Wandsworth?” Professor Palliser said, staring at Sir Giles. “Why did you go there?”
“Can’t you guess?” Sir Giles asked. “Then I suppose you won’t guess what happened. Well, I don’t mind telling you, Palliser, that for once neither did I. Nor the Governor, who is a beefy lump of idiocy. He got quite upset when he saw it.”
“Saw what?” Palliser asked. “What have you been doing?”
“I’ll tell you,” Sir Giles answered. “I ought to have foreseen perhaps — but one doesn’t know what the logic of the damned thing is. Well, I went to Wandsworth. You know what they have at Wandsworth?”
“Not specially,” Palliser said. “A common, isn’t there? And a prison?”
“And a Hottentot missionary college, and a seminary for barmaids,” Sir Giles added. “What do they have at Wandsworth Prison early in the mornings?”
“Parades?” Palliser, all at sea, ventured. “Breakfast? Chapel?”
“Try all three,” Sir Giles answered. “Executions, Palliser. That’s what I went for. There aren’t so many that I could afford to miss one, especially just after Birlesmere had given me a practically free hand. So I got a letter out of him and the Home Office scullion and down I went. After all, I argued, if this infernal Stone is a kind of rendezvous of the past and the future and every sort of place I didn’t see why it shouldn’t push a man over an interruption, like death. There is only one kind Of death which is fixed and that’s execution. Even at hospitals you can’t be certain to an hour or two, and anyhow very often there people don’t die intelligently; they lose themselves and drift. But the fellow who’s going to be executed knows about it all right. The ape-creature who called himself the Governor wouldn’t let on to me whether he usually drugged the victim, but I saw to it he didn’t drug this one. I wanted all the intelligence I could find — not that there was much anyhow; he was an undersized slug who’d poisoned a woman because she’d run away with him without having any money, so far as I could understand. Not that it mattered. I got there before he’d had his breakfast, and had a little talk, asked him if he’d like to live and so on. The warder had been cleared out of the cell, so it was all right. I don’t know what the wretched creature thought I was offering him, but he screamed with gratitude-quite a fascinating ten minutes, all twisting and slobbering. In fact, I began to think I shouldn’t get the idea into the maggot-hole he had for a brain, but I did, and made him have a good breakfast too. Then the chaplain came in and talked about life in heaven, but my murderer was all for life on earth, and I was worth a dozen mongrel-faced chaplains to him. So he was pinioned so that he could hold one of the Stones — you ought to have seen the Governor looking like a Sunday school superintendent in a night club or something worse — and I told him to put everything he knew into choosing to live. And off we went — he and the hangman and the chaplain and the Governor and I and everyone. The funniest thing you ever saw, Palliser — if you ever did see anything funny. And there was the trap and everything. Well, do you know it was only then it occurred to me that I ought to be underneath — in the pit thing he drops into. It delayed matters a bit, but at last they grasped what I wanted: anyone except a malformed baby of two months would have understood me sooner than that Governor: and round and down I went. And down he came.”
Sir Giles paused. “And now,” he resumed, “what do you think happened?”
“How do I know?” Palliser exclaimed. “He was dead?”
“No,” Sir Giles said thoughtfully. “No, I shouldn’t say he was dead.”
“He was alive!” Palliser cried. “Does it really do away with death?”
“Well, yes, I suppose in a way he was alive,” Sir Giles said. “He was quite conscious and so on — one could see that. The only thing was that his neck was broken.”
Palliser gaped at him. In a moment Sir Giles resumed. “There he was. Neck broken, everything as it should be, the body dead so to speak. But he wasn’t. I can see now that it was my fault in a way. I was thinking in terms of continuation of life, so I put him on to that idea, and of course he swilled it down with his coffee. But we both forgot to arrange the conditions, so that the ordinary physical process wasn’t interfered with. Yet on the other hand his consciousness just stopped there, in his body or wherever it lives. A damn funny result, Palliser. If you could have seen his eyes while he hung there kicking —”
Palliser interrupted. “But what did you do?” he asked.
