In the Wilderness
Part 14 out of 15
"Anyhow, you know he does."
She did not deny it.
"Remember this," Dion said, looking straight at her, "I'm not going to
be sacrificed a second time on account of a child."
After a long pause, during which Mrs. Clarke sat without moving, her
lovely head leaning against a cushion which was fastened near the top
of the back of the chair, she said:
"What do you mean exactly by being sacrificed, Dion?"
Her manner had changed. The hostility had gone out of it. Her husky
voice sounded gentle almost, and she looked at him earnestly.
"I mean just this: my life with the woman I once cared for was smashed
to pieces by a child, my own dead child. I'm not going to allow my
life with you to be smashed to pieces by Jimmy. Isn't a man more than
a child? Can't he feel more than a child feels, give more than a child
can give? Isn't a thing full grown as valuable, as worth having as a
thing that's immature?"
He spoke with almost passionate resentment.
"D'you mean to tell me that a man's love always means less to a woman
than a child's love means?"
Silently, while he spoke, she compared the passion she had had for
Dion Leith with the love she would always have for Jimmy. The one was
dead; the other could not die. That was the difference between such
"The two are so different that it is useless to compare them," she
replied. "Surely you could not be jealous of a child."
"I could be jealous of anything that threatened me in my life with
you. It's all I've got now, and I won't have it interfered with."
"But neither must you attempt to interfere with my life with my
child," she said, very calmly.
"You dragged me into your life with Jimmy. You have always used Jimmy
as a means. It began long ago in London when you were at Claridge's."
"There is no need--"
"There is need to make you see clearly why I have every right to take
a stand now against--against----"
"I feel you're changing. I don't trust you. You are not to be trusted.
Since Jimmy has been here again I feel that you are different."
"I am obliged to be specially careful now the boy is beginning to grow
up. He notices things now he wouldn't have noticed a year or two ago.
And it will get worse from year to year. That isn't my fault."
His sunken eyes looked fixedly at her from the midst of the network of
wrinkles which disfigured his face.
"Now what are you trying to lead up to?" he said.
"It's very foolish of you to be always suspicious. Only stupid people
are always suspecting others of sharp practise."
"I'm stupid compared with you, but I'm not so stupid that I haven't
learnt to know you better than other people know you, better,
probably, than any one else on earth knows you. It is entirely through
you that Jimmy has got to hate me. I'm not going to let you use his
hatred of me as a weapon against me. I've been wanting to tell you
this, but I thought I'd wait till he had gone."
"Why should I want to use a weapon against you?"
"I don't know. It isn't always easy to know why you want things.
You're such an inveterate liar, and so tricky that you'd puzzle the
"Do you realize that all you are saying to-day implies something? It
implies that in your opinion I am not a free agent, that you consider
you have a right to govern my actions. But I deny that."
She spoke firmly, but without any heat.
"Do you mean to say that what we are to each other gives me no more
rights over you than mere acquaintances have?"
"It gives you no more rights over me than mere acquaintances have."
He sat looking at her for a minute. Then he said:
"Cynthia, come and sit here, please, beside me."
"Why should I?"
She got up, came to the sofa with a sort of listless decision, and sat
down beside him. He took her uninjured hand. His hand was burning with
heat. He closed and unclosed his fingers as he went on speaking.
"What is there in such a relation as ours if it carries no rights? You
have altered my whole life. Is that nothing? I live out here only
because of you. I have nothing out here but you. All these months,
ever since we left Buyukderer, I've lived just as you wished. I went
into society at Buyukderer because you wished me to. When you didn't
care any more about my doing that I lived in the shade in Galata. I've
fallen in with every deception you thought necessary, I've told every
lie you wished me to tell. Ever since you made me lie to Jimmy I
haven't cared much. But you'll never know, because you can't
understand such things, what the loss of Jimmy's confidence and
respect has meant to me. However, that's all past. I'm as much of a
hypocrite as you are; I'm as false as you are; I'm as rotten as you
are--with other people. But don't, for God's sake, let's be rotten
with each other. That would be too foul, like thieves falling out."
"I've always been perfectly straight with you," she said coldly. "I
have nothing to reproach myself with."
The closing of his fingers on her hand, and their unclosing, irritated
her whole body. To-day she disliked his touch intensely, so intensely
that she could scarcely believe she had ever liked it, longed for it,
schemed for it.
"Please keep your hand still!" she said.
"It makes me nervous your doing that. Either hold my hand or don't
"I don't understand. What was I doing?"
"Oh, never mind. I've always been straight with you. I don't know why
you are attacking me."
"I feel you are changing towards me. So I thought I'd tell you that I
don't intend to be driven out a second time by a child. It's better
you should know that. Then you won't attempt the impossible."
She looked into his sunken eyes.
"Jimmy has got to dislike you," she said. "It's unfortunate, but it
can't be helped. I don't know exactly why it is so. It may be because
he's older, just at the age when boys begin to understand about men
and women. You're not always quite so careful before him as you might
be. I don't mean in what you say, but in your manner. I think Jimmy
fancies you like me in a certain way. I think he probably took it into
his head that you were hanging about the garden that night because
perhaps you hoped to meet me there. A very little more and he might
begin to suspect me. You have been frank with me to-day. I'll be frank
with you. I want you to understand that if there ever was a question
of my losing Jimmy's love and respect I should fight to keep them,
sacrifice anything to keep them. Jimmy comes first with me, and always
will. It couldn't be otherwise. I prefer that you should know it."
He shot a glance at her that was almost cunning. She had been prepared
for a perhaps violent outburst, but he only said:
"Jimmy won't be here again for some time, so we needn't bother about
She was genuinely surprised, but she did not show it.
"It was you who brought up the question," she said.
"Never mind. Don't worry about it. If Jimmy comes out for the summer
"He will, of course."
"Then I can go away from Buyukderer just for those few weeks."
"I----" She paused; then went on: "I must tell you that you mustn't
come to Buyukderer again this summer."
"Then you won't go there?"
"Of course I must go. I have the villa. I am going there next week."
"If you go, then I shall go. But I'll leave when Jimmy comes, as you
are so fussed about him."
She could scarcely believe that it was Dion who was speaking to her.
Often she had heard him speak violently, irritably, even cruelly and
rudely. But there was a sort of ghastly softness in his voice. His
hand still held hers, but its grasp had relaxed. In his touch, as in
his voice, there was a softness which disquieted her.
"I'm sorry, but I can't let you come to Buyukderer this summer," she
said. "Once did not matter. But if you came again my reputation would
"Then I'll stay at some other place on the Bosporus and come over."
"That would be just as bad."
"Do you seriously mean that we are to be entirely separated during the
whole of this summer?"
"I must be careful of my reputation now Jimmy's growing up. The
Bosporus is the home of malicious gossip."
"Do answer my question. Do you mean that we are to be separated during
"I don't see how it can be helped."
"It can be helped very easily. Don't go to Buyukderer."
"I must. I have the villa."
"I couldn't possibly stand Constantinople in the summer."
"There's no need to do that. There are other places besides
Constantinople and Buyukderer. You might go to one of them. Or you
She sat down for a moment looking down.
"Do you mean that I might travel with you?" she said, at last.
"Not with me. But I could happen to be where you are."
"That's not possible. Some one would get to know of it."
"How absurdly /ingenue/ you have become all of a sudden!" he said,
with soft, but scathing, irony.
And he laughed, let out a long, low, and apparently spontaneous laugh,
as if he were genuinely amused.
"Really one would hardly imagine that you were the heroine of the
famous divorce case which interested all London not so very long ago.
When I remember the life you acknowledged you had lived, the life you
were quite defiant about, I can't help being amused by this sudden
access of conventional Puritanism. You declared then that you didn't
choose to live a dull, orthodox life. One would suppose that the
leopard could change his spots after all."
While he was speaking she lifted her head and looked fixedly at him.
"It's just that very divorce case which has made me alter my way of
living," she said. "Any one who knew anything of the world, any one
but a fool, could see that."
"Ah, but I am a fool," he returned doggedly. "I was a fool when I ran
straight, and it seems I'm a fool when I run crooked. You've got to
make the best of me as I am. Take your choice. Go to Buyukderer if you
like. If you do I shall stay on the Bosporus. Or travel if you like,
and I'll happen to be where you are. It's quite easy. It's done every
day. But you know that as well as I do. I can't give you points in the
game of throwing dust in the eyes of the public."
