The Lady of the Shroud
Part 3 out of 7
laid in partially opened folds on one side of the hearth, and was
steaming heavily. I brought over some cushions and pillows, and made
a little pile of them beside her.
"Sit there," I said, "and rest quietly in the heat." It may have
been the effect of the glowing heat, but there was a rich colour in
her face as she looked at me with shining eyes. Without a word, but
with a courteous little bow, she sat down at once. I put a thick rug
across her shoulders, and sat down myself on a stool a couple of feet
For fully five or six minutes we sat in silence. At last, turning
her head towards me she said in a sweet, low voice:
"I had intended coming earlier on purpose to thank you for your very
sweet and gracious courtesy to me, but circumstances were such that I
could not leave my--my"--she hesitated before saying--"my abode. I
am not free, as you and others are, to do what I will. My existence
is sadly cold and stern, and full of horrors that appal. But I DO
thank you. For myself I am not sorry for the delay, for every hour
shows me more clearly how good and understanding and sympathetic you
have been to me. I only hope that some day you may realize how kind
you have been, and how much I appreciate it."
"I am only too glad to be of any service," I said, feebly I felt, as
I held out my hand. She did not seem to see it. Her eyes were now
on the fire, and a warm blush dyed forehead and cheek and neck. The
reproof was so gentle that no one could have been offended. It was
evident that she was something coy and reticent, and would not allow
me to come at present more close to her, even to the touching of her
hand. But that her heart was not in the denial was also evident in
the glance from her glorious dark starry eyes. These glances--
veritable lightning flashes coming through her pronounced reserve--
finished entirely any wavering there might be in my own purpose. I
was aware now to the full that my heart was quite subjugated. I knew
that I was in love--veritably so much in love as to feel that without
this woman, be she what she might, by my side my future must be
It was presently apparent that she did not mean to stay as long on
this occasion as on the last. When the castle clock struck midnight
she suddenly sprang to her feet with a bound, saying:
"I must go! There is midnight!" I rose at once, the intensity of
her speech having instantly obliterated the sleep which, under the
influence of rest and warmth, was creeping upon me. Once more she
was in a frenzy of haste, so I hurried towards the window, but as I
looked back saw her, despite her haste, still standing. I motioned
towards the screen, and slipping behind the curtain, opened the
window and went out on the terrace. As I was disappearing behind the
curtain I saw her with the tail of my eye lifting the shroud, now
dry, from the hearth.
She was out through the window in an incredibly short time, now
clothed once more in that dreadful wrapping. As she sped past me
barefooted on the wet, chilly marble which made her shudder, she
"Thank you again. You ARE good to me. You can understand."
Once again I stood on the terrace, saw her melt like a shadow down
the steps, and disappear behind the nearest shrub. Thence she
flitted away from point to point with exceeding haste. The moonlight
had now disappeared behind heavy banks of cloud, so there was little
light to see by. I could just distinguish a pale gleam here and
there as she wended her secret way.
For a long time I stood there alone thinking, as I watched the course
she had taken, and wondering where might be her ultimate destination.
As she had spoken of her "abode," I knew there was some definitive
objective of her flight.
It was no use wondering. I was so entirely ignorant of her
surroundings that I had not even a starting-place for speculation.
So I went in, leaving the window open. It seemed that this being so
made one barrier the less between us. I gathered the cushions and
rugs from before the fire, which was no longer leaping, but burning
with a steady glow, and put them back in their places. Aunt Janet
might come in the morning, as she had done before, and I did not wish
to set her thinking. She is much too clever a person to have
treading on the heels of a mystery--especially one in which my own
affections are engaged. I wonder what she would have said had she
seen me kiss the cushion on which my beautiful guest's head had
When I was in bed, and in the dark save for the fading glow of the
fire, my thoughts became fixed that whether she came from Earth or
Heaven or Hell, my lovely visitor was already more to me than aught
else in the world. This time she had, on going, said no word of
returning. I had been so much taken up with her presence, and so
upset by her abrupt departure, that I had omitted to ask her. And so
I am driven, as before, to accept the chance of her returning--a
chance which I fear I am or may be unable to control.
Surely enough Aunt Janet did come in the morning, early. I was still
asleep when she knocked at my door. With that purely physical
subconsciousness which comes with habit I must have realized the
cause of the sound, for I woke fully conscious of the fact that Aunt
Janet had knocked and was waiting to come in. I jumped from bed, and
back again when I had unlocked the door. When Aunt Janet came in she
noticed the cold of the room.
"Save us, laddie, but ye'll get your death o' cold in this room."
Then, as she looked round and noticed the ashes of the extinct fire
in the grate:
"Eh, but ye're no that daft after a'; ye've had the sense to light
yer fire. Glad I am that we had the fire laid and a wheen o' dry
logs ready to yer hand." She evidently felt the cold air coming from
the window, for she went over and drew the curtain. When she saw the
open window, she raised her hands in a sort of dismay, which to me,
knowing how little base for concern could be within her knowledge,
was comic. Hurriedly she shut the window, and then, coming close
over to my bed, said:
"Yon has been a fearsome nicht again, laddie, for yer poor auld
"Dreaming again, Aunt Janet?" I asked--rather flippantly as it seemed
to me. She shook her head:
"Not so, Rupert, unless it be that the Lord gies us in dreams what we
in our spiritual darkness think are veesions." I roused up at this.
When Aunt Janet calls me Rupert, as she always used to do in my dear
mother's time, things are serious with her. As I was back in
childhood now, recalled by her word, I thought the best thing I could
do to cheer her would be to bring her back there too--if I could. So
I patted the edge of the bed as I used to do when I was a wee kiddie
and wanted her to comfort me, and said:
"Sit down, Aunt Janet, and tell me." She yielded at once, and the
look of the happy old days grew over her face as though there had
come a gleam of sunshine. She sat down, and I put out my hands as I
used to do, and took her hand between them. There was a tear in her
eye as she raised my hand and kissed it as in old times. But for the
infinite pathos of it, it would have been comic:
Aunt Janet, old and grey-haired, but still retaining her girlish
slimness of figure, petite, dainty as a Dresden figure, her face
lined with the care of years, but softened and ennobled by the
unselfishness of those years, holding up my big hand, which would
outweigh her whole arm; sitting dainty as a pretty old fairy beside a
recumbent giant--for my bulk never seems so great as when I am near
this real little good fairy of my life--seven feet beside four feet
So she began as of old, as though she were about to soothe a
frightened child with a fairy tale:
"'Twas a veesion, I think, though a dream it may hae been. But
whichever or whatever it was, it concerned my little boy, who has
grown to be a big giant, so much that I woke all of a tremble.
Laddie dear, I thought that I saw ye being married." This gave me an
opening, though a small one, for comforting her, so I took it at
"Why, dear, there isn't anything to alarm you in that, is there? It
was only the other day when you spoke to me about the need of my
getting married, if it was only that you might have children of your
boy playing around your knees as their father used to do when he was
a helpless wee child himself."
"That is so, laddie," she answered gravely. "But your weddin' was
none so merry as I fain would see. True, you seemed to lo'e her wi'
all yer hairt. Yer eyes shone that bright that ye might ha' set her
afire, for all her black locks and her winsome face. But, laddie,
that was not all--no, not though her black een, that had the licht o'
all the stars o' nicht in them, shone in yours as though a hairt o'
love an' passion, too, dwelt in them. I saw ye join hands, an' heard
a strange voice that talked stranger still, but I saw none ither.
Your eyes an' her eyes, an' your hand an' hers, were all I saw. For
all else was dim, and the darkness was close around ye twa. And when
the benison was spoken--I knew that by the voices that sang, and by
the gladness of her een, as well as by the pride and glory of yours--
the licht began to glow a wee more, an' I could see yer bride. She
was in a veil o' wondrous fine lace. And there were orange-flowers
in her hair, though there were twigs, too, and there was a crown o'
flowers on head wi' a golden band round it. And the heathen candles
that stood on the table wi' the Book had some strange effect, for the
reflex o' it hung in the air o'er her head like the shadow of a
crown. There was a gold ring on her finger and a silver one on
yours." Here she paused and trembled, so that, hoping to dispel her
fears, I said, as like as I could to the way I used to when I was a
"Go on, Aunt Janet."
She did not seem to recognize consciously the likeness between past
and present; but the effect was there, for she went on more like her
old self, though there was a prophetic gravity in her voice, more
marked than I had ever heard from her:
"All this I've told ye was well; but, oh, laddie, there was a
dreadful lack o' livin' joy such as I should expect from the woman
whom my boy had chosen for his wife--and at the marriage coupling,
too! And no wonder, when all is said; for though the marriage veil
o' love was fine, an' the garland o' flowers was fresh-gathered,
underneath them a' was nane ither than a ghastly shroud. As I looked
in my veesion--or maybe dream--I expectit to see the worms crawl
round the flagstane at her feet. If 'twas not Death, laddie dear,
that stood by ye, it was the shadow o' Death that made the darkness
round ye, that neither the light o' candles nor the smoke o' heathen
incense could pierce. Oh, laddie, laddie, wae is me that I hae seen
sic a veesion--waking or sleeping, it matters not! I was sair
distressed--so sair that I woke wi' a shriek on my lips and bathed in
cold sweat. I would hae come doon to ye to see if you were hearty or
no--or even to listen at your door for any sound o' yer being quick,
but that I feared to alarm ye till morn should come. I've counted
the hours and the minutes since midnight, when I saw the veesion,
till I came hither just the now."
"Quite right, Aunt Janet," I said, "and I thank you for your kind
thought for me in the matter, now and always." Then I went on, for I
wanted to take precautions against the possibility of her discovery
of my secret. I could not bear to think that she might run my
precious secret to earth in any well-meant piece of bungling. That
would be to me disaster unbearable. She might frighten away
altogether my beautiful visitor, even whose name or origin I did not
know, and I might never see her again:
"You must never do that, Aunt Janet. You and I are too good friends
to have sense of distrust or annoyance come between us--which would
surely happen if I had to keep thinking that you or anyone else might
be watching me."
April 27, 1907.
After a spell of loneliness which has seemed endless I have something
to write. When the void in my heart was becoming the receptacle for
many devils of suspicion and distrust I set myself a task which
might, I thought, keep my thoughts in part, at any rate, occupied--to
explore minutely the neighbourhood round the Castle. This might, I
hoped, serve as an anodyne to my pain of loneliness, which grew more
acute as the days, the hours, wore on, even if it should not
ultimately afford me some clue to the whereabouts of the woman whom I
had now grown to love so madly.
My exploration soon took a systematic form, as I intended that it
should be exhaustive. I would take every day a separate line of
advance from the Castle, beginning at the south and working round by
the east to the north. The first day only took me to the edge of the
creek, which I crossed in a boat, and landed at the base of the cliff
opposite. I found the cliffs alone worth a visit. Here and there
were openings to caves which I made up my mind to explore later. I
managed to climb up the cliff at a spot less beetling than the rest,
and continued my journey. It was, though very beautiful, not a
specially interesting place. I explored that spoke of the wheel of
which Vissarion was the hub, and got back just in time for dinner.
