Part 1 out of 7
Created by Anthony Matonak, email@example.com
When the World Shook
Being an Account of the Great Adventure
of Bastin, Bickley and Arbuthnot
by H. Rider Haggard
MY DEAR CURZON,
More than thirty years ago you tried to protect me, then a
stranger to you, from one of the falsest and most malignant
accusations ever made against a writer.
So complete was your exposure of the methods of those at work
to blacken a person whom they knew to be innocent, that, as you
will remember, they refused to publish your analysis which
destroyed their charges and, incidentally, revealed their
Although for this reason vindication came otherwise, your
kindness is one that I have never forgotten, since, whatever the
immediate issue of any effort, in the end it is the intention
Therefore in gratitude and memory I ask you to accept this
romance, as I know that you do not disdain the study of romance
in the intervals of your Imperial work.
The application of its parable to our state and possibilities--
beneath or beyond these glimpses of the moon--I leave to your
Ever sincerely yours,
H. RIDER HAGGARD.
The Earl Curzon of Kedleston, K.G.
1. ARBUTHNOT DESCRIBES HIMSELF
2. BASTIN AND BICKLEY
4. DEATH AND DEPARTURE
5. THE CYCLONE
7. THE OROFENANS
8. BASTIN ATTEMPTS THE MARTYR'S CROWN
9. THE ISLAND IN THE LAKE
10. THE DWELLERS IN THE TOMB
12. TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS!
13. ORO SPEAKS AND BASTIN ARGUES
14. THE UNDER-WORLD
15. ORO IN HIS HOUSE
16. VISIONS OF THE PAST
17. YVA EXPLAINS
18. THE ACCIDENT
19. THE PROPOSALS OF BASTIN AND BICKLEY
20. ORO AND ARBUTHNOT TRAVEL BY NIGHT
21. LOVE'S ETERNAL ALTAR
22. THE COMMAND
23. IN THE TEMPLE OF FATE
24. THE CHARIOT OF THE PIT
27. BASTIN DISCOVERS A RESEMBLANCE
28. NOTE BY J. R. BICKLEY, M.R.C.S.
When the World Shook
Arbuthnot Describes Himself
I suppose that I, Humphrey Arbuthnot, should begin this history
in which Destiny has caused me to play so prominent a part, with
some short account of myself and of my circumstances.
I was born forty years ago in this very Devonshire village in
which I write, but not in the same house. Now I live in the
Priory, an ancient place and a fine one in its way, with its
panelled rooms, its beautiful gardens where, in this mild
climate, in addition to our own, flourish so many plants which
one would only expect to find in countries that lie nearer to the
sun, and its green, undulating park studded with great timber
trees. The view, too, is perfect; behind and around the rich
Devonshire landscape with its hills and valleys and its scarped
faces of red sandstone, and at a distance in front, the sea.
There are little towns quite near too, that live for the most
part on visitors, but these are so hidden away by the contours of
the ground that from the Priory one cannot see them. Such is
Fulcombe where I live, though for obvious reasons I do not give
it its real name.
Many years ago my father, the Rev. Humphrey Arbuthnot, whose
only child I am, after whom also I am named Humphrey, was the
vicar of this place with which our family is said to have some
rather vague hereditary connection. If so, it was severed in the
Carolian times because my ancestors fought on the side of
My father was a recluse, and a widower, for my mother, a
Scotswoman, died at or shortly after my birth. Being very High
Church for those days he was not popular with the family that
owned the Priory before me. Indeed its head, a somewhat vulgar
person of the name of Enfield who had made money in trade, almost
persecuted him, as he was in a position to do, being the local
magnate and the owner of the rectorial tithes.
I mention this fact because owing to it as a boy I made up my
mind that one day I would buy that place and sit in his seat, a
wild enough idea at the time. Yet it became engrained in me, as
do such aspirations of our youth, and when the opportunity arose
in after years I carried it out. Poor old Enfield! He fell on
evil fortunes, for in trying to bolster up a favourite son who
was a gambler, a spendthrift, and an ungrateful scamp, in the end
he was practically ruined and when the bad times came, was forced
to sell the Fulcombe estate. I think of him kindly now, for after
all he was good to me and gave me many a day's shooting and leave
to fish for trout in the river.
By the poor people, however, of all the district round, for the
parish itself is very small, my father was much beloved, although
he did practise confession, wear vestments and set lighted
candles on the altar, and was even said to have openly expressed
the wish, to which however he never attained, that he could see a
censer swinging in the chancel. Indeed the church which, as monks
built it, is very large and fine, was always full on Sundays,
though many of the worshippers came from far away, some of them
doubtless out of curiosity because of its papistical repute, also
because, in a learned fashion, my father's preaching was very
For my part I feel that I owe much to these High-Church views.
They opened certain doors to me and taught me something of the
mysteries which lie at the back of all religions and therefore
have their home in the inspired soul of man whence religions are
born. Only the pity is that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred
he never discovers, never even guesses at that entombed
aspiration, never sinks a shaft down on to this secret but most
precious vein of ore.
I have said that my father was learned; but this is a mild
description, for never did I know anyone quite so learned. He was
one of those men who is so good all round that he became
preeminent-eminent in nothing. A classic of the first water, a very
respectable mathematician, an expert in theology, a student of
sundry foreign languages and literature in his lighter moments,
an inquirer into sociology, a theoretical musician though his
playing of the organ excruciated most people because it was too
correct, a really first-class authority upon flint instruments
and the best grower of garden vegetables in the county, also of
apples--such were some of his attainments. That was what made his
sermons so popular, since at times one or the other of these
subjects would break out into them, his theory being that God
spoke to us through all of these things.
But if I began to drift into an analysis of my father's
abilities, I should never stop. It would take a book to describe
them. And yet mark this, with them all his name is as dead to the
world to-day as though he had never been. Light reflected from a
hundred facets dissipates itself in space and is lost; that
concentrated in one tremendous ray pierces to the stars.
Now I am going to be frank about myself, for without frankness
what is the value of such a record as this? Then it becomes
simply another convention, or rather conventional method of
expressing the octoroon kind of truths with which the highly
civilised races feed themselves, as fastidious ladies eat cakes
and bread from which all but the smallest particle of nourishment
has been extracted.
The fact is, therefore, that I inherited most of my father's
abilities, except his love for flint instruments which always
bored me to distraction, because although they are by association
really the most human of things, somehow to me they never convey
any idea of humanity. In addition I have a practical side which
he lacked; had he possessed it surely he must have become an
archbishop instead of dying the vicar of an unknown parish. Also
I have a spiritual sense, mayhap mystical would be a better term,
which with all this religion was missing from my father's nature.
For I think that notwithstanding his charity and devotion he
never quite got away from the shell of things, never cracked it
and set his teeth in the kernel which alone can feed our souls.
His keen intellect, to take an example, recognised every one of
the difficulties of our faith and flashed hither and thither in
the darkness, seeking explanation, seeking light, trying to
reconcile, to explain. He was not great enough to put all this
aside and go straight to the informing Soul beneath that strives
to express itself everywhere, even through those husks which are
called the World, the Flesh and the Devil, and as yet does not
always quite succeed.
It is this boggling over exteriors, this peering into pitfalls,
this desire to prove that what such senses as we have tell us is
impossible, is in fact possible, which causes the overthrow of
many an earnest, seeking heart and renders its work, conducted on
false lines, quite nugatory. These will trust to themselves and
their own intelligence and not be content to spring from the
cliffs of human experience into the everlasting arms of that
Infinite which are stretched out to receive them and to give them
rest and the keys of knowledge. When will man learn what was
taught to him of old, that faith is the only plank wherewith he
can float upon this sea and that his miserable works avail him
nothing; also that it is a plank made of many sorts of wood,
perhaps to suit our different weights?
So to be honest, in a sense I believe myself to be my father's
superior, and I know that he agreed with me. Perhaps this is
owing to the blood of my Scotch mother which mixed well with his
own; perhaps because the essential spirit given to me, though
cast in his mould, was in fact quite different--or of another
alloy. Do we, I wonder, really understand that there are millions
and billions of these alloys, so many indeed that Nature, or
whatever is behind Nature, never uses the same twice over? That
is why no two human beings are or ever will be quite identical.
Their flesh, the body of their humiliation, is identical in all,
any chemist will prove it to you, but that which animates the
flesh is distinct and different because it comes from the home of
that infinite variety which is necessary to the ultimate
evolution of the good and bad that we symbolise as heaven and
Further, I had and to a certain extent still have another
advantage over my father, which certainly came to me from my
mother, who was, as I judge from all descriptions and such
likenesses as remain of her, an extremely handsome woman. I was
born much better looking. He was small and dark, a little man
with deep-set eyes and beetling brows. I am also dark, but tall
above the average, and well made. I do not know that I need say
more about my personal appearance, to me not a very attractive
subject, but the fact remains that they called me "handsome
Humphrey" at the University, and I was the captain of my college
boat and won many prizes at athletic sports when I had time to
train for them.
Until I went up to Oxford my father educated me, partly because
he knew that he could do it better than anyone else, and partly
to save school expenses. The experiment was very successful, as my
love of all outdoor sports and of any small hazardous adventure
that came to my hand, also of associating with fisherfolk whom
the dangers of the deep make men among men, saved me from
becoming a milksop. For the rest I learned more from my father,
whom I always desired to please because I loved him, than I
should have done at the best and most costly of schools. This was
shown when at last I went to college with a scholarship, for
there I did very well indeed, as search would still reveal.
