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THE CRYSTAL EGG

There was, until a year ago, a little and
very grimy-looking shop near Seven Dials,
over which, in weather-worn yellow lettering,
the name of “C. Cave, Naturalist and Dealer in
Antiquities,” was inscribed. The contents of
its window were curiously variegated. They
comprised some elephant tusks and an imperfect
set of chessmen, beads and weapons, a box
of eyes, two skulls of tigers and one human,
several moth-eaten stuffed monkeys (one holding
a lamp), an old-fashioned cabinet, a flyblown
ostrich egg or so, some fishing-tackle,
and an extraordinarily dirty, empty glass fish-tank.
There was also, at the moment the story
begins, a mass of crystal, worked into the shape
of an egg and brilliantly polished. And at that
two people, who stood outside the window,
were looking, one of them a tall, thin clergyman,
the other a black-bearded young man of
dusky complexion and unobtrusive costume.

[2]The dusky young man spoke with eager gesticulation,
and seemed anxious for his companion
to purchase the article.

While they were there, Mr. Cave came into
his shop, his beard still wagging with the bread
and butter of his tea. When he saw these men
and the object of their regard, his countenance
fell. He glanced guiltily over his shoulder,
and softly shut the door. He was a little old
man, with pale face and peculiar watery blue
eyes; his hair was a dirty grey, and he wore a
shabby blue frock coat, an ancient silk hat, and
carpet slippers very much down at heel. He
remained watching the two men as they talked.
The clergyman went deep into his trouser
pocket, examined a handful of money, and
showed his teeth in an agreeable smile. Mr.
Cave seemed still more depressed when they
came into the shop.

The clergyman, without any ceremony,
asked the price of the crystal egg. Mr. Cave
glanced nervously towards the door leading
into the parlour, and said five pounds. The
clergyman protested that the price was high, to
his companion as well as to Mr. Cave—it was,
indeed, very much more than Mr. Cave had intended
to ask, when he had stocked the article—and
an attempt at bargaining ensued. Mr.
Cave stepped to the shop-door, and held it[3]
open. “Five pounds is my price,” he said, as
though he wished to save himself the trouble of
unprofitable discussion. As he did so, the upper
portion of a woman’s face appeared above the
blind in the glass upper panel of the door leading
into the parlour, and stared curiously at the
two customers. “Five pounds is my price,” said
Mr. Cave, with a quiver in his voice.

The swarthy young man had so far remained
a spectator, watching Cave keenly. Now he
spoke. “Give him five pounds,” he said. The
clergyman glanced at him to see if he were in
earnest, and, when he looked at Mr. Cave
again, he saw that the latter’s face was white.
“It’s a lot of money,” said the clergyman, and,
diving into his pocket, began counting his resources.
He had little more than thirty shillings,
and he appealed to his companion, with
whom he seemed to be on terms of considerable
intimacy. This gave Mr. Cave an opportunity
of collecting his thoughts, and he began to explain
in an agitated manner that the crystal was
not, as a matter of fact, entirely free for sale.
His two customers were naturally surprised at
this, and inquired why he had not thought of
that before he began to bargain. Mr. Cave became
confused, but he stuck to his story, that
the crystal was not in the market that afternoon,[4]
that a probable purchaser of it had already
appeared. The two, treating this as an
attempt to raise the price still further, made as
if they would leave the shop. But at this point
the parlour door opened, and the owner of the
dark fringe and the little eyes appeared.

She was a coarse-featured, corpulent woman,
younger and very much larger than Mr. Cave;
she walked heavily, and her face was flushed.
“That crystal is for sale,” she said. “And five
pounds is a good enough price for it. I can’t
think what you’re about, Cave, not to take the
gentleman’s offer!”

Mr. Cave, greatly perturbed by the irruption,
looked angrily at her over the rims of
his spectacles, and, without excessive assurance,
asserted his right to manage his business
in his own way. An altercation began.
The two customers watched the scene
with interest and some amusement, occasionally
assisting Mrs. Cave with suggestions. Mr.
Cave, hard driven, persisted in a confused and
impossible story of an enquiry for the crystal
that morning, and his agitation became
painful. But he stuck to his point
with extraordinary persistence. It was the
young Oriental who ended this curious controversy.
He proposed that they should call[5]
again in the course of two days—so as to give
the alleged enquirer a fair chance. “And then
we must insist,” said the clergyman, “Five
pounds.” Mrs. Cave took it on herself to
apologise for her husband, explaining that he
was sometimes “a little odd,” and as the two
customers left, the couple prepared for a free
discussion of the incident in all its bearings.

Mrs. Cave talked to her husband with singular
directness. The poor little man, quivering
with emotion, muddled himself between his
stories, maintaining on the one hand that he
had another customer in view, and on the other
asserting that the crystal was honestly worth
ten guineas. “Why did you ask five pounds?”
said his wife. “Do let me manage my business
my own way!” said Mr. Cave.

Mr. Cave had living with him a step-daughter
and a step-son, and at supper that night the
transaction was re-discussed. None of them
had a high opinion of Mr. Cave’s business
methods, and this action seemed a culminating
folly.

“It’s my opinion he’s refused that crystal before,”
said the step-son, a loose-limbed lout of
eighteen.

“But Five Pounds!” said the step-daughter,[6]
an argumentative young woman of six-and-twenty.

Mr. Cave’s answers were wretched; he could
only mumble weak assertions that he knew his
own business best. They drove him from his
half-eaten supper into the shop, to close it for
the night, his ears aflame and tears of vexation
behind his spectacles. “Why had he left the
crystal in the window so long? The folly of
it!” That was the trouble closest in his mind.
For a time he could see no way of evading sale.

After supper his step-daughter and step-son
smartened themselves up and went out
and his wife retired upstairs to reflect
upon the business aspects of the crystal,
over a little sugar and lemon and so forth in
hot water. Mr. Cave went into the shop, and
stayed there until late, ostensibly to make ornamental
rockeries for goldfish cases but really
for a private purpose that will be better explained
later. The next day Mrs. Cave found
that the crystal had been removed from the
window, and was lying behind some second-hand
books on angling. She replaced it in a
conspicuous position. But she did not argue
further about it, as a nervous headache disinclined
her from debate. Mr. Cave was always
disinclined. The day passed disagreeably.[7]
Mr. Cave was, if anything, more
absent-minded than usual, and uncommonly
irritable withal. In the afternoon,
when his wife was taking her customary
sleep, he removed the crystal from the window
again.

The next day Mr. Cave had to deliver a consignment
of dog-fish at one of the hospital
schools, where they were needed for dissection.
In his absence Mrs. Cave’s mind reverted to the
topic of the crystal, and the methods of expenditure
suitable to a windfall of five pounds. She
had already devised some very agreeable expedients,
among others a dress of green silk for
herself and a trip to Richmond, when a jangling
of the front door bell summoned her into
the shop. The customer was an examination
coach who came to complain of the non-delivery
of certain frogs asked for the previous day.
Mrs. Cave did not approve of this particular
branch of Mr. Cave’s business, and the gentleman,
who had called in a somewhat aggressive
mood, retired after a brief exchange of words—entirely
civil so far as he was concerned.
Mrs. Cave’s eye then naturally turned to the
window; for the sight of the crystal was an
assurance of the five pounds and of her dreams.
What was her surprise to find it gone![8]

She went to the place behind the locker on
the counter, where she had discovered it the
day before. It was not there; and she immediately
began an eager search about the shop.

When Mr. Cave returned from his business
with the dog-fish, about a quarter to two in the
afternoon, he found the shop in some confusion,
and his wife, extremely exasperated
and on her knees behind the counter, routing
among his taxidermic material. Her face came
up hot and angry over the counter, as the jangling
bell announced his return, and she forthwith
accused him of “hiding it.”

“Hid what?” asked Mr. Cave.

“The crystal!”

At that Mr. Cave, apparently much surprised,
rushed to the window. “Isn’t it here?”
he said. “Great Heavens! what has become of
it?”

Just then, Mr. Cave’s step-son re-entered
the shop from the inner room—he had come
home a minute or so before Mr. Cave—and he
was blaspheming freely. He was apprenticed to
a second-hand furniture dealer down the road,
but he had his meals at home, and he was
naturally annoyed to find no dinner ready.

But, when he heard of the loss of the crystal,
he forgot his meal, and his anger was diverted[9]

from his mother to his step-father. Their first
idea, of course, was that he had hidden it. But
Mr. Cave stoutly denied all knowledge of its
fate—freely offering his bedabbled affidavit in
the matter—and at last was worked up to the
point of accusing, first, his wife and then his
step-son of having taken it with a view to a
private sale. So began an exceedingly acrimonious
and emotional discussion, which
ended for Mrs. Cave in a peculiar nervous condition
midway between hysterics and amuck,
and caused the step-son to be half-an-hour late
at the furniture establishment in the afternoon.
Mr. Cave took refuge from his wife’s emotions
in the shop.

In the evening the matter was resumed, with
less passion and in a judicial spirit, under the
presidency of the step-daughter. The supper
passed unhappily and culminated in a painful
scene. Mr. Cave gave way at last to extreme
exasperation, and went out banging the front
door violently. The rest of the family, having
discussed him with the freedom his absence
warranted, hunted the house from garret to cellar,
hoping to light upon the crystal.

The next day the two customers called
again. They were received by Mrs. Cave almost
in tears. It transpired that no one could[10]
imagine all that she had stood from Cave at
various times in her married pilgrimage….
She also gave a garbled account of the disappearance.
The clergyman and the Oriental
laughed silently at one another, and said it was
very extraordinary. As Mrs. Cave seemed
disposed to give them the complete history of
her life they made to leave the shop. Thereupon
Mrs. Cave, still clinging to hope, asked
for the clergyman’s address, so that, if she
could get anything out of Cave, she might communicate
it. The address was duly given, but
apparently was afterwards mislaid. Mrs. Cave
can remember nothing about it.

In the evening of that day, the Caves seem
to have exhausted their emotions, and Mr.
Cave, who had been out in the afternoon,
supped in a gloomy isolation that contrasted
pleasantly with the impassioned controversy
of the previous days. For some time matters
were very badly strained in the Cave household,
but neither crystal nor customer reappeared.

Now, without mincing the matter, we must
admit that Mr. Cave was a liar. He knew perfectly
well where the crystal was. It was in
the rooms of Mr. Jacoby Wace, Assistant
Demonstrator at St. Catherine’s Hospital,[11]

Westbourne Street. It stood on the sideboard
partially covered by a black velvet cloth, and
beside a decanter of American whisky. It is
from Mr. Wace, indeed, that the particulars
upon which this narrative is based were derived.
Cave had taken off the thing to the hospital
hidden in the dog-fish sack, and there had
pressed the young investigator to keep it for
him. Mr. Wace was a little dubious at first.
His relationship to Cave was peculiar. He had
a taste for singular characters, and he had more
than once invited the old man to smoke and
drink in his rooms, and to unfold his rather
amusing views of life in general and of his wife
in particular. Mr. Wace had encountered Mrs.
Cave, too, on occasions when Mr. Cave was not
at home to attend to him. He knew the constant
interference to which Cave was subjected,
and having weighed the story judicially, he decided
to give the crystal a refuge. Mr. Cave
promised to explain the reasons for his remarkable
affection for the crystal more fully on a
later occasion, but he spoke distinctly of seeing
visions therein. He called on Mr. Wace the
same evening.

He told a complicated story. The crystal he
said had come into his possession with other
oddments at the forced sale of another curiosity[12]
dealer’s effects, and not knowing what
its value might be, he had ticketed it at ten
shillings. It had hung upon his hands at that
price for some months, and he was thinking of
“reducing the figure,” when he made a singular
discovery.

At that time his health was very bad—and
it must be borne in mind that, throughout all
this experience, his physical condition was one
of ebb—and he was in considerable distress by
reason of the negligence, the positive ill-treatment
even, he received from his wife and step-children.
His wife was vain, extravagant, unfeeling,
and had a growing taste for private
drinking; his step-daughter was mean and
over-reaching; and his step-son had conceived
a violent dislike for him, and lost no chance of
showing it. The requirements of his business
pressed heavily upon him, and Mr. Wace does
not think that he was altogether free from occasional
intemperance. He had begun life in a
comfortable position, he was a man of fair education,
and he suffered, for weeks at a stretch,
from melancholia and insomnia. Afraid to disturb
his family, he would slip quietly from his
wife’s side, when his thoughts became intolerable,
and wander about the house. And about[13]
three o’clock one morning, late in August,
chance directed him into the shop.

The dirty little place was impenetrably black
except in one spot, where he perceived an unusual
glow of light. Approaching this, he discovered
it to be the crystal egg, which was
standing on the corner of the counter towards
the window. A thin ray smote through a
crack in the shutters, impinged upon the object,
and seemed as it were to fill its entire interior.

It occurred to Mr. Cave that this was not in
accordance with the laws of optics as he had
known them in his younger days. He could
understand the rays being refracted by the
crystal and coming to a focus in its interior, but
this diffusion jarred with his physical conceptions.
He approached the crystal nearly, peering
into it and round it, with a transient revival
of the scientific curiosity that in his youth
had determined his choice of a calling. He was
surprised to find the light not steady, but
writhing within the substance of the egg, as
though that object was a hollow sphere of some
luminous vapour. In moving about to get different
points of view, he suddenly found that
he had come between it and the ray, and that
the crystal none the less remained luminous.[14]
Greatly astonished, he lifted it out of the light
ray and carried it to the darkest part of the
shop. It remained bright for some four or five
minutes, when it slowly faded and went out.
He placed it in the thin streak of daylight, and
its luminousness was almost immediately restored.

So far, at least, Mr. Wace was able to verify
the remarkable story of Mr. Cave. He has
himself repeatedly held this crystal in a ray of
light (which had to be of a less diameter than
one millimetre). And in a perfect darkness,
such as could be produced by velvet wrapping,
the crystal did undoubtedly appear very faintly
phosphorescent. It would seem, however, that
the luminousness was of some exceptional sort,
and not equally visible to all eyes; for Mr. Harbinger—whose
name will be familiar to the
scientific reader in connection with the Pasteur
Institute—was quite unable to see any light
whatever. And Mr. Wace’s own capacity for
its appreciation was out of comparison inferior
to that of Mr. Cave’s. Even with Mr. Cave
the power varied very considerably: his vision
was most vivid during states of extreme weakness
and fatigue.

Now, from the outset this light in the crystal
exercised a curious fascination upon Mr. Cave.[15]
And it says more for his loneliness of soul than
a volume of pathetic writing could do, that he
told no human being of his curious observations.
He seems to have been living in such an
atmosphere of petty spite that to admit the
existence of a pleasure would have been to risk
the loss of it. He found that as the dawn advanced,
and the amount of diffused light increased,
the crystal became to all appearance
non-luminous. And for some time he was unable
to see anything in it, except at night-time,
in dark corners of the shop.

But the use of an old velvet cloth, which he
used as a background for a collection of minerals,
occurred to him, and by doubling this,
and putting it over his head and hands, he was
able to get a sight of the luminous movement
within the crystal even in the daytime. He
was very cautious lest he should be thus discovered
by his wife, and he practised this occupation
only in the afternoons, while she was
asleep upstairs, and then circumspectly in a hollow
under the counter. And one day, turning
the crystal about in his hands, he saw something.
It came and went like a flash, but it
gave him the impression that the object had
for a moment opened to him the view of a wide
and spacious and strange country; and, turning[16]

it about, he did, just as the light faded, see
the same vision again.

Now, it would be tedious and unnecessary
to state all the phases of Mr. Cave’s discovery
from this point. Suffice that the effect was
this: the crystal, being peered into at an angle
of about 137 degrees from the direction of the
illuminating ray, gave a clear and consistent
picture of a wide and peculiar countryside. It
was not dream-like at all: it produced a definite
impression of reality, and the better the light
the more real and solid it seemed. It was a
moving picture: that is to say, certain objects
moved in it, but slowly in an orderly manner
like real things, and, according as the direction
of the lighting and vision changed, the picture
changed also. It must, indeed, have been like
looking through an oval glass at a view, and
turning the glass about to get at different aspects.

Mr. Cave’s statements, Mr. Wace assures
me, were extremely circumstantial, and entirely
free from any of that emotional quality
that taints hallucinatory impressions. But it
must be remembered that all the efforts of Mr.
Wace to see any similar clarity in the faint
opalescence of the crystal were wholly unsuccessful,
try as he would. The difference in[17]
intensity of the impressions received by the two
men was very great, and it is quite conceivable
that what was a view to Mr. Cave was a mere
blurred nebulosity to Mr. Wace.

The view, as Mr. Cave described it, was invariably
of an extensive plain, and he seemed
always to be looking at it from a considerable
height, as if from a tower or a mast. To the
east and to the west the plain was bounded at a
remote distance by vast reddish cliffs, which
reminded him of those he had seen in some picture;
but what the picture was Mr. Wace was
unable to ascertain. These cliffs passed north
and south—he could tell the points of the compass
by the stars that were visible of a night—receding
in an almost illimitable perspective
and fading into the mists of the distance before
they met. He was nearer the eastern set of
cliffs, on the occasion of his first vision the sun
was rising over them, and black against the
sunlight and pale against their shadow appeared
a multitude of soaring forms that Mr.
Cave regarded as birds. A vast range of buildings
spread below him; he seemed to be looking
down upon them; and, as they approached
the blurred and refracted edge of the picture,
they became indistinct. There were also trees
curious in shape, and in colouring, a deep[18]
mossy green and an exquisite grey, beside a
wide and shining canal. And something great
and brilliantly coloured flew across the picture.
But the first time Mr. Cave saw these pictures
he saw only in flashes, his hands shook, his
head moved, the vision came and went, and
grew foggy and indistinct. And at first he had
the greatest difficulty in finding the picture
again once the direction of it was lost.

His next clear vision, which came about a
week after the first, the interval having yielded
nothing but tantalising glimpses and some useful
experience, showed him the view down the
length of the valley. The view was different,
but he had a curious persuasion, which his subsequent
observations abundantly confirmed,
that he was regarding this strange world from
exactly the same spot, although he was looking
in a different direction. The long façade of
the great building, whose roof he had looked
down upon before, was now receding in perspective.
He recognised the roof. In the front
of the façade was a terrace of massive proportions
and extraordinary length, and down the
middle of the terrace, at certain intervals, stood
huge but very graceful masts, bearing small
shiny objects which reflected the setting sun.
The import of these small objects did not[19]
occur to Mr. Cave until some time after, as he
was describing the scene to Mr. Wace. The
terrace overhung a thicket of the most luxuriant
and graceful vegetation, and beyond this
was a wide grassy lawn on which certain broad
creatures, in form like beetles but enormously
larger, reposed. Beyond this again was a richly
decorated causeway of pinkish stone; and beyond
that, and lined with dense red weeds, and
passing up the valley exactly parallel with the
distant cliffs, was a broad and mirror-like expanse
of water. The air seemed full of squadrons
of great birds, manœuvring in stately
curves; and across the river was a multitude of
splendid buildings, richly coloured and glittering
with metallic tracery and facets, among a
forest of moss-like and lichenous trees. And
suddenly something flapped repeatedly across
the vision, like the fluttering of a jewelled fan
or the beating of a wing, and a face, or rather
the upper part of a face with very large eyes,
came as it were close to his own and as if on
the other side of the crystal. Mr. Cave was so
startled and so impressed by the absolute reality
of these eyes, that he drew his head back
from the crystal to look behind it. He had become
so absorbed in watching that he was quite
surprised to find himself in the cool darkness of[20]
his little shop, with its familiar odour of
methyl, mustiness, and decay. And, as he
blinked about him, the glowing crystal faded,
and went out.

Such were the first general impressions of
Mr. Cave. The story is curiously direct and
circumstantial. From the outset, when the valley
first flashed momentarily on his senses, his
imagination was strangely affected, and, as he
began to appreciate the details of the scene he
saw, his wonder rose to the point of a passion.
He went about his business listless and distraught,
thinking only of the time when he
should be able to return to his watching. And
then a few weeks after his first sight of the
valley came the two customers, the stress and
excitement of their offer, and the narrow escape
of the crystal from sale, as I have already
told.

Now, while the thing was Mr. Cave’s secret,
it remained a mere wonder, a thing to creep to
covertly and peep at, as a child might peep
upon a forbidden garden. But Mr. Wace has,
for a young scientific investigator, a particularly
lucid and consecutive habit of mind. Directly
the crystal and its story came to him, and
he had satisfied himself, by seeing the phosphorescence
with his own eyes, that there really[21]

was a certain evidence for Mr. Cave’s statements,
he proceeded to develop the matter systematically.
Mr. Cave was only too eager to
come and feast his eyes on this wonderland he
saw, and he came every night from half-past
eight until half-past ten, and sometimes, in Mr.
Wace’s absence, during the day. On Sunday
afternoons, also, he came. From the outset Mr.
Wace made copious notes, and it was due to his
scientific method that the relation between the
direction from which the initiating ray entered
the crystal and the orientation of the picture
were proved. And, by covering the crystal in a
box perforated only with a small aperture to
admit the exciting ray, and by substituting
black holland for his buff blinds, he greatly improved
the conditions of the observations; so
that in a little while they were able to survey
the valley in any direction they desired.

So having cleared the way, we may give a
brief account of this visionary world within the
crystal. The things were in all cases seen by
Mr. Cave, and the method of working was invariably
for him to watch the crystal and report
what he saw, while Mr. Wace (who as a
science student had learnt the trick of writing
in the dark) wrote a brief note of his report.
When the crystal faded, it was put into its box[22]
in the proper position and the electric light
turned on. Mr. Wace asked questions, and
suggested observations to clear up difficult
points. Nothing, indeed, could have been less
visionary and more matter-of-fact.

The attention of Mr. Cave had been speedily
directed to the bird-like creatures he had seen
so abundantly present in each of his earlier
visions. His first impression was soon corrected,
and he considered for a time that they
might represent a diurnal species of bat. Then
he thought, grotesquely enough, that they
might be cherubs. Their heads were round,
and curiously human, and it was the eyes of
one of them that had so startled him on his second
observation. They had broad, silvery
wings, not feathered, but glistening almost as
brilliantly as new-killed fish and with the same
subtle play of colour, and these wings were not
built on the plan of bird-wing or bat, Mr. Wace
learned, but supported by curved ribs radiating
from the body. (A sort of butterfly wing with
curved ribs seems best to express their appearance.)
The body was small, but fitted with
two bunches of prehensile organs, like long
tentacles, immediately under the mouth. Incredible
as it appeared to Mr. Wace, the persuasion
at last became irresistible, that it was[23]
these creatures which owned the great quasi-human
buildings and the magnificent garden
that made the broad valley so splendid. And
Mr. Cave perceived that the buildings, with
other peculiarities, had no doors, but that the
great circular windows, which opened freely,
gave the creatures egress and entrance. They
would alight upon their tentacles, fold their
wings to a smallness almost rod-like, and hop
into the interior. But among them was a multitude
of smaller-winged creatures, like great
dragon-flies and moths and flying beetles, and
across the greensward brilliantly-coloured
gigantic ground-beetles crawled lazily to and
fro. Moreover, on the causeways and terraces,
large-headed creatures similar to the greater
winged flies, but wingless, were visible, hopping
busily upon their hand-like tangle of tentacles.

Allusion has already been made to the glittering
objects upon masts that stood upon the
terrace of the nearer building. It dawned upon
Mr. Cave, after regarding one of these masts
very fixedly on one particularly vivid day, that
the glittering object there was a crystal exactly
like that into which he peered. And a still
more careful scrutiny convinced him that each[24]

one in a vista of nearly twenty carried a similar
object.

Occasionally one of the large flying creatures
would flutter up to one, and, folding its wings
and coiling a number of its tentacles about the
mast, would regard the crystal fixedly for a
space,—sometimes for as long as fifteen minutes.
And a series of observations, made at
the suggestion of Mr. Wace, convinced both
watchers that, so far as this visionary world
was concerned, the crystal into which they
peered actually stood at the summit of the endmost
mast on the terrace, and that on one occasion
at least one of these inhabitants of this
other world had looked into Mr. Cave’s face
while he was making these observations.

So much for the essential facts of this very
singular story. Unless we dismiss it all as the
ingenious fabrication of Mr. Wace, we have
to believe one of two things: either that
Mr. Cave’s crystal was in two worlds at
once, and that, while it was carried about in
one, it remained stationary in the other, which
seems altogether absurd; or else that it had
some peculiar relation of sympathy with another
and exactly similar crystal in this other
world, so that what was seen in the interior of
the one in this world was, under suitable conditions,[25]
visible to an observer in the corresponding
crystal in the other world; and vice
versa
. At present, indeed, we do not know of
any way in which two crystals could so come
en rapport, but nowadays we know enough to
understand that the thing is not altogether impossible.
This view of the crystals as en rapport
was the supposition that occurred to Mr.
Wace, and to me at least it seems extremely
plausible….

And where was this other world? On this,
also, the alert intelligence of Mr. Wace speedily
threw light. After sunset, the sky darkened
rapidly—there was a very brief twilight
interval indeed—and the stars shone out. They
were recognisably the same as those we see, arranged
in the same constellations. Mr. Cave
recognised the Bear, the Pleiades, Aldebaran,
and Sirius: so that the other world must be
somewhere in the solar system, and, at the utmost,
only a few hundreds of millions of miles
from our own. Following up this clue, Mr.
Wace learned that the midnight sky was a
darker blue even than our midwinter sky, and
that the sun seemed a little smaller. And there
were two small moons!
“like our moon but
smaller, and quite differently marked” one of
which moved so rapidly that its motion was[26]
clearly visible as one regarded it. These moons
were never high in the sky, but vanished as
they rose: that is, every time they revolved
they were eclipsed because they were so near
their primary planet. And all this answers
quite completely, although Mr. Cave did not
know it, to what must be the condition of
things on Mars.

Indeed, it seems an exceedingly plausible
conclusion that peering into this crystal Mr.
Cave did actually see the planet Mars and its
inhabitants. And, if that be the case, then the
evening star that shone so brilliantly in the sky
of that distant vision, was neither more nor
less than our own familiar earth.

For a time the Martians—if they were Martians—do
not seem to have known of Mr.
Cave’s inspection. Once or twice one would
come to peer, and go away very shortly to some
other mast, as though the vision was unsatisfactory.
During this time Mr. Cave was able
to watch the proceedings of these winged people
without being disturbed by their attentions,
and, although his report is necessarily vague
and fragmentary, it is nevertheless very suggestive.
Imagine the impression of humanity
a Martian observer would get who, after a difficult
process of preparation and with considerable[27]
fatigue to the eyes, was able to peer at
London from the steeple of St. Martin’s
Church for stretches, at longest, of four minutes
at a time. Mr. Cave was unable to ascertain
if the winged Martians were the same as
the Martians who hopped about the causeways
and terraces, and if the latter could put on
wings at will. He several times saw certain
clumsy bipeds, dimly suggestive of apes, white
and partially translucent, feeding among certain
of the lichenous trees, and once some of
these fled before one of the hopping, round-headed
Martians. The latter caught one in its
tentacles, and then the picture faded suddenly
and left Mr. Cave most tantalisingly in the
dark. On another occasion a vast thing, that
Mr. Cave thought at first was some gigantic
insect, appeared advancing along the causeway
beside the canal with extraordinary rapidity.
As this drew nearer Mr. Cave perceived that it
was a mechanism of shining metals and of extraordinary
complexity. And then, when he
looked again, it had passed out of sight.

After a time Mr. Wace aspired to attract the
attention of the Martians, and the next time
that the strange eyes of one of them appeared
close to the crystal Mr. Cave cried out and
sprang away, and they immediately turned on[28]
the light and began to gesticulate in a manner
suggestive of signalling. But when at last Mr.
Cave examined the crystal again the Martian
had departed.

Thus far these observations had progressed
in early November, and then Mr. Cave, feeling
that the suspicions of his family about the crystal
were allayed, began to take it to and fro
with him in order that, as occasion arose in the
daytime or night, he might comfort himself
with what was fast becoming the most real
thing in his existence.

In December Mr. Wace’s work in connection
with a forthcoming examination became heavy,
the sittings were reluctantly suspended for a
week, and for ten or eleven days—he is not
quite sure which—he saw nothing of Cave. He
then grew anxious to resume these investigations,
and, the stress of his seasonal labours being
abated, he went down to Seven Dials. At
the corner he noticed a shutter before a bird
fancier’s window, and then another at a cobbler’s.
Mr. Cave’s shop was closed.

He rapped and the door was opened by the
step-son in black. He at once called Mrs.
Cave, who was, Mr. Wace could not but observe,
in cheap but ample widow’s weeds of the
most imposing pattern. Without any very[29]
great surprise Mr. Wace learnt that Cave was
dead and already buried. She was in tears, and
her voice was a little thick. She had just returned
from Highgate. Her mind seemed occupied
with her own prospects and the honourable
details of the obsequies, but Mr. Wace was
at last able to learn the particulars of Cave’s
death. He had been found dead in his shop in
the early morning, the day after his last visit
to Mr. Wace, and the crystal had been clasped
in his stone-cold hands. His face was smiling,
said Mrs. Cave, and the velvet cloth from the
minerals lay on the floor at his feet. He must
have been dead five or six hours when he was
found.

This came as a great shock to Wace, and he
began to reproach himself bitterly for having
neglected the plain symptoms of the old man’s
ill-health. But his chief thought was of the
crystal. He approached that topic in a gingerly
manner, because he knew Mrs. Cave’s peculiarities.
He was dumbfoundered to learn that
it was sold.

Mrs. Cave’s first impulse, directly Cave’s
body had been taken upstairs, had been to write
to the mad clergyman who had offered five
pounds for the crystal, informing him of its recovery;
but after a violent hunt in which her[30]
daughter joined her, they were convinced of
the loss of his address. As they were without
the means required to mourn and bury Cave in
the elaborate style the dignity of an old Seven
Dials inhabitant demands, they had appealed
to a friendly fellow-tradesman in Great Portland
Street. He had very kindly taken over a
portion of the stock at a valuation. The valuation
was his own and the crystal egg was included
in one of the lots. Mr. Wace, after a
few suitable consolatory observations, a little
off-handedly proffered perhaps, hurried at
once to Great Portland Street. But there he
learned that the crystal egg had already been
sold to a tall, dark man in grey. And there the
material facts in this curious, and to me at least
very suggestive, story come abruptly to an end.
The Great Portland Street dealer did not know
who the tall dark man in grey was, nor had he
observed him with sufficient attention to describe
him minutely. He did not even know
which way this person had gone after leaving
the shop. For a time Mr. Wace remained in
the shop, trying the dealer’s patience with
hopeless questions, venting his own exasperation.
And at last, realising abruptly that the
whole thing had passed out of his hands, had
vanished like a vision of the night, he returned[31]
to his own rooms, a little astonished to find the
notes he had made still tangible and visible
upon his untidy table.

His annoyance and disappointment were
naturally very great. He made a second call
(equally ineffectual) upon the Great Portland
Street dealer, and he resorted to advertisements
in such periodicals as were likely to come into
the hands of a bric-a-brac collector. He also
wrote letters to The Daily Chronicle and Nature,
but both those periodicals, suspecting a
hoax, asked him to reconsider his action before
they printed, and he was advised that such
a strange story, unfortunately so bare of supporting
evidence, might imperil his reputation
as an investigator. Moreover, the calls of his
proper work were urgent. So that after a
month or so, save for an occasional reminder to
certain dealers, he had reluctantly to abandon
the quest for the crystal egg, and from that
day to this it remains undiscovered. Occasionally,
however, he tells me, and I can quite believe
him, he has bursts of zeal, in which he
abandons his more urgent occupation and resumes
the search.

Whether or not it will remain lost for ever,
with the material and origin of it, are things
equally speculative at the present time. If the[32]
present purchaser is a collector, one would have
expected the enquiries of Mr. Wace to have
reached him through the dealers. He has been
able to discover Mr. Cave’s clergyman and
“Oriental”—no other than the Rev. James
Parker and the young Prince of Bosso-Kuni in
Java. I am obliged to them for certain particulars.
The object of the Prince was simply
curiosity—and extravagance. He was so eager
to buy, because Cave was so oddly reluctant to
sell. It is just as possible that the buyer in the
second instance was simply a casual purchaser
and not a collector at all, and the crystal egg,
for all I know, may at the present moment be
within a mile of me, decorating a drawing-room
or serving as a paper-weight—its remarkable
functions all unknown. Indeed, it is
partly with the idea of such a possibility that I
have thrown this narrative into a form that
will give it a chance of being read by the ordinary
consumer of fiction.

My own ideas in the matter are practically
identical with those of Mr. Wace. I believe
the crystal on the mast in Mars and the crystal
egg of Mr. Cave’s to be in some physical, but
at present quite inexplicable, way en rapport,
and we both believe further that the terrestrial
crystal must have been—possibly at some remote[33]
date—sent hither from that planet, in order
to give the Martians a near view of our affairs.
Possibly the fellows to the crystals in
the other masts are also on our globe. No
theory of hallucination suffices for the facts.


[35]

The Star


[37]

THE STAR

It was on the first day of the new year that
the announcement was made, almost simultaneously
from three observatories, that the motion
of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all
the planets that wheel about the sun, had become
very erratic. Ogilvy had already called
attention to a suspected retardation in its
velocity in December. Such a piece of news
was scarcely calculated to interest a world the
greater portion of whose inhabitants were unaware
of the existence of the planet Neptune,
nor outside the astronomical profession did the
subsequent discovery of a faint remote speck
of light in the region of the perturbed planet
cause any very great excitement. Scientific
people, however, found the intelligence remarkable
enough, even before it became known
that the new body was rapidly growing larger
and brighter, that its motion was quite different
from the orderly progress of the planets,
and that the deflection of Neptune and its[38]
satellite was becoming now of an unprecedented
kind.

Few people without a training in science can
realise the huge isolation of the solar system.
The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of
planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims
in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the
imagination. Beyond the orbit of Neptune
there is space, vacant so far as human observation
has penetrated, without warmth or light or
sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million
times a million miles. That is the smallest estimate
of the distance to be traversed before the
very nearest of the stars is attained. And, saving
a few comets more unsubstantial than the
thinnest flame, no matter had ever to human
knowledge crossed this gulf of space, until
early in the twentieth century this strange
wanderer appeared. A vast mass of matter it
was, bulky, heavy, rushing without warning out
of the black mystery of the sky into the radiance
of the sun. By the second day it was clearly
visible to any decent instrument, as a speck
with a barely sensible diameter, in the constellation
Leo near Regulus. In a little while an
opera glass could attain it.

On the third day of the new year the newspaper
readers of two hemispheres were made[39]
aware for the first time of the real importance
of this unusual apparition in the heavens. “A
Planetary Collision,” one London paper headed
the news, and proclaimed Duchaine’s opinion
that this strange new planet would probably
collide with Neptune. The leader writers enlarged
upon the topic. So that in most of the
capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was
an expectation, however vague of some imminent
phenomenon in the sky; and as the night
followed the sunset round the globe, thousands
of men turned their eyes skyward to see—the
old familiar stars just as they had always been.

Until it was dawn in London and Pollux
setting and the stars overhead grown pale.
The Winter’s dawn it was, a sickly filtering accumulation
of daylight, and the light of gas
and candles shone yellow in the windows to
show where people were astir. But the yawning
policeman saw the thing, the busy crowds
in the markets stopped agape, workmen going
to their work betimes, milkmen, the drivers of
news-carts, dissipation going home jaded and
pale, homeless wanderers, sentinels on their
beats, and in the country, labourers trudging
afield, poachers slinking home, all over the
dusky quickening country it could be seen—and
out at sea by seamen watching for the day—a[40]
great white star, come suddenly into the
westward sky!

Brighter it was than any star in our skies;
brighter than the evening star at its brightest.
It still glowed out white and large, no mere
twinkling spot of light, but a small round clear
shining disc, an hour after the day had come.
And where science has not reached, men stared
and feared, telling one another of the wars and
pestilences that are foreshadowed by these fiery
signs in the Heavens. Sturdy Boers, dusky
Hottentots, Gold Coast negroes, Frenchmen,
Spaniards, Portuguese, stood in the warmth of
the sunrise watching the setting of this strange
new star.

And in a hundred observatories there had
been suppressed excitement, rising almost to
shouting pitch, as the two remote bodies had
rushed together, and a hurrying to and fro, to
gather photographic apparatus and spectroscope,
and this appliance and that, to record
this novel astonishing sight, the destruction of
a world. For it was a world, a sister planet of
our earth, far greater than our earth indeed,
that had so suddenly flashed into flaming
death. Neptune it was, had been struck, fairly
and squarely, by the strange planet from outer
space and the heat of the concussion had incontinently[41]

turned two solid globes into one vast
mass of incandescence. Round the world that
day, two hours before the dawn, went the
pallid great white star, fading only as it sank
westward and the sun mounted above it.
Everywhere men marvelled at it, but of all
those who saw it none could have marvelled
more than those sailors, habitual watchers of
the stars, who far away at sea had heard nothing
of its advent and saw it now rise like a
pigmy moon and climb zenithward and hang
overhead and sink westward with the passing
of the night.

And when next it rose over Europe everywhere
were crowds of watchers on hilly slopes,
on house-roofs, in open spaces, staring eastward
for the rising of the great new star. It
rose with a white glow in front of it, like the
glare of a white fire, and those who had seen it
come into existence the night before cried out
at the sight of it. “It is larger,” they cried.
“It is brighter!” And, indeed the moon a
quarter full and sinking in the west was in its
apparent size beyond comparison, but scarcely
in all its breadth had it as much brightness now
as the little circle of the strange new star.

“It is brighter!” cried the people clustering
in the streets. But in the dim observatories the[42]
watchers held their breath and peered at one
another. “It is nearer,” they said. “Nearer!

And voice after voice repeated, “It is
nearer,” and the clicking telegraph took that
up, and it trembled along telephone wires, and
in a thousand cities grimy compositors fingered
the type. “It is nearer.” Men writing in offices,
struck with a strange realisation, flung
down their pens, men talking in a thousand
places suddenly came upon a grotesque possibility
in those words, “It is nearer.” It hurried
along awakening streets, it was shouted
down the frost-stilled ways of quiet villages,
men who had read these things from the throbbing
tape stood in yellow-lit doorways shouting
the news to the passers-by. “It is nearer.”
Pretty women, flushed and glittering, heard
the news told jestingly between the dances, and
feigned an intelligent interest they did not feel.
“Nearer! Indeed. How curious! How very,
very clever people must be to find out things
like that!”

Lonely tramps faring through the wintry
night murmured those words to comfort themselves—looking
skyward. “It has need to be
nearer, for the night’s as cold as charity. Don’t
seem much warmth from it if it is nearer, all
the same.”[43]

“What is a new star to me?” cried the weeping
woman kneeling beside her dead.

The schoolboy, rising early for his examination
work, puzzled it out for himself—with the
great white star, shining broad and bright
through the frost-flowers of his window.
“Centrifugal, centripetal,” he said, with his
chin on his fist. “Stop a planet in its flight, rob
it of its centrifugal force, what then? Centripetal
has it, and down it falls into the sun! And
this—!”

“Do we come in the way? I wonder—”

The light of that day went the way of its
brethren, and with the later watches of the
frosty darkness rose the strange star again.
And it was now so bright that the waxing
moon seemed but a pale yellow ghost of itself,
hanging huge in the sunset. In a South African
city a great man had married, and the
streets were alight to welcome his return with
his bride. “Even the skies have illuminated,”
said the flatterer. Under Capricorn, two negro
lovers, daring the wild beasts and evil spirits,
for love of one another, crouched together in a
cane brake where the fire-flies hovered. “That
is our star,” they whispered, and felt strangely
comforted by the sweet brilliance of its light.

The master mathematician sat in his private[44]
room and pushed the papers from him. His
calculations were already finished. In a small
white phial there still remained a little of the
drug that had kept him awake and active for
four long nights. Each day, serene, explicit,
patient as ever, he had given his lecture to his
students, and then had come back at once to
this momentous calculation. His face was
grave, a little drawn and hectic from his
drugged activity. For some time he seemed
lost in thought. Then he went to the window,
and the blind went up with a click. Half way
up the sky, over the clustering roofs, chimneys
and steeples of the city, hung the star.

He looked at it as one might look into the
eyes of a brave enemy. “You may kill me,” he
said after a silence. “But I can hold you—and
all the universe for that matter—in the grip of
this little brain. I would not change. Even
now.”

He looked at the little phial. “There will be
no need of sleep again,” he said. The next day
at noon, punctual to the minute, he entered his
lecture theatre, put his hat on the end of the
table as his habit was, and carefully selected a
large piece of chalk. It was a joke among his
students that he could not lecture without that
piece of chalk to fumble in his fingers, and once[45]
he had been stricken to impotence by their hiding
his supply. He came and looked under his
grey eyebrows at the rising tiers of young
fresh faces, and spoke with his accustomed
studied commonness of phrasing. “Circumstances
have arisen—circumstances beyond my
control,” he said and paused, “which will debar
me from completing the course I had designed.
It would seem, gentlemen, if I may
put the thing clearly and briefly, that—Man
has lived in vain.”

The students glanced at one another. Had
they heard aright? Mad? Raised eyebrows
and grinning lips there were, but one or two
faces remained intent upon his calm grey-fringed
face. “It will be interesting,” he was
saying, “to devote this morning to an exposition,
so far as I can make it clear to you, of the
calculations that have led me to this conclusion.
Let us assume—”

He turned towards the blackboard, meditating
a diagram in the way that was usual to
him. “What was that about ‘lived in vain?’”
whispered one student to another. “Listen,”
said the other, nodding towards the lecturer.

And presently they began to understand.

That night the star rose later, for its proper
eastward motion had carried it some way[46]
across Leo towards Virgo, and its brightness
was so great that the sky became a luminous
blue as it rose, and every star was hidden in its
turn, save only Jupiter near the zenith, Capella,
Aldebaran, Sirius and the pointers of the Bear.
It was very white and beautiful. In many
parts of the world that night a pallid halo encircled
it about. It was perceptibly larger; in
the clear refractive sky of the tropics it seemed
as if it were nearly a quarter the size of the
moon. The frost was still on the ground in
England, but the world was as brightly lit as
if it were midsummer moonlight. One could
see to read quite ordinary print by that cold
clear light, and in the cities the lamps burnt
yellow and wan.

And everywhere the world was awake that
night, and throughout Christendom a sombre
murmur hung in the keen air over the countryside
like the belling of bees in the heather, and
this murmurous tumult grew to a clangour in
the cities. It was the tolling of the bells in a
million belfry towers and steeples, summoning
the people to sleep no more, to sin no more, but
to gather in their churches and pray. And
overhead, growing larger and brighter, as the
earth rolled on its way and the night passed,
rose the dazzling star.[47]

And the streets and houses were alight in all
the cities, the shipyards glared, and whatever
roads led to high country were lit and crowded
all night long. And in all the seas about the
civilised lands, ships with throbbing engines,
and ships with bellying sails, crowded with
men and living creatures, were standing out to
ocean and the north. For already the warning
of the master mathematician had been telegraphed
all over the world, and translated into
a hundred tongues. The new planet and Neptune,
locked in a fiery embrace, were whirling
headlong, ever faster and faster towards the
sun. Already every second this blazing mass
flew a hundred miles, and every second its terrific
velocity increased. As it flew now, indeed,
it must pass a hundred million of miles
wide of the earth and scarcely affect it. But
near its destined path, as yet only slightly perturbed,
spun the mighty planet Jupiter and his
moons sweeping splendid round the sun.
Every moment now the attraction between the
fiery star and the greatest of the planets grew
stronger. And the result of that attraction?
Inevitably Jupiter would be deflected from its
orbit into an elliptical path, and the burning
star, swung by his attraction wide of its sunward
rush, would “describe a curved path” and[48]
perhaps collide with, and certainly pass very
close to, our earth. “Earthquakes, volcanic
outbreaks, cyclones, sea waves, floods, and a
steady rise in temperature to I know not what
limit”—so prophesied the master mathematician.