Sir Giles shrugged. “O well,.they cut him down, and stuck him in a bed somewhere privately, and the chaplain postponed any more of the resurrection and the life, and the Governor went off to get more instructions. And I hung about a bit — in fact, I’ve been there all day on and off; but there doesn’t seem to be any change. There he lies, all broken up, and just his eyes awake. No use at all to me or anyone, damn and blast him for a verminous puppy-dog!”
Palliser moved uneasily. “I’m beginning to be afraid of it,” he said. “I wish we knew what it was.”
“It’s the First Matter,” Sir Giles said. “I told you that was what I thought it was, and I’m more sure than ever now. It’s that which becomes everything else.”
“But how does it work?” Palliser asked. “How does all this movement happen? How does it carry anyone about in space?”
“It doesn’t,” Sir Giles answered immediately. “Can’t you see that it doesn’t move people about like an aeroplane display. Once you are in contact and you choose and desire and will, you go into it and come out again where you have desired because everything is in it, anyhow. Do try and see further than a wax doll on a Christmas tree can.”
“So that if you were set in contact you might, even if you only partly knew . . .?” Palliser began slowly and stopped.
“I expect so,” Sir Giles said sweetly, “if your hearse of a mind could only get to the cemetery a bit quicker. What might you?”
“I was thinking of Pondon,” Palliser went on. “That might explain how it was that he’s . . . returned?”
“He’s what?” Sir Giles said sharply. “What d’you mean, Palliser? He hadn’t a Stone, had he?”
“Your brother-in-law must have done it,” Palliser answered, feeling some pleasure at the connexion. “You know you thought you saw him when we were trying to get at Pondon the other night and failed. There seems to have been a paragraph in the paper, but I missed that. But when I got to Birmingham yesterday morning, he was there. He’d been found in the laboratory when my demonstrator went in at about ten o’clock. He was a bit bewildered then, I gathered, so I went round to see him. And who do you think I found there?”
“Arglay!” Sir Giles exclaimed. “By God, I’ll tear Arglay into bits.”
“Not Arglay,” Palliser went on, “but that girl who was with him — his secretary. She’d told him some tale and got on his right side, for there he was talking away to her, and telling her how he couldn’t make out what had happened. I was rather sorry I’d turned up at first, though he was quite all right with me — asked me if the vibrations were all right. You remember we told him some tale about testing etheric vibrations — on the lines of my Discontinuous Integer?”
“He was damn near being a discontinuous integer himself,” Sir Giles said snappily. “And what had Arglay’s woman to say about it?”
“I don’t like it,” Palliser answered. “O she didn’t say much, just cooed at him now and then. But from what he said, while he was doing his job as usual, he found his hand holding this Stone — and he knew he’d been holding it, so (as far as I could understand) he took a tighter grip and said to himself, “This is where I ought to be.” And then he remembers pitching right over, and there the demonstrator found him. But that girl and Arglay have had something to do with it, and if they’re going to interfere continually —”
Sir Giles put up a hand as if for silence, and sat meditating for several minutes. Then he drew a deep breath and got up. “I’m going to try something,” he said. “I’ve had enough of this young Hecate mixing herself up with my affairs because that bestial leprechaun who employs her tells her to. I’ll give Miss Chloe Burnett something else to do with her mind, and perhaps with mine. If she can use the Stone so can other people. Where is it? Go away now, Palliser, and let me try.”
