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Title: Four Faultless Felons
Author: G.K. Chesterton
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300781.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          May 2003
Date most recently updated: January 2006

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Title: Four Faultless Felons
Author: G.K. Chesterton



CLUE OF THE PRESSMAN

I PROLOGUE OF THE PRESSMAN

MR. ASA LEE PINION, of the Chicago Comet, had crossed half of America,
the whole of the Atlantic, and eventually even Piccadilly Circus, in
pursuit of the notable, if not notorious figure of Count Raoul de
Marillac. Mr. Pinion wanted to get what is called "a story"; a story to
put in his paper. He did get a story, but he did not put it in his paper.
It was too tall a story, even for the Comet. Perhaps the metaphor is true
in more ways than one, and the fable was tall like a church-spire or a
tower among the stars: beyond comprehension as well as belief. Anyhow,
Mr. Pinion decided not to risk his readers' comments. But that is no
reason why the present writer, writing for more exalted, spiritual and
divinely credulous readers, should imitate his silence.

Really, the anecdote he heard was quite incredible: and Mr. Pinion was
not intolerant. While the Count was painting the town red and himself
black, it was quite possible to believe that he was not so black as he
was painted. After all, his extravagance and luxury, however
ostentatious, did no particular harm to anybody but himself; and if he
associated with the dissipated and degraded, he had never been known to
interfere with the innocent or the reputable. But while it was credible
enough that the nobleman was not so black as he was painted, he certainly
could not be quite so white as he was painted, in the wild story that was
told that evening. The story came from a friend of the Count's, much too
friendly a friend, thought Mr. Pinion, friendly to the point of
feeble--mindedness. He supposed it must be a delusion or a hoax; anyhow
he did not put it into his paper. Yet it is because of this highly
improbable anecdote that the Count de Marillac stands at the opening of
this book, to introduce the four stories which were put forth as
parallels to his own.

But there was one fact which struck the journalist as odd even at the
beginning. He understood well enough that it would be difficult to catch
the Count anywhere, as he whirled from one social engagement to another,
in the manner appropriately called "fast". And he was not offended when
Marillac said he could only spare ten minutes at his London club before
going on to a theatrical first--night and other ensuing festivities.
During that ten minutes, however, Marillac was quite polite, answered the
rather superficial society questions which the Comet wanted answered, and
very genially introduced the journalist to three or four club companions
or cronies who were standing about him in the lounge, and who continued
to stand about after the Count himself had made his beaming and flashing
exit.

"I suppose," said one of them, "that the naughty old man has gone to see
the naughty new play with all the naughty new people."

"Yes," grunted a big man standing in front of the fire. "He's gone with
the naughtiest person of all, the author, Mrs. Prague. Authoress, I
suppose she'd call herself--being only cultured and not educated."

"He always goes to the first night of those plays," assented the other.
"P'raps he thinks there won't be a second night, if the police raid the
place."

"What play is it?" asked the American in a gentle voice. He was a quiet
little man with a very long head and a refined falcon profile; he was
much less loud and casual than the Englishmen.

"Naked Souls," said the first man with a faint groan. "Dramatized version
of the world-shaking novel Pan's Pipes. Grapples grimly with the facts of
life."

"Also bold, breezy and back to Nature," said the man by the fire. "We
hear a lot just now about Pan's Pipes. They seem to me a little too like
drain-pipes."

"You see," said the other, "Mrs. Prague is so very Modern, she has to go
back to Pan. She says she cannot bear to believe that Pan is dead."

"I think," said the large man, with a touch of heavy violence, "that Pan
is not only dead but rotting and stinking in the street."

It was the four friends of Marillac who puzzled Mr. Pinion. They were
obviously rather intimate friends, and yet they were not, on the whole,
of the sort likely to be even acquaintances. Marillac himself was much
what might have been expected, rather more restless and haggard than his
handsome portraits might have implied, a thing likely enough with his
late hours and his advancing years. His curly hair was still dark and
thick, but his pointed grey beard was whitening fast; his eyes were a
little hollow, and had a more anxious expression than could be inferred,
at a distance, from his buoyant gestures and rapid walk. All that was
quite in character, but the tone of the group was different. One figure
alone out of the four seemed in some sense of Marillac's world, having
something of the carriage of a military officer, with that fine shade
that suggests a foreign officer. He had a cleanshaven, regular and very
impassive face; he was sitting down when he bowed politely to the
stranger, but something in the bow suggested that, standing up, he would
have clicked his heels. The others were quite English and quite
different. One of them was the very big man, with big shoulders bowed but
powerful and a big head not yet bald but striped with rather thin brown
hair. But the arresting thing about him was that indescribable suggestion
of dust or cobwebs that belongs to a strong man leading a sedentary life,
possibly scientific or scholarly, but certainly obscure, in its method if
not its effect; the sort of middle-class man with a hobby, who seems to
have been dug out of it with a spade. It was hard to imagine a more
complete contradiction to such a meteor of fashion as the Count. The man
next him, though more alert, was equally solid and respectable and free
from fashionable pretensions; a short, square man with a square face and
spectacles, who looked like what he was, an ordinary busy suburban
general practitioner. The fourth of Marillac's incongruous intimates was
quite frankly shabby. Grey seedy clothes hung limply on his lean figure,
and his dark hair and rather ragged beard could, at the best, be only
excused as Bohemian. He had very remarkable eyes, sunk very deep in his
head and yet, by a paradox, standing out like signals. The visitor found
himself continually drawn to them, as if they were magnets.

But, all together, the group bothered and bewildered him. It was not
merely a difference of social class, it was an atmosphere of sobriety and
even of solid work and worth, which seemed to belong to another world.
The four men in question were friendly in a modest and even embarrassed
manner; they fell into conversation with the journalist as with any
ordinary equal in a tram or a tube, and when, about an hour later, they
asked him to share their dinner at the club, he had no such sense of
strain as he might have felt in facing one of the fabulous Luculline
banquets of their friend the Count de Marillac.

For however seriously Marillac might or might not be taking the serious
drama of Sex and Science, there was no doubt that he would take the
dinner even more seriously. He was famous as an epicure of almost the
classic and legendary sort, and all the gourmets of Europe reverenced his
reputation. The little man with the spectacles glanced at this fact,
indeed, as they sat down to dinner: "Hope you can put up with our simple
fare, Mr. Pinion," he said. "You'd have had a much more carefully
selected menu if Marillac had been here."

The American reassured him with polite expressions about the club dinner;
but added: "I suppose it is true that he does make rather an art of
dining?"

"Oh, yes," said the man in spectacles. "Always has all the right things
at the wrong times. That's the ideal, I suppose."

"I suppose he takes a lot of trouble?" said Pinion.

"Yes," said the other. "He chooses his meals very carefully. Not
carefully from my point of view. But then I'm a doctor."

Pinion could not keep his eyes off the magnetic eyes of the man with the
shabby clothes and shaggy hair. Just now the man was gazing across the
table with a curious intentness, and in the ensuing silence, he suddenly
intervened.

"Everybody knows he's very particular in choosing his dinner. But I bet
not one man in a million knows the principle on which he chooses it."

"You must remember," said Pinion, with his soft accent, "that I am a
journalist, and I should like to be the one man in a million."

The man opposite looked at him steadily and rather strangely for a
moment, and then said: "I have half a mind.... Look here, have you any
human curiosity as well as journalistic curiosity? I mean, would the one
man like to know, even if the million never knew?"

"Oh, yes," replied the journalist, "I have plenty of curiosity, even
about things I am told in confidence. But I can't quite see why
Marillac's taste in champagne and ortolans should be so very
confidential."

"Well," answered the other gravely, "why do you think he chooses them?"

"I guess I've got a bromide mind," said the American, "but I should
rather suspect him of choosing the things he likes."

"Au contraire, as the other gourmet said when asked if he lunched on the
boat."

The man with the peculiar eyes broke off from his flippant speech,
plunged for a few moments into profound silence, and then resumed in so
different a tone that it was like another man suddenly speaking at the
table.

"Every age has its bigotry, which is blind to some particular need of
human nature; the Puritans to the need for merriment, the Manchester
School to the need for beauty, and so on. There is a need in man, or at
least in many men, which it is not fashionable to admit or allow for in
these days. Most people have had a touch of it in the more serious
emotions of youth; in a few men it burns like a flame to the last, as it
does here. Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity, has been
blamed for imposing it, but in fact, it rather regulated and even
restrained the passion than forced it. It exists in all religions, to a
wild and frantic extent in some of the religions of Asia. There men hack
themselves with knives or hang themselves on hooks, or walk through life
with withered arms rigidly uplifted, crucified upon empty air. It is the
appetite for what one does not like. Marillac has it."

"What on earth--" began the startled journalist, but the other continued:
"In short, it is what people call Asceticism, and one of the modern
mistakes is not allowing for its real existence in rare but quite real
people. To live a life of incessant austerity and self-denial, as
Marillac does, is surrounded with extraordinary difficulties and
misunderstandings in modern society. Society can understand some
particular Puritan fad, like Prohibition, especially if it is imposed on
other people, above all, on poor people. But a man like Marillac,
imposing on himself, not abstinence from wine, but abstinence from
worldly pleasures of every sort. ..."

"Excuse me," said Pinion in his most courteous tones, "I trust I'd never
have the incivility to suggest that you have gone mad, so I must ask you
to tell me candidly whether I have."

"Most people," replied the other, "would answer that it is Marillac who
has gone mad. Perhaps he has; anyhow, if the truth were known, he would
certainly be thought so. But it isn't only to avoid being put in a
lunatic asylum that he hides his hermit's ideal by pretending to be a man
of pleasure. It's part of the whole idea, in its only tolerable form. The
worst of those Eastern fakirs hung on hooks is that they are too
conspicuous. It may make them just a little vain. I don't deny that
Stylites and some of the first hermits may have been touched with the
same danger. But our friend is a Christian anchorite; and understands the
advice, 'When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.' He is not
seen of men to fast. On the contrary, he is seen of men to feast. Only,
don't you see, he has invented a new kind of fasting."

Mr. Pinion of the Comet suddenly laughed, a curt and startled laugh, for
he was very quick and had already guessed the joke.

"You don't really mean--" he began.

"Well, it's quite simple, isn't it?" replied his informant. "He feasts on
all the most luxurious and expensive things that he doesn't like.
Especially on the things that he simply detests. Under that cover, nobody
can possibly accuse him of virtue. He remains impenetrably protected
behind a rampart of repulsive oysters and unwelcome aperitifs. In short,
the hermit must now hide anywhere but in the hermitage. He generally
hides in the latest luxurious gilded hotels, because that's where they
have the worst cooking."

"This is a very extraordinary tale," said the American, arching his
eyebrows.

"You begin to see the idea?" said the other. "If he has twenty different
hors-d'oeuvres brought to him and takes the olives, who is to know that
he hates olives? If he thoughtfully scans the whole wine-list and
eventually selects a rather recondite Hock, who will guess that his whole
soul rises in disgust at the very thought of Hock: and that he knows
that's the nastiest--even of Hocks? Whereas, if he were to demand dried
peas or a mouldy crust at the Ritz, he would probably attract attention."

"I never can quite see," said the man in spectacles restlessly, "what is
the good of it all."

The other man lowered his magnetic eyes and looked down with some
embarrassment. At last he said: "I think I can see it, but I don't think
I can say it. I had a touch of it myself once, only in one special
direction, and I found it almost impossible to explain to anybody. Only
there is one mark of the real mystic and ascetic of this sort; that he
only wants to do it to himself. He wants everybody else to have what wine
or smokes they want and will ransack the Ritz for it. The moment he wants
to dragoon the others, the mystic sinks into a mire of degradation and
becomes the moral reformer."

There was a pause, and then the journalist said suddenly: "But, look
here, this won't do. It isn't only wasting his money on wining and dining
that has got Marillac a bad name. It's the whole thing. Why is he such a
fan for these rotten erotic plays and things? Why does he go about with a
woman like Mrs. Prague? That doesn't seem like a hermit, anyhow."

The man facing Pinion smiled and the heavier man on his right half turned
with a sort of grunt of laughter.

"Well," he said, "it's pretty plain you've never been about with Mrs.
Prague."

"Why, what do you mean?" asked Pinion; and this time there was something
like a general laugh.

"Some say she's his Maiden Aunt and it's his duty to be kind to her,"
began the first man, but the second man interrupted him gruffly: "Why do
you call her a Maiden Aunt when she looks like a--"

"Quite so, quite so," said the first man rather hastily, "and why 'looks
like'--if it comes to that?"

"But her conversation!" groaned his friend. "And Marillac stands it for
hours on end!"

"And her play!" assented the other. "Marillac sits through five mortal
acts of it. If that isn't being a martyr--"

"Don't you see?" cried the shabby man with something like excitement.
"The Count is a cultivated and even learned man; also he is a Latin and
logical to the point of impatience. And yet he sticks it. He endures five
or six acts of a Really Modern Intellectual Incisive Drama. The First Act
in which she says that Woman will no longer be put on a pedestal; the
Second Act in which Woman will no longer be put under a glass case; the
Third Act in which Woman will no longer be a plaything for man, and the
Fourth in which she will no longer be a chattel; all the cliches. And he
still has two acts before him, in which she will not be something else,
will not be a slave in the home or an outcast flung from the home. He's
seen it six times without turning a hair; you can't even see him grind
his teeth. And Mrs. Prague's conversation! How her first husband could
never understand, and her second husband seemed as if he might
understand, only her third husband carried her off as if there was real
understanding--and so on, as if there were anything to be understood. You
know what an utterly egotistical fool is like. And he suffers even those
fools gladly."

"In fact," put in the big man in his brooding manner, "you might say he
has invented the Modern Penance. The Penance of Boredom. Hair-shirts and
hermits' caves in a howling wilderness would not be so horrible to modern
nerves as that."

"By your account," ruminated Pinion, "I've been chasing a pleasure-seeker
tripping on the light fantastic toe and only found a hermit standing on
his head." After a silence he said abruptly, "Is this really true? How
did you find it out?"

"That's rather a long story," replied the man opposite. "The truth is
that Marillac allows himself one feast in the year, on Christmas Day, and
eats and drinks what he really likes. I found him drinking beer and
eating tripe and onions in a quiet pub in Hoxton, and somehow we were
forced into confidential conversation. You will understand, of course,
that this is a confidential conversation."

"I certainly shan't print it," answered the journalist. "I should be
regarded as a lunatic if I did. People don't understand that sort of
lunacy nowadays, and I rather wonder you take to it so much yourself."

"Well, I put my own case before him, you see," answered the other. "In a
small way it was a little like his own. And then I introduced him to my
friends, and so he became a sort of President of our little club."

"Oh," said Pinion rather blankly, "I didn't know you were a club."

"Well, we are four men with a common bond at least. We have all had
occasion, like Marillac, to look rather worse than we were."

"Yes," grunted the large man rather sourly, "we've all been
Misunderstood. Like Mrs. Prague."

"The Club of Men Misunderstood is rather more cheerful than that,
however," continued his friend. "We are all pretty jolly here,
considering that our reputations have been blasted by black and revolting
crimes. The truth is we have devoted ourselves to a new sort of detective
story--or detective service if you like. We do not hunt for crimes but
for concealed virtues. Sometimes, as in Marillac's case, they are very
artfully concealed. As you will doubtless be justified in retorting, we
conceal our own virtues with brilliant success."

The journalist's head began to go round a little, though he thought
himself pretty well accustomed both to crazy and criminal surroundings.
"But I thought you said," he objected, "that your reputations were
blasted with crime. What sort of crime?"

"Well, mine was murder," said the man next to him. "The people who
blasted me did it because they disapproved of murder, apparently. It's
true I was rather a failure at murder, as at everything else."

Pinion's gaze wandered in some bewilderment to the next man who answered
cheerfully: "Mine was only a common fraud. A professional fraud, too, the
sort that gets you kicked out of your profession sometimes. Rather like
Dr. Cook's sham discovery of the North Pole."

"What does all this mean?" asked Pinion; and he looked inquiringly at the
man opposite, who had done so much of the explaining so far.

"Oh, theft," said the man opposite, indifferently; "the charge on which I
was actually arrested was petty larceny."

There was a profound silence, which seemed to settle in a mysterious
manner, like a gathering cloud, on the figure of the fourth member, who
had not spoken so far a single word. He sat erect in his rather stiff,
foreign fashion; his wooden, handsome face was unchanged and his lips had
never moved even for so much as a murmur. But now, when the sudden and
deep silence seemed to challenge him, his face seemed to harden from wood
to stone and when he spoke at last, his foreign accent seemed something
more than alien, as if it were almost inhuman.

"I have committed the Unpardonable Sin," he said. "For what sin did Dante
reserve the last and lowest hell; the Circle of Ice?" Still no one spoke;
and he answered his own question in the same hollow tone: "Treason. I
betrayed the four companions of my party, and gave them up to the
Government for a bribe."

Something turned cold inside the sensitive stranger, and for the first
time he really felt the air around him sinister and strange. The
stillness continued for another half minute, and then all the four men
burst out into a great uproar of laughter.

The stories they told, to justify their boasts or confessions, are here
retold in a different fashion, as they appeared to those on the outskirts
rather than the centre of the events. But the journalist, who liked to
collect all the odd things of life, was interested enough to record them,
and then afterwards recast them. He felt he had really got something, if
not exactly what he had expected, out of his pursuit of the dashing and
extravagant Count Raoul de Marillac.



THE MODERATE MURDERER

I THE MAN WITH THE GREEN UMBRELLA

THE new Governor was Lord Tallboys, commonly called Top-hat Tallboys,
because of his attachment to that uncanny erection, which he continued to
carry balanced on his head as calmly among the palm-trees of Egypt as
among the lamp-posts of Westminster. Certainly he carried it calmly
enough in lands where few crowns were safe from toppling. The district he
had come out to govern may here be described, with diplomatic vagueness,
as a strip on the edge of Egypt and called for our convenience Polybia.
It is an old story now, but one which many people had reason to remember
for many years, and at the time it was an imperial event. One Governor
was killed, another Governor was nearly killed, but in this story we are
concerned only with one catastrophe, and that was rather a personal and
even private catastrophe.

Top-hat Tallboys was a bachelor and yet he brought a family with him. He
had a nephew and two nieces of whom one, as it happened, had married the
Deputy Governor of Polybia, the man who had been called to rule during
the interregnum after the murder of the previous ruler. The other niece
was unmarried; her name was Barbara Traill, and she may well be the first
figure to cross the stage of this story.

For indeed she was rather a solitary and striking figure, raven dark and
rich in colouring with a very beautiful but rather sullen profile, as she
crossed the sandy spaces and came under the cover of one long low wall
which alone threw a strip of shadow from the sun, which was sloping
towards the desert horizon. The wall itself was a quaint example of the
patchwork character of that borderland of East and West. It was actually
a line of little villas, built for clerks and small officials, and thrown
out as by a speculative builder whose speculations spread to the ends of
the earth. It was a strip of Streatham amid the ruins of Heliopolis. Such
oddities are not unknown, when the oldest countries are turned into the
newest colonies. But in this case the young woman, who was not without
imagination, was conscious of a quite fantastic contrast. Each of these
dolls' houses had its toy shrubs and plants and its narrow oblong of back
garden running down to the common and continuous garden wall; and it was
just outside this wall that there ran the rough path, fringed with a few
hoary and wrinkled olives. Outside the fringe there faded away into
infinity the monstrous solitude of sand. Only there could still be
detected on that last line of distance a faint triangular shape, a sort
of mathematical symbol whose unnatural simplicity has moved all poets and
pilgrims for five thousand years. Anyone seeing it really for the first
time, as the girl did, can hardly avoid uttering a cry: "The Pyramids!"

Almost as she said it a voice said in her ear, not loud but with alarming
clearness and very exact articulation: "The foundations were traced in
blood and in blood shall they be traced anew. These things are written
for our instruction."

It has been said that Barbara Traill was not without imagination; it
would be truer to say that she had rather too much. But she was quite
certain she had not imagined the voice, though she certainly could not
imagine where it came from. She appeared to be absolutely alone on the
little path which ran along the wall and led to the gardens round the
Governorate. Then she remembered the wall itself, and looking sharply
over her shoulder, she fancied she saw for one moment a head peering out
of the shadow of a sycamore, which was the only tree of any size for some
distance, since she had left the last of the low sprawling olives two
hundred yards behind. Whatever it was, it had instantly vanished, and
somehow she suddenly felt frightened, more frightened at its
disappearance than its appearance. She began to hurry along the path to
her uncle's residence at a pace that was a little like a run. It was
probably through this sudden acceleration of movement that she seemed to
become aware, rather abruptly, that a man was marching steadily in front
of her along the same track towards the gates of the Governorate.

He was a very large man, and seemed to take up the whole of the narrow
path. She had something of the sensation, with which she was already
slightly acquainted, of walking behind a camel through the narrow and
crooked cracks of the Eastern town. But this man planted his feet as
firmly as an elephant; he walked, one might say, even with a certain
pomp, as if he were in a procession. He wore a long frock-coat and his
head was surmounted by a tower of scarlet, a very tall red fez, rather
taller than the top-hat of Lord Tallboys. The combination of the red
Eastern cap and the black Western clothes is common enough among the
Effendi class in those countries. But somehow it seemed novel and
incongruous in this case, for the man was very fair and had a big blond
beard blown about in the breeze. He might have been a model for the
idiots who talk of the Nordic type of European, but somehow he did not
look like an Englishman. He carried hooked on one finger a rather
grotesque green umbrella or parasol, which he twirled idly like a
trinket. As he was walking slower and slower and Barbara was walking fast
and wanted to walk faster, she could hardly repress an exclamation of
impatience and something like a request for room to pass. The large man
with the beard immediately faced round and stared at her; then he lifted
a monocle and fixed it in his eye and instantly smiled his apologies. She
realized that he must be short-sighted and that she had been a mere blur
to him a moment before, but there was something else in the change of his
face and manner, something that she had seen before, but to which she
could not put a name.

He explained, with the most formal courtesy, that he was going to leave a
note for an official at the Governorate, and there was really no reason
for her to refuse him credence or conversation. They walked a little way
together, talking of things in general, and she had not exchanged more
than a few sentences before she realized that she was talking to a
remarkable man.

We hear much in these days about the dangers of innocence, much that is
false and a little that is true. But the argument is almost exclusively
applied to sexual innocence. There is a great deal that ought to be said
about the dangers of political innocence. That most necessary and most
noble virtue of patriotism is very often brought to despair and
destruction, quite needlessly and prematurely, by the folly of educating
the comfortable classes in a false optimism about the record and security
of the Empire. Young people like Barbara Traill have often never heard a
word about the other side of the story, as it would be told by Irishmen
or Indians or even French Canadians, and it is the fault of their parents
and their papers if they often pass abruptly from a stupid Britishism to
an equally stupid Bolshevism. The hour of Barbara Traill was come, though
she probably did not know it.

"If England keeps her promises," said the man with the beard, frowning,
"there is still a chance that things may be quiet."

And Barbara had answered, like a schoolboy: "England always keeps her
promises."

"The Waba have not noticed it," he answered with an air of triumph.

The omniscient are often ignorant. They are often especially ignorant of
ignorance. The stranger imagined that he was uttering a very crushing
repartee, as perhaps he was, to anybody who knew what he meant. But
Barbara had never heard of the Waba. The newspapers had seen to that.

"The British Government," he was saying, "definitely pledged itself two
years ago to a complete scheme of local autonomy. If it is a complete
scheme, all will be well. If Lord Tallboys has come out here with an
incomplete scheme, a compromise, it will be very far from well. I shall
be very sorry for everybody, but especially for my English friends."

She answered with a young and innocent sneer, "Oh yes-I suppose you are a
great friend of the English."

"Yes," he replied calmly. "A friend: but a candid friend."

"Oh, I know all about that sort," she said with hot sincerity. "I know
what they mean by a candid friend. I've always found it meant a nasty,
sneering, sneaking, treacherous friend."

He seemed stung for an instant and answered, "Your politicians have no
need to learn treachery from the Egyptians." Then he added abruptly: "Do
you know on Lord Jaffray's raid they shot a child? Do you know anything
at all? Do you even know how England tacked on Egypt to her Empire?"

"England has a glorious Empire," said the patriot stoutly.

"England had a glorious Empire," he said. "So had Egypt."

They had come, somewhat symbolically, to the end of their common path and
she turned away indignantly to the gate that led into the private gardens
of the Governor. As she did so he lifted his green umbrella and pointed
with a momentary gesture at the dark line of the desert and the distant
Pyramid. The afternoon had already reddened into evening, and the sunset
lay in long bands of burning crimson across the purple desolation of that
dry inland sea.

"A glorious Empire," he said. "An Empire on which the sun never sets.
Look . . the sun is setting in blood."

She went through the iron gate like the wind and let it clang behind her.
As she went up the avenue towards the inner gardens, she lost a little of
her impatient movement and began to trail along in the rather moody
manner which was more normal to her. The colours and shadows of that
quieter scene seemed to close about her; this place was for the present
her nearest approach to home, and at the end of the long perspective of
gaily coloured garden walks, she could see her sister Olive picking
flowers.

The sight soothed her; but she was a little puzzled about why she should
need any soothing. She had a deeply disquieting sense of having touched
something alien and terrible, something fierce and utterly foreign, as if
she had stroked some strange wild beast of the desert. But the gardens
about her and the house beyond had already taken on a tone or tint
indescribably English, in spite of the recent settlement and the African
sky. And Olive was so obviously choosing flowers to put into English
vases or to decorate English dinner-tables, with decanters and salted
almonds.

But as she drew nearer to that distant figure, it grew more puzzling. The
blossoms grasped in her sister's hand looked like mere ragged and random
handfuls, torn away as a man lying on the turf would idly tear out grass,
when he is abstracted or angry. A few loose stalks lay littered on the
path; it seemed as if the heads had been merely broken off as if by a
child. Barbara did not know why she took in all these details with a slow
and dazed eye, before she looked at the central figure they surrounded.
Then Olive looked up and her face was ghastly. It might have been the
face of Medea in the garden, gathering the poisonous flowers.

II THE BOY WHO MADE A SCENE

BARBARA TRAILL was a girl with a good deal of the boy about her. This is
very commonly said about modern heroines. None the less, the present
heroine would be a very disappointing modern heroine. For, unfortunately,
the novelists who call their heroines boyish obviously know nothing
whatever about boys. The girl they depict, whether we happen to regard
her as a bright young thing or a brazen little idiot, is at any rate in
every respect the complete contrary of a boy. She is sublimely candid;
she is slightly shallow; she is uniformly cheerful; she is entirely
unembarrassed; she is everything that a boy is not. But Barbara really
was rather like a boy. That is, she was rather shy, obscurely
imaginative, capable of intellectual friendships and at the same time of
emotional brooding over them; capable of being morbid and by no means
incapable of being secretive. She had that sense of misfit which
embarrasses so many boys, the sense of the soul being too big to be seen
or confessed, and the tendency to cover the undeveloped emotions with a
convention. One effect of it was that she was of the sort troubled by
Doubt. It might have been religious doubt, at the moment it was a sort of
patriotic doubt, though she would have furiously denied that there was
any doubt about the matter. She had been upset by her glimpse of the
alleged grievances of Egypt or the alleged crimes of England, and the
face of the stranger, the white face with the golden beard and the
glaring monocle, had come to stand for the tempter or the spirit that
denies. But the face of her sister suddenly banished all such merely
political problems. It brought her back with a shock to much more private
problems, indeed to much more secret problems, for she had never admitted
them to anyone but herself.

The Traills had a tragedy, or rather, perhaps, something that Barbara's
brooding spirit had come to regard as the dawn of a tragedy. Her younger
brother was still a boy; it might more truly be said that he was still a
child. His mind had never come to a normal maturity, and though opinions
differed about the nature of the deficiency, she was prone in her black
moods to take the darkest view and let it darken the whole house of
Tallboys. Thus it happened that she said quickly, at the sight of her
sister's strange expression: "Is anything wrong about Tom?"

Olive started slightly, and then said, rather crossly than otherwise:
"No, not particularly. . . . Uncle has put him with a tutor here, and
they say he's getting on better. . . . Why do you ask? There's nothing
special the matter with him."

"Then I suppose," said Barbara, "that there is something special the
matter with you."

"Well," answered the other, "isn't there something the matter with all of
us?"

With that she turned abruptly and went back towards the house, dropping
the flowers she had been making a pretence of gathering, and her sister
followed, still deeply disturbed in mind.

As they came near the portico and veranda, she heard the high voice of
her uncle Tallboys, who was leaning back in a garden chair and talking to
Olive's husband, the Deputy Governor. Tallboys was a lean figure with a
large nose and ears standing out from his stalk of a head; like many men
of that type he had a prominent Adam's apple and talked in a
full-throated gobbling fashion. But what he said was worth listening to,
though he had a trick of balancing one clause against another, with
alternate gestures of his large, loose hands, which some found a trifle
irritating. He was also annoyingly deaf. The Deputy Governor, Sir Harry
Smythe, was an amusing contrast, a square man with a rather congested
face, the colour high under the eyes, which were very light and clear,
and two parallel black bars of brow and moustache, which gave him rather
a look of Kitchener, until he stood up and looked stunted by the
comparison. It also gave him a rather misleading look of bad temper, for
he was an affectionate husband and a good-humoured comrade, if a rather
stubborn party man. For the rest the conversation was enough to show that
he had a military point of view, which is sufficiently common and even
commonplace.

"In short," the Governor was saying, "I believe the Government scheme is
admirably adapted to meet a somewhat difficult situation. Extremists of
both types will object to it, but extremists object to everything."

"Quite so," answered the other, "the question isn't so much whether they
object as whether they can make themselves objectionable."

Barbara, with her new and nervous political interests, found herself
interrupted in her attempt to listen to the political conversation by the
unwelcome discovery that there were other people present. There was a
very beautifully dressed young gentleman, with hair like black satin, who
seemed to be the local secretary of the Governor; his name was Arthur
Meade. There was an old man with a very obvious chestnut wig and a very
unobvious, not to say inscrutable yellow face, who was an eminent
financier known by the name of Morse. There were various ladies of the
official circle who were duly scattered among these gentlemen. It seemed
to be the tail-end of a sort of afternoon tea, which made all the more
odd and suspicious the strange behaviour of the only hostess, in straying
to the other garden and tearing up the flowers. Barbara found herself set
down beside a pleasant old clergyman with smooth, silver hair, and an
equally smooth, silver  voice, who talked to her about the Bible and the
Pyramids. She found herself committed to the highly uncomfortable
experience of pretending to conduct one conversation while trying to
listen to another.

This was the more difficult because the Rev. Ernest Snow, the clergyman
in question, had (for all his mildness) not a little gentle pertinacity.
She received a confused impression that he held very strong views on the
meaning of certain Prophecies in connection with the end of the world and
especially with the destiny of the British Empire. He had that habit of
suddenly asking questions which is so unkind to the inattentive listener.
Thus, she would manage to hear a scrap of the talk between the two rulers
of the province, the Governor would say, balancing his sentences with his
swaying hands: "There are two considerations and by this method we meet
them both. On the one hand, it is impossible entirely to repudiate our
pledge. On the other hand, it is absurd to suppose that the recent
atrocious crime does not necessarily modify the nature of that pledge. We
can still make sure that our proclamation is a proclamation of a
reasonable liberty. We have therefore decided--"

And then, at that particular moment, the poor clergyman would pierce her
consciousness with the pathetic question: "Now how many cubits do you
think that would be?"

A little while later she managed to hear Smythe, who talked much less
than his companion, say curtly: "For my part, I don't believe it makes
much difference what proclamations you make. There are rows here when we
haven't got sufficient forces, and there are no rows when we have got
sufficient forces. That's all."

"And what is our position at present?" asked the Governor gravely.

"Our position is damned bad, if you ask me," grumbled the other in a low
voice. "Nothing has been done to train the men; why, I found the rifle
practice consisted of a sort of parlour game with a pea-shooter about
twice a year. I've put up proper rifle butts beyond the olive walk there
now, but there are other things. The munitions are not--"

"But in that case," came the mild but penetrating voice of Mr. Snow, "in
that case what becomes of the Shunamites?"

Barbara had not the least idea what became of them, but in this case she
felt she could treat it as a rhetorical question. She forced herself to
listen a little more closely to the views of the venerable mystic, and
she only heard one more fragment of the political conversation.

"Shall we really want all these military preparations?" asked Lord
Tallboys rather anxiously. "When do you think we shall want them?"

"I can tell you," said Smythe with a certain grimness. "We shall want
them when you publish your proclamation of reasonable liberty."

Lord Tallboys made an abrupt movement in the garden chair, like one
breaking up a conference in some irritation; then he made a diversion by
lifting a finger and signalling to his secretary Mr. Meade, who slid up
to him and after a brief colloquy slid into the house. Released from the
strain of State affairs, Barbara fell once more under the spell of the
Church and the Prophetical Office. She still had only a confused idea of
what the old clergyman was saying, but she began to feel a vague element
of poetry in it. At least it was full of things that pleased her fancy
like the dark drawings of Blake, prehistoric cities and blind and stony
seers and kings who seemed clad in stone like their sepulchres the
Pyramids. In a dim way she understood why all that stony and starry
wilderness has been the playground of so many cranks. She softened a
little towards the clerical crank and even accepted an invitation to his
house on the day after the following, to see the documents and the
definite proof about the Shunamites. But she was still very vague about
what it was supposed to prove.

He thanked her and said gravely: "If the prophecy is fulfilled now, there
will be a grave calamity."

"I suppose," she said with a rather dreary flippancy, "if the prophecy
were not fulfilled, it would be an even greater calamity."

Even as she spoke there was a stir behind some of the garden palms and
the pale and slightly gaping face of her brother appeared above the
palm-leaves. The next moment she saw just behind him the secretary and
the tutor; it was evident that his uncle had sent for him. Tom Traill had
the look of being too big for his clothes, which is not uncommon in the
otherwise undeveloped; the gloomy good looks which he would otherwise
have shared with his branch of the family were marred by his dark,
straight hair being brushed crooked and his habit of looking out the
corner of his eye at the corner of the carpet. His tutor was a big man of
a dull and dusty exterior, apparently having the name of Hume. His broad
shoulders were a little bowed like those of a drudge, though he was as
yet hardly middle-aged. His plain and rugged face had a rather tired
expression, as well it might. Teaching the defective is not always a
hilarious parlour game.

Lord Tallboys had a brief and kindly conversation with the tutor. Lord
Tallboys asked a few simple questions. Lord Tallboys gave a little
lecture on education, still very kindly, but accompanied by the waving of
the hands in rotation. On the one hand, the power to work was a necessity
of life and could never be wholly evaded. On the other hand, without a
reasonable proportion of pleasure and repose even work would suffer. On
the one hand . . it was at this point that the Prophecy was apparently
fulfilled and a highly regrettable Calamity occurred at the Governor's
tea-party.

For the boy burst out abruptly into a sort of high, gurgling crow and
began to flap his hands about like the wings of a penguin, repeating over
and over again, "On the one hand. On the other hand. On the one hand. On
the other hand. On the one hand. On the other hand. . . . Golly!"

"Tom!" cried Olive on a sharp accent of agony and there was a ghastly
silence over all the garden.

"Well," said the tutor in a reasonable undertone, which was as clear as a
bell in that stillness, "you can't expect to have three hands, can you?"

"Three hands?" repeated the boy, and then after a long silence, "Why, how
could you?"

"One would have to be in the middle, like an elephant's trunk," went on
the tutor in the same colourless, conversational tone. "Wouldn't it be
nice to have a long nose like an elephant so that you could turn it this
way and that and pick up things on the breakfast-table, and never let go
of your knife and fork?"

"Oh, you're mad!" ejaculated Tom with a sort of explosion that had a
queer touch of exultation.

"I'm not the only mad person in the world, old boy," said Mr. Hume.

Barbara stood staring as she listened to this extraordinary conversation
in that deadly silence and that highly unsuitable social setting. The
most extraordinary thing about it was that the tutor said these crazy and
incongruous things with an absolutely blank face.

"Didn't I ever tell you," he said in the same heavy and indifferent
voice, "about the clever dentist who could pull out his own teeth with
his own nose? I'll tell you tomorrow."

He was still quite dull and serious; but he had done the trick. The boy
was distracted from his dislike of his uncle by the absurd image, just as
a child in a temper is distracted by a new toy. Tom was now only looking
at the tutor and followed him everywhere with his eyes. Perhaps he was
not the only member of his family who did so. For the tutor, Barbara
thought, was certainly a very odd person.

There was no more political talk that day, but there was not a little
political news on the next. On the following morning proclamations were
posted everywhere announcing the just, reasonable and even generous
compromise which His Majesty's Government was now offering as a fair and
final settlement of the serious social problems of Polybia and eastern
Egypt. And on the following evening the news went through the town in one
blast, like the wind of the desert, that Viscount Tallboys, Governor of
Polybia, had been shot down by the last of the line of olives, at the
corner of the wall.

III THE MAN WHO COULD NOT HATE

IMMEDIATELY after leaving the little garden-party, Tom and his tutor
parted for the evening, for the former lived at the Governorate, while
the latter had a sort of lodge or little bungalow higher up on the hill
behind amid the taller trees. The tutor said in private what everybody
had indignantly expected him to say in public, and remonstrated with the
youth for his display of imitative drama.

"Well, I won't like him," said Tom warningly. "I'd like to kill him. His
nose sticks out."

"You can hardly expect it to stick in," said Mr. Hume mildly. "I wonder
whether there's an old story about the man whose nose stuck in."

"Is there?" demanded the other in the literal spirit of infancy.

"There may be tomorrow," replied the tutor and began to climb the steep
path to his abode.

It was a lodge built mostly of bamboo and light timber with a gallery
running round outside, from which could be seen the whole district spread
out like a map. The grey and green squares of the Governorate building
and grounds; the path running straight under the low garden wall and
parallel to the line of villas; the solitary sycamore breaking the line
at one point and farther along the closer rank of the olive-trees, like a
broken cloister, and then another gap and then the corner of the wall,
beyond which spread brown slopes of desert, patched here and there with
green, where the ground was being turfed as part of some new public works
or the Deputy Governor's rapid reforms in military organization. The
whole hung under him like a vast coloured cloud in the brief afterglow of
the Eastern sunset; then it was rapidly rolled in the purple gloom in
which the strong stars stood out over his head and seemed nearer than the
things of earth.

He stood for some moments on the gallery looking down on the darkening
landscape, his blunt features knotted in a frown of curious reflection.
Then he went back into the room where he and his pupil had worked all
day, or where he had worked to induce his pupil to consider the idea of
working. It was a rather bare room and the few objects in it rather odd
and varied. A few bookshelves showed very large and gaily coloured books
containing the verses of Mr. Edward Lear, and very small and shabby books
containing the verses of the principal French and Latin poets. A rack of
pipes, all hanging crooked, gave the inevitable touch of the bachelor; a
fishing-rod and an old double-barrelled gun leaned dusty and disused in a
corner; for it was long ago that this man, in other ways so remote from
the sports of his countrymen, had indulged those two hobbies, chiefly
because they were unsociable. But what was perhaps most curious of all,
the desk and the floor were littered with geometrical diagrams treated in
a manner unusual among geometers, for the figures were adorned with
absurd faces or capering legs, such as a schoolboy adds to the squares
and triangles on the blackboard. But the diagrams were drawn very
precisely, as if the draughtsman had an exact eye and excelled in
anything depending on that organ.

