the motor-omnibuses, taxicabs, and electric tubes. All were new. London was otherwise than when he left it. Piccadilly and the Marble Arch themselves had altered. And, with his reflection, a shade more confidence stole in. She knew that he was there; and presently she would come in and speak with him, explaining everything by the mere fact of her delicious presence. He was ready for the ordeal; he would see her—and drop out again. It was worth all manner of pain, even of mortification. He was in her house, drinking her tea, sitting in a chair she even perhaps used herself. Only—he would never dare to say a word, or make a sign that might betray his changeless secret. He still felt the boyish worshipper, worshipping in dumbness from a distance, one of a group of many others like himself. Their dreams had faded, his had continued, that was the difference. Memories tore and raced and poured upon him. How sweet and gentle she had always been to him! He used to wonder sometimes.... Once, he remembered, he had rehearsed a declaration—but, while rehearsing, the big man had come in and captured her, though he had{267} only read the definite news long after by chance in the Arizona paper....

He gulped his tea down. His heart alternately leaped and stood still. A sort of numbness held him most of that dreadful interval, and no clear thought came at all. Every ten seconds his head turned towards the door that rattled, seemed to move, yet never opened. But any moment now it must open, and he would be in her very presence, breathing the same air with her. He would see her, charge himself with her beauty once more to the brim, and then go out again into the wilderness—the wilderness of life—without her—and not for a mere ten years, but for always. She was so utterly beyond his reach. He felt like a backwoodsman. He was a backwoodsman.

For one thing only was he duly prepared—though he thought about it little enough: she would, of course, have changed. The photograph he owned, cut from an illustrated paper, was not true now. It might even be a little shock perhaps. He must remember that. Ten years cannot pass over a woman without——

Before he knew it, then, the door was open, and she was advancing quietly towards him across the thick carpet that deadened sound. With both hands outstretched she came, and with the sweetest welcoming smile upon her parted lips he had seen in any human face. Her eyes were soft with joy. His whole heart leaped{268} within him; for the instant he saw her it all flashed clear as sunlight—that she knew and understood. His being melted in the utter bliss of it; shyness vanished. She had always known, had always understood. Speech came easily to him in a flood, had he needed it. But he did not need it. It was all so adorably easy, simple, natural, and true. He just took her hands—those welcoming, outstretched hands in both his own, and led her to the nearest sofa. He was not even surprised at himself. Inevitable, out of depths of truth, this meeting came about. And he uttered a little, foolish commonplace, because he feared the huge revulsion that his sudden glory brought, and loved to taste it slowly:

“So you live here still?”

“Here, and here,” she answered softly, touching his heart, and then her own. “I am attached to this house, too, because you used to come and see me here, and because it was here I waited so long for you, and still wait. I shall never leave it—unless you change. You see, we live together here.”

He said nothing. He leaned forward to take and hold her. The abrupt knowledge of it all somehow did not seem abrupt—as though he had known it always; and the complete disclosure did not seem disclosure either—rather as though she told him something he had inexplicably left unrealised, yet not forgotten.{269} He felt absolutely master of himself, yet, in a curious sense, outside of himself at the same time. His arms were already open—when she gently held her hands up to prevent. He heard a faint sound outside the door.

“But you are free,” he cried, his great passion breaking out and flooding him, yet most oddly well controlled, “and I——”

She interrupted him in the softest, quietest whisper he had ever heard:

“You are not free, as I am free—not yet.”

The sound outside came suddenly closer. It was a step. There was a faint click on the handle of the door. In a flash, then, came the dreadful shock that overwhelmed him—the abrupt realisation of the truth that was somehow horrible: that Time, all these years, had left no mark upon her, and that she had not changed. Her face was young as when he saw her last.

With it there came cold and darkness into the great room that turned it instantly otherwise. He shivered with cold, but an alien, unaccountable cold. Some great shadow dropped upon the entire earth. And though but a second could have passed before the handle actually turned, and the other person entered, it seemed to him like several minutes. He heard her saying this amazing thing that was question, answer, and forgiveness all in one. This, at{270} least, he divined before the ghastly interruption came:

“But, George—if you had only spoken——!”

