The Inheritors
by Joseph Conrad
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"You?" I said. "What blessed chance brought you here?"

"Oh, I am your aunt's companion," she answered, "her niece, you know."

"Then you must be a cousin," I said.

"No; sister," she corrected, "I assure you it's sister. Ask anyone—ask your aunt." I was braced into a state of puzzled buoyancy.

"But really, you know," I said. She was smiling, standing up squarely to me, leaning a little back, swaying her machine with the motion of her body.

"It's a little ridiculous, isn't it?" she said.

"Very," I answered, "but even at that, I don't see—. And I'm not phenomenally dense."

"Not phenomenally," she answered.

"Considering that I'm not a—not a Dimensionist," I bantered. "But you have really palmed yourself off on my aunt?"

"Really," she answered, "she doesn't know any better. She believes in me immensely. I am such a real Granger, there never was a more typical one. And we shake our heads together over you." My bewilderment was infinite, but it stopped short of being unpleasant.

"Might I call on my aunt?" I asked. "It wouldn't interfere—"

"Oh, it wouldn't interfere," she said, "but we leave for Paris to-morrow. We are very busy. We—that is, my aunt; I am too young and too, too discreet—have a little salon where we hatch plots against half the regimes in Europe. You have no idea how Legitimate we are."

"I don't understand in the least," I said; "not in the least."

"Oh, you must take me literally if you want to understand," she answered, "and you won't do that. I tell you plainly that I find my account in unsettled states, and that I am unsettling them. Everywhere. You will see."

She spoke with her monstrous dispassionateness, and I felt a shiver pass down my spine, very distinctly. I was thinking what she might do if ever she became in earnest, and if ever I chanced to stand in her way—as her husband, for example.

"I wish you would talk sense—for one blessed minute," I said; "I want to get things a little settled in my mind."

"Oh, I'll talk sense," she said, "by the hour, but you won't listen. Take your friend, Churchill, now. He's the man that we're going to bring down. I mentioned it to you, and so...."

"But this is sheer madness," I answered.

"Oh, no, it's a bald statement of fact," she went on.

"I don't see how," I said, involuntarily.

"Your article in the Hour will help. Every trifle will help," she said. "Things that you understand and others that you cannot.... He is identifying himself with the Duc de Mersch. That looks nothing, but it's fatal. There will be friendships ... and desertions."

"Ah!" I said. I had had an inkling of this, and it made me respect her insight into home politics. She must have been alluding to Gurnard, whom everybody—perhaps from fear—pretended to trust. She looked at me and smiled again. It was still the same smile; she was not radiant to-day and pensive to-morrow. "Do you know I don't like to hear that?" I began.

"Oh, there's irony in it, and pathos, and that sort of thing," she said, with the remotest chill of mockery in her intonation. "He goes into it clean-handed enough and he only half likes it. But he sees that it's his last chance. It's not that he's worn out—but he feels that his time has come—unless he does something. And so he's going to do something. You understand?"

"Not in the least," I said, light-heartedly.

"Oh, it's the System for the Regeneration of the Arctic Regions—the Greenland affair of my friend de Mersch. Churchill is going to make a grand coup with that—to keep himself from slipping down hill, and, of course, it would add immensely to your national prestige. And he only half sees what de Mersch is or isn't."

"This is all Greek to me," I muttered rebelliously.

"Oh, I know, I know," she said. "But one has to do these things, and I want you to understand. So Churchill doesn't like the whole business. But he's under the shadow. He's been thinking a good deal lately that his day is over—I'll prove it to you in a minute—and so—oh, he's going to make a desperate effort to get in touch with the spirit of the times that he doesn't like and doesn't understand. So he lets you get his atmosphere. That's all."

"Oh, that's all," I said, ironically.

"Of course he'd have liked to go on playing the stand-off to chaps like you and me," she mimicked the tone and words of Fox himself.

"This is witchcraft," I said. "How in the world do you know what Fox said to me?"

"Oh, I know," she said. It seemed to me that she was playing me with all this nonsense—as if she must have known that I had a tenderness for her and were fooling me to the top of her bent. I tried to get my hook in.

"Now look here," I said, "we must get things settled. You ..."

She carried the speech off from under my nose.

"Oh, you won't denounce me," she said, "not any more than you did before; there are so many reasons. There would be a scene, and you're afraid of scenes—and our aunt would back me up. She'd have to. My money has been reviving the glories of the Grangers. You can see, they've been regilding the gate."

I looked almost involuntarily at the tall iron gates through which she had passed into my view. It was true enough—some of the scroll work was radiant with new gold.

"Well," I said, "I will give you credit for not wishing to—to prey upon my aunt. But still ..." I was trying to make the thing out. It struck me that she was an American of the kind that subsidizes households like that of Etchingham Manor. Perhaps my aunt had even forced her to take the family name, to save appearances. The old woman was capable of anything, even of providing an obscure nephew with a brilliant sister. And I should not be thanked if I interfered. This skeleton of swift reasoning passed between word and word ... "You are no sister of mine!" I was continuing my sentence quite amiably.

Her face brightened to greet someone approaching behind me.

"Did you hear him?" she said. "Did you hear him, Mr. Churchill. He casts off—he disowns me. Isn't he a stern brother? And the quarrel is about nothing." The impudence—or the presence of mind of it—overwhelmed me.

Churchill smiled pleasantly.

"Oh—one always quarrels about nothing," Churchill answered. He spoke a few words to her; about my aunt; about the way her machine ran—that sort of thing. He behaved toward her as if she were an indulged child, impertinent with licence and welcome enough. He himself looked rather like the short-sighted, but indulgent and very meagre lion that peers at the unicorn across a plum-cake.

"So you are going back to Paris," he said. "Miss Churchill will be sorry. And you are going to continue to—to break up the universe?"

"Oh, yes," she answered, "we are going on with that, my aunt would never give it up. She couldn't, you know."

"You'll get into trouble," Churchill said, as if he were talking to a child intent on stealing apples. "And when is our turn coming? You're going to restore the Stuarts, aren't you?" It was his idea of badinage, amiable without consequence.

"Oh, not quite that," she answered, "not quite that." It was curious to watch her talking to another man—to a man, not a bagman like Callan. She put aside the face she always showed me and became at once what Churchill took her for—a spoiled child. At times she suggested a certain kind of American, and had that indefinable air of glib acquaintance with the names, and none of the spirit of tradition. One half expected her to utter rhapsodies about donjon-keeps.

"Oh, you know," she said, with a fine affectation of aloofness, "we shall have to be rather hard upon you; we shall crumple you up like—" Churchill had been moving his stick absent-mindedly in the dust of the road, he had produced a big "C H U." She had erased it with the point of her foot—"like that," she concluded.

He laid his head back and laughed almost heartily.

"Dear me," he said, "I had no idea that I was so much in the way of—of yourself and Mrs. Granger."

"Oh, it's not only that," she said, with a little smile and a cast of the eye to me. "But you've got to make way for the future."

Churchill's face changed suddenly. He looked rather old, and grey, and wintry, even a little frail. I understood what she was proving to me, and I rather disliked her for it. It seemed wantonly cruel to remind a man of what he was trying to forget.

"Ah, yes," he said, with the gentle sadness of quite an old man, "I dare say there is more in that than you think. Even you will have to learn."

"But not for a long time," she interrupted audaciously.

"I hope not," he answered, "I hope not." She nodded and glided away.

We resumed the road in silence. Mr. Churchill smiled at his own thoughts once or twice.

"A most amusing ..." he said at last. "She does me a great deal of good, a great deal."

I think he meant that she distracted his thoughts.

"Does she always talk like that?" I asked. He had hardly spoken to me, and I felt as if I were interrupting a reverie—but I wanted to know.

"I should say she did," he answered; "I should say so. But Miss Churchill says that she has a real genius for organization. She used to see a good deal of them, before they went to Paris, you know."

"What are they doing there?" It was as if I were extracting secrets from a sleep-walker.

"Oh, they have a kind of a meeting place, for all kinds of Legitimist pretenders—French and Spanish, and that sort of thing. I believe Mrs. Granger takes it very seriously." He looked at me suddenly. "But you ought to know more about it than I do," he said.

"Oh, we see very little of each other," I answered, "you could hardly call us brother and sister."

"Oh, I see," he answered. I don't know what he saw. For myself, I saw nothing.


I succeeded in giving Fox what his journal wanted; I got the atmosphere of Churchill and his house, in a way that satisfied the people for whom it was meant. His house was a pleasant enough place, of the sort where they do you well, but not nauseously well. It stood in a tranquil countryside, and stood there modestly. Architecturally speaking, it was gently commonplace; one got used to it and liked it. And Churchill himself, when one had become accustomed to his manner, one liked very well—very well indeed. He had a dainty, dilettante mind, delicately balanced, with strong limitations, a fantastic temperament for a person in his walk of life—but sane, mind you, persistent. After a time, I amused myself with a theory that his heart was not in his work, that circumstance had driven him into the career of politics and ironical fate set him at its head. For myself, I had an intense contempt for the political mind, and it struck me that he had some of the same feeling. He had little personal quaintnesses, too, a deference, a modesty, an open-mindedness.

I was with him for the greater part of his weekend holiday; hung, perforce, about him whenever he had any leisure. I suppose he found me tiresome—but one has to do these things. He talked, and I talked; heavens, how we talked! He was almost always deferential, I almost always dogmatic; perhaps because the conversation kept on my own ground. Politics we never touched. I seemed to feel that if I broached them, I should be checked—politely, but very definitely. Perhaps he actually contrived to convey as much to me; perhaps I evolved the idea that if I were to say:

"What do you think about the 'Greenland System'"—he would answer:

"I try not to think about it," or whatever gently closuring phrase his mind conceived. But I never did so; there were so many other topics.

