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Title:      Portrait of a Man with Red Hair (1925)
Author:     Hugh Walpole
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Portrait of a Man with Red Hair (1925)
Author:     Hugh Walpole




A Romantic Macabre



TO MY FRIENDS

ETHEL and ARTHUR FOWLER




DEDICATORY LETTER


Brackenburn,
April 1925.

Dear Ethel and Arthur

It is appropriate, in a way, that I should give you this book when
so much of it was written under your roof.  It is a romance, and
this has not been, during the last twenty years, a favourable time
for romances.  But I like to give it to you because you know how it
was written, in a very happy summer after a long and arduous
lecture-tour during which, more than ever before, I learned to love
your country.

I wrote it as a rest and a refreshment, and I will tell you frankly
that I have enjoyed writing it very much.  But I do not know
whether, in these stern days, stories are intended to be enjoyed
either by the writer of them or the reader.

I have noticed sometimes that people speak rather scornfully of a
story as "readable."  But if it be not first of all "readable" what
afterwards can it be?  Surely dead before it is born.

I hope then, and I believe, that this tale is "readable" at least.
I know no more than that what it is--fancy, story, allegory, what
you will.  I might invoke the great names of Hoffmann and Hawthorne
for its God-fathers.  I might recall a story much beloved by me,
Sintram and His Companions, did I not, most justly, fear the
comparison!

But the word allegory is, in these days, a dangerous one, and
someone will soon be showing me that we have, each one of us, his
Sea-Fog, his White Tower, and that it is the fault of his own
weakness if he does not fling out of the window his Red-Haired Man.

No, no, God forbid.  This is a tale and nothing but a tale, and all
I ask is that once beginning it you will find it hard to lay down
unfinished--

and that you will think me of always as

Your affectionate friend

Hugh.





PREFACE


I wrote this story as a relaxation after a lecture tour.  An
American editor asked me, at that time, for a serial, and I thought
this would be the very thing for him.  I showed him the synopsis
and he was delighted.  The contract was signed.  Then two months
later I sent him the completed story, and what was my amazement to
receive a very long cable from him saying that he was in despair,
that he could not possibly print it in his magazine because of its
"revolting character".  He was a good honest man whom I greatly
liked, and I was quite staggered by his judgment!  However, it was
sold to somebody else and duly appeared as a book.  I discovered
that I was supposed to have written a treatise on sadism, and when
later Charles Laughton acted in the play that was made from the
book, people left the theatre at every performance, too deeply
horrified to endure it!  This is what comes of attempting light
relaxation after a lecture tour!

I have always felt myself that Crispin, the villain of this highly-
coloured adventure, was too fantastic to be shocking.  If I wanted
to write about the REAL Crispin, why, then there WOULD be something
to cry out about!

He was to me a kind of Jack the Giant-Killer Giant with the pathos
that attaches to everyone who is seven feet high or has three legs
or an eye in the middle of his forehead!  Then he was also to me a
symbol, making this book one with Maradick at Forty, The Prelude to
Adventure, and Above the Dark Circus.  It was because I felt this
that I linked the story to Maradick, and even had the audacity to
do over again the incident that had already figured in the earlier
book, the dance through the town.

And yet in my original preface I stated that there WAS nothing
symbolic about him.  I meant that quite sincerely.  I had written
it as the lightest and simplest of adventures.

I was also afraid of this symbolism of mine with which I was for
ever being twitted.  These four books are not perhaps symbolic in
any real sense of the word.  They are, I would rather say,
CANDLELIGHT books.  By that I mean that the scenes are lit by
flickering, uncertain illumination which creates a shadow for
everything, BEHIND everything, and the shadow is more important
than the reality.

Not very long ago I saw Crispin at a theatre.  I could not believe
my eyes.  There he was, sitting not far away from me, red hair,
white face, pudgy body and all.  I was fascinated and, in the
interval, I stood near him eager to hear what he would say.  All
that he DID say was that his crop of potatoes was promising very
well, much better than LAST year.  I was disappointed, but who
knows what sinister secret the potatoes covered?

It has been a very successful book in the popular sense and has
appeared at every possible price from seven and sixpence to
sixpence, but after it appeared and I was told of its horrible
atmosphere, I longed to write a REAL book on Crispin's life and
adventures--I offer the suggestion to someone more courageous than
myself!

The town in Maradick and The Red-Haired Man was a faint echo of St.
Ives as it used to be--not at all as it now is!  The Dance is, of
course, at Helston and is still very vigorous, as I can personally
testify.  If Crispin himself reads this little preface, perhaps he
will write to me?

H. W.

1934




. . . Within these few restrictions, I think, every writer may be
permitted to deal as much in the wonderful as he pleases; nay, if
he then keeps within the rules of credibility, the more he can
surprise the reader the more he will engage his attention, and the
more he will charm him.

As a genius of the highest rank observes in his fifth chapter of
the Bathos, "The great art of all poetry is to mix truth with
fiction, in order to join the credible with the surprising."

For though every good author will confine himself within the bounds
of probability, it is by no means necessary that his characters or
his incidents should be trite, common, or vulgar; such as happen in
every street, or in every house, or which may be met with in the
home articles of a newspaper.  Nor must he be inhibited from
showing many persons and things which may possibly never have
fallen within the knowledge of great part of his readers.

Henry Fielding.




CONTENTS


I.  THE SEA LIKE BRONZE . . .

II.  THE DANCE ROUND THE TOWN

III.  SEA-FOG

IV.  THE TOWER




PORTRAIT OF A MAN WITH RED HAIR



PART I

THE SEA LIKE BRONZE . . .


                     I

       You're my friend:
       I was the man the Duke spoke to:
       I helped the Duchess to cast off his yoke too:
       So here's the tale from beginning to end,
       My friend!

                     II

       Ours is a great wild country;
       If you climb to our castle's top,
       I don't see where your eye can stop;
       For when you've passed the cornfield country,
       Where vineyards leave off, flocks are packed,
       And sheep-range leads to cattle-tract,
       And cattle-tract to open-chase,
       And open-chase to the very base
       Of the mountain where, at a funeral pace,
       Round about, solemn and slow,
       One by one, row after row,
       Up and up the pine trees go,
       Go, like black priests up, and so
       Down the other side again
       To another greater, wilder country. . . .

       "To another greater, wilder country . . .
       "To another greater . . ."


                              1


The soul of Charles Percy Harkness slipped, like a neat white
pocket-handkerchief, out through the carriage window into the
silver-blue air, hung there changing into a tiny white fleck
against the immensity, struggling for escape above the purple-
pointed trees of the dark wood, then, realising that escape was not
yet, fluttered back into the carriage again, was caught by Charles
Percy, neatly folded up, and put away.

The Browning lines--old-fashioned surely?--had yielded it a
moment's hope.  Those and some other lines from another outmoded
book:

"But the place reasserted its spell, marshalling once again its
army, its silver-belted knights, its castles of perilous frowning
darkness, its meadows of gold and silver streams.

"The old spell working the same purpose.  For how many times and
for what intent?  That we may be reminded yet once again that there
is the step behind the door, the light beyond the window, the
rustle on the stair, and that it is for these things only that we
must watch and wait?"

For Harkness had committed the folly of having two books open on
his knee--a peck at one, a peck at another, a long, eager glance
through the window at the summer scene, but above all a sensuous
state of slumber hovering in the hot scented afternoon air just
above him, waiting to pounce . . . to pounce . . .

First Browning, then this other, the old book in a faded red-brown
cover, "To Paradise: Frederick Lester."  At the bottom of the title-
page, 1892--how long ago!  How faded and pathetic the old book was!
He alone in all the British Isles at that moment reading it--
certainly no other living soul--and he had crossed to Browning
after Lester's third page.

He swung in mid-air.  The open fields came swimming up to him like
vast green waves, gently to splash upon his face, hanging over him,
laced about the telegraph poles, rising and falling with them. . . .

The voice of the old man with the long white beard, the only
occupant of the carriage with him, broke sharply in like a steel
knife cutting through blotting-paper.

"Pardon me, but there is a spider on your neck!"

Harkness started up.  The two books slipped to the floor.  He
passed his hand, damp with the afternoon warmth, over his cool
neck.  He hated spiders.  He shivered.  His fingers were on the
thing.  With a shudder he flung it out of the window.

"Thank you," he said, blushing very slightly.

"Not at all," the old man said severely; "you were almost asleep,
and in another moment it would have been down your back."

He was not the old man you would have expected to see in an English
first-class carriage, save that now in these democratic days you
may see anyone anywhere.  But first-class fares are so expensive.
Perhaps that is why it is only the really poor who can afford them.
The old man, who was thin and wiry, had large shabby boots, loose
and ancient trousers, a flopping garden straw hat.  His hands were
gnarled like the knots of trees.  He was terribly clean.  He had
blue eyes.  On his knees was a large basket and from this he ate
his massive luncheon--here an immense sandwich with pieces of ham
like fragments of banners, there a colossal apple, a monstrous pear--

"Going far?" munched the old man.

"No," said Harkness, blushing again.  "To Treliss.  I change at
Trewth, I believe.  We should be there at 4.30."

"SHOULD BE," said the old man, dribbling through his pear.  "The
train's late. . . .  Another tourist," he added suddenly.

"I beg your pardon?" said Harkness.

"Another of these damned tourists.  You are, I mean.  _I_ lived at
Treliss.  Such as you drove me away."

"I am sorry," said Harkness, smiling faintly.  "I suppose I AM that
if by tourist you mean somebody who is travelling to a place to see
what it is like and enjoy its beauty.  A friend has told me of it.
He says it is the most beautiful place in England."

"Beauty," said the old man, licking his fingers--"a lot you
tourists think about beauty--with your char-a-bangs and oranges and
babies and Americans.  If I had my way I'd make the Americans pay a
tax, spoiling our country as they do."

"_I_ am an American," said Harkness faintly.

The old man licked his thumb, looked at it, and licked it again.
"I wouldn't have thought it," he said.  "Where's your accent?"

"I have lived in this country a great many years off and on," he
explained, "and we don't all say 'I guess' every moment as
novelists make us do," he added, smiling.

Smiling, yes.  But how deeply he detested this unfortunate
conversation!  How happy he had been, and now this old man with his
rudeness and violence had smashed the peace into a thousand
fragments.  But the old man spoke little more.  He only stared at
Harkness out of his blue eyes, and said:

"Treliss is too beautiful a place for you.  It will do you harm,"
and fell instantly asleep.


                              2


Yes, Harkness thought, looking at the rise and fall of the old
man's beard, it is strange and indeed lamentable how deeply I
detest a cross word!  That is why I am always creeping away from
things, why, too, I never make friends--not REAL friends--why at
thirty-five I am a complete failure--that is, from the point of
view of anything real.

I am filled too with self-pity, he added as he opened To Paradise
again and groped for page four, and self-pity is the most
despicable of all the vices.

He was not unpleasing to the eye as he sat there thinking.  He was
dressed with exceeding neatness, but his clothes had something of
the effect of chain armour.  Was that partly because his figure was
so slight that he could never fill any suit of clothes adequately?
That might be so.  His soft white collar, his pale blue tie, his
mild blue eyes, his long tranquil fingers, these things were all
gentle.  His chin protruded.  He was called "gaunt" by undiscerning
friends, but that was a poor word for him.  He was too slight for
that, too gentle, too unobtrusive.  His hair was already retreating
deprecatingly from his forehead.  No gaunt man would smile so
timidly.  His neatness and immaculate spotless purity of dress
showed a fastidiousness that granted his cowardice an excuse.

For I am a coward, he thought.  This is yet another holiday that I
am taking alone.  Alone after all these years.  And Pritchard or
Mason, Major Stock or Henry Trenchard, Carstairs Willing or Falk
Brandon--any one of these might have wished to go if I had had
courage . . . or even Maradick himself might have come.

The only companions, he reflected, that he had taken with him on
this journey were his etchings, kinder to him, more intimate with
him, rewarding him with more affection than any human being.  His
seven etchings--the seven of his forty--Lepère's "Route de St.
Gilles," Legros' "Cabane dans les Marais," Rembrandt's "Flight into
Egypt," Muirhead Bone's "Orvieto," Whistler's "Drury Lane,"
Strang's "Portrait of himself Etching," and Meryon's "Rue des
Chantres."  His seven etchings--his greatest friends in the world,
save of course Hetty and Jane his sisters.  Yes, he reflected, you
can judge a man by his friends, and in my cowardice I have given
all my heart to these things because they can't answer me back,
cannot fail me when I most eagerly expect something of them, are
always there when I call them, do not change nor betray me.  And
yet it is not only cowardice.  They are intimate and individual as
is no other form of graphic art.  They are so personal that every
separate impression has a fresh character.  They are so lovely in
soul that they never age nor have their moods.  My Aldegrevers and
Penczs, he was reflecting. . . .  He was a little happier now. . . .
The Browning and To Paradise fell once more to the ground.  I
hope the old man does not waken, he thought, and yet perhaps he
will pass his station.  What a temper he will be in if he does
that, and then I too shall suffer!

He read a line or two of the Browning:


     Ours is a great wild country;
     If you climb to our castle's top,
     I don't see where your eye can stop . . .


How strange that the book should have opened again at that same
place as though it were there that it wished him to read!

And then To Paradise a line or two, now page 376, "And the Silver
Button?  Would his answer defy that too?  Had he some secret magic?
Was he stronger than God Himself? . . ."

And then, Harkness reflected, this business about being an
American.  He had felt pride when he had told the old man that that
was his citizenship.  He was proud, yes, and yet he spent most of
his life in Europe.  And now as always when he fell to thinking of
America his eye travelled to his own home there--Baker at the
portals of Oregon.  All the big trains pass it on their way to the
coast--three hundred and forty miles from Portland, fifty from
Huntington.  He saw himself on that eager arrival coming out by the
11.30 train from Salt Lake City steaming in at 4.30 in the
afternoon, an early May afternoon perhaps with the colours violet
in the sky and the mountains elephant-dusk--so quiet and so gentle.
And when the train has gone on and you are left on the platform and
you look about you and find everything as it was when you departed
a year ago--the Columbia Café.  The Antlers Hotel.  The mountains
still with their snow caps.  The Lumber Offices.  The notice on the
wall of the café:  "You can EAT HERE if you have NO MONEY."  The
Crabill Hotel.  The fresh sweet air, three thousand five hundred
feet up.  The soft pause of the place.  Baker did not grow very
fast as did other places.  It is true that there had been but four
houses when his father had first landed there, but even now as
towns went it was small and quiet and unprogressive.  Strange that
his father with that old-cultured New England stock should have
gone there, but he had fled from mankind after the death of his
wife, Harkness' mother, fled with his three little children, shut
himself away, there under the mountains with his books, a sad,
severe man in that long, rambling, ramshackle house.  Still long,
still rambling, still ramshackle, although Hetty and Jane, who
never moved away from it, had made it as charming as they could.
They were darlings, and lived for the month every year when their
brother came to visit them.  But he could not live there!  No, he
could not!  It was exile for him, exile from everything for which
he most deeply cared.  But Europe was exile too.  That was the
tragedy of it!  Every morning that he waked he thought that perhaps
to-day he would find that he was a true European!  But no, it was
not so.  Away from America, how deeply he loved his country!  How
clearly he saw its idealism, its vitality, its marvellous promise
for the future, its loving contact with his own youthful dreams.
But back in America again it seemed crude and noisy and
materialistic.  He longed for the Past.  Exile in both with his New
England culture that was not enough, his half-cocked vitality that
was not enough.  Never enough to permit his half-gods to go!  But
he loved America always; he saw how little these Europeans truly
knew or cared about her, how hasty their visits to her, how
patronising their attitude, how weary their stale conventions
against her full, bursting energy.  And yet--!  And yet--!  He
could not live there.  After two weeks of Baker, even though he had
with him his etchings, his diary in its dark blue cover, Frazer's
Golden Bough, and some of the Loeb Classics, life was not enough.
Hetty and Jane bored him with their goodness and little Culture
Club.  It was not enough for him that Hetty had read a very good
paper on "Archibald Marshall--the modern Trollope" to the
inhabitants of Baker and Haines.  Nevertheless they seemed to him
finer women than the women of any other country, with their cheery
independence, their admirable common sense, their warm hearts,
their unselfishness, but--it was not enough--no, it was not
enough. . . .  What he wanted . . .


                              3


The old man awoke with a start.

"And when you come to this Prohibition question," he said, "the
Americans have simply become a laughing stock. . . ."

Harkness picked up the Browning firmly.  "If you don't mind," he
remarked, "I have a piece of work here of some importance and I
have but little time.  Pray excuse me. . . ."


                              4


How had he dared?  Never in all his life had he spoken to a
stranger so.  How often had he envied and admired those who could
be rude and indifferent to people's feelings.  It seemed to him
that this was a crisis with him, something that he would never
forget, something that might alter all his life.  Perhaps already
the charm of which Maradick had spoken was working.  He looked out
of his window and always, afterwards, he was to remember a stream
that, now bright silver, now ebony dark, ran straight to him from
the heart of an emerald green field like a greeting spirit.  It
laughed up to his window and was gone.

He had asserted himself.  The old man with the beard was reading
the Hibbert Journal.  Strange old man--but defeated!  Harkness felt
a triumph.  Could he but henceforward assert himself in this
fashion, all might be easy for him.  Instead of retreating he might
advance, stretch out his hand and take the things and the people
that he wanted as he had seen others do.  He almost wished that the
old man might speak to him again, that he might once more be rude.

He had had, ever since he could remember, the belief that one day,
suddenly, some magic door would open, someone step before him, some
magic carpet unroll at his feet, and all life would be changed.
For many years he had had no doubt of this.  He would call it,
perhaps, the coming of romance, but as he had grown older he had
come to distrust both himself and life.  He had always been
interested in contemporary literature.  Every new book that he
opened now seemed to tell him that he was extremely foolish to
expect anything of life at all.  He was swallowed by the modern
realistic movement as a fly is swallowed by an indifferent spider.
These men, he said to himself, are very clever.  They know so much
more about everything than I do that they must be right.  They are
telling the truth at last about life as no one has ever done it
before.  But when he had read a great many of these books (and
every word of Mr. Joyce's Ulysses), he found that he cared much
less about truth than he had supposed.  He even doubted whether
these writers were telling the truth any more than the naïve and
sentimental Victorians; and when at last he read a story all about
an American manufacturer of washing machines whose habit it was to
strip himself naked on every possible occasion before his nearest
and dearest relations and friends, and when the author told him
that this was a typical American citizen, he, knowing his own
country people very well, frankly disbelieved it.  These realists,
he exclaimed, are telling fairy stories quite as thoroughly as
Grimm, Fouqué, and De la Mare; the difference is that the realistic
fairy stories are depressing and discouraging, the others are not.
He determined to desert the realists and wait until something
pleasanter came along.  Since it was impossible to have the truth
about life anyway let us have only the pleasant hallucinations.
They are quite as likely to be as true as the others.

But he was lonely and desolate.  The women whom he loved never
loved him, and indeed he never came sufficiently close to them to
give them any encouragement.  He dreamt about them and painted them
as they certainly were not.  He had his passions and his desires,
but his Puritan descent kept him always at one remove from
experience.  He never, in fact, seemed to have contact with
anything at all--except Baker in Oregon, his two sisters, and his
forty etchings.  He was so shy that he was thought to be conceited,
so idealistic that he was considered cynical, so chaste that he was
considered a most immoral fellow with a secret double life.  Like
the hero of "Flegeljahre," he "loved every dog and wanted every dog
to love him," but the dogs did not know enough about him to be
interested; he was so like so many other immaculately dressed,
pleasant-mannered, and wandering American cosmopolitans that nobody
had any permanent feeling for him--fathered by Henry James, uncled
by Howells, aunted (severely) by Edith Wharton--one of a million
cultured, kindly, impersonal Americans seen as shadows by the
matter-of-fact, unimaginative British.  Who knew or cared that he
was lonely, longing for love, for home, for someone to whom he
might give his romantic devotion?  He was all these things, but no
one minded.

And then he met James Maradick.


                              5


The meeting was of the simplest.  At the Reform Club one day he was
lunching with two men, one a novelist, Westcott, whom he knew very
slightly, the other a fellow-American.  Westcott, a dark, thick-set
man of about forty, with a reputation that without being
sensational was solid and well merited, said very little.  Harkness
liked him and recognised in him a kindly shyness rather like his
own.  After luncheon they moved into the big smoking-room upstairs
to drink their coffee.

A large, handsome man of between fifty and sixty came up and spoke
to Westcott.  He was obviously pleased to see him, putting his hand
on his shoulder, looking at him with kindly, smiling eyes.
Westcott also flushed with pleasure.  The big man sat down with
them and Harkness was introduced to him.  His name was Maradick--
Sir James Maradick.  A strange, unreal kind of name for so real and
solid a man.  As he sat forward on the sofa with his heavy
shoulders, his deep chest, his thick neck, red-brown colour, and
clear open gaze, he seemed to Harkness to be the typical, rather
naïve, friendly, but cautious British man of business.

That impression soon passed.  There was something in Maradick that
almost instantly warmed his heart.  He responded--as do all
American men--immediately, even emotionally, to any friendly
contact.  The reserves that were in his nature were from his
superficial cosmopolitanism; the native warm-hearted, eager, and
trusting American was as real and active as it ever had been.  It
was, in five minutes, as though he had known this large kindly man
always.  His shyness dropped from him.  He was talking eagerly and
with great happiness.

Maradick did not patronise, did not check that American spontaneity
with traditional caution as so many Englishmen do; he seemed to
like Harkness as truly as Harkness liked him.

Westcott had to go.  The other American also departed, but Maradick
and Harkness sat on there, amused, and even absorbed.

"If I am keeping you--" Harkness said suddenly, some of his shyness
for a moment returning.

"Not at all," Maradick answered.  "I have nothing urgent this
afternoon.  I've got the very place for you, I believe."

They had been speaking of places.  Maradick had travelled, and
together they found some of the smaller places that they both knew
and loved--Dragör on the sea beyond Copenhagen, the woods north of
Helsingfors, the beaches of Ischia, the enchantment of Girgente
with the white goats moving over carpets of flowers through the
ruined temples, the silence and mystery of Mull.  He knew America
too--the places that foreigners never knew; the teeth-shaped
mountains at Las Cruces, the lovely curve of Tacoma, the little
humped-up hills of Syracuse, the purple horizons beyond Nashville,
the lone lake shore of Marquette--

"And then in this country there is Treliss," he said softly,
staring in front of him.

"Treliss?" Harkness repeated after him, liking the name.

"Yes.  In North Cornwall.  A beautiful place."

He paused--sighed.

"I was there more than ten years ago.  I shall never go back."

"Why not?"

"I liked it too well.  I daresay they've spoiled it now as they
have many others.  Thanks to wretched novelists, the railway
company and char-a-bancs, Cornwall and Glebeshire are ruined.  No,
I dare not go back."

"Was it very beautiful?" Harkness asked.

"Yes.  Beautiful?  Oh yes.  Wonderful.  But it wasn't that.
Something happened to me there."*


* See Maradick at Forty.


"So that you dare not go back?"

"Yes.  Dare is the word.  I believe that the same thing would
happen again.  And I'm too old to stand it.  In my case now it
would be ludicrous.  It was nearly ludicrous then."  Harkness said
nothing.  "How old are you?  If it isn't an impertinence--"

"Thirty-five?  You're young enough.  I was forty.  Have you ever
noticed about places--?"  He broke off.  "I mean--Well, you know
with people.  Suppose that you have been very intimate with someone
and then you don't see him or her for years, and then you meet
again--don't you find yourself suddenly producing the same set of
thoughts, emotions, moods that have, perhaps, lain dormant for
years, and that only this one person can call from you?  And it is
the same with places.  Sometimes of course in the interval
something has died in you or in them, and the second meeting
produces nothing.  Hands cross over a grave.  But if those things
haven't died, how wonderful to find them all alive again after all
those years, how you had forgotten the way they breathed and spoke
and had their being; how interesting to find yourself drawn back
again into that old current, perilous perhaps, but deep, real after
all the shams--"

He broke off.  "Places do the same, I think," he said.  "If you
have the sort of things in you that stir them they produce in their
turn THEIR things . . . and always will for your kind . . . a sort
of secret society; I believe," he added, suddenly turning on
Harkness and looking him in the face, "that Treliss might give you
something of the same adventure that it gave me--if you want it to,
that is--if you need it.  Do you WANT adventure, romance, something
that will pull you right out of yourself and test you, show you
whether you ARE real or no, give you a crisis that will change you
for ever?  Do you want it?"

Then he added quietly, reflectively:  "It changed ME more than the
war ever did."

"Do I WANT it?" Harkness was breathing deeply, driven by some
excitement that he could not stop to analyse.  "I should say so.  I
want nothing so much.  It's just what I need, what I've been
looking for--"

"Then go down there.  I believe you're just the kind--but go at the
right time.  There's a night in August when they have a dance, when
they dance all round the town.  That's the time for you to go.
That will liberate you if you throw yourself into it.  It's in
August.  August the--I'm not quite sure of the date.  I'll write to
you if you'll give me your address."

Soon afterwards, with a warm clasp of the hand, they parted.


                              6


Two days later Harkness received a small parcel.  Opening it he
discovered an old brown-covered book and a letter.

The letter was as follows:


DEAR MR. HARKNESS--In all probability in the cold light of reason,
and removed from the fumes of the Reform Club, our conversation of
yesterday will seem to you nothing but foolishness.  Perhaps it
was.  The merest chance led me to think of something that belongs,
for me, to a life quite dead and gone; not perhaps as dead, though,
as I had fancied it.  In any case, I had not, until yesterday,
thought directly of Treliss for years.

Let us put it on the simplest ground.  If you want a beautiful
place, near at hand, for a holiday, that you have not yet seen,
here it is--Treliss, North Cornwall--take the morning train from
Paddington and change at Trewth.  If you will be advised by me you
really should go down for August 6th, when they have their dance.
I could see that you are interested in local customs, and here is a
most entertaining one surviving from Druid times, I believe.  Go
down on the day itself and let that be your first impression of the
place.  The train gets you in between five and six.  Take your room
at the "Man-at-Arms Hotel," ten years ago the most picturesque inn
in Great Britain.  I cannot, of course, vouch for what it may have
become.  I should get out at Trewth, which you will reach soon
after four, and walk the three miles to the town.  Well worth
doing.

One word more.  I am sending you a book.  A completely forgotten
novel by a completely forgotten novelist.  Had he lived he would, I
think, have done work that would have lasted, but he was killed in
the first year of the war and his earlier books are uncertain.  He
hadn't found himself.  This book, as you will see from the
inscription, he gave me.  I was with him down there.  Some things
in it seem to me to belong especially to the place.  Pages 102 and
236 will show you especially what I mean.  When you are at the "Man-
at-Arms" go and look at the Minstrels' Gallery, if it isn't pulled
down or turned into a jazz dancing-hall.  That too will show you
what I mean.

Or go, as perhaps after all is wiser, simply to a beautiful place
for a week's holiday, forgetting me and anything I have said.

Or, as is perhaps wiser still, don't go at all.  In any case I am
your debtor for our delightful conversation of yesterday.--
Sincerely yours,

                                               JAMES MARADICK.


What Maradick had said occurred.  As the days passed the impression
faded.  Harkness hoped that he would meet Maradick again.  He did
not do so.  During the first days he watched for him in the streets
and in the clubs.  He devised plans that would give him an excuse
to meet him once more; the simplest of all would have been to
invite him to luncheon.  He knew that Maradick would come.  But his
own distrust of himself now as always forbade him.  Why should
Maradick wish to see him again?  He had been pleasant to him, yes,
but he was of the type that would be agreeable to anyone, kindly,
genial, and forgetting you immediately.  But Maradick had not
forgotten him.  He had taken the trouble to write to him and send
him a book.  It had been a friendly letter too.  Why not ask
Westcott and Maradick to dinner?  But Westcott was married.
Harkness had met his wife, a charming and pretty English girl,
younger a good deal than her husband.  Yes, all right about Mrs.
Westcott, but then Harkness must ask another woman.  Maradick, he
understood, was a widower.  The thing was becoming a party.  They
would have to go somewhere, to a theatre or something.  The thing
was becoming elaborate, complicated, and he shrank from it.  So he
always shrank from everything were he given time to think.

He paid all the gentle American's courtesy and attention to fine
details of conduct.  Englishmen often shocked him by their casual
inattention, especially to ladies.  He must do social things
elaborately did he do them at all.  He was gathering around him
already some of the fussy observances of the confirmed bachelor.
And therefore as Maradick became to him something of a problem, he
put him out of his mind just as he had put so many other things and
persons out of his mind because he was frightened of them.

Treliss too, as the days passed, lost some of the first magic of
its name.  He had felt a strange excitement when Maradick had first
mentioned it, but soon it was the name of a beautiful but distant
place, then a seaside resort, then nowhere at all.  He did not read
Lester's book.

Then an odd thing occurred.  It was the last day in July and he was
still in London.  Nearly everyone had gone away--everyone whom he
knew.  There were still many millions of human beings on every side
of him, but London was empty for himself and his kind.  His club
was closed for cleaning purposes, and the Reform Club was offering
him and his fellow-clubmen temporary hospitality.

He had lunched alone, then had gone upstairs, sunk into an arm-
chair and read a newspaper.  Read it or seemed to read it.  It was
time that he went away.  Where should he go?  There was an uncle
who had taken a shooting-box in Scotland.  He did not like that
uncle.  He had an invitation from a kind lady who had a large house
in Wiltshire.  But the kind lady had asked him because she pitied
him, not because she liked him.  He knew that very well.

There were several men who would, if he had caught them sooner,
have gone with him somewhere, but he had allowed things to drift
and now they had made their own plans.

He felt terribly lonely, soused suddenly with that despicable self-
pity to which he was rather too easily prone.  He thought of Baker--
Lord! how hot it must be there just now!  He was half asleep.  It
was hot enough here.  Only one other occupant of the room, and he
was fast asleep in another armchair.  Snoring.  The room rocked
with his snores.  The papers laid neatly one upon another wilted
under the heat.  The subdued London roar came from behind the
windows in rolling waves of heat.  A faint iridescence hovered
above the enormous chairs and sofas that lay like animals panting.

He looked across the long room.  Almost opposite him was a square
of wall that caught the subdued light like a pool of water.  He
stared at it as though it had demanded his attention.  The water
seemed to move, to shift.  Something was stirring there.  He looked
more intently.  Colours came, shapes shifted.  It was a scene, some
place.  Yes, a place.  Houses, sand, water.  A bay.  A curving bay.
A long sea-line dark like the stroke of a pencil against faint
eggshell blue.  Water.  A bay bordered by a ring of saffron sand,
and behind the sand, rising above it, a town.  Tier on tier of
houses, and behind them again in the farthest distance a fringe of
dark wood.  He could even see now little figures, black spots,
dotted upon the sand.  The sea now was very clear, shimmering
mother-of-pearl.  A scattering of white upon the shore as the long
wave-line broke and retreated.  And the houses tier upon tier.  He
gazed, filled with an overwhelming breathless excitement.  He was
leaning forward, his hands pressing in upon the arms of the chair.
It stayed, trembling with a kind of personal invitation before him.
Then, as though it had nodded and smiled farewell to him, it
vanished.  Only the wall was there.

But the excitement remained, excitement quite unaccountable.

He got up, his knees trembling.  He looked at the stout bellying
occupant of the other chair, his mouth open, his snores
reverberant.

He went out.  Six days later he was in the train for Treliss.


                              7


Now too, of course, he had his reactions just as he always had.  He
could explain the thing easily enough; for a moment or two he had
slept, or, if he had not, a trick of light on that warm afternoon
and his own thoughts about possible places had persuaded him.

Nevertheless the picture remained strangely vivid--the sea, the
shore, the rising town, the little line of darkening wood.  He
would go down there, and on the day that Maradick had suggested to
him.  Something might occur.  You never could tell.  He packed his
etchings--his St. Gilles, Marais, his Flight into Egypt and
Orvieto, his Whistler and Strang and Meryon.  They would protect
him and see that he did nothing foolish.

He had special confidence in his St. Gilles.

He had intended to read the Lester book all the way, but as we have
seen, managed only a bare line or two; the Browning he had not
intended even to have with him, but in some fashion, with the
determined resolve that books so often show, it had crept into his
bag and then was on his knee, he knew not whence, and soon out of
self-defence against the old man he was reading "The Flight of the
Duchess," carried away on the wings of its freedom, strength, and
colour.

Nevertheless, that is the kind of man I am, he thought, even the
books force me to read them when I have no wish.  And soon he had
forgotten the old man, the carriage, the warm weather.  How many
years since he had read it?  No matter.  Wasn't it fine and
touching and true?  When he came to the place:


     . . . the door opened and more than mortal
     Stood, with a face where to my mind centred
     All beauties I ever saw or shall see,
     The Duchess--I stopped as if struck by palsy.
     She was so different, happy and beautiful,
     I felt at once that all was best,
     And that I had nothing to do, for the rest
     But wait her commands, obey and be dutiful.
     Not that, in fact, there was any commanding,
     --I saw the glory of her eye
     And the brow's height and the breast's expanding,
     And I was hers to live or to die.


"Hurrah!" Harkness cried.

"I beg your pardon?" the old man said, looking up.

Harkness blushed.  "I was reading something rather fine," he said,
smiling.

"You'd better look out for what you're reading, to whom you're
speaking, where you're walking, what you're eating, everything,
when you're in Treliss," he remarked.

"Why?  Is it so dangerous a place?" asked Harkness.

"It doesn't like tourists.  I've seen it do funny things to
tourists in my time."

"I think you're hard on tourists," Harkness said.  "They don't mean
any harm.  They admire places the best way they can."

"Yes, and how long do they stay?" the old man replied.  "Do you
think you can know a place in a week or a month?  Do you think a
real place likes the dirt and the noise and the silly talk they
bring with them?"

"What do you mean by a real place?" Harkness asked.

"Places have souls just like people.  Some have more soul and some
have less.  And some have none at all.  Sometimes a place will
creep away altogether, it is so disgusted with the things people
are trying to do to it, and will leave a dummy instead, and only a
few know the difference.  Why, up in the Welsh hills there are
several places that have gone up there in sheer disgust the way
they've been treated, and left substitutes behind them.  Parts of
London, for instance.  Do you think that's the real Chelsea you see
in London?  Not a bit of it.  The real Chelsea is living--well, I
mustn't tell you where it is living--but you'll never find it.
However, Americans are the last to understand these things.  I am
wasting my breath talking."

The train had drawn now into Drymouth.  The old man was silent,
looking out at the hurrying crowds on the platform.  He was
certainly a pessimist and a hater of his kind.  He was looking out
at the innocent people with a lowering brow as though he would
slaughter the lot of them had he the power.  "Old Testament Moses"
Harkness named him.  After a while the train slowly moved on.  They
passed above the mean streets, the hoardings with the cheap
theatres, the lines with the clothes hanging in the wind, the grimy
windows.  But even these things the lovely sky, shining,
transmuted.

They came to the river.  It lay on either side of the track, a
broad sheet of lovely water spreading, on the left, to the open
sea.  The warships clustered in dark ebony shadows against the
gold; the hills rose softly, bending in kindly peace and happy
watchfulness.

"Silence!  We're crossing!" the old man cried.  He was sitting
forward, his gnarled hands on his broad knees, staring in front of
him.

The train drew in to a small wayside station, gay with flowers.
The trees blew about it in whispering clusters.  The old man got
up, gathered his basket and lumbered out, neither looking at nor
speaking to Harkness.

He was alone.  He felt an overwhelming relief.  He had not liked
the old man, and very obviously the old man had not liked him.  But
it was not only that he was alone that pleased him.  There was
something more than that.

It was indeed as though he were in a new country.  The train seemed
to be going now more slowly, with a more casual air, as though it
too felt a relief and did not care what happened--time, engagements,
schedules, all these were now forgotten as they went comfortably
lumbering, the curving fields embracing them, the streams singing
to them, the little houses perched on the clear-lit skyline smiling
down upon them.

It would not be long now before they were in Trewth, where he must
change.  He took his two books and put them away in his bag.
Should he send the bag on and walk as Maradick had advised him?
Three miles.  Not far, and it was a most lovely day.  He could
smell the sea now through the windows.  It must be only over that
ridge of hill.  He was strangely, oddly happy.  London seemed far,
far away.  America too.  Any country that had a name, a date, a
history.  This country was timeless and without a record.  How
beautifully the hills dipped into valleys!  Streams seemed to be
everywhere, little secret coloured streams with happy thoughts.
Everything and everyone surely here was happy.  Then suddenly he
saw a deserted mine tower like a gaunt and ruined temple.  Haggard
and fierce it stood against the skyline, and, as Harkness looked
back to it, it seemed to raise an arm to heaven in desperate
protest.

The train drew into Trewth.


                              8


Trewth was nothing more than a long wooden platform open to all the
winds of heaven, and behind it a sort of shed with a ticket
collector's box in one side of it.

Harkness was annoyed to see that others beside himself climbed out
and scattered about the platform waiting for the Treliss train to
come in.

He resented these especially because they were grand and elegant,
two men, long, thin, in baggy knickerbockers, carrying themselves
as though all the world belonged to them with that indifferent
assurance that only Englishmen have; a large, stout woman, quietly
but admirably dressed, with a Pekinese and a maid to whom she spoke
as Cleopatra to Charmian.  Five boxes, gun-cases, magnificent golf-
bags, these things were scattered about the naked bare platform.
The wind came in from the sea and sported everywhere, flipping at
the stout lady's skirts, laughing at the elegant sportsmen's thin
calves, mocking at the pouting Pekinese.  It was fresh and lovely:
all the cornfields were waving invitation.

It was characteristic of Harkness that a fancied haughty glance
from the sportsman's eye decided him.  He's laughing at my clothes,
Harkness thought.  How was it that Englishmen wore old things so
carelessly and yet were never wrong?  Harkness bought his clothes
from the best London tailors, but they were always finally a little
hostile.  They never surrendered to his personality, keeping their
own proud reserve.

I'll walk, he thought suddenly.  He found a young porter who, in
anxious fashion, so unlike American porters who were always so
superior to the luggage that they conveyed, was wheeling
magnificent trunks on a very insecure barrow.

"These two boxes of mine," Harkness said, stopping him.  "I want to
walk over to Treliss.  Can they be sent over?"

"Happen they can," said the young porter doubtfully.

"They are labelled to the 'Man-at-Arms Hotel,'" Harkness said.

"They'll be there as soon as you will," said the young porter,
cheered at the sight of an American tip which he put in his pocket,
thinking in his heart that these foreigners were "damn fools" to
throw their money around as they did.  He advanced towards the
stout lady hopefully.  She might also prove to be American.

Harkness plunged out of the station into the broad white road.  A
sign pointed "Treliss--Three Miles."  So Maradick had been exactly
right.

As he left the village behind him and strode on between the
cornfields he felt a marvellous freedom.  He was heading now
directly for the sea.  The salt tang of it struck him in the face.
Larks were circling in the blue air above him, poppies scattered
the corn with plashes of crimson.  Here and there gaunt rocks rose
from the heart of the gold.  No human being was in sight.

His love of etching had given him something of an etcher's eye, and
he saw here a spreading tree and a pool of dark shadow, there a
distant spire on the curving hill that he thought would have caught
the fancy of his beloved Lepère, or Legros.  Here a wayside pool
like brittle glass that would have enchanted Appian, there a
cottage with a sweeping field that might have made Rembrandt happy.

He seemed to be in unison with the whole of nature, and when the
road left the fields and dived into the heart of a common his
happiness was complete.  He stood there, his feet pressing in upon
the rough springing turf.  A lark, singing above him, came down as
though welcoming him, then circled up and up and up.  He raised his
head, staring into the pale faint blue until he seemed himself to
circle with the bird, the turf pressing him upwards, his hands
lifting him, he swinging into spaceless ecstasy.  Then his gaze
fell again and swung out beyond, and--there was the sea.

The Down ran in a green wave to the blue line of the sky, but in
front of him it split, breaking into brown rocky patches, and
between the brown curves a pool of purple sea lay like water in a
cup.

He walked forward, deserting for a moment the road.  He stood at
the edge of the cliff and looked down.  The tide was high and the
line of the sea slipped up to the feet of the cliff, splashed there
its white fringe of spray, then very gently fell back.  Sea-pinks
starred the cliffs with colour.  Sea-gulls whirled, fragments of
white foam, against the blue.  Just below him one bird sat, its
head cocked, waiting.  With a shrill cry of vigour and assurance it
flashed away, curving, circling, bending, dipping, as though it
were showing to Harkness what it could do.

He walked along the cliff path happier than he had been for many,
many months.  This was enough were there no more than this.  For
this at least he must thank Maradick--this peace, this air, this
silence. . . .

Turning a bend of the cliff he saw the town.


                              9


It was absolutely the town of his vision.  He saw, with a strange
tightening of his heart as though he were being warned of
something, that that was so.  There was the curving bay with the
faint fringe of white pencilling the yellow sand, there the houses
rising tier on tier above the beach, there the fringe of dusky
wood.

What did it mean?  Why had he a clutch of terror as though someone
was whispering to him that he must turn tail and run?  Nothing
could be more lovely than that town basking in the mellow afternoon
light, and yet he was afraid at the sight of it--afraid so that his
content and happiness of a moment ago were all gone and of a sudden
he longed for company.

