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Title:      The Ladybird (1923)
Author:     D H Lawrence
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Ladybird
Author:     D H Lawrence

How many swords had Lady Beveridge in her pierced heart!  Yet there
always seemed room for another.  Since she had determined that her
heart of pity and kindness should never die.  If it had not been
for this determination she herself might have died of sheer agony,
in the years 1916 and 1917, when her boys were killed, and her
brother, and death seemed to be mowing with wide swaths through her
family.  But let us forget.

Lady Beveridge loved humanity, and come what might, she would
continue to love it.  Nay, in the human sense, she would love her
enemies.  Not the criminals among the enemy, the men who committed
atrocities.  But the men who were enemies through no choice of
their own.  She would be swept into no general hate.

Somebody had called her the soul of England.  It was not ill said,
though she was half Irish.  But of an old, aristocratic, loyal
family famous for its brilliant men.  And she, Lady Beveridge, had
for years as much influence on the tone of English politics as any
individual alive.  The close friend of the real leaders in the
House of Lords and in the Cabinet, she was content that the men
should act, so long as they breathed from her as from the rose of
life the pure fragrance of truth and genuine love.  She had no
misgiving regarding her own spirit.

She, she would never lower her delicate silken flag.  For instance,
throughout all the agony of the war she never forgot the enemy
prisoners; she was determined to do her best for them.  During the
first years she still had influence.  But during the last years of
the war power slipped out of the hands of her and her sort, and she
found she could do nothing any more: almost nothing.  Then it
seemed as if the many swords had gone home into the heart of this
little, unyielding Mater Dolorosa.  The new generation jeered at
her.  She was a shabby, old-fashioned little aristocrat, and her
drawing-room was out of date.

But we anticipate.  The years 1916 and 1917 were the years when the
old spirit died for ever in England.  But Lady Beveridge struggled
on.  She was being beaten.

It was in the winter of 1917--or in the late autumn.  She had been
for a fortnight sick, stricken, paralysed by the fearful death of
her youngest boy.  She felt she MUST give in, and just die.  And
then she remembered how many others were lying in agony.

So she rose, trembling, frail, to pay a visit to the hospital where
lay the enemy sick and wounded, near London.  Countess Beveridge
was still a privileged woman.  Society was beginning to jeer at
this little, worn bird of an out-of-date righteousness and
aesthetic.  But they dared not think ill of her.

She ordered the car and went alone.  The Earl, her husband, had
taken his gloom to Scotland.  So, on a sunny, wan November morning
Lady Beveridge descended at the hospital, Hurst Place.  The guard
knew her, and saluted as she passed.  Ah, she was used to such deep
respect!  It was strange that she felt it so bitterly, when the
respect became shallower.  But she did.  It was the beginning of
the end to her.

The matron went with her into the ward.  Alas, the beds were all
full, and men were even lying on pallets on the floor.  There was a
desperate, crowded dreariness and helplessness in the place: as if
nobody wanted to make a sound or utter a word.  Many of the men
were haggard and unshaven, one was delirious, and talking fitfully
in the Saxon dialect.  It went to Lady Beveridge's heart.  She had
been educated in Dresden, and had had many dear friendships in the
city.  Her children also had been educated there.  She heard the
Saxon dialect with pain.

She was a little, frail, bird-like woman, elegant, but with that
touch of the blue-stocking of the nineties which was unmistakable.
She fluttered delicately from bed to bed, speaking in perfect
German, but with a thin, English intonation: and always asking if
there was anything she could do.  The men were mostly officers and
gentlemen.  They made little requests which she wrote down in a
book.  Her long, pale, rather worn face, and her nervous little
gestures somehow inspired confidence.

One man lay quite still, with his eyes shut.  He had a black beard.
His face was rather small and sallow.  He might be dead.  Lady
Beveridge looked at him earnestly, and fear came into her face.

'Why, Count Dionys!' she said, fluttered.  'Are you asleep?'

It was Count Johann Dionys Psanek, a Bohemian.  She had known
him when he was a boy, and only in the spring of 1914 he and his
wife had stayed with Lady Beveridge in her country house in

His black eyes opened: large, black, unseeing eyes, with curved
black lashes.  He was a small man, small as a boy, and his face too
was rather small.  But all the lines were fine, as if they had been
fired with a keen male energy.  Now the yellowish swarthy paste of
his flesh seemed dead, and the fine black brows seemed drawn on the
face of one dead.  The eyes, however, were alive: but only just
alive, unseeing and unknowing.

'You know me, Count Dionys?  You know me, don't you?' said Lady
Beveridge, bending forward over the bed.

There was no reply for some time.  Then the black eyes gathered a
look of recognition, and there came the ghost of a polite smile.

'Lady Beveridge.'  The lips formed the words.  There was
practically no sound.

'I am so glad you can recognize me.  And I am so sorry you are
hurt.  I am so sorry.'

The black eyes watched her from that terrible remoteness of death,
without changing.

'There is nothing I can do for you?  Nothing at all?' she said,
always speaking German.

And after a time, and from a distance, came the answer from his
eyes, a look of weariness, of refusal, and a wish to be left alone;
he was unable to strain himself into consciousness.  His eyelids

'I am so sorry,' she said.  'If ever there is anything I can do--'

The eyes opened again, looking at her.  He seemed at last to hear,
and it was as if his eyes made the last weary gesture of a polite
bow.  Then slowly his eyelids closed again.

Poor Lady Beveridge felt another sword-thrust of sorrow in her
heart, as she stood looking down at the motionless face, and at the
black fine beard.  The black hairs came out of his skin thin and
fine, not very close together.  A queer, dark, aboriginal little
face he had, with a fine little nose: not an Aryan, surely.  And he
was going to die.

He had a bullet through the upper part of his chest, and another
bullet had broken one of his ribs.  He had been in hospital five

Lady Beveridge asked the matron to ring her up if anything
happened.  Then she drove away, saddened.  Instead of going to
Beveridge House, she went to her daughter's flat near the park--
near Hyde Park.  Lady Daphne was poor.  She had married a commoner,
son of one of the most famous politicians in England, but a man
with no money.  And Earl Beveridge had wasted most of the large
fortune that had come to him, so that the daughter had very little,

Lady Beveridge suffered, going in the narrow doorway into the
rather ugly flat.  Lady Daphne was sitting by the electric fire in
the small yellow drawing-room, talking to a visitor.  She rose at
once, seeing her little mother.

'Why, mother, ought you to be out?  I'm sure not.'

'Yes, Daphne darling.  Of course I ought to be out.'

'How are you?'  The daughter's voice was slow and sonorous,
protective, sad.  Lady Daphne was tall, only twenty-five years old.
She had been one of the beauties, when the war broke out, and her
father had hoped she would make a splendid match.  Truly, she had
married fame: but without money.  Now, sorrow, pain, thwarted
passion had done her great damage.  Her husband was missing in the
East.  Her baby had been born dead.  Her two darling brothers were
dead.  And she was ill, always ill.

A tall, beautifully-built girl, she had the fine stature of her
father.  Her shoulders were still straight.  But how thin her white
throat!  She wore a simple black frock stitched with coloured wool
round the top, and held in a loose coloured girdle: otherwise no
ornaments.  And her face was lovely, fair, with a soft exotic white
complexion and delicate pink cheeks.  Her hair was soft and heavy,
of a lovely pallid gold colour, ash-blond.  Her hair, her
complexion were so perfectly cared for as to be almost artificial,
like a hot-house flower.

But alas, her beauty was a failure.  She was threatened with
phthisis, and was far too thin.  Her eyes were the saddest part of
her.  They had slightly reddened rims, nerve-worn, with heavy,
veined lids that seemed as if they did not want to keep up.  The
eyes themselves were large and of a beautiful green-blue colour.
But they were full, languid, almost glaucous.

Standing as she was, a tall, finely-built girl, looking down with
affectionate care on her mother, she filled the heart with ashes.
The little pathetic mother, so wonderful in her way, was not really
to be pitied for all her sorrow.  Her life was in her sorrows, and
her efforts on behalf of the sorrows of others.  But Daphne was not
born for grief and philanthropy.  With her splendid frame, and her
lovely, long, strong legs, she was Artemis or Atalanta rather than
Daphne.  There was a certain width of brow and even of chin that
spoke a strong, reckless nature, and the curious, distraught slant
of her eyes told of a wild energy dammed up inside her.

That was what ailed her: her own wild energy.  She had it from her
father, and from her father's desperate race.  The earldom had
begun with a riotous, dare-devil border soldier, and this was the
blood that flowed on.  And alas, what was to be done with it?

Daphne had married an adorable husband: truly an adorable husband.
Whereas she needed a dare-devil.  But in her MIND she hated all
dare-devils: she had been brought up by her mother to admire only
the good.

So, her reckless, anti-philanthropic passion could find no outlet--
and SHOULD find no outlet, she thought.  So her own blood turned
against her, beat on her own nerves, and destroyed her.  It was
nothing but frustration and anger which made her ill, and made the
doctors fear consumption.  There it was, drawn on her rather wide
mouth: frustration, anger, bitterness.  There it was the same in
the roll of her green-blue eyes, a slanting, averted look: the same
anger furtively turning back on itself.  This anger reddened her
eyes and shattered her nerves.  And yet her whole will was fixed in
her adoption of her mother's creed, and in condemnation of her
handsome, proud, brutal father, who had made so much misery in the
family.  Yes, her will was fixed in the determination that life
should be gentle and good and benevolent.  Whereas her blood was
reckless, the blood of daredevils.  Her will was the stronger of
the two.  But her blood had its revenge on her.  So it is with
strong natures today: shattered from the inside.

'You have no news, darling?' asked the mother.

'No.  My father-in-law had information that British prisoners had
been brought into Hasrun, and that details would be forwarded by
the Turks.  And there was a rumour from some Arab prisoners that
Basil was one of the British brought in wounded.'

'When did you hear this?'

'Primrose came in this morning.'

'Then we can hope, dear.'


Never was anything more dull and bitter than Daphne's affirmative
of hope.  Hope had become almost a curse to her.  She wished there
need be no such thing.  Ha, the torment of hoping, and the INSULT
to one's soul.  Like the importunate widow dunning for her deserts.
Why could it not all be just clean disaster, and have done with it?
This dilly-dallying with despair was worse than despair.  She had
hoped so much: ah, for her darling brothers she had hoped with such
anguish.  And the two she loved best were dead.  So were most
others she had hoped for, dead.  Only this uncertainty about her
husband still rankling.

'You feel better, dear?' said the little, unquenched mother.

'Rather better,' came the resentful answer.

'And your night?'

'No better.'

There was a pause.

'You are coming to lunch with me, Daphne darling?'

'No, mother dear.  I promised to lunch at the Howards with
Primrose.  But I needn't go for a quarter of an hour.  Do sit

Both women seated themselves near the electric fire.  There was
that bitter pause, neither knowing what to say.  Then Daphne roused
herself to look at her mother.

'Are you sure you were fit to go out?' she said.  'What took you
out so suddenly?'

'I went to Hurst Place, dear.  I had the men on my mind, after the
way the newspapers had been talking.'

'Why ever do you read the newspapers!' blurted Daphne, with a
certain burning, acid anger.  'Well,' she said, more composed.
'And do you feel better now you've been?'

'So many people suffer besides ourselves, darling.'

'I know they do.  Makes it all the worse.  It wouldn't matter if it
were only just us.  At least, it would matter, but one could bear
it more easily.  To be just one of a crowd all in the same state.'

'And some even worse, dear.'

'Oh, quite!  And the worse it is for all, the worse it is for one.'

'Is that so, darling?  Try not to see too darkly.  I feel if I can
give just a little bit of myself to help the others--you know--it
alleviates me.  I feel that what I can give to the men lying there,
Daphne, I give to my own boys.  I can only help them now through
helping others.  But I can still do that, Daphne, my girl.'

And the mother put her little white hand into the long, white cold
hand of her daughter.  Tears came to Daphne's eyes, and a fearful
stony grimace to her mouth.

'It's so wonderful of you that you can feel like that,' she said.

'But you feel the same, my love.  I know you do.'

'No, I don't.  Everyone I see suffering these same awful things, it
makes me wish more for the end of the world.  And I quite see that
the world won't end--'

'But it will get better, dear.  This time it's like a great
sickness--like a terrible pneumonia tearing the breast of the

'Do you believe it will get better?  I don't.'

'It will get better.  Of course it will get better.  It is perverse
to think otherwise, Daphne.  Remember what HAS been before, even in
Europe.  Ah, Daphne, we must take a bigger view.'

'Yes, I suppose we must.'

The daughter spoke rapidly, from the lips, in a resonant,
monotonous tone.  The mother spoke from the heart.

'And Daphne, I found an old friend among the men at Hurst Place.'


'Little Count Dionys.  You remember him?'

'Quite.  What's wrong?'

'Wounded rather badly--through the chest.  So ill.'

'Did you speak to him?'

'Yes.  I recognized him in spite of his beard.'


'Yes--a black beard.  I suppose he could not be shaven.  It seems
strange that he is still alive, poor man.'

'Why strange?  He isn't old.  How old is he?'

'Between thirty and forty.  But so ill, so wounded, Daphne.  And so
small.  So small, so sallow--smorto, you know the Italian word.
The way dark people look.  There is something so distressing in

'Does he look VERY small now--uncanny?' asked the daughter.

'No, not uncanny.  Something of the terrible far-awayness of a
child that is very ill and can't tell you what hurts it.  Poor
Count Dionys, Daphne.  I didn't know, dear, that his eyes were so
black, and his lashes so curved and long.  I had never thought of
him as beautiful.'

'Nor I.  Only a little comical.  Such a dapper little man.'

'Yes.  And yet now, Daphne, there is something remote and in a sad
way heroic in his dark face.  Something primitive.'

'What did he say to you?'

'He couldn't speak to me.  Only with his lips, just my name.'

'So bad as that?'

'Oh yes.  They are afraid he will die.'

'Poor Count Dionys.  I liked him.  He was a bit like a monkey, but
he had his points.  He gave me a thimble on my seventeenth
birthday.  Such an amusing thimble.'

'I remember, dear.'

'Unpleasant wife, though.  Wonder if he minds dying far away from
her.  Wonder if she knows.'

'I think not.  They didn't even know his name properly.  Only that
he was a colonel of such and such a regiment.'

'Fourth Cavalry,' said Daphne.  'Poor Count Dionys.  Such a lovely
name, I always thought: Count Johann Dionys Psanek.  Extraordinary
dandy he was.  And an amazingly good dancer, small, yet electric.
Wonder if he minds dying.'

'He was so full of life, in his own little animal way.  They say
small people are always conceited.  But he doesn't look conceited
now, dear.  Something ages old in his face--and, yes, a certain
beauty, Daphne.'

'You mean long lashes.'

'No.  So still, so solitary--and ages old, in his race.  I suppose
he must belong to one of those curious little aboriginal races of
Central Europe.  I felt quite new beside him.'

'How nice of you,' said Daphne.

Nevertheless, next day Daphne telephoned to Hurst Place to ask for
news of him.  He was about the same.  She telephoned every day.
Then she was told he was a little stronger.  The day she received
the message that her husband was wounded and a prisoner in Turkey,
and that his wounds were healing, she forgot to telephone for news
of the little enemy Count.  And the following day she telephoned
that she was coming to the hospital to see him.

He was awake, more restless, more in physical excitement.  They
could see the nausea of pain round his nose.  His face seemed to
Daphne curiously hidden behind the black beard, which nevertheless
was thin, each hair coming thin and fine, singly, from the sallow,
slightly translucent skin.  In the same way his moustache made a
thin black line round his mouth.  His eyes were wide open, very
black, and of no legible expression.  He watched the two women
coming down the crowded, dreary room, as if he did not see them.
His eyes seemed too wide.

