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Title:      The Killer and the Slain (1942)
Author:     Hugh Walpole
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Title:      The Killer and the Slain (1942)
Author:     Hugh Walpole





A Strange Story




THIS MACABRE IS DEDICATED

IN LOVING MEMORY AND HUMBLE ADMIRATION

TO

THE GREAT AUTHOR OF

THE TURN OF THE SCREW




CONTENTS

PART I

PART II

   Narrative 1
   
   Narrative 2
   
   Narrative 3





PART I



I


I, John Ozias Talbot, aged thirty-six years and three months, being
in my perfectly sane mind, wish to write down this statement.

I do so entirely and solely for my own benefit and profit--in fact,
for the quietening of my disturbed mind.  It is most improbable
that anyone other than myself will read this document, but should
anything happen to me and I die without destroying this writing, I
wish the reader, whoever he or she may be, to realize fully that no
one could conceivably be of a more complete mental sanity and
honest matter-of-fact common sense than I am at this moment.

It is because I wish to show this self-evident fact to myself and,
if need be, to the whole world (after my death) that I write this
down.  There will be many minute and apparently insignificant facts
and details in this record because CIRCUMSTANTIAL FACTS are in this
matter the thing!  I have suffered during these preceding months
certain experiences so unbelievable that were I NOT sane, and were
many of the facts not so commonplace, my sanity might be doubted.
It is NOT to be doubted.  I am as sane as any man in the United
Kingdom.

Because in the course of this narrative I confess to a crime this
document will be kept in the greatest possible secrecy.  I have no
desire to suffer at the hand of the common hangman before I need.
That I do not myself FEEL it to be a crime matters nothing, I am
afraid, to the Law.  One day, when the important elements in such
matters are taken into account rather than the unimportant, justice
will be better served.  But that time is not yet.

I was born in the little seaside town of Seaborne in Glebeshire on
January 3rd, 1903.  I am married and have one son aged ten.  I
inherited my father's business of Antique and Picture Dealer.  I am
the author of four books, a Guide to Glebeshire and three novels--
The Sandy Tree (1924), The Gridiron (1930) and The Gossip-monger
(1936).  The last of these had some success.  I was born in a
bedroom above the shop, which is in the High Street and has, from
its upper windows, a fine view of the sea and the now neglected and
tumbledown little harbour.

I was the only child of my parents and adored by them.  Some have
said that they spoiled me.  It may be so.  I worshipped my mother
but had always a curious disaffection to my father.  This was
partly, I can see now, physical.  He was an obese and sweaty man
and would cover my face with wet slobbery kisses when I was small,
and this I very greatly disliked.  My mother, on the other hand,
was slight and dapper in appearance, and the possessor of the most
beautiful little hands I have ever seen on any woman.  Her voice
was soft and musical, marked with a slight Glebeshire accent.  She
had something of the gipsy in her appearance, and liked to wear gay
colours.  I remember especially a dress made of some foreign
material--silk of many brilliant shades--that I used to love, and I
would beg her to show it me as it hung in the cupboard in the
bedroom.  My father, when they woke in the morning, would always go
downstairs to get breakfast ready (he worshipped my mother), and
then my mother would take me into her bed and I would lie in her
arms.  Never, until I married, did I know such happiness.

My father was successful in his little business--successful, that
is to say, for those easier, more comfortable days--and we lived
very pleasantly.  His great passion was for the buying of old and
apparently worthless pictures.  He would clean them with the hope
that something by a Master might be discovered.  He did, indeed,
make one or two discoveries--a Romney portrait and an Italian Piet
by Piombo were two of his successes.  But his main business was
with visitors and tourists.  He visited all the local sales and
sometimes went quite far afield.

We lived quietly and knew few people.  My mother was fastidious
about people and I have inherited that from her.

At this point I must say something about my own personality and
character because so much of what afterwards happened depends on
that.  I will try to be honest, although honesty is never easy when
we write about ourselves.  We naturally incline to our own favour.
But I have always trained myself to consider myself objectively and
am possibly given overmuch to self-criticism.

I have been always of a reserved nature, careful to say no more
than I truly feel and to confide only in those I trust and
thoroughly know.  My father's sentimentality affected me
unpleasantly, and the love that I felt for my mother did not need
expression.

From my very early years I have been considered cold and
undemonstrative, but in reality I have always longed for affection
although I have found it difficult to believe that anyone could in
real fact be fond of me--this not because I do not know that there
are many things in me worthy of affection, but because I have seen,
during my life, so many false emotions, so many bitter betrayals of
people by one another, and have realized that most men and women
express more than they feel and mean less than they say.  I have
tried very earnestly to avoid this fault in myself.

I suppose that I must confess myself a prude, and this same prudery
has lost me many contacts that I might otherwise have made.  The
sexual life of man has always seemed to me ugly and dangerous, and
only to be redeemed by real and abiding love.  The conventional
life of man with man regarding the physical side of things has
been, and is, repellent to me.

And yet God knows I have longed again and again for friendship and
companionship, and have blamed myself bitterly for not obtaining it
more easily.  Another reason for my reserve is that I have had one
ceaseless ambition--namely, to be generally recognized as a good
writer.  Not a great one--that I long ago realized I should never
be.  But I have wanted to be one of the writers of my time whose
work is generally known.  It is GOOD work, better by far than the
writings of many who have been generally acclaimed, but it has had
a quality of rareness and peculiarity that has hindered its general
popularity.  And then I must regretfully admit that my sense of
humour is small.  Life seems to me to be altogether too serious,
especially during the last anxious twenty years, to admit of much
humour!

I have always shrunk from boisterousness, violence and noise.  I
love soft voices (such as that possessed by my dear mother),
courteous ways, good manners in argument, consideration of others.
The cheerful, hail-fellow, slap-on-the-back sort of man I have
never been able to abide.

I can be exceedingly obstinate and tenacious of purpose.  When an
idea is deeply rooted in my mind I find it impossible to reject.  I
like to be allowed to go my own way without interference and I
detest enquiries into my personal affairs.

God knows this is not a pleasant self-portrait and I can blame no
one for wishing to see the last of me, and yet I have, I think,
qualities of honesty, courage, affection and fidelity that are
valuable.

I had better here say something about my personal appearance, as
that is of the utmost importance in these peculiar circumstances.
I will not describe myself as I am at this moment, for reasons to
be seen later, but rather as I was two years ago.

I was, and am, five foot eleven inches in height.  I was slender
and yet not meagre.  My hair was plentiful, dark brown in colour
and apt to be untidy owing to my dislike of filthy things like
brilliantine: my eyes grey, and my eyebrows faint, my nose neither
large nor small, my lips thin and nervous if I am agitated or
worried, and my chin rather indeterminate.  My hands free of hair
(my body, apart from my head, has little hair).  Although when
clothed I appear slim, without my clothes I had, two years ago, the
evidences of a slight tendency to stoutness.  And here I must
mention a possible over-delicacy as to my being seen by anyone
unclothed.  I attribute this to my having been a day boy and, since
my school time, I have mixed very little with men.

I shall never forget my horror when, one morning entering my room
without knocking, an aunt, a noisy careless creature, saw me nude
in my bedroom.  I was at that time a boy of about fifteen.

I might have made a good thing of my business had I been able to
put my whole heart into it.  My father had trained me well and I
have a natural love for rare and beautiful things.  But my mind was
for ever on my writing, and had it not been for my wife, I should,
I fear, have lost everything.  I owe her a great deal for this and
many other things.

I am not a religious man although recent fearful events have led me
to reconsider many of my earlier views.  If there IS a God, I pray
Him to forgive my many years of disobedience and to lift, if it may
be so, this dreadful present burden from my shoulders.


II


I met for the first time James Oliphant Tunstall on my very first
day at the Seaborne Grammar School.  (This was in 1913.)  I was a
boy of ten years of age and, of course, dreadfully shy and nervous
at this, my first day at school.  I remember it as though it were
yesterday, and indeed because it was the hour of my first meeting
James Tunstall, it may be said to be the most important day of my
life.

During the morning nothing much occurred.  I was placed with
several other new boys in a class some way up the school.  We were
the BRIGHT new boys and James Tunstall was not among them.  He was
in a lower form.  I remember very well the master of my form--Oxley
was his name--for he had a passionate love for literature and was
the first human being to make Chaucer and Shakespeare, and even
Milton, understandable to me.  He was a long, thin man with a long,
thin nose, and a habit of sniffing as though an unpleasant odour
were somewhere lurking.  But how he ADORED Shakespeare!

We were let out for recreation at midday and it was in the
playground on that sharp September morning that I first saw James
Tunstall.  Anyone would have noticed him before the other new boys,
just as in later life he was always the first to be recognized
anywhere.  He was exactly my height but even then filled out
sturdily and broadly.  Whereas I was sallow-complexioned he was
rosy and brown in colour, with rounded cheeks.  Even then his
eyebrows were thick above his bright sparkling eyes.

He was always laughing, joking, calling out, on the move.  As a
small boy (he was the same age as myself, born in the same month)
he was friendly to all the world.  I suppose, to use modern rather
cheap terms, you would say he was an extrovert.  I was an
introvert.  But there was more in it than that.  He used his
breeziness and heartiness to cover his secret designs.  Even then,
at ten years of age, he was plotting how he could use everybody and
everything to his own advantage.  He was helped, of course, by the
fact that he never had any morals whatever.

When I first saw him he was standing in the middle of the stone
yard telling some story to a group of other boys, and although he
was only a new boy, he had already fascinated them and they were
laughing and joking with him as though he had been at the school
for years.  I didn't want to approach the group but I had to.  Even
at that very first moment he fascinated me and even at that very
first moment I hated him.

He said again and again, in after years, that he had always liked
me--even at that first encounter.  And I think, in a strange sort
of way, that was true--liked me and patronized me.

Now if there is one thing stronger in me than another it is my
hatred of being patronized.  Patronage of one human being by
another seems to me despicable.  It is true, I suppose, that the
patronizer does not sometimes know that he is patronizing.  That
makes it worse, for it argues a secret arrogance and conceit, an
arrogance of the soul.

In any case, from the first Tunstall patronized and mocked me.
This does not mean that he was not pleasant to me.  He, as he
laughingly said afterwards, from the very first took me under his
wing.  He called me 'Jacko,' a name that naturally revolted me.
'You know, Jacko,' he said to me many years later, 'I'll never
forget how you looked that first morning at the old school--with
your anxiety and politeness and helplessness.  You were the most
tempting object for anyone to rag, and where you'd have been if I
hadn't protected you I can't imagine.'

Protect me in a sort of way he did, but for me in a very shaming
kind of way.  He was popular, of course; I was not so much
unpopular as negative and colourless.  When a boy twisted my arm or
kicked my behind Tunstall would come up, laughing, and say:  'Stop
that.  Jacko's under my protection.  Didn't you know?'  And because
he was strong and stoutly built, and everyone liked him, people did
let me alone.  But the other boys caught up the horrid name, Jacko,
from him.  How I detested it!  It was as though I were a monkey.

I very soon discovered that Tunstall was up to every kind of trick
and broke all the rules, but he was popular with the masters as
well as with the boys, and he had, then as later, an open, hearty,
smiling manner.  He was always in good spirits and had great
ingenuity in the carrying-out of his secret plans.  He was lazy and
I often did his work for him.  It wasn't as though I were
frightened of him exactly, and yet I can see now that there was
some sort of secret fear mixed in my feelings about him.  Not so
much fear, perhaps, as a consciousness of some bond between us.  He
felt that as well as I.

I have mentioned the word fear.  I will admit at once that I am not
brave and have never been so.  One of the first things to
exasperate me in Tunstall was his apparent fearlessness.  It seemed
that he was afraid of nothing, but I am not really sure that this
was so.  There was, I fancy, a lot of false bravado mixed up with
it.

But I must get on, for I have much to tell--how much I didn't
properly perceive when I began.

One summer term at the Grammar School an episode occurred which I
fancy affected all my after life--and it changed my nervous dislike
of Tunstall into positive hatred.  I have spoken already of my
sensitiveness to any sort of personal exposure.  This was always
with me a kind of spiritual passion.

On a certain day in the week the town salt-water baths were
reserved for our school.  They were formed from part of the sea,
but the actual bathing-pool was enclosed in an especial pavilion.
We boys undressed all together in a long kind of reserved corridor.
I was extremely sensitive of undressing before others, and while
most of the boys were quite careless about the matter and ran about
the place naked, I was always careful to slip on my bathing-trunks
before taking off my shirt.

One afternoon a number of boys, including Tunstall, were undressing
near me when someone mocked me and called me rude names.  Then they
all teased me.  I was standing with only my shirt on when, quite
unexpectedly, Tunstall whipped my shirt off, snatched my bathing-
trunks away from me, and then pranced round me laughing and
gesticulating.  The others joined in and formed a ring round me
while I stood, trembling all over, my hands folded in front of me.
My folded hands annoyed them and they pulled them away, and I don't
know what would have happened had not a master been seen
approaching.  Then, laughing and shouting, they jumped into the
water.

It will be difficult for many people to understand the deep and
lasting effect that this trivial little incident had upon my
character.  These things cannot be explained even now when Freud
and Jung have done so much to reveal us to ourselves.  I felt as
though I had been deeply and publicly shamed, and my original
shyness and reticence were doubly reinforced.

The affair was, however, made worse for me by what followed.  As,
after our bath, we walked up to the school, Tunstall joined me.  He
was in radiant health and spirits.  He put his arm round me and
drew me close to him.  I remember our little conversation as though
it had occurred this morning!

'Look here, Jacko!' he said.  'You mustn't mind things so much.
Why, I thought you were going to blub!  It was only a bit of fun.'

I hated his touch, the pressure of his fingers against my neck.
However, I pretended not to care.  'I didn't mind,' I said, 'only I
thought it was a silly sort of thing to do.'

'Yes, you did mind.  You know you did.  You mustn't mind anything.
I don't.  If chaps see you mind they'll only do it all the more.'

'I don't see why I can't be left alone,' I said.

'So you will be if you don't care.  I was only ragging.  I am
awfully fond of you, you know.  I am really.'

'That's all right,' I said sheepishly.  Then he ran off laughing,
without a care in the world.

Even then I was writing.  The only thing I wanted to be in the
world was a writer.  Oddly enough Tunstall had an artistic side to
him.  His father was, I should imagine, a ne'er-do-well.  He betted
on horses and was always involved in wild-cat schemes to make
money.  They lived in a little house outside the town, overlooking
the sea.  His mother was a gentle-faced woman who had, I expect, a
pretty hard life.  Tunstall could draw like anything.  He was
always amusing the boys by drawing things for them and often the
drawings were bawdy.  They seemed to us miraculously clever,
although even then I thought there was a certain cheapness and
commonness in them.  But he showed me one day some water-colours of
the sea and coast that seemed to me lovely.  It was on that day
that most unfortunately I told him about my writing, and under
pressure I showed him one or two things.

He professed to like them greatly--especially one, a rather
fantastic sort of fairy-story as I remember it.  But he did say he
wished that they had been a bit more 'spicy.'  'Later on, when
you're selling things to the papers, put in bits about girls' legs
and that sort of thing.  That's what sells.  After all, it is what
men are always thinking of--"a bit of skirt."'

I remember the phrase 'a bit of skirt' with a very especial horror--
it seemed the lowest, most common denominator to which the world
could possibly be put.

I suspected then that I had been a fool to show him my writing--
very soon I discovered the kind of fool that I had been!  Soon
everybody was teasing me 'to show my writing.'  But I found that I
had no need to do so, for Tunstall had informed them fully of the
nature of it and especially of the fairy-story, which contained a
character called King Dodderer.  This became my nickname.  How I
hated him then!  I did have at least the pluck of facing him with
it.  Trembling with rage I charged him with betraying my
confidence.

'You swore you wouldn't tell anybody'--feeling almost a frenzy at
the sight of his round cheeks, his rather coarse but thick dark
hair and eyebrows, his rounded but strong and sturdy body.  Our
conversation was something like this:

'I didn't know you'd mind.  Honest, Jacko, I didn't.'

'Of course you knew I'd mind.'

'Honest, I didn't.  And why should you?  I've told everybody
they're awfully good.'

'You haven't.  You've made everybody laugh at them.'

'Oh, they tease a bit!  What does it matter?  You ARE a funny chap.
You should be like me, bold as brass and not giving a damn for
anybody.'

'Before I'd be like you I'd drown myself,' I answered hotly.

Then he put his hand on my arm, holding it tightly.  It was a way
that he had.  He would stand quite close to me, holding my arm,
looking into my face with his bright, bold, sparkling eyes, and I
felt as though he absorbed me, took me right inside himself, inside
his hateful self, and kept me there a prisoner.

'You know, Jacko, I DO like you, although you're such a goup.  I
think you really like me too, although you're a bit afraid of me.
I like that as well.'

'I hate you!  I hate you!' I cried, breaking away from him.

Then, of course, we grew older.  We both left the school when we
were sixteen, I to join my father at the shop, he to go into some
sort of business in London.

There are other things I remember about the two of us at that
school.  There was one other thing I never forgave him for.  At
last I made a friend, the only friend I did make at that place.
He was a boy called Marillier, a tall handsome boy, popular with
everyone.  For some reason or other he took a great fancy to me.
I was astonished when I found it was so.  He was clever and read
books.  His great ambition was that one day he should be a
publisher.  'Then I shall publish your books and we'll both make
a lot of money.'  He was a really charming boy, sensitive and
understanding, and, after a while, I poured out my heart to him.
He seemed to understand all my reserve and silence and reticence.
We went for long walks along the cliffs and bathed in the coves.
He made me very happy.  I worshipped him and would have done
anything for him.  Strangely enough Tunstall was jealous of this
friendship.

'You like him more than you do me, don't you?'

'Of course I do,' I answered.  'I don't like you a little bit.  I
never have.'

'Oh yes you do,' he answered.  'I mean more to you than Marillier
does.  You can't get away from me.  You think you can, but you
can't.'

Then Marillier began to be a little less intimate with me.  He
wasn't as frank and easy with me.  I taxed him with it and he
denied it, but I knew it was true.  I was easily hurt and brooded
over things.  I was sure that Tunstall had said something to
Marillier about me.  I taxed him with THAT and we had a quarrel.
All our intimacy was spoilt.  Perhaps if I had been another kind of
person I would have broken down the barrier between us, but I was
too shy, and our friendship was ruined.

Tunstall said one day:

'You don't see as much of Marillier as you did, Jacko.'

'You've put him against me.'

'Well, what if I have?  I'm the only friend you're going to have
here.'

'I'm not your friend!  I'm not your friend!'

But he only laughed and teased me with his smile, as though he knew
everything about me and could make me do as he wished.  Other
little things I can remember.

There was some sort of an examination and I helped Tunstall with
his paper.  This was afterwards discovered and we were both
punished, but Tunstall, because he was a favourite, was let off
lightly, and I, because none of the masters, save only Oxley, liked
me, was severely handled.

I brooded long over this unfairness.

There was a master called Harrison, a big, fat, rosy man, rather an
example physically of what Tunstall might be when he became a man.
Their resemblance was, I think, more than physical.  Their natures
were of the same kind.

Harrison disliked me very much, and it happened that for a whole
year Tunstall and I were both in his form.  He seemed to understand
the relationship of Tunstall and myself, and fostered its
disagreeableness in every way.  He had a complete understanding
with Tunstall and their eyes would meet and they would smile.

Harrison had a trick of jingling his keys and money in his trouser-
pocket which for some reason or other disgusted me.  The backs of
his hands were covered with dark black hairs, and sometimes, when
the weather was warm, he would take off his coat and turn up his
shirt-sleeves.  His thick strong arms were covered with hair, and
this also revolted me.

I was, for the latter part of that year, at the top of the form and
the cleverest boy in it, but he would catch me out in a fault
whenever he could and would summon me in front of him, before the
class.  Then he would hold my arm as Tunstall sometimes did and
stare at me, smiling contemptuously.  I knew that Tunstall, behind
my back, was watching with delight, and I felt as though I was
held, a prisoner, between these two and that they were, in concert,
shaming me.

Harrison had affairs with girls in the town, and at last was
involved in some scandal and was dismissed from the school, but I
think that he continued to see Tunstall.

During most of these school years the Great War of 1914-18 was, of
course, raging and, although we boys had little actually to do with
it, I don't doubt but that it affected all our nerves and that the
weak nutrition of the last years of the War was bad for our health.

In 1919 both Tunstall and I left.


III


From 1919 until March 1929 Tunstall was in London, or in any case
did not return to Seaborne.  His mother and father died.  Their
little house by the sea was sold.  It seemed that no fragment or
memory of them remained.

I worked in the antique shop and, during those years, the boom
years that followed the War, we did sufficiently well.  In 1924 my
first novel, The Sandy Tree, was published.  I will not now, when
my hopes have been so sadly disappointed, say very much of my
almost delirious excitement at that time.  The shore of the world
is scattered with the bones of disappointed artists.  I had written
several novels before The Sandy Tree and sent them to various
publishers.  They were refused and I destroyed them.  But on that
morning when I received the letter saying that The Sandy Tree had
been accepted I knew such joy that I was, for a while, insane.  I
realized on that morning that with a little luck I might be
encouraged to be an entirely different human being--genial,
friendly, communicative.  My mother and father were almost as
wildly delighted and all our friends and acquaintances were told of
the event.  I corrected my proofs as though they were the very
blood of my body.  As the day of publication approached I could
scarcely sleep and ate almost nothing.  Then my six presentation
copies arrived in their dark-blue covers and I gave the first one
that I handled to my father and mother.  They both thought the book
wonderful and looked at me with new eyes.  Then came the day of
publication.  Weeks followed.  Nothing happened at all.  There were
some reviews, none very rapturous, one or two advertisements.  Some
jocular remarks were made by our acquaintances.  It was altogether
too queer and unusual a book for their understanding.  After a
month the book was as though it had never been.  I told myself that
this always happened to a first novel of any peculiar merit.  I
told myself that I was so unusual that it would take time for me to
be discovered by the people who really understood me.

But in my heart I had been dealt a dreadful blow.  All my life long
I had looked forward to the day when I would be an author before
the world.  I consoled myself, at moments of bitter loneliness or
disappointment, with this self-prophecy of my future glory.  Now I
had tried and I had failed.

In 1926 my father died.  He was ill for a week from some sort of
fever and then quite suddenly one evening passed away.  On the last
day of his life he spoke to me in a very touching manner.

He lay there seeming to me to be cleansed of all his grossness by
approaching death.  His eyes were dim but of a great kindness and
even tenderness.  I sat beside his bed and suddenly tears began to
fall.  I loved him for the first time and learned all that I had
missed.  But he himself was gay and even jocular.  He had always
been a merry man.

'All our lives together, John, I've loved you and you've not loved
me.  You've wanted to get away from me.  Something in me has
shocked you.  But I've understood that, for I've always seemed to
be both myself and yourself--the rake and the puritan bound into
one body.  I've not been physically faithful to your mother and she
has known it and forgiven me.  But I have loved her dearly all
through life.  Don't be too shocked at things, John.  Men are
partly animals, you know, and the animal in man isn't as evil as
the devil in man--the devil's weapons are meanness, treachery,
betrayal of heart, coldness, uncharitableness, not fornication and
all lasciviousness.  Remember not to judge or you may yourself be
judged.  It was the man whose house was swept and cleaned that took
in the seven new devils.'

That was the way my father talked, in a kind of scriptural style.
He pressed my hand, and that night about ten he coughed and cried
out and died.

I took on the business.


I should say something here about Seaborne itself, for I loved it
so much until a certain evening and after that came most bitterly
to hate it as, afterwards, I will write down.  In Elizabeth's day
it had been quite a flourishing seaport with a bustling trade.  It
was well situated between the hills and having in front of it a
natural harbour with a strong breakwater.  This was needed, for the
houses of the little town went to the water's edge and, during
three-quarters of the year, the storms could be terrific.

The Upper Town was like any other seaside resort in Glebeshire,
with a High Street, a Methodist chapel, a tourist hotel, 'The
Granby', a Smith's bookshop with its messenger-boy sign, a
hosier's, a grocer's, a china-ware and our own antique shop.

Above the Upper Town, straggling up the hill, were decent villas
with pleasant gardens.  All this was conventional, but the Lower
Town was very unconventional.  It reminded one of Polchester in
piccolo, for Polchester's Seatown on the Pol was at one time--and
not so very long ago--as wild and neglected as any place you could
find in England.

Seaborne's Lower Town wasn't wild and neglected.  It was simply
deserted.  It had fallen into a still and gloomy sea-green, slimy
decay.  Any sea traffic there was had moved to the New Harbour,
that also boasted a new pier with a hall and a cinema.

So the Lower Town harbour had surrendered to history.  The houses
that abutted on the sea had still some remnants of Elizabethan
architecture, and there were proposals once or twice a year that
something should be done with this part of the town.  'The Green
Parrot,' a very low sort of pub, hanging right over the water, and
with one foot on the old deserted grass-grown landing-stage, was in
reality a fine little building with the remnants of an Elizabethan
staircase and spy-hole.  'The Green Parrot' had in fact a long and
exciting history had anyone taken the trouble to delve into it.

I little thought, at the time of my father's death, that I was, in
my own destined moment, to add to that history.  Possessing the
twisted and restless imagination of a romantic novelist, the Lower
Town appealed greatly to my taste and fancy.  I liked especially on
an early spring or midsummer evening to wander quite alone under
the shadows of the warped and tumbled houses, looking upward into a
sky faintly green with the piercing silver of a newborn star, and
then down, beyond the rotting wood iridescent with slime, into the
water that heaved as though it were asleep and reflected, a little
out of focus, the glass of windows, the tufts of greenery between
the window-joints, the pushing eaves, the drunken chimneys, and,
behind them all, the line of quiet hill like a smudged drawing,
grey and still.  That is how it was.  Green and grey, still and
crooked, waiting, sleepily speculative, on the edge of the
Atlantic.

On these evenings there were few passers-by.  Even 'The Green
Parrot' was not greatly patronized.  In the daytime tourists
visited the Lower Town and found it 'picturesque.'  They bought
postcards of it.  But on my evenings I was a solitary, and loved to
be so.


IV


I have now reached the point of my marriage.  I must say here, for
I wish to be completely frank and honest in everything, that my
wife was the first woman with whom I had intercourse.  I knew no
woman of any sort or kind before I knew her.  I was twenty-five
years of age when I married her.  I had, of course, my temptations
as every man must have, but I put them always resolutely behind me.
I wished to keep myself for the woman I loved.

I think I should say in this place that prayer helped me very much
in my struggle against temptation.  I was not, I suppose, a very
religious young man.  I went to church on Sunday to please my dear
mother, but the prayers and hymns in the Church of England service
seemed to me very empty and hollow.  But in my own private prayers
I did undoubtedly find strength and assistance.  George Meredith
has said:  'Who rises from his knees a better man, his prayer is
answered.'  I felt a contact which may indeed have been but wish-
fulfilment.  It had nevertheless its actual concrete effect.

I had fancied myself once or twice in love and always, I can see
now, with the same type of woman.  We have all of us, I fancy, a
type physically of especial attraction to us, but in my own case it
must be a woman retiring, virginal, modest, of the kind that Burne-
Jones once wonderfully painted.  With this character I liked a
woman to be also slender, with a face like the heroine of
Browning's great poem.

I would lie sleepless, imagining her to myself, her noble brow, her
sweet mouth so formed with smiling kindly tenderness, her white
delicate hands, her slender virginal waist.

Unhappily, girls answering to this physical appearance had, I was
sorry to discover, characters little in common with it, and I began
cynically to wonder whether the more virginal the face the looser
the character.

One misadventure I had of this kind is too shocking to mention, and
I shrank yet further within myself.

Then one evening I was taking a solitary walk in Lower Town when I
saw a female figure standing on the decrepit landing-stage looking
down into the water.  It was a grey misty evening and a very slight
rain was falling.

I fancied for the moment that there was something desperate in her
poise, and that even it might be that she would throw herself into
the sea.  So I approached her, but, on standing beside her, found
that she was entirely composed and controlled.  She was wearing a
grey cloak and bonnet and, when she raised her face to mine, I knew
at once that the love of my life had, in an instant of fiery
ecstasy, been created.  Her face was, for me, the loveliest I have
ever seen or ever shall see.  It was the face of my dreams, the
features exquisitely formed, and the expression that of one of the
Burne-Jones angels.

She did not seem in the least afraid of me, nor did she move away.
She even smiled and said that she thought it would soon rain
heavily.  I have asked her since whether she was not afraid to
speak to a strange young man in such a lonely place, but she said
that I looked such a very innocent young man, and that in any case
she was well able to look after herself.

So we talked for a little.  I was trembling with anxiety lest she
should move away and I lose her for ever.  She has told me since
that she knew from that very first moment that I was in love with
her.

She showed, however, no intention of moving away, and told me that
she was in Seaborne for a holiday, that she had a job as a
stenographer in London.  I ventured to ask her, breathlessly,
whether she were married.

She said no, that she was an orphan, and lived with a sister in
Chelsea.  She also told me that she disliked her present employer
and hoped to find some other job.  She was taking her holiday
alone, which she greatly preferred.

I told her something about myself, that I had an antique shop in
the High Street, that my mother was still alive, and that I had
published a novel.  She seemed to be greatly interested when I told
her about the antique shop.  She said that it was her ambition to
own a little business and that she was sure that she could make a
good thing of it.  I ventured, my heart beating in my throat, to
say that she did not look like a business woman but something very
much better.  She smiled at that and even laughed.

Then, by the mercy of Providence, as it seemed to me, it began to
rain heavily.  I had an umbrella and she had not.  I suggested that
I should guard her under my umbrella as far as her door.

After I left her there I could not sleep.  A totally new experience
had come into my life.  I told myself that, when I saw her again,
the spell might be broken.  But of course it was not.  It was
rather intensified.  I called to see her on some pretext.  She came
and had tea with my mother and was very charming to her.  She was
charming to everybody with a quiet virginal tranquillity.  Her
interest in my antique shop, however, was more than virginal.  She
handled the articles--the brass, the china, the water-colours, the
furniture--with an eagerness that surprised me.

Laughing, she said one day that she would stay and help me, and she
remained all the afternoon.  She sold a number of things and
charmed the customers.  I can see her now, standing there in her
dove-grey costume with rose-coloured cuffs and collar.  One voluble
American lady liked her so much that she was ready to buy anything
from her.

'I haven't enjoyed an afternoon so much,' Eve (that was her name--
Eve Paling) said, 'for years and years.'  Her pale cheeks were
flushed and she was to me so beautiful, standing there with a cup
with yellow flowers marked on it, that I could have fallen on my
knees and worshipped her.

The night before she returned to London I asked her to marry me.
She showed no surprise.  She must have known from the very first
that I loved her.  She neither accepted nor refused me.  How often
afterwards was I to recall the words that she said then!

'I don't know, John.'  She let her hand lie very quietly and
passively in mine.  'I like you very much.  I'm sure I could be
happy with you.  And I should enjoy immensely helping you to run
the shop.  All that is tempting to me.  But is it fair--fair to
you, I mean?'

'Fair to me!' I cried.  'Fair!  Why, if you marry me you'll be
doing me the greatest, most wonderful--'

'Yes, I know.  So you think now.  But, you see, I'm not in love
with you.  I know what it is, being in love.  The kind of man for
me physically is someone big and strong, a little violent perhaps.
The kind of man,' she added, laughing, 'you read about in cheap
novels, the cave-man.  Now you're not a bit the cave-man, John.
You'll give in to me and let me have my way.  Even physically
you're altogether too thin and too pale.  You need fattening up.'

I had already made the discovery that she often said things that
did not seem to belong to her virginal, other-worldly appearance.
She had shown herself very practical indeed about the shop, and had
said things once or twice about men that were not virginal at all.

'If you marry me,' I said, 'I'll get so fat from content that you
won't know me.'

But she shook her head and looked at me anxiously.

'We've only known one another a fortnight.  We don't really know
one another at all.  You're in love with me now, and later on, when
you've got over that part of it, you may not like me.  I'm not
dreamy and imaginative as you are, John.  I see only what is
directly in front of me and what I see is very tempting, for I like
you and admire you, I hate my present job and want to get out of
it.  And I think that together we could make a fine thing of the
shop.'

I did go down on my knees then and laid my head on her lap.  Then I
looked up into her face and implored her--oh, how I implored her!--
to take pity on me.  I did not mind that she did not love me.  That
she liked me was enough.  I would serve her, work for her . . .

'Yes,' she interrupted, 'that is just what I am afraid of.  I want
a man to master me, not to be my slave!'

Yes, I must always remember how frank and honest she was.  All that
has happened since has been my fault, not hers.  She is in no way
to blame--or only very little.  She said that she would write to
me.

A week later I received a letter saying that she would marry me.
Oh, then I went mad with joy!  I kissed my old mother again and
again.  I walked about the town like a madman; I went into Lower
Town and stood on the very spot where I had first seen her.  I
remember that it was a sunny windy morning and that the ocean was
covered with gleaming, glittering white-caps and that at my feet
against the broken landing-stage the waves broke and splashed and
the sun made their foam iridescent.

We were married on April 5th, 1928.  We went for our brief
honeymoon into Cornwall.  We slept the first night at Penzance.  I
would have made a clumsy wooer but for her quiet, humorous command
of me.  She slept into the full sun of the morning with deep
surrender, while I lay awake, thinking over and over again of my
wonderful good fortune, but haunted by an odd little half-formed
wish that she had not been quite so well-assured, so ready for my
immature, inexperienced love-making.


V


That marriage is a strange business I suppose every married man and
woman will in their hearts admit.  Even the happiest must realize
that incomprehensible mixture of intimacy and non-intimacy so that
at one moment your partner seems a piece of yourself and at another
it is as though you had never seen him or her before.

So, at least, it was with us, or with myself, I had better more
truthfully say.  My passionate desire for her remained because she
never fully responded to it.  This side of our married relationship
she treated with a motherly irony, permitting my indulgence, as a
mother gives a railway train to her little son.  'If you really
feel like this,' she seemed to say, 'the least I can do is to grant
you some pleasure.  It doesn't hurt me and you like it--so why
not?'

I realized, I suppose, from the beginning that I was not, as she
had frankly told me, her type.  And that was neither her fault nor
mine.  But I was kept for ever on the edge of unsatisfied desire--
so near and yet so far!  And I would lie beside her at night, while
she slept so calmly, longing, praying, that one day she would of
her own accord turn to me and show me that she loved me!

In all other aspects our marriage was for a long time most happy.

My mother and Eve fortunately liked one another from the start, and
achieved an underground understanding: it was almost an alliance
against myself--a sort of intimation that they were both fond of
me, but that I was a poor fish really.

I did not resent this.  I was of the type of man who worships one
or two women to idolatry.  Eve might do anything to me, say
anything to me, think anything of me that she pleased.  I did not
mind how much she ill-treated me (which she never did).  There was
something masochistic in me with regard to her.  And so my old
mother very quickly took something of Eve's tone to me.  I had
always been a devoted son, but now, when she saw that I was on my
knees to my wife, she thought that it would be amusing if I were on
my knees to her too.  She had lost now the use of her legs, and she
would sit in her chair, a lace cap that with old-fashioned fancy
she wore, on her head, a faint moustache that was often slightly
moist, and her dark restless eyes regarding me with love and
tyranny.  Her hands were still lovely and delicate, her little body
taut and straight, and when I saw the two women, the old lady in
her chair, and Eve, with always that suggestion of the Quaker in
her dress, her beautifully proportioned body that had been so often
in my arms but that never truly yielded to me, then I would
tremble, and fire would run in my veins, and I would be happy and
miserable both at the same time.

To speak of more practical matters, it was at once clear that Eve
had a genius for business.  She was better than my father had ever
been.  She had a real love, too, for the things that she handled
and, although when she first met me she knew nothing about
antiques, by reading books and studying the things that came our
way, she soon was far ahead of me in knowledge.

She quickly became a well-known figure at local sales.  She
specialized in Victorian furniture, china--so many things that we
had all for so long thought hideous.  And she had an especial
liking for Pre-Raphaelite drawings and paintings.  She found water-
colours by J. M. Strudwick and Arthur Hughes, and Frederick Sandys
and Matthew Lawless, for almost nothing at all.

She said that there would be one day a great revival in these
artists, and I can see that already her prophecy is beginning to
come true.  She would say, laughingly, that she was herself a Pre-
Raphaelite, and that the old part of Seaborne was Pre-Raphaelite.
Sometimes on a day when the sea gleamed in purple and green, and
the old decrepit buildings were coloured by the light in sharp,
bright detail, I could see what she meant.

But it was on the business side that she was wonderful.  She was
marvellous with customers, studying their characters, charming to
one, sharp with another, leading them on from one thing higher and
higher, until they purchased far beyond their original intention,
and all so quietly and with so much grace and friendliness, that
they would return to our shop again and again, simply for the
pleasure of seeing her.

This all meant that I left the shop more and more to her and
devoted myself, with an obsession, to my writing.  The novel upon
which I was working during the first year of our marriage, The
Gridiron, became an obsession to me.  The theme, very briefly, was
this:  A wife is tortured with love for her husband, who does not
care for her, and is persistently unfaithful to her.  She knows in
the depths of her far-seeing soul that he will one day hate her so
deeply that he will murder her.  She is fascinated by the thought
that he will murder her, and is like a rabbit before a snake.  She
does not attempt to leave him.  Ultimately he does murder her, and
is then tortured on the gridiron--not of his conscience, for he
suffers from no regrets or self-reproaches--of his new wife's
hatred of himself.  He adores her, she hates him.  He commits
suicide.

This grim story seemed neither grim nor true to Eve, with whom I
discussed it.  She thought it simply silly.  She had a brave and
practical mind, was afraid of no one and nothing.

'Women don't just wait to be murdered, however idiotic they are,'
she said.

'You talk,' I answered, 'as though I had been writing about you.
I've chosen someone exactly opposite--weak, yielding, gentle,
loving.'

I hoped that this last word would provoke her into protesting that
she DID love me, but she paid no attention to it, only went on:

'Besides, John, you're the last man in the world to write about the
feelings of a murderer; you who wouldn't hurt a fly.'

'Oh, I don't know,' I remember protesting.  'If I get an idea into
my head, I can be very obstinate.'

'What's obstinacy got to do with murder?' she asked.

'A great deal.  Don't you remember the other day, when Mr.
Fortescue, of Four Trees, had the Burne-Jones drawing for "The
Forge of Cupid" that you wanted?  How, for several days, before he
gave in, you could think of nothing else, could scarcely sleep?'

'Ah, that was different!  What has a Burne-Jones drawing got to do
with murder?'

I remember looking at her and thinking that, in some ways, she was
a very stupid woman.  It was imagination that she lacked, and in
that there was a deep division between us.

'Both are lusts,' I answered.  'Lust of hate.  Lust of possession.'

And I remember that she looked at me a little contemptuously,
saying, 'Lust!  What an odd word for YOU to use, John.  You know
nothing about lust--and you couldn't hate anybody for ten minutes
together.'

Oh, couldn't I?  I thought of telling her about Tunstall.  But I
did not.  How strangely little, even after daily and nightly
intimacies, two human beings know one another!

I was obsessed by The Gridiron.  Poor Gridiron that nobody knows,
nobody cares for.  But how real both that man and that woman were
to me!  How thoroughly I understood their hates and their fears!
It seemed to me that they were both part of me, both murderer and
murderee!

I had been long fascinated by the life, personality and works of
George Gissing; Morley Roberts's life-novel about him, writings on
him by H. G. Wells, who had been very generously his friend; novels
like New Grub Street, The Odd Women, A Life's Morning (in spite of
its false ending), and then his momentary escape into his longed-
for world of rest and light--By the Ionian Sea, Henry Ryecroft--all
this touched me deeply.  He seemed like a brother of mine.  I felt
that if I had known him I could have comforted him, brought him
perhaps to Seaborne and cared for him.  The grey dreariness of his
novels was akin to me: his obsession with women I understood.  I
loved the man and greatly admired his art, which seemed to me a
unique thing.  I tried to persuade Eve to read Demos and The Odd
Women, but she could not endure these books.

She enjoyed romantic novels.  She wanted a happy ending.  She
repeated the formula as though no one had ever uttered it before.

'There's enough in life that's depressing and difficult, without
books being depressing too.'

Then came the month of March 1929--a month that I am never likely
to forget, however long I live.