And overhead, to carry out his words, lonely
and cold and livid, blazed the star of the coming
doom.

To many who stared at it that night until
their eyes ached, it seemed that it was visibly
approaching. And that night, too, the weather
changed, and the frost that had gripped all
Central Europe and France and England softened
towards a thaw.

But you must not imagine because I have
spoken of people praying through the night
and people going aboard ships and people fleeing
towards mountainous country that the
whole world was already in a terror because of
the star. As a matter of fact, use and wont
still ruled the world, and save for the talk of
idle moments and the splendour of the night,
nine human beings out of ten were still busy at
their common occupations. In all the cities the
shops, save one here and there, opened and
closed at their proper hours, the doctor and the
undertaker plied their trades, the workers gathered[49]
in the factories, soldiers drilled, scholars
studied, lovers sought one another, thieves
lurked and fled, politicians planned their
schemes. The presses of the newspapers roared
through the nights, and many a priest of this
church and that would not open his holy building
to further what he considered a foolish
panic. The newspapers insisted on the lesson
of the year 1000—for then, too, people had anticipated
the end. The star was no star—mere
gas—a comet; and were it a star
it could not possibly strike the earth. There
was no precedent for such a thing. Common
sense was sturdy everywhere, scornful,
jesting, a little inclined to persecute
the obdurate fearful. That night, at seven-fifteen
by Greenwich time, the star would
be at its nearest to Jupiter. Then the world
would see the turn things would take. The
master mathematician’s grim warnings were
treated by many as so much mere elaborate self-advertisement.
Common sense at last, a little
heated by argument, signified its unalterable
convictions by going to bed. So, too, barbarism
and savagery, already tired of the novelty,
went about their nightly business, and save for
a howling dog here and there, the beast world
left the star unheeded.[50]

And yet, when at last the watchers in the
European States saw the star rise, an hour later
it is true, but no larger than it had been the
night before, there were still plenty awake to
laugh at the master mathematician—to take
the danger as if it had passed.

But hereafter the laughter ceased. The star
grew—it grew with a terrible steadiness hour
after hour, a little larger each hour, a little
nearer the midnight zenith, and brighter and
brighter, until it had turned night into a second
day. Had it come straight to the earth instead
of in a curved path, had it lost no velocity to
Jupiter, it must have leapt the intervening gulf
in a day, but as it was it took five days altogether
to come by our planet. The next night
it had become a third the size of the moon before
it set to English eyes, and the thaw was
assured. It rose over America near the size of
the moon, but blinding white to look at, and
hot; and a breath of hot wind blew now with
its rising and gathering strength, and in Virginia,
and Brazil, and down the St. Lawrence
valley, it shone intermittently through a driving
reek of thunder-clouds, flickering violet
lightning, and hail unprecedented. In Manitoba
was a thaw and devastating floods. And
upon all the mountains of the earth the snow[51]
and ice began to melt that night, and all the
rivers coming out of high country flowed thick
and turbid, and soon—in their upper reaches—with
swirling trees and the bodies of beasts
and men. They rose steadily, steadily in the
ghostly brilliance, and came trickling over their
banks at last, behind the flying population of
their valleys.

And along the coast of Argentina and up
the South Atlantic the tides were higher than
had ever been in the memory of man, and the
storms drove the waters in many cases scores
of miles inland, drowning whole cities. And
so great grew the heat during the night that
the rising of the sun was like the coming of a
shadow. The earthquakes began and grew until
all down America from the Arctic Circle to
Cape Horn, hillsides were sliding, fissures were
opening, and houses and walls crumbling to
destruction. The whole side of Cotopaxi
slipped out in one vast convulsion, and a tumult
of lava poured out so high and broad and swift
and liquid that in one day it reached the sea.

So the star, with the wan moon in its wake,
marched across the Pacific, trailed the thunderstorms
like the hem of a robe, and the growing
tidal wave that toiled behind it, frothing and
eager, poured over island and island and swept[52]

them clear of men. Until that wave came at
last—in a blinding light and with the breath
of a furnace, swift and terrible it came—a wall
of water, fifty feet high, roaring hungrily,
upon the long coasts of Asia, and swept inland
across the plains of China. For a space the
star, hotter now and larger and brighter than
the sun in its strength, showed with pitiless
brilliance the wide and populous country;
towns and villages with their pagodas and
trees, roads, wide cultivated fields, millions of
sleepless people staring in helpless terror at
the incandescent sky; and then, low and growing,
came the murmur of the flood. And thus
it was with millions of men that night—a flight
nowhither, with limbs heavy with heat and
breath fierce and scant, and the flood like a wall
swift and white behind. And then death.

China was lit glowing white, but over Japan
and Java and all the islands of Eastern Asia the
great star was a ball of dull red fire because of
the steam and smoke and ashes the volcanoes
were spouting forth to salute its coming.
Above was the lava, hot gases and ash,
and below the seething floods, and the whole
earth swayed and rumbled with the earthquake
shocks. Soon the immemorial snows of Thibet
and the Himalaya were melting and pouring[53]
down by ten million deepening converging
channels upon the plains of Burmah and Hindostan.
The tangled summits of the Indian
jungles were aflame in a thousand places, and
below the hurrying waters around the stems
were dark objects that still struggled feebly
and reflected the blood-red tongues of fire. And
in a rudderless confusion a multitude of men
and women fled down the broad river-ways to
that one last hope of men—the open sea.

Larger grew the star, and larger, hotter, and
brighter with a terrible swiftness now. The
tropical ocean had lost its phosphorescence, and
the whirling steam rose in ghostly wreaths
from the black waves that plunged incessantly,
speckled with storm-tossed ships.

And then came a wonder. It seemed to those
who in Europe watched for the rising of the
star that the world must have ceased its rotation.
In a thousand open spaces of down and
upland the people who had fled thither from
the floods and the falling houses and sliding
slopes of hill watched for that rising in vain.
Hour followed hour through a terrible suspense,
and the star rose not. Once again men
set their eyes upon the old constellations they
had counted lost to them forever. In England
it was hot and clear overhead, though the[54]
ground quivered perpetually, but in the tropics,
Sirius and Capella and Aldebaran showed
through a veil of steam. And when at last the
great star rose near ten hours late, the sun rose
close upon it, and in the centre of its white
heart was a disc of black.

Over Asia it was the star had begun to fall
behind the movement of the sky, and then suddenly,
as it hung over India, its light had been
veiled. All the plain of India from the mouth
of the Indus to the mouths of the Ganges was
a shallow waste of shining water that night,
out of which rose temples and palaces, mounds
and hills, black with people. Every minaret
was a clustering mass of people, who fell one
by one into the turbid waters, as heat and terror
overcame them. The whole land seemed
a-wailing, and suddenly there swept a shadow
across that furnace of despair, and a breath of
cold wind, and a gathering of clouds, out of
the cooling air. Men looking up, near blinded,
at the star, saw that a black disc was creeping
across the light. It was the moon, coming between
the star and the earth. And even as men
cried to God at this respite, out of the East
with a strange inexplicable swiftness sprang
the sun. And then star, sun and moon rushed
together across the heavens.[55]

So it was that presently, to the European
watchers, star and sun rose close upon each
other, drove headlong for a space and then
slower, and at last came to rest, star and sun
merged into one glare of flame at the zenith of
the sky. The moon no longer eclipsed the star
but was lost to sight in the brilliance of the sky.
And though those who were still alive regarded
it for the most part with that dull stupidity that
hunger, fatigue, heat and despair engender,
there were still men who could perceive the
meaning of these signs. Star and earth had
been at their nearest, had swung about one another,
and the star had passed. Already it was
receding, swifter and swifter, in the last stage
of its headlong journey downward into the
sun.

And then the clouds gathered, blotting out
the vision of the sky, the thunder and lightning
wove a garment round the world; all over the
earth was such a downpour of rain as men had
never before seen, and where the volcanoes
flared red against the cloud canopy there descended
torrents of mud. Everywhere the
waters were pouring off the land, leaving mud-silted
ruins, and the earth littered like a storm-worn
beach with all that had floated, and the
dead bodies of the men and brutes, its children.[56]
For days the water streamed off the land,
sweeping away soil and trees and houses in the
way, and piling huge dykes and scooping out
Titanic gullies over the country side. Those
were the days of darkness that followed the
star and the heat. All through them, and for
many weeks and months, the earthquakes continued.

But the star had passed, and men, hunger-driven
and gathering courage only slowly,
might creep back to their ruined cities, buried
granaries, and sodden fields. Such few ships
as had escaped the storms of that time came
stunned and shattered and sounding their way
cautiously through the new marks and shoals
of once familiar ports. And as the storms subsided
men perceived that everywhere the days
were hotter than of yore, and the sun larger,
and the moon, shrunk to a third of its former
size, took now fourscore days between its new
and new.

But of the new brotherhood that grew presently
among men, of the saving of laws and
books and machines, of the strange change that
had come over Iceland and Greenland and the
shores of Baffin’s Bay, so that the sailors coming
there presently found them green and gracious,
and could scarce believe their eyes, this[57]
story does not tell. Nor of the movement of
mankind now that the earth was hotter, northward
and southward towards the poles of the
earth. It concerns itself only with the coming
and the passing of the Star.

The Martian astronomers—for there are astronomers
on Mars, although they are very
different beings from men—were naturally
profoundly interested by these things. They
saw them from their own standpoint of
course. “Considering the mass and temperature
of the missile that was flung through our solar
system into the sun,” one wrote, “it is astonishing
what a little damage the earth, which
it missed so narrowly, has sustained. All the
familiar continental markings and the masses
of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only
difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white
discolouration (supposed to be frozen water)
round either pole.” Which only shows how
small the vastest of human catastrophes may
seem, at a distance of a few million miles.


[59]
A Story of the Stone Age


[61]

A STORY OF THE STONE AGE

I—UGH-LOMI AND UYA

This story is of a time beyond the memory
of man, before the beginning of history, a time
when one might have walked dryshod from
France (as we call it now) to England, and
when a broad and sluggish Thames flowed
through its marshes to meet its father Rhine,
flowing through a wide and level country that
is under water in these latter days, and which
we know by the name of the North Sea. In
that remote age the valley which runs along the
foot of the Downs did not exist, and the south
of Surrey was a range of hills, fir-clad on the
middle slopes, and snow-capped for the better
part of the year. The cores of its summits still
remain as Leith Hill, and Pitch Hill, and Hindhead.
On the lower slopes of the range, below
the grassy spaces where the wild horses grazed,
were forests of yew and sweet-chestnut and
elm, and the thickets and dark places hid the[62]
grizzly bear and the hyæna, and the grey apes
clambered through the branches. And still
lower amidst the woodland and marsh and
open grass along the Wey did this little drama
play itself out to the end that I have to tell.
Fifty thousand years ago it was, fifty thousand
years—if the reckoning of geologists is correct.

And in those days the spring-time was as
joyful as it is now, and sent the blood coursing
in just the same fashion. The afternoon sky
was blue with piled white clouds sailing
through it, and the southwest wind came like a
soft caress. The new-come swallows drove to
and fro. The reaches of the river were spangled
with white ranunculus, the marshy places were
starred with lady’s-smock and lit with marsh-mallow
wherever the regiments of the sedges
lowered their swords, and the northward-moving
hippopotami, shiny black monsters, sporting
clumsily, came floundering and blundering
through it all, rejoicing dimly and possessed
with one clear idea, to splash the river muddy.

Up the river and well in sight of the hippopotami,
a number of little buff-coloured animals
dabbled in the water. There was no fear,
no rivalry, and no enmity between them and
the hippopotami. As the great bulks came
crashing through the reeds and smashed the[63]

mirror of the water into silvery splashes, these
little creatures shouted and gesticulated with
glee. It was the surest sign of high spring.
“Boloo!” they cried. “Baayah. Boloo!” They
were the children of the men folk, the smoke of
whose encampment rose from the knoll at the
river’s bend. Wild-eyed youngsters they were,
with matted hair and little broad-nosed impish
faces, covered (as some children are covered
even nowadays) with a delicate down of hair.
They were narrow in the loins and long in the
arms. And their ears had no lobes, and had little
pointed tips, a thing that still, in rare instances,
survives. Stark-naked vivid little gipsies,
as active as monkeys and as full of chatter,
though a little wanting in words.

Their elders were hidden from the wallowing
hippopotami by the crest of the knoll. The
human squatting-place was a trampled area
among the dead brown fronds of Royal Fern,
through which the crosiers of this year’s
growth were unrolling to the light and
warmth. The fire was a smouldering heap of
char, light grey and black, replenished by the
old women from time to time with brown
leaves. Most of the men were asleep—they
slept sitting with their foreheads on their knees.
They had killed that morning a good quarry,[64]
enough for all, a deer that had been wounded
by hunting dogs; so that there had been no
quarrelling among them, and some of the
women were still gnawing the bones that lay
scattered about. Others were making a heap
of leaves and sticks to feed Brother Fire when
the darkness came again, that he might grow
strong and tall therewith, and guard them
against the beasts. And two were piling flints
that they brought, an armful at a time, from
the bend of the river where the children were at
play.

None of these buff-skinned savages were
clothed, but some wore about their hips rude
girdles of adder-skin or crackling undressed
hide, from which depended little bags, not
made, but torn from the paws of beasts, and
carrying the rudely-dressed flints that were
men’s chief weapons and tools. And one
woman, the mate of Uya the Cunning Man,
wore a wonderful necklace of perforated fossils—that
others had worn before her. Beside
some of the sleeping men lay the big antlers of
the elk, with the tines chipped to sharp edges,
and long sticks, hacked at the ends with flints
into sharp points. There was little else save
these things and the smouldering fire to mark
these human beings off from the wild animals[65]
that ranged the country. But Uya the Cunning
did not sleep, but sat with a bone in his
hand and scraped busily thereon with a flint, a
thing no animal would do. He was the oldest
man in the tribe, beetle-browed, prognathous,
lank-armed; he had a beard and his cheeks
were hairy, and his chest and arms were black
with thick hair. And by virtue both of his
strength and cunning he was master of the
tribe, and his share was always the most and
the best.

Eudena had hidden herself among the alders,
because she was afraid of Uya. She was still a
girl, and her eyes were bright and her smile
pleasant to see. He had given her a piece of the
liver, a man’s piece, and a wonderful treat for
a girl to get; but as she took it the other woman
with the necklace had looked at her, an evil
glance, and Ugh-lomi had made a noise in his
throat. At that, Uya had looked at him long
and steadfastly, and Ugh-lomi’s face had fallen.
And then Uya had looked at her. She was
frightened and she had stolen away, while the
feeding was still going on, and Uya was busy
with the marrow of a bone. Afterwards he had
wandered about as if looking for her. And now
she crouched among the alders, wondering
mightily what Uya might be doing with the[66]

flint and the bone. And Ugh-lomi was not to
be seen.

Presently a squirrel came leaping through
the alders, and she lay so quiet the little man
was within six feet of her before he saw her.
Whereupon he dashed up a stem in a hurry and
began to chatter and scold her. “What are you
doing here,” he asked, “away from the other
men beasts?” “Peace,” said Eudena, but he
only chattered more, and then she began to
break off the little black cones to throw at him.
He dodged and defied her, and she grew excited
and rose up to throw better, and then she
saw Uya coming down the knoll. He had seen
the movement of her pale arm amidst the
thicket—he was very keen-eyed.

At that she forgot the squirrel and set off
through the alders and reeds as fast as she
could go. She did not care where she went so
long as she escaped Uya. She splashed nearly
knee-deep through a swampy place, and saw in
front of her a slope of ferns—growing more
slender and green as they passed up out of
the light into the shade of the young chestnuts.
She was soon amidst the trees—she was
very fleet of foot, and she ran on and on until
the forest was old and the vales great, and the
vines about their stems where the light came[67]
were thick as young trees, and the ropes of ivy
stout and tight. On she went, and she doubled
and doubled again, and then at last lay down
amidst some ferns in a hollow place near a
thicket, and listened with her heart beating in
her ears.

She heard footsteps presently rustling
among the dead leaves, far off, and they died
away and everything was still again, except the
scandalising of the midges—for the evening
was drawing on—and the incessant whisper of
the leaves. She laughed silently to think the
cunning Uya should go by her. She was not
frightened. Sometimes, playing with the other
girls and lads, she had fled into the wood,
though never so far as this. It was pleasant to
be hidden and alone.

She lay a long time there, glad of her escape,
and then she sat up listening.

It was a rapid pattering growing louder and
coming towards her, and in a little while she
could hear grunting noises and the snapping of
twigs. It was a drove of lean grisly wild
swine. She turned about her, for a boar is an
ill fellow to pass too closely, on account of the
sideway slash of his tusks, and she made off
slantingly through the trees. But the patter
came nearer, they were not feeding as they[68]
wandered, but going fast—or else they would
not overtake her—and she caught the limb of a
tree, swung on to it, and ran up the stem with
something of the agility of a monkey.

Down below the sharp bristling backs of the
swine were already passing when she looked.
And she knew the short, sharp grunts they
made meant fear. What were they afraid of?
A man? They were in a great hurry for just a
man.

And then, so suddenly it made her grip on
the branch tighten involuntarily, a fawn started
in the brake and rushed after the swine. Something
else went by, low and grey, with a long
body; she did not know what it was, indeed
she saw it only momentarily through the interstices
of the young leaves; and then there came
a pause.

She remained stiff and expectant, as rigid
almost as though she was a part of the tree she
clung to, peering down.

Then, far away among the trees, clear for a
moment, then hidden, then visible knee-deep
in ferns, then gone again, ran a man. She
knew it was young Ugh-lomi by the fair colour
of his hair, and there was red upon his face.
Somehow his frantic flight and that scarlet
mark made her feel sick. And then nearer, running[69]

heavily and breathing hard, came another
man. At first she could not see, and then she
saw, foreshortened and clear to her, Uya, running
with great strides and his eyes staring.
He was not going after Ugh-lomi. His face was
white. It was Uya—afraid! He passed, and
was still loud hearing, when something else,
something large and with grizzled fur, swinging
along with soft swift strides, came rushing
in pursuit of him.

Eudena suddenly became rigid, ceased to
breathe, her clutch convulsive, and her eyes
starting.

She had never seen the thing before, she did
not even see him clearly now, but she knew
at once it was the Terror of the Woodshade.
His name was a legend, the children would
frighten one another, frighten even themselves
with his name, and run screaming to the squatting-place.
No man had ever killed any of his
kind. Even the mighty mammoth feared his
anger. It was the grizzly bear, the lord of the
world as the world went then.

As he ran he made a continuous growling
grumble. “Men in my very lair! Fighting and
blood. At the very mouth of my lair. Men,
men, men. Fighting and blood.” For he was
the lord of the wood and of the caves.[70]

Long after he had passed she remained, a
girl of stone, staring down through the
branches. All her power of action had gone
from her. She gripped by instinct with hands
and knees and feet. It was some time before
she could think, and then only one thing was
clear in her mind, that the Terror was between
her and the tribe—that it would be impossible
to descend.

Presently when her fear was a little abated
she clambered into a more comfortable position,
where a great branch forked. The trees rose
about her, so that she could see nothing of
Brother Fire, who is black by day. Birds began
to stir, and things that had gone into hiding for
fear of her movements crept out….

After a time the taller branches flamed out at
the touch of the sunset. High overhead the
rooks, who were wiser than men, went cawing
home to their squatting-places among the elms.
Looking down, things were clearer and darker.
Eudena thought of going back to the squatting-place;
she let herself down some way, and then
the fear of the Terror of the Woodshade came
again. While she hesitated a rabbit squealed
dismally, and she dared not descend farther.

The shadows gathered, and the deeps of the
forest began stirring. Eudena went up the tree[71]
again to be nearer the light. Down below the
shadows came out of their hiding-places and
walked abroad. Overhead the blue deepened.
A dreadful stillness came, and then the leaves
began whispering.

Eudena shivered and thought of Brother
Fire.

The shadows now were gathering in the
trees, they sat on the branches and watched her.
Branches and leaves were turned to ominous,
quiet black shapes that would spring on her if
she stirred. Then the white owl, flitting silently,
came ghostly through the shades.
Darker grew the world and darker, until the
leaves and twigs against the sky were black,
and the ground was hidden.

She remained there all night, an age-long
vigil, straining her ears for the things that
went on below in the darkness, and keeping
motionless lest some stealthy beast should discover
her. Man in those days was never alone
in the dark, save for such rare accidents as this.
Age after age he had learnt the lesson of its
terror—a lesson we poor children of his have
nowadays painfully to unlearn. Eudena,
though in age a woman, was in heart like a little
child. She kept as still, poor little animal, as
a hare before it is started.[72]

The stars gathered and watched her—her
one grain of comfort. In one bright one she
fancied there was something like Ugh-lomi.
Then she fancied it was Ugh-lomi. And near
him, red and duller, was Uya, and as the night
passed Ugh-lomi fled before him up the sky.

She tried to see Brother Fire, who guarded
the squatting-place from beasts, but he was not
in sight. And far away she heard the mammoths
trumpeting as they went down to the
drinking-place, and once some huge bulk with
heavy paces hurried along, making a noise like
a calf, but what it was she could not see. But
she thought from the voice it was Yaaa the
rhinoceros, who stabs with his nose, goes always
alone, and rages without cause.

At last the little stars began to hide, and then
the larger ones. It was like all the animals
vanishing before the Terror. The Sun was
coming, lord of the sky, as the grizzly was lord
of the forest. Eudena wondered what would
happen if one star stayed behind. And then
the sky paled to the dawn.

When the daylight came the fear of lurking
things passed, and she could descend. She was
stiff, but not so stiff as you would have been,
dear young lady (by virtue of your upbringing),
and as she had not been trained to eat at[73]
least once in three hours, but instead had often
fasted three days, she did not feel uncomfortably
hungry. She crept down the tree very cautiously,
and went her way stealthily through the
wood, and not a squirrel sprang or deer started
but the terror of the grizzly bear froze her marrow.

Her desire was now to find her people again.
Her dread of Uya the Cunning was consumed
by a greater dread of loneliness. But she had
lost her direction. She had run heedlessly
overnight, and she could not tell whether the
squatting-place was sunward or where it lay.
Ever and again she stopped and listened, and
at last, very far away, she heard a measured
chinking. It was so faint even in the morning
stillness that she could tell it must be far away.
But she knew the sound was that of a man
sharpening a flint.

Presently the trees began to thin out, and
then came a regiment of nettles barring the
way. She turned aside, and then she came to a
fallen tree that she knew, with a noise of bees
about it. And so presently she was in sight of
the knoll, very far off, and the river under it,
and the children and the hippopotami just as
they had been yesterday, and the thin spire of
smoke swaying in the morning breeze. Far[74]
away by the river was the cluster of alders
where she had hidden. And at the sight of that
the fear of Uya returned, and she crept into a
thicket of bracken, out of which a rabbit scuttled,
and lay awhile to watch the squatting-place.

The men were mostly out of sight, saving
Wau, the flint-chopper; and at that she felt
safer. They were away hunting food, no
doubt. Some of the women, too, were down in
the stream, stooping intent, seeking mussels,
crayfish, and water-snails, and at the sight of
their occupation Eudena felt hungry. She rose,
and ran through the fern, designing to join
them. As she went she heard a voice among
the bracken calling softly. She stopped. Then
suddenly she heard a rustle behind her, and
turning, saw Ugh-lomi rising out of the fern.
There were streaks of brown blood and dirt on
his face, and his eyes were fierce, and the white
stone of Uya, the white Fire Stone, that none
but Uya dared to touch, was in his hand. In a
stride he was beside her, and gripped her arm.
He swung her about, and thrust her before him
towards the woods. “Uya,” he said, and waved
his arms about. She heard a cry, looked back,
and saw all the women standing up, and two
wading out of the stream. Then came a nearer[75]

howling, and the old woman with the beard,
who watched the fire on the knoll, was waving
her arms, and Wau, the man who had been
chipping the flint, was getting to his feet. The
little children too were hurrying and shouting.

“Come!” said Ugh-lomi, and dragged her by
the arm.

She still did not understand.

“Uya has called the death word,” said Ugh-lomi,
and she glanced back at the screaming
curve of figures, and understood.

Wau and all the women and children were
coming towards them, a scattered array of buff
shock-headed figures, howling, leaping, and
crying. Over the knoll two youths hurried.
Down among the ferns to the right came a
man, heading them off from the wood. Ugh-lomi
left her arm, and the two began running
side by side, leaping the bracken and stepping
clear and wide. Eudena, knowing her fleetness
and the fleetness of Ugh-lomi, laughed aloud at
the unequal chase. They were an exceptionally
straight-limbed couple for those days.

They soon cleared the open, and drew near
the wood of chestnut-trees again—neither
afraid now because neither was alone. They
slackened their pace, already not excessive. And
suddenly Eudena cried and swerved aside,[76]

pointing, and looking up through the tree-stems.
Ugh-lomi saw the feet and legs of men
running towards him. Eudena was already
running off at a tangent. And as he too turned
to follow her they heard the voice of Uya coming
through the trees, and roaring out his rage
at them.

Then terror came in their hearts, not the terror
that numbs, but the terror that makes one
silent and swift. They were cut off now on two
sides. They were in a sort of corner of pursuit.
On the right hand, and near by them, came the
men swift and heavy, with bearded Uya, antler
in hand, leading them; and on the left, scattered
as one scatters corn, yellow dashes among
the fern and grass, ran Wau and the women;
and even the little children from the shallow
had joined the chase. The two parties converged
upon them. Off they went, with Eudena
ahead.

They knew there was no mercy for them.
There was no hunting so sweet to these ancient
men as the hunting of men. Once the fierce passion
of the chase was lit, the feeble beginnings
of humanity in them were thrown to the winds.
And Uya in the night had marked Ugh-lomi
with the death word. Ugh-lomi was the day’s
quarry, the appointed feast.[77]

They ran straight—it was their only chance—taking
whatever ground came in the way—a
spread of stinging nettles, an open glade, a
clump of grass out of which a hyæna fled snarling.
Then woods again, long stretches of
shady leaf-mould and moss under the green
trunks. Then a stiff slope, tree-clad, and long
vistas of trees, a glade, a succulent green area
of black mud, a wide open space again, and
then a clump of lacerating brambles, with beast
tracks through it. Behind them the chase
trailed out and scattered, with Uya ever at their
heels. Eudena kept the first place, running
light and with her breath easy, for Ugh-lomi
carried the Fire Stone in his hand.

It told on his pace—not at first, but after a
time. His footsteps behind her suddenly grew
remote. Glancing over her shoulder as they
crossed another open space, Eudena saw that
Ugh-lomi was many yards behind her, and
Uya close upon him, with antler already raised
in the air to strike him down. Wau and the
others were but just emerging from the
shadow of the woods.

Seeing Ugh-lomi in peril, Eudena ran sideways,
looking back, threw up her arms and
cried aloud, just as the antler flew. And young
Ugh-lomi, expecting this and understanding[78]

her cry, ducked his head, so that the missile
merely struck his scalp lightly, making but a
trivial wound, and flew over him. He turned
forthwith, the quartzite Fire Stone in both
hands, and hurled it straight at Uya’s body as
he ran loose from the throw. Uya shouted, but
could not dodge it. It took him under the ribs,
heavy and flat, and he reeled and went down
without a cry. Ugh-lomi caught up the antler—one
tine of it was tipped with his own blood—and
came running on again with a red trickle
just coming out of his hair.

Uya rolled over twice, and lay a moment before
he got up, and then he did not run fast.
The colour of his face was changed. Wau overtook
him, and then others, and he coughed and
laboured in his breath. But he kept on.

At last the two fugitives gained the bank of
the river, where the stream ran deep and narrow,
and they still had fifty yards in hand of
Wau, the foremost pursuer, the man who made
the smiting-stones. He carried one, a large flint,
the shape of an oyster and double the size,
chipped to a chisel edge, in either hand.

They sprang down the steep bank into the
stream, rushed through the water, swam the
deep current in two or three strokes, and came
out wading again, dripping and refreshed, to[79]
clamber up the farther bank. It was undermined,
and with willows growing thickly
therefrom, so that it needed clambering. And
while Eudena was still among the silvery
branches and Ugh-lomi still in the water—for
the antler had encumbered him—Wau came
up against the sky on the opposite bank, and
the smiting-stone, thrown cunningly, took the
side of Eudena’s knee. She struggled to the
top and fell.

They heard the pursuers shout to one another,
and Ugh-lomi climbing to her and moving
jerkily to mar Wau’s aim, felt the second
smiting-stone graze his ear, and heard the
water splash below him.

Then it was Ugh-lomi, the stripling, proved
himself to have come to man’s estate. For running
on, he found Eudena fell behind, limping,
and at that he turned, and crying savagely and
with a face terrible with sudden wrath and
trickling blood, ran swiftly past her back to the
bank, whirling the antler round his head. And
Eudena kept on, running stoutly still, though
she must needs limp at every step, and the pain
was already sharp.

So that Wau, rising over the edge and
clutching the straight willow branches, saw
Ugh-lomi towering over him, gigantic against[80]
the blue; saw his whole body swing round, and
the grip of his hands upon the antler. The edge
of the antler came sweeping through the air,
and he saw no more. The water under the
osiers whirled and eddied and went crimson
six feet down the stream. Uya following
stopped knee-high across the stream, and the
man who was swimming turned about.

The other men who trailed after—they were
none of them very mighty men (for Uya was
more cunning than strong, brooking no sturdy
rivals)—slackened momentarily at the sight of
Ugh-lomi standing there above the willows,
bloody and terrible, between them and the halting
girl, with the huge antler waving in his
hand. It seemed as though he had gone into the
water a youth, and come out of it a man full
grown.

He knew what there was behind him. A
broad stretch of grass, and then a thicket, and
in that Eudena could hide. That was clear in
his mind, though his thinking powers were too
feeble to see what should happen thereafter.
Uya stood knee-deep, undecided and unarmed.
His heavy mouth hung open, showing his canine
teeth, and he panted heavily. His side was
flushed and bruised under the hair. The other
man beside him carried a sharpened stick. The[81]
rest of the hunters came up one by one to the
top of the bank, hairy, long-armed men clutching
flints and sticks. Two ran off along the
bank down stream, and then clambered to the
water, where Wau had come to the surface
struggling weakly. Before they could reach
him he went under again. Two others threatened
Ugh-lomi from the bank.

He answered back, shouts, vague insults,
gestures. Then Uya, who had been hesitating,
roared with rage, and whirling his fists plunged
into the water. His followers splashed after
him.

Ugh-lomi glanced over his shoulder and
found Eudena already vanished into the
thicket. He would perhaps have waited for
Uya, but Uya preferred to spar in the water
below him until the others were beside him.
Human tactics in those days, in all serious
fighting, were the tactics of the pack. Prey that
turned at bay they gathered around and rushed.
Ugh-lomi felt the rush coming, and hurling
the antler at Uya, turned about and fled.

When he halted to look back from the
shadow of the thicket, he found only three of
his pursuers had followed him across the river,
and they were going back again. Uya, with a
bleeding mouth, was on the farther side of the[82]
stream again, but lower down, and holding his
hand to his side. The others were in the river
dragging something to shore. For a time at
least the chase was intermitted.

Ugh-lomi stood watching for a space, and
snarled at the sight of Uya. Then he turned
and plunged into the thicket.

In a minute, Eudena came hastening to join
him, and they went on hand in hand. He dimly
perceived the pain she suffered from the cut
and bruised knee, and chose the easier ways.
But they went on all that day, mile after mile,
through wood and thicket, until at last they
came to the chalkland, open grass with rare
woods of beech, and the birch growing near
water, and they saw the Wealden mountains
nearer, and groups of horses grazing together.
They went circumspectly, keeping always near
thicket and cover, for this was a strange region—even
its ways were strange. Steadily the
ground rose, until the chestnut forests spread
wide and blue below them, and the Thames
marshes shone silvery, high and far. They saw
no men, for in those days men were still only
just come into this part of the world, and were
moving but slowly along the river-ways.
Towards evening they came on the river again,
but now it ran in a gorge, between high cliffs of[83]

white chalk that sometimes overhung it. Down
the cliffs was a scrub of birches and there were
many birds there. And high up the cliff was a
little shelf by a tree, whereon they clambered to
pass the night.

They had had scarcely any food; it was not
the time of year for berries, and they had no
time to go aside to snare or waylay. They
tramped in a hungry weary silence, gnawing at
twigs and leaves. But over the surface of the
cliffs were a multitude of snails, and in a bush
were the freshly laid eggs of a little bird, and
then Ugh-lomi threw at and killed a squirrel
in a beech-tree, so that at last they fed well.
Ugh-lomi watched during the night, his chin
on his knees; and he heard young foxes crying
hard by, and the noise of mammoths down the
gorge, and the hyænas yelling and laughing far
away. It was chilly, but they dared not light a
fire. Whenever he dozed, his spirit went
abroad, and straightway met with the spirit of
Uya, and they fought. And always Ugh-lomi
was paralysed so that he could not smite nor
run, and then he would awake suddenly. Eudena,
too, dreamt evil things of Uya, so that
they both awoke with the fear of him in their
hearts, and by the light of the dawn they saw a[84]
woolly rhinoceros go blundering down the valley.

During the day they caressed one another
and were glad of the sunshine, and Eudena’s
leg was so stiff she sat on the ledge all day.
Ugh-lomi found great flints sticking out of the
cliff face, greater than any he had seen, and he
dragged some to the ledge and began chipping,
so as to be armed against Uya when he came
again. And at one he laughed heartily, and
Eudena laughed, and they threw it about in derision.
It had a hole in it. They stuck their
fingers through it, it was very funny indeed.
Then they peeped at one another through it.
Afterwards, Ugh-lomi got himself a stick, and
thrusting by chance at this foolish flint, the
stick went in and stuck there. He had rammed
it in too tightly to withdraw it. That was still
stranger—scarcely funny, terrible almost, and
for a time Ugh-lomi did not greatly care to
touch the thing. It was as if the flint had bit
and held with its teeth. But then he got familiar
with the odd combination. He swung it
about, and perceived that the stick with
the heavy stone on the end struck a better blow
than anything he knew. He went to and fro
swinging it, and striking with it; but later he
tired of it and threw it aside. In the afternoon[85]
he went up over the brow of the white cliff, and
lay watching by a rabbit-warren until the rabbits
came out to play. There were no men
thereabouts, and the rabbits were heedless. He
threw a smiting-stone he had made and got a
kill.

That night they made a fire from flint sparks
and bracken fronds, and talked and caressed by
it. And in their sleep Uya’s spirit came again,
and suddenly, while Ugh-lomi was trying to
fight vainly, the foolish flint on the stick came
into his hand, and he struck Uya with it, and
behold! it killed him. But afterwards came
other dreams of Uya—for spirits take a lot of
killing, and he had to be killed again. Then
after that the stone would not keep on the
stick. He awoke tired and rather gloomy, and
was sulky all the forenoon, in spite of Eudena’s
kindliness, and instead of hunting he sat chipping
a sharp edge to the singular flint, and
looking strangely at her. Then he bound the
perforated flint on to the stick with strips of
rabbit skin. And afterwards he walked up and
down the ledge, striking with it, and muttering
to himself, and thinking of Uya. It felt very
fine and heavy in the hand.

Several days, more than there was any
counting in those days, five days, it may be, or[86]
six, did Ugh-lomi and Eudena stay on that
shelf in the gorge of the river, and they lost
all fear of men, and their fire burnt redly of a
night. And they were very merry together;
there was food every day, sweet water, and no
enemies. Eudena’s knee was well in a couple
of days, for those ancient savages had quick-healing
flesh. Indeed, they were very happy.

On one of those days Ugh-lomi dropped a
chunk of flint over the cliff. He saw it fall, and
go bounding across the river bank into the river,
and after laughing and thinking it over a little
he tried another. This smashed a bush of hazel
in the most interesting way. They spent all the
morning dropping stones from the ledge, and
in the afternoon they discovered this new and
interesting pastime was also possible from the
cliffbrow. The next day they had forgotten
this delight. Or at least, it seemed they had
forgotten.

But Uya came in dreams to spoil the paradise.
Three nights he came fighting Ugh-lomi.
In the morning after these dreams Ugh-lomi
would walk up and down, threatening him and
swinging the axe, and at last came the night
after Ugh-lomi brained the otter, and they had
feasted. Uya went too far. Ugh-lomi awoke,
scowling under his heavy brows, and he took
his axe, and extending his hand towards Eudena[87]
he bade her wait for him upon the ledge.
Then he clambered down the white declivity,
glanced up once from the foot of it and flourished
his axe, and without looking back again
went striding along the river bank until the
overhanging cliff at the bend hid him.

Two days and nights did Eudena sit alone by
the fire on the ledge waiting, and in the night
the beasts howled over the cliffs and down the
valley, and on the cliff over against her the
hunched hyænas prowled black against the sky.
But no evil thing came near her save fear.
Once, far away, she heard the roaring of a lion,
following the horses as they came northward
over the grass lands with the spring. All that
time she waited—the waiting that is pain.

And the third day Ugh-lomi came back, up
the river. The plumes of a raven were in his
hair. The first axe was red-stained, and had
long dark hairs upon it, and he carried the
necklace that had marked the favourite of Uya
in his hand. He walked in the soft places, giving
no heed to his trail. Save a raw cut below
his jaw there was not a wound upon him.
“Uya!” cried Ugh-lomi exultant, and Eudena
saw it was well. He put the necklace on Eudena,
and they ate and drank together. And
after eating he began to rehearse the whole[88]
story from the beginning, when Uya had cast
his eyes on Eudena, and Uya and Ugh-lomi,
fighting in the forest, had been chased by the
bear, eking out his scanty words with abundant
pantomime, springing to his feet and whirling
the stone axe round when it came to the fighting.
The last fight was a mighty one, stamping
and shouting, and once a blow at the fire
that sent a torrent of sparks up into the night.
And Eudena sat red in the light of the fire,
gloating on him, her face flushed and her eyes
shining, and the necklace Uya had made about
her neck. It was a splendid time, and the stars
that look down on us looked down on her, our
ancestor—who has been dead now these fifty
thousand years.

II—THE CAVE BEAR

In the days when Eudena and Ugh-lomi fled
from the people of Uya towards the fir-clad
mountains of the Weald, across the forests of
sweet chestnut and the grass-clad chalkland,
and hid themselves at last in the gorge of the
river between the chalk cliffs, men were few
and their squatting-places far between. The
nearest men to them were those of the tribe, a
full day’s journey down the river, and up the
mountains there were none. Man was indeed a[89]
newcomer to this part of the world in that ancient
time, coming slowly along the rivers, generation
after generation, from one squatting-place
to another, from the south-westward.
And the animals that held the land, the hippopotamus
and rhinoceros of the river valleys,
the horses of the grass plains, the deer and
swine of the woods, the grey apes in the
branches, the cattle of the uplands, feared him
but little—let alone the mammoths in the
mountains and the elephants that came through
the land in the summer-time out of the south.
For why should they fear him, with but the
rough, chipped flints that he had not learnt to
haft and which he threw but ill, and the poor
spear of sharpened wood, as all the weapons
he had against hoof and horn, tooth and claw?

Andoo, the huge cave bear, who lived in the
cave up the gorge, had never even seen a man
in all his wise and respectable life, until midway
through one night, as he was prowling
down the gorge along the cliff edge, he saw the
glare of Eudena’s fire upon the ledge, and Eudena
red and shining, and Ugh-lomi, with a gigantic
shadow mocking him upon the white
cliff, going to and fro, shaking his mane of
hair, and waving the axe of stone—the first axe
of stone—while he chanted of the killing of[90]
Uya. The cave bear was far up the gorge, and
he saw the thing slanting-ways and far off. He
was so surprised he stood quite still upon the
edge, sniffing the novel odour of burning
bracken, and wondering whether the dawn was
coming up in the wrong place.

He was the lord of the rocks and caves, was
the cave bear, as his slighter brother, the grizzly,
was lord of the thick woods below, and as
the dappled lion—the lion of those days was
dappled—was lord of the thorn-thickets, reed-beds,
and open plains. He was the greatest of
all meat-eaters; he knew no fear, none preyed
on him, and none gave him battle; only the rhinoceros
was beyond his strength. Even the
mammoth shunned his country. This invasion
perplexed him. He noticed these new beasts
were shaped like monkeys, and sparsely hairy
like young pigs. “Monkey and young pig,”
said the cave bear. “It might not be so bad.
But that red thing that jumps, and the black
thing jumping with it yonder! Never in my
life have I seen such things before!”

He came slowly along the brow of the cliff
towards them, stopping thrice to sniff and peer,
and the reek of the fire grew stronger. A
couple of hyænas also were so intent upon the
thing below that Andoo, coming soft and easy,[91]
was close upon them before they knew of him
or he of them. They started guiltily and went
lurching off. Coming round in a wheel, a hundred
yards off, they began yelling and calling
him names to revenge themselves for the start
they had had. “Ya-ha!” they cried. “Who
can’t grub his own burrow? Who eats roots
like a pig?… Ya-ha!” for even in those
days the hyæna’s manners were just as offensive
as they are now.

“Who answers the hyæna?” growled Andoo,
peering through the midnight dimness at them,
and then going to look at the cliff edge.

There was Ugh-lomi still telling his story,
and the fire getting low, and the scent of the
burning hot and strong.

Andoo stood on the edge of the chalk cliff for
some time, shifting his vast weight from foot
to foot, and swaying his head to and fro, with
his mouth open, his ears erect and twitching,
and the nostrils of his big, black muzzle
sniffing. He was very curious, was the cave
bear, more curious than any of the bears that
live now, and the flickering fire and the incomprehensible
movements of the man, let alone
the intrusion into his indisputable province,
stirred him with a sense of strange new happenings.
He had been after red deer fawn that[92]
night, for the cave bear was a miscellaneous
hunter, but this quite turned him from that enterprise.

“Ya-ha!” yelled the hyænas behind. “Ya-ha-ha!”

Peering through the starlight, Andoo saw
there were now three or four going to and fro
against the grey hillside. “They will hang
about me now all the night … until I
kill,” said Andoo. “Filth of the world!” And
mainly to annoy them, he resolved to watch the
red flicker in the gorge until the dawn came to
drive the hyæna scum home. And after a time
they vanished, and he heard their voices, like a
party of Cockney beanfeasters, away in the
beechwoods. Then they came slinking near
again. Andoo yawned and went on along the
cliff, and they followed. Then he stopped and
went back.

It was a splendid night, beset with shining
constellations, the same stars, but not the same
constellations we know, for since those days all
the stars have had time to move into new
places. Far away across the open space beyond
where the heavy-shouldered, lean-bodied
hyænas blundered and howled, was a beechwood,
and the mountain slopes rose beyond, a
dim mystery, until their snow-capped summits[93]

came out white and cold and clear, touched by
the first rays of the yet unseen moon. It was a
vast silence, save when the yell of the hyænas
flung a vanishing discordance across its peace,
or when from down the hills the trumpeting of
the new-come elephants came faintly on the
faint breeze. And below now, the red flicker
had dwindled and was steady, and shone a
deeper red, and Ugh-lomi had finished his story
and was preparing to sleep, and Eudena sat and
listened to the strange voices of unknown
beasts, and watched the dark eastern sky growing
deeply luminous at the advent of the moon.
Down below, the river talked to itself, and
things unseen went to and fro.