It was a cold day, and Daphne was huddled in a black sealskin coat
with a skunk collar pulled up to her ears, and a dull gold cap with
wings pulled down on her brow.  Lady Beveridge wore her sable coat,
and had that odd, untidy elegance which was natural to her, rather
like a ruffled chicken.

Daphne was upset by the hospital.  She looked from right to left in
spite of herself, and everything gave her a dull feeling of horror:
the terror of these sick, wounded enemy men.  She loomed tall and
obtrusive in her furs by the bed, her little mother at her side.

'I hope you don't mind my coming!' she said in German to the sick
man.  Her tongue felt rusty, speaking the language.

'Who is it then?' he asked.

'It is my daughter, Lady Daphne.  You remembered ME, Lady
Beveridge!  This is my daughter, whom you knew in Saxony.  She was
so sorry to hear you were wounded.'

The black eyes rested on the little lady.  Then they returned to
the looming figure of Daphne.  And a certain fear grew on the low,
sick brow.  It was evident the presence loomed and frightened him.
He turned his face aside.  Daphne noticed how his fine black hair
grew uncut over his small, animal ears.

'You don't remember me, Count Dionys?' she said dully.

'Yes,' he said.  But he kept his face averted.

She stood there feeling confused and miserable, as if she had made
a faux pas in coming.

'Would you rather be left alone?' she said.  'I'm sorry.'

Her voice was monotonous.  She felt suddenly stifled in her closed
furs, and threw her coat open, showing her thin white throat and
plain black slip dress on her flat breast.  He turned again
unwillingly to look at her.  He looked at her as if she were some
strange creature standing near him.

'Good-bye,' she said.  'Do get better.'

She was looking at him with a queer, slanting, downward look of her
heavy eyes as she turned away.  She was still a little red round
the eyes, with nervous exhaustion.

'You are so tall,' he said, still frightened.

'I was always tall,' she replied, turning half to him again.

'And I, small,' he said.

'I am so glad you are getting better,' she said.

'I am not glad,' he said.

'Why?  I'm sure you are.  Just as we are glad because we want you
to get better.'

'Thank you,' he said.  'I have wished to die.'

'Don't do that, Count Dionys.  Do get better,' she said, in the
rather deep, laconic manner of her girlhood.  He looked at her with
a farther look of recognition.  But his short, rather pointed nose
was lifted with the disgust and weariness of pain, his brows were
tense.  He watched her with that curious flame of suffering which
is forced to give a little outside attention, but which speaks only
to itself.

'Why did they not let me die?' he said.  'I wanted death now.'

'No,' she said.  'You mustn't.  You must live.  If we CAN live we

'I wanted death,' he said.

'Ah, well,' she said, 'even death we can't have when we want it, or
when we think we want it.'

'That is true,' he said, watching her with the same wide black
eyes.  'Please to sit down.  You are too tall as you stand.'

It was evident he was a little frightened still by her looming,
overhanging figure.

'I am sorry I am too tall,' she said, taking a chair which a man-
nurse had brought her.  Lady Beveridge had gone away to speak with
the men.  Daphne sat down, not knowing what to say further.  The
pitch-black look in the Count's wide eyes puzzled her.

'Why do you come here?  Why does your lady mother come?' he said.

'To see if we can do anything,' she answered.

'When I am well, I will thank your ladyship.'

'All right,' she replied.  'When you are well I will let my lord
the Count thank me.  Please do get well.'

'We are enemies,' he said.

'Who?  You and I and my mother?'

'Are we not?  The most difficult thing is to be sure of anything.
If they had let me die!'

'That is at least ungrateful, Count Dionys.'

'Lady Daphne!  Yes.  Lady Daphne!  Beautiful, the name is.  You are
always called Lady Daphne?  I remember you were so bright a

'More or less,' she said, answering his question.

'Ach!  We should all have new names now.  I thought of a name for
myself, but I have forgotten it.  No longer Johann Dionys.  That is
shot away.  I am Karl or Wilhelm or Ernst or Georg.  Those are
names I hate.  Do you hate them?'

'I don't like them--but I don't hate them.  And you mustn't leave
off being Count Johann Dionys.  If you do I shall have to leave off
being Daphne.  I like your name so much.'

'Lady Daphne!  Lady Daphne!' he repeated.  'Yes, it rings well, it
sounds beautiful to me.  I think I talk foolishly.  I hear myself
talking foolishly to you.'  He looked at her anxiously.

'Not at all,' she said.

'Ach!  I have a head on my shoulders that is like a child's
windmill, and I can't prevent its making foolish words.  Please to
go away, not to hear me.  I can hear myself.'

'Can't I do anything for you?' she asked.

'No, no!  No, no!  If I could be buried deep, very deep down, where
everything is forgotten!  But they draw me up, back to the surface.
I would not mind if they buried me alive, if it were very deep, and
dark, and the earth heavy above.'

'Don't say that,' she replied, rising.

'No, I am saying it when I don't wish to say it.  Why am I here?
Why am I here?  Why have I survived into this?  Why can I not stop

He turned his face aside.  The black, fine, elfish hair was so
long, and pushed up in tufts from the smooth brown nape of his
neck.  Daphne looked at him in sorrow.  He could not turn his body.
He could only move his head.  And he lay with his face hard
averted, the fine hair of his beard coming up strange from under
his chin and from his throat, up to the socket of his ear.  He lay
quite still in this position.  And she turned away, looking for her
mother.  She had suddenly realized that the bonds, the connexions
between him and his life in the world had broken, and he lay there,
a bit of loose, palpitating humanity, shot away from the body of

It was ten days before she went to the hospital again.  She had
wanted never to go again, to forget him, as one tries to forget
incurable things.  But she could not forget him.  He came again and
again into her mind.  She had to go back.  She had heard that he
was recovering very slowly.

He looked really better.  His eyes were not so wide open, they had
lost that black, inky exposure which had given him such an
unnatural look, unpleasant.  He watched her guardedly.  She had
taken off her furs, and wore only her dress and a dark, soft
feather toque.

'How are you?' she said, keeping her face averted, unwilling to
meet his eyes.

'Thank you, I am better.  The nights are not so long.'

She shuddered, knowing what long nights meant.  He saw the worn
look in her face too, the reddened rims of her eyes.

'Are you not well?  Have you some trouble?' he asked her.

'No, no,' she answered.

She had brought a handful of pinky, daisy-shaped flowers.

'Do you care for flowers?' she asked.

He looked at them.  Then he slowly shook his head.

'No,' he said.  'If I am on horseback, riding through the marshes
or through the hills, I like to see them below me.  But not here.
Not now.  Please do not bring flowers into this grave.  Even in
gardens, I do not like them.  When they are upholstery to human

'I will take them away again,' she said.

'Please do.  Please give them to the nurse.'

Daphne paused.

'Perhaps,' she said, 'you wish I would not come to disturb you.'

He looked into her face.

'No,' he said.  'You are like a flower behind a rock, near an icy
water.  No, you do not live too much.  I am afraid I cannot talk
sensibly.  I wish to hold my mouth shut.  If I open it, I talk this
absurdity.  It escapes from my mouth.'

'It is not so very absurd,' she said.

But he was silent--looking away from her.

'I want you to tell me if there is really nothing I can do for
you,' she said.

'Nothing,' he answered.

'If I can write any letter for you.'

'None,' he answered.

'But your wife and your two children.  Do they know where you are?'

'I should think not.'

'And where are they?'

'I do not know.  Probably they are in Hungary.'

'Not at your home?'

'My castle was burnt down in a riot.  My wife went to Hungary with
the children.  She has her relatives there.  She went away from me.
I wished it too.  Alas for her, I wished to be dead.  Pardon me the
personal tone.'

Daphne looked down at him--the queer, obstinate little fellow.

'But you have somebody you wish to tell--somebody you want to hear

'Nobody.  Nobody.  I wish the bullet had gone through my heart.  I
wish to be dead.  It is only I have a devil in my body that will
not die.'

She looked at him as he lay with closed, averted face.

'Surely it is not a devil which keeps you alive,' she said.  'It is
something good.'

'No, a devil,' he said.

She sat looking at him with a long, slow, wondering look.

'Must one hate a devil that makes one live?' she asked.

He turned his eyes to her with a touch of a satiric smile.

'If one lives, no,' he said.

She looked away from him the moment he looked at her.  For her life
she could not have met his dark eyes direct.

She left him, and he lay still.  He neither read nor talked
throughout the long winter nights and the short winter days.  He
only lay for hours with black, open eyes, seeing everything around
with a touch of disgust, and heeding nothing.

Daphne went to see him now and then.  She never forgot him for
long.  He seemed to come into her mind suddenly, as if by sorcery.

One day he said to her:

'I see you are married.  May I ask you who is your husband?'

She told him.  She had had a letter also from Basil.  The Count
smiled slowly.

'You can look forward,' he said, 'to a happy reunion and new,
lovely children, Lady Daphne.  Is it not so?'

'Yes, of course,' she said.

'But you are ill,' he said to her.

'Yes--rather ill.'

'Of what?'

'Oh!' she answered fretfully, turning her face aside.  'They talk
about lungs.'  She hated speaking of it.  'Why, how do you know I
am ill?' she added quickly.

Again he smiled slowly.

'I see it in your face, and hear it in your voice.  One would say
the Evil One had cast a spell on you.'

'Oh no,' she said hastily.  'But do I look ill?'

'Yes.  You look as if something had struck you across the face, and
you could not forget it.'

'Nothing has,' she said.  'Unless it's the war.'

'The war!' he repeated.

'Oh, well, don't let us talk of it,' she said.

Another time he said to her:

'The year has turned--the sun must shine at last, even in England.
I am afraid of getting well too soon.  I am a prisoner, am I not?
But I wish the sun would shine.  I wish the sun would shine on my

'You won't always be a prisoner.  The war will end.  And the sun
DOES shine even in the winter in England,' she said.

'I wish it would shine on my face,' he said.

So that when in February there came a blue, bright morning, the
morning that suggests yellow crocuses and the smell of a mezereon
tree and the smell of damp, warm earth, Daphne hastily got a taxi
and drove out to the hospital.

'You have come to put me in the sun,' he said the moment he saw

'Yes, that's what I came for,' she said.

She spoke to the matron, and had his bed carried out where there
was a big window that came low.  There he was put full in the sun.
Turning, he could see the blue sky and the twinkling tops of
purplish, bare trees.

'The world!  The world!' he murmured.

He lay with his eyes shut, and the sun on his swarthy, transparent,
immobile face.  The breath came and went through his nostrils
invisibly.  Daphne wondered how he could lie so still, how he could
look so immobile.  It was true as her mother had said: he looked as
if he had been cast in the mould when the metal was white hot, all
his lines were so clean.  So small, he was, and in his way perfect.

Suddenly his dark eyes opened and caught her looking.

'The sun makes even anger open like a flower,' he said.

'Whose anger?' she said.

'I don't know.  But I can make flowers, looking through my
eyelashes.  Do you know how?'

'You mean rainbows?'

'Yes, flowers.'

And she saw him, with a curious smile on his lips, looking through
his almost closed eyelids at the sun.

'The sun is neither English nor German nor Bohemian,' he said.  'I
am a subject of the sun.  I belong to the fire-worshippers.'

'Do you?' she replied.

'Yes, truly, by tradition.'  He looked at her smiling.  'You stand
there like a flower that will melt,' he added.

She smiled slowly at him with a slow, cautious look of her eyes, as
if she feared something.

'I am much more solid than you imagine,' she said.

Still he watched her.

'One day,' he said, 'before I go, let me wrap your hair round my
hands, will you?'  He lifted his thin, short, dark hands.  'Let me
wrap your hair round my hands, like a bandage.  They hurt me.  I
don't know what it is.  I think it is all the gun explosions.  But
if you let me wrap your hair round my hands.  You know, it is the
hermetic gold--but so much of water in it, of the moon.  That will
soothe my hands.  One day, will you?'

'Let us wait till the day comes,' she said.

'Yes,' he answered, and was still again.

'It troubles me,' he said after a while, 'that I complain like a
child, and ask for things.  I feel I have lost my manhood for the
time being.  The continual explosions of guns and shells!  It seems
to have driven my soul out of me like a bird frightened away at
last.  But it will come back, you know.  And I am so grateful to
you; you are good to me when I am soulless, and you don't take
advantage of me.  Your soul is quiet and heroic.'

'Don't,' she said.  'Don't talk!'

The expression of shame and anguish and disgust crossed his face.

'It is because I can't help it,' he said.  'I have lost my soul,
and I can't stop talking to you.  I can't stop.  But I don't talk
to anyone else.  I try not to talk, but I can't prevent it.  Do you
draw the words out of me?'

Her wide, green-blue eyes seemed like the heart of some curious,
full-open flower, some Christmas rose with its petals of snow and
flush.  Her hair glinted heavy, like water-gold.  She stood there
passive and indomitable with the wide-eyed persistence of her
wintry, blond nature.

Another day when she came to see him, he watched her for a time,
then he said:

'Do they all tell you you are lovely, you are beautiful?'

'Not quite all,' she replied.

'But your husband?'

'He has said so.'

'Is he gentle?  Is he tender?  Is he a dear lover?'

She turned her face aside, displeased.

'Yes,' she replied curtly.

He did not answer.  And when she looked again he was lying with his
eyes shut, a faint smile seeming to curl round his short,
transparent nose.  She could faintly see the flesh through his
beard, as water through reeds.  His black hair was brushed smooth
as glass, his black eyebrows glinted like a curve of black glass on
the swarthy opalescence of his brow.

Suddenly he spoke, without opening his eyes.

'You have been very kind to me,' he said.

'Have I?  Nothing to speak of.'

He opened his eyes and looked at her.

'Everything finds its mate,' he said.  'The ermine and the pole-cat
and the buzzard.  One thinks so often that only the dove and the
nightingale and the stag with his antlers have gentle mates.  But
the pole-cat and the ice-bears of the north have their mates.  And
a white she-bear lies with her cubs under a rock as a snake lies
hidden, and the male bear slowly swims back from the sea, like a
clot of snow or a shadow of a white cloud passing on the speckled
sea.  I have seen her too, and I did not shoot her, nor him when he
landed with fish in his mouth, wading wet and slow and yellow-white
over the black stones.'

'You have been in the North Sea?'

'Yes.  And with the Eskimo in Siberia, and across the Tundras.  And
a white sea-hawk makes a nest on a high stone, and sometimes looks
out with her white head over the edge of the rocks.  It is not only
a world of men, Lady Daphne.'

'Not by any means,' said she.

'Else it were a sorry place.'

'It is bad enough,' said she.

'Foxes have their holes.  They have even their mates, Lady Daphne,
that they bark to and are answered.  And an adder finds his female.
Psanek means an outlaw; did you know?'

'I did not.'

'Outlaws, and brigands, have often the finest woman-mates.'

'They do,' she said.

'I will be Psanek, Lady Daphne.  I will not be Johann Dionys any
more, I will be Psanek.  The law has shot me through.'

'You might be Psanek and Johann and Dionys as well,' she said.

'With the sun on my face?  Maybe,' he said, looking to the sun.

