ليلاس فعال جدا
|| May 2006
أغاثا كريستي , روايات أغاثا كريستي
اغاثا كريستي , روايات باللغة الانجليزية , على شكل كتابة
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
هادي مجموعة روايات بالانجليزي ... ان شاء الله تعجبكم
agatha christie - appointment with death.1
"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"
The question floated out into the still night air, seemed to hang there a moment and then drift away down into the darkness towards the Dead Sea.
Hercule Poirot paused a minute with his hand on the window catch. Frowning, he shut it decisively, thereby excluding any injurious night air! Hercule Poirot had been brought up to believe that all outside air was best left outside, and that night air was especially dangerous to the health.
As he pulled the curtains neatly over the window and walked to his bed, he smiled tolerantly to himself. "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" Curious words for one Hercule Poirot, detective, to overhear on his first night in Jerusalem.
"Decidedly, wherever I go, there is something to remind me of crime!" he murmured to himself. His smile continued as he remembered a story he had once heard concerning Anthony Trollope, the novelist.
Trollope was crossing the Atlantic at the time and had overheard two fellow passengers discussing the last published installment of one of his novels.
"Very good," one man had declared. "But he ought to kill off that tiresome old woman."
With a broad smile the novelist had addressed them: "Gentlemen, I am much obliged to you! I will go and kill her immediately!"
Hercule Poirot wondered what had occasioned the words he had just overheard. A collaboration, perhaps, over a play or a book. He thought, still smiling: "Those words might be remembered one day, and be given a more sinister meaning."
There had been, he now recollected, a curious nervous intensity in the voicea tremor that spoke of some intense emotional strain. A man's voiceor a boy's . . .
Hercule Poirot thought to himself as he turned out the light by his bed: "I should know that voice again. . . ."
Their elbows on the windowsill, their heads close together, Raymond and Carol Boynton gazed out into the blue depths of the night. Nervously, Raymond repeated his former words: "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"
Carol Boynton stirred slightly. She said, her voice deep and hoarse: "It's horrible. . . ."
"It's not more horrible than this!"
"I suppose not. . . ."
Raymond said violently: "It can't go on like thisit can't. . . . We must do something. . . . And there isn't anything else we can do. . . ." Carol saidbut her voice was unconvincing and she knew it: "If we could get away somehow . . . ?"
"We can't." His voice was empty and hopeless. "Carol, you know we can't . . ."
The girl shivered.
"I know Ray I know."
He gave a sudden short bitter laugh. "People would say we were crazynot to be able just to walk out"
Carol said slowly: "Perhaps we are crazy!"
"I daresay. Yes, I daresay we are. Anyway we soon shall be . . . I suppose some people would say we are already. Here we are calmly planning, in cold blood, to kill our own mother!"
Carol said sharply: "She isn't our own mother!"
"No, that's true."
There was a pause and then Raymond said, his voice now quietly matter-of-fact: "You do agree, Carol?"
Carol answered steadily: "I think she ought to dieyes . . ." Then she broke out suddenly: "She's mad . . . I'm quite sure she's mad . . . Sheshe couldn't torture us like she does if she were sane. For years we've been saying: 'This can't go on!' And it has gone on! We've said, 'She'll die sometime'but she hasn't died! I don't think she ever will die unless"
Raymond said steadily: "Unless we kill her . . ."
She clenched her hands on the windowsill in front of her.
Her brother went on in a cool matter-of-fact tone, with just a slight tremor denoting his deep underlying excitement: "You see why it's got to be one of us, don't you? With Lennox, there's Nadine to consider. And we couldn't bring Jinny into it."
Carol shivered. "Poor Jinny . . . I'm so afraid . . ."
"I know. It's getting pretty bad, isn't it? That's why something's got to be done quicklybefore she goes right over the edge."
Carol stood up suddenly, pushing back the tumbled chestnut hair from her forehead. "Ray," she said. "You don't think it's really wrong, do you?"
He answered in that same would-be dispassionate tone: "No. I think it's just like killing a mad dogsomething that's doing harm in the world and must be stopped. This is the only way of stopping it."
Carol murmured: "But they'dthey'd send us to the chair just the same . . . I mean we couldn't explain what she's like . . . It would sound fantastic . . . In a way, you know, it's all in our own minds!"
Raymond said: "Nobody will ever know. I've got a plan. I've thought it all out. We shall be quite safe."
Carol turned suddenly round on him. "Raysomehow or otheryou're different. Something's happened to you . . . What's put all this into your head?"
"Why should you think anything's 'happened' to me?" He turned his head away, staring out into the night.
"Because it has . . . Ray, was it that girl on the train?"
"No, of course notwhy should it be? Oh, Carol, don't talk nonsense. Let's get back again toto"
"To your plan? Are you sure it's a good plan?"
"Yes. I think so . . . We must wait for the right opportunity, of course. And thenif it goes all rightwe shall be freeall of us."
"Free?" Carol gave a little sigh. She looked up at the stars. Then suddenly she shook from head to foot in a sudden storm of weeping.
"Carol, what's the matter?"
She sobbed out brokenly: "It's so lovelythe night and the blueness and the stars. If only we could be part of it all . . . If only we could be like other people instead of being as we areall queer and warped and wrong."
"But we shall be all rightwhen she's dead!"
"Are you sure? Isn't it too late? Shan't we always be queer and different?"
"No, no, no."
"Carol, if you'd rather not"
She pushed his comforting arm aside. "No, I'm with youdefinitely I'm with you! Because of the othersespecially Jinny. We must save Jinny!"
Raymond paused a moment. "Thenwe'll go on with it?"
"Good. I'll tell you my plan . . ."
He bent his head to hers.
Miss Sarah King, M.B., stood by the table in the writing-room of the Solomon Hotel in Jerusalem idly turning over the papers and magazines. A frown contracted her brows and she looked preoccupied.
The tall, middle-aged Frenchman who entered the room from the hall watched her for a moment or two before strolling up to the opposite side of the table. When their eyes met, Sarah made a little gesture of smiling recognition.
She remembered that this man had come to her help when traveling from Cairo and had carried one of her suitcases at a moment when no porter appeared to be available.
"You like Jerusalem, yes?" asked Dr. Gerard, after they had exchanged greetings.
"It's rather terrible in some ways," said Sarah, and added: "Religion is very odd!"
The Frenchman looked amused. "I know what you mean." His English was very nearly perfect. "Every imaginable sect squabbling and fighting!"
"And the awful things they've built, too!" Said Sarah.
Sarah sighed. "They turned me out of one place today because I had on a sleeveless dress," she said ruefully. "Apparently the Almighty doesn't like my arms in spite of having made them."
Dr. Gerard laughed. Then he said: "I was about to order some coffee. You will join me, Miss?"
"King, my name is. Sarah King."
"And minepermit me." He whipped out a card.
Taking it, Sarah's eyes widened in delighted awe. "Dr. Theodore Gerard? Oh! I am excited to meet you. I've read all your works, of course. Your views on schizophrenia are frightfully interesting."
"Of course?" Gerard's eyebrows rose inquisitively.
Sarah explained rather diffidently. "You seeI'm by way of being a doctor myself. Just got my M.B.."
"Ah! I see."
Dr. Gerard ordered coffee and they sat down in a corner of the lounge. The Frenchman was less interested in Sarah's medical achievements than in the black hair that rippled back from her forehead and the beautifully shaped red mouth. He was amused at the obvious awe with which she regarded him.
"You are staying here long?" he asked conversationally.
"A few days. That is all. Then I want to go to Petra."
"Aha? I, too, was thinking of going there if it does not take too long. You see, I have to be back in Paris on the 14th."
"It takes about a week, I believe. Two days to go, two days there and two days back again."
"I must go to the travel bureau in the morning and see what can be arranged."
A party of people entered the lounge and sat down.
Sarah watched them with some interest. She lowered her voice: "Those people who have just come indid you notice them on the train the other night? They left Cairo the same time as we did."
Dr. Gerard screwed in an eyeglass and directed his glance across the room. "Americans?"
"Yes. An American family. Butrather an unusual one, I think."
"Unusual? How unusual?"
"Well, look at them. Especially at the old woman." Dr. Gerard complied. His keen professional glance flitted swiftly from face to face. He noticed first a tall, rather loose-boned manage about thirty. The face was pleasant but weak and his manner seemed oddly apathetic. Then there were two good-looking youngstersthe boy had almost a Greek head. "Something the matter with him, too," thought Dr. Gerard. "Yesa definite state of nervous tension." The girl was clearly his sister, a strong resemblance, and she also was in an excitable condition. There was another girl younger stillwith golden red hair that stood out like a halo; her hands were very restless; they were tearing and pulling at the handkerchief in her lap. Yet another woman, young, calm, dark-haired with a creamy pallor, a placid face not unlike a Luini Madonna. Nothing jumpy about her! And the center of the group"Heavens!" thought Dr. Gerard, with a Frenchman's candid repulsion. "What a horror of a woman!" Old, swollen, bloated, sitting there immovable in the midst of thema distorted old spider in the center of a web!
To Sarah he said: "La Manian, she is not beautiful, eh?" And he shrugged his shoulders.
"There's something rathersinister about her, don't you think?" asked Sarah.
Dr. Gerard scrutinized her again. This time his eye was professional, not aesthetic. "Dropsycardiac" He added a glib medical phrase.
"Oh, yes, that!" Sarah dismissed the medical side. "But there is something odd in their attitude to her, don't you think?"
"Who are they, do you know?"
"Their name is Boynton. Mother, married son, his wife, one younger son and two younger daughters."
Dr. Gerard murmured: "La famille Boynton sees the world."
"Yes, but there's something odd about the way they're seeing it. They never speak to anyone else. And none of them can do anything unless the old woman says so!"
"She is of the matriarchal type," said Gerard thoughtfully.
"She's a complete tyrant, I think," said Sarah.
Dr. Gerard shrugged his shoulders and remarked that the American woman ruled the earththat was well known.
"Yes, but it's more than just that." Sarah was persistent. "She's Oh, she's got them all so, so cowedso positively under her thumbthat it's, it's indecent!"
"To have too much power is bad for women," Gerard agreed, with sudden gravity. He shook his head. "It is difficult for a woman not to abuse power." He shot a quick sideways glance at Sarah. She was watching the Boynton familyor rather she was watching one particular member of it. Dr. Gerard smiled a quick comprehending Gallic smile. Ah! so it was like that, was it?
He murmured tentatively: "You have spoken with themyes?"
"Yesat least with one of them."
"The young manthe younger son?"
"Yes. On the train coming here from Kantara. He was standing in the corridor. I spoke to him." There was no self-consciousness in Sarah's manner. There was, indeed, no self-consciousness in her attitude to life. She was interested in humanity and was of a friendly though impatient disposition.
"What made you speak to him?" asked Gerard.
Sarah shrugged her shoulders. "Why not? I often speak to people traveling. I'm interested in peoplein what they do and think and feel."
"You put them under the microscope, that is to say!"
"I suppose you might call it that," the girl admitted.
"And what were your impressions in this case?"
"Well"she hesitated"it was rather odd. . . . To begin with, the boy flushed right up to the roots of his hair."
"Is that so remarkable?" asked Gerard dryly.
Sarah laughed. "You mean that he thought I was a shameless hussy making advances to him? Oh, no, I don't think he thought that. Men can always tell, can't they?"
She gave him a frank, questioning glance. Dr. Gerard nodded his head.
"I got the impression," said Sarah, speaking slowly and frowning a little, "that he washow shall I put it?both excited and appalled. Excited out of all proportionand quite absurdly apprehensive at the same time. Now that's odd, isn't it, because I've always found Americans unusually self-possessed. An American boy of twenty, say, has infinitely more knowledge of the world and far more savoir-faire than an English boy of the same age. And this boy must be over twenty."
"About twenty-three or four, I should say."
"As much as that?"
"I should think so."
"Yes . . . perhaps you're right . . . only, somehow, he seems very young. . . ."
"Maladjustment mentally. The 'child' factor persists."
"Then I am right? I mean, there is something not quite normal about him?"
Dr. Gerard shrugged his shoulders, smiling a little at her earnestness. "My dear young lady, are any of us quite normal? But I grant you that there is probably a neurosis of some kind."
"Connected with that horrible old woman, I'm sure!"
"You seem to dislike her very much," said Gerard, looking at her curiously.
"I do. She's got aoh, a malevolent eye!"
Gerard murmured: "So have many mothers when their sons are attracted to fascinating young ladies!"
Sarah shrugged an impatient shoulder. Frenchmen were all alike, she thought, obsessed by sex! Though, of course, as a conscientious psychologist she herself was bound to admit that there was always an underlying basis of sex to most phenomena. Sarah's thoughts ran along a familiar psychological track. She came out of her meditations with a start. Raymond Boynton was crossing the room to the center table. He selected a magazine. As he passed her chair on his return journey she looked up at him and spoke: "Have you been busy sightseeing today?"
She selected her words at random; her real interest was to see how they would be received.