Eve was about to give birth to our first child.  She was as
sensible about this as she was about everything else.  She did not
especially wish for a child--she had not, I think, very much of the
maternal in her--but if there must be one she would do her best by
it.

I was meanwhile tortured.  I had never loved her so passionately.
The mother of my child!  The mother of my child!  Our child!  I
imagined, of course, every kind of disaster!  She looked as
virginal, as slender of body as she had done on the day of our
first meeting.  It seemed to me an awful ordeal through which she
must pass.  I tried to conceal my terror, for both she and my
mother would despise me for it.

The day approached.  On March 10th the pains began.  About three in
the afternoon I walked down to the Lower Town and strode up and
down the old landing-stage.  Looking up from the grey-cotton waters
of the sea I saw, standing close beside me, James Oliphant
Tunstall.


Yes, it was Tunstall.

It wasn't true that I had ever forgotten him, but now, when I saw
him, it was as though he had never left me.  And with that sense of
his accompanying me came a sudden fear that was almost a sickness.

I stood 'rooted to the spot' as cheap novelists say.  Yes, but it's
a good phrase all the same.  I WAS rooted, staring, terrified.  Of
what?  Of whom?

You must remember that I was in a state of nervous tension on that
afternoon, expecting the birth of my child at any moment, thinking
of my adored, my beloved, and her approaching torture.

Tunstall stood grinning.  Then he held out his hand.

'Well, if it isn't Jacko!'

I shook his hand, which was soft and plump.  I saw that he wore on
the little finger of his right hand a green scarab set in gold.

He was looking very prosperous, wearing dark red-brown tweeds and a
dark-red tie, his face ruddy brown, thick-set, inclined to be stout
and, although he was exactly my own height, looking shorter than I
because of my slimness.  His thick eyebrows stood out from his
ruddy face, and there, just as they had always been, were his
cheeky laughing eyes and lascivious lips.  He seemed to swallow me
up, in the old horrible way, as I looked at him.

'Well, if it isn't Jacko!'

'Hallo, Tunstall!  What are you doing here?'

'Tunstall be damned!  It's your old friend Jimmie come back to you
again!'  Exactly as in the old way he was close to me, his thigh
pressed against mine, his hand on my arm.  How I hated that
contact!  But I couldn't move.  I waited until he released me and
leant back against the railing that they had put up on the old pier
to prevent people from falling into the water.

He leaned back, his hands pressed down on the green metal, grinning
at me.

'How are you, Tunstall?  Come on a visit?'

'Now Tunstall be blowed.  I'm Jimmie to you and always will be.'

'Jimmie, then.'

'That's better.  A visit, Jacko?  No, my dear boy.  I'm here for
keeps.'

My heart contracted.  I could feel the palms of my hands go damp.

'Yes,' he went on.  'We shall see plenty of one another.  I always
said you couldn't ever escape me and you shan't.  Now confess--
haven't you thought of me sometimes?'

'No.  I can't say that I have.'  (How vivid, how horribly, horribly
vivid is this conversation to me now!)

'O, come now.  That isn't true.  You've thought of me often.  You
know you have.  And I'VE thought of you.  You were the boy I was
fondest of at school, you know.'

'Well, I wasn't fond of you,' I said, making at last a movement.
'And now I must be getting on--'

'Wait, wait,' he cried, his eyes watching me mockingly.  'We've
been apart so long and you want to leave me?  What have you been
doing with yourself all this time?  As a matter of fact I know.
I've been down here three days and you were the first person I
asked about.  Your father's dead and you run the shop.  Or rather
your wife does.  A very nice practical woman I'm told.  I'm keen to
meet her.  And you've published a novel.  You see, I know all about
you.  As a matter of fact I bought the book.  It wasn't my sort of
novel--too highbrow altogether--but there was a lot of me in it.'

'There wasn't any of you in it,' I answered indignantly.

'Oh yes, there was!  Don't you think you can write a book without
MY being in it.'

All this time he had never taken his eyes off my face and he seemed
to get a great deal of pleasure and amusement out of staring at me.

Then he said:

'Don't you want to know what's been happening to me all this time?'

'I don't particularly care.'

'That IS a rude thing to say.  All the same I'll tell you.  I'm
quite a successful painter.  Hadn't you heard?  Especially with
portraits.  I paint people as they'd like to be.  That's the thing.
That's what you ought to do.  What's the use of writing these books
that nobody wants to read?  Simply wasting your time.  I've made
quite a bit of money, and, like a wise man, I married a woman with
money.

'So I've come down here and taken a house--Sandy View--at the end
of Chessington Street.  There I'm going to be--half the year
anyway.  And the sooner you and your wife come to see us the better
I'll be pleased.'

I noticed then for the first time that he had probably been
drinking too much.  Not that he was drunk.  Certainly not.  He was
completely in command of his faculties, but there was a slight
exalted shining in his eyes, a faint breath emanating from him, a
suggested, rather than positive, uncertainty about his body.

Now I have always had, foolishly I am sure, a terror of
drunkenness.  I am myself a teetotaller, not from any virtuous or
health reasons but simply because I loathe spirits and don't really
care very much for wine.  I am, I must repeat, really terrified of
anyone whom drink has deprived of his senses.  I have been on
occasions in company with men so drunk that they knew neither what
they were doing nor saying, and these flushed incoherent creatures
reeling and tumbling, clutching at one's body, slobbering in one's
face--how I have loathed them, run a mile to avoid them!  Tunstall
was not, of course, DRUNK, but there was the spirit of drunken
recklessness about him.  I felt it and trembled.

Meanwhile I must get away.  Even now my child might be born.  But I
had one thing to say.

'Look here, Tunstall.'

'Jimmie!'

'Well, Jimmie then.  I think we had better be quite clear from the
start.  If you are going to live here part of the year as you say,
I don't want there to be any misunderstanding.  I should much
prefer not to visit at your house and that you should not visit at
mine.  I didn't like you when we were boys.  I used to tell you but
you wouldn't believe me.  Too conceited, I suppose.  We had nothing
in common then.  We have nothing in common now.'  (I am repeating
the words as I write them down.  'We have nothing in common . . .'
Oh God! to whom, to what am I saying them?)  'Apart from the way I
feel about you,' I went on, 'we are in different spheres.  My wife
and I keep a little shop.  You are a successful painter with a fine
house.  You have money.  We haven't.  We couldn't possibly keep up
with your scale of living.  So good-bye.  Keep to your world.
We'll keep to ours.'

I held out my hand.  He took, held it, and drew me a little towards
him.  I tried to draw my hand away.  I could not.  My whole body
trembled.  Now that I was close to him I smelt his breath, hot and
whisky-tainted, quite distinctly.

'No, Jacko,' he said, laughing.  'It isn't as easy as that--not
nearly as easy.  I have you in my hand just as I had when we were
at school.  You say that you don't like me and never did.  That may
be.  I'm the other side of yourself, Jacko, the side you're not
very proud of.  Stevenson wrote a story about that once.  But this
isn't Jekyll and Hyde.  That was just a story.  This is REAL, Jacko--
a real alliance.  We're like the Siamese twins and always were.'

He was suddenly serious, patted me on the back, lounged lazily away
from me.

'Forget my nonsense, Jacko.  I was never able to help teasing you,
you know.  But to pretend that we won't see one another!  WHAT a
hope!  Why, as I've told you, you were the first person I asked
about when I came back.  And you'll like my wife.  She's good, like
you, and she's fond of me just as you are.  I've a sort of idea
your wife will like ME--even if you don't.  And you must see my
pictures.  I'll paint your portrait.  There's an idea!  I'll take
weeks over it and make a good one.  So-long, Jacko--see you soon!'

He turned his back on me and walked out to the edge of the landing-
stage.


I found my wife in labour.  Doctor Wellard, an untidy giant of a
man, but a good doctor, said she would do all right.  I behaved in
the traditional stage-and-novel father manner, pacing the little
sitting-room, listening, going to the door, digging my fingers into
the palms of my hands, sweating at the brow.

At seven-thirty exactly Wellard opened the door and told me that I
was the father of a son and that mother and child were doing
grandly.  My son!  Ah!  How I had prayed for a son!  Perhaps for
the first time in my life I was really proud of myself.  Later I
went up to visit Eve.  There she was lying, exhausted, looking more
virginal than ever, and as comfortably unagitated as though nothing
had happened.  How I adored, how I worshipped her!  Now not only my
beloved wife but also the mother of my son.

Her voice was weak but yet contained that tinge of irony that was
always there when she spoke to me.

'Poor John!  Have you been anxious?  It wasn't bad--I had chloroform.
Aren't you proud of yourself?'

'I'm proud of YOU,' I said.

'I don't know.  Is it anything to be proud of--to bring a son into
a world like this?  Now go away.  I'm sleepy.'

Before I went to my bed I saw my son.  He was hideous, of course,
but my heart went out to him.  I had now three persons in the world
to love: my mother, my wife, my son.  It was enough.  If they were
happy and cared for me I asked for nothing more.

But that night, in my dreams, Tunstall was standing beside me.  He
stretched out his hand and held my arm.


VI


I had better now, I think, jump nine years, for I have much to tell
and little time to tell it.  The sequence of events that led to my
present horrible position began, I think, with a party given by the
Tunstalls towards the end of January 1938, a party attended by my
wife and myself.

What shall I say here about those nine years?  There is so much to
say and yet so little.  On the outside things were little changed
in my life and Eve's.  During these years I published two novels,
The Gridiron in 1930, and The Gossip-monger in 1936.

The Gridiron, into which I put so much good work--a novel, I am
still convinced, with something unique in it, something that has
never been done before and will never be done again--appeared and
was dead as soon as born.  And yet not quite so!  For it roused the
interest of certain critics, and Rose, the famous novelist, wrote
me an enthusiastic letter concerning it.  Now I consider Rose's
novels very poor indeed--old-fashioned, romantic, platitudinous--
but he IS a very well known writer and when he reviews a novel he
helps, undoubtedly, its popularity.  I have often enough inveighed
against the practice of one novelist reviewing another novelist and
have especially criticized Rose in this connection, but after he
had said some fine quotable words about The Gridiron in The Message
I felt rather differently about him.  His letter to me was kind and
enthusiastic, if patronizing, and when I next saw the picture of
his high and shining forehead in a newspaper I felt, I must
confess, quite friendly towards it.

It was not, however, until 1936 that I published my third novel,
The Gossip-monger, and this had a considerable success.  I fear
that on this occasion I compromised.  Why go on for ever writing
novels that no one wanted to read?  I compromised, as Gissing and
many another has been forced to compromise.  There was in The
Gossip-monger a certain dry humour and irony and it happened that
the public fancied in one of the figures of my story a caricature
of Rose himself.  This helped its sale, and Rose was very
magnanimous, alluding, humorously, in his review to the caricature
as though he had enjoyed it; as a matter of fact I heard afterwards
from a friend of his that it hurt him very much.  It was Rose's
great ambition in life, I think, to be considered a noble character
without being thought at the same time a prig--no easy ambition.

In any case I made some money from The Gossip-monger and my hopes
were high.  My friends and neighbours in Seaborne when they saw my
photograph in The Modern World began to take me more seriously and
even ordered my book from the library.

Against this success must be set the fact that, during these years,
I had withdrawn more and more into myself.

Before my marriage the shop had been an easy way for me to keep in
touch with my fellow human beings.  All day I was talking to this
person or that; often I must visit a house or a sale, and although
I was never a character to whom anyone took a very great liking,
yet I had my friends and acquaintances.  But after my marriage
Eve's great business efficiency made my presence in the shop a
superfluity and I visited it less and less.  This I found Eve
preferred, for she was cleverer at bargains than I and liked best
to clinch them in her own way.

After my boy Archie's birth she had only two interests in the world--
her shop and her son.  She continued her kindly tolerance and
marital sufferance to myself, but I knew that I counted nothing in
her life.  My mother had died a year after Archie's birth.  I wish,
neither now nor later, to compel any pity, if an eye should fall on
this, from any reader.  But I suffered, after my mother's death,
from a desperate loneliness.  The boy, delicate, shy, feminine in
his sensitiveness, loved only his mother.  His mother loved only
him.  I, most unfortunately, adored them both.  No new situation in
this world, but a hard and testing one, especially for a man who
could not express himself easily and was always frightened of a
rebuff.

My shyness to the outside world was greatly increased by the
presence of Tunstall in the town.  He immediately, of course, made
his mark there.  It was known from London that he had an assured
position there as a portrait-painter.  He was well-off and enjoyed
entertaining.  He was the friend of everyone, had no social
exclusiveness and apparently no pride.

After a time certain stories were current as to his character.  He
was certainly no strict moralist, but people in general did not
mind that so long as he had money and spent it freely.

As a matter of fact he was, during these nine years, away from
Seaborne a great deal.  His career as a portrait-painter became for
a year or two quite spectacular.  He painted some fashionable
ladies, an actor or two, and actually Rose himself, whose picture
by Tunstall, bright, shiny, gravely complacent, was in the Academy
of 1936.

That, I fancy, was Tunstall's peak year.  His popularity began to
decline.  Why?  He lost his head a little, I should imagine.  Went
to late parties too often, drank perhaps too much, was too familiar
with some of his grand ladies.

At any rate he appeared again towards the end of '37 and informed
the town that he was 'fed up' with London, that he had made enough
money for the rest of his days and that he would develop down here
his talent for landscape painting.

I heard all this from Basil Cheeseman, a friend of his, and about
Cheeseman, known to myself and some others as 'The Rat', I must say
a word or two.  Physically he resembled a rat, for he was a little
man with very prominent white sharp upper teeth.  He had reddish-
brown hair and restless whisky-coloured eyes.  When he smiled his
teeth jutted out over his lower lip.

He was, and is, an evil little man; a journalist by profession who
had settled down in a ramshackle cottage near Seaborne and there
indulged in shabby orgies with girls from London or visitors to the
resort.  He made a living by picking up paragraphs and sending them
to London and the provincial papers.  He had, and has, as malicious
and dirty-minded a soul as exists in the world to-day.  He was the
very man for Tunstall.  He was more evil, I don't doubt, than
Tunstall and yet I did not hate him half as much.  He had no power
over me.  I thought of him possibly as a kind of emanation from
Tunstall.  When Tunstall couldn't come to me himself he sent the
Rat instead, and I can see him now with a faint shiny stubble on
his cheeks, his projecting teeth and false grin, his restless cat-
like eyes.  'He's come back and he's going to stay,' the Rat said,
eyeing me curiously.  His malicious curiosity knew no limit.  He
had long ago discovered my hatred and fear of Tunstall, but what
was Tunstall's hold over me?  I did not look as though I had any
vices.  And, farther than that, why did Tunstall bother about me at
all?  What was my attraction for Tunstall?

He never discovered the answer to these questions, and I think at
last he decided that the solution was connected with my wife.

And now I must try to explain one of the driving decisive elements
in this case--Eve, my wife, from the very first moment, liked
Tunstall.  At least she did not dislike him.  I must say here at
once that no one could dislike Leila Tunstall, Tunstall's wife.
This was a little round pale-faced woman whose face was almost
deformed.

It was NOT deformed, although the face WAS definitely twisted, and
yet where the twist was you could never decide.  She was as plain
as she could be but most terribly nice.  Tunstall had married her
for her money, of course, and he took everything she gave him for
granted, patronized her, laughed at her.  She accepted it all with
a smile, very quietly.

You would call her, perhaps, a saint--the only one I have ever
known.  But not at all a prig.  Nothing shocked her.  She had a
strong sense of humour.  She liked to mother everyone.  She was a
very fine woman.

Oddly enough Eve liked Tunstall more than Mrs. Tunstall.  'Of
course she's a good woman,' she said.  'When you're as plain as
that it's all that's left you.'  Then she added quickly, 'That's
cattishness.  I'm jealous because she's so much better than me.'

She argued with me on the other side.

'I just can't see what you've got against Jimmie Tunstall.'

'He's foul-minded and foul-living.  He's false and treacherous.
Vain as a monkey.  Greedy.'

'Oh, John, that's jealousy!'

'Jealousy!  If I were him I'd shoot myself.'

'He likes you most awfully anyway.'

'He doesn't.  He despises me.  He likes teasing me, frightening
me.'

'Frightening you?  What have you got to be frightened of?'

'I don't know.  I've always been frightened of him since we were
kids.'

Nevertheless during these nine years we did not see so very much of
one another.  His success kept him in London.  Then he and Leila
went for a year on a trip round the world.  When he DID come to
Seaborne he was busy with his painting.  To my great relief he
seemed for a long time to have forgotten all about me.  But can you
escape anything that is your destiny?  I think not.

That was one of the 'turning' moments of my life when Cheeseman
told me that Tunstall had come back and was going to stay.  I knew
it.  My throat contracted.

'Things have been going a bit wrong, I fancy,' Cheeseman said with
satisfaction.  'He's a bit ratty.  Been drinking more than's good
for him.  Leila's a bit worried.  By the way, he said something
about you this afternoon.'

'What did he say?' I asked, my heart hammering.

'Oh, only--how's Jacko?'


VII


Shortly after this there came an invitation to a Tunstall party:
'Dancing.  Bridge.'

'What fun!' Eve said.

'You go.  You can go with Jessie Parrott.  She's sure to be asked.'

Jessie Parrott was a twittering spinsterly gossip with grey hair in
ironclad waves, a mole on her chin, and little nervous movements of
her head like a thrush on an early-morning lawn.

'I won't go if you don't.'

'I'm not going.'

Eve was never angry.  But she could look at me with contempt.

'Why ever not?'

'I detest Tunstall.  That being so, I won't accept his
hospitality.'

But I met him on the high road leading to Shining Cliff.  He was at
his best, healthy, buoyant and sober, his green scarab ring shining
in the sun.  He had with him his fox-terrier Scandal.  Scandal was
a lively merry dog, little more than a puppy, who sprang about as
though his thin rough legs belonged to a toy dog.

And wasn't Tunstall glad to see me!  I thought for a moment that he
would kiss me.  He held me with both arms and once again I had that
curious sensation that he was drawing me into himself.  His breast
opened.  I was drawn in like a stream of air.  The breast closed.
I was a prisoner.

The dog jumped up on me, greeting me.

'Down, Scandal, down!  The dog is as fond of you as I am, you see.
Of course you're coming to the party.'

'No.  I'm not.'

'Certainly you are.'  He stood directly in front of me, his broad
thick-set body impeding my path.  We were exactly of a height, but
I was a pale shadow, cast by the misted sun, of his health, self-
confidence and vigour.

'Why aren't you coming?'

'Simply because I don't want to.'

'That's very rude.  I haven't seen much of you lately.  I'm going
to from now on.  Plenty.'

I forced myself to speak up.

'Please leave me alone.  It's a small profitless thing the
amusement you get out of me.  We have nothing in common, nothing at
all, we never have had.  It's just a whim of yours.  You know I've
always disliked you.  You've pretended I don't, but you know in
your heart that I do.  And you hate and despise me.'

I felt as though this were the last appeal of my life that I was
making to him--absurd really, here, on this sunny day with the
silver slab of Shining Cliff gleaming not far off and the fox-
terrier springing about near to us.

He looked at me, his eyes, now a little bloodshot, staring under
the black beetling eyebrows.  I could see the faint purple veins in
his cheeks, the short black hairs thick in his nostrils.

'That's all right,' he said.  'You can hate me as much as you like.
Love's akin to hate, you know, Jacko!'  He laughed like anything at
that, shaking all over.  'Of course you're coming to the party.'

And of course I went.  Eve and Jessie Parrott and I.


The Tunstall house was large and glittering.  To my taste it was
vulgar.  In the drawing-room was a portrait of Tunstall himself
painted by Walter Eckersley, R.A.  It was a regular Eckersley
masterpiece, exactly like a coloured photograph.  The rooms were
bare in the modern manner and yet colours clashed.  There was a
billiard-room, very elegant, a huge radio-gramophone, a little bar
downstairs--and Tunstall was proud of showing us his own private
bathroom, a steel and marble affair with dumb-bells and a
marvellous shower gleaming with taps.

On the party-occasion we met first round the little bar behind
which was a bare floor for dancing.  There were some thirty people,
I suppose.  Eve was, in my opinion, by a great way the most
beautiful woman there, in a dress of pale grey, her face nunlike,
of a remote and lovely chastity.

I was afraid from the moment I entered that house that night.  I
had been living more and more by myself.  I had had a little
quarrel that afternoon with Eve about the boy, Archie, and this had
upset me very much.  She had said that it was time that he went to
school.  I had a horror of school for him.  I had suffered at
school so much myself, and Archie was a sensitive, shy boy, more
like a girl in some things than a boy.

'That,' said Eve, 'is just why school will be so good for him.
That's what he needs.'

When she was determined on something like this she could look hard
and ruthless.

'You've no heart,' I said.

'I love that boy more than anything on earth.'

'Yes, more than me.'

'Oh, John!'  She burst out laughing.  'Don't be so silly!  You're
like a girl yourself sometimes!'

But I was terrified at the thought of Archie at school.  He would
suffer as I had suffered.  So I was upset when I went to the
Tunstalls' and when I am upset it is as though all eyes are upon
me, mocking me.  I detest this self-consciousness, but if you ARE
self-conscious what are you to do about it?

Then, as soon as I was downstairs by the bar, Tunstall made for me.
It was as though I were the only guest that mattered.  Now my ideal
at a party (if I MUST be present) is to sit in a corner, quite
unnoticed, and observe other people.  How wonderful to be an
invisible physical presence!

I had hoped on this occasion to find a corner and be happily
undisturbed until Eve had had enough of it and was ready to go
home.  How dreadfully otherwise was my fate!

We went, as ordered by a stiff and shining parlourmaid, to the
downstairs bar and dancing-room.  There everybody was, but as we
entered Tunstall seemed to detect us before we were announced.  He
came forward eagerly, greeted Eve and turned at once to me.  'Dear
old Jacko!' he cried, in a voice that rang through the room, put
his hand on my arm and led me forward.

Ah, but he was mocking me!  Didn't I know it, and didn't everyone
else know it?

It seemed to me that I was faced with a circle of jeering faces.  I
don't suppose for a moment that that was so.  Although I had no
warm friends in Seaborne, people on the whole respected me.  I was
Seaborne's only author and my photograph had been in the London
papers.  'A dull dog.  How he manages to write those books I can't
think,' would be the verdict.

I am sure that they did not look on me with mockery, but it was
part of the fate that now had me in charge that I should fancy
their hostility, that it should be almost as though I were back at
school again, back at the baths with my enemies uncovering my
nakedness.

So I was at my worst, sulky and uncourteous when Tunstall led me up
to the little bar and insisted on my drinking.  I refused, of
course, a cocktail.

He looked at me humorously and addressed the laughing crowd.
'You'd never think, would you,' he said, 'that Jacko is my best
friend?  He has all the virtues, I all the vices.  He is a very
serious highbrow author.  I'm a common cheap painter.'  (His hand
was round my neck.)  'All the same, the best friendships are
between opposites.'  (He was a little drunk already.  I could smell
his breath.)  'We've been friends all our lives, haven't we, Jacko?
And will be friends to the end.  Aye, and beyond the end, too.
Into Eternity.  I drink to you, Jacko, and will forgive you for
once for drinking my health in tomato juice.'

I look back now to that party and, in the light of later events,
feel that it was a kind of phantasmagoria with everyone a little
out of drawing, larger than life-size.  I've noticed, too (many
others have noticed the same), that in any gathering of human
beings you can, with a very little exercise of the imagination, see
people as animals--the wolf, the fox, the snake, the rabbit, the
horse, the parrot, the faithful dog.  I had a sense that they were
pressing in upon me and soon would begin to bark, to whistle, to
snarl.

To one person at least my discomfiture was apparent, for little
Leila Tunstall arrived, detached me from the others, led me to two
chairs in the corner of the room.

'Don't you worry about me,' I said, more comfortable at once.
'This is what I like--to sit in a corner and not be noticed.'

'It was too bad of Jim,' she said.  'He's so fond of you, but he
doesn't seem to understand you a bit.  Then he likes teasing
people.'

She gave me a sudden quick look:  'You know--you mustn't think me
rude--you're VERY like a brother of mine in the East.  In looks,
voice--it's astonishing!'

But I was thinking of Tunstall.

'He likes teasing ME, you mean,' I answered.  'And I don't take
teasing well.  I get self-conscious and stupid.  What I'd LIKE
would be to sit here and watch people all the evening and not speak
to anyone.  That's dreadfully unsociable, isn't it?'

She was watching her husband.  I could see that she was worried.

'Jim thinks such a lot of you,' she said.  'I believe you could
have some influence over him.  He wants a friend just now.  He's
disappointed with the way things have been going, and then he
drinks too much and--'  She stopped, feeling perhaps that she was
disloyal.

'I wouldn't say all this except to a real friend of his.'

I wanted to say that I wasn't a real friend, that I hated him and
always had done.  But of course I couldn't say that to her,
especially when she was so kind and gentle.

It was then that I noticed someone I had never seen before.  A
woman.  She was very handsome, bigly built, a blonde, holding
herself superbly, dressed rather nakedly.  She had daring laughing
eyes, and plainly defied the world.

'Who is that?' I asked.

I saw at once that Leila disliked her.  Leila's face had that
deformed look now--somewhere a little twisted--was it the mouth,
the cheek?  When she looked like this you were sorry for her and
loved her.  You knew she would have been very unhappy had she not
been too courageous to allow unhappiness.

'Oh, that?  That's Bella Scorfield.'

'And WHO is Bella Scorfield?'

'Ah, no.  You wouldn't have realized her yet.  She and her mother
have come to live here.  They have taken a little house--Middlewood--
not far from Shining Cliff.  A desolate, lonely place I'D think
it, and Mrs. Scorfield is a permanent invalid.  Jim insisted on my
paying a call--a strange woman--looks like a corpse--lies in bed
all day working at chess problems and reading mathematics.  Or so
Bella told me.  Bella doesn't seem to mind.  She has a car of her
own.  She's--what shall I say?--a bit of a rip.  She told me the
other day--she likes to confide in me, I can't think why--that she
had only a few years to have a good time in and she'd make the most
of it.  So I asked her why she had chosen this dull little place
and a house miles from anywhere.  She gave me a queer look and said
that you could often have a better time in a dull little place.'

'You don't like her,' I said.

'No, frankly, I don't.'

'I hate her at sight,' I said.

To that Leila replied:

'What a funny man you are!  To look at you one would think you were
as quiet as a mouse.  But when one gets to know you a little one
finds you are full of intense feelings--about people especially.'

'I'd say exactly the same about you.'

She flushed a little, then answered very quietly:  'There ARE some
things about which one feels intensely, of course.'

I wasn't permitted to keep my quiet corner for long.  Tunstall was
soon very merry.  It would be untrue to say that he was drunk; he
was flushed and noisy and reckless.  It became, in fact, very soon
a noisy party.  Tunstall had that effect on people; he shook them
out of their caution, and especially if there were drinks there to
assist him.

And I that evening was his continuous butt.  Why, WHY did I not
have the wisdom to slip away and go home?  Again and again I was
tempted to do so, but I did not wish to abandon Eve (she would not
have cared, perhaps, if I had).  I loved her that night, it seemed
to me, as I had never loved her before.  How her unattainability
stirred my blood!  Ah, could I but have been assured that when I
touched her arm with my hand she would turn round and, seeing that
it was I, would look at me with surprised love.  I have caught that
look between man and wife, and oh, have I not envied them!

She would not have cared had I gone--and yet I stayed.  They
danced.  We went upstairs to supper, and it seemed that Tunstall
could not let me alone.  'Where's Jacko?' he would cry.  'Jacko!
Jacko!  Where's Jacko?'

'Your master wants you,' some woman, laughing, said to me.  How
humiliated I was!  How desperately I hated his going with me
upstairs, his hand on my arm!

We were pressed about with people, and yet at one moment I had a
strong impulse to push him on his soft stomach with my sharp elbow
and so send him reeling backwards, losing his balance with a cry,
tumbling down those sharp-edged wooden stairs, breaking his fat
neck perhaps. . . .  At that my heart seemed to stop.  It appeared
to me that I looked out from the very soul of Tunstall himself and
saw that fallen, twisted body and the crowd with faces like cambric
masks and sharp clown noses, peering at it.  I had indeed stopped.
He pushed me up the stairs, his hand pressing the small of my back.

'Come on, Jacko!  Don't you want your feed?  There's ginger-beer,
you know--plenty of ginger-beer!'

They did the thing very well.  We all sat down to supper at a long
table, lit with candles.  He sat me down between himself and Miss
Scorfield.  His knee pressed against mine.  Once he laid his hot
sweating hand on the back of mine.  He leant across me and talked
of me to Miss Scorfield almost as though I were not there.  He
seemed to me to be already on excellent terms with her.  I did not
look at her, but, in my senses, I was conscious of her half-bare
bosom, her naked back, some rose-scented perfume, the heat of her
body, the abandonment of her soul.

'You've got to be friends with Jacko, Bella, or you won't be
friends with me.  He's my better half, always has been since we
were at school together.'

'It wouldn't be difficult to be YOUR better half, Jimmie.'

'Ah, that's what YOU think!  It's more than you'll ever be, Bella,
old girl.'

This seemed to them a tremendous joke, and they laughed like
anything, he with his hand on my shoulder, his crimson flushed face
staring straight into her body.  It was almost as though he
possessed her in front of my eyes.

After supper we danced, played bridge, gossiped.  The silly Parrott
girl insisted on staying beside me.  Didn't I think Jim Tunstall
really AWFUL?  He couldn't leave a woman alone.  How his poor wife
was humiliated!  And his drinking.  Of course if he went on like
that his painting would soon go to pieces.  In fact she had heard
that in London . . .

I put an end to this, saying that we had just enjoyed a jolly good
supper at his hands, and that it wasn't in the best of taste to
slander him.  She gave me a viperish look.

'You know what you are, John Talbot.  You're a hypocritical prig.
You know that you hate Jim Tunstall like poison and always have.
You wouldn't be past murdering him if you could get away with it
safely.  He's been laughing at you all your life, and if there's
one thing you can't stand, it's being laughed at.  And I'll tell
you another thing.  Watch Eve and your dear host you're so keen on
defending.  I wouldn't put it past the two of them.'

With which she walked away, pleased at having disturbed me.  As
indeed she had, for, at that very moment, looking across to a
window-seat near the piano, I saw Eve and Tunstall close together;
Tunstall was talking eagerly.  Once he put out his hand and touched
hers.  Eve sat, quiet, beautifully composed, but quite suddenly, as
I was staring at them, she laughed, looking up into his face.  She
gave him a smile--of impudence, daring, adventurous excitement--how
should I describe it?  The importance of it was in the fact that
she had never, in all our married life together, given me such a
smile.

You know how in a second of time you can change from good health to
ill.  You are perfectly well, buried in gardening or letter-writing
or reading.  You are comfortably settled in the rational normal
world.  An instant, and we've changed all that!  You are trembling,
shivering, heated, sick.  So it is, I found then, with jealousy.
When I saw the smile that Eve gave to Tunstall I became, in that
moment, a jealous lunatic.

I showed my lunacy during the walk home.  When one is in love and
the other feels friendship but not love, one plays, whatever
happens, a losing game.  There is no safe time for protests,
appeals, tears.  The other is securely armoured with indifference.

I behaved like a fool on that homeward walk.  Like all jealous
people, I knew, at the very moment, the fool that I was!  'Say
nothing.  Be gay, indifferent.  Pretend not to care.'  That was
wisdom.  But I loved her too dearly, and jealousy is a cataract
that rushes one's boat over the swirling falls.

I abused her for flirting with Tunstall.  I said that he was a man
with a monstrous reputation.  I said that she had disgraced myself
and our child by behaving so before the Seaborne gossips.

Then she was really angry.  For the first time in our lives
together she was really angry.  Her voice had a hard edge to it
that I had never heard before.  She said some bitter things, things
I don't doubt that she had long been treasuring in her heart but
had been too kindly-natured to declare.

She said that I was becoming a useless, stupid old maid.  She, like
the Parrott, called me a prig, and said that all the world thought
me one.  What kind of life was it for her, did I think, to live
with someone who shut himself off from everyone and wasted his life
in writing books that no one wanted?  I resented, she said, that
anyone should have any fun.  I was against all human feeling, no
one must flirt, or drink, or dance.  She liked Tunstall.  I was
absurdly unfair to him and in reality was jealous of him because he
was everything that I was not--gay, popular, a real man.

I broke in then to cry that I hated him, I hated him, I hated him!
He was bad, worthless, false to his wife and everyone else.  If
she, my wife, could like such a man, then she was no wife for me.

She answered, with a dreadful gravity that struck terror into my
heart, that perhaps that was true.  Our marriage had been a
mistake.  She had done all she could.  The shop would have closed
had it not been for her.  Yes.  We were not suited to one another.
She saw that clearly now.

At that I was abject.  I said that she was right to despise me,
that I WAS a prig.  I begged her to understand (oh, the miserable
self-humiliation of jealousy!) that I loved her so terribly that
nothing and nobody mattered to me beside her.  I was jealous, yes.
I could not bear to see Tunstall touch her hand, to see her smile
into his face.  Ah, if she would only love me a little--just a
little.  How I prayed for it, longed for it!  I would try to
improve, to see more people, to help her in the shop.  I would do
this, do that.  If only she would forgive me for my stupid jealousy
there was nothing I would not do.  But she would not, just then,
forgive me.  She was cold in my arms that night, not kind as she
often was.  Alas, I wept.  But my tears did not move her.  I could
feel that she thought of me, just then, with repulsion.

Next morning she was kind again.


Everyone knows what obsessions are.  They ride you like demons.
They dig their talons into your heart.  They accompany you, like
slithery fat familiars, in all your daily and nightly doings.

From the night of Tunstall's party I was thus ridden.  I saw two
things.  I saw Tunstall falling backwards down the wooden stairs on
to the floor of the room where the dancing was--and I saw my wife
laughing up into his eyes.

Then followed the episode of the bathe.  These were the early days
of summer, the beginning of June.  To the right of Shining Cliff
there was a little beach, Bateman's Cove.  At certain tides it was
excellent for bathing, having a hard saffron-coloured sand and a
steep shelving descent so that you need not wade ignominiously
before swimming.  Because the path down to it was long, steep and
winding, it was less popular than certain more accessible beaches.
All the more reason for my pleasure in it!

One late afternoon I went there alone to bathe.  It was an
exquisite day of soft milky tenderness, the air warm as a gentle
embrace, little movement, the blue glassy water broken quite
suddenly with the baby energy of a white-crested wave.

I was quite alone on the beach.  I was half-undressed when I looked
up and saw Tunstall standing there watching me.  Hugging now my
obsession as I did, it did not seem to me at all odd that he should
be with me, for he was ALWAYS with me.  I could hardly tell whether
he were real or wraith.  But he was real enough.  He had his
bathing-towel under his arm.

'I saw you from above, Jacko.  I was going to bathe on Anstey, but
when I saw you all alone down there I wanted to join you so badly
that I bothered with all that tiresome path.  Now isn't THAT
devotion?'

I looked at him almost with friendliness.  He had been for some
weeks now the constant companion of my mind.

'Well, what have you been doing with yourself?  I haven't seen you
for nearly a week.'

'"The trivial round, the common task".'

'Don't you talk just like a book?  How's your most delightful
wife?'

'Very well, thank you.'

'Now, there's a woman!  Aren't you lucky?  We've made fast friends.
I hope you don't mind?'

'No.  Why should I?'

'Well, if YOU dislike me, Jacko, she doesn't.  You like MY wife and
I like YOURS.  Isn't that lucky?'

He had thrown off his clothes and stood now in bathing-trunks.  His
body was a white fat.  His breasts were heavy.  There was thick
hair on his chest and even on his shoulders.  On the right arm,
high up, there was tattooed a mermaid.  I was slim beside him, and
this was the more emphasized because we were of exactly the same
height.  I had fancied that I was growing a little stout, but now,
looking at him, I was reassured.  His red face and hands were in
startling contrast with his pale body.  In fact, for a moment we
stared at one another.

'Do you remember,' he said slowly, 'when we were kids, and I pulled
your shirt over your head?'

'Yes.  I remember.'

'You minded like anything.  You know,' he went on, curling his toes
into the warm sand, 'it has always given me a kind of kick when you
mind things.  Why is that, do you suppose?'

'I've no idea.'

'I get a sort of pleasure in seeing you wince.  It's like--it's
like--pulling your own hair to hurt yourself.'

I tore myself away from him almost desperately.  Nothing so curious
as the way he held me!  I ran down into the sea.  He quickly
followed me.  He was a good swimmer and so was I.  The water was
indeed lovely, the advancing afternoon perfection, but all my
pleasure was spoilt, I wanted to be out and dressed, and away as
soon as possible.  When I came out, he came out too.

As he was dressing himself, he said:  'You didn't stay in long.'

'No, I didn't.'

'That was because you wanted to get away from me.'

'Yes.'

'Well, you can't.  I shall walk along with you to the bus.'

I said nothing.  We dressed in silence.  We walked up the path in
single file.

At the top he said:

'Dear old Jacko.  You'd do me a hurt if you could, wouldn't you?'

I didn't reply.

'And I'd do you one.  But that's because I like you so much.'

He suddenly began to chatter.  He talked all the way to the bus,
about himself, his painting, his jolly life.  One thing he said:

'You remember Bella?  You sat next to her at supper?'

'Yes.'

'Fine woman, wasn't she?'

'I suppose some men would think so.'

'You bet they do.  I'll tell you about her some time--all about her
and me.'

'I haven't the least desire to hear.'

'No.  That's why I shall enjoy telling you.'

Looking back now I can see that it was after this episode of the
bathe that I moved into a new world.  I was not only obsessed, but
I was obsessed with an idea--and as yet I was not certain of my
idea.  You know how it is when you wake of a morning, and are
instantly conscious that there is something overhanging your mind.
For a second of time you do not know what this thing may be, then
it leaps at you--pleasure or pain, terror or anticipation.  It was
now as though this second of uncertainty was prolonged.

SOMETHING was there, waiting to dominate me.  I was not sure yet
what it was.

About a fortnight after the bathe Tunstall caught me again.  This
time down in the Lower Town, outside the pub, from whose stomach
proceeded the squeak of an amateur and very discordant jazz band.

Tunstall came out of the pub as I turned homewards.  He put his
hand through my arm and walked with me.  He was a little drunk, and
greatly excited.

'Dearest Jacko, do you know the time?'

'Yes.  It's nine-thirty almost exactly.'

(Of this dialogue I, to my shame and despair, remember every
syllable--far, far more than I shall ever wish to record on paper.)

'Good.  Splendid.  In an hour and a half's time I shall be in the
arms of my beloved.  Come.  We'll take this way by the sea.  It's
longer, but I want to fill in time.'

I had not replied.

'Why don't you ask the name of my beloved?  I have no secrets from
YOU, Jacko.  Bella.  Bella.  Bella.  You remember Bella, don't you?
The loveliest woman in England.  I am going to Bella.'

'I thought she lived with her mother.'

'So she does.'

'Well--does her mother approve?'

'Her mother doesn't know anything about it.  Her mother,
fortunately, takes sleeping-draughts.  See, Jacko, I'll tell you
all about it--the minutest details.  You are my other half, my
better half, my pure, austere, celibate half.  I shall be delighted
to stir my better half's virginity.'

He went on with all the excited eagerness of a semi-drunk man.

'I know I'm a little drunk, old Jacko, but that doesn't impair my
potency, old man.  As I'll be proving just two hours from now!'  He
pulled me a little closer to his side.  The sea below us was
purring like a cat.

'This is the way of it, old chap.  I can see her window from
Shining Cliff, and if the old lady is well away, then Bella puts a
light in the window.  We meet once a week--not more.  I like my
wife, although you mayn't think it.  She's a good sort--she is
really.  I don't want her to suspect anything.  Besides, neither
Bella nor I want people to talk.  I've a reputation to keep up.'

'Not much of one,' I said.

'Ah, that's all you know!  Anyway, once a week is our rule.  Just
enough to keep the excitement going.  So we settle the evening and
at the appointed time I'm out on Shining Cliff.  If the light is on
I advance.  The house is all by itself.  No road near it.  Only a
little path.  I get in through a window, take my boots off, go up
the stairs in my stockinged feet.  Her bedroom door's ajar.  In I
go, switch on the light.  There she is in bed, sitting up waiting
for me.  Oh, boy!  Isn't that a moment!  But we don't exchange a
word, we just grin at one another.  Then I fling my clothes off
and, when they're all on the floor, then we just stare at one
another.  After that, in a jiffy I'm in bed.'

