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  • 1908
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A second night like last stared me in the face. What was the use of continuing to feel in this wretched, angry, burning, hungry way?

I broke the seal and read Suzee’s second appeal to me, more passionate, more urgent than the last. She begged me to go to her without delay, or it would be too late; a fervour of longing breathed in every line.

An ironic smile came over my face as I read. This letter to me seemed like an echo of the one I had sent to Viola that morning. Well, I would wait for her answer, and then, perhaps, if she would not return to me, I would go to ‘Frisco.

In any case, I would send a few lines to Suzee with the money for her purchase. It would be best to cable it to her, and I went out again to arrange this.

Five wretched, listless days went by, followed by nearly sleepless nights, and then came Viola’s answer, apparently by the postmark from some place in France.

My whole body shook as I opened it, and for many seconds I could see nothing on the paper but a mass of dancing black lines. Yet the immense comfort of being again in touch with her after these dreadful days of isolation seemed to flow over and through me like some healing balm.

At last I read these lines:

“I am terribly, unutterably grieved, my own dearest one, to hear how much you have suffered, but my return to you now would not undo that, and only give you the pain in addition that I went away to avoid for you.

“Go, dearest, go out to ‘Frisco, and let the thought of me lie in your subconsciousness for a year, a little chrysalis of future happiness. Do not think of me, do not let your mind dwell on me. Fill up your life with joy and work. I have a conviction that we cannot ever really separate in this life. Therefore I do not fear (as you seemed to do) that anything will be strong enough to keep us apart if we both will to be together. Only, for a time, let me sleep in your Soul in a chamber where none other can enter, and the year will soon pass for you, though slowly, as a winter night, for me. Your


* * * * *

A great numbness seized me as I came to the end.

A year without her. It seemed like Eternity itself.

I sat for many hours motionless with her letter in my hand.

Then I went out and to a ticket office in Piccadilly, and got a through ticket to ‘Frisco.



During the voyage to New York and the subsequent journey across America to San Francisco I was very wretched.

The mystery of Viola’s disappearance and her flight from me stood before my mind perpetually, worrying and harassing it. I felt no joyful anticipation of reaching ‘Frisco and meeting Suzee, though I recognised in a dull way that some sort of distraction and companionship would be the best thing to stop this incessant pondering on the same subject. I slept little at night, and in the short intervals of rest such vivid dreams of Viola would come to me, that awakening in the morning brought a fresh anguish of despair and disappointment with it each day.

This sort of thing could not go on, I must let her “lie asleep in my subconsciousness for a year,” as she put it in her letter–for to forget her was impossible–or my reason would go down under the strain.

When I arrived in San Francisco, it was one of those strange days when the sea-fog comes in to visit the town. It rolled in great thick billows down the streets from the sand dunes, obscuring everything, damping everything, filling the air with the salt scent of the open sea.

I went to one of the big hotels, and they gave me a bedroom and sitting-room to myself: the rooms were adjoining and comfortable, but oh! what a blankness fell upon me as I sat down in one of the chairs and the bell-boy, having deposited a jug of iced water on the table, shut the door. I had been so much with Viola that it seemed strange to me now, hard to realise that I was alone. How many rooms such as these, she and I had come into, shared together, and how bright and gay her companionship had always been, how she had always laughed at the discomforts or the difficulties of our travels! Surely we had been made for each other! What strange wave of life was this that had broken us apart? I looked towards my bedroom, dull and cheerless and empty. From the open window the warm, wet, yellow fog was streaming in its soft wreaths through both rooms. The roar from the stone-paved streets, crowded with incessant traffic, came up to me muffled through the fog.

After a time I rose, closed the windows, unpacked my things, and changed my clothes. Then I went down at six to dine, as I wanted a long evening. Some champagne cheered me, and as I sat in the long, crowded dining-room, alone at my small table, my heart began to beat again warmly at the thought of the new venture before me. To-night? What would it bring forth? Should I find her? The vitalising breath of excitement began to creep through me. I finished my dinner hurriedly, swallowed my black coffee at a draught, and made my way down the room and out to the hall, putting on my hat and coat as I went. I found the guide I had asked for when I first arrived at the hotel waiting for me. He asked me mysteriously if I had put away my watch and divested myself of all jewellery, and I told him impatiently I had and showed him a small revolver I always carried. When he was somewhat reassured I took the paper that Suzee had sent me out of my pocket and showed it to him.

“That’s where I want to go,” I said, “and if you know every hole and cranny of the place as I was told, I suppose you know that one.”

The guide grinned as he read the name.

“It’s the worst place in the whole town,” he remarked with a sort of admiring unction. I evidently went up in his estimation as he recognised the acumen I had shewed in my choice. I was a visitor worthy of his guidance, and he was put upon his mettle.

“The police don’t dare to go there, but they’ll let me in day or night.”

We had reached the door now and stepped into the street. The fog had had its frolic down town, it seemed and had almost disappeared, rolling off to the sand dunes and the sea whence it had come. The night was dark and fresh with the damp saltness of the shore; a few stars shone above. The shops were still open, and their huge plate-glass windows blazed with light. We walked rapidly through these streets towards the Chinese quarter where the noise and light ceased. The streets were quiet and empty and seemed very clean. The shops here were closed. The lights few. There was a fever of impatience in my veins. I felt as when one is drawing near to an unknown combat: a conflict the nature of which and ultimate result one does not know.

My rather shambling guide seemed amused at the pace at which I walked and giggled immoderately between remarks of his own which seemed to him to be appropriate to the occasion. I hardly heard him. At one moment I was lost in a bitter reflection of how many excursions and similar wanderings Viola had shared with me; at another, my mind seemed leaping eagerly forward, to seize this new joy in front of me.

“That’s a joss-house, and that’s a tea-house, and that’s a silk merchant,” remarked my guide at intervals, indicating different buildings as we passed. Some were frame houses with signs hanging out, painted in Chinese characters and with wonderful red door-posts; some had latticed windows with lights burning behind. But for the most part, from this outer point of view, Chinatown was clean, orderly, and dark.

We stopped at last before an open doorway through which we stepped and crossed a yard, hemmed in by the crowded frame buildings round it, but open to the sky. By the light of the stars we found a ladder at the farther side and ascended this as it leant against the crooked wall of a rickety and tumbledown-looking house. The ladder went as far as the second story, where there was an open square of blackness, either window or door, through which we scrambled from the swaying rungs and then found ourselves in a passage. It was very low, apparently, for I struck my head whenever I held it upright, and so narrow that our shoulders brushed the sides. It was in fact a little tunnel, reminding one of the rounded runways a rabbit makes in thick undergrowth. It was quite dark, and my guide put himself in front and took one of my hands, pulling me along after him down steps and round corners, along different twisted, corkscrew turnings, till at last a passage a little broader than the others opened before us, where a lamp was burning; he drew back against the wall, pushing me forwards, and whispering some directions in my ear.

I passed along, as I was bid, went down two small steps, and knocked at the door I found before me. The door seemed a very stout one, securely fastened, and had a small aperture, at the height of one’s face from the ground. It was only about five inches square and set with thick vertical iron bars. Behind these was an iron flap now closed.

I knocked and waited. Presently the iron flap behind the bars was cautiously opened and I saw a face peering through at me. Before I could speak the iron flap was shut to with a clank.

“That’s because Nanine sees you’re a stranger,” whispered my guide. “They’re a real bad lot here, and they’re precious afraid of any ‘tecs getting in. Just let me pass, sir.”

I drew back, and he went up and gave the most extraordinary squawk that I ever heard. It was a pretty good password to have, for I should think no stranger could imitate it. The flap flew open again, and then some conversation ensued through the bars.

“It’s all right now, sir,” said the guide after a minute; “you walk right in.” The door was now ajar. I went forwards and pushed it; it gave way easily. I stepped inside, and it swung to behind me. Inside the light was red–scarlet. A lamp was standing somewhere at the side of the room, behind thin, red curtains. As I entered, another door at the end of the room swung to on a retreating form. Some one had gone out. The room seemed empty. It was very small, and an enormous bed took up nearly the whole of it. There seemed no window at all anywhere: the low ceiling almost touched my head. I stopped still. A very slight movement somewhere near me seemed to speak of another’s presence.

“Suzee,” I said under my breath.

At the sound of my voice there was a delighted cry, and the next moment a little form in scarlet drapery threw itself at my feet.

“Treevor, Treevor,” came in Suzee’s voice; and I bent over the little scarlet bundle, lifted her up, and pressed my lips on her hair. It smelt of roses, just as it had done in the tea-shop at Sitka, and carried me back there on the wings of its fragrance, as scents alone can do.

She clung to me in a wild fervour of emotion. I felt her little hands dutch me desperately. She kissed my arm and wrist passionately, seeming not to dare to lift her face to mine. This wild abandonment, this frenzy of hungered, starving love, what a sharp contrast to the cool, slow surrender of Viola, if surrender it could be called, that lending of the beautiful body, with total reserve of the spirit! Even in that moment of this wild lavishing of love from another, as the little breast leapt wildly against my own, a fierce pulse of jealous longing went through me as I thought of that unconquered something that _she_ had never yielded to me.

Suzee hardly seemed to expect my caresses in return, she only seemed to wish to pour her own upon me in the wildest, most lavish excess. At last, when she grew a little calmer, I held her at arm’s length from me and looked at her.

