“THE WHOLE SOUL PRISONER ...”
No more foolish passion was ever implanted
in the human breast than that of jealousy unless
it were that of which it is the direct outcome nor
is there any which the average human is less potent
to resist. The victim of either, or both, is
for the time being outside reason.
Now the first-mentioned form of disease
is, to the philosophical mind, of all others the most
essentially foolish indeed, we can hardly
call to mind any other so thoroughly calculated to
turn the average well-constructed man or woman into
an exuberantly incurable idiot. For what does
it amount to when we come to pan it out? If there
exist grounds for the misgiving, why then it is going
begging grovelling for something which
the other party has not got to give; if groundless,
is it not a fulfilling of the homely old saw relating
to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s
face? (We disclaim any intent to pun.) In either case
it is such a full and whole-souled giving of himself,
or herself, away on the part of the patient; while
on that of its object is he, or she, worth
Now, from a very acute form of this
insanity George Falkner was a chronic sufferer.
He had cherished a secret weakness for Lilith, almost
when she was yet in short frocks, but since her return
from England, from the moment he had once more set
eyes upon her on the deck of the Persian, he
had tumbled madly, uncontrollably, headlong in love.
Did a member of the opposite sex so much as exchange
commonplaces with her, George Falkner’s personality
would contrive to loom, grim and dark, and almost
threatening, in the background; while such male animal
who should enjoy the pleasure of say an hour of Lilith’s
society a deux, even with no more flirtatious
or ultimate intent than the same period spent in the
society of his grandmother, would inspire in George
a fell murderousness, which was nothing short of a
reversion to first principles. As for Lilith
herself, she was fond of him, very, in a sisterly,
cousinly way and what way, indeed, could
be more fatal to that by which he desired to travel?
Nor did it mend matters any that their mutual relatives
were the reverse of favourable to his aspirations,
on the ground of the near relationship existing between
the parties. So, poor George, seeing no light,
became morose and quarrelsome, and wholly and violently
unreasonable in short, a bore. All
of which was a pity, because, this weakness apart,
he was, on the whole, rather a good fellow.
He had come to the Rand, like everybody
else, to wait for the boom which boom,
like the chariots of Israel, though totally unlike
the children of the same, tarried long in coming;
indeed, by that time there were not wanting those
who feared that it might not come at all. He had
pleaded with his aunt to invite Lilith at the same
time, artfully putting it that the opportunity of
his escort was too good to be missed; and Mrs. Falkner,
with whom he was a prime favourite, although she did
not approve his aspirations, weakly agreed. And
so here they were beneath the same roof, with the
addition of his second sister, the blue-eyed Mabel,
whose acquaintance we have already made.
The latter, in her soft, fair-haired,
pink and roses style, was a very pretty girl.
She, for her part, could count “coup” to
a creditable extent, and among the latest scalps which
she had hung to her dainty twenty-inch girdle was
that of our friend Holmes.
This idiot, we were going
to say, looked back upon that deadly, monotonous,
starved, dusty, flea-bitten coach-ride of three days
and two nights as a species of Elysium, and in the
result was perennially importuning Laurence to take
a stroll down to Booyseus, “Just for a constitutional,
you know.” And the latter would laugh, and
good-naturedly acquiesce. It was a cheap way of
setting up a character for amiability, he would say
to himself satirically; for as yet Holmes hardly suspected
he was almost as powerfully drawn thither as Holmes
was himself more powerfully, perhaps only,
with the advantage of years and experience and cooler
brain, he had himself more in hand.
“Instead of making a prize gooseberry
of me, Holmes, as a very appropriate item against
the ‘silly’ season,” he said one
day, “you had much better go over by yourself.
You are getting into Falkner’s black books.
He hates me like poison, you know.”
“But that’s just why I
want you along, Stanninghame. While he’s
trying to stand you off in the other quarter, I’m
in it, don’t you see?” replied the other,
with whole-hearted ingenuousness.