Here I had better set out some of my shortcomings, which in
their sum have made a failure of me. Yes, a failure in the
highest sense, though I trust what Stevenson calls "a faithful
failure." These have their root in fastidiousness and that lack
of perseverance, which really means a lack of faith, again using
the word in its higher and wider sense. For if one had real faith
one would always persevere, knowing that in every work undertaken
with high aim, there is an element of nobility, however humble
and unrecognised that work may seem to be. God after all is the
God of Work, it is written large upon the face of the Universe. I
will not expand upon the thought; it would lead me too far
afield, but those who have understanding will know what I mean.
As regards what I interpret as fastidiousness, this is not very
easy to express. Perhaps a definition will help. I am like a man
with an over-developed sense of smell, who when walking through a
foreign city, however clean and well kept, can always catch the
evil savours that are inseparable from such cities. More, his
keen perception of them interferes with all other perceptions and
spoils his walks. The result is that in after years, whenever he
thinks of that beautiful city, he remembers, not its historic
buildings or its wide boulevards, or whatever it has to boast,
but rather its ancient, fish-like smell. At least he remembers
that first owing to this defect in his temperament.
So it is with everything. A lovely woman is spoiled for such a
one because she eats too much or has too high a voice; he does
not care for his shooting because the scenery is flat, or for his
fishing because the gnats bite as well as the trout. In short he
is out of tune with the world as it is. Moreover, this is a
quality which, where it exists, cannot be overcome; it affects
day-labourers as well as gentlemen at large. It is bred in the
Probably the second failure-breeding fault, lack of
perseverance, has its roots in the first, at any rate in my case.
At least on leaving college with some reputation, I was called to
the Bar where, owing to certain solicitor and other connections,
I had a good opening. Also, owing to the excellence of my memory
and powers of work, I began very well, making money even during
my first year. Then, as it happened, a certain case came my way
and, my leader falling ill suddenly after it was opened, was left
in my hands. The man whose cause I was pleading was, I think, one
of the biggest scoundrels it is possible to conceive. It was a
will case and if he won, the effect would be to beggar two most
estimable middle-aged women who were justly entitled to the
property, to which end personally I am convinced he had committed
forgery; the perjury that accompanied it I do not even mention.
Well, he did win, thanks to me, and the estimable middle-aged
ladies were beggared, and as I heard afterwards, driven to such
extremities that one of them died of her misery and the other
became a lodging-house keeper. The details do not matter, but I
may explain that these ladies were unattractive in appearance and
manner and broke down beneath my cross-examination which made
them appear to be telling falsehoods, whereas they were only
completely confused. Further, I invented an ingenious theory of
the facts which, although the judge regarded it with suspicion,
convinced an unusually stupid jury who gave me their verdict.
Everybody congratulated me and at the time I was triumphant,
especially as my leader had declared that our case was
impossible. Afterwards, however, my conscience smote me sorely,
so much so that arguing from the false premise of this business,
I came to the conclusion that the practice of the Law was not
suited to an honest man. I did not take the large view that such
matters average themselves up and that if I had done harm in this
instance, I might live to do good in many others, and perhaps
become a just judge, even a great judge. Here I may mention that
in after years, when I grew rich, I rescued that surviving old
lady from her lodging-house, although to this day she does not
know the name of her anonymous friend. So by degrees, without
saying anything, for I kept on my chambers, I slipped out of
practice, to the great disappointment of everybody connected with
me, and took to authorship.
A marvel came to pass, my first book was an enormous success.
The whole world talked of it. A leading journal, delighted to
have discovered someone, wrote it up; other journals followed
suit to be in the movement. One of them, I remember, which had
already dismissed it with three or four sneering lines, came out
with a second and two-column notice. It sold like wildfire and I
suppose had some merits, for it is still read, though few know
that I wrote it, since fortunately it was published under a
Again I was much elated and set to work to write another and,
as I believe, a much better book. But jealousies had been excited
by this leaping into fame of a totally unknown person, which
were, moreover, accentuated through a foolish article that I
published in answer to some criticisms, wherein I spoke my mind
with an insane freedom and biting sarcasm. Indeed I was even mad
enough to quote names and to give the example of the very
powerful journal which at first carped at my work and then gushed
over it when it became the fashion. All of this made me many
bitter enemies, as I found out when my next book appeared.
It was torn to shreds, it was reviled as subversive of morality
and religion, good arrows in those days. It was called puerile,
half-educated stuff--I half-educated! More, an utterly false
charge of plagiarism was cooked up against me and so well and
venomously run that vast numbers of people concluded that I was a
thief of the lowest order. Lastly, my father, from whom the
secret could no longer be kept, sternly disapproved of both these
books which I admit were written from a very radical and somewhat
anti-church point of view. The result was our first quarrel and
before it was made up, he died suddenly.
Now again fastidiousness and my lack of perseverance did their
work, and solemnly I swore that I would never write another book,
an oath which I have kept till this moment, at least so far as
publication is concerned, and now break only because I consider
it my duty so to do and am not animated by any pecuniary object.
Thus came to an end my second attempt at carving out a career.
By now I had grown savage and cynical, rather revengeful also, I
fear. Knowing myself to possess considerable abilities in sundry
directions, I sat down, as it were, to think things over and
digest my past experiences. Then it was that the truth of a very
ancient adage struck upon my mind, namely, that money is power.
Had I sufficient money I could laugh at unjust critics for
example; indeed they or their papers would scarcely dare to
criticise me for fear lest it should be in my power to do them a
bad turn. Again I could follow my own ideas in life and perhaps
work good in the world, and live in such surroundings as
commended themselves to me. It was as clear as daylight, but--how
to make the money?
I had some capital as the result of my father's death, about
8,000 in all, plus a little more that my two books had brought
in. In what way could I employ it to the best advantage? I
remembered that a cousin of my father and therefore my own, was a
successful stock-broker, also that there had been some affection
between them. I went to him, he was a good, easy-natured man who
was frankly glad to see me, and offered to put 5,000 into his
business, for I was not minded to risk every thing I had, if he
would give me a share in the profits. He laughed heartily at my
"Why, my boy," he said, "being totally inexperienced at this
game, you might lose us more than that in a month. But I like
your courage, I like your courage, and the truth is that I do
want help. I will think it over and write to you."
He thought it over and in the end offered to try me for a year
at a fixed salary with a promise of some kind of a partnership if
I suited him. Meanwhile my 5,000 remained in my pocket.
I accepted, not without reluctance since with the impatience of
youth I wanted everything at once. I worked hard in that office
and soon mastered the business, for my knowledge of figures--I
had taken a first-class mathematical degree at college--came to
my aid, as in a way did my acquaintance with Law and Literature.
Moreover I had a certain aptitude for what is called high
finance. Further, Fortune, as usual, showed me a favourable face.
In one year I got the partnership with a small share in the
large profits of the business. In two the partner above me
retired, and I took his place with a third share of the firm. In
three my cousin, satisfied that it was in able hands, began to
cease his attendance at the office and betook himself to
gardening which was his hobby. In four I paid him out altogether,
although to do this I had to borrow money on our credit, for by
agreement the title of the firm was continued. Then came that
extraordinary time of boom which many will remember to their
cost. I made a bold stroke and won. On a certain Saturday when
the books were made up, I found that after discharging all
liabilities, I should not be worth more than 20,000. On the
following Saturday but two when the books were made up, I was
worth 153,000! L'appetit vient en mangeant. It seemed nothing
to me when so many were worth millions.
For the next year I worked as few have done, and when I struck
a balance at the end of it, I found that on the most conservative
estimate I was the owner of a million and a half in hard cash, or
its equivalent. I was so tired out that I remember this discovery
did not excite me at all. I felt utterly weary of all wealth-
hunting and of the City and its ways. Moreover my old
fastidiousness and lack of perseverance re-asserted themselves. I
reflected, rather late in the day perhaps, on the ruin that this
speculation was bringing to thousands, of which some lamentable
instances had recently come to my notice, and once more
considered whether it were a suitable career for an upright man.
I had wealth; why should I not take it and enjoy life?
Also--and here my business acumen came in, I was sure that
these times could not last. It is easy to make money on a rising
market, but when it is falling the matter is very different. In
five minutes I made up my mind. I sent for my junior partners,
for I had taken in two, and told them that I intended to retire
at once. They were dismayed both at my loss, for really I was the
firm, and because, as they pointed out, if I withdrew all my
capital, there would not be sufficient left to enable them to
One of them, a blunt and honest man, said to my face that it
would be dishonourable of me to do so. I was inclined to answer
him sharply, then remembered that his words were true.
"Very well," I said, "I will leave you 600,000 on which you
shall pay me five per cent interest, but no share of the
On these terms we dissolved the partnership and in a year they
had lost the 600,000, for the slump came with a vengeance. It
saved them, however, and to-day they are earning a reasonable
income. But I have never asked them for that 600,000.
Bastin and Bickley
Behold me once more a man without an occupation, but now the
possessor of about 900,000. It was a very considerable fortune,
if not a large one in England; nothing like the millions of which
I had dreamed, but still enough. To make the most of it and to
be sure that it remained, I invested it very well, mostly in
large mortgages at four per cent which, if the security is good,
do not depreciate in capital value. Never again did I touch a
single speculative stock, who desired to think no more about
money. It was at this time that I bought the Fulcombe property.
It cost me about 120,000 of my capital, or with alterations,
repairs, etc., say 150,000, on which sum it may pay a net two
and a half per cent, not more.
This 3,700 odd I have always devoted to the upkeep of the
place, which is therefore in first-rate order. The rest I live
on, or save.
