In the Wilderness
Part 10 out of 15
The Canon stared at him almost sternly.
"We'd better not waste time," he said. "I wish you'd gone in then."
And he turned bruskly. He had opened the door, and was about to step
on to the broad path which divided the front of the house from the
lawn, when he heard steps approaching swiftly on the gravel.
"Some one coming!" he said. "Stop where you are, Darlington. I believe
its . . ."
Before he could finish his sentence Rosamund came upon him out of the
darkness. Her face was distorted, so distorted that he scarcely
recognized it. It seemed to have shrunk and sharpened, and it had the
look of fierceness which is characteristic of the faces of starving
people. She put out both her hands as she came up to him, pushed him
with violence into the house, and followed him.
"Lock the door!" she whispered. "Lock it! Lock it!"
Her voice rose. She seemed savage with fear.
"Lock it, I tell you!"
A long arm shot out and a bony hand turned the key in the door.
"It's the only thing to be done for the moment," said Mr. Darlington
to the Canon. "She's mad with fear."
Both the maids had disappeared, terrified by the face of their
mistress. Rosamund caught hold of the stair-rail and began to hurry
upstairs, but Mr. Darlington followed her and seized her by the arm.
"Rosamund! Rosamund! What is it?"
"I'm going to find Robin. That man's killed Robin! Keep him out! Keep
him away from me!"
A dreadful surreptitious expression made her face hideous. She leaned
forward, nodding her head, and whispered in Mr. Darlington's ear:
"/You/ keep him away from me while I find Robin. He's killed Robin!"
Her whole body began to shake. Mr. Darlington put one arm round her.
Below, the handle of the door leading to the garden was turned, the
door was shaken, and there came a knocking on the wood.
Then Mr. Darlington heard again the cry which had come to him that
evening as he passed the garden of Little Cloisters. His arm dropped.
Rosamund went frantically up the stairs and disappeared on the dark
THE UNKNOWN GOD
In June of the following year two young Englishmen, who were making a
swift tour of the near East, were sitting one evening in a public
garden at Pera. The west wind, which had been blowing all day, had
gone down with the coming of night. The air was deliciously warm, but
not sultry. The travelers had dined well, but not too well, and were
ready to be happy, and to see in others the reflection of their own
contented holiday mood. It was delightful to be "on the loose,"
without responsibilities, and with a visit to Brusa to look forward to
in the immediate future. They sat under the stars, sipped their
coffee, listened to the absurd music played by a fifth-rate band in a
garishly-lighted kiosk, and watched with interest the coming and going
of the crowd of Turks and Perotes, with whom mingled from time to time
foreign sailors from ships lying off the entrance to the Golden Horn
and a few tourists from the hotels of Pera. Just behind them sat their
guide, a thin and eager Levantine, half-Greek and half-Armenian, who,
for some inscrutable reason, declared that his name was John.
There was little romance in this garden set in the midst of the noisy
European quarter of Constantinople. The music was vulgar; Greek
waiters with dissipated faces ran to and fro carrying syrups and
liqueurs; corpulent Turks sat heavily over glasses of lager beer;
overdressed young men of enigmatic appearance, with oily thick hair,
shifty eyes, and hands covered with cheap rings, swaggered about
smoking cigarettes and talking in loud, ostentatious voices. Some
women were there, fat and garish for the most part, liberally powdered
and painted, and crowned with hats at which Paris would have stared
almost in fear. There were also children, dark, even swarthy, with
bold eyes, shrill voices, immodest bearing, who looked as if they had
long since received the ugly freedom of the streets, and learned
lessons no children ought to know.
Presently the band stopped playing and there was a general movement of
the crowd. People got up from the little tables and began to disperse.
"John" leaned forward to his employers, and in a quick and rattling
voice informed them that a "fust-rate" variety entertainment was about
to take place in another part of the garden. Would they come to see
it? There would be beautiful women, very fine girls such as can only
be gazed on in Constantinople, taking part in the "show."
The young men agreed to "have a look at it," and followed John to a
place where many round tables and chairs were set out before a
ramshackle wooden barrack of a theatre, under the shade of some pepper
trees, through whose tresses the stars peeped at a throng and a
performance which must surely have surprised them.
The band, or a portion of it, was again at work, playing an inane
melody, and upon the small stage two remarkably well-developed and
aquiline-featured women of mature age, dressed as very young children
in white socks, short skirts which displayed frilled drawers, and
muslin bonnets adorned with floating blue and pink ribbons, swayed to
and fro and joined their cracked voices in a duet, the French words of
which seemed to exhale a sort of /fade/ obscenity. While they swayed
and jigged heavily, showing their muscular legs to the staring
audience, they gazed eagerly about, seeking an admiration from which
they might draw profit when their infantile task was over. Presently
they retired, running skittishly, taking small leaps into the air, and
aimlessly blowing kisses to the night.
"Very fine girls!" murmured John to his young patrons. "They make much
money in Pera."
One of the young men shrugged his shoulders with a smile.
"Get us two Turkish coffees, John!" he said. Then he turned to his
companion. "I say, Ellis, have you noticed an English feller--at least
I take him to be English--who's sitting over there close to the stage,
sideways to us?"
"No; where is he?" asked his companion.
"You see that old Turk with the double chin?"
"Just beyond him, sitting with a guide who's evidently Greek."
"I've got him."
"Watch him. I never saw such a face."
A blowzy young woman, in orange color and green, with short tinsel-
covered skirts, bounded wearily on to the stage, smiling, and began to
"Je suis une boite de surprises!
O la la! O la la!
Je suis une boite de surprises."
Ellis looked across at the man to whom his attention had been drawn.
This man was seated by a little table on which were a siphon, a bottle
of iced water, and a tall tumbler nearly half-full of a yellow liquid.
He was smoking a large dark-colored cigar which he now and then took
from his mouth with a hand that was very thin and very brown. His face
was dark and browned by the sun, but looked startlingly haggard, as if
it were pale or even yellowish under the sunburn. About the eyes there
were large wrinkles, spraying downwards over the cheek bones and
invading the cheeks. He wore a mustache, and was well-dressed in a
tweed suit. But his low collar was not very fresh, and his tie was
arranged in a slovenly fashion and let his collar stud be seen. He sat
with his legs crossed, staring at the grimacing woman on the stage
with a sort of horribly icy intentness. The expression about his lips
and eyes was more than bitter; it showed a frozen fierceness.
On the other side of the table was seated a lean, meager guide,
obviously one of those Greeks who haunt the quays of Constantinople on
the look out for arriving travelers. Now and then this Greek leaned
forward and, with a sort of servile and anxious intelligence, spoke to
his companion. He received no reply. The other man went on smoking and
staring at the /boite de surprises/ as if he were alone. And somehow
he seemed actually to be alone, encompassed by a frightful solitude.
"A tragic face, isn't it?" said the man who had first spoken.
"By Jove it is!" returned the officer. "I wonder that woman can go on
singing so close to it."
"Probably she hasn't seen him. How many years do you give him?"
"Thirty-eight or forty."
"He isn't out for pleasure, that's certain."
"Pleasure! One would suppose he'd been keeping house with Medusa and--
the deuce, she's seen him!"
At this moment the singer looked towards the stranger, quavered,
faltered, nearly broke down, then, as if with an effort, raised her
voice more shrilly and defiantly, exaggerated her meaningless gestures
and looked away. A moment later she finished her song and turned to
strut off the stage. As she did so she shot a sort of fascinated
glance at the dark man. He took his cigar from his mouth and puffed
the smoke towards her, probably without knowing that he did so. With a
startled jerk she bounded into the wings.
At this moment John returned with two cups of coffee.
"You know everything, John. Tell us who that man over there is," said
Ellis, indicating the stranger.
John sent a devouring glance past the old Turk's double chin, a glance
which, as it were, swallowed at one gulp the dark man, his guide, the
siphon, the water-bottle and the glass partially full of the yellow
"I dunno him. He is noo."
"Is he English?"
"Sure!" returned John, almost with a sound of contempt.
He never made a mistake about any man's nationality, could even tell a
Spanish Jew from a Portuguese Jew on a dark night at ten yards'
"I tell you who he is later. I know the guide, a damned fool and a
rogue of a Greek that has been in prison. He robs all his people what
"You needn't bother," said Ellis curtly.
"Of course not. Shut up, John, and don't run down your brothers in
"That man my brother!"
John upraised two filthy ringed hands.
"That dirty skunk my brother! That son of--"
"That'll do, John! Be quiet."
"To-morrow I till you all about the gentleman. Here is another fine
girl! I know her very well."
A languid lady, with a face painted as white as a wall, large scarlet
lips, eyes ringed with bluish black, and a gleaming and trailing black
gown which clung closely to her long and snake-like body, writhed on
to the stage, looking carefully sinister.
The dark man swallowed his drink, got up and made his way to the exit
from the garden. He passed close to the two young men, followed by his
Greek, at whom John cast a glance of scowling contempt, mingled,
however, with very definite inquiry.