"It's too late now to let the villa, even if I cared to. And I can't
afford to shut it up and leave it standing empty while I wander about
in hotels. I shall go to Buyukderer next week."
"All right. I'll go back to the rooms I had last year, and we can live
as we did then. Give me the key of the garden gate and I can use the
pavilion as my sitting-room again. It's all quite simple."
A frown altered her white face. His mention of the pavilion had
suddenly recalled to her exactly what she had felt for him last year.
She compared it with what she felt for him now. With an impulsive
movement she pulled her hand away from his.
"I shall not give you the key. I can't have you there. I will not.
People have begun to talk."
"I don't believe it. They never see us together here. You have taken
good care of that in the last few months. Why, we've met like thieves
in the night."
"Here, yes. In a great town one can manage, but not in a place like
He leaned forward and said, with dogged resolution:
"One thing is certain--I will not be separated from you during the
summer. Do whatever you like, but remember that. Make your own plans.
I will fall in with them. But I shall pass the summer where you pass
"I--really I didn't know you cared so much about me," she murmured,
with a faint smile.
"Care for you!"
He stared into her face and the twinkles twitched about his eyes.
"How should I not care for you?"
He gripped her hand again.
"Haven't you taught me how to live in the dust? Haven't you shown me
the folly of being honorable and the fun of deceiving others? Haven't
you led me into the dark and made me able to see in it? And there's
such a lot to see in the dark! Why, good God, Cynthia, you've made a
man in your own image and then you're surprised at his worshipping
you. Where's your cleverness?"
"I often believe you detest me."
"Oh, as for that, a woman such as you are can be loved and hated
almost at the same time. But she can't be given up. No!"
As she looked at him she saw the red gleam of the torch he carried.
Hers had long ago died out into blackness.
"Is it possible that you really wish to ruin my reputation?"
"Not a bit of it! You're so clever that you can always guard against
"Yes, I can when I'm dealing with gentlemen," she said, with sudden,
vicious sharpness. "But you are behaving like a cad. Of all the men
She stopped. A sort of nervous fury possessed her. It had nearly
driven her to make a false step. And yet--would it be a false step? As
she paused, looking at Dion, marking the hard obstinacy in his eyes,
feeling the hard, hot grip of his hand, it occurred to her that
perhaps she had blundered upon the one way out, the way of escape.
Amid the wreckage of his beliefs she knew that Dion still held to one
belief, which had been shaken once, but which her cool adroitness had
saved and made firm in a critical moment. If she destroyed it now
would he let her go? Just how low had he fallen through her? She
wished she knew. But she did not know, and she waited, looking at him.
"Go on!" he said. "Of all the men you--what?"
"How low down is he? How low down?" she asked herself.
"Can you go on?" he said harshly.
"Of all the men who have cared for me you are the only man who has
ever dared to interfere with my freedom," she said.
Her voice had become almost raucous, and a faint dull red strangely
discolored and altered her face.
"I will not permit it. I shall go to Buyukderer, and I forbid you to
follow me there. Now it's getting late and I'm tired. Please go away."
"Men who have cared for you!"
"What d'you mean by that? D'you mean Brayfield?"
"Have there been many others who have cared as Brayfield did?"
"Hadi Bey was one of them, I suppose?"
"And Dumeny was another?"
His lips were smiling, but his eyes looked dreadfully intent and
"You made them suffer and gave them no reward. I can see you doing it
and enjoying it."
"What is untrue?"
"To say that I gave them no reward."
At this moment there was a tap on the door.
"Come in!" said Mrs. Clarke, in her ordinary voice.
Sonia opened the door and came in.
"Excuse me, Madame," she said, "but you told me I was to bathe your
hand. If it is not bathed it will look horrible to-morrow. I have the
warm water all ready."
She stood in front of her mistress, broad, awkward and yet capable.
Dion felt certain this woman meant to get rid of him because she was
aware that her mistress wanted him to go. He had always realized that
Sonia knew Mrs. Clarke better than any other woman did. As for himself
--she had never shown any feeling towards him. He did not know whether
she liked him or disliked him. But now he knew that he disliked her.
He looked almost menacingly at her.
"Your mistress can't go at present," he said. "Her hand is all right.
It was only a scratch."
Sonia looked at her mistress.
"Sonia is quite right," said Mrs. Clarke, getting up. "And as the
water is warm I will go. Good-by."
"I will stay here till you have finished," he said, still looking at
"It's getting very late. We might finish our talk to-morrow."
"I will stay."
After a slight pause Mrs. Clarke, whose face was still discolored with
red, turned to the maid and said:
"Go away, Sonia."
Sonia went away very slowly. At the door she stopped for a moment and
looked round. Then she disappeared, and the door closed slowly and as
if reluctantly behind her.
"Now what did you mean?" Dion said.
He got up.
"What did you mean?"
"Simply this, that my husband ought to have won his case."
He stood with his hands hanging at his sides, looking impassive, with
his head bent and the lids drooping over his eyes. She waited--for her
freedom. She did not mind the disgust which she felt like an emanation
in the darkening room, if only it would carry him far enough in hatred
of her. Would it do that?
There was a very long silence between them. During it he remained
motionless. With his hanging hands and his drooping head he looked,
she thought, almost as much like a puppet as like a man. His whole
body had a strange aspect of listlessness, almost of feebleness. Yet
she knew how muscular and powerful he still was, although he had long
ago ceased from taking care of his body. The silence lasted so long,
and he stood so absolutely still, that she began to feel uneasy, even
faintly afraid. The nerves in her body were tingling. They could have
braced themselves to encounter violence, but this immobility and
dumbness tormented them. She wanted to speak, to move, but she felt
obliged to wait for him. At last he looked up. He came to her, lifted
his hands and laid them heavily on her emaciated shoulders.
"So that's what you are!"
He stared into her haggard face. She met his eyes resolutely.
"That's what you are!"
"Why have you told me this to-day?"
"Of course you knew it long ago."
"Answer me. Why have you told me to-day?"
"I don't know."
"I do. You have told me to-day because you have had enough of me. You
meant to use Jimmy to get rid of me as you once used him to get to
know me more intimately. When you found that wouldn't serve your turn,
you made up your mind to speak a word or two of truth. You thought you
would disgust me into leaving you."
"Of course you knew it long ago," she repeated in a dull voice.
"I didn't know it. I might have suspected it. In fact, once I did, and
I told you so. But you drove out my suspicion. I don't know exactly
how. And since then--after you got your verdict in London I saw Dumeny
smile at you as he went out of the Court. I have never been able to
forget that smile. Now I understand it. One by one you've managed to
get rid of them all. And now at last you've arrived at me, and you've
said to yourself, 'It's his turn to be kicked out now.' Haven't you?"
"Nothing can last forever," she murmured huskily.
"No. But this time you're not going to scrawl 'finis' exactly when you
"It's getting dark, and I'm tired. My hand is hurting me."
He gripped her shoulders more firmly.
"If you meant some day to get rid of me, to kick me out as you've
kicked out the others," he said grimly, "you shouldn't have made me
come to you that night when Jimmy was at Buyukderer. That was a
mistake on your part."
"Why?" she asked, almost in a whisper.
"Because that night through you I lost something; I lost the last
shred of my self-respect. Till that night I was still clinging on to
it. You struck my hands away and made me let go. Now I don't care. And
that's why I'm not going to let you make the sign of the cross over me
and dismiss me into hell. Your list closes with me, Cynthia. I'm not
going to give you up."
She shook slightly under his hands.
"Why are you trembling?"
"I'm not trembling; but I'm tired; let me alone."
"You can go to Sonia now if you like, and have your hand bathed."
He lifted his hands from her shoulders, but she did not move.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"I shall wait for you here."
"Wait for me?"
"Yes. We'll dine together to-night."
"Where?" she said helplessly.
"Here, if you like."
"There's scarcely anything to eat. I didn't intend----"
"I'll take you out somewhere. It's going to be a dark night. We'll
manage so that no one sees us. We'll dine together and, after
"I must come home early. I'm very tired."
"After dinner we'll go to those rooms you found so cleverly near the
"Now go and bathe your hand, and I'll wait here. Only don't be too
long or I shall come and fetch you. And don't send Sonia to make
excuses, for it will be no use."
He sat down on the sofa.
She stood for a moment without moving. She put her bandaged hand up to
her discolored face. Then she went slowly out of the room.