John Hume sat down at his desk and began to draw more diagrams. A little
later he lit a pipe, and began to study those he had drawn, but he did
not leave his desk or his preoccupations. So the hours went by amid an
unfathomable stillness around that hillside hermitage, until the distant
strains of a more or less lively band floated up from below, as a signal
that a dance at the Governorate was already in progress. He knew there
was a dance that night and took no notice of it; he was not sentimental,
but some of the tunes stirred almost mechanical memories. The Tallboys
family was a little old-fashioned, even for this rather earlier time.
They were old-fashioned in not pretending to be any more democratic than
they were. Their dependents were dependents, decently treated; they did
not call themselves liberal because they dragged their sycophants into
society. It had therefore never crossed the mind of the secretary or the
tutor that the dance at the Governorate was any concern of theirs. They
were also old-fashioned in the arrangements of the dance itself, and the
date must also be allowed for. The new dances had only just begun to
pierce, and nobody had dreamed of the wild and varied freedom of our new
fashion, by which a person has to walk about all night with the same
partner to the same tune. All this sense of distance, material and moral,
in the old swaying waltzes moved through his subconsciousness and must be
allowed for in estimating what he suddenly looked up and saw.

It seems for one instant as if, in rising through the mist, the tune had
taken outline and colour and burst into his room with the bodily presence
of a song, for the blues and greens of her patterned dress were like
notes of music and her amazing face came to him like a cry, a cry out of
the old youth he had lost or never known. A princess flying out of
fairyland would not have seemed more impossible than that girl from that
ballroom, though he knew her well enough as the younger sister of his
charge, and the ball was a few hundred yards away. Her face was like a
pale face burning through a dream and itself as unconscious as a
dreamer's, for Barbara Traill was curiously unconscious of that mask of
beauty fixed on her brooding boyish soul. She had been counted less
attractive than her sisters and her sulks had marked her almost as the
ugly duckling. Nothing in the solid man before her told of the shock of
realization in his mind. She did not even smile. It was also
characteristic of her that she blurted out what she had to say at once,
almost as crudely as her brother: "I'm afraid Tom is very rude to you,"
she said. "I'm very sorry. How do you think he is getting on?"

"I think most people would say," he said slowly at last, "that I ought to
apologize for his schooling more than you for his family. I'm sorry about
his uncle, but it's always a choice of evils. Tallboys is a very
distinguished man and can look after his own dignity, but I've got to
look after my charge. And I know that is the right way with him. Don't
you be worried about him. He's perfectly all right if you understand him,
and it's only a matter of making up for lost time."

She was listening, or not listening, with her characteristic frown of
abstraction; she had taken the chair he offered her apparently without
noticing it and was staring at the comical diagrams, apparently without
seeing them. Indeed, it might well have been supposed that she was not
listening at all, for the next remark she made appeared to be about a
totally different subject. But she often had a habit of thus showing
fragments of her mind, and there was more plan in the jigsaw puzzle than
many people understood. Anyhow, she said suddenly, without lifting her
eyes from the ludicrous drawing in front of her: "I met a man going to
the Governorate today. A big man with a long, fair beard and a single
eyeglass. Do you know who he is? He said all sorts of horrid things
against England."

Hume got to his feet with his hands in his pockets and the expression of
one about to whistle. He stared at the girl and said softly: "Hullo! Has
he turned up again? I thought there was some trouble coming. Yes, I know
him-they call him Dr. Gregory, but I believe he comes from Germany,
though he often passes for English. He is a stormy petrel, anyhow; and
wherever he goes there's a row. Some say we ought to have used him
ourselves; I believe he once offered his talents to our Government. He's
a very clever fellow and knows a frightful lot of the facts about these
parts."

"Do you mean," she said sharply, "that I'm to believe that man and all
the things he said?"

"No," said Hume. "I shouldn't believe that man; not even if you believe
all the things he said."

"What do you mean?" she demanded.

"Frankly, I think he is a thoroughly bad egg," said the tutor. "He's got
a pretty rotten reputation about women; I won't go into details, but he'd
have gone to prison twice but for suborning perjury. I only say, whatever
you may come to believe, don't believe in him."

"He dared to say that our Government broke its word," said Barbara
indignantly.

John Hume was silent. Something in his silence affected her like a
strain, and she said quite irrationally: "Oh, for the Lord's sake say
something! Do you know he dared to say that somebody on Lord Jaffray's
expedition shot a child? I don't mind their saying England's cold and
hard and all that; I suppose that's natural prejudice. But can't we stop
these wild, wicked lies?"

"Well," replied Hume rather wearily, "nobody can say that Jaffray is cold
and hard. The excuse for the whole thing was that he was blind drunk."

"Then I am to take the word of that liar!" she said fiercely.

"He's a liar all right," said the tutor gloomily. "And it's a very
dangerous condition of the Press and the public, when only the liars tell
the truth."

Something of a massive gravity in his grim humour for the moment
overpowered her breathless resentment, and she said in a quieter tone:
"Do you believe in this demand for self-government?"

"I'm not very good at believing," he said. "I find it very hard to
believe that these people cannot live or breathe without votes, when they
lived contentedly without them for fifty centuries when they had the
whole country in their own hands. A Parliament may be a good thing; a
top-hat may be a good thing; your uncle certainly thinks so. We may like
or dislike our top-hats. But if a wild Turk tells me he has a natural
born right to a top-hat, I can't help answering: 'Then why the devil
didn't you make one for yourself?'"

"You don't seem to care much for the Nationalists either," she said.

"Their politicians are often frauds, but they're not alone in that.
That's why I find myself forced into an intermediate position, a sort of
benevolent neutrality. It simply seems to be a choice between a lot of
blasted blackguards and a lot of damned drivelling, doddering idiots. You
see I'm a Moderate."

He laughed a little for the first time, and his plain face was suddenly
altered for the better. She was moved to say in a more friendly tone:
"Well, we must prevent a real outbreak. You don't want all our people
murdered."

"Only a little murdered," he said, still smiling. "Yes, I think I should
like some of them rather murdered. Not too much, of course; it's a
question of a sense of proportion."

"Now you're talking nonsense," she said, "and people in our position
can't stand any nonsense. Harry says we may have to make an example."

"I know," he said. "He made several examples when he was in command here,
before Lord Tallboys came out. It was vigorous-very vigorous. But I think
I know what would be better than making an example."

"And what is that?"

"Setting an example," said Hume. "What about our own politicians?"

She said suddenly: "Well, why don't you do something yourself?"

There was a silence. Then he drew a deep breath. "Ah, there you have me.
I can't do anything myself. I am futile; naturally and inevitably futile.
I suffer from a deadly weakness."

She felt suddenly rather frightened; she had encountered his blank and
empty eyes.

"I cannot hate," he said. "I cannot be angry."

Something in his heavy voice seemed full of quality, like the fall of a
slab of stone on a sarcophagus; she did not protest, and in her
subconsciousness yawned a disappointment. She half realized the depth of
her strange reliance and felt like one who had dug in the desert and
found a very deep well, and found it dry.

When she went out on to the veranda the steep garden and plantation were
grey in the moon, and a certain greyness spread over her own spirit, a
mood of fatalism and of dull fear. For the first time she realized
something of what strikes a Western eye in Eastern places as the
unnaturalness of nature. The squat, limbless growth of the prickly pear
was not like the green growths of home, springing on light stalks to
lovely flowers like butterflies captured out of air. It was more like the
dead blind bubbling of some green, squalid slime: a world of plants that
were as plain and flat as stones. She hated the hairy surface of some of
the squat and swollen trees of that grotesque garden; the tufts here and
there irritated her fancy as they might have tickled her face. She felt
that even the big, folded flowers, if they opened, would have a foul
fragrance. She had a latent sense of the savour of faint horror, lying
over all as lightly as the faint moonshine. Just as it had chilled her
most deeply, she looked up and saw something that was neither plant nor
tree, though it hung as still in the stillness, but it had the unique
horror of a human face. It was a very white face, but bearded with gold
like the Greek statues of gold and ivory, and at the temples were two
golden curls, that might have been the horns of Pan.

For the moment that motionless head might indeed have been that of some
terminal god of gardens. But the next moment it had found legs and came
to life, springing out upon the pathway behind her. She had already gone
some distance from the hut and was not far from the illuminated grounds
of the Governorate, whence the music swelled louder as she went.
Nevertheless, she swung round and faced the other way, looking
desperately at the figure she recognized. He had abandoned his red fez
and black frock-coat and was clad completely in white, like many tropical
trippers, but it gave him in the moonlight something of the silver touch
of a spectral harlequin. As he advanced he screwed the shining disk into
his eye and it revealed in a flash the faint memory that had always
escaped her. His face in repose was calm and classic and might have been
the stone mask of Jove rather than Pan. But the monocle gathered up his
features into a sneer and seemed to draw his eyes closer together; and
she suddenly saw that he was no more a German than an Englishman. And
though she had no Anti-Semitic prejudice in particular, she felt somehow
that in that scene there was something sinister in a fair Jew, as in a
white negro.

"We meet under a yet more beautiful sky," he said; she hardly heard what
else he said. Broken phrases from what she had heard recently tumbled
through her mind, mere words like "reputation" and "prison", and she
stepped back to increase the distance, but moving in the opposite
direction from which she had come. Afterwards she hardly remembered what
had happened; he had said other things; he had tried to stop her, and an
instantaneous impression of crushing and startling strength, like a
chimpanzee, surprised her into a cry. Then she stumbled and ran, but not
in the direction of the house of her own people.

Mr. John Hume got out of his chair more quickly than was his wont and
went to meet someone who stumbled up the stair without.

"My dear child," he said, and put a hand on her shaking shoulder, giving
and receiving a queer thrill like a dull electric shock. Then he went,
moving quickly past her. He had seen something in the moonlight beyond
and without descending the steps, sprang over the rail to the ground
below, standing waist-high in the wild and tangled vegetation. There was
a screen of large leaves waving to and fro between Barbara and the rapid
drama that followed, but she saw, as in flashes of moonlight, the tutor
dart across the path of the figure in white and heard the shock of blows
and saw a kick like a catapult. There was a wheel of silver legs like the
arms of the Isle of Man, and then out of the dense depth of the lower
thicket a spout of curses in a tongue that was not English, nor wholly
German, but which shrieked and chattered in all the Ghettoes of the
world. But one strange thing remained even in her disordered memory; that
when the figure in white had risen tottering and turned to plunge down
the hill, the white face and the furious gesture of malediction were
turned, not towards the assailant, but towards the house of the Governor.

The tutor was frowning ponderously as he came again up the veranda steps,
as if over some of his geometrical problems. She asked him rather wildly
what he had done and he answered in his heavy voice: "I hope I half
killed him. You know I am in favour of half measures."

She laughed rather hysterically and cried: "You said you could not be
angry."

Then they suddenly became very stiff and silent and it was with an almost
fatuous formality that he escorted her down the slope to the very doors
of the dancing-rooms. The sky behind the green pergolas of foliage was a
vivid violet or some sort of blue that seemed warmer than any red; and
the furry filaments of the great tree-trunks seemed like the quaint
sea-beasts of childhood, which could be stroked and which unfolded their
fingers. There was something upon them both beyond speech or even
silence. He even went so far as to say it was a fine night.

"Yes," she answered, "it is a fine night"; and felt instantly as if she
had betrayed some secret.

They went through the inner gardens to the gate of the vestibule, which
was crowded with people in uniform and evening dress. They parted with
the utmost formality; and that night neither of them slept.


IV THE DETECTIVE AND THE PARSON

IT was not until the following evening, as already noted, that the news
came that the Governor had fallen by a shot from an unknown hand. And
Barbara Traill received the news later than most of her friends, because
she had departed rather abruptly that morning for a long ramble amid the
ruins and plantations of palm, in the immediate neighbourhood. She took a
sort of picnic basket with her, but light as was her visible luggage, it
would be true to say that she went away to unpack upon a large scale. She
went to unfold a sort of invisible impedimenta which had accumulated in
her memories, especially her memories of the night before. This sort of
impetuous solitude was characteristic of her, but it had an immediate
effect which was rather fortunate in her case. For the first news was the
worst, and when she returned the worst had been much modified. It was
first reported that her uncle was dead; then that he was dying; finally
that he had only been wounded and had every prospect of recovery. She
walked with her empty basket straight into the hubbub of discussion about
these things, and soon found that the police operations for the discovery
and pursuit of the criminal were already far advanced. The inquiry was in
the hands of a hard headed, hatchet-faced officer named Hayter, the chief
of the detective force; who was being actively seconded by young Meade,
the secretary of the Governor. But she was rather more surprised to find
her friend the tutor in the very centre of the group, being questioned
about his own recent experiences.

The next moment she felt a strange sort of surge of subconscious
annoyance, as she realized the subject-matter of the questions. The
questioners were Meade and Hayter; but it was significant that they had
just received the news that Sir Harry Smythe, with characteristic energy,
had arrested Dr. Paulus Gregory, the dubious foreigner with the big
beard. The tutor was being examined about his own last glimpse of that
questionable public character, and Barbara felt a secret fury at finding
the affair of the night before turned into a public problem of police.
She felt as if she had come down in the morning to find the whole
breakfast-table talking about some very intimate dream she had had in the
middle of the night. For though she had carried that picture with her as
she wandered among the tombs and the green thickets, she had felt it as
something as much peculiar to herself as if she had had a vision in the
wilderness. The bland, black-haired Mr. Meade was especially insinuating
in his curiosity. She told herself, in a highly unreasonable fashion,
that she had always hated Arthur Meade.

"I gather," the secretary was saying, "that you have excellent reasons of
your own for regarding this man as a dangerous character."

"I regard him as a rotter and I always did," replied Hume in a rather
sulky and reluctant manner. "I did have a bit of a kick up with him last
night, but it didn't make any difference to my views, nor to his either,
I should think."

"It seems to me it might make a considerable difference," persisted
Meade. "Isn't it true that he went away cursing not only you but
especially the Governor? And he went away down the hill towards the place
where the Governor was shot. It's true he wasn't shot till a good time
after, and nobody seems to have seen his assailant; but he might have
hung about in the woods and then crept out along the wall at dusk."

"Having helped himself to a gun from the gun-tree that grows wild in
these woods, I suppose," said the tutor sardonically. "I swear he had no
gun or pistol on him when I threw him into the prickly pear."

"You seem to be making the speech for the defence," said the secretary
with a faint sneer. "But you yourself said he was a pretty doubtful
character."

"I don't think he is in the least a doubtful character," replied the
tutor in his stolid way. "I haven't the least doubt about him myself. I
think he is a loose, lying, vicious braggart and humbug; a selfish,
sensual mountebank. So I'm pretty sure that he didn't shoot the Governor,
whoever else did."

Colonel Hayter cocked a shrewd eye at the speaker and spoke himself for
the first time.

"Ah-and what do you mean by that exactly?"

"I mean what I say," answered Hume. "It's exactly because he's that sort
of rascal that he didn't commit that sort of rascality. Agitators of his
type never do things themselves; they incite other people; they hold
meetings and send round the hat and then vanish, to do the same thing
somewhere else. It's a jolly different sort of person that's left to take
the risks of playing Brutus or Charlotte Corday. But I confess there are
two other little bits of evidence, which I think clear the fellow
completely."

He put two fingers in his waistcoat pocket and slowly and thoughtfully
drew out a round, flat piece of glass with a broken string.

"I picked this up on the spot where we struggled," he said. "It's
Gregory's eyeglass; and if you look through it you won't see anything,
except the fact that a man who wanted a lens as strong as that could see
next to nothing without it. He certainly couldn't see to shoot as far as
the end of the wall from the sycamore, which is whereabouts they think
the shot must have been fired from."

"There may be something in that," said Hayter, "though the man might have
had another glass, of course. You said you had a second reason for
thinking him innocent."

"The second reason," said Hume, "is that Sir Harry Smythe has just
arrested him."

"What on earth do you mean?" asked Meade sharply. "Why, you brought us
the message from Sir Harry yourself."

"I'm afraid I brought it rather imperfectly," said the other, in a dull
voice. "It's quite true Sir Harry has arrested the doctor, but he'd
arrested him before he heard of the attempt on Lord Tallboys. He had just
arrested him for holding a seditious meeting five miles away at
Pentapolis, at which he made an eloquent speech, which must have reached
its beautiful peroration about the time when Tallboys was being shot at,
here at the corner of the road."

"Good Lord!" cried Meade, staring, "you seem to know a lot about this
business."

The rather sullen tutor lifted his head and looked straight at the
secretary with a steady but rather baffling gaze.

"Perhaps I do know a little about it," he said. "Anyhow, I'm quite sure
Gregory's got a good alibi."

Barbara had listened to this curious conversation with a confused and
rather painful attention; but as the case against Gregory seemed to be
crumbling away, a new emotion of her own began to work its way to the
surface. She began to realize that she had wanted Gregory to be made
responsible, not out of any particular malice towards him, but because it
would explain and dispose of the whole incident, and dismiss it from her
mind along with another disturbing but hardly conscious thought. Now that
the criminal had again become a nameless shadow, he began to haunt her
mind with dreadful hints of identity and she had spasms of fear, in which
that shadowy figure was suddenly fitted with a face.

As has been already noted, Barbara Traill was a little morbid about her
brother and the tragedy of the Traills. She was an omnivorous reader; she
had been the sort of schoolgirl who is always found in a corner with a
book. And this means generally, under modern conditions, that she read
everything she could not understand some time before she read anything
that she could. Her mind was a hotch-potch of popular science about
heredity and psycho-analysis, and the whole trend of her culture tended
to make her pessimistic about everything. People in this mood never have
any difficulty in finding reasons for their worst fears. And it was
enough for her that, the very morning before her uncle was shot, he had
been publicly insulted, and even crazily threatened, by her brother.

That sort of psychological poison works itself deeper and deeper into the
brain. Barbara's broodings branched and thickened like a dark forest; and
did not stop with the thought that a dull, undeveloped schoolboy was
really a maniac and a murderer. The unnatural generalizations of the
books she had read pushed her farther and farther. If her brother, why
not her sister? If her sister, why not herself? Here memory exaggerated
and distorted the distracted demeanour of her sister in the
flower-garden, till she could almost fancy that Olive had torn up the
flowers with her teeth. As is always the case in such unbalanced worry,
all sorts of accidents took on a terrible significance. Her sister had
said, "Is there not something the matter with all of us?" What could that
mean but such a family curse? Hume himself had said he was not the only
mad person present. What else could that mean? Even Dr. Gregory had
declared after talking to her, that her race was degenerate; did he mean
that her family was degenerate? After all, he was a doctor, if he was a
wicked one. Each of these hateful coincidences gave her a spiritual
shock, so that she almost cried aloud when she thought of it. Meanwhile
the rest of her mind went round and round in the iron circle of all such
logic from hell. She told herself again and again that she was being
morbid, and then told herself again and again that she was only morbid
because she was mad. But she was not in the least mad, she was only
young, and thousands of young people go through such a phase of
nightmare, and nobody knows or helps.

But she was moved with a curious impulse in the search for help, and it
was the same impulse that had driven her back across the moonlit glade to
the wooden hut upon the hill. She was actually mounting that hill again,
when she met John Hume coming down.

She poured out all her domestic terrors and suspicions in a flood, as she
had poured out all her patriotic doubts and protests, with a confused
confidence which rested on no defined reason or relation and yet was sure
of itself.

"So there it is," she said at the end of her impetuous monologue. "I
began by being quite sure that poor Tom had done it. But by this time I
feel as if I might have done it myself."

"Well, that's logical enough," agreed Hume. "It's about as sensible to
say that you are guilty as that Tom is. And about as sensible to say the
Archbishop of Canterbury is guilty as either of you."

She attempted to explain her highly scientific guesses about heredity,
and their effect was more marked. They succeeded at least in arousing
this large and slow person to a sort of animation.

"Now the devil take all doctors and scientists," he cried, "or rather the
devil take all novelists and newspaper-men who talk about what even the
doctors don't understand! People abuse the old nurses for frightening
children with bogies which pretty soon became a joke. What about the new
nurses who let children frighten themselves with all the black bogies
they are supposed to take seriously? My dear girl, there is nothing the
matter with your brother, any more than with you. He's only what they
call a protected neurotic, which is their long-winded way of saying he
has an extra skin that the Public School varnish won't stick on, but runs
off like water off a duck's back. So much the better for him, as likely
as not, in the long run. But even suppose he did remain a little more
like a child than the rest of us. Is there anything particularly horrible
about a child? Do you shudder when you think of your dog, merely because
he's happy and fond of you and yet can't do the forty-eighth proposition
of Euclid? Being a dog is not a disease. Being a child is not a disease.
Even remaining a child is not a disease; don't you sometimes wish we
could all remain children?"

She was of the sort that grapples with notions and suggestions one after
another, as they come, and she stood silent, but her mind was busy like a
mill. It was he who spoke again, and more lightly.

"It's like what we were saying about making examples. I think the world
is much too solemn and severe about punishments, it would be far better
if it were ruled like a nursery. People don't want penal servitude and
execution and all the rest. What most people want is to have their ears
boxed or be sent to bed. What fun it would be to take an unscrupulous
millionaire and make him stand in the corner! Such an appropriate
penalty."

When she spoke again there was in her tones something of relief and a
renewed curiosity.

"What do you do with Tom?" she asked, "and what's the meaning of all
those funny triangles?"

"I play the fool," he replied gravely. "What he wants is to have his
attention aroused and fixed, and foolery always does that for children;
very obvious foolery. Don't you know how they have always liked such
images as the cow jumping over the moon? It's the educational effect of
riddles. Well, I have to be the riddle. I have to keep him wondering what
I mean or what I shall do next. It means being an ass, but it's the only
way."

"Yes," she answered slowly, "there's something awfully rousing about
riddles .. all sorts of riddles. Even that old parson with his riddles
out of Revelations makes you feel he has something to live for .. by the
way, I believe we promised to go to tea there this afternoon; I've been
in a state to forget everything."

Even as she spoke she saw her sister Olive coming up the path attired in
the unmistakable insignia of one paying calls, and accompanied by her
sturdy husband, the Deputy Governor, who did not often attend these
social functions.

They all went down the road together and Barbara was vaguely surprised to
see ahead of them on the same road, not only the sleek and varnished
figure of Mr. Meade the secretary, but also the more angular outline of
Colonel Hayter. The clergyman's invitation had evidently been a
comprehensive one.

The Rev. Ernest Snow lived in a very modest manner in one of the little
houses that had been erected in a row for the minor officials of the
Governorate. It was at the back of this line of villas that the path ran
along the garden wall and past the sycamore to the bunch of olives and
finally to the corner where the Governor had fallen by the mysterious
bullet. That path fringed the open desert and had all the character of a
rude, beaten path for the desert pilgrims. But walking on the other side,
in front of the row of houses, a traveller might well have imagined
himself in any London suburb, so regular were the ornamental railings and
so identical the porticos and the small front-garden plots. Nothing but a
number distinguished the house of the clergyman, and the entrance to it
was so prim and narrow that the group of guests from the Governorate had
some difficulty in squeezing through it.

Mr. Snow bowed over Olive's hand with a ceremony that seemed to make his
white hair a ghost of eighteenth-century powder, but also with something
else that seemed at first a shade more difficult to define. It was
something that went with the lowered voice and lifted hand of his
profession at certain moments. His face was composed, but it would almost
seem deliberately composed, and in spite of his grieved tone his eyes
were very bright and steady. Barbara suddenly realized that he was
conducting a funeral, and she was not far out.

"I need not tell you, Lady Smythe," he said in the same soft accents,
"what sympathy we all feel in this terrible hour. If only from a public
standpoint, the death of your distinguished uncle--"

Olive Smythe struck in with a rather wild stare.

"But my uncle isn't dead, Mr. Snow. I know they said so at first, but he
only got a shot in his leg and he is trying to limp about already."

A shock of transformation passed over the clergyman's face, too quick for
most eyes to follow; it seemed to Barbara that his jaw dropped and when
it readjusted itself, it was in a grin of utterly artificial
congratulation.

"My dear lady," he breathed, "for this relief--"

He looked round a little vacantly at the furniture. Whether the Rev.
Ernest Snow had remembered to prepare tea at tea-time, was not yet quite
clear, but the preparations he had made seemed to be of a less assuaging
sort. The little tables were loaded with large books, many of them lying
open, and these were mostly traced with sprawling plans and designs,
mostly architectural or generally archaeological, in some cases
apparently astronomical or astrological, but giving as a whole a hazy
impression of a magician's spells or a library of the black art.

"Apocalyptic studies," he stammered, "a hobby of mine. I believed that my
calculations . . . These things are written for our instruction."

And then Barbara felt a final stab of astonishment and alarm. For two
facts became instantly and simultaneously vivid to her consciousness. The
first was that the Rev. Ernest Snow had been reposing upon the fact of
the Governor's death with something very like a solemn satisfaction, and
had heard of his recovery with something quite other than relief. And the
second was that he spoke with the same voice that had once uttered the
same words, out of the shadow of the sycamore, that sounded in her ears
like a wild cry for blood.


V THE THEORY OF MODERATE MURDER

COLONEL HAYTER, the Chief of the Police, was moving towards the inner
rooms with a motion that was casual but not accidental. Barbara indeed
had rather wondered why such an official had accompanied them on a purely
social visit, and she now began to entertain dim and rather incredible
possibilities. The clergyman had turned away to one of the bookstands and
was turning over the leaves of a volume with feverish excitement; it
seemed almost that he was muttering to himself. He was a little like a
man looking up a quotation on which he has been challenged.

"I hear you have a very nice garden here, Mr. Snow," said Hayter. "I
should rather like to look at your garden."

Snow turned a startled face over his shoulder; he seemed at first unable
to detach his mind from his preoccupation; then he said sharply but a
little shakily, "There's nothing to see in my garden; nothing at all. I
was just wondering--"

"Do you mind if I have a squint at it?" asked Hayter indifferently, and
shouldered his way to the back door. There was something resolute about
his action that made the others trail vaguely after him, hardly knowing
what they did. Hume, who was just behind the detective, said to him in an
undertone: "What do you expect to find growing in the old man's garden?"

Hayter looked over his shoulder with a grim geniality.

"Only a particular sort of tree you were talking of lately," he said.

But when they went out into the neat and narrow strip of back garden, the
only tree in sight was the sycamore spreading over the desert path, and
Barbara remembered with another subconscious thrill that this was the
spot from which, as the experts calculated, the bullet had been fired.

Hayter strode across the lawn and was seen stooping over something in the
tangle of tropical plants under the wall. When he straightened himself
again he was seen to be holding a long and heavy cylindrical object.

"Here is something fallen from the gun-tree you said grew in these
parts," he said grimly. "Funny that the gun should be found in Mr. Snow's
back-garden, isn't it? Especially as it's a double-barrelled gun with one
barrel discharged."

Hume was staring at the big gun in the detective's hand, and for the
first time his usually stolid face wore an expression of amazement and
even consternation.

"Damn it all!" he said softly, "I forgot about that. What a rotten fool I
am!"

Few except Barbara even heard his strange whisper, and nobody could make
any sense of it. Suddenly he swung round and addressed the whole company
aloud, almost as if they were a public meeting.

"Look here," he said, "do you know what this means? This means that poor
old Snow, who is probably still fussing over his hieroglyphics, is going
to be charged with attempted murder."

"It's a bit premature," said Hayter, "and some would say you were
interfering in our job, Mr. Hume. But I owe you something for putting us
right about the other fellow, when I admit we were wrong."

"You were wrong about the other fellow and you are wrong about this
fellow," said Hume, frowning savagely. "But I happened to be able to
offer you evidence in the other case. What evidence can I give now?"

"Why should you have any evidence to give?" asked the other, very much
puzzled.

"Well, I have," said Hume, "and I jolly well don't want to give it." He
was silent for a moment and then broke out in a sort of fury: "Blast it
all, can't you see how silly it is to drag in that silly old man? Don't
you see he'd only fallen in love with his own prophecies of disaster, and
was a bit put off when they didn't come true after all?"

"There are a good many more suspicious circumstances," cut in Smythe
curtly. "There's the gun in the garden and the position of the sycamore."

There was a long silence during which Hume stood with huge hunched
shoulders frowning resentfully at his boots. Then he suddenly threw up
his head and spoke with a sort of explosive lightness.

"Oh, well then, I must give my evidence," he said, with a smile that was
almost gay: "I shot the Governor myself."

There was a stillness as if the place had been full of statues, and for a
few seconds nobody moved or spoke. Then Barbara heard her own voice in
the silence, crying out: "Oh, you didn't!"

A moment later the Chief of Police was speaking with a new and much more
official voice: "I should like to know whether you are joking," he said,
"or whether you really mean to give yourself up for the attempted murder
of Lord Tallboys."

Hume held up one hand in an arresting gesture, almost like a public
speaker. He was still smiling slightly, but his manner had grown more
grave.

"Pardon me," he said. "Pardon me. Let us distinguish. The distinction is
of great value to my self-esteem. I did not try to murder the Governor. I
tried to shoot him in the leg and I did shoot him in the leg."

"What is the sense of all this?" cried Smythe with impatience.

"I am sorry to appear punctilious," said Hume calmly. "Imputations on my
morals I must bear, like other members of the criminal class. But
imputations on my marksmanship I cannot tolerate; it is the only sport in
which I excel." He picked up the double-barrelled gun before they could
stop him and went on rapidly: "And may I draw attention to one technical
point? This gun has two barrels and one is still undischarged. If any
fool had shot Tallboys at that distance and not killed him, don't you
think even a fool would have shot again, if that was what he wanted to
do? Only, you see, it was not what I wanted to do."

"You seem to fancy yourself a lot as a marksman," said the Deputy
Governor rudely.

"Ah, you are sceptical," replied the tutor in the same airy tone. "Well,
Sir Harry, you have yourself provided the apparatus of demonstration, and
it will not take a moment. The targets which we owe to your patriotic
efficiency are already set up, I think, on the slope just beyond the end
of the wall." Before anybody could move he had hopped up on to the low
garden wall, just under the shadow of the sycamore. From that perch he
could see the long line of the butts stretching along the border of the
desert.

"Suppose we say," he said pleasantly, in the tone of a popular lecturer,
"that I put this bullet about an inch inside the white on the second
target."

The group awoke from its paralysis of surprise; Hayter ran forward and
Smythe burst out with: "Of all the damned tomfoolery--"

His sentence was drowned in the deafening explosion, and amid the echoes
of it the tutor dropped serenely from the wall.

"If anybody cares to go and look," he said, "I think he will find the
demonstration of my innocence-not indeed of shooting the Governor, but of
wanting to shoot him anywhere else but where I did shoot him."

There was another silence, and then this comedy of unexpected happenings
was crowned with another that was still more unexpected; coming from the
one person whom everybody had naturally forgotten.

Tom's high, crowing voice was suddenly heard above the crowd.

"Who's going to look?" he cried. "Well, why don't you go and look?"

It was almost as if a tree in the garden had spoken. And indeed the
excitement of events had worked upon that vegetating brain till it
unfolded rapidly, as do some vegetables at the touch of chemistry. Nor
was this all, for the next moment the vegetable had taken on a highly
animal energy and hurled itself across the garden. They saw a whirl of
lanky limbs against the sky as Tom Traill cleared the garden wall and
went plunging away through the sand towards the targets.

"Is this place a lunatic asylum?" cried Sir Harry Smythe, his face still
more congested with colour and a baleful light in his eyes, as if a big
but buried temper was working its way to the surface.

"Come, Mr. Hume," said Hayter in a cooler tone, "everybody regards you as
a very sensible man. Do you mean to tell me seriously that you put a
bullet in the Governor's leg for no reason at all, not even murder?"

"I did it for an excellent reason," answered the tutor, still beaming at
him in a rather baffling manner. "I did it because I am a sensible man.
In fact, I am a Moderate Murderer."

"And what the blazes may that be?"

"The philosophy of moderation in murder," continued the tutor blandly,
"is one to which I have given some little attention. I was saying only
the other day that what most people want is to be rather murdered,
especially persons in responsible political situations. As it is, the
punishments on both sides are far too severe. The merest touch or soupcon
of murder is all that is required for purposes of reform. The little more
and how much it is; the little less and the Governor of Polybia gets
clean away, as Browning said."

"Do you really ask me to believe," snorted the Chief of Police, "that you
make a practice of potting every public man in the left leg?"

"No, no," said Hume, with a sort of hasty solemnity. "The treatment, I
assure you, is marked with much more individual attention. Had it been
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I should perhaps have selected a portion
of the left ear. In the case of the Prime Minister the tip of the nose
would be indicated. But the point is the general principle that something
should happen to these people, to arouse their dormant faculties by a
little personal problem. Now if ever there was a man," he went on with
delicate emphasis, as if it were a scientific demonstration, "if ever
there was a man meant and marked out by nature to be rather murdered, it
is Lord Tallboys. Other eminent men, very often, are just murdered, and
everyone feels that the situation has been adequately met, that the
incident is terminated. One just murders them and thinks no more about
it. But Tallboys is a remarkable case; he is my employer and I know him
pretty well. He is a good fellow, really. He is a gentleman, he is a
patriot; what is more, he is really a liberal and reasonable man. But by
being perpetually in office he has let that pompous manner get worse and
worse, till it seems to grow on him, like his confounded top-hat. What is
needed in such a case? A few days in bed, I decided. A few healthful
weeks standing on one leg and meditating on that fine shade of
distinction between oneself and God Almighty, which is so easily
overlooked."

"Don't listen to any more of this rubbish," cried the Deputy-Governor.
"If he says he shot Tallboys, we've got to take him up for it, I suppose.
He ought to know."

"You've hit it at last, Sir Harry," said Hume heartily, "I'm arousing a
lot of dormant intellects this afternoon."

"We won't have any more of your joking," cried Smythe with sudden fury;
"I'm arresting you for attempted murder."

"I know," answered the smiling tutor, "that's the joke."

At this moment there was another leap and scurry by the sycamore and the
boy Tom hurled himself back into the garden, panting aloud: "It's quite
right. It's just where he said."

For the rest of the interview, and until that strange group had broken up
on the lawn, the boy continued to stare at Hume as only a boy can stare
at somebody who has done something rather remarkable in a game. But as he
and Barbara went back to the Governorate together, the latter
indescribably dazed and bewildered, she found her companion curiously
convinced of some view of his own, which he was hardly competent to
describe. It was not exactly as if he disbelieved Hume or his story. It
was rather as if he believed what Hume had not said, rather than what he
had.

"It's a riddle," repeated Tom with stubborn solemnity. "He's awfully fond
of riddles. He says silly things just to make you think. That's what
we've got to do. He doesn't like you to give it up."

"What we've got to do?" repeated Barbara.

"Think what it really means," said Tom.

There was some truth perhaps in the suggestion that Mr. John Hume was
fond of riddles, for he fired off one more of them at the Chief of
Police, even as that official took him into custody.

"Well," he said cheerfully, "you can only half hang me because I'm only
half a murderer. I suppose you have hanged people sometimes?"

"Occasionally, I'm sorry to say," replied Colonel Hayter.

"Did you ever hang somebody to prevent him being hanged?" asked the tutor
with interest.


VI THE THING THAT REALLY HAPPENED

IT is not true that Lord Tallboys wore his top-hat in bed, during his
brief indisposition. Nor is it true, as was more moderately alleged, that
he sent for it as soon as he could stand upright and wore it as a
finishing touch to a costume consisting of a green dressing-gown and red
slippers. But it was quite true that he resumed his hat and his high
official duties at the earliest possible opportunity; rather to the
annoyance, it was said, of his subordinate the Deputy-Governor, who found
himself for the second time checked in some of those vigorous military
measures which are always more easily effected after the shock of a
political outrage. In plain words, the Deputy-Governor was rather sulky.
He had relapsed into a red-faced and irritable silence, and when he broke
it his friends rather wished he would relapse into it again. At the
mention of the eccentric tutor, whom his department had taken into
custody, he exploded with a special impatience and disgust. "Oh, for
God's sake don't tell me about that beastly madman and mountebank!" he
cried, almost in the voice of one tortured and unable to tolerate a
moment more of human folly. "Why in the world we are cursed with such
filthy fools . . shooting him in the leg .. moderate murderer . . mouldy
swine!"

"He's not a mouldy swine," said Barbara Traill emphatically, as if it
were an exact point of natural history. "I don't believe a word of what
you people are saying against him."

"Do you believe what he is saying against himself?" asked her uncle,
looking at her with screwed-up eyes and a quizzical expression. Tallboys
was leaning on a crutch; in marked contrast to the sullenness of Sir
Harry Smythe, he carried his disablement in a very plucky and pleasant
fashion. The necessity of attending to the interrupted rhythm of his legs
had apparently arrested the oratorical rotation of his hands. His family
felt that they had never liked him so much before. It seemed almost as if
there were some truth in the theory of the Moderate Murderer.

On the other hand, Sir Harry Smythe, usually so much more good-humoured
with his family, seemed to be in an increasingly bad humour. The dark red
of his complexion deepened, until by contrast there was something almost
alarming about the light of his pale eyes.

"I tell you of all these measly, meddlesome blighters," he began.

"And I tell you you know nothing about it," retorted his sister-in-law.
"He isn't a bit like that; he--"

At this point, for some reason or other, it was Olive who intervened
swiftly and quietly: she looked a little wan and worried.

"Don't let's talk about all that now," she said hastily. "Harry has got
such a lot of things to do. . . ."

"I know what I'm going to do," said Barbara stubbornly. "I'm going to ask
Lord Tallboys, as Governor of this place, if he will let me visit Mr.
Hume and see if I can find out what it means."

She had become for some reason violently excited and her own voice
sounded strangely in her ears. She had a dizzy impression of Harry
Smythe's eyes standing out of his head in apoplectic anger and of Olive's
face in the background growing more and more unnaturally pale and
staring, and hovering over all, with something approaching to an elvish
mockery, the benevolent amusement of her uncle. She felt as if he had let
out too much, or that he had gained a new subtlety of perception.

Meanwhile John Hume was sitting in his place of detention, staring at a
blank wall with an equally blank face. Accustomed as he was to solitude,
he soon found something of a strain in two or three days and nights of
the dehumanized solitude of imprisonment. Perhaps the fact most vivid to
his immediate senses was being deprived of tobacco. But he had other and
what some could call graver grounds of depression. He did not know what
sort of sentence he would be likely to get for confessing to an attempt
to wound the Governor. But he knew enough of political conditions and
legal expedients to know that it would be easy to inflict heavy
punishment immediately after the public scandal of the crime. He had
lived in that outpost of civilization for the last ten years, till
Tallboys had picked him up in Cairo; he remembered the violent reaction
after the murder of the previous Governor, the way in which the
Deputy-Governor had been able to turn himself into a despot and sweep the
country with coercion acts and punitive expeditions, until his impulsive
militarism had been a little moderated by the arrival of Tallboys with a
compromise from the home Government. Tallboys was still alive and even,
in a modified manner, kicking. But he was probably still under doctor's
orders and could hardly be judge in his own cause; so that the autocratic
Smythe would probably have another chance of riding the whirlwind and
directing the storm. But the truth is that there was at the back of the
prisoner's mind something that he feared much more than prison. The tiny
point of panic, which had begun to worry and eat away even his rocky
stolidity of mind and body, was the fear that his fantastic explanation
had given his enemies another sort of opportunity. What he really feared
was their saying he was mad and putting him under more humane and
hygienic treatment.

