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ity to a mechanical ideal. Heatly, on the other hand, was not so easily analyzed as Emma had suggested. He appeared the inarticulate victim of a remote and magnificent devotion. He gave the impression of a sort of proud disgust that he should have been thus afflicted.
So we came down to the water, and walked along the quay until we hailed a small, broad-beamed steamer, very brightly lighted but solitary, so that Captain Gosnell had to use a silver whistle that he carried, and the shrill blast echoed from the high ramparts of the Castle of Sant' Angelo.
A boat came slowly toward us, and we went aboard. She was a strange blend of expensive untidiness. Great pumps and hoses, costly even when purchased second-hand, lay red and rusty and slathered with dry mud about her decks. We descended a foul ladder through an iron scuttle leading to the one great hold forward. The 'tween-decks were workshops, with lathes, drills, and savage-looking torch-furnaces. Things that looked like lawn-mowers afflicted with elephantiasis revealed themselves on inspection as submersible boring-heads and cutters that went down into inaccessible places, like marine ferrets, and did execution there.
In the centre, however, suspended from a beam, was the masterpiece. It would be vain to describe the indescribable. It resembled in a disturbing way a giant spider with its legs curled semicircularly about its body. A formidable domed thing, with circular glass eyes set in it, and a door as of a safe or the breech-block of a gun. From this protruded a number of odd-looking mechanisms, and below it, flanked by caterpillar belts, on which the contrivance walked with dignity upon the bed of the ocean, were large, sharp-bladed cutters, like steel whorls.
While I gazed at this, endeavoring to
decide how much was reality and how much merely excited imagination, Mr. Marks went down and proceeded to set a ladder against the side of the machine. He grasped wheels and levers, he spoke with vehemence to Heatly, who ran to a switchboard and encased his head in a kind of listening helmet. Then Mr. Marks climbed nimbly through the aperture and drew the door to with a click. A light appeared within, shining through the enormously thick glass, and showing a fantastic travesty of Mr. Marks moving about in his steel prison. Captain Gosnell indicated the triumphant perfection of this thing. They were in constant telephonic connection with him. He could direct a bright beam in any direction, and he could animate any one or all of the extraordinary limbs of the machine. Suppose a ship lay in sand shale, mud, or gravel. He could dig himself under her, dragging a hawser which could be made fast to a float on each side. He could fasten on to a given portion of the hull, drill it, cut it, and in time crawl inside on the caterpillar feet. He had food, hot and cold drinks, and oxygen for two days. He could sit and read if he liked, or talk to the people on the ship. And quite safe, no matter how deep. Wonderful!
I dare say it was. It was a fabulouslooking thing, anyhow, and as Mr. Marks, moving like a visible brain in a transparent skull, started and stopped his alarming extremities, it struck me that humanity was in danger of transcending itself at last. It was soothing to come up on deck again and see Sant' Angelo in the moonlight like the backcloth of an Italian opera. It was a comfort to hear that one of the men, who ought to have been on duty, was drunk. Perhaps he had found the machinery too powerful for his poor weak human soul and had fled ashore to drown the nightmare of mechanism in liquor. One could imagine the men-at-arms, whose
duty it was to watch from those stone towers, slipping out of some newly invented corselet with a jangle and clang, and stealing away in an old leather jerkin, only half laced, to make a night of it.
Not that there was anything fundamentally at odds with romance in this extraordinary adventure into deep waters, I mused, as I lay in my vast chamber that night. Knights in armor, releasing virgin forces of wealth buried in the ocean. Heatly was moving about in the next room, smoking a cigarette.
'What does she do for a living?' I sight. asked.
He came and stood in the doorway in his pajamas. He blew a thread of tobacco from his lips.
'She keeps a tea-shop near the Opera House,' he said. 'We don't go there; knowing her as we do, it would n't be the right thing.'
'But I can, I suppose,' I suggested. 'Yes, you can, I suppose,' he assented from somewhere within his room. 'You don't object, of course?' I went
The light went out.
