In the Wilderness
Part 11 out of 15
"We can stroll up there later on, and then you can introduce him if
you want to."
Lady Ingleton did not look surprised on receiving this brusk negative.
"Shall I get Carey to see him first?" she asked, in her lazy voice.
"Cyril Vane has prepared the way before him, and Carey is all sympathy
and readiness to do what he can. The Greek tragedy of the situation
appeals to him tremendously, and of course he has a hundredfold more
tact than I have."
"Mr. Leith must go to the Embassy. But what he has been through has
developed in him a sort of wildness that is almost like that of an
animal. If he saw an outstretched hand he would probably bolt."
"And yet he's sitting in your pavilion."
"Because he knows he won't see any outstretched hand there. He was
here for two days without coming near me, and even then he only came
because I had taken no notice of him."
"I know. You spread the food outside, go indoors and close the
shutters, and then, when no one is looking, it creeps up, takes the
food, and vanishes."
"A very great grief eats away the conventions, and beneath the
conventions there is always something strongly animal."
For a moment Lady Ingleton looked at Mrs. Clarke and was silent. Then
she said, very quietly and simply:
"Does he realize yet how cruel you are?"
"He isn't thinking about me."
"But he will."
Mrs. Clarke stared at the wall for a minute. Then she said:
"Ask the Ambassador if he will ride with me to-morrow afternoon, will
you, unless he's engaged?"
"At what time?"
"Half-past four. Perhaps he'll dine afterwards."
"Very well. And now I'm going up to the pavilion."
But she did not go, although she was genuinely curious about the man
who had killed his son and had been cast out by the woman he loved.
Secretly Lady Ingleton was much more softly romantic than Mrs. Clarke
was. She was hard on bores, and floated in an atmosphere of delicate
selfishness, but she could be very kind if her imagination was roused,
and though almost strangely devoid of prejudices she had instincts
that were not unsound.
That evening she gave Mrs. Clarke's message to her husband.
"To-morrow--to-morrow?" he said, in his light tenor voice,
inquiringly. "Yes, I can go. As it happens, I'm breakfasting with
Borinsky at the Russian Palace, so I shall be on the spot. John can
meet me with Freddie."
Freddie was the Ambassador's favorite horse.
"But can Borinsky put up with you till half-past four?"
"Cynthia Clarke won't mind if I turn up before my time."
"No. She's devoted to you, and you know it, and love it."
Sir Carey smiled. He and his wife were happy people, and he never
wished to stray from his path of happiness, not even with Mrs. Clarke.
But he had been a beautiful youth, whom many women had loved, and was
a remarkably handsome man, although his red hair was turning gray.
Honestly he liked to be admired by women, and to feel that his
fascination for them was still intact. And he did not actively object
to the fact of his wife's being aware of it. For he loved her very
much, and he knew that a woman does not love a man less because other
women feel his power.
He appreciated Mrs. Clarke, and thought her full of intelligence, of
nuances, and /tres fine/. Her husband had been his right-hand man at
the Embassy, but he had taken Mrs. Clarke's part when the divorce
proceedings were initiated, and had stood up for her ever since. Like
Esme Darlington he believed that she was a wild mind in an innocent
On the following day he rode with her towards Rumili Kavak, and
presently, returning, to the four cross-roads at the mouth of the
Valley of Roses. A Turkish youth was standing there. Mrs. Clarke spoke
to him in Turkish and he replied. She turned to the Ambassador.
"You do want a cup of coffee, don't you?"
"If you tell me I do."
"By the stream just beyond the lane. And I'll ride home. I've ordered
all the things you like best for dinner. Ahmed Bey and Madame
Davroulos will make a four."
"And Delia and Cyril Vane a two!"
"You must try to control your very natural jealousy."
He dismounted and gave the reins to the Turkish youth.
Sitting very erect on her black Arab horse, Mrs. Clarke watched him
disappear down the lane in which Dion had heard the cantering feet of
a horse as he sat alone beside the stream.
Then she rode back to Buyukderer.
Whether Mrs. Clarke had put "The Kasidah" in a conspicuous place in
the pavilion with a definite object, or whether she had been reading
it and by chance had laid it down, Dion could not tell. He believed,
however, that she had intended that this book should be read by him at
this crisis in his life. She had frankly acknowledged that she wished
to rouse him out of his inertia; she was a very mental woman; a book
was a weapon that such a woman would be likely to employ.
At any rate, Dion felt her influence in "The Kasidah."
The book took possession of him; it burnt him like a flame; even it
made him for a short time forget. That was incredible, yet it was the
It was an antichristian book. A woman's love of God had made Dion in
his bitterness antichristian. It was an enormously vital book, and
called to the vitality which misery had not killed within him. There
were passages in it which seemed to have been written specially for
him--passages that went into him like a sword and drew blood from out
of the very depths of him.
"Better the worm of Izrail than Death that walks in form of life"--
that was for him. He had substituted for death, swift, easy, a mere
nothing, the long, slow terrific something. Death that walks in form
of life. Deliberately he had chosen that.
"On thought itself feed not thy thought; nor turn
From Sun and Light to gaze
At darkling cloisters paved with tombs where rot
The bones of bygone days----"
What else had he done since he had wandered in the wilderness?
"There is no Good, there is no Bad, these be
The whims of mortal will:
What works me weal that call I 'good,' what harms
And hurts I hold as 'ill.'"
These words drove out the pale Fantasy he had fallen down and
worshiped. It had harmed and hurt him. Haji Abdu El-Yezdi bade him
henceforth hold it as "ill." If he could only do that, would not gates
open before him, would not, perhaps, the power to live again in a new
way arise within him?
"Do what thy Manhood bids thee do, from
None but self expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies who makes
And keeps his self-made laws.
All other Life is living Death, a world where
None but Phantoms dwell,
A breath, a wind, a sound, a voice, a tinkling
Of the Camel bell."
He had lived the other life, for he had lived for another; he had
lived to earn the applause of affection from Rosamund; he had striven
always to fit his life into her pattern; now he was alone with the
"Pluck the old woman from thy breast: be
Stout in woe, be stark in weal--
. . . . . . . spurn
Bribe of Heav'n and threat of Hell."
He had chosen the death that walks in the form of life; now something
powerful, stirred from sleep by the influence of one not dead, rose up
in him to reject that death. And it was the same thing that long ago
had enabled him to be pure before his marriage, the same thing which
had enabled him to put England before even Rosamund, the same thing
which had held him up in many difficult days in South Africa, and had
kept him cheerful and bravely gay through the long separation from all
he cared for, the same thing which had begun to dominate Rosamund
during those few short days at Welsley, the brief period of reunion in
happiness which had preceded the crash into the abyss; it was the
fiery spark of Dion's strength which not all his weakness had
succeeded in extinguishing, a strength which had made for good in the
past, a strength which might make for evil in the future.
Did Mrs. Clarke know of this strength, and was she subtly appealing to
"Pluck the old woman from thy breast."
Again and again Dion repeated those words to himself, and he saw
himself, an ineffably tragic, because a weak figure, feebly drifting
with his black misery through cities which knew him not, wandering
alone, sitting alone, peering at the lives of others, watching their
vices without interest, without either approval or condemnation,
staring with dull eyes at their fetes and their funerals, their
affections, their cruelties, their passions, their crimes. He saw
himself in a garden at Pera staring at painted women, neither desiring
them nor turning from them with any disgust. He saw himself--as an old
woman. A smoldering defiance within him sent out a spurt of scorching
* * * * *
Sitting alone by the stream in the Valley of Roses Dion heard the
sound of steps, and presently saw a slight, very refined-looking man
in riding-breeches, with a hunting-crop in his hand, coming down to
the bank. He sat down on a rough wooden bench under a willow tree, lit
a cigar and gazed into the water. He had large, imaginative gray eyes.
There was something military and something poetic in his manner and
bearing and in his whole appearance. Almost directly from a little
rustic cafe close by a Greek lad came, carrying a wooden stool. On it
he placed a steaming brass coffee pot, a cup and saucer, sugar, a
stick of burning incense in a tiny vase, and a rose with a long stalk.
Then he went swiftly away, looking very intelligent. The stranger--
obviously an Englishman--picked up the rose, held it, smelt it, laid
it down and began to sip his coffee. Then in a very casual, easy-going
way, like a man who was naturally sociable, and who enjoyed having a
word with any one whom he came across, he began to speak to Dion.
When that day died Dion stood alone looking down into the stream. He
looked till he saw in it the face of night. Broken stars quivered in
the water; among them for a moment he perceived the eyes of a child,
of a child who had been able to love him as a woman had not been able
to love him, and to forgive him as a woman could not forgive him.