These arrangements, with the beautifying and furnishing of the
house and the restoration of the church in memory of my father,
occupied and amused me for a year or so, but when they were
finished time began to hang heavy on my hands. What was the use
of possessing about 20,000 a year when there was nothing upon
which it could be spent? For after all my own wants were few and
simple and the acquisition of valuable pictures and costly
furniture is limited by space. Oh! in my small way I was like
the weary King Ecclesiast. For I too made me great works and had
possessions of great and small cattle (I tried farming and lost
money over it!) and gathered me silver and gold and the peculiar
treasure of kings, which I presume means whatever a man in
authority chiefly desires, and so forth. But "behold all was
vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the
So, notwithstanding my wealth and health and the deference
which is the rich man's portion, especially when the limit of his
riches is not known, it came about that I too "hated life," and
this when I was not much over thirty. I did not know what to do;
for Society as the word is generally understood, I had no taste;
it bored me; horse-racing and cards I loathed, who had already
gambled too much on a big scale. The killing of creatures under
the name of sport palled upon me, indeed I began to doubt if it
were right, while the office of a junior county magistrate in a
place where there was no crime, only occupied me an hour or two a
Lastly my neighbours were few and with all due deference to
them, extremely dull. At least I could not understand them
because in them there did not seem to be anything to understand,
and I am quite certain that they did not understand me. More,
when they came to learn that I was radical in my views and had
written certain "dreadful" and somewhat socialistic books in the
form of fiction, they both feared and mistrusted me as an enemy
to their particular section of the race. As I had not married and
showed no inclination to do so, their womenkind also, out of
their intimate knowledge, proclaimed that I led an immoral life,
though a little reflection would have shown them that there was
no one in the neighbourhood which for a time I seldom left, who
could possibly have tempted an educated creature to such courses.
Terrible is the lot of a man who, while still young and
possessing the intellect necessary to achievement, is deprived of
all ambition. And I had none at all. I did not even wish to
purchase a peerage or a baronetcy in this fashion or in that,
and, as in my father's case, my tastes were so many and so
catholic that I could not lose myself in any one of them. They
never became more than diversions to me. A hobby is only really
amusing when it becomes an obsession.
At length my lonesome friendliness oppressed me so much that I
took steps to mitigate it. In my college life I had two
particular friends whom I think I must have selected because they
were so absolutely different from myself.
They were named Bastin and Bickley. Bastin--Basil was his
Christian name--was an uncouth, shock-headed, flat-footed person
of large, rugged frame and equally rugged honesty, with a mind
almost incredibly simple. Nothing surprised him because he lacked
the faculty of surprise. He was like that kind of fish which lies
at the bottom of the sea and takes every kind of food into its
great maw without distinguishing its flavour. Metaphorically
speaking, heavenly manna and decayed cabbage were just the same
to Bastin. He was not fastidious and both were mental pabulum--of
a sort--together with whatever lay between these extremes. Yet he
was good, so painfully good that one felt that without exertion
to himself he had booked a first-class ticket straight to Heaven;
indeed that his guardian angel had tied it round his neck at
birth lest he should lose it, already numbered and dated like an
I am bound to add that Bastin never went wrong because he never
felt the slightest temptation to do so. This I suppose
constitutes real virtue, since, in view of certain Bible sayings,
the person who is tempted and would like to yield to the
temptation, is equally a sinner with the person who does yield.
To be truly good one should be too good to be tempted, or too
weak to make the effort worth the tempter's while--in short not
deserving of his powder and shot.
I need hardly add that Bastin went into the Church; indeed, he
could not have gone anywhere else; it absorbed him naturally, as
doubtless Heaven will do in due course. Only I think it likely
that until they get to know him he will bore the angels so much
that they will continually move him up higher. Also if they have
any susceptibilities left, probably he will tread upon their
toes--an art in which I never knew his equal. However, I always
loved Bastin, perhaps because no one else did, a fact of which he
remained totally unconscious, or perhaps because of his brutal
way of telling one what he conceived to be the truth, which, as
he had less imagination than a dormouse, generally it was not.
For if the truth is a jewel, it is one coloured and veiled by
many different lights and atmospheres.
It only remains to add that he was learned in his theological
fashion and that among his further peculiarities were the slow,
monotonous voice in which he uttered his views in long sentences,
and his total indifference to adverse argument however sound and
My other friend, Bickley, was a person of a quite different
character. Like Bastin, he was learned, but his tendencies faced
another way. If Bastin's omnivorous throat could swallow a camel,
especially a theological camel, Bickley's would strain at the
smallest gnat, especially a theological gnat. The very best and
most upright of men, yet he believed in nothing that he could not
taste, see or handle. He was convinced, for instance, that man is
a brute-descended accident and no more, that what we call the
soul or the mind is produced by a certain action of the grey
matter of the brain; that everything apparently inexplicable has
a perfectly mundane explanation, if only one could find it; that
miracles certainly never did happen, and never will; that all
religions are the fruit of human hopes and fears and the most
convincing proof of human weakness; that notwithstanding our
infinite variations we are the subjects of Nature's single law
and the victims of blind, black and brutal chance.
Such was Bickley with his clever, well-cut face that always
reminded me of a cameo, and thoughtful brow; his strong, capable
hands and his rather steely mouth, the mere set of which
suggested controversy of an uncompromising kind. Naturally as the
Church had claimed Bastin, so medicine claimed Bickley.
Now as it happened the man who succeeded my father as vicar of
Fulcombe was given a better living and went away shortly after I
had purchased the place and with it the advowson. Just at this
time also I received a letter written in the large, sprawling
hand of Bastin from whom I had not heard for years. It went
straight to the point, saying that he, Bastin, had seen in a
Church paper that the last incumbent had resigned the living of
Fulcombe which was in my gift. He would therefore be obliged if I
would give it to him as the place he was at in Yorkshire did not
suit his wife's health.
Here I may state that afterwards I learned that what did not
suit Mrs. Bastin was the organist, who was pretty. She was by
nature a woman with a temperament so insanely jealous that
actually she managed to be suspicious of Bastin, whom she had
captured in an unguarded moment when he was thinking of something
else and who would as soon have thought of even looking at any
woman as he would of worshipping Baal. As a matter of fact it
took him months to know one female from another. Except as
possible providers of subscriptions and props of Mothers'
Meetings, women had no interest for him.
To return--with that engaging honesty which I have mentioned--
Bastin's letter went on to set out all his own disabilities,
which, he added, would probably render him unsuitable for the
place he desired to fill. He was a High Churchman, a fact which
would certainly offend many; he had no claims to being a preacher
although he was extraordinarily well acquainted with the writings
of the Early Fathers. (What on earth had that to do with the
question, I wondered.) On the other hand he had generally been
considered a good visitor and was fond of walking (he meant to
call on distant parishioners, but did not say so).
Then followed a page and a half on the evils of the existing
system of the presentation to livings by private persons, ending
with the suggestion that I had probably committed a sin in buying
this particular advowson in order to increase my local authority,
that is, if I had bought it, a point on which he was ignorant.
Finally he informed me that as he had to christen a sick baby
five miles away on a certain moor and it was too wet for him to
ride his bicycle, he must stop. And he stopped.
There was, however, a P.S. to the letter, which ran as follows:
"Someone told me that you were dead a few years ago, and of
course it may be another man of the same name who owns Fulcombe.
If so, no doubt the Post Office will send back this letter."
That was his only allusion to my humble self in all those
diffuse pages. It was a long while since I had received an
epistle which made me laugh so much, and of course I gave him the
living by return of post, and even informed him that I would
increase its stipend to a sum which I considered suitable to the
About ten days later I received another letter from Bastin
which, as a scrawl on the flap of the envelope informed me, he
had carried for a week in his pocket and forgotten to post.
Except by inference it returned no thanks for my intended
benefits. What it did say, however, was that he thought it wrong
of me to have settled a matter of such spiritual importance in so
great a hurry, though he had observed that rich men were nearly
always selfish where their time was concerned. Moreover, he
considered that I ought first to have made inquiries as to his
present character and attainments, etc., etc.
To this epistle I replied by telegraph to the effect that I
should as soon think of making inquiries about the character of
an archangel, or that of one of his High Church saints. This
telegram, he told me afterwards, he considered unseemly and even
ribald, especially as it had given great offence to the
postmaster, who was one of the sidesmen in his church.
Thus it came about that I appointed the Rev. Basil Bastin to
the living of Fulcombe, feeling sure that he would provide me
with endless amusement and act as a moral tonic and discipline.
Also I appreciated the man's blunt candour. In due course he
arrived, and I confess that after a few Sundays of experience I
began to have doubts as to the wisdom of my choice, glad as I was
to see him personally. His sermons at once bored me, and, when
they did not send me to sleep, excited in me a desire for debate.
How could he be so profoundly acquainted with mysteries before
which the world had stood amazed for ages? Was there nothing too
hot or too heavy in the spiritual way for him to dismiss in a few
blundering and casual words, as he might any ordinary incident of
every-day life, I wondered? Also his idea of High Church
observances was not mine, or, I imagine, that of anybody else.
But I will not attempt to set it out.
His peculiarities, however, were easy to excuse and entirely
swallowed up by the innate goodness of his nature which soon made
him beloved of everyone in the place, for although he thought
that probably most things were sins, I never knew him to discover
a sin which he considered to be beyond the reach of forgiveness.
Bastin was indeed a most charitable man and in his way
The person whom I could not tolerate, however, was his wife,
who, to my fancy, more resembled a vessel, a very unattractive
vessel, full of vinegar than a woman. Her name was Sarah and she
was small, plain, flat, sandy-haired and odious, quite obsessed,
moreover, with her jealousies of the Rev. Basil, at whom it
pleased her to suppose that every woman in the countryside under
fifty was throwing herself.
