Part 11 out of 12
I did, neither saddened nor fatigued me. I never sighed for change.
Can you believe that, Domini? It is true. So long as Dom Andre
Herceline lived and ruled my life I was calm, happy, as few people in
the world, or none, can ever be. But Dom Andre died, and then--"
His face was contorted by a spasm.
"My mother was dead. My brother lived on in Tunis, and was successful
in business. He remained unmarried. So far as I was concerned,
although the monastery was but two hours' drive from the town, he
might almost have been dead too. I scarcely ever saw him, and then
only by a special permission from the Reverend Pere, and for a few
moments. Once I visited him at Tunis, when he was ill. When my mother
died I seemed to sink down a little deeper into the monastic life.
That was all. It was as if I drew my robe more closely round me and
pulled my hood further forward over my face. There was more reason for
my prayers, and I prayed more passionately. I lived in prayer like a
sea-plant in the depths of the ocean. Prayer was about me like a
fluid. But Dom Andre Herceline died, and a new Abbe was appointed, he
who, I suppose, rules now at El-Largani. He was a good man, but, I
think, apt to misunderstand men. The Abbe of a Trappist monastery has
complete power over his community. He can order what he will. Soon
after he came to El-Largani--for some reason that I cannot divine--he
--removed the Pere Michel, who had been for years in charge of the
cemetery, from his duties there, and informed me that I was to
undertake them. I obeyed, of course, without a word.
"The cemetery of El-Largani is on a low hill, the highest part of the
monastery grounds. It is surrounded by a white wall and by a hedge of
cypress trees. The road to it is an avenue of cypresses, among which
are interspersed niches containing carvings of the Fourteen Stations
of the Cross. At the entrance to this avenue, on the left, there is a
high yellow pedestal, surmounted by a black cross, on which hangs a
silver Christ. Underneath is written:
"I remember, on the first day when I became the guardian of the
cemetery, stopping on my way to it before the Christ and praying. My
prayer--my prayer was, Domini, that I might die, as I had lived, in
innocence. I prayed for that, but with a sort of--yes, now I think so
--insolent certainty that my prayer would of course be granted. Then I
went on to the cemetery.
"My work there was easy. I had only to tend the land about the graves,
and sweep out the little chapel where was buried the founder of La
Trappe of El-Largani. This done I could wander about the cemetery, or
sit on a bench in the sun. The Pere Michel, who was my predecessor,
had some doves, and had left them behind in a little house by my
bench. I took care of and fed them. They were tame, and used to
flutter to my shoulders and perch on my hands. To birds and animals I
was always a friend. At El-Largani there are all sorts of beasts, and,
at one time or another, it had been my duty to look after most of
them. I loved all living things. Sitting in the cemetery I could see a
great stretch of country, the blue of the lakes of Tunis with the
white villages at their edge, the boats gliding upon them towards the
white city, the distant mountains. Having little to do, I sat day
after day for hours meditating, and looking out upon this distant
world. I remember specially one evening, at sunset, just before I had
to go to the chapel, that a sort of awe came upon me as I looked
across the lakes. The sky was golden, the waters were dyed with gold,
out of which rose the white sails of boats. The mountains were shadowy
purple. The little minarets of the mosques rose into the gold like
sticks of ivory. As I watched my eyes filled with tears, and I felt a
sort of aching in my heart, and as if--Domini, it was as if at that
moment a hand was laid, on mine, but very gently, and pulled at my
hand. It was as if at that moment someone was beside me in the
cemetery wishing to lead me out to those far-off waters, those mosque
towers, those purple mountains. Never before had I had such a
sensation. It frightened me. I felt as if the devil had come into the
cemetery, as if his hand was laid on mine, as if his voice were
whispering in my ear, 'Come out with me into that world, that
beautiful world, which God made for men. Why do you reject it?'
"That evening, Domini, was the beginning of this--this end. Day after
day I sat in the cemetery and looked out over the world, and wondered
what it was like: what were the lives of the men who sailed in the
white-winged boats, who crowded on the steamers whose smoke I could
see sometimes faintly trailing away into the track of the sun; who
kept the sheep upon the mountains; who--who--Domini, can you imagine--
no, you cannot--what, in a man of my age, of my blood, were these
first, very first, stirrings of the longing for life? Sometimes I
think they were like the first birth-pangs of a woman who is going to
be a mother."
Domini's hands moved apart, then joined themselves again.
"There was something physical in them. I felt as if my limbs had
minds, and that their minds, which had been asleep, were waking. My
arms twitched with a desire to stretch themselves towards the distant
blue of the lakes on which I should never sail. My--I was physically
stirred. And again and again I felt that hand laid closely upon mine,
as if to draw me away into something I had never known, could never
know. Do not think that I did not strive against these first stirrings
of the nature that had slept so long! For days I refused to let myself
look out from the cemetery. I kept my eyes upon the ground, upon the
plain crosses that marked the graves. I played with the red-eyed
doves. I worked. But my eyes at last rebelled. I said to myself, 'It
is not forbidden to look.' And again the sails, the seas, the towers,
the mountains, were as voices whispering to me, 'Why will you never
know us, draw near to us? Why will you never understand our meaning?
Why will you be ignorant for ever of all that has been created for man
to know?' Then the pain within me became almost unbearable. At night I
could not sleep. In the chapel it was difficult to pray. I looked at
the monks around me, to most of whom I had never addressed a word, and
I thought, 'Do they, too, hold such longings within them? Are they,
too, shaken with a desire of knowledge?' It seemed to me that, instead
of a place of peace, the monastery was, must be, a place of tumult, of
the silent tumult that has its home in the souls of men. But then I
remembered for how long I had been at peace. Perhaps all the silent
men by whom I was surrounded were still at peace, as I had been, as I
might be again.
"A young monk died in the monastery and was buried in the cemetery. I
made his grave against the outer wall, beneath a cypress tree. Some
days afterwards, when I was sitting on the bench by the house of the
doves, I heard a sound, which came from beyond the wall. It was like
sobbing. I listened, and heard it more distinctly, and knew that it
was someone crying and sobbing desperately, and near at hand. But now
it seemed to me to come from the wall itself. I got up and listened.
Someone was crying bitterly behind, or above, the wall, just where the
young monk had been buried. Who could it be? I stood listening,
wondering, hesitating what to do. There was something in this sound of
lamentation that moved one to the depths. For years I had not looked
on a woman, or heard a woman's voice--but I knew that this was a woman
mourning. Why was she there? What could she want? I glanced up. All
round the cemetery, as I have said, grew cypress trees. As I glanced
up I saw one shake just above where the new grave was, and a woman's
voice said, 'I cannot see it, I cannot see it!'
"I do not know why, but I felt that someone was there who wished to
see the young monk's grave. For a moment I stood there. Then I went to
the house where I kept my tools for my work in the cemetery, and got a
shears which I used for lopping the cypress trees. I took a ladder
quickly, set it against the wall, mounted it, and from the cypress I
had seen moving I lopped some of the boughs. The sobbing ceased. As
the boughs fell down from the tree I saw a woman's face, tear-stained,
staring at me. It seemed to me a lovely face.
"'Which is his grave?' she said. I pointed to the grave of the young
monk, which could now be seen through the gap I had made, descended
the ladder, and went away to the farthest corner of the cemetery. And
I did not look again in the direction of the woman's face.
"Who she was I do not know. When she went away I did not see. She
loved the monk who had died, and knowing that women cannot enter the
precincts of the monastery, she had come to the outside wall to cast,
if she might, a despairing glance at his grave.
"Domini, I wonder--I wonder if you can understand how that incident
affected me. To an ordinary man it would seem nothing, I suppose. But
to a Trappist monk it seemed tremendous. I had seen a woman. I had
done something for a woman. I thought of her, of what I had done for
her, perpetually. The gap in the cypress tree reminded me of her every
time I looked towards it. When I was in the cemetery I could hardly
turn my eyes from it. But the woman never came again. I said nothing
to the Reverend Pere of what I had done. I ought to have spoken, but I
did not. I kept it back when I confessed. From that moment I had a
secret, and it was a secret connected with a woman.
"Does it seem strange to you that this secret seemed to me to set me
apart from all the other monks--nearer the world? It was so. I felt
sometimes as if I had been out into the world for a moment, had known
the meaning that women have for men. I wondered who the woman was. I
wondered how she had loved the young monk who was dead. He used to sit
beside me in the chapel. He had a pure and beautiful face, such a
face, I supposed, as a woman might well love. Had this woman loved
him, and had he rejected her love for the life of the monastery? I
remember one day thinking of this and wondering how it had been
possible for him to do so, and then suddenly realising the meaning of
my thought and turning hot with shame. I had put the love of woman
above the love of God, woman's service above God's service. That day I
was terrified of myself. I went back to the monastery from the
cemetery, quickly, asked to see the Reverend Pere, and begged him to
remove me from the cemetery, to give me some other work. He did not
ask my reason for wishing to change, but three days afterwards he sent
for me, and told me that I was to be placed in charge of the
/hotellerie/ of the monastery, and that my duties there were to begin
upon the morrow.
"Domini, I wonder if I can make you realise what that change meant to
a man who had lived as I had for so many years. The /hotellerie/ of
El-Largani is a long, low, one-storied building standing in a garden
full of palms and geraniums. It contains a kitchen, a number of little
rooms like cells for visitors, and two large parlours in which guests
are entertained at meals. In one they sit to eat the fruit, eggs, and
vegetables provided by the monastery, with wine. If after the meal
they wish to take coffee they pass into the second parlour. Visitors
who stay in the monastery are free to do much as they please, but they
must conform to certain rules. They rise at a certain hour, feed at
fixed times, and are obliged to go to their bedrooms at half-past
seven in the evening in winter, and at eight in summer. The monk in
charge of the /hotellerie/ has to see to their comfort. He looks after
the kitchen, is always in the parlour at some moment or another during
meals. He visits the bedrooms and takes care that the one servant
keeps everything spotlessly clean. He shows people round the garden.
His duties, you see, are light and social. He cannot go into the
world, but he can mix with the world that comes to him. It is his
task, if not his pleasure, to be cheerful, talkative, sympathetic, a
good host, with a genial welcome for all who come to La Trappe. After
my years of labour, solitude, silence, and prayer, I was abruptly put
into this new life.