After a time the bear went away, but in an
hour he was back again. Then, as if struck by
a thought, he turned, and went up the
gorge….

The night passed, and Ugh-lomi slept on.
The waning moon rose and lit the gaunt
white cliff overhead with a light that was pale
and vague. The gorge remained in a deeper
shadow and seemed all the darker. Then by
imperceptible degrees, the day came stealing in
the wake of the moonlight. Eudena’s eyes wandered
to the cliff brow overhead once, and then
again. Each time the line was sharp and clear[94]
against the sky, and yet she had a dim perception
of something lurking there. The red of
the fire grew deeper and deeper, grey scales
spread upon it, its vertical column of smoke became
more and more visible, and up and down
the gorge things that had been unseen grew
clear in a colourless illumination. She may
have dozed.

Suddenly she started up from her squatting
position, erect and alert, scrutinising the cliff
up and down.

She made the faintest sound, and Ugh-lomi
too, light-sleeping like an animal, was instantly
awake. He caught up his axe and came noiselessly
to her side.

The light was still dim, the world now all in
black and dark grey, and one sickly star still
lingered overhead. The ledge they were on was
a little grassy space, six feet wide, perhaps, and
twenty feet long, sloping outwardly, and with
a handful of St. John’s wort growing near the
edge. Below it the soft, white rock fell away in
a steep slope of nearly fifty feet to the thick
bush of hazel that fringed the river. Down the
river this slope increased, until some way off a
thin grass held its own right up to the crest of
the cliff. Overhead, forty or fifty feet of rock
bulged into the great masses characteristic of[95]
chalk, but at the end of the ledge a gully, a precipitous
groove of discoloured rock, slashed
the face of the cliff, and gave a footing to a
scrubby growth, by which Eudena and Ugh-lomi
went up and down.

They stood as noiseless as startled deer, with
every sense expectant. For a minute they heard
nothing, and then came a faint rattling of dust
down the gully, and the creaking of twigs.

Ugh-lomi gripped his axe, and went to the
edge of the ledge, for the bulge of the chalk
overhead had hidden the upper part of the
gully. And forthwith, with a sudden contraction
of the heart, he saw the cave bear half-way
down from the brow, and making a gingerly
backward step with his flat hind-foot. His
hind-quarters were towards Ugh-lomi, and he
clawed at the rocks and bushes so that he
seemed flattened against the cliff. He looked
none the less for that. From his shining snout
to his stumpy tail he was a lion and a half, the
length of two tall men. He looked over his
shoulder, and his huge mouth was open with
the exertion of holding up his great carcase,
and his tongue lay out….

He got his footing, and came down slowly, a
yard nearer.[96]

“Bear,” said Ugh-lomi, looking round with
his face white.

But Eudena, with terror in her eyes, was
pointing down the cliff.

Ugh-lomi’s mouth fell open. For down below,
with her big fore-feet against the rock,
stood another big brown-grey bulk—the she-bear.
She was not so big as Andoo, but she
was big enough for all that.

Then suddenly Ugh-lomi gave a cry, and
catching up a handful of the litter of ferns that
lay scattered on the ledge, he thrust it into the
pallid ash of the fire. “Brother Fire!” he cried,
“Brother Fire!” And Eudena, starting into
activity, did likewise. “Brother Fire! Help,
help! Brother Fire!”

Brother Fire was still red in his heart, but
he turned to grey as they scattered him.
“Brother Fire!” they screamed. But he whispered
and passed, and there was nothing but
ashes. Then Ugh-lomi danced with anger and
struck the ashes with his fist. But Eudena began
to hammer the firestone against a flint.
And the eyes of each were turning ever and
again towards the gully by which Andoo was
climbing down. Brother Fire!

Suddenly the huge furry hind-quarters of
the bear came into view, beneath the bulge of[97]

the chalk that had hidden him. He was still
clambering gingerly down the nearly vertical
surface. His head was yet out of sight, but
they could hear him talking to himself. “Pig
and monkey,” said the cave bear. “It ought to
be good.”

Eudena struck a spark and blew at it; it
twinkled brighter and then—went out. At that
she cast down flint and firestone and stared
blankly. Then she sprang to her feet and
scrambled a yard or so up the cliff above
the ledge. How she hung on even for a moment
I do not know, for the chalk was vertical
and without grip for a monkey. In a couple of
seconds she had slid back to the ledge again
with bleeding hands.

Ugh-lomi was making frantic rushes about
the ledge—now he would go to the edge, now
to the gully. He did not know what to do, he
could not think. The she-bear looked smaller
than her mate—much. If they rushed down
on her together, one might live. “Ugh?” said
the cave bear, and Ugh-lomi turned again and
saw his little eyes peering under the bulge of
the chalk.

Eudena, cowering at the end of the ledge,
began to scream like a gripped rabbit.

At that a sort of madness came upon Ugh-lomi.[98]

With a mighty cry, he caught up his axe
and ran towards Andoo. The monster gave a
grunt of surprise. In a moment Ugh-lomi was
clinging to a bush right underneath the bear,
and in another he was hanging to its back half
buried in fur, with one fist clutched in the hair
under its jaw. The bear was too astonished at
this fantastic attack to do more than cling
passive. And then the axe, the first of all axes,
rang on its skull.

The bear’s head twisted from side to side,
and he began a petulant scolding growl. The
axe bit within an inch of the left eye, and the
hot blood blinded that side. At that the brute
roared with surprise and anger, and his teeth
gnashed six inches from Ugh-lomi’s face. Then
the axe, clubbed close, came down heavily on
the corner of the jaw.

The next blow blinded the right side and
called forth a roar, this time of pain. Eudena
saw the huge, flat feet slipping and sliding, and
suddenly the bear gave a clumsy leap sideways,
as if for the ledge. Then everything vanished,
and the hazels smashed, and a roar of pain and
a tumult of shouts and growls came up from
far below.

Eudena screamed and ran to the edge and
peered over. For a moment, man and bears[99]
were a heap together, Ugh-lomi uppermost;
and then he had sprung clear and was scaling
the gully again, with the bears rolling and
striking at one another among the hazels. But
he had left his axe below, and three knob-ended
streaks of carmine were shooting down his
thigh. “Up!” he cried, and in a moment Eudena
was leading the way to the top of the cliff.

In half a minute they were at the crest, their
hearts pumping noisily, with Andoo and his
wife far and safe below them. Andoo was sitting
on his haunches, both paws at work, trying
with quick exasperated movements to wipe
the blindness out of his eyes, and the she-bear
stood on all-fours a little way off, ruffled in appearance
and growling angrily. Ugh-lomi
flung himself flat on the grass, and lay panting
and bleeding with his face on his arms.

For a second Eudena regarded the bears,
then she came and sat beside him, looking at
him….

Presently she put forth her hand timidly and
touched him, and made the guttural sound that
was his name. He turned over and raised himself
on his arm. His face was pale, like the
face of one who is afraid. He looked at her
steadfastly for a moment, and then suddenly he
laughed. “Waugh!” he said exultantly.[100]

“Waugh!” said she—a simple but expressive
conversation.

Then Ugh-lomi came and knelt beside her,
and on hands and knees peered over the brow
and examined the gorge. His breath was
steady now, and the blood on his leg had ceased
to flow, though the scratches the she-bear had
made were open and wide. He squatted up and
sat staring at the footmarks of the great bear
as they came to the gully—they were as wide
as his head and twice as long. Then he jumped
up and went along the cliff face until the ledge
was visible. Here he sat down for some time
thinking, while Eudena watched him. Presently
she saw the bears had gone.

At last Ugh-lomi rose, as one whose mind
is made up. He returned towards the gully,
Eudena keeping close by him, and together they
clambered to the ledge. They took the firestone
and a flint, and then Ugh-lomi went down to
the foot of the cliff very cautiously, and found
his axe. They returned to the cliff as quietly
as they could, and set off at a brisk walk. The
ledge was a home no longer, with such callers
in the neighbourhood. Ugh-lomi carried the
axe and Eudena the firestone. So simple was
a Palæolithic removal.

They went up-stream, although it might lead[101]
to the very lair of the cave bear, because there
was no other way to go. Down the stream
was the tribe, and had not Ugh-lomi killed Uya
and Wau? By the stream they had to keep—because
of drinking.

So they marched through beech trees, with
the gorge deepening until the river flowed, a
frothing rapid, five hundred feet below them.
Of all the changeful things in this world
of change, the courses of rivers in deep valleys
change least. It was the river Wey, the river
we know to-day, and they marched over the
very spots where nowadays stand little Guildford
and Godalming—the first human beings
to come into the land. Once a grey ape chattered
and vanished, and all along the cliff edge,
vast and even, ran the spoor of the great cave
bear.

And then the spoor of the bear fell away
from the cliff, showing, Ugh-lomi thought,
that he came from some place to the left, and
keeping to the cliff’s edge, they presently came
to an end. They found themselves looking
down on a great semi-circular space caused by
the collapse of the cliff. It had smashed right
across the gorge, banking the up-stream water
back in a pool which overflowed in a rapid. The
slip had happened long ago. It was grassed[102]
over, but the face of the cliffs that stood about
the semicircle was still almost fresh-looking
and white as on the day when the rock must
have broken and slid down. Starkly exposed
and black under the foot of these cliffs were the
mouths of several caves. And as they stood
there, looking at the space, and disinclined to
skirt it, because they thought the bears’ lair lay
somewhere on the left in the direction they must
needs take, they saw suddenly first one bear and
then two coming up the grass slope to the right
and going across the amphitheatre towards the
caves. Andoo was first; he dropped a little
on his fore-foot and his mien was despondent,
and the she-bear came shuffling behind.

Eudena and Ugh-lomi stepped back from the
cliff until they could just see the bears over the
verge. Then Ugh-lomi stopped. Eudena pulled
his arm, but he turned with a forbidding
gesture, and her hand dropped. Ugh-lomi stood
watching the bears, with his axe in his hand,
until they had vanished into the cave. He
growled softly, and shook the axe at the she-bear’s
receding quarters. Then to Eudena’s terror,
instead of creeping off with her, he lay flat
down and crawled forward into such a position
that he could just see the cave. It was bears—and[103]

he did it as calmly as if it had been rabbits
he was watching!

He lay still, like a barked log, sun-dappled,
in the shadow of the trees. He was thinking.
And Eudena had learnt, even when a little girl,
that when Ugh-lomi became still like that, jaw-bone
on fist, novel things presently began to
happen.

It was an hour before the thinking was over;
it was noon when the two little savages had
found their way to the cliff brow that overhung
the bears’ cave. And all the long afternoon
they fought desperately with a great boulder
of chalk; trundling it, with nothing but their
unaided sturdy muscles, from the gully where
it had hung like a loose tooth, towards the cliff
top. It was full two yards about, it stood as
high as Eudena’s waist, it was obtuse-angled
and toothed with flints. And when the sun set
it was poised, three inches from the edge, above
the cave of the great cave bear.

In the cave conversation languished during
that afternoon. The she-bear snoozed sulkily
in her corner—for she was fond of pig and
monkey—and Andoo was busy licking the side
of his paw and smearing his face to cool the
smart and inflammation of his wounds. Afterwards
he went and sat just within the mouth[104]
of the cave, blinking out at the afternoon sun
with his uninjured eye, and thinking.

“I never was so startled in my life,” he said
at last. “They are the most extraordinary
beasts. Attacking me!”

“I don’t like them,” said the she-bear, out of
the darkness behind.

“A feebler sort of beast I never saw. I can’t
think what the world is coming to. Scraggy,
weedy legs…. Wonder how they
keep warm in winter?”

“Very likely they don’t,” said the she-bear.

“I suppose it’s a sort of monkey gone
wrong.”

“It’s a change,” said the she-bear.

A pause.

“The advantage he had was merely accidental,”
said Andoo. “These things will happen
at times.”

I can’t understand why you let go,” said
the she-bear.

That matter had been discussed before, and
settled. So Andoo, being a bear of experience,
remained silent for a space. Then he resumed
upon a different aspect of the matter. “He has
a sort of claw—a long claw that he seemed to
have first on one paw and then on the other.
Just one claw. They’re very odd things. The[105]

bright thing, too, they seemed to have—like
that glare that comes in the sky in daytime—only
it jumps about—it’s really worth seeing.
It’s a thing with a root, too—like grass when it
is windy.”

“Does it bite?” asked the she-bear. “If it
bites it can’t be a plant.”

“No——I don’t know,” said Andoo. “But
it’s curious, anyhow.”

“I wonder if they are good eating?” said the
she-bear.

“They look it,” said Andoo, with appetite—for
the cave bear, like the polar bear, was an
incurable carnivore—no roots or honey for
him.

The two bears fell into a meditation for a
space. Then Andoo resumed his simple attentions
to his eye. The sunlight up the green
slope before the cave mouth grew warmer in
tone and warmer, until it was a ruddy amber.

“Curious sort of thing—day,” said the cave
bear. “Lot too much of it, I think. Quite unsuitable
for hunting. Dazzles me always. I
can’t smell nearly so well by day.”

The she-bear did not answer, but there came
a measured crunching sound out of the darkness.
She had turned up a bone. Andoo
yawned. “Well,” he said. He strolled to the[106]
cave mouth and stood with his head projecting,
surveying the amphitheatre. He found he had
to turn his head completely round to see objects
on his right-hand side. No doubt that eye
would be all right to-morrow.

He yawned again. There was a tap overhead,
and a big mass of chalk flew out from the
cliff face, dropped a yard in front of his nose,
and starred into a dozen unequal fragments. It
startled him extremely.

When he had recovered a little from his
shock, he went and sniffed curiously at the representative
pieces of the fallen projectile. They
had a distinctive flavour, oddly reminiscent of
the two drab animals of the ledge. He sat up
and pawed the larger lump, and walked round
it several times, trying to find a man about it
somewhere….

When night had come he went off down the
river gorge to see if he could cut off either of
the ledge’s occupants. The ledge was empty,
there were no signs of the red thing, but as he
was rather hungry he did not loiter long that
night, but pushed on to pick up a red deer
fawn. He forgot about the drab animals. He
found a fawn, but the doe was close by and
made an ugly fight for her young. Andoo had
to leave the fawn, but as her blood was up she[107]
stuck to the attack, and at last he got in a blow
of his paw on her nose, and so got hold of her.
More meat but less delicacy, and the she-bear,
following, had her share. The next afternoon,
curiously enough, the very fellow of the first
white rock fell, and smashed precisely according
to precedent.

The aim of the third, that fell the night after,
however, was better. It hit Andoo’s unspeculative
skull with a crack that echoed up the
cliff, and the white fragments went dancing to
all the points of the compass. The she-bear
coming after him and sniffing curiously at him,
found him lying in an odd sort of attitude, with
his head wet and all out of shape. She was a
young she-bear, and inexperienced, and having
sniffed about him for some time and licked him
a little, and so forth, she decided to leave him
until the odd mood had passed, and went on
her hunting alone.

She looked up the fawn of the red doe they
had killed two nights ago, and found it. But it
was lonely hunting without Andoo, and she returned
caveward before dawn. The sky was
grey and overcast, the trees up the gorge were
black and unfamiliar, and into her ursine mind
came a dim sense of strange and dreary happenings.
She lifted up her voice and called[108]
Andoo by name. The sides of the gorge re-echoed
her.

As she approached the caves she saw in the
half light, and heard a couple of jackals scuttle
off, and immediately after a hyæna howled and
a dozen clumsy bulks went lumbering up the
slope, and stopped and yelled derision. “Lord
of the rocks and caves—ya-ha!” came down
the wind. The dismal feeling in the she-bear’s
mind became suddenly acute. She shuffled
across the amphitheatre.

“Ya-ha!” said the hyænas, retreating. “Ya-ha!”

The cave bear was not lying quite in the
same attitude, because the hyænas had been
busy, and in one place his ribs showed white.
Dotted over the turf about him lay the smashed
fragments of the three great lumps of chalk.
And the air was full of the scent of death.

The she-bear stopped dead. Even now, that
the great and wonderful Andoo was killed was
beyond her believing. Then she heard far
overhead a sound, a queer sound, a little like
the shout of a hyæna but fuller and lower in
pitch. She looked up, her little dawn-blinded
eyes seeing little, her nostrils quivering. And
there, on the cliff edge, far above her against
the bright pink of dawn, were two little shaggy[109]
round dark things, the heads of Eudena and
Ugh-lomi, as they shouted derision at her. But
though she could not see them very distinctly
she could hear, and dimly she began to apprehend.
A novel feeling as of imminent strange
evils came into her heart.

She began to examine the smashed fragments
of chalk that lay about Andoo. For a
space she stood still, looking about her and
making a low continuous sound that was almost
a moan. Then she went back incredulously
to Andoo to make one last effort to rouse
him.

III—THE FIRST HORSEMAN

In the days before Ugh-lomi there was little
trouble between the horses and men. They
lived apart—the men in the river swamps and
thickets, the horses on the wide grassy uplands
between the chestnuts and the pines. Sometimes
a pony would come straying into the
clogging marshes to make a flint-hacked meal,
and sometimes the tribe would find one, the kill
of a lion, and drive off the jackals, and feast
heartily while the sun was high. These horses
of the old time were clumsy at the fetlock and
dun-coloured, with a rough tail and big head.
They came every spring-time north-westward
into the country, after the swallows and before[110]
the hippopotami, as the grass on the wide
downland stretches grew long. They came
only in small bodies thus far, each herd, a stallion
and two or three mares and a foal or so,
having its own stretch of country, and they
went again when the chestnut-trees were yellow
and the wolves came down the Wealden
mountains.

It was their custom to graze right out in the
open, going into cover only in the heat of the
day. They avoided the long stretches of thorn
and beechwood, preferring an isolated group
of trees void of ambuscade, so that it was hard
to come upon them. They were never fighters;
their heels and teeth were for one another, but
in the clear country, once they were started, no
living thing came near them, though perhaps
the elephant might have done so had he felt
the need. And in those days man seemed a
harmless thing enough. No whisper of prophetic
intelligence told the species of the terrible
slavery that was to come, of the whip and
spur and bearing-rein, the clumsy load and the
slippery street, the insufficient food, and the
knacker’s yard, that was to replace the wide
grass-land and the freedom of the earth.

Down in the Wey marshes Ugh-lomi and
Eudena had never seen the horses closely, but[111]
now they saw them every day as the two of
them raided out from their lair on the ledge in
the gorge, raiding together in search of food.
They had returned to the ledge after the killing
of Andoo; for of the she-bear they were
not afraid. The she-bear had become afraid
of them, and when she winded them she went
aside. The two went together everywhere;
for since they had left the tribe Eudena was
not so much Ugh-lomi’s woman as his mate;
she learnt to hunt even—as much, that is, as
any woman could. She was indeed a marvellous
woman. He would lie for hours watching
a beast, or planning catches in that shock head
of his, and she would stay beside him, with her
bright eyes upon him, offering no irritating
suggestions—as still as any man. A wonderful
woman!

At the top of the cliff was an open grassy
lawn and then beechwoods, and going through
the beechwoods one came to the edge of the
rolling grassy expanse, and in sight of the
horses. Here, on the edge of the wood and
bracken, were the rabbit-burrows, and here
among the fronds Eudena and Ugh-lomi
would lie with their throwing-stones ready, until
the little people came out to nibble and play
in the sunset. And while Eudena would sit, a[112]
silent figure of watchfulness, regarding the
burrows, Ugh-lomi’s eyes were ever away
across the greensward at those wonderful grazing
strangers.

In a dim way he appreciated their grace and
their supple nimbleness. As the sun declined
in the evening-time, and the heat of the day
passed, they would become active, would start
chasing one another, neighing, dodging, shaking
their manes, coming round in great curves,
sometimes so close that the pounding of the
turf sounded like hurried thunder. It looked
so fine that Ugh-lomi wanted to join in badly.
And sometimes one would roll over on the turf,
kicking four hoofs heavenward, which seemed
formidable and was certainly much less alluring.

Dim imaginings ran through Ugh-lomi’s
mind as he watched—by virtue of which two
rabbits lived the longer. And sleeping, his
brains were clearer and bolder—for that was
the way in those days. He came near the
horses, he dreamt, and fought, smiting-stone
against hoof, but then the horses changed to
men, or, at least, to men with horses’ heads,
and he awoke in a cold sweat of terror.

Yet the next day in the morning, as the
horses were grazing, one of the mares whinnied,[113]
and they saw Ugh-lomi coming up the
wind. They all stopped their eating and
watched him. Ugh-lomi was not coming towards
them, but strolling obliquely across the
open, looking at anything in the world but
horses. He had stuck three fern-fronds into
the mat of his hair, giving him a remarkable
appearance, and he walked very slowly.
“What’s up now?” said the Master Horse, who
was capable, but inexperienced.

“It looks more like the first half of an animal
than anything else in the world,” he said.
“Fore-legs and no hind.”

“It’s only one of those pink monkey things,”
said the Eldest Mare. “They’re a sort of river
monkey. They’re quite common on the
plains.”

Ugh-lomi continued his oblique advance.
The Eldest Mare was struck with the want of
motive in his proceedings.

“Fool!” said the Eldest Mare, in a quick
conclusive way she had. She resumed her
grazing. The Master Horse and the Second
Mare followed suit.

“Look! he’s nearer,” said the Foal with a
stripe.

One of the younger foals made uneasy movements.
Ugh-lomi squatted down, and sat regarding[114]

the horses fixedly. In a little while he
was satisfied that they meant neither flight nor
hostilities. He began to consider his next procedure.
He did not feel anxious to kill, but
he had his axe with him, and the spirit of sport
was upon him. How would one kill one of
these creatures?—these great beautiful creatures!

Eudena, watching him with a fearful admiration
from the cover of the bracken, saw
him presently go on all fours, and so proceed
again. But the horses preferred him a biped
to a quadruped, and the Master Horse threw
up his head and gave the word to move. Ugh-lomi
thought they were off for good, but after
a minute’s gallop they came round in a wide
curve, and stood winding him. Then, as a
rise in the ground hid him, they tailed out, the
Master Horse leading, and approached him
spirally.

He was as ignorant of the possibilities of a
horse as they were of his. And at this stage
it would seem he funked. He knew this kind
of stalking would make red deer or buffalo
charge, if it were persisted in. At any rate
Eudena saw him jump up and come walking
towards her with the fern plumes held in his
hand.[115]

She stood up, and he grinned to show that
the whole thing was an immense lark, and that
what he had done was just what he had
planned to do from the very beginning. So
that incident ended. But he was very thoughtful
all that day.

The next day this foolish drab creature with
the leonine mane, instead of going about the
grazing or hunting he was made for, was
prowling round the horses again. The Eldest
Mare was all for silent contempt. “I suppose
he wants to learn something from us,” she said,
and “Let him.” The next day he was at it
again. The Master Horse decided he meant
absolutely nothing. But as a matter of fact,
Ugh-lomi, the first of men to feel that curious
spell of the horse that binds us even to this day,
meant a great deal. He admired them unreservedly.
There was a rudiment of the snob
in him, I am afraid, and he wanted to be near
these beautifully-curved animals. Then there
were vague conceptions of a kill. If only they
would let him come near them! But they drew
the line, he found, at fifty yards. If he came
nearer than that they moved off—with dignity.
I suppose it was the way he had blinded Andoo
that made him think of leaping on the back of
one of them. But though Eudena after a time[116]

came out in the open too, and they did some unobtrusive
stalking, things stopped there.

Then one memorable day a new idea came to
Ugh-lomi. The horse looks down and level,
but he does not look up. No animals look up—they
have too much common-sense. It was
only that fantastic creature, man, could waste
his wits skyward. Ugh-lomi made no philosophical
deductions, but he perceived the thing
was so. So he spent a weary day in a beech
that stood in the open, while Eudena stalked.
Usually the horses went into the shade in the
heat of the afternoon, but that day the sky was
overcast, and they would not, in spite of
Eudena’s solicitude.

It was two days after that that Ugh-lomi
had his desire. The day was blazing hot, and
the multiplying flies asserted themselves. The
horses stopped grazing before midday, and
came into the shadow below him, and stood in
couples nose to tail, flapping.

The Master Horse, by virtue of his heels,
came closest to the tree. And suddenly there
was a rustle and a creak, a thud….
Then a sharp chipped flint bit him on the cheek.
The Master Horse stumbled, came on one knee,
rose to his feet, and was off like the wind. The
air was full of the whirl of limbs, the prance[117]
of hoofs, and snorts of alarm. Ugh-lomi was
pitched a foot in the air, came down again, up
again, his stomach was hit violently, and then
his knees got a grip of something between
them. He found himself clutching with knees,
feet, and hands, careering violently with extraordinary
oscillation through the air—his axe
gone heaven knows whither. “Hold tight,”
said Mother Instinct, and he did.

He was aware of a lot of coarse hair in his
face, some of it between his teeth, and of green
turf streaming past in front of his eyes. He
saw the shoulder of the Master Horse, vast and
sleek, with the muscles flowing swiftly under
the skin. He perceived that his arms were
round the neck, and that the violent jerkings
he experienced had a sort of rhythm.

Then he was in the midst of a wild rush of
tree-stems, and then there were fronds of
bracken about, and then more open turf. Then
a stream of pebbles rushing past, little pebbles
flying sideways athwart the stream from the
blow of the swift hoofs. Ugh-lomi began to
feel frightfully sick and giddy, but he was not
the stuff to leave go simply because he was uncomfortable.

He dared not leave his grip, but he tried to
make himself more comfortable. He released[118]
his hug on the neck, gripping the mane instead.
He slipped his knees forward, and pushing
back, came into a sitting position where the
quarters broaden. It was nervous work, but he
managed it, and at last he was fairly seated
astride, breathless indeed, and uncertain, but
with that frightful pounding of his body at any
rate relieved.

Slowly the fragments of Ugh-lomi’s mind
got into order again. The pace seemed to him
terrific, but a kind of exultation was beginning
to oust his first frantic terror. The air rushed
by, sweet and wonderful, the rhythm of the
hoofs changed and broke up and returned into
itself again. They were on turf now, a wide
glade—the beech-trees a hundred yards away
on either side, and a succulent band of green
starred with pink blossom and shot with silver
water here and there, meandered down the
middle. Far off was a glimpse of blue valley—far
away. The exultation grew. It was man’s
first taste of pace.

Then came a wide space dappled with flying
fallow deer scattering this way and that, and
then a couple of jackals, mistaking Ugh-lomi
for a lion, came hurrying after him. And when
they saw it was not a lion they still came on
out of curiosity. On galloped the horse, with[119]

his one idea of escape, and after him the jackals,
with pricked ears and quickly-barked remarks.
“Which kills which?” said the first
jackal. “It’s the horse being killed,” said the
second. They gave the howl of following, and
the horse answered to it as a horse answers
nowadays to the spur.

On they rushed, a little tornado through the
quiet day, putting up startled birds, sending a
dozen unexpected things darting to cover, raising
a myriad of indignant dung-flies, smashing
little blossoms, flowering complacently, back
into their parental turf. Trees again, and then
splash, splash across a torrent; then a hare shot
out of a tuft of grass under the very hoofs of
the Master Horse, and the jackals left them incontinently.
So presently they broke into the
open again, a wide expanse of turfy hillside—the
very grassy downs that fall northward nowadays
from the Epsom Stand.

The first hot bolt of the Master Horse was
long since over. He was falling into a measured
trot, and Ugh-lomi, albeit bruised exceedingly
and quite uncertain of the future, was in
a state of glorious enjoyment. And now came
a new development. The pace broke again, the
Master Horse came round on a short curve,
and stopped dead….[120]

Ugh-lomi became alert. He wished he had
a flint, but the throwing-flint he had carried in
a thong about his waist was—like the axe—heaven
knows where. The Master Horse
turned his head, and Ugh-lomi became aware of
an eye and teeth. He whipped his leg into a
position of security, and hit at the cheek with
his fist. Then the head went down somewhere
out of existence apparently, and the back he
was sitting on flew up into a dome. Ugh-lomi
became a thing of instinct again—strictly prehensile;
he held by knees and feet, and his head
seemed sliding towards the turf. His fingers
were twisted into the shock of mane, and the
rough hair of the horse saved him. The
gradient he was on lowered again, and then—”Whup!”
said Ugh-lomi astonished, and the
slant was the other way up. But Ugh-lomi
was a thousand generations nearer the primordial
than man: no monkey could have held on
better. And the lion had been training the
horse for countless generations against the tactics
of rolling and rearing back. But he kicked
like a master, and buck-jumped rather neatly.
In five minutes Ugh-lomi lived a lifetime. If
he came off the horse would kill him, he felt
assured.

Then the Master Horse decided to stick to[121]
his old tactics again, and suddenly went off at
a gallop. He headed down the slope, taking
the steep places at a rush, swerving neither to
the right nor to the left, and, as they rode
down, the wide expanse of valley sank out of
sight behind the approaching skirmishers of
oak and hawthorn. They skirted a sudden hollow
with the pool of a spring, rank weeds and
silver bushes. The ground grew softer and the
grass taller, and on the right-hand side and the
left came scattered bushes of May—still
splashed with belated blossom. Presently the
bushes thickened until they lashed the passing
rider, and little flashes and gouts of blood came
out on horse and man. Then the way opened
again.

And then came a wonderful adventure. A
sudden squeal of unreasonable anger rose
amidst the bushes, the squeal of some creature
bitterly wronged. And crashing after them appeared
a big, grey-blue shape. It was Yaaa the
big-horned rhinoceros, in one of those fits of
fury of his, charging full tilt, after the manner
of his kind. He had been startled at his feeding,
and someone, it did not matter who, was
to be ripped and trampled therefore. He was
bearing down on them from the left, with his
wicked little eye red, his great horn down and[122]
his tail like a jury-mast behind him. For a
minute Ugh-lomi was minded to slip off and
dodge, and then behold! the staccato of the
hoofs grew swifter, and the rhinoceros and his
stumpy hurrying little legs seemed to slide out
at the back corner of Ugh-lomi’s eye. In two
minutes they were through the bushes of May,
and out in the open, going fast. For a space he
could hear the ponderous paces in pursuit receding
behind him, and then it was just as if
Yaaa had not lost his temper, as if Yaaa had
never existed.

The pace never faltered, on they rode and
on.

Ugh-lomi was now all exultation. To exult
in those days was to insult. “Ya-ha! big nose!”
he said, trying to crane back and see some remote
speck of a pursuer. “Why don’t you
carry your smiting-stone in your fist?” he
ended with a frantic whoop.

But that whoop was unfortunate, for coming
close to the ear of the horse, and being quite
unexpected, it startled the stallion extremely.
He shied violently. Ugh-lomi suddenly found
himself uncomfortable again. He was hanging
on to the horse, he found, by one arm and
one knee.

The rest of the ride was honourable but unpleasant.[123]

The view was chiefly of blue sky,
and that was combined with the most unpleasant
physical sensations. Finally, a bush of
thorn lashed him and he let go.

He hit the ground with his cheek and shoulder,
and then, after a complicated and extraordinarily
rapid movement, hit it again with the
end of his backbone. He saw splashes and
sparks of light and colour. The ground seemed
bouncing about just like the horse had done.
Then he found he was sitting on turf, six yards
beyond the bush. In front of him was a space
of grass, growing greener and greener, and a
number of human beings in the distance, and
the horse was going round at a smart gallop
quite a long way off to the right.

The human beings were on the opposite side
of the river, some still in the water, but they
were all running away as hard as they could
go. The advent of a monster that took to
pieces was not the sort of novelty they cared
for. For quite a minute Ugh-lomi sat regarding
them in a purely spectacular spirit. The
bend of the river, the knoll among the reeds
and royal ferns, the thin streams of smoke going
up to Heaven, were all perfectly familiar to
him. It was the squatting-place of the Sons of
Uya, of Uya from whom he had fled with[124]
Eudena, and whom he had waylaid in the
chestnut woods and killed with the First Axe.

He rose to his feet, still dazed from his fall,
and as he did so the scattering fugitives turned
and regarded him. Some pointed to the receding
horse and chattered. He walked slowly
towards them, staring. He forgot the horse,
he forgot his own bruises, in the growing interest
of this encounter. There were fewer of
them than there had been—he supposed the
others must have hid—the heap of fern for the
night fire was not so high. By the flint heaps
should have sat Wau—but then he remembered
he had killed Wau. Suddenly brought back to
this familiar scene, the gorge and the bears and
Eudena seemed things remote, things dreamt
of.

He stopped at the bank and stood regarding
the tribe. His mathematical abilities were of
the slightest, but it was certain there were
fewer. The men might be away, but there were
fewer women and children. He gave the shout
of home-coming. His quarrel had been with
Uya and Wau—not with the others. “Children
of Uya!” he cried. They answered with
his name, a little fearfully because of the
strange way he had come.

For a space they spoke together. Then an[125]
old woman lifted a shrill voice and answered
him. “Our Lord is a Lion.”

Ugh-lomi did not understand that saying.
They answered him again several together,
“Uya comes again. He comes as a Lion. Our
Lord is a Lion. He comes at night. He slays
whom he will. But none other may slay us,
Ugh-lomi, none other may slay us.”

Still Ugh-lomi did not understand.

“Our Lord is a Lion. He speaks no more
to men.”

Ugh-lomi stood regarding them. He had
had dreams—he knew that though he had
killed Uya, Uya still existed. And now they
told him Uya was a Lion.

The shrivelled old woman, the mistress of
the fire-minders, suddenly turned and spoke
softly to those next to her. She was a very old
woman indeed, she had been the first of Uya’s
wives, and he had let her live beyond the age
to which it is seemly a woman should be permitted
to live. She had been cunning from the
first, cunning to please Uya and to get food.
And now she was great in counsel. She spoke
softly, and Ugh-lomi watched her shrivelled
form across the river with a curious distaste.
Then she called aloud, “Come over to us, Ugh-lomi.”[126]

A girl suddenly lifted up her voice. “Come
over to us, Ugh-lomi,” she said. And they all
began crying, “Come over to us, Ugh-lomi.”

It was strange how their manner changed
after the old woman called.

He stood quite still watching them all. It
was pleasant to be called, and the girl who had
called first was a pretty one. But she made
him think of Eudena.

“Come over to us, Ugh-lomi,” they cried,
and the voice of the shrivelled old woman rose
above them all. At the sound of her voice his
hesitation returned.

He stood on the river bank, Ugh-lomi—Ugh
the Thinker—with his thoughts slowly taking
shape. Presently one and then another paused
to see what he would do. He was minded to
go back, he was minded not to. Suddenly his
fear or his caution got the upper hand. Without
answering them he turned, and walked
back towards the distant thorn-trees, the way
he had come. Forthwith the whole tribe
started crying to him again very eagerly. He
hesitated and turned, then he went on, then he
turned again, and then once again, regarding
them with troubled eyes as they called. The
last time he took two paces back, before his
fear stopped him. They saw him stop once[127]
more, and suddenly shake his head and vanish
among the hawthorn-trees.

Then all the women and children lifted up
their voices together, and called to him in one
last vain effort.

Far down the river the reeds were stirring
in the breeze, where, convenient for his new
sort of feeding, the old lion, who had taken to
man-eating, had made his lair.

The old woman turned her face that way,
and pointed to the hawthorn thickets. “Uya,”
she screamed, “there goes thine enemy! There
goes thine enemy, Uya! Why do you devour
us nightly? We have tried to snare him!
There goes thine enemy, Uya!”

But the lion who preyed upon the tribe was
taking his siesta. The cry went unheard. That
day he had dined on one of the plumper girls,
and his mood was a comfortable placidity. He
really did not understand that he was Uya or
that Ugh-lomi was his enemy.

So it was that Ugh-lomi rode the horse, and
heard first of Uya the lion, who had taken the
place of Uya the Master, and was eating up the
tribe. And as he hurried back to the gorge his
mind was no longer full of the horse, but of the
thought that Uya was still alive, to slay or be
slain. Over and over again he saw the[128]
shrunken band of women and children crying
that Uya was a lion. Uya was a lion!

And presently, fearing the twilight might
come upon him, Ugh-lomi began running.

IV—UYA THE LION

The old lion was in luck. The tribe had a
certain pride in their ruler, but that was all the
satisfaction they got out of it. He came the
very night that Ugh-lomi killed Uya the Cunning,
and so it was they named him Uya. It
was the old woman, the fire-minder, who first
named him Uya. A shower had lowered the
fires to a glow, and made the night dark. And
as they conversed together, and peered at one
another in the darkness, and wondered fearfully
what Uya would do to them in their
dreams now that he was dead, they heard the
mounting reverberations of the lion’s roar
close at hand. Then everything was still.

They held their breath, so that almost the
only sounds were the patter of the rain and
the hiss of the raindrops in the ashes. And
then, after an interminable time, a crash, and a
shriek of fear, and a growling. They sprang
to their feet, shouting, screaming, running this
way and that, but brands would not burn, and
in a minute the victim was being dragged away[129]
through the ferns. It was Irk, the brother of
Wau.

So the lion came.

The ferns were still wet from the rain the
next night, and he came and took Click with
the red hair. That sufficed for two nights.
And then in the dark between the moons he
came three nights, night after night, and that
though they had good fires. He was an old
lion with stumpy teeth, but very silent and very
cool; he knew of fires before; these were not
the first of mankind that had ministered to his
old age. The third night he came between the
outer fire and the inner, and he leapt the flint
heap, and pulled down Irm the son of Irk, who
had seemed like to be the leader. That was a
dreadful night, because they lit great flares of
fern and ran screaming, and the lion missed
his hold of Irm. By the glare of the fire they
saw Irm struggle up, and run a little way towards
them, and then the lion in two bounds
had him down again. That was the last of
Irm.

So fear came, and all the delight of spring
passed out of their lives. Already there were
five gone out of the tribe, and four nights
added three more to the number. Food-seeking
became spiritless, none knew who might go[130]
next, and all day the women toiled, even the
favourite women, gathering litter and sticks
for the night fires. And the hunters hunted
ill: in the warm spring-time hunger came again
as though it was still winter. The tribe might
have moved, had they had a leader, but they
had no leader, and none knew where to go that
the lion could not follow them. So the old
lion waxed fat and thanked heaven for the
kindly race of men. Two of the children and a
youth died while the moon was still new, and
then it was the shrivelled old fire-minder first
bethought herself in a dream of Eudena and
Ugh-lomi, and of the way Uya had been slain.
She had lived in fear of Uya all her days, and
now she lived in fear of the lion. That Ugh-lomi
could kill Uya for good—Ugh-lomi whom she
had seen born—was impossible. It was Uya
still seeking his enemy!

And then came the strange return of Ugh-lomi,
a wonderful animal seen galloping far
across the river, that suddenly changed into
two animals, a horse and a man. Following
this portent, the vision of Ugh-lomi on the farther
bank of the river…. Yes, it was
all plain to her. Uya was punishing them, because
they had not hunted down Ugh-lomi and
Eudena.[131]

The men came straggling back to the
chances of the night while the sun was still
golden in the sky. They were received with
the story of Ugh-lomi. She went across the
river with them and showed them his spoor
hesitating on the farther bank. Siss the
Tracker knew the feet for Ugh-lomi’s. “Uya
needs Ugh-lomi,” cried the old woman, standing
on the left of the bend, a gesticulating
figure of flaring bronze in the sunset. Her
cries were strange sounds, flitting to and fro
on the borderland of speech, but this was the
sense they carried: “The lion needs Eudena.
He comes night after night seeking Eudena
and Ugh-lomi. When he cannot find Eudena
and Ugh-lomi, he grows angry and he kills.
Hunt Eudena and Ugh-lomi, Eudena whom he
pursued, and Ugh-lomi for whom he gave the
death-word! Hunt Eudena and Ugh-lomi!”

She turned to the distant reed-bed, as sometimes
she had turned to Uya in his life. “Is it
not so, my lord?” she cried. And, as if in answer,
the tall reeds bowed before a breath of
wind.

Far into the twilight the sound of hacking
was heard from the squatting-places. It was
the men sharpening their ashen spears against
the hunting of the morrow. And in the night,[132]
early before the moon rose, the lion came and
took the girl of Siss the Tracker.

In the morning before the sun had risen, Siss
the Tracker, and the lad Wau-Hau, who now
chipped flints, and One Eye, and Bo, and the
Snail-eater, the two red-haired men, and Cat’s-skin
and Snake, all the men that were left alive
of the Sons of Uya, taking their ash spears and
their smiting-stones, and with throwing-stones
in the beast-paw bags, started forth upon the
trail of Ugh-lomi through the hawthorn thickets
where Yaaa the Rhinoceros and his brothers
were feeding, and up the bare downland towards
the beechwoods.

That night the fires burnt high and fierce, as
the waxing moon set, and the lion left the
crouching women and children in peace.

And the next day, while the sun was still
high, the hunters returned—all save One Eye,
who lay dead with a smashed skull at the foot
of the ledge. (When Ugh-lomi came back that
evening from stalking the horses, he found the
vultures already busy over him.) And with
them the hunters brought Eudena bruised and
wounded, but alive. That had been the strange
order of the shrivelled old woman, that she
was to be brought alive—”She is no kill for us.
She is for Uya the Lion.” Her hands were[133]
tied with thongs, as though she had been a
man, and she came weary and drooping—her
hair over her eyes and matted with blood.
They walked about her, and ever and again the
Snail-eater, whose name she had given, would
laugh and strike her with his ashen spear. And
after he had struck her with his spear, he would
look over his shoulder like one who had done
an over-bold deed. The others, too, looked
over their shoulders ever and again, and all
were in a hurry save Eudena. When the old
woman saw them coming, she cried aloud with
joy.

They made Eudena cross the river with her
hands tied, although the current was strong
and when she slipped the old woman screamed,
first with joy and then for fear she might be
drowned. And when they had dragged Eudena
to shore, she could not stand for a time, albeit
they beat her sore. So they let her sit with her
feet touching the water, and her eyes staring
before her, and her face set, whatever they
might do or say. All the tribe came down to
the squatting-place, even curly little Haha, who
as yet could scarcely toddle, and stood staring
at Eudena and the old woman, as now we
should stare at some strange wounded beast
and its captor.[134]

The old woman tore off the necklace of Uya
that was about Eudena’s neck, and put it on
herself—she had been the first to wear it. Then
she tore at Eudena’s hair, and took a spear
from Siss and beat her with all her might.
And when she had vented the warmth of her
heart on the girl she looked closely into her
face. Eudena’s eyes were closed and her features
were set, and she lay so still that for a
moment the old woman feared she was dead.
And then her nostrils quivered. At that the old
woman slapped her face and laughed and gave
the spear to Siss again, and went a little way
off from her and began to talk and jeer at her
after her manner.

The old woman had more words than any
in the tribe. And her talk was a terrible thing
to hear. Sometimes she screamed and moaned
incoherently, and sometimes the shape of her
guttural cries was the mere phantom of
thoughts. But she conveyed to Eudena, nevertheless,
much of the things that were yet to
come, of the Lion and of the torment he would
do her. “And Ugh-lomi! Ha, ha! Ugh-lomi
is slain?”

And suddenly Eudena’s eyes opened and she
sat up again, and her look met the old woman’s
fair and level. “No,” she said slowly, like one[135]
trying to remember, “I did not see my Ugh-lomi
slain. I did not see my Ugh-lomi slain.”

“Tell her,” cried the old woman. “Tell her—he
that killed him. Tell her how Ugh-lomi
was slain.”

She looked, and all the women and children
there looked, from man to man.