With ice in his blood, he heard the butler saying that her ladyship would be “pleased” to see him now if he had finished his tea and would he be “so good as to bring the papers and documents upstairs with him.” He had just sufficient control of certain muscles to stand upright and murmur that he would come. He rose from a sofa that held no one but himself. But, all at once, he staggered. He really did not know exactly then what happened, or how he managed to stammer out the medley of excuses and semi-explanations that battered their way through his brain and issued somehow in definite words from his lips. Somehow or other he accomplished it. The sudden attack, the faintness, the collapse!... He vaguely remembered afterwards—with amazement, too—the suavity of the butler, as he suggested telephoning for a doctor, and that he just managed to forbid it, refusing the offered glass of brandy as well, and that he contrived to stumble into the taxi-cab and give his hotel address, with a final explanation that he would call another day and “bring the papers.” It was quite dear that his telegram had been attributed to someone else—someone “with papers”—perhaps a solicitor or architect. His name was such an ordinary one. There were so many{271} Smiths. It was also clear that she he had come to see, and had seen, no longer lived here—in the flesh....

And, just as he left the hall, he had the vision—mere fleeting glimpse it was—of a tall, slim, girlish figure on the stairs asking if anything was wrong, and realised vaguely through his atrocious pain that she was, of course, the wife of the son who had inherited....{272}

Printed by
Morrison & Gibb Limited


In Red Cloth, crown 8vo, 1/-net each


GOLDEN STRING. A Day Book for Busy Men and Women. Arranged by Susan, Countess of Malmesbury, and Miss Violet Brooke-Hunt.

“...an admirable selection of noble and inspiring thoughts.”—Westminster Gazette.

“...delightful little volume ... one can find nothing but praise for a happy idea so admirably carried out.”—Ladies’ Field.

RUNNING THE BLOCKADE. A Personal Narrative of Adventures, Risks, and Escapes during the American Civil War. By Thomas E. Taylor. Frontispiece and Map.

Mr. Taylor’s work is at once an absorbing record of personal adventure, and a real contribution to history, for it presents to us, from the pen of a principal actor, the most complete account we have of a great blockade in the early days of steam. As a picture of exciting escapes, of coolness and resource at moments of acute danger, of well-calculated risks, boldly accepted and obstinately carried through, it has few rivals in sea story.

HISTORICAL MEMORIALS OF CANTERBURY: The Land of Augustine, The Murder of Becket, Edward the Black Prince, Becket’s Shrine. By the late Dean Stanley. With Illustrations.

“No pilgrim to Canterbury need now content himself with the meagre historical information of the guide-books when he can get Dean Stanley’s fascinating work for one shilling.”—The Church Times.

LIVINGSTONE’S FIRST EXPEDITION TO AFRICA. A popular account of Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. By David Livingstone, M.D. With Map and numerous Illustrations.

This is the great missionary-explorer’s own narrative of his first travel experiences in Africa, and consists chiefly of a full account of his wonderful journeys in the years 1849-1856, in the course of which he discovered the Victoria Falls, and crossed the continent from west to east. Many books have been written on the subject of Livingstone and his travels, but all who are interested in the greatest of African travellers should read this record.


Through this little book runs the road of life, the common road of men, the white highway that Hilarius watched from the monastery gate and Brother Ambrose saw nearing its end in the Jerusalem of his heart.

The book is a romance. It may be read as a romance of the Black Death and a monk with an artist’s eye; but for the author it is a romance of the Image of God.

JAMES NASMYTH, Engineer and Inventor of the Steam Hammer. An Autobiography. By Samuel Smiles. Portrait and Illustrations.

“We should not know where to stop if we were to attempt to notice all that is instructive and interesting in this volume. It will be found equally interesting to students of human nature, to engineers, to astronomers, and even to archæologists. Among other merits, there are few books which could be put with more advantage into a young man’s hands, as affording an example of the qualities which conduce to legitimate success in work.”—The Quarterly Review.


Mr. T. P. O’Connor in the Daily Mail says:—“I turned over the leaves rapidly, almost greedily, and had read almost all its story before I could allow myself to sleep.... It is a loud cry, not merely of one intoxicated and torn heart, but of the claim of inner and true emotion to be still the greatest force of life; the one thing worth having—worth living for, longing for, dying for.”

ÆSOP’S FABLES. A New Version, chiefly from the original sources. By the Rev. Thomas James, M.A. With more than 100 Woodcuts designed by Tenniel and Wolfe.