"Domini, to me it was like rushing out into the world. I was almost
dazed by the change. At first I was nervous, timid, awkward, and,
especially, tongue-tied. The habit of silence had taken such a hold
upon me that I could not throw it off. I dreaded the coming of
visitors. I did not know how to receive them, what to say to them.
Fortunately, as I thought, the tourist season was over, the summer was
approaching. Very few people came, and those only to eat a meal. I
tried to be polite and pleasant to them, and gradually I began to fall
into the way of talking without the difficulty I had experienced at
first. In the beginning I could not open my lips without feeling as if
I were almost committing a crime. But presently I was more natural,
less taciturn. I even, now and then, took some pleasure in speaking to
a pleasant visitor. I grew to love the garden with its flowers, its
orange trees, its groves of eucalyptus, its vineyard which sloped
towards the cemetery. Often I wandered in it alone, or sat under the
arcade that divided it from the large entrance court of the monastery,
meditating, listening to the bees humming, and watching the cats
basking in the sunshine.
"Sometimes, when I was there, I thought of the woman's face above the
cemetery wall. Sometimes I seemed to feel the hand tugging at mine.
But I was more at peace than I had been in the cemetery. For from the
garden I could not see the distant world, and of the chance visitors
none had as yet set a match to the torch that, unknown to me, was
ready--at the coming of the smallest spark--to burst into a flame.
"One day, it was in the morning towards half-past ten, when I was
sitting reading my Greek Testament on a bench just inside the doorway
of the /hotellerie/, I heard the great door of the monastery being
opened, and then the rolling of carriage wheels in the courtyard. Some
visitor had arrived from Tunis, perhaps some visitors--three or four.
It was a radiant morning of late May. The garden was brilliant with
flowers, golden with sunshine, tender with shade, and quiet--quiet and
peaceful, Domini! There was a wonderful peace in the garden that day,
a peace that seemed full of safety, of enduring cheerfulness. The
flowers looked as if they had hearts to understand it, and love it,
the roses along the yellow wall of the house that clambered to the
brown red tiles, the geraniums that grew in masses under the shining
leaves of the orange trees, the--I felt as if that day I were in the
Garden of Eden, and I remember that when I heard the carriage wheels I
had a moment of selfish sadness. I thought: 'Why does anyone come to
disturb my blessed peace, my blessed solitude?' Then I realised the
egoism of my thought and that I was there with my duty. I got up, went
into the kitchen and said to Francois, the servant, that someone had
come and no doubt would stay to /dejeuner/. And, as I spoke, already I
was thinking of the moment when I should hear the roll of wheels once
more, the clang of the shutting gate, and know that the intruders upon
the peace of the Trappists had gone back to the world, and that I
could once more be alone in the little Eden I loved.
"Strangely, Domini, strangely, that day, of all the days of my life, I
was most in love--it was like that, like being in love--with my monk's
existence. The terrible feeling that had begun to ravage me had
completely died away. I adored the peace in which my days were passed.
I looked at the flowers and compared my happiness with theirs. They
blossomed, bloomed, faded, died in the garden. So would I wish to
blossom, bloom, fade--when my time came--die in the garden--always in
peace, always in safety, always isolated from the terrors of life,
always under the tender watchful eye of--of--Domini, that day I was
happy, as perhaps they are--perhaps--the saints in Paradise. I was
happy because I felt no inclination to evil. I felt as if my joy lay
entirely in being innocent. Oh, what an ecstasy such a feeling is! 'My
will accord with Thy design--I love to live as Thou intendest me to
live! Any other way of life would be to me a terror, would bring to me
"And I felt that--intensely I felt it at that moment in heart and
soul. It was as if I had God's arms round me, caressing me as a father
caresses his child."
He moved away a step or two in the sand, came back, and went on with
"Within a few minutes the porter of the monastery came through the
archway of the arcade followed by a young man. As I looked up at him I
was uncertain of his nationality. But I scarcely thought about it--
except in the first moment. For something else seized my attention--
the intense, active misery in the stranger's face. He looked ravaged,
eaten by grief. I said he was young--perhaps twenty-six or twenty-
seven. His face was rather dark-complexioned, with small, good
features. He had thick brown hair, and his eyes shone with
intelligence, with an intelligence that was almost painful--somehow.
His eyes always looked to me as if they were seeing too much, had
always seen too much. There was a restlessness in the swiftness of
their observation. One could not conceive of them closed in sleep. An
activity that must surely be eternal blazed in them.
"The porter left the stranger in the archway. It was now my duty to
attend to him. I welcomed him in French. He took off his hat. When he
did that I felt sure he was an Englishman--by the look of him
bareheaded--and I told him that I spoke English as well as French. He
answered that he was at home in French, but that he was English. We
talked English. His entrance into the garden had entirely destroyed my
sense of its peace--even my own peace was disturbed at once by his
"I felt that I was in the presence of a misery that was like a
devouring element. Before we had time for more than a very few halting
words the bell was rung by Francois.
"'What's that for, Father?' the stranger said, with a start, which
showed that his nerves were shattered.
"'It is time for your meal,' I answered.
"'One must eat!' he said. Then, as if conscious that he was behaving
oddly, he added politely:
"'I know you entertain us too well here, and have sometimes been
rewarded with coarse ingratitude. Where do I go?'
"I showed him into the parlour. There was no one there that day. He
sat at the long table.
"'I am to eat alone?' he asked.
"'Yes; I will serve you.'
"Francois, always waited on the guests, but that day--mindful of the
selfishness of my thoughts in the garden--I resolved to add to my
duties. I therefore brought the soup, the lentils, the omelette, the
oranges, poured out the wine, and urged the young man cordially to
eat. When I did so he looked up at me. His eyes were extraordinarily
expressive. It was as if I heard them say to me, 'Why, I like you!'
and as if, just for a moment, his grief were lessened.
"In the empty parlour, long, clean, bare, with a crucifix on the wall
and the name 'Saint Bernard' above the door, it was very quiet, very
shady. The outer blinds of green wood were drawn over the window-
spaces, shutting out the gold of the garden. But its murmuring
tranquillity seemed to filter in, as if the flowers, the insects, the
birds were aware of our presence and were trying to say to us, 'Are
you happy as we are? Be happy as we are.'
"The stranger looked at the shady room, the open windows. He sighed.
"'How quiet it is here!' he said, almost as if to himself. 'How quiet
"'Yes,' I answered. 'Summer is beginning. For months now scarcely
anyone will come to us here.'
"'Us?' he said, glancing at me with a sudden smile.
"'I meant to us who are monks, who live always here.'
"'May I--is it indiscreet to ask if you have been here long?'
"I told him.
"'More than nineteen years!' he said.
"'And always in this silence?'
"He sat as if listening, resting his head on his hand.
"'How extraordinary!' he said at last. 'How wonderful! Is it
"I did not answer. The question seemed to me to be addressed to
himself, not to me. I could leave him to seek for the answer. After a
moment he went on eating and drinking in silence. When he had finished
I asked him whether he would take coffee. He said he would, and I made
him pass into the St. Joseph /salle/. There I brought him coffee and--
and that liqueur. I told him that it was my invention. He seemed to be
interested. At any rate, he took a glass and praised it strongly. I
was pleased. I think I showed it. From that moment I felt as if we
were almost friends. Never before had I experienced such a feeling for
anyone who had come to the monastery, or for any monk or novice in the
monastery. Although I had been vexed, irritated, at the approach of a
stranger I now felt regret at the idea of his going away. Presently
the time came to show him round the garden. We went out of the shadowy
parlour into the sunshine. No one was in the garden. Only the bees
were humming, the birds were passing, the cats were basking on the
broad path that stretched from the arcade along the front of the
/hotellerie/. As we came out a bell chimed, breaking for an instant
the silence, and making it seem the sweeter when it returned. We
strolled for a little while. We did not talk much. The stranger's
eyes, I noticed, were everywhere, taking in every detail of the scene
around us. Presently we came to the vineyard, to the left of which was
the road that led to the cemetery, passed up the road and arrived at
the cemetery gate.
"'Here I must leave you,' I said.
"'Why?' he asked quickly.
"'There is another Father who will show you the chapel. I shall wait
for you here.'
"I sat down and waited. When the stranger returned it seemed to me
that his face was calmer, that there was a quieter expression in his
eyes. When we were once more before the /hotellerie/ I said:
"'You have seen all my small domain now.'
"He glanced at the house.
"'But there seems to be a number of rooms,' he said.
"'Only the bedrooms.'
"'Bedrooms? Do people stay the night here?'
"'Sometimes. If they please they can stay for longer than a night.'
"'How much longer?'
"'For any time they please, if they conform to one or two simple rules
and pay a small fixed sum to the monastery.'
"'Do you mean that you could take anyone in for the summer?' he said
"'Why not? The consent of the Reverend Pere has to be obtained. That
"'I should like to see the bedrooms.'
"I took him in and showed him one.
"'All the others are the same,' I said.
"He glanced round at the white walls, the rough bed, the crucifix
above it, the iron basin, the paved floor, then went to the window and
"'Well,' he said, drawing back into the room, 'I will go now to see
the Pere Abbe, if it is permitted.'
"On the garden path I bade him good-bye. He shook my hand. There was
an odd smile in his face. Half-an-hour later I saw him coming again
through the arcade.
"'Father,' he said, 'I am not going away. I have asked the Pere Abbe's
permission to stay here. He has given it to me. To-morrow such luggage
as I need will be sent over from Tunis. Are you--are you very vexed to
have a stranger to trouble your peace?'
"His intensely observant eyes were fixed upon me while he spoke. I
"'I do not think you will trouble my peace.'
"And my thought was:
"'I will help you to find the peace which you have lost.'
"Was it a presumptuous thought, Domini? Was it insolent? At the time
it seemed to me absolutely sincere, one of the best thoughts I had
ever had--a thought put into my heart by God. I didn't know then--I
He stopped speaking, and stood for a time quite still, looking down at
the sand, which was silver white under the moon. At last he lifted his
head and said, speaking slowly:
"It was the coming of this man that put the spark to that torch. It
was he who woke up in me the half of myself which, unsuspected by me,
had been slumbering through all my life, slumbering and gathering
strength in slumber--as the body does--gathering a strength that was
tremendous, that was to overmaster the whole of me, that was to make
of me one mad impulse. He woke up in me the body and the body was to
take possession of the soul. I wonder--can I make you feel why this
man was able to affect me thus? Can I make you know this man?