He was so well accustomed to his own reactions and so deeply
despised them that he shrugged his shoulders and walked forward.
Never, it seemed, was it possible for him to enjoy anything for
more than a moment.  Trouble and regret always came.  But this was
not regret, it was rather a kind of forewarning.  He did not know
that he had ever before looked on a place for the first time with
so odd a mingling of conviction that he had already seen it, of
admiration for its beauty, and of some sort of alarmed dismay.
Beautiful it was, more Italian than English, with its white walls,
its purple sea, and warm scented air.

So peaceful and of so happy a tranquillity.  He tried to drive his
fear from him, but it hung on so that he was often turning back and
looking behind him over his shoulder.

He struck the road again.  It curved now, white and broad, down the
hill toward the town.  At the very peak of the hill before the
descent began a man was standing watching something.

Harkness walked forward, then also stood still.  The man was so
deeply absorbed that his absorption held you.  He was standing at
the edge of the road and Harkness must pass him.  At the crunch of
Harkness's step on the gravel of the road the man turned and looked
at him with startled surprise.  Harkness had come across the soft
turf of the Down, and his sudden step must have been an alarm.  The
fellow was broad-shouldered, medium height, clean-shaven, tanned,
young, under thirty at least, dressed in a suit of dark blue.  He
had something of a naval air.

Harkness was passing, when the man said:

"Have you the right time on you, sir?"  His voice was fresh,
pleasant, well-educated.

Harkness looked at his watch.  "Quarter past five," he said.  He
was moving forward when the man, hesitating, spoke again:

"You don't see anyone coming up the road?"

Harkness stared down the white, sun-bleached expanse.

"No," he said after a moment, "I don't."

They looked for a while standing side by side silently.

After all he wasn't more than a boy--not a day more than twenty-
five--but with that grave reserved look that so many British boys
who were old enough to have been in the war had.

"Sure you don't see anybody?" he asked again, "coming up that
farther bend?"

"No," said Harkness, shading his eyes with his hand against the
sun; "can't say as I do."

"Damn nuisance," the boy said.  "He's half an hour late now."

The boy stood as though to attention, his figure set, his hands at
his side.

"Ah, there's someone," said Harkness.  But it was only an old man
with his cart.  He slowly pressed up the hill past them, urging his
horses with a thick guttural cry, an old man brown as a berry.

"I beg your pardon," the boy turned to Harkness.  "You'll think it
an awful impertinence--but--are you in a terrible hurry?"

"No," said Harkness, "not terrible.  I want to be at the 'Man-at-
Arms' by dinner time.  That's all."

"Oh, you've got lots of time," the boy said eagerly.  "Look here.
This is desperately important for me.  The man ought to have been
here half an hour ago.  If he doesn't come in another twenty
minutes I don't know what I shall do.  It's just occurred to me.
There's another way up this hill--a short cut.  He may have chosen
that.  He may not have understood where it was that I wanted him to
meet me.  Would you mind--would you do me the favour of just
standing here while I go over the hill there to see whether he's
waiting on the other side?  I won't be away more than five minutes;
I'd be so awfully grateful."

"Why, of course," said Harkness.

"He's a fisherman with a black beard.  You can't mistake him.  And
if he comes, if you'd just ask him to wait for a moment until I'm
back."

"Certainly," said Harkness.

"Thanks most awfully.  Very decent of you, sir."

The boy touched his cap, climbed the hill, and vanished.

Harkness was alone again--not a sound anywhere.  The town shimmered
below him in the heat.  He waited, absorbed by the picture spread
in front of him, then apprehensive again and conscious that he was
alone.  The alarm that he had originally felt at sight of the town
had not left him.  Suppose the boy did not return?  Was playing
some joke on him perhaps?  No, whatever else it was, it was not
that.  The boy had been deeply serious, plunged into some crisis
that was of tremendous importance to him.

Harkness decided that he would wait until the shadow of a solitary
tree to his right reached him, and then go.  The shadow crept
slowly to his feet.  At the same moment a figure turned the bend, a
man with a black beard.  He was walking quickly up the hill as
though he knew that he were late.

Harkness went forward to meet him.  The man stopped as though
surprised.  "I beg your pardon," said Harkness; "were you expecting
to meet someone here?"

"I was--yes," said the man.

"He will be back in a moment.  He was afraid that you might have
come up the other way.  He went over the hill to see."

"Aye," said the man, standing, his legs apart, quite unconcerned.
He was a handsome fellow, broad-shouldered, wearing dark blue
trousers and a knitted jersey.  "You'll be a friend of Mr.
Dunbar's, maybe?"

"No, I'm not," Harkness explained.  "I was passing, and he asked me
to wait for a moment and catch you if you came while he was away."

"Aye," said the fisherman, taking out a large wedge of tobacco and
filling his pipe, "I'm a bit later than I said I'd be.  Wife kept
me."

"Fine evening," said Harkness.

"Aye," said the man.

At that moment the boy came over the hill and joined them.  "Very
good of you, sir," he said.  "You're late, Jabez!"

"Good night," said Harkness, and moved down the hill.  He could see
the two in urgent conversation as he moved forward.  The incident
occupied his mind.  Why had the matter seemed of such importance to
the boy?  Why a meeting so elaborately appointed out there on the
hillside?  The fisherman too had seemed surprised that he, a
stranger, should be concerned in the matter.

Had he been in America the affair would have been at once explained--
boot-legging, of course.  But here in England. . . .


                             10


When he reached the bottom of the hill he found that he was in the
environs of the town.  He was walking now along a road shaded by
thick trees and close to the seashore.

The cottages, white-washed, crooked and, many of them, thatched,
ran down to the road, their gardens like little coloured carpets
spreading in front of them.  The evening air was thick with the
scent of flowers, above all of roses.  He had never smelt such
roses, no, not in California.

There was a breeze from the sea, and it seemed to blow the roses
into his very heart, so that they seemed to be all about him, dark
crimson, burning white, scattering their petals over his head.  He
could hear the tune of the sea upon the sand beyond the trees.

He stood for a moment inhaling the scent--delicious, wonderful.  He
seemed to be crushing multitudes of the petals between his hands.

After a while the road broke away and he saw a path that led
directly through the trees to the sea.

So soon as he had taken some steps across the soft sand he seemed
to be alone in a world that was watching every movement that he
made.  It was as though he were committing some intrusion.  He
stopped and looked behind him: the thin line of trees had
retreated, the cottages vanished.  Before him was a waste of yellow
sand, the deep purple of the sea rose like a wall to his right,
hiding, as it were, some farther scene, the sky stretching over it
a pale blue curtain tightly held.

A mist was rising, veiling the town.  No living person was in
sight.  He reached a stretch of hard firm sand, thin rivulets of
water lacing it.  The air was wonderfully mild and sweet.

Never before in his life had he known such a feeling of
anticipation.  It was as though he knew the stretch of sand to be
the last brook to cross before he would come into some mysterious
country.

How commonplace this will all seem to me to-morrow, he said to
himself, when, over my eggs and bacon at a prosperous modern hotel,
I shall be reading my Daily Mail and hearing of the trippers at
Eastbourne and who has taken "shooting" in Scotland and whether
Yorkshire has beaten Surrey at cricket.  He wanted to keep this
moment, not to enter the town; even he had a mad impulse to walk on
the sand for an hour, to see the colour fade from the sky and the
sea change to a ghostly grey, then to return up the hill to Trewth
and catch the night train back to London.

It would be wonderful like that; to have only the impression of the
walk from the station, the talk with the boy on the hill, the scent
of the roses and the afternoon sky.  Everything is destroyed if you
go into it too closely, or it is so for me.  I should have a memory
that would last me all my life.

But now the town was advancing towards him.  His steps made no
sound so that it seemed that he himself stood still, waiting to be
seized.  He took one last look at the sea.  Then he was caught up
and the houses closed about him.


                             11


Six was striking from some distant clock as he started up the
street.  At the bottom of the hill there were fishermen's cottages,
nets spread out on the stones to dry, some boats drawn up above a
wooden jetty.  Then, as the street spread out before him, some
little shops began.  Figures were passing hither and thither all
transmuted in the afternoon light.  Maradick need not have feared,
he thought, this town has not been touched at all.

As he advanced yet farther the houses delighted him with their
broad doorways, their overhanging eaves, crooked roof and worn
flights of steps.  He came to a place where wooden stairs led to an
upper path that ran before a higher row of houses and under the
steps where there were shops.

He could feel a stir and bustle in the place as though this were a
night of festivity.  Groups were gathered at corners, women stood
in doorways laughing and whispering, a group of children was
marching, wearing cocked hats of paper, beating on a wooden box and
blowing on penny trumpets.

Then on coming into the Square he paused in sheer delighted wonder.
This stands on a raised plateau above the sea, and the town hall,
solid and virtuous above its flight of wide grey steps, is its
great glory.  Streets seemed to tumble in and out of the Square on
every side.  On a far corner there was a merry-go-round and there
were booths and wooden trestles, some tents and flags waving above
them.  But just now it was almost deserted, only a man or two, some
children playing in and out of the tents, a dog hunting among the
scraps of paper that littered the cobbles.

A church of Norman architecture filled the right side of the
Square, and squeezed between its grey walls and the modern town
hall was a tall old tower of infinite age, with thin slits of
windows and iron bars that pushed out against the pale blue sky
like pointing fingers.

There were houses in the Square that were charming, houses with
queer bow-windows and protruding doors like pepper-pots, little
balconies, and here and there old carved figures on the walls,
houses that Whistler would have loved to etch.  Harkness stopped a
man.

"Can you tell me where I shall find 'The Man-at-Arms Hotel'?" he
asked.

"Why, yes," the man answered as though he were surprised that
Harkness should not know.  "Straight up that street in front of
you.  You'll find it at the top."

And he did find it at the top, after what seemed to him an endless
climb.  The houses fell away.  An iron gate was in front of him as
though he were entering some private residence.  Going up a long
drive he passed beautiful lawns that shone like silk, to the right
the grass fell away to a pond fringed with trees.  Flowers were
around him on every side, and again in his nostrils was the heavy
scent of innumerable roses.

The drive swept a wide circle before the great eighteenth-century
house that now confronted him.  But it is not a hotel at all, he
thought, and he would have turned back had not, at that moment, a
large hotel omnibus swept up to the door and discharged a
chattering heap of men and women, who scattered over the steps
screaming about their luggage, collecting children.  The spell was
broken.  He had not realised how alone he had been during the last
hour and with what domination his imagination had been working,
creating for him a world of his own, encouraging in him what hopes,
fears, and anticipations!

He slipped in after the rest, and stood shyly in the hall while the
others made their wants triumphantly felt.  A man of about forty,
stout and round like an egg, but very shinily dressed, came forward
and, bending and bowing, smiled at the women and spoke deferentially
to the men.

This must be Mr. Bannister--"the King of the Castle" Maradick had
told him in the Club.  Not the original Mr. Bannister who had made
the place what it is.  He is, alas, dead and gone.  Had he been
still there and you had mentioned my name he would have done
wonders for you.  I don't know this fellow, and for all I know he
may have ruined the place.

However, the original Bannister could not have been politer.
Harkness was always afraid of hotel officials, and it was only when
the invasion had broken up and begun to scatter that he came
forward.  But Mr. Bannister knew all about him--indeed was
expecting him.  His luggage had already arrived.  He should be
shown his room, and Mr. Bannister did hope that it would be. . . .
If anything in the least wasn't . . .

Harkness started upstairs.  There is a lift here, but if the
gentleman doesn't mind. . . .  His room is only on the second floor
and instead of waiting. . . .  Of course the gentleman doesn't
mind.  And still less does he mind when he sees his room.

This is mine absolutely, Harkness said, as though it had been
waiting for me for years and years with its curved bow-window, its
view over that enchanting garden and the line of sea beyond, its
white wall unbroken by those coloured prints that hotel managers in
my own country find it so necessary always to provide.  Those
chintz curtains with the roses are delicious.  Just enough
furniture.  There is no private bath, of course?

"The bathroom is just across the passage.  Very convenient," said
the man.

"Yes, in England we haven't reached the private bathroom yet,
although we are supposed to be so fond of bathing."

"No, sir," said the man.  "Anything else I can do for you?"

"No, thank you," said Harkness, smiling, as he looked on the white
sunlit walls, and checking the tip that, American fashion, he was
about to give.  "How strong the smell of the roses.  It is very
late for them, isn't it?"

"They are just about over, sir."

"So I should have thought."

Left alone he slowly unpacked.  He liked unpacking and putting
things away.  It was packing that he detested.  He had a few things
with him that he always carried when he travelled--a red leather
writing-case, a little Japanese fisherman in coloured ivory, two
figures in red amber, photographs of his sisters in a silver frame.
He put out these little things on a table of white wood near his
bed, not from any affectation, but because when they were there the
room seemed to understand him, to settle about him with a little
sigh as though it granted him citizenship--for so long as he wished
to stay.  Then there were his prints.  He took out four, the Lepère
"St. Gilles," Strang's "Etcher," the Rembrandt "Flight into Egypt,"
and the Whistler "Drury Lane."  The Strang he had on one side of
the looking-glass, the "Drury Lane" on the other, the "Flight into
Egypt" at the back of the writing-table, whither he might glance
across the room at it as he lay in bed, the "St. Gilles" close to
him near to the red writing-case and the ivory fisherman.

He sighed with satisfaction as, sitting down on his bed, he looked
at them.  He felt that he needed them to-night as he had never
needed them before.  The sense of excited anticipation that had
increased with him all day was now surely approaching its climax.
That excitement had in it the strangest mixture of delight,
sensuous thrill, and something that was nothing but panicky terror.
Yes, he was frightened.  Of what?  Of whom?  He could not tell.
But only as he looked across the room at those familiar scenes, at
the massive dark tree of the "St. Gilles" with the hot road, the
high comfortable hedge, the happy figures, at the adorable face of
the donkey in the Rembrandt, at the little beings so marvellously
placed under the dancing butterfly in the Whistler, at the strong,
homely, friendly countenance of Strang himself, he felt as he had
so often felt before, that those beautiful things were trying
themselves to reassure him, to tell him that they did not change
nor alter, and that where he would be there they would be too.

He took Maradick's letter from his pocket and read it again.  Here
he was--now what must happen next?  He would dress now at once for
dinner, and then walk in the garden before the light began to fail.
Or no.  Wasn't he to go down into the town after dinner and to see
this dance, to share in it even?  Hadn't Maradick said that that
was what, above all else, he must do?

And then what was this about a Minstrels' Gallery somewhere?  He
would have a bath, change his linen, and then begin his
explorations.  He undressed, found the bathroom, enjoyed himself
for twenty minutes or more, then slipped back across the passage
into his room again.  It was now nearly seven o'clock.  As he was
dressing, the sun was getting low in the sky.  A beam of sunshine
caught the intent gaze of Strang, who seemed to lean across his
etching board as though to tell him, to reassure him, to warn
him. . . .

He slipped out of his room and began his explorations.


                             12


For a while he wandered, lost in a maze of passages.  He understood
that the Minstrels' Gallery was at the top of the house.  He did
not use the lift, but climbed the stairs, meeting no one; then he
was on a floor that must, he thought, be servants' quarters.  It
had another air, something less arranged, less handsome, old-
fashioned, as though it were even now as it had been two hundred
years ago--a survival, as the old grey tower in the market-place
was a survival.

For a little while he stood hesitating.  The passage was dark and
he did not wish to plunge into a servant's room.  Strange that up
here there was no sound at all--an absolute deathly stillness!

He walked down to the end of the passage, then, turning, came to a
door that was larger than the others.  He could see as he looked at
it more closely that there was some faint carving on the woodwork
above it.  He turned the handle, entered the room, then stopped
with a little cry of surprise and pleasure.

Truly Maradick had been right.  Here was a room that, if there was
nothing more to come, made the journey sufficiently of value.  An
enchanting room!  On the left side of it were broad bright windows,
and at the farther end, under the Minstrels' Gallery, windows
again.  There were no curtains to the windows--the whole room had
an empty, deserted air--but the more for that reason the place was
illuminated with the glow of the evening light.  The first thing
that he realised was the view--and what a view!

The windows were deep set and hung forward, it seemed, over the
hill, so that town, gardens, trees, were all lost and you saw only
the sea.

At this hour you seemed to swing in space; the division lost
between sea and sky in the now nearly horizontal rays of the sun--
only a golden glow covering the blue with a dazzling blaze of
colour.  He stood there drinking it in, then sat in one of the
window-seats, his hands clasped, lost in happiness.

After a while he turned back to the room.  Flecks of dust, changed
into gold by the evening light, floated in mid-air.  The room was
disregarded indeed.  The walls were panelled.  The little
Minstrels' Gallery was supported on two heavy pillars.  The floor
was bare of carpet and had even a faint waxen sheen, as though, in
spite of the room's general neglect, it was used, once and again,
for dances.

But what pathos the room had!  He did not know that, almost fifteen
years before, Maradick had felt that same thing.  How vastly now
that pathos was increased, how greatly since Maradick's day the
world's history had relentlessly cut away those earlier years.  He
saw that round the platform of the gallery was intricate carving,
and, going forward more closely to examine, saw that in every
square was set the head of a grinning lion.  Some high-backed,
quaintly shaped chairs, that looked as though they might be of
great age, were ranged against the wall.

Being now right under the gallery he saw some little wooden steps.
He climbed up them, and then from the gallery's shadow looked down
across the room.  How clearly he could picture that old scene,
something straight from Jane Austen with Miss Bates and Mrs.
Norris, stiff-backed, against the wall, and Anne Elliot and
Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Collins and the rest.  The fiddlers scraping,
the negus for refreshment, the night darkening, the carriages with
their lights gathering. . . .

The door at the far end of the room closed with a gentle click.  He
started, not imagining that anyone would choose that room at such
an hour.

Two figures were there in the shadow beyond the end room.  The
light fell on the man's face--Harkness could see it very clearly.
The other was a woman wearing a white dress.  He could not see her
face.

For an instant they were silent, then the man said something that
Harkness could not hear.

The girl at once broke out:  "No, no.  Oh, please, Herrick."

She must be a very young girl.  The voice was that of a child.  It
had in it a desperate note that held Harkness's attention
instantly.

The man said something again, very low.

"But if you don't care," the girl's voice pleaded, "then let me go
back.  Oh, Herrick, let me go!  Let me go!"

"My father does not wish it."

"But I am not married to your father.  It is to you."

"My father and I are the same.  What he says I must do, I do."

"But you can't be the same."  Her voice now was trembling in its
urgency.  "No one could love their father more than I do and yet we
are not the same."

"Nevertheless you did what your father asked you to do.  So must
I."

"But I didn't know.  I didn't know.  And he didn't know.  He has
never seen me frightened of anything, and now I am frightened. . . .
I've never said I was to anyone before, but now . . . now . . ."

She was crying, softly, terribly, with the terrified crying of real
and desperate fear.

Harkness had been about to move.  He did not, unseen and his
presence unrealised, wish to overhear, but her tears checked him.
Although he could not see her he had detected in her voice a note
of pride.  He fancied that she would wish anything rather than to
be thus seen by a stranger.  He stayed where he was.  He could see
the man's face, thin, white, the nose long pointed, a dark, almost
grotesque shadow.

"Why are you frightened?"

"I don't know.  I can't tell.  I have never been frightened
before."

"Have I been unkind to you?"

"No, but you don't love me."

"Did I ever pretend to love you?  Didn't you know from the very
first that no one in the world matters to me except my father?"

"It is of your father that I am afraid. . . .  These last three
days in that terrible house. . . .  I'm so frightened, Herrick.  I
want to go home only for a little while.  Just for a week before we
go abroad."

"All our plans are made now.  You know that we are sailing to-
morrow evening."

"Yes, but I could come afterwards.  Forgive me, Herrick.  You may
do anything to me if I can only go home for just some days. . . .
You may do anything. . . ."

"I don't want to do anything, Hesther.  No one wishes to do you any
harm.  But whatever my father wishes, that everyone must do.  It
has always been so."

She seemed to be seized by an absolute frenzy of fear; Harkness
could see her white shadow quivering.  It appeared to him as though
she caught the man by the arm.  Her voice came in little breathless
stifled cries, infinitely pitiful to hear.

"Please, please, Herrick.  I dare not speak to your father.  I
don't dare.  I don't dare.  But you--let me go--Oh! let me go--just
this once, Herrick.  Only this once.  I'll only be home for a few
days and then I'll come back.  Truly I'll come back.  I'll just see
father and Bobby and then I'll come back.  They'll be missing me.
I know they will.  And I'll be going to a foreign country--such a
long way.  And they'll be wanting me.  Bobby's so young, Herrick,
only a baby.  He's never had anyone do anything for him but
me. . . ."

"You should have thought of that before you married me, you cannot
leave me now."

"I won't leave you.  I've never broken my word to anyone.  I won't
break it now.  It's only for a few days."

"How can you be so selfish, Hesther, as to want to upset everyone's
plans just for a whim of your own?  For myself I don't care.  You
could go home for ever, for all I care.  I didn't want to marry
anyone.  But what my father wished had to be."

She clung to him then, crying again and again between her sobs:

"Oh, let me go home!  Let me go home!  Let me go home!"

Harkness fancied that the man put his hands on her shoulders.  His
voice, cold, lifeless, impersonal, crossed the room.

"That is enough.  He is waiting for us downstairs.  He will be
wondering where we are."

The little white shadow seemed to turn to the window, towards the
limitless expanse of sunlit sea.  Then a voice, small, proud, empty
of emotion, said:

"Father wished me--"

Harkness was once more alone in the room.


                             13


They had gone but the girl's fear remained.  It was there as truly
as the two figures had been and its reality was stronger than their
reality.

Harkness had the sense of having been caught, and it was exactly as
though now, as he stood alone there in the gallery staring down
into the room, some Imp had touched him on the shoulder, crying,
"Now you're in for it!  Now you're in for it!  The situation has
got you now!"

He was, of course, not "in for it" at all.  How many such
conversations between human beings there were; it simply was that
he had happened against his will to overhear a fragment of one of
them.  Yes, "against his will."  How desperately he wished that he
hadn't been there.  What induced them to choose that room and that
time for their secret confidences?  He felt still in the echo of
their voices the effect of their urgency.

They had chosen that room because there was someone watching their
every movement and they had had only a few moments.  The child--for
surely she could not be more--had almost driven her companion into
that two minutes' conversation, and Harkness could realise how
desperate she must have been to have taken such a course.

But after all it WAS no business of his!  Girls married every day
men whom they did not love, and although apparently in this case
the man also did not love her and they were both of them in evil
plight, still that too had happened before and nothing very
terrible had come of it.

It WAS no business of his, and yet he did wish, all the same, that
he could get the ring of the girl's voice out of his ears.  He had
never been able to bear the sight, sound, or even inference of any
sort of cruelty to helpless humans or to animals.  Perhaps because
he was so frantic a coward himself about physical pain!  And yet
not altogether that.  He had on several occasions taken risks of
pretty savage pain to himself in order to save a horse a beating or
a dog a kicking.  Nevertheless, those had been spontaneous emotions
roused at the instant; there was something lingering, a sad and
tragic echo, in the voice that was still with him.

The very pathos of the room that he was in--the lingering of so
many old notes that had been rung and rung again, notes of
anticipation, triumph, disappointment, resignation, made this
fresh, living sound the harder to escape.

By Jupiter, the child WAS frightened--that was the final ringing of
it upon Harkness's heart and soul.  But he was going to have his
life sufficiently full were he to step in and rescue every girl
frightened by matrimony!  Rescue!  No, there was no question of
rescue.  It wasn't, once again, his affair.  But he did wish that
he could just take her hand and tell her not to worry, that it
would all come right in the end.  But would it?  He hadn't at all
cared for the fragment of countenance that fellow had shown to him,
and he had liked still less the tone of his voice, cold, unfeeling,
hard.  Poor child!  And suddenly the thought of his Browning's
"Duchess" came to him:


     I was the man the Duke spoke to:
     I helped the Duchess to cast off his yoke too;
     So, here's the tale from beginning to end,
     My friend!


Well, here was a tale with which he had definitely nothing to do.
Let him remember that.  He was here in a most beautiful place for a
holiday--that was his purpose, that his intention--what were these
people to him or he to them?

Nevertheless the voice lingered in his ear, and to be rid of it he
left the room.  He stepped carefully down the wooden steps, and
then at the bottom of them, under the dark lee of the gallery, he
paused.  He was so foolishly frightened that he could not move a
step.

He waited.  At last he whispered "Is anyone there?"

There was no answer.  He pushed his way then out of the shadow, his
heart drumming against his shirt.  There was no one there.  Of
course there was not.

In his room once more with his friend Strang and the Rembrandt
Donkey to take him home he sat on his bed holding his hands between
his knees.

He was positively afraid of going down to dinner.  Afraid of what?
Afraid of being drawn in.  Drawn into what?  That was precisely
what he did not know, but something that ever since his first
glimpse of Maradick at the Reform Club had been preparing.  It was
that he saw, as he sat there thinking of it, that he feared--this
Something that was piling up outside him and with which he had
nothing to do at all.

Why should he mind because he had heard a girl say that she was
frightened and wanted to go home?  And yet he did mind--minded
terribly and with increasing violence from every moment that
passed.  The thought of that child without a friend and on the very
edge of an experience that might indeed be fatal for her, the
thought of it was more than he could endure.

He was clever at escaping things did they only give him a moment's
pause, but in this case the longer he thought about it the harder
it was to escape from.  It was as though the girl had made her
personal appeal to himself.

But what an old scamp her father must be, Harkness thought, to give
her up like this to a man for whom she has no love, who doesn't
love her.  Why did she do it?  And what kind of a man is the father-
in-law of whom she is so afraid and who dominates his son so
absolutely?  In any case I must go down to dinner.  I must just
take what comes. . . .

Yes, but his prudence whispered, don't meddle in this affair
actively.  It isn't the kind of thing in which you are likely to
distinguish yourself.

"No, by Jove, it isn't."

"Well, then, be careful."

"I mean to be."  Then suddenly the girl's voice came sharp and
clear.  "Damn it, I'll do anything I can," he cried aloud, jumped
from the bed and went downstairs.


                             14


As he went downstairs he felt a tremendous sense of liberation.  It
was as though he had, after many hesitations and fears, passed
through the first room successfully and closed the door behind him.
Now there was the second room to be confronted.

What he immediately confronted was the garden of the hotel.  The
sun was slowly setting in the west, and great amber clouds,
spreading out in swathes of colour, ate up the blue.

The amber flung out arms as though it would embrace the whole
world.  The deep blue ebbed from the sea, was pale crystal, then
from length to length a vast bronze shield.  The amber receded as
though it had done its work, and myriads of little flecks of gold
ran up into the pale blue-white, thousands of scattered fragments
like coins flung in some God-like largesse.

The bronze sea was held rigid as though it were truly of metal.
The town caught the gold and all the windows flashed.  In the fresh
evening light the grass of the lawn seemed to shine with a fresh
iridescence--the farther hills were coldly dark.

Several people were walking up and down the gravel paths, pausing,
before going in to dinner.  In the golden haze only those things
stood out that were more important for the scene, nature, as
always, being more theatrical than any man-contrived theatre.  The
stage being set, the principal actor made his entrance.

A window running to the gravel path caught the level rays of the
setting sun.  A man stepped before this, stopping to light a
cigarette, and then, being there, stayed like an oriental image
staring out into the garden.

Harkness looked casually, then looked again, then, fascinated,
remained watching.  He had never before seen such red hair nor so
white a face, nor so large a stone as the green one that shone in a
ring on the finger of his raised hand.  He was lighting his
cigarette--it was after this that he fell into rigid immobility--
and the fire of the match caught the ring until, like a great eye,
it seemed to open, wink at Harkness, and then regard him with a
contemptuous stare.

The man's hair was en brosse, standing straight on end as Loge's
used to do in the old pre-war Bayreuth "Ring."  It was, like
Loge's, a flaming red, short, harsh, instantly arresting.  Evening
dress.  One small black pearl in his shirt.  Very small feet in
shining shoes.

There had stuck in Harkness's mind a phrase that he had encountered
once in George Moore's description of Verlaine in Memories and
Opinions--"I shall not forget the glare of the bald prominent
forehead (une tête glabre). . . ."  That was the phrase now, une
tête glabre--the forehead glaring like a challenge, the red hair
springing from it like something alive of its own independence.
For the rest, this interesting figure had a body round, short, and
fat like a ball.  Over his protruding stomach stretched a white
waistcoat with three little plain black buttons.

The colour of his face had an unnatural pallor, something
theatrical like the clown in Pagliacci, or again, like one of
Benda's masks.  Yes, this was the truer comparison, because through
the mask the eyes were alive and beautiful, dark, tender, eloquent,
but spoilt because above them the eyebrows were so faint as to be
scarcely visible.  The mouth in the white of the face was a thin,
hard, red scratch.  The eyes stared into the garden.  The body soon
became painted into the window behind it, the round short limbs,
the shining shoes, the little black pearl in the gleaming shirt.

Harkness, from the shadow where he stood, looked and looked again.
Then, fearing that he might be perceived and his stare be held
offensive, he moved forward.  The man saw him and, to Harkness's
surprise, stepped forward and spoke to him.

"I beg your pardon," he said; "but do you happen to have a light?
My cigarette did not catch properly and I have used my last match."

Here was another surprise for Harkness.  The voice was the most
beautiful that he had ever heard from man.  Soft, exquisitely
melodious, with an inflection in it of friendliness, courtesy, and
culture that was enchanting.  Absolutely without affectation.

"Why, yes.  Certainly," said Harkness.

He felt for his little gold matchbox, found it, produced a match
and, guarding it with his hand, struck it.  In the light the
other's forehead suddenly sprang up again like a live thing.  For
an instant two of his fingers rested on Harkness's hand.  They
seemed to be so soft as to be quite boneless.

"Thank you.  What an exquisite evening!"

"Yes," said Harkness.  "This is a very beautiful place."

"Yes," said the other, "is it not?  And this is incidentally the
best hotel in England."

The voice was so beautiful to Harkness, who was exceedingly
sensitive to sound, that his only desire was that by some means he
should prolong the conversation so that he might indulge himself in
the luxury of it.

"I have only just arrived," he said; "I came only an hour ago, and
it is my first visit."

"Is that so?  Then you have a great treat in store for you.  This
is splendid country round here, and although everyone has been
doing their best to spoil it, there are still some lovely places.
Treliss is the only town in Southern England where the place is
still triumphant over modern improvements."

There was a pause, then the man said:

"Will you be here for long?"

"I have made no plans," Harkness replied.

"I wish I could show you around a little.  I know this country very
well.  There is nothing I enjoy more than showing off some of our
beauties.  But, unfortunately, I leave for abroad early to-morrow
morning."

Harkness thanked him.  They were soon talking very freely, walking
up and down the gravel path.  The exquisite modulation of the man's
voice, its rhythm, gentleness, gave Harkness such delight that he
could listen for ever.  They spoke of foreign countries.  Harkness
had travelled much and remembered what he had seen.  This man had
been apparently everywhere.

Suddenly a gong sounded.  "Ah, there's dinner."  They paused.  The
stranger said:  "I beg your pardon.  You tell me you are American,
and I know therefore that you are not hampered by ridiculous
conventionalities.  Are you alone?"

"I am," said Harkness.

"Well, then--why not dine with us?  There is myself, my son and a
charming girl to whom he has lately been married.  Do me that
pleasure.  Or, if people are a bore to you, be quite frank and say
so."

"I shall be delighted," said Harkness.

"Good.  My name is Crispin."

"Harkness is mine."

They walked in together.


                             15


He had, as he walked into the hall, an overwhelming sense that
everything that was occurring to him had happened to him before,
and it was only part of this dream-conviction that Crispin should
pause and say:  "Here they are, waiting for us," and lead him up to
the girl who, half an hour before, had been with him in the little
gallery.  He had even a moment of protesting panic crying to the
little imp whose voice he had already heard that evening:  "Let me
out of this.  I am not so passive as you fancy.  It is a holiday I
am here for.  There is no knight errantry in me--you have caught
the wrong man for that."

But the girl's face stopped him.  She was beautiful.  He had from
the first instant of seeing her no doubt of that, and it was as
though her voice had already built her up for him in that dim room.

Straight and dark, her face had child-like purity in its rounded
cheeks, its large brow and wondering eyes, its mouth set now in
proud determination, but trembling a little behind that pride, its
cheeks very soft and faintly coloured.  Her hair was piled up as
though it were only recently that it had come to that distinction.
She was wearing a very simple white frock that looked as though it
had been made by some little local dressmaker of her own place.
She had been proud of it, delighted with it, Harkness could be
sure, perhaps only a week or two ago.  Now experiences were coming
to her thick and fast.  She was clutching them all to her,
determined to face them whatever they might be, finding them, as
Harkness knew from what he had overheard, more terrible than she
had ever conceived.

She had been crying, as he knew, only half an hour ago, but now
there were no traces of tears, only a faint shell-like flush on her
cheeks.

The man standing beside her was not much more than a boy, but
Harkness thought that he had seldom perceived an uglier countenance.
A large broad nose, a long thin face like a hatchet, grey colourless
eyes and a bony body upon which the evening clothes sat awkwardly,
here was ugliness itself, but the true unpleasantness came from the
cold aloofness that lay in the unblinking eyes, the hard straight
mouth.

"He might be walking in his sleep," Harkness thought, "for all the
life he's showing.  What a pair for the girl to be in the hands
of!"  Harkness was introduced.

"Hesther, my dear, this is Mr. Harkness, who is going to give us
the pleasure of dining with us.  Mr. Harkness, this is my boy
Herrick."

The little man led the way, and it was interesting to perceive the
authoritative dignity with which he moved.  He had a walk that
admirably surmounted the indignities that the short legs and stumpy
body would, in a less clever performer, have inevitably entailed.
He did not strut, nor trot, nor push out his stomach and follow it
with proud resolve.

His dignity was real, almost regal, and yet not absurd.  He walked
slowly, looking about him as he went.  He stopped at the entrance
of the dining-hall, now crowded with people, spoke to the head
waiter, a stout pompous-looking fellow, who was at once obsequious,
and started down the room to a reserved table.

The diners looked up and watched their progress, but Harkness
noticed that no one smiled.  When they came to their table in the
middle of the room Mr. Crispin objected to it, and they were at
once shown to another one beside the window and looking out to the
sea.

"It will amuse you to see the room, Hesther.  You sit there.  You
can look out of the window too when you are bored with people.
Will you sit here, Mr. Harkness, on my right?"

Harkness was now opposite the girl and looking out to the sea that
was lit with a bronze flame that played on the air like a
searchlight.  The window was slightly open, and he could hear the
sounds from the town, the merry-go-round, a harsh trumpet, and once
and again a bell.

"Do you mind that window?" Crispin asked him.  "I think it is
rather pleasant.  You don't mind it, Hesther dear?  They are having
festivities down there this evening.  The night of their annual
ceremony when they dance round the town--something as old as the
hill on which the town is built, I fancy.  You ought to go down and
look at them, Mr. Harkness."

"I think I shall," Harkness replied, smiling.

He noticed that now that the man was seated he did not look small.
His neck was thick, his shoulders broad, that forehead in the
brilliantly-lit room absolutely gleamed, the red hair springing up
from it like a challenge.  The mention of the dance led Crispin to
talk of other strange customs that he had known in many parts of
the world, especially in the East.  Yes, he had been in the East
very often and especially in China.  The old China was going.  You
would have to hurry up if you were to see it with any colour left.
It was too bad that the West could not leave the East alone.

"The matter with the West, Mr. Harkness, is that it always must be
improving everything and everybody.  It can't leave well alone.  It
must be thrusting its morals and customs on people who have very
nice ones of their own--only they are not Western, that's all.  We
have too many conventional ideas over here.  Superstitious
observances that are just as foolish as any in the South Seas--more
foolish indeed.  Now I'm shocking you, Hesther, I'm afraid.
Hesther," he explained to Harkness, "is the daughter of an English
country doctor--a very fine fellow.  But she hasn't travelled much
yet.  She only married my son a month ago.  This is their
honeymoon, and it is very nice of them to take their old father
along with them.  He appreciates it, my dear."

He raised his glass and bowed to her.  She smiled very faintly,
staring at him for an instant with her large brown eyes, then
looking down at her plate.

"I have been driven," Crispin explained, "into the East by my
collector's passions as much as anything.  You know, perhaps, what
it is to be a collector, not of anything especial, but a collector.
Something in the blood worse than drugs or drink.  Something that
only death can cure.  I don't know whether you care for pretty
things, Mr. Harkness, but I have some pieces of jade and amber that
would please you, I think.  I have, I think, one of the best
collections of jade in Europe."

Harkness said something polite.

"The trouble with the collector is that he is always so much more
deeply interested in his collection than anyone else is, and he is
not so interested in a thing when he owns it as he was when he was
wondering whether he could afford it.

"However, women like my jade.  Their fingers itch.  It is pleasant
to see them.  Have you ever felt the collector's passion yourself?"

"In a tiny way only," said Harkness.  "I have always loved prints
very dearly, etchings especially.  But I have so small and
unimportant a collection that I never dream of showing it to
anybody.  I have not the means to make a real collection, but if I
were a millionaire it is in that direction that I think I would go.
Etchings are so marvellously human, unaccountably personal."

"Why, Herrick, listen to that!  Mr. Harkness cares about etchings!
We must show him some of ours.  I have a 'Hundred Guilders' and a
'De Jonghe' that are truly superb.  Do you know my favourite etcher
in the world?  I am sure that you will never guess."

"There is a large field to choose from," said Harkness, smiling.

"There is indeed.  But Samuel Palmer is the man for me.  You will
say that he goes oddly enough with my jade, but whenever I travel
abroad 'The Bellman' and 'The Ruined Tower' go with me.  And then
Lepère--what a glorious artist!  and Legros' woolly trees, and our
old friend Callot--yes, we have an enthusiasm in common there."

For the first time Harkness addressed the girl directly:

"Do you also care about etchings, Mrs. Crispin?"

She flushed as she answered him:  "I am afraid that I know nothing
about them.  Our things at home were not very valuable, I am afraid--
except to us," she added.

She spoke so softly that Harkness scarcely caught her words.  "Ah,
but Hesther will learn," Crispin said.  "She has a fine taste
already.  It needs only some more experience.  You are learning
already, are you not, Hesther?"

"Yes," she answered almost in a whisper, then looked up directly at
Harkness.  He could not mistake her glance.  It was an appeal
absolutely for help.  He could see that she was at the end of her
control.  Her hand was trembling against the cloth.  She had been
drinking some of her Burgundy, and he guessed that this was a
desperate measure.  He divined that she was urging herself to some
act from which, during all these weeks, she had been shuddering.

His own heart was beating furiously.  The food, the wine, the
lights, Crispin's strange and beautiful voice were accompaniments
to some act that he saw now hanging in front of him, or rather
waiting, as a carriage waits, into which now of his own free-will
he is about to step to be whirled to some terrific destination.

He tried to put purpose into his glance back to her, as though he
would say "Let me be of some use to you.  I am here for that.  You
can trust me."

He felt that she knew that she could.  She might, such was her
case, trust anyone at this crisis, but she had been watching him,
he felt sure, throughout the meal, listening to his voice, studying
his movements, wondering, perhaps, whether he too were in this
conspiracy against her.

He had the sudden conviction that on an instant she had resolved
that she could trust him, and had he had time to do as was usual
with him, to step back and regard himself, he would have been
amazed at his own happiness.

They had come to the dessert.  Crispin, as though he had no purpose
in life but to make everyone happy, was cracking walnuts for his
daughter-in-law and talking about a thousand things.  There was
nothing apparently that he did not know and nothing that he did not
wish to hand over to his dear friends.

"It is too bad that I can't show you my 'Hundred Guilders.'"  He
cracked a walnut, and his soft boneless fingers seemed suddenly to
be endued with an amazing strength.  "But why shouldn't I?  What
are you doing this evening?"

"I have no plans," said Harkness; "I thought I would go perhaps
down to the market and look at the fun."

"Yes--well. . . .  Let me see.  But that will fit splendidly.  We
have an engagement for an hour or two--to say goodbye to an old
friend.  Why not join us here at--say--half-past ten?  I have my
car here.  It is only half an hour's drive.  Come out for an hour
or two and see my things.  It will give me so much pleasure to show
you what I have.  I can offer you a good cigar too and some brandy
that should please you.  What do you say?"

Harkness looked across at the girl.  "Thank you," he said gravely,
"I shall be delighted."

"That's splendid.  Very good of you.  The house also should
interest you.  Very old and curious.  It has a history too.  I have
rented it for the last year.  I shall be quite sorry to leave it."

Then, smiling, he leant across--"What do you say, Hesther?  Shall
we have our coffee outside?"

"Yes, thank you," she answered, with a curious childish inflection
as though she were repeating some lesson that was only half
remembered.

She rose and started down the room.  Harkness followed her.  Half-
way to the door Crispin was stopped for a moment by the head waiter
and stayed with his son.

Harkness spoke rapidly.  "There is no time at all, but I want you
to know that I was in the room at the top of the house just now
when you were there.  I heard everything.  I apologise for
overhearing.  I could not escape, but I want you to know that if
there's anything I can do--anything in the world--I will do it.
Tell me if there is.  We have only a moment."

On looking back afterwards he thought it marvellous of her that,
realising who was behind them, she scarcely turned her head, showed
no emotion, but speaking swiftly, answered:

"Yes, I am in great trouble--desperate trouble.  I am sure you are
kind.  There is a thing you can do."

"Tell me," he urged.  They were now nearly by the door and the two
men were coming up.

