Sure, He that made us with such large discourse,

Looking before and after, gave us not

That capability and godlike reason

To fust in us unused.

Yet do I believe

The origin and commencement of his grief

Sprung from neglected love.

... he repulsed—a short tale to make—

Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,

Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,

Thence to a lightness; and by this declension

Into the madness.—Hamlet.

THE very pleasantness of the lunch Harwood had at the Dutch cottage made his visit seem more unsatisfactory to him. He had come up to the girl with that sentence which should surely have sounded pathetic even though spoken with indifference. He was beside her to say good-bye. He had given her to understand that he was going amongst the dangers of a disturbed part of the country, but the name of the barbarous nation had not made her cheek pale. It was well enough for himself to make light of his adventurous undertaking, but he did not think that her smiles in telling him that she would miss him were altogether becoming.

Yes, as he rode towards Cape Town he felt that the time had not yet come for him to reveal himself to Daireen Gerald. He would have to be patient, as he had been for years.

Thus far he had found out negatively how Daireen felt towards himself: she liked him, he knew, but only as most women liked him, because he could tell them in an agreeable way things that they wanted to know—because he had travelled everywhere and had become distinguished. He was not a conceited man, but he knew exactly how he stood in the estimation of people, and it was bitter for him to reflect that he did not stand differently with regard to Miss Gerald. But he had not attempted to discover what were Daireen's feelings respecting any one else. He was well aware that Mrs. Crawford was anxious to throw Mr. Glaston in the way of the girl as much as possible; but he felt that it would take a long time for Mr. Glaston to make up his mind to sacrifice himself at Daireen's feet, and Daireen was far too sensible to be imposed upon by his artistic flourishes. As for this young Mr. Standish Macnamara, Harwood saw at once that Daireen regarded him with a friendliness that precluded the possibility of love, so he did not fear the occupation of the girl's heart by Standish. But when Harwood began to think of Oswin Markham—he heard the sound of a horse's hoofs behind him, and Oswin Markham himself trotted up, looking dusty and fatigued.

“I thought I should know your animal,” said Markham, “and I made an effort to overtake you, though I meant to go easily into the town.”

Harwood looked at him and then at his horse.

“You seem as if you owed yourself a little ease,” he said. “You must have done a good deal in the way of riding, judging from your appearance.”

“A great deal too much,” replied Markham. “I have been on the saddle since breakfast.”

“You have been out every morning for the past three days before I have left my room. I was quite surprised when I heard it, after the evidence you gave at the garden party of your weakness.”

“Of my weakness, yes,” said Markham, with a little laugh. “It was wretchedly weak to allow myself to be affected by the change from the open air to that room, but it felt stifling to me.”

“I didn't feel the difference to be anything considerable,” said Harwood; “so the fact of your being overcome by it proves that you are not in a fit state to be playing with your constitution. Where did you ride to-day?”

“Where? Upon my word I have not the remotest idea,” said Markham. “I took the road out to Simon's Bay, but I pulled up at a beach on the nearer side of it, and remained there for a good while.”

“Nothing could be worse than riding about in this aimless sort of way. Here you are completely knocked up now, as you have been for the past three evenings. Upon my word, you seem indifferent as to whether or not you ever leave the colony alive. You are simply trifling with yourself.”

“You are right, I suppose,” said Markham wearily. “But what is a fellow to do in Cape Town? One can't remain inactive beyond a certain time.”

“It is only within the past three days you have taken up this roving notion,” said Harwood. “It is in fact only since that Government House affair.” Markham turned and looked at him eagerly for a moment. “Yes, since your weakness became apparent to yourself, you have seemed bound to prove your strength to the furthest. But you are pushing it too far, my boy. You'll find out your mistake.”

“Perhaps so,” laughed the other. “Perhaps so. By the way, is it true that you are going up country, Harwood?”

“Quite true. The fact is that affairs are becoming critical with regard to our relations with the Zulus, and unless I am greatly mistaken, this colony will be the centre of interest before many months have passed.”

“There is nothing I should like better than to go up with you, Harwood.”

Harwood shook his head. “You are not strong enough, my boy,” he said.

There was a pause before Markham said slowly:

“No, I am not strong enough.”

Then they rode into Cape Town together, and dismounted at their hotel; and, certainly, as he walked up the stairs to his room, Oswin Markham looked anything but strong enough to undertake a journey into the Veldt. Doctor Campion would probably have spoken unkindly to him had he seen him now, haggard and weary, with his day spent on an exposed road beneath a hot sun.