I began to tremble all over.  I felt nausea.

'Let me go, Tunstall!  Let me go!'

'No, you don't.'  He holds me still with his hand.  Once again I am
absorbed inside him.  I pass between his ribs.  I am lodged close
to the beating of his heart.

Then he begins to tell me everything, detail after detail.  I
whisper:  'Let me go, Tunstall.  For God's sake let me go!'

At last he lets me go.


VIII


I am never likely to forget the smallest detail of that afternoon,
August 13th--the half-hour that swung me into the heart of my
decision.

It was about four o'clock of a hot oppressive August day.  From
early morning the sun had been burning sulkily behind heavy clouds.
There had been a sniff of sulphur in the air.  Dust over the garden
where the flowers hung their heads.  The sea rolled in heavily as
an assistant politely unrolls bales of dark oilskin.  We sat in our
room, all three of us.  Eve was at the table, examining some
catalogues.  She was considering certain drawings by minor Pre-
Raphaelites offered therein.  She sat, her thin elbows supporting
her sharp, pale chin.  Her dress was of grey, with an almost
Elizabethan ruffle of rose-colour about her neck.

Archie was sitting in the window, turning over the pages of a
magazine, looking out between the clearing of roofs to the sea.
The veiled and darkened sun fell on his hair, which was the
lightest gold in colour.  His face was so pale and delicate, his
body so slight, that I could never look at him without a pang of
anxiety, but if I ever approached him with any kind of solicitude
he always repulsed me.  'Oh, I'm all RIGHT, father!'  He loved his
mother, not me--or so I thought then--and I longed, how I longed,
to take him in my arms and strain him to my breast, and cover his
pale shell-like face with kisses.

There was no human being in all the world to whom I could
demonstrate affection without reproach.

Eve had in front of her a large print of J. M. Strudwick's, 'The
Ramparts of God's House.'  She suddenly turned round to me, the
narrow gold ring flashing on her finger.

'Too many angels,' she said.  'And they all have the same faces.
How dark the room is!  There must be thunder near.'

And so it was.  Archie was himself a Pre-Raphaelite figure, seated
in the window in that deep plum-coloured air that Burne-Jones so
often affected.  Details stood out most clearly in that oppressive
air, the shining brass of the fire-irons, the rose-colour about
Eve's throat, the bright yellow of some roses in a bowl, the dim
gilt binding of some books on a shelf.

I was reading Gissing's Nether World, that most gloomy and hopeless
of all stories, but behind the faade of the book were staring
figures of the poisoned world that Tunstall had created in my
imagination.  Yes, he had created them, and with my loathing of
them and their actions went a weak inability to dismiss them.
Tunstall himself, straddle-legged, mocking, laughed at me while
behind him another Tunstall crept up the stairs on his stockinged
feet, while behind him yet another stood, while she watched him
from the sheets and he pulled his shirt over his head. . . .

The dark oppressive air, the very faint rumblings of thunder like
the warning of a muffled drum, the sense that my wife and son cared
nothing for me, the longing to rise and lay the back of my hand
against Archie's cheek, the knowledge that if I did so he would
quietly move his head while his blue eyes regarded me with a little
contempt; all this with the added knowledge that everyone thought
me a failure and that indeed I WAS one, and added to this again the
uncertain, unhappy state of the world, with Hitler, like the
brooding Mephistopheles on the Brocken, planning cold ruin and
bitter destruction--with all this I was unhappy on that afternoon,
beyond, it seemed, any possible alleviation.

The door opened and Tunstall came in.  He had never come to our
house uninvited before.  He went quickly, beaming, forward to my
wife, his hand outstretched.

'There's a terrible storm coming.  I'm dying for a cup of tea.  I
have no other apology.'

He was at his most charming; quite sober, most respectful, serious-
minded.  The flushed purple undertone was gone from his cheeks; his
hair was newly cut and sleek above his brown stout neck.  He was
wearing a heather-brown light coat and a dark tie, and dark purple
corduroy trousers--full of colour, animation, sober restrained
impudence.

Do you think that from my corner I did not watch every detail of
him, feel the reverberation of his voice against my breast-bone,
know that even while he was turning to Eve his broad back was full
of eyes that mocked me?  And he stood in his bare legs pulling his
shirt over his head. . . .

But someone else was observing him, too.  That was Archie, who had
never seen him closely before, had never seen purple corduroy
trousers, had never heard so merry, confident, cheeky a voice.

Tunstall had sat down, his legs spread, and was chatting away to
Eve.

'What!  The Pre-Raphaelites!  You don't really admire them, do you,
with all their preaching and the rest of it?'

'It isn't their preaching--it's their colour,' Eve said.

'Oh, their colour!' Tunstall answered scornfully.  'Anyone can make
an effect with colour.  Now, I--'  Then he stopped, laughing, for
she was looking at him in the mocking way that she had.  'No.  I'm
not going to boast.  You're too sharp for me.'

'Why, what do you mean?' Eve cried.

'You think I'm terribly conceited, don't you?  Well, I'm not
really.  I'll even go as far as to say I might have been a much
BETTER painter.  Oh, yes, I might, and you know it.  I've let
myself go a bit, and I must pull up.  You might help me.'

'You've got the best wife in the world.  You don't need anyone
else.'

As she said this her hand came down softly on the table, and her
wedding-ring clicked against the board.  The little sound, I don't
know why, inflamed me with jealousy.  Their hands were not
touching.

'Ah, Leila!' he said softly.  'Yes.  She's a good woman.'

Eve got up and began to fetch and arrange the tea.  I felt that she
avoided my eyes.  I thought that her cheek was a little flushed and
that her voice was raised.

For once Tunstall did not chaff me, scarcely spoke to me.  He was
grave and serious.  He began to drink his tea, when his eyes
settled on Archie.  Archie had been staring at him, and especially
at his broad thigh stretched out in the purple corduroy trousers.

'What are your trousers made of?' Archie suddenly said.

Eve reproached him.

'Hush, Archie--that's rude.'

But Tunstall was delighted.

'Nonsense.  He isn't rude.  Here.  Come and see what the trousers
are made of.'

Archie came over to him shyly, and Tunstall drew him in until he
was standing between his legs.

'Here, pinch them!' Tunstall said, laughing.  Archie did so.  'I
say, what a grand-looking boy!  What do you want to be, Archie!'

'Oh, I don't know,' Archie said, with obvious admiration.

'Ever tried your hand at drawing or painting?'

'I have a little.'

'Like it, do you?'

'I do rather.'

'Having drawing lessons?'

'No.  Father thinks it a waste of time.'

'Oh, he does, does he?  Well, I tell you what.  I'LL give you some
drawing lessons.  Would you like that?'

'Oh, rather!'

'Right!  You shall come over to me.  We'll have a grand time.  Got
any drawings to show me?'

But I interrupted here.  The rain was now slashing the windows.  It
was dark.  I switched on the light and in the sudden illumination I
stood facing the three of them.  My voice shook.  I wanted to
steady it, but I could not.

'I'm awfully sorry,' I said, 'but I'm afraid not, Tunstall.
Archie's got his own work to do and--'

But Tunstall broke into a shout of laughter.  He threw his head
back and laughed and laughed.

'Oh, dear, I'm most awfully sorry!  Oh, Jacko! you'll be the death
of me yet.  Suddenly switching the light up, and standing there
like the Commander's ghost.  Why, we'd forgotten all about you.
I'm awfully sorry.  It's very rude to laugh.  If only you could see
yourself!'

Eve was smiling.  Archie, nervous, half frightened, half angry, put
his hand on Tunstall's arm as though for protection.

It was with that movement that I suddenly saw.  It was a blinding
light of illumination, so that I turned round for an instant and
stared at the wall.  I knew what it was that had, for a long time
now, been hanging at the back of my mind, just out of my
consciousness.

I turned back and stared at Tunstall.  He was like a new man whom I
had never seen before.  Everything about him was different, and my
feelings towards him were different.  He had a kind of consecrated
air.  It was as though I had had sudden secret information that he
was suffering from a fatal disease.  It did not matter any more
what he said or did, how he behaved.  I was not jealous, nor angry.
I was at peace with myself, as one is when at last one yields to a
temptation against which one has long been struggling.  Above all,
I felt now a strong bond between himself and myself.


On the afternoon of the second day following his visit to us, I was
standing outside Smith's bookshop.  It was August 15th, and very
warm.  The High Street was thronged with holiday-makers.  The sun
sparkled in splinters of light as though someone were placing and
replacing a screen.  Motors hummed like drunken bees.  There was a
great sense of movement and bustle.  Tunstall appeared.  He was
hurrying into Smith's, his eyes a little bloodshot, his soft hat
pushed back from his forehead, on which there were beads of
perspiration.

He saw me, and grinned his wicked schoolboy grin.

'Hullo, Jacko.'

'Hullo.'  I smiled.  I was glad to see him.

'You look as though you were pleased to see me.'

'I am.'

'Well, I never!  That's a change, isn't it?  I say--are you waiting
for someone?  I believe you've got an assignation.  Oh, my naughty
Jacko!'

'No.  I wasn't waiting for anyone.'

'Talking of assignations.'  He dropped his voice, gripped my arm
and pushed his face so close to mine that I could smell the
perspiration on his forehead.  'Next Thursday's the night.  Yes.
Rain or shine.  Nice for you, Jacko.'  He chuckled.  'You can
picture us.  Every word.  Every movement.  Eleven prompt I'm at
Shining Cliff.  Eleven-fifteen creeping up the stairs.  And eleven-
thirty.  Oh, boy!  Eleven-thirty!  Nice for you, Jacko.  You can
enjoy it all by proxy.'

'Perhaps I'll be there one night, hiding behind the curtain.'

I could see that he was surprised at my jocularity.

'You're growing up, Jacko,' he said.  'You're certainly growing
up.'

On the evening of the following Thursday I said to Eve, as we were
finishing supper:

'I'm going to the pictures.  Last house.'

'What's on?'

'David Copperfield.  A revival.  I liked it so much when it first
came out, I've always wanted to see it again.  It comes on for the
last time at nine o'clock.'

I had for a moment a really choking fear that she would suggest
going with me.  She seemed to hesitate.  But she didn't enjoy
pictures.

'All right.  I'm going to bed early.  Come in and see me when you
come back.  I shall be reading.'

I went out, the collar of my waterproof turned up.  It was raining--
a kind of warm, misty rain.  There was also a moon.  This at times
broke through the gusty clouds and illuminated the world with a
wet, oily phantasmagoria.  It was stuffy and close.

I got to the 'Regal' cinema at a quarter to nine.  Inside the
foyer, Bob Steele, the proprietor, was standing, with the faded
carnation in his button-hole, the ill-fitting dinner-jacket (he
buttoned it across the stomach, a large one), his curly black hair
and his rather foxy smile.  It was his business to be agreeable,
and agreeable he was, especially, I believe, to little girls.

'Hullo, Talbot!  How's yourself?'

'All right, thanks.'

'Rotten night.'

'Good for your business, though.'

'Yes.  Mustn't complain.  Remarkable how they're turning up to
this, although it's an old picture.'

I went to the little glass window and paid for a one-and-sixpenny
ticket.  Then, with a nod at Steele (he would remember me all
right), I went in.

I found an outside seat.  I watched the News Reel, and a 'Mickey
Mouse.'  Then Copperfield began.  I sat through part of this and
then I slipped across the passage and out of the side door, raising
the iron bar very silently.  I was in the side street--Couper
Street.  There was no one about and the rain was coming down more
heavily.

I reached Shining Cliff at ten-twenty exactly.  The rain had
stopped, and the pale moonlight was like dust on the cliff top.  I
went to the edge and looked down.  The drop was sheer and terrific.
The tide would soon be full, and already waves were licking the
boulders far below.  For half an hour I sheltered behind a broken
wall, for the rain came on again, and it was very dark.

Two minutes after eleven o'clock had struck from Climstock Church,
I heard someone approaching.  I stood up.  I saw someone of
Tunstall's build come to the cliff, and pause.  There was a faint
light now, the white dusky shadow thrown before the moon emerges.
I saw that he stared, and I knew for what he was looking.

I came forward to meet him.  He WAS astonished!

'Why, Jacko--whatever--'

'Quite a coincidence,' I answered.  'I've been on a job for Eve--
seeing the doctor in Climstock.  He's the man we always have--
Wellard.  An awfully good doctor.'  Then I added, laughing:  'Why,
of course--it's Thursday!  I had quite forgotten.'

I could see that he was impatient.  'Yes, it is.  There's the
light, though.'  I could see, with him, between the trees a faint
flicker like an unsteady star.

'I must be getting.  Mustn't be wasting a lady's time.'

'Wait a second.'  For the first time in all our two lives together
I took his arm.  _I_ took HIS arm!

'Wait.  It isn't quite true what I said.  There was something
rather important I wanted to tell you.  Something serious.'

'Serious!  Well, what about to-morrow, old boy?  Really, I'm late
as it is.'

I had been leading him gently forward.  We were on the cliff edge.
I put my arm round his broad back.

'I say, Jacko!'  He turned his head to mine.  I urged him ever so
slightly in front of me.

'But it IS serious.  It is to do with your Bella.  I heard this
afternoon--'

Then with my knee I shoved him forward, using all the force in my
body.  At the same moment I threw him out with my arms.

I could see, in the dim light, that he clutched the air with his
hands; he gave a great cry, and he fell.  The sea was roaring.  I
knew that the tide, far down below, was deep up against the rocks.
Except for the sea-noise there was no sound.  The thin rain
stealthily stroked my cheek.

I sat down on a wet rock and waggled the little finger of my right
hand--for the jolt of his flying body had strained it ever so
slightly.


IX


I sat there for a considerable time waggling my finger and feeling,
with a pleasant kind of sleepiness, the soft thin rain upon my
face.  It was so very still and quiet.  Nobody was about.  The only
sound was the distant rhythm of the sea and the gentle hiss of the
rain.

Then sharply I reflected that if my wife supposed that I was
visiting the cinema she would be wondering that I should be so
late.  I hurried home.  I felt happy and on excellent terms with
myself.  When I let myself into the house I found everything dark.
Eve had gone to bed.  But I had only just struck a match when I
heard her voice from above the stairs.

'John, is that you?'

'Yes, dear, I'm coming.'

I took off my boots and left them in the kitchen.  As I did so I
noticed my finger again.  I had certainly given it a twist.

I came into the bedroom.  She was sitting up in bed and at sight of
her my only desire was to take her in my arms.  I would, too!  I
was not going to be denied this night of all nights.

'Why, John, where have you been?  You can't have been at the cinema
all this time?'

I took off my coat and waistcoat.  There was a tear in the lining
of the waistcoat.

'Indeed I have, dear.  Look!  This lining's torn.  I wish you'd sew
it for me.'

'But it's ever so late.'

'Not really, dear.'

I sat down on the edge of the bed, slipping off my trousers.  The
ends were very wet and this I didn't wish her to notice.

'It's a long picture, Copperfield.  Little Bartholomew and Rathbone
as Murdstone were as good as ever.  Pity they had to get an
American for Micawber.  The first half of the picture is much the
best.'

I put on my pyjamas and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth.
When I came back I saw that she was looking at me curiously.

'The cinema seems to have done you good.  I've never seen you look
so pleased with yourself.'

I turned out the light and got into bed.

'I don't know why it is,' she said, yawning.  'I'm as tired as
anything.'

'Now look here, Eve,' I said, with a courage and energy that
surprised me.  'To-night you're going to do what _I_ want, whether
you like it or no.'

When I woke in the morning I felt a wonderful lightness and relief.
Eve was already up.  The sun was streaming in at the window.  I had
had one of those delicious sleeps that are the result of complete
physical and spiritual satisfaction.  I lay back on the pillow, my
head on my hands and dodging a little to avoid the brilliant
sunshine.  For a little while I could think of nothing but my well-
being.  Then I remembered.  Tunstall was gone for ever and ever and
ever.

It was then that I felt the first little prick of anxiety.  Suppose
that his body had caught in some projecting part of the cliff?
Suppose that he had lain on some ledge, bruised and battered, but
gradually coming to himself, would recover enough to climb back and
find his way home?  For a moment my heart contracted and twisted.
But I was at once reassured.  The cliff fell sheer to the sea and
Tunstall's body had been thrown outwards.  I smiled to myself as I
turned on my side.  I had not the slightest feeling of compunction
or regret.  Tunstall was a bad man.  He was no good to anyone.  He
was beginning to seduce my wife and my son.  I had to protect my
family.  But, behind these reasonings and very much more important
than any of them, was the certainty that I would not be bothered
with him any more.  He was gone from my life.  I could hear him
saying:  'We're like the Siamese twins, Jacko, and always were.'

Well, we weren't.  I had settled that once and for ever.  No more
bother from Tunstall.

When I went down to breakfast Archie was having his.  I was as
hungry as though I were eating Tunstall's breakfast as well as my
own.  Eve noticed it.

'Why, John, what's happened to you?  I must say you're looking
wonderfully well.'

Archie had something to say:

'Daddy, when's that nice man with the purple trousers coming
again?'

'Soon, I expect.'

'I liked him.  Do you think he'll really teach me to draw?'

'I expect so.  He's a fine artist.'

Eve, filling my cup with coffee, let her hand rest for a moment on
my shoulder and said:  'That's right, John.  I thought it wasn't
kind of you the other day to refuse him as you did.'

'I was feeling out of sorts.'

'The cinema seems to have done you a world of good.  You're a
different man to-day.'

Archie went on:  'Will I go to his house, Daddy?'

'I daresay that you will.'

'Oo-oo!  How lovely!  He's awfully strong, isn't he, Daddy?'

'Not so strong as he used to be, got a bit flabby.'

'But he's stronger than you, isn't he?'

I smiled as I helped myself to a second poached egg.  Then I got up
to cut myself some ham.  As I passed Archie's chair I rested my
hand lovingly on his shoulder.  I felt the bones wriggle a little.

'I don't know that he IS stronger.  I mayn't LOOK much, you know,
but I keep fit.  That's what you must do, Archie.  Make your body
stronger.'

'He's a wonderful painter, isn't he, Daddy?  He's made lots and
lots of money, hasn't he, painting pictures?'

'Yes, he's made a lot of money.'

I was cutting the ham with a delicacy and adroitness quite new to
me.

'Much more money than you've made writing books, Daddy?'

'Oh, much more.'  I turned round, smiling at him.  'Say your grace,
Archie, before you leave the table.'

Archie said his grace.

'When can I go to the painter's house?'

'Soon.'

'Can I go to-day?'

'No, not to-day.'

'Oh, why not?'

But his questions were interrupted by Eve entering and saying:
'See who's here!'

It was Leila Tunstall.  Her face was pale and her coat and hat a
little dishevelled, the hat crooked, the coat, a rather ugly
sealskin, too high on one shoulder.  (I remember the tiniest
details of this conversation--yes, I remember the slime of
marmalade on Archie's plate and the shadow on his pale thin face
raised to Leila's.)

'Why, Mrs. Tunstall!' I said.  I remember that as I looked at her I
realized how very, very much I liked her and wished that I did not.

She sat down at the breakfast-table.

'Yes, I know.  This is a terrible time to call.  But you must
forgive me.  The fact is I'm very anxious.'

Eve said, 'Have some coffee.'

'Yes, I think I will.  Thank you so much.  The fact is that Jimmie
left the house after dinner last night and hasn't been back since.'

'Not been back?' I cried--and the odd thing was that half of me was
really amazed that he HADN'T been back!  That cry was quite
genuine.

'No, you see . . .'  She hesitated.  'I'm sure I can speak safely
to both of you--'  She paused, looking at Archie.

'Archie,' Eve said softly, 'go upstairs, dear, and start your
lessons.  I'll be up very soon.'

'Yes, Mother.'  He went.

'The fact is--Jimmie has been drinking too much lately.  Oh, it
isn't a secret.  Everyone knows it.  That's what makes me anxious.'

'Was he quite happy when he went out?' I asked.

'Oh, most.  He was especially gay and he hadn't been drinking then,
I know.  He only had water at dinner.  He laughed and asked me
whether I didn't think he was a reformed character.  He said I
wasn't to stay up.  He was going to see a friend.  That horrible
Mr. Cheeseman, I expect.'  She added quickly, smiling a little:
'Forgive me, I suppose I oughtn't to say that.  But I can't abide
him.'

She looked at me quite urgently and asked:  'Were you out by any
chance, Mr. Talbot, last night?'

'Yes,' I said, 'I went to the cinema.'

'Because it was wet--a kind of misty rain.  I'm worried because I
think he might have drunk a little with Mr. Cheeseman or some of
them at "The Green Parrot."'

'"The Green Parrot"?'

'Yes, you must know it.  In the Lower Town.  That's where they go
often, I believe.  Oh, I hate that Mr. Cheeseman!  He's responsible
for so much.  I hate him!  I hate him!'  She beat her little hands
together.  I longed to help her in her distress.

'He'd be all right, though,' I said.

'No, he wouldn't.  Not if he was drinking with them and they came
out having drunk too much.  It's dark there and it would be
slippery--'

'Have you asked Cheeseman?'

'Of course I have.  That's the first thing I did--on the telephone.
He says he never saw Jimmie last night at all.  But I never believe
a word he says.  But it was he who suggested I should come along
and see you.'

'Us?'

'Yes.  He said, "Ask the Talbots; they might know."'

'What a funny thing!  Why should WE know?'

She smiled rather wanly.  'Mr. Cheeseman always says that Jimmie is
fonder of you than of anyone else.'

'Oh, but that isn't true!'

'Well, I don't know--'

Eve hadn't said a word all this time.  Now, very quietly, she
spoke.  'I'm terribly sorry about all this, Mrs. Tunstall.  But we
know nothing, I'm afraid.  I went to bed and John went to the
cinema.'

Leila looked at her.  Her eyes were filled with tears.

'I'm silly. . . .  It really IS stupid, but I'm very fond of
Jimmie.  I know he isn't all that he should be.  Perhaps that's why
I'm fond of him.  But there it is.  We all have our vices and
Jimmie's mine. . . .'

Eve went over, bent down and kissed her.  'Forgive me.  I couldn't
help it.  I like Jimmie too, you know.'

I looked at those two women, so good, so fine, and both of them
attached to that dirty scoundrel.  Attached!  Oh, no, that was
surely too strong a word for Eve.  But I did not know.  What
secrets were behind that good, sweet face?  I realized two things.
First, that my relationship to Eve had in some subtle way changed
since last night, and secondly, that it did not matter any more
whether she was 'attached' to Tunstall or no.  At that thought my
heart began suddenly to pound in my breast.  I felt a kind of
mastery over those two women because they didn't know what _I_ did.

Eve sat down beside Leila and they held hands.  Leila was looking
at us as though she wondered whether she dared go further.  She
moistened her lips with her little, very bright red tongue.

'There IS another thing. . . .  I didn't mean to say anything about
it, but you're both such friends now.  Only never let Jimmie have
the slightest idea that I spoke of it--you promise?'

We both promised--I well knowing that my promise would be kept!

'You know Bella Scorfield?  Of course you do.  You've met her at
our place.  There's been some talk about her and Jimmie.  You've
heard it, I'm sure. . . .  It's justified!'  Her eyes flashed.  'No
use pretending.  Jimmie can't be faithful to one woman and I
understand that in a kind of way.  But whether I understand it or
not I have had to put up with it for a long time.  He's having an
affair with Bella Scorfield.'

'Oh, I'm so sorry,' Eve broke in.

'My dear, don't be sorry.  These affairs never last.  And I always
think the wife's a bit to blame, don't you?  Not that I like Bella
Scorfield.  It wouldn't be natural if I did, would it?  In any case
I think, I'm SURE, that it was to Bella he went last night.'

'Why are you sure?' Eve asked.

'He's always especially jolly before he goes.  I made up the story
about his going to "The Green Parrot" and drinking.  I'm quite sure
he didn't, because at dinner he was altogether teetotal.  He always
is before he goes to see her.  It's a certain sign.'

A little shiver seized her body, a trembling beyond her control,
and I realized that this thing had, for a long time, caused her
great suffering.  She was revealing her soul to us.

'But,' Eve cried, 'if he was perfectly sober he couldn't . . .'
She pulled herself up.

'All right, Eve, dear.  May I call you Eve?  I know that Jimmie
does.  You aren't hurting me, I'm really too used to it to be hurt.
Besides, as I've said, I regard it as partly my own fault.  But
that IS the point.  He was quite sober when he went out and if he
went to her he would go by Shining Cliff, but he'd take the inner
path.  He wouldn't be in any danger, however slippery it was.'

'Have you asked Miss Scorfield?'

'Yes, of course.  She was the first person I telephoned.  And then
I was more than ever sure.  I could tell that she was herself
seriously worried.  You could tell from the sound of her voice.
She HAD been expecting him.  She was distressed.  She had been
sitting up, I wouldn't wonder, most of the night, waiting for him.'
There was a vindictive snap in Leila's voice.

Yes, I thought, she WAS sitting up, sitting up in bed, waiting for
the sound of his stockinged feet.  It was for the moment as though
I had been he, climbing up those stairs in MY stockinged feet.

'What did she say on the telephone?'

'Oh, not very much.  I couldn't charge her, of course, with waiting
for him.  All I could say was that we were worried because he had
been away all night and I was asking one or two of his friends
whether he had said anything.  She begged me to ask him to
telephone to her as soon as he came in.  I will, too!'

She got up. . . .

'Please, please . . . I know that you are our friends, mine and
Jimmie's.  PLEASE don't say a word about Bella Scorfield.  Even if
they all know, I don't want him to think that _I_ do.'

'Of course not,' Eve said.

She turned to me.  I knew that I must say something.  I wanted to
comfort, to console her.

'I'm quite sure it will be all right, Mrs. Tunstall.'

'Thank you, Mr. Talbot.  I'm sure that I'm making an absurd fuss.
I'm going home now, and I know that I shall find him there,
although what he CAN have been doing . . .'

She smiled bravely at both of us and went away.

'Well, of all the odd things!' Eve said.

'I don't see that it's odd,' I answered.  'Tunstall had other
female friends besides Miss Scorfield.  He--'

'Had?'  Eve interrupted me.  'You speak as though something really
had happened to Jimmie.'

'I hate your calling him Jimmie.'

'Why not?  He's called me Eve from the very beginning.'  She came
close up to me, looked me full in the face:  'Why DO you hate him
so, John?'

I answered her quietly, 'I don't think I do.  You can see him as
much as you like.  I'll never be jealous.'

I took her round the waist and kissed her on the mouth.  She didn't
resist, but when I had finished she looked at me with puzzled eyes.
But I didn't care.  I remember that I sat in my room that morning
swimming in self-satisfaction.  This was the small room where I
always did my writing.  It had very little in it.  I believed that
a writer should have nothing to distract him when he worked.  There
was a white bookcase, a plain deal table, photographs of my wife
and son, and a drawing that I had stolen from the shop, the study
for Burne-Jones's 'Nimu beguiling Merlin'--afterwards included in
his posthumously published Flower Book.  There was something in the
twisted branches of the Witches' Tree and the heavy figure of the
old Merlin that greatly pleased me.

I had come up to work on my new novel.  It is called Mr. Porter's
Door.  It will certainly never be finished now.  I sat there, my
hands folded, and looked through the opposite window to the cleft
between the roofs which revealed the sea, plum-gold, and the sky
blown like a field of corn above it.

I adored this fragment of sea.  It was near but not too near.  It
could not harm me however wild it became; it could not lash my
cheek with ice-cold revengeful spray.  But its beauty was never-
ending.  I was thinking of it now, as I rested my elbows on the
table and my chin on my knuckles.  I was thinking of it with
gratitude: it had received Tunstall's body and had dealt with
Tunstall's body.  I had every reason to be grateful.

It was strange perhaps that now, on the morning after, I should
feel no kind of remorse.  For after all I am a gentle-natured
friendly man at heart.  (I AM!  I AM!  Say what you will, I am!  I
am!  I am!)

It was far from remorse that I felt as I turned my plain wedding-
ring round and round on my finger and saw the glint of the gold in
the sun.  Instead of remorse, I felt an exultant, bursting pride!
They had despised me, had they?--all of them despised me?  'Oh,
John's no good,' they'd say.  'Even his books aren't any good!
Even his books . . .'  But now I'd done more than they had ever
done.  They had none of them thrown a man, twice their size, over a
cliff, so that he was drowned!  They wouldn't dare!  I thought of
Bob Steele of the cinema, and Cheeseman and Jessie Parrott and many
another.  They had all sneered at me for years.  They wouldn't
sneer now if they knew.

I thought of Bella Scorfield.  That had excited me greatly when
Leila Tunstall had spoken of her waiting for him.  She, Leila,
didn't know HOW she waited for him, how she sat up, straining her
ears for the sound of the softly-closing door and the thin tread of
the stockinged feet.  For her bedroom door would be ajar and all I
needed to do was to take two steps inside the room and stand there,
grinning, while I threw my coat and waistcoat . . .

I?  What was I thinking?  I remember that I stopped, pushed my ring
down into my finger and straightened my back, listening.  I?  The
fact was that Tunstall had told me his story with so beastly a
vividness that I could almost fancy that I had been there.  He had
forced my imagination to such a pitch that I could almost see the
furniture, the wardrobe on the left, the dressing-table with its
pink lace covering. . . .  How did I know that it was pink?
Tunstall had told me--and in any case it WOULD be pink.

Bella Scorfield's bedroom.  Yes, she must have sat up all night
waiting for him.  She must have been very sure of him; he had never
failed her.  By his own eagerness as shown to me he would not be
late by a minute!

I walked about the room.  I was smiling.  I might be a poor little
devil who had been, until now, a failure.  But why was that?
Largely because I had, since I was a small boy, suffered from this
monstrous incubus, Jimmie Tunstall.  Jimmie Tunstall.  I had never
for a single moment been free of him.  I could see now that
although I had pretended to mock at his 'Siamese twins' and the
rest of it I HAD been conscious of a bond, and that although I had
said again and again that I was free I had known in my heart that
that was not really so!

But now I was free!  At last, at last I was free!  I stood at the
window looking out to the golden fleeces of the sky that fell now,
in an embracing loom of colour, over the pale hyacinth blue of the
sea.  My heart was glad.  I gave the kind sea my blessing.

It is at this point that I wish in my recollection to be severely
accurate.  I am trying--no man ever tried harder--to tell the truth
and only the truth.  Everything depends, for my own peace of mind,
on my integrity.

I was standing looking out to the sea.  Leila Tunstall came to my
mind.  I saw her anxious disturbed face, twisted a little--just
that suggestion of malformity in the thickening of the skin over
the right lip--or was it the tightening of the muscles above the
right eye?--As I saw her face and heard her voice I realized that
she was an absolutely good woman--almost the only absolutely good
human being I had ever known, and with a little sigh, a slight
flutter of the heart, I realized how deeply I needed her in my
life.  I was not in the least in love with her but I liked her so
very, very much.  Liked her and admired and needed her.  I needed
her especially now, for, let me be self-satisfied as I might, I did
now carry a burden and would always carry one--a strange burden,
half of pride and half--was I beginning to realize it?--of
apprehension.  I did not consider that I had done Leila Tunstall
any harm.  She had loved Tunstall, but only because she had not
known him.  He would have sunk lower and ever lower.  Drink,
lechery, at last becoming a sot of an old man loathed and despised
by everyone.  I had done Leila a kindness, and although she would
never know it MY knowledge of what I had done bound us together and
would always bind us.  It was then--exactly then, as I watched a
thin dark shadow like a fish's fin drop over the sea--that I
fancied that I heard a laugh in the room behind me.

I did not turn round.  My heart gave a jump and a skip, for the
laugh had been a man's laugh--it even reminded me of Tunstall's
sneering confidential chuckle.

I did not turn round.  I disciplined myself.  It was as though I
spoke aloud:  'You must remember that from now on it will be very
natural for you to imagine that you hear sounds or see suspicious
things.  You must be especially sceptical about what you fancy you
SEE.  Why, already this morning you imagined that Eve was looking
at you in some peculiar way.  Of course she was not.  You must
remember that.  You have some knowledge now that nobody else has
got and that nobody else must have.  Remember that the only real
enemy you had in the whole world is gone.'

It was at that point that again I fancied I heard the laugh.  I
stood there, my whole body strung up, my heart stiffened.

'Who's there?' my heart seemed to whisper.

'Turn round and see,' something seemed to answer.

At last--and it was as though my body acted against its will--I did
turn round.  There was, of course, nobody there.  The room was
quite empty.  The sun that had been shining over the sea was filmed
now and so the room also was less bright--it was dimmed as though a
thin mist pervaded it.  But there was nobody there.  Of course
there was nobody there.

I sat down to my table and began to concentrate on my work.  In
this novel of 'Mr. Porter' I was trying to draw the full-length
character, personality of a really wicked man.

I can see now that I had Tunstall for my sitter, although I would
violently have denied it had I been accused.  Mr. Porter had the
physical properties of Cheeseman, the Rat, but he was laughing,
speaking, moving like Tunstall.

I remember that I looked at the page of manuscript, half scribbled
on, and felt a sort of disgust for it.  What a second-hand thing
was this writing of stories when, with your own strong fingers, you
could push a big heavy man into the sea!  There was a sensuous
pleasure in the recollection of that moment when that body had
yielded, falling backwards.  There had been the cry, the pounding
of the waves below. . . .  My blood thickened as it does when in
recollection one recovers the detail of some past sensuality.

Then, for the second time, I was sure that someone was in the room
with me and, for the second time, I refused to turn round.  But now
I was expecting a touch on my shoulder.  Crazy, as I was telling
myself, to expect a touch on the shoulder when you know that there
is no one there.  But so it was.  My shoulders were bent a little
waiting for the touch.  I straightened myself.  I turned round.

Archie was there, bringing me the cup of coffee that I always have
in the middle of the morning when I am working.  He looked at me
with that half-nervous, half-doubting look that always exasperated
me.  I hated that the boy should be afraid of me.  'Come along.
What's the matter?'

'Nothing,' Archie said, putting the cup down very gingerly on the
table.

'Don't look at me as though I'd eat you.'

'I'm not, Daddy.'

'Come here.'  I smiled.  I drew him in between my knees.  I
remembered how readily he had gone to Tunstall.  I drew his slight,
slender body close to mine.

'Well, have we been working hard this morning?'

'Yes, Daddy.'

'What have we been doing?'

'History, Daddy.  Mary Queen of Scots.'

Then he added, looking at me with wide-open eyes:  'I hate her.'

'Hate her.  Why?'

'Because she killed people.'

'They were cruel to her.  Her husband was a bad man.'

'I don't care how bad he was.'  I felt his body slipping away from
mine, eager to go.

I gave him what was almost a push.  'All right.  Run along.
Daddy's working.'

He ran eagerly away.

On the following morning at the top of the road that leads down to
the Lower Town, I came quite suddenly upon Bella Scorfield.  There
are, at this spot, some villas with neat gardens and compact little
garages.  It was a sunny morning with a light breeze.  The leaves
of the elms were shivering with delicate pleasure.  There was no
one about, but I could hear the engine of some invisible car like a
dynamo at the heart of the world.  'While I go on,' it seemed to
say, 'everything is all right.  But let me stop--'

We almost ran into one another.

'Oh, Mr. Talbot!' she said.

'Good morning, Miss Scorfield.'

'I wanted to see you.  That is--'  She looked about her in a
distracted kind of way.  I could see that she was greatly
disturbed.  A strong scent of crushed violets came from her in the
breeze--(I would repeat here that no detail in my story, however
small, is insignificant).

'There is no news of Mr. Tunstall?'

'I believe, none.'

She looked at me searchingly.

'Walk with me a little.  This way, where there are no houses.  Do
you mind?  I am in great trouble.'

'I am most awfully sorry--'

'No.  No.  I'll tell you the truth.  You are, strangely enough, the
only person I can tell it to.'

'I don't understand--'

'Of course you do.  You know as well as I do that it was to me he
was coming the night before last.'

'Really, Miss Scorfield--'

She turned on me indignantly.

'Oh, don't pretend!  It's too serious.  Jimmie has told me often
that you know all about us.  I'm afraid he's amused me sometimes by
the way he's shocked you.  But that doesn't matter now.  Tell me,
Mr. Talbot--'  She put her hand on my arm, looking up into my face.
'What has happened to him?  Where has he gone to?'

'I assure you, Miss Scorfield,' I answered, looking at her very
steadily, 'I don't know a thing.'

'Oh, but you must!  He told you everything.'

'Indeed he did not!'

'Yes, yes.  He has the strangest relations with you.  He often
talked about it.  He says that you are inseparables, that even when
you aren't together you are together.  Oh, I know that it sounds
nonsense, but he really believes it.'

'If you want to know the truth, Miss Scorfield, he despises and
patronizes me and I dislike him.  I dislike him very much.  I
always have.'

'Yes.  That's on the surface.  But I'm sure it isn't so underneath.
I know him too well.'

'We are opposite in everything,' I said.

'Yes, that's why you attract one another.  But we're wasting time.
Where is he, Mr. Talbot?  Where is he?  What has happened?'

'I don't know, Miss Scorfield.  I really don't.  I didn't see him
that evening.  I was at the cinema--at a revival of David
Copperfield.'

She went on impatiently, her breath catching her words.  'No.  No.
I'm sure you didn't see him.  Leila Tunstall says that he left the
house, said goodbye to her, told her not to wait up.  He was coming
to me.  Well, what happened after that?  WHAT happened?'

'I'm afraid I don't know any more--'

'No, but guess, man!  Guess!  Have some ideas!  He was sober,
because he always is when he is coming to me.  It was wet, a sort
of misty rain.  But he wouldn't slip or fall into the sea or
anything.  I KNOW he wouldn't.  When he's sober he can look after
himself perfectly.  The funny thing is--at one moment I thought I
heard him cry out.  Of course I didn't.  It was only imagination,
but I sat up in bed listening--'

(Yes, I could see her--I knew just how she would do that!)  I saw
that she wanted me to say something, so I replied quietly:

'He may have gone somewhere else.  He did deceive people, you know.
He may have deceived you.'

I took great pleasure in saying this, for certainly I hated her.
She was part of him.  Against my will I knew much more about her
and her horridness than I ought to know.  I hated her and her
violet scent and everything about her.

'That's why I wanted to speak to you,' she cried.  'Is there
someone else?  Did he ever tell you there was someone else?  He has
always sworn there wasn't, but then he is an awful liar.  I know
that well enough.  Perhaps he's gone off to someone else.  That's
what's torturing me.'

I was suddenly sorry for her, although I hated her.  You can be
sorry for people you hate.  She looked miserable, forlorn, lost.

'I don't think there is anyone else.  He'd have told me,' I added.
'Shall I tell you what I think?'  (For I wanted to console her.)

'Oh, do, do!  Please do!'

'I think he set off meaning to go to you.  Then, seeing it was
early, went in somewhere for a drink, drank too much and did go off
with someone--just anyone.  And he's staying away for a bit.  Too
ashamed to come back at once.  He'll turn up suddenly with a
story.'

I could see the relief, the flaming, wonderful relief, that I gave
her.

'Oh, do you think so?  I believe you're right.  It's the only
explanation, isn't it?'

'The only one,' I assured her, solemnly.  'Meanwhile, Miss
Scorfield, if I may say something--'

'Please do.'

'Don't show other people that you care.  It's much wiser not.  They
might talk.'

'Yes, you're right.  How right you are!  Thanks ever so much.'

She smiled and walked quickly away.

It was at that moment, just as I watched her disappearing round a
bend of the road, that I thought I heard Tunstall's chuckle close
behind me.

Very clearly I remember how I stood, stiffly, without moving, and
listening.  I can see as though it were now before me that quiet
country road, the houses neat, tidy, like toy houses, bright and
shining, and each house with its gay-tinted toy garden in front of
it.  There was not a single soul in the road and the only sound was
the distant hush-hush of the sea and the delicate shivering of the
trees.

I turned round.  There was no one there.  I had known of course
that there would not be.