The next day I took a course slightly more to the eastward. I had no
difficulty in keeping a straight path, for, once I had rowed across
the creek, the old church of St. Sava rose before me in stately
gloom. This was the spot where many generations of the noblest of
the Land of the Blue Mountains had from time immemorial been laid to
rest, amongst them the Vissarions. Again, I found the opposite
cliffs pierced here and there with caves, some with wide openings,--
others the openings of which were partly above and partly below
water. I could, however, find no means of climbing the cliff at this
part, and had to make a long detour, following up the line of the
creek till further on I found a piece of beach from which ascent was
possible. Here I ascended, and found that I was on a line between
the Castle and the southern side of the mountains. I saw the church
of St. Sava away to my right, and not far from the edge of the cliff.
I made my way to it at once, for as yet I had never been near it.
Hitherto my excursions had been limited to the Castle and its many
gardens and surroundings. It was of a style with which I was not
familiar--with four wings to the points of the compass. The great
doorway, set in a magnificent frontage of carved stone of manifestly
ancient date, faced west, so that, when one entered, he went east.
To my surprise--for somehow I expected the contrary--I found the door
open. Not wide open, but what is called ajar--manifestly not locked
or barred, but not sufficiently open for one to look in. I entered,
and after passing through a wide vestibule, more like a section of a
corridor than an ostensible entrance, made my way through a spacious
doorway into the body of the church. The church itself was almost
circular, the openings of the four naves being spacious enough to
give the appearance of the interior as a whole, being a huge cross.
It was strangely dim, for the window openings were small and high-
set, and were, moreover, filled with green or blue glass, each window
having a colour to itself. The glass was very old, being of the
thirteenth or fourteenth century. Such appointments as there were--
for it had a general air of desolation--were of great beauty and
richness,--especially so to be in a place--even a church--where the
door lay open, and no one was to be seen. It was strangely silent
even for an old church on a lonesome headland. There reigned a
dismal solemnity which seemed to chill me, accustomed as I have been
to strange and weird places. It seemed abandoned, though it had not
that air of having been neglected which is so often to be noticed in
old 'churches. There was none of the everlasting accumulation of
dust which prevails in places of higher cultivation and larger and
more strenuous work.
In the church itself or its appending chambers I could find no clue
or suggestion which could guide me in any way in my search for the
Lady of the Shroud. Monuments there were in profusion--statues,
tablets, and all the customary memorials of the dead. The families
and dates represented were simply bewildering. Often the name of
Vissarion was given, and the inscription which it held I read through
carefully, looking to find some enlightenment of any kind. But all
in vain: there was nothing to see in the church itself. So I
determined to visit the crypt. I had no lantern or candle with me,
so had to go back to the Castle to secure one.
It was strange, coming in from the sunlight, here overwhelming to one
so recently accustomed to northern skies, to note the slender gleam
of the lantern which I carried, and which I had lit inside the door.
At my first entry to the church my mind had been so much taken up
with the strangeness of the place, together with the intensity of
wish for some sort of clue, that I had really no opportunity of
examining detail. But now detail became necessary, as I had to find
the entrance to the crypt. My puny light could not dissipate the
semi-Cimmerian gloom of the vast edifice; I had to throw the feeble
gleam into one after another of the dark corners.
At last I found, behind the great screen, a narrow stone staircase
which seemed to wind down into the rock. It was not in any way
secret, but being in the narrow space behind the great screen, was
not visible except when close to it. I knew I was now close to my
objective, and began to descend. Accustomed though I have been to
all sorts of mysteries and dangers, I felt awed and almost
overwhelmed by a sense of loneliness and desolation as I descended
the ancient winding steps. These were many in number, roughly hewn
of old in the solid rock on which the church was built.
I met a fresh surprise in finding that the door of the crypt was
open. After all, this was different from the church-door being open;
for in many places it is a custom to allow all comers at all times to
find rest and comfort in the sacred place. But I did expect that at
least the final resting-place of the historic dead would be held safe
against casual intrusion. Even I, on a quest which was very near my
heart, paused with an almost overwhelming sense of decorum before
passing through that open door. The crypt was a huge place,
strangely lofty for a vault. From its formation, however, I soon
came to the conclusion that it was originally a natural cavern
altered to its present purpose by the hand of man. I could hear
somewhere near the sound of running water, but I could not locate it.
Now and again at irregular intervals there was a prolonged booming,
which could only come from a wave breaking in a confined place. The
recollection then came to me of the proximity of the church to the
top of the beetling cliff, and of the half-sunk cavern entrances
which pierced it.
With the gleam of my lamp to guide me, I went through and round the
whole place. There were many massive tombs, mostly rough-hewn from
great slabs or blocks of stone. Some of them were marble, and the
cutting of all was ancient. So large and heavy were some of them
that it was a wonder to me how they could ever have been brought to
this place, to which the only entrance was seemingly the narrow,
tortuous stairway by which I had come. At last I saw near one end of
the crypt a great chain hanging. Turning the light upward, I found
that it depended from a ring set over a wide opening, evidently made
artificially. It must have been through this opening that the great
sarcophagi had been lowered.
Directly underneath the hanging chain, which did not come closer to
the ground than some eight or ten feet, was a huge tomb in the shape
of a rectangular coffer or sarcophagus. It was open, save for a huge
sheet of thick glass which rested above it on two thick balks of dark
oak, cut to exceeding smoothness, which lay across it, one at either
end. On the far side from where I stood each of these was joined to
another oak plank, also cut smooth, which sloped gently to the rocky
floor. Should it be necessary to open the tomb, the glass could be
made to slide along the supports and descend by the sloping planks.
Naturally curious to know what might be within such a strange
receptacle, I raised the lantern, depressing its lens so that the
light might fall within.
Then I started back with a cry, the lantern slipping from my
nerveless hand and falling with a ringing sound on the great sheet of
Within, pillowed on soft cushions, and covered with a mantle woven of
white natural fleece sprigged with tiny sprays of pine wrought in
gold, lay the body of a woman--none other than my beautiful visitor.
She was marble white, and her long black eyelashes lay on her white
cheeks as though she slept.
Without a word or a sound, save the sounds made by my hurrying feet
on the stone flooring, I fled up the steep steps, and through the dim
expanse of the church, out into the bright sunlight. I found that I
had mechanically raised the fallen lamp, and had taken it with me in
My feet naturally turned towards home. It was all instinctive. The
new horror had--for the time, at any rate--drowned my mind in its
mystery, deeper than the deepest depths of thought or imagination.
BOOK IV: UNDER THE FLAGSTAFF
May 1, 1907.
For some days after the last adventure I was in truth in a half-dazed
condition, unable to think sensibly, hardly coherently. Indeed, it
was as much as I could do to preserve something of my habitual
appearance and manner. However, my first test happily came soon, and
when I was once through it I reacquired sufficient self-confidence to
go through with my purpose. Gradually the original phase of
stupefaction passed, and I was able to look the situation in the
face. I knew the worst now, at any rate; and when the lowest point
has been reached things must begin to mend. Still, I was wofully
sensitive regarding anything which might affect my Lady of the
Shroud, or even my opinion of her. I even began to dread Aunt
Janet's Second-Sight visions or dreams. These had a fatal habit of
coming so near to fact that they always made for a danger of
discovery. I had to realize now that the Lady of the Shroud might
indeed be a Vampire--one of that horrid race that survives death and
carries on a life-in-death existence eternally and only for evil.
Indeed, I began to EXPECT that Aunt Janet would ere long have some
prophetic insight to the matter. She had been so wonderfully correct
in her prophetic surmises with regard to both the visits to my room
that it was hardly possible that she could fail to take cognizance of
this last development.
But my dread was not justified; at any rate, I had no reason to
suspect that by any force or exercise of her occult gift she might
cause me concern by the discovery of my secret. Only once did I feel
that actual danger in that respect was close to me. That was when
she came early one morning and rapped at my door. When I called out,
"Who is that? What is it?" she said in an agitated way:
"Thank God, laddie, you are all right! Go to sleep again."
Later on, when we met at breakfast, she explained that she had had a
nightmare in the grey of the morning. She thought she had seen me in
the crypt of a great church close beside a stone coffin; and, knowing
that such was an ominous subject to dream about, came as soon as she
dared to see if I was all right. Her mind was evidently set on death
and burial, for she went on:
"By the way, Rupert, I am told that the great church on time top of
the cliff across the creek is St. Sava's, where the great people of
the country used to be buried. I want you to take me there some day.
We shall go over it, and look at the tombs and monuments together. I
really think I should be afraid to go alone, but it will be all right
if you are with me." This was getting really dangerous, so I turned
Really, Aunt Janet, I'm afraid it won't do. If you go off to weird
old churches, and fill yourself up with a fresh supply of horrors, I
don't know what will happen. You'll be dreaming dreadful things
about me every night and neither you nor I shall get any sleep." It
went to my heart to oppose her in any wish; and also this kind of
chaffy opposition might pain her. But I had no alternative; the
matter was too serious to be allowed to proceed. Should Aunt Janet
go to the church, she would surely want to visit the crypt. Should
she do so, and there notice the glass-covered tomb--as she could not
help doing--the Lord only knew what would happen. She had already
Second-Sighted a woman being married to me, and before I myself knew
that I had such a hope. What might she not reveal did she know where
the woman came from? It may have been that her power of Second Sight
had to rest on some basis of knowledge or belief, and that her vision
was but some intuitive perception of my own subjective thought. But
whatever it was it should be stopped--at all hazards.
This whole episode set me thinking introspectively, and led me
gradually but imperatively to self-analysis--not of powers, but of
motives. I found myself before long examining myself as to what were
my real intentions. I thought at first that this intellectual
process was an exercise of pure reason; but soon discarded this as
inadequate--even impossible. Reason is a cold manifestation; this
feeling which swayed and dominated me is none other than passion,
which is quick, hot, and insistent.
As for myself, the self-analysis could lead to but one result--the
expression to myself of the reality and definiteness of an already-
formed though unconscious intention. I wished to do the woman good--
to serve her in some way--to secure her some benefit by any means, no
matter how difficult, which might be within my power. I knew that I
loved her--loved her most truly and fervently; there was no need for
self-analysis to tell me that. And, moreover, no self-analysis, or
any other mental process that I knew of, could help my one doubt:
whether she was an ordinary woman (or an extraordinary woman, for the
matter of that) in some sore and terrible straits; or else one who
lay under some dreadful condition, only partially alive, and not
mistress of herself or her acts. Whichever her condition might be,
there was in my own feeling a superfluity of affection for her. The
self-analysis taught me one thing, at any rate--that I had for her,
to start with, an infinite pity which had softened towards her my
whole being, and had already mastered merely selfish desire. Out of
it I began to find excuses for her every act. In the doing so I knew
now, though perhaps I did not at the time the process was going on,
that my view in its true inwardness was of her as a living woman--the
woman I loved.
