In the Wilderness
Part 12 out of 15
"And that's exactly what I'm trying to do. When he's a little
difficult, doesn't take things quite as one means them--you know?"
"Rather! Do I?"
"I put it down to all the trouble he's been through. I never resent
it. Now I ought really to have got out a holiday tutor for you."
"Oh, I say, after I've swotted my head off all these months! A chap
needs some rest if he's to do himself justice, hang it, mater, now!"
"I know all about that!"
She looked at him shrewdly, and he smiled on one side of his mouth.
"Go on, mater!"
"But having Mr. Leith here I thought I wouldn't do that. Mr. Leith's
awfully fond of boys, and it seemed to me you might do him more good
than any one else could."
"Well, I'm blowed! D'you really think so?"
Jimmy came over and sat on the arm of her chair, blowing rings of
smoke cleverly over her lovely little head.
"Put me up to it, mater, there's a good girl. I'm awfully keen on Mr.
Leith, as you know. He's got the biggest biceps I ever saw, and I'm
jolly sorry for him. What can I do? Put me up to it."
And Mrs. Clarke proceeded to put Jimmy up to it. She had told Dion
that Jimmy wouldn't see the difference in him. Now she carefully
prepared Jimmy to face that difference, and gave him his cue for the
part she wished him to play. Jimmy felt very important as he listened
to her explanations, trifling seriously with his cigarette, and
looking very worldly-wise.
"I twig!" he interrupted occasionally, nodding his round young head,
which was covered with densely thick, rather coarse hair. "I've got
And he went off to bed very seriously, resolved to take Mr. Leith in
hand and to do his level best for him.
So it was that when Dion and he met next day he was not surprised at
the change in Dion's appearance and manner. Nor were his young eyes
merciless in their scrutiny. Just at first, perhaps, they stared with
the unthinking observation of boyhood, but almost immediately Jimmy
had taken the cue his mother had given him, and had entered into his
part of a driver-away of trouble.
He played it well, with a tact that was almost remarkable in so young
a boy; and Dion, ignorant of what Mrs. Clarke had done on the night of
Jimmy's arrival, was at first surprised at the ease with which they
got on together. He had dreaded Jimmy's coming, partly because of the
secrets he must keep from the boy, but partly also because of Robin. A
boy's hands would surely tear at the wound which was always open.
Sometimes Dion felt horribly sad when he was in contact with Jimmy's
light-hearted and careless gaiety; sometimes he felt the gnawing
discomfort of one not by nature a hypocrite forced into a passive
hypocrisy; nevertheless there were moments when the burden of his life
was made a little lighter on his shoulders by the confidence his young
companion had in him, by the admiration for him showed plainly by
Jimmy, by the leaping spirits which ardently summoned a reply in kind.
The subtlety of Mrs. Clarke, too, helped Dion at first.
Since her son's arrival, without ostentation she had lived for him.
She entered into all Jimmy's plans, was ready to share his excitements
and to taste, with him, those pleasures which were possible to a woman
as well as to a boy. But she was quick to efface herself where she saw
that she was not needed or might even be in the way. As a mother she
was devoid of jealousy, was unselfish without seeming to be so. She
did not parade her virtue. Her reticence was that of a perfectly
finished artist. When she was wanted she was on the spot; when she was
not wanted she disappeared. She sped Dion and Jimmy on their way to
boating, shooting, swimming expeditions, with the happiest grace, and
never assumed the look and manner of the patient woman "left behind."
Not once, since Jimmy's arrival, had she shown to Dion even a trace of
the passionate and perverse woman he now knew her to be under her pale
mask of self-controlled and very mental composure. At the hotel in
Constantinople she had said to Dion, "All the time Jimmy's at
Buyukderer we'll just be friends." Now she seemed utterly to have
forgotten that they had ever been what the world calls lovers, that
they had been involved in scenes of passion, and brutality, and
exhaustion, that they had torn aside the veil of reticence behind
which women and men hide from each other normally the naked truth of
what they can be. She treated Dion casually, though very kindly, as a
friend, and never, even by the swift glance or a lingering touch of
her fingers, reminded him of the fires that burned within her. Even
when she was alone with him, when Jimmy ran off, perhaps, unexpectedly
in the wake of a passing caprice, she never departed from her role of
the friend who was before all things a mother.
So perfect was her hypocrisy, so absolutely natural in its
manifestation, that sometimes, looking at her, Dion could scarcely
forbear from thinking that she had forgotten all about their illicit
connexion; that she had put it behind her forever; that she was one of
those happy people who possess the power of slaying the past and
blotting the murder out of their memories.
That scene between them in Constantinople on the eve of Jimmy's
arrival--had it ever taken place? Had she really ever tried to strike
him on the mouth? Had he caught her wrist in a grip of iron? It seemed
And if he was involved in a great hypocrisy since the boy's arrival he
was released from innumerable lesser hypocrisies. His life at present
was what it seemed to be to the little world on the Bosporus.
Just at first he did not realize that though Mrs. Clarke genuinely
loved her son she was not too scrupulous to press his unconscious
services in aid of her hypocrisy.
The holiday tutor whom she ought to have got out from England to
improve the shining hour on Jimmy's behalf was replaced by Dion in the
eyes of Mrs. Clarke's world.
One day she said to Dion:
"Will you do me a good turn?"
"Yes, if I can."
"It may bore you."
"What is it?"
"Read a little bit with Jimmy sometimes, will you? He's abominably
ignorant, and will never be a scholar, but I should like him just to
keep up his end at school."
"But I haven't got any school-books."
"I have. He's specially behindhand with his Greek. His report tells me
that. If you'll do a little Greek grammar and construing with him in
the mornings now and them, I shall be tremendously grateful. You see,
owing to my miserable domestic circumstances, Jimmy is practically
"And you ask me to take his father's place!" was in Dion's mind.
But she met his eyes so earnestly and with such sincerity that he only
"Of course I'll read with him in the mornings."
Despite the ardent protests to Jimmy Dion kept his promise. Soon Mrs.
Clarke's numerous acquaintances knew of the morning hours of study.
She had happened to tell Sir Carey Ingleton about Jimmy's backwardness
in book-learning and Mr. Leith's kind efforts to "get him on during
the holidays." Sir Carey had spoken of it to Cyril Vane. The thing
"got about." The name of Dion Leith began to be connected rather with
Jimmy Clarke than with Mrs. Clarke. Continually Dion and Jimmy were
seen about together. Mrs. Clarke, meanwhile, often went among her
friends alone, and when they asked about Jimmy she would say:
"Oh, he's gone off somewhere with Mr. Leith. I don't know where. Mr.
Leith's a regular boy's man and was a great chum of Jimmy's in London;
used to show him how to box and that sort of thing. It's partly for
Jimmy that he came to Buyukderer. They read together in the mornings.
Mr. Leith's getting Jimmy on in Greek."
Sometimes she would add:
"Mr. Leith loves boys, and since his own child died so sadly I think
he's taken to Jimmy more than ever."
Soon people began to talk of Dion Leith as "Jimmy Clarke's holiday
tutor." Once, when this was said in Lady Ingleton's drawing-room at
Therapia, she murmured:
"I don't think it quite amounts to that. Mr. Leith has never been a
And there she left it, with a faint smile in which there was just the
hint of an almost cynical sadness.
Since the trip to Brusa on the "Leyla" she had thought a great deal
about Dion Leith, and she was very sorry for him in a rather unusual
way. Out of her happiness with her husband she seemed to draw an
instinctive knowledge of what such a nature as Dion Leith's wanted and
of the extent of his loss. Once she said to Sir Carey, with a sort of
intensity such as she seldom showed:
"Good women do terrible things sometimes."
"Such as----?" said Sir Carey, looking at her almost with surprise in
"I think Mrs. Leith has done a terrible thing to her husband."
"Perhaps she loved the child too much."
"Even love can be almost abominable," said Lady Ingleton. "If we had a
child, and you had done what poor Dion Leith has done, do you think I
should have cast you out of my life?"
"But--are you a good woman?" he asked her, smiling.
"No, or you should never have bothered about me."
He touched her hand.
"When you do that," Lady Ingleton said, "I could almost cry over poor
Sir Carey bent down and kissed her with a very tender gallantry.
"You and I are secretly sentimentalists, Delia," he said. "That is why
we are so happy together."
"Why doesn't Dion Leith go to England?" she exclaimed, almost angrily.
"Perhaps England seems full of his misery. Besides, his wife is
"He ought to go to her. He ought to force her to see the evil she is
"Leith will never do that, I feel sure," said Sir Carey gravely. "And
in his place I don't know that I could."
Lady Ingleton looked at him with an almost sharp impatience such as
she seldom showed him.
"When a man has right on his side he ought to browbeat a woman!" she
exclaimed. "And even if he is in the wrong it's the best way to make a
woman see things through his eyes. Dion Leith is too delicate with
After a moment she added:
"At any rate with some women, the first of whom is his own wife. A man
should always put up a big fight for a really big thing, and Dion
Leith hasn't done that!"