Raymond half stopped, flushed, shied like a nervous horse and his eyes went apprehensively to the center of his family group. He muttered: "Ohoh, yeswhy, yes, certainly. I" Then, as suddenly as though he had received the prick of a spur, he hurried back to his family, holding out the magazine.
The grotesque Buddha-like figure held out a fat hand for it, but as she took it her eyes, Dr. Gerard noticed, were on the boy's face. She gave a grunt, certainly no audible thanks. The position of her head shifted very slightly. The doctor saw that she was now looking hard at Sarah. Her face was quite impassive, it had no expression in it. Impossible to tell what was passing in the woman's mind.
Sarah looked at her watch and uttered an exclamation. "It's much later than I thought." She got up. "Thank you so much. Dr. Gerard, for standing me coffee. I must write some letters now."
He rose and took her hand.
"We shall meet again, I hope," he said.
"Oh, yes! Perhaps you will come to Petra?"
"I shall certainly try to do so."
Sarah smiled at him and turned away. Her way out of the room led her past the Boynton family.
Dr. Gerard, watching, saw Mrs. Boynton's gaze shift to her son's face. He saw the boy's eyes meet hers. As Sarah passed, Raymond Boynton half turned his headnot towards her but away from her. . . . It was a slow unwilling motion and conveyed the idea that old Mrs. Boynton had pulled an invisible string.
Sarah King noticed the avoidance, and was young enough and human enough to be annoyed by it. They had had such a friendly talk together in the swaying corridor of the Wagon-Lit. They had compared notes on Egypt, had laughed at the ridiculous language of the donkey boys and street touts. Sarah had described how a camel man, when he had started hopefully and impudently, "You English lady or American?" had received the answer: "No, Chinese," and her pleasure in seeing the man's complete bewilderment as he stared at her. The boy had been, she thought, like a nice eager schoolboythere had been, perhaps, something almost pathetic about his eagerness. And now for no reason at all, he was shy, boorishpositively rude.
"I shan't take any more trouble with him," said Sarah indignantly. For Sarah, without being unduly conceited, had a fairly good opinion of herself. She knew herself to be definitely attractive to the opposite sex, and she was not one to take a snubbing lying down! She had been, perhaps, a shade over-friendly to this boy because, for some obscure reason, she had felt sorry for him.
But now, it was apparent, he was merely a rude, stuck-up, boorish young American! Instead of writing the letters she had mentioned, Sarah King sat down in front of her dressing-table, combed the hair back from her forehead, looked into a pair of troubled hazel eyes in the glass, and took stock of her situation in life.
She had just passed through a difficult emotional crisis. A month ago she had broken off her engagement to a young doctor some four years her senior. They had been very much attracted to each other, but had been too much alike in temperament. Disagreements and quarrels had been of common occurrence. Sarah was of too imperious a temperament herself to brook a calm assertion of autocracy.
Like many high-spirited women, Sarah believed herself to admire strength. She had always told herself that she wanted to be mastered. When she met a man capable of mastering her she found that she did not like it at all! To break off her engagement had cost her a good deal of heart burning, but she was clear-sighted enough to realize that mere mutual attraction was not a sufficient basis on which to build a lifetime of happiness. She had treated herself deliberately to an interesting holiday abroad in order to help on forgetfulness before she went back to start working in earnest.
Sarah's thoughts came back from the past to the present.
"I wonder," she thought, "if Dr. Gerard will let me talk to him about his work? He's done such marvelous work. If only he'll take me seriously . . . Perhapsif he comes to Petra" Then she thought again of the strange, boorish young American.
She had no doubt that it was the presence of his family which had caused him to react in such a peculiar manner, but she felt slightly scornful of him, nevertheless. To be under the thumb of one's family like thatit was really rather ridiculousespecially for a man! And yet . . .
A queer feeling passed over her. Surely there was something a little odd about it all?
She said suddenly out loud: "That boy wants rescuing! I'm going to see to it!"
When Sarah had left the lounge Dr. Gerard sat where he was for some minutes. Then he walked over to the table, picked up the latest number of Le Matin and strolled with it to a chair a few yards away from the Boynton family. His curiosity was aroused.
He had at first been amused by the English girl's interest in this American family, shrewdly diagnosing that it was inspired by interest in one particular member of the group. But now something out of the ordinary about this family party awakened in him the deeper, more impartial interest of the scientist. He sensed that there was something here of definite psychological interest.
Very discreetly, under the cover of his paper, he took stock of them. First, the boy in whom that attractive English girl took such a decided interest. Yes, thought Gerard, definitely the type to appeal to her temperamentally. Sarah King had strengthshe possessed well-balanced nerves, cool wits and a resolute will. Dr. Gerard judged the young man to be sensitive, perceptive, diffident and intensely suggestible. He noted with a physician's eye the obvious fact that the boy was at the moment in a state of high nervous tension. Dr. Gerard wondered why. He was puzzled. Why should a young man whose physical health was obviously good, who was abroad ostensibly enjoying himself, be in such a condition that a nervous breakdown was imminent?
The doctor turned his attention to the other members of the party. The girl with the chestnut hair was obviously Raymond's sister. They were of the same racial type, small-boned, well-shaped, aristocratic-looking. They had the same slender, well-formed hands, the same clean line of jaw, and the same poise of the head on a long slender neck. And the girl, too, was nervous. . . . She made slight involuntary nervous movements, her eyes were deeply shadowed underneath and over-bright. Her voice, when she spoke, was too quick and a shade breathless. She was watchfulalertunable to relax.
"And she is afraid, too," decided Dr. Gerard. "Yes, she is afraid!"
He overheard scraps of conversationa very ordinary normal conversation.
"We might go to Solomon's Stables."
"Would that be too much for Mother?"
"The Weeping Wall in the morning?"
"The Temple, of coursethe Mosque of Omar they call it. I wonder why?"
"Because it's been made into a Moslem mosque, of course, Lennox."
Ordinary, commonplace tourists' talk. And yet, somehow, Dr. Gerard felt a queer conviction that these overheard scraps of dialogue were all singularly unreal. They were a maska cover for something that surged and eddied underneathsomething too deep and formless for words . . . .
Again he shot a covert glance from behind the shelter of Le Matin.
Lennox? That was the elder brother. The same family likeness could be traced, but there was a difference. Lennox was not so highly strung; he was, Gerard decided, of a less nervous temperament. But about him, no, there seemed something odd. There was no sign of muscular tension about him as there was about the other two. He sat relaxed, limp. Puzzling, searching among memories of patients he had seen sitting like that in hospital wards, Gerard thought: "He is exhaustedyes, exhausted with suffering. That look in the eyesthe look you see in a wounded dog or a sick horsedumb bestial endurance. . . . It is odd, that. . . . Physically there seems nothing wrong with him. . . . Yet there is no doubt that lately he has been through much sufferingmental suffering. Now he no longer suffershe endures dumblywaiting, I think, for the blow to fall. . . . What blow? Am I fancying all this? No, the man is waiting for something, for the end to come. So cancer patients lie and wait, thankful that an anodyne dulls the pain a little. . . ."
Lennox Boynton got up and retrieved a ball of wool that the old lady had dropped.
"Here you are. Mother."
What was she knitting, this monumental, impassive old woman? Something thick and coarse. Gerard thought: "Mittens for inhabitants of a workhouse!" and smiled at his own fantasy.
He turned his attention to the youngest member of the partythe girl with the golden red hair. She was, perhaps, seventeen. Her skin had the exquisite clearness that often goes with red hair. Although over-thin, it was a beautiful face. She was sitting smiling to herselfsmiling into space. There was something a little curious about that smile. It was so far removed from the Solomon Hotel, from Jerusalem. . . . It reminded Dr. Gerard of something . . . Presently it came to him in a flash. It was the strange unearthly smile that lifts the lips of the Maidens in the Acropolis at Athenssomething remote and lovely and a little inhuman. . . . The magic of the smile, her exquisite stillness, gave him a little pang.
And then with a shock, Dr. Gerard noticed her hands. They were concealed from the group around her by the table, but he could see them clearly from where he sat. In the shelter of her lap they were pickingpickingtearing a delicate handkerchief into tiny shreds.
It gave him a horrible shock.
The aloof remote smilethe still bodyand the busy destructive hands . . .
There was a slow asthmatic wheezing coughthen the monumental knitting woman spoke.
"Ginevra, you're tired; you'd better go to bed."
The girl started; her fingers stopped their mechanical action.
"I'm not tired. Mother."
Gerard recognized appreciatively the musical quality of her voice. It had the sweet singing quality that lends enchantment to the most commonplace utterances.
"Yes, you are. I always know. I don't think you'll be able to do any sightseeing tomorrow."
"Oh! But I shall. I'm quite all right."
In a thick hoarse voice, almost a grating voice, her mother said: "No, you're not. You're going to be ill."
"I'm not! I'm not!" The girl began trembling violently.
A soft calm voice said: "I'll come up with you. Jinny." The quiet young woman with wide, thoughtful gray eyes and neatly coiled dark hair rose to her feet.
Old Mrs. Boynton said: "No. Let her go up alone."
The girl cried: "I want Nadine to come!"
"Then of course I will." The young woman moved a step forward.
The old woman said: "The child prefers to go by herselfdon't you Jinny?"
There was a pausea pause of a momentthen Ginevra Boynton said, her voice suddenly flat and dull: "YesI'd rather go alone. Thank you, Nadine."
She walked away, a tall angular figure that moved with a surprising grace.
Dr. Gerard lowered his paper and took a full satisfying gaze at old Mrs. Boynton. She was looking after her daughter and her fat face was creased into a peculiar smile. It was a caricature of the lovely unearthly smile that had transformed the girl's face so short a time before. Then the old woman transferred her gaze to Nadine.
The latter had just sat down again. She raised her eyes and met her mother-in-law's glance. Her face was quite imperturbable. The old woman's glance was malicious.
Dr. Gerard thought: "What an absurdity of an old tyrant!"
And then, suddenly, the old woman's eyes were full on him, and he drew in his breath sharply. Small, black, smoldering eyes they were, but something came from thema power, a definite force, a wave of evil malignancy. Dr. Gerard knew something about the power of personality. He realized that here was no spoilt tyrannical invalid indulging petty whims. This old woman was a definite force. In the malignancy of her glare he felt a resemblance to the effect produced by a cobra. Mrs. Boynton might be old, infirm, a prey to disease, but she was not powerless.
She was a woman who knew the meaning of power, who recognized a lifetime of power and who had never once doubted her own force. Dr. Gerard had once met a woman who performed a most dangerous and spectacular act with tigers. The great slinking brutes had crawled to their places and performed their degrading and humiliating tricks. Their eyes and subdued snarls told of hatred, bitter fanatical hatred, but they had obeyed, cringed. That had been a young woman, a woman with an arrogant dark beauty, but the look had been the same.
"Une dompteuse!" said Dr. Gerard to himself. And he understood now what that undercurrent to the harmless family talk had been. It was hatreda dark eddying stream of hatred.
He thought: "How fanciful and absurd most people would think me! Here is a commonplace devoted American family reveling in Palestineand I weave a story of black magic round it!"
Then he looked with interest at the quiet young woman who was called Nadine. There was a wedding ring on her left hand, and as he watched her, he saw her give one swift betraying glance at the fair-haired, loose-limbed Lennox. He knew, then . . . They were man and wife, those two. But it was a mother's glance rather than a wife'sa true mother's glanceprotecting, anxious. And he knew something more. He knew that out of that group, Nadine Boynton alone was unaffected by her mother-in-law's spell. She may have disliked the old woman, but she was not afraid of her. The power did not touch her.
She was unhappy, deeply concerned about her husband, but she was free.
Dr. Gerard said to himself: "All this is very interesting."
INTO THESE DARK imaginings a breath of the commonplace came with almost ludicrous effect.
A man came into the lounge, caught sight of the Boyntons and came across to them.
He was a pleasant middle-aged American of a strictly conventional type. He was carefully dressed, with a long, clean-shaven face and he had a slow, pleasant, somewhat monotonous voice.
"I was looking around for you all," he said. Meticulously he shook hands with the entire family.
"And how do you find yourself, Mrs. Boynton? Not too tired by the journey?"
Almost graciously, the old lady wheezed out: "No, thank you. My health's never good, as you know"
"Why, of course; too badtoo bad."
"But I'm certainly no worse." Mrs. Boynton added with a slow reptilian smile: "Nadine, here, takes good care of me; don't you, Nadine?"
"I do my best." Her voice was expressionless.
"Why, I'll bet you do," said the stranger heartily. "Well, Lennox, and what do you think of King David's city?"
"Oh, I don't know." Lennox spoke apatheticallywithout interest.
"Find it kind of disappointing, do you? I'll confess it struck me that way at first. But perhaps you haven't been around much yet?"
Carol Boynton said: "We can't do very much because of Mother."
Mrs. Boynton explained: "A couple of hours' sightseeing is about all I can manage every day."
The stranger said heartily: "I think it's wonderful you manage to do all you do, Mrs. Boynton."
Mrs. Boynton gave a slow wheezy chuckle; it had an almost gloating sound. "I don't give in to my body! It's the mind that matters! Yes, it's the mind. . . ."