Then I spoke to myself something like this:  'You must accept for
the moment as part of the condition of things these hallucinations.
You must not be surprised at them nor distressed at them.  You have
done something that you wanted to do and that you are pleased to
have done, but naturally such an act must have its mental
consequences.  Further than that, you were under this man's
influence since you were a small boy.  You hated him: you detested,
and still detest, everything that he did, thought, and was.  You
were always thinking of his voice, his laugh, his physical body.
Naturally you will still be thinking of these things and for a long
while to come.  You must not mind this.  He is dead.  You know that
he is dead and that nothing can ever bring him back.  Even if you
fancied that you saw him with your eyes, it would be sheer
hallucination, for you know that the dead do not return.  Remember
the old proverb--dead men tell no tales.  You must face this and
master it.  If you do not, you will be disturbed.'

I looked resolutely about me.  There was no one at all in sight.  I
went home.

I discovered, however, that facing the possibility of hallucinations
made me conscious of them.  That night as I lay beside my wife, who
was quietly sleeping, I even encouraged them.

'Now, Tunstall,' I said almost aloud, 'come out and let me see
you.'

We always slept with our blinds up and our windows open.  We liked
the fresh air and the reassuring murmur of the sea.  On this night
there was a shadowed, creamy moonlight.  Lying on my side I stared
into the room.  'Come on, Tunstall,' I said.  'Let me see you.'  I
imagined him as he would be or as I had last in full light seen
him.  He was wearing purple corduroys and was fresh and strong and
confident.  'Hullo, Jacko,' he said, 'I can come now whenever you
want me.'

But he was not there, of course.  However hard I might stare, he
was not there.  His voice was there rather than his body.  I even
spoke to him aloud.  'You're not there really, Tunstall,' I said.
'You can't come back, you know, however hard you try.'

But I woke Eve, which was very stupid of me.

'Who's there?' she said.

And I did another silly thing, for I pretended to be asleep.

She jogged my shoulder.  I pretended to wake with a start.

'What is it?' I asked.

'You were talking to somebody.'

'In my sleep, I suppose.  What a thing to wake me for!'

'No.  It wasn't in your sleep.  You weren't asleep.'

'I ought to know whether I was asleep or not,' I said angrily.

'You said:  "You can't come back, Tunstall, however hard you try."'

'Did I?  As a matter of fact, I was dreaming of Tunstall.  I
suppose it's because everyone's been talking about him all day.'

She said:  'I'm sure you weren't asleep.  I know when you're
talking in your sleep.'  With a little yawn she added:  'What do
you think HAS happened to him?'

'I haven't the least idea,' I said, and turned over on my other
side.

On Monday morning I was in the shop alone.  Eve had some shopping
that she must do and I was in charge.  I liked the shop.  When I
had worked with my father every item had been of personal interest
and importance to me.  Now as I moved about arranging things,
dusting a little, moving furniture to its better advantage, I
wondered whether in my absorption in my own work I had not allowed
Eve to take everything over too completely.  I felt a new energy in
myself.  I had a talent for these things, not Eve's business
talent, but a taste that was all my own.  I picked up a Waterford
glass and held it against the light and thrilled at its solid
independent beauty.  My fingers lay about it with love and
appreciation.

The bell on the shop door tinkled.  Someone entered.  It was, I saw
to my disgust, Basil Cheeseman.

I have already said something about Cheeseman before, but I must
now speak of him with more particularity, for it is at this point
that he comes into my story.  I loathed him, but with no obsession
about him because he had no power over me.

Physically he looked what people called him--the Rat.  His body was
small and delicately, even effeminately, made.  His face was pale
and his hair a reddish brown.  On the back of his hands there were
reddish-brown hairs, and he had a little reddish-brown moustache.
His eyes were mean and pale.  He was as false as hell.  He was all
smiles and urbanity, a most friendly soul.  But while he smiled his
little eyes darted about taking in everything that might be useful.

He smoked for ever a pipe and, while he rammed the tobacco down
into it, he would look at you with the eye of an adder over the top
of it.  He loved to tempt you into unguarded talk, and months after
would say:  'You're a one to charge me with spreading stories.  All
your friends know the things YOU say!  Remember what you said to me
that day in your shop about--?'

But his profession, beyond that of journalism, was quiet, genteel
blackmailing.  I don't know how many of the more important people
in our town were terrified of him.  There was our Vicar, Mr.
Thomas, for one.  A fat, white, oozy, kindly man with not a grain
of vice in him.  But he did like his choir-boys and his Boy Scouts,
although most innocently.  Cheeseman had the whip-hand of him.
There was old Miss Chamberlain, a rich virgin with a figure like a
battle-horse.  A good-natured, generous soul with a liking for
young men, shop-assistants, public-house young men, ANY young man
who wasn't of her class.

Here again I am certain that there was nothing more than amiable,
generous good-nature, but the filthy Cheeseman had a horrible hold
over her all the same.

Then there was fat, greasy Bob Steele of the cinema, already
mentioned by me.  The less said about HIS morals the better, and
Cheeseman held him in a steel trap.

Cheeseman was not only no fool: he was really clever about some
things: quite an authority on gardening, for example.  He worked in
his garden all hours and loved it.

He was sitting now on a nice eighteenth-century chair, sitting
forward, his little body held together as though he were about to
spring.  His russet hair had a strange glowing quality against the
pallor of his skin.  His eyes were everywhere.  He saw me
treasuring the Waterford glass.  'You like beautiful things, don't
you, Talbot?'  (He had tried once to call me Jacko and I very
quickly stopped it.)  He was smiling in a would-be friendly fashion
and his prominent white teeth stuck out over his thin lower lip.

'Yes, I do.'

'Of course.  One can tell that from your books.  But now, for
instance, what is there about that piece of glass you're holding so
carefully?  To me it's just a piece of old glass.'

'It would be,' I answered scornfully.  Shy though I was by nature,
I never attempted to disguise my contempt for him.  'It's of no use
explaining to you if you can't feel it.'

'No,' he said, still smiling, 'I suppose it isn't.  Flowers, now.
A really fine rose--there's a lovely thing.  And it doesn't stay
alive so long that it bores you.  Now all that old furniture, those
cabinets and tables, I call that junk.'

'Do you call THAT junk?' I said, standing beside a little inlaid
escritoire.  'Can't you SEE its delicacy, the loveliness of its
lines, the richness of its colour?'

'Yes,' he said, 'and when you sit down to try and write on it, it
wobbles and there's no room for your elbows.  I call it silly.'

'I'm sure you do,' I said.

'Never mind,' he said quietly.  'We all have our own tastes--and
very peculiar some people's are.'

He added in the same casual tone:  'You know Tunstall's body has
been found?'

His flickering whisky-coloured eyes were on me.  My heart stopped a
beat.  I put down the piece of Waterford glass carefully on the
table.  I decided that it would be quite natural for me to be
interested and even astonished.

'No!' I cried.  'Where?'

'On Rotherston Beach--five miles away.'

'Well, I'm damned!'

'Not a shred of clothing on it.  The body badly knocked about but
the face scarcely damaged.'

'When was it found?'

'Yesterday evening by some fishermen.  Leila Tunstall went at once
to identify it.'

'That settles THAT!' I said almost to myself.

'Poor Jimmie!' Cheeseman went on.  'I was fond of him and he was
fond of me.'

There was a pause.  I was wiping some plates with a duster.

'You hated him, didn't you?'

'Yes, I did.'

'And yet he was fond of you.'

'Oh, no, he wasn't.  He pretended to be because it amused him.'

'Maybe.'  He leaned forward a little.

'What is odd to me is how it happened.  He was going to see Bella
Scorfield.  Everyone knows that.'

'Perhaps he wasn't,' I answered.

'How do you mean?'

'He may have lied to Miss Scorfield.  He may have had some other
girl as well.'

'Did he tell you so?'

'Why should he tell ME?'

'I believe that he told you a sight more than he told most people.'

'Well, he didn't.  He never told me anything.'

'Come on, Talbot.  You know something.  Let me in on it.  I swear I
won't tell a soul.'

I smiled.  'You're good at that, Cheeseman.'

He laughed.  'All right, you've won.  But this time I mean it.
What makes you think he had another girl?'

'I tell you I know nothing--nothing at all.  But Tunstall was a
rotter in every possible way--false to his wife, to Miss Scorfield,
to anybody, everybody.  He probably had heaps of women--a different
one for every night of the week.'

Cheeseman sat back, drawing his two thin legs together like the
closing of scissors.  He patted down the tobacco in his pipe,
looking at me over the top of it.

'As a matter of fact, he hadn't.  I'm quite sure he hadn't.  He was
in love with Bella Scorfield.  It was physical, of course, but that
seems all kinds of other things as well while it's on.'

'You're quite a philosopher, Cheeseman,' I said.  'And now is there
anything else I can do for you?  I'm sorry, but I'm busy.'  He got
up, came close to me, knocked his pipe on the heel of his shoe.

'Yes, there IS something.  Tell me--it isn't cheek, I really want
to know.  What were YOU doing that evening--the evening he
disappeared?'

'I think it IS cheek,' I answered.  'Why do you want to know?  What
have I got to do with it?'

'I'll tell you why.  Don't be angry with me.  My idea, Talbot, is
that you and I together can solve this mystery.  I'll go further
than that and say that I don't think anyone can solve it WITHOUT
you.'

'Why?'

'Because you were closer to Tunstall than anyone was.  You say you
hated him and he despised you.  But there can be a relationship
between people much deeper than hate and scorn and love.  So deep
that those feelings and emotions simply don't count--a relationship
where two people belong to one another, have always belonged to one
another, WILL always belong to one another--'

'You don't believe in that nonsense, Cheeseman?'

'Certainly I do.  I've seen it several times.  But I've never seen
it as I have with you two.  Now I was a friend of his.  He really
liked me--'

'He didn't!' I broke out.  'He loathed the very sight of you!'

The moment I had said those words it seemed to me as though someone
else had spoken.  I looked blankly about the room.  How did I know
that Tunstall disliked Cheeseman?  I had always, in fact, thought
exactly the opposite.  Until this very moment of speaking I had
thought that Tunstall liked Cheeseman.  What--or who?--had made me
cry out those words?  For it had been a cry as though from the very
heart--so deep-felt, so sincere that Cheeseman himself was
affronted with the sincerity.

'It's a damned lie,' he said.  'Jimmie and I were the best of pals.
He showed it in a thousand ways.  He said often:  "Basil--if I
can't trust you, old man, I can't trust anyone."'  Then, more
suspiciously, his white teeth shining Carker-like at me, he said:

'How do you know, anyway?  Did he ever tell you he disliked me?'

'Never.'  I was suddenly weary.  All the virtue had gone out of me.

'What made you say that, then?'

'I don't know.  Perhaps I had no right to.'

He gave me a vicious look.

'You'd better be careful what you go about saying--'  His hand was
on the door.  'Oh, and you haven't told me.  Where WERE you that
evening?'

'I went to the pictures--David Copperfield.'

'Oh, did you?'

'Yes, if you don't believe me, ask Bob Steele.  He saw me go in.'

'Yes, and did he see you go out?'

'Really, Cheeseman--one would think that you imagine I pushed
Tunstall into the sea with my own strong arms--'

He came back towards me.

'No, I know you didn't do that.  You haven't the physical pluck.
The point is that you know more about Tunstall's death than anyone
alive.  You know more about Tunstall in every way.  For instance--'
He came quite close to me.  'You were perfectly right.  Tunstall
didn't like me.  We were useful to one another.  But he didn't like
me.  But no one knew that except Tunstall and me.  How did YOU
know?'

But I didn't answer.

Eve came in.  And as Eve came in Cheeseman went out.  And so, as I
see it now, this first period after Tunstall's death was almost
closed--closed except for one visit.  The visitor was Leila
Tunstall.  The time was the middle morning.  Eve was upstairs
giving Archie his lessons: I was seated in the window of our dining-
room reading a selection from the poems of Thomas Hardy, for which
I have a great affection.

I remember the poem that I was reading--'The Dark-Eyed Gentleman.'
The bell rang.  I went, and there was Leila looking pale and young
in her mourning.  As I brought her into our sunlit little room I
thought her almost beautiful, for the slight deformity seemed to
have been smoothed away.  She began oddly:

'May I call you John?'

'Of course.'

'And you must call me Leila.  I think Jimmie would like it.'

I felt a movement of revulsion.  Was she going to be now the sweet,
idolizing-the-departed widow?  I did indeed hope not.

I need not have feared.  She went on:

'I hope you won't think that sentimental.'

'Of course not.'

'The fact is, Jimmie had very few real friends.  I want them to be
mine.  Even that isn't sentimental.  For the truth is that I was,
and am, deeply in love with Jimmie.  I don't think him any more
than I did, good and fine and noble.  On the contrary, he was false
and greedy and lecherous.  But I don't see that that has anything
to do with loving him, do you?'

'Yes, I do,' I said.  'I can't love someone I despise.'

'Oh, can't you?  Well, then, you've a lot to learn.'  She laughed
quite gaily.  'I despise myself for a thousand things--and yet I
rather love myself.  The fact is that Jimmie was Jimmie and IS
Jimmie.  When I saw him at Rotherston lying there covered up and
his face scarcely touched I KNEW that he had escaped somewhere.
Knew it as surely as I know that I'm sitting here.  Tumbling into
the sea wouldn't finish Jimmie!'

She cried this out almost with pride.

I said very seriously:  'Please, Leila.  I like you too much.  I
want you to trust me.  So you MUST believe me.  I was NOT Jimmie's
friend.  Everyone seems to think I was.  I distrusted him.  It
isn't too much to say I detested him.  I hated the things he did
and said, but it was more than that.  He mocked me.  He derided me.
I was his butt.  From our very earliest schooldays together.  I
must be honest with you about this.'

She put her hand for a moment on my arm.  'You're one of the most
honest men I've ever known.  I'm sure you BELIEVE that about
yourself and Jimmie.  I know he teased you.  I know you disapproved
of him.  But all the same--there was something between you that
goes deeper than being teased or disapproving of someone's morals.
You and Jimmie had that sort of relationship.'

As she thus echoed Cheeseman's words, I could only look at her with
a sort of stupid dumbness.  What WAS this conspiracy to force me
into union with this man?  As though I hadn't, by my own act, union
with him enough.

'In any case,' she went on, 'perhaps you'll feel a little about
poor Jimmie now as I do.  He can't do anything wrong or foolish any
more.  We can think of Jimmie always at his best now.'

'But he can!' I cried.  'If, as you said, drowning can't kill him,
why shouldn't he be still here, doing wrong, teasing me, breaking
your heart--'

'Oh, I didn't mean that!' she answered.  'He's free of his body
now.  All his troubles came from his body, which he didn't know how
to control.'

'Perhaps not,' I answered.  'It may have been his spirit that was
evil.  And if so--'

She smiled on me as though she were my mother.

'It wasn't his spirit that was evil--he was a child.  A naughty,
mischievous, selfish, self-destroying little boy.  Now he will
begin to grow up.'

She held in her hand a little parcel.

'What I really came for, though, was to give you something.  All
his clothes--were gone.  His body was badly hurt.  But still on his
finger, deeply embedded, was his scarab ring.  You remember it,
don't you?  The green scarab he always wore.  I want you to have
it.'

I drew back.  'Oh, no!  No!'

'Yes, please.  I would like it and I know he would.  He was very
fond of it.  He used to say that the colour changed according to
the way he behaved.  The green was very bright when he was doing
wrong.  That was one of his jokes.'

I stammered.  'Oh, but please--I would rather not--I--'  She put
the little parcel into my hand.

'Please take it.  You can't be so unkind--'

I took it.  She said good-bye and left me staring at it.

As though I had no free will I tried it on my finger.  The gold
ring was too large.  I went to Bettany's and had it fitted.  As
though I had no free will I wore it from that time.


X


I count the giving to me of that ring by Leila Tunstall as the end
of the first development in this terrible affair.

I may say that up to the moment of putting that ring on my finger
in the jeweller's shop I had known neither fear nor compunction.
My main feeling had been one of relief.  Now the next stage begins
and I pray to God (if I dare pray to Him) that everything I now
write may be true and may prove the sanity of my brain and the
clear accuracy of my memory.

I stood in Bettany's shop, and Mr. Bettany himself, a tall naked-
faced man with wide-open staring owl's eyes, attended me.

'I think you will find, Mr. Talbot, that the ring fits you
exactly.'

'Thank you, Mr. Bettany,' I said, putting it on.

'I know, of course, whose ring it was,' he said, in a soft,
unctuous voice.

'Yes,' I said gravely.  'Mrs. Tunstall wished me to have it and to
wear it.'

'A sad and strange business.  We all thought so much of Mr.
Tunstall.'

'Yes,' I said.

'Most mysterious his death was.  However, there's no doubt, after
the finding at the inquest, that in some way his foot slipped on
that wet night and he fell over.'

'Yes,' I said again.

'Might happen to any of us, of course.'

But I could not attend to him.  I was looking at the ring with a
kind of stupid amaze--for I felt that I had had it on my finger
before.  The gold circlet had been strangely little damaged and
the scarab itself not at all.  The green of the scarab was
astonishingly fresh and bright when you realized that the ring was
two or three thousand years old.  The carving on the inside of the
ring was broken, as Tunstall had once shown me, and I remembered
how difficult it was for him to get it off his finger.  The horrid
sensation that I now had was that _I_ had pulled it with difficulty
off my finger to show to somebody!  I remember that I thought of
the absurdity of this and that my thinking it was a proof that my
nerves were anything but what they ought to be.  But more than
that.  As I looked at the thing I both hated it and was proud of
it.  I hated it seeing it on my finger for the first time and I was
proud of it as an old treasured possession.  Well, it wasn't an old
treasured possession!  But what a thing to do!  To wear the ring of
the man I had killed, to wear it flauntingly in the face of all the
world.  I remembered that old murder case when Ethel Le Neve had
worn the jewellery of Crippen's wife a week or two after the
murder.  I had always thought it a curious and reckless thing to
do.  But Leila had herself given me this ring so that it was in a
way a confirmation of my innocence.  Then a great emotion of
loathing the thing with its green and white squatness came over me.
It was almost as though it were alive.  I had to muster all my
energies not to tear it off and throw it down there on the shop
floor.

Bettany was looking at me, so I thanked him and paid him and went
away.  By this time I was altogether accustomed to my hallucination
of Tunstall's continual presence.  I took it that this was probably
the experience of most murderers during the weeks immediately
following the deed.  But now, walking home through the rain from
Bettany's, I was aware of this new sense of fear.  It was perhaps
the rain.  I had noticed already that I was more uncomfortable when
it was raining than when it was fine, especially if the rain was
thin and misty.  I talked to myself INSIDE myself.  I had fallen
into the habit of doing this and my anxiety was lest I should
sometimes speak aloud.

'You know that this is all nonsense.  Tunstall is dead and no one
in the world has the slightest suspicion of you.  Even Cheeseman is
sure that you have nothing to do with it.  Clear your brain of all
supposition.  Think only of facts.  There is nothing to be afraid
of--nothing whatever.  The fact that you feel obliged to wear this
ring is simply because you wish to please Leila Tunstall, whom you
like.  After a while you can put it away.  She will not notice that
you are not wearing it.'

But there was something stranger still.  I was not SURE that I had
killed Tunstall.

When I write that, it looks like complete nonsense.  Of course I
KNEW that I had killed Tunstall.  I knew that I had pushed Tunstall
over the cliff and that his body had been found, there had been an
inquest and the body had been buried.  The proof that I had killed
Tunstall was in this scarab ring that I was wearing.

Nevertheless, beneath these undoubted facts was another layer of
consciousness, the consciousness that I had NOT killed him and that
he was still alive.  I was, indeed, now entering into that world
known to many perfectly sane and normal people, that world in which
material facts are no more facts than non-material facts.  I could,
for instance, finger my ring and know that it was a fact: I could
also THINK about Tunstall and feel that he was not dead.

People live in one's imagination.  If they continue to live there
after their physical death, then in a sense they are not dead.  But
I must write more of this later.

I was also now deeply concerned with three women--my wife, Leila
Tunstall, and Bella Scorfield.

My wife's attitude to me had changed.  I could see, although she at
present said nothing, that she was greatly puzzled by me.  Puzzled
rather than suspicious.

She seemed physically closer.  I had seen myself that I was now
more masterful with her--a thing that I had always wanted to be--
and that she liked this.  I was altogether more masterful at home.
I had taken a strange and quite unreasoning dislike to her telling
me that this morning, or this afternoon, I would not be needed in
the shop.

'You can keep away, John,' she used to say.  'I shan't need you.'

And now I would say:

'Who does the shop belong to?  You or me or both of us?'

'Both of us, of course.'

'Well, then--we'll both run it.'

'But what about your writing?'

'That's my business.'

She was always good-tempered.  She would look at me, smiling and
puzzled.

'I'm glad to see you're putting on flesh, John.'

I looked at myself in the glass.  It was true.  My cheeks were
fattening out.  There was sometimes a new, almost audacious look in
my eyes.

Another little thing was that I was taking a new, almost excited
interest in Archie's passion for drawing and painting.  I sat
beside him at the table, watching him and encouraging him.  One day
I pulled a piece of paper towards me and drew quite a little
picture--some hills, a house, and some fields.

'Why, Daddy can draw!' Archie cried.  I looked at my drawing rather
sheepishly--the first of my life.  It wasn't very good, of course.
But it wasn't very bad either.  Then I tried to draw Archie sitting
at the table.  I made something of it.  It was recognizably Archie.

'Well I'm damned!' I cried, and showed it to Eve.

'You don't mean to say YOU did that!'

'I did,' I said, laughing.

'But I didn't know you could draw.'

'I didn't myself.  You never know what you can do till you try.'

Leila Tunstall had gone to London.  Her house was up for sale.  She
was staying with relations in Surbiton.  I found that I missed her
quite absurdly.  It wasn't that I was in love with her.  I had no
physical feeling about her at all, but she seemed to me now the one
really GOOD human being, besides my mother, I had ever known.  It
was her GOODNESS I wanted--near to me, so that I could realize it
and feel reassured by it.  I felt as though I could confess
everything to her, pour everything out to her, my loneliness,
unhappiness.  I wanted to talk to her and say to myself:  'You have
gone far from goodness.  If it weren't for Leila you would doubt
perhaps that there is any goodness in the world.  But look at her,
listen to her voice, touch her hand, and you will know that one
good person in the world is enough to convince you that goodness
exists.'

Yes, I missed her quite desperately.

I was aware that Bella Scorfield was very unhappy and found some
strange companionship in me.  I have said that I disliked her very
much.  So, on one side of my nature, I still did.  The Puritan in
me shrank violently from the sensuality in her.  She couldn't help
it: she was animal in all her being.  Tunstall had supplied her
with what she needed and now that he was gone she was unsatisfied
and lonely.  On the other side I began to find that her physical
presence had a kind of excitement for me.  It was, I suppose,
because I knew so intimately of her behaviour with Tunstall.

We had tea together one afternoon at the 'Paradise,' a tea-shop in
the High Street.

'It was nice of you to come,' she said.

'Why shouldn't I?'

'Because you dislike me and everything about me.  But I don't care.
When I am with you Jimmie seems closer to me.  Perhaps it's that
ring.'

'Do you mind my wearing it?  I only do because Leila Tunstall asked
me to.'

'No, of course I don't.  I like to see it.  It reminds me of so
many things.  And I'll tell you another thing.  You may dislike me
very much, but not so much as you did.  Before Jimmie died you
would never have dreamed of having tea with me.  Now would you?'

'Perhaps not.'

'You don't like me, but you like to be with me sometimes because
you want to be reminded of Jimmie.'

'But I don't want to be reminded of Jimmie.'

'Oh, yes, you do.  You were so close together, you two.  Why,
sometimes now the way you say things makes me think of Jimmie.
Almost the same intonation.'

'You imagine that.'

'No, I don't. . . .  But tell me.  Do you have at all the sort of
feeling I have--that he isn't really dead?  I can't believe he is.
With all his faults, he could look after himself, and that was such
a silly way to die.'

'Why, of course he's dead!' I cried out sharply.  Then pulling
myself in as though I were dragging back into my very entrails some
lithe animal with sharp, white teeth and red hair, I said quietly,
smiling:  'Aren't I wearing his ring?'

'Oh, I know!  I know! . . .  Of course he's dead.  Oh, I miss him!
John--Oh, I beg your pardon.  It slipped out--'

'That's all right,' I said carelessly.

'May I?  Fine!  And you must call me Bella.  Funny, isn't it?  At
one time I wouldn't have dreamt of it, but now--Jimmie has drawn us
together a little, hasn't he?  Or don't you want me to say that?'

'I think he has.'

'Well, what I was going to say is that you have no idea how
dreadfully I miss him!  That house is horrible to me now!  Oh, you
don't know how horrible it is!  I have to play chess with Mother.
She always wins.  She likes to win.  A cat with a mouse, that's
what she is when she plays me.  She just lets me go on.  She likes
to make me think I'm winning.  And then she pounces!  But now--she
looks at me over the chess-board.  I'm sure now that she knows all
about Jimmie and me.  I didn't think so before.  But now I'm sure
that she knew all the time.  And she's pleased that he's dead.
Horribly pleased.  She hasn't mentioned his name.'

'You're imagining all this,' I said.

'Oh, no, I'm not.  You can't imagine things with someone like
Mother if she wants you to be sure of something.  She can make
anything definite without saying a syllable. . . .  I want to get
away--to London!  I must!  I must!'

'Well, why don't you?'

'I can't leave Mother there helpless.  Besides, she never lets me
have a penny of my own.  Don't let anyone else know that, will you,
John?  I've never let anyone else know except Jimmie.  He knew and
was awfully generous.  He was always giving me money.'

I had a sudden impulse.

'I'd like you to have some,' I said, 'if it would be a help--'

'Oh, no!'  She was blushing a little and looked quite young.  I
thought that one day perhaps if she allowed me I might kiss her.
'I wouldn't think of it.  It's awfully good of you, but I wouldn't
take money from anyone--Only Jimmie and I--'

I suddenly couldn't endure her.  I wanted to get away at once, at
once.

I paid the girl.

'I'm sorry,' I said.  'I promised to meet someone at the shop--'

'Of course,' she said, gathering up her gloves and bag.

I come now to the first of the events that were presently to
follow.  I said at the beginning of my narrative that I am writing
all this down to the smallest detail that I may prove to myself,
beyond any possible question, that I am telling the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as they say in the law
courts.  But, if there ever should be a reader of my story, I want
him to realize how sane, composed, undisturbed I am while I am
writing this.  It is for that reason that I record so accurately
many conversations and go often into minute detail.  I AM not mad!
I AM not mad!  God, God, Thou knowest.  Thou hast given me this
trial because of what I have done and I submit.  Thou hast the
right.  I submit!  I submit!

I found that, as the weeks proceeded, I frequented the Lower Town
very considerably.  As I have said already, I had a great liking
for it, its silence, its green undisturbed atmosphere, the lapping
of the sea waters against the broken pier, and sometimes the sea
storming and leaping over the old boards and thundering against the
age-stout shore.

I never, until a certain evening, entered 'The Green Parrot.'  I
found now that I was attracted to it as I had never been in the old
days.  Attracted and repelled!  Something told me not to pass those
doors, just as in childhood something had told me not to steal a
sweet or read a book that had been forbidden me.

But on one wet, dreary evening the temptation was too strong for me
and I went in.  'The Green Parrot' hung, in its upper storeys, over
the sea, and when you were inside the bar-room you could hear the
sound of the waters quite clearly.  The room was very bright and
cheerful on this particular evening, but as I stood a little
uncertainly by the door, I saw to my alarm that Basil Cheeseman,
Bob Steele, and a young good-for-nothing called Frank Romilly were
seated, drinking together, at a table.  They were the very last
companions I wanted just then and I would have retreated had I been
able, but it was too late.

Cheeseman, lifting his pipe and waving it in the air, called out:

'Talbot!  Talbot! . . .  Why, who would have thought . . .'

There was a man or two leaning on the bar and talking to the
barmaid--Ted Warner, the fat landlord with a round face like a
turnip lantern, and a bald head that was always perspiring, looked
at me with astonishment.

I went over to the table.  They put a chair for me; they were all
greatly surprised to see me there.

'What will you have?' Cheeseman asked.  'Now, boys, what about
another?  All of you.  The drinks are on me.'

'I'll have a ginger ale,' I said.  They all laughed.  Cheeseman was
half-way towards the bar.  He looked back, his foxy face agrin.  'A
ginger ale!  Nonsense!  No one has a ginger ale here, do they,
Ted?'

'I'm a teetotaller, you know,' I said, with that half-ashamed, half-
boasting tone that teetotallers always assume.

'All right,' Cheeseman said.  'It's your funeral--not mine.'

He said something to Ted and they both laughed; then he came back
to us.

Frank Romilly was a good-looking, dissipated young fellow whose
character was as weak as a spider's web.  He was supposed to work
in an oil business of his uncle's, but he was supposed also to live
on the favours of a rich widow called Mrs. Godfrey, who owned much
property some ten miles from our town.  I saw at once that
Cheeseman had, before my arrival, been turning the screw on both
Steele and Romilly.  He was in excellent spirits while they were
both in the sulks.

Something urged me to continue sitting there; something else
pressed me to be gone.  I couldn't understand my own mood.  But
after I had drunk my ginger ale, which I did almost at a gulp, I
felt a kind of audacity, a new, bold spirit.  It was the best
ginger ale I had ever drunk and had a flavour to it that was most
agreeable.  When I had finished Cheeseman said:

'Now for another!'

'It's on me this time!' I cried.  'As soon as you're ready, all of
you--it's on me.'

Cheeseman took my glass and went to the bar with it.

'So you're wearing Jimmy Tunstall's ring,' Romilly said.  'Poor old
chap!  Christ, how I miss him!  Do you remember, Bob, how we used
to sit at this very table and the songs he'd sing?'

'God!  I should say I did,' said Steele, who was a little drunk.
'Why, old man,' he said, leaning towards me and laying his podgy
fingers on my arm, 'it was that very night you came into my cinema--
David Copperfield--do you remember?  'Strewth, it was that very
same night . . . poor old Jimmie--the best sport, the best . . .'

But Cheeseman had returned to the table with my drink, and the
effect that he had on his two friends was truly remarkable.  It was
clear that he had been telling them of something unpleasant.

I drank half of my glass with one impulse: then I put the glass
down on the table with a shudder.  Cheeseman this time had given me
a whisky and soda.  I had all my life loathed the smell of whisky,
and once, given a very small amount as a medicine, had been sick
from it.  The very thought of whisky made me ill.  Now when I had
drunk unsuspiciously half a glass of it I was revolted as though I
had committed an obscene act.  At the same time I was familiar with
it.  It seemed to me that there was nothing strange in it and that
I loved it while I hated it.  And yet I was trembling with rage at
Cheeseman.  It was all I could do not to throw the glass in his
face.

He was watching me, grinning at me over the top of his pipe.

'That was whisky,' I said.

'As a matter of fact, it was.'

'What right had you . . .?  You know I loathe the filthy stuff.'

'You can't loathe it, old boy, if you've never tasted it.'

The other men laughed.

'Now come--confess--it wasn't so bad.'

I got on to my feet.  I was about to tell him what I thought of him
and go when I did an incredible thing.  I drank the rest of the
whisky.  It wasn't I.  Oh, I swear that it wasn't I who acted thus--
an action that was to be one of the landmarks in my story.  I
hadn't known that I had drunk it until I realized that I was
standing there stupidly looking at the empty glass.

How they laughed, all three of them!  There was I, furious in the
very act of saying that I hated the stuff, and I drank it.  My body
was warm, the room glowed in the light of the fire.  I could see
Ted smiling at me across the floor.

'No,' cried Steele, clapping me on the haunches.  'It wasn't so
bad, old man, was it?  And there's plenty more where that came
from.'

I remembered that the drinks were to be on me.  I sat down.  'What
are you all having?' I said.

After that a great friendliness seemed to spring up between us.  I
felt as though I had known young Romilly most intimately although,
in actual fact, I had with him a very slight acquaintance.  I had
always disapproved of him and said so.

After a little time he alluded to this: he had drunk freely by now
and his eyes shone brightly, his lips were wet, and he smiled at me
as though he loved me.  'It's a funny thing, Talbot, but either I'm
changed or you are.  I've often thought I'd like to know you
better, but you've always been so damned stand-offish.  "Who does
he think he is?" I used to say, meaning you and no offence meant.
And they'd tell me you didn't like me a bit and used to warn the
girls off me.  Not that that had any effect, you know!'  He threw
his handsome head back and laughed like anything.  'But now you're
a regular fellow.  I'll swear he is.  Isn't he, Bob?  And I'm
damned glad we're friends.  Always wanted to be friends and now we
ARE friends!  It's as though your wearing old Jimmie's ring has
sort of brought us together.  Let's shake hands on it!'

His hand was damp and strong and warm.

I noticed at the same time that something came from under the
table.  It was Tunstall's fox-terrier, Scandal, the dog that had
been down with us on the beach that day.  When Tunstall had been
there the dog, who had been devoted to him, never paid any
attention to anyone else.

He now came from under the table and sat there on his haunches
looking at us with large, mournful eyes.

'Why, that's Tunstall's dog?' I said.

'Yes,' Cheeseman said, 'I've taken him over.  Here, Scandal, old
boy.  Come along, old boy.'  But the dog didn't move.  He stared at
Cheeseman with the same intense melancholy.  A shiver ran down his
spine.  Suddenly he lifted up his head and howled.

I cannot possibly describe the effect that that dog's howl had on
the warm and brightly-lit bar.  It was like what an unexpected gun-
shot would be in a cathedral!

We all cried out at once:  'Oh, drown the bastard!'--'What the
hell--'--'We can't have that here, Mr. Cheeseman!'  After the rest I
said:  'What's the matter, old boy?'  At once he turned his head to
me.  He looked at me as though he would stare my face away.  Then,
very slowly, he came towards me.  It was almost as though he
crawled.  We all watched in silence.  He came.  He sniffed at my
trousers.  He sniffed again and again.  He raised his head and
stared again.  Then with a sigh he lay down and stayed stretched
out, his handsome head with its short, stiff white curls resting on
his paws.

'He seems to know you,' Cheeseman said.

'He's seen me when I've been with Tunstall.'

'I can't say he's been much fun since I've had him,' Cheeseman
said.  'Misses his master all the time.  And Jimmie didn't treat
him over well, either.'

'Treat 'em rough.  Treat 'em rough,' Romilly said.  'Women and
dogs.  Treat 'em rough.'

'Well, Jimmie certainly did.'

'Jimmie!  Jimmie!' Bob Steele suddenly broke out in his thick,
mumbling voice.  'Why has it always got to be Jimmie?  I hated the
man personally.  Oh, I know he seemed jolly enough, but he wasn't
jolly really--not by a long chalk.  He is dead and there's no one
very sorry if you ask me.  Yet here we are, always talking about
him as though he were still alive.  You'd think he was sitting at
the very table with us by the way you go on.'

I looked at Steele with a grim determination.

'So that's how you feel, is it?' I said to him, and I could see at
once how greatly surprised he was both by my look and my voice.
'Well, that's pretty ungrateful and you know that it is.  Many's
the time he's helped you out of a nasty scrape.  What about that
time in Nottingham and the girl--?'

He broke in.  'By God, Talbot, who told you about that?  He can't
have done.  And yet nobody else knew.  But you keep your mouth
shut, do you hear?  How did you know?  He can't have told you--'

'Never mind how I know,' I answered.  'I'm blasted well disgusted
with you, Steele, you ungrateful bastard--'

And those are the last words that I clearly and definitely
remember.  I had never drunk whisky before.  I had never sworn
before.  Whether they were connected I cannot say.

All I can remember is that I went on drinking and while I was
drinking I began to disintegrate.  I disintegrated before my own
eyes.  I had always been sure that I had a personality and had
suspected that I had a soul to be saved, but now I fell apart--a
leg there, ribs and intestines here, blood and muscles and nerves--
all tumbling into a golden haze that seemed to emanate from the
taproom fire.  And if I had no body, what was there to assure me
that I had a soul?  Why should I imagine that there was any such
entity as John Talbot?--a bit of John Talbot, a bit of someone else--
a bit of a dog, of a fox, of a bird, of a stoat.  I remember that
I leant across the table wagging my finger and saying something
like this:

'I am nothing.  You are nothing.  My spittle is as good as your
spittle and it is only spittle.  Isn't it?  Now answer me.  You're
afraid to.  You're afraid because you must have your identity.
What's your name?  Romilly.  Frank Romilly.  That's right.  Well,
Frank Romilly, without your identity you're nothing--see?  An empty
dwelling-place and seven devils enter in.  And the last state of
that house shall be worse.  See what I mean, Romilly?  A devil HAS
entered into you.  It's looking out of your eyes now.  I'll wash
him out for you.'

And I threw the rest of my glass of whisky and soda in his face.  I
don't know what happened after that.

I was valiant, standing on my feet singing the indecent song 'My
landlady fell down, fell down . . .'  I didn't know the song.  I
had never sung it before.  And then I crawled on the floor
imitating the dog Scandal.  And then Cheeseman was seeing me home
through the cool night air.

I remember Cheeseman saying before we reached my door:

'I haven't heard anyone sing that song about the landlady since
Tunstall sang it up at the Spider Club one night--'

I was violently sick and Cheeseman stood there and waited.  Then he
opened my door for me, led me in and left me.

I sat down in the dark room on the sofa.  The fit of nausea had
cleared my head and I was cold as though lapped in snow.  I was
also terrified.  I called out at the top of my voice:  'Eve!  Eve!
Eve!'  A moment later her step was on the stairs, she had switched
on the electric light, and in her primrose-coloured dressing-gown,
her hair bound virginally with a silk handkerchief, she stood
looking at me.

'John!'  Then she added, half-way towards me:  'You're drunk!'

'I am.'  I was too wretched to care.  But I was frightened.
'There's someone in the room.'

She paid no attention to that.  She came over to me and sat on the
sofa beside me.  I put my head against her breast.

'I'm ashamed. . . .  It's never happened before. . . .  You know it
hasn't. . . .  Be kind.  I need you so.'

But she was not at all angry, only business-like.

'I should hope it hasn't.  I'm completely astonished.  Now come
upstairs.  I'll help you to undress.'

She assisted me upstairs.  She helped me to undress.  When we were
in bed she tucked me up and then lay at some distance from me.  I
longed that she should take me in her arms, but I was ashamed and I
realized that I stank of whisky.

'My head aches,' I murmured.

'Here, rub this on your forehead.  Now you know how unpleasant the
effects of drinking are, you won't do it again.'

As I lay there I realized that I was completely my old self.  I was
not masterful nor roguish nor obscene.

The thought of Cheeseman and his companions, the memory of my
chatter, the soft warmth of Romilly's hand--these things repelled
and revolted me.

'Where did you go?  Who were you with?'

Eve's voice, calm, resolved, unangered, told me that I was in for a
questioning.  I knew well by now Eve's investigations.  There was
nothing in the world more definite and relentless.  My head
throbbed, my body shivered.  I was afraid, I knew not why.  I
stretched out my cold hand and took hers.  She let my hand lie in
hers, but I knew that she was scarcely aware that it lay there.
When she was determined to satisfy some curiosity, she could be
ravished and not know her ravisher.

'Where did you go?' she repeated.  'And why?  It's so unlike you.'

I lifted my hand and laid it under her breast, but so unconscious
was that breast of any contact that I took my hand away again.

'I'm frightened,' I said, and drew closer to her.

'Poor John!  What are you frightened of?'

I lay close against her warm, strong side and could feel the calm
beating of her heart.

'I'll tell you,' I said.  'I was in the Lower Town.  I pushed open
the door of "The Green Parrot" because it was wet and went in.
Cheeseman and Bob Steele and Frank Romilly were there.'

'The worst--' murmured Eve.

'Yes, of course, I know.  I've always hated them, especially
Cheeseman.  But something made me.  I sat down with them.  I had a
ginger ale.  I think now that Cheeseman must have put something to
it, for it was strong, better than any ginger ale I ever . . .'  I
broke off.  'Eve,' I said pitifully, 'put your arms round me.  I'm
so miserable.  My head is awful.'

'Yes.  All right.'  She put her soft arms around me.  I buried my
face in her nightdress then timidly raised my head and kissed her
soft, warm, enchanting cheek.

'I know,' I murmured.  'The whisky . . . it's hateful. . . .'

But she wasn't caring for what I did.  She said quickly, in the
clear, sharp tone of one who is thinking of nothing but the answer
to a question:  'Yes, yes.  He put something into the ginger ale.
Gin, I suppose.  What happened then?'