When Dion walked back to his hotel the candlelight glimmered over the
dining-table at the Villa Hafiz where Mrs. Clarke sat with her three
guests--the Ambassador, Madame Davroulos, the wife of a Greek
millionaire whose home was at Smyrna, and Ahmed Bey, one of the
Hadi Bey had long ago passed out of her life.
That evening the Ambassador got up to go rather early. His caique was
lying against the quay.
"Come out by the garden gate, won't you?" said Mrs. Clarke to him, and
she led the way to the tangled rose garden, where sometimes she sat
and read the poems of Hafiz.
Madame Davroulos was smoking a large cigar in a corner of the drawing-
room and talking volubly to Ahmed Bey, who was listening as only a
Turk can listen, with a smiling and immense serenity, twisting a
string of amber beads in his padded fingers.
"He was there?" said Mrs. Clarke, in her quietest and most impersonal
"Yes--he was there."
The Ambassador paused by the fountain, and stood with one foot on the
marble edge of the basin, gazing down on the blue lilies whose color
looked dull and almost black in the night.
"He was there. I talked with him for quite half an hour. He seemed
glad to talk; he talked almost fiercely."
Mrs. Clarke's white face looked faintly surprised.
"Eventually I told him who I was, and he told his name to me, watching
me narrowly to see how I should take it. My air of complete serenity
over the revelation seemed to reassure him. I said I knew he was a
friend of yours and that my wife and I would be very glad to see him
at Therapia, and at the Embassy in Pera later on. He said he would
come to Therapia to-morrow."
This time Mrs. Clarke looked almost strongly surprised.
"What did you talk about?" she asked.
"Chiefly about a book he seems to have been reading recently, Richard
Burton's 'Kasidah.' You know it, of course?"
"I remember Omar Khayyam much better."
"He spoke strangely, almost terribly about it. Perhaps you know how
converts to Roman Catholicism talk in the early days of their
conversion, as if they alone understood the true meaning of being safe
in sunlight, cradled and cherished in the blaze, as it were. Well, he
spoke like one just converted to a belief in the all-sufficiency of
this life if it is thoroughly lived; and, I confess, he gave me the
impression of being cradled and cherished in thick darkness."
Sir Carey was silent for a moment. Then he said:
"What was this man, Leith?"
"Do you mean----?"
"Before his married life came to an end?"
"The straight, athletic, orthodox young Englishman; very sane and
simple, healthily moral; not perhaps particularly religious, but full
of sentiment and trust in a boyish sort of way. I remember he read
Christian morals into Greek art."
Sir Carey raised his eyebrows.
"One could sum him up by saying that he absolutely believed in and
exclusively adored a strong religious, beautiful, healthy-minded and
healthy-bodied Englishwoman, who has now, I believe, entered a
sisterhood, or something of the kind. She colored his whole life. He
saw life through her eyes, and believed through her faith. At least, I
should think so."
"Then he's an absolutely different man from what he was."
"The strong religious, beautiful, healthy-minded and bodied
Englishwoman has condemned as a crime a mere terrible mistake. She has
taken herself away from her husband and given herself to God. She
cared for the child."
Mrs. Clarke laid a curious cold emphasis on the last sentence.
"Horrible!" said Sir Carey slowly. "And so now he turns from the
Protestant's God to Destiny playing with the pawns upon the great
chessboard. But if he's a man of sentiment, and not an intellectual,
he'll never find this life all-sufficient, however he lives it. The
darkness will never be enough for him."
"It has to be enough for a great many of us," said Mrs. Clarke.
There was a long pause, which she broke by saying, in a lighter voice:
"As he's going to visit you, I can go on having him here. You'll let
people know, won't you?"
"That he's a friend of ours? Of course."
"That will make things all right."
"You run your unconventionalities always on the public race-course, in
sight of the grand stand packed with the conventionalities."
"What else can I do? Besides, secret things are always found out."
"You never went in for them."
"And yet my own husband misunderstood me."
"Poor Beadon! He was an excellent councilor."
"And an excellent husband."
"But he made a great fool of himself."
"Yes," said Mrs. Clarke, without any animus. "And so Mr. Leith made a
sad impression upon you?"
"A few men can be tormented. He is one of them. He has gone down into
the dark places. Perhaps the Furies are with him there, the attendants
of the Goddess of Death."
He glanced at his companion. She was standing absolutely still, gazing
down into the water. Her white face looked beautiful, but strangely
haggard and implacable in the night. And for a moment his mind dwelt
on the image conjured up by his last words, and he thought of her as
the Goddess of Death.
"Well," he said, "I must go, or Delia will be wondering. She knows
"And knows I am too faithful to her not to resist yours."
He pressed her hand, then said rather abruptly:
"Are you feverish to-night?"
"No," said Mrs. Clarke, almost with the hint of a sudden irritation.
"I am never feverish."
Sir Carey went away to his caique.
When he had gone Mrs. Clarke stood alone by the fountain for a moment,
frowning, and with her thin lips closely compressed, almost, indeed,
pinched together. She gazed down at her hands. They were lovely hands,
small, sensitive, refined; they looked clever, too, not like tapering
fools. She knew very well how lovely they were, yet now she looked at
them with a certain distaste. Betraying hands! Abruptly she extended
them towards the fountain, and let the cool silver of the water spray
over them. And as she watched the spray she thought of the wrinkles
about Dion's eyes.
"Ah, ma chere, qu'est que vous faites la toute seule? Vous prenez un
The powerful contralto of Madame Davroulos flowed out from the
drawing-room, and her alluring mustache appeared at the lighted French
Mrs. Clarke dried her hands with a minute handkerchief, and, without
troubling about an explanation, turned away from the rose garden. But
when her two guests were gone she told her Greek butler to bring out
an arm-chair and a foot-stool, and the Russian maid, whom Dion had
seen, to bring her a silk wrap. Then she sent them both to bed, lit a
cigarette and sat down by the fountain, smoking cigarette after
cigarette quickly. Not till the freshness of dawn was in the air, and
a curious living grayness made the tangled rose bushes look artificial
and the fountain strangely cold, did she get up to go to bed.
She looked very tired; but she always looked tired, although she
scarcely knew what physical fatigue was. The gray of dawn grew about
her and emphasized her peculiar pallor, the shadows beneath her large
eyes, the haunted look about her cheeks and her temples.
As she went into the house she pulled cruelly at a rose bush. A white
rose came away from its stalk in her hand. She crushed its petals and
flung them away on the sill of the window.
While Mrs. Clarke was sitting by the fountain in the garden of the
Villa Hafiz, Dion was sleepless in his bedroom at the Hotel Belgrad.
He was considering whether he should end his life or whether he should
change the way of his life. He was not conscious of struggle. He did
not feel excited. But he did feel determined. The strength he
possessed was asserting itself. It had slumbered within him; it had
Either he would die now or he would genuinely live, would lay a grip
on life somehow.
If he chose to die how would Mrs. Clarke take the news of his death?
He imagined some one going to the Villa Hafiz from the Hotel Belgrad
with a message: "The English gentleman Mr. Vane took the room for has
just killed himself. What is to be done with the body?" What would
Mrs. Clarke say? What would she look like? What would she do? He
remembered the sign of the cross she had made in the flat in
Knightsbridge. With that sign she had dismissed the soul of Brayfield
into the eternities. Would she dismiss the soul of Dion Leith with the
sign of the cross?
If she heard of his death, Rosamund would of course be unmoved, or
would, perhaps, feel a sense of relief. And doubtless she would offer
up to God a prayer in which his name would be mentioned. Women who
loved God were always ready with a prayer. If it came too late, never
mind! It was a prayer, and therefore an act acceptable to God.
But Mrs. Clarke? Certainly she would not pray about it. Dion had a
feeling that she would be angry. He had never seen her angry, but he
felt sure she could be enraged in a frozen, still, terrible way. If he
died perhaps a thread would snap, the thread of her design. For she
had some purpose in connexion with him. She had willed him to come to
this place; she was willing him to remain in it. Apparently she wished
to raise him out of the dust. He thought of Eyub, of Mrs. Clarke
walking beside him on the dusty road. She had seemed very much at home
in the dust. But she was not like Rosamund; she was not afraid of a
speck of dust falling upon the robe of her ideals. What was Mrs.
Clarke's purpose in connexion with him? He did not pursue that
question, but dismissed it, incurious still in his misery, which had
become more active since his strength had stirred out of sleep. If he
did not die how was he going to live? He had lived by the affections.
Could he live by the lusts? He had no personal ambitions; he had no
avarice to prompt him to energy; he was not in love with himself.