He was then writing his Life of Cromwell and his mind was very full of his subject. Once he opened his heart, after delicately sounding me for signs of boredom. It happened, by the merest chance—one of those blind chances that inevitably lead in the future—that I, too, was obsessed at that moment by the Lord Oliver. A great many years before, when I was a yearling of tremendous plans, I had set about one of those glorious novels that one plans—a splendid thing with Old Noll as the hero or the heavy father. I had haunted the bookstalls in search of local colour and had wonderfully well invested my half-crowns. Thus a company of seventeenth century tracts, dog-eared, coverless, but very glorious under their dust, accompany me through life. One parts last with those relics of a golden age, and during my late convalescence I had reread many of them, the arbitrary half-remembered phrases suggesting all sorts of scenes—lamplight in squalid streets, trays full of weather-beaten books. So, even then, my mind was full of Mercurius Rusticus. Mr. Churchill on Cromwell amused me immensely and even excited me. It was life, this attending at a self-revelation of an impossible temperament. It did me good, as he had said of my pseudo-sister. It was fantastic—as fantastic as herself—and it came out more in his conversation than in the book itself. I had something to do with that, of course. But imagine the treatment accorded to Cromwell by this delicate, negative, obstinately judicial personality. It was the sort of thing one wants to get into a novel. It was a lesson to me—in temperament, in point of view; I went with his mood, tried even to outdo him, in the hope of spurring him to outdo himself. I only mention it because I did it so well that it led to extraordinary consequences.

We were walking up and down his lawn, in the twilight, after his Sunday supper. The pale light shone along the gleaming laurels and dwelt upon the soft clouds of orchard blossoms that shimmered above them. It dwelt, too, upon the silver streaks in his dark hair and made his face seem more pallid, and more old. It affected me like some intense piece of irony. It was like hearing a dying man talk of the year after next. I had the sense of the unreality of things strong upon me. Why should nightingale upon nightingale pour out volley upon volley of song for the delight of a politician whose heart was not in his task of keeping back the waters of the deluge, but who grew animated at the idea of damning one of the titans who had let loose the deluge?

About a week after—or it may have been a fortnight—Churchill wrote to me and asked me to take him to see the Jenkins of my Jenkins story. It was one of those ordeals that one goes through when one has tried to advance one's friends. Jenkins took the matter amiss, thought it was a display of insulting patronage on the part of officialism. He was reluctant to show his best work, the forgotten masterpieces, the things that had never sold, that hung about on the faded walls and rotted in cellars. He would not be his genial self; he would not talk. Churchill behaved very well—I think he understood.

Jenkins thawed before his gentle appreciations. I could see the change operating within him. He began to realise that this incredible visit from a man who ought to be hand and glove with Academicians was something other than a spy's encroachment. He was old, you must remember, and entirely unsuccessful. He had fought a hard fight and had been worsted. He took his revenge in these suspicions.

We younger men adored him. He had the ruddy face and the archaic silver hair of the King of Hearts; and a wonderful elaborate politeness that he had inherited from his youth—from the days of Brummell. And, whilst all his belongings were rotting into dust, he retained an extraordinarily youthful and ingenuous habit of mind. It was that, or a little of it, that gave the charm to my Jenkins story.

It was a disagreeable experience. I wished so much that the perennial hopefulness of the man should at last escape deferring and I was afraid that Churchill would chill before Jenkins had time to thaw. But, as I have said, I think Churchill understood. He smiled his kindly, short-sighted smile over canvas after canvas, praised the right thing in each, remembered having seen this and that in such and such a year, and Jenkins thawed.

He happened to leave the room—to fetch some studies, to hurry up the tea or for some such reason. Bereft of his presence the place suddenly grew ghostly. It was as if the sun had died in the sky and left us in that nether world where dead, buried pasts live in a grey, shadowless light. Jenkins' palette glowed from above a medley of stained rags on his open colour table. The rush-bottom of his chair resembled a wind-torn thatch.

"One can draw morals from a life like that," I said suddenly. I was thinking rather of Jenkins than of the man I was talking to.

"Why, yes," he said, absently, "I suppose there are men who haven't the knack of getting on."

"It's more than a knack," I said, with unnecessary bitterness. "It's a temperament."

"I think it's a habit, too. It may be acquired, mayn't it?"

"No, no," I fulminated, "it's precisely because it can't be acquired that the best men—the men like ..." I stopped suddenly, impressed by the idea that the thing was out of tone. I had to assert myself more than I liked in talking to Churchill. Otherwise I should have disappeared. A word from him had the weight of three kingdoms and several colonies behind it, and I was forced to get that out of my head by making conversation a mere matter of temperament. In that I was the stronger. If I wanted to say a thing, I said it; but he was hampered by a judicial mind. It seemed, too, that he liked a dictatorial interlocutor, else he would hardly have brought himself into contact with me again. Perhaps it was new to him. My eye fell upon a couple of masks, hanging one on each side of the fireplace. The room was full of a profusion of little casts, thick with dust upon the shoulders, the hair, the eyelids, on every part that projected outward.

"By-the-bye," I said, "that's a death-mask of Cromwell."

"Ah!" he answered, "I knew there was...."

He moved very slowly toward it, rather as if he did not wish to bring it within his field of view. He stopped before reaching it and pivotted slowly to face me.

"About my book," he opened suddenly, "I have so little time." His briskness dropped into a half complaint, like a faintly suggested avowal of impotence. "I have been at it four years now. It struck me—you seemed to coincide so singularly with my ideas."

His speech came wavering to a close, but he recommenced it apologetically—as if he wished me to help him out.

"I went to see Smithson the publisher about it, and he said he had no objection...."

He looked appealingly at me. I kept silence.

"Of course, it's not your sort of work. But you might try.... You see...." He came to a sustained halt.

"I don't understand," I said, rather coldly, when the silence became embarrassing. "You want me to 'ghost' for you?"

"'Ghost,' good gracious no," he said, energetically; "dear me, no!"

"Then I really don't understand," I said.

"I thought you might see your ... I wanted you to collaborate with me. Quite publicly, of course, as far as the epithet applies."

"To collaborate," I said slowly. "You...."

I was looking at a miniature of the Farnese Hercules—I wondered what it meant, what club had struck the wheel of my fortune and whirled it into this astounding attitude.

"Of course you must think about it," he said.

"I don't know," I muttered; "the idea is so new. It's so little in my line. I don't know what I should make of it."

I talked at random. There were so many thoughts jostling in my head. It seemed to carry me so much farther from the kind of work I wanted to do. I did not really doubt my ability—one does not. I rather regarded it as work upon a lower plane. And it was a tremendous—an incredibly tremendous—opportunity.

"You know pretty well how much I've done," he continued. "I've got a good deal of material together and a good deal of the actual writing is done. But there is ever so much still to do. It's getting beyond me, as I said just now."

I looked at him again, rather incredulously. He stood before me, a thin parallelogram of black with a mosaic of white about the throat. The slight grotesqueness of the man made him almost impossibly real in his abstracted earnestness. He so much meant what he said that he ignored what his hands were doing, or his body or his head. He had taken a very small, very dusty book out of a little shelf beside him, and was absently turning over the rusty leaves, while he talked with his head bent over it. What was I to him, or he to me?

"I could give my Saturday afternoons to it," he was saying, "whenever you could come down."

"It's immensely kind of you," I began.

"Not at all, not at all," he waived. "I've set my heart on doing it and, unless you help me, I don't suppose I ever shall get it done."

"But there are hundreds of others," I said.

"There may be," he said, "there may be. But I have not come across them."

I was beset by a sudden emotion of blind candour.

"Oh, nonsense, nonsense," I said. "Don't you see that you are offering me the chance of a lifetime?"

Churchill laughed.

"After all, one cannot refuse to take what offers," he said. "Besides, your right man to do the work might not suit me as a collaborator."

"It's very tempting," I said.

"Why, then, succumb," he smiled.

I could not find arguments against him, and I succumbed as Jenkins re-entered the room.


After that I began to live, as one lives; and for forty-nine weeks. I know it was forty-nine, because I got fifty-two atmospheres in all; Callan's and Churchill's, and those forty-nine and the last one that finished the job and the year of it. It was amusing work in its way; people mostly preferred to have their atmospheres taken at their country houses—it showed that they had them, I suppose. Thus I spent a couple of days out of every week in agreeable resorts, and people were very nice to me—it was part of the game.

So I had a pretty good time for a year and enjoyed it, probably because I had had a pretty bad one for several years. I filled in the rest of my weeks by helping Fox and collaborating with Mr. Churchill and adoring Mrs. Hartly at odd moments. I used to hang about the office of the Hour on the chance of snapping up a blank three lines fit for a subtle puff of her. Sometimes they were too hurried to be subtle, and then Mrs. Hartly was really pleased.

I never understood her in the least, and I very much doubt whether she ever understood a word I said. I imagine that I must have talked to her about her art or her mission—things obviously as strange to her as to the excellent Hartly himself. I suppose she hadn't any art; I am certain she hadn't any mission, except to be adored. She walked about the stage and one adored her, just as she sat about her flat and was adored, and there the matter ended.

As for Fox, I seemed to suit him—I don't in the least know why. No doubt he knew me better than I knew myself. He used to get hold of me whilst I was hanging about the office on the chance of engaging space for Mrs. Hartly, and he used to utilise me for the ignoblest things. I saw men for him, scribbled notes for him, abused people through the telephone, and wrote articles. Of course, there were the pickings.

I never understood Fox—not in the least, not more than I understood Mrs. Hartly. He had the mannerisms of the most incredible vulgarian and had, apparently, the point of view of a pig. But there was something else that obscured all that, that forced one to call him a wonderful man. Everyone called him that. He used to say that he knew what he wanted and that he got it, and that was true, too. I didn't in the least want to do his odd jobs, even for the ensuing pickings, and I didn't want to be hail-fellow with him. But I did them and I was, without even realising that it was distasteful to me. It was probably the same with everybody else.

I used to have an idea that I was going to reform him; that one day I should make him convert the Hour into an asylum for writers of merit. He used to let me have my own way sometimes—just often enough to keep my conscience from inconveniencing me. He let me present Lea with an occasional column and a half; and once he promised me that one day he would allow me to get the atmosphere of Arthur Edwards, the novelist.