"He was a man full of secret violence, violence of the mind and
violence of the body, a volcanic man. He was English--he said so--but
there must have been blood that was not English in his veins. When I
was with him I felt as if I was with fire. There was the restlessness
of fire in him. There was the intensity of fire. He could be reserved.
He could appear to be cold. But always I was conscious that if there
was stone without there was scorching heat within. He was watchful of
himself and of everyone with whom he came into the slightest contact.
He was very clever. He had an immense amount of personal charm, I
think, at any rate for me. He was very human, passionately interested
in humanity. He was--and this was specially part of him, a dominant
trait--he was savagely, yes, savagely, eager to be happy, and when he
came to live in the /hotellerie/ he was savagely unhappy. An egoist he
was, a thinker, a man who longed to lay hold of something beyond this
world, but who had not been able to do so. Even his desire to find
rest in a religion seemed to me to have greed in it, to have something
in it that was akin to avarice. He was a human storm, Domini, as well
as a human fire. Think! what a man to be cast by the world--which he
knew as they know it only who are voracious for life and free--into my
"Very soon he began to show himself to me as he was, with a sort of
fearlessness that was almost impudent. The conditions of our two lives
in the monastery threw us perpetually together in a curious isolation.
And the Reverend Pere, Domini, the Reverend Pere, set my feet in the
path of my own destruction. On the day after the stranger had arrived
the Reverend Pere sent for me to his private room, and said to me,
'Our new guest is in a very unhappy state. He has been attracted by
our peace. If we can bring peace to him it will be an action
acceptable to God. You will be much with him. Try to do him good. He
is not a Catholic, but no matter. He wishes to attend the services in
the chapel. He may be influenced. God may have guided his feet to us,
we cannot tell. But we can act--we can pray for him. I do not know how
long he will stay. It may be for only a few days or for the whole
summer. It does not matter. Use each day well for him. Each day may be
his last with us.' I went out from the Reverend Pere full of
enthusiasm, feeling that a great, a splendid interest had come into my
life, an interest such as it had never held before.
"Day by day I was with this man. Of course there were many hours when
we were apart, the hours when I was at prayer in the chapel or
occupied with study. But each day we passed much time together,
generally in the garden. Scarcely any visitors came, and none to stay,
except, from time to time, a passing priest, and once two young men
from Tunis, one of whom had an inclination to become a novice. And
this man, as I have said, began to show himself to me with a
"Domini, he was suffering under what I suppose would be called an
obsession, an immense domination such as one human being sometimes
obtains over another. At that time I had never realised that there
were such dominations. Now I know that there are, and, Domini, that
they can be both terrible and splendid. He was dominated by a woman,
by a woman who had come into his life, seized it, made it a thing of
glory, broken it. He described to me the dominion of this woman. He
told me how she had transformed him. Till he met her he had been
passionate but free, his own master through many experiences, many
intrigues. He was very frank, Domini. He did not attempt to hide from
me that his life had been evil. It had been a life devoted to the
acquiring of experience, of all possible experience, mental and
bodily. I gathered that he had shrunk from nothing, avoided nothing.
His nature had prompted him to rush upon everything, to grasp at
everything. At first I was horrified at what he told me. I showed it.
I remember the second evening after his arrival we were sitting
together in a little arbour at the foot of the vineyard that sloped up
to the cemetery. It was half an hour before the last service in the
chapel. The air was cool with breath from the distant sea. An intense
calm, a heavenly calm, I think, filled the garden, floated away to the
cypresses beside the graves, along the avenue where stood the Fourteen
Stations of the Cross. And he told me, began to tell me something of
"'You thought to find happiness in such an existence?' I exclaimed,
almost with incredulity I believe.
"He looked at me with his shining eyes.
"'Why not, Father? Do you think I was a madman to do so?'
"'Why? Is there not happiness in knowledge?'
"'Knowledge of evil?'
"'Knowledge of all things that exist in life. I have never sought for
evil specially; I have sought for everything. I wished to bring
everything under my observation, everything connected with human
"'But human life,' I said more quietly, 'passes away from this world.
It is a shadow in a world of shadows.'
"'You say that,' he answered abruptly. 'I wonder if you feel it--feel
it as you feel my hand on yours.'
"He laid his hand on mine. It was hot and dry as if with fever. Its
touch affected me painfully.
"'Is that hand the hand of a shadow?' he said. 'Is this body that can
enjoy and suffer, that can be in heaven or in hell--here--here--a
"'Within a week it might be less than a shadow.'
"'And what of that? This is now, this is now. Do you mean what you
say? Do you truly feel that you are a shadow--that this garden is but
a world of shadows? I feel that I, that you, are terrific realities,
that this garden is of immense significance. Look at that sky.'
"The sky above the cypresses was red with sunset. The trees looked
black beneath it. Fireflies were flitting near the arbour where we
"'That is the sky that roofs what you would have me believe a world of
shadows. It is like the blood, the hot blood that flows and surges in
the veins of men--in our veins. Ah, but you are a monk!'
"The way he said the last words made me feel suddenly a sense of
shame, Domini. It was as if a man said to another man, 'You are not a
man.' Can you--can you understand the feeling I had just then?
Something hot and bitter was in me. A sort of desperate sense of
nothingness came over me, as if I were a skeleton sitting there with
flesh and blood and trying to believe, and to make it believe, that I,
too, was and had been flesh and blood.
"'Yes, thank God, I am a monk,' I answered quietly.
"Something in my tone, I think, made him feel that he had been brutal.
"'I am a brute and a fool,' he said vehemently. 'But it is always so
with me. I always feel as if what I want others must want. I always
feel universal. It's folly. You have your vocation, I mine. Yours is
to pray, mine is to live.'
"Again I was conscious of the bitterness. I tried to put it from me.
"'Prayer is life,' I answered, 'to me, to us who are here.'
"'Prayer! Can it be? Can it be vivid as the life of experience, as the
life that teaches one the truth of men and women, the truth of
creation--joy, sorrow, aspiration, lust, ambition of the intellect and
the limbs? Prayer--'
"'It is time for me to go,' I said. 'Are you coming to the chapel?'
"'Yes,' he answered almost eagerly. 'I shall look down on you from my
lonely gallery. Perhaps I shall be able to feel the life of prayer.'
"'May it be so,' I said.
"But I think I spoke without confidence, and I know that that evening
I prayed without impulse, coldly, mechanically. The long, dim chapel,
with its lines of monks facing each other in their stalls, seemed to
me a sad place, like a valley of dry bones--for the first time, for
the first time.
"I ought to have gone on the morrow to the Reverend Pere. I ought to
have asked him, begged him to remove me from the /hotellerie/. I ought
to have foreseen what was coming--that this man had a strength to live
greater than my strength to pray; that his strength might overcome
mine. I began to sin that night. Curiosity was alive in me, curiosity
about the life that I had never known, was--so I believed, so I
thought I knew--never to know.
"When I came out of the chapel into the /hotellerie/ I met our guest--
I do not say his name. What would be the use?--in the corridor. It was
almost dark. There were ten minutes before the time for locking up the
door and going to bed. Francois, the servant, was asleep under the
"'Shall we go on to the path and have a last breath of air?' the
"We stepped out and walked slowly up and down.
"'Do you not feel the beauty of peace?' I asked.
"I wanted him to say yes. I wanted him to tell me that peace,
tranquillity, were beautiful. He did not reply for a moment. I heard
him sigh heavily.
"'If there is peace in the world at all,' he said at length, 'it is
only to be found with the human being one loves. With the human being
one loves one might find peace in hell.'
"We did not speak again before we parted for the night.
"Domini, I did not sleep at all that night. It was the first of many
sleepless nights, nights in which my thoughts travelled like winged
Furies--horrible, horrible nights. In them I strove to imagine all the
stranger knew by experience. It was like a ghastly, physical effort. I
strove to conceive of all that he had done--with the view, I told
myself at first, of bringing myself to a greater contentment, of
realising how worthless was all that I had rejected and that he had
grasped at. In the dark I, as it were, spread out his map of life and
mine and examined them. When, still in the dark, I rose to go to the
chapel I was exhausted. I felt unutterably melancholy. That was at
first. Presently I felt an active, gnawing hunger. But--but--I have
not come to that yet. This strange, new melancholy was the forerunner.
It was a melancholy that seemed to be caused by a sense of frightful
loneliness such as I had never previously experienced. Till now I had
almost always felt God with me, and that He was enough. Now, suddenly,
I began to feel that I was alone. I kept thinking of the stranger's
words: 'If there is peace in the world at all it is only to be found
with the human being one loves.'
"'That is false,' I said to myself again and again. 'Peace is only to
be found by close union with God. In that I have found peace for many,
"I knew that I had been at peace. I knew that I had been happy. And
yet, when I looked back upon my life as a novice and a monk, I now
felt as if I had been happy vaguely, foolishly, bloodlessly, happy
only because I had been ignorant of what real happiness was--not
really happy. I thought of a bird born in a cage and singing there. I
had been as that bird. And then, when I was in the garden, I looked at
the swallows winging their way high in the sunshine, between the
garden trees and the radiant blue, winging their way towards sea and
mountains and plains, and that bitterness, like an acid that burns and
eats away fine metal, was once more at my heart.
"But the sensation of loneliness was the most terrible of all. I
compared union with God, such as I thought I had known, with that
other union spoken of by my guest--union with the human being one
loves. I set the two unions as it were in comparison. Night after
night I did this. Night after night I told over the joys of union with
God--joys which I dared to think I had known--and the joys of union
with a loved human being. On the one side I thought of the drawing
near to God in prayer, of the sensation of approach that comes with
earnest prayer, of the feeling that ears are listening to you, that
the great heart is loving you, the great heart that loves all living
things, that you are being absolutely understood, that all you cannot
say is comprehended, and all you say is received as something
precious. I recalled the joy, the exaltation, that I had known when I
prayed. That was union with God. In such union I had sometimes felt
that the world, with all that it contained of wickedness, suffering
and death, was utterly devoid of power to sadden or alarm the humblest
human being who was able to draw near to God.