Here I will confess that to the best of my ability I took care
that they did in outward seeming, that is, whenever she was
present, instructing them to sit aside with him in darkened
corners, to present him with flowers, and so forth. Several of
them easily fell into the humour of the thing, and I have seen
him depart from a dinner-party followed by that glowering Sarah,
with a handful of rosebuds and violets, to say nothing of the
traditional offerings of slippers, embroidered markers and the
like. Well, it was my only way of coming even with her, which I
think she knew, for she hated me poisonously.
So much for Basil Bastin. Now for Bickley. Him I had met on
several occasions since our college days, and after I was settled
at the Priory from time to time I asked him to stay with me. At
length he came, and I found out that he was not at all
comfortable in his London practice which was of a nature
uncongenial to him; further, that he did not get on with his
partners. Then, after reflection, I made a suggestion to him. I
pointed out that, owing to its popularity amongst seaside
visitors, the neighbourhood of Fulcombe was a rising one, and
that although there were doctors in it, there was no really
first-class surgeon for miles.
Now Bickley was a first-class surgeon, having held very high
hospital appointments, and indeed still holding them. Why, I
asked, should he not come and set up here on his own? I would
appoint him doctor to the estate and also give him charge of a
cottage hospital which I was endowing, with liberty to build and
arrange it as he liked. Further, as I considered that it would be
of great advantage to me to have a man of real ability within
reach, I would guarantee for three years whatever income he was
earning in London.
He thanked me warmly and in the end acted on the idea, with
startling results so far as his prospects were concerned. Very
soon his really remarkable skill became known and he was earning
more money than as an unmarried man he could possibly want.
Indeed, scarcely a big operation took place at any town within
twenty miles, and even much farther away, at which he was not
called in to assist.
Needless to say his advent was a great boon to me, for as he
lived in a house I let him quite near by, whenever he had a spare
evening he would drop in to dinner, and from our absolutely
opposite standpoints we discussed all things human and divine.
Thus I was enabled to sharpen my wits upon the hard steel of his
clear intellect which was yet, in a sense, so limited.
I must add that I never converted him to my way of thinking and
he never converted me to his, any more than he converted Bastin,
for whom, queerly enough, he had a liking. They pounded away at
each other, Bickley frequently getting the best of it in the
argument, and when at last Bastin rose to go, he generally made
the same remark. It was:
"It really is sad, my dear Bickley, to find a man of your
intellect so utterly wrongheaded and misguided. I have convicted
you of error at least half a dozen times, and not to confess it
is mere pigheadedness. Good night. I am sure that Sarah will be
sitting up for me."
"Silly old idiot!" Bickley would say, shaking his fist after
him. "The only way to get him to see the truth would be to saw
his head open and pour it in."
Then we would both laugh.
Such were my two most intimate friends, although I admit it was
rather like the equator cultivating close relationships with the
north and south poles. Certainly Bastin was as far from Bickley
as those points of the earth are apart, while I. as it were, sat
equally distant between the two. However, we were all very happy
together, since in certain characters, there are few things that
bind men more closely than profound differences of opinion.
Now I must turn to my more personal affairs. After all, it is
impossible for a man to satisfy his soul, if he has anything of
the sort about him which in the remotest degree answers to that
description, with the husks of wealth, luxury and indolence,
supplemented by occasional theological and other arguments
between his friends; Becoming profoundly convinced of this truth,
I searched round for something to do and, like Noah's dove on the
waste of waters, found nothing. Then I asked Bickley and Bastin
for their opinions as to my best future course. Bickley proved a
barren draw. He rubbed his nose and feebly suggested that I might
go in for "research work," which, of course, only represented his
own ambitions. I asked him indignantly how I could do such a
thing without any scientific qualifications whatever. He admitted
the difficulty, but replied that I might endow others who had the
"In short, become a much cow for sucking scientists," I
replied, and broke off the conversation.
Bastin's idea was, first, that I should teach in a Sunday
School; secondly, that if this career did not satisfy all my
aspirations, I might be ordained and become a missionary.
On my rejection of this brilliant advice, he remarked that the
only other thing he could think of was that I should get married
and have a large family, which might possibly advantage the
nation and ultimately enrich the Kingdom of Heaven, though of
such things no one could be quite sure. At any rate, he was
certain that at present I was in practice neglecting my duty,
whatever it might be, and in fact one of those cumberers of the
earth who, he observed in the newspaper he took in and read when
he had time, were "very happily named--the idle rich."
"Which reminds me," he added, "that the clothing-club finances
are in a perfectly scandalous condition; in fact, it is 25 in
debt, an amount that as the squire of the parish I consider it
incumbent on you to make good, not as a charity but as an
"Look here, my friend," I said, ignoring all the rest, "will
you answer me a plain question? Have you found marriage such a
success that you consider it your duty to recommend it to others?
And if you have, why have you not got the large family of which
"Of course not," he replied with his usual frankness. "Indeed,
it is in many ways so disagreeable that I am convinced it must be
right and for the good of all concerned. As regards the family I
am sure I do not know, but Sarah never liked babies, which
perhaps has something to do with it."
Then he sighed, adding, "You see, Arbuthnot, we have to take
things as we find them in this world and hope for a better."
"Which is just what I am trying to do, you unilluminating old
donkey!" I exclaimed, and left him there shaking his head over
matters in general, but I think principally over Sarah.
By the way, I think that the villagers recognised this good
lady's vinegary nature. At least, they used to call her "Sour
Now what Bastin had said about marriage stuck in my mind as his
blundering remarks had a way of doing, perhaps because of the
grain of honest truth with which they were often permeated.
Probably in my position it was more or less my duty to marry. But
here came the rub; I had never experienced any leanings that way.
I was as much a man as others, more so than many are, perhaps,
and I liked women, but at the same time they repelled me.
My old fastidiousness came in; to my taste there was always
something wrong about them. While they attracted one part of my
nature they revolted another part, and on the whole I preferred
to do without their intimate society, rather than work violence
to this second and higher part of me. Moreover, quite at the
beginning of my career I had concluded from observation that a
man gets on better in life alone, rather than with another to
drag at his side, or by whom perhaps he must be dragged. Still
true marriage, such as most men and some women have dreamed of in
their youth, had always been one of my ideals; indeed it was on
and around this vision that I wrote that first book of mine which
was so successful. Since I knew this to be unattainable in our
imperfect conditions, however, notwithstanding Bastin's
strictures, again I dismissed the whole matter from my mind as a
As an alternative I reflected upon a parliamentary career which
I was not too old to begin, and even toyed with one or two
opportunities that offered themselves, as these do to men of
wealth and advanced views. They never came to anything, for in
the end I decided that Party politics were so hateful and so
dishonest, that I could not bring myself to put my neck beneath
their yoke. I was sure that if I tried to do so, I should fail
more completely than I had done at the Bar and in Literature.
Here, too, I am quite certain that I was right.
The upshot of it all was that I sought refuge in that last
expedient of weary Englishmen, travel, not as a globe-trotter,
but leisurely and with an inquiring mind, learning much but again
finding, like the ancient writer whom I have quoted already, that
there is no new thing under the sun; that with certain variations
it is the same thing over and over again.
No, I will make an exception, the East did interest me
enormously. There it was, at Benares, that I came into touch with
certain thinkers who opened my eyes to a great deal. They
released some hidden spring in my nature which hitherto had
always been striving to break through the crust of our
conventions and inherited ideas. I know now that what I was
seeking was nothing less than the Infinite; that I had "immortal
longings in me." I listened to all their solemn talk of epochs
and years measureless to man, and reflected with a thrill that
after all man might have his part in every one of them. Yes, that
bird of passage as he seemed to be, flying out of darkness into
darkness, still he might have spread his wings in the light of
other suns millions upon millions of years ago, and might still
spread them, grown radiant and glorious, millions upon millions
of years hence in a time unborn.
If only I could know the truth. Was Life (according to Bickley)
merely a short activity bounded by nothingness before and behind;
or (according to Bastin) a conventional golden-harped and haloed
immortality, a word of which he did not in the least understand
Or was it something quite different from either of these,
something vast and splendid beyond the reach of vision,
something God-sent, beginning and ending in the Eternal Absolute
and at last partaking of His attributes and nature and from aeon
to aeon shot through with His light? And how was the truth to be
learned? I asked my Eastern friends, and they talked vaguely of
long ascetic preparation, of years upon years of learning, from
whom I could not quite discover. I was sure it could not be from
them, because clearly they did not know; they only passed on what
they had heard elsewhere, when or how they either could not or
would not explain. So at length I gave it up, having satisfied
myself that all this was but an effort of Oriental imagination
called into life by the sweet influences of the Eastern stars.
I gave it up and went away, thinking that I should forget. But
I did not forget. I was quick with a new hope, or at any rate
with a new aspiration, and that secret child of holy desire grew
and grew within my soul, till at length it flashed upon me that
this soul of mine was itself the hidden Master from which I must
learn my lesson. No wonder that those Eastern friends could not
give his name, seeing that whatever they really knew, as
distinguished from what they had heard, and it was little enough,
each of them had learned from the teaching of his own soul.
Thus, then, I too became a dreamer with only one longing, the
longing for wisdom, for that spirit touch which should open my
eyes and enable me to see.