"I have a friend.  I told him that if I would agree to his plan I
would send a message to him to-night.  I did not mean to agree, but
now--I'm not brave enough to go on.  He is to be at half-past nine
at a little hotel--'The Feathered Duck'--on the sea-front.  Any one
will tell you where it is.  His name is Dunbar.  He is young,
short, you can't mistake him.  He will be waiting there.  Go to
him.  Tell him I agree.  I'll never forget . . ."

Crispin's forehead confronted them.  "What do you say to this?
Here is a sheltered corner."

Dunbar?  Dunbar?  Where had he heard the name before?

They all sat down.



PART II

THE DANCE ROUND THE TOWN


                              1


Quarter of an hour later he left them, making his excuses,
promising to return at half-past ten.  He could not have stayed
another moment, sitting there quietly in his wicker arm-chair
looking out on the darkening garden, listening to Crispin's
pleasure in Peter Breughel, without giving some kind of vent to his
excitement.

He must get away and be by himself.  Because--yes, he knew it, and
nothing could alter the vehement pulsating truth of it--he was in
love for the first time in his life.

As he threaded his way along the garden path that was at first all
that he could see--that he was in love with that child in the
shabby frock who was married to that odious creature, that bag-of-
bones, who had not opened his mouth the whole evening long--that
child terrified out of her life and appealing to him, a stranger,
in her despair, to help her.  In love with a married woman, he,
Charles Percy Harkness?  What would his two sisters, nay, what
would the whole of Baker, Oregon, say, did they know?

But, bless you, he was not in love with her like that--no hero of a
modern realistic novel he!  He had no thought in that first
ecstatic glow, of any thought for himself at all--only his eyes
were upon her, of how he could help her, how serve her, now--at
once--before it was too late.

He was deeply touched that she should trust him, but he also
realised that at that particular moment she would have trusted
anybody.  And yet she had waited, watching him through all the
first part of that meal, making up her mind--there was some tribute
to him at least in that!

It was a considerable time before he could fight his way behind his
own singing happiness into any detailed consideration of the facts.

He was in touch with real life at last, had it in both hands like a
magic ball of crystal, after which for so long he had been
searching.

Where had he been all his life, fancying that this was love and
that?  That ridiculous touching of hands over a tea-cup, that
fancied glance at a crowded party, that half-uttered suggested
exchange of gimcrack phrases?  And this!  Why, he could not have
stopped himself had he wished!  None of the old considered caution
to which he had now grown so accustomed that it had seemed like
part of his very soul, could have any say in this.  He was
committed up to his very boots in the thing, and he was glad, glad,
glad!

Meanwhile he had lost his way.  He pulled himself up short.  He had
been walking just in any direction.  He was in a far part of the
garden.  A lawn in the twilight, like dark glass beneath whose
surface green water played, stretched between scattered trees and
beds of flowers now grey and shadowy.  Sparks of fire were already
scattered across a sky that was smoky with coils of mist as though
some giant train had but now thundered through on its journey to
Paradise.  Little whistles of wind stole about the garden making
secret appointments among the trees.  Somewhere near to him a
fountain was splashing, and behind the lingering liquid sound of it
he could hear the merry-go-round and the drum.  He cared little
about the dance now, but in some fashion he must pass the time
until nine-thirty, when he would see her friend and learn what he
might do.

Her friend?  A sudden agitation held him.  Her friend?  Had she a
lover?  Was that all that there was behind this--that she had
married in haste, for money, luxury, to see the world, perhaps, and
now that she had had a month of it with that miserable bag-of-bones
and his painted, talkative father, discovered that she could not
endure it and called to her aid some earlier lover?  Was that all
that his fine knight-errantry came to, that he should assist in
some vulgar ordinary intrigue?  He stopped, standing beside a small
white gate that led out from the garden into the road.  It was as
though the gate held him from the outer world and he would never
pass through it until this was decided for him.  Her face came
before him as she had sat there on the other side of the table, as
it had been when their glances met.  No, he did not doubt her for
an instant.

Whatever her experiences of the last month she was pure in heart
and soul as some child at her mother's knee.  She had her pride,
her pluck, her resolve, but also, above all else, her innocent
simplicity, her ignorance of all the evil in the world.  And as
though the most urgent problem of all his life had been solved, he
gave the little white gate a push and stepped through it into the
open road.


                              2


He was now in the country to the left of, and above, the town.  He
could see its lights clustered, like gold coins thrown into some
capacious lap, there below him in the valley.

He struck off along a path that led between deeply scented fields
and that led straight down the hill.  He began now more soberly to
consider the facts of the case, and a certain depression stole
about him.  He didn't after all see very well what he would be able
to do.  They were going, on the following morning, the three of
them, abroad, and once there how was he to effect any sort of
rescue?

The girl was apparently quite legally married, and, although the
horrible young Crispin had been silent and sinister, there were no
signs that he was positively cruel.  The deeper Harkness looked
into it the more he was certain that the secret of the whole
mystery lay in the older Crispin--it was of him that the girl was
terrified rather than the son.  Harkness did not know how he was
sure of this, he could trace no actual words or looks, but there--
yes, there the centre of the plot lay.

The man was strange and queer enough to look at, but a more
charming companion you could not find.  He had been nothing but
amiable, friendly, and courteous.  His attitude to his daughter-in-
law had been everything that anyone could wish.  He had seemed to
consider her in every possible way.

Harkness, with his American naïveté of conduct, was fond of the
word "wholesome," or rather, had he not spent so much of his life
in Europe, would have found it his highest term of praise to call
his fellow-man "a regular feller!"  Crispin Senior was NOT "a
regular feller" whatever else he might be.  There had, too, been
one moment towards the end of dinner when a waiter, passing, had
jolted the little man's chair.  There had been for an instant a
glance that Harkness now, in his general survey of the situation,
was glad to have caught--a glance that seemed to tear the pale
powdered mask away for the moment and to show a living moving
visage, something quite other, something the more alive in contrast
with its earlier immobility.  Once, years before, Harkness had seen
in the Naples Aquarium two octopi.  They lay like grey slimy stones
at the bottom of the shining sun-lit tank.  An attendant had let
down through the water a small frog at the end of a string.  The
frog had nearly reached the bottom of the tank when in one flashing
instant the pile of shiny stone had been a whirling sickening
monster, tentacles, thousands of them it seemed, curving, two
loathsome eyes glowing.  In one moment of time the frog was gone
and in another moment the muddy pile was immobile once again.  An
unpleasant sight.  Were the etchings of Samuel Palmer Crispin's
only appetite?  Harkness fancied not.


                              3


Plunging almost recklessly down the hill he was soon in the town,
and, pushing his way through two or three narrow little streets,
found himself in the market-place.

He caught his breath at the strange transformation of the place
since his last view of it more than three hours before.  He learnt
later that this dance was held always as the Grand Finale of the
Three Days' Annual Fair, and on the last of the days there is an
old custom that, from four-thirty to six-thirty no trading shall be
done, but that everyone shall entertain or be entertained within
their homes.  This pause had its origin, I should fancy, in some
kind of religious ceremony, to ask the Good God's blessing on the
trading of the three days, but it had become by now a most
convenient interval for the purpose of drinking healths, so that
when, at seven o'clock, all the citizens of the town poured out of
their doors once again, they were truly and happily primed for the
fun of the evening.

Harkness found, therefore, what at first seemed to be naked
pandemonium, and, stepping into it, crossed into the third room of
his house of delivery.

The old buildings--the town hall, the church, the old grey tower--
were lit up as though by some supernatural splendour, all the
lights of the booths, the hanging clusters of fairy lamps, and in
the very middle of the place, a huge bonfire flinging arms of flame
to heaven.

In one corner there was the merry-go-round, a twisting, heaving,
gesticulating monster screaming out "Coal Black Mammy of Mine," and
suddenly whooping with its own excitement, showing so much emotion
that it would not have been surprising to find it, at any moment,
leap its bearings and come hurtling down into the middle of the
crowd.

The booths were thick with buyers and sellers, and every one, to
Harkness's excited fancy, seemed to be screaming at the highest
pitch of his or her strident voice.

Here was everything for sale--hats, feathers, coats, skirts, dolls,
wooden dolls, rag dolls, china dolls, monkeys on sticks, ribbons,
gloves, shoes, umbrellas, pies, puddings, cakes, jams, oranges,
apples, melons, cucumbers, potatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers,
brooches, diamonds (glass), rubies (glass), emeralds (glass),
prayer books, bibles, pictures (King George, Queen Mary), cups,
plates, tea-pots, coffeepots, rabbits, white mice, dogs, sheep,
pigs, one grey horse, tables, chairs, beds, and one wooden house on
wheels.  More than these, much more.  And around them, about them,
in and out of them, before them and beside them and behind them
men, women, children, singing, crying, shouting, sneezing,
laughing, hiccuping, quarrelling, kissing, arguing, denying,
confirming, whistling, and snoring.  Men of the sea bronzed with
dark hair, flashing eyes, rings on their fingers and bells on their
toes; men of the fields, the soil interpenetrated with the very
soul of their being, bearded to the eyes, broad-shouldered, broad-
buttocked, their Sunday coats flapping over their corduroy thighs,
their rough thick necks moving restlessly in their unaccustomed
collars; women of the fair with eyes like black coals; gipsy women
straight from the tents with crimson kerchiefs and black hair piled
high under feathered hats; women of the town with soft voices,
sidling eyes, and creeping hands; women of the farm with gaze
wondering and adrift, hands like leather, children at their skirts;
women householders with their purses carefully clutched, their
hands feeling the cabbages, pinching the cauliflowers, estimating
the chairs and tables, stroking the china; young boys and girls,
confidence in their gaze, timidity in their hearts, suddenly
catching hands, suddenly embracing, suddenly triumphant on their
merry-go-round, suddenly everything, conscious of the last penny
burning deep down in the pocket, conscious of love, conscious of
appetite, conscious of possible remorse, conscious of blood
pounding in their veins.  And the magicians, the wonder workers,
the steal-a-pennies, the old men with white beards and trays of
coloured treasures, the bold bad men with their thimble and their
penny, the little stumpy fellow with his cards, the long thin
melancholy fellow with his medicines, the thick jolly drunken
fellow with his tales of the sea, the twisty turn-his-head-both-
ways fellow with his gold watches and silver chains, the red wizard
with his fortunes in envelopes, his magic on strings of coloured
paper, his mysterious signs and countersigns whispered into
blushing ears.  And then the children that should have been in bed
hours ago--little children, large children, young children, old
children, fat children, thin children, children clinging to
mother's skirts, children running in and out, like mice, between
legs and trousers, children riding on father's shoulder, children
sticky with sweets and sucking their thumbs, children screaming
with pleasure, shrieking with terror, howling with weariness--and
one child all by itself on the steps of the Town Hall, curled up
and fast asleep.

Away, to one side of the place, just as he had been there fifteen
years ago when Maradick had been present, was a preacher, aloft on
an overturned box, singing with hand raised, his thin earnest face
illumined with the lights, his scant hair blowing in the breeze.
Around him a thin scattering of people singing just as fifteen
years ago they had sung:


     So like little candles
       We shall shine,
     You in your small corner
       And I in mine.


The same recipe, the same cure, the same key offered to the
unlocking of the same mysterious door--and so it will be to the end
of created life--Amen!

The hymn was over.  The preacher's voice was raised.  Children step
to the edge of the circle, looking up with wondering eyes, their
fingers in their mouths.

"And so, dear friends, we have offered to us here the Blood of the
Lamb for our salvation.  Can we refuse it?  What right have we to
disregard our salvation?  I tell you, my dear friends, that
Judgement is upon us even now.  There cometh the night when no man
may work.  How shall we be found?  Sleeping?  With our sins heavy
upon us?  There is yet time.  The hour is not yet.  Let us remember
that God is merciful--there is still time given us for repentance--"

The Town Hall clock stridently, with clanging verberation, heard
clearly above all the din, struck nine.


                              4


Even as the strokes sounded in the air the wide doors of the Town
Hall unfolded and a tall stout man, dressed in the cocked hat and
the cape and cloak of a Dickensian beadle, appeared.  Flaming red
they were, and very fine and important he looked as he stood there
on the steps, his legs spread, holding his gold staff in his hands.
He was attended by several other gentlemen who looked down with
benignant approval upon the crowd, and by a drum, a trumpet, and a
flute, these last being instruments rather than men.

A crowd began to gather at the foot of the steps and the beadle to
address them at the top of his voice, but unlike his rival, the
preacher, his voice did not carry very far.

And now the Fair, having only five minutes more of life before it,
lifted itself into a final screaming manifestation.  Now was the
time for which the wise and the cautious had been waiting
throughout the three days of the Fair--the moment when all the
prices would tumble down with a rush because it was now or never.
The merry-go-round shrieked; the animals bellowed, lowed, mooed,
and grunted; the purchasers argued, quarrelled, shouted, and
triumphed; the preacher and his followers sang and sang again; the
bells clanged, the gas-jets flared, the bonfire rose furiously to
heaven.  But meanwhile the crowd was growing larger and larger
around the Town Hall steps; they came with penny whistles and horns
and hand-bells and even tea-trays.  Then suddenly, strong above the
babel, carried by men's stout voices, the song began:


     Now, gentles all, attend this song,
        Tra-LA, la-la, Tra-LA,
     It is but short, it can't be long,
        Tra-LA-la-la, Tra-LA,
     How Farmer Brown one summer day
     Was in his field a-gathering hay,
     When by there came a pretty maid
     Who smiling sweetly to him said,
        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA.

     Then Farmer Brown, though forty year,
        Tra-LA, la-la, Tra-LA,
     When he that pretty voice did hear,
        Tra-LA-la-la, Tra-LA,
     He threw his fork the nearest ditch
     And caught the maiden tightly, which
     Was what she wanted him to do,
     And so the same would all of you,
        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA.

     But she withdrew from his embrace,
        Tra-LA, la-la, Tra-LA,
     And mocked poor Farmer to his face,
        Tra-LA-la-la, Tra-LA,
     And danced away along the lane,
     And cried, "Before I'm here again,
     Poor Farmer Brown, you'll dance with Pain,"
        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA.

     And that was true, as you shall hear,
        Tra-LA, la-la, Tra-LA,
     Poor Farmer Brown danced many a year,
        Tra-LA-la-la, Tra-LA,
     But never once that maid did see,
     He grew as aged as aged could be,
     And danced into Eterni-tee,
        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA.


The red-flaming beadle moved down the steps, and behind him came
the drum, the trumpet, and the flute.  The drum, a stout fellow
with wide-spreading legs, had from the practice of many a year, and
his father and grandfather having been drummers before him, caught
the exact measure of the tune.  Along the market-place went the
beadle, the drum, the trumpet, and the flute.

For a moment a marvellous silence fell.

To Harkness this silence was exquisite.  The myriad stars, the high
buildings, their façades ruby-coloured with the leaping light, the
dark piled background, the crowd humming now with quiet, like water
on the boil, the glow of rich suffused colour sheltering everything
with its beautiful cloak, the rich voices tossing into the air the
jolly song, the sense of well-being and the tradition of the
lasting old time and the spirit of England eternally fresh and
sturdy and strong; all this sank into his very soul and seemed to
give him some hint of the deliverance that was, very soon, to come
to him.

Then the procession definitely formed.  All the voices--men's,
women's, and children's alike--caught it up.  One--two--three, one--
two--three.  The drum, the trumpet, and the flute came to them
through the air:


     How Farmer Brown one summer day
     Was in his field a-gathering hay,
     When by there came a pretty maid
     Who smiling sweetly to him said,
        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA.


He was never to be sure whether or no he had intended to join in
the dance.  He was not aware of more than the colour, the lights,
the rhythm of the tune, when a man like a mountain caught him by
the arm, shouting, "Now we're off, brother--now we're off," and he
was carried along.

There had always been a superstition about the dance that to join
in it, to be in it from the beginning to the end, meant the best of
good luck, and to miss it was misfortune.  There was, therefore,
now a flinging from all sides of eager bodies into the fray.  No
one must be left out, and as the path between the line of bodies
and houses was a narrow one, everyone was pressed close together,
and as there had been much friendly swilling of beer and ale,
everyone was in the highest humour, shouting, laughing, singing,
ringing their bells, and blowing their whistles.

Harkness was crushed in upon his enormous friend so completely that
he had no other impression for the moment but of a vast expanse of
heaving, leaping, corduroy waistcoat, of a hard brass button in his
eye, and of himself clutching with both hands to a shiny trouser
that must hold himself from falling.  But they were off indeed!
Four of them now in a row and the song was swinging fine and
strong.  One--two--three, one--two--three.  Forward bend, one leg
in air, backward bend, t'other leg in air, forward bend again, down
the market-place and round the corner, voices raised in one
tremendous song.

He was easier now and able more clearly to realise his position.
One arm was tightly wedged in that of his companion, and he could
feel the thick welling muscles taut through the stuff of the shirt.
On the other side of him was a girl, and he could feel her hand
pressing on his sleeve.  On her side, again, was a young man--her
lover.  He said so, and shouted it to the world.

He leaned across her and cried out her beauties as they moved, and
she threw her head back and sang.

The giant on the hither side seemed to have taken Harkness into his
especial protection.  He had been drinking well, but it had done
him no order of harm.  Only he loved the world and especially
Harkness.  He felt, he knew, that Harkness was a stranger from "up-
along."  On an average day he would have resented him, been
suspicious of him, and tried "to do him out of some of his blasted
money."  But to-night he would be his friend and protect him from
the world.

He would rather have had a girl crooked there under his arm, but
the girl he had intended to have had somehow missed him when the
fun began--but it didn't matter--the beer made everything glorious
for him--and after all he had two daughters "nigh grown up," and
his old missus was around somewhere, and it was just as good he
didn't slip into any sort of mischief, which it was easy to do on a
night like this--and his name was Gideon.  All this he confided to
Harkness while the procession halted, for a minute or two, at the
corner of the market-place to pull itself straight before it
started down the hill.

He had his arm around Harkness's neck and words poured from him.
Gideon what or something Gideon?  It didn't matter.  Gideon it was
and Gideon it would be so long as Harkness's memory remained.

All the soil of the English country, all the deep lanes with their
high dark hedges, the russet cornfields with their sudden dips to
the sea, the high ridges with the white cottages perched like birds
resting against the sky, the smell of the earth, the savour of the
leaves wet after rain, the thick smoke and damp of the closed-in
rooms, the mud, the clay, the running streams, the wind through the
thick-sheltering trees--all these were in Gideon's speech as he
stood, close pressed, thigh to thigh with Harkness.

He was happy although he knew not why, and Harkness was happy
because he was in love for the first time in his life and tingled
from head to foot with that knowledge.  And up and down and all
around it was the same.  This was the night of all the nights of
the year when enmities were forgotten and new friendships made.  As
Maradick once had felt the current of love running strong and true
through a thousand souls, so Harkness felt it now, and, as with
Maradick once, so with Harkness now, it seemed strange that life
might not be simply run, that the lion might not lie down with the
lamb, that nations might not be for ever at peace the one with
another, and that the Grand Millennium might not immediately be at
hand.

All beer you say?  Maybe, and yet not altogether so.  Something
anxious and longing in the human heart was rising, free and strong,
that night, and would never again entirely leave some of the hearts
that knew it.

Harkness for one.  There were to be many years in the future when
he was to feel again the beating of Gideon's heart under his arm.
Something of Gideon's was his, and something of his was Gideon's
for evermore, though they would never meet again.


                              5


And now the procession was arranged.  Harkness, looking back, could
see how it stretched, a winding serpent black in the shadows of the
leaping bonfire, through the Square.  They were off again.  The
drum had started.  Down the hill they went, all packed together,
all swinging with the tune.  A kind of divine frenzy united them
all.  Young and old, men and women, married and single, good and
evil, vicious and virtuous, all were together bound in one chain.
Harkness was with them.  For the first time in all his life,
restraint was flung aside.  He did not smell the beer, nor did the
sweat of the perspiring bodies offend his sensitive nostrils, nor
the dung from the fields, nor the fishy odours of the sea.  With
Gideon on one side and a young man's girl on the other, he swung
through the town.

Details for a time eluded him.  He was singing the song at the top
of his voice, but what words he was singing he could not have told
you; he was dancing to the measure, but for the life of him he
could not have afterwards repeated the rhythm.

They swung down into the heart of the town.  The doors of all the
houses were crowded with the very aged and the very young, who
stood laughing and crying out, pointing to their friends and
acquaintances, laughing at this and cheering at that.

And always more were joining in, pushing their way, dancing the
more energetically because they had missed the first five minutes.
Now they were down on the fish-market all sprinkled with silver
under the little moon and the cloth of stars.  Here the wind from
the sea came to meet them, and through the music and the singing
and the laughter and the press-press of the dancing crowd could be
heard the faint breath of the tide on the shore "seep-seep-sough-
sough," wistful and powerful, remaining for ever when they all were
gone.  The sheds of the fish-market were gaunt and dark and
deserted.  For one moment all the naked place was filled with
colour and movement.  Then up the hill they all pressed.

It was difficult up the hill.  There were breaths and pants and
"Eh, sirs," and "Oh, the poor worm," and "But my heart's beating,"
and "I cannot!  I cannot!"  One woman fell, was picked up and
planted by the side of the road, a young man staying with
melancholy kindness beside her.  The rest passed on.

Soon they were at the top of the hill before they turned to the
left again back into the town.  And this was Harkness's greatest
moment.  For an instant the dance paused, and just then it happened
that Harkness was at the highest point of the climb.

Catching his breath, his hand to his heart, for he was out of
training and the going had been hard, he looked about him.  Below
him to the right and to the left and to the farthest horizon the
sea, a grey silk shadow, hung, so soft, so gentle, that the stars
that crackled above it seemed to be taunting it with its lethargy.
On the other side of the hill was all the clustered town, and
before him and behind him the dark multitudes of human beings.

He was happy, ecstatically happy.  Pressed close to Gideon, who was
drinking something out of a bottle, he was unconscious of any
personality--only that time had found for him, it seemed, a
solution to the whole problem of life.  The sea-wind fanning his
temples, the salt snap of the sea, the pounding of his own heart in
union with that other heart of his companion who was with him--all
these things together made of him, who had been always afraid and
timorous and edged with caution, a triumphant soul.

And it was good that it was so, because of all that he would be
called upon to do that night.

Gideon put his arm around him, pressing him close to him, and
pushed the bottle up to his lips.  "Drink, brother," he said.
"Drink, then, my dear."  And Harkness drank.

Now they were starting down the hill into the town once more, and
the dance reached the height of its madness.


     He threw his fork the nearest ditch
     And caught the maiden tightly, which
     Was what she wanted him to do,
     And so the same would all of you,
        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA.


They screamed, they shrieked, they tumbled on to one another, they
held on where they could, they swung from side to side.  The red
beadle himself caught the frenzy, flinging his fat body now here,
now there.  The very houses and the cobbles of the streets seemed
to swing and sway as the lights flashed and flared.  All the bells
of the town were pealing.  In the market-place they were setting
off the fireworks, and the rockets, green and red and gold,
streaked the purple sky and fought for rivalry with the stars.  All
the sky now was scattered with sparks of gold.  From the highest
heaven to the lowest of man's ditches the world crackled and split
and sang.

Now was the moment when all enmities were truly forgotten, when
love was declared without fear, when lips sought lips and hands
clasped hands, and heaven opened and all the human souls marched
in.


        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA
        Tra-LA-la-la-Tra-LA.


Back into the market-place they all tumbled; then, standing in a
serried mass as the beadle and his followers mounted the Town Hall
steps, they shouted:


     "All together:  One--two--three.
          One--Two--Three.
          ONE.  TWO.  THREE.
      HURRAY!  HURRAY!  HURRAY!"


The dance of all the hearts was, for one more year, at an end.


                              6


Everyone was splitting up into little groups, some to look at the
fireworks, some to have a last drink together, some to creep off
into the dark shadows and there confirm their vows, some to drive
home on their carts and waggons to their distant farms, some to sit
in their homes for a last chatting about all the news, some to go
straight to their beds--the common impulse was over although it
would not be forgotten.

Harkness looked around to find Gideon, but that giant was gone nor
was he ever to see him again.  He paused there panting, happy,
forgetting for an instant everything but the fun and freedom that
he had just passed through.  Then, as though it would forcibly
remind him, the Town Hall clock struck half-past nine.

He spoke to a man standing near him:

"Can you kindly tell me where a hotel called 'The Feathered Duck'
is?" he asked.

"Certainly," said the man, wiping the sweat from the hair matted on
his forehead.  "It's out on the sea front.  Go down High Street--
that'll take you to the sea front.  Then walk to your right and
it's about five houses down."

Harkness thanked him and hurried away.  He had no difficulty in
finding the High Street, but there how strange to walk so quietly
down it, hearing your own foot tread, watched by all the silent
houses, when only five minutes ago you had been whirling in
Dionysian frenzy!  He was on the sea front and two steps afterwards
was looking up at the quiet and modest exterior of "The Feathered
Duck."

The long road stretched shining and sleek.  Not a living soul
about.  The little hotel offered a discreet welcome with plants in
large green pots, one on either side of the door, a light warm
enough to greet you and not too startling to frighten you, and the
knob gleaming like an inviting eye.

Harkness pushed open the door and entered.  The hall was anæmic and
dark, with the trap to catch visitors some way down on the right.
There seemed to be no one about.  Harkness pushed open a door and
at once found himself in one of those little hotel drawing-rooms
that are so peculiarly British, compounded as they are of ferns and
discretion, convention and an untuned piano.  In this little room a
young man was sitting alone.  Harkness knew at once that his search
was over.  He knew where it was that he had heard the name Dunbar
before--this was his young man of the high road, the wandering
seaman and the serious appointment, the young man of his expectant
charge.

There was yet, however, room for mistake, and so he waited standing
in the doorway.  The young man was bending forward in a red plush
armchair, eagerly watching.  He recognised Harkness at once as his
friend of the afternoon.

"Hullo!" he said, and then hurriedly, "why, what HAS been happening
to you?"

Harkness stepped forward into the room.  "To me?" he said.

"Why, yes.  You're sweating.  Your collar's undone.  You look as
though you had run a mile."

"Oh that!"  Harkness blushed, fingering his collar, that had broken
from its stud.  "I've been dancing."

"Dancing?"

"Yes.  All round the town.  Like the lion and the unicorn."

"Oh, I heard you.  On any other night--"  He broke off.  During
this time he had been watching Harkness with a curious expression,
something between eagerness, distrust, and an impatience which he
was finding very difficult to conceal.  He said nothing more.
Harkness also was silent.  They stared the one at the other, and
could hear beyond the door the noises of the little hotel, a shrill
female voice, the rattle of plates, some man's laughter.

At last Harkness said:  "Your name is Dunbar, isn't it?"

The young man, instead of answering, asked his own question.  "Look
here, what the devil are you after?  I don't say that it is or it
isn't, but anyway why do YOU want to know?"

"It's only this," said Harkness slowly, "that if your name IS
Dunbar, then I have a message for you."

"You HAVE?"

He started out of his chair, standing up in front of Harkness as
though challenging him.

"Yes, a friend of yours asked me to come here, to meet you at half-
past nine and tell you that she agrees to your proposal--"

"She does? . . .  At last!"

Then his voice changed to suspicion.  "You seem to be a lot in
this.  Forgive my curiosity.  I don't want to seem rude, but
meeting me on the hill this afternoon and now this. . . .  I've got
to be so DAMN careful--"

"My name is Harkness.  It was quite by chance that I was walking
down the hill this afternoon and met you.  As I told you then, I
was on my way to 'The Man-at-Arms.'  This evening I offered my help
to a lady there who seemed to be in distress, and asked her whether
there was anything that I could do.  She asked me to bring you that
message.  There was no one else for her to ask."

Dunbar stared at Harkness, then suddenly held out his hand.  "Jolly
decent of you.  I won't forget it.  My name is Dunbar, as you know,
David Dunbar."

"And mine Harkness, Charles Harkness."

"I can't tell you what you've done for me by bringing me that
message.  Here, don't go for a minute.  Have something, won't you?"

"Yes, I think I will," said Harkness, conscious of a sudden
weariness.

"What shall it be?  Whisky?  Small soda?"

They sat down.  Dunbar touched a bell and then, in silence, they
waited.  Harkness was humorously conscious that he seemed to be the
younger of the two.  The boy had taken complete command of the
situation.

The older man was also aware that there was some very actual and
positive situation here that was developing under his eyes.  As he
sat there, sticking to the plush of his chair, listening to the
ridiculous chatter of the marble clock, staring into the Wardour
Street Puritans of "When did you see father last?" he felt urgency
beating in upon them both.  A shabby waiter looked in upon them,
received his order, and departed.

Dunbar suddenly plunged.  "Look here, I know I can trust you, I'm
sure of it.  And SHE trusted you, so that should be enough for me.
But--would you mind--telling me exactly how it happened that you
got this message?"

"Certainly," Harkness said.  "I--"

"Wait," Dunbar interrupted; "forgive me, but drop your voice, will
you?  One doesn't know who's hanging round here."

They drew their chairs closer together, and Harkness, sitting
forward, continued.  "I had dressed for dinner early.  A friend of
mine in London had told me that there was a little old room at the
top of the hotel that was well worth seeing.  I guess, like most
Americans, I care for old-fashioned things, so I got to the top of
the house and found the room.  I was up in a little gallery at the
back when two people came in, a man and a girl.  They began to talk
before I could move or let them know I was there.  It was all too
quick for me to do anything.  The girl begged the man, to whom she
was apparently married, to let her go home for a week before they
went abroad, and the man refused.  That was all there was, but the
girl's terror struck me as extreme--"

"My God!" Dunbar broke in, "if you only knew!"

"Well, I was touched by that, and I didn't like the man's face
either.  They went out.  I came down to dinner.  While I was
waiting in the garden an extraordinary man spoke to me--
extraordinary to look at, I mean--short, fat, red hair--"

"You needn't describe him," Dunbar interrupted, "I know him."

"He came and asked me for a match.  He was very polite, and finally
invited me to dine with him, his son, and daughter-in-law.  I
accepted.  Of course the son and daughter-in-law were the two that
I had overheard up-stairs.  I saw that throughout dinner she was in
great distress, and at the end as we were leaving the room I let
her know that I had overheard her inadvertently before dinner, and
that I was eager to help her if there was any way in which I could
do so.  We had only a moment, Crispin and his son were close upon
us.  She was, I suppose, at the end of her endurance and snatched
at any chance, so she told me to do this--to find you here and give
you that message--that's all--absolutely all."

The door opened, making both men turn apprehensively.  It was only
the shabby little waiter with his tray and the whiskies.  He set
down the glasses, split the soda, and stared at them both as Dunbar
paid him.

"Will that be all, gentlemen?" he asked, scratching his ear.

"Everything," said Dunbar abruptly.

"Gentlemen sleeping here?"

"No, we're not.  Good night."

"Good night, sir."  With a little sigh the waiter withdrew.  The
door closed, and instantly the ferns in the pots, the plush chairs
and sofa closed round as though they also wanted to hear.

"It's an extraordinary piece of luck," Dunbar began.  Then he
hesitated.  "But I don't want to bother you with any more of this.
It isn't your affair.  You've come into it, after all, only by
accident--"

He hesitated as though he were making an invitation to Harkness.
And Harkness hesitated.  He saw that this was his last opportunity
of withdrawal.  Once again he could hear the voice of the imp
behind his shoulder:  "Well, clear out if you want to.  You have
still plenty of time.  And this is positively the last chance I
give you--"

He drank his whisky and, drinking, crossed his Rubicon.

"No, no, I am interested, tremendously interested.  Tell me
anything you care to, and if I can be of any help--"

"No, no," Dunbar assured him, "I'm not going to drag you into it.
You needn't be afraid of that."

"But I AM in it!" Harkness answered, smiling; "I'm going back with
Crispin to his house this evening!"


                              7


The effect of that upon Dunbar was fantastic.  The young man jumped
from his chair crying:

"You're going back?"

"Yes."

"To the house?"

"Why, yes!"

"And to-night!"

He stared down at him as though he could not believe the evidence
of his ears nor of his eyes nor of anything that was his.  Then he
finished his whisky with a desperate gulp.

"But what's pushing you into this anyway?" he cried at last.  "You
don't look like the kind of man--And yet there you were on the hill
this afternoon, and then at the hotel and overhearing what Hesther
said, and then dining with the man and his asking you--He did ask
you, didn't he?"

"Of course he asked me," Harkness answered.  "You don't suppose I'd
have gone if he didn't."

"No, I don't suppose you would," agreed Dunbar.  "I bet he offered
to show you his jewels and his pictures, his collections."

"Yes," said Harkness, "he did."

"Well, that's just a miracle of good luck for me, that's all.  You
can help me to-night, help me marvellously.  But I don't like to
ask you.  Things might turn out all wrong and then we'd all be in
for a bad time and that wouldn't be fair to you."  He paused,
thinking, then he went on.  "I'll tell you what I'll do.  You saw
that girl to-night and talked to her, didn't you?"

Harkness nodded his head.

"You saw that she was a damned fine girl?"

Harkness nodded again.

"Worth doing a lot for.  Well, I'll put the whole story to you--let
you have it all.  We've got nearly three-quarters of an hour.  I
can tell you most of it in that time, and then you can make up your
mind.  If, when I've told you everything, you decide to have
nothing whatever to do with it, that's all right.  There's no
obligation on you at all, of course.  But if you DID help me, being
in the house at that very time, it would make the whole difference.
My God, yes!" he ended with a sigh of eagerness, staring at
Harkness.

Harkness sat there, thinking only of the girl.  His own personal
history, the town, the dance, Crispin and his son, all these things
had faded away from his mind; he saw only her--as she had been when
turning her head for a moment she had spoken to him with such
marvellous self-control.

He loved her just as she stood there granting him permission to
help her.  His own prayer was that it might not be long before he
was allowed to help her again.  He was recalled to the immediate
moment by Dunbar's voice:

"You'll forgive me if I go back to the beginning of things--it's
the only way really to explain.  Have you ever heard of Polchester,
a town in Glebeshire, north of this?  There's a rather famous
cathedral there."

"Yes," said Harkness, "I thought I might go there from here."

"Well," Dunbar went on, "out of Polchester about ten miles there's
a village--Milton Haxt.  I was born there and so was Hesther.  Her
name was Hesther Tobin, and she was the only daughter of the doctor
of the place--she had two brothers younger than herself.  We've
known one another all our lives."

"Wait a moment," Harkness interrupted; "are you and she the same
age?"

"No.  I'm thirty, she's only twenty."

"You look younger than that, or you did this afternoon, I'm not so
sure now."  Indeed the boy seemed to have acquired some new weight
and responsibility as he sat there.

"No," he went on.  "When I said that we'd known one another always
I mean that she's always known about me.  I used to take her on my
knee and toss her up and down.  That was where all the trouble
began.  If she hadn't been always used to me and fancied that I was
years older than she--a kind of grandfather--she'd have married
me."

"Married you!" Harkness brought out.

"Yes.  I can't remember a time when I wasn't in love with her.  I
always was, and she never was with me.  She liked me--she likes me
now--but she's always been so used to the idea of me.  I've always
been David Dunbar--and that's all--a friend who was always there,
but nothing more.  There was just a moment when I was missing for
six months in the middle of the war, I think she really cared then--
but soon they heard that I was safe in Germany and it was all as
it had been before."

"Were her father and mother living?" Harkness asked.

"Her father.  Her mother died when her youngest brother was born,
when she was only six years old.  The mother's death upset the
father and he took to drink.  He'd always been inclined that way I
expect.  He was too brilliant a doctor to have landed in that small
village without there being some reason.  Well, after Mrs. Tobin's
death there was simply one trouble after another.  Tobin's patients
deserted him.  The big house on the hill had to be sold and they
moved into a small one in the village.  He had been a big, jolly,
laughing, generous man before; now he was always quarrelling with
everybody, insulting the few patients left to him, and so on.
Hesther was wonderful.  How she kept the house together all those
years nobody knew.  There was very little she didn't know about
life by the time she was ten years old--ordinary life, I mean, not
this damned Crispin monstrosity.  She always had the pluck and
courage of the devil, and you can fancy what I felt just now when
you told me about her asking young Crispin to let her off.  That
SWINE!"

He paused for a moment, then went on hurriedly:

"But we haven't much time.  I must buck ahead.  I was quite an
ordinary sort of fellow, of course, but there was nothing I
wouldn't do for her if I got a chance.  I helped her sometimes, but
not so much as I'd have liked.  She was always terribly proud.  All
the things that happened at home made her hold up her head in a
kind of defiance.

"The odd thing was that she loved her father, and the worse he got
the more she loved him.  But she loved her young brothers still
more.  She was mother, sister, nurse, everything to them, and would
be still if she'd been let alone.  They were nice little chaps too,
only a lot younger, of course--one three years, one six.  One's in
the Navy--very decent fellow--and if he'd been home he'd never have
allowed any of this to happen.

"Well, the war came when she was quite a kid.  I was away most of
that time.  Then in 1918 my father died and left me a bit of
property there in Milton.  I came home and asked her to marry me.
She thought I was pitying her, and anyway she didn't love me.  And
I hadn't enough of this world's goods to make the old man keen
about me.

"Then this devil came along."  Dunbar stopped for a moment.  They
both listened.  There was not a sound in the whole house.

"What brought him to a village like yours?" asked Harkness,
lowering his voice.  "I shouldn't have thought that a man like
that--"

"No, you wouldn't," said Dunbar.  "But that's one of his passions
apparently, suddenly landing on some small village where there's a
big house and bossing everyone around him. . . .  I shall never
forget the day I first saw him.  It was just about a year ago.

"I had heard that some foreigner had taken Haxt, that was the big
house in Milton that the Dombeys, the owners, were too poor to keep
up.  Soon all the village was talking.  Furniture arrived, then
lots of servants, Japs and all sorts.  Then one evening going up
the hill I saw him leaning over one of the Haxt gates looking into
the road.

"It was a lovely July evening and he was without a hat.  You've
spoken of his hair.  I tell you that evening it was just flaming in
the sun.  It looked for a moment like some strange sort of red
flower growing on the top of the gate.  He stopped me as I was
passing and asked me for a match."

"That's what he asked me for," murmured Harkness.

"Yes, his opening gambits are all the same.  He offered me a
cigarette and I took one.  We talked for a little.  I didn't like
him at first, of course, with his hair, white face, painted lips;
but--did you notice what a beautiful voice he has?"

"I should think I did," said Harkness.

"And then he can make himself perfectly charming.  The beginning of
your acquaintance with him is exactly like your introduction to
the villain of any melodrama--painted face, charming voice,
cosmopolitan, delightful information.  The change comes afterwards.
But I must hurry on, I'll never be done.  I'm as bad as Conrad's
Marlowe.  Have another whisky, won't you?"

"No thanks," said Harkness.

"Well, it wasn't long before he was the talk of the whole place.
At first everyone liked him.  Odd though he looked, you can just
fancy how a man with his wealth and knowledge of the world would
fascinate a country-side if he chose to make himself agreeable, and
he DID choose.  He gave parties, he went round to people's houses,
sent his motors to give old ladies a ride, allowed people to pick
flowers in his garden, adored showing people his collections.  I
happened to be in Milton during the rest of that year looking after
my little property, and he seemed to take to me.  I was up at Haxt
a good deal.

"Looking back now I can see that I never really liked him.  I was
aware of my caution and laughed at myself for it.  I like pretty
things, you know, and I loved his jade and emeralds, and still more
his prints.  And he knew so much and was never tired of telling me
and never seemed to laugh at one's ignorance.

"He was, as I have said, all the talk that summer.  It was 'Mr.
Crispin' this and 'Mr. Crispin' that--Mr. Crispin everything.  The
men didn't take to him much, but of course they wouldn't!  They had
always thought ME a bit queer because I liked reading and played
the piano.  The first thing that people didn't like about him was
his son.  That beauty arrived at Haxt somewhere in September, and
everybody hated him.  I ask you, could you help it?  And he was the
exact opposite of his father.  HE didn't try to make himself
agreeable to anybody--simply went about scowling and frowning.  But
it wasn't that that people disliked--it was his relation to his
father.  He was absolutely in his father's power--that is the only
way to put it--and there was something despicable, something almost
obscene, you know, almost as though he were hypnotised, the way he
obeyed him, listened to his voice, slaved away for him."

"I noticed something of that myself this evening," said Harkness.

"You couldn't help it if you saw them together.  Somehow the son
turning up beside the father made the FATHER look queer--as though
the son showed him up.  People round Milton are not very
perceptive, you know, but they soon smelt a rat, several rats in
fact.  For one thing the people in the village didn't like the Jap
servants, then one or two maids that Crispin had hired abruptly
left.  They wouldn't say anything except that they didn't like the
place, that old Crispin walked in his sleep or something of the
kind.

"It was just about this time, early in October or so, that Crispin
became friendly with the Tobins.  Young Crispin had a cold or
something and Tobin came up and doctored him.  Crispin gave him the
best liquor he'd ever had in his life, so he came again, and then
again.  That was the beginning of my dislike of Crispin.  It seemed
to me rotten of him, when Tobin was already going as fast downhill
as he could, to give him an extra push.  And Crispin liked doing
that.  One could see it at a glance.  I hated him from the moment
when I caught him watching with an amused smile Tobin fuddled in
his chair.  You can imagine that Tobin's drunkenness, having cared
for Hesther as I had for so long, was a matter of some importance
for me.  I had tried to pull him up, without any sort of success,
of course, and it simply maddened me to see what Crispin was doing.
So I lost my temper and spoke out.  I told him what I thought of
him.  He listened to me very quietly, then he suddenly threw his
head up at me like a snake hissing.  He said a lot of things.  That
was the first time I heard all his nonsensical stuff about
sensations.  We haven't time now, and anyway it wasn't very new--
the philosophy that as this was our only existence we had better
make the most of it, that we had been given our senses to use, not
to stifle, and the rest of it.  Omar put it better than Crispin.