In the forming of our ideas there are different methods of work, as
though the analogy with material life holds good. In the building of
a house, for instance, there are many persons employed; men of
different trades and occupations--architect, builder, masons,
carpenters, plumbers, and a host of others--and all these with the
officials of each guild or trade. So in the world of thought and
feelings: knowledge and understanding come through various agents,
each competent to its task.
How far pity reacted with love I knew not; I only knew that whatever
her state might be, were she living or dead, I could find in my heart
no blame for the Lady of the Shroud. It could not be that she was
dead in the real conventional way; for, after all, the Dead do not
walk the earth in corporal substance, even if there be spirits which
take the corporal form. This woman was of actual form and weight.
How could I doubt that, at all events--I, who had held her in my
arms? Might it not be that she was not quite dead, and that it had
been given to me to restore her to life again? Ah! that would be,
indeed, a privilege well worth the giving my life to accomplish.
That such a thing may be is possible. Surely the old myths were not
absolute inventions; they must have had a basis somewhere in fact.
May not the world-old story of Orpheus and Eurydice have been based
on some deep-lying principle or power of human nature? There is not
one of us but has wished at some time to bring back the dead. Ay,
and who has not felt that in himself or herself was power in the deep
love for our dead to make them quick again, did we but know the
secret of how it was to be done?
For myself, I have seen such mysteries that I am open to conviction
regarding things not yet explained. These have been, of course,
amongst savages or those old-world people who have brought unchecked
traditions and beliefs--ay, and powers too--down the ages from the
dim days when the world was young; when forces were elemental, and
Nature's handiwork was experimental rather than completed. Some of
these wonders may have been older still than the accepted period of
our own period of creation. May we not have to-day other wonders,
different only in method, but not more susceptible of belief? Obi-
ism and Fantee-ism have been exercised in my own presence, and their
results proved by the evidence of my own eyes and other senses. So,
too, have stranger rites, with the same object and the same success,
in the far Pacific Islands. So, too, in India and China, in Thibet
and in the Golden Chersonese. On all and each of these occasions
there was, on my own part, enough belief to set in motion the powers
of understanding; and there were no moral scruples to stand in the
way of realization. Those whose lives are so spent that they achieve
the reputation of not fearing man or God or devil are not deterred in
their doing or thwarted from a set purpose by things which might
deter others not so equipped for adventure. Whatever may be before
them--pleasant or painful, bitter or sweet, arduous or facile,
enjoyable or terrible, humorous or full of awe and horror--they must
accept, taking them in the onward course as a good athlete takes
hurdles in his stride. And there must be no hesitating, no looking
back. If the explorer or the adventurer has scruples, he had better
give up that special branch of effort and come himself to a more
level walk in life. Neither must there be regrets. There is no need
for such; savage life has this advantage: it begets a certain
toleration not to be found in conventional existence.
May 2, 1907.
I had heard long ago that Second Sight is a terrible gift, even to
its possessor. I am now inclined not only to believe, but to
understand it. Aunt Janet has made such a practice of it of late
that I go in constant dread of discovery of my secret. She seems to
parallel me all the time, whatever I may do. It is like a sort of
dual existence to her; for she is her dear old self all the time, and
yet some other person with a sort of intellectual kit of telescope
and notebook, which are eternally used on me. I know they are FOR
me, too--for what she considers my good. But all the same it makes
an embarrassment. Happily Second Sight cannot speak as clearly as it
sees, or, rather, as it understands. For the translation of the
vague beliefs which it inculcates is both nebulous and uncertain--a
sort of Delphic oracle which always says things which no one can make
out at the time, but which can be afterwards read in any one of
several ways. This is all right, for in my case it is a kind of
safety; but, then, Aunt Janet is a very clever woman, and some time
she herself may be able to understand. Then she may begin to put two
and two together. When she does that, it will not be long before she
knows more than I do of the facts of the whole affair. And her
reading of them and of the Lady of the Shroud, round whom they
circle, may not be the same as mine. Well, that will be all right
too. Aunt Janet loves me--God knows I have good reason to know that
all through these years--and whatever view she may take, her acts
will be all I could wish. But I shall come in for a good lot of
scolding, I am sure. By the way, I ought to think of that; if Aunt
Janet scolds me, it is a pretty good proof that I ought to be
scolded. I wonder if I dare tell her all. No! It is too strange.
She is only a woman, after all: and if she knew I loved . . . I wish
I knew her name, and thought--as I might myself do, only that I
resist it--that she is not alive at all. Well, what she would either
think or do beats me. I suppose she would want to slipper me as she
used to do when I was a wee kiddie--in a different way, of course.
May 3, 1907.
I really could not go on seriously last night. The idea of Aunt
Janet giving me a licking as in the dear old days made me laugh so
much that nothing in the world seemed serious then. Oh, Aunt Janet
is all right whatever comes. That I am sure of, so I needn't worry
over it. A good thing too; there will be plenty to worry about
without that. I shall not check her telling me of her visions,
however; I may learn something from them.
For the last four-and-twenty hours I have, whilst awake, been looking
over Aunt Janet's books, of which I brought a wheen down here. Gee
whizz! No wonder the old dear is superstitious, when she is filled
up to the back teeth with that sort of stuff! There may be some
truth in some of those yarns; those who wrote them may believe in
them, or some of them, at all events. But as to coherence or logic,
or any sort of reasonable or instructive deduction, they might as
well have been written by so many hens! These occult book-makers
seem to gather only a lot of bare, bald facts, which they put down in
the most uninteresting way possible. They go by quantity only. One
story of the kind, well examined and with logical comments, would be
more convincing to a third party than a whole hecatomb of them.
May 4, 1907.
There is evidently something up in the country. The mountaineers are
more uneasy than they have been as yet. There is constant going to
and fro amongst them, mostly at night and in the grey of the morning.
I spend many hours in my room in the eastern tower, from which I can
watch the woods, and gather from signs the passing to and fro. But
with all this activity no one has said to me a word on the subject.
It is undoubtedly a disappointment to me. I had hoped that the
mountaineers had come to trust me; that gathering at which they
wanted to fire their guns for me gave me strong hopes. But now it is
apparent that they do not trust me in full--as yet, at all events.
Well, I must not complain. It is all only right and just. As yet I
have done nothing to prove to them the love and devotion that I feel
to the country. I know that such individuals as I have met trust me,
and I believe like me. But the trust of a nation is different. That
has to be won and tested; he who would win it must justify, and in a
way that only troublous times can allow. No nation will--can--give
full meed of honour to a stranger in times of peace. Why should it?
I must not forget that I am here a stranger in the land, and that to
the great mass of people even my name is unknown. Perhaps they will
know me better when Rooke comes back with that store of arms and
ammunition that he has bought, and the little warship he has got from
South America. When they see that I hand over the whole lot to the
nation without a string on them, they may begin to believe. In the
meantime all I can do is to wait. It will all come right in time, I
have no doubt. And if it doesn't come right, well, we can only die
Is that so? What about my Lady of the Shroud? I must not think of
that or of her in this gallery. Love and war are separate, and may
not mix--cannot mix, if it comes to that. I must be wise in the
matter; and if I have got the hump in any degree whatever, must not
But one thing is certain: something is up, and it must be the Turks.
From what the Vladika said at that meeting they have some intention
of an attack on the Blue Mountains. If that be so, we must be ready;
and perhaps I can help there. The forces must be organized; we must
have some method of communication. In this country, where are
neither roads nor railways nor telegraphs, we must establish a
signalling system of some sort. THAT I can begin at once. I can
make a code, or adapt one that I have used elsewhere already. I
shall rig up a semaphore on the top of the Castle which can be seen
for an enormous distance around. I shall train a number of men to be
facile in signalling. And then, should need come, I may be able to
show the mountaineers that I am fit to live in their hearts . . .
And all this work may prove an anodyne to pain of another kind. It
will help, at any rate, to keep my mind occupied whilst I am waiting
for another visit from my Lady of the Shroud.
May 18, 1907.
The two weeks that have passed have been busy, and may, as time goes
on, prove eventful. I really think they have placed me in a
different position with the Blue Mountaineers--certainly so far as
those in this part of the country are concerned. They are no longer
suspicious of me--which is much; though they have not yet received me
into their confidence. I suppose this will come in time, but I must
not try to hustle them. Already they are willing, so far as I can
see, to use me to their own ends. They accepted the signalling idea
very readily, and are quite willing to drill as much as I like. This
can be (and I think is, in its way) a pleasure to them. They are
born soldiers, every man of them; and practice together is only a
realization of their own wishes and a further development of their
powers. I think I can understand the trend of their thoughts, and
what ideas of public policy lie behind them. In all that we have
attempted together as yet they are themselves in absolute power. It
rests with them to carry out any ideas I may suggest, so they do not
fear any assumption of power or governance on my part. Thus, so long
as they keep secret from me both their ideas of high policy and their
immediate intentions, I am powerless to do them ill, and I MAY be of
service should occasion arise. Well, all told, this is much.
Already they accept me as an individual, not merely one of the mass.
I am pretty sure that they are satisfied of my personal bona fides.
It is policy and not mistrust that hedges me in. Well, policy is a
matter of time. They are a splendid people, but if they knew a
little more than they do they would understand that the wisest of all
policies is trust--when it can be given. I must hold myself in
check, and never be betrayed into a harsh thought towards them. Poor
souls! with a thousand years behind them of Turkish aggression,
strenuously attempted by both force and fraud, no wonder they are
suspicious. Likewise every other nation with whom they have ever
come in contact--except one, my own--has deceived or betrayed them.
Anyhow, they are fine soldiers, and before long we shall have an army
that cannot be ignored. If I can get so that they trust me, I shall
ask Sir Colin to come out here. He would be a splendid head for
their army. His great military knowledge and tactical skill would
come in well. It makes me glow to think of what an army he would
turn out of this splendid material, and one especially adapted for
the style of fighting which would be necessary in this country.
If a mere amateur like myself, who has only had experience of
organizing the wildest kind of savages, has been able to advance or
compact their individual style of fighting into systematic effort, a
great soldier like MacKelpie will bring them to perfection as a
fighting machine. Our Highlanders, when they come out, will
foregather with them, as mountaineers always do with each other.
Then we shall have a force which can hold its own against any odds.
I only hope that Rooke will be returning soon. I want to see those
Ingis-Malbron rifles either safely stored in the Castle or, what is
better, divided up amongst the mountaineers--a thing which will be
done at the very earliest moment that I can accomplish it. I have a
conviction that when these men have received their arms and
ammunition from me they will understand me better, and not keep any
secrets from me.
All this fortnight when I was not drilling or going about amongst the
mountaineers, and teaching them the code which I have now got
perfected, I was exploring the side of the mountain nearest to here.