"He fought in South Africa for England."
"Ah," she said, lifting her chin, "that sort of thing is so
"Tell him what you think," said the Ambassador.
"I know him so little. But perhaps--who knows--some day I shall."
She said no more on that subject.
Meanwhile Dion was teaching Jimmy, who was really full of the happiest
ignorance. Jimmy's knowledge of Greek was a minus quantity, and he
said frankly that he considered all that kind of thing "more or less
rot." Nevertheless, Dion persevered. One morning when they were going
to get to work as usual in the pavilion,--chose by Mrs. Clarke as the
suitable place for his studies,--taking up the Greek Grammar Dion
opened it by chance. He stood by the table from which he had picked
the book up staring down at the page. By one of those terrible rushes
of which the mind is capable he was swept back to the famous mound
which fronts the plain of Marathon; he saw the curving line of hills,
the sea intensely blue and sparkling, empty of ships, the river's
course through the tawny land marked by the tall reeds and the sedges;
he heard the distant lowing of cattle coming from that old
battlefield, celebrated by poets and historians. And then he heard, as
if just above him, the dry crackle of brushwood--Rosamund moving in
the habitation of Arcady. And he remembered the cry, the intense human
cry which had echoed in the recesses of his soul on that day long--how
long--ago in Greece, "Whither? Whither am I and my great love going?
To what end are we journeying?"
He heard again that cry of his soul in the pavilion at Buyukderer, and
beneath the sunburn his lean cheeks went lividly pale.
Reluctantly Jimmy was getting an exercise book and a pen and ink out
of the drawer of a table, which Mrs. Clarke had had specially made for
the lessons by a little Greek carpenter who sometimes did odd jobs for
her. He found the ink bottle almost empty.
"I say," he began.
He looked up.
"I say, Mr. Leith----"
His voice died away and he stared.
"What's wrong?" he managed to bring out at last.
He thrust out a hand and laid hold of the grammar. Dion let it go.
His eyes searched the page.
"What's up, Mr. Leith?"
He looked frankly puzzled and almost afraid. He had never seen any one
look just like that before.
There was a moment of silence. Then, with a sudden change of manner,
"Come on, Jimmy! I don't feel like doing lessons this morning. I vote
we go out. I'm going to ask your mother if we can ride to the Belgrad
forest. Perhaps she'll come with us."
He was suddenly afraid to remain alone with the boy, and he felt that
he could not stay in that pavilion full of the atmosphere of feverish
passion, of secrecy, of betrayal. Yes, of betrayal! For there he had
betrayed the obstinate love, which he had felt at Marathon as a sort
of ecstasy, and still felt, but now like a wound, within him in spite
of Rosamund's rejection of him. Not yet had the current taken him and
swept him away from all the old landmarks. Perhaps it never would. And
yet he had given himself to it, he had not tried to resist.
Jimmy jumped up with alacrity, though he still looked rather grave and
astonished. They went down the terraced garden to the villa.
"Run up and ask your mother," said Dion. "Probably she's in her
sitting-room. I'll wait here to know what she says."
"Right you are!"
He went off, looking rather relieved.
Robin at fifteen! Dion shut his eyes.
Jimmy was away for more than ten minutes. Then he came back to say
that his mother would come with them to the forest and would be ready
in an hour's time.
"I'll go back to my rooms, change my breeches, and order the horses,"
He was longing to get away from the scrutiny which at this moment
Jimmy could not forego. He knew that Jimmy had been talking about him
to Mrs. Clarke, had probably been saying how "jolly odd" he had been
in the pavilion. For once the boy's tact had failed him, and Dion's
An hour later they were on horseback and rode into the midst of the
forest. At the village of Belgrad they dismounted, left the horses in
the care of a Turkish stableman, and went for a walk among the trees.
It was very hot and still, and presently Mrs. Clarke said she would
sit down and rest.
"You and Jimmy go on if you want to," she said.
But Jimmy threw himself down on the ground.
"I'm tired. It's so infernally hot."
"Take a nap," said his mother.
The boy laid his head on his curved arms sideways. Mrs. Clarke leaned
down and put his panama hat over his left cheek and eye.
"Thank you, mater," he murmured.
He lay still.
Dion had stood by with an air of hesitation during this little talk
between mother and son. Now he looked away to the forest.
"You go," Mrs. Clarke said to him. "You'll find us here when you come
back. The Armenians call the forest /Defetgamm/. Perhaps you will come
under its influence."
"/Defetgamm/! What does that mean?"
"Dispeller of care."
He stood looking at her for a moment; then, without another word, he
turned quickly away and disappeared among the trees.
Jimmy slept with his face hidden, and Mrs. Clarke, with wide-open
eyes, sat motionless staring into the forest.
When they reached the Villa Hafiz late in the afternoon Dion helped
Mrs. Clarke to dismount. As she slid down lightly from the saddle she
whispered, scarcely moving her lips:
"The pavilion to-night eleven. You've got the key."
She patted Selim's glossy black neck.
"Come, Jimmy!" she said. "Say good night to Mr. Leith. I'm sure he's
tired and has had more than enough of us for to-day. We'll give him a
rest from us till to-morrow."
And Jimmy bade Dion good-by without any protest.
As Dion rode off Mrs. Clarke did not turn to look after him. She had
not troubled even to question him with her eyes. She had assumed that
he would do what she wanted. Would he do that?
At first he believed that he would not go. He had been away in the
forest with his misery for nearly two hours, struggling among the
shadows of the trees. Jimmy had seen in the pavilion that morning that
his "holiday tutor" was strangely ill at ease, and had discussed the
matter with his mater, and asked her why on earth the sight of a page
of Greek grammar should make a fellow stand staring as if he were
confronted by a ghost. But Jimmy had no conception of what Dion had
been through in the forest, where happy Greeks and Armenians were
lazily enjoying the empty hours of summer, forgetting yesterday, and
serenely careless of to-morrow.
In the forest Dion had fought with an old love of which he began to be
angrily ashamed, with a love which was now his greatest enemy, a thing
contemptible, inexplicable. In the pavilion that morning it had
suddenly risen up before him strong, intense, passionate. It seemed
irresistible. But he was almost furiously resolved not merely to
resist it, but to crush it down, to break it in pieces, or to drive it
finally out of his life.
And he had fought with it alone in the forest which the Armenians call
/Defetgamm/. And in the forest something--some adherent, it seemed--
had whispered to him, "To kill your enemy you must fill your armory
with weapons. The woman who came to you when you were neither in one
world nor in the other is a weapon. Why have you ceased to use her?"
And now, as if she had heard the voice of that adherent, and had known
of the struggle in the forest, the woman herself had suddenly broken
through the reserve she had imposed upon them both since the coming of
In a hideous way Dion wanted to see her, and yet he shrank from going
back to her secretly. The coming of Jimmy, his relations with the boy,
the boy's hearty affection for him and admiration for him, had roused
into intense activity that part of his nature which had always loved,
which he supposed always must love, the straight life; the life with
morning face and clear, unfaltering eyes; the life which the Hermes
suggested, immune from the fret and fever of secret vices and
passions, lifted by winged sandals into a region where soul and body
were in perfect accord, and where, because of that, there was peace;
not a peace of stagnation, but a peace living and intense. But that
part of his nature had led him even now instinctively back to the feet
of Rosamund. And he revolted against such a pilgrimage.
"The pavilion to-night eleven; you've got the key."
Her face had not changed as she whispered the words, and immediately
afterwards she had told a lie to her boy, or had implied a lie. She
had made Jimmy believe the thing that was not. Loving Jimmy, she did
not scruple to play a part to him.
Dion ate no dinner that night. After returning to his rooms and
getting out of his riding things into a loose serge suit he went out
again and walked along the quay by the water. He paced up and down,
ignoring the many passers-by, the boatmen and watermen who now knew
him so well.
He was considering whether he should go to the pavilion at the
appointed hour or whether he should leave Buyukderer altogether and
not return to it. This evening he was in the mood to be drastic. He
might go down to Constantinople and finally cast his burden away
there, never to take it up again--the burden of an old love whose
chains still hung about him; he might plunge into the lowest depths,
into depths where perhaps the remembrance of Rosamund and the early
morning would fade away from him, where even Mrs. Clarke would not
care to seek for him, although her will was persistent.
He fully realized now her extraordinary persistence, the fierce
firmness of character that was concealed by her quiet and generally
impersonal manner. Certainly she had the temperament of a ruler. He
remembered--it seemed to him with a bizarre abruptness--the smile on
Dumeny's lips in the Divorce Court when the great case had ended in
Mrs. Clarke's favor.
Did he really know Cynthia Clarke even now?
He walked faster. Now he saw Hadi Bey before him, self-possessed,
firm, with that curiously vivid look which had attracted the many
women in Court.