"He had also a lot of talk about Power, that if he liked he could
have anyone in his power, and so could I if I liked.  You had only
to know other people's weaknesses enough.  And more than that.
Some stuff about its being good for people to suffer.  That the
thing that made life interesting and worth while was its intensity,
and that life was never so intense as when we were suffering.
That, after all, God liked us to suffer.  Why shouldn't WE be gods?
We might be if we only had courage enough.

"It was then, that morning, that it first entered my head that
there was something wrong with him--something wrong with his brain.
It had never occurred to me during all those months because he has
always been so logical, but now--he seemed to step across the
little bridge that separates the sane from the insane.  You know
how small that bridge is?"  Harkness nodded his head.

"Then all in a moment he took my arm and twisted it.  I can't give
you any sort of idea how queer and nasty that was.  As he did it he
peered into my face as though he didn't want to miss the slightest
shadow of an expression.  Then--I don't know if you noticed when he
shook hands with you--his fingers haven't any bones in them, and
yet they are beastly powerful.  He ought to be soft all over and he
ISN'T.  He twisted my arm once and smiled.  It was all I could do
to keep from knocking him down.  But I broke away, told him to go
to hell and left the house.  From that moment I hated him.

"It was directly after this that I noticed for the first time that
he had his eye on Hesther, and he had his eye upon her exactly
because she hated him and wouldn't go near him if she could
possibly help it.  I must stop for a moment and tell you something
about her.  You've seen her, but you cannot have any kind of idea
how wonderful she really is.

"She had the most honourable loyal character you've ever seen in
woman.  And she's never been in love--she doesn't know what love
is.  Those are the two most important things about her.  That
doesn't mean that she's ignorant of life.  There's nothing mean or
sordid or disgusting that hasn't come into her experience through
her beauty of a father, but she's stood up to it all--until this,
this Crispin marriage.  The first thing in her life she's funked.

"She's been saved all along by her devotion to one thing, her
family--her father and two brothers.  She must have given her
father up pretty completely by now, seen that it was hopeless; but
her small brothers--why, they are the key to the whole thing!  If
it weren't for them she wouldn't be where she is to-night, and, as
I have said, if the elder one had known anything about it he
wouldn't have allowed it, but he's away on a foreign station and
Bobby's too young to understand.

"She was always very independent in the village, keeping to
herself.  Not being rude to people, you understand, but making no
real friends.  She simply lived for those two boys, and she had to
work so hard that she had no time for friends.  She knew that I
loved her--I had told her often enough.  She saw more of me than of
anyone else, and she would allow me to do things for her sometimes,
but even with me she kept her independence.  To-night is the very
first time in both our lives that she has begged me to do
anything!"

He stopped for a moment.  "By God!" he cried, "if I can't help her
to-night I'll finish myself; there'll be nothing left in life for
me!"

"We WILL help her," Harkness said.  "Both of us.  But go on.
Time's advancing.  I mustn't miss my appointment."

"No, by Jove, you mustn't," said Dunbar.  "Everything hangs on
that.  Well, to get on.  It didn't take me very long to see what
Crispin was doing to her father, and one day she went up to see him
alone and begged him to be merciful.  She says that he was charming
to her and that she hated him worse than ever.

"He promised her that he would stop her father's drinking, and, of
course, he didn't keep his promise, but made Tobin drink more than
ever.

"It was round about Christmas that these things happened, and just
about this time all sorts of stories began to circulate about him.
He suddenly left, came over to Treliss, and took the White Tower
where you're going to-night.  After he had gone the stories grew in
volume--the most ridiculous things you ever heard, about his
catching rabbits and skinning them alive and holding witches'
Sabbaths with his Japs--every kind of fantastic thing.  And all the
women who had gone to see his pretty things and raved about him
when he first came said they didn't know how they 'ever could have
seen anything in him,' and that he deserved imprisonment and worse.

"It was now that I discovered that Hesther was desperately worried.
I had known her all my life and had never seen her worried like
this before.  She lost her colour, was always thinking about other
things when one spoke to her, and, several times, had been crying
when I came upon her.  Naturally I couldn't stand this, and I
bullied her until I got the truth out of her.  And what do you
think that was?  Why, of all the horrible things, that the younger
Crispin had asked her to marry him, and that all the time her
blackguard of a father was pressing her to do it.

"You can imagine what I felt like when I heard this!  I cursed and
swore and blasphemed, and still couldn't believe that she was in
any way taking it seriously until, when I pressed her, I found that
she was!

"She was always as obstinate as sin, had her own way of looking at
things, made up her own mind and stuck to it.  She didn't hate the
son as she hated the father, although she disliked the little she'd
seen of him well enough; but, remember, she knew very little about
marriage.  All her thoughts were on those two boys, her brothers.

"I found out that old Crispin had offered Tobin any amount of money
if he'd give his daughter up, and that Tobin had put this to
Hesther, telling her that he was desperately in debt, that he'd be
put in prison if the money didn't turn up from somewhere, and,
above all, that the boys would be ruined if she didn't agree, that
he'd have to take the younger boy away from school and so on.

"I did everything I could.  I went and saw Tobin and told him what
I thought of him, and he was drunk as usual and we had a scuffle,
in the course of which I unfortunately tumbled him over.  Hesther
came in and saw him on the floor, turned on me, and then said she'd
marry young Crispin.

"I begged, I implored her.  I said that if she would marry me I'd
give her everything that I had in the world, that we'd manage so
that Bobby shouldn't have to be taken away from school, and the
rest of it.  Then Father Tobin got up from the floor and asked me
with a sneer how much I'd got, and I tried to bluster it out, but
of course they both of them knew that I hadn't got very much.

"Anyway Hesther was angry with me--ashamed, I think, that I'd seen
her father in such a state, and her pride hurt that I should know
how badly they were placed.  She accepted young Crispin by the next
mail.  If the Crispins had actually been there in the flesh I don't
think she would have done it, but some weeks' absence had softened
her horror of them, and she could only think how wonderful it was
going to be to do all the marvellous things for the boys that she
was planning.

"I'm sure that when young Crispin did turn up with his long body
and cadaverous face she repented and was frightened, but her pride
wouldn't let her then back out of it.

"I had one last talk with her before her marriage.  I begged her to
forgive me for anything that I had done that might seem casual or
insulting, that she must put me out of her mind altogether, but
just consider in a general way whether this wasn't a horrible thing
that she was doing, marrying a man that she didn't love, taking on
a father-in-law whom she hated.

"She was very sweet to me, sweeter than she had ever been before.
She just shook her head and let me kiss her.  And I knew that this
was a final good-bye."


                              8


"She married Crispin and came to Treliss.  I wasn't at the wedding.
I heard nothing from her.  And then a story came to my ears that,
after I had once heard it, gave me no peace.

"It was an old woman--a Mrs. Martin.  She had, months before, been
up at Haxt doing some kind of extra help.  She was an old mottled
woman like a strawberry--I'd known her all my life--and a
grandmother.  She suddenly left, and it was only weeks after
Crispin went that I found out why.  She was very shy about it, and
to this day I've never discovered exactly what happened.  Something
one evening when she was alone in the kitchen preparing to go home.
The elder Crispin came in followed by one of his Japs.  He made her
sit down in one of the kitchen chairs, sat down beside her, and
began to talk to her in his soft beautiful voice.  What it was all
about to this day she doesn't know--some of his fine stuff about
Sensation, I dare say, and the benefit of suffering so that you
could touch life at its fullest!  I shouldn't wonder--anyway an old
woman like Mrs. Martin, who had borne eight or nine children of her
husband who beat her, knew plenty about suffering without Crispin
trying to teach her.  Anyway he went on in his soft beautiful
voice, and she sat there bewildered, fascinated a bit by his red
hair which she told me 'she never could get out of her mind like,'
and the Jap standing silent beside her.

"Suddenly Crispin took hold of her old wrinkled neck and began
stroking it, putting his face close to hers, talking, talking,
talking all the time.  Then the Jap stepped behind her, caught the
back of her head and pulled it.

"What would have happened next I don't know had not the younger
Crispin come in, and at the sight of him the older man instantly
got up, the Jap disappeared--it was as though nothing had been.
Old Mrs. Martin got out of the house, then tumbled to pieces in the
shrubbery.  She was ill for days afterwards, but she kept the whole
thing quiet with a kind of villager's pride, you know--'she wasn't
going to have other folks talking as they did anyway when they saw
how quickly she had left.'

"But she told one of her daughters and the daughter told me.  There
was almost nothing in the actual incident, but it told me two
things, one, that the older Crispin really is mad--definitely,
positively insane, the other that the son, in spite of his seeming
so submissive, has some sort of hold over him.  There is something
between the two that I don't understand.

"Well, that decided me.  I went to Treliss to find out what I
could.  I had to hang about for quite a time before I could learn
anything at all.  Crispin was going on at Treliss just as he had
done at Milton.  He's taken this strange house outside the town
which you'll see to-night.  Quite a famous place in a way, built on
the sea-cliff with a tangled overgrown wood behind it and a high
white tower that you can see for miles over the country-side.  At
first the people liked him just as they had done at Milton and were
interested in him.  Then there were stories and more stories.
Suddenly, only a week ago he said he was going abroad, and to-
morrow he's going.

"Now the point I want to make clear to you is that the man's mad.
I'm not a clever chap.  I don't know any of your medical theories.
I've never had any leaning that way, but I take it that the moment
that anyone crosses the division between sanity and insanity it
means that they can control their brain no longer, that they are
dominated by some desire or ambition or lust or terror that nothing
can stop, no fear of the law, of public shame, of losing social
caste.  Crispin is mad, and Hesther, whom I love more than anything
in this world and the next, is in his hands completely and
absolutely.  They go abroad tomorrow morning where no one can touch
them.

"The time's been so short, and I've not been sufficiently clever to
give you any clear idea of the man himself.  I've got practically
no facts.  You can't say that his stroking an old woman's neck is a
fact that proves anything.  All the same I believe you've seen
enough yourself to know that it isn't all imagination, and that the
girl is in terrible peril.  My God, sir," the boy's voice was
shaking, "before the war there were all sorts of things that didn't
seem possible, we knew that they couldn't exist outside the books
of the story-tellers.  But the war's changed all that.  There's
nothing too horrible, nothing too beastly, nothing too bad to be
true--yes, and nothing too fine, nothing too sporting.

"And this thing is quite simple.  There are those two madmen and my
girl in their hands, and only to-night to get her out of them.

"I must tell you something more," he went on more quietly.  "I've
been making desperate attempts to see her, and at the same time to
prevent either of those devils from seeing ME.  I saw her twice,
once in the grounds of the White Tower, once on the beach below the
house.  Neither time would she listen to me.  I could see that she
was miserable, altogether changed, but all that she would say was
that she was married and that she must go through with what she had
begun.

"She begged me to go away and leave Treliss.  Her one fear seemed
to be lest Crispin should find out I was there and do something to
me.

"Her terror of him was dreadful to witness--but she would tell me
nothing.  I hung about the place and made a friend of a fisherman
he had up there working on the place--Jabez Marriot--you saw him on
the hill to-day.

"He's a fine fellow.  He's only been working on the grounds, had
nothing to do with inside the house, but he didn't love the
Crispins any better than I did, and he had lost his heart to
Hesther.  She spoke to him once or twice, and he would do anything
for her.  I sent letters to her through him: she replied to me in
the same way, but they were all to the same effect, that I was to
go away quickly lest Crispin should do something to me, that she
wasn't being badly treated and that there was nothing to be done.

"Then, about a week ago, Crispin saw me.  It was in one of the
Treliss lanes, and we met face to face.  He just gave me one look
and passed on, but since then I've had to be terribly careful.  All
the same I've made my plans.  All that was needed was her consent
to them, and that, until to-night, she had steadily refused to
give.  However, something worse than usual has broken her down.
What he has been doing to her I don't know, I dare not think--but
to-night I've got to get her out.  I've GOT to, or never show my
face anywhere again.  Now I've told you this as quickly as I could.
Will you help me?"

Harkness stood up holding out his hand:  "Yes," he said, "I will."

"It can be beastly, you know."

"That's all right."

"You don't mind what happens?"

"I don't mind what happens."

"Sportsman."

The two men shook hands.  They sat down again.  Dunbar spread out a
paper on the little green-topped table.

"This is a rough plan of the house," he said.  "I can't draw, but I
think you can make this out."

[Drawing]

"Please forgive this childish drawing," he said again.  "It's the
best I can do.  I think it makes the main things plain.  Here's the
house, the tower over the sea, the wood, the garden, the high road.
Now look at this other plan of the second floor.

[Drawing]

"You'll see from this that Hesther's room is at the very end of the
house and her husband's room next to hers.  The two guest rooms are
empty, and there are no other bedrooms on that floor.  The picture
gallery runs right along the whole floor.  The small library is a
rather cheerful bright room.  Crispin has put his prints in there,
some on the walls, the rest in solander boxes.  The large library
is a gaunt, dusty, deserted place hung with heads of many animals
that one of the Pontifexes (the real owners of the place) shot at
some time or other.  No one ever goes there.  In fact this second
floor is generally deserted.  Crispin spends his time either in the
tower or on the ground floor.  He is in the small library playing
about with his prints some of the time though.

"Now, my plan is this.  I have told Hesther everything to the very
tiniest detail, and all that she had to do was to send word at any
moment that she agreed to it.  That she has now done.

"To-night at one o'clock I am going to be up the highroad under the
shadow of the wood at the back of the kitchen garden with a jingle
and pony--"

"A jingle?" asked Harkness.

"Yes, a jingle is Cornish for a pony trap.  The obvious thing for
me to have had was a car, but after thinking about it I decided
against it for a number of reasons.  One of them was the noise that
it makes in starting, then it might easily stick over the ground
that we shall have to cover, then I fancy that it will be the first
thing that Crispin will look for if he starts in pursuit.  We have
only to go three miles anyway, and most of it over the turf of the
moor."

"Only three miles?" Harkness asked.

"Yes, I'll tell you about that in a moment.  Crispin Senior is
pretty regular in his movements, and just about one o'clock he goes
up to his bedroom at the top of the tower with his two Japs in
attendance.  That is the only time of the day or night that one or
another of those Japs isn't hanging about somewhere.  They are up
there with him on exactly the opposite side of the house from
Hesther's room at just that time.  That leaves only young Crispin.
We shall have to chance him, but, according to Jabez, he had the
habit of going to bed between eleven and twelve, and by one o'clock
he ought to be sound asleep.

"However, that is one of the things we ought to look out for, one
of the things indeed that I want your help about.  Meanwhile Jabez
is patrolling in the grounds outside."

"Jabez!" Harkness cried, startled.

"Yes, that is our great piece of luck.  Crispin has had some fellow
of his own in the grounds all this time, but three nights ago he
sent him up to London on some job and Jabez has taken his place.  I
don't think he trusts Jabez altogether, but he trusts the others
still less.  He is always cursing the Cornishmen, and they don't
love him any the better for it."

"Well, when you've got safely to your pony cart what happens next?"

"We drive up Shepherd's Lane, down across the moor until we reach
the cliff just above Starling Cove.  Here I've got a boat waiting,
and we'll row across that corner of the bay to another cove--Selton--
and just above Selton is Selton Minor where there's a station.  At
four in the morning there's the first train, local, to Truro, and
at Truro we can catch the six o'clock to Drymouth.  In Drymouth
there are an uncle and aunt of hers--the Bresdins--who have long
been fond of her and wanted her often to stay with them.  Stephen
Bresdin is a good fellow and will stand up for her, I know, once
she's in his hands.  Then we can get the law to work."

"Won't Crispin be after you before you reach the Truro train?"

"Well, I'm reckoning first that he doesn't discover anything at all
until he wakes in the morning.  They are making an early start for
London that day, but he shouldn't be aware of anything until six at
least.  But secondly, if he does, I'm calculating that first he'll
think she's catching the three o'clock Treliss to Drymouth, or that
she's motored straight into Truro.  If he goes into Truro after her
or sends young Crispin I'm reckoning that he won't have the
patience to wait for that six o'clock or won't imagine that we
have, and will be sure that we will have motored direct into
Drymouth.

"He'll post after us there.  I don't think he knows about the
Bresdins in Drymouth.  He may, but I don't think so.  Of course
it's all chance, but I figure that it is the best we can do."

"And what's my part in this?" asked Harkness.

"Of course you're not to do a thing more than you want to," said
Dunbar.  "But this is where you could be of use.  The thing that
we're mainly afraid of is young Crispin.  Hesther can get out of
her room easily enough.  It is only a short drop on to an outhouse
roof, and then a short drop from there again, but if young Crispin
is moving about, coming into her room and so on, it may be very
difficult.  What I suggest is that you stay with the older Crispin
looking at his collections and the rest until half-past twelve or
so, then bid him a fond good-night and go.  Wait for a quarter of
an hour in the grounds.  Jabez will be there, and then at about a
quarter to one he will let you into the house again.  Crispin
Senior should be up in the tower by then, but if he isn't, you can
pretend that you have lost something, take him back into the small
library where the prints are, and keep him well occupied until
after one.  If he HAS gone up to his tower, Hesther will leave a
small piece of white paper under her door IF Crispin Junior is in
the way and hanging about.  In that case I should knock on his
door, apologise, say that you lost your gold match-box, had to come
back for it as they are all leaving early the next day, think it
must be in the small library; he goes back with you to look for it
and you keep him there.  Do you think you could manage that?"

"I will," said Harkness.

"There's more than that.  One of the principal reasons that Hesther
refused to consider any of this was--well, running off alone with
me in the middle of the night.  But if you are with us--someone, if
I may say so, so entirely--"

"Respectable," Harkness suggested as Dunbar hesitated.

"Well, yes--if you don't mind that word.  It alters everything,
don't you see.  Especially as you've never seen me before, aren't
in love with her or anything."

"Exactly," said Harkness gravely.

"There you are.  The thing's full of holes.  It can fall down in
all sorts of places, and if Crispin catches us and knows what we
are up to, it won't be pleasant.  But there's nothing else.  No
other plan that seems any less dangerous.  Are you for it, sir?"

"I'm for it," said Harkness.  At that moment the little marble
clock struck the half-hour.

"My God!" Harkness cried, "I should be at the hotel this very
minute.  If I miss them there's our plan spoiled."

He gripped Dunbar's hand once and was off.


                              9


He went racing through the darkness, the two thoughts changing,
mingling, changing incessantly over and over in his brain--that he
must catch them at the hotel before they left it, and that he
loved, he loved her, he loved her with an intensity that seemed to
increase with every step that he ran.

In some way, although Dunbar had said so little about her, his
picture of her was infinitely clearer and stronger than it had been
before.  He saw her in that small village of hers struggling
with that drunken father, with insufficient means, with the
individualities and rebellions of her two brothers, who, however
deeply they loved her (and normal boys are not conscious of their
deep emotions), must have kicked often enough against the
limitations of their conditions, sneering servants, spying
neighbours, jesting and scornful relations, the father in his cups
abusing her, insulting her, and for ever complaining--and yet she,
through all of this, showing a spirit, a hardihood, a pluck and, he
suspected, a humour that only this last fatal intercourse with the
Crispin family had broken down.

Harkness was the American man at his simplest and most idealistic,
and than this there is nothing simpler and more idealistic in the
whole of modern civilisation.  The Englishman has too much common
sense and too little imagination, the Frenchman is too mercenary,
the Southern peoples too sensuous to provide the modern Quixote.
In the United States of America to-day there are as many Quixotes
as there are builders of windmills to be tilted at--and that is
saying much.

So that, with his idealism, his hatred of cruelty and abnormality,
Harkness saw far beyond any personal aggrandisement in this
pursuit.  He was not thinking now of himself at all, he had danced
himself that night into a new world.

In the market-place he had to pause for breath.  He had run all the
way down the High Street, meeting no one as he went; he had already
had considerable exercise that evening, and he was in no very fine
condition of training.  The market-place was quiet enough, only a
few stragglers about; the Town Hall clock told him it was twenty-
eight minutes to eleven.

He started up the hill, he arrived breathless at the hotel gates,
the sweat pouring down his face.  He stopped and tried to arrange
himself a little.  It would be a funny thing coming in upon them
all with his tie undone and lines of sweat running down his face.
But, after all, he could make the dance account for a good deal.
He pushed his stud through the two ends of his collar and pulled
his tie up, finding it difficult to use his hands because they were
so hot, wiped his face with his handkerchief, pushed his cap
straight on his head.

His face wore an expression of grim seriousness as though he were
indeed St. George off to rescue his Princess from the Dragon.

His heart gave a jump of relief when he saw that the Dragon was
still there, standing quite unconcernedly in the main hall of the
hotel, his son and daughter-in-law quietly beside him.  Harkness's
first thought at view of him was that Dunbar's story was built up
of imagination.  The little man was standing, a soft felt hat
tilted a little on one side of his head, a dark thin overcoat
covering his evening clothes.  Because his hair was covered and his
face shaded there was nothing about him that was at all startling
or highly coloured.  He simply looked to be a nice plump little
English gentleman who was waiting, a smile on his face, for his car
to arrive that it might take him home.  Nor was there anything in
the least exceptional in the pair that stood beside him, the man,
thin, dark, immobile; the girl, her head a little bent, a soft
white wrap over her shoulders, her hands at her side.  At once it
flashed into Harkness's brain that all the scene with Dunbar had
been imagined; there had been no "Feathered Duck," no melodramatic
story of madness and tyranny, no twopence-coloured plan for a
midnight rescue.

He was about to drive a mile or two to see some beautiful things,
to smoke a good cigar and drink some admirable brandy--then to
retire and sleep the sleep of the divinely worthy.

The girl raised her head.  Her eyes met his, and he knew that
whatever else was true or false his love for her was certain and
resolved.

Crispin looked extremely pleased to see him.  He came towards him
smiling and holding out his hand:

"Why, Mr. Harkness, this is splendid," he said.  "We were just
wondering what we should do about you.  We were giving you up."

Harkness was conscious that, in spite of his attempts outside, he
was still in considerable disorder.  He fingered his collar
nervously.

"I'm sorry," he began.  "But I'm so glad that I've caught you after
all."

"Were the revels in the town amusing?" Crispin asked.

Harkness had a sudden impulse, whence he knew not, to make the
younger Crispin speak.

"Why didn't you come down?" he asked.  "You'd have enjoyed it."

The man was astonished at being addressed.  He sprang into sudden
life like any Jack-in-the-Box.

"Oh I," he said, "I had to go with my father, you know--yes, to see
some old friends."

He was looking at Harkness as though he were wondering why,
exactly, he had done that.

"Are you still willing to come and see my few things?" Crispin
asked.  "It's only half-an-hour's drive and my car will bring you
back."

"I shall be delighted to come," Harkness said quickly.  "I would
have been deeply disappointed if I had missed you.  But you must
not think of sending me back.  I shall enjoy the walk greatly."

"Why, of course not!" said Crispin.  "Walk back at that time of the
night!  I couldn't allow it for a moment."

"But I assure you," Harkness pressed, laughing, "I infinitely
prefer it.  You probably imagine that Americans never move a step
unless they have a car to carry them.  Not in my case.  I won't
come if I feel that during every minute that I am with you I am
keeping your chauffeur up."

"Well, well--all right," said Crispin, laughing.  "Have it your own
way.  You're a very obstinate fellow.  Perhaps you will change your
mind when the time really arrives."

They moved out to the doorway, then into the car.

Mrs. Crispin sat in one corner.  Harkness was about to pull up the
seat opposite, but Crispin said:

"No, no.  Plenty of room on the back for three of us.  Herrick
doesn't mind the other seat.  He's used to it."

They sat down, Harkness between the elder Crispin and the girl.
The night was black beyond their windows.  Crispin pressed the
button.  The interior of the car was at once in darkness, and
instantly the night was no longer black but purple and threaded
with wisps of grey lavender that seemed to hold in their spider
filigree all the loaded scent of the summer evening.  Again, as the
car turned into the long ribbon of the dark road, Harkness was
conscious through the open window of the smell of innumerable
roses, the late evening smell when the heat of the day is over and
the flowers are grateful.

Then a curious thing happened.  Through the darkness, Harkness felt
one of the fingers of Crispin's left hand creeping like an insect
about his knee.  They were sitting very closely together inside the
car's enclosure.  Harkness was conscious that Hesther Crispin was
pressed, almost crouching, against the corner of the car, and
although the stuff of her dress touched him he was aware that she
was striving desperately that he should not be aware of her
proximity, and then directly after that, of why she was so striving--
it was because she was shivering--shivering in little spasms and
tremors that shook her from head to foot--and she was wishing that
he should not realise this.

And even as he caught from her the consciousness of her trembling,
at the same moment he was aware of the pressing of Crispin's finger
upon his knee.  He was so close to Crispin, and his leg was pushed
so firmly against Crispin's leg, that this movement might have been
accidental had Crispin's whole hand rested there.  But there was
only the finger, and soon it began its movement, staying for an
instant, pressing through the cloth on to the bone of the knee,
then moving very slowly up the thigh, the sharp finger-nail
suddenly pushing more firmly into the flesh, then the finger
relaxing again and making only a faint, tickling, creeping
suggestion of a pressure.  Half-way up the thigh it stopped; for an
instant the whole hand, soft, warm, and boneless, rested on the
stuff of Harkness's trousers, then withdrew, and the fingers, like
a cautious animal, moved on.

When Harkness was first conscious of this he tried to move his
knee, but he was so tightly wedged in that he could not stir.  Then
he could not move for another reason, that he was transfixed with
apprehension.  It was exactly as though a gigantic hand had slipped
forward and enclosed him in its grasp, congealing him there,
stiffening him into helpless clay--and this was the apprehension of
immediate physical pain.

He had known all his days that he was a coward about physical pain,
and that was always the form of human experience that he had shrunk
from observing, compelling himself sometimes, because he so deeply
hated his cowardice, to notice, to listen, but suffering after
these contacts acute physical reactions.  Only once or twice in his
life had pain actually come to him.  He did not mind it so deeply
were it part of illness or natural causes, but the deliberate
anticipation of it--the doctor's "Now look out; I am going to
hurt," the dentist's "I may give you a twinge for a moment," these
things froze him with terror.  During the war, when he had offered
his service, this was the thing that from the clammy darkness of
the night leapt out upon him.  He had done his utmost to serve at
the front, and it was in no way his own fault when he was given
clerical work at home.  He had tried again and again, but his poor
sight, his absurd inside that was always wrong in one fashion or
another, these things had held him back--and behind it all was
there not a faint ring of relief, something that he dared not face
lest it should reveal itself as cowardice?  There had been times at
the dentist's and one operation.  That operation had been a slight
one, but it had involved for several weeks the withdrawing of tubes
and the probing with bright shining instruments.  Every morning for
several hours before this withdrawing and probing he lay panting in
bed, the beads of sweat gathering on his forehead, his hands
clutching and unclutching, saying to himself that he did not care,
that he was above it, beyond it . . . but closer and closer and
closer the animal came, and soon he was at his bedside, and soon
bending over him, and soon his claws were upon his flesh and the
pain would swoop down, like a cry of a discoverer, and the voice
would be sharper and sharper, the determination not to listen, not
to hear, not to feel weaker and weaker, until at length out it
would come, the defeat, the submission, the scream for pity.

The creeping finger upon his knee had the same sudden warning of
imminent physical peril.  The swiftly moving car, the silence,
these things seemed to bear in upon him the urgency of the other--
that it was no longer any game that he was playing but something of
the deadliest earnest.  Once again the soft hand closed upon his
thigh, then the finger once more like a creeping animal felt its
way.  His body was responsive from head to foot.  He was all
tingling with apprehension.  His hand resting firmly on his other
knee began to tremble.  Why was he in this affair at all?  If
Crispin were mad, as Dunbar declared, what was to stop him from
taking any revenge he pleased on those who interfered with him?

The tale was no longer one of pleasant romantic colour, the
rescuing of a distressed damsel from an enchanted castle, but
rather something quite real and definite, as real as the car in
which they were sitting or the clothes that they were wearing.  He,
suddenly feeling that he could endure it no longer--in another
moment he would have cried out aloud--jerked his knee upwards.  The
hand vanished, and at the same moment Crispin's voice said:  "We
are almost there.  We are going through the gates now."

Lamps flashed upon their faces and Crispin's eyes seemed to have
vanished into his fat white face.  He had, in that sudden
illumination, the most curious effect of blindness.  His lids were
closed over his eyes, lying like little pieces of pale yellow
parchment under the faint red eyelashes.

"Here we are!" he cried.  "Out you get, Herrick."  And as Harkness
stepped out of the car something deep within him whispered:  "I am
going to be hurt.  Pain is coming--"

Before him swung a cavern of light.  It swung because on his
stepping from the car he was dizzy, dizzy with a kind of poignant
thick scent in the soul's nostrils, deep deep down as though he
were at the edge of being spiritually anæsthetised.  He paused for
a moment looking back into the night piled up behind him.

Then he walked in.


                             10


It was an old house.  The long hall was panelled and hung with the
heads of animals.  A torn banner of faded red and yellow with long
tassels of gold hung above the stone fireplace.  The floor was of
stone, and some dim rugs of uncertain colour lay like splashes of
damp here and there.  The first thing of which he was aware was
that a strong cold draught blew through the hall.  It seemed to
come from a wide oak staircase on his right.  There were no
portraits on the panelled walls.  The house gave a deep sense of
emptiness.  Two Japanese servants, short, slim, immobile, their
hair gleaming black, their faces impassive, waited.  The outer door
closed.  The banner fluttered, the only movement in the house.

"Come in here, Mr. Harkness," Crispin said.  "It is more
comfortable."

His little figure moved forward.  Harkness followed him, but he had
had one moment with the girl as he entered the hall.  The two
Crispins had been for an instant back by the car.  He had said, his
lips scarcely moving:

"I gave him the message.  He is coming," and she had answered
without turning her head or looking at him:  "Thank you."

Only as he walked after Crispin he wondered whether the Japanese
could have understood.  No.  He was sure that no one could have
heard those words, but he turned before leaving the hall, and he
had a strange impression of the bare, empty, faded place, the
staircase running darkly up into mystery, and the four figures, the
two servants, Hesther and the younger Crispin, at that moment
immobile, waiting as though they were listening--and for what?

The room into which Crispin led him was even shabbier than the
hall.  It was a large ugly place with dim cherry-coloured paper,
and a great glass candelabra suspended from the ceiling.  The walls
had, it seemed, once been covered with pictures of all shapes and
sizes, because the wall-paper showed everywhere pale yellow squares
and ovals and lozenges of colour where the frames had been.  The
wall-paper had indeed leprosy, and although there were still some
pictures--a large Landseer, an engraving of a Millais, a shabby oil
painting of a green and windy sea--it was these strange sea-sick
evidences of a vanished hand that invaded the air.

There was very little furniture in the place, two shabby arm-
chairs, a round shining table, a green sofa.  The draught that had
swept the hall crept here, now come now gone, stealing on hands and
feet from corner to corner.

"You see," said Crispin, standing beside the empty fireplace, "I am
here but little.  I have pulled down the pictures from the walls
and then left it all shabby.  I enjoy the contrast."  At the far
end of the room were long oak cupboards.  Crispin went to them and
pulled back the heavy doors, and instantly in the shabby place
there were blazing such treasures as Harkness had never set eyes on
before.

Not very many as numbers went--some dozen shelves in all--but
gleaming, glittering, shining, flinging out their flashes of purple
and amber and gold, here crystalline, now deeply wine-coloured,
pink with the petals of the rose, white with the purity of the
rising moon.  There was jewellery here that seemed to move with its
own independent life before Harkness's eyes--Jaipur enamel of
transparent red and green, lovely patterns with thick long strips
of enamel on a ground of bright gold, over which, while still soft
from the furnace, an open-work pattern of gold had been pressed;
large rough turquoises set in silver; Chinese work of carved ivory
and jade, cap ornaments exquisitely worked, a cap of a Chinese
emperor with its embroidered gold dragon and its crown of pearls.
Then the inlaid Chinese feather work, and at the sight of these
tears of pleasure came into Harkness's eyes; cells made as though
for cloisonné enamel, and into these are daintily affixed tiny
fragments of kingfisher feather.  Colours of blue, green, and mauve
here blend and tone one into another miraculously, and the effect
of all is a glittering sheen of gold and blue.  There was one tiny
fish, barely half an inch long, and here there were thirty cells on
the body, each with its separate piece of feather.  Chinese enamel
buttons and clasps, nail-guards beautifully ornamented, Japanese
hair combs marvellously wrought in lacquer, horn, gold lac on wood,
wood with ivory appliqués, and stained ivory.

Then the Netsukes!  Had anyone in the world such lovely things!
With the ivory and its colour richly toned with age, the metal ones
showing a glorious patina.  The sword guards made of various metals
and alloys and gold and silver, the metal so beautifully finished
that it had the rich texture of old lace.

There was then the Renaissance jewellery, pieces lying like
fragments of sky, of peach tree in bloom, of cherry and apple, a
lovely pendant parrot enamelled in natural colours, a beautiful
ship pendant of Venetian workmanship, an Italian earring formed of
a large irregular pear-shaped pearl in a gold setting, a
Cinquecento jewel--an emerald lizard set with a baroque pearl
holding an emerald in its mouth.

Eighteenth-century glory.  Gold studs with little skeletons on
silk, covered with glass and set in gold.  Initials of fine gold
with a ground of plaited hair, this edged with blue and covered
with faceted glass on crystal and the border of garnets.  A pair of
earrings, paintings in gusaille mounted in gold.  A brooch set with
garnets.  A French vinaigrette enamelled in panels of green on a
gold and white ground.

Loveliest of anything yet seen, a sixteenth-century cameo portrait
of Lucius Verius cut in a dark onyx.  The enamel was green, with
little white "peas," and small diamonds were set in each pod.

"Ah this!" said Harkness, holding it in his hand.  "This is
exquisite!"

But Crispin was restless.  The eyes closed, the short body moved to
another part of the room, leaving all the treasures carelessly
exposed behind him.  "That is enough," he said--"enough of those, I
bore you.  And now," turning aside with a deprecatory child-like
smile, as though he had been exhibiting his doll's house, "you must
see the prints."

Harkness turning back to the room saw it as even shabbier than
before.  It was lit by candlelight, and in the centre of the round
shining table there were four tall amber-coloured candlesticks that
threw around them a flickering colour as the draught ruffled their
power.  To this table Crispin drew two chairs.  Then he went to a
handsome old oak cabinet carved stiffly with flowers and fruit.  He
stayed looking with a long lingering glance at the drawers, then
sharply up at Harkness.  Seen there in the mellow light, with the
coloured glory of the open cabinets dimly shining in the far room,
with the pleasant timid smile that a collector wears when he is
approaching his beloved friends, he might have stood to Rembrandt
for another "Jan Six," short and stumpy though he be.

"Now what will you have?  Durer, Whistlers, Little Masters,
Meryons, Dutch seventeenth century, Callot, Hollar?  What you
will. . . .  No, you shall have only a few, and those not the most
celebrated but perhaps the best loved.  Now, here's for your
pleasure. . . ."

He came to the table bearing carefully, reverentially, his
treasures.  He set them down.  From one after another he withdrew
the paper; there gleaming between the stiff white shining mats they
breathed, they lived, they smiled.  There was the Rembrandt
"Landscape with a flock of sheep," there the Muirhead Bone
"Orvieto," the Hollar "Seasons," Callot's "Passion," Meryon's
"College Henry Quatre," Paul Potter's "Two Horses," a seascape of
Zeeman, Cotman's "Windmill," Bracquemond's "Teal Alighting," a
seascape of Moreau, and Aldegrever's "Labour of Hercules" to close
the list.  Not more than thirty in all, but living there on the
table with their personal glow and spontaneity.  He bent over them
caressing them, fondling them, smiling at them.  Harkness drew near
and, looking at the tender wistfulness of the two old Potter's
horses, bravely living out there the last days of their broken
forgotten lives, he felt a sudden friendliness to all the world, a
reassurance, a comfort.

Those glittering jewelled things had had at their heart a warning,
an alarm; but no one, he was suddenly aware, who cared for these
prints could be bad.  There are no things in the world so kindly,
so simple, so warm in their humanity. . . .

The little man was near to him.  He put his hand on his knee.

"They are fine, eh?  They know you, recognise you.  They are alive,
eh?"

"Yes," said Harkness, smiling.  "They are the most friendly things
in art."

The door opened and one of the Japanese servants came in with
liqueurs.  They were put on the table close to Harkness, and soon
he was drinking the most wonderful brandy that it had ever been his
happy fortune to encounter.

He was warm, cosy, quite unalarmed.  The prints smiled at him, the
dim room received him as a friend.

Crispin was talking, leaning back now from the table, his fat body
hugged up like a cushion into his chair.

His red hair stood, flaming, on end.  Harkness was, at first, only
vaguely conscious that Crispin was speaking, then the words began
to gather about him, to force their way in upon his brain; then, as
the monologue continued, his comfort, his cosiness, his sense of
security slowly slipped from him.  His eyes passed from the "Two
Horses" to the high sharp cliffs of the "Orvieto" to the thick
naked Hercules of the Aldegrever.  Then, he was aware that he was
frightened, as he had been on the road, in the hotel, in the car.
Then, with a flash of awareness, like the sharp contact with
unexpected steel, he was on his guard as though he were standing
alone with his back to the wall against an army of terrors.

". . . And so as I like you so much, dear Mr. Harkness, I feel that
I can talk to you freely about these things and that you will
understand.  That has always been my trouble--that I have not been
understood sufficiently, and if now I go my own way and have my own
fashion of dealing with life I am sure that it is comprehensible
enough.

"I was a very lonely child, Mr. Harkness, and mocked at by everyone
who saw me.  No, I have not been understood sufficiently.  The
colour of my hair has been a barrier.  I realise that I am, and
always have been, absurd in appearance, and from the very earliest
age I was aware that I was different from other human beings and
must pursue another course from theirs.  I make no complaint about
that, but it justifies, I think, my later conduct."

Here, as though some wire had sprung taut inside him, he sat
forward upright in his chair, staring with his little pale eyes at
Harkness, and it was now that Harkness was abruptly aware of his
conversation.

"I am not boring you, I trust, but I have taken a sympathetic
liking to you, and it may interest you to understand my somewhat
unusual philosophy of life.

"My mother died when I was very young.  My father was a surgeon, a
very wealthy man, money inherited from an uncle.  He was a strange
man, peculiar, odd.  Cruel to me.  Very cruel to me.  He hated the
sight of me, and told me once that it was a continual temptation to
him to lay hands on me and cut my heart out--to see, in fact,
whether I had a heart.  He liked to torment and tease me, as indeed
did everyone else.  I am not telling you these things, Mr.
Harkness, to rouse your pity, but rather that you should understand
exactly the point at which I have arrived."

"Yes," said Harkness, dragging his eyes with strange difficulty
from the pursed white face, the red hair, and glancing about the
dim faded room and the farther spaces where the jewels flashed in
the candle-light.

"Many people would have called my father insane, did not hesitate
to do so.  He was a large, extremely powerful man, given to violent
tempers.  But, after all, what is insanity?  There are cases--many,
I suppose--where the brain breaks down and is unable to perform any
longer its ordinary functions, but in most cases insanity is only
the name given by envious persons to those who have strength of
character enough to realise their own ideas regardless of public
opinion.  Such was my father.  He cared nothing for public opinion.
We led a strange life, he and I, in a big black house in
Bloomsbury.  Yes, black, that's how it was.  I went to Westminster
School, and they all mocked me, my hair, my body, my difference.
Yes, my difference.  I was different from them all, different from
my father, different from all the world.  And I was glad that I was
different.  I hugged my difference.  Different. . . ."

He lent forward, tapped Harkness's knee with his hand, staring into
his face.

"Different, Mr. Harkness, different.  Different. . . ."

And the long draughty room echoed "Different . . . different . . .
different."

"My father beat me one night terribly, beat me so that I could not
move for pain.  For no reason, simply because, he said, he wished
that I should understand life, and first to understand life one
must learn to suffer pain, and that then, if one could suffer pain
enough, one could be as God--perhaps greater than God.

"It was to that night in the Bloomsbury house that I owe
everything.  I was fifteen years of age.  He stripped me naked and
made me bleed.  It was terribly cold, and I came in that bare room
right into the very heart of life, into the heart of the heart,
where the true meaning is at last revealed--and the true meaning--"

He broke off suddenly, then whispered:

"Do you believe in God, Mr. Harkness?" and the draught went
whispering on hands and feet round the room.  "Do you believe in
God, Mr. Harkness?"

"Yes," said Harkness.

"Yes," said Crispin, in his lovely, melodious voice; "but in a good
God, a sweet God, a kind, beneficent God.  That is no God.  God is
first cruel, terrible, lashing, punishing.  Then when He has
punished enough, and the victim is in His power, bleeding at His
feet, owning Him as Lord and Master, then He bends down and lifts
the wounded brow and kisses the torn mouth, and in His heart there
is a great and mighty triumph. . . .  Even so will I do, even so
will I be . . . and greater than God Himself!"

There was silence in the room.  Then he curled up in his chair as
he had done before, and went on with his friendly air:

"Dear Mr. Harkness, it is good indeed of you to listen to me so
patiently.  Tell me at once when I bore you.  My father died when I
was seventeen and left me all his wealth.  He died in a Turkish
bath very suddenly--ill-temper with some casual masseur, I fancy.