"By Jove! He's almost spoilt my evening," said Ellis. "But we made a
mistake, Vernon. He isn't anything like forty."
"No; more like thirty under a cloud."
"By the look of things I should guess there are plenty of people under
a cloud in Pera. But that English feller stands out even here. This
girl is certainly a first-class wriggler, if she's nothing else."
They did not mention the stranger again that night. But John had not
forgotten him, and when he arrived at their hotel next day he at once
opened his capacious mouth and let out the following information:
"The gentleman's name is Denton, his other name is Mervyn, he is three
days in Constantinople, he lives in Hughes's Hotel in Pera, a very
poor house where chic people they never goes, he is out all day and
always walkin', he will not take a carriage, and he is never tired,
Nicholas Gounaris--the Greek guide--he is droppin' but the gentleman
he does not mind, he only sayin' if you cannot walk find me another
guide what can, every night he is out, too, and he is goin' to
Stamboul when it is dark, he is afraid of nothin' and goin' where
travelers they never go, one night Gounaris he had to show the
But at this point Ellis shut John up.
"That'll do," he observed. "You're a diligent rascal, John. One must
say that. But we aren't a couple of spies, and we don't want to hear
any more about that feller."
And John, without bearing any malice, went off to complete his
arrangements for the journey to Brusa.
Two days later, Mrs. Clarke, who was at Buyukderer in a villa she had
taken for the summer months, but who had come into Constantinople to
do some shopping, saw "Mervyn Denton" in a side street close to the
British Embassy. Those distressed eyes of hers were very observant.
There were many people in the street, and "Denton," who was alone, was
several yards away from her, and was walking with his back towards
her; but she immediately recognized him, quickened her steps till she
was close to him, and then said:
Dion heard the husky voice and turned round. He did not say anything,
but he took off the soft hat he was wearing. Mrs. Clarke stared at him
with the unself-conscious directness which was characteristic of her.
She saw Dion for the first time since the tragedy which had changed
his life, but she had written to him more than once. Her last letter
had come from Buyukderer. He had answered it, but he had not told her
where he was, had not even hinted to her that he might come to
Constantinople. Nevertheless, she did not now show any surprise. She
just looked at him steadily, absorbed all the change in him swiftly,
and addressed herself to the new man who stood there before her.
"Come with me to the Hotel de Paris. I'm spending the night there, and
go back to-morrow to Buyukderer. I had something to do in town."
She had not given him her hand, and he did not attempt to take it. He
put on his hat, turned and walked at her side. Neither of them spoke a
word until they had come into the uproar of the Grande Rue, which
surrounded them with a hideous privacy. Then Mrs. Clarke said;
"Where are you staying?"
"At Hughes's Hotel."
"I never heard of it."
"It's in Brusa Street. It's cheap."
"And horrible," she thought.
But she did not say so.
"I have only been here three days," Dion added.
"Do you remember that I once said to you I knew you would come back to
For a moment his face was distorted. When she saw that she looked away
gravely, at the glittering shops and at the Perotes who were passing
by with the slow and lounging walk which they affect in the Grande
Rue. Presently she heard him say:
"You were right. It was all arranged. It was all planned out. Even
then I believe I knew it would be so, that I should come back here."
"Why have you come?"
"I don't know," he answered, and his voice, which had been hard and
fierce, became suddenly dull.
"He really believes that," she thought.
"Here is the hotel," she said. "I'm all alone. Jimmy has been out, but
has had to go back to Eton. I wish you had seen him."
"Oh no!" said Dion, almost passionately.
They went up in a lift, worked by a Montenegrin boy with a big round
forehead, to her sitting-room on the second floor. It was large, bare
and clean, with white walls and awnings at the windows. She rang the
bell. A Corsican waiter came and she ordered tea. The roar of the
street noises penetrated into the shadowy room through the open
windows, and came to Dion like heat. He remembered the silence of
Claridge's. Suddenly his head began to swim. It seemed to him that his
life, all of it that he had lived till that moment, was spinning round
him, and that, as it spun, it gave out a deafening noise and
glittered. He sat down on a chair which was close to a small table,
laid his arms on the table, and hid his face against them. Still the
deafening noise continued. The sum of it was surely made up of the
uproar of the Grand Rue with the uproar of his spinning life added to
it. He saw yellow balls ringed with pale blue rapidly receding from
his shut eyes.
Mrs. Clarke looked at him for a moment; then she went into the
adjoining bedroom and shut the door behind her. She did not come back
till the waiter knocked and told her that tea was ready. Then she
opened the door. She had taken off her hat and gloves, and looked very
white and cool, and very composed.
Dion was standing near the windows. The waiter, who had enormously
thick mustaches, and who evidently shaved in the evening instead of in
the morning, was going out at the farther door. He shut it rather
"Every one makes a noise in Pera. It's /de rigueur/," said Mrs.
Clarke, coming to the tea-table.
"Do you know," said Dion, "I used to think /you/ looked punished?"
There was a sudden defiance in her voice which he had never heard in
it before. He came up to the table.
"Yes. In London I used to think you had a punished look and even a
haunted look. Wasn't that ridiculous? I didn't know then what it meant
to be punished, or to be haunted. I hadn't enough imagination to know,
not nearly enough. But some one or something's seen to it that I shall
know all about punishment and haunting. So I shall never be absurd
about you again."
After a pause she said:
"I wonder why you thought that about me?"
"I don't know. It just came into my head."
"Well, sit down and let us have our tea."
Dion sat down mechanically, and Mrs. Clarke poured out the tea.
"I wish it was Buyukderer," she said.
"Oh, I like the uproar."
"No, you don't--you don't. Pera is spurious, and all its voices are
spurious voices. To-morrow morning, before I go back, you and I will
go to Eyub."
"To the dust and the silence and the cypresses--O God!" said Dion.
He got up from his chair. He was beginning to tremble. Was it coming
upon him at last then, the utter breakdown which through all these
months he had--somehow--kept at a distance? Determined not to shake,
he exerted his will violently, till he felt as if he were with
dreadful difficulty holding, keeping together, a multitude of living,
struggling things, which were trying to get away out of his grasp. And
these living things were the multitudinous parts of the whole which
All that now was had been foreshadowed. There had been writing on the
"I am grateful to you for several things. I'm not going to give you
the list now. Some day, perhaps, I shall tell you what they are . . .
among the cypresses of Eyub."
She had said that to him in London, and her voice had been fatalistic
as she spoke; and in the street that same day, on his way home, the
voice of the boy crying the last horror had sounded to him like a
voice from the sea, a strange and sad cry lifted up between Europe and
Asia. And now----
"How did you know?" he said. "How did you know that we should be here
together some day?"
"Sit down. You must sit down."
She put her languid and imperative hand on his wrist, and he sat down.
He took her hand and put it against his forehead for a moment. But
that was no use. For her hand seemed to add fever to his fever.
"I have seen you standing amongst graves in the shadow of cypress
trees," he said. "In England I saw you like that. But--how did you
"Drink your tea. Don't hurry. We've got such a long time."
"I have. I have all the days and nights--every hour of them--at my own
disposal. I'm the freest man on earth, I suppose. No work, no ties."
"You've given up everything?"
"Oh, of course. That is, the things that were still left to me to give
up. They didn't mean much."
"Eat something," she said, in a casual voice, pushing a plate of
delicious little cakes towards him.
He took one and ate. He regained self-control, but he knew that at any
moment, if anything unusual happened, or if he dared to think, or to
talk, seriously about the horror of his life, he would probably go
down with a crash into an abyss in which all of his manhood, every
scrap of his personal dignity, would be utterly lost. And still almost
blindly he held on to certain things in the blackness which
encompassed him. He still wished to play the man, and though in
bitterness he had tried sometimes to sink down in degradation, his
body--or so it had seemed to him--had resisted the will of the injured
soul, which had said to it, "Go down into the dirt; seek satisfaction
there. Your sanity and your purity of life have availed you nothing.
From them you have had no reward. Then seek the rewards of the other
life. Thousands of men enjoy them. Join that crowd, and put all the
anemic absurdities of so-called goodness behind you."
He had almost come to hate the state he conceived of as goodness; yet
the other thing, its opposite, evil, he instinctively rebelled against
and even almost feared. The habit of a life-time was not to be broken
in a day, or even in many days. Often he had thought of himself as
walking in nothingness, because he rejected evil.
Goodness had ruthlessly cast him out; and so far he had made no other
friend, had taken no other comrade to his bruised and bleeding heart.
Mrs. Clarke began to talk to him quietly. She talked abut herself, and
he knew that she did this not because of egoism, but because
delicately she wished to give him a full opportunity for recovery. She
had seen just where he was, and she had understood his recoil from the
abyss. Now she wished, perhaps, to help him to draw back farther from
it, to draw back so far that he would no longer see it or be aware of
So she talked of herself, of her life at Buyukderer in the summer, and
in Pera in the autumn and spring.
"I don't go out to Buyukderer till the middle of May," she said, "and
I come back into town at the end of September."