Then there was Churchill and the Life of Cromwell that progressed slowly. The experiment succeeded well enough, as I grew less domineering and he less embarrassed. Toward the end I seemed to have become a familiar inmate of his house. I used to go down with him on Saturday afternoons and we talked things over in the train. It was, to an idler like myself, wonderful the way that essential idler's days were cut out and fitted in like the squares of a child's puzzle; little passages of work of one kind fitting into quite unrelated passages of something else. He did it well, too, without the remotest semblance of hurry.

I suppose that actually the motive power was his aunt. People used to say so, but it did not appear on the surface to anyone in close contact with the man; or it appeared only in very small things. We used to work in a tall, dark, pleasant room, book-lined, and giving on to a lawn that was always an asylum for furtive thrushes. Miss Churchill, as a rule, sat half forgotten near the window, with the light falling over her shoulder. She was always very absorbed in papers; seemed to be spending laborious days in answering letters, in evolving reports. Occasionally she addressed a question to her nephew, occasionally received guests that came informally but could not be refused admittance. Once it was a semi-royal personage, once the Duc de Mersch, my reputed employer.

The latter, I remember, was announced when Churchill and I were finally finishing our account of the tremendous passing of the Protector. In that silent room I had a vivid sense of the vast noise of the storm in that twilight of the crowning mercy. I seemed to see the candles a-flicker in the eddies of air forced into the gloomy room; the great bed and the portentous uncouth form that struggled in the shadows of the hangings. Miss Churchill looked up from the card that had been placed in her hands.

"Edward," she said, "the Duc de Mersch."

Churchill rose irritably from his low seat. "Confound him," he said, "I won't see him."

"You can't help it, I think," his aunt said, reflectively; "you will have to settle it sooner or later."

I know pretty well what it was they had to settle—the Greenland affair that had hung in the air so long. I knew it from hearsay, from Fox, vaguely enough. Mr. Gurnard was said to recommend it for financial reasons, the Duc to be eager, Churchill to hang back unaccountably. I never had much head for details of this sort, but people used to explain them to me—to explain the reasons for de Mersch's eagerness. They were rather shabby, rather incredible reasons, that sounded too reasonable to be true. He wanted the money for his railways—wanted it very badly. He was vastly in want of money, he was this, that, and the other in certain international-philanthropic concerns, and had a finger in this, that, and the other pie. There was an "All Round the World Cable Company" that united hearts and hands, and a "Pan-European Railway, Exploration, and Civilisation Company" that let in light in dark places, and an "International Housing of the Poor Company," as well as a number of others. Somewhere at the bottom of these seemingly bottomless concerns, the Duc de Mersch was said to be moving, and the Hour certainly contained periodically complimentary allusions to their higher philanthropy and dividend-earning prospects. But that was as much as I knew. The same people—people one met in smoking-rooms—said that the Trans-Greenland Railway was the last card of de Mersch. British investors wouldn't trust the Duc without some sort of guarantee from the British Government, and no other investor would trust him on any terms. England was to guarantee something or other—the interest for a number of years, I suppose. I didn't believe them, of course—one makes it a practice to believe nothing of the sort. But I recognised that the evening was momentous to somebody—that Mr. Gurnard and the Duc de Mersch and Churchill were to discuss something and that I was remotely interested because the Hour employed me.

Churchill continued to pace up and down.

"Gurnard dines here to-night," his aunt said.

"Oh, I see." His hands played with some coins in his trouser-pockets. "I see," he said again, "they've ..."

The occasion impressed me. I remember very well the manner of both nephew and aunt. They seemed to be suddenly called to come to a decision that was no easy one, that they had wished to relegate to an indefinite future.

She left Churchill pacing nervously up and down.

"I could go on with something else, if you like," I said.

"But I don't like," he said, energetically; "I'd much rather not see the man. You know the sort of person he is."

"Why, no," I answered, "I never studied the Almanac de Gotha."

"Oh, I forgot," he said. He seemed vexed with himself.

Churchill's dinners were frequently rather trying to me. Personages of enormous importance used to drop in—and reveal themselves as rather asinine. At the best of times they sat dimly opposite to me, discomposed me, and disappeared. Sometimes they stared me down. That night there were two of them.

Gurnard I had heard of. One can't help hearing of a Chancellor of the Exchequer. The books of reference said that he was the son of one William Gurnard, Esq., of Grimsby; but I remember that once in my club a man who professed to know everything, assured me that W. Gurnard, Esq. (whom he had described as a fish salesman), was only an adoptive father. His rapid rise seemed to me inexplicable till the same man accounted for it with a shrug: "When a man of such ability believes in nothing, and sticks at nothing, there's no saying how far he may go. He has kicked away every ladder. He doesn't mean to come down."

This, no doubt, explained much; but not everything in his fabulous career. His adherents called him an inspired statesman; his enemies set him down a mere politician. He was a man of forty-five, thin, slightly bald, and with an icy assurance of manner. He was indifferent to attacks upon his character, but crushed mercilessly every one who menaced his position. He stood alone, and a little mysterious; his own party was afraid of him.

Gurnard was quite hidden from me by table ornaments; the Duc de Mersch glowed with light and talked voluminously, as if he had for years and years been starved of human society. He glowed all over, it seemed to me. He had a glorious beard, that let one see very little of his florid face and took the edge away from an almost non-existent forehead and depressingly wrinkled eyelids. He spoke excellent English, rather slowly, as if he were forever replying to toasts to his health. It struck me that he seemed to treat Churchill in nuances as an inferior, whilst for the invisible Gurnard, he reserved an attitude of nervous self-assertion. He had apparently come to dilate on the Systeme Groenlandais, and he dilated. Some mistaken persons had insinuated that the Systeme was neither more nor less than a corporate exploitation of unhappy Esquimaux. De Mersch emphatically declared that those mistaken people were mistaken, declared it with official finality. The Esquimaux were not unhappy. I paid attention to my dinner, and let the discourse on the affairs of the Hyperborean Protectorate lapse into an unheeded murmur. I tried to be the simple amanuensis at the feast.

Suddenly, however, it struck me that de Mersch was talking at me; that he had by the merest shade raised his intonation. He was dilating upon the immense international value of the proposed Trans-Greenland Railway. Its importance to British trade was indisputable; even the opposition had no serious arguments to offer. It was the obvious duty of the British Government to give the financial guarantee. He would not insist upon the moral aspect of the work—it was unnecessary. Progress, improvement, civilisation, a little less evil in the world—more light! It was our duty not to count the cost of humanising a lower race. Besides, the thing would pay like another Suez Canal. Its terminus and the British coaling station would be on the west coast of the island.... I knew the man was talking at me—I wondered why.

Suddenly he turned his glowing countenance full upon me.

"I think I must have met a member of your family," he said. The solution occurred to me. I was a journalist, he a person interested in a railway that he wished the Government to back in some way or another. His attempts to capture my suffrage no longer astonished me. I murmured:


"In Paris—Mrs. Etchingham Granger," he said.

I said, "Oh, yes."

Miss Churchill came to the rescue.

"The Duc de Mersch means our friend, your aunt," she explained. I had an unpleasant sensation. Through fronds of asparagus fern I caught the eyes of Gurnard fixed upon me as though something had drawn his attention. I returned his glance, tried to make his face out. It had nothing distinctive in its half-hidden pallid oval; nothing that one could seize upon. But it gave the impression of never having seen the light of day, of never having had the sun upon it. But the conviction that I had aroused his attention disturbed me. What could the man know about me? I seemed to feel his glance bore through the irises of my eyes into the back of my skull. The feeling was almost physical; it was as if some incredibly concentrant reflector had been turned upon me. Then the eyelids dropped over the metallic rings beneath them. Miss Churchill continued to explain.

"She has started a sort of Salon des Causes Perdues in the Faubourg Saint Germain." She was recording the vagaries of my aunt. The Duc laughed.

"Ah, yes," he said, "what a menagerie—Carlists, and Orleanists, and Papal Blacks. I wonder she has not held a bazaar in favour of your White Rose League."

"Ah, yes," I echoed, "I have heard that she was mad about the divine right of kings."

Miss Churchill rose, as ladies rise at the end of a dinner. I followed her out of the room, in obedience to some minute signal.

We were on the best of terms—we two. She mothered me, as she mothered everybody not beneath contempt or above a certain age. I liked her immensely—the masterful, absorbed, brown lady. As she walked up the stairs, she said, in half apology for withdrawing me.

"They've got things to talk about."

"Why, yes," I answered; "I suppose the railway matter has to be settled." She looked at me fixedly.

"You—you mustn't talk," she warned.

"Oh," I answered, "I'm not indiscreet—not essentially."

The other three were somewhat tardy in making their drawing-room appearance. I had a sense of them, leaning their heads together over the edges of the table. In the interim a rather fierce political dowager convoyed two well-controlled, blond daughters into the room. There was a continual coming and going of such people in the house; they did with Miss Churchill social business of some kind, arranged electoral raree-shows, and what not; troubled me very little. On this occasion the blond daughters were types of the sixties' survivals—the type that unemotionally inspected albums. I was convoying them through a volume of views of Switzerland, the dowager was saying to Miss Churchill:

"You think, then, it will be enough if we have...." When the door opened behind my back. I looked round negligently and hastily returned to the consideration of a shining photograph of the Dent du Midi. A very gracious figure of a girl was embracing the grim Miss Churchill, as a gracious girl should virginally salute a grim veteran.

"Ah, my dear Miss Churchill!" a fluting voice filled the large room, "we were very nearly going back to Paris without once coming to see you. We are only over for two days—for the Tenants' Ball, and so my aunt ... but surely that is Arthur...."