None answered her. They stood shame-faced.

“Tell her,” said the old woman. The men
looked at one another.

Eudena’s face suddenly lit.

“Tell her,” she said. “Tell her, mighty men!
Tell her the killing of Ugh-lomi.”

The old woman rose and struck her sharply
across her mouth.

“We could not find Ugh-lomi,” said Siss the
Tracker, slowly. “Who hunts two, kills none.”

Then Eudena’s heart leapt, but she kept her
face hard. It was as well, for the old woman
looked at her sharply, with murder in her eyes.

Then the old woman turned her tongue upon
the men because they had feared to go on after
Ugh-lomi. She dreaded no one now Uya was
slain. She scolded them as one scolds children.
And they scowled at her, and began to accuse
one another. Until suddenly Siss the Tracker
raised his voice and bade her hold her peace.[136]

And so when the sun was setting they took
Eudena and went—though their hearts sank
within them—along the trail the old lion had
made in the reeds. All the men went together.
At one place was a group of alders, and here
they hastily bound Eudena where the lion
might find her when he came abroad in the twilight,
and having done so they hurried back until
they were near the squatting-place. Then
they stopped. Siss stopped first and looked
back again at the alders. They could see her
head even from the squatting-place, a little
black shock under the limb of the larger tree.
That was as well.

All the women and children stood watching
upon the crest of the mound. And the old
woman stood and screamed for the lion to take
her whom he sought, and counselled him on the
torments he might do her.

Eudena was very weary now, stunned by
beatings and fatigue and sorrow, and only the
fear of the thing that was still to come upheld
her. The sun was broad and blood-red between
the stems of the distant chestnuts, and the west
was all on fire; the evening breeze had died to
a warm tranquillity. The air was full of midge
swarms, the fish in the river hard by would
leap at times, and now and again a cockchafer[137]
would drone through the air. Out of the corner
of her eye Eudena could see a part of the
squatting-knoll, and little figures standing and
staring at her. And—a very little sound but
very clear—she could hear the beating of the
firestone. Dark and near to her and still was
the reed-fringed thicket of the lair.

Presently the firestone ceased. She looked
for the sun and found he had gone, and overhead
and growing brighter was the waxing
moon. She looked towards the thicket of the
lair, seeking shapes in the reeds, and then suddenly
she began to wriggle and wriggle, weeping
and calling upon Ugh-lomi.

But Ugh-lomi was far away. When they
saw her head moving with her struggles, they
shouted together on the knoll, and she desisted
and was still. And then came the bats,
and the star that was like Ugh-lomi crept out
of its blue hiding-place in the west. She called
to it, but softly, because she feared the lion.
And all through the coming of the twilight the
thicket was still.

So the dark crept upon Eudena, and the
moon grew bright, and the shadows of things
that had fled up the hillside and vanished with
the evening came back to them short and black.
And the dark shapes in the thicket of reeds and[138]
alders where the lion lay, gathered, and a faint
stir began there. But nothing came out therefrom
all through the gathering of the darkness.

She looked at the squatting-place and saw
the fires glowing smoky-red, and the men and
women going to and fro. The other way, over
the river, a white mist was rising. Then far
away came the whimpering of young foxes and
the yell of a hyæna.

There were long gaps of aching waiting.
After a long time some animal splashed in the
water, and seemed to cross the river at the ford
beyond the lair, but what animal it was she
could not see. From the distant drinking-pools
she could hear the sound of splashing, and the
noise of elephants—so still was the night.

The earth was now a colourless arrangement
of white reflections and impenetrable shadows,
under the blue sky. The silvery moon was already
spotted with the filigree crests of the
chestnut woods, and over the shadowy eastward
hills the stars were multiplying. The
knoll fires were bright red now, and black
figures stood waiting against them. They were
waiting for a scream…. Surely it would be
soon.

The night suddenly seemed full of movement.
She held her breath. Things were passing—one,[139]
two, three—subtly sneaking shadows….
Jackals.

Then a long waiting again.

Then, asserting itself as real at once over all
the sounds her mind had imagined, came a stir
in the thicket, then a vigorous movement.
There was a snap. The reeds crashed heavily,
once, twice, thrice, and then everything was
still save a measured swishing. She heard a
low tremulous growl, and then everything was
still again. The stillness lengthened—would
it never end? She held her breath; she bit her
lips to stop screaming. Then something scuttled
through the undergrowth. Her scream
was involuntary. She did not hear the answering
yell from the mound.

Immediately the thicket woke up to vigorous
movement again. She saw the grass stems
waving in the light of the setting moon, the
alders swaying. She struggled violently—her
last struggle. But nothing came towards her.
A dozen monsters seemed rushing about in that
little place for a couple of minutes, and then
again came silence. The moon sank behind the
distant chestnuts and the night was dark.

Then an odd sound, a sobbing panting, that
grew faster and fainter. Yet another silence,[140]
and then dim sounds and the grunting of some
animal.

Everything was still again. Far away eastwards
an elephant trumpeted, and from the
woods came a snarling and yelping that died
away.

In the long interval the moon shone out
again, between the stems of the trees on the
ridge, sending two great bars of light and a bar
of darkness across the reedy waste. Then came
a steady rustling, a splash, and the reeds
swayed wider and wider apart. And at last
they broke open, cleft from root to crest….
The end had come.

She looked to see the thing that had come
out of the reeds. For a moment it seemed certainly
the great head and jaw she expected,
and then it dwindled and changed. It was a
dark low thing, that remained silent, but it was
not the lion. It became still—everything became
still. She peered. It was like some gigantic
frog, two limbs and a slanting body. Its
head moved about searching the shadows….

A rustle, and it moved clumsily, with a sort
of hopping. And as it moved it gave a low
groan.[141]

The blood rushing through her veins was
suddenly joy. “Ugh-lomi!” she whispered.

The thing stopped. “Eudena,” he answered
softly with pain in his voice, and peering into
the alders.

He moved again, and came out of the
shadow beyond the reeds into the moonlight.
All his body was covered with dark smears.
She saw he was dragging his legs, and that he
gripped his axe, the first axe, in one hand. In
another moment he had struggled into the position
of all fours, and had staggered over to her.
“The lion,” he said in a strange mingling of
exultation and anguish. “Wau!—I have slain
a lion. With my own hand. Even as I slew
the great bear.” He moved to emphasise his
words, and suddenly broke off with a faint cry.
For a space he did not move.

“Let me free,” whispered Eudena….

He answered her no words but pulled himself
up from his crawling attitude by means of
the alder stem, and hacked at her thongs with
the sharp edge of his axe. She heard him sob
at each blow. He cut away the thongs about
her chest and arms, and then his hand dropped.
His chest struck against her shoulder and he
slipped down beside her and lay still.

But the rest of her release was easy. Very[142]
hastily she freed herself. She made one step
from the tree, and her head was spinning. Her
last conscious movement was towards him.
She reeled, and dropped. Her hand fell upon
his thigh. It was soft and wet, and gave way
under her pressure; he cried out at her touch,
and writhed and lay still again.

Presently a dark dog-like shape came very
softly through the reeds. Then stopped dead
and stood sniffing, hesitated, and at last turned
and slunk back into the shadows.

Long was the time they remained there motionless,
with the light of the setting moon
shining on their limbs. Very slowly, as slowly
as the setting of the moon, did the shadow of
the reeds towards the mound flow over them.
Presently their legs were hidden, and Ugh-lomi
was but a bust of silver. The shadow
crept to his neck, crept over his face, and so at
last the darkness of the night swallowed them
up.

The shadow became full of instinctive stirrings.
There was a patter of feet, and a faint
snarling—the sound of a blow.



There was little sleep that night for the
women and children at the squatting-place until
they heard Eudena scream. But the men[143]
were weary and sat dozing. When Eudena
screamed they felt assured of their safety, and
hurried to get the nearest places to the fires.
The old woman laughed at the scream, and
laughed again because Si, the little friend of
Eudena, whimpered. Directly the dawn came
they were all alert and looking towards the
alders. They could see that Eudena had been
taken. They could not help feeling glad to
think that Uya was appeased. But across the
minds of the men the thought of Ugh-lomi fell
like a shadow. They could understand revenge,
for the world was old in revenge, but
they did not think of rescue. Suddenly a
hyæna fled out of the thicket, and came galloping
across the reed space. His muzzle and
paws were dark-stained. At that sight all the
men shouted and clutched at throwing-stones
and ran towards him, for no animal is so pitiful
a coward as the hyæna by day. All men
hated the hyæna because he preyed on children,
and would come and bite when one was sleeping
on the edge of the squatting-place. And
Cat’s-skin, throwing fair and straight, hit the
brute shrewdly on the flank, whereat the whole
tribe yelled with delight.

At the noise they made there came a flapping
of wings from the lair of the lion, and three[144]
white-headed vultures rose slowly and circled
and came to rest amidst the branches of an
alder, overlooking the lair. “Our lord is
abroad,” said the old woman, pointing. “The
vultures have their share of Eudena.” For a
space they remained there, and then first one
and then another dropped back into the thicket.

Then over the eastern woods, and touching
the whole world to life and colour, poured,
with the exaltation of a trumpet blast, the light
of the rising sun. At the sight of him the children
shouted together, and clapped their hands
and began to race off towards the water. Only
little Si lagged behind and looked wonderingly
at the alders where she had seen the head of
Eudena overnight.

But Uya, the old lion, was not abroad, but
at home, and he lay very still, and a little on
one side. He was not in his lair, but a little
way from it in a place of trampled grass. Under
one eye was a little wound, the feeble little
bite of the first axe. But all the ground beneath
his chest was ruddy brown with a vivid
streak, and in his chest was a little hole that
had been made by Ugh-lomi’s stabbing-spear.
Along his side and at his neck the vultures had
marked their claims. For so Ugh-lomi had
slain him, lying stricken under his paw and[145]
thrusting haphazard at his chest. He had
driven the spear in with all his strength and
stabbed the giant to the heart. So it was the
reign of the lion, of the second incarnation of
Uya the Master, came to an end.

From the knoll the bustle of preparation
grew, the hacking of spears and throwing-stones.
None spake the name of Ugh-lomi for
fear that it might bring him. The men were
going to keep together, close together, in the
hunting for a day or so. And their hunting
was to be Ugh-lomi, lest instead he should
come a-hunting them.

But Ugh-lomi was lying very still and silent,
outside the lion’s lair, and Eudena squatted beside
him, with the ash spear, all smeared with
lion’s blood, gripped in her hand.

V—THE FIGHT IN THE LION’S THICKET

Ugh-lomi lay still, his back against an alder,
and his thigh was a red mass terrible to see.
No civilised man could have lived who had
been so sorely wounded, but Eudena got him
thorns to close his wounds, and squatted beside
him day and night, smiting the flies from him
with a fan of reeds by day, and in the night
threatening the hyænas with the first axe
in her hand; and in a little while he[146]

began to heal. It was high summer, and
there was no rain. Little food they had
during the first two days his wounds were
open. In the low place where they hid were no
roots nor little beasts, and the stream, with its
water-snails and fish, was in the open a hundred
yards away. She could not go abroad by
day for fear of the tribe, her brothers and sisters,
nor by night for fear of the beasts, both
on his account and hers. So they shared the
lion with the vultures. But there was a trickle
of water near by, and Eudena brought him
plenty in her hands.

Where Ugh-lomi lay was well hidden from
the tribe by a thicket of alders, and all fenced
about with bulrushes and tall reeds. The dead
lion he had killed lay near his old lair on a place
of trampled reeds fifty yards away, in sight
through the reed-stems, and the vultures
fought each other for the choicest pieces and
kept the jackals off him. Very soon a cloud of
flies that looked like bees hung over him, and
Ugh-lomi could hear their humming. And
when Ugh-lomi’s flesh was already healing—and
it was not many days before that began—only
a few bones of the lion remained scattered
and shining white.

For the most part Ugh-lomi sat still during[147]
the day, looking before him at nothing, sometimes
he would mutter of the horses and bears
and lions, and sometimes he would beat the
ground with the first axe and say the names of
the tribe—he seemed to have no fear of bringing
the tribe—for hours together. But chiefly
he slept, dreaming little because of his loss of
blood and the slightness of his food. During
the short summer night both kept awake. All
the while the darkness lasted things moved
about them, things they never saw by day. For
some nights the hyænas did not come, and then
one moonless night near a dozen came and
fought for what was left of the lion. The night
was a tumult of growling, and Ugh-lomi and
Eudena could hear the bones snap in their
teeth. But they knew the hyæna dare not attack
any creature alive and awake, and so they
were not greatly afraid.

Of a daytime Eudena would go along the
narrow path the old lion had made in the reeds
until she was beyond the bend, and then she
would creep into the thicket and watch the
tribe. She would lie close by the alders where
they had bound her to offer her up to the lion,
and thence she could see them on the knoll by
the fire, small and clear, as she had seen them
that night. But she told Ugh-lomi little of[148]
what she saw, because she feared to bring them
by their names. For so they believed in those
days, that naming called.

She saw the men prepare stabbing-spears
and throwing-stones on the morning after
Ugh-lomi had slain the lion, and go out to hunt
him, leaving the women and children on the
knoll. Little they knew how near he was as
they tracked off in single file towards the hills,
with Siss the Tracker leading them. And she
watched the women and children, after the men
had gone, gathering fern-fronds and twigs for
the night fire, and the boys and girls running
and playing together. But the very old woman
made her feel afraid. Towards noon, when
most of the others were down at the stream by
the bend, she came and stood on the hither side
of the knoll, a gnarled brown figure, and gesticulated
so that Eudena could scarce believe
she was not seen. Eudena lay like a hare in
its form, with shining eyes fixed on the bent
witch away there, and presently she dimly understood
it was the lion the old woman was
worshipping—the lion Ugh-lomi had slain.

And the next day the hunters came back
weary, carrying a fawn, and Eudena watched
the feast enviously. And then came a strange
thing. She saw—distinctly she heard—the old[149]
woman shrieking and gesticulating and pointing
towards her. She was afraid, and crept
like a snake out of sight again. But presently
curiosity overcame her and she was back at her
spying-place, and as she peered her heart
stopped, for there were all the men, with their
weapons in their hands, walking together towards
her from the knoll.

She dared not move lest her movement
should be seen, but she pressed herself close to
the ground. The sun was low and the golden
light was in the faces of the men. She saw
they carried a piece of rich red meat thrust
through by an ashen stake. Presently they
stopped. “Go on!” screamed the old woman.
Cat’s-skin grumbled, and they came on, searching
the thicket with sun-dazzled eyes. “Here!”
said Siss. And they took the ashen stake with
the meat upon it and thrust it into the ground.
“Uya!” cried Siss, “behold thy portion. And
Ugh-lomi we have slain. Of a truth we have
slain Ugh-lomi. This day we slew Ugh-lomi,
and to-morrow we will bring his body to you.”
And the others repeated the words.

They looked at each other and behind them,
and partly turned and began going back. At
first they walked half turned to the thicket,
then facing the mound they walked faster[150]
looking over their shoulders, then faster; soon
they ran, it was a race at last, until they were
near the knoll. Then Siss who was hindmost
was first to slacken his pace.

The sunset passed and the twilight came,
the fires glowed red against the hazy blue of
the distant chestnut-trees, and the voices over
the mound were merry. Eudena lay scarcely
stirring, looking from the mound to the meat
and then to the mound. She was hungry, but
she was afraid. At last she crept back to Ugh-lomi.

He looked round at the little rustle of her
approach. His face was in shadow. “Have
you got me some food?” he said.

She said she could find nothing, but that she
would seek further, and went back along the
lion’s path until she could see the mound again,
but she could not bring herself to take the
meat; she had the brute’s instinct of a snare.
She felt very miserable.

She crept back at last towards Ugh-lomi and
heard him stirring and moaning. She turned
back to the mound again; then she saw something
in the darkness near the stake, and peering
distinguished a jackal. In a flash she was
brave and angry; she sprang up, cried out, and
ran towards the offering. She stumbled and[151]
fell, and heard the growling of the jackal going
off.

When she arose only the ashen stake lay on
the ground, the meat was gone. So she went
back, to fast through the night with Ugh-lomi;
and Ugh-lomi was angry with her, because she
had no food for him; but she told him nothing
of the things she had seen.

Two days passed and they were near starving,
when the tribe slew a horse. Then came
the same ceremony, and a haunch was left on
the ashen stake; but this time Eudena did not
hesitate.

By acting and words she made Ugh-lomi
understand, but he ate most of the food before
he understood; and then as her meaning passed
to him he grew merry with his food. “I am
Uya,” he said; “I am the Lion. I am the Great
Cave Bear, I who was only Ugh-lomi. I am
Wau the Cunning. It is well that they should
feed me, for presently I will kill them all.”

Then Eudena’s heart was light, and she
laughed with him; and afterwards she ate what
he had left of the horseflesh with gladness.

After that it was he had a dream, and the
next day he made Eudena bring him the lion’s
teeth and claws—so much of them as she could
find—and hack him a club of alder. And he put[152]
the teeth and claws very cunningly into the
wood so that the points were outward. Very
long it took him, and he blunted two of the
teeth hammering them in, and was very angry
and threw the thing away; but afterwards he
dragged himself to where he had thrown it and
finished it—a club of a new sort set with teeth.
That day there was more meat for them both,
an offering to the lion from the tribe.

It was one day—more than a hand’s fingers
of days, more than anyone had skill to count—after
Ugh-lomi had made the club, that Eudena
while he was asleep was lying in the thicket
watching the squatting-place. There had been
no meat for three days. And the old woman
came and worshipped after her manner. Now
while she worshipped, Eudena’s little friend Si
and another, the child of the first girl Siss had
loved, came over the knoll and stood regarding
her skinny figure, and presently they began
to mock her. Eudena found this entertaining,
but suddenly the old woman turned on them
quickly and saw them. For a moment she
stood and they stood motionless, and then with
a shriek of rage, she rushed towards them, and
all three disappeared over the crest of the knoll.

Presently the children reappeared among the
ferns beyond the shoulder of the hill. Little Si[153]
ran first, for she was an active girl, and the
other child ran squealing with the old woman
close upon her. And over the knoll came Siss
with a bone in his hand, and Bo and Cat’s-skin
obsequiously behind him, each holding a piece
of food, and they laughed aloud and shouted to
see the old woman so angry. And with a shriek
the child was caught and the old woman set to
work slapping and the child screaming, and it
was very good after-dinner fun for them. Little
Si ran on a little way and stopped at last
between fear and curiosity.

And suddenly came the mother of the child,
with hair streaming, panting, and with a stone
in her hand, and the old woman turned about
like a wild cat. She was the equal of any
woman, was the chief of the fire-minders, in
spite of her years; but before she could do anything
Siss shouted to her and the clamour rose
loud. Other shock heads came into sight. It
seemed the whole tribe was at home and feasting.
But the old woman dared not go on
wreaking herself on the child Siss befriended.

Everyone made noises and called names—even
little Si. Abruptly the old woman let go
of the child she had caught and made a swift
run at Si for Si had no friends; and Si, realising
her danger when it was almost upon her,[154]
made off headlong, with a faint cry of terror,
not heeding whither she ran, straight to the
lair of the lion. She swerved aside into the
reeds presently, realising now whither she
went.

But the old woman was a wonderful old
woman, as active as she was spiteful, and she
caught Si by the streaming hair within thirty
yards of Eudena. All the tribe now was running
down the knoll and shouting and laughing
ready to see the fun.

Then something stirred in Eudena; something
that had never stirred in her before; and,
thinking all of little Si and nothing of her fear,
she sprang up from her ambush and ran swiftly
forward. The old woman did not see her, for
she was busy beating little Si’s face with her
hand, beating with all her heart, and suddenly
something hard and heavy struck her cheek.
She went reeling, and saw Eudena with flaming
eyes and cheeks between her and little Si.
She shrieked with astonishment and terror,
and little Si, not understanding, set off towards
the gaping tribe. They were quite close now,
for the sight of Eudena had driven their fading
fear of the lion out of their heads.

In a moment Eudena had turned from the
cowering old woman and overtaken Si. “Si!”[155]
she cried, “Si!” She caught the child up in her
arms as it stopped, pressed the nail-lined face
to hers, and turned about to run towards her
lair, the lair of the old lion. The old woman
stood waist-high in the reeds, and screamed
foul things and inarticulate rage, but did not
dare to intercept her; and at the bend of the
path Eudena looked back and saw all the men
of the tribe crying to one another and Siss
coming at a trot along the lion’s trail.

She ran straight along the narrow way
through the reeds to the shady place where
Ugh-lomi sat with his healing thigh, just
awakened by the shouting and rubbing his
eyes. She came to him, a woman, with little
Si in her arms. Her heart throbbed in her
throat. “Ugh-lomi!” she cried, “Ugh-lomi,
the tribe comes!”

Ugh-lomi sat staring in stupid astonishment
at her and Si.

She pointed with Si in one arm. She sought
among her feeble store of words to explain.
She could hear the men calling. Apparently
they had stopped outside. She put down Si
and caught up the new club with the lion’s
teeth, and put it into Ugh-lomi’s hand, and ran
three yards and picked up the first axe.

“Ah!” said Ugh-lomi, waving the new club,[156]
and suddenly he perceived the occasion and,
rolling over, began to struggle to his feet.

He stood but clumsily. He supported himself
by one hand against the tree, and just
touched the ground gingerly with the toe of
his wounded leg. In the other hand he gripped
the new club. He looked at his healing thigh;
and suddenly the reeds began whispering, and
ceased and whispered again, and coming cautiously
along the track, bending down and holding
his fire-hardened stabbing-stick of ash in his
hand, appeared Siss. He stopped dead, and his
eyes met Ugh-lomi’s.

Ugh-lomi forgot he had a wounded leg. He
stood firmly on both feet. Something trickled.
He glanced down and saw a little gout of blood
had oozed out along the edge of the healing
wound. He rubbed his hand there to give him
the grip of his club, and fixed his eyes again on
Siss.

“Wau!” he cried, and sprang forward, and
Siss, still stooping and watchful, drove his
stabbing-stick up very quickly in an ugly
thrust. It ripped Ugh-lomi’s guarding arm and
the club came down in a counter that Siss was
never to understand. He fell, as an ox falls to
the pole-axe, at Ugh-lomi’s feet.

To Bo it seemed the strangest thing. He[157]

had a comforting sense of tall reeds on either
side, and an impregnable rampart, Siss, between
him and any danger. Snail-eater was
close behind and there was no danger there. He
was prepared to shove behind and send Siss to
death or victory. That was his place as second
man. He saw the butt of the spear Siss carried
leap away from him, and suddenly a dull whack
and the broad back fell away forward, and he
looked Ugh-lomi in the face over his prostrate
leader. It felt to Bo as if his heart had fallen
down a well. He had a throwing-stone in one
hand and an ashen stabbing-stick in the other.
He did not live to the end of his momentary
hesitation which to use.

Snail-eater was a readier man, and besides
Bo did not fall forward as Siss had done, but
gave at his knees and hips, crumpling up with
the toothed club upon his head. The Snail-eater
drove his spear forward swift and
straight, and took Ugh-lomi in the muscle of
the shoulder, and then he drove him hard with
the smiting-stone in his other hand, shouting
out as he did so. The new club swished ineffectually
through the reeds. Eudena saw Ugh-lomi
come staggering back from the narrow
path into the open space, tripping over Siss and
with a foot of ashen stake sticking out of him[158]
over his arm. And then the Snail-eater, whose
name she had given, had his final injury from
her, as his exultant face came out of the reeds
after his spear. For she swung the first axe
swift and high, and hit him fair and square on
the temple; and down he went on Siss at prostrate
Ugh-lomi’s feet.

But before Ugh-lomi could get up, the two
red-haired men were tumbling out of the reeds,
spears and smiting-stones ready, and Snake
hard behind them. One she struck on the
neck, but not to fell him, and he blundered
aside and spoilt his brother’s blow at Ugh-lomi’s
head. In a moment Ugh-lomi dropped
his club and had his assailant by the waist, and
had pitched him sideways sprawling. He
snatched at his club again and recovered it. The
man Eudena had hit stabbed at her with his
spear as he stumbled from her blow, and involuntarily
she gave ground to avoid him. He
hesitated between her and Ugh-lomi, half
turned, gave a vague cry at finding Ugh-lomi
so near, and in a moment Ugh-lomi had him by
the throat, and the club had its third victim. As
he went down Ugh-lomi shouted—no words,
but an exultant cry.

The other red-haired man was six feet from
her with his back to her, and a darker red[159]
streaking his head. He was struggling to his
feet. She had an irrational impulse to stop his
rising. She flung the axe at him, missed, saw
his face in profile, and he had swerved beyond
little Si, and was running through the reeds.
She had a transitory vision of Snake standing
in the throat of the path, half turned away from
her, and then she saw his back. She saw the
club whirling through the air, and the shock
head of Ugh-lomi, with blood in the hair and
blood upon the shoulder, vanishing below the
reeds in pursuit. Then she heard Snake scream
like a woman.

She ran past Si to where the handle of the
axe stuck out of a clump of fern, and turning,
found herself panting and alone with three motionless
bodies. The air was full of shouts and
screams. For a space she was sick and giddy,
and then it came into her head that Ugh-lomi
was being killed along the reed-path, and with
an inarticulate cry she leapt over the body of
Bo and hurried after him. Snake’s feet lay
across the path, and his head was among the
reeds. She followed the path until it bent
round and opened out by the alders, and thence
she saw all that was left of the tribe in the open,
scattering like dead leaves before a gale, and[160]
going back over the knoll. Ugh-lomi was hard
upon Cat’s-skin.

But Cat’s-skin was fleet of foot and got
away, and so did young Wau-Hau when Ugh-lomi
turned upon him, and Ugh-lomi pursued
Wau-Hau far beyond the knoll before he desisted.
He had the rage of battle on him now,
and the wood thrust through his shoulder stung
him like a spur. When she saw he was in no
danger she stopped running and stood panting,
watching the distant active figures run up and
vanish one by one over the knoll. In a little
time she was alone again. Everything had happened
very swiftly. The smoke of Brother
Fire rose straight and steady from the squatting-place,
just as it had done ten minutes ago,
when the old woman had stood yonder worshipping
the lion.

And after a long time, as it seemed, Ugh-lomi
reappeared over the knoll, and came back
to Eudena, triumphant and breathing heavily.
She stood, her hair about her eyes and hot-faced,
with the blood-stained axe in her hand,
at the place where the tribe had offered her as
a sacrifice to the lion. “Wau!” cried Ugh-lomi
at the sight of her, his face alight with the fellowship
of battle, and he waved his new club,
red now and hairy; and at the sight of his[161]
glowing face her tense pose relaxed somewhat,
and she stood sobbing and rejoicing.

Ugh-lomi had a queer unaccountable pang
at the sight of her tears; but he only shouted
“Wau!” the louder and shook the axe east and
west. He called manfully to her to follow him
and turned back, striding, with the club swinging
in his hand, towards the squatting-place, as
if he had never left the tribe; and she ceased
her weeping and followed quickly as a woman
should.

So Ugh-lomi and Eudena came back to the
squatting-place from which they had fled many
days before from the face of Uya; and by the
squatting-place lay a deer half eaten, just as
there had been before Ugh-lomi was man or
Eudena woman. So Ugh-lomi sat down to
eat, and Eudena beside him like a man, and the
rest of the tribe watched them from safe hiding-places.
And after a time one of the elder
girls came back timorously, carrying little Si
in her arms, and Eudena called to them by
name, and offered them food. But the elder
girl was afraid and would not come, though Si
struggled to come to Eudena. Afterwards,
when Ugh-lomi had eaten, he sat dozing, and
at last he slept, and slowly the others came out
of the hiding-places and drew near. And when[162]
Ugh-lomi woke, save that there were no men to
be seen, it seemed as though he had never left
the tribe.

Now, there is a thing strange but true: that
all through this fight Ugh-lomi forgot that he
was lame, and was not lame, and after he had
rested behold! he was a lame man; and he remained
a lame man to the end of his days.

Cat’s-skin and the second red-haired man
and Wau-Hau, who chipped flints cunningly,
as his father had done before him, fled from
the face of Ugh-lomi, and none knew where
they hid. But two days after they came and
squatted a good way off from the knoll among
the bracken under the chestnuts and watched.
Ugh-lomi’s rage had gone, he moved to go
against them and did not, and at sundown they
went away. That day, too, they found the old
woman among the ferns, where Ugh-lomi had
blundered upon her when he had pursued Wau-Hau.
She was dead and more ugly than ever,
but whole. The jackals and vultures had tried
her and left her;—she was ever a wonderful
old woman.

The next day the three men came again and
squatted nearer, and Wau-Hau had two rabbits
to hold up, and the red-haired man a wood-pigeon,[163]
and Ugh-lomi stood before the women
and mocked them.

The next day they sat again nearer—without
stones or sticks, and with the same offerings,
and Cat’s-skin had a trout. It was rare men
caught fish in those days, but Cat’s-skin would
stand silently in the water for hours and catch
them with his hand. And the fourth day Ugh-lomi
suffered these three to come to the squatting-place
in peace, with the food they had
with them. Ugh-lomi ate the trout. Thereafter
for many moons Ugh-lomi was master and had
his will in peace. And on the fulness of time he
was killed and eaten even as Uya had been
slain.


[165]
A Story of the Days to Come


[167]

A STORY OF THE DAYS TO COME

I—THE CURE FOR LOVE

The excellent Mr. Morris was an Englishman,
and he lived in the days of Queen Victoria
the Good. He was a prosperous and very
sensible man; he read the Times and went to
church, and as he grew towards middle age an
expression of quiet contented contempt for all
who were not as himself settled on his face. He
was one of those people who do everything that
is right and proper and sensible with inevitable
regularity. He always wore just the right and
proper clothes, steering the narrow way between
the smart and the shabby, always subscribed
to the right charities, just the judicious
compromise between ostentation and meanness,
and never failed to have his hair cut to exactly
the proper length.

Everything that it was right and proper for a
man in his position to possess, he possessed;[168]
and everything that it was not right and proper
for a man in his position to possess, he did not
possess.

And among other right and proper possessions,
this Mr. Morris had a wife and children.
They were the right sort of wife, and the right
sort and number of children, of course; nothing
imaginative or highty-flighty about any of
them, so far as Mr. Morris could see; they wore
perfectly correct clothing, neither smart nor hygienic
nor faddy in any way, but just sensible;
and they lived in a nice sensible house in the
later Victorian sham Queen Anne style of
architecture, with sham half-timbering of chocolate-painted
plaster in the gables, Lincrusta
Walton sham carved oak panels, a terrace of
terra cotta to imitate stone, and cathedral glass
in the front door. His boys went to good solid
schools, and were put to respectable professions;
his girls, in spite of a fantastic protest or
so, were all married to suitable, steady, oldish
young men with good prospects. And when it
was a fit and proper thing for him to do so, Mr.
Morris died. His tomb was of marble, and,
without any art nonsense or laudatory inscription,
quietly imposing—such being the fashion
of his time.

He underwent various changes according to[169]
the accepted custom in these cases, and long before
this story begins his bones even had become
dust, and were scattered to the four quarters
of heaven. And his sons and his grandsons
and his great-grandsons and his great-great-grandsons,
they too were dust and ashes, and
were scattered likewise. It was a thing he could
not have imagined, that a day would come
when even his great-great-grandsons would be
scattered to the four winds of heaven. If any
one had suggested it to him he would have resented
it. He was one of those worthy people
who take no interest in the future of mankind
at all. He had grave doubts, indeed, if there
was any future for mankind after he was dead.

It seemed quite impossible and quite uninteresting
to imagine anything happening after he
was dead. Yet the thing was so, and when even
his great-great-grandson was dead and decayed
and forgotten, when the sham half-timbered
house had gone the way of all shams, and the
Times was extinct, and the silk hat a ridiculous
antiquity, and the modestly imposing stone that
had been sacred to Mr. Morris had been burnt
to make lime for mortar, and all that Mr. Morris
had found real and important was sere and
dead, the world was still going on, and people
were still going about it, just as heedless and[170]
impatient of the Future, or, indeed, of anything
but their own selves and property, as Mr. Morris
had been.

And, strange to tell, and much as Mr. Morris
would have been angered if any one had foreshadowed
it to him, all over the world there
were scattered a multitude of people, filled with
the breath of life, in whose veins the blood of
Mr. Morris flowed. Just as some day the life
which is gathered now in the reader of this very
story may also be scattered far and wide about
this world, and mingled with a thousand alien
strains, beyond all thought and tracing.

And among the descendants of this Mr. Morris
was one almost as sensible and clear-headed
as his ancestor. He had just the same stout,
short frame as that ancient man of the nineteenth
century, from whom his name of Morris—he
spelt it Mwres—came; he had the same
half-contemptuous expression of face. He was
a prosperous person, too, as times went, and he
disliked the “new-fangled,” and bothers about
the future and the lower classes, just as much
as the ancestral Morris had done. He did not
read the Times: indeed, he did not know there
ever had been a Times—that institution had
foundered somewhere in the intervening gulf of
years; but the phonograph machine, that talked[171]
to him as he made his toilet of a morning,
might have been the voice of a reincarnated
Blowitz when it dealt with the world’s affairs.
This phonographic machine was the size and
shape of a Dutch clock, and down the front of
it were electric barometric indicators, and an
electric clock and calendar, and automatic engagement
reminders, and where the clock
would have been was the mouth of a trumpet.
When it had news the trumpet gobbled like a
turkey, “Galloop, galloop,” and then brayed out
its message as, let us say, a trumpet might
bray. It would tell Mwres in full, rich, throaty
tones about the overnight accidents to the omnibus
flying-machines that plied around the
world, the latest arrivals at the fashionable resorts
in Tibet, and of all the great monopolist
company meetings of the day before, while he
was dressing. If Mwres did not like hearing
what it said, he had only to touch a stud, and
it would choke a little and talk about something
else.

Of course his toilet differed very much from
that of his ancestor. It is doubtful which would
have been the more shocked and pained to find
himself in the clothing of the other. Mwres
would certainly have sooner gone forth to the
world stark naked than in the silk hat, frock[172]
coat, grey trousers and watch-chain that had
filled Mr. Morris with sombre self-respect in
the past. For Mwres there was no shaving to
do: a skilful operator had long ago removed
every hair-root from his face. His legs he encased
in pleasant pink and amber garments of
an air-tight material, which with the help of an
ingenious little pump he distended so as to suggest
enormous muscles. Above this he also
wore pneumatic garments beneath an amber
silk tunic, so that he was clothed in air and admirably
protected against sudden extremes of
heat or cold. Over this he flung a scarlet cloak
with its edge fantastically curved. On his head,
which had been skilfully deprived of every
scrap of hair, he adjusted a pleasant little cap
of bright scarlet, held on by suction and inflated
with hydrogen, and curiously like the comb of
a cock. So his toilet was complete; and, conscious
of being soberly and becomingly attired,
he was ready to face his fellow-beings with a
tranquil eye.

This Mwres—the civility of “Mr.” had vanished
ages ago—was one of the officials under
the Wind Vane and Waterfall Trust, the great
company that owned every wind wheel and
waterfall in the world, and which pumped all
the water and supplied all the electric energy[173]
that people in these latter days required. He
lived in a vast hotel near that part of London
called Seventh Way, and had very large and
comfortable apartments on the seventeenth
floor. Households and family life had long
since disappeared with the progressive refinement
of manners; and indeed the steady rise in
rents and land values, the disappearance of domestic
servants, the elaboration of cookery, had
rendered the separate domicile of Victorian
times impossible, even had any one desired such
a savage seclusion. When his toilet was completed
he went towards one of the two doors of
his apartment—there were doors at opposite
ends, each marked with a huge arrow pointing
one one way and one the other—touched a stud
to open it, and emerged on a wide passage, the
centre of which bore chairs and was moving at
a steady pace to the left. On some of these
chairs were seated gaily-dressed men and
women. He nodded to an acquaintance—it
was not in those days etiquette to talk before
breakfast—and seated himself on one of these
chairs, and in a few seconds he had been carried
to the doors of a lift, by which he descended
to the great and splendid hall in which his
breakfast would be automatically served.

It was a very different meal from a Victorian[174]
breakfast. The rude masses of bread needing
to be carved and smeared over with animal fat
before they could be made palatable, the still
recognisable fragments of recently killed animals,
hideously charred and hacked, the eggs
torn ruthlessly from beneath some protesting
hen,—such things as these, though they constituted
the ordinary fare of Victorian times,
would have awakened only horror and disgust
in the refined minds of the people of these latter
days. Instead were pastes and cakes of agreeable
and variegated design, without any suggestion
in colour or form of the unfortunate animals
from which their substance and juices
were derived. They appeared on little dishes
sliding out upon a rail from a little box at one
side of the table. The surface of the table, to
judge by touch and eye, would have appeared
to a nineteenth-century person to be covered
with fine white damask, but this was really an
oxidised metallic surface, and could be cleaned
instantly after a meal. There were hundreds of
such little tables in the hall, and at most of
them were other latter-day citizens singly or in
groups. And as Mwres seated himself before
his elegant repast, the invisible orchestra, which
had been resting during an interval, resumed
and filled the air with music.[175]

But Mwres did not display any great interest
either in his breakfast or the music; his eye
wandered incessantly about the hall, as though
he expected a belated guest. At last he rose
eagerly and waved his hand, and simultaneously
across the hall appeared a tall dark figure
in a costume of yellow and olive green. As this
person, walking amidst the tables with measured
steps, drew near, the pallid earnestness of
his face and the unusual intensity of his eyes
became apparent. Mwres reseated himself and
pointed to a chair beside him.

“I feared you would never come,” he said.
In spite of the intervening space of time, the
English language was still almost exactly the
same as it had been in England under Victoria
the Good. The invention of the phonograph
and suchlike means of recording sound, and
the gradual replacement of books by such contrivances,
had not only saved the human eyesight
from decay, but had also by the establishment
of a sure standard arrested the process
of change in accent that had hitherto been so
inevitable.

“I was delayed by an interesting case,” said
the man in green and yellow. “A prominent
politician—ahem!—suffering from overwork.”[176]
He glanced at the breakfast and seated himself.
“I have been awake for forty hours.”

“Eh dear!” said Mwres: “fancy that! You
hypnotists have your work to do.”

The hypnotist helped himself to some attractive
amber-coloured jelly. “I happen to be a
good deal in request,” he said modestly.

“Heaven knows what we should do without
you.”

“Oh! we’re not so indispensable as all that,”
said the hypnotist, ruminating the flavour of
the jelly. “The world did very well without us
for some thousands of years. Two hundred
years ago even—not one! In practice, that is.
Physicians by the thousand, of course—frightfully
clumsy brutes for the most part, and following
one another like sheep—but doctors of
the mind, except a few empirical flounderers
there were none.”

He concentrated his mind on the jelly.

“But were people so sane—?” began Mwres.

The hypnotist shook his head. “It didn’t
matter then if they were a bit silly or faddy.
Life was so easy-going then. No competition
worth speaking of—no pressure. A human being
had to be very lopsided before anything
happened. Then, you know, they clapped ‘em
away in what they called a lunatic asylum.”[177]

“I know,” said Mwres. “In these confounded
historical romances that every one is listening
to, they always rescue a beautiful girl from an
asylum or something of the sort. I don’t know
if you attend to that rubbish.”

“I must confess I do,” said the hypnotist. “It
carries one out of oneself to hear of those
quaint, adventurous, half-civilised days of the
nineteenth century, when men were stout and
women simple. I like a good swaggering story
before all things. Curious times they were,
with their smutty railways and puffing old iron
trains, their rum little houses and their horse
vehicles. I suppose you don’t read books?”

“Dear, no!” said Mwres, “I went to a modern
school and we had none of that old-fashioned
nonsense. Phonographs are good enough
for me.”

“Of course,” said the hypnotist, “of course”;
and surveyed the table for his next choice.
“You know,” he said, helping himself to a dark
blue confection that promised well, “in those
days our business was scarcely thought of. I
daresay if any one had told them that in two
hundred years’ time a class of men would be
entirely occupied in impressing things upon the
memory, effacing unpleasant ideas, controlling
and overcoming instinctive but undesirable impulses,[178]
and so forth, by means of hypnotism,
they would have refused to believe the thing
possible. Few people knew that an order made
during a mesmeric trance, even an order to forget
or an order to desire, could be given so as
to be obeyed after the trance was over. Yet
there were men alive then who could have told
them the thing was as absolutely certain to
come about as—well, the transit of Venus.”

“They knew of hypnotism, then?”

“Oh, dear, yes! They used it—for painless
dentistry and things like that! This blue stuff
is confoundedly good: what is it?”

“Haven’t the faintest idea,” said Mwres,
“but I admit it’s very good. Take some more.”

The hypnotist repeated his praises, and there
was an appreciative pause.

“Speaking of these historical romances,” said
Mwres, with an attempt at an easy, off-hand
manner, “brings me—ah—to the matter I—ah—had
in mind when I asked you—when I expressed
a wish to see you.” He paused and took
a deep breath.

The hypnotist turned an attentive eye upon
him, and continued eating.

“The fact is,” said Mwres, “I have a—in
fact a—daughter. Well, you know I have
given her—ah—every educational advantage.[179]
Lectures—not a solitary lecturer of ability in
the world but she has had a telephone direct,
dancing, deportment, conversation, philosophy,
art criticism …” He indicated catholic
culture by a gesture of his hand. “I had intended
her to marry a very good friend of mine—Bindon
of the Lighting Commission—plain
little man, you know, and a bit unpleasant in
some of his ways, but an excellent fellow really—an
excellent fellow.”

“Yes,” said the hypnotist, “go on. How old
is she?”

“Eighteen.”

“A dangerous age. Well?”

“Well: it seems that she has been indulging
in these historical romances—excessively. Excessively.
Even to the neglect of her philosophy.
Filled her mind with unutterable nonsense
about soldiers who fight—what is it?—Etruscans?”

“Egyptians.”

“Egyptians—very probably. Hack about
with swords and revolvers and things—bloodshed
galore—horrible!—and about young men
on torpedo catchers who blow up—Spaniards, I
fancy—and all sorts of irregular adventurers.
And she has got it into her head that she must
marry for Love, and that poor little Bindon—”[180]

“I’ve met similar cases,” said the hypnotist.
“Who is the other young man?”

Mwres maintained an appearance of resigned
calm. “You may well ask,” he said. “He is”—and
his voice sank with shame—”a mere attendant
upon the stage on which the flying-machines
from Paris alight. He has—as they say
in the romances—good looks. He is quite
young and very eccentric. Affects the antique—he
can read and write! So can she. And instead
of communicating by telephone, like sensible
people, they write and deliver—what is
it?”

“Notes?”

“No—not notes…. Ah—poems.”

The hypnotist raised his eyebrows. “How
did she meet him?”

“Tripped coming down from the flying-machine
from Paris—and fell into his arms. The
mischief was done in a moment!”

“Yes?”

“Well—that’s all. Things must be stopped.
That is what I want to consult you about.
What must be done? What can be done? Of
course I’m not a hypnotist; my knowledge is
limited. But you—?”

“Hypnotism is not magic,” said the man in
green, putting both arms on the table.[181]

“Oh, precisely! But still—!”

“People cannot be hypnotised without their
consent. If she is able to stand out against
marrying Bindon, she will probably stand out
against being hypnotised. But if once she can
be hypnotised—even by somebody else—the
thing is done.”

“You can—?”

“Oh, certainly! Once we get her amenable,
then we can suggest that she must marry Bindon—that
that is her fate; or that the young
man is repulsive, and that when she sees him
she will be giddy and faint, or any little thing
of that sort. Or if we can get her into a sufficiently
profound trance we can suggest that
she should forget him altogether—”

“Precisely.”