Her voice died away. Gerard saw Raymond Boynton give a nervous jerk.
"Have you been to the Weeping Wall yet, Mr. Cope?" he asked.
"Why, yes, that was one of the first places I visited. I hope to have done Jerusalem thoroughly in a couple more days and I'm letting them get me out an itinerary at Cook's so as to do the Holy Land thoroughlyBethlehem, Nazareth, Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee. It's all going to be mighty interesting. Then there's Jerash; there are some very interesting ruins thereRoman, you know. And I'd very much like to have a look at the Rose Red City of Petra, a most remarkable natural phenomenon, I believe that is, and right off the beaten track; but it takes the best part of a week to get there and back and do it properly."
Carol said: "I'd love to go there. It sounds marvelous."
"Why I should say it was definitely worth seeingyes, definitely worth seeing." Mr. Cope paused, shot a somewhat dubious glance at Mrs. Boynton, and then went on in a voice that to the listening Frenchman was palpably uncertain: "I wonder now if I couldn't persuade some of you people to come with me? Naturally I know you couldn't manage it, Mrs. Boynton, and naturally some of your family would want to remain with you; but if you were to divide forces, so to speak"
He paused. Gerard heard the even click of Mrs. Boynton's knitting needles. Then she said: "I don't think we'd care to divide up. We're a very homey group." She looked up. "Well, children, what do you say?"
There was a queer ring in her voice. The answers came promptly: "No, Mother."
"No, of course not."
Mrs. Boynton said, smiling that very odd smile of hers: "You seethey won't leave me. What about you, Nadine? You didn't say anything."
"No, thank you, Mother, not unless Lennox cares about it."
Mrs. Boynton turned her head slowly towards her son. "Well, Lennox, what about it; why don't you and Nadine go? She seems to want to."
He started. Looked up.
"Iwellno, II think we'd better all stay together." Mr. Cope said genially: "Well, you are a devoted family!" But something in his geniality rang a little hollow and forced.
"We keep to ourselves," said Mrs. Boynton. She began to wind up her ball of wool. "By the way, Raymond, who was that young woman who spoke to you just now?"
Raymond started nervously. He flushed, then went white. "II don't know her name. Sheshe was on the train the other night."
Mrs. Boynton began slowly to try and heave herself out of her chair. "I don't think we'll have much to do with her," she said.
Nadine rose and assisted the old woman to struggle out of her chair. She did it with a professional deftness that attracted Gerard's attention.
"Bedtime," said Mrs. Boynton. "Good night, Mr. Cope."
"Good night, Mrs. Boynton. Good night, Mrs. Lennox."
They went offa little procession. It did not seem to occur to any of the younger members of the party to stay behind.
Mr. Cope was left looking after them. The expression on his face was an odd one.
As Dr. Gerard knew by experience, Americans are disposed to be a friendly race. They have not the uneasy suspicion of the traveling Briton. To a man of Dr. Gerard's tact, making the acquaintance of Mr. Cope presented few difficulties. The American was lonely and was, like most of his race, disposed to friendliness. Dr. Gerard's card-case was again to the fore.
Reading the name on it, Mr. Jefferson Cope was duly impressed.
"Why surely. Dr. Gerard, you were over in the States not very long ago?"
"Last Autumn. I was lecturing at Harvard."
"Of course. Yours, Dr. Gerard, is one of the most distinguished names in your profession. You're pretty well at the head of your subject in Paris."
"My dear sir, you are far too kind! I protest."
"No, no, this is a great privilegemeeting you like this. As a matter of fact, there are several very distinguished people here in Jerusalem just at present. There's yourself and there's Lord Welldon, and Sir Gabriel Steinbaum, the financier. Then there's the veteran English archaeologist, Sir Manders Stone. And there's Lady Westholme who's very prominent in English politics. And there's that famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot."
"Little Hercule Poirot? Is he here?"
"I read his name in the local paper as having lately arrived. Seems to me all the world and his wife are at the Solomon Hotel. A mighty fine hotel it is, too. And very tastefully decorated."
Mr. Jefferson Cope was clearly enjoying himself. Dr. Gerard was a man who could display a lot of charm when he chose. Before long the two men had adjourned to the bar.
After a couple of highballs Gerard said: "Tell me, is that a typical American family to whom you were talking?"
Jefferson Cope sipped his drink thoughtfully. Then he said: "Why, no, I wouldn't say it was exactly typical."
"No? A very devoted family, though."
Cope said slowly: "You mean they all seem to revolve round the old lady? That's true enough. She's a very remarkable old lady, you know."
Mr. Cope needed very little encouragement. The gentle invitation was enough. "I don't mind telling you, Dr. Gerard, I've been having that family a good deal on my mind lately. I've been thinking about them a lot. If I may say so, it would ease my mind to talk to you about the matter. If it won't bore you, that is?"
Dr. Gerard disclaimed boredom. Mr. Jefferson Cope went on slowly, his pleasant clean-shaven face creased with perplexity.
"I'll tell you straight away that I'm just a little worried. Mrs. Boynton, you see, is an old friend of mine. That is to say, not the old Mrs. Boynton, the young one. Mrs. Lennox Boynton."
"Ah, yes, that very charming dark-haired young lady."
"That's right. That's Nadine. Nadine Boynton, Dr. Gerard, is a very lovely character. I knew her before she was married. She was in hospital then, working to be a trained nurse. Then she went for a vacation to stay with the Boyntons and she married Lennox."
Mr. Jefferson Cope took another sip of highball and went on. "I'd like to tell you, Dr. Gerard, just a little of the Boynton family history."
"Yes? I should be most interested."
"Well, you see, the late Elmer Boyntonhe was quite a well-known man and a very charming personwas twice married. His first wife died when Carol and Raymond were tiny toddlers. The second Mrs. Boynton, so I've been told, was a handsome woman when he married her, though not very young. Seems odd to think she can ever have been handsome to look at her now, but that's what I've been told on very good authority. Anyway, her husband thought a lot of her and adopted her judgment on almost every point. He was an invalid for some years before he died, and she practically ruled the roost. She's a very capable woman with a fine head for business. A very conscientious woman, too. After Elmer died, she devoted herself absolutely to these children. There's one of her own, tooGinevrapretty red-haired girl but a bit delicate. Well, as I was telling you, Mrs. Boynton devoted herself entirely to her family. She just shut out the outside world entirely. Now, I don't know what you think, Dr. Gerard, but I don't think that's always a very sound thing."
"I agree with you. It is most harmful to developing mentalities."
"Yes, I should say that just about expresses it. Mrs. Boynton shielded these children from the outside world and never let them make any outside contacts. The result of that is that they've grown upwell, kind of nervy. They're jumpy, if you know what I mean. Can't make friends with strangers. It's bad, that."
"It is very bad."
"I we no doubt Mrs. Boynton meant well. It was just over-devotion on her part."
"They all live at home?" asked the doctor.
"Do neither of the sons work?"
"Why, no. Elmer Boynton was a rich man. He left all his money to Mrs. Boynton for her lifetimebut it was understood that it was for the family upkeep generally."
"So they are dependent on her financially?"
"That is so. And she's encouraged them to live at home and not go out and look for jobs. Well, maybe that's all right; there's plenty of money. They don't need to take jobs but I think for the male sex, anyway, work's a good tonic. Then there's another thingthey've none of them got any hobbies. They don't play golf. They don't belong to any country club. They don't go around to dances or do anything with the other young people. They live in a great barrack of a house way down in the country, miles from anywhere. I tell you. Dr. Gerard, it seems all wrong to me."
"I agree with you," said Dr. Gerard.
"Not one of them has got the least social sense. The community spiritthat's what's lacking! They may be a very devoted family but they're all bound up in themselves."
"There has never been any question of one or the other of them branching out for him- or herself?"
"Not that I've heard of. They just sit around."
"Do you put the blame for that on them or on Mrs. Boynton?"
Jefferson Cope shifted uneasily. "Well, in a sense I feel she is more or less responsible. It's bad bringing up on her part. All the same, when a young fellow comes to maturity it's up to him to kick over the traces of his own accord. No boy ought to keep on being tied to his mother's apron strings. He ought to choose to be independent."
Dr. Gerard said thoughtfully: "That might be impossible."
"There are methods, Mr. Cope, of preventing a tree from growing."
Cope stared. "They're a fine healthy lot, Dr. Gerard."
"The mind can be stunted and warped as well as the body."
"They're bright mentally too."
Jefferson Cope went on: "No, Dr. Gerard, take it from me, a man has got the control of his own destiny right there in his own hands. A man who respects himself strikes out on his own and makes something of his life. He doesn't just sit round and twiddle his thumbs. No woman ought to respect a man who does that."
Gerard looked at him curiously for a minute or two, then he said: "You refer particularly, I think, to Mr. Lennox Boynton?"
"Why, yes, it was Lennox I was thinking of. Raymond's only a boy still. But Lennox is just on thirty. Time he showed he was made of something."
"It is a difficult life, perhaps, for his wife?"
"Of course it's a difficult life for her! Nadine is a very fine girl. I admire her more than I can say. She's never let drop one word of complaint. But she's not happy, Dr. Gerard. She's just as unhappy as she can be."
Gerard nodded his head. "Yes, I think that well might be."
"I don't know what you think about it, Dr. Gerard, but I think that there's a limit to what a woman ought to put up with! If I were Nadine I'd put it to young Lennox straight. Either he sets to and proves what he's made of, or else"
"Or else, you think, she should leave him?"
"She's got her own life to live. Dr. Gerard. If Lennox doesn't appreciate her as she ought to be appreciated, well, there are other men who will."
"There isyourself, for instance?"
The American flushed. Then he looked straight at the other with a certain simple dignity. "That's so," he said. "I'm not ashamed of my feelings for that lady. I respect her and I am very, very deeply attached to her. All I want is her happiness. If she were happy with Lennox, I'd sit right back and fade out of the picture."
"But as it is?"
"But as it is, I'm standing by! If she wants me, I'm here!"
"You are, in fact, the 'parfait gentil' knight," murmured Gerard.
"My dear sir, chivalry only lives nowadays in the American nation! You are ******* to serve your lady without hope of reward! It is most admirable, that! What exactly do you hope to be able to do for her?"
"My idea is to be right here at hand if she needs me."
"And what, may I ask, is the older Mrs. Boynton's attitude towards you?"
Jefferson Cope said slowly: "I'm never quite sure about that old lady. As I've told she isn't fond of making outside contacts. But she's been different to me, she's always very gracious and treats we quite like one of the family."
"In fact, she approves of your friendship with Mrs. Lennox?"
Dr. Gerard shrugged his shoulders. "That is, perhaps, a little odd?"
Jefferson Cope said stiffly: "Let me assure you, Dr. Gerard, there is nothing dishonorable in that friendship. It is purely platonic."
"My dear sir, I am quite sure of that. I repeat, though, that for Mrs. Boynton to encourage that friendship is a curious action on her part. You know, Mr. Cope, Mrs. Boynton interests meshe interests me greatly."
"She is certainly a remarkable woman. She has great force of charactera most prominent personality. As I say Elmer Boynton had the greatest faith in her judgment."
"So much so that he was ******* to leave his children completely at her mercy from the financial point of view. In my country, Mr. Cope, it is impossible by law to do such a thing."
Mr. Cope rose. "In America," he said, "we're great believers in absolute freedom."
Dr. Gerard rose also. He was unimpressed by the remark. He had heard it made before by people of many different nationalities. The illusion that freedom is the prerogative of one's own particular race is fairly widespread.
Dr. Gerard was wiser. He knew that no race, no country and no individual could be described as free. But he also knew that there were different degrees of bondage.
He went up to bed thoughtful and interested.
Sarah King stood in the precincts of the Temple, the Haram-esh-Sherif. Her back was to the Dome of the Rock. The splashing of fountains sounded in her ears. Little groups of tourists passed by without disturbing the peace of the oriental atmosphere.
Strange, thought Sarah, that once a Jebusite should have made this rocky summit into a threshing floor and that David should have purchased it for six hundred shekels of gold and made it a Holy Place. And now the loud chattering tongues of sightseers of all nations could be heard . . .
She turned and looked at the Mosque which now covered the shrine and wondered if Solomon's temple would have looked half as beautiful.
There was a clatter of footsteps and a little party came out from the interior of the Mosque. It was the Boyntons escorted by a voluble dragoman. Mrs. Boynton was supported between Lennox and Raymond. Nadine and Mr. Cope walked behind. Carol came last. As they were moving off, the latter caught sight of Sarah.
She hesitated, then, on a sudden decision, she wheeled around and ran swiftly and noiselessly across the courtyard.
"Excuse me," she said breathlessly.
"I must II felt I must speak to you."
"Yes?" said Sarah.
Carol was trembling violently. Her face was quite white. "It's aboutmy brother. When youyou spoke to him last night you must have thought him very rude. But he didn't mean to behehe couldn't help it. Oh, do please believe me."
Sarah felt that the whole scene was ridiculous. Both her pride and her good taste were offended. Why should a strange girl suddenly rush up and tender a ridiculous apology for a boorish brother?