And Jimmy believed in his mother. Perhaps, until Dion's arrival in
Buyukderer, the boy had had reason in his belief--perhaps not. Dion
was very uncertain to-night.
A sort of cold curiosity was born in him. Until now he had accepted
Mrs. Clarke's presentment of herself to the world, which included
himself, as a genuine portrait; now he began to recall the long speech
of Beadon Clarke's counsel. But the man had only been speaking
according to his brief, had been only putting forth all the ingenuity
and talent which enabled him to command immense fees for his services.
And Mrs. Clarke had beaten him. The jury had said that she was not
what he had asserted her to be.
Suppose they had made a mistake, had given the wrong verdict, why
should that make any difference to Dion? He had definitely done with
the goodness of good women. Why should he fear the evil of a woman who
was bad? Perhaps in the women who were called evil by the respectable,
or by those who were temperamentally inclined to purity, there was
more warm humanity than the women possessed who never made a slip, or
stepped out of the beaten path of virtue. Perhaps those to whom much
must be forgiven were those who knew how to forgive.
If Mrs. Clarke really were what Beadon Clarke's counsel had suggested
that she was, how would it affect him? Dion pondered that question on
the quay. Mrs. Clarke's pale and very efficient hypocrisy, which he
had been able to observe at close quarters since he had been at
Buyukderer, might well have been brought into play against himself, as
it had been brought into play against the little world on the Bosporus
and against Jimmy.
Dion made up his mind that he would go to the pavilion that night. The
cold curiosity which had floated up to the surface of his mind enticed
him. He wanted to know whether he was among the victims, if they could
reasonably be called so, of Mrs. Clarke's delicate hypocrisy. He was
still thinking of Mrs. Clarke as a weapon; he was also thinking that
perhaps he did not yet know exactly what type of weapon she was. He
must find that out to-night. Not even the thought of Jimmy should
At a few minutes before eleven he went back to his rooms, unlocked his
despatch box, and drew out the key of the gate of Mrs. Clarke's
garden. He thrust it into his pocket and set out on the short walk to
the Villa Hafiz. The night was dark and cloudy and very still. Dion
walked quickly and surreptitiously, not looking at any of the people
who went by him in the darkness. All the windows of the villa which
faced the sea were shuttered and showed no lights. He turned to the
right, stood before the garden gate and listened. He heard no sound
except a distant singing on the oily waters of the Bay. Softly he put
his key into the gate, gently unlocked it, stepped into the garden. A
few minutes later he was on the highest terrace and approached the
pavilion. As he did so Mrs. Clarke came out of the drawing-room of the
villa, passed by the fountain, and began to ascend the garden.
She was dressed in black and in a material that did not rustle. Her
thin figure did not show up against the night, and her light slow
footfall was scarcely audible on the paths and steps as she went
upward. Jimmy had gone to bed long ago, tired out with the long ride
in the heat. She had just been into his bedroom, without a light, and
had heard his regular breathing. He was fast asleep, and once he was
asleep he never woke till the light of day shone in at the window. It
was a comfort that one could thoroughly rely on the sleeping powers of
a healthy boy of fifteen.
She sighed as she thought of Jimmy. The boy was going to complicate
her life. She was by nature an unusually fearless woman, but she was
beginning to realize that there might come a time when she would know
fear--unless she could begin to live differently as Jimmy began to
grow up. But how could she do that? There are things which seem to be
impossible even to strong wills. Her will was very strong, but she had
always used it not to renounce but to attain, not to hold her desires
in check but to bring them to fruition. And it was late in the day to
begin reversing the powerful engine of her will. She was not even sure
that she could reverse it. Hitherto she had never genuinely tried to
do that. She did not want to try now, partly--but only partly--because
she hated to fail in anything she undertook. And she had a suspicion,
which she was not anxious to turn into a certainty, that she who had
ruled many people was only a slave herself. Perhaps some day Jimmy
would force her to a knowledge of her exact condition.
For the first time in her life she was half afraid of that mysterious
energy which men and women call love; she began to understand, with a
sort of ample fulness of comprehension, that of all loves the most
determined is the love of a mother for her only son. A mother may,
perhaps, have a son and not love him; but if once she loves him she
holds within her a thing that will not die while she lives.
And if the thing that was without lust stood up in battle against the
thing that was full of lust--what then?
The black and still night seemed a battlefield.
Softly she stepped upon the highest terrace and stood for a moment
under the great plane tree, where was the wooden seat on which she had
waited for Dion to weep away the past and the good woman who had
ruined his life. To-night she was invaded by an odd uncertainty. If
she went to the pavilion and Dion were not there? If he did not come?
Would some part of her, perhaps, be glad, the part that in a
mysterious way was one with Jimmy? She stared into the darkness,
looking towards the pavilion. Dion Leith had once said she looked
punished. Perhaps when he had said that he had shown that he had
Was he there? It was past eleven now. She had assumed that he would
come, and she was inclined to believe that he had come. If so she need
not see him even now. There was still time for her to go back to the
villa, to shut herself in, to go to bed, as Jimmy had gone to bed. But
if she did that she would not sleep. All night long she would lie wide
awake, tossing from side to side, the helpless prey of her past life.
She frowned and slipped through the darkness, almost like a fluid, to
She came so silently that Dion heard nothing till against the
background of the night he saw a shadow, her thin body, a faint
whiteness, her face, motionless at the opening of the pavilion; from
this shadow and this whiteness came a voice which said:
"Did you come under the influence of /Defetgamm/?"
"It's impossible that you see me!" he said.
"I see you plainly with some part of me, not my eyes."
He got up from the divan where he had been sitting in the dark and
went to the opening of the pavilion.
"Did you come under the influence of /Defetgamm/?" she repeated.
"You know I didn't."
He paused, then added:
"I nearly didn't come to-night."
"And I nearly went down, after I had come up here, without seeing you.
And yet--we are together again."
"Why do you want to see me here? We agreed--"
"Yes, we agreed; but after to-day in the forest that agreement had to
be broken. When you left me under the trees you looked like a man who
was thinking of starting on a very long journey."
She spoke with a peculiar significance which at once conveyed her full
meaning to him.
"No, I shall never do that," he said. "If I had been capable of it, I
should have done it long ago."
"Yes? Let me in."
He moved. She slipped into the pavilion and sat down.
"How can you move without making any sound?" he asked somberly.
There had been in her movement a sort of perfection of
surreptitiousness that was animal. He noticed it, and thought that she
must surely be accustomed to moving with precaution lest she should be
seen or heard. Rosamund could not move like that. A life story seemed
to him to be faintly traced in Mrs. Clarke's manner of entering the
pavilion and of sitting down on the divan.
He stood beside her in the dark. She returned no answer to his
"You spoke of a journey," he said. "The only journey I have thought of
making is short enough--to Constantinople. I nearly started on it
"Why do you want to go to Constantinople?"
He was silent.
"What would you do there?"
"Ugly things, perhaps."
"Why didn't you go? What kept you?"
"I felt that I must ask you something."
He sat down beside her and took both her hands roughly. They were dry
and burning as if with fever.
"You trick Jimmy," he said. "You trick the Ingletons, Vane, all the
"Trick!" she interrupted coldly, almost disdainfully. "What do you
"That you deceive them, take them in."
"You know quite well."
After a pause, which was perhaps--he could not tell--a pause of
astonishment, she said:
"Do you really expect me to go about telling every one that I, a
lonely woman, separated from my husband, unable to marry again, have
met a man whom I care for, and that I've been weak enough--or wicked
enough, if you like--to let him know it?"
Dion felt his cheeks burn in the darkness. Nevertheless, something
drove him on, forced him to push his way hardily through a sort of
quickset hedge of reluctance and shame.
"No, I don't expect absurdities. I am not such a fool. But--but you do
it so well!"
"Do what well?"
"Everything connected with deception. You are such a mistress of it."
"Isn't that rather strange?"
"Do you expect a woman like me, a woman who can't pretend to
stupidity, and who has lived for years in the diplomatic world, to
blunder in what she undertakes?"
"No, I don't. But you are too competent."
He spoke with hard determination, but his cheeks were still burning.
"It's impossible to be too competent. If I make up my mind that a
thing must be done I resolve to do it thoroughly and to do it well. I
despise blunderers and women who are afraid of what they do. I despise
those who give themselves and others away. I cared for you. I saw you
needed me and I gave myself to you. I am not sorry I did it, not a bit
sorry. I had counted the cost before I did it."
"Counted the cost? But what cost is there? Neither of us loses
"I risk losing almost everything a woman cares for. I don't want to
dwell upon it. I detest women who indulge in reproaches, or who try to
make men value them by pointing out how much they stand to lose by
giving themselves. But you are so strange to-night. You have attacked
me. I don't know why."
"I've been walking on the quay and thinking."
"I've been thinking that, as you take in Jimmy and all the people here
so easily, there is no reason why you shouldn't be taking me in too."