“Now, Suzee, I want you to tell me what you are doing in this awful place. How did you get here, to begin with?”

“Oh, Mister Treevor, I have had such trouble, such awful trouble, you will never believe; but when I ran–when I came to Mrs. Hackett she was very good to me, only she wanted to sell me for two hundred and fifty dollars to Chinaman. I said, ‘No, I belong to rich Englishman. He send you more if you wait. He send you three hundred!’ And I wrote you, you remember?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Did you get the money all right that I cabled to you?”

“Oh yes, Treevor, thank you; and Nanine had it and so she was willing to keep me.”

“But what have you been doing while you have been here?” I said glancing round. The whole place, with its hidden entrance, secret passages, and barred doors seemed to speak of the lowest and worst forms of vice.

“Oh, Treevor, I have been very good, so good. I would not have any visitors at all. I was so afraid you would find out and not have me if you knew, and, besides, I loved you too much.” (But this was evidently an after-thought, and I noted it as such. Her true reason was given first.) “And I knew Nanine would take all my money, whatever I got. She is good to the girls here, but she takes all their money, all, they never have any. So I said to myself, ‘What is the use? Besides, he will come soon and take you away.’ And to Nanine I said–‘Englishman will be so angry with you and with me, perhaps he will kill you or tell the police if you do not keep me for him.’ And when the money came Nanine was quite pleased and said perhaps you would pay more when you came, so she did not worry me with Chinamen or any one, and I’ve had this room all to myself since I’ve been here. And I was very much afraid of you, Treevor, if I did anything at all, so I really, really have not.”

I kept my eyes fixed on hers all the time she was speaking, and I felt as the words came eagerly from her lips that they were the truth. Her exquisite, untouched beauty, her ardour of passionate welcome to me helped to illustrate it.

I smiled at her.

“Well, I am quite satisfied,” I said; “I believe you have been ‘good,’ as you call it, because you were afraid to be otherwise. I want to hear a lot more about your husband and how you came here, but I think we had better get out of this place as soon as we can. Have you any things you want to take with you?”

“Only this,” she said, pointing to an odd, little, hide-covered trunk beside her. “That has my silk clothes in it and my jewellery. If you want me to come away I can come now.”

I sat silent for a moment, thinking. Where should I take her? Back to my own hotel perhaps for this one night. It might be managed. It was getting late, most of the people in the hotel would be in bed when we got there. To-morrow or the next day we could start for Mexico, where I had made up my mind to go with her.

“Very well,” I said aloud; “shut up your trunk and put something round you, and we’ll go now.”

“You will see Nanine? You will speak to her? Let me call her,” said Suzee rather anxiously. And as I assented she slipped out of the room and reappeared with a fat, coarse-looking woman who grinned amiably as she saw me. She agreed to let Suzee go with me then and there for another hundred dollars, and said her little trunk should be sent downstairs and put on a cab which the guide could get for us.

While this was being done, she chatted to me, thanked me for the money I had cabled over, and hoped I was satisfied with Suzee, her appearance, and the treatment she had received. I said I was, and asked how it was the girl had come to her at all. She seemed a little confused at that, and began to explain volubly that she had had nothing to do with it. Suzee had come there one night and begged to be taken in, and as she had known some of the girl’s people who had formerly lived in Chinatown, she had done so out of pure pity and charity and love of humanity.

I listened to all this with a smile, and, as I felt I was not getting the truth, did not prolong the conversation. When the guide came back and said he was ready for us I paid the one hundred dollars and wished her good-night.

She opened the outer door of the room for us, and we went down a staircase this time which eventually led us to a door in another yard from which we gained the street. The ladder way, I take it, was used chiefly as a convenient exit in case of a raid by the police. I put Suzee into the cab and jumped in myself, the guide went on the box, and we drove back to the hotel.

It needed a certain amount of moral courage to drive up to the hotel with the scarlet-clad Suzee beside me, but I think possibly artists have a larger share of that useful quality than other men. Always having been different from others since his childhood, the artist is accustomed to the gaping wonder, the ridicule as well as the admiration, the misunderstanding, of those about him, and it ceases to affect him; while viewing as he does his companions with a certain contempt, knowing them to be less gifted than himself, he sets no store by their opinion.

So I paid and dismissed my guide, also the driver, pushed open the swinging glass doors, and entered the lounge, Suzee beside me.

We were not late enough; in another hour the hall would have been deserted. As it was, the band had ceased playing, but there were numbers of men lounging about and smoking, and groups of women still sitting in the rocking-chairs under the palms.

Through the hall we went, straight to the lift, but every eye was turned upon us and I felt rather than heard the gasp of horror that our entry caused. The elevator boy almost collapsed on the ground as I motioned Suzee to go in and sit down, which she did–on the floor.

However, no actual force was used to restrain our movements, and we reached my rooms without any hindrance.

It was decidedly an improvement to have her there; the rooms looked better, more comfortable, more as my rooms were accustomed to look.

Suzee herself was extravagantly delighted, and shewed it in every look and gesture. Gay and radiant in her brilliant scarlet silk, she moved about under the electric light like a glowing animated picture.

“What will you have to eat or drink?” I asked as I saw her look curiously into the jug of iced water that adorned my table. “I’ll order some supper.”

“Anything, Treevor, anything you eat; I don’t mind, and I never drink anything but tea. May I get out my own tea-things and make it?”

“Certainly,” I answered, and I watched her interestedly as she went down on her knees before her little trunk and opened it, turning out beautiful coloured silks of all shades on to the floor.

While we were thus innocently engaged the hotel manager burst suddenly into the room. He looked very perturbed, and his face was a deep purple.

“Now, sir, will you tell me what you mean by behaving like this in a respectable hotel?”

He caught sight of Suzee sitting on the ground and started; the girl stared up at him with a look of astonishment in which I thought recognition blended.

“Come outside,” I said mildly, “and take a turn in the corridor with me.” And we both went out and shut the door.

I talked with him for fifteen minutes and explained it was unwise and unnecessary to make a great fuss and turn a good customer into the streets at this late hour. We were going in any case as soon as we could get off; in the mean time, the engagement of the next room to mine at seven dollars a day for Suzee would satisfy the proprieties. An artist must have models for his pictures and must put them up somewhere. Besides, I pointed out that he could put all my transgressions down at full length in the bill.

This seemed to soothe him very much, and our interview ended by his unlocking the door of the next room, turning on the lights, and saying what a fine one it was. I promised Suzee should occupy it, and told him we wanted supper and some champagne he could recommend. This completely softened him, and he left me promising to send the waiter for orders.

In a few minutes the same bell-boy appeared with another of the inevitable jugs of iced water, and a waiter came immediately after and took my orders. All this being temporarily arranged, I went back to Suzee. She had changed in that short time from her scarlet dress into one of the palest blue, the most exquisite soft tone of colour conceivable. It was all embroidered round the edge of the little jacket and the wide falling sleeves in mauve and silver, and she had twisted some mauve flowers and heavy silver ornaments into her shining hair. Her great dark eyes flashed and sparkled, the pure tint of her skin shewed the most faultless cream against the soft blue silk, her little mouth curved redly in gay smiles as she looked at me for admiration.

I was sad and heart-sick really in my inner self, but the senses count for much in this life and they were pleased and told me I had done well.

“I am quite, quite happy, Treevor,” she said, as I told her she was beautiful, a vision to dazzle one. “Now see me make tea. All Chinese make it this way.”

On a little side table she had rigged up a sort of spirit stand, and on this a kettle steamed merrily. Set out on the table was a queer little silver box of tea and four delicate, transparent cups or basins, for they had no handles, of the most fairy-like egg-shell china, each standing in a shell-like saucer.

“Where is your teapot?” I asked, coming up to the table and putting my hand on the blue silk-clad shoulder.

“Chinese never have teapot. That’s all an English mistake. Chinese always make tea in a cup.”

She took as she spoke a pinch of tea between her tiny fingers and dropped it into one of the cups, immediately filling it up with boiling water. Then she took the saucer from underneath and set it on the top, its rim exactly enclosed the edge of the cup. Raising the saucer a trifle at one side, she poured the infusion into one of the other little bowls, keeping her finger on the saucer to hold it in place. The tea leaves, kept back by the saucer, remained in the first cup. The tea, a clear, pale-amber liquid, filled the second.

“Now it is ready to drink,” she said, lifting the tiny egg-shell bowl and handing it to me.

“Don’t you have any milk or sugar?” I said, taking the hot basin in my hand and holding it by a little rim at the bottom, the only place one could hold it for the heat.

“No, anything else spoil it. You drink that and I make you another.”

She threw away the first leaves, put a fresh pinch of tea in, filled up the bowl and strained it off into another as before, then picked up the second by the bottom rim, drained it, and repeated the process with marvellous rapidity. I watched her, sipping my own.

“Do you like it?” she asked. “It is real gold-tipped Orange Pekoe. Very good tea, indeed!”

I drank it. It had a wonderful flavour. I told her so and took another cup, to her great delight.

The waiter came in, laid our supper on the table, put the champagne in ice, and departed. I offered Suzee the wine, but she said she had all the tea she could drink. She was willing to eat, however, and we sat down to the table.

“I want you to tell me all about what happened at Sitka,” I said. “How did poor old Hop Lee die?”