An offhand reply trembled on her lipsand then, quickly, her mood changed. There was something out of the ordinary here. This girl was in deadly earnest. That something in Sarah which had led her to adopt a medical career reacted to the girl's need. Her instinct told her there was something badly wrong.
She said encouragingly: "Tell me about it."
"He spoke to you on the train, didn't he?" began Carol.
Sarah nodded. "Yesat least I spoke to him."
"Oh, of course. It would be that way around. But, you see, last night. Ray was afraid" She stopped.
Carol's white face crimsoned. "Oh, I know it sounds absurdmad. You see, my mothershe'sshe's not welland she doesn't like us making friends outside. Butbut I know Ray wouldwould like to be friends with you."
Sarah was interested. Before she could speak, Carol went on. "I know what I'm saying sounds very silly, but we are rather an odd family." She cast a quick look aroundit was a look of fear. "II mustn't stay," she murmured. "They may miss me."
Sarah made up her mind. She spoke. "Why shouldn't you stayif you want to? We might walk back together."
"Oh no." Carol drew back. "II couldn't do that."
"Why not?" said Sarah.
"I couldn't really. My mother would bewould be"
Sarah said clearly and calmly: "I know it's awfully difficult sometimes for parents to realize that their children are grown up. They will go on trying to run their lives for them. But it's a pity, you know, to give in! One must stand up for one's rights."
Carol murmured: "You don't understandyou don't understand in the least. . . ." Her hands twisted together nervously.
Sarah went on: "One gives in sometimes because one is afraid of rows. Rows are very unpleasant, but I think freedom of action is always worth fighting for."
"Freedom?" Carol stared at her. "None of us has ever been free. We never will be."
"Nonsense!" said Sarah clearly.
Carol leaned forward and touched her arm. "Listen. I must try and make you understand! Before her marriage my mothershe's my stepmother reallywas a wardress in a prison. My father was the Governor and he married her. Well, it's been like that ever since. She's gone on being a wardressto us. That's why our life is justbeing in prison!" Her head jerked around again. "They've missed me. II must go."
Sarah caught her by the arm as she was darting off. "One minute. We must meet again and talk."
"I can't. I shan't be able to."
"Yes, you can." She spoke authoritatively. "Come to my room after you go to bed. It's 319. Don't forget; 319." She released her hold. Carol ran off after her family.
Sarah stood staring after her. She awoke from her thoughts to find Dr. Gerard by her side.
"Good morning, Miss King. So you've been talking to Miss Carol Boynton?"
"Yes, we had the most extraordinary conversation. Let me tell you."
She repeated the substance of her conversation with the girl.
Gerard pounced on one point. "Wardress in a prison, was she, that old hippopotamus? That is significant, perhaps."
Sarah said: "You mean that that is the cause of her tyranny? It is the habit of her former profession?"
Gerard shook his head. "No, that is approaching it from the wrong angle. There is some deep underlying compulsion. She does not love tyranny because she has been a wardress. Let us rather say that she became a wardress because she loved tyranny. In my theory it was a secret desire for power over other human beings that led her to adopt that profession."
His face was very grave. "There are such strange things buried down in the unconscious. A lust for powera lust for crueltya savage desire to tear and rendall the inheritance of our past racial memories . . . They are all there, Miss King, all the cruelty and savagery and lust . . . We shut the door on them and deny them conscious life, but sometimes they are too strong."
Sarah shivered. "I know."
Gerard continued: "We see it all around us todayin political creeds, in the conduct of nations. A reaction from humanitarianism, from pity, from brotherly good will. The creeds sound well sometimes, a wise regime, a beneficent governmentbut imposed by forceresting on a basis of cruelty and fear. They are opening the door, these apostles of violence, they are letting out the old savagery, the old delight in cruelty for its own sake! Oh, it is difficult. Man is an animal very delicately balanced. He has one prime necessityto survive. To advance too quickly is as fatal as to lag behind. He must survive! He must, perhaps, retain some of the old savagery, but he must notno, definitely he must notdeify it!"
There was a pause. Then Sarah said: "You think old Mrs. Boynton is a kind of Sadist?"
"I am almost sure of it. I think she rejoices in the infliction of painmental pain, mind you, not physical. That is very much rarer and very much more difficult to deal with. She likes to have control of other human beings and she likes to make them suffer."
"It's pretty beastly," said Sarah.
Gerard told her of his conversation with Jefferson Cope.
"He doesn't realize what is going on?" she said thoughtfully.
"How should he? He is not a psychologist."
"True. He hasn't got our disgusting minds!"
"Exactly. He has a nice, upright, sentimental, normal American mind. He believes in good rather than evil. He sees that the atmosphere of the Boynton family is all wrong, but he credits Mrs. Boynton with misguided devotion rather than active maleficence."
"That must amuse her," said Sarah.
"I should imagine it does!"
Sarah said impatiently: "But why don't they break away? They could."
Gerard shook his head. "No, there you are wrong. They cannot. Have you ever seen the old experiment with a cock? You chalk a line on the floor and put the cock's beak to it. The cock believes he is tied there. He cannot raise his head. So with these unfortunates. She has worked on them, remember, since they were children. And her dominance has been mental. She has hypnotized them to believe that they cannot disobey her. Oh, I know most people would say that was nonsensebut you and I know better. She has made them believe that utter dependence on her is inevitable. They have been in prison so long that if the prison door stood open they would no longer notice! One of them, at least, no longer even wants to be free! And they would all be afraid of freedom."
Sarah asked practically: "What will happen when she dies?"
Gerard shrugged his shoulders. "It depends on how soon that happens. If it happened, well, I think it might not be too late. The boy and the girl are still youngimpressionable. They would become, I believe, normal human beings. With Lennox, possibly, it has gone too far. He looks to me like a man who has parted company with hopehe lives and endures like a brute beast."
Sarah said impatiently: "His wife ought to have done something! She ought to have yanked him out of it."
"I wonder. She may have triedand failed."
"Do you think she's under the spell too?"
Gerard shook his head. "No. I don't think the old lady has any power over her, and for that reason she hates her with a bitter hatred. Watch her eyes."
Sarah frowned. "I can't make her outthe young one, I mean. Does she know what is going on?"
"I think she must have a pretty shrewd idea."
"Hm," said Sarah. "That old woman ought to be murdered! Arsenic in her early morning tea would be my prescription."
Then she said abruptly: "What about the youngest girlthe red-haired one with the rather fascinating vacant smile?"
Gerard frowned. "I don't know. There is something queer there. Ginevra Boynton is the old woman's own daughter, of course."
"Yes. I suppose that would be differentor wouldn't it?"
Gerard said slowly: "I do not believe that when once the mania for power (and the lust for cruelty) has taken possession of a human being that it can spare anybodynot even its nearest and dearest."
He was silent for a moment then he said: "Are you a Christian, Mademoiselle?"
Sarah said slowly: "I don't know. I used to think that I wasn't anything. But nowI'm not sure. I feeloh, I feel that if I could sweep all this away" she made a violent gesture, "all the buildings and the sects and the fierce squabbling churchesthatthat I might see Christ's quiet figure riding into Jerusalem on a donkeyand believe in him."
Dr. Gerard said gravely: "I believe at least in one of the chief tenets of the Christian faith*******ment with a lowly place. I am a doctor and I know that ambitionthe desire to succeedto have powerleads to most ills of the human soul. If the desire is realized it leads to arrogance, violence and final satiety; and if it is deniedah! If it is denied let all the asylums for the insane rise up and give their testimony! They are filled with human beings who were unable to face being mediocre, insignificant, ineffective and who therefore created for themselves ways of escape from reality so to be shut off from life itself forever."
Sarah said abruptly: "It's a pity the old Boynton woman isn't in an asylum."
Gerard shook his head. "Noher place is not there among the failures. It is worse than that. She has succeeded, you see! She has accomplished her dream."
She cried passionately: "Such things ought not to be!"
Sarah wondered very much whether Carol Boynton would keep her appointment that night. On the whole, she rather doubted it. She was afraid that Carol would have a sharp reaction after her semi-confidences of the morning.
Nevertheless, she made her preparations, slipping on a blue satin dressing gown and getting out her little spirit lamp and boiling up water. She was just on the point of giving Carol up (it was after one o'clock) and going to bed, when there was a tap on her door. She opened it and drew quickly back to let Carol come in.
The latter said breathlessly: "I was afraid you might have gone to bed . . ."
Sarah's manner was carefully matter-of-fact. "Oh, no. I was waiting for you. Have some tea, will you? It's real Lapsang Souchong."
She brought over a cup. Carol had been nervous and uncertain of herself. Now she accepted the cup and a biscuit and her manner became calmer.
"This is rather fun," said Sarah, smiling.
Carol looked a little startled.
"Yes," she said doubtfully. "Yes, I suppose it is."
"Rather like the midnight feasts we used to have at school," went on Sarah. "I suppose you didn't go away to school?"
Carol shook her head. "We never left home. We had a governessdifferent governesses. They never stayed long."
"Did you never go away at all?"
"We've lived always in the same house. This coming abroad is the first time I've ever been away."
Sarah said casually: "It must have been a great adventure."
"Oh, it was. Itit's all been like a dream."
"What made youryour stepmother decide to come abroad?"
At the mention of Mrs. Boynton's name, Carol had flinched. Sarah said quickly: "You know, I'm by way of being a doctor. I've just taken my M.B.. Your motheror stepmother ratheris very interesting to meas a case, you know. I should say she was quite definitely a pathological case."
Carol stared. It was clearly a very unexpected point of view to her. Sarah had spoken as she had with deliberate intent. She realized that to her family Mrs. Boynton loomed as a kind of powerful obscene idol. It was Sarah's object to rob her of her more terrifying aspect.
"Yes," she said. "There's a kind of disease ofof grandeurthat gets hold of people. They get very autocratic and insist on everything being done exactly as they say and are altogether very difficult to deal with."
Carol put down her cup. "Oh," she cried, "I'm so glad to be talking to you. You know, I believe Ray and I have been getting quitewell, quite queer. We'd got terribly worked up about things."
"Talking with an outsider is always a good thing," said Sarah. "Inside a family one is apt to get too intense." Then she asked casually: "If you are unhappy, haven't you ever thought of leaving home?"
Carol looked startled. "Oh, no! How could we? II mean, Mother would never allow it."
"But she couldn't stop you," said Sarah gently. "You're over age."
"But still, I don't see howI mean I wouldn't know where to go and what to do." Her tone seemed bewildered. "You see," she said, "we haven't got any money."
"Haven't you any friends you could go to?"
"Friends?" Carol shook her head. "Oh, no, we don't know anyone!"
"Did none of you ever think of leaving home?"
"NoI don't think so. Ohohwe couldn't."
Sarah changed the subject. She found the girl's bewilderment pitiful.
She said: "Are you fond of your stepmother?"
Slowly Carol shook her head. She whispered in a low scared voice: "I hate her. So does Ray . . . We'vewe've often wished she would die."
Again Sarah changed the subject. "Tell me about your elder brother."
"Lennox? I don't know what's the matter with Lennox. He hardly ever speaks now. He goes about in a kind of daydream. Nadine's terribly worried about him."
"You are fond of your sister-in-law?"
"Yes Nadine is different. She's always kind. But she's very unhappy."
"About your brother?"
"Have they been married long?"
"And they've always lived at home?"
Sarah asked: "Does your sister-in-law like that?"
"No." There was a pause. Then Carol said: "There was an awful fuss once about four years ago now. You see, as I told you, none of us ever goes outside the house at home. I mean we go into the grounds, but nowhere else. But Lennox did. He got out at night. He went into Fountain Springsthere was a sort of dance going on. Mother was frightfully angry when she found out. It was terrible. And then, after that, she asked Nadine to come and stay. Nadine was a very distant cousin of father's. She was very poor and was training to be a hospital nurse. She came and stayed with us for a month. I can't tell you how exciting it was to have someone to stay! And she and Lennox fell in love with each other. And Mother said they'd better be married quickly and live on with us."
"And was Nadine willing to do that?"
Carol hesitated. "I don't think she wanted to do that very much, but she didn't really mind. Then, later, she wanted to go awaywith Lennox, of course"
"But they didn't go?" asked Sarah.
"No, Mother wouldn't hear of it." Carol paused and then said: "I don't think she likes Nadine any longer. Nadine is funny. You never know what she's thinking. She tries to help Jinny and Mother doesn't like it."
"Jinny is your younger sister?"
"Yes. Ginevra is her real name."
"Is sheunhappy too?"
Carol shook her head doubtfully. "Jinny's been very queer lately. I don't understand her. You see, she's always been rather delicateandand Mother fusses about her andand it makes her worse. And lately Jinny has been very queer indeed. Sheshe frightens me sometimes. Sheshe doesn't always know what she's doing."
"Has she seen a doctor?"
"No; Nadine wanted her to, but Mother said no, and Jinny got very hysterical and screamed and said she wouldn't see a doctor. But I'm worried about her." Suddenly Carol rose. "I mustn't keep you up. It'sit's very good of you letting me come and talk to you. You must think us very odd as a family."