"I had had a conquering feeling--not proud--as of one upborne,
protected for ever, lifted to a region in which no enemy could ever
be, no sadness, no faint anxiety even.
"Then I strove to imagine--and this, Domini, was surely a deliberate
sin--exactly what it must be to be united with a beloved human being.
I strove and I was able. For not only did instinct help me, instinct
that had been long asleep, but--I have told you that the stranger was
suffering under an obsession, a terrible dominion. This dominion he
described to me with an openness that perhaps--that indeed I believe--
he would not have shown had I not been a monk. He looked upon me as a
being apart, neither man nor woman, a being without sex. I am sure he
did. And yet he was immensely intelligent. But he knew that I had
entered the monastery as a novice, that I had been there through all
my adult life. And then my manner probably assisted him in his
illusion. For I gave--I believe--no sign of the change that was taking
place within me under his influence. I seemed to be calm, detached,
even in my sympathy for his suffering. For he suffered frightfully.
This woman he loved was a Parisian, he told me. He described her
beauty to me, as if in order to excuse himself for having become the
slave to her he was. I suppose she was very beautiful. He said that
she had a physical charm so intense that few men could resist it, that
she was famous throughout Europe for it. He told me that she was not a
good woman. I gathered that she lived for pleasure, admiration, that
she had allowed many men to love her before he knew her. But she had
loved him genuinely. She was not a very young woman, and she was not a
married woman. He said that she was a woman men loved but did not
marry, a woman who was loved by the husbands of married women, a woman
to marry whom would exclude a man from the society of good women. She
had never lived, or thought of living, for one man till he came into
her life. Nor had he ever dreamed of living for one woman. He had
lived to gain experience; she too. But when he met her--knowing
thoroughly all she was--all other women ceased to exist for him. He
became her slave. Then jealousy awoke in him, jealousy of all the men
who had been in her life, who might be in her life again. He was
tortured by loving such a woman--a woman who had belonged to many, who
would no doubt in the future belong to others. For despite the fact
that she loved him he told me that at first he had no illusions about
her. He knew the world too well for that, and he cursed the fate that
had bound him body and soul to what he called a courtesan. Even the
fact that she loved him at first did not blind him to the effect upon
character that her life must inevitably have had. She had dwelt in an
atmosphere of lies, he said, and to lie was nothing to her. Any
original refinement of feeling as regards human relations that she
might have had had become dulled, if it had not been destroyed. At
first he blindly, miserably, resigned himself to this. He said to
himself, 'Fate has led me to love this sort of woman. I must accept
her as she is, with all her defects, with her instinct for treachery,
with her passion for the admiration of the world, with her
incapability for being true to an ideal, or for isolating herself in
the adoration of one man. I cannot get away from her. She has me fast.
I cannot live without her. Then I must bear the torture that jealousy
of her will certainly bring me in silence. I must conceal it. I must
try to kill it. I must make the best of whatever she will give me,
knowing that she can never, with her nature and her training, be
exclusively mine as a good woman might be.' This he said to himself.
This plan of conduct he traced for himself. But he soon found that he
was not strong enough to keep to it. His jealousy was a devouring
fire, and he could not conceal it. Domini, he described to me minutely
the effect of jealousy in a human heart. I had never imagined what it
was, and, when he described it, I felt as if I looked down into a
bottomless pit lined with the flames of hell. By the depth of that pit
I measured the depth of his passion for this woman, and I gained an
idea of what human love--not the best sort of human love, but still
genuine, intense love of some kind--could be. Of this human love I
thought at night, putting it in comparison with the love God's
creature can have for God. And my sense of loneliness increased, and I
felt as if I had always been lonely. Does this seem strange to you? In
the love of God was calm, peace, rest, a lying down of the soul in the
Almighty arms. In the other love described to me was restlessness,
agitation, torture, the soul spinning like an atom driven by winds,
the heart devoured as by a disease, a cancer. On the one hand was a
beautiful trust, on the other a ceaseless agony of doubt and terror.
And yet I came to feel as if the one were unreal in comparison with
the other, as if in the one were a loneliness, in the other fierce
companionship. I thought of the Almighty arms, Domini, and of the arms
of a woman, and--Domini, I longed to have known, if only once, the
pressure of a woman's arms about my neck, about my breast, the touch
of a woman's hand upon my heart.
"And of all this I never spoke at confession. I committed the deadly
sin of keeping back at confession all that." He stopped. Then he said,
"Till the end my confessions were incomplete, were false.
"The stranger told me that as his love for this woman grew he found it
impossible to follow the plan he had traced for himself of shutting
his eyes to the sight of other eyes admiring, desiring her, of
shutting his ears to the voices that whispered, 'This it will always
be, for others as well as for you.' He found it impossible. His
jealousy was too importunate, and he resolved to make any effort to
keep her for himself alone. He knew she had love for him, but he knew
that love would not necessarily, or even probably, keep her entirely
faithful to him. She thought too little of passing intrigues. To her
they seemed trifles, meaningless, unimportant. She told him so, when
he spoke his jealousy. She said, 'I love you. I do not love these
other men. They are in my life for a moment only.'
"'And that moment plunges me into hell!' he said.
"He told her he could not bear it, that it was impossible, that she
must belong to him entirely and solely. He asked her to marry him. She
was surprised, touched. She understood what a sacrifice such a
marriage would be to a man in his position. He was a man of good
birth. His request, his vehement insistence on it, made her understand
his love as she had not understood it before. Yet she hesitated. For
so long had she been accustomed to a life of freedom, of changing
/amours/, that she hesitated to put her neck under the yoke of
matrimony. She understood thoroughly his character and his aim in
marrying her. She knew that as his wife she must bid an eternal
farewell to the life she had known. And it was a life that had become
a habit to her, a life that she was fond of. For she was enormously
vain, and she was a--she was a very physical woman, subject to
physical caprices. There are things that I pass over, Domini, which
would explain still more her hesitation. He knew what caused it, and
again he was tortured. But he persisted. And at last he overcame. She
consented to marry him. They were engaged. Domini, I need not tell you
much more, only this fact--which had driven him from France, destroyed
his happiness, brought him to the monastery. Shortly before the
marriage was to take place he discovered that, while they were
engaged, she had yielded to the desires of an old admirer who had come
to bid her farewell and to wish her joy in her new life. He was
tempted, he said, to kill her. But he governed himself and left her.
He travelled. He came to Tunis. He came to La Trappe. He saw the peace
there. He thought, 'Can I seize it? Can it do something for me?' He
saw me. He thought, 'I shall not be quite alone. This monk--he has
lived always in peace, he has never known the torture of women. Might
not intercourse with him help me?'
"Such was his history, such was the history poured, with infinite
detail that I have not told you, day by day, into my ears. It was the
history, you see, of a passion that was mainly physical. I will not
say entirely. I do not know whether any great passion can be entirely
physical. But it was the history of the passion of one body for
another body, and he did not attempt to present it to me as anything
else. This man made me understand the meaning of the body. I had never
understood it before. I had never suspected the immensity of the
meaning there is in physical things. I had never comprehended the
flesh. Now I comprehended it. Loneliness rushed upon me, devoured me--
loneliness of the body. 'God is a spirit and those that worship him
must worship him in spirit.' Now I felt that to worship in spirit was
not enough. I even felt that it was scarcely anything. Again I thought
of my life as the life of a skeleton in a world of skeletons. Again
the chapel was as a valley of dry bones. It was a ghastly sensation. I
was plunged in the void. I--I--I can't tell you my exact sensation,
but it was as if I was the loneliest creature in the whole of the
universe, and as if I need not have been lonely, as if I, in my
ignorance and fatuity, had selected loneliness thinking it was the
"And yet you will say I was face to face with this man's almost
frantic misery. I was, and it made no difference. I envied him, even
in his present state. He wanted to gain consolation from me if that
were possible. Oh, the irony of my consoling him! In secret I laughed
at it bitterly. When I strove to console him I knew that I was an
incarnate lie. He had told me the meaning of the body and, by so
doing, had snatched from me the meaning of the spirit. And then he
said to me, 'Make me feel the meaning of the spirit. If I can grasp
that I may find comfort.' He called upon me to give him what I no
longer had--the peace of God that passeth understanding. Domini, can
you feel at all what that was to me? Can you realise? Can you--is it
any wonder that I could do nothing for him, for him who had done such
a frightful thing for me? Is it any wonder? Soon he realised that he
would not find peace with me in the garden. Yet he stayed on. Why? He
did not know where to go, what to do. Life offered him nothing but
horror. His love of experiences was dead. His love of life had
completely vanished. He saw the worldly life as a nightmare, yet he
had nothing to put in the place of it. And in the monastery he was
ceaselessly tormented by jealousy. Ceaselessly his mind was at work
about this woman, picturing her in her life of change, of intrigue, of
new lovers, of new hopes and aims in which he had no part, in which
his image was being blotted out, doubtless from her memory even. He
suffered, he suffered as few suffer. But I think I suffered more. The
melancholy was driven on into a gnawing hunger, the gnawing hunger of
the flesh wishing to have lived, wishing to live, wishing to--to know.
"Domini, to you I can't say more of that--to you whom I--whom I love
with spirit and flesh. I will come to the end, to the incident which
made the body rise up, strike down the soul, trample out over it into
the world like a wolf that was starving.
"One day the Reverend Pere gave me a special permission to walk with
our visitor beyond the monastery walls towards the sea. Such
permission was an event in my life. It excited me more than you can
imagine. I found that the stranger had begged him to let me come.
"'Our guest is very fond of you,' the Reverend Pere said to me. 'I
think if any human being can bring him to a calmer, happier state of
mind and spirit, you can. You have obtained a good influence over
"Domini, when the Reverend Pere spoke to me thus my mouth was suddenly
contracted in a smile. Devil's smile, I think. I put up my hand to my
face. I saw the Reverend Pere looking at me with a dawning of
astonishment in his kind, grave eyes, and I controlled myself at once.
But I said nothing. I could not say anything, and I went out from the
parlour quickly, hot with a sensation of shame.
"'You are coming?' the stranger said.
"'Yes,' I answered.
"It was a fiery day of late June. Africa was bathed in a glare of
light that hurt the eyes. I went into my cell and put on a pair of
blue glasses and my wide straw hat, the hat in which I formerly used
to work in the fields. When I came out my guest was standing on the
garden path. He was swinging a stick in one hand. The other hand,
which hung down by his side, was twitching nervously. In the glitter
of the sun his face looked ghastly. In his eyes there seemed to be
terrors watching without hope.
