“To-day has come the fulfilment
of my dream, Faith. I am given to my appointed
task; I am set on a road of life in which there is
no looking back. My dreams of the past are
here begun in very truth and fact. When, in
the night, I heard Uncle Benn calling, when in the
Meeting-house voices said, ’Come away, come away,
and labour, thou art idle,’ I could hear
my heart beat in the ardour to be off. Yet
I knew not whither. Now I know.
“Last night the Prince Pasha called
me to his Council, made me adviser, confidant,
as one who has the ear of his captain after
he had come to terms with me upon that which Uncle
Benn left of land and gold. Think not that
he tempted me.
“Last night I saw favourites look
upon me with hate because of Kaid’s favour,
though the great hall was filled with show of cheerful
splendour, and men smiled and feasted. To-day
I know that in the Palace where I was summoned
to my first: duty with the Prince, every step
I took was shadowed, every motion recorded, every
look or word noted and set down. I have no
fear of them. They are not subtle enough for
the unexpected acts of honesty in the life of a
true man. Yet I do not wonder men fail to keep
honest in the midst of this splendour, where all
is strife as to who shall have the Prince’s
favour; who shall enjoy the fruits of bribery, backsheesh,
and monopoly; who shall wring from the slave and the
toil-ridden fellah the coin his poor body mints
at the corvée, in his own taxed fields of
dourha and cucumbers.
“Is this like anything we ever
dreamed at Hamley, Faith? Yet here am I set,
and here shall I stay till the skein be ravelled out.
Soon I shall go into the desert upon a mission to
the cities of the South, to Dongola, Khartoum,
and Darfur and beyond; for there is trouble yonder,
and war is near, unless it is given to me to bring
peace. So I must bend to my study of Arabic,
which I am thankful I learned long ago. And
I must not forget to say that I shall take with
me on my journey that faithful Muslim Ebn Ezra.
Others I shall take also, but of them I shall write
“I shall henceforth be moving in
the midst of things which I was taught to hate.
I pray that I may not hate them less as time goes
on. To-morrow I shall breathe the air of intrigue,
shall hear footsteps of spies behind me wherever
I go; shall know that even the roses in the garden
have ears; that the ground under my feet will telegraph
my thoughts. Shall I be true? Shall I at
last whisper, and follow, and evade, believe in
no one, much less in myself, steal in and out of
men’s confidences to use them for my own purposes?
Does any human being know what he can bear of temptation
or of the daily pressure of the life around him?
what powers of resistance are in his soul? how
long the vital energy will continue to throw off
the never-ending seduction, the freshening force of
evil? Therein lies the power of evil, that
it is ever new, ever fortified by continuous conquest
and achievements. It has the rare fire of aggression;
is ever more upon the offence than upon the defence;
has, withal, the false lure of freedom from restraint,
the throbbing force of sympathy.
“Such things I dreamed not of in
Soolsby’s but upon the hill, Faith, though,
indeed, that seemed a time of trial and sore-heartedness.
How large do small issues seem till we have faced
the momentous things! It is true that the
larger life has pleasures and expanding capacities;
but it is truer still that it has perils, events which
try the soul as it is never tried in the smaller
life unless, indeed, the soul be that
of the Epicurean. The Epicurean I well understand,
and in his way I might have walked with a wicked grace.
I have in me some hidden depths of luxury, a secret
heart of pleasure, an understanding for the forbidden
thing. I could have walked the broad way with
a laughing heart, though, in truth, habit of mind
and desire have kept me in the better path. But
offences must come, and woe to him from whom the
offence cometh! I have begun now, and only
now, to feel the storms that shake us to our farthest
cells of life. I begin to see how near good is
to evil; how near faith is to unfaith; and how
difficult it is to judge from actions only; how
little we can know to-day what we shall feel tomorrow.
Yet one must learn to see deeper, to find motive, not
in acts that shake the faith, but in character
which needs no explanation, which ”
He paused, disturbed. Then he
raised his head, as though not conscious of what was
breaking the course of his thoughts. Presently
he realised a low, hurried knocking at his door.
He threw a hand over his eyes, and sprang up.
An instant later the figure of a woman, deeply veiled,
stood within the room, beside the table where he had
been writing. There was silence as they faced
each other, his back against the door.
“Oh, do you not know me?”
she said at last, and sank into the chair where he
had been sitting.
The question was unnecessary, and
she knew it was so; but she could not bear the strain
of the silence. She seemed to have risen out of
the letter he had been writing; and had he not been
writing of her of what concerned them both?