Suddenly he realized the value of egoism to the egoist, and that he
was very poor because he was really not an egoist by nature. If he had
been, if he were, perhaps things would have gone better for him in the
past, would be more endurable now. But he had lived not to himself but
He told himself that to do that was the rankest folly. At any rate he
would never do that again. But the unselfishness of love had become a
habit with him. Even in his extreme youth he had instinctively saved
up, moved, no doubt, by an inherent desire to have as large a gift as
possible ready when the moment for giving came.
If he lived on he must live for himself; he must reverse all his rules
of conduct; he must fling himself into the life of self-gratification.
He had come to believe that the men who trample are the men who
succeed and who have the happiest lives. Sensitiveness does not pay;
loving consideration of others brings no real reward; men do not get
what they give. It is the hard and the passionate man who is the
victor in life, not the man who is tender, thoughtful, even unselfish
in the midst of his passion. Self-control--what a reward Dion had
received for the self-control of his youth!
If he lived he would cast it away.
He sat at his window till dawn, till the sea woke and the hills of
Asia were visible under a clear and delicate sky. He leaned out and
felt the atmosphere of beginning that is peculiar to the first hour of
daylight. Could he begin again? It seemed impossible. Yet now he felt
he could not deprive himself of life. Suicide is a cowardly act, even
though a certain kind of courage must prompt the pulling of the
trigger, the insertion of the knife, or the pouring between the lips
of the poison. Dion had not the courage of that cowardice, or the
cowardice of that courage. Perhaps, without knowing it, in deciding to
live he was only taking one more step on the road whose beginning he
had seen in Elis, as he waited alone outside of the house where Hermes
watched over the child; was saving the distant Rosamund from a stroke
which would pierce through her armor even though she knelt before the
throne of God. But he was conscious only of the feeling that he could
not kill himself, though he did not know why he could not. The
capacity for suicide evidently was not contained in his nature. He
rejected the worm of Izrail; he rejected, too, the other death. He
must, then, live.
He washed and lay down on his bed. And directly he lay down he
wondered why he had been sitting up and mentally debating a great
question. For in the Valley of Roses he had surely decided it before
he spoke to Sir Carey Ingleton. When he said he would visit Lady
Ingleton he must have decided. That visit would mean the return to
what is called normal life, the exit from the existence of a castaway,
the entrance into relations with his kind. He dreaded that visit, but
he meant to pay it. In paying it he would take his first step away
from the death that walks in form of life.
He could not sleep, and soon he got up again and went to the window. A
gust of wind came to him from the sea. It seemed to hint at a land
that was cold, and he thought of Russia, and then again of the distant
places in which he might lose himself, places in which no one would
know who he was, or trouble about the past events of his life. There
before him was Asia rising out of the dawn. He had only to cross a
narrow bit of sea and a continent was ready to receive him and to hide
him. So he had thought of Africa on many a night as he sat in the
Hotel des Colonies at Marseilles. But he had not crossed to Africa.
The wind died away. It had only been a capricious gust, a wandering
guest of the morning. Down below in the Bay of Buyukderer the waters
were quiet; the row boats lay still at the edge of the quay; the small
yachts, with their sails furled, slept at their moorings. The wind had
been like a summons, a sudden tug at him as of a hand saying, with its
bones, its muscles, its nerves, its sinews, "Come with me!"
Once before he had felt something like that in a London Divorce Court,
but it had been fainter, subtler and perhaps warmer. The memory of his
curiosity about the unwise life returned to him, somehow linked with
the wandering wind. In his months of the living death he had often
looked on at it in the cities through which he had drifted, but he had
never taken part in it. He had been emptied of the force to do that by
his misery. Now he was conscious of force though his misery was not
lessened, seemed to him even to have increased. He had often been
dulled by grief; now he felt cruelly alive.
He went down to the sea, found the Albanian boatman with whom he had
rowed on his first day at Buyukderer, took his boat out and bathed
from it. The current beyond the bay was strong. He had a longing to
let it take him whither it would. If only he could find an influence
to which he could give himself, an influence which would sweep him
If only he could get rid of his long fidelity!
When he climbed dripping, and with his hair plastered down on his
forehead, into the boat, the Albanian stared at him as if in surprise.
"What's the matter?" said Dion in French, when he was dry and getting
into his clothes.
But the man only replied:
"Monsieur tres fort molto forte, moi aussi tres fort. Monsieur venez
sempre con moi!"
And he smiled with the evident intention of being agreeable to a
valuable client. Dion did not badger him with any more questions. As
the boat touched the quay he told the man to be ready to start for
Therapia that day at any time after three o'clock.
When he reached the summer villa of the Ambassador he was informed by
a tall English footman that Lady Ingleton was at home. She received
Dion in the midst of the little dogs, but after he had been with her
for a very few minutes she rang for a servant and banished them.
Secretly she was deeply interested in this man who had killed his son,
but she gave Dion no reason to suppose that she was concentrating on
him. Her lazy, indifferent manner was perfectly natural, but perhaps
now and then she was more definitely kind than usual; and she managed
somehow to show Dion that she was ready to be his friend.
"If you stay long we must take you over one day on the yacht to
Brusa," she said presently. "Cynthia loves Brusa, and so does my
husband. We went over there once with Pierre Loti. Cynthia and poor
Beadon Clarke were of the party, I remember. We had a delightful
"Why do you say poor Beadon Clarke?" asked Dion abruptly.
That day he was at a great parting of the ways. He was concentrated
upon himself and his own decision, so concentrated that the
conventions meant little to him. He was totally unaware of the
bruskness of such a question asked of a woman whom he had never seen
"One pities a thoroughly good fellow who does a thoroughly foolish
thing. It was a very, very foolish thing to do to attack Cynthia."
"I was in court during part of the trial."
"Well, then, you know how foolish it was. Some people can't be
attacked with impunity."
The inflexion of Lady Ingleton's voice at that moment made Dion think
of Mrs. Chetwinde. Once or twice Mrs. Chetwinde's voice had sounded
almost exactly like that when she had spoken of Mrs. Clarke.
"Especially people who are innocent," he said.
"Naturally, as Cynthia was. Beadon Clarke made a terrible mistake,
When Dion got up to go she again alluded to his staying on at
Buyukderer, with an "if" attached to the allusion, and her dark eyes,
which looked like an Italian's, rested upon him with a soft, but very
intelligent, scrutiny. He had an odd feeling that she had taken a
liking to him, and yet that she did not wish him to stay on in
"I don't quite know what I am going to do," he said.
As he spoke the hideous freedom of his empty life seemed to gather
itself together, and to flow stealthily upon him like a filthy wave
bearing refuse upon its surface.
"I'm a free agent," he added, looking hard at Lady Ingleton. "I have
He shook her hand and went away.
That evening she said to her husband:
"I have felt sorry for myself occasionally, and for other people in my
Christian moments, but I have never in the past felt so sorry for any
one as I feel now for Mr. Leith."
"Because of the tragedy which has marred his life?"
"It isn't only that. He's on the edge of so much."
"You don't mean----?"
Sir Carey paused.
"No, no," Lady Ingleton said, almost impatiently. "Life hasn't done
with that man yet. I could almost find it in my heart to wish it had.
Shall we take him to Brusa on the yacht? That would advertise our
acquaintance with him to all the gossips on the Bosporus. I promised
Cynthia I would throw my mantle over him."
"I'm always ready for a visit to your only rival," said Sir Carey.
"La Mosquee Verte! I'll think about it. We might go for three or four
Her warm voice sounded rather reluctant; yet her husband knew that she
wished to go.
"It would be an excellent way of showing your mantle to the gossips,"
he remarked. "But you always think of excellent ways.
Two days later the Embassy yacht, the "Leyla," having on board Sir
Carey and Lady Ingleton, Mrs. Clarke, Cyril Vane, Dion, and Turkish
Jane, the doyenne of the Pekinese, sailed for Mudania on the sea of
Marmora, which is the Port of Brusa.
On the day after the return of the "Leyla" from Mudania, Mrs. Clarke
asked Dion if he would dine with her at the Villa Hafiz. She asked him
by word of mouth. They had met on the quay. It was morning, and Dion
was about to embark in the Albanian's boat for a row on the Bosporus
when he saw Mrs. Clarke's thin figure approaching him under a white
umbrella lined with delicate green. She was wearing smoked spectacles,
which made her white face look strange and almost forbidding in the
"I can't come," he said.
And there was a sound almost of desperation in his voice.
She said nothing, but she stood there beside him looking very
inflexible. Apparently she was waiting for an explanation of his
refusal, though she did not ask for it.
"I can't be with people. It's no use. I've tried it. You didn't
"Yes, I did," she interrupted him.
"You did know?"
He stood staring blankly at her.
"Surely I--I tried my best. I did my utmost to hide it."
"You couldn't hide it from me."
"I must go away," he said.
"Come to-night. Nobody will be there."
"It isn't a party?"
"We shall be alone."
"You meant to ask people?"
