V. Lydiat


SHE sat and looked at the manuscript as it lay before her ready for typing.

The Way of Stars. By V. Lydiat.

It was a fine story — she knew that; and the signature satisfied her also. When she began to write she had devoted hours, days, to the consideration of that pen name, for she had a reason for secrecy which, for all I know, may never have swayed man or woman before. The strangest reason — it affected her choice of a signature deeply.

It must be unusual. It must have a certain distinction. It must be connected with her own name, and yet in no way betray it. It must leave the question of sex unanswered.

She sat down to think it over.

‘V’ is the most beautiful letter in the alphabet to look at and to write, the ends curving over from the slender base like the uprush of a fountain from its tense spring. ‘Lydiat,’ she thought, had distinction also, and was all but her own. So the question was settled and she never regretted the choice.

In reality she was Beatrice Veronica Lydia Leslie.

With this pen name a most astonishing thing had befallen Beatrice Veronica, for she won a literary success so sudden and singular that the very management of it required gifts she never before knew she possessed.

A little must here be said of her life that this strange thing may be understood.

She was the only child of a wellknown Oxford don and a somewhat remarkable mystically-minded mother who died when the girl was fourteen. Her father died four years later, and Beatrice Veronica, known in her family as B. V., then betook herself to the guardianship of an aunt at Montreal. Here she tried life on the society side and disliked it cordially and instantly. There was an urge within her which cried aloud for adventure, for the sight of the dissolving glories of the Orient and contact with strange lives which called to her dumbly in books. They peeped and mocked and vanished to their unknown countries, taking her longing with them; and life lay about her vapid, flat, dominated by an aunt of fashion.

What is a young woman of spirit, not too beautiful and dangerous, to do in such a case? Beatrice Veronica knew very well. She waited until she was twenty-one, meanwhile securing the allegiance of a girl, Sidney Verrier, in like case and a dauntless enthusiast; and on a May morning of dreamy sweetness they got themselves into a C.P.R. train for Victoria, B. C., leaving two ill-auguring aunts on the platform, and away they went on a trip to the Orient, via Japan.

The things they saw, the men and women they met, the marvels which appealed to every sense! But I must not dwell on these, for they are but the pedestal to the story of V. Lydiat. Four, six, eight years went by and unheeded aunts clamored and the pavements of Montreal lacked their footsteps.

And then, in Delhi, Sidney Verrier married, and Beatrice Veronica was left to solitude.

There was no material reason why she should not continue this delightful nomad life delightfully. But she was lonely; perhaps the sight of Sidney’s bliss made her lonelier; and suddenly it became clear to her that she wanted quiet — time for recollection. She had assisted at a great feast of the spirit and had eaten to satiety. Now, imperatively, something in her heart cried, ‘Enough.’

Afterward she wondered if that had been the voice of V. Lydiat crying in the wilderness — the note of preparation.

But where to go? Her aunt was still treading the daily round of bridge and luncheon parties in Montreal and the soul of Beatrice Veronica shuddered in the remembrance. But she loved Canada for all that. And then she remembered a shining city laving her feet in shining seas, with quiet gardens where the roses blush and bloom in a calm so deep that you may count the fall of every petal in the drowsy summer afternoons. A city of pines and oaks, of happy homes great and small — a city, above all, bearing the keys of the Orient at her golden girdle. And her heart said, ‘Victoria’ — where westernmost West leans forward to kiss easternmost East across the Pacific.

So she went there — now a woman of twenty-nine, self-possessed and capable, and settled herself in a great hostelry to choose and build her home. Her home, mark you! — not her prison. It was not to be so large as to hamper flight when the inevitable call came: —

Take down your golden wings now from their hook behind the door.
The wind comes calling from the west, and you must fly once more.

I wish I might write of the building of her home, for it developed into one of the immense joys of her life. But more important things are ahead.