'I drank it.  I liked it.  Cheeseman asked me whether I wanted
another.  I said yes.  Then the dog howled.'

'What dog?'

'Tunstall's dog.  That nice fox-terrier with the rough curly head.
They call him Scandal.'

'Why did he howl?'

'I don't know.  But it was awful there, quite suddenly, when
everything was so cheerful.'

'What happened then?'

'I spoke to him and he came over and sniffed my trousers.  Then he
lay down.'

'Well, never mind the dog.  What happened then?'

'Cheeseman brought me another drink.  I drank half of it before I
realized it was whisky.  I was furious and began to curse
Cheeseman, but while I was cursing him I drank the rest of it.  Oh,
Eve, that was the awful part!  I've always hated whisky.  You know
I have.  Even the smell of whisky makes me sick.  You know it does.
But now I drank it and liked it.'

'Well, that's nothing.  Lots of people have thought they hated
whisky and found they didn't when they tried it.'

'But, Eve, Eve . . . the dreadful thing . . . the dreadful
thing . . . I'd drunk it before and liked it.  I knew I had.  I'd
drunk it before. . . .'

My whole body was trembling so that she was aware of it.

'You haven't drunk it before.  You've often told me.  But that's
nothing.  I've never drunk port, but I know just what it tastes
like.  Why, you're trembling!  Poor old John!  This will teach you
not to get drunk again.'

I remember it struck me as strange that my virginal Eve should feel
little disgust at my condition, should take it indeed as an often-
experienced commonplace.  How was it, I dimly thought.  Had she
known drunk men before?  But this foolish question was at once
forgotten in my surprise at the urgent curiosity in her voice.

'I want to know, John--I've been wanting to know for a long time.
What's changed you so completely in these last weeks?'

'These last weeks?'

'Yes--since Jimmie Tunstall fell into the sea.'

'I don't know of any change.'

'Of course there is!'  She gave me a little shake with her firm
hand.  'I've lived with you for years so I ought to know.
Sometimes you're as you've always been, but sometimes--'  She
leaned towards me.  'Are you listening?  You haven't gone to
sleep?'

'No, of course I haven't.'

'Sometimes you've been another man altogether.  Bossy.  Ordering me
about.  To tell the truth, I've rather liked it.  With Archie, too,
you're quite different.  He's beginning to look up to you.  And
your drawing suddenly.  And now getting drunk. . . .'

My terror had returned, dreadfully, remorselessly.

'Let me alone,' I murmured.  'I want to sleep.  This headache--'
She was leaning right over me now.  She caught my shoulder with her
hand.

'I want to know.  I MUST know.  What's happened?  You have some
information that has changed you--something about Jimmie Tunstall's
death--something that pleases you, puts you above yourself--'

'I don't know anything.'

'Yes, you do, John.  And I'll tell you what it is.  You had a
quarrel that night.  You struggled and he fell over--something like
that . . .'

'I didn't--I never saw him--I was at the cinema.'

I pulled myself away from her hand.

'So you say.  But, John, I know better.  When you came in that
night the ends of your trousers were wet.  You'd been walking in
grass.'

'Of course I hadn't.  You can't walk in grass in a cinema.'

'But you weren't IN the cinema.  Or if you were, you soon came out
again.  I've noticed often since how you kept telling people you
went to the cinema, when they hadn't asked you.  Guilty
conscience.'

I sat up.  I put my hands to my head.

'And more than that.  How about that night when you talked,
pretended you had been asleep?  You were no more asleep than I was,
and you were talking out aloud to Jimmie, just as though he were in
the room.'

I cried out:  'Stop it, Eve, stop it!  I can't bear it!'

'I've got to know--I've got to know.'

I turned round.  I felt for her hand and caught it.

'There isn't anything to know--at least it's all imagination.
You're right this far.  Since Tunstall's death I've had a
ridiculous obsession that he isn't really dead.  I don't know how
he died.  That night I WAS at the cinema and I came back through
Cottar's Lane--that's where I got my trousers wet.  How he died,
where he died, I haven't the least idea.  But I suppose I hated him
so much that he's obsessed me--is obsessing me now.  To-night I
began to drink because he seemed to be there in that pub.  Perhaps
it's true what he used to say to me--that death wouldn't separate
us.  Eve, I'm frightened.  I'm terribly frightened.  Be kind to me.
Be kind--'

I clung to her, kneeling on the bed, my cheek close to hers.  I put
my hand up and stroked her hair.

With an immense good-nature she kissed me, then laid me back in the
bed as she would a child.

'Now you're the old John, the John I married--always imagining
things.  Of course Jimmie Tunstall's dead.  And a good riddance I
daresay, although I couldn't help a kind of feeling--Now go to
sleep--all right, I'll kiss you.  Is that better?  Now, John--be
good, go to sleep.  There's nothing to be frightened of.'

She left me, turned on her side and was soon asleep.

But I lay there, agonizing.  For I was empty, empty as a cleaned-
out bin.  I was little John Talbot, just as I used to be.  But John
Talbot who had been ravished, assaulted, invaded, possessed.
Something--someone?--had been within me that night.  Yes--had dwelt
within me and been master of me.

I strained my ears into the dark.  The rain lashed the half-raised
window-pane and the sea roared and sulked, and sulked and roared.

In my terror as I lay, my heart beating thickly as though it were
twisting a muffler round my neck, I waited, wondering whether that
something would invade me again.  In the dark room it seemed to be
waiting, making no sound, its eyes not moving, watching, on the
alert. . . .  When would it cross the intervening space?  Would I
suddenly be aware of its naked entry, the thick limbs pushing
between my ribs, the brain within my brain, directing, commanding,
the wicked will, the lascivious mind . . .

To the falling mutter of the sea I fell asleep.


XI


In the spring I went up to London.  I had to see Leila Tunstall.

I went to see her as I might go to a physician.  Looking back, I
can see now that this journey to London was my first actual
admission to myself that I was ill.  I said quite simply to Eve:
'My nerves are in bits.  I know of a doctor in London.  Charles
Hopping told me about him.  He's grand about nerves.'

But she answered quite directly:  'You're going to see Leila
Tunstall.'

'I shall call on her probably,' I said.

'Are you in love with her?' Eve asked.

'Of course not.'

'Because I shan't be in the least bit jealous if you are.'

'Of course not.  You're the only woman I've ever been in love with--
or ever shall be.'

'Well--are you afraid of her, then?'

'Afraid of her?'

'Yes--does she know something that no one else knows?'

'There's nothing to know.'

I realized then that Eve was eaten up, obsessed, devoured by
curiosity.  Nothing now mattered to her beside the correct answer
to this question:  'What connection had I had with Jimmie
Tunstall's death?'

His death had wrought some deep change in me.  What was it that had
occurred?

That last night before I went up to London I behaved to her like
the cave-man of the popular novel.  She enjoyed it.  She responded
as she had never responded to me before.  For five happy minutes I
cheated myself into believing that, after all, she loved me.

When I arrived in London it was a late spring evening, very lovely
and delicate with a glistening light on the fresh trees and the
pearl-grey stone of the buildings like pigeons' wings.  When I had
been half an hour in my hotel, however, I realized the apprehension
everywhere.

A short while before, in March, Hitler had occupied Prague.  Now,
what would his next move be?  I cared nothing for politics.  I was
an artist.  But I had for years past hated the Nazis almost with
hysteria.  This evening, as I sat at a little table by myself and
listened to an elderly man and woman expressing their horror of the
Gestapo, I found myself, to my surprise, almost condoning Hitler in
my mind.  The two old people were discussing the news.  On the day
preceding (April 26th, I see by my diary, was the date)
Conscription had been announced, and there had been Simon's new
Budget, with its heavy tax on motor-cars, raising surtax and so on.

The two old people were saying that it was all Hitler's fault and
what a devil he was and when was anyone going to have the courage
to put a stop to his bloody deeds?  They were very fierce-minded,
and I remember that the lady's white-haired head had a perpetual
tremble and the old gentleman had large brown warts across the
backs of his hands.  Only a little while ago how cordially would I
have agreed with him.  Now, as I studied sceptically my vol-au-vent
(for this was not an expensive hotel), the thought shot hotly
through my body:  'Why shouldn't Hitler do his best for his
country?  It's quite true Germany must have expansion.  Everyone
denies it her.  Hitler is a great man. . . .'  And the chicken
nearly choked me.  I put down my knife and fork.  I stared across
the hideously decorated room.  What had happened to me?  This could
not be I who was exonerating that band of cruel sadistic toughs?
And if not I, who was it?

I could eat no more.  I went out and walked the Bloomsbury streets.
There were few lights.  Only little red patches of colour and the
dim swift opalescence from some passing taxi. . . .  But in the sky
there was a violet glow and a sweet soft air, an almost sacred
silence.  The British Museum was lumped against the sky,
nonchalantly, as though it knew that all the relics of past time
held within it made time timeless.  But did they?  I looked up at
the sky, pierced with the sparkle of the stars and with the honeyed
star-dust of countless worlds.  From that same violet sky one bomb
might one day fall, and where would the mummies be then?

A shiver of apprehension shook me and I realized, as I had never
done before, that this world had lost, for the first time in
history, all its security.

Then, on the opposite side of the street, I thought that I saw a
sturdy, thick figure standing in front of the Museum gates.  I
thought I heard a chuckle and stayed breath-suspended, expecting to
hear:  'Hullo, Jacko . . .'

I crossed the street, determined that this time I would challenge
him.  But of course there was no one there.

I had Leila's address--15 Effingham Road, Surbiton.  I wrote to her
and she invited me to tea.  It was a grey, cold day, with little
promise of summer in it, when I caught my train at Waterloo and
handed myself over to Suburbia.

I was in a curious state of eager anticipation--as though I had
persuaded myself that an hour with Leila would set right all my
troubles.  I was going to be completely honest with her, and yet I
was not going to be honest with her at all--for of course I would
not tell her that I had killed her husband.  What I WOULD tell her
was of my own unhappiness, and I felt that she would lay her hand
on my forehead and heal me.  I did not ask myself, as I should have
done--How could she heal me when I held back the truth from her?

One thing I learnt during this short journey to Surbiton.  There
was a short, stout, red-faced, elegantly-dressed man, with a
carnation in his buttonhole, sitting on the left side of the
window.  Suddenly his voice snapped at me:  'Are you looking for
someone, sir?  If not, would you mind closing the window?  Damned
cold day.'

Then I realized, as I had not until then done, that as the train
started I had leaned out of the window, peering up the platform as
though looking for someone, and that even when the train had left
the station I was still staring up the line.  I withdrew into the
carriage, apologizing to the gentleman, murmuring something.  As I
sat in my corner I felt that my face had a furtive look and that my
companion looked at me with suspicion.

I realized that I was now doing things without consciousness of
them.  This frightened me.

I walked from the station to Effingham Road.  Rain was threatening
and a little chill wind blew fragments of paper about my feet.  It
was indeed little like summer and I was glad to find a fire in the
sitting-room where the maid left me while she went to summon Leila.
The room's walls were thickly covered with very bad water-colours,
painted, I saw from the signature, by Leila's brother-in-law.
Leila was staying with her sister.  The piano had an old-fashioned
air, because, I suppose, the music of Noel Coward's Bitter Sweet
was open upon it.

There was a clock with a furtive tickling noise and a bird that
rustled in a cage by the window.  All these things made me feel
that I should not get on very well with Leila's sister, so I was
glad when Leila came in and said:

'Joan and Forrester have gone to the pictures.  Wasn't it tactful
of them?'

While the maid brought the tea and for some time after, we talked
very conventionally.  She was wearing black and it suited her.  Her
face seemed a little more crooked than it had been, but her eyes
were as kind, as tender, as understanding as I had always so
gratefully known them.  Quite suddenly she said:

'John, what's the matter?'

'The matter?' I asked.

'Yes, you look a sick man.'

'I'm not awfully well.  I thought it was time I took some kind of
holiday.  But never mind me.  Tell me about yourself.'

'Oh, I'm all right!  It takes some getting used to, you know--being
a widow.  If I didn't feel that Jimmie was still around I'd be very
lonely.'

'Do you like your sister and brother-in-law?'

'Very much.  Forrester paints in his spare time, as you can see
from this room.'  She laughed.  'How Jimmie hated his painting!  We
stayed here once and I'm afraid they didn't get on at all.'

'No, I know they didn't.'

'What do you mean?'

I pulled myself up.  'What a silly thing to say!  Of course I
didn't know.  How much longer are you going to stay here?'

She sighed.  'To tell you the truth, John, I don't know quite what
I am going to do.  This isn't like one's own home, of course, and
although they are awfully good they don't, naturally, want me here
for ever.  The fact is--well, I am not very well off nowadays.
Jimmie left nothing but debts, I'm afraid.  I have a little bit of
my own.  I like London and I expect I shall take a small flat
somewhere.'

There was a silence.  Then she said:

'How's Eve?  And the boy?'

'They're very well.  But I don't want Archie to go to school and
Eve does.'

'Isn't it better for a boy to go to school?'

'I was so miserable there myself and Archie's very like me in some
ways--sensitive, you know, and shy.'

'If you found the right school--'

'He'd have to go to the local place, where I was.  We haven't much
money to spare.'

'How's your book getting on?'

'Not very well, I'm afraid.  I haven't done much at it lately.'

She leaned forward and laid her hand on mine.

'John--what's the matter?  Tell me.'

Then I broke down and did what I hadn't done for a long time--I
began to cry.

She was deeply moved but with her great tact and understanding she
did nothing to disturb me, only held my hand in her soft small one
and waited.

At last I began to talk.  I said that I was unhappy, frightened,
that I didn't know what was happening to me.  I could not get
Jimmie out of my mind.

'You must not care what I say.  Think that I am not right in my
head.  For that's the truth.  My nerves are all in pieces.  I know
that Jimmie is dead and yet I feel that he is not.  He is always
near me.  Sometimes I even think he is inside me.  Oh! keep him
away!  Keep him away!'

At that I fell on my knees at her feet and laid my head against her
dress.  I held to her as though she were my only anchor.  My body
shook.  Then I felt ashamed of myself.  I got up and sat down.

'I don't know why I should behave like this to you.  We know one
another very little, but I sometimes think you are the only good
person I have ever met.  I'm in this trouble because of my own
sins. . . .  I feel as though he--Jimmie--your husband were
pursuing me. . . .  I have this obsession.  Show me, for God's
sake, that that is all it is.'

'For God's sake?' she asked.

'Yes.  You believe in God, don't you?'

'Yes.  I do.'

'Pray to Him for me.  Ask Him to help me.  I don't believe enough.
I can't believe enough.  Soon--if this power gets more hold of me
it will be too late.  Pray now.  Pray now.'

Leila answered:  'I do pray for you.  I have for a long while.  I
knew that you wanted me to.  I pray for you and Jimmie together.'

'No.  No.  No . . . you mustn't.  I hated him.  I hate him still.'

'So you think,' she said.  'But he needed my prayers just as you do
now.  He was obsessed with evil too--he wanted to be rid of it but
couldn't.'

'No, he didn't,' I interrupted fiercely.  'He liked to be evil.  He
was evil.  He is evil still.'

'He was possessed by a devil.  I used to tell him so.  "That's your
devil, Jimmie," I'd say--"not you."'

'He was possessed by one so long that he became one.'  I didn't
care how much I hurt her.  Something inside me was crying out
against something else inside me:  'So you believe in evil?' I
asked her.  'A real power of evil in the world, always fighting
good.  A constant battle.  A fight.'

'Of course I do,' she answered.  'Nothing else explains life.  If
there weren't a fight there'd be no progress.  If there weren't
evil--strong, active, clever evil--there'd be nothing for good to
put its teeth into.  God has done us the great honour of giving us
our own free will.  We have to fight our battle ourselves.  But He
has given us things to aid us--the love and companionship of Jesus
Christ, for one thing--'  She stopped with a little laugh.  'Now
I'm preaching.  But you asked me, didn't you?'

'Is it only my imagination that I think Jimmie is still alive?'

'I don't know what death is,' she said.  'If someone lives on in
our minds and hearts, then for us anyway he isn't dead.  More than
that, I don't know.'

'Does Jimmie live on like that with you?'

'Yes.  He does.'

'Then for both of us he is still alive.  But for me he is evil--for
you he is good.'

She paused for a long time before she answered:

'I wouldn't say this to anyone but you, John.  I feel he IS, at
this moment, evil.  I have prayed and prayed to see him released
from evil, but I can't.  I think that at this time he is in the
control of an evil spirit.  If I have been conscious of any contact
with him, it is an evil contact.'

There was a dreadful silence in the room, made more menacing by the
rustle of the bird in the cage.

'I must tell you something else,' she added.  'When you are near
me, John, I feel that he is near me, too.'

I did not answer her.  My throat was as dry as sand.

She took my hand and held it tightly.

'You must think of certain things, John.  One, that many--indeed
most--wise, sensible, intelligent people would think these ideas
nonsense.  They would say, perhaps quite rightly, that our nerves
have been shaken, that we are imagining absurdities.  Secondly,
that we are together in this, friends, and that whenever you want
me I am there for you.  And thirdly, that I, at least, believe in
God and the love of Jesus Christ, and that the power of good is
infinitely stronger than the power of evil.  I think that just now
the powers of evil are threatening not only us but the whole world,
and that however successful they may seem to be for a time, they
cannot win in the end.  We must take a long view, the longest God
allows us to have.'

We sat there side by side in that dreadful cold silence.

'Think of me, John,' she said, 'whenever you begin to imagine
anything bad.  And don't run away from anything.  Anything that is
real to you IS real to you, however absurd it may seem to anyone
else.  Face it.  Face it.  Even though you thought that Jimmie was
in this very room, face him.  Ideas are as real as facts, more real
often.  You can only get rid of them by facing them.'

At that moment, as I now so desperately remember, the door opened.
I don't know what, or whom, we expected to see, but in actual truth
a mild little inoffensive man stood there, a little man in a rather
shabby suit.  He gave us a look and a smile, and said:  'Oh, I say--
I'm sorry,' and before we could do or say anything he was gone,
very softly closing the door behind him.  Leila laughed.

'That was Richard.  So like him, appearing and vanishing like
that.'

'Richard?' I asked.

'Yes.  My brother.  You had forgotten I had one, hadn't you?  He's
been in China for years in a tea business.  Now they've moved him
to London.  He's a darling.  He's the human being with most
goodness I've ever known.'

'He reminds me of someone,' I said.

'Well, if it wasn't too silly,' she answered, laughing, 'I'd say he
reminds you of yourself.  I'm sure I've mentioned it before.  Don't
you see the resemblance?  At any rate to you as you were a few
months ago.  For you've fattened out, you know.  Your cheeks are
plumper.  But I'll never forget the day I first saw you--the day
Jimmie first brought you to the house.  The physical resemblance
was extraordinary.  I positively thought it was Richard standing
there.  That's why I think I liked you from the very beginning.'

My apprehension was gone.  The room seemed normal and happy.  I
kissed Leila on the forehead.

'I've got what I came here for,' I said.  'I've been letting myself
get foolish.  I needed a change.  That's what it was.  Will you
have dinner with me one night before I go?'

She promised that she would.



END OF PART I




PART II



NARRATIVE I


I


I come now to an episode that seems to me, when I consider my past
life, quite incredible, and is for me, in all my saner moments, of
a peculiar horror.  But I wish here to state the truth and omit
nothing save the grosser aspects of the incident.

During this stay in London I found that the evenings and nights
fascinated me.  My little hotel in Bloomsbury was, in any case, not
appetizing in the evening and theatres and cinemas seemed
difficult.  I asked a man at the hotel about the theatres.

'There's a very good piece at the Grand,' he said.  'I saw it last
week.  I DID enjoy it.'

'What sort of a piece?' I asked.

He scratched his head.  'I don't remember anything much about it,
but it was excellent.'

So even the theatres were veiled in mystery!

However, I was quite happy.  I would take an omnibus down to
Leicester Square and then walk up Piccadilly.  As I have said, I
had begun to be uncertain of my own identity.  Was there really
anyone called John Ozias Talbot?  And if there was not, then none
of this crowd that passed so dimly to and fro was an entity either.
We were all fragments of fragment hanging like the wings of flies
to a dead cinder!  And yet how alive these ghostly figures seemed!
How they laughed and jested as they passed me, making love,
discussing food, gossiping about this shadow and that.  But I did
not feel lonely.  I had the obsession that Tunstall now followed me
everywhere and sometimes so closely that he and I were one.  At
other times my brain was completely clear.  I knew, as I know now,
that I was John Talbot, a separate independent soul, and that the
shock following on what I had done had penetrated me as an illness.
That this was all imagination about Tunstall and that I must
conquer it with my strong, assured common sense.

Nevertheless, walking along these shadowy streets among these dim
figures, I had sometimes crazy impulses.  Once just outside Lyons'
Corner House I almost grabbed a stout man in a waterproof by the
arm:  'Come inside and have some coffee with me.  I will tell you a
story.  Then YOU can tell ME whether I am not as sane as you are.'

Happily I did not do this.

Then this very horrible thing occurred.  I was walking westward
along Piccadilly.  I was almost opposite the Ritz Hotel.  It was a
wet night and two women were sheltering under a doorway.  One of
them said:

'Hallo, darling!  Can't I speak to you?'

I walked forward a step or two.  My heart was pounding in my
breast.  I was inflamed with desire.  That is a conventional
phrase, but it is how I was.  Fire licked my loins.  I had always
felt a shuddering horror of such women.  I had never understood how
men could surrender themselves to such terrible company.  Now, not
only was I madly excited so that there was a singing in my ears and
my mouth was dry, but I had been so before.  This was, it seemed,
an accustomed experience to me.  I walked back with assurance to
the women.

'Did you speak to me?' I asked.  They had been chatting eagerly
together, but the smaller of the two--she was a little bird-like
creature with a face so painted that it resembled a mask--put her
hand on my waterproof.

'Of course I did, darling. . . .  Coming home with us?'

'What, with both of you?' I said, laughing, for I was bold,
masterful, completely at my ease.

The other woman, tall and stout, said in a husky voice:

'You pays your money and you takes your choice.'

They both laughed.  I called a taxi.  The little woman gave an
address in the direction of Great Portland Street.  Inside the taxi
I sat between them, but they paid no attention to me at all.
Across my body they continued their discussion about a certain Lucy
and a Mr. Board.  How well I remember those names and that Mr.
Board had promised to call on a certain night and Lucy had waited
for him and been furious at losing an evening, for he had not come
and, indeed, was never heard of again and owed Lucy quite a packet.
And Lucy liked him more than a little, and still as she walked from
corner to corner in Piccadilly looked for him, and things weren't
too good for her, anyway, just now, as she was fined four times
last week and seemed to have lost all heart in her business.

Their voices were compassionate and kindly, but I still burned with
this fire: my cheeks were flaming.  The hand of the smaller of the
two women lay coldly in mine.  She suddenly cried:  'Christ! but
your hand's hot, darling!'

It seemed to me that I had ridden in this cab and heard these words
many times before.  I felt big and masterful.  My body seemed to
swell as I sat there.  It would not be difficult for me to crush
both women in my arms.  I felt that I had often crushed women in my
arms.

Then the fat woman said to the other (as though I were the
unhearing, unseeing specimen of some animal product), 'He's quite a
little fellow, isn't he?'

They glanced at me, but not for more than a moment.  'I don't blame
Lucy,' the big one summed up.  'I'd bloody well have done the same
myself.  After all, if HE wasn't there to pay she'd a right to take
it out of someone else--that's what _I_ say.'

'The poor soft!' the mask-faced woman said.

The cab stopped.  We all got out.  It was raining hard.  I paid.

Evil builds up its dour atmosphere, doesn't it?  I mean the evil
for which human beings are not responsible--evil like a wet dish-
cloth lying of its own volition on the edge of the table, the drops
falling, the pool assembling, the damp stench smoking in vapour.
It was so now in this house.  As we climbed the stairs my nostrils
were dank with corruption, and of course, from above, there came
the sound of a tap dripping.

The big woman unlocked a door.  We entered a sitting-room and stood
there.

'Now,' the big woman said in a motherly housekeeping tone.  'We
won't waste time.  It's my room to the right, Molly's to the left--
which do you prefer?'

The electric light showed a dusty room, heavy with chill.  There
was a piano.  A pot with a fern.  Some shabby bawdy prints in gilt
frames.  The prints were 'foxed' and the frames chipped.

I went into the room on the left with Molly.  She undressed with
lightning speed, saying not a single word.  I whistled, I sang.  I
told her a story about Rio de Janeiro.

'How much are you giving me?' she asked.

'Five quid,' I answered jovially.

'Thank God, I shan't have to go out again--raining monkeys and
coconuts.'

I was so wildly excited that my fingers fumbled with my collar-
stud.  This was only one of innumerable experiences.  I sat on the
edge of the bed and told her some stories.  Aden, Marseilles,
Brindisi, especially Brindisi.  After that I nearly killed her.
She scratched my cheek.

A vast enveloping horror and disgust chilled my poor ghost of a
body.  Slowly the little room that had been cloudy with a sort of
exultation repeated itself to me.  The cheap lace curtains, the
round, black metal clock, my clothes on the floor, a cheap
photograph of Velasquez' 'Rokeby Venus,' all these were symbols of
my shame, my humiliation, my self-disgust.

'Tell me some more about Brindisi, strong boy,' she said.  She was
lying on her back staring at me.  'You know, to look at you one
would never think--'

'I've never been to Brindisi,' I said in a whisper.

'What!' she said.  'You're a bloody liar!  You've just been telling
me--'

'I've never been to Brindisi.'  A strange longing for home pervaded
me.  To catch Eve's glance as she looked up from the table!  But
how dare I even think of her?  My head hung.  My hands were folded
on my breast.  I was bitterly, bitterly cold.  She regarded me with
some compassion.  'You're shivering, and this room's as hot as
hell.  You'd better put some clothes on.'

I looked at her intently.

'I want you to understand something.  That was another man who was
with you just now.  HE'S been to Aden and Brindisi and the rest.  I
haven't.'

'You're crackers,' she said.  She sat up.  'I've had 'em crackers
before, and I know how to act with them, see?  So don't you try--'

'I'm not trying anything,' I said, my teeth chattering.  I felt the
fresh blood from the scratch on my cheek.  'I'm only telling you.
That wasn't me, that other man.'

'What the hell do I care who it was as long as he pays the five
quid?  Don't forget it, darling, will you?  Maybe I'll go out
again.  The rain don't sound so hard--'

I dressed.  I laid a five-pound note on the mantelpiece.  I went
away.


II


I was myself again.  I was my complete, real, unalterable self.  I
was free.  I had no thought of Tunstall, nor of his death, nor of
his insistent neighbourhood.  I had no desire for anything but my
own life and the company of my wife and son.

In the train I sat closely folded up in my corner, reading The
House with the Green Shutters, a novel that had once exerted a
great influence upon me.  So it did again now.  This was the kind
of novel that I wanted to write--in my own idiom, of course--but
the figures of Bella Scorfield, Cheeseman, and the rest hung before
me as starting-points from which my own creations should come.
'The Green Parrot' should be the background, and I saw the start of
my novel with the wet, misty evening and the slap of the wave
against the wooden skirting of the overhanging walls.  I was myself
again.  I was creative again.  I would abandon the novel that I had
been writing and follow this new impulse.  I sat there hugging my
bony knees, thinking about Eve and Archie, feeling that I had been
swept clean of whatever corruption had entered me.  I was rid of
Tunstall.  Those odd obsessions had been simply the reaction from
what I had done.  I thought--how very strange!  I have no shame at
all because I killed Tunstall, but my cheeks burn if I think of
Great Portland Street.

I pushed all such notions from me.  I was going home.  I would soon
be with Eve and Archie again.

Oh, but I was happy when I entered my own home and saw my wife
seated quietly reading and Archie at the table doing his home-work.
I caught her up and almost swung her off her feet.  I kissed her
again and again.  She released herself, laughing:

'Here, here, John!  Whatever's come over you?  Glad to be home?  I
think you ought to be!'

Then she stood back and looked at me.

'Why, how you've altered!  You're quite fat!'

'No, I'm not.  I've not altered a bit.'

'Yes, you are.  The shape of your face has changed.  It has,
really!  Why, your hair's thicker!  That little bald patch is
almost gone!  And your eyebrows!  You usen't to have any!  What
hair-restorer have you been using?  It suits you, I'll admit.'

I turned and looked in the glass.  I could see no change except
that my colour was high with my pleasure at being home again.  My
eyebrows?  I put my hand up and felt one.  It WAS a little thicker
and I was pleased, because I had been teased about them when I was
a young man.  I kissed Archie and he seemed to like me, too.  I
spent a very happy evening with my family.

On the following afternoon, a beautiful day, I took a walk alone to
think out the opening chapter of my new novel.  I walked on the
Common towards Shining Cliff.  I had not intended to go that way;
suddenly I found myself there.  Birds were singing and the sea
purred like a cat.  At exactly the spot where I had encountered
Tunstall on that wet, misty evening I encountered him again. . . .

When I say 'encountered' I want to be perfectly clear.  I knew by
now that you could encounter someone without seeing their physical
body, that, in fact, we are all of us encountering many people
every day whom with our physical eyes we do not see.  I was aware
now of the symptoms in the order in which they occurred.  It was
always the same.  First there was a physical nausea similar to the
suggestion of sickness that comes to you when your pipe goes
suddenly bad on you.  Then there was a quick, almost suffocating
beating of the heart and a weakness through all the limbs.  After
that the certainty of the nearness.  All of us have been in a
street, the room of an inn, a theatre, and are aware, with a stab
of apprehension, that someone whom one greatly dislikes is drawing
near.  One looks quickly round to see whether there is not some
avenue of escape, and if there is not time for that, one submits
with the best grace one may.  After that there is the fear of
contact, the sickening fear that one's body may be touched in some
way.  But my apprehension of Tunstall was worse than this, for it
was a peculiar physical fear, the sense that one's body would open
and allow this horrible presence in.  When I had been a boy I had
thought that children emerged from the opening breasts of women.
This was the same except that it was an entrance rather than an
exit.  I am trying to be exact in my terms, but no words can
explain this dreadful, degrading, sickening fear.

Now with the sun pouring down upon me and the birds singing above
me, I was rooted there, staring at nothing, my body like water.
The contact grew closer.  I knew that it was but nervous
hallucination and yet I spoke aloud:  'Ah, leave me!  For God's
sake leave me!  Spare me.  Spare me--for pity's sake spare me!'

It is important, I think, that I should record that on this
occasion I very distinctly saw a form, although I was aware, with
full conscious clarity, that there was no form there.  It is very
easy, if you stare in front of you and then conjure up the physical
presence of someone, clothed or naked, whom you know well, to fancy
at last that that person is present.  If you do this at a stated
time in the day and repeat the effort week after week, your
imagination will supply all that you need.  But to-day my
experience was rather different.  I saw standing in front of me the
stout body, the laughing face, the bloodshot eyes, the thick
eyebrows of Tunstall, but I fancied that I also saw--some
projection of myself!  It was as though the spectre of Tunstall
were transparent, and as through a glass I saw my own body BEHIND
his.  At the same time, although I did not move physically from
where I stood, I felt as though my spirit commingled with something--
as your breath mingles with another's when you kiss.  This
mingling was indescribably horrid, as though I had been unnaturally
ravished.  I heard the sharp metallic singing of a bird and the
warm purr of the sea.  Then I fainted, crumpling up on the grass.

I came to myself to find that I was lying on the grass, my face wet
and my head against Cheeseman's knee.  He had splashed my face with
water and was forcing some brandy between my lips.  The dog Scandal
was roughly licking my limp hand.

I have now, when I look back on the events that followed, no doubt
whatever but that Cheeseman had been following me, probably from
the town.  I suspect that from the moment I returned from London he
had been spying on me.  It was of the Rat's nature to spy, to
ferret out a secret, to discover something that would lead to
blackmail.  The scene at 'The Green Parrot' had, I don't doubt,
excited his intensest curiosity.

In any case there he was, seated on a hard, flat stone, his carroty
hair shining in the sun, a pipe between his lips, and his horrid
white hands, with the red hair on their backs, resting one on his
knee, the other at the flask of brandy pressed to my lips.

I sat up.  I looked up at his face.  I hated him, yes, but it
seemed to me that he had been for years my companion and that we
had shared many secrets.  And I knew that that was not so.

'How did you come here?' I asked him none too graciously.  With
some trouble I got to my feet, feeling weak, sat down on the stone.

'I happened to be passing.'  He looked at me with eager, almost
burning curiosity.--'I say--you did topple down!  Whatever was the
matter?'

'Oh, nothing.  I go dizzy sometimes.'  My only desire was to get
away from him.  I was ashamed, oh, how deeply ashamed, that he had
seen me.  But he would not, of course, let me go like that.

'That dog's fond of you, isn't he?  Funny.  He'd never look at
anyone but Jimmie when he was alive. . . .  But, I say, what WAS
the matter?'

'The matter?  With me?  Why, nothing at all!'

'Oh, but there was!  I was taking a stroll--lovely afternoon and
all that.  I've been working on my roses all the morning.  They're
a fair treat, you ought to see them.  So I strolled along, smoking
my pipe, not thinking of anything in particular, when I saw you
standing there as though you were turned into a statue, staring
straight in front of you--staring like mad as though there were
somebody there.  Then you began to speak.  I could see your lips
moving.  I couldn't hear what you said, of course--I didn't want to--
I'm not the sort of man to spy on anybody.  But you were talking
as though there were somebody there.  You were, really.  And then
quite suddenly, all in a jiffy, you throw up your hands and tumble
forward on your face.  I came up and you'd gone right off--you had,
really.  So I pulled you over here, splashed some water from that
puddle on your face and gave you a drop from this flask.  You're
not properly round yet.  You're as white as a sheet of paper.'

'Oh, I'm all right.'  How I hated him!  How I wanted him to go!
Well, if he wouldn't, I would.  I staggered to my feet, I could
just stand.

'Thanks very much, Cheeseman,' I said.  'It was just a touch of the
sun!  I must be getting back.'

'I'll come along with you.'

'No, don't you turn back.  It's such a lovely day.'

He looked at me, grinning, his pipe clenched between his shining
teeth.

'All right.  If you don't want me.  But do you remember my telling
you a good while ago that you knew more about Jimmie Tunstall's
death than anyone else alive?  And so you do!  There's some mystery
here.  And it's about here he fell over into the sea.  I'm certain
of it.  On his way to Bella's.  And you saw him or were close by or
something.'

I turned on him.

'You think you're clever, but you can't blackmail me, Cheeseman, as
you do so many others.'

He sprang to his feet.

'That's a bloody, dirty lie, and you shall--'

'Come along, Cheeseman,' I said.  'You can't put that over on me.
Do you remember that you tried it once over what I told you about
Brindisi, and how you failed?'

He stared at me as though I were indeed crazy. . . .

'Brindisi?  But you've never been to Brindisi!  That was Jimmie--'

We stood looking at one another.  I picked up my hat that had
fallen on to the grass.  Cheeseman had to hold the dog tightly to
prevent his following me.

No, I had never been in Brindisi. . . .  The time had come for a
quiet, unsensational, common-sense examination of my situation.
And behind the common-sense lurked a horror.

That night after Eve had gone up to bed I went to my little room
where I worked.  It was a hot summer evening.  I could hear the
lovely sound of the sea through the open window.  I locked the door
and then I stripped.  There was a long old eighteenth-century
mirror hanging on the right side of the window.  In this I examined
myself.  Was I physically changed or no?  I was stouter, heavier in
the chest, the belly, the thighs.  My face was fuller and rounder.
There was nothing in that.  I had always had a tendency to
stoutness.  Then as I looked in the mirror I had a crazy
hallucination that another naked figure was behind mine, a figure
of exactly my height, heavier and stouter, the features of the face
coarser and bolder, the hair thicker.  And as I looked they merged
and became one figure.

I did not faint now.  I was absorbed as though I were studying an
abstract problem.  I put on my vest and drawers and sat down to
consider.

The fact was simply this: the crime--or whatever you care to call
it--committed by me--had affected my nervous system so deeply that
I was the victim of a hallucination.  My hallucination was that
Tunstall was possessing me.  Occupying me body and soul.

It was a crazy, meaningless, monstrous obsession, but unless I
could rid myself of it, I was running straight to madness.

I sat there, the perspiration on my hands and forehead and chest.
I must do something to prove to myself quite definitely, once and
for ever, that this WAS an obsession--something . . . something . . .
something . . .

And quite suddenly, as though it were whispered into my ear, I had
the solution.  I had heard that very morning that Bella Scorfield
and her mother had shut up their house and gone away for ten days.

At night there would be nobody there.  I had never in all my life
been inside the house.  I would enter it, walk upstairs and visit
Bella's bedroom.  If my obsession were NOT an obsession, everything
in that bedroom would be strange to me.  If, on the other hand, the
furniture and the rest were just as I expected them, then . . .


III


As soon as the idea entered my head it became a passionate desire.
Day and night now I thought of nothing else.

I made the most careful enquiries.  I discovered that it was an
actual and positive fact that the house was empty.  Some neighbour
visited it occasionally to make sure that all was well.  He kept
the keys, but I would tell no one of my purpose.  Tunstall had told
me once--or had he?--at any rate I knew it as a certain fact--that
the window by which he entered was easily opened if you pushed a
penknife between the wood that separated the two panes.  He had
entered in that fashion--how did I know this?--often enough.  The
period for the execution of my plan was limited.  They were to be
away for ten days.  Their departure interested the town, for Mrs.
Scorfield, it seemed, had not left her bed for over a year until
now.  They had gone to London, apparently, about a will or some
legacy.

Eve, of course, noticed my new preoccupation.  The relationship
between us was now very peculiar.  Sexually it was ardent for the
first time since our marriage.  She seemed to be developing a
physical love for me that she had never felt before, and as she
grew more affectionate I became less so.  I saw several women in
the town who were attractive to me.  I began to think of women
continually.  She watched my moods with a passionate interest.  I
was often very unhappy and would sit brooding in my chair and not
speaking.  I appeared to have lost all interest, both in the shop
and my writing, but my new accomplishment of drawing fascinated me.
I had a queer technical facility although I had, of course, never
taken lessons.  I would make, almost without knowing it, indecent
drawings, and then, with shuddering horror, tear them to fragments.

When Eve realized that some preoccupation was obsessing me, she
could not let me alone.  She had developed now a sort of 'flirting'
with me.  There was a sexual impulse behind all her words.  She did
her best to discover my secret and one evening came very near to
it.

Looking up at me and smiling provocatively she said:

'You must be fearfully bored, John, now that both your belles are
away.'

'My belles?  I have none.'

'Once you hadn't.  _I_ was your only love.  Now there are others
and oddly enough I like you the better for it.'

It was strange to me when I looked at her how coarse and common she
could sometimes be.

'Who are my belles, then?'

'Bella Scorfield and Leila Tunstall, of course.'

'What nonsense!  You are and always have been the only woman I've
ever looked at.'

'Nonsense!  You are a regular Don Juan nowadays.  Everyone is
talking about it.'

There is nothing more irritating than to be told that 'everyone' is
talking!

'What an absurdity!  Everyone talking about me!  They have better
things to do.'

'They are, all the same--the change in you.  Why, even, they say,
you look different.  They ask me what I've been feeding you on.
Someone the other day said that you were quite gay with women now.
I'm afraid they used to think you a very dull dog indeed--and so
did I sometimes.  Certainly you've changed.  I've got a lover now
as well as a husband, but I don't want too many other women to
discover that you've altered.'

I was drinking a mild whisky and soda.

'Perhaps it's the whisky.'

'Nothing could be milder.'  I held up the glass for her to see.

'No, but it isn't always so mild.  There's quite a whisky bill
nowadays.  Until recently you loathed the smell of it.  Not that I
mind a man drinking a little.  It makes him more amiable.'

As she had coarsened so had I.  I was drawing some other self out
of her that through all our years of married life I had not known
existed.

'But you must not get too fat, John.  You haven't the figure to
carry it.'

'Everyone says I'm putting on weight.  I'm not really.'

'Of course you are!  Look at that scarab ring that used to belong
to poor Jim Tunstall.  It's quite embedded in your finger.  You
can't pull it off.'

I tried.  She was right.  The thing seemed to cling to my flesh, to
be part of my body, and as I pulled at it the green markings were
most vivid.  The beetle, under the artificial light, seemed to be
alive.