Yet now it happened strangely enough that when I seemed within
myself to have little further interest in the things of the
world, and least of all in women, I, who had taken another guest
to dwell with me, those things of the world came back to me and
in the shape of Woman the Inevitable. Probably it was so decreed
since is it not written that no man can live to himself alone, or
lose himself in watching and nurturing the growth of his own
It happened thus. I went to Rome on my way home from India, and
stayed there a while. On the day after my arrival I wrote my name
in the book of our Minister to Italy at that time, Sir Alfred
Upton, not because I wished him to ask me to dinner, but for the
reason that I had heard of him as a man of archeological tastes
and thought that he might enable me to see things which otherwise
I should not see.
As it chanced he knew about me through some of my Devonshire
neighbours who were friends of his, and did ask me to dinner on
the following night. I accepted and found myself one of a
considerable party, some of them distinguished English people who
wore Orders, as is customary when one dines with the
representative of our Sovereign. Seeing these, and this shows
that in the best of us vanity is only latent, for the first time
in my life I was sorry that I had none and was only plain Mr.
Arbuthnot who, as Sir Alfred explained to me politely, must go in
to dinner last, because all the rest had titles, and without even
a lady as there was not one to spare.
Nor was my lot bettered when I got there, as I found myself
seated between an Italian countess and a Russian prince, neither
of whom could talk English, while, alas, I knew no foreign
language, not even French in which they addressed me, seeming
surprised that I did not understand them. I was humiliated at my
own ignorance, although in fact I was not ignorant, only my
education had been classical. Indeed I was a good classic and had
kept up my knowledge more or less, especially since I became an
idle man. In my confusion it occurred to me that the Italian
countess might know Latin from which her own language was
derived, and addressed her in that tongue. She stared, and Sir
Alfred, who was not far off and overheard me (he also knew
Latin), burst into laughter and proceeded to explain the joke in
a loud voice, first in French and then in English, to the
assembled company, who all became infected with merriment and
also stared at me as a curiosity.
Then it was that for the first time I saw Natalie, for owing to
a mistake of my driver I had arrived rather late and had not been
introduced to her. As her father's only daughter, her mother
being dead, she was seated at the end of the table behind a
fan-like arrangement of white Madonna lilies, and she had bent
forward and, like the others, was looking at me, but in such a
fashion that her head from that distance seemed as though it were
surrounded and crowned with lilies. Indeed the greatest art could
not have produced a more beautiful effect which was, however,
really one of naked accident.
An angel looking down upon earth through the lilies of
Heaven--that was the rather absurd thought which flashed into my
mind. I did not quite realise her face at first except that it
seemed to be both dark and fair; as a fact her waving hair which
grew rather low upon her forehead, was dark, and her large, soft
eyes were grey. I did not know, and to this moment I do not know
if she was really beautiful, but certainly the light that shone
through those eyes of hers and seemed to be reflected upon her
delicate features, was beauty itself. It was like that glowing
through a thin vase of the purest alabaster within which a lamp
is placed, and I felt this effect to arise from no chance, like
that of the lily-setting, but, as it were, from the lamp of the
Our eyes met, and I suppose that she saw the wonder and
admiration in mine. At any rate her amused smile faded, leaving
the face rather serious, though still sweetly serious, and a
tinge of colour crept over it as the first hue of dawn creeps
into a pearly sky. Then she withdrew herself behind the screen of
lilies and for the rest of that dinner which I thought was never
coming to an end, practically I saw her no more. Only I noted as
she passed out that although not tall, she was rounded and
graceful in shape and that her hands were peculiarly delicate.
Afterwards in the drawing-room her father, with whom I had
talked at the table, introduced me to her, saying:
"My daughter is the real archaeologist, Mr. Arbuthnot, and I
think if you ask her, she may be able to help you."
Then he bustled away to speak to some of his important guests,
from whom I think he was seeking political information.
"My father exaggerates," she said in a soft and very
sympathetic voice, "but perhaps"--and she motioned me to a seat
at her side.
Then we talked of the places and things that I more
particularly desired to see and, well, the end of it was that I
went back to my hotel in love with Natalie; and as she afterwards
confessed, she went to bed in love with me.
It was a curious business, more like meeting a very old friend
from whom one had been separated by circumstances for a score of
years or so than anything else. We were, so to speak, intimate
from the first; we knew all about each other, although here and
there was something new, something different which we could not
remember, lines of thought, veins of memory which we did not
possess in common. On one point I am absolutely clear: it was not
solely the everyday and ancient appeal of woman to man and man to
woman which drew us together, though doubtless this had its part
in our attachment as under our human conditions it must do,
seeing that it is Nature's bait to ensure the continuance of the
race. It was something more, something quite beyond that
At any rate we loved, and one evening in the shelter of the
solemn walls of the great Coliseum at Rome, which at that hour
were shut to all except ourselves, we confessed our love. I
really think we must have chosen the spot by tacit but mutual
consent because we felt it to be fitting. It was so old, so
impregnated with every human experience, from the direst crime of
the tyrant who thought himself a god, to the sublimest sacrifice
of the martyr who already was half a god; with every vice and
virtue also which lies between these extremes, that it seemed to
be the most fitting altar whereon to offer our hearts and all
that caused them to beat, each to the other.
So Natalie and I were betrothed within a month of our first
meeting. Within three we were married, for what was there to
prevent or delay? Naturally Sir Alfred was delighted, seeing that
he possessed but small private resources and I was able to make
ample provision for his daughter who had hitherto shown herself
somewhat difficult in this business of matrimony and now was
bordering on her twenty-seventh year. Everybody was delighted,
everything went smoothly as a sledge sliding down a slope of
frozen snow and the mists of time hid whatever might be at the
end of that slope. Probably a plain; at the worst the upward rise
of ordinary life.
That is what we thought, if we thought at all. Certainly we
never dreamed of a precipice. Why should we, who were young, by
comparison, quite healthy and very rich? Who thinks of precipices
under such circumstances, when disaster seems to be eliminated
and death is yet a long way off?
And yet we ought to have done so, because we should have known
that smooth surfaces without impediment to the runners often end
in something of the kind.
I am bound to say that when we returned home to Fulcombe, where
of course we met with a great reception, including the ringing
(out of tune) of the new peal of bells that I had given to the
church, Bastin made haste to point this out.
"Your wife seems a very nice and beautiful lady, Arbuthnot," he
reflected aloud after dinner, when Mrs. Bastin, glowering as
usual, though what at I do not know, had been escorted from the
room by Natalie, "and really, when I come to think of it, you are
an unusually fortunate person. You possess a great deal of money,
much more than you have any right to; which you seem to have done
very little to earn and do not spend quite as I should like you
to do, and this nice property, that ought to be owned by a great
number of people, as, according to the views you express, I
should have thought you would acknowledge, and everything else
that a man can want. It is very strange that you should be so
favoured and not because of any particular merits of your own
which one can see. However, I have no doubt it will all come even
in the end and you will get your share of troubles, like others.
Perhaps Mrs. Arbuthnot will have no children as there is so much
for them to take. Or perhaps you will lose all your money and
have to work for your living, which might be good for you. Or,"
he added, still thinking aloud after his fashion, "perhaps she
will die young--she has that kind of face, although, of course, I
hope she won't," he added, waking up.
I do not know why, but his wandering words struck me cold; the
proverbial funeral bell at the marriage feast was nothing to
them. I suppose it was because in a flash of intuition I knew
that they would come true and that he was an appointed Cassandra.
Perhaps this uncanny knowledge overcame my natural indignation at
such super-gaucherie of which no one but Bastin could have been
capable, and even prevented me from replying at all, so that I
merely sat still and looked at him.
But Bickley did reply with some vigour.
"Forgive me for saying so, Bastin," he said, bristling all over
as it were, "but your remarks, which may or may not be in
accordance with the principles of your religion, seem to me to be
in singularly bad taste. They would have turned the stomachs of a
gathering of early Christians, who appear to have been the worst
mannered people in the world, and at any decent heathen feast
your neck would have been wrung as that of a bird of ill omen."
"Why?" asked Bastin blankly. "I only said what I thought to be
the truth. The truth is better than what you call good taste."
"Then I will say what I think also to be the truth," replied
Bickley, growing furious. "It is that you use your Christianity
as a cloak for bad manners. It teaches consideration and sympathy
for others of which you seem to have none. Moreover, since you
talk of the death of people's wives, I will tell you something
about your own, as a doctor, which I can do as I never attended
her. It is highly probable, in my opinion, that she will die
before Mrs. Arbuthnot, who is quite a healthy person with a good
prospect of life."
"Perhaps," said Bastin. "If so, it will be God's will and I
shall not complain" (here Bickley snorted), "though I do not see
what you can know about it. But why should you cast reflections
on the early Christians who were people of strong principle
living in rough times, and had to wage war against an established
devil-worship? I know you are angry because they smashed up the
statues of Venus and so forth, but had I been in their place I
should have done the same."
"Of course you would, who doubts it? But as for the early
Christians and their iconoclastic performances--well, curse them,
that's all!" and he sprang up and left the room.
I followed him.
Let it not be supposed from the above scene that there was any
ill-feeling between Bastin and Bickley. On the contrary they were
much attached to each other, and this kind of quarrel meant no
more than the strong expression of their individual views to
which they were accustomed from their college days. For instance
Bastin was always talking about the early Christians and
missionaries, while Bickley loathed both, the early Christians
because of the destruction which they had wrought in Egypt,
Italy, Greece and elsewhere, of all that was beautiful; and the
missionaries because, as he said, they were degrading and
spoiling the native races and by inducing them to wear clothes,
rendering them liable to disease. Bastin would answer that their
souls were more important than their bodies, to which Bickley
replied that as there was no such thing as a soul except in the
stupid imagination of priests, he differed entirely on the point.
