Part 3 out of 4
the woman's clothes, and return with me to Grafton Street, care being
taken that the detectives should notice his entry. He was then to exchange
his female attire for Matthieu's clothes and drive off in a cab, as
previously arranged, and then Matthieu, in his turn donning the skirt and
blouse, was to leave the house on my arm, whilst the police would be
rushing after a red-herring. Sylvestre turned a somersault to express his
joy, and, slapping Matthieu on the shoulder, said, "Why, before long,
_mon vieux_, you will again be treading the flags of Paris, and, let
us hope, frightening the bourgeois out of their wits."
By two o'clock I was on my way. When I left the house Deveril was talking
with O'Brien over the way; Limpet had disappeared for the time being. The
inspector at once noticed my presence, and, calling to a corner-boy
lounging at the public-house door, he spoke to him, pointing me out, and
this "copper's nark" followed doggedly in my steps. Yoski lived in a
turning off the Mile-End Road, but anxious to give no inkling as to my
destination, I turned in the opposite direction, and after a lengthy
_détour_ stopped at my own door. I stayed indoors nearly an hour,
hoping that my attendant's patience would give out, but he showed no signs
of moving, time was precious, and I decided to set out once more. This
time I walked down the Euston Road to the beginning of Marylebone Road,
where I jumped on to a bus going towards Maida Vale. The youth did
likewise, and at the beginning of the Kilburn High Street I descended,
making my way up that dreary road. I began to despair of ridding myself of
my pursuer. I was miles out of my way, the hours were passing, and he
still dogged my steps. I trudged along, weary and worried, weighed down
with the responsibility of my position. Suddenly my eyes caught sight of a
solitary hansom coming slowly towards me, I hurried forward, the youth was
some paces behind me on the other side of the road, and before he had time
to realise what I was up to I had boarded that hansom and shouted to the
cabman, "Five shillings, if you set me down at Baker Street Station in ten
minutes," and away we went. I looked out of the spy window in the back of
the cab and saw my "nark" standing staring in the middle of the road. At
Baker Street I took a ticket for the Edgeware Road and there I jumped into
a train for Aldgate Station. When I once more found myself in the streets
I looked carefully around me and to my relief was able to assure myself
that no one was following me. Taking a circuitous route, for greater
precaution, I at last reached my destination.
I seemed to be in a foreign country. Dark-eyed comely women and pretty
children, dressed in gay colours, were walking up and down. The shop-signs
and advertisements were mostly written in Hebrew characters, loud
conversation in a foreign language accompanied by vivacious gesticulation,
caught the ear. The narrow, dirty street was swarming with inhabitants,
the front doors were mostly open, and many people had placed chairs on the
doorsteps and pavement and were sitting out, though it would be an
euphemism to speak of enjoying the fresh air in such a neighbourhood. The
house at which I stopped was a six-roomed "cottage," but whilst I stood on
the doorstep, waiting to gain admittance, at least fourteen persons passed
in and out. At last a wizened old woman, scrutinising me suspiciously,
answered my inquiries.
"Yoski! yes, he live on the tird floor back, vis his vife and schwester.
Yes, you will find him in."
Yoski was a small, unhealthy-looking man, not much unlike Matthieu,
though darker in colouring, and of a weaker type of face. He was a
serious, silent, earnest man, a model of solidarity, regularly setting
aside his weekly contribution to the Cause out of his meagre earning on
which he had to maintain a wife and four children and a young sister. They
all lived in the one room, but one felt that this did not cause them any
suffering; they were evidently used to it. The three grown-ups were all at
work when I entered, and the children clustered round like inquisitive
little animals. I explained briefly my identity and the object of my
visit, talking English, which was not understood by his female relatives.
He nodded gravely, and said: "But I cannot change here; it would cause too
much curiosity. I will tell my wife that I must go with you for some work,
and I will go into the room of a friend of mine who is out and dress
there." He did as he said and we left the room together.
On the landing I handed him the bag. "Is everything here?" he inquired,
"hat and all?"
The hat! Who had thought of it? And yet without that it was impossible to
"Cannot you get at your wife's or your sister's?" I inquired.
"Impossible," he replied, "they would never give me a moment's peace till
they knew why I wanted it. You might, however, try with Rebecca Wiesmann;
she is a comrade and lives two streets farther down. Do not, however, tell
her all this matter; make up some story and see if you can manage."
Much doubting my success, I went round to Rebecca's. I had seen her
sometimes at meetings, but I felt that she would be surprised at my
appearance, and still more at my errand. Still there was nothing for it,
the shops were all shut, and so I went round to her. This girl lived
alone, having separated from her parents, who were strictly orthodox and
intolerant Jews. She was indeed taken aback at seeing me, but did not like
to refuse my request. I told her that I was expected at a comrade's house,
that I had been followed by detectives and wished to lose sight of them,
and she, with the foreign Jews' dread of policemen as omnipotent beings,
swallowed the tale and provided me with a showy best hat quite unlike my
own. This I donned and left with my own in a paper under my arm, in spite
of her pressing offer to keep it for me.
In a few minutes I was knocking at the door Yoski had pointed out to me.
I found him ready, carefully shaved of his moustache, and quite
transformed in appearance. The hat and veil completed the disguise. By six
o'clock we were in Grafton Street. I was relieved to find that Deveril had
left, and that only Limpet and O'Brien were on guard. They took a good
stare at us as we passed them by.
Combrisson himself opened to us. "Oh, here you are at last. We began to
fear you would never come. It has been as much as we could do to prevent
Matthieu from spoiling everything by making a rush for it. Come in, there
is not a moment to lose. Deveril may be back any minute, and he's not so
easily gulled as those two mugs."
We found Matthieu in a state of great nervous excitement. The long,
anxious hours of waiting had told on him. A nervous twitch convulsed his
mouth. He jumped spasmodically to his feet as we entered the room. "At
last," exclaimed Bonafede, with a sigh of relief on seeing us. "Now,
Matthieu," he said, laying a hand encouragingly on the man's shoulder,
"there is no time to be lost. Isabel will go downstairs whilst you two
exchange clothes. As soon as you are ready I will fetch the cabs. Be
courageous, and, above all, calm, and in half-an-hour all will be over."
I went downstairs with Madame Combrisson, and we paced nervously up and
down the front parlour. Every other minute one of us went to look out of
the window. It was nearly dark. The street lamps were lighting up, and
still the two detectives watched on the other side of the road.
"Where is Sylvestre?" I at last inquired, to break the tense silence.
"Who knows? He left about half-an-hour ago, saying he would soon be back.
He is off on some madcap expedition, you may be sure. He is a dreadful
At that moment no fewer than three barrel-organs came up the street,
stopped nearly opposite the house, and started playing "The man who broke
the bank at Monte Carlo," and other similar classics. I was at the window
and saw Sylvestre go gravely up to the detectives, bow, say a few words,
and cross over to our door. Madame rushed out to open to him.
"So here you are, Mademoiselle. All is well, I hope?" he inquired.
I nodded assent.
"Oh, what a game it will be to see their faces to-morrow when Deveril
comes round with his warrant! Meanwhile, I was sure those poor devils were
boring themselves to death, so I went down to the Italian quarter and
brought back these musicians. I have just told them that I hope the music
will help them to pass a pleasant half-hour."
Just then Bonafede came down, followed by the false Matthieu. The lower
part of his face was concealed in a muffler, and the illusion was really
"I am going now for the cab," said the Italian. As soon as I return Yoski
must hurry out, jump in rapidly, and drive off. I shall be waiting for
you, Isabel, and Matthieu with a cab just by Shoolbred's; time to leave
the house five minutes after the departure of Yoski. Here is Matthieu;
you, Madame Combrisson, see if his dress is right; now I am going."
"Wait a minute," exclaimed Sylvestre, "give me a bottle of whisky and two
glasses, I will go over and offer some to the 'tecs; it will look as if I
am trying to distract their attention from Bonafede and the cab, and will
lend truth to the scene."
All passed off to perfection. As the hansom drew up, Sylvestre, with a
polite bow, offered a drink to Limpet and O'Brien. The latter caught sight
of the cab, just as the false Matthieu hurriedly jumped in, and, pushing
the Frenchman roughly aside, he leapt on his bicycle and rushed off in
pursuit just as the cab disappeared round the street corner. Bonafede had
quietly slipped off down the Tottenham Court Road. Limpet was pacing up
and down distractedly, uncertain whether to stick to his post or join his
comrade in pursuit. In five minutes' time I quietly walked out, arm in arm
with Matthieu, turning round on the doorstep to shake hands with Madame
Combrisson. We walked boldly past Limpet, and were soon at Shoolbred's,
where I left the dynamitard with Bonafede, and, taking a roundabout walk,
returned within half-an-hour to Grafton Street. In an hour's time Bonafede
joined us. "All is well!" he exclaimed; "within a couple of hours our
comrade will be safe in Leicester. It has been an anxious day, but it has
ended better than I had dared hope for."
"And now let us get some dinner," broke in Sylvestre, "I am just fainting
with hunger. Here is a sovereign, Madame; see if you can get us something
fit to eat, though I fear that, with this hateful English Sunday,
everything will be shut."
"Do not abuse the English Sunday," rejoined Bonafede, "to its sanctity we
owe our friend's escape."
We were soon enjoying a supper which Madame Combrisson got in from the
neighbouring Italian restaurant. We were all in high spirits, and laughed
and chatted freely. Limpet, and O'Brien who had returned after satisfying
himself as to the true identity of the false Matthieu, who had driven
straight home, kept pacing up and down in front of the area railings,
evidently half suspecting that we had played them a trick.
All that night we sat round the kitchen fire, chatting and dozing
alternately. At midnight Deveril came, accompanied by two other officers,
who relieved Limpet and O'Brien. The next morning, as the clock hands
pointed to 9.15, a loud rat-tat resounded through the house. Deveril, with
our two friends of the previous day, accompanied by three uniformed
policemen, were on the doorstep. Combrisson opened to them with his most
engaging smile. He politely read the warrant which the inspector handed
him, and bowed him in, saying that he was happy that he should persuade
himself that Matthieu was not, and never had been, on the premises.
Deveril seemed rather taken aback by this reception, but was too sure of
his case to feel much doubt.
Never shall I forget that man's face when, after a three hours' hunt in
every hole and corner of the building he had to come down persuaded that
his victim had escaped him.
He was perfectly green with rage. Turning to Bonafede who, with us
others, was sitting in the front parlour, he said, "Well, Signore, you
have been one too much for me on this occasion, but remember, he laughs
best who laughs last. We shall doubtless meet again soon."
Bonafede merely shrugged his shoulders and turned aside, whilst the
crestfallen Limpet, who had evidently received a severe wigging from his
superior for allowing his quarry to escape, turned on me a look of intense
hatred and hissed out,
"Remember, miss, you may not always be in London; you will yet pay me for
this!" and with this melodramatic threat he and his comrades departed
amidst the jeers of the assembled lodgers.
In the street they were met by deafening shouts of "Vive Deveril! Hurrah
for the detective force!" Sylvestre, who had slipped out a few minutes
before the arrival of the police, had assembled in the road all the
Italian comrades of the _Tocsin_ group, several Frenchmen of his own
acquaintance, and four or five organ-grinders, and amidst the ironic
cheers of their enemies, the dejected guardians of law and order made
their shamefaced exit from the scene.
SOME ANARCHIST PERSONALITIES
There has been of late years a remarkable, and, on the whole, a very
futile tendency among certain men of science to dissect and classify
abnormal people and abnormal ideas, to discover that geniuses are mad, and
that all manner of well-intentioned fanatics are born criminals.
But there were elements in the Anarchist party which defied the science
of the psychological analyst, so strangely and intricately were the most
heterogeneous qualities blended in certain of their number--fanaticism,
heroism, criminality, and not unfrequently a spicing of genius.
The primary difference between the ordinary normal man and the fanatic
--as between the normal man and the madman or the genius--is the totally
different standpoint whence each views life. This it is which renders it
impossible for the normal man really to understand or judge fanatics. He
cannot grasp their motive, their point of view, and is therefore morally
incapable of judging them.
Among the Anarchists, who may be said to represent the intellectual
rather than the material side of the Socialist movement--there were many
fanatics. This fanaticism showed itself in different ways--sometimes in
the most admirable self-abnegation, in the sacrifice of wealth, position,
and happiness; frequently in abnormal actions of other kinds, and most
noticeably in deeds of violence.