Sir John Tenniel’s beautiful illustrations are a notable feature of this edition of “the most popular moral and political class-book of more than two thousand years.” The Fables have been re-translated chiefly from original sources, and are printed in a clear and attractive type. They are accompanied by a scholarly and interesting introductory sketch of the life of Æsop and the history of the Fables.

THE LION HUNTER IN SOUTH AFRICA. Five Years’ Adventures in the Far Interior of South Africa, with Notices of the Native Tribes and Savage Animals. By Roualeyn Gordon Cumming, of Altyre. With Woodcuts.

This sporting classic is a fascinating first-hand narrative of hunting expeditions in pursuit of big game and adventures with native tribes. A special interest now attaches to it by reason of the great changes which have come over the “scene of the lion hunter’s” exploits in a comparatively short space of time—in districts where his was the first white man’s foot to tread, our armies marched and fought in the late South African War, and prosperous towns are now established.

UNBEATEN TRACKS IN JAPAN. An Account of Travels in the Interior, including visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrine of Nikkô. By Mrs. Bishop (Isabella L. Bird). With Illustrations.

Written in the form of letters to her sister, this book gives practically the author’s day to day experiences during journeys of over one hundred and four thousand miles in Japan. Mrs. Bird was the first European lady to visit many of the places described, and her journeys took place at what is perhaps the most interesting period of the country’s history, when she was just beginning to awake to the glow of Western civilisation. As a faithful and realistic description of Old Japan by one of the most remarkable Englishwomen of her day, this book has an abiding interest.

NOTES FROM A DIARY. First Series. By Sir Mountstuart E. Grant Duff.

Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff, besides being a distinguished public-servant, was a popular member of society with a genius for gathering and recording good stories. In his series of “Notes from a Diary” he jotted down the best things he heard, and thereby made some very enjoyable volumes, which in cheaper guise will repeat and increase the success they gained in their more expensive form.

LAVENGRO: The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest. By George Borrow. With 6 Pen and Ink Sketches by Percy Wadham.

This edition contains the unaltered text of the original issue: with the addition of some Suppressed Episodes printed only in the Editions issued by Mr. Murray; MS. Variorum, Vocabulary, and Notes by the late Professor W. I. Knapp.

OUR ENGLISH BIBLE. The Story of its Origin and Growth. By H. W. Hamilton Hoare, late of Balliol College, Oxford, now an Assistant Secretary to the Board of Education, Whitehall. With Specimen Pages of Old Bibles.

An historical sketch of the lineage of our Authorised Version, which was published in 1901 under the title of “The Evolution of the English Bible.”

The aim of the sketch is to give, in a continuous and narrative form, a history of our English translations, and to exhibit them in close connection with the story of the national life.

THE LETTERS OF QUEEN VICTORIA. A Selection from her Majesty’s correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861. Edited by A. C. Benson, M.A., C.V.O., and Viscount Esher, G.C.V.O., K.C.B. With 16 Portraits. 3 vols. 1s. net each volume.

Published by authority of his Majesty King Edward VII. This edition is not abridged, but is the complete and revised text of the original.

ORIGIN OF SPECIES BY MEANS OF NATURAL SELECTION. By Charles Darwin. Popular impression of the Corrected Copyright Edition. Issued with the approval of the author’s executors.

The first edition of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” has now passed out of copyright.

It should, however, be clearly understood that the edition which thus loses its legal protection is the imperfect edition which the author subsequently revised and which was accordingly superseded. This, the complete and authorised edition of the work, will not lose copyright for some years.

The only complete editions authorised by Mr. Darwin and his representatives are those published by Mr. Murray.

ROUND THE HORN BEFORE THE MAST. An Account of a Voyage from San Francisco round Cape Horn to Liverpool in a Fourmasted “Windjammer,” with experiences of the life of an Ordinary Seaman. By Basil Lubbock. With Illustrations.

The Sheffield Independent says:—“If you care to read what life at sea in a sailing vessel really is like, this is the book that tells the story.... Mr. Lubbock has a fine power of telling a tale realistically. To read him is as good as being on the spot, and having the sights for yourself, without the hardships. I have never read any work about the sea that is as vivid and actual as this.”