And indeed, anyone watching his demeanour for the next hour or so might
be excused for entertaining doubts and fancies on the point. He was still
staring before him in a rather strange fashion. But he was no longer
staring as if he saw nothing, but rather as if he saw something. It
seemed to himself that, like a hermit in his cell, he was seeing visions.

"Well, I suppose I am, after all," he said aloud in a dead and distinct
voice. "Didn't St. Paul say something? . . . Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I
was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. ... I have seen that heavenly
one coming in at the door like that several times, and rather hoped it
was real. But real people can't come through prison doors like that. . .
. Once it came so that the room might have been full of trumpets and once
with a cry like the wind and there was a fight and I found out that I
could hate and that I could love. Two miracles on one night. Don't you
think that must have been a dream-that is supposing you weren't a dream
and could think anything? But I did rather hope you were real then."

"Don't!" said Barbara Trail, "I am real now."

"Do you mean to tell me in cold blood that I am not mad," asked Hume,
still staring at her, "and you are here?"

"You are the only sane person I ever knew," she replied.

"Good Lord," he said, "then I've said a good deal just now that ought
only to be said in lunatic asylums-or in heavenly visions."

"You have said so much," she said in a low voice, "that I want you to say
much more. I mean about the whole of this trouble. After what you have
said . . don't you think I might be allowed to know?"

He frowned at the table and then said rather more abruptly: "The trouble
was that I thought you were the last person who ought to know. You see,
there is your family, and you might be brought into it, and one might
have to hold one's tongue for the sake of someone you would care about."

"Well," she said steadily, "I have been brought into it for the sake of
someone I care about."

She paused a moment and went on: "The others never did anything for me.
They would have let me go raving mad in a respectable flat, and so long
as I was finished at a fashionable school, they wouldn't have cared if
I'd finished myself with laudanum. I never really talked to anybody
before. I don't want to talk to anybody else now."

He sprang to his feet; something like an earthquake had shaken him at
last out of his long petrified incredulity about happiness. He caught her
by both hands and words came out of him he had never dreamed were within.
And she, who was younger in years, only stared at him with a steady smile
and starry eyes, as if she were older and wiser; and at the end only
said: "You will tell me now."

"You must understand," he said at last more soberly, "that what I said
was true. I was not making up fairy-tales to shield my long-lost brother
from Australia, or any of that business in the novels. I really did put a
bullet in your uncle, and I meant to put it there."

"I know," she said, "but for all that I'm sure I don't know everything.
I'm sure there is some extraordinary story behind all this."

"No," he answered. "It isn't an extraordinary story, except an
extraordinarily ordinary story."

He paused a moment reflectively and then went on: "It's really a
particularly plain and simple story. I wonder it hasn't happened hundreds
of times before. I wonder it hasn't been told in hundreds of stories
before. It might so easily happen anywhere, given certain conditions.

"In this case you know some of the conditions. You know that sort of
balcony that runs round my bungalow, and how one looks down from it and
sees the whole landscape like a map. Well, I was looking down and saw all
that flat plan of the place; the row of villas and the wall and path
running behind it and the sycamore, and farther on the olives and the end
of the wall, and so out into the open slopes being laid out with turf and
all the rest. But I saw what surprised me; that the rifle-range was
already set up. It must have been a rush order; people must have worked
all night. And even as I stared, I saw in the distance a dot that was a
man standing by the nearest target, as if adding the last touches. Then
he made a sort of signal to somebody away on the other side and moved
very rapidly away from the place. Tiny as the figure looked, every
gesture told me something; he was quite obviously clearing out just
before the firing at the target was to begin. And almost at the same
moment I saw something else. Well, I saw one thing, anyhow. I saw why
Lady Smythe is worried, and wandered distracted in the garden."

Barbara stared, but he went on: "Travelling along the path from the
Governorate and towards the sycamore was a familiar shape. It just showed
above the long garden wall in sharp outline like a shape in a shadow
pantomime. It was the top-hat of Lord Tallboys. Then I remembered that he
always went for a constitutional along this path and out on to the slopes
beyond; and I felt an overwhelming suspicion that he did not know that
the space beyond was already a firing-ground. You know he is very deaf,
and I sometimes doubt whether he hears all the things officially told to
him; sometimes I fear they are told so that he cannot hear. Anyhow, he
had every appearance of marching straight across as usual, and there came
over me in a cataract a solid, an overwhelming and a most shocking
certainty.

"I will not say much about that now. I will say as little as I can for
the rest of my life. But there were things I knew and you probably don't
about the politics here and what had led up to that dreadful moment.
Enough that I had good reason for my dread. Feeling vaguely that if
things were interrupted there might be a fight, I snatched up my own gun
and dashed down the slope towards the path, waving wildly and trying to
hail or head him off. He didn't see me and couldn't hear me. I pounded
along after him along the path, but he had too long a start. By the time
I reached the sycamore, I knew I was too late. He was already half-way
down the grove of olives and no mortal runner could reach him before he
came to the corner.

"I felt a rage against the fool which a man looks against the background
of fate. I saw his lean, pompous figure with the absurd top-hat riding on
top of it; and the large ears standing out from his head . . the large,
useless ears. There was something agonizingly grotesque about that
unconscious back outlined against the plains of death. For I was certain
that the moment he passed the corner that field would be swept by the
fire, which would cut across at right angles to his progress. I could
think of only one thing to do and I did it. Hayter thought I was mad when
I asked him if he had ever hanged a man to prevent his being hanged. That
is the sort of practical joke I played. I shot a man to prevent his being
shot.

"I put a bullet in his calf and he dropped, about two yards from the
corner. I waited a moment and saw that people were coming out of the last
houses to pick him up. I did the only thing I really regret. I had a
vague idea the house by the sycamore was empty, so I threw the gun over
the wall into the garden, and nearly got that poor old ass of a parson
into trouble. Then I went home and waited till they summoned me to give
evidence about Gregory."

He concluded with all his normal composure, but the girl was still
staring at him with an abnormal attention and even alarm.

"But what was it all about?' she asked. "Who could have--?"

"It was one of the best planned things I ever knew," he said. "I don't
believe I could have proved anything. It would have looked just like an
accident."

"You mean," she said, "that it wouldn't have been."

"As I said before, I don't want to say much about that now, but . . .
Look here, you are the sort of person who likes to think about things.
I'll just ask you to take two things and think about them, and then you
can get used to the idea in your own way.

"The first thing is this. I am a Moderate, as I told you; I really am
against all the Extremists. But when journalists and jolly fellows in
clubs say that, they generally forget that there really are different
sorts of Extremists. In practice they think only of revolutionary
Extremists.

Believe me, the reactionary Extremists are quite as likely to go to
extremes. The history of faction fights will show acts of violence by
Patricians as well as Plebeians, by Ghibellines as well as Guelphs, by
Orangemen as well as Fenians, by Fascists as well as Bolshevists, by the
Ku-Klux-Klan as well as the Black Hand. And when a politician comes from
London with a compromise in his pocket-it is not only Nationalists who
see their plans frustrated.

"The other point is more personal, especially to you. You once told me
you feared for the family sanity, merely because you had bad dreams and
brooded over things of your own imagination. Believe me, it's not the
imaginative people who become insane. It's not they who are mad, even
when they are morbid. They can always be woken up from bad dreams by
broader prospects and brighter visions-because they are imaginative. The
men who go mad are unimaginative. The stubborn stoical men who had only
room for one idea and take it literally. The sort of man who seems to be
silent but stuffed to bursting, congested--"

"I know," she said hastily; "you needn't say it, because I believe I
understand everything now. Let me tell you two things also; they are
shorter, but they have to do with it. My uncle sent me here with an
officer who has an order for your release . . and the Deputy-Governor is
going home . . resignation on the grounds of ill-health."

"Tallboys is no fool," said John Hume; "he has guessed."

She laughed with a little air of embarrassment. "I'm afraid he has
guessed a good many things," she said.

What the other things were is no necessary part of this story, but Hume
proceeded to talk about them at considerable length during the rest of
the interview, until the lady herself was moved to a somewhat belated
protest. She said she did not believe that he could really be a Moderate
after all.



THE HONEST QUACK


I THE PROLOGUE OF THE TREE

MR. WALTER WINDRUSH, the eminent and eccentric painter and poet, lived in
London and had a curious tree in his back garden. This alone would not
have provoked the preposterous events narrated here. Many persons,
without the excuse of being poets, have planted peculiar vegetables in
their back gardens. The two curious facts about this curiosity were,
first that he thought it quite remarkable enough to bring crowds from the
ends of the earth to look at it, and, second, that if or when the crowds
did come to look at it, he would not let them look.

To begin with, he had not planted it at all. Oddly enough, it looked very
much as if he had tried to plant it and failed; or possibly tried to pull
it up again, and failed again. Cold classical critics said they could
understand the pulling up better than the putting in. For it was a
grotesque object; a nondescript thing looking stunted or pollarded in the
manner recalling Burnham Beeches, but not easily classifiable as
vegetation. It was so squat in the trunk that the boughs seemed to spring
out of the roots and the roots out of the boughs. The roots also rose
clear of the ground, so that light showed through them as through
branches, the earth being washed away by a natural spring just behind.
But the girth of the whole was very large, and the thing looked rather
like a polyp or cuttle-fish radiating in all directions. Sometimes it
looked as if some huge hand out of heaven, like the giant in Jack and the
Beanstalk, had tried to haul the tree out of the earth by the hair of its
head.

Nobody indeed had ever planted this particular garden tree. It had grown
like grass, and even like the wild grass of the wildest prairies. It was,
in all probability, by far the oldest thing in those parts: there was
nothing to prove it was not older than Stonehenge. It had never been
planted in anybody's garden. Everything else had been planted round it.
The garden and the garden wall and the house had been planted round it.
The street had been planted round it; the suburb had been planted round
it. London, in a manner of speaking, had been planted round it. For
though the suburb in question was now sunk so deep in the metropolis that
nobody ever thought of it as anything but metropolitan, it belonged to a
district where the urban expansion had been relatively recent and rapid,
and it was not really so very long ago that the strange tree had stood
alone on a windy and pathless heath.

The circumstances of its ultimate preservation or captivity were as
follows. Nearly half a lifetime before, it happened that Windrush, who
was then an art student, was crossing the open common with two
companions, one a student of his own age, but attached to the medical and
not the artistic section of his own college, the other a somewhat older
friend, a businessman whom the young men wished to consult upon a matter
of business. They proposed to discuss their business (which was not
unconnected with the general incapacity of young students to be
businesslike) at the inn of the Three Peacocks on the edge of the common;
and the elder man especially showed some impatience to reach its shelter,
as the wind was rising and dusk was falling over that rather desolate
landscape.

It was at this point that their progress was delayed by the highly
exasperating conduct of Walter Windrush. He was moving as rapidly as the
rest, when the strange outline of the tree seemed to bring him up all
standing. He even raised his hands, not only in a pantomime of amazement
unusual in the men of his race, but in gestures that might have been
taken for some sort of pagan worship. He spoke in a hushed voice, and
pointed, as if drawing their attention to a funeral or some occasion of
awe. His scientific friend admitted that the way in which the tree
straddled out of the earth was something of a botanical curiosity, but he
did not need to be very scientific to discover the cause in the brook or
fountain, that broke from the upper ground behind it and had forced its
way through the crannies of the roots. He had the curiosity to hop up on
one of the high roots and hoist himself up by one of the low branches,
and then, remarking that the tree seemed to be half hollow, turned as if
to resume his march. The commercial gentleman had already been waiting
with some impatience to do so. But Walter Windrush could not be awakened
from his trance of admiration. He continued to walk round and round the
tree, to stare down into the straggling pools of water and then up to the
wide cup or nest formed by the crown of boughs.

"At first," he said at last, "I did not know what had happened to me. Now
I understand."

"Can't say I do," said his friend shortly, "unless it's going dotty. How
long are you going to hang about here?"

Windrush did not answer immediately; then he said: "Don't you know that
all poets and painters and people like me are naturally Communists? And
don't you know that, for the same reason, we're all naturally vagabonds?"

"I confess," said their business adviser rather grimly, "that some of
your recent financial antics might appeal to the Communists. But as for
vagabonds, I imagine that vagabonds at least have the virtue of getting a
move on."

"You don't understand me," said Windrush with a strange sort of dreamy
patience; "I mean that I'm not a Communist now. I'm not a vagabond any
more."

There was a staring silence and then he said in the same tone: "I never
before in all my life saw anything that I wanted to possess."

"Do you really mean," expostulated the other, "that you would like to
possess this one rotten old tree?"

Windrush went on as if the other had not spoken. "I have never before
seen, in all my wanderings, any place where I wanted to stop and make my
home. There cannot be anywhere in the world anything like that fantasia
of earth and sky and water; built upon bridges like Venice, and letting
daylight peer through its caverns like hell in Milton's poem; cloven as
if by Alph the subterranean river and rising stark and clear of the
clinging earth like the dead at the trump of doom. I have never seen
anything like it. I do not really want to see anything else."

There was perhaps some excuse for his freak of imagination, in the
momentary conditions that added mystery to the freak of nature. The
stormy sky above the heath had changed from grey to purple, and from that
to a sort of sombre Indian red which only brightened at the horizon in a
single scarlet strip of sunset. Against this background the black and
bizarre outline of the tree had really the appearance of something more
mystical than a natural object; as if a tree were trying to walk or a
monster from the waters rising in a wild effort to fly. But even if
Windrush's companions had been more sympathetic with such moods than they
were, they would hardly have been prepared for the finality with which he
flung himself down on a clump of turf beside the brook and took out a
pipe and tobacco pouch, rather as if he had just sat down in an arm-chair
at the club.

"May I ask what you are doing?" asked his friend.

"I am acquiring squatter's rights," said the other.

They both besieged him with remonstrances, and it became more and more
apparent to the others that he was perfectly serious, even if he was not
perfectly sane. The businessman indicated to him in a brisk manner that,
if he was really and truly interested in this absurd scrap of wilderness,
he would be wiser to consult the agents of the estate of which it formed
a part, as he would not get any "squatter's rights" in half a century. To
the extreme astonishment of the adviser, the poet thanked him quite
gravely for the advice and took out a piece of paper to note down the
agent's name and address.

"Meanwhile," said the commercial gentleman with great decision, "as this
does not seem to me at all an agreeable place to squat in, you will have
to come and squat in the Three Peacocks if you want to do any further
business with me."

"Don't be a fool, Windrush," said his other companion sharply, "you can't
really want to be left here all night."

"That happens to be exactly what I do want," replied Windrush. "I have
seen the sun sink in my own private pool, and I want to see the moon rise
out of it. You can't blame a prospective purchaser for testing the
property under all conditions."

The business friend had already turned away, and his dark, sturdy figure,
expressing scorn in the very line of its back, had disappeared behind the
sprawling tree. The other man lingered a moment longer, but in the face
of the irrational rationality of the last remark, he also followed in the
same path. He had gone about six yards and was also turning round by the
tree, when the poet's whole manner suddenly altered. He threw down his
pipe with an apologetic word and pursued his friends with an entirely new
style and gesture, bowing with sweeping motions of courtesy.

"I beg your pardon," he said magnificently; "I do hope you will come down
to my little place again. I fear I have failed in hospitality."

After he had himself lingered a moment or two by the tree and then
resumed his seat on the bank, he sat gazing in a fascinated manner at the
pools before him which, in the last intensity of sunset, gleamed like
lakes of blood. He actually remained thus for many hours, seeing the red
pools turn black with night and white with moonlight; as if he were
indeed some Hindoo hermit who had gone into a stony ecstasy. But when he
first moved on the following morning, he seemed filled with a far more
novel and surprising practicality. He betook himself to the agents of the
estate; he explained and negotiated for several months, and at length
became the actual legal possessor of about two acres of ground
surrounding his favourite freak of vegetation, and proceeded to fence it
in with the most mathematical rigidity, like a settler staking out a
claim in a desert. The rest of his extraordinary enterprise was all the
more extraordinary for being comparatively ordinary. He built a small
house on the land; he betook himself to habits of literary industry and
respectability which soon enabled him to turn it into a very presentable
country dwelling. In due course he even completed his social
solidification by marrying a wife, who died after presenting him with one
child, a daughter. The daughter grew up happily enough in these rustic
but not rude conditions, and the life of Mr. Walter Windrush continued in
sufficient serenity, until the coming of the great tragedy of his later
life.

The name of that tragedy was London. The endless expansion of the city
came crawling over those hills and commons like a rising sea, and the
rest of his history, or of that part of his history, was entirely
concerned with his moods of defiance and measures of defence in the face
of so incongruous a deluge. He swore by all the Muses that if this
loathsome labyrinth of ugliness and vulgarity must indeed surround his
sacred tree and his secret garden, at least it should not touch them. He
erected a ridiculously high wall all round the spot; he observed the
utmost ceremony about admitting anyone into it, and indeed, towards the
end, the ceremony rather hardened into suspicion. Some unwary guests had
treated the garden as if it were a garden; nay, even the tree as if it
were a tree. And as it was his boast that this his hermitage was the last
free space of the earth left in England, and the refuge of a poetry
everywhere else conquered by prose, he fell latterly into a habit of
locking the door into the garden and putting the key in his pocket. In
every other aspect of life he was quite hospitable and humane; he gave
his daughter a very good time in every other direction, but he tended
more and more to treating this place as sacred to his own solitude, and
through long days and nights nothing ever stirred in that strange
enclosure but its lonely master walking round and round his tree.

II THE MAN WITH THE BLACK BAG

ENID WINDRUSH, a very good-looking young woman with a brilliant shock of
light hair and a profile of the eager and sanguine sort, had fallen
behind her companion in the walk up the steep street and stopped to make
a small purchase at a small confectioner's shop. In front of her the road
rose in an abrupt white curve across a hill and the open spaces of a
suburban park. The small white rim of what was obviously a colossal white
cloud barely showed above the ridge, producing one of those rare effects
that almost persuade the natural man, in spite of all the proofs adduced
for it, that the world is round. Against that background of blue sky,
white road and white rim of cloud, only two human figures happened at
that moment to appear. They appeared to be totally disconnected and
indeed were in every possible point dissimilar. And yet, a moment
afterwards, she stared and started hastily forward. For she saw enacted,
on that high place in the broad sunlight, what seemed to be one of the
most inexplicable cases of assault and battery in all the annals of
crime.

One of the men in question was tall and bearded, with rather long hair
under a wide hat; he wore loose clothes and was walking with loose
strides in the sunny centre of the thoroughfare. Just before he crested
the ridge he turned and looked idly backwards down the road he had
climbed. The other man was moving decorousy along the pavement and
appeared to be in every way a more decorous and even duller sort of
person. He wore a top-hat and his compact but not conspicuous figure was
clad neatly in dark clothes; he was walking briskly and rapidly, but very
quietly, and he carried a small black bag. He might have been a City
clerk who prided himself on being punctual, but feared he was a little
late. Anyhow, he seemed to look straight in front of him and to take no
interest in anything but his goal.

Quite suddenly he turned at right angles from the pavement, hurled
himself, bag and all, into the middle of the road and appeared to pin or
throttle the gentleman with the beard and the large hat. He was the
shorter man of the two, but his spring was like a black cat's and he had
all the advantage of youthful energy and the surprise. The tall man went
staggering backwards towards the opposite pavement, but the next moment
he had broken away from his mysterious enemy and started hitting back at
him with refreshing vigour. At this moment a car coming from over the
hill obscured for a moment the girl's view of the conflict, and when the
space was clear again, it underwent yet a third change. The man in black,
whose top-hat was now stuck somewhat askew on his head, but who still
feverishly clasped his bag, appeared to be trying to break contact, in
the military phrase, and to be disinclined to continue what he had so
wantonly begun. He retreated slightly, waving hand and bag in what not
even a girl, at such a distance, could mistake for motions of pugilism;
they appeared to be rather motions of expostulation. As, however, the
tall man, now hatless and with hair and beard flying, seemed bent on
pursuing his vengeance, the other suddenly hurled away his bag, tucked up
his neat cuff's and proceeded to slog into the other in an entirely new,
vigorous and scientific manner. All this had taken less than half a
minute to happen, but by this time the girl was running up the street as
fast as she could, leaving a staring confectioner with a small
brown-paper parcel dangling from his finger. For, as it happened, Miss
Enid Windrush took a certain interest in the tall man with the long
beard, an interest which many will rightly rebuke as antiquated and
superstitious, but from which she had never been able entirely to
emancipate herself. He was her father.

By the time she arrived on the scene, or possibly because she had arrived
on the scene, the violence of the pantomime had somewhat abated, but both
sides were still panting and snorting with the passions of war. The
wearer of the top-hat, on closer inspection, revealed himself as a young
man with dark hair, whose square face and square shoulders had a touch of
the Napoleonic; for the rest he looked quite respectable and rather
reticent than otherwise, and there was certainly nothing about him to
explain his antic of attack.

Nor indeed did he appear to think that the explanation was required from
him.

"Well!" he said, breathing hard, "of all the blasted old fools! ... Of
all the damned doddering old donkeys. ..."

"This man," declared Windrush with fiery hauteur, "criminally assaulted
me in the middle of the road for no reason whatever and--"

"That's what he says!" cried the young man in a sort of triumphant
derision. "For no reason whatever! And in the middle of the road! Oh, my
green-eyed grandmother!"

"Well, what reason?" began Miss Windrush, making an attempt to intervene.

"Why, because he was in the middle of the road, of course!" exploded the
young man. "He'd have been in the middle of Kensal Green Cemetery pretty
soon. And, speaking generally, I should say he ought to be in the middle
of Hanwell Asylum now. He must have escaped from there, I should think,
to go stravaging up the middle of a modern road like that, and turning
his back to admire the landscape, as if he were alone in the Sahara. Why,
every reasonably modern village idiot knows that the motorists can't see
what's on the other side of this hill when they come over it, and if I
hadn't happened to hear the car--"

"The car!" said the artist with a grave and severe astonishment, as one
who convicts a child of romancing. "What car?" He turned round in a
lordly manner and surveyed the street. "Where is this car?" he said
sarcastically.

"By the rate it was going at, I should say it was about seven miles
away," said the other.

"Why, of course it's quite true," said Enid, as a light broke upon her.
"There was a car that came very fast over the hill, just as you--"

"Just as I committed my criminal assault," said the young man in the
top-hat.

Walter Windrush was a gentleman and, what is by no means always the same
thing, a man who valued a reputation for handsome behaviour. But he would
have been more than human, if he had found it easy to adjust rapidly his
relations to a gentleman, who had first flung him across the road and
then, on his retaliating, started pommelling him like a pugilist, and to
behold instantly in the same being, and veiled in the same face and form,
a beloved friend and saviour to whom he must now dedicate his whole life
in gratitude. His acknowledgements were a little dazed and halting, but
his daughter was in a position to be more magnanimous and hearty. Upon
rational reconsideration, she rather liked the look of the young man, for
neatness and respectability do not always displease ladies who have seen
a good deal of the sublime liberty of the artistic life. Also, she had
not been seized suddenly by the throat in the middle of the road.

Cards and courtesies began to be exchanged; the young man learned with
surprise that he had insulted or rescued a distinguished man of letters,
and the other learned that his insulter or rescuer was a young doctor,
whose brass plate they had seen somewhere in the neighbourhood, inscribed
with the name of John Judson.

"Oh, if you're a doctor," said the poet, joking in a rather jerky
fashion, "I'm sure you've been guilty of grossly unprofessional conduct.
You ought to be reported to the Medical Council for taking the bread out
of my doctor's mouth. I thought you medical men only stopped to count the
accidents in the street and put them down on the credit side of the
ledger. Why, if I had been half killed with the car, you could have
finished me off with an operation."

It seemed destined, from the first, that these two somewhat controversial
characters should always say the wrong thing to each other. The young
doctor smiled grimly, but there was a gleam of battle in his eye as he
answered: "Oh, I think we generally try to save anybody, in the street or
the gutter or anywhere. Of course I didn't know I was saving a poet; I
thought I was only saving an ordinary useful citizen."

It must be admitted with regret that this was a sample of the common
conversations between the two. And, curiously enough, those conversations
became rather common. To all appearance, they met only to argue, and yet
they were always meeting. For some reason or other, Dr. Judson was
continually coming round to the poet's house on one pretext or another,
and the poet never failed in hospitality, though it had so strange a ring
of hostility. It may be explained in part by the fact that each had met
for the first time his complete antithesis and his completely convinced
antagonist. Windrush was a man in the old tradition of Shelley or Walt
Whitman. He was a poet to whom poetry seemed almost synonymous with
liberty. If he had enclosed a wild tree in a tame suburban garden, it was
by his account that it might be the last thing really allowed to grow
wild. If he walked in a solitary path secluded by high walls, it was
apparently by the instinct that has led many a squire to fence in a
wilderness and call it a park. He liked loneliness because it was the
only perfect form of doing as he liked. He regarded all the mechanical
civilization that had spread around him as a mere materialistic slavery,
and, as far as possible, treated it as if it were not there; even, as we
have seen, to the extent of standing in the middle of a main road with
his back to a motor-car.

Dr. Judson was the sort of man of whom his more foolish friends say that
he will get on, because he believes in himself. This was probably a
slander on him. He did not merely believe in himself; he believed in
things requiring far more faith: in things which some think far more
incredible and difficult to believe. He believed in modern organization
and machinery and the division of labour and the authority of the
specialist. Above all, he believed in his job; in his art and science and
profession. He was one of an advanced school, propounding many daring
theories, especially in the department of psychology and psycho-analysis.
Enid Windrush began to notice his name appended to letters in the
ordinary papers, and then to articles in the scientific papers. He had
the simplicity to carry his highly modern monomanias into private life,
and propounded them to her for hours at a time, striding up and down the
artistic drawing-room, while Windrush was wandering round his private
garden engaged in perennial tree-worship. The walking up and down was
characteristic, for the second definite impression which Judson produced,
after the impression of professional primness and dullness of attire, was
the impression of a bubbling and even restless energy. Sometimes he had,
with characteristic directness, broken out in remonstrance against the
poet himself upon his own poetical eccentricity: the Tree, which the poet
always talked of as the type of radiating energy in the universe.

"But what's the good of it?" Judson would cry out of the depths of dark
exasperation. "What's the use of having a thing like that?"

"Why, no use whatever," replied his host. "I suppose it is quite useless
as you understand use. But even if art and poetry have no use, it does
not follow that they have no value."

"But look here," the doctor would start in again, scowling painfully. "I
don't see the value of it as art and poetry-let alone reason or sense.
What's the beauty of one dingy old tree stuck in the middle of bricks and
mortar? Why, if you abolished it, you'd have room for a garage and you
could go and see all the woods and forests in England-every blessed tree
between Cornwall and Caithness."

"Yes," retorted Windrush, "and wherever I went, I should see petrol-pumps
instead of trees. That is the logical end of your great progress of
science and reason-and a damned illogical end to a damned unreasonable
progress. Every spot of England is to be covered with petrol stations, so
that people can travel about and see more petrol stations."

"It's only a question of knowing their way about when they travel about,"
insisted the doctor. "People born in the motoring age have got a new
motor-sense, and they don't mind these things so much as you think. I
suppose that's the real difference between the generations."

"All right," said the elder gentleman tartly. "Let us say you have all
the motor-sense, and we have all the horse-sense."

"Well," said the other, also with a sharpened accent. "If you'd had a
little more motor-sense, or any sort of sense, you wouldn't have been so
bally near killed the other day."

"If there were no motors at all," answered the poet calmly, "there would
have been nothing to kill me."

And then Dr. Judson would lose his temper and say the poet was cracked,
and then he would apologize to the poet's daughter and say that of course
the poet was a gentleman of the old school and had a right to be rather
old-fashioned. But she, he would assert, with more earnest appeal, ought
to have more sympathy with the future and the new hopes of the world.
Then he would leave the house boiling with protests and arguing with
invisible persons all the way home. For he really was a man profoundly
convinced of the prospects and prophesies of science. He had a great many
theories of his own, which he was only too anxious to throw out to the
world in general. He was accused by his more playful friends of inventing
diseases that nobody had ever experienced, in order to cure them by
discoveries that nobody could ever explain. Superficially, he was indeed
one with all the faults of a man of action, including the temptation of
ambition. But for all that, there was a dark but busy cell in his inmost
brain, where thought for thought's sake went on in an almost dangerous
degree of turmoil and intensity. Anyone who could have looked into that
dim whirlpool might have guessed that there could arise out of it, in
some strange hour of stress, a thing like a monster.

Enid Windrush was a sufficient contrast to this intellectualism and
secrecy, and seemed always walking in the sunlight. She was healthy,
hearty and athletic, and in her tastes she might have been the shining
incarnation of her father's frustrated love of the open country and the
tall trees. She was more conscious of her body than her soul, and
expressed in the suburban substitutes of tennis and golf and the
swimming-bath, what might have been a native love of country sports. And
yet it may be that in her also there was, at odd moments, a touch of her
father's more transcendental fancy. Anyhow, it is true that long
afterwards, when this story was ended, she stood again in the sunlight
and looked back at those earlier days through a storm of black and
brain-racking mysteries, and of horror truly piled upon horror. And
looking back at this beginning of her story, she wondered if there were
something in the old notion of omens and prefiguring signs. She wondered
whether the whole of her riddle would not have been clear to her, from
first to last, if she could have read it in those two dark figures
dancing and fighting on the sunlit road against the white cloud; like two
living letters of an alphabet struggling to spell out a word.

III THE TRESPASSER IN THE GARDEN

FOR various causes, which accumulated in his dark and brooding brain for
the next day or two, Dr. Judson eventually summoned up all his courage
and decided to go and consult Doone.

That he referred to him in his mind in this fashion indicated no
familiarity, but rather the reverse of familiarity. The person in
question had, of course, passed at some period through the more or less
human phases of being Mr. Doone and Dr. Doone and then Professor Doone,
before he rose into the higher magnificence of being Doone. Men said
Doone just as men said Darwin. It soon became something of an
affectation, if not an affront, to say Professor Darwin or Mr. Charles
Darwin. And it was now fully twenty years since Professor Doone had
published the great work on the parallel diseases of anthropoids and men,
which had made him the most famous scientific man in England, and one of
the four or five most famous in Europe. But Judson had been one of his
pupils when he was still practising medicine at the head of a great
hospital. And Judson fancied that the fact might give him a slight
advantage in one of those incessant arguments of his, in which the name
of Doone had cropped up in a disputed point. To explain how it had
cropped up, and how it had come to seem so important, it is necessary to
return once more (after the habit of Dr. Judson) to the house of the poet
Windrush.

When last Dr. Judson had paid a call there, he had found the one thing in
the world calculated to annoy him more than he was already annoyed. He
had, in fact, found another young man installed in the family circle, and
learned that he was a next-door neighbour who very frequently dropped in
for a chat. It may already have been darkly hinted that, whatever were
the real sins or virtues of Dr. Judson (and he was full of many rather
deep and unexplored possibilities) he did not possess a very good temper.
He chose, for some mysterious reason or other, to take a dislike to the
other young man. He did not like the way in which two wisps of his long,
fair hair lay on his cheek in a suggestion of incipient side whiskers; he
did not like the way in which he smiled politely while other people were
talking. He did not like the way he talked himself, in a large and
indifferent manner, about art, science or sport as if all subjects were
equally important or unimportant; or the way in which he apologized
alternately to the poet and the doctor for doing so. Lastly, the doctor
faintly disapproved of the fact that the visitor was about two and a half
inches taller than himself, and also of the (infernally affected) stoop
with which he almost redressed the difference. If the doctor had known as
much about his own psychology as he did about everybody else's, he might
have understood the symptoms better. There is normally only one condition
in which a man dislikes another man for all that is repulsive and all
that is attractive about him.

The name of the gentleman from next door appeared to be Wilmot, and there
was nothing to indicate that he had anything to do in the world except
collect impressions of a cultivated sort. He was interested in poetry,
which might serve to explain his having found favour with the poet.
Unfortunately, he was also interested in science; and this did not by any
means find favour with the scientific man. There is nothing that
exasperates a passionate specialist and believer in specialism so much as
somebody graciously informing him of the elements of his own subject,
especially when (as sometimes happens) they are the elements which the
specialist himself started to explode and abolish ten years before. The
doctor's protest was vehement to the verge of rudeness, and he declared
that certain notions about Arboreal Man had been exposed as nonsense when
Doone first began to write. It need hardly be said that Doone, being a
great man of science, was almost universally praised in the newspapers
for saying something very like the opposite of what he actually said in
his books and lectures. Judson had attended the lectures; Judson had read
the books, but Wilmot had read the newspapers. This naturally gave Wilmot
a great advantage in discussion before any modern cultivated audience.

The debate had arisen out of a chance boast of the poet touching his
early experiments as a painter. He showed them some old rhythmic designs
of a decorative sort; and said he had often practised drawing with both
hands simultaneously, and had sometimes begun to detect the beginnings of
a difference or independence in the action of the two hands.

"So you might end up, I suppose," said Wilmot smiling, "by drawing a
caricature of your publisher with one hand while you worked out the
details of a piece of town-planning with the other."

"A new version," said Judson rather grimly, "of not letting your left
hand know what your right hand doeth. If you ask me, I should say it was
a damned dangerous trick."

"I should have thought," said the strange gentleman languidly, "that your
friend Doone would have approved of a man using two hands, since his
sacred ancestor the monkey actually uses four."

Judson sprang up in his explosive way. "Doone deals with the brains of
men and monkeys, and uses his own like a man," he said. "I can't help it
if some men prefer to use theirs like monkeys."

When he had gone, Windrush appeared not a little annoyed with such abrupt
manners, though Wilmot was entirely serene.

"That young man is becoming insufferable," said the artist. "He turns
every talk into an argument and every argument into a quarrel. What the
devil does it matter to anybody what Doone really said?"

To the scowling Dr. Judson, however, it did evidently matter very much
what Doone really said. It mattered so much that the doctor (as already
indicated) took the trouble to cross the town in order to hear Doone
really say it. Perhaps there was something like a touch of morbidity in
his concentration in proving himself right on such a point, and certainly
he was the sort of man who cannot bear to leave an argument unanswered;
perhaps he had other motives or reasons mixed up in his mind. Anyhow, he
went off stormily in the direction of that scientific shrine or tribunal,
leaving Windrush angry, Wilmot supercilious and Enid puzzled and pained.

The great West End mansion of Dr. Doone, with its classic and pillared
portico and rather funereal blinds, did not daunt the younger doctor as
he ran resolutely up the steps and rang vigorously at the bell. He was
shown into the great man's study and after a few sentences succeeded in
recalling himself and receiving a mildly benevolent recognition. The
great Dr. Doone was a very handsome old gentleman with curly white hair
and a hooked nose, and did not look much older than the numerous
portraits that appeared in bookish weeklies illustrating the conflict of
Religion and Science. It did not take Judson long to verify the accuracy
of his version of the original Doone Theory. But all the time they were
talking, the dark and restless eyes of the young doctor were darting
about the room, probing every corner, in endless professional curiosity
about the progress of science. He saw the stacks of new books and
magazines lying on the table as they had arrived by post; he even
automatically turned over the pages of a few of them, while his eye would
wander and run along the serried ranks of the bookcases, and Doone went
on talking, as old men will, of old friends and of old enemies.

"It was that egregious Grossmark," he was saying with reawakening
animation, "who made the same absurd muddle of my meaning. Do you
remember Grossmark? Of all the extraordinary examples of what concerted
boosting can do--"

"Rather like the way Cubbitt is being boosted now," said Judson.

"I dare say," said Doone rather irritably. "But Grossmark really made a
spectacle of himself on the Arboreal question. He did not answer a single
one of my points, except with that absurd quibble about the word Eocene.
Branders was better; Branders had made some real contribution in his
time, though he could not quite see that his time was past. But
Grossmark-well, really!"

And Dr. Doone settled himself back in his arm-chair and laughed genially.

"Well," said Judson, "I am much obliged to you. I knew I should learn a
great deal if I came here."

"Not at all," said the great man, rising and shaking hands. "You say you
have been discussing it with Windrush, the landscape painter, I think. I
met him years ago, but he would hardly remember me. An able man; but
eccentric, very eccentric."

Dr. John Judson came away from the house with a very thoughtful
expression and seemed to be revolving rather more than might have
appeared to have passed at the interview. He had no very clear intention
of going back in triumph to the Windrush abode, armed with the
thunderbolts of Doone, but he had a general and half-conscious tendency
to drift in that direction in any case. And before his own intentions
were clear, he found himself in front of the house and saw something
which brought him to a standstill, staring up at it with a sort of stolid
suspicion. For some instants he stood quite motionless, then crossed the
road with catlike swiftness and peered round the corner of the house.

Night had fallen and a large moon painted everything with pale colours.
The house or bungalow that the landscape-painter had originally built in
an open landscape was now wedged in a row of villas, though it retained
something of a quaint or uncouth outline of its own. It almost seemed to
be, rather awkwardly, turning its back upon the street. Perhaps this hint
of secrecy was only suggested by its own absurd secret, for just behind
it could be seen the high spiked walls of the garden like the castellated
walls of some pantomime prison. Only one crack gave a green glimpse of
the enclosed shrubbery, where, on one side of the house, was a high
narrow gate of a lattice pattern, which was always kept locked; but
through the loopholes the stranger in the street could just see the
glimmer of moonlight on the leaves. But the stranger in the street (if
Dr. Judson may be so described) could at this moment see something else,
and something that surprised him very much.

A long, slim figure, dark against the moonshine, was most unmistakably
using this sort of lattice as a ladder. He was scaling it swiftly from
inside, with long-legged sinuous movements that rather recalled the
monkeys that had formed the topic of conversation. He seemed, however, to
be an unusually tall monkey and when he came to the top rung of his
ladder-towering as if he might tip over into the street-the wind of that
high place took two long locks of his hair and waved them fantastically,
as if he were a sort of demon with two horns which he could move like
ears. But that last touch, in which some might find the culmination of
the uncanny, the common sense of Dr. Judson found reality and
recognition. He was well acquainted with those two exceedingly annoying
wisps of hair. He had seen them flopping (as he would have illiberally
expressed it) like two womanish whiskers on the countenance of the
condescending Mr. Wilmot. And sure enough, the condescending Mr. Wilmot,
alighting with a graceful leap, greeted him with no shade of gloom in his
condescension.

"What the devil are you doing there?" asked Judson angrily.

"Why, it's the doctor!" said the other, with an air of pleased surprise.
"Do I seem to be a case de lunatico enquirendo? I had forgotten that it
must be quite a case for a psychologist."

"It seems to me to be a case for a policeman," said Dr. Judson. "May I
ask what you are doing in Windrush's garden, which he likes to keep
locked up-and anyhow, why you should leave it in that fashion?"

"I might very well ask why you should ask," replied the other pleasantly.
"Unless I am curiously misinformed, you are not Mr. Walter Windrush any
more than I am. But I assure you I don't want to quarrel, Dr. Judson."

"You are taking a rum way to avoid it," said the doctor in a bellicose
manner.