"I realised that I had a power.  The realisation was very
satisfactory to me.  I married, and during the three years of my
married life I collected most of the things that I have shown you
this evening.  I married a woman whom I was unfortunately unable to
make happy.  She could have been happy, I am sure, could she have
only understood, a little, the philosophy that my father had taught
me.  My father was a very remarkable man, Mr. Harkness, as perhaps
you have perceived, and he had, as I have told you, shown me the
real meaning of this strange life in which we are forced, against
our wills, to take part.  It was foolish of my wife not to benefit
by this knowledge.  But she did not, and died sooner than I had
anticipated, leaving me one child.

"A widower's life is not a happy one, and you will have undoubtedly
perceived how many widowers marry again."

He paused as though he expected some comment, so Harkness said yes,
that he had perceived it.  Crispin sat forward looking at him
inquisitively, and making, with his fingers, a kind of pattern in
the air as though he were tracing there a bar of music.

"Yes.  I did not marry again, but rather gave myself up to the
continuation of my father's philosophy.  The philosophy of pain as
related to power one might perhaps term it.  God--of whose
existence no thinking man can truly permit himself to doubt--have
you ever thought, Mr. Harkness, that the whole of His power is
derived from the pain that He inflicts upon those less powerful
than Himself?  We conceive of Him as a beneficent Being, and from
that it follows that He must have determined that pain is, from
Him, our greatest beneficence.  It is plainly for our good that He
torments us.  Should not then we, in our turn, realising that pain
is our greatest happiness, seek ourselves for more pain, and also
teach our fellow human beings that it is only THROUGH pain that we
can reach the true heart and meaning of life?  Through Pain we
reach Power.

"I test you with pain, and as you overcome the pain so do you climb
up beside me, who have also overcome it, and we are in time as gods
knowing good and evil. . . .  A concrete case, Mr. Harkness.  I
slash your face with a knife.  You are so powerful that you take
the pain, twist it in your hand and throw it away.  You rise up to
me, and suddenly I, who have inflicted the pain on you, love you
because you have taken my power over you and used it for your
soul's advantage."

"And do I love you because you have slashed my face?" asked
Harkness.

Crispin's eyes narrowed.  He put out his hand and laid it on
Harkness's knee.

"We would have to see," Crispin murmured.  "We would have to see.
I wonder--I wonder. . . ."

They were silent.  Harkness's body was cold, but the room was very
hot.  The candles seemed to throw out a metallic radiant heat.
Harkness moved his knee.

"It would not do to prove your theory too frequently," he said at
last.

"No, no, of course it would not.  It is, you understand, only a
theory that I have inherited from my father.  Yes.  But I will
confess that when an individuality comes close to me and remains
entirely outside my influence I am tempted to wonder. . . .  Well,
to speculate. . . .  I like to see how far one personality WILL
surrender to another.  It is interesting--simply as a speculation.
For instance, you have noticed my daughter-in-law?"

"Yes," said Harkness, "I have.  A charming girl."

"Charming.  Exactly.  But independent, refusing to make the most of
the advantages that are open to her.  Like my poor late wife, for
instance.  Unfortunate, because she is young and might benefit so
much from my older and more experienced brain.

"But she refuses to come under my influence, remains severely
outside it.  Now, my son is almost too willing to understand my
meaning.  Were I to plunge a knife into his arm no blood would
flow.  I am speaking metaphorically, of course.  After a very
slight training in his early youth he was all that I could wish.
But too submissive--oh yes, altogether too submissive.

"His wife's independence, however, is quite of another kind.  It
might almost seem as though during these last weeks she had taken a
dislike both to myself and my son.  However, she is very young and
a little time will alter that, I have no doubt--especially as we
shall be in foreign countries and to some extent alone by
ourselves."

Harkness pressed his hands tightly together.  A little shiver ran,
as though it responded to the draught that blew through the room,
up and down his body.  He was anxious that Crispin should not
notice that he was shivering.

"Have you any idea where you will go?" he asked--and his voice
sounded strangely unlike his own, as though some third person were
in the room and speaking just behind him.

"We have no idea," said Crispin, smiling.  "That will depend on
many things--on Mrs. Crispin herself, of course, amongst others.  A
young wife must not show too complete an independence.  After all,
there are others whose feelings must be considered--"  He was
smiling as it were to himself and as though his thoughts were
pleasant ones.

Suddenly he sprang up and began to walk the room.  The effect on
Harkness was strange--it was as though he were suddenly shut in
there with an animal.  So often in zoological gardens he had seen
that haunting monotonous movement, that encounter with the bars of
the cage and the indifferent acceptance of their inevitability,
indifferent only because of endless repetition.  Crispin, padding
now up and down the long room, reminded Harkness of one of the
smaller animals, the little jaguars, the half-wolf, half-fox; his
head forward, his hands crossed behind his short thick back; his
eyes, restless now, moving here, there about the room; his
movements soft, almost furtive; every instinct towards escape.  As
he moved in the room half-clouded with light, the soft resolute
step pervaded Harkness's sense, and soon the thick confined scent
of a caged animal seemed to creep up to his nostrils and linger
there.

Furry--captive--danger hanging behind the plodding step, so that if
a sudden release were to come . . .  And he sat there fixed in his
seat as though nailed to it while the sweet voice continued:  "And
so, my dear Mr. Harkness, I have devoted my later years to the
solution of this problem.

"I feel, if I may say so without too much arrogance, that I am
intending to help poor human nature along the road to a better
understanding of life.  Poor, muddled human nature.  Defeated
always by Fear.  Yes, Fear.  And if they have surmounted Pain and
stand with their foot on its body, what remains?  It is gone,
vanished.  I myself am increasing my power every day.  First one,
then another.  First through Pain.  Then through Love.  I love all
the world, yes, everything in it, but first it must be taught,
and it is so reluctant--so strangely reluctant--to receive its
teaching.  And I myself suffer because I am too tender-hearted.  I
should myself be superior to the suffering of others, because I
know how good it is for them to suffer.  But I am not.  Alas, no.
It is only where my indignation is aroused, and aroused justly,
that I can conquer my tenderness, and then--well then . . .  I
can make my important experiments.  My daughter-in-law, for
instance. . . ."

He paused, not far from Harkness, and once again his hands made a
curious motion in the air as though he were transcribing a bar of
music.  He stepped close to Harkness.  His breath, scented
curiously with a faint odour of orange, was in Harkness's face.  He
leaned forward, his hands were on Harkness's shoulders.

"For instance, I have taken a fancy to you, my friend--a real
fancy.  I liked you from the first moment that I saw you.  I don't
know when so suddenly I have taken a fancy to anyone.  But to care
for you deeply, first--yes, first--I would show you the meaning of
pain. . . ."  Here his body suddenly quivered from the feet to the
head.   ". . . And I could not, liking you so much, do that unless
you were seriously to annoy me, interfere in any way with my simple
plans"--the hands pressed deeply into the shoulders--"yes, only
then could we come really to know one another . . . after such a
crisis what friends we might be, sharing our power together!  What
friends!  Dear me!  Dear me!"

He moved away, turning to the table, looking down on the prints
that were spread out there.

"Yes, yes, I could show you then my power."  His voice vibrated
with sudden excitement.  "You think me absurd.  Yes, yes, you do.
You do.  Don't deny it now.  As though I couldn't perceive it.  Do
you think me so stupid?  Absurd, with my ridiculous hair, my ugly
body?  Oh!  I know!  You can't hide it from me.  You laugh like the
rest.  Secretly, you laugh.  You are smiling behind your hand.
Well, smile then, but how foolish of you to be so taken in by
physical appearances.  Do you know my power?  Do you know what I
could do to you now by merely clapping my hands?

"If my fingers were at your throat, at your breast, and you could
not move but must wait my wish, my plan for you, would you think me
then so absurd--my figure, my hair, ridiculous?  You would be as
though in the hands of a god.  I should be as a god to you to do
with you what I wished. . . .

"What is there that is so beautiful that I, ugly as I am, cannot do
as I wish with it?  This--"  Suddenly he took up the "Orvieto" and
held it forward under the candlelight.  "This is one of the most
beautiful things of its kind that man has ever made, and I--am I
not one of the ugliest human beings at whom men laugh?--well, would
you see my power over it?  I have it in my hands.  It is mine.  It
is mine.  I can destroy it in one instant--"

The beautiful thing shook in his hand.  To Harkness it seemed
suddenly to be endued with a human vitality.  He saw it--the high,
sharp, razor-edged rocks, the town so confidingly resting on that
strength, all the daily life at the foot, the oxen, the peasants,
the lovely flame-like trees, the shining reaches of valley beyond,
all radiating the heat of that Italian summer.

He sprang to his feet.  "Don't touch it!" he cried.  "Leave it!
Leave it!"

Crispin tore it into a thousand pieces, wrenching it, snapping at
it with his fingers like an animal.  The pieces flaked the air.  A
white shower circled in the candle-light, then scattered about the
table, about the floor.

Something died.

A clock somewhere struck half-past twelve.

Crispin moved from the table.  Very gently, almost beseechingly, he
looked into Harkness's face.

"Forgive me my little game," he said.  "It is all part of my theory--
to be above these things, you know.  What would happen to me if I
surrendered to all that beauty?"

The eyes that looked into Harkness's face were pathetic, caged,
wistful, longing.  And they were mad.  Somewhere deep within him
his soul, caught in the wreckage of his bodily life like a human
being pinned beneath a ruined train, besought--yes, besought--
Harkness for deliverance.

But he had no thought at that moment of anything but his own
escape.  To flee from that room--from that room at any cost!  He
said something.  Crispin did not try to keep him.  They moved
together into the hall.

"And you won't allow my chauffeur to drive you back?"

"No, no, thank you, I shall love the walk."

"Well, well.  It has been delightful.  We shall meet some day
again, I have no doubt. . . ."

Silence flooded the house.  Once more Harkness's hand touched the
other soft one.  The door was open.  The lovely night air brushed
his face, and he had stepped into the dim star-drenched garden.
The door closed.




PART III

SEA-FOG


                              1


In the garden the silence was like a warning, as though the night
had her finger to her lips holding back a multitude of breathing,
deeply interested spectators.

Harkness, slipping from the path on to the lawn, felt a relief, as
though with the touch of his foot on the cool turf there had come a
freedom from imprisonment.

The garden was so friendly, so safe, so homely in its welcome.  The
scent of roses that had seemed to follow him throughout the
adventures of that queer evening came to him now as though crowding
up to reassure him.  The night sky was pierced with stars, but they
were thick and dim, seen through a veil of mist.  The trees of the
garden, like serried ranks of giants in black armour, seemed to
stand, in silent attention, on every side of him, waiting his
orders.  The voice of all this world was the sea stirring, with a
sigh and a whisper, below the wall of rock.

His first impulse as he stood on the lawn was to go away as far as
he could from that house--yes, as far as ever he could--miles and
miles and miles--China if you like.  Ah, no!  That was just where
that man would be!

He was trembling and shaking and wiping his forehead with his
handkerchief; the breeze stroked him with cool fingers.  He must
run for ever to be clear of that house--and then suddenly
remembered that he must not run, because he had his duty to do--and
even as he remembered that a figure stepped up to him out of the
trees.  He would have called out--so wild and trembling were his
nerves--had he not at once recognised from his great size that this
was Jabez the fisherman.

He might have been an incarnation of the night, with his deep black
beard, his grave kindly face, and his simple, natural quiet.  He
was dressed in his fisherman's jersey and blue trousers, and had no
covering on his head.

"Good evening, sir," he said.  "Mr. Dunbar told me as how you'd be
wanting to be back in the house for a moment to fetch something
you'd forgotten.

"We'd best be just stepping off the lawn, sir, if you don't mind.
They foreigners are always nosing around."

They turned quietly off the grass and stood closely together under
the dark shadow of the house.

"I must go back at once," said Harkness.  "There's no time to lose.
It struck half-past twelve some time ago."

"I don't know nothing about that, sir," said Jabez; "I only know as
how you must be going back into the house for something you'd
forgotten and I was to let you in."

"Yes," said Harkness, his teeth chattering, "that's right."

He wasn't made, in any kind of way at all, for this sort of
adventure.  He had never before realised how utterly inefficient he
was.  And of all absurdities to go back into the house when he was
now safely out of it!  Of all Dunbar's mad plan this was the
maddest part.  What could he do but be seen or heard, and then
rouse suspicion when it might so easily have been undisturbed?

Let Crispin find him groping among those dark passages and what was
his fate likely to be?  There flashed into his consciousness then a
sudden suspicion of Dunbar.  It might suit the boy's plans only too
well that he should be found, and so turn attention to another part
of the house, leaving the girl free.  But no!  There was Dunbar's
own steady clear gaze to answer him, and beyond that the certainty
that Crispin's suspicions, roused by the discovery of himself,
would proceed immediately to the girl.

No, did he return at once, the plan was quite feasible.  Seeing him
there so soon after his departure, they could do nothing but accept
his reasons, and that especially if he returned quite openly with
no thought of concealment.

But oh how he hated to go back!  He put his hand on the rough stuff
of Jabez's jersey, listened for a moment to the regular, consoling
breathing of the sea, sniffed the roses and the cool, gentle night
air, then said:

"Well, come along, Jabez; show me how to get back."

As they moved round to the door the thought came to him as to
whether he had given the elder Crispin and his two nasty servants
time enough to retire up to their part of the house.  A difficult
thing that, to hit the precise medium between too lengthy a wait
and too short.  He could not remember exactly what Dunbar had said
as to that.

"Do you think I've waited long enough, Jabez?" he asked.

"Well, if you'd forgotten something, sir," said Jabez, "you'd want
to be sure of finding it before the house is sleeping.  They don't
bolt this door, sir," he continued in a whisper, "because Mr.
Crispin don't like to be bolted in.  His fancy.  After half-past
one or so one of they Japs is around.  It's just their hour like
from half-past twelve to half-past one that I have to watch this
part of the house extra careful.  Yes, sir," he added as he turned
the key in the lock and pushed the door quietly open.


                              2


The hall was very dark.  From half-way up the staircase some of the
starlit evening scattered mistily through a narrow window,
splintering the boards with spars of pale, milky shadow.

A clock chattered cluck-cluck-spin-spin-cluck close to Harkness's
ear.  Otherwise there was not a sound anywhere.  He reflected that
several things had been forgotten in his talk with Dunbar; one that
there would, in all probability, be no light in the upper passage.
How was he then to find the younger Crispin's door, or to see
whether or no there were that piece of paper under Mrs. Crispin's?
Secondly, it would be in the room on the ground floor where he had
had his strange interview with the elder Crispin that he must see
the younger, because, of course, that gloomy creature, dumb though
he appeared to be, would be at least aware that Harkness had never
ventured into the upper floor at all and could not therefore have
left his gold match-box there.  On the whole, this would be the
better for Dunbar's plan, because it would lead the younger Crispin
all the farther from his wife's door.  But there were, at this
point, so many dangers and difficulties, so many opportunities of
disaster, that in absolute desperation he must perforce go forward.

He was aware that for himself now the easiest fashion would be to
persuade himself that he had indeed lost his match-box and was
returning to secure it.  He hesitated on the bottom step of the
stairs as though he were wondering what he ought to do, how he
might find the tiresome thing without rousing the whole house.

He climbed the staircase slowly, walking softly, but not too
softly, accompanied all the way by the clock that attended him like
a faithful coughing dog.  At the turn of the stairs he found the
passage that Dunbar had described to him, and he was instantly
relieved to find that a wide and deep window at the far end had no
curtain, and that through it the long stretch was suffused with a
pale, ghostly light turning the heavy old frames, the faded green
paper, into shadow opaque.

He hesitated, looking about him, then clearly saw the two doors
that must be those of Crispin and his wife; from under one of them,
quite clearly, a small piece of white paper obtruded.

He waited an instant, then moved boldly forward, not trying to walk
softly, and knocked on the nearer of the two doors.  There was a
moment's pause, during which the wild beating of his own heart and
the friendly chatter of the clock from downstairs seemed to strive
together to break the silence.

The door opened abruptly, and the younger Crispin, his white horse-
face unmoved above his dark evening clothes, appeared there.

"I really must beg your pardon," Harkness said, smiling.  "A most
ridiculous thing has happened.  I left the house some ten minutes
ago after wishing your father good night, and it was only after
going a little way that I discovered that I had lost a gold match-
box of mine that was of very great value to me.  I hesitated as to
what I ought to do.  I guess I should have gone straight back to my
hotel, but it worried me to think of losing it.  It has some very
intimate connections for me.  And I knew, you see, that you were
leaving early to-morrow morning--or THIS morning as it is by this
time, I fancy.  So that it was now or never for my match-box.  I
came back very reluctantly, I can assure you, Mr. Crispin.  I do
feel this to be an intrusion.  I had hoped that your father would
still be about, and that I should simply ask him to give me a light
in the room where we were sitting.  In a moment I am sure that we
would find the thing.  Your night porter very kindly let me in, but
although I had only been gone ten minutes the house was dark and
there was no one about.  I would have left again, but I tell you
frankly I couldn't bear to leave the thing.  I saw a light behind
your door, and knew that someone at any rate had not gone to bed.
The whole thing has been unpardonable.  But just lend me a candle,
and in five minutes I shall have found it."

"I will go down with you myself," said Crispin, staring at Harkness
as though he had never seen him before.

"That's mighty fine of you.  Thank you."

But still Crispin did not move, his eyes fixed on Harkness's face.
The eyes moved.  They fell, and it seemed to Harkness that they
were staring at the small piece of paper underneath the next door.
Crispin looked, then without another word went back into his room,
closing the door behind him.

Harkness's heart stopped; the floor pitched and heaved beneath his
feet.  It was all over already, then: young Crispin was now in his
wife's room, had discovered her, in all probability, in the very
act of escaping.  In another moment the house would be aroused.

He prepared himself for what might come, standing back against the
wall, his hands spread palm-wise against the paper as though he
would hold himself up.

Truly he was shaking at the knees: he could see nothing, only that
possibility of being once again in the presence of the elder
Crispin, of hearing again that sweet voice, of feeling once more
the touch of those boneless fingers, of seeing for another time
those mad beseeching eyes.  His tongue was dry in his throat.  Yes,
he was afraid, more utterly afraid than he would have fancied it
possible for a grown man ever to be. . . .

The door opened.  Crispin appeared holding in his hand a lighted
candle.

"Now, let us go down," he said quietly.

The relief was so great that Harkness began to babble, "You have
no idea . . . the trouble I am causing you. . . .  At this late
hour. . . .  What must you think . . . ?"

The young man said nothing.  Harkness meekly followed, the candle-
light splashing the walls and floor with its wavering shadows.
Their heads were gigantic on the faded wall-paper, and Harkness had
a sudden fancy that the shadows here were the realities and he a
mist.  The younger Crispin gave that sense of unreality.

A kind of weariness went with him as though he were the
personification of a strangled yawn.  And yet beneath the weariness
and indifference there was a flame burning.  One realised it in
that strange, absorbed stare of the eyes, in a kind of determination
in the movements, in a concentrated indifference to any motive of
life but the intended one.  Harkness was to realise this with a
start of alarmed surprise when, once more in the long shabby room
lit now only by the light of one uncertain candle, young Crispin
turned upon him and shot out at him in his harsh, rasping voice:

"What are you here for?"

They were standing one on either side of the table, and between
them on the floor were the white scattered fragments of the torn
"Orvieto."

"I told you," said Harkness.  "I left my match-box.  I won't keep
you a moment if you'll allow me to take that candle--"

"No, no," said the other impatiently, "I don't mean that.  What do
I care for your match-box?  You are worrying my father.  I must beg
you, very seriously, never to come near him again."

"Indeed," said Harkness, laughing, "I don't understand you.  How
could I worry your father?  I have never seen him in my life before
this evening.  He invited me out here for an hour's chat.  I am
going now.  He is leaving for abroad to-morrow.  I don't suppose
that we shall ever meet again.  Please allow me just to find my
match-box and go."

But Crispin had apparently heard nothing.  He stood, his hand
tapping the table.

"I don't wish to appear rude, Mr.--Mr.--"

"Harkness is my name," Harkness said.

"I beg your pardon.  I didn't catch it when my father introduced me
this evening.  I don't want to seem offensive in any way.  I simply
thought this a good opportunity for a few words that may help you
to understand the situation.

"My father is my chief care, Mr. Harkness.  He is everything to me
in the world.  He has no one to look after him but myself.  He is,
as you must have seen, very nervous and susceptible to different
personalities.  I could see at once to-night that your personality
is one that would have a very disturbing effect on him.  He does
not recognise these things himself, and so I have to protect him.
I beg you to leave him alone."

"But really," Harkness cried, "the boot's on the other leg.  Your
father has been very charming in showing me his lovely things, but
it was he who sought me out, not I him.  I haven't the least desire
to push my acquaintance with him, or indeed with yourself, any
farther."

Crispin's cold eyes regarded Harkness steadily, then he moved round
the table until he was close beside him.

"I will tell you something, Mr.--ah--Harkness--something that
probably you do not know.  There have been one or two persons as
foolish and interfering as to suggest that my father is not in
complete control of his faculties, even that he is dangerous to the
public peace.  My father is an original mind.  There is no one like
him in this whole world, no one who has the good of the human race
at heart as he has.  He goes his own way, and at times has pursued
certain experiments that were necessary for the development of his
general plan.  He was the judge of their true necessity and he has
had the courage of his opinions--hence the inquisitive meddlesomeness
of certain people."  He paused, then added:

"If you have come here with any idea, Mr.--Mr.--Harkness, of
interfering with my father's liberty, I warn you that one visit is
enough.  It will be dangerous for you to make another."

Harkness's temper, so seldom at his command when he needed it, now
happily flamed up.

"Are you trying to insult me, Mr. Crispin?" he asked.  "It looks
mighty like it.  Let me tell you once again, and really now for the
last time, that I am an American travelling for pleasure in
Cornwall, that I had never heard of your father before this
evening, that he spoke to me first and asked me to dine with him,
and that he invited me here.  I am not in the habit of spying on
anybody.  I would be greatly obliged if you would allow me to look
for my match-box and depart.  I am not likely to disturb you
again."

But this show of force did not disturb young Crispin in the least.
He stood there as though he were a wax model for evening clothes in
a tailor's window, his black hair had just that wig-like sleekness,
his face that waxen pallor, his body that wooden patience.

"My father is everything to me," he said simply.  "If my father
died I should die too.  Life would simply come to an end for me.  I
am of no importance to my father.  He is frequently irritated by my
stupidity.  That is natural--but I am there to protect him, and
protect him I will.  We have been really driven from place to
place, Mr. Harkness, during the last year by the ridiculous
ignorant superstitions of local gossip.  Great men always seem odd
to their inferiors, and my father seems odd to a number of people,
but I warn them all that any spying, asking of questions, and the
like, is dangerous.  We know how to protect ourselves."

His eyes suddenly fell on the fragments of the "Orvieto."  He bent
down and picked some of them up.  A look of true human anxiety and
distress crept into his queer fish-like eyes that gave him a new
air and colour.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" he said.  "Did he do this while you were with
him?"

"Yes," said Harkness, "he did."

"Ah! it was one of his favourites.  He must have been in great
distress.  This only confirms what I said to you just now about
disturbing him.  I beg you to go--now, at once, immediately--and
never, never return.  It is so bad for my father to be disturbed.
He has so excitable a temperament.  Please, please leave at once--"

"But my match-box," said Harkness.

"Give me your London address.  I promise you that it shall be
forwarded to you."  He held the candle high and swept the room with
it, the sudden shadows playing on the walls, like a troop of
dancing scarecrows.  "You don't see it anywhere?"

Harkness looked about him, then up at the face of the chattering
clock.  Time enough had elapsed.  She was safe away by now.

"Very well, then," he said.  "I will give you my address.  Here is
my card."

Young Crispin, who seemed in great agitation and, under this
emotion, a new and different human being from anything that
Harkness had believed to be possible, took the card, and with the
candle moved into the hall.

He turned the key, opened the door, and the night air rushed in,
blowing the flame.

"I wish you good night," he said, holding out his hand.

Harkness touched it--it was cold and hard--bowed, said:  "I must
apologise again for disturbing you, I would only reassure you that
it is for the last time."

Both bowed.  The door closed, and Harkness was once again in the
garden.


                              3


Jabez was waiting for him.  They were both in the shadow; beyond
them the lawn was scattered with star-dust mist as though sown with
immortal daisies; the stars above were veiled.  The world was so
still that it seemed to march forward with the rhythm of the sea,
that could be heard stamping now like a whole army of marching men.

"They are waiting for you, sir," Jabez whispered.  "I was terrible
feared you'd be too long in there."

They moved, keeping to the shadows, and reached the path that led
to the door in the wall.  Here their feet crunched on the gravel,
and every step was an agony of anticipated alarm.  It seemed to
Harkness that the house sprang into life, that lights jumped in the
windows, figures passed to and fro, but he dared not look back, and
then Jabez's hand was on the door, he was through and out safely in
the wide free road.

Then, for an instant, he did look back, and there the house was,
dark, motionless, rising out of the trees like part of the rock on
which it was built, the high tower climbing pale in the mist above
it.

Only an instant's glimpse, because there was the jingle, the pony,
Dunbar, and the girl.  An absurd emotion took possession of him at
the sight of them.  He had been through a good deal that evening,
and the picture of them, safe, honest, sane, after the house and
the company that he had left, came with the breeze from the sea
reassuring him of normality and youth.

Jabez, too, standing over them like a protective deity.  His whole
heart warmed to the man, and he vowed that in the morning he would
do something for him that would give him security for the rest of
his days.  There was something in the patient, statuesque
simplicity of that giant figure that he was never afterwards to
forget.

But he had little time to think of anything.  He had climbed into
the jingle, and without a word exchanged between any of them they
were off, turning at once away from the road to the right over a
turfy path that led to the Downs.

Dunbar, who had the reins, spoke at last.

"My God," he said, "I thought you were never coming."

"I had a queer time," Harkness answered, whispering because he was
still under the obsession of his escape from the house.  "You must
remember that I'm not accustomed to such adventures.  I've never
had such an odd two hours before, and I shouldn't think that I'm
ever likely to have such another again."

They all clustered together as though to assure one another of
their happiness at their escape.  The strong tang now of the sea in
their faces, the freshness of the wide open sky, the spring of the
turf beneath the jingle's wheels, all spoke to them of their
freedom.  They were so happy that, had they dared, they would have
sung aloud.

But Harkness now was conscious only of one thing, that Hesther
Crispin, a black shawl over her head, only the outline of her
figure to be seen against the blue night, was pressed close to him.
Her hand touched his knee, the strands of her hair, escaping the
shawl, blew close to his face, he could feel the beating of her
heart.  An ecstasy seized him at the sense of her closeness.
Whatever was to come of that night, at least this he had--his
perfect hour.  The elder Crispin and his madness, the younger and
his strangeness, the dim faded house, the jewels and the torn
"Orvieto," the mad talk, all these vanished into unreality, and,
curiously, this ride was joined directly to the dance around the
town as though no other events had intervened.

Then he had won his freedom, this sanctified it.  Then he had felt
his common humanity with all life, now he knew his own passionate
share in it.

He wanted nothing for himself but this, that, like Browning's
strong peasant, he might serve his duchess, at the last receiving
his white rose and watching her vanish into her own magical
kingdom.  A romantic, idealistic American, as has been already
declared in this history; but ten hours ago both romance and
idealism were theoretic, now they were pulsing, living things.

"Hesther's the one for my money," Dunbar said, some of his
happiness at their safety ringing through his voice.  "You should
have seen her climb out of that window.  She landed on the roof of
that tool-house so lightly that not a mouse could have heard her.
And then she swung down the pipe like a monkey.  Tell me how you
managed with friend Crispin."

"It wasn't difficult," Harkness answered.  "He went with me to that
long room downstairs like a lamb.  He told me that he had been
wanting to speak with me to tell me that I was bothering his father
and must keep away."

"That you were bothering his father?"

"Yes.  He--Wait.  Do you hear anyone coming?"

They listened.  The ramp-ramp of the sea was now very loud.  They
had come nearly two miles on the soft track across the Downs.  They
stayed listening, staring into the distance.  There was no sound
but the sea; then a bell ringing mournfully, regretfully, through
the air.

"That's the Liddon," said Dunbar.  "We must be nearly at our
cottage.  But I don't hear anything.  Unless they saw the jingle
they never would think of this.  Our only danger was the younger
Crispin going into Hesther's room after he left you.  I believe
we're safe."

They stayed there listening.  Very strange in that wide expanse,
with only the bell for their company.  They drove on a little way,
and a building loomed up.  This was a deserted cottage, simply the
four walls standing.

"I'm to tie the pony to this," Dunbar said.  "Jabez will fetch it
in the morning."

They climbed out of the jingle and waited while the pony was tied.
Having done it, Dunbar raised his head, sniffing the air.

"I say, don't you think the mist's coming up a bit?  It won't do if
it gets too thick.  We'll have difficulty in finding the Cove."

It was true.  The mist was spreading like very thin smoky glass.
The pony was etherealised, the cottage a ghostly cottage.

"Well, come on," Dunbar said.  "We haven't a great deal of time,
but the Cove's only a step of the way.  Along here to the right."

He led, the others followed.  Hesther had hitherto said nothing.
Now she looked up at Harkness.  "Thank you for helping us.  It was
generous of you."

He couldn't see her face.  He touched her hand with his for a
moment.

"I guess that was the least anyone could do," he said.

"Oh!  I'm so glad it's over!"  She gave a little shiver.  "To be
out here free after those weeks, after that house--you don't know,
you don't KNOW what that was."

"I can pretty well imagine," Harkness answered grimly, "from the
hour or two I spent in your father-in-law's company.  But don't
let's talk about it just now.  Afterwards we'll tell each other all
our adventures."

"Isn't it strange," she said simply, "we've only exchanged a word
or two, we never knew one another before this evening, and yet
we're like old friends?  Isn't it pleasant?"

"Very pleasant," he answered.  "We must always be friends."

"Yes, always," she said.

They were standing close to the broken wall of the cottage.  It had
a wonderfully romantic air in the night air.  It was so lonely, and
so independent as well.  The storms that must beat around it on
wild nights, the screams of the birds, the battering roar of the
waves, and then to sink into that silence with only the voice of
the bell for its company.  But Dunbar was no poet--a ruined cottage
was a ruined cottage to him.

"I don't like this mist," he said.  "It's made me a little
uncertain of my bearings.  I wonder if you'd mind, Hesther, waiting
here for five minutes while I go and see--"

"Oh no, we'll all stick together," she interrupted.  "Why should we
separate?  Why, I'm more sure-footed than you are, David.  You're
trying to mother me again."

"No, I'm not," he answered doggedly; "but I'm really not quite sure
of the way down, and if we got in a mess half way it would be much
worse your being there.  Really these paths can be awfully nasty.
I want to be SURE of my way before you come--really, Hesther--"

She saw that it was important to him.  She laughed.

"It's stupid, when I'm a better climber than you are.  But if you
like it--you're the commander of this expedition."

She seated herself on a stone near the pony.  The two men walked
off.  The sea mist was very faint, blowing in little wisps like
tattered lawn, not obscuring anything but rendering the whole scene
ethereal and unreal.

Suddenly, however, as though out of friendly interest, the stars,
that had been quite obscured, again appeared, twinkling, humorous
eyes looking down over the wall of heaven.

"We should be all right," Dunbar said as the two men set off; "we
are up to time.  The boat is bound to be there.  It's lucky the fog
hasn't come.  That's a contingency I never thought of.  The path
down to the Cove is off here, to the right of the cottage
somewhere.  I've studied every inch of the country round here."

The path appeared.  "Tell me, did you have a queer time with
Crispin--the elder one, I mean?"

"I've never had so strange a conversation with anyone," said
Harkness.  "Madness is a queer thing when you are in actual contact
with it, because we have, everyone of us, enough madness in
ourselves to wonder whether some one else IS so mad after all.  He
talked the most awful nonsense, and DANGEROUS nonsense too, but
there was a kind of theory behind it, something that almost held it
all together; a sort of pathos too, so that you felt, in spite of
yourself, sorry for the man."

But Dunbar was no analyser of human motives.  He despised fine
shades, and was a man of action.  "Sorry for him!  Just about as
sorry as you are for a spider that is spinning a nest in your
clothes cupboard.  Sorry!  He wants crushing under foot like a
white slug, and that he'll get before I've finished with him.  Why,
man, he's murderous!  He loves torture and slow fire, like the old
Spaniards in the Inquisition.  There's so little to catch on to--
that's the trouble; but I bet that if he had caught us helping
Hesther out of that house to-night there would be something to
catch on to!  Why, if we were to fall into his hands now!  Ugh! it
doesn't bear thinking of!"

"Oh yes, of course," Harkness agreed, "he's dangerously mad.
He'll be in an asylum before many days are out.  If ever I have
been justified in any action of my life it has been this, in
helping that poor girl out of the hands of those two men.  All the
same . . . oh! it's sad, Dunbar!  There is something so tragic in
madness, whether it's dangerous or no--something captive, like a
bird in a cage, and something common to us all. . . ."

"Well, if you think that the kind of things that Crispin Senior is
after are common to us all you must have a pretty low view of
humanity.  The beastly swine!  Something pathetic?  Why, you're a
curious fellow, Harkness, to feel pathos in that situation."

"You may hate it and detest it, you MUST confine it because it's
dangerous to the community, but you can pity it all the same.  His
eyes--that longing to escape."

But Dunbar had found the cleft.  They were now right above the sea.
Although there was so slight a wind, the waves were breaking
noisily on the shore.  The stars had gone again, but the edge of
the cliff was clear, and far below it a thin line of ragged white
leapt to the eye, vanished, and leapt again.

"Here's the path down," said Dunbar.  "There isn't much light, but
enough, I fancy.  We'll both go down so that we can be sure of our
way when we come back with Hesther, and we may be both needed to
help her.  The path's all right, though.  It's slippery after wet
weather, but there's been no rain for days.  Can you make it out
clearly enough?"

"Yes," Harkness said, but he felt anything but happy.  Of all the
things that he had done that evening this was the one that he liked
least.  He had a very poor head for heights, growing dizzy under
any provocation; the angry snarl of the sea bewildered him, and
little breaths of vapour curled about him changing from moment to
moment the form and shape of the scene.  He would have liked to
suggest to Dunbar that there was no need for him to go down this
first time, but, coward though he might be, he had come down to
Treliss to beat that cowardice.

Certainly the adventures of that night were giving him every
opportunity.  He went to the edge and looked over.  The sea banged
up to him, and the grey curved shadow of the Cove seemed to be
miles below him.  The little path ran on the edge of the cliff
between two precipitous slopes, and its downward curve was sharp.

He pulled himself together, thinking of Hesther waiting there by
the cottage alone.  Dunbar had already started; he followed.

When he had gone a little way his knees began to wobble, his legs
taking on a strange life of their own.  His imagination had all his
days been dangerous for him in any crisis, because he always saw
more than was truly there: now the sea breeze blew on either side
of him, the path was so narrow that there was not room to plant his
two feet at the same time, the dim shadow light confused his eyes,
and the roar of the sea leapt at him like a wild animal.

However, he pressed forward, looking neither to right nor to left,
and with what thankfulness he felt the wet sand yield beneath him
and saw the boat drawn up under an overhanging rock only a few feet
away from him!

"There it is," said Dunbar, eyeing the boat with intense
satisfaction.  "Now I think we're all right.  I don't see what's
going to stop us.  We'll be across there in half an hour and then
have a good hour before the train."  He held out his hand.

"Harkness, I simply can't tell you what I think of your doing all
this for us.  Coming down here just to have a holiday, and then
taking all these risks for people you'd never seen before.  It's
fine of you and I'll never forget it."

"It's nothing at all," said Harkness, blushing, as he always did
when he himself was at all in discussion.  "As a matter of fact,
I've had what has been, I suppose, the most interesting evening of
my life, and I daresay it isn't all over yet."

"There's not much fear of their catching us now," said Dunbar; "but
you've been in more real actual danger than you imagine.  As I said
just now, anything might have happened to us if he had caught us.
You don't know how remote that house is.  He could do what he
pleased without anyone being the wiser, and be off in the morning
leaving our corpses behind him.  The only servants in that house
are those two Japs."

"There's Jabez," said Harkness.

"Jabez is outside and is only temporary.  He wouldn't have stayed
after to-morrow anyway.  He hates the man.  Fine fellow, Jabez.  I
don't know how I would have managed this affair without him.  He
fell in love with Hesther.  He'd do anything for her.  And then
like the rest of the neighbourhood he detested the Japanese.

"They are funny conservative people these Cornishmen.  Whatever
they may pretend, they've no use for foreigners, and especially
foreigners like Crispin."

They stood a moment listening to the sea.

"The tide's going out," said Dunbar.  "I was a little anxious lest
I'd pulled the boat up high enough this afternoon, and then, of
course, someone might have come along and taken a fancy to it.
However, I was pretty safe.  No one ever comes down into this cove.
But we've taken a lot of chances to-night and everything's come
off.  The Lord's on our side--as He well may be, considering the
kind of characters the Crispins have."

He looked at Harkness.  "Hullo, you're shivering.  Are you cold?"

"No," said Harkness, "I suddenly got the creeps.  Some one walking
over my grave, I suppose.  I feel as though Crispin had followed us
and was listening to every word we were saying.  I could swear I
could see his horrid red head poking over that rock now.  However,
to tell you the exact truth, Dunbar, I didn't care overmuch for
coming down that bit of rock just now.  I'm not much at heights."

"What! that path!" cried Dunbar.  "That's nothing.  However,
there's no need for both of us to go back.  You can stay by the
boat."

But a sudden determination flamed up in Harkness that it should be
he, and none other, that should fetch Hesther Crispin.

"No, I'll go.  There's no need for you to come though.  We'll be
back here in ten minutes.  I'll see that she gets down all right."

"Very well," said Dunbar.  "But look after her.  She's not so good
a climber as she thinks she is."

So Harkness started off.  He waved his hand to Dunbar, who was now
busied with the boat, and began his climb.  He stumbled over the
wet rocks, nearly fell once or twice, and then came to the little
path.  His thought now was all of Hesther.  He played with his
imagination, picturing to himself that he was going right out of
the world to some unknown heights where she awaited him, having
chosen him out of all the world, and there they would live
together, alone, happy always in one another's company. . . .

What a fool he was when she was married, and, even if she freed
herself from that horrid encumbrance, had that boy down there in
the Cove waiting for her.  But he could not help his own state.  It
did no harm.  He told no one.  It was so new for him, this rich
thrilling tingle of emotion at the thought of some other human
being, something so different from his love for his sisters and his
admiration for his friends.  And to-night from first to last there
had been all the time this same TINGLING of experience.  From his
first getting into the train until now he had seemed to be in
direct contact with life, contact with all the wrappers off, with
nothing in between him and it!

That he must never lose again.  After this night he must never slip
back to that old half-life with its dilettante pleasures, its mild
disappointments, its vague sense of exile.  He could not have
Hesther for himself, but, at least, he could live the full life
that she and her country had shown to him.

"Ours is a great wild country. . . ."  Never back to the level
plains again!

Full of these fine brave exulting thoughts, he had climbed a very
considerable way when--suddenly the path was gone.  There was no
path, no rocks, no hillside, no Cove, no sea, no stars--nothing.
He was standing on air.  The fog in one second had crept upon him.
Not the thin glassy mist of twenty minutes ago, but a thick, dense,
blinding fog that hemmed in like walls of wadding on every side.
In the sudden panic his legs gave way and he fell on to his knees
and hands, clutching both sides of the narrow path, staring
desperately before him.  He heard the Liddon bell, as it seemed,
quite close to his side, ringing down upon him.


                              4


His first thought was of Hesther--then of Dunbar.  Here they were,
all three of them, separated.  The fog might last for hours.

He called, "Dunbar!  Dunbar!  Dunbar!"

The bell echoed him, mocking him, "Dunbar!  Dunbar!  Dunbar!"

Very cautiously he climbed upon his feet, steadying himself.  The
wind seemed completely to have died, and the sea sent up now only a
faint rustle, like the mysterious movement of some hidden woman's
dress, but the fog was so thick that it seemed to embrace Harkness
ever more tightly--and it was cold with a bitter piercing chill.
Harkness called again, "Dunbar!  Dunbar!" listened, and then, as
there was no kind of answer, began to move slowly forward.

Once, many years before, when a small boy at his private school,
there had been an hour that every week he had feared beforehand
with a panic dread.  This had been the time of the fire-escape
practice, when the boys, from some second-floor window, were pushed
down, feet foremost, into a long canvas funnel through which they
slipped safely to the ground.  The passing through this funnel was
only of a moment's duration, but that moment to Harkness had been
terrible in its nightmare stifling sense, pressing blinding
confinement.  Something of that he felt now.  He seemed to be
compelled to push against blankets of cold damp obstruction.  The
Fog assumed a personality, and it was a personality strangely
connected in Harkness's confused brain with that little red-headed
man who seemed now always to be pursuing him.  He was somewhere
there in the fog; it was part of his game that he was playing with
Harkness, and he could hear that sweet melodious voice whispering:
"Pain, you know.  Pain.  That's the thing to teach you what life
really means.  You'll be thankful to me before I've done with you.
You shouldn't have interfered with my plans, you know.  I warned
you not to."

He tried to drive down his fancies and to control his body.  That
was his trouble--that every limb, every nerve, every muscle, seemed
to be asserting its own independent life.  His legs now--they
belonged to him, but never would you have supposed it.  His arms
tugged away from him as though striving to be free.  He was not
trained for this kind of thing--a cultured American gentleman with
two sisters who read papers to women's clubs in Oregon.