It was while all this was in embryo that the thought of writing impressed itself on Beatrice Veronica. Partly because the house adventure was expensive and she wanted a larger margin, partly because she had seen with delighted eyes all the splendid spectacle of men and cities and thought her sound knowledge of history and literature should count for stones in the sling of the writer who goes forth to conquer the great Goliath of the public. It really seemed a waste of good things not to turn all this to account.

But how to begin? She bought, an armful of the magazines which make gay the streets of Victoria.

‘I ought to be able to do this kind of thing,’ she reflected. ‘I have a good vocabulary — father thought about eight thousand words; and I have seen all there is to see. Let’s try.’

She did, and ended with more respect for the average author. The eight thousand of her vocabulary were as unmanageable as mutineers or idiots. They marched doggedly in heavy columns, they right-about-faced and deployed; but there was no life in them. The veriest manhandler of a grizzly could do better. Being a young person of quick insight and decision she decided to waste no more time in that direction. She burned her manuscripts and turned her attention to planning her garden.

And it was then that V. Lydiat dawned on the horizon. Dawned — that is the only word, for V. Lydiat came and the sun came after. It happened in this way.


One night Beatrice Veronica fell asleep and dreamed, but not in the usual way. She was standing by a temple she remembered very well in Southern India, the Temple of Govindhar. It stood there under its palms, wonderful as a giant rock of majolica, colored lavishly in the hard fierce sunshine, monstrously sculptured with gods and goddesses and mythical creatures of land and water in all the acts of their supernal life, writhing and tapering upward to the great architectural crown supported by tigers and monkeys — a crown gemmed with worshiping spirits for jewels, a nightmare conception of violence in form and color; the last barbaric touch to the misbegotten splendor. The dream was so vivid that it seemed as though she had awaked into it, and she stood among the palms, looking up to the blaze against the blue and wondering.

Suddenly she became aware that a man was standing near the great gate which no unbeliever’s foot may pass, looking up also, shading his eyes with his hand from the intolerable sunlight. His face was sensitive and strong, his eyes gray and noticeable. She liked his figure in the light tropical clothing and recognized the air of birth and breeding. But he seemed wearied, as if the climate had been too much for him — a look one knows very well where the sun beats on the head in the lowlands of Southern India, beats all the cruel day like a mighty man of valor.

Then, as dream-people will, he came toward her as if they had known each other all their lives, and said slowly, meditatively, ‘I have tried and tried. I can’t do it.’

With a sense that she knew what he meant, though she could not drag it to light, she found herself saving earnestly, ‘But have you tried hard enough? Really tried?’

He put his hand to his forehead with a tired gesture. ‘I’m always trying. But you could do it.’

She said, ‘Could I?’ in great astonishment.

They stood a moment side by side, looking at each other, and then, as if from a blurred distance, she heard his voice again. ‘It was said in the Vedas that if any two creatures united their psychic forces they could conquer the world, though singly they could do nothing.’

Temple and palms dissolved into colored mist; they swam away on another wave of dream and vanished. She floated up to the surface of consciousness, awake, with the pale morning gold streaming in through the east window.

She knew she had dreamed, for a sense of something lost haunted her all day; yet she could not remember anything, and things went on in their usual course. She was planning the garden and it almost filled her mind. That evening, sitting in the hotel lounge, listening to the babble of music and talk about her, she had the impulse to write — to write something, she did not in the least know what. It was so urgent that she walked quickly to the elevator and then to her sitting-room, and there she snatched pen and paper and wrote the beginning of a story of modern life in India, but strangely influenced by and centring about the Temple of Govindhar. As she wrote the name she remembered that she had seen it among the palm trees in its hideous beauty, and now, like a human personality, it forced itself on her and compelled her to be its mouthpiece.

How it happened she could not tell. Certainly she had traveled, kept her ears and eyes open, and learned as much as any woman can who keeps on the beaten track in the Orient and consorts only with her own kind. The native and European worlds are very far apart, so far that nothing which matters very much can pass over the well-defined limits. Moreover, she was not a learned woman. Indian thought of the mystic order had never come her way, and Indian history, except where it touched European, was a closed book. Therefore this story astonished her very much. She read it over breathlessly when she had finished it.