Holmes had stated no more than the
truth. Of all the “rivals,” real or
imaginary, whom the jealous George hated and feared,
qua rival, none could touch Laurence Stanninghame.
For by this time it had become patent to his watchful
eyes that among the swarms of visitors of the male,
and therefore, to him, obnoxious sex, at whose coming
Lilith’s glance would brighten, and with whom
she would converse with a kind of affectionate confidentiality
when others were present, and apparently even more
so when others were not, that objectionable personage
was the said Laurence Stanninghame.
This being the case, it followed that
George Falkner, looking out on the stoep one
fine afternoon, and descrying the approach of his bugbear,
stifled a bad cuss-word or two, and then exploded aloud
in more approved and passworthy fashion.
“There’s that bounder coming here again.”
Dutch for somebody you detest eh, George?”
said Lilith sweetly.
“Confound it! That everlasting
trying to be sharp is one of the most deadly things
a man has to put up with. It’s catching eh,
Lilith?” was the sneering retort.
“But who is it?” said
Mrs. Falkner, who was short-sighted, or affected to
“Oh, the great god, Stanninghame,
of course, and his pup, Holmes.”
Now the ill-conditioned George had
stirred up a hornet’s nest, for his sister took
up the parable.
“Well, there are lessons to
be learned even from ‘pups,’” said
Mabel scathingly. “They are not always
growling, at any rate.”
“Oh, you’re on the would-be
smart lay, too? Didn’t I say it was catching?”
“Yes, and you say a great many
things that are supremely foolish,” retorted
Mabel, turning up her tip-tilted nose a little more,
in fine scorn.
“Well, I’m off to the
camp,” said George, with a sort of snarl, reaching
for a hat. “Clearly, I’m not wanted
“You’re not, if you’re
going to do nothing but make yourself fiendishly disagreeable,”
rejoined his sister, pertly pitiless. In reality
she was very fond of him, and he of her, but he had
trampled on a tender place; for she liked Holmes.
George banged on his hat, strode angrily
to the door, and got no farther. He
did not see why he should leave the field clear to
all comers, even if he were out of the running himself;
a line of irresoluteness which affords an excellent
exemplification of the remarks wherewith we have opened
By all but George, who was excusably
undemonstrative, the two new arrivals were greeted
with customary cordiality.
“Why, Mr. Stanninghame, it seems
quite a long time since we saw you last,” said
Mrs. Falkner, as they were all seated out on the stoep.
“What have you been doing with yourself?”
“The usual thing studying
the share market, and talking about it.”
“And is the outlook still as bad as it was?”
“Worse. However, we must hope it’ll
“I hear that you and that queer
man, Mr. Hazon, have become such friends, Mr. Stanninghame.”
This was the sort of remark with which
Laurence had scant patience, the more so that it met
him at every turn. What concern was it of the
Rand collectively who he chose to be friendly with,
that every third person he met should rap out such
kind of comment?
“Oh, we get along all right,
Mrs. Falkner,” he answered. “But then
I have a special faculty for hitting it off with unpopular
persons possibly a kind of fellow-feeling.
Besides, accepting ready-made judgments concerning
other people does not commend itself to my mind on
any score of logic or sound sense. It is just
a trifle less insane than taking up other people’s
quarrels, but only just.”
“I dare say you’re right;
only it is difficult for most of us to be so consistently,
so faultlessly logical. No doubt most of the things
they say about him are not true.”
“But what are most of the things
they say, Mrs. Falkner? Now I, for my part, never
can get anybody to say anything. They will
hint unutterables and look unutterables, but when
it comes to saying no, thank you,
they are not taking any.”
“But he is such a very mysterious
personage. Not a soul here knows anything about
him about his affairs, I mean and
who he is.”