He beat down his imagination.  He had been crawling on his hands
and his knees, and now he put out one hand and touched space.  His
heart gave a sickening bound and lay still.  Which way went the
path, to right or to left?  He tried to throw his memory back and
recapture the shape of it.  There had been a sharp curve somewhere
as it bent out towards the sea, but he did not know how far now he
had gone.  He strained with his eyes but could see nothing but the
wall of grey.  Should he wait there until the fog cleared or Dunbar
came to him: but the fog might be there for hours, and Dunbar might
never come.  No, he must not wait.  The thought of Hesther alone in
the fog, fearing every moment recapture by the Crispins, filled
with every terror that her loneliness could breed in her, spurred
him on.  He MUST reach her, whatever the risk.

Stretching his arm at full length he touched the path again, but
there was an interval.  Had there been any break in the path when
he came down it?  He could not remember any.  He felt backwards
with his hand and found the curve, crept forward, then his foot
slipped and his leg slid over the edge.  He waited to stop the
hammering of his heart, then, balancing himself, pulled it back,
then forward again.

Lucky for him that there was no wind, but again not lucky, because
had there been wind the fog might have been blown out of its
course: as it was, with every instant it seemed to grow thicker and
thicker.

Then he grew calmer.  He must soon now be reaching the top, and
happiness came to him when he thought that for a time at least he
would be Hesther's only protection.  On him, until Dunbar reached
them, she would have absolutely to rely.  She would be cold and he
must shelter her, and at the thought of her proximity to him, he
with his arm around her, wrapping her with his coat, holding
perhaps her hand in his, he was, himself, suddenly warm, and his
body pulled together and was taut and strong.

He fancied that he might walk now.  Very carefully he pulled
himself up, stood on his feet, stepped forward--and fell.


                              5


He screamed, and as he did so the Fog seemed to put its clammy hand
against his mouth, filling it with boneless fingers.  This was the
end--this death.  All space was about him and a roar of air
sweeping up to meet him.

Then dimly there came to his brain the message, thrown to him like
a life-line, that he was not falling in space but was slipping down
a slope.  He lurched out with his hands, caught some thick tufts of
grass, and held.  His legs slid forward and then dangled.  With all
his forces--and the muscles of his arms were but weak--he pulled
himself upward and then held himself there, his legs hanging over
space.

While the tufts held, and so long as his arms had the strength, he
could stay.  How long might that be?  Sickness attacked him, a kind
of sea-sickness.  Tears were in his eyes, and an intense self-pity
seized him.  What a shame that such an end should come to a man who
had meant no harm to anyone, whose life had yet such possibilities.
He thought of his sisters.  How they would miss him!  He had been
tiresome sometimes, and been restless at home, and pulled them up
sharply when they had said things that he thought stupid, but now
only his good points would be remembered.  He had been kind to
them; he had a warm heart.  He--and here his brain, working it
seemed through his aching, straining arms, began suddenly to whirl
like a top, flinging in front of his eyes a succession of the most
absurd pictures: days in spring woods gathering flowers, his mother
and father laughing at something childish that he had said, a bar
of music from some musical comedy, Erda appearing before Wotan in
Siegfried, a night when he had come to a dinner party and had
forgotten to wear a dress tie, the moment when once before an
operation he had been wheeled into the operating theatre, the day
when he had plucked up his courage and decided that he could buy
the Whistler "Little Mast," the grave, anxious, kindly eyes of
Strang as he leant across the etching table, a morning when he had
run for an omnibus up Shaftesbury Avenue and missed it and the
conductor had laughed, that hour with Maradick at the club, lights,
scents, the cold fog drowning his mouth, his nose, his eyes--then
chill space, a roaring wind and silence. . . .

How strange after that--and hours afterwards it seemed although it
must have been seconds--to find that he was still living, that his
arms were aching as though they were one extended toothache, and
that he was still holding to those tufts of grass.  He had a kind
of marvel at his endurance, and now, suddenly, a wonder as to why
he was doing this.  Was it worth while?  How stupid this energy!
How much better to let himself go and to sleep, to sleep.  How
delicious to sleep and be rid of the ache, the cold, the clammy
fog!

With that, one of the grass tufts to which he was clinging lurched
slightly, and his whole soul was active in its energy to preserve
that life that but now he had thought to throw away.  With a
struggle to which he would have supposed he could not have risen,
he drew his body up against the slope so that the earth to which he
was clinging might the better restrain his weight.  Then resting
there, his fingers digging deep into the soil of the cliff, his
head pressed against the rock, he uttered a prayer:

"O Lord, help me now.  I have a life that has been of little use to
the world, but I have, in this very day, seen better the uses to
which I may put it.  Help me from this, give me strength to live,
and I will try to leave my idleness and my selfishness and meanness
and be a worthier man.  O Lord, I know not whether Thou dost exist
or no, but, if Thou art near me, help me at least now to bear my
death worthily, if it must be that, and to live my life to some
real purpose if I am to have it back again.  Amen."  Then he
repeated the Lord's Prayer.  After that he seemed to be quieted; a
great comfort came to him so that he no longer had any anxiety, his
heart beat tranquilly, and he only rested there, passive for the
issue.  "If death comes," he thought to himself, "I believe that it
will be very swift.  I shall feel no more than I felt just now when
I first tumbled.  I shall not have so much pain as with a
toothache.  I am leaving no one in the whole world whose existence
will be empty because I have gone.  Hesther after to-night I shall
never, in any case, see again, and I am fortunate because, before I
die, I have been able to feel the reality of life, what love is,
and caring for others more than myself."  He was quite tranquil.
The tuft of grass tugged again.  His legs were numb, and he had the
curious fancy that one of his boots had slipped off, and that one
foot, as light as a feather, was blowing loosely in the air.

Then it seemed to him--and now it was as though he were half
asleep, working in a dream--that someone was, very gently, pushing
him upwards.  At least he was rising.  His hands, one by one, left
their tufts of grass and caught higher refuge, first a projecting
rock, then a thick hummock of soil, then a bunch of sea-pinks.  In
another while, his heart now beating again with a new excited
anticipation, his head lurched forward on the earth into space.
With a last frantic urge he pulled all his body together and lay
huddled on the path safe once more.

He had now a new trouble because his body refused to move.  He had
no body, nothing that he could count upon for action.  He tried to
find his connection with it, endeavoured to rest upon his knees,
but it was as though he had been all dissipated into the fog and
was turned, himself now, into mist and vapour.  Then this passed,
and once more he crawled forward.

He turned a corner and met again the Liddon bell.  It was strange
how deeply this voice reassured him.  He had been all alone in a
world utterly dead.  He had not had, like Hardy's hero, the sight
of the crustacean to connect him with eternal life.  But this
sudden, melancholy, lowing sound like a creature deserted, crying
for its mate, brought him once more into reality.  The bell was
insistent and very loud.  It swung through the fog up to him,
ringing in his ear, then fading away again into distance.  He spoke
aloud as men do when they are in desperate straits:  "Well, old
bell," he cried, "I'm not beaten yet, you see.  They've done what
they can to finish me, but I'm back again.  You don't get rid of me
so easily as all that, you know.  You can come and look, if you
like.  Here I am, company for you after all."

There was a little breeze blowing now in his eyes and this cheered
him.  If only the wind rose the fog would move and all might yet be
well.  His clothes were torn, his hands bleeding, his hat gone.  He
crawled into a sitting position, shook his fist in the air, and
cried:

"You old devil, you're there, are you!  It's your game all this.
You're seeing whether you can finish me.  But I'll be even with you
yet."  And it did indeed seem to him that he could see through the
mist that red head sticking out like a furze bush on fire.  The
hair, the damp pale face, the melancholy eyes, and then the voice:

"It's only a theory, of course, Mr. Harkness.  My father, who was a
most remarkable man. . . ."

The thought of Crispin enraged him, and the rage drove him on to
his feet.  He was standing up and moving forward quite briskly.  He
moved like a blind man, his hands before him as though he were
expecting at every moment to strike some hard, sharp substance, but
whereas before the fog had seemed to envelop him, strangling him,
penetrating into his very heart and vitals, now it retreated from
before him like a moving wall.  The incline was now less sharp, and
now less sharp again.  Little pebbles rolled from beneath his feet,
and he could hear them fall over down into distant space, but he
had no longer any fear.  He was on level ground.  He knew that the
down was spreading about him.  He called out, "Hesther!  Hesther!"
not realising that this was the first time he had spoken her name.
He called it again, "Hesther!  Hesther!" and again and again,
always moving as he fancied forward.

Then, as though it had been hurled at him out of some gigantic
distance, the rugged wall of the cottage pierced the sky.  He saw
it, then herself patiently seated beneath it.  In another moment he
was kneeling beside her, both her hands in his, his voice murmuring
unintelligible words.


                              6


She was so happy to see him.  His face was close to hers and for
the first time he could really see her, her large, grave,
questioning eyes, her child's face, half developed, nothing very
beautiful in her features, but to him something inexpressibly
lovely for which all his life he had been waiting.

She was damp with the fog, and the first thing he did was to take
off his coat and try to put it around her.  But she stood up
resisting him.

"Oh no, I'm not cold.  I'm not really.  And do you think I'll let
you?  Why, you!  What have you done?  Your hands are all torn and
your face!"

She was very close to him.  She put up her hand and touched his
face.  He needed to muster everything that he had in him not to put
his arms around her.  He conquered himself.  "That's nothing," he
said; "I had some trouble climbing up from the cliff.  I was just
half-way up when the fog came on.  It wasn't much of a path in any
case."

She stood with her hand on his arm.  "Oh, what shall we do?  We
shall never find the boat now.  The fog will clear and we will be
caught.  We can't move from here while it lasts."

"No," he said firmly, "we can't move.  This is the place where
Dunbar will expect us.  He'll turn up here at any moment.
Meanwhile, we must just wait for him.  Is the pony all right?"

"I don't know what I'd have done without the pony," she said.
"When the fog came up I was terrified.  I didn't know what I'd
better do.  I called your names, but, of course, you didn't hear.
And then it got colder and colder and I kept thinking that I was
seeing Them.  His red hair. . . ."

She suddenly, shivering, put her hand on his arm.  "Oh, don't let
them find us," she said; "I couldn't go back to that.  I would
rather kill myself.  I WOULD kill myself if I went back.  What they
are--oh! you don't know!"

He took her hand and held it firmly.  "Now see here, we don't know
how long Dunbar will be, or how long the fog will last, or
anything.  We can't do anything but stay here, and it's no good if
we stay here and think of all the terrible things that may happen.
The fog can't last for ever.  Dunbar may come any minute.  What we
have to do is to sit down on this stone here and imagine we are
sitting in front of our fire at home talking like old friends about--
oh well, anything you like--whatever old friends do talk about.
Can your imagination help you that far?"

He saw that she was at the very edge of her nerves; a step farther
and she would topple over into wild hysteria; he knew enough
already about her character to be sure that nothing would cause her
such self-scorn and regret as that loss of self-control.  He was
not very sure of his own control; everything had piled up upon him
pretty heavily during the last hour; but she was such a child that
he had an immense sense of responsibility as though he had been
fifteen years older at least.

"I haven't very much imagination," she said, in a voice hovering
between laughter and tears.  "Father always used to tell me that
that was my chief lack.  And we ARE old friends, as we said a while
ago, even though we have just met."

"That's right," he said.  "Now we will have to sit rather close
together.  There's only one stone and the grass is most awfully
wet.  Every three minutes or so I'll get up and shout Dunbar's name
in case he is wandering about quite close to us."

He stood up and, putting his hands to his mouth, shouted with all
his might:  "Dunbar!  Dunbar!  Dunbar!"

He waited.  There was no answer.  Only the fog seemed to grow
closer.  He turned to her and said:

"Don't you think the fog's clearing a little?"

She shook her head.  There was still a little quaver in her voice:
"I'm afraid not.  You're saying that to cheer me up.  You needn't.
I'm not frightened.  Think how lucky I am to have you with me.  You
mightn't have come back.  You might have missed your way for
hours."

When he thought of how nearly he had missed his way for ever and
ever he trembled.  He mustn't let his thoughts wander in those
paths; he was here to make her feel happy and safe until Dunbar
came.  They sat down on the stone together, and he put his arm
around her to hold her there and to keep her warm.

"Now what shall we talk about?" she asked him.

"Ourselves," he answered her.  "We have a splendid opportunity.
Here we are, cut off by the fog, away from everyone in the world.
We know nothing about one another, or almost nothing.  We can
scarcely see one another's faces.  It is a wonderful opportunity."

"Well, you tell me about yourself first."

"Ah! there's the trouble.  I'm so terribly dull.  I've never been
or thought or said anything interesting.  I'm like thousands and
thousands of people in this world who are simply shadows to
everybody else."

"Remember we're to tell the truth," she said.  "No one ever
honestly thinks that about themselves--that they are just shadows
of somebody else.  Everyone has their own secret importance for
themselves--at least, everyone in our village had.  People you
would have supposed had NOTHING in them, yet if you talked to them
you soon saw that they fancied that the world would end if they
weren't in it to make it go round."

"Well, honestly, that isn't my opinion of myself," Harkness
answered.  "I don't think that I help the world to go round at all.
Of course, I think that there have to be all the ordinary people in
it like myself to appreciate all the doings and sayings of the
others, the geniuses--to make the audience, you know.  But I'm not
even a very good audience.  There are so many things I don't care
for."

"What DO you care for?"

"Oh, different things at different times--not permanently for much.
Pictures--especially etchings--music, travel.  But never very
deeply or urgently, except for the etchings. . . .  Until to-
night," he suddenly added, lowering his voice.

"Until to-night?"

"Yes, ever since I left Paddington--let me see--how many hours ago?
It's now about two o'clock, I suppose."  He looked at his watch.
"Ten minutes to two.  Nearly nine hours.  Ever since nine hours
ago, I've felt a new kind of energy, a new spirit, the thrill, the
excitement that all my life I've wanted to have but that never came
until now.  Being really IN life instead of just watching it like a
spectator."

She put her hand on his.  "I am so glad you're here.  Do you know I
used to boast that I never could be frightened by anything?  But
these last weeks--all my courage has gone.  Oh, why has this fog
come?  We were getting on so well, everything was all right--and
now I know they'll find us, I know they'll find us.  I'm sure he's
just behind there, somewhere, hiding in the fog, listening to us.
And perhaps David is killed.  I can't bear it.  I can't bear it!"

She suddenly clung to him, hiding her face in his cloak.  He
soothed her just as he would his own child, as though she had been
his child all her life.  "Hesther!  Hesther!  You mustn't.  You
mustn't break down.  Think how brave you've been all this time.
The fog can clear in a moment and then we'll still have time to
catch the train.  Anyway the fog's a protection.  If Crispin were
after us he'd never find us in this.  Don't cry, Hesther.  Don't be
unhappy.  Let's just go on talking as though we were at home.
You're quite safe here.  No one can touch you."

"Yes, I'm safe," she whispered, "so long as you're here."  His
heart leapt up.  He forced himself to speak very quietly:

"Now I'll tell you about MYSELF.  It will be soon over.  I grew up
in a place called Baker in Oregon in the United States.  It is a
long way from anywhere, but all the big trains go through it on the
way out to the Pacific coast.  I grew up there with my two sisters
and my father.  I lost my mother when I was very young.  We had a
funny ramshackle old house under the mountains, full of books.  We
had very long winters and very hot summers.  I went to a place
called Andover to school.  Then my father died and left me some
money, and since then--oh! since then I dare not tell you what a
waste I have made of my life, never settling anywhere, longing for
Europe and the old beautiful things when I was in America, and
longing for the energy and vitality of America when I was in
Europe.  That's what it is to be really cosmopolitan--to have no
home anywhere.

"The only intimate friends I have are the etchings, and I sometimes
think that they also despise me for the idle life I lead."

He could see that she was interested.  She was quietly sitting, her
head against his shoulder, her hand in his just as a little girl
might listen to her elder brother.  "And that's all?" she asked.

"Yes.  Absolutely all.  I'm ashamed to let you look at so miserable
a picture.  I have been like so many people in the world,
especially since the war.  Modern cleverness has taken one's
beliefs away, modern stupidity has deprived one of the possibility
of hero-worship.  No God, no heroes any more.  Only one's
disappointing self.  What is left to make life worth while?  So you
think while you are on the bank watching the stream of life pass
by.  It is different if someone or something pushes you in.  Then
you must fight for existence for your own or, better still, for
someone else.  They who care for something or someone more than
themselves--some cause, some idea, some prophecy, some beauty, some
person--they are the happy ones."  He laughed.  "Here I am sitting
in the middle of this fog, a useless selfish creature who has
suddenly discovered the meaning of life.  Congratulate me."

He felt that she was looking up at him.  He looked down at her.
Their eyes stared at one another.  His heart beat riotously, and
behind the beating there was a strange pain, a poignant longing, a
deep, deep tenderness.

"I don't understand everything you say," she replied at last.
"Except that I am sure you are doing an injustice to yourself when
you give such an account.  But what you say about unselfishness I
don't agree with.  How is one unselfish if one is doing things for
people one loves?  I wasn't unselfish because I worked for the
boys.  I had to.  They needed it."

"Tell me about your home," he said.

She sighed, then drew herself a little away from him, as though she
were suddenly determined to be independent, to owe no man anything.

"Mother died when I was very young," she said.  "I only remember
her as someone who was always tired, but very, very kind.  But she
liked the boys better.  I remember I used to be silly and feel hurt
because she liked them better.  But the day before she died she
told me to look after them, and I was so proud, and promised.  And
I have tried."

"Were they younger than you?"

"Yes.  One was three years younger and the other five.  I think
they cared for me, but never as much as I did for them."

She stopped as though she were listening.  The fog was now terribly
thick and was in their eyes, their nostrils, their mouths.  They
could see nothing at all, and when he jumped to his feet and called
again, "Dunbar!  Dunbar!  Dunbar!" he knew that he vanished from
her sight.  He could feel from the way that she caught his hand and
held it when he sat down again how, for a moment, she had lost him.

"It's always that way, isn't it?" she went on, and he could tell
from an undertone in her voice that this talking was an immense
relief to her.  She had, he supposed, not talked to anyone for
weeks.

"Always what way?" he asked.

"That if you love someone very much they don't love you so much.
And then the same the other way."

"Very often," he agreed.

"I'm sure that's what I did wrong at home.  Showed them that I
cared for them too much.  The boys were very good, but they were
boys, you know, and took everything for granted as men do."  She
said this with a very old world-wise air.  "They were dear boys--
they were and are.  But it was better before they went to school,
when they needed me always.  Afterwards when they had been to
school they despised girls and thought it silly to let girls do
things for them.  And then they didn't like being at home--because
father drank."

She dropped her voice here and came very close to him.

"Do you know what it is to hate and love the same person?  I was
like that with father.  When he had drunk too much and broke all
the things--when we had so few anyway--and hit the boys, and did
things--oh, dreadful things that men do when they're drunk--then I
hated him.  I didn't love him.  I didn't want to help him--I just
wanted to get away.  And before--before he drank so much he was so
good and so sweet and so clever.  Do you know that my father was
one of the cleverest doctors in the whole of England?  He was.  If
he hadn't drunk he might have been anywhere and done anything.  But
sometimes when he WAS drunk and the boys were away at school, and
the house was in such a mess, and the servant wouldn't stay because
of father, I felt I couldn't go on--I COULDN'T!--and that I'd run
down the road leaving everything as it was, into the town and hide
so that they'd never find me. . . .  And now," she suddenly broke
out, "I have run away--and see what I've made of it!"

"It isn't over yet," he said to her quietly.  "Life's just
beginning for you."

"Well, anyway," she answered, with a sudden resolute calm that made
her seem ever so much older and more mature, "I've helped the boys
to start in life, and I won't have to go back to all that again--
that's something.  It's fine to love someone and work for them as
you said just now, but if it's always dirty, and there's never
enough money, and the servants are always in a bad temper, and you
never have enough clothes, and all the people in the village laugh
at you because your father drinks, then you want to stop loving for
a little and to escape anywhere, anywhere to anybody where it isn't
dirty.  Love isn't enough--no, it isn't--if you're so tired with
work that you haven't any energy to think whether you love or not."

She hesitated there, looking away from him, and said so softly that
he with difficulty caught her words:  "I will tell you one thing
that you won't believe, but it's true.  I wanted to go to Crispin."

He turned to look at her in amazement.

"You WANTED to go?"

"Yes.  I know you thought that I went for the boys and father.  I
know that David thinks that too.  Of course that was true a little.
He promised me that they should have everything.  It was a relief
to me that I needn't think of them any more.  But it wasn't only
that.  I wanted to go.  I wanted to be free."

"To be free!" Harkness cried.  "My God!  What freedom!  I can
understand your wanting to escape, but with SUCH men. . . ."

She turned round upon him eagerly.  "You don't know what he can be
like--the elder Crispin, I mean.  And to a girl, an ignorant,
conceited girl.  Yes, I was conceited, that was the cause of
everything.  Father had all sorts of books in his room.  I used to
read everything I could see--French and German in a kind of way--
and secretly I was very proud of myself.  I thought that I was more
learned than anyone I knew, and I used to smile to myself secretly
when I overheard people saying how good I was to the boys, and how
unselfish, and I would think, 'That's not what I am at all.  If you
only knew how much I know, and the kind of things, you'd be
surprised.'

"I was always thinking of the day when I would escape and marry.  I
fancied I knew everything about marriage from the books that I had
read and from the things that father said when he was drunk.  I
hadn't a nice idea of marriage at all.  I thought it was old-
fashioned to fall in love, but through marriage I could reach some
fine position where I could do great things in the world, and
always in my mind I saw myself coming one day back to my village
and everyone saying:  'Why, I had not an idea she was like THAT.
Fancy all the time she was with us we never knew she was clever
like this.'"

She laughed like a child, a little maliciously, very simply and
confidingly.  He saw that she had for the moment forgotten her
danger, and was sitting there in the middle of a dense fog on a
lonely moor at a quarter past two in the morning with an almost
complete stranger as though she were giving him afternoon tea in
the placid security of a London suburb.  He was glad; he did not
wish to bring back her earlier terror, but for himself now, with
every moment that passed, he was increasingly anxious.  Time was
flying; now they could never catch that train.  And above all, what
could have happened to Dunbar?  He must surely have found them by
now had some accident not come to him.  Perhaps he had slipped as
Harkness had done and was now lying smashed to pieces at the bottom
of that cliff.  But what could he, Harkness, do better than this?
While the fog was so dense it was madness to move off in search of
anyone.  And if the fog lasted, were they to sit there until
morning and be caught like mice in a kitchen?

And beneath his anxiety, as his arm held the child at his side,
there was that strange mixture of triumph and pain, of some odd
piercing loneliness and a deep burning satisfaction.  Meanwhile her
hand rested in his, soft and warm like the touch of a bird's
breast.

"When Mr. Crispin came--the elder, the father--and talked to me I
was flattered.  No one before had ever talked to me as he did about
his travels and his collections and the grand people he knew, just
as though I were as old as he was.  And then David--Mr. Dunbar--was
always asking me to marry him.  I'd known him all my life, and I
liked him better than anyone else in the whole world; but just
because I'd always known him he wasn't exciting.  He was the last
person I wanted to marry.  Then Mr. Crispin made father drink, and
I hated him for that, and I hated father for letting him do it.  I
went up to Mr. Crispin's house and told him what I thought of him,
and he talked and talked and talked, all about having power over
people for their good and hurting them first and loving them all
afterwards.  I didn't understand most of it, but the end of it was
that he said that if I would marry his son he would leave father
alone and would give me everything.  I should see the world and all
life, and that his son loved me and would be kind to me.

"After that it was the strangest thing.  I don't say that he
hypnotised me.  I knew that he was bad.  Everyone in the place was
speaking about him.  He had done some cruel thing to a horse, and
there was a story, too, about some woman in the village.  But I
thought that I knew better than all of them, that I would save
father and the boys and be grand myself--and then I would show
David that he wasn't the only one who cared for me.

"And so--I consented.  From that moment I promised I was terrified.
I knew that I had done a terrible thing.  But it was too late.  I
was already a prisoner.  That is a hysterical thing to say, but it
is true.  They never let me out of their sight.  I was married very
quickly after that.  I won't say anything about the first week of
my marriage except that I didn't need books any more to teach me.
I knew the sin I'd committed.  But I was proud--I was as proud as I
was frightened.  I wasn't going to let anyone know what a terrible
position I was in--and especially David.  When we went to Treliss,
David came too and waited.  In my heart I was so glad he was there.

"You don't know what went on in that house.  The younger Crispin
wasn't unkind.  He was simply indifferent.  He thought of nothing
and nobody but his father.  His father mocked him, despised him,
scorned him, but he didn't care.  He follows his father like a dog.
At first you know I thought I could make a job of it, carry it
through.  And then I began to understand.

"First one little thing, then another.  The elder Crispin was
always talking, floods of it.  He was always looking at me and
smiling at me.  After two days in the house with him I hated him as
I hadn't known I could hate anyone.  When he touched me I trembled
all over.  It became a kind of duel between us.  He was always
talking nonsense about making me love him through pain--and his
eyes never said what his mouth said.  They were like the eyes of
another person caught there by mistake.

"Then one day I came into the library upstairs and found him with a
dog.  A little fox-terrier.  He had tied it to the leg of the table
and was flicking it with a whip.  He would give it a flick, then
stand back and look at it, then give it another flick.  The awful
thing was that the dog was too frightened to howl, too terrified to
know that it was being hurt at all.  He was smiling, watching the
dog very carefully, but his eyes were sad and unhappy.  After that
there were many signs.  I knew then two things, that he was raving
crazy mad and that I was a prisoner in that house.  They watched me
night and day.  I had no money.  My only hope of escape was through
David, who was always getting word to me, begging me to let him
help me.  But I still had my pride, although it was nearly beaten.
I wouldn't yield until--until the night before you came; then
something happened, something he tried to do; the younger Crispin
stopped him that time, but another time--well, there mightn't be
anyone there.  That settled it all.  I let David know through you
that I would go.  I HAD to go.  I couldn't risk another moment.  I
couldn't risk another moment, I tell you."  She suddenly sprang up,
caught at Harkness's hand in an agony, crying:

"Don't stay here!  Don't stay here!  They can find us here!  We're
going to be caught again.  Oh, please come!  Please!  Please!"

She was suddenly crazy with terror.  Had he not held her with all
his force she would have rushed off into the fog.  She struggled in
his arms, pulling and straining, crying, not knowing what she said.
Then suddenly she relaxed, would have tumbled had he not held her,
and murmuring, "I can't any more--oh, I can't any more!" collapsed,
so that he knew she had fainted.


                              7


He sat down on the stone, laying her in his arms as though she were
his child.  He was, himself, not strongly built, but she was so
slight in his hold that he could not believe that she was a woman.
He murmured words to her, stroked her forehead with his hand; she
stirred, turning towards him, and resting her head more securely on
his breast.  Then her hand moved to his cheek and lay against it.

At last after a long while she raised her head, looked about her,
stared up at him as though she had just awoken, turned, and kissed
him on the cheek.  She murmured something--he could not catch the
words--then nestled down into his arms as though she would sleep.

There began for him then, sitting there, staring out into the
unblinking fog, his hardest test.  As surely as never before in his
life had he known what love truly was, so did he know it now.  This
child in her ignorance, her courage, her hard history, her contact
with the worst elements in human nature, her purity, had found her
way into the innermost recesses of his heart.  He saw as he sat
there, with a strange, almost divine clarity of vision, both into
her soul and into his own.  He knew that when she faced life again
he would be the first to whom she would turn.  He knew that with
one word, one look, he could win her love.  He knew that she had
also never felt what love was.  He knew that the circumstances of
this night had turned her towards him as she would never have been
turned in ordinary conditions.  Yes, he knew this too--that had
they met in everyday life she would never have loved him, would not
indeed have thought of him twice.

He was not a man about whom anyone thought twice.  With the
exception of his sisters no woman had ever loved him; this child,
driven to terrified desperation by the horrors of the last weeks,
had been wakened to full womanhood by those same horrors, and he
had happened to be there at the awakening.  That was all.  And yet
he knew that so honest was she, and good and true, that did she
once go to him she would stay with him.  He saw steadily into the
future.  He saw her freedom from the madman to whom she was
married, then her union with himself.  His happiness, and her
gradual discovery of the kind of man that he was.  Not bad--oh no--
but older, far older than herself in many other ways than years,
tired so easily, caring nothing for all the young things in life,
above all a man in the middle state, solitary from some elemental
loneliness of soul.  It was true that to-night had shown him a new
energy of living, a new happiness, a new vigour, and he would
perhaps after to-night never be the same man as he was before.  But
it was not enough.  No, not enough for this young girl just
beginning life, so ignorant of it, so trustful of him that she
would follow the path that he pointed out.  And for himself!  How
often he had felt like Nejdanov in Virgin Soil that "everything
that he had said or done during the day seemed to him so utterly
false, such useless nonsense, and the thing that ought to be done
was nowhere to be found . . . unattainable . . . in the depths of a
bottomless pit."  Well, of to-night that was not true.  What he had
done was useful, was well done.  But tomorrow how would he regard
it?  Would it not seem like senseless melodrama, the mad Crispins,
his fall from the cliff, this eternal fog?  How like his history
that the most conclusive and eternal acts of his life should take
place in a fog!  And this girl whom he loved so dearly, if he
married her and kept her for himself would not his conscience, that
eternal tiresome conscience of his, would it not for ever reproach
him, telling him that he had spoilt her life, and would not he be
for ever watching to catch that moment when she would realise how
dull, how old, how negative he was?  No, he could not . . . he
could not . . .

Then there swept over him all the fire of the other impulse.  Why
should he not, at long last, be happy?  Could any man in the world
be better to her than he would be?  After all he was not so old.
Had he not known when he shared in that dance round the town that
he could be part of life, could feel with the common pulse of
humanity?  Did young Dunbar know life better than he?  With him she
had lived always and yet did not love him.

And then he knew with a flash like lightning through the fog that
at this moment, when she was waking to life and was trusting him,
he could, by only a few words, lead her to love Dunbar.  She had
always seen him in a commonplace, homely, familiar light, but he,
Harkness, if he liked, could show her quite another light, could
turn all this fresh romantic impulse that was now flowing towards
himself into another channel.

But why should he?  Was that not simply sentimental idealism?
Dunbar was no friend of his, he had never seen him before
yesterday, why should he give up to him the only real thing that
his life had yet known?

But it was not sentimental, it was not false.  Youth to youth.  In
years he was not so old, but in his hesitating, quixotic,
undetermined character there were elements of analysis, self-
questioning, regret, that would make any human being with whom he
was intimately related unhappy.

Sitting there, staring out into the fog, he knew the truth--that he
was a man doomed to be alone all his days.  That did not mean that
he could not make much of his life, have many friends, much good
fortune--but in the last intimacy he could go to no one and no one
could go to him.

He bent down and kissed her forehead.  She stirred, moved, sat up,
resting back against him, her feet on the ground.

"Where am I?" she whispered.  "Oh yes."  She clung to his arm.  "No
one has come?  We are still alone?"

"No," he answered her gently, "no one has come.  We are still
alone."


                              8


"What time is it?" she asked.

He looked at his watch.  "Half-past two."

"We have missed that train now."

"I don't know.  And anyway there's probably another."

"And David?"

"He's lost his way in the fog.  He'll turn up at any moment."  He
stood up and shouted once again:

"Dunbar!  Dunbar!  Dunbar!"

No answer.

He stood over her looking down at her as she sat with drooping
head.  She looked up at him.  "I'm ashamed at the way I've
behaved," she said, "fainting and crying.  But you needn't be
afraid any more.  I shan't give in again."

Indeed, he seemed to see in her altogether a new spirit, something
finer and more secure.  She put out her hand to him.

"Come and sit down on the stone again as we were before.  It's
better for us to talk and then we don't frighten ourselves with
possibilities.  After all, we can't DO anything, can we, so long as
this horrid fog lasts?  We must just sit here and wait for David."

He sat down, put his arm around her as he had done before.  The
moment had come.  He had only now to speak and the result was
certain--the whole of his future life and hers.  He knew so exactly
what he would say.  The words were forming on his lips.

"Hesther dear, I've known you so short a time, but nevertheless I
love you with all my heart and being.  When you are rid of this
horrible man will you marry me?  I will spend all my life in making
you happy--"

And she, oh, without an instant's doubt, would say "Yes," would
hide in his arms, and rest there as though secure, yes, utterly
secure for life.  But the battle was over.  He would not begin it
again.  He clipped the words back and sat silent, one hand clenched
on his knee.

It was as though she were waiting for him to speak.  Their silence
was packed with anticipation.  At last she said:

"What is the matter?  Is there something you're afraid of that you
don't like to tell me?  You needn't mind.  I'm through my fear."

"No, there's nothing," he answered.  At last he said:  "There IS
one thing I'd like to say to you.  I suppose I've no right to speak
of it, seeing how recently I've known you, but I guess this night
has made us friends as months of ordinary living never would have
made us."

"Yes, you're right in that," she answered.  He knew what she was
expecting him to say.

"Well, it's about Dunbar."  He could feel her hand jump in his.
"He loves you so much--so terribly.  He isn't a man, I should
think, to say very much about his feelings.  I've only known him
for an hour or two, and he wouldn't have said anything to me if he
hadn't HAD to.  But from the little he did say I could see what he
feels.  You're in luck to have a man like that in love with you."

She took her hand out of his, then, very quietly but very stiffly,
answered:

"But I've known him all my life, you know."

"That's just why I'm speaking about him," Harkness answered.

"It's rather strange to have the friend of your life explained to
you by someone who has known him only for an hour or two."  She
laughed a little angrily.

"But that's just why I'm speaking," he answered.  "When you've
known someone all your life you can't see them clearly.  That's why
one's own family always knows so little about one.  You can't see
the wood for the trees.  In the first minutes a stranger sees more.
I don't say that I know Dunbar as WELL as you do--I only say that I
probably see things in him that you don't see."

They had been so close to one another during this last hour that he
felt as though he could see, as through clear water, deep into her
mind.

He knew that, during those last minutes, she had been struggling
desperately.  She came up to him victorious and, smiling and
putting her hand into his, said:

"Tell me what YOU think about him."

"Simply that he seems to me a wonderful fellow.  He seems to you, I
expect, a little dull.  You've always laughed at him a bit, and for
that very reason, and because he's loved you for so long, he's
tongue-tied when you're there and shy of showing you what he really
thinks about things.  He has immense qualities of character--
fidelity, honesty, devotion, courage--things simply beyond price,
and if you loved him and showed him that you did you'd probably see
quite new things--fun and spontaneity and imagination--things that
he had always been afraid to show you until now."

Her hand trembled in his.

"You speak," she said, "as though you thought that you were so much
older than both of us.  I don't feel that you are.  Can't you--?"
she broke off.  He knew what she would say.

"My dear," and his voice was eloquently paternal, "I AM older than
both of you--years and years older.  Not physically, perhaps, so
much, but in every other kind of way.  I am an old fogey, nothing
else.  You've both of you been kind to me to-night, but in the
morning, when ordinary life begins again, you'll soon see what a
stuffy old thing I am.  No, no.  Think of me as your uncle.  But
don't miss--oh, don't miss!--the love of a man like Dunbar.
There's so little of that unselfish devoted love in the world, and
when it comes to you it's a crime to miss it."

"But you can't force yourself to love anyone!" she cried sharply.

"No, you can't FORCE yourself, but it's strange what seeing new
qualities in someone, looking at someone from another angle, will
do.  Try and look at him as though you'd met him for the first
time, forget that you've known him always.  I tell you that he's
one in a million!"

"Yes, he's good," she answered softly.  "He's been wonderful to me
always.  If he'd been less wonderful perhaps--I don't know, perhaps
I'd have loved him more.  But why are we talking about it?  Aren't
I married as it is?"

"Oh, that!"  He made a little gesture of repulsion.  "We must get
rid of that at once."

"It won't be very difficult," she answered, dropping her voice to a
whisper.  "He hasn't been faithful to me--even during these weeks."

He put his arm round her and held her close as though he were most
truly her father.  "Poor child!" he said, "poor child!"

She trembled in his arms.

"You--" she began.  "You--?  Don't you--?"

She could say no more.

"I'm your friend," he answered, "to the end of life.  Your old
avuncular friend.  That's my job.  Think of your YOUNG friend
freshly.  See what a fellow he is.  I tell you that's a man!"

She did not answer him, but stayed there hiding her head in his
coat.

There was a long silence, then, stroking her hair, he said:

"Hesther dear, I'm going to try once again."  He got up and,
putting his hands trumpet-wise to his mouth, shouted through the
fog:

"Dunbar!  Dunbar!  Dunbar!"

This time there was an answer, clear and definite.  "Hallo!  Hallo!
Hallo!"  He turned excitedly to her.  She also sprang to her feet.
"He's there!  I can hear him!"

"Dunbar!  Dunbar!"

The answer came more clearly:  "Hallo!  Hallo!  Hallo!"

They continued to exchange cries.  Sometimes the reply was faint.
Once it seemed to be lost altogether.  Then suddenly it was close
at hand.  A ghostly figure was shadowed.

Dunbar came running.


                              9


He caught their hands in his.  He was breathless.  He sank down on
the stone beside them.

"Give me a minute. . . .  I'm done.  Lord! this filthy fog. . . .
Where haven't I been?"  He panted, staring up at them with wide
distracted eyes.

"Do you realise?  I've failed.  It's no use our crossing in that
boat now even if we could find it.  We've missed that train.  We're
done"

"Nonsense," Harkness broke in.  "Why, man, what's happened to you?
This isn't like you to lose your courage.  We're not done or
anything like it.  In the first place, we're all together again.
That's something in a fog like this.  Besides, so long as we stick
together we're out of their power.  They can't force us, all of us,
back into that house again.  So long as we're out of that house
we're safe."

"Oh, are we?" said Dunbar.  "Little you know that man.  I tell you
we're not safe--or Hesther's not safe--until we're at least a
hundred miles away.  But forgive me," he looked up at them both,
smiling, "you're quite right, Harkness.  I haven't any right to
talk like this.  But you don't know what a time I've had in that
fog."

"I had a little bit of a time myself," said Harkness.

"Well, in the first place," went on Dunbar, "I was terrified about
you.  I knew that you didn't know these cliffs well.  When the fog
started I called to you to come back, but you didn't hear me, of
course.  I was an idiot to let you start out at all.

"And then, when it came to myself climbing them I wasn't very
successful.  I was nearly over the edge fifty times at least.  But
at last when I DID get to the top the ridiculous thing was that I
started off in the wrong direction.  There I was only five minutes
from the cottage and the pony and Hesther; I know the place like my
own hand, and yet I went in the wrong direction.

"God knows where I got to.  I was nearly over into the sea twice at
least.  I kept calling your names, but the only thing I heard in
answer was that beastly bell.  I never went very far, I imagine,
because when I heard your voice at last, Harkness, I was quite
close to it.  But just to think of it!  Every other contingency in
the world I'd considered except just this one!  It simply never
entered my head."

"Well, now," said Harkness, "let's face the facts.  It's too late
for that train.  Is there any other that we can catch?"

"There's one at six, but I don't see ourselves hanging about here
for another three hours, nor, if the fog doesn't lift, can Hesther
get down into that cove.  I'm not especially anxious to try it
myself, as a matter of fact."

"No, nor I," said Harkness, smiling.  "Then we count the boat out.
There aren't many other things we can do.  We can take the pony and
follow him.  He'll lead us straight back to Treliss to whatever
stables he came from--a little too close to the Crispin family, I
fancy.  Secondly, we can wait here until the fog clears; that MAY
be in three minutes' time, it may be to-morrow.  You both know more
about these sea-fogs down here than I do, but, from the look of it,
it's solid till Christmas."

"A heat fog this time of year," said Dunbar, "within three miles of
the sea can last for twenty-four hours or longer--not as thick as
this though--this is one of the thickest I've ever seen."

"Well, then," continued Harkness, "it isn't much good to wait until
it clears.  The only thing remaining for us is to walk off
somewhere.  The question is, where?  Is there any garage within a
mile or two or any friend with a car?  It isn't three o'clock yet.
We still have time."

"Yes," said Dunbar, "there is.  I've had it in my mind all along as
an alternative.  Indeed it was the first thing of all that I
thought of.  Three miles from here there's a village, Cranach.  The
rector of Cranach is a sporting old man called Banting.  During the
last week or two we've made friends.  He's sixty or so, a bachelor,
and he's got a car.  Not much of a car, but still it's something.
I believe if we go and appeal to him--we'll have to wake him up, of
course--he'll help us.  I know that he disapproves strongly of the
Crispins.  I thought of him before, as I say, but I didn't want to
involve him in a row with Crispin.  However, now, as things have
gone, it's got to be.  I can think of no other alternative."

"Good," said Harkness, "that settles it.  Our only remaining
difficulty is to find our way there through this fog."

"I can start straight," said Dunbar.  "Left from the cottage and
then straight ahead.  Soon we ought to leave the Downs and strike
some trees.  After that it's across the fields.  I don't think I
can miss it."

"What about the pony?" asked Hesther.

"We'll have to leave him.  He must be there for Jabez in the
morning or Jabez will have to pay for both the pony and the cart."