The time had come.  I dared not leave it any longer.  The evening I
chose was dimmed with warm, misty rain.  I did not wish to be seen
by anybody--in fact I must NOT be seen.  The misty rain would
obscure me.

I told Eve that I was going to the cinema and I started out.  It is
very difficult for me to describe the mixture of fear and a kind of
greedy ecstasy that was in my heart.  Partly I knew that my purpose
was absurd.  I had never entered the house and therefore could not
know what it contained.  That was clear.  On the other hand a wild
and exaggerated excitement urged me forward.  Something in me
whispered that it would be wonderful to be there again.  Something
else in me--the strongest of these emotions on my setting out--
tried to hold me back from visiting Shining Cliff again.  I was now
AFRAID of Shining Cliff.  I had not been.  A few weeks ago I would
have visited it at any time of day or night without a tremor.  But
now I wished dreadfully NOT to go.  As I approached the place I
felt the damp sweat on my forehead.  It may have been, of course,
the thin rain which spider-webbed the air exactly as it had done on
that other evening.

I was walking fast.  I was perspiring.  The beat of my heart was
uncomfortable.  There was no doubt but that I had grown stouter,
for my body was heavy under my clothes, the clothes clinging to it
and yet the body staying separate and apart as it does when it is
frightened.  In fact I noticed a queer thing, which was that as I
approached the Cliff more nearly, physical symptoms arose in my
body that did not really belong to me.  Any of us who have lived a
long time have become accustomed to certain physical properties--a
small bone aches in the left wrist; there is a little cough at
times that is peculiarly ours; a toe on the right foot burns
fierily in certain weathers.  I was aware in myself now of new
symptoms that were yet accustomed ones.  Having been always spare,
a teetotaller and a sparse feeder, my stomach had rarely troubled
me.  But now I was constantly aware of a sort of heartburn that
comes from indigestion.  My heart, too, sometimes made me
breathless.  My neck felt thick and congested.  And I noticed on
this especial evening that the scarab ring dug into my finger as
though it bit me.

So I stopped for breath at the very spot on the Cliff whence I had
thrown Tunstall over.  I was all alone to-night and I longed for
company.  I would have welcomed anybody, Cheeseman or another.  The
rain stroked my cheeks with greedy fingers.  What a fool I was to
pursue this fantasy!  And who could say?  I might be arrested by
the local policeman for house-breaking and what an ignominious
thing that would be!  Nay--more than ignominious, dangerous.  For
once they began an enquiry as to why I should enter at night the
Scorfield house, their enquiries would stretch further.

My own self, as I stood in my waterproof dismally shivering on the
Cliff edge, urged me to go home.  Something else in me, hot,
lustful, reckless, drove me forward.  I went on.

I found, to my intense relief, that I did not know the way.  Then,
indeed, I might have turned home, for had I not proved my case?  I
did not know the way.  I hesitated at every turn.  But as I
hesitated I felt as though I were deliberately myself holding back
information from myself, or as though something devilish in me was
maliciously refusing to tell me what I longed to know--'_I_ could
tell you the way.  Are you so idiotic as to fancy that _I_ don't
know it?  I am well aware of every single step and turn, but
wait . . . wait . . . I am watching to see what you will do--you
poor, pitiable, frightened fool!'

Have we not all at times noticed just such scornful bullying voices
within our own breasts?  At one point I did almost turn home.  I
had left the sea-path, crossed a little wood and come to the
parting of the ways.  I was sure that the little rough-stoned path
to the left must be the one to take, and yet my feet seemed to
drive me to the other.  I had to force myself to take the path to
the left.

And then most abruptly I came upon the house.  It squatted there in
sulky, sodden silence.  The thin misted rain blew in gusts across
my eyes.  Dark wet laurels crowded almost to the windows.  The
ragged drive halted before the steps of the pillared door.  To the
left was the lawn and I crossed over to this and looked up at the
building's other side.  How I hated that house with the long dead
windows, the beat of the sea seeming to break against their hostile
glass, the chimneys appearing to raise insulting ears to me against
the dreary sky.  No one was there.  No one ever had been there.  It
was a house of kitchen-ghosts and cellar-phantoms!

'Now--do you know the place?' something seemed to whisper to me.
But I did not--triumphantly I did not.  I could have gone down on
my knees on the sopping grass and thanked my Maker.

I was myself.  I was myself, and no one else, and had never seen
this beastly house before!  Ah, but it would have been well for me
if I had turned then and run the whole way home!

But already, as I stood on the lawn, it was as though some other
quite opposite past-consciousness was approaching my brain.  I
walked forwards toward one of the windows, and as I walked it
seemed to me that I had crossed just here a hundred times.  I was
near to the window.  I had pressed my nose against it.  Then, like
a man obeying a command, I took out my pocket-knife.

I pushed up the lower pane and, bending my back, climbed into the
room.  It was dark with a sort of musty greenish darkness--or so I
felt.  The furniture stood about like watching spies, but I
realized with a kind of reassurance, as though a friend had laid
his hand on my shoulder, that I did not know WHAT THE FURNITURE
WAS.  There were dim pictures on the wall.  Opposite me was a
portrait, but I could not tell from where I was whether it were
male or female.  I could not tell!  I could not tell!

'Can you not?' a voice whispered to me.  It was like a physical
voice, thick and husky.--'Jacko, can you not?'

I dared not move--I felt as though with one step I should advance
into some horror from which I should never again escape.  And so
indeed it has proved.  For I am now in that horror--and I shall
never again escape!  Oh, God!  What have I done that Thou shouldst
so horribly punish me?  Or if my crime is so great--and even as I
write these words they mock me by their foolishness.  There IS no
God but in the silly superstitions of man's heart. . . .

I did not move.  I was trembling with a kind of sick disgust.  I
may have muttered--I cannot tell for sure--'Leave me!  I am not
yours. . . .  I am my own master. . . .'

And then I think I heard the mocking voice--'Jacko . . . Jacko . . .
Jacko!'

I only know for sure that wretchedly I knelt down on the floor and
took off my damp boots.  My fingers muddled with the wet laces.

On my stockinged feet I crept into the hall and began to climb the
stairs.  A clock began to strike.  With agonized certainty I stayed
and waited, for I KNEW that before the last stroke there would be a
whirr and a grumble as of an old man coughing.  I waited.  It was
so.  I moved anxiously lest the boards of the stairs should creak.

In the passage above I moved left.  I pushed at a door (I had no
doubt now as to WHICH door) and entered.  I did not switch on the
light.  I knew exactly how the furniture was.  The bed against the
wall and on it a pink counterpane.  Next to the bed a small table
and a lamp with a silver-grey shade.  A round tin box covered with
an old print of Westminster Abbey that held biscuits.  Above the
bed two pictures, prints from Hogarth's 'Marriage.'  Above the
fireplace, two birds in Lalique.  A wardrobe of dark mahogany.  An
easy cushioned chair coloured rose.

I switched on the light.  The room was as I have said.  I threw off
my coat and waistcoat.  Then, staring at the bed, breathing
fiercely, I pulled my shirt up over my head . . .



NARRATIVE 2


I


. . . The War has lasted two months now and I caused quite a stir
at Leila's tea-party yesterday afternoon by what I said.  Eve was
there, the Parrott, Richard Thorne, Leila's meek-and-mild little
brother (who is, so everyone says, the image of what I used to
be!), and several pious ladies and gentlemen, the sort that Leila
likes to have around her, and Mr. Birthwaite of St. Peter's, a
stout, muscular clergyman, the sporting 'Play Football for Christ'
clergyman, the kind that I detest.

Well, there we all were, in Leila's little house (she has come back
to Seaborne after all), something of the cottage-bungalow variety
not far from the sea.  There she lives with one little maid most
modestly.  Her brother Richard, who was in the East so long, stays
with her and pays her expenses partly, I imagine.

I think that I disliked that fellow on sight and now I positively
hate him.  He knows that I do and there is that sort of secret
relation between us.  Why do I hate him?

Well, I've become a violent domineering kind of fellow lately and
I'm proud of it.  How I despise that old miserable John Talbot
creeping and crawling about, afraid of his wife, afraid of his son,
trying to write ridiculous feeble books that no one could possibly
want, afraid of a dirty story, of companionship with rough-and-
ready chaps like Cheeseman and Bob Steele.  Yes--nor am I afraid of
Tunstall's ghost any more.  I can see that I was altogether wrong
when I thought so badly of Tunstall.  I can see now that he was
only teasing me half the time.  I hate myself--or rather my old
self--for pushing him over that Cliff, and that is why I think I
detest Richard, Leila's brother.

It's almost as though HE pushed Tunstall over.  Physically he's
just the man I used to be but, thank heaven, am no longer.  Other
people have noticed it.  He's got no eyebrows and is pasty-faced
and has a thin, poor physique.  He won't touch whisky or any
intoxicating liquor and is as quiet as a mouse, sitting in a corner
of the room without speaking, just as I used to do.

He gave me a start the other day when he asked me whether I'd read
any of Gissing's novels and whether I didn't like him.  I said that
I used to like them once, but had grown out of them.

I added, in that rough way that I like to put on with people who
are frightened of me, that I hadn't much time for reading now and
that anyway Gissing seemed to me a miserable sort of writer.  I
liked a novel to have some meat in it.  He looked surprised at that
and said he'd asked me because he thought my novels showed
Gissing's influence.

'My novels!' I answered, laughing.  'Don't you mention them to ME!
I'm thoroughly ashamed of them.  If I had time to write now I'd put
some meat into them--a bit of skirt, that's what people want in a
novel.'

I felt in a sort of rage with him because somewhere deep down in me
I felt ashamed of what I'd said, and I HATE to be ashamed of myself
and I'd kill anyone who made me feel so.

My fierceness frightened him and he went away without saying
anything.

For one reason, anyway, I like to be with him.  Looking at him
reminds me of what I USED to be.  I can estimate it the more truly
because we're about the same height, he and I.  How I've filled
out!  It's astonishing.  It's not only that I'm broader and thicker
altogether, but you'd imagine I'd been using some restorer by the
way my hair grows.  On the head, my eyebrows, quite thick on my
chest--everywhere that a manly man ought to have hair!  I've got a
chest for hair to grow on, too!  AND a bit of a stomach if the
truth MUST come out.

I think it is due to the open-air life I lead.  None of that
skulking about in that silly shop any more.  Eve manages that
entirely.  I play golf, I shoot, I fish.  You may say it's late for
a man to begin all these things, but Basil Cheeseman, Steele, and
some of the others have shown me the way--yes, and to other things,
too!

All in the space of less than a year, and if you ask me I'd say
that it's never too late for a man to learn.  Not that I'm always
in good spirits.  No one is!  And I drink a bit too much.  Then
I've been developing the devil of a temper lately.  There's
something in me beyond my control, and when I see red I often wish
I didn't.  But there!  We can only live once and while we live let
us enjoy ourselves.

At any rate, whatever else I am, I'm not a hypocrite.  What I mean
I say!

It was the hypocrisy that made me so bloody mad at Leila's when
they were discussing this War.  Of course, down in this little
place, except for the Black-Out we haven't felt the War yet at all.
People are all saying it's a phoney war, not like a real war at
all.

They were all sitting round as usual, clinking the tea-cups,
nibbling little bits of bread and butter and saying all the usual
things--that Hitler and Goering and the others were emissaries of
the Devil, and that we were all saints and the saviours of
civilization.

I listened for a bit and then I could stand it no longer.  I said
that what we were was a nation of hypocrites.  What right had we to
stop Germany from expanding if she wanted to?  We had more than
half the globe, anyway, and how had we got it?  By plundering,
thieving, bullying natives.  For my part, I thought Hitler was a
fine fellow.  He had brought his people up from miserable
subjection to be a great people again.  He was clever and knew what
he was about, while we were stupid and decadent.  All that Hitler
did was to go for what he wanted.  After all, he had the strength
and was using it.

'I suppose,' the parson said in that gooseberry-in-the-throat sort
of voice that parsons have, 'you'd say that Might is Right--a
wicked doctrine and straight from the Devil.'

'I don't know about the Devil,' I said, in that laughing boisterous
voice that I enjoy using, 'but I do know that we're a nation of
hypocrites and if Germany defeats us we deserve it.'

There was a shocked silence after that and only Leila said:  'You
wouldn't have said that once, John.'

Now I like Leila.  I have always liked her, but of late that liking
has greatly increased.  For one thing she is, I think, the only
person in the world who really understands me.  She is certainly
more understanding of me than my wife.

I am not, of course, in the least in love with her.  I am keeping
this journal day by day, all that remains of my old writing habit,
and I may say that at this actual moment of writing I am more at
ease with her than with any other human being alive.  The feeling
that I have for her, queerly enough, is rather as though I had been
married to her for many years.  I have for her that sense of
companionship that comes from long mutual and physical contact, and
that is certainly peculiar because we have been nothing more than
casual friends.  There was, of course, that rather absurd scene
with her in London when I was sentimental and wept.  But at that
time my old self, which I regard now as feminine and ridiculous,
was uppermost.  It would take something very remarkable to make me
weep to-day.

When, however, she said that once I would not have spoken as I did
I was abashed.  I was angry with myself for being so and left as
soon as possible.

My outspokenness about Hitler has been reported and I am aware that
numbers of people in this silly little town now look on me
unfavourably.  Not that I give a damn!  When I was meek and mild
and took care to offend nobody, they said that I was a milk-sop.
Now that I show some spirit and speak my mind, they say that I was
better as I used to be.  Well, let them say!  If this town is
typical of England, then I declare, and I don't care who hears me,
that England is finished and done for and deserves to be beaten by
the Germans, whose courage and resource and daring I cannot but
admire!

I must say something now about my home affairs.  The other evening
I had a quarrel with Eve and some curious things were said during
it.

Eve loves me and sometimes I wish she did not.  I know that if once
I had written this down on paper I should have been wild with joy,
about her loving me, I mean.  I am sure she has nothing to complain
of me as a husband, but after all, when you have been married for
as long as we have, it is only natural and right that the physical
part of marriage should take a secondary place.  Other things are
of more importance.  But whereas that side of marriage is of less
importance to me it seems to be all-important to Eve.  The plain
fact is that she is absurdly jealous and would like to make scenes
every night if I allowed her to.  She is for ever wanting to know
where I have been; what I have done; to whom I have spoken.

The other evening after dinner, when I was happily enjoying a
whisky and soda, she put her hand over the decanter.

'No, John--you've had enough for to-night.'

I could scarcely believe my ears.

'Who says?' I asked.

'I do,' she answered.  I could see that she was a little frightened
and I like her to be frightened.

'Oh, you do, do you?' I said.

'Yes. . . .  Oh, John, do listen to me!  I've been wanting to say
something for weeks!'

She always looks her best when she has tears in her eyes.  That
excites something in me.  She is like one of those old Virginal
Priestesses who is suddenly human and pleading.

'Go ahead!' I said, stretching out my legs.

'There was a time,' she began, 'when I wanted you to be more
dashing, more of a man, to go about more . . . but now . . .'

'Well--now?' I asked her mockingly.

'I haven't the right to speak, perhaps.  You know what you're doing
and I must confess that I AM much fonder of you than I used to be.
You're much more of a man--physically and in every way.  But need
you--don't be angry with me--drink as much as you do?  Need you
always be with men like Cheeseman and Bob Steele and young Romilly?
Then you offend people by the way you speak to them, swearing and
saying you're pro-German and things like that.  I know I'm jealous.
I never used to be.  But then you never used to look at other women--
I sometimes wished you did.  Sometimes you're so angry with me and
over nothing at all.  I'm sure it's drinking makes you lose your
temper.  Sometimes when you're angry you look terrible.  I feel as
though you weren't the old John at all, your face is so changed.
Don't you think--please, please, don't be angry--that if you drank
less and went back to your writing again you'd be happier, that
we'd all be, you, I and Archie?  I'm sure Archie loves you, but
he's afraid of you, you know he is.  And I'm afraid of you
sometimes, too.  And you're not really happy--we none of us are.'

She ended breathlessly, her eyes beseeching mine, and she put her
hand on my arm.

I did what all proper husbands would do.  I poured myself out
another glass of whisky.

Then I said, quietly:  'Have you quite done?'

She nodded.  'Yes--we've always been honest with one another, John--
said what we think.'

'Yes--well, I'm going to say what _I_ think.  If you don't like it
you can bloody well lump it.  That's coarse and vulgar, I know, but
then I AM coarse and vulgar.  I wasn't once, and you didn't like
it.  I am now and you don't like that either.'

(It's agreeable to write dialogue again.  There's something in me,
some remnant of my old life, that sometimes cries out for the novel-
writing again.  Well, if I ever DO write another novel it will be a
bit more lusty than the earlier ones were!)

'Not that _I_ care what you think.  For years and years I was your
slave, wasn't I?  Do you remember our coming away from a party at
Tunstall's house once and your being angry with me for not liking
him and threatening to leave me?  As a matter of fact you were
right that evening.  Tunstall wasn't such a bad sort, only I was
such a damned prig that I took him too seriously.  But do you
remember that when you threatened to leave me I broke down and said
I'd do anything to please you--crawled in fact--and how you
graciously forgave me like a queen her slave?  Do you remember
that, Eve?  You had your time, you know, and a grand time it was.
But the worm WILL turn--and WHEN it turns, it changes.  This worm
isn't a worm any longer--see?  Nothing like a worm.  Quite a
different animal.'

I thought this a good speech and sat back in my chair, pushing my
stomach out and feeling thoroughly pleased with myself.  I had been
drinking quite a bit.  But, after all, it was Eve who astonished
me, for she didn't answer anything that I had been saying, but
asked, very quietly, this question:

'John, what was it you did to Jim Tunstall?'

I can tell you that that astonished me.  All the questions and
whispers about Tunstall's death had died down by now.  No one had
mentioned him for months.  There seemed to be a sort of conspiracy
NOT to mention him.

I myself hadn't thought about it, and the sense that I used to have
about his being near to me, the horror, the suspense, the terror--
all that had gone--yes, really gone except for some unhappy moments
about which I will have something to say in a minute.  The GREAT
change in me now is that I admire Tunstall instead of hating him.
By God, I do!  He seems to me now the only man who woke this place
up a bit.  You may say that in a small way I copy him.  Basil
Cheeseman says, laughing, that I BECAME Jim Tunstall as soon as I
put his scarab ring on my finger.  'Why, you're getting to be the
spitting image of him,' he said, and we had a good laugh about it.
I had an absurd and most dangerous temptation to say, 'I can't be
Tunstall because I killed him'--a crazy thing to say to the Rat,
who isn't to be trusted a yard.  Although I like him, mind you.  He
is damned good company; he knows the hell of a lot about everyone
in this place and NOTHING to their credit--and, by heaven, he CAN
grow roses!

He said that to me about being like Tunstall yesterday when he
handed me over Scandal.

'It's no use my keeping him,' he said.  'The damned dog is never
happy except when he's with you.  It's a funny thing.  He was just
the same when he was with Tunstall.  He's a one-man dog, I
suppose.'

As a matter of fact Scandal was lying at my feet when I had this
row with Eve.  He's a ripping little dog, his hair curly like
shavings and his whiskers as strong and virile as though made of
wire.  He looks at me with the most loving eyes and yet he's as
sporting a dog as ever I've seen.  He obeys me as though he were my
familiar spirit.  A funny thing, too, that he'll have nothing to
say to Eve or Archie.  He's quite polite and endures their pattings
and strokings, but he's as distant from them as the parson is from
me.

I'm sitting here writing and it's late, and I know that Eve is in
bed unable to sleep, waiting for me to come to her.  That gives me
considerable satisfaction.

I must return to my quarrel, from which I have considerably
wandered.  I didn't answer her question at once.  I should have
done, but that uncomfortable and maddening consciousness I have (I
shall speak of it later) of something unhappy, lonely, desolate
(silly words these, and most unfit for a man to use), came up into
my throat and choked my words.

At last I said:  'What DO you mean?  What did I do to Tunstall?
Why, nothing, of course.  Do you think I killed him?'

'No . . . not that.'  I saw that she was picking her words.  'But
you met him that night.  I am quite certain that you did.  And it
was from that night that you changed, and it was from that night
that I began to love you.  It was from that night that we all began
to be unhappy, Archie and you and I.  You have changed more and
more.  Your face has changed, your voice, your habits--everything.
You know it as well as anyone.  You don't love me any more,
either.'

'Of course I do,' I said.

'You do?'  She caught me up eagerly.  'Oh, John, promise me that
and I can stand anything.  Promise me that you love me, even though
it's in a different way.  Do you--do you really?'

Everyone knows that there is nothing in the world more exasperating
than to be asked again if you love someone whom in fact you love no
longer.

I LIKE Eve, of course.  She is a fine woman, and I admire her when
she is brisk and business-like and unsentimental.  But love?  I
don't, I fancy, love anybody--unless it's my son.  Yes, I love
Archie and must admit that I have a damned funny way of showing it
sometimes.

Anyway, I was exasperated and irritated and had been drinking, so
I'm afraid I swore at her and said a lot of things I shouldn't have
said.

I spoke with great bitterness and I think that I had a right to.  I
said that she accused me of being changed, but what about herself?
Did she realize what her behaviour had been during the last months?
That I couldn't go anywhere, speak to anybody, without her wanting
to know all about it.

'It isn't true!  It isn't true!  I haven't . . . I don't . . .' she
burst in.  Her eyes were fixed on me, pleading, begging me, but I
felt no temptation towards mercy.  I had better put my foot down
once and for all.  Every man knows that it's a case of either the
husband or the wife.  I was master here now whatever I had once
been, and I intended to go on being master.

I'm not a sadist (or only as much of one as any real man is), but I
have noticed lately that my blood begins to rage and my heart beat
thickly over quite small occasions.  There IS something in what Eve
says.  When I am excited or angry I KNOW that my face changes.  I
can feel that my eyes are bloodshot and a heavy pulse beats in my
temples.  I like to feel this.  I feel masterful and ready to beat
the world.

All this about feelings!  And I notice that I have repeated the
word 'feel' in three adjacent sentences, which the careful John
Talbot of a year ago would never have done.  Not that I care.  I'm
not writing this for publication!  I simply get rid of my
superfluous energy this way.  Well, I told her that I wasn't going
to be spied on.  I should go where I pleased and see whom I
pleased.  I was answerable to nobody.  Did she understand that?

Yes, she said.  Oh, yes, she did.

Another thing, I went on--she must understand once and for all that
I wasn't a sentimental man.  I might have been once, but I wasn't
now.  Actually it was she who had taught me not to be by being so
cold for so long and refusing my advances when I offered them.  It
would be better, perhaps, if we had separate rooms.  She broke out
at that and begged, implored me not to do that.  As a matter of
fact, this had been in my mind for some time and I determined to
settle the question here and now.  I told her that I could have a
bed in my working-room very easily and that I would see about it.
There was nothing to make a fuss about--we could see each other
when we liked just as we had always done.  I was often out late and
it was much better not to disturb her.

'I lie awake--' she began.

'Well, you're not to lie awake,' I said.  'That is just what is so
irritating.'  It's maddening, I told her, coming back at one or two
in the morning and finding her waiting for me.  Besides, most
modern married people had separate rooms, nowadays.

Then there was the question of Archie.  How dare she say that I
frightened him?  The fact was that she had fussed altogether too
much over Archie.  She would make a regular mollycoddle of him.  I
was determined to stop it.  It was funny to remember, I remarked,
that it was she who had wanted to send Archie to school and I who
had wished to keep him at home.  Well, I had given in about that,
hadn't I?  He had gone to school, which was what she wanted, and
yet she fussed over him when he was at home, making him quite unfit
for being with other boys.

She replied, in a voice so low that I could scarcely catch her
words, that all that she meant was that she wanted him to love me
and when I was angry--

That infuriated me.  If she interfered between Archie and me, I
told her, she'd have to look out.  She'd get something she wasn't
expecting.  That was something I wouldn't stand.  She'd better look
out!  She'd better look out!

I'll admit that I was rather excited at this point and shouted a
bit.

Then she began to cry.  I can't stand it when women cry.  It does
something to me.  It excites me.  I got up and stood close to her.
I didn't say a word.  I saw the chairs and the table in a blur--

She sat there, looking up at me as though she were waiting for
something.  Scandal, I remember, raised his head and looked at me.
I went out of the room.

I've recalled every word and every detail of this little scene
because it gives me pleasure to do so.

I have now come to the time when I should write a clear and honest
account of my strange affair with Bella Scorfield.  Honest?  If I'm
not that I'm not anything.  I'm not ashamed of anything I do or say
or feel.  Why should I be?  I am so honest that I'm not going to
deny that something curious goes on in my brain that I don't at all
understand.  Insanity is a big loose word.  I know that for a long
time I was afraid that I was going insane, but after that visit to
the Scorfields' house when they were away, I threw over my scruples
and fears altogether and became the altered man everyone says I am.

But between myself and this paper I'm not altered as completely as
I would wish; I wouldn't like anyone to know that, and especially
not Eve.  The fact is there's something of the old man imprisoned
in me still.  I have quite unaccountable moods of the old, weak
sentimental idiot I used to be--moods when it is almost as though
something were imprisoned in me trying to get out.  I crush them
quickly enough, of course, and after they are ended I hate myself
for indulging them.  Just as in the old days I used to hate poor
Jim Tunstall for stirring just the opposite in me.  I can see now
that he was trying to make a man of me.  If I'd realized that
earlier, we might have been friends instead of enemies.  If he was
around now we would be friends, I'm sure.

I understand, though, why it is that I dislike Leila's brother,
Richard, so much.  He reminds me whenever I see him of what I USED
to be!  He's for ever apologizing and he's so polite that it makes
you sick.  When I'm sarcastic with him--as I generally am--he
blushes all over--exactly as I used to do.

And that's why I hate him.  I don't want to be reminded a dozen
times a day of the fool that I must have seemed to other people.
And how I loathe that milk-and-water, down-on-your-hams, 'I won't
touch you if you don't touch me' kind of attitude.  He's so good
and virtuous!  A sort of saint!  He even wears the kind of clothes
I used to--rather shabby blue or black.  G-rrr!  If he doesn't look
out I'll twist his neck one day!

Now I must tell the truth--amusing and instructive to me to see it
all put down on to paper--of my affair with Bella Scorfield.  I
confess that I'm proud of the clever fashion in which I conducted
it.  I was a fool about women once--but now--oh, boy!

Very soon after Jim Tunstall's death, Bella began to take an
interest in me.  She was lonely, I don't doubt, poor thing.  Wanted
SOME man's embraces, didn't matter whose!

But that isn't quite true.  She loved Jim Tunstall in her own
brainless, common, passionate way.  Often, after a while, she said
that I reminded her of him.  It is true that with all my outdoor
life I began to thicken out and take on a sort of tan.

She told me only last night that she couldn't ever bear skinny men
and that she had always liked me and admired my brains but had
hated the idea of being kissed by me because she'd feel my
cheekbones.

'And now you're quite plump,' she said, pinching me just as you
would a chicken in a shop.  She's pleased, too, that I have hair on
my chest.  Any proper man ought to have, she said.

Now the odd thing is that from the moment I gave poor Tunstall that
push over the Cliff, she began to be afraid of me.  Basil Cheeseman
had told her that I had had something to do with Tunstall's death
or, at any rate, knew more than I would say.  She wasn't a brainy
girl but she told me that from the first I was always reminding her
of Tunstall.

I didn't tell her, of course, of the night that I had entered their
house.  That would have sounded altogether too mad, but I did
wonder at the ridiculous fuss that I made over that visit.  After
all, Tunstall had given me a few details of that bedroom when he
had given me also details of certain other things and I had
subconsciously remembered them.  No, but what fascinated me was
that I should go back into that house and do EXACTLY what Jim
Tunstall had done--repeat one of his evenings in every sort of
particular.  At the very suggestion of this to myself my brain
would grow heated, my heart hammer in my throat.  I would grow weak
at the knees with desire.

So passionate became my longing for this event that I would lie
beside Eve at night thinking of it, going over again and again
every detail.  Why did I want it so desperately?  It was not only
Bella, not only the sense of adventure.  It was, I suppose, a hark-
back to the day when Tunstall had taken me by the arm and whispered
in my ear.

It was, also, something, something . . . a reminiscence?  What
other lives have we lived?  Do we not sometimes repeat an
experience that we have had in one of them?  Who can tell?  In any
case Bella gradually fell in love with me, but never lost her fear
of me.  Then came a time when I knew that she was ready to do
anything that I asked her.  But I waited.  I savoured the
anticipation.  I did not wish to lose a moment of it.

Then came the occasion.  I asked her.

'You know that I am in love with you, Bella.'

'I like you, too, very much.'  She went on:  'I've been lonely
since Jim was killed.'

'Don't say "was killed,"' I said.  'Poor fellow, I've missed him a
lot.'

'And you used to say you hated him!  How you've changed--and it's
since you've changed I've liked you so much.  You often remind me
of Jim.  Perhaps that's why.'

We were sitting at a little table in the corner of the 'Paradise.'
I can't remember what she said after that, but I explained to her
exactly what I wanted.  She is a girl with a full bosom and high
colour and fair hair.  She's what a woman ought to be, full of
good, warm blood.  You could see the blood mounting in her cheeks
now.  She said--wasn't there something nasty about it?  I said, no,
of course not.  I said that Jim had told me so often about it.
He'd understand.  Perhaps he'd been watching us and giving us his
blessing.

I could see that she didn't care how I made love to her as long as
I did it.  She had been wanting exactly that for months.

'But what will your wife say?' she asked.

'Oh, she can lump it,' I answered, looking her full in her bold
eyes.  I felt as though I had had her in my arms many times, but
not for a long while.  Of course it wasn't so.  It was only my
fancy.  But I was triumphant in a wild sort of way as I looked at
her.  We arranged all the details.

I told Basil Cheeseman about it.  I'll confess that I have fallen
greatly under his influence of late.  There was a time, I know,
when I didn't like him at all, even hated him.  I seem, when I look
back, to have hated him for years.  I wouldn't say that I like him
now.  I don't think anyone could.  And certainly I don't trust him.
But I don't know a better companion anywhere; he's a wonderful
fellow for bawdy stories that really ARE funny; he can drink anyone
under the table, and he's ready for any sort of adventure.  I am
not sure, though, that I can account for his influence over me.
He's a great lad for ferreting out people's weaknesses and then
making use of them--like Hitler.  But, for some reason or other,
I'm a proper mystery to him.  He knew Tunstall better than anyone
else did, and he keeps telling me that being with me is like being
with Tunstall all over again.  His favourite question is:  'How the
hell did you know about Brindisi?'  It seems that some while ago I
said something about an adventure in Brindisi that only he and
Tunstall knew.  He says that I often tell him things that only he
and Tunstall knew--which is, of course, nonsense.

I frighten him sometimes and I'm glad I do, for that keeps up my
self-respect.  He's such a miserable physical specimen with his
little moustache and prominent teeth and red hair and eternal pipe.
I could catch him round the throat with one hand and throttle him
easily.  I nearly do sometimes.  He says that Tunstall, when he was
drunk, used to threaten him with the same thing.  'I always told
him,' he said, 'that he was born to be hanged.'

But when I told him about Bella he was for once quite shocked.

'I say, Talbot--she was Tunstall's girl, you know.'

'What the hell does that matter?'

'Oh, I don't know--but going to the same room--everything the same--'

'He shouldn't have told me so much about it,' I said, laughing.

He looked frightened--a thing he seldom does.  I asked him why.

'You look--oh, hell!  I don't know how you look!  I tell you what
it is, Talbot--your eyes have the most unpleasant sort of stare in
them sometimes.'

So, just for fun, I put my hand on his shoulder.  I felt him quiver
all over, but he didn't say anything and he didn't move.

The evening came all right.  It was three nights ago as a matter of
fact.  There was a thin baby moon and a clear sky.  When I got to
the house it was as silent as the grave.  The lawn was like milk.
I'm not going in for a lot of description.  I leave that to my old
writing days.  But I could paint it, I think (I've come on a lot in
my painting)--with the house so dark and still and all those
beastly laurels.  I hate masses of laurel close up against a house.
They seem to speak of death.  They are so chill and leathery and
seem to have a creepy life of their own.  I was anything but chill
myself.  I was burning all over and my hands shook.  I pushed up
the window, climbed into the room, took off my shoes and went up
the stairs.  I opened her door and there she was, sitting up in bed
waiting for me.  I took off my coat and waistcoat and then grinned
at her.  Didn't I just grin?


Now one thing I want to make perfectly clear--I am not writing all
this to justify myself.  I write this down, I suppose, for my own
benefit because no one but myself is ever going to read it.  Why
should I want to assure myself that I'm not justifying myself?  Am
I uneasy?  To be quite honest, I suppose I am a little.  Everyone
in this place, except my few close friends, seems to have turned
against me.  I have been aware of it, of course, for some time, but
it was the Parrott that gave me the full account.  With her sharp
little eyes and tinny rasping voice she informed me, first, that I
was a pro-German by my own confession; secondly, that I kept bad
company; thirdly, that I drank too much and flirted with women too
much; fourthly, that I ill-treated my wife and son.  She ended up:
'I used to think you a cissy, John Talbot.  Now I wouldn't like to
soil my lips with what I think you.  You can knock me down if you
like.'  I didn't do that, but I told her in very coarse terms what
SHE was, of her scandalmongering and backbiting, her spying
curiosity as to who slept with whom.  I told her that if she'd had
any sexual experience herself she wouldn't be half so interested,
and that she wanted a thorough good raping, but, I said, she'd have
the devil of a time in finding anyone willing to rape her.  Then I
looked at her and laughed and she was really frightened--for the
first time in her life, I should think!

However, when I was alone in my room again I was not happy--
something inside me was not happy.  As I sat there thinking, I felt
a great misery rising within me, something apart from myself as
though it were quite another personality.  I began to wish that I
was still as I had once been.  I felt as though something within me
was imprisoned and was fighting to get out.  'Let me out!  Let me
out!' some part of myself was urging.

We all have moods of this kind and I put this one down to that
interfering old Poll Parrott, a bit of indigestion, I shouldn't
wonder, and certainly to my having drunk too much lately.  The
trouble is nowadays that I don't know how much I'm drinking.  Then
I get muzzy and drink some more without knowing I'm doing it.
Anyway, it's been a rotten week and I'm not happy.  It's somebody's
fault that I'm not, and when I find out who it is, I'll let them
know it.

And this brings me to a little scene I had yesterday evening with
Archie.

Archie's a nice-looking little boy but too girlish for my tastes.
He is very thin and fair-coloured and sometimes looks the baby that
I'm afraid he still is.  The fact is that I myself must have
mollycoddled him too much in the early years.  And yet I used to be
exasperated by him when he shrank from me.  I can remember how his
shoulder-blades used to shrink when I touched him.  I suppose he
wanted a more sporting father because I remember how immediately he
took to Tunstall and his purple corduroys, and Tunstall promised to
teach him to draw.

With me now he is very different at different times.  He IS a bit
afraid of me, and because I love him, I like him to be, but I don't
want him to be afraid of me all the time.  The fact is he's a bit
of a prig and doesn't like it when I swear or am drunk or show him
a funny drawing I've made.  He's very like I used to be, with no
sense of humour.

It happened that I was in my work-room, sitting on my bed drawing a
bit, when I heard him pass, so I called him in.  When I saw him
standing there in the doorway, with his fair hair and blue eyes, a
great rush of love came into my heart and I caught him to me and
kissed him.  I suppose my breath stank a bit, for I felt him
withdraw inside his skin and that irritated me.

However, I held him between my legs and asked him how he'd been
getting on.  All right, he said.  He really has the complexion of a
girl and blushes like a girl.  His body is so thin and fragile
between my arms that I could crush the breath out of him as easy as
nothing.

'How are the games getting on?' I asked.  He wasn't awfully good at
games and didn't like them very much.

What did he like? I asked.

He liked best drawing and reading.

What did he read? I asked.

Oh, he liked Southey's Life of Nelson and a book about Garibaldi
and the Idylls of the King and a Life of Scott who went to the Pole
and Greenmantle.  He poured out a list of titles--those are some
that I remember.  Holding him with my arms I gave him a lecture
then, how reading was all very well but it was no use being a book-
worm at his age.

'You used to read, Daddy,' he said.  'An awful lot.'

'I've seen the error of my ways,' I answered him.  'What I like is
the open air--shooting, fishing, and swimming.  I want you to be
good at games, see?'

'I'm afraid I never shall be,' he said.

'Of course you never will be,' I said, shaking him a little, 'if
you SAY you won't be.  You've got to be.  That's what you're at
school for.'

Then I saw that he was frightened.  When he's frightened his mouth
trembles and I can't bear to see that.  It makes me savage.  So I
said:

'Have you got any of your drawings here?'

Yes, he had, and he ran off to get them.  When he returned and
showed them to me I was really greatly pleased.  He could draw.
There was no doubt at all about that.  They were drawings
influenced, I could see, by his mother's liking for the Pre-
Raphaelites.  He drew knights and horsemen riding by the sea and
Lancelot in front of a tower.

'Now see what I'm drawing,' I said.  I shouldn't have done it, of
course.  I think there's a sort of devil in me sometimes.  In any
case he blushed crimson and he turned his head away.

'Don't you like it?' I said, laughing and half ashamed of myself,
too.

'No.  No.  I don't.  I don't!' he cried, and ran from me, actually
pushing me with his hand.

I heard him run down the passage, closing the door behind him.

At any rate, whatever anyone else thinks, Scandal adores me.  He is
a splendid little dog.  I know, of course, that you can say about
dogs that they love you because you feed them and protect them.  I
know, too, that they flatter you because they pay no attention to
your ill-humours and forgive you any unkindness.  But I think there
is more than this between Scandal and myself.  He knows, I am
convinced, what I am thinking and why I do what I do.  In any case
he prefers me to anyone else and is not ashamed to be seen with me.
Indeed, he will not leave my side.

Then he is so clean, so strong, and able to look after himself in
any situation.  He is sporting and fearless and gives no one any
trouble.  About how many human beings can you say this?

He was with me two afternoons ago when I had an encounter with
Richard, Leila's brother.

I was walking down through the little wood above the town.  There
was frost in the air and a cold, remote sun, yellow as an orange.
I was going down the path, swinging my stick and feeling as fit as
anything.  Scandal was scurrying and sniffing among the leaves.
Richard was coming up the path and with a hurried 'Good afternoon'
would have passed me.  I was in a good humour, though, and was
determined to hold him.  When I saw his pale, anxious face and his
nervous manner I felt a kind of disgust.  What right has the man to
fear me?  I have never done him any harm!

'What are you cutting me for?' I asked him, laughing.

Then, driven by some impulse, I said to him what Jim Tunstall had
so often said to me:  'You can't escape me, you know.'

'What do you mean?' he asked.  'I don't want to escape you.'

I stood with my legs spread, filling the path and swinging my stick
a little to and fro.

'Yes, you do.  Look here--I've wanted to ask you for some time--
we're alone and I've got you at my mercy, so to speak.  Why do you
dislike me so much?'

He didn't answer.  I could see his mild anxious eyes looking round
to see whether he couldn't pass.

'Tell me why.  Leila's one of my best friends.  She doesn't dislike
me.  Why should you?'

'I don't know you,' he said.

'Don't you?'  I laughed some more and came closer to him so that my
hand almost touched his waistcoat buttons.

'You soon will.  I'm determined that we shall be friends.  Leila's
brother?  But of course we must be friends.'

He still said nothing.

'No, but tell me.  Is it because of my political opinions?'

He said then, slowly, as though he had realized that there was no
escape:

'It's true that I don't like you, Talbot.  I like very few people,
I've lived so long in the East that I'm not accustomed to English
life, perhaps.'

'Well, even if you don't like me,' I said, my temper rising,
'that's no reason why you should be rude to me whenever we meet.'

'I didn't know that I was.  I might ask you the same.  I've seen
you looking at me sometimes as though you hated me.  I can't think
why.  I often wonder about it.  Why don't you leave me alone?  I'm
not your sort.  I can't be of the slightest interest to you.'

'Oh, aren't you?' I answered.  'That's all you know.  Aren't I a
novelist?  Everyone interests me.'

He said:  'I've read your novels.  You don't seem to me the man who
wrote those books.'

'Oh, don't I?  Well, I did write them all the same.  In those days
I was the sort of man you are now--always creeping about, afraid to
swear or have a drink.  That's why I'm interested in you, perhaps.
You're like the man I used to be, and thank God am not any more.'

