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In the Wilderness by Robert Hichens

Part 15 out of 15

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Tears started into his eyes. He was afraid of that voice and yet his
whole being longed desperately to hear it again. The knowledge that
Rosamund was here in Constantinople, very near to him--how it had
changed the whole city for him! Every light that gleamed, every sound
that rose up, seemed to hold for him a terrible vital meaning. And he
knew that all the time he had been living in Constantinople it had
been to him a horrible city of roaring emptiness, and he knew that
now, in a moment, it had become the true center of the world. He was
amazed and he was horrified by the power and intensity of the love
within him. In this moment he knew it for an undying thing. Nothing
could kill it, no act of Rosamund's, no act of his. Even lust had not
suffocated the purity of it, even satiety of the flesh had not
lessened the yearning of it, or availed to deprive it of its ardent
simplicity, of its ideal character. In it there was still the child
with his wonder, the boy with his stirring aspirations towards life,
the man with his full-grown passion. He had sought to kill it and he
had not even touched it. He knew that now and was shaken by the
knowledge. Where did it dwell then, this thing that governed him and
that he could not break? He longed to get at it, to seize it, hold it
to some fierce light, examine it. And then? Would he wish to cast it

"I can see the Pleiades."

For a moment the peace of Olympia was about him, and he heard the
voices of Eternity whispering among the pine trees. Then the
irreparable blotted out that green beauty, that message from the
beyond; reality rushed upon him. He turned and looked at the building
he had just left. It towered above him, white, bare, with its rows of
windows. He knew that he would never go into it again, that he had
done forever with the woman in there who hated him. Yes, he had done
with her insomuch as a man can finish with any one who has been
closely, intimately, for good or for evil, in his life. As he watched
her windows for a moment his mind reviewed swiftly his connection with
her, from the moment when she had held his hand indifferently, yet
with intention, in Mrs. Chetwinde's drawing-room, till the moment,
just past, when he had said to her, "You are free." And he knew that
from the first moment when she had seen him she had made up her mind
that some day he should be her lover. He hated her, and yet he knew
now that in some strange and obscure way he almost respected her, for
her determination, her unscrupulous courage, her will to live as she
chose to live. She at any rate possessed a kind of evil strength. And

Slowly he turned away from that house. He did not know where Rosamund
was staying, but he thought she was probably at the Hotel de Byzance,
and he walked almost mechanically towards it. He was burning with
excitement, and yet there was within him something cold, capable and
relentless, which considered him almost as a judge considers a
criminal, which seemed to be probing into the rotten part of his
nature, determined to know once and for all just how rotten it was.
Rosamund surely was strong in her goodness as Mrs. Clarke was strong
in her evil. He had known the cruelty of both those strengths. And
why? Surely because he himself had never been really strong. Intensity
of feeling had constantly betrayed him into weakness. And even now was
it not weakness in him, this inability to leave off loving Rosamund
after all that had happened? Perhaps the power of feeling intensely
was the great betrayer of a man.

He descended the Grande Rue, moving in the midst of a press of
humanity, but strongly conscious only of Rosamund's nearness to him,
until at last he was in front of the Hotel de Byzance. He stood on the
opposite side of the way, looking at the lighted windows, at the
doorway through which people came and went. Was she in there, close to
him? Why had she come to Constantinople?

She must have come there because of him. There could not surely be any
other reason for her traveling so far to the city where she knew he
was living. But then she must have repented of her cruelty after the
death of Robin, have thought seriously of resuming her married life.
It must be so. Inexorably Dion's reason led him to that conclusion.
Having reached it he looked at himself, and again his own weakness
confronted him like a specter which would not leave him, which dogged
him relentlessly down all the ways of his life. Prompted, governed by
that weakness, which he had actually mistaken madly for strength, for
an assertion of his manhood, he had raised up between Rosamund and
himself perhaps the only barrier which could never be broken down, the
barrier of a great betrayal. What she had most cared for in him he had
trampled into the dirt; he had slain the purity which had drawn her to

Mrs. Clarke had said that Rosamund knew of their connexion. He
believed her. He could not help trusting her horrible capacity to read
such a truth in another woman's eyes. It must be so. Rosamund surely
could only have learned in Constantinople the horrible truth which
would forever divide them. She must have traveled out with the
intention of seeing him again, of telling him that she repented of
what she had done, and then in the city which had seen his degradation
she must have found out what he was.