The mysterious Mr. Wilmot drew near in a curious confidential manner that
was quite new; his rather foolish airs and graces had fallen from him and
he said, lowering his voice to a tone of great earnestness: "I can assure
you, doctor, that I have excellent authority, the best possible
authority, for being in Windrush's garden."

And with that the mystic neighbour appeared to melt into the shadows,
presumably eventually vanishing into his own house next door, and Dr.
Judson turned abruptly and, walking up to the front door of the Windrush
house, furiously rang the bell.

Mr. Windrush was not at home. He had gone out to some grand banquet of
artistic celebrities and would not be home till late. But the conduct of
Dr. Judson was certainly rather odd and rude; so much so that the lady
who received him had a momentary and horrible feeling that he might have
been drinking, incongruous as this was with the hard hygienic routine of
his existence. He sat down in the drawing-room, opposite Enid Windrush;
he sat down suddenly and resolutely as if resolved to say something and
then said nothing. He was as motionless as a dark image and yet he fumed;
she could only think of the metaphor that he smouldered. She had never
realized before how his broad, round head seemed to bulge at the temples
and over the eyebrows; how his clean-shaven jaws and chin seemed to swell
implacably and what a glow of dark emotions could look out of his eyes.
And all the time he seemed doubly grotesque because his square, strong
hands were clasped on the head of an umbrella, the emblem of his precise
and prosaic life. She waited, rather as she would have sat watching a
round, black bomb that was ticking and smoking in the parlour.

At last he said in a harsh voice: "I wish I could see that tree your
father's so fond of."

"I'm afraid that's impossible," she said. "It's really the only point he
is very particular about. He says he would like every other man to have a
favourite tree--meaning a place of solitude for himself. But he says he
won't lend anybody else his tree any more than his toothbrush."

"This is all nonsense," said the doctor gruffly. "What would he do if I
just jumped over a wall, or somehow went into his garden?"

"I'm awfully sorry," she said in a wavering voice, "but if you came into
his garden, you wouldn't ever come again into his house."

Judson sprang to his feet and she felt somehow that the last click had
sounded before the catch and the detonation.

"And yet he allows Mr. Wilmot to go into his garden. The gentleman seems
privileged in many ways."

Enid sat staring at him for a few seconds without speech. "Allows Mr.
Wilmot to go into his garden!" she repeated.

"Thank God for that," said the doctor. "You don't seem to know anything
about it, anyhow. Wilmot told me he had the very best authority, and I
naturally thought of your authority or your father's authority. But, of
course, it's just possible . . . Here, wait a minute. . . . I'll let you
know later.. . . Your father will forbid me the house! Will he?"

And with that, this far from soothing medical practitioner bolted from
the house as abruptly as he had come into it. It struck her that he must
have a remarkable bedside manner.

Enid dined alone, very thoughtfully revolving very complex and even
contradictory criticisms of this extraordinary young man. Then her
thoughts went off to her father and his very different sort of
unconventionality, and something led her to make her way to his study and
studio at the back of the house, jutting out into the garden. Here were
the large scrawled canvases with the unfinished sketches about which the
argument had raged the day before, and she looked at them uneasily,
remembering the controversial extremes to which such things could give
rise. She herself was of a straightforward and very sane type of
intelligence, and could no more see anything to quarrel about in such
things than she could see metaphysics in a wallpaper or morals in a
Turkey carpet. But the atmosphere of debate disturbed her, partly because
it disturbed her father, and she looked rather moodily out of the trench
windows at the extreme end of the studio, into the gloom of the secluded
garden.

At first she was subconsciously puzzled that there should be anything
like a breeze on that clear moonlit night. She gradually awoke to the
realization that nothing was moving in the garden except the one thing in
its centre; the uncouth and sprawling outline of the nameless tree. She
had an instant of babyish bogy feeling in the notion that it could move
of itself like an animal, or create its own wind like a giant fan. Then
she saw that its shape was changed, as if a new branch had sprouted, and
then saw that a human figure was swinging upon it. The figure swung and
dropped in the manner of a monkey and then advanced towards the window in
the recognizable outline of a man. As it did so, all lesser thoughts
vanished, and she knew it was not her father and not Mr. Wilmot from next
door. An increasing but incomprehensible terror took hold of her, as when
the faces of friends change in a bad dream. John Judson came close up to
the closed window and spoke, but she could not hear what he said. All
nightmare was in that soundless moving mouth against that invisible film.
It was as if he were dumb like a fish, floating up to a porthole, and his
face was as pale as the underside of the deep-sea fishes.

The windows giving on to the garden were locked, like all such exits, but
she knew where her father kept the keys, and in a moment they were open.
Her indignant greeting was stopped on her lips, for Judson cried, in a
hoarse voice she had never heard from any human being: "Your father .. he
must be mad."

He stopped and seemed startled at his own words. Then he put his hands to
his bulging brows, as if clutching his short, dark hair, and after a
silence said, but with a different emphasis: "He must be mad."

Enid's instinct told her that he had said two quite different things,
even in repeating the same words. But it was long before she came to
understand the difference between those two exclamations, or what had
happened between them.

IV THE DISEASE OF DUODIAPSYCHOSIS

ENID WINDRUSH was a human being, a very human being. She had several
shades and different degrees of indignation, only on the present occasion
she had them all at once. She was angry because a visitor turned up at
that time of night and entered by the window instead of the door; she was
angry that a person for whom she had felt some regard should behave like
a cat-burglar; she was angry that her father's wishes should be
scornfully disregarded; she was angry at being frightened, and more angry
at seeing no sense even in the occasion of the fright. But she was human,
and was perhaps most angry of all at the fact that the intruder did not
even answer or acknowledge any of her expressions of anger. He sat with
his elbows on his knees and his hands clutching his bursting temples, and
it was long before there came from him even the impatient reply: "Can't
you see I'm thinking?"

Then he jumped up in his energetic way and ran to one of the large,
unfinished pictures and peered into it. Then, equally feverishly, he
examined another and then another. Then he turned on her a face about as
reassuring as a skull and cross-bones, and said: "I am greatly grieved to
say it, Miss Windrush. In plain words, your father is suffering from
Duodiapsychosis."

"Is that your notion of plain words?" she asked.

He added in a low, hoarse voice: "It began as an example of Arboreal
Atavism."

It is an error for the man of science to lapse into being intelligible.
The last two words were sufficiently familiar, in an age of popular
science, to cause the lady to leap up like a leaping flame.

"Have you the impudence to suggest," she cried, "that my father ever
wanted to live in a tree like a monkey?"

"What other explanation is there?" he said gloomily. "This is a very
painful business; but the hypothesis clearly covers the facts. Why should
he wish always to be alone with the tree, unless his dealings with it
were more grotesque than seemed suitable to his social dignity?--you know
what this suburb is like! For that matter, his own horror of the suburb,
his own quite exaggerated horror of towns, his quite feverish and
fanatical yearning for woodlands and wild country--what can all this mean
except the same Arboreal Atavism? For that matter, what else can explain
the whole story-the story of how he found the tree and fixed on the tree?
What was the nature of that ungovernable craving that first surged up in
him at the very sight of the tree? An appetite as powerful as that must
have come out of the depths of nature, out of the very roots of the
evolutionary origin of man. It can only have been an anthropoid appetite.
It is a melancholy but most convincing example of Doone's Law."

"What is all this nonsense?" cried Enid. "Do you imagine my father had
never seen a tree before?"

"You must remember," replied the other in the same hollow and hopeless
voice, "the peculiar features of the tree. It might have been designed to
stimulate the faint memories of the original home of man. It is a tree
that seems all branches, of which the very roots are like branches, and
invite the climber with a hundred footholds. These primary promptings or
fundamental instincts would have been plain enough in any case but
unfortunately the case has since grown more complex. It has developed
into a case of Semi-Quadrumanous Ambidexterity."

"That's not what you said before," she said suspiciously.

"I admit," he said, with a shudder, "that it is in a sense a discovery of
my own."

"And I suppose," she said, "you are so fond of your horrible discoveries
that you would sacrifice anybody to them-my father or me."

"Not sacrifice you. Save you," said Judson, and shuddered again. Then he
mastered himself with an effort, and went on in the same maddening
mechanical tone like that of a lecturer.

"The anthropoid reaction carries with it an attempt to recover the use of
all the limbs equally, in the monkey fashion. This leads to experiments
in ambidexterity like those he himself admitted. He tried to draw and
paint with both hands. At a later stage he would probably attempt also to
paint with his feet."

They stared across at each other; it measures the horror of that
interview that neither of them laughed.

"The result," went on the doctor, "the really dangerous result lies in a
tendency to separation between the functions. Such ambidexterity is not
natural to man in his existing evolutionary stage and may lead to a
schism between the lobes of the brain. One part of the mind may become
unconscious of what is attempted by the other part. Such a person is not
responsible . . and really should be under supervision."

"I will not believe a word of all this," said the lady angrily.

He lifted one finger and pointed in a sombre manner at the sombre
canvases and frames of brown paper that hung above them, on which were
traced in vortical lines and lurid colours the visions of the
ambidextrous artist.

"Look at those pictures," he said. "Look at them long enough and you will
see exactly what I mean-and what they mean. The tree-motive is repeated
again and again like a monomania; for a tree has a radiating and
centrifugal pattern that suggests the waving of both hands at once, with
a brush in each. But a tree is not a wheel-there would be less harm in a
wheel. Though a tree has branches on each side, they are not the same on
each side. And that is where the curse and the creeping peril begins."

This time there was a deadly silence, which he himself broke by going on
with the lecture.

"The attempt to render the variation of branches by simultaneous
ambidextrous action leads to a dissociation of cerebral unity and
continuity, a breach of responsible moral control and co-ordinated
consecutive conservation--"

In the black storm of her mind she had a lightning blaze of intuition and
said: "Is this a sort of revenge?"

He stopped in the very middle of a polysyllable and turned pale to the
lips.

"Have you come to the end of your long words, you liar and quack and
mountebank?" she cried in a tempest of indescribable fury. "Do you think
I don't know why you're trying to make out my father isn't responsible?
Because I told you he could turn you out of the house . . because ..."

The pale lips seemed to move as if with a grin of agony: "And why should
I mind that?"

"Because," she began and then stopped dead. An abyss had opened in
herself into which she did not look. For a moment he sat on the sofa
stiff as a corpse and then suddenly the corpse came to life.

"Yes!" he cried, leaping up. "You are right! It is you. It is you all the
time! How can I leave you alone with him? You must believe me! I tell you
the man is mad." He cried out suddenly in a new and ringing voice: "I
swear to God I am afraid he will kill you! And how should I live after
that?"

She was so astounded at this burst of passion after all the pedantry,
that for the first time something broke or wavered in her hard voice and
she could only say: "If it is me you are thinking about, you must leave
him alone."

And with that a sort of stony detachment suddenly settled back upon him
and he said, in a voice that seemed a hundred miles away: "You forget
that I am a doctor. I have in any case a duty to the public."

"And now I know you are a skunk and a scoundrel," she said. "They always
have a duty to the public."

And then, in the silence that followed, they both heard the sounds which
could alone, perhaps, have aroused them from their dumb mutual defiance.
A long, light and swinging step was heard down the corridors, and the
light humming of some post-prandial song, told Enid with sufficient
clearness who had returned, and the next moment Walter Windrush stood in
the room, looking festive and rather magnificent in evening dress. He was
a tall and handsome old gentleman, and before him the figure of the
sullen doctor looked not only square but almost squat. But when the
artist looked across his studio, he saw the windows open and the
festivity faded from his face.

"I have just walked through your garden," said the doctor in a soft
voice.

"Then you will kindly walk out of my house," said the artist.

He had turned pale with anger or some other passion, but he spoke clearly
and firmly. After a silence he said: "I must ask you to cease from any
communications with me and my family."

Judson started and stepped forward with a violent gesture which he
checked as he made it. But his voice broke out of him like something
beyond his control.

"You say I am to go out of this house. I say it is you who shall go out
of this house!"

Then, as if grinding his teeth, he added with what seemed inconceivable
intellectual cruelty: "I am going to have you certified as a lunatic."

He walked furiously out of the room towards the front door, and Windrush
turned to his daughter. She was staring at him with wide eyes, but her
colour was such that he thought, for the fraction of an instant, that she
was dead.

Of the next frightful forty-eight hours in which the threat was carried
out with all its consequences, Enid could never remember many details.
But she remembered some nameless hour of night or morning that seemed but
a part of a sleepless night, when she stood on the doorstep and looked
wildly up and down the street, as if expecting her neighbours to rescue
her from a house on fire. And there crept upon her the cold certainty,
more cruel than any fire, that in this sort of calamity there was no hope
from neighbours, nor any appeal against the machine of modern oppression.
She saw a policeman standing near the next lamp-post, outside the next
house. She thought of calling to the policeman, as if to save her from a
burglar, and then she realized that she might as well call to the
lamp-post. If two doctors chose to testify that Walter Windrush was mad,
they turned the whole modern world with them-police and all. If they
chose to testify that it was an emergency case, he could be taken away at
once, under the eye of any policeman, and it seemed that he was being
taken away at once. Nevertheless, there was something about the policeman
planted at that particular spot, where she had never seen one before,
that riveted her eye. And even as she gazed, the next-door neighbour, Mr.
Wilmot, came out of his front door with a light suitcase in his hand.

She felt a sudden impulse to consult him, perhaps it was an impulse to
consult anybody. But he had always seemed to be a man of many types of
information, including the scientific, and she impulsively ran across and
asked for a moment's interview. Mr. Wilmot seemed a little hurried, which
was far from being his usual demeanour, but he politely bowed her back
into his front parlour. When she got there, a rather inexplicable shyness
or evasion overcame her. She felt a new and irrational reluctance to give
away somebody or something, she knew not what. Moreover, there was
something unfamiliar about the familiar face and form of Mr. Wilmot. He
was wearing horn spectacles, through which his glance seemed sharper and
more alert than of old. His clothes were the same, but they were buttoned
up more neatly and all his movements were more brisk. He still had the
wisps that looked like whiskers but the face underneath had so altered in
expression that one might almost fancy the whiskers were part of a wig.

Dazed and doubtful in a new fashion, she felt impelled to put her point
in a more impersonal way, and asked whether he could give any advice to a
friend of hers, who had been warned of a disease called Duodiapsychosis.
Could he tell her if there was such a disease, as she knew he knew a lot
about those things?

He admitted that he knew a little about those things. But he still seemed
hurried-courteously but convincingly hurried. He looked it up in a work
of reference, turning the pages very rapidly; no, he doubted whether
there was any such thing.

"It seems to me," he said, looking gravely at her through his spectacles,
"that your friend may be the victim of a quack."

With that repetition of her suspicions, she turned homewards and he
rather eagerly followed her into the street. The policeman saluted him;
there was nothing much in that; policemen saluted her father and other
well-known residents. But she did think it odd that he said to the
policeman, as he went off: "There's one thing more I must make sure of.
Unless I wire, things can go forward here as arranged."

When she came back to her own house, she knew it was something worse than
a house of death. There was a black taxicab waiting outside it, which
made her think of a funeral, almost with envy. If she had known who was
already in the taxicab, she might have stopped and made a scene in the
street. As it was, she burst into the house and found two grave,
dark-clad doctors sitting in the light of the bow-window in front, with a
table between them, covered with official documents and pen and ink. One
of the doctors, who was just about to sign one of the documents, was a
stately, silver-haired gentleman in a very elegant astrakhan overcoat;
she gathered from the conversation that his name was Doone. The other
doctor was the abominable John Judson.

She had paused an instant just outside the room and heard the tail-end of
their scientific talk.

"You and I know, of course," Judson was saying, "how much the mere idea
of subconsciousness, or horizontal division of the mind, has been
superseded by vertical division of the mind. But the layman has hardly
heard yet of the new double or ambidextrous consciousness."

"Quite so," said Dr. Doone in a level and soothing voice.

He had a very soothing voice, and with it he earnestly did his best to
soothe Enid Windrush. He really seemed to be profoundly touched with the
tragedy of her position.

"I cannot expect you to believe how much I feel for your misfortunes," he
said. "I can only say that anything that can soften the shock for anyone
involved will be done. I will not disguise from you that your father is
already in the cab outside, under the care of tactful and humane
attendants. I will not disguise from you that some deception, such as has
to be used to the sick, has been employed in prevailing upon him, but I
told him no more than the truth in saying that he was going with his best
friends. These things are very terrible, my child, but perhaps we may all
draw nearer to each other in--"

"Oh, sign the thing and be done," said Dr. Judson rudely.

"Be silent, sir," said Doone, with fine dignity and indignation. "If you
have neither the manners nor the morals for dealing with people in
misfortune, I, at least, have more experience. Miss Windrush, I am
sorry."

He held out his hand and Enid stood hesitating and then retreated like
one distraught; so distraught that she actually turned to Dr. Judson.

"Send that man away," she cried with the shrillness of hysteria. "Send
him away! He is more horrible even than--"

"More horrible than--" repeated Judson, waiting,

She looked at him with a wild inscrutable stare and said: "More horrible
than you."

"Have you signed that damned thing yet?" said Judson, boiling with
impatience. But, even as they had turned away from him, Doone had signed
the paper and Judson snatched it up with furious haste and ran out of the
house.

And then she saw something that finally put him beyond pardon. For as he
ran down the steps, he seemed to give a sort of bound of cheerfulness,
like a boy on a holiday; like a man who has at last got what he wanted.
She felt she could have forgiven him everything except that last little
leap of joy.

Some time after-she could not have said how long-she still sat staring
out of the bow-window into the empty street. She had reached that state
when the soul feels that nothing worse can happen in the world. But she
was wrong. For it was only a few minutes later that two policemen and a
man in plain clothes came up those steps and, after some apologies and
uncomfortable explanations, announced that they had a warrant for the
arrest of Walter Windrush on a charge of murder.

V THE SECRET OF THE TREE

THE motives of the simple are more subtle than those of the subtle. The
former do not sort out their own emotions and the result is often more
mysterious, especially as they never afterwards attempt to solve the
mystery. Enid was a very elemental and unconscious character, who had
never before been thrown into such a turmoil of thoughts and feelings.
And her first feeling, under her last shock, was a primitive human
feeling that for her isolation had come to an end. She had found
something more crushing and complicated than she could carry alone, and
she must have a friend.

She therefore went straight out of the front door and down the road to
find a friend. She went to find a charlatan, a schemer, a grotesque lying
mystagogue, a man who had done her and hers the most abominable wrong,
and she found him just going into his own house, with the brass plate
outside it. Something not to be formulated in words told her that, in
some dark, distorted, undiscoverable way he was on her side, and that he
would manage to get whatever he chose to try for. She stopped the villain
of her strange story and spoke to him quite naturally, as if he were her
brother.

"I wish you would come back to our place a moment," she said. "Another
ghastly thing has happened now and I can't make head or tail of
anything."

He turned promptly and threw a sharp glance up the street.

"Ah," he said, "then the police have come already."

She stared at him speechless for a moment, as a light gradually began to
break upon her rocking brain.

"Did you know they were coming?" she cried; and then in a final universal
flash she seemed to take in a thousand things at once. The combined
product of them all was perhaps curious. For there broke out of her only
the expression of incredulous astonishment: "But aren't you wicked,
then?"

"Only moderately so," he replied. "But I dare say what I did would be
considered indefensible. It was the only thing I could think of to save
him. It had to be done in rather a hurry."

She drew a deep breath and there dawned upon her gradually, like
something seen in the distance, a memory and a meaning.

"Why, I see now," she said. "It was just like what you did, when you
shoved him from under the car."

"I'm afraid I'm impetuous," said Judson, "and perhaps I jump too soon."

"But on both occasions," she said, "you only jumped just in time."

Then she went into the house alone; her mind was still stratified with
terror; the notion of her father as a monkey, as a lunatic, as something
worse. And yet in a corner of her sunken subconscious soul something was
singing, because her friend was not so wicked after all.

Ten minutes later, when Inspector Brandon, a sandy-haired representative
of the C.I.D., with a stolid appearance but a lively eye, entered the
Windrush parlour, he found himself confronted with a square-faced,
square-shouldered medical gentleman, with dark hair and an inscrutable
smile. Nobody, who had seen Dr. Judson shaken by the various passions of
the late peril and crisis, could have recognized him, in the placid
impenetrable friend of the family who now sat facing the policeman.

"I am sure, Inspector, that you agree with me in wishing to spare the
unfortunate lady as far as possible," he said smoothly. "I happen to be
the family physician, and I shall have to be responsible for her
condition in any case. But I am responsible in other ways, too, and you
may take it from me that a man in my position will put no obstacles in
your way in doing your duty. I hope you have no objection, for the
moment, to explaining the general nature of your business to me."

"Well, sir," said the Inspector, "so far as that is concerned, it's
generally rather a relief in these cases to be able to talk to a third
party. But you'll understand, of course, that I shall expect you to talk
straight."

"I'll talk straight enough," answered the doctor coolly. "I understand
you have a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Walter Windrush."

The policeman nodded.

"For the murder of Isaac Morse," he said. "Do you know where Windrush is
at present?"

"Yes," said Judson gravely, "I know where Windrush is at present."

He looked across the table tranquilly, with level brows, and added: "I
will tell you, if you like. I will take you to him, if you like. I know
exactly where he is just now."

"We mustn't have any hiding or hanky-panky, you know," said the
Inspector. "You will be taking a serious responsibility, if there's any
chance that he will escape."

"He will not escape." said Dr. Judson.

There was a silence, which was broken by a slight scurry outside and a
telegraph-boy ran up the steps with a wire for the Inspector. That
official read it with a frown of surprise, and then looked across at his
companion.

"This comes opportunely in one sense," he said. "It seems to justify our
pausing for an explanation, if you're quite sure of what you say."

He handed the telegram to the doctor, who read with his rapid glance the
words: DON'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT W. W. TILL I COME. SHALL BE ROUND IN HALF
AN HOUR. HARRINGTON.

"That is from my superior officer." said the official. "The chief
detective who has been studying this matter on the spot. Indeed, one of
the chief detectives in the world today, I suppose."

"Yes," said the doctor, dryly. "Didn't Mr. Harrington pursue his studies
under the name of Mr. Wilmot? And live next door?"

"You seem to know a thing or two," said Inspector Brandon with a smile.

"Well, your friend behaved so much like a burglar that I guessed he must
be a policeman," said Judson, "and he said he had the best authority; I
found it wasn't the authority of the family, so I assumed it was probably
the authority of the law."

"Whatever he said was pretty sound, you may be certain," said the other.
"Harrington is pretty nearly infallible in the long run. And in this case
he was certainly justified by what he found, though nobody would ever
have guessed it."

"What he found," said the doctor, "was the skeleton of a man, stuffed
into the hollow of the tree, evidently having been there for a long time,
marked by an unmistakable injury to the occiput, done by violence and
inflicted with the left hand."

Brandon stared across at him. "And how do you know that he found that?"
he asked.

"I know because I found it myself," answered Judson.

There was a pause, and then he added: "Yes, Inspector, it is quite true
that I know something about this business; as I told you, I can take you
to Windrush himself if necessary. Of course, I don't claim any right to
bargain with you, but since you are hung up by that telegram for the
moment, and I may be in a position to help, do you mind doing me a favour
in return? Will you tell me the whole story? Or perhaps I should say the
whole theory?"

The face of Brandon of the C.I.D was not only humorous and good-humoured;
it was also highly intelligent, when the first veneer of official
stolidity had worn off. He looked at the doctor thoughtfully for a
little, and seemed to approve of what he studied. Then he said with a
smile: "I suppose you are one of those amateur detectives who read
detective stories, or even write them. Well, I don't deny this is a bit
of a detective story. And there is one question that's always turning up
in books and talk of that sort, and it's rather relevant here. You've
seen it twenty times. Suppose a real Man of Genius wanted to commit a
crime?"

He ruminated a little and then went on. "From our point of view, the
great problem in any crime of killing is always what to do with the body.
I expect that fact has saved many a man from being murdered. The fact
that he is more dangerous to his enemy dead than alive. All sorts of
tricks are tried; dismembering and dispersing the body, throwing it into
kilns and furnaces, putting it under concrete floors, like Dr. Crippen.
And in the study of such stories, this story does stand out as the very
extraordinary and yet effective expedient of what I call a Man of Genius.

"Isaac Morse flourished about twenty years ago as a financial agent and
adviser; I imagine you know what that means. In fact he flourished as a
money-lender, and flourished like the green bay-tree, otherwise the
wicked man. He flourished so very much, and so very much at other
people's expense, that he was probably pretty unpopular with a good many
people whose circumstances were not so flourishing. Among these were two
students; the one, who was a less interesting person, was a medical
student named Duveen. The other was an art student named Windrush.

"The financial adviser was imprudent enough to leave his car and
chauffeur, and walk across a corner of a heath to the hotel where the
conference was to be held. In doing so, they passed a very desolate dip
in the moorland marked only by this queer, hollow tree. . . . What would
the ordinary, stupid, professional killer have done? He would have
killed, doubtless when his other companion's back was turned, and if he
got away with it, would have skulked back and tried to scratch a shallow
grave in the sandy heath. Or tried to cart away the corpse in a box under
the eyes of all the servants at the inn. That is the difference between
him and a man with imagination-an artist. The artist attempted something
perfectly wild and new, and apparently absurd; but something that has
succeeded for twenty years. He professed to have a romantic affection for
that particular spot, he boasted of his intention of buying it and living
on it. He did buy it, and he did live on it, and he did by this method
bury from all eyes but his own the secret of what he had left there. For
in those few moments, when the other student had gone on ahead and was
hidden beyond the sprawling tree, he struck Morse a mortal blow with his
left hand and threw his body into the yawning cavern in the tree. It was
a solitary spot and naturally nobody actually saw him do the deed. But
long after the medical student had gone on to the hotel and caught a
train to London, another traveller on the moor saw Windrush sitting
staring at the tree and the pools, in a dark reverie doubtless full of
his daring scheme. And it is an odd thing that even the passer-by thought
his solitary figure looked as tragic as Cain, and the pools under the red
sunset looked like blood.

"The rest of his audacious scheme, or artistic pose, worked easily
enough. By bragging of being cranky, he escaped all chance of the
suspicion of being criminal. He could cage up the tree like a wild
animal, without anybody thinking it any sillier than it seemed. You will
notice that his caging grew more strict; when people began to touch or
examine the tree, he locked everybody out of the garden. Except
Harrington-and, apparently, you."

"I suppose," said Judson, "that Harrington, or Wilmot, or whatever you
call him, told you that the artist admitted being ambidexterous-doing
things with his left hand as well as his right."

"Quite so," replied the Inspector. "Well, Dr. Judson, I have obliged you
and told you practically all I know at present. If there is anything more
that you know, and we don't know, I am bound to warn you in any case that
you are bound to return the favour. This is a deadly serious business. It
is a hanging matter."

"No," said Dr. Judson thoughtfully; "not a hanging matter."

As the other only stared he added, still in a meditative style: "You will
never hang Walter Windrush."

"What do you mean?" demanded the officer, in a new sharp voice.

"Because," said the doctor, beaming at him, "Walter Windrush has been in
a lunatic asylum for some little time. He was certified in the regular
old official manner"--he talked of it as of something that happened a
hundred years before--"and the medical authorities that certified him
noted the symptom of ambidexterous action and a somewhat excessive
development of power in the left hand."

Inspector Brandon was staring like one stunned at the brisk and smiling
doctor, who rose to his feet as if the interview were over. But even as
he stepped towards the door, he found his exit blocked by the presence of
a newcomer, and found himself looking once more at the long hair and
long, smiling visage of the gentleman he had so heartily disliked under
the name of Mr. Wilmot.

"Back again," said Wilmot, or Harrington, his smile widening to a grin,
"and apparently just in time."

The Inspector had recovered from his stupefaction and his senses and
perceptions were quick enough. He got to his feet quickly and said: "Is
anything the matter?"

"No," said the great detective; "nothing is the matter. Except that we
are after the wrong man."

And he settled himself comfortably in a chair and smiled at the
Inspector.

"The wrong man!" repeated Brandon. "You can't mean that Windrush is the
wrong man! I've just been taking the liberty of telling Dr. Judson the
real story--"

"Under the impression," said Harrington, "that you knew the real story.
For my part, I never knew it till about twenty minutes ago."

His face and manner were eminently cheerful; but as he turned to speak to
the doctor, they took on a sort of business-like gravity and he seemed to
choose and weigh his words.

"Doctor," he said, "you are a man of science and you understand what
hardly anybody in this world does understand. You understand what is
really meant of a hypothesis that holds the field. As a man of science,
you must have had the experience of building up a very elaborate, a very
complete and even a very convincing theory."

"Why, yes," said John Judson, with a grim smile; "I have certainly had
the experience of building up a very elaborate, very complete and even
convincing theory."

"But," went on the detective thoughtfully, "as a man of science, you were
nevertheless ready to entertain the possibility, even if it were the
remote possibility, that your theory was after all untrue."

"You are right again," said Judson, and the smile grew grimmer. "I was
ready to entertain the remote possibility that my theory was quite
untrue."

"Well, I take full responsibility for the unexpected collapse of my
theory," said the great detective, with his agreeable smile. "You must
not blame the Inspector; the whole of that story of the artist criminal
and his original scheme of concealment was my idea, and an infernally
intelligent and interesting idea too, though I say it who shouldn't.
There's really nothing to be said against it, except that it can't be
true. Everything has a little weakness somewhere."

"But why can't it be true?" asked the astonished Brandon.

"Only," answered his commanding officer, "because I have just discovered
the real murderer."

Amid the startled silence that followed he added, as in a pleasant
abstraction: "That grand and bold artistic crime we dreamed of was, like
many great things, too great for this world. Perhaps in Utopia, perhaps
in Paradise, we may have murders of that perfect and poetical sort. But
the real murderer behaves in a much more ordinary fashion. . . . Brandon,
I have found the other student. Naturally, you know rather less about the
other student."

"Pardon me," said the Inspector stiffly; "of course, we traced the
movements of the other student, and of everybody who could be involved.
He took the train to London that evening and, a month after, went to New
York on business and thence to the Argentine, where he set up a
successful and highly respectable practice as a doctor."

"Exactly," said Harrington. "He did the dull, ordinary thing that the
real criminal does. He bolted."

Dr. Judson seemed to find his voice for the first time since the last
turn of events, and it was like the voice of a new man.

"Are you quite certain," he said at last, "that Windrush is innocent
after all?"

"I am quite certain," said Harrington seriously. "This is not a
hypothesis but a proof. There are a hundred converging proofs; I will
only give you a few. The injury to the skull was done with a very unusual
surgical instrument, and I have found the instrument in possession of the
man who used it. The spot selected would only have been so chosen by a
man of special knowledge. The man called Duveen, whom we know to have
been present, and to have had a stronger motive than Windrush (for he was
ruined and in fear of exposure), was and is a man with exactly that
special knowledge. He is a surgeon and a skilful man. He is also a
left-handed man."

"If you are certain, sir, the thing is settled," said the Inspector
rather regretfully. "As Dr. Judson has explained, the left-handed
business was also a part of the disease or aberration of Windrush--"

"You will agree that I never said I was certain about Windrush," said
Harrington calmly; "I do say I am certain now."

"Doctor Judson says--" began the Inspector.

"Dr. Judson says," said that physician himself, springing up like a
spring released; "Dr. Judson says that everything that Dr. Judson has
said for the last forty-eight hours is a pack of lies! Dr. Judson says
that Walter Windrush is no more mad than we are. Dr. Judson begs to
announce that his celebrated theory of Arboreal Ambidexterity is a
blasted mass of balderdash that ought never to have taken in a baby!
Duodiapsychosis! Huh!" And he snorted with a violent and indescribable
noise.

"This is very extraordinary," said Inspector Brandon.

"I bet it is," said the doctor. "We all seem to have made pretty damned
fools of ourselves by being too clever, but I was the damndest. Look
here, this has got to be put straight at once! It's bad enough for Miss
Windrush that her father should be locked up for a day. I must make out
some sort of document admitting a mistake, or announcing a recovery, or
some nonsense, and get him out again."

"But," said Harrington gravely, "I understood that no less a person than
Dr. Doone also signed the emergency order, and his authority--"

"Doone!" cried Judson with a quite indescribable frenzy of contempt,
"Doone! Doone would sign anything! Doone would say anything. Doone is a
doddering old fraud! He wrote one book that was boomed when I was a baby,
and he's never opened a book since. I saw all the new books on his table
with none of the leaves cut. And the way he talked about prehistoric man
was more prehistoric than fossils. As if any serious scientific man now
believed all his stuff about Arboreal Man! Golly, I didn't have any
difficulty with Doone! I only had to flatter him at first by making it
all very Arboreal, and then talking about what he didn't understand and
dared not question. I had great fun with something newer than
Psycho-analysis."

"All the same," said Harrington, "as Dr. Doone has signed the order,
he'll have to sign the countermanding of it."

"Oh, very well," cried the impetuous Judson, who had already scribbled
something on a page and was already rushing from the room, "I'll cut
round and get him to sign it, too."

"I think I should rather like to go with you," said Harrington.

In the track of the headlong Judson, they trailed round with tolerable
rapidity to that stately and pillared house in the West End, the house
with the sombre blinds, which the doctor had once visited alone. The
scene between him and the stately Dr. Doone was rather curious. Now that
they had some inner light on the matter, they could appreciate the
evasiveness of the great man and the pertinacity of the smaller one.
However, Dr. Doone evidently felt it was wiser to join in his colleague's
recantation, and, carelessly picking up a quill pen, he signed the paper
with his left hand.

VI THE EPILOGUE OF THE GARDEN

A FORTNIGHT afterwards, Mr. Walter Windrush was walking round his
favourite garden, smiling and smoking as if nothing had happened. He was
smoking a small cigarette in a very long cigarette-holder, and he really
was doing it as if nothing had happened. For that was the real mystery of
Walter Windrush, which neither medical non legal experts were ever in the
least likely to fathom. That was the real Secret, which no detective
would ever detect.

He had been turned into a monstrosity in the eyes of his nearest and
dearest; he had been described to his own child as a chimpanzee and as a
chattering maniac; he had been described again as a pitiless and patient
assassin, planning his whole life upon the concealment of a crime; he had
been dragged through or threatened by every degrading and hideous
experience; he had found that his favourite private paradise had been the
scene of a murder and that his friend found it possible to believe him to
be a murderer; he had been in the madhouse; he had been near to the
gallows. And all these things were of less importance to him than the
shape of the great coloured cloud of morning that came sailing up out of
the east, or the fact that the birds had begun to sing in the branches of
the tragic tree. Some would have said his mood was too shallow for such
tragedies. Some, who saw deeper, might have said it was too deep for
them. But upon such deep springs of levity he lived, and so he walked, as
if in another world. It is possible that Inspector Brandon did not
completely comprehend the monster called a Man of Genius.

Indeed, he was much less affected by the morbid memories than the man of
common sense. When he had strolled about alone for a few moments, he was
joined by his young friend the doctor, but the doctor looked
comparatively gloomy and embarrassed; so much so that the artist rallied
him about it.

"Well," said Dr. Judson, with something of his old sort of sullen
candour, "I ought to be ashamed of it, I suppose, as well as of
everything else. But I confess I can't think how you can bear to hang
about in the place."

"My dear fellow, and you are the cold and rational man of science," said
Windrush lightly. "In what superstitions you wallow! In what medieval
darkness you brood all your days! I am only a poor, impracticable, poetic
dreamer, but I assure you I am in broad daylight. In fact, I have never
been out of it, not even when you put me in that pleasant little
sanatorium for a day or two. I was quite happy there, and as for the
lunatics, well I came to the conclusion that they were rather saner than
my friends outside."

"There's no need to rub it in," said Judson with a groan. "I won't
apologize for thinking you a madman, because I never did think so. But I
suppose that, given a fine sense of delicacy, I ought to apologize for
thinking you a murderer. But there are murderers and murderers; all I
knew was that I had found a murdered man you had hidden in your garden. I
didn't know how far you might have been provoked or justified. Indeed,
from all I hear of the late lamented Mr. Morse, he was of the sort that
won't be missed. But I knew that Wilmot was a detective and was poking
round the tree, and I knew that meant your arrest in precious quick time.
I had to act pretty quickly myself; I generally do act a good deal too
quickly, for that matter. A plea of insanity after arrest is always
weak-especially when it's not true. But if you were already certified you
couldn't even be arrested. I had to invent an imaginary disease, entirely
out of my own head in about five minutes. I put it together somehow out
of bits of that talk we had about ambidexterity and bits of Doone's
rotten old rubbish about anthropoids. I put that in, partly because I
foresaw that I should have to nobble Doone somehow, and partly because it
fitted so well into the tale of the tree. But even now I hate to think of
the horrors I made up, even though they were horrors that never happened.
But what must one feel about the horrors that really have happened?"

"Well," replied the artist cheerfully, "and what do you feel about them?"

"I can't help feeling," said Judson, "that men might avoid the place like
a plague-spot."

"The birds perch on the tree," said Windrush, "as if it were the shoulder
of St. Francis."

There was a silence and then the brooding Judson said: "After all, sir,
it is damned extraordinary that you lived alone with this tree for twenty
years and never found what was inside it. I know it rotted to bones
pretty quickly, because the stream carried away the decomposition, but
you might have been pulling the tree about any day."

Walter Windrush looked at him steadily with his clear, glassy eyes.

"I have never even touched the tree," he said. "I have never been within
two yards of it."

Something in his manner suggested to the young man that they had come
near the nerve of the eccentricity: he was silent and the artist went on:
"You tell us a great deal about Evolution and the Ascent of Man. You
scientific men are very superior, of course, and there is nothing
legendary about you. You do not believe in the Garden of Eden. You do not
believe in Adam and Eve. Above all, you do not believe in the Forbidden
Tree."

The doctor shook his head in half-humorous deprecation, but the other
went on with the same grave fixity of gaze.

"But I say to you, always have in your garden a Forbidden Tree. Always
have in your life something that you may not touch. That is the secret of
being young and happy for ever. There was never a story so true as that
story you call a fable. But you will evolve and explore and eat of the
tree of knowledge, and what comes of it?"

"Well," said the doctor defensively, "a good many things have come of it
that are not so bad."

"My friend," said the poet. "You once asked me what was the Use of this
tree. I told you I did not wish it to be any Use. And was I wrong? I have
got nothing but good out of it, because to me it was useless. What have
they got out of it, those to whom it was useful? What did they get who
asked, after the manner of that ancient folly, for the Fruit of the tree?
It was useful to Duveen, or Doone, or whatever you call him, and what
fruit did he gather but the fruit of sin and death? He got murder and
suicide out of it; they told me this morning that he had taken poison,
leaving a confession of the murder of Morse. It was useful to Wilmot in a
way, of course; but what did even Wilmot and Brandon get out of it, but
the dreadful duty of dragging a fellow-creature to the gallows? It was
useful to you, when you wanted a nonsensical nightmare of some sort, with
which to lock me up for life and terrify my family. But it was a
nightmare, and you yourself still seem to be a little haunted by the
nightmare. But I repeat that it was useless to me, and I am still in the
broad daylight."