“Perhaps that enhances his attractiveness
in my eyes, Mrs. Falkner. There is prestige in
“Not of a good kind, as a rule,”
she replied, and then stopped short, for a dry malicious
cough on the part of George brought home to her the
consciousness that she was putting her foot in it pretty
effectively. For the same held good of the man
to whom she was talking; about Laurence Stanninghame
and his affairs not a soul there knew anything.
Not a soul? Yes, one, peradventure.
For between himself and Lilith the interchange of
ideas had been plenteous and frequent, and the subtile,
sympathetic vein existing between them had deepened
and grown apace. About himself and his affairs
he had told her nothing, yet it is probable
that he could tell her but little on this head that
would be news in any sense of the word. Lilith’s
aunt, however, who was a good-hearted soul, without
a grain of malice in her composition, felt supremely
uncomfortable and quite savage with George, who was
now grinning, sourly and significantly.
None of this by-play was lost upon
Laurence, but he showed no consciousness. He
knew that George Falkner detested him detested
him cordially, yet he in no wise reciprocated this
dislike. He did not blame George. Probably
he would have felt the same way himself, had he been
in George’s place and at George’s age;
for the latter had the advantage of him on the side
of youth by at least ten years. He was inclined
to like him, and at any rate was sorry for him, perhaps
with a dash of pity that came near contempt.
Poor George did give himself away so, and it was so
foolish so supremely foolish. Yet not
for a moment did it occur to Laurence to efface himself
in this connection. Duty? Hang duty!
He had made a most ruinous muddle of his whole life
through reverencing that fetich word. Honour?
There was no breach of honour where there was no deception,
no pretence. Consideration for others? Who
on earth ever dreamt of considering him when
to do so would cost them anything, that is? Unselfishness?
Everybody was selfish everything even.
What had he ever gained by striving to improve upon
the universal law? Nothing nothing
good; everything bad bad and deteriorating morally
And now, should he put the goblet
from his lips? Not he. This strong, new
wine of life had rejuvenated him. Its rich, sweet
fumes, so far from clouding his brain, had cleared
it. It had enwrapped his heart in a glow as of
re-enkindled fire, and caused the stagnated blood to
course once more through his veins, warm and strong
and free. His very step had gained an elasticity,
a firmness, to which it had long been strange.
And yet with all this, his judgment had remained undimmed,
keen, clear, subject to no illusions. The logic
of the situation was rather pitiless, perchance cruel.
He was under no sort of illusion on that score.
Well, let it be. Here again came in the universal
law of life, the battle of the strong. There
was no weakness left in him.
“For my part, I like Hazon,”
cut in Holmes decisively; “he only wants knowing.
And because he doesn’t let himself go for the
benefit of every bounder on the Rand, they talk about
him as if he’d committed no end of murders.
It’s my belief that half the fellows who abuse
him are ten thousand times worse than him,”
he added, with the robust partisanship of hearty youth.
Further discussion of Hazon and his
dérélictions, real or imaginary, was cut short
by the arrival of more visitors, mostly of the sterner
sex; for Mrs. Falkner liked her acquaintance to drop
in informally a predilection her acquaintance,
if young and especially of the harder sex aforesaid,
for obvious reasons, delighted just at present to humour.
George, however, in no wise shared his aunt’s
expansiveness in this direction, if only that it meant
that Lilith was promptly surrounded by an adoring
phalanx, even as on the deck of the Persian.
Now it was voted cool enough for lawn
tennis for which distraction, indeed, some
of the droppers-in were suitably attired and
there was keen competition for Lilith as a partner;
and Holmes, being first in the field, resolutely bore
off Mabel Falkner as his auxiliary. And George,
realizing that he was “out of it” for some
time to come, perhaps, too, taking a vague comfort
in the thought that there is safety in numbers, actually
did proceed to carry out his threat, and betook himself
Laurence remained seated on the stoep,
talking to Mrs. Falkner and one of the visitors; but
all the while, though never absent-minded or answering
at random, his eyes were following, with a soothing
and restful sense of enjoyment, every movement of
Lilith’s form a very embodiment of
grace and supple ease, he pronounced it. The movement
of the game suited her as it suited but few.