It was perhaps the greatest mistake which Giles Tumulty had ever made to allow what had been in general a cold, if rather horrible, sincerity of investigation into remote states of mind to become violently shaken by a personal hatred of his brother-in-law. He and Arglay had always mutually despised each other, but until now they had never been in conflict. The chances of the last few’days however had turned them from contemptuous acquaintances into definite enemies. Indeed at that moment, though no one of those connected with the progress of the Stone and its Types had realized it, the Chief Justice and his secretary were becoming the only single-minded adherents it possessed. Lord Arglay certainly could not be thought to feel any passionate devotion to it; but he strongly disliked all that he saw and felt of the greed by which it was surrounded. The Persian Government, the English Government, the American millionaire and his wife — these he knew; and there were others he did not know — Merridew and Frank Lindsay; even, in some sense, though a holier, the Mayor of Rich and the Hajji Ibrahim. All for good or evil desired to recover the Stone, and use it, and most of them desired greatly to possess all its Types as well. Doncaster and Mrs. Pentridge hardly knew enough or were hardly in sufficient contact with the movements it had caused to make any demand. But Lord Arglay, at once in contact and detached, at once faithless and believing, beheld all these things in the light of that fastidious and ironical goodwill which, outside mystical experience, is the finest and noblest capacity man has developed in and against the universe. And now this itself was touched by a warmer consciousness, for as far as might be within his protection and certainly within his willing friendship, there was growing the intense secret of Chloe’s devotion to the Mystery. As if a Joseph with more agnostic irony than tradition usually allows him sheltered and sustained a Mary of a more tempestuous past than the Virgin–Mother is believed to have either endured or enjoyed, so Lord Arglay considered, as far as it was clear to him, his friend’s progress towards the End of Desire. To that shelter and sustenance she had eagerly returned from her absence on the Birmingham errand, and she and her companion were now telling him and the Hajji, who had been summoned, of the occurrences of that errand.
Of one thing however Chloe did not speak. She might have gradually revealed it to Lord Arglay, but she certainly was not going to mention it before the Hajji, and as in a way Mr. Doncaster was it or the occasion of it she could not before him. Chloe had usually found a fairly long train journey — especially in the first class compartment Lord Arglay had naturally assumed she would take-in the company of an intelligent and personable young man who rather obviously admired her, a very pleasant, and even exciting, method of spending the time. There was so happy a mixture of the known and the unknown; there was all the possibility of advance and yet all the surety of withdrawal — there was in short such admirable country for campaigning that she could not very clearly understand why she had today looked at it without any thought of a campaign. She had thrown out a squadron or so to check Mr. Doncaster’s early moves, and had with small expenditure of effort immobilized him. The journeys were ended and there was no regret. She must, Chloe thought when she became conscious of this, be terribly excited. But she was not excited. She only wanted to serve the Stone — and Lord Arglay — as much as Lord Arglay — and the Stone — wanted. There was a slight doubt in her mind which of them, if it came to a crisis, was the more important, but it hadn’t come to a crisis and very likely never would. Once or twice her experience in the operation which she and the Chief Justice had directed occurred to her; with the suggestion of a possibility that there indeed a choice beyond her knowledge had been made and a first separation from mortality dutifully and sadly undergone. It would have seemed to her silly and pretentious to put it like that, but when she said to herself: “I don’t think perhaps I shall care about it so much,” it might have meant much the same thing, at least to any of the Types of the Stone or to the wisdom of Suleiman ben Daood, king in Jerusalem.
“We went to the University first,” Doncaster was saying, “but he wasn’t there, and they didn’t or wouldn’t know anything, so we went to his house.”
“How did you find it?” the Chief Justice put in.
“Telephone Directory,” Doncaster said. “That was my idea. I thought in his position he’d almost have to be on, and he was. But it was Miss Burnett got us into the house — the usual kind of house; just the thing you’d expect of him. He lived with his mother, and I thought we could swear we were journalists; but before I could say anything —” He paused and looked at Chloe.
“And what did Miss Burnett swear you were?” Lord Arglay asked.
“I said we were his friends,” Chloe answered, with a simplicity and a certainty in her voice which — Arglay thought would have opened any doors. Some new completeness seemed to be growing in her. He permitted himself to test it with another question.
“And did you also think it was the kind of house You would expect of him?” he asked, throwing a side glance of humorous apology at Doncaster.