"You manage to stand Pera for some months every year?" said Dion,
listening at first with difficulty, and because he was making a
"Yes. An Englishwoman--even a woman like me--can't live in Stamboul.
And Pera, odious as it is, is in Constantinople, in the city which has
a spell, though you mayn't feel it yet."
She was silent for a moment, and they heard the roar from the Grande
Rue, that street which is surely the noisiest in all Europe. Hearing
it, Dion thought of the silence of the Precincts at Welsley. That
sweet silence had cast him out. Hell must be full of roaring noises
and of intense activities. Then Mrs. Clarke went on talking. There was
something very feminine and gently enticing in her voice, which
resembled no other voice ever heard by Dion. He felt kindness at the
back of her talk, the wish to alleviate his misery if only for a
moment, to do what she could for him. She could do nothing, of course.
Nevertheless he began to feel grateful to her. She was surely unlike
other women, incapable of bearing a grudge. For he had not been very
"nice" to her in the days when he was happy and she was in
difficulties. At this moment he vaguely exaggerated his lack of
"niceness," and perhaps also her pardoning temperament. In truth, he
was desperately in need of a touch from the magic wand of sympathy.
Believing, or even perhaps knowing, that to the incurably wounded man
palliatives are of no lasting avail, he had deliberately fled from
them, and gone among those who had no reason to bother about him. But
now he was grateful.
"Go on talking," he said once, when she stopped speaking. And she
continued talking about her life. She said nothing more about Jimmy.
The Corsican waiter came and took away the tea things noisily. Her
spell was broken. For a moment Dion felt dazed.
He got up.
"I ought to go," he said.
"Must!--Oh no! My time is my own, and always will be, I suppose."
"You have thrown up everything?"
"What else could I do? The man who killed his own son! How could I
stay in London, go among business men who knew me, talk about
investments to clients? Suppose you had killed Jimmy!"
There was a long silence. Then he said:
"I've given up my name. I call myself Mervyn Denton. I saw the name in
a novel I opened on a railway bookstall."
She got up and came near to him quietly.
"This is all wrong," she said.
"All you are doing, the way you are taking it all."
"What other way is there of taking such a thing?"
"Will you come with me to Eyub to-morrow?"
"It was written long ago that I am to go there with you. I'm quite
sure of that."
"I'll tell you what I mean there to-morrow."
She looked towards the window.
"It's like the roar of hell," he said.
And he went away.
That night Mrs. Clarke dined alone downstairs in the restaurant. The
cooking at the Hotel de Paris was famous, and attracted many men from
the Embassies. Presently Cyril Vane, one of the secretaries at the
British Embassy, came in to dine. He had with him a young Turkish
gentleman, who was called away by an agent from the Palace in the
middle of dinner. Vane, thus left alone, presently got up and came to
Mrs. Clarke's table.
"May I sit down and talk to you for a little?" he said, with a manner
that testified to their intimacy. "My guest has deserted me."
"Yes, do. Tell the waiter to bring the rest of your dinner here."
"But I have finished."
"Light your cigar then."
"If you don't mind."
They talked for a few minutes about the things of every day and the
little world they both lived in on the Bosporus; then Mrs. Clarke
"I met a friend from England unexpectedly to-day."
"A man called Dion Leith."
"Dion Leith?" repeated Vane.
He looked at her earnestly.
"Now wait a moment!"
His large, cool blue eyes became meditative.
"It's on the edge of my mind who that is, and yet I can't remember. I
don't know him, but I'm sure I know of him."
"He fought in the South African War."
Suddenly Vane leaned forward. He was frowning.
"I've got it! He fought, came back with the D.C.M., and only a few
days afterwards killed his only child, a son, out shooting. I remember
the whole thing now, the inquest at which he was entirely exonerated
and the rumors about his wife. She's a beautiful woman, they say."
"She took it very badly, didn't she?"
"What do you mean by very badly?"
"Didn't she bear very hard on him?"
"She couldn't endure to see him, or to have him near her. Is that very
"You stand up for her then?"
"She was first and foremost a mother."
"Do you know," Vane said rather dryly, "you are the only woman I never
hear speak against other women. But when the whole thing was an
"We can't always be quite fair, or quite reasonable, when a terrible
shock comes to us."
"It's a problem, a terrible problem of the affections," Vane said.
"Had she loved her husband? Do you know?"
"I know that he loved her very much," said Mrs. Clarke. "He is here
under an assumed name."
Vane looked openly surprised and even, for a moment, rather
"But then----" He paused.
"Why did I give him away?"
"Because I wish to force him to face things fully and squarely. It's
his only chance."
"Won't he be angry?"
"But I don't mind that."
"You've had a reason in telling me," said Vane quietly. "What is it?"
"Come up to my sitting-room. We'll have coffee there."
"Willingly. I feel your spell even when you're weaving it for another
Mrs. Clarke did not reject the compliment. She only looked at Vane,
In the morning Mrs. Clarke sent a messenger to Hughes's Hotel asking
Dion to meet her at the landing-place on the right of the Galata
Bridge at a quarter to eleven.
"We will go to Eyub by caique," she wrote, "and lunch at a Turkish
café I know close to the mosque."
She drove to the bridge. When she came in sight of it she saw Dion
standing on it alone, looking down on the crowded water-way. He was
leaning on the railing, and his right cheek rested on the palm of his
brown hand. Mrs. Clarke smiled faintly as she realized that this man
who was waiting for her had evidently forgotten all about her.
She dismissed the carriage, paid the toll and walked on to the bridge.
As usual there was a crowd of pedestrians passing to and fro from
Galata to Stamboul and from Stamboul to Galata. She mingled with it,
went up to Dion and stood near him without uttering a word. For
perhaps two minutes she stood thus before he noticed her. Then he
turned and sent her a hard, almost defiant glance before he recognized
who his companion was.
"Oh, I didn't know it was---- Why didn't you speak? Is it time to go?
I meant to be at the landing."
He spoke like a man who had been a long way off, and who returned
weary and almost dazed from that distance. He looked at his watch.
"Please forgive me for putting you to the trouble of coming to find
"You needn't ever ask me to forgive you for anything. Don't let us
bother each other with all the silly little things that worry the
fools. We've got beyond all that long ago. There's my caique."
She made a signal with her hand. Two Albanians below saluted her.
"Shall we go at once? Or would you rather stay here a little longer?"
"Let us go. I was only looking at the water."
He turned and sent a long glance to Stamboul.
"Your city!" he said.
"I shall take you."
For the first time that day he looked at her intimately, and his look
"Why do you trouble about me?"
They went down, got into the caique, and were taken by the turmoil of
the Golden Horn. Among the innumerable caiques, the steamboats, the
craft of all kinds, they went out into the strong sunshine, guarded on
the one hand by the crowding, discolored houses of Galata rising to
Pera, on the other hand by the wooden dwellings and the enormous
mosques of Stamboul. The voices of life pursued them over the water
and they sat in silence side by side. Dion made no social attempt to
entertain his companion. Had she not just said to him that long ago
they had gone beyond all the silly little things that worry the fools?
In the midst of the fierce activity and the riot of noise which marks
out the Golden Horn from all other water-ways, they traveled towards
emptiness, silence, the desolation on the hill near the sacred place
of the Turks, where each new Sultan is girded with the sword of Osman,
and where the standard-bearer of the Prophet sleeps in the tomb that
was seen in a vision.
In the strong heat of noon they left the caique and walked slowly
towards the hill which rises to the north-east, where the dark towers
of the cypresses watch over the innumerable graves. Mrs. Clarke had
put up a sun umbrella. Her face was protected by a thin white veil.
She wore a linen dress, pale gray in color, with white lines on it,
and long loose gloves of suede. She looked extraordinarily thin. Her
unshining, curiously colorless hair was partly covered by a small hat
of burnt straw, turned sharply and decisively up on the left side and
trimmed with a broad riband of old gold. Dion remembered that he had
thought of her once as a vision seen in water. Now he was with her in
the staring definite clearness of a land dried by the heats of summer
and giving to them its dust. And she was at home in this aridity. In
the dust he was aware of the definiteness of her. Since the blackness
had overtaken him people had meant to him less than shadows gliding on
a wall mean to a joyous man. Often he had observed them, even sharply
and with a sort of obstinate persistence; he had been trying to force
them to become real to him. Invariably he had failed in his effort.
Mrs. Clarke was real to him as she walked in silence beside him,
between the handsome railed-in mausoleums which line the empty roads
from the water's edge almost to the mosque of the Conqueror. A banal
phrase came to his lips, "You are in your element here." But he held
it back, remembering that they walked in the midst of dust.
Leaving the mosque they ascended the hill and passed the Tekkeh of the
dancing dervishes. All around them were the Turkish graves with their
leaning headstones, or their headstones fallen and lying prone in the
light flaky earth above the smoldering corpses of the dead. Here and
there tight bunches of flowers were placed upon the graves. Gaunt
shadows from old cypresses fell over some of them, defining the
sunlight. Below was the narrowing sea, the shallow north-west arm of
the Golden Horn, which stretches to Kiathareh, where are the sweet
waters of Europe, and to Kiahat Haneh.