“But the problem is to get her hypnotised.
Of course no sort of proposal or suggestion
must come from you—because no doubt she already
distrusts you in the matter.”

The hypnotist leant his head upon his arm
and thought.

“It’s hard a man cannot dispose of his own
daughter,” said Mwres irrelevantly.

“You must give me the name and address of
the young lady,” said the hypnotist, “and any[182]
information bearing upon the matter. And, by
the bye, is there any money in the affair?”

Mwres hesitated.

“There’s a sum—in fact, a considerable sum—invested
in the Patent Road Company.
From her mother. That’s what makes the
thing so exasperating.”

“Exactly,” said the hypnotist. And he proceeded
to cross-examine Mwres on the entire
affair.

It was a lengthy interview.

And meanwhile “Elizebeθ Mwres,” as she
spelt her name, or “Elizabeth Morris” as a
nineteenth-century person would have put it,
was sitting in a quiet waiting-place beneath the
great stage upon which the flying-machine
from Paris descended. And beside her sat her
slender, handsome lover reading her the poem
he had written that morning while on duty
upon the stage. When he had finished they sat
for a time in silence; and then, as if for their
special entertainment, the great machine that
had come flying through the air from America
that morning rushed down out of the sky.

At first it was a little oblong, faint and blue
amidst the distant fleecy clouds; and then it
grew swiftly large and white, and larger and
whiter, until they could see the separate tiers of[183]
sails, each hundreds of feet wide, and the lank
body they supported, and at last even the
swinging seats of the passengers in a dotted
row. Although it was falling it seemed to them
to be rushing up the sky, and over the roof-spaces
of the city below its shadow leapt towards
them. They heard the whistling rush of
the air about it and its yelling siren, shrill and
swelling, to warn those who were on its landing-stage
of its arrival. And abruptly the note
fell down a couple of octaves, and it had passed,
and the sky was clear and void, and she could
turn her sweet eyes again to Denton at her side.

Their silence ended; and Denton, speaking in
a little language of broken English that was,
they fancied, their private possession—though
lovers have used such little languages since the
world began—told her how they too would leap
into the air one morning out of all the obstacles
and difficulties about them, and fly to a sunlit
city of delight he knew of in Japan, half-way
about the world.

She loved the dream, but she feared the leap;
and she put him off with “Some day, dearest
one, some day,” to all his pleading that it might
be soon; and at last came a shrilling of whistles,
and it was time for him to go back to his duties
on the stage. They parted—as lovers have[184]
been wont to part for thousands of years. She
walked down a passage to a lift, and so came to
one of the streets of that latter-day London, all
glazed in with glass from the weather, and
with incessant moving platforms that went to
all parts of the city. And by one of these she
returned to her apartments in the Hotel for
Women where she lived, the apartments that
were in telephonic communication with all the
best lecturers in the world. But the sunlight
of the flying stage was in her heart, and the
wisdom of all the best lecturers in the world
seemed folly in that light.

She spent the middle part of the day in the
gymnasium, and took her midday meal with
two other girls and their common chaperone—for
it was still the custom to have a chaperone
in the case of motherless girls of the more prosperous
classes. The chaperone had a visitor
that day, a man in green and yellow, with a
white face and vivid eyes, who talked amazingly.
Among other things, he fell to praising
a new historical romance that one of the great
popular story-tellers of the day had just put
forth. It was, of course, about the spacious
times of Queen Victoria; and the author,
among other pleasing novelties, made a little
argument before each section of the story, in[185]
imitation of the chapter headings of the old-fashioned
books: as for example, “How the
Cabmen of Pimlico stopped the Victoria Omnibuses,
and of the Great Fight in Palace Yard,”
and “How the Piccadilly Policeman was slain
in the midst of his Duty.” The man in green
and yellow praised this innovation. “These
pithy sentences,” he said, “are admirable.
They show at a glance those headlong, tumultuous
times, when men and animals jostled in
the filthy streets, and death might wait for one
at every corner. Life was life then! How
great the world must have seemed then! How
marvellous! They were still parts of the world
absolutely unexplored. Nowadays we have almost
abolished wonder, we lead lives so trim
and orderly that courage, endurance, faith, all
the noble virtues seem fading from mankind.”

And so on, taking the girls’ thoughts with
him, until the life they led, life in the vast and
intricate London of the twenty-second century,
a life interspersed with soaring excursions to
every part of the globe, seemed to them a monotonous
misery compared with the dædal past.

At first Elizabeth did not join in the conversation,
but after a time the subject became so
interesting that she made a few shy interpolations.
But he scarcely seemed to notice her as[186]

he talked. He went on to describe a new
method of entertaining people. They were
hypnotised, and then suggestions were made to
them so skilfully that they seemed to be living
in ancient times again. They played out a little
romance in the past as vivid as reality, and
when at last they awakened they remembered
all they had been through as though it were a
real thing.

“It is a thing we have sought to do for years
and years,” said the hypnotist. “It is practically
an artificial dream. And we know the
way at last. Think of all it opens out to us—the
enrichment of our experience, the recovery
of adventure, the refuge it offers from this
sordid, competitive life in which we live!
Think!”

“And you can do that!” said the chaperone
eagerly.

“The thing is possible at last,” the hypnotist
said. “You may order a dream as you wish.”

The chaperone was the first to be hypnotised,
and the dream, she said, was wonderful, when
she came to again.

The other two girls, encouraged by her enthusiasm,
also placed themselves in the hands
of the hypnotist and had plunges into the romantic
past. No one suggested that Elizabeth[187]

should try this novel entertainment; it was at
her own request at last that she was taken into
that land of dreams where there is neither any
freedom of choice nor will….

And so the mischief was done.

One day, when Denton went down to that
quiet seat beneath the flying stage, Elizabeth
was not in her wonted place. He was disappointed,
and a little angry. The next day she
did not come, and the next also. He was afraid.
To hide his fear from himself, he set to work
to write sonnets for her when she should come
again….

For three days he fought against his dread
by such distraction, and then the truth was before
him clear and cold, and would not be
denied. She might be ill, she might be dead;
but he would not believe that he had been betrayed.
There followed a week of misery.
And then he knew she was the only thing on
earth worth having, and that he must seek her,
however hopeless the search, until she was
found once more.

He had some small private means of his own,
and so he threw over his appointment on the
flying stage, and set himself to find this girl
who had become at last all the world to him.
He did not know where she lived, and little of[188]
her circumstances; for it had been part of the
delight of her girlish romance that he should
know nothing of her, nothing of the difference
of their station. The ways of the city opened
before him east and west, north and south.
Even in Victorian days London was a maze,
that little London with its poor four millions of
people; but the London he explored, the London
of the twenty-second century, was a London
of thirty million souls. At first he was
energetic and headlong, taking time neither to
eat nor sleep. He sought for weeks and
months, he went through every imaginable
phase of fatigue and despair, over-excitement
and anger. Long after hope was dead, by the
sheer inertia of his desire he still went to and
fro, peering into faces and looking this way and
that, in the incessant ways and lifts and passages
of that interminable hive of men.

At last chance was kind to him, and he saw
her.

It was in a time of festivity. He was hungry;
he had paid the inclusive fee and had gone into
one of the gigantic dining-places of the city; he
was pushing his way among the tables and
scrutinising by mere force of habit every group
he passed.

He stood still, robbed of all power of motion,[189]
his eyes wide, his lips apart. Elizabeth
sat scarcely twenty yards away from him, looking
straight at him. Her eyes were as hard to
him, as hard and expressionless and void of
recognition, as the eyes of a statue.

She looked at him for a moment, and then
her gaze passed beyond him.

Had he had only her eyes to judge by he
might have doubted if it was indeed Elizabeth,
but he knew her by the gesture of her hand, by
the grace of a wanton little curl that floated
over her ear as she moved her head. Something
was said to her, and she turned smiling
tolerantly to the man beside her, a little man in
foolish raiment knobbed and spiked like some
odd reptile with pneumatic horns—the Bindon
of her father’s choice.

For a moment Denton stood white and wild-eyed;
then came a terrible faintness, and he sat
before one of the little tables. He sat down
with his back to her, and for a time he did not
dare to look at her again. When at last he did,
she and Bindon and two other people were
standing up to go. The others were her father
and her chaperone.

He sat as if incapable of action until the four
figures were remote and small, and then he rose
up possessed with the one idea of pursuit. For[190]
a space he feared he had lost them, and then he
came upon Elizabeth and her chaperone again
in one of the streets of moving platforms that
intersected the city. Bindon and Mwres had
disappeared.

He could not control himself to patience. He
felt he must speak to her forthwith, or die. He
pushed forward to where they were seated, and
sat down beside them. His white face was convulsed
with half-hysterical excitement.

He laid his hand on her wrist. “Elizabeth?”
he said.

She turned in unfeigned astonishment.
Nothing but the fear of a strange man showed
in her face.

“Elizabeth,” he cried, and his voice was
strange to him: “dearest—you know me?”

Elizabeth’s face showed nothing but alarm
and perplexity. She drew herself away from
him. The chaperone, a little grey-headed
woman with mobile features, leant forward to
intervene. Her resolute bright eyes examined
Denton. “What do you say?” she asked.

“This young lady,” said Denton,—”she
knows me.”

“Do you know him, dear?”

“No,” said Elizabeth in a strange voice, and
with a hand to her forehead, speaking almost[191]
as one who repeats a lesson. “No, I do not
know him. I know—I do not know him.”

“But—but … Not know me! It is I—Denton.
Denton! To whom you used to
talk. Don’t you remember the flying stages?
The little seat in the open air? The verses—”

“No,” cried Elizabeth,—”no. I do not know
him. I do not know him. There is something….
But I don’t know. All I know
is that I do not know him.” Her face was a
face of infinite distress.

The sharp eyes of the chaperone flitted to and
fro from the girl to the man. “You see?” she
said, with the faint shadow of a smile. “She
does not know you.”

“I do not know you,” said Elizabeth. “Of
that I am sure.”

“But, dear—the songs—the little verses—”

“She does not know you,” said the chaperone.
“You must not…. You have
made a mistake. You must not go on talking
to us after that. You must not annoy us on the
public ways.”

“But—” said Denton, and for a moment his
miserably haggard face appealed against fate.

“You must not persist, young man,” protested
the chaperone.

Elizabeth!” he cried.[192]

Her face was the face of one who is tormented.
“I do not know you,” she cried, hand
to brow. “Oh, I do not know you!”

For an instant Denton sat stunned. Then he
stood up and groaned aloud.

He made a strange gesture of appeal towards
the remote glass roof of the public way, then
turned and went plunging recklessly from one
moving platform to another, and vanished
amidst the swarms of people going to and fro
thereon. The chaperone’s eyes followed him,
and then she looked at the curious faces about
her.

“Dear,” asked Elizabeth, clasping her hand,
and too deeply moved to heed observation,
“who was that man? Who was that man?”

The chaperone raised her eyebrows. She
spoke in a clear, audible voice. “Some half-witted
creature. I have never set eyes on him
before.”

“Never?”

“Never, dear. Do not trouble your mind
about a thing like this.”



And soon after this the celebrated hypnotist
who dressed in green and yellow had another
client. The young man paced his consulting-room,
pale and disordered. “I want to forget,”
he cried. “I must forget.”[193]

The hypnotist watched him with quiet eyes,
studied his face and clothes and bearing. “To
forget anything—pleasure or pain—is to be, by
so much—less. However, you know your own
concern. My fee is high.”

“If only I can forget—”

“That’s easy enough with you. You wish
it. I’ve done much harder things. Quite recently.
I hardly expected to do it: the thing
was done against the will of the hypnotised
person. A love affair too—like yours. A girl.
So rest assured.”

The young man came and sat beside the
hypnotist. His manner was a forced calm. He
looked into the hypnotist’s eyes. “I will tell
you. Of course you will want to know what
it is. There was a girl. Her name was Elizabeth
Mwres. Well …”

He stopped. He had seen the instant surprise
on the hypnotist’s face. In that instant
he knew. He stood up. He seemed to dominate
the seated figure by his side. He gripped
the shoulder of green and gold. For a time he
could not find words.

Give her me back!” he said at last. “Give
her me back!”

“What do you mean?” gasped the hypnotist.

“Give her me back.”[194]

“Give whom?”

“Elizabeth Mwres—the girl—”

The hypnotist tried to free himself; he rose
to his feet. Denton’s grip tightened.

“Let go!” cried the hypnotist, thrusting an
arm against Denton’s chest.

In a moment the two men were locked in a
clumsy wrestle. Neither had the slightest
training—for athleticism, except for exhibition
and to afford opportunity for betting, had
faded out of the earth—but Denton was not
only the younger but the stronger of the two.
They swayed across the room, and then the
hypnotist had gone down under his antagonist.
They fell together….

Denton leaped to his feet, dismayed at his
own fury; but the hypnotist lay still, and suddenly
from a little white mark where his forehead
had struck a stool shot a hurrying band
of red. For a space Denton stood over him
irresolute, trembling.

A fear of the consequences entered his gently
nurtured mind. He turned towards the door.
“No,” he said aloud, and came back to the middle
of the room. Overcoming the instinctive
repugnance of one who had seen no act of violence
in all his life before, he knelt down beside
his antagonist and felt his heart. Then he[195]
peered at the wound. He rose quietly and
looked about him. He began to see more of
the situation.

When presently the hypnotist recovered his
senses, his head ached severely, his back was
against Denton’s knees and Denton was sponging
his face.

The hypnotist did not speak. But presently
he indicated by a gesture that in his opinion he
had been sponged enough. “Let me get up,”
he said.

“Not yet,” said Denton.

“You have assaulted me, you scoundrel!”

“We are alone,” said Denton, “and the door
is secure.”

There was an interval of thought.

“Unless I sponge,” said Denton, “your forehead
will develop a tremendous bruise.”

“You can go on sponging,” said the hypnotist
sulkily.

There was another pause.

“We might be in the Stone Age,” said the
hypnotist. “Violence! Struggle!”

“In the Stone Age no man dared to come between
man and woman,” said Denton.

The hypnotist thought again.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“While you were insensible I found the girl’s[196]
address on your tablets. I did not know it before.
I telephoned. She will be here soon.
Then—”

“She will bring her chaperone.”

“That is all right.”

“But what—? I don’t see. What do you
mean to do?”

“I looked about for a weapon also. It is an
astonishing thing how few weapons there are
nowadays. If you consider that in the Stone
Age men owned scarcely anything but weapons.
I hit at last upon this lamp. I have wrenched
off the wires and things, and I hold it so.” He
extended it over the hypnotist’s shoulders.
“With that I can quite easily smash your skull.
I will—unless you do as I tell you.”

“Violence is no remedy,” said the hypnotist,
quoting from the “Modern Man’s Book of
Moral Maxims.”

“It’s an undesirable disease,” said Denton.

“Well?”

“You will tell that chaperone you are going
to order the girl to marry that knobby little
brute with the red hair and ferrety eyes. I believe
that’s how things stand?”

“Yes—that’s how things stand.”

“And, pretending to do that, you will restore
her memory of me.”[197]

“It’s unprofessional.”

“Look here! If I cannot have that girl I
would rather die than not. I don’t propose to
respect your little fancies. If anything goes
wrong you shall not live five minutes. This is
a rude makeshift of a weapon, and it may quite
conceivably be painful to kill you. But I will.
It is unusual, I know, nowadays to do things
like this—mainly because there is so little in
life that is worth being violent about.”

“The chaperone will see you directly she
comes—”

“I shall stand in that recess. Behind you.”

The hypnotist thought. “You are a determined
young man,” he said, “and only half
civilised. I have tried to do my duty to my
client, but in this affair you seem likely to get
your own way….”

“You mean to deal straightly.”

“I’m not going to risk having my brains
scattered in a petty affair like this.”

“And afterwards?”

“There is nothing a hypnotist or doctor hates
so much as a scandal. I at least am no savage.
I am annoyed…. But in a day or so I
shall bear no malice….”

“Thank you. And now that we understand[198]
each other, there is no necessity to keep you
sitting any longer on the floor.”

II—THE VACANT COUNTRY

The world, they say, changed more between
the year 1800 and the year 1900 than it had
done in the previous five hundred years. That
century, the nineteenth century, was the dawn
of a new epoch in the history of mankind—the
epoch of the great cities, the end of the old
order of country life.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century
the majority of mankind still lived upon the
countryside, as their way of life had been for
countless generations. All over the world they
dwelt in little towns and villages then, and engaged
either directly in agriculture, or in occupations
that were of service to the agriculturist.
They travelled rarely, and dwelt close
to their work, because swift means of transit
had not yet come. The few who travelled went
either on foot, or in slow sailing-ships, or by
means of jogging horses incapable of more than
sixty miles a day. Think of it!—sixty miles a
day. Here and there, in those sluggish times,
a town grew a little larger than its neighbours,
as a port or as a centre of government; but all
the towns in the world with more than a hundred[199]
thousand inhabitants could be counted on
a man’s fingers. So it was in the beginning of
the nineteenth century. By the end, the invention
of railways, telegraphs, steamships, and
complex agricultural machinery, had changed
all these things: changed them beyond all hope
of return. The vast shops, the varied pleasures,
the countless conveniences of the larger towns
were suddenly possible, and no sooner existed
than they were brought into competition with
the homely resources of the rural centres.
Mankind were drawn to the cities by an overwhelming
attraction. The demand for labour
fell with the increase of machinery, the local
markets were entirely superseded, and there
was a rapid growth of the larger centres at the
expense of the open country.

The flow of population townward was the
constant preoccupation of Victorian writers. In
Great Britain and New England, in India and
China, the same thing was remarked: everywhere
a few swollen towns were visibly replacing
the ancient order. That this was an inevitable
result of improved means of travel and
transport—that, given swift means of transit,
these things must be—was realised by few; and
the most puerile schemes were devised to overcome[200]
the mysterious magnetism of the urban
centres, and keep the people on the land.

Yet the developments of the nineteenth century
were only the dawning of the new order.
The first great cities of the new time were horribly
inconvenient, darkened by smoky fogs, insanitary
and noisy; but the discovery of new
methods of building, new methods of heating,
changed all this. Between 1900 and 2000 the
march of change was still more rapid; and between
2000 and 2100 the continually accelerated
progress of human invention made the
reign of Victoria the Good seem at last an almost
incredible vision of idyllic tranquil days.

The introduction of railways was only the
first step in that development of those means
of locomotion which finally revolutionised human
life. By the year 2000 railways and roads
had vanished together. The railways, robbed
of their rails, had become weedy ridges and
ditches upon the face of the world; the old
roads, strange barbaric tracks of flint and soil,
hammered by hand or rolled by rough iron rollers,
strewn with miscellaneous filth, and cut by
iron hoofs and wheels into ruts and puddles
often many inches deep, had been replaced by
patent tracks made of a substance called Eadhamite.
This Eadhamite—it was named after its[201]
patentee—ranks with the invention of printing
and steam as one of the epoch-making discoveries
of the world’s history.

When Eadham discovered the substance, he
probably thought of it as a mere cheap substitute
for india rubber; it cost a few shillings a
ton. But you can never tell all an invention
will do. It was the genius of a man named
Warming that pointed to the possibility of
using it, not only for the tires of wheels, but
as a road substance, and who organised the
enormous network of public ways that speedily
covered the world.

These public ways were made with longitudinal
divisions. On the outer on either side
went foot cyclists and conveyances travelling at
a less speed than twenty-five miles an hour; in
the middle, motors capable of speed up to a
hundred; and the inner, Warming (in the face
of enormous ridicule) reserved for vehicles
travelling at speeds of a hundred miles an hour
and upward.

For ten years his inner ways were vacant.
Before he died they were the most crowded of
all, and vast light frameworks with wheels of
twenty and thirty feet in diameter, hurled along
them at paces that year after year rose steadily
towards two hundred miles an hour. And by[202]

the time this revolution was accomplished, a
parallel revolution had transformed the ever-growing
cities. Before the development of
practical science the fogs and filth of Victorian
times vanished. Electric heating replaced fires
(in 2013 the lighting of a fire that did not absolutely
consume its own smoke was made an
indictable nuisance), and all the city ways, all
public squares and places, were covered in with
a recently invented glass-like substance. The
roofing of London became practically continuous.
Certain short-sighted and foolish legislation
against tall buildings was abolished, and
London, from a squat expanse of petty houses—feebly
archaic in design—rose steadily towards
the sky. To the municipal responsibility
for water, light, and drainage, was added another,
and that was ventilation.

But to tell of all the changes in human convenience
that these two hundred years brought
about, to tell of the long foreseen invention of
flying, to describe how life in households was
steadily supplanted by life in interminable
hotels, how at last even those who were still
concerned in agricultural work came to live in
the towns and to go to and fro to their work
every day, to describe how at last in all England
only four towns remained, each with many[203]
millions of people, and how there were left no
inhabited houses in all the countryside: to tell
all this would take us far from our story of
Denton and his Elizabeth. They had been separated
and reunited, and still they could not
marry. For Denton—it was his only fault—had
no money. Neither had Elizabeth until she
was twenty-one, and as yet she was only eighteen.
At twenty-one all the property of her
mother would come to her, for that was the
custom of the time. She did not know that it
was possible to anticipate her fortune, and Denton
was far too delicate a lover to suggest such
a thing. So things stuck hopelessly between
them. Elizabeth said that she was very unhappy,
and that nobody understood her but
Denton, and that when she was away from him
she was wretched; and Denton said that his
heart longed for her day and night. And they
met as often as they could to enjoy the discussion
of their sorrows.

They met one day at their little seat upon the
flying stage. The precise site of this meeting
was where in Victorian times the road from
Wimbledon came out upon the common. They
were, however, five hundred feet above that
point. Their seat looked far over London. To
convey the appearance of it all to a nineteenth-century[204]
reader would have been difficult. One
would have had to tell him to think of the Crystal
Palace, of the newly built “mammoth” hotels—as
those little affairs were called—of the
larger railway stations of his time, and to imagine
such buildings enlarged to vast proportions
and run together and continuous over the
whole metropolitan area. If then he was told
that this continuous roof-space bore a huge forest
of rotating wind-wheels, he would have begun
very dimly to appreciate what to these
young people was the commonest sight in their
lives.

To their eyes it had something of the quality
of a prison, and they were talking, as they had
talked a hundred times before, of how they
might escape from it and be at last happy together:
escape from it, that is, before the appointed
three years were at an end. It was,
they both agreed, not only impossible but almost
wicked, to wait three years. “Before
that,” said Denton—and the notes of his voice
told of a splendid chest—”we might both be
dead
!”

Their vigorous young hands had to grip at
this, and then Elizabeth had a still more poignant
thought that brought the tears from her[205]
wholesome eyes and down her healthy cheeks.
One of us,” she said, “one of us might be—”

She choked; she could not say the word that
is so terrible to the young and happy.

Yet to marry and be very poor in the cities of
that time was—for any one who had lived
pleasantly—a very dreadful thing. In the old
agricultural days that had drawn to an end in
the eighteenth century there had been a pretty
proverb of love in a cottage; and indeed in
those days the poor of the countryside had
dwelt in flower-covered, diamond-windowed
cottages of thatch and plaster, with the sweet
air and earth about them, amidst tangled
hedges and the song of birds, and with the
ever-changing sky overhead. But all this had
changed (the change was already beginning in
the nineteenth century), and a new sort of life
was opening for the poor—in the lower quarters
of the city.

In the nineteenth century the lower quarters
were still beneath the sky; they were areas of
land on clay or other unsuitable soil, liable to
floods or exposed to the smoke of more fortunate
districts, insufficiently supplied with water,
and as insanitary as the great fear of infectious
diseases felt by the wealthier classes permitted.
In the twenty-second century, however, the[206]
growth of the city storey above storey, and the
coalescence of buildings, had led to a different
arrangement. The prosperous people lived in
a vast series of sumptuous hotels in the upper
storeys and halls of the city fabric; the industrial
population dwelt beneath in the tremendous
ground-floor and basement, so to speak,
of the place.

In the refinement of life and manners these
lower classes differed little from their ancestors,
the East-enders of Queen Victoria’s time; but
they had developed a distinct dialect of their
own. In these under ways they lived and died,
rarely ascending to the surface except when
work took them there. Since for most of them
this was the sort of life to which they had been
born, they found no great misery in such circumstances;
but for people like Denton and
Elizabeth, such a plunge would have seemed
more terrible than death.

“And yet what else is there?” asked Elizabeth.

Denton professed not to know. Apart from
his own feeling of delicacy, he was not sure
how Elizabeth would like the idea of borrowing
on the strength of her expectations.

The passage from London to Paris even,
said Elizabeth, was beyond their means; and in[207]

Paris, as in any other city in the world, life
would be just as costly and impossible as in
London.

Well might Denton cry aloud: “If only we
had lived in those days, dearest! If only we
had lived in the past!” For to their eyes even
nineteenth-century Whitechapel was seen
through a mist of romance.

“Is there nothing?” cried Elizabeth, suddenly
weeping. “Must we really wait for those
three long years? Fancy three years—six-and-thirty
months!” The human capacity for
patience had not grown with the ages.

Then suddenly Denton was moved to speak
of something that had already flickered across
his mind. He had hit upon it at last. It seemed
to him so wild a suggestion that he made it only
half seriously. But to put a thing into words
has ever a way of making it seem more real and
possible than it seemed before. And so it was
with him.

“Suppose,” he said, “we went into the country?”

She looked at him to see if he was serious in
proposing such an adventure.

“The country?”

“Yes—beyond there. Beyond the hills.”[208]

“How could we live?” she said. “Where
could we live?”

“It is not impossible,” he said. “People used
to live in the country.”

“But then there were houses.”

“There are the ruins of villages and towns
now. On the clay lands they are gone, of
course. But they are still left on the grazing
land, because it does not pay the Food Company
to remove them. I know that—for certain.
Besides, one sees them from the flying
machines, you know. Well, we might shelter
in some one of these, and repair it with our
hands. Do you know, the thing is not so wild
as it seems. Some of the men who go out every
day to look after the crops and herds might be
paid to bring us food….”

She stood in front of him. “How strange it
would be if one really could….”

“Why not?”

“But no one dares.”

“That is no reason.”

“It would be—oh! it would be so romantic
and strange. If only it were possible.”

“Why not possible?”

“There are so many things. Think of all the
things we have, things that we should miss.”

“Should we miss them? After all, the life[209]
we lead is very unreal—very artificial.” He
began to expand his idea, and as he warmed to
his exposition the fantastic quality of his first
proposal faded away.

She thought. “But I have heard of prowlers—escaped
criminals.”

He nodded. He hesitated over his answer
because he thought it sounded boyish. He
blushed. “I could get some one I know to
make me a sword.”

She looked at him with enthusiasm growing
in her eyes. She had heard of swords, had seen
one in a museum; she thought of those ancient
days when men wore them as a common thing.
His suggestion seemed an impossible dream to
her, and perhaps for that reason she was eager
for more detail. And inventing for the most
part as he went along, he told her, how they
might live in the country as the old-world people
had done. With every detail her interest
grew, for she was one of those girls for whom
romance and adventure have a fascination.

His suggestion seemed, I say, an impossible
dream to her on that day, but the next day they
talked about it again, and it was strangely less
impossible.

“At first we should take food,” said Denton.
“We could carry food for ten or twelve days.”[210]
It was an age of compact artificial nourishment,
and such a provision had none of the unwieldy
suggestion it would have had in the nineteenth
century.

“But—until our house,” she asked—”until
it was ready, where should we sleep?”

“It is summer.”

“But … What do you mean?”

“There was a time when there were no
houses in the world; when all mankind slept always
in the open air.”

“But for us! The emptiness! No walls—no
ceiling!”

“Dear,” he said, “in London you have many
beautiful ceilings. Artists paint them and stud
them with lights. But I have seen a ceiling
more beautiful than any in London….”

“But where?”

“It is the ceiling under which we two would
be alone….”

“You mean…?”

“Dear,” he said, “it is something the world
has forgotten. It is Heaven and all the host of
stars.”

Each time they talked the thing seemed more
possible and more desirable to them. In a week
or so it was quite possible. Another week, and
it was the inevitable thing they had to do. A[211]
great enthusiasm for the country seized hold of
them and possessed them. The sordid tumult
of the town, they said, overwhelmed them.
They marvelled that this simple way out of
their troubles had never come upon them before.

One morning near Midsummer-day, there
was a new minor official upon the flying stage,
and Denton’s place was to know him no more.

Our two young people had secretly married,
and were going forth manfully out of the city
in which they and their ancestors before them
had lived all their days. She wore a new dress
of white cut in an old-fashioned pattern, and
he had a bundle of provisions strapped athwart
his back, and in his hand he carried—rather
shame-facedly it is true, and under his purple
cloak—an implement of archaic form, a cross-hilted
thing of tempered steel.

Imagine that going forth! In their days the
sprawling suburbs of Victorian times with their
vile roads, petty houses, foolish little gardens
of shrub and geranium, and all their futile, pretentious
privacies, had disappeared: the towering
buildings of the new age, the mechanical
ways, the electric and water mains, all came to
an end together, like a wall, like a cliff, near
four hundred feet in height, abrupt and sheer.[212]
All about the city spread the carrot, swede, and
turnip fields of the Food Company, vegetables
that were the basis of a thousand varied foods,
and weeds and hedgerow tangles had been utterly
extirpated. The incessant expense of
weeding that went on year after year in the
petty, wasteful and barbaric farming of the
ancient days, the Food Company had economised
for ever more by a campaign of extermination.
Here and there, however, neat rows of
bramble standards and apple trees with whitewashed
stems, intersected the fields, and at
places groups of gigantic teazles reared their
favoured spikes. Here and there huge agricultural
machines hunched under waterproof
covers. The mingled waters of the Wey and
Mole and Wandle ran in rectangular channels;
and wherever a gentle elevation of the ground
permitted a fountain of deodorised sewage distributed
its benefits athwart the land and made
a rainbow of the sunlight.

By a great archway in that enormous city
wall emerged the Eadhamite road to Portsmouth,
swarming in the morning sunshine with
an enormous traffic bearing the blue-clad servants
of the Food Company to their toil. A
rushing traffic, beside which they seemed two
scarce-moving dots. Along the outer tracks[213]
hummed and rattled the tardy little old-fashioned
motors of such as had duties within
twenty miles or so of the city; the inner ways
were filled with vaster mechanisms—swift
monocycles bearing a score of men, lank multicycles,
quadricycles sagging with heavy loads,
empty gigantic produce carts that would come
back again filled before the sun was setting, all
with throbbing engines and noiseless wheels
and a perpetual wild melody of horns and
gongs.

Along the very verge of the outermost way
our young people went in silence, newly wed
and oddly shy of one another’s company. Many
were the things shouted to them as they
tramped along, for in 2100 a foot-passenger on
an English road was almost as strange a sight
as a motor car would have been in 1800. But
they went on with steadfast eyes into the country,
paying no heed to such cries.

Before them in the south rose the Downs,
blue at first, and as they came nearer changing
to green, surmounted by the row of gigantic
wind-wheels that supplemented the wind-wheels
upon the roof-spaces of the city, and
broken and restless with the long morning
shadows of those whirling vanes. By midday
they had come so near that they could see here[214]
and there little patches of pallid dots—the sheep
the Meat Department of the Food Company
owned. In another hour they had passed the
clay and the root crops and the single fence that
hedged them in, and the prohibition against
trespass no longer held: the levelled roadway
plunged into a cutting with all its traffic, and
they could leave it and walk over the greensward
and up the open hillside.

Never had these children of the latter days
been together in such a lonely place.

They were both very hungry and footsore—for
walking was a rare exercise—and presently
they sat down on the weedless, close-cropped
grass, and looked back for the first time at the
city from which they had come, shining wide
and splendid in the blue haze of the valley of
the Thames. Elizabeth was a little afraid of
the unenclosed sheep away up the slope—she
had never been near big unrestrained animals
before—but Denton reassured her. And overhead
a white-winged bird circled in the blue.

They talked but little until they had eaten,
and then their tongues were loosened. He
spoke of the happiness that was now certainly
theirs, of the folly of not breaking sooner out
of that magnificent prison of latter-day life, of
the old romantic days that had passed from the[215]

world for ever. And then he became boastful.
He took up the sword that lay on the ground
beside him, and she took it from his hand and
ran a tremulous finger along the blade.

“And you could,” she said, “you—could
raise this and strike a man?”

“Why not? If there were need.”

“But,” she said, “it seems so horrible. It
would slash…. There would be”—her
voice sank,—”blood.”

“In the old romances you have read often
enough …”

“Oh, I know: in those—yes. But that is
different. One knows it is not blood, but just
a sort of red ink…. And you—killing!”

She looked at him doubtfully, and then
handed him back the sword.

After they had rested and eaten, they rose up
and went on their way towards the hills. They
passed quite close to a huge flock of sheep, who
stared and bleated at their unaccustomed
figures. She had never seen sheep before, and
she shivered to think such gentle things must
needs be slain for food. A sheep-dog barked
from a distance, and then a shepherd appeared
amidst the supports of the wind-wheels, and
came down towards them.[216]

When he drew near he called out asking
whither they were going.

Denton hesitated, and told him briefly that
they sought some ruined house among the
Downs, in which they might live together. He
tried to speak in an off-hand manner, as though
it was a usual thing to do. The man stared incredulously.

“Have you done anything?” he asked.

“Nothing,” said Denton. “Only we don’t
want to live in a city any longer. Why should
we live in cities?”

The shepherd stared more incredulously than
ever. “You can’t live here,” he said.

“We mean to try.”

The shepherd stared from one to the other.
“You’ll go back to-morrow,” he said. “It looks
pleasant enough in the sunlight…. Are
you sure you’ve done nothing? We shepherds
are not such great friends of the police.”

Denton looked at him steadfastly. “No,” he
said. “But we are too poor to live in the city,
and we can’t bear the thought of wearing
clothes of blue canvas and doing drudgery.
We are going to live a simple life here, like the
people of old.”

The shepherd was a bearded man with a[217]
thoughtful face. He glanced at Elizabeth’s
fragile beauty.

They had simple minds,” he said.

“So have we,” said Denton.

The shepherd smiled.

“If you go along here,” he said, “along the
crest beneath the wind-wheels, you will see a
heap of mounds and ruins on your right-hand
side. That was once a town called Epsom.
There are no houses there, and the bricks have
been used for a sheep pen. Go on, and another
heap on the edge of the root-land is Leatherhead;
and then the hill turns away along the
border of a valley, and there are woods of
beech. Keep along the crest. You will come
to quite wild places. In some parts, in spite of
all the weeding that is done, ferns and bluebells
and other such useless plants are growing
still. And through it all underneath the wind-wheels
runs a straight lane paved with stones, a
roadway of the Romans two thousand years
old. Go to the right of that, down into the
valley and follow it along by the banks of the
river. You come presently to a street of houses,
many with the roofs still sound upon them.
There you may find shelter.”

They thanked him.

“But it’s a quiet place. There is no light[218]
after dark there, and I have heard tell of robbers.
It is lonely. Nothing happens there.
The phonographs of the story-tellers, the kinematograph
entertainments, the news machines—none
of them are to be found there. If you
are hungry there is no food, if you are ill no
doctor …” He stopped.

“We shall try it,” said Denton, moving to go
on. Then a thought struck him, and he made
an agreement with the shepherd, and learnt
where they might find him, to buy and bring
them anything of which they stood in need, out
of the city.

And in the evening they came to the deserted
village, with its houses that seemed so small
and odd to them: they found it golden in the
glory of the sunset, and desolate and still.
They went from one deserted house to another,
marvelling at their quaint simplicity, and debating
which they should choose. And at last,
in a sunlit corner of a room that had lost its
outer wall, they came upon a wild flower, a little
flower of blue that the weeders of the Food
Company had overlooked.

That house they decided upon; but they did
not remain in it long that night, because they
were resolved to feast upon nature. And moreover
the houses became very gaunt and shadowy[219]
after the sunlight had faded out of the sky. So
after they had rested a little time they went to
the crest of the hill again to see with their own
eyes the silence of heaven set with stars, about
which the old poets had had so many things to
tell. It was a wonderful sight, and Denton
talked like the stars, and when they went down
the hill at last the sky was pale with dawn.
They slept but little, and in the morning when
they woke a thrush was singing in a tree.

So these young people of the twenty-second
century began their exile. That morning they
were very busy exploring the resources of this
new home in which they were going to live the
simple life. They did not explore very fast
or very far, because they went everywhere
hand-in-hand; but they found the beginnings of
some furniture. Beyond the village was a store
of winter fodder for the sheep of the Food
Company, and Denton dragged great armfuls
to the house to make a bed; and in several of
the houses were old fungus-eaten chairs and
tables—rough, barbaric, clumsy furniture, it
seemed to them, and made of wood. They repeated
many of the things they had said on the
previous day, and towards evening they found
another flower, a harebell. In the late afternoon
some Company shepherds went down the[220]
river valley riding on a big multicycle; but they
hid from them, because their presence, Elizabeth
said, seemed to spoil the romance of this
old-world place altogether.

In this fashion they lived a week. For all
that week the days were cloudless, and the
nights nights of starry glory, that were invaded
each a little more by a crescent moon.

Yet something of the first splendour of their
coming faded—faded imperceptibly day after
day; Denton’s eloquence became fitful, and
lacked fresh topics of inspiration; the fatigue
of their long march from London told in a certain
stiffness of the limbs, and each suffered
from a slight unaccountable cold. Moreover,
Denton became aware of unoccupied time. In
one place among the carelessly heaped lumber
of the old times he found a rust-eaten spade,
and with this he made a fitful attack on the
razed and grass-grown garden—though he had
nothing to plant or sow. He returned to Elizabeth
with a sweat-streaming face, after half an
hour of such work.

“There were giants in those days,” he said,
not understanding what wont and training will
do. And their walk that day led them along the
hills until they could see the city shimmering[221]
far away in the valley. “I wonder how things
are going on there,” he said.

And then came a change in the weather.
“Come out and see the clouds,” she cried; and
behold! they were a sombre purple in the north
and east, streaming up to ragged edges at the
zenith. And as they went up the hill these
hurrying streamers blotted out the sunset. Suddenly
the wind set the beech-trees swaying and
whispering, and Elizabeth shivered. And then
far away the lightning flashed, flashed like a
sword that is drawn suddenly, and the distant
thunder marched about the sky, and even as
they stood astonished, pattering upon them
came the first headlong raindrops of the storm.
In an instant the last streak of sunset was hidden
by a falling curtain of hail, and the lightning
flashed again, and the voice of the thunder
roared louder, and all about them the world
scowled dark and strange.

Seizing hands, these children of the city ran
down the hill to their home, in infinite astonishment.
And ere they reached it, Elizabeth
was weeping with dismay, and the darkling
ground about them was white and brittle and
active with the pelting hail.

Then began a strange and terrible night for
them. For the first time in their civilised lives[222]

they were in absolute darkness; they were wet
and cold and shivering, all about them hissed
the hail, and through the long neglected ceilings
of the derelict home came noisy spouts of
water and formed pools and rivulets on the
creaking floors. As the gusts of the storm
struck the worn-out building, it groaned and
shuddered, and now a mass of plaster from the
wall would slide and smash, and now some
loosened tile would rattle down the roof and
crash into the empty greenhouse below. Elizabeth
shuddered, and was still; Denton wrapped
his gay and flimsy city cloak about her, and so
they crouched in the darkness. And ever the
thunder broke louder and nearer, and ever more
lurid flashed the lightning, jerking into a momentary
gaunt clearness the steaming, dripping
room in which they sheltered.

Never before had they been in the open air
save when the sun was shining. All their time
had been spent in the warm and airy ways and
halls and rooms of the latter-day city. It was
to them that night as if they were in some other
world, some disordered chaos of stress and
tumult, and almost beyond hoping that they
should ever see the city ways again.

The storm seemed to last interminably, until
at last they dozed between the thunderclaps,[223]
and then very swiftly it fell and ceased. And
as the last patter of the rain died away they
heard an unfamiliar sound.

“What is that?” cried Elizabeth.

It came again. It was the barking of dogs.
It drove down the desert lane and passed; and
through the window, whitening the wall before
them and throwing upon it the shadow of the
window-frame and of a tree in black silhouette,
shone the light of the waxing moon….

Just as the pale dawn was drawing the things
about them into sight, the fitful barking of dogs
came near again, and stopped. They listened.
After a pause they heard the quick pattering of
feet seeking round the house, and short, half-smothered
barks. Then again everything was
still.

“Ssh!” whispered Elizabeth, and pointed to
the door of their room.

Denton went half-way towards the door, and
stood listening. He came back with a face of
affected unconcern. “They must be the sheep-dogs
of the Food Company,” he said. “They
will do us no harm.”

He sat down again beside her. “What a
night it has been!” he said, to hide how keenly
he was listening.[224]

“I don’t like dogs,” answered Elizabeth,
after a long silence.

“Dogs never hurt any one,” said Denton. “In
the old days—in the nineteenth century—everybody
had a dog.”

“There was a romance I heard once. A dog
killed a man.”

“Not this sort of dog,” said Denton confidently.
“Some of those romances—are exaggerated.”

Suddenly a half bark and a pattering up the
staircase; the sound of panting. Denton sprang
to his feet and drew the sword out of the damp
straw upon which they had been lying. Then in
the doorway appeared a gaunt sheep-dog, and
halted there. Behind it stared another. For an
instant man and brute faced each other, hesitating.

Then Denton, being ignorant of dogs, made
a sharp step forward. “Go away,” he said,
with a clumsy motion of his sword.

The dog started and growled. Denton
stopped sharply. “Good dog!” he said.

The growling jerked into a bark.

“Good dog!” said Denton. The second dog
growled and barked. A third out of sight down
the staircase took up the barking also. Outside[225]
others gave tongue—a large number it seemed
to Denton.

“This is annoying,” said Denton, without
taking his eye off the brutes before him. “Of
course the shepherds won’t come out of the city
for hours yet. Naturally these dogs don’t quite
make us out.”

“I can’t hear,” shouted Elizabeth. She stood
up and came to him.

Denton tried again, but the barking still
drowned his voice. The sound had a curious
effect upon his blood. Odd disused emotions
began to stir; his face changed as he shouted.
He tried again; the barking seemed to mock
him, and one dog danced a pace forward, bristling.
Suddenly he turned, and uttering certain
words in the dialect of the underways, words
incomprehensible to Elizabeth, he made for the
dogs. There was a sudden cessation of the
barking, a growl and a snapping. Elizabeth
saw the snarling head of the foremost dog, its
white teeth and retracted ears, and the flash of
the thrust blade. The brute leapt into the air
and was flung back.

Then Denton, with a shout, was driving the
dogs before him. The sword flashed above his
head with a sudden new freedom of gesture,
and then he vanished down the staircase. She[226]
made six steps to follow him, and on the landing
there was blood. She stopped, and hearing
the tumult of dogs and Denton’s shouts pass
out of the house, ran to the window.

Nine wolfish sheep-dogs were scattering, one
writhed before the porch; and Denton, tasting
that strange delight of combat that slumbers
still in the blood of even the most civilised man,
was shouting and running across the garden
space. And then she saw something that for a
moment he did not see. The dogs circled round
this way and that, and came again. They had
him in the open.

In an instant she divined the situation. She
would have called to him. For a moment she
felt sick and helpless, and then, obeying a
strange impulse, she gathered up her white skirt
and ran downstairs. In the hall was the rusting
spade. That was it! She seized it and ran out.