I could not bear to be still. It is torture to me to be idle in my
present condition of mind regarding my Lady of the Shroud . . .
Strange I do not mind mentioning the word to myself now. I used to
at first; but that bitterness has all gone away.
May 19, 1907.
I was so restless early this morning that before daylight I was out
exploring on the mountain-side. By chance I came across a secret
place just as the day was breaking. Indeed, it was by the change of
light as the first sun-rays seemed to fall down the mountain-side
that my attention was called to an opening shown by a light behind
it. It was, indeed, a secret place--so secret that I thought at
first I should keep it to myself. In such a place as this either to
hide in or to be able to prevent anyone else hiding in might on
occasion be an asset of safety.
When, however, I saw indications rather than traces that someone had
already used it to camp in, I changed my mind, and thought that
whenever I should get an opportunity I would tell the Vladika of it,
as he is a man on whose discretion I can rely. If we ever have a war
here or any sort of invasion, it is just such places that may be
dangerous. Even in my own case it is much too near the Castle to be
The indications were meagre--only where a fire had been on a little
shelf of rock; and it was not possible, through the results of
burning vegetation or scorched grass, to tell how long before the
fire had been alight. I could only guess. Perhaps the mountaineers
might be able to tell or even to guess better than I could. But I am
not so sure of this. I am a mountaineer myself, and with larger and
more varied experience than any of them. For myself, though I could
not be certain, I came to the conclusion that whoever had used the
place had done so not many days before. It could not have been quite
recently; but it may not have been very long ago. Whoever had used
it had covered up his tracks well. Even the ashes had been carefully
removed, and the place where they had lain was cleaned or swept in
some way, so that there was no trace on the spot. I applied some of
my West African experience, and looked on the rough bark of the trees
to leeward, to where the agitated air, however directed, must have
come, unless it was wanted to call attention to the place by the
scattered wood-ashes, however fine. I found traces of it, but they
were faint. There had not been rain for several days; so the dust
must have been blown there since the rain had fallen, for it was
The place was a tiny gorge, with but one entrance, which was hidden
behind a barren spur of rock--just a sort of long fissure, jagged and
curving, in the rock, like a fault in the stratification. I could
just struggle through it with considerable effort, holding my breath
here and there, so as to reduce my depth of chest. Within it was
tree-clad, and full of possibilities of concealment.
As I came away I marked well its direction and approaches, noting any
guiding mark which might aid in finding it by day or night. I
explored every foot of ground around it--in front, on each side, and
above. But from nowhere could I see an indication of its existence.
It was a veritable secret chamber wrought by the hand of Nature
itself. I did not return home till I was familiar with every detail
near and around it. This new knowledge added distinctly to my sense
Later in the day I tried to find the Vladika or any mountaineer of
importance, for I thought that such a hiding-place which had been
used so recently might be dangerous, and especially at a time when,
as I had learned at the meeting where they did NOT fire their guns
that there may have been spies about or a traitor in the land.
Even before I came to my own room to-night I had fully made up my
mind to go out early in the morning and find some proper person to
whom to impart the information, so that a watch might be kept on the
place. It is now getting on for midnight, and when I have had my
usual last look at the garden I shall turn in. Aunt Janet was uneasy
all day, and especially so this evening. I think it must have been
my absence at the usual breakfast-hour which got on her nerves; and
that unsatisfied mental or psychical irritation increased as the day
May 20, 1907.
The clock on the mantelpiece in my room, which chimes on the notes of
the clock at St. James's Palace, was striking midnight when I opened
the glass door on the terrace. I had put out my lights before I drew
the curtain, as I wished to see the full effect of the moonlight.
Now that the rainy season is over, the moon is quite as beautiful as
it was in the wet, and a great deal more comfortable. I was in
evening dress, with a smoking-jacket in lieu of a coat, and I felt
the air mild and mellow on the warm side, as I stood on the terrace.
But even in that bright moonlight the further corners of the great
garden were full of mysterious shadows. I peered into them as well
as I could--and my eyes are pretty good naturally, and are well
trained. There was not the least movement. The air was as still as
death, the foliage as still as though wrought in stone.
I looked for quite a long time in the hope of seeing something of my
Lady. The quarters chimed several times, but I stood on unheeding.
At last I thought I saw far off in the very corner of the old
defending wall a flicker of white. It was but momentary, and could
hardly have accounted in itself for the way my heart beat. I
controlled myself, and stood as though I, too, were a graven image.
I was rewarded by seeing presently another gleam of white. And then
an unspeakable rapture stole over me as I realized that my Lady was
coming as she had come before. I would have hurried out to meet her,
but that I knew well that this would not be in accord with her
wishes. So, thinking to please her, I drew back into the room. I
was glad I had done so when, from the dark corner where I stood, I
saw her steal up the marble steps and stand timidly looking in at the
door. Then, after a long pause, came a whisper as faint and sweet as
the music of a distant AEolian harp:
"Are you there? May I come in? Answer me! I am lonely and in
fear!" For answer I emerged from my dim corner so swiftly that she
was startled. I could hear from the quivering intake of her breath
that she was striving--happily with success--to suppress a shriek.
"Come in," I said quietly. "I was waiting for you, for I felt that
you would come. I only came in from the terrace when I saw you
coming, lest you might fear that anyone might see us. That is not
possible, but I thought you wished that I should be careful."
"I did--I do," she answered in a low, sweet voice, but very firmly.
"But never avoid precaution. There is nothing that may not happen
here. There may be eyes where we least expect--or suspect them." As
she spoke the last words solemnly and in a low whisper, she was
entering the room. I closed the glass door and bolted it, rolled
back the steel grille, and pulled the heavy curtain. Then, when I
had lit a candle, I went over and put a light to the fire. In a few
seconds the dry wood had caught, and the flames were beginning to
rise and crackle. She had not objected to my closing the window and
drawing the curtain; neither did she make any comment on my lighting
the fire. She simply acquiesced in it, as though it was now a matter
of course. When I made the pile of cushions before it as on the
occasion of her last visit, she sank down on them, and held out her
white, trembling hands to the warmth.
She was different to-night from what she had been on either of the
two former visits. From her present bearing I arrived at some gauge
of her self-concern, her self-respect. Now that she was dry, and not
overmastered by wet and cold, a sweet and gracious dignity seemed to
shine from her, enwrapping her, as it were, with a luminous veil. It
was not that she was by this made or shown as cold or distant, or in
any way harsh or forbidding. On the contrary, protected by this
dignity, she seemed much more sweet and genial than before. It was
as though she felt that she could afford to stoop now that her
loftiness was realized--that her position was recognized and secure.
If her inherent dignity made an impenetrable nimbus round her, this
was against others; she herself was not bound by it, or to be bound.
So marked was this, so entirely and sweetly womanly did she appear,
that I caught myself wondering in flashes of thought, which came as
sharp periods of doubting judgment between spells of unconscious
fascination, how I had ever come to think she was aught but perfect
woman. As she rested, half sitting and half lying on the pile of
cushions, she was all grace, and beauty, and charm, and sweetness--
the veritable perfect woman of the dreams of a man, be he young or
old. To have such a woman sit by his hearth and hold her holy of
holies in his heart might well be a rapture to any man. Even an hour
of such entrancing joy might be well won by a lifetime of pain, by
the balance of a long life sacrificed, by the extinction of life
itself. Quick behind the record of such thoughts came the answer to
the doubt they challenged: if it should turn out that she was not
living at all, but one of the doomed and pitiful Un-Dead, then so
much more on account of her very sweetness and beauty would be the
winning of her back to Life and Heaven--even were it that she might
find happiness in the heart and in the arms of another man.
Once, when I leaned over the hearth to put fresh logs on the fire, my
face was so close to hers that I felt her breath on my cheek. It
thrilled me to feel even the suggestion of that ineffable contact.
Her breath was sweet--sweet as the breath of a calf, sweet as the
whiff of a summer breeze across beds of mignonette. How could anyone
believe for a moment that such sweet breath could come from the lips
of the dead--the dead in esse or in posse--that corruption could send
forth fragrance so sweet and pure? It was with satisfied happiness
that, as I looked at her from my stool, I saw the dancing of the
flames from the beech-logs reflected in her glorious black eyes, and
the stars that were hidden in them shine out with new colours and new
lustre as they gleamed, rising and falling like hopes and fears. As
the light leaped, so did smiles of quiet happiness flit over her
beautiful face, the merriment of the joyous flames being reflected in
At first I was a little disconcerted whenever my eyes took note of
her shroud, and there came a momentary regret that the weather had
not been again bad, so that there might have been compulsion for her
putting on another garment--anything lacking the loathsomeness of
that pitiful wrapping. Little by little, however, this feeling
disappeared, and I found no matter for even dissatisfaction in her
wrapping. Indeed, my thoughts found inward voice before the subject
was dismissed from my mind:
"One becomes accustomed to anything--even a shroud!" But the thought
was followed by a submerging wave of pity that she should have had
such a dreadful experience.
By-and-by we seemed both to forget everything--I know I did--except
that we were man and woman, and close together. The strangeness of
the situation and the circumstances did not seem of moment--not worth
even a passing thought. We still sat apart and said little, if
anything. I cannot recall a single word that either of us spoke
whilst we sat before the fire, but other language than speech came
into play; the eyes told their own story, as eyes can do, and more
eloquently than lips whilst exercising their function of speech.
Question and answer followed each other in this satisfying language,
and with an unspeakable rapture I began to realize that my affection
was returned. Under these circumstances it was unrealizable that
there should be any incongruity in the whole affair. I was not
myself in the mood of questioning. I was diffident with that
diffidence which comes alone from true love, as though it were a
necessary emanation from that delightful and overwhelming and
commanding passion. In her presence there seemed to surge up within
me that which forbade speech. Speech under present conditions would
have seemed to me unnecessary, imperfect, and even vulgarly overt.
She, too, was silent. But now that I am alone, and memory is alone
with me, I am convinced that she also had been happy. No, not that
exactly. "Happiness" is not the word to describe either her feeling
or my own. Happiness is more active, a more conscious enjoyment. We
had been content. That expresses our condition perfectly; and now
that I can analyze my own feeling, and understand what the word
implies, I am satisfied of its accuracy. "Content" has both a
positive and negative meaning or antecedent condition. It implies an
absence of disturbing conditions as well as of wants; also it implies
something positive which has been won or achieved, or which has
accrued. In our state of mind--for though it may be presumption on
my part, I am satisfied that our ideas were mutual--it meant that we
had reached an understanding whence all that might come must be for
good. God grant that it may be so!
As we sat silent, looking into each other's eyes, and whilst the
stars in hers were now full of latent fire, perhaps from the
reflection of the flames, she suddenly sprang to her feet,
instinctively drawing the horrible shroud round her as she rose to
her full height in a voice full of lingering emotion, as of one who
is acting under spiritual compulsion rather than personal will, she
said in a whisper:
"I must go at once. I feel the morning drawing nigh. I must be in
my place when the light of day comes."