I turned eagerly. It was the Dimensionist girl. She continued talking to Miss Churchill. "We meet so seldom, and we are never upon terms," she said lightly. "I assure you we are like cat and dog." She came toward me and the blond maidens disappeared, everybody, everything disappeared. I had not seen her for nearly a year. I had vaguely gathered from Miss Churchill that she was regarded as a sister of mine, that she had, with wealth inherited from a semi-fabulous Australian uncle, revived the glories of my aunt's house. I had never denied it, because I did not want to interfere with my aunt's attempts to regain some of the family's prosperity. It even had my sympathy to a small extent, for, after all, the family was my family too.

As a memory my pseudo-sister had been something bright and clear-cut and rather small; seen now, she was something that one could not look at for glow. She moved toward me, smiling and radiant, as a ship moves beneath towers of shining canvas. I was simply overwhelmed. I don't know what she said, what I said, what she did or I. I have an idea that we conversed for some minutes. I remember that she said, at some point,

"Go away now; I want to talk to Mr. Gurnard."

As a matter of fact, Gurnard was making toward her—a deliberate, slow progress. She greeted him with nonchalance, as, beneath eyes, a woman greets a man she knows intimately. I found myself hating him, thinking that he was not the sort of man she ought to know.

"It's settled?" she asked him, as he came within range. He looked at me inquiringly—insolently. She said, "My brother," and he answered:

"Oh, yes," as I moved away. I hated the man and I could not keep my eyes off him and her. I went and stood against the mantel-piece. The Duc de Mersch bore down upon them, and I welcomed his interruption until I saw that he, too, was intimate with her, intimate with a pomposity of flourishes as irritating as Gurnard's nonchalance.

I stood there and glowered at them. I noted her excessive beauty; her almost perilous self-possession while she stood talking to those two men. Of me there was nothing left but the eyes. I had no mind, no thoughts. I saw the three figures go through the attitudes of conversation—she very animated, de Mersch grotesquely empresse, Gurnard undisguisedly saturnine. He repelled me exactly as grossly vulgar men had the power of doing, but he, himself, was not that—there was something ... something. I could not quite make out his face, I never could. I never did, any more than I could ever quite visualise hers. I wondered vaguely how Churchill could work in harness with such a man, how he could bring himself to be closeted, as he had just been, with him and with a fool like de Mersch—I should have been afraid.

As for de Mersch, standing between those two, he seemed like a country lout between confederate sharpers. It struck me that she let me see, made me see, that she and Gurnard had an understanding, made manifest to me by glances that passed when the Duc had his unobservant eyes turned elsewhere.

I saw Churchill, in turn, move desultorily toward them, drawn in, like a straw toward a little whirlpool. I turned my back in a fury of jealousy.


I had a pretty bad night after that, and was not much in the mood for Fox on the morrow. The sight of her had dwarfed everything; the thought of her disgusted me with everything, made me out of conceit with the world—with that part of the world that had become my world. I wanted to get up into hers—and I could not see any way. The room in which Fox sat seemed to be hopelessly off the road—to be hopelessly off any road to any place; to be the end of a blind alley. One day I might hope to occupy such a room—in my shirt-sleeves, like Fox. But that was not the end of my career—not the end that I desired. She had upset me.

"You've just missed Polehampton," Fox said; "wanted to get hold of your 'Atmospheres.'"

"Oh, damn Polehampton," I said, "and particularly damn the 'Atmospheres.'"

"Willingly," Fox said, "but I told Mr. P. that you were willing if...."

"I don't want to know," I repeated. "I tell you I'm sick of the things."

"What a change," he asserted, sympathetically, "I thought you would."

It struck me as disgusting that a person like Fox should think about me at all. "Oh, I'll see it through," I said. "Who's the next?"

"We've got to have the Duc de Mersch now," he answered, "De Mersch as State Founder—written as large as you can—all across the page. The moment's come and we've got to rope it in, that's all. I've been middling good to you.... You understand...."

He began to explain in his dark sentences. The time had come for an energetically engineered boom in de Mersch—a boom all along the line. And I was to commence the campaign. Fox had been good to me and I was to repay him. I listened in a sort of apathetic indifference.

"Oh, very well," I said. I was subconsciously aware that, as far as I was concerned, the determining factor of the situation was the announcement that de Mersch was to be in Paris. If he had been in his own particular grand duchy I wouldn't have gone after him. For a moment I thought of the interview as taking place in London. But Fox—ostensibly, at least—wasn't even aware of de Mersch's visit; spoke of him as being in Paris—in a flat in which he was accustomed to interview the continental financiers who took up so much of his time.

I realised that I wanted to go to Paris because she was there. She had said that she was going to Paris on the morrow of yesterday. The name was pleasant to me, and it turned the scale.

Fox's eyes remained upon my face.

"Do you good, eh?" he dimly interpreted my thoughts. "A run over. I thought you'd like it and, look here, Polehampton's taken over the Bi-Monthly; wants to get new blood into it, see? He'd take something. I've been talking to him—a short series.... 'Aspects.' That sort of thing." I tried to work myself into some sort of enthusiasm of gratitude. I knew that Fox had spoken well of me to Polehampton—as a sort of set off.

"You go and see Mr. P.," he confirmed; "it's really all arranged. And then get off to Paris as fast as you can and have a good time."

"Have I been unusually cranky lately?" I asked.

"Oh, you've been a little off the hooks, I thought, for the last week or so."

He took up a large bottle of white mucilage, and I accepted it as a sign of dismissal. I was touched by his solicitude for my health. It always did touch me, and I found myself unusually broad-minded in thought as I went down the terra-cotta front steps into the streets. For all his frank vulgarity, for all his shirt-sleeves—I somehow regarded that habit of his as the final mark of the Beast—and the Louis Quinze accessories, I felt a warm good-feeling for the little man.

I made haste to see Polehampton, to beard him in a sort of den that contained a number of shelves of books selected for their glittering back decoration. They gave the impression that Mr. Polehampton wished to suggest to his visitors the fitness and propriety of clothing their walls with the same gilt cloth. They gave that idea, but I think that, actually, Mr. Polehampton took an aesthetic delight in the gilding. He was not a publisher by nature. He had drifted into the trade and success, but beneath a polish of acquaintance retained a fine awe for a book as such. In early life he had had such shining things on a shiny table in a parlour. He had a similar awe for his daughter, who had been born after his entry into the trade, and who had the literary flavour—a flavour so pronounced that he dragged her by the heels into any conversation with us who hewed his raw material, expecting, I suppose, to cow us. For the greater good of this young lady he had bought the Bi-Monthly—one of the portentous political organs. He had, they said, ideas of forcing a seat out of the party as a recompense.

It didn't matter much what was the nature of my series of articles. I was to get the atmosphere of cities as I had got those of the various individuals. I seemed to pay on those lines, and Miss Polehampton commended me.

"My daughter likes ... eh ... your touch, you know, and...." His terms were decent—for the man, and were offered with a flourish that indicated special benevolence and a reference to the hundred pounds. I was at a loss to account for his manner until he began to stammer out an indication. Its lines were that I knew Fox, and I knew Churchill and the Duc de Mersch, and the Hour. "And those financial articles ... in the Hour ... were they now?... Were they ... was the Trans -Greenland railway actually ... did I think it would be worth one's while ... in fact...." and so on.

I never was any good in a situation of that sort, never any good at all. I ought to have assumed blank ignorance, but the man's eyes pleaded; it seemed a tremendous matter to him. I tried to be non-committal, and said: "Of course I haven't any right." But I had a vague, stupid sense that loyalty to Churchill demanded that I should back up a man he was backing. As a matter of fact, nothing so direct was a-gate, it couldn't have been. It was something about shares in one of de Mersch's other enterprises. Polehampton was going to pick them up for nothing, and they were going to rise when the boom in de Mersch's began—something of the sort. And the boom would begin as soon as the news of the agreement about the railway got abroad.

I let him get it out of me in a way that makes the thought of that bare place with its gilt book-backs and its three uncomfortable office-chairs and the ground-glass windows through which one read the inversion of the legend "Polehampton," all its gloom and its rigid lines and its pallid light, a memory of confusion. And Polehampton was properly grateful, and invited me to dine with him and his phantasmal daughter—who wanted to make my acquaintance. It was like a command to a state banquet given by a palace official, and Lea would be invited to meet me. Miss Polehampton did not like Lea, but he had to be asked once a year—to encourage good feeling, I suppose. The interview dribbled out on those lines. I asked if it was one of Lea's days at the office. It was not. I tried to put in a good word for Lea, but it was not very effective. Polehampton was too subject to his assistant's thorns to be responsive to praise of him.

So I hurried out of the place. I wanted to be out of this medium in which my ineffectiveness threatened to proclaim itself to me. It was not a very difficult matter. I had, in those days, rooms in one of the political journalists' clubs—a vast mausoleum of white tiles. But a man used to pack my portmanteau very efficiently and at short notice. At the station one of those coincidences that are not coincidences made me run against the great Callan. He was rather unhappy—found it impossible to make an already distracted porter listen to the end of one of his sentences with two-second waits between each word. For that reason he brightened to see me—was delighted to find a through-journey companion who would take him on terms of greatness. In the railway carriage, divested of troublesome bags that imparted anxiety to his small face and a stagger to his walk, he swelled to his normal dimensions.

"So you're—going to—Paris," he meditated, "for the Hour."

"I'm going to Paris for the Hour," I agreed.

"Ah!" he went on, "you're going to interview the Elective Grand Duke...."

"We call him the Duc de Mersch," I interrupted, flippantly. It was a matter of nuances. The Elective Grand Duke was a philanthropist and a State Founder, the Duc de Mersch was the hero as financier.

"Of Holstein-Launewitz," Callan ignored. The titles slipped over his tongue like the last drops of some inestimable oily vintage.

"I might have saved you the trouble. I'm going to see him myself."

"You," I italicised. It struck me as phenomenal and rather absurd that everybody that I came across should, in some way or other, be mixed up with this portentous philanthropist. It was as if a fisherman were drawing in a ground line baited with hundreds of hooks. He had a little offended air.

"He, or, I should say, a number of people interested in a philanthropic society, have asked me to go to Greenland."

"Do they want to get rid of you?" I asked, flippantly. I was made to know my place.