"I won't. I'll ask nobody. Half-past eight?"
"I'll come," he said.
She turned away without another word.
Just after half-past eight he rang at the door of the villa.
As he went into the hall and smelt the strong perfume of flowers he
wondered that he had dared to come. But he had been with Mrs. Clarke
when she was in horrible circumstances; he had sat and watched her
when she was under the knife; he had helped her to pass through a
crowd of people fighting to stare at her and making hideous comments
upon her. Then why, even to-night, should he dread her eyes? His
remembrance of her tragedy made him feel that hers was the one house
into which he could enter that night.
As he walked into the drawing-room he recollected walking into Mrs.
Chetwinde's drawing-room, full of interest in the woman who was in
sanctuary, but who was soon to be delivered up, stripped by a man of
the law's horrible allegations, to the gaping crowd. Now she was
living peacefully among her friends, the custodian of her boy, a woman
who had won through; and he was a wanderer, a childless father, the
slayer of his son.
Mrs. Clarke kept him waiting for a few minutes. He stood at the French
window and listened to the fountain. In the fall of the water there
was surely an undertune. He seemed to know that it was there and yet
he could not hear it; and he felt baffled as if by a thin mystery.
Then Mrs. Clarke came in and they went at once to dinner.
During dinner they talked very little. She spoke when the Greek butler
was in the room, and Dion did his best in reply; nevertheless the
conversation languished. Although Dion had so few words to give to his
hostess he felt abnormally alive. The whole of him was like a
When dinner was over Mrs. Clarke said to the butler:
"Osman will make the coffee for us. He knows about it. We shall have
it in the pavilion."
The butler, who, although a Greek, looked at that moment almost
incredibly stolid, moved his rather pouting lips, no doubt in assent,
and was gone. They saw him no more that night.
They walked slowly from terrace to terrace of the climbing garden till
they came to the height on which the pavilion stood guarded by the two
mighty cypresses. There was no moon, and the night was a very dark
purple night, with stars that looked dim and remote, like lost stars
in the wilderness of infinity. From the terraces came the scent of
flowers. In the pavilion one hanging lamp gave a faint light which
emphasized the obscurity. It shone through colored panes and drew
thick shadows on the floor and on sections of the divans. The heaps of
cushions were colorless, and had a strange look of unyielding
massiveness, as if they were blocks of some hard material. Osman stood
beside one of the coffee-tables.
As soon as his mistress appeared he began to make the coffee. Dion
stayed upon the terrace, and Mrs. Clarke went into the pavilion and
The cypresses were like dark towers in the night. Dion looked up at
them. Their summits were lost in the brooding purple darkness.
Cypresses! Why had he thought of cypresses in England in connexion
with Mrs. Clarke? Why had he seen her standing among cypresses, seen
himself coming to her and with her in the midst of the immense shadows
they cast? No doubt simply because he knew she lived much in Turkey,
the land of the cypress. That must have been the reason. Nevertheless
now he was oppressed by a weight of mystery somehow connected with
those dark and gigantic trees; and he remembered the theory that the
past, the present and the future are simultaneously in being, and that
those who are said to read the future in reality possess only the
power of seeing what already is on another plane. Had he in England,
however vaguely, however dimly, seen as through a crack some blurred
vision of what was already in existence? He felt almost afraid of the
cypresses. Nevertheless, as he stood looking up at them, his sense
almost of fear tempted him to make an experiment. He remained
absolutely still, and strove to concentrate all his faculties. After a
long pause he shut his eyes.
"If the far future is even now in being," he said mentally, "let me
look upon it now."
He saw nothing; but immediately he heard the sound of wind among pine
trees, as he had heard it with Rosamund in the green valley of Elis.
It rose in the silent night, that long murmur of eternity, and
presently faded away.
He shuddered and turned sharply towards the pavilion.
Osman had gone, and Mrs. Clarke was pouring the coffee into the tiny
"There's no wind, is there--is there?" he asked her.
She looked up at him.
"But not a breath!" she said.
After a pause she added:
"Why do you ask such a thing?"
"I heard wind in--in the tops of trees," he almost stammered.
"But I say I did!" he exclaimed, with violence. "In pine trees."
"There are no pine trees here," she said, in her husky voice. "Sit
down and have your coffee."
He obeyed her and sat down quickly, and quickly he took the coffee-cup
"Have a little /mastika/ with it," she said.
And she pushed a tall liqueur-glass full of the colorless liquid
"Yes," he said.
As he drank he looked out sideways through the wide opening in the
pavilion. There was not a breath of wind.
"I can't understand why I heard the noise of wind in pine trees," he
forced himself to say.
"Seemed to hear it," she corrected him. "Perhaps you were thinking of
"But I wasn't!"
A jeweled gleam from the lamp fell upon one side of her face. She
moved, and the light dropped away from her.
"What were you thinking of?" she asked.
"Of the future."
"That's why it is inexplicable."
"I don't understand."
"Don't let us talk about it any more," he said, in an almost terrible
voice. "I must have had an hallucination."
"Have you ever before thought you were the victim of an
hallucination?" she asked.
"Yes. Several times I have seen the eyes of my little boy. I saw them
a few nights ago in the stream that flows through the Valley of Roses,
just after Sir Carey had left me."
"Don't look into water again except in daylight. It is the night that
brings fancies with it. If you gaze very long at anything in a dim
light you are sure to see something strange or horrible."
"But an hallucination of sound! I must go away from here! Perhaps in
some other place--"
But she interrupted him inflexibly.
"Going away would be absolutely useless. A man can't travel away from
"But I can't lead a normal life. It's impossible. Those horrible
nights on the 'Leyla'----"
He stopped. The effort he had made during the trip to Brusa seemed to
have exhausted the last remnants of any moral force he had still
possessed when he started on that journey.
"I had made up my mind to begin again, to lay hold on some sort of
real life," he continued, after a pause. "I was determined to face
things. I called at Therapia. I accepted Lady Ingleton's invitation.
I've done all I can to make a new start. But it's no use. I can't keep
it up. I haven't the force for it. It was hell--being with happy
"You mean the Ingletons. Yes, they are very happy."
"And Vane, who's just engaged to be married. I saw her photograph in
his cabin. They were all--all very kind. Lady Ingleton did everything
to make me feel at ease. He's a delightful fellow--the Ambassador, I
mean. But I simply can't stand mingling my life with lives that are
happy. So I had better go away and be alone again."
"And lives that are unhappy?"
"What do you mean?"
"Can't you mingle your life with them, or with one of them?"
He was silent, looking towards her. She was wearing a very dark blue
tea-gown of some thin material in which her thin body seemed lost. He
saw the dark folds of it flowing over the divan on which she was
leaning, and trailing to the rug at her feet. Her face was a faint
whiteness under her colorless hair. Her eyes were two darknesses in
it. He could not see them distinctly, but he knew they were looking
intent and distressed.
"Haven't you told me I look punished?" said the husky voice.
"Are you unhappy?" he asked.
"Do you think I have much reason to be happy?"
"You have your boy."
"For a few weeks in the year. I have lost my husband in a horrible
way, worse than if he had died. I live entirely alone. I can't marry
again. And yet I'm not at all old, and not at all finished. But
perhaps you have never really thought about my situation seriously.
After all, why should you? Why should any one? I won my case, and so
of course it's all right."
"Are /you/ unhappy, then?"
"What do you suppose about me?"
"I know you've gone through a great deal. But you have your boy."
There was a sound almost of dull obstinacy in his voice.
"Some women are not merely mothers, or potential mothers!" said an
almost fierce voice. "Some women are just women first and mothers
second. There are women who love men for themselves, not merely
because men are possible child-bringers. To a real and complete woman
no child can ever be the perfect substitute for a husband or a lover.
Even nature has put the lover first and the child second. I forbid you
to say that I have my boy, as if that settled the question of my
happiness. I forbid you."
He heard her breathing quickly. Then she added:
"But how could you be expected to understand women like me?"
The intensity of her sudden outburst startled him as the strength of
the current in the Bosporus had startled him when he plunged into the
sea from the Albanian's boat.
"You have been brought up in another school," she continued slowly,
and with a sort of icy bitterness. "I forgive you."
She got up from the divan and went out upon the terrace, leaving him
alone in the pavilion, which seemed suddenly colder when she had left
He did not follow her. A breath from a human furnace had scorched him
--had scorched the nerve, and the nerve quivered.
"You have been brought up in a different school." Welsley and Stamboul
--Rosamund and Mrs. Clarke. Once, somewhere, he had made that
comparison. As he sat in the pavilion it seemed to him that for a
moment he heard the cool chiming of bells in a gray cathedral tower,
the faint sound of the Dresden Amen. But he looked out through the
opening in the pavilion, and far down below he saw lights on the Bay
of Buyukderer, the vague outlines of hills; and the perfume that came
to him out of the night was not the damp smell of an English garden.