He saw her outraged, bitterly ashamed of having made the long journey
to seek a man who had betrayed her; he saw her wounded in the soul.
She had wounded him in the soul, but at this moment he scarcely
thought of that. The knowledge that she was near to him seemed to have
suddenly renewed the pure springs of his youth. When Cynthia Clarke
had said, "Now I'm ready if you want to go to the rooms," she had
received her freedom from the Dion who had won Rosamund, not from the
withered and embittered man upon whom she had perversely seized in his
misery and desolation.

That Rosamund should travel to him and then know him for what he was!
All his intense bitterness against her was swept away by the flood of
his hatred of himself.

Suddenly the lights of the city seemed to fade before his eyes and the
voices of the city seemed to lose their chattering gaiety. Darkness
and horrible mutterings were about him. He heard the last door closing
against him. He accounted himself from henceforth among the damned.
Lifting his head he stared for a moment at the Hotel de Byzance. Now
he felt sure that she was there. He knew that she was there, and he
bade her an eternal farewell. Not she--as for so long he had thought--
but he had broken their marriage. She had sinned in the soul. But
to-night he did not see her sin. He saw only his black sin of the
body, the irreparable sin he had committed against her shining purity
to which he had been united.

How could he have committed that sin?

He turned away from the hotel, and went down towards his lodgings in
Galata; he felt as he walked, like one treading a descent which led
down into eternal darkness.

How had he come to do what he had done?

Already he saw Cynthia Clarke as something far away, an almost
meaningless phantom. He wondered why he had felt power in her; he
wondered what it was that had led him to her, had kept him beside her,
had bound him to her. She was nothing. She had never really been
anything to him. And yet she had ruined his life. He saw her pale and
haggard face, her haunted cheeks and temples, the lovely shape of her
head with its cloud of unshining hair, her small tenacious hands. He
saw her distinctly. But she was far away, utterly remote from him. She
had meant nothing to him, and yet she had ruined him. Let her go. Her
work was done.

It was near midnight when he went at last to his lodgings, which were
in a high house not far from the Tophane landing. From his windows he
could see the Golden Horn, and the minarets and domes of Stamboul. His
two rooms, though clean, were shabbily furnished and unattractive. He
had a Greek servant who came in every day to do what was necessary. He
never received any visitors in these rooms, which he had taken when he
gave up going into the society of the diplomats and others, to whom he
had been introduced at Buyukderer.

His feet echoed on the dirty staircase so he mounted slowly up till he
stood in front of his own door. Slowly, like one making an effort that
was almost painful to him he searched for his key and drew it out. His
hand shook as he inserted the key into the keyhole. He tried to steady
his hand, but he could not control its furtive and perpetual movement.
When the door was open he struck a match, and lit a candle that stood
on a chair in the dingy and narrow lobby. Then he turned round wearily
to shut the door. He was possessed by a great fatigue, and wondered
whether, if he fell on his bed in the blackness, he would be able to
sleep. As he turned, he saw, lying on the matting at his feet, a
square white envelope. It was lying upside down. Some one must have
pushed it under the door while he was out.

He stood looking at it for a minute. Then he shut the door, bent down,
picked up the envelope, turned it over and held it near the candle
flame. He read his name and the handwriting was Rosamund's.

After a long pause he took the candle and carried the letter into his
sitting-room. He set the candle down on the table on which lay "The
Kasidah" and a few other books, laid the letter beside it, with
trembling hands drew up a chair and sat down.

Rosamund had written to him. When? Before she had learnt the truth or

For a long time he sat there, leaning over the table, staring at the
address which her hand had written. And he saw her hand, so different
from Mrs. Clarke's, and he remembered its touch upon his, absolutely
unlike the touch of any other hand ever felt by him. Something
quivered in his flesh. The agony of the body rushed upon him and
mingled with the agony of the soul. He bent down, laid his hot
forehead against the letter, and shut his eyes.

A clock struck presently. He opened his eyes, lifted his head, took up
the envelope, quickly tore it, and unfolded the paper within.