Very diverse in nature were the motives which prompted the committal of
these acts of violence--these assassinations and dynamite explosions--in
different men. With some it was an act of personal revolt, the outcome of
personal sufferings and wrongs endured by the rebel himself, by his family
or his class. In others violence was rather the offspring of ideas, the
logical result of speculation upon the social evil and the causes thereof.
These Anarchists referred to their actions as Propaganda by Deed.
Émile Henry, the dynamitard of the Café Terminus, belonged to the number
of what I may call the theoretical dynamitard. His terrible acts were the
outcome of long and earnest thought; they were born of his mental analysis
of the social canker. He committed them not in moments of passion, but
with all the _sang froid_ of a man governed by reason. His defence
when on trial was a masterpiece of logical deduction and eloquent
To the average man it is no doubt very difficult to conceive that when he
threw his bomb among the crowd in the Café Terminus, maiming and killing
indiscriminately, Émile Henry was performing his duty according to his own
lights just as much as a soldier when he obeys orders and fires on the
enemy, a city man when he embarks on the day's business, or a parson when
he preaches a sermon against prevailing vices. It was his sermon--however
vigorously preached--against the prevailing vices and injustices of
Society, and against the indifference which all classes displayed towards
these. He took upon himself to strike a blow against this indifference on
behalf of all the weaker and more unfortunate members of society. Being a
man of intellect and some culture, he could not, like his more ignorant
_confrères_, imagine that one man or one small group of men, was
responsible for these. Earnest thought and reflection told him that if any
section of society suffered, then society at large was guilty: all the
thoughtless, all the indifferent members of society were equally
responsible for its abuses. Now this may be true enough theoretically, but
no one but a fanatic or a madman would carry the reasoning farther to the
point of saying: "Society at large is guilty; society at large must
suffer. Society is fairly well represented by the mixed crowd in a café. I
will attack this crowd indiscriminately, and kill as many of their number
as I can. I will unreluctantly end my days on the scaffold in order to
accomplish this very obvious duty;" and proceed from words to deeds.
There is something terribly, if pervertedly logical in this reasoning,
and although nothing could be farther from the attitude of the ordinary
delinquent, it is no doubt more dangerous to the peace and continuance of
society; and such was the attitude and the reasoning which rendered the
Anarchists so formidable, and which led up to many of their most terrible
outrages. Émile Henry was in his own way a well-meaning youth; kindly in
private life, frugal in his habits; studious, industrious, and free from
vice, he lived with his old mother and mixed little with his fellows, and
no one who knew him could have suspected that this quiet, studious boy
would have developed into the terrible assassin whose act sent a thrill of
horror through the world.
To Anarchists of this order, abstract ideas and opinions replaced all the
ordinary forces of life. Their every action was prompted by some theory,
and they fashioned their lives to fit their peculiar views of what it
ought to be. Émile Henry belonged to this number no less than Kosinski,
Bonafede, and certain so-called Christian Anarchists. For in some fanatics
the Anarchist ideas, instead of leading to violence, led to the absolute
negation and rejection of it.
Among the many frequenters of our office and of the weekly discussion
meetings held there, was a Christian Anarchist, one of those holding what
was known as the "non-resistance to evil" creed. He, too, was a man who
fitted his life to his ideas, who lived in ideas, whose whole being
centred round his ideas. He was a religious fanatic whose course had
deviated into strange paths.
Norbery was a pale, anxious-looking Lancashire man, with weak, restless
eyes and a resolute mouth, who did not lack a certain dignity of bearing.
Both the organisationists and the individualists united in abusing and
despising the Christian Norbery, but no amount of insults or invective
ruffled his temper or aroused his wrath. "When you preach force or use
force," he said to his opponents, "you imitate the very methods used by
Governments. You will never attain universal peace and brotherhood by such
means. As Anarchists we have no right to use other than passive
resistance, for by using coercion we are defeating our own ends and
justifying the actions of our persecutors."
The more indignant his Anarchist opponents became in the course of
debate, the calmer and more complacent grew Norbery. "Abuse me," he would
say, "insult me, use violence towards me, if you will; I shall turn the
other cheek." Once a hot-headed Italian Anarchist lost patience with him
and threw him downstairs. He lay where he fell with a sprained ankle,
repeating good words from the Sermon on the Mount, until his adversary,
overcome with shame and remorse, picked him up and bandaged his injured
limb. Once during certain strike riots in the North of England, Norbery
journeyed to the scene of trouble to preach passive measures and the
Anarchist principles to the rioters. He was dragged from his platform by
the police and badly hustled and knocked about. But Norbery was determined
on having his say; he procured a chain and padlock, chained himself to a
lamppost, threw away the key, and resumed the interrupted course of his
harangue. A large crowd gathered round the persistent orator, attracted
partly by his eloquence and partly by the novelty of his situation. The
police hurried to the scene and tried to drag him down; his coat and
shirt, torn to shreds, remained in their hands, while the semi-naked
Anarchist preached away to the constantly increasing crowd. The officers
of the law foamed with rage, and threatened and pommelled the enchained
and defenceless Norbery. Norbery grew more eloquent and more argumentative
under this treatment. Nearly an hour passed before a file could be
procured and the chain severed, and by that time Norbery had ample
opportunity to finish his discourse, and was conveyed to the police
station in a fainting and exhausted condition.
Armitage and I engaged in endless discussions with Norbery on the
question of violence, maintaining on our side that violence could only be
overcome by violence, and that, however peaceful our ultimate aims might
be, force must inevitably be used towards their attainment. We argued and
adduced reasons in support of our views, and Norbery argued and adduced
counter-reasons in support of his views, but neither the one nor the other
of us was ever in the least affected by his opponent's eloquence, and at
the end of the discussion we were all, if anything, more staunchly
persuaded of the sense and justice of our own case than at the start. So
much for the profitableness of debate between confirmed partisans.
Émile Henry was representative of the theoretical dynamitard; Matthieu,
like Ravachol, of the dynamitard by passion. A----, who belonged rather to
the Ravachol type, and ended by killing one of the crowned heads of
Europe, was during a few weeks a frequenter of the _Tocsin_. He had
turned Anarchist in revolt against the society which had cramped his life,
starved him in childhood, overworked his body, underfed his mind, where he
had found neither place nor welcome. Born into the lowest depths of
society, dragged up amid criminals and drunkards, he had spent his early
years between the streets and the jail-house, at times working his
undeveloped muscles, at other times begging or picking pockets.
"It is all very well," he said to me one day, "for those on the top rungs
of the ladder to talk of the unrelenting laws of nature and the survival
of the fittest. For my part I have felt very forcibly one great law of
nature, the law of self-preservation: the right to live when you have once
been born, the right to food and to the pleasures of life, and I
determined to survive at all costs. When my stomach is empty and my boots
let in water, the mere sight of a replete and well-clothed man makes me
feel like murder. It may be true that it is natural for the strongest and
the best men to rise above their fellows, but even this is not the case in
our society of to-day. The weakest and the worst have somehow got to the
top, and giants are bolstering up the impotence of dwarfs. These dwarfs
are crushing the life-blood out of us. We must pull them down, exterminate
them; we must turn the whole world upside down before we can create a new
and better order of things."
His action was not a theoretical protest translated into deeds; it was an
act of vengeance, of personal and class revenge.
Giannoli was a type apart. His desires and actions were responsible for
his views. They coloured and distorted his opinions and destroyed all
sense of proportion. An incident in his private life would stand up
giant-like in the way of all the doctrines in the world, dwarfing opinions
and creeds. He was a physically active man and his ideas grew out of his
life, whereas men like Kosinski might be said to abandon the material life
in the pursuit of an ideal.
Giacomo Giannoli was a man of some education, and no ordinary degree of
natural refinement and culture, one whom you would pronounce at first
sight to be a gentleman. He was the son of a fairly well-to-do builder in
a provincial town of Lombardy, and had received a good general education
in boyhood. Early left an orphan by his father's death, he had inherited
his business, and for some years he carried it on prosperously, living
with his mother and sisters. But before he was two-and-twenty his
naturally erratic disposition asserted itself, and he chafed under the
restraints and monotony of life in a small provincial town. He sold up his
business at a great loss, well-nigh ruining his family, had it not been
for his mother's small private means; and with his share of the proceeds
of the sale he travelled about for some years, leading a roving life, and
devoting most of his time and cash to the Anarchist propaganda, constantly
getting into troubles and bothers, at times in hiding, at others in
prison, always in difficulties, growing harder and harder up as the months
went by, and his moderate means slipped through his untenacious fingers.
Two convergent factors had led up to this sudden change in his life.
Firstly, an incident of a private nature which revolutionised his notions
of individual morality, and secondly, the discovery of the Anarchist
doctrines which gave form to his new views. The incident which was
primarily responsible for his new views of life, he recounted to me not
long after his arrival in London.
"It was a woman," he said, "who completely altered my views of life, and
made me see how perverted and unnatural are our ideas of sex and love and
morals, and, in short, of everything. She was an ignorant peasant girl who
lived in a neighbouring village, but a woman of rare mind and character. I
shall never forget her, nor what I owe her. I was a young fellow of some
twenty-one years at the time, and I loved this girl with all the passion
and faith of a youth of those years. Teresina loved me in return, and for
some two years we lived on happily till one day it was brought to my
knowledge that she was unfaithful to me. I was beside myself with grief
and mortification and jealous fury. For some hours I just raged up and
down my room like one demented, crying like a child one minute, cursing
and meditating revenge the next. I felt that I must have blood at all
costs to appease my passion--Teresina's or her lover's, or somebody's. I
was to meet Teresina that evening as usual towards nine o'clock, and I
thought the intervening hours would never go by. One hope suddenly
suggested itself to me, and I clung desperately to it. 'Perhaps it is
false!' I said to myself. 'I will ask Teresina. It is all a lie,' and then
'Proofs, proofs, I must have proofs!' I cried, and once more my thoughts
turned back to murder. Thus I went through the long hours, and at last
evening came--a beautiful warm May evening, and long before the appointed
hour I was at our rendezvous in a deserted _podere_ on the
mountain-side, overgrown with flags and other spring flowers, among which
the fireflies were flitting noiselessly. I had no eyes for the beauty of
the scene, however. I paced up and down waiting for my sweetheart, cursing
the treachery of women and the blindness of men. Suddenly she appeared,
dark against the clear evening sky, graceful, gay, and unconscious as
ever. Without a word of welcome I rushed at her, seized her by the arm,
and hurled forth all my accusations and all my reproaches.
"'Tell me it is not true,' I cried at last, 'tell me it is not true, or I
will kill you where you stand!'
"I expected the usual routine of tears and protestations of innocence,
all the lies and subterfuges with which women are wont to defend
themselves against the unreasoning savagery of their mates. I was
disappointed. Teresina stood perfectly silent till I had finished
speaking; then without flinching, without one instant's hesitation, she
answered, 'It is true. Every word of it is true.'
"If the moon and the stars had all dropped simultaneously out of heaven
at my feet I should not have been more astonished. The calmness of her
answer, the steady earnestness of her gaze as she looked back fearlessly
into my eyes, her utter lack of subterfuge, took away my breath. I dropped
her arm and stood staring at her, bereft of speech and understanding. At
last I blurted out stupidly that I did not understand her, that I must be
going mad, and entreated her to explain.
"'I said it was true; that I love Giordano, and have accepted his love,'
she answered. Still I did not fully grasp her meaning.
"'But, Teresina, I thought that you loved me; have you lied to me then?'
"'No, I have not lied,' she answered me. 'I have never lied to you,' and
she took my hand in her strong little hand, and led me like one blind or
intoxicated to the projecting root of a tree close by, and there sat down
by my side.
"'Listen,' she said, still holding my hand in hers, 'I ought to have told
you what I have to say before now. I only hesitated because I knew it
would cause you acute suffering at first ... until you could understand.
Believe me, I do love you as much as ever I did, and I could not bear even
the thought of living without you. I love Giordano too, in a different way
it is true, but still I love him. He has not got your mind or your heart,
or your wonderful knowledge' (she was a very ignorant girl, so far as
learning was concerned, and my small knowledge of books appeared to her
little short of miraculous, poor child!), 'but then he has some qualities
you do not possess. Well, I love him for these, and I enjoy being with him
in a quite different way from what I experience with you.'