An English garden! In the darkness of a November night he stood within
the walls of an English garden; he heard a cry, saw the movement of a
woman's body, and knew that his life was in ruins. The woman fled, but
he followed her blindly; he sought for her in the dark. He wanted to
tell her that he had been but the instrument of Fate, that he was not
to blame, that he needed compassion more than any other man living.
But she eluded him in the darkness, and presently he heard a key grind
in a lock. A friend had locked the door of his home against him in
order that his wife might have time to escape from him.
Then he heard a husky voice say, "My friend, it will have to come."
And, suddenly it came.
He broke down absolutely, threw himself on his face on the divan with
his arms stretched out beyond his head, grasped the cushions and
sobbed. His body shook and twitched; his face was contorted; his soul
writhed. A storm that came from within him broke upon him. He crashed
into the abyss. Down, down he went, till the last faint ray from above
was utterly blotted out. She whom he had loved so much sent him down,
she who far away had given herself to God. He felt her ruthless hands
--the hands of a good woman, the hands of a loving mother--pressing
him down. Let her have her will. He would go into the last darkness.
Then, perhaps, she would be more at ease; then, perhaps, she would
know the true peace of God. He would pay to the uttermost farthing
both for himself and for her.
Outside, just hidden from him by the pavilion wall, Mrs. Clarke stood
in the shadow of one of the cypresses, and listened. The trip on the
"Leyla" had served two purposes. It was better so. When a thing must
be, the sooner it is over the better. And she had waited for a very
long time. She drew her brows together as she thought of the long time
she had waited. Then she moved and walked away down the terrace. She
had heard enough.
She went to the far end of the terrace. A wooden seat was placed there
in the shadow of a plane tree. She sat down on it, rested her pointed
chin in the palm of her right hand, with her elbow on her knee, and
remained motionless. She was giving him time; time to weep away the
past and the good woman who had ruined his life. Even now she knew how
to be patient. In a way she pitied him. If she had not had to be
patient for such a long time she would have pitied him much more. But
he had often hurt her; and, as Lady Ingleton had said, she was by
nature a cruel woman. Nevertheless she pitied him for being, or for
having been, so exclusive in love. And she wondered at him not a
Lit-up caiques glided out on the bay far beneath her. A band was
playing on the quay. She wished it would stop, and she glanced at a
little watch which Aristide Dumeny had given her, and which was pinned
among the dark blue folds of her gown. But she could not see its face
clearly, and she lit a match. A quarter-past ten. The band played till
eleven. She lit a cigarette and stared down the hill at the moving
lights in the bay.
She had made many water excursions at night. Some of them--two or
three at least--had been mentioned in the Divorce Court. She had had a
narrow escape that summer in London. It had given her a lesson; but
she still had much to learn before she could be considered a past
mistress in the school of discretion. Almost ever since she could
remember she had been driven by the reckless spirit within her. But
she had been given a compensation for that in the force of her will.
That force had done wonders for her all through her life. It had even
captured and retained for her many women friends. Driven she had been,
and no doubt would always be, but she believed that she would always
skirt the precipices of life, and would never fall into the abysses.
The timorous and overscrupulous women were the women who missed their
footing, because, when they made a false step, they made it in fear
and trembling, with the shadow of regret always dogging their heels.
And yet, now Jimmy was getting a big boy, even she knew moments of
She moved restlessly. The torch was luring her on, and yet now, for an
instant, she was conscious of holding back. August was not far off;
Jimmy was coming out to her for his holidays. Suppose, after all, she
gave it up? A word from her--or merely a silence--and that man in the
pavilion close by would go away from Buyukderer and would probably
never come back. If, for once in her life, she played for safety?
The sound of the band on the quay--there had been a short interval of
silence--came up to her again. Forty minutes more! She would give that
man in the pavilion and herself forty minutes. She could see the
lights which outlined the kiosk. When they went out she would come to
a decision. Till then, sitting alone, she could indulge in a mental
debate. The mere fact that, at this point, she debated the question
which filled her mind proved Jimmy's power over her. As she thought
that she began to resent her boy's power. And it would grow;
inevitably it would grow. She moved her thin shoulders. Then she sat
If only she didn't love Jimmy so much! Suppose she had lost her case
in the Divorce Case and Jimmy had been taken away from her? Even now
she shuddered when she thought of the risk she had run. She remembered
again the period of waiting when the jury could not come to an
agreement. What torture she had endured, though no one knew it, or,
perhaps, ever would know it! Had not that torture been a tremendous
warning to her against the unwise life? Why go into danger again? But
perhaps there was no danger any more. A man who has tried to divorce
his wife once, and has failed, is scarcely likely to try again.
Nevertheless she was full of hesitation to-night.
This fact puzzled and almost alarmed her, for she was not given to
hesitation. She was a woman who thought clearly, who knew what she
wanted and what she did not want, and who acted promptly and
decisively. Perhaps she hesitated now because she had been forced to
remain inactive in this particular case for such a long time; or
perhaps she had received an obscure warning from something within her
which knew what she--the whole of her that was Cynthia Clarke--did not
The leaves of the plane tree rustled above her head, and she sighed.
As she sat there in the purple darkness she looked like a victim; and
for a moment she thought of herself as a victim.
Even that man in the pavilion who was agonizing had said to her that
she looked "punished." She had been surprised, almost startled, by his
flash of discernment. But she was sure he thought that matter only a
question of coloring, of emaciation, of the shapes of features, and of
the way eyes were set in the head.
When would the lights far below go out? She hated her indecision. It
was new to her, and she felt it to be a weakness. Whatever she had
been till now, she had certainly never been a weak woman, except
perhaps from the absurd point of view of the Exeter Hall moralist.
Scruples had been strangers to her, a baggage she had not burdened
herself with on her journey.
Jimmy! That night Dion Leith had told her that he had seen the eyes of
his boy in the stream that flowed through the Kesstane Dereh. She
looked out into the purple night, and somewhere in the dim vastness
full of mysteries and of half revelations she saw the frank and
merciless eyes of a young Eton boy.
Should she be governed by them? Could she submit to the ignorant
domination of a child who knew nothing of the complications of human
life, nothing of the ways in which human beings are driven by
imperious desires, or needs, which have perhaps been sown in ground of
flesh and blood by dead parents, or by ancestors laid even with the
dust? Could she immolate herself before the altar of the curious love
which grew within her as Jimmy grew?
She was by nature perverse, and it was partly her love for Jimmy which
pushed her towards the man who killed his son. But she had not told
that even to herself. And she never told her secrets to other people,
not even when they were women friends!
The lights on the kiosk on the quay went out. Mrs. Clarke was startled
by the leaping up of the darkness which seemed to come from the sea.
For her ears had been closed against the band, and she had forgotten
the limit she had mentally put to her indecision. Eleven o'clock
already! She got up from her seat. But still she hesitated. She did
not know what she was going to do. She stood for a moment. Then she
walked softly towards the pavilion. When she was near to it she
stopped and listened. She did not hear any sound from within. There
was nothing to prevent her from descending to the villa, from writing
a note to Dion Leith asking him to leave Buyukderer on the morrow, and
from going up to her bedroom. He would find the note in the hall when
he came down; he would go away; she need never see him again. If she
did that it would mean a new life for her, free from complications, a
life dedicated to Jimmy, a life deliberately controlled.
It would mean, too, the futile close of a long pursuit; the crushing
of an old and hitherto frustrated desire; the return, when Jimmy went
back to England after the holidays, to an empty life which she hated,
more than hated, a life of horrible restlessness, a life in which the
imagination preyed, like a vulture, upon the body. It would mean the
wise, instead of the unwise, life.
She stood there. With one hand she felt the little watch which Dumeny
had given her. It was cold to the touch of her dry, hot hand. She felt
the rough emerald set in the back of it. She and Dumeny had found that
in the bazaars together, in those bazaars which Dumeny changed from
Eastern shops into the Arabian Nights. Dion Leith could never do such
a thing for her. But perhaps she could do it for him. The thought of
that lured her. She stood at the street corner; it was very dark and
still; she knew that the strange ways radiated from the place where
she stood, but there was no one to go with her down them. She waited--
waited. And then she saw far off the gleam of the torch from which
spring colored fires. It flitted through the darkness; it hovered. The
gleam of it lit up, like a goblin light, the beginnings of the strange
ways. She saw shadowy forms slipping away stealthily into their narrow
and winding distances; she saw obscure stairways, leaning balconies
full of soft blackness. She divined the rooms beyond. And whispering
voices came to her ears.
All the time she was feeling the watch with its rough uncut emerald.