She was so earnest that I felt I must not oppose her wish; so I, too,
sprang to my feet and ran towards the window. I pulled the curtain
aside sufficiently far for me to press back the grille and reach the
glass door, the latch of which I opened. I passed behind the curtain
again, and held the edge of it back so that she could go through.
For an instant she stopped as she broke the long silence:
"You are a true gentleman, and my friend. You understand all I wish.
Out of the depth of my heart I thank you." She held out her
beautiful high-bred hand. I took it in both mine as I fell on my
knees, and raised it to my lips. Its touch made me quiver. She,
too, trembled as she looked down at me with a glance which seemed to
search my very soul. The stars in her eyes, now that the firelight
was no longer on them, had gone back to their own mysterious silver.
Then she drew her hand from mine very, very gently, as though it
would fain linger; and she passed out behind the curtain with a
gentle, sweet, dignified little bow which left me on my knees.
When I heard the glass door pulled-to gently behind her, I rose from
my knees and hurried without the curtain, just in time to watch her
pass down the steps. I wanted to see her as long as I could. The
grey of morning was just beginning to war with the night gloom, and
by the faint uncertain light I could see dimly the white figure flit
between shrub and statue till finally it merged in the far darkness.
I stood for a long time on the terrace, sometimes looking into the
darkness in front of me, in case I might be blessed with another
glimpse of her; sometimes with my eyes closed, so that I might recall
and hold in my mind her passage down the steps. For the first time
since I had met her she had thrown back at me a glance as she stepped
on the white path below the terrace. With the glamour over me of
that look, which was all love and enticement, I could have dared all
the powers that be.
When the grey dawn was becoming apparent through the lightening of
the sky I returned to my room. In a dazed condition--half hypnotized
by love--I went to bed, and in dreams continued to think, all
happily, of my Lady of the Shroud.
May 27, 1907.
A whole week has gone since I saw my Love! There it is; no doubt
whatever is left in my mind about it now! Since I saw her my passion
has grown and grown by leaps and bounds, as novelists put it. It has
now become so vast as to overwhelm me, to wipe out all thought of
doubt or difficulty. I suppose it must be what men suffered--
suffering need not mean pain--under enchantments in old times. I am
but as a straw whirled in the resistless eddies of a whirlpool. I
feel that I MUST see her again, even if it be but in her tomb in the
crypt. I must, I suppose, prepare myself for the venture, for many
things have to be thought of. The visit must not be at night, for in
such case I might miss her, did she come to me again here . . .
The morning came and went, but my wish and intention still remained;
and so in the full tide of noon, with the sun in all its fiery force,
I set out for the old church of St. Sava. I carried with me a
lantern with powerful lens. I had wrapped it up secretly, for I had
a feeling that I should not like anyone to know that I had such a
thing with me.
On this occasion I had no misgivings. On the former visit I had for
a moment been overwhelmed at the unexpected sight of the body of the
woman I thought I loved--I knew it now--lying in her tomb. But now I
knew all, and it was to see this woman, though in her tomb, that I
When I had lit my lantern, which I did as soon as I had pushed open
the great door, which was once again unlocked, I turned my steps to
the steps of the crypt, which lay behind the richly carven wood
screen. This I could see, with the better light, was a noble piece
of work of priceless beauty and worth. I tried to keep my heart in
full courage with thoughts of my Lady, and of the sweetness and
dignity of our last meeting; but, despite all, it sank down, down,
and turned to water as I passed with uncertain feet down the narrow,
tortuous steps. My concern, I am now convinced, was not for myself,
but that she whom I adored should have to endure such a fearful
place. As anodyne to my own pain I thought what it would be, and how
I should feel, when I should have won for her a way out of that
horror, at any rate. This thought reassured me somewhat, and
restored my courage. It was in something of the same fashion which
has hitherto carried me out of tight places as well as into them that
at last I pushed open the low, narrow door at the foot of the rock-
hewn staircase and entered the crypt.
Without delay I made my way to the glass-covered tomb set beneath the
hanging chain. I could see by the flashing of the light around me
that my hand which held the lantern trembled. With a great effort I
steadied myself, and raising the lantern, turned its light down into
Once again the fallen lantern rang on the tingling glass, and I stood
alone in the darkness, for an instant almost paralyzed with surprised
The tomb was empty! Even the trappings of the dead had been removed.
I knew not what happened till I found myself groping my way up the
winding stair. Here, in comparison with the solid darkness of the
crypt, it seemed almost light. The dim expanse of the church sent a
few straggling rays down the vaulted steps, and as I could see, be it
never so dimly, I felt I was not in absolute darkness. With the
light came a sense of power and fresh courage, and I groped my way
back into the crypt again. There, by now and again lighting matches,
I found my way to the tomb and recovered my lantern. Then I took my
way slowly--for I wished to prove, if not my own courage, at least
such vestiges of self-respect as the venture had left me--through the
church, where I extinguished my lantern, and out through the great
door into the open sunlight. I seemed to have heard, both in the
darkness of the crypt and through the dimness of the church,
mysterious sounds as of whispers and suppressed breathing; but the
memory of these did not count for much when once I was free. I was
only satisfied of my own consciousness and identity when I found
myself on the broad rock terrace in front of the church, with the
fierce sunlight beating on my upturned face, and, looking downward,
saw far below me the rippled blue of the open sea.
June 3, 1907.
Another week has elapsed--a week full of movement of many kinds and
in many ways--but as yet I have had no tale or tidings of my Lady of
the Shroud. I have not had an opportunity of going again in daylight
to St. Sava's as I should have liked to have done. I felt that I
must not go at night. The night is her time of freedom, and it must
be kept for her--or else I may miss her, or perhaps never see her
The days have been full of national movement. The mountaineers have
evidently been organizing themselves, for some reason which I cannot
quite understand, and which they have hesitated to make known to me.
I have taken care not to manifest any curiosity, whatever I may have
felt. This would certainly arouse suspicion, and might ultimately
cause disaster to my hopes of aiding the nation in their struggle to
preserve their freedom.
These fierce mountaineers are strangely--almost unduly--suspicious,
and the only way to win their confidence is to begin the trusting. A
young American attache of the Embassy at Vienna, who had made a
journey through the Land of the Blue Mountains, once put it to me in
"Keep your head shut, and they'll open theirs. If you don't, they'll
open it for you--down to the chine!"
It was quite apparent to me that they were completing some fresh
arrangements for signalling with a code of their own. This was
natural enough, and in no way inconsistent with the measure of
friendliness already shown to me. Where there are neither
telegraphs, railways, nor roads, any effective form of communication
must--can only be purely personal. And so, if they wish to keep any
secret amongst themselves, they must preserve the secret of their
code. I should have dearly liked to learn their new code and their
manner of using it, but as I want to be a helpful friend to them--and
as this implies not only trust, but the appearance of it--I had to
school myself to patience.
This attitude so far won their confidence that before we parted at
our last meeting, after most solemn vows of faith and secrecy, they
took me into the secret. This was, however, only to the extent of
teaching me the code and method; they still withheld from me rigidly
the fact or political secret, or whatever it was that was the
mainspring of their united action.
When I got home I wrote down, whilst it was fresh in my memory, all
they told me. This script I studied until I had it so thoroughly by
heart that I COULD not forget it. Then I burned the paper. However,
there is now one gain at least: with my semaphore I can send through
the Blue Mountains from side to side, with expedition, secrecy, and
exactness, a message comprehensible to all.
June 6, 1907.
Last night I had a new experience of my Lady of the Shroud--in so far
as form was concerned, at any rate. I was in bed, and just falling
asleep, when I heard a queer kind of scratching at the glass door of
the terrace. I listened acutely, my heart beating hard. The sound
seemed to come from low down, close to the floor. I jumped out of
bed, ran to the window, and, pulling aside the heavy curtains, looked
The garden looked, as usual, ghostly in the moonlight, but there was
not the faintest sign of movement anywhere, and no one was on or near
the terrace. I looked eagerly down to where the sound had seemed to
There, just inside the glass door, as though it had been pushed under
the door, lay a paper closely folded in several laps. I picked it up
and opened it. I was all in a tumult, for my heart told me whence it
came. Inside was written in English, in a large, sprawling hand,
such as might be from an English child of seven or eight:
"Meet me at the Flagstaff on the Rock!"
I knew the place, of course. On the farthermost point of the rock on
which the Castle stands is set a high flagstaff, whereon in old time
the banner of the Vissarion family flew. At some far-off time, when
the Castle had been liable to attack, this point had been strongly
fortified. Indeed, in the days when the bow was a martial weapon it
must have been quite impregnable.
A covered gallery, with loopholes for arrows, had been cut in the
solid rock, running right round the point, quite surrounding the
flagstaff and the great boss of rock on whose centre it was reared.
A narrow drawbridge of immense strength had connected--in peaceful
times, and still remained--the outer point of rock with an entrance
formed in the outer wall, and guarded with flanking towers and a
portcullis. Its use was manifestly to guard against surprise. From
this point only could be seen the line of the rocks all round the
point. Thus, any secret attack by boats could be made impossible.
Having hurriedly dressed myself, and taking with me both hunting-
knife and revolver, I went out on the terrace, taking the precaution,
unusual to me, of drawing the grille behind me and locking it.
Matters around the Castle are in far too disturbed a condition to
allow the taking of any foolish chances, either in the way of being
unarmed or of leaving the private entrance to the Castle open. I
found my way through the rocky passage, and climbed by the Jacob's
ladder fixed on the rock--a device of convenience in time of peace--
to the foot of the flagstaff.
I was all on fire with expectation, and the time of going seemed
exceeding long; so I was additionally disappointed by the contrast
when I did not see my Lady there when I arrived. However, my heart
beat freely again--perhaps more freely than ever--when I saw her
crouching in the shadow of the Castle wall. From where she was she
could not be seen from any point save that alone which I occupied;
even from there it was only her white shroud that was conspicuous
through the deep gloom of the shadow. The moonlight was so bright
that the shadows were almost unnaturally black.
I rushed over towards her, and when close was about to say
impulsively, "Why did you leave your tomb?" when it suddenly struck
me that the question would be malapropos and embarrassing in many
ways. So, better judgment prevailing, I said instead:
"It has been so long since I saw you! It has seemed an eternity to
me!" Her answer came as quickly as even I could have wished; she
spoke impulsively and without thought:
"It has been long to me too! Oh, so long! so long! I have asked you
to come out here because I wanted to see you so much that I could not
wait any longer. I have been heart-hungry for a sight of you!"
Her words, her eager attitude, the ineffable something which conveys
the messages of the heart, the longing expression in her eyes as the
full moonlight fell on her face, showing the stars as living gold--
for in her eagerness she had stepped out towards me from the shadow--
all set me on fire. Without a thought or a word--for it was Nature
speaking in the language of Love, which is a silent tongue--I stepped
towards her and took her in my arms. She yielded with that sweet
unconsciousness which is the perfection of Love, as if it was in
obedience to some command uttered before the beginning of the world.