In the dark a feeling was steadily growing within him that his
companion was playing with him as he knew she had played with others.
"I'm forced to deceive the people here and my boy. My relation with
you obliges me to do that. But nothing forces me to deceive you. I
have been sincere with you. Ever since I met you in the street in Pera
I've been sincere, even blunt. I should think you must have noticed
"I have. In some ways you are blunt, but in many you aren't."
"What is it exactly that you wish to know?"
For a moment Dion was silent. In the darkness of the pavilion he saw
Dumeny's lips smiling faintly, Hadi Bey's vivid, self-possessed eyes,
the weak mouth of Brayfield and his own double. Was he a member of an
ugly brotherhood, or did he stand alone? He wanted to know, yet he
felt that he could not put such a hideous question to his companion.
"Tell me exactly what it is," she said. "Don't be afraid. I wish to be
quite sincere with you, though you think I don't. It is no pleasure to
me to deceive people. What I do in the way of deception I do in self-
defense. Circumstances often push us into doing what we don't enjoy
doing. But you and I ought to be frank with one another."
Her hands tightened on his.
"Go on. Tell me."
"I've been wondering whether your husband ought to have won his case,"
said Dion, in a low voice.
"Is that all?" she said, very simply and without any emotion.
"Yes. Do you suppose, when I gave myself to you, I didn't realize that
my doing it was certain to make you doubt my virtue? Dion, you don't
know how boyish you still are. You will always be in some ways a boy.
I knew you would doubt me after all that had happened. But what is the
good of asking questions of a women whom you doubt? If I am what you
suspect, of course I shall tell lies. If I am not, what is the good of
my telling you the truth? What is to make you believe it?"
He was silent. She moved slightly and he felt her thin body against
his side. What sort of weapon was she? That was the great question for
him. Since his struggle in the forest of /Defetgamm/ he had come to
the resolve to strike fierce and reiterated blows on that disabling
and surely contemptible love of his, that love which had confronted
him like a specter when he was in the pavilion with Jimmy. He was
resolved at last upon assassination, and he wanted a weapon that could
slay, not a weapon that would bend, or perhaps break, in his hand.
"I don't want to believe I am only one among many," he said at last.
The sound of his voice gave her the cue to his inmost feeling. She had
been puzzled in the forest, she had been half afraid, seeing that he
had arrived at an acute emotional crisis and not understanding what
had brought him to it. She did not understand that now, but she knew
that he was asking from her more than he had ever asked before. He had
been cast out and now he was knocking hard on her door. He was
knocking, but lingering remnants of the influence of the woman who had
colored his former life hung about him like torn rags, and his hands
instinctively felt for them, pulled at them, to cover his nakedness.
Still, while he knocked, he looked back to the other life.
Nevertheless--she knew this with all there was of woman in her--he
wanted from her all that the good woman had never given to him, was
incapable of giving to him or to any one. He wanted from her, perhaps,
powers of the body which would suffice finally for the killing of
those powers of the soul by which he was now tormented ceaselessly.
The sound of his voice demanded from her something no other man had
ever demanded from her, the slaughter in him of what he had lived by
through all his years. Nevertheless he was still looking back to all
the old purities, was still trying to hear all the old voices. He
required of her, as it were, that she should be good in her evil,
gentle while she destroyed. Well, she would even be that. A rare smile
curved her thin lips, but he did not see it.
"Suppose I told you that you were one of many?" she said. "Would you
give it all up?"
"I don't know. Am I?"
"No. Do you think, if you were, I should have kept my women friends,
Tippie Chetwinde, Delia Ingleton and all the rest?"
"I suppose not," he said.
But he remembered tones in Mrs. Chetwinde's voice when she had spoken
of "Cynthia Clarke," and even tones in Lady Ingleton's voice.
"They stuck to me because they believed in me. What other reason could
"Unless they were very devoted to you."
"Women aren't much given to that sort of thing," she said dryly.
"I think you have an unusual power of making people do what you wish.
It is like an emanation," he said slowly. "And it seems not to be
interfered with by distance."
She leaned till her cheek touched his.
"Dion, I wish to make you forget. I know how it is with you. You
suffer abominably because you can't forget. I haven't succeeded with
you yet. But wait, only wait, till Jimmy goes, till the summer is over
and we can leave the Bosporus. It's all too intimate--the life here.
We are all too near together. But in Constantinople I know ways. I'll
stay there all the winter for you. Even the Christmas holidays--I'll
give them up for once. I want to show you that I do care. For no one
else on earth would I give up being with Jimmy in his holidays. For no
one else I'd risk what I'm risking to-night."
"Jimmy was asleep when you came?"
"Yes, but he might wake. He never does, but he might wake just
"Suppose he did! Suppose he looked for you in your room and didn't
find you! Suppose he came up here!"
She spoke obstinately, almost as if her assertion of the thing's
impossibility must make it impossible.
"And yet there's the risk of it," said Dion--"the great risk."
"There are always risks in connection with the big things in life. We
are worth very little if we won't take them."
"If it wasn't for Jimmy would you come and live with me? Would you
drop all this deception? Would you let your husband divorce you? Would
you give up your place in society for me? I am an outcast. Would you
come and be an outcast with me?"
"Yes, if it wasn't for Jimmy."
"And for Jimmy you'd give me up for ever in a moment, wouldn't you?"
"Why do you ask these questions?" she said, almost fiercely.
"I want something for myself, something that's really mine. Then
"Perhaps I could forget--sometimes."
"And yet when you knew Jimmy was coming here you wanted to go away.
You were afraid then. And even to-day--"
"I want one thing or the other!" he interrupted desperately. "I'm sick
of mixing up good and bad. I'm sick of prevarications and deceptions.
They go against my whole nature. I hate struggling in a net. It saps
all my strength."
"I know. I understand."
She put her arm round his neck.
"Perhaps I ought to give you up, let you go. I've thought that. But I
haven't the courage. Dion, I'm lonely, I'm lonely."
He felt moisture on his cheek.
"About you I'm absolutely selfish," she said, in a low, swift voice.
"Even if all this hypocrisy hurts you I can't give you up. I've told
you a lie--even you."
"I said to you on /that/ night----"
"I know," he said.
"I said that I hadn't cared for you till I met you in Pera, and saw
what /she/ had done to you. That was a lie. I cared for you in
England. Didn't you know it?"
"Once or twice I wondered, but I was never at all sure."
"It was because I cared that I wanted to make friends with your wife.
I had no evil reason. I knew you and she were perfectly happy
together. But I wanted just to see you sometimes. She guessed it. That
was why she avoided me--the real reason. It wasn't only because I'd
been involved in a scandal, though I told you once it was. I've
sometimes lied to you because I didn't want to feel myself humiliated
in your eyes. But now I don't care. You can know all the truth if you
want to. You pushed me away--oh, very gently--because of her. Did you
think I didn't understand? You were afraid of me. Perhaps you thought
I was a nuisance. When I came back from Paris on purpose for Tippie
Chetwinde's party you were startled, almost horrified, when you saw
me. I saw it all so plainly. In the end, as you know, I gave it up.
Only when you went to the war I had to send that telegram. I thought
you might be killed, and I wanted you to know I was remembering you,
and admiring you for what you had done. Then you came with poor
She broke off, then added, with a long, quivering sigh:
"You've made me suffer, Dion."
He turned till he was facing her in the darkness.
"Then at last you were overtaken by your tragedy, and she showed you
her cruelty and cast you out. From that moment I was resolved some day
to let you know how much I cared. I wanted you in your misery. But I
waited. I had a conviction that you would come to me, drawn, without
suspecting it, by what I felt for you. Well, you came at last. And now
you ask me whether you are one of many."
"Forgive me!" he whispered.
"But of course I shall always forgive you for everything. Women who
care for men always do that. They can't help themselves. And you--will
you forgive me for my lies?"
He took her in his arms.
"Life's full of them. Only don't tell me any more, and make me forget
if you can. You've got so much will. Try to have the power for that."
"Then help me. Give yourself wholly to me. You have struggled against
me furtively. You thought I didn't know it, but I did. You look back
to the old ways. And that is madness. Turn a new page, Dion. Have the
courage to hope."
Her hot hands closed on him fiercely.
"You shall hope. I'll make you. Cut out the cancer that is in you, and
cut away all that is round it. Then you'll have health again. She
never knew how to feel in the great human way. She was too fond of God
ever to care for a man."
Let that be the epitaph over the tomb in which all his happiness was
In silence he made his decision, and Cynthia Clarke knew it.
The darkness covered them.