The critic in her brain, standing aside, watched the mouthing and posturing of her characters, and told her austerely that the work was good, excellent; but something far behind her brain had told her that already. She read it over and over, ardently, lingeringly, with an astonishing sense of ownership, yet of doubt. How had it come? And the writing? No longer did the priggish eight thousand of her vocabulary march in dull squadrons, heavy-footed, languid. They sped, ran, flew, with perfect grace, like the dancers of princes. They were beautiful exceedingly. They bore the tale like a garland.

She tapped it out herself on the keys of her Corona and sent it to the editor of a very famous magazine, with the signature of V. Lydiat. As I have said, that matter took long thought, prompted from behind by instincts.

It was done, and V. Lydiat, a climbing star, shed a faint beam over the world. For the editor wrote back eagerly. He knew he had found a new flavor.

‘Your work impresses me as extremely original. I am anxious to see more of it. I need hardly say I accept it for the magazine, and I shall hope to hear from you again before long.’

No need to dwell on Beatrice Veronica’s feelings, mixed beyond disentanglement. She was not astonished that the work should be recognized as good, but — V. Lydiat! What had happened to her and how? Strange tales are told to-day of sudden brainstimulations and complexes. Was she the happy victim of such an adventure, and if so, would it be recurrent? How should she know? What should she do? She felt herself moving in worlds not realized, and could not in the least decide the simple question of whether it was honest to accept commendation for a thing she felt in her very soul she had not done and could not do.

But then, who? What was V. Lydiat?

He, she, or it, came from starrier spheres than hers. Wings plumed its shoulders, while hers were merely becomingly draped in seasonable materials. She knew that the visitor was a subtler spirit, dwelling beyond the mysteries, saturated with the color and desire of dead ages which can never die — an authentic voice.

Yes — V. Lydiat was entirely beyond her.

But you will understand that, though Beatrice Veronica could not enter into the secret places, it was a most wonderful thing to be amanuensis and business manager. To her fell the letters from editors and publishers, the correspondence which rained in from the ends of the earth, protesting gratitude, praise, entreaties for counsel in all things from routes to religions. These latter were the most difficult, for it. would have taken V. Lydiat to answer them adequately. But Beatrice Veronica did the best she could, and her life moved onward aureoled and haloed.

She learned at last the rules of the game. V. Lydiat’s ethereal approach could be secured only in the morning and with the wand of a fountain pen. She must sit with a fair sheet before her and wait, fixing her mind on some idle point of light or the persistent trembling of leaves, and suddenly the world would glide from her and she be left in another.

The strangest experience! It began always in the same way. The blue Canadian sky, the hyacinth gleam of sea through oak and pine, dissolved in unrealities of mist, and sultry Oriental skies, yellow as a lion’s eyes or the brazen boom of a gong, beat fierce sunlight downward as from an inverted bowl. And then she knew V. Lydiat was at hand. But never with companionship. It was a despot and entered in, with flags flying, to the annihilation of Beatrice Veronica. She wrote like a thing driven on a wind, and woke to find it done. The possession obliterated her, and when she could collect her routed forces it was gone.

So time went on and V. Lydiat’s fame was established and she wore it like a stolen jewel, with trembling, though only in her heart.


One night, in moonlight warmth, with the vast Princesses of the Dark hiding in the ambush of breathless trees, she sat in the high verandah of her little house with the broad vista through pines to the sea.

That day V. Lydiat had transported her to a great and silent jungle in Cambodia, and they went up together through the crowding, whispering jungle to the ruined palaces where great kings dwelt, and passed through their sounding halls, sculptured with dead myths, to the chambers once secret where the queens looked forth languidly from wildly carved casements into the wilderness of sweets in the garden. The story had led her to a great tank of water in the knotted shade, paved with marbles inlaid with human figures in strange metals, a place where women with gold-embraced heads once idly bathed their slender limbs in the warm lymph — a secret place, but now open to cruel sunlight and cold incurious stars.