"'You are ready?' he said. 'Let us go.'
"We set off, walking quickly.
"'Movement--pace--sometimes that does a little good,' he said. 'If one
can exhaust the body the mind sometimes lies almost still for a
moment. If it would only lie still for ever.'
"I said nothing. I could say nothing. For my fever was surely as his
"'Where are we going?' he asked when we reached the little house of
the keeper of the gate by the cemetery.
"'We cannot walk in the sun,' I answered. 'Let us go into the
"The first Trappists had planted forests of eucalyptus to keep off the
fever that sometimes comes in the African summer. We made our way
along a tract of open land and came into a deep wood. Here we began to
walk more slowly. The wood was empty of men. The hot silence was
profound. He took off his white helmet and walked on, carrying it in
his hand. Not till we were far in the forest did he speak. Then he
said, 'Father, I cannot struggle on much longer.'
"He spoke abruptly, in a hard voice.
"'You must try to gain courage,' I said.
"'From where?' he exclaimed. 'No, no, don't say from God. If there is
a God He hates me.'
"When he said that I felt as if my soul shuddered, hearing a frightful
truth spoken about itself. My lips were dry. My heart seemed to
shrivel up, but I made an effort and answered:
"'God hates no being whom He has created.'
"'How can you know? Almost every man, perhaps every living man hates
someone. Why not--?'
"'To compare God with a man is blasphemous,' I answered.
"'Aren't we made in His image? Father, it's as I said--I can't
struggle on much longer. I shall have to end it. I wish now--I often
wish that I had yielded to my first impulse and killed her. What is
she doing now? What is she doing now--at this moment?'
"He stood still and beat with his stick on the ground.
"'You don't know the infinite torture there is in knowing that, far
away, she is still living that cursed life, that she is free to
continue the acts of which her existence has been full. Every moment I
am imagining--I am seeing--'
"He forced his stick deep into the ground.
"'If I had killed her,' he said in a low voice, 'at least I should
know that she was sleeping--alone--there--there--under the earth. I
should know that her body was dissolved into dust, that her lips could
kiss no man, that her arms could never hold another as they have held
"'Hush!' I said sternly. 'You deliberately torture yourself and me.'
He glanced up sharply.
"'You! What do you mean?'
"'I must not listen to such things,' I said. 'They are bad for you and
"'How can they be bad for you--a monk?'
"'Such talk is evil--evil for everyone.'
"'I'll be silent then. I'll go into the silence. I'll go soon.'
"I understood that he thought of putting an end to himself.
"'There are few men,' I said, speaking with deliberation, with effort,
'who do not feel at some period of life that all is over for them,
that there is nothing to hope for, that happiness is a dream which
will visit them no more.'
"'Have you ever felt like that? You speak of it calmly, but have you
ever experienced it?'
"I hesitated. Then I said:
"'You, who have been a monk for so many years!'
"'Since you have been here?'
"'Yes, since then.'
"'And you would tell me that the feeling passed, that hope came again,
and the dream as you call it?'
"'I would say that what has lived in a heart can die, as we who live
in this world shall die.'
"'Ah, that--the sooner the better! But you are wrong. Sometimes a
thing lives in the heart that cannot die so long as the heart beats.
Such is my passion, my torture. Don't you, a monk--don't dare to say
to me that this love of mine could die.'
"'Don't you wish it to die?' I asked. 'You say it tortures you.'
"'Yes. But no--no--I don't wish it to die. I could never wish that.'
"I looked at him, I believe, with a deep astonishment.
"'Ah, you don't understand! ' he said. 'You don't understand. At all
costs one must keep it--one's love. With it I am--as you see. But
without it--man, without it, I should be nothing--no more than that.'
"He picked up a rotten leaf, held it to me, threw it down on the
ground. I hardly looked at it. He had said to me: 'Man!' That word,
thus said by him, seemed to me to mark the enormous change in me, to
indicate that it was visible to the eyes of another, the heart of
another. I had passed from the monk--the sexless being--to the man. He
set me beside himself, spoke of me as if I were as himself. An intense
excitement surged up in me. I think--I don't know what I should have
said--done--but at that moment a boy, who acted as a servant at the
monastery, came running towards us with a letter in his hand.
"'It is for Monsieur!' he said. 'It was left at the gate.'
"'A letter for me!' the stranger said.
"He held out his hand and took it indifferently. The boy gave it, and
turning, went away through the wood. Then the stranger glanced at the
envelope. Domini, I wish I could make you see what I saw then, the
change that came. I can't. There are things the eyes must see. The
tongue can't tell them. The ghastly whiteness went out of his face. A
hot flood of scarlet rushed over it up to the roots of his hair. His
hands and his whole body began to tremble violently. His eyes, which
were fixed on the envelope, shone with an expression--it was like all
the excitement in the world condensed into two sparks. He dropped his
stick and sat down on the trunk of a tree, fell down almost.
"'Father!' he muttered, 'it's not been through the post--it's not been
through the post!'
"I did not understand.
"'What do you mean?' I asked.
"The flush left his face. He turned deadly white again. He held out
"'Read it for me!' he said. 'I can't see--I can't see anything.'
"I took the letter. He covered his eyes with his hands. I opened it
"'GRAND HOTEL, TUNIS.
"'I have found out where you are. I have come. Forgive me--if you
can. I will marry you--or I will live with you. As you please; but
I cannot live without you. I know women are not admitted to the
monastery. Come out on the road that leads to Tunis. I am there.
At least come for a moment and speak to me. VERONIQUE.'
"Domini, I read this slowly; and it was as if I read my own fate. When
I had finished he got up. He was still pale as ashes and trembling.
"'Which is the way to the road?' he said. 'Do you know?'
"'Take me there. Give me your arm, Father.'
"He took it, leaned on it heavily. We walked through the wood towards
the highroad. I had almost to support him. The way seemed long. I felt
tired, sick, as if I could scarcely move, as if I were bearing--as if
I were bearing a cross that was too heavy for me. We came at last out
of the shadow of the trees into the glare of the sun. A flat field
divided us from the white road.
"'Is there--is there a carriage?' he whispered in my ear.
"I looked across the field and saw on the road a carriage waiting.
"'Yes,' I said.
"I stopped, and tried to take his arm from mine.
"'Go,' I said. 'Go on!'
"'I can't. Come with me, Father.'
"We went on in the blinding sun. I looked down on the dry earth as I
walked. Presently I saw at my feet the white dust of the road. At the
same time I heard a woman's cry. The stranger took his arm violently
"'Father,' he said. 'Good-bye--God bless you!'
"He was gone. I stood there. In a moment I heard a roll of wheels.
Then I looked up. I saw a man and a woman together, Domini. Their
faces were like angels' faces--with happiness. The dust flew up in the
sunshine. The wheels died away--I was alone.
"Presently--I think after a very long time--I turned and went back to
the monastery. Domini, that night I left the monastery. I was as one
mad. The wish to live had given place to the determination to live. I
thought of nothing else. In the chapel that evening I heard nothing--I
did not see the monks. I did not attempt to pray, for I knew that I
was going. To go was an easy matter for me. I slept alone in the
/hotellerie/, of which I had the key. When it was night I unlocked the
door. I walked to the cemetery--between the Stations of the Cross.
Domini, I did not see them. In the cemetery was a ladder, as I told
"Just before dawn I reached my brother's house outside of Tunis, not
far from the Bardo. I knocked. My brother himself came down to know
who was there. He, as I told you, was without religion, and had always
hated my being a monk. I told him all, without reserve. I said, 'Help
me to go away. Let me go anywhere--alone.' He gave me clothes, money.
I shaved off my beard and moustache. I shaved my head, so that the
tonsure was no longer visible. In the afternoon of that day I left
Tunis. I was let loose into life. Domini--Domini, I won't tell you
where I wandered till I came to the desert, till I met you.
"I was let loose into life, but, with my freedom, the wish to live
seemed to die in me. I was afraid of life. I was haunted by terrors. I
had been a monk so long that I did not know how to live as other men.
I did not live, I never lived--till I met you. And then--then I
realised what life may be. And then, too, I realised fully what I was.
I struggled, I fought myself. You know--now, if you look back, I think
you know that I tried--sometimes, often--I tried to--to--I tried
His voice broke.
"That last day in the garden I thought that I had conquered myself,
and it was in that moment that I fell for ever. When I knew you loved
me I could fight no more. Do you understand? You have seen me, you
have lived with me, you have divined my misery. But don't--don't
think, Domini, that it ever came from you. It was the consciousness of
my lie to you, my lie to God, that--that--I can't go on--I can't tell
you--I can't tell you--you know."
He was silent. Domini said nothing, did not move. He did not look at
her, but her silence seemed to terrify him. He drew back from it
sharply and turned to the desert. He stared across the vast spaces lit
up by the moon. Still she did not move.
"I'll go--I'll go!" he muttered.
And he stepped forward. Then Domini spoke.
"Boris!" she said.
"What is it?" he murmured hoarsely.
"Boris, now at last you--you can pray."
He looked at her as if awe-stricken.
"Pray!" he whispered. "You tell me I can pray--now!"
"Now at last."
She went into the tent and left him alone. He stood where he was for a
moment. He knew that, in the tent, she was praying. He stood, trying
to listen to her prayer. Then, with an uncertain hand, he felt in his
breast. He drew out the wooden crucifix. He bent down his head,
touched it with his lips, and fell upon his knees in the desert.
The music had ceased in the city. There was a great silence.
BOOK VI. THE JOURNEY BACK
The good priest of Amara, strolling by chance at the dinner-hour of
the following day towards the camp of the hospitable strangers, was
surprised and saddened to find only the sand-hill strewn with debris.
The tents, the camels, the mules, the horses--all were gone. No
servants greeted him. No cook was busy. No kind hostess bade him come
in and stay to dine. Forlornly he glanced around and made inquiry. An
Arab told him that in the morning the camp had been struck and ere
noon was far on its way towards the north. The priest had been on
horseback to an neighbouring oasis, so had heard nothing of this
flitting. He asked its explanation, and was told a hundred lies. The
one most often repeated was to the effect that Monsieur, the husband
of Madame, was overcome by the heat, and that for this reason the
travellers were making their way towards the cooler climate that lay
beyond the desert.