Probably without any conscious effort on either side--I know there
was none on mine--our mouths met in the first kiss of love.
At the time nothing in the meeting struck me as out of the common.
But later in the night, when I was alone and in darkness, whenever I
thought of it all--its strangeness and its stranger rapture--I could
not but be sensible of the bizarre conditions for a love meeting.
The place lonely, the time night, the man young and strong, and full
of life and hope and ambition; the woman, beautiful and ardent though
she was, a woman seemingly dead, clothed in the shroud in which she
had been wrapped when lying in her tomb in the crypt of the old
Whilst we were together, anyhow, there was little thought of the
kind; no reasoning of any kind on my part. Love has its own laws and
its own logic. Under the flagstaff, where the Vissarion banner was
wont to flap in the breeze, she was in my arms; her sweet breath was
on my face; her heart was beating against my own. What need was
there for reason at all? Inter arma silent leges--the voice of
reason is silent in the stress of passion. Dead she may be, or Un-
dead--a Vampire with one foot in Hell and one on earth. But I love
her; and come what may, here or hereafter, she is mine. As my mate,
we shall fare along together, whatsoever the end may be, or
wheresoever our path may lead. If she is indeed to be won from the
nethermost Hell, then be mine the task!
But to go back to the record. When I had once started speaking to
her in words of passion I could not stop. I did not want to--if I
could; and she did not appear to wish it either. Can there be a
woman--alive or dead--who would not want to hear the rapture of her
lover expressed to her whilst she is enclosed in his arms?
There was no attempt at reticence on my part now; I took it for
granted that she knew all that I surmised, and, as she made neither
protest nor comment, that she accepted my belief as to her
indeterminate existence. Sometimes her eyes would be closed, but
even then the rapture of her face was almost beyond belief. Then,
when the beautiful eyes would open and gaze on me, the stars that
were in them would shine and scintillate as though they were formed
of living fire. She said little, very little; but though the words
were few, every syllable was fraught with love, and went straight to
the very core of my heart.
By-and-by, when our transport had calmed to joy, I asked when I might
next see her, and how and where I might find her when I should want
to. She did not reply directly, but, holding me close in her arms,
whispered in my ear with that breathless softness which is a lover's
rapture of speech:
"I have come here under terrible difficulties, not only because I
love you--and that would be enough--but because, as well as the joy
of seeing you, I wanted to warn you."
"To warn me! Why?" I queried. Her reply came with a bashful
hesitation, with something of a struggle in it, as of one who for
some ulterior reason had to pick her words:
"There are difficulties and dangers ahead of you. You are beset with
them; and they are all the greater because they are, of grim
necessity, hidden from you. You cannot go anywhere, look in any
direction, do anything, say anything, but it may be a signal for
danger. My dear, it lurks everywhere--in the light as well as in the
darkness; in the open as well as in the secret places; from friends
as well as foes; when you are least prepared; when you may least
expect it. Oh, I know it, and what it is to endure; for I share it
for you--for your dear sake!"
"My darling!" was all I could say, as I drew her again closer to me
and kissed her. After a bit she was calmer; seeing this, I came back
to the subject that she had--in part, at all events--come to me to
"But if difficulty and danger hedge me in so everlastingly, and if I
am to have no indication whatever of its kind or purpose, what can I
do? God knows I would willingly guard myself--not on my own account,
but for your dear sake. I have now a cause to live and be strong,
and to keep all my faculties, since it may mean much to you. If you
may not tell me details, may you not indicate to me some line of
conduct, of action, that would be most in accord with your wishes--
or, rather, with your idea of what would be best?
She looked at me fixedly before speaking--a long, purposeful, loving
look which no man born of woman could misunderstand. Then she spoke
slowly, deliberately, emphatically:
"Be bold, and fear not. Be true to yourself, to me--it is the same
thing. These are the best guards you can use. Your safety does not
rest with me. Ah, I wish it did! I wish to God it did!" In my
inner heart it thrilled me not merely to hear the expression of her
wish, but to hear her use the name of God as she did. I understand
now, in the calm of this place and with the sunlight before me, that
my belief as to her being all woman--living woman--was not quite
dead: but though at the moment my heart did not recognize the doubt,
my brain did. And I made up my mind that we should not part this
time until she knew that I had seen her, and where; but, despite my
own thoughts, my outer ears listened greedily as she went on.
"As for me, you may not find ME, but _I_ shall find YOU, be sure!
And now we must say 'Good-night,' my dear, my dear! Tell me once
again that you love me, for it is a sweetness that one does not wish
to forego--even one who wears such a garment as this--and rests where
I must rest." As she spoke she held up part of her cerements for me
to see. What could I do but take her once again in my arms and hold
her close, close. God knows it was all in love; but it was
passionate love which surged through my every vein as I strained her
dear body to mine. But yet this embrace was not selfish; it was not
all an expression of my own passion. It was based on pity--the pity
which is twin-born with true love. Breathless from our kisses, when
presently we released each other, she stood in a glorious rapture,
like a white spirit in the moonlight, and as her lovely, starlit eyes
seemed to devour me, she spoke in a languorous ecstasy:
"Oh, how you love me! how you love me! It is worth all I have gone
through for this, even to wearing this terrible drapery." And again
she pointed to her shroud.
Here was my chance to speak of what I knew, and I took it. "I know,
I know. Moreover, I know that awful resting-place."
I was interrupted, cut short in the midst of my sentence, not by any
word, but by the frightened look in her eyes and the fear-mastered
way in which she shrank away from me. I suppose in reality she could
not be paler than she looked when the colour-absorbing moonlight fell
on her; but on the instant all semblance of living seemed to shrink
and fall away, and she looked with eyes of dread as if in I some
awful way held in thrall. But for the movement of the pitiful
glance, she would have seemed of soulless marble, so deadly cold did
The moments that dragged themselves out whilst I waited for her to
speak seemed endless. At length her words came in an awed whisper,
so faint that even in that stilly night I could hardly hear it:
"You know--you know my resting-place! How--when was that?" There
was nothing to do now but to speak out the truth:
"I was in the crypt of St. Sava. It was all by accident. I was
exploring all around the Castle, and I went there in my course. I
found the winding stair in the rock behind the screen, and went down.
Dear, I loved you well before that awful moment, but then, even as
the lantern fell tingling on the glass, my love multiplied itself,
with pity as a factor." She was silent for a few seconds. When she
spoke, there was a new tone in her voice:
"But were you not shocked?"
"Of course I was," I answered on the spur of the moment, and I now
think wisely. "Shocked is hardly the word. I was horrified beyond
anything that words can convey that you--YOU should have to so
endure! I did not like to return, for I feared lest my doing so
might set some barrier between us. But in due time I did return on
"Well?" Her voice was like sweet music.
"I had another shock that time, worse than before, for you were not
there. Then indeed it was that I knew to myself how dear you were--
how dear you are to me. Whilst I live, you--living or dead--shall
always be in my heart." She breathed hard. The elation in her eyes
made them outshine the moonlight, but she said no word. I went on:
"My dear, I had come into the crypt full of courage and hope, though
I knew what dreadful sight should sear my eyes once again. But we
little know what may be in store for us, no matter what we expect. I
went out with a heart like water from that dreadful desolation."
"Oh, how you love me, dear!" Cheered by her words, and even more by
her tone, I went on with renewed courage. There was no halting, no
faltering in my intention now:
"You and I, my dear, were ordained for each other. I cannot help it
that you had already suffered before I knew you. It may be that
there may be for you still suffering that I may not prevent,
endurance that I may not shorten; but what a man can do is yours.
Not Hell itself will stop me, if it be possible that I may win
through its torments with you in my arms!"
"Will nothing stop you, then?" Her question was breathed as softly
as the strain of an AEolian harp.
"Nothing!" I said, and I heard my own teeth snap together. There was
something speaking within me stronger than I had ever known myself to
be. Again came a query, trembling, quavering, quivering, as though
the issue was of more than life or death:
"Not this?" She held up a corner of the shroud, and as she saw my
face and realized the answer before I spoke, went on: "With all it
"Not if it were wrought of the cerecloths of the damned!" There was
a long pause. Her voice was more resolute when she spoke again. It
rang. Moreover, there was in it a joyous note, as of one who feels
"But do you know what men say? Some of them, that I am dead and
buried; others, that I am not only dead and buried, but that I am one
of those unhappy beings that may not die the common death of man.
Who live on a fearful life-in-death, whereby they are harmful to all.
Those unhappy Un-dead whom men call Vampires--who live on the blood
of the living, and bring eternal damnation as well as death with the
poison of their dreadful kisses!
"I know what men say sometimes," I answered. "But I know also what
my own heart says; and I rather choose to obey its calling than all
the voices of the living or the dead. Come what may, I am pledged to
you. If it be that your old life has to be rewon for you out of the
very jaws of Death and Hell, I shall keep the faith I have pledged,
and that here I pledge again!" As I finished speaking I sank on my
knees at her feet, and, putting my arms round her, drew her close to
me. Her tears rained down on my face as she stroked my hair with her
soft, strong hand and whispered to me:
"This is indeed to be one. What more holy marriage can God give to
any of His creatures?" We were both silent for a time.
I think I was the first to recover my senses. That I did so was
manifest by my asking her: "When may we meet again?"--a thing I had
never remembered doing at any of our former partings. She answered
with a rising and falling of the voice that was just above a whisper,
as soft and cooing as the voice of a pigeon:
"That will be soon--as soon as I can manage it, be sure. My dear, my
dear!" The last four words of endearment she spoke in a low but
prolonged and piercing tone which made me thrill with delight.
"Give me some token," I said, "that I may have always close to me to
ease my aching heart till we meet again, and ever after, for love's
sake!" Her mind seemed to leap to understanding, and with a purpose
all her own. Stooping for an instant, she tore off with swift,
strong fingers a fragment of her shroud. This, having kissed it, she
handed to me, whispering:
"It is time that we part. You must leave me now. Take this, and
keep it for ever. I shall be less unhappy in my terrible loneliness
whilst it lasts if I know that this my gift, which for good or ill is
a part of me as you know me, is close to you. It may be, my very
dear, that some day you may be glad and even proud of this hour, as I
am." She kissed me as I took it.
"For life or death, I care not which, so long as I am with you!" I
said, as I moved off. Descending the Jacob's ladder, I made my way
down the rock-hewn passage.
The last thing I saw was the beautiful face of my Lady of the Shroud
as she leaned over the edge of the opening. Her eyes were like
glowing stars as her looks followed me. That look shall never fade
from my memory.
After a few agitating moments of thought I half mechanically took my
way down to the garden. Opening the grille, I entered my lonely
room, which looked all the more lonely for the memory of the
rapturous moments under the Flagstaff. I went to bed as one in a
dream. There I lay till sunrise--awake and thinking.
BOOK V: A RITUAL AT MIDNIGHT
June 20, 1907.