How mean and small-hearted he had been, to have thought
for an instant that she had not the highest courage,
though in going she had done the discreeter, safer
thing. But she had come she had come!
All this was in his eyes, though his
face was pale and still. He was almost rigid
with emotion, for the ancient habit of repose and
self-command of the Quaker people was upon him.
“Can you not see do
you not know?” she repeated, her back upon him
now, her face still veiled, her hands making a swift
motion of distress.
“Has thee found in the past
that thee is so soon forgotten?”
“Oh, do not blame me!”
She raised her veil suddenly, and showed a face as
pale as his own, and in the eyes a fiery brightness.
“I did not know. It was so hard to come do
not blame me. I went to Alexandria I
felt that I must fly; the air around me seemed full
of voices crying out. Did you not understand
why I went?”
“I understand,” he said,
coming forward slowly. “Thee should not
have returned. In the way I go now the watchers
“If I had not come, you would
never have understood,” she answered quickly.
“I am not sorry I went. I was so frightened,
so shaken. My only thought was to get away from
the terrible Thing. But I should have been sorry
all my life long had I not come back to tell you what
I feel, and that I shall never forget. All my
life I shall be grateful. You have saved me from
a thousand deaths. Ah, if I could give you but
one life! Yet yet oh, do
not think but that I would tell you the whole truth,
though I am not wholly truthful. See, I love my
place in the world more than I love my life; and but
for you I should have lost all.”
He made a protesting motion.
“The debt is mine, in truth. But for you
I should never have known what, perhaps ”
His eyes were on hers, gravely speaking
what his tongue faltered to say. She looked and
looked, but did not understand. She only saw troubled
depths, lighted by a soul of kindling purpose.
“Tell me,” she said, awed.
“Through you I have come to
know ” He paused again. What
he was going to say, truthful though it was, must
hurt her, and she had been sorely hurt already.
He put his thoughts more gently, more vaguely.
“By what happened I have come
to see what matters in life. I was behind the
hedge. I have broken through upon the road.
I know my goal now. The highway is before me.”
She felt the tragedy in his words,
and her voice shook as she spoke. “I wish
I knew life better. Then I could make a better
answer. You are on the road, you say. But
I feel that it is a hard and cruel road oh,
I understand that at least! Tell me, please,
tell me the whole truth. You are hiding from
me what you feel. I have upset your life, have
I not? You are a Quaker, and Quakers are better
than all other Christian people, are they not?
Their faith is peace, and for me, you ”
She covered her face with her hands for an instant,
but turned quickly and looked him in the eyes:
“For me you put your hand upon the clock of a
man’s life, and stopped it.”
She got to her feet with a passionate
gesture, but he put a hand gently upon her arm, and
she sank back again. “Oh, it was not you;
it was I who did it!” she said. “You
did what any man of honour would have done, what a
brother would have done.”
“What I did is a matter for
myself only,” he responded quickly. “Had
I never seen your face again it would have been the
same. You were the occasion; the thing I did
had only one source, my own heart and mind. There
might have been another way; but for that way, or for
the way I did take, you could not be responsible.”
“How generous you are!”
Her eyes swam with tears; she leaned over the table
where he had been writing, and the tears dropped upon
his letter. Presently she realised this, and
drew back, then made as though to dry the tears from
the paper with her handkerchief. As she did so
the words that he had written met her eye: “’But
offences must come, and woe to him from whom the offence
cometh!’ I have begun now, and only now, to
feel the storms that shake us to our farthest cells
She became very still. He touched
her arm and said heavily: “Come away, come
She pointed to the words she had read.
“I could not help but see, and now I know what
this must mean to you.”
“Thee must go at once,”
he urged. “Thee should not have come.
Thee was safe none knew. A few hours
and it would all have been far behind. We might
never have met again.”
Suddenly she gave a low, hysterical
laugh. “You think you hide the real thing
from me. I know I’m ignorant and selfish
and feeble-minded, but I can see farther than you
think. You want to tell the truth about about
it, because you are honest and hate hiding things,
because you want to be punished, and so pay the price.
Oh, I can understand! If it were not for me you
would not....” With a sudden wild impulse
she got to her feet. “And you shall not,”
she cried. “I will not have it.”
Colour came rushing to her cheeks.
“I will not have it. I
will not put myself so much in your debt. I will
not demand so much of you. I will face it all.
I will stand alone.”
There was a touch of indignation in
her voice. Somehow she seemed moved to anger
against him. Her hands were clasped at her side
rigidly, her pulses throbbing. He stood looking
at her fixedly, as though trying to realise her.