Government came upon her. She felt, as often before, a great hand
catch her in a grip of iron. She ceased to resist.
Still holding the watch, she went to the opening in the pavilion.
The hanging lamp had gone out. For a moment she could only see
darkness in the interior. It looked empty. There was no sound within.
Could the man she had been thinking about, debating about, have
slipped away while she was sitting under the plane tree? She had been
thinking so deeply that she had not heard the noise of the band on the
quay; she might not have heard his footsteps. While she had been
considering whether she should leave him perhaps he had fled from her.
This flashing thought brought her back at once to her true and
irrevocable self, and she was filled instantly with fierce
determination and a cold intense anger. Jimmy was forgotten. He was
dead to her at that moment. She leaned forward, peering into the
"Dion!" she said. "Dion!"
There was no answer, but she saw something stir within, something low
down. He was there--or something was there, something alive. She went
into the pavilion, and knelt down by it.
"Dion!" she said.
He raised himself on the divan, and turned on his side.
"Why are you kneeling down?" he said. "Don't kneel. I hate to see a
woman kneeling, and I know /you/ never pray. Get up."
He spoke in a voice that was new to her. It seemed to her hot and
hard. She obeyed him at once and got up from her knees.
"What did you mean just now when you asked me whether I couldn't
mingle my life with an unhappy life? Sit here beside me."
She sat down on the edge of the divan very near to him.
"What do you suppose I meant?"
"Do you mean to say you like me in that way?"
"That you care about me?"
"You said you willed me to come out to Constantinople. Was it for that
She hesitated. She had an instinctive understanding of men, but she
knew that, in one way, Dion was not an ordinary man; and even if he
had been, the catastrophe in his life might well have put him for the
time beyond the limits of her experience, wide though they were.
"No," she said, at last. "I didn't like you in that way till I met you
in the street, and saw what she had done to you."
"Then it was only pity?"
"Was it? I knew your value in England."
She paused, then added, in an almost light and much more impersonal
"I think I may say that I'm a connoisseur of values. And I hate to see
a good thing flung away."
"I'm not a good thing. Perhaps I might have become one. I believe I
was on the way to becoming worth something. But now I'm nothing, and I
wish to be nothing."
"I don't wish you to be anything but what you are."
"Once you telegraphed to me--'May Allah have you in His hand.'"
"It's turned out differently," he said, almost with brutality.
"We don't know that. You came back."
"Yes. I was kept safe for a very good reason. I had to kill my child.
I've accomplished that mission, and now, perhaps, Allah will let me
She could not see his face or the expression in his eyes clearly, but
now she saw his body move sharply. It twisted to the right and back
again. She put out her hand and took his listlessly, almost as she had
taken it in Mrs. Chetwinde's drawing-room when she had met him for the
"Your hand is like fire," he whispered.
"Do you think I am ice?" she whispered back, huskily.
"Once I tried to take my hand away from yours."
"Try to take it away now, if you wish."
As she spoke she closed her hand tenaciously upon his. Her little
fingers felt almost like steel on his hand, and he thought of the
current of the Bosporus which had pulled at his swimming body.
To be taken and swept away! That at least would be better than
drifting, better than death in the form of life, better than slinking
in loneliness to watch the doings of others.
"I don't wish to take it away," he said.
And with the words mentally he bade an eternal farewell to Rosamund
and to all the aspirations of his youth. From her and from them he
turned away to follow the gleam of the torch. It flickered through the
darkness; it wavered; it waited--for him. He had tried the life of
wisdom, and it had cast him out; perhaps there was a place for him in
the unwise life. He felt spiritually exhausted; but there was within
him a physical fever which answered to the fever in the hand which had
closed on his.
"Let the spirit die," he thought, "that the body may live!"
He put one arm round his companion.
"If you want me----" he whispered, on a deep breath.
His voice died away in the darkness between the giant cypresses, those
trees which watch over the dead in the land of the Turk.
/She/ had said once that the human being can hurt God.
Obscurely he wished to do that.
Mrs. Clarke looked up from a letter written in a large boyish hand
which had just been brought out on the terrace of the fountain by the
"Jimmy will be here on Thursday--that is, in Constantinople. The train
ought to be in early in the morning."
Her eyes rested on Dion for a moment; then she looked down again at
the letter from Eton.
"He's in a high state of spirits at the prospect of the journey. But
perhaps I oughtn't to have had him out; perhaps I ought to have gone
to England for his holidays."
"Do you mean because of me?" said Dion.
"I was thinking of cricket," she replied impassively.
He was silent. After a moment she continued:
"There are no suitable companions for him out here. I wish the
Ingletons had a son. Of course there is riding, swimming, boating, and
we can make excursions. You'll be good to him, won't you?"
She folded the letter up and put it into the envelope.
"I always keep all Jimmy's letters," she said.
"Look here!" Dion said in a hard voice. "I think I'd better go."
"You know why."
"Have I asked you to go?"
"No, but I think I shall clear out. I don't feel like acting a part to
a boy. I've never done such a thing, and it isn't at all the sort of
thing I could do well."
"There will be no need to act a part. Be with Jimmy as you were in
"Look at me!" he exclaimed with intense bitterness. "Am I the man I
was in London?"
"If you are careful and reasonable, Jimmy won't notice any difference.
Hero worship doesn't look at things through a microscope. Jimmy's got
his idea of you. It will be your fault if he changes it."
"Did you tell him I should be here during the holidays?"
"I can't help that," he said, almost brutally.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you answered for me before you knew where I should be."
He got up from the straw chair on which he was sitting, almost as if
he meant to go away from her and from Buyukderer at once.
"Dion, you mustn't go," she said inflexibly. "I can't let you. For if
you go, you will never come back."
"How do you know that?"
"I do know it."
They looked at each other across the fountain; his eyes fell at last
almost guiltily before her steady glance.
"And you know it too," she said.
"I may go, nevertheless. Who is to prevent me?"
She got up, went to the other side of the fountain, and put her hand
behind his arm, after a quick glance round to make sure that no eyes
were watching her. She pushed her hand down gently and held his wrist.
"Do you realize how badly you sometimes treat me?" she said.
She pulled his soft cuff with her little fingers.
"I do realize it, but I can't help it. I have to do it."
"If I didn't know that I should mind it much more," she said.
"I never thought I had it in me to treat a woman as I sometimes treat
you. I used--to be so different."
"You were too much the other way. But yours is a nature of extremes.
That's partly why I----"
She did not finish the sentence.
"Then you don't resent my beastliness to you?" he asked.
"Not permanently. Sometimes you are nice to me. But if you were ever
to treat me badly when Jimmy was with me, I don't think I could ever
"I dread his coming," said Dion. "I had much better go. If you don't
let me go, you may regret it."
In saying that he acknowledged the power she had already obtained over
him, a power from which he did not feel sure that he could break away,
although he was acutely aware of it and sometimes almost bitterly
resented it. Mrs. Clarke knew very well that most men can only be held
when they do not know that they are held, but Dion, in his present
condition, was not like any other man she had known. More than once in
the earliest stages of their intimacy she had had really to fight to
keep him near her, and so he knew how arbitrary she could be when her
nature was roused.
Sometimes he hated her with intensity, for she had set herself to
destroy the fabric of his spirit, which not even Rosamund had been
able entirely to destroy by her desertion of him. Sometimes he felt a
sort of ugly love of her, because she was the agent through whom he
was learning to get rid of all that Rosamund had most prized in him.
It was as if he called out to her, "Help me to pull down, to tear
down, all that I built up in the long years till not one stone is left
upon another. What I built up was despised and rejected. I won't look
upon it any more. I'll raze it to the ground. But I can't do that
alone. Come, you, and help me." And she came and she helped in the
work of destruction, and in an ugly, horrible way he loved her for it
sometimes, as a criminal might love an assistant in his crime.
But from such a type of love there are terrible reactions. During
these reactions Dion had treated Cynthia Clarke abominably sometimes,
showing the hatred which alternated with his ugly love, if love it
could properly be called. He hated her in such moments for the fierce
lure she had for the senses, a lure which he felt more and more
strongly as he left farther behind him the old life of sane enjoyments
and of the wisdom which walks with restraint; he hated her for the
perversity which he was increasingly conscious of as he came to know
her more intimately; he hated her because he had so much loved the
woman who would not make a friend of her; he hated her because he knew
that she was drawing him into a path which led into the center of a
maze, the maze of hypocrisy.
Hitherto Dion had been essentially honest and truthful, what men call
"open and above-board." He had walked clear-eyed in the light; he had
had nothing dirty to hide; what his relations with others had seemed
to be that they had actually been. But since that first night in the
pavilion Cynthia Clarke had taught him very thoroughly the hypocrisy a
man owes to the woman with whom he has a secret liaison.