Chloe frowned a little. “I don’t think I know,” she said, “I mean, I didn’t expect anything. It was — it was a house, and he and his mother lived in it. I don’t see what more one could say.”
“It didn’t,” Arglay asked again, “seem to you of any particular kind?”
“It was a very nice house,” Chloe said, “but — no, I didn’t notice anything else.”
“It had an aspidistra in the window,” Doncaster put in.
“It certainly had,” Chloe agreed, “and a very good aspidistra too. I admired it.”
Lord Arglay signed to Doncaster to go on — after a slightly perplexed glance at Chloe, he obeyed.
“So Miss Burnett said, ‘We are his friends,’ and his mother let us in and took us to the aspidistra, and presently he came in. So we — at least Miss Burnett — told him she knew all about it . . . ”
“Did you?” Arglay interrupted.
“Well, in a way,” Chloe answered. “It seemed as if he thought he had seen me before; he looked at me so hesitatingly at first. And I said I knew something of what had happened, and was anxious to know if we could do anything more to help him. So we . . . we stammered a little at one another, and then he broke out. He said he didn’t know what had happened. He remembered Professor Palliser talking to him about etheric vibrations, and asking him to test them by wishing — he said wishing — to be at an earlier point of time, and then he wondered if he had been.”
“He was very muddled about it all,” Doncaster added. “And about what happened afterwards: he was doing his job in his usual manner and suddenly he felt as if he were holding on to a post and something was saying to him, ‘This is the way.’ He couldn’t get nearer than that. And he saw a kind of photograph in the air.”
“A what?” Lord Arglay exclaimed.
“He didn’t say a photograph,” Chloe cried out. “He said a picture.”
“He said, to be exact, ‘a picture just like a photograph’,” Doncaster insisted, “of the same room. And it got bigger. But go on, Miss Burnett.”
“I think he saw them in the Unity,” Chloe said. “He said he felt as if he’were standing between them, and he didn’t know which he ought to be in, but it was frightfully important for him to choose rightly. And he wondered which the Professor and his friends wanted. But then he thought he saw . . . ” she hesitated . . . “me in one of them, and moved to ask whether I wanted to see the Professor!”
“And then crashed,” Doncaster ended. “And knew nothing more. It was at that point that the Professor arrived. He looked a trifle embarrassed when the mother brought him in and he saw Miss Burnett — embarrassed first and then rather annoyed. So there was general conversation for awhile, and I chatted to the Professor — at least, I asked him what he thought of it all, while Miss Burnett and Pondon talked. And then we came away.”
“I like the notion that he thought you wanted Palliser,” Lord Arglay said contentedly. “The Stone seems to have a subtle irony of its own. But why you? Very much pleasanter for him, of course; but I had an idea, from what you said, that I was doing most of the work. Why — didn’t he see me?”
“It may be,” the Hajji said, “that it was by your work that this man beheld her. For all that you showed him was the Stone, and it may be that Miss Burnett’s work was in the Stone, and that he beheld her there. It was in its degree, redemption which you offered him, and if she was toiling also at redemption — the Way to the Stone is in the Stone.”
“And yet his desire was to do what Palliser wished,” Arglay demurred.
“His desire was to fulfil good as he knew it,” the Hajji said. “Therefore he was capable of receiving within those conditions the End of Desire, which is eternally good.”
“All times are within it and all places, it seems,” Arglay said. “Are not therefore its own Types within itself?”
“I think that is true,” the Hajji answered. “Certainly therefore this Thing contains its own Unity; it is for us to find the path by which that Unity may be manifested.”
“It seems to me,” Doncaster began . . .