Wedged in between Lanceolotte's music-shop and Marcus's emporium of Maltese bijouterie I found a modest door and window. In the latter was a simple card with the word TEAS in large print. Below it was a samovar, and a couple of table centres made of the local lace. 'Can I go upstairs?' I asked the little boy with the gray eyes and freckled nose; and he smiled and nodded with delightful friendliness.
"Then I will,' I said; and he rushed up in front of me.
There was nobody there. He cleared a table by the low window. Across the street was the broad and beautiful façade of the Opera House. The an
nouncement board bore the legend "Tonight night-Faust.'
'You want tea?' said the boy, with a forward dart of his head, like an inquisitive bird.
I nodded. "Toast?"
I nodded again. "I thought you were at the hotel,' I remarked.
'Only in the evenings,' he explained, lifting his tray. 'You want cakes, too?' I nodded again, and he seemed to approve of my catholic taste. A low voice said, 'Karl!' and he hurried down out of
I was sitting there munching a bun and enjoying some really well-made tea (with lemon), and watching a number of cheerful well-dressed people emerging from the theatre, when something caused me to look round, and I saw the face of Bionda just above the floor. She was standing at a turn in the stair, regarding me attentively. I rose, and she came on up.
'I thought,' she said without raising her eyes, 'that I had seen you before. Have you everything you wish?'
'Everything except someone to talk to,' I said.
She raised her eyes with a serious expression in them. 'I will talk if you wish,' she said gravely.
'Do sit down,' I begged.
I wished to sit down myself, for the window was low. She complied.
'I am a friend of Mr. Heatly,' I went
Her face lighted up. 'He is a very nice man,' she said, laughing. 'He likes me very much. He told me he was going to look after me for the rest of my life. He makes me laugh very much. You like him?'
'I used to be on the same ship with him,' I said; 'years ago, before he was married.'
'Ah, yes, before he was married. I see. Now you go on a ship again?'
'When she arrives from Odessa.' 'From She looked hard at me. 'Perhaps there will be news, if she comes from Odessa.'
'Maybe.' (She sighed.) 'You have had no news, then, since the Revolution?'
'Nothing. Not one single word. In there, it is all dark. When your ship comes, there will be passengers, no?'
'Ah, I could n't say,' I replied. 'We must wait. If there are any, I will let you know.'
'Thank you.' Her gaze wandered across the street. "They have finished the play. What do you call when they sing before?'
'A rehearsal, you mean.'
'Yes. Well, they have finished. There is Mephistopheles coming out now.' She nodded toward a tall gentleman in tweeds, who was smoking a cigarette and swinging a cane on the upper terrace. He waits for Margarita. There she is.'
A robust creature emerged, putting on long gloves, and the two descended to the sidewalk. Bionda laughed.
'Does Margarita usually walk out with Mephisto?' I asked.
'Oh, they are married,' she informed me with a whimsical grimace, 'and very happy.'
'What are you?' I demanded abrupt- had been full and animated; and it was ly. 'Not a Slav, I am sure.'
'Me? No, I am a Bohemian,' she stranded on a pleasant island, that she said.
called for tea. The little boy came up to take their order, and I paid him and
Our intimacy increased, of course, as the days passed, and I began to wonder whether or not I too was about to pass under the spell and devote my life to the amelioration of her destiny. If my ship went back to Odessa, I would be the bearer of messages, an agent of inquiry seeking news of a dim concessionnaire in the Asiatic Urals. I made extensive promises, chiefly because I was pretty sure my ship would probably go somewhere else - Bizerta or Tunis.
The simple sailor man in time develops a species of simple cunning, to protect himself from being too oppressively exploited. But it is practically impossible to rid a woman of the illusion that she is imposing upon a man. Even Emma thought it well to warn me of my danger. She heard rumors about that woman. Where had she got the money to start her tea-shop, eh? And when all the officers had gone home, where would she get customers? And
These questions did not preoccupy Bionda herself, however. She was sad, but her sadness was the inevitable result of delightful memories. Her life
only natural, since fate had left her
should indulge her desire for retrospect before rousing to do herself full justice in the new environment. The possibility of regaining the wealth that had been lost did not seem to interest her at all. She never spoke of the expedition of Captain Gosnell and his fellow adventurers. It seemed doubtful at times whether she understood anything at all about it. A shrug, and she changed the subject.