He sat waiting for her to come back, with his elbows on his knees and
his face hidden in his hands.
He felt like a man sunk in mire. He felt the mire creeping up to his
* * * * *
Almost at that same hour beside a platform at Victoria Station in
London a long train with "Dover" placarded on it was drawn up. Before
the door of a first-class carriage two women in plain traveling
dresses were standing with a white-haired clergyman. Presently the
shorter of the two women said to the other:
"I think I'll get in now, and leave you to last words."
She held out her hand to the clergyman.
"Good-by, Father Robertson."
He grasped her hand warmly, and looked at her with a great tenderness
shining in his eyes.
"Take good care of her. But you will, I know," he said.
Beatrice Daventry got into the carriage, and stood for a moment at the
door. There were tears in her eyes as she looked at the two figures
now pacing slowly up and down on the platform; she wiped them away
quickly, and sat down. She was bound on a long journey. And what would
be the end? In her frail body Beatrice had a strong soul, but to-night
she was stricken with a painful anxiety. She said to herself that she
cared about something too much. If the object of this journey were not
attained she felt it would break her heart. She shut her eyes, and she
conjured up a child whom she had loved very much and who was dead.
"Come with us, Robin!" she whispered. "Come with us to your father."
And the whisper was like a prayer.
Rosamund's voice was speaking.
"We are just off."
"Take your seats, please!" shouted a loud bass voice.
There was a sound of the banging of doors.
Rosamund leaned out of the window.
The train began to move.
"Good-by. /Cor meum vigilat/."
Rosamund pulled down her veil quickly over her face.
She was weary of rebellion. Yet she knew that deep down within her
dwelt one who was still a rebel. She was starting on a great journey
but she could not foresee what would happen at its end. For she no
longer knew what she was capable of doing, and what would be too great
a task for her poor powers. She was trying; she would try; that was
all she knew.
As the train pushed on through the fading light she said to herself
again and again:
"/La divina volontate! La divina volontate!"
A week had passed, and the Villa Hafiz had not yet opened its door to
receive its mistress. The servants, with the exception of Sonia, had
arrived. The Greek butler had everything in order downstairs. Above
stairs the big, low bed was made, and there were flowers in the vases
dotted about here and there in the blue-and-green sitting-room. Osman,
the gardener, had trimmed the rose-bushes, had carefully cleaned the
garden seats, and had swept straying leaves from the winding paths.
The fountain sang its under-song above the lilies. On the highest
terrace, beyond the climbing garden, the pavilion waited for the woman
and man who had hidden themselves in it to go down into the darkness.
But no one slept in the big, low bed, or sat in the blue-and-green
room; the garden was deserted; by night no feet trod softly to the
For the first time in her life Cynthia Clarke was in the toils. She
who loved her personal freedom almost wildly no longer felt free. She
dared not go to Buyukderer.
She looked back to that night when she had told Dion Leith the truth,
and it stood out among all the nights of her life, more black and
fatal than any of them, because on it she had been false to herself,
had been weak. She had not followed up her strength in words by
strength in action! She had allowed Dion Leith to dominate her that
night, to make of her against her will his creature. In doing that she
had taken a step down--a step away from the path in which hitherto she
had always walked. And that departure from inflexible selfishness
seemed strangely to have weakened her will.
She was afraid of Dion because she felt that he was ungovernable by
her, that her will no longer meant anything to him. He did not brace
himself to defy it; simply, he did not bother about it. He seemed to
have passed into a region where such a trifle as a woman's will faded
away from his perception.
His serpent had swallowed up hers.
She ought to have defied him that night, to have risked a violent
scene, to have risked everything. Instead, she had come back to the
drawing-room, had gone out into the night with him, had even gone to
the rooms near the Persian Khan. She had put off, had said to herself
"To-morrow"; she had tried to believe that Dion's desperate mood would
pass, that he needed gentle handling for the moment, and that, if
treated with supreme tact, he would eventually be "managed" into
letting her have her will.
But now she had no illusions. Her distressed eyes saw quite clearly,
and she knew that she had made a fatal mistake in being obedient to
Dion that night. She felt like one at the beginning of an inclined
plane that was slippery as ice. She had stepped upon it, and she could
not step back. She could only go forward and downward.
Dion was reckless. Appeals to reason, to chivalry, to pity, had no
effect upon him. He only laughed at them, took them as part of her
game of hypocrisy. In her genuine and growing fear and distress she
had become almost horribly sincere, but he would not believe in, or
heed, her sincerity. She knew her increasing hatred of him was matched
by his secret detestation of her. Yes, he detested her with all that
was most characteristic in him, with all those inherent qualities of
which, do what he would he was unable to rid himself. And yet there
was a link which bound them together--the link of a common degradation
of body. She longed to smash that link which she had so carefully and
sedulously labored to forge. But he wished to make it stronger. By her
violent will she had turned him to perversity, and now he was actually
more perverse than she was. She saw herself outdistanced on the course
towards the ultimate blackness, saw herself forced to follow where he
She dared not got to Buyukderer. She could not, she knew, keep him
away from there. He would follow her from Constantinople, would resume
his life of last summer, would perhaps deliberately accentuate his
intimacy with her instead of being careful to throw over it a veil. In
his hatred and recklessness he might be capable even of that, the last
outrage which a man can inflict upon a woman, to whose safety and
happiness his chivalrous secrecy is essential. His clinging to her in
hatred was terrible to her. She began to think that perhaps he had in
his mind abominable plans for the destruction of her happiness.
One day he told her that if she went to Buyukderer he would not only
follow her there, but he would remain there when Jimmy came out for
the summer holidays.
"Jimmy must learn to like me again," he said. "That is necessary."
She shuddered when she realized the tendency of Dion's mind. Fear made
her clairvoyant. There were moments when she seemed to look into that
mind as into a room through an open window, to see the thoughts as
living things going about their business. There was something
appalling in this man's brooding desire to strike her in the heart
combined with his determination to continue to be her lover. It
affected her as she had never been affected before. By torturing her
imagination it made havoc of her will-power. Her situation rendered
her almost desperate, and she could not find an outlet from it.
What was she to do? If she went to Buyukderer she felt certain there
would be a scandal. Even if there were not, she could not now dare to
risk having Jimmy out for his holidays. Jimmy and Dion must not meet
again. She might travel in the summer, as Dion had suggested, but if
she did that she would be forced to endure a solitude /a deux/ with
him untempered by any social distractions. She could not endure that.
To be alone with his bitterness, his misery, and his monopolizing
hatred of her would be unbearable. And the problem of Jimmy's holidays
would not be solved by travel. Unless she traveled to England!
A gleam of hope came to her as she thought of England. Dion had fled
from England. Would he dare to go back there, to the land which had
seen his tragedy, and where the woman lived who had cast him out? Mrs.
Clarke wondered, turning the thought of England over and over in her
The longer she thought on the matter the more convinced she became
that she had hit upon a final test, by means of which it would be
possible for her to ascertain Dion's exact mental condition. If he was
ready to follow her even to England, to show himself there as her
intimate friend, if not as her lover, than the man whom she had known
in London was dead indeed beyond hope of resurrection.
She resolved to find out what Dion's feeling about England was.
Since the evening when she had told him the truth she had seen him--he
had obliged her to see him--every day, but he had not come again to
her flat. They had met in secret, as they had been meeting for many
months. For the days when they had wandered about Stamboul together,
when she had tried to play to him the part Dumeny had once played to
her, were long ago over.
On the day when the thought of England occurred to Mrs. Clarke as a
possible place of refuge she had promised to meet Dion late in the
evening at their rooms near the Persian Khan. She loathed going to
those rooms. They reminded her painfully of all she had felt for Dion
and felt no longer. They spoke to her of the secrecy of a passion that
was dead. She was afraid of them. But she was still more afraid of
seeing Dion in her flat. Nevertheless, now the gleam of hope which had
come to her suddenly woke up in her something of her old recklessness.
Since the servants had gone to the Villa Hafiz she had been living in
the flat with Sonia, who was an excellent cook as well as a capital
maid. She resolved to ask Dion to dinner that night, and to try her
fortune once more with him. England must be horrible to him. Then she
would go to England. And if he followed her there he would at least be
punished for his persecution of her.
Already she called his determination not to break their intrigue
persecution. She had a short memory.
After a talk with Sonia she summoned a messenger and sent Dion a note,
asking him to dinner that night. He replied that he would come. His
answer ended with the words: "We can go to the rooms later."