Wednesday evening

"I am here. I want to see you. Shall I come to you to-morrow? I can
come at any time, or I can meet you at any place you choose. Only
tell me the hour and how to go if it is difficult. ROSAMUND"

Wednesday evening! It was now the night of Wednesday. Then Rosamund
had written to him after she had been to Santa Sophia and had met Mrs.
Clarke. She knew, and yet she wrote to him; she asked to see him; she
even offered to come to his rooms. The thing was incomprehensible.

He read the note again. He pored over every word in it almost like a
child. Then he held it in his hand, sat back in his chair and

What did Rosamund mean? Why did she wish to see him? What could she
intend to do? His intimate knowledge of what Rosamund was companioned
him at this moment--that knowledge which no separation, which no
hatred even, could ever destroy. She was fastidiously pure. She could
never be anything else. He could not conceive of her ever drawing near
to, and associating herself deliberately with, bodily degradation. He
thought of her as he had known her, with her relations, her friends,
with himself, with Robin. Always in every relation of life a radiant
purity had been about her like an atmosphere; always she had walked in
rays of the sun. Until Robin had died! And then she had withdrawn into
the austere purity of the religious life. He felt it to be absolutely
impossible that she should seek him, even seek but one interview with
him, if she knew what his life had been during the last few months.
And, feeling that, he was now forced to the conclusion that Mrs.
Clarke's intuition had gone for once astray. If Rosamund knew she
would never have written that note. Again he looked at it, read it. It
must have been written in complete ignorance. Mrs. Clarke had made a
mistake. Perhaps she had been betrayed into error by her own knowledge
of guilt. And yet such a lapse was very uncharacteristic of her. He
compared his knowledge of her with his knowledge of Rosamund. It was
absolutely impossible that Rosamund had written that letter to him
with full understanding of his situation in Constantinople. But she
might have heard rumors. She might have resolved to clear them up.
Having traveled out with the intention of seeking a reconciliation she
might have thought it due to him to accept evil tidings of him only
from his own lips. Always, he knew, she had absolutely trusted in his
loyalty and faithfulness to her. Perhaps then, even though she had put
him out of her life, she was unable to believe that he had tried to
forget her in unfaithfulness. Perhaps that was the true explanation of
her conduct.

Could he then save himself from destruction by a great lie?

He sat pondering that problem, oblivious of time. Could he lie to
Rosamund? All his long bitterness against her for the moment was gone,
driven out by his self-condemnation. A great love must forgive. It
cannot help itself. It carries within it, as a child is carried in the
womb, the sweet burden of divinity, and shares in the attributes of
God. So it was with Dion on that night as he sat in his dingy room.
And presently his soul rejected the lie he had abominably thought of.
He knew he could not tell Rosamund a life. Then what was he to do?

He drew out of a drawer a piece of letter paper, dipped a pen in ink.
He had a mind to write the horrible truth which he could surely never

"I have received your letter," he wrote, in a blurred and unsteady
handwriting. Then he stopped. He stared at the paper, pushed it away
from him, and got up. He could not write the truth. He went to the
window and looked out into the dark night. Here and there he saw faint
lights. But Stamboul was almost hidden in the gloom, a city rather
suggested by its shadow than actually visible. The Golden Horn was a
tangled mystery. There were some withdrawn stars.

Should he not reply to Rosamund's letter? If she had heard rumors
about his life would not his silence convey to her the fact that they
were true? He had perhaps only to do nothing and Rosamund would
understand and--would leave Constantinople.

The blackness which shrouded Stamboul suddenly seemed to him to become
more solid, impregnable. He felt that his own life would be drowned in
blackness if Rosamund went away. And abruptly he knew that he must see
her. Whatever the cost, whatever the shame and bitterness, he must see
her at once. He would tell her, or try to tell her, what he had been
through, what he had suffered, why he had done what he had done.
Possibly she would be able to understand. If only he could find the
words that would give her the inner truth perhaps they might reach her
heart. Something intense told him that he must try to make her
understand how he had loved her, through all his hideous attempts to
slay his love of her. Could a woman understand such a thing?
Desperately he wondered. Might not his terrible sincerity perhaps
overwhelm her doubts?

He left the window, sat down again at the table, and wrote quickly.

"I have your letter. Will you meet me to-morrow at Eyub, in the
cemetery on the hill? I will be near the Tekkeh of the dancing
Dervishes. I will be there before noon, and will wait all day.