There were some lovely days in the spring of 1918.  In March the
Count was able to get up.  They dressed him in a simple, dark-blue
uniform.  He was not very thin, only swarthy-transparent, now his
beard was shaven and his hair was cut.  His smallness made him
noticeable, but he was masculine, perfect in his small stature.
All the smiling dapperness that had made him seem like a monkey to
Daphne when she was a girl had gone now.  His eyes were dark and
haughty; he seemed to keep inside his own reserves, speaking to
nobody if he could help it, neither to the nurses nor the visitors
nor to his fellow-prisoners, fellow-officers.  He seemed to put a
shadow between himself and them, and from across this shadow he
looked with his dark, beautifully-fringed eyes, as a proud little
beast from the shadow of its lair.  Only to Daphne he laughed and

She sat with him one day in March on the terrace of the hospital,
on a morning when white clouds went endlessly and magnificently
about a blue sky, and the sunshine felt warm after the blots of

'When you had a birthday, and you were seventeen, didn't I give you
a thimble?' he asked her.

'Yes.  I have it still.'

'With a gold snake at the bottom, and a Mary-beetle of green stone
at the top, to push the needle with.'


'Do you ever use it?'

'No.  I sew rarely.'

'Would it displease you to sew something for me?'

'You won't admire my stitches.  What would you wish me to sew?'

'Sew me a shirt that I can wear.  I have never before worn shirts
from a shop, with a maker's name inside.  It is very distasteful to

She looked at him--his haughty little brows.

'Shall I ask my maid to do it?' she said.

'Oh, please, no!  Oh, please, no, do not trouble.  No, please, I
would not want it unless you sewed it yourself, with the Psanek

She paused before she answered.  Then came her slow:


He turned and looked at her with dark, searching eyes.

'I have no reason,' he said, rather haughtily.

She left the matter there.  For two weeks she did not go to see
him.  Then suddenly one day she took the bus down Oxford Street and
bought some fine white flannel.  She decided he must wear flannel.

That afternoon she drove out to Hurst Place.  She found him sitting
on the terrace, looking across the garden at the red suburb of
London smoking fumily in the near distance, interrupted by patches
of uncovered ground and a flat, tin-roofed laundry.

'Will you give me measurements for your shirt?' she said.

'The number of the neck-band of this English shirt is fifteen.  If
you ask the matron she will give you the measurement.  It is a
little too large, too long in the sleeves, you see,' and he shook
his shirt cuff over his wrist.  'Also too long altogether.'

'Mine will probably be unwearable when I've made them,' said she.

'Oh no.  Let your maid direct you.  But please do not let her sew

'Will you tell me why you want me to do it?'

'Because I am a prisoner, in other people's clothes, and I have
nothing of my own.  All the things I touch are distasteful to me.
If your maid sews for me, it will still be the same.  Only you
might give me what I want, something that buttons round my throat
and on my wrists.'

'And in Germany--or in Austria?'

'My mother sewed for me.  And after her, my mother's sister, who
was the head of my house.'

'Not your wife?'

'Naturally not.  She would have been insulted.  She was never more
than a guest in my house.  In my family there are old traditions--
but with me they have come to an end.  I had best try to revive

'Beginning with traditions of shirts?'

'Yes.  In our family the shirt should be made and washed by a woman
of our own blood: but when we marry, by the wife.  So when I
married I had sixty shirts, and many other things--sewn by my
mother and my aunt, all with my initial, and the ladybird, which is
our crest.'

'And where did they put the initial?'

'Here!'  He put his finger on the back of his neck, on the swarthy,
transparent skin.  'I fancy I can feel the embroidered ladybird
still.  On our linen we had no crown: only the ladybird.'

She was silent, thinking.

'You will forgive what I ask you?' he said, 'since I am a prisoner
and can do no other, and since fate has made you so that you
understand the world as I understand it.  It is not really
indelicate, what I ask you.  There will be a ladybird on your
finger when you sew, and those who wear the ladybird understand.'

'I suppose,' she mused, 'it is as bad to have your bee in your
shirt as in your bonnet.'

He looked at her with round eyes.

'Don't you know what it is to have a bee in your bonnet?' she said.


'To have a bee buzzing among your hair!  To be out of your wits,'
she smiled at him.

'So!' he said.  'Ah, the Psaneks have had a ladybird in their
bonnets for many hundred years.'

'Quite, quite mad,' she said.

'It may be,' he answered.  'But with my wife I was quite sane for
ten years.  Now give me the madness of the ladybird.  The world I
was sane about has gone raving.  The ladybird I was mad with is
wise still.'

'At least, when I sew the shirts, if I sew them,' she said, 'I
shall have the ladybird at my finger's end.'

'You want to laugh at me.'

'But surely you know you are funny, with your family insect.'

'My family insect?  Now you want to be rude to me.'

'How many spots must it have?'


'Three on each wing.  And what do I do with the odd one?'

'You put that one between its teeth, like the cake for Cerebus.'

'I'll remember that.'

When she brought the first shirt, she gave it to the matron.  Then
she found Count Dionys sitting on the terrace.  It was a beautiful
spring day.  Near at hand were tall elm trees and some rooks

'What a lovely day!' she said.  'Are you liking the world any

'The world?' he said, looking up at her with the same old
discontent and disgust on his fine, transparent nose.

'Yes,' she replied, a shadow coming over her face.

'Is this the world--all those little red-brick boxes in rows, where
couples of little people live, who decree my destiny?'

'You don't like England?'

'Ah, England!  Little houses like little boxes, each with its
domestic Englishman and his domestic wife, each ruling the world
because all are alike, so alike.'

'But England isn't all houses.'

'Fields then!  Little fields with innumerable hedges.  Like a net
with an irregular mesh, pinned down over this island and everything
under the net.  Ah, Lady Daphne, forgive me.  I am ungrateful.  I
am so full of bile, of spleen, you say.  My only wisdom is to keep
my mouth shut.'

'Why do you hate everything?' she said, her own face going bitter.

'Not everything.  If I were free!  If I were outside the law.  Ah,
Lady Daphne, how does one get outside the law?'

'By going inside oneself,' she said.  'Not outside.'

His face took on a greater expression of disgust.

'No, no.  I am a man, I am a man, even if I am little.  I am not a
spirit, that coils itself inside a shell.  In my soul is anger,
anger, anger.  Give me room for my anger.  Give me room for that.'

His black eyes looked keenly into hers.  She rolled her eyes as if
in a half-trance.  And in a monotonous, tranced voice she said:

'Much better get over your anger.  And WHY are you angry?'

'There is no why.  If it were love, you would not ask me, why do
you love?  But it is anger, anger, anger.  What else can I call it?
And there is no why.'

Again he looked at her with his dark, sharp, questioning, tormented

'Can't you get rid of it?' she said, looking aside.

'If a shell exploded and blew me into a thousand fragments,' he
said, 'it would not destroy the anger that is in me.  I know that.
No, it will never dissipate.  And to die is no release.  The anger
goes on gnashing and whimpering in death.  Lady Daphne, Lady
Daphne, we have used up all the love, and this is what is left.'

'Perhaps YOU have used up all your love,' she replied.  'You are
not everybody.'

'I know it.  I speak for me and you.'

'Not for me,' she said rapidly.

He did not answer, and they remained silent.

At length she turned her eyes slowly to him.

'Why do you say you speak for me?' she said, in an accusing tone.

'Pardon me.  I was hasty.'

But a faint touch of superciliousness in his tone showed he meant
what he had said.  She mused, her brow cold and stony.

'And why do you tell ME about your anger?' she said.  'Will that
make it better?'

'Even the adder finds his mate.  And she has as much poison in her
mouth as he.'

She gave a little sudden squirt of laughter.

'Awfully poetic thing to say about me,' she said.

He smiled, but with the same corrosive quality.

'Ah,' he said, 'you are not a dove.  You are a wild-cat with open
eyes, half dreaming on a bough, in a lonely place, as I have seen
her.  And I ask myself--What are her memories, then?'

'I wish I were a wild-cat,' she said suddenly.

He eyed her shrewdly, and did not answer.

'You want more war?' she said to him bitterly.

'More trenches?  More Big Berthas, more shells and poison-gas, more
machine-drilled science-manoeuvred so-called armies?  Never.
Never.  I would rather work in a factory that makes boots and
shoes.  And I would rather deliberately starve to death than work
in a factory that makes boots and shoes.'

'Then what do you want?'

'I want my anger to have room to grow.'


'I do not know.  That is why I sit here, day after day.  I wait.'

'For your anger to have room to grow?'

'For that.'

'Good-bye, Count Dionys.'

'Good-bye, Lady Daphne.'

She had determined never to go and see him again.  She had no sign
from him.  Since she had begun the second shirt, she went on with
it.  And then she hurried to finish it, because she was starting a
round of visits that would end in the summer sojourn in Scotland.
She intended to post the shirt.  But after all, she took it

She found Count Dionys had been removed from Hurst Place to Voynich
Hall, where other enemy officers were interned.  The being thwarted
made her more determined.  She took the train next day to go to
Voynich Hall.

When he came into the ante-room where he was to receive her, she
felt at once the old influence of his silence and his subtle power.
His face had still that swarthy-transparent look of one who is
unhappy, but his bearing was proud and reserved.  He kissed her
hand politely, leaving her to speak.

'How are you?' she said.  'I didn't know you were here.  I am going
away for the summer.'

'I wish you a pleasant time,' he said.  They were speaking English.

'I brought the other shirt,' she said.  'It is finished at last.'

'That is a greater honour than I dared expect,' he said.

'I'm afraid it may be more honourable than useful.  The other
didn't fit, did it?'

'Almost,' he said.  'It fitted the spirit, if not the flesh,' he

'I'd rather it had been the reverse, for once,' she said.  'Sorry.'

'I would not have it one stitch different.'

'Can we sit in the garden?'

'I think we may.'

They sat on a bench.  Other prisoners were playing croquet not far
off.  But these two were left comparatively alone.

'Do you like it better here?' she said.

'I have nothing to complain of,' he said.

'And the anger?'

'It is doing well, I thank you,' he smiled.

'You mean getting better?'

'Making strong roots,' he said, laughing.

'Ah, so long as it only makes roots!' she said.

'And your ladyship, how is she?'

'My ladyship is rather better,' she replied.

'Much better, indeed,' he said, looking into her face.

'Do you mean I LOOK much better?' she asked quickly.

'Very much.  It is your beauty you think of.  Well, your beauty is
almost itself again.'


'You brood on your beauty as I on my anger.  Ah, your ladyship, be
wise, and make friends with your anger.  That is the way to let
your beauty blossom.'

'I was not unfriendly with you, was I?' she said.

'With me?'  His face flickered with a laugh.  'Am I your anger?
Your vicar in wrath?  So then, be friends with the angry me, your
ladyship.  I ask nothing better.'

'What is the use,' she said, 'being friends with the ANGRY you?  I
would much rather be friends with the happy you.'

'That little animal is extinct,' he laughed.  'And I am glad of

'But what remains?  Only the angry you?  Then it is no use my
trying to be friends.'

'You remember, dear Lady Daphne, that the adder does not suck his
poison all alone, and the pole-cat knows where to find his she-
pole-cat.  You remember that each one has his own dear mate,' he
laughed.  'Dear, deadly mate.'

'And what if I do remember those bits of natural history, Count

'The she-adder is dainty, delicate, and carries her poison lightly.
The wild-cat has wonderful green eyes that she closes with memory
like a screen.  The ice-bear hides like a snake with her cubs, and
her snarl is the strangest thing in the world.'

'Have you ever heard me snarl?' she asked suddenly.

He only laughed, and looked away.

They were silent.  And immediately the strange thrill of secrecy
was between them.  Something had gone beyond sadness into another,
secret, thrilling communion which she would never admit.

'What do you do all day here?' she asked.

'Play chess, play this foolish croquet, play billiards, and read,
and wait, and remember.'

'What do you wait for?'

'I don't know.'

'And what do you remember?'

'Ah, that.  Shall I tell you what amuses me?  Shall I tell you a

'Please don't, if it's anything that matters.'

'It matters to nobody but me.  Will you hear it?'

'If it does not implicate me in any way.'

'It does not.  Well, I am a member of a certain old secret society--
no, don't look at me, nothing frightening--only a society like the


'And--well, as you know, one is initiated into certain so-called
secrets and rites.  My family has always been initiated.  So I am
an initiate too.  Does it interest you?'

'Why, of course.'

'Well.  I was always rather thrilled by these secrets.  Or some of
them.  Some seemed to me far-fetched.  The ones that thrilled me
even never had any relation to actual life.  When you knew me in
Dresden and Prague, you would not have thought me a man invested
with awful secret knowledge, now would you?'


'No.  It was just a little exciting side-show.  And I was a
grimacing little society man.  But now they become true.  It
becomes true.'

'The secret knowledge?'


'What, for instance?'

'Take actual fire.  It will bore you.  Do you want to hear?'

'Go on.'

'This is what I was taught.  The true fire is invisible.  Flame,
and the red fire we see burning, has its back to us.  It is running
away from us.  Does that mean anything to you?'


'Well then, the yellowness of sunshine--light itself--that is only
the glancing aside of the real original fire.  You know that is
true.  There would be no light if there was no refraction, no bits
of dust and stuff to turn the dark fire into visibility.  You know
that's a fact.  And that being so, even the sun is dark.  It is
only his jacket of dust that makes him visible.  You know that too.
And the true sunbeams coming towards us flow darkly, a moving
darkness of the genuine fire.  The sun is dark, the sunshine
flowing to us is dark.  And light is only the inside-turning away
of the sun's directness that was coming to us.  Does that interest
you at all?'

'Yes,' she said dubiously.

'Well, we've got the world inside out.  The true living world of
fire is dark, throbbing, darker than blood.  Our luminous world
that we go by is only the reverse of this.'

'Yes, I like that,' she said.

'Well!  Now listen.  The same with love.  This white love that we
have is the same.  It is only the reverse, the whited sepulchre of
the true love.  True love is dark, a throbbing together in
darkness, like the wild-cat in the night, when the green screen
opens and her eyes are on the darkness.'

'No, I don't see that,' she said in a slow, clanging voice.

'You, and your beauty--that is only the inside-out of you.  The
real you is the wild-cat invisible in the night, with red fire
perhaps coming out of its wide, dark eyes.  Your beauty is your
whited sepulchre.'

'You mean cosmetics,' she said.  'I've got none on today--not even

He laughed.

'Very good,' he said.  'Consider me.  I used to think myself small
but handsome, and the ladies used to admire me moderately, never
very much.  A trim little fellow, you know.  Well, that was just
the inside-out of me.  I am a black tom-cat howling in the night,
and it is then that fire comes out of me.  This me you look at is
my whited sepulchre.  What do you say?'

She was looking into his eyes.  She could see the darkness swaying
in the depths.  She perceived the invisible, cat-like fire stirring
deep inside them, felt it coming towards her.  She turned her face
aside.  Then he laughed, showing his strong white teeth, that
seemed a little too large, rather dreadful.

She rose to go.

'Well,' she said.  'I shall have the summer in which to think about
the world inside-out.  Do write if there is anything to say.  Write
to Thoresway.  Good-bye!'

'Ah, your eyes!' he said.  'They are like jewels of stone.'

Being away from the Count, she put him out of her mind.  Only she
was sorry for him a prisoner in that sickening Voynich Hall.  But
she did not write.  Nor did he.

As a matter of fact, her mind was now much more occupied with her
husband.  All arrangements were being made to effect his exchange.
From month to month she looked for his return.  And so she thought
of him.

Whatever happened to her, she thought about it, thought and thought
a great deal.  The consciousness of her mind was like tablets of
stone weighing her down.  And whoever would make a new entry into
her must break these tablets of stone piece by piece.  So it was
that in her own way she thought often enough of the Count's world
inside-out.  A curious latency stirred in her consciousness that
was not yet an idea.

He said her eyes were like jewels of stone.  What a horrid thing to
say!  What did he want her eyes to be like?  He wanted them to
dilate and become all black pupil, like a cat's at night.  She
shrank convulsively from the thought, and tightened her breast.