As Mrs. Clarke read them her fingers closed on the paper viciously,
and she said to herself:
"I'll not go. I'll never go to them again."
She told Sonia about the dinner. Then she dressed and went out.
It was a warm and languid day. She took a carriage and told the
coachman to drive to Stamboul--to drive on till she gave him the
direction where to go in Stamboul. She had no special object in view.
But she longed to be out in the air, to drive, to see people about
her, the waterway, the forest of shipping, the domes and the minarets,
the cypresses, the glades stretching towards Seraglio Point, the long,
low hills of Asia. She longed, too, to hear voices, hurrying feet, the
innumerable sounds of life. She hoped by seeing and hearing to fortify
her will. The spirit of adventure was the spirit that held her, was
the most vital part within her, and such a spirit needed freedom to
breathe in. She was fettered. She had been a coward, or almost a
coward, false, perhaps, to her fortunate star. Hitherto she had always
followed Nietzsche's advice and had lived perilously. Was she now to
be governed by fear? Even to keep Jimmy's respect and affection could
she endure such dominion? As the sun touched her with his fingers of
gold, and the air, full of a strangely languid vitality, whispered
about her, as she heard the cries from the sea, and saw human beings,
vividly egoistic, going by on their pilgrimage, she said to herself,
"Not even for Jimmy!" The clamorous city, with its fierce openness and
its sinister suggestions of hidden things, woke up in her the
huntress, and, for the moment, lulled the mother to sleep.
"Not even for Jimmy!" she thought. "I must be myself. I cannot be
otherwise. I must live perilously. To live in any other way for me
would be death."
And the line in "The Kasidah" which Dion had pondered over came to
her, and she thought of the "death that walks in form of life."
As the carriage went upon the bridge she looked across to Stamboul,
and was faced by the Mosque of the Valideh. So familiar to her was the
sight of its facade, of its cupolas and minarets, that she seldom now
even thought of it when she crossed the bridge; but to-day, perhaps
because she was unusually strung up, was restive and almost horribly
alert, she gazed at it and was intensely conscious of it. She had once
said to Dion that Stamboul was the City of the Unknown God, and now
suddenly she felt that she was nearing His altars. A strange, perverse
desire to pray came to her; to go up into one of the mosques of this
mysterious city which she loved, and to pray for her release from Dion
She smiled faintly as this idea came into her mind. The Unknown God
had surely made her as she was, had made her a huntress. Well, then,
surely she had the right to pray to Him to give her a free course for
"Santa Sophia!" she called to the coachman.
He cracked his whip and drove furiously on to Stamboul. In less than a
quarter of an hour he pulled up his horses before the vast Church of
Mrs. Clarke sat still in the carriage for a moment looking up at the
ugly towering walls, covered with red and white stripes. Her face was
haggard in the sunshine, and her pale lips were set together in a hard
line. A beggar with twisted stumps instead of arms whined a petition
to her, but she neither saw him nor heard him. As she stared at the
walls on which the sun blazed she was wondering about her future. The
love of life was desperately strong within her that day. The longing
for new experiences tormented her physically. She felt as if she could
not wait, could not be patient any more. If Dion to-night refused
again to give her her freedom she must do something desperate. She
must get away secretly and hide herself from him, take a boat to
Greece or Rumania, or slip into the Orient express and vanish over the
tracks of Europe.
But first she must go into the church and pray to the Unknown God.
She got out of the carriage. The beggar thrust one of his diseased
stumps in front of her face. She turned on him with a malignant look,
and the whining petition died on his lips. Then she made her way to
the Porta Basilica and passed into the church. But as its great spaces
opened out before her a thought, childishly superstitious, came to
her, and she turned abruptly, went out, made her way to the beggar who
had worried her, gave him a coin and said something kind to him. His
almost soprano voice, raised in clamorous benediction, followed her as
she returned to the church, moving slowly with horrible loose slippers
protecting its floor from her Christian feet. She always laughed in
her mind when she wore those slippers and thought of what she was.
This sanctuary of the unknown God must, it seemed, be protected from
her because she was a Christian!
There were a good many people in the church, but it looked almost
empty because of its immense size. She knew it very well, better
perhaps than she knew any other sacred building, and she cared for it
very much. She was fond of mosques, delighting in their airy
simplicity, in their casual holiness which seemed to say to her,
"Worship in me if you will. If you will not, never mind; dream in me
with open eyes, or, if you prefer it, go to sleep in a corner of me.
When you wake you can mutter a prayer, or not, just as you please."
Santa Sophia did not, perhaps, say that, though it had now for long
years been in use as a mosque, and always seemed to Mrs. Clarke more
like a mosque than like a church. It was richly adorned, and something
of Christianity still lingered within it. In it there seemed, even to
Mrs. Clarke, to be something impelling which asked of each one who
entered it more than mere dreams, more than those long meditations
which are like prayers of the mind separated from the prayers of the
heart and soul. But it possessed the air of freedom which is
characteristic of mosques, did not seize those who entered it in a
clutch of tenacious sanctity; but seemed to let them alone, and to
influence them by just being wonderful, beautiful, unself-consciously
At first Mrs. Clarke wandered slowly about the church, without any
purpose other than that of gathering to herself some of its
atmosphere. During the last few days she had been feeling really
tormented. Dion had once said she looked punished. Now he had made her
feel punished. And she sought a moment of peace. It could not come to
her from mysticism, but it might come to her from great art, which
suggests to its votaries mystery, the something beyond, untroubled and
Presently Mrs. Clarke felt the peace of Santa Sophia, and she felt it
in a new way, because she had recently suffered, indeed was suffering
still in a new way; she felt it as something desirable, which might be
of value to her, if she were able to take it to herself and to fold it
about her own life. Had she made a mistake in living perilously
through many years? Her mind went to the woman who had abandoned Dion
and entered a Sisterhood to lead a religious life. She seldom thought
about Rosamund except in relation to Dion. She had scarcely known her,
and since her first few interviews with Dion in this land of the
cypress he had seldom mentioned his wife. She neither liked, nor
actively disliked, Rosamund, whose tacit rejection of her acquaintance
had not stirred in her any womanly hatred; for though she was a
ruthless woman she was not venomous towards other women. She did not
bother about them enough for that. But now she considered that other
woman with whom she had shared Dion Leith, or rather who, not knowing
it doubtless, had shared Dion Leith with her. And she wondered whether
Rosamund, in her Sisterhood, was happier than she was in the world. In
the Sisterhood there must surely be peace--monotony, drudgery,
perhaps, but peace.
Santa Sophia, with its vast spaces, its airy dome, its great arches
and galleries, its walls of variegated marble, its glittering mosaics
and columns of porphyry, to-day made her realize that in her life of
adventure and passion she was driven, as if by a demon with a whip,
and that her horrible situation with Dion was but the culmination of a
series of horrible situations. She had escaped from them only after
devastating battles, in which she had had to use all her nervous
energy and all her force of will. Was it worth while? Was the game she
was always playing worth the candles she was always burning? Would it
not be wiser to seek peace and ensue it? As she drove to Santa Sophia
she had longed fiercely to be free so that she might begin again;
might again have adventures, might again explore the depths of human
personalities, and satisfy her abnormal curiosities and desires. Now
she was full of unusual hesitation. Suppose she did succeed in getting
rid of Dion by going to England, suppose her prayer--she had not
offered it up yet, but she was going to offer it up in a moment--to
the Unknown God received a favorable answer, might it not be well for
her future happiness if she retired from the passionate life, with its
perpetual secrecies, and intrigues, and lies, and violent efforts,
into the life of the ideal mother, solely devoted to her only child?
She felt that the struggle with Dion, the horrible scenes she had had
with him, the force of her hatred of him and his hatred of her, the
necessity of yielding to him in hatred that which should never be
given save with desire, had tried her as nothing else had ever tried
her. She felt that her vitality was low, and she supposed that out of
that lowered vitality had come her uncharacteristic desire for peace.
She had almost envied for a moment the woman whom she had replaced in
the life of Dion. Even now--she sighed; a great weariness possessed
her. Was she going to be subject to a weakness which she had always
despised, the weakness of regret?