When he began to write he knew that he could not make his confession
to Rosamund within the four walls of his sordid and dingy room. Her
power to understand would surely be taken from her there. Might it not
be released under the sky of morning, within sight of those minarets
which he had sometimes feared, but which he had always secretly, in
some obscure way, loved even in the most abominable moments of his
abominable life, as he had always secretly, beneath all the hard
bitterness of his stricken heart, loved Rosamund? From them came the
voice which would not be gainsaid, the voice which whispered, "In the
East thou shalt find me if thou hast not found me in the West." Might
not that voice help him when he spoke to Rosamund, help her to
understand him, help her perhaps even to----

But there he stopped. He dared not contemplate the possibility of her
being able to accept the man he had become as her companion. And yet
now he felt himself somehow closely akin to the former Dion, flesh of
that man's flesh, bone of his bone. It was as if his sin fell from him
when he so utterly repented of it.

Slowly he put the note he had written into an envelope, sealed it and
wrote the address--"Mrs. Dion Leith, Hotel de Byzance." He blotted it.
Then he fetched his hat and stick. He meant to take the note himself
to the Hotel de Byzance. The night might be made for sleep, but he
knew he could not sleep till he had seen Rosamund. When he was out in
the air, and was walking uphill towards Pera, he realized that within
him, in spite of all, something of hope still lingered. Rosamund's
letter to him had wrought already a wonderful change in his tortured
life. The knowledge that he would see her again, be with her alone,
even if only for an hour, even if only that he might tell her what
would alienate her from him forever, thrilled through him, seemed even
to shed a fierce strength and alertness through his body. Now that he
was going to see her once more he knew what the long separation from
her had meant to him. He had known the living death. Within a few
hours he would have at least some moments of life. They would be
terrible moments, shameful--but they would take him back into life.
Fiercely, passionately, he looked forward to them.

He left his letter at the hotel, giving it into the hands of a weary
Albanian night porter. Then he returned to his rooms, undressed,
washed in cold water, and lay down on his bed. And presently he was
praying in the dark, instinctively almost as a child prays. He was
praying for the impossible. For he believed that it was absolutely
impossible the Rosamund could ever forgive him for what he had done,
and yet he prayed that she might forgive him. And he felt as if he
were praying with all his body as well as with all his soul.

In the dawn he was tired. But he did not sleep at all.

About ten o'clock he went out to take the boat to Eyub.


At a few minutes past eleven Dion was in the vast cemetery on the
hill. It was a gray morning, still and hot. Languor was in the air.
The grayness, the silence, the oily waters, suggested a brooding
resignation. The place of the dead was almost deserted. He wandered
through it, and met only two or three Turks, who returned his glance
impassively. After the sleepless night he had come out feeling
painfully excited and scarcely master of himself. In Galata and on the
boat he had not dared to look into the eyes of those who thronged
about him. He had felt transparent, as if all his thoughts and his
tumultuous feelings must be visible to any one who regarded him with
attention. But now he was encompassed by a sensation of almost dull
calmness. He looked at the grayness and at the innumerable graves, he
was conscious of the stagnant heat, he seemed to draw into himself the
wide silence, and the excitement faded out of him, was replaced by a
curious inertia. Both his mind and his body felt tired and resigned.
The gravestones suggested death, the end of the early hopes,
aspirations, yearnings and despairs of men. A few bones and a
headstone--to that he was traveling. And yet all through the night he
had been on fire with longing, and with a fear that had seemed almost
red hot. Now he thought he perhaps understood the fatalism of the
Turk. Whatever must be must be. All was written surely from the
beginning. It was written that to-day he should be alone in the
cemetery of Eyub, and it was written that Rosamund should come to him
there, or not come to him.

If she did not come?

He remembered the exact wording of his letter to her, and he realized
for the first time that in her letter she had asked him to tell her
how to go to their meeting-place "if it is difficult," and he had not
told her what she had to do in order to come to Eyub.

But of course she had a dragoman, and he would bring her. She could
not possibly come alone.

Perhaps, however, she would not come.