As he spoke, Judson looked up across the lawn and saw Enid Windrush come
out of the shadow of the house into the sun. Something in the golden
balance of her figure, with the flushed face and flame-like radiation of
her hair, made her look as if she had actually stepped from an
allegorical picture of the dawn, and swiftly as she moved, her movements
always had the grand, gradual curves of great unconscious forces, of the
falling waters and the wind. Something of this congruity with the almost
cosmic drift of the conversation doubtless rose into the poet's mind, as
he said casually enough: "Well, Enid, I've been boosting the old property
again. I've been modestly comparing my own backyard to the Garden of
Eden. But it's no good talking to this deplorable materialistic young
man. He doesn't believe in Adam and Eve or anything they tell you about
on Sundays."

The young man said nothing; at that moment he was wholly occupied with
seeing.

"I don't know whether there are any snakes about," she said, laughing.

"Some of us," said Judson, "have been in the sort of delirium in which
men see snakes. But I think we are all cured now, and there are other
things to see."

"I suppose you would say," said Windrush dreamily, "that we have evolved
into a higher condition and can see something nicer. Well, don't
misunderstand me; I'm not against anybody evolving, if he does it
quietly, in a gentlemanly way, and without all this fuss. It wouldn't
matter much, if we had begun by climbing about in trees. But I still
think that even monkeys would have been wise to leave one taboo tree; one
sacred tree they did not climb. But evolution only means. . bother, my
cigarette's gone out. I think I must go and smoke in the library
henceforward."

"Why do you say henceforward?"

They did not hear his answer as he walked away, but he said: "Because it
is The Garden of Eden."

A sudden silence fell between the two who were left facing each other on
the lawn. Then John Judson went across to the girl and confronting her
with great gravity said: "In one respect your father underrates my
orthodoxy."

Her own smile grew a little graver as she asked him why he said so.

"Because I do believe in Adam and Eve," answered the man of science, and
he suddenly seized both her hands.

She left them where they were and continued to gaze at him with an utter
stillness and steadiness. Only her eyes had altered.

"I believe in Adam," she said, "though I was once quite firmly convinced
that he was the Serpent."

"I never thought you were the Serpent," he answered in the same new tone
of musing, that was almost mystical, "but I thought you were the Angel of
the Flaming Sword."

"I have thrown away the sword," said Enid Windrush.

"And left only the angel," he answered, and she rejoined: "Left only the
woman."

On the top of the once accursed tree a small bird burst into song, and at
the same moment a great morning wind from the south rushed upon the
garden, bending all its shrubs and bushes and seeming, as does the air
when it passes over sunlit foliage, to drive the sunshine before it in
mighty waves. And it seemed to both of them that something had broken or
been loosened, a last bond with chaos and the night, a last strand of the
net of some resisting Nothing that obstructs creation, and God had made a
new garden and they stood alive on the first foundations of the world.



THE ECSTATIC THIEF

I THE NAME OF NADOWAY

THE name of Nadoway was in one sense famous, and even after a fashion,
inspiring and sublime. Alfred the Great had borne it before him like a
boon or gift, as he wandered in the woods and awaited the deliverance of
Wessex. So at least one would infer from the poster in which he was
represented, in flamboyant colours, as repairing the ruin of the Burning
Cakes by the offer of Nadoway's Nubs, a superior sort of small biscuit.
Shakespeare had heard the name like a trumpet-blast; at least if we may
credit the striking picture inscribed "Anne Hathaway Had a Way with
Nadoway", and representing the poet lifting a shining morning face on the
appearance of these refreshments. Nelson, in the high moment of battle,
had seen it written on the sky; at least it is so written on all the
gigantic hoardings of the Battle of Trafalgar, with which we are so
familiar in the streets; the picture to which are aptly appended the
noble lines of Campbell: "Of Nelson and the Nubs, Sing the glorious day's
renown." Equally familiar is the more modern patriotic poster
representing a British Sailor working a machine-gun, from which a shower
of Nubs is perpetually pouring upon the public. This somewhat unjustly
exaggerates the deadly character of the Nubs. He who has been privileged
to put a Nub to his lips has certainly been somewhat at a loss to
distinguish it from other and lesser biscuits. But to have a Nub embedded
in the body, by the ordinary process of digestion, has never been known
to be actually fatal like a bullet. And, on the whole, many have tended
to suspect that the chief difference, between Nadoway's Nubs and anybody
else's, lay in the omnipresence of this superb picture-gallery of
advertisements, which seemed to surround Nadoway with flamboyant
pageantry and splendid heraldic and historic processions.

In the midst of all this encircling blazonry and blowing of trumpets,
there was nothing but a little, plain, hard-faced man with a grey,
goatish beard and spectacles, who never went anywhere except to business
and to a brown brick Baptist Chapel. This was Mr. Jacob Nadoway, later of
course Sir Jacob Nadoway, and later still Lord Normandale, the original
founder of the firm and fountain of all the Nubs. He still lived very
simply himself, but he could afford every luxury. He could afford the
luxury of having the Honourable Millicent Milton as private secretary.
She was the daughter of a decayed aristocratic house, with which he had
been on superficially friendly terms, as they lived in the same
neighbourhood, and it was natural that the relative importance of the two
should have gradually changed. Mr. Nadoway could afford the luxury of
being the Honourable Millicent's patron. The Honourable Millicent could
not afford the luxury of not being Mr. Nadoway's secretary.

It was, however, a luxury of which she sometimes had golden dreams. Not
that old Nadoway treated her badly, or even paid her badly, or would have
ventured to be rude to her in any respect. The old chapel-going Radical
was much too shrewd for that. He understood well that there was still
something like a bargain and a balance between the New Rich and the New
Poor. She had been more or less familiar with the Nadoway household, long
before she had an official post there, and could hardly be treated
otherwise than as a friend of the family, even if it was not exactly the
sort of family she would have sought in which to find her friends. And
yet she had found friends there, and had once been even in danger of
finding not only friends but a friend. Perhaps, at one time, not only a
friend.

Nadoway had two sons, who went to school and college, and in the
recognized modern manner were unobtrusively manufactured into gentlemen.
The manner of the moulding was indeed somewhat different in the two
cases, and in both she watched it with a certain curious interest. It was
perhaps symbolic that the elder was John Nadoway, dating from the days
when his father retained a taste for plain or preferably Scriptural
names. The younger was Norman Nadoway, and the name marked a certain
softening towards notions of elegance, foreshadowing the awful
possibility of Normandale. There had been a happy time, when John could
really be described as Jack. He was a very boyish sort of boy and played
cricket and climbed trees with a certain natural grace, like that of a
young animal alive and innocent in the sunshine. He was not unattractive
and she was not unattracted by him. And yet every time he reappeared, at
different stages of his college and early commercial career, she was
conscious that something was fading while something was solidifying. He
was passing through that mysterious process, by which so many radiant and
godlike boys eventually turn into businessmen. She could not help feeling
that there must be something wrong with education-or possibly something
wrong with life. It seemed somehow as if he was always growing bigger and
growing smaller.

Norman Nadoway, on the other hand, began to be interesting just about the
moment when Jack Nadoway began to be uninteresting. He was one that
flowered late; if the figure of a flower can be used of one who
(throughout his early years) resembled a rather pallid turnip. He had a
large head and large ears and a colourless face and expression, and for a
time passed for something of a mooncalf. But when he was at school, he
worked hard at mathematics, and when he was at Cambridge at economics.
From this it was but one wild leap to the study of politics and social
reform; and from this came the grand bust-up in the House of Nubs and
Jacob's wrath, to Nadoway's the direful spring. Norman had begun by
shaking the brown brick chapel to its foundations by announcing his
intention of being a Curate in the Church of England-nay, in the High
Church party of the Church of England. But his father was less troubled
by this than by the reports that reached him of his son's highly
successful lectures on Political Economy. It was a very different sort of
Political Economy from that which his father had successfully preached
and practised. It was so different that his father, in a memorable
explosion at the breakfast-table, described it as Socialism.

"Somebody must go down to Cambridge and stop him!" said the elder Mr.
Nadoway fidgeting in his chair and rapping restlessly on the table. "You
must go and talk to him, John; or you must bring him here and I'll talk
to him. Otherwise the business will simply go smash."

Both parts of the alternative programme apparently had to be carried out.
John, the junior partner of Nadoway and Son, did go down to Cambridge and
talked to him, but apparently did not stop him. John did eventually bring
him back to Jacob Nadoway, that Jacob might talk to him. Jacob was in no
way reluctant to do so, and yet the interview did not turn quite as he
had intended. Indeed, it was a rather puzzling interview.

It took place in old Jacob's study, which looked out through round
bow-windows at 'The Lawns', after which the house was still named. It was
a very Victorian house, of the sort that would have been described at the
time as built by Philistines for Philistines. There was a great deal of
curved glass about it, in its conservatories and its semi-circular
windows. There was a great deal of dome and cupola and canopy about it,
with all the porches covered as if by escalloped wooden umbrellas. There
was a good deal of rather ugly coloured glass and a good deal of not
altogether ugly, but very artificial, clipped hedges and Dutch gardening.
In short, it was the sort of comfortable Victorian home that was regarded
as very vulgar by the aesthetes of that period. Mr. Matthew Arnold would
have passed the house with a gentle sigh. Mr. John Ruskin would have
recoiled in horror and called down curses from heaven on it, from a
neighbouring hill. Even Mr. William Morris would have grumbled as he
passed, about the sort of architecture that was only upholstery. But I am
not so sure about Mr. Sacheverall Sitwell. We have reached a time when
the curved windows and canopied porticoes of that house have begun to
take on something of a dreamy glamour of distance. And I am not sure that
Mr. Sitwell might not have been found wandering in its inner chambers and
composing a poem about its dusty charms, though it would certainly have
surprised Mr. Jacob Nadoway to find him so engaged. Whether, after the
interview, even Mr. Sitwell could write a poem about Mr. Nadoway, I will
not undertake to decide.

Millicent Milton had come through the garden to the study, at about the
same moment as the junior partner arrived there. She was tall and fair
and her lifted and pointed chin gave her profile a distinction beyond
mere good looks. Her eyelids looked at the first glance a little sleepy
and at the second a little haughty, but she was not really either one or
the other, but only reasonably resigned. She sat down at her ordinary
desk to do her ordinary work, but she very soon rose from it again, as if
with a silent offer to withdraw, since the domestic discussion was
becoming very domestic. But old Nadoway motioned her back with irritable
reassurance and she remained the spectator of the whole scene.

Old Nadoway had barked out rather abruptly, like one bothered for the
first time: "But I thought you two had had a talk."

"Yes, father," said John Nadoway, looking at the carpet, "we have had a
talk."

"I hope you got Norman to see," went on the old man in a milder tone,
"that he simply mustn't chalk out all these wild projects so long as
we're all really in the business. My business would be ruined in a month
if I tried to carry out those crazy ideal schemes about Bonuses and
Co-Partnership. And how can I have my son using my name, and shouting
everywhere that my methods are not fit for a dog? Is it reasonable?
Didn't John explain to you that it's not reasonable?"

The large, pale face of the curate, rather to everybody's surprise,
wrinkled into a dry smile, and he said: "Yes, Jack explained a great deal
of that to me, but I also did a little explaining. I explained, for
instance, that I have a business, too."

"What about your father's business?" asked Jacob.

"I am about my Father's business," said the priest in a hard voice.

There was a glaring silence, broken rather nervously.

"The fact is, father, it won't do," said John Nadoway heavily, and still
studying the carpet. "I believe I said everything for you you could have
said yourself. But Norman knows the new conditions, and it won't do."

Old Mr. Nadoway made a motion as if swallowing something, and then said:
"Do you mean to sit there and tell me you're against me, too? Against me
and the whole concern?"

"I'm in favour of the whole concern, and that's the whole point," said
John. "I suppose I shall be responsible for it-well, some time. But I'm
damned if I'll be responsible for all the old ways of doing things."

"You're glad enough of the money that was got by the old way of doing
things," said his father savagely, "and now you come back to me with this
nonsensical namby-pamby Socialism."

"My dear Dad," said John Nadoway, staring stolidly. "Do I look like a
Socialist?"

Millicent, as an onlooker, took in the whole of his heavy and handsome
figure, from its beautifully blacked boots to its beautifully oiled hair,
and could hardly repress a laugh.

The voice of Norman Nadoway clove into it with a sudden vibrancy, not
without violence.

"We must clear the Nadoway name."

"Do you dare to tell me," cried the old man fiercely, "that my name needs
any clearing?"

"By the new standards, yes," said John after a silence.

The old merchant sat down suddenly and silently in his chair and turned
to his secretary, as if the interview were ended.

"I find I shall not want you this evening," he said. "You had better take
a little time off."

She rose rather waveringly and went towards the french windows that gave
upon the garden. The pale evening sky had been suddenly turned to night
by the contrast of a large luminous moon coming up behind dark trees and
striping the grey-green lawns with dark shadows. She had always been
puzzled by the fact that there seemed to be something romantic about the
garden and even the grotesque house, which was inhabited by such highly
prosaic people. She was already outside the glass doors and in the
garden, when she heard old Nadoway speak again.

"The hand of the Lord is heavy upon me," he said. "It seems hard that I
have had three sons and they all turned against me."

"There is no question of turning against you, father," said John rapidly
and smoothly. "It is only a question of reconstructing the business so as
to suit new conditions and a rather different public opinion. I am sure
that neither of your sons intends to show ingratitude or impertinence."

"If either of your sons did that," said Norman in his deep voice, "it
would be every bit as wicked as going on in the old way."

"Well," said his father rather wearily, "we will leave it at that just
now. I shall not go on much longer."

But Millicent Milton was staring at the dark house in a new fit of
mystification. The two brothers had ignored and slurred over, with
something resembling skill, a certain phrase used by their father. But
she had quite unmistakably heard the old man say: "Three sons."

She had never heard of any other son. She remained staring at the rococo
outline of that rather ridiculous and yet romantic villa, with its domes
and ornamental verandas dark against the moon; with its bulbous windows
and plants in bloated pots; its clumsy statues and congested garden-beds
and all the swollen outline of the thing made almost monstrous by
moonshine and darkness, and she wondered for the first time if it held a
secret.

II THE BURGLAR AND THE BROOCH

IT was the scare of the burglary that actually started the story towards
the discovery of rather strange things. As a burglary it was trivial
enough, in the sense that the thief did not apparently succeed in taking
anything, being surprised before he could do so. But it was certainly not
only the burglar who was surprised.

Jacob Nadoway had provided his secretary with some excellent apartments
leading out of the central hall and not far from his own. He had fitted
up the suite with every elegant convenience, including an aunt. It was
indeed doubtful, at times, whether the aunt was to be classed as a
convenience or an inconvenience. She was supposed in a vague way to
regularize the Victorian household and add even to the secretary an extra
touch of gentility. But there was a difference, because the aunt, who was
a Mrs. Milton-Mowbray, was given to suddenly getting back on the
high-horse and then sliding off again, while her niece, with a more
negative dignity, trod the dusty path of duty as a proud pedestrian. On
this occasion Millicent Milton had been engaged all the evening in
soothing her aunt, and after that experience, felt she would like to
spend a little time in soothing herself. Instead of going to bed, she
took up a book and began reading by the dying fire. She read on till it
was very late, without realizing that everybody else had presumably
retired to rest, when she heard in the utter stillness a new and
unmistakable sound from the central hall without, which led into her
employer's study. It was a sort of whirring and grinding sound, such as
is produced by metal working its way into metal. And she remembered that
in the angle between the two rooms stood the safe.

She had the best sort of quite unconscious courage, and she simply walked
out into the hall and looked. What she saw astounded her by being so
ordinary. She had seen it in so many films and read about it in so many
novels, that she could hardly believe that it really looked like that.
The safe stood open and a shabby man was kneeling in front of it, with
his back to her, so that she could see nothing but his shabbiness, his
head being covered by a battered and shapeless broad-brimmed hat. On one
side of him on the floor glittered the steel of a centre-bit and some
other tools of his art; on the other side glittered even more brilliantly
the silver and stones of some ornament, looking like a chain and clasp,
presumably a portion of his spoils. There seemed somehow to be nothing
sharp or unexpected about the experience; it was almost conventional, in
being so like what it was supposed to be. She only spoke as she felt, in
a tone entirely cold and commonplace, when she said: "What are you doing
here?"

"Well, I'm not climbing the Matterhorn or playing the trombone at
present," grunted the man in a gruff and distant voice. "I suppose it's
plain enough what I am doing."

Then, after a silence, he resumed in a warning tone: "Don't you go saying
that brooch thing there is yours, because it isn't. I didn't even get it
out of this safe; let's say I lifted it off another family earlier in the
evening. It's a pretty thing-sort of imitation fourteenth century, with
Amor Vincit Omnia on it. It's all very well to say that love conquers
everything, and force is no remedy and all that. But I've forced this
safe: I never found a safe I could open by just loving what was inside."

There was something rather paralysing about the way in which the burglar
placidly went on talking without even looking round; and she thought it a
little odd that he should know the meaning of the Latin inscription,
simple as it was. Nor could she bring herself to scream or run or stop
him in any way, when he went on with the same conversational composure.

"Must be meant for a model of the big clasp that Chaucer's Prioress wore;
that had the same motto on it. Don't you think Chaucer was a corker in
the way he hit off social types-even social types that are there still?
Why, the Prioress is an immortal portrait in a few lines of a most
extraordinary creature called the English Lady. You can pick her out in
foreign hotels and pensions. The Prioress was nicer than most of those,
but she's got all the marks; fussing about her little dogs; being
particular about table-manners; not liking mice killed; the whole darned
thing even down to talking French, but talking it so that Frenchmen can't
understand."

He turned very slowly and stared at her.

"Why, you're an English Lady!" he cried as if astonished. "Do you know
they are getting rare?"

Miss Millicent Milton probably did possess, like the Prioress of Chaucer,
the more gracious virtues of the English Lady. But it must in honesty be
admitted that she also possessed some of the vices of the type. One of
the crimes of the English Lady is an unconscious class-consciousness.
Nothing could alter the fact that, the moment the shabby criminal had
begun to talk about English literature in the tones of her own class, her
whole judgement was turned upside down, and she had a chaotic idea that
he could not really be a criminal at all. In abstract logic, she would
have been obliged to admit that it ought not to make any difference. In
theory, she would concede that a student of medieval English has no more
business to break open other people's safes than anybody else. In
principle she might confess that a man does not purchase a right to steal
silver brooches, even by showing an intelligent interest in the
Canterbury Tales. But something of uncontrollable custom in her mind made
her feel that the case was altered. Her feeling could only have been
conveyed by the very vague colloquialisms which such people employ; as
that he wasn't exactly a real burglar, or that it was "Quite Different",
or that there was "some mistake". What she really meant (to the grave
disadvantage of all her culture and her world) was that there were some
people, criminals or no, whom she could see from the inside, and all
other people she saw from the outside, whether they were burglars or
bricklayers.

The young man who was staring at her was dark, shaggy and unshaven, but
the neglect of shaving had passed its most repellent stage of transition
and might be regarded as a rather imperfect beard. Its patchiness
reminded her of the quaintly divided beards of certain foreigners, and
gave him something of the general look of a cultivated Italian
organ-grinder. There was something else that was abnormal about his face,
which she could not immediately define, but she thought it was the fact
that his mouth was always twisting with mockery, rather as if it had
taught itself always to mock, and yet his dark, sunken eyes were not only
grave but in some sort of mad way, enthusiastic. If the grotesque beard
could have completely covered the mouth like a mask, they might have been
the eyes of a fanatic in the desert shouting a battle-cry of belief. He
must be deeply indignant with society to have turned to this lawless
life; or perhaps he had had a tragedy with a woman or something. She
wondered what the real story was, and what the woman was like.

While she was forming these confused impressions, the remarkable burglar
went on talking; whatever else he felt, he seemed to feel no
embarrassment about talking.

"It's jolly fine of you to stand there like that-well, that's another
trait. The English Lady is brave; Edith Cavell was a type of the tribe.
But there are other tribes now, and that sort of brooch generally belongs
to the last sort of person for whom it was made. That alone would be a
justification for the trade of burglary, which keeps things briskly in
circulation, doesn't allow them to stagnate in incongruous surroundings.
If that brooch had really been worn by Chaucer's Prioress at the moment,
you don't imagine I'd have taken it, do you? On the contrary, if I really
met anybody as nice as the Prioress, I might be tempted to give it to her
straight away, at the expense of my professional profits. But why should
some vulgar cockatoo of a sham Countess own a thing like that? We want
more theft, house-breaking and highway robbery to shift and rearrange the
furniture of society; to regroup-if you follow me-its goods and chattels,
as if after a spring-cleaning; to--"

At this important point in the social programme, it was interrupted by a
gasp and snort as startling as a trumpet-blast. And Millicent, looking
across, saw her employer, the aged Nadoway, standing framed in the
doorway, and looking a very small and shrunken figure in an enormous
purple dressing-gown. It was not until that moment that she awoke to
astonishment at her own silence and composure; or saw anything odd in the
fact that she had stood listening to the criminal in front of the safe,
as if he had been talking to her over the tea-table.

"What! A burglar?" gasped Mr. Nadoway.

Almost at the same moment there was a scurry of running and the big,
breathless figure of the Junior Partner, John Nadoway, dressed in his
shirt and trousers, also burst into the room, with a revolver in his
hand. But he almost instantly lowered the weapon he had lifted and said,
in the same incredulous and curiously emphatic voice: "Damn it all! A
burglar!"

The Rev. Norman Nadoway was not long behind his brother-he was
respectably muffled in a greatcoat and looked very pale and solemn. But
perhaps the most curious thing about him was that he also confined
himself to saying, with the same inscrutable intensity: "A burglar!"

Millicent thought there was, on the face of it, something singularly
inept about this triple emphasis. It was about as obvious that the
burglar was a burglar as that the safe was a safe. She could not imagine
why the three men should all talk as if a burglar were a griffin, or
something they had never heard of before, until it suddenly dawned on her
that their surprise was not at a burglar paying them a particular visit,
but rather at this particular visitor being a burglar.

"Yes," said the visitor, looking round at them with a smile, "it's quite
true I'm a burglar now. I think I was only a begging-letter writer when
we last met. Thus do we rise on our dead selves to higher things; it was
a very paltry little misdemeanour compared to this, wasn't it, for which
father first turned me out?"

"Alan," said Norman Nadoway very gravely, "why do you come back here like
this? Why here, of all places?"

"Why, to tell you the truth," said the other, "I thought that our
respected Papa might want a little moral support."

"What the devil do you mean?" asked John Nadoway irritably. "A nice sort
of moral support you are!"

"I am a very moral support," observed the stranger with proper pride.
"Don't you realize it? I am the only real son and heir. I am the only man
who is really carrying on the business. I am an example of atavism; I am
a reversion to type."

"I don't know what you're talking about," cried old Nadoway with sudden
fury.

"Jack and Norman know," said the burglar grimly. "They know what I'm
talking about. They know what I mean when I say I'm the real
representative of Nadoway and Son. It's the fact they've been trying to
cover up, poor old chaps, for the last five or six years."

"You were born to disgrace me," said the old man, trembling with anger;
"you would have dragged my name in the dirt, if I hadn't sent you to
Australia and got rid of you, and now you come back as a common thief."

"And the real representative," said the other, "of the methods that made
Nadoway's Nubs." Then he said with sudden scorn: "You say you're ashamed
of me. Good Lord, my dear Dad! Haven't you discovered yet that both your
other sons are ashamed of you? Look at their faces!"

It was enough that the other two sons involuntarily turned their faces
away, and even as it was, turned them too late.

"They are ashamed of you. But I am not ashamed of you. We are the
Adventurers of the family."

Norman Nadoway raised a protesting hand, but the other went on with a
sweep of spontaneous satire.

"Do you think I don't know? Do you think everybody doesn't know? Don't I
know that's why Norman and Jack are announcing new industrial methods and
preaching new social ideals and all the rest? Cleansing the Name of
Nadoway-because the Name of Nadoway stinks to the ends of the earth!
Because the business was founded on every sort of swindling and sweating
and grinding the faces of the poor and cheating the widow and orphan.
And, above all, on robbery-on robbing rivals and partners and everybody
else, exactly as I have robbed that safe!"

"Do you think it decent," asked his brother angrily, "to come here and
not only rob your father's safe, but insult and attack your father before
his face?"

"I am not attacking my father," said Alan Nadoway; "I am defending my
father. And I am the only man here who can defend him. For I am a
criminal, too."

He let loose the next few words with an energy that made everybody jump.
"What do you know about it? You go to college with his money; you get a
partnership in his firm; you live on the money he made and are ashamed of
the way he made it. But he didn't begin like that, any more than I did.
He was thrown out into the gutter, just as I was thrown out into the
gutter. You try it, and see what sort of dirt you will eat! You don't
know anything about the way men are turned into criminals; the shifts and
the delays and the despair, and the hopes that an honest job may turn up,
that end by taking a dishonest one. You've no right to be so damned
superior to the Two Thieves of the family."

Old Nadoway made an abrupt movement, adjusting his spectacles, and
Millicent, who was an acute observer, suspected that for one instant he
was not only staggered but strongly moved.

"All this," said John Nadoway after a silence, "doesn't explain what
you're doing here. As you probably know, there's practically nothing in
that safe, and the thing you've got there certainly doesn't come out of
it. I can't quite make out what you're up to, in any case."

"Well," said Alan, with his ironical smile, "you can examine the safe and
the rest of the premises after I've gone. Perhaps you may make a few
discoveries. And perhaps on the whole I--"

In the middle of his words there arose, faint but shrill and
unmistakable, upon Millicent's ear, the sound of something at once
alarming and amusing; something she had been subconsciously expecting for
a long time past. In the room beyond, her aunt had awakened; probably she
had awakened to all the melodramatic possibilities of an interruption in
the middle of the night. The Victorian tradition had still its living
witness. Millicent herself had been frozen into a cool acceptance of the
adventure-an acceptance she could not fully explain even to herself. But
somebody at least had shrieked, in a respectable manner, on hearing a
house-breaker.

The five people looked at each other and realized that, after that
shriek, the extraordinary family situation could no longer be kept in the
family. The only chance was for the burglar to bolt with the promptitude
of any other burglar. He turned and darted through the apartments on his
left, which happened to be the apartments of Miss Milton and Mrs.
Mowbray, so that shriek after shriek now rent the air. But a crash of
glass from a remote window told the rest that the intruder had managed to
burst out of the house and disappear in the darkness of the garden, and
they all, for varied and rather complex reasons, heaved their separate
sighs of relief.

Millicent, needless to say, had to resume in a serious manner the duties
of soothing an aunt; so that the shriek faded into shrill questions. Then
she went into her own room, beyond which the hole in the burst window
showed a black star in the slate-green of the glass. Then she realized
that, right in the path of the disappearing robber, there was
deliberately spread out for inspection, on her own dressing-table, as
crown jewels are spread out upon velvet, the silver chain and studded
clasp which had been fancifully dedicated to the Prioress, and on which
was written in Latin "Love Conquers All".

III A QUEER REFORMATION

MILLICENT MILTON could not help wondering a good deal, especially when
walking about the garden in her off hours, whether she would ever see the
burglar again. In the ordinary way, it would seem improbable. But then,
nobody could say that this criminal was connected with the household in
an ordinary way. As a burglar, he would presumably vanish; as a brother,
he would not improbably turn up again. Especially as he was a rather
disreputable brother, for they always turn up again. She tentatively
asked questions of the other two brothers, but could get very little
light on the situation. The acquisitive Alan had mockingly advised them
to examine the house for the traces of his depredations. But he must have
conducted them with great secrecy and selection, for nobody seemed sure
of how much he had taken. It was one of the many problems in the story
that she could not solve, and could not see any particular probability
that she ever would solve, when she looked up idly and saw him standing
quite calmly on the top of the garden wall and looking down into the
garden. The wind plucked the plumes of his dark hair one by one and
turned them over as he was turning the leaves of the tree nearest his
perch.

"Another way to burgle a house," he said, in a clear distant voice like a
popular lecturer, "is to get over the garden wall. It sounds simple, but
stealing things is generally simple. Only, in this case, I can't quite
make up my mind what to steal. I think," he added calmly, "that I shall
begin by stealing a little of your time. But don't be alarmed, in any
secretarial sense. I assure you I have an appointment."

He jumped from the wall and alighted on the turf beside her, but without
in any way disturbing the flow of his remarks.

"Yes; it is really true that I am summoned to quite a family council; an
inquiry into the possibility of rehabilitating my affairs. But, thank
God, I can't be rehabilitated for another hour or so. While I am still in
a completely criminal state of mind, I should rather like to have a talk
with you."

She said nothing but gazed at the distant line of rather grotesque
palm-trees planted as a frontier in the garden and felt returning upon
her that irrational sense that this place had always been rather
romantic, in spite of the people who lived in it.

"I suppose you know," said Alan Nadoway, "that my father flew into a
frightful rage with me when I was only eighteen, and flung me bodily all
the way to Australia. Looking back on it now, I can see that there was
something to be said for his business standards in the matter. I had
given one of my boon companions a handful of money which I really
regarded as my own, but which my father regarded rigidly as belonging to
the firm. From his point of view, it was stealing. But I didn't really
know much about stealing then, compared with the close and conscientious
study I have given to it since. But what I want to tell you is what
happened to me on my way back from Australia."

"Wouldn't your family like to hear about it?" she could not help asking,
with a touch of experimental irony.

"I dare say they would," he said. "But I am not sure they'd understand
the story, even if they did hear it." Then after a brief reflective
silence he said: "You see, my story is too simple to be understood. Too
simple to be believed. It sounds exactly like a parable; that is, it
sounds like a fable and not a fact. There's my brother Norman now-he's a
sincere man and very serious. He reads the parables in the New Testament
every Sunday. But he could hardly believe in anything so simple as one of
those parables, if it happened in real life."

"Do you mean that you are the Prodigal Son?" she asked, "and he is the
Elder Brother?"

"Rather hard if the Australians had to be the Swine," said Alan Nadoway.
"But I don't mean that at all. On the one hand, it underrates the
magnanimity of my brother Norman. On the other hand, it perhaps slightly
exaggerates the leaping and ecstatic hospitality of my father."

She could not repress a smile, but, filled with the loftiest secretarial
traditions, refrained from comment.

"No; what I mean," he said, "is that stories told in that simple way, for
the sake of illustration, always sound as if they weren't true. It's just
the same with the parables of political economy. Norman has read a lot of
political economy too, if you come to that. He must often have read those
textbooks that begin with the statement: 'There is a man on an island.'
Somehow the student or the schoolboy always feels inclined to say there
never was any man on any island. All the same, there was."

She began to feel a little bewildered. "Was what?" she asked.

"There was me," said Alan. "You can't believe this story because there's
a desert island in it. It's like telling a story with a dragon in it. All
the same, there's a moral to the dragon."

"Do you mean," she asked, growing rather impatient, "that you have been
on a desert island?"

"Yes, and on one or two other odd things. But the extraordinary thing was
that everything was all right till I came to an inhabited island. Well, I
spent several years, to start with, in a pretty uninhabited part of a
more or less inhabited island. I mean, of course, the one marked on the
map as Australia. I was trying to farm in a very remote part of the bush,
till a run of bad luck forced me to crawl as best I could back to the
towns. I was going to say back to civilization, but that sounds odd, if
you know the towns. By the final stroke of luck my transport animals fell
sick and died in a wilderness and I was left as if I had been on the
other side of the moon. Nobody in these historical countries, of course,
has an idea of what the earth is like, or how a great lot of it might
just as well be the moon. There seemed no more chance of getting across
those infinities of futile soil patched with wattle, than of persuading a
comet that had knocked you into space to take you back home again. I
trudged along quite senselessly, till I saw something like a tall blue
bush that wasn't one of the monotonous mass of blue-grey bushes, and I
saw it was smoke. It's a good proverb, by God, that where there's smoke
there's fire. It's a greater proverb, and one too near to God to be
written often, that where there's fire there's man, and nobody knows
which is the greater miracle.

"Well, I found somebody; he wasn't anybody in particular; I dare say you
would have found all sorts of deficiencies in him if he'd been in the
village or the club. But he was a magician all right; to me he had powers
not given to beast or bird or tree, and he gave me some cooked food and
set me on the right road to a settlement. At the settlement, a little
outpost in the wilds, it was the same. They didn't do much for me; they
couldn't; but they did something and didn't think it particularly unusual
to be asked. The long and short of it was that I got to a seaport at last
and managed to make a bargain to work my passage with the master of a
small craft. He wasn't a particularly nice man and I wasn't particularly
comfortable, but it was not suicide but a sea-wave that swept me off
suddenly one night, early enough to be seen and raise the cry of 'Man
overboard!' That nasty little boat, with its still more nasty little
captain, coasted about for four hours trying to pick me up, but it
couldn't be done, and I was eventually picked up by a sort of native
canoe, rowed by a sort of half-native lunatic who really and truly lived
on a desert island. I hailed him as I had just been vainly hailing the
ship, and he gave me brandy and shelter and the rest of it, as a matter
of course. He was quite a character, a white man, or whitish man, who had
gone fantee and wore nothing but a pair of spectacles and worshipped a
god of his own he had made out of an old umbrella. But he didn't think it
odd that I should ask him for help, and in his own way he gave it. Then
came the day when we sighted a ship, very far out, but passing the
island, and I hailed and hailed and waved long sheets and towels and lit
flares and all the rest. And eventually the ship did alter her course and
touched at the island to take us off; everybody was pretty dry and
official, but they did it as a regular matter of duty. And all this time,
and especially on that last stretch of homeward voyage, I was singing to
myself a song as old as the world: Coelum non animam-"By the waters of
Babylon"-or, in other words, of all things the worst is exile, and it
will be well with a man in his own home. After all my wild hairbreadth
escapes I stepped on to the dock in Liverpool, as a schoolboy enters his
father's house on the first day of the Christmas holidays. I had
forgotten that I had practically no money, and I asked a man to give or
lend me some. I was immediately arrested for begging and began my career
as a criminal by sleeping in jail.

"Now I suppose you see the point of the economic parable. I had been in
the ends of the earth, and among the scum of the earth; I had been among
all sorts of ragamuffins who had very little to give and were often quite
unwilling to give it. I had waved to passing ships and hallooed to
passing travellers and doubtless been heartily cursed for doing so. But
nobody ever thought it odd that I should ask for the help. Nobody
certainly thought it criminal that I should shriek at a ship when I was
drowning, or crawl towards a camp-fire when I was dying. In all those
wild seas and waste places people did assume that they had to rescue the
drowning and the dying. I was never actually punished for being in want
till I came to a civilized city. I was never called a criminal for asking
for sympathy, till I returned to my own home.

"Well, if you have understood that parable of the New Prodigal Son, you
may possibly understand why he thinks he found the Swine when he came
home; a lot more Swine than Fatted Calves. The rest of the story
consisted largely of assaults on the police, breaking and entering
various premises and all the rest. My family has at last woken up to the
fact that I might be reclaimed or my position regularized; chiefly, I
imagine-in the case of some of them at least-because people like yourself
and your aunt having been let into the secret is liable to be socially
awkward. Anyhow, we are to meet here this afternoon and form a committee
for turning me into a respectable character. But I don't think they quite
realize the job they've taken on. I don't think they quite know what
happens inside people like me; and it's because I rather want you to
understand it, before they begin jabbering, that I've told you what I
call the parable of the exile. Always remember that as long as he was
among strangers, not to say scoundrels, he had a chance."

They had been sitting on a garden seat during the conversation and
Millicent rose from it, as she saw the black-clad group of the father and
brothers approaching across the lawn.

Alan Nadoway remained seated with somewhat ostentatious languor, and its
significance was sharpened when she realized that old Jacob Nadoway was
walking well ahead of the others and that his brows were black as a
thunderstorm in the sunshine. It was instantly apparent that something
new and nasty had occurred.

"Perhaps it would be affectation to inform you," said the father with
heavy bitterness, "that there has been another burglary in the
neighbourhood."

"Another?" said Alan, raising his eyebrows. "That, when you come to think
of it, is a rather curious word. And what is the other?"

"Mrs. Mowbray," said the father sternly, "went over yesterday to visit
her friend, Lady Crayle. She was naturally disturbed about what had
happened in our own house, and it seems that something happened about an
hour earlier at the Crayles."

"What did they lift off the Crayles?" asked the young man, with patient
interest. "How did they know there was a burglary?"

"The burglar was surprised and bolted," said Jacob Nadoway.
"Unfortunately, he dropped something and left it behind in the haste of
his flight."

"Unfortunately!" repeated Alan with an air of being mildly and
conventionally shocked. "Unfortunately for whom?"

"Unfortunately for you," said his father. There was a painful silence and
John Nadoway broke into it in his blundering but unconquerably
good-humoured way.

"Look here, Alan," he said. "If anybody is going to help you, these sort
of games have got to stop. We could pass it off as a practical joke of a
sort, when you did it to us, but even then you frightened Miss Milton,
and Mrs. Mowbray is all up in the air. But how the devil are we to keep
you out of the police-court if you break into the neighbours' houses and
leave your cigar-case with a card inside?"

"Careless-careless," said Alan in a vexed tone, rising with his hands in
his pockets. "You must remember I am only at the beginning of my career
as a burglar."

"You are at the end of your career as a burglar," said old Nadoway, "or
else at the beginning of your career as a convict for five years in
Dartmoor. With that case and card, Lady Crayle can convict you, and will
if I give the word. I've only come here to offer you a last chance, when
you've thrown away a thousand chances. Drop this thieving business, here
and now, and I'll find you a job. Take it or leave it."

"Your father and I," said Norman Nadoway, in his detached and delicate
accent, "have not always agreed about the treatment of hard cases. But he
is obviously justified in this, I have a great deal of sympathy with you
in many ways, but it is one thing to forgive a man thieving when he may
be starving-it is quite another to forgive him, when he would rather go
on starving, if only he may go on thieving."

"That's the point," assented the stolid John in fraternal admiration.
"We're willing to recognize a brother who isn't any longer a burglar. The
only other thing we could recognize would be a burglar who isn't any
longer a brother. Are you just Alan, to whom father's ready to give a
job, or a fellow out of the street whom we have simply to hand over to
the police? But, by God, you can't be both."

Alan's eyes roamed round the family house and garden and rested for a
moment on Millicent, with a certain expression of pathos. Then he sat
down on the garden seat again, with his elbows on his knees and buried
his head in his hands as if he were wrestling in prayer, or at least in
perplexity of spirit. The three other men stood watching him with an
awkward rigidity.

At last he threw up his head again, flinging back his black, plume-like
locks, and they all saw instantly that his pale face had a new
expression.

"Well," said old Jacob, not without a new note of appeal, "won't you give
up all this blackguard burglary business?"

Alan Nadoway rose. "Yes, father," he said gravely. "Now I come to look at
it seriously, I see you have a right to my promise. I will give up the
burglary business."

"Thank God for that," said his brother Norman, his hard delicate voice
shaken for the first time. "I'm not going to moralize now, but you'll
find there is one thing about any other job you get; it will be one in
which a man need not hide."

"After all, it's a rotten job, burglary," said John with his jerky
attempt at joviality and general reconciliation. "Must be a perfect
nightmare always getting into the wrong house at the wrong end, something
like putting on your trousers upside down. It'll pay you better really,
and you'll get peace of mind."

"Yes," said Alan thoughtfully; "all that you say is true, and there is a
sort of hampering complication about the life; learning the whereabouts
of treasures and so on. No, I am going to turn over a new leaf. I am
going to reform and go into a different line of life altogether. A
simpler, more straightforward line. I am told that picking pockets is
much more lucrative nowadays."