They started off.  The character of the fog seemed now slightly to
have changed.  It was certainly thicker in some places than in
others.  Here it was an impenetrable wall, but there it seemed to
be only a gauze covering hanging before a multitude of changing
scenes and persons.  Now it was a multitude of armed men advancing,
and you could be sure that you heard the clang of shield on shield
and a thousand muffled steps.  Now it was horses wheeling, their
manes tossing, their tails flying, now secret furtive figures that
moved and peered, stopped, bending forward and listening, then
moved on again.

All the world was stirring.  A breeze ran along the ground rustling
the short thin grass.  Sea-gulls were circling the mist crying.  A
ship at sea was sounding its horn.  Figures seemed to press in on
every side.

They linked arms as they went, stumbling over the tussocks at every
step.  It was strange how the sudden vanishing of the cottage left
them forlorn.  It had been their one sure substantial hold on life.
They were in their own world while they could touch those ruined
stones, but now they walked in air.

Nevertheless Dunbar walked forward confidently.  He thought that he
recognised this landmark and that.  "Now we veer a bit to the
left," he said.  "We should be off the moor in another step."

They walked forward.  Suddenly Hesther pulled back, crying, "Look
out!  Look out!"  Another instant and they would have walked
forward into space.  The mist here twisted up into thinning spirals
as though to show them what they had escaped; they could just see
the sharp black line of the cliff.  Far, far beneath them the sea
purred like a cat.

They stopped where they were as though fixed like images into the
wall of the fog.

Dunbar whispered:  "That's awful.  Another moment. . . ."

It was Hesther who pulled them together again.  "Let's turn sharp
about," she said, "and walk straight in front of us.  At least we
escape the sea."

They turned as she had said and then walked forward, but in the
minds of all of them there was the same thought.  Someone was
playing with them, someone like an evil Will-o'-the-wisp was
leading them, now here, now there.  Almost they could see his red
poll gleaming through the fog and could hear his silvery voice
running like music up and down the scale of the mist.

They were, three of them, worn with the events of the night.  They
were beginning to walk somnambulistically.  Harkness found in
himself now a strange kind of intimacy with the Fog.

Yes, spell it with a capital letter.  The Fog.  The FOG.  Some
emanation of himself, rolling out of him, friendly and also
hostile.  He and Crispin were of the Fog together.  They had both
created it, and as they were the good and the evil of the Fog so
was all Life, shapeless, rolling hither and thither, but having in
its elements Good and Evil in eternal friendship and eternal
enmity.

Every part of his body was aching.  His legs were so weary that
they dragged with him, protesting; his eyes were for ever closing,
his head nodding.  He stumbled as he walked, and at his side, step
with step in time, the Fog accompanied him, a mountainous grey-
swathed giant.

He was talking, words were for ever pouring from him, words mixed
with fog, so that they were damp and thick before ever they were
free.  "In life there are not, you know, enough moments of clear
understanding.  Between nations, between individuals, those moments
are too often confused by winds that, blowing from nowhere in
particular, ruffle the clear water where peace of mind and love of
soul for soul are reflected. . . .  Now the waters are clear.  Let
us look down."

Yes, he had read that somewhere.  In one of Galleon's books
perhaps?  No matter.  It meant nothing.  "A fine sentiment.  What
it means. . . .  Well, no matter.  Don't you smell roses?  Roses
out here on the moor.  If it wasn't for the fog you'd smell them--
ever so many."  And so he tore the "Orvieto" into shreds.  Little
scraps flying in the air like goose feathers.  What a pity!  Such a
beautiful thing. . . .

"Hold up," cried Dunbar.  "You're asleep, Harkness.  You'll have us
all down."

He pulled together with a start, and opening his eyes wide and
staring about him saw only the disgusting fog.

"This fog is too much of a good thing.  Don't you think so?  I
guess we could blow it away if we all tried hard enough.  You think
Americans always say 'I guess,' don't you?  The English books
always make them.  But don't you believe it.  We only do it to
please the English.  They like it.  It satisfies their vanity."

He seemed to be climbing an enormous endless staircase.  He mounted
another step, two, and suddenly was wide awake.

"What nonsense I'm talking!  I've been half asleep.  This fog gets
into your brain."  He felt Hesther's arm within his.  He patted her
hand encouragingly.  "It's all right, Hesther.  We'll be out of
this soon.  Just another minute or two."

"By Jove, you're right," Dunbar cried; "there are trees."

And they were.  A whole row of them.  Crusoe was not more glad to
see the footprint on the sand than were those three to see those
trees.  "Now I know where we are!" Dunbar cried triumphantly.
"Here's the bridge and here's the lane.  What luck to have found
it!"

The trees seemed to step forward and greet them, each one tall and
dignified, welcoming them to a happier country.  They were on a
road and had no longer the turf beneath their feet.  The fog here
was truly thinner, so that very dimly they could see the mark of
the hedge like a clothes-line in mid-air.

They moved now much more rapidly, and in their hearts was an
intense, an eager relief.  The fog thinned until it was a wall of
silver.  Nothing was distant, but it was a world of tangible
reality.  They could kick pebbles with their feet, could hear sheep
moving on the farther side of the hedge.

"This is better," said Dunbar.  "We'll get out of this yet.
Cranach is only a mile or so from here.  I know this lane well.
And the fog's going to lift at last."

Even as he spoke it swept up, thick and grey, deeper than before.
The trees disappeared, the hedges.  They had once more to grope for
one another's hands and walk close.

Harkness could feel from the way that Hesther leaned against him,
and the drag of her feet, that she was near the end of her
endurance.  She said nothing.  Only walked on and on.

They were all now silent.  They must have walked, it seemed to
them, for miles.  An endless walk that had no beginning and no end.
And then Harkness was strangely aware--how, he never knew--that
Dunbar and Hesther were drawing closer together.

He felt that new relation that he had in a way created beginning to
grow between them.  She drew away from Harkness ever so slightly.
Then suddenly he knew that Dunbar had put his arm around her and
was holding her up.  She was so weary that she did not know what
she was doing--but for that quiet, resolute, determined boy it must
have been a moment of great triumph, the first time in their two
lives that she had in any way surrendered to him or allowed him to
care for her.  Harkness was once more alone.

They walked and walked and walked.  They did not know where they
were walking, but in their minds they were sure it was straight to
Cranach.

Suddenly, after, as it seemed, hours of silence in a dead world,
Dunbar cried:

"We're there.  Oh, thank God! we're there.  This is the rectory
wall."

A wall was before them and an open gate.  They walked through the
gate, only dimly seen, stumbled where the lawn rose from the
gravel, then forward again, down on to the gravel again.  The door
was open.

Like somnambulists they walked forward.  The door closed behind
them.

Like somnambulists awakened they saw lights, a dim hall where flags
waved.

For Harkness there was something familiar--quite close to him, the
chatter-chatter of a clock, like a coughing dog.  Familiar?  He
stared.

Someone was standing, looking at him and smiling.

With sudden agony in his voice, as a man cries in a terrible dream,
Harkness shouted:

"Out, Dunbar!  Back!  Back!  Run for your life!"

But it was too late.

That voice of exquisite melody greeted them:

"I had no idea that of your own free will you would return.  My son
only a quarter of an hour ago departed in search of you.  I welcome
you back."



PART IV

THE TOWER


                              1


With an instinctive movement both Harkness and Dunbar closed in
upon Hesther.

The three stood just in front of the heavy locked door facing the
dim hall.  On the bottom stair was Crispin Senior, and on the floor
below him, one on either side, the two Japanese servants.

A glittering candelabra, hanging high up, was fully lit, but it
seemed to give a very feeble illumination, as though the fog had
penetrated here also.

Crispin was wearing white silk pyjamas, brown leather slippers, and
a dressing-gown of a rich bronze-coloured silk flowered with gold
buds and leaves.  His eyes were half-closed, as though the light,
dim though it was, was too strong for him.  His face wore a look of
petulant, rather childish melancholy.  The two servants were
statues indeed, no sign of life proceeding from them.  There was,
however, very little movement anywhere, the flags moving in the
draught the chief.

Hesther's face was white, and her breath came in little sharp
pants, but she held her body rigid.  Harkness after that first cry
was silent, but Dunbar stepped forward shouting:

"You damned hound--you let us go or you shall have this place about
your ears!"  The hall echoed the words, which, to tell the truth,
sounded very empty and theatrical.  They were made to sound the
more so by the quietness of Crispin's reply.

"There is no need," he said, "for all those words, Mr. Dunbar.
It is your own fault that you interfered and must pay for your
interference.  I warned you weeks ago not to annoy me.  Unfortunately
you wouldn't take advice.  You HAVE annoyed me--sadly, and must
suffer the consequences."

"If you touch a hair of her head--" he burst out.

"As to my daughter-in-law," Crispin said, stepping down on to the
floor, and suddenly smiling, "I can assure you that she is in the
best possible hands.  She knows that herself, I'm sure.  What
induced you, Hesther," he said, addressing her directly, "to climb
out of your window like the heroine of a cinematograph and career
about on the sea-shore with these two gentlemen is best known only
to yourself.  At least you saw the error of your ways and are in
time, after all, to go abroad with us to-day."

He advanced a step towards them.  "And you, Mr. Harkness, don't you
think that you have rather violated the decencies of hospitality?
I think you will admit that I showed you nothing but courtesy as
host.  I invited you to dinner, then to my house, showed you my few
poor things, and how have you repaid me?  Is this the famous
American courtesy?  And may I ask, while we are on the question,
what business this was of yours?"

"It was anybody's business," said Harkness firmly, "to rescue a
helpless girl from such a house as this."

"Indeed?" asked Crispin.  "And what is the matter with this house?"

Here Hesther broke in:  "Look back two nights ago," she cried, "and
ask yourself then what is the matter with this house and whether it
is a place for a woman to remain in."

"For myself," said Crispin, "I think it is a very nice house, and I
am quite sorry that we are leaving it to-day.  That is, some of us--
not all," he added softly.

"If you are going to murder us," Dunbar cried, "get done with it.
We don't fear you, you know, whatever colour your hair may be.  But
whether you murder us or no I can tell you one thing, that your own
time has come--not many more hours of liberty for YOU."

"All the more reason to make the most of those I HAVE got," said
Crispin.  "Murder you?  No.  But you HAVE fallen in very
opportunely for the testing of certain theories of mine.  I look
forward to a very interesting hour or two.  It is now just four
o'clock.  We leave this house at eight--or, at least, some of us
do.  I can promise all of us a very interesting four hours with no
time for sleep at all.  I have no doubt you are all tired,
wandering about in the fog for so long must be fatiguing, but I
don't see any of you sleeping--not for an hour or two, at least."

Hesther said then:  "Mr. Crispin, I believe that I am chiefly
concerned in this.  If I promise to go quietly with you abroad I
hope that you will free these two gentlemen.  I give you that
promise and I shall keep it."

"No, no," Dunbar cried, springing forward.  "You shan't go with him
anywhere, Hesther, by heaven you shan't.  Not while there's any
breath in my body--"

"And when there isn't any breath in your body, Mr. Dunbar," said
Crispin, "what then?"

"A very good line for an Adelphi melodrama, Mr. Crispin," said
Harkness, "but it seems to me that we've stayed here talking long
enough.  I warn you that I am an American citizen and am not to be
kept here against my will--"

"Aren't you indeed, Mr. Harkness?" said Crispin.  "Well, that's a
line of Adelphi drama, if you like.  How many times in a secret
service play has the hero declared that he's an American citizen?
Which only goes to show, I suppose, how near real life is to the
theatre--or rather how much more theatrical real life is than the
theatre can ever hope to be.  But you're all right, Mr. Harkness--I
won't forget that you're an American citizen.  You shall have
special privileges.  That I promise you."

Dunbar then did a foolish thing.  He made a dash for the farther
end of the hall.  What he had in mind no one knows--in all
probability to find a window, hurl himself through it, and escape
to give the alarm.  But the alarm to whom?  That was, as far as
things had yet gone, the foolishness of their position.  A
policeman arriving at the house would find nothing out of order,
only that there two gentlemen had broken in, barbarously, at a
midnight hour to abduct the married lady of the family.

Dunbar's effort was foolish in any case; its issue was that, in a
moment of time, without noise or a word spoken, the two Japanese
servants had him held, one hand on either arm.  He looked stupid
enough, there in the middle of the hall, his eyes dim with tears of
rage, his body straining ineffectively against that apparently
light and casual hold.

But it was strange to perceive how that movement of Dunbar's had
altered all the situation.  Before that the three were at least the
semblance of visitors demanding of their host that they should be
allowed to go; now they were prisoners and knew it.  Although
Hesther and Harkness were still untouched they were as conscious as
was Dunbar of a sudden helplessness--and of a new fear.

Harkness watched Crispin, who had walked forward and now stood only
a pace or two from Dunbar.  Harkness saw that his excitement was
almost uncontrollable.  His legs, set widely apart, were quivering,
his nostrils panting, his eyes quite closed so that he seemed a
blind man scenting out his enemy.

"You miserable fellow," he said--and his voice was scarcely more
than a whisper.  "You fool--to think that you could interfere.  I
told you . . . I warned you . . . and now am I not justified?  Yes--
a thousand times.  Within the next hour you shall know what pain
is, and I shall watch you realise it."

Then his body trembled with a sort of passionate rhythm as though
he were swaying to the run of some murmured tune.  With his eyes
closed and the shivering it was like the performance of some
devotional rite.  At least Dunbar showed no fear.

"You can do what you damn well please," he shouted.  "I'm not
afraid of you, mad though you are."

"Mad?  Mad?" said Crispin, suddenly opening his eyes.  "That
depends.  Yes, that depends.  Is a man mad who acts at last when
given a perfectly just and honourable opportunity for a pleasure
from which he has restrained himself because the opportunity
hitherto was NOT honourable?  And madness?  A matter of taste, my
friends, decides that.  I like olives--you do not.  Are you
therefore mad?  Surely not.  Be broad-minded, my friend.  You have
much to learn and but little time in which to learn it."

Harkness perceived that the man was savouring every moment of this
situation.  His anticipations of what was to come were so ardent
that the present scene was coloured deep with them.  He looked from
one to another, tasting them and his plans for them on his tongue.
His madness--for never before had his eyes, his hands, his whole
attitude of body more highly proclaimed him mad--had in it all the
preoccupation with some secret life that leads to such a climax.
For months, for years, grains of insanity, like coins in a miser's
hoard, had been heaping up to make this grand total.  And now that
the moment was come he was afraid to touch the hoard lest it should
melt under his fingers.

He approached Harkness.

"Mr. Harkness," he said quite gently, "believe me I am sorry to see
this.  You took me in last evening, you did indeed.  I felt that
you had a real interest in the beautiful things of art, and we had
that in common.  All the time you were nothing but a dirty spy--a
mean and dirty spy.  What right had you to interfere in the private
life of a private gentleman who, twenty-four hours ago, was quite
unknown to you, simply on the word of a crazy braggart boy?  Have
you so little to do that you must be poking your fingers into
everyone else's business?  I liked you, Mr. Harkness.  As I told
you quite honestly last evening, I don't know where I have met a
stranger to whom I took more warmly.  But you have disappointed me.
You have only yourself to thank for this--only yourself to thank."

Harkness replied firmly.  "Mr. Crispin, I had every right to act as
I have done, and I only wish to God that it had been successful.
It is true that when I came down to Cornwall yesterday I had no
knowledge of you or your affairs, but, in the Treliss hotel, quite
inadvertently, I overheard a conversation that showed me quite
plainly that it was someone's place to interfere.  What I have seen
of you since that time, if you will forgive the personality, has
only strengthened my conviction that interference--immediate and
drastic--was most urgently necessary.

"Thanks to the fog we have failed.  For Dunbar and myself we are
for the moment in your power.  Do what you like with us, but at
least have some pity on this child here who has done you no wrong."

"Very fine, very fine," said Crispin.  "Mr. Harkness, you have a
style--an excellent style--and I congratulate you on having lost
almost completely your American accent--a relief for all of us.
But come, come, this has lasted long enough.  I would point out to
you two gentlemen that, as one of you has already discovered, any
sort of resistance is quite useless.  We will go upstairs.  One of
my servants first--you two gentlemen next, my other servant
following, then my daughter-in-law and myself.  Please, gentlemen."

He said something in a foreign tongue.  One Japanese started
upstairs, Harkness and Dunbar followed.  There was nothing else at
that moment to be done.  Only at the top of the stairs Dunbar
turned and cried:  "Buck up, Hesther.  It will be all right."  And
she cried back in a voice marvellously clear and brave:  "I'm not
frightened, David; don't worry."

Harkness had a momentary impulse to turn, dash down the stairs
again, and run for the window as Dunbar had done; but as though he
knew his thought the Japanese behind him laid his hand on his arm;
the thin fingers pressed like steel.  At the upper floor Dunbar was
led one way, himself another.  One Japanese, his hand still on his
arm, opened a door and bowed.  Harkness entered.  The door closed.
He found himself in total obscurity.


                              2


He did not attempt to move about the room, but simply sank down on
to the floor where he was.  He was in a state of extreme physical
weariness--his body ached from head to foot--but his brain was
active and urgent.  This was the first time to himself that he had
had--with the exception of his cliff climbing--since his leaving
the hotel last evening, and he was glad of the loneliness.  The
darkness seemed to help him; he felt that he could think here more
clearly; he sat there, huddled up, his back against the wall, and
let his brain go.

At first it would do little more than force him to ask over and
over again:  "Why?  Why?  Why?  Why did we do this imbecile thing?
Why, when we had all the world to choose from, did we find our way
back into this horrible house?"  It was a temptation to call the
thing magic and to have done with it, really to suggest that the
older Crispin had wizard powers, or at least hypnotic, and had
willed them back.  But he forced himself to look at the whole thing
clearly as a piece of real life as true and as actual as the ham-
and-eggs and buttered toast that in another hour or two all the
world around him would be eating.  Yes, as real and actual as a
toothbrush, that was what this thing was; there was nothing wizard
about Crispin; he was a dangerous lunatic, and there were hundreds
like him in any asylum in the country.  As for their return, he
knew well enough that in a fog people either walked round and round
in a circle or returned to the place that they had started from.

At this point in his thoughts a tremor shook his body.  He knew
where THAT was from, and the anticipation that lying, like a
chained animal, deep in the recesses of his brain, must soon be
loosed and then bravely faced.  But not yet, oh no, not yet!  Let
his mind stay with the past as long as it might.

In the past was Crispin.  He looked back over that first meeting
with him, the actual moment when he had asked him for a match, the
dinner, the return to the hotel when, influenced then by all that
Dunbar had told him, he had seen him standing there, the polite
gestures, the hospitable words, the drive in the motor. . . .  His
mind stopped abruptly THERE.  The door swung to, the lock was
turned.

In that earlier Crispin there had been something deeply pathetic--
and, when he dared to look forward, he would see that in the later
Crispin there was the same.  So with a sudden flash of lightening
revelation that seemed to flare through the whole dark room he saw
that it was not the real Crispin with whom they--Hesther, Dunbar,
and he--were dealing at all.

No more than the ravings of fever were the real patient, the wicked
cancerous growth the real body, the broken glass the real picture
that seemed to be shattered beneath it.

They were dealing with a wild and dangerous animal, and in the grip
of that animal, pitiably, was the true struggling, suffering soul
of Crispin.  Not struggling now perhaps any more; the disease had
gone too far, growing through a thousand tiny, almost unnoticed
stages to this horrible possession.

He knew now--yes, as he had never, never known it, and would
perhaps never have known it had it not been for the sudden love for
and tenderness towards human nature that had come to him that night--
what, in the old world, they had meant by the possession of evil
spirits.  What it was that Christ had cast out in His ministry.
What it was from which David had delivered King Saul.

Quick on this came the further question.  If this were so, might he
not perhaps when the crisis came--as come he knew it would--appeal
to the real Crispin and so rescue both themselves and him?  He did
not know.  It had all gone so far.  The animal with its beastly
claws deep in the flesh had so tight a hold.  He realised that it
was in all probability the personality of Hesther herself that had
urged it to such extremes.  There was something in her clear-
sighted, simple defiance of him that had made Crispin's fear of his
powerlessness--the fear that had always contributed to his most
dangerous excesses--climb to its utmost height.  He had decided
perhaps that this was to be the real final test of his power, that
this girl should submit to him utterly.  Her escape had stirred his
sense of failure as nothing else could do.  And then their return,
all the nervous excitement of that night, the constant alarm of the
neighbourhoods in which they had stayed, so that, as the younger
Crispin had said, they had been driven "from pillar to post," all
these things had filled the bowl of insanity to overflowing.  COULD
he rescue Crispin as well as themselves?

Once more a tremor ran through his body.  Because if he could not--
Once more he thrust the anticipation back, pulling himself up from
the floor and beginning slowly, feeling the wall with his hand like
a blind man, to walk round the room.

His eyes now were better accustomed to the light, but he could make
out but little of where he was.  He supposed that he was on the
second floor, where were the rooms of Hesther and the younger
Crispin.  The place seemed empty, there was no sound from the
house.  He might have been in his grave.  Fantastic stories came to
his mind, Poe-like stories of walls and ceilings growing closer and
closer, of floors opening beneath the foot into watery dungeons, of
fiery eyes seen through the darkness.  He repeated then aloud:

"I am Charles Percy Harkness.  I am thirty-five years of age.  I
was born at Baker, Oregon, in the United States of America.  I am
in sound mind and in excellent health.  I came down to Cornwall
yesterday afternoon for a holiday, recommended to do so by Sir
James Maradick, Bart."

This gave him some little satisfaction; to himself he continued,
still walking and touching the wall-paper with his hand:  "I am
shut up in a dark room in a strange house at four in the morning
for no other reason than that I meddled in other people's affairs.
And I am glad that I meddled.  I am in love, and whatever comes out
of this I do not regret it.  I would do over again exactly what I
have done, except that I should hope to do it better next time."

He felt then seized with an intense weariness.  He had known that
he was, long ago, physically tired, but excitement had kept that at
bay.  Now quite instantly, as though a spring in the middle of his
back had broken, he collapsed.  He sank down there on the floor
where he was, and all huddled up, his head hanging forward into his
knees, he slept.  He had a moment of conscious subjective rebellion
when something cried to him:  "Don't surrender.  Keep awake.  It is
part of his plan that you should sleep here.  You are surrendering
to HIM."

And from long, misty distances he seemed to hear himself reply:

"I don't care what happens any more.  They can do what they
like. . . .  They can do what they like. . . ."

And almost at once he was conscious that they were summoning him.
A tall thin figure, like an old German drawing, with wild hair, set
mouth, menacing eye like Baldung's "Saturnus," stood before him and
pointed the way into vague misty space.  Other figures were moving
about him, and he could see, as his eyes grew stronger, that a vast
multitude of naked persons were sliding forward like pale lava from
a volcano down a steep precipitous slope.

As they moved there came from them a shuddering cry like the tremor
of the ground beneath his feet.

"Not there!  Not there!" Harkness cried, and Saturnus answered,
"Not yet!  You have not been judged."

Almost instantly judgement followed--judgement in a narrow dark
passage that rocked backward and forward like the motion of a boat
at sea.  The passage was dark, but on either side of its shaking
walls were cries and shouts and groans and piteous wails, and
clouds of smoke poured through, as into a tunnel, blinding the eyes
and filling the nostrils with a horrible stench.

No figure could be seen, but a voice, strong and menacing, could be
heard, and Harkness knew that it was himself the voice was
addressing.  His naked body, slippery with sweat, the acrid smoke
blinding him, the voices deafening him, the rocking of the door
bewildering him, he felt desperately that he must clear his mind to
answer the charges brought against him.

The voice was clear and calm:  "On February 2, 1905, your friend
Richard Hentley was accused in the company of many people, during
his absence, of having ill-treated his wife while in Florence.  You
knew that this was totally untrue and could have given evidence to
that effect, but from cowardice you let the moment pass and your
friend's position was seriously damaged.  What have you to say in
your defence?"

The thick smoke rolled on.  The walls tottered.  The cries gathered
in anguish.

"On March 13, 1911, you wired to your sisters in America that you
were ill in bed when you were in perfect health, because you wished
to stay for a week longer in London in order to attend some races.
What have you to say in your defence?

"On October 3, 1906, you grievously added to the unhappiness of
Mrs. Harrington-Adams by asserting in mixed company that no one in
New York would receive her and that all Americans were astonished
that she should be received at all in London."

Here at any rate was an opportunity.  Through the smoke he cried:

"There at least I am innocent.  I have never known Mrs. Harrington-
Adams.  I have never even seen her."

"No," the voice replied.  "But you spoke to Mrs. Phillops, who
spoke to Miss Cator, who then cut Mrs. Adams.  Other people
followed Miss Cator's example, and you were quoted as an authority.
Mrs. Adams's London life was ruined.  She had never done you any
harm.

"On December 14, 1912, you told your sisters that you hated the
sight of them and their stuffy ways, that their attempts at culture
were ridiculous, and that, like all American women, they were
absurdly spoilt."

Through the smoke Harkness shouted:  "I am sure I never said--"

The voice replied:  "I am quoting your exact words."

"In a moment of pique I lost my temper.  Of course I didn't mean--"

"On June 3, 1913, you went secretly into the library of a friend
and stole his book of Rembrandt drawings.  You knew in your heart
that you had no intention of returning it to him, and when, some
months later, he spoke of it, wishing to lend it to you, and
wondered why he could not find it, you said nothing to him about
your own possession of it."

Harkness blushed through the rolling smoke.  "Yes, that was
shameful," he cried.  "But I knew that he didn't care about the
book and I--"

"What have you to say against these charges?"

"They are all little things," Harkness cried, "small things.
Everyone does them. . . ."

"Judgement!  Judgement!  Judgement!" cried the voice, and suddenly
he felt himself moving in the vast waters of human nudity that were
slipping down the incline.  He tried to stay himself; he flung out
his hands and touched nothing but cold slimy flesh.

Faster and faster and faster.  Colder and colder and colder.
Darker and darker and darker.  Despair seized him.  He called on
his friends.  Others were calling on every side of him.  Thousands
and thousands of names mingled in the air.  The smoke came up to
meet them--vast billowing clouds of it.  He knew with a horrible
consciousness that below him a sea of upturned swords were waiting
to receive them.  Soon they would be impaled. . . .  With a shriek
of agony he awoke.

He had not been asleep for more, perhaps, than ten minutes, but the
dream had unnerved him.  When he rose from the ground he tottered
and stood trembling.  He knew now why it was that his enemy had
designed that he should sleep; he knew NOW that he could no longer
ward off the animal that on padded feet had been approaching him--
the pain!  The pain!  The pain!

The sweat beaded his forehead, his knees gave way, and he sank yet
again upon the floor.  He was murmuring:  "Anything but that.
Anything but that.  I can't stand pain.  I can't STAND pain, I tell
you.  Don't you know that I have always funked it all my life long?
That I've always prayed that whatever else I got it wouldn't be
THAT.  That I've never been able to bear to see the tiniest thing
hurt, and that in all my thought about going to the war, although I
didn't try to escape it, it was even more the pain that I would see
than the pain that I would feel.

"And now to wait for it like this, to know that it may be torture
of the worst kind, that I am in the power of a man who can reason
no longer, who is himself in the power of something stronger and
more evil than any of us."

Then dimly it came through to him that he had been given three
tests to-night, and, as it always is in life, the three tests
especially suited to his character, his strength and weakness, his
past history.  The dance had stripped him of his aloofness and
drawn him into life, his love for Hesther that he had surrendered
had taken from him his selfishness--and now he must lose his fear
of pain.

But that?  How could he lose it?  It was part of the very fibre of
his body, his nerves throbbed with it, his heart beat with it.  He
could not remember a time when it had not been part of him.  When
he had been five or six his father had decided that he must be
beaten for some little crime.  His father was the gentlest of human
beings, and the beating would be very little, but at the sight of
the whip something had cracked inside his brain.

He was not a coward; he had stood up to the beating without a tear,
but the sense of the coming pain had been more awful than anything
that he could have imagined.  It was the same afterwards at school.
He was no coward there either, shared in the roughest games, stood
up to bullies, ventured into the most dangerous places.

But one night earache had attacked him.  It was a new pain for him
and he thought that he had never known anything so terrible.  Worse
than all else were the intermissions between the attacks and the
warnings that a new attack was soon to begin.  That approach was
what he feared, that terrible and fearful approach.  He had said
very little, had only lain there white and trembling, but the
memory of all those awful hours stayed with him always.

Any thought of suffering in others--of poor women in childbirth, of
rabbits caught in traps, of dogs poisoned, of children run over or
accidentally wounded--these things, if he knew of them, produced an
odd sort of sympathetic pain in himself.  The strangest thing had
been that the war, with all its horrors, had not driven him crazy
as he might have expected from his earlier history.  On so terrible
a scale, was it that his senses soon became numbed?  He did the
work that he was given to do, and heard of the rest like cries
beyond the wall.  Again and again he had tried to mingle, himself,
in it; he had always been prevented.

A dog run over by a motor car struck him more terribly than all the
agonies of Ypres.

But these things, what had they to do with his present case?  He
could not think at all.  His brain literally reeled, as though it
shook, tried to steady itself, could not, and then turned right
over.  His body was alive, standing up with all its nerves on
tiptoe.  How was he to endure these hours that were coming to him?

"I must get out of this!" someone, not himself, cried.  It seemed
to him that he could hear the strange voice in the room.  "I must
get out of this.  How dare they keep me if I demand to be let out?
I am an American citizen.  Let me out of this.  Can't you hear?
Bring me a light and let me out.  I have had enough of this dark
room.  What do you mean by keeping me here?  You think that you are
stronger than I.  Try it and see.  Let me out, I say!  Let me out!"

He tottered to his feet and ran across the room, although he could
not see his way, blundering against the opposite wall.  He beat
upon it with his hands.

"Let me out, do you hear!  Let me out!"

He was not himself, Harkness.  He could no longer repeat those
earlier words.  He was nobody, nothing, nothing at all.  They could
not hurt him then.  Try as they might they could not hurt him,
Harkness, when he was not Harkness.  He laughed, stroking the wall
gently with his hand as though it were his friend.

"It's all right, do you see?  You can't hurt me because you can't
find me.  I'm hiding.  _I_ don't know where to find myself, so that
it isn't likely you will find me.  You can't hurt nothing, you
know.  You can't indeed."

He laughed and laughed and laughed--gently enjoying his own joke.
There was a sudden knocking on the door.

"Come in!" he said in a whisper.  "Come in!"

His heart stood still with fear.

The door opened, splashing into the darkness a shower of light like
water flung from a bucket.  In the centre of this the two Japanese
were standing.

"Master says please come.  If you ready he ready."

At sight of the Japanese a marvellous thing had happened.  All his
fear had on the instant left him, his beastly physical fear.  It
fell from him like an old suit of clothes, discarded.  He was
himself, clear-headed, cool, collected, and, in some strange new
way, happy.

Harkness followed them.


                              3


Harkness followed, conscious only of one thing, his sudden
marvellous and happy deliverance from fear.  He could not analyse
it--he did not wish to.  He did not consider the probable length of
its duration.  Enough that for the present Crispin might cut him
into small pieces, skin him alive, boil him in a large pot like a
lobster, and he would not care.  He followed the sleek servants
like a schoolboy.

The Tower?  Then at last he was to see the interior of this
mysterious place.  It had exercised, all through this adventure, a
strange influence over him, standing up in his imagination white
and pure and apart, washed by the sea, guarded by the woods behind
it, having a spirit altogether of its own and quite separate from
the man who for the moment occupied it.  This would be perhaps the
last building on this world that would see his bones move and have
their being; he had a sense that it knew and sympathised with him
and wished him luck.

Meanwhile he walked quietly.  His chance would still come and with
Dunbar beside him.  Or was he never to see Dunbar again?  Some of
his new-found courage trembled.  The worst of this present moment
was his loneliness.  Was the final crisis to be fought out by
himself with no friends at hand?  Was he never to see Hesther
again?  He had an impulse to throw himself forward, attack the
servants, and let come what will.  The silence of the house was
terrible--only their footsteps soft on the thick carpet--and if he
could wring a cry or two from his enemies that would be something.
No, he must wait.  The happiness of others was involved with his
own.

The men stopped before a dark-wooded door.

They went through and were met by a white circular staircase.  Up
this they passed, paused before another door, and crossed the
threshold into a high circular brilliantly lit room.  For the
moment Harkness, his eyes dimmed a little by the shadows of the
staircase, could see nothing but the gayness and brightness of the
place, papered with a wonderful Chinese pattern of green and purple
birds, cherry-coloured pagodas, and crimson temples.  The carpet
was a soft heavy purple, and there were a number of little gilt
chairs, and, in front of the narrow barred window, a gilt cage with
a green and crimson macaw.

All this, standing by the door shading his eyes from the dazzling
crystal candelabra, he took in; then suddenly saw something that
swept away the rest--Hesther and Dunbar standing together, hand in
hand, by the window.  He gave a cry of joy, hurrying towards them.
It was as though he had not seen them for years; they caught his
hand in theirs.  Crispin was there watching them like a benevolent
father with his beloved children.

"That's right," he said.  "Make the most of your time together.  I
want you to have a last talk."

He sat down on one of the gilt chairs.

"Won't you sit down?  In a moment I shall leave you alone together
for a little while--in case you have any last words. . . ."  Then
he leaned forward in that fashion so familiar now to Harkness,
huddled together, his red hair and little eyes and pale white soft
hands alone alive.  "Well, and so--in my power, are you not?  The
three of you.  You can laugh at my ugliness and my stupidity and my
bad character, but now you are in my hands completely.  I can do
whatever I like with you.  Whatever . . . the last shame, the last
indignity, the uttermost pain.  I, ludicrous creature that I am,
have absolute power over three fine young things like you, so
strong, so beautiful.  And then more power and then more and then
more.  And over many finer, grander, more beautiful than you.  I
can say crawl and you will crawl, dance and you will dance . . . I
who am so ugly that everyone has always laughed at me.  I am a
little God, and perhaps not so little, and soon God Himself . . ."

He broke off, making the movement of music in the air with his
hands.

"You a little overestimate the situation," said Harkness quietly.
"For the moment you can do what you like with our bodies because
you happen to have two servants who, with their Jiu-Jitsu and the
rest of their tricks, are stronger than we are.  It is not you who
are stronger, but your servants whom your money is able to buy.  I
guess if I had you tied to a pillar and myself with a gun in my
hand I could make you look pretty small.  And in any case it is
only our bodies that you can do anything with.  Ourselves--our real
selves--you can't touch."

"Is that so?" said Crispin.  "But I have not begun.  The fun is all
to come.  We will see whether I can touch you or no.  And for my
daughter-in-law"--he looked at Hesther--"there is plenty of time--
many years perhaps."

Nothing in all his life would ever appeal more to Harkness than
Hesther then.  From the first moment of his sight of her what had
attracted him had been the exquisite mingling of the child and of
the woman.  She had been for him at first some sort of deserted
waif who had experienced all the cruelty and harshness of life so
desperately early that she had known life upside down, and this had
given her a woman's endurance and fortitude.  She was like a child
who has dressed up in her mother's clothes for a party and then
finds that she must take her mother's place.

And now when she must, after this terrible night, be physically
beyond all her resources she seemed, in her shabby ill-made dress,
her hair disordered, her face pale, her eyes ringed with grey, to
have a new courage that must be similar to that which he had
himself been given.  She kept her hand in Dunbar's, and with a
strange, dim, unexpected pain Harkness realised that that new
relation between the two of which he had made the foundation had
grown through danger and anxiety the one for another already to a
fine height.  Then he was conscious that Hesther was speaking.  She
had come forward quite close to Crispin and stood in front of him
looking him calmly and clearly in the eyes.

"Please let me say something.  After all I am the principal person
in this.  If it hadn't been for me there would not have been any of
this trouble.  I married your son.  I married him, not because I
loved him, but because I wanted things that I thought that you
could give me.  I see now how wrong that was and that I must pay
for doing such a thing.  I am ready to do right by your son.  I
never would have tried to run away if it had not been for you--the
other night.  After that I was right to do everything I could to
get away.  I begged your son first--and he refused.  You have had
me watched during the last three weeks--every step that I have
taken.  What could I do but try to escape?

"We've failed, and because we've failed and because it has been all
my fault I want you to punish me in any way you like but to let my
two friends go.  I was not wrong to try to escape."  She threw up
her head proudly, "I was right after the way you had behaved to me,
but now it is different.  I have brought them into this.  They have
done nothing wrong.  You must let them go."

"You must let all of us go," Dunbar broke in hotly, starting
forward to Hesther's side.  "Do you think we're afraid of you, you
old play-acting red-haired monkey?  You just let us free or it will
be the worse for you.  Do you know where you'll be this time to-
morrow?  Beating your fancy-coloured hair against a padded cell,
and that's where you should have been years ago."

"No, no," Hesther broke in.  "No, no, David.  That's not the way.
You don't understand.  Don't listen to him.  I'm the only one in
this; I tell you--can't you hear me?--that I will stay.  I won't
try to run away, you can do anything to me you like.  I'll obey you--
I will indeed.  Please, please--Don't listen to him.  He doesn't
understand.  But I do.  Let them go.  They've done no harm.  They
only wanted to help me.  They didn't mean anything against you.
They didn't truly.  Oh! let them go!  Let them go!"

In spite of her struggle for self-control her terror was rising,
her terror never for herself but now only for them.  She knew, more
than they, of what he was.  She saw perhaps in his face more than
they would ever see.

But Harkness saw enough.  He saw rising into Crispin's eyes the
soul of that strange hairy fetid-smelling animal between whose paws
Crispin's own soul was now lying.  That animal looked out of
Crispin's eyes.  And behind that gaze was Crispin's own terror.

Crispin said:

"This is very comforting for me.  I have waited for this moment."

Then Harkness came over to him and stood very close to him.

"Crispin, listen to me.  It isn't the three of us who matter in
this, it is yourself.  Whatever you do to us we are safe.  Whatever
you think or hope you can't touch the real part of us, but for
yourself to-night this is a matter of life or death.

"I may know nothing about medicine and yet know enough to tell you
that you're a sick man--badly sick--and if you let this animal that
has his grip on you get the better of you in the next two hours
you're finished, you're dead.  You know that as well as I.  You
know that you're possessed of an evil spirit as surely as the man
with the spirits that cleared the Gadarene swine into the sea.  It
isn't for our sakes that I ask you to let us go to-night.  Let us
go.  You'll never hear from any of us again.  In the morning, in
the decent daylight, you'll know that you've won a victory more
important than any you've ever won in your life.

"You talk about mastering us, man.  Master your own evil spirit.
You know that you loathe it, that you've loathed it for years, that
you are miserable and wretched under it.  It is life or death for
you to-night, I tell you.  You know that as well as I."

For one moment, a brief dashing moment, Harkness met for the first
and for the last time the real Crispin.  No one else saw that
meeting.  Straight into the eyes, gazing out of them exactly as a
prisoner gazes from behind iron bars, jumped the real Crispin,
something sad, starved, and dying.  One instant of recognition and
he was gone.

"That is very kind of you, Mr. Harkness," Crispin said.  "I knew
that I should enjoy this quarter of an hour's chat with you all,
and truly I AM enjoying it.  My friend Dunbar shows himself to be
quite frankly the young ruffian he is.  It will be interesting to
see whether in--say an hour's time from now--he is still in the
same mind.  I doubt it; quite frankly I doubt it very much.  It is
these robust creatures that break the easiest.  But you other two--
really how charming.  All altruism and unselfishness.  This lady
has no thought for anything but her friends, and Mr. Harkness, like
all Americans, is full of fine idealism.  And you are all standing
round me as though you were my children listening to a fairy story.
Such a pretty picture!

"And when you come to think of it here, I am quite alone, all
defenceless, one to three.  Why don't you attack me?  Such an
admirable opportunity!  Can it be fear?  Fear of an old fat ugly
man like me, a man at whom everyone laughs!"

Dunbar made a movement.  Harkness cried:  "Don't move, Dunbar.
Don't touch him.  That's what he wants."

Crispin got up.  They were now all standing in a little group close
together.  Crispin gathered his dressing-gown around him.

"The time is nearly up," he said.  "I am going to leave you alone
together for a little last talk.  You'll never see one another
again after this, so you had best make the most of it.  You see
that I am not really unkind."

"It is hopeless."  Harkness turned round to the window.  "God help
us all."

"Yes, it is hopeless," Crispin said gently.  "At last my time has
come.  Do you know how long I have waited for it?  Do you know what
you represent to me?  You have done me wrong, the two of you,
broken my hospitality, betrayed my bread and salt, invaded my home.
I have justice if I punish you for that.  But you stand also for
all the others, for all who have insulted me and laughed at me and
mocked at me.  I have power at last.  I shall prick you and you
shall bleed.  I shall spit on you and you shall bow your heads, and
then when you are at my feet stung with a thousand wounds I will
raise you and care for you and love you, and you shall share my
power--"

He jumped suddenly from his gilt chair and strutted, waving his
hands as though he were commanding an army, towards the macaw, who
was asleep with his head under his crimson wing.  "I shall be king
in my own right, king of men, emperor of mankind, then one with the
gods, and at the last I will shower my gifts. . . ."

He broke off, looking up at a red-lacquer clock that stood on a
little round gilt table.  "Time--time--time nearly up!"  He swung
round upon the three of them.