* * * * *
Down below in the Villa Hafiz Jimmy was sleeping peacefully, tired by
the long ride to and from the forest in the heat. He had gone to bed
very early, almost directly after dinner. His mother had not advised
this. Perhaps indeed, if she had not been secretly concentrated on
herself and her own desires that evening, she would have made Jimmy
stay up till at least half-past ten, even though he was "jolly
sleepy." He had slept for at least two hours in the forest. She ought
to have remembered that, but she had forgotten it, and when, at a
quarter to nine, on an enormous yawn, Jimmy had announced that he
thought he would "turn in and get between the sheets," she had almost
eagerly acquiesced. She wanted her boy asleep, soundly asleep that
night. When the clock had struck nine he had already traveled beyond
the land of dreams.
The night was intensely hot and airless. No breath of wind came from
the sea. Drops of perspiration stood on the boy's forehead as he
slept, with nothing over him but a sheet. He lay on his side, with his
face towards the open window and one arm outside the sheet.
People easily fall into habits of sleeping. Jimmy was accustomed to
sleep for about eight hours "on end," as he put it. When he had had
his eight hours he generally woke up. If he was not obliged to get up
he often went to sleep again after an interval of wakefulness, but he
seldom slept for as much as nine hours without waking.
On this night between two o'clock and three it seemed as if a layer of
sleep were gently lifted from him. He sighed, stirred, turned over and
began to dream.
He dreamed confusedly about Dion, and there were pain and apprehension
in his dream. In it Dion seemed to be himself and yet not himself, to
be near and at the same time remote, to be Jimmy's friend and yet, in
some strange and horrible way, hostile to Jimmy. No doubt the boy was
haunted in his sleep by an obscure phantom bred of that painful
impression of the morning, when his friend had suddenly been changed
in the pavilion, changed into a tragic figure from which seemed to
emanate impalpable things very black and very cold.
In the dream Jimmy's mother did not appear as an active figure; yet
the dreamer seemed somehow to be aware of her, to know faintly that
she was involved in unhappy circumstances, that she was the victim of
distresses he could not fathom. And these distresses weighed upon him
like a burden, as things weigh upon us in dreams, softly and heavily,
and with a sort of cloudy awfulness. He wanted to strive against them
for his mother, but he was held back from action, and Dion seemed to
have something to do with this. It was as if his friend and enemy,
Dion Leith, did not wish his mother to be released from unhappiness.
Jimmy moved, lay on his back and groaned. His eyelids fluttered.
Something from without, something from a distance, was pulling at him,
and the hands of sleep, too inert, perhaps, for any conflict, relaxed
their hold upon him. Thoughts from two minds in a dark pavilion were
stealing upon him, were touching him here and there, were whispering
Another layer of sleep was softly removed from him.
He clenched his large hands--he had already the hands and feet almost
of the man he would some day grow into--and his eyes opened wide for a
moment. But they closed again. He was not awake yet.
At three o'clock he woke. He had slept for six hours in the villa and
for two hours in the forest. He lay still in the dark for a few
minutes. A faint memory of his dream hung about him like a tattered
mist. He felt anxious, almost apprehensive, and strained his ears
expectant of some sound. But the silence of the airless night was deep
and large all about him. He began to think of his mother. What had
been the matter with her? Who, or what, had persecuted her? He
realized now that he had been dreaming, said to himself, with a boy's
exaggeration, that he had had "a beastly nightmare!" Nevertheless his
mother still appeared to him as the victim of distresses. He could not
absolutely detach himself from the impressions communicated to him in
his dream. He was obliged to think of his mother as unhappy and of
Dion Leith as not wholly friendly either to her or to himself. And it
was all quite beastly.
Presently, more fully awake, he began to wonder about the time and to
feel tremendously thirsty, as if he could "drink the jug."
He stretched out a hand, found the matches and struck a light. It went
out with a sort of feeble determination.
"Damn!" he muttered.
He struck another match and lit the candle. His silver watch lay
beside it, and marked five minutes past three. Jimmy was almost
angrily astonished. Only that! He now felt painfully wide awake, as if
his sleep were absolutely finished. What was to be done? He remembered
that he had slept in the forest. He had had his eight hours. Perhaps
that was the reason of his present wakefulness. Anyhow, he must have a
drink. He thrust away the sheet, rolled out of bed, and went to the
washhand-stand. There was plenty of water in his bottle, but when he
poured it into the tumbler he found that it was quite warm. He was
certain warm water wouldn't quench his ardent thirst. Besides, he
loathed it. Any chap would! How beastly everything was!
He put down the tumbler without drinking, went to the window and
looked out. The still hot darkness which greeted him made him feel
again the obscure distress of his dream. He was aware of apprehension.
Dawn could not be so very far off; yet he felt sunk to the lips in the
If only he could have a good drink of something very cold! This wish
made him think again of his mother. He knew she did not require much
sleep, and sometimes read during part of the night; he also knew that
she kept some iced lemonade on the table beside her bed. Now the
thought of his mother's lemonade enticed him.
He hesitated for a moment, then stuck his feet into a pair of red
Turkish slippers without heels, buttoned the jacket of his pyjamas,
which he had thrown open because of the heat, took his candle in hand,
and shuffled--he always shuffled when he had on the ridiculous
slippers--to the door.
There he paused.
The landing was fairly wide. It looked dreary and deserted in the
darkness defined by the light from his candle. He could see the head
of the staircase, the shallow wooden steps disappearing into the empty
blackness in which the ground floor of the house was shrouded; he
could see the door of his mother's bedroom. As he stared at it,
considering whether his thirst justified him in waking her up--for, if
she were asleep, he felt pretty sure she would wake however softly he
crept into her room--he saw that the door was partly open. Perhaps his
mother had found the heat too great, and had tried to create a draught
by opening her door. There was darkness in the aperture. She wasn't
reading, then. Probably she was asleep. He was infernally thirsty; the
door was open; the lemonade was almost within reach; he resolved to
risk it. Carefully shading the candle with one hand he crept across
the landing, adroitly abandoned his slippers outside the door, and on
naked feet entered his mother's room.
His eyes immediately rested on the tall jug of lemonade, which stood
on a small table, with a glass and some books, beside the big, low
bed. He stole towards it, always shielding the candle with his hand,
and not looking at the bed lest his glance might, perhaps, disturb the
sleeper he supposed to be in it. He reached the table, and was about
to lay a desirous hand upon the jug, when it occurred to him that, in
doing this, he would expose the candle ray. Better blow the candle
out! He located the jug, and was on the edge of action--his lips were
pursed for the puff--when the dead silence of the room struck him.
Could any one, even his remarkably quiet mother, sleep without making
even the tiniest sound? He shot a glance at the bed. There was no one
in it. He bent down. It had not been slept in that night.
Jimmy stood, with his mouth open, staring at the large, neat,
unruffled bed. What the dickens could the mater be up to? She must, of
course, be sitting up in her small sitting-room next door to the
bedroom. Evidently the heat had made her sleepless.
He took a pull at the lemonade, went to the sitting-room door and
softly opened it, at the same time exclaiming, "I say, mater----"
Darkness and emptiness confronted him.
He shut the door rather hurriedly, and again stood considering.
Something cracked. He started, and the candle rattled in his hand. A
disagreeable sensation was stealing upon him. He would not, of course,
have acknowledged that an unpleasant feeling of loneliness, almost of
desertion. The servants slept in a small wing of the villa, shut off
from the main part of the house by double doors. Mrs. Clarke detested
hearing the servants at night, and had taken good care to make such
hearing impossible. Jimmy began to feel isolated.
Where could the mater be? And what could she be doing?
For a moment he thought of returning to his room, shutting himself in
and waiting for the dawn, which would change everything--would make
everything seem quite usual and reasonable. But something in the
depths of him, speaking in a disagreeably distinct voice, remarked,
"That's right! Be a funk stick!" And his young cheeks flushed red,
although he was alone. Immediately he went out on to the landing,
thrust his feet again into the red slippers, and boldly started down
the stairs into the black depths below. Holding the candle tightly,
and trying to shuffle with manly decision, he explored the sitting-
rooms and the dining-room. All of them were empty and dark.
Now Jimmy began to feel "rotten." Horrid fears for his mother bristled
up in his mind. His young imagination got to work and summoned up ugly
things before him. He saw his mother ravished away from him by
unspeakable men--Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Albanians--God knows whom--
and carried off to some unknown and frightful fate; he saw her dead,
murdered; he saw her dead, stricken by some sudden and horrible
illness. His heart thumped. He could hear it. It seemed to be beating
in his ears. And then he began to feel brave, to feel an intrepidity
of desperation. He must act. That was certain. It was his obvious
business to jolly well get to work and do something. His first thought
was to rush upstairs, to rouse the servants, to call up Sonia, his
mother's confidential maid, to--the pavilion!
Suddenly he remembered the pavilion, and all the books on its shelves.
His mother might be there. She might have been sleepless, might have
felt sure she couldn't sleep, and so have stayed up. She might be
reading in the darkness. She was afraid of nothing. Darkness and
solitude wouldn't hinder her from wandering about if the fancy to
wander took her. She wouldn't, of course, go outside the gates, but--
he now felt sure she was somewhere in the garden.