He said her beauty was her whited sepulchre.  Even that, she knew
what he meant.  The invisibility of her he wanted to love.  But ah,
her pearl-like beauty was so dear to her, and it was so famous in
the world.

He said her white love was like moonshine, harmful, the reverse of
love.  He meant Basil, of course.  Basil always said she was the
moon.  But then Basil loved her for that.  The ecstasy of it!  She
shivered, thinking of her husband.  But it had also made her nerve-
worn, her husband's love.  Ah, nerve-worn.

What then would the Count's love be like?  Something so secret and
different.  She would not be lovely and a queen to him.  He hated
her loveliness.  The wild-cat has its mate.  The little wild-cat
that he was.  Ah!

She caught her breath, determined not to think.  When she thought
of Count Dionys she felt the world slipping away from her.  She
would sit in front of a mirror, looking at her wonderful cared-for
face that had appeared in so many society magazines.  She loved it
so, it made her feel so vain.  And she looked at her blue-green
eyes--the eyes of the wild-cat on a bough.  Yes, the lovely blue-
green iris drawn tight like a screen.  Supposing it should relax.
Supposing it should unfold, and open out the dark depths, the dark,
dilated pupil!  Supposing it should?

Never!  She always caught herself back.  She felt she might be
killed before she could give way to that relaxation that the Count
wanted of her.  She could not.  She just could not.  At the very
thought of it some hypersensitive nerve started with a great twinge
in her breast; she drew back, forced to keep her guard.  Ah no,
Monsieur le Comte, you shall never take her ladyship off her guard.

She disliked the thought of the Count.  An impudent little fellow.
An impertinent little fellow!  A little madman, really.  A little
outsider.  No, no.  She would think of her husband: an adorable,
tall, well-bred Englishman, so easy and simple, and with the amused
look in his blue eyes.  She thought of the cultured, casual trail
of his voice.  It set her nerves on fire.  She thought of his
strong, easy body--beautiful, white-fleshed, with the fine
springing of warm-brown hair like tiny flames.  He was the
Dionysos, full of sap, milk and honey, and northern golden wine:
he, her husband.  Not that little unreal Count.  Ah, she dreamed of
her husband, of the love-days, and the honeymoon, the lovely,
simple intimacy.  Ah, the marvellous revelation of that intimacy,
when he left himself to her so generously.  Ah, she was his wife
for this reason, that he had given himself to her so greatly, so
generously.  Like an ear of corn he was there for her gathering--
her husband, her own, lovely, English husband.  Ah, when would he
come again, when would he come again!

She had letters from him--and how he loved her.  Far away, his life
was all hers.  All hers, flowing to her as the beam flows from a
white star right down to us, to our heart.  Her lover, her husband.

He was now expecting to come home soon.  It had all been arranged.
'I hope you won't be disappointed in me when I do get back,' he
wrote.  'I am afraid I am no longer the plump and well-looking
young man I was.  I've got a big scar at the side of my mouth, and
I'm as thin as a starved rabbit, and my hair's going grey.  Doesn't
sound attractive, does it?  And it isn't attractive.  But once I
can get out of this infernal place, and once I can be with you
again, I shall come in for my second blooming.  The very thought of
being quietly in the same house with you, quiet and in peace, makes
me realize that if I've been through hell, I have known heaven on
earth and can hope to know it again.  I am a miserable brute to
look at now.  But I have faith in you.  You will forgive my
appearance, and that alone will make me feel handsome.'

She read this letter many times.  She was not afraid of his scar or
his looks.  She would love him all the more.

Since she had started making shirts--those two for the Count had
been an enormous labour, even though her maid had come to her
assistance forty times: but since she had started making shirts,
she thought she might continue.  She had some good suitable silk:
her husband liked silk underwear.

But she still used the Count's thimble.  It was gold outside and
silver inside, and was too heavy.  A snake was coiled round the
base, and at the top, for pressing the needle, was inlet a semi-
translucent apple-green stone, perhaps jade, carved like a scarab,
with little dots.  It was too heavy.  But then she sewed so slowly.
And she liked to feel her hand heavy, weighted.  And as she sewed
she thought about her husband, and she felt herself in love with
him.  She thought of him, how beautiful he was, and how she would
love him now he was thin: she would love him all the more.  She
would love to trace his bones, as if to trace his living skeleton.
The thought made her rest her hands in her lap and drift into a
muse.  Then she felt the weight of the thimble on her finger, and
took it off, and sat looking at the green stone.  The ladybird.
The ladybird.  And if only her husband would come soon, soon.  It
was wanting him that made her so ill.  Nothing but that.  She had
wanted him so badly.  She wanted now.  Ah, if she could go to him
now, and find him, wherever he was, and see him and touch him and
take all his love.

As she mused, she put the thimble down in front of her, took up a
little silver pencil from her work-basket, and on a bit of blue
paper that had been the band of a small skein of silk she wrote the
lines of the silly little song

     'Wenn ich ein Voglein war'
      Und auch zwei Fluglein hatt'
      Flag' ich zu dir--'

That was all she could get on her bit of pale-blue paper.

     'If I were a little bird
      And had two little wings
      I'd fly to thee--

Silly enough, in all conscience.  But she did not translate it, so
it did not seem quite so silly.

At that moment her maid announced Lady Bingham--her husband's
sister.  Daphne crumpled up the bit of paper in a flurry, and in
another minute Primrose, his sister, came in.  The newcomer was not
a bit like a primrose, being long-faced and clever, smart, but not
a bit elegant, in her new clothes.

'Daphne dear, what a domestic scene!  I suppose it's rehearsal.
Well, you may as well rehearse, he's with Admiral Burns on the
Ariadne.  Father just heard from the Admiralty: quite fit.  He'll
be here in a day or two.  Splendid, isn't it?  And the war is going
to end.  At least it seems like it.  You'll be safe of your man
now, dear.  Thank heaven when it's all over.  What are you sewing?'

'A shirt,' said Daphne.

'A shirt!  Why, how clever of you.  I should never know which end
to begin.  Who showed you?'


'And how did SHE know?  She's no business to know how to sew
shirts: nor cushions nor sheets either.  Do let me look.  Why, how
perfectly marvellous you are!--every bit by hand too.  Basil isn't
worth it, dear, really he isn't.  Let him order his shirts in
Oxford Street.  Your business is to be beautiful, not to sew
shirts.  What a dear little pin-poppet, or rather needle-woman!  I
say, a satire on us, that is.  But what a darling, with mother-of-
pearl wings to her skirts!  And darling little gold-eyed needles
inside her.  You screw her head off, and you find she's full of
pins and needles.  Woman for you!  Mother says won't you come to
lunch tomorrow.  And won't you come to Brassey's to tea with me at
this minute.  Do, there's a dear.  I've got a taxi.'

Daphne bundled her sewing loosely together.

When she tried to do a bit more, two days later, she could not find
her thimble.  She asked her maid, whom she could absolutely trust.
The girl had not seen it.  She searched everywhere.  She asked her
nurse--who was now her housekeeper--and footman.  No, nobody had
seen it.  Daphne even asked her sister-in-law.

'Thimble, darling?  No, I don't remember a thimble.  I remember a
dear little needle-lady, whom I thought such a precious satire on
us women.  I didn't notice a thimble.'

Poor Daphne wandered about in a muse.  She did not want to believe
it lost.  It had been like a talisman to her.  She tried to forget
it.  Her husband was coming, quite soon, quite soon.  But she could
not raise herself to joy.  She had lost her thimble.  It was as if
Count Dionys accused her in her sleep of something, she did not
quite know what.

And though she did not really want to go to Voynich Hall, yet like
a fatality she went, like one doomed.  It was already late autumn,
and some lovely days.  This was the last of the lovely days.  She
was told that Count Dionys was in the small park, finding
chestnuts.  She went to look for him.  Yes, there he was in his
blue uniform stooping over the brilliant yellow leaves of the sweet
chestnut tree, that lay around him like a fallen nimbus of glowing
yellow, under his feet, as he kicked and rustled, looking for the
chestnut burrs.  And with his short, brown hands he was pulling out
the small chestnuts and putting them in his pockets.  But as she
approached he peeled a nut to eat it.  His teeth were white and

'You remind me of a squirrel laying in a winter store,' said she.

'Ah, Lady Daphne--I was thinking and did not hear you.'

'I thought you were gathering chestnuts--even eating them.'

'Also!' he laughed.  He had a dark, sudden charm when he laughed,
showing his rather large white teeth.  She was not quite sure
whether she found him a little repulsive.

'Were you REALLY thinking?' she said, in her slow, resonant way.

'Very truly.'

'And weren't you enjoying the chestnut a bit?'

'Very much.  Like sweet milk.  Excellent, excellent.'  He had the
fragments of the nut between his teeth, and bit them finely.  'Will
you take one too.'  He held out the little, pointed brown nuts on
the palm of his hand.

She looked at them doubtfully.

'Are they as tough as they always were?' she said.

'No, they are fresh and good.  Wait, I will peel one for you.'

They strayed about through the thin clump of trees.

'You have had a pleasant summer; you are strong?'

'Almost QUITE strong,' said she.  'Lovely summer, thanks.  I
suppose it's no good asking you if you have been happy?'

'Happy?'  He looked at her direct.  His eyes were black, and seemed
to examine her.  She always felt he had a little contempt of her.
'Oh yes,' he said, smiling.  'I have been very happy.'

'So glad.'

They drifted a little farther, and he picked up an apple-green
chestnut burr out of the yellow-brown leaves, handling it with
sensitive fingers that still suggested paws to her.

'How did you succeed in being happy?' she said.

'How shall I tell you?  I felt that the same power which put up the
mountains could pull them down again--no matter how long it took.'

'And was that all?'

'Was it not enough?'

'I should say decidedly too little.'

He laughed broadly, showing the strong, negroid teeth.

'You do not know all it means,' he said.

'The thought that the mountains were going to be pulled down?' she
said.  'It will be so long after my day.'

'Ah, you are bored,' he said.  'But I--I found the God who pulls
things down: especially the things that men have put up.  Do they
not say that life is a search after God, Lady Daphne?  I have found
my God.'

'The god of destruction,' she said, blanching.

'Yes--not the devil of destruction, but the god of destruction.
The blessed god of destruction.  It is strange'--he stood before
her, looking up at her--'but I have found my God.  The god of
anger, who throws down the steeples and the factory chimneys.  Ah,
Lady Daphne, he is a man's God, he is a man's God.  I have found my
God, Lady Daphne.'

'Apparently.  And how are you going to serve him?'

A naive glow transfigured his face.

'Oh, I will help.  With my heart I will help while I can do nothing
with my hands.  I say to my heart:  Beat, hammer, beat with little
strokes.  Beat, hammer of God, beat them down.  Beat it all down.'

Her brows knitted, her face took on a look of discontent.

'Beat what down?' she asked harshly.

'The world, the world of man.  Not the trees--these chestnuts, for
example'--he looked up at them, at the tufts and loose pinions of
yellow--'not these--nor the chattering sorcerers, the squirrels--
nor the hawk that comes.  Not those.'

'You mean beat England?' she said.

'Ah, no.  Ah, no.  Not England any more than Germany--perhaps not
as much.  Not Europe any more than Asia.'

'Just the end of the world?'

'No, no.  No, no.  What grudge have I against a world where little
chestnuts are so sweet as these!  Do you like yours?  Will you take

'No, thanks.'

'What grudge have I against a world where even the hedges are full
of berries, bunches of black berries that hang down, and red
berries that thrust up.  Never would I hate the world.  But the
world of man.  Lady Daphne'--his voice sank to a whisper--'I HATE
IT.  Zzz!' he hissed.  'Strike, little heart!  Strike, strike, hit,
smite!  Oh, Lady Daphne!'--his eyes dilated with a ring of fire.

'What?' she said, scared.

'I believe in the power of my red, dark heart.  God has put the
hammer in my breast--the little eternal hammer.  Hit--hit--hit!  It
hits on the world of man.  It hits, it hits!  And it hears the thin
sound of cracking.  The thin sound of cracking.  Hark!'

He stood still and made her listen.  It was late afternoon.  The
strange laugh of his face made the air seem dark to her.  And she
could easily have believed that she heard a faint, fine shivering,
cracking, through the air, a delicate crackling noise.

'You hear it?  Yes?  Oh, may I live long!  May I live long, so that
my hammer may strike and strike, and the cracks go deeper, deeper!
Ah, the world of man!  Ah, the joy, the passion in every heart-
beat!  Strike home, strike true, strike sure.  Strike to destroy
it.  Strike!  Strike!  To destroy the world of man.  Ah, God.  Ah,
God, prisoner of peace.  Do I not know you, Lady Daphne?  Do I not?
Do I not?'

She was silent for some moments, looking away at the twinkling
lights of a station beyond.

'Not the white plucked lily of your body.  I have gathered no
flower for my ostentatious life.  But in the cold dark, your lily
root, Lady Daphne.  Ah, yes, you will know it all your life, that I
know where your root lies buried, with its sad, sad quick of life.
What does it matter!'

They had walked slowly towards the house.  She was silent.  Then at
last she said, in a peculiar voice:

'And you would never want to kiss me?'

'Ah, no!' he answered sharply.

She held out her hand.

'Good-bye, Count Dionys,' she drawled, fashionably.  He bowed over
her hand, but did not kiss it.

'Good-bye, Lady Daphne.'

She went away, with her brow set hard.  And henceforth she thought
only of her husband, of Basil.  She made the Count die out of her.
Basil was coming, he was near.  He was coming back from the East,
from war and death.  Ah, he had been through awful fire of
experience.  He would be something new, something she did not know.
He was something new, a stronger lover who had been through
terrible fire, and had come out strange and new, like a god.  Ah,
new and terrible his love would be, pure and intensified by the
awful fire of suffering.  A new lover--a new bridegroom--a new,
supernatural wedding-night.  She shivered in anticipation, waiting
for her husband.  She hardly noticed the wild excitement of the
Armistice.  She was waiting for something more wonderful to her.

And yet the moment she heard his voice on the telephone, her heart
contracted with fear.  It was his well-known voice, deliberate,
diffident, almost drawling, with the same subtle suggestion of
deference, and the rather exaggerated Cambridge intonation, up and
down.  But there was a difference, a new icy note that went through
her veins like death.

'Is that you, Daphne?  I shall be with you in half an hour.  Is
that all right for you?  Yes, I've just landed, and shall come
straight to you.  Yes, a taxi.  Shall I be too sudden for you,
darling?  No?  Good, oh good!  Half an hour, then!  I say, Daphne?
There won't be anyone else there, will there?  Quite alone!  Good!
I can ring up Dad afterwards.  Yes, splendid, splendid.  Sure
you're all right, my darling?  I'm at death's door till I see you.
Yes.  Good-bye--half an hour.  Good-bye.'

When Daphne had hung up the receiver she sat down almost in a
faint.  What was it that so frightened her?  His terrible, terrible
altered voice, like cold, blue steel.  She had no time to think.
She rang for her maid.

'Oh, my lady, it isn't bad news?' cried Millicent, when she caught
sight of her mistress white as death.

'No, good news.  Major Apsley will be here in half an hour.  Help
me to dress.  Ring to Murry's first to send in some roses, red
ones, and some lilac-coloured iris--two dozen of each, at once.'

Daphne went to her room.  She didn't know what to wear, she didn't
know how she wanted her hair dressed.  She spoke hastily to her
maid.  She chose a violet-coloured dress.  She did not know what
she was doing.  In the middle of dressing the flowers came, and she
left off to put them in the bowls.  So that when she heard his
voice in the hall, she was still standing in front of the mirror
reddening her lips and wiping it away again.