He still believed that till that night she had been what the world
calls "a straight woman." She did not ape a rigid morality for once
betrayed by passion, or pretend to any religious scruples, or show any
fears of an eventual punishment held in reserve for all sinners by an
implacable Power; she did not, when Dion was brutal to her, ever
reproach him with having made of her a wicked or even a light woman.
But she made him feel by innumerable hints and subtleties that for him
she had exchanged a safe life for a life that was beset with danger,
the smiled-on life of a not too conventional virtue for something very
different. She seemed sometimes uneasy in her love, as if such a love
were an error new to her experience.
Jimmy was her chief weapon against Dion's natural sincerity. Dion
realized that she was passionately attached to her boy, and that she
would make almost any sacrifice rather than lose his respect and
affection. Nevertheless, she was ready to take great risks. The risks
she was not prepared to take were the smaller risks. And in connexion
with them her call for hypocrisy was incessant. If Dion ever tried to
resist her demands for small lies and petty deceptions, she would look
at him, and say huskily:
"I have to do these things now because of Jimmy. No one must ever have
the least suspicion of what we are to each other, or some day Jimmy
might get to know of it. It isn't my husband I'm afraid of, it's
If Dion had been by nature a suspicious man, or if he had had a wider
experience with women, Mrs. Clarke's remarkable ingenuity in hypocrisy
would almost certainly have suggested to him that she was no novice in
the life of deception. Her appearance of frankness, even of bluntness,
was admirable. To every one she presented herself as a woman of strong
will and unconventional temperament who took her own way openly,
having nothing to conceal, and therefore nothing to fear. She made a
feature of her friendship with the tragic Englishman; she even dwelt
upon it and paraded it for the pretense of blunt and Platonic
friendship was the cloud with which she concealed the fire of their
illicit relation. The trip on the "Leyla" to Brusa had tortured Dion.
Since the episode in the pavilion a more refined torment had been his.
Mrs. Clarke had not allowed him to escape from the social ties which
were so hateful to him. She had made him understand that he must go
among her acquaintances now and then, that he must take a certain part
in the summer life of Therapia and Buyukderer, that the trip to Brusa
had been only a beginning. More than once he had tried to break away,
but he had not succeeded in his effort. Her will had been too strong
for his, not merely because she did not fear at moments to be fierce
and determined, but because behind her fierceness and determination
was an unuttered plea which his not dead chivalry heard; "For you I
have become what I was falsely accused of being in London." He
remembered the wonderful fight she had made then; often her look and
manner, when they were alone together, implied, "I couldn't make such
a fight now." She never said that, but she made him float in an
atmosphere of that suggestion.
He believed that she loved him. Sometimes he compared her love with
the affection which Rosamund had given him, and then it seemed to his
not very experienced heart that perhaps intense love can only show
itself by something akin to degradation, by enticements which a
genuinely pure nature could never descend to, by perversities which
the grand simplicity and wholesomeness of goodness would certainly
abhor. Then a distortion of love presented itself to his tragic
investigation as the only love that was real, and good and evil lost
for him their true significance. He had said to himself, "Let the
spirit die that the body may live." He had wished, he still wished, to
pull down. He had a sort of demented desire for ruins and dust. But he
longed for action, on the grand scale. Small secrecies, trickeries,
tiptoeing through the maze--all these things revolted that part of his
nature which was, perhaps, unchangeable. They seemed to him unmanly.
In his present condition he could quite easily have lain down in the
sink of Pera's iniquity, careless whether any one knew; but it was
horribly difficult to him to dine with the Ingletons and Vane at the
Villa Hafiz, to say "Good night" to Mrs. Clarke before them, to go
away, leaving them in the villa, and then, very late, to sneak back,
with a key, to the garden gate, when all the servants were in bed, and
to creep up, like a thief, to the pavilion. Some men would have
enjoyed all the small deceptions, would have thought them good fun,
would have found that they added a sharp zest to the pursuit of a
woman. Dion loathed them.
And now he was confronted with something he was going to loathe far
more, something which would call for more sustained and elaborate
deception than any he had practised yet. He feared the eyes of an
English boy more than he feared the eyes of the diplomats and the
cosmopolitans of varying types who were gathered on the Bosporus
during the months of heat. He detested the idea of playing a part to a
boy. How could a mother lay plots to deceive her son? And yet Mrs.
Clarke adored Jimmy.
Rosamund and Robin started up in his mind. He saw them before him as
he had seen them one night in Westminster when Rosamund had been
singing to Robin. Ah, she had been a cruel, a terribly cruel, wife,
but she had been an ideal mother! He saw her head bent over her child,
the curve of her arm round his little body. A sensation of sickness
came upon him, of soul-nausea; and again he thought, "I must get
The night before the day on which Jimmy was due to arrive, Mrs. Clarke
was in Constantinople. She had gone there to meet Jimmy, and had
started early in the morning, leaving Dion at Buyukderer. When she was
gone he took the Albanian's boat and went out on the Bosporus for a
row. The man and he were both at the oars, and pulled out from the
bay. When they had gone some distance--they had been rowing for
perhaps ten minutes--the man asked:
"Ou allons-nous, Signore?"
"Vers Constantinople," replied Dion.
"Bene!" replied the man.
That night Mrs. Clarke had just finished dinner when a waiter tapped
at her sitting-room door.
"What is it?" she asked.
"A gentleman asks if he can see you, Madame."
"A gentleman? Have you got his card?"
"No, Madame; he gave no card."
"What is he like?"
"He is English, I think, very thin and very brown. He looks very
The waiter paused, then added:
"He has a hungry look."
Mrs. Clarke stared at the man with her very wide-open eyes.
"Go down and ask him to wait."
The man went out. When he had shut the door Mrs. Clarke called:
Her raised voice was rather harsh.
The bedroom door was opened, and the Russian maid looked into the
"Sonia," said Mrs. Clarke rapidly in French, "some one--a man--has
called and asked for me. He's waiting in the hall. Go down and see who
it is. If it's Mr. Leith you can bring him up."
"And if it is not Monsieur Leith?"
"Come back and tell me who it is."
The maid came out of the bedroom, shut the door, crossed the sitting-
room rather heavily on flat feet, and went out on to the landing.
"Shut the door!" Mrs. Clarke called after her.
When the sitting-room door was shut she sat waiting with her forehead
drawn to a frown. She did not move till the sitting-room door was
opened by the maid and a man walked in.
"Monsieur Leith," said the maid.
And she disappeared.
"Come and sit down," said Mrs. Clarke. "Why have you come to Pera?"
"I wanted to speak to you."
"How tired you look! Have you had dinner?"
"No, I don't want it."
"Did you come by steamer?"
"No, I rowed down."
"All the way?"
"Where are you staying?"
"I haven't decided yet where I shall stay. Not here, of course."
"Of course not. Dion, sit down."
He sat down heavily.
"If you haven't decided about an hotel, where is your luggage?"
"I haven't brought any."
She said nothing, but her distressed eyes questioned him.
"I started out for a row. The current set towards Constantinople, so I
"I'm glad," she said.
But she did not look glad.
"We can spend a quiet evening together," she added nonchalantly.
"I didn't come for that," he said.
He began to get up, but she put one hand on him.
"Do sit still. What is it, then? Whatever it is, tell me quietly."
He yielded to her soft but very imperative touch, and sat back in his
"Now, what is it?"
"I'm sure you know. It's Jimmy."
She lowered her eyelids, and her pale forehead puckered.
"Jimmy! What about Jimmy?"
"I don't want to be at Buyukderer while he's with you."
"And you have rowed all the way from Buyukderer to Constantinople,
without even a brush and comb, to tell me that!"
"I told you at Buyukderer."
"And we decided that it would be much jollier for Jimmy to have you
there for his holidays. I depend upon you to make things tolerable for
Jimmy. You know how few people there are near us who would trouble
themselves about a boy. You will be my stand-by with Jimmy all through
She spoke serenely, even cheerfully, but there was a decisive sound in
her voice, and the eyes fixed upon him were full of determination.
"I can't understand how you can be willing to act a lie to your own
boy, especially when you care for him so much," said Dion, almost
"I shall not act a lie."
"But you will."
"Sometimes you are horribly morbid," she said coldly.
"Morbid! Because I want to keep a young schoolboy out of--"
"Take care, Dion!" she interrupted hastily.
"If you--you don't really love Jimmy," he said.
"I forbid you to say that."
"I will say it. It's true."
And he repeated with a cruelly deliberate emphasis:
"You don't really love Jimmy."
Her white face was suddenly flooded with red, which even covered her
forehead to the roots of her hair. She put up one hand with violence
and tried to strike Dion on the mouth. He caught her wrist.
"Be quiet!" he said roughly.
Gripping her wrist with his hard, muscular brown fingers he repeated:
"You don't love Jimmy."