"Oh, everybody's odd, really," said Sarah lightly. "Come again, will you? And bring your brother, if you like."
"May I really?"
"Yes; we'll do some secret plotting. I'd like you to meet a friend of mine, too; a Dr. Gerard, an awfully nice Frenchman."
The color came into Carol's cheeks. "Oh what fun it sounds. If only Mother doesn't find out!"
Sarah suppressed her original retort and said instead, "Why should she? Good night. Shall we say tomorrow night at the same time?"
"Oh yes. The day after, you see, we may be going away."
"Then let's have a definite date for tomorrow. Good night."
"Good night and thank you."
Carol went out of the room and slipped noiselessly along the corridor. Her own room was on the floor above. She reached it, opened the doorand stood appalled on the threshold.
Mrs. Boynton was sitting in an armchair by the fireplace in a crimson wool dressing gown. A little cry escaped from Carol's lips. "Oh!"
A pair of black eyes bored into hers. "Where have you been, Carol?"
"Where have you been?" A soft husky voice with that queer menacing undertone in it that always made Carol's heart beat with unreasoning terror.
"To see a Miss KingSarah King."
"The girl who spoke to Raymond the other evening?"
"Have you made any plans to see her again?"
Carol's lips moved soundlessly. She nodded assent. Frightgreat sickening waves of fright . . .
"You are not to go. You understand?"
Mrs. Boynton struggled to get up. Mechanically Carol came forward and helped her. Mrs. Boynton walked slowly across the room supporting herself on her stick. She paused in the doorway and looked back at the cowering girl.
"You are to have nothing more to do with this Miss King. You understand?"
"I am to have nothing more to do with her."
Mrs. Boynton went out and shut the door.
Stiffly, Carol moved across the bedroom. She felt sick, her whole body felt wooden and unreal. She dropped onto the bed and suddenly she was shaken by a storm of weeping. It was as though a vista had opened before hera vista of sunlight and trees and flowers. . . . Now the black walls had closed around her once more. . . .
"Can I speak to you a minute?"
Nadine Boynton turned in surprise, staring into the dark eager face of an entirely unknown young woman.
"Why, certainly." But as she spoke, almost unconsciously she threw a quick nervous glance over her shoulder.
"My name is Sarah King," went on the other.
"Mrs. Boynton, I'm going to say something rather odd to you. I talked to your sister-in-law for quite a long time the other evening."
A faint shadow seemed to ruffle the serenity of Nadine Boynon's face. "You talked to Ginevra?"
"No, not to Ginevrato Carol."
The shadow lifted.
"Oh, I seeto Carol."
Nadine Boynton seemed pleased, but very much surprised.
"How did you manage that?"
Sarah said: "She came to my roomquite late." She saw the faint raising of the penciled brows on the white forehead. She said, with some embarrassment: "I'm sure it must seem very odd to you."
"No," said Nadine Boynton. "I am very glad. Very glad indeed. It is very nice for Carol to have a friend to talk to."
"Wewe got on very well together." Sarah tried to choose her words carefully. "In fact we arranged toto meet again the following night."
"But Carol didn't come."
Nadine's voice was coolreflective. Her face, so quiet and gentle, told Sarah nothing.
"No. Yesterday she was passing through the hall. I spoke to her and she didn't answer. Just looked at me once, and then away again, and hurried on."
There was a pause. Sarah found it difficult to go on.
Nadine Boynton said presently: "I'mvery sorry. Carol israther a nervous girl."
Again that pause. Sarah took her courage in both hands. "You know, Mrs. Boynton, I'm by way of being a doctor. I thinkI think it would be good for your sister-in-law not tonot to shut herself away too much from people."
Nadine Boynton looked thoughtfully at Sarah. She said: "I see. You're a doctor. That makes a difference."
"You see what I mean?" Sarah urged.
Nadine bent her head. She was still thoughtful. "You are quite right, of course," she said after a minute or two. "But there are difficulties. My mother-in-law is in bad health and she has what I can only describe as a morbid dislike of any outsiders penetrating into her family circle."
Sarah said mutinously: "But Carol is a grown-up woman."
Nadine Boynton shook her head. "Oh no," she said. "In body, but not in mind. If you talked to her you must have noticed that. In an emergency she would always behave like a frightened child."
"Do you think that's what happened? Do you think she becameafraid?"
"I should imagine, Miss King, that my mother-in-law insisted on Carol having nothing more to do with you."
"And Carol gave in?"
Nadine Boynton said quietly: "Can you really imagine her doing anything else?"
The eyes of the two women met. Sarah felt that behind the mask of conventional words, they understood each other. Nadine, she felt, understood the position. But she was clearly not prepared to discuss it in any way. Sarah felt discouraged. The other evening it had seemed to her as though half the battle were won. By means of secret meetings she would imbue Carol with the spirit of revoltyes, and Raymond, too. (Be honest, now; wasn't it Raymond really she had had in mind all along?)
And now, in the very first round of the battle she had been ignominiously defeated by that hulk of shapeless flesh with her evil gloating eyes. Carol had capitulated without a struggle.
"It's all wrong!" cried Sarah.
Nadine did not answer. Something in her silence went home to Sarah like a cold hand laid on her heart. She thought: "This woman knows the hopelessness of it much better than I do. She's lived with it!"
The elevator doors opened. The elder Mrs. Boynton emerged. She leaned on a stick and Raymond supported her on the other side.
Sarah gave a slight start. She saw the old woman's eyes sweep from her to Nadine and back again. She had been prepared for dislike in those eyesfor hatred even. She was not prepared for what she sawa triumphant and malicious enjoyment.
Sarah turned away. Nadine went forward and joined the other two.
"So there you are, Nadine," said Mrs. Boynton. "I'll sit down and rest a little before I go out."
They settled her in a high-backed chair. Nadine sat down beside her.
"Who were you talking to, Nadine?"
"A Miss King."
"Oh, yes. The girl who spoke to Raymond the other night. Well, Ray, why don't you go and speak to her now? She's over there at the writing table."
The old woman's mouth widened into a malicious smile as she looked at Raymond. His face flushed. He turned his head away and muttered something.
"What's that you say, son?"
"I don't want to speak to her."
"No, I thought not. You won't speak to her. You couldn't, however much you wanted to!"
She coughed suddenlya wheezing cough. "I'm enjoying this trip, Nadine," she said. "I wouldn't have missed it for anything."
"No?" Nadine's voice was expressionless.
"Get me a piece of notepaperfrom the table over there in the corner."
Raymond went off obediently. Nadine raised her head. She watched, not the boy, but the old woman. Mrs. Boynton was leaning forward, her nostrils dilated as though with pleasure. Ray passed close by Sarah. She looked up, a sudden hope showing in her face. It died down as he brushed past her, took some notepaper from the case and went back across the room.
There were little beads of sweat on his forehead as he rejoined them and his face was dead white. Very softly Mrs. Boynton murmured: "Ah . . ." as she watched his face. Then she saw Nadine's eyes fixed on her. Something in them made her own snap with sudden anger. "Where's Mr. Cope this morning?" she said.
Nadine's eyes dropped again. She answered in her gentle expressionless voice: "I don't know. I haven't seen him."
"I like him," said Mrs. Boynton. "I like him very much. We must see a good deal of him. You'll like that, won't you?"
"Yes," said Nadine. "I, too, like him very much."
"What's the matter with Lennox lately? He seems very dull and quiet. Nothing wrong between you, is there?"
"Oh, no. Why should there be?"
"I wondered. Married people don't always hit it off. Perhaps you'd be happier living in a home of your own?"
Nadine did not answer.
"Well, what do you say to the idea? Does it appeal to you?"
Nadine shook her head. She said, smiling: "I don't think it would appeal to you. Mother."
Mrs. Boynton's eyelids flickered. She said sharply and venomously: "You've always been against me, Nadine."
The younger woman replied evenly: "I'm sorry you should think that."
The old woman's hand closed on her stick. Her face seemed to get a shade more purple. She said, with a change of tone: "I forgot my drops. Get them for me, Nadine."
Nadine got up and crossed the lounge to the elevator. Mrs. Boynton looked after her. Raymond sat limply in a chair, his eyes glazed with dull misery. Nadine went upstairs and along the corridor. She entered the sitting room of their suite. Lennox was sitting by the window. There was a book in his hand, but he was not reading. He roused himself as Nadine came in. "Hullo, Nadine."
"I've come up for Mother's drops. She forgot them." She went on into Mrs. Boynton's bedroom. From a bottle on the washstand she carefully measured a dose into a small medicine glass, filling it up with water. As she passed through the sitting room again she paused. "Lennox."
It was a moment or two before he answered her. It was as though the message had a long way to travel. Then he said: "I beg your pardon. What is it?"
Nadine Boynton set down the glass carefully on the table. Then she went over and stood beside him. "Lennox, look at the sunshine out there, through the window. Look at life. It's beautiful. We might be out instead of being here looking through a window."
Again there was a pause. Then he said: "I'm sorry. Do you want to go out?"
She answered him quickly: "Yes I want to go outwith youout into the sun! Go out into lifeand livethe two of us together."
He shrank back into his chair. His eyes looked restless, hunted. "Nadine, my dear, must we go into all this again"
"Yes, we must. Let us go away and lead our own life somewhere."
"How can we? We've no money."
"We can earn money."
"How could we? What could we do? I'm untrained. Thousands of menqualified mentrained menare out of jobs as it is. We couldn't manage it."
"I would earn money for both of us."
"My dear child, you've never even completed your training. It's hopelessimpossible."
"No; what is hopeless and impossible is our present life."
"You don't know what you are talking about. Mother is very good to us. She gives us every luxury."
"Except freedom. Lennox, make an effort. Come with me now, today"
"Nadine, I think you're quite mad."
"No, I'm sane. Absolutely and completely sane. I want a life of my own, with you, in the sunshine, not stifled in the shadow of an old woman who is a tyrant and who delights in making you unhappy."
"Mother may be rather an autocrat"
"Your mother is mad! She's insane!"
He answered mildly: "That's not true. She's got a remarkably good head for business."
"And you must realize, Nadine, she can't live forever. She's sixty-odd and she's in very bad health. At her death my father's money is to be divided equally among us, share and share alike. You remember, she read us the will?"
"When she dies," said Nadine. "It may be too late."
"Too late for happiness."
Lennox murmured: "Too late for happiness." He shivered suddenly. Nadine went closer to him. She put her hand on his shoulder.
"Lennox, I love you. It's a battle between me and your mother. Are you going to be on her side or mine?"
"On yours, on yours!"
"Then do what I ask."
"No, it's not impossible. Think, Lennox, we could have children . . ."
"Mother wants us to have children, anyway. She has said so."
"I know, but I won't bring children into the world to live in the shadow you have all been brought up in. Your mother can influence you, but she's no power over me."
Lennox murmured: "You make her angry sometimes, Nadine; it isn't wise."
"She is only angry because she knows that she can't influence my mind or dictate my thoughts!"
"I know you are always polite and gentle with her. You're wonderful. You're too good for me. You always have been. When you said you would marry me it was like an unbelievable dream."
Nadine said quietly: "I was wrong to marry you."
Lennox said hopelessly: "Yes, you were wrong."
"You don't understand. What I mean is that if I had gone away then and asked you to follow me you would have done so. Yes, I really believe you would. . . . I was not clever enough then to understand your mother and what she wanted."
She paused, then she said: "You refuse to come away? Well, I can't make you. But I am free to go! I thinkI think I shall go. . . ."
He stared up at her incredulously. For the first time his reply came quickly, as though at last the sluggish current of his thoughts was accelerated. He stammered: "Butbutyou can't do that. MotherMother would never hear of it."
"She couldn't stop me."
"You've no money."
"I could make, borrow, beg or steal it. Understand Lennox, your mother has no power over me! I can go or stay at my will. I am beginning to feel that I have borne this life long enough."
"Nadinedon't leave medon't leave me. . . ."
She looked at him thoughtfullyquietlywith an inscrutable expression.
"Don't leave me, Nadine." He spoke like a child. She turned her head away, so he should not see the sudden pain in her eyes.
She knelt down beside him. "Then come with me. Come with me! You can. Indeed you can if you only will!"
He shrank back from her. "I can't! I can't! I tell you. I haven'tGod help meI haven't the courage. . . ."
Dr. Gerard walked into the office of Messrs. Castle the tourist agents, and found Sarah King at the counter.
She looked up.
"Oh, good morning. I'm fixing up my tour to Petra. I've just heard you are going after all."
"Yes, I find I can just manage it."
"Shall we be a large party, I wonder?"
"They say just two other womenand you and me. One car load."
"That will be delightful," said Gerard with a little bow. Then he, in turn, attended to his business. Presently, holding his mail in his hands, he joined Sarah as she stepped out of the office. It was a crisp sunny day, with a slight cold tang in the air.
"What news of our friends, the Boyntons?" asked Dr. Gerard. "I have been to Bethlehem and Nazareth and other placesa tour of three days."