"My dear fellow," Callan said, in his most deliberate, most Olympian tone. "I believe you're entirely mistaken, I believe ... I've been informed that the Systeme Groenlandais is one of the healthiest places in the Polar regions. There are interested persons who...."

"So I've heard," I interrupted, "but I can assure you I've heard nothing but good of the Systeme and the ... and its philanthropists. I meant nothing against them. I was only astonished that you should go to such a place."

"I have been asked to go upon a mission," he explained, seriously, "to ascertain what the truth about the Systeme really is. It is a new country with, I am assured, a great future in store. A great deal of English money has been invested in its securities, and naturally great interest is taken in its affairs."

"So it seems," I said, "I seem to run upon it at every hour of the day and night."

"Ah, yes," Callan rhapsodised, "it has a great future in store, a great future. The Duke is a true philanthropist. He has taken infinite pains—infinite pains. He wished to build up a model state, the model protectorate of the world, a place where perfect equality shall obtain for all races, all creeds, and all colours. You would scarcely believe how he has worked to ensure the happiness of the native races. He founded the great society to protect the Esquimaux, the Society for the Regeneration of the Arctic Regions—the S.R.A.R.—as you called it, and now he is only waiting to accomplish his greatest project—the Trans-Greenland railway. When that is done, he will hand over the Systeme to his own people. That is the act of a great man."

"Ah, yes," I said.

"Well," Callan began again, but suddenly paused. "By-the-bye, this must go no farther," he said, anxiously, "I will let you have full particulars when the time is ripe."

"My dear Callan," I said, touchily, "I can hold my tongue."

He went off at tangent.

"I don't want you to take my word—I haven't seen it yet. But I feel assured about it myself. The most distinguished people have spoken to me in its favour. The celebrated traveller, Aston, spoke of it with tears in his eyes. He was the first governor-general, you know. Of course I should not take any interest in it, if I were not satisfied as to that. It is percisely because I feel that the thing is one of the finest monuments of a grand century that I am going to lend it the weight of my pen."

"I quite understand," I assured him; then, solicitously, "I hope they don't expect you to do it for nothing."

"Oh, dear, no," Callan answered.

"Ah, well, I wish you luck," I said. "They couldn't have got a better man to win over the National conscience. I suppose it comes to that."

Callan nodded.

"I fancy I have the ear of the public," he said. He seemed to get satisfaction from the thought.

The train entered Folkestone Harbour. The smell of the sea and the easy send of the boat put a little heart into me, but my spirits were on the down grade. Callan was a trying companion. The sight of him stirred uneasy emotions, the sound of his voice jarred.

"Are you coming to the Grand?" he said, as we passed St. Denis.

"My God, no," I answered, hotly, "I'm going across the river."

"Ah," he murmured, "the Quartier Latin. I wish I could come with you. But I've my reputation to think of. You'd be surprised how people get to hear of my movements. Besides, I'm a family man."

I was agitatedly silent. The train steamed into the glare of the electric lights, and, getting into a fiacre, I breathed again. I seemed to be at the entrance of a new life, a better sort of paradise, during that drive across the night city. In London one is always a passenger, in Paris one has reached a goal. The crowds on the pavements, under the plane-trees, in the black shadows, in the white glare of the open spaces, are at leisure—they go nowhere, seek nothing beyond.

We crossed the river, the unwinking towers of Notre Dame towering pallidly against the dark sky behind us; rattled into the new light of the resuming boulevard; turned up a dark street, and came to a halt before a half-familiar shut door. You know how one wakes the sleepy concierge, how one takes one's candle, climbs up hundreds and hundreds of smooth stairs, following the slipshod footfalls of a half-awakened guide upward through Rembrandt's own shadows, and how one's final sleep is sweetened by the little inconveniences of a strange bare room and of a strange hard bed.


Before noon of the next day I was ascending the stairs of the new house in which the Duc had his hermitage. There was an air of secrecy in the broad publicity of the carpeted stairs that led to his flat; a hush in the atmosphere; in the street itself, a glorified cul de sac that ran into the bustling life of the Italiens. It had the sudden sluggishness of a back-water. One seemed to have grown suddenly deaf in the midst of the rattle.

There was an incredible suggestion of silence—the silence of a private detective—in the mien of the servant who ushered me into a room. He was the English servant of the theatre—the English servant that foreigners affect. The room had a splendour of its own, not a cheaply vulgar splendour, but the vulgarity of the most lavish plush and purple kind. The air was heavy, killed by the scent of exotic flowers, darkened by curtains that suggested the voluminous velvet backgrounds of certain old portraits. The Duc de Mersch had carried with him into this place of retirement the taste of the New Palace, that show-place of his that was the stupefaction of swarms of honest tourists.

I remembered soon enough that the man was a philanthropist, that he might be an excellent man of heart and indifferent of taste. He must be. But I was prone to be influenced by things of this sort, and felt depressed at the thought that so much of royal excellence should weigh so heavily in the wrong scale of the balance of the applied arts. I turned my back on the room and gazed at the blazing white decorations of the opposite house-fronts.

A door behind me must have opened, for I heard the sounds of a concluding tirade in a high-pitched voice.

"Et quant a un duc de farce, je ne m'en fiche pas mal, moi," it said in an accent curiously compounded of the foreign and the coulisse. A muttered male remonstrance ensued, and then, with disconcerting clearness:

"Gr-r-rangeur—Eschingan—eh bien—il entend. Et moi, j'entends, moi aussi. Tu veux me jouer centre elle. La Grangeur—pah! Consoles-toi avec elle, mon vieux. Je ne veux plus de toi. Tu m'as donne de tes sales rentes Groenlandoises, et je n'ai pas pu les vendre. Ah, vieux farceur, tu vas voir ce que fen vais faire."

A glorious creature—a really glorious creature—came out of an adjoining room. She was as frail, as swaying as a garden lily. Her great blue eyes turned irefully upon me, her bowed lips parted, her nostrils quivered.

"Et quant a vous, M. Grangeur Eschingan," she began, "je vais vous donner mon idee a moi ..."

I did not understand the situation in the least, but I appreciated the awkwardness of it. The world seemed to be standing on its head. I was overcome; but I felt for the person in the next room. I did not know what to do. Suddenly I found myself saying:

"I am extremely sorry, madam, but I don't understand French." An expression of more intense vexation passed into her face—her beautiful face. I fancy she wished—wished intensely—to give me the benefit of her "idee a elle." She made a quick, violent gesture of disgusted contempt, and turned toward the half-open door from which she had come. She began again to dilate upon the little weaknesses of the person behind, when silently and swiftly it closed. We heard the lock click. With extraordinary quickness she had her mouth at the keyhole: "Peeg, peeg," she enunciated. Then she stood to her full height, her face became calm, her manner stately. She glided half way across the room, paused, looked at me, and pointed toward the unmoving door.

"Peeg, peeg," she explained, mysteriously. I think she was warning me against the wiles of the person behind the door. I gazed into her great eyes. "I understand," I said, gravely. She glided from the room. For me the incident supplied a welcome touch of comedy. I had leisure for thought. The door remained closed. It made the Duc a more real person for me. I had regarded him as a rather tiresome person in whom a pompous philanthropism took the place of human feelings. It amused me to be called Le Grangeur. It amused me, and I stood in need of amusement. Without it I might never have written the article on the Duc. I had started out that morning in a state of nervous irritation. I had wanted more than ever to have done with the thing, with the Hour, with journalism, with everything. But this little new experience buoyed me up, set my mind working in less morbid lines. I began to wonder whether de Mersch would funk, or whether he would take my non-comprehension of the woman's tirades as a thing assured.

The door at which I had entered, by which she had left, opened.

He must have impressed me in some way or other that evening at the Churchills. He seemed a very stereotyped image in my memory. He spoke just as he had spoken, moved his hands just as I expected him to move them. He called for no modification of my views of his person. As a rule one classes a man so-and-so at first meeting, modifies the classification at each subsequent one, and so on. He seemed to be all affability, of an adipose turn. He had the air of the man of the world among men of the world; but none of the unconscious reserve of manner that one expects to find in the temporarily great. He had in its place a kind of sub-sulkiness, as if he regretted the pedestal from which he had descended.

In his slow commercial English he apologised for having kept me waiting; he had been taking the air of this fine morning, he said. He mumbled the words with his eyes on my waistcoat, with an air that accorded rather ill with the semblance of portentous probity that his beard conferred on him. But he set an eye-glass in his left eye immediately afterward, and looked straight at me as if in challenge. With a smiling "Don't mention," I tried to demonstrate that I met him half way.

"You want to interview me," he said, blandly. "I am only too pleased. I suppose it is about my Arctic schemes that you wish to know. I will do what I can to inform you. You perhaps remember what I said when I had the pleasure of meeting you at the house of the Right Honourable Mr. Churchill. It has been the dream of my life to leave behind me a happy and contented State—as much as laws and organisation can make one. This is what I should most like the English to know of me." He was a dull talker. I supposed that philanthropists and state founders kept their best faculties for their higher pursuits. I imagined the low, receding forehead and the pink-nailed, fleshy hands to belong to a new Solon, a latter-day AEneas. I tried to work myself into the properly enthusiastic frame of mind. After all, it was a great work that he had undertaken. I was too much given to dwell upon intellectual gifts. These the Duc seemed to lack. I credited him with having let them be merged in his one noble idea.

He furnished me with statistics. They had laid down so many miles of railways, used so many engines of British construction. They had taught the natives to use and to value sewing-machines and European costumes. So many hundred of English younger sons had gone to make their fortunes and, incidentally, to enlighten the Esquimaux—so many hundreds of French, of Germans, Greeks, Russians. All these lived and moved in harmony, employed, happy, free labourers, protected by the most rigid laws. Man-eating, fetich-worship, slavery had been abolished, stamped out. The great international society for the preservation of Polar freedom watched over all, suggested new laws, modified the old. The country was unhealthy, but not to men of clean lives—hominibus bonae voluntatis. It asked for no others.