“Oh, it was all such a dreadful thing, Treevor,” she returned, spreading out both hands, on the wrists of which heavy silver bangles set with amethysts shone and tinkled. “He went down one day to Fort Wrangle on business and when he came back one day after, he had a fearful cough, and then he got very ill and went to bed, and I sat beside him and he got worse and worse. Oh, so bad, and the doctor came and he had very much medicine, and then his chest began to bleed, and he coughed very much blood for days and days and weeks, and I nursed him all that time, Treevor, all night long. I got no sleep at all; oh, it was very, very bad.”

I looked at her curiously. I could not somehow picture Suzee as the devoted nurse passing sleepless nights and never absent from the pillow of the suffering Hop Lee.

As I looked at her, I noticed the strange thickening of the features and darkening of the skin I had noted before at Sitka, and knew the blood was mounting into the face, though she could not blush, as the English girl blushes, red.

“It is really true, Treevor,” she said, in an aggrieved tone.

“I am not contradicting you,” I replied calmly, “go on.”

“At last he died,” she continued, though in rather a sulky tone, “and doctor said I might die too, I had made myself so ill, so thin with waiting on him. My bones stuck out so,” she put her hands edgeways to her sides to indicate how her ribs, now remarkably well covered, had stood out from her sufferings; but remembering the fictitious blows she had recounted to me when I first met her, I was not so much stirred by her recital as I might otherwise have been.

“And what about the child?” I asked.

“The boy? Oh, Treevor, he died very soon after. He caught cold from his father, I think.”

“Did he die of cold and cough, too, then?” I asked.

“Yes, he coughed till he died. Oh, I cried so much when he died. My baby boy, my very big baby, I did love him so.”

She blinked her glorious eyes very much as if they were full of tears at the recollection, but I did not see any fall, and she pursued her supper without any interruption of appetite.

I sat back in my chair, watching her and musing. Poor old Hop Lee! I wondered what his last moments had been like, and whether those dainty fingers had really been employed smoothing his brow, or counting his effects, at the last?

“And then what came after?” I asked. “How did it come that you were to be sold, as you said?”

“We were very poor when he died; so poor, and we owed a lot, and his brother came up from Juneau and took over the tea-shop and everything. Then he said he had offer from big Chinaman who would buy me, and he said my husband owe him lot of money, he sell me, get it back, and he sent me down to Nanine in ‘Frisco to give to big Chinaman; but I told Nanine you would give more, so Nanine kept me for you.”

“But how will your husband’s brother get the money for you in that case?” I said.

“What a lot of questions you do ask, Treevor!” she returned sulkily. “I don’t know how he will get the money. He will make Nanine give him some, I suppose. Let us forget it all, I don’t want to think of that any more.”

I laughed.

“Very well. If you have finished your supper, come over here and sit on my knee and we will forget it all, as you say.”

She rose willingly and came over to me, a lovely, shimmering, Oriental vision, dainty and perfect.

“I must paint you, Suzee, some day just as you appear now and call you The Beauty of China, or something like that. You seem the joy of the East incarnate.”

Suzee frowned and then smiled.

“I do not like such long words. I do not understand you when you talk like that; but I love you, Treevor, so, so much.”

The misty light of dawn was rolling over ‘Frisco when I shewed Suzee her own room, where according to the pact with the manager, she was to sleep.

She shivered as we went into it.

“Oh, Treevor, what a great big room,” she said; “I am frightened at it. Won’t you stay with me? Or let me be in yours?”

“I said you should sleep here,” I answered; “so you must. Jump into bed quick and go to sleep; you will soon forget the size of the room. I am dead tired now, I must go and get some sleep myself. Good-night, dear.”

I kissed her and went back to the sitting-room. The morning light struggling with the artificial fell on the table with its scattered plates and glasses, and on her little trunk and the unpacked silken clothes.

I turned out the lights and drew up the blinds, and stood looking out. The waves of soft white fog filled the empty streets. All was quiet, white, in the dawn.

I had said I was tired, yet now sleep seemed far from my eyes, and my mind flew out over intervening space to Viola, longing to find her, wherever she was.

Where would she be? I could imagine her waking with this same dawn in her calm, innocent bed, and gazing, too, into this white light, and longing for me. Surely she would be that? The words of her letter came back to me: the time would pass “slowly as a winter night to me, your Viola.”

She was right. Nothing could divide us permanently, really. Perhaps even Death would be powerless to do that.

I had a dissatisfied feeling with myself. Would it have been better, I asked myself, to have waited through this year alone, since nothing could really satisfy or delight me in her absence? What was the good, after all, of chasing the mere shadow of the joy I had with her?

But, strangely enough, I felt that Viola had no wish that I should pass this mysterious year of separation she had imposed upon us, alone.

She had confessed her inability to share my love with any other. The incident of Veronica had made that clear; but now that she chose to deny herself to me she seemed rather to wish than otherwise that I should seek adventures, experiences elsewhere. And I felt indefinitely, yet strongly, that the more I could crush into this year of life and of artistic inspiration, especially the latter, the happier she would feel when we met.

Perhaps she wished to tire me with lesser loves, certain that her own must prevail against them. Perhaps she had even left me solely for this, with this idea. Knowing herself unable to bear the pain of infidelity to her when she was present, yet, accepting it as tending to some ultimate psychological end, she had withdrawn herself from me.

I remembered she had said once to me:

“I would so much rather be a man’s last love, the crowning love of his life, the one whose image would be with him as he passed from this world, than his first; poor little toy of his youth, forgotten, unheeded, effaced by the passions of his life at the zenith.”

Perhaps, … but, ah! what was the use of speculation when it might all be wrong?

Some reason was there, guiding that subtle mystery of her brain, and I, if I fulfilled her expressed wishes, was doing the utmost to carry out that plan of hers which I could not yet understand.

A feeling of excessive weariness invaded me, mental and physical, and as the light grew stronger, breaking into day, I went to my own room to sleep.

As soon as I woke I got up and went to look at my new possession. To my surprise the room seemed empty. I looked round. No Suzee. I went up to the bed. It had apparently not been slept in, but two of the blankets had been pulled off and disappeared.

As I stood by the bedside, wondering what had become of her, I felt a soft kiss on my ankles and, looking down, there she was, creeping out from under the bed with one of the blankets round her. Her hair was a lovely undisarranged mass; but the rosebuds in it were dead, and it was dusty. Her face looked like white silk in its youthful pallor. She smiled up delightedly at me and crawled out farther from the bed valance.

“What are you doing down there?” I asked. “Wasn’t the bed comfortable?”

“Oh yes, Treevor, underneath I was very comfortable and warm. You see, I have always been accustomed to something over my head, and in this room the ceiling is such a long way off.”

She got up and stood before me, her rounded shoulders and sweetly moulded arms shewing above the blanket.

“You don’t mind, do you?” she added, with a note of quick anxiety.

I laughed as I remembered the low ceilings, almost on one’s head, that are the rule in Chinatown, and caught her up in my arms.

“No, I don’t mind,” I said; “only get into bed now, and don’t shew that you have slept underneath instead of inside. I am going to order breakfast and I will call you in a minute or two.”

I threw her on to the bed, into which she rolled like a kitten, kissed her, and went back to my own room.

When we had had breakfast I took Suzee with me on the car, and all the eyes of its occupants fixed upon us for the whole of the journey. This was harmless, however, and I did not mind, while Suzee sat apparently sublimely unconscious of the rude stares and ruder smiles, with the calm gravity of the Oriental who is above insults because he considers himself above criticism.

At the office where I went to buy tickets for our journey I was put to worse annoyance. I had taken tickets for two from ‘Frisco to City of Mexico when the clerk, looking suddenly from me to my childish companion, said: “We can’t give you a section,[A] sir.”

“Why not?” I demanded.

“Only married couples,” he remarked tersely, and turned away.

I told Suzee to go outside, and went to another part of the office, bought my section ticket from another clerk while the first was engaged, and then joined her. I began to realise that petty difficulties would line the path the whole way, and I must make some effort to minimise them.

We went to a cafe for lunch, and after seating ourselves at a table a little away from the staring crowd, I said: “I expect it would be better if we got you some American clothes.”

“Very well, Treevor,” she returned docilely, and leant her pretty, round, ivory-hued cheek on her hand as she looked across at me adoringly. Had I suggested cutting off her head, I believe she would have looked the same.

“We must try after lunch to get some,” I continued. “And don’t be too submissive to me in public. You see, it’s not at all the fashion with us for wives to be that way, and it makes people think you are not mine.”

Suzee laughed gaily: the idea seemed to amuse her.

After lunch we went to one of the large stores, and Suzee, in her scarlet silk attracted of course general attention. We found, however, a sensible saleswoman to whom I explained that I wanted a grey travelling costume, and she and Suzee disappeared from me entirely, into the fitting-room.

Left alone, I swung myself back on a chair and lapsed into thought.

When Suzee at last came back an exclamation broke from me. She was spoilt. Lovely as she seemed in her own picturesque clothing, in the rough grey cloth of hideous Western dress she looked simply a little guy. Reading my face at a glance, her own clouded instantly, and in another second she would have thrown herself at my feet had I not warned her by a look and a gesture not to. I sprang up and turned to the saleswoman.

“Is this the best, the prettiest costume you have?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. You see it’s so difficult to fit the young lady without any corsets, and she is really so short we have only a few skirts that will do for her.”