For some time Chloe had been conscious of a restlessness which she had been trying in vain to subdue. She was tired or something, she supposed, but things looked different somehow. What a lot of bother everyone was making! after all, there were other things in the world. And all this talk about redemption and the End of Desire. The end of desire was to get what you wanted. The Hajji was rather a silly little old man, she thought with his Compassionates and his Muhammeds and his Peace be upon him and his under the Protection — what protection and from what? A little intelligent watchfulness was all the protection she needed, and she could supply that herself. As for Lord Arglay — Lord Arglay, it occurred to her, was unmarried, and if not rich — he could hardly be that — still he must have . . . And no one but Reginald Montague to leave it to! Old men sometimes . . . after all he wasn’t repulsive. If be married Chloe Burnett, Chloe Burnett would have a more comfortable life. And if he didn’t marry still he was the kind of man who would probably treat his mistress very fairly. Suppose he had one already? That must be seen to. Chloe Burnett might not be exactly beautiful, but she had (so she had been told) a genius for making the most of herself and her art. There wouldn’t be many mistresses who could outdo her if it really came to a tussle.
The Hajji stopped speaking, Lord Arglay stirred, and Chloe woke to sudden anxiety. What on earth had she been thinking? Thoughts had passed through her mind in their usual way, but not — surely not! — usual thoughts. Had she really been guessing how much money Lord Arglay had, and whether she could get it? Had she really been planning to use the hands clasped beneath her chin to trap him? Now if it had been this young Doncaster man . . . his hair would be rather pleasant to pull rather hard, he had thick hair; and well-made wrists, better than Frank’s. Not that there would be any need to give up Frank, or anyhow not entirely. Chloe Burnett could deal with them as Sir Giles dealt with Arglay and the Hajji or the fellow at Birmingham, a silly fellow as she remembered him. Useful no doubt in a way, and amusing to think of him lost in the past. But very, very dull and only meant to be made use of by other people much more intelligent — Sir Giles for instance. “Bloody fool!” Chloe said aloud.
As Oliver Doncaster had just begun “It seems to me —” her words caused, even in that company, a moment’s attention. Oliver stopped speaking with a shock and found himself faced with the unbelievable. The Hajji turned on her a look of sudden alarm. Lord Arglay, taking her in with a side glance, said casually —“Not you, Mr. Doncaster; I think probably Palliser. But in any case we have for the moment done what we can. Would it be too much to ask you to call in the morning?”
Oliver had had earlier some general expectation of seeing Chloe home. But he wasn’t as clear as the Chief Justice that the words hadn’t been meant for him, and of course’if that was what she thought the sooner he got away the better. Dare he risk shaking hands? He offered her his as charmingly as possible. “Very well, Lord Arglay,” he said. “Good-night, Miss Burnett. Thank you for letting me come to Birmingham.”
Chloe gave him her hand and looked at him. Oliver who had been all day conscious of being held at an emotional distance discovered, with the second shock in two minutes, that he was being deliberately invited to be understanding. Her fingers caressed for a moment the back of his hand; her mouth shaped itself for the kiss the circumstances forbade; her eyes mourned rebukingly over his departure. “Good-night, Mr. Doncaster,” said a voice full of suggestions of intimacies that, so far as he could remember, hadn’t happened, “We may meet — again — in the morning then?”
“She can’t have meant him,” the Chief Justice thought to himself. “But it certainly sounded as if she did. ‘Bloody fool’— it’s the way these modern young creatures talk. Yes, but not here, not — with other people about — to me. I shouldn’t have thought she’d have done that. Still — she did. No,” he thought suddenly. “I don’t believe it. She never talked like that — except for amusement or from bitterness. And never so. She is civilized; she is in obedience to the Law.”
He had been taking Oliver to the door while he was thinking and once that was closed he hastened back to the study. Chloe was standing by the fireplace, looking round the room. Lord Arglay had seen her standing just there often enough, but in her eyes now there was a difference. They surveyed, they considered, they calculated; so much he saw before she brought them back to meet his with a smile. But even that had something unnatural about it, a determination of quite another kind from that which had on other occasions once or twice appeared in the depths of her look, a hardness alien to the secretary the Chief Justice knew. For a moment, as their glances met, this gave place to a sudden bewilderment, but before he could say a word she had turned aside and was looking towards the window. Lord Arglay looked round for the Hajji, who had apparently withdrawn into some corner, and found him at last by his elbow. In that room they were far enough from Chloe not to be heard if they spoke softly, and in such a tone the Hajji said: “Something has frightened you?”