He continued to gaze thoughtfully at the distant palms, but all the other
faces were turned towards him with an incredulous stare.

"A friend of mine down Lambeth way," said Alan, "does most frightfully
well with people coming out of tube stations and so on. Of course,
they're much poorer than the people who own all these safes and jewels
and things, but then there are a lot of them, and it's wonderful what you
can collect by the end of the day. My friend got fifteen shillings in
sixpences and coppers off people coming out of the cinema, but then he's
awfully nifty with his fingers. I reckon I can learn the knack."

There was a startled silence and then Norman said in a controlled voice:
"It would be of some importance to me to know that this is a joke. I will
risk my reputation for humour."

"Joke," said Alan, with an absent-minded air. "Joke.... Oh, no, it isn't
a joke. It's a job. And a jolly sight better job than any my father will
offer me."

"Then you can follow it to jail!" said the old man, and his voice rang
out in the garden like a gun announcing sunset. "Clear out of this place
in three minutes and I will not call the policeman down the road."

And with that he turned his back and strode away followed by his other
sons, and Alan remained standing alone by the garden seat, and he might
have been a statue in the garden.

The garden indeed had grown more still, and in a manner grey and
statuesque, with the creeping advance of twilight, and something of its
too florid character was veiled by dusk and damp vapours beginning to
rise from the surrounding meadows, though overhead the sky was clear and
beginning to show the points of stars in the general greyness. The points
brightened and the dusk sank deeper and deeper, and it did not seem for
the moment that the two human statues left in the garden would move. Then
the woman moved very swiftly, walking straight across the lawn to where
the man stood by the garden seat, and in that greater gravity and
stillness he became conscious of the last incongruity. Her face, which
was commonly very grave, was puckered with derision, like that of an elf.

"Well," she said, "you've done it now."

"If you mean," he answered, "that I've done for my prospects here, I
never thought I had any."

"No, I don't mean that," she said. "When I say you've done it, I mean
you've overdone it."

"Overdone what?" he asked in the same stony style.

"Overdone the lie," she said, smiling steadily. "Overdressed the part, if
you like. I don't understand what it all means, but it doesn't mean what
it says, certainly not what you say. I could bring myself to believe that
you were a burglar and broke into rich houses. But when you say you're a
pickpocket who pinches sixpences off poor people coming out of the
pictures, I simply know you're not, and there's an end of it. It's the
last finishing touch that spoils a work of art."

"What do you suppose I am?" he asked harshly.

"Well, won't you tell me?" she inquired with a certain brightness.

After a strained silence he said with a curious intonation, "I would do
anything for you."

"Well," she answered, "everybody knows that the curse of my sex is
curiosity."

He buried his head in his hands and after a silence said with a great
groan: "Amor Vincit Omnia."

A moment or two later he lifted his head again and began to talk, and her
eyes grew starry with astonishment as she stood and listened under the
stars.

IV THE PROBLEMS OF DETECTIVE PRICE

MR. PETER PRICE, the private inquiry agent, did not glow with that
historic appreciation of the type known as the English Lady which was
such a credit to the heads and hearts of Mr. Geoffrey Chaucer and Mr.
Alan Nadoway. The English Lady is a jewel of many facets, or even a
flower including some botanical variations. And Mr. Price had seen, on
many occasions, that face of the goddess which is turned upon foreign
waiters, discontented cabmen, people who want windows shut or open at
inappropriate times, and other manifest enemies of human society. And he
was just recovering from an interview with a very pronounced specimen of
the type, a certain Mrs. Milton-Mowbray, who had talked to him in clear
and decisive tones for about three-quarters of an hour, without telling
him anything of which he could make any sort of sense.

So far as he could piece it out from his notes, it was something like
this. She was sure there had been a burglary in Mr. Nadoway's house,
where she and her niece were staying, and that they were keeping it from
her, so that she might not find out she had been robbed. She was sure the
burglary was at the Nadoways' house, because property belonging to young
Mr. Nadoway had been found after a burglary at another house. The other
house was Lady Crayle's house, and the burglar must have gone there from
the Nadoways, taking the Nadoway things with him and then dropping them
in his flight. As a matter of fact, he must have dropped something at the
Nadoways too, as she was sure her niece had picked up a sort of brooch
thing, that nobody had seen before. But her niece wouldn't say anything
about it; they were all keeping things from her-that is, from the
indignant Mrs. Milton-Mowbray.

"He seems to be rather a careless burglar," Mr. Price had said, looking
at the ceiling, "and not what you might call fortunate in his profession.
First he steals something from somebody and leaves it at Mr. Nadoway's.
Then he steals something from Mr. Nadoway and leaves it at Lady Crayle's.
Did he actually steal anything from Lady Crayle? And at whose house did
he leave that?"

He was a short, fat, baldish man whose features seemed to fold in on
themselves so that it was impossible to say for certain whether he
smiled, but the lady at any rate was neither of the temper nor in the
mood to search his face for irony.

"That," she said triumphantly, "is just what I say! Nobody will tell me.
Everybody is perfectly vague. Even Lady Crayle is vague. She says she
supposes it must have been a burglary, or why should the man run away?
And the Nadoways are vaguer still. I've told them again and again they
needn't consider my feelings, I'm not going to faint, even if I have been
robbed. But I really think I have a right to know."

"Perhaps it would assist them a little," said the private detective, "if
you first of all told them whether you had been robbed. You see, this
seems to me a rather puzzling business in a good many ways, but what I'm
trying to get at is what has been taken from whom. We'll grant, for the
sake of argument, that there were two robberies. And we'll grant, for the
sake of argument, that there was only one robber. It's presumed he was a
robber, because he leaves about in other people's houses, things you
think cannot have belonged to him. But none of these things, so far as I
understand, belonged to any of the people he was then in the act of
robbing. None of these things, for instance, belonged to you."

"How can I tell?" she said with a sweeping gesture of agnosticism.
"Nobody will tell me the truth. I am--"

"My dear madam," said Mr. Price with belated firmness, "you cannot
require anybody to tell you the truth about yourself. Have you lost
anything yourself? Have you missed anything yourself? For that matter,
has Lady Crayle missed anything herself?"

"Lady Crayle wouldn't know whether she'd missed anything or not," said
Mrs. Mowbray with sudden acrimony. "She's the very vaguest of the lot."

"I see," said Mr. Price, nodding thoughtfully. "Lady Crayle wouldn't know
whether she'd missed anything or not. And I rather gather that you
yourself are in the same difficulty."

Then, before she could realize the affront sufficiently to reply he said
rapidly: "I always thought Lady Crayle was supposed to be very capable, a
great organizer and all that."

"Oh, she can organize meetings and movements and all that nonsense," said
the Victorian lady scornfully. "Talk about her League Against Tobacco or
her controversy about defining drugs, and she's all there. But she never
notices anything that's lying about in her own house."

"Does she notice her husband, for instance?" inquired Mr. Price. "Is he
left lying about in the house much? I always understood he was a very
distinguished man in his day, and, of course, it's an awfully old family.
I'm told Lord Crayle suffered badly when the Russian debt was beyond
recovery, and I don't suppose his wife gets a salary for attacking
tobacco. So they must be pretty poor, and would surely know whether
they've lost anything of great value."

He was silent for a moment, ruminating and then said as suddenly as a
pistol-shot: "What was it exactly they picked up after the burglar
bolted?"

"I believe it was nothing but cigars," replied Mrs. Mowbray shortly. "A
whole big case stuffed with them. But as it had a card of one of the
Nadoways, we presume the burglar had stolen it from their house."

"Quite so," he answered. "And now about the other things he had stolen
from their house. I am sure you understand that, if I am to help you, I
must be excused for assuming a more or less confidential position. I
gather that your niece has become the secretary of Mr. Jacob Nadoway. I
think I may infer that her taking such a position implies to some extent
the necessity of working for her living."

"I was against her going to work for such people at all," said Mrs.
Mowbray. "But when all these Socialistic Governments have taken away all
our money, what can we do?"

"I know-I know," said the detective, nodding in an almost dreamy fashion;
his eyes were again fixed on the ceiling and he seemed to be following a
train of thought thousands of miles away. At last he said: "We sometimes
see these things in pictures that are quite impersonal. No personalities
are intended. Let us suppose we are talking about nobody in particular.
But the picture I see is that of a girl who once knew all about luxury
and pretty things, who has accepted a duller and plainer life because
there is nothing else to be done, and who earns her salary from a rather
mean old man without expecting anything like a windfall. And then there's
another curious picture. A man who's been an ordinary man of the world
but driven to live the simple life, partly by poverty and partly by
having a Puritanical wife with a fad against all his old luxuries and
especially against tobacco. . . . Does that suggest anything to you?"

"No, it doesn't," said Mrs. Mowbray, rising and rustling. "I consider all
this most unsatisfactory, and I don't know what you're talking about."

"He was really a very absent-minded housebreaker," said the detective.
"If he had known what he was about, he would have dropped two brooches."

Ten minutes later Mrs. Mowbray had shaken the dust of the very dusty
detective office off her feet and gone on to pour out her woes elsewhere;
and Mr. Peter Price went to the telephone with a smile that he seemed to
be hiding even from himself. He rang up a certain friend of his in the
official police department, and their conversation was long and detailed.
It largely concerned the prevalence of petty crime, especially larceny,
in some of the very poorest districts of London. And yet, oddly enough,
Mr. Price added the notes of this telephone conversation to his notes of
the conversation with the aristocratic Mrs. Milton-Mowbray.

Then he once more leaned back in his chair and remained staring at the
ceiling, plunged in profound thought and with an almost Napoleonic
expression, for, after all, Napoleon also was short and in his later
years fat, and in Mr. Peter Price also it is possible that there was more
than met the eye.

The truth was that Mr. Peter Price was awaiting another arrival, in
accordance with another appointment. The two were not unconnected, though
it would have surprised Mrs. Mowbray very much if she had seen a figure
so familiar as that of Mr. John Nadoway, of Nadoway and Son, enter the
detective's office so soon after she had left. But many years before, the
Junior Partner had been put to considerable difficulties in covering up
some of the early exploits of the Senior Partner. Long after the elder
Nadoway had become rich, and the younger Nadoway had so tardily decided
that he should also become respectable, there were old scandals trailing
behind the business like a tradition of blackmail, and malcontents whom
it was still rather difficult to quash. Young John Nadoway had betaken
himself to the private agency and practical experience of Mr. Price, who
had paid off or scared off the malcontents so successfully that the new
reputation of Nadoways was fairly secure. To Mr. Price, therefore, young
Nadoway once more betook himself, when faced with a family scandal on a
far more ghastly and gigantic scale.

For Alan Nadoway, no longer acting anonymously or even like a thief in
the night, but announcing his name even more plainly than when he left
his visiting-card, had declared that it was his intention to pick pockets
for a living in the neighbourhood of Lambeth; and that if he were put
into the dock and the police news, it would not be under an alias. In the
curious communication he had sent his brother, he gravely declared that
while there was obviously nothing morally wrong about picking pockets, he
could not reconcile it with his conscience (perhaps, he admitted, a too
sensitive conscience) to deceive a kind policeman by giving a false name.
He had tried three times, he pathetically declared, to call himself
Nogglewop and in each case his voice had failed through emotion.

It was three or four days after the receipt of this letter that the
thunderbolt fell. The Name of Nadoway, the subject of so many strivings,
blazed in black and white in the headlines of all the evening papers; in
a very different manner from that in which it blazed from so many of the
parallel advertisements. Alan Nadoway, announcing himself as the eldest
son of Sir Jacob Nadoway (for such was already the father's title),
appeared in the police court, charged with picking pockets not only once
but regularly and successfully for several weeks.

The situation was the more sensationally insulting or exasperating,
because the thief had not only robbed the poor in a most heartless and
cynical fashion, but had selected the poor of the very district where his
brother, the Rev. Norman Nadoway, had recently become a charitable and
popular parish priest, abounding in every kind of good works.

"It seems incredible," said John Nadoway with heavy emphasis, "that any
man could be so wicked."

"Yes," said Peter Price, a little sleepily; "it seems incredible." Then
he got up with his hands in his pockets and looked out of the window and
remarked: "You know, when you come to think of it, that's just the word
for it. It seems incredible."

"And yet it's happened," said John with a groan.

Peter Price was silent so long that John suddenly jumped up as a man
might on hearing a noise. "What the devil is the matter with you?" he
asked. "Isn't it quite certain that it has happened?"

Price nodded and answered: "If you say it has happened, yes, I am quite
certain. But if you ask what has happened, I am not certain at all. Only
I begin to have a large general sort of suspicion."

Then after another silence he said abruptly: "Look here, I won't risk
raising hopes or suspicions yet, but if you'll let me see the solicitor
who's arranging the defence of your brother, I rather think I might have
something to suggest to him."

John Nadoway left the offices of the detective with a slow gait and a
puzzled expression, which he continued to wear all the way down to his
country house, which he reached that evening, driving his own car with
his usual competence, but without any shedding of his unusual perplexity
and gloom. Everything had grown so puzzling, as well as so painful, that
he found himself forced against the edges of existence, in a manner rare
in the experience of men of his type. He would have said in all
simplicity that he was not a thinker, and he would have seen nothing
unnatural in the notion of a man walking through life to death, without
stopping anywhere to think. But everything, down to the demeanour of that
practical little private detective, was so damned mysterious. Even the
dark trees before his father's house seemed to stand up in serpentine
shapes like enormous notes of interrogation. The stars looked like those
other stars called asterisks, which stand in the suppressed passages of a
puzzle or a cipher. And the single window lighted in the dark bulk of the
house was like a leering eye. He knew only too well that a cloud of shame
and doom was on that house, like a thunder-cloud about to burst. It was
the sort of doom he had tried to avert all his life, and now it had come
he could hardly even pretend it was not deserved.

In the shadow of the veranda, with a sort of silent shock, he came upon
Millicent, sitting in a garden chair and gazing out into the dark. And in
all that black and tragic house of riddles, perhaps her face was the
darkest and most inscrutable riddle, for it was happy.

As she gazed, indeed, and became conscious of the sturdy figure of the
businessman blackening the faint shimmer of light on the lawn, a sort of
misty change came across her eyes, that was not pain but had in it
something of pathos. She felt a sort of sad friendship go out in a
sympathetic wave towards this strong, successful and unfortunate man-as
towards something deaf or blind. She could not analyse the softening,
which was also a severing, until she remembered that she had nearly been
in love with him when he was a boy in that garden. She did not know why
she should feel so sharply and almost tragically that she was not in love
with him now. That she could never, never, be in love with that kind of
man now. That kind of man-well, he was the kind of thoroughly good man
who thought that telling the truth was as right as cleaning the teeth. It
would be like loving somebody quite flat-only in two dimensions.

For she felt that in herself a depth had opened like a new dimension,
full of topsy-turvy stars and the inverted infinities of Einstein. She
hardly looked into that abyss behind her, she hardly took in the positive
novelty, but only the sharp negative, that she was not in love with John
Nadoway.

All the more her cold compassion went out to him, without shyness, as to
a brother. "I am so sorry," she cried, "for all you must be suffering
just now. It must seem so dreadful to you."

"Thank you," he said, not without emotion. "We are having a trying time,
of course-and sympathy from old friends does not hurt."

"I know how good you have been," she said, "and how hard you worked to
keep off anything like discredit. And this must seem to you so
discreditable."

The repetition of the one word "seem" at last penetrated his solid mind
as a little queer.

"I'm afraid it doesn't only seem so," he said, "a Nadoway picking pockets
is about the worst one could imagine."

"That is it," she said, nodding rather strangely. "Through the worst one
could imagine comes the best one could not imagine."

"I'm afraid I don't follow," said the Junior Partner.

"You go through the worst to the best, as you go through the west to the
east," she said, "and there really is a place, at the back of the world,
where the east and the west are one. Can't you feel there is something so
frightfully and frantically good that it must seem bad?"

He stared at her blankly, and she went on as if thinking aloud.

"A blaze in the sky makes a blot on the eyesight. And after all," she
added, almost in a whisper, "the sun was blotted out, because one man was
too good to live."

The Junior Partner resumed his plodding march with the new addition to
his list of worries; that among the inmates of the house, was a lady who
was a lunatic.

V THE THIEF ON TRIAL

THERE was an extraordinary amount of fuss and delay about the hearing of
the case of Alan Nadoway, considering that it was merely the trial of a
common pickpocket. First of all, it was repeated everywhere, apparently
on good authority, that the prisoner was going to plead Guilty. Then came
all sorts of commotion in his original social circle, and a series of
privileged interviews between the prisoner and members of his family. But
it was not until his father, old Sir Jacob Nadoway, had sent his private
secretary to the prison, apparently to conduct unprecedentedly long
interviews with the prisoner, that the news went round that he was
pleading Not Guilty after all. Then there was the same sort of rumour and
dispute about his choice of a counsel, and finally it was announced that
he had insisted on conducting his own defence.

He had been committed for trial after purely formal evidence, and in his
earlier stages of silence and surrender. It was before a judge and jury
that the case against him was fully opened, and the prosecuting counsel
opened it in tones of stern regret. The prisoner was unfortunately the
son of a great and distinguished family, the blot on the escutcheon of a
noble, a generous and a philanthropic house. All were acquainted with the
great reforms in the conditions of employment which would always be
associated with the name of his elder brother, Mr. John Nadoway. Many who
could not approve the ritualistic practices, or submit their intellects
to the ecclesiastical dogmas upheld by his other brother, the Rev. Norman
Nadoway, had none the less respect for the solid social work and active
charity of that clergyman among the poor. But, however it might be in
other countries, the English law was no respecter of persons and was
bound to follow crime even to its most respectable retreats. This
unfortunate man, Alan Nadoway, had always been a ne'er-do-well and a
burden and disgrace to his family. He had been suspected, and indeed
convicted, of attempts at burglary in the houses of his family and
friends.

Here the judge intervened, saying: "That is a most improper remark. I
find nothing about burglary in the indictment on which the prisoner is
being tried." On this the prisoner remarked in a cheerful voice: "I don't
mind, my lord." But nobody took the least notice of him, in the presence
of a really improper legal procedure, and the judge and the barrister
continued to look at each other with lugubrious countenances, until the
barrister apologized and resumed. In any case, he said, there could be
little doubt upon the charge of petty larceny, in face of the witnesses
whom he intended to put in the box.

Police-constable Brindle was sworn and gave his evidence in one long
rippling monotone, without any apparent punctuation, as if it were not
only all one sentence but all one word.

"Acting on information received I followed the prisoner from the house of
the Rev. Norman Nadoway towards the Yperion Cinema Theatre at about a
hundred yards distant I saw the prisoner put his hand in the overcoat
pocket of a man standing under a lamp-post after warning the man to
examine his pockets I followed the prisoner who had joined the crowd
outside the theatre a man in the crowd turned round and accused the
prisoner of picking his pockets he offered to fight the prisoner and I
came up to stop the fight I said do you charge this man and he said yes
the prisoner said suppose I charge him with assault while I was
questioning the other man the prisoner ran on and put his hand in the
tail-coat pocket of a man in the queue. I then told this man to examine
his pockets and took the prisoner into custody."

"Do you wish to cross-examine this witness?" asked the judge.

"I am sure your lordship will pardon me in the circumstances," said the
prisoner, "If I am not well acquainted with the forms of this court. But
may I at this stage ask whether the prosecution is going to call these
three persons whom I am supposed to have robbed?"

"I have no objection to stating," said the prosecuting counsel, "that we
are calling Harry Hamble, bookmaker's clerk, the man who is said to have
threatened to fight the prisoner, and Isidor Green, music-teacher, the
last man robbed by the prisoner before his arrest."

"And what about the first man?" asked the prisoner. "Why isn't he being
called?"

"As a matter of fact, my lord," said the counsel, "the police have been
unable to discover his name and address."

"May I ask the witness," said Alan Nadoway, "how this curious state of
things came about?"

"Well," said the constable, "the fact is that as soon as I'd turned my
back on him for a minute, he was gone."

"Do you mean to say," asked Nadoway, "that you told a man he was the
victim of theft and might recover his money, and he instantly bolted
without leaving his name, as if he were a thief himself?"

"Well, I don't understand it, and that's flat," said the policeman.

"Under your lordship's indulgence," said the prisoner, "there is another
point. While two names figure as witnesses, only one name, that of Mr.
Hamble, appears as prosecuting. It looks as if there was something vague
about the third witness, too. Did you think so, constable?"

Outside the inhuman hurdy-gurdy of his official evidence, the policeman
was a human being and capable of being amused.

"Well, I must say he was vague enough," he admitted with a faint grin.
"He's one of these artistic musical chaps, and his notions of counting
money is something chronic. I told him to look if he'd lost any and he
added it up six times. And sometimes it was 2s. 8d. and sometimes it was
3s. 4d. and sometimes it got as far as 4s. So we thought he wasn't quite
enough on the spot...."

"This is most irregular," said the judge. "I understand that the witness,
Isidor Green, is to give his own evidence later. The prosecution had
better begin calling their witnesses as soon as possible."

Mr. Harry Hamble wore a very sporting tie and that expression of demure
joviality which is seen in those who value their respectability even in
the Saloon Bar. He was not incapable, however, of hearty outbursts, and
he admitted that he had punched the head of the fellow who tried to pick
his pocket. In answer to the prosecution, he told the story very much as
the policeman had done, not without a gentle exaggeration of his own
pugnacity. In answer to the prisoner, he admitted that he had immediately
adjourned to the Pig and Whistle at the corner.

The prosecuting counsel, springing up with theatrical indignation,
demanded the meaning of this insinuation.

"I imagine," said the judge somewhat severely, "that the prisoner implies
that the witness did not know exactly what he had lost."

"Yes," said Alan Nadoway, and there was something odd and arresting in
the roll of his deep voice; "I do mean to imply that he did not know
exactly what he had lost."

Then, turning to the witness, he said briskly: "Did you go to the Pig and
Whistle and stand drinks all round, in a regular festive style?"

"My lord," exploded the prosecuting counsel, "I must emphatically protest
against the prisoner wantonly aspersing the character of the witness."

"Aspersing his character! Why, I am glorifying his character!" cried
Nadoway warmly. "I am exalting and almost deifying his character! I am
pointing out that he exercised on a noble scale the ancient virtue of
hospitality. If I say you give very good dinners, am I aspersing your
character? If you ask six other barristers to lunch, and do them well, do
you conceal it like a crime? Are you ashamed of your handsome
hospitality, Mr. Hamble? Are you a miser and a man-hater?"

"Oh, no, sir," said Mr. Hamble, who appeared slightly dazed.

"Are you an enemy of the human race, Mr. Hamble?"

"Well, no, sir," said Mr. Hamble, almost modestly. "No, certainly not,
sir," he added more firmly.

"You always, I take it," went on the prisoner, "feel friendly to your
fellow-creatures, and especially your chosen companions. You would always
do them a good turn or stand them a drink, if you could."

"I hope so, sir," said the virtuous bookmaker.

"You do not always do it, of course," went on Alan smoothly, "because you
are not always in a position to do so. Why did you do so on this
occasion?"

"Well," admitted Mr. Hamble, a little puzzled, "I suppose I must have
been rather flush that evening."

"Immediately after being robbed?" said Nadoway. "Thank you, that is all I
want to ask."

Mr. Isidor Green, professional teacher of the violin, with long, stringy
hair and a coat faded to bottle-green, was certainly as vague as the
policeman had represented him. During the examination in chief, he got
through well enough by saying that he certainly had a sort of feeling as
if his pockets were being rifled; but even under Nadoway's comparatively
gentle and sympathetic cross examination he became extraordinarily hazy.
It seemed that he had eventually, with the assistance of two or three
friends of superlative mathematical talent, reached the firm conclusion
that he still possessed 4s. 7d. after he had been robbed. But the light
thus thrown upon the robbery was a little dimmed by the fact that he had
then realized, for the first time, that he had never had any notion of
what he possessed before he was robbed.

"My thoughts are considerably concentrated on my artistic work," he said,
with not a little dignity. "It is possible that my wife might know."

"An admirable idea, Mr. Green," said Alan Nadoway heartily. "As a matter
of fact, I am calling your wife as a witness for the defence."

Everybody stared, but it was plain that Nadoway was serious, and with a
gravity tinged with courtliness he proceeded to summon his own witnesses,
who actually were no other than the two wives of the two witnesses for
the prosecution.

The wife of the violinist was a straightforward and, save for one point,
a simple bearer of testimony. She was a solid, jolly looking woman, like
a superior cook; probably just the right woman to look after the
unmathematical Mr. Green. She said in a comfortable voice that she knew
all about Isidor's money-what there was of it; that he was a good husband
with no extravagant tastes and had certainly had 2s. 8d. in his pocket
that afternoon.

"In that case, Mrs. Green," said Alan, "it would seem that your husband's
taste in mathematical friends is as eccentric as his taste in
mathematics. He and his friends finally added it up and brought it out as
4s. 7d."

"Well, he's a genius," she said with some pride. "He could bring out
anythink as anythink."

Mrs. Harry Hamble was a very different type; and, by comparison with Mr.
Harry Hamble, a somewhat depressing one. She had the long, sallow
features and sour mouth not unknown in the wives of those who find refuge
in the Pig and Whistle. Asked by Nadoway whether the date in question
counted for anything in her domestic memories, she answered grimly: "It
orter 'ave if 'e'd told me. 'E must 'ave 'ad a raise in wages and not
told me."

"I understand," Nadoway asked, "that he treated several of his friends to
drinks that afternoon?"

"Treated!" cried the amiable lady, in a withering voice. "Treated to
drinks! Cadged for drinks, more likely! 'E got all the drinks 'e could
for nothink, I daresay. But 'e didn't pay for nobody else's."

"And how do you know that?" asked the prisoner.

"'Cos he brought back his usual wages and a bit more," said Mrs. Hamble,
as if this alone were a sufficient grievance.

"This is all very puzzling," said the judge and leaned back in his chair.

"I think I can explain it," said Alan Nadoway, "if your lordship will
allow me to go into the box for two minutes, before I wind up for the
defence."

There was no official difficulty, of course, about the prisoner appearing
in both capacities.

Alan Nadoway took the oath and stood gazing at the prosecuting counsel
with gloomy composure.

"Do you deny," asked the barrister, "that you were caught by the
policeman with your hand in the pockets of these people?"

"No," said Nadoway, mournfully shaking his head. "Oh, no."

"This is very extraordinary," said the examiner. "I understood that you
were pleading Not Guilty."

"Yes," said Nadoway sadly. "Oh, yes."

"What on earth does all this mean?" said the judge in sudden irritation.

"My lord," said Alan Nadoway, "I can put it all straight in five words.
Only in this court one can't put things straight; one has to do what you
call prove them. Well, it's all simple enough. I did put my hands in
their pockets. Only I put money in their pockets, instead of taking it
out. And if you look at it, you'll see that explains everything."

"But why in the world should you do such a crazy thing?" asked the judge.

"Ah," said Nadoway; "I'm afraid that would take longer to explain, and
perhaps this isn't the best place to explain it."

The explanation of the practical problem was indeed set forth in further
detail, in the final speech which the prisoner made in his own defence.
He pointed out the obvious solution of the first problem; the abrupt
disappearance of the first victim. He, that nameless economist, was a
much shrewder person than the festive Mr. Hamble or the artistic Mr.
Green. One glance at his pockets had shown him that he had got somebody
else's money in addition to his own. A dark familiarity with the police
led him to doubt strongly whether he would ultimately be allowed to keep
it. He had therefore vanished with the presence of mind of a magician or
a fairy. Mr. Hamble, in a hazier state of conviviality, had been mildly
surprised at finding more and more pocket-money flowing from his pockets,
and, to his everlasting credit, had dedicated it largely to the
entertainment of his friends. But even after that, there was a little
more than his normal salary left, to raise sinister doubts in the mind of
his wife. Lastly, incredible as it may seem, Mr. Green and his friends
did eventually arrive at a correct calculation of the number of coins in
his pocket. And if it was in excess of his wife's estimate, it was for
the simple reason that more coins had been added, since she sent him out,
carefully brushed and buttoned up, in the morning. Everything, in fact,
supported the prisoner's strange contention-that he had filled pockets
and not emptied them.

Amid a dazed silence, the judge could only find it possible to charge the
jury to acquit, and the jury acquitted. But Mr. Alan Nadoway made a very
rapid dart out of court, eluding journalists and friends and especially
his family. For one thing, he had seen two pinch-faced men with
spectacles, who looked as if they might be psychologists.

VI THE CLEANSING OF THE NAME

THE trial and acquittal of Alan Nadoway in a court of law was only an
epilogue to the real drama. He would perhaps have said that it was only a
harlequinade at the end of the fairy play. The real concluding scene and
curtain had taken place on that green stage of "The Lawns", which
Millicent, oddly enough, had always felt to be like a sort of stage
scenery, stiff and yet extravagant, with the jagged outlines of the
foreign plants like the jaws of sharks and the low line of bow windows
like the motor-goggles of a monster. With all its grotesqueness there had
always mingled in her mind something almost operatic and yet genuine;
something of real sentiment or passion that there was in the Victorian
nineteenth century, despite all that is said of Victorian primness and
restraint. It was that essentially innocent, that faulty but not cynical
thing, the Romantic Movement. The man standing before her, with his
quaint and foreign half-beard, had about him something indescribable that
belonged to Alfred de Musset or to Chopin. She did not know in what sort
of harmony these fanciful thoughts were mingling, but she knew that the
music was like an old tune.

She had just said the words: "I cannot bear the silence, because it is
unjust. It is unjust to you."

And he had answered: "It is because it is unjust to me that it is just.
That is the whole story; though I suppose you would call it a strange
story."

"I do not mind your talking in riddles," answered Millicent Milton
steadily, "but I want you to understand something more. It is unjust to
me."

After a silence he said in a low voice: "Yes; that is what has got me.
That is what has broken me across. I've come up against something bigger
than the whole plan I made for my life. Well, I suppose I shall have to
tell you my story."

"I thought," she said with a faint smile, "that you had already told me
your story."

"Yes," replied Alan; "I told you my story all right. All quite true, with
nothing but the important things left out."

"Well," said Millicent, "I should certainly like to hear it with the
important things put in."

"The difficulty is," he said, "that the important things can't be
described. The words all go wrong when you describe such things. They
were bigger than shipwrecks or desert islands, but they all happened
inside my head."

After a silence he resumed, more slowly, like a man trying to find new
words.

"When I was drowning in the Pacific, I think I had a Vision. I rose for
the third time to the top of a great wave and I saw a Vision. I think
that what I saw was Religion."

Something in the involuntary mental movements of the English Lady was
halted and almost chilled. She felt faintly antagonistic to some
associations, she hardly knew what. She was herself reverently, if rather
vaguely, attached to a High Church tradition, but she only half realized
the prejudice that had stirred in her. Men who come from the colonies and
the ends of the earth, and say they have got religion, almost always mean
that they have "found Jesus" or been to a revivalist meeting somewhere;
and the whole thing seemed socially incongruous with his culture and
hers. It was not in the least like Alfred de Musset.

With the uncanny clairvoyance of the mystic he seemed to seize on her
passing doubt and said cheerfully: "Oh, I don't mean that I met a Baptist
missionary. There are two kinds of missionaries: the right kind and the
wrong kind, and they're both wrong. At least they're both wrong as to the
thing I am thinking about. The stupid missionaries say the savages grovel
in the mud before mud idols, and will all go to hell for idolatry unless
they turn teetotallers and wear billycock hats. The intelligent
missionaries say the savages have great possibilities and often quite a
high moral code, which is quite true, but isn't the point. What they
don't see is that very often the savages have really got hold of
religion, and that lots of people with a high moral code don't know what
religion means. They would run screaming with terror, if they got so much
as a glimpse of Religion. It's an awful thing.

"I learnt something about it from the lunatic with whom I lived on the
desert island. I told you he had practically gone mad, as well as gone
native. But there was something to learn from him, that can't be learnt
from ethical societies and popular preachers. The poor fellow had floated
to shore by hanging on to a queer, old-fashioned umbrella, that happened
to have the head carved in a grotesque face, and when he came raving out
of his delirium, so far as he ever came out of it, he regarded the
umbrella as the god that had saved him, and stuck it up in a sort of
shrine and grovelled before it and offered it sacrifices. That's the
point.... Sacrifices. When he was hungry he would burn some of his food
before it. When he was thirsty, he would still pour out some of the
native beer that he brewed. I believe he might have sacrificed me to his
idol. I'm sure he would have sacrificed himself. I don't mean"-he spoke
more slowly still and very thoughtfully-"I don't exactly mean that the
cannibals are right, or human sacrifice or all that. They're wrong-if you
come to think of it-they're really wrong, because people don't want to be
eaten. But if I want to be sacrificed who is going to stop me? Nobody,
not God himself, will stop me, if I want to suffer injustice. To forbid
me to suffer injustice would be the greatest injustice of all."

"You are rather disconnected," she said, "but I begin to have a
glimmering of what you mean. I presume you don't mean that you saw from
the top of the wave the vision of the divine umbrella."

"And do you think," he asked, "that what I saw was a picture of angels
playing harps out of the Family Bible? What I saw, so far as I can be
said to have merely seen anything, was my father sitting at the head of
the table, in some great dinner or directors' meeting, and perhaps
everybody drinking his health in champagne, while he sat gravely smiling,
with his glass of water beside him, because he is a strict temperance
man. Oh, my God!"

"Well," said Millicent, the smile rising slowly to the surface again; "it
certainly seems rather different from heaven and the harps."

"But I," went on Alan, "was lost like loose seaweed and sinking like a
stone, to be forgotten in the slime under the sea."

"It was horribly hard," she said in a trembling voice.

To her surprise he answered with a rather jarring laugh. "Do you think I
mean that I envied him?" he cried. "That would be a rum way of realizing
religion. It was all the other way. From the top of the wave I looked
down and saw him with a clear horror of pity. From the top of the wave I
prayed, for one passionate instant, that my miserable death might avail
to deliver him from that hell.

"Horrible hospitality, horrible courtesy, horrible compliments and
congratulations, praise and publicity and popularity of the old firm, the
old sound business traditions, and the sun of success high in heaven and
glittering everywhere on one great ghastly whited sepulchre of human
hypocrisy. And I knew that within, it was full of dead men's bones, of
men who had died of drink or starvation or despair, in prisons and
workhouses and asylums, because this hateful thing had ruined a hundred
businesses to build one. Horrible robbery, horrible tyranny, horrible
triumph. And most horrible of all, to add to all the horrors, that I
loved my father.

"He had been good to me when I was little, and when he was poorer and
simpler, and as a boy I began by making hero-worship of his success. The
first great coloured advertisements were to me what coloured toy-books
are to other children. They were a fairy tale, but, alas, the one fairy
tale one could not continue to believe. So there I was, feeling what I
felt and yet knowing what I knew. You have to love as I loved and hate as
I hated, before you see afar off the thing called Religion, and the other
name of it is Human Sacrifice."

"But surely," said Millicent, "things are ever so much better with the
business now."

"Yes," he said, "things are better and that is what makes it worse. That
is the worst of all."

He paused a moment and went on in a lower key: "Jack and Norman are good
fellows, as good as they can be," he said; "they have done their best,
but for what? Their best to make the best of it. To cover it up. To put a
new coat of whitewash on the whited sepulchre. Things are to be
forgotten, things are to be dropped out of conversation, things are to be
thought better of-more charitably-after all it's an old story now. But
that's nothing to do with what things are, in the world where things are,
and always are; in the world of heaven and hell. Nobody has apologized.
Nobody has confessed. Nobody has done penance. And in that moment, from
the top of the wave, I cried to God that I might do penance, if it were
only by dying in the sea. . . . Oh, don't you understand? Don't you
understand how shallow all these moderns are, when they tell you there is
no such thing as Atonement or Expiation, when that is the one thing for
which the whole heart is sick before the sins of the world? The whole
universe was wrong, while the lie of my father flourished like the green
bay-tree. It was not respectability that could redeem it. It was
religion, expiation, sacrifice, suffering. Somebody must be terribly
good, to balance what was so bad. Somebody must be needlessly good, to
weigh down the scales of that judgement. He was cruel and got credit for
it. Somebody else must be kind and get no credit for it. Don't you
understand?"

"Yes, I begin to understand," she said. "I think you are rather
incredible."

"I swore in that moment," said Alan, "that I would be called everything
that he ought to be called. I would have the name of a thief, because he
deserved it. I would be despised and rejected and perhaps go to jail,
because I chose after that fashion to be my father. Yes, I would inherit.
I would be his heir."

He spoke the last words upon a note that shook her out of her statuesque
stillness, and she came towards him with an unconscious movement, crying:
"You are the most wonderful and amazing man in the world-to have done
such a stupendously stupid thing."

He caught her as she came forward, with an abrupt and crushing
compression of the hands, and then answered: "You are the most wonderful
and amazing woman in the world, to have stopped me doing it."

"And that seems terrible, too," she said. "I don't want to feel that I
smashed such a magnificent mad thing; perhaps I was wrong after all. But
don't you think yourself it was getting impossible-in other ways."

He nodded gravely, continuing to gaze into her eyes, which no one now
would have thought languid and proud. "You know the story from the inside
by this time. I began as a burglar of the Santa Claus sort, breaking into
houses and leaving presents in safes and cupboards. I was sorry for old
Crayle, whose confounded prig of a wife would not let him smoke, so I
chucked him some cigars. But I'm not sure even there I may not have done
more harm than good. Then I thought I was only sorry for you. I should be
sorry for anybody who was secretary in our family."

She laughed on a low and tremulous note. "And so you chucked me a silver
clasp and chain to cheer me up."

"But in that case," he said, "the clasp caught and held."

"It also scratched my aunt a bit," she said. "And altogether, it did make
complications, didn't it? And all that business of the poor people's
pockets-well, somehow I couldn't help feeling it might get them as well
as you into trouble."

"The poor people are always in trouble," he said gloomily. "They're all
what you call known to the police. It was perfectly genuine, when I told
you how it riles me that they aren't even allowed to beg, and that's why
I started giving them alms before they started begging. But it's quite
true that it couldn't have been kept up for long. And that has taught me
another lesson as well, and I understand something in human life and
history I never understood before. Why the people who do have those wild
visions and vows, who want to expiate and to pray for this wicked world,
can't really do it anyhow and all over the place. They have to live by
rule. They have to go into monasteries and places; it's only fair on the
rest of the world. But henceforward, when I see these great prisons of
prayer and solitude, or have a glimpse of their cold corridors and bare
cells, I shall understand. I shall know that in the heart of that rule
and routine there is the wildest freedom of the will of man; a whirlwind
of liberty."

"Alan, you frighten me again," she said, "as if you yourself were
something strange and solitary, as if you also. ..."

He shook his head, with a complete understanding. "No," he said; "I've
found out all about myself as well. A good many people make that mistake
about themselves when they're young. But a man is either of that sort or
the other sort, and I'm the other sort. Do you remember when we first met
and talked about Chaucer and the chain with Amor Vincit Omnia..?"

And without moving his eyes or hands from where they rested, he repeated
the opening words of Theseus in the Knight's Tale about the sacrament of
marriage, and as he spoke those noble words as if they were a living
language, I will so write them here, to the distress of literary
commentators: "... The first Mover of the Cause above When he first made
the fair chain of love Great was the effect and high was his intent: Well
wist he why, and what thereof he meant."