'Major Apsley, my lady!' murmured the maid, in excitement.

'Yes, I can hear.  Go and tell him I shall be one minute.'

Daphne's voice had become slow and sonorous, like bronze, as it
always did when she was upset.  Her face looked almost haggard, and
in vain she dabbed with the rouge.

'How does he look?' she asked curtly, when her maid came back.

'A long scar here,' said the maid, and she drew her finger from the
left-hand corner of her mouth into her cheek, slanting downwards.

'Make him look very different?' asked Daphne.

'Not so VERY different, my lady,' said Millicent gently.  'His eyes
are the same, I think.'  The girl also was distressed.

'All right,' said Daphne.  She looked at herself a long, last look
as she turned away from the mirror.  The sight of her own face made
her feel almost sick.  She had seen so much of herself.  And yet
even now she was fascinated by the heavy droop of her lilac-veined
lids over her slow, strange, large, green-blue eyes.  They WERE
mysterious-looking.  And she gave herself a long, sideways glance,
curious and Chinese.  How was it possible there was a touch of the
Chinese in her face?--she so purely an English blonde, an Aphrodite
of the foam, as Basil had called her in poetry.  Ah well!  She left
off her thoughts and went through the hall to the drawing-room.

He was standing nervously in the middle of the room in his uniform.
She hardly glanced at his face--and saw only the scar.

'Hullo, Daphne,' he said, in a voice full of the expected emotion.
He stepped forward and took her in his arms, and kissed her

'So glad!  So glad it's happened at last,' she said, hiding her

'So glad what has happened, darling?' he asked, in his deliberate

'That you're back.'  Her voice had the bronze resonance, she spoke
rather fast.

'Yes, I'm back, Daphne darling--as much of me as there is to bring

'Why?' she said.  'You've come back whole, surely?'  She was

'Yes, apparently I have.  Apparently.  But don't let's talk of
that.  Let's talk of you, darling.  How are you?  Let me look at
you.  You are thinner, you are older.  But you are more wonderful
than ever.  Far more wonderful.'

'How?' said she.

'I can't exactly say how.  You were only a girl.  Now you are a
woman.  I suppose it's all that's happened.  But you are wonderful
as a woman, Daphne darling--more wonderful than all that's
happened.  I couldn't have believed you'd be so wonderful.  I'd
forgotten--or else I'd never known.  I say, I'm a lucky chap
really.  Here I am, alive and well, and I've got you for a wife.
It's brought you out like a flower.  I say, darling, there is more
now than Venus of the foam--grander.  How beautiful you are!  But
you look like the beauty of all life--as if you were moon-mother of
the world--Aphrodite.  God is good to me after all, darling.  I
ought never to utter a single complaint.  How lovely you are--how
lovely you are, my darling!  I'd forgotten you--and I thought I
knew you so well.  Is it true that you belong to me?  Are you
really mine?'

They were seated on the yellow sofa.  He was holding her hand, and
his eyes were going up and down, from her face to her throat and
her breast.  The sound of his words, and the strong, cold desire in
his voice excited her, pleased her, and made her heart freeze.  She
turned and looked into his light blue eyes.  They had no longer the
amused light, nor the young look.  They burned with a hard, focused
light, whitish.

'It's all right.  You are mine, aren't you, Daphne darling?' came
his cultured, musical voice, that had always the well-bred twang of

She looked back into his eyes.

'Yes, I am yours,' she said, from the lips.

'Darling!  Darling!' he murmured, kissing her hand.

Her heart beat suddenly so terribly, as if her breast would be
ruptured, and she rose in one movement and went across the room.
She leaned her hand on the mantelpiece and looked down at the
electric fire.  She could hear the faint, faint noise of it.  There
was silence for a few moments.

Then she turned and looked at him.  He was watching her intently.
His face was gaunt, and there was a curious deathly sub-pallor,
though his cheeks were not white.  The scar ran livid from the side
of his mouth.  It was not so very big.  But it seemed like a scar
in him himself, in his brain, as it were.  In his eyes was that
hard, white, focused light that fascinated her and was terrible to
her.  He was different.  He was like death; like risen death.  She
felt she dared not touch him.  White death was still upon him.  She
could tell that he shrank with a kind of agony from contact.
'Touch me not, I am not yet ascended unto the Father.'  Yet for
contact he had come.  Something, someone seemed to be looking over
his shoulder.  His own young ghost looking over his shoulder.  Oh,
God!  She closed her eyes, seeming to swoon.  He remained leaning
forward on the sofa, watching her.

'Aren't you well, darling?' he asked.  There was a strange,
incomprehensible coldness in his very fire.  He did not move to
come near her.

'Yes, I'm well.  It is only that after all it is so sudden.  Let me
get used to you,' she said, turning aside her face from him.  She
felt utterly like a victim of his white, awful face.

'I suppose I must be a bit of a shock to you,' he said.  'I hope
you won't leave off loving me.  It won't be that, will it?'

The strange coldness in his voice!  And yet the white, uncanny

'No, I shan't leave off loving you,' she admitted, in a low tone,
as if almost ashamed.  She DARED not have said otherwise.  And the
saying it made it true.

'Ah, if you're sure of that,' he said.  'I'm a pretty unlovely
sight to behold, I know, with this wound-scar.  But if you can
forgive it me, darling.  Do you think you can?'  There was
something like compulsion in his tone.

She looked at him, and shivered slightly.

'I love you--more than before,' she said hurriedly.

'Even the scar?' came his terrible voice, inquiring.

She glanced again, with that slow, Chinese side-look, and felt she
would die.

'Yes,' she said, looking away at nothingness.  It was an awful
moment to her.  A little, slightly imbecile smile widened on his

He suddenly knelt at her feet, and kissed the toe of her slipper,
and kissed the instep, and kissed the ankle in the thin black

'I knew,' he said in a muffled voice.  'I knew you would make good.
I knew if I had to kneel, it was before you.  I knew you were
divine, you were the one--Cybele--Isis.  I knew I was your slave.
I knew.  It has all been just a long initiation.  I had to learn
how to worship you.'

He kissed her feet again and again, without the slightest self-
consciousness, or the slightest misgiving.  Then he went back to
the sofa, and sat there looking at her, saying:

'It isn't love, it is worship.  Love between me and you will be a
sacrament, Daphne.  That's what I had to learn.  You are beyond me.
A mystery to me.  My God, how great it all is.  How marvellous!'

She stood with her hand on the mantelpiece, looking down and not
answering.  She was frightened--almost horrified: but she was
thrilled deep down to her soul.  She really felt she could glow
white and fill the universe like the moon, like Astarte, like Isis,
like Venus.  The grandeur of her own pale power.  The man
religiously worshipped her, not merely amorously.  She was ready
for him--for the sacrament of his supreme worship.

He sat on the sofa with his hands spread on the yellow brocade and
pushing downwards behind him, down between the deep upholstery of
the back and the seat.  He had long, white hands with pale
freckles.  And his fingers touched something.  With his long white
fingers he groped and brought it out.  It was the lost thimble.
And inside it was the bit of screwed-up blue paper.

'I say, is that YOUR thimble?' he asked.

She started, and went hurriedly forward for it.

'Where was it?' she said, agitated.

But he did not give it to her.  He turned it round and pulled out
the bit of blue paper.  He saw the faint pencil marks on the
screwed-up ball, and unrolled the band of paper, and slowly
deciphered the verse.

     'Wenn ich ein Voglein war'
      Und auch zwei Fluglein hatt'
      Flog' ich zu dir--'

'How awfully touching that is,' he said.  'A Voglein with two
little Fluglein!  But what a precious darling child you are!  Whom
did you want to fly to, if you were a Voglein?'  He looked up at
her with a curious smile.

'I can't remember,' she said, turning aside her head.

'I hope it was to me,' he said.  'Anyhow, I shall consider it was,
and shall love you all the more for it.  What a darling child!  A
Voglein if you please, with two little wings!  Why, how beautifully
absurd of you, darling!'

He folded the scrap of paper carefully, and put it in his pocket-
book, keeping the thimble all the time between his knees.

'Tell me when you lost it, Daphne,' he said, examining the bauble.

'About a month ago--or two months.'

'About a month ago--or two months.  And what were you sewing?  Do
you mind if I ask?  I like to think of you then.  I was still in
that beastly El Hasrun.  What were you sewing, darling, two months
ago, when you lost your thimble?'

'A shirt.'

'I say, a shirt!  Whose shirt?'


'There.  Now we've run it to earth.  Were you really sewing a shirt
for me!  Is it finished?  Can I put it on at this minute?'

'That one isn't finished, but the first one is.'

'I say, darling, let me go and put it on.  To think I should have
it next my skin!  I shall feel you all round me, all over me.  I
say how marvellous that will be!  Won't you come?'

'Won't you give me the thimble?' she said.

'Yes, of course.  What a noble thimble too!  Who gave it you?'

'Count Dionys Psanek.'

'Who was he?'

'A Bohemian Count, in Dresden.  He once stayed with us in
Thoresway--with a tall wife.  Didn't you meet them?'

'I don't think I did.  I don't think I did.  I don't remember.
What was he like?'

'A little man with black hair and a rather low, dark forehead--
rather dressy.'

'No, I don't remember him at all.  So he gave it you.  Well, I
wonder where he is now?  Probably rotted, poor devil.'

'No, he's interned in Voynich Hall.  Mother and I have been to see
him several times.  He was awfully badly wounded.'

'Poor little beggar!  In Voynich Hall!  I'll look at him before he
goes.  Odd thing, to give you a thimble.  Odd gift! You were a girl
then, though.  Do you think he had it made, or do you think he
found it in a shop?'

'I think it belonged to the family.  The ladybird at the top is
part of their crest--and the snake as well, I think.'

'A ladybird!  Funny thing for a crest.  Americans would call it a
bug.  I must look at him before he goes.  And you were sewing a
shirt for me!  And then you posted me this little letter into the
sofa.  Well, I'm awfully glad I received it, and that it didn't go
astray in the post, like so many things.  "Wenn ich ein Voglein
war"--you perfect child!  But that is the beauty of a woman like
you: you are so superb and beyond worship, and then such an
exquisite naive child.  Who could help worshipping you and loving
you: immortal and mortal together.  What, you want the thimble?
Here!  Wonderful, wonderful, white fingers.  Ah, darling, you are
more goddess than child, you long, limber Isis with sacred hands.
White, white, and immortal!  Don't tell me your hands could die,
darling: your wonderful Proserpine fingers.  They are immortal as
February and snowdrops.  If you lift your hands the spring comes.
I CAN'T help kneeling before you, darling.  I am no more than a
sacrifice to you, an offering.  I WISH I could die in giving myself
to you, give you all my blood on your altar, for ever.'

She looked at him with a long, slow look, as he turned his face to
her.  His face was white with ecstasy.  And she was not afraid.
Somewhere, saturnine, she knew it was absurd.  But she chose not to
know.  A certain swoon-sleep was on her.  With her slow, green-blue
eyes she looked down on his ecstasized face, almost benign.  But in
her right hand unconsciously she held the thimble fast, she only
gave him her left hand.  He took her hand and rose to his feet in
that curious priestly ecstasy which made him more than a man or a
soldier, far, far more than a lover to her.

Nevertheless, his home-coming made her begin to be ill again.
Afterwards, after his love, she had to bear herself in torment.  To
her shame and her heaviness, she knew she was not strong enough, or
pure enough, to bear this awful outpouring adoration-lust.  It was
not her fault she felt weak and fretful afterwards, as if she
wanted to cry and be fretful and petulant, wanted someone to save
her.  She could not turn to Basil, her husband.  After his ecstasy
of adoration-lust for her, she recoiled from him.  Alas, she was
not the goddess, the superb person he named her.  She was flawed
with the fatal humility of her age.  She could not harden her heart
and burn her soul pure of this humility, this misgiving.  She could
not finally believe in her own woman-godhead--only in her own
female mortality.

That fierce power of being alone, even with your lover, the fierce
power of the woman in excelsis--alas, she could not keep it.  She
could rise to the height for the time, the incandescent,
transcendent, moon-fierce womanhood.  But alas, she could not stay
intensified and resplendent in her white, womanly powers, her
female mystery.  She relaxed, she lost her glory, and became
fretful.  Fretful and ill and never to be soothed.  And then
naturally her man became ashy and somewhat acrid, while she ached
with nerves, and could not eat.

Of course she began to dream about Count Dionys: to yearn wistfully
for him.  And it was absolutely a fatal thought to her that he was
going away.  When she thought that--that he was leaving England
soon--going away into the dark for ever--then the last spark seemed
to die in her.  She felt her soul perish, whilst she herself was
worn and soulless like a prostitute.  A prostitute goddess.  And
her husband, the gaunt, white, intensified priest of her, who never
ceased from being before her like a lust.

'Tomorrow,' she said to him, gathering her last courage and looking
at him with a side look, 'I want to go to Voynich Hall.'

'What, to see Count Psanek?  Oh, good!  Yes, very good!  I'll come
along as well.  I should like very much to see him.  I suppose
he'll be getting sent back before long.'

It was a fortnight before Christmas, very dark weather.  Her
husband was in khaki.  She wore her black furs and a black lace
veil over her face, so that she seemed mysterious.  But she lifted
the veil and looped it behind, so that it made a frame for her
face.  She looked very lovely like that--her face pure like the
most white hellebore flower, touched with winter pink, amid the
blackness of her drapery and furs.  Only she was rather too much
like the picture of a modern beauty: too much the actual thing.
She had half an idea that Dionys would hate her for her effective
loveliness.  He would see it and hate it.  The thought was like a
bitter balm to her.  For herself, she loved her loveliness almost
with obsession.

The Count came cautiously forward, glancing from the lovely figure
of Lady Daphne to the gaunt well-bred Major at her side.  Daphne
was so beautiful in her dark furs, the black lace of her veil
thrown back over her close-fitting, dull-gold-threaded hat, and her
face fair like a winter flower in a cranny of darkness.  But on her
face, that was smiling with a slow self-satisfaction of beauty and
of knowledge that she was dangling the two men, and setting all the
imprisoned officers wildly on the alert, the Count could read that
acridity of dissatisfaction and of inefficiency.  And he looked
away to the livid scar on the Major's cheek.

'Count Dionys, I wanted to bring my husband to see you.  May I
introduce him to you?  Major Apsley--Count Dionys Psanek.'

The two men shook hands rather stiffly.

'I can sympathize with you being fastened up in this place,' said
Basil in his slow, easy fashion.  'I hated it, I assure you, out
there in the East.'

'But your conditions were much worse than mine,' smiled the Count.

'Well, perhaps they were.  But prison is prison, even if it were
heaven itself.'

'Lady Apsley has been the one angel of my heaven,' smiled the

'I'm afraid I was as inefficient as most angels,' said she.

The small smile never left the Count's dark face.  It was true as
she said, he was low-browed, the black hair growing low on his
brow, and his eyebrows making a thick bow above his dark eyes,
which had again long black lashes.  So that the upper part of his
face seemed very dusky-black.  His nose was small and somewhat
translucent.  There was a touch of mockery about him, which was
intensified even by his small, energetic stature.  He was still
carefully dressed in the dark-blue uniform, whose shabbiness could
not hinder the dark flame of life which seemed to glow through the
cloth from his body.  He was not thin--but still had a curious
swarthy translucency of skin in his low-browed face.

'What would you have been more?' he laughed, making equivocal dark
eyes at her.

'Oh, of course, a delivering angel--a cinema heroine,' she replied,
closing her eyes and turning her face aside.