Long ago she had opened and read his letter and had taken her
decision. If she was coming, probably she was already on the way. He
forced himself to imagine the whole day passed by him alone in the
cemetery, the light failing as the evening drew on, the darkness of
night swallowing up Stamboul, the knowledge forced upon him that
Rosamund had abandoned the idea of seeing him again. He imagined
himself returning to Constantinople in the night, going to the Hotel
de Byzance and learning that she had left by the Orient express of
that day for England.

What would he feel?

A handful of bones and a headstone! Whatever happened to-day, and in
the future, he was on his way to just that. Then, why agonize, why
allow himself to be riven and tormented by longings and fears that
seemed born out of something eternal? Perhaps, indeed, there was
nothing at all after this short life was ended, nothing but the blank
grayness of eternal unconsciousness. If so, how little even his love
for Rosamund meant. It must be some bodily attraction, some imperious
call to his flesh which he had mistaken for a far greater thing. Men,
perhaps, are merely tricked by those longings of theirs which seem
defiant of time, by those passionate tendernesses in which eternity
seems breathing. All that they think they live by may be illusion.

Mechanically, as the minutes drew on towards noon, he walked towards
the Tekkeh of the Dervishes. Once he had come here to meet Cynthia
Clarke, and now he had deliberately chosen the same place for the
terrible interview with his wife. It could only be terrible. He did
not know what he was going to do and say when she came (if she did
come), but he did know that somehow he would tell her the whole truth
about himself, without, of course, mentioning the name of a woman. He
would lay bare his soul. It was fitting that he should confess his sin
in the place of its beginnings. He had begun to sin against the woman
whom he could never unlove here in this wilderness of the dead, when
he had spoken against her to the woman who had long ago resolved some
day to make him sin. (He told himself now that he had definitely
spoken against Rosamund.) In this sad place of disordered peace, under
the gray, and within sight of the minarets lifted to the Unknown God,
he had opened the book of evil things; in this place he would close it
forever--if Rosamund came. He felt now that there was something within
him which, despite all his perversity, all that he had given himself
to in the fury of the flesh, was irrevocably dedicated to that which
was sane, clean and healthy. By this he was resolved to live
henceforth, not because of any religious feeling, not because of any
love of that Unknown God who--so he supposed--had flung him into the
furnace of suffering as refuse may be flung into a fire, but because
he now began to understand that this dedicated something was really
Him, was of the core of his being, not to be rooted out. He had left
Cynthia Clarke. In a short time--before the gray faded over the
minarets of Stamboul--Rosamund would have done with him forever. He
faced complete solitude, the wilderness without any human soul, good
or bad, to keep him company; but he faced it with a sort of hard and
final resignation. By nightfall he would have done with it all. And
then--the living Death? Yes, no doubt that would be his portion. He
smiled faintly as he thought of his furious struggle against just

"It was written," he thought. "Everything is written. But we are
tricked into a semblance of vigorous life and energy by our great
delusion that we possess free will."

He sat down beneath a cypress and remained quite still, looking
downward towards the water, downward along the path by which, if
Rosamund came, she would ascend the hill towards him.

It was nearly noon when he saw below him on this path the figure of a
woman walking slowly. She was followed by a man.

Dion got up. He could not really see who this woman was, but he knew
who she was. Instantly he knew. And instantly all the calm, all the
fatalism of which for a moment he had believed himself possessed, all
the brooding resignation of the man who says to his soul, "It is
written!" was swept away. He stood there, bare of his pretenses, and
he knew himself for what he was, just a man who was the prisoner of a
great love, a man shaken by the tempest of his feeling, a man who
would, who must, fight against the living Death which, only a moment
before, he had been contemplating even with a smile.

She had come, and with her life.

He put one arm against the seamed trunk of the cypress. Mechanically,
and unaware what he was doing, he had taken off his hat. He held it in
his hand. All the change which sorrow and excess had wrought upon him
was exposed for Rosamund to see. She had last seen him plainly as he
drove away with little Robin from the Green Court of Welsley on that
morning of fate. Now at last she was to see him again as she had
remade him.

She came on slowly. Presently she turned to her Greek dragoman.

"Where's the Tekkeh? Is it much farther?"

"No, Madame."