The time has gone as quickly as work can effect since I saw my Lady.
As I told the mountaineers, Rooke, whom I had sent on the service,
had made a contract for fifty thousand Ingis-Malbron rifles, and as
many tons of ammunition as the French experts calculated to be a full
supply for a year of warfare. I heard from him by our secret
telegraph code that the order had been completed, and that the goods
were already on the way. The morning after the meeting at the
Flagstaff I had word that at night the vessel--one chartered by Rooke
for the purpose--would arrive at Vissarion during the night. We were
all expectation. I had always now in the Castle a signalling party,
the signals being renewed as fast as the men were sufficiently expert
to proceed with their practice alone or in groups. We hoped that
every fighting-man in the country would in time become an expert
signaller. Beyond these, again, we have always a few priests. The
Church of the country is a militant Church; its priests are soldiers,
its Bishops commanders. But they all serve wherever the battle most
needs them. Naturally they, as men of brains, are quicker at
learning than the average mountaineers; with the result that they
learnt the code and the signalling almost by instinct. We have now
at least one such expert in each community of them, and shortly the
priests alone will be able to signal, if need be, for the nation;
thus releasing for active service the merely fighting-man. The men
at present with me I took into confidence as to the vessel's arrival,
and we were all ready for work when the man on the lookout at the
Flagstaff sent word that a vessel without lights was creeping in
towards shore. We all assembled on the rocky edge of the creek, and
saw her steal up the creek and gain the shelter of the harbour. When
this had been effected, we ran out the boom which protects the
opening, and after that the great armoured sliding-gates which Uncle
Roger had himself had made so as to protect the harbour in case of
We then came within and assisted in warping the steamer to the side
of the dock.
Rooke looked fit, and was full of fire and vigour. His
responsibility and the mere thought of warlike action seemed to have
renewed his youth.
When we had arranged for the unloading of the cases of arms and
ammunition, I took Rooke into the room which we call my "office,"
where he gave me an account of his doings. He had not only secured
the rifles and the ammunition for them, but he had purchased from one
of the small American Republics an armoured yacht which had been
especially built for war service. He grew quite enthusiastic, even
excited, as he told me of her:
"She is the last word in naval construction--a torpedo yacht. A
small cruiser, with turbines up to date, oil-fuelled, and fully armed
with the latest and most perfect weapons and explosives of all kinds.
The fastest boat afloat to-day. Built by Thorneycroft, engined by
Parsons, armoured by Armstrong, armed by Crupp. If she ever comes
into action, it will be bad for her opponent, for she need not fear
to tackle anything less than a Dreadnought."
He also told me that from the same Government, whose nation had just
established an unlooked-for peace, he had also purchased a whole park
of artillery of the very latest patterns, and that for range and
accuracy the guns were held to be supreme. These would follow before
long, and with them their proper ammunition, with a shipload of the
same to follow shortly after.
When he had told me all the rest of his news, and handed me the
accounts, we went out to the dock to see the debarkation of the war
material. Knowing that it was arriving, I had sent word in the
afternoon to the mountaineers to tell them to come and remove it.
They had answered the call, and it really seemed to me that the whole
of the land must that night have been in motion.
They came as individuals, grouping themselves as they came within the
defences of the Castle; some had gathered at fixed points on the way.
They went secretly and in silence, stealing through the forests like
ghosts, each party when it grouped taking the place of that which had
gone on one of the routes radiating round Vissarion. Their coming
and going was more than ghostly. It was, indeed, the outward
manifestation of an inward spirit--a whole nation dominated by one
The men in the steamer were nearly all engineers, mostly British,
well conducted, and to be depended upon. Rooke had picked them
separately, and in the doing had used well his great experience of
both men and adventurous life. These men were to form part of the
armoured yacht's crew when she should come into the Mediterranean
waters. They and the priests and fighting-men in the Castle worked
well together, and with a zeal that was beyond praise. The heavy
cases seemed almost of their own accord to leave the holds, so fast
came the procession of them along the gangways from deck to dock-
wall. It was a part of my design that the arms should be placed in
centres ready for local distribution. In such a country as this,
without railways or even roads, the distribution of war material in
any quantity is a great labour, for it has to be done individually,
or at least from centres.
But of this work the great number of mountaineers who were arriving
made little account. As fast as the ship's company, with the
assistance of the priests and fighting-men, placed the cases on the
quay, the engineers opened them and laid the contents ready for
portage. The mountaineers seemed to come in a continuous stream;
each in turn shouldered his burden and passed out, the captain of his
section giving him as he passed his instruction where to go and in
what route. The method had been already prepared in my office ready
for such a distribution when the arms should arrive, and descriptions
and quantities had been noted by the captains. The whole affair was
treated by all as a matter of the utmost secrecy. Hardly a word was
spoken beyond the necessary directions, and these were given in
whispers. All night long the stream of men went and came, and
towards dawn the bulk of the imported material was lessened by half.
On the following night the remainder was removed, after my own men
had stored in the Castle the rifles and ammunition reserved for its
defence if necessary. It was advisable to keep a reserve supply in
case it should ever be required. The following night Rooke went away
secretly in the chartered vessel. He had to bring back with him the
purchased cannon and heavy ammunition, which had been in the meantime
stored on one of the Greek islands. The second morning, having had
secret word that the steamer was on the way, I had given the signal
for the assembling of the mountaineers.
A little after dark the vessel, showing no light, stole into the
creek. The barrier gates were once again closed, and when a
sufficient number of men had arrived to handle the guns, we began to
unload. The actual deportation was easy enough, for the dock had all
necessary appliances quite up to date, including a pair of shears for
gun-lifting which could be raised into position in a very short time.
The guns were well furnished with tackle of all sorts, and before
many hours had passed a little procession of them disappeared into
the woods in ghostly silence. A number of men surrounded each, and
they moved as well as if properly supplied with horses.
In the meantime, and for a week after the arrival of the guns, the
drilling went on without pause. The gun-drill was wonderful. In the
arduous work necessary for it the great strength and stamina of the
mountaineers showed out wonderfully. They did not seem to know
fatigue any more than they knew fear.
For a week this went on, till a perfect discipline and management was
obtained. They did not practise the shooting, for this would have
made secrecy impossible. It was reported all along the Turkish
frontier that the Sultan's troops were being massed, and though this
was not on a war footing, the movement was more or less dangerous.
The reports of our own spies, although vague as to the purpose and
extent of the movement, were definite as to something being on foot.
And Turkey does not do something without a purpose that bodes ill to
someone. Certainly the sound of cannon, which is a far-reaching
sound, would have given them warning of our preparations, and would
so have sadly minimized their effectiveness.
When the cannon had all been disposed of--except, of course, those
destined for defence of the Castle or to be stored there--Rooke went
away with the ship and crew. The ship he was to return to the
owners; the men would be shipped on the war-yacht, of whose crew they
would form a part. The rest of them had been carefully selected by
Rooke himself, and were kept in secrecy at Cattaro, ready for service
the moment required. They were all good men, and quite capable of
whatever work they might be set to. So Rooke told me, and he ought
to know. The experience of his young days as a private made him an
expert in such a job.
June 24, 1907.
Last night I got from my Lady a similar message to the last, and
delivered in a similar way. This time, however, our meeting was to
be on the leads of the Keep.
I dressed myself very carefully before going on this adventure, lest
by any chance of household concern, any of the servants should see
me; for if this should happen, Aunt Janet would be sure to hear of
it, which would give rise to endless surmises and questionings--a
thing I was far from desiring.
I confess that in thinking the matter over during the time I was
making my hurried preparations I was at a loss to understand how any
human body, even though it be of the dead, could go or be conveyed to
such a place without some sort of assistance, or, at least,
collusion, on the part of some of the inmates. At the visit to the
Flagstaff circumstances were different. This spot was actually
outside the Castle, and in order to reach it I myself had to leave
the Castle privately, and from the garden ascend to the ramparts.
But here was no such possibility. The Keep was an imperium in
imperio. It stood within the Castle, though separated from it, and
it had its own defences against intrusion. The roof of it was, so
far as I knew, as little approachable as the magazine.
The difficulty did not, however, trouble me beyond a mere passing
thought. In the joy of the coming meeting and the longing rapture at
the mere thought of it, all difficulties disappeared. Love makes its
own faith, and I never doubted that my Lady would be waiting for me
at the place designated. When I had passed through the little arched
passages, and up the doubly-grated stairways contrived in the
massiveness of the walls, I let myself out on the leads. It was well
that as yet the times were sufficiently peaceful not to necessitate
guards or sentries at all such points.
There, in a dim corner where the moonlight and the passing clouds
threw deep shadows, I saw her, clothed as ever in her shroud. Why, I
know not. I felt somehow that the situation was even more serious
than ever. But I was steeled to whatever might come. My mind had
been already made up. To carry out my resolve to win the woman I
loved I was ready to face death. But now, after we had for a few
brief moments held each other in our arms, I was willing to accept
death--or more than death. Now, more than before, was she sweet and
dear to me. Whatever qualms there might have been at the beginning
of our love-making, or during the progress of it, did not now exist.
We had exchanged vows and confidences, and acknowledged our loves.
What, then, could there be of distrust, or even doubt, that the
present might not set at naught? But even had there been such doubts
or qualms, they must have disappeared in the ardour of our mutual
embrace. I was by now mad for her, and was content to be so mad.
When she had breath to speak after the strictness of our embrace, she
"I have come to warn you to be more than ever careful." It was, I
confess, a pang to me, who thought only of love, to hear that
anything else should have been the initiative power of her coming,
even though it had been her concern for my own safety. I could not
but notice the bitter note of chagrin in my voice as I answered:
"It was for love's sake that _I_ came." She, too, evidently felt the
undercurrent of pain, for she said quickly:
"Ah, dearest, I, too, came for love's sake. It is because I love you
that I am so anxious about you. What would the world--ay, or heaven-
-be to me without you?"
There was such earnest truth in her tone that the sense and
realization of my own harshness smote me. In the presence of such
love as this even a lover's selfishness must become abashed. I could
not express myself in words, so simply raised her slim hand in mine
and kissed it. As it lay warm in my own I could not but notice, as
well as its fineness, its strength and the firmness of its clasp.
Its warmth and fervour struck into my heart--and my brain. Thereupon
I poured out to her once more my love for her, she listening all
afire. When passion had had its say, the calmer emotions had
opportunity of expression. When I was satisfied afresh of her
affection, I began to value her care for my safety, and so I went
back to the subject. Her very insistence, based on personal
affection, gave me more solid ground for fear. In the moment of love
transports I had forgotten, or did not think, of what wonderful power
or knowledge she must have to be able to move in such strange ways as
she did. Why, at this very moment she was within my own gates.