"I was silent, and she continued after a short pause:--
"'Nothing is more brutish or more selfish than jealousy, my friend. If I
thought another woman could give you a moment's happiness, I should say:
"Take it, enjoy it!" We do not grudge our friends every moment of
enjoyment not enjoyed in our company. We wish them other friendships and
other joys. What is there in the love between man and woman which should
make us so selfish and so unreasonable? For my part, I must have freedom
at all costs, absolutely at all costs. It is dearer to me than anything
else in life, and I had sooner sacrifice even love and happiness; indeed,
I cannot love or be happy without it. For God's sake grant me this liberty
as I grant it to you! Take my love as I can give it to you, but do not ask
me to be your slave on its account! Be sure you have my heart, and little
of it remains to be squandered in other directions. What does the rest
matter? I do not grudge you your loves, your pleasures, your caprices! Do
not grudge me mine. Life is necessarily full of sorrows; do not let us
embitter it unnecessarily.'
"She ceased speaking. She had risen to her feet and stood in front of me
as she spoke, then as she finished she sank down on her knees by my side.
"'Do you understand?' she asked me. 'Can you love me on these terms?
liberty--absolute liberty for us both?'
"I answered 'Yes,' nor did I ever regret the answer.
"I think that was the most momentous day in my life, for it wrought the
greatest change in me. My eyes were opened by the peasant girl's words,
and from that evening forward I regarded life quite differently. For the
first time I realised the necessity to the individual to enjoy absolute
personal freedom in love as in all else in life. All my previous ideas and
prejudices appeared to me monstrous and iniquitous. I saw the falseness of
all our ideas of morality, the absurdity of placing conventions before
nature and the detestable character of our dealings with women and of our
attitude in such matters. And with this suddenly awakened vision I looked
anew on life, and it seemed to me that till then I had never lived. All
that which I had before taken for granted I now began to question. I found
that instead of thinking out life's problems for myself I had allowed
myself to grow into other peoples' ideas, that I had tacitly taken for
right what they had pronounced right, and for wrong what they had
stigmatised as wrong. My spiritual world now turned, as it were, a
complete somersault, and I was re-born a new man--an Anarchist.
"I and Teresina and Giordano lived very happily for some months, much to
the scandal of the narrow-minded, bigoted village folk, until I was
compelled to absent myself from the country owing to some little
disturbances in the neighbourhood in which I had got implicated.
"Teresina followed me into exile, and with little intermission remained
with me during all those early years of wanderings and adventure. She
cared little about Anarchist doctrines, though herself a born rebel and an
innate Anarchist. She did more for me than all the doctrines in the world.
Poor child! When at last I got through all my money, and life from day to
day grew harder and more precarious, food scantier, clothes raggeder, and
surroundings more dangerous, she still remained faithful to me in her own
way, but the life was too hard for her. We had spent the summer in Paris,
and there I had got seriously implicated in a little Anarchist venture and
found it necessary to flee the country with all haste. Teresina followed
me into Belgium in the bitter winter weather. She died of consumption in a
Brussels hospital shortly after our arrival."
Such, in his own words, were the influences and the circumstances which
revolutionised Giannoli's entire life and his outlook on things. He became
one of the leaders of the most advanced section of the "Individualist
Anarchists," who maintain that not only is government of man by man wrong
and objectionable, but that no ties or obligations of any sort bind men
together. The ethics of "humanity" and "brotherhood" are unknown to these
Anarchists. They recognise no laws, social or moral, no obligations or
duties towards their fellows, no organisation or association of any sort.
They claim absolute freedom for the individual, freedom to live, die,
love, enjoy, think, work, or take--this freedom in each individual only
curtailed by others claiming equal rights. And I am bound to admit that
the question whether such individual freedom would not tend to individual
licence and domination by the stronger and cleverer or more unscrupulous
man in the future, met with little consideration.
That it led to such licence in the present among themselves was an
indubitable fact. All the individualist Anarchists agreed that, being at
war with existing society, which interfered with, coerced, and used
violence towards them, they were at liberty to use all means against
society in retaliation--force and even fraud if expedient. But the less
intelligent and more ignorant men who came in contact with these
principles considered themselves not only at liberty to use all means
against society, the enemy; but honour or scruples of any sort among
themselves were tabooed. A naturally honourable man like Giannoli was, of
course, free from the danger of falling victim to such perverted
sophistry. But the manner in which these doctrines succeeded in perverting
the minds of fairly intelligent and well-meaning men is illustrated by the
One evening, some months after the advent of Giannoli and his friends,
there arrived at the office of the _Tocsin_ a small party of three
men and one woman--all of them Spaniards. They requested me to help them
to procure lodgings for the night, and, as they knew nothing of the
English language, to assist them the following morning in procuring
tickets, etc., with a view to their immediate re-departure for the States.
Giannoli, who knew the men, having spent some years in Spain, explained to
me that the leader of the party, a handsome, well-spoken young man, was an
engineer belonging to a good Barcelona family. The second one, a
good-natured giant, was his brother and an engineer like himself. The
third male member of the party was a lanky, scrofulous journalist, a man
of many words and few wits. The lady, a pretty brunette, was their
"compagna." She had escaped from her family and eloped with Fernandez,
the engineer, but was apparently shared on communistic principles.
I settled the party for the night in a small hotel and procured their
tickets for the morrow's journey, after which they proceeded to hand over
to Giannoli, with many cautions and precautions, a mysterious linen bag
which, it was whispered, contained some twelve thousand lire in bank-notes
(about five hundred pounds sterling). Then, having been assured by
Giannoli that I was to be trusted, they told me their story.
The two brothers, the engineers, had till quite recently been employed by
a large electrical engineering firm in Barcelona, of which an elder
brother, some years their senior, was the manager. For some time the two
younger men had been engaged, unknown to their family, in Anarchist
propaganda, and had fallen in with the section of the _individualisti_.
Fernandez was in love with Adolfa, the daughter of a well-to-do merchant,
and had secretly talked her over to his own ideas. The girl's parents
objected to the match on account of the extreme youth of the couple--the
girl was not quite eighteen and the young man still considerably under
age. Therefore they settled to elope, and Fernandez's brother and Vanni,
their journalist friend, expressed a desire to form an addition to the
elopement. This Fernandez had at first objected to, but the girl, who had
made rapid strides into the Giannolian free-love theories, insisted. Lack
of money formed the only obstacle to this scheme, but an unforeseen
circumstance enabled them to remove it.
The eldest brother, who had charge of the finances of the establishment,
and whose business it was to pay the men their wages, wished to absent
himself from the works for a few days, and, without the knowledge of his
employers, he broke rules to the extent of handing over to his brother
Fernandez, as to one beyond suspicion, the men's wages--the five hundred
pounds now contained in the mysterious linen bag.
"Now," argued Fernandez to himself, "I, as an Anarchist, do not recognise
private property, nor any set moral laws. The company's money is the
result of plunder; they can afford to lose it and have no right to it; I
stand desperately in need of it--and it is in my hands.... My brother?...
oh, my brother, he is after all nothing but a bourgeois, and I, as an
Anarchist, admit of no family ties."
Thus when, two days later, the unfortunate manager returned, he found his
brothers gone, the money nowhere to be found, and disgrace and ruin ahead.
Driven to despair, and not knowing in what direction to turn for the
necessary sum, the wretched man ended his perplexities with a bullet. This
was the first news which greeted the runaways on their arrival in the
Now the younger brothers who had perpetrated this cruel thing were not
hardened criminals. From what little I saw of them, they appeared to be
kindly, courteous, and, by nature, fairly honourable men. What they lacked
was moral strength. Under ordinarily good influences they would have acted
in an ordinarily proper way. They had not the force of character necessary
for handling the Anarchist individualist doctrines, which, excellently as
they may work with men of character, are fatal to weaker men. The man who
recognises no law outside himself must be capable of governing himself.
The office of the _Tocsin_ was the constant scene of debate and
dispute between the two rival camps in the Anarchist party--the
organisationists and the individualists. Bonafede and Gnecco belonged to
the former, while most of the active staff of the _Tocsin_--myself
among others--adhered to the latter section. A curious feature of the
matter--and I fancy it is not exclusively characteristic of the Anarchist
party--was the amount of invective and hatred, which both factions ought
properly to have expended on the common enemy, but which instead they
spent most of their time in levelling at one another. A casual witness of
these internal strifes might have imagined that the two parties were at
the antipodes in their ideas and objects, rather than comrades and
participators in a common belief. Their dissensions were alone forgotten
in a common hatred of government and existing society. And even in their
efforts to upraise the social revolution--the great upheaval to which all
Anarchists aspired--I doubt whether there lurked not some secret hope that
the detested rival faction might be demolished in the fray. Bonafede and
Giannoli were warm friends personally, and held one another in great
esteem. Yet I can clearly recollect Giannoli one evening, with tears in
his eyes, assuring me that his first duty when the Revolution broke out
would be to disembowel his dear friend.
"He is my friend," Giannoli said to me, "and I love him as such, and as a
man I admire him. But his doctrines are noxious; in time of Revolution
they would prove fatal to our Cause; they would be the undoing of all the
work for which we have suffered and fought. Organise a Revolution, indeed!
You might as well attempt to organise a tempest and to marshal the
elements into order! I know Bonafede to be above personal ambition, but,
take my word for it, most of these organisationists hope to organise
themselves into comfortable places when their time comes! It is our duty
to destroy them."
No man, having once thrown himself into an idea, was ever more sincerely
convinced of the truth of his beliefs or more strenuous in his efforts to
propagandise them than Giannoli. To destroy utterly the fabric of existing
society by all possible means, by acts of violence and terrorism, by
expropriation, by undermining the prevailing ideas of morality, by
breaking up the organisations of those Anarchists and Socialists who
believed in association, by denouncing such persons and such attempts, by
preaching revolution wherever and whenever an opportunity occurred or
could be improvised, to these objects he had blindly devoted the best
years of his life. His was a gospel of destruction and negation, and he
was occupied rather in the undoing of what he had come to regard as bad
than with any constructive doctrines.
All existing and established things were alike under his ban: art no less
than morals and religion. He nourished a peculiar hatred for all those
links which bind the present to the past, for ancient customs and
superstitions, for all tradition. Had it been in his power he would have
destroyed history itself. "We shall never be free," he used to say, "so
long as one prejudice, one single ingrained belief, remains with us. We
are the slaves of heredity, and of all manner of notions of duties, of the
licit and the illicit."
One day I took him to the National Gallery. I was quite unprepared for
the effect of this step. He walked about nervously for some time, looking
from one picture to another with evident displeasure. At last he stopped
in front of Leonardo's "Madonna delle Roccie," and remained gazing at it
for some minutes in silence, while a heavy frown gathered round his brows.
"I hate art," he exclaimed at last. "I consider it one of the most noxious
influences in the world. It is enervating and deteriorating. Art has
always been the slave of religion and superstition, from the ancient
Egyptians and Assyrians to our own times. You see something beautiful,
perhaps, in these pictures, in these saints and Madonnas and Immaculate
Conceptions? Well, when I look at them, all the darkest pages of history
seem to open before me, and generations upon generations of superstitious
slaves, toiling on and suffering with the ever-present terror of
hell-fires and chastisement, pass before my mental vision. I should love
to burn them all, to raze all these galleries and museums to the ground,
and libraries with them. For what are libraries but storehouses of human
superstition and error? We must free ourselves from the past, free
ourselves utterly from its toils, if the future is to be ours. And we
shall never free ourselves from the past until we have forgotten it. Let
us leave here. I cannot stand it any longer! I do not know which is most
repugnant to me, the asceticism of these early Christians or the senseless
fantasies of the Greeks," and without further ado he fled.
Fired by this gospel of destruction, he spent his life wandering about
Europe, never resting for a month together, wrenching himself free from
all those ties which might curtail the freedom of his actions. Although
not fashioned by nature for enduring hardships, he alternately suffered
cold, hunger, heat, fatigue, privations, and dirt. In Paris one week,
making a brief sojourn in Spain the next, fleeing thence under warrant of
arrest to find himself some days later in hiding in Italy; at times in
prison, always in danger and uncertainty; starving one day, in fairly
flourishing conditions the next, never certain what fortune the morrow
might bring: thus the years went by, until, escaping from _domicilio
coatto_, or worse, in Italy, he had at length made his way to London
and the office of the _Tocsin_, quite broken down in health after the
long winter tramp. As I knew him, among his few personal friends, Giannoli
was loyal and honourable in the extreme, independent and proud. Like many
other Anarchists he entertained an almost maniacal prejudice against plots
and conspiracies of any kind, maintaining that such organisations were
merely police traps and death-gins. "Propaganda by deed"--outrage, in
short--they maintained should, and could, be the outcome only of entirely
individual activity. Never, indeed, did police or press make a greater
blunder than when they attributed deeds of violence to associations and
large conspiracies, and sought for or denounced accomplices. Every one of
those outrages and assassinations which startled Europe was the act of a
single man, unaided by, and frequently unknown to other Anarchists.