She came none too soon. One dog rolled before
him, well-nigh slashed in half; but a second
had him by the thigh, a third gripped his collar
behind, and a fourth had the blade of the sword
between its teeth, tasting its own blood. He
parried the leap of a fifth with his left arm.

It might have been the first century instead
of the twenty-second, so far as she was concerned.
All the gentleness of her eighteen years[227]

of city life vanished before this primordial
need. The spade smote hard and sure, and cleft
a dog’s skull. Another, crouching for a spring,
yelped with dismay at this unexpected antagonist,
and rushed aside. Two wasted precious
moments on the binding of a feminine skirt.

The collar of Denton’s cloak tore and parted
as he staggered back; and that dog too felt the
spade, and ceased to trouble him. He sheathed
his sword in the brute at his thigh.

“To the wall!” cried Elizabeth; and in three
seconds the fight was at an end, and our young
people stood side by side, while a remnant of
five dogs, with ears and tails of disaster, fled
shamefully from the stricken field.

For a moment they stood panting and victorious,
and then Elizabeth, dropping her spade,
covered her face, and sank to the ground in a
paroxysm of weeping. Denton looked about
him, thrust the point of his sword into the
ground so that it was at hand, and stooped to
comfort her.



At last their more tumultuous emotions subsided,
and they could talk again. She leant
upon the wall, and he sat upon it so that he
could keep an eye open for any returning dogs.
Two, at any rate, were up on the hillside and
keeping up a vexatious barking.[228]

She was tear-stained, but not very wretched
now, because for half an hour he had been repeating
that she was brave and had saved his
life. But a new fear was growing in her mind.

“They are the dogs of the Food Company,”
she said. “There will be trouble.”

“I am afraid so. Very likely they will prosecute
us for trespass.”

A pause.

“In the old times,” he said, “this sort of thing
happened day after day.”

“Last night!” she said. “I could not live
through another such night.”

He looked at her. Her face was pale for want
of sleep, and drawn and haggard. He came to a
sudden resolution. “We must go back,” he said.

She looked at the dead dogs, and shivered.
“We cannot stay here,” she said.

“We must go back,” he repeated, glancing
over his shoulder to see if the enemy kept their
distance. “We have been happy for a time….
But the world is too civilised. Ours is
the age of cities. More of this will kill us.”

“But what are we to do? How can we live
there?”

Denton hesitated. His heel kicked against
the wall on which he sat. “It’s a thing I haven’t[229]
mentioned before,” he said, and coughed; “but …”

“Yes?”

“You could raise money on your expectations,”
he said.

“Could I?” she said eagerly.

“Of course you could. What a child you
are!”

She stood up, and her face was bright. “Why
did you not tell me before?” she asked. “And
all this time we have been here!”

He looked at her for a moment, and smiled.
Then the smile vanished. “I thought it ought
to come from you,” he said. “I didn’t like to
ask for your money. And besides—at first I
thought this would be rather fine.”

There was a pause.

“It has been fine,” he said; and glanced once
more over his shoulder. “Until all this began.”

“Yes,” she said, “those first days. The first
three days.”

They looked for a space into one another’s
faces, and then Denton slid down from the wall
and took her hand.

“To each generation,” he said, “the life of its
time. I see it all plainly now. In the city—that
is the life to which we were born. To live in any[230]

other fashion … Coming here was a
dream, and this—is the awakening.”

“It was a pleasant dream,” she said,—”in the
beginning.”

For a long space neither spoke.

“If we would reach the city before the shepherds
come here, we must start,” said Denton.
“We must get our food out of the house and eat
as we go.”

Denton glanced about him again, and, giving
the dead dogs a wide berth, they walked across
the garden space and into the house together.
They found the wallet with their food, and descended
the blood-stained stairs again. In the
hall Elizabeth stopped. “One minute,” she said.
“There is something here.”

She led the way into the room in which that
one little blue flower was blooming. She
stooped to it, she touched it with her hand.

“I want it,” she said; and then, “I cannot
take it….”

Impulsively she stooped and kissed its petals.

Then silently, side by side, they went across
the empty garden-space into the old high road,
and set their faces resolutely towards the distant
city—towards the complex mechanical city
of those latter days, the city that had swallowed
up mankind.

[231]

III—THE WAYS OF THE CITY

Prominent if not paramount among world-changing
inventions in the history of man is
that series of contrivances in locomotion that
began with the railway and ended for a century
or more with the motor and the patent road.
That these contrivances, together with the device
of limited liability joint stock companies
and the supersession of agricultural labourers
by skilled men with ingenious machinery,
would necessarily concentrate mankind in cities
of unparallelled magnitude and work an entire
revolution in human life, became, after the
event, a thing so obvious that it is a matter of
astonishment it was not more clearly anticipated.
Yet that any steps should be taken to
anticipate the miseries such a revolution might
entail does not appear even to have been suggested;
and the idea that the moral prohibitions
and sanctions, the privileges and concessions,
the conception of property and responsibility, of
comfort and beauty, that had rendered the
mainly agricultural states of the past prosperous
and happy, would fail in the rising torrent
of novel opportunities and novel stimulations,
never seems to have entered the nineteenth-century
mind. That a citizen, kindly and fair in[232]

his ordinary life, could as a shareholder become
almost murderously greedy; that commercial
methods that were reasonable and honourable
on the old-fashioned countryside, should on an
enlarged scale be deadly and overwhelming;
that ancient charity was modern pauperisation,
and ancient employment modern sweating;
that, in fact, a revision and enlargement of the
duties and rights of man had become urgently
necessary, were things it could not entertain,
nourished as it was on an archaic system of
education and profoundly retrospective and legal
in all its habits of thought. It was known
that the accumulation of men in cities involved
unprecedented dangers of pestilence; there was
an energetic development of sanitation; but
that the diseases of gambling and usury, of
luxury and tyranny should become endemic,
and produce horrible consequences was beyond
the scope of nineteenth-century thought. And
so, as if it were some inorganic process, practically
unhindered by the creative will of man,
the growth of the swarming unhappy cities that
mark the twenty-first century accomplished
itself.

The new society was divided into three main
classes. At the summit slumbered the property
owner, enormously rich by accident rather than[233]
design, potent save for the will and aim, the last
avatar of Hamlet in the world. Below was the
enormous multitude of workers employed by
the gigantic companies that monopolised control;
and between these two the dwindling middle
class, officials of innumerable sorts, foremen,
managers, the medical, legal, artistic, and
scholastic classes, and the minor rich, a middle
class whose members led a life of insecure luxury
and precarious speculation amidst the
movements of the great managers.

Already the love story and the marrying of
two persons of this middle class have been told:
how they overcame the obstacles between them,
and how they tried the simple old-fashioned
way of living on the countryside and came back
speedily enough into the city of London. Denton
had no means, so Elizabeth borrowed
money on the securities that her father Mwres
held in trust for her until she was one-and-twenty.

The rate of interest she paid was of course
high, because of the uncertainty of her security,
and the arithmetic of lovers is often sketchy and
optimistic. Yet they had very glorious times
after that return. They determined they would
not go to a Pleasure city nor waste their days
rushing through the air from one part of the[234]

world to the other, for in spite of one disillusionment,
their tastes were still old-fashioned.
They furnished their little room with quaint old
Victorian furniture, and found a shop on the
forty-second floor in Seventh Way where
printed books of the old sort were still to be
bought. It was their pet affectation to read
print instead of hearing phonographs. And
when presently there came a sweet little girl, to
unite them further if it were possible, Elizabeth
would not send it to a creche, as the custom
was, but insisted on nursing it at home. The
rent of their apartments was raised on account
of this singular proceeding, but that they did
not mind. It only meant borrowing a little
more.

Presently Elizabeth was of age, and Denton
had a business interview with her father that
was not agreeable. An exceedingly disagreeable
interview with their money-lender followed,
from which he brought home a white face. On
his return Elizabeth had to tell him of a new
and marvellous intonation of “Goo” that their
daughter had devised, but Denton was inattentive.
In the midst, just as she was at the
cream of her description, he interrupted. “How
much money do you think we have left, now
that everything is settled?”[235]

She stared and stopped her appreciative
swaying of the Goo genius that had accompanied
her description.

“You don’t mean…?”

“Yes,” he answered. “Ever so much. We
have been wild. It’s the interest. Or something.
And the shares you had, slumped. Your father
did not mind. Said it was not his business,
after what had happened. He’s going to marry
again…. Well—we have scarcely a
thousand left!”

“Only a thousand?”

“Only a thousand.”

And Elizabeth sat down. For a moment she
regarded him with a white face, then her eyes
went about the quaint, old-fashioned room,
with its middle Victorian furniture and genuine
oleographs, and rested at last on the little lump
of humanity within her arms.

Denton glanced at her and stood downcast.
Then he swung round on his heel and walked
up and down very rapidly.

“I must get something to do,” he broke out
presently. “I am an idle scoundrel. I ought to
have thought of this before. I have been a
selfish fool. I wanted to be with you all
day….”

He stopped, looking at her white face. Suddenly[236]

he came and kissed her and the little face
that nestled against her breast.

“It’s all right, dear,” he said, standing over
her; “you won’t be lonely now—now Dings is
beginning to talk to you. And I can soon get
something to do, you know. Soon….
Easily…. It’s only a shock at first. But
it will come all right. It’s sure to come right.
I will go out again as soon as I have rested, and
find what can be done. For the present it’s hard
to think of anything….”

“It would be hard to leave these rooms,” said
Elizabeth; “but——”

“There won’t be any need of that—trust
me.”

“They are expensive.”

Denton waved that aside. He began talking
of the work he could do. He was not very explicit
what it would be; but he was quite sure
that there was something to keep them comfortably
in the happy middle class, whose way
of life was the only one they knew.

“There are three-and-thirty million people in
London,” he said: “some of them must have
need of me.”

“Some must.”

“The trouble is … Well—Bindon,
that brown little old man your father wanted[237]
you to marry. He’s an important person….
I can’t go back to my flying-stage work, because
he is now a Commissioner of the Flying
Stage Clerks.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Elizabeth.

“He was made that in the last few weeks
… or things would be easy enough, for
they liked me on the flying stage. But there’s
dozens of other things to be done—dozens.
Don’t you worry, dear. I’ll rest a little while,
and then we’ll dine, and then I’ll start on my
rounds. I know lots of people—lots.”

So they rested, and then they went to the
public dining-room and dined, and then he
started on his search for employment. But they
soon realised that in the matter of one convenience
the world was just as badly off as it had
ever been, and that was a nice, secure, honourable,
remunerative employment, leaving ample
leisure for the private life, and demanding no
special ability, no violent exertion nor risk, and
no sacrifice of any sort for its attainment. He
evolved a number of brilliant projects, and
spent many days hurrying from one part of the
enormous city to another in search of influential
friends; and all his influential friends were
glad to see him, and very sanguine until it came
to definite proposals, and then they became[238]
guarded and vague. He would part with them
coldly, and think over their behaviour, and get
irritated on his way back, and stop at some telephone
office and spend money on an animated
but unprofitable quarrel. And as the days
passed, he got so worried and irritated that
even to seem kind and careless before Elizabeth
cost him an effort—as she, being a loving
woman, perceived very clearly.

After an extremely complex preface one day,
she helped him out with a painful suggestion.
He had expected her to weep and give way to
despair when it came to selling all their joyfully
bought early Victorian treasures, their quaint
objects of art, their antimacassars, bead mats,
repp curtains, veneered furniture, gold-framed
steel engravings and pencil drawings, wax
flowers under shades, stuffed birds, and all sorts
of choice old things; but it was she who made
the proposal. The sacrifice seemed to fill her
with pleasure, and so did the idea of shifting to
apartments ten or twelve floors lower in another
hotel. “So long as Dings is with us, nothing
matters,” she said. “It’s all experience.” So
he kissed her, said she was braver than when
she fought the sheep-dogs, called her Boadicea,
and abstained very carefully from reminding
her that they would have to pay a considerably[239]
higher rent on account of the little voice with
which Dings greeted the perpetual uproar of
the city.

His idea had been to get Elizabeth out of the
way when it came to selling the absurd furniture
about which their affections were twined
and tangled; but when it came to the sale it was
Elizabeth who haggled with the dealer while
Denton went about the running ways of the
city, white and sick with sorrow and the fear
of what was still to come. When they moved
into their sparsely furnished pink-and-white
apartments in a cheap hotel, there came an outbreak
of furious energy on his part, and then
nearly a week of lethargy during which he
sulked at home. Through those days Elizabeth
shone like a star, and at the end Denton’s
misery found a vent in tears. And then he went
out into the city ways again, and—to his utter
amazement—found some work to do.

His standard of employment had fallen
steadily until at last it had reached the lowest
level of independent workers. At first he had aspired
to some high official position in the great
Flying or Wind Vane or Water Companies, or
to an appointment on one of the General Intelligence
Organisations that had replaced newspapers,
or to some professional partnership, but[240]
those were the dreams of the beginning.
From that he had passed to speculation, and
three hundred gold “lions” out of Elizabeth’s
thousand had vanished one evening in the share
market. Now he was glad his good looks secured
him a trial in the position of salesman to
the Suzannah Hat Syndicate, a Syndicate, dealing
in ladies’ caps, hair decorations, and hats—for
though the city was completely covered in,
ladies still wore extremely elaborate and beautiful
hats at the theatres and places of public worship.

It would have been amusing if one could
have confronted a Regent Street shopkeeper of
the nineteenth century with the development of
his establishment in which Denton’s duties lay.
Nineteenth Way was still sometimes called Regent
Street, but it was now a street of moving
platforms and nearly eight hundred feet wide.
The middle space was immovable and gave access
by staircases descending into subterranean
ways to the houses on either side. Right and
left were an ascending series of continuous
platforms each of which travelled about five
miles an hour faster than the one internal to it,
so that one could step from platform to platform
until one reached the swiftest outer way
and so go about the city. The establishment of[241]
the Suzannah Hat Syndicate projected a vast
façade upon the outer way, sending out overhead
at either end an overlapping series of huge
white glass screens, on which gigantic animated
pictures of the faces of well-known beautiful
living women wearing novelties in hats were
thrown. A dense crowd was always collected in
the stationary central way watching a vast
kinematograph which displayed the changing
fashion. The whole front of the building was
in perpetual chromatic change, and all down the

façade—four hundred feet it measured—and
all across the street of moving ways, laced and
winked and glittered in a thousand varieties of
colour and lettering the inscription—

Suzanna! ‘ets! Suzanna! ‘ets!

A broadside of gigantic phonographs
drowned all conversation in the moving way
and roared “hats” at the passer-by, while far
down the street and up, other batteries counselled
the public to “walk down for Suzannah,”
and queried, “Why don’t you buy the girl a
hat?”

For the benefit of those who chanced to be
deaf—and deafness was not uncommon in the
London of that age, inscriptions of all sizes
were thrown from the roof above upon the[242]

moving platforms themselves, and on one’s
hand or on the bald head of the man before one,
or on a lady’s shoulders, or in a sudden jet of
flame before one’s feet, the moving finger wrote
in unanticipated letters of fire “‘ets r chip t’de,”
or simply “‘ets.” And spite of all these efforts
so high was the pitch at which the city lived, so
trained became one’s eyes and ears to ignore all
sorts of advertisement, that many a citizen had
passed that place thousands of times and was
still unaware of the existence of the Suzannah
Hat Syndicate.

To enter the building one descended the
staircase in the middle way and walked through
a public passage in which pretty girls promenaded,
girls who were willing to wear a ticketed
hat for a small fee. The entrance chamber was
a large hall in which wax heads fashionably
adorned rotated gracefully upon pedestals, and
from this one passed through a cash office to
an interminable series of little rooms, each
room with its salesman, its three or four hats
and pins, its mirrors, its kinematographs, telephones
and hat slides in communication with
the central depôt, its comfortable lounge and
tempting refreshments. A salesman in such an
apartment did Denton now become. It was his
business to attend to any of the incessant stream[243]
of ladies who chose to stop with him, to behave
as winningly as possible, to offer refreshment,
to converse on any topic the possible customer
chose, and to guide the conversation dexterously
but not insistently towards hats. He was
to suggest trying on various types of hat and to
show by his manner and bearing, but without
any coarse flattery, the enhanced impression
made by the hats he wished to sell. He had several
mirrors, adapted by various subtleties of
curvature and tint to different types of face and
complexion, and much depended on the proper
use of these.

Denton flung himself at these curious and not
very congenial duties with a good will and energy
that would have amazed him a year before;
but all to no purpose. The Senior Manageress,
who had selected him for appointment
and conferred various small marks of favour
upon him, suddenly changed in her manner, declared
for no assignable cause that he was
stupid, and dismissed him at the end of six
weeks of salesmanship. So Denton had to resume
his ineffectual search for employment.

This second search did not last very long.
Their money was at the ebb. To eke it out a
little longer they resolved to part with their
darling Dings, and took that small person to[244]

one of the public creches that abounded in the
city. That was the common use of the time.
The industrial emancipation of women, the correlated
disorganisation of the secluded “home,”
had rendered creches a necessity for all but very
rich and exceptionally-minded people. Therein
children encountered hygienic and educational
advantages impossible without such organisation.
Creches were of all classes and types of
luxury, down to those of the Labour Company,
where children were taken on credit, to be redeemed
in labour as they grew up.

But both Denton and Elizabeth being, as I
have explained, strange old-fashioned young
people, full of nineteenth-century ideas, hated
these convenient creches exceedingly and at last
took their little daughter to one with extreme
reluctance. They were received by a motherly
person in a uniform who was very brisk and
prompt in her manner until Elizabeth wept at
the mention of parting from her child. The
motherly person, after a brief astonishment at
this unusual emotion, changed suddenly into a
creature of hope and comfort, and so won
Elizabeth’s gratitude for life. They were conducted
into a vast room presided over by several
nurses and with hundreds of two-year-old
girls grouped about the toy-covered floor. This[245]

was the Two-year-old Room. Two nurses came
forward, and Elizabeth watched their bearing
towards Dings with jealous eyes. They were
kind—it was clear they felt kind, and yet …

Presently it was time to go. By that time
Dings was happily established in a corner, sitting
on the floor with her arms filled, and herself,
indeed, for the most part hidden by an unaccustomed
wealth of toys. She seemed careless
of all human relationships as her parents
receded.

They were forbidden to upset her by saying
good-bye.

At the door Elizabeth glanced back for the
last time, and behold! Dings had dropped her
new wealth and was standing with a dubious
face. Suddenly Elizabeth gasped, and the
motherly nurse pushed her forward and closed
the door.

“You can come again soon, dear,” she said,
with unexpected tenderness in her eyes. For a
moment Elizabeth stared at her with a blank
face. “You can come again soon,” repeated the
nurse. Then with a swift transition Elizabeth
was weeping in the nurse’s arms. So it was that
Denton’s heart was won also.

And three weeks after our young people were
absolutely penniless, and only one way lay open.[246]

They must go to the Labour Company. So soon
as the rent was a week overdue their few remaining
possessions were seized, and with scant
courtesy they were shown the way out of the
hotel. Elizabeth walked along the passage
towards the staircase that ascended to the motionless
middle way, too dulled by misery to
think. Denton stopped behind to finish a stinging
and unsatisfactory argument with the hotel
porter, and then came hurrying after her,
flushed and hot. He slackened his pace as he
overtook her, and together they ascended to
the middle way in silence. There they found
two seats vacant and sat down.

“We need not go there—yet?” said Elizabeth.

“No—not till we are hungry,” said Denton.

They said no more.

Elizabeth’s eyes sought a resting-place and
found none. To the right roared the eastward
ways, to the left the ways in the opposite direction,
swarming with people. Backwards and
forwards along a cable overhead rushed a
string of gesticulating men, dressed like clowns,
each marked on back and chest with one gigantic
letter, so that altogether they spelt out:

“Purkinje’s Digestive Pills.”

[247]An anæmic little woman in horrible coarse blue
canvas pointed a little girl to one of this string
of hurrying advertisements.

“Look!” said the anæmic woman: “there’s
yer father.”

“Which?” said the little girl.

“‘Im wiv his nose coloured red,” said the
anæmic woman.

The little girl began to cry, and Elizabeth
could have cried too.

“Ain’t ‘e kickin’ ‘is legs!—just!” said the
anæmic woman in blue, trying to make things
bright again. “Looky—now!

On the façade to the right a huge intensely
bright disc of weird colour span incessantly,
and letters of fire that came and went spelt
out—

“Does this make you Giddy?”

Then a pause, followed by

“Take a Purkinje’s Digestive Pill.”

A vast and desolating braying began. “If you
love Swagger Literature, put your telephone on
to Bruggles, the Greatest Author of all Time.
The Greatest Thinker of all Time. Teaches you
Morals up to your Scalp! The very image of
Socrates, except the back of his head, which is[248]
like Shakspeare. He has six toes, dresses in
red, and never cleans his teeth. Hear Him!”

Denton’s voice became audible in a gap in the
uproar. “I never ought to have married you,”
he was saying. “I have wasted your money,
ruined you, brought you to misery. I am a
scoundrel…. Oh, this accursed world!”

She tried to speak, and for some moments
could not. She grasped his hand. “No,” she
said at last.

A half-formed desire suddenly became determination.
She stood up. “Will you come?”

He rose also. “We need not go there yet.”

“Not that. But I want you to come to the flying
stages—where we met. You know? The
little seat.”

He hesitated. “Can you?” he said, doubtfully.

“Must,” she answered.

He hesitated still for a moment, then moved
to obey her will.

And so it was they spent their last half-day
of freedom out under the open air in the little
seat under the flying stages where they had
been wont to meet five short years ago. There
she told him, what she could not tell him in the
tumultuous public ways, that she did not repent
even now of their marriage—that whatever[249]
discomfort and misery life still had for them,
she was content with the things that had been.
The weather was kind to them, the seat was
sunlit and warm, and overhead the shining
aëroplanes went and came.

At last towards sunsetting their time was at
an end, and they made their vows to one another
and clasped hands, and then rose up and
went back into the ways of the city, a shabby-looking,
heavy-hearted pair, tired and hungry.
Soon they came to one of the pale blue signs
that marked a Labour Company Bureau. For
a space they stood in the middle way regarding
this and at last descended, and entered the waiting-room.

The Labour Company had originally been a
charitable organisation; its aim was to supply
food, shelter, and work to all comers. This it
was bound to do by the conditions of its incorporation,
and it was also bound to supply food
and shelter and medical attendance to all incapable
of work who chose to demand its aid. In
exchange these incapables paid labour notes,
which they had to redeem upon recovery. They
signed these labour notes with thumb-marks,
which were photographed and indexed in such
a way that this world-wide Labour Company
could identify any one of its two or three hundred[250]

million clients at the cost of an hour’s inquiry.
The day’s labour was defined as two
spells in a treadmill used in generating electrical
force, or its equivalent, and its due performance
could be enforced by law. In practice
the Labour Company found it advisable to add
to its statutory obligations of food and shelter a
few pence a day as an inducement to effort; and
its enterprise had not only abolished pauperisation
altogether, but supplied practically all but
the very highest and most responsible labour
throughout the world. Nearly a third of the
population of the world were its serfs and debtors
from the cradle to the grave.

In this practical, unsentimental way the problem
of the unemployed had been most satisfactorily
met and overcome. No one starved in
the public ways, and no rags, no costume less
sanitary and sufficient than the Labour Company’s
hygienic but inelegant blue canvas,
pained the eye throughout the whole world. It
was the constant theme of the phonographic
newspapers how much the world had progressed
since nineteenth-century days, when the
bodies of those killed by the vehicular traffic or
dead of starvation, were, they alleged, a common
feature in all the busier streets.

Denton and Elizabeth sat apart in the waiting-room[251]
until their turn came. Most of the
others collected there seemed limp and taciturn,
but three or four young people gaudily
dressed made up for the quietude of their companions.
They were life clients of the Company,
born in the Company’s creche and destined
to die in its hospital, and they had been
out for a spree with some shillings or so of extra
pay. They talked vociferously in a later development
of the Cockney dialect, manifestly
very proud of themselves.

Elizabeth’s eyes went from these to the less
assertive figures. One seemed exceptionally pitiful
to her. It was a woman of perhaps forty-five,
with gold-stained hair and a painted face,
down which abundant tears had trickled; she
had a pinched nose, hungry eyes, lean hands
and shoulders, and her dusty worn-out finery
told the story of her life. Another was a grey-bearded
old man in the costume of a bishop of
one of the high episcopal sects—for religion
was now also a business, and had its ups and
downs. And beside him a sickly, dissipated-looking
boy of perhaps two-and-twenty glared
at Fate.

Presently Elizabeth and then Denton interviewed
the manageress—for the Company preferred
women in this capacity—and found she[252]
possessed an energetic face, a contemptuous
manner, and a particularly unpleasant voice.
They were given various checks, including one
to certify that they need not have their heads
cropped; and when they had given their thumb-marks,
learnt the number corresponding thereunto,
and exchanged their shabby middle-class
clothes for duly numbered blue canvas suits,
they repaired to the huge plain dining-room for
their first meal under these new conditions.
Afterwards they were to return to her for instructions
about their work.

When they had made the exchange of their
clothing Elizabeth did not seem able to look at
Denton at first; but he looked at her, and saw
with astonishment that even in blue canvas she
was still beautiful. And then their soup and
bread came sliding on its little rail down the
long table towards them and stopped with a
jerk, and he forgot the matter. For they had
had no proper meal for three days.

After they had dined they rested for a time.
Neither talked—there was nothing to say; and
presently they got up and went back to the manageress
to learn what they had to do.

The manageress referred to a tablet. “Y’r
rooms won’t be here; it’ll be in the Highbury
Ward, Ninety-seventh Way, number two thousand[253]
and seventeen. Better make a note of it on
y’r card. You, nought nought nought, type
seven, sixty-four, b.c.d., gamma forty-one, female;
you ‘ave to go to the Metal-beating Company
and try that for a day—fourpence bonus if
ye’re satisfactory; and you, nought seven one,
type four, seven hundred and nine, g.f.b., pi five
and ninety, male; you ‘ave to go to the Photographic
Company on Eighty-first Way, and
learn something or other—I don’t know—thrippence.
‘Ere’s y’r cards. That’s all. Next!

What? Didn’t catch it all? Lor! So suppose I
must go over it all again. Why don’t you
listen? Keerless, unprovident people! One’d
think these things didn’t matter.”

Their ways to their work lay together for a
time. And now they found they could talk.
Curiously enough, the worst of their depression
seemed over now that they had actually donned
the blue. Denton could talk with interest even
of the work that lay before them. “Whatever
it is,” he said, “it can’t be so hateful as that hat
shop. And after we have paid for Dings, we
shall still have a whole penny a day between us
even now. Afterwards—we may improve,—get
more money.”

Elizabeth was less inclined to speech. “I[254]
wonder why work should seem so hateful,” she
said.

“It’s odd,” said Denton. “I suppose it
wouldn’t be if it were not the thought of being
ordered about…. I hope we shall have
decent managers.”

Elizabeth did not answer. She was not
thinking of that. She was tracing out some
thoughts of her own.

“Of course,” she said presently, “we have
been using up work all our lives. It’s only
fair—”

She stopped. It was too intricate.

“We paid for it,” said Denton, for at that
time he had not troubled himself about these
complicated things.

“We did nothing—and yet we paid for it.
That’s what I cannot understand.”

“Perhaps we are paying,” said Elizabeth
presently—for her theology was old-fashioned
and simple.

Presently it was time for them to part, and
each went to the appointed work. Denton’s
was to mind a complicated hydraulic press that
seemed almost an intelligent thing. This press
worked by the sea-water that was destined
finally to flush the city drains—for the world
had long since abandoned the folly of pouring[255]
drinkable water into its sewers. This water
was brought close to the eastward edge of the
city by a huge canal, and then raised by an
enormous battery of pumps into reservoirs at a
level of four hundred feet above the sea, from
which it spread by a billion arterial branches
over the city. Thence it poured down, cleansing,
sluicing, working machinery of all sorts,
through an infinite variety of capillary channels
into the great drains, the cloacae maximae, and
so carried the sewage out to the agricultural
areas that surrounded London on every side.

The press was employed in one of the processes
of the photographic manufacture, but the
nature of the process it did not concern Denton
to understand. The most salient fact to his
mind was that it had to be conducted in ruby
light, and as a consequence the room in which
he worked was lit by one coloured globe that
poured a lurid and painful illumination about
the room. In the darkest corner stood the press
whose servant Denton had now become: it was
a huge, dim, glittering thing with a projecting
hood that had a remote resemblance to a bowed
head, and, squatting like some metal Buddha in
this weird light that ministered to its needs, it
seemed to Denton in certain moods almost as if
this must needs be the obscure idol to which[256]
humanity in some strange aberration had offered
up his life. His duties had a varied monotony.
Such items as the following will convey
an idea of the service of the press. The
thing worked with a busy clicking so long as
things went well; but if the paste that came
pouring through a feeder from another room
and which it was perpetually compressing into
thin plates, changed in quality the rhythm of
its click altered and Denton hastened to make
certain adjustments. The slightest delay involved
a waste of paste and the docking of one
or more of his daily pence. If the supply of
paste waned—there were hand processes of a
peculiar sort involved in its preparation, and
sometimes the workers had convulsions which
deranged their output—Denton had to throw
the press out of gear. In the painful vigilance
a multitude of such trivial attentions entailed,
painful because of the incessant effort its absence
of natural interest required, Denton had
now to pass one-third of his days. Save for
an occasional visit from the manager, a kindly
but singularly foul-mouthed man, Denton
passed his working hours in solitude.

Elizabeth’s work was of a more social sort.
There was a fashion for covering the private
apartments of the very wealthy with metal[257]

plates beautifully embossed with repeated patterns.
The taste of the time demanded, however,
that the repetition of the patterns should
not be exact—not mechanical, but “natural”—and
it was found that the most pleasing arrangement
of pattern irregularity was obtained
by employing women of refinement and natural
taste to punch out the patterns with small dies.
So many square feet of plates was exacted from
Elizabeth as a minimum, and for whatever
square feet she did in excess she received a
small payment. The room, like most rooms of
women workers, was under a manageress: men
had been found by the Labour Company not
only less exacting but extremely liable to excuse
favoured ladies from a proper share of
their duties. The manageress was a not unkindly,
taciturn person, with the hardened remains
of beauty of the brunette type; and the
other women workers, who of course hated her,
associated her name scandalously with one of
the metal-work directors in order to explain
her position.

Only two or three of Elizabeth’s fellow-workers
were born labour serfs; plain, morose
girls, but most of them corresponded to what
the nineteenth century would have called a “reduced”
gentlewoman. But the ideal of what[258]
constituted a gentlewoman had altered: the
faint, faded, negative virtue, the modulated
voice and restrained gesture of the old-fashioned
gentlewoman had vanished from the
earth. Most of her companions showed in discoloured
hair, ruined complexions, and the texture
of their reminiscent conversations, the
vanished glories of a conquering youth. All of
these artistic workers were much older than
Elizabeth, and two openly expressed their surprise
that any one so young and pleasant should
come to share their toil. But Elizabeth did not
trouble them with her old-world moral conceptions.

They were permitted, and even encouraged
to converse with each other, for the directors
very properly judged that anything that conduced
to variations of mood made for pleasing
fluctuations in their patterning; and Elizabeth
was almost forced to hear the stories of these
lives with which her own interwove: garbled
and distorted they were by vanity indeed and
yet comprehensible enough. And soon she began
to appreciate the small spites and cliques,
the little misunderstandings and alliances that
enmeshed about her. One woman was excessively
garrulous and descriptive about a wonderful
son of hers; another had cultivated a[259]
foolish coarseness of speech, that she seemed to
regard as the wittiest expression of originality
conceivable; a third mused for ever on dress,
and whispered to Elizabeth how she saved her
pence day after day, and would presently have
a glorious day of freedom, wearing … and
then followed hours of description; two
others sat always together, and called one another
pet names, until one day some little thing
happened, and they sat apart, blind and deaf as
it seemed to one another’s being. And always
from them all came an incessant tap, tap, tap,
tap, and the manageress listened always to the
rhythm to mark if one fell away. Tap, tap, tap,
tap: so their days passed, so their lives must
pass. Elizabeth sat among them, kindly and
quiet, grey-hearted, marvelling at Fate: tap,
tap, tap; tap, tap, tap; tap, tap, tap.

So there came to Denton and Elizabeth a
long succession of laborious days, that hardened
their hands, wove strange threads of some
new and sterner substance into the soft prettiness
of their lives, and drew grave lines and
shadows on their faces. The bright, convenient
ways of the former life had receded to an inaccessible
distance; slowly they learnt the lesson
of the underworld—sombre and laborious,
vast and pregnant. There were many little[260]

things happened: things that would be tedious
and miserable to tell, things that were bitter and
grievous to bear—indignities, tyrannies, such
as must ever season the bread of the poor in
cities; and one thing that was not little, but
seemed like the utter blackening of life to them,
which was that the child they had given life
to sickened and died. But that story, that
ancient, perpetually recurring story, has been
told so often, has been told so beautifully, that
there is no need to tell it over again here. There
was the same sharp fear, the same long anxiety,
the deferred inevitable blow, and the black
silence. It has always been the same; it will
always be the same. It is one of the things that
must be.

And it was Elizabeth who was the first to
speak, after an aching, dull interspace of days:
not, indeed, of the foolish little name that was
a name no longer, but of the darkness that
brooded over her soul. They had come through
the shrieking, tumultuous ways of the city together;
the clamour of trade, of yelling competitive
religions, of political appeal, had beat
upon deaf ears; the glare of focussed lights, of
dancing letters, and fiery advertisements, had
fallen upon the set, miserable faces unheeded.
They took their dinner in the dining-hall at a[261]
place apart. “I want,” said Elizabeth clumsily,
“to go out to the flying stages—to that seat.
Here, one can say nothing….”

Denton looked at her. “It will be night,”
he said.

“I have asked,—it is a fine night.” She
stopped.

He perceived she could find no words to explain
herself. Suddenly he understood that she
wished to see the stars once more, the stars they
had watched together from the open downland
in that wild honeymoon of theirs five years ago.
Something caught at his throat. He looked
away from her.

“There will be plenty of time to go,” he said,
in a matter-of-fact tone.

And at last they came out to their little seat
on the flying stage, and sat there for a long
time in silence. The little seat was in shadow,
but the zenith was pale blue with the effulgence
of the stage overhead, and all the city spread
below them, squares and circles and patches of
brilliance caught in a mesh-work of light. The
little stars seemed very faint and small: near
as they had been to the old-world watcher, they
had become now infinitely remote. Yet one
could see them in the darkened patches amidst
the glare, and especially in the northward sky,[262]
the ancient constellations gliding steadfast and
patient about the pole.

Long our two people sat in silence, and at
last Elizabeth sighed.

“If I understood,” she said, “if I could understand.
When one is down there the city
seems everything—the noise, the hurry, the
voices—you must live, you must scramble.
Here—it is nothing; a thing that passes. One
can think in peace.”

“Yes,” said Denton. “How flimsy it all is!
From here more than half of it is swallowed
by the night…. It will pass.”

“We shall pass first,” said Elizabeth.

“I know,” said Denton. “If life were not a
moment, the whole of history would seem like
the happening of a day…. Yes—we shall
pass. And the city will pass, and all the things
that are to come. Man and the Overman and
wonders unspeakable. And yet …”

He paused, and then began afresh. “I know
what you feel. At least I fancy…. Down
there one thinks of one’s work, one’s little vexations
and pleasures, one’s eating and drinking
and ease and pain. One lives, and one must
die. Down there and everyday—our sorrow
seemed the end of life….

“Up here it is different. For instance, down[263]
there it would seem impossible almost to go on
living if one were horribly disfigured, horribly
crippled, disgraced. Up here—under these
stars—none of those things would matter.
They don’t matter…. They are a part
of something. One seems just to touch that
something—under the stars….”

He stopped. The vague, impalpable things
in his mind, cloudy emotions half shaped towards
ideas, vanished before the rough grasp
of words. “It is hard to express,” he said
lamely.

They sat through a long stillness.

“It is well to come here,” he said at last.
“We stop—our minds are very finite. After
all we are just poor animals rising out of the
brute, each with a mind, the poor beginning of
a mind. We are so stupid. So much hurts.
And yet …

“I know, I know—and some day we shall
see.

“All this frightful stress, all this discord will
resolve to harmony, and we shall know it.
Nothing is but it makes for that. Nothing.
All the failures—every little thing makes for
that harmony. Everything is necessary to it,
we shall find. We shall find. Nothing, not
even the most dreadful thing, could be left out.[264]
Not even the most trivial. Every tap of your
hammer on the brass, every moment of work,
my idleness even … Dear one! every
movement of our poor little one … All
these things go on for ever. And the faint impalpable
things. We, sitting here together.—Everything …

“The passion that joined us, and what has
come since. It is not passion now. More than
anything else it is sorrow. Dear …”

He could say no more, could follow his
thoughts no further.

Elizabeth made no answer—she was very
still; but presently her hand sought his and
found it.

IV—UNDERNEATH

Under the stars one may reach upward and
touch resignation, whatever the evil thing may
be, but in the heat and stress of the day’s work
we lapse again, come disgust and anger and intolerable
moods. How little is all our magnanimity—an
accident! a phase! The very
Saints of old had first to flee the world. And
Denton and his Elizabeth could not flee their
world, no longer were there open roads to unclaimed
lands where men might live freely—however
hardly—and keep their souls in peace.
The city had swallowed up mankind.[265]

For a time these two Labour Serfs were kept
at their original occupations, she at her brass
stamping and Denton at his press; and then
came a move for him that brought with it fresh
and still bitterer experiences of life in the underways
of the great city. He was transferred
to the care of a rather more elaborate press in
the central factory of the London Tile Trust.

In this new situation he had to work in a
long vaulted room with a number of other men,
for the most part born Labour Serfs. He came
to this intercourse reluctantly. His upbringing
had been refined, and, until his ill fortune had
brought him to that costume, he had never
spoken in his life, except by way of command
or some immediate necessity, to the white-faced
wearers of the blue canvas. Now at last came
contact; he had to work beside them, share
their tools, eat with them. To both Elizabeth
and himself this seemed a further degradation.

His taste would have seemed extreme to a
man of the nineteenth century. But slowly
and inevitably in the intervening years a gulf
had opened between the wearers of the blue
canvas and the classes above, a difference not
simply of circumstances and habits of life, but
of habits of thought—even of language. The
underways had developed a dialect of their[266]
own: above, too, had arisen a dialect, a code of
thought, a language of “culture,” which aimed
by a sedulous search after fresh distinction to
widen perpetually the space between itself and
“vulgarity.” The bond of a common faith,
moreover, no longer held the race together.
The last years of the nineteenth century were
distinguished by the rapid development among
the prosperous idle of esoteric perversions of
the popular religion: glosses and interpretations
that reduced the broad teachings of the
carpenter of Nazareth to the exquisite narrowness
of their lives. And, spite of their inclination
towards the ancient fashion of living,
neither Elizabeth nor Denton had been sufficiently
original to escape the suggestion of
their surroundings. In matters of common behaviour
they had followed the ways of their
class, and so when they fell at last to be Labour
Serfs it seemed to them almost as though they
were falling among offensive inferior animals;
they felt as a nineteenth-century duke and
duchess might have felt who were forced to
take rooms in the Jago.

Their natural impulse was to maintain a
“distance.” But Denton’s first idea of a dignified
isolation from his new surroundings was
soon rudely dispelled. He had imagined that[267]
his fall to the position of a Labour Serf was the
end of his lesson, that when their little daughter
had died he had plumbed the deeps of life; but
indeed these things were only the beginning.
Life demands something more from us than
acquiescence. And now in a roomful of machine
minders he was to learn a wider lesson, to
make the acquaintance of another factor in life,
a factor as elemental as the loss of things dear
to us, more elemental even than toil.

His quiet discouragement of conversation
was an immediate cause of offence—was interpreted,
rightly enough I fear, as disdain. His
ignorance of the vulgar dialect, a thing upon
which he had hitherto prided himself, suddenly
took upon itself a new aspect. He failed to
perceive at once that his reception of the coarse
and stupid but genially intended remarks that
greeted his appearance must have stung the
makers of these advances like blows in their
faces. “Don’t understand,” he said rather
coldly, and at hazard, “No, thank you.”

The man who had addressed him stared,
scowled, and turned away.

A second, who also failed at Denton’s unaccustomed
ear, took the trouble to repeat his remark,
and Denton discovered he was being offered
the use of an oil can. He expressed polite[268]
thanks, and this second man embarked upon a
penetrating conversation. Denton, he remarked,
had been a swell, and he wanted to
know how he had come to wear the blue. He
clearly expected an interesting record of vice
and extravagance. Had Denton ever been at a
Pleasure City? Denton was speedily to discover
how the existence of these wonderful
places of delight permeated and defiled the
thought and honour of these unwilling, hopeless
workers of the underworld.

His aristocratic temperament resented these
questions. He answered “No” curtly. The
man persisted with a still more personal question,
and this time it was Denton who turned
away.

“Gorblimey!” said his interlocutor, much astonished.

It presently forced itself upon Denton’s mind
that this remarkable conversation was being repeated
in indignant tones to more sympathetic
hearers, and that it gave rise to astonishment
and ironical laughter. They looked at Denton
with manifestly enhanced interest. A curious
perception of isolation dawned upon him. He
tried to think of his press and its unfamiliar
peculiarities….

The machines kept everybody pretty busy[269]
during the first spell, and then came a recess.
It was only an interval for refreshment, too
brief for any one to go out to a Labour Company
dining-room. Denton followed his fellow-workers
into a short gallery, in which were
a number of bins of refuse from the presses.

Each man produced a packet of food. Denton
had no packet. The manager, a careless
young man who held his position by influence,
had omitted to warn Denton that it was necessary
to apply for this provision. He stood
apart, feeling hungry. The others drew together
in a group and talked in undertones,
glancing at him ever and again. He became
uneasy. His appearance of disregard cost him
an increasing effort. He tried to think of the
levers of his new press.

Presently one, a man shorter but much
broader and stouter than Denton, came forward
to him. Denton turned to him as unconcernedly
as possible. “Here!” said the delegate—as
Denton judged him to be—extending
a cube of bread in a not too clean hand. He
had a swart, broad-nosed face, and his mouth
hung down towards one corner.

Denton felt doubtful for the instant whether
this was meant for civility or insult. His impulse
was to decline. “No, thanks,” he said;[270]

and, at the man’s change of expression, “I’m
not hungry.”

There came a laugh from the group behind.
“Told you so,” said the man who had offered
Denton the loan of an oil can. “He’s top side,
he is. You ain’t good enough for ‘im.”

The swart face grew a shade darker.

“Here,” said its owner, still extending the
bread, and speaking in a lower tone; “you got
to eat this. See?”

Denton looked into the threatening face before
him, and odd little currents of energy
seemed to be running through his limbs and
body.

“I don’t want it,” he said, trying a pleasant
smile that twitched and failed.

The thickset man advanced his face, and the
bread became a physical threat in his hand.
Denton’s mind rushed together to the one problem
of his antagonist’s eyes.

“Eat it,” said the swart man.

There came a pause, and then they both
moved quickly. The cube of bread described a
complicated path, a curve that would have
ended in Denton’s face; and then his fist hit the
wrist of the hand that gripped it, and it flew
upward, and out of the conflict—its part
played.[271]

He stepped back quickly, fists clenched and
arms tense. The hot, dark countenance receded,
became an alert hostility, watching its
chance. Denton for one instant felt confident,
and strangely buoyant and serene. His heart
beat quickly. He felt his body alive, and glowing
to the tips.