Slowly and rather unwillingly, Sarah narrated her abortive efforts to establish contact. "Anyhow I failed," she finished. "And they're leaving today."
"Where are they going?"
"I've no idea."
She went on vexedly: "I feel, you know, that I've made rather a fool of myself."
"In what way?"
"Interfering in other people's business."
Gerard shrugged his shoulders. "That is a matter of opinion."
"You mean whether one should interfere or not?"
The Frenchman looked amused. "You mean, is it my habit to concern myself with other people's affairs? I will say to you franklyno."
"Then you think I'm wrong to have tried butting in?"
"No, no, you misunderstand me." Gerard spoke quickly and energetically. "It is, I think, a moot question. Should one, if one sees a wrong being done, attempt to put it right? One's interference may do goodbut it may also do incalculable harm! It is impossible to lay down any ruling on the subject. Some people have a genius for interferencethey do it well! Some people do it clumsily and had therefore better leave it alone! Then there is, too, the question of age. Young people have the courage of their ideals and convictions, their values are more theoretical than practical. They have not experienced, as yet, that fact contradicts theory! If you have a belief in yourself and in the rightness of what you are doing, you can often accomplish things that are well worthwhile! (Incidentally you often do a good deal of harm!) On the other hand, the middle-aged person has experience, he has found that harm as well as, and perhaps more often than, good comes of trying to interfere and so, very wisely, he refrains! So the result is eventhe earnest young do both harm and goodthe prudent middle-aged do neither!"
"All that isn't very helpful," objected Sarah.
"Can one person ever be helpful to another? It is your problem not mine."
"You mean you are not going to do anything about the Boyntons?"
"No. For me, there would be no chance of success."
"Then there isn't for me either?"
"For you, there might be."
"Because you have special qualifications. The appeal of your youth and sex."
"Sex? Oh, I see."
"One comes always back to sex, does one not? You have failed with the girl. It does not follow that you would fail with her brother. What you have just told me, (what the girl Carol told you), shows very clearly the one menace to Mrs. Boynton's autocracy. The eldest son, Lennox, defied her in the force of his young manhood. He played truant from home, went to local dances. The desire of a man for a mate was stronger than the hypnotic spell. But the old woman was quite aware of the power of sex. (She will have seen something of it in her career.) She dealt with it very cleverly, brought a pretty but penniless girl into the house, encouraged a marriage. And so acquired yet another slave."
Sarah shook her head. "I don't think young Mrs. Boynton is a slave."
Gerard agreed. "No, perhaps not. I think that because she was a quiet docile young girl, old Mrs. Boynton underestimated her force of will and character. Nadine Boynton was too young and inexperienced at the time to appreciate the true position. She appreciates it now, but it is too late."
"Do you think she has given up hope?"
Dr. Gerard shook his head doubtfully. "If she has plans no one would know about them. There are, you know, certain possibilities where Cope is concerned. Man is a naturally jealous animaland jealousy is a strong force. Lennox Boynton might still be roused from the inertia in which he is sinking."
"And you think"Sarah purposely made her tone very businesslike and professional"that there's a chance I might be able to do something about Raymond?"
Sarah sighed. "I suppose I might have tried Oh, well, it's too late now, anyway. Andand I don't like the idea."
Gerard looked amused. "That is because you are English! The English have a complex about sex. They think it is 'not quite nice.'"
Sarah's indignant response failed to move him. "Yes, yes, I know you are very modern, that you use freely in public the most unpleasant words you can find in the dictionary, that you are professional and entirely uninhibited! Tout de merne, I repeat, you have the same racial characteristics as your mother and your grandmother. You are still the blushing English Miss although you do not blush!"
"I never heard such rubbish!"
Dr. Gerard, a twinkle in his eyes, and quite unperturbed, added: "And it makes you very charming."
This time Sarah was speechless.
Dr. Gerard hastily raised his hat. "I take my leave," he said, "before you have time to begin to say all that you think."
He escaped into the hotel.
Sarah followed him more slowly. There was a good deal of activity going on. Several cars loaded with luggage were in process of departing. Lennox and Nadine Boynton and Mr. Cope were standing by a big saloon car superintending arrangements. A fat dragoman was standing talking to Carol with quite unintelligible fluency.
Sarah passed them and went into the hotel. Mrs. Boynton, wrapped in a thick coat, was sitting in a chair, waiting to depart. Looking at her, a queer revulsion of feeling swept over Sarah.
She had felt that Mrs. Boynton was a sinister figure, an incarnation of evil malignancy. Now, suddenly, she saw the old woman as a pathetic ineffectual figure. To be born with such a lust for power, such a desire for dominion, and to achieve only a petty domestic tyranny! If only her children could see her as Sarah saw her that minutean object of pitya stupid, malignant, pathetic, posturing old woman.
On an impulse Sarah went up to her.
"Goodbye, Mrs. Boynton," she said. "I hope you'll have a nice trip."
The old lady looked at her. Malignancy struggled with outrage in those eyes.
"You've wanted to be very rude to me," said Sarah. (Was she crazy, she wondered? What on earth was urging her on to talk like this?) "You've tried to prevent your son and daughter making friends with me. Don't you think, really, that that is all very silly and childish? You like to make yourself out a kind of ogre, but really, you know, you're just pathetic and rather ludicrous. If I were you I'd give up all this silly play-acting. I expect you'll hate me for saying this, but I mean itand some of it may stick. You know you could have a lot of fun still. It's really much better to be friendly and kind. You could be if you tried."
There was a pause. Mrs. Boynton had frozen into a deadly immobility. At last she passed her tongue over her dry lips, her mouth opened. . . . Still for a moment no words came. "Go on," said Sarah encouragingly. "Say it! It doesn't matter what you say to me. But think over what I've said to you."
The words came at lastin a soft, husky, but penetrating voice. Mrs. Boynton's basilisk eyes looked, not at Sarah, but oddly over her shoulder. She seemed to address, not Sarah, but some familiar spirit.
"I never forget," she said. "Remember that. I've never forgotten anything, not an action, not a name, not a face. . . ." There was nothing in the words themselves, but the venom with which they were spoken made Sarah retreat a step.
And then Mrs. Boynton laughed. It was, definitely, rather a horrible laugh.
Sarah shrugged her shoulders. "You poor old thing," she said. She turned away. As she went towards the elevator she almost collided with Raymond Boynton. On an impulse she spoke quickly: "Goodbye; I hope you'll have a lovely time. Perhaps we'll meet again some day."
She smiled at him, a warm friendly smile, and passed quickly on.
Raymond stood as though turned to stone. So lost in his own thoughts was he that a small man with big moustaches, endeavoring to pass out of the elevator, had to speak several times.
At last it penetrated. Raymond stepped aside. "So sorry," he said. "II was thinking."
Carol came towards him. "Ray, get Jinny, will you? She went back to her room. We're going to start."
"Right; I'll tell her she's got to come straight away." Raymond walked into the elevator.
Hercule Poirot stood for a moment looking after him, his eyebrows raised, his head a little on one side as though he were listening. Then he nodded his head as though in agreement. Walking through the lounge he took a good look at Carol who had joined her mother. Then he beckoned the head waiter who was passing.
"Pardon, can you tell me the name of those people over there?"
"The name is Boynton, Monsieur; they are Americans."
"Thank you," said Hercule Poirot.
On the third floor Dr. Gerard, going to his room, passed Raymond Boynton and Ginevra walking towards the waiting elevator. Just as they were about to get into it Ginevra said: "Just a minute. Ray; wait for me in the elevator." She ran back, turned a corner, caught up with the walking man. "PleaseI must speak to you."
Dr. Gerard looked up in astonishment. The girl came up close to him and caught his arm. "They're taking me away! They may be going to kill me. . . . I don't really belong to them, you know. My name isn't really Boynton. . . ." She hurried on, her words coming fast and tumbling over each other. "I'll trust you with the secret. I'mI'm Royal, really! I'm the heiress to a throne. That's why there are enemies all around me. They try to poison me, all sorts of things . . . If you could help meto get away" She broke off. Footsteps.
Beautiful in her sudden startled gesture, the girl put a finger to her lips, threw Gerard an imploring glance, and ran back. "I'm coming, Ray."
Dr. Gerard walked on with his eyebrows raised. Slowly, he shook his head and frowned.
It was the morning of the start to Petra.
Sarah came down to find a big masterful woman with a rocking-horse nose whom she had already noticed in the hotel, outside the main entrance objecting fiercely to the size of the car.
"A great deal too small! Four passengers? And a dragoman? Then of course we must have a much larger saloon. Please take that car away and return with one of an adequate size."
In vain did the representative of Messrs. Castle's raise his voice in explanation. That was the size of car always provided. It was really a most comfortable car. A larger car was not so suitable for desert travel. The large woman, metaphorically speaking, rolled over him like a large steamroller. Then she turned her attention to Sarah. "Miss King? I am Lady Westholme. I am sure you agree with me that that car is grossly inadequate as to size?"
"Well," said Sarah cautiously, "I agree that a larger one would be more comfortable!"
The young man from Castle's murmured that a larger car would add to the price.
"The price," said Lady Westholme firmly, "is inclusive and I shall certainly refuse to sanction any addition to it. Your prospectus distinctly states 'in comfortable saloon car.' You will keep to the terms of your agreement."
Recognizing defeat, the young man from Castle's murmured something about seeing what he could do and wilted away from the spot. Lady Westholme turned to Sarah, a smile of triumph on her weather-beaten countenance, her large red rocking-horse nostrils dilated exultantly.
Lady Westholme was a very well-known figure in the English political world. When Lord Westholme, a middle-aged, simple-minded peer, whose only interests in life were hunting, shooting and fishing, was returning from a trip to the United States, one of his fellow passengers was a Mrs. Vansittart. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Vansittart became Lady Westholme. The match was often cited as one of the examples of the danger of ocean voyages. The new Lady Westholme lived entirely in tweeds and stout brogues, bred dogs, bullied the villagers and forced her husband pitilessly into public life. It being borne in upon her, however, that politics was not Lord Westholme's métier in life and never would be, she graciously allowed him to resume his sporting activities and herself stood for Parliament. Being elected with a substantial majority, Lady Westholme threw herself with vigor into political life, being especially active at Question time. Cartoons of her soon began to appear (always a sure sign of success). As a public figure she stood for the old-fashioned values of Family Life, Welfare work amongst Women, and was an ardent supporter of the League of Nations. She had decided views on questions of Agriculture, Housing and Slum Clearance. She was much respected and almost universally disliked! It was highly possible that she would be given an Under Secretaryship when her Party returned to power. At the moment a Liberal Government (owing to a split in the National Government between Labor and Conservatives) was somewhat unexpectedly in power. Lady Westholme looked with grim satisfaction after the departing car. "Men always think they can impose upon women," she said.
Sarah thought that it would be a brave man who thought he could impose upon Lady Westholme! She introduced Dr. Gerard who had just come out of the hotel.
"Your name is, of course, familiar to me," said Lady Westholme, shaking hands. "I was talking to Professor Clemenceaux the other day in Paris. I have been taking up the question of the treatment of pauper lunatics very strongly lately. Very strongly, indeed. Shall we come inside while we wait for a better car to be obtained?"
A vague little middle-aged lady with wisps of gray hair who was hovering near by turned out to be Miss Annabel Pierce, the fourth member of the party. She too was swept into the lounge under Lady Westholme's protecting wing.
"You are a professional woman Miss King?"
"I've just taken my M.B.."
"Good," said Lady Westholme with condescending approval. "If anything is to be accomplished, mark my words, it is women who will do it."
Uneasily conscious for the first time of her sex, Sarah followed Lady Westholme meekly to a seat. There, as they sat waiting, Lady Westholme informed them that she had refused an invitation to stay with the High Commissioner during her stay in Jerusalem.
"I did not want to be hampered by officialdom. I wished to look into things for myself."
"What things?" Sarah wondered.
Lady Westholme went on to explain that she was staying at the Solomon Hotel so as to remain unhampered. She added that she had made several suggestions to the Manager for the more competent running of his hotel.
"Efficiency," said Lady Westholme, "is my Watchword."
It certainly seemed to be! In a quarter of an hour a large and extremely comfortable car arrived and in due courseafter advice from Lady Westholme as to how the luggage should be bestowedthe party set off.
Their first halt was the Dead Sea. They had lunch at Jericho. Afterwards when Lady Westholme armed with a Baedeker had gone off with Miss Pierce, the doctor and the fat dragoman to do a tour of old Jericho, Sarah remained in the garden of the hotel.
Her head ached slightly and she wanted to be alone. A deep depression weighed her downa depression for which she found it hard to account. She felt suddenly listless and uninterested, disinclined for sightseeing, bored by her companions. She wished at this moment that she had never committed herself to this Petra tour. It was going to be very expensive and she felt quite sure she wasn't going to enjoy it! Lady Westholme's booming voice, Miss Pierce's endless twitterings, and the anti-Zionist lamentation of the dragoman were already fraying her nerves to a frazzle. She disliked almost as much Dr. Gerard's amused air of knowing exactly how she was feeling.