"I have had to endure much misrepresentation. I have been called names," the Duc said.

The figure of the lady danced before my eyes, lithe, supple—a statue endued with the motion of a serpent. I seemed to see her sculptured white hand pointing to the closed door.

"Ah, yes," I said, "but one knows the people that call you names."

"Well, then," he answered, "it is your task to make them know the truth. Your nation has so much power. If it will only realise."

"I will do my best," I said.

I saw the apotheosis of the Press—a Press that makes a State Founder suppliant to a man like myself. For he had the tone of a deprecating petitioner. I stood between himself and a people, the arbiter of the peoples, of the kings of the future. I was nothing, nobody; yet here I stood in communion with one of those who change the face of continents. He had need of me, of the power that was behind me. It was strange to be alone in that room with that man—to be there just as I might be in my own little room alone with any other man.

I was not unduly elated, you must understand. It was nothing to me. I was just a person elected by some suffrage of accidents. Even in my own eyes I was merely a symbol—the sign visible of incomprehensible power.

"I will do my best," I said.

"Ah, yes, do," he said, "Mr. Churchill told me how nicely you can do such things."

I said that it was very kind of Mr. Churchill. The tension of the conversation was relaxed. The Duc asked if I had yet seen my aunt.

"I had forgotten her," I said.

"Oh, you must see her," he said; "she is a most remarkable lady. She is one of my relaxations. All Paris talks about her, I can assure you."

"I had no idea," I said.

"Oh, cultivate her," he said; "you will be amused."

"I will," I said, as I took my leave.

I went straight home to my little room above the roofs. I began at once to write my article, working at high pressure, almost hysterically. I remember that place and that time so well. In moments of emotion one gazes fixedly at things, hardly conscious of them. Afterward one remembers.

I can still see the narrow room, the bare, brown, discoloured walls, the incongruous marble clock on the mantel-piece, the single rickety chair that swayed beneath me. I could almost draw the tortuous pattern of the faded cloth that hid the round table at which I sat. The ink was thick, pale, and sticky; the pen spluttered. I wrote furiously, anxious to be done with it. Once I went and leaned over the balcony, trying to hit on a word that would not come. Miles down below, little people crawled over the cobbled street, little carts rattled, little workmen let down casks into a cellar. It was all very grey, small, and clear.

Through the open window of an opposite garret I could see a sculptor working at a colossal clay model. In his white blouse he seemed big, out of all proportion to the rest of the world. Level with my eyes there were flat lead roofs and chimneys. On one of these was scrawled, in big, irregular, blue-painted letters: "A has Coignet."

Great clouds began to loom into view over the house-tops, rounded, toppling masses of grey, lit up with sullen orange against the pale limpid blue of the sky. I stood and looked at all these objects. I had come out here to think—thoughts had deserted me. I could only look.

The clouds moved imperceptibly, fatefully onward, a streak of lightning tore them apart. They whirled like tortured smoke and grew suddenly black. Large spots of rain with jagged edges began to fall on the lead floor of my balcony.

I turned into the twilight of my room and began to write. I can still feel the tearing of my pen-point on the coarse paper. It was a hindrance to thought, but my flow of words ignored it, gained impetus from it, as a stream does at the breaking of a dam.

I was writing a paean to a great coloniser. That sort of thing was in the air then. I was drawn into it, carried away by my subject. Perhaps I let it do so because it was so little familiar to my lines of thought. It was fresh ground and I revelled in it. I committed myself to that kind of emotional, lyrical outburst that one dislikes so much on re-reading. I was half conscious of the fact, but I ignored it.

The thunderstorm was over, and there was a moist sparkling freshness in the air when I hurried with my copy to the Hour office in the Avenue de l'Opera. I wished to be rid of it, to render impossible all chance of revision on the morrow.

I wanted, too, to feel elated; I expected it. It was a right. At the office I found the foreign correspondent, a little cosmopolitan Jew whose eyebrows began their growth on the bridge of his nose. He was effusive and familiar, as the rest of his kind.

"Hullo, Granger," was his greeting. I was used to regarding myself as fallen from a high estate, but I was not yet so humble in spirit as to relish being called Granger by a stranger of his stamp. I tried to freeze him politely.

"Read your stuff in the Hour," was his rejoinder; "jolly good I call it. Been doing old Red-Beard? Let's have a look. Yes, yes. That's the way—that's the real thing—I call it. Must have bored you to death ... old de Mersch I mean. I ought to have had the job, you know. My business, interviewing people in Paris. But I don't mind. Much rather you did it than I. You do it a heap better."

I murmured thanks. There was a pathos about the sleek little man—a pathos that is always present in the type. He seemed to be trying to assume a deprecating equality.

"Where are you going to-night?" he asked, with sudden effusiveness. I was taken aback. One is not used to being asked these questions after five minutes' acquaintance. I said that I had no plans.

"Look here," he said, brightening up, "come and have dinner with me at Breguet's, and look in at the Opera afterward. We'll have a real nice chat."

I was too tired to frame an adequate excuse. Besides, the little man was as eager as a child for a new toy. We went to Breguet's and had a really excellent dinner.

"Always come here," he said; "one meets a lot of swells. It runs away with a deal of money—but I don't care to do things on the cheap, not for the Hour, you know. You can always be certain when I say that I have a thing from a senator that he is a senator, and not an old woman in a paper kiosque. Most of them do that sort of thing, you know."

"I always wondered," I said, mildly.

"That's de Sourdam I nodded to as we came in, and that old chap there is Pluyvis—the Affaire man, you know. I must have a word with him in a minute, if you'll excuse me."

He began to ask affectionately after the health of the excellent Fox, asked if I saw him often, and so on and so on. I divined with amusement that was pleasurable that the little man had his own little axe to grind, and thought I might take a turn at the grindstone if he managed me well. So he nodded to de Sourdam of the Austrian embassy and had his word with Pluyvis, and rejoiced to have impressed me—I could see him bubble with happiness and purr. He proposed that we should stroll as far as the paper kiosque that he patronised habitually—it was kept by a fellow-Israelite—a snuffy little old woman.

I understood that in the joy of his heart he was for expanding, for wasting a few minutes on a stroll.

"Haven't stretched my legs for months," he explained.

We strolled there through the summer twilight. It was so pleasant to saunter through the young summer night. There were so many little things to catch the eyes, so many of the little things down near the earth; expressions on faces of the passers, the set of a collar, the quaint foreign tightness of waist of a good bourgeoise who walked arm in arm with her perspiring spouse. The gilding on the statue of Joan of Arc had a pleasant littleness of Philistinism, the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli broke up the grey light pleasantly too. I remembered a little shop—a little Greek affair with a windowful of pinch-beck—where I had been given a false five-franc piece years and years ago. The same villainous old Levantine stood in the doorway, perhaps the fez that he wore was the same fez. The little old woman that we strolled to was bent nearly double. Her nose touched her wares as often as not, her mittened hands sought quiveringly the papers that the correspondent asked for. I liked him the better for his solicitude for this forlorn piece of flotsam of his own race.

"Always come here," he exclaimed; "one gets into habits. Very honest woman, too, you can be certain of getting your change. If you're a stranger you can't be sure that they won't give you Italian silver, you know."

"Oh, I know," I answered. I knew, too, that he wished me to purchase something. I followed the course of her groping hands, caught sight of the Revue Rouge, and remembered that it contained something about Greenland. I helped myself to it, paid for it, and received my just change. I felt that I had satisfied the little man, and felt satisfied with myself.

"I want to see Radet's article on Greenland," I said.

"Oh, yes," he explained, once more exhibiting himself in the capacity of the man who knows, "Radet gives it to them. Rather a lark, I call it, though you mustn't let old de Mersch know you read him. Radet got sick of Cochin, and tried Greenland. He's getting touched by the Whites you know. They say that the priests don't like the way the Systeme's playing into the hands of the Protestants and the English Government. So they set Radet on to write it down. He's going in for mysticism and all that sort of thing—just like all these French jokers are doing. Got deuced thick with that lot in the F. St. Germain—some relation of yours, ain't they? Rather a lark that lot, quite the thing just now, everyone goes there; old de Mersch too. Have frightful rows sometimes, such a mixed lot, you see." The good little man rattled amiably along beside me.

"Seems quite funny to be buying books," he said. "I haven't read a thing I've bought, not for years."

We reached the Opera in time for the end of the first act—it was Aida, I think. My little friend had a free pass all over the house. I had not been in it for years. In the old days I had always seen the stage from a great height, craning over people's heads in a sultry twilight; now I saw it on a level, seated at my ease. I had only the power of the Press to thank for the change.

"Come here as often as I can," my companion said; "can't do without music when it's to be had." Indeed he had the love of his race for it. It seemed to soften him, to change his nature, as he sat silent by my side.

But the closing notes of each scene found him out in the cool of the corridors, talking, and being talked to by anyone that would vouchsafe him a word.

"Pick up a lot here," he explained.

After the finale we leaned over one of the side balconies to watch the crowd streaming down the marble staircases. It is a scene that I never tire of. There is something so fantastically tawdry in the coloured marble of the architecture. It is for all the world like a triumph of ornamental soap work; one expects to smell the odours. And the torrent of humanity pouring liquidly aslant through the mirror-like light, and the spaciousness.... Yes, it is fantastic, somehow; ironical, too.

I was watching the devious passage of a rather drunken, gigantic, florid Englishman, wondering, I think, how he would reach his bed.

"That must be a relation of yours," the correspondent said, pointing. My glance followed the line indicated by his pale finger. I made out the glorious beard of the Duc de Mersch, on his arm was an old lady to whom he seemed to pay deferential attention. His head was bent on one side; he was smiling frankly. A little behind them, on the stairway, there was a space. Perhaps I was mistaken; perhaps there was no space—I don't know. I was only conscious of a figure, an indescribably clear-cut woman's figure, gliding down the way. It had a coldness, a self-possession, a motion of its own. In that clear, transparent, shimmering light, every little fold of the dress, every little shadow of the white arms, the white shoulders, came up to me. The face turned up to meet mine. I remember so well the light shining down on the face, not a shadow anywhere, not a shadow beneath the eyebrows, the nostrils, the waves of hair. It was a vision of light, theatening, sinister.