She paused beside a column not very far from the raised tribune on the
left of the dome which is set apart for the use of the Sultan, and is
called the Sultan's seat. Her large eyes stared at it, but at first
she did not see it. She was looking onward upon herself. Then, in some
distant part of the mosque, a boy's voice began to sing, loudly,
almost fiercely. It sounded fanatical and defiant, but tremendously
believing, proud in the faith which it proclaimed to faithful and
unfaithful alike. It echoed about the mosque, raising a clamor which
nobody seemed to heed; for the few ulemas who were visible continued
reading the Koran aloud on the low railed-in platforms which they
frequent; a Dervish in a pointed hat slept peacefully on, stretched
out in a corner; before the prayer carpet of the Prophet, not far from
the Mihrab, a half-naked Bedouin, with a sheep-skin slung over his
bronzed shoulders, preserved his wild attitude of savage adoration;
and here and there, in the distance, under the low hanging myriads of
lamps, the figures of Turkish soldiers, of street children, of
travelers, moved noiselessly to and fro.
The voice of this boy, heedless and very powerful, indeed almost
impudent, stirred Mrs. Clarke. It brought her back to her worship of
force. One must worship something, and she chose force--force of will,
of temperament, of body, of brain. Now she saw the Sultan's tribune,
and it made her think of an opera box and of the worldly life. The boy
sang on, catching at her mind, pulling her towards the East. The
curious peace of any religious life was certainly not for her, yet
to-day she felt weary of the life in her world. And she wished she
could have in her existence peace of some kind; she wished that she
were not a perpetual wanderer. She remembered some of those with whom
from time to time, she had linked herself--her husband, Hadi Bey,
Dumeny, Brayfield, Dion Leith. Now she was struggling, and so far in
vain, to thrust Dion out of her life. If she succeeded--what then?
Where was stability in her existence? Her love for Jimmy was the only
thing that lasted, and that often made her afraid now. She was seized
by an almost sentimental desire to lose herself in a love for a man
that would last as her love for Jimmy had lasted, to know the peace of
an enduring and satisfied desire.
The voice of the boy died away. She turned in the direction of the
Mihrab to offer up her prayer to the Unknown God, as the pious
Mussulman turns in the direction of the Sacred City when he puts up
his prayer to Allah.
Her eyes fell upon the Bedouin.
As she looked at him, this man of the desert come up into the City,
with the fires of the dunes in his veins, the vast spaces mirrored in
his eyes, the passion for wandering in his soul, she felt that in a
mysterious and remote way she was akin to him, despite all her
culture, her subtle mentality, the difference of her life from his.
For she had her wildness of nature, dominant and unceasing, as he had
his. He was forever traveling in body and she in mind. He sought
fresh, and ever fresh, camping-places, and so did she. The black ashes
of burnt-out fires marked his progress and hers. She looked at him as
she uttered her prayer to the Unknown God.
And she prayed for a master, that she might meet a man who would be
able to dominate her, to hold her fast in the grip of his nature. At
this moment Dion dominated her in an ugly way, and she knew it too
well. But she needed some one whom she would willingly obey, whom she
would lust to obey, because of love. The restlessness in her life had
been caused by a lack; she had never yet found the man who could be
not her tyrant for a time, but her master while she lived. Now she
prayed for that, the only peace that she really wanted.
While she prayed she was conscious always of the attitude of the
Bedouin, which suggested the fierce yielding of one who could never be
afraid of the God he worshiped. Nor could she be afraid. For she was
not ashamed of what she was, though she hid what she was from motive
of worldly prudence and for the sake of her motherhood. She believed
that she was born into the world not in order to be severely educated,
but in order that she might live to the uttermost, according to the
dictates of her temperament. Now at last she knew what that
temperament needed, what it had been seeking, why it had never been
able to cease from its journeying. Santa Sophia had told her.
Her knowledge roused in her a sort of fury of longing for release from
Dion Leith. She saw the Bedouin riding across the sands in the freedom
he had captured, and she ached to be free that she might seek her
master. Somewhere there must be the one man who had the power to
fasten the yoke on her neck.
"Let me find him!" she prayed, almost angrily, and using her will.
She had forgotten Jimmy. Her whole nature was concentrated in the
desire for immediate release from Dion Leith in order that she might
be free to pursue consciously the search which till this moment she
had pursued unconsciously.
The Bedouin did not move. His black, bird-like eyes were wide open,
but he seemed plunged in a dream as he gazed at the Sacred Carpet. He
was absolutely unaware of his surroundings and of Mrs. Clarke's
consideration of him. There was something animal and something royal
in his appearance and his supreme unconsciousness of others. He looked
as if he were a law unto himself, even while he was adoring. How
different he was from Dion Leith.
She shut her eyes as she prayed that Dion might be removed from her
life, somehow, anyhow, by death if need be. In the dark she created
for herself she saw the minarets pointing to the sky as she and Dion
had seen them together from the hill of Eyub as they sat under the
giant cypress. Then she had wanted Dion; now she prayed:
"Take him away! Let me be free from him! Let me never see him again!"
And she felt as if the Unknown God were listening to her somewhere far
off, knew all that was in her mind.
A stealthy movement quite near to her made her open her eyes. The
Bedouin had risen to his feet and was approaching her, moving with a
little step over the matting on his way out of the church. As he
passed Mrs. Clarke he enveloped her for a moment in an indifferent
glance of fire. He burnt her with his animal disdain of her
observation of him, a disdain which seemed to her impregnated with
flame. She felt the sands as he passed. When he was gone a sensation
of loneliness, even of desolation, oppressed her.
She hesitated for a moment; then she turned and followed him slowly.
He went before her, wrapped in his supreme indifference, through the
Porta Basilica, and came out into the blaze of the sunshine. As she
emerged, she saw him standing quite still. He seemed--she was just
behind him--to be staring at a very fair woman who, accompanied by a
guide, was coming towards the church. Mrs. Clarke, intent on the
Bedouin, was aware of this woman's approach, but felt no sort of
interest in her until she was quite close; then something, some
dagger-thrust of the mind, coming from the woman, pierced Mrs.
She looked up and met the sad, pure eyes of Rosamund Leith.
For a moment she stood perfectly still gazing into those eyes.
Rosamund had stopped, but she made no gesture of recognition and did
not open her lips. She only looked at Mrs. Clarke, and as she looked a
deep flush slowly spread over her face and down to her throat.
The Greek guide said something to her; she moved, lowered her eyes and
went on into the church without looking back.
The Bedouin strode slowly away into the blaze of the sunshine.
Mrs. Clarke remained where she was, motionless. For the first time
perhaps in her life she was utterly amazed by an event. Rosamund Leith
here in Constantinople! What did that mean?
Mrs. Clarke knew the arrival of Rosamund meant something that might be
tremendously important to herself. As she stood there before the
church she was groping to find this something; but her mental
faculties seemed to be paralyzed, and she could not find it. Rosamund
Leith's eyes had told Mrs. Clarke something, that Rosamund knew of
Dion's unfaithfulness and who the woman was. What did the fact of
Rosamund's coming to Constantinople in possession of that knowledge
From the minaret above her head the /muezzin/ in a piercing and nasal
voice began the call to prayer. His cry seemed to tear its way through
Mrs. Clarke's inertia. Abruptly she was in full possession of her
faculties. That Eastern man up there, nearer to the blue than she was,
cried, "Come to prayer!" But she had already uttered her prayer, and
surely Rosamund Leith was the answer.
As she drove away towards the Golden Horn she passed the Bedouin
striding along in the sun.
She looked at him, but he took no notice of her; the indifference of
the desert was about him.
Mrs. Clarke was in her bedroom with the door open that evening when
she heard a bell sound in the flat. She had fixed eight for the dinner
hour. It was now only half-past six. Nevertheless she felt sure that
it was Dion who had just rung. She went swiftly across the room and
shut the bedroom door. Two or three minutes later Sonia came in.
"Mr. Leith has come already, Madame," she said, looking straight at
"I expected him early, Sonia. You can tell him I will come almost
"Sonia, wait a minute! How am I looking this evening?"
"How?" said Sonia, with rather heavy emphasis.
"Yes. I feel--feel as if I were looking unlike my usual self."
Sonia stared hard at Mrs. Clarke. Then she said:
"So you are, Madame."
"In what way?"
"You look almost excited and younger than usual."
"Yes, as if you were expecting something, almost as a girl expects. I
never saw you just like this before."
Mrs. Clarke looked at herself in a mirror earnestly, and for a long
"That's all, Sonia," she said, turning round. "You can tell Mr.
Sonia went out.