He looked round. He was standing by the grand piano in the drawing-
room, and he now noticed for the first time that the French window
which gave on to the rose garden was open. That settled it. He put the
candle down, hurried out into the garden and called, "Mater!"
No voice replied except the fountain's voice. The purring water rose
in the darkness and fell among the lilies, rose and fell, active and
indifferent, like a living thing withdrawn from him, wrapped in its
"Mater!" he called again, in a louder, more resolute, voice. "Mater!
* * * * *
In an absolutely still night a voice can travel very far. On the
highest terrace of the garden in the blackness of the pavilion Mrs.
Clarke moved sharply. She sat straight up on the divan, rigid, with
her hands pressed palm downwards on the cushions. Dion had heard
nothing, and did not understand the reason for her abrupt, almost
"Why . . . ?" he began.
She caught his wrist and held it tightly, compressing her fingers on
it with a fierce force that amazed him.
Had he really heard the word, or had he imagined it?
He had heard it.
She had her thin lips close to his ear. She still held his wrist in a
grip of iron.
"He's at the bottom of the garden. He'll come up here. He won't wait.
Go down and meet him."
"Go down! I'll hide among the trees. Let him come up here, or bring
him up. He must come. Be sure he comes inside. While you go I'll light
the lamp. I can do it in a moment. You couldn't sleep. You came here
to read. Of course you know nothing about me. Keep him here for five
or ten minutes. You can come down then and help him to look for me. Go
She took away her hand.
"My whole future depends upon you!"
Dion got up and went out. As he went he heard her strike a match.
Scarcely knowing for a moment what he was doing, acting mechanically,
in obedience to instinct, but always feeling a sort of terrible
driving force behind him, he traversed the terrace on which the
pavilion stood, passed the great plane tree and the wooden seat, and
began to descend. As he did so he heard again Jimmy's voice crying:
"Jimmy!" he called out, in a loud voice, hurrying on.
As the sound died away he knew it had been nonchalant. Surely she had
made it so!
"Jimmy!" he called again. "What's up. What's the matter?"
There was no immediate reply, but in the deep silence Dion heard
hurrying steps, and then:
"Mr. Leith--it is you, is it?"
"Yes. What on earth's the matter?"
"Stop a sec! I----"
The feet were pounding upward. Almost directly, in pyjamas and the
slippers, which somehow still remained with him, Jimmy stood by Dion
in the dark, breathing hard.
"Jimmy, what's the matter? What has happened?"
"I say, why are you here?"
"I couldn't sleep. The night was so hot. I had nothing to read in my
rooms. Besides they're stuck down right against the quay. You know
your mother's kind enough to let me have a key of the garden gate. I
thought I might get more air on the top terrace. I was reading in the
pavilion when I thought I heard a call."
"Then the mater isn't there?"
"Of course not. Come on up!"
Dion took the boy by the arm with decision, and slowly led him
"What's this about your mother? Do you mean she isn't asleep?"
"Asleep? She isn't in her bedroom! She hasn't been there!"
"Hasn't been there?"
"Hasn't been to bed at all! I've been to her sitting-room--you know,
upstairs--she isn't there. I've been in all the rooms. She isn't
anywhere. She must be somewhere about here."
They had arrived in front of the pavilion backed by trees. Looking in,
Dion saw a lighted lamp. The slide of jeweled glass had been removed
from it. A white ray fell on an open book laid on a table.
"I was reading here"--he looked--"a thing called 'The Kasidah.' Sit
down!" He pulled the boy down. "Now what is all this? Your mother must
be in the house."
"But I tell you she isn't!"
Dion had sat down between Jimmy and the opening on to the terrace. It
occurred to him that he ought to have induced the boy to sit with his
back to the terrace and his face turned towards the room. It was too
late to do that now.
"I tell you she isn't!" Jimmy repeated, with a sort of almost fierce
He was staring hard at Dion. His hair was almost wildly disordered,
and his face looked pale and angry in the ray of the lamp. Dion felt
that there was suspicion in his eyes. Surely those eyes were demanding
of him the woman who was hiding among the trees.
"Where have you looked?" he said.
"I tell you I've looked everywhere," said Jimmy, doggedly.
"Did you mother go to bed when you did?"
"No. I went very early. I was so infernally sleepy."
"Where did you leave her?"
"In the drawing-room. She was playing the piano. But what's the good
of that? What time did you come here?"
"I! Oh, not till very late indeed."
"Were there any lights showing when you came?"
"Lights! No! But it was ever so much too late for that."
"Did you go on to the terrace by the drawing-room?"
"No. I came straight up here. It never occurred to me that any one
would be up at such an hour. Besides, I didn't want to disturb any
one, especially your mother."
"Well, just now I found the drawing-room window wide open, and mater's
bed hasn't been touched. What do you make of that?"
Before Dion could reply the boy abruptly started up.
"I heard something. I know I did."
As naturally as he could Dion got between Jimmy and the opening on to
the terrace, and, forestalling the boy, looked out. He saw nothing; he
could not have said with truth that any definite sound reached his
ears; but he felt that at that exact moment Mrs. Clarke escaped from
the terrace, and began to glide down towards the house below.
"There's nothing! Come and see for yourself," he said casually.
Jimmy pushed by him, then stood perfectly still, staring at the
darkness and listening intently.
"I don't hear it now!" he acknowledged gruffly.
"What did you think you heard?"
"I /did/ hear something. I couldn't tell you what it was."
"Have you looked all through the garden?"
"You know I haven't. You heard me calling down at the bottom. You must
have, because you answered me."
"We'd better have a good look now. Just wait one minute while I put
out the lamp. I'll put away the book I was reading, too."
"Right you are!" said the boy, still gruffly.
He waited on the terrace while Dion went into the pavilion. As Dion
took up "The Kasidah" he glanced down at the page at which Mrs. Clarke
had chanced to set the book open, and read:
"Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from
None but self expect applause----"
With a feeling of cold and abject soul-nausea he shut the book, put it
away on a bookshelf in which he saw a gap, and went to turn out the
lamp. As the flame flickered and died out he heard Jimmy's foot shift
on the terrace.
"Do what thy manhood bids thee do----"
Dion stood for a moment in the dark. He was in a darkness greater than
any which reigned in the pavilion. His soul seemed to him to be
pressing against it, to be hemmed in by it as by towering walls of
iron. For an instant he shut his eyes. And when he did that he saw,
low down, a little boy's figure, two small outstretched hands groping.
"Aren't you coming, Mr. Leith? What's the matter?"
"I was just seeing that the lamp was thoroughly out."
Dion came out.
"We'll look all over the garden. But if your mother had been in it she
must have heard you calling her. I did, although I was inside there
"I know. I thought of that too," returned Jimmy.
And Dion fancied that the boy's voice was very cold; Dion fancied this
but he was not sure. His conscience might be tricking him. He hoped
that it was tricking him.
"We'd better look among the trees," he said. "And then we'll go to the
"It's no use looking among the trees," Jimmy returned. "If she was up
here she must have heard us talking all this time."
Abruptly he led the way to the steps near the plane tree. Dion
followed him slowly. Was it possible that Jimmy had guessed? Was it
possible that Jimmy had caught a glimpse of his mother escaping? The
boy's manner was surely almost hostile.
They searched the garden in silence, and at length found themselves by
the fountain close to the French window of the drawing-room.
"You mother must be in the house," said Dion firmly.
"But I know she isn't!" Jimmy retorted, with a sort of dull fixed
"Did you rouse the servants?"
"Where do they sleep?"
"Away from us, by themselves."
"You'd better go and look again. If you can't find your mother perhaps
you'd better wake the servants."
"I know," said Jimmy, in a voice that had suddenly changed, become
brighter, more eager--"I'll go to Sonia."
"Your mother's maid? That's it. She may know something. I'll wait down
here at the window. Got a candle?"
"Yes. I left it in there by the piano."
He felt his way in and, almost immediately, struck a light. The candle
flickered across his face and his disordered hair as he disappeared.
Dion waited by the fountain.
Where would Mrs. Clarke be? How would she explain matters? Would she
have had time to----? Oh yes! She would have had time to be ready with
some quite simple, yet quite satisfactory, piece of deception. Jimmy
would find her, and she would convince him of all that it was
necessary he should be convinced of.
Dion's chin sank down and his head almost drooped. He felt mortally
tired as he waited here. Already a very faint grayness of the coming
dawn was beginning to filter in among the darknesses.
Another day to face! How could he face it? He had, he supposed, been
what is called "true" to the woman who had given herself to him, but
how damnably false he had been to himself that night!
Meanwhile Jimmy went upstairs, frowning and very pale. He went again
to his mother's bedroom and found it empty. The big bed, turned down,
had held no sleeper. Nothing had been changed in the room since he had
been away in the garden. He did not trouble to look once more in the
adjoining sitting-room, but hurried towards the servants' quarters.