ENGLISH BATTLES AND SIEGES IN THE PENINSULA. By Lieut.-Gen. Sir William Napier, K.C.B. With Portrait.

In spite of the countless books which have appeared on the Peninsular War, this great work has preserved its popularity as a standard book on the subject for over half a century and still holds its own when most rivals, which have appeared since, have faded into oblivion.


“Should the reader know of a schoolboy fond of ratting, the proud possessor possibly of a sharp terrier, and, maybe, a few ferrets, and wish to bestow a present upon him, the memory of which would last throughout his life, we could not do better than advise him to purchase this most pleasantly-written book and bestow it upon him.”—Field.

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT. By the Right Rev. Charles Gore, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Oxford.

The success of this book must constitute a record in modern sermonic literature. There can be no question, however, that its success is due to its own intrinsic value. Cultured and scholarly, and yet simple and luminous, eloquent in tone and graceful in diction, practical and stimulating, it is far and away the best exposition of the Sermon on the Mount that has yet appeared.

THE HOUSE OF QUIET. An Autobiography. By A. C. Benson.

“The House of Quiet” is an autobiography, and something more—a series of very charming essays on people and life—particularly rural life. The writer has placed himself in the chair of an invalid, an individual possessed of full mental vigour and free from bodily pain, but compelled by physical weakness to shirk the rough and tumble of a careless, unheeding, work-a-day world. Cheerfully accepting the inevitable, he betakes himself to a little temple of solitude, where he indulges himself in mild criticism and calm philosophy, exercising a gift of keen observation to the full, but setting down all that comes within his ken, with quaint and tolerant humour and tender whimsicalness. He writes with a pen dipped in the milk of human kindness, and the result is a book to read time and again.


The Guardian says:—“The style of the writing is equally simple and yet dignified; from beginning to end an ease of movement charms the reader. The book is abundantly suggestive.... The work is that of a scholar and a thinker, quick to catch a vagrant emotion, and should be read, as it was evidently written, in leisure and solitude. It covers a wide range—art, nature, country life, human character, poetry and the drama, morals and religion.”

THE PAINTERS OF FLORENCE. From the 13th to the 16th Centuries. By Julia Cartwright (Mrs. Ady). With Illustrations.

Mrs. Ady is a competent and gifted writer on Italian painting, and presents in these 350 pages an excellent history of the splendid art and artists of Florence during the golden period from Cimabue and Giotto to Andrea del Sarto and Michelangelo. Those who are taking up the study of the subject could not wish for a more interesting and serviceable handbook.

A LADY’S LIFE IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. By Mrs. Bishop (Isabella L. Bird). With Illustrations.

The Irish Times says:—“‘A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains’ needs no introduction to a public who have known and admired Mrs. Bishop (Isabella L. Bird) as a fearless traveller in the days when it was something of an achievement for a woman to undertake long and remote journeys. Mrs. Bishop is a charming and spirited writer, and this cheap edition of her work will be heartily welcomed.”

THE LIFE OF DAVID LIVINGSTONE. By William Garden Blaikie. With Portrait.

This is the standard biography of the great missionary who will for ever stand pre-eminent among African travellers.

DEEDS OF NAVAL DARING; or, Anecdotes of the British Navy. By Edward Giffard.

This work contains ninety-three anecdotes, told in everyday language, of such traits of courage and feats of individual daring as may best serve to illustrate the generally received idea of the British sailor’s character for “courage verging on temerity.”

SINAI AND PALESTINE in connection with their History. By the late Dean Stanley. With Maps.

“There is no need, at this time of day, to praise the late Dean Stanley’s fascinating story of his travels in Palestine. It is enough to say that here Mr. Murray has given us, for the sum of one shilling net, a delightful reprint of that charming book, with maps and plans and the author’s original advertisement and prefaces. We would especially commend this cheap storehouse of history, tradition, and observation to Bible students.”—Dundee Courier.

THE NATURALIST ON THE RIVER AMAZONS. A Record of Adventures, Habits of Animals, Sketches of Brazilian and Indian Life, and Aspects of Nature under the Equator, during Eleven Years of Travel. By H. W. Bates, F.R.S. Numerous Illustrations.

There are few works on natural history which appeal with the same degree of fascination to the lay person as “The Naturalist on the River Amazons.” It is a most readable record of adventures, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, habits of animals, and aspects of nature under the Equator during eleven years of travel.