Locks and bars, even the very seal of death itself, seemed unable to
make for her a prison-house. With such freedom of action and
movement, going when she would into secret places, what might she not
know that was known to others? How could anyone keep secret from
such an one even an ill intent? Such thoughts, such surmises, had
often flashed through my mind in moments of excitement rather than of
reflection, but never long enough to become fixed into belief. But
yet the consequences, the convictions, of them were with me, though
unconsciously, though the thoughts themselves were perhaps forgotten
or withered before development.
"And you?" I asked her earnestly. "What about danger to you?" She
smiled, her little pearl-white teeth gleaming in the moonlight, as
"There is no danger for me. I am safe. I am the safest person,
perhaps the only safe person, in all this land." The full
significance of her words did not seem to come to me all at once.
Some base for understanding such an assertion seemed to be wanting.
It was not that I did not trust or believe her, but that I thought
she might be mistaken. I wanted to reassure myself, so in my
distress I asked unthinkingly:
"How the safest? What is your protection?" For several moments that
spun themselves out endlessly she looked me straight in the face, the
stars in her eyes seeming to glow like fire; then, lowering her head,
she took a fold of her shroud and held it up to me.
The meaning was complete and understandable now. I could not speak
at once for the wave of emotion which choked me. I dropped on my
knees, and taking her in my arms, held her close to me. She saw that
I was moved, and tenderly stroked my hair, and with delicate touch
pressed down my head on her bosom, as a mother might have done to
comfort a frightened child.
Presently we got back to the realities of life again. I murmured:
"Your safety, your life, your happiness are all-in-all to me. When
will you let them be my care?" She trembled in my arms, nestling
even closer to me. Her own arms seemed to quiver with delight as she
"Would you indeed like me to be always with you? To me it would be a
happiness unspeakable; and to you, what would it be?"
I thought that she wished to hear me speak my love to her, and that,
woman-like, she had led me to the utterance, and so I spoke again of
the passion that now raged in me, she listening eagerly as we
strained each other tight in our arms. At last there came a pause, a
long, long pause, and our hearts beat consciously in unison as we
stood together. Presently she said in a sweet, low, intense whisper,
as soft as the sighing of summer wind:
"It shall be as you wish; but oh, my dear, you will have to first go
through an ordeal which may try you terribly! Do not ask me
anything! You must not ask, because I may not answer, and it would
be pain to me to deny you anything. Marriage with such an one as I
am has its own ritual, which may not be foregone. It may . . . " I
broke passionately into her speaking:
"There is no ritual that I fear, so long as it be that it is for your
good, and your lasting happiness. And if the end of it be that I may
call you mine, there is no horror in life or death that I shall not
gladly face. Dear, I ask you nothing. I am content to leave myself
in your hands. You shall advise me when the time comes, and I shall
be satisfied, content to obey. Content! It is but a poor word to
express what I long for! I shall shirk nothing which may come to me
from this or any other world, so long as it is to make you mine!"
Once again her murmured happiness was music to my ears:
"Oh, how you love me! how you love me, dear, dear!" She took me in
her arms, and for a few seconds we hung together. Suddenly she tore
herself apart from me, and stood drawn up to the full height, with a
dignity I cannot describe or express. Her voice had a new dominance,
as with firm utterance and in staccato manner she said:
"Rupert Sent Leger, before we go a step further I must say something
to you, ask you something, and I charge you, on your most sacred
honour and belief, to answer me truly. Do you believe me to be one
of those unhappy beings who may not die, but have to live in shameful
existence between earth and the nether world, and whose hellish
mission is to destroy, body and soul, those who love them till they
fall to their level? You are a gentleman, and a brave one. I have
found you fearless. Answer me in sternest truth, no matter what the
issue may be!"
She stood there in the glamorous moonlight with a commanding dignity
which seemed more than human. In that mystic light her white shroud
seemed diaphanous, and she appeared like a spirit of power. What was
I to say? How could I admit to such a being that I had actually had
at moments, if not a belief, a passing doubt? It was a conviction
with me that if I spoke wrongly I should lose her for ever. I was in
a desperate strait. In such a case there is but one solid ground
which one may rest on--the Truth.
I really felt I was between the devil and the deep sea. There was no
avoiding the issue, and so, out of this all-embracing, all-compelling
conviction of truth, I spoke.
For a fleeting moment I felt that my tone was truculent, and almost
hesitated; but as I saw no anger or indignation on my Lady's face,
but rather an eager approval, I was reassured. A woman, after all,
is glad to see a man strong, for all belief in him must be based on
"I shall speak the truth. Remember that I have no wish to hurt your
feelings, but as you conjure me by my honour, you must forgive me if
I pain. It is true that I had at first--ay, and later, when I came
to think matters over after you had gone, when reason came to the aid
of impression--a passing belief that you are a Vampire. How can I
fail to have, even now, though I love you with all my soul, though I
have held you in my arms and kissed you on the mouth, a doubt, when
all the evidences seem to point to one thing? Remember that I have
only seen you at night, except that bitter moment when, in the broad
noonday of the upper world, I saw you, clad as ever in a shroud,
lying seemingly dead in a tomb in the crypt of St. Sava's Church . .
. But let that pass. Such belief as I have is all in you. Be you
woman or Vampire, it is all the same to me. It is YOU whom I love!
Should it be that you are--you are not woman, which I cannot believe,
then it will be my glory to break your fetters, to open your prison,
and set you free. To that I consecrate my life." For a few seconds
I stood silent, vibrating with the passion which had been awakened in
me. She had by now lost the measure of her haughty isolation, and
had softened into womanhood again. It was really like a realization
of the old theme of Pygmalion's statue. It was with rather a
pleading than a commanding voice that she said:
"And shall you always be true to me?"
"Always--so help me, God!" I answered, and I felt that there could be
no lack of conviction in my voice.
Indeed, there was no cause for such lack. She also stood for a
little while stone-still, and I was beginning to expand to the
rapture which was in store for me when she should take me again in
But there was no such moment of softness. All at once she started as
if she had suddenly wakened from a dream, and on the spur of the
"Now go, go!" I felt the conviction of necessity to obey, and turned
at once. As I moved towards the door by which I had entered, I
"When shall I see you again?"
"Soon!" came her answer. "I shall let you know soon--when and where.
Oh, go, go!" She almost pushed me from her.
When I had passed through the low doorway and locked and barred it
behind me, I felt a pang that I should have had to shut her out like
that; but I feared lest there should arise some embarrassing
suspicion if the door should be found open. Later came the
comforting thought that, as she had got to the roof though the door
had been shut, she would be able to get away by the same means. She
had evidently knowledge of some secret way into the Castle. The
alternative was that she must have some supernatural quality or
faculty which gave her strange powers. I did not wish to pursue that
train of thought, and so, after an effort, shut it out from my mind.
When I got back to my room I locked the door behind me, and went to
sleep in the dark. I did not want light just then--could not bear
This morning I woke, a little later than usual, with a kind of
apprehension which I could not at once understand. Presently,
however, when my faculties became fully awake and in working order, I
realized that I feared, half expected, that Aunt Janet would come to
me in a worse state of alarm than ever apropos of some new Second-
Sight experience of more than usual ferocity.
But, strange to say, I had no such visit. Later on in the morning,
when, after breakfast, we walked together through the garden, I asked
her how she had slept, and if she had dreamt. She answered me that
she had slept without waking, and if she had had any dreams, they
must have been pleasant ones, for she did not remember them. "And
you know, Rupert," she added, "that if there be anything bad or
fearsome or warning in dreams, I always remember them."
Later still, when I was by myself on the cliff beyond the creek, I
could not help commenting on the absence of her power of Second Sight
on the occasion. Surely, if ever there was a time when she might
have had cause of apprehension, it might well have been when I asked
the Lady whom she did not know to marry me--the Lady of whose
identity I knew nothing, even whose name I did not know--whom I loved
with all my heart and soul--my Lady of the Shroud.
I have lost faith in Second Sight.
July 1, 1907.
Another week gone. I have waited patiently, and I am at last
rewarded by another letter. I was preparing for bed a little while
ago, when I heard the same mysterious sound at the door as on the
last two occasions. I hurried to the glass door, and there found
another close-folded letter. But I could see no sign of my Lady, or
of any other living being. The letter, which was without direction,
ran as follows:
"If you are still of the same mind, and feel no misgivings, meet me
at the Church of St. Sava beyond the Creek to-morrow night at a
quarter before midnight. If you come, come in secret, and, of
course, alone. Do not come at all unless you are prepared for a
terrible ordeal. But if you love me, and have neither doubts nor
fears, come. Come!"
Needless to say, I did not sleep last night. I tried to, but without
success. It was no morbid happiness that kept me awake, no doubting,
no fear. I was simply overwhelmed with the idea of the coming
rapture when I should call my Lady my very, very own. In this sea of
happy expectation all lesser things were submerged. Even sleep,
which is an imperative force with me, failed in its usual
effectiveness, and I lay still, calm, content.
With the coming of the morning, however, restlessness began. I did
not know what to do, how to restrain myself, where to look for an
anodyne. Happily the latter came in the shape of Rooke, who turned
up shortly after breakfast. He had a satisfactory tale to tell me of
the armoured yacht, which had lain off Cattaro on the previous night,
and to which he had brought his contingent of crew which had waited
for her coming. He did not like to take the risk of going into any
port with such a vessel, lest he might be detained or otherwise
hampered by forms, and had gone out upon the open sea before
daylight. There was on board the yacht a tiny torpedo-boat, for
which provision was made both for hoisting on deck and housing there.
This last would run into the creek at ten o'clock that evening, at
which time it would be dark. The yacht would then run to near
Otranto, to which she would send a boat to get any message I might
send. This was to be in a code, which we arranged, and would convey
instructions as to what night and approximate hour the yacht would
come to the creek.
The day was well on before we had made certain arrangements for the
future; and not till then did I feel again the pressure of my
personal restlessness. Rooke, like a wise commander, took rest
whilst he could. Well he knew that for a couple of days and nights
at least there would be little, if any, sleep for him.
For myself, the habit of self-control stood to me, and I managed to
get through the day somehow without exciting the attention of anyone
else. The arrival of the torpedo-boat and the departure of Rooke
made for me a welcome break in my uneasiness. An hour ago I said
good-night to Aunt Janet, and shut myself up alone here. My watch is
on the table before me, so that I may make sure of starting to the
moment. I have allowed myself half an hour to reach St. Sava. My
skiff is waiting, moored at the foot of the cliff on the hither side,
where the zigzag comes close to the water. It is now ten minutes
I shall add the odd five minutes to the time for my journey so as to
make safe. I go unarmed and without a light.
I shall show no distrust of anyone or anything this night.
July 2, 1907.
When I was outside the church, I looked at my watch in the bright
moonlight, and found I had one minute to wait. So I stood in the
shadow of the doorway and looked out at the scene before me. Not a
sign of life was visible around me, either on land or sea. On the
broad plateau on which the church stands there was no movement of any
kind. The wind, which had been pleasant in the noontide, had fallen
completely, and not a leaf was stirring. I could see across the
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