"We'll sit here," said Mrs. Clarke presently.
And she sat down, with the folding ease almost of an Oriental, on the
warm earth, and leaned against the fissured trunk of a cypress.
Casually she had seemed to choose the resting-place, but she had
chosen it well. More times than she could count she had come to that
exact place, had leaned against that cypress and looked down the
Golden Horn to the divided city, one-half of which she loved as she
loved few things, one-half of which she endured for the sake of the
"From here," she said to Dion, "I can feel Stamboul."
He had lain down near to her sideways and rested his cheek on his
hand. The lower half of his body was in sunshine, but the cypress
threw its shadow over his head and shoulders. As Mrs. Clarke spoke he
looked down the Golden Horn to the Turkish city, and his eyes were
held by the minarets of its mosques. Seldom had he looked at a minaret
without thinking of prayer. He thought of prayer now, and then of his
dead child, of the woman he had called wife, and of the end of his
happiness. The thought came to him:
"I was kept safe in the midst of the dangers of war for a reason; and
that reason was that I might go back to England and kill my son."
And yet every day men went up into these minarets and called upon
other men to bow themselves and pray.
God is great. . . .
In the sunlit silence of the vast cemetery the wheels of Dion's life
seemed for a moment to cease from revolving.
God is great--great in His power to inflict misery upon men. And so
pray to Him! Mount upon the minarets, go up high, till you are taken
by the blue, till, at evening, you are nearer to the stars than other
men, and pray to Him and proclaim His glory. For He is the repository
of the power to cover you with misery as with a garment, and to lay
you even with the dust. Pray then--pray! Unless the garment is upon
you, unless the dust is already about you!
Dion lay on the warm earth and looked at the distant minarets, and
smiled at the self-seeking slave-instinct in men, which men sought to
glorify, to elevate into a virtue.
"Why are you smiling?" said a husky voice above.
He did not look up, but he answered:
"Because I was looking at those towers of prayer."
She was silent for a few minutes; after a while she said:
"You remember the first time you met me?"
"I was in difficulties then. They culminated in the scandal of my
divorce case. Tell me, how did you think I faced all that trouble?"
"With marvelous courage."
"In what other way can thoroughbred people face an enemy? Suppose I
had lost instead of won, suppose Jimmy had been taken from me, do you
think it would have broken me?"
"I can't imagine anything breaking you," said Dion. "But I don't
believe you ever pray."
"What has that to do with it?"
"I believe the people who pray are the potential cowards."
"Do you pray?"
"Not now. That's why I was smiling when I looked at the minarets. But
I don't make a virtue of it. I have nothing to pray for."
"Well then, if you have put away prayer, that means you are going to
rely on yourself."
"For all the sustaining you will need in the future. The people
commonly called good think of God as something outside themselves to
which they can apply in moments of fear, necessity and sorrow. If you
have really got beyond that conception you must rely on yourself, find
in yourself all you need."
"But I need nothing--you don't understand."
"You nearly told me yesterday."
"Perhaps if you hadn't gone out of the room I should have been obliged
to tell you, but not because I wished to."
"I understood that. That is why I went out of the room and left you
For the first time Dion looked up at her. She had lifted her veil, and
her haggard, refined face was turned towards him.
"Thank you," he said.
At that moment he liked her as he had never liked her in the past.
"Can you tell me now because you wish to?"
"Here among the graves?"
Again he looked at the distant minarets lifted towards the blue near
the way of the sea. But he said nothing. She shut her sun umbrella,
laid it on the ground beside her, pulled off her gloves and spread
them out on her knees slowly. She seemed to be hesitating; for she
looked down and for a moment she knitted her brows. Then she said;
"Tell me why you came to Constantinople."
"If I hadn't met you in the street by chance, would you have come to
"I don't think I should."
"And yet it was I who willed you to come here."
Dion did not seem surprised. There was something remote in him which
perhaps could not draw near to such a simple commonplace feeling in
that moment. He had gone out a long way, a very long way, from the
simple ordinary emotions which come upon, or beset, normal men living
"Did you?" he asked. "Why?"
"I thought I could do something for you. I began last night."
"Doing something for you. I told an acquaintance of mine called Vane,
who is attached to the British Embassy, that you were here."
A fierce flush came into Dion's face.
"I said you would probably come out to Buyukderer," she continued,
"and that I wanted to bring you to the summer Embassy and to introduce
you to the Ambassador and Lady Ingleton."
Dion sat up and pressed his hands palm downwards on the ground.
"I shall not go. How could you say that I was here? You know I had
dropped my own name."
"I gave it back to you deliberately."
"I think that was very brutal of you," he said, in a low voice, tense
"You wanted to be very kind to me when I was in great difficulties.
Circumstances got rather in the way. That doesn't matter. The
intention was there, though you were too chivalrous to go very far in
"Chivalrous to whom?"
His face went pale under its sunburn.
"What are you doing?" he said, in a low voice that was almost
terrible. "Where are you taking me?"
"Into the way you must walk in. Dion--"--even in calling him by his
Christian name for the first time her voice sounded quite impersonal--
"you've done nothing wrong. You have nothing, absolutely nothing, to
be ashamed of. Kismet! We have to yield to fate. If you slink through
the rest of your years on earth, if you get rid of your name and hide
yourself away, you will be just a coward. But you aren't a coward, and
you are not going to act like one. You must accept your fate. You must
take it right into your heart bravely and proudly, or, if you can't do
that, stoically. I should."
"If you had killed Jimmy?"
She was silent.
"If you had killed Jimmy?" he repeated, in a hard voice.
"I should never hide myself. I should always face things."
"You haven't had the blow I have had. I know I am not in fault. I know
I have nothing to blame myself for. I wasn't even careless with my
gun. If I had been I could never have forgiven myself. But I wasn't."
"It was the pony. I know. I read the account of the inquest. You were
"Yes. The coroner and the jury expressed their deep sympathy with me,"
he said, with intense bitterness. "They realized how--how I loved my
little boy. But the woman I loved more even than my boy, whom I had
loved for ever since I first saw her--well, she didn't feel at all as
the coroner and the jury did."
"Where is she? I hear now and then from Beatrice Daventry, but she
never mentions her sister."
"She is in Liverpool doing religious work, I believe. She has given
herself to religion."
"What does that mean exactly?"
"People give themselves to God, don't they, sometimes?"
"Do they?" said Mrs. Clarke, with her curious grave directness, which
seemed untouched by irony.
"It seems a way out of--things. But she always had a tendency that
"Towards the religious life?"
"Yes. She always cared for God a great deal more than she cared for
me. She cared for God and for Robin, and she seemed to be just
beginning to care for me when I deprived her of Robin. Since then she
has hated me."
He spoke quietly, sternly. All the emotion of which she had been
conscious on the previous afternoon had left him.
"I didn't succeed in making her love me!" he continued. "I thought I
had gained a good deal in South Africa. When I came back I felt I was
starting again, and that I should carry things through. Robin felt the
difference in me directly. He would have got to care for me very much,
and I could have done a great deal for him when he had got older. But
God didn't see things that way. He had planned it all out differently.
When I was with her in Greece, one day I tore down a branch of wild
olive and stripped the leaves from it. She saw me do it, and it
distressed her very much. She had been dreaming over a child, and my
action shattered her dream, I suppose. Women have dreams men can't
quite understand--about children. She forgave me for that almost
directly. She knew I would never have done anything to make her
unhappy even for a moment, if I had thought. Now I have broken her
life to pieces, and there's no question of forgiveness. If there were,
I should not speak of her to you. We are absolutely parted forever.
She would take the hand of the most dreadful criminal rather than my
hand. She has a horror of me. I'm the thing that's killed her child."
He looked down at the dilapidated graves, and then at the lonely water
which seemed trying to hide itself away in the recesses of the bare
"That's how it is. Robin forgave me. He was alive for a moment--after,
and I saw by his eyes he understood. Yes, he understood--he
Suddenly his body began to shake and his arms jerked convulsively.
Instinctively, but quite quietly, Mrs. Clarke put out her hand as if
she were going to lay hold of his right arm.
"No--don't!" he said. "Yesterday your hand made me worse."
She withdrew her hand. Her face did not change. She seemed wholly
unconscious of any rudeness on his part.
"Let's move--let's walk!" he said.
He sprang up. When he was on his feet he regained control of his body.
"I don't know what's the matter with me," he said. "I'm not ill."
"My friend, it will have to come," she said, getting up too.
But she did not reply.
"I've never been like this till now," he added vaguely.
She knew why, but she did not tell him. She was a woman who knew how
They wandered away through that cemetery above the Golden Horn, among
the cypresses and the leaning and fallen tombstones. Now and then they
saw veiled women pausing beside the graves with flowers in their
hands, or fading among the cypress trunks into sunlit spaces beyond.
Now and then they saw a man praying. Once they came to a tomb where
children were sitting in a circle chanting the Koran with a sound like
the sound of bees.