This horror of plots and associations was, when I first met him, one of
the most noticeable traits about Giannoli. He was beginning to lose his
earlier assurance, worn out by the roving life he had led, and was growing
suspicious in the extreme. "Such-a-one is a police emissary," or
"So-and-so is not to be trusted" were words constantly on his lips.
To me he took a great liking, and he always showed implicit faith in me
both as an Anarchist and an individual. "You are a true Anarchist," he
said to me one day, "and I would trust you with anything, _even_" and
he emphasised the word so as to give greater weight to the compliment,
"_even_ with _explosives_"
His suspiciousness, however, grew by leaps and bounds during his sojourn
in London. Every day he threw out hints against some new person or some
fresh imaginary conspiracy. There was a plot brewing, he informed me,
among various false comrades to ruin him. He was the victim of a
conspiracy to deprive him of his liberty and perhaps even of his life. Not
a day passed but some covert threat was made against him; men whom he had
believed his comrades, and to whom he--fool that he was!--had confided the
deadliest secrets in the past, had given him to understand the power they
held over him, and had made it clear that they would avail themselves of
it should it serve their purpose. "What fools we Anarchists are," he
exclaimed to me one day, "ever to feel any confidence in any one! We are
no longer free men when we have done this. We are slaves."
I watched the progress of this monomania with painful interest, for among
all the Anarchists there was no individual for whom I entertained a more
genuine regard than for Giannoli. One of the worst aspects of the matter,
moreover, was that I was really unable to judge how far Giannoli's
suspicions were true and how far imaginary. As to his sincerity there was
no possibility of doubt, and this lent to all he said an air of
verisimilitude which was most convincing. I did not know the majority of
the other Italians well enough to feel positive as to their honesty, and
many of them were uncertain and somewhat suspicious characters. Morì, for
instance--the youthful Neapolitan already referred to, the enigmatic
"buttered muffin"--was quite incomprehensible. He was a youth of no
particular intelligence, and certainly of no ideality or genuine political
or anti-political convictions, and I was quite at a loss to conjecture why
he had followed the Anarchists into exile--his only apparent reason being
a disinclination to study and a desire to escape from school. When
Giannoli informed me that he was a police-spy I really did not know
whether to believe him or not.
And as the weeks passed on, Giannoli's condition grew worse and worse,
and I could see that a crisis must inevitably follow. Nor was I mistaken
in this conviction.
Late one afternoon, towards the end of September, I was busy in the
printing-room "making up" the pages of the forthcoming number of the
_Tocsin_, when, looking up from my work on which I was very intent, I
saw Giannoli walk in hurriedly with his usual restless step, and look
about the place in a nervous short-sighted way, evidently in search of
somebody. He was just about to leave again, not having noticed me, when I
called to him. "Oh, Isabel," he replied, evidently much relieved, "are you
here then!" and he came up to me. "I did not see you!" and then, casting a
glance round the room, he inquired, "Are we quite alone?"
"There are others upstairs," I answered. "If you wish to speak to me
alone I will come to your room a little later, when I have finished this
"Oh, thank you, thank you," he exclaimed; "I _must_ speak to you; I
shall wait for you till you come;" and he hurried away, once more looking
furtively round the office as though fearing he were watched.
From his manner it was evident to me that he was terribly perturbed about
something and that his fears and suspicions were reaching a climax.
"Whatever can be the matter?" I asked myself as I hammered away at my
form. "Has anything serious really happened?"
Towards seven o'clock I left the printing-office and the work to the
tender mercies of Short, who was just writhing out of a peaceful sleep of
some hours' duration on the "bed" of the machine, and made my way towards
Giannoli's room, which though quite close was by no means easy of access.
Turning to my right, half-way down the court-yard, I passed into Mrs.
Wattles's house, at the summit of which my friend was located; and here at
once my progress was arrested by that lady herself, only half sober and in
a mood evidently requiring sympathy.
"Oh, my dear," she exclaimed, "are you going up to see that pore young
man? I don't know what's gone wrong with 'im of late, but for all the
world 'e looks as if 'e were sickening for something. To look at 'im's
enough. It just sets my inn'ards all of a 'eave and a rumble, and I 'ave
to take a little drop o' something warm to settle 'em again."
"Damnation!" I muttered inwardly at finding myself trapped at such a
moment; but there was nothing for it; I had to wait and hear out the long
and weary recital of the sickness and agony of her deceased son, to whom
she had suddenly discovered a resemblance in Giannoli. At the end of a
long discourse, full of those "sickening details" in which women of her
class delight, she summed up her case with a brief but telling epitome of
his career, to the effect that he never smoked, nor drank, nor swore, but
that he "only gave one sniff and died;" and I, determined to escape from
the inevitable sequel, when Wattles senior's vices would be declaimed in
contrast to the son's virtues, beat a hasty retreat. A few scraps of this
anticlimax, mingled with hiccups and sobs, wafted after me as I wended my
way up the uneven wooden stairs. At the top of these a perilous-looking
ladder gave access to a trap-door, through which I dexterously made my way
into Giannoli's room.
The interior was familiar to me--a squalid little den, some ten feet
square, whose dirty, brown-paper-patched window looked out over the
chimneys and yards of the "Little Hell" district. In one corner of the
room was a mysterious cupboard, through which a neighbouring chimney
contrived to let in a constant supply of filthy black smoke. The bare
unwashed boards were rotting away, and at one spot the leg of the bed had
gone through the floor, to the considerable alarm of its dormant occupant.
The wall-paper, which had once been a gorgeous combination of pink and
cobalt and silver, was tattered and discoloured, and so greasy that one
might imagine that generations of squalid lodgers had made their meals off
it. The furniture consisted of a small table, now covered with a perpetual
litter of papers; a ramshackle wash-hand stand, on which a broken
vegetable dish served as a receptacle for soap and such objects; a bed,
which bred remarkable crops of fleas, and to which clung an old patchwork
quilt, but which was otherwise poor in adornment; a chair, and an old
travelling-box. As I have already mentioned, a trap-door in the floor gave
access to this apartment. There was no other door.
When I entered Giannoli was sitting at his table with his face buried in
his hands, so deeply absorbed in his own reflections that for some seconds
he did not notice my advent. When at last I made my presence known to him
he gave a violent start, and, holding out both his hands, he wrung mine
for some moments in silence. Then he motioned me to the box; I seated
myself; once more he became silent; then, suddenly raising his head, he
looked me full in the face.
"Do you know why I wished to speak to you?" he asked; "can you guess? Oh,
it is no light matter, Isabel, which has led me to trouble you, no
pleasant matter either. I am on the brink of ruin, threatened and betrayed
by my most trusted friends. I must leave here at once, go right away from
London and England. My life is not safe here for another day." He spoke in
Italian, and as he grew more excited his voice rose higher and higher,
though every now and again he was minded to control it, as though fearing
he might be overheard. "Yes," he continued, "those men whom I have most
trusted, whom I have treated as my own brothers, with whom I have often
shared my last shilling and the very clothes off my back, have turned
against me. They are in league to destroy me. They are plotting against my
liberty and my life!" For some minutes he raved on in this style, every
now and again breaking off into curses, while I listened half horrified,
"For goodness' sake," I exclaimed at last, "do try and be calmer,
Giannoli, and tell me what has happened and what you wish me to do."
"You are right," he answered, making an effort to control himself; "I
must explain the matter or you cannot understand.... I will talk to you
frankly, for you at any rate are above suspicion. You may perhaps be aware
that I have been connected with many serious Anarchist ventures in the
past. The explosions at St. ----, the affair in V---- three years ago, the
sacking of the bank in Barcelona. All of these were, of course, very
dangerous matters, in which I risked my life; but it all tended towards
the destruction of society, and I readily took the risk. As far as
possible I avoided taking other comrades into my confidence--partly out of
regard for my own safety, partly with a view to theirs. To one or two
well-trusted men, however, I confided my projects, so that in case of my
arrest all proper measures might be taken." (Gnecco was one of these
"trusted comrades," B---- and Morì were others.) "I was mistaken in my
estimate of these men, mistaken in my confidence in them. From their lips
my secret has been wormed or bought by others, until now it has become a
byword, and every indiscreet fool and paid spy in our midst knows the tale
of my past better than I do myself. I no longer dare attend our meetings,
for all around me I hear whisperings and insinuations, and my name being
passed from one mouth to another along with references to my past actions.
The torture is becoming unendurable. Some of these cowards even descend to
taunting me with their knowledge; and when I, in any way, cross their
purposes in our discussions, they threaten me covertly with exposure. That
disgusting young fool, Morì, only to-day, being jealous of me in some
trivial matter, tried to intimidate me by hinting at the V---- affair. I
felt that I could have struck him down where he stood; and then a sense of
my own impotence overtook me, and I stood there, silent and confused,
trying to laugh the matter off, as though I had not grasped his meaning.
But I can stand this state of things no longer: it is driving me mad. When
I am alone now I suddenly start with the feeling that some one is coming
on me unawares. This afternoon, wishing to be alone and to think matters
over, I took a walk about the Park, but the very trees seemed to be
whispering about me, and before long I perceived that I was followed, that
my movements were being dogged step by step. When I am alone in my room
they do not even leave me in peace. They obtain entrance here by means of
that Wattles woman, who is evidently in their pay. B---- cannot forgive me
for not having appropriated to our private use the money expropriated in
Barcelona for the propaganda; and this indeed is one of their principal
grievances against me. Would you believe it, Isabel, last night he
actually got into this house and woke me from sleep by shouting the name
of the bank through that hole? When I rushed down to find him, determined
to teach him a sound lesson, he was gone. But what use is there in my
enlarging on this subject? You cannot fail to see the danger I am in, and
the absolute imperative necessity for flight. Another day's
procrastination may be my undoing. Who knows what signal they are awaiting
to denounce me, and how many others may be implicated in my ruin? I must
get away from here; I must flee in absolute secrecy, and none of them must
be allowed to suspect where I am gone. You and Kosinski alone I can trust.
You alone must be in the secret of my flight. Will you help me, Isabel?"
and at this point Giannoli seized my hand, and then, overcome and unnerved
by excitement, he allowed his head to sink on to the table and sobbed
My head was fairly swimming by this time. How far was all this true? how
far the imaginings of an over-wrought, over-excited brain? However, the
immediate urgencies of the situation gave me no time to carefully weigh
the matter. I must either act or refuse to act, thereby leaving my friend
alone to his despair and possible ruin. I decided on the former course.
"I think that you exaggerate, Giannoli," I answered him. "You are ill and
over-wrought, and require rest and change. Get away from here by all means
if there is any danger in remaining, but do not take too gloomy a view of
the situation. I am at your disposal and willing to help you in every way
in my power. Tell me where you think of going, and what I can do. But in
the meantime, had we not better get supper somewhere, and discuss the
situation over a little reassuring food?"
This unheroic but practical suggestion met with poor Giannoli's
approbation, and he confessed to not having broken his fast all day. He
also seemed relieved at the prospect of leaving the vicinity of the office
where he was convinced that spies surrounded him, and having thanked and
re-thanked me over and over again for my proffered assistance, he led the
way down the ladder, and together we gained the street. I was horribly
shocked at the haggard strained look of the unfortunate Italian which the
clearer light down here revealed. He had aged ten years since his arrival.
We made our way towards a small restaurant in Soho frequented principally
by the lower order of _cocotte_, and here over a savoury but
inexpensive meal we discussed our plans.
"I can scarcely dare believe that this hell is coming to an end!"
exclaimed Giannoli. "The assurance of your sympathy is already lightening
my burden. I am beginning once more to take hope and courage! Oh, to have
at last left that awful den where night and day I have felt myself watched
by unseen treacherous eyes, and my every breath noted by my enemies! I
shall never put foot there again. You and Kosinski must get my things away
from there to-night, and to-morrow I leave London by the first continental
"Where do you purpose going?" I inquired.