I looked at Suzee as she stood before me. The figure, so exquisite in its lines when unclothed, looked too soft and shapeless under the cloth coat. She appeared absurdly short, too, beside the American assistant, who stood at least five feet eleven. I could not bear to see my little Suzee so disfigured. However, that she looked far more ordinary could not be disputed. She would attract less attention now, and that might be an advantage. Her head was still bare and had its Oriental character, but the colour of her skin against the grey cloth lost its creaminess that it had possessed above the blue silk jacket. It now looked merely sallow.

I paid nine guineas for the hideous dress, ordered the silk clothes to be sent to the hotel, and then we went on to the millinery. Amongst these frightful edifices my heart sank still more, but I steeled myself to the ordeal, and, choosing out the simplest grey one I could find, directed the giggling young shop-assistant to try it on Suzee.

The immense coiffure of shining black hair of the Chinese girl did not lend itself to any Western hat. Hat and hair together made her head appear out of proportion to the small, short figure.

At last, in despair, I said:

“You must alter your hair and do it in a different way. Could you take it down now and roll it up small at the back, do you think?”

Suzee gazed on me in mild surprise.

“Take my hair down, here and now! Why, it’s done up for a fortnight!” she answered simply, while the shop-girl turned away to replace a hat and hide her titters.

“Do you only do your hair once a fortnight?” I enquired, surprised in my turn.

“Yes, that’s all. It’s such a bother to do. It was done just before you came. I thought it would do for a month, I took such pains with it.”

A month! So that beautiful, scented, shining coiffure was only brushed out once a month!

A sudden memory of Viola and her gleaming light tresses swept over me, as I had seen them at night lying on her shoulders. But had I not often waited for her till I was deadly sleepy, and when at length she came to the bedside and I had asked her what she had been doing all that time, had she not generally said–“brushing her hair”?

Perhaps, after all, a coiffure that never detained its owner at night except once a month might have its advantages.

By the time these reflections had swept over me, Suzee herself had found a little grey velvet hat that looked less dreadful than the rest. I had only to pay for it, which I did, and she walked away with me in her Western clothes. At the glove counter things went well, and she triumphed over her civilised sisters. Her tiny supple hands were easily fitted by number five, and tired and thirsty with our efforts we left the store and found our way to a tea-shop.

The change in dress made matters easier. She did not attract much notice now; and unless any one looked very closely at her, she would pass for any little ordinary, unattractive European girl. It rather ruffled my vanity to think she should look like this, but I consoled myself with thinking of the evening, when the hideous disguise could be laid aside and she would appear again in her amber beauty and I could pose her in a hundred ways.

We had several cups of tea apiece. Very good I found it, though Suzee somewhat disdainfully remarked it was not like China tea; and then returned to the hotel.

As I passed through the swing doors with my reclothed and much altered companion, the proprietor came hastily forwards with protestation written on his face. He evidently thought I had erred again and this was another investment. He was about to impart vigorously his opinion of me when a hasty glance at Suzee’s face and my bland look of enquiry stopped him. Instead of addressing us, he wheeled round discomfited and disappeared into his bureau.

“Why does that man always look so crossly at you?” enquired Suzee, as we were walking down the passage to our rooms.

“He does not approve of my wickedness in having you here,” I answered laughing. “He thinks a man must never be with any woman but his wife.”

“And has he a wife?”

“Yes, that great creature you saw sitting in the glass desk downstairs.”

Suzee threw up her chin and pursed up her soft blue-red lips.

“I know that man by sight quite well. He was always down with the girls in Chinatown. He was one of Nanine’s best customers.”

I laughed as I put the key in, and opened our door.

“That accounts then, quite, for his terrific propriety in his hotel,” I answered. “It’s always the way. You can tell the really vicious person by his affected horror of vice.”

We dined upstairs, and directly after dinner I got her to pose for me that I might catch the first idea for my picture “The Joy of the East.”

She still shewed an apparently unconquerable objection to any undraped study, so I did not press it, but told her to dress as she had been dressed the previous night, in blue and mauve with silver ornaments, and I would take her in that.

While she was arraying herself I sat back in my chair, thinking.

How strange it was that a girl like Viola, who I believed would have been burnt alive rather than let an untruth pass her lips, who could not possibly have done a dishonourable action, had posed for me so simply and fearlessly, viewing the whole matter from that artistic standpoint which is so lofty because so really pure; and this girl, whose soul, as I knew, was full of trickery and treachery, and whose lips were worn with lies, clothed herself about with this ridiculous prudery and imagined it was modesty!

She came back presently, wonderfully lovely in the bizarre Oriental costume, and I wanted her to stand on tiptoe, leaning towards me and laughing.

But she was not a good model; she soon grew tired and failed to keep the same pose or expression. She fidgeted so, that at last I laid the paper aside.

“Your expression won’t go with that title,” I said. “What is the matter? Can’t you stand still and look happy for fifteen minutes?”

“It’s so tiring to stand quite still,” she said crossly, and my heart reproached me as I thought of Viola and the hours she had stood for me without a word of complaint in the London studio!

“Well, I’ll try another picture. I shall call it ‘The Spoiled Favourite of the Harem,’ Throw yourself into that chair and look as cross as you like.”

Suzee sat down opposite me. I put her head back against the chair; her right arm hung over the side, in her left hand she held a cigarette, one foot was bent under her, the other swung listlessly to the ground.

Her expression, restless and dissatisfied, her attitude, weary and enervated, gave the idea of the title admirably, and I made a good sketch.

She was sitting down now so she could keep still without much difficulty, and her air of _ennui_ suited this theme well enough.

As soon as I had finished the sketch and told her she might get up she was delighted. She did not seem to take much interest in the picture, however, but rather regard it grudgingly as it took up my attention. She was only happy again when I took her on my knees and caressed her, telling her she was the loveliest Eastern I had ever seen.

The following day we started on our journey southward.


[Footnote A: Sleeping berth for two persons in the Pullman car.]



The journey down to the City of Mexico, in itself, was a delight to me, and I felt how infinitely more I could have enjoyed it had Viola been with me.

My present companion did not seem able to appreciate any but physical beauty. If a good looking man came on board the train she glanced over him, demurely enough, but with the eye of a connoisseur. The glorious beauty, however, of the painted skies and magnificent stretches of open country we were passing through affected her not at all.

For four days, on either side of the train, America unrolled before us her vast tracts of entrancing beauty, from which I could hardly tear my gaze, and this little almond-eyed doll sat in a lump on the seat opposite me yawning and fidgeting, or else reading some childish book; or spent the time at the other end of the car playing with some American children on board the train.

I did not intend to have my journey spoilt by her, so I gave my own attention to the scene and told her to go and play, if she wished, or buy oranges and pictures from the train-venders, do anything she liked, in fact, as long as she did not disturb me and prevent my taking a pleasure in the beauty she could not see.

Suzee, annoyed at my admiration of something she could not appreciate, was mostly sulky and pettish through the day, regaining her good temper at night when we retired into our section.

As a toy to caress, to fondle, she was enchanting. Nature had apparently made her for that and for nothing else. Her extreme youth, her beauty, her joy in love, made her irresistible at such moments. And as I was young, at the height of youth’s powers and desires, our relations in that way held a great deal of pleasure for us both.

But that was the limit. Beyond this there was nothing.

That exquisite mental companionship, that sharing of every thought and idea, that constant conversation on all sorts of subjects that interested us both, all this which I had had with Viola, and which filled so perfectly those intervals when the tired senses ask for, and can give, no more pleasure, was completely absent here.

That delight in beauty which is to an artist as much a part of his life as another man’s delight in food or wine Viola had shared with me in an intense degree.

And sharing any of the delights of life with one we love enhances them enormously. One can easily imagine a gourmand being dissatisfied with his wife if she resolutely refused to share any of his meals!

Now, as I gazed through the windows of the slow-moving train and saw the long blue lines of the level-topped hills, the deep purple edges of the vast table-lands rising against the amber or the blood red evening skies, I longed for Viola with that inward longing of the soul which nothing but the presence of its own companion can satisfy.

One evening, as I gazed out, the whole prairie was bathed in rose-coloured light that appeared to ripple over it in pink waves. The tall grass, tall as that of an English hay-field, seemed touched with fire; far on every side stretched the open plain, absolutely level, bounded at last in the far distance by that deep purple wall of mountains, flat-topped, level-lined also, against the sky, the great mesas or table-lands of Mexico.

And in this vast expanse of waving grasses and low flowering shrubs, in the pink glow of the evening, stood out two graceful forms, a pair of coyotes, distinct against the sunset behind them. Only these two were visible in all that great lonely plain, and they stood together watching the train go by, their sinuous bodies and low sweeping tails touched and tipped with fire in the ruby light.

How delighted Viola would have been with that scene, I thought regretfully, as the train carried us through it.

When we arrived at the City of Mexico, we drove to the Hotel Iturbide and took a room high up on the third floor, to be well lifted out of the suffocating atmosphere of the streets.

Suzee was a little overawed by the height of the long, narrow room that we had assigned to us in this, at one time, palace, but when she saw that the bed was comfortable and there was a large mirror before which she could array and re-array herself, she was satisfied.

I saw the room would be a very difficult one to paint in, for it was dark in spite of the tall window which opened on to an iron balcony running across the front of the hotel.

The window was draped with thick red curtains and had a deep, handsome cornice hanging over it.