“No,” Arglay answered, “not frightened. I was a little startled, but I expect it’s all right. No doubt Miss Burnett is a little overtired.”
“I do not know Miss Burnett,” the Hajji said, “except that I saw the Name upon her forehead. But I have watched her eyes, and I think you are right to be anxious.”
“Why?” Arglay said abruptly.
“Her eyes and her mouth have changed,” the Hajji answered. “They are curious and greedy — and even malicious. And if, as I think, she is not by nature greedy or malicious . . . ”
He paused, but Arglay only said, “Well?”
“Then,” the Hajji concluded, “something or someone is making her so.”
In case Chloe should catch his eyes again Lord Arglay looked at the Hajji and said, “It seems a damn silly thing to try to do. What good would it be?”
“It might be a good deal of good,” the Hajji said, “if indeed they desire to obtain the Types which you have. But even if not, have you never known men act from hate and anger alone?”
“And is this also, if it is so,” Lord Arglay said, ironically, part of the miracle of the Stone?”
“I warned you that there might be much evil,” the Hajji answered, and fell silent.
Lord Arglay glanced again at Chloe. “You think they may be playing tricks on her?” he asked, but more as if in courteous conversation than in inquiry, and the other did not trouble to answer. At last, “Well,” he went on, “if this is so I will do what can be done.”
“Will you try and find her in the Stone?” the Hajji asked.
“No,” Arglay answered, “no, I do not think I will take up the Stone. Between her and me I will not have any even of these things.”
“You love her?” the Hajji said, half in statement, half in interrogation.
“Why, I do not very well know what love may be,” Lord Arglay said, “but so far as is possible to men I think that there is justice between her and me, and if that justice cannot help us now I do not think that any miracles will.”
“This is a very rare thing,” the Hajji said doubtfully.
“My secretary,” Lord Arglay said, half-lightly, half, seriously, “is a very rare young lady.” His voice became entirely serious, as he added, “And if it is Giles, I will perhaps kill him tomorrow. But now I will see what is at work here.”
“Cannot I help you?” the other asked.
“No,” Arglay said. “I will do this alone. Good-night.”
He shook hands and opened the door. The Hajji, without going nearer, bowed to Chloe and walked out. Lord Arglay shut the door and strolled across the room.
“I thought he was never going,” Chloe said.
The remark was so perfectly normal that for a moment the Chief Justice felt almost idiotically defeated. But something reminded him that Chloe had never been the kind of secretary who remarked in that way on her employer’s visitors. She would have thought it presumptuous and rude, and the affection that had grown between them had never made her more careless of her behaviour as a subordinate or as a friend. In both capacities the remark was inadmissible, and Lord Arglay knew it as he took the last three steps that brought him level with her. He smiled at her and for a moment considered.
“Do you feel very tired?” he asked.
“Well, it was a hell of a journey,” Chloe said, “but no — not if you want me, I mean.”
“Too tired,” Lord Arglay said, “to do a little Organic Law?” Chloe looked at him blankly for a moment. “O!” she exclaimed, and before she could add any more the Chief Justice went on easily, “I want you to consider it in connexion with our last night’s resolution. I want you to think.” His voice on the last word became suddenly authoritative.
Chloe laid a hand on his arm. “I am rather tired,” she said, “but of course if you must have it done —” The hand slid down his arm to his hand and lingered there. Lord Arglay took it and held it. “Yes, think,” he said. “Think, very carefully, yourself
Chloe pouted. “What about?” she said. “Isn’t there anything better to do? It’s you that ought to think, not me.”
“Good God!” Lord Arglay said, really annoyed, “don’t talk such rubbish, child.”