He pointed. As he did so Rosamund saw Dion's figure standing against
the cypress. She stood still. Her face was white and drawn, but full
of an almost flaming resolution. The mysticism which at moments Dion
had detected in her expression, in her eyes, during the years passed
with her, a mysticism then almost evasive, subtly withdrawn, shone
now, like a dominating quality which scorned to hide itself, or
perhaps could not hide itself. She looked like a woman under the
influence of a fixed purpose, fascinated, drawn onward, almost in
ecstasy, and yet somehow, somewhere, tormented.

"Please go back to the foot of the hill," she said to the Greek who
was with her.

"But, Madame, I dare not leave you alone here."

"I shall not be alone."

The Greek looked surprised.

"Some one is waiting for me, up there, by that cypress--a--a friend."

"Oh--I see, Madame."

With a look of intense comprehension he turned to go.

"At the foot of the hill, please!" said Rosamund.

"Certainly, Madame."

The dragoman was smiling as he walked away. Rosamund stood still
watching him till he was out of sight. Then she turned. The figure of
a man was still standing motionless under the old cypress tree among
the graves. She set her lips together and went towards it. Now that
she saw Dion, even though he was in the distance, she felt again
intensely, as if in her flesh, the bodily wrong he had done to her.
She strove not to feel this. She told herself that, after her sin
against him, she had no right to feel it. In her heart she knew that
she was the greater sinner. She realized now exactly the meaning of
what she had done. She had no more illusions about herself, about her
conduct. She condemned herself utterly. She had come to that place of
the dead absolutely resolved to ask forgiveness of Dion. And yet now
that she saw his body the sense of personal outrage woke in her,
gripped her. She grew hot, she tingled. A fierce jealousy of the flesh
tormented her. And suddenly she was afraid of herself. Was her body
then more powerful than her soul? Was she, who had always cared for
the things of the soul hopelessly physical? It seemed to her that even
now she might succumb to what she supposed was an overwhelming
personal pride, that even now she might be unable to do what she had
come all the long way from England to do. But she forced herself to go
onward up the path. She looked down; she would not see that body of a
man which had belonged to her and to which she had belonged; but she
made herself go towards it.

Presently she felt that she was drawing near to it; then that she was
close to it. Then she stopped. Standing still for a moment she prayed.
She prayed that she might be able in this supreme crisis of her life
to govern the baser part of herself, that she might be allowed, might
be helped, to rise to those heights of which Father Robertson had
spoken to her, that she might at last realize the finest possibilities
of her nature, that she might be able to do the most difficult thing,
to be humble, to forget any injury which had been inflicted upon
herself, and to remember only the tremendous injury she had inflicted
upon another. When her prayer was finished she did not know whether it
had been heard, whether, if it had been heard, it had been accepted
and would be granted. She did not know at all what she would be able
to do. But she looked up and saw Dion. He was close to her, was
standing just in front of her, with one arm holding the cypress trunk,
trembling slightly and gazing at her, gazing at her with eyes that
were terrible because they revealed so much of agony, of love and of
terror. She looked into those eyes, she looked at the frightful change
written on the face that had once been so familiar to her, and
suddenly an immense pity inundated her. It seemed to her that she
endured in that moment all the suffering which Dion had endured since
the tragedy at Welsley added to her own suffering. She stood there for
a moment looking at him. Then she said only:

"Forgive me, oh, forgive me!"

Tears rushed into her eyes. She had been able to say it. It had not
been difficult to say. She could not have said anything else. And her
soul had said it as well as her lips.

"Forgive me! Forgive me!" she repeated.

She went up to Dion, took his poor tortured temples, from which the
hair, once so thick, had retreated, in her hands, and whispered again
in the midst of her tears:

"Forgive me!"

"I've been false to you," he said huskily. "I've broken my vow to you.
I've lived with another woman--for months. I've been a beast. I've
wallowed. I've gone right down. Everything horrible--I've--I've done
it. Only last night I meant to--to--I only broke away from it all last
night. I heard you were here and then I--I----"

"Forgive me!"

She felt as if God were speaking in her, through her. She felt as if
in that moment God had taken complete possession of her, as if for the
first time in her life she was just an instrument, formed for the
carrying out of His tremendous purposes, able to carry them out. Awe
was upon her. But she felt a strange joy, and even a wonderful sense
of peace.

"But you don't hear what I tell you. I have been false to you. I have
sinned against you for months and months."

"Hush! It was my sin."

"Yours? Oh, Rosamund!"