And then one day I was stopped by two of the Russian officers as they came
down the hotel stairs, and they told me they had received their orders at last. They were to report at Paris.
'We sail to-morrow for Marseilles,' said one; and his great spur jingled as he stamped his foot to settle it in the high boot. With much difficulty he made known their hope that I would give Madame any assistance in my power when her other friends were gone. I agreed to this with alacrity, since I myself would probably be a thousand miles away in a few weeks' time. And the little boy? Yes, I would look after him, too. It was the Saturday night before my ship arrived (she came in on Monday, I remember) that I joined Captain Gosnell and his lieutenants at the Café de la Reine. They were exceedingly yet decorously drunk. They were to sail the next morning. They had adjourned to a small ante-room of the café, and through a closed glass door an amused public could obtain glimpses of the orgy. Captain Gosnell's austere features had grown gradually purple; and though he never became incoherent, or even noisy, it was obvious that he had reached another psychic plane. And so there may have been a significance in the grandiose gesture with which he raised a glass of champagne and murmured, —
"To Her, whom we all adore, who awaits awaits our return. Our mascot. May she bring us luck!'
He sat down and looked in a puzzled way at the empty glass. He gradually drank himself sober, and helped me to get the others into a cab. Mr. Marks, his wig over one eye, snored. Heatly began to sing in the clear night, 'Wide as the world is her Kingdom of power.'
Next morning, after Early Mass, as we walked slowly up the rampe and came to a pause on the ramparts of the Lower Barracca, I was curious to discover whether this departure of her champions would make any authentic impression upon her spirits.
'Suppose,' I was saying, 'we had a message from Odessa, that your husband had arrived. And suppose he sent for you? Or that he had reached Paris and wanted you there?'
'Oh, I should go, of course. It would be like life again, after being dead.'
Here was a fine state of affairs! We were all ghosts to her, phantoms inhabiting another shadowy world, cut off from life by an immense, pitiless blue sea. Compared with that distant and possibly defunct concessionnaire in the Asiatic Urals, we were all impalpable spectres! Our benevolence had about as much conscious significance for her as the sunlight upon a plant. I did not speak again until the little steamer, with a croak of her whistle, passed out between the guns of the harbor-mouth and began slowly to recede across the mighty blue floors, a great quantity of foul smoke belching from her funnel and drifting across the rocks. And then I mentioned casually what was happening that those men were bound upon her affairs, seeking treasure at the bottom of the sea, devoted to an extravagant quest.
The cab started. As they turned the corner I heard the high, windy voice still singing,
'In every heart she hath fashioned her throne; As Queen of the Earth, she reigneth alone'·
And then silence.
She made no reply. The steamer receded yet further. It became a black blob on the blue water, a blob from which smoke issued, as if it were a bomb which might explode suddenly with a tremendous detonation, and leave no trace. But Bionda's eyes were not fixed upon the steamer. She was gazing musingly upon the great cannon frowning
down from the further fortress. And after a while she sighed.
'Like life, after being dead!' she murmured again.
she had forgotten us. She parted spirit, discontented nveniences and society of who desires to return, but
journey. And it became an acute question, whether at any time she had achieved any real grasp of her position. Had she ever realized how she had inspired these men to unsuspected sentiments and released the streams of heroic energy imprisoned in their hearts? Did she suspect even for a moment how
'SOMETIMES WE HARDLY WANTED YOU'
BY FANNIE STEARNS GIFFORD
SOMETIMES we hardly wanted you,
Green trails that only we could trace
For your bright warm self is burned
Into our hearts, till all that blue
Of morning, and pearl-mist of night,
Wind, water, sun, those secret ways,
Our laughter and our length of days!