Suzee went on to the balcony immediately and was delighted with the incessant stream of gaily dressed people passing underneath. This was the main street of the city. Not very wide, flanked with lofty, old, picturesquely built houses on each side, of which the lower part was often shop or restaurant, it presented somewhat the same heavy, gloomy appearance as the streets in Italian towns. The air was thick, dust-laden, and evil-smelling, for the City of Mexico, though at an elevation of 8,000 feet, has none of the crisp, healthful clearness, usually to be found at that altitude. Built over the bed of an enormous dried up lake, in the centre of an elevated table-land, it is, even at the present day, badly drained and unhealthy.

We had some tea brought up to us and took it at a little table drawn close to the window,–Suzee chattering away to me of the delights of this new big city–as big as ‘Frisco, she thought. And what gay hats the women wore! She saw them passing underneath. Would I not take her out to the shops and buy a great big white muslin hat like theirs, covered with pink roses?

I promised I would, watching her with a smile.

She was certainly very lovely just now. She seemed to have bloomed into fairer beauty than she had possessed at Sitka.

Doubtless her gratified passion and happy relations with me helped to this result, for a woman’s beauty depends almost wholly on her inner life, the life of her emotions and passions.

After tea we went downstairs, hired a carriage, and drove to the Paseo–or laid-out drive–which is the thing to do in Mexico at that hour; and to follow the custom of the country you are in is the first golden rule of the traveller who would enjoy himself.

It was about six o’clock, and darkness was closing in on the thick, dust-filled air as we drove with the stream of other vehicles of all descriptions, from the poorest hired carriage to the most splendidly appointed barouche, into the Paseo, a wide, sweeping drive, lined each side with trees and lighted with rows of electric arc-light lamps, some of which glowed pinkly or sputtered out blue rays in the dusk.

It has never seemed to me a very cheerful matter, this drive between the lights in the formal Paseo, this great string of carriages drawn mostly by poor unhappy horses and filled with dressed-up women who stare rudely at each other as they pass and re-pass, solemn and silent ghosts in a world of grey shadow!

But the fashion amongst the Mexican women of painting and powdering to an inordinate degree perhaps accounts for their love of this hour between the lights, when they imagine the falseness of their complexion cannot be detected.

After about an hour’s drive we came back, the great arc-lights now sending their uncertain, shifting glare across the road and serving to show the heavy dust through which we moved. Seen sideways, the ray of light looked solid, so thick was the atmosphere.

When we came back we dined, and then sat outside our window on the iron balcony, looking down at the gay scene below.

The street was fully lighted now by powerful lamps of electricity, some belonging to the roadway, others hung out over restaurants and shops. The latter were all open, having been closed through the middle of the day. The cafes and restaurants were in full swing, half the populace seemed in the street, either walking or driving.

“We will go to a theatre as soon as they open,” I said. “I don’t think any of them begin till half-past nine or ten.”

Suzee clapped her hands.

“That will be nice, Treevor,” she said.

“I did like the theatre in Chinatown. I went with Nanine sometimes.”

So at half-past nine we drove to a theatre. The performance began at ten o’clock and continued till one in the morning, with a break in the middle for supper.

It was a light musical farce, well acted and sung, and I enjoyed it.

Suzee looked on profoundly silent, and seemed to be quite wide-awake all through it. Just before one o’clock she leant to me and whispered:

“When does the killing begin?”

“Killing?” I returned. “I don’t think there’ll be any, what do you mean?”

“Oh,” she said, “in Chinese theatres there is always very much killing; every one’s head comes off at the end.”

I laughed.

“You little monster,” I whispered; “is that what you came to see?” Suzee nodded.

“All Chinese plays like that,” she answered.

We waited till the curtain fell, but there was no killing and all the heads were left on at the end. Suzee looked quite disappointed, and explained to me as we were driving away that that was no play at all.

The next morning we were up very late, and after breakfast in our room there was only time to drive out to the shops and buy for Suzee one of the hats she coveted before luncheon.

All Orientals have a wonderful, artistic instinct for fabrics and colours, and always, when left alone, clothe themselves with exquisite taste. But this instinct seems to desert them when brought amongst European manufactures and into the sphere of European tints. Suzee now chose an enormous white hat wreathed round with poppies and cornflowers that I certainly should not have chosen for her. However, it pleased and satisfied her, and she was in great good-humour in consequence.

I found some letters for me at the hotel, forwarded from the club. My heart sank as I saw there was none from Viola. I thought she might have written again….

There was one from a friend of mine who was attached to the embassy here, and he asked me to go and dine with him that evening, or name some other, if I were engaged that day.

I looked up at Suzee.

“I have an invitation here to go out to dinner,” I said to her; “do you think you can amuse yourself without me this evening?”

Suzee looked sulky.

“You are going out all the evening without me? Can’t I come too?”

“I am afraid not,” I answered.

“Why? Is it a woman you are going to?”

“No, it is not,” I answered a little sharply.

How different this sulky questioning was from Viola’s bright way of assenting to any possible suggestion of mine for my own amusement or benefit!

How different from this her quick:

“Oh yes, do go, Trevor, do not think about me, I shall be quite happy looking forward to your coming back!”

Suzee pushed out her lips.

“How long will you be?” she asked.

“I shall go just before seven and return about ten,” I answered. “You must get accustomed to amusing yourself. I can’t always be with you.”

“I can amuse myself,” returned Suzee sulkily. “All the same, I believe it’s a woman you are going to.”

The blood rushed over my face with anger and annoyance, but I restrained myself and made no answer. She was so much of a child, it seemed absurd to enter into argument or to get angry with her.

I went back to reading my other letters and occupied myself with answering them till luncheon.

That evening about seven I was dressing for dinner, Suzee standing by me or playing with my things and somewhat impeding me, as usual. She seemed to have recovered from her ill-temper and was all smiles and gay prattle.

Before I took up my hat and coat to leave I bent over her and kissed her.

“You understand, I don’t want you to leave this room till I come back. They will bring up your dinner here, and you can sit on the balcony and smoke, and you have lots of picture-books to amuse you. I shall be back at ten.”

She kissed me and smiled and promised not to leave the room, and I went out.

I really enjoyed the evening with my friend. It was a relief to talk again with one who possessed a full-grown mind after being so long with a childish companion, and the time passed pleasantly enough. A quarter to ten seemed to come directly after dinner and my companion was astonished at my wanting to leave so early.

I explained the situation in a few words and, of course, caused infinite amusement to my practical friend.

“The idea of you living with a Chinese infant like that!” he exclaimed. “I shall hear of your being fascinated with a Hottentot next, I suppose.”

“Maybe,” I answered, putting on my hat. “Anyway, I must go now; thanks all the same for wishing me to stay.”

I left him and walked rapidly back in the direction of the Iturbide. Some of the shops were still open, and as I passed down the main street the brilliant display in a jeweller’s window, under the electric light, attracted my attention.

I paused and looked in. I thought I would buy and take back some little thing to Suzee. It had been a dull evening for her. I went in and chose a necklet of Mexican opals. These, though not so lovely as the sister stone we generally buy in England, have a rich red colour and fire all their own.

I had not enough money with me to pay for it, but with that delightful confidence in an Englishman–often unfortunately misplaced–one finds in some distant countries, the shopman insisted on my taking it, and said he would send to the hotel in the morning for the money.

I slipped the case in my pocket and went on to the Iturbide.

After all, I thought, as I neared home, with all her faults she was a very attractive and dear little companion to be going back to.

Full of pleasure at the thought of bestowing the gift and the joy it would give her, I ran up the stone stairs without waiting for the lift and pushed open the door of our room.

I entered softly, thinking she might be curled up asleep, but as I crossed the threshold I heard the sound of laughter. The next moment I saw there were two figures standing at the end of the long room in front of the window.

Suzee had her back to me and a man was standing beside her. Just as I came in I saw her raise her face, and the man put his arm round her and kiss her. Two or three steps carried me across the room and I struck them apart with a blow on the side of the man’s head that sent him reeling into a corner.

It was the young Mexican waiter that had hitherto brought us all our meals.

The table was still covered with the dinner things, a bottle of wine stood on it and two half-filled glasses. My impression, gathered in that first furious glance, was that he had brought up her dinner and she had invited him to stay and share at least the wine and cigarettes. Some of these lay on the table, and the room was full of smoke.

Suzee gave a scream of terror and then crouched down on a chair, looking at me.

The waiter picked himself up, and, catching hold of his iron stove-fitted basket in which he had brought up the dinner, slunk out of the room.

I was left alone with Suzee, and I looked at her, with an immense sense of disgust and repulsion swelling up in me.

“So you can’t even be trusted an hour or two, it seems,” I said contemptuously, throwing myself into a chair opposite her.

Suzee began to sob. Tears were her invariable refuge under all circumstances.

“Treevor, you were so long. I was all alone, and I was sure you were with another woman.”

“If you would learn to believe what I say and not fancy every one tells lies, as I suppose you do,” I answered hotly, “it would be a great deal better for you. I went to dine with a bachelor friend this evening, as I told you, and what made me later than I otherwise should have been was that I stopped to buy a present for you on my way back.”

Suzee’s tears dried instantly.

“A present! Oh, what is it, Treevor?” she said eagerly. “Do show it me. Where is it?”

I drew the case out of my pocket and opened it. The electric light flashed on the opals, and they blazed with orange and tawny fires on the white velvet.