The double doors were shut. Softly he opened them and passed through
into a wooden corridor. At the far end of it were two rooms sacred to
Sonia, the Russian maid. The first room she slept in; the second was a
large airy chamber lined with cupboards. In this she worked. She was a
very clever needlewoman, expert in the mysteries of dressmaking.
As Jimmy drew near to the door of Sonia's workroom he heard a low
murmur of voices coming from within. Evidently Sonia was there,
talking to some one. He crept up and listened.
Very tranquil the voices sounded. They were talking in French. One was
his mother's, and he heard her say:
"Another five minutes, Sonia, and perhaps I shall be ready for bed. At
last I'm beginning to feel as if I might be able to sleep. If only I
were like Jimmy! He doesn't know anything about the torments of
"Poor Madame!" returned Sonia, in her rather thick, but pleasantly
soft, voice. "Your head a little back. That's better!"
Jimmy was aware of an odd, very faint, sound. He couldn't make out
what it was.
"Mater!" he said.
And he tapped on the door.
"Who's that?" said Sonia's voice.
The door was opened by the maid, and he saw his mother in a long, very
thin white dressing-gown, seated in an arm-chair before a mirror. Her
colorless hair flowed over the back of the chair, against which her
little head was leaning, supported by a silk cushion. Her face looked
very white and tired, and the lids drooped over her usually wide-open
eyes, giving her a strange expression of languor, almost of
drowsiness. Sonia held a silver-backed brush in each hand.
"Monsieur Jimmy!" she said.
"Jimmy!" said Mrs. Clarke. "What's the matter?"
She lifted her head from the cushion, and sat straight up. But she
still looked languid.
"What is it? Are you ill?"
"No, mater! But I've been looking for you everywhere!"
There was a boyish reproach in his voice.
"Looking for me in the middle of the night! Why?"
Jimmy began to explain matters.
"At last I thought I'd look in the garden. I shouted out for you, and
who should answer but Mr. Leith?" he presently said.
His mother--he noticed it--woke up fully at this point in the
"Mr. Leith!" she said, with strong surprise. "How could he answer
"He was up in the pavilion reading a book."
Mrs. Clarke looked frankly astonished. Her eyes traveled to Sonia,
whose broad face was also full of amazement.
"At this hour!" said Mrs. Clarke.
"He couldn't sleep either," said Jimmy, quite simply. "He's waiting
out there now to know whether I've found you."
Mrs. Clarke smiled faintly.
"What a to do!" she said, with just a touch of gentle disdain. "And
all because I suffer from insomnia. Run down to him, Jimmy, and tell
him that as I felt it was useless to go to bed I sat by the fountain
till I was weary, then read in my sitting-room, and finally came to
Sonia to be brushed into sleep. Set his mind at rest about me if you
She smiled again.
Somehow that smile made Jimmy feel very small.
"And go back to bed, dear boy."
She put out one hand, drew him to her, and gave him a gentle kiss with
lips which felt very calm.
"I'm sorry you were worried about me."
"Oh, that's all right, mater!" said Jimmy, rather awkwardly. "I didn't
know what to think. You see--"
"Of course you couldn't guess that I was having my hair brushed. Now
go straight to bed, after you've told Mr. Leith. I'm coming too in a
As Jimmy left the room Sonia was again at work with the two hair-
A moment later Jimmy reappeared at the French window of the drawing-
room. Dion lifted his head, but did not move from the place where he
was standing close to the fountain.
"It's all right, Mr. Leith," said Jimmy. "I've found mater."
"Where was she?"
"In Sonia's room having her hair brushed."
Dion stared towards him but said nothing.
"She told me I was to set your mind at rest."
"Yes. I believe she thought us a couple of fools for kicking us such a
dust about her."
Dion said nothing.
"I don't know, but I've an idea girls and women often think they can
laugh at us," added Jimmy. "Anyhow, it'll be a jolly long time before
I put myself in a sweat about the mater again. I thought--I don't know
what I thought, and all the time she was half asleep and having her
hair brushed. She made me feel ass number one. Good night."
The boy shut the window, bent down and bolted it on the inside.
Dion looked at the gray coming of the new day.
Liverpool has a capacity for looking black which is perhaps, only
surpassed by Manchester's, and it looked its blackest on a day at the
end of March in the following year, as the afternoon express from
London roared into the Lime Street Station. The rain was coming down;
it was small rain, and it descended with a sort of puny determination;
it was sad rain without any dash, any boldness; it had affinities with
the mists which sweep over stretches of moorland, but its power of
saturation was remarkable. It soaked Liverpool. It issued out of
blackness and seemed to carry a blackness with it which descended into
the very soul of the city and lay coiled there like a snake.
Lady Ingleton was very sensitive to her surroundings, and as she
lifted the rug from her knees, and put away the book she had been
reading, she shivered. A deep melancholy floated over her and
enveloped her. She thought, "Why did I come upon this adventure? What
is it all to do with me?" But then the face of a man rose up before
her, lean, brown, wrinkled, ravaged, with an expression upon it that
for a long time had haunted her, throwing a shadow upon her happiness.
And she felt that she had done right to come. Impulse, perhaps, had
driven her; sentiment rather than reason had been her guide.
Nevertheless, she did not regret her journey. Even if nothing good
came of it she would not regret it. She would have tried for once at
some small expense to herself to do a worthy action. She would for
once have put all selfishness behind her.
A white-faced porter, looking anxious and damp, appeared at the door
of the corridor. Lady Ingleton's French maid arrived from the second
class with Turkish Jane on her arm.
"Oh, Miladi, how black it is here!" she exclaimed, twisting her
pointed little nose. "The black it reaches the heart."
That was exactly what Lady Ingleton was thinking, but she said, in a
voice less lazy than usual.
"There's a capital hotel, Annette. We shall be very comfortable."
"Shall we stay here long, Miladi?"
"No; but I don't know how long yet. Is Jane all right?"
"She has been looking out of the window, Miladi, the whole way. She is
in ecstasy. Dogs have no judgment, Miladi."
When Lady Ingleton was in her sitting-room at the Adelphi Hotel, and
had had the fire lighted and tea brought up, she asked to see the
manager for a moment. He came almost immediately, a small man, very
smart, very trim, self-possessed as a attache.
"I hope you are quite comfortable, my lady," he said, in a thin voice
which held no note of doubt. "Can I do anything for you?"
"I wanted to ask you if you knew the address of some one I wish to
send a note to--Mr. Robertson. He's a clergyman who--"
"Do you mean Father Robertson, of Holy Cross, Manxby Street, my lady?"
"Of Holy Cross; yes, that's it."
"He lives at--"
"Wait a moment. I'll take it down."
She went to the writing-table and took up a pen.
"The Rev. George Robertson, Holy Cross Rectory, Manxby Street, my
"Thank you very much."
"Can I do anything more for you, my lady?"
"Please send me up a messenger in twenty minutes. Mr. Robertson is in
Liverpool, I understand?"
"I believe so, my lady. He is generally here. Holidays and pleasure
are not much in his way. The messenger will be up in twenty minutes."
He looked at the clock on the mantelpiece and went softly out, holding
himself very erect.
Lady Ingleton sat down by the tea-table. Annette was unpacking in the
adjoining bedroom, and Turkish Jane was reposing in an arm-chair near
"What would Carey think of me, if he knew?" was her thought, as she
poured out the tea.
Sir Carey was at his post in Constantinople. She had left him and come
to England to see her mother, who had been very ill, but who was now
much better. When she had left Constantinople she had not known she
was coming to Liverpool, but she had known that something was
intruding upon her happiness, was worrying at her mind. Only when she
found herself once more in England did she understand that she could
not return to Turkey without making an effort to do a good deed. She
had very little hope that her effort would be efficacious, but she
knew that she had to make it.
It was quite a new role for her, the role of Good Samaritan. She
smiled faintly as she thought that. How would she play it?
After tea she wrote this note:
"ADELPHI HOTEL, Tuesday
"DEAR MR. ROBERTSON,--As you will not know who I am, I must explain
myself. My husband, Sir Carey Ingleton, is Ambassador at
Constantinople. Out there we have made acquaintance with Mr. Dion
Leith, who had the terrible misfortune to kill his little boy
nearly a year and a half ago. I want very much to speak to you
about him. I will explain why when I see you if you have the time
to spare me an interview. I would gladly welcome you here, or I
could come to you. Which do you prefer? I am telling the messenger
to wait for an answer. To be frank, I have come to Liverpool on
purpose to see you.--Yours sincerely,
The messenger came back without an answer. Father Robertson was out,
but the note would be given to him as soon as he came home.
That evening, just after nine o'clock, he arrived at the hotel, and
sent up his name to Lady Ingleton.
"Please ask him to come up," she said to the German waiter who had
mispronounced his name.
As she waited for her visitor she was conscious of a faint creeping of
shyness through her. It made her feel oddly girlish. When had she last
felt shy? She could not remember. It must have been centuries ago.