She wondered where the Boyntons were nowperhaps they had gone on to Syriathey might be at Baalbek or Damascus. Raymond. She wondered what Raymond was doing. Strange how clearly she could see his face, its eagerness, its diffidence, its nervous tension. . . . Oh! Hell, why go on thinking of people she would probably never see again? That scene the other day with the old womanwhat could have possessed her to march up to the old lady and spurt out a lot of nonsense. Other people must have heard some of it. She fancied that Lady Westholme had been quite close by. Sarah tried to remember exactly what it was she had said. Something that probably sounded quite absurdly hysterical. Goodness, what a fool she had made of herself! But it wasn't her fault reallyit was old Mrs. Boynton's. There was something about her that made you lose your sense of proportion.
Dr. Gerard entered and plumped down in a chair, wiping his hot forehead. "Phew! That woman should be poisoned!" he declared.
Sarah started. "Mrs. Boynton?"
"Mrs. Boynton! No, I meant that Lady Westholme! It is incredible to me that she has had a husband for many years and that he has not already done so. What can he be made of, that husband?"
Sarah laughed. "Oh, he's the 'huntin', fishin', shootin'' kind," she explained.
"Psychologically that is very sound! He appeases his lust to kill on the (so-called) lower creations."
"I believe he is very proud of his wife's activities."
The Frenchman suggested: "Because they take her a good deal away from home? That is understandable." Then he went on. "What did you say just now? Mrs. Boynton? Undoubtedly it would be a very good idea to poison her, too. Undeniably the simplest solution of that family problem! In fact, a great many women would be better poisoned. All women who have grown old and ugly." He made an expressive face.
Sarah cried out, laughing: "Oh, you Frenchmen! You've got no use for any woman who isn't young and attractive."
Gerard shrugged his shoulders. "We are more honest about it, that is all. Englishmen, they do not get up in tubes and trains for ugly womenno, no."
"How depressing life is," said Sarah with a sigh.
"There is no need for you to sigh. Mademoiselle."
"Well, I feel thoroughly disgruntled today."
"What do you meannaturally?" snapped Sarah.
"You could find the reason very easily if you examine your state of mind honestly."
"I think it's our fellow travelers who depress me," said Sarah. "It's awful, isn't it, but I do hate women! When they're inefficient and idiotic like Miss Pierce, they infuriate me, and when they're efficient like Lady Westholme, they annoy me more still."
"It is, I should say, unavoidable that these two people should annoy you. Lady Westholme is exactly fitted to the life she leads and is completely happy and successful. Miss Pierce has worked for years as a nursery governess and has suddenly come into a small legacy which has enabled her to fulfill her lifelong wish and travel. So far, travel has lived up to her expectations. Consequently you, who have just been thwarted in obtaining what you want, naturally resent the existence of people who have been more successful in life than you are."
"I suppose you're right," said Sarah gloomily. "What a horribly accurate mind reader you are. I keep trying to humbug myself and you won't let me."
At this moment the others returned. The guide seemed the most exhausted of the three. He was quite subdued and hardly exuded any information on the way to Amman. He did not even mention the Jews. For which everyone was profoundly grateful. His voluble and frenzied account of their iniquities had done much to try everyone's temper on the journey from Jerusalem.
Now the road wound upward from the Jordan, twisting and turning with clumps of oleanders showing rose-colored flowers.
They reached Amman late in the afternoon and after a short visit to the Graeco-Roman theatre, went to bed early. They were to make an early start the next morning as it was a full day's motor run across the desert to Ma'an.
They left soon after eight o'clock. The party was inclined to be silent. It was a hot airless day and by noon when a halt was made for a picnic lunch to be eaten, it was really, stiflingly hot. The irritation on a hot day of being boxed up closely with four other human beings had got a little on everyone's nerves.
Lady Westholme and Dr. Gerard had a somewhat irritable argument over the League of Nations. Lady Westholme was a fervent supporter of the League. The Frenchman, on the other hand, chose to be witty at the League's expense. From the attitude of the League concerning Abyssinia and Spain they passed to the Lithuania boundary dispute of which Sarah had never heard and from there to the activities of the League in suppressing dope gangs.
"You must admit they have done wonderful work. Wonderful!" snapped Lady Westholme.
Dr. Gerard shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps. And at wonderful expense, too!"
"The matter is a very serious one. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act" The argument waged on.
Miss Pierce twittered to Sarah: "It is really most interesting traveling with Lady Westholme."
Sarah said acidly: "Is it?" but Miss Pierce did not notice the acerbity and twittered happily on: "I've so often seen her name in the papers. So clever of women to go into public life and hold their own. I'm always so glad when a woman accomplishes something!"
"Why?" demanded Sarah ferociously.
Miss Pierce's mouth fell open and she stammered a little. "Oh, becauseI meanjust becausewellit's so nice that women are able to do things!"
"I don't agree," said Sarah. "It's nice when any human being is able to accomplish something worthwhile! It doesn't matter a bit whether it's a man or a woman. Why should it?"
"Well, of course" said Miss Pierce. "YesI confessof course, looking at it in that light" But she looked slightly wistful. Sarah said more gently: "I'm sorry, but I do hate this differentiation between the sexes. 'The modern girl has a thoroughly businesslike attitude to life!' That sort of thing. It's not a bit true! Some girls are businesslike and some aren't. Some men are sentimental and muddle-headed, others are clear-headed and logical. There are just different types of brains. Sex only matters where sex is directly concerned."
Miss Pierce flushed a little at the word sex and adroitly changed the subject. "One can't help wishing that there were a little shade," she murmured. "But I do think all this emptiness is so wonderful, don't you?"
Sarah nodded. Yes, she thought, the emptiness was marvelous . . . Healing . . . Peaceful . . . No human beings to agitate one with their tiresome inter-relationships . . . No burning personal problems! Now, at last, she felt, she was free of the Boyntons. Free of that strange compelling wish to interfere in the lives of people whose orbit did not remotely touch her own. She felt soothed and at peace. Here was loneliness, emptiness, spaciousness . . . In fact, peace . . . Only, of course, one wasn't alone to enjoy it. Lady Westholme and Dr. Gerard had finished with drugs and were now arguing about guileless young women who were exported in a sinister manner to Argentinean cabarets. Dr. Gerard had displayed throughout the conversation a levity which Lady Westholme, who, being a true politician, had no sense of humor, found definitely deplorable.
"We go on now, yes?" announced the tar-bushed dragoman and began to talk about the iniquities of Jews again.
It was about an hour off sunset when they reached Ma'an at last. Strange wild-faced men crowded around the car. After a short halt they went on. Looking over the flat desert country Sarah was at a loss as to where the rocky stronghold of Petra could be. Surely they could see for miles and miles all around them? There were no mountains, no hills anywhere. Were they then still many miles from their journey's end?
They reached the village of Am Musa where the cars were to be left. Here horses were waiting for themsorry looking thin beasts. The inadequacy of her striped wash frock disturbed Miss Pierce greatly. Lady Westholme was sensibly attired in riding breeches, not perhaps a particularly becoming style to her type of figure, but certainly practical.
The horses were led out of the village along a slippery path with loose stones. The ground fell away and the horses zigzagged down. The sun was close on setting.
Sarah was very tired with the long hot journey in the car. Her senses felt dazed. The ride was like a dream. It seemed to her afterwards that it was like the pit of Hell opening at one's feet. The way wound downdown into the ground. The shapes of rock rose up around them, down, down into the bowels of the earth, through a labyrinth of red cliffs. They towered now on either side. Sarah felt stifled, menaced by the ever-narrowing gorge. She thought confusedly to herself: "Down into the valley of deathdown into the valley of death. . . ."
On and on. It grew dark, the vivid red of the walls faded, and still on, winding in and out, imprisoned, lost in the bowels of the earth.
She thought: "It's fantastic and unbelievable . . . a dead city."
And again like a refrain came the words: "The valley of death. . . ."
Lanterns were lit now. The horses wound along through the narrow ways. Suddenly they came out into a wide spacethe cliffs receded. Far ahead of them was a cluster of lights.
"That is camp!" said the guide.
The horses quickened their pace a littlenot very muchthey were too starved and dispirited for that, but they showed just a shade of enthusiasm. Now the way ran along a gravelly waterbed. The lights grew nearer. They could see a cluster of tents, a higher row up against the face of a cliff. Caves, too, hollowed out in the rock.
They were arriving. Bedouin servants came running out.
Sarah stared up at one of the caves. It held a sitting figure. What was it? An idol? A gigantic squatting image?
No, that was the flickering lights that made it loom so large. But it must be an idol of some kind, sitting there immovable, brooding over the place. . . . And then, suddenly, her heart gave a leap of recognition.
Gone was the feeling of peaceof escapethat the desert had given her. She had been led from freedom back into captivity. She had ridden down into this dark winding valley and here, like an arch priestess of some forgotten cult, like a monstrous swollen female Buddha, sat Mrs. Boynton. . . .
Mrs. Boynton was here, at Petra!
Sarah answered mechanically questions that were addressed to her. Would she have dinner straight awayit was readyor would she like to wash first? Would she prefer to sleep in a tent or a cave?
Her answer to that came quickly. A tent. She flinched at the thought of a cave; the vision of that monstrous squatting figure recurred to her. (Why was it that something about the woman seemed hardly human?) Finally she followed one of the native servants. He wore khaki breeches much patched and untidy puttees and a ragged coat very much the worse for wear. On his head the native headdress, the cheffiyah, its long folds protecting the neck and secured in place with a black silk twist fitting tightly to the crown of his head. Sarah admired the easy swing with which he walked, the careless proud carriage of his head. Only the European part of his costume seemed tawdry and wrong. She thought: "Civilization's all wrongall wrong! But for civilization there wouldn't be a Mrs. Boynton! In savage tribes they'd probably have killed and eaten her years ago!"
She realized, half humorously, that she was overtired and on edge. A wash in hot water and a dusting of powder over her face and she felt herself againcool, poised, and ashamed of her recent panic.
She passed a comb through her thick black hair, squinting sideways at her reflection in the wavering light of a small oil lamp in a very inadequate glass.
Then she pushed aside the tent flap and came out into the night prepared to descend to the big marquee below.
It was a low crydazed, incredulous. She turned to look straight into Raymond Boynton's eyes. So amazed they were! And something in them held her silent and almost afraid. Such an unbelievable joy. . . . It was as though he had seen a vision of Paradisewondering, dazed, thankful, humble! Never, in all her life, was Sarah to forget that look. So might the damned look up and see Paradise. . . .
He said again: "You . . ."
It did something to herthat low vibrant tone. It made her heart turn over in her breast. It made her feel shy, afraid, humble and yet suddenly arrogantly glad.
She said quite simply: "Yes."
He came nearerstill dazedstill only half believing. Then suddenly he took her hand. "It is you," he said. "You're real. I thought at first you were a ghostbecause I'd been thinking about you so much." He paused and then said: "I love you, you know. . . . I have from the moment I saw you in the train. I know that now. And I want you to know it so thatso that you'll know it isn't methe real mewhowho behaves so caddishly. You see, I can't answer for myself even now. I might doanything! I might pass you by or cut youbut I do want you to know that it isn't methe real mewho is responsible for that. It's my nerves. I can't depend on them. . . . When she tells me to do thingsI do them! My nerves make me! You will understand, won't you? Despise me if you have to"
She interrupted him. Her voice was low and unexpectedly sweet. "I won't despise you."
"All the same, I'm pretty despicable! I ought toto be able to behave like a man."
It was partly an echo of Gerard's advice, but more out of her own knowledge and hope that Sarah answeredand behind the sweetness of her voice there was a ring of certainty and conscious authority. "You will now."
"Shall I?" His voice was wistful. "Perhaps. . . ."
"You'll have courage now. I'm sure of it."
He drew himself upflung back his head. "Courage? Yesthat's all that's needed. Courage!"
Suddenly he bent his head, touched her hand with his lips. A minute later he had left her.
Sarah went down to the big marquee. She found her three fellow travelers there. They were sitting at table eating. The guide was explaining that there was another party here.
"They come two days ago. Go day after tomorrow. Americans. The mother very fat, very difficult get here! Carried in chair by bearersthey say very hard workthey get very hotyes."
Sarah gave a sudden spurt of laughter. Of course, take it properly, the whole thing was funny! The fat dragoman looked at her gratefully. He was not finding his task too easy. Lady Westholme had contradicted him out of Baedeker three times that day and had now found fault with the type of bed provided. He was grateful to the one member of his party who seemed to be unaccountably in a good temper.
"Ha!" said Lady Westholme. "I think these people were at the Solomon. I recognized the old mother as we arrived here. I think I saw you talking to her at the hotel. Miss King."
Sarah blushed guiltily, hoping Lady Westholme had not overheard much of that conversation.
"Really, what possessed me!" she thought to herself in an agony. In the meantime Lady Westholme had made a pronouncement.
"Not interesting people at all. Very provincial," she said.
Miss Pierce made eager sycophantish noises and Lady Westholme embarked on a history of various interesting and prominent Americans whom she had met recently. The weather being so unusually hot for the time of year, an early start was arranged for the morrow.