Before they went down to the Turkish cafe, which is close to the holy
mosque, they stood for a long while together on the hillside, looking
at distant Stamboul. The cupolas of the many mosques and the tall and
speary minarets gave their Eastern message--that message which, even
to Protestant men from the lands of the West, is as the thrilling
sound of a still, small voice. And the voice will not be gainsaid; it
whispers, "In the East thou shalt find me if thou hast not found me in
"Why do you care for Stamboul so much?" Dion asked his companion. "I
think you are utterly without religion. I may be wrong, but I think
you are. And Stamboul is full of calls to prayer and of places for men
to worship in."
"Oh, there is something," she answered. "There is the Unknown God."
"The Unknown God?" he repeated, with a sort of still bitterness.
"And His city is Stamboul--for me. When the /muezzin/ calls I bow
myself in ignorance. What /He/ is, I don't know. All I know is that
men cannot explain Him to me, or teach me anything about Him. But
Stamboul has lures for me. It is not only the city of many prayers, it
is also the city of many forgetfulnesses. The old sages said, 'Eat not
thy heart nor mourn the buried Past.' Stay here for a time, and learn
to obey that command. Perhaps, eventually, Stamboul will help you."
"Nothing can help me," he answered.
They went down the hill by the Tekkeh of the Dancing Dervishes.
* * * * *
Mrs. Clarke did not go back to her villa at Buyukderer that day. It
was already late in the afternoon when her caique touched the wharf at
the foot of the Galata bridge.
"I shall stay another night at the hotel," she said to Dion. "Will you
drive up with me?"
He assented. When they reached the hotel he said:
"May I come in for a few minutes?"
When they were in the dim, rather bare room with the white walls,
between which the fierce noises from the Grande Rue found a home, he
"I feel before I leave I must speak about what you did last night, the
message you gave to Vane of our Embassy. I dare say you are right and
that I ought to face things. But no one can judge for a man in my
situation, a man who's had everything cut from under him. I haven't
ended it. That proves I've got a remnant of something--you needn't
call it strength--left in me. Since you've told my name, I'll take it
back. Perhaps it was cowardly to give it up. I believe it was. Robin
might think so, if he knew. And he may know things. But I can't meet
"I'm afraid I did what I did partly for myself," she said, taking off
her little hat and laying it, with her gloves, on a table.
"For yourself? Why?"
"I'll explain to-morrow. I shall see you before I go. Come for me at
ten, will you, and we'll drive to Stamboul. I'll tell you there."
"Please tell me now, if you're not tired after being out all day."
"I'm never tired."
"Once Mrs. Chetwinde told me that you were made of iron."
Mrs. Clarke sent him a curious keen glance of intense and almost
lambent inquiry, but he did not notice it. The strong interest that
notices things was absent from him. Would it ever be in him again?
"I suppose I have a great deal of stamina," she said casually. "Well,
sit down, and I'll try to explain."
She lit a cigarette and sat on a divan in the far corner of the large
room, between one of the windows and the door which led into the
bedroom. Dion sat down, facing her and the noise from the Grande Rue.
He wondered for a moment why she had chosen a place so close to the
"I had a double reason for doing what I did," she said. "One part
unselfish, the other not. I'll be very frank. I willed that you should
"Why did you do that?"
"I wanted to see you. I wanted to help you. You don't think I, or any
one, can do that. You think everything is over for you--"
"I know it is," he interrupted, in a voice which sounded cold and dull
"You think that. Any man like you, in your situation, would think
that. Let us leave it for the moment. I wished you to come here, and
willed you to come here. For some reason you have come. You didn't let
me know you were here, but, by chance as it seems, we met. I don't
mean to lose sight of you. I intend that you shall come either to
Buyukderer, or to some place on the Bosporus not far off that's
endurable in the summer, and that you shall stay there for a time."
"I want to find out if I can be of any good to you."
"You can't. I don't even know why you wish to. But you can't."
"We'll leave that," she said, with inflexible composure. "I don't much
care what you think about it. I shan't be governed, or affected even,
by that. The point is, I mean you to come. How are you to come,
surreptitiously or openly, sneaking in by-ways, your real name
concealed, or treading the highway, your real name known? For your own
sake it must be openly and with your own name, and for my sake too.
You need to face your great tragedy, to stand right up to it. It's
your only chance. A man is always pursued by what he runs away from;
he can always make a friend of what he stands up to."
His voice broke in with the most piercing and bitter irony through the
many noises in the room--sounds of cries, of carriage wheels, of
horses' hoofs ringing on an uneven pavement, of iron shutters being
pulled violently down over shop fronts, of soldiers marching, of
distant bugles calling, of guitars and mandolins accompanying a
"Yes, a friend," said the husky and inflexible, but very feminine
voice, which resembled no other voice of woman that he had ever heard.
"So much for my thought of you. And now for my thought of myself. I am
a woman who has faced a great scandal and come out of it the winner. I
was horribly attacked, and I succeeded in what the papers call
reestablishing my reputation. You and I know very well what that
means. I know by personal experience, you by the behavior of your own
Dion moved abruptly like a man in physical pain, but Mrs. Clarke
"I don't ask you to forgive me for hurting you. You and I must be
frank with each other, or we can be of no use to each other. After
what has happened many women might be inclined to avoid me as your
wife did. Fortunately I have so many friends who believe in me that I
am in a fairly strong position. I don't want to weaken that position
on account of Jimmy. Now, if you came to Buyukderer under an assumed
name, I couldn't introduce you to any one, or explain you without
telling lies. Gossip runs along the shores of the Bosporus like fire
along a hayrick. How can I be seen perpetually with a man whom I never
introduce to any of my friends, who isn't known at his own Embassy?
Both for your own sake and for mine we must be frank about the whole
"But I never said I should come to Buyukderer," he said.
And there was a sort of dull, lifeless obstinacy in his voice.
"You have come to Constantinople and you will come to Buyukderer," she
He looked at her across the room. The light was beginning to fade, but
still the awnings were drawn down beyond the windows, darkening the
large bare room. He saw her as a study in gray and white, with
colorless, unshining hair, a body so thin and flexible that it was
difficult to believe it contained nerves like a network of steel and
muscles capable of prolonged endurance, a face that was haggard in its
white beauty, eyes that looked enormous and fixed in the twilight. The
whole aspect of her was melancholy and determined, beautiful and yet
almost tragic. He felt upon him the listless yet imperative grasp
which he had first known in Mrs. Chetwinde's drawing-room, the grasp
which resembled Stamboul's.
"I suppose I shall go to Buyukderer," he said slowly. "But I don't
know why you wish it."
"I have always liked you."
"Yes, I think you have."
"I don't care to see a man such as you are destroyed by a good woman."
He got up.
"No one is destroying me," he said, with a dull and hopeless defiance.
"Dion, don't misunderstand me. It wouldn't be strange if you thought I
bore your wife a grudge because she didn't care about knowing me. But,
honestly, I am indifferent to a great many things that most women fuss
about. I quite understood her reluctance. Directly I saw her I knew
that she had ideals, and that she expected all those who were
intimately in her life to live up to them. Instead of accepting the
world as it has been created, such women must go one better than the
Creator (if there is one), and invent an imaginary world. Now I
shouldn't be at home in an imaginary world. I'm not good enough for
that, and don't want to be. Your wife is very good, but she lives for
herself, for her own virtues and the peace and happiness she gets out
"She lived for Robin," he interrupted.
"Robin was a part of herself," Mrs. Clarke said dryly. "Women like
that don't know how to love as lovers, because they care for the
virtues in men rather than for the men themselves. They are robed in
ideals, and they are in mortal fear of a speck of dust falling on the
robe. The dust of my scandal was upon me, so your wife avoided me.
That I was innocent didn't matter. I had been mixed up with something
ugly. Your chivalry was instinctively on the side of justice. Her
virtue inclined to the other side. Her virtue is destructive."
He was silent.
"Now it has driven you out like a scapegoat into the wilderness!"
"No, no!" he muttered, without conviction.
"But don't let it destroy you. I would rather deliberately destroy
myself than let any one destroy me. In the one case there's strength
of a kind, in the other there's no strength at all. I speak very
plainly, but I'm not a woman full of ideals. I accept the world just
as it is, men just as they are. If a speck of dust alights on me, I
don't think myself hopelessly befouled; and if some one I loved made a
slip, I should only think that it is human to err and that it's
humanity I love."
"Humanity!" he repeated, looking down. "Ah!" He sighed deeply.
He raised his head.
"And if some one you loved killed your Jimmy?"
"I should love him all the more because of the misery added to him,"
she said firmly. "There's only one thing a really great love can't
"What is it?"
"The deliberate desire and intention to hurt it and degrade it."
"I never had that."
"Then--then you think she never loved me at all?"
But Mrs. Clarke did not answer that question.
The daylight was rapidly failing. She seemed almost to be fading away
in the dimness and in the noises of evening which rose from the Grande
Rue. Yet something of her remained and was very definite, so definite
that even Dion, broken on the wheel and indifferent to casual
influences as few men are ever indifferent, felt it almost powerfully
--the concentration of her will, the unyielding determination of her
mind, active and intense behind the pale mask of her physical body.