All the while the white-faced, tall Major watched the little man
with a fixed, half-smiling scrutiny.  The Count seemed to notice.
He turned to the Englishman.

'I am glad that I can congratulate you, Major Apsley, on your safe
and happy return to your home.'

'Thanks.  I hope I may be able to congratulate you in the same way
before long.'

'Oh yes,' said the Count.  'Before long I shall be shipped back.'

'Have you any news of your family?' interrupted Daphne.

'No news,' he replied briefly, with sudden gravity.

'It seems you'll find a fairish mess out in Austria,' said Basil.

'Yes, probably.  It is what we had to expect,' replied the Count.

'Well, I don't know.  Sometimes things do turn out for the best.  I
feel that's as good as true in my case,' said the Major.

'Things have turned out for the best?' said the Count, with an
intonation of polite inquiry.

'Yes.  Just for me personally, I mean--to put it quite selfishly.
After all, what we've learned is that a man can only speak for
himself.  And I feel it's been dreadful, but it's not been lost.
It was like an ordeal one had to go through,' said Basil.

'You mean the war?'

'The war and everything that went with it.'

'And when you've been through the ordeal?' politely inquired the

'Why, you arrive at a higher state of consciousness, and therefore
of life.  And so, of course, at a higher plane of love.  A
surprisingly higher plane of love, that you had never suspected the
existence of before.'

The Count looked from Basil to Daphne, who was posing her head a
little self-consciously.

'Then indeed the war has been a valuable thing,' he said.

'Exactly!' cried Basil.  'I am another man.'

'And Lady Apsley?' queried the Count.

'Oh'--her husband faced round to her--'she is ABSOLUTELY another
woman--and MUCH more wonderful, more marvellous.'

The Count smiled and bowed slightly.

'When we knew her ten years ago, we should have said then that it
was impossible,' said he, 'for her to be more wonderful.'

'Oh, quite!' returned the husband.  'It always seems impossible.
And the impossible is always happening.  As a matter of fact, I
think the war has opened another circle of life to us--a wider

'It may be so,' said the Count.

'You don't feel it so yourself?'  The Major looked with his keen,
white attention into the dark, low-browed face of the other man.
The Count looked smiling at Daphne.

'I am only a prisoner still, Major, therefore I feel my ring quite

'Yes, of course you do.  Of course.  Well, I do hope you won't be a
prisoner much longer.  You must be dying to get back into your own

'Yes, I shall be glad to be free.  Also,' he smiled.  'I shall miss
my prison and my visits from the angels.'

Even Daphne could not be sure he was mocking her.  It was evident
the visit was unpleasant to him.  She could see he did not like
Basil.  Nay, more, she could feel that the presence of her tall,
gaunt, idealistic husband was hateful to the little swarthy man.
But he passed it all off in smiles and polite speeches.

On the other hand, Basil was as if fascinated by the Count.  He
watched him absorbedly all the time, quite forgetting Daphne.  She
knew this.  She knew that she was quite gone out of her husband's
consciousness, like a lamp that has been carried away into another
room.  There he stood completely in the dark, as far as she was
concerned, and all his attention focused on the other man.  On his
pale, gaunt face was a fixed smile of amused attention.

'But don't you get awfully bored,' he said, 'between the visits?'

The Count looked up with an affection of frankness.

'No, I do not,' he said.  'I can brood, you see, on the things that
come to pass.'

'I think that's where the harm comes in,' replied the Major.  'One
sits and broods, and is cut off from everything, and one loses
one's contact with reality.  That's the effect it had on me, being
a prisoner.'

'Contact with reality--what is that?'

'Well--contact with anybody, really--or anything.'

'Why must one have contact?'

'Well, because one must,' said Basil.

The Count smiled slowly.

'But I can sit and watch fate flowing, like black water, deep down
in my own soul,' he said.  'I feel that there, in the dark of my
own soul, things are happening.'

'That may be.  But whatever happens, it is only one thing, really.
It is a contact between your own soul and the soul of one other
being, or of many other beings.  Nothing else can happen to man.
That's how I figured it out for myself.  I may be wrong.  But
that's how I figured it out when I was wounded and a prisoner.'

The Count's face had gone dark and serious.

'But is this contact an aim in itself?' he asked.

'Well'--said the Major--he had taken his degree in philosophy--'it
seems to me it is.  It results inevitably in some form of activity.
But the cause and the origin and the life-impetus of all action,
activity, whether constructive or destructive, seems to me to be in
the dynamic contact between human beings.  You bring to pass a
certain dynamic contact between men, and you get war.  Another sort
of dynamic contact, and you get them all building a cathedral, as
they did in the Middle Ages.'

'But was not the war, or the cathedral, the real aim, and the
emotional contact just the means?' said the Count.

'I don't think so,' said the Major, his curious white passion
beginning to glow through his face.  The three were seated in a
little card-room, left alone by courtesy by the other men.  Daphne
was still draped in her dark, too-becoming drapery.  But alas, she
sat now ignored by both men.  She might just as well have been an
ugly little nobody, for all the notice that was taken of her.  She
sat in the window-seat of the dreary small room with a look of
discontent on her exotic, rare face, that was like a delicate white
and pink hot-house flower.  From time to time she glanced with
long, slow looks from man to man: from her husband, whose pallid,
intense, white glowing face was pressed forward across the table to
the Count, who sat back in his chair, as if in opposition, and
whose dark face seemed clubbed together in a dark, unwilling stare.
Her husband was QUITE unaware of anything but his own white
identity.  But the Count still had a grain of secondary
consciousness which hovered round and remained aware of the woman
in the window-seat.  The whole of his face, and his forward-looking
attention was concentrated on Basil.  But somewhere at the back of
him he kept track of Daphne.  She sat uneasy, in discontent, as
women always do sit when men are locked together in a combustion of
words.  At the same time, she followed the argument.  It was
curious that, while her sympathy at this moment was with the Count,
it was her husband whose words she believed to be true.  The
contact, the emotional contact was the real thing, the so-called
'aim' was only a by-product.  Even wars and cathedrals, in her
mind, were only by-products.  The real thing was what the warriors
and cathedral-builders had had in common, as a great uniting
feeling: the thing they felt for one another, and for their women
in particular, of course.

'There are a great many kinds of contact, nevertheless,' said

'Well, do you know,' said the Major, 'it seems to me there is
really only one supreme contact, the contact of love.  Mind you,
the love may take on an infinite variety of forms.  And in my
opinion, no form of love is wrong, so long as it IS love, and you
yourself HONOUR what you are doing.  Love has an extraordinary
variety of forms!  And that is all that there is in life, it seems
to me.  But I grant you, if you deny the VARIETY of love you deny
love altogether.  If you try to specialize love into one set of
accepted feelings, you wound the very soul of love.  Love MUST be
multiform, else it is just tyranny, just death.'

'But why call it all LOVE?' said the Count.

'Because it seems to me it IS love: the great power that draws
human beings together, no matter what the result of the contact may
be.  Of course there is hate, but hate is only the recoil of love.'

'Do you think the old Egypt was established on love?' asked Dionys.

'Why, of course!  And perhaps the most multiform, the most
comprehensive love that the world has seen.  All that we suffer
from now is that our way of love is narrow, exclusive, and
therefore not love at all; more like death and tyranny.'

The Count slowly shook his head, smiling slowly and as if sadly.

'No,' he said.  'No.  It is no good.  You must use another word
than love.'

'I don't agree at all,' said Basil.

'What word then?' blurted Daphne.

The Count looked at her.

'Obedience, submission, faith, belief, responsibility, power,' he
said slowly, picking out the words slowly, as if searching for what
he wanted, and never quite finding it.  He looked with his quiet
dark eyes into her eyes.  It was curious, she disliked his words
intensely, but she liked him.  On the other hand, she believed
absolutely what her husband said, yet her physical sympathy was
against him.

'Do you agree, Daphne?' asked Basil.

'Not a bit,' she replied, with a heavy look at her husband.

'Nor I,' said Basil.  'It seems to me, if you love, there is no
obedience nor submission, except to the soul of love.  If you mean
obedience, submission, and all the rest, to the soul of love
itself, I quite agree.  But if you mean obedience, submission of
one person to another, and one man having power over others--I
don't agree, and never shall.  It seems to me just there where we
have gone wrong.  Kaiser Wilhelm II wanted power--'

'No, no,' said the Count.  'He was a mountebank.  He had no
conception of the sacredness of power.'

'He proved himself very dangerous.'

'Oh yes.  But peace can be even more dangerous still.'

'Tell me, then.  Do you believe that you, as an aristocrat, should
have feudal power over a few hundreds of other men, who happen to
be born serfs, or not aristocrats?'

'Not as a hereditary aristocrat, but as a MAN who is by nature an
aristocrat,' said the Count, 'it is my sacred duty to hold the
lives of other men in my hands, and to shape the issue.  But I can
never fulfil my destiny till men will willingly put their lives in
my hands.'

'You don't expect them to, do you?' smiled Basil.

'At this moment, no.'

'Or at any moment!'  The Major was sarcastic.

'At a certain moment the men who are really living will come
beseeching to put their lives into the hands of the greater men
among them, beseeching the greater men to take the sacred
responsibility of power.'

'Do you think so?  Perhaps you mean men will at last begin to
choose leaders whom they will LOVE,' said Basil.  'I wish they

'No, I mean that they will at last yield themselves before men who
are greater than they: become vassals by choice.'

'Vassals!' exclaimed Basil, smiling.  'You are still in the feudal
ages, Count.'

'Vassals.  Not to any hereditary aristocrat--Hohenzollern or
Hapsburg or Psanek,' smiled the Count.  'But to the man whose soul
is born single, able to be alone, to choose and to command.  At
last the masses will come to such men and say:  "You are greater
than we.  Be our lords.  Take our life and our death in your hands,
and dispose of us according to your will.  Because we see a light
in your face, and burning on your mouth."'

The Major smiled for many moments, really piqued and amused,
watching the Count, who did not turn a hair.

'I say, you must be awfully naive, Count, if you believe the modern
masses are ever going to behave like that.  I assure you, they
never will.'

'If they did,' said the Count, 'would you call it a new reign of
love, or something else?'

'Well, of course, it would contain an element of love.  There would
have to be an element of love in their feeling for their leaders.'

'Do you think so?  I thought that love assumed an equality in
difference.  I thought that love gave to every man the right to
judge the acts of other men--"This was not an act of love,
therefore it was wrong."  Does not democracy, and love, give to
every man this right?'

'Certainly,' said Basil.

'Ah, but my chosen aristocrat would say to those who chose him:
"If you choose me, you give up forever your right to judge me.  If
you have truly chosen to follow me, you have thereby rejected all
your right to criticize me.  You can no longer either approve or
disapprove of me.  You have performed the sacred act of choice.
Henceforth you can only obey."'

'They wouldn't be able to help criticizing, for all that,' said
Daphne, blurting in her say.

He looked at her slowly, and for the first time in her life she was
doubtful of what she was saying.

'The day of Judas,' he said, 'ends with the day of love.'

Basil woke up from a sort of trance.

'I think, of course, Count,' he said, 'that it's an awfully amusing
idea.  A retrogression slap back to the Dark Ages.'

'Not so,' said the Count.  'Men--the mass of men--were never before
free to perform the sacred act of choice.  Today--soon--they may be

'Oh, I don't know.  Many tribes chose their kings and chiefs.'

'Men have never before been quite free to choose: and to know what
they are doing.'

'You mean they've only made themselves free in order voluntarily to
saddle themselves with new lords and masters?'

'I do mean that.'

'In short, life is just a vicious circle?'

'Not at all.  An ever-widening circle, as you say.  Always more

'Well, it's all frightfully interesting and amusing--don't you
think so, Daphne?  By the way, Count, where would women be?  Would
they be allowed to criticize their husbands?'

'Only before marriage,' smiled the Count.  'Not after.'

'Splendid!' said Basil.  'I'm all for that bit of your scheme,
Count.  I hope you're listening, Daphne.'

'Oh yes.  But then I've only married YOU, I've got my right to
criticize all the other men,' she said in a dull, angry voice.

'Exactly.  Clever of you!  So the Count won't get off!  Well now,
what do you think of the Count's aristocratic scheme for the
future, Daphne?  Do you approve?'

'Not at all.  But then little men have always wanted power,' she
said cruelly.

'Oh, big men as well, for that matter,' said Basil, conciliatory.

'I have been told before,' smiled the Count, 'little men are always
bossy.  I am afraid I have offended Lady Daphne?'

'No,' she said.  'Not really.  I'm amused, really.  But I always
dislike any suggestion of bullying.'

'Indeed, so do I,' said he.

'The Count didn't mean bullying, Daphne,' said Basil.  'Come, there
is really an allowable distinction between responsible power and

'When men put their heads together about it,' said she.

She was haughty and angry, as if she were afraid of losing
something.  The Count smiled mischievously at her.

'You are offended, Lady Daphne?  But why?  You are safe from any
spark of my dangerous and extensive authority.'

Basil burst into a roar of laughter.

'It IS rather funny, you to be talking of power and of not being
criticized,' he said.  'But I should like to hear more: I would
like to hear more.'

As they drove home, he said to his wife:

'You know I like that little man.  He's a quaint little bantam.
And he sets one thinking.'

Lady Daphne froze to four degrees below zero, under the north wind
of this statement, and not another word was to be thawed out of

Curiously enough, it was now Basil who was attracted by the Count,
and Daphne who was repelled.  Not that she was so bound up in her
husband.  Not at all.  She was feeling rather sore against men
altogether.  But as so often happens, in this life based on the
wicked triangle, Basil could only follow his enthusiasm for the
Count in his wife's presence.  When the two men were alone
together, they were awkward, resistant, they could hardly get out a
dozen words to one another.  When Daphne was there, however, to
complete the circuit of the opposing currents, things went like a
house on fire.

This, however, was not much consolation to Lady Daphne.  Merely to
sit as a passive medium between two men who are squibbing
philosophical nonsense to one another: no, it was not good enough!
She almost hated the Count: low-browed little fellow, belonging to
the race of prehistoric slaves.  But her grudge against her white-
faced, spiritually intense husband was sharp as vinegar.  Let down:
she was let down between the pair of them.

What next?  Well, what followed was entirely Basil's fault.  The
winter was passing: it was obvious the war was really over, that
Germany was finished.  The Hohenzollern had fizzled out like a very
poor squib, the Hapsburg was popping feebly in obscurity, the
Romanov was smudged out without a sputter.  So much for imperial
royalty.  Henceforth democratic peace.

The Count, of course, would be shipped back now like returned goods
that had no market any more.  There was a world peace ahead.  A
week or two, and Voynich Hall would be empty.

Basil, however, could not let matters follow their simple course.
He was awfully intrigued by the Count.  He wanted to entertain him
as a guest before he went.  And Major Apsley could get anything in
reason, at this moment.  So he obtained permission for the poor
little Count to stay a fortnight at Thoresway, before being shipped
back to Austria.  Earl Beveridge, whose soul was black as ink since
the war, would never have allowed the little alien enemy to enter
his house, had it not been for the hatred which had been aroused in
him, during the last two years, by the degrading spectacle of the
so-called patriots who had been howling their mongrel indecency in
the public face.  These mongrels had held the Press and the British
public in abeyance for almost two years.  Their one aim was to
degrade and humiliate anything that was proud or dignified
remaining in England.  It was almost the worst nightmare of all,
this coming to the top of a lot of public filth which was
determined to suffocate the souls of all dignified men.