As he heard this a sensation of loneliness came to the priest. His
usually cheerful countenance was overcast with gloom. For a moment he
loathed his fate in the sands and sighed for the fleshpots of
civilisation. With his white umbrella spread above his helmet he stood
still and gazed towards the north across the vast spaces that were
lemon-yellow in the sunset. He fancied that on the horizon he saw
faintly a cloud of sand grains whirling, and imagined it stirred up by
the strangers' caravan. Then he thought of the rich lands of the Tell,
of the olive groves of Tunis, of the blue Mediterranean, of France,
his country which he had not seen for many years. He sighed
"Happy people," he thought to himself. "Rich, free, able to do as they
like, to go where they will! Why was I born to live in the sand and to
He was moved by envy. But then he remembered his intercourse with
Androvsky on the previous day.
"After all," he thought more comfortably, "he did not look a happy
man!" And he took himself to task for his sin of envy, and strolled to
the inn by the fountain where he paid his pension.
The same day, in the house of the marabout of Beni-Hassan, Count
Anteoni received a letter brought from Amara by an Arab. It was as
"MY DEAR FRIEND: Good-bye. We are just leaving. I had expected to
be here longer, but we must go. We are returning to the north and
shall not penetrate farther into the desert. I shall think of you,
and of your journey on among the people of your faith. You said to
me, when we sat in the tent door, that now you could pray in the
desert. Pray in the desert for us. And one thing more. If you
never return to Beni-Mora, and your garden is to pass into other
hands, don't let it go into the hands of a stranger. I could not
bear that. Let it come to me. At any price you name. Forgive me
for writing thus. Perhaps you will return, or perhaps, even if you
do not, you will keep your garden.--Your Friend, DOMINI."
In a postscript was an address which would always find her.
Count Anteoni read this letter two or three times carefully, with a
"Why did she not put Domini Androvsky?" he said to himself. He locked
the letter in a drawer. All that night he was haunted by thoughts of
the garden. Again and again it seemed to him that he stood with Domini
beside the white wall and saw, in the burning distance of the desert,
at the call of the Mueddin, the Arabs bowing themselves in prayer, and
the man--the man to whom now she had bound herself by the most holy
tie--fleeing from prayer as if in horror.
"But it was written," he murmured to himself. "It was written in the
sand and in fire: 'The fate of every man have we bound about his
In the dawn when, turning towards the rising sun, he prayed, he
remembered Domini and her words: "Pray in the desert for us." And in
the Garden of Allah he prayed to Allah for her, and for Androvsky.
Meanwhile the camp had been struck, and the first stage of the journey
northward, the journey back, had been accomplished. Domini had given
the order of departure, but she had first spoken with Androvsky.
After his narrative, and her words that followed it, he did not come
into the tent. She did not ask him to. She did not see him in the
moonlight beyond the tent, or when the moonlight waned before the
coming of the dawn. She was upon her knees, her face hidden in her
hands, striving as surely few human beings have ever had to strive in
the difficult paths of life. At first she had felt almost calm. When
she had spoken to Androvsky there had even been a strange sensation
that was not unlike triumph in her heart. In this triumph she had felt
disembodied, as if she were a spirit standing there, removed from
earthly suffering, but able to contemplate, to understand, to pity it,
removed from earthly sin, but able to commit an action that might help
to purge it.
When she said to Androvsky, "Now you can pray," she had passed into a
region where self had no existence. Her whole soul was intent upon
this man to whom she had given all the treasures of her heart and whom
she knew to be writhing as souls writhe in Purgatory. He had spoken at
last, he had laid bare his misery, his crime, he had laid bare the
agony of one who had insulted God, but who repented his insult, who
had wandered far away from God, but who could never be happy in his
wandering, who could never be at peace even in a mighty human love
unless that love was consecrated by God's contentment with it. As she
stood there Domini had had an instant of absolutely clear sight into
the depths of another's heart, another's nature. She had seen the monk
in Androvsky, not slain by his act of rejection, but alive, sorrow-
stricken, quivering, scourged. And she had been able to tell this monk
--as God seemed to be telling her, making of her his messenger--that
now at last he might pray to a God who again would hear him, as He had
heard him in the garden of El-Largani, in his cell, in the chapel, in
the fields. She had been able to do this. Then she had turned away,
gone into the tent and fallen upon her knees.
But with that personal action her sense of triumph passed away. As her
body sank down her soul seemed to sink down with it into bottomless
depths of blackness where no light had ever been, into an underworld,
airless, peopled with invisible violence. And it seemed to her as if
it was her previous flight upward which had caused this descent into a
place which had surely never before been visited by a human soul. All
the selflessness suddenly vanished from her, and was replaced by a
burning sense of her own personality, of what was due to it, of what
had been done to it, of what it now was. She saw it like a cloth that
had been white and that now was stained with indelible filth. And
anger came upon her, a bitter fury, in which she was inclined to cry
out, not only against man, but against God. The strength of her nature
was driven into a wild bitterness, the sweet waters became acrid with
salt. She had been able a moment before to say to Androvsky, almost
with tenderness, "Now at last you can pray." Now she was on her knees
hating him, hating--yes, surely hating--God. It was a frightful
Soul and body felt defiled. She saw Androvsky coming into her clean
life, seizing her like a prey, rolling her in filth that could never
be cleansed. And who had allowed him to do her this deadly wrong? God.
And she was on her knees to this God who had permitted this! She was
in the attitude of worship. Her whole being rebelled against prayer.
It seemed to her as if she made a furious physical effort to rise from
her knees, but as if her body was paralysed and could not obey her
will. She remained kneeling, therefore, like a woman tied down, like a
blasphemer bound by cords in the attitude of prayer, whose soul was
shrieking insults against heaven.
Presently she remembered that outside Androvsky was praying, that she
had meant to join with him in prayer. She had contemplated, then, a
further, deeper union with him. Was she a madwoman? Was she a slave?
Was she as one of those women of history who, seized in a rape,
resigned themselves to love and obey their captors? She began to hate
herself. And still she knelt. Anyone coming in at the tent door would
have seen a woman apparently entranced in an ecstasy of worship.
This great love of hers, to what had it brought her? This awakening of
her soul, what was its meaning? God had sent a man to rouse her from
sleep that she might look down into hell. Again and again, with
ceaseless reiteration, she recalled the incidents of her passion in
the desert. She thought of the night at Arba when Androvsky blew out
the lamp. That night had been to her a night of consecration. Nothing
in her soul had risen up to warn her. No instinct, no woman's
instinct, had stayed her from unwitting sin. The sand-diviner had been
wiser than she; Count Anteoni more far-seeing; the priest of Beni-Mora
more guided by holiness, by the inner flame that flickers before the
wind that blows out of the caverns of evil. God had blinded her in
order that she might fall, had brought Androvsky to her in order that
her religion, her Catholic faith, might be made hideous to her for
ever. She trembled all over as she knelt. Her life had been sad, even
tormented. And she had set out upon a pilgrimage to find peace. She
had been led to Beni-Mora. She remembered her arrival in Africa, its
spell descending upon her, her sensation of being far off, of having
left her former life with its sorrows for ever. She remembered the
entrancing quiet of Count Anteoni's garden, how as she entered it she
seemed to be entering an earthly Paradise, a place prepared by God for
one who was weary as she was weary, for one who longed to be renewed
as she longed to be renewed. And in that Paradise, in the inmost
recess of it, she had put her hands against Androvsky's temples and
given her life, her fate, her heart into his keeping. That was why the
garden was there, that she might be led to commit this frightful
action in it. Her soul felt physically sick. As to her body--but just
then she scarcely thought of the body. For she was thinking of her
soul as of a body, as if it were the core of the body blackened,
sullied, destroyed for ever. She was hot with shame, she was hot with
a fiery indignation. Always, since she was a child, if she were
suddenly touched by anyone whom she did not love, she had had an
inclination to strike a blow on the one who touched her. Now it was as
if an unclean hand had been laid on her soul. And the soul quivered
with longing to strike back.
Again she thought of Beni-Mora, of all that had taken place there. She
realised that during her stay there a crescendo of calm had taken
place within her, calm of the spirit, a crescendo of strength,
spiritual strength, a crescendo of faith and of hope. The religion
which had almost seemed to be slipping from her she had grasped firmly
again. Her soul had arrived in Beni-Mora an invalid and had become a
It had been reclining wearily, fretfully. In Beni-Mora it had stood
up, walked, sung as the morning stars sang together. But then--why? If
this was to be the end--why--why?
And at this question she paused, as before a great portal that was
shut. She went back. She thought again of this beautiful crescendo, of
this gradual approach to the God from whom she had been if not
entirely separated at any rate set a little apart. Could it have been
only in order that her catastrophe might be the more complete, her
downfall the more absolute?
And then, she knew not why, she seemed to see in the hands that were
pressed against her face words written in fire, and to read them
slowly as a child spelling out a great lesson, with an intense
attention, with a labour whose result would be eternal recollection:
"Love watcheth, and sleeping, slumbereth not. When weary it is not
tired; when straitened it is not constrained; when frightened it is
not disturbed; but like a vivid flame and a burning torch it mounteth
upwards and securely passeth through all. Whosover loveth knoweth the
cry of this voice."
The cry of this voice! At that moment, in the vast silence of the
desert, she seemed to hear it. And it was the cry of her own voice. It
was the cry of the voice of her own soul. Startled, she lifted her
face from her hands and listened. She did not look out at the tent
door, but she saw the moonlight falling upon the matting that was
spread upon the sand within the tent, and she repeated, "Love
watcheth--Love watcheth--Love watcheth," moving her lips like the
child who reads with difficulty. Then came the thought, "I am
The passion of personal anger had died away as suddenly as it had
come. She felt numb and yet excited. She leaned forward and once more
laid her face in her hands.
"Love watcheth--I am watching." Then a moment--then--"God is watching
She whispered the words over again and again. And the numbness began
to pass away. And the anger was dead. Always she had felt as if she
had been led to Africa for some definite end. Did not the freed
negroes, far out in the Desert, sing their song of the deeper
mysteries--"No one but God and I knows what is in my heart"? And had
not she heard it again and again, and each time with a sense of awe?