Mrs. Clarke followed her ten minutes later. When she came into the
little hall she saw lying on a table beside Dion's hat several
letters. She stopped by the table and looked down at them. They lay
there in a pile held together by an elastic band, and she could only
see the writing on the envelope which was at the top. It was addressed
to Dion and had been through the post. She wondered whether among
those letters there was one from Rosamund. Had she written to the
husband whom she had cast out to tell him of the great change which
had led her to give up the religious life, to come out to the land of
Mrs. Clarke glanced round; then she bent down noiselessly, picked up
the packet, slipped off the elastic band and examined the letters one
by one. She had never chanced to see Rosamund's handwriting, but she
felt sure she would know at once if she held in her hand the letter
which might mean her own release. She did not find it; but on two
envelopes she saw Beatrice's delicate handwriting, which she knew very
well. She longed to know what Beatrice had written. With a sigh she
slipped the elastic band back into its place, put the packet down and
went into the drawing-room.
Directly she saw Dion she was certain that he knew nothing of the
change in Rosamund's life. There was no excitement in his thin and
wrinkled brown face; no expectation lit up his sunken eyes making them
youthful. He looked hard, wretched and strangely old, but ruthless and
forceful in a kind of shuttered and ravaged way. She thought of a
ruined house with a cold strong light in the window. He was sitting
when she came in, leaning forward, with his hands hanging down between
his knees. When he saw her he got up slowly.
"I was near here and had nothing to do, so I came early," he said, not
apologetically, but carelessly.
He looked at her and added:
"What's happened to you to-day?"
"Nothing. What an extraordinary question!"
"Is it? You look different. There's a change."
A suspicious expression made his face ugly.
"Have you met any one?"
"Of course. How can one go out in Constantinople without meeting
"Any one new, I meant."
"You look as if you had."
"Do I?" she said, with indifference.
"Yes. You look--I don't know----"
"I think it's younger," he added. "You never are tired or ill, but you
generally look both. To-day you don't."
"Please don't blame me for looking moderately well for once in my
"Why did you ask me to dinner here?"
The sound of his voice was as suspicious as the expression on his
"Oh, I don't know. Once in a while it doesn't matter. And all the
servants have gone away to Buyukderer."
"Then you are going there?"
"I'm not sure if I shall be able to stay there for more than a few
days if I do go."
"Why not?" he said slowly.
"It's just possible I may have to go over to England on business.
Something's gone wrong with my money matters, not the money my husband
allows me, but my own money. I had a letter from my lawyer."
He stood before her in silence.
"By the way," she added, "I saw all those letters for you on the hall
table. Why don't you read them?"
"Going to England, are you?" he said, frowning.
"I may have to."
"Surely you must know from your lawyer's letter whether it will be
necessary or not."
"I expect it will be necessary."
He turned slowly away from her and went to the window, where he stood
for a moment, apparently looking out. She sat down on the sofa and
glanced at the clock. How were they to get through a long evening
together? She wished she could bring about a crisis in their relations
abruptly. Dion turned round. He had his hands in his pockets.
"I wish you'd let me look at that lawyer's letter," he said.
"It wouldn't interest you."
"If it's about money matters I might be able to help you. You know
they used to be my job. Even now anything to do with investments----"
"Oh, I won't bother you," she said coolly. "I always do business
through some one I can pay."
"Well, you can pay me."
"No, I can't."
"But I say you can."
"How?" she said.
And instantly she regretted having asked the question.
He looked at her in silence for a minute, then he said:
"By sticking always to me, by proving yourself loyal."
Her mouth twitched. The intense irony in the last word made her feel
inclined to laugh hysterically.
"But you don't always behave in such a way as to make me feel loyal,"
she said, controlling herself.
"I'm going to try to be more clever with you in the future."
She got up abruptly.
"I didn't expect you quite so early, and I've got a letter to write to
"And a letter to your lawyer!" he interrupted.
"No, that can wait till to-morrow. I must think things over. But I
must write to Jimmy now."
"Give him a kind message from me."
"What will you do while I am writing?"
"I'll sit here."
"But do something! Why not read your letters?"
"Yes, I may as well look at them. There was quite a collection waiting
for me at the British Post Office. I haven't been there for months."
"Why don't you go more regularly?"
"Because I've done with the past!" he exclaimed, with sudden savagery.
"And letters from home only rake it up."
She looked at him narrowly.
"But have we ever done with the past?" she said, with her eyes upon
him. "If we think so isn't that a stupidity on our part?"
"You're talking like a parson!"
"Even a parson may hit upon a truth now and then."
"It depends upon oneself. I say I have done with the past."
"And yet you're afraid to read letters from England."
"And you never go to England."
"There's nothing to prevent me from going to England."
"Except your own feelings about things."
"One gets over feelings with the help of Time. I'm not such a
sensitive fool as I used to be. Life has knocked all that sort of rot
out of me."
She sat down at the writing-table from which Jimmy's photograph had
"Read your letters, or read a book," she said.
And she picked up a pen.
She did not look at him again, and she tried hard to detach her mind
from him. She took a sheet of writing-paper, and began to write to
Jimmy, but she was painfully aware of Dion's presence in the room, of
every slightest movement that he made. She heard him sit down and move
something on a table, then sigh; complete silence followed. She felt
as if her whole body were flushing with irritation. Why didn't he get
his letters? She was positive Beatrice had written to tell him that
Rosamund had left the Sisterhood, and she was longing to know what
effect that news would have upon him.
Presently he moved again and got up, and she heard him go over to the
window. She strove, with a bitter effort, to concentrate her thoughts
on Jimmy, but now the Bedouin came between her and the paper; she saw
him striding indifferently through the blaze of sunshine.
"About the summer holidays this year--I am not quite sure yet what my
plans will be----" she wrote slowly.
Dion was moving again. He came away from the window, crossed the room
behind her, and opened the door. He was going to fetch his letters.
She wrote hurriedly on. He went out into the little hall and returned.
"I'm going to have a look at my letters," he said, behind her.
She glanced round.
"What did you say? Oh--your letters."
"They look pretty old," he said, turning them over.
She saw Beatrice's handwriting.
"Here's one from Beatrice Daventry," he added, in a hard voice.
"Does she often write to you?"
"She hasn't written for a long time."
He thrust a finger under the envelope. Mrs. Clarke turned and again
bent over her letter to Jimmy.
* * * * *
"Dinner is ready, Madame!"
Mrs. Clarke looked up from the writing-table at Sonia standing
squarely in the doorway, then at the clock.
"Dinner! But it's only a quarter-past seven."
"I thought you ordered it for a quarter-past seven, Madame," replied
Sonia, with quiet firmness.
"Oh, did I? I'd forgotten."
She pushed away the writing-paper and got up.
"D'you mind dining so early?" she asked Dion, looking at him for the
first time since he had read his letters.
"No," he replied, in a voice which had no color at all. His face was
set like a mask.
"Do you want to wash your hands? If so, Sonia will bring you some hot
water to the spare room."
"Thanks, I'll go; but I prefer cold water."
He went out of the room carrying the opened letters with him. After a
moment Sonia came back.
"I hope I didn't do wrong about dinner, Madame," she said. "I thought
as Monsieur Leith came so early Madame would wish dinner earlier."
Mrs. Clarke put her hand on her servant's substantial arm.
"You always understand things, Sonia," she said. "I'm tired. I mean to
go to bed very early to-night."
"But will he----?"
She raised her heavy eyebrows.
"I must rest to-night," said Mrs. Clarke. "I must, I must."
"Let me tell him, then, if he--"
Mrs. Clarke put one hand to her lips. She heard Dion in the hall. When
he came in she saw at once that he had been dashing cold water on his
face. His eyes fell before hers. She could not divine what he had
found in his letters or what was passing in his mind.
"Come to dinner," she said.
And they went at once to the dining-room.
During the meal they talked because Mrs. Clarke exerted herself. She
was helped, perhaps, by her concealed excitement. She had never before
felt so excited, so almost feverishly alert in body and mind as she
felt that night, except at the climax of her divorce case. And she was
waiting now for condemnation or acquittal as she had waited then. It
was horrible. She was painfully conscious of a desperate strength in
Dion. It was as if he had grown abruptly, and she had as abruptly
diminished. His savage assertion about the past had impressed her
disagreeably. It might be true. He might really have succeeded in
slaying his love for his wife. If so, what chance had the woman who
had taken him of regaining her freedom of action. She was afraid to
play her last card.