As it was quite impossible for either to convince the other,
there the conversation would end, or drift into something in
which they were mutually interested, such as natural history and
the hygiene of the neighbourhood.
Here I may state that Bickley's keen professional eye was not
mistaken when he diagnosed Mrs. Bastin's state of health as
dangerous. As a matter of fact she was suffering from heart
disease that a doctor can often recognise by the colour of the
lips, etc., which brought about her death under the following
Her husband attended some ecclesiastical function at a town
over twenty miles away and was to have returned by a train which
would have brought him home about five o'clock. As he did not
arrive she waited at the station for him until the last train
came in about seven o'clock--without the beloved Basil. Then, on
a winter's night she tore up to the Priory and begged me to lend
her a dog-cart in which to drive to the said town to look for
him. I expostulated against the folly of such a proceeding,
saying that no doubt Basil was safe enough but had forgotten to
telegraph, or thought that he would save the sixpence which the
Then it came out, to Natalie's and my intense amusement, that
all this was the result of her jealous nature of which I have
spoken. She said she had never slept a night away from her
husband since they were married and with so many "designing
persons" about she could not say what might happen if she did so,
especially as he was "such a favourite and so handsome." (Bastin
was a fine looking man in his rugged way.)
I suggested that she might have a little confidence in him, to
which she replied darkly that she had no confidence in anybody.
The end of it was that I lent her the cart with a fast horse
and a good driver, and off she went. Reaching the town in
question some two and a half hours later, she searched high and
low through wind and sleet, but found no Basil. He, it appeared,
had gone on to Exeter, to look at the cathedral where some
building was being done, and missing the last train had there
slept the night.
About one in the morning, after being nearly locked up as a mad
woman, she drove back to the Vicarage, again to find no Basil.
Even then she did not go to bed but raged about the house in her
wet clothes, until she fell down utterly exhausted. When her
husband did return on the following morning, full of information
about the cathedral, she was dangerously ill, and actually passed
away while uttering a violent tirade against him for his supposed
That was the end of this truly odious British matron.
In after days Bastin, by some peculiar mental process,
canonised her in his imagination as a kind of saint. "So loving,"
he would say, "such a devoted wife! Why, my dear Humphrey, I can
assure you that even in the midst of her death-struggle her last
thoughts were of me," words that caused Bickley to snort with
more than usual vigour, until I kicked him to silence beneath the
Death and Departure
Now I must tell of my own terrible sorrow, which turned my life
to bitterness and my hopes to ashes.
Never were a man and a woman happier together than I and
Natalie. Mentally, physically, spiritually we were perfectly
mated, and we loved each other dearly. Truly we were as one. Yet
there was something about her which filled me with vague fears,
especially after she found that she was to become a mother. I
would talk to her of the child, but she would sigh and shake her
head, her eyes filling with tears, and say that we must not count
on the continuance of such happiness as ours, for it was too
I tried to laugh away her doubts, though whenever I did so I
seemed to hear Bastin's slow voice remarking casually that she
might die, as he might have commented on the quality of the
claret. At last, however, I grew terrified and asked her bluntly
what she meant.
"I don't quite know, dearest," she replied, "especially as I am
wonderfully well. But--but--"
"But what?" I asked.
"But I think that our companionship is going to be broken for a
"For a little while!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, Humphrey. I think that I shall be taken away from you--
you know what I mean," and she nodded towards the churchyard.
"Oh, my God!" I groaned.
"I want to say this," she added quickly, "that if such' a thing
should happen, as it happens every day, I implore you, dearest
Humphrey, not to be too much distressed, since I am sure that you
will find me again. No, I can't explain how or when or where,
because I do not know. I have prayed for light, but it has not
come to me. All I know is that I am not talking of reunion in Mr.
Bastin's kind of conventional heaven, which he speaks about as
though to reach it one stumbled through darkness for a minute
into a fine new house next door, where excellent servants had
made everything ready for your arrival and all the lights were
turned up. It is something quite different from that and very
much more real."
Then she bent down ostensibly to pat the head of a little black
cocker spaniel called Tommy which had been given to her as a
puppy, a highly intelligent and affectionate animal that we both
adored and that loved her as only a dog can love. Really, I knew,
it was to hide her tears, and fled from the room lest she should
As I went I heard the dog whimpering in a peculiar way, as
though some sympathetic knowledge had been communicated to its
wonderful animal intelligence.
That night I spoke to Bickley about the matter, repeating
exactly what had passed. As I expected, he smiled in his grave,
rather sarcastic way, and made light of it.
"My dear Humphrey," he said, "don't torment yourself about such
fancies. They are of everyday occurrence among women in your
wife's condition. Sometimes they take one form, sometimes
another. When she has got her baby you will hear no more of
I tried to be comforted but in vain.
The days and weeks went by like a long nightmare and in due
course the event happened. Bickley was not attending the case; it
was not in his line, he said, and he preferred that where a
friend's wife was concerned, somebody else should be called in.
So it was put in charge of a very good local man with a large
experience in such domestic matters.
How am I to tell of it? Everything went wrong; as for the
details, let them be. Ultimately Bickley did operate, and if
surpassing skill could have saved her, it would have been done.
But the other man had misjudged the conditions; it was too late,
nothing could help either mother or child, a little girl who died
shortly after she was born but not before she had been
christened, also by the name of Natalie.
I was called in to say farewell to my wife and found her
radiant, triumphant even in her weakness.
"I know now," she whispered in a faint voice. "I understood as
the chloroform passed away, but I cannot tell you. Everything is
quite well, my darling. Go where you seem called to go, far away.
Oh! the wonderful place in which you will find me, not knowing
that you have found me. Good-bye for a little while; only for a
little while, my own, my own!"
Then she died. And for a time I too seemed to die, but could
not. I buried her and the child here at Fulcombe; or rather I
buried their ashes since I could not endure that her beloved body
should see corruption.
Afterwards, when all was over, I spoke of these last words of
Natalie's with both Bickley and Bastin, for somehow I seemed to
wish to learn their separate views.
The latter I may explain, had been present at the end in his
spiritual capacity, but I do not think that he in the least
understood the nature of the drama which was passing before his
eyes. His prayers and the christening absorbed all his attention,
and he never was a man who could think of more than one thing at
When I told him exactly what had happened and repeated the
words that Natalie spoke, he was much interested in his own
nebulous way, and said that it was delightful to meet with an
example of a good Christian, such as my wife had been, who
actually saw something of Heaven before she had gone there. His
own faith was, he thanked God, fairly robust, but still an
undoubted occurrence of the sort acted as a refreshment, "like
rain on a pasture when it is rather dry, you know," he added,
breaking into simile.
I remarked that she had not seemed to speak in the sense he
indicated, but appeared to allude to something quite near at hand
and more or less immediate.
"I don't know that there is anything nearer at hand than the
Hereafter," he answered. "I expect she meant that you will
probably soon die and join her in Paradise, if you are worthy to
do so. But of course it is not wise to put too much reliance upon
words spoken by people at the last, because often they don't
quite know what they are saying. Indeed sometimes I think this
was so in the case of my own wife, who really seemed to me to
talk a good deal of rubbish. Good-bye, I promised to see Widow
Jenkins this afternoon about having her varicose veins cut out,
and I mustn't stop here wasting time in pleasant conversation.
She thinks just as much of her varicose veins as we do of the
loss of our wives."
I wonder what Bastin's ideas of unpleasant conversation may be,
thought I to myself, as I watched him depart already
wool-gathering on some other subject, probably the heresy of one
of those "early fathers" who occupied most of his thoughts.
Bickley listened to my tale in sympathetic silence, as a doctor
does to a patient. When he was obliged to speak, he said that it
was interesting as an example of a tendency of certain minds
towards romantic vision which sometimes asserts itself, even in
the throes of death.
"You know," he added, "that I put faith in none of these
things. I wish that I could, but reason and science both show me
that they lack foundation. The world on the whole is a sad place,
where we arrive through the passions of others implanted in them
by Nature, which, although it cares nothing for individual death,
is tender towards the impulse of races of every sort to preserve
their collective life. Indeed the impulse is Nature, or at least
its chief manifestation. Consequently, whether we be gnats or
elephants, or anything between and beyond, even stars for aught I
know, we must make the best of things as they are, taking the
good and the evil as they come and getting all we can out of life
until it leaves us, after which we need not trouble. You had a
good time for a little while and were happy in it; now you are
having a bad time and are wretched. Perhaps in the future, when
your mental balance has re-asserted itself, you will have other
good times in the afternoon of your days, and then follow
twilight and the dark. That is all there is to hope for, and we
may as well look the thing in the face. Only I confess, my dear
fellow, that your experience convinces me that marriage should be
avoided at whatever inconvenience. Indeed I have long wondered
that anyone can take the responsibility of bringing a child into
the world. But probably nobody does in cold blood, except
misguided idiots like Bastin," he added. "He would have twenty,
had not his luck intervened."
"Then you believe in nothing, Friend," I said.
"Nothing, I am sorry to say, except what I see and my five
"You reject all possibility of miracle, for instance?"
"That depends on what you mean by miracle. Science shows us all
kinds of wonders which our great grandfathers would have called
miracles, but these are nothing but laws that we are beginning to
understand. Give me an instance."
"Well," I replied at hazard, "if you were assured by someone
that a man could live for a thousand years?"
"I should tell him that he was a fool or a liar, that is all.
It is impossible."
"Or that the same identity, spirit, animating principle--call
it what you will--can flit from body to body, say in successive
ages? Or that the dead can communicate with the living?"