And then he bent swiftly towards her; and she understood why that garden
had always seemed to hold a secret and to be waiting for a surprise.



THE LOYAL TRAITOR

I THE MENACE OF THE WORD

IT will be best, both for the reader and the writer, not to bother about
what particular country was the scene of this extraordinary incident. It
may well be left vague, so long as it is firmly stipulated that it was
not in the Balkans, where so many romancers have rushed to stake out
claims ever since Mr. Anthony Hope effected his coup d'etat in Ruritania.
The Balkan kingdom is convenient because kings are killed and despotic
governments overthrown with pleasing swiftness and frequency, and the
crown may fall to any adventurer, good or bad. But meanwhile, in the same
Balkan State, the farms remain in the same families, the plot of land,
the orchard or the vineyard, descends from father to son; the rude
equality of peasant proprietorship has never been greatly disturbed by
large financial operations. In short, in the Balkan kingdom-there is some
safety and continuity for the Family, so long as it is not the Royal
Family.

But with the kingdom in question here, how different! Whatever name we
may give it, it was at least a highly-civilized and well-ordered society,
in which the Royal Family continued serene and safe under police
protection and constitutional limitations; in which all the public
services were conducted with a regularity verging on tedium, and in which
nobody was ever ruined or overthrown except the butcher, the baker, the
candle-stick-maker and the various types of tradesmen and common citizens
who might happen to cross the path of large commercial operations. The
country might well be one of the smaller German States that have been
industrialized by dependence on mines and factories, or one of the former
dependencies of the Austrian Empire. It does not matter; it is enough to
secure the reader's respect and interest to know that it was a thoroughly
modern and enlightened community, which had advanced in every science and
perfected every social convenience until it was within reasonable
distance of revolution; not a potty little palace revolution, in which a
few princes are murdered, but a real, international, universal social
revolution; probably beginning with a General Strike and probably ending
with bankruptcy and famine.

It was all the more possible, because breezy events of this sort had
already broken out in a neighbouring industrial state, and after some
months of very bewildering civil war, had ended in the victory of one out
of the six revolutionary generals fighting each other in the field; the
victor being a certain General Case, an able soldier who had originally
come with the Colonial troops garrisoned in the neighbourhood, and who
was credited in local gossip with being partly a negro, a fact which
considerably consoled those who had been defeated by him. For our own
territory, which we will call Pavonia, he was only of importance-as an
unluckily lucky example.

The public crisis became acute in Pavonia with the appearance of the
rather mysterious agitation about "The Word". To this day there are
disputes about the nature of the movement. Some of the government agents
and inquirers swore the ignorant populace did really believe that, with
the discovery of a new Word, everything in the world would be explained.
A wild pamphlet did actually appear, in which the writer argued with
insane ingenuity that, as all modern publicity and popularization consist
of concentrating a book into a paragraph, or a chapter into a sentence,
so at last the whole truth about the present problem would be
concentrated into a word. Crowds of impatient malcontents were adjured to
Wait for the Word; and apocalyptic visions were provided, of the scenes
of world-change that would follow, when once The Word was spoken. The
Word would contain in itself, it was gravely asserted, a complete plan of
operations and an explanation of the whole organized strategy of the
revolt. Some said the whole fancy had originated with one Bohemian poet,
who signed his poems, "Sebastian", and had certainly composed a lyric
invocation full of allusions to The Word. Many repeated the lines which
ran:

As Aaron's serpent swallowed snakes and rods,
As God alone is greater than the gods,
As all stars shrivel in the single sun,
The words are many, but The Word is one.

But nobody in office ever saw the revolutionary poet who tossed these
little trifles at the Government and the public; until he was identified
one day in the street by the very last person who was likely to meet him.

The Princess Aurelia Augusta Augustina, etc. etc. (who had embedded
somewhere in her stratified Christian names the name of Mary, by which
she was called for convenience by her family), was the niece of the
reigning monarch, and, having only just left school, did not as yet fully
appreciate the difference between reigning and ruling. She was a vigorous
young woman with red hair and a Roman nose, and having as yet learned
more about Royalties in history than in politics, took their position
with a certain simplicity and could even imagine (just as if she had
really been in the Balkans) that they might be worth murdering or worth
obeying. She had come back into the life of the Court and the capital,
which she had left as a mere child, full of that irrepressible desire to
be useful, which is so normal in women and so dangerous in great ladies,
and she was at present making herself a nuisance by asking questions of
everybody about everything. She naturally asked questions about the
popular political riddle of The Word, and generally, as Mr. Edmund Burke
would say, about the cause of the present discontents. She was all the
more intrigued when nobody could tell her what The Word was and very few,
in her world, what the row was all about. It was therefore with a
considerable glow of superiority that she returned to her family one
afternoon and announced that she had actually seen the seditious
minstrel, who was apparently responsible for the somewhat obscure
revolutionary rhyme and the somewhat mysterious revolutionary movement.

Her car was moving slowly down a quiet street, because she was on the
look-out for a curio shop she had known in childhood and could not
immediately locate. Just beyond the curio shop was a cafe, with a few
tables outside it in the continental manner, and at one of these tables
was seated in front of a green liqueur an odd-looking person with very
long hair and a very high stock or cravat. I have said that historical
and geographical identification matter little in this case; and the
reader may, if he likes, clothe this queer episode in any outlandish or
antiquated fashion of fantasies of costume, for indeed the most recent
fashion is full of quaint revivals and modes that might be either very
old or very new. The man with the stock might have been some eccentric
contemporary or creation of Balzac; he might equally well have been an
art student of today, with the most Futurist views but the most Early
Victorian whiskers. His mane of long hair was of an incredible dark
auburn that looked like dim crimson rather than ordinary red; his forked
or cloven beard was of the same unnatural colour and was shown up by the
high cravat which was of a vivid sort of peacock-green. The colour of the
cravat varied, however, from day to day; sometimes it was of a brighter
green when the spirit of spring inspired his songs; sometimes of purple
when he was lamenting the rich tragedy of his loves; sometimes completely
black when he had decided that the time had really come to destroy the
universe. He would explain to his friends that he followed without
faltering the clue of the mood and the sky of morning, but they never
recommended a necktie that did not contrast effectively with his beard.
For this was no other than the poet Sebastian, whose verses counted for
so much in the revolutionary movement of the moment.

The Princess, of course, was quite unaware of his identity, and would
have passed him with no particular comment beyond a disapproval of his
necktie. But he returned to her attention and remained in it because of
the curiously different conditions in which she saw him only an hour or
two later, when the shops and factories had shut their doors and poured
forth their populations. When she came back again through the quiet
street, it was no longer quiet. It was especially the reverse of quiet in
the neighbourhood of the cafe where the stranger had been drinking the
green liqueur, and if the car moved slowly now, it was because of the
difficulty of making its way through an ever-thickening crowd. For the
longhaired person in the cravat was now standing on the cafe table and
declaiming what appeared to be alternate fragments of prose and verse,
with some modern intermediate types difficult to define. She came just in
time, however, to hear the end of the now familiar jingle or rhymed
motto: "As God alone is greater than the gods, As all stars shrivel in
the single sun, The words are many, but The Word is one.

"But The Word will not pass my lips, nor those of the Four Wardens of The
Word who already know it, until the first part of the work has been
accomplished. When the powerless have risen against the powerful, when
the poor have risen above the rich, when the weak have risen and proved
stronger than the strong, when--"

At this moment he and his hearers suddenly became conscious of the sober
but elegant vehicle which was pushing its prow like a boat above the
popular waves, and the somewhat haughty countenance that appeared above
it, just behind the wooden countenance of the chauffeur. Most people
present recognized the lady and there was a sudden stir and stoppage, as
of embarrassment, but the poet standing on the table struck a new
attitude of sublime impudence and cried aloud: "But how hard it is for
ugliness to rise against beauty. And we are an ugly lot!"

And the Princess drove on in a condition of towering rage.

II THE PROCESSION OF THE PLOTTERS

IT has already been explained that Pavonia was governed on enlightened
modern principles. That is to say, the King was popular and powerless;
the popularly elected Premier was unpopular and moderately powerful; the
head of the Secret Police was much more powerful, and the quiet and
intelligent little banker, to whom they all owed money, was most powerful
of all. But all four of them were moderate in their respective roles;
none of them had ever pushed matters to a rupture and all four of them
were often in the habit of discussing, at an informal Privy Council, the
growing problems of the State.

The King, whose historical title was Clovis the Third, was a lank and
rather melancholy man with yellow moustaches and imperial and rather
hollow eyes; well-bred enough to make his weariness appear impersonal
rather than personal in its application, but not otherwise exciting
company. The Prime Minister was short and stout, and very vivacious for
his stoutness; though a Pavonian of bourgeois origin he was rather like a
French politician, which is by no means the same as being like an
ordinary Frenchman. He had pince-nez and a short beard and spoke to
individuals in a guarded, but to large crowds in a confidential tone of
voice. His name was Valence and he had been considered rather a Radical,
until the new revolutionary movement had suddenly revealed him as a
rather obstinate capitalist, turning, as it were, his sturdy figure black
against the red glare. The Chief of Police was a big, bilious soldier
named Grimm, whose yellow face told of fevers in many countries and whose
tight mouth told very little of anything. He was the only person present
who looked as if he would be in any way formidable in an hour of national
peril, and he was always the most pessimistic of the four about his own
hopes of dealing with it. The last was a slight, refined little figure
with straight, grey hair and a hooked nose rather large for his
attenuated features. He was dressed in dark grey so that his streaks of
limbs seemed to repeat his streaks of hair, and only when he carefully
fitted on a pair of tortoise-shell goggles, did his eyes seem suddenly to
stand out and come to life, as if he were a monster who put his eyes on
and off like a mask. This was Isidor Simon, the banker, and he had never
taken any title though many had been offered to him. The occasion of
their special meeting was that the wild and hitherto rather vague
movement called the Brotherhood of The Word had suddenly received support
from a very unexpected quarter. The poet Sebastian was only a poor
Bohemian freelance, of obscure origin and apparently illegitimate birth.
Even his surname was doubtful: it was easy for the newspapers to make fun
of his real affectations and to underrate his real influence. But when it
was actually announced that a man like Professor Phocus had declared
himself a friend and follower of the poet, everybody felt that the whole
social situation had changed. Phocus was quite another matter; he was the
scientific world: the world of colleges and committees. He was a name; he
was not indeed very well known personally, being much of a recluse, but
his quaint figure with high and narrow top-hat, more like a pipe than a
hat, and the green spectacles which he wore to protect his dim eyes from
ordinary daylight, was a familiar enough object in certain places,
especially the great National Museum, where he not only specialized in
certain Palaeo-Pavonian antiquities, but conducted select groups of
students round to inspect the relics and sculptures which illustrated
that branch of study. He was universally recognized as a man of vast
learning and laborious accuracy, and when it was stated in cold print
that he, Professor Phocus, had found prophecies concerning The Word in
the prehistoric hieroglyphics of Pavonia, only two explanations seemed
possible, both equally catastrophic. Either the great Phocus had suddenly
gone mad, or there was really something in it.

For some time the banker had succeeded in allaying the fears of the
Council, by what might seem a professional, but is in these days a
practical argument. A popular poet might set all the crowds in the
streets singing his songs, and a learned man of European reputation might
induce all the dons in the world to read his book. But the salary of the
learned man, for taking the tourists a tour of the hieroglyphics, was a
little more than five guineas a week, and the salary of the poet was an
unknown quantity that was frequently a minus quantity. You cannot make a
modern revolution, or anything modern, without money. It was difficult to
see how the poet and the professor managed to pay for the occasional
leaflets they circulated or the printing of the poem about The Word; let
alone for munitions or commissariat or soldiers' pay or anything that is
necessary for the higher purposes of civil war. Mr. Simon, the financial
adviser, therefore, had advised the King to disregard the movement until
its backing was a little more financial. But to this Council the Chief of
Police had brought news which seemed to alter everything.

"Of course," he said in his slow fashion, "I'd often seen the poet going
into the pawnbroker's."

"The natural resort of poets, I suppose," said the Prime Minister, and
rather missed the schoolgirl giggle with which his joke would have been
greeted at a public meeting, for the King's face was blank and sad and
the banker's careless and inattentive. No change ever appeared on Grimm's
face, even on public platforms, and he went on steadily: "Of course, any
number of people go to the pawnbroker's-especially this pawnbroker; he is
little Loeb, who calls himself Lobb and lives at the corner of the Old
Market, in the poorest part of the town. He's a Jew, of course, but not
so much disliked as some Jews of his trade, and such thousands of people
do business with him that we were rather led to look into the matter. The
result of our inquiries points to the man being quite incredibly rich,
all the more because he lives like a poor man. The general belief is that
he is a miser."

The banker had put on the goggles that made his eyes look twice as big,
and as they peered across the table they were like gimlets.

"He isn't a miser," said Simon, "and if he's a millionaire, then my
question is answered."

"Do you know him?" asked the King, speaking for the first time. "Why do
you say he isn't a miser?"

"Because no Jew was ever a miser," answered the banker. "Avarice is not a
Jewish vice; it's a peasant's vice, a vice of people who want to protect
themselves with personal possessions in perpetuity. Greed is the Jewish
vice: greed for luxury; greed for vulgarity; greed for gambling; greed
for throwing away other people's money and their own on a harem or a
theatre or a grand hotel or some harlotry-or possibly on a grand
revolution. But not hoarding it. That is the madness of sane men; of men
who have a soil."

"How do you know?" asked the King with mild curiosity. "How did you come
to make a study of Jews?"

"Only by being one myself," replied the banker.

There was a short silence, and then the King went on with a reassuring
smile: "And so you think he may be spending his millions on financing a
revolution."

"It would have to be that or a super-cinema or something," assented
Simon, "and that would explain the pamphlets and printed songs, and may
explain other things yet."

"The most difficult thing to explain," observed the King thoughtfully,
"seems to be where any of these people actually are at any given moment.
Professor Phocus is fairly regular in his round at the Museum, but I
doubt if we any of us know his private address. My niece tells me that
she has actually seen Sebastian, the poet, orating in the public streets,
but I've never seen him, and nobody I know seems to have any idea of
where he lives. And, from what I can gather, though any number of people
go to Lobb's pawnshop, very few of them ever see Lobb. I was told he was
dead: but that may be part of the plot, of course."

"It is exactly upon that point," said the Chief of Police gravely, "that
I have a very important piece of further information to place before Your
Majesty. Through a course of long and rather difficult inquiries, I have
discovered that Lobb, the pawnbroker, did, about two years, ago,
purchase, under another name, a small but comfortable house in Peacock
Crescent. I have set some of my men to watch it, and, according to their
report, there is every reason to suppose that it is used, not regularly
but intermittently, as a meeting-place for three or four persons who
arrive very privately and generally after dark, dine there in comfort,
but considerable secrecy, and do not appear to revisit it until the next
little dinner of the kind. There seems to be no regular staff of
servants, and the house is commonly shuttered and deserted, but a servant
of one or other of these people generally goes out about an hour before
dinner and gets in wine and provisions and presumably remains to wait at
table. The tradesmen in the neighbourhood report that he appears to be
catering for three or four people, but beyond that they profess to know
nothing. The detective, one of my best men, whom I have set to watch the
house, says that the guests always arrive about dusk and very much
muffled up in cloaks and coats, but he says he could swear to three of
them."

"Look here," said the banker after a grave silence, "the fewer people who
know about this the better. I think it would be well if one or two of us
went down personally, and posted ourselves in that particular street on
one of these festive evenings. I don't mind going there myself, if you
will give me the protection of your presence, Colonel Grimm. I know the
professor and the pawnbroker by sight, and I dare say we might make a
guess at the poet."

King Clovis, in a dry and rather reluctant voice, gave the details of the
poet's purple and peacock-green appearance, as conveyed to him by his
indignant niece.

"Well, that may be a guide, too, sir," said the banker briskly. And that
was how it came about that the most powerful financier in Pavonia, and
the officer in charge of the whole police system of that country, kicked
their heels patiently or impatiently for several hours, a little way
beyond the circle of light thrown by the last lamp-post in the silent and
deserted Crescent.

Peacock Crescent was so called, not because its pallid and classical
facade had ever been brightened by any peacocks, but out of compliment to
the bird which was the royal cognizance of Pavonia, and presumably the
origin of its name, and which was represented in very flat relief, with
tail outspread, on a medallion at one end of the semicircle of houses.
Round the whole semicircle there ran a row of classical pillars, in the
manner of many terraces in Bath or old Brighton; the whole classic curve
looked very cold and marmoreal in the moon which was rising over the
clump of trees opposite, and it seemed to the watchers that every sound
they made echoed and re-echoed as through a hollow, silver shell.

Their vigil had already been a long one. They had seen, from about the
time of twilight and onward, the routine of the preliminaries which the
police had already noted as marking the rare re-awakenings of the house;
the servant in his sober livery going out at the regular hour and
returning with a basket containing bottles of wine and other provisions;
the sudden lighting-up of the dark house from within, or rather of the
one room in it presumably reserved for the feast; the drawing down of the
blind that the feast might be the more private; but none of the guests
had as yet arrived. Closer inquiries of the local tradesmen had verified
the fact that the servant had been making preparations for four diners;
the actual number had slipped out in the course of his curt requests. The
two distinguished spies in the street were not, of course, so completely
isolated as they seemed. Other secret service men were within hail and
the Chief of Police could without much difficulty put the constabulary
machinery in action. Immediately in front of the crescent of houses was
one of those picturesque but unmeaning scraps of ornamental shrubbery,
with a railing round it, which are to be found in many city squares and
secluded terraces. This clump of bushes threw a big shadow in the
moonlight, and at one corner of the railing there lurked a plain-clothes
officer with a motor-cycle, ready to start on any errand.

Suddenly, and in utter stillness, a small shadow seemed to detach itself
from the big shadow and seemed to skim across the road as lightly as a
dry leaf. Indeed it had something of the look of a dried leaf, for though
the figure was not abnormally small, it was curled up as if shrunk or
withered; the head was sunk so deep in high shoulders and a shabby
waterproof that only a few hairy wisps wandered in the air, that might be
beard or whiskers or even, as a wilder fancy prompted, eyebrows; the legs
were rather long than otherwise but moving in a bent and crooked fashion
like a grasshopper's. His passage across the road was so swift and
surprising that the door of the house had opened to him and closed on him
again before the watchers had fully recovered from their first surprise.
Then Simon looked at Grimm and said, with a faint smile: "The hurry is
hospitality. That is the owner of the house."

"Yes, I suppose that is the pawnbroker."

"That is the Revolution," observed the banker. "At least, that is the
real basis of every revolution. They could do nothing without his money.
They talk about a rising of the poor, but they cannot even rise so long
as they are poor. Why, these four men would have nowhere to meet like
this, if Lobb had not bought the house for them."

"I should be the last to deny that money is useful," answered Grimm, "but
money alone won't make either a revolution or a realm."

"My dear Grimm," said Simon, "I know you are an officer and a gentleman;
you can't help that, but really you are becoming romantic."

"Do I look romantic?" asked the bilious officer and gentleman. "No
soldier is ever romantic-not about soldiering, anyhow. But what I say is
horse-sense, for all that. There is no soldiering without soldiers, and
money doesn't make soldiers. You can give a mob a mountain of munitions,
and it's no good if they won't use them or can't use them."

"Well, I should say. . . . Look out, here's somebody else."

The other had already become conscious of a dull clang of sound for which
he could not immediately account, and the next moment another shadow had
passed across the scene of that shadow pantomime. This shadow had a
sharply outlined and very high black hat like an elongated chimney-pot,
and the moon gleamed for a moment on the green spectacles of Professor
Phocus of the National Museum. He also disappeared rapidly into the
hospitable house.

"That's the Professor," said Simon. "Perhaps, as he is so learned, he
will lecture to them on munitions."

"Yes," replied Grimm, "I saw who it was. . . . But I'm bothered about
something else. Did you hear a sort of iron creak and clang just before
he appeared? It must have been the gate in that railing over there. I
believe they must both have come out of that dingy little garden. What
could they be doing there?"

"Nesting in the trees, perhaps; they look queer enough birds for
anything," answered the other.

"Well, the railing isn't high," said the police chief at last. "They may
simply have clambered in and out again to confuse the scent, but it's rum
that my man over there didn't see them."

A long interval followed, and the two companions pacing up and down to
pass the time, fell again into their discussion. "What I mean," said
Grimm, "is that it's a bad blunder to reckon on material without moral.
Money doesn't fight. Men fight. If the time comes when men won't fight,
even money won't make them. And somebody has got to teach them how. How
are your revolutionary armies going to be drilled? Will Mr. Sebastian
drill them to recite poems? Will Mr. Lobb drill them to fill in
pawn-tickets?"

"Well," said Simon, making a sign of warning, "here is Mr. Sebastian; so
you had better ask him."

This time it was unmistakable that the newcomer threw open the gate of
the little garden and crossed the road to the house. For Sebastian of the
purple beard and peacock scarf walked with a certain swagger, even when a
conspirator apparently alone under the moon; the gate closed behind him
with a ringing clash and even the door of the house seemed to open and
shut again with a shade of greater pomposity.

"Those are all we know of," said Simon thoughtfully.

"The man said there were four," answered Grimm.

The intervals between these flitting appearances seemed to grow longer
and wearier, and as the last was especially extended, the banker, having
less of the professional patience of a policeman, began to grow more and
more sceptical of the unknown guest, and to express a frank readiness for
his own bed. But Grimm remained fixed in his theory of the quadrilateral
council, and after a long interval, so long that they almost looked for
dawn in the east, they heard the gate move once more and a tall figure
approached the house. He was clad in a cape or cloak of grey that looked
silvery in the moonshine; and as it fell apart showed a gleam, and almost
a blaze, of more brilliant silver; for it seemed to be some sort of white
and dazzling uniform, with stars and clasps. Then the man turned his face
for a moment upwards to the moon, and the face was the final shock; for
it was darker than the glittering garments. Under the moon it looked
almost blue, or at least took on those varied tints of grey and violet
that are the highlights on the African complexion, and Grimm knew that
the man was General Case, the Dictator from beyond the frontier.

III THE PRINCESS INTERVENES

THE moment that Colonel Grimm of the Pavonian Police saw that black face
turned like a blue mask to the moon, he knew that the whole machinery of
the State must act together like one mantrap to catch one man. He wanted
to catch the other three men who were his fellow-conspirators, of course,
and he thanked his stars for the chance of catching them all together in
one room, but it was the fourth man whose presence made the huge and
staggering difference. Before his companion could even speak, or do
anything but stare, Grimm had sent his motor-cyclist down the street like
a stone from a sling, and knew that police and soldiers were closing
round and stopping the mouths of all the streets.

For Grimm had a special score to settle with the great General Case. He
had suspected months before that there might be movements on the frontier
and attempts of the revolutionary foreign government to make signals to
the discontented classes in Pavonia. He had repeatedly pressed diplomatic
inquiries and demands through the Prime Minister and other accredited
representatives of Pavonian interests, and the answer had always been
soothing and had always been the same. General Case gave his word of
honour that he had not the faintest intention of meddling with the
internal affairs of Pavonia. General Case was a plain soldier and no
politician. General Case was getting on in years, and had every intention
of retiring from the Presidency and from all public affairs. General Case
was seriously ill, and had practically already retired. All these
diplomatic reassurances had been dispatched one after another, lulling to
a large extent the listless amiability of the King, favourably impressing
the fussy self-importance of the Prime Minister, and leaving only a very
vague and dying doubt even in the more cynical mind of the Chief of
Police. And now this was the sequel, and the secret of what was really
going on. This was how the aged and more or less dying African retired
into private life. General Case was dangerously ill, but well enough to
go out to dinner. By a curious coincidence, he was dining with the three
men vowed to destroy the Government with which he professed to be at
peace. The Chief of Police ground his teeth and looked down the street
eagerly for the two or three files of gendarmes already advancing down
it.

It was likely enough that there was little time to lose. The presence of
the foreign military leader might mean all sorts of things. It might mean
tons of dynamite under the street where they stood; it might at least
mean dumps of munitions in every dark corner of the city, accessible to
the leaders of the mob. At the worst, there was one thing that might save
them yet. And that was the instant, sudden and simultaneous arrest of all
the four men in that house, leaving the whole revolution without leaders.
Grimm waited till his little troop of armed men had drawn up before the
house and then cautiously advanced up the steps to the door. He had
already made certain that similar groups were posted behind and on all
sides of the row of houses, so that there could be no escape unless there
was a subterranean exit. He had even put men with ladders farther along
the Crescent, in case there should be a stampede along the roof. Then,
after a moment's hesitation, he struck once and heavily upon the door,
and the light in the lighted dining-room instantly went out.

For some time there was no other response; then he hammered on the door
again, calling out in his strong voice in the King's name and threatening
that the door would be forced immediately. Then at last the door was
opened by the pale servant in livery, who had evidently received orders
to delay the entrance of the police by every exhibition of stupidity and
helplessness. With almost inconceivable absence of humour, he said that
his master and the company were engaged and could not see any visitors.
But Grimm paid no attention to what he guessed to be an order repeated by
rote. Without further ceremony he pushed the servant aside, merely saying
to his subordinate behind, "Keep hold of this fellow; we may as well bag
him with the rest." Then he thrust his way down the dark passage and
threw open the door of the dining-room.

It was undoubtedly the dining-room, for it offered a convincing picture
of unfinished, or barely finished dinner. Of the four places laid, one at
least was occupied by the paraphernalia of coffee, while others seemed to
mark various stages of trifling with savouries and sweets. Beside the
black coffee was a small and now empty bottle of champagne; opposite to
it was a large and half-empty bottle of Burgundy; to the left of that, an
even more formidable object, was a large and by no means untouched bottle
of brandy, and opposite that, by a sort of meek fantasy of contrast,
stood an untasted glass of milk.

Cigars and cigarettes of the best quality were placed on a small side
table, so as to be immediately at hand, and there was every sign of a
successful dinner-party, which had evidently been luxurious without being
altogether conventional. At least, there was every sign of the successful
dinner-party except the diners. Their chairs stood about the table, some
of them thrust back a little way as if the occupants had risen in a
natural and unhurried style; one at least was still drawn up to the table
as if the diner was not so easily to be detached from his dinner. But he
and all the rest had vanished; suddenly, silently and completely, as the
light had vanished from the window with the first blow upon the door.

"Pretty quick work," said the Chief of Police, "but I suppose they're
bolting for some other exit. Send the men down to the basement at once,
and see that Hart is watching the house at the back. They can't be far
off yet; this coffee is still quite hot and I think he was just going to
help himself to sugar."

"Who was?" inquired Simon a little hazily. "Do you think they were all
here?"

"Obviously they were," replied Grimm. "One doesn't need to be much of a
detective to pick out the separate places of all four. Their very plates
are like portraits; you can almost see them all sitting there. Look at
that glass of milk; you don't suppose that mad poet or that nigger
General drink milk, do you? But that's Professor Phocus to the life, if
you can call it life. He's one of those dried-up old dyspeptics who talk
about nothing but health and get unhealthier every day by doing so. He's
full of all sorts of food fads, and must be a most dismal person to dine
with. However, the others have fortified themselves pretty well against
dismalness. Our romantic Sebastian, who colours everything crimson and
purple, even his hair-what else should he drink but Burgundy? But that
hard-headed old savage Case has gone one better, you see. Brandy for
heroes, as Dr. Johnson said. And yet the last is the most typical of all.
How absolutely characteristic of the little Jew to have a little
champagne, but very expensive, and to have black coffee, the proper
digestive, after it. Ah, he understands health better than the health
faddist does! But there's something blood-curdling about these cultured
Jews, with their delicate and cautious art of pleasure. Some say it's
because they don't believe in a future life."

While he was talking thus, apparently at random, he was thoroughly
ransacking the room, leaving to his subordinates the ransacking of the
house, and his frown was heavy though his tone was light.

The ransacking of the room could for the present be only superficial, but
so far as it went it was hardly hopeful. There were no curtains or
cupboards, no bookcases; there was certainly no other door and it was
preposterous to suppose that, under the eyes of all the gendarmes, four
men could have escaped by the window. Grimm made a preliminary
examination of the floor, which seemed quite solid, a sort of concrete,
coloured with a dull, wavering pattern of an old-fashioned type. Of
course, the four men might have gone out by the door of the room before
their servant had opened the door of the house, but even so, it was not
easy to say where they had gone to. For indeed the ransacking of the
house had proved even more barren than the ransacking of the room; and
they were considerably surprised to find that there was so little of the
house to ransack. There was no basement; there was only one narrow back
door; there was only one other small room, like a smoking-room, at the
back of the dining-room and looking through open windows on to the street
behind; there was a large and small bedroom of corresponding size on the
floor above, and that was all. Grimm was somewhat surprised at this
exiguous accommodation, as compared with the aristocratic stateliness of
the facade. It sharpened a certain sense of the whole Crescent having
something hollow about it; like a stone mask of some cold, classical
comedy. Perhaps the moon also made it look a little spectral, but he
could not help entertaining for a flash of that pale light the absurd
fancy that the street itself had been staged as a part of the plot or
comedy, and that it was like a pasteboard palace in a pantomime. His
common sense, returning, told him that the imposture was of an older and
more ordinary sort, and bore witness only to the normal snobbishness of
men who are content with small quarters so long as it is in a fashionable
quarter. That row of showy and shallow mansions, with pillars and
bow-windows, was probably only a row of men who liked to look richer than
they were. Nevertheless, there was something queer about it considered as
the headquarters of a vast conspiracy and the meeting-place of the four
tribunes of a revolution. There was not much room to store dynamite or
dump munitions here, anyhow. But another incongruous fancy flitted across
his mind; they might well have been storing an entirely new sort of
chemical gas, that made solid human bodies vanish like smoke or turn
transparent like glass.

A searching and scientific examination, covering days and weeks, brought
them no farther than those first few observations of the first few
moments. If there was any crack in the concrete floor, it followed no
line or direction that they could discover; if anybody had escaped to
anywhere, except into the bowels of the earth, he must have done it under
a hundred staring eyes and the staring moon. The giant man-trap had
closed with the most scientific precision and perfection; only the trap
was empty. It was with this gloomy and even alarmist news that the Chief
of Police and the financier, playing the amateur detective, went back to
report to the Prime Minister and the King.

Despite the swiftness with which Colonel Grimm had darted out of the rear
of the house after the fugitives, he was brought up all standing at the
corner of the next street, by an exhibition that affected him like an
explosion. The whole of the blank wall was plastered with new placards;
so new that they might almost have been put there since the raid on the
house; conceivably even flung behind as a last gesture of insolence by
the runaway rebels, like the paper scattered by the hares in a
paper-chase. He put one finger to the paper-covered wall and found the
paste on it still wet.

But it was the proclamations themselves that were most arresting. They
were mostly scrawled in red paint or ink, which had even run here and
there, perhaps with a melodramatic suggestion of blood. They all began
with the word "Now" in gigantic letters, followed by the assertion "The
Word will be spoken to-night". The brief paragraphs that followed were to
the effect that all was now ready for the blow at the Government which
had failed in its last desperate effort to capture the men who would
tomorrow be the rulers of the city. It was notable that the people were
adjured especially to "Look to the Frontiers" and it was not only implied
that the mysterious "Word" was now to be spoken, but hinted that the
thick and thunderous lips of the sinister African would speak it.

Passing up the Poplar Avenue towards the red-brick Georgian palace, they
found the King of Pavonia in another room, in another suit of clothes and
in another frame of mind. He was no longer in uniform, but in a
light-grey lounge suit and very obviously lounging. King Clovis was a
paradox in many ways; he hated formality and yet he was very formal, on
formal occasions; in spite of the paradox, we might say that he hated
formal occasions because they made him very formal. But in this more
comfortable apartment, with tea-things on the table, he was in the bosom
of his family, so far as the presence of a niece sitting on a sofa and
staring out of a window constituted a bosom in the traditional sense. The
Princess, whom the works of reference called Aurelia and whom her uncle
called Mary, was rather distrait and silent, but the King had no
objection to silence. The Prime Minister was not present; he always
imparted a nameless nuance of fussiness, and the King had a great
objection to fuss.

The Chief of Police told the story of his dramatic disappointment and the
King listened to it with mild wonder but without any appearance of
irritation.

"I suppose," he said, "that if that old Jew really bought the house
specially for them, he must have fixed up some sort of trick in it."

"So I had supposed, sir," assented Grimm. "But we cannot as yet come on
the faintest trace of the trick. And I can't help being a little troubled
about what these four rascals may be doing. Their proclamations make it
quite plain that they are preparing a big move."

"If you can't catch them," put in Simon, "can't you arrest anybody else?
Surely the Party must have some other leaders."

The Chief of Police shook his head. "That is the queerest thing about
it," he said. "This is the most extraordinary movement I ever heard of,
in the way in which it is disciplined and organized and, above all,
silenced. There must be hundreds of them in it, but to hear them talk, or
rather decline to talk, you would think there was nobody in it. It's
called the Brotherhood of The Word, but it seems to me more like the
Brotherhood of The Silence. They all stare you blindly in the face, and
smile, or say a word about the weather, and there's no catching them by
any cross-examination. That's evidently the policy of the whole business.
The crowd is more invisible than the conspirators, so to speak. Only
these four famous conspirators are paraded before us. Their private
meetings are comparatively public, but the mind of the mob is still
private and it melts at a touch. We can convict nobody but these four,
and the only people we can convict are the only people we can't catch."

"Then we have actually nobody in custody," said Simon.

Grimm made a wry face. "We hung on to one stupid footman who opened the
door to us," he said. "Not a very glorious bag to boast of when you are
out gunning for General Case."

"We must be thankful for small things," said the King. "What does the
stupid footman say?"

"He doesn't say anything. It's possible he doesn't know anything. Indeed
I think it's more than possible that the man is too stupid to know
anything, a big lump of a fellow, probably chosen for his long legs; they
say people choose flunkeys for their calves. Or he may have some dull
idea of being loyal to his master."

The Princess turned her head for the first time and said: "Has anybody
suggested the rather brighter idea of being loyal to his King?"

"I'm afraid," said Clovis, in a nervous and uneasy manner, "that the time
has gone by for cavaliers and gallant courtiers, Mary. You can't solve
modern political problems by telling people to be loyal to the King."

"Why do they tell them to be loyal to everything else except the King?"
asked the young lady, with some warmth. "When there's a strike or
something at the soap works, your newspaper tells them to be loyal to the
soap-boilers, who are accused of being sweaters. The journalists tell
them to be loyal to their Party and to their Trusted Leaders and all the
rest. But if I talk of a leader who isn't a Party Leader, who's at least
supposed to stand for the whole nation and all patriotic people, then you
tell me I'm old-fashioned. Or else you tell me I'm young. It seems to be
considered the same thing."

His Majesty the King of Pavonia stared at his niece with a sort of vague
alarm, as if a kitten had turned into a tiger-cat on the hearth-rug. But
she went on like one who is resolved to release an accumulation of
impatience.

"Why must the King be the only private gentleman in Pavonia? All the
others are extremely public gentlemen or public parodies of gentlemen.
Why may any man talk to the mob except ourselves? Do you know what I
really felt when I saw that purple-whiskered poet posturing on a table in
the street? Of course, to start with, I had a sense of something horribly
artificial; he was like some painted and gilded doll or mummy dancing.
But what annoyed me most was that peacock-coloured scarf flapping round
his neck, and making me remember the old peacock flag of the Pavonians,
and how they say that the peacock fans were carried before the King even
in battle. What business has he got to wear such colours, if we mayn't?
We have got to be dull and genteel and die of good taste behind the drawn
blinds of the palace. But the conspirators may be flamboyant. The
republicans may be royal. That's why they appeal to the people; because
they do exactly what kings used to do, when kings had any sense. Your
papers and politicians talk about the dreadful growth of Red propaganda
and wonder how it can be popular. Why, because it's Red, of course. Kings
and cardinals and peers and judges used to be Red, when we weren't
ashamed of having a little colour in our lives."

The constitutional monarch seemed more and more embarrassed. "Perhaps,"
he said, "we have wandered a little from the point. It was a small point
we were mentioning at the moment, about the questioning of the footman
and--"

"I have every intention of sticking to the point," said the Princess
firmly. "I have every intention of sticking to the footman, too, and
preventing any fool from letting him go. Don't you see he is just the
sort of thing I mean? All the nonsense they talk against patriotism and
militarism has just let the ordinary poor man slide and sink to be the
servant of any rascally adventurer. He is put into a livery to be loyal
to a conspirator, because we were afraid to put him into a uniform and
ask him to be loyal to a king."

"Personally," said Grimm, "I have a great deal of sympathy with Your
Royal Highness's view. But I'm afraid it's too late to do that now."

"How do you know?" demanded the lady with some heat. "Have you ever put
the real point to a man like that? Have you ever asked him what he feels
about his loyalties and his country and the king he heard about when he
was a child? Not you; you've just badgered him like a barrister about
details of time and place that no healthy human being ever remembers, and
he's reduced to looking like the village idiot, and I don't wonder. I
should like to talk to him myself."

"My dear Mary--" began her uncle, now thrown thoroughly into disarray,
and at the same moment he caught sight of the face that flashed on him
over her shoulder, and his voice seemed to die away. Mr. Simon, the
banker, had also begun to talk, after a tactful cough, and was saying:
"If Your Royal Highness will allow me to say so, we ought surely to
preserve a sense of proportion. The footman is only a common fellow and,
I imagine, quite illiterate; in that sense, as Her Royal Highness says, a
man of the people-but only one man out of a very large people. As an
experiment in social science, it might be very interesting to try these
theories upon him, but he is only a sample of the social material all
round. Meanwhile, we should surely lose no time in concentrating on the
really great and dangerous public characters whom we are pursuing. The
Professor is a man of world-wide reputation; the General is a military
hero at the head of armies, and really to stand quarrelling over the
ignorance of a chance lackey--"

As he spoke he found himself wavering between the door and the advancing
Princess, and in his throat also the words seemed to dry up. For both men
had suddenly seen the face of something that is intolerant and innocent
and not altogether of this world; the completeness of that conviction in
youth that as yet cannot believe in the complexity of living, and they
fell back before her as the great princess demanded audience with a
flunkey, as if there were something in her of that great peasant girl
from Domremy when she demanded audience of a King.

IV THE UNREASONABLENESS OF WOMAN

WHEN the great police raid on Peacock Crescent had a conclusion pour rire
in the bursting open of empty rooms and the pinching of a bewildered
footman, the functionary was trailed along with the few other sticks of
furniture that seemed faintly redolent of clues, and in the impersonal
manner of men removing chairs and tables with a van. There was certainly
nothing about him to indicate any significance beyond that of furniture.
He was of the usual size and shape of fairly imposing flunkeys. His face
had the sort of solid good looks, at once wooden and waxen, which went
well with the powder of the old regime of flunkeydom; there was nothing
notable except perhaps that, while his blank, blue eyes expressed
something more than even the fatuity required by his profession, the
depressing regularity of his features was rather relieved by a length of
chin that suggested some sort of obscure obstinacy. And, indeed, the
police who had questioned and cross-questioned him came to the conclusion
that they had to deal with a case of stubbornness as well as stupidity.