His silence agitated her still further, and she spoke
“I could have, would have, killed
him myself without a moment’s regret. He
had planned, planned ah, God, can you not
see it all! I would have taken his life without
a thought. I was mad to go upon such an adventure,
but I meant no ill. I had not one thought that
I could not have cried out from the housetops, and
he had in his heart he had what you saw.
But you repent that you killed him by accident,
it was by accident. Do you realise how many times
others have been trapped by him as was I? Do
you not see what he was as I see now?
Did he not say as much to me before you came, when
I was dumb with terror? Did he not make me understand
what his whole life had been? Did I not see in
a flash the women whose lives he had spoiled and killed?
Would I have had pity? Would I have had remorse?
No, no, no! I was frightened when it was done,
I was horrified, but I was not sorry; and I am not
sorry. It was to be. It was the true end
to his vileness. Ah!”
She shuddered, and buried her face
in her hands for a moment, then went on: “I
can never forgive myself for going to the Palace with
him. I was mad for experience, for mystery; I
wanted more than the ordinary share of knowledge.
I wanted to probe things. Yet I meant no wrong.
I thought then nothing of which I shall ever be ashamed.
But I shall always be ashamed because I knew him,
because he thought that I oh, if I were
a man, I should be glad that I had killed him, for
the sake of all honest women!”
He remained silent. His look
was not upon her, he seemed lost in a dream; but his
face was fixed in trouble.
She misunderstood his silence.
“You had the courage, the impulse to to
do it,” she said keenly; “you have not
the courage to justify it. I will not have it
“I will tell the truth to all
the world. I will not shrink I shrank yesterday
because I was afraid of the world; to-day I will face
it, I will ”
She stopped suddenly, and another
look flashed into her face. Presently she spoke
in a different tone; a new light had come upon her
mind. “But I see,” she added.
“To tell all is to make you the victim, too,
of what he did. It is in your hands; it is all
in your hands; and I cannot speak unless unless
you are ready also.”
There was an unintended touch of scorn
in her voice. She had been troubled and tried
beyond bearing, and her impulsive nature revolted
at his silence. She misunderstood him, or, if
she did not wholly misunderstand him, she was angry
at what she thought was a needless remorse or sensitiveness.
Did not the man deserve his end?
“There is only one course to
pursue,” he rejoined quietly, “and that
is the course we entered upon last night. I neither
doubted yourself nor your courage. Thee must
not turn back now. Thee must not alter the course
which was your own making, and the only course which
thee could, or I should, take. I have planned
my life according to the word I gave you. I could
not turn back now. We are strangers, and we must
remain so. Thee will go from here now, and we
must not meet again. I am ”
“I know who you are,”
she broke in. “I know what your religion
is; that fighting and war and bloodshed is a sin to
“I am of no family or place
in England,” he went on calmly. “I
come of yeoman and trading stock; I have nothing in
common with people of rank. Our lines of life
will not cross. It is well that it should be so.
As to what happened that which I may feel
has nothing to do with whether I was justified or
no. But if thee has thought that I have repented
doing what I did, let that pass for ever from your
mind. I know that I should do the same, yes,
even a hundred times. I did according to my nature.
Thee must not now be punished cruelly for a thing thee
did not do. Silence is the only way of safety
or of justice. We must not speak of this again.
We must each go our own way.”
Her eyes were moist. She reached
out a hand to him timidly. “Oh, forgive
me,” she added brokenly, “I am so vain,
so selfish, and that makes one blind to the truth.
It is all clearer now. You have shown me that
I was right in my first impulse, and that is all I
can say for myself. I shall pray all my life
that it will do you no harm in the end.”
She remained silent, for a moment
adjusting her veil, preparing to go. Presently
she spoke again: “I shall always want to
know about you what is happening to you.
How could it be otherwise?”
She was half realising one of the
deepest things in existence, that the closest bond
between two human beings is a bond of secrecy upon
a thing which vitally, fatally concerns both or either.
It is a power at once malevolent and beautiful.
A secret like that of David and Hylda will do in a
day what a score of years could not accomplish, will
insinuate confidences which might never be given to
the nearest or dearest. In neither was any feeling
of the heart begotten by their experiences; and yet
they had gone deeper in each other’s lives than
any one either had known in a lifetime. They
had struck a deeper note than love or friendship.
They had touched the chord of a secret and mutual experience
which had gone so far that their lives would be influenced
by it for ever after. Each understood this in
a different way.