A quick tremor shook Chloe, she released his hand, and slid round to face him. “Am I a child?” she said, and suddenly anger contended with cunning in her eyes. She paused uncertainly, as if something within her, unaccustomed to the instrument it was using, was fumbling with it; she half put out her hand again and withdrew it; she leaned forward but whether in desire or hate Arglay could not tell. He kept his eyes on her now, saying nothing for a moment that the remembrance of the Chloe Burnett be knew might gather more mightily within him. For the change that had come upon her was provoked by no natural alteration of mood, and for a moment he wondered whether indeed he had been wise in this extremity to refuse the mysterious capacities of the Stone. If he could use it to rescue Pondon might he not with a thousand times more reason use it here? Might it not be a wise and proper thing to do? But however wise or proper it might be he knew he could not; to do so would be already to confess defeat — there was something else on which he relied and it was the mere fact that they were what they were and had been what they had been.
He said, with a certain slowness, “Child, I would have you think of what we chose to do.”
“I do not want to think of anything that is past,” she answered sullenly, and to that he said in a growing passion of authority, “But I will have you do this, and therefore you shall do it now. I will have you do it.”
She moved her head from side to side as if to avoid the charge he laid upon her; then, abandoning a direct refusal, she said in almost a whisper, “But first let us think of other things.”
“Child,” he answered, “the things of which you would think are neither here nor there, nor do you think of them. You think and you shall think of all that we have done together, and of how we determined to believe in God.”
“I will believe in you instead,” Chloe said and took a small step forward in the small distance that separated them.
The sentence was so unexpected, she was herself so close, that Arglay for a moment hesitated. It was not so much desire for her that filled him as a willingness to accept himself on those terms, to take this offered substitution. To play deity to an attractive young girl — there was, for a moment he felt, a certain point to the idea. But even as the point pricked him ever so slightly he smiled to think of it, and the consciousness of the prick passed from him. His own belief in God was still small, but his feeling for Organic Law was very strong, and his dislike of any human being pretending to be above that Law was stronger still. The temptation rose and was lost in its absurdity. And yet . . . She looked up with an inviting smile. He took her suddenly by one shoulder with his hand.
“You will not believe in me,” he answered, “as more than a servant of that which you serve. Answer me — what is that?”
“It is nothing with which you have anything to do,” she said, “unless you will do also what I will.”
He smiled at her in a sudden serenity. “Now I know that I shall have my way,” he said, either to her or to that which was within her, and added to her alone, “since it is impossible that we should be so separated for ever.”
“You!” she said harshly. “Will you govern me with your bit of filthy pebble?”
“I have no need of the Stone,” he answered, still smiling at her, “for all that is in the Stone, except the accidents of time, is here between us and perhaps more than is in the Stone. And in that you will answer me. Tell me, child, what is it you serve.”
She wrenched her shoulder away from him. “Keep your beastly hands away,” she cried. “I am my own to keep and command.”
“And if that shall be true tomorrow,” Lord Arglay said, “it is not true now.” His voice took on a sternness and he looked on her with a high disdain. “Answer,” he said; “will you make me wait? Answer — what is it that you serve?”
She moved back a step or two, and suddenly he put out his hand, caught her wrist, and pulled her back close to him; then, his eyes on hers, he said: “Child, you know me and I know you among the deceptions. What is it, what is it that you serve?”
She gave a stifled cry, and slipped forward so that he caught her. I know,”— she said, “I know. Hold me; I know.” When at last he moved she stood up and did something to her hair; then she looked at him with a faint smile. “I do know,” she said.
“Then I think it is more than I do,” Lord Arglay said. “But that is very possible.”
“Have I been saying anything very silly?” she asked, picking up her handbag and looking for her powder-puff.?”
The Chief Justice considered her. “How do you feel?” he asked. “Well enough to talk a little about it?”
“Quite,” Chloe answered, sitting down, and adding after a moment’s pause, “Have I been a nuisance?”