Suzee gave a little cry of wonder and delight, and then sat staring at them breathlessly.

“I don’t feel at all inclined to give them to you now,” I remarked coldly.

“Oh, yes, Treevor, _do_ let me have them. It was all the man’s fault. I did not want him. I could not help it.”

“I heard you laughing as I came in,” I returned, more than ever disgusted by her lies and her throwing all the blame on her companion. “It’s no use lying to me, Suzee, you found that out at Sitka. What I want to make clear to you is this: if I find you doing this sort of thing again I shall send you away from me altogether, because I won’t have it.”

Suzee looked terror-stricken.

“Send me away! But what could I do? Where could I go?”

“Where you pleased! You would not live any more with me.”

“Well, Treevor, I will not do it any more,” she answered, her eyes fixed on the jewels. “Do let me have the necklace. May I put it on?”

And she stretched out her hand to grasp it from the table where I had laid it. Her avarice, her lack of any real deep feeling about the matter, filled me with irrepressible anger.

I sprang to my feet and snatched the necklet up, case and all, and flung it through the window.

“No, you shall certainly not have it,” I exclaimed.

Suzee gave a shriek of pain and dismay as she saw the beloved jewels flash through the air and disappear in the darkness, and rushed to the window as if she would jump after them.

Fearing she might call to the passers-by below and create a disturbance, I took her by the shoulder and pulled her back into the room.

Then I shut the window and bolted it above her head.

I walked over to the door of the room.

“You had better go to bed,” I said; “do not wait for me, I shall sleep elsewhere.”

Then I went out and locked the door behind me, putting the key in my pocket.

I went down the passage slowly. My heart was beating fast and I felt angry, but the anger was not that deep fierce agony of emotion I had felt at times when Viola angered or grieved me.

It was more a superficial sensation of disgust and repulsion that filled me, and, after a few minutes, I grew calm and recovered my self-possession.

“What could I expect from a girl like this?” I asked myself. “What could I expect but lies and deceit and trickery and infidelity? She had shewn me all these at Sitka when I first met her.”

I had been willing enough to profit by them, but even then they had disgusted me. Now I was in the position of Hop Lee, and as she had treated him so would she treat me. It was true she professed to love me, and did so in her way. But it was the way of the woman who is bought and sold.

And why should I feel specially repelled because I had found her with a servant? Had she not come from a tea-shop in Sitka, where she herself was serving?

The Mexican boy was handsome enough. Doubtless he presented a temptation to her.

It was all my own fault, everything that had happened or would happen, for choosing such an unsuitable companion. The light loves of an hour with painted butterflies such as Suzee are well enough, but for life together one must seek and find one’s equal, one who sees with the same eyes, who has the same standard as one’s own of the fitness of things, in whose veins runs blood of the same quality as one’s own.

Why had Viola left me? The thought came with a pang of anguish as my heart called out for her.

The corridor was a lofty one of stone. It was quite empty now and unlighted. I walked on slowly in the dark till I came to a large window on my right hand. This window overlooked a wide expanse of lead roofs belonging to the lower stories of the hotel, and these commanded a magnificent view of the whole city.

I stepped out over the low sill and stood on the leads. The night was soft and cool. The sky, full of the light of a rising moon, shewed beautifully, against its luminous violet, the outlines of dome and minaret and spire, and far out beyond the crowded city’s confines, the two incomparable mountains, Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, the huge volcanoes, shrouded in eternal snow, rising a sheer ten thousand feet from the level plain, standing like sentinels guarding the city.

It was a magnificent panorama that surrounded me, a view to remember for all time. Dome upon dome, rising one behind the other, of all sizes and shapes, their beautiful tiles gleaming here and there as the light from the rising moon touched them, delicate spires, pointing upwards, tipped with silver light, low roof of the commoner’s dwelling and pillared facade of old and stately palace intervening, and, far away, those cold white, solitary peaks overtopping all else, rising into the region of the stars, made up a grand, impressive scene.

As I looked all sense of petty annoyance dropped from me. I walked forwards with a grateful sense of relief and took my seat on a projecting ledge of one of the roofs and let my eyes wander over the maze of dim outlines and shapes below me.

How strange it was to think of the past history of the city!

Far back in the dim ages, a clear and glorious lake had lain here where now the city reared itself so majestically. In the centre of this vast table-land, eight thousand feet above the sea, the blue waters rested tranquilly, reflecting in their surface the fires and the flames of those now silent, burnt-out volcanoes.

The lake was inhabited by the lake-dwellers, quaint little people living in their curious structures built on poles sunk in the water. There they fished and made their nets and traded with each other, passing backwards and forwards in their tiny dug-outs–whole crafts made from a single hollowed-out log–on the gleaming waters, secure from the raids of wild beasts or savages that the black, impenetrable forests on the shore might harbour.

Then came the Toltecs and the Aztecs with their refinement, their civilisation, and the lake dried gradually through the years, and causeways were built across the swamp, and one by one dwellings appeared on the hardest, driest places, and step by step there grew to be a city. Then came the Spaniards in later days, with the flaming pomp of religion and the loathsome spirit of cruelty. They killed the people by thousands with torture, and set up their churches to peace and good-will. They overthrew the temples with murder and slaughter, and reared altars to the Most High on the blood-soaked earth.

And this city, as we see it to-day, with its countless beautiful churches, its exquisite tiled domes flashing in the sun, is the work of the Spaniards. And each church stands there to commemorate their awful crimes.

I sat on, as the hours passed, and watched the moon rise till it poured its flood of silver light all over the city, sat thinking on the horror of man and wondering what strange law has fashioned him to be the devil he is.

Towards sunrise, the wind blew cold off the marshes round the city, and I went in and down to the lower floor of the hotel.

Its world was fast asleep. In the hall I saw two Mexican porters in their thin white clothes, curled up on the door mat, without covering or pillow, fast asleep.

I made my way to the little-used reception-room, found my way across it to a wide old couch, threw myself upon it, and closed my eyes. The couch smelt musty and the room seemed cold, but I was accustomed to sleep anyhow and anywhere, and in a few moments, with my thoughts on Viola, I drifted into oblivion.

At breakfast time the next day I went to the administrador and told him to send up ours by another waiter, and never to allow the former one to come into our room again. Then I went upstairs to Suzee. As I unlocked the door and entered I saw she was up and dressed. She came to me, looking white and frightened.

“Oh, Treevor, do forgive me, I never will again. Only say you forgive me. I was so frightened all last night, I thought you had locked me up here to starve.”

Again the absence of deep feeling, of any ethical consideration prompting her contrition, jarred upon me. She would be good because she did not want to starve or be otherwise punished. That was her view of it, and that alone.

I bent over her, took her hand, and kissed her.

“We needn’t think of it any more,” I said gently. “Only you must remember if such a thing occurs again, we cease to live together, that’s all.”

Suzee reiterated her promises with effusion, and presently an old, grey-haired waiter appeared with our breakfast.

I could not repress a smile as I saw the administrador had determined to be on the safe side this time.

Suzee was extremely amiable and docile all that day.

Most women who do not shew gratitude for kindness and consideration, when the man retaliates or shews any harshness, begin to improve wonderfully; while a delicate nature like Viola’s, that responds to love and gives devotion in return, would meet that same harshness with passionate resentment. Suzee sincerely mourned her lost jewels and gazed wistfully and furtively down into the street where they had gone in the darkness.

I paid the bill for them that day, but I never knew what became of them, nor whose neck they now adorn!

The following day was Sunday, the day appointed by the Prince of Peace, and dedicated here by his followers, the Christians, to the torture and slaughter of their helpless companions in this world–the animals. Sunday, throughout Mexico, is the day most usually fixed for a bull-fight, and to-day there was going to be one, and Suzee had begged me to take her to see it.

I had hesitated, but finally given in, and taken seats for it.

I felt a strong disinclination to witnessing what I knew would be merely another example of the loathsome barbarity of the human race, but it was my rule in life to see and study its different aspects, to add to my knowledge of it whenever possible, and so I consented with a sense of repulsion within me. Suzee was in the wildest delight. She had talked to the waiter, it seemed, and had heard from him wonderful stories of the big crowds of gaily dressed people in the large ring, of the music, of the gaily dressed toreadors, of the clapping of hands and the shouting.

“And you feel no sympathy with the bull that is going to be killed or the unfortunate horses?” I asked, looking across at her as we sat at luncheon.

Suzee looked grave.

“I didn’t think of that,” she said.

The great fault of the less guilty half of humanity–it does not think! and the other half thinks evil.

“Well, think now,” I said sharply. “Would you like to have your inside torn out for a gaping crowd to laugh at, to be tortured to death for their Sunday diversion? For that is what you are going to see inflicted on the animals this afternoon.”

Suzee regarded me with a frightened air.

Presently she said, glibly:

“Of course not, Treevor, and I am very, very sorry for the poor animals if they are going to be hurt.”

“Of course they are,” I said shortly; “that is what the whole city is going to turn out to see.”

I felt she had no real appreciation of the subject, and that any sympathetic utterance would be made to please me. How I hate being with a companion who automatically says what will please me! A servile compliance that one knows is false is more irritating to a person of intellect than contradiction.

How different Viola had always been! In physical relations she had accepted me as her owner, master, conqueror. She had never sought to deny or evade or resent the physical domination Nature has given the male over the female. But her mind had been always her own. And what a glorious strength and independence it possessed! Not even to me would she ever have said what she did not believe.