When dinner was over Dion said:
"Shall we be off?"
She did not ask where they were going; she had no need to ask. After a
moment's hesitation she said:
"Not just yet. Come into the drawing-room. You can smoke, and if you
like I'll play you something."
They went into the drawing-room. It was dimly lighted. Blinds and
curtains were drawn. Dion sank down heavily in a chair.
"The cigarettes are there!"
"Yes, I see. Thanks."
A strange preoccupation seemed to be descending upon him and to be
covering him up. Sonia came in with coffee. Dion put his cup, full,
down beside him on a table. He did not sip the coffee, nor did he
light a cigarette. While Mrs. Clarke was drinking her coffee he sat
without uttering a word.
She went to the piano. She played really well. Otherwise she would not
have played to him, or to any one. She was specially at home in the
music of Chopin, and had studied minutely many of the "Etudes." Now
she began to play the Etude in E flat. As she played she felt that the
intense nervous irritation which had possessed her was diminishing
slightly, was becoming more bearable. She played several of the
Etudes, and presently began the one in Thirds and Sixths which she had
once found abominably difficult. She remembered what a struggle she
had had with it before she had conquered it. She had been quite a girl
then, but already she had been a worshipper of will-power, and had
resolved to cultivate and to increase her own will. And she had used
this Etude as a means of testing herself. Over and over again, when
she had almost despaired of ever overcoming its difficulties, she had
said to herself, "Vouloir c'est pouvoir;" and at last she had
succeeded in playing the excessively difficult music as if it were
quite easy to her. That had been the first stepping upwards towards
She remembered that now and she set her teeth. "Vouloir c'est
pouvoir." She had proved the saying true again and again; she must
prove it true to-night. She willed her release; she would somehow
Directly she finished the Etude she got up from the piano.
"You play that wonderfully well," Dion said, with a sort of hard
recognition of her merit, but with no enthusiasm. "Do you know that
there's something damnably competent in you?"
She stood looking down on him.
"I'm very glad there is. I don't care to bungle what I undertake."
"I believe I knew that the first time I saw you, standing by Echo. You
held my hand that day. Do you remember?"
He laughed faintly.
"No, I don't remember."
"The hand of Stamboul was upon me then. By God, we are under the yoke.
It was fated then that you should destroy me."
"Yes. What's the good of what lies between us? You've destroyed me.
That's why you want to get rid of me. Your instinct tells you the work
is done, and you're right. But you must stick to the wreckage. After
all, it's your wreckage."
"No. A man can only destroy himself," she said, with cold defiance.
"Don't let's argue about it. The thing's done--done!"
In his voice there was a sound of almost wild despair, but his face
preserved its hard, mask-like look.
"And there's no returning from destruction," he added. "Those who try
to fancy there is are just fools."
He looked up at her as she stood before him, and seemed suddenly
struck by the expression on her face.
"Who's to be the one to destroy you?" he said. "D'you think the
Unknown God has singled me out for the job? Or do you really expect to
escape scot-free after making the sign of the cross over so many lost
"The sign of the cross?"
"Yes. Don't you remember when I told you of Brayfield's death? You've
never given him a thought since, I suppose. But I'll make you keep on
thinking about me."
"What has happened to-night?" she asked sharply.
"To make you talk like this?"
"Nothing has happened."
"That's not true. Since you came into the house you've quite changed."
"Merely because I've been reckoning things up, taking stock of the
amount of damage that's been done. It'll have to be paid for, I
suppose. Everything's paid for in the end, isn't it? When are you
going to England?"
"I didn't say it was absolutely decided."
"No; but it is. I want to know the date, so that I may pack up to
accompany you. It will be jolly to see Jimmy again. I shall run down
to Eton and take him out."
"I am not going to allow you to do me any harm. Because lately I've
given in to you sometimes, you mustn't think you can make a slave of
"And you mustn't think you'll get rid of me in one way if you can't in
another. This English project is nothing but an attempt to give me the
slip. You thought I couldn't face England, so you chose England as the
place you would travel to. You've never had a letter from your lawyer,
and there's no reason why you should go to England on business. But I
can face England. I've never done anything /there/ that I'm ashamed
of. My record there is a clean one."
Suddenly he thrust his hand into his jacket and pulled out the letters
he had brought from the British Post Office.
"And apart from that, you made a mistake in reckoning on my
"Honestly, I don't know what you mean by that," she said, with frigid
"Yes, you do. You thought I wouldn't follow you to England because I
should shrink from facing my mother, perhaps, and my wife's relatives,
and all the people who know what I've done. I don't shrink from
meeting any one, and I'll prove it to you."
He pulled a letter out of its envelope.
"This is from Beatrice Daventry. In it she tells me a piece of news."
(He glanced quickly over the sheets.) "My wife has got tired of
leading a religious life and has left the Sisterhood in which she was,
and gone to live in London. Here it is: 'Rosamund is living once more
in Great Cumberland Place with my guardian. She never goes into
society, but otherwise she is leading an ordinary life. I am quite
sure she will never go back to Liverpool.'--So if I go to London I may
run across my wife any day. Why not?"
"You wife has left the Sisterhood!" said Mrs. Clarke slowly, forcing a
sound of surprise into her husky voice.
"I've just told you so. You and I may meet her in London. If we do, I
should think she'll be hard put to it to recognize me. Now put on your
things and we'll be off."
"I shall not go out to-night. I intend----"
"What do you intend?"
"I don't mean ever to go to those rooms again."
"Indeed. Why not?" he asked, with cold irony.
"I loathe them."
"You found them. You chose the furniture for them. Your perfect taste
made them what they are."
"I tell you I loathe them!" she repeated violently.
"We'll change them, then. We can easily find some others that will do
just as well."
"Don't you understand that I loathe them because I meet you in them?"
"I understood that a good while ago."
"And yet you--"
"My dear!" he interrupted her. "Didn't I tell you you had destroyed
me? The man I was might have bothered about trifles of that kind, the
man I am simply doesn't recognize them. Jimmy hates me too, but I
haven't done with Jimmy yet, nevertheless."
"You shall never meet Jimmy again. I shall prevent it."
"How can you?"
"You're not fit to be with him."
"But you have molded me into what I am. He must get accustomed to his
own mother's handiwork."
"Jimmy can't bear you. He told me so when he was last here. He detests
"Ah!" said Dion, with sudden savagery, springing up from his chair.
"So you and he have talked me over! I was sure of it. And no doubt you
told Jimmy he was right in hating me."
"I never discussed the matter with him at all. I couldn't prevent his
telling me what he felt about you."
Dion had become very pale. He stood for a moment without speaking,
clenching his hands and looking at her with blazing eyes. For a moment
she thought that perhaps he was going to strike her. He seemed to be
struggling desperately with himself, to be striving to conquer
something within him. At last he turned away from her. She heard him
twice mutter the name of her boy, "Jimmy! Jimmy!" Then he went away
from her to the far end of the room, where the piano was, and stood by
it. She saw his broad shoulders heaving. He held on to the edge of the
piano with both hands, leaning forward. She stayed where she was,
staring at him. She realized that to-night he might be dangerous to
her. She had set out to defy him. But she was not sure now whether,
perhaps, gentleness and an air of great sincerity might not be the
only effective weapons against him in his present abnormal condition.
Possibly even now it was not too late to use them. She crossed the
room and came to him swiftly.
"Dion!" she said.
He did not move.
"Dion!" she repeated, putting her hand on his shoulder.
He turned round. His pale face was distorted. She scarcely recognized
"Dion, let us look things in the face."
"Oh, God--that is what I'm doing," he said.
His lips twisted, his face was convulsed. She looked at him in
silence, wondering what was going to happen. For a moment she was
almost physically afraid. Something in him to-night struck hard upon
her imagination and she felt as if it were trembling.
"Come and sit down," he said, at last.
And she saw that for the moment he had succeeded in regaining self-
She went to sit down; he sat opposite her.
"You hate me, don't you?" he said.
"Don't you?" he repeated.
"We needn't use ugly words," she said at last.
"For ugly things? I believe it's best. You hate me and I hate you.
D'you know why I hate you? Not because you deliberately made me care
for you with my body, in the beastly, wholly physical way, but because
you wouldn't let the other thing alone."
"The other thing?"
"Haven't we got something else as well as the body? Look here--before
I ever knew you I was always trying to build. At first I tried to
build for a possible future which might never come. Well, it did come,
and I was glad I'd stuck to my building--sometimes when it was
difficult. Then I tried to build for--for my wife--and then my child
came and I tried to build for him, too. So it went on. I was always
building, or trying to. In South Africa I was doing it, and I came
back feeling as if I'd got something to show, not much, but something,
for my work. Then the crash came, and I thought I knew sorrow and
horror down to the bones. But I didn't. I've only got to know them to
the bones here. You've made me know them. If you'd loved me I should
never have complained, have attacked you, been brutal to you; but when
I think that you've never cared a rap about me, never cared for
anything but my body, and that--that----" his voice broke for a
moment; then he recovered himself and went on, more harshly,--"and
that merely from desire, or whatever you choose to call it, you've
sent the last stones of my building to dust, I sometimes feel as if I
could murder you. If you meant to kick me out and be free of me when
you had had enough of me, you should never have brought Jimmy into the
matter; for in a way you could never understand Jimmy was linked up
with my boy, with Robin. When you made me earn Jimmy's hatred by being
utterly false to all I really was, you separated me from my boy. I
killed him, but till then I was sometimes near him. Ever since that
night of lying and dirty pretense he's--he's--I've lost him. You've
taken my boy from me. Why should I leave you yours?"
"But you're mad--when my boy's alive and--"
"And so's mine!"
She stared at him in silence.
"You can't give him back to me. Jimmy shrinks from me not because of
what I've done, but because of what I've become, and my boy feels as
Jimmy does. He--he----"
Mrs. Clarke pushed back her chair bruskly. She was now feeling really
afraid. She longed to call in Sonia. She wished the other servants
were in the flat instead of at Buyukderer.
"You boy's dead," she said, dully, obstinately. "Jimmy has nothing to
do with him--never had anything to do with him. And as for me, I have
never interfered between you and your child."
She got up. So did he.
"Never, never!" she repeated. "But your mind is warped and you don't
know what you're saying."
"I do. But we won't argue about it. You're a materialist and you can't
understand the real things."
His own words seemed suddenly to strike upon him like a great blow.
"The real things!" he exclaimed. "I've lost them all for ever. But
I'll keep what I've got. I'll keep what I've got. You hate me and I
hate you, but we belong to each other and we'll stick together, and
Jimmy must make up his mind to it. Once you said that if he was
twenty-one you'd tell him all about it. If you're going to England
I'll go there too, and we can enlighten Jimmy a little sooner. Now let
us be off to the rooms. As you've taken a dislike to them we'll give
them up. But we must pay a last visit to them, a visit of good-bye."
She shuddered. The thought of being shut up alone with him horrified
her imagination. She waited a moment; then she said:
"Very well. I'll go and put on my things."
And she went out of the room. She wanted to gain time, to be alone for
When she was in her bedroom she did not summon Sonia, who was in the
kitchen washing up. Slowly she went to get out a wrap and a hat.
Standing before the glass she adjusted the hat on her head carefully,
adroitly; then she drew the wrap around her shoulders and picked up a
pair of long gloves. After an instant of hesitation she began to pull
them on. The process took several minutes. She was careful to smooth
out every wrinkle. While she did so she was thinking of Rosamund
All through the evening she had been on the verge of telling Dion that
his wife was in Constantinople, but something had held her back. And
even now she could not make up her mind whether to tell him or not.
She was afraid to risk the revelation because she did not know at all
how he would take it. When he knew she might be free. There was the
possibility of that. He must realize, he would surely be obliged to
realize, that his wife could have but one purpose in deliberately
traveling out to the place where he was living. She must be seeking a
reconciliation, in spite of the knowledge which Mrs. Clarke had read
in her eyes that day. But would Dion face those eyes with the hard
defiance of one irreparably aloof from his former life? If he were
really ready and determined to show himself in London as the lover of
another woman would he not be ready to do the same thing here in
To tell him seemed to Mrs. Clarke the one chance of escape for her
now, but she was afraid to tell him because she was afraid to know
that what seemed the only possible avenue to freedom was barred
against her. She had said to herself at the piano "Vouloir c'est
pouvoir," and she had determined to be free, but again Dion's will of
a desperate man had towered up over hers. It was the fact that he was
desperate which gave to him this power.
At last the gloves lay absolutely smooth on her hands and arms, and
she went back to the drawing-room. Till she opened the door of it she
did not know what she was going to do.
"So you're dressed!" Dion said as she came in. "That's right. Let's be
"What is the good of going? You have said we hate each other. How can
this sort of thing go on in hatred? Dion, let us give it all up."
"Why have you put on your things?"
"I don't know. Let us say good-by to-night, and not in anger. We were
not suited to be together for long. We are too different."
"How many men have you said all this to already? Come along!"
He took her firmly by the wrist.
"Why should we wait?"
"There's something I must tell you before we go."
He kept his hand on her wrist.
"Well? What is it?"
"I went to Santa Sophia to-day."
As she spoke the Bedouin came before her again. She saw his bronze-
colored arms and his bird-like eyes.
"Santa Sophia! Did you go to pray?"
She stared at him. His lips were curled in a smile.
"No," she said. "But I like to go there sometimes. As I was coming
away I met some one."
"Some one you know--a woman."
"A woman? Lady Ingleton?"
"No; your wife."
The fingers which held her wrist became suddenly cold, but they still
pressed firmly upon her flesh.
"That's a lie!" he said hoarsely.
"How dare you tell me such a lie?"
He bent and gazed into her eyes.
But though his lips made the assertion, his eyes, in agony, seemed to
be asking a question. He seized her other wrist.
"What's your object in telling me such a lie? What are you trying to
gain by it? Do you think you'll get rid of me for to-night, and that
to-morrow, by some trick, you'll escape from me forever? D'you think
"I met your wife to-day just outside Santa Sophia," she said steadily.
"When she saw me she stopped. We looked at each other for a minute.
Neither of us spoke a word. But she told me something."
"Told you . . . ?"
"With her eyes. She knows about you and me."
His hands fell from her wrists. By the look in his eyes she saw that
he was beginning to believe her.
"She knows," Mrs. Clarke repeated. "And yet she had come here. What
does that mean?"
"What does that mean?" he repeated, in a muttering voice.
"Do you believe what I say?"
"Yes; she is here."
A fierce wave of red went over his face. For a moment his eyes shone.
Then a look of despair and horror made him frightful, and stirred even
in her a sensation of pity.
He began to tremble.
"Don't! Don't!" she said, putting out her hands and moving away.
"She can't know!" he said, trembling more violently.
"She does know."
"She wouldn't have come. She doesn't know. She doesn't know."
"She does know. Now I'm ready, if you want to go to the rooms."
Dion went white to the lips. He came towards her. His eyes were so
menacing that she felt sure he was going to do her some dreadful
injury; but when he was close to her he controlled himself and stood
still. For what seemed to her a very long time he stood there, looking
at her as a man looks at the heap of his sins when the sword has
cloven a way into the depths of his spirit. Then he said:
He went out of the room, leaving the door open. A moment later Mrs.
Clarke heard the front door shut, and his footsteps on the stone
stairs outside. They died away.
Then she began to sob. She felt shaken and frightened almost like a
child. But presently her sobs ceased. She took off her hat and wrap
and her gloves, lay down on the sofa, put her hands behind her small
head, and, motionless, gazed at the pale gray wall of the room. It
seemed to fade away after she had gazed at it for two or three
minutes; a world opened out before her, and she saw a barrier, like a
long deep trench, stretching into a far distance. On one side of this
trench stood a boy with densely thick hair and large hands and frank,
observant eyes; on the other stood a Bedouin of the desert.
Then she shuddered. Dion had told her she was free. But was she free?
Could she ever be free now?
Suddenly she broke into a passion of tears. She was inundated with
self-pity. She had prayed to the Unknown God. He had answered her
prayer, but nevertheless, he had surely cursed her. For love and lust
were at merciless war within her. She was tormented.
That night she knew she had run up a debt which she would be forced to
pay; she knew that her punishment was beginning.
When Dion came out into the street he stood still on the pavement. It
was between ten and eleven o'clock. Stamboul, the mysterious city, was
plunged in darkness, but Pera was lit and astir, was full of blatant
and furtive activities. He listened to its voices as he stood under
the stars, and presently from them the voice of a woman detached
itself, and said clearly and with a sort of beautifully wondering
slowness, "I can see the Pleiades."
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