“He is anything but strong enough,” said Harwood to himself as he watched the other man; and then he recollected the tone in which Markham had repeated those words, “I am not strong enough.” Was it possible, he asked himself, that Markham meant that his strength of purpose was not sufficiently great? He thought over this question for some time, and the result of his reflection was to make him wish that he had not thought the conduct of that defiant chief of such importance as demanded the personal observation of the representative of the Dominant Trumpeter. He felt that he would like to search out the origin of the weakness of Mr. Oswin Markham.

But all the time these people were thinking their thoughts and making their resolutions upon various subjects, Mr. Algernon Glaston was remaining in the settled calm of artistic rectitude. He was awaiting with patience the arrival of his father from the Salamander Archipelago, though he had given the prelate of that interesting group to understand that circumstances would render it impossible for his son to remain longer than a certain period at the Cape, so that if he desired the communion of his society it would be necessary to allow the mission work among the Salamanders to take care of itself. For Mr. Glaston was by no means unaware of the sacrifice he was in the habit of making annually for the sake of passing a few weeks with his father in a country far removed from all artistic centres. The Bishop of the Calapash Islands and Metropolitan of the Salamander Archipelago had it several times urged upon him that his son was a marvel of filial duty for undertaking this annual journey, so that he, no doubt, felt convinced of the fact; and though this visit added materially to the expenses of his son's mode of life, which, of course, were defrayed by the bishop, yet the bishop felt that this addition was, after all, trifling compared with the value of the sentiment of filial affection embodied in the annual visit to the Cape.

Mr. Glaston had allowed his father a margin of three weeks for any impediments that might arise to prevent his leaving the Salamanders, but a longer space he could not, he assured his father, remain awaiting his arrival from the sunny islands of his see. Meantime he was dining out night after night with his friends at the Cape, and taking daily drives and horse-exercise for the benefit of his health. Upon the evening when Harwood and Markham entered the hotel together, Mr. Glaston was just departing to join a dinner-party which was to assemble at the house of a certain judge, and as Harwood was also to be a guest, he was compelled to dress hastily.

Oswin Markham was not, however, aware of the existence of the hospitable judge, so he remained in the hotel. He was tired almost to a point of prostration after his long aimless ride, but a bath and a dinner revived him, and after drinking his coffee he threw himself upon a sofa and slept for some hours. When he awoke it was dark, and then lighting a cigar he went out to the balcony that ran along the upper windows, and seated himself in the cool air that came landwards from the sea.

He watched the soldiers in white uniform crossing the square; he saw the Malay population who had been making a holiday, returning to their quarter of the town, the men with their broad conical straw hats, the women with marvellously coloured shawls; he saw the coolies carrying their burdens, and the Hottentots and the Kafirs and all the races blended in the motley population of Cape Town. He glanced listlessly at all, thinking his own thoughts undisturbed by any incongruity of tongues or of races beneath him, and he was only awakened from the reverie into which he had fallen by the opening of one of the windows near him and the appearance on the balcony of Algernon Glaston in his dinner dress and smoking a choice cigar.

The generous wine of the generous judge had made Mr. Glaston particularly courteous, for he drew his chair almost by the side of Markham's and inquired after his health.

“Harwood was at that place to-night,” he said, “and he mentioned that you were killing yourself. Just like these newspaper fellows to exaggerate fearfully for the sake of making a sensation. You are all right now, I think.”

“Quite right,” said Markham. “I don't feel exactly like an elephant for vigour, but you know what it is to feel strong without having any particular strength. I am that way.”

“Dreadfully brutal people I met to-night,” continued Mr. Glaston reflectively. “Sort of people Harwood could get on with. Talking actually about some wretched savage—some Zulu chief or other from whom they expect great things; as if the action of a ruffianly barbarian could affect any one. It was quite disgusting talk. I certainly would have come away at once only I was lucky enough to get by the side of a girl who seems to know something of Art—a Miss Vincent—she is quite fresh and enthusiastic on the subject—quite a child indeed.”

Markham thought it prudent to light a fresh cigar from the end of the one he had smoked, at the interval left by Mr. Glaston for his comment, so that a vague “indeed” was all that came through his closed lips.

“Yes, she seems rather a tractable sort of little thing. By the way, she mentioned something about your having become faint at Government House the other day, before you had seen all my pictures.”

“Ah, yes,” said Markham. “The change from the open air to that room.”