He turned away and went to the window farthest from her. He leaned out
to the Grande Rue. Above his head was the sloping awning. It seemed to
him to serve as a sounding-board to the fierce noises of the mongrel
Surely among the voices of the city now filling his ears there was a
husky voice which had said that.
Had Mrs. Clarke spoken?
But not on the familiar road! To do that would be impossible. If there
were indeed any new life for him it must be an utterly different life
from any he had known.
He had tried the straight life of unselfishness, purity, fidelity and
devotion--devotion to a woman and also to a manly ideal. That life had
convulsively rejected him. Had he still within him sufficient energy
of any kind to lay hold on a new life?
For a moment he saw before him under the awning Robin's eyes as they
had been when his little son was dying in his arms.
He drew back from the street. The sitting-room was empty, but the door
between it and the bedroom was open. No doubt Mrs. Clarke had gone in
there to put away her hat. As he looked at the door the Russian maid,
whom he had seen at Park Side, Knightsbridge, came from the inner
"Madame hopes Monsieur will call to see her to-morrow before she
starts to Buyukderer," she said, with her strong foreign accent.
"Thank you," said Dion.
As he went out the maid shut the bedroom door.
Two days later Mrs. Clarke sat with the British Ambassadress in the
British Palace at Therapia, a building of wood with balconies looking
over the Bosporus. She was alone with Lady Ingleton in the latter's
sitting-room, which was filled with curious Oriental things, with
flowers, and with little dogs of the Pekinese breed, who lay about in
various attitudes of contentment, looking serenely imbecile, and as if
they were in danger of water on the brain.
Lady Ingleton was an old friend of Mrs. Clarke, and was a woman wholly
indifferent to the prejudices which govern ordinary persons. She had
spent the greater part of her life abroad, and looked like a weary
Italian, though she was half English, a quarter Irish, and a quarter
French. She was very dark, and had large, dreamy dark eyes which knew
how to look bored, a low voice which could say very sharp things at
times, and a languid manner which concealed more often than it
betrayed an intelligence always on the alert.
"What is it, Cynthia?" said Lady Ingleton. "But first tell me if you
like this Sine carpet. I found it in the bazaar last Thursday, and it
cost the eyes out of my head. Carey, of course, has said for the
hundredth time that I am ruining him, and bringing his red hair in
sorrow to the tomb. Even if I am, it seems to me the carpet is worth
Mrs. Clarke studied the carpet for a moment with earnest attention.
She even knelt down to look closely at it, and passed her hands over
it gently, while Lady Ingleton watched her with a sort of dark and
"It's a marvel," she said, getting up. "If you had let it go I should
almost have despised you."
"Please tell that to Carey when he comes to you to complain. And now,
what is it?"
"You remember several months ago the tragedy of a man called Dion
Leith, who fought in the South African War, came home and almost
immediately after his return killed his only son by mistake out
"Yes. You knew him, I think you said. He was married to that beautiful
Rosamund Everard who used to sing. I heard her once at Tippie
Chetwinde's. Esme Darlington was a great admirer or hers, of course
/pour le bon motif/."
"Dion Leith's here."
"No, in a hideous little hotel in Constantinople."
"I don't think he knows. His wife has given him up. She was a mother,
not a lover, so you can imagine her feelings about the man who killed
her child. It seems she was /une mere folle/. She has left him and,
according to him, has given herself to God. He's in a most peculiar
condition. He was a model husband, absolutely devoted and entirely
irreproachable. Even before marriage, I should think he had kept out
of the way of--things. The athlete with ideals--he was that, one
"How extraordinarily attractive!" said Lady Ingleton, in a lazy and
rather drawling voice.
"So he had a great deal to fasten on the woman who has cast him out.
Just now, like the coffin of Mohammed, he's suspended. That's the
impression I get from him."
"Do you want to bring him down to earth?"
"All he's known and cared for in life has failed him. He was traveling
under an assumed name even, for fear people should point him out as
the man who killed his own son. All that sort of thing is no use. I
gave his secret away deliberately to young Vane, and asked him to
speak to the Ambassador. And now I've come to you. I want you to have
him here once or twice and be nice to him. Then I can see something of
him, poor fellow, and do something for him."
A faint smile curved Lady Ingleton's sensitive lips.
"Of course. Then he's coming to the Bosporus?"
"He'll probably spend some time at Buyukderer. He must face his fate
and take up life again."
"He doesn't intend to do what his wife has done?"
Lady Ingleton was still smiling faintly.
"I should say his experience rather inclines him to take an opposite
"Is he good-looking?"
"What he has been through has ravaged his face."
"That probably makes him much handsomer than he ever was before."
"He hates the thought of meeting any one. But if you will have him
here once or twice, and people know it, it will make things all
"Will he come?"
"You know I always do what you want."
"I never want you to do dull things."
"That's true. The dogs don't come into play against the people you
It was a legend in Constantinople in Embassy circles that Lady
Ingleton always "set the dogs" at bores. Even at official dinners,
when she had as much as she could stand of the heavy bigwigs whom she
was obliged to invite, she surreptitiously touched a bell. This was a
signal to the footman to bring in the dogs, who were trained to yap at
and to investigate closely visitors. The yapping and the
investigations created a feeling of general restlessness and an almost
inevitable movement, which invariably led to the speedy departure of
the unwelcome guests; who went, as Lady Ingleton said, "not knowing
why." Enough that they went! The dogs were rewarded with lumps of
sugar as are the canine performers in a circus. Sir Carey complained
that it was bad diplomacy, but he was devoted to his wife, and even
secretly loved her characteristic selfishness.
"Let Dion Leith come and I'll cast my mantle over him--for your sake,
Cynthia. You are a remarkable woman."
But Lady Ingleton did not say why. There were immense reticences
between her and Cynthia Clarke.
Dion left Hughes's Hotel and went to Buyukderer.
He had not consciously known why he did this. Until he met Mrs. Clarke
near the British Embassy he had scarcely been aware how sordid and
ugly and common under its small ostentations Hughes's Hotel was. She
made him see the dreariness of his surroundings, although she had
never seen them; she made him again aware of things. That she was able
to affect him strongly, although he did not care for her, he knew by
the sudden approach to the brink of a complete emotional breakdown
which she had brought about in him at their first meeting. He
remembered the hand he had taken and had put against his forehead.
There had been no cool solace in it for the fever within him. Why,
then, did he go to Buyukderer? Certainly he did not go in hope. He was
dwelling in a region far beyond where hope can live.
But here was some one who was far away from the land that had seen his
tragedy, and who meant something in connexion with him, who intended
something which had to do with him. In England his mother had been
powerless to help him; Beattie had been powerless to help him. Canon
Wilton had tried to use his almost stern power of manly sincerity on
behalf of the soul of Dion. He and Dion had had a long interview after
the inquest on the little body of Robin was over, and he had drawn
nearer to the inmost chamber than any one else had, though Bruce
Evelin, even in his almost fierce grief for Robin, had been
wonderfully kind and understanding. But even Canon Wilton had utterly
failed to be of any real use. Perhaps he had known Rosamund too well.
Till now Mrs. Clarke was the one human being who had succeeded in
making a definite impression on Dion since Robin's death and
Rosamund's fearful reception of the news of it. He felt her will, and
perhaps he felt something else in her without telling himself that he
did so: her knowledge of a life absolutely different from the life he
had hitherto known, absolutely different, too, from the life known to,
and lived by, those who had been nearest to him and with whom he had
been most closely intimate. The old life with all its associations had
cast him out. That was his feeling. Possibly, without being aware of
it, and driven by the necessity that is within man to lay hold of
something, to seek after refuge in the blackest moments of existence,
he was feebly and instinctively feeling after an unknown life which
was represented to his imagination by the pale beauty of Mrs. Clarke.
She had described his situation as one of suspension between the
heaven and the earth. His heaven had certainly rejected him. Possibly,
without knowing it, and without any hope of future happiness or even
of future peace, he faintly descried her earth; possibly, in going to
Buyukderer, he was making an unconscious effort to gain it.
He wondered about this afterwards, but not at all in the moment of his
going. Things were not clear to him then. He was still in the vague,
but he was not to walk in vagueness forever. Fate which, by its malign
action, had caused him to inflict a frightful injury upon the good
woman he loved still held in reserve for him new and tremendous
experience. He thought that in Welsley he had reached the ultimate
depths which a man can sound. It was not so.
Dion came to Buyukderer on a breezy blue day, a day which seemed full
of hope and elation, which was radiant with sunlight and dancing
waters, and buoyant with ardent life. Gone were those delicate dreamy
influences which sometimes float over the Bosporus even in the
noontides of summer, when the winds are still, and the long shores of
Asia seem to lie wrapped in a soft siesta, holding their secrets of
the Orient closely hidden from the eyes of Europe. Europe gazes at
Asia, but Asia is gravely indifferent to Europe; she listens only to
the voices which come to her from her own depths, and, like an Almeh
reclining, is stirred only by music unknown to the West.