She was still holding his temples. He put his hands on her shoulders.

"Yes, it was my sin. I understand now how you love me. I never
understood till to-day."

"Yes, I love you."

"Then," she said, very simply. "I know you will be able to forgive me.
Don't tell me any more ever about what you have done. It's blotted
out. Just forgive me--and let us begin again."

She took away her hands from his temples. He did not kiss her, but he
took one of her hands, and they stood side by side looking towards
Stamboul, towards the City of the Unknown God. His eyes and hers were
on the minarets, those minarets which seem to say to those who have
come to them from afar, and whose souls are restless:

"In the East thou shalt find me if thou hast not found me in the

After a long silence Rosamund pressed Dion's hand, and it seemed to
him that never, in the former days of their union--not even in Greece
--had she pressed it with such tenderness, with such pulse-stirring
intimacy and trust in him. Then, still with her eyes upon the
minarets, she said in a low voice:

"I think Robin knows."


Not many days later, when the green valley of Olympia was wrapped in
the peace of a sunlit afternoon, and a faint breeze drew from the pine
trees on the hills of Kronos a murmur as of distant voices whispering
the message of Eternity, the keeper of the house of the Hermes was
disturbed in a profound reverie by the sound of slow footfalls not far
from his dwelling. He stirred, lifted his head and stared vaguely
about him. No travelers had come of late to the shrine he guarded.
Hermes had been alone with the child upon his arm, dreaming of its
unclouded future with the serenity of one who had trodden the paths
where the gods walk, and who could rise at will above the shadowed
ways along which men creep in anxiety, dreading false steps and the
luring dangers of their fates. Hermes had been alone with his happy
burden, forgotten surely by the world which his delicate majesty
ignored without disdain. But now pilgrims, perhaps from a distant
land, were drawing near to look upon him, to spend a little while in
the atmosphere of his shining calm, perhaps to learn something of the
message he had to give to those who were capable of receiving it.

A man and a woman, moving slowly side by side, came into the patch of
strong sunshine which made a glory before the house, paused there and
stood still.

From the shadow in which he was sitting the guardian examined them
with the keen eyes of one who had looked upon travelers of many
nations. He knew at once that the woman was English. As for the man--
yes, probably he was English too, Dark, lean, wrinkled, he was no
doubt an Englishman who had been much away from his own country, which
the guardian conceived of as wrapped in perpetual fogs and washed by
everlasting rains.

The guardian stared hard at this man, then turned his bright eyes
again upon the woman. As he looked at her some recollection began to
stir in his mind.

Not many travelers came twice to the green recesses of Elis. He was
accustomed to brief acquaintanceships, closed by small gifts of money,
and succeeded by farewells which troubled his spirit not at all. But
this woman seemed familiar to him; and even the man----

He got up from his seat and went towards them.

As he came into the sunlight the woman saw him and smiled. And, when
she smiled, he knew he had seen her before. The deep gravity of her
face as she approached had nearly tricked his memory, but now he
remembered all about her. She was the beautiful fair Englishwoman who
had camped on the hill of Drouva not so many years ago, who had gone
out shooting with that young rascal, Dirmikis, and who had spent
solitary hours wrapt in contemplation of the statue whose fame
doubtless had brought her to Elis.

Not so many years ago! But was this the man the husband who had been
with her then, and who had evidently been deeply in love with her?

It seemed to the guardian that there was some puzzling change in the
beautiful woman. As to the man---- Still wondering, the guardian took
off his cap politely and uttered a smiling welcome in Greek. Then the
man smiled too, faintly, and still preserving the under-look of deep
gravity, and the guardian knew him. It was indeed the husband, but
grown to look very much older, and different in some almost mysterious

The woman made a gesture towards the museum. The guardian bowed,
turned and moved to lead the way through the vestibule into the great
room of the Victory. But the woman spoke behind him and he paused. He
did not understand what she said, but the sound of her voice seemed to
plead with him--or to command him. He looked at her and understood.

She was gazing at him steadily, and her eyes told him not to go before
her, told him to stay where he was.

He nodded his head, slightly pursing his small mouth. She knew the way
of course. How should she not know it?

Gently she came up to him and just touched his coat sleeve--to thank
him. Then she went on slowly with her companion, traversed the room of
the Victory, looking neither to right nor left, crossed the threshold
of the smaller chamber beyond it and disappeared.