She smiled, her lips parted.

"You come to me to-morrow," she said. Did I hear the words, did her lips merely form them? She was far, far down below me; the air was alive with the rustling of feet, of garments, of laughter, full of sounds that made themselves heard, full of sounds that would not be caught.

"You come to me ... to-morrow."

The old lady on the Duc de Mersch's arm was obviously my aunt. I did not see why I should not go to them to-morrow. It struck me suddenly and rather pleasantly that this was, after all, my family. This old lady actually was a connection more close than anyone else in the world. As for the girl, to all intents and, in everyone else's eyes, she was my sister. I cannot say I disliked having her for my sister, either. I stood looking down upon them and felt less alone than I had done for many years.

A minute scuffle of the shortest duration was taking place beside me. There were a couple of men at my elbow. I don't in the least know what they were—perhaps marquises, perhaps railway employees—one never can tell over there. One of them was tall and blond, with a heavy, bow-shaped red moustache—Irish in type; the other of no particular height, excellently groomed, dark, and exemplary. I knew he was exemplary from some detail of costume that I can't remember—his gloves or a strip of silk down the sides of his trousers—something of the sort. The blond was saying something that I did not catch. I heard the words "de Mersch" and "Anglaise," and saw the dark man turn his attention to the little group below. Then I caught my own name mispronounced and somewhat of a stumbling-block to a high-pitched contemptuous intonation. The little correspondent, who was on my other arm, started visibly and moved swiftly behind my back.

"Messieurs," he said in an urgent whisper, and drew them to a little distance. I saw him say something, saw them pivot to look at me, shrug their shoulders and walk away. I didn't in the least grasp the significance of the scene—not then.

"What's the matter?" I asked my returning friend; "were they talking about me?" He answered nervously.

"Oh, it was about your aunt's Salon, you know. They might have been going to say something awkward ... one never knows."

"They really do talk about it then?" I said. "I've a good mind to attend one of their exhibitions."

"Why, of course," he said, "you ought. I really think you ought."

"I'll go to-morrow," I answered.


I couldn't get to sleep that night, but lay and tossed, lit my candle and read, and so on, for ever and ever—for an eternity. I was confoundedly excited; there were a hundred things to be thought about; clamouring to be thought about; out-clamouring the re-current chimes of some near clock. I began to read the article by Radet in the Revue Rouge—the one I had bought of the old woman in the kiosque. It upset me a good deal—that article. It gave away the whole Greenland show so completely that the ecstatic bosh I had just despatched to the Hour seemed impossible. I suppose the good Radet had his axe to grind—just as I had had to grind the State Founder's, but Radet's axe didn't show. I was reading about an inland valley, a broad, shadowy, grey thing; immensely broad, immensely shadowy, winding away between immense, half-invisible mountains into the silence of an unknown country. A little band of men, microscopic figures in that immensity, in those mists, crept slowly up it. A man among them was speaking; I seemed to hear his voice, low, monotonous, overpowered by the wan light and the silence and the vastness.

And how well it was done—how the man could write; how skilfully he made his points. There was no slosh about it, no sentiment. The touch was light, in places even gay. He saw so well the romance of that dun band that had cast remorse behind; that had no return, no future, that spread desolation desolately. This was merely a review article—a thing that in England would have been unreadable; the narrative of a nomad of some genius. I could never have written like that—I should have spoilt it somehow. It set me tingling with desire, with the desire that transcends the sexual; the desire for the fine phrase, for the right word—for all the other intangibles. And I had been wasting all this time; had been writing my inanities. I must go away; must get back, right back to the old road, must work. There was so little time. It was unpleasant, too, to have been mixed up in this affair, to have been trepanned into doing my best to help it on its foul way. God knows I had little of the humanitarian in me. If people must murder in the by-ways of an immense world they must do murder and pay the price. But that I should have been mixed up in such was not what I had wanted. I must have dine with it all; with all this sort of thing, must get back to my old self, must get back. I seemed to hear the slow words of the Duc de Mersch.

"We have increased exports by so much; the imports by so much. We have protected the natives, have kept their higher interests ever present in our minds. And through it all we have never forgotten the mission entrusted to us by Europe—to remove the evil of darkness from the earth—to root out barbarism with its nameless horrors, whose existence has been a blot on our consciences. Men of good-will and self-sacrifice are doing it now—are laying down their priceless lives to root out ... to root our...."

Of course they were rooting them out.

It didn't matter to me. One supposes that that sort of native exists for that sort of thing—to be rooted out by men of good-will, with careers to make. The point was that that was what they were really doing out there—rooting out the barbarians as well as the barbarism, and proving themselves worthy of their hire. And I had been writing them up and was no better than the farcical governor of a department who would write on the morrow to protest that that was what they did not do. You see I had a sort of personal pride in those days; and preferred to think of myself as a decent person. I knew that people would say the same sort of thing about me that they said about all the rest of them. I couldn't very well protest. I had been scratching the backs of all sorts of creatures; out of friendship, out of love—for all sorts of reasons. This was only a sort of last straw—or perhaps it was the sight of her that had been the last straw. It seemed naively futile to have been wasting my time over Mrs. Hartly and those she stood for, when there was something so different in the world—something so like a current of east wind.

That vein of thought kept me awake, and a worse came to keep it company. The men from the next room came home—students, I suppose. They talked gaily enough, their remarks interspersed by the thuds of falling boots and the other incomprehensible noises of the night. Through the flimsy partition I caught half sentences in that sort of French intonation that is so impossible to attain. It reminded me of the voices of the two men at the Opera. I began to wonder what they had been saying—what they could have been saying that concerned me and affected the little correspondent to interfere. Suddenly the thing dawned upon me with the startling clearness of a figure in a complicated pattern—a clearness from which one cannot take one's eyes.

It threw everything—the whole world—into more unpleasant relations with me than even the Greenland affair. They had not been talking about my aunt and her Salon, but about my ... my sister. She was De Mersch's "Anglaise." I did not believe it, but probably all Paris—the whole world—said she was. And to the whole world I was her brother! Those two men who had looked at me over their shoulders had shrugged and said, "Oh, he's ..." And the whole world wherever I went would whisper in asides, "Don't you know Granger? He's the brother. De Mersch employs him."

I began to understand everything; the woman in de Mersch's room with her "Eschingan-Grangeur-r-r"; the deference of the little Jew—the man who knew. He knew that I—that I, who patronised him, was a person to stand well with because of my—my sister's hold over de Mersch. I wasn't, of course, but you can't understand how the whole thing maddened me all the same. I hated the world—this world of people who whispered and were whispered to, of men who knew and men who wanted to know—the shadowy world of people who didn't matter, but whose eyes and voices were all round one and did somehow matter. I knew well enough how it had come about. It was de Mersch—the State Founder, with his shamed face and his pallid hands. She had been attracted by his air of greatness, by his elective grand-dukedom, by his protestations. Women are like that. She had been attracted and didn't know what she was doing, didn't know what the world was over here—how people talked. She had been excited by the whirl and flutter of it, and perhaps she didn't care. The thing must come to an end, however. She had said that I should go to her on the morrow. Well, I would go, and I would put a stop to this. I had suddenly discovered how very much I was a Granger of Etchingham, after all I had family traditions and graves behind me. And for the sake of all these people whose one achievement had been the making of a good name I had to intervene now. After all—"Bon sang ne" —does not get itself talked about in that way.

The early afternoon of the morrow found me in a great room—a faded, sombre salon of the house my aunt had taken in the Faubourg Saint Germain. Numbers of strong-featured people were talking in groups among the tables and chairs of a time before the Revolution. I rather forget how I had got there, and what had gone before. I must have arisen late and passed the intervening hours in a state of trepidation. I was going to see her, and I was like a cub in love, with a man's place to fill. It was a preposterous state of things that set the solid world in a whirl. Once there, my eyes suddenly took in things.

I had a sense of her standing by my side. She had just introduced me to my aunt—a heavy-featured, tired-eyed village tyrant. She was so obviously worn out, so obviously "not what she had been," that her face would have been pitiful but for its immovable expression of class pride. The Grangers of Etchingham, you see, were so absolutely at the top of their own particular kind of tree that it was impossible for them to meet anyone who was not an inferior. A man might be a cabinet minister, might even be a prince, but he couldn't be a Granger of Etchingham, couldn't have such an assortment of graves, each containing a Granger, behind his back. The expression didn't even lift for me who had. It couldn't, it was fixed there. One wondered what she was doing in this galere. It seemed impossible that she should interest herself in the restoration of the Bourbons—they were all very well, but they weren't even English, let alone a county family. I figured it out that she must have set her own village so much in order that there remained nothing but the setting in order of the rest of the world. Her bored eyes wandered sleepily over the assemblage. They seemed to have no preferences for any of them. They rested on the vacuously Bonaparte prince, on the moribund German Jesuit to whom he was listening, on the darkly supple young Spanish priest, on the rosy-gilled English Passionist, on Radet, the writer of that article in the Revue Rouge, who was talking to a compatriot in one of the tall windows. She seemed to accept the saturnine-looking men, the political women, who all spoke a language not their own, with an accent and a fluency, and a dangerous far-away smile and a display of questionable teeth all their own. She seemed to class the political with the pious, the obvious adventurer with the seeming fanatic. It was amazing to me to see her there, standing with her county family self-possession in the midst of so much that was questionable. She offered me no explanation; I had to find one for myself.

We stood and talked in the centre of the room. It did not seem a place in which one could sit.

"Why have you never been to see me?" she asked languidly. "I might never have known of your existence if it had not been for your sister." My sister was standing at my side, you must remember. I don't suppose that I started, but I made my aunt no answer.

"Indeed," she went on, "I should never have known that you had a sister. Your father was so very peculiar. From the day he married, my husband never heard a word from him."