"Convince me of any of these things, Arbuthnot, and mind you I
desire to be convinced, and I will take back every word I have
said and walk through Fulcombe in a white sheet proclaiming
myself the fool. Now, I must get off to the Cottage Hospital to
cut out Widow Jenkins's varicose veins. They are tangible and
real at any rate; about the largest I ever saw, indeed. Give up
dreams, old boy, and take to something useful. You might go back
to your fiction writing; you seem to have leanings that way, and
you know you need not publish the stories, except privately for
the edification of your friends."
With this Parthian shaft Bickley took his departure to make a
job of Widow Jenkins's legs.
I took his advice. During the next few months I did write
something which occupied my thoughts for a while, more or less.
It lies in my safe to this minute, for somehow I have never been
able to make up my mind to burn what cost me so much physical and
When it was finished my melancholy returned to me with added
force. Everything in the house took a tongue and cried to me of
past days. Its walls echoed a voice that I could never hear
again; in the very looking-glasses I saw the reflection of a lost
presence. Although I had moved myself for the purposes of sleep
to a little room at the further end of the building, footsteps
seemed to creep about my bed at night and I heard the rustle of a
remembered dress without the door. The place grew hateful to me.
I felt that I must get away from it or I should go mad.
One afternoon Bastin arrived carrying a book and in a state of
high indignation. This work, written, as he said, by some ribald
traveller, grossly traduced the character of missionaries to the
South Sea Islands, especially of those of the Society to which he
subscribed, and he threw it on the table in his righteous wrath.
Bickley picked it up and opened it at a photograph of a very
pretty South Sea Island girl clad in a few flowers and nothing
else, which he held towards Bastin, saying:
"Is it to this child of Nature. that you object? I call her
distinctly attractive, though perhaps she does wear her hibiscus
blooms with a difference to our women--a little lower down."
"The devil is always attractive," replied Bastin gloomily.
"Child of Nature indeed! I call her Child of Sin. That photograph
is enough to make my poor Sarah turn in her grave."
"Why?" asked Bickley; "seeing that wide seas roll between you
and this dusky Venus. Also I thought that according to your
Hebrew legend sin came in with bark garments."
"You should search the Scriptures, Bickley," I broke in, "and
cultivate accuracy. It was fig-leaves that symbolised its
arrival. The garments, which I think were of skin, developed
"Perhaps," went on Bickley, who had turned the page, "she" (he
referred to the late Mrs. Bastin) "would have preferred her
thus," and he held up another illustration of the same woman.
In this the native belle appeared after conversion, clad in
broken-down stays--I suppose they were stays--out of which she
seemed to bulge and flow in every direction, a dirty white dress
several sizes too small, a kind of Salvation Army bonnet without
a crown and a prayer-book which she held pressed to her middle;
the general effect being hideous, and in some curious way,
"Certainly," said Bastin, "though I admit her clothes do not
seem to fit and she has not buttoned them up as she ought. But it
is not of the pictures so much as of the letterpress with its
false and scandalous accusations, that I complain."
"Why do you complain?" asked Bickley. "Probably it is quite
true, though that we could never ascertain without visiting the
"If I could afford it," exclaimed Bastin with rising anger, "I
should like to go there and expose this vile traducer of my
"So should I," answered Bickley, "and expose these introducers
of consumption, measles and other European diseases, to say
nothing of gin, among an innocent and Arcadian people."
"How can you call them innocent, Bickley, when they murder and
"I dare say we should all eat a missionary, Bastin, if we were
hungry enough," was the answer, after which something occurred to
change the conversation.
But I kept the book and read it as a neutral observer, and came
to the conclusion that these South Sea Islands, a land where it
was always afternoon, must be a charming place, in which perhaps
the stars of the Tropics and the scent of the flowers might
enable one to forget a little, or at least take the edge off
memory. Why should I not visit them and escape another long and
dreary English winter? No, I could not do so alone. If Bastin and
Bickley were there, their eternal arguments might amuse me. Well,
why should they not come also? When one has money things can
always be arranged.
The idea, which had its root in this absurd conversation, took
a curious hold on me. I thought of it all the evening, being
alone, and that night it re-arose m my dreams. I dreamed that my
lost Natalie appeared to me and showed me a picture. It was of a
long, low land, a curving shore of which the ends were out of the
picture, whereon grew tall palms, and where great combers broke
upon gleaming sand.
Then the picture seemed to become a reality and I saw Natalie
herself, strangely changeful in her aspect, strangely varying in
face and figure, strangely bright, standing in the mouth of a
pass whereof the little bordering cliffs were covered with bushes
and low trees, whose green was almost hid in lovely flowers.
There in my dream she stood, smiling mysteriously, and stretched
out her arms towards me.
As I awoke I seemed to hear her voice, repeating her dying
words: "Go where you seem called to go, far away. Oh! the
wonderful place in which you will find me, not knowing that you
have found me."
With some variations this dream visited me twice that night. In
the morning I woke up quite determined that I would go to the
South Sea Islands, even if I must do so alone. On that same
evening Bastin and Bickley dined with me. I said nothing to them
about my dream, for Bastin never dreamed and Bickley would have
set it down to indigestion. But when the cloth had been cleared
away and we were drinking our glass of port--both Bastin and
Bickley only took one, the former because he considered port a
sinful indulgence of the flesh, the latter because he feared it
would give him gout--I remarked casually that they both looked
very run down and as though they wanted a rest. They agreed, at
least each of them said he had noticed it in the other. Indeed
Bastin added that the damp and the cold in the church, in which
he held daily services to no congregation except the old woman
who cleaned it, had given him rheumatism, which prevented him
"Do call things by their proper names," interrupted Bickley. "I
told you yesterday that what you are suffering from is neuritis
in your right arm, which will become chronic if you neglect it
much longer. I have the same thing myself, so I ought to know,
and unless I can stop operating for a while I believe my fingers
will become useless. Also something is affecting my sight,
overstrain, I suppose, so that I am obliged to wear stronger and
stronger glasses. I think I shall have to leave Ogden" (his
partner) "in charge for a while, and get away into the sun. There
is none here before June."
"I would if I could pay a locum tenens and were quite sure it
isn't wrong," said Bastin.
"I am glad you both think like that," I remarked, "as I have a
suggestion to make to you. I want to go to the South Seas about
which we were talking yesterday, to get the thorough change that
Bickley has been advising for me, and I should be very grateful
if you would both come as my guests. You, Bickley, make so much
money out of cutting people about, that you can arrange your own
affairs during your absence. But as for you, Bastin, I will see
to the wherewithal for the locum tenens, and everything else."
"You are very kind," said Bastin, "and certainly I should like
to expose that misguided author, who probably published his
offensive work without thinking that what he wrote might affect
the subscriptions to the missionary societies, also to show
Bickley that he is not always right, as he seems to think. But I
could never dream of accepting without the full approval of the
"You might get that of your nurse also, if she happens to be
still alive," mocked Bickley. "As for his Lordship, I don't think
he will raise any objection when he sees the certificate I will
give you about the state of your health. He is a great believer
in me ever since I took that carbuncle out of his neck which he
got because he will not eat enough. As for me, I mean to come if
only to show you how continually and persistently you are wrong.
But, Arbuthnot, how do you mean to go?"
"I don't know. In a mail steamer, I suppose."
"If you can run to it, a yacht would be much better."
"That's a good idea, for one could get out of the beaten tracks
and see the places that are never, or seldom, visited. I will
make some inquiries. And now, to celebrate the occasion, let us
all have another glass of port and drink a toast."
They hesitated and were lost, Bastin murmuring something about
doing without his stout next day as a penance. Then they both
asked what was the toast, each of them, after thought, suggesting
that it should be the utter confusion of the other.
I shook my head, whereon as a result of further cogitation,
Bastin submitted that the Unknown would be suitable. Bickley said
that he thought this a foolish idea as everything worth knowing
was already known, and what was the good of drinking to the rest?
A toast to the Truth would be better.
A notion came to me.
"Let us combine them," I said, "and drink to the Unknown
So we did, though Bastin grumbled that the performance made him
feel like Pilate.
"We are all Pilates in our way," I replied with a sigh.
"That is what I think every time I diagnose a case," exclaimed
As for me I laughed and for some unknown reason felt happier
than I had done for months. Oh! if only the writer of that
tourist tale of the South Sea Islands could have guessed what
fruit his light-thrown seed would yield to us and to the world!
I made my inquiries through a London agency which hired out
yachts or sold them to the idle rich. As I expected, there were
plenty to be had, at a price, but wealthy as I was, the figure
asked of the buyer of any suitable craft, staggered me. In the
end, however, I chartered one for six months certain and at so
much per month for as long as I liked afterwards. The owners paid
insurance and everything else on condition that they appointed
the captain and first mate, also the engineer, for this yacht,
which was named Star of the South, could steam at about ten knots
as well as sail.
I know nothing about yachts, and therefore shall not attempt to
describe her, further than to say that she was of five hundred
and fifty tons burden, very well constructed, and smart to look
at, as well she might be, seeing that a deceased millionaire from
whose executors I hired her had spent a fortune in building and
equipping her in the best possible style. In all, her crew
consisted of thirty-two hands. A peculiarity of the vessel was
that owing to some fancy of the late owner, the passenger
accommodation, which was splendid, lay forward of the bridge,
this with the ship's store-rooms, refrigerating chamber, etc.,
being almost in the bows. It was owing to these arrangements,
which were unusual, that the executors found it impossible to
sell, and were therefore glad to accept such an offer as mine in
order to save expenses. Perhaps they hoped that she might go to
the bottom, being heavily insured. If so, the Fates did not
The captain, named Astley, was a jovial person who held every
kind of certificate. He seemed so extraordinarily able at his
business that personally I suspected him of having made mistakes
in the course of his career, not unconnected with the worship of
Bacchus. In this I believe I was right; otherwise a man of such
attainments would have been commanding something bigger than a
private yacht. The first mate, Jacobsen, was a melancholy Dane, a
spiritualist who played the concertina, and seemed to be able to
do without sleep. The crew were a mixed lot, good men for the
most part and quite unobjectionable, more than half of them being
Scandinavian. I think that is all I need say about the Star of
The arrangement was that the Star of the South should proceed
through the Straits of Gibraltar to Marseilles, where we would
join her, and thence travel via the Suez Canal, to Australia and
on to the South Seas, returning home as our fancy or convenience
All the first part of the plan we carried out to the letter. Of
the remainder I say nothing at present.