"To South America, as soon as the arrival of funds will allow it, but,
this not being practicable for the moment, I propose going first to
Lisbon. There I will hide for a few weeks until I restart for Buenos
Ayres, and I trust that this will have the advantage of putting my
'friends' off the track. Even for this little voyage I do not at the
present moment possess the necessary funds, but in this you can no doubt
assist me, for in a few days I expect some thirty pounds from my relations
in Italy. If you will return to my room to-night you might rescue my
guitar and what few little objects of value I possess and pawn them, and
burn all papers and documents of any kind."
"You have left everything till rather late!" I could not help exclaiming,
not a little taken aback at the amount to be done, and at the rapidly
Supper over, I left Giannoli in Oxford Street, and made tracks for his
lodging, which by great good luck I reached without any obstruction. I
locked myself in, rescued a few papers of importance, burnt the rest, put
his scanty personal belongings together in a box which it had been agreed
I was subsequently to send Kosinski to fetch, and having secured his
guitar, a silver-handled umbrella, and two or three other articles of
small value, I proceeded with these to a neighbouring pawnbroker. I may
mention here that since my connection with the Anarchist movement, and its
consequent demands on my pocket, I had become quite familiar with the ins
and outs, and more especially the ins, of these most invaluable relatives.
I reached the side door of Mr. Isaac Jacob's establishment on the stroke
of eleven, but as Providence and would-be drunkards had mercifully
ordained that pawnbrokers should remain open later than usual on Saturday,
I was still able to effect an entrance. I laid my goods down on the
counter, and politely requested the temporary loan of 3 pounds. "Three
pounds for this damned lot of old rubbish," exclaimed the indignant Jew.
"Do you take this for a public charity? It's not worth fifteen shillings
to me, the whole lot!" and he turned the things over with his greasy
hands, as though they were objectionable offal. We finally compromised for
thirty-two shillings, with which sum in my pocket I triumphantly sallied
My next move was to disinter Kosinski, whom I felt pretty certain of
finding at a certain coffee-stall where, at that advanced hour, he was in
the habit of making his one and only diurnal, or rather nocturnal repast.
This coffee-stall was situated at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and a
side street, and there, sure enough, stood Kosinski, munching sardines on
toast, and buns, and drinking coffee, surrounded by a motley group of
cabmen and loose women. These had evidently grown used to his regular
attendance and treated him with marked respect and friendliness, many of
the unfortunate women having often had to thank him for a meal and the
price of a night's lodging when luck had failed them in other directions.
Kosinski was somewhat taken aback at my sudden appearance. "You, Isabel!"
he exclaimed in some confusion, "what can have brought you here? But may I
offer you a little supper? These buns are excellent!"
Tired and worried as I was, I could not help smiling at the awkward
manner in which he made this offer. "No, thank you," I answered, "I am not
hungry. I have come to fetch you in connection with a rather important
matter. Can you come with me when you have finished your supper?"
"Yes, certainly," answered Kosinski, "if there is anything I can do. Just
let me finish these few mouthfuls and I will follow you. In the meantime
will you explain what is the matter?"
Without further ado I explained to him the whole Giannoli affair as I
understood it. It was a relief to me to do so, and I was anxious to hear
his opinion. He was silent for some minutes after I had finished speaking,
and munched reflectively the last relics of his supper.
"I am afraid," he said at last, "that Giannoli is not quite well--not
quite well, mentally, I mean," he added after a slight pause. "At the same
time, it is quite possible that there is some truth in what he suspects.
Spies have always been abundant in our party and Giannoli is a very likely
victim. He has been imprudent in the past, too believing and too
foolhardy. I do not know very much about the men whom he primarily
suspects, but Gnecco certainly I believe to be above suspicion. In any
case it will be safer for him to leave.... I am ready now.... What can I
do? Where are you going?"
"Home, and to bed," I answered. "I have been on my feet all day and I am
very tired. Moreover, there is nothing that I can do till to-morrow."
I then explained to him what he was to do, where we were to meet on the
following morning, and where he could find Giannoli that night. He
acquiesced and we parted.
Early the following morning I found Giannoli and Kosinski, as
prearranged, awaiting my arrival under the bridge of Waterloo Station.
Both looked very washed out, with the fagged and pasty look of people who
have been up all night. They were strolling up and down, carrying
Giannoli's box between them, and making a fine but very obvious show of
indifference towards a policeman who eyed them suspiciously. "Here, move
on, you fellows," he was saying gruffly as I came up with them, and on
perceiving me they seemed glad enough to be able to do so.
"That stupid policeman wanted to arrest us as rogues and vagabonds,"
Kosinski explained to me as we made our way towards a neighbouring
coffee-shop for breakfast. "A pretty fix that would have been just now! We
had scarcely settled down for a quiet sleep on the box when the meddlesome
fool came up and asked our names and addresses, what we had there, what we
were doing at that hour, and threatened to take us in charge unless we
moved on. When I explained that we were simply waiting for our train he
laughed, and said that was a likely tale! If you had not come along and
thus confirmed our assertion that we expected a friend, I really believe
he would have arrested us."
"Well, is everything arranged?" I inquired as we settled down to our
breakfast. "How did you get on last night?"
"Oh, we have had nothing but mishaps and adventures all night," returned
Kosinski. "What a night! Thank goodness it is over at last. After you
left, towards one o'clock, I went off to Giannoli's room to fetch his box.
I confess that I felt a little nervous about this, for I dreaded an
encounter with that horrible Mrs. Wattles. She talks and talks and talks
to me whenever she sees me, and insists upon asking the most indelicate
questions. She is a perfect savage. But no matter; let me get on. As I
crawled upstairs, I heard her in her room abusing her poor husband in the
most disgusting terms. I held my breath and crept up. I found the trunk
right enough in the corner, though it was none too easy to find, as there
was no light in the room, and I was afraid of lighting even a match for
fear of attracting attention. But on the way down a terrible accident
occurred. My foot caught in a scrap of oilcloth at the top of the stairs,
just outside Mrs. Wattles's room, and I fell. Crash down the stairs went
the box, and I rattled after it. The noise, of course, brought Mrs.
Wattles screaming and swearing to the door. Then, bruised and bewildered
as I was, I seized on the box and fled. Down the remaining stairs, out
through the door, and into the street, I ran as for dear life. Oh I have
never run like that before, Isabel! I remember years ago, when escaping
from prison in Russia, my life depended on the efficiency of my legs. But
I did not run with such fervour as I ran last night from that woman. I
still feel unspeakably grateful when I think that I escaped without being
recognised. She raced down after me, but being half-drunk she fell in the
passage, and it was that which saved me.... I found Giannoli in Trafalgar
The remainder of the night they had spent peacefully enough, wandering
about the streets, occasionally being "moved on" by a policeman, until the
sceptical officer already referred to had evinced an intention of
arresting them both as rogues and vagabonds. I could not help smiling at
the peremptory manner in which poor Giannoli's adventures had almost been
brought to a conclusion.
I gave Giannoli the proceeds of the previous night's pawnings, and I and
Kosinski turned out on the table what money we had about us. It was just
sufficient to cover the expenses of the first stage of Giannoli's journey.
We proceeded--a quaint procession--to the station. Kosinski led the way
with head bent forward and even resolute tread, apparently untired and
unaffected by his night's vicissitudes, with the much battered box on his
shoulders. Behind him followed Giannoli and myself, the former nervous and
unstrung, constantly turning from right to left with the idea that we were
being followed. In the station, half deserted this Sunday morning, we had
another long wait. We talked of many things together, and I had never
found Kosinski so friendly and communicative before. There existed between
Giannoli and himself the keen sympathy and understanding of two men
equally devoted to an idea, equally willing to sacrifice everything to it.
The Russian was more of a philosopher than the Italian, more engrossed in
abstractions, more oblivious of his own personality, and this it was that
had saved him from the possibility of Giannoli's terrible malady. At the
same time he was by no means inclined to make light of Giannoli's fears,
and together they talked them over, Kosinski promising to investigate them
after his friend's departure, and to see if it was possible to discover
who was really at fault.
"No man can ever hold such threats over me," said Kosinski, "for I have
never taken any one into my confidence. I have always acted alone. Some
day it may fall to my lot to pay with my life for some action on behalf of
our ideas. When that moment comes I shall be ready for the sacrifice."
"I too," exclaimed Giannoli with fervour--"I too would not hesitate to
make the sacrifice if I felt the right moment had arrived. If to-morrow
--if at this very moment--I saw the means of advancing the Anarchist cause
by the sacrifice of my life, I would give it without regret or hesitation.
But to lose it for no purpose, before I have finished my work, to fall a
victim to the envy and treachery of my own comrades, and to involve others
in my own ruin, I cannot bear. When my time comes to die I wish to feel
that my death is at any rate of some use. There are moments when an
Anarchist can help his ideas on better by dying than by living. But for me
the moment is not yet quite ripe."
He then relapsed into silence, and the two friends sat together,
engrossed in their own reflections, without saying a word.
After a time Giannoli turned to me: "I will write to you as soon as I
reach Lisbon, Isabel, and let you know how I am getting on. There at least
I am little known, and I will stay with an old friend whose sincerity is
above suspicion--Avvocato Martini. You and Kosinski are the only two
persons whom I regret in leaving London. You have done more for me than I
can ever thank you for. You have saved my life, and although I do not
value life for itself, it may be of value to our Cause, and I hope yet to
give it for some good purpose. Give what explanation you think fit of my
disappearance. Above all, let no one suspect where I am gone."
The train left at ten o'clock. Giannoli was deeply affected at parting
from us, and as the train was about to leave he seized our hands and
embraced us. "Something tells me," he exclaimed, "that I shall never see
either of you again. Write to me sometimes and bear me in mind. Do not
believe any lies you may be told about me. I have only our principles at
heart. Good-bye," and the train steamed out of the station.
I remained alone with Kosinski. The hour was still quite early, and there
was much to be talked over together. "Let us go to some picture gallery,"
I suggested, "so as to talk things over and to settle what we are to give
out concerning Giannoli's disappearance."
"No, please, don't," answered the Russian in genuine alarm; "you know how
I hate art, Isabel. It goads me to madness. We must think of some other
We strolled out of the station together and wended our way across the
bridge and along the Strand, up by St. Martin's Church, and eventually
found ourselves close to old St. Giles's Churchyard. "Let us sit down
here," I said, indicating a seat; "I am tired of walking."
"It is little better than a picture gallery," murmured Kosinski, "but it
will do if you are tired," and we sat down. Kosinski advised me to feign
absolute ignorance of Giannoli's whereabouts and to set afloat the idea of
his having committed suicide. He asked me to let him know as soon as I
received news from the fugitive, and he, in the meantime, would
investigate the matter of the "conspiracy." As we parted he said to me:
"I am very glad, Isabel, that I have had to deal with you in this matter.
You may sometimes have thought me unduly harsh in my estimate of your sex.
I am not without reason in this. Women are rarely of much use in a
movement like ours. They so rarely seem able to forget _themselves_,
to detach themselves from the narrow interests of their own lives. They
are still the slaves of their past, of their passions, and of all manner
of prejudices. But you are different.... There have even been moments when
I felt that I had other things to say to you, things which it is better to
leave unsaid. I must not be guilty of the weakness which I condemn in
women. An Anarchist's life, you see, is scarcely his own. He has no time
to indulge in personal sentiment. Good-bye," and before I had time to
answer he was gone.
I returned home and spent the remainder of the day locked in my room,
absorbed in many conflicting thoughts. I was grieved beyond words at
Giannoli's trouble, at the possibility of foul play, at the almost more
grievous possibility of mental disorder in him. Then again and again
Kosinski's last words recurred to me, and I could not help reflecting
that, slight as they were, he had probably never said so much to any other
woman. I was compelled to admit to myself that the Russian, for all his
strange ideas and brusque manners, had grown to be a great deal to me. But
I felt that he was a hopeless case--the kind of man to whom personal
happiness was unknown, and who would succeed in rendering unhappy any one
rash enough to care for him. "How easy happiness might be," I reflected,
"with our ideas, with our freedom from prejudice. And yet it is these very
ideas which will ruin his life, which----" Half unconsciously I found that
my thoughts had been drifting from abstract ideas and abstract enthusiasms
to persons, and with this divorce from abstractions began a feeling of
weariness, of nausea. I thought of Kosinski's words again, of his contempt
for personal sentiment in an Anarchist, of what he had said about women;
and I struggled hard within myself to turn my thoughts into other
channels. It was useless, and at last, weary of the effort, I retired to
bed and took refuge in slumber.