“Scrap, boys!” shouted some one, and then
the dark figure had leapt forward, ducked back
and sideways, and come in again. Denton
struck out, and was hit. One of his eyes
seemed to him to be demolished, and he felt a
soft lip under his fist just before he was hit
again—this time under the chin. A huge fan
of fiery needles shot open. He had a momentary
persuasion that his head was knocked to
pieces, and then something hit his head and
back from behind, and the fight became an uninteresting,
an impersonal thing.

He was aware that time—seconds or minutes—had
passed, abstract, uneventful time.
He was lying with his head in a heap of ashes,
and something wet and warm ran swiftly into
his neck. The first shock broke up into discrete
sensations. All his head throbbed; his
eye and his chin throbbed exceedingly, and the
taste of blood was in his mouth.[272]

“He’s all right,” said a voice. “He’s opening
his eyes.”

“Serve him——well right,” said a second.

His mates were standing about him. He
made an effort and sat up. He put his hand
to the back of his head, and his hair was wet
and full of cinders. A laugh greeted the gesture.
His eye was partially closed. He perceived
what had happened. His momentary
anticipation of a final victory had vanished.

“Looks surprised,” said some one.

“‘Ave any more?” said a wit; and then, imitating
Denton’s refined accent.

“No, thank you.”

Denton perceived the swart man with a
blood-stained handkerchief before his face, and
somewhat in the background.

“Where’s that bit of bread he’s got to eat?”
said a little ferret-faced creature; and sought
with his foot in the ashes of the adjacent bin.

Denton had a moment of internal debate. He
knew the code of honour requires a man to pursue
a fight he has begun to the bitter end; but
this was his first taste of the bitterness. He was
resolved to rise again, but he felt no passionate
impulse. It occurred to him—and the thought
was no very violent spur—that he was perhaps[273]
after all a coward. For a moment his will was
heavy, a lump of lead.

“‘Ere it is,” said the little ferret-faced man,
and stooped to pick up a cindery cube. He
looked at Denton, then at the others.

Slowly, unwillingly, Denton stood up.

A dirty-faced albino extended a hand to the
ferret-faced man. “Gimme that toke,” he said.
He advanced threateningly, bread in hand, to
Denton. “So you ain’t ‘ad your bellyful yet,”
he said. “Eh?”

Now it was coming. “No, I haven’t,” said
Denton, with a catching of the breath, and resolved
to try this brute behind the ear before
he himself got stunned again. He knew he
would be stunned again. He was astonished
how ill he had judged himself beforehand. A
few ridiculous lunges, and down he would go
again. He watched the albino’s eyes. The albino
was grinning confidently, like a man who
plans an agreeable trick. A sudden perception
of impending indignities stung Denton.

“You leave ‘im alone, Jim,” said the swart
man suddenly over the blood-stained rag. “He
ain’t done nothing to you.”

The albino’s grin vanished. He stopped.
He looked from one to the other. It seemed
to Denton that the swart man demanded the[274]
privilege of his destruction. The albino would
have been better.

“You leave ‘im alone,” said the swart man.
“See? ‘E’s ‘ad ‘is licks.”

A clattering bell lifted up its voice and solved
the situation. The albino hesitated. “Lucky
for you,” he said, adding a foul metaphor, and
turned with the others towards the press-room
again. “Wait for the end of the spell, mate,”
said the albino over his shoulder—an afterthought.
The swart man waited for the albino
to precede him. Denton realised that he had a
reprieve.

The men passed towards an open door. Denton
became aware of his duties, and hurried to
join the tail of the queue. At the doorway of
the vaulted gallery of presses a yellow-uniformed
labour policeman stood ticking a card.
He had ignored the swart man’s hæmorrhage.

“Hurry up there!” he said to Denton.

“Hello!” he said, at the sight of his facial
disarray. “Who’s been hitting you?”

“That’s my affair,” said Denton.

“Not if it spiles your work, it ain’t,” said the
man in yellow. “You mind that.”

Denton made no answer. He was a rough—a
labourer. He wore the blue canvas. The[275]
laws of assault and battery, he knew, were not
for the likes of him. He went to his press.

He could feel the skin of his brow and chin
and head lifting themselves to noble bruises,
felt the throb and pain of each aspiring contusion.
His nervous system slid down to
lethargy; at each movement in his press adjustment
he felt he lifted a weight. And as for his
honour—that too throbbed and puffed. How
did he stand? What precisely had happened
in the last ten minutes? What would happen
next? He knew that here was enormous matter
for thought, and he could not think save in
disordered snatches.

His mood was a sort of stagnant astonishment.
All his conceptions were overthrown.
He had regarded his security from physical violence
as inherent, as one of the conditions of
life. So, indeed, it had been while he wore his
middle-class costume, had his middle-class
property to serve for his defence. But who
would interfere among Labour roughs fighting
together? And indeed in those days no man
would. In the Underworld there was no law
between man and man; the law and machinery
of the state had become for them something
that held men down, fended them off from
much desirable property and pleasure, and that[276]

was all. Violence, that ocean in which the
brutes live for ever, and from which a thousand
dykes and contrivances have won our hazardous
civilised life, had flowed in again upon the
sinking underways and submerged them. The
fist ruled. Denton had come right down at last
to the elemental—fist and trick and the stubborn
heart and fellowship—even as it was in
the beginning.

The rhythm of his machine changed, and his
thoughts were interrupted.

Presently he could think again. Strange how
quickly things had happened! He bore these
men who had thrashed him no very vivid ill-will.
He was bruised and enlightened. He
saw with absolute fairness now the reasonableness
of his unpopularity. He had behaved like
a fool. Disdain, seclusion, are the privilege of
the strong. The fallen aristocrat still clinging
to his pointless distinction is surely the most
pitiful creature of pretence in all this clamant
universe. Good heavens! what was there for
him to despise in these men?

What a pity he had not appreciated all this
better five hours ago!

What would happen at the end of the spell?
He could not tell. He could not imagine. He
could not imagine the thoughts of these men.[277]
He was sensible only of their hostility and utter
want of sympathy. Vague possibilities of
shame and violence chased one another across
his mind. Could he devise some weapon? He
recalled his assault upon the hypnotist, but there
were no detachable lamps here. He could see
nothing that he could catch up in his defence.

For a space he thought of a headlong bolt
for the security of the public ways directly the
spell was over. Apart from the trivial consideration
of his self-respect, he perceived that
this would be only a foolish postponement and
aggravation of his trouble. He perceived the
ferret-faced man and the albino talking together
with their eyes towards him. Presently
they were talking to the swart man, who stood
with his broad back studiously towards Denton.

At last came the end of the second spell. The
lender of oil cans stopped his press sharply and
turned round, wiping his mouth with the back
of his hand. His eyes had the quiet expectation
of one who seats himself in a theatre.

Now was the crisis, and all the little nerves
of Denton’s being seemed leaping and dancing.
He had decided to show fight if any fresh indignity
was offered him. He stopped his press
and turned. With an enormous affectation of[278]
ease he walked down the vault and entered the
passage of the ash pits, only to discover he had
left his jacket—which he had taken off because
of the heat of the vault—beside his press. He
walked back. He met the albino eye to eye.

He heard the ferret-faced man in expostulation.
“‘E reely ought, eat it,” said the ferret-faced
man. “‘E did reely.”

“No—you leave ‘im alone,” said the swart
man.

Apparently nothing further was to happen to
him that day. He passed out to the passage
and staircase that led up to the moving platforms
of the city.

He emerged on the livid brilliance and
streaming movement of the public street. He
became acutely aware of his disfigured face, and
felt his swelling bruises with a limp, investigatory
hand. He went up to the swiftest platform,
and seated himself on a Labour Company
bench.

He lapsed into a pensive torpor. The immediate
dangers and stresses of his position he saw
with a sort of static clearness. What would
they do to-morrow? He could not tell. What
would Elizabeth think of his brutalisation? He
could not tell. He was exhausted. He was
aroused presently by a hand upon his arm.[279]

He looked up, and saw the swart man seated
beside him. He started. Surely he was safe
from violence in the public way!

The swart man’s face retained no traces of
his share in the fight; his expression was free
from hostility—seemed almost deferential.
“‘Scuse me,” he said, with a total absence of
truculence. Denton realised that no assault was
intended. He stared, awaiting the next development.

It was evident the next sentence was premeditated.
“Whad—I—was—going—to say—was
this,” said the swart man, and sought
through a silence for further words.

“Whad—I—was—going—to say—was
this,” he repeated.

Finally he abandoned that gambit. “You’re
aw right,” he cried, laying a grimy hand on
Denton’s grimy sleeve. “You’re aw right.
You’re a ge’man. Sorry—very sorry. Wanted
to tell you that.”

Denton realised that there must exist motives
beyond a mere impulse to abominable proceedings
in the man. He meditated, and swallowed
an unworthy pride.

“I did not mean to be offensive to you,” he
said, “in refusing that bit of bread.”

“Meant it friendly,” said the swart man, recalling[280]
the scene; “but—in front of that
blarsted Whitey and his snigger—Well—I ‘ad
to scrap.”

“Yes,” said Denton with sudden fervour: “I
was a fool.”

“Ah!” said the swart man, with great satisfaction.
That’s aw right. Shake!”

And Denton shook.

The moving platform was rushing by the establishment
of a face moulder, and its lower
front was a huge display of mirror, designed to
stimulate the thirst for more symmetrical
features. Denton caught the reflection of himself
and his new friend, enormously twisted and
broadened. His own face was puffed, one-sided,
and blood-stained; a grin of idiotic and
insincere amiability distorted its latitude. A
wisp of hair occluded one eye. The trick of the
mirror presented the swart man as a gross expansion
of lip and nostril. They were linked
by shaking hands. Then abruptly this vision
passed—to return to memory in the anæmic
meditations of a waking dawn.

As he shook, the swart man made some muddled
remark, to the effect that he had always
known he could get on with a gentleman if one
came his way. He prolonged the shaking until
Denton, under the influence of the mirror,[281]
withdrew his hand. The swart man became
pensive, spat impressively on the platform, and
resumed his theme.

“Whad I was going to say was this,” he said;
was gravelled, and shook his head at his foot.

Denton became curious. “Go on,” he said,
attentive.

The swart man took the plunge. He grasped
Denton’s arm, became intimate in his attitude.
“‘Scuse me,” he said. “Fact is, you done know
‘ow to scrap. Done know ‘ow to. Why—you
done know ‘ow to begin. You’ll get killed if
you don’t mind. ‘Ouldin’ your ‘ands—There!

He reinforced his statement by objurgation,
watching the effect of each oath with a wary
eye.

“F’r instance. You’re tall. Long arms.
You get a longer reach than any one in the
brasted vault. Gobblimey, but I thought I’d
got a Tough on. ‘Stead of which …
‘Scuse me. I wouldn’t have ‘it you if I’d
known. It’s like fighting sacks. ‘Tisn’ right.
Y’r arms seemed ‘ung on ‘ooks. Reg’lar—’ung
on ‘ooks. There!”

Denton stared, and then surprised and hurt
his battered chin by a sudden laugh. Bitter
tears came into his eyes.

“Go on,” he said.[282]

The swart man reverted to his formula. He
was good enough to say he liked the look of
Denton, thought he had stood up “amazing
plucky. On’y pluck ain’t no good—ain’t no
brasted good—if you don’t ‘old your ‘ands.

“Whad I was going to say was this,” he said.
“Lemme show you ‘ow to scrap. Jest lemme.
You’re ig’nant, you ain’t no class; but you
might be a very decent scrapper—very decent.
Shown. That’s what I meant to say.”

Denton hesitated. “But—” he said, “I can’t
give you anything—”

“That’s the ge’man all over,” said the swart
man. “Who arst you to?”

“But your time?”

“If you don’t get learnt scrapping you’ll get
killed,—don’t you make no bones of that.”

Denton thought. “I don’t know,” he said.

He looked at the face beside him, and all its
native coarseness shouted at him. He felt a
quick revulsion from his transient friendliness.
It seemed to him incredible that it should be
necessary for him to be indebted to such a creature.

“The chaps are always scrapping,” said the
swart man. “Always. And, of course—if one
gets waxy and ‘its you vital …”[283]

“By God!” cried Denton; “I wish one
would.”

“Of course, if you feel like that—”

“You don’t understand.”

“P’raps I don’t,” said the swart man; and
lapsed into a fuming silence.

When he spoke again his voice was less
friendly, and he prodded Denton by way of address.
“Look see!” he said: “are you going to
let me show you ‘ow to scrap?”

“It’s tremendously kind of you,” said Denton;
“but—”

There was a pause. The swart man rose and
bent over Denton.

“Too much ge’man,” he said—”eh? I got a
red face…. By gosh! you are—you are a
brasted fool!”

He turned away, and instantly Denton realised
the truth of this remark.

The swart man descended with dignity to a
cross way, and Denton, after a momentary impulse
to pursuit, remained on the platform. For
a time the things that had happened filled his
mind. In one day his graceful system of resignation
had been shattered beyond hope. Brute
force, the final, the fundamental, had thrust its
face through all his explanations and glosses
and consolations and grinned enigmatically.[284]
Though he was hungry and tired, he did not go
on directly to the Labour Hotel, where he
would meet Elizabeth. He found he was beginning
to think, he wanted very greatly to
think; and so, wrapped in a monstrous cloud
of meditation, he went the circuit of the city on
his moving platform twice. You figure him,
tearing through the glaring, thunder-voiced
city at a pace of fifty miles an hour, the city
upon the planet that spins along its chartless
path through space many thousands of miles an
hour, funking most terribly, and trying to understand
why the heart and will in him should
suffer and keep alive.

When at last he came to Elizabeth, she was
white and anxious. He might have noted she
was in trouble, had it not been for his own preoccupation.
He feared most that she would desire
to know every detail of his indignities, that
she would be sympathetic or indignant. He saw
her eyebrows rise at the sight of him.

“I’ve had rough handling,” he said, and
gasped. “It’s too fresh—too hot. I don’t want
to talk about it.” He sat down with an unavoidable
air of sullenness.

She stared at him in astonishment, and as
she read something of the significant hieroglyphic
of his battered face, her lips whitened.[285]
Her hand—it was thinner now than in the days
of their prosperity, and her first finger was a
little altered by the metal punching she did—clenched
convulsively. “This horrible world!”
she said, and said no more.

In these latter days they had become a very
silent couple; they said scarcely a word to each
other that night, but each followed a private
train of thought. In the small hours, as Elizabeth
lay awake, Denton started up beside her
suddenly—he had been lying as still as a dead
man.

“I cannot stand it!” cried Denton. “I will
not stand it!”

She saw him dimly, sitting up; saw his arm
lunge as if in a furious blow at the enshrouding
night. Then for a space he was still.

“It is too much—it is more than one can
bear!”

She could say nothing. To her, also, it
seemed that this was as far as one could go.
She waited through a long stillness. She could
see that Denton sat with his arms about his
knees, his chin almost touching them.

Then he laughed.

“No,” he said at last, “I’m going to stand
it. That’s the peculiar thing. There isn’t a
grain of suicide in us—not a grain. I suppose[286]
all the people with a turn that way have gone.
We’re going through with it—to the end.”

Elizabeth thought grayly, and realised that
this also was true.

“We’re going through with it. To think of
all who have gone through with it: all the generations—endless—endless.
Little beasts that
snapped and snarled, snapping and snarling,
snapping and snarling, generation after generation.”

His monotone, ended abruptly, resumed after
a vast interval.

“There were ninety thousand years of stone
age. A Denton somewhere in all those years.
Apostolic succession. The grace of going
through. Let me see! Ninety—nine hundred—three
nines, twenty-seven—three thousand
generations of men!—men more or less. And
each fought, and was bruised, and shamed, and
somehow held his own—going through with it—passing
it on…. And thousands more
to come perhaps—thousands!

“Passing it on. I wonder if they will thank
us.”

His voice assumed an argumentative note.
“If one could find something definite … If
one could say, ‘This is why—this is why it goes
on….’”[287]

He became still, and Elizabeth’s eyes slowly
separated him from the darkness until at last
she could see how he sat with his head resting
on his hand. A sense of the enormous remoteness
of their minds came to her; that dim suggestion
of another being seemed to her a figure
of their mutual understanding. What could
he be thinking now? What might he not say
next? Another age seemed to elapse before he
sighed and whispered: “No. I don’t understand
it. No!” Then a long interval, and he
repeated this. But the second time it had the
tone almost of a solution.

She became aware that he was preparing to
lie down. She marked his movements, perceived
with astonishment how he adjusted his
pillow with a careful regard to comfort. He
lay down with a sigh of contentment almost.
His passion had passed. He lay still, and presently
his breathing became regular and deep.

But Elizabeth remained with eyes wide open
in the darkness, until the clamour of a bell and
the sudden brilliance of the electric light
warned them that the Labour Company had
need of them for yet another day.

That day came a scuffle with the albino
Whitey and the little ferret-faced man. Blunt,
the swart artist in scrapping, having first let[288]
Denton grasp the bearing of his lesson, intervened,
not without a certain quality of patronage.
“Drop ‘is ‘air, Whitey, and let the man
be,” said his gross voice through a shower of
indignities. “Can’t you see ‘e don’t know ‘ow
to scrap?” And Denton, lying shamefully in
the dust, realised that he must accept that
course of instruction after all.

He made his apology straight and clean. He
scrambled up and walked to Blunt. “I was a
fool, and you are right,” he said. “If it isn’t
too late …”

That night, after the second spell, Denton
went with Blunt to certain waste and slime-soaked
vaults under the Port of London, to
learn the first beginnings of the high art of
scrapping as it had been perfected in the great
world of the underways: how to hit or kick a
man so as to hurt him excruciatingly or make
him violently sick, how to hit or kick “vital,”
how to use glass in one’s garments as a club
and to spread red ruin with various domestic
implements, how to anticipate and demolish
your adversary’s intentions in other directions;
all the pleasant devices, in fact, that had grown
up among the disinherited of the great cities of
the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, were
spread out by a gifted exponent for Denton’s[289]
learning. Blunt’s bashfulness fell from him as
the instruction proceeded, and he developed a
certain expert dignity, a quality of fatherly consideration.
He treated Denton with the utmost
consideration, only “flicking him up a bit” now
and then, to keep the interest hot, and roaring
with laughter at a happy fluke of Denton’s that
covered his mouth with blood.

“I’m always keerless of my mouth,” said
Blunt, admitting a weakness. “Always. It
don’t seem to matter, like, just getting bashed
in the mouth—not if your chin’s all right.
Tastin’ blood does me good. Always. But I
better not ‘it you again.”

Denton went home, to fall asleep exhausted
and wake in the small hours with aching limbs
and all his bruises tingling. Was it worth
while that he should go on living? He listened
to Elizabeth’s breathing, and remembering that
he must have awaked her the previous night, he
lay very still. He was sick with infinite disgust
at the new conditions of his life. He hated
it all, hated even the genial savage who had
protected him so generously. The monstrous
fraud of civilisation glared stark before his
eyes; he saw it as a vast lunatic growth, producing
a deepening torrent of savagery below,
and above ever more flimsy gentility and silly[290]
wastefulness. He could see no redeeming reason,
no touch of honour, either in the life he
had led or in this life to which he had fallen.
Civilisation presented itself as some catastrophic
product as little concerned with men—save as
victims—as a cyclone or a planetary collision.
He, and therefore all mankind, seemed living
utterly in vain. His mind sought some strange
expedients of escape, if not for himself then at
least for Elizabeth. But he meant them for
himself. What if he hunted up Mwres and
told him of their disaster? It came to him as an
astonishing thing how utterly Mwres and Bindon
had passed out of his range. Where were
they? What were they doing? From that he
passed to thoughts of utter dishonour. And
finally, not arising in any way out of this mental
tumult, but ending it as dawn ends the night,
came the clear and obvious conclusion of the
night before: the conviction that he had to go
through with things; that, apart from any remoter
view and quite sufficient for all his
thought and energy, he had to stand up and
fight among his fellows and quit himself like
a man.

The second night’s instruction was perhaps
less dreadful than the first; and the third was
even endurable, for Blunt dealt out some praise.[291]

The fourth day Denton chanced upon the fact
that the ferret-faced man was a coward. There
passed a fortnight of smouldering days and
feverish instruction at night; Blunt, with many
blasphemies, testified that never had he met so
apt a pupil; and all night long Denton dreamt
of kicks and counters and gouges and cunning
tricks. For all that time no further outrages
were attempted, for fear of Blunt; and then
came the second crisis. Blunt did not come one
day—afterwards he admitted his deliberate intention—and
through the tedious morning
Whitey awaited the interval between the spells
with an ostentatious impatience. He knew
nothing of the scrapping lessons, and he spent
the time in telling Denton and the vault generally
of certain disagreeable proceedings he
had in mind.

Whitey was not popular, and the vault disgorged
to see him haze the new man with only
a languid interest. But matters changed when
Whitey’s attempt to open the proceedings by
kicking Denton in the face was met by an excellently
executed duck, catch and throw, that
completed the flight of Whitey’s foot in its orbit
and brought Whitey’s head into the ash-heap
that had once received Denton’s. Whitey arose
a shade whiter, and now blasphemously bent[292]
upon vital injuries. There were indecisive
passages, foiled enterprises that deepened
Whitey’s evidently growing perplexity; and
then things developed into a grouping of Denton
uppermost with Whitey’s throat in his
hand, his knee on Whitey’s chest, and a tearful
Whitey with a black face, protruding tongue
and broken finger endeavouring to explain the
misunderstanding by means of hoarse sounds.
Moreover, it was evident that among the bystanders
there had never been a more popular
person than Denton.

Denton, with proper precaution, released his
antagonist and stood up. His blood seemed
changed to some sort of fluid fire, his limbs felt
light and supernaturally strong. The idea that
he was a martyr in the civilisation machine had
vanished from his mind. He was a man in a
world of men.

The little ferret-faced man was the first in
the competition to pat him on the back. The
lender of oil cans was a radiant sun of genial
congratulation…. It seemed incredible
to Denton that he had ever thought of despair.

Denton was convinced that not only had he
to go through with things, but that he could.
He sat on the canvas pallet expounding this
new aspect to Elizabeth. One side of his face[293]

was bruised. She had not recently fought, she
had not been patted on the back, there were no
hot bruises upon her face, only a pallor and a
new line or so about the mouth. She was taking
the woman’s share. She looked steadfastly
at Denton in his new mood of prophecy. “I feel
that there is something,” he was saying, “something
that goes on, a Being of Life in which we
live and move and have our being, something
that began fifty—a hundred million years ago,
perhaps, that goes on—on: growing, spreading,
to things beyond us—things that will
justify us all…. That will explain and
justify my fighting—these bruises, and all the
pain of it. It’s the chisel—yes, the chisel of the
Maker. If only I could make you feel as I
feel, if I could make you! You will, dear, I
know you will.”

“No,” she said in a low voice. “No, I shall
not.”

“So I might have thought—”

She shook her head. “No,” she said, “I have
thought as well. What you say—doesn’t convince
me.”

She looked at his face resolutely. “I hate it,”
she said, and caught at her breath. “You do
not understand, you do not think. There was a
time when you said things and I believed them.[294]

I am growing wiser. You are a man, you can
fight, force your way. You do not mind bruises.
You can be coarse and ugly, and still a man.
Yes—it makes you. It makes you. You are
right. Only a woman is not like that. We are
different. We have let ourselves get civilised
too soon. This underworld is not for us.”

She paused and began again.

“I hate it! I hate this horrible canvas! I
hate it more than—more than the worst that
can happen. It hurts my fingers to touch it. It
is horrible to the skin. And the women I work
with day after day! I lie awake at nights and
think how I may be growing like them….”

She stopped. “I am growing like them,”
she cried passionately.

Denton stared at her distress. “But—” he
said and stopped.

“You don’t understand. What have I?
What have I to save me? You can fight.
Fighting is man’s work. But women—women
are different…. I have thought it all
out, I have done nothing but think night and
day. Look at the colour of my face! I cannot
go on. I cannot endure this life…. I cannot
endure it.”

She stopped. She hesitated.

“You do not know all,” she said abruptly,[295]
and for an instant her lips had a bitter smile.
“I have been asked to leave you.”

“Leave me!”

She made no answer save an affirmative
movement of the head.

Denton stood up sharply. They stared at
one another through a long silence.

Suddenly she turned herself about, and flung
face downward upon their canvas bed. She did
not sob, she made no sound. She lay still upon
her face. After a vast, distressful void her
shoulders heaved and she began to weep silently.

“Elizabeth!” he whispered—”Elizabeth!”

Very softly he sat down beside her, bent
down, put his arm across her in a doubtful
caress, seeking vainly for some clue to this intolerable
situation.

“Elizabeth,” he whispered in her ear.

She thrust him from her with her hand. “I
cannot bear a child to be a slave!” and broke
out into loud and bitter weeping.

Denton’s face changed—became blank dismay.
Presently he slipped from the bed and
stood on his feet. All the complacency had
vanished from his face, had given place to impotent
rage. He began to rave and curse at
the intolerable forces which pressed upon him,[296]
at all the accidents and hot desires and heedlessness
that mock the life of man. His little
voice rose in that little room, and he shook his
fist, this animalcule of the earth, at all that environed
him about, at the millions about him,
at his past and future and all the insensate vastness
of the overwhelming city.

V—BINDON INTERVENES

In Bindon’s younger days he had dabbled in
speculation and made three brilliant flukes. For
the rest of his life he had the wisdom to let
gambling alone, and the conceit to believe himself
a very clever man. A certain desire for influence
and reputation interested him in the
business intrigues of the giant city in which his
flukes were made. He became at last one of
the most influential shareholders in the company
that owned the London flying stages to
which the aëroplanes came from all parts of the
world. This much for his public activities. In
his private life he was a man of pleasure. And
this is the story of his heart.

But before proceeding to such depths, one
must devote a little time to the exterior of this
person. Its physical basis was slender, and
short, and dark; and the face, which was fine-featured
and assisted by pigments, varied from[297]
an insecure self-complacency to an intelligent
uneasiness. His face and head had been depilated,
according to the cleanly and hygienic
fashion of the time, so that the colour and contour
of his hair varied with his costume. This
he was constantly changing.

At times he would distend himself with pneumatic
vestments in the rococo vein. From
among the billowy developments of this style,
and beneath a translucent and illuminated headdress,
his eye watched jealously for the respect
of the less fashionable world. At other times
he emphasised his elegant slenderness in close-fitting
garments of black satin. For effects of
dignity he would assume broad pneumatic
shoulders, from which hung a robe of carefully
arranged folds of China silk, and a classical
Bindon in pink tights was also a transient
phenomenon in the eternal pageant of Destiny.
In the days when he hoped to marry Elizabeth,
he sought to impress and charm her, and at the
same time to take off something of his burthen
of forty years, by wearing the last fancy of the
contemporary buck, a costume of elastic material
with distensible warts and horns, changing
in colour as he walked, by an ingenious arrangement
of versatile chromatophores. And
no doubt, if Elizabeth’s affection had not been[298]
already engaged by the worthless Denton, and
if her tastes had not had that odd bias for old-fashioned
ways, this extremely chic conception
would have ravished her. Bindon had consulted
Elizabeth’s father before presenting himself in
this garb—he was one of those men who always
invite criticism of their costume—and
Mwres had pronounced him all that the heart of
woman could desire. But the affair of the
hypnotist proved that his knowledge of the
heart of woman was incomplete.

Bindon’s idea of marrying had been formed
some little time before Mwres threw Elizabeth’s
budding womanhood in his way. It was one of
Bindon’s most cherished secrets that he had a
considerable capacity for a pure and simple life
of a grossly sentimental type. The thought imparted
a sort of pathetic seriousness to the offensive
and quite inconsequent and unmeaning
excesses, which he was pleased to regard as
dashing wickedness, and which a number of
good people also were so unwise as to treat in
that desirable manner. As a consequence of
these excesses, and perhaps by reason also of an
inherited tendency to early decay, his liver became
seriously affected, and he suffered increasing
inconvenience when travelling by aëroplane.
It was during his convalescence from a[299]

protracted bilious attack that it occurred to him
that in spite of all the terrible fascinations of
Vice, if he found a beautiful, gentle, good
young woman of a not too violently intellectual
type to devote her life to him, he might yet be
saved to Goodness, and even rear a spirited
family in his likeness to solace his declining
years. But like so many experienced men of
the world, he doubted if there were any good
women. Of such as he had heard tell he was
outwardly sceptical and privately much afraid.

When the aspiring Mwres effected his introduction
to Elizabeth, it seemed to him that his
good fortune was complete. He fell in love
with her at once. Of course, he had always
been falling in love since he was sixteen, in accordance
with the extremely varied recipes to
be found in the accumulated literature of many
centuries. But this was different. This was
real love. It seemed to him to call forth all the
lurking goodness in his nature. He felt that
for her sake he could give up a way of life that
had already produced the gravest lesions on his
liver and nervous system. His imagination presented
him with idyllic pictures of the life of
the reformed rake. He would never be sentimental
with her, or silly; but always a little
cynical and bitter, as became the past. Yet he[300]
was sure she would have an intuition of his real
greatness and goodness. And in due course he
would confess things to her, pour his version of
what he regarded as his wickedness—showing
what a complex of Goethe, and Benvenuto Cellini,
and Shelley, and all those other chaps he
really was—into her shocked, very beautiful,
and no doubt sympathetic ear. And preparatory
to these things he wooed her with infinite
subtlety and respect. And the reserve with
which Elizabeth treated him seemed nothing
more nor less than an exquisite modesty
touched and enhanced by an equally exquisite
lack of ideas.

Bindon knew nothing of her wandering affections,
nor of the attempt made by Mwres to
utilise hypnotism as a corrective to this digression
of her heart; he conceived he was on the
best of terms with Elizabeth, and had made her
quite successfully various significant presents
of jewellery and the more virtuous cosmetics,
when her elopement with Denton threw the
world out of gear for him. His first aspect of
the matter was rage begotten of wounded vanity,
and as Mwres was the most convenient person,
he vented the first brunt of it upon him.

He went immediately and insulted the desolate
father grossly, and then spent an active and[301]
determined day going to and fro about the city
and interviewing people in a consistent and
partly-successful attempt to ruin that matrimonial
speculator. The effectual nature of these
activities gave him a temporary exhilaration,
and he went to the dining-place he had frequented
in his wicked days in a devil-may-care
frame of mind, and dined altogether too amply
and cheerfully with two other golden youths in
their early forties. He threw up the game; no
woman was worth being good for, and he astonished
even himself by the strain of witty
cynicism he developed. One of the other desperate
blades, warmed with wine, made a facetious
allusion to his disappointment, but at the
time this did not seem unpleasant.

The next morning found his liver and temper
inflamed. He kicked his phonographic-news
machine to pieces, dismissed his valet, and
resolved that he would perpetrate a terrible revenge
upon Elizabeth. Or Denton. Or somebody.
But anyhow, it was to be a terrible revenge;
and the friend who had made fun at
him should no longer see him in the light of a
foolish girl’s victim. He knew something of
the little property that was due to her, and that
this would be the only support of the young
couple until Mwres should relent. If Mwres[302]
did not relent, and if unpropitious things should
happen to the affair in which Elizabeth’s expectations
lay, they would come upon evil times
and be sufficiently amenable to temptation of a
sinister sort. Bindon’s imagination, abandoning
its beautiful idealism altogether, expanded
the idea of temptation of a sinister sort. He
figured himself as the implacable, the intricate
and powerful man of wealth pursuing this
maiden who had scorned him. And suddenly
her image came upon his mind vivid and dominant,
and for the first time in his life Bindon
realised something of the real power of passion.

His imagination stood aside like a respectful
footman who has done his work in ushering in
the emotion.

“My God!” cried Bindon: “I will have her!
If I have to kill myself to get her! And that
other fellow—!”

After an interview with his medical man and
a penance for his overnight excesses in the form
of bitter drugs, a mitigated but absolutely resolute
Bindon sought out Mwres. Mwres he
found properly smashed, and impoverished and
humble, in a mood of frantic self-preservation,
ready to sell himself body and soul, much more
any interest in a disobedient daughter, to recover[303]
his lost position in the world. In the
reasonable discussion that followed, it was
agreed that these misguided young people
should be left to sink into distress, or possibly
even assisted towards that improving discipline
by Bindon’s financial influence.

“And then?” said Mwres.

“They will come to the Labour Company,”
said Bindon. “They will wear the blue canvas.”

“And then?”

“She will divorce him,” he said, and sat for
a moment intent upon that prospect. For in
those days the austere limitations of divorce of
Victorian times were extraordinarily relaxed,
and a couple might separate on a hundred different
scores.

Then suddenly Bindon astonished himself
and Mwres by jumping to his feet. “She shall
divorce him!” he cried. “I will have it so—I
will work it so. By God! it shall be so. He
shall be disgraced, so that she must. He shall
be smashed and pulverised.”

The idea of smashing and pulverising inflamed
him further. He began a Jovian pacing
up and down the little office. “I will have
her,” he cried. “I will have her! Heaven and
Hell shall not save her from me!” His passion[304]
evaporated in its expression, and left him at the
end simply histrionic. He struck an attitude
and ignored with heroic determination a sharp
twinge of pain about the diaphragm. And
Mwres sat with his pneumatic cap deflated and
himself very visibly impressed.

And so, with a fair persistency, Bindon sat
himself to the work of being Elizabeth’s malignant
providence, using with ingenious dexterity
every particle of advantage wealth in those
days gave a man over his fellow-creatures. A
resort to the consolations of religion hindered
these operations not at all. He would go and
talk with an interesting, experienced and sympathetic
Father of the Huysmanite sect of the
Isis cult, about all the irrational little proceedings
he was pleased to regard as his heaven-dismaying
wickedness, and the interesting, experienced
and sympathetic Father representing
Heaven dismayed, would with a pleasing affectation
of horror, suggest simple and easy penances,
and recommend a monastic foundation
that was airy, cool, hygienic, and not vulgarised,
for viscerally disordered penitent sinners
of the refined and wealthy type. And after
these excursions, Bindon would come back to
London quite active and passionate again. He
would machinate with really considerable[305]
energy, and repair to a certain gallery high
above the street of moving ways, from which
he could view the entrance to the barrack of
the Labour Company in the ward which sheltered
Denton and Elizabeth. And at last one
day he saw Elizabeth go in, and thereby his
passion was renewed.

So in the fullness of time the complicated
devices of Bindon ripened, and he could go to
Mwres and tell him that the young people were
near despair.

“It’s time for you,” he said, “to let your parental
affections have play. She’s been in blue
canvas some months, and they’ve been cooped
together in one of those Labour dens, and the
little girl is dead. She knows now what his
manhood is worth to her, by way of protection,
poor girl. She’ll see things now in a
clearer light. You go to her—I don’t want to
appear in this affair yet—and point out to her
how necessary it is that she should get a divorce
from him….”

“She’s obstinate,” said Mwres doubtfully.

“Spirit!” said Bindon. “She’s a wonderful
girl—a wonderful girl!”

“She’ll refuse.”

“Of course she will. But leave it open to
her. Leave it open to her. And some day—in[306]
that stuffy den, in that irksome, toilsome life
they can’t help it—they’ll have a quarrel. And
then—”

Mwres meditated over the matter, and did as
he was told.

Then Bindon, as he had arranged with his
spiritual adviser, went into retreat. The retreat
of the Huysmanite sect was a beautiful
place, with the sweetest air in London, lit by
natural sunlight, and with restful quadrangles
of real grass open to the sky, where at the same
time the penitent man of pleasure might enjoy
all the pleasures of loafing and all the satisfaction
of distinguished austerity. And, save for
participation in the simple and wholesome
dietary of the place and in certain magnificent
chants, Bindon spent all his time in meditation
upon the theme of Elizabeth, and the extreme
purification his soul had undergone since he
first saw her, and whether he would be able to
get a dispensation to marry her from the experienced
and sympathetic Father in spite of
the approaching “sin” of her divorce; and then … Bindon
would lean against a pillar
of the quadrangle and lapse into reveries on the
superiority of virtuous love to any other form
of indulgence. A curious feeling in his back
and chest that was trying to attract his attention,[307]
a disposition to be hot or shiver, a general
sense of ill-health and cutaneous discomfort
he did his best to ignore. All that of course belonged
to the old life that he was shaking off.

When he came out of retreat he went at once
to Mwres to ask for news of Elizabeth. Mwres
was clearly under the impression that he was
an exemplary father, profoundly touched about
the heart by his child’s unhappiness. “She was
pale,” he said, greatly moved; “She was pale.
When I asked her to come away and leave him—and
be happy—she put her head down upon
the table”—Mwres sniffed—”and cried.”

His agitation was so great that he could say
no more.

“Ah!” said Bindon, respecting this manly
grief. “Oh!” said Bindon quite suddenly, with
his hand to his side.

Mwres looked up sharply out of the pit of his
sorrows, startled. “What’s the matter?” he
asked, visibly concerned.

“A most violent pain. Excuse me! You
were telling me about Elizabeth.”

And Mwres, after a decent solicitude for Bindon’s
pain, proceeded with his report. It was
even unexpectedly hopeful. Elizabeth, in her
first emotion at discovering that her father had[308]
not absolutely deserted her, had been frank
with him about her sorrows and disgusts.

“Yes,” said Bindon, magnificently, “I shall
have her yet.” And then that novel pain
twitched him for the second time.

For these lower pains the priest was comparatively
ineffectual, inclining rather to regard
the body and them as mental illusions amenable
to contemplation; so Bindon took it to a man
of a class he loathed, a medical man of extraordinary
repute and incivility. “We must go
all over you,” said the medical man, and did so
with the most disgusting frankness. “Did you
ever bring any children into the world?” asked
this gross materialist among other impertinent
questions.

“Not that I know of,” said Bindon, too
amazed to stand upon his dignity.

“Ah!” said the medical man, and proceeded
with his punching and sounding. Medical
science in those days was just reaching the beginnings
of precision. “You’d better go right
away,” said the medical man, “and make the
Euthanasia. The sooner the better.”

Bindon gasped. He had been trying not to
understand the technical explanations and anticipations
in which the medical man had indulged.[309]

“I say!” he said. “But do you mean to say …
Your science …”

“Nothing,” said the medical man. “A few
opiates. The thing is your own doing, you
know, to a certain extent.”

“I was sorely tempted in my youth.”

“It’s not that so much. But you come of a
bad stock. Even if you’d have taken precautions
you’d have had bad times to wind up with.
The mistake was getting born. The indiscretions
of the parents. And you’ve shirked exercise,
and so forth.”

“I had no one to advise me.”

“Medical men are always willing.”

“I was a spirited young fellow.”

“We won’t argue; the mischief’s done now.
You’ve lived. We can’t start you again. You
ought never to have started at all. Frankly—the
Euthanasia!”

Bindon hated him in silence for a space.
Every word of this brutal expert jarred upon
his refinements. He was so gross, so impermeable
to all the subtler issues of being. But it is no
good picking a quarrel with a doctor. “My religious
beliefs,” he said, “I don’t approve of
suicide.”

“You’ve been doing it all your life.”[310]

“Well, anyhow, I’ve come to take a serious
view of life now.”

“You’re bound to, if you go on living.
You’ll hurt. But for practical purposes it’s
late. However, if you mean to do that—perhaps
I’d better mix you a little something.
You’ll hurt a great deal. These little twinges …”

“Twinges!”

“Mere preliminary notices.”

“How long can I go on? I mean, before I
hurt—really.”

“You’ll get it hot soon. Perhaps three days.”

Bindon tried to argue for an extension of
time, and in the midst of his pleading gasped,
put his hand to his side. Suddenly the extraordinary
pathos of his life came to him clear
and vivid. “It’s hard,” he said. “It’s infernally
hard! I’ve been no man’s enemy but my own.
I’ve always treated everybody quite fairly.”

The medical man stared at him without any
sympathy for some seconds. He was reflecting
how excellent it was that there were no more
Bindons to carry on that line of pathos. He
felt quite optimistic. Then he turned to his
telephone and ordered up a prescription from
the Central Pharmacy.[311]

He was interrupted by a voice behind him.
“By God!” cried Bindon; “I’ll have her yet.”

The physician stared over his shoulder at
Bindon’s expression, and then altered the prescription.

So soon as this painful interview was over,
Bindon gave way to rage. He settled that the
medical man was not only an unsympathetic
brute and wanting in the first beginnings of a
gentleman, but also highly incompetent; and he
went off to four other practitioners in succession,
with a view to the establishment of this
intuition. But to guard against surprises he
kept that little prescription in his pocket. With
each he began by expressing his grave doubts
of the first doctor’s intelligence, honesty and
professional knowledge, and then stated his
symptoms, suppressing only a few more material
facts in each case. These were always
subsequently elicited by the doctor. In spite of
the welcome depreciation of another practitioner,
none of these eminent specialists would
give Bindon any hope of eluding the anguish
and helplessness that loomed now close upon
him. To the last of them he unburthened his
mind of an accumulated disgust with medical
science. “After centuries and centuries,” he
exclaimed hotly; “and you can do nothing—except[312]
admit your helplessness. I say, ‘save me’—and
what do you do?”

“No doubt it’s hard on you,” said the doctor.
“But you should have taken precautions.”

“How was I to know?”

“It wasn’t our place to run after you,” said
the medical man, picking a thread of cotton
from his purple sleeve. “Why should we save

you in particular? You see—from one point of
view—people with imaginations and passions
like yours have to go—they have to go.”

“Go?”

“Die out. It’s an eddy.”

He was a young man with a serene face. He
smiled at Bindon. “We get on with research,
you know; we give advice when people have
the sense to ask for it. And we bide our time.”

“Bide your time?”

“We hardly know enough yet to take over
the management, you know.”

“The management?”

“You needn’t be anxious. Science is young
yet. It’s got to keep on growing for a few
generations. We know enough now to know
we don’t know enough yet…. But the
time is coming, all the same. You won’t see
the time. But, between ourselves, you rich men
and party bosses, with your natural play of the[313]
passions and patriotism and religion and so
forth, have made rather a mess of things;
haven’t you? These Underways! And all that
sort of thing. Some of us have a sort of fancy
that in time we may know enough to take over
a little more than the ventilation and drains.
Knowledge keeps on piling up, you know. It
keeps on growing. And there’s not the slightest
hurry for a generation or so. Some day—some
day, men will live in a different way.” He
looked at Bindon and meditated. “There’ll be
a lot of dying out before that day can come.”

Bindon attempted to point out to this young
man how silly and irrelevant such talk was to a
sick man like himself, how impertinent and uncivil
it was to him, an older man occupying a
position in the official world of extraordinary
power and influence. He insisted that a doctor
was paid to cure people—he laid great stress on
paid“—and had no business to glance even for
a moment at “those other questions.” “But
we do,” said the young man, insisting upon
facts, and Bindon lost his temper.

His indignation carried him home. That
these incompetent impostors, who were unable
to save the life of a really influential man like
himself, should dream of some day robbing the
legitimate property owners of social control, of[314]
inflicting one knew not what tyranny upon the
world. Curse science! He fumed over the
intolerable prospect for some time, and then the
pain returned, and he recalled the made-up prescription
of the first doctor, still happily in his
pocket. He took a dose forthwith.