Like the old martyrs, she would have given herself to the rack or the flames rather than let her lips frame words her brain did not approve.

Her mind and her opinions were her own, not to be bought from her at any price whatever, and, as such, they were worth something.

The assent or dissent of the fool who agrees or disagrees from fear or love is worth nothing when you’ve got it.

We finished our luncheon and then, in a hired carriage, drove to the Plaza de Toros.

I, with a feeling of cold depression, Suzee, gaily dressed and in the highest spirits.

All the city was streaming out in splendid carriage or miserable shay. Rich and cultured, poor and illiterate, human beings are all alike in their love of butchery and blood. We reached the great ragged stretch of open ground, hideous and bare enough, and the structure of the bull-ring reared itself before us, a sinister curve against the laughing blue of the sky.

It seemed to hum like a great hive already; there was a crowd of the poorer class about it, and men came continually in and out of the little doors in its base.

We dismissed our carriage at the outer edge of the ragged ground, the driver insisting he could drive no farther. And the moment we had alighted he turned his horses’ heads and started them at a furious gallop back to the city in the hope of catching another fare.

We walked forwards towards the principal of the wickets through which already the people were passing to their seats. In approaching the bull-ring we had to pass by a circle of little buildings, low dens with small barred windows and closed doors. Blood was trickling from under some of these over the brown and dusty earth, and the low, heavy breathing and groans of a horse in agony came from one or another at intervals.

I looked through the grated slit of one, as I passed, and saw two men, or, rather, fiends in the shape of men, crouched on the floor of the dark and noisome den. Between them lay outstretched the body of a horse, old and thin, worn to the last gasp in the cruel service of the streets. On its flank was a long open wound. One of the men, bending over it, had a red-hot iron glowing in his hand. What they were going to do I could not tell, and I did not wait to see.

The horse was one, doubtless, which unhappily had survived last Sunday’s bull-fight, and was being horribly patched up, terribly stimulated by agony to expend its last spark of vitality in this.

In these loathsome little dens this fiendish work goes on, the poor mangled brutes are brought out from the ring, their gaping wounds are plugged with straw, or anything that is at hand, and then they are thrust back on to the horns of the bull.

More than ever filled with loathing of my kind, I passed on in silence towards the ring.

It was no use speaking to Suzee. She could not understand what I felt. I thought of Viola. If she had been here, what would she have suffered? Of all women I had met, I had never known one who had the same exquisite compassion, the same marvellous sympathy for all living things as she had.

We shewed our tickets, passed through the wicket, and were inside the vast circle.

The impression on the eye as one enters is pleasing, or would be if one’s brain were not there to tell one of the scenes of infamy that take place in that grand arena.

Wide circles, great sweeping lines have always a certain fascination, and the form that charms one in the coliseum is here also in these modern imitations.

The huge arena, empty now and clean, sprinkled with fine white sand, and with circle after circle, tier after tier of countless seats rising up all round, cutting at last the blue sky overhead, is in itself impressive.

We passed to our seats, which were a little low down, not much raised above the level of the boarding running round the arena.

They were on the coveted shady side of the ring, where the sun would not be in our eyes. On the left of us was the President’s box; opposite, the seats of the common people, let cheap, because the sun’s rays would fall on them through all the afternoon.

These were already full. Occupied by _women_, largely _women_. Dressed in their gayest, with handkerchiefs in their hands ready to wave, with brightly painted fans, they sat there laughing, talking, eating sweets, making the ring in that quarter a flare of colour.

Women! Ah, what a pity it is that there should be such women as these, stony-hearted, stony-eyed, deaf to the dictates of mercy, of pity. Women who can congregate with delight to see a fellow-creature die!

For what are the animals but our fellow-creatures? With the same life, the same heart-beats as our own! With whom, if we acted rightly, we should share this world in kindly fellowship and love.

The other seats in the shade were filling quickly; soon the whole mass of dizzy circles, one above the other, flamed with brilliant colour under the Mexican sun.

Suddenly, with a great crash, the music burst out, and a triumphal march rolled over the arena as the President and his party arrived and took their places in their box. The people cheered and the handkerchiefs were waved, for the President is popular.

Suzee sat in the greatest glee beside me. The vast concourse of people, the lavish colour, the loud, gay, strident music, the sea of faces and clapping hands and waving kerchiefs pleased her childish little soul.

After a few moments the music changed, and to a slow, almost solemn march, the toreadors filed slowly in to the arena and bowed before the President’s box.

A burst of applause greeted their appearance, and Suzee watched entranced these men parading in the ring, in their various red, blue, and green velvet costumes fitting tightly their fine figures, with their gorgeous cloaks of red velvet thrown over one arm and the flat round hats of the toreadors sitting lightly above their bold handsome faces.

They disappeared, there was a pause in the music, the great arena stood empty, the vast audience were silent, a few moments of waiting expectancy, then one of the low doors opposite us in the inner circle flew open, shewing a long black tunnel leading into darkness. From this came confused roarings and bellowings, and then with his head flung high and his great eyes starting with pain and rage from the goadings he had received, a glorious black Andalusian bull charged into the arena. The people, delighted at his size and strength and apparent ferocity, cheered and applauded loudly while, still further excited by the sudden glare of light and the deafening noise, the creature galloped round the sandy ring.

Jet-black, sleek-coated, and with a long pair of slender, tapering horns, sharply pointed, crowning his great head, he was a magnificent animal, far finer in make and shape than any of these brutes round him who had come to see him die. As he galloped round the ring, I saw that he was looking wildly, eagerly, for somewhere to escape. The animals have no innate savagery, as man has. They do not love inflicting pain, torture, and death upon others. That vile instinct has been given to man alone. They kill for food. They fight for their mates. But no animal fights or kills for the love of blood as we do.

And now this great monarch of the hills and plains, in all the pride and glory of his strength, had no wish to attack or kill; he bounded round and across the sandy space hoping to find some outlet, longing to be again upon his wild Andalusian hills he was never to see again.

Another burst of music, a great fanfare of trumpets, and then slowly in triumphal procession the picadors, mounted bull-fighters with lances, entered the ring.

Theoretically, when these men enter, the savage beast they are supposed to be encountering immediately makes a terrible charge upon them; but, as a matter of fact, the bull never wishes to fight or attack any one, and does not, until his brutal captors absolutely force him into doing so. That is why a bull-fight, as well as being hideously degrading and cruel, is also dull and tedious.

If one were watching the grand natural passion of an animal fighting for his life on the prairie, against another, with an equal fortune of war for both, there would be excitement in it. But in this case one sees an unwilling animal tortured into a fight, which it neither seeks nor understands, and which it has from the start no chance of winning.

In this case, as in all I have seen, the beautiful Andalusian, having made his gallop round the ring and finding no chance of escape, had subsided into a quiet trot and when the picadors entered he stood still, demurely regarding them from the opposite side of the arena.

The sunlight fell full upon him, on his glossy sides and grand head, from which the noble, lustrous brown eyes looked out with benign and gentle dignity on the great multitude, the sandy space, and the picadors who were stealing slowly up to him.

It is a difficult matter for the picador to approach the bull, for the horses shrink from the awful fate awaiting them, and only by plunging great spurs into their sides can their riders get them to advance.

Anything more unutterably cowardly and despicably mean than the picador can hardly be imagined. Riding a poor, aged horse, generally one that has been wounded in a previous combat, and that is absolutely naked of all protection from the bull’s horns, he is himself cased from head to foot in metal and leather, so that by no possibility can he be scratched.

He comes into the ring with the deliberate intention of riding his tottering, naked horse on to the horns of the bull, and the greater number of these helpless creatures he can get mangled and disembowelled under him, the greater and finer picador he is and the more the people love him. Such is humanity!

On this afternoon the bull eyed the horses’ approach with no ill-will, he seemed to be reflecting–“Perhaps these are friends of mine and will show me the way out.” But when at last the picador, having spurred his flinching horse close up to the bull’s side, jabbed at his glossy neck with his lance and the pain convinced the great monarch they were hostile, he threw up his head with a snort and in a lithe, agile bound he passed by them and trotted quietly away.

This enraged the people, and screams of “Coward! Coward!” went up from all parts of the ring.

How they can twist into any semblance of cowardice the benignity of an animal that scorns to take any notice of what it sees is a feeble and puny opponent is amazing, a fit illustration of the weakness of the human intellect.

As the bull continued his gentle trot, unmoved, the audience grew furious, and then began that tedious and utterly sickening chase of the unwilling bull by the faltering and unwilling horses.

The bull, conscious of his great strength and absolutely fearless, had all that chivalry which seems inherent in animals and which is quite lacking in man in his attitude to them.

As the unfortunate horses were ridden up to and across the face of the bull, he did his best to avoid them. Over and over again the picadors stabbed him with their lances and thrust their naked horses at his head, but his whole attitude and manner said plainly: “Why should I toss these poor old, trembling horses? I have no quarrel with them. I could kill them in a minute, but I don’t want to.”

The screaming fiends above him yelled and cursed and tore pieces of wood from the seats to throw at him. Insults and invectives were showered on the picadors, until at last one of them, stung by the filthy abuse of the mob, drove his spurs so deep into his horse that the animal reared a little; the picador then, with spur and knee, almost lifted him on to the long pointed horns of the bull, who, forced back against the hoarding, had lowered his head in anger as the blood streamed from the lance wounds in his neck.