She had always thought that the words were wonderful and beautiful.
But she had thought that perhaps they were not true. She had said to
Androvsky that he knew what was in her heart. And now, in this night,
in its intense stillness, close to the man who for so long had not
dared to pray but who now was praying, again she thought that they
were not quite true. It seemed to her that she did not know what was
in her heart, and that she was waiting there for God to come and tell
her. Would He come? She waited. Patience entered into her.
The silence was long. Night was travelling, turning her thoughts to a
distant world. The moon waned, and a faint breath of wind that was
almost cold stole over the sands, among the graves in the cemetery, to
the man and the woman who were keeping vigil upon their knees. The
wind died away almost ere it had risen, and the rigid silence that
precedes the dawn held the desert in its grasp. And God came to Domini
in the silence, Allah through Allah's garden that was shrouded still
in the shadows of night. Once, as she journeyed through the roaring of
the storm, she had listened for the voice of the desert. And as the
desert took her its voice had spoken to her in a sudden and magical
silence, in a falling of the wind. Now, in a more magical silence, the
voice of God spoke to her. And the voice of the desert and of God were
as one. As she knelt she heard God telling her what was in her heart.
It was a strange and passionate revelation. She trembled as she heard.
And sometimes she was inclined to say, "It is not so." And sometimes
she was afraid, afraid of what this--all this that was in her heart--
would lead her to do. For God told her of a strength which she had not
known her heart possessed, which--so it seemed to her--she did not
wish it to possess, of a strength from which something within her
shrank, against which something within her protested. But God would
not be denied. He told her she had this strength. He told her that she
must use it. He told her that she would use it. And she began to
understand something of the mystery of the purposes of God in relation
to herself, and to understand, with it, how closely companioned even
those who strive after effacement of self are by selfishness--how
closely companioned she had been on her African pilgrimage. Everything
that had happened in Africa she had quietly taken to herself, as a
gift made to her for herself.
The peace that had descended upon her was balm for her soul, and was
sent merely for that, to stop the pain she suffered from old wounds
that she might be comfortably at rest. The crescendo--the beautiful
crescendo--of calm, of strength, of faith, of hope which she had, as
it were, heard like a noble music within her spirit had been the David
sent to play upon the harp to her Saul, that from her Saul the black
demon of unrest, of despair, might depart. That was what she had
believed. She had believed that she had come to Africa for herself,
and now God, in the silence, was telling her that this was not so,
that He had brought her to Africa to sacrifice herself in the
redemption of another. And as she listened--listened, with bowed head,
and eyes in which tears were gathering, from which tears were falling
upon her clasped hands--she knew that it was true, she knew that God
meant her to put away her selfishness, to rise above it. Those eagle's
wings of which she had thought--she must spread them. She must soar
towards the place of the angels, whither good women soar in the great
moments of their love, borne up by the winds of God. On the minaret of
the mosque of Sidi-Zerzour, while Androvsky remained in the dark
shadow with a curse, she had mounted, with prayer, surely a little way
towards God. And now God said to her, "Mount higher, come nearer to
me, bring another with you. That was my purpose in leading you to
Beni-Mora, in leading you far out into the desert, in leading you into
the heart of the desert."
She had been led to Africa for a definite end, and now she knew what
that end was. On the mosque of the minaret of Sidi-Zerzour she had
surely seen prayer travelling, the soul of prayer travelling. And she
had asked herself--"Whither?" She had asked herself where was the
halting-place, with at last the pitched tent, the camp fires, and the
long, the long repose? And when she came down into the court of the
mosque and found Androvsky watching the old Arab who struck against
the mosque and cursed, she had wished that Androvsky had mounted with
her a little way towards God.
He should mount with her. Always she had longed to see him above her.
Could she leave him below? She knew she could not. She understood that
God did not mean her to. She understood perfectly. And tears streamed
from her eyes. For now there came upon her a full comprehension of her
love for Androvsky. His revelation had not killed it, as, for a
moment, in her passionate personal anger, she had been inclined to
think. Indeed it seemed to her now that, till this hour of silence,
she had never really loved him, never known how to love. Even in the
tent at Arba she had not fully loved him, perfectly loved him. For the
thought of self, the desires of self, the passion of self, had entered
into and been mingled with her love. But now she loved him perfectly,
because she loved as God intended her to love. She loved him as God's
envoy sent to him.
She was still weeping, but she began to feel calm, as if the stillness
of this hour before the dawn entered into her soul. She thought of
herself now only as a vessel into which God was pouring His purpose
and His love.
Just as dawn was breaking, as the first streak of light stole into the
east and threw a frail spear of gold upon the sands, she was conscious
again of a thrill of life within her, of the movement of her unborn
child. Then she lifted her head from her hand, looking towards the
east, and whispered:
"Give me strength for one more thing--give me strength to be silent!"
She waited as if for an answer. Then she rose from her knees, bathed
her face and went out to the tent door to Androvsky.
"Boris!" she said.
He rose from his knees and looked at her, holding the little wooden
crucifix in his hand.
"Domini?" he said in an uncertain voice.
"Put it back into your breast. Keep it for ever, Boris."
As if mechanically, and not removing his eyes from her, he put the
crucifix into his breast. After a moment she spoke again, quietly.
"Boris, you never wished to stay here. You meant to stay here for me.
Let us go away from Amara. Let us go to-day, now, in the dawn."
"Us!" he said.
There was a profound amazement in his voice.
"Yes," she answered.
"Away from Amara--you and I--together?"
"Yes, Boris, together."
"Where--where can we go?"
The amazement seemed to deepen in his voice. His eyes were watching
her with an almost fierce intentness. In a flash of insight she
realised that, just then, he was wondering about her as he had never
wondered before, wondering whether she was really the good woman at
whose feet his sin-stricken soul had worshipped. Yes, he was asking
himself that question.
"Boris," she said, "will you leave yourself in my hands? We have
talked of our future life. We have wondered what we should do. Will
you let me do as I will, let the future be as I choose?"
In her heart she said "as God chooses."
"Yes, Domini," he answered. "I am in your hands, utterly in your
"No," she said.
Neither of them spoke after that till the sunlight lay above the
towers and minarets of Amara. Then Domini said:
"We will go to-day--now."
And that morning the camp was struck, and the new journey began--the
A silence had fallen between Domini and Androvsky which neither seemed
able to break. They rode on side by side across the sands towards the
north through the long day. The tower of Amara faded in the sunshine
above the white crests of the dunes. The Arab villages upon their
little hills disappeared in the quivering gold. New vistas of desert
opened before them, oases crowded with palms, salt lakes and stony
ground. They passed by native towns. They saw the negro gardeners
laughing among the rills of yellow water, or climbing with bare feet
the wrinkled tree trunks to lop away dead branches. They heard tiny
goatherds piping, solitary, in the wastes. Dreams of the mirage rose
and faded far off on the horizon, rose and faded mystically, leaving
no trembling trace behind. And they were silent as the mirage, she in
her purpose, he in his wonder. And the long day waned, and towards
evening the camp was pitched and the evening meal was prepared. And
still they could not speak.
Sometimes Androvsky watched her, and there was a great calm in her
face, but there was no rebuke, no smallness of anger, no hint of
despair. Always he had felt her strength of mind and body, but never
so much as now. Could he rest on it? Dared he? He did not know. And
the day seemed to him to become a dream, and the silence recalled to
him the silence of the monastery in which he had worshipped God before
the stranger came. He thought that in this silence he ought to feel
that she was deliberately raising barriers between them, but--it was
strange--he could not feel this. In her silence there was no
bitterness. When is there bitterness in strength? He rode on and on
beside her, and his sense of a dream deepened, helped by the influence
of the desert. Where were they going? He did not know. What was her
purpose? He could not tell. But he felt that she had a purpose, that
her mind was resolved. Now and then, tearing himself with an effort
from the dream, he asked himself what it could be. What could be in
store for him, for them, after the thing he had told? What could be
their mutual life? Must it not be for ever at an end? Was it not
shattered? Was it not dust, like the dust of the desert that rose
round their horses' feet? The silence did not tell him, and again he
ceased from wondering and the dream closed round him. Were they not
travelling in a mirage, mirage people, unreal, phantomlike, who would
presently fade away into the spaces of the sun? The sand muffled the
tread of the horses' feet. The desert understood their silence,
clothed it in a silence more vast and more impenetrable. And Androvsky
had made his effort. He had spoken the truth at last. He could do no
more. He was incapable of any further action. As Domini felt herself
to be in the hands of God, he felt himself to be in the hands of this
woman who had received his confession with this wonderful calm, who
was leading him he knew not whither in this wonderful silence.
When the camp was pitched, however, he noticed something that caught
him sharply away from the dreamlike, unreal feeling, and set him face
to face with fact that was cold as steel. Always till now the
dressing-tent had been pitched beside their sleeping-tent, with the
flap of the entrance removed so that the two tents communicated.
To-night it stood apart, near the sleeping-tent, and in it was placed
one of the small camp beds. Androvsky was alone when he saw this. On
reaching the halting-place he had walked a little way into the desert.
When he returned he found this change. It told him something of what
was passing in Domini's mind, and it marked the transformation of
their mutual life. As he gazed at the two tents he felt stricken, yet
he felt a curious sense of something that was like--was it not like--
relief? It was as if his body had received a frightful blow and on his
soul a saint's hand had been gently laid, as if something fell about
him in ruins, and at the same time a building which he loved, and
which for a moment he had thought tottering, stood firm before him
founded upon rock. He was a man capable of a passionate belief,
despite his sin, and he had always had a passionate belief in Domini's
religion. That morning, when she came out to him in the sand, a
momentary doubt had assailed him. He had known the thought, "Does she
love me still--does she love me more than she loves God, more than she
loves his dictates manifested in the Catholic religion?" When she said
that word "together" that had been his thought. Now, as he looked at
the two tents, a white light seemed to fall upon Domini's character,
and in this white light stood the ruin and the house that was founded
upon a rock. He was torn by conflicting sensations of despair and
triumph. She was what he had believed. That made the triumph. But
since she was that where was his future with her? The monk and the man
who had fled from the monastery stood up within him to do battle. The
monk knew triumph, but the man was in torment.