During the following weeks I worked on fairly regularly at the
_Tocsin_ and saw Kosinski not unfrequently, on which occasions he
most carefully avoided any recurrence of personalities, however vague
these might be. Giannoli's disappearance created considerable commotion,
and every one was at a loss to imagine what could have become of him. My
relations with those Italians whom he had suspected were naturally very
strained and uncomfortable, for I did not know what to think of them, how
far to trust or mistrust them. Kosinski, as promised, investigated the
matter as carefully as he could, but the exact truth was difficult to
ascertain. Gnecco we neither of us for one instant suspected, but we felt
some degree of uncertainty about the others. Whether or no there had been
some amount of unclean work going on, it was anyway quite certain that a
great part of Giannoli's suspicions were the outcome of his overwrought
and exhausted mental condition.
About a fortnight after his departure I received at last a letter from
Giannoli. This consisted of a few words, written evidently in much hurry
and perturbation of spirit. He thanked me for the money from his
relatives, which I had forwarded, which would, he said, enable him to
leave at once for Argentina. "It has arrived in the very nick of time," he
wrote, "for here I am no longer safe. Avvocato Martini, of whom I spoke to
you in such high terms, is not to be trusted. He intercepts my letters,
and has, I believe, communicated with my enemies in London. Thank Heaven!
I am now able to get away. In South America I shall once more settle down
to the propaganda work, and I shall be out of the power of these
informers. My old friend, Giovanni Barelli, awaits me there. We shall live
together and life will once more become endurable. I am anxious to hear
from Kosinski. What is the result of his inquiries? My best love to him
and to you, dear friend, and again a thousand thanks to you both. I will
write at greater length from America."
I showed the letter to Kosinski. He read it through with a serious
expression. "I fear," he said, "that it is a case of hallucination, and
that there is but very slight foundation of truth to his suspicions. I
have looked into the matter and can see no adequate grounds for suspecting
the men whom he regarded as his enemies over here. Giannoli exaggerates
and distorts everything. I must write to him and try to reassure him about
this. I will tell him that he is mistaken. We cannot afford to lose such a
"Beware," I returned half in jest--"beware, lest you too fall under his
"Oh, there is no fear of that," answered Kosinski with assurance. "He
knows me too well. I am the oldest friend he has. I can and must tell him
Kosinski wrote, and the weeks passed on. A month after Giannoli's arrival
in Buenos Ayres I received another letter from him. Once again he declared
that he was not safe, that he must take flight. Barelli, of whom he had
always spoken with the most brotherly affection, had turned against him.
He and other false comrades had entered into a plot to murder him, and at
the time of writing he had fled from their ken and was in hiding in some
remote and populous district, awaiting the arrival of money which would
enable him to return to Europe. Then, later on, there arrived another
letter from Lisbon, disconnected in matter, shaky in writing, full of the
wildest and most improbable statements.
"I feel like a hunted animal," he wrote; "I have been driven about from
pillar to post, from one end of the civilised world to another. I am
growing very weary of all this, and am trying to devise how to terminate a
situation which is growing intolerable. Here I am again in hiding, and
dare not venture from my lair till the dead of night. What money I had is
almost at an end. My clothes are falling off my back. I have not changed
my linen for weeks, having forgotten my old valise in my hurried departure
from Buenos Ayres. My health is failing, and I feel utterly helpless and
wretched. You would be horrified if you could see me now. I am ill, and at
night I can get no sleep. Every moment I expect them to break in, murder
me, and seize my papers. Those devils from Buenos Ayres are already on my
track. I have not heard from Kosinski. His letter has no doubt been
intercepted. As soon as possible I shall proceed to Gibraltar. I am
thinking out a plan to end all this. _Do you understand?_"
Some weeks later I received from Gibraltar a letter in which Giannoli
informed me that yet once more he was compelled to abscond himself,
further plottings against him rendering this necessary. He had been
seriously ill, he wrote, and his strength was quite giving out. He was, at
the time of writing, on the eve of departure for Barcelona, where he was
determined "to end it all." He had at last received Kosinski's letter, and
would write at greater length from Barcelona. He warned me to beware of
These last sentences troubled me very much. What could it all mean? What
was impending? And Kosinski; did he doubt _him_ too?
But this state of uncertainty as to his meaning was destined to be but of
short duration. Barely a week had elapsed since my receipt of the above
letter when, as I stood alone in the composing-room one morning, I was
surprised to see the figure of an unknown man appear above the balustrade
leading from below. He was evidently a foreigner and a Southerner, and
walking straight up to me he asked in Italian, but with a distinct Spanish
accent, "Are you Isabel Meredith?"
On my answering in the affirmative, he handed me a sealed note on which
was written my name in Giannoli's familiar hand.
"This is for you," he said, "I bring it direct from Barcelona. It is
strictly private. Good morning," and as mysteriously as he had appeared he
Even before opening it, the shaky writing on the envelope told me only
too eloquently that matters were no better with Giannoli at the time he
penned it. Moreover, I felt certain, from the extraordinary nature of its
delivery, that it must contain news of exceptional moment. A dull, sick
feeling of dread overcame me as I stood irresolute, holding the unopened
letter in my hand. I was tempted to put it aside and postpone the
knowledge of any unpleasant news it might contain. I knew this, however,
to be a weakness, and so with an effort I tore it open. It read as
"DEAREST FRIEND,--This is a letter which it would be unsafe to consign to
the post. Therefore I send it to you by hand, by means of an old friend
who can be trusted. He is not a comrade, and has no knowledge of its
contents. A few days back I wrote to you from Gibraltar, telling you of
the serious break-down in my health, and of the circumstances which had
compelled me once again to leave Lisbon. Now, at last, I feel in a measure
more composed, for my resolution is taken, and I mean to end my life--not
without benefit to our Cause, I hope. You are the only person with whom I
am communicating. Even Kosinski has been bought over by my enemies. A
letter from him was forwarded to me in Lisbon, in which he sided with the
spies who have been trying to ruin me, and which contained covert threats
which I understood only too well. Thus another illusion is shattered! The
burden of all these disillusions, all these disgusts and disappointments,
is too heavy to bear any longer. I must get away from it all before my
health and intellect are completely shattered. I have always thought
suicide a cowardly death for an Anarchist. Before taking leave of life it
is his duty to strike a final blow at Society and I, at least, mean to
strike it. Here the moment is in every way ripe. Ever since the explosion
in Madrid, eight months ago, the Anarchists have been the victims of the
most savage persecutions. I have seen one man with his nails torn off, and
another raving mad with thirst, after having been kept without water, and
fed on salt cod during sixty hours. Others have been tortured in prison in
other ways--some tortures so vile and filthy that I would not tell you of
them. I write this in order to show you that the moment is ripe here for
some vigorous act of reprisal. It is impossible to strike a blow at all
those who are responsible, for the whole of Society is to blame: but those
most guilty must suffer for it. I am prepared to strike my final blow
before I take my leave, and you will learn from the papers in a few days'
time the exact nature of the act I contemplate.
"And now I must beg you to pardon me for all the trouble and disturbance
I have occasioned you, dear friend; I can never thank you enough. You, and
you alone, have been true to me. For your own sake, I entreat you also to
beware of false friends--especially avoid Kosinski.----Yours ever,
The flight of Giannoli, and all the worry and turmoil occasioned thereby,
told on my health. I did not admit as much to myself, and I still kept on
at the paper as usual through the very thick of it all. For one thing,
this was necessary in order not to arouse the curiosity of many of the
comrades, and moreover there is no doubt that whatever line of life we may
adopt we gradually become the creatures of our habits, however much we may
scoff at such a notion. Thus, though I had grown out of the first stage of
youthful enthusiasm when I revelled in squalor and discomfort, and
sincerely believed myself to be one of the hubs round which the future
Revolution and the redemption of mankind circled, and though experience
had opened my eyes to much that was unlovely, and not a little which was
despicable, in my associates, still I stuck at my post and continued my
work on the paper.
On arriving at the office towards nine every morning, my first task was
to get Short out of pawn in the neighbouring coffee-shop, where he retired
--regardless of the fact that his pockets were but capacious vacuums--in
order to regale himself on shop eggs and fly-blown pastry, and where his
person was detained as a pledge till my purse redeemed him.
I would then work away, "dissing" or "comping," "locking up forms," or
writing a "leader," till some of the Italians, keenly alive to their
ownership of stomachs, would call me off to partake of a Milanese
_minestra_, or to pronounce on the excellencies of a mess of
_polenta_. Then would follow an hour devoted to digestion and talk,
when Short, if in a bad temper, would smoke abominable shag, and raise the
bowl of his clay pipe into quite perilous proximity with his eyebrows, and
if genially inclined, would entertain some one member of the company to
dark tales and fearsome hints as to the depraved habits and questionable
sincerity of his or her dearest friend.
He had of late developed a great interest in my welfare, and Kosinski had
been his special butt. He had always hated the latter on account of his
vast moral superiority to himself, and seemed specially desirous of
discrediting him in my eyes. The Russian came pretty frequently to the
office during the months following on Giannoli's disappearance. He was
always singularly uncommunicative about his own concerns; his intimate
friends were not aware of his address; how he lived or what his home life
was none seemed to know; and, indeed, he was one of those men who, without
ever saying a word to that effect, make one feel that their private life
is no concern of any one but themselves. Short, however, hinted at things
he _could_ say if he _would_, spoke in general terms of the
disgracefulness of exploiting the affections of women, referred in an
undertone to "that Kosinski's" luck, adding that, of course, one had a
right to act according to one's inclination, still Anarchists should set
an example, &c., &c. I, of course, took such observations at their true
value; I knew Short and Kosinski too well to give two thoughts to the
matter. Still when, on top of all this mysterious talk, I received
Giannoli's letter, in which he spoke of his folly in trusting his supposed
friend, and accused him of being neither more nor less than an agent in
the hands of the International police, I felt my brain whirl, and really
wondered whether I was the sole sane person in a mad world, or whether the
reverse were not the case.
It was now some weeks since I had last seen Dr. Armitage. He had written
to explain his absence, alleging stress of work, in which I readily
believed; for though I knew his regular practice had been much neglected
during the preceding year, I also knew that there was not an Anarchist
within twenty miles who did not expect him to attend on himself and family
when in illness or trouble, an obligation with which the doctor willingly
complied, though not only did he take no fees, but generally had to
provide the patients with all their creature comforts. No sort of change
had occurred in our relations to each other, but lately he had seemed more
than ever preoccupied, absorbed in the propaganda, ever devising new plans
for spreading the "movement." He seemed less and less inclined to keep up
his West End connection, and confessed that he had but scant patience
wherewith to listen to the polite ailments and sentimental troubles of
fashionable ladies. He had given much time to the _Tocsin,_ writing
many really remarkable papers for it, but lately, since Kosinski had come
more to the front, and I had been so much taken up with Giannoli's
affairs, he had, perhaps intentionally, kept more away from the office.
It was with a feeling of real pleasure that I saw him enter at last one
Saturday evening early in April. I had been feeling tired and depressed,
and only by an effort of will had I kept myself at my work. I was struck
at the change that a few weeks had wrought in the doctor's appearance. His
hair had grown unusually long, quite noticeably so, his tall figure was
somewhat bent, and there was an unusual appearance about his dress. He had
not yet cast aside the garb of civilisation, but his trousers evinced a
tendency to shrink, and he appeared to contemplate affecting low necks in
the matter of shirts. His feet were shod in sandals of a peculiar make,
and there was a feverish look in his eyes. As he came towards me his
characteristic kindly smile lit up his drawn features, and he grasped my
hand with friendly warmth. I was delighted to see him, but somewhat
shocked at the alteration in his looks. In answer to my inquiries as to
his prolonged absence, he explained that he had been very busy for one
thing, and that he had also been much preoccupied with his own thoughts on
questions of principle and propaganda.
"You know, Isabel," he said, "my habit of silence when confronted by
mental problems. I think I must belong to the race of ruminating animals,
and it is only by quietly chewing the cud of my ideas that I can digest
and assimilate them. It used to be just the same in my student days, and
doubtless the habit will stick to me through life. When I have once
thought out a point, and settled in my own mind on the right course of
action, I am not as a rule troubled by hesitation or doubts, and then I
like to talk and discuss, but the initial stage seems to need solitude.