“Ah, of course. Miss Vincent seems to understand something of the meaning of the pictures. She was particularly interested in one of them, which, curiously enough, is the most wonderful of the collection. Did you study them all?”

“No, not all; the fact was, that unfortunate weakness of mine interfered with my scrutiny,” said Markham. “But the single glance I had at one of the pictures convinced me that it was a most unusual work. I felt greatly interested in it.”

“That was the Aholibah, no doubt.”

“Yes, I heard your description of how if came to be painted.”

“Ah, but that referred only to the marvellous expression of the face—so saturate—so devoured—with passion. You saw how Miss Gerald turned away from it with a shudder?”

“Why did she do that?” said Markham.

“Heaven knows,” said Glaston, with a little sneer.

“Heaven knows,” said Markham, after a pause and without any sneer.

“She could not understand it,” continued Glaston. “All that that face means cannot be apprehended in a glance. It has a significance of its own—it is a symbol of a passion that withers like a fire—a passion that can destroy utterly all the beauty of a life that might have been intense with beauty. You are not going away, are you?”

Markham had risen from his seat and turned away his head, grasping the rail of the balcony. It was some moments before he started and looked round at the other man. “I beg your pardon,” he said; “I'm not going away, I am greatly interested. Yes, I caught a glimpse of the expression of the face.”

“It is a miracle of power,” continued Glaston. “Miss Gerald felt, but she could not understand why she should feel, its power.”

There was a long pause, during which Markham stared blankly across the square, and the other leant back in his chair and watched the curling of his cigar clouds through the still air. From the garrison at the castle there came to them the sound of a bugle-call.

“I am greatly interested in that picture,” said Markham at length. “I should like to know all the details of its working out.”

“The expression of the face——”

“Ah, I know all of that. I mean the scene—that hill seen through the arch—the pavement of the oriental apartment—the—the figure—how did the painter bring them together?”

“That is of little consequence in the study of the elements of the symbolism,” said Mr. Glaston.

“Yes, of course it is; but still I should like to know.”

“I really never thought of putting any question to the painter about these matters,” replied Glaston. “He had travelled in the East, and the kiosk was amongst his sketches; as for the model of the figure, if I do not mistake, I saw the study for the face in an old portfolio of his he brought from Sicily.”

“Ah, indeed.”

“But these are mere accidents in the production of the picture. The symbolism is the picture.”

Again there was a pause, and the chatter of a couple of Malays in the street became louder, and then fainter, as the speakers drew near and passed away.

“Glaston,” said Markham at length, “did you remove the pictures from Government House?”

“They are in one of my rooms,” said Glaston. “Would you think it a piece of idle curiosity if I were to step upstairs and take a look at that particular work?”

“You could not see it by lamplight. You can study them all in the morning.”

“But I feel in the mood just now, and you know how much depends upon the mood.”

“My room is open,” said Glaston. “But the idea that has possessed you is absurd.”

“I dare say, I dare say, but I have become interested in all that you have told me; I must try and—and understand the symbolism.”

He left the balcony before Mr. Glaston had made up his mind as to whether there was a touch of sarcasm in his voice uttering the final sentence.

“Not worse than the rest of the uneducated world,” murmured the Art prophet condescendingly.

But in Mr. Glaston's private room upstairs Oswin Markham was standing holding a lighted lamp up to that interesting picture and before that wonderful symbolic expression upon the face of the figure; the rest of the room was in darkness. He looked up to the face that the lamplight gloated over. The remainder of the picture was full of reflections of the light.

“A power that can destroy utterly all the beauty of a life,” he said, repeating the analysis of Mr. Glaston. He continued looking at it before he repeated another of that gentleman's sentences—“She felt, but could not understand, its power.” He laid the lamp on the table and walked over to the darkened window and gazed out. But once more he returned to the picture. “A passion that can destroy utterly all the beauty of life,” he said again. “Utterly! that is a lie!” He remained with his eyes upon the picture for some moments, then he lifted the lamp and went to the door. At the door he stopped, glanced at the picture and laughed.

In the Volsunga Saga there is an account of how a jealous woman listens outside the chamber where a man whom she once loved is being murdered in his wife's arms; hearing the cry of the wife in the chamber the woman at the door laughs. A man beside her says, “Thou dost not laugh because thy heart is made glad, or why moves that pallor upon thy face?”

Oswin Markham left the room and thanked Mr. Glaston for having gratified his whim.

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