Presently, as Androvsky looked at the two tents, the monk in him
seemed to die a new death, the man who had left the monastery to know
a new resurrection. He was seized by a furious desire to go backward
in time, to go backward but a few hours, to the moment when Domini did
not know what now she knew. He cursed himself for what he had done. At
last he had been able to pray. Yes, but what was prayer now, what was
prayer to the man who looked at the two tents and understood what they
meant? He moved away and began to walk up and down near to the two
tents. He did not know where Domini was. At a little distance he saw
the servants busy preparing the evening meal. Smoke rose up before the
cook's tent, curling away stealthily among a group of palm trees,
beneath which some Arab boys were huddled, staring with wide eyes at
the unusual sight of travellers. They came from a tiny village at a
short distance off, half hidden among palm gardens. The camels were
feeding. A mule was rolling voluptuously in the sand. At a well a
shepherd was watering his flocks, which crowded about him baaing
expectantly. The air seemed to breathe out a subtle aroma of peace and
of liberty. And this apparent presence of peace, this vision of the
calm of others, human beings and animals, added to the torture of
Androvsky. As he walked to and fro he felt as if he were being
devoured by his passions, as if he were losing the last vestiges of
self-control. Never in the monastery, never even in the night when he
left it, had he been tormented like this. For now he had a terrible
companion whom, at that time, he had not known. Memory walked with him
before the tents, the memory of his body, recalling and calling for
He had destroyed that past himself. But for him it might have been
also the present, the future. It might have lasted for years, perhaps
till death took him or Domini. Why not? He had only had to keep
silence, to insist on remaining in the desert, far from the busy ways
of men. They could have lived as certain others lived, who loved the
free, the solitary life, in an oasis of their own, tending their
gardens of palms. Life would have gone like a sunlit dream. And death?
At that thought he shuddered. Death--what would that have been to him?
What would it be now when it came? He put the thought from him with
force, as a man thrusts away from him the filthy hand of a clamouring
stranger assailing him in the street.
This evening he had no time to think of death. Life was enough, life
with this terror which he had deliberately placed in it.
He thought of himself as a madman for having spoken to Domini. He
cursed himself as a madman. For he knew, although he strove furiously
not to know, how irrevocable was his act, in consequence of the great
strength of her nature. He knew that though she had been to him a
woman of fire she might be to him a woman of iron--even to him whom
How she had loved him!
He walked faster before the tents, to and fro.
How she had loved him! How she loved him still, at this moment after
she knew what he was, what he had done to her. He had no doubt of her
love as he walked there. He felt it, like a tender hand upon him. But
that hand was inflexible too. In its softness there was firmness--
firmness that would never yield to any strength in him.
Those two tents told him the story of her strength. As he looked at
them he was looking into her soul. And her soul was in direct conflict
with his. That was what he felt. She had thought, she had made up her
mind. Quietly, silently she had acted. By that action, without a word,
she had spoken to him, told him a tremendous thing. And the man--the
passionate man who had left the monastery--loose in him now was aflame
with an impotent desire that was like a heat of fury against her,
while the monk, hidden far down in him, was secretly worshipping her
cleanliness of spirit.
But the man who had left the monastery was in the ascendant in him,
and at last drove him to a determination that the monk secretly knew
to be utterly vain. He made up his mind to enter into conflict with
Domini's strength. He felt that he must, that he could not quietly,
without a word, accept this sudden new life of separation symbolised
for him by the two tents standing apart.
He stood still. In the distance, under the palms, he saw Batouch
laughing with Ouardi. Near them Ali was reposing on a mat, moving his
head from side to side, smiling with half-shut, vacant eyes, and
singing a languid song.
This music maddened him.
"Batouch!" he called out sharply. "Batouch!"
Batouch stopped laughing, glanced round, then came towards him with a
large pace, swinging from his hips.
"Batouch!" Androvsky said.
But he could not go on. He could not say anything about the two tents
to a servant.
"Where--where is Madame?" he said almost stammering.
"Out there, Monsieur."
With a sweeping arm the poet pointed towards a hump of sand crowned by
a few palms. Domini was sitting there, surrounded by Arab children, to
whom she was giving sweets out of a box. As Androvsky saw her the
anger in him burnt up more fiercely. This action of Domini's, simple,
natural though it was, seemed to him in his present condition cruelly
heartless. He thought of her giving the order about the tents and then
going calmly to play with these children, while he--while he----
"You can go, Batouch," he said. "Go away."
The poet stared at him with a superb surprise, then moved slowly
towards Ouardi, holding his burnous with his large hands.
Androvsky looked again at the two tents as a man looks at two enemies.
Then, walking quickly, he went towards the hump of sand. As he
approached it Domini had her side face turned towards him. She did not
see him. The little Arabs were dancing round her on their naked feet,
laughing, showing their white teeth and opening their mouths wide for
the sugar-plums--gaiety incarnate. Androvsky gazed at the woman who
was causing this childish joy, and he saw a profound sadness. Never
had he seen Domini's face look like this. It was always white, but now
its whiteness was like a whiteness of marble. She moved her head,
turning to feed one of the little gaping mouths, and he saw her eyes,
tearless, but sadder than if they had been full of tears. She was
looking at these children as a mother looks at her children who are
fatherless. He did not--how could he?--understand the look, but it
went to his heart. He stopped, watching. One of the children saw him,
shrieked, pointed. Domini glanced round. As she saw him she smiled,
threw the last sugar-plums and came towards him.
"Do you want me?" she said, coming up to him.
His lips trembled.
"Yes," he said, "I want you."
Something in his voice seemed to startle her, but she said nothing
more, only stood looking at him. The children, who had followed her,
crowded round them, touching their clothes curiously.
"Send them away," he said.
She made the children go, pushing them gently, pointing to the
village, and showing the empty box to them. Reluctantly at last they
went towards the village, turning their heads to stare at her till
they were a long way off, then holding up their skirts and racing for
"Domini--Domini," he said. "You can--you can play with children--
"I wanted to feel I could give a little happiness to-day," she
"To-day when--when to me--to me--you are giving----"
But before her steady gaze all the words he had meant to say, all the
words of furious protest, died on his lips.
"To me--to me--" he repeated.
Then he was silent.
"Boris," she said, "I want to give you one thing, the thing that you
have lost. I want to give you back peace."
"You never can."
"I must try. Even if I cannot I shall know that I have tried."
"You are giving me--you are giving me not peace, but a sword," he
She understood that he had seen the two tents.
"Sometimes a sword can give peace."
"The peace of death."
"Boris--my dear one--there are many kinds of deaths. Try to trust me.
Leave me to act as I must act. Let me try to be guided--only let me
He did not say another word.
That night they slept apart for the first time since their marriage.
"Domini, where are you taking me? Where are we going?"
* * * * * *
The camp was struck once more and they were riding through the desert.
Domini hesitated to answer his question. It had been put with a sort
"I know nothing," he continued. "I am in your hands like a child. It
cannot be always so. I must know, I must understand. What is our life
to be? What is our future? A man cannot--"
He paused. Then he said:
"I feel that you have come to some resolve. I feel it perpetually. It
is as if you were in light and I in darkness, you in knowledge and I
in ignorance. You--you must tell me. I have told you all now. You must
But she hesitated.
"Not now," she answered. "Not yet."
"We are to journey on day by day like this, and I am not to know where
we are going! I cannot, Domini--I will not."
"Boris, I shall tell you."
"Will you trust me, Boris, completely? Can you?"
"Boris, I have prayed so much for you that at last I feel that I can
act for you. Don't think me presumptuous. If you could see into my
heart you would see that--indeed, I don't think it would be possible
to feel more humble than I do in regard to you."
"Humble--you, Domini! You can feel humble when you think of me, when
you are with me."
"Yes. You have suffered so terribly. God has led you. I feel that He
has been--oh, I don't know how to say it quite naturally, quite as I
feel it--that He has been more intent on you than on anyone I have
ever known. I feel that His meaning in regarding to you is intense,
Boris, as if He would not let you go."
"He let me go when I left the monastery."
"Does one never return?"
Again a sensation almost of terror assailed him. He felt as if he were
fighting in darkness something that he could not see.
"Return!" he said. "What do you mean?"
She saw the expression of almost angry fear in his face. It warned her
not to give the reins to her natural impulse, which was always towards
a great frankness.
"Boris, you fled from God, but do you not think it possible that you
could ever return to Him? Have you not taken the first step? Have you
not prayed?" His face changed, grew slightly calmer.
"You told me I could pray," he answered, almost like a child.
"Otherwise I--I should not have dared to. I should have felt that I
was insulting God."
"If you trusted me in such a thing, can you not trust me now?"
"But"--he said uneasily--"but this is different, a worldly matter, a
matter of daily life. I shall have to know."
"Then why should I not know now? At any moment I could ask Batouch."
"Batouch only knows from day to day. I have a map of the desert. I got
it before we left Beni-Mora."
Something--perhaps a very slight hesitation in her voice just before
she said the last words--startled him. He turned on his horse and
looked at her hard.
"Domini," he said, "are we--we are not going back to Beni-Mora?"
"I will tell you to-night," she replied in a low voice. "Let me tell
He said no more, but he gazed at her for a long time as if striving
passionately to read her thoughts. But he could not. Her white face
was calm, and she rode looking straight before her, as one that looked
towards some distant goal to which all her soul was journeying with
her body. There was something mystical in her face, in that straight,
far-seeing glance, that surely pierced beyond the blue horizon line
and reached a faroff world. What world? He asked himself the question,
but no answer came, and he dropped his eyes. A new and horrible
sadness came to him, a new sensation of separation from Domini. She
had set their bodies apart, and he had yielded. Now, was she not
setting something else apart? For, in spite of all, in spite of his
treacherous existence with her, he had so deeply and entirely loved
her that he had sometimes felt, dared to feel, that in their passion
in the desert their souls had been fused together. His was black--he
knew it--and hers was white. But had not the fire and the depth of
their love conquered all differences, made even their souls one as
their bodies had been one? And now was she not silently, subtly,
withdrawing her soul from his? A sensation of acute despair swept over
him, of utter impotence.
"Domini!" he said, "Domini!"
"Yes," she answered.
And this time she withdrew her eyes from the blue distance and looked
"Domini, you must trust me."
He was thinking of the two tents set the one apart from the other.
"Domini, I've borne something in silence. I haven't spoken. I wanted