Besides, I know you have been very much taken up of late months. I have
seen Kosinski sometimes, and had your news from him. You are not looking
well; you must have been overtaxing your strength, and need a rest."
"Doctor, cure yourself, I might well say," I rejoined. "There is nothing
much amiss with me. I am a little fagged perhaps, nothing more. But you
look very much run down. I am sure you have been neglecting yourself very
much of late."
"Oh, no, on the contrary," replied the doctor, "I have been giving much
thought lately to food and dress reform in their bearings on the social
question, and I have been putting some of my ideas into practice in my own
person. I have never felt in better health. All superfluous fat has been
got rid of, and my mind feels singularly lucid and clear. I have been
going on quite long rounds propagandising, often walking as much as twenty
and thirty miles a day, and, thanks to my somewhat more rational dress and
to my diet of raw oatmeal and fresh fruit, I have found no difficulty in
so doing. But will you not come for a walk with me? It is a beautiful
evening, and here the atmosphere is so close and stuffy. Do come, I should
so enjoy a quiet talk with you. I have much I want to say to you, and I
have come this evening in the hope of an opportunity to say it."
I agreed, and we sallied forth. At the entrance to the courtyard we
encountered Mrs. Wattles holding forth to a group of gossips amongst whom
stood Short (for no scandal-mongering was too trivial to interest him), on
the disappearance of Giannoli from her house and her suppositions as to
his fate--a theme of which she never wearied. I managed to slip by without
attracting her attention, so absorbed was she with the enthralling
mystery, only to find myself in for another almost worse danger. For there
at the corner of P. Street and the Euston Road stood the Bleeding Lamb,
surrounded by a hooting and uproarious crowd. He had, it appeared,
interrupted the Gospel-preaching of the Rev. Melchisedek Hicks with some
inappropriate inquiry as to the probable whereabouts of Nelson on the
resurrection day. This was considered irreverent by the admirers of the
Rev. Hicks, who forthwith began to jibe and jeer at the Bleeding Lamb,
who, in his turn, exchanging the meekness of the traditional victim for
the righteous indignation of a prophet misjudged, had volleyed a torrent
of abuse on all present, consigning them unconditionally to hell-fire. As
Armitage and I neared the scene a constable was taking the names and
addresses of all concerned, and was manifesting his intention of marching
off the poor Lamb to durance vile.
Armitage took in the situation at a glance, and, hurrying up, addressed
the man in blue. "I know this man very well, officer," he said in an
authoritative voice. "I can answer that he gives his name and address
correctly; there is no need to arrest him."
"And who are _you?_ I should like to know," inquired the irate
policeman; "I think I can answer for your address, Colney Hatch ain't far
off the mark."
"This is my card," answered the doctor, handing one over to the constable
with a dignified gesture. The latter seemed somewhat impressed and taken
aback, and after grumbling some remarks in an undertone and eyeing the
Lamb in a suspicious and unconvinced manner, he told him to be off sharp
if he did not wish to find himself in the cells, and then vented his
spleen and unappeased zeal on behalf of his country by cuffing, shoving
and abusing the corner-boys who had assembled to witness the fun. We
availed ourselves of the consequent confusion to make good our escape,
dodging the Lamb, who manifested an intention of coming along with us; and
soon we found ourselves, thanks to a penny tram fare, in fresher, cleaner
quarters. We got down at the corner of Parliament Hill. The sun had just
set and the clear spring twilight lent a wonderful charm of serene peace
to the scene. The undulating expanse of Heath was growing darker and
darker; in the west still lingered the last sunset hues of pink and
saffron and green; and overhead in the deep blackening blue of night the
stars were just becoming visible. We had strolled on in silence for some
time, hushed by the solemn stillness of the evening. At last Dr. Armitage
exclaimed, "Ah, Isabel, how I sometimes long for rest and peace, and sweet
wholesome surroundings! How beautiful life might be passed with a
companion such as you. The earth is beautiful, man is naturally good; why
cannot we all be happy?"
I was a little taken aback at the doctor's remark, though I had half
expected something of the sort. During the early months of my Anarchist
career, when battling with the first difficulties of starting the
_Tocsin_, we had been so constantly together that we had got into a
way of divining each other's thoughts and feelings almost without the need
of words. We never thought or talked of anything but abstract questions of
principle or the immediate needs of the propaganda, yet, as was only
natural, an undercurrent of personal sympathy had sprung up between us
which I had felt to be somewhat more pronounced on the doctor's side than
on my own. However, with him, excess of emotion always manifested itself
in renewed and redoubled zeal for the propaganda, leading him to elaborate
some quite extraordinary schemes for advancing the Cause, such as, for
instance, supplementing his daily work by keeping a coffee-stall at night,
as he considered that such a plan would afford an excellent opportunity
for quiet personal argument and for the distribution of literature to
probable converts; so that he had never broached personalities in any
definite style. Then events had followed on one another with surprising
rapidity; the advent of the Italian refugees had contributed to change the
_personnel_ if not the principles of the _Tocsin_; a common
friendship for Giannoli had brought Kosinski and myself more together and
I had, always had a decided sympathy for the Russian, increased perhaps by
the instinctive feeling that if there were one man who would refuse to
budge one inch from his principles for a woman that man was he. I seemed
to have lived ages, my character was developing, a sense of humour was
gradually modifying my views of many matters, and during these last few
months Armitage and I had drifted somewhat apart.
There was something pathetic in his voice that night as he spoke. His
whole appearance told me that he had been passing through an acute mental
and moral crisis, and a queer feeling came over me which seemed to warn me
that something irreparable was about to take place between us. I felt deep
sympathy for this noble nature struggling for the ideal in a world all out
of gear; so thoroughly unselfish and self-sacrificing as hardly to grasp
clearly the personal side of its sufferings, and slowly and unconsciously,
in its very effort to free itself from material trammels, falling a victim
to monomania--striving too high only to fall in a world where the sublime
is divided by but a step from the ridiculous, and where all are capable of
laughing and sneering, but few indeed of appreciating qualities such as
"We might well ask 'what is happiness?'" I rejoined in answer to his
remark, anxious to steer the conversation clear of personalities. "How
vain and trivial all our struggles seem whenever we find ourselves face to
face with the serene indifference of Nature. What are we, after all, but
fretful midges whizzing out our brief hour?"
"Ah, one is often tempted to think so," answered Armitage--and I confess
that I gave vent to a sigh of relief as I realised that he was now started
on a discussion--"but as long as injustice prevails we must continue the
struggle. I often long for rest, silence, oblivion; but the mood passes
and I awake more keenly alive than ever to the greatness of our Cause, and
our duty toward the propaganda. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with
our devotion to it, and, what is more, Isabel, we must strive to live in
such a way as to free ourselves from all considerations that might hamper
our action on its behalf. We must simplify our lives; we must not neglect
to set an example even in small matters. The material claims of life
absorb far too much of our time. We are constantly selling our birthright
for a mess of pottage. We shall never be truly devoted propagandists till
we have freed ourselves from all care for the morrow."
"You are right," said I, "but such ideas may be carried to an excess. We
must live our lives; and as that is so we must attend more or less to our
"That I do not deny, Isabel," answered the doctor; "what I aim at is to
simplify them as much as possible. Thanks to my new diet I shall never
have to waste time to procure the wherewithal to fill my stomach. Nuts and
raw fruit are easily procured, and contain all the elements essential to
physical health. I am sure you will agree with me on this point when you
have considered it at length. Then again in the matter of dress, what
could be more hateful or harmful than our modern costume? It is awful to
think of the lives wasted in useless toil to produce the means by which a
so-called man of fashion contrives to make himself hideous and ridiculous
in the eyes of all sensible people. Besides there is no doubt that we are
all the creatures of our surroundings, and so the influence of food and
dress on character must be inestimable."
"Oh, doctor, do not harp so on this dress and food question!" I could not
help exclaiming. "Really, seriously, I think you have let your mind run
somewhat too much in a groove lately. Talk of vegetarianism and dress
reform! why, what you need, it seems to me, is a steak at the Holborn and
a starched shirt collar! Seriously, it grieves me to think that you should
be giving yourself up so entirely to such notions. I consider you could do
far more good to the Cause by keeping up your practice, pursuing your
studies, and working on the lines you used to be so successful in."
Hardly had I spoken than I regretted the hastiness of my remark. I could
see at a glance that my friend was pained, more at feeling that I was out
of sympathy with him than at my actual words. He suggested that we should
turn homewards. We were nearing Fitzroy Square when he exclaimed--
"You know, Isabel, that I have always had a great admiration for you. I
have thought you would prove one of the great figures of the coming
Revolution; I still think so, but I see that our ways are parting. You
laugh at me; yet I feel sure that my position is right. I am sorry I have
not your sympathy in my work. I had counted on it; I had come this evening
to tell you so. Perhaps some day you will understand my views and agree
with them. Till then, good-bye. I am due at a comrade's house at
Willesden; he is going in for the No Rent Campaign, and I have promised to
help him move to-night, but first I must go home and get out of these
cumbersome clothes into a more rational dress; coats and trousers impede
one's every thought and movement. Good-bye," and he grasped my hand and
was off, walking with a rapid, almost feverish stride.
On reaching home the servant informed me that a gentleman had called for
me, and that on hearing I was out he had expressed his intention of
returning. The girl could not remember his name, but I gathered from her
description that he was a foreigner.
Just then a ring at the door interrupted her remarks, and I was surprised
to see Kosinski enter the room. He walked straight up to me with an
unwonted look of perturbation about him.
"Could you come with me at once?" he said in low, hurried tones.
"Where?" said I, feeling quite alarmed. "What is the matter?"
"With me, to my room. I need the help of some woman, but there is no time
to waste. I will explain _en route_. Will you come?"
"Certainly, at once," and I walked out with him.
I had not chanced to see him since Giannoli's last letter in which he was
denounced as belonging to the ranks of the Italian's false friends, since
when I had only heard the insinuations of Short, which, as can easily be
imagined, had not deeply impressed me, coming from such a quarter. Still I
should not have been surprised had I felt a momentary embarrassment at
finding myself suddenly in his company, and under such decidedly unusual
circumstances, but such was not the case. No one could look into
Kosinski's steady grey eyes and earnest face, pale with the inward fire of
enthusiasm, and not feel conscious of standing face to face with one of
those rare natures who have dedicated themselves, body and soul, to the
service of an ideal. I walked on hurriedly, keeping up with his swinging
stride, wondering where we were going, but not liking to break in on his
reserve by probing questions. Suddenly he seemed to wake to a sense of
reality, and turned sharply round to me.
"We are going to my room in Hammersmith," he said. "I want your
assistance, if you care to come; there is a woman there dying, a friend of
mine. You are the only person of whom I should care to ask such a favour.
Will you come? I hardly think it will be for many hours."
So then Short was right; there was a woman at the bottom of Kosinski's
life; and simultaneously with this idea there flashed across my brain a
feeling of shame at having for one instant entertained a mean thought of
my friend. "I will come," I answered; "you did well to count on my
friendship." We hurried on for several minutes in silence. Then again
"I had best tell you a little how matters stand," he said. "I am not fond
of talking about private concerns, but you have a right to know. Eudoxia
has lived with me for the past two years. I brought her over with me from
America. She has been suffering with consumption all this while, and I do
not think she will last the night."
"Is she a comrade?" I ventured to inquire.
"Oh, no. She hates Anarchists; she hates me. It will be a blessing to
herself when she is laid to rest at last. She was the wife of my dearest
friend, perhaps my only friend outside the Cause. Vassili had a great
intellect, but his character was weak in some respects. He was full of
noble ambitions; he had one of the most powerful minds I have known, a
quite extraordinary faculty for grasping abstract ideas. I was first drawn
towards him by hearing him argue at a students' meeting. He was
maintaining a fatalistic paradox: the total uselessness of effort, and the
vanity of all our distinctions between good and bad. All our acts, he
argued, are the outcome of circumstances over which we have no control;
consequently the man who betrays his best friend for interested motives,
and the patriot who sacrifices happiness and life for an idea are morally
on the same footing--both seek their own satisfaction, aiming at that goal
by different paths; both by so doing obey a blind impulse. I joined in the
argument, opposing him, and we kept the ball going till 4 A.M. He walked
with me to my lodgings and slept on a rug on the floor, and we became fast
friends. But though his mind was strong, he was swayed by sensual
passions. He married young, burdening himself with the responsibility of a
woman and family, and went the way of all who do so. He would have lost
himself entirely in the meshes of a merely animal life; he seemed even to
contemplate with satisfaction the prospect of begetting children! But I
could not stand by and witness the moral degradation of my poor friend. I
kept him intellectually alive, and when once stimulated to mental
activity, no one was ever more logical, more uncompromising than he. Soon
after my imprisonment he got implicated in a conspiracy and had to flee to
America. When I arrived there after my escape I found him in the most
abject condition. His wife, Eudoxia, was ill with the germs of the disease
which is now killing her, and was constantly railing at him as the cause
of their misfortune, urging him to make a full confession and throw
himself on the mercy of the Russian authorities. Poor thing! she was ill;
she had had to leave behind her only child, and news had come of its
death. Vassili would never have done anything base, but he had not
sufficient strength of character to rise superior to circumstances.