Dunbar burst out:

"Don't flatter yourself that you'll get away to-morrow.  When we're
missed--"

"You won't be missed," Crispin answered with a sigh, as though he
deeply regretted the fact.  "The hotel will receive a note in the
morning saying that Mr. Harkness has gone for a coast walk, will
return in a week, and will the hotel kindly keep his things until
his return?  Of course the hotel most kindly will.  For Mr. Dunbar--
well, I believe there is only an aunt in Gloucester, is there not?
It will be, I imagine, a month at least before she makes any
inquiry.  Possibly a year.  Possibly never.  Who knows?  Aunts are
often extraordinarily careless about their nephews' safety.  And in
a week.  Where can one not be in a week in these modern days?  Very
far indeed.  Then there is the sea.  Anything dropped from the
garden over the cliff so completely vanishes, and their faces are
so often--well, spoilt beyond recognition. . . ."

"If you do this," Hesther cried, "I will--"

"I regret to say," interrupted Crispin, "that after eight this
morning you will not see your father-in-law of whom you are so fond
for six months at least.  Ah, that is good news for you, I am sure.
That is not to say you will never see him again.  Dear me, no.  But
not immediately.  Not immediately!"

Harkness caught Hesther's hand.  He saw that she was about to make
some desperate movement.  "Wait," he said; "wait.  We can do
nothing now."

For answer she drew him to her and flung out her hand to Dunbar.
"We three.  We love one another," she cried.  "Do your worst."

Crispin looked once more at the clock.  "Melodrama," he said.  "I,
too, will be melodramatic.  I give you twenty minutes by that clock--
a situation familiar to every theatre-goer.  When that clock
strikes six I shall, I'm afraid, want the company of both of you
gentlemen.  Make your adieus then to the lady.  Your eternal
adieus."

He smiled and gently tip-toed from the room.


                              4


"And so the curtain falls on Act Three of this pleasant little
drama," said Dunbar huskily, turning towards the window.  "There
will be a twenty minutes' interval.  But the last act will be
played in camera.  If only one wasn't so beastly tired--and if only
it wasn't all my fault. . . ."  His voice broke.

Harkness went up to him, put his arm around him and drew him to
him.  "Look here.  I'm older than both of you.  I might almost be
your father, so you've got to obey my orders.  I'll be best man at
your wedding yet, David, yours and Hesther's.  There's nobody to
blame.  Nothing but the fog.  But don't let's cheat ourselves
either.  We're shut up here at half-past five in the morning miles
from any help, no way out, no telephone, and two damn Japs who are
stronger than we are, in the power of a man who's as mad as a
hatter and as bloodthirsty as a tiger.

"It's going to be all right, I tell you.  I know it.  I feel it in
my bones.  But we've got to behave for these twenty minutes--only
seventeen of them now--as though it won't be.  It's of no use for
us to make any plan.  We'll have to do something on the spur of the
moment when we see what the old devil has up his sleeve for us--

"Meanwhile, as I say, make the best of these minutes."

He put out his arm and drew Hesther in.

"I tell you that I love you both.  I've only known you a day, but I
love you as I've never loved anyone in my life before.  I love you
as father and brother and comrade.  It's the best thing that has
happened to me in all my life."

The three, body to body, stood looking out through the gilded bars
at the sky, silver grey, and washed with shifting shadows.

"After all," he went on, "if our luck doesn't hold, and we are
going to die in the next hour or so, what is it?  It's only what
millions of fellows passed through in the war and under much more
terrible conditions.  Imagination is the worst part of that I
fancy, and I suggest that we don't think of what is going to happen
when this time is over--whether it goes well or ill--we'll fill
these twenty minutes with every decent thought we've got, we'll
think of every fine thing that we know of, and every beautiful
thing, and everything that is of good report."

"All I pray," said Dunbar, "is that I may have one last dash at
that lunatic before good-bye.  He can have a hundred Japs around
him but I'll get at him somehow.  Harkness, you're a brick.  I
brought you into this.  I had no right to, but I'm not going to
apologise.  We're here.  The thing's done, and if it hadn't been
for that rotten fog--But you're right, Harkness.  We'll think of
all the ripping things we know.  With me it's simple enough.
Because the beginning and the middle and the end of it is Hesther.
Hesther first and Hesther second and Hesther all the time."

He didn't look at her, but stared out of the window.

"By Jove, the sun's coming.  It's been up round the corner ever so
long.  It will just about hit the window in another ten minutes.
It seems kind of stupid to stand here doing nothing."

He stepped forward and felt the bars.  "Take hours to get through
that, and then there's a drop of hundreds of feet.  No, you're
about right, Harkness.  There's nothing to be done here but to say
good-bye as decently as possible."

He sighed.  "I didn't want to kick the bucket just yet, but there
it is, it can happen to anybody.  A fellow can be as strong as a
horse, forget to change his socks and next day be finished.  This
is better than pneumonia anyway!  All the same I can't help feeling
we missed our chance just now when we had him alone in here--"

"No," said Harkness, "I was watching him.  That's what he wanted,
for us to go for him.  I am sure that he had the Japs handy
somewhere, and I think he wanted to hurt us in front of Hesther.
But his brain works queerly.  He's formulated a kind of book of
rules for himself.  If we take such and such a step, then he will
take such and such another.  A sort of insane sense of justice.
He's worked it all out to the minute.  Half the fun for him has
been the planning of it, and then the deliberate slowness of it,
watching us, calculating what we'll do.  Really a cat with mice.
There's nothing for deliberate consecutive thinking like a madman's
brain."

Hesther broke in:

"We're wasting time.  I know--I feel as you do--that it's going to
be all right, but however he fails with you he CAN carry me off
somewhere, and so it IS very likely that I don't see either of you
again for some time.  And if that's so--IF that's so, I just want
to say that you've been the finest men in the world to me.

"And I want you to know that whatever turns up for me now--yes,
whatever it is--it CAN'T be as bad as it was before yesterday.  I
can't ever again be as unhappy as I was now that I've known both of
you as I've known you this night.

"I didn't realise, David, how I felt about you until Mr. Harkness
showed me.  I've been so selfish all these years, and I suppose I
shall go on being selfish, because one doesn't change all in a
minute, but at least I've got the two best friends a woman ever
had."

"Hesther," Dunbar said, turning towards her, "if we get free of
this and you can get rid of that man--I ask you as I've asked you
every week for the last ten years--will you marry me?"

"Yes," she said.  But for the moment she turned to Harkness.  He
was looking through the bars out to the sky, where the mist was now
very faintly rose like the coloured smoke of far-distant fire.  She
put her hand on his shoulder, keeping her other hand in Dunbar's.

"I don't know why you said you were so much older than we are.
You're not.  Do you promise to be the friend of both of us always?"

"Yes," he said.  Something mockingly repeated in his brain, "It is
a far far better thing that I do--"

He burst out laughing.  The macaw awoke, put up his head and
screamed.

"You are both younger by centuries than I," he said.  "I was born
old.  I was born with the Old Man of Europe singing in my ears.  I
was born to the inheritance of borrowed culture.  The gifts that
the fairies gave me at my cradle were Michael Angelo's 'David,'
Rembrandt's 'Gold-weigher's Field,' the Temples at Paestum, the Da
Vinci 'Last Supper,' the Breughels at Vienna, the view of the
Jungfrau from Mürren, the Grand Canal at dawn, Hogarth's prints,
and the Quintet of the Meistersinger.  Yes, the gifts were piled up
all right.  But just as they were all showered upon me in stepped
the Wicked Fairy and said that I should have them all--on condition
that I didn't touch!  Never touch--never.  At least I've known that
they were there, at least I've bent the knee, but--until last night--
until last night . . ."

He suddenly took Hesther's face between his two hands, kissed her
on the forehead, on the eyes, on the mouth:

"I don't know what's coming in a quarter of an hour.  I don't like
to think.  To tell you the truth, I'm in the devil of a funk.  But
I love you, I love you, I love you.  Like an uncle you know, or at
least like a brother.  You've taken a match and set fire to this
old tinder-box that's been dry and dusty so long, and now it's
alight--such a pretty blaze!"

He broke away from them both with a smile that suddenly made him
look young as they'd never seen him:

"I've danced the town, I've climbed rocks, I've dared the devil,
I've fallen in love, and I know at last that there's such a hunger
for beauty in my soul that it must go on and on and on.  Why should
it be there?  My parents hadn't it, my sisters haven't it, no one
tried to give it to me.  I've done nothing with it until last
night, but now when I've needed it it's come to my help.  I've
touched life at last.  I'm alive.  I never can die any more!"

The macaw screamed again and again, beating at the cage with its
wings.

"Hesther, never lose courage.  Remember that he can't touch you,
that no one can touch you.  You're your own immortal mistress."

The red-lacquered clock struck the quarter, and at the same moment
the sun hit the window.  Strange to see how instantly that room
with the coloured pagodas, the fantastic temples, the gilt chairs,
and the purple carpet shivered into tinsel.  The dust floated on
the ladder of the sun: the blue of the early morning sky was
coloured faintly like a bird's wing.

The sun flooded the room, wrapping them all in its mantle.

"Let's sit down," said Dunbar, pulling three of the gilt chairs
into the centre of the room, where the sun shone brightest.  "I've
a kind of idea that we'll need all the strength we've got in a few
minutes.  That's fine what you said, Harkness, about being alive,
although I didn't follow you altogether.

"I'm not very artistic.  A man who's been on the sea since he was a
small kid doesn't go to many picture galleries and he doesn't read
books much either.  To tell you the truth, there's always such a
lot to do, and when I've finished the Daily Mail there doesn't seem
time for much more, except a shocker sometimes.  The sort of mess
we're in now wouldn't make a bad shocker, would it?  Only you'd
never be able to make Crispin convincing.  All I know is, if I
wrote a book about him I'd have him tortured at the end with little
red devils and plenty of pincers.  However, I get what you mean,
Harkness, about being alive.

"I felt something of the same thing in the war sometimes.  At
Jutland, although I was in the devil of a funk all the time, I was
sort of pleased with myself too.  Life's always seemed a bit unreal
since the armistice, until last night.  And it's a funny thing, but
when I was helping Hesther climb out of that window and expecting
Crispin Junior to poke his head up any minute I had just that same
pleased-all-over feeling that I had at Jutland.  So that's about
the same as you feel, Harkness, only different, of course, because
of your education. . . .  Hesther, if we win out of this and you
marry me I'll be so good to you--so good to you--that--"

He beat his hands desperately on his knees.

"Here's the time slipping and we don't seem to be doing anything
with it.  It's always been my trouble that I've never been able to
say what I mean--couldn't find words, you know.  I can't now, but
it's simple enough what I mean--"

Hesther said:  "If we only have ten minutes like this it's so hard
to choose what you would say, but I'd like you to know, David, that
I remember everything we've ever done together--the time I missed
the train at Truro and was so frightened about father, and you said
you'd come in with me, and father hadn't even noticed I'd been
away; and the time you brought me the pink fan from Madrid; and the
time I had that fever and you sat up all night outside my room,
those two days father was away; and the day Billy fell over the
Bring Rock and you climbed down after him; and the time you brought
me that Sealyham and father wouldn't let me have him; and the time
just before you went off to South Africa and I wouldn't say good-
bye.  I've hurt you so many times and you've never been angry with
me once--or only that once.  Do you remember the day I struck you
in the face because you said I was more like a boy than a girl?  I
thought you were laughing at me because I was so untidy and dirty
and so I hit you.  And do you remember you sprang on me like a
tiger, and for a moment I thought you were going to kill me?  You
said no one had ever struck you without getting it back.  Then
suddenly you pulled yourself in--just like going inside and
shutting your door.

"I've never seen you until to-night, David.  I've been blind to
you.  You've been too close to me for me to see you.  It will be
all right.  We'll come out of this and then we'll have such times--
such wonderful times--"

She came up to him, drew his head to her breast.  He knelt on the
floor at her feet, his arms round her, his head on her bosom.  She
stroked his hair, looking out beyond him to the blue of the sky.

Harkness felt a mad wildness of impatience.  He went to the window
and tugged at the bars.  In despair his hands fell to his side.

"The only chance, Dunbar, is to go straight for him the moment
we're out of this room, even if those damned Japs are with him.  We
can't do much, but we may smash him up a bit first.  Then there's
Jabez.  We've forgotten Jabez.  Where's he been all this time?"

Dunbar looked up.  "I expect he went home after we went off."

"No," said Harkness, "he was to be there till six.  He told me.
What's happened to him?  At any rate he'll give the alarm if we
don't turn up."

"No, he'll think we got safely off."

"Yes, I suppose he will.  My God, it's five to six.  Look here,
stand up a moment."

They stood up.

"Let's take hands.  Let's swear this.  Whatever happens to us now,
whether some of us survive or none, whether we die now or live
happily ever afterwards, we'll be friends for ever, nothing shall
ever separate us, for better or worse we're together for always."

They swore it.

"And see here.  If I don't come out of this don't have any regrets
either of you.  Don't think you brought me into this against my
will.  Don't think that whichever way it goes I regret a moment of
it.  You've given me the finest time."

Dunbar laughed.  "I sort of feel we're going to have a chance yet.
After all, he's been probably playing with us, trying to frighten
us.  There'll be nothing in it, you see.  Anyway I'll get a crack
at his skull, and now that I've got you, Hesther, I wouldn't give
up this night for all the wealth of the Indies.  I don't know about
life or death.  I've never thought much about it, to tell you the
honest truth, but I bet that anyone who's as fond of anyone as I am
of you can't be very far away, whatever happens to their body."

"There goes six."

The red-lacquer clock struck.  Hesther flung her arms around
Harkness and kissed him, then Dunbar.

They all stood listening.  Just as the clock ceased there was a
knock at the door.


                              5


Harkness went to the door and opened it; not Crispin, as he had
expected, but one of the Japanese.  For the first time he spoke:

"Beg your pardon, sir.  The master would be glad you see him
upstairs."  Harkness did not look back.  He knew that Dunbar and
Hesther were clasped tightly in one another's arms.  He walked out,
closing the door behind him.  He stood with the Japanese in the
small space waiting.  It was a dim, subdued light out here.  You
could only see the thick stone steps of the circular staircase
winding upwards out of sight.  Harkness's brain was working now
with feverish activity.  Whatever Crispin's devilish plan might be
he would be there to watch the climax of it.  If Harkness and
Dunbar were quick enough they could surely have Crispin throttled
before the Japanese were in time; without Crispin it was likely
enough that the Japanese would be passive.  This was no affair of
theirs.  They simply obeyed their master's orders.

He wondered why he had not attempted something in that room just
now--why, indeed, he had prevented Dunbar; but some instinct had
told him then that Crispin was longing to shame them in some way
before Hesther.  He had then an almost overpowering impulse to turn
back, run into that room, fling his arms about Hesther and hold her
until those devils pulled them apart.  It was an impulse that rose
blinding his eyes, deafening his ears, stunning his brain.  He half
turned.  The door opened and Dunbar came out.  Harkness sighed with
relief.  At the sight of Dunbar the temptation left him.

They mounted the stairs, one Japanese in front of them, the other
behind.  At the next break in the flight the Japanese turned and
opened a door on the left.

"In here, gentlemen, if you please," he said, bowing.

They entered a small room with no windows, quite dark save for one
dim electric light in the ceiling, and without furniture save for
two wicker chairs.

They stood there waiting.  "The master," said the Japanese, "he
much obliged if you gentlemen will kindly take your clothes off."

For a moment there was silence.  They had not realised the words.
Then Dunbar broke out:  "No, by God, no!  Strip for that swine!
Harkness, come on!  You go for that fellow, I'll take this one!"
and instantly he had hurled himself on the Japanese nearest the
door.

Harkness flung at the one who had spoken.  He was conscious of his
fingers clutching at the thin cotton stuff of the clothes, and,
beneath the clothes, the cold hard steel of the limbs.  His arms
gripped upwards, caught the cloth of the shirt, tore it, slipped on
the smooth, hairless chest.  Then in his left forearm there was a
pain, sharp as though some ravenous animal had bitten him there,
then an agony in the middle of his back, then in his left thigh.

Against his will he cried out; the pain was terrible--awful.  Every
nerve in his body was rebelling so that he had neither strength nor
force.  He slipped to the floor, writhing involuntarily with the
agony of the twisted muscle and, even as he slipped, he saw sliding
down over him, impervious, motionless, fixed like a shining mask,
the face of the Japanese.

He lay on the floor; panic flooded him.  His helplessness, the
terror of what was coming next, the fright of the dark--it was all
he could do at that moment not to burst into tears and cry like a
child.

He was lying on the floor, and the Japanese, kneeling beside him,
had one arm under him as though to make his position more
comfortable.

"Very sorry," the Japanese murmured in his ear; "the master's
orders."

As the pain withdrew he felt only an intense relief and
thankfulness.  He did not care about what had gone before nor mind
what followed.  All he wished was to be left like that until the
wild beating of his heart softened and his pulse was again
tranquil.

Then he thought of Dunbar.  He turned his head and saw that Dunbar
also was lying on the floor, on his side.  Not a sound came from
him.  The other Japanese was bending over him.

"Dunbar!" Harkness cried in a voice that to his own surprise was
only a whisper, "wait.  It's no good with these fellows.  We'll
have our chance later."

Dunbar replied, the words gritted from between his teeth:  "No--
it's no good--with these devils.  It's all right, though.  I'm
cheery."

Harkness saw then that the Japanese had been stripping Dunbar, and
he noticed with a curious little wonder that his clothes had been
arranged in a neat, tidy pile--his socks, his collar, his braces,
on his shirt and trousers.  He saw the Japanese move forward as
though to help Dunbar to his feet; there was a movement as though
Dunbar were pushing him away.  He rose to his feet, naked, strong,
his head up, swung out his arms, pushed out his chest.

"No bones broken with their monkey tricks.  Hurry up, Harkness.  We
may as well go into the sea together.  I bet the water's cold."

But no.  The Japanese said something.  Dunbar broke out:

"I'm damned if I will."  Then, turning to Harkness:  "He says I've
got to go on by myself.  It seems they're going to separate us.
Rotten luck, but there's no fighting these two fellows here.  Well,
cheerio, Harkness.  You've been a mighty fine pal, if we don't meet
again.  Only that rotten fog did us in."

Harkness struggled to his knees.  "No, no, Dunbar.  They shan't
separate us.  They shan't--" but there was a touch of a hand on his
arm and instantly, as though to save at all costs another pressure
of that nerve, he sank back.

Dunbar went out, one of the Japanese following him.  The door
closed.

Now indeed Harkness needed all his fortitude.  He had never felt
such loneliness as this.  From the beginning of the adventure there
had been an element so fantastic, so improbable, that except at
certain moments he had never believed in the final reality of it.
There was something laughable, ludicrous about Crispin himself; he
had been like a child playing with his toys.  Now absolutely
Harkness was face to face with reality.

Crispin did mean all that he had threatened.  And what that might
be--!

The Japanese was beginning to take off his clothes, very lightly
and gently pulling his coat from under him.  Harkness sat up and
assisted him.  This did not matter.  Of what significance was it
whether he had clothes or no?  What mattered was that he should be
out of this horrible room where there was neither space nor light
nor company.  Anything anywhere was better.  The Japanese' cool
hard fingers slipped about his body.  He himself undid his collar
and mechanically dropped his collar-stud into the right-hand pocket
of his waistcoat, where he always put it when he was undressing.
He bent forward and took off his shoes.

The Japanese gravely thanked him.  There was a small hole in his
right sock and he slipped it off quickly, covering it with his
other hand.  He was ashamed for the Japanese to see it.

His clothes were piled as neatly as Dunbar's.  He stood up feeling
freshened and cool.

Then the Japanese, bowing, moved to the door.  Harkness followed
him.

They climbed the stairs once more, the stone striking cold under
Harkness's bare feet.  They must now be reaching the very top of
the Tower.  There was a sense of space and height about them and a
stronger light.

The Japanese paused, pushed back a door and sharply jerked Harkness
forward.  Harkness nearly fell, but was caught by someone else,
closed his eyes involuntarily against a flood of light into which
he seemed, with a curious sensation as though he had dived from a
great height, to be sinking ever deeper and deeper, then to be
struggling up through bursting bubbles of colour.  His eyes were
still closed against the sun that pressed like a warm palm upon the
lids.

He felt hands moving about him; then that he was held back against
something cold; then that he was being bound, gently, smoothly; the
bands did not hurt his flesh.  There was a pause.  He still kept
his eyes closed.  Was this death then?  The sun beat upon his body,
warm and strong.  The cool of the pillar to which he was bound was
pleasant against his back.  There were boards beneath his feet, and
on their dry, friendly surface his toes curled.  A delicious soft
lethargy wrapped him round.  Was this death?  One sharp pang like
the pressure of an aching tooth and then nothing, sinking into dark
silence through this shaft of deep and burning sunlight. . . .

He opened his eyes.  He cried aloud with astonishment.  He was in
what was plainly the top room of the Tower, a high white place with
a round ceiling softly primrose.  One high window went the length
from floor to ceiling, and this window, which was without bars,
blazed with sun and shone with the colours of the early morning
blue.  The room was white--pure virgin white--round, and bare of
furniture.  Only--and this was what had caught the cry from
Harkness--three pillars supported the ceiling, and to these three
pillars were bound by white cord, first himself, then Dunbar, then,
naked as they, Jabez.

The fisherman stood there facing Harkness--a gigantic figure.
Yesterday afternoon on the hill, last night in the garden, Harkness
had not recognised the man's huge proportions under his clothes.
Now, bound there, with his black hair and beard, his great chest,
the muscle of his arms and thighs, the sunlight bathing him, he was
mighty to see.

His eyes were mild and puzzled like the eyes of a dog who has been
chained against reason.  He was making a strange restless motion
from side to side as though he were testing the white cords that
held him.  His face above his beard, his neck, the upper part of
his chest, his hands, his legs beneath the knees, were a deep
russet brown, the rest of him a fair white, striking strangely with
the jet blackness of his hair.

He smiled as he saw Harkness's astonishment.

"Aye, sir," he said.  "It wasn't me you was expectin' to see here,
and it wasn't myself that was expectin' to be here neither."

They were alone--no Japanese, no Crispin.

"I've been in here half an hour before you come," he went on.  "And
I can tell you, sir, I was mighty sorry to see them bringin' both
you gentlemen in.  Whatever happens to me, I said, they've got
clear away.  It never kind of struck me that the fog was going to
worry you."

"Why didn't you get away yourself, Jabez?" Harkness asked him.

"They was down on me about an hour after.  The fog had come on
pretty thick and I was walkin' up and down out there thinkin'.  I
hadn't no more than another hour of it and pleasin' myself to think
how mad that old devil would be when he'd found out what had
happened and me safe in my own house with the mother, when all of a
sudden I hear the car snortin'.  'Somethin' up,' I says, and three
seconds later, as you might say, they was on me.  If it hadn't been
for that fog I might of got clear, but they was on me before I knew
it.  I had a bit of a struggle with they dirty stinkin' foreigners,
but they got a lot of dirty tricks an Englishman would be ashamed
of using.  Anyway they had me down on the ground pretty quick and
hurt me too.

"They trussed me up like a fowl, carried me into the hall, and
didn't the old red-headed devil spit and curse?  You've never seen
nothing like it, sir.  Sure raving mad he was that time all right.
And he came and kicked me on the face and pulled my beard and spat
in my eyes.  I don't know what's coming to us right now, but I pray
the Almighty Father to give me just one turn with my fist.  I'll
land him.

"Then, sir, they carried me upstairs and tumbled me into a dark
room.  There I was for I wouldn't like to say how long.  Then they
came in and took my things off me, the dirty foreigners.  It's only
a foreigner would think of a thing like that.  I struggled a bit,
but what's the use?  They put their thumb in your back and they've
got you.  Then they tied me up here.  I had to laugh, I did really.
Did you ever see such a comic picture as all three of us without a
stitch between us tied up here at six in the morning?

"When I tell mother about it she'll laugh all right.  Like the show
down to St. Ives when they have the boxing.  I suppose we'll be
getting out of this all serene, sir, won't we?"

"Of course we will," said Dunbar.  "Don't you worry, Jabez.  He's
been doing all this to frighten us.  He daren't touch us really.
Why, he'll have the county about his ears as it is.  Don't you
worry."

"Thank you, sir," said Jabez, still moving from side to side within
the bands, "because you see, sir, I wouldn't like anything to
happen to me just now.  Mother's expectin' an addition to the
family in a month or so and there's six on 'em already, an' it
needs a bit of doing looking after them all.  I wouldn't have been
working for this dirty blackguard here if it hadn't been for there
being so many of us--not that I'd have one of them away, if you
understand me, sir."

"You needn't be afraid, Jabez," Dunbar said.  "When we get out of
this Mr. Harkness and I will see that you never have any anxiety
again.  You've been a wonderful friend to us to-night and we're not
likely to forget it."

"Oh, don't you mistake me, sir," said Jabez.  "It wasn't no help I
was asking for.  I'm doing very well with the boat and the
potatoes.  It was only I was thinking I wouldn't like nothing
exactly to happen to me along of this crazy lunatic here, if you
understand me, sir. . . .  I'm not so sure if they give me time I
couldn't get through these bits of rope here.  I'm pretty strong in
the arm, or used to be--not so dusty even now.  If I could work at
them a bit--"

The door opened and Crispin came in.

He appeared to Harkness as he stepped in, quietly closing the door
behind him, like some strange creature of a dream.  He seemed
himself, in the way that he moved with his eyes nearly closed,
somnambulistic.  He was wearing now only his white silk pyjamas,
and of these the sleeves were rolled up, showing his fat white
arms.  His red hair stood on end like an ill-fitting wig.  In one
hand he carried a curved knife with a handle of worked gold.

In the room, blazing with sunlight, he was like a creature straight
from the boards of some neighbouring theatre, even to the white
powder that lay in dry flakes upon his face.

He opened his eyes, staring at the sunlight, and in their depths
Harkness saw the strangest mingling of terror, pathos, eager lust,
and a bewildered amazement, as though he were tranced.  The gaze
with which he turned to Harkness had in it a sudden appeal; then
that appeal sank like light quenched by water.

He was wrung up on the instant to intensest excitement.  His whole
body trembled.  His mouth opened as though he would speak, then
closed again.

He came close to Harkness.  He put out his hand and touched his
neck.

"We are alone," he said, in his soft, beautiful voice.  He stroked
Harkness's neck.  The soft, boneless fingers!  Harkness looked at
him, and, strangely, at that moment their eyes were very close to
one another.  They looked at one another gently.  In Harkness's
eyes were no malice; in Crispin's that strange mingling of lust and
unhappiness.

Harkness only said:  "Crispin, whatever you do to us, leave that
girl alone.  I beg you leave her. . . ."

He closed his eyes then.  God helping him he would not speak
another word.  But a triumphant exultation surged through him
because he knew that he was not afraid.

There was no fear in him.  It was as though the warm sun beating on
his body gave him courage.

Standing behind the safeguard of his closed eyes his real soul
seemed to slip away, to run down the circular staircase into the
hall and pass happily into the garden, down the road to the sea.

His soul was free and Crispin's was imprisoned.

He heard Crispin's voice:  "Will you admit now that I have you in
my hand?  If I touch you here how you will bleed--bleed to death if
I do not prevent it.  Do you remember Shylock and his pound of
flesh?  'Oh! upright Judge!'  But there is no judge here to stay
me!"

The knife touched him.  He felt it as though it had been a wasp's
sting--a small cut it must be--and suddenly there was the cool
trickle of blood down his skin.  Then his right shoulder--a prick!
Now a cut again on his arm.  Stings--nothing more.  But the end had
really come then at last?  His hands beneath the bonds moved
suddenly of their own impulse.  It was not natural not to strive to
be free, to fight for his life.

He opened his eyes.  He was bleeding from five or six little cuts.
Crispin was standing away from him.  He saw that Dunbar, crimson in
the face, was struggling frantically with his cords and was
shouting.  Jabez, too, was calling out.  The room, hitherto so
quiet, was alive with movement.  Crispin now stood back from him
watching him.  The sight of blood had completed what these weeks
had been preparing.

With that first touch of the knife on Harkness's body Crispin's
soul had died.  The battle was over.  There was an animal here
clothed fantastically in human clothes like a monkey or a dog at a
music-hall show.  The animal capered, stood on its hind legs, mowed
in the air with its hands.  It crept up to Harkness and, whining
like a dog, pricked him with the knife point now here, now there,
in a hundred places.

Harkness looked out once more at the great window with its splash
of glorious sky, then ceased to struggle with his cords.  His lips
moved in some prayer perhaps, and once more, surely now for the
last time, he closed his eyes.  He had a strange vision of all the
moving world beyond that window.  At that moment at the hotel the
maids would be sweeping the corridors, people would be stirring and
rubbing their eyes and looking at their watches; in the town,
family breakfasts would be preparing, men would be sauntering down
the narrow streets to their work, the connection with the London
train would be running in with the London papers, already the men
and women would be in the fields, the women would be waiting
perhaps for the fishing-fleet to come in, Mrs. Jabez would be at
the cottage door looking up the road for her husband. . . .

His heart pounded into his mouth; with a mighty impulse he drove it
back.  Crispin was laughing.  The knife was raised.  His face was
wrinkled.  He was running round the room, round and round, making
with the knife strange movements in the air.  He was whispering to
himself.  Round and round and round he ran, words pouring from his
mouth in a thick unending stream.  They were not words, they were
sounds, and once and again a strange sigh like a catch of the
breath, like a choke in the throat.  He ran, bending, not looking
at the three men, bending low as though as he ran he were looking
for something on the floor.

Then quite suddenly he straightened himself, and with a growl and a
snarl, the knife raised in one hand, hurled himself at Jabez.

All followed then quickly.  The knife flashed in the sunlight.  It
seemed that the hands caught at Jabez's eyes, first one and then
another; but there had been more than the hands, because suddenly
blood poured from those eyes, spouting over, covering the face,
mingling with the beard.

With a great cry Jabez put forth his strength.  Stung by agony to a
power that he had never known until then his body seemed to rise
from the ground, to become something superhuman, immortal.  The
great head towered, the limbs spread out, it seemed for a moment as
though the pillar itself would fall.

The cord that tied him to the pillar snapped and his hands were
free.  He tottered, the blood pouring from his face.  He moved,
blindly, staggering.  Not a sound had come from him since that
first cry.

His hands flung out, and in another moment Crispin was caught into
his arms.  He raised him.  The little fat hands fluttered.  The
knife flashed loosely and fell to the ground.  The giant swung into
the middle of the room, blinded, but holding to himself ever
tighter and ever tighter the short fat body.

Crispin, his head tossed back, his legs flung out in an agony now
of terror, screamed with a strange, shrill cry like a rabbit
entrapped.

Jabez turned, and now he had Crispin's soft chest against his
bleeding face, the arms fluttering above his head.  As he turned
his shoulder touched the glass of the window.  He pushed backward
with his arm and the window swung open, some of the broken glass
tinkling to the ground.  There was a great rush of air.

That strange thing, like no human body, the white silk, the brown
slippers, the red hair, swung.  For one second of a time, suspended
as it were on the thread of that long animal scream, so shrill and
yet so thin and distant, the white face, its little eyes staring,
the painted mouth open, hung towards Harkness.  Then into the air,
like a coloured bundle of worthless junk; for a moment a dark
shadow across the steeple of sunlight, and then down, down, into
fathomless depths of air, leaving the space of sky stainless, the
morning blue without taint. . . .

Jabez stood for a moment facing them, his chest heaving in
convulsive pants.  Then crying "My eyes!  My eyes!" crumpled to the
floor.


                              6


First Harkness was conscious of a wonderful silence.  Then into the
silence, borne in on the back of the sea breeze, he heard the wild
chattering of a multitude of birds.  The room was filled with their
chatter, up from the trees, crowding the room with their life.

Straight past the window, like an arrow shot from a bow, flashed a
sea-gull.  Then another more slowly wheeled down, curving against
the blue like a wave released into air.

He recognised all these things, and then once again that wonderful
blessed stillness.  All was peace, all repose.  He might rest for
ever.

After, it seemed, an infinity of time, and from a vast distance, he
caught Dunbar's voice:

". . . Jabez!  Jabez!  Jabez, old fellow!  The man's fainted.
Harkness, are you all right?  Did he hurt you?"

"No," Harkness quietly answered.  "He didn't hurt me.  He meant to,
though. . . ."  Then a green curtain of dark thick cloth swept
through the heaven and caught him into its folds.  He knew nothing
more.  The last thing he heard was the glorious happy chattering of
the birds.


                              7


He slowly climbed an infinity of stairs, up and up and up.  The
stairs were hard to climb, but he knew that at their summit there
would be a glorious view, and, for that view, he would undergo any
hardship.  But oh! he was tired, desperately tired.  He could
hardly raise one foot above another.

He had been walking with his eyes closed, because it was cooler
that way.  Then a bee stung him.  Then another.  On the chest.  Now
on the arm.  Now a whole flight.  He cried out.  He opened his
eyes.

He was lying on a bed.  People were about him.  He had been
climbing those stairs naked.  It would never do that those
strangers should see him.  He must speak of it.  His hand touched
cloth.  He was wearing trousers.  His chest was bare, and someone
was bending over him touching places here and there on his body
with something that stung.  Not bees after all.  He looked up with
mildly wondering eyes and saw a face bending over him--a kindly
bearded face, a face that he could trust.  Not like--not like--that
strange mask face of the Japanese. . . .  That other . . .

He struggled on to his elbow, crying:  "No, no.  I can't any more.
I've had enough.  He's mad, I tell you--"

A kind rough voice said to him:  "That's all right, my friend.
That's all over.  No harm done--"

My friend!  That sounded good.  He looked round him and in the
distance saw Dunbar.  He broke into smiles, holding out his hand.

"Dunbar, old man!  That's fine.  So you're all right?"

Dunbar came over and sat on his bed, putting his arm around him.

"All right?  I should think so.  So are we all.  Even Jabez isn't
much the worse.  That devil missed his eyes, thank heaven.  He'll
have two scars to the end of his time to remind him, though."

Harkness sat up.  He knew now where he was, on a sofa in the hall--
in the hall with the tattered banners and the clock that coughed
like a dog.  He looked at the clock--just a quarter to seven!  Only
three-quarters of an hour since that awful knock on the door.

Then he saw Hesther.

"Oh, thank God!" he whispered to himself.  "Nunc dimittis . . ."

She came to him.  The three sat together on the sofa, the bearded
man (the doctor from the village under the cliff, Harkness
afterwards found) standing back, looking at them, smiling.

"Now tell me," Harkness said, looking at Dunbar, "the rest that I
don't know."

"There isn't much to tell.  We were only there another ten minutes.
When you fainted off I felt a bit queer myself, but I just kept
together, and then heard someone running up the stairs.

"I thought it was one of the Japs returning, but there was a great
banging on the door and then shouting in a good old Cornish accent.
I called back that I was tied up in there and that they must break
in the door.  That they did and burst in--two fishermen and old
Possiter the policeman from Duntrent.  He's somewhere about the
house now with two of the Treliss policemen.  Well, it seems that a
fellow, Jack Curtis, was going up the hill to his morning work in
the Creppit fields above the wood here when he heard a strange cry,
and, turning the corner of the road, finds on the path above the
rocks, Crispin--pretty smashed up, you know.  He ran--only a yard
or two--to the Possiters' cottage.  Possiter was having his
breakfast and was up here in no time.  They got into the house
through a window and saw the two Japanese clearing off up the back
garden.  Curtis chased them, but they beat him and vanished into
the wood.  They stopped two other men who were passing, and then
came on Hesther tied up in the library.  She sent them to the
Tower."

"Well--and then?" said Harkness.

"There isn't much more.  Except this.  They got up the doctor, had
poor old Jabez's face looked to and cleared him off down to his
cottage, were examining your cuts--all this down here.  Suddenly a
car comes up to the door and in there bursts--young Crispin!  The
two Treliss policemen had turned up three minutes earlier in THEIR
car and were here alone except for Possiter examining Crispin
Senior--who was pretty well smashed to pieces I can tell you.

"Crispin Junior breaks through, gives one look at his father,
shouts out some words that no one can understand, puts a revolver
to his temple, and blows the top of his head off before anyone can
stop him.  Topples right over his father's body.  The end of the
house of Crispin!

"I saw all this from the staircase.  I was just coming down after
looking at you.  I heard the shot, saw old Possiter jump back, and
got down in time to help them clear it all up.

"No one knows where he'd been.  To Truro, I imagine, looking for
all of us.  He must have cared for that madman, cared for him or
been hypnotised by him--_I_ don't know.  At least he didn't
hesitate--"

"And now, sir, would you mind telling me . . . ?" said the stout
red-faced Treliss policeman, advancing towards them.


                              8


He was free; it was, from the moment that the red-faced policeman,
smiling upon him benevolently, had informed him that, for the
moment, he had had from him all that he needed, his one burning and
determined impulse--to get away from that hall, that garden, that
house, with the utmost possible urgency.

He had not wished even to stay with Hesther and Dunbar.  He would
see them later in the day--would see them, please God, many many
times in the years to come.

What he wanted was to be alone--absolutely alone.

The cuts on the upper part of his body were nothing--a little
iodine would heal them soon; it seemed that there had come to him
no physical harm--only an amazing all-invading weariness.  It was
not like any weariness that he had ever before known.  He imagined--
he had had no positive experience--that it resembled the conditions
of some happy doped trance, some dream-state in which the world was
a vision and oneself a disembodied spirit.  It was as though his
body, stricken with an agony of weariness, was waiting for his
descent, but his soul remained high in air in a bell of crystal
glass beyond whose surface the colours of the world floated about
him.

He left them all--the doctor, the policeman, Dunbar, and Hesther.
He did not even stop at Jabez's cottage to inquire.  That was for
later.  As half-past seven struck from the church tower below the
hill he flung the gate behind him, crossed the road, and struck off
on to the Downs above the sea.

By a kind of second sight he knew exactly where he would go.  There
was a path that crossed the Down that ran slipping into a little
cove, across whose breast a stream trickled, then up on to the Down
again, pushing up over fields of corn, past the cottage gardens up
to the very gate of the hotel.

It was all mapped in his mind in bright, clear-painted colours.

The world was indeed as though it had only that morning been
painted in green and blue and gold.  While the fog hung, under its
canopy the master-artist had been at work.  Now from the shoulder
of the Down a shimmer of mist tempered the splendour of the day.
Harkness could see it all.  The long line of sea on whose blue
surface three white sails hovered, the bend of the Down where it
turned to deeper green, the dip of the hill out of whose hollow the
church spire like a spear steel-tipped gesticulated, the rising
hill with the wood and the tall white tower, the green downs far to
the right where tiny sheep like flowers quivered in the early
morning haze.

All was peace.  The rustling whisper of the sea, the breeze moving
through the taller grasses, the hum of tiny insects, a lark
singing, two dogs barking in rivalry, a scent of herb and salt and
fashioned soil--all these things were peace.

Harkness moved a free man as he had never been in all his life as
yet.  He was his own master, and God's servant too.  Life might be
a dream--it seemed to him that it was--but it was a dream with a
meaning, and the events of that night had given him the key.

His egotism was gone.  He wanted nothing for himself any more.  He
was, and would always be, himself, but also he had lost himself in
the common life of man.  He was himself because his contact with
beauty was his own.  Beauty belonged to all men in common, and it
was through beauty that they came to God, but each man found beauty
in his own way, and, having found it, joined his portion of it to
the common stock.

He had been shy of man and was shy no longer; he had been in love,
was in love now, but had surrendered it; he had been afraid of
physical pain and was afraid no longer; he had looked his enemy in
the eyes and borne him no ill-will.

But he was conscious of none of these things--only of the freshness
of the morning, of the scents that came to him from every side, and
of this strange disembodied state, so that he seemed to float, like
gossamer, on air.

He went down the path to the little cove.  He watched the ripple of
water advance and retreat.  The stream of fresh water that ran
through it was crystal clear, and he bent down, made a cup with his
hands, and drank.  He could see the pebbles, brown and red and
green like jewels, and thin spires of green weed swaying to and
fro.

He buried his face in the water, letting it wash his eyes, his
forehead, his nostrils, his mouth.

He stood up and drank in the silence.  The ripple of the sea was
like the touch on his arm of a friend.  He kneeled down and let the
fine sand run, hot, through his fingers.  Then he moved on.

He climbed the hill: a flock of sheep passed him, huddling
together, crying, nosing the hedge.  The sun touched the outline of
their fleece to shining light.  He cried out to the shepherd:

"A fine morning!"

"Aye, a beautiful morning!"

"A nasty fog last night."

"Aye, aye--all cleared off now, though.  It'll be a warm day."

The dog, his tongue out, his eyes shining, ran barking hither,
thither.  They passed over the hill, the sheep like a cloud against
the green.

He pushed up, the breeze blowing more strongly now on his forehead.

He reached the cottage gardens, and the smell of roses was once
more thick in his nostrils.  The chimneys were sending silver
skeins of smoke into the blue air.  Bacon smells and scent of fresh
bread came to him.

He was at the hotel gates.  Oh! but he was weary now!  Weary and
happy.  He stumbled up the path, smelling the roses again.  Into
the hall.  The gong was ringing for breakfast.  Children, crying
out and laughing, raced down the stairs, past him.  He reached his
room.  He opened the door.  How quiet it was!  Just as he had left
it.

Ah! there was the tree of the "St. Gilles," and there the grave
friendly eyes of Strang leaning over the etching-table to greet
him.

Just as they were--but he!--not as he had been!  He caught his face
in the glass, smiling idiotically.

He staggered to his bed, flung himself down, still smiling.  His
eyes closed.  There floated up to him a face--a little white face
crowned with red hair, but not evil now, not animal--friendly,
lonely, asking for something. . . .

He smiled, promising something.  Lifted his hand.  Then his hand
fell, and he sank deep, deep, deep into happy, blissful slumber.



THE END




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