The Star of the South was amply provided with every kind of
store. Among them were medicines and surgical instruments,
selected by Bickley, and a case of Bibles and other religious
works in sundry languages of the South Seas, selected by Bastin,
whose bishop, when he understood the pious objects of his
journey, had rather encouraged than hindered his departure on
sick leave, and a large number of novels, books of reference,
etc., laid in by myself. She duly sailed from the Thames and
reached Marseilles after a safe and easy passage, where all three
of us boarded her.
I forgot to add that she had another passenger, the little
spaniel, Tommy. I had intended to leave him behind, but while I
was packing up he followed me about with such evident
understanding of my purpose that my heart was touched. When I
entered the motor to drive to the station he escaped from the
hands of the servant, whimpering, and took refuge on my knee.
After this I felt that Destiny intended him to be our companion.
Moreover, was he not linked with my dead past, and, had I but
known it, with my living future also?
We enjoyed our voyage exceedingly. In Egypt, a land I was glad
to revisit, we only stopped a week while the Star of the South,
which we rejoined at Suez, coaled and went through the Canal.
This, however, gave us time to spend a few days in Cairo, visit
the Pyramids and Sakkara which Bastin and Bickley had never seen
before, and inspect the great Museum. The journey up the Nile was
postponed until our return. It was a pleasant break and gave
Bickley, a most omnivorous reader who was well acquainted with
Egyptian history and theology, the opportunity of trying to prove
to Bastin that Christianity was a mere development of the ancient
Egyptian faith. The arguments that ensued may be imagined. It
never seemed to occur to either of them that all faiths may be
and indeed probably are progressive; in short, different rays of
light thrown from the various facets of the same crystal, as in
turn these are shone upon by the sun of Truth.
Our passage down the Red Sea was cool and agreeable. Thence we
shaped our course for Ceylon. Here again we stopped a little
while to run up to Kandy and to visit the ruined city of
Anarajapura with its great Buddhist topes that once again gave
rise to religious argument between my two friends. Leaving Ceylon
we struck across the Indian Ocean for Perth in Western Australia.
It was a long voyage, since to save our coal we made most of it
under canvas. However, we were not dull as Captain Astley was a
good companion, and even out of the melancholy Dane, Jacobsen, we
had entertainment. He insisted on holding seances in the cabin,
at which the usual phenomena occurred. The table twisted about,
voices were heard and Jacobsen's accordion wailed out tunes above
our heads. These happenings drove Bickley to a kind of madness,
for here were events which he could not explain. He was convinced
that someone was playing tricks upon him, and devised the most
elaborate snares to detect the rogue, entirely without result.
First he accused Jacobsen, who was very indignant, and then me,
who laughed. In the end Jacobsen and I left the "circle" and the
cabin, which was locked behind us; only Bastin and Bickley
remaining there in the dark. Presently we heard sounds of
altercation, and Bickley emerged looking very red in the face,
followed by Bastin, who was saying:
"Can I help it if something pulled your nose and snatched off
your eyeglasses, which anyhow are quite useless to you when there
is no light? Again, is it possible for me, sitting on the other
side of that table, to have placed the concertina on your head
and made it play the National Anthem, a thing that I have not the
slightest idea how to do?"
"Please do not try to explain," snapped Bickley. "I am
perfectly aware that you deceived me somehow, which no doubt you
think a good joke."
"My dear fellow," I interrupted, "is it possible to imagine old
Basil deceiving anyone?"
"Why not," snorted Bickley, "seeing that he deceives himself
from one year's end to the other?"
"I think," said Bastin, "that this is an unholy business and
that we are both deceived by the devil. I will have no more to do
with it," and he departed to his cabin, probably to say some
After this the seances were given up but Jacobsen produced an
instrument called a planchette and with difficulty persuaded
Bickley to try it, which he did after many precautions. The
thing, a heart-shaped piece of wood mounted on wheels and with a
pencil stuck at its narrow end, cantered about the sheet of paper
on which it was placed, Bickley, whose hands rested upon it,
staring at the roof of the cabin. Then it began to scribble and
after a while stopped still.
"Will the Doctor look?" said Jacobsen. "Perhaps the spirits
have told him something."
"Oh! curse all this silly talk about spirits," exclaimed
Bickley, as he arranged his eyeglasses and held up the paper to
the light, for it was after dinner.
He stared, then with an exclamation which I will not repeat,
and a glance of savage suspicion at the poor Dane and the rest of
us, threw it down and left the cabin. I picked it up and next
moment was screaming with laughter. There on the top of the sheet
was a rough but entirely recognizable portrait of Bickley with
the accordion on his head, and underneath, written in a delicate,
Italian female hand, absolutely different from his own, were
these words taken from one of St. Paul's Epistles--"Oppositions
of science falsely so called." Underneath them again in a
scrawling, schoolboy fist, very like Bastin's, was inscribed,
"Tell us how this is done, you silly doctor, who think yourself
"It seems that the devil really can quote Scripture," was
Bastin's only comment, while Jacobsen stared before him and
Bickley never alluded to the matter, but for days afterwards I
saw him experimenting with paper and chemicals, evidently trying
to discover a form of invisible ink which would appear upon the
application of the hand. As he never said anything about it, I
fear that he failed.
This planchette business had a somewhat curious ending. A few
nights later Jacobsen was working it and asked me to put a
question. To oblige him I inquired on what day we should reach
Fremantle, the port of Perth. It wrote an answer which, I may
remark, subsequently proved to be quite correct.
"That is not a good question," said Jacobsen, "since as a
sailor I might guess the reply. Try again, Mr. Arbuthnot."
"Will anything remarkable happen on our voyage to the South
Seas?" I inquired casually.
The planchette hesitated a while then wrote rapidly and
stopped. Jacobsen took up the paper and began to read the answer
aloud--"To A, B the D, and B the C, the most remarkable things
will happen that have happened to men living in the world."
"That must mean me, Bickley the doctor and Bastin the
clergyman," I said, laughing.
Jacobsen paid no attention, for he was reading what followed.
As he did so I saw his face turn white and his eyes begin to
start from his head. Then suddenly he tore the paper in pieces
which he thrust into his pocket. Lifting his great fist he
uttered some Danish oath and with a single blow smashed the
planchette to fragments, after which he strode away, leaving me
astonished and somewhat disturbed. When I met him the next
morning I asked him what was on the paper.
"Oh!" he said quietly, "something I should not like you too-
proper English gentlemens to see. Something not nice. You
understand. Those spirits not always good; they do that kind of
thing sometimes. That's why I broke up this planchette."
Then he began to talk of something else and there the matter
I should have said that, principally with a view to putting
themselves in a position to confute each other, ever since we had
started from Marseilles both Bastin and Bickley spent a number of
hours each day in assiduous study of the language of the South
Sea Islands. It became a kind of competition between them as to
which could learn the most. Now Bastin, although simple and even
stupid in some ways, was a good scholar, and as I knew at
college, had quite a faculty for acquiring languages in which he
had taken high marks at examinations. Bickley, too, was an
extraordinarily able person with an excellent memory, especially
when he was on his mettle. The result was that before we ever
reached a South Sea island they had a good working knowledge of
the local tongues.
As it chanced, too, at Perth we picked up a Samoan and his wife
who, under some of the "white Australia" regulations, were not
allowed to remain in the country and offered to work as servants
in return for a passage to Apia where we proposed to call some
time or other. With these people Bastin and Bickley talked all
day long till really they became fairly proficient in their soft
and beautiful dialect. They wished me to learn also, but I said
that with two such excellent interpreters and the natives while
they remained with us, it seemed quite unnecessary. Still, I
picked up a good deal in a quiet way, as much as they did
At length, travelling on and on as a voyager to the planet Mars
might do, we sighted the low shores of Australia and that same
evening were towed, for our coal was quite exhausted, to the
wharf at Fremantle. Here we spent a few days exploring the
beautiful town of Perth and its neighbourhood where it was very
hot just then, and eating peaches and grapes till we made
ourselves ill, as a visitor often does who is unaware that fruit
should not be taken in quantity in Australia while the sun is
high. Then we departed for Melbourne almost before our arrival
was generally known, since I did not wish to advertise our
presence or the object of our journey.
We crossed the Great Australian Bight, of evil reputation, in
the most perfect weather; indeed it might have been a mill pond,
and after a short stay at Melbourne, went on to Sydney, where we
coaled again and laid in supplies.
Then our real journey began. The plan we laid out was to sail
to Suva in Fiji, about 1,700 miles away, and after a stay there,
on to Hawaii or the Sandwich Islands, stopping perhaps at the
Phoenix Islands and the Central Polynesian Sporades, such as
Christmas and Fanning Isles. Then we proposed to turn south again
through the Marshall Archipelago and the Caroline Islands, and so
on to New Guinea and the Coral Sea. Particularly did we wish to