“Don’t you remember?” Lord Arglay asked. “Suppose you tell me first — whatever seemed to happen.”
“I don’t know that anything exactly happened,” Chloe said. “I just began to think about . . . began to think in a different way.”
“In quite a different way?” Arglay interrupted. “I mean, in a way you had never thought before?”
The colour flamed in Chloe’s cheeks. But she met his eyes, and answered, “Partly. I don’t think I ever calculated before — not so much anyhow. Or not at the same time that I felt.. she struggled bravely on and ended . . . “desirous.”
The Chief Justice considered again. He had seen the farewell she had taken of Doncaster; he had observed, when he had returned to the study, the valuation to which she was bringing its furniture; he had remarked the cold intention in her eyes when the two of them were talking; and he decided that in this case desire and calculation were two different things. But by what means, if by any outside herself, had they been loosed?
“It came on you suddenly?” he asked.
“It came,” she answered, “as if I thought I was walking down one road and found I was walking down another. It didn’t even come; it was there. I lived into the midst of it.”
“And it?” Arglay said, “it seemed like some other self of yours? Did you know yourself in it?”
“In a way,” she answered, “all the things that I have sometimes hated most in myself. But not altogether. Never — no, in all my life, I never wanted so utterly to grab without giving anything at all, never before.” In her agitation she stood up, “I’m not like that,” she said, “O indeed I’m not.”
“No,” Lord Arglay said, “but I think I could guess who is, and whose mind was thrust upon yours then.’ But even he, even in the Stone, could only affect you through your own habits and emotions. So that both he and you troubled and hid your heart.” He mused for a moment and went on.“Child, in those past times that you speak of, how have you governed yourself?”
“By this and that,” Chloe said, “By trying to think clearly and by trying to be as nice as I could to people,”
“It’is very well said,” Lord Arglay answered. “I do not think Giles or anyone else will easily overcome that guard, of yours.”
“I will take care of that,” Chloe said in quite a different voice. “I shan’t be caught twice.”
“Well,” Lord Arglay answered comfortably, looking round the room, “I mayn’t be what Reginald’s unfortunate American would call rich, but I should think I am quite the most well-to-do person you know. So if you are going to make an attempt on anyone it will probably be on me again. Which won’t matter, will it?”
“No,” said Chloe, “though it seems funny that it shouldn’t. And in a way it does.”
“O la la! in a way —” Lord Arglay said. “But only in a way conformable to the Stone. Now it is funny, if you like, how determined I was not to use the Stone. One might have thought I didn’t care what happened to you. I might have been the Hajji; indeed I was worse than the Hajji, for he at least thought about using it.”
“Why — if I may — why didn’t you?” Chloe asked shyly, but her eyes were glad as she looked at him.
“I couldn’t see that it was going to be of the slightest use,” he answered. “It just wasn’t there. Or else — since we have decided to believe in it — it was there anyhow, and to have it materially wouldn’t have helped.”
“Is there then something greater than the Stone?” she asked. “I dreamed last night that the King lifted up his hand and there was a great light.”
“Also the Hajji spoke of a greater secret,” he answered. “I do not think Giles quite knows what he is doing.”
“Do you think it is — dangerous to him?” Chloe said.
“Anything that one uses is apt to become one’s master,” Arglay answered. “And if the Stone should become Giles’s Master — what would he find it to be?”
Chloe looked at her fingers. “Do you think,” she said doubtfully, “we ought to try and . . . warn him or . . . help him . . . Or anything?”
“Help him — help Giles?” Lord Arglay exclaimed. “My dear child, don’t be absurd! After he . . . O you’re tired out; I shall take you home. Unless — I ask you again — unless you’ll stop here?”
“Not to-night, please,” she said. “I shall be quite safe now. If he tries it again, I shall just think.”
“Do,” Lord Arglay approved. “My present problem in Organic Law is this — Good heavens, you want to know! O come along, you’re merely making altruism into a habit.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02