Hylda looked towards the letter lying
on the table. It had raised in her mind, not
a doubt, but an undefined, undefinable anxiety.
He saw the glance, and said: “I was writing
to one who has been as a sister to me. She was
my mother’s sister though she is almost as young
as I. Her name is Faith. There is nothing there
of what concerns thee and me, though it would make
no difference if she knew.” Suddenly a thought
seemed to strike him. “The secret is of
thee and me. There is safety. If it became
another’s, there might be peril. The thing
shall be between us only, for ever?”
“Do you think that I ”
“My instinct tells me a woman
of sensitive mind might one day, out of an unmerciful
honesty, tell her husband ”
“I am not married-”
“But one day ”
She interrupted him. “Sentimental
egotism will not rule me. Tell me,” she
added, “tell me one thing before I go. You
said that your course was set. What is it?”
“I remain here,” he answered
quietly. “I remain in the service of Prince
“It is a dreadful government, an awful service ”
“That is why I stay.”
“You are going to try and change things here you
“I hope not alone, in time.”
“You are going to leave England,
your friends, your family, your place in
Hamley, was it not? My aunt has read of you my
cousin ” she paused.
“I had no place in Hamley.
Here is my place. Distance has little to do with
understanding or affection. I had an uncle here
in the East for twenty-five years, yet I knew him
better than all others in the world. Space is
nothing if minds are in sympathy. My uncle talked
to me over seas and lands. I felt him, heard
“You think that minds can speak
to minds, no matter what the distance real
and definite things?”
“If I were parted from one very
dear to me, I would try to say to him or her what
was in my mind, not by written word only, but by the
She sat down suddenly, as though overwhelmed.
“Oh, if that were possible!” she said.
“If only one could send a thought like that!”
Then with an impulse, and the flicker of a sad smile,
she reached out a hand. “If ever in the
years to come you want to speak to me, will you try
to make me understand, as your uncle did with you?”
“I cannot tell,” he answered.
“That which is deepest within us obeys only
the laws of its need. By instinct it turns to
where help lies, as a wild deer, fleeing, from captivity,
makes for the veldt and the watercourse.”
She got to her feet again. “I
want to pay my debt,” she said solemnly.
“It is a debt that one day must be paid so
awful so awful!” A swift change passed
over her. She shuddered, and grew white.
“I said brave words just now,” she added
in a hoarse whisper, “but now I see him lying
there cold and still, and you stooping over him.
I see you touch his breast, his pulse. I see
you close his eyes. One instant full of the pulse
of life, the next struck out into infinite space.
Oh, I shall never how can I ever-forget!”
She turned her head away from him, then composed herself
again, and said quietly, with anxious eyes: “Why
was nothing said or done? Perhaps they are only
waiting. Perhaps they know. Why was it announced
that he died in his bed at home?”
“I cannot tell. When a
man in high places dies in Egypt, it may be one death
or another. No one inquires too closely.
He died in Kaid Pasha’s Palace, where other
men have died, and none has inquired too closely.
To-day they told me at the Palace that his carriage
was seen to leave with himself and Mizraim the Chief
Eunuch. Whatever the object, he was secretly
taken to his house from the Palace, and his brother
Nahoum seized upon his estate in the early morning.
“I think that no one knows the
truth. But it is all in the hands of God.
We can do nothing more. Thee must go. Thee
should not have come. In England thee will forget,
as thee should forget. In Egypt I shall remember,
as I should remember.”
“Thee,” she repeated softly.
“I love the Quaker thee. My grandmother
was an American Quaker. She always spoke like
that. Will you not use thee and thou in speaking
to me, always?”
“We are not likely to speak
together in any language in the future,” he
answered. “But now thee must go, and I will ”
“My cousin, Mr. Lacey, is waiting
for me in the garden,” she answered. “I
shall be safe with him.” She moved towards
the door. He caught the handle to turn it, when
there came the noise of loud talking, and the sound
of footsteps in the court-yard. He opened the
door slightly and looked out, then closed it quickly.
“It is Nahoum Pasha,” he said. “Please,
the other room,” he added, and pointed to a curtain.
“There is a window leading on a garden.
The garden-gate opens on a street leading to the Ezbekiah
Square and your hotel.”
“But, no, I shall stay here,”
she said. She drew down her veil, then taking
from her pocket another, arranged it also, so that
her face was hidden.
“Thee must go,” he said “go
quickly.” Again he pointed.
“I will remain,” she rejoined,
with determination, and seated herself in a chair.