But he had no spirit.  If anyone had talked to me like that I'd
have knocked him down.

'That's strange,' he said.  'I don't think people do change.
Certain traits develop in people, of course, as they get older.'
Then he said, almost defiantly:  'Would you mind letting me pass?
It's cold.'

I looked at him then and wanted to knock him down.  I can't abide
these meek-and-mild little men who are always wanting to get out of
your way.  I looked at him and he stepped back.

'All right,' I said.  'I'm not going to touch you.  I only asked a
civil question.  But if you say anything to Leila against me, I'll
hear of it and I'll know what to do.'

'Of course I shan't say anything to Leila.  I never mention you to
her.  When I said I disliked you, it was perhaps too strong.  I
simply don't know you.  Your affairs are no business of mine.'

'All the same,' I said fiercely, 'you listen to everything that's
said about me, don't you?  How I drink and womanize and ill-treat
my wife and am pro-German.  I bet you enjoy it all.'

How I hated him then, nervously plucking at his coat, fear in every
part of him, looking at the darkening wood, expecting me to murder
him then and there, I daresay.

I stood aside.

'Watch out!' I said.  'If I hear you've been telling Leila
anything--'

He slipped up the path like a scurrying rabbit.  Scandal came
jumping up at me, pleading with me to go on with our walk.  I bent
down and pulled his ears and he licked my cheek.  Then he barked
like mad and seemed altogether wild with joy.


II


It's all very well, but I must take a pull on myself.  I'm afraid
of nobody and nothing.  Not of the Devil himself.  But I AM afraid
of something.  I write down what I've written down here pretty
often--that I'm drinking too much.  Yes, but what good does writing
it down do?  Of course I can stop it when I want to.  Cheeseman
says it's because I've taken to it rather late in life that I
indulge.  But he's the Devil at my elbow.  There isn't a thing that
I want to do and know I shouldn't but he encourages me.

All the same it's not drink I'm afraid of.  Is it the past?  He's a
poor sort of creature who's afraid of his past.  The past's past.
The past IS past.

But I had a look the other day at the earlier journal that I used
to keep.  It made me sick.  I couldn't read more than a dozen
pages.  All that pious stuff, saying one's prayers, and then that
ridiculous hatred of poor old Tunstall.  Am I afraid, then, of what
I did to HIM?  Not on your life!  No one will ever know and he
teased me into it.  Besides, I don't feel that Tunstall reproaches
me for it.  Oh, the dead ARE dead--every sensible man knows that.
Tunstall's physically dead all right, but I can't feel that he's
gone, altogether.  And if he isn't gone, what crime have I
committed?  AND, if he isn't gone, he bears me no malice.  I'm
quite sure of that.  What am I afraid of, then?  Well--imagining
things--if I'm quite frank with myself.  It isn't the pink mice
that you see when you've got D.T.'s, but it's something very like
it.  What I keep imagining I see is either Richard Thorne or--
myself.  Myself as I used to be.  That's crazy enough, isn't it?
Oh, I know it is!  I know it is!  This is nonsense that I'm
writing.  I'll give it up, chuck the thing.  But it relieves me
putting things down in black and white.  The truth is I'm not
living the life I ought to.  Heartburn simply terrible, and none of
those digestive pills do me any good.  My eyes are bloodshot.  My
hands tremble.  I'm going to cut out the drink.  I'll tell
Cheeseman to go to hell.  I'll be a bit like the chap I once was,
not such a prig, of course, and I'll be damned if I give up Bella.
All the same, I've got to get a hold on that temper of mine.  I'll
be throttling someone one of these days if I'm not careful.  But
the fact is it doesn't make you happy to let yourself go in every
direction.  I fancy that there's something in believing in God--
even if you DON'T believe, so to speak.  It puts you in touch with
something or someone. . . .

Well, then--what is it I think I see?  A thin, weak figure in a
worn blue suit beseeching me with its eyes.  It's the eyes that
seem so real.  They cut right into my gizzards.  What is it that he
is asking me?  To let him go--to release him.  Release him from
what?

Now see where this is taking me!  Plumb crazy!  Cut out the drink,
Johnny, my boy.  Cut out the drink!  Oh, Jacko--Isn't that what
Tunstall used to call me?  Just for fun I'll call it out here in
this room in the laughing, teasing voice that Tunstall used--
'Jacko!  Jacko!  Jacko!'

By God, it makes me feel queer--I seem to have caught Tunstall's
very accents.  A pity the old boy isn't here.  He could sing out
'Jacko' as often as he pleased.  And THAT'S a funny thing to say
about the man you murdered!

But now I must get to facts.  No nonsense now.  Write down things
as they are.

Well, two nights ago I was with Bella.  I left her about three in
the morning.  We were neither of us very happy.  When I had
finished dressing I sat on the edge of the bed and held her hand.

'You were crying in your sleep,' I said.

'Oh, no, was I? . . .'  Then she added:  'Go along now, Johnny
dear.  It's always depressing when it's all over.  At least that's
how I feel.'

'That's how many people feel,' I answered.  'That's the time you
ask yourself why the hell--'  I stopped just in time.

But she was quick.

'Why are you so unhappy?' she asked.

'Unhappy?'

'Yes--Jimmy wasn't.  He was sulky and cross sometimes.  And often
he was as savage as anything.  But he wasn't unhappy like you are.
At least--'  She puckered her forehead.  'I don't know.  Are ALL
men unhappy when they've made love--unhappy or so damned sleepy
they don't know what they are?'

I looked at her gloomily.

'I don't care what Tunstall was.  Why are you always bringing HIM
up?'  Then I kissed her.  'We don't really love one another, Bella.
I don't think I love anybody but my dog.'

'I tell you what it is, Johnny,' she said, 'you're drinking too
much.  You don't mind my mentioning it, do you?  But you are,
really.'

I suddenly caught her arm.

'Wait,' I said.  'You don't hear anybody, do you?  It's like
somebody crying.'

We both listened.

'It's only the clock, silly,' she said.  So I kissed her and left
her.

What I am going to describe now is exactly what SEEMED to happen,
but I don't say that it is at all what happened in actuality.  In
the old days when I fancied myself a writer I thought myself a
handsome dab at what the professors call 'psychology.'  That
earlier journal of mine is full of the stuff and of things I
fancied that I saw or heard.  I remember that I even fainted on the
Cliff one afternoon because of what I thought I saw.  I've shaken
myself out of all THAT nonsense, which makes my other fancies on
this particular morning all the more peculiar.  And that is why I
want to be minute and exact.  Because I won't deny to myself that I
was frightened, and I won't allow myself to be frightened.  Do you
hear that, you miserable, pitiful-looking, lamb-like scarecrow?  I
don't believe in ghosts or shadows or anything that is dead.  When
you're dead, you're DEAD.  Do you hear?  DEAD.

The odd thing was that I had drunk nothing but water since lunch on
the day previous.  I never touch anything intoxicating before I pay
Bella one of my visits because she doesn't like it.  One wants to
please her when one can.  It's a little thing to do--yet it's
damned difficult sometimes.  So it wasn't that.  It wasn't liquor.

Anyway, the fact remains that when I stood outside her bedroom door
in my stockinged feet I didn't like it.  Didn't like what?  I don't
know.  We had both been pretty depressed, and as I stood there
hesitating, I wondered how long it would last.  It wasn't real
love, of course, on either side.  I knew what real love was because
I had once loved Eve.  The real thing is as unlike the sham thing
as a diamond is to a piece of glass.  Is that sentimental?  I don't
think so.  Ask the roughest tough in Dartmoor Prison and he'll tell
you it's true enough.  The worst of the other thing--the thing that
isn't love, is that if you go in for it, it's just like drink.  The
more you have the more you want.  You want that freshness, that
newness.  The bloom's off as soon as you touch it.  I suppose that
that was why we were both sad the other morning--because we knew
that once again we had been deceived.  It wasn't the real thing.
One more experience and we were further from the real thing than
ever.  Now this is the sort of thing I USED to write, and despise
even thinking--so let me get to the facts.

When I had been sitting on Bella's bed I fancied that I heard
someone crying.  That gives you a sort of a shock in a house that
is as silent as the grave, when everyone is asleep at three o'clock
in the morning.  And certainly when we both listened we heard
nothing.  I can tell you also that there is something VERY
uncomfortable when two people listen together in the middle of the
night.  The sudden silence filling the room you're both in thrusts
on you all sorts of sounds that you didn't hear before.  If I ever
write novels again (which I won't) I'll write something about that.

I stood outside the door and listened and again I seemed to hear
someone crying.  It was very faint and it might have been the drip
of a tap or the wind blowing through the wall.  No, it certainly
wasn't a tap and there was no wind that night.  Not a breath.  The
crying--if it WAS crying--was a hopeless sort of whimpering.  But
it was not the crying of a child.  There was a mature despair in
it.  In concert with it was the ticking of the clock on the stairs,
with that drunken whirr every now and then.  Because of the clock I
couldn't be sure there was any other sound at all.  I decided that
there wasn't and I started down the stairs.  I was always very
careful going down, for, after all, the old woman, Bella's mother,
might be awake.  Bella had told me that she was sure that she knew
all about Jim Tunstall, but she mightn't be greatly pleased if she
knew that her daughter had taken another lover so soon after
Tunstall's death.

But a stair creaked and I stopped.  Against the clock and the
beating of my heart (which races madly sometimes) I seemed again to
hear that crying.  I seemed even to hear words--'Let me go!  Let me
go!' but that was, of course, nonsense.

I got into the dark room, crossed without touching anything and
opened the window.  Outside there was a misty, moony greyness.

Here I must be exact as though I were surveying the whole scene
with a painter's eyes.  While I had crouched down on the room
floor, putting on my shoes, I had listened with all possible
intensity and had heard no sound at all save the ticking of the
clock on the stairs and the mouse-like scratching of a clock in the
room where I was.  But when I stood on the edge of the lawn and
looked about me I was frightened--once again I had that sense of
moving outside myself.  It is the most grisly feeling in the world,
for--if you are not sure of yourself, what are you sure of?  I was
standing there, looking about me, as though I had never been there
before.  The laurels made me feel sick.  In that misty pallor they
looked like a mass of moving fungi advancing on the house.  You
could swear that they were alive and that they turned their cold,
leathery leaves upward as you move your hand.  As I stared at them
I felt that they might close in on me and their chilly palms move
up and hang about my throat and then flap like the fins of fish
about my cheeks and against my eyes.  I would be blinded then and
dragged to my knees.  They would tower above me and I would be
suffocated under their bloodless, boneless touch.

I write this down to prove to myself how overwrought I was.  Not a
bit myself.  So it was natural, considering the state that I was in
about those laurels, that I should fancy that I saw someone
standing in front of a tree on the right corner of the lawn.  I
stared and felt sure that I was not mistaken.  It was Richard
Thorne standing there and looking as much like what I used to look
as was possible!  He was even wearing the silly bowler hat that I
used to wear.  The hat that Eve was always trying to persuade me to
destroy, one of those bowlers with a large crown and a narrow brim.
An awful thing that today I wouldn't be seen dead in!

As a matter of fact, I have seen Richard Thorne wearing a bowler--
nothing as old-fashioned as I used to wear.  But still--bowlers ARE
old-fashioned, aren't they?

There he stood, staring at me, his hands hanging at his sides.  It
was, of course, only the shadows.  When I moved forward on to the
lawn, he was gone.  Only shadows--but when I moved back to my old
place near the house, there he was again!

It was time I went home.  It was damp and chilly, anyway.  For some
reason I loathed, that night, the house and everything about it.  I
even hated the thought of poor Bella.  I wanted to be in my own
warm bed in my own cosy house.  I had a sick feeling that I was
never going to reach it.  The distance, at that moment, between
myself and my home seemed enormous.

So I started off.  But when I had reached the end of the untidy
drive and started towards the Common I felt sure that someone was
following me.  There was gravel on the drive, and after my step
there was an echo of my step.  I stopped and the echo stopped,
which was natural enough.  I went on and then, halfway along the
path, I heard that beastly crying again.  By this time I could
catch the rhythmic beat of the sea and, when you hear the sea, you
often hear many other sounds as well.  But I stopped and looked
back, my heart hammering like a drum.  Oh, I may as well confess
it!  I was as frightened as hell.  I was tempted actually to take
to my feet and run!  I could see no figure, but the light was so
uncomfortable, like the fluorescence you see sometimes on the
surface of a watery soup, and you couldn't be sure of anything.
But as I looked back I seemed to catch again, through the steady
beat of the sea, that thin, pitiful voice crying:  'Let me go!  Let
me go!'

I pulled myself together.  What I had got to do was to reach home,
to throw off my clothes, climb into bed and sleep, sleep, sleep.  I
was suddenly infinitely weary and my legs hurt like toothache.

I walked quickly and reached the Common with Shining Cliff at the
end of it, poking up its wicked sharp head, razor-edged sheer to
the sea.

I almost ran (but not quite) to the Cliff edge.  'Now, no
nonsense,' I thought, and I formed the words (or did I?):  'Come
on, you dirty coward.  Face me if you've got any pluck!'

There WAS a figure there!  I'll swear that there was.  Alone,
isolated on that misted turf, and it seemed to me that now the
crying came to me most clearly, so desolate and unhappy.  The
figure was outlined--the bowler hat, the dark suit, the hanging
hands--myself as I used to be, or Richard Thorne--not a penny to
choose between them.

Of course it wasn't so.  I have said already that the whole thing
was, as I saw clearly later on, a hallucination.  But through my
fear (for I was still afraid) a rage beat up.  Here I was at the
very spot where I had thrown Jim Tunstall over.  Poor Jim!  Why had
I done that cruel thing?  For I felt it now to be cruel.  For the
first time I was filled with rage for what I had done--or what my
earlier self had done.  If Jim were here now we would be friends.
I would understand him now, his jokes and jollity and indifference
to what people had done to him.  And I knew now, with a sudden
revelation, why it was that I detested Leila's brother.  He
reminded me, with every look and movement, yes, and whenever I
thought of him, of that miserable, pious, prayer-making, murderous
John Talbot I had once been.  I had the fantastic notion that if I
met that earlier self of mine here and now, I would catch him and
hold him and squeeze his miserable, bony throat until there was no
life left in it and hurl him over that cliff just as once I had
hurled Tunstall.  I was mad with fear and rage and violence.  I
cried:  'Come on, you dirty swine!  Come on if you're not afraid!'

Then I heard that miserable wretched crying again--and I took to my
feet and ran.


III


Since the morning that I have just described, things have changed
for the worse.  To hell with the lot of them!--and it gives me
considerable satisfaction to write it down.  If we are to have air
raids over this country (and I must say there are no signs of them
as yet) this wouldn't be a bad little place for them to start with.
They could destroy the lot as far as I'm concerned--with the
exception of Leila and one or two more--and little harm would be
done.

Harm?  What harm have I ever done THEM?  And yet you would think by
the way they cold-shoulder and avoid me that I carried cholera
germs with me.  I'm sure I've tried to be jolly with everyone--
especially the women.  All right.  Be damned to the lot of them.
If they don't like me jolly they can have me savage.  It's true
that I was drunk in 'The Queen's' the other night and made a bit of
a noise, but what harm did THAT do anybody?

I understand now something of what Hitler must have felt, ill-
treated and spurned and spat upon.  A few concentration camps
wouldn't do THIS country any harm, if you ask me.

I acknowledge that I am pretty easily irritated these days.  Then I
have a lot to annoy me.  Wherever I go that miserable brother of
Leila's is on view.  I see him everywhere, always silent in a
corner, watching me.  One day I shall make him sorry for himself.
I've told Cheeseman about him.  He agrees that he's a wretched
specimen.  'The sort of fellow you used to be yourself,' he said.
But none of this is the real trouble.  There is something in me,
savage, fierce, that won't let me rest.  Is it anger with myself
that I killed Tunstall?  I think it is in a way.  I feel it now
with a kind of self-pity, almost as though I had done myself in.
But how am I to explain that to anybody?  They won't understand!
They won't understand!  Even Leila doesn't, although I think she
knows more about me than anyone else.  Strange the notion I have
that makes me feel that we have been together for ages.  She's
plain enough and yet her face is comforting to me.  I detest all
her silly talk about God and goodness.  God?  I hate that
superstitious nonsense--and yet I listen to her.

Which brings me to Eve.  Last night I behaved badly to her.  Oh, I
know it!  I'm sorry.  But was there ever any woman so aggravating?

After Archie had gone to bed she said:  'Please, John--don't show
Archie any more of those drawings.'

I said:  'What drawings?' although of course I knew.

'You think them funny, I know--and I daresay they're all right for
a grown person.  But he's only a little boy and--he hates it.'

That made me angry.  As though I'm not as well able to look after
Archie as she is!

'Who says he hates it?' I asked.

'He's very loyal to you.  He wouldn't say anything.  But I know he
does.'

'Oh, you know he does, do you?'

I was sitting near to her.  I dropped my paper and took Scandal on
my lap to hide the trembling of my hands.  He can't abide to be
petted, but he'll let me do anything to him.

She answered at last:  'I think we'd better go away for a little,
Archie and I.  We're all very miserable, aren't we?  Perhaps it
will be better if we go away for a bit.'

'I see,' I said.  'You'll take my son away from me, will you?'

'Only for a little while.  A week or two.  When the Christmas
holidays begin.'

'Well, you won't, do you see?  I'm not going to have everyone
saying I've driven my wife out of the house.  They say bad enough
things already.  And I'm not going to let you put Archie against
me.  That's what you want to do, isn't it?'

'No--of course not.  What terrible things you say now, John!  You'd
think we were enemies.'

'Well, we are enemies,' I shouted.  'If you separate me from Archie--
if you do that--look out, look out, I tell you!'

I was trembling all over.  I tried to pull myself together.
Something inside me warned me.  Something was praying me not to go
too far.  But I could see from her face that she was frightened of
the way that I looked.  Cheeseman said to me the other day when I
was angry in the High Street when someone pushed me:  'By Jove,
Talbot, you looked like the Devil just then.'

I can't help my looks, can I?  When a man's angry, he looks angry.

I put Scandal down and got up.  She got up, too.

'Oh, John!' she said, 'I can't stand it!  I can't stand it!'  She
began to cry.  She ought to have known that that's a thing I can't
endure.

I struck her.  I struck her on the breast.  She fell, almost on to
her knees.  She got up slowly and, still crying, went out of the
room.

I shouldn't have done it, I know that.  Something in me was very
unhappy.  I sat there for a long time with Scandal on my knees.


IV


Since my night at Bella's and my last quarrel with Eve, things have
been moving faster and faster.  I feel as though I were being
hurried along towards some climax.  I dream horrible dreams at
night.  One especially seems to recur, although I may have dreamed
it only once and thought about it afterwards.  I am in a prison
deep down in the bowels of the earth, naked, chained to a wall
sweating with damp.  Rats fight their way over my bare flesh.
Tunstall, grinning, looks down at me through a grating--'Jacko!' he
says softly.  'Jacko!'  But then, suddenly, he too is in the prison
naked and tied to the wall by the same chain as I.  We are so close
that it is almost as though our pallid and corrupting flesh
mingles.  He has the blue tattoo-mark on his right arm.  He tries
to kill me and I try to kill him.  We are bound so closely together
that we can hug one another, that we may crush one another.  Then
slowly his bare chest opens and I begin to be drawn, struggling,
screaming, crying, inside.  I wake trembling.

It is indeed a vicious circle, for I drink to escape my
apprehension which comes from my nerves, and the drinking makes me
more nervous and more nervous.  I would be better if that spy and
murderer Richard Thorne were not watching me at every step.  For I
have now the conviction that Richard Thorne has somewhere murdered
a fellow human being--out in the East perhaps.  He has just that
skulking hang-dog look.  He suspects that I have discovered his
secret.  Perhaps also he knows mine.  But I will put a stop to his
plots and his secret following of me and spying upon me.  He's the
kind of man that poor Jim Tunstall would have despised.  He would
have been for ever teasing him just as he once teased me.

And this brings me to something that happened yesterday, something
of importance.  Just after breakfast a letter was brought by hand.
It was from Leila.  She asked me whether I would come to tea that
afternoon as she had something important to say to me.  I sent back
the message that of course I would.

So in the afternoon, about four, across to her little house Scandal
and I walked.  I hesitated at first about taking Scandal with me
because he always hates Leila's brother.  All his hair goes up.  He
refuses to have anything to do with him.  But I had a kind of hunch
that the little pipsqueak would be out.  Certainly he would not be
there if he knew I was coming, or not there for me to see.  He
might, of course, be hiding behind the curtains or peeping through
the keyhole.

The sitting-room--light and shining, gay with chrysanthemums,
Leila's touch over everything--was quite empty when Scandal and I
came into it.  Scandal went at once and lay down near the fire, his
beautiful head, with its snow-white paper-shaving curls and his
military whiskers and his bright, burning, loving, intelligent
eyes, raised a little, listening to every sound--I ask you where
among any human beings will you find anyone as beautiful and
modest, as intelligent and unboring, as vigorous and unassuming, as
loving and as unsentimental?  In the firelight he shone roughly as
though he were made of some precious metal.  I thought to myself--
if people trusted and believed in me as this dog does, how
temperate and amiable I would be!  Then Leila came in, still
wearing black for Jim, and once again I felt as I always do when I
see her, as though I had known her always, as though we shared a
deep intimacy, so deep that no words need be spoken.

While the little maid brought in the tea we spoke commonplaces.
She mocked me for my growing stoutness.  'Why, you'll soon be
fatter than Jim was!  I'm afraid Eve feeds you too well.'

At that moment my scarab ring bit into my finger.  I have grown
much stouter, there's no doubt of it, and the ring now is so
embedded in the flesh that only if it is cut with an instrument
shall I ever be able to get it off.  Lately I have fancied that the
growing flesh has caused it to split where the join of the gold is
because on several occasions it has been exactly as though the ring
were biting into my finger.  I have, however, looked carefully and
I can see no split.  The pain is very sharp and sudden, like the
bite of an animal.

I held up the finger now.  'Look, Leila,' I said, 'I'm afraid
you're right.  Poor Jim's scarab that you gave me is deeply
embedded.'

While she talked, lightly, pouring out my tea, I could see that she
was examining me.  We had not been alone together for a
considerable time.  I could see, too (for I have become very
observant--suspicious perhaps), that she was shocked by what she
saw.  I know that I am not very well just now.  My hands tremble,
my complexion is pasty, I am a bit flabby.  I would have been
furious enough if anyone else had looked me over like that, but
with Leila it is different.

As soon as the maid had left the room, she said:

'John--why are you persecuting Richard?  He's never done you any
harm?'

'Persecuting,' I said sulkily.  'That's a strong word--and it's
nonsense.'  (I translate the drift of all this into dialogue.  I
cannot, of course, claim the exact words.)

'Now listen to me,' she said, leaning forward and looking at me
intently.  She held her thin, blue-veined hand forward to protect
her face from the fire.  I could see the half-deformity working in
her face.

Scandal had looked up and was gazing at her with great intentness.
'John Talbot, you have been making a fool of yourself for the last
six months--rather in the way Jimmie used to do, only worse.  I
won't say what you've been doing, you know well enough without my
telling you.  What you do, how you choose to behave, is your own
affair.  But we're very old friends and I'm sorry at all this.

'When it comes to Richard, though, it's quite another thing.  Now
that Jimmie's dead I love him more than any other human.  He's in
my care.  He wouldn't hurt a beetle or even a slug.  You are
frightening him and I won't have it.  And I want to know why you're
behaving as you are.'

'Frightening him?'  I tried to speak scornfully.  'How am I
frightening him?'

'He says you are following him, seeking him out wherever he is.  If
you are in a room together you stare at him, look at him
insultingly.  He says you stopped him in Carfax Wood the other day
and were very rude to him, and he thought you were going to knock
him down.  He can't understand it--nor can I.'

Her voice was softer as she said urgently:  'John--John--please--
tell me why you're doing this.'

I paused before I answered.

'For one thing, Leila, he's greatly exaggerated everything.  He
must be a pretty nervous subject if he takes alarm because I look
at him or speak to him.'

'It's more than that,' she broke out warmly, 'you know it is!
Besides, Dick isn't a coward.  He's simply one of the finest human
beings alive--warm-hearted, generous.  Sometimes he's gay and
sometimes not so.  He's shy, of course, and retiring, but I should
think he's never been frightened of anybody before.  But he IS of
you.  It's making him ill.  Tell me, John--dear John, we've been
friends for so long.  Tell me at least why you dislike him.'

'Yes, I do dislike him,' I said.  'I can't bear him.'

'Why?  Why?'

'For one thing because he's so like what I myself used to be--and I
hate what I used to be--pious and frightened and sensitive.  What I
did to Jim--'  I pulled myself up with a jerk.

'WHAT did you do to Jim?' she said quickly.

'Oh, nothing--except that I was so silly about him.  Poor old Jim--
I see now that he was only good-naturedly teasing me and I WANTED
teasing.  But I told everybody I hated him and ran him down--'

'No,' she said quickly.  'Wait.  It wasn't a case of "poor old Jim"
at all.  During those last years Jim was bad.  It was as though he
were possessed with evil and hated it but couldn't escape it.  He
was dreadfully unhappy and I could do nothing for him.  Oh, I know
because I lived with him!  He was bad--or at least something in him
was.'

'Now, Leila,' I said angrily, 'don't you of all people go running
Jim down.  He was very fond of you, even though he did go after
women a bit.  I misjudged him.  Everyone did.'

She was looking me through, and I stared down on to the strong
curly hair of Scandal's coat.

'It's strange, John; you spoke then just as Jim used to do.  He
would defend himself just like that.  "I'm misjudged," he would
say, "Everyone's down on me.  I'm not a bad fellow really."  But he
was--he was terrible to live with towards the end.'

'But you loved him always, didn't you?' I said eagerly.

'Yes, I loved him always.'

Something impelled me to say:  'All that nonsense about evil--you
don't really believe it, do you?'

'That there's evil in the world?  Of course I do.'

'Poor old Leila!  You're a thousand years behind the times.  What
do you mean by evil?'

She spoke then sensibly with no sensationalism, and I was compelled
to listen, although it was all nonsense and anyone else but Leila I
would have laughed at.

'I believe--and, more than that, I know--that there are powers of
evil as well as of good.  They fight together eternally and we--all
human souls--share in the struggle.  Indeed, it is about US that
the battle rages.  If we are weak and submit we can be possessed
with evil.  It can enter us and own us just as good can.  God has
given us complete free will.  We are our own masters.  Why, John,'
she went on, her voice rising, 'it's never been clearer than in the
present War.  Hitler and Himmler and the rest of that wretched crew
don't matter as individuals, but they are the strongest instruments
of evil the world has seen for hundreds of years.  Their doctrines
are completely evil--against God, goodness, kindness, freedom,
love.  They believe in cruelty, atheism, slavery.  And we've been
so lazy and selfish and idle that we have given them the weapons
they wanted.'

'Now, Leila,' I said tolerantly, 'I'm not going to start a war
discussion with you.  There's a lot to be said for Hitler as a
matter of fact.  The Germans have been villainously treated--
ruined, deprived of livelihood, spat upon.'

'They needn't have been,' she said quickly.  'And anyhow I'm not
hating anybody.  Not even Hitler and his crew.  We are fighting
something much more terrible than any MEN.  And we've got to win,
or we lose--not only our bodies but our souls.'

I laughed.  Then I got up, stood in front of the fire, stretched my
arms and my legs and said:  'Never mind all that.  What you say is
sentimental woman's nonsense.  What did you really ask me to come
and see you for?'

She looked at me sadly.  She said, as though to herself:  'I can do
nothing . . . I see that . . . nothing at all.'  Then she went on
quickly:  'First to tell you, John, that you MUST leave Dick alone.
If you don't, I shall protect him.  'We have been friends so long--
I have been so fond of you--but this is closer to my heart than
anything in the world.  I don't know why you are doing it.  Nothing
that you have said explains it.  What you have said about your past
is true.  You ARE changed--terribly.  But what has Dick to do with
that?  He IS like what you were.  I often thought of it when he was
abroad.  But he is stronger than you ever were, much, much
stronger.

'But' the other thing I wanted to say'--she leaned forward with her
urgency until she almost touched me--'is that you are in terrible
danger--terrible, dreadful danger.  You are moving, John, to some
awful catastrophe.  Those words aren't too strong.  You are
possessed as Jim was possessed.  It is the same evil.  Dear John--I
beg you, I implore you, whether you believe in God or not, to take
a chance--implore Him to help you.  Beg Him to make you strong
enough to fight this.  Throw the evil spirit out.  It's not too
late.  But almost--almost . . .'

Her eyes were filled with tears.  I had an impulse to go on my
knees to her, to confess everything, to implore her to help me.
And directly after that I was angry.  What right had she, with all
her silly chatter about God and evil and the rest of it, to talk
such exaggerated stuff?  Wasn't I a grown man?  Didn't I know what
I was doing?

'All right, Leila, if that's all you have to say.'  I looked at her
with contempt, for that was what she deserved.  'Come along,
Scandal,' I said, and I left her.


V


Leila made a mistake in talking to me about Richard.  Somehow it
increased my anger against him.  To think that she should be
protecting him.  Why shouldn't she be protecting ME?  I needed
someone to look after me very much more than did Richard.  And what
a miserable skunk he must be to hide under his sister's petticoats!
It was the kind of way in which I used to hide behind Eve in the
old days.  And imagine a grown mature man going to his sister and
complaining because someone in the town frightened him!  Frightened
him!  A man of mature years!  It is true that I myself used to be
frightened of Tunstall, but then what a shameful ass _I_ was in
those days!  How I despise that old self of mine!

In any case, this thought that Richard was hiding behind his sister
made me want to get at him and do him a mischief.  I'd give it him
for complaining to Leila.

He could be seen every day driving about in a little maroon-
coloured Morris.  He'd stop in the High Street to do some shopping.
He'd draw the car up at the side of the street, then very
cautiously step out and look about him and nervously put his hand
to his collar.  His face had an anxious peaked look and it
irritated me that he had almost no eyebrows.  It amused me, though,
to stand near the shop door and watch him go in.  'Good morning,
Richard,' I would say suddenly, and he would jump inside his
collar.  I would tease him just as Jim Tunstall used to tease me.
I would touch his arm.  'You can't escape me, you see, Richard,' I
would say, smiling.

Then a wonderful chance came to me--a real opportunity for teasing.
It was a lovely, soft, gentle evening--the sky was pale white-blue
with pools of light green in it.  I can't describe it, but I think
I could paint it.

I went down to meet Cheeseman at 'The Green Parrot.'  I stopped on
the rough grass-grown little jetty to look at the way in which the
green and blue sky, now turning, under the influence of two
glittering sparkling stars, into grey dusk, reflected its delicate
shades in the gently-heaving water.

Someone came towards me.  I looked--and behold, it was Richard.

'Why, Jacko!' I cried--and then, as I caught his arm, laughed
because the parallel of Tunstall's stopping me on this very same
spot was so close that I had actually used his old jesting name for
myself.  And realizing that, I had an idea.

I caught his arm and felt the slender weakness of it and saw the
terror--yes, real, true terror--in his eyes.

'What is it, Talbot?' he said almost hysterically.  'What are you
going to do?  Let me go!'

'This is a very good little place,' I said, 'for us to have a talk.
I've seen you a lot of times lately, as you very well know, but
there have always been people about.  There is no one in sight
now.'

'What do you want to speak to me about?'

'For one thing you've been complaining about me to your sister.'

'I haven't. . . .  Complaining?  Of course not--what should I
complain about?'

I could tell that he was frightened, but I could feel also some
real resistance rising up in him, a secret, unseen stiffness that
came partly from his very loathing that I should touch him.  Just
so had I loathed that Tunstall should touch me!

'I'm not angry,' I said, smiling and almost caressing him with my
touch.  'Why should I be?  I don't mind whether you complain to
Leila.  I'm only sorry that you should dislike me so much.'

'I don't dislike you,' he said.  His face stiffened.  'Why should I
lie?  I do dislike you intensely.  I hate you even to touch me.'  I
knew that he was trembling.

'That's all right,' I said cheerfully.  'Come in and have a drink
on it.'  I jerked my finger towards 'The Green Parrot.'

'In there? . . .  Oh, no!  Besides, I don't drink!'

'Now don't be so unkind--one drink to show there's no ill-feeling.
It will do you good, Jacko.  It will indeed!'

'Jacko!  That's not my name.  Why do you call me that?'

The sky was white now--white with a faint green shade.  The water
could scarcely be seen.

'Silly of me.  Someone used to call me that once.  A pet name.'

'Let me go.  I want to get home.'

'No--no.  One drink with me.  The 'Parrot's' a jolly place.  You'll
like it.  I won't keep you.'

I had my arm round his shoulders.  He hung his head as though he
were ashamed.  But he didn't resist.  I led him.  I touched for a
moment his hand and it was as chill as the green sky.  I took him
in with me.

The room was warm and smoky.  The stout landlord stood behind the
bar, and Cheeseman was alone at a table.  I was amused to see the
Rat's look of surprise.  He was smoking his pipe, of course, and he
looked over the top of it, his nasty little eyes narrowing and the
red hairs standing out on the back of his pale fish-scale hand.
Part of me loathed and hated him, the other part of me welcomed him
as an element in the jolly gross side of life--the warm, juicy,
odorous mud in which everyone, sinner and saint, likes at times to
wallow.  Oh, yes, they do!  In the secrecy of the dark forest they
play their games . . . or would if they had the courage.  I'm
writing fine words.  What I really mean is that there is the jolly
friendly nuzzling hog in the best of us.  Well, the Rat is a hog
all right, AND a nuzzler!

He was polite to Richard and greatly amused to see him there.

'Now--what will you have?' I asked him.

'Oh, I don't know,' he answered.  'A ginger ale if you like.  I'm a
teetotaller.'

'Don't tell me,' the Rat remarked.  'Out in the East all that time
and a teetotaller?'

'Oh, there's a lot of nonsense talked about the East.  Plenty of
fellows are teetotal.  As a matter of fact, I hate spirits.'

He seemed remarkably at his ease.  I suddenly realized that he was
afraid of me no longer and that annoyed me.  I wanted him to be
afraid of me.

'How's your car going, Thorne,' Cheeseman asked.  'Nice little
Morris that.'

'Just like any other Morris,' Richard answered quickly.  I could
see that he detested Cheeseman.  He finished his ginger ale and I
had an idea.

'Have another,' I said, and before he could answer had gone up to
the bar with his glass.

I had it filled with a strong whisky and soda.  I brought it back.

'Here you are,' I said, grinning.

He picked it up, then put it on the table.

'That's whisky,' he said.

'All right, old man,' I cried jovially.  'Try it--you'll find you
like it.'

He picked it up and for a moment, an exciting, stirring moment, I
thought he was going to drink it.  Richard drunk would be quite an
experience.  But it slipped from his fingers and shivered on to the
floor.

'I'm so sorry,' he said. . . .  Good night,' and before either of
us could answer him, he was out of the door.

'Well, I'm damned!' Cheeseman said.  'Very different from the way
you behaved once, Talbot.  Remember?'

Quietly I vowed to myself that I owed Richard one for that.  AND he
would pay!

We sat on there and quickly Cheeseman swathed me with the veil of
his influence.  It was like that.  It wasn't at all that I was ever
afraid of the man or trusted him.  I certainly did not admire him.
Once, when I was in love with a girl, oh, years ago, I remember
walking up and down the streets of Glasgow, Bute Street and
Sauchiehall Street, in a sort of mesmerized trance.  One Sunday I
especially remember.  It was years ago--long before I married Eve.
One of my very rare trips to Scotland.  I was young and that soppy,
contemptible kind of ass that I once was.  It was a wet Sunday, but
she and I, hands interlocked, walked regardless of all other human
bodies, houses, vehicles.  We said little, but I remember the
strong, cool clutch of her fingers and her generous, kindly eyes.
With Cheeseman there was disgust rather than love, but he spun
something of the same kind of web around his fellows.  Was it
mesmeric?

There was something in those evil, hot little eyes. . . .  Mind
you, I like the fellow.  There is no dirty thing he hasn't done, no
filthy sight he hasn't seen.  I admire him for his honesty and his
persistence.  If he's after something or somebody he will go on
quietly for years tracking it down.  So tonight he caught me.

'Whatever did you bring him in here for?'

'I like him.  He reminds me of my old, good, simple self.'

'You don't.  You hate him.'

'Yes, I hate him.  I'd like to do him an injury.  I will, too.  The
damned cheek.  He dropped that glass on purpose.'

'Of course he did.'  Cheeseman picked his protruding teeth.  'Still
you never know, for all his saint-like conduct.  You'd be surprised
at the things that good quiet people do!  I've caught them out many
a time and then don't they just squirm!  Your good citizen has one
pet vice and no one knows of it--but if you discover it you are
taking away from him the ONLY fun he has.  He isn't like you or me,
Talbot, who have our eggs in several baskets.'  He chuckled.
'Don't you hate the holy men, Talbot?  The bloody hypocrites!'

Something made me say, 'Perhaps they are not all hypocrites.'

'Of course they are.  There's not one righteous man anywhere.'

'I wasn't a hypocrite before I killed Tunstall.'

There was a long pause.  Cheeseman leaned forward.  'Before you did--
what?'

So I had told him.  I didn't care.  He would have got it out of me
sooner or later.

'I pushed Tunstall over Shining Cliff.'

'You didn't! . . .  My God!'

No.  I didn't care.  And yet I felt as though I were bound to him
from now on.  And yet I didn't care.

The room was very deserted.  There was nobody near us.

'You guessed--long ago.'

His little eyes stared into mine.  'Well--I wondered.  I didn't
think you had it in you--not then.  Now you might.  Why did you do
it?'

'He teased and taunted me all my life.  He was making love to my
wife--or I thought so.  I fancied a lot of things.  It was mad,
crazy.  I wish I could have him back.  I'd tell him how sorry I
was.  We'd get on like anything if he was here now.'

'I believe you would.  Poor old Jim!  Although he never liked me.
Do you remember how you knew that, although no one ever told you?
And how you've changed since that night!  I suppose a thing like
that DOES something to you.  I've known one or two murderers . . .'
He paused reflectively.  'I might even be called a murderer
myself. . . .  Somehow, what with the last War and this one, you
can't take killing anyone very seriously.  And poor old Jim was
going downhill fast--'

Yes--I was tied to Cheeseman for the rest of my days.  Something
inside me gave a sort of lurch of nausea.

'Don't go telling other people,' he said.

'What do you think?' I laughed.

'Have another whisky; I'm going to.'

'Thanks.'

I could see that he was thinking hard.  It was as though, in his
mind, he was going over the list of his prisoners and captives.
Now he had one to add.

'How did you do it?  I wouldn't have thought you had the strength--
not at that time.'

'We were on the edge of the Cliff--I pushed him over.'

I could see the Rat's white hands clench sadistically.  The
knuckles stood out like a dead animal's bleached bones.

'Yes.  Did he cry out?'

'Once.'

Cheeseman drank his whisky:

'Here's how.'


VI


I am writing with the tears drying on my cheeks.  I am writing
because I must--to rid myself a little of the sorrow and rage in my
heart.  Soon I will be quiet.  To-morrow I go up to London to
return tit for tat.  Tit for Tat.  TIT FOR TAT.  The revolver that
I got last spring is on the table beside me.  When I wangled the
licence I wondered whether I should ever use it.  I don't wonder
any longer.  I have been crying, I who have not cried for so long.
They shall be the last tears I shall ever shed--the last tears for
the last friend.

Yesterday afternoon Scandal and I had our last game together.  He
was a regular baby for a dog as old as he was--or at any rate he
would be a baby with me.  He would be anything with me if I wanted
him to be.  I have an old leather bedroom slipper that was his
especial property.  People sometimes say that dogs have no
imagination.  Ignorant people that don't know anything about dogs.
Scandal certainly had plenty.  He knew that the old shoe was an old
shoe, but he also knew that, when he wanted it, that old shoe was a
rat, a rabbit, a cat, and then, after that, something more--all his
longing for glory and adventure and romance.

When I brought it out from its drawer and showed it him, at once
our two selves were drawn close together.  We were one romantic
longing and desire.  I don't believe any more in romance or
sentiment or any kind of weak, silly slop, but there was nothing
silly in OUR alliance.  And now he is gone--the only friend, except
Leila, that I had in the world.