So far she herself knew it all. She had photographed that tank with its stony cobras while Sidney Verrier timed the exposure. But of the story told to-day she knew nothing.

A wonderful story, old as time, new as to-morrow, for the figures in it were of to-day, and of a magic we are beginning faintly to apprehend, Like a gray dawn behind mountains — people who had gone there only to see, and were captured by the powers hiding behind carved walls and eyeless windows. A dangerous place, and she had not known it then; but V. Lydiat knew better, knew it was alive and terrible still.

‘I wish I knew you,’ she whispered, leaning her arms on the sill and looking out toward the hidden Orient. ‘You come and go and I can’t touch you even while you are in me. You interpret, you make life wonderful, and perhaps you are more wonderful still. If I could only lay hold of you! What are you? Where do you come from? Where do you go? I hear — oh, let me see!’

Dead silence. Not even the sound of the sea.

She laid her head on her folded arms.

‘I’ve been obedient. I’ve laid myself down on the threshold that you might walk over me and take possession. Have you no reward for me? Are you just some strange cell of my own brain suddenly awake and working, or are you some other — what?

— but nearer to me than breathing, as near as my own soul?’

It seemed to her that she sent her soul through the night, pleading, pleading. Then very slowly she relaxed into sleep as she lay in the moonlight

— deep, soul-satisfying sleep. And so dreamed.

She stood in the Shalimar Garden of the dead Mogul Empresses in Kashmir. How well she knew it, how passionately she loved it! She and Sidney Verrier had moored their house boat on the Dal Lake, not far away, one happy summer, and had wandered almost daily to the Shalimar, glorying in the beauty of its fountains and rushing cascades, and the roses — roses everywhere in a most bewildering sweetness. How often she had gone up the long garden-ways to the foot of the hills that rise into mountains and catch the snows and stars upon their heights! It was no wonder she should dream of it. So, in her dream, she walked up to the great pavilion supported on noble pillars of black marble from Pampoor, and the moon swam in a wavering circle in the water before it. She held back a moment to see it break into a thousand reflections, and then became aware of a man leaning with folded arms by the steps, his face clear in the moonlight.

Instantly she knew him, as he did her — the man of her dream of the Temple of Govindhar.

As before, he turned and came toward her.

‘I have waited for you by the Temple and here and in many other places. I wait every night. How is it you come so seldom ? ‘ he said. His voice was stronger, his bearing more alert and eager than at Govindhar. He spoke with a kind of assurance of welcome, to which she responded instantly.

‘I would have come. I did not know. How can I tell?’

He looked at her, smiling.

‘There is only one way. Why did n’t you learn it in India? It was all round you and you did n’t even notice. You don’t know your powers. Listen.’

Beatrice Veronica drew toward him, eyes rapt on his face, scarcely breathing. Yes — in India she had felt there were mighty stirrings about her.

‘You see — this is the way of it,’ he said, leaning against the black pillar. ‘The soul is sheer thought and knowledge, but prisoned in the body it is the slave of the senses, and all its powers are limited by these. And they lead it into acts which in their consequences are fetters of iron. Still, at a certain point of attainment one can be freer than most men believe possible. When this is so, you use the Eight Means of Mental Concentration and are free.’

‘Is this true? Do you know it?’ she asked earnestly. ‘Because if there ‘s any certain way, I have a quest — something — someone — ‘

She stammered and could not finish.

‘I know. Someone you want to find in the dark. Well, it can be done. You would n’t believe the possibilities of the freed state of consciousness. Here, in the Shalimar, you think you see nothing but moonlight and water — nothing in fact that your senses don’t tell you. But that is nonsense. You are asleep in Canada and yet you see them by the inner light of memory. Well — use the Eight Means and you will see them waking and as clearly as you do in sleep. And much more. I, who have been taught, see very much more. This place to me is peopled with those who made it and were happy here. