Phyllis of Philistia
Frank Frankfort Moore
Part 2 out of 5
the end stalls.
She lifted a finger and Courtland went to her side. The difficulties
of the jungle along the banks of the Fly River were trifling compared
with the obstacles he had to overcome in obeying her.
"I had no idea that you would be here," she said.
"Where else should I be?" he said, in so low a tone as to be heard
only by her.
"We are so glad," said Mrs. Linton. "I want to present you to my
dearest friend, Phyllis Ayrton."
"A woman!" said he.
"Not yet. She has never met a man. She will to-night," said Ella. Then
she turned to Phyllis, who was walking beside Lord Earlscourt. "Come
here, Phyllis," she said; "you are the only person in London who
doesn't yet know Mr. Herbert Courtland. This is Mr. Courtland."
Thus it was that Phyllis went upon the stage of the Parthenon by the
side of Herbert Courtland instead of by the side of George Holland;
and the little laugh that Mrs. Linton gave was due to her careful
observation of the latter's face when he perceived, as he did in spite
of the engrossing nature of his conversation with his friend in the
end stall, how his designs had been defeated by her tactics. She would
not have minded having Herbert Courtland with her for the hour they
might remain at the theater, but she had made up her mind that it was
not to Phyllis' advantage that Mr. Holland should continue by her side
in public after she had given him his dismissal.
She also perceived, with even greater gratification, that Herbert
Courtland was looking nearly as dissatisfied with the result of her
tactics as George Holland. If he had looked pleased at being by the
side of Phyllis when he expected to be with her--Ella--what would life
be worth to her?
But if he was dissatisfied at being with Phyllis instead of Mrs.
Linton, he did not consider that any reason for neglecting the former.
He wondered if she had any choice in sandwiches--of course she had in
champagne. His curiosity was satisfied, and Phyllis was amply provided
"You are Mrs. Linton's dearest friend," he remarked casually, as they
leaned up against the profile of the Church scene in "Cagliostro," for
they were standing in the "wings"--to be exact--on the O. P. side.
"She is my dearest friend, at any rate," said Phyllis.
"You were not at school together. She is four or five years older than
"Only three. When she got married she seemed to me to be almost
venerable. Three years seemed a long time then."
"But now you fancy that you have formed a right idea of what is meant
by three years?"
"Well, a better idea, at any rate."
"You are still a good way off it. But if you have formed a right
estimate of a woman's friendship----"
"That's still something, you mean to say? But why did you stop short,
Phyllis was looking up to his face with a smile of inquiry.
"I was afraid that you might think I was on the way to preach a sermon
on the text of woman's friendship. I pulled myself up just in time.
I'm glad that I didn't frighten you."
"Oh, no; you didn't frighten me, Mr. Courtland. I was only wondering
how you would go on--whether you would treat the topic sentimentally
"And what conclusion did you come to on the subject?"
"I know that you are a brave man--perhaps the bravest man alive. You
would, I think, have treated the question seriously--feelingly."
"The adoption of that course implies courage certainly. All the men of
sentimentality--which is something quite different from sentiment,
mind you--have taken to writing melodrama and penny novelettes. You
didn't hear much sentimentality on this stage to-night, or any other
night, for that matter."
"No; it would have sounded unreal. A Parthenon audience would resent
what they believed to be a false note in art; and a Parthenon audience
is supposed to be the concentration of the spirit of the period in
thought and art; isn't it?"
"I don't know. I'm half a savage. But I like to think the best of a
Parthenon audience; you and I formed part of that concentration
to-night--yes, I like to think the best of it. I suppose we know--we,
the Parthenon audience, I mean--what our feelings are on the art of
acting--the art of play-writing."
"I shouldn't like to have to define my feelings at a moment's notice."
"One must make a beginning, and then work up gradually to the
"Well, for instance, there's something that people call realism
"My father has his ideas on what's called realism," Phyllis laughed.
" 'Realism in painting is the ideal with a smudge.' "
"I should like to hear what you think of it?"
He also laughed sympathetically.
"Oh, I only venture to think that realism is the opposite to reality."
"And, so far as I can gather, your definition is not wanting in
breadth--no, nor in accuracy. Sentimentality is the opposite to
"That is a point on which we agreed a moment ago. My father says that
sentiment is a strong man's concealment of what he feels, while
sentimentality is a weak man's expression of what he doesn't feel."
"And the Parthenon audience--you and I--laugh at the latter--that is,
because we have practiced some form of athletics. The bicycle has
given its /coup de grace/ to sentimentality. That man over there with
the head and face like a lion's, and that woman whose face is nature
illuminated, have long ago recognized the shallowness of
sentimentality--the depths of sentiment. We could not imagine either
of them striking a false note. They have been the teachers of this
generation--the generation to which you belong. Great Heavens! to
think that for so many years human passion should be banished from
art, though every line of Shakspere is tremulous with passion! Why,
the word was absolutely banished; it was regarded as impure."
"I know that--I was at a boarding school. The preceptresses regarded
as impure everything that is human."
"Whereas, just the opposite is the case?"
"I didn't say that, Mr. Courtland."
"You could scarcely say it. I am only beginning to think it, and I
have lived among savages for years. That man with the lion's face has
not feared to deal with passion. All actors who have lived since
Garrick have never gone further than to illustrate passion in the
hands of a man; but that lion-man, whose stage we are now standing on,
shows us not the passion in the hands of a man, but the man in the
hands of the passion. The man who tears the passion to tatters is the
robustious periwig-pated fellow; the actor, who shows us the man torn
in tatters by the passion, is the supreme artist. I am no authority on
modern literature; but I must confess that I was astonished at the
change that a few years have brought about. I was in a proper position
for noticing it, having been practically without books for two years."
"Is it a change for the better, do you think, Mr. Courtland?"
"I feel certain that it is for the better. I refer, of course, only to
the books of those real investigators--real artists. I refer to the
fountain-heads, not to the hydrants laid down by the water companies
at the end of about ten miles of foul piping. I don't like the product
of the hydrants. I like the springs, and, however natural they may be,
I don't find anything impure in them. Why I love the Bible is because
it is so very modern."
"You don't think, then, that it is yet obsolete, Mr. Courtland?"
"No book that deals so truly with men and women can ever be obsolete,
the fact being that men and women are the same to-day as they were ten
thousand years ago, perhaps ten million years ago, though I'm not
quite so sure of that. The Bible, and Shakspere, and Rofudingding, a
New Guinea poet, who ate men for his dinner when he had a chance, and,
when he had finished, sang lyrics that stir the hearts of all his
fellow-islanders to this day,--he lived a hundred years ago,--dealt
with men and women; that is why all are as impressive to-day as they
were when originally composed. Men and women like reading about men
and women, and it is becoming understood, nowadays, that the truth
about men and women can never be contemptible."
"Ah, but how do we know that it is the truth?"
"Therein the metaphysician must minister to himself. I cannot suggest
to you any test of the truth, if you have none with you. Everyone
capable of pronouncing a judgment on any matter must feel how
truthfully the personages in the Bible have been drawn."
"Yes; the Bible is the Word of God."
"I believe that it is, most certainly. That profound wisdom; that
toleration of the weaknesses of men; that sympathy with men, who
cannot fathom the mysteries of life, and the struggle for life of all
things that love life; that spirit I call God, and I don't think that
a better name has been found for it."
"It--for /it/? You think of God as merely a force of nature?"
"Just the contrary. God is the spirit that lives in warfare with
nature. Great Heavens! isn't that the truth of which the whole Bible
is the allegory? Nature and nature's laws constitute the Devil. God is
the opposing Force. It is a law of nature to kill off the weak, to
crush that which has fallen in the struggle. It is God who helps the
weak--who helps the feeble."
"But merely a force?"
"Oh, I have no private opinion on that part of the question. I am not
like that modern philosopher who fancied he had solved the whole
problem by spelling God with a small g. But don't you think that we
have gone quite far enough in our exchange of confidence for a first
meeting? You are what the Italians call /simpatica/--that is, more
than merely sympathetic. You look at one, and lead one on to confide
in you as one does not confide in most girls. You are a thoroughly
dangerous young woman, Miss Ayrton, though you are Mrs. Linton's
dearest friend. By the way, can you make her confide in you?"
There seemed to be a measure of curiosity, not to say anxiety, in the
tone of this inquiry.
"Well, she makes me confide in her. I wonder if that is just the same
thing," said Phyllis.
"It's not exactly the same thing," said he. "But it's the proper
course for dearest friends to adopt toward each other. For the
maintenance of a firm friendship between any two persons, only one
should confide; the other should be strictly the confidante. By the
way, I wonder what is the average duration of the dearest friendship
between two women."
"Why should it have any limits?" said Phyllis gravely. "What is the
duration of the friendship between two men?"
"It mostly depends on when the woman makes her appearance," said he,
with a laugh.
"Ah! So that---- Ah, never mind. Ella was my dearest friend before Mr.
Linton put in an appearance."
"And he was mine before she put in an appearance," said he.
"I didn't know that," said Phyllis.
"There, you see, is my contention borne out," said he. "You are the
one who confides; she is the one who receives the confidences, and
respects them, I'm sure. I hope that you will do the same, Miss
Ayrton. Don't let anyone know that I confided in you all that I think
on the subject of the old Adam and the new Eve."
"No one except Ella Linton, and you know that I can keep nothing from
her if we are to remain dearest friends. Perhaps she knows already the
limits of your belief, Mr. Courtland."
"She does--she does."
At that moment Ella Linton came up with Lord Earlscourt.
"Has Mr. Courtland been telling you all about the bird of paradise?"
she asked of Phyllis, while she waved the tail feathers of the
loveliest of the birds of paradise before her face.
"The bird?--not the /bird/," laughed Phyllis.
"But the topic was paradise?" Ella joined in the laugh--yes, to some
"I talked of Adam--the old one of that name," said Mr. Courtland.
"And Eve--the new one of that name," said Phyllis.
"Theology is in the air!" cried Ella. "Even the stage of a theater is
not free from the taint. It must be the case of Mr. Holland. Where is
Mr. Holland, by the way, Lord Earlscourt?"
"I haven't seen him for some time. He must have gone away. I'm not Mr.
Holland's keeper, thank Heaven!" said Lord Earlscourt, with heartfelt
"Now you know that everyone holds you accountable for what he has
done!" said Ella.
"Then that's just where everyone makes a mistake," said he. "Great
Lord! is it your idea of British justice to persecute the wrong man?
Why doesn't the bishop do his duty? What do we pay him for?"
"We won't abandon our charity at the call of theology," said Ella.
"Theology--represented by Lord Earlscourt," said Mr. Courtland.
"You don't know how I've been abused during the past fortnight, indeed
you don't," moaned Lord Earlscourt. "Why, there's my own wife, she
abused me like a cab-driver because George Holland had been with us on
the platform when the Chinese teetotalers came here to protest against
the public houses in England; she says that his backsliding will put
back the cause a quarter of a century. Then there are the other
churchwardens; they look on me as if I had been making a suggestion to
raffle the sacred plate. George Holland has a run for his money, but
I've had no fun out of it."
"It does seem hard," said Courtland. "But it's plain that the case
calls for persecution, and why not persecute you? Someone must be
persecuted, you'll admit."
"Then why the--"
"I thought that your good old Bunyip would look in on us before long,"
said Courtland. "There's no possibility of discussing delicate points
in theology without him."
"I think we had better go home," said Ella.
"We must have some consideration for our host," said Courtland. "We
didn't all play the part of /Cagliostro/ to-night."
During the movement of her circle and the adjustment of wraps,
preparatory to the delivery of a valedictory word of congratulation to
the great actor, Ella said in a low tone to Herbert Courtland:
"Cagliostro? No; we didn't all play the part; but--well, Cagliostro
was a weaver of spells."
There was a pause before he said:
"Yes, but the art did not die with him. He had a daughter to whom he
taught his art."
"Not that I ever heard of," said she. "What do you think of Phyllis
"I think that she is the dearest friend of my dearest friend," he
"And I should like her to become the dearest friend of my dearest
"That would be impossible," he said.
Then the felicitous valedictory word was said to the great actor and
actress, and Mrs. Linton's carriage received Phyllis. Lord Earlscourt
took a seat in Mr. Courtland's hansom.
"What do you think about Mr. Courtland?" inquired Ella of her dearest
friend, as they lay back with their heads very close together.
There was a long pause before Phyllis replied:
"I really don't know what I think about him. He is, I suppose, the
bravest man alive at present."
"What? Is that the result of your half hour's chat with him?"
"Oh, dear, no! but all the same, it's pleasant for a girl to feel that
she has been talking to a brave man. It gives one a sense of--of--is
it of being quite safe?"
"Good gracious, no! just the opposite--that is---- Oh, you don't
"No, I don't."
"Never mind. Tell me what he talked about?"
"Oh, everything! God."
"I know that it was in the air. He has ideas, I believe. He never
talked on that topic to me. I hope you found him to be quite sound,
"But it seems rather funny, doesn't it?" said Phyllis; "but I really
don't think that when I was listening to him I considered for a moment
whether he was sound or the opposite in his views."
"Funny? It would have been rather funny if you had done that," laughed
Ella. "The question that a healthy girl--and you are a healthy girl,
Phyllis--asks herself after talking to such a man as Herbert Courtland
is not, Is his theology sound? What healthy girl cares the fraction of
a farthing about the theology of a man with a face like Herbert
Courtland's and arms like Herbert Courtland's? You talked with him for
half an hour, and then come to me and say that you suppose he is the
bravest man alive in the world. That was right--quite right. That is
just what every healthy girl should say. We understand a man's thews
and sinews; we likewise understand what bravery in a man is, but what
do we know, or, for that matter, care about his theology, whether it
is sound or the opposite? Nothing. We don't even care whether he has
any theology or not."
"Good gracious, Ella! one would fancy that you thought----"
"I don't quite know. You see I met Mr. Courtland quite casually, just
as I met a dozen men at various places during the week. Why should you
question me more closely about him than about the dozen other men? He
only talked a little more widely, and perhaps wildly. His bravery is
no more to me than his theology."
"Of course it isn't, Phyllis. But there was the case of George
"That is very different, Ella. I had engaged myself to marry George
Holland. It would be impossible for me to marry any man who had shown
his contempt for--for everything that I regard as sacred."
"I believe it would, if you didn't love that man. But if you loved the
man---- Oh, when you come to know what it means to love you will
understand all. A woman before she loves is--what is she, an egg
before it is hatched? That sounds ridiculous. Better say a green
chrysalis before it breaks into a butterfly; for the transition comes
at once. Theology! Oh, my Phyllis, haven't you read in history, true
history--novels written by men who know us and how we were created,
and why--haven't you read what women do when they truly love a man?
How they fling every consideration to the winds: heaven--home--husband
--God--Mrs. Grundy? Theology! Ah, you are a healthy girl. You never
cared a scrap for George Holland. You were glad when the excuse
presented itself in order to throw him over."
"Yes; I believe that is quite true."
Ella's cry of surprise, and her laugh that followed, shocked her
companion, and feeling that this was the case, the one who laughed
hastened to make her apologies.
"Don't be annoyed with me, dear," she cried. "But I really couldn't
help that laugh when I thought of your earnestness the week before
last. Then, you will remember, you were in great pain because of the
heterodoxy of George Holland. Didn't I tell you at that time that you
had never loved him? You were ready to assure me that you had, and
that you were making a great sacrifice to your principles?"
"I remember very well," said Phyllis, with a sound that was not far
removed from a sob.
"Ah, you are a puzzle to yourself, you poor little chrysalis," said
Ella, putting the meteoric feathers playfully down upon the serious
face of Phyllis--its seriousness was apparent beneath the light of the
carriage lamp. "No, don't make the attempt to explain anything to me.
Don't try to reconcile your frankness now with your pretense then,
because you'll certainly make a muddle of it, and because no such
attempt is necessary to be made to me. I know something of the girl
and her moods--not a great deal, perhaps, but enough to prevent my
doing you an injustice. You are perfectly consistent, my Phyllis."
"Perfectly consistent with your nature as a girl. It is the nature of
a girl to change with every wind that blows. It is only the female
prig who acts consistently under all circumstances. In a world the
leading of which is its men, inconsistency is the best nature of a
healthy girl made to be loved by men. One doesn't sneer at the
weathercock because one hour it points to the north and the next to
the east. 'Tis its nature to. 'Tis our nature to change with every
breeze of man that bears down on us. That's why they love us and
detest the prigs. Here we are at your house. I hope you don't keep
your maid up for you. I would scorn to keep a girl out of her bed for
the sake of brushing my hair. Good-night, dear, and dream of the
paradise that awaits you--a paradise in which there are birds to be
shot, birds of paradise to make feather fans for women who hold them
to their bosoms one minute, and the next dispose of them to Mr. and
Mme. Abednego with last season's opera wrap. There's a parable for you
to sleep upon."
"And you--you?" cried Phyllis.
"Oh, as for me, I'll, I'll--well, I think I'll put my meteor fan on
the pillow beside my own to-night. I'm still newfangled with my toy
and--well, I'm a woman."
At this instant the carriage pulled up to Mr. Ayrton's hall door and
the footman jumped down from the box to run up the steps and ring the
"Good-night," said Phyllis. "I enjoyed my evening greatly, and the
drive home best of all."
Ella Linton's laugh was smothered among the delicate floss of the
feathers which she held up to her face.
IT IS THE PRICE OF BLOOD.
Phyllis had a good deal to think of after she had sat for half an hour
with her father in the room where they worked together for the
discomfiture of the opposite party, and had given him some account of
the representation of the play at the Parthenon. Her father was
delighted to find her in high spirits. So many people come back from
the theater looking glum and worn out, yawning and mumbling when asked
what they have seen and what it had all been about. Phyllis was not
glum, nor did she mumble. She was able to describe scene after scene,
and more than once she sprang from her seat, carried away by her own
powers of description, and began to act the bits that had impressed
her--bits the force of which could only be understood when described
with gestures and pretty posturing.
Her father thought he had never seen anything so pretty in his life.
(What a girl she was, to be sure, to have so easily recovered from the
effects of that terrible ordeal through which she had passed--having
to dismiss at a moment's notice the man whom she had promised to
marry!) He had certainly never seen anything so fascinating as her
pretty posturing, with the electric lights gleaming over her white
neck with its gracious curves, and her firm white arms from which her
gloves had been stripped.
It had been his intention to describe to her a scene which had taken
place in the House of Commons that night--a scene of Celt and Saxon
mingling in wild turmoil over a question of neglected duty on the part
of a Government official: not the one who was subsequently decorated
by the sovereign a few days after his neglect of duty had placed the
country in jeopardy, and had precipitated the downfall of the ministry
and the annihilation of his party as a political factor; not this man,
but another, who had referred to Trafalgar Square as the private
thoroughfare of the crown. The scene had been an animated one, and Mr.
Ayrton had hoped to derive a good deal of pleasure from describing it
to his daughter; but when he had listened to her, and watched her for
a few minutes, he came to the conclusion that it would be absurd for
him to make an effort to compete with her. What was his wretched
little story of Parliamentary squalor compared with these
psychological subtleties which had interested his daughter all the
He listened to and watched that lovely thing, overflowing with the
animation that comes from a quick intelligence--a keen appreciation of
the intelligence of the great artists who had interpreted a story
which thrilled the imagination of generation after generation, and he
felt that Parliament was a paltry thing. Parliament--what was
Parliament? The wrangle of political parties over a paltry issue. It
had no real life in it; it had nothing of the fullness and breadth of
the matters that interested such people as had minds--imagination.
"You are tired," she cried at last. "It is thoughtless of me to keep
you out of your bed. You have had a weary night, I am sure. Was it the
Irish again, or the horrid teetotalers?"
"It was both, my dear," said he. "Phyllis," he added solemnly, "an
Irish teetotaler is a fearful thing."
"You shall forget all the intemperate teetotalers in a beautiful
sleep," said she, putting her arms around his neck. "Good-night, papa!
It was so thoughtless of me to keep you up. It is one o'clock."
"It appears to me that you are the one who should be ready to
succumb," said her father. "I had nothing to stimulate my imagination.
Practical politics has not yet discovered a good working reply to the
man who calls his fellow-man a liar, so the political outlook is not
"That is what is greatly needed: a satisfactory retort--verbal, of
course--to that every-day assertion."
"It has become the most potent influence in the House of Commons,
during the past year or two; and the worst of the matter is that the
statement is nearly always correct."
"Then there is all the greater need for a /modus vivendi/"--she had an
ample acquaintance with the jargon of diplomacy. "I don't despair of
Parliament being able to suggest an efficient retort."
"Parliament: two ragamuffins quarreling up an entry over a rotten
orange. Good-night, my child!"
She was at last in her own room: an apartment of gracious-tinted
fabrics and pink satin panels; of tapestried sofas made by French
artists before the lovely daughter of Maria Teresa went to her death.
She switched on the lights in the candle sconces, and threw herself
down upon one of the sofas. Her theater wrap and fan she had laid over
It was not to the drama which she had seen superbly acted at the
Parthenon that her thoughts went out; but to the words which her
dearest friend had spoken when driving back from the theater.
What words were they?
She could not recollect them now; but she was still conscious of the
impression which they had produced upon her while they were being
spoken. That impression was that up to that instant all the issues of
her life had been unworthy of a moment's consideration. She had taken
what she believed to be a deep interest in many matters during the
five years that she had been the head of her father's house. She had,
she knew, been of the greatest help to her father in his political
life, not merely turning her memory to good account in discovering the
incautious phrases in the speeches of the men who were foolish enough
to be his opponents, but actually advising him, when he asked her, on
many matters about which the newspapers had been full. Then she had
taken an active part in more than one of those "movements" which
became the topic of a London season until compelled by an invisible
but all-powerful authority to move on and make way for the next new
thing. She had moved with every movement, and had proved her capacity
to control herself when the movement became uncontrollable. And then
she had thought how worthy a position in life would be that of the
wife of the rector of a church like St. Chad's.
That idea had remained with her, as had already been said, for some
months, until, to be exact in regard to the date, the other young
women, whom she had been watching with interest, had bought their
brilliant blouses with the newest and, consequently, most abnormal
sleeves, casting aside the sober-hued bodices which they had worn in
How paltry were all these aspirations, these undertakings!
That was what was dinning in her ears all the time Ella had been
talking in the carriage.
But why, why, why should all her previous interests, including the
consideration of the questions of orthodoxy and the other thing, seem
so ridiculously small while Ella was speaking?
That was the question which puzzled her. Had Ella shown her a way to
something better, something higher, something better worthy of the
aspiration of a woman? She could not say that that had been the drift
of her large discourse. What she had said had actually been puzzling
in its vagueness, its daring images--all images are vague; its
allegories--all allegories are indefinite.
And yet--and yet--and yet----
With a motion of impatience Phyllis sprang to her feet. After a pause
she went to a little satin-wood cabinet which she had turned into a
bookshelf, and took out her Bible. She had never slept a night for
years without reading a chapter; and in order to avert the possibility
of her own feelings or fancies of the moment making any invidious
distinction between the various component parts of a book which is
profitable in every line, she had accustomed herself to read the
chapters in consecutive order from The Genesis to The Revelation.
Sometimes, when she found herself face to face of a night with a
purely genealogical chapter, Phyllis of Philistia had difficulty in
crushing down her unworthy desire to turn to some chapter that seemed
to her frail judgment to contain words of wider comfort to the
children of men than a genealogical tree of the Children of Israel;
but she had never yielded to so unworthy an impulse. Who was she that
she should suggest that one part of the Sacred Book was calculated to
be more profitable than another? Was it not all the Bible?
She had plowed her way through the slough of Hebrew names upon these
occasions, and the blessing of the words had been borne to her in the
form of a sweet sleep.
Her chapter for this night was that which describes the campaign of
David, during which he and his hosts were besieged in their
earthworks, and how the three mighty men had made a sortie through the
camp of the enemy in order to obtain for their leader a cup of water.
She continued the chapter to the end, but all through it those words
were ringing in her ears:
"It is the price of blood; it is the price of blood."
And as she knelt down beside her bed, her bare white feet peeping out
from beneath the drapery of her white night-dress, in a posture that
would have made the most human atheist believe in the beauty of
devotion, those words were still in her ears: "The price of blood; the
price of blood."
Good Heavens! How could she carry that feather fan? How could Ella
Linton hold it up to her face--hold her face down to it, flutter its
fairy fluff upon her cheeks? It was the price of blood. Herbert
Courtland had run a greater risk to obtain those feathers than David's
mighty men had run to draw the water from the well. She had heard all
about the insatiable savagery of the natives of New Guinea. Paradise?
Who had named those birds the birds of paradise? She recollected how
the feathers which Ella had whirled about had held in the very center
of every wonderful disc of rich purple, edged with unequal radiating
lines of gold, a single spot of brilliant crimson, with a tiny star of
silver in the center. The effect of the sunlight glinting over this
combination on the thousand feathers that swept after the bird had
caused Herbert Courtland, the first white man who had seen this glory
of glories, to call it the meteor-bird. But those crimson drops: were
they not the blood of the men who had perished miserably while
endeavoring to wrest its marvels from the tropical forests of that
And Ella could treat those feathers as though they had been plucked
from a tame pheasant? And now she was lying in her bed with the fan on
the pillow beside her!
How could she do it? That was what the girl asked herself while she
lay awake on her own bed. Would Ella not see, on the white pillow
beside her head, the crimson stains of the feathers that had been
snatched out of the dripping red hand of death, but the man who had
not feared to grapple with death itself in that hell which people
called a paradise?
But the man, the man who had gripped death by the throat and had torn
the feathers from his grisly, fleshless fingers,--her imagination was
very vivid at night, especially after reading a thrilling chapter of
Hebrew massacre,--that man had talked with her upon such trifles as
books and plays, strange pageants enacted among paper and canvas
unrealities of life. She had actually been leaning against some of
these painted scenes while the man who had fought his way into the
depths of that forest which no white man but himself had yet
penetrated,--the man whose life had, day by day and night by night,
been dependent upon the accuracy of his rifle aim,--had talked with
That was really the sum of all her thoughts. She did not try to recall
the words that he had spoken; it was simply the figure of the man who
had been before her that now remained on her mind. She did not stop to
think whether or not he had spoken as a man with intellect would
speak; whether he had spoken as a man whose orthodoxy was beyond
suspicion would speak. The question of his orthodoxy, of his intellect
(which may be just the opposite), did not occur to her. All she felt
was that she had been talking face to face with a man.
So that the result of her evening's entertainment, after she had read
her inspiring chapter in the Bible and said her bedside prayer, she
might have defined in precisely the same words as she had spoken to
her friend Ella when Ella had asked her, immediately on entering the
carriage, what she thought of Herbert Courtland.
"He is the bravest man in the world at present."
She did not fall asleep for a considerable time.
I'M AFRAID THAT I MUST HAVE PRINCIPLE ON MY SIDE.
"It is quite ridiculous, besides being untrue," said Phyllis, when she
had read the article in the newspaper to which her father called her
attention one morning, a week after the criticism on "Cagliostro" had
appeared. The article was headed:
"DYNAMITE VERSUS EVANGELIZATION,"
and it came out in a weekly paper devoted to the interests of
"It is with the deepest regret that we have to call the attention
of our readers and the public [the article ran] to the series of
charges brought by the Revs. Joseph Capper and Evans Jones, the
eminent pioneers of the Nonconformist Eastern Mission, against a
gentleman to whom a considerable amount of honor is just now being
given by the Royal Geographical Society, the Ethnological
Institute, the Ornithological Association, and other secular
organizations, on account of his exploration in the Island of New
Guinea. It is scarcely necessary to say that we allude to Mr.
Herbert Courtland. The position which has been occupied for
several years by the two distinguished ministers whose self
sacrifice in endeavoring to spread the Light through the dark
places of the tropical forests of a savage land is well known to
the subscribers to the N. E. M., precludes the possibility of a
mistake being made in this matter, and yet they declare in a
letter which we publish this morning that the manner in which Mr.
Courtland pursued his so-called explorations in the forests which
line the banks of the Fly River has practically made impossible
all attempts at mission work in that region. In several directions
it is not denied that Mr. Courtland entered into friendly
relations with some native tribes; but instead of endeavoring to
make the poor benighted creatures acquainted with the Truth, he
actually purchased as slaves over a hundred of them to aid him in
penetrating the Kallolu forest, where, it will be remembered, he
succeeded in shooting the much illustrated meteor-bird, as well as
several other specimens which will delight the members of the
Ornithological Association rather than professing Christians. Our
distinguished correspondents state, and we have no room to doubt
their word, that Mr. Courtland purchased his slaves by a promise
to assist the head man of their tribe against his enemies
belonging to another tribe--a promise which he only too amply
fulfilled, the result being an indiscriminate slaughter of savages
who, though avowed cannibals, might eventually have embraced the
truths of Nonconformity. The elephant rifles of the explorer did
their deadly work only too efficiently; but we trust that, for his
own sake, Mr. Courtland will be able to bring forward trustworthy
evidence to rebut the suspicion of his having upon at least one
occasion induced even the friendly natives to believe that he
possessed the power of the Deity to perform miracles, and upon
another occasion of having used dynamite against them by which
hundreds were destroyed in cold blood. It is the evil influences
of such irresponsible men as Mr. Courtland, whose ill-directed
enterprise we cannot in justice to him refrain from acknowledging,
that retard the efforts of those noble pioneers of Nonconformity
who have already made such sacrifices for the cause, and who
rejoice at the difficulties with which they find themselves beset.
We understand that a question will be put to the Minister for the
Annexation Department in the House of Commons toward the latter
end of the week, on the subject of the alleged excesses of the
most recent explorer (so-called) of New Guinea--excesses which if
committed in Bulgaria or Armenia, or even Ireland, would have
called for an expression of the horror of Christian Europe; and we
may mention that subscriptions on behalf of the Revs. Joseph
Capper and Evans Jones will be received at the office of this
paper to enable them to substantiate the truth of their
"It is quite ridiculous, besides being untrue, papa," cried Phyllis;
"and I hope that you will not fail to take his part and show the
falsehood of such accusations. Could anything be more absurd than that
about the slaves? Slaves! Dynamite!"
"Leading up to subscriptions--don't forget that," said her father. "If
subscriptions are to be forthcoming, they must be got up. Traffic in
human flesh, insults to aborigines, Siberia, the conversion of the
Jews--all these appeal directly to the pockets of the Great English
People. Any one of them will constitute an excellent peg on which to
hang an appeal to the pocket. Those two distinguished pioneers of--
well, shall we say civilization or Nonconformity?--understand their
business, my dear."
"It is no part of their business to try and hold a brave man up to the
execration of everyone."
"I'm not so sure of that. The technicalities of the mission field are
not so apparent all at once. The Vineyard--well, the system of vine-
culture of some of the organizations is a trifle obscure."
Phyllis became impatient.
"The House of Commons--a question is to be asked in the House. Then
you must ask another, papa, showing the nonsense of the first."
"Heavens above! Why should I be dragged into the quarrel, if it is a
quarrel, of Herbert Courtland on the one hand and the Reverends Joseph
Capper and what's the other, Smith--no, Jones--Evans Jones? I
shouldn't wonder if he is of Welsh extraction."
"You will surely not stand passively by and hear a brave man
slandered. That would be unlike you, papa. No; you are bound to
protest against the falsehood."
"Am I indeed? Why? Because the slandered man, if he is slandered, is
the friend of my daughter's friend?"
"Exactly--that's quite sufficient for you to go upon--that and the
"If it is a falsehood."
"If I have your personal guarantee that the statements are
"Now, you are beginning to jest. I cannot jest on so serious an issue.
Think of it--slaves--dynamite!"
"Both excellent words for missionaries to send home to England--almost
equal to opium and idols from the standpoint of the mission-box."
Phyllis was solemn for a moment; then she burst into a merry laugh
that only wanted a note of merriment to be delightful. Her father did
not miss that note. He was thinking of another phrase.
"Now, why shouldn't you say that or something like that, my father?"
cried the girl. "Something to set the House laughing before the
Minister of the Annexation Department has had time to reply? You can
do it, you know."
"I believe I could," said Mr. Ayrton thoughtfully. "But why, my child;
"Why! Why! Oh, if one only said good things when there was a reason
for saying them, how dull we should all be! Any stick for a dog--any
jest is good enough for the House of Commons."
"Yes; but suppose it is inferred that I am not on the side of the
missionaries? What about Hazelborough?"
Hazelborough was the constituency which Mr. Ayrton represented in the
House of Commons.
"My dear father, where would you be if you couldn't steer through the
Hazelborough prejudices now and again? You can always say something so
good as to make people not care which way it cuts."
"What? Oh, Phyllis! I am ashamed of you. Besides, the people of
Hazelborough have got to be extremely sensitive. They have caught the
Nonconformist Conscience. The bacillus of the Nonconformist Conscience
was rampant a short time ago, and it has not yet been stamped out. I'm
afraid that I must have principle on my side--some show of principle,
at any rate--not so wide as a church door or so deep as a well, but
"And you will, too, papa. I'll see Ella and get her to find out from
Mr. Courtland what is the truth."
"Well, perhaps it mightn't be wise to rush into extremes all at once!
I wouldn't insist on the truth, if I were you. What's the House of
Commons that it should be cockered up with the truth? All that is
needed is enough to go on with. An electro-plating of veracity is in
keeping with the economic tendencies of the age."
"I am not afraid of the truth," cried Phyllis, without giving the
cynicism of her father the tribute of a smile. "Mr. Courtland would, I
know, be incapable of doing anything unworthy of--of----"
"Let us say an explorer," suggested her father. He knew that the word
which was in her mind was /Englishman/. She only checked herself when
her imagination caused her to perceive the average silk-hatted man
with his tongue in his cheek at the utterance of the phrase. "Let us
say 'unworthy of an explorer,' " repeated her father; "that is an
Phyllis was irritated.
"I have talked with him," she said a trifle coldly.
"Yes," said her father, "once."
"I should have said that I know Ella."
"And yet Ella is a woman!"
"Oh, the charges are too ridiculous! Slaves! What nonsense! We all
know what slavery is. Well, where are his slaves now? If he only hired
the natives for a month or two they were only servants, not slaves.
The thing is manifestly ridiculous."
"Then why should we trouble ourselves with the attempt to rebut it?"
"Because so many people are idiots nowadays," cried Phyllis warmly.
"Because, no matter how ridiculous a charge which is brought against a
distinguished person may be, some people will be found ready to
believe in its truth. Never mind; I'll find out the truth; I'll go to
"The fountain-head indeed," said Mr. Ayrton. "When in search of the
truth, go to a woman."
"I will, at any rate," said Phyllis.
And she went thither.
Phyllis, of course, knew when to go to Ella with the certainty of
finding her at home. At the luncheon hour Mrs. Linton was always
visible to the three friends whom she had within the confines of
Mayfair. She considered herself blessed among women in the numerical
strength of her friendships; and so perhaps she was; she had three.
She was in one of her drawing rooms--the one that was decorated with
water colors set in fluted panels of yellow silk--not the one with the
pink blinds so beloved by those of her visitors who had reached an age
to regard a pink light as a woman's best friend. She was wearing a new
gown which Phyllis, in spite of her enthusiasm on behalf of a brave
man maligned, found admirable both as regards fabric, fit, and
Then followed a word or two of commendation of the artists who had
been concerned in its production. They had not been absurd about the
sleeves, and they had not vetoed the sweep of lace--it was about half
a yard wide--which the person who occupied so insignificant a position
as is usually allocated to the mere wearer of the gown had suggested
for the bodice. The gown was an unequivocal success, and had Ella seen
the disgraceful article which had appeared in the /Spiritual Aneroid/
on the subject of Mr. Courtland's explorations?
Ella smiled a slow smile, as the question joined the congratulation
without the lapse of a breath.
"The /Spiritual Aneroid/? Who is the /Spiritual Aneroid/? What is the
/Spiritual Aneroid/?" she asked. "Oh, a newspaper. What could a
newspaper with such a funny name have to say about Mr. Courtland?"
"I have brought it with me," said Phyllis. "It is quite disgraceful.
I'm sure you'll agree with me."
"I'm certain of it."
Ella accepted the proffered paper and glanced down the article pointed
out to her by Phyllis. Phyllis' eyes were gleaming as she placed her
finger on the words, "Dynamite /versus/ Evangelization," but Ella's
eyes did not gleam while she was reading all the words printed beneath
the heading. She folded the paper and glanced carelessly at the name
at the top of the outside page and said, "Well?"
"Was there ever anything so disgraceful?" cried the girl. "Was there
every anything so false?"
"Is it false?" asked Ella.
"How can you doubt it? Do you fancy that Mr. Courtland would be a
"I wonder how he'd look in the broad flat hat which appears in all the
pictures of the slave-dealers? Rather well, I fancy," said Mrs.
"Oh, how can you talk of his looking well or ill when you read such an
attack upon him?" said Phyllis, jumping up with a charmingly rosy
face. "Surely it is something to you when so distinguished a man--your
friend as well--is attacked!"
"If we were traveling with him across the desert in a caravan, should
we mind much if the whole caravan were attacked by Bedouins or
missionaries or people of that stamp, my dear? Of course we shouldn't.
We should feel that he would be equal to the defense of all of us, and
himself as well."
"Oh, of course; but this is quite another thing, isn't it?"
"Where is the difference? If anybody minds the nonsense printed in
that thing, Herbert Courtland will certainly be able to defend himself
when called on to do so."
Phyllis seated herself once again.
"But a question is to be asked in Parliament about him?" she
"And can you, the daughter of a member of that Parliament, honestly
tell me that you fancy that any human being minds how many questions
are asked about him in the Questionable House?"
"But the least breath of suspicion--dynamite--slave-dealing--massacres
--Armenia. Oh, the article is certain to be copied into dozens of
other papers--the public do so like to get hold of some scandal
against a man who has done something great."
"They do indeed. Would you suggest organizing a committee of ladies
for the protection of Mr. Courtland?"
"Don't talk nonsense, Ella. I though that you were his friend, and
that you would be as indignant as I was at that disgraceful attack
upon his reputation."
"I don't think that it will place his reputation in jeopardy, unless
with the readers of that paper, and they are not worth taking into
account, are they?"
"Papa says the thing has a large circulation among a certain class. I
want him to ridicule the question which is threatened in that article;
he knows how to do that kind of thing very well."
"Is it come to that, my Phyllis? Were you really so greatly interested
in the one conversation you had with him as to constitute yourself his
Above all things Phyllis was truthful. She had never had an experience
of love--that passion which can change the most truthful of womankind
into the least scrupulous. There was no pause between Ella's question
and Phyllis' answer.
"Certainly the one conversation that I had with him interested me--I
told you so returning in the carriage. Has he never succeeded in
interesting you, Ella? He told me that you were his friend--I believe
he said his dearest friend."
"And I believe that he told you the truth," said Ella. "But, being his
best friend and a woman, I refrain from constituting myself his
champion. You see we live in Philistia, my Phyllis, and the champions
that Philistia sends forth usually come to grief; there was the case
of one Goliath of Gath, for example. I have no desire to have stones
slung at me by the chosen people."
"I'm not quite sure that I understand you," said Phyllis, with a very
pretty pucker on her forehead. "You don't mean to say that a woman
should not do her best for a man whom she knows to be maligned? You
don't suggest that she should stand silently to one side while people
are saying what's false about him?"
"I say that it's unwise in Philistia; though I admit that it is of the
greatest advantage to the man, for people at once cease maligning him
and take to maligning her."
"If she is any sort of a woman she will not mind that, however unjust
it may be. In this case, however, I don't think there is much risk:
even the most unscrupulous person could hardly say that--that----"
"That we were becoming Herbert Courtland's champions, because we were
in love with him?"
"Well, I don't know. Wasn't that what you meant to suggest people
would say of a woman who became a man's champion?"
"Something in that way. How straightforwardly you speak out what's on
"Oh, I'm a girl of to-day. I have got over all those absurd
affectations of childishness which used to be thought feminine long
ago. The gambols of the kitten were once thought the most attractive
thing on earth, and they are very interesting: but for the full-grown
cat to pretend that it is perfectly happy with a ball of worsted, when
all the time it has its heart set on a real mouse, is nonsense."
"That is an allegory, a subtle parable, Phyllis. But I fancy I can
interpret it. You are quite right. Men know that we, the full-grown
cats, take no interest in the ravelings of wool as mediums of
diversion--that we have our hearts set on mice. Oh, yes! it is much
better to be straightforward in our speech--it is even sometimes
better to be quite straight in our ways as well. It usually prevents
misunderstanding. There is scarcely a subject that women may not talk
about to men in the most direct way, nowadays. But about the question
Here the door of the room was thrown open and Mr. Herbert Courtland
"I quite forgot to mention that Mr. Courtland was lunching with us
to-day, Phyllis," said Ella, while shaking hands with her visitor.
"Now you will have a chance of getting the slave-dealer's account of
the whole business. Are you a slave-dealer, Bertie? If so, why don't
you wear the usual broad-leaved hat of your order?"
"It is I who am the enslaved one," said Mr. Courtland, laying his hand
to the left of the buttons of his white waistcoat and bowing the bow
of the early years of the century, with a glance at each lady.
"What a pretty reminiscence of the age of artificiality!" said Ella;
"and what an apt commentary upon the subject we were talking about,
Phyllis! We were discussing the merits of directness in speech and
straightness in every way. We were ridiculing the timid maid--all
sandals and simper--of forty years ago. Why should men and women have
ever taken the trouble to be affected? Let us go in to lunch and eat
with the appetites of men and women of the nineties, not with the
nibblings of society of the fifties. Come along, Phyllis. Mr.
Courtland will tell us all about his dreadful goings on, his slave-
dealings, his dynamitings. Have you seen that article in the--what's
the name of the paper, Phyllis?"
"The /Spiritual Aneroid/," said Phyllis.
"I haven't been so fortunate," said he.
"Then we shall take the paper into the dining room with us, and place
it before you. If you were guilty of the doings that the article
details, you would do well to--to--well, to adopt the picturesque
costume incidental to ruffianism--the linen jacket of the slave-
trader, the mangy fur collar of the dynamity man of war. Have you ever
trafficked in human beings, Mr. Courtland?"
"Well, yes," said he. "I have done a little in that way, I admit."
"And dynamite--have you ever massacred people with dynamite?" Ella
"Well, when my dynamite exploded, the people who were in the immediate
neighborhood were never just the same afterward," said he.
"Finally, did you allow yourself to be worshiped as God?" she asked.
"Yes, I got them to do that," he replied. "I have experienced all
human sensations, including those of a god in working order."
"Then I hope you will make a good lunch. We begin with white-bait."
"I am quite satisfied to begin with white-bait," said he.
EVEN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS DOESN'T MATTER MUCH.
"I did not intend to stay for lunch," said Phyllis, "but your
overpowering will swept me along with it, Ella. But I hope you will
let me say that I don't think you should jest about what is--what some
people at any rate think very serious."
"Phyllis is of Philistia," said Ella, "and Philistia was always given
to ordeal by champions. She thinks the attack made upon you by two
missionaries in their newspaper organ quite disgraceful. It doesn't
seem so disgraceful after all."
"I haven't seen the attack," said he. "But I feel it to be very good
of Miss Ayrton to think it disgraceful."
"Of course I thought it disgraceful," said Phyllis, "and I came to
Ella to talk it all over. The article accuses you of atrocities, and
said that a question would shortly be put to the Minister of the
Annexation Department in the House of Commons. Now, I know that there
is nothing my father enjoys more than snubbing those detestable men
who endeavor to get up a reputation for philanthropy, and temperance,
and bimetallism, and other virtues, by putting questions on the paper;
and he could, I think, ask some counter question in this particular
case that would ridicule the original busybody."
"It was very good of you to think so, Miss Ayrton," said he. "I can't
say that, personally, I mind all the attacks that all the missionaries
who earn precarious salaries in South Seas may make upon me; but I
must confess that I have a weakness for seeing busybodies put to
"You may depend upon Mr. Ayrton's satire," said Ella. "It never misses
the point in the harness. The barb of the dart is, I believe, Mr.
Ayrton's, the feather at the other end is Phyllis'."
"Only once that happened," said Phyllis. "Oh, no! papa manufactures
his own darts, from feather to tip."
"But supposing that the charges brought against me are true?"
suggested Mr. Courtland.
"Why, then, can't you see there is all the greater need for ingenuity
in your defense?" said Ella.
"It is impossible to think of the charges as true," said Phyllis
"For example?" said he.
"Well, the article said that you had made slaves of some of the
natives of New Guinea, purchasing them by a promise to help a native
chief against his enemies."
"There wasn't much harm in that: I did it," said he.
"And then it went on to say that you kept your promise," said Phyllis.
"What! They accused me of keeping my promise?" said he. "Well, I'm
afraid I can't deny that charge either."
"Did you really slaughter the natives?" cried Phyllis.
The interest which she felt appeared in her eyes.
"I did my best for the savages who had purchased my services," he
replied. "The campaign was not a protracted one. Two days after the
outbreak of hostilities brought things to a climax. We fought our
decisive battle--the Sedan of King Mubamayo. You see, I had a
trustworthy Winchester. I believe that about seventy of the enemy bit
"Only seventy? That was unworthy of you, Mr. Courtland," cried Ella.
"Nothing short of thousands counts as a civilized battle. Seventy! Oh,
I'm afraid you don't do yourself justice."
"Of course a battle is a battle," said Phyllis stoutly. "If you hadn't
killed them they would have killed you. You were in the right, I'm
"I'm not so sure of that," said he, shaking his head. "To tell you the
truth, the elements of the crisis of Headman Glowabyola were somewhat
involved. The original dispute was difficult for a foreigner to
understand--it was, in fact, the Schleswig-Holstein question of
"You settled it, anyway," suggested Ella. "You were the Bismarck of
"I doubled the parts of Bismarck and Von Moltke," said he.
"And that's why they worshiped you as their god? I don't wonder at the
heathen in his blindness doing that. Any man who was the same as
Bismarck and Von Moltke would certainly shoulder a deity out of his
way," laughed Ella.
"It so happened, however, that my deification was due neither to my
recognition as a diplomatist nor as a military strategist," said the
explorer. "No, they wanted something beyond the mere fighting man to
worship, and my knowledge of that fact combined with their paeans of
victory--to the /obbligato/ of a solid iron-wood drum beaten with the
thigh bones of the conquered--to keep me awake at night. But one
morning the headman came upon me when I was about to boil my kettle to
make myself a cup of tea. I had a small lamp that burned spirits, and
he stood by while I filled it up from the bottle that I carried with
me. He took it for granted that the spirit was water, and he was
greatly impressed when he saw it flare up as I applied a lighted match
to it. He asked me if I possessed the power to set water in a blaze,
and I assured him that that was something for which I had long been
celebrated; adding that when I had had my breakfast I meant to while
away an hour or two by setting fire to the ocean itself. He implored
of me to reconsider my decision, and when I had poured a little spirit
into the hollow of my hand and lighted it in the presence of his most
eminent scientists, they said that they also desired to associate
themselves with the headman's petition. I was, however, inexorable; I
walked down to the beach and had just struck a match on the brink of
the ocean when the whole tribe prostrated themselves around me,
promising to continue worshiping me if I would only stay my hand.
Well, what could I do? I weakly yielded and spared the multitudinous
sea from being the medium of what would in all likelihood have been
the greatest conflagration on record. From that moment, I'm happy to
say, they worshiped me as their supreme deity, and I'm bound to say
that I behaved as such; I was certainly the most superior class of god
they had ever had, and they gave me a testimonial to this effect in
case I might ever be looking out for a new situation."
"That was how you managed to get such a collection of birds, including
my meteor-bird," said Ella. "But Phyllis of Philistia is shocked at
the bare recital of such a tale of idolatry. Are you not, Phyllis?"
"I think I am a little shocked," said Phyllis. She did not say that
her first thought just then was that the feather fan was not, after
all, the price of blood: it was something much worse. "It was an
encouragement of idolatry, was it not, Mr. Courtland?"
"Scarcely," said he. "On the contrary, it was an honest attempt to
lead them from their idols to something higher and better."
"You are something higher and better," suggested Ella.
"Quite so; I am a little lower than the angels, but a good deal higher
than the awful image which they worshiped before I turned up," said
he. "The whole tribe admitted in the most honorable manner that I was
by far the best god they had ever had; they had not an unlucky day so
long as they worshiped me, and I retained my Winchester and a full
supply of cartridges."
"The testimony was flattering," said Ella. "But still Phyllis is
"I am," said Phyllis. "I believe in God. Mr. Courtland believes in a
"Anyhow, I led some thousands of savages from idolatry and cannibalism
to something higher, and that's a better record than most gods of my
acquaintance can show. Everything must be done gradually to be done
permanently. Nothing could be more absurd than the /modus operandi/ of
your missionary. Most of them have got rid of their Christianity to
make way for their theology. They endeavor to inculcate upon the
natives the most subtle points of their theological system,
immediately after they have preached against the wickedness of economy
in the matter of clothing."
"A large missionary work might be done among husbands at home,"
said Ella. "But what about the dynamite, that is the charge which
still hands over you--a charge of dynamite?"
"That was my worst hour," said Courtland. "I had gone up the Fly River
in my steam launch to a point never previously reached by a European.
I was fortunate enough to get some specimens that had never been seen
before, and I was returning to the coast. My engineer and I were
captured when ashore one night getting fuel for our furnace. They took
us into the forest a long way, binding our hands with the fiber of one
of the creepers, and I had no trouble whatever gathering that it was
their intention to make a feast of us--a sort of high tea, it was to
be, for they began brewing the herbs which I knew they used only when
they were cannibalizing. We were courteously permitted to watch these
preparations, for it was rightly assumed that they would be in some
degree interesting to us. We were, indeed, greatly interested in all
we saw, but much more so when, toward evening, a number of the natives
arrived on the scene carrying with them some of the stores which they
had found aboard the steam launch. They broke open with a stone
hatchet some tins of preserved meat, and seemed to enjoy the contents
greatly. The biscuits they didn't care for much, and the cakes of soap
which they began to eat could not honestly be said to be an entire
success as comestibles. But while we watched them at these /hors
d'oeuvres/ to the banquet at which we were expected to take a
prominent part, a straggler came up with some reserve supplies; I saw
them; tins of dynamite--we carried dynamite for blowing up the snags
that obstructed the narrower reaches of the river. We watched the
thieves crowd around the bearer of the tins, and we saw that the
general impression that prevailed in regard to them was that they had
come upon some of the most highly concentrated beef they had ever had
in their hands. When they laid the tins among the hot ashes of their
fires and began to break them open with their stone hatchets, my
engineer thought with me that all the interest there would be in the
subsequent proceedings could not possibly compensate us for the waste
of precious time which would be entailed by our remaining. We bolted
in spite of our fettered hands, but before we had got more than a
couple of hundred yards from the camp, there took place the severest
earthquake, coincidental with a thunderstorm and the salute of a
battery of a thousand heavy guns. We were whirled into the air like
feathers in a breeze, but managed to cling--our bonds being broken--to
some of the boughs among which we found ourselves. Shortly afterward,
a quarter of an hour or so, there came on the heaviest shower I had
ever experienced. Such a downpour of branches of trees, gnarled roots,
broken fruits, birds' feathers, mutilated apes of many species, and--
well, anatomical specimens! It went on and on until the boughs around
us were made into splinters and we were beaten to the ground with the
force of those missiles, all the dense forest around us echoing to the
shrieks of the lories and parrots, the monkeys and the wildcats."
"And now the missionaries," said Ella, after a pause.
"And what happened after that?" whispered Phyllis.
He shook his head.
"After that we came away," he said. "We couldn't see that there was
any need for us to stay loafing about the forest when we had our
business to mind in another direction. It took us two days, however,
finding our launch."
"And that is what the missionaries call your dynamite outrage against
the natives?" said Ella.
"So it would seem," said he. "I suppose they managed to get some
account of the business; one can't hush up a dynamite outrage even in
the interior of New Guinea."
"But what a gross misrepresentation of facts it was to say that you
had massacred the natives," cried Phyllis indignantly.
He laughed with a shrug.
"Oh, we must all live," he said.
"Unless those who treat tins of dynamite as though they were tins of
brawn," said Ella. Then turning to Phyllis she smiled.
Phyllis had no difficulty interpreting the smile.
"Yes," she said, "your opinion was quite correct: Mr. Courtland
doesn't care what people say, and it doesn't matter in the least what
they do say, or what falsehoods are spread abroad."
"Not in the smallest degree," said Ella. "Herbert Courtland is still
"But so far as I can gather," said Mr. Courtland, "all that the
missionaries said of me was substantially correct."
"Read the paper and you will see how detestably false all the charges
are," cried Phyllis, rising,--the servants had now left the room,--and
picking up the /Spiritual Aneroid/ from where Ella had laid it on a
Herbert Courtland had not yet opened it. He took it from her, saying:
"Thank you, Miss Ayrton. But I really don't see that it concerns me
very much whether or not the charges brought against me are true or
false. The matter is certainly one for the--the--ah--/Spiritual
Aneroid/ and its special /clientele/."
"But a question is to be asked about it in the House of Commons. I
said so just now," cried Phyllis.
"And even the House of Commons doesn't matter much," said Ella.
"That is what papa thought," said Phyllis meekly. "Only I know that if
Mr. Courtland thought it worth noticing, papa would be quite pleased
to put a counter question. That is why I came here to-day."
"It was so good of you," said the man.
"My Phyllis is all that is good. Let us return to the drawing room,"
said Ella, rising.
They returned to the drawing room; but when they had been in the
apartment for perhaps four minutes, certainly not five, Phyllis said
it was necessary for her to hurry home in order that the afternoon
letters should be sent to her father at the House.
With another word of appreciation of her kindness, Mr. Courtland held
her hand a second longer than was absolutely necessary to maintain a
character for civility.
"She is the most charming girl in the world," remarked Ella to the
visitor, who remained when Phyllis had left.
"Is she?" said he.
"I know it. Don't you?" asked she.
"How do I know?" he said. "I have thought nothing about it. If you say
she is charming, I am pleased to hear it. It matters no more to me
that the world is full of charming girls than that the kraken is still
at the bottom of the sea. One woman fills all my thoughts. My heart is
full of her."
"And you want her to risk the salvation of her soul for you?"
"Yes; that is just what I want."
He remained with her for another hour.
THE HONORABLE MEMBER IS CLEARLY OUT OF ORDER.
Mr. Ayrton met his daughter the next morning with the good news that
he had found among his specimen cases of phrases, one that would
effectually silence the member from Wales who had been nominated by
the Nonconformist Eastern Missionary Society to put that question to
the minister of the Annexation Department on the subject of Mr.
Courtland, the explorer. Mr. Ayrton was the better pleased at his
discovery, because of the inoffensive nature of the phrase which he
had taken out of its case, so to speak. As a rule, he did not mind
being offensive if only his phrase was apt. Only people who had no
artistic appreciation found fault with the tone of some of his most
notable phrases. He did not mind whether they were just or unjust,
they said. As if a man can be both honest and witty at the same time!
It so happened, however, that the party to which Mr. Ayrton belonged
had become greatly concerned in respect of an element that had just
come to the surface to still further complicate the course of
politics. This was the Nonconformist Conscience--hitherto a /quantite
negligeable/ in the calculations of the leaders, but now one that it
appeared absolutely necessary to take into account as a factor. To be
sure, there were a good many people who put their tongues in their
cheeks when any mention was made of the Nonconformist Conscience: they
said it was no more to be taken seriously than the Spector on the
Brocken or the Athanasian Creed. It was only the trick of an
electioneering agent desirous of escaping from an untenable position.
There were other persons, however (mostly Nonconformists), who were
found ready to declare that the Nonconformist Conscience was a Great
and Living Truth. The only point upon which statesmen of all parties
were agreed was that it was worth purchasing. The Nonconformists
themselves, upon whom the Great and Living Truth was sprung, had no
notion at first that it could be turned into a negotiable security
occupying as high a place in the market as, say, Argentine bonds. But
it did not take them very long to find out that even an abstraction
such as this could be turned to good account by discreet maneuvering.
Truth sometimes is heard on an election platform, and yet truth is but
an abstract quality. Why, then should not a Great and Living Truth
become a regular gold mine to its inventor? It was as great an
invention as the art of electroplating, which it closely resembled,
and a quite as nice thing could be made out of it by a little
dexterous manipulation. If the conscience is silver, the Nonconformist
Conscience is at least electroplate of a first-class quality, it was
argued; and a political manifesto, which was practically a financial
prospectus, was issued with a view of floating the Nonconformist
Conscience Company, Limited.
English politics cannot by any possibility be regarded as an exact
science; and thus it was that all political parties were at this time
making bids for shares in the enterprise. The leaders of one party, in
fact, expressed themselves ready to buy up the whole concern, and they
actually tendered bills payable at twelve months for all the vendors'
interest, and it was only when these bills became due and were
returned dishonored that the shadowy character of the transaction was
made plain, and the country was convulsed at the disclosure of the
fact that the vendors had disposed of a perfectly worthless invention,
and that the purchasers had paid for it by promises that were equally
All this happened later, however; when the fuss was made about the
atrocities by an explorer in New Guinea, and Mr. Ayrton was
contemplating a counter question that should cast ridicule upon the
missionaries and their champion, he was given to understand by the
leaders of his party, who, it was believed, had a small parcel of
baronetcies done up in official twine, with blank spaces for the name
and address in each, awaiting distribution at the first change of
Government, that he must take no step that might jeopardize the
relations of the party with the vendors of the Nonconformists
Conscience. The /Spiritual Aneroid/ was the leading Nonconformist
organ, and it would not do to sneer at the missionaries whom it
supported. It would be better that all the explorers who had ever
risked their lives on behalf of civilization should go by the board
than that a single vote should be lost to the party, he was assured by
the Senior Whip.
This was rather irritating to the artist in phrases; because it stood
to reason that the majority of his phrases were calculated to be
hurtful to his opponents. He was thus quite elated when he came upon
something which would, he felt sure, call comment in the press at the
expense of the member from Wales without casting any slight upon
Nonconformist Missionary enterprise.
He read out the thing to his daughter, and he was surprised to find
that she was not appreciative of its unique charm. This was rather too
bad, he felt, considering that it was she who had enlisted his
services in this particular matter.
"I don't think Mr. Courtland wants anybody to take his part in
Parliament or out of it," said she. "And that's why I think it would
be better to let that Mr. Apthomas ask his question without
interruption. What can the Minister of Annexation say except that he
has no information on the subject, and that if he had he could not
interfere, as he had no jurisdiction on the Fly River?"
"That is what he will reply as a matter of course," said her father.
"But that will not prevent the newspapers that are on the side of
Wales and the missionaries from saying what they please in the way of
comment on the atrocities in New Guinea."
"Mr. Courtland will not mind whatever they may say," cried Phyllis.
"That was the view I took of the matter in regard to Mr. Courtland's
attitude when you mentioned it to me at first," said he. "I didn't
suppose that he was the man to be broken down because some foolish
paper attacks him; but you were emphatic in your denunciation of the
injustice that would be liable to be done if--"
"Oh, I had only spoken for about half an hour to Mr. Courtland then,"
said Phyllis. "I think I know him better now."
"Yes, you have spoken with him for another half hour; you therefore
know him twice as well as you did," remarked her father. "I wonder if
he admitted to you having done all that he was accused of doing."
He saw in a moment from the little uneasy movement of her eyes that he
had made an excellent guess at the general result of the conversation
at Mrs. Linton's little lunch. He had not yet succeeded in obtaining
any details from his daughter regarding her visit to Ella. She had
merely told him that Ella had kept her to lunch, and that Mr.
Courtland had been there also.
"Yes. I do believe that he admitted everything," he continued, with a
laugh as he thought how clever he was. (He had frequent reasons for
laughing that laugh.)
"No," said Phyllis doubtfully; "he did not admit everything."
"There was some reservation? Perhaps it was melinite that he employed
for the massacre of the innocents of New Guinea, not dynamite."
"No; it was dynamite. But the natives had stolen it from his steam
launch and they exploded it themselves."
Mr. Ayrton lay back in his chair convulsed with laughter.
"And that is the true story of the dynamite massacre?" he cried. "That
is how it comes that, in the words of the /Aneroid/, the works of
evangelization on Nonconformist principles is likely to be retarded
for some time? The missionaries are quite right too. And what about
his miracles--they suggested a miracle, didn't they?"
"Oh, that was some foolishness about setting spirits of wine on fire,"
said Phyllis. "The natives thought that it was water, you know."
Mr. Ayrton laughed more heartily than before.
"That is the crowning infamy," he cried. "My dear Phyllis, it would be
quite impossible to allow so delicious a series of missionary muddles
to pass unnoticed. I think I see my way clearly in the matter."
She knew that he did. She knew that he regarded most incidents in the
political world merely as feeders to his phrase-making capacity. She
knew that it would be impossible to repress him now in the matter of
Courtland and the missionaries; she fully realized the feelings of
Only the weakest protest did she make against her father's intended
action; and thus when the day came for Mr. Apthomas' question, that
gentleman from Wales inquired, "If Her Majesty's Minister for
Annexations could give the House any information regarding the so-
called explorations of Mr. Herbert Courtland in the island of New
Guinea, particularly in respect of a massacre of natives by dynamite
in the region of the Fly River; and if it was true that the gentleman
just named had permitted himself to be worshiped as a god by the
aborigines of another region; and if Her Majesty's Minister for
Domestic Affairs was prepared to say that it was legal for one of Her
Majesty's subjects to assume the privileges and functions of a god,
and if the First Lord of the Treasury was prepared to communicate to
the House what course, if any, Her Majesty's government meant to adopt
with a view to the prevention of similar outrages in the same region
in the future?"
Mr. Ayrton rose before the Minister of the Annexation Department had
quite concluded his yawn, and said he trusted that he was in order
(cries of "Yes, yes," from those members who knew that the honorable
member had an enlivening phrase which he wanted to get rid of) in
inquiring, in connection with the same subject, if the right honorable
gentleman could inform the House if there was any truth in the report
current in financial and other circles that the object of the
explorations of Mr. Herbert Courtland was the discovery of a small
mammal of the porcine tribe, and if one of the Law Officers of the
Crown was prepared to assure the House that it would be contrary to
the provisions of the Companies Act, and the Companies Act Amendment
Act, to permit this New Guinea pig to assume the functions of the
director of Limited Liability Companies, whose directorate was largely
composed of members of both Houses of Parliament (great laughter from
honorable gentlemen who were aware that the Mr. Apthomas had no income
beyond the remuneration he received as a director of companies); and
if Her Majesty's Minister for Agriculture was prepared to state that
it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to prohibit the
introduction of, at any rate the males of the mammals just referred
to, considering the rapid increase in representative assemblies of the
English or Welsh bore---- (Great laughter, which prevented the
concluding words of the sentence being audible in the gallery.)
THE SPEAKER: Order! order! The honorable member for Hazelborough must
confine himself strictly to the issued raised by the honorable
gentleman from Wales. The honorable member for Hazelborough is only
permitted to follow the honorable gentleman from Wales by the
indulgence of the House.
MR. AYRTON: Sir, I bow to the ruling of the chair, and will continue
by inquiring if Her Majesty's Minister for the Public Worship
Department can state to the House if it is true that a newspaper
published within the Principality of Wales recently made the
announcement that the honorable member who had just made inquiries
regarding the exploration of Mr. Herbert Courtland, was the idol of
his constituents [Laughter, and cries of "Order!"], and if the right
honorable gentleman is prepared to state that the provisions of the
Idolatry Act are--
THE SPEAKER: The honorable member is clearly out of order. The
question of idolatry in Wales is not at present before the House.
MR. AYRTON: Sir, I give notice that next session I shall move a
resolution regarding idolatry in the Principality of Wales [Laughter
The minister for Annexation was about to rise when
MR. MUDLARKY (Ballynamuck) asked if the introduction of the guinea
pigs would be prejudicial to the interests of the higher and nobler
Irish animal who, he would remind the Minister for Public Worship, was
not to be confounded with the herd whose example was clearly emulated
by the present government in seeking self-destruction by running down
a steep place into the sea. (Cries of "Order, order!") If there was
any doubt before, the honorable member continued, as to the influence
which was at work in that Gadarene herd, which assumed the functions
of Her Majesty's government, the sounds that now came from the
Treasury Benches would convince even the most skeptical that sacred
history is sometimes repeated by profane, but he could not compliment
the devils, who had the bad taste to--(Several honorable members here
rose amid the cheers of the Irish Members, and a scene of confusion
THE SPEAKER [sternly]: Order, Order! The honorable member from
Ballynamuck must resume his seat. He is out of order. The question
before the House is not the good taste of demoniac visitants. I call
upon the right honorable gentleman, the Minister for the Department of
MR. McCULLUM (Blairpukey Burghs): Mr. Speaker, one moment. To save
time, will the right honorable gentleman say if the Highland Crofters,
whose land was stolen from them in order that the members of the Upper
THE SPEAKER: Order! The Minister for the Department of Annexation.
MR. BLISTER (Battersea, Mid): Mr. Speaker, though I don't do any work
myself, I'm the representative of labor, only those contemptible
skunks, the workingmen, don't see that they have a man for a leader--a
man, that's me--that's Joe Blister. And as the Upper House has been
introduced, I'll run, eat, or swear with the best of that lot of tap-
room loafers; I'll do anything but fight them--except, of course, on a
labor platform, and if--
THE SPEAKER: The honorable member is out of order. The Minister for
the Department of Annexations.
THE MINISTER FOR ANNEXATIONS: No, sir; I have no information [Cheers
The House then went into Committee of Supply.
BUT MR. COURTLAND---- AH, NEVER MIND!
Mr. Ayrton entertained his daughter with a description of the scene in
the House incidental to the annihilation of Mr. Apthomas. He rather
thought himself that his counter-question had been neat. He had been
congratulated on it by quite a number of his friends in the tea room,
and six messages had been delivered to him by representatives of the
press to the effect that if he could provide them with the exact text
of his counter-question they would be greatly obliged.
"They mean to report it in full?" said Phyllis. She had an ample
experience of the decimation of his questions as well as speeches by
the members of the press gallery. They had reduced it to a science.
"I am much mistaken if they don't comment on it as well," said her
father. "Poor Apthomas! he alone sat glum and mute while everyone
around him was convulsed."
"I hope that Mr. Courtland will not feel hurt at what has occurred,"
said Phyllis doubtfully.
"Mr. Courtland? Who is Mr. Courtland? What has Mr. Courtland to say to
the matter? What business is it of his, I should like to know."
"Well, considering that he was the original subject of the questions,
though I must confess that he didn't remain long so, I don't think it
altogether unreasonable to wonder what he will think about the whole
episode," remarked Phyllis.
"Ah, you always do take an original view of such incidents," said her
father indulgently. "It is so like a woman to try and drag poor
Courtland into the business. You ought to know better than to fancy
that any interest attaches to the original subject of a question in
the House. You'll be suggesting next that some credit should be given
to the youths who pass brilliant examinations in things, and that all
should not be absorbed by their grinders."
"I'm not so silly as that, papa," said she. "No; but Mr. Courtland----
Ah, never mind."
He did not mind.
It so happened, however, that several of the newspapers which
commented on the questions and counter-questions the next day
introduced the name of Mr. Herbert Courtland and his explorations;
though, of course, most attention was directed to what Mr. Ayrton's
party called the brilliant, and the other party the flippant, methods
of Mr. Ayrton. His reference to the New Guinea pig some thought a
trifle too personal to be in good taste, but if politicians refrained
from personalities and were punctilious in matters of taste, what
chance would they have of "scoring," and where would the caricaturists
be? The reputation of a politician is steadily built up nowadays, not
by consistency, certainly; not by brilliant rhetoric; not even by the
unscrupulous exercise of a faculty for organizing impromptu "scenes,"
but by the wearing of a necktie, or a boot, or a waistcoat that is
susceptible of caricature. A very ordinary young man has before now
been lifted into fame by the twists of his mustache, and another of
less than mediocre ability has been prevented from sinking in the
flood of forgetfulness by the kindly efforts of a caricaturist who
supported him by a simple lock on his scalp. Thus it was that Mr.
Apthomas found himself famous before a week had passed, through the
circumstance of being represented in the leading journal of caricature
as a guinea pig, flying, with the spoil of bubble boards of directors
under his arm, from the attack of a number of quaint-looking mammals
wearing collars inscribed "ACCURACY," "CORRECT BALANCE SHEETS,"
"LEGITIMATE SPECULATIONS," and other phrases that suggested the need
for the old guinea pig to give way to a new breed. Underneath the
picture was printed a portion of the counter-question of Mr. Ayrton,
and opposite to it were some verses with a jingling refrain that
everyone could remember, and which everyone quoted during the next few
The firm of publishers who had been fortunate enough to secure the
issue of Mr. Courtland's new book were delighted. If Mr. Ayrton could
only have seen his way to introduce their names and their address in
his counter-question, their cup of happiness would have been complete,
they said. They managed, however, to induce the proprietors of a young
lady who was reputed to be the vulgarest and most fascinating of all
music-hall artistes, to introduce Mr. Courtland's name into one of the
movable stanzas of her most popular lyric: those stanzas which are
changed from week to week, so as to touch upon the topics which are
uppermost in the minds--well, not exactly the minds--of the public. It
is scarcely necessary to say that this form of advertisement is worth
columns of the daily papers; and if Mr. Courtland had only shown
himself appreciative of his best interests and had changed the title
of his book to "The Land of the New Guinea Pig," instead of "The Quest
of the Meteor-Bird," they would have gone to press with an extra
But even as it was they knew that between the member of Parliament and
the music-hall young lady the sale of the book was a certainty. Their
calculations were not at fault. The publishers sent a liberal
subscription to the Nonconformist Eastern Mission, whose agents had
stimulated public curiosity in Mr. Courtland's new book by suggesting
that he had carried out, single-handed, one of the most atrocious
massacres of recent years; and a diamond brooch to the music-hall
young lady who had so kindly worked in the reference to the book after
dancing one of her most daring hornpipes in the uniform of a
midshipman; they doubled the lines of their announcements in the
advertising columns of the paper that had issued the cartoon of the
New Guinea Pig, and, finally, they sent a presentation copy of "The
Quest of the Meteor-Bird," to Mr. Ayrton.
Then, as everyone was humming the lines of the music-hall young lady:
"From the land of far New Guinea
Came a little pig-a-ninny,"
the daily papers were bound to give two-column reviews to the book on
the day of its publication; and as the rod which Moses cast down
before Pharaoh swallowed up the wriggling rods of the magicians, the
interest attaching to Mr. Courtland's book absorbed that which
attached to all the other books of the season, including "Revised
Versions," though the publishers of the latter moved heaven and earth
(that is to say, the bishop and the people's churchwarden) to get the
Rev. George Holland prosecuted. If either had been susceptible to
reason, and had got up a case against their author, the publishers
declared that Mr. Courtland's book would not have had a chance with
"Revised Versions." To be sure they admitted that the report that Mr.
Holland had been thrown over by the lady who had promised to marry him
had given a jerk forward to the sales; but when Mr. George Holland had
been so idiotically blind to his best interests and (incidentally) the
best interests of his publishers, as to contradict this suggestion of
incipient martyrdom, and thus an excellent advertisement had been
lost, and everyone was, in a week or two, talking about "The Quest of
the Meteor-Bird," while only a few continued shaking their heads over
Meantime, however, Mr. Courtland thought it well to call upon Mr.
Ayrton in order to thank him for his kindness in replying in the House
of Commons so effectively to the questions put to the various
ministers by Mr. Apthomas; and Mr. Ayrton had asked Mr. Courtland to
dinner, and Mr. Courtland had accepted the invitation, Miss Ayrton
begging Mrs. Linton to be of the party, and Mrs. Linton yielding to
her petition without demur.
WOULD IT BE WELL WITH MY HUSBAND?
It was on their way back from this little dinner-party that Mr.
Courtland confessed to Ella Linton that he had come to think of her
dearest friend as a most charming and original girl; she had never
once referred to his achievements in New Guinea, nor had she asked him
to write his name in her birthday book. Yes, she was not as other
"I'm so delighted to hear you say so much," said Ella. "Oh, Bertie!
why not make yourself happy with a sweet girl such as she, and give no
more thought to such absurdities as you have been indulging in?
Believe me, you don't know so well as I do in what direction your
"I don't know anything about happiness," said he. "I don't seem to
care much, either. When I made up my mind to find the meteor-bird,
don't you suppose that there were many people who told me that, even
if it was found, it was quite unlikely that it would be more succulent
eating than a Dorking chicken? I'm sure they were right. You see, I
didn't go to New Guinea in search of a barndoor fowl. I don't want
domestic happiness, I don't want anything but you--you are my meteor-
bird. I found, after my first visit to New Guinea, that it was
impossible for me to rest until I had found the meteor-bird. I have
found that it is impossible for me to live without you, my beloved."
"You will have to learn to live without me," said she, laying her hand
upon his. They had now reached her house, so that no immediate reply
was possible. He did not attempt to make a reply until they had gone
into a small drawing room, and she had flung off her wrap. They were
Then he knelt on the rug before her and took both her hands in his own
--a hand in each of his hands--as they lay on her dress. His face was
close to hers: she was in a low chair. Each could hear the sound of
the other's breathing--the sound of the other's heart-beats. That duet
went on for some minutes--the most perfect music in life--the music
which is life itself--the music by which man becomes immortal.
"Do not hold me any longer, Bertie," said she. "Kiss me and go away--
away. Oh, why should you ever come back? I believe that, if you loved
me, you would go away and never come back. Oh, what is this farce that
is being played between us? It is unworthy of either of us!"
"A farce? A tragedy!" said he. "I want you, Ella. I told you that I
could not live without you."
"You want me? You want me, Bertie?" said she. Tears were in her eyes
and in her voice, for there was to her a passion of pathos in those
words of his. "You want me, and you know that it is only my soul that
shall be lost if I give myself to you. God has decreed that only the
soul of the woman pays the penalty of the man's longing for her."
"You soul shall be saved, not lost," said he. "At present it is your
soul that is in peril, when you give your sweetness to the man whom
you have ceased to love--ah! whom you never loved. You will save your
soul with me."
"I shall lose it for all eternity," said she. "Do you think that I
complain? Do you fancy for a moment that I grumble at the decree of
God, or that I rail against it as unjust?"
"You are a woman."
"I am a woman, and therefore you know I will one day be ready to lose
my soul for you, Bertie, my love. Oh, my dear, dear love, you say you
"Oh, my God!"
He had sprung to his feet and was pacing the room before her.
"You say that you want me. Oh, my love, my love, do you fancy for a
moment that your longing for me is anything to be compared to my
longing for you?"
"My beloved, my beloved!"
His arms were about her. His lips were upon hers. She kissed him as he
Then she turned her head away so that his kisses fell upon her cheek
instead of her mouth. She turned it still farther and they fell upon
her neck--it was exquisite in its shape--and lay there like red rose-
leaves clinging to a carved marble pillar.
"Wait," she said. "Wait; let me talk to you."
She untwined his arms from about her--the tears were still in her eyes
as she tried to face him.
"Why should you still have tears?" said he. "If anything stood between
us and love, there might be room for tears, but nothing stands between
us now. I am yours, you are mine."
"That is the boast of a man who sees only the beginning of a love;
mine are the tears of a woman who sees its end, and knows that it is
not far off."
"How can you say that? The end? the end of love such as ours? Oh,
"Oh, listen to me, my love! I am ashamed of the part I have played
during the past six months--since we were together on the Arno, and
you are ashamed, too."
"I am not ashamed. I have no reason to be ashamed."
"No; you are not ashamed of the part you have played; but you are
ashamed of me, Bertie."
"Oh you? I--ashamed of you? Oh, my darling, if you talk longer in that
strain I will be ashamed of you."
"You are ashamed of me--I have sometimes felt it. A man with a heart
such as I know yours to be, cannot but be ashamed of a woman, who,
though the wife of another man, allows him to kiss her--yes, and who
gives him kiss for kiss. Oh, go away--go away! I have had enough of
your love--enough of your kisses, enough shame! Go away! I never wish
to see you again--to kiss you again."
She had walked to the other end of the room, and stood under a
Venetian mirror--it shone like a monstrous jewel above her head--
looking at him, her hands clenched, her eyes flashing through the
tears that had not yet fallen.
He had had no experience of women and their moods, and he was
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