"Do you wish me to hate you?"
"I don't care. I don't care what happens to me."
She sat looking down. The red began to fade out of her face. Presently
she curled her fingers inwards against his palm and smiled faintly.
"I am not going to quarrel with you," she said quietly.
He loosened his grip on her; but now she caught and held his hand.
"I do love Jimmy, and you know it when you aren't mad. But I care for
you, too, and I am not going to lose you. If you went away while Jimmy
was out here I should never see you again. You would disappear.
Perhaps you would cross over to Asia."
Her great eyes were fixed steadily upon him.
"Ah, you have thought of that!" she said, almost in a whisper.
He was silent.
"Women would get hold of you. You would sink; you would be ruined,
destroyed. I know!"
"If I were it wouldn't matter."
"To me it would. I can't risk it. I am not going to risk it."
Dion leaned forward. His brown face was twitching.
"Suppose you had to choose between Jimmy and me!"
He was thinking of Robin and Rosamund. A child had conquered him once.
Now once again a child--for Jimmy was no more than a child as yet,
although he thought himself important and almost a young man--intruded
into his life with a woman.
"I shall not have to choose. But I have told you that a child is not
enough for the happiness of a woman like me. You know what I am, and
you must know I am speaking the truth."
"Did you love your husband?" he asked, staring into her eyes.
"Yes," she replied, without even a second of hesitation. "I did till
he suspected me."
"Not after that," she said grimly.
"I wonder he let you do all you did."
"What do you mean?"
She let his hand go.
"I would never have let you go about with other men, however
innocently. I thought about that at your trial."
"I should never let any one interfere with my freedom of action. If a
man loves me I expect him to trust me."
"You don't trust me."
"Sometimes you almost hate me. I know that."
"Sometimes I hate everybody, myself most of all. But I should miss
you. You are the only woman in all the world who wants me now."
Suddenly a thought of his mother intruded into his mind, and he added:
"Wants me as a lover."
She got up quickly, almost impulsively, and went close to him.
"Yes, I want you, I want you as a lover, and I can't let you go. That
is why I ask you, I beg you, to stay with me while Jimmy's here."
She leaned against him, and put her small hands on his shoulders.
"How can a child understand the needs of a woman like me and of a man
like you? How can he look into our hearts or read the secrets of our
natures--secrets which we can't help having? You hate what you call
deceiving him. But he will never think about it. A boy of Jimmy's age
never thinks about his mother in that way."
"I know. That's just it!"
"What do you mean?"
But he did not explain. Perhaps instinctively he felt that her natural
subtlety could not be in accord with his natural sincerity, felt that
in discussing certain subjects they talked in different languages. She
put her arms round his neck.
"I need the two lives," she said, in a very low voice. "I need Jimmy
and I need you. Is it so very wonderful? Often when a woman who isn't
old loses her husband and is left with her child people say, 'It's all
right for her. She has got her child.' And so she's dismissed to her
motherhood, as if that must be quite enough for her. Dion, Dion, the
world doesn't know, or doesn't care, how women suffer. Women don't
speak about such things. But I am telling you because I don't want to
have secrets from you. I have suffered. Perhaps I have some pride in
me. Anyhow, I don't care to go about complaining. You know that. You
must have found that out in London. I keep my secrets, but not from
She put her white cheek against his brown one.
"It's only the two lives joined together that make life complete for a
woman who is complete, who isn't lopsided, lacking in something
essential, something that nature intends. I am a complete woman, and
I'm not ashamed of it. Do you think I ought to be?"
She sighed against his cheek.
"You are a courageous woman," he said; "I do know that."
"Don't /you/ test my courage. Perhaps I'm getting tired of being
She put her thin lips against his.
"It's acting--deception I hate," he murmured. "With a boy especially I
like always to be quite open."
Again he thought of Robin and of his old ideal of a father's relation
to his son; he thought of his preparation to be worthy of fatherhood,
worthy to guide a boy's steps in the path towards a noble manhood. And
a terrible sense of the irony of life almost overcame him. For a
moment he seemed to catch a glimpse of the Creator laughing in
darkness at the aspiration of men; for a moment he was beset by the
awful conviction that the world is ruled by a malign Deity.
"All the time Jimmy is at Buyukderer we'll just be friends," said the
husky voice against his cheek.
The sophistry of her remark struck home to him, but he made no comment
"There are white deceptions," she continued, "and black deceptions, as
there are white and black lies. Whom are we hurting, you and I?"
"Whom are we hurting?" he said, releasing himself from her.
And he thought of God in a different way--in Rosamund's way.
He looked at her as if he were going to speak, but he said nothing. He
felt that if he answered she would not understand, and her face made
him doubtful. Which view of life was the right one, Rosamund's or
Cynthia Clarke's? Rosamund had been pitiless to him and Cynthia Clarke
was merciful. She put her arms round his neck when he was in misery,
she wanted him despite the tragedy that was his perpetual companion.
Perhaps her view of life was right. It was a good working view,
anyhow, and was no doubt held by many people.
"We can base our lives on truth," she continued, as he said nothing.
"On being true to ourselves. That is the great truth. But we can't
always tell it to all the casual people about us, or even to those who
are closely in our lives, as for instance Jimmy is in mine. They
wouldn't understand. But some day Jimmy will be able to understand."
"Do you mean----"
"I mean just this: if Jimmy were twenty-one I would tell him
He looked down into her eyes, which never fell before the eyes of
"I believe you would," he said.
She continued looking at him, as if tranquilly waiting for something.
"I'll--I'll go back to Buyukderer," he said.
In his contrition for the attack which he had made upon the honor of
his wife at his mother's instigation, Beadon Clarke had given up all
claims on his boy's time. Actually, though not legally, Mrs. Clarke
had complete control over Jimmy. He spent all his holidays with her,
and seldom saw his father, who was still attached to the British
Embassy in Madrid. He had never been allowed to read any reports of
the famous case which had been fought out between his parents, and was
understood to think that his father and mother had, for some
mysterious reason, found it impossible to "hit it off together," and
had therefore decided to live apart. He was now rather vaguely fond of
his father, whom he considered to be "quite a good sort," but he was
devoted to his mother. Mrs. Clarke's peculiar self-possession and
remarkably strong will made a great impression on Jimmy. "It's jolly
difficult to score my mater off, I can tell you," he occasionally
remarked to his more intimate chums at school. He admired her
appearance, her elegance, and the charm of her way of living, which he
called "doing herself jolly well"; even her unsmiling face and
characteristic lack of what is generally called vivacity won his
approval. "My mater's above all that silly gushing and giggling so
many women go in for, don't you know," was his verdict on Mrs.
Clarke's usually serious demeanor. Into her gravity boyishly he read
dignity of character, and in his estimation of her he set her very
high. Although something of a pickle, and by nature rather reckless
and inclined to be wild, he was swiftly obedient to his mother, partly
perhaps because, understanding young males as well as she understood
male beings of all ages, she very seldom drew the reins tight. He knew
very well that she loved him.
On the evening of his arrival at Buyukderer for the summer holidays
Jimmy had a confidential talk with his mother about "Mr. Leith," whom
he had not yet seen, but about whom he had been making many anxious
"I'll tell you to-night," his mother had replied. And after dinner she
fulfilled her promise.
"You'll see Mr. Leith to-morrow," she said.
"Well, I should rather think so!" returned Jimmy, in an injured voice.
"Where is he?"
"He's living in rooms in the house of a Greek not far from here."
"I thought he was in the hotel. I say, mater, can't I have a cigarette
just for once?"
"Yes, you may, just for once."
Jimmy approached the cigarette box with the air of a nonchalant
conqueror. As he opened it with an apparently practised forefinger he
"He's left the hotel. You know, Jimmy, Mr. Leith has had great
Jimmy had heard of the gun accident and its terrible result, and he
now looked very grave.
"I know--poor chap!" he observed. "But it wasn't his fault. It was the
little brute of a pony. Every one knows that. It was rotten bad luck,
but who would be down on a fellow for bad luck?"
"Exactly. But it's changed Mr. Leith's life. His wife has left him.
He's given up his business, and is, consequently, less well off than
he was. But this isn't all."
Jimmy tenderly struck a match, lighted a cigarette, and, with half-
closed eyes, blew forth in a professional manner a delicate cloud of
smoke. He was feeling good all over.
"First-rate cigarettes!" he remarked. "The very best! Yes, mater?"
"He's rather badly broken up."
"No wonder!" said Jimmy, with discrimination.
"You'll find him a good deal changed. Sometimes he's moody and even
bad-tempered, poor fellow, and he's fearfully sensitive. I'm trying my
best to buck him up."
"Good for you, mater! He's our friend. We're bound to stand by him."
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