Few books in the whole history of literature have had such wide popularity or such healthy and stimulating effect as the works of Samuel Smiles during the last half-century. How great men have attained to greatness and successful men achieved success is the subject of these enthralling volumes, which are now brought within the reach of all.

SELF-HELP. With Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance. With Portrait.

LIFE AND LABOUR; or, Characteristics of Men of Industry, Culture, and Genius.

CHARACTER. A Book of Noble Characteristics. With Frontispiece.




Cloth, 1s. net; lambskin, 2s. net

SELF-HELP. With Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance. 512 pages, with 6 Half-tone Illustrations.

CHARACTER. A Book of Noble Characteristics. 448 pages, with 6 Half-tone Illustrations.

DUTY. With Illustrations of Courage, Patience, and Endurance. 496 pages, with 5 Half-tone Illustrations.

THRIFT. A Book of Domestic Counsel. 448 pages, with 7 Half-tone Illustrations.




Cloth, 1s. net; leather, 2s. net

THE BIBLE IN SPAIN; or, the Journeys, Adventures and Imprisonments of an Englishman in an Attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula. With the Notes and Glossary of Ulick Burke. With 4 Illustrations.

THE GYPSIES OF SPAIN. Their Manners, Customs, Religion, and Language. With 7 Illustrations by A. Wallis Mills.

LAVENGRO: the Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest. Containing the unaltered Text of the original issue; some Suppressed Episodes printed only in the Editions issued by Mr. Murray; MS. Variorum, Vocabulary, and Notes by Professor W. I. Knapp. With 8 Pen and Ink Sketches by Percy Wadham.

ROMANY RYE. A Sequel to “Lavengro.” Collated and revised in the same manner as “Lavengro” by Professor W. I. Knapp. With 7 Pen and Ink Sketches by F. G. Kitton.

WILD WALES: Its People, Language, and Scenery. With Map and 8 Illustrations by A. S. Hartrick.

ROMANO LAVO LIL: the Word Book of the Romany or English Gypsy Language. With Specimens of Gypsy Poetry, and an account of certain Gypsyries or Places inhabited by them, and of various things relating to Gypsy Life in England.


Mr. Murray’s Standard Works

Large Crown 8vo, 2s. 6d. net each

CAPTAIN JAMES COOK, R.N., F.R.S., the Circumnavigator. By Arthur Kitson. With Illustrations.

At the time of the appearance of this book, it was accepted by the Press as the best authority so far published on the life of the “Great Circumnavigator.” In this cheaper edition the Author has been able to bring to light “some new facts,” and to clear up decisively several doubtful points.

JOHN MURRAY: A Publisher and his Friends. Memoir and Correspondence of the second John Murray, with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768-1843. By Samuel Smiles, LL.D. Edited by Thomas Mackay. With Portraits.

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIR HARRY SMITH, 1787-1819. Edited by G. C. Moore Smith. With Map and Portrait.

A COTSWOLD VILLAGE: or, Country Life and Pursuits in Gloucestershire. By J. Arthur Gibbs. With Illustrations.

DOG BREAKING: the Most Expeditious, Certain, and Easy Method. With Odds and Ends for those who love the Dog and Gun. By General W. N. Hutchinson. With numerous Illustrations.

THE VOYAGE OF THE “FOX” IN THE ARCTIC SEAS IN SEARCH OF FRANKLIN AND HIS COMPANIONS. By the late Admiral Sir F. Leopold McClintock, R.N. A Cheap Edition. With Portraits and other Illustrations and Maps.

THE STORY OF THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO. By the Rev. G. R. Gleig. With Map and Illustrations.

LIFE OF ROBERT, FIRST LORD CLIVE. By the Rev. G. R. Gleig. Illustrated.


Complete List of the Volumes in this Series will be sent post free
on Application.

London: JOHN MURRAY, Albemarle Street, W.

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

have wintessed more.=> have witnessed more. {pg 86}

old’s man’s mumbled answer=> old man’s mumbled answer {pg 123}

I know Hanock well=> I know Hancock well {pg 193}

which acepts or rejects=> which accepts or rejects {pg 245}

The black and white becomes them best=> The black and white become them best {pg 252}