The German waiter opened the door and a white-haired man walked in.
Directly she saw him Lady Ingleton lost her unusual feeling. As she
greeted him, and made her little apology for bothering him, and
thanked him for coming out at night to see a stranger, she felt glad
that she had obeyed her impulse and had been, for once, a victim to
altruism. When she looked at his eyes she knew that she would not mind
saying to him all she wanted to say about Dion Leith. They were eyes
which shone with clarity; and they were something else--they were
totally incurious eyes. Perhaps from perversity Lady Ingleton had
always rebelled against giving to curious people the exact food they
were in search of.
"He won't be greedy to know," she thought. "And so I shan't mind
Unlike a woman, she came at once to the point. Although she could be
very evasive she could also be very direct.
"You know Mrs. Dion Leith," she said. "My friend Tippie Chetwinde,
Mrs. Willie Chetwinde, told me she was living here. She came here soon
after the death of her child, I believe."
"Yes, she did, and she has been here ever since."
"Do you know Dion Leith, Mr. Robertson?" she asked, leaning forward in
her chair by the fire, and fixing her large eyes, that looked like an
Italian's, upon him.
"No, I have never seen him. I hoped to, but the tragedy of the child
occurred so soon after his return from South Africa that I never had
"Forgive me for correcting you," she said, gently but very firmly.
"But it is not the tragedy of a child. It's the tragedy of a man. I am
going to talk very frankly to you. I make no apology for doing so. I
am what is called"--she smiled faintly--"a woman of the world, and
you, I think, are an unworldly man. Because I am of the world, and
you, in spirit"--she looked at him almost deprecatingly--"are not of
it, I can say what I have come here to try to say. I couldn't say it
to a man of the world, because I could never give a woman away to such
a man. Tell me though, first, if you don't mind--do you care for Mrs.
"Very much," said Father Robertson, simply and warmly.
"Do you care for her enough to tell her the truth?"
"I never wish to tell her anything else."
Suddenly Lady Ingleton's face flushed, her dark eyes flashed and then
filled with tears, and she said in a voice that shook with emotion:
"Dion Leith killed a body by accident, the body of his little boy. She
is murdering a soul deliberately, the soul of her husband."
She did not know at all why she was so suddenly and so violently
moved. She had not expected this abrupt access of feeling. It had
rushed upon her from she knew not where. She was startled by it.
"I don't know why I should care," she commented, as if half ashamed of
Then she added, with a touch of almost shy defiance:
"But I do care, I do care. That's why I've come here."
"You are right to care if it is so," said Father Robertson.
"Such lots of women wouldn't," she continued, in a quite different,
almost cynical, voice. "But that man is an exceptional man--not in
intellect, but in heart. And I'm a very happy woman. Perhaps you
wonder what that has to do with it. Well sometimes I see things
through my happiness, just because of it; sometimes I see unhappiness
Her voice had changed again, had become much softer. She drew her
chair a little nearer to the fire.
"Do you ever receive confessions, Mr. Robertson--as a priest, I mean?"
"Yes, very often."
"They are sacred, I know, even in your church."
"Yes," he said, without emphasis.
His lack of emphasis decided her. Till this moment she had been
undecided about a certain thing, although she herself perhaps was not
fully aware of her hesitation.
"I want to do a thing that I have never yet done," she said. "I want
to be treacherous to a friend, to give a friend away. Will you promise
to keep my treachery secret forever? Will you promise to treat what I
am going to tell you about her as if I told it to you in the
"If you tell it to me I will. But why must you tell it to me? I don't
like treachery. It's an ugly thing."
"I can't help that. I really came here just for that--to be
She looked into the fire and sighed.
"I've covered a great sin with my garment," she murmured slowly, "and
I repent me!"
Then, with a look of resolve, she turned to her white-haired
"I've got a friend," she said--"a woman friend. Her name is Cynthia
Clarke. (I'm in the confessional now!) You may have heard of her. She
was a /cause celebre/ some time ago. Her husband tried to divorce her,
poor man, and failed."
"No, I never heard her name before," said Father Robertson.
"You don't read /causes celebres/. You have better things to do. Well,
she's my friend. I don't exactly know why. Her husband was Councillor
in my husband's Embassy. But I knew her before that. We always got on.
She has peculiar fascination--a sort of strange beauty, a very
intelligent mind, and the strongest will I have ever known. She has
virtues of a kind. She never speaks against other women. If she knew a
secret of mine I am sure she would never tell it. She is thoroughbred.
I find her a very interesting woman. There is absolutely no one like
her. She's a woman one would miss. That's on one side. On the other--
she's a cruel woman; she's a consummate hypocrite; she's absolutely
corrupt. You wonder why she's my friend?"
"I did not say so."
"Nor look it. But you do. Well, I suppose I haven't many scruples
except about myself. And I have been trained in the let-other-people-
alone tradition. Besides, Cynthia Clarke never told me anything. No
one has told me. Being a not stupid woman, I just know what she is.
I'll put it brutally, Mr. Robertson. She is a huntress of men. That is
what she lives for. But she deceives people into believing that she is
a purely mental woman. All the men whom she doesn't hunt believe in
her. Even women believe in her. She has good friends among women. They
stick to her. Why? Because she intends them to. She has a conquering
will. And she never tells a secret--especially if it is her own. In
her last sin--for it is a sin--I have been a sort of accomplice. She
meant me to be one and"--Lady Ingleton slightly shrugged her shoulders
--"I yielded to her will. I don't know why. I never know why I do what
Cynthia Clarke wishes. There are people like that; they just get what
they want, because they want it with force, I suppose. Most of us are
rather weak, I think. Cynthia Clarke hunted Dion Leith in his misery,
and I helped her. Being an ambassadress I have social influence on the
Bosporus, and I used it for Cynthia. I knew from the very first what
she was about, what she meant to do. Directly she mentioned Dion Leith
to me and asked me to invite him to the Embassy and be kind to him I
understood. But I didn't know Dion Leith then. If I had thoroughly
known him I should never have been a willing cat's-paw in a very ugly
game. But once I had begun--I took them both for a yachting trip--I
did not know how to get out of it all. On that yachting trip--I
realized how that man was suffering and what he was. I have never
before known a man capable of suffering so intensely as Dion Leith
suffers. Does his wife know how he loves her? Can she know it? Can she
ever have known it?"
Father Robertson was silent. As she looked at his eyelids--his eyes no
longer met hers with their luminous glowing sincerity--Lady Ingleton
realized that he was the Confessor.
"Sometimes I have been on the verge of saying to him, 'Go back to
England, go to your wife. Tell her, show her what she has done. Put up
a big fight for the life of your soul.' But I have never been able to
do it. A grief like that is holy ground, isn't it? One simply can't
set foot upon it. Besides, I scarcely ever see Dion Leith now. He's
gone down, I think, gone down very far."
"Where is he?"
"In Constantinople. I saw him by chance in Stamboul, near Santa
Sophia, just before I left for England. Oh, how he has changed!
Cynthia Clarke is destroying him. I know it. Once she told me he had
been an athlete with ideals. But now--now!"
Again the tears started into her eyes. Father Robertson looked up and
"Poor, poor fellow!" she said. "I can't bear to see him destroyed.
Some men--well, they seem almost entirely body. But he's so
She got up and stood by the fire.
"I have seen Mrs. Leith," she said. "I once heard her sing in London.
She is extraordinarily beautiful. At that time she looked radiant.
What did you say?"
"Please go on," Father Robertson said, very quietly.
"And she had a wonderful expression of joyous goodness which marked
her out from other women. You have a regard for her, and you are good.
But you care for truth, and so I'm going to tell you the truth. She
may be a good woman, but she has done a wicked action. Can't you make
her see it? Or shall I try to?"
"You wish to see her?"
"I am ready to see her."
Father Robertson again looked down. He seemed to be thinking deeply,
to be genuinely lost in thought. Lady Ingleton noticed this and did
not disturb him. For some minutes he sat without moving. At last he
looked up and put a question to Lady Ingleton which surprised her. He
"Are you absolutely certain that your friend Mrs. Clarke and Dion
Leith have been what people choose to call lovers?"
"Have been and are--absolutely certain. I could not prove it, but I
know it. He lives in Constantinople only for her."
"And you think he has deteriorated?"
"Terribly. I know it. The other day he looked almost degraded; as men
look when they let physical things get absolute domination over them.
It's an ugly subject, but--you and I know of these things."
In her voice there was a sound of delicate apology. It was her tribute
to the serene purity of which she was aware in this man.
Again he seemed lost in thought. She trusted in his power of thought.
He was a man--she was certain of it--who would find the one path which
led out of the maze. His unself-conscious intentness was beautiful in
its unconventional simplicity, and was a tribute to her sincerity
which she was subtle enough to understand, and good woman enough to
appreciate. He was concentrated not upon her but upon the problem
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