The four assembled for breakfast at six o'clock. There were no signs of any of the Boynton family. After Lady Westholme had commented unfavorably on the absence of fruit, they consumed tea, tinned milk and fried eggs in a generous allowance of fat, flanked by extremely salty bacon.
Then they started forth. Lady Westholme and Dr. Gerard discussing with animation on the part of the former the exact value of vitamins in diet and the proper nutrition of the working classes.
Then there was a sudden hail from the camp and they halted to allow another person to join the party. It was Mr. Jefferson Cope who hurried after them, his pleasant face flushed with the exertion of running.
"Why, if you don't mind, I'd like to join your party this morning. Good morning, Miss King. Quite a surprise meeting you and Dr. Gerard here. What do you think of it?" He made a gesture indicating the fantastic red rocks that stretched in every direction.
"I think it's rather wonderful and just a little horrible," said Sarah. "I always thought of it as romantic and dreamlikethe 'rose red city.' But it's much more real than thatit's as real asas raw beef."
"And very much the color of it," agreed Mr. Cope.
"But it's marvelous, too," admitted Sarah.
The party began to climb. Two Bedouin guides accompanied them. Tall men, with an easy carriage, they swung upward unconcernedly in their hobnailed boots, completely foot-sure on the slippery slope. Difficulties soon began. Sarah had a good head for ******s and so had Dr. Gerard. But both Mr. Cope and Lady Westholme were far from happy, and the unfortunate Miss Pierce had to be almost carried over the precipitous places, her eyes shut, her face green, while her voice rose ceaselessly in a perpetual wail: "I never could look down places. Neverfrom a child!"
Once she declared her intention of going back, but on turning to face the descent, her skin assumed an even greener tinge, and she reluctantly decided that to go on was the only thing to be done.
Dr. Gerard was kind and reassuring. He went up behind her, holding his stick between her and the sheer drop like a balustrade, and she confessed that the illusion of a rail did much to conquer the feeling of vertigo.
Sarah, panting a little, asked the dragoman, Mahmoud, who in spite of his ample proportions showed no signs of distress: "Don't you ever have trouble getting people up here? Elderly ones, I mean."
"Alwaysalways we have trouble," agreed Mahmoud serenely.
"Do you always try and take them?"
Mahmoud shrugged his thick shoulders. "They like to come. They have paid money to see these things. They wish to see them. The Bedouin guides are very cleververy surefootedalways they manage."
They arrived at last at the summit. Sarah drew a deep breath. All around and below stretched the blood-red rocksa strange and unbelievable country unparalleled anywhere. Here in the exquisite pure morning air, they stood like gods, surveying a baser worlda world of flaring violence.
Here was, as the guide told them, the "Place of Sacrifice"the "High Place."
He showed them the trough cut in the flat rock at their feet. Sarah strayed away from the rest, from the glib phrases that flowed so readily from the dragoman's tongue. She sat on a rock, pushed her hands through her thick black hair, and gazed down on the world at her feet. Presently she was aware of someone standing by her side.
Dr. Gerard's voice said: "You appreciate the appositeness of the devil's temptation in the New Testament. Satan took Our Lord up to the summit of a mountain and showed him the world. 'All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.' How much greater the temptation up on high to be a God of Material Power."
Sarah assented, but her thoughts were so clearly elsewhere that Gerard observed her in some surprise. "You are pondering something very deeply," he said.
"Yes, I am." She turned a perplexed face to him. "It's a wonderful ideato have a place of sacrifice up here. I think, sometimes, don't you, that a sacrifice is necessary. . . . I mean, one can have too much regard for life. Death isn't really so important as we make out."
"If you feel that, Miss King, you should not have adopted our profession. To us, death isand must always bethe Enemy."
Sarah shivered. "Yes, I suppose you're right. And yet, so often, death might solve a problem. It might even mean fuller life. . . ."
"'It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people!'" quoted Gerard gravely.
Sarah turned a startled face on him. "I didn't mean"
She broke off. Jefferson Cope was approaching them. "Now this is really a most remarkable spot," he declared. "Most remarkable, and I'm only too pleased not to have missed it. I don't mind confessing that though Mrs. Boynton is certainly a most remarkable woman. I greatly admire her pluck in being determined to come here. It does certainly complicate matters traveling with her. Her health is poor, and I suppose it naturally makes |her a little inconsiderate of other people's feelings, but it does not seem to occur to her that her family might like occasionally to go on excursions without her. She's just so used to them clustering round her that I suppose she doesn't think" Mr. Cope broke off. His nice kindly face looked a little disturbed and uncomfortable, "You know," he said, "I heard a piece of information about Mrs. Boynton that disturbed me greatly."
Sarah was lost in her own thoughts again. Mr. Cope's voice just flowed pleasantly in her ears like the agreeable murmur of a remote stream, but Dr. Gerard said: "Indeed? What was it?"
"My informant was a lady I came across in the hotel at Tiberias. It concerned a servant girl who had been in Mrs. Boynton's employ. This girl, I gather, washad" Mr. Cope paused, glanced delicately at Sarah and lowered his voice. "She was going to have a child. The old lady, it seemed, discovered this but was apparently quite kind to the girl. Then a few weeks before the child was born she turned her out of the house."
Dr. Gerard's eyebrows went up. "Ah," he said reflectively.
"My informant seemed very positive of her facts. I don't know whether you agree with me, but that seems to me a very cruel and heartless thing to do. I cannot understand"
Dr. Gerard interrupted him. "You should try to. That incident, I have no doubt, gave Mrs. Boynton a good deal of quiet enjoyment."
Mr. Cope turned a shocked face on him. "No, sir," he said with emphasis. "That I cannot believe. Such an idea is quite inconceivable."
Softly Dr. Gerard quoted: "'So I returned and did consider all the oppressions done beneath the sun. And there was weeping and whining from those that were oppressed and had no comfort; for with their oppressors there was power, so that no one came to comfort them. Then I did praise the dead which are already dead, yea, more than the living which linger still in life; yea, he that is not is better than dead or living; for he doth not know of the evil that is wrought forever on earth. . . .'" He broke off and said: "My dear sir, I have made a life's study of the strange things that go on in the human mind. It is no good turning one's face only to the fairer side of life. Below the decencies and conventions of everyday life, there lies a vast reservoir of strange things. There is such a thing, for instance, as delight in cruelty for its own sake. But when you have found that, there is something deeper still. The desire, profound and pitiful, to be appreciated. If that is thwarted, if through an unpleasing personality a human being is unable to get the response it needs, it turns to other methodsit must be feltit must countand so to innumerable strange perversions. The habit of cruelty, like any other habit, can be cultivated, can take hold of one"
Mr. Cope coughed. "I think, Dr. Gerard, that you are slightly exaggerating. Really, the air up here is too wonderful. . . ." He edged away. Gerard smiled a little. He looked again at Sarah. She was frowningher face was set in a youthful sternness. She looked, he thought, like a young judge delivering sentence. . . .
He turned as Miss Pierce tripped unsteadily towards him.
"We are going down now," she fluttered. "Oh, dear! I am sure I shall never manage it, but the guide says the way down is quite a different route and much easier. I do hope so, because from a child I never have been able to look down from ******s. . . ."
The descent was down the course of a waterfall. Although there were loose stones which were a possible source of danger to ankles, it presented no dizzy vistas.
The party arrived back at the camp weary but in good spirits and with an excellent appetite for a late lunch. It was past two o'clock. The Boynton family was sitting around the big table in the marquee. They were just finishing their meal.
Lady Westholme addressed a gracious sentence to them in her most condescending manner. "Really a most interesting morning," she said. "Petra is a wonderful spot."
Carol, to whom the words seemed addressed, shot a quick look at her mother, and murmured: "Oh, yesyes, it is," and relapsed into silence.
Lady Westholme, feeling she had done her duty, addressed herself to her food. As they ate, the four discussed plans for the afternoon.
"I think I shall rest most of the afternoon," said Miss Pierce. "It is important, I think, not to do too much."
"I shall go for a walk and explore," said Sarah. "What about you Dr. Gerard?"
"I will go with you."
Mrs. Boynton dropped a spoon with a ringing clatter and everyone jumped.
"I think," said Lady Westholme, "that I shall follow your example Miss Pierce. Perhaps half an hour with a book, then I shall lie down and take an hour's rest at least. After that, perhaps, a short stroll."
Slowly, with the help of Lennox, old Mrs. Boynton struggled to her feet. She stood for a moment and then spoke. "You'd better all go for a walk this afternoon," she said with unexpected amiability.
It was, perhaps, slightly ludicrous to see the startled faces of her family.
"But, Mother, what about you?"
"I don't need any of you. I like sitting alone with my book. Jinny had better not go. She'll lie down and have a sleep."
"Mother, I'm not tired. I want to go with the others."
"You are tired. You've got a headache! You must be careful of yourself. Go and lie down and sleep. I know what's best for you."
Her head thrown back, the girl stared rebelliously. Then her eyes droppedfaltered. . . .
"Silly child," said Mrs. Boynton. "Go to your tent."
She stumped out of the marqueethe others followed.
"Dear me," said Miss Pierce. "What very peculiar people. Such a very odd color, the mother. Quite purple. Heart, I should imagine. This heat must be very trying for her."
Sarah thought: "She's letting them go free this afternoon. She knows Raymond wants to be with me. Why? Is it a trap?"
After lunch, when she had gone to her tent and had changed into a fresh linen dress, the thought still worried her. Since last night, her feeling towards Raymond had swelled into a passion of protective tenderness. This, then, was love, this agony on another's behalf, this desire to avert, at all costs, pain from the beloved. . . . Yes, she loved Raymond Boynton. It was St. George and the Dragon reversed. It was she who was the rescuer and Raymond who was the chained victim.
And Mrs. Boynton was the Dragon. A dragon whose sudden amiability was, to Sarah's suspicious mind, definitely sinister.
It was about a quarter past three when Sarah strolled down to the marquee.
Lady Westholrne was sitting on a chair. Despite the heat of the day she was still wearing her serviceable Harris tweed skirt. On her lap was the report of a Royal Commission. Dr. Gerard was talking to Miss Pierce who was standing by her tent holding a book entitled The Love Quest and described on its wrapper as a thrilling tale of passion and misunderstanding.
"I don't think it's wise to lie down too soon after lunch," explained Miss Pierce. "One's digestion, you know. Quite cool and pleasant in the shadow of the marquee. Oh, dear, do you think that old lady is wise to sit in the sun up there?"
They all looked at the ridge in front of them. Mrs. Boynton was sitting as she had sat last night, a motionless Buddha in the door of her cave. There was no other human creature in sight. All the camp personnel were asleep. A short distance away, following the line of the valley, a little group of people walked together.
"For once," said Dr. Gerard, "the good Mamma permits them to enjoy themselves without her. A new devilment on her part, perhaps?"
"Do you know," said Sarah, "that's just what I thought."
"What suspicious minds we have. Come, let us join the truants."
Leaving Miss Pierce to her exciting reading, they set off. Once around the bend of the valley, they caught up the other party who were walking slowly. For once, the Boyntons looked happy and carefree.
Lennox and Nadine, Carol and Raymond, Mr. Cope with a broad smile on his face and the last arrivals, Gerard and Sarah, were soon all laughing and talking together.
A sudden wild hilarity was born. In everyone's mind was the feeling that this was a snatched pleasurea stolen treat to enjoy to the full. Sarah and Raymond did not draw apart. Instead, Sarah walked with Carol and Lennox. Dr. Gerard chatted to Raymond close behind them. Nadine and Jefferson Cope walked a little apart.
It was the Frenchman who broke up the party. His words had been coming spasmodically for some time. Suddenly he stopped.
"A thousand excuses. I fear I must go back."
Sarah looked at him. "Anything the matter?"
He nodded. "Yes, fever. It's been coming on ever since lunch."
Sarah scrutinized him. "Malaria?"
"Yes. I'll go back and take quinine. Hope this won't be a bad attack. It is a legacy from a visit to the Congo."
"Shall I come with you?" asked Sarah.
"No, no. I have my case of drugs with me. A confounded nuisance. Go on, all of you."
He walked quickly back in the direction of the camp. Sarah looked undecidedly after him for a minute, then she met Raymond's eyes, smiled at him, and the Frenchman was forgotten.
For a time the six of them, Carol, herself, Lennox, Cope, Nadine and Raymond, kept together. Then, somehow or other, she and Raymond had drifted apart. They walked on, climbing up rocks, turning ledges and rested at last in a shady spot. There was a silence. Then Raymond said: "What's your name? It's King, I know. But your other name."
"Sarah. May I call you that?"
"Sarah, will you tell me something about yourself?"
Leaning back against the rocks she talked, telling him of her life at home in Yorkshire, of her dogs and the aunt who had brought her up.
Then, in his turn, Raymond told her a little, disjointedly, of his own life. After that, there was a long silence. Their hands strayed together. They sat, like children, hand in hand, strangely *******.
Then, as the sun grew l