"They were so very different," I said, listlessly.

"Ah, yes," she answered, "brothers so often are." She sighed, apropos of nothing. She continued to utter disjointed sentences from which I gathered a skeleton history of my soi distant sister's introduction of herself and of her pretensions. She had, it seemed, casually introduced herself at some garden-party or function of the sort, had represented herself as a sister of my own to whom a maternal uncle had left a fabulous fortune. She herself had suggested her being sheltered under my aunt's roof as a singularly welcome "paying guest." She herself, too, had suggested the visit to Paris and had hired the house from a degenerate Duc de Luynes who preferred the delights of an appartement in the less lugubrious Avenue Marceau.

"We have tastes so much in common," my aunt explained, as she moved away to welcome a new arrival. I was left alone with the woman who called herself my sister.

We stood a little apart. Each little group of talkers in the vast room seemed to stand just without earshot of the next. I had my back to the door, my face to her.

"And so you have come," she said, maliciously it seemed to me.

It was impossible to speak in such a position; in such a place; impossible to hold a discussion on family affairs when a diminutive Irishwoman with too mobile eyebrows, and a couple of gigantic, raw-boned, lugubrious Spaniards, were in a position to hear anything that one uttered above a whisper. One might want to raise one's voice. Besides, she was so—so terrible; there was no knowing what she might not say. She so obviously did not care what the Irish or the Spaniards or the Jesuits heard or thought, that I was forced to the mortifying conclusion that I did.

"Oh, I've come," I answered. I felt as outrageously out of it as one does at a suburban hop where one does not know one animal of the menagerie. I did not know what to do or what to say, or what to do with my hands. I was pervaded by the unpleasant idea that all those furtive eyes were upon me; gauging me because I was the brother of a personality. I was concerned about the fit of my coat and my boots, and all the while I was in a furious temper; my errand was important.

She stood looking at me, a sinuous, brilliant thing, with a light in the eyes half challenging, half openly victorious.

"You have come," she said, "and ..."

I became singularly afraid of her; and wanted to stop her mouth. She might be going to say anything. She overpowered me so that I actually dwindled—into the gawkiness of extreme youth. I became a goggle-eyed, splay-footed boy again and made a boy's desperate effort after a recovery at one stroke of an ideal standard of dignity.

"I must have a word with you," I said, remembering. She made a little gesture with her hands, signifying "I am here." "But in private," I added.

"Oh, everything's in private here," she said. I was silent.

"I must," I added after a time.

"I can't retire with you," she said; "'it would look odd,' you'd say, wouldn't you?" I shrugged my shoulders in intense irritation. I didn't want to be burlesqued. A flood of fresh people came into the room. I heard a throaty "ahem" behind me. The Duc de Mersch was introducing himself to notice. It was as I had thought—the man was an habitue, with his well-cut clothes, his air of protestation, and his tremendous golden poll. He was the only sunlight that the gloomy place rejoiced in. He bowed low over my oppressor's hand, smiled upon me, and began to utter platitudes in English.

"Oh, you may speak French," she said carelessly.

"But your brother...." he answered.

"I understand French very well," I said. I was in no mood to spare him embarrassments; wanted to show him that I had a hold over him, and knew he wasn't the proper person to talk to a young lady. He glared at me haughtily.

"But yesterday ..." he began in a tone that burlesqued august displeasure. I was wondering what he had looked like on the other side of the door—whilst that lady had been explaining his nature to me.

"Yesterday I wished to avoid embarrassments," I said; "I was to represent your views about Greenland. I might have misunderstood you in some important matter."

"I see, I see," he said conciliatorily. "Yesterday we spoke English for the benefit of the British public. When we speak French we are not in public, I hope." He had a semi-supplicating manner.

"Everything's rather too much in public here," I answered. My part as I imagined it was that of a British brother defending his sister from questionable attentions—the person who "tries to show the man he isn't wanted." But de Mersch didn't see the matter in that light at all. He could not, of course. He was as much used to being purred to as my aunt to looking down on non-county persons. He seemed to think I was making an incomprehensible insular joke, and laughed non-committally. It wouldn't have been possible to let him know he wasn't wanted.

"Oh, you needn't be afraid of my brother," she said suddenly. "He is quite harmless. He is even going to give up writing for the papers except when we want him."

The Duc turned from me to her, smiled and bowed. His smile was inane, but he bowed very well; he had been groomed into that sort of thing or had it in the blood.

"We work together still?" he asked.

"Why not?" she answered.

A hubbub of angry voices raised itself behind my back. It was one of the contretemps that made the Salon Grangeur famous throughout the city.

"You forced yourself upon me. Did I say anywhere that you were responsible? If it resembles your particular hell upon earth, what is that to me? You do worse things; you, yourself, monsieur. Haven't I seen ... haven't I seen it?"

The Duc de Mersch looked swiftly over his shoulder toward the window.

"They seem to be angry there," he said nervously. "Had not something better be done, Miss Granger?"

Miss Granger followed the direction of his eyes.

"Why," she said, "we're used to these differences of opinion. Besides, it's only Monsieur Radet; he's forever at war with someone or other."

"He ought to be shown the door," the Duc grumbled.

"Oh, as for that," she answered, "we couldn't. My aunt would be desolated by such a necessity. He is very influential in certain quarters. My aunt wants to catch him for the—He's going to write an article."

"He writes too many articles," the Duc said, with heavy displeasure.

"Oh, he has written one too many," she answered, "but that can be traversed...."

"But no one believes," the Duc objected ... Radet's voice intermittently broke in upon his sotto-voce, coming to our ears in gusts.

"Haven't I seen you ... and then ... and you offer me the cross ... to bribe me to silence ... me...."

In the general turning of faces toward the window in which stood Radet and the other, mine turned too. Radet was a cadaverous, weatherworn, passion-worn individual, badger-grey, and worked up into a grotesquely attitudinised fury of injured self-esteem. The other was a denationalised, shifty-eyed, sallow, grey-bearded governor of one of the provinces of the Systeme Groenlandais; had a closely barbered head, a bull neck, and a great belly. He cast furtive glances round him, uncertain whether to escape or to wait for his say. He looked at the ring that encircled the window at a little distance, and his face, which had betrayed a half-apparent shame, hardened at sight of the cynical masks of the cosmopolitan conspirators. They were amused by the scene. The Holsteiner gained confidence, shrugged his shoulders.

"You have had the fever very badly since you came back," he said, showing a level row of white teeth. "You did not talk like that out there."

"No—pas si bete—you would have hanged me, perhaps, as you did that poor devil of a Swiss. What was his name? Now you offer me the cross. Because I had the fever, hein?"

I had been watching the Duc's face; a first red flush had come creeping from under the roots of his beard, and had spread over the low forehead and the sides of the neck. The eye-glass fell from the eye, a signal for the colour to retreat. The full lips grew pallid, and began to mutter unspoken words. His eyes wandered appealingly from the woman beside him to me. I didn't want to look him in the face. The man was a trafficker in human blood, an evil liver, and I hated him. He had to pay his price; would have to pay—but I didn't want to see him pay it. There was a limit.

I began to excuse myself, and slid out between the groups of excellent plotters. As I was going, she said to me:

"You may come to me to-morrow in the morning."


I was at the Hotel de Luynes—or Granger—early on the following morning. The mists were still hanging about the dismal upper windows of the inscrutable Faubourg; the toilet of the city was being completed; the little hoses on wheels were clattering about the quiet larger streets. I had not much courage thus early in the day. I had started impulsively; stepping with the impulse of immediate action from the doorstep of the dairy where I had breakfasted. But I made detours; it was too early, and my pace slackened into a saunter as I passed the row of porters' lodges in that dead, inscrutable street. I wanted to fly; had that impulse very strongly; but I burnt my boats with my inquiry of the incredibly ancient, one-eyed porteress. I made my way across the damp court-yard, under the enormous portico, and into the chilly stone hall that no amount of human coming and going sufficed to bring back to a semblance of life. Mademoiselle was expecting me. One went up a great flight of stone steps into one of the immensely high, narrow, impossibly rectangular ante-rooms that one sees in the frontispieces of old plays. The furniture looked no more than knee-high until one discovered that one's self had no appreciable stature. The sad light slanted in ruled lines from the great height of the windows; an army of motes moved slowly in and out of the shadows. I went after awhile and looked disconsolately out into the court-yard. The porteress was making her way across the gravelled space, her arms, her hands, the pockets of her black apron full of letters of all sizes. I remembered that the facteur had followed me down the street. A noise of voices came confusedly to my ears from between half-opened folding-doors; the thing reminded me of my waiting in de Mersch's rooms. It did not last so long. The voices gathered tone, as they do at the end of a colloquy, succeeded each other at longer intervals, and at last came to a sustained halt. The tall doors moved ajar and she entered, followed by a man whom I recognized as the governor of a province of the day before. In that hostile light he looked old and weazened and worried; seemed to have lost much of his rotundity. As for her, she shone with a light of her own.

He greeted me dejectedly, and did not brighten when she let him know that we had a mutual friend in Callan. The Governor, it seemed, in his capacity of Supervisor of the Systeme, was to conduct that distinguished person through the wilds of Greenland; was to smooth his way and to point out to him excellences of administration.

I wished him a good journey; he sighed and began to fumble with his hat.

"Alors, c'est entendu," she said; giving him leave to depart. He looked at her in an odd sort of way, took her hand and applied it to his lips.

"C'est entendu," he said with a heavy sigh, drops of moisture spattering from beneath his white moustache, "mais ..."

He ogled again with infinitesimal eyes and went out of the room. He had the air of wishing to wipe the perspiration from his brows and to exclaim, "Quelle femme!" But if he had any such wish he mastered it until the door hid him from sight.

"Why the ..." I began before it had well closed, "do you allow that thing to make love to you?" I wanted to take up my position before she could have a chance to make me ridiculous. I wanted to make a long speech—about duty to the name of Granger. But the next word hung, and, before it came, she had answered:

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