As the steamer on which he traveled voyaged towards the Black Sea,
Dion paced up and down the deck and looked always at the shore of
Asia. That line of hills represented to him the unknown. If he could
only lose himself in Asia and forget! But there was nothing passionate
in his longing. It was only a gray desire born in a broken mind and a
Once during the voyage he thought of Robin. Did Robin know where he
was, whither he was going? Since Rosamund had utterly rejected him,
strangely his dead boy and he had at moments seemed to Dion to be near
to each other encompassed by the same thick darkness. Even once he had
seemed to see Robin groping, like one lost and vainly seeking after
light. His vagueness was broken upon sometimes by fantastic visions.
But to-day he had no consciousness at all of Robin. The veil of death
which hung between him and the child he had slain seemed to be of
stone, absolutely impenetrable. And all his visions had left him.
Palaces and villas came into sight and vanished; Yildiz upon its hill
scattered among the trees of its immense park; Dolmabaghcheh stretched
out along the water's edges, with its rose-beds before it; and its
gravely staring sentinels; Beylerbey Serai on the Asian shore, with
its marble quay and its terraced gardens, not far from Kandili and the
sweet waters of Asia. Presently the Giant's Mountain appeared staring
across the water at Buyukderer. The prow of the steamer was headed for
the European shore. Dion saw the bay opening to receive them under its
wooded hills which are pierced by the great valley. It stretched its
arms as if in welcome, and very calm was the water between them. Here
the wind failed. Along the shore were villas, and gardens rising in
terraces, where roses, lemon trees, laurels grew in almost rank
abundance. Across the water came the soft sound of music, a song of
Greece lifted above the thrumming of guitars. And something in the
aspect of this Turkish haven, sheltered from the winds of that Black
Sea which had come into sight off Kirech Burnu, something in the song
which floated over the water, struck deep into Dion's heart. Abruptly
he was released from his frozen detachment; tears sprang into his
eyes, memories surged up in his mind--memories of a land not very far
from this land; of the maidens of the Porch; of the hill of Drouva
kept by the stars and the sleeping winds; of Zante dreaming of the
sunset; of Hermes keeping watch over the child in the green recesses
"Why do I come here? What have I to do here, or in any place dedicated
to beauty and to peace?"
His brown face twitched, and the wrinkles which sprayed out from his
eyelids over his thin cheeks worked till the network of them seemed to
hold an independent and furious life.
"If I were a happy traveler as I once was!"
The thought pierced him, and was followed immediately by the
remembrance of some words spoken by Mrs. Clarke:
"My friend, it will have to come."
That which had to come, would it come here, in this sheltered place,
where the song died away like a thing enticed by the long valley to be
kept by the amorous trees? Mrs. Clarke's voice had sounded full of
inflexible knowledge when she had spoken these words, and she had
looked at him with eyes that were full of knowledge. It was as if
those eyes had seen the weeping of many men.
The steamer drew near to the shore. The bright bustle of the quay was
apparent. Dion made his effort and conquered himself. But he felt
almost afraid of Buyukderer. In the ugly roar of the Grande Rue he had
surely been safer than he would be here in this place which seemed
planned for intimate happiness.
The steamer came alongside the pier.
When Dion stepped on to the quay a tall young Englishman with broad
shoulders, rather a baby face, and large intelligent blue eyes
immediately walked up to him.
"Are you Mr. Dion Leith?"
Dion, startled, was about to say "No" with determined hostility when
he remembered Mrs. Clarke. He had come here; he was, he supposed,
going to stay here for some days at least; of course he must face
"Yes," he said gruffly.
In an easy, agreeable manner the stranger explained that he was Cyril
Vane, second secretary of the British Embassy, and a friend of Mrs.
Clarke's, and that he had come down at her request to meet Dion, and
to tell him that there was a charming room reserved for him at the
"I'll walk up with you if you like," he added, in a casual voice.
"It's no distance. That your luggage?"
He put it in the charge of a porter from the hotel.
"I'm over at Therapia just now. The Ambassador hopes to see you. He's
a delightful fellow."
He talked pleasantly, and looked remarkably unobservant till they
reached the hotel, where he parted from Dion.
"I dare say I shall see you soon. Very glad to do anything I can for
you. Mrs. Clarke lies at the Villa Hafiz. Any one can tell you where
He walked coolly away in the sun, looking like an immense fair baby in
his thin, light-colored clothes.
"Does he know?" thought Dion, looking after him.
Then he went up into his bedroom which looked out upon the sea. When
the luggage had been brought in and the door was shut, he sat down on
the edge of the bed and stared at the polished uncarpeted floor.
"Why have I come here? What have I to do here?" he thought.
He missed the uproar of Pera. It had exercised a species of pressure
upon his soul, a deadening influence.
Ever since Robin's death he had lived in towns, and had walked about
streets. He had been for a time in Paris, then in Marseilles, where he
had stayed for more than two months haunted by an idea of crossing
over to Africa and losing himself in the vastness of the lands of the
sun. But something had held him back, perhaps a dread of the immense
loneliness which would surely beset him on the other side of the sea;
and he had gone to Geneva, then to Zurich, to Milan, Genoa, Naples,
Berlin and Budapest. From Budapest he had come to Constantinople. He
had known the loneliness of cities, but an instinct had led him to
avoid the loneliness of the silent and solitary places. There had been
an atmosphere of peace in quiet Welsley. He was afraid of such an
atmosphere and had sought always its opposite.
"Why have I come here?" he thought again.
In this small place he felt exposed, almost as if he were naked and
could be seen by strangers. In Pera at least he was covered.
"I shall have to go away from here," he thought.
He got up from the bed and began to unpack. As he did this, the
uselessness of what he was doing, the arid futility of every bit of
the web of small details which, in their sum, were his life, flowed
upon his soul like stagnant water forced into movement by some
horrible machinery. He was like something agitating in a vast void,
something whose incessant movements produced no effect, had no sort of
relation to anything. In his loneliness of the cities he had begun to
lose that self-respect which belongs to all happy Englishmen of his
type. Mrs. Clarke had immediately noticed that certain details in his
dress showed a beginning of neglect. Since he had met her he had
rectified them, almost unconsciously. But now suddenly the burden of
detail seemed unbearable.
It was only by an almost fierce exercise of the will that he forced
himself to finish unpacking, and to lay his things out neatly in
drawers and on the dressing-table. Then he took off his boots and his
jacket, stretched himself out on the bed with his arms behind him and
his hands grasping the bedstead, and shut his eyes.
There was something shameful in his flaccid idleness, in the
aimlessness of his whole life now, devoid of all work, undirected
towards any effort. But that was not his fault. He had worked with
energy in business, with equal energy in play, worked for self's sake,
for love's sake, and for country's sake. And for all he had done, for
his effort of purity as a boy and a youth, for his effort of love as a
husband and a father, for his effort of valor as a soldier, he had
been rewarded with the most horrible punishment which can fall upon a
man. Effort, therefore, on his part was useless; it was worse than
useless, it was grotesque. Let others make their efforts, his were
He wished that he could sleep.
* * * * *
The dreadful inertia of Dion did not seem to be dreadful to Mrs.
Clarke. Perhaps she was more intelligent than most women, and
generated within herself so much energy of some kind that she was not
driven to seek for it in others; or perhaps she was more sympathetic,
more imaginative, than most women, and pardoned because she
understood. At any rate, she accepted Dion as he was, and neither
criticized him, attempted to bully him, nor seemed to wish to change
She had indeed insisted that he must face his fate and had ruthlessly
given him back his name; she had also deliberately set about to
entangle him in the silken cords of a social relation. But he knew
within a couple of days of his arrival at Buyukderer that he did not
fear her. No woman perhaps ever lived who worried a man less in
friendship, or who gave, without any insistence upon it, a stronger
impression of loyalty, of tenacity in affection to those for whom she
cared. Although often almost delicately blunt in words, in action she
was full of tact. She was one of those rare women who absolutely
understand men, and who know how to convey to men instantly the fact
of their understanding. Such women are always attractive to men. Even
if they are plain, and not otherwise specially clever, they possess
for men a lure.
Mrs. Clarke had told Dion in Constantinople that she meant him to come
to Buyukderer. This was an almost insolent assertion of will-power.
But when he was there she let him alone. On the day of his arrival
there had come no message from the Villa Hafiz to his hotel. He had,
perhaps, expected one; he knew that he was relieved not to receive it.
Late in the afternoon he went for a solitary walk up the valley,
avoiding the many people who poured forth from the villas and hotels
to take their air, as the sun sank low behind Therapia, and the light
upon the water lost in glory and gained in magic. Gay parties embarked
in caiques. Some people drove in small victorias drawn by spirited,
quick-trotting horses; others rode; others strolled up and down slowly
by the edge of the sea. A gay brightness of sociable life made
Buyukderer intimately merry as evening drew on. Instinctively Dion
left the laughter and the voices behind him.