Hence, the Earl, who never intended to be swamped by unclean scum,
whatever else happened to him, stamped his heels in the ground and
stood on his own feet.  When Basil said to him, would he allow the
Count to have a fortnight's decent peace in Thoresway before all
was finished, Lord Beveridge gave a slow consent, scandal or no
scandal.  Indeed, it was really to defy scandal that he took such a
step.  For the thought of his dead boys was bitter to him: and the
thought of England fallen under the paws of smelly mongrels was
bitterer still.

Lord Beveridge was at Thoresway to receive the Count, who arrived
escorted by Basil.  The English Earl was a big, handsome man,
rather heavy, with a dark, sombre face that would have been haughty
if haughtiness had not been made so ridiculous.  He was a
passionate man, with a passionate man's sensitiveness, generosity,
and instinctive overbearing.  But HIS dark passionate nature, and
his violent sensitiveness had been subjected now to fifty-five
years' subtle repression, condemnation, repudiation, till he had
almost come to believe in his own wrongness.  His little, frail
wife, all love for humanity, she was the genuine article.  Himself,
he was labelled selfish, sensual, cruel, etc., etc.  So by now he
always seemed to be standing aside, in the shadow, letting himself
be obliterated by the pallid rabble of the democratic hurry.  That
was the impression he gave of a man standing back, half-ashamed,
half-haughty, semi-hidden in the dark background.

He was a little on the defensive as Basil came in with the Count.

'Ah--how do you do, Count Psanek?' he said, striding largely
forward and holding out his hand.  Because he was the father of
Daphne the Count felt a certain tenderness for the taciturn

'You do me too much honour, my lord, receiving me in your house,'
said the small Count proudly.

The Earl looked at him slowly, without speaking: seemed to look
down on him, in every sense of the words.

'We are still men, Count.  We are not beasts altogether.'

'You wish to say that my countrymen are so very nearly beasts, Lord
Beveridge?' smiled the Count, curling his fine nose.

Again the Earl was slow in replying.

'You have a low opinion of my manners, Count Psanek.'

'But perhaps a just appreciation of your meaning, Lord Beveridge,'
smiled the Count, with the same reckless little look of contempt on
his nose.

Lord Beveridge flushed dark, with all his native anger offended.

'I am glad Count Psanek makes my own meaning clear to me,' he said.

'I beg your pardon a thousand times, my lord, if I give offence in
doing so,' replied the Count.

The Earl went black, and felt a fool.  He turned his back on the
Count.  And then he turned round again, offering his cigar-case.

'Will you smoke?' he said.  There was kindness in his tone.

'Thank you,' said the Count, taking a cigar.

'I dare say,' said Lord Beveridge, 'that all men are beasts in some
way.  I am afraid I have fallen into the common habit of speaking
by rote, and not what I really mean.  Won't you take a seat?'

'It is only as a prisoner that I have learned that I am NOT truly a
beast.  No, I am myself.  I am not a beast,' said the Count,
seating himself.

The Earl eyed him curiously.

'Well,' he said, smiling, 'I suppose it is best to come to a
decision about it.'

'It is necessary, if one is to be safe from vulgarity.'

The Earl felt a twinge of accusation.  With his agate-brown, hard-
looking eyes he watched the black-browed little Count.

'You are probably right,' he said.

But he turned his face aside.

They were five people at dinner--Lady Beveridge was there as

'Ah, Count Dionys,' she said with a sigh, 'do you really feel that
the war is over?'

'Oh yes,' he replied quickly.  'This war is over.  The armies will
go home.  THEIR cannon will not sound any more.  Never again like

'Ah, I hope so,' she sighed.

'I am sure,' he said.

'You think there'll be no more war?' said Daphne.

For some reason she had made herself very fine, in her newest dress
of silver and black and pink-chenille, with bare shoulders, and her
hair fashionably done.  The Count in his shabby uniform turned to
her.  She was nervous, hurried.  Her slim white arm was near him,
with the bit of silver at the shoulder.  Her skin was white like a
hot-house flower.  Her lips moved hurriedly.

'Such a war as this there will never be again,' he said.

'What makes you so sure?' she replied, glancing into his eyes.

'The machine of war has got out of our control.  We shall never
start it again, till it has fallen to pieces.  We shall be afraid.'

'Will everybody be afraid?' said she, looking down and pressing
back her chin.

'I think so.'

'We will hope so,' said Lady Beveridge.

'Do you mind if I ask you, Count,' said Basil, 'what you feel about
the way the war has ended?  The way it has ended for YOU, I mean.'

'You mean that Germany and Austria have lost the war?  It was bound
to be.  We have all lost the war.  All Europe.'

'I agreee there,' said Lord Beveridge.

'We've all lost the war?' said Daphne, turning to look at him.

There was pain on his dark, low-browed face.  He suffered having
the sensitive woman beside him.  Her skin had a hothouse delicacy
that made his head go round.  Her shoulders were broad, rather
thin, but the skin was white and so sensitive, so hot-house
delicate.  It affected him like the perfume of some white, exotic
flower.  And she seemed to be sending her heart towards him.  It
was as if she wanted to press her breast to his.  From the breast
she loved him, and sent out love to him.  And it made him unhappy;
he wanted to be quiet, and to keep his honour before these hosts.

He looked into her eyes, his own eyes dark with knowledge and pain.
She, in her silence and her brief words seemed to be holding them
all under her spell.  She seemed to have cast a certain muteness on
the table, in the midst of which she remained silently master,
leaning forward to her plate, and silently mastering them all.

'Don't I think we've all lost the war?' he replied, in answer to
her question.  'It was a war of suicide.  Nobody could win it.  It
was suicide for all of us.'

'Oh, I don't know,' she replied.  'What about America and Japan?'

'They don't count.  They only helped US to commit suicide.  They
did not enter vitally.'

There was such a look of pain on his face, and such a sound of pain
in his voice, that the other three closed their ears, shut off from
attending.  Only Daphne was making him speak.  It was she who was
drawing the soul out of him, trying to read the future in him as
the augurs read the future in the quivering entrails of the
sacrificed beast.  She looked direct into his face, searching his

'You think Europe has committed suicide?' she said.


'Only morally?' came her slow, bronze-like words, so fatal.

'That is enough,' he smiled.

'Quite,' she said, with a slow droop of her eyelids.  Then she
turned away her face.  But he felt the heart strangling inside his
breast.  What was she doing now?  What was she thinking?  She
filled him with uncertainty and with uncanny fear.

'At least,' said Basil, 'those infernal guns are quiet.'

'For ever,' said Dionys.

'I wish I could believe you, Count,' said the Major.

The talk became more general--or more personal.  Lady Beveridge
asked Dionys about his wife and family.  He knew nothing save that
they had gone to Hungary in 1916, when his own house was burnt
down.  His wife might even have gone to Bulgaria with Prince
Bogorik.  He did not know.

'But your children, Count!' cried Lady Beveridge.

'I do not know.  Probably in Hungary, with their grandmother.  I
will go when I get back.'

'But have you never WRITTEN?--never inquired?'

'I could not write.  I shall know soon enough--everything.'

'You have no son?'

'No.  Two girls.'

'Poor things!'


'I say, isn't it an odd thing to have a ladybird on your crest?'
asked Basil, to cheer up the conversation.

'Why queer?  Charlemagne had bees.  And it is a Marienkafer--a
Mary-beetle.  The beetle of Our Lady.  I think it is quite a
heraldic insect, Major,' smiled the Count.

'You're proud of it?' said Daphne, suddenly turning to look at him
again, with her slow, pregnant look.

'I am, you know.  It has such a long genealogy--our spotted beetle.
Much longer than the Psaneks.  I think, you know, it is a
descendant of the Egyptian scarabeus, which is a very mysterious
emblem.  So I connect myself with the Pharaohs: just through my

'You feel your ladybird has crept through so many ages,' she said.

'Imagine it!' he laughed.

'The scarab IS a piquant insect,' said Basil.

'Do you know Fabre?' put in Lord Beveridge.  'He suggests that the
beetle rolling a little ball of dung before him, in a dry old
field, must have suggested to the Egyptians the First Principle
that set the globe rolling.  And so the scarab became the symbol of
the creative principle--or something like that.'

'That the earth is a tiny ball of dry dung is good,' said Basil.

'Between the claws of a ladybird,' added Daphne.

'That is what it is, to go back to one's origin,' said Lady

'Perhaps they meant that it was the principle of decomposition
which first set the ball rolling,' said the Count.

'The ball would have to be THERE first,' said Basil.

'Certainly.  But it hadn't started to roll.  Then the principle of
decomposition started it.'  The Count smiled as if it were a joke.

'I am no Egyptologist,' said Lady Beveridge, 'so I can't judge.'

The Earl and Countess Beveridge left next day.  Count Dionys was
left with the two young people in the house.  It was a beautiful
Elizabethan mansion, not very large, but with those magical rooms
that are all a twinkle of small-paned windows, looking out from the
dark panelled interior.  The interior was cosy, panelled to the
ceiling, and the ceiling moulded and touched with gold.  And then
the great square bow of the window with its little panes
intervening like magic between oneself and the world outside, the
crest in stained glass crowning its colour, the broad window-seat
cushioned in faded green.  Dionys wandered round the house like a
little ghost, through the succession of small and large twinkling
sitting-rooms and lounge rooms in front, down the long, wide
corridor with the wide stairhead at each end, and up the narrow
stairs to the bedrooms above, and on to the roof.

It was early spring, and he loved to sit on the leaded, pale-grey
roof that had its queer seats and slopes, a little pale world in
itself.  Then to look down over the garden and the sloping lawn to
the ponds massed round with trees, and away to the elms and furrows
and hedges of the shires.  On the left of the house was the
farmstead, with ricks and great-roofed barns and dark-red cattle.
Away to the right, beyond the park, was a village among trees, and
the spark of a grey church spire.

He liked to be alone, feeling his soul heavy with its own fate.  He
would sit for hours watching the elm trees standing in rows like
giants, like warriors across the country.  The Earl had told him
that the Romans had brought these elms to Britain.  And he seemed
to see the spirit of the Romans in them still.  Sitting there alone
in the spring sunshine, in the solitude of the roof, he saw the
glamour of this England of hedgerows and elm trees, and the
labourers with slow horses slowly drilling the sod, crossing the
brown furrow: and the roofs of the village, with the church steeple
rising beside a big black yew tree: and the chequer of fields away
to the distance.

And the charm of the old manor around him, the garden with its grey
stone walls and yew hedges--broad, broad yew hedges and a peacock
pausing to glitter and scream in the busy silence of an English
spring, when celandines open their yellow under the hedges, and
violets are in the secret, and by the broad paths of the garden
polyanthus and crocuses vary the velvet and flame, and bits of
yellow wallflower shake raggedly, with a wonderful triumphance, out
of the cracks of the wall.  There was a fold somewhere near, and he
could hear the treble bleat of the growing lambs, and the deeper,
contented baa-ing of the ewes.

This was Daphne's home, where she had been born.  She loved it with
an ache of affection.  But now it was hard to forget her dead
brothers.  She wandered about in the sun, with two old dogs padding
after her.  She talked with everybody--gardener, groom, stableman,
with the farm-hands.  That filled a large part of her life--
straying round talking with the work-people.  They were, of course,
respectful to her--but not at all afraid of her.  They knew she was
poor, that she could not afford a car, nor anything.  So they
talked to her very freely: perhaps a little too freely.  Yet she
let it be.  It was her one passion at Thoresway to hear the
dependants talk and talk--about everything.  The curious feeling of
intimacy across a breach fascinated her.  Their lives fascinated
her: what they thought, what they FELT.  These, what they felt.
That fascinated her.  There was a gamekeeper she could have loved--
an impudent, ruddy-faced, laughing, ingratiating fellow; she could
have loved him, if he had not been isolated beyond the breach of
his birth, her culture, her consciousness.  Her CONSCIOUSNESS
seemed to make a great gulf between her and the lower classes, the
unconscious classes.  She accepted it as her doom.  She could never
meet in real contact anyone but a super-conscious, finished being
like herself: or like her husband.  Her father had some of the
unconscious blood-warmth of the lower classes.  But he was like a
man who is damned.  And the Count, of course.  The Count had
something that was hot and invisible, a dark flame of life that
might warm the cold white fire of her own blood.  But--

They avoided each other.  All three, they avoided one another.
Basil, too, went off alone.  Or he immersed himself in poetry.
Sometimes he and the Count played billiards.  Sometimes all three
walked in the park.  Often Basil and Daphne walked to the village,
to post.  But truly, they avoided one another, all three.  The days
slipped by.

At evening they sat together in the small west room that had books
and a piano and comfortable shabby furniture of faded rose-coloured
tapestry: a shabby room.  Sometimes Basil read aloud: sometimes the
Count played the piano.  And they talked.  And Daphne stitch by
stitch went on with a big embroidered bedspread, which she might
finish if she lived long enough.  But they always went to bed
early.  They were nearly always avoiding one another.

Dionys had a bedroom in the east bay--a long way from the rooms of
the others.  He had a habit, when he was quite alone, of singing,
or rather crooning, to himself the old songs of his childhood.  It
was only when he felt he was quite alone: when other people seemed
to fade out of him, and all the world seemed to dissolve into
darkness, and there was nothing but himself, his own soul, alive in
the middle of his own small night, isolate for ever.  Then, half
unconscious, he would croon in a small, high-pitched, squeezed
voice, a sort of high dream-voice, the songs of his childhood
dialect.  It was a curious noise: the sound of a man who is alone
in his own blood: almost the sound of a man who is going to be

Daphne heard the sound one night when she was going downstairs
again with the corridor lantern to find a book.  She was a bad
sleeper, and her nights were a torture to her.  She, too, like a
neurotic, was nailed inside her own fretful self-consciousness.
But she had a very keen ear.  So she started as she heard the
small, bat-like sound of the Count's singing to himself.  She stood
in the midst of the wide corridor, that was wide as a room,
carpeted with a faded lavender-coloured carpet, with a piece of
massive dark furniture at intervals by the wall, and an oak arm-
chair and sometimes a faded, reddish Oriental rug.  The big horn
lantern which stood at nights at the end of the corridor she held
in her hand.  The intense 'peeping' sound of the Count, like a
witchcraft, made her forget everything.  She could not understand a
word, of course.  She could not understand the noise even.  After
listening for a long time, she went on downstairs.  When she came
back again he was still, and the light was gone from under his

After this, it became almost an obsession to her to listen for him.
She waited with fretful impatience for ten o'clock, when she could
retire.  She waited more fretfully still for the maid to leave her,
and for her husband to come and say good-night.  Basil had the room
across the corridor.  And then in resentful impatience she waited
for the sounds of the house to become still.  Then she opened her
door to listen.

And far away, as if from far, far away in the unseen, like a
ventriloquist sound or a bat's uncanny peeping, came the frail,
almost inaudible sound of the Count's singing to himself before he
went to bed.  It WAS inaudible to anyone but herself.  But she, by
concentration, seemed to hear supernaturally.  She had a low arm-
chair by the door, and there, wrapped in a huge old black silk
shawl, she sat and listened.  At first she could not hear.  That
is, she could hear the sound.  But it was only a sound.  And then,
gradually, gradually she began to follow the thread of it.  It was
like a thread which she followed out of the world: out of the
world.  And as she went, slowly, by degrees, far, far away, down
the thin thread of his singing, she knew peace--she knew
forgetfulness.  She could pass beyond the world, away beyond where
her soul balanced like a bird on wings, and was perfected.

So it was, in her upper spirit.  But underneath was a wild, wild
yearning, actually to go, actually to be given.  Actually to go,
actually to die the death, actually to cross the border and be
gone, to be gone.  To be gone from this herself, from this Daphne,
to be gone from father and mother, brothers and husband, and home
and land and world: to be gone.  To be gone to the call from the
beyond: the call.  It was the Count calling.  He was calling her.
She was sure he was calling her.  Out of herself, out of her world,
he was calling her.