For a moment the guardian stood at gaze. Then he went back to his
seat, sat down and sighed. A faint sense of awe had come upon him. He
did not understand it, and he sighed again. Then, pulling himself
together, he felt for a cigarette, lit it and began to smoke, staring
at the patch of sunlight outside, and at the olive tree which grew
close to the doorway.

* * * * *

Within the chamber of the Hermes for a long time there was silence.
Rosamund was sitting before the statue. Dion stood near to her, but
not close to her. The eyes of both of them were fixed upon Hermes and
the child. Once again they were greeted by the strange and exquisite
hush which seems, like a divine sentinel, to wait at the threshold of
that shrine in Elis; once again the silence seemed to come out of the
marble and to press softly against their two hearts. But they were
changed, and so the great peace of the Hermes seemed to them subtly
changed. They knew now the full meaning of torment--torment of the
body and of the soul. They knew the blackness of rebellion. But they
knew also, or at least were beginning to know, the true essence of
peace. And this beginning of knowledge drew them nearer to the Hermes
than they had been in the bygone years, than they had ever been before
the coming of little Robin into their lives, and before Robin had left
them, obedient to the call from beyond.

The olive branch was gone from the doorway. Something beautiful was
missing from the picture of Elis which had reminded Rosamund of the
glimpse of distant country in Raphael's "Marriage of the Virgin." And
they longed to have it there, that little olive branch--ah, how they
longed! There was pain in their hearts. But there was no longer the
cruel fierceness of rebellion. They were able to gaze at the child on
whom Hermes was gazing, if not with his celestial serenity yet with a
resignation that was even subtly mingled with something akin to

"Shall we reach that goal and take a child with us?"

Long ago that had been Dion's thought in Elis. And long ago Rosamund
had broken the silence within that room by the words:

"I'm trying to learn something here, how to bring /him/ up if he ever

And now God had given them a child, and God had taken him from them.
Robin had gone from all that was not intended, but that, for some
inscrutable reason, had come to be. Robin was in the released world.

As the twilight began to fall another twilight came back flooding with
its green dimness the memories of them both. And at last Rosamund



"Come a little nearer to me."

He came close to her and stood beside her.

"Do you remember something you said to me here? It was in the

She paused. Tears had come into her eyes and her voice had trembled.

"It was in the twilight. You said that it seemed to you as if Hermes
were taking the child away, partly because of us."

Her voice broke.

"I--I disliked your saying that. I told you I couldn't feel that."

"I remember."

"And then you explained exactly what you meant. And we spoke of the
human fear that comes to those who look at a child they love and
think, 'what is life going to do to the child?' This evening I want to
tell you that in a strange way I am able to be glad that Robin has
gone, glad with some part of me that is more mother than anything
else in me, I think. Robin is--is so safe now."

The tears came thickly and fell upon her face. She put out a hand to
Dion. He clasped it closely.

"God took him away, and perhaps because of us. I think it may have
been to teach us, you and me. Perhaps we needed a great sorrow.
Perhaps nothing else could have taught us something we had to learn."

"It may be so," he almost whispered.

She got up and leaned against his shoulder.

"Whatever happens to me in the future," she said, "I don't think I
shall ever distrust God again."

He put his arm round her and, for the first time since their reunion,
he kissed her, and she returned his kiss.

Over Elis the twilight was falling, a green twilight, sylvan and very
ethereal, tremulous in its delicate beauty. It stole through the green
doors, and down through the murmuring pine trees. The sheep-bells were
ringing softly; the flocks were going homeward from pasture; and the
chime of their little bells mingled with the wide whispering of the
eternities among the summits of the pine trees. Music of earth mingled
with the music from a distance that knew what the twilight knew.

Presently the two marble figures in the chamber of the Hermes began to
fade away gradually, as if deliberately withdrawing themselves from
the gaze of men. At last only their outlines were visible to Rosamund
and to Dion. But even these told of the Golden Age, of the age of long


Some one had said it within that chamber, and a second voice had
echoed it.

As the guardian of the Hermes watched the two pilgrims walking slowly
away down the valley he noticed that the man's right arm clasped the
woman's waist. And, so, they passed from his sight and were taken by
the green twilight of Elis.

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