Then there was the horrid, low sound of grating horn against the ribs of the horse, the ripping of the hide; the animal was lifted into the air a moment, then fell. There was a gush of blood on the sand, blood and entrails; with a groan it staggered quivering to its feet, made a step forwards, trod on its own trailing, bleeding insides, fell again, groaning with anguish, quivering convulsively.

The people were delighted. They shouted and screamed and stood up on their seats and waved their kerchiefs, especially the women!

The picador, who picked himself up unhurt–indeed, cased in armour, he could not well be otherwise–was cheered and cheered, and bowed and smiled and took off his cap and swept it to the ground. And the band crashed loudly to drown the terrible groaning of the dying horse, struggling in agony on the sand. The bull, sorry rather than otherwise apparently, walked away to another part of the ring, tossing his head in pain as the blood dripped from it.

The people clapped delightedly. Suzee seeing all the women about her doing so, put up her little hands and clapped too.

I bent towards her and caught them and held them down in her lap.

“Be quiet,” I said; “I won’t have you clap such a disgusting sight.”

She stopped at once. A Mexican woman on my other hand, looked daggers at me for an instant, divining my words, but she was too eager to see all the blood and the anguish in the arena, not to miss a throe of the dying horse, to turn her eyes away for more than a moment.

So, after a scowl at me, she directed them again, bulging with satisfaction, on the scene before her.

From then on, for about an hour, the same hideous thing went on; horse after horse was brought forward, pushed on the horns of the bull, torn and mangled beneath its cowardly rider, and then, if completely ripped open, dragged dead or dying from the ring; if its wound was not large enough to cause instant death, stuff or straw was thrust into it by the attendants and the dying animal kicked, lashed, and dragged to its feet to be thrown again on to the sharp horns amidst the shouts and laughs of the delighted crowd.

Once, in a general melee, when the bull and several picadors were in a tangled mass at one side of the ring, I saw one of these horses, terribly wounded, with its life pouring from it, emerge from the conflict and stagger unnoticed to the hoarding.

It came close to the wall of the ring and looked over; its glazed, anguished eyes gazed from side to side as if asking: “Is there no escape, no mercy anywhere?”

A spectator on the audience side of the hoarding raised his hand and struck it between the eyes. It tottered, staggered, and sank within the ring.

Eight horses had now been rendered useless, the arena was black and red with blood, in spite of the assiduous sprinkling of fresh sand, and there was a pause in the entertainment. The picadors had had their turn, the banderilleros were ready to appear, but the people were thoroughly enjoying themselves now and they stamped and roared “Caballos” till they were hoarse. That horrid cry for more and more horses to be produced that alarms the administrador, or manager, of the bull-fight.

In vain the attendants lashed and goaded the dying horses in the arena. They could not get them to their feet again. There is a limit to man’s sway, the tortured life at last escapes him. The bodies were dragged away, more sand, and then the administrador himself, pale as ashes, stepped out before the audience howling for more blood.

“Senors,” he commenced, “it is impossible to supply more than eight horses for one bull; there are five more bulls to be dispatched. They are more savage than this one. I must keep horses for them. Let the senors be reasonable and allow the show to continue.”

At this promise of five more bulls there was general applause. The band rolled out fresh music. There was a thunder of drums and the banderilleros came on, gorgeous in velvet, glittering in spangle and tinsel.

The bull is weary now and has lost much of his blood; as from the first, he only longs to escape from this ring, and the mad monkeys who are gibing and gibbering at him in it. They came forward with their fresh weapons, shafts and arrows of iron decked up with coloured ribbons, which they throw at him and which stick on his shoulders and in his sides, drawing streams of blood wherever they strike him.

Maddened by those, he rushes at the flaming coats the men trail before his eyes; but the cruel little, dancing, monkey-like man with the cloak darts away before he can be touched, and at last, after repeated rushes and repeated failures, the grand creature stands still, wearied and disdainful, his head erect, the blood flowing from his wounds in which the darts move, swaying to and fro each time he stirs, causing him an agony he cannot understand. So he faces the great crowded ring contemptuously, and the people shout at him and call him a coward and scream for the espada to come and dispatch him.

The banderilleros retire: they have weakened the bull so that there is now no danger for the puny little two-legged creature who struts in next with a sword, and who is greeted with plaudits and triumphal music. Flowers are thrown him, bouquets, the men call him hero, the women throw kisses to him.

He bows to the President, then turns towards the bull who stands erect still, though the loss of blood must be telling upon him, stands with that same air of deadly _ennui_, of weary scorn of all this folly which he has possessed from the first. Dusty and blood-stained his glossy coat, bloodshot his great lustrous eyes. As he looks round the circle already growing dim to them, does he long for his green Andalusian pastures, does he see again those pleasant streams by which his herd is wandering?

The little manikin sidles up and jabs him behind the shoulder with his sword. The bull turns upon him, and he runs for his life. But the bull does not deign to follow. With a great show of precaution where there is really no danger, the little man with the sword approaches again. Amidst cheers from the onlookers he plunges his sword between the shoulders of the dying monarch and then rushes backwards. The great beast sways, shivers in mortal anguish for a moment, and then without a sound sinks, for the first time in this cruel and unequal combat, to his knees. Sinks, full of a superb dignity to the end, and one asks oneself–“What _can_ the scheme of creation be that gives a creature so clean-souled, so grand, into the power of such a miserable mass of vile lusts as man?”

A moment more and the head crowned with its tapering crescent horns sinks forwards. A gush of blood from the nostrils on the sand, and it is over. The glossy form is still–at peace.

With ridiculous manoeuvres the little man comes up again to the great beast, obviously dead and harmless, and withdraws his sword which he waves triumphantly before the applauding populace.

While he capers about before his delighted admirers, the attendants come in and draw away with some difficulty the magnificent form of the slaughtered bull.

The music broke into a loud march. There was an interval of relaxation for the audience, to move, look about, chatter, and take refreshments.

“This is the end,” I said to Suzee; “let us go now.”

“Oh, but Treevor, that man said he had five more bulls, look, nobody is going yet,” she returned, having evidently followed in her own sharp way the sense of the Spanish speech of the administrador.

“Do you want to see any more?” I asked. “I think it is dull and tedious, as well as horrible.”

“The killing is not nice,” she said, in deference to my opinions, I suppose; “but the music and the people are fun, I think. Do let us stay for one more fight. You won’t want to bring me again.”

“No, I certainly shan’t,” I answered.

“Then do let me stay now, Treevor, just one more time.”

I shrugged my shoulders and sat back in my seat, and after a second the little door opposite opened and another bull, this time apparently mad with pain, dashed into the ring.

The people applauded him and the shouts and clappings increased his excitement.

He bounded at full gallop across the sandy space and charged the hoarding that hemmed him in.

The audience were delighted, but the toreadors entered the ring and stood together at one side, looking anxious, and some of the attendants came up and received orders from them.

From the first the animal was unmanageable, out of all control. The goading and the enraging that goes on in the dens behind the arena had been overdone apparently, for the bull, wild with rage and pain, galloped madly round, taking no notice of the pallid group of toreadors.

At last one or two came forward with their cloaks of scarlet; the bull made a dash at them, scattering them on either side, then bounded on and with one tremendous leap cleared the hoarding that separates spectators from the rings, and landed bellowing in the corridor that ran round it just below our seats. It was full of onlookers drawn nearer than usual to the hoarding by the excitement, and they scattered and fled in all directions, while shriek upon shriek went up from the women all round us as they saw the bull clear the hoarding and come down amongst them.

With one accord they stood up. Like a great wave breaking, they rushed upwards to the highest part of the ring, shrieks and screams on every side telling of the trampled children and injured women in the frantic panic.

Suzee rose with the rest, livid and trembling, and would have rushed after that seething mass behind us, if I had not seized her arm and forced her back to her seat.

“Sit down, stay where you are,” I said; “the bull will do you less harm than that trampling horde.”

We were left there alone; groans and cries came from the panic-stricken, struggling mass of people behind us; just beneath us in the emptied corridor stood the bull, snorting with lowered head, pawing the ground; in the arena, the administrador, green with terror and anxiety, shouted commands to the pallid and trembling attendants.

I sat still, holding Suzee. The bull paused for a moment in front of us, then with his head lowered almost to the ground, made a terrific rush forwards, shattering the woodwork of the platform at our feet to atoms with his horns. Suzee gave a piercing shriek and fell across me, unconscious. The animal, startled by the scream, raised its head.

In its rolling eyes I saw nothing but the madness of pain and terror. As it drew back for a second charge, in its mad effort to dash through the woodwork to liberty, I slipped sideways with the dead weight of Suzee on my arm, into the seats on one side. It was not an instant too soon. The next, the bull rushed forwards and our seats were falling in splinters about his head. Along, sideways, over chair after chair, I slipped, dragging and supporting Suzee as best I could. I heard screams of terror and suffering all round us as the panic spread amongst the people and they forced themselves in an ever-increasing mass upwards, fighting their way to the exits at the top of the ring.

My mind was made up. All before me was clear and open, the seats deserted, below me ran the corridor leading to the entrance by which we had come in. For that I would make.

There was some slight risk, for the bull, tired now of his futile efforts to destroy the wooden barriers in front of him, had turned back into the corridor and started on a mad gallop down it round the ring.

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