She never seemed to grow hot, or flurried, or dishevelled,
as so many of the fair are wont to do while engaged
in that popular pastime. Every movement was one
of unstudied, unconscious grace. In point of
hard fact, she played indifferently; but she did so
in a manner that was infinitely good to look at.
“Don’t you play at this,
Mr. Stanninghame?” said the other visitor, “or
have you got a soul above such frivolities?”
“That doesn’t exactly
express it,” he answered. “The truth
is, I don’t derive sufficient enjoyment from
skipping about on one or both legs at the end of a
racket, making frantic attempts to stop a ball which
the other side is making equally frantic and fruitless
efforts to drive at me through a net. As a dispassionate
observer, the essence of the game seems to me to consist
in sending the ball against the net as hard and as
frequently as practicable.”
At this the visitor spluttered, and,
being of the softer sex, declared that he must be
a most dreadful cynic; and Lilith, who was near enough
to hear his remarks, turned her head, with a rippling
flash of mirth in her eyes, and said “Thank
you!” which diversion indeed caused her to perform
the very feat he had been so whimsically describing.
Presently, growing tired of talking,
he withdrew from the others. It happened that
there was a book in the drawing room which had caught
his attention during a former visit; and now he sought
it, and taking it up from the table, stood there alone
in the cool shaded room turning from page to page,
absorbed in comparing passages of its contents.
Then a light step, a rustle of skirts, a lilt of song which
broke off short as he raised his eyes. Lilith
was passing through, her tennis racket still in her
hand. Slightly flushed with her recent exercise,
she looked radiantly sweet, in her dark, brilliant
“Oh, I didn’t know anyone
was here; least of all, you,” she said.
“You startled me.”
“Sorceress, remove those unholy
spells; for thou art indeed good to look upon this
She flashed a smile at him, throwing
back her head with that slight, quick movement which
constituted in her a very subtile and potent charm.
“Flatterer! Do you think so? Well,
I am glad.”
She dropped her hand down upon his,
as it rested on the table, with a swift, light, caressing
pressure, and her eyes softened entrancingly as they
looked up into his. Then she was gone.
He stood there, cool, immovable, self-possessed,
outwardly still to all appearance intent upon the
book which he held. But in reality he saw it
not. His whole mental faculties were called into
play to endeavour imagination to retain that soft,
light pressure upon his hand. His resources of
memory were concentrated upon the picture of her as
she stood there a moment since, lovely,
smiling, enchanting, and then the sombre
brain-wave, reminding of the hopelessness, the mockery
of life’s inexorable circumstance, would roll
in upon his mind; and heart would seem tightened,
crushed, strangled with a pain that was actually physical of
such acuteness indeed, that, had that organ been weak,
he would be in danger of falling dead on the spot.
And this was a part of the penalty he had to pay for
his well-nigh superhuman self-control.
He loved her this man who
loved nothing and nobody living, not even himself.
He loved her this man whose life was all
behind him, and whose heart was of stone, and whose
speech was acrid as the most corrosive element known
to chemistry. But a few “passes” of
sweet Sorceress Lilith’s magical wand and the
stone heart had split to fragments, pouring forth,
giving release to, a warm well-spring. A well-spring?
A very torrent, deep, fierce, strong, but not irresistible as
yet. Still there were moments when to keep it
penned within its limits was agony agony
untold, superhuman, well-nigh unendurable.
He loved her he who was
bound by legal ties until death. With all the
strong concentrative might of his otherwise hard nature,
he loved her. The dead dismal failure of the
past, the sombre vistas of the future, were as nothing
compared with such moments as this. Yet none suspected,
so marvellously did he hold himself in hand. Even
the most jealous of those who saw them frequently
together George Falkner, for instance,
and others were blind and unsuspecting.
But what of Lilith herself?