Another weak trait in him was his keen sensibility to beauty. It was not
so much the discomfort as the ugliness of poverty which irked him. I have
always noted the deteriorating effect art has on the character in such
respects. He was grieved at his wife's illness, goaded to desperation by
her reproaches, sickened by the squalor of his surroundings, and instead
of turning his thoughts inwards and drawing renewed strength and
resolution from the spectacle of the sufferings caused by our false
morality and false society, he gave way completely and took to drink. When
I found him in New York he was indeed a wreck. He and his wife were living
in a filthy garret in the Bowery; he had nothing to do, and had retired
permanently on to a rotten old paillasse which lay in a corner; his
clothes were in pawn; he could not go out. Eudoxia earned a few cents
daily by slaving at the wash-tub, and most of this he spent in getting
drunk on vile, cheap spirits. When he saw me arrive he railed at me as the
cause of all his woes; blamed me for having dragged him on to actions he
should never have done if left to himself; and pointing to his wife and to
the squalid room, he exclaimed, 'See the results of struggling for a
higher life.' Eudoxia, for her part, hated me, declaring that I was
responsible for her husband's ruin, and that, not content with making his
life a hell on earth, I was consigning his soul to eternal perdition. Then
Vassili would burst into maudlin tears and weep over his own degeneracy,
saying that I was his only true friend. I grieved at the decay of a fine
mind; there was no hope now for him; I could only wish that his body might
soon too dissolve. I gave him what little help I could, and he soon drank
himself to death. I was with him at the last. He seemed overcome by a
great wave of pity for himself, spoke tearfully of the might-have-beens,
blamed me for having urged him to deeds beyond his strength, and ended by
exclaiming that he could not even die in peace, as he did not know what
would become of his poor wife, whose strength was already rapidly failing.
'I am leaving her friendless and penniless. I dragged her away from a
comfortable home, promising her happiness. She has had to sacrifice her
only child to my safety, and now, prematurely old, soured by misfortune
and illness, I am abandoning her to fight for herself. She is my victim
and yours, the victim of our ideas; it is your duty to look after her.' I
promised him so to do, and she has been with me ever since."
I had walked on, absorbed in the interest of his tale, heedless of the
distance we were covering, and now I noticed that we were already skirting
Hyde Park, and reflected that our destination must still be far ahead.
"As your friend is so ill had we not better take the 'bus? You said we
were going to Hammersmith, and there is still quite a long walk ahead of
us," I suggested after a few minutes.
"Oh, are you tired?" he inquired; "I ought to have thought of it. I
always walk." I noticed that his hand strayed into the obviously empty
pocket of his inseparable blue overcoat, and a worried look came into his
face. I at once realised that he had not a penny on him, and deeply
regretted my remark. Not for worlds would I have suggested to him paying
the fares myself, which I should have thought nothing of doing with most
of the others.
"Oh, it was not for me," I hastened to rejoin, "I am not in the least
tired; I only thought it would be quicker, but after all we must now be
near," and I brisked up my pace, though I felt, I confess, more than a
Again we trudged on, absorbed in our thoughts. At last, to break the
silence I inquired of him if he had seen Armitage lately.
"It must be quite ten days now since I last saw him at a group-meeting of
the Jewish Comrades. I fear he is developing a failing common to many of
you English Anarchists; he is becoming something of a crank. He talked to
me a lot about vegetarianism and such matters. It would be a thousand
pities were he to lose himself on such a track, for he has both intellect
and character. He is unswerving where principle is at stake; let's trust
he will not lose sight of large aims to strive at minor details."
Again a silence fell on us. My companion was evidently reviewing his
past; my brain was occupied in blindly searching the future; what would
become of us all? Kosinski, Armitage, myself? Vassili's words, "This is
the result of struggling for a higher life," haunted me. Should we after
all only succeed in making our own unhappiness, in sacrificing the weak to
our uncompromising theories, and all this without advancing the cause of
humanity one jot? The vague doubts and hesitations of the past few weeks
seemed crystallising. I was beginning to mount the Calvary of doubt.
After a quarter of an hour Kosinski exclaimed: "Here we are. You must not
be taken aback, Isabel, if you get but scant thanks for your kindness.
Eudoxia is not well disposed towards our ideas; she looks upon her life
with me as the last and bitterest act in the tragedy of her existence.
Poor thing, I have done what I could for her, but I understand her point
Without further ado we proceeded along the passage and up the mean wooden
staircase of a third-rate suburban house, pushing past a litter of
nondescript infancy, till we stopped before a back room on the top floor.
As Kosinski turned the door handle a woman stepped forward with her finger
to her lips. "Oh, thank Gawd, you're here at last," she said in a whisper,
"your sister's been awful bad, but she's just dozed off now. I'll go to my
husband; he'll be in soon now."
"Thanks, Mrs. Day. I need not trouble you further. My friend has come to
The landlady eyed me with scant favour and walked off, bidding us
The room was of a fair size for the style of dwelling and was divided in
two by a long paper screen. The first half was evidently Kosinski's, and
as far as I could see by the dim light, was one litter of papers, with a
mattress on the floor in a corner. We walked past the screen; and the
guttering candle, stuck in an old ginger-beer bottle, allowed me to see a
bed in which lay the dying woman. There was also a table on which stood
some medicine bottles, a jug of milk, and a glass; an armchair of frowsy
aspect, and two cane chairs. The unwashed boards were bare, the room
unattractive to a degree, still an awkward attempt at order was
noticeable. I stepped over to the bed and gazed on its occupant. Eudoxia
was a thin gaunt woman of some thirty-five years of age. Her clustering
golden hair streaked with grey; small, plaintive mouth, and clear skin
showed that she might have been pretty; but the drawn features and closed
eyelids bore the stamp of unutterable weariness, and a querulous
expression hovered round her mouth. The rigid folds of the scanty
bedclothes told of her woeful thinness, and the frail transparent hands
grasped convulsively at the coverlet. As I gazed at her, tears welled into
my eyes. She looked so small, so transient, yet bore the traces of such
mental and physical anguish. After a moment or two she slowly opened her
eyes, gazed vacantly at me without apparently realising my presence, and
in a feeble, plaintive voice made some remark in Russian. Kosinski was at
her side immediately and answered her in soothing tones, evidently
pointing out my presence. The woman fixed on me her large eyes, luminous
with fever. I stepped nearer. "Is there anything I can do for you?" I
inquired in French. "No one can do anything for me except God and the
blessed Virgin," she replied peevishly, "and they are punishing me for my
sins. Yes, for my sins," she went on, raising her voice and speaking in a
rambling delirious way, "because I have consorted with infidels and
blasphemers. Vassili was good to me; we were happy with our little Ivan,
till that devil came along. He ruined Vassili, body and soul; he killed
our child; he has lost me. I have sold myself to the devil, for have I not
lived for the past two years on his charity? And you," she continued,
turning her glittering eyes on me, "beware, he will ruin you too; he has
no heart, no religion; he cares for nothing, for nobody, except his cruel
principles. You love him, I see you do; it is in your every movement, but
beware; he will trample on your heart, he will sacrifice you, throw you
aside as worthless, as he did with Vassili, who looked upon him as his
dearest friend. Beware!" and she sank back exhausted on the pillows, her
eyes turned up under her eyelids, a slight froth tinged with blood
trickling down the corners of her mouth.
I was transfixed with horror; I knew not what to say, what to do. I put
my hand soothingly on her poor fevered brow, and held a little water to
her lips. Then my eyes sought Kosinski. He was standing in the shadow, a
look of intense pain in his eyes and on his brow, and I knew what he must
be suffering at that moment. I walked up to him and grasped his hand in
silent sympathy; he returned the pressure, and for a moment I felt almost
happy in sharing his sorrow. We stood watching in silence; at regular
intervals the church chimes told us that the hours were passing and the
long night gradually drawing to its close. Half-past three, a quarter to
four, four; still the heavy rattling breath told us that the struggle
between life and death had not yet ceased. At last the dying woman heaved
a deep sigh, she opened her wide, staring eyes and raised her hand as if
to summon some one. Kosinski stepped forward, but she waved him off and
looked at me. "I have not a friend in the world," she gasped; "you shall
be my friend. Hold my hand and pray for me." I knelt by her side and did
as I was bid. Never had I prayed since I could remember, but at that
supreme moment a Latin prayer learned in my infancy at my mother's knee
came back to me; Kosinski turned his face to the wall and stood with bowed
shoulders. As the words fell from my lips the dying woman clutched my hand
convulsively and murmured some words in Russian. Then her grasp loosened.
I raised my eyes to her face, and saw that all was over. My strained
nerves gave way, and I sobbed convulsively. Kosinski was at my side.
"Poor thing, poor thing!" I heard him murmur. He laid his hand
caressingly on my shoulder. The candle was flaring itself out, and
everything assumed a ghastly blue tint as the first chill light of dawn,
previous to sunrise, stole into the room. I rose to my feet and went over
to the window. How cold and unsympathetic everything looked! I felt
chilly, and a cold shudder ran down my limbs. Absolute silence prevailed,
in the street, in the house, in the room, where lay the dead woman staring
fixedly before her. Kosinski had sunk into a chair, his head between his
hands. I looked at him in silence and bit my lip. An unaccustomed feeling
of revolt was springing up in me. I could not and did not attempt to
analyse my feelings, only I felt a blind unreasoning anger with existence.
How stupid, how objectless it all seemed! The church clock rung out the
hour, five o'clock. Kosinski rose, he walked to the bedside, and closed
poor Eudoxia's staring eyes, and drew the sheet over her face. Then he
came over to me.
"I shall never forget your kindness, Isabel. There is yet one thing I
will ask of you; I know that Eudoxia wanted a mass to be said for her and
Vassili; will you see about carrying out this wish of hers? I cannot give
you the money to pay for it; I have not got it."
I nodded in silent consent.
He paused a few minutes. He seemed anxious to speak, yet hesitated; at
last he said, "I am leaving London, Isabel, I can do nothing here, and I
have received letters from comrades in Austria telling me that there
things are ripe for the Revolution."
I started violently: "You are leaving! Leaving London?" I stammered.
"Yes, I shall be able to do better work elsewhere."
I turned suddenly on him.
"And so you mean to say that we are to part? Thus? now? for ever?" A
pained look came into his eyes. He seemed to shrink from personalities.
"No," I continued rapidly, "I will, I must speak. Why should we ruin our
lives? To what idol of our own creation are we sacrificing our happiness?
We Anarchists are always talking of the rights of the individual, why are
you deliberately sacrificing your personal happiness, and mine? The dead
woman was right; I love you, and I know that you love me. Our future shall
not be ruined by a misunderstanding. Now I have spoken, you must answer,
and your answer must be final."
I looked at him whilst the words involuntarily rushed from my lips, and
even before I had finished speaking, I knew what his answer would be.
"An Anarchist's life is not his own. Friendship, comradeship may be
helpful, but family ties are fatal; you have seen what they did for my
poor friend. Ever since I was fifteen I have lived solely for the Cause;
you are mistaken in thinking that I love you in the way you imply. I
thought of you as a comrade, and loved you as such."
I had quite regained my self-possession. "Enough," I said, interrupting
him. "I do not regret my words; they have made everything clear to me. You
are of the invincibles, Kosinski; you are strong with the strength of the
fanatic; and I think you will be happy too. You will never turn to
contemplate regretfully the ashes of your existence and say as did your
friend, 'See the result of struggling for a higher life!' You do not, you
cannot see that you are a slave to your conception of freedom, more