I was proud, too, of the disregard that he had for everyone else.
He never gave Eve and Archie a thought.  He was polite to them, of
course.  He was a proper little gentleman and had beautiful
manners, but they meant nothing at all to him.  Nor did anyone else
anywhere.

Everyone in this damned place thinks that I'm going to perdition--
or have gone there already.  But Scandal didn't.  He thought I was
simply the most perfect creature in the world, silly little fool.
If I was sharp or violent to Eve he thought it was Eve's fault and
would give her a nasty look.  If I had drunk a drop too much, he
would grin at me as much as to say:  'Drink all you want to.  We
can only live once.'

How physically beautiful he was!  There was never another dog to
touch him!  The bright strong curls on his coat seemed to promise
that he would live for ever.  He was utterly fearless, but he
wasn't one of those dogs that just fought any dog he saw.  Many
dogs were not worthy of his attentions.  He had a wonderful dignity
although he could play like a baby if he wanted to.  I can't
believe that he's left me.  I can't believe that I shall never hear
his quick excited bark again.

After luncheon yesterday I took Scandal with me for a walk in
Carfax Wood.  The high road passes on the north of the town.  I was
about to cross it.  Scandal ran ahead of me.  A maroon-coloured
Morris car turned the corner and approached us.  I saw the driver
and was certain that it was Richard Thorne.  The car caught
Scandal, drove swiftly on.  When I ran up to him he was already
dead.  I picked him up in my arms and rushed down the road,
shouting I know not what.

This morning I went to Leila's house.  The servant told me that she
and her brother had left for London.

When this afternoon I told Eve that I was going to London, she
kissed my cheek and said that she would be waiting for me when I
came back.

I buried Scandal in our little garden under the rose-bush in the
right-hand corner near the road.

While I have been writing this a strange urge has been strengthening
in me to take revenge on this filthy crowd of human beings who have
insulted and derided and tried to murder me--who have killed the
only friend I had.



NARRATIVE 3


I


I frightened him all right.  I certainly frightened him.  I've
begun to write again because it tranquillizes me.  What am I
writing?  Anything.  What does it matter?  Except that I'm telling
the truth and the whole bloody lot will be astonished when they
hear it; they think that there's only this phoney War on--this War
in which no one does anything but creep about in the dark.  They
don't realize that there's another war on too and that's MY war.
First to deal with Mr. Richard Thorne and then settle all the
others--the nasty, mangy, creeping, crawling crew.

I return to Facts.  Facts are tranquillizing.  I will report to my
friendly Demon EXACTLY the Facts.  Is that Demon Cheeseman?  For he
is with me.  We arrived last evening at 5.30, just before the Black-
Out; it was raining and we discovered this boarding-house standing
in a puddle of water.

The taximan asked us where he should drive us and I said:
'Bloomsbury.  And go on until we stop you.'  But, turning the
corner by the Museum, I saw this boarding-house before it saw me.
I knew at once that it was the very place for us.  To begin with,
it is painted a liverish colour like a piece of underdone beef and
all its windows are ugly like old maids looking through keyholes.
All the old women with sooty glass faces stared down at us as our
taxi halted, and I could hear them whispering:  'Here comes the
very man for us.  If we watch him we'll see something.'

Yes, there were two bedrooms and everyone had meals in common
amity.  Mrs. Foxborne her name was, and she is dressed like the
British flag in red, white and blue and has the coldest, chilliest
eyes I've ever welcomed.  Her hands are like claws.  She has a
large pink-and-white brooch with the Three Graces carved upon it.

I gave myself the best bedroom, of course.  Cheeseman doesn't mind
what he has.  He is so deeply excited about what is going to happen
that he has no thought for anything else.  And he knows that it
will not be for long.

All I said to him was:

'You know that Richard Thorne killed my dog.'

'Oh, did he?' he said.

'He's flown to London because he's frightened and I'm flying after
him.'

'I'll fly too.'

That's all we said, but in my mind's eye I saw two big black birds
feasting just outside the Leicester Square Tube in a dark and empty
London on somebody's carcase.  I showed him my revolver.

'I'm going to chase him first,' I said.

There's a jerry under the bed, a large tear in the carpet, a
picture on the wall of Christ blessing the Children.  There is a
clock, too, that stopped at four-thirty years and years ago.  Last
night before I went to bed I painted a little.  It was a fanciful
picture of London like a spider-web and two eyes where the spider
ought to be.  There is dried blood stiffening the corner of the
web, and the eight-day clock ticks although the web is strangling
it.

I tore it up and jumped into bed.  I was very cold but my head was
hot as hell.  I didn't sleep very well.  I lay there remembering
how once, after leaving that girl in Glasgow whom I loved so much,
when she didn't write I was hot and cold all day long and trembled
when the post came.  But at supper I had a good meal--roast beef
and apple-tart.  There were half a dozen of us at the table, one
thin, one fat, one round, one straight, and one with a hare-lip.
Who was the other?  There was an empty chair.  I ate because I was
hungry, but as I looked at them sitting round the table and mincing
their words I thought how pleasant it would be to tie them to their
chairs with green window-blind cord and shoot them, slowly,
quietly, one after the other.  You would gag them first with their
soiled table-napkins.  How their eyes would stare as they realized
that death was coming to them after all--real positive death that
is never real until it is actually upon you.  No escape for them as
they stare frantically at 'The Fighting Tmraire' and 'Christ
Leaving the Temple' and the beef congealing on the plate and two
flies digging into the sugar-dish.  Then I aim, with what a jolly,
friendly smile I aim at first one then another.  Their arms are
bound backwards on to the sides of the chairs, so as they are hit
their bodies bound forward.  How delightful for the others to watch
while their friends depart!

I leave one to the end.  I think it should be the young man with no
eyebrows.  It is indecent not to have eyebrows.

And I should say to him:

'Have you ever loved a dog?'

He will be too sadly terrified to reply.

'Have you ever been thrown into the sea?'

Still no reply.

'Have you ever been mocked and taunted by all the citizens of your
filthy little town?'

Then I shall fire.


II


I have bought two pairs of shoes with felt soles.  I love to walk
in the dark without sound.  I will jump upon Richard before he can
hear me coming.

I love this darkness.  I adore it.  I belong to it.  It is what I
have always wanted.

There are still many theatres open in London and the crowds move in
Leicester Square, in Piccadilly Circus, in Regent Street, in thick
moth-like throngs, laughing, loving, moving adroitly out of the way
of one another.  But these are not the places where I at present
resort.  I am only at the beginning of my pursuit, with my dark
soft hat pulled over my eyes, my face pale if someone flashes a
torch, my little revolver in my pocket, my soft, soundless tread.

Once the darkness falls I find it difficult to stay indoors.  But I
like first to have my evening meal with the boarders.  They are
afraid of myself and Cheeseman.  I know their names now--Miss Lucy
Bates, Mr. Henry Bates, her brother (he has the hare-lip), Mrs.
Constantine, Mr. Floss, and very old Mrs. Taylor.

In the first place they dislike my silent approach.  I come upon
them in the passages, in the bathroom, in the sitting-room, on the
stairs before they are aware of it.  I am very polite and
courteous, and especially so to my landlady Mrs. Foxborne.  Then
when they speak to me they become uneasy under my stare.  Yesterday
evening I walked down the stairs behind old Mrs. Taylor huddled
under her shawl and looking at every step cautiously with her
blind, red-rimmed eyes.

Before she took the last step I said gently:

'Good evening, Mrs. Taylor.'

She gave a little shawl-muffled scream.

'Tell me, Mrs. Taylor, why don't you have a little dog--a Pekinese,
for example?'

She held her hand on her heart.  'Oh, dear--I never heard you
coming.'

'Why don't you have a little dog, Mrs. Taylor?'

'Oh, dear--I don't know.'

'I had a dog that I loved very much.  It was killed by a motor-
car.'

I opened, with a little bow, the door of the dining-room.

During the meal I like very much to silence the conversation.  It
begins very briskly and soon they are all talking gaily about the
War, the Black-Out, the theatres, and what they have done during
the day.  What I enjoy is to look at them one after the other.
There is something about my face that they dislike.  I have a
strange feeling about my face.  I feel it to be a mask, a mask
through which my eyes burn.  Behind it what thoughts and fancies
burn!  It would never do if they should see my real face, for
passions rage in it--passions of anger and violence because I am in
this world now for one purpose only--to be revenged on just such
miserable cattle as these who have spoiled my peace and attempted
to destroy me.

And so I look at first one and then another.  I look at them one by
one and they look at me and their eyes drop.  Gradually a silence
falls.

When the meal is over I put on my hat and coat and go out.  If it
is a dark night without moon or stars, it is as though you walked
in a vast underworld where the little red lights, whether in the
air or just above the ground, are like the eyes of animals.  I
walk, making no sound, through the streets.  The darkness is
doubly, trebly enfolded, layer upon layer.  You can put out your
hand and feel it.  Suddenly you are on the edge of plunging into
some abyss.  You pull yourself up sharply and your heart beats at
the escape of some fine danger.  My gloved hand closes round the
revolver in my coat pocket.  I love to feel it there.

There are not many people in these streets, but what I love is to
touch them suddenly, coming up upon them before they know it.  I
put out my gloved hand and for an instant rub their arm, or push
against their back, or even touch their neck.  They flash their
torch perhaps and sometimes cry out.  I apologize very politely,
raising my hat.  But I cannot help thinking how pleasant it would
be to turn a neck and twist it or throw them down and stamp upon
their silly meaningless faces.

But of course those are things that I must not do.

When I am accustomed to it, the darkness has many colours--purple
and dark green and opalescent grey.  It moves like blown water and
you can feel its waves upon your face.  It contains also many
odours: the acrid tang of smoke, the stifling thickness of petrol,
the damp of wet towels, the thin clamminess of human breath.

The buildings, filled with invisible human beings, which they hold
like prisoners, contemptuously, share gladly in the darkness.  At
last, after so many years, they are truly themselves and can pursue
their own purpose unwatched by men.  You can tell by the sounds
they make--the gurgling of waterspouts, the straining of boards,
the creaking of doors and windows, that they are alive and busy.

These are only the preliminaries.  My great purpose here is to find
Richard.  And very quickly I have found him.  I remembered that
once Leila had said to me that Richard, when he was in London,
found much pleasure and solace in the Coffee Club.  When I asked
her what was the Coffee Club, she told me that it was a little
place off Jermyn Street, a small club for gentlemen who had been in
the East, or were interested in the East.  That Richard could have
a meal there and talk with friendly and congenial souls.

Two days after my arrival in London, on a fine and sunny afternoon,
I went along to Jermyn Street.  I walked from one end of it to the
other, down to St. James's Square, along King Street, up St.
James's, back along Jermyn Street.  'You'll be getting it one of
these days,' I thought to myself, 'you swanky, leather-smelling,
school-club-tie sycophants and snobs with your nice smart little
church where there are royal services for Royalty, and your rich
Turkish baths with a nice blue plate on one of them to that King of
Snobs, Walter Scott, and your shoe shops and your hat shops and
your picture shops, and your Orleans Club where there is the best
food and drink in London, and your grand St. James's Theatre where
Sir George Alexander of the crooked smile and creased pants once
had his famous first nights and Oscar Wilde received his grand
bouquet of cabbages.  Oh, all you ancient, leather-stinking, stuck-
up guardsmen and harlots,' I thought to myself, 'the time is
coming, and is not far distant either, when the bombs will be
raining down on you and the holes where the window-panes ought to
be will be hot with roaring fires.  You can pile your sandbags up
one on top of another!  A lot of good they will do you!'

I must say these thoughts give me the greatest of pleasure, because
I detest all those conceited stick-to-yourselves, we-are-the-best-
people-on-earth kind of Englishmen.  What a lot of good a few nice
bombs will do them!

As a matter of fact I could see, even as I walked about, how they
looked down on me and took care that the hems of their garments
should not touch me!  I felt spasms of rage contract my fingers as
I saw them sneer at me!  What harm was I doing them?  In fact, I
spoke to one man, an elderly pompous fool with watery eyes and a
white moustache.  I said, 'You'll know me again, won't you, sir?'
and walked on, leaving him pretty astonished.  But what right had
he to stare at me as though I were a criminal?  I must confess that
when I saw a shop-window in Jermyn Street with all the regimental
ties laid out in patterns, and gloves as elegant as any dandy could
wish, and silk handkerchiefs with initials embroidered on them, it
was all I could do not to fire my revolver into the middle of them.
They positively sneered at me, those things in that window.  As I
write those words down I know that they are true.  Why, there was
one tie of red and green and purple that spoke to me, saying:  'How
is little Scandal?  Ha!  Ha!  Nice little dog, wasn't he?'

However, to get on with my dear Richard.

At length, at the corner of St. James's Square, I asked a chauffeur
standing beside his elegant car whether he had ever heard of the
Coffee Club.  He scratched his head and asked another chauffeur.  I
could see that they were laughing down their sleeve at me, the
parasites, but I didn't care.  At last the fellow came to me and
said that he thought it was opposite the women's Turkish baths, to
which he pointed up the hill--somewhere there, in any case.  He was
staring at me as though he didn't like my face.  However, I had
more important business, so I went up the street, and there, on the
right-hand side, sure enough was a little brass plate, 'The Coffee
Club.'  I drew a deep breath of satisfaction.  I agreed with
Cheeseman that we should divide our time in watching.  The most
likely time for Richard to be there would be luncheon and he would
come out, in all probability, somewhere between half-past two and
three.  If days passed and I didn't catch him, I should go into the
Club and ask for him.  All that I wanted for the moment was that he
should know I was in London.

Well, two days later out he came--just as though I had summoned
him.  It was exactly three-fifteen of a chill, foggy afternoon.  It
was not at all a fog of the old pea-soup variety--I fancy that they
are vanishing as a feature of London life.  It was rather wispy and
straggly and grey-white with a kind of thin drizzle at the heart of
it.  The lights were already in the shop-windows, and as the fog
blew in the breeze, everything seemed to move, the buildings, the
lights, the shadows of St. James's Square.  I was just thinking
that I would go home for the day when the door opened and out
stepped Richard, almost into my arms.

'Good afternoon, Richard,' I said.  For a moment he didn't
recognize me, for my hat was pulled down over my forehead.  Then he
stepped back.  After that he didn't speak and he didn't move.

'I only wanted you to know, Richard,' I said, 'that I am in London
and you will be seeing me very soon again.'


III


The pursuit has begun.  I am in a state of exultation.  I am
obeying the will of my Master who tells me what I must do.

I cannot remain still and I hate to be alone.  If I am not in
pursuit I am wasting my time.  If I am alone I am aware of
something within me that is struggling not to obey.

I remember reading somewhere in Memoirs by a contemporary that
Napoleon once told the writer that he had always been compelled to
make his decisions 'against the sometimes absurd and cowardly
remonstrances of his weaker self,' or words to that effect.

I often feel in Hitler's speeches that his oratory is loud and
powerful not only to convince his audience, but also to silence
something inside himself--something that he knows is weak and
sentimental, something that would betray him altogether were he to
give way to it.  So it is now with me.  When I am alone in the
boarding-house, especially at night in my room, I am conscious of
an urge to get something free in myself.  I envisage this as a
prisoner whom I have subjected.  Were I to listen even for a
moment, I would be betrayed and by myself.  I can hear sometimes a
weak, pitiful voice in my ear, and sometimes I fancy, as I have
done in the past, that a figure lingers beseeching in the shadows
of the room.  This condition is undoubtedly due to this nervous
ecstasy that I now experience.  The thought of settling my debt
with Richard once and for all is a deep sensuous delight to me.  I
will revenge upon his miserable body all the miseries that I have
suffered and the contempt that has been poured on me.  Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!  Upon this town that has rejected me shall be showered
hailstones of fire--huge bursting hailstones like flaming,
destroying angels.

And now I must say something about my visit to Leila yesterday.  I
went to the little house where once I had tea with her and, pitiful
fool that I was, wept at her feet.  I rang the bell, asked whether
Mrs. Tunstall was at home, and before the maid could answer me,
brushed past her and opened the sitting-room door.  She was sitting
on the sofa, her feet up, reading.  I stood in the doorway, like
the avenger from God, and I felt my power to be so great that I
could, with one hand, command this house to be ashes.  I felt my
eyes burn through the brick and mortar and look into eternity.

She was not afraid of me.  Unlike others, she has never been afraid
of me.  She said:

'Oh, poor John!'

That would, in another, have been so insulting to my pride that I
would have wrung their neck, but Leila has always had an influence
upon me.  Yes, for many, many years.

She said quickly:  'Richard isn't here.'  Then she got up.

'Poor John, come and sit down.  You look exhausted.'

Exhausted!  When I am at the height of exultation.

I didn't move from the door.  'It doesn't matter,' I said, 'where
Richard is.  I shall get him when I want him.'

The sight of her kind face with its tenderness and slight deformity
always moves me.  I was ashamed of myself, but I said almost
beseechingly:

'Richard killed my dog; Scandal was my only friend.'

She gave a real cry of sympathy.  'Oh, poor John!  Is Scandal
really dead?'

'Richard rode over him in his car.'

'I am sure that he did not.  When did it happen?'

'The day before you left for London.'

She stood for a moment thinking.  'Richard never used the car that
day.'

But this is the important thing--the words that I now spoke.  I
don't know why I said them.

'Richard isn't your brother,' I said.  'He is John Talbot.'

She only gazed at me.  She has always been very kind to me.

'I am Jim Tunstall, your husband.  Talbot tried to kill me and now
I am going to kill him.  That's fair, isn't it?'

I felt an immense relief.  It was all so right and so just.

Leila spoke very quietly and slowly, as though she were trying to
explain something to a child.

'Listen, John.  You are very ill.  You have been ill for a long
time.  You killed Jim and after his death the evil that was his
curse has been your curse.  I have known it a long time.  My
brother has nothing to do with this, nothing at all.  Before it is
too late, you must be rid of this evil, destroy it, throw it away.
I will help you.  Stay here with Richard and me.  You and I, with
God's help, will destroy it together.'

I remember thinking what a silly conversation it was between two
grown people.  I knew, as I looked at her, that we had lived
together and slept together and eaten and drunk together for years
and years.  At the same time something in me wanted to surrender to
her and feel her strong, cool hands on my forehead (I know the
touch of her hands so well) and stay with her and, above all, sleep
without dreams.

So, lest I should listen to that ridiculous voice inside me (we all
have these ridiculous voices), I spoke loud and fast.

'You tell Richard that I'm after him and I'll follow him everywhere
and at last I'll get him and he can't escape me.  Do you hear?  He
can't escape me.'  And I went out of the room and out of the house,
breathing as though I had been running fast.


Two nights ago I had Cheeseman to sleep with me.  Nothing could be
more disagreeable than this, and yet I am beginning to avoid being
alone.  When Cheeseman was undressing I asked him suddenly whether
he saw anyone in the corner of the room.  He walked in his shirt
and in his bare feet (his toes are bent and red like the claws of
crabs) and examined the room from end to end.

'There is no one here,' he said.  And yet, even then, I could see,
I fancied, a thin figure with bent head, shadowy and yet real.

Cheeseman, I am happy to say, is, in spite of my confiding my
secret to him, afraid of me. . . .  I was acutely aware that last
night he wished desperately not to sleep in the same bed with me.
He would give almost his life not to do it, but does not dare to
refuse me.  The Rat does what I tell him.  At last he has found a
power stronger than his own.

While I was undressing I looked at the upper part of my arm and it
seemed to me that I detected a tattoo-mark faintly blue.  I made
Cheeseman examine it and with all the more pleasure that he hated
to touch my body.  He could see nothing.  I fancy that I can trace
a design.

In bed the Rat lay withdrawn, dreading with all his flesh lest I
should touch him.  I reached out my hand and laid it on his thigh.
He trembled from his ears to his toes.  This gave me great pleasure
and after that I allowed him to sleep.

But last night I refused to surrender to any absurd panic.  I had
had a wonderful walk in the darkness and I had heard news of
Richard.  Cheeseman reported to me just before supper that he had
that afternoon seen Richard and Leila leave a taxi and enter, each
carrying a bag, a little hotel off Soho Square.

I have indeed great powers from my Master, for consider the
coincidence that the Rat, passing through Soho Square, thinking of
his own affairs, watches idly a taxi-cab draw up outside the shabby
hotel and sees Leila and Richard emerge from it!  Such things do
happen, of course.  Everyone can recall astonishing coincidences.
But does not this one convince me that I am indeed assigned this
especial task of punishing my fellow human creatures and that I
have been granted especial powers?  Even a wretched creature like
Cheeseman can feel something of this especial divinity in me.  When
I look at him he lowers his eyes.  When I speak the tips of his
ugly ears are crimson.  When his teeth protrude and his head
crouches into his shoulders he is indeed like a rat caught in a
trap.

However, last night I slept alone.  I awoke abruptly at one-
fifteen.  Someone was in the room, and, sitting up in bed, I heard
once again that pitiful sobbing that had exasperated me so outside
Bella's room.

I switched on the light and, staring a little breathlessly, was
certain that in the far corner between the looking-glass and the
window I saw that thin, shabby, bending figure.

When I write down the dialogue that follows, it is for my own
reassurance that I may realize its absurdity.  But it seems to me
that I talked with the Figure, who answered me.

And yet it may be that I still slept and that I talked to myself in
my dream.


Myself:  'Stop that crying.'

'Let me go, then!  Oh, for pity's sake let me go!  If I did you
once a great harm, I have been punished enough.'

Myself:  'I don't know what you are talking about.'

'You do; you know you do.  Ever since we were small boys together
you threatened me.  You said we were the Siamese twins--that
nothing could separate us.'

Myself (chuckling):  'You wouldn't listen.  I warned you.  What was
it I used to call you?'

'Jacko.'

Myself:  'Yes, Jacko.  That was it.  A silly name.'

'Let me go now.  Please, please let me go.  And this other man whom
you are pursuing has nothing to do with US.  He may be like me a
little, and so the sight of him infuriates you, but he is not US.'

Myself:  'I am not so sure.'

'You are carrying me along with you in your dreadful purposes just
as you have always done.  How ashamed and unhappy you make me--just
as you have always done.  My poor wife and boy.  You struck her and
showed Archie indecent drawings.  They thought it was me.  Oh, the
shame, the shame!'

Myself:  'And so it was you, Jacko!  For you are me and I am you!'

'I am not!  I am not!  You said that when we were children
together, and it wasn't true then and it isn't true now.  Every
man's soul is his own, and if he is strong enough, no one can touch
his inviolability.  But I am not strong enough because of the one
evil thing that I did.'

Myself:  'Poor Jacko!  The one brave, downright thing you ever did,
and see how you are punished for it!'

'Leave me.  Leave me.  Go your own evil way and meet your own evil
destruction.  Let me return to my wife and son and beg their pardon
and Leila's pardon, too, and show the town that I am just as I used
to be. . . .'

Myself:  'Oh, no, Jacko!  That would be far too easy an escape.  We
go on together to the end.  One's acts are irrevocable, you know.
After all, you were paid the compliment of free will.  You really
can't blame anybody but yourself.  Now stop crying like a baby,
Jacko, and let me have some sleep.'


Dreams!  I don't know.  As I write down this nonsense I can see
myself years and years ago trembling at Jim Tunstall's touch, even
as Cheeseman trembled the other night at mine.


IV


I have escaped.  For a moment only perhaps.  Oh, God!  Give me
time!  I know that someone is praying for me and has given me this
extra power.  I, in my turn, pray to God to keep me free and allow
me time for my penitent submission.

Everything is so quiet here.  It is as though I had been fighting
under turbulent waters.  With a dreadful din in my ears and a drive
of waves beating at my throat and heart and eyes.  Now suddenly I
am floating in a blessed silence and the steady beating of my
heart. . . .

This room is so still.  Why did it seem to me so mocking and
sinister?  The clock on the stairs has struck two.  I went to bed
in a kind of madness.  A furious hatred of mankind.  I was planning
some dreadful act.  In my dreams it seemed that someone called to
me again and again as friends do when they are trying to wake you!

'John . . . John . . . John Talbot, John Talbot . . .'  And I
struggled as Lazarus must have struggled.  It was as though I had
to lift a great burden.  I was fighting someone and I heard his
chuckle:  'Down, Jacko!  Down!  Keep down!'

In my nightmare I knew that I could never beat this off unless
great help was lent me, and I called out, as one does in dreams:
'Help!  Help! . . .  In God's name help!'

I felt the hands on my shoulders keeping me down, and I felt the
hands under my armpits lifting me up.  New strength came to me.  I
cried out--and it is the first time for so long that my voice has
been heard--'I am free!'  Then I woke.  I was sitting up in bed.  I
switched on the light, put on my dressing-gown, and now I'm
sitting, writing this on the dressing-table, writing as once I did,
happy, tranquil, quiet. . . .

Early to-morrow morning I will go back to Eve . . . I will catch
the first train. . . .  Oh, God, forgive me my sins.  I have
sinned.  I have sinned.  I will give myself up to justice.

Oh, God, Thou hast punished me enough.  Release me now from the
possession of evil.  Make abhorrent for me these vices that I
abhor, but am a servant under.  Deliver me from Evil.  Oh, God--
Deliver us from Evil.  Raise my head from under this possession.

Oh, God!  He is returning--my heart sinks with fear.  My breath
thickens on the glass.  He looks through my eyes again.  There is
the stink of his breath in my nostrils.  Oh, save me, God, save
me. . . .


V


So you thought you had escaped, old fellow, did you?  You thought
you had escaped?  I have read that nonsense.  But WAS it, like my
fancied dialogue a night or two ago, an imagined dream.  Memory?
When I dream--and I have dreamed much of late--who am I?

My handwriting does not change.  That is simply a trick of habit.
But have we not all an imprisoned self?  In any case, MY imprisoned
self is a wretched creature with his weeping and wailing and
appeals to a God who does not exist.  I heard the other day of an
old Jew in one of the German prison camps, and when they threatened
him with torture he prayed to God.  So they beat him to death with
hose-pipes and between every blow they cried:  'Now, Jehovah!  Help
Thy servant.'  The thought of those beatings stirs my blood.  So,
Jacko, say:  'Now, Jehovah!  Help Thy servant!'

My hand trembles as I write.  This writing is almost illegible.
That does not matter, for no one will ever read it.  This is in all
probability the last time I shall ever write anything.  From words
to deeds . . . I feel a conqueror.  My heart beats in my breast
like the heart of a king.  What I did last night I will do again--
and again and again.  I will terrorize this whole city.  I am
Hitler's forerunner of vengeance.  Maybe I AM God.  Who can deny
it?  I stretch my arm and it seems to reach into infinity.  I stare
with my eyes and, as in that pub last night, they are turned to
stone.

Last night the wind blew with a fury and all the houses seemed to
bow to me.  I walked into the darkness like a king.

And to-night, when I have settled my debt with that pitiful
murderer, I will begin my campaign of vengeance.  The winds of the
air, the stones of the streets will aid me.

Well, about last night.

Cheeseman watched and saw him leave his Club off Jermyn Street.  He
followed him then to a little eating-place at the Knightsbridge end
of Sloane Street.  Then he met me where we had agreed to meet, at
the coffee-stall at Hyde Park Corner.

Strange, isn't it, that I thought by my confession that I had
yielded myself into Cheeseman's hands, and it has turned out the
exact opposite from that!  Cheeseman, the great Cheeseman, the
blackmailer and terrorizer, who has held so many men and women at
his mercy for so long, strange that he should at last be in the
hands of someone else!  For he is terrified of me and with every
day his terror grows the stronger.  Yesterday in my room I asked
him:  'Why are you frightened?'

'You look like--'

'Like what?'

'Like the Devil.'

'You are not frightened of a man's looks, Cheeseman.  Come here.'
And he came.  'Kneel down.'  He knelt down.  'Raise your hands and
touch my arms.'  He could not do it.  'Hold my arms, Cheeseman.'

At last, his body trembling, his head averted, his hands lay on my
arms, those pale hands with the thin red hairs.

I bent forward and cupped his chin, forcing his head upwards.  His
eyes closed.

'Look at me, Cheeseman.'

He would not.

'Look at me, Cheeseman.'

He would not.

'Look at me, Cheeseman.'

His face trembled like a face under moving waters.  Then he looked
at me.

I feel a deep pleasure as I describe this remembered scene.

I went and stood outside the little restaurant.  After a while
Richard came out.  There was a strong wind now rushing in and out
of the restaurant.  There was no light from the door of the
restaurant, but I flashed my torch.  He saw me.  For an exciting
moment he stared into my eyes.  I thought he was going to speak,
but he did not.  He crossed the road and walked quickly along
Knightsbridge.  I followed him.

My pleasure was now so intense that I could have suspended it into
eternity.  I knew what terror there must be in his heart.  I
wondered whether he would stop at Hyde Park Corner and take an
omnibus.  But he knew that that would not save him.  He knew that
there must be that last walk from Piccadilly to Soho Square.  If he
took a taxi-cab there would be that moment when he stayed on the
pavement to pay his fare.  Or, perhaps, he wished to end it.
Whatever he did, wherever he went, he could not escape.  If he
appealed to the police, that would not save him, for no one save
Leila had heard me threaten him, and in any case the police could
not save him for ever.  But, Richard, you are only the first.
After you there will be many, many others.

As I walked through Knightsbridge, I felt an exquisite, a sensuous
pleasure.  To feel the revolver in my hand and to know that my
power, my great, great power, stretched far beyond my revolver.  I
could have shouted with joy at my power, calling out, 'Rain down
your hailstones of fire, Revenger!'  And so they will rain down and
a great fire roar to heaven, and these puny buildings come crashing
to the ground.

The wind blew through the darkness, making it vocal.  The power of
the wind met my own power.  We were great together.

By the coffee-stall at Hyde Park Corner he paused.  He looked about
him, the poor miserable fish.  He was considering, I fancy, whether
he would not take a taxi.  I would be there before him if he did.
There was a little crowd round the coffee-stall, which was dimly
lit.  There was a cheerful hum of voices and laughter.  I stood,
robed in my darkness, and thought:  'Aye, you may laugh.  Soon you
will be crying to heaven'--a grand thought that made my heart beat
almost to suffocation.

He decided to walk and I followed him down Piccadilly.  While I was
behind him I was also with him.  My hands were on his neck and I
had twisted his head round so that his eyes were staring pitifully
into mine, begging for mercy.

Along Piccadilly the wind, blowing across the Green Park, was
raging.  Pedestrians had difficulty in standing steady, and as the
wind blew against them I knew that it was my power and I had only
to command and the wind would rise until it lifted them off their
feet and blasted their bodies against the walls, and then the
walls, too, would crash to the ground, buildings, old, beautiful
buildings that had been the country's pride and pleasure for
hundreds of years, reduced to dust and rubble.

At Half Moon Street he turned up into Curzon Street.  Why he did
this I do not know.  I followed him up that dark little street.  By
the Christian Science Church he paused and then struck right.  And
then--I lost him.

I made a mistake.  There is a little public-house on the right and
I thought he entered it.  I pushed open the door and looked in.
The room was brilliantly lit.  There was a man behind the bar, a
girl serving drinks, some people at the tables.

As I stood in the doorway they all turned and looked at me.  Some
power compelled them.  Some power also held them so that they
seemed turned to stone, all staring, not moving.  But he was not
there.  I was out in the street again and began to run.  I collided
with a man hurrying in front of me.  I was enraged at his stopping
me.  I caught him by the neck.  He cried out.  I hit at his face
with my fist.  I hit again and again.  He fell to the ground and,
with an exultant pleasure, I stamped on him, on his face, on his
belly.  I kicked him, bent down and tore at his face with my hands.
Ah, but that was a pleasure, a great exultant happiness.  I felt
his flesh under my hand, I felt his belly quiver as I turned my
boots upon him.

I felt all the power of the wind and the darkness in my soul as I
ran on, ran till I could run no more, ran until I reached the
steps, and there, laughing because I was master of the world, knelt
down to tie my bootlace and then stayed to wipe the sweat from my
face and steady my beating heart.  I had lost him.  For this moment
I had lost him, but not for long.


This will be, I fancy, the last time I shall write. . . .  Deeds
now.  Not words.

The little tinny bell has rung for supper.  Through my open door I
can hear them scurrying down to their food.  I will sit with them,
eat with them, drink with them.  How wonderful that at last, at
last, this long-postponed hour has come!


                             VI


Letter from Leila Tunstall to Eve Talbot


MY DEAR EVE--By now you will have received my telegram.  We must
wait for the inquest, and as soon as that is over Richard and I
will bring John down to you.  I want to give you an exact account
of what occurred so that you may understand, as though you had been
there, just what happened.

First I must tell you that poor John killed Jim by throwing him
over Shining Cliff.  This he himself told me, but I knew it long
ago.  Perhaps you also had guessed it.

A simple explanation of all that occurred after that is that John
brooded so deeply on what he had done that he became insane.
Nothing more is needed than that, although I think the real
explanation is a much more complicated one.  You do not know
perhaps all that I suffered during my last years with Jim, although
you can understand it possibly by all that YOU suffered during
these last months with John.  We all watched the change in John.
It seemed to eat him up, bit by bit, like a disease.  I know how
you suffered, but I suffered in my own way too, for I loved John--
like a mother, a sister--but I loved him always and I love him now.
I was not, however, more directly concerned until I found that he
hated Richard.  Richard is, and has always been, my particular
care.  When we were children together I tried to look after him and
protect him.  Physically, Richard resembled very closely what John
used to be, and in some curious way this physical resemblance
exasperated John.  At first Richard thought that he must be
imagining this hatred.  He had never had anything to do with John,
bore him no ill-will although the John of these later months was
antipathetic to him in every way, but he knew how fond of him I was
and he put up with him for my sake.

However, during this last summer, matters became serious.  John
insulted him in every possible way, followed him about, and once in
Carfax Wood nearly assaulted him.  I invited John to come and talk
to me about it, but when he came he only talked wildly of hating
him.

You know how John's face had changed during these last months, how
terribly it had changed.  He reminded me often, by his looks and
speech, of Jim as he had been during those last years.  In that
talk I had with him I felt certain that he was in the possession of
some evil power, as Jim had been.  Here I must ask your patience,
for you may consider the power of evil and its possession of human
beings as a piece of old-fashioned nonsense, not seriously to be
held in these days by any mature, sensible person.  It seems to me
that if you believe in God you must also believe in Evil and in a
constant battle between good and evil.  But I am not pretending
that I am putting forward here any belief but my own.  I am not
attempting to force it on to anyone of a different belief.  We have
each of us our own explanation of the great mystery, an explanation
that must come from our own experience of life.  No one has the
right to say to us that we are speaking falsehood as WE see truth,
nor have we the right to challenge the belief of anyone else.

However, this persecution of Richard by John became so incessant
that Richard's health (he has never been very strong) became
affected by it and I decided that we should go to town.  We went
but had been there scarcely any time when Richard was met by John
outside his Club.  Quite suddenly John appeared at my house.  He
stood in my doorway and, Eve, I looked at someone so terrible that
I shrank as from the presence of the Devil himself.  It was NOT
John with whom I spoke, but something I had never encountered
before, save in MY most terrible dreams.  Something not only
incredibly wicked but something also quite dreadfully sad.

I did not know what to do.  To inform the police, to insist that
John should be medically examined, was hopeless, for what would
they, who knew nothing of the inside of our story, see but a quiet,
sad-faced man who would talk to them with perfect coherence and
deride my fears?  But the danger to Richard was most urgent.  He
felt it himself and yet could not believe in it.

We moved to a small hotel off Soho Square and began to make our
plans for going to some other part of England for a time.  Richard
was against this.  He felt it a cowardly surrender to an absurd
fear.  I on my part was sure that this was no solution.

We had scarcely settled in at this little hotel before John found
us.  When we were out someone--John or another--would enquire for
us.  John, of course, had quickly found the number of my brother's
room.  I cannot describe to you, dear Eve, how strange this
experience was.  Someone was following us in the dark, drawing ever
closer and closer.  Wherever he went, whatever he did, Richard felt
that he was followed.  Sometimes he saw John staring at him out of
the darkness.

An evening came when Richard returned to the hotel, his nerves
gone, trembling and begging me to protect him.  Richard is a brave
man and has faced many perils in the East.  I had never seen him
like this before.

We sat up late that night and decided, after much discussion, that
we would trust in God and face the climax of this whatever it might
be.  I told him that we must be together from this time on and take
whatever was coming side by side.  I knew that I had some power
with John.

We had not long to wait.

On the evening following Richard's collapse, at about half-past
nine, Richard went up to his room and I went up with him.  I was
sitting in an armchair, Richard on the bed.  The door opened and
John stood there.

I think my first feeling was one of relief that we had all met at
last face to face.  But at once I, who am not, I think, a nervous
or cowardly woman, was stricken with fear.  Dear Eve, I want you to
understand exactly what followed, but it is far from easy to
explain this dreadful moment as I saw and felt it without your
feeling it to be exaggerated and false.  And yet I fancy there must
have been moments in your last weeks with John when you realized
something of the same kind.  This was John and was NOT John.  You
know how, when someone you love and have lived with for a long
time, falls into a sudden tempestuous rage, how the face, the body
even, changes and you feel you are encountering a stranger.  It was
not that the figure in the doorway was in a rage.  It was calm and
controlled with a horrible coldness.  I am exaggerating nothing
when I say that the room seemed to chill around us.  Richard
himself acknowledged this to me afterwards.  The figure looked at
us both, and from those eyes came a gaze so cruel and at the same
time so distant that it belonged to no time, as we recognize time.
Isn't it the worst thing that we feel about Hitler that he has no
human passions, no love, no lusts, no sensuous weakness, no bowels
of compassion?  We are human beings bound all of us together by our
common human experience, and we can imagine nothing more awful than
encountering someone who has had none of our experience and is
bound in no way by our laws, to whom no appeal can ever be made
that he will understand.

This figure that faced us was evil because it was not human.  The
black hat, the dark coat, the gloved hands were a symbol expressing
the whole power of inhuman impersonal evil.

At once, for this that takes so long to tell occupied a very brief
time, I felt, rising in my breast, beating down my fear, an
immeasurable overwhelming pity for John.  Something infinitely
greater than myself filled my soul.  At the same time I felt a
disgust, a sickness of revolt as though I were seeing some
appalling cruelty to children or animals.

I prayed to God.  I implored Him to give me strength to fight the
force confronting us.  I knew then, Eve, in a swift impulse of
revelation, that everything I had been, done, and suffered was to
count now.  Had I suffered that much less in the past--mental,
spiritual, physical suffering--the less strong would I be now.

I rose and cried out as though I were summoning the dead:

'John!  John!  John!'

The figure moved forward into the room.  In its gloved hand was a
revolver.  I saw that and Richard saw it, too, but I think neither
of us felt the least fear of it, for as the figure stepped further
into the light, its face was quite dreadful to see.  It was not the
cold, passionless stare of the eyes, the pallid, swollen, baglike
folds of the flesh, the mouth slightly parted, but sharp like a
trap--it was rather the absence of all humanity and the sense of
horrible timelessness as though, for ever and ever, it had been
exactly thus and would continue for ever so.

Then I fought it.  There was, of course, no physical contact.  I
should have died, I think, had there been.  I don't know, Eve, what
I said or even if I spoke.  But my spirit saw John's spirit
struggling to be free.  With all that was good in me, with
everything that had ever been worthy in my life, I fought for that
spirit.  My spirit said:  'John, John, I am with you.  Don't be
afraid.  You are escaping!  You will soon be free!  You will be
free, John!  Be brave!  I am with you!'

The figure raised its hand.  There was no other motion.  Into that
evil, timeless face there came movement.  A fearful struggle.  I
seemed to have John's body in my hands.  It was as though, between
my hands, I felt the battle to be free.  I cried out to God, and in
myself I realized a power I had never known before, like the sun
breaking on to a sullen plain, a warmth, a heat, a consciousness of
resurrection.  The face with which my whole soul was battling broke
up.  The eyes dulled.  The mouth trembled.

A deep, bitter, heart-breaking sigh trembled on the air.

The figure turned on one foot, seemed about to fall, then, with
bent hand, directed the revolver into itself.

We heard the report as though from a great way off.

At last Richard came over to the body, and very gently, reverently,
turned it over.

There was lying there, Eve, the old John, the face thin and drawn,
the eyes staring with a peaceful happiness--John, as you and I for
so long knew him and loved him.

I can tell you only, dear Eve, that I have spoken the truth as _I_
found it.

We are in God's hands now and always.

Your affectionate friend,

LEILA TUNSTALL.



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