He had, of course, been bullied and badgered, and threatened with all
sorts of entirely illegal things, according to the method which the
police of all modern and civilized countries apply on principle to all
servants, cabmen, costers and other persons supposed by their poverty to
be an outlying province of the criminal classes; though every now and
then those methods startle all Europe and are held up in flaming
headlines of horror to the whole civilized world, when they happen to
have been applied, by some fool or other, to a wealthy Jew or a heavily
financed journalist. But the police had got nothing out of him that threw
the least light on the meaning of his master's meetings and projects, and
the weary investigators were beginning to attribute his silence to
ignorance or idiocy. Only the Chief of Police himself, a man not
altogether without sympathy and subtlety, still suspected that the
taciturnity was tinged with fidelity.

Anyhow, the servant in his capacity of prisoner was drearily accustomed
by this time to see the door of his cell open and some uniformed official
come in with a notebook or a menacing forefinger, trying to collect more
facts from the barren soil of his speech. He was quite prepared for it to
happen again and again, any number of times, but he was not prepared to
see the same door open and introduce, not a policeman in uniform, but a
beautiful lady in jewels and flaming fashionable colour scheme, who
entered his prison as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Only dimly did he perceive the lowering and lumpish visage of a policeman
in the shadows behind, and the lady herself seemed quite resolved that
the policeman should be left in the shade. She shut the door behind her
with a resolute clang and faced the astounded lackey with an equally
resolute smile.

He knew who she was, of course; he had seen her in the illustrated papers
and even driving about the city in her car. In reply to her first
question he attempted some stumbling expressions of respect, but she
waved them on one side with a direct familiarity that paralysed him even
more.

"Don't let us worry about all that," she said. "We are both subjects of
the King and patriots of Pavonia. At least I'm sure you must be really a
patriot and I want to know why you don't behave like one."

There was a long silence, and then he said, looking at the floor and in a
rather hang-dog fashion: "I don't want any misunderstandings, Your
Highness. I don't set up to be much of a patriot, and these people were
always good to me."

"Why, what did they do for you?" she demanded. "Gave you tips from time
to time, I suppose. Paid you some sort of salary, probably much too
small. What is that compared with what the country has done for us all?
You can't eat bread without eating the corn of Pavonia; you can't drink
water without drinking it from the rivers of your own land; you can't
walk down the street in safety or liberty, without relying on the law
that defends the citizens of the State."

He suddenly threw up his head, and the very blank emptiness of his blue
eyes affected her with something dizzy and even dazzling.

"You see," he said, without a smile, "I am not walking in liberty down
the street just now."

"I know," she said obstinately, "but it's your own fault, isn't it? I'm
sure you know of something these men are doing, something that's hanging
over all of us like a thundercloud, and you won't say a word to save us,
by telling us where the bolt will fall."

He continued to stare in a vacant manner, and then repeated like an
automaton: "The men were always good to me."

She wrung one hand with a gesture of exasperation, and said rather
unreasonably: "I don't believe they did anything at all. I expect they
treated you rottenly, really."

He seemed to meditate in his heavy way, and then said haltingly, but with
an increasing suggestion of more instructed speech-as it were, working to
the surface through the professional primness of his upper-servant
intonation: "You see, these things go a bit by comparison. At the only
school I was ever sent to they had hardly any meals at all; my family
never had any money and I was often hungry all night, and out in the cold
as well. You see, it's all very well to talk about the State and
patriotism and the rest. Suppose when I was freezing in the gutter I had
gone down on my knees to the great statue of Pavonia Victrix in the
Fountain Square and said, 'Pavonia, give me food', I suppose the great
statue would have stepped down from its pedestal at once and brought me a
tray of hot cakes or a pile of ham sandwiches. Suppose it began to snow
when I had hardly a rag on my back; I suppose the Flag of Pavonia, flying
on the top of the palace, would have come down off its pole to wrap me up
like a blanket. At least, I suppose some people think it would. You have
to have rather rum experiences to find out that it doesn't."

His figure remained heavy and motionless, but his voice took a new and
rather indescribable turn or change.

"But I did get food at Peacock Crescent. Those horrible revolutionists,
who you say are destroying the whole city, at least prevented me from
being destroyed. Suppose, if you like that they treated me like a dog;
still, I was a stray dog and a starving dog, and they fed and sheltered
me like a dog. You know what a dog would feel about turning on them or
deserting them. Is thy servant less than a dog, that he should do this
thing?"

Something in the lift of his voice on the Scriptural phrase startled her
and made her stare at him with a new curiosity.

"What is your name?" she said.

"My name is John Conrad," he said quite readily. "I have no family now to
speak of, but we were once rather better off in the world than we are at
present. But I assure Your Royal Highness there's no particular mystery
about that. Coming down in the world is common enough in these days.
Commoner than coming up in the world, which is even worse."

She spoke in a lowered voice. "If you are really an educated man and a
gentleman, you ought to be all the more ashamed to work with this gang of
wreckers. It's all very well to talk about a dog, but it's not fair. A
dog has only got a master, and naturally he sticks to the only duty
required of him. A dog hasn't got a country or a cause or a religion or
any general sense of right. But can you, as an educated man, reconcile it
with any general sense of right to say you are a dog, and on that excuse
fill the whole town with mad dogs?"

He gazed at her with a painful intensity; in some strange fashion the
staring and startling social disparity between them had really faded away
on the heat of intellectual incompatibility, just as she had tried to
wave it away with a gesture when she first made her amazing entry to the
prison. As he looked at her a slow and singular change seemed to pass
over his face and he seemed to realize some meaning to the situation he
had as yet been too stunned to see.

"It's beyond all possible goodness that you should trouble to talk to me
like this," he said. "You, at least, are more generous to me than the men
who only gave me food. You, I admit, have done more than they could ever
have done for a man like me. But I don't recognize it about poor old
Pavonia with its peacocks and palaces and police courts, and I wouldn't
give up an inch of my own scruples for them."

"If you like to put it so," she said quite steadily, "do it for me."

"I certainly wouldn't do it for the others," he said, "but you see,
that's just where my difficulty comes in. To obey you would be a
pleasure, but I don't believe a bit of what you say about it being a
duty. And what sort of a dog is it that won't do it for duty, but will do
it for pleasure."

"Oh, I hate that obstinate expression you've got!" she cried with a
curious uncontrollable petulance. "I don't mind dogs, but I hate
bulldogs. They're always so ugly." Then, suddenly altering her tone, the
Princess added: "I don't see why you should be kept kicking your heels in
this prison, all for your silly prejudices. They're bound to give you a
long sentence for treason, if they do nothing else, if you will protect
these devils who want to blow us all up tomorrow."

"Very well," he said in a hard voice. "Then I must make up my mind to be
punished for treason because I will not be a traitor."

Something compact in his curt epigram seemed to savour almost of
contempt, and her self-control suddenly gave way before a blaze of really
royal anger.

"Very well, then," she cried, turning furiously towards the door, "you
can lie and rot there for treason, because you won't listen to reason;
it's all one to us, of course, except that your mad, sulky obstinacy may
smash us all to smithereens in twenty-four hours. God knows, and I
suppose you know, what these blasphemous brutes are going to do to us
all. And perhaps God cares, but you don't. You don't care for anything or
anybody but your own chin and your own brutal pride. I've done with you."

And she flung open the door, incongruously giving another glimpse of the
pudding-faced policeman outside; then she vanished through the opening
and the door clanged again and the prisoner was left alone in his cell.

He sat down on the plank-bed and put his head in his hands, remaining in
this rigid ruminating posture for a long time. Then he rose with a sigh
and approached the door once more, for he heard outside it the heavy
movements to which he was already and too fully accustomed, and he knew
that some other visitor, who would by no means be a beautiful lady, was
coming to bother him once more. But on this occasion the official
interview was somewhat longer than usual, and of a somewhat different
character.

A few hours afterwards, when the Princess was declining, and the King
accepting, a glass of Italian vermouth from a tray handed by a footman of
a far less disturbing character, the Prime Minister, who was seated
opposite in that private apartment of the palace, observed quite
casually: "So it looks as if they may be frustrated after all. I was
jolly nervous up to an hour ago, for I swear they had got something big
that was just going to burst; all their last proclamations were like the
cocking of a rifle before the bang comes. But since this silly footman is
going to tell us where they're hidden, I expect we shall be too quick for
them after all. Grimm says--"

The Princess Aurelia Augusta, otherwise Mary, had risen to her feet as if
she had received a personal insult.

"What's all this mean?" she cried. "The footman hasn't spoken. He refuses
absolutely to speak."

"Your Royal Highness will pardon me," said the Prime Minister stiffly. "I
have the news straight from the Chief of Police. The footman has
certainly confessed the facts."

"It's not true!" said Her Royal Highness obstinately. "I don't believe it
for a minute."

She seemed quite indignant about it, and indeed those who retain any
capacity for surprise at the mystery of feminine psychology may be
surprised to learn that, at her next interview with the prisoner, in the
prison, she was very harsh and scornful towards him for having decided
upon betraying all that she had told him to betray.

"So that's the end of all your heroics and stubbornness and sticking out
your chin," she said. "You're going to save yourself after all, and give
up all these poor deluded creatures that are in hiding."

He threw up his head in the rather startling fashion he had and stared at
her with the blank but blazing blue eyes, that had always something about
them of vertigo and the empty air, making the spectator dizzy.

"Well," he said, "I certainly didn't suppose you regarded them with so
much sympathy."

"I regard them with great sympathy for having to do with you," she said,
in a somewhat vicious manner. "Of course, I don't agree with them, but
I'm quite sorry for them, being hunted and having to trust such people to
hide them. I expect it was you who led them into mischief."

The last clause was perhaps an afterthought. She said it on those sound
general feminine principles, which some masculine minds, in moments of
annoyance, have thought slightly unprincipled. But she was never more
surprised in her life than when he smiled and said: "Yes, perhaps you are
right. It was I who led them into mischief."

As she looked at him with a painful curiosity, he added: "But remember
what you said. If I did them wrong, I did it for you."

An instant afterwards he burst out in a new and volcanic voice, that she
had never heard before from him or from any man.

"Do you suppose I don't know that it's all utterly unfair? Why should you
have that power, as well as all the other kinds? Why should you have the
only unanswerable thing, the face that is unanswerable like God on the
Judgement Day? We can call up ignorance against science and impotence
against power, but who is going to raise up ugliness against beauty?
Who--?"

He had taken a stride forward, but, what was much stranger, she had
herself started and moved forward in response. She was staring into his
face as if it had been blasted by a lightning-flash.

"Oh, my God!" she cried. "It can't be that!"

For she had in that instant become aware of an amazing possibility, and
the rest of their interview was too wonderful to be believed.

V THE TERMS OF A TRAITOR

ONE single thought like a thundercloud brooded over Pavonia, its palace
and principal city; the sort of concentration that commonly only
possesses some ignorant village where a prophet or fanatic has predicted
the instant end of the world. The last proclamations had had their
effect; even the most careless were now convinced that at any moment a
huge invasion on all the frontiers, or a horrible explosion in the heart
of the city, would come at some signal they did not know, and by some
gesture they could not arrest. The foreign invasion was felt perhaps as
the more maddening of the two but they were all the more bewildered
because there had hung over all this mysterious movement the shadow or
savour of something foreign. It was admitted that the reputation of
Professor Phocus was even greater in other countries than in his own; men
began to ask with some irritation where the wealthy pawnbroker had come
from, and, with slightly greater hesitation, how he had made his wealth.
But nobody doubted that these men had constructed some engine that was
about to act with hideous energy. It was in the midst of all this tossing
insecurity that the message came that the captive footman would speak. He
had actually signed a grave document, which ran: "I can say The Word and
stop the work of the Four Destroyers for ever and put them henceforth in
your power. But I must name my conditions."

Whatever may have been the historical facts about the decayed family of
John Conrad, there is no doubt that he entered on the scene of a
Committee of the State, which was also an audience with the King, with
the sort of dignity which does not generally appear in the pomposity of
footmen. He approached the small table in the palace, round which were
seated the four chief rulers of Pavonia, with a proper gesture of respect
but without the least appearance of embarrassment or servility. He bowed
to the King and accepted the chair in which the King asked him to be
seated, and it was the King who was more embarrassed than the subject.
Clovis of Pavonia cleared his throat, looked down his nose reflectively
for a moment and then said: "I hope it is unnecessary for me to add my
personal word to any arrangements that may have been made. But I am quite
prepared to add it, to avoid any misunderstanding. It is quite understood
that you have consented on certain conditions only to reveal what you
know, and I shall certainly see that those conditions are fulfilled. It
is only reasonable, in consideration of what you regard yourself as
sacrificing, that you should receive a really handsome equivalent."

"May I respectfully ask," inquired Conrad, "who is to decide exactly what
is an equivalent?"

"Your Majesty," interposed Colonel Grimm, "I do not believe in beating
about the bush. We have very little time to spare, if these plotters are
really about to spring a mine. I don't see how it can be denied that the
prisoner must be the judge of the equivalent. I have tried to get the
truth out of him by other methods which he may or may not think he has a
right to resent; in plain words, by intimidation. It is only just to say
that they have failed. It is also only just to say that when intimidation
fails, there is nothing else but bribery. And the plain common sense of
it is that he can name the bribe."

The Prime Minister coughed and said a little huskily: "That is rather a
sweeping statement, but if Mr. Conrad would give us some idea of what he
would regard as a reasonable settlement. ..."

"I shall require," said John Conrad, "nothing less than ten thousand a
year."

"Really," said the Prime Minister, in his rather flustered fashion, "this
sort of thing seems to me quite extravagant. You could do anything you
wanted to do, in your class of life, on much less."

"You are wrong," replied Conrad calmly. "My class of life is much more
exacting than you suppose. I do not see how I could keep up the position
of a Grand Duke of Pavonia on less."

"Of a Grand . . ." began Mr. Valence, and his voice seemed to fail and
fade away.

"Obviously," said Conrad in a reasonable tone. "It would be a gross
disrespect to His Majesty, and to the lineage of one of the most ancient
Royal Houses of Europe, to ask His Majesty to allow his own niece to be
married to anybody under the rank of a Grand Duke of Pavonia."

The rest of the company regarded the affable footman much as the King and
Court may have regarded Perseus when he turned them all to stone. But
Grimm recovered his voice first with a good gross military oath, followed
by a demand to know what the devil it was all about.

"I shall not ask for any formal political office in the government of the
State," went on the footman thoughtfully. "But it is only reasonable to
expect that a Grand Duke of Pavonia married to a Royal Princess will have
a certain amount of influence on the policy of the country. I shall
certainly insist on a number of essential reforms, especially directed to
a juster treatment of the poor of this city. Your Majesty and gentlemen,
if you are at this moment threatened by a thunderbolt from you know not
where, and perhaps with the overthrow of your whole nation by foreign
invasion and internal revolt, you have very largely yourselves to thank.
I will give up to you these revolutionary leaders of whom you talk so
much. I will help you to capture Dr. Phocus and Sebastian and Loeb and,
if possible, even General Case. I will give up my companions, but I will
not give up my convictions. And when I come to occupy the high national
position with which you will shortly honour me, I can promise you that
though there will be no revolution, there will be a very drastic reform."

The Prime Minister rose to his feet in uncontrollable agitation, for
professional reformers do not like to hear about drastic reform.

"These suggestions are intolerable," he cried. "They are fantastic. They
are not to be listened to for a moment."

"They are my terms," said Conrad gravely. "I am quite ready to go back to
prison if you will not accept them. I may say, in so far as I may touch
upon such things, that the Lady chiefly involved has already accepted
them. But I am quite ready for you to reject them, and I will go back and
wait in my prison, and you will sit here and wait in your palace, for you
know not what."

There was a long silence and then Colonel Grimm said very softly: "Oh,
ten million howling devils in hell!"

The twilight was settling slowly over the long tapestried apartment, of
which the ancient gold was sufficiently faded to have lost the mere glare
of vainglory and to take on the grandeur of a rich but reflected flame,
as if reflected from mirror to mirror down the endless memories of men.
In the great sprawling tapestry covered with giants, which made the
little group of modern men look so small at their feet, could be traced
the mighty figure of Clovis the First going to his last great victory
with the peacock fans carried before him and the Grand Dukes of Pavonia
lifting behind him a forest of swords. There was nothing in that room
that did not in some way recall the unreplaceable achievement of a
special civilization; the busts of Pavonian poets, who could have written
only in the Pavonian tongue, filled the niches and corners of the room;
the dark glimmer of the bookcases told of a national literature not to be
lightly lost or possibly replaced, and here and there a picture like a
little window gave a glimpse of the distant but beloved landscapes of
their native land. Even the dog that lay before the fire was of the breed
of their own mountains, and there was not a man there so mean-no, not
even the politician-as not to know that by all these things he lived and
with all these things he would die. And under all these things, they
fancied they could hear something like the steady ticking of a bomb and
they waited for the catch that comes before the deafening death.

At length, in that silence as of the ages, Clovis the Third spoke for
Pavonia and all his people, as it was in the days of old. He knew not
whether it should be called a surrender or a stroke of victory, but he
knew it was necessary and he spoke with a fullness and firmness of voice
which had long been rare in him.

"The time is short," he said, "and there is no other course, I think, but
to accept your terms. In return, I understand that you do seriously
propose and promise to stop the activities of the man called Sebastian,
of Professor Phocus, of Case and Loeb, as enemies of this State, and to
deliver them up to us, to deal with them as we will."

"I promise," said John Conrad, and the King rose suddenly to his feet,
like one who dissolves an audience.

Nevertheless, most of the company that had formed the Council broke up in
a curious condition of mystification and ill-ease. Oddly enough, perhaps,
it had no reference to the elements in the case that were really
extravagant and even absurd. The incredible parts of the story seemed to
have stunned them all into a sort of sobriety, so that they could no
longer feel them as incredible. It was not the notion of a lackey out of
a villa in Peacock Crescent becoming a Grand Duke of Pavonia or marrying
a Pavonian princess. It was not concerned with the contrast between his
figure and his fate. Curiously enough, it was concerned with the very
contrary. After sitting at the same table with the mysterious Mr. Conrad,
none of them felt any longer any particular incongruity between him and
such high ambitions. He gave rather the impression of a man familiar, not
only with high ambitions, but with high aspirations.

He moved with the indescribable poise of those who have never really lost
their own social self-respect, and his manners seemed quite as fitted to
a Court as those of the rough police officer or the rather prosaic
politician. He had given his word very much as the King had given it, as
if it were a word of some worth. And it was exactly there that the
sediment of mystification remained in the mind of many of the company,
and it was the same sort of doubt that had more deeply disturbed the mind
of the Princess. It was not that the man did not seem like a Grand Duke,
but that he did not seem like an informer. However conventional their
ideas might be about the duties of a citizen, they could not, somehow,
understand a man of this sort not retaining the darker virtues of a
conspirator, or, in more popular phrase, the honour that is supposed to
exist among thieves. Colonel Grimm was a policeman, but he was also a
soldier, and there were elements in him that did not easily adapt
themselves to a gentleman-especially when he was a gentleman-who turned
King's Evidence. As he looked at the grave face and rather graceful
figure of the ex-flunkey, he, who fancied himself a judge of men, thought
that he could imagine Conrad more easily as a man blowing up the town
with dynamite than as a man betraying his accomplices.

Nevertheless, the man's word was given, and Grimm felt certain that he
would keep it, and heaved a huge sigh of relief on reflecting that they
had probably seen the last of the power of Case and Phocus and Sebastian
over the people of that land. And though the worthy Colonel was in one
sense wildly wrong about all his calculations in the case, he was, in
fact, perfectly right in that one.

He joined John Conrad outside the palace and said to him with military
brevity: "Well, I suppose we had better leave the next step to you."

The next step led them together down the long poplar avenue, past the
outer gates of the palace, across the Fountain Square where stood (now
somewhat symbolically) the statue of Pavonia the Victorious, down a
number of genteel by-streets striking outward from the square, and
finally into the familiar and stately curve of Peacock Crescent. By a
coincidence, it was once more a night of broad moonshine and the pale
facade of that terrace struck once more into him a certain chill of
mystery, as of one looking at a marble mask. But it was not to the line
of the familiar houses, or to the door of the familiar house, that
Colonel Grimm was conducted by his guide. It was across the road to the
little plot or shrubbery, with the railing round it; and, passing through
the gate in the railing, they walked in the deep, dim grass and under the
shadow of the large shrubs. In a place where the grass was shorter and
smoother, immediately under the shadow of one of the bushes, Conrad
stooped down and seemed to be moving his finger like one writing in the
dust.

"Perhaps you do not know," he said, without lifting his head, "that most
of the proclamations and phrases in this revolution are jokes. Almost
what you might call practical jokes; certainly private jokes. There is a
sort of trap-door or lid that lifts in this place, and that nobody ever
found, because ordinary openings are roughly round or square or oblong or
triangular, or some such calculable shape. But you cannot lift this until
you have traced every curve in an extremely complicated outline. Only it
ought to be a familiar outline. Only it isn't."

As he spoke, he appeared to jerk up a certain section of the turf, which
seemed to be in reality a board with grass growing on top of it, like a
large flat cap covered with green feathers. But when he held up the green
lid so that it was black against the moon, the other could perceive that
it was of a very elaborate outline, indented and diversified as if with
capes and bays.

"You ought to know that," he said. "You must have studied it often enough
in the Atlas, especially the military Atlas. That is the map of Pavonia.
And that, if you will excuse our little joke, is what we meant when we
said that we should look for safety to the frontiers."

Before the Chief of Police could reply, his informant had abruptly
disappeared with a sort of dive. The earth seemed to have swallowed him
up. But Grimm heard his reassuring voice coming out of the
newly-uncovered abyss, and saying cheerily: "Come along down. There's
quite an easy ladder. Just follow me, and you shall see the last of the
men you fear."

Colonel Grimm stood for a moment like a statue in the moonlight. Then he
plunged into the black well before him. And indeed, in doing so, he
rather deserved to have a statue, not merely in the moonlight, but in the
sun and the sight of men; like the statue of Pavonia Victrix. For he had
seldom done a braver thing in a life and profession of no little courage.
He was unarmed; he was alone; he had really very inadequate reasons, when
reasonably reviewed, for trusting this mysterious mountebank and
adventurer, or supposing that such a man would keep his promise. But even
if he did keep his promise, what after all, was his promise? That through
this dark entry the solitary officer should be led into the very lair of
the lion; into the presence of the invincible Case, with his triumvirate
of anarchs and the devil knew what array of military violence; all
apparently established in a subterranean empire under the earth. It was
hardly a metaphor to say that it was like descending into hell; and
Grimm, though not given to sentiment, could hardly help feeling something
sad and symbolic in the fact that the aperture above his head, growing
smaller and smaller with distance, traced upon the dark the glimmering
outline of his own country. The last dim light out of the sky looked down
on him in the shape of Pavonia and then grew dark. It was almost as if he
were falling through all-annihilating space, and Pavonia were a distant
star. And indeed, when he came to look back on the unnatural wanderings
of that night, he was haunted by a sort of contradiction in time and
especially in space; by a sense that he had in fact travelled thousands
of miles and covered continents and even worlds; combined with a logical
certainty, like that of some mathematical fact apparently evaded in a
mathematical puzzle, that he had really been operating over a
comparatively small area and close to places that he knew, or (as he told
himself somewhat bitterly) that he ought to have known. It was doubtless
largely the result of his fatigue and the final perplexity with which he
faced the final mystery; but it must be allowed for if we are to
understand the dazed and almost drugged spirit of discipline in which he
took the final phases of the affair. He had left something behind him in
the upper air of the little garden, and he sometimes fancied afterwards
that it was the power to laugh.

The light like a distant star above him disappeared, and he continued to
descend the ladder, rung by rung, only very vaguely imagining what sort
of perils or horrors might be below. But whatever he thought of it, it
was nothing so extraordinary as what he found.

VI THE SPEAKING OF THE WORD

COLONEL GRIMM of the Pavonian Police was very exactly described as a
hard-headed man, and one not easily divorced from reality. It was perhaps
all the more strongly that he remembered that night as a nightmare. It
really had the indescribable qualities of a dream; the repetitions and
the inconsistencies; the scraps of past experience appearing like sudden
pictures amid the chaos of the formless and unfamiliar; the general sense
of having a double mind, one sane and the other mad. It was all the more
so when his subterranean wanderings, beginning in the sunken shaft in the
garden, did bring him back into what would normally have been called
normal scenes. He did indeed revisit the glimpses of the moon, but it
made him feel all the more like Hamlet's father's ghost. He could not
help feeling that he was revisiting the glimpses of the other side of the
moon and had come out on the other side of the world. He could not be
certain that he had not found an outlet under some strange sky, with
stars, and moons of its own, and yet presenting objects of a mocking
familiarity. His first revelation, or rather menace of things yet
unrevealed, came to him when, after groping through a level tunnel, he
began to ascend what seemed to be a corresponding ladder in a
corresponding chimney on the other side. When he was half-way up this
vertical tunnel, the man ahead of him turned and said in a low and hoarse
tone: "Stay where you are a moment. I will go on and look round; they
won't be alarmed at me."

He remained hanging on the ladder and looking up at a pale disc of light
like the moon itself, which showed the opening of the well. A moment
after the disc was darkened, blotted out as by the cap that had covered
the corresponding hole, but peering up through the dusk, he fancied there
was something curious about this particular stopper. He flashed on his
electric torch and nearly fell off the ladder. For the aperture was
filled with a face peering down at him and grinning like a goblin; a
turnip of a face with green spectacles which he recognized instantly as
that of Professor Phocus. And Professor Phocus said, with the horrible
distinctness with which things are sometimes said in a dream: "You won't
catch us so easily. We've only to say The Word and the world will be
destroyed."

Then the grotesque stopper was taken out of the strange bottle; the disc
of dull light reappeared; and after a few moments of bewildered waiting,
he heard the voice of his guide whispering over the brink.

"He's gone," said Conrad. "You can come up now." When he came up, it was
to find himself once more in the moonlight and apparently somewhere in
the back premises of Peacock Crescent. It expresses the dazed detachment
from daily life which these experiences had somehow produced in him, that
he was quite surprised to see the police, whom he had himself stationed
to watch the place, standing round and composedly answering the rather
conspiratorial signals of Conrad.

"You can go into the house in a minute," said Conrad in the same low
voice. "I'll just nip in and see that everything's all right, but I'm
sure they're all boxed up in there. Bring your men with you, of course."

He darted into the back of a house, which Grimm fancied was the house
next door to the original scene of the raid, and for some little time the
police and their Chief waited patiently outside. They had just begun to
consider the advisability of following their solitary leader into the den
of criminals, when they caught their breath and stood still, staring up
at the house.

One of the window blinds was jerked up and there appeared at the window
the unmistakable face and form which the Princess had beheld upon the
cafe table. The poet, Sebastian, stood staring at the moon, in what is
supposed to be the manner of poets, looking more than usually florid with
his flaming red moustache and whiskers and a necktie of yet another
glowing and romantic shade. Then he stretched out his arm to the moon,
with a theatrical gesture, and seemed to begin to sing, or at least to
speak in a sing-song fashion. It was impossible to conceive anything more
operatic; in the sense in which that word is almost synonymous with
idiotic. But the words he was chanting were familiar: "As Aaron's serpent
swallowed snakes and rods, As God alone is greater than the gods, As all
stars shrivel in the single sun, The words are many, but The Word is
one."

Then he suddenly snapped the blind down and vanished, the room behind him
turning dark. They could hardly believe that the incident, especially so
senseless an incident, had really happened at all.

The next moment they were conscious that their creepy friend the
conspirator had come close to them again in complete silence and was
whispering: "You can go in now and nab them all."

Grimm, at the head of his stolid policemen, stumped up some stairs and
along one or two passages and arrived eventually in a large, empty room.
It was rather a curious room, having one table in the middle, with four
chairs and four pads of blotting paper, as if arranged for a regular
committee. But what was much more curious was this: that in each of the
four walls of the room there was let in a door, with an old brass
knocker, as if they were the four front doors of separate houses. Each of
them bore a notice in large letters; one being inscribed "Professor
Phocus", another "General Case", a third "Mr. Loeb", and a fourth simply
"Sebastian", as with that magnificent flourish with which foreign poets
sign a single name. "This is where they live," said John Conrad, "and I
promise you they shall not escape."

Then after a pause he added: "But before we seek them out in their
separate suites of apartments, I want to talk to you about something. I
want to talk to you about The Word."

"I suppose," said the official grimly, "that we are to be allowed to hear
The Word also, though somebody has just told me that it will destroy the
world."

"I do not think it will destroy the world," answered Conrad gravely. "I
hope it will rather recreate it."

"Then," said Grimm, "I may take it that when we do know The Word, we
shan't find that is a joke too."

"In one sense it's a joke," answered the other. "In one sense when you
know it, you will know it's a joke. But the joke is that you know it
already."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean by saying so," said the other.

"You have heard The Word twenty times," said Conrad.

"You heard it only ten minutes ago. We have shouted and bellowed The Word
at you all the time, and made it as plain as a placard on the wall. The
whole secret of this conspiracy is really in one word; only that we've
never kept it a secret."

Grimm was looking at him with gleaming eyes under his heavy brows, and
something like a suspicion was creeping into his face. Conrad repeated
very seriously, with a slow and heavy enunciation the words: "As all
stars shrivel in the single sun . . ."

Grimm leapt to his feet with an oath and suddenly made a dash at the door
labelled "Sebastian".

"Yes, you've got it," said Conrad with a smile. "It's only a question of
which word you italicize. Or, if you like, of which word you begin with a
big letter."

"The words are many," muttered Grimm, fumbling at the door.

"Yes," answered the other, "but the word is One." Colonel Grimm flung
open the door of the poet's suite of apartments and found it was a
cupboard. It was quite an ordinary shallow cupboard with a few hat-pegs,
and from these were hanging a red wig, a red artificial beard, a scarf of
peacock colours and all the externals of the popular poet.

"All the history of the great revolution," went on John Conrad, in the
calm tone of a lecturer, "the whole method by which it was enabled to
spread and menace the great State of Pavonia is and always was to be
summed up in a single word: a word I constantly repeated, but a word that
you never guessed. It is the word One."

He stepped from the table to the door at right angles to the open one;
the door inscribed with the name of the Professor, and throwing it open,
revealed another cupboard, with a hat-peg supporting an unnaturally
narrow, tall hat, a dilapidated waterproof and a bulbous mask bridged by
a pair of green spectacles.

"These are the luxurious apartments of the celebrated Professor Phocus,"
he said. "Need I explain to you that there never was any Professor
Phocus?-except myself, of course, who professed to be the Professor. In
the case of Loeb and Case I ran rather a greater risk, for they were, or
had been, real people."

He paused a moment, rubbing his long chin, and then said: "But it's odd
how you shrewd policemen blunder by not simply believing what you are
told. You said that the Pavonian people must all be drilled in a
wonderful conspiracy; simply because they denied that there was a
conspiracy. They all agreed in that; so you thought that was conspiracy
in itself. As a matter of fact they knew nothing, because there was
nothing to know. It was the same with your international relations. Old
General Case told you again and again that he was old, and he was ill and
in retirement. And so he is. He's in such complete retirement that he
hasn't even heard that he is walking about the streets of the Pavonian
capital in full uniform. But you wouldn't believe him, because you
wouldn't believe anybody. The Princess herself said the poet looked all
painted and artificial in his purple whiskers. And that would have told
you the whole story, if you'd only listened to her. Then everybody said,
even the King himself, that old Loeb the pawnbroker was dead, and so he
was. He died years before I began to impersonate him with these trifling
adornments."

And he threw open another cupboard, displaying a dusty interior festooned
as if with cobwebs with the grey whiskers and shabby grey garments
attributed to the miser. "That was the beginning of the whole business.
Old Loeb really did take this house privately, but for very private
reasons; not exactly out of pure public spirit; no. I really was his
servant, having come down to that sort of service, and the only thing I
inherited from the old rascal's regime, the only thing I didn't invent
myself, was the underground passage, which he had constructed for
himself. As I say, there were no political ideals involved in that; odd
sort of ladies used it and so on. He was not a nice old gentleman. Well,
I don't know whether you will enter into the fine shade of my feelings,
but, although I was starving and ready to be a scavenger, yet three years
in the service of a sensual usurer left me in a rather revolutionary
state of mind. It seemed to me that the world, as seen from that
particular sewer, by that particular scavenger, was rather an ugly place.
So I decided to have a revolution. Or rather, I decided to be a
revolution. It was all very easy, really, if one did it slowly and with a
little tact and imagination. I built up the characters of four quite
different public men, two of them quite imaginary. You never saw any two
of them at the same moment, and you never noticed it. When they were
supposed to gather for their periodical dinner, I had only to put on one
disguise after the other and go round behind the scenes, so to speak, in
the underground passage, so that they only seemed to turn up one after
another in a leisurely fashion. For the rest, you've no notion how easy
it is to bamboozle a really enlightened, educated modern town, used to
newspapers and all that. It was only necessary for each person to have a
vast, vague reputation, more or less foreign. When Professor Phocus wrote
learned letters to the papers, with half the alphabet after his name,
nobody was going to admit they had never heard of the famous Professor
Phocus. When Sebastian said he was the greatest poet in modern Europe,
everybody felt that he ought to know. And if you get three or four names
of that sort nowadays, you have got everything. There never was a time in
history when the few counted for so much, and the many for so little.
When the newspapers say 'The nation is behind Mr. Binks', it means that
about three newspaper proprietors are behind him. When the professors say
'The opinion of Europe has now accepted the Gollywog theory', it means
that about four professors in Germany have accepted it. The moment I'd
got my millionaire and my man of science, I knew I was pretty safe; but
the poet was a pleasing ornament and I knew the threat of the foreign
general would throw you all into fits. By the way," he added
apologetically, "I have not shown you the magnificent apartments of
General Case, but it's only the uniform. The rest consists chiefly of
blacking,"

"Quite so," said Colonel Grimm, politely. "I will excuse you from
exhibiting the blacking. And now, what is to happen?"

The chief conspirator seemed to be still sunken in a sort of reverie. At
last he said: "I felt that all revolutions had failed through treason or
disunion among the revolutionists. I resolved that the others should not
betray me. I did not foresee that I might betray the others. But after
all, this rebellion has also ended in betrayal. Colonel Grimm, I give up
my confederates. The great poet Sebastian is captured and hanged; the
great soldier Case is captured and hanged; Phocus and Loeb are captured
and hanged. You can see them hanging-on hat-pegs."

Then he added, with a bow of profound modesty: "But their humble tool,
John Conrad, has the pardon of the King."

Grimm once more sprang erect with a ringing curse which cracked and
turned to a laugh. Then he said: "John Conrad, you are a devil, but I
shouldn't wonder if you brought it off after all. Clovis the Third may
have forgotten that he is still a king, but somewhere in his stale
memories he remembers that he is still a gentleman. Go on your way, Grand
Duke of Pavonia; it is possible that you know the way to go! After all,
you have done what you said you would do, and kept your own word in your
own way."

"Yes," said Conrad, with a new sobriety, "it is the only thing worth
calling The Word."

It has been already explained that Pavonia possessed a modern and
enlightened Government; and in the light of this fact it may seem a
strain on the reader's credulity to say that it did actually keep its
word to the eccentric footman. The politicians and the financiers made
some difficulties, feeling that the keeping of promises must not become a
habit. But for once the King put his foot down, not without a faint and
far-off jingle of the ancient spurs and sword. He said it was a point of
purely personal honour, but there was a rumour that his niece had a good
deal to do with it.



EPILOGUE OF THE PRESSMAN

THE Thief, the Quack, the Murderer and the Traitor, had made their
confessions of crime to Mr. Pinion of the Comet somewhat more briefly and
personally than the same tales have been recorded here. Nevertheless,
they took a tolerably long time from start to finish, and throughout the
whole of that time Mr. Pinion had preserved an air of polite attention
and had not interrupted by so much as a word.

When they were over, he coughed slightly and said: "Well, gentlemen, I'm
sure I've been very much interested in your remarkable narratives. But I
suppose most of us get misrepresented a bit from time to time. I hope
you'll do me the honour, gentlemen, of allowing that I haven't pumped
you, or prompted you, or stuck my oar in anyway, but have enjoyed your
hospitality without taking advantage of it."

"I am sure," said the doctor heartily, "nobody could possibly have been
more patient and considerate."

"I only ask," proceeded Mr. Pinion, in his gentle tones, "because in the
newspaper world of my own country I am known as the Bloody Battering-Ram,
also the Home-Wrecker, the Heart-Searcher and occasionally as Jack the
Ripper, because of my unscrupulous ripping-up of the most sacred secrets
of private life. Headlines such as 'Bull-Dog Pinion Pins President', or
'Home-Wrecker Has Scalp of Screaming Secretary', are common on the
brighter news-pages of my native state. The story is still told of how I
hung on to Judge Grogan by one leg, when he was climbing into the
aeroplane."

"Well," said the doctor, "I own I never should have guessed it of you.
Nobody would think you'd ever done a thing like that."

"I never did," replied Mr. Pinion calmly. "Judge Grogan and I had a
perfectly friendly conversation at his own country residence at his own
request. But each of us has got to keep up his own professional
reputation, whether it's as a Murderer, a Robber or a Reporter."

"Do you mean," asked the big man intervening, "that you didn't really
batter or wreck or rip anything or anybody?"

"Well, not quite so much as you murdered anybody," answered the American
in his guarded tone. "But I have to let on that I've been horribly rude
to everybody, or I'd lose my professional prestige and perhaps my job. As
a matter of fact, I generally find I can get anything I want by being
polite. My experience is," he added mildly and gravely, "that most folks
are only too ready to talk about themselves."

The four men around him looked at each other and then broke into a laugh.

"That's certainly one for us," said the doctor. "You've certainly got our
stories out of us and done it by being perfectly polite. Do you really
mean to say that if you publish them, you'd have to pretend you could
only do it by being rude?"

"I guess so," said Mr. Pinion, nodding gravely. "If I publish your story,
I'd have to say I broke down the door of Dr. Judson's surgery as he was
bandaging somebody with his throat cut, and just wouldn't let him finish
till he'd told me his life-story. I'd have to pretend Mr. Nadoway was
just off to his dying mother, when I boarded his car and got his views on
Capital versus Labour. I'd be obliged to burgle the third gentleman's
house or wreck the fourth gentleman's train, or do something to show my
editor I'm a real live wire of a reporter. Of course you never need to do
it really, you can do most things by decent manners and talking to people
at appropriate times. Or rather," and he again suppressed a smile,
"letting them talk to you."

"Do you think," asked the big man thoughtfully, "that that sort of
sensationalism really impresses the public?"

"I don't know," said the journalist. "I should rather think not. It
impresses the editor, and that's what I've got to think about."

"But, if you'll excuse me, don't you mind yourself," pursued the other.
"Don't you mind everybody from Maine to Mexico calling you a Bloody
Battering-Ram when you're really a perfectly normal and well-educated
gentleman?"

"Well," said the journalist, "I suppose, as I say, that most of us are
misunderstood one way or another."

There was a momentary silence at the table, and then Dr. Judson turned in
his chair with a sort of jerk and said: "Gentlemen, I beg to propose Mr.
Lee Pinion as a member of the Club."



THE END





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