Two nights she sat just inside her room, by the open door, and
listened.  Then when he finished she went to sleep, a queer, light,
bewitched sleep.  In the day she was bewitched.  She felt strange
and light, as if pressure had been removed from around her.  Some
pressure had been clamped round her all her life.  She had never
realized it till now; now it was removed, and her feet felt so
light, and her breathing delicate and exquisite.  There had always
been a pressure against her breathing.  Now she breathed delicate
and exquisite, so that it was a delight to breathe.  Life came in
exquisite breaths, quickly, as if it delighted to come to her.

The third night he was silent--though she waited and waited till
the small hours of the morning.  He was silent, he did not sing.
And then she knew the terror and blackness of the feeling that he
might never sing any more.  She waited like one doomed, throughout
the day.  And when the night came she trembled.  It was her
greatest nervous terror, lest her spell should be broken, and she
should be thrown back to what she was before.

Night came, and the kind of swoon upon her.  Yes, and the call from
the night.  The call!  She rose helplessly and hurried down the
corridor.  The light was under his door.  She sat down in the big
oak arm-chair that stood near his door, and huddled herself tight
in her black shawl.  The corridor was dim with the big, star-
studded, yellow lantern-light.  Away down she could see the lamp-
light in her doorway; she had left her door ajar.

But she saw nothing.  Only she wrapped herself close in the black
shawl, and listened to the sound from the room.  It called.  Oh, it
called her!  Why could she not go?  Why could she not cross through
the closed door.

Then the noise ceased.  And then the light went out, under the door
of his room.  Must she go back?  Must she go back?  Oh, impossible.
As impossible as that the moon should go back on her tracks, once
she has risen.  Daphne sat on, wrapped in her black shawl.  If it
must be so, she would sit on through eternity.  Return she never

And then began the most terrible song of all.  It began with a
rather dreary, slow, horrible sound, like death.  And then suddenly
came a real call--fluty, and a kind of whistling and a strange
whirr at the changes, most imperative, and utterly inhuman.  Daphne
rose to her feet.  And at the same moment up rose the whistling
throb of a summons out of the death moan.

Daphne tapped low and rapidly at the door.  'Count!  Count!' she
whispered.  The sound inside ceased.  The door suddenly opened.
The pale, obscure figure of Dionys.

'Lady Daphne!' he said in astonishment, automatically standing

'You called,' she murmured rapidly, and she passed intent into his

'No, I did not call,' he said gently, his hand on the door still.

'Shut the door,' she said abruptly.

He did as he was bid.  The room was in complete darkness.  There
was no moon outside.  She could not see him.

'Where can I sit down?' she said abruptly.

'I will take you to the couch,' he said, putting out his hand and
touching her in the dark.  She shuddered.

She found the couch and sat down.  It was quite dark.

'What are you singing?' she said rapidly.

'I am so sorry.  I did not think anyone could hear.'

'What was it you were singing?'

'A song of my country.'

'Had it any words?'

'Yes, it is a woman who was a swan, and who loved a hunter by the
marsh.  So she became a woman and married him and had three
children.  Then in the night one night the king of the swans called
to her to come back, or else he would die.  So slowly she turned
into a swan again, and slowly she opened her wide, wide wings, and
left her husband and her children.'

There was silence in the dark room.  The Count had been really
startled, startled out of his mood of the song into the day-mood of
human convention.  He was distressed and embarrassed by Daphne's
presence in his dark room.  She, however, sat on and did not make a
sound.  He, too, sat down in a chair by the window.  It was
everywhere dark.  A wind was blowing in gusts outside.  He could
see nothing inside his room: only the faint, faint strip of light
under the door.  But he could feel her presence in the darkness.
It was uncanny, to feel her near in the dark, and not to see any
sign of her, nor to hear any sound.

She had been wounded in her bewitched state by the contact with the
every-day human being in him.  But now she began to relapse into
her spell, as she sat there in the dark.  And he, too, in the
silence, felt the world sinking away from him once more, leaving
him once more alone on a darkened earth, with nothing between him
and the infinite dark space.  Except now her presence.  Darkness
answering to darkness, and deep answering to deep.  An answer, near
to him, and invisible.

But he did not know what to do.  He sat still and silent as she was
still and silent.  The darkness inside the room seemed alive like
blood.  He had no power to move.  The distance between them seemed

Then suddenly, without knowing, he went across in the dark, feeling
for the end of the couch.  And he sat beside her on the couch.  But
he did not touch her.  Neither did she move.  The darkness flowed
about them thick like blood, and time seemed dissolved in it.  They
sat with the small, invisible distance between them, motionless,
speechless, thoughtless.

Then suddenly he felt her finger-tips touch his arm, and a flame
went over him that left him no more a man.  He was something seated
in flame, in flame unconscious, seated erect, like an Egyptian
King-god in the statues.  Her finger-tips slid down him, and she
herself slid down in a strange, silent rush, and he felt her face
against his closed feet and ankles, her hands pressing his ankles.
He felt her brow and hair against his ankles, her face against his
feet, and there she clung in the dark, as if in space below him.
He still sat erect and motionless.  Then he bent forward and put
his hand on her hair.

'Do you come to me?' he murmured.  'Do you come to me?'

The flame that enveloped him seemed to sway him silently.

'Do you really come to me?' he repeated.  'But we have nowhere to

He felt his bare feet wet with her tears.  Two things were
struggling in him, the sense of eternal solitude, like space, and
the rush of dark flame that would throw him out of his solitude
towards her.

He was thinking too.  He was thinking of the future.  He had no
future in the world: of that he was conscious.  He had no future in
this life.  Even if he lived on, it would only be a kind of
enduring.  But he felt that in the after-life the inheritance was
his.  He felt the after-life belonged to him.

Future in the world he could not give her.  Life in the world he
had not to offer her.  Better go on alone.  Surely better go on

But then the tears on his feet: and her face that would face him as
he left her!  No, no.  The next life was his.  He was master of the
after-life.  Why fear for this life?  Why not take the soul she
offered him?  Now and for ever, for the life that would come when
they both were dead.  Take her into the underworld.  Take her into
the dark Hades with him, like Francesca and Paolo.  And in hell
hold her fast, queen of the underworld, himself master of the
underworld.  Master of the life to come.  Father of the soul that
would come after.

'Listen,' he said to her softly.  'Now you are mine.  In the dark
you are mine.  And when you die you are mine.  But in the day you
are not mine, because I have no power in the day.  In the night, in
the dark, and in death, you are mine.  And that is for ever.  No
matter if I must leave you.  I shall come again from time to time.
In the dark you are mine.  But in the day I cannot claim you.  I
have no power in the day, and no place.  So remember.  When the
darkness comes, I shall always be in the darkness of you.  And as
long as I live, from time to time I shall come to find you, when I
am able to, when I am not a prisoner.  But I shall have to go away
soon.  So don't forget--you are the night wife of the ladybird,
while you live and even when you die.'

Later, when he took her back to her room, he saw the door still

'You shouldn't leave a light in your room,' he murmured.

In the morning there was a curious remote look about him.  He was
quieter than ever, and seemed very far away.  Daphne slept late.
She had a strange feeling as if she had slipped off all her cares.
She did not care, she did not grieve, she did not fret any more.
All that had left her.  She felt she could sleep, sleep, sleep--for
ever.  Her face, too, was very still, with a delicate look of
virginity that she had never had before.  She had always been
Aphrodite, the self-conscious one.  And her eyes, the green-blue,
had been like slow, living jewels, resistant.  Now they had
unfolded from the hard flower-bud, and had the wonder, and the
stillness of a quiet night.

Basil noticed it at once.

'You're different, Daphne,' he said.  'What are you thinking

'I wasn't thinking,' she said, looking at him with candour.

'What were you doing then?'

'What does one do when one doesn't think?  Don't make me puzzle it
out, Basil.'

'Not a bit of it, if you don't want to.'

But he was puzzled by her.  The sting of his ecstatic love for her
seemed to have left him.  Yet he did not know what else to do but
to make love to her.  She went very pale.  She submitted to him,
bowing her head because she was his wife.  But she looked at him
with fear, with sorrow, with real suffering.  He could feel the
heaving of her breast, and knew she was weeping.  But there were no
tears on her face, she was only death pale.  Her eyes were shut.

'Are you in pain?' he asked her.

'No! no!'  She opened her eyes, afraid lest she had disturbed him.
She did not want to disturb him.

He was puzzled.  His own ecstatic, deadly love for her had received
a check.  He was out of the reckoning.

He watched her when she was with the Count.  Then she seemed so
meek--so maidenly--so different from what he had known of her.  She
was so still, like a virgin girl.  And it was this quiet, intact
quality of Virginity in her which puzzled him most, puzzled his
emotions and his ideas.  He became suddenly ashamed to make love to
her.  And because he was ashamed, he said to her as he stood in her
room that night:

'Daphne, are you in love with the Count?'

He was standing by the dressing-table, uneasy.  She was seated in a
low chair by the tiny dying wood fire.  She looked up at him with
wide, slow eyes.  Without a word, with wide, soft, dilated eyes she
watched him.  What was it that made him feel all confused?  He
turned his face aside, away from her wide, soft eyes.

'Pardon me, dear.  I didn't intend to ask such a question.  Don't
take any notice of it,' he said.  And he strode away and picked up
a book.  She lowered her head and gazed abstractedly into the fire,
without a sound.  Then he looked at her again, at her bright hair
that the maid had plaited for the night.  Her plait hung down over
her soft pinkish wrap.  His heart softened to her as he saw her
sitting there.  She seemed like his sister.  The excitement of
desire had left him, and now he seemed to see clear and feel true
for the first time in his life.  She was like a dear, dear sister
to him.  He felt that she was his blood-sister, nearer to him than
he had imagined any woman could be.  So near--so dear--and all the
sex and the desire gone.  He didn't want it--he hadn't wanted it.
This new pure feeling was so much more wonderful.

He went to her side.

'Forgive me, darling,' he said, 'for having questioned you.'

She looked up at him with the wide eyes, without a word.  His face
was good and beautiful.  Tears came to her eyes.

'You have the right to question me,' she said sadly.

'No,' he said.  'No, darling.  I have no right to question you.
Daphne!  Daphne, darling!  It shall be as YOU wish, between us.
Shall it?  Shall it be as you wish?'

'You are the husband, Basil,' she said sadly.

'Yes, darling.  But'--he went on his knees beside her--'perhaps,
darling, something has changed in us.  I feel as if I ought never
to touch you again--as if I never WANTED to touch you--in that way.
I feel it was wrong, darling.  Tell me what you think.'

'Basil, don't be angry with me.'

'It isn't anger; it's pure love, darling--it is.'

'Let us not come any nearer to one another than this, Basil--
physically--shall we?' she said.  'And don't be angry with me, will

'Why,' he said.  'I think myself the sexual part has been a
mistake.  I had rather love you--as I love now.  I KNOW that this
is true love.  The other was always a bit whipped up.  I KNOW I
love you now, darling: now I'm free from that other.  But what if
it comes upon me, that other, Daphne?'

'I am always your wife,' she said quietly.  'I am always your wife.
I want always to obey you, Basil: what you wish.'

'Give me your hand, dear.'

She gave him her hand.  But the look in her eyes at the same time
warned him and frightened him.  He kissed her hand and left her.

It was to the Count she belonged.  This had decided itself in her
down to the depths of her soul.  If she could not marry him and be
his wife in the world, it had nevertheless happened to her for
ever.  She could no more question it.  Question had gone out of

Strange how different she had become--a strange new quiescence.
The last days were slipping past.  He would be going away--Dionys:
he with the still remote face, the man she belonged to in the dark
and in the light, for ever.  He would be going away.  He said it
must be so.  And she acquiesced.  The grief was deep, deep inside
her.  He must go away.  Their lives could not be one life, in this
world's day.  Even in her anguish she knew it was so.  She knew he
was right.  He was for her infallible.  He spoke the deepest soul
in her.

She never SAW him as a lover.  When she saw him, he was the little
officer, a prisoner, quiet, claiming nothing in all the world.  And
when she went to him as his lover, his wife, it was always dark.
She only knew his voice and his contact in darkness.  'My wife in
darkness,' he said to her.  And in this too she believed him.  She
would not have contradicted him, no, not for anything on earth:
lest contradicting him she should lose the dark treasures of
stillness and bliss which she kept in her breast even when her
heart was wrung with the agony of knowing he must go.

No, she had found this wonderful thing after she had heard him
singing: she had suddenly collapsed away from her old self into
this darkness, this peace, this quiescence that was like a full
dark river flowing eternally in her soul.  She had gone to sleep
from the nuit blanche of her days.  And Basil, wonderful, had
changed almost at once.  She feared him, lest he might change back
again.  She would always have him to fear.  But deep inside her she
only feared for this love of hers for the Count: this dark,
everlasting love that was like a full river flowing for ever inside
her.  Ah, let that not be broken.

She was so still inside her.  She could sit so still, and feel the
day slowly, richly changing to night.  And she wanted nothing, she
was short of nothing.  If only Dionys need not go away!  If only he
need not go away!

But he said to her, the last morning:

'Don't forget me.  Always remember me.  I leave my soul in your
hands and your womb.  Nothing can ever separate us, unless we
betray one another.  If you have to give yourself to your husband,
do so, and obey him.  If you are true to me, innerly, innerly true,
he will not hurt us.  He is generous, be generous to him.  And
never fail to believe in me.  Because even on the other side of
death I shall be watching for you.  I shall be king in Hades when I
am dead.  And you will be at my side.  You will never leave me any
more, in the after-death.  So don't be afraid in life.  Don't be
afraid.  If you have to cry tears, cry them.  But in your heart of
hearts know that I shall come again, and that I have taken you for
ever.  And so, in your heart of hearts be still, be still, since
you are the wife of the ladybird.'  He laughed as he left her, with
his own beautiful, fearless laugh.  But they were strange eyes that
looked after him.

He went in the car with Basil back to Voynich Hall.

'I believe Daphne will miss you,' said Basil.

The Count did not reply for some moments.

'Well, if she does,' he said, 'there will be no bitterness in it.'

'Are you sure?' smiled Basil.

'Why--if we are sure of anything,' smiled the Count.

'She's changed, isn't she?'

'Is she?'

'Yes, she's quite changed since you came, Count.'

'She does not seem to me so very different from the girl of
seventeen whom I knew.'

'No--perhaps not.  I didn't know her then.  But she's very
different from the wife I have known.'

'A regrettable difference?'

'Well--no, not as far as she goes.  She is much quieter inside
herself.  You know, Count, something of me died in the war.  I feel
it will take me an eternity to sit and think about it all.'

'I hope you may think it out to your satisfaction, Major.'

'Yes, I hope so too.  But that is how it has left me--feeling as if
I needed eternity now to brood about it all, you know.  Without the
need to act--or even to love, really.  I suppose love is action.'

'Intense action,' said the Count.

'Quite so.  I know really how I feel.  I only ask of life to spare
me from further effort of action of any sort--even love.  And then
to fulfil myself, brooding through eternity.  Of course, I don't
mind WORK, mechanical action.  That in itself is a form of

'A man can only be happy following his own inmost need,' said the

'Exactly!' said Basil.  'I will lay down the law for nobody, not
even for myself.  And live my day--'

'Then you will be happy in your own way.  I find it so difficult to
keep from laying the law down for myself,' said the Count.  'Only
the thought of death and the after life saves me from doing it any

'As the thought of eternity helps me,' said Basil.  'I suppose it
amounts to the same thing.'


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