His wandering led him to the valley of roses, where he sat down by the
stream, and for the first time tasted something of the simplicity and
charm of Turkish country life. It did not charm him, but in a dim way
he felt it, was faintly aware of a soothing influence which touched
him like a cool hand. For a long time he stayed there, and he thought,
"If I remain at Buyukderer I shall often visit this place beside the
stream." Once he was disturbed by the noise of a cantering horse in
the lane close by, but otherwise he was fortunate that day; few people
came to his retreat, and none of them were foreigners. Two or three
Turks strolled by, holding their beads; and once some veiled women
came, escorted by a eunuch, threw some petals of flowers upon the
surface of the tinkling water, and walked on up the narrow valley,
chattering in childish voices, and laughing with a twitter that was
like the twitter of birds.
In the soft darkness he walked slowly back to his hotel. And that
night he slept better than he had ever slept in Pera.
On the following day there was still no message from the Villa Hafiz,
and he did not see Mrs. Clarke. He took a row boat, with a big
Albanian boatman for company, and rowed out on the Bosporus till they
came in sight of the Black Sea. The wind got up; Dion stripped to his
shirt and trousers, rolled his shirt sleeves up to the shoulders, and
had a long pull at the oars. He rowed till the perspiration ran down
his lean body. The boatman admired his muscles and his strength.
"Inglese?" he asked.
"Les Inglesi tres forts, molto forte!" he observed, mixing French with
Italian to show his linguistic accomplishments, "Moi tres fort aussi."
Dion talked to the man. When he left the boat at the quay he said he
would take it again on the morrow. The intention to go away from
Buyukderer, to drown himself again in the uproar of Pera, was already
fading out of his mind. Mrs. Clarke's silence had, perhaps, reassured
him. The Villa Hafiz did not summon him. He could seek it if he would.
Evidently it was not going to seek him.
Again he felt grateful to Mrs. Clarke. Her silence, her neglect of
him, increased his faith in her friendship for him.
His second day in Buyukderer dawned; in the late afternoon of it, now
sure of his freedom, he went to the Villa Hafiz.
He did not know that Mrs. Clarke was rich. Indeed he had heard in
London that she only had a small income, but that she "did wonders"
with it. In London he had seen her at Claridge's and at the marvelous
flat in Knightsbridge. Now, at Buyukderer, he found her in a small,
but beautifully arranged and furnished, villa with a lovely climbing
garden behind it. Evidently she could not live in ugly surroundings or
among cheap and unbeautiful things. He saw at a glance that the rugs
and carpets on the polished floors of the villa were exquisite, that
the furniture was not merely graceful and in place but really choice
and valuable, and that the few ornaments and pieces of china scattered
about, with the most deft decision as to the exactly right place for
each mirror, bowl, vase and incense holder, were rarely fine. Yet in
the airy rooms there was no dreary look of the museum. On the
contrary, they had an intimate, almost a homely air, in spite of their
beauty. Books and magazines were allowed their place, and on a grand
piano, almost in the middle of the largest room, which opened by long
windows into an adroitly tangled rose garden where a small fountain
purred amongst blue lilies, there was a quantity of music. The whole
house was strongly scented with flowers. Dion was greeted at its
threshold by a wave of delicious perfume.
Mrs. Clarke received him in her most casual, most impersonal manner,
and made no allusion to the fact that she knew he had already been for
two days in Buyukderer without coming near her. She asked him if his
room at the hotel was all right, and when he thanked her for bothering
about him said that Cyril Vane had seen to it.
"He's a kind, useful sort of boy," she added, "and often helps me with
That day she said nothing about the Ambassador and Lady Ingleton, and
showed no disposition to assume any proprietorship over Dion. She took
him over the house, and also into the garden.
Upon the highest terrace of the latter, far above the house, between
two magnificent cypresses, there stood a pavilion. It was made of the
wood of the plane tree, was painted dull green, had trees growing
thickly at its back, and was partially concealed by a luxuriant
creeper with deep orange-colored flowers, not unlike orange-colored
jasmine, which Mrs. Clarke had seen first in Egypt and had
acclimatized in Turkey. The center of the front of this pavilion was
open to the terrace, but could be closed by sliding doors which, when
pushed back, fitted into the hollow walls on either side. The interior
was furnished with bookcases, divans covered with cushions and
embroideries, coffee tables, and Eastern rugs. Antique bronze lamps
hung by chains from the painted ceiling, which was divided into
lozenges alternately dull green and dull gold. The view from this
detached library was very beautiful. Over the roof of the villa,
beyond the broad white road and the quay, the long bay stretched out
into the Bosporus. Across its tranquil waters, and the waters beaten
up into waves by the winds from the Black Sea, rose the shores of
Asia, Beikos, Anadoli Kavak, Anadoli Fanar, with lines of hills and
the Giant's Mountain. Immediately below, and stretching away to right
and left, were the curving shores of Europe, with the villas and
palaces of Buyukderer held between the blue sea and the tree-covered
heights of Kabatash; the park of the Russian Palace, the summer home
of Russia's representative at the Sublime Porte, gardens of many rich
merchants of Constantinople and of Turkish, Greek and Armenian
magnates, and the fertile and well-watered country extending to
Therapia, Stania and Bebek on the one hand, and to Rumili Kavak, with
the great Belgrad forest behind it, and to Rumili Fanar, where the
Bosporus flows into the Black Sea, on the other.
"Come up here whenever you like," Mrs. Clarke said to Dion. "You can
ring at the side gate of the garden, and come up without entering the
house or letting me know you are here. I have my own sitting-room on
the first floor of the villa next to my bedroom, the little blue-and-
green room I showed you just now. The books I'm reading at present are
there. No one will bother you, and you won't bother any one."
He thanked her, not very warmly, perhaps, but with a genuine attempt
at real gratitude, and said he would come. They walked up and down the
terrace for a little while, in silence for the most part. Before they
went down he mentioned that he had been out rowing.
"I ride for exercise," said Mrs. Clarke. "You can easily hire a good
horse here, but I have one of my own, Selim. Nearly every afternoon I
"Were you riding the day before yesterday?" Dion asked.
"Yes, in the Kesstane Dereh, or Valley of Roses, as many people call
"Were you alone?"
Dion had thought of the cantering horse which he had heard in the lane
as he sat beside the stream. He felt sure it was Selim he had heard.
Mrs. Clarke did not ask the reason for his questions. She seemed to
him a totally incurious woman. Presently they descended to the house,
and he wished her good-by. She did not ask him to stay any longer, did
not propose any expedition, or any day or hour for another meeting.
She just let him go with a grave, and almost abstracted good-by.
When he was alone he realized something; she had assumed that he was
going to make a long stay in Buyukderer. Once, in speaking of the
foliage, she had said, "You will notice in September----" Why was she
so certain he would stay on? There was nothing to prevent him from
going away by the steamer on the morrow. She did nothing to curb his
freedom; she seemed almost indifferent to the fact of his presence
there; yet she had told him he would come, and was evidently certain
that he would stay.
He wondered a little, but only a little, about her will. Then his mind
returned to an old haunt in which continually it wandered, obsessed by
a horror that seemed already ancient, the walled garden at Welsley in
which he had searched in the dark for a fleeing woman. Perpetually he
heard the movement of that woman's dress as she disappeared into the
darkness, and the sound of a door, the door of his own home, being
locked against him to give her time to escape from him. That sound had
cut his life in two. He saw, as he had seen many times in the past,
the falling downwards of edges that bled, the edges of his severed
And he forgot the garden of the Villa Hafiz, the pavilion which stood
on the hill looking over the sea to Asia, the grave woman who had told
him, indifferently, that he could go to it when he would.
Nevertheless on the following day he found himself at the garden gate;
he rang the bell; he was admitted by Osman, the placidly smiling
gardener, and he ascended to the pavilion. No one was there. He stayed
for three hours, and nobody came to interrupt him. Down below the
wooden villa held closely the secret of its life. Once, as he gazed
down on it, he wondered for a moment about Mrs. Clarke, how she passed
her hours without a companion, which she was doing just then. The
siren of a steamer sounded in the bay. He went into the pavilion. On
one of the coffee-tables he found lying a small thin book bound in
white vellum. He took it up and read the name in gold letters: "The
Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi." It was the book he had found Beattie
reading on the night when Robin was born, on the night when Bruce
Evelin and Guy had discussed Mrs. Clarke's divorce case and Mrs.
Clarke. He shuddered in the warmth of the pavilion. Then resolutely he
picked the book up. At the beginning, after some blank pages, there
was a portrait of Sir Richard Burton. Dion looked at the strong,
tragic face, with its burning expression, for a long time. Then he
stretched himself on one of the divans and began to read the book.
Down below, in the villa, Mrs. Clarke was sitting in the green-and-
blue room in the first floor with Lady Ingleton, and they were talking
"He's here now," said Mrs. Clarke to her friend.
"In the garden. I haven't seen him, but Osman tells me he has gone up
to the pavilion."
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