It calmed and soothed him greatly, and he
could sit down in his most comfortable chair
beside his library (of phonographic records),
and think over the altered aspect of affairs. His
indignation passed, his anger and his passion
crumbled under the subtle attack of that prescription,
pathos became his sole ruler. He
stared about him, at his magnificent and voluptuously
appointed apartment, at his statuary
and discreetly veiled pictures, and all the evidences
of a cultivated and elegant wickedness;
he touched a stud and the sad pipings of Tristan’s
shepherd filled the air. His eye wandered
from one object to another. They
were costly and gross and florid—but they were
his. They presented in concrete form his ideals,
his conceptions of beauty and desire, his idea of
all that is precious in life. And now—he must
leave it all like a common man. He was, he
felt, a slender and delicate flame, burning out.
So must all life flame up and pass, he thought.
His eyes filled with tears.[315]

Then it came into his head that he was
alone. Nobody cared for him, nobody needed
him! at any moment he might begin to hurt vividly.
He might even howl. Nobody would
mind. According to all the doctors he would
have excellent reason for howling in a day or
so. It recalled what his spiritual adviser had
said of the decline of faith and fidelity, the degeneration
of the age. He beheld himself as a
pathetic proof of this; he, the subtle, able, important,
voluptuous, cynical, complex Bindon,
possibly howling, and not one faithful simple
creature in all the world to howl in sympathy.
Not one faithful simple soul was there—no
shepherd to pipe to him! Had all such faithful
simple creatures vanished from this harsh and
urgent earth? He wondered whether the horrid
vulgar crowd that perpetually went about the
city could possibly know what he thought of
them. If they did he felt sure some would try
to earn a better opinion. Surely the world went
from bad to worse. It was becoming impossible
for Bindons. Perhaps some day … He
was quite sure that the one thing he had needed
in life was sympathy. For a time he regretted
that he left no sonnets—no enigmatical pictures
or something of that sort behind him to carry[316]

on his being until at last the sympathetic mind
should come….

It seemed incredible to him that this that
came was extinction. Yet his sympathetic spiritual
guide was in this matter annoyingly figurative
and vague. Curse science! It had undermined
all faith—all hope. To go out, to
vanish from theatre and street, from office and
dining-place, from the dear eyes of womankind.
And not to be missed! On the whole to leave
the world happier!

He reflected that he had never worn his heart
upon his sleeve. Had he after all been too unsympathetic?
Few people could suspect how
subtly profound he really was beneath the mask
of that cynical gaiety of his. They would not
understand the loss they had suffered. Elizabeth,
for example, had not suspected….

He had reserved that. His thoughts having
come to Elizabeth gravitated about her for
some time. How little Elizabeth understood
him!

That thought became intolerable. Before all
other things he must set that right. He realised
that there was still something for him to do in
life, his struggle against Elizabeth was even yet
not over. He could never overcome her now,[317]
as he had hoped and prayed. But he might still
impress her!

From that idea he expanded. He might impress
her profoundly—he might impress her so
that she should for evermore regret her treatment
of him. The thing that she must realise
before everything else was his magnanimity.
His magnanimity! Yes! he had loved her with
amazing greatness of heart. He had not seen
it so clearly before—but of course he was going
to leave her all his property. He saw it instantly,
as a thing determined and inevitable.
She would think how good he was, how spaciously
generous; surrounded by all that makes
life tolerable from his hand, she would recall
with infinite regret her scorn and coldness. And
when she sought expression for that regret, she
would find that occasion gone forever, she
should be met by a locked door, by a disdainful
stillness, by a white dead face. He closed his
eyes and remained for a space imagining himself
that white dead face.

From that he passed to other aspects of the
matter, but his determination was assured. He
meditated elaborately before he took action,
for the drug he had taken inclined him to
a lethargic and dignified melancholy. In certain
respects he modified details. If he left all[318]
his property to Elizabeth it would include the
voluptuously appointed room he occupied, and
for many reasons he did not care to leave that
to her. On the other hand, it had to be left to
some one. In his clogged condition this worried
him extremely.

In the end he decided to leave it to the sympathetic
exponent of the fashionable religious cult,
whose conversation had been so pleasing in the
past. “He will understand,” said Bindon with
a sentimental sigh. “He knows what Evil
means—he understands something of the Stupendous
Fascination of the Sphinx of Sin. Yes—he
will understand.” By that phrase it was
that Bindon was pleased to dignify certain unhealthy
and undignified departures from sane
conduct to which a misguided vanity and an ill-controlled
curiosity had led him. He sat for a
space thinking how very Hellenic and Italian
and Neronic, and all those things, he had been.
Even now—might one not try a sonnet? A
penetrating voice to echo down the ages, sensuous,
sinister, and sad. For a space he forgot
Elizabeth. In the course of half an hour he
spoilt three phonographic coils, got a headache,
took a second dose to calm himself, and reverted
to magnanimity and his former design.

At last he faced the unpalatable problem of[319]
Denton. It needed all his newborn magnanimity
before he could swallow the thought of
Denton; but at last this greatly misunderstood
man, assisted by his sedative and the near approach
of death, effected even that. If he was
at all exclusive about Denton, if he should display
the slightest distrust, if he attempted any
specific exclusion of that young man, she might—misunderstand.
Yes—she should have her
Denton still. His magnanimity must go even to
that. He tried to think only of Elizabeth in the
matter.

He rose with a sigh, and limped across to the
telephonic apparatus that communicated with
his solicitor. In ten minutes a will duly attested
and with its proper thumb-mark signature lay
in the solicitor’s office three miles away. And
then for a space Bindon sat very still.

Suddenly he started out of a vague reverie
and pressed an investigatory hand to his side.

Then he jumped eagerly to his feet and
rushed to the telephone. The Euthanasia Company
had rarely been called by a client in a
greater hurry.

So it came at last that Denton and his Elizabeth,
against all hope, returned unseparated
from the labour servitude to which they had
fallen. Elizabeth came out from her cramped[320]
subterranean den of metal-beaters and all the
sordid circumstances of blue canvas, as one
comes out of a nightmare. Back towards the
sunlight their fortune took them; once the bequest
was known to them, the bare thought of
another day’s hammering became intolerable.
They went up long lifts and stairs to levels that
they had not seen since the days of their disaster.
At first she was full of this sensation of
escape; even to think of the underways was intolerable;
only after many months could she begin
to recall with sympathy the faded women
who were still below there, murmuring scandals
and reminiscences and folly, and tapping away
their lives.

Her choice of the apartments they presently
took expressed the vehemence of her release.
They were rooms upon the very verge of the
city; they had a roof space and a balcony upon
the city wall, wide open to the sun and wind,
the country and the sky.

And in that balcony comes the last scene in
this story. It was a summer sunsetting, and the
hills of Surrey were very blue and clear. Denton
leant upon the balcony regarding them, and
Elizabeth sat by his side. Very wide and spacious
was the view, for their balcony hung five
hundred feet above the ancient level of the[321]
ground. The oblongs of the Food Company,
broken here and there by the ruins—grotesque
little holes and sheds—of the ancient suburbs,
and intersected by shining streams of sewage,
passed at last into a remote diapering at the
foot of the distant hills. There once had been
the squatting-place of the children of Uya. On
those further slopes gaunt machines of unknown
import worked slackly at the end of their
spell, and the hill crest was set with stagnant
wind vanes. Along the great south road the Labour
Company’s field workers in huge wheeled
mechanical vehicles, were hurrying back to their
meals, their last spell finished. And through the
air a dozen little private aëroplanes sailed down
towards the city. Familiar scene as it was to
the eyes of Denton and Elizabeth, it would have
filled the minds of their ancestors with incredulous
amazement. Denton’s thoughts fluttered
towards the future in a vain attempt at what
that scene might be in another two hundred
years, and, recoiling, turned towards the past.

He shared something of the growing knowledge
of the time; he could picture the quaint
smoke-grimed Victorian city with its narrow
little roads of beaten earth, its wide common-land,
ill-organised, ill-built suburbs, and irregular[322]

enclosures; the old countryside of the Stuart
times, with its little villages and its petty London;
the England of the monasteries, the far
older England of the Roman dominion, and
then before that a wild country with here and
there the huts of some warring tribe. These
huts must have come and gone and come again
through a space of years that made the Roman
camp and villa seem but yesterday; and before
those years, before even the huts, there had been
men in the valley. Even then—so recent had it
all been when one judged it by the standards of
geological time—this valley had been here; and
those hills yonder, higher, perhaps, and snow-tipped,
had still been yonder hills, and the
Thames had flowed down from the Cotswolds
to the sea. But the men had been but the shapes
of men, creatures of darkness and ignorance,
victims of beasts and floods, storms and pestilence
and incessant hunger. They had held a
precarious foothold amidst bears and lions and
all the monstrous violence of the past. Already
some at least of these enemies were overcome….

For a time Denton pursued the thoughts of
this spacious vision, trying in obedience to his
instinct to find his place and proportion in the
scheme.[323]

“It has been chance,” he said, “it has been
luck. We have come through. It happens we
have come through. Not by any strength of our
own….

“And yet … No. I don’t know.”

He was silent for a long time before he spoke
again.

“After all—there is a long time yet. There
have scarcely been men for twenty thousand
years—and there has been life for twenty millions.
And what are generations? What are
generations? It is enormous, and we are so little.
Yet we know—we feel. We are not dumb
atoms, we are part of it—part of it—to the limits
of our strength and will. Even to die is part
of it. Whether we die or live, we are in the
making….

“As time goes on—perhaps—men will be
wiser…. Wiser….

“Will they ever understand?”

He became silent again. Elizabeth said nothing
to these things, but she regarded his dreaming
face with infinite affection. Her mind was
not very active that evening. A great contentment
possessed her. After a time she laid a
gentle hand on his beside her. He fondled it
softly, still looking out upon the spacious gold-woven[324]
view. So they sat as the sun went down.
Until presently Elizabeth shivered.

Denton recalled himself abruptly from these
spacious issues of his leisure, and went in to
fetch her a shawl.


[325]
The Man Who Could Work Miracles


[327]

THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES

A PANTOUM IN PROSE

It is doubtful whether the gift was innate.
For my own part, I think it came to him suddenly.
Indeed, until he was thirty he was a
sceptic, and did not believe in miraculous powers.
And here, since it is the most convenient
place, I must mention that he was a little man,
and had eyes of a hot brown, very erect red
hair, a moustache with ends that he twisted up,
and freckles. His name was George McWhirter
Fotheringay—not the sort of name by any
means to lead to any expectation of miracles—and
he was clerk at Gomshott’s. He was greatly
addicted to assertive argument. It was while
he was asserting the impossibility of miracles
that he had his first intimation of his extraordinary
powers. This particular argument was
being held in the bar of the Long Dragon, and
Toddy Beamish was conducting the opposition
by a monotonous but effective “So you say,”[328]

that drove Mr. Fotheringay to the very limit of
his patience.

There were present, besides these two, a very
dusty cyclist, landlord Cox, and Miss Maybridge,
the perfectly respectable and rather
portly barmaid of the Dragon. Miss Maybridge
was standing with her back to Mr. Fotheringay,
washing glasses; the others were watching
him, more or less amused by the present ineffectiveness
of the assertive method. Goaded
by the Torres Vedras tactics of Mr. Beamish,
Mr. Fotheringay determined to make an unusual
rhetorical effort. “Looky here, Mr. Beamish,”
said Mr. Fotheringay. “Let us clearly understand
what a miracle is. It’s something contrariwise
to the course of nature done by power
of Will, something what couldn’t happen without
being specially willed.”

“So you say,” said Mr. Beamish, repulsing
him.

Mr. Fotheringay appealed to the cyclist, who
had hitherto been a silent auditor, and received
his assent—given with a hesitating cough and
a glance at Mr. Beamish. The landlord would
express no opinion, and Mr. Fotheringay, returning
to Mr. Beamish, received the unexpected
concession of a qualified assent to his
definition of a miracle.[329]

“For instance,” said Mr. Fotheringay,
greatly encouraged. “Here would be a miracle.
That lamp, in the natural course of nature,
couldn’t burn like that upsy-down, could it,
Beamish?”

You say it couldn’t,” said Beamish.

“And you?” said Fotheringay. “You don’t
mean to say—eh?”

“No,” said Beamish reluctantly. “No, it
couldn’t.”

“Very well,” said Mr. Fotheringay. “Then
here comes someone, as it might be me, along
here, and stands as it might be here, and says
to that lamp, as I might do, collecting all my
will—Turn upsy-down without breaking, and
go on burning steady, and—Hullo!”

It was enough to make anyone say “Hullo!”
The impossible, the incredible, was visible to
them all. The lamp hung inverted in the air,
burning quietly with its flame pointing down. It
was as solid, as indisputable as ever a lamp was,
the prosaic common lamp of the Long Dragon
bar.

Mr. Fotheringay stood with an extended
forefinger and the knitted brows of one anticipating
a catastrophic smash. The cyclist, who
was sitting next the lamp, ducked and jumped
across the bar. Everybody jumped, more or[330]
less. Miss Maybridge turned and screamed.
For nearly three seconds the lamp remained
still. A faint cry of mental distress came from
Mr. Fotheringay. “I can’t keep it up,” he said,
“any longer.” He staggered back, and the inverted
lamp suddenly flared, fell against the
corner of the bar, bounced aside, smashed upon
the floor, and went out.

It was lucky it had a metal receiver, or the
whole place would have been in a blaze. Mr.
Cox was the first to speak, and his remark,
shorn of needless excrescences, was to the effect
that Fotheringay was a fool. Fotheringay was
beyond disputing even so fundamental a proposition
as that! He was astonished beyond measure
at the thing that had occurred. The subsequent
conversation threw absolutely no light on
the matter so far as Fotheringay was concerned;
the general opinion not only followed
Mr. Cox very closely but very vehemently.
Everyone accused Fotheringay of a silly trick,
and presented him to himself as a foolish destroyer
of comfort and security. His mind was
in a tornado of perplexity, he was himself inclined
to agree with them, and he made a remarkably
ineffectual opposition to the proposal
of his departure.

He went home flushed and heated, coat-collar[331]
crumpled, eyes smarting and ears red. He
watched each of the ten street lamps nervously
as he passed it. It was only when he found himself
alone in his little bed-room in Church Row
that he was able to grapple seriously with his
memories of the occurrence, and ask, “What on
earth happened?”

He had removed his coat and boots, and was
sitting on the bed with his hands in his pockets
repeating the text of his defence for the seventeenth
time, “I didn’t want the confounded
thing to upset,” when it occurred to him that at
the precise moment he had said the commanding
words he had inadvertently willed the
thing he said, and that when he had seen the
lamp in the air he had felt that it depended on
him to maintain it there without being clear
how this was to be done. He had not a particularly
complex mind, or he might have stuck for
a time at that “inadvertently willed,” embracing,
as it does, the abstrusest problems of voluntary
action; but as it was, the idea came to
him with a quite acceptable haziness. And
from that, following, as I must admit, no clear
logical path, he came to the test of experiment.

He pointed resolutely to his candle and collected
his mind, though he felt he did a foolish
thing. “Be raised up,” he said. But in a second[332]
that feeling vanished. The candle was raised,
hung in the air one giddy moment, and as Mr.
Fotheringay gasped, fell with a smash on his
toilet-table, leaving him in darkness save for the
expiring glow of its wick.

For a time Mr. Fotheringay sat in the darkness,
perfectly still. “It did happen, after all,” he
said. “And ‘ow I’m to explain it I don’t know.”
He sighed heavily, and began feeling in his
pockets for a match. He could find none, and
he rose and groped about the toilet-table. “I
wish I had a match,” he said. He resorted to
his coat, and there was none there, and then it
dawned upon him that miracles were possible
even with matches. He extended a hand and
scowled at it in the dark. “Let there be a match
in that hand,” he said. He felt some light object
fall across his palm, and his fingers closed
upon a match.

After several ineffectual attempts to light
this, he discovered it was a safety-match. He
threw it down, and then it occurred to him that
he might have willed it lit. He did, and perceived
it burning in the midst of his toilet-table
mat. He caught it up hastily, and it went out.
His perception of possibilities enlarged, and he
felt for and replaced the candle in its candlestick.
“Here! you be lit,” said Mr. Fotheringay,[333]

and forthwith the candle was flaring, and
he saw a little black hole in the toilet-cover,
with a wisp of smoke rising from it. For a time
he stared from this to the little flame and back,
and then looked up and met his own gaze in
the looking glass. By this help he communed
with himself in silence for a time.

“How about miracles now?” said Mr. Fotheringay
at last, addressing his reflection.

The subsequent meditations of Mr. Fotheringay
were of a severe but confused description.
So far, he could see it was a case of pure willing
with him. The nature of his experiences so far
disinclined him for any further experiments, at
least until he had reconsidered them. But he
lifted a sheet of paper, and turned a glass of
water pink and then green, and he created a
snail, which he miraculously annihilated, and
got himself a miraculous new tooth-brush.
Somewhen in the small hours he had reached
the fact that his will-power must be of a particularly
rare and pungent quality, a fact of
which he had certainly had inklings before, but
no certain assurance. The scare and perplexity
of his first discovery was now qualified by pride
in this evidence of singularity and by vague intimations
of advantage. He became aware that
the church clock was striking one, and as it did[334]
not occur to him that his daily duties at Gomshott’s
might be miraculously dispensed with,
he resumed undressing, in order to get to bed
without further delay. As he struggled to get
his shirt over his head, he was struck with a
brilliant idea. “Let me be in bed,” he said, and
found himself so. “Undressed,” he stipulated;
and, finding the sheets cold, added hastily, “and
in my nightshirt—no, in a nice soft woollen
nightshirt. Ah!” he said with immense enjoyment.
“And now let me be comfortably
asleep….”

He awoke at his usual hour and was pensive
all through breakfast-time, wondering whether
his overnight experience might not be a particularly
vivid dream. At length his mind turned
again to cautious experiments. For instance, he
had three eggs for breakfast; two his landlady
had supplied, good, but shoppy, and one was a
delicious fresh goose-egg, laid, cooked, and
served by his extraordinary will. He hurried
off to Gomshott’s in a state of profound but
carefully concealed excitement, and only remembered
the shell of the third egg when his
landlady spoke of it that night. All day he
could do no work because of this astonishingly
new self-knowledge, but this caused him no inconvenience,[335]
because he made up for it miraculously
in his last ten minutes.

As the day wore on his state of mind passed
from wonder to elation, albeit the circumstances
of his dismissal from the Long Dragon
were still disagreeable to recall, and a garbled
account of the matter that had reached his colleagues
led to some badinage. It was evident
he must be careful how he lifted frangible articles,
but in other ways his gift promised more
and more as he turned it over in his mind. He
intended among other things to increase his
personal property by unostentatious acts of creation.
He called into existence a pair of very
splendid diamond studs, and hastily annihilated
them again as young Gomshott came across the
counting-house to his desk. He was afraid
young Gomshott might wonder how he had
come by them. He saw quite clearly the gift
required caution and watchfulness in its exercise,
but so far as he could judge the difficulties
attending its mastery would be no greater than
those he had already faced in the study of
cycling. It was that analogy, perhaps, quite as
much as the feeling that he would be unwelcome
in the Long Dragon, that drove him out
after supper into the lane beyond the gas-works,
to rehearse a few miracles in private.[336]

There was possibly a certain want of originality
in his attempts, for apart from his will-power
Mr. Fotheringay was not a very exceptional
man. The miracle of Moses’ rod came to
his mind, but the night was dark and unfavourable
to the proper control of large miraculous
snakes. Then he recollected the story of “Tannhäuser”
that he had read on the back of the
Philharmonic programme. That seemed to him
singularly attractive and harmless. He stuck
his walking-stick—a very nice Poona-Penang
lawyer—into the turf that edged the footpath,
and commanded the dry wood to blossom. The
air was immediately full of the scent of roses,
and by means of a match he saw for himself
that this beautiful miracle was indeed accomplished.
His satisfaction was ended by advancing
footsteps. Afraid of a premature discovery
of his powers, he addressed the blossoming stick
hastily: “Go back.” What he meant was
“Change back;” but of course he was confused.
The stick receded at a considerable velocity,
and incontinently came a cry of anger and a
bad word from the approaching person. “Who
are you throwing brambles at, you fool?” cried
a voice. “That got me on the shin.”

“I’m sorry, old chap,” said Mr. Fotheringay,
and then realising the awkward nature of the[337]
explanation, caught nervously at his moustache.
He saw Winch, one of the three Immering constables,
advancing.

“What d’yer mean by it?” asked the constable.
“Hullo! It’s you, is it? The gent that broke
the lamp at the Long Dragon!”

“I don’t mean anything by it,” said Mr.
Fotheringay. “Nothing at all.”

“What d’yer do it for then?”

“Oh, bother!” said Mr. Fotheringay.

“Bother indeed! D’yer know that stick hurt?
What d’yer do it for, eh?”

For the moment Mr. Fotheringay could not
think what he had done it for. His silence
seemed to irritate Mr. Winch. “You’ve been assaulting
the police, young man, this time.
That’s what you done.”

“Look here, Mr. Winch,” said Mr. Fotheringay,
annoyed and confused, “I’m very sorry.
The fact is——”

“Well?”

He could think of no way but the truth. “I
was working a miracle.” He tried to speak in
an off-hand way, but try as he would he
couldn’t.

“Working a——! ‘Ere, don’t you talk rot.
Working a miracle, indeed! Miracle! Well,
that’s downright funny! Why, you’s the chap[338]
that don’t believe in miracles…. Fact is,
this is another of your silly conjuring tricks—that’s
what this is. Now, I tell you——”

But Mr. Fotheringay never heard what Mr.
Winch was going to tell him. He realised he
had given himself away, flung his valuable secret
to all the winds of heaven. A violent gust
of irritation swept him to action. He turned
on the constable swiftly and fiercely. “Here,”
he said, “I’ve had enough of this, I have! I’ll
show you a silly conjuring trick, I will! Go to
Hades! Go, now!”

He was alone!

Mr. Fotheringay performed no more miracles
that night, nor did he trouble to see what
had become of his flowering stick. He returned
to the town, scared and very quiet, and
went to his bed-room. “Lord!” he said, “it’s a
powerful gift—an extremely powerful gift. I
didn’t hardly mean as much as that. Not
really…. I wonder what Hades is like!”

He sat on the bed taking off his boots.
Struck by a happy thought he transferred the
constable to San Francisco, and without any
more interference with normal causation went
soberly to bed. In the night he dreamt of the
anger of Winch.

The next day Mr. Fotheringay heard two[339]
interesting items of news. Someone had
planted a most beautiful climbing rose against
the elder Mr. Gomshott’s private house in the
Lullaborough Road, and the river as far as
Rawling’s Mill was to be dragged for Constable
Winch.

Mr. Fotheringay was abstracted and thoughtful
all that day, and performed no miracles
except certain provisions for Winch, and the
miracle of completing his day’s work with
punctual perfection in spite of all the bee-swarm
of thoughts that hummed through his mind.
And the extraordinary abstraction and meekness
of his manner was remarked by several
people, and made a matter for jesting. For the
most part he was thinking of Winch.

On Sunday evening he went to chapel, and
oddly enough, Mr. Maydig, who took a certain
interest in occult matters, preached about
“things that are not lawful.” Mr. Fotheringay
was not a regular chapel goer, but the system
of assertive scepticism, to which I have already
alluded, was now very much shaken. The
tenor of the sermon threw an entirely new light
on these novel gifts, and he suddenly decided
to consult Mr. Maydig immediately after the
service. So soon as that was determined, he[340]
found himself wondering why he had not done
so before.

Mr. Maydig, a lean, excitable man with quite
remarkably long wrists and neck, was gratified
at a request for a private conversation from a
young man whose carelessness in religious
matters was a subject for general remark in the
town. After a few necessary delays, he conducted
him to the study of the Manse, which
was contiguous to the chapel, seated him comfortably,
and, standing in front of a cheerful
fire—his legs threw a Rhodian arch of shadow
on the opposite wall—requested Mr. Fotheringay
to state his business.

At first Mr. Fotheringay was a little
abashed, and found some difficulty in opening
the matter. “You will scarcely believe me, Mr.
Maydig, I am afraid”—and so forth for some
time. He tried a question at last, and asked
Mr. Maydig his opinion of miracles.

Mr. Maydig was still saying “Well” in an
extremely judicial tone, when Mr. Fotheringay
interrupted again: “You don’t believe, I suppose,
that some common sort of person—like
myself, for instance—as it might be sitting
here now, might have some sort of twist inside
him that made him able to do things by his
will.”[341]

“It’s possible,” said Mr. Maydig. “Something
of the sort, perhaps, is possible.”

“If I might make free with something here,
I think I might show you by a sort of experiment,”
said Mr. Fotheringay. “Now, take that
tobacco-jar on the table, for instance. What I
want to know is whether what I am going to do
with it is a miracle or not. Just half a minute,
Mr. Maydig, please.”

He knitted his brows, pointed to the tobacco-jar
and said: “Be a bowl of vi’lets.”

The tobacco-jar did as it was ordered.

Mr. Maydig started violently at the change,
and stood looking from the thaumaturgist to
the bowl of flowers. He said nothing. Presently
he ventured to lean over the table and
smell the violets; they were fresh-picked and
very fine ones. Then he stared at Mr. Fotheringay
again.

“How did you do that?” he asked.

Mr. Fotheringay pulled his moustache. “Just
told it—and there you are. Is that a miracle,
or is it black art, or what is it? And what do
you think’s the matter with me? That’s what I
want to ask.”

“It’s a most extraordinary occurrence.”

“And this day last week I knew no more that
I could do things like that than you did. It[342]
came quite sudden. It’s something odd about
my will, I suppose, and that’s as far as I can
see.”

“Is that—the only thing. Could you do
other things besides that?”

“Lord, yes!” said Mr. Fotheringay. “Just
anything.” He thought, and suddenly recalled
a conjuring entertainment he had seen.
“Here!” He pointed. “Change into a bowl of
fish—no, not that—change into a glass bowl
full of water with goldfish swimming in it.
That’s better! You see that, Mr. Maydig?”

“It’s astonishing. It’s incredible. You
are either a most extraordinary … But no——”

“I could change it into anything,” said Mr.
Fotheringay. “Just anything. Here! be a
pigeon, will you?”

In another moment a blue pigeon was fluttering
round the room and making Mr. Maydig
duck every time it came near him. “Stop
there, will you,” said Mr. Fotheringay; and the
pigeon hung motionless in the air. “I could
change it back to a bowl of flowers,” he said,
and after replacing the pigeon on the table
worked that miracle. “I expect you will want
your pipe in a bit,” he said, and restored the tobacco-jar.[343]

Mr. Maydig had followed all these later
changes in a sort of ejaculatory silence. He
stared at Mr. Fotheringay and, in a very gingerly
manner, picked up the tobacco-jar, examined
it, replaced it on the table. “Well!” was
the only expression of his feelings.

“Now, after that it’s easier to explain what
I came about,” said Mr. Fotheringay; and proceeded
to a lengthy and involved narrative of
his strange experiences, beginning with the
affair of the lamp in the Long Dragon and complicated
by persistent allusions to Winch. As
he went on, the transient pride Mr. Maydig’s
consternation had caused passed away; he became
the very ordinary Mr. Fotheringay of
everyday intercourse again. Mr. Maydig listened
intently, the tobacco-jar in his hand, and
his bearing changed also with the course of the
narrative. Presently, while Mr. Fotheringay
was dealing with the miracle of the third egg,
the minister interrupted with a fluttering extended
hand—

“It is possible,” he said. “It is credible. It
is amazing, of course, but it reconciles a number
of amazing difficulties. The power to work
miracles is a gift—a peculiar quality like genius
or second sight—hitherto it has come very
rarely and to exceptional people. But in this[344]
case … I have always wondered at the miracles
of Mahomet, and at Yogi’s miracles, and
the miracles of Madame Blavatsky. But, of
course! Yes, it is simply a gift! It carries
out so beautifully the arguments of that great
thinker”—Mr. Maydig’s voice sank—”his
Grace the Duke of Argyll. Here we plumb
some profounder law—deeper than the ordinary
laws of nature. Yes—yes. Go on. Go
on!”

Mr. Fotheringay proceeded to tell of his
misadventure with Winch, and Mr. Maydig, no
longer overawed or scared, began to jerk his
limbs about and interject astonishment. “It’s
this what troubled me most,” proceeded Mr.
Fotheringay; “it’s this I’m most mijitly in
want of advice for; of course he’s at San
Francisco—wherever San Francisco may be—but
of course it’s awkward for both of us, as
you’ll see, Mr. Maydig. I don’t see how he
can understand what has happened, and I daresay
he’s scared and exasperated something tremendous,
and trying to get at me. I daresay
he keeps on starting off to come here. I send
him back, by a miracle, every few hours,
when I think of it. And of course, that’s a
thing he won’t be able to understand, and it’s
bound to annoy him; and, of course, if he takes[345]
a ticket every time it will cost him a lot of
money. I done the best I could for him, but of
course it’s difficult for him to put himself in my
place. I thought afterwards that his clothes
might have got scorched, you know—if Hades
is all it’s supposed to be—before I shifted him.
In that case I suppose they’d have locked him
up in San Francisco. Of course I willed him
a new suit of clothes on him directly I thought
of it. But, you see, I’m already in a deuce of a
tangle——”

Mr. Maydig looked serious. “I see you are
in a tangle. Yes, it’s a difficult position. How
you are to end it …” He became diffuse and
inconclusive.

“However, we’ll leave Winch for a little and
discuss the larger question. I don’t think this
is a case of the black art or anything of the sort.
I don’t think there is any taint of criminality
about it at all, Mr. Fotheringay—none whatever,
unless you are suppressing material facts.
No, it’s miracles—pure miracles—miracles, if
I may say so, of the very highest class.”

He began to pace the hearthrug and gesticulate,
while Mr. Fotheringay sat with his arm on
the table and his head on his arm, looking worried.
“I don’t see how I’m to manage about
Winch,” he said.[346]

“A gift of working miracles—apparently a
very powerful gift,” said Mr. Maydig, “will
find a way about Winch—never fear. My dear
Sir, you are a most important man—a man of
the most astonishing possibilities. As evidence,
for example! And in other ways, the things
you may do….”

“Yes, I’ve thought of a thing or two,” said
Mr. Fotheringay. “But—some of the things
came a bit twisty. You saw that fish at first?
Wrong sort of bowl and wrong sort of fish.
And I thought I’d ask someone.”

“A proper course,” said Mr. Maydig, “a very
proper course—altogether the proper course.”
He stopped and looked at Mr. Fotheringay.
“It’s practically an unlimited gift. Let us test
your powers, for instance. If they really are
If they really are all they seem to be.”

And so, incredible as it may seem, in the
study of the little house behind the Congregational
Chapel, on the evening of Sunday, Nov.
10, 1896, Mr. Fotheringay, egged on and inspired
by Mr. Maydig, began to work miracles.
The reader’s attention is specially and definitely
called to the date. He will object, probably
has already objected, that certain points in this
story are improbable, that if any things of the
sort already described had indeed occurred,[347]
they would have been in all the papers a year
ago. The details immediately following he will
find particularly hard to accept, because among
other things they involve the conclusion that he
or she, the reader in question, must have been
killed in a violent and unprecedented manner
more than a year ago. Now a miracle is
nothing if not improbable, and as a matter of
fact the reader was killed in a violent and unprecedented
manner a year ago. In the subsequent
course of this story that will become perfectly
clear and credible, as every right-minded
and reasonable reader will admit. But this is not
the place for the end of the story, being but little
beyond the hither side of the middle. And
at first the miracles worked by Mr. Fotheringay
were timid little miracles—little things
with the cups and parlour fitments, as feeble as
the miracles of Theosophists, and, feeble as they
were, they were received with awe by his collaborator.
He would have preferred to settle
the Winch business out of hand, but Mr. Maydig
would not let him. But after they had
worked a dozen of these domestic trivialities,
their sense of power grew, their imagination began
to show signs of stimulation, and their ambition
enlarged. Their first larger enterprise
was due to hunger and the negligence of Mrs.[348]
Minchin, Mr. Maydig’s housekeeper. The
meal to which the minister conducted Mr. Fotheringay
was certainly ill-laid and uninviting as
refreshment for two industrious miracle-workers;
but they were seated, and Mr. Maydig was
descanting in sorrow rather than in anger upon
his housekeeper’s shortcomings, before it occurred
to Mr. Fotheringay that an opportunity
lay before him. “Don’t you think, Mr. Maydig,”
he said, “if it isn’t a liberty, I——”

“My dear Mr. Fotheringay! Of course! No—I
didn’t think.”

Mr. Fotheringay waved his hand. “What
shall we have?” he said, in a large, inclusive
spirit, and, at Mr. Maydig’s order, revised the
supper very thoroughly. “As for me,” he said,
eyeing Mr. Maydig’s selection, “I am always
particularly fond of a tankard of stout and a
nice Welsh rarebit, and I’ll order that. I ain’t
much given to Burgundy,” and forthwith stout
and Welsh rarebit promptly appeared at his
command. They sat long at their supper, talking
like equals, as Mr. Fotheringay presently
perceived, with a glow of surprise and gratification,
of all the miracles they would presently
do. “And, by the bye, Mr. Maydig,” said Mr.
Fotheringay, “I might perhaps be able to help
you—in a domestic way.”[349]

“Don’t quite follow,” said Mr. Maydig
pouring out a glass of miraculous old Burgundy.

Mr. Fotheringay helped himself to a second
Welsh rarebit out of vacancy, and took a
mouthful. “I was thinking,” he said, “I might
be able (chum, chum) to work (chum, chum) a
miracle with Mrs. Minchin (chum, chum)—make
her a better woman.”

Mr. Maydig put down the glass and looked
doubtful. “She’s—— She strongly objects
to interference, you know, Mr. Fotheringay.
And—as a matter of fact—it’s well past eleven
and she’s probably in bed and asleep. Do you
think, on the whole——”

Mr. Fotheringay considered these objections.
“I don’t see that it shouldn’t be done in her
sleep.”

For a time Mr. Maydig opposed the idea, and
then he yielded. Mr. Fotheringay issued his
orders, and a little less at their ease, perhaps,
the two gentlemen proceeded with their repast.
Mr. Maydig was enlarging on the changes he
might expect in his housekeeper next day, with
an optimism that seemed even to Mr. Fotheringay’s
supper senses a little forced and hectic,
when a series of confused noises from upstairs
began. Their eyes exchanged interrogations,[350]
and Mr. Maydig left the room hastily. Mr.
Fotheringay heard him calling up to his housekeeper
and then his footsteps going softly up to
her.

In a minute or so the minister returned, his
step light, his face radiant. “Wonderful!” he
said, “and touching! Most touching!”

He began pacing the hearthrug. “A repentance—a
most touching repentance—through
the crack of the door. Poor woman!
A most wonderful change! She had got up.
She must have got up at once. She had got up
out of her sleep to smash a private bottle of
brandy in her box. And to confess it too!…
But this gives us—it opens—a most
amazing vista of possibilities. If we can work
this miraculous change in her …”

“The thing’s unlimited seemingly,” said Mr.
Fotheringay. “And about Mr. Winch—”

“Altogether unlimited.” And from the
hearthrug Mr. Maydig, waving the Winch difficulty
aside, unfolded a series of wonderful
proposals—proposals he invented as he went
along.

Now what those proposals were does not concern
the essentials of this story. Suffice it that
they were designed in a spirit of infinite benevolence,
the sort of benevolence that used to be[351]
called post-prandial. Suffice it, too, that the
problem of Winch remained unsolved. Nor is
it necessary to describe how far that series got
to its fulfilment. There were astonishing
changes. The small hours found Mr. Maydig
and Mr. Fotheringay careering across the chilly
market-square under the still moon, in a sort of
ecstasy of thaumaturgy, Mr. Maydig all flap
and gesture, Mr. Fotheringay short and bristling,
and no longer abashed at his greatness.
They had reformed every drunkard in the Parliamentary
division, changed all the beer and
alcohol to water (Mr. Maydig had overruled
Mr. Fotheringay on this point); they had, further,
greatly improved the railway communication
of the place, drained Flinder’s swamp, improved
the soil of One Tree Hill, and cured the
Vicar’s wart. And they were going to see what
could be done with the injured pier at South
Bridge. “The place,” gasped Mr. Maydig,
“won’t be the same place to-morrow. How surprised
and thankful everyone will be!” And
just at that moment the church clock struck
three.

“I say,” said Mr. Fotheringay, “that’s three
o’clock! I must be getting back. I’ve got to
be at business by eight. And besides, Mrs.
Wimms—”[352]

“We’re only beginning,” said Mr. Maydig,
full of the sweetness of unlimited power.
“We’re only beginning. Think of all the good
we’re doing. When people wake—”

“But—,” said Mr. Fotheringay.

Mr. Maydig gripped his arm suddenly. His
eyes were bright and wild. “My dear chap,”
he said, “there’s no hurry. Look”—he pointed
to the moon at the zenith—”Joshua!”

“Joshua?” said Mr. Fotheringay.

“Joshua,” said Mr. Maydig. “Why not?
Stop it.”

Mr. Fotheringay looked at the moon.

“That’s a bit tall,” he said after a pause.

“Why not?” said Mr. Maydig. “Of course
it doesn’t stop. You stop the rotation of the
earth, you know. Time stops. It isn’t as if
we were doing harm.”

“H’m!” said Mr. Fotheringay. “Well.” He
sighed. “I’ll try. Here—”

He buttoned up his jacket and addressed
himself to the habitable globe, with as good an
assumption of confidence as lay in his power.
“Jest stop rotating, will you,” said Mr. Fotheringay.

Incontinently he was flying head over heels
through the air at the rate of dozens of miles a
minute. In spite of the innumerable circles he[353]
was describing per second, he thought; for
thought is wonderful—sometimes as sluggish
as flowing pitch, sometimes as instantaneous as
light. He thought in a second, and willed.
“Let me come down safe and sound. Whatever
else happens, let me down safe and sound.”

He willed it only just in time, for his
clothes, heated by his rapid flight through the
air, were already beginning to singe. He came
down with a forcible, but by no means injurious
bump in what appeared to be a mound of fresh-turned
earth. A large mass of metal and
masonry, extraordinarily like the clock-tower
in the middle of the market-square, hit the
earth near him, ricochetted over him, and flew
into stonework, bricks, and masonry, like a
bursting bomb. A hurtling cow hit one of the
larger blocks and smashed like an egg. There
was a crash that made all the most violent
crashes of his past life seem like the sound of
falling dust, and this was followed by a descending
series of lesser crashes. A vast wind
roared throughout earth and heaven, so that he
could scarcely lift his head to look. For a
while he was too breathless and astonished even
to see where he was or what had happened.
And his first movement was to feel his head[354]
and reassure himself that his streaming hair
was still his own.

“Lord!” gasped Mr. Fotheringay, scarce able
to speak for the gale, “I’ve had a squeak!
What’s gone wrong? Storms and thunder.
And only a minute ago a fine night. It’s Maydig
set me on to this sort of thing. What a
wind! If I go on fooling in this way I’m bound
to have a thundering accident!…

“Where’s Maydig?

“What a confounded mess everything’s in!”

He looked about him so far as his flapping
jacket would permit. The appearance of things
was really extremely strange. “The sky’s all
right anyhow,” said Mr. Fotheringay. “And
that’s about all that is all right. And even there
it looks like a terrific gale coming up. But
there’s the moon overhead. Just as it was just
now. Bright as midday. But as for the rest—Where’s
the village? Where’s—where’s anything?
And what on earth set this wind a-blowing?
I didn’t order no wind.”

Mr. Fotheringay struggled to get to his feet
in vain, and after one failure, remained on all
fours, holding on. He surveyed the moonlit
world to leeward, with the tails of his jacket
streaming over his head. “There’s something[355]
seriously wrong,” said Mr. Fotheringay. “And
what it is—goodness knows.”

Far and wide nothing was visible in the
white glare through the haze of dust that drove
before a screaming gale but tumbled masses of
earth and heaps of inchoate ruins, no trees, no
houses, no familiar shapes, only a wilderness of
disorder vanishing at last into the darkness beneath
the whirling columns and streamers, the
lightnings and thunderings of a swiftly rising
storm. Near him in the livid glare was something
that might once have been an elm-tree, a
smashed mass of splinters, shivered from
boughs to base, and further a twisted mass of
iron girders—only too evidently the viaduct—rose
out of the piled confusion.

You see, when Mr. Fotheringay had arrested
the rotation of the solid globe, he had made no
stipulation concerning the trifling movables
upon its surface. And the earth spins so fast
that the surface at its equator is travelling at
rather more than a thousand miles an hour, and
in these latitudes at more than half that pace.
So that the village, and Mr. Maydig, and Mr.
Fotheringay, and everybody and everything
had been jerked violently forward at about nine
miles per second—that is to say, much more
violently than if they had been fired out of a[356]

cannon. And every human being, every living
creature, every house, and every tree—all the
world as we know it—had been so jerked and
smashed and utterly destroyed. That was all.

These things Mr. Fotheringay did not, of
course, fully appreciate. But he perceived that
his miracle had miscarried, and with that a
great disgust of miracles came upon him. He
was in darkness now, for the clouds had swept
together and blotted out his momentary glimpse
of the moon, and the air was full of fitful struggling
tortured wraiths of hail. A great roaring
of wind and waters filled earth and sky, and,
peering under his hand through the dust and
sleet to windward, he saw by the play of the
lightnings a vast wall of water pouring towards
him.

“Maydig!” screamed Mr. Fotheringay’s feeble
voice amid the elemental uproar. “Here!—Maydig!

“Stop!” cried Mr. Fotheringay to the advancing
water. “Oh, for goodness’ sake, stop!

“Just a moment,” said Mr. Fotheringay to
the lightnings and thunder. “Stop jest a moment
while I collect my thoughts….
And now what shall I do?” he said. “What
shall I do? Lord! I wish Maydig was about.[357]

“I know,” said Mr. Fotheringay. “And for
goodness’ sake let’s have it right this time.”

He remained on all fours, leaning against
the wind, very intent to have everything right.

“Ah!” he said. “Let nothing what I’m going
to order happen until I say ‘Off!’….
Lord! I wish I’d thought of that before!”

He lifted his little voice against the whirlwind,
shouting louder and louder in the vain
desire to hear himself speak. “Now then!—here
goes! Mind about that what I said just
now. In the first place, when all I’ve got to
say is done, let me lose my miraculous power,
let my will become just like anybody else’s will,
and all these dangerous miracles be stopped. I
don’t like them. I’d rather I didn’t work ‘em.
Ever so much. That’s the first thing. And
the second is—let me be back just before the
miracles begin; let everything be just as it was
before that blessed lamp turned up. It’s a big
job, but it’s the last. Have you got it? No
more miracles, everything as it was—me back
in the Long Dragon just before I drank my
half-pint. That’s it! Yes.”

He dug his fingers into the mould, closed his
eyes, and said “Off!”

Everything became perfectly still. He perceived
that he was standing erect.[358]

“So you say,” said a voice.

He opened his eyes. He was in the bar of
the Long Dragon, arguing about miracles with
Toddy Beamish. He had a vague sense of some
great thing forgotten that instantaneously
passed. You see that, except for the loss of his
miraculous powers, everything was back as it
had been, his mind and memory therefore were
now just as they had been at the time when
this story began. So that he knew absolutely
nothing of all that is told here, knows nothing
of all that is told here to this day. And among
other things, of course, he still did not believe
in miracles.

“I tell you that miracles, properly speaking,
can’t possibly happen,” he said, “whatever you
like to hold. And I’m prepared to prove it up
to the hilt.”

“That’s what you think,” said Toddy Beamish,
and “Prove it if you can.”

“Looky here, Mr. Beamish,” said Mr. Fotheringay.
“Let us clearly understand what a
miracle is. It’s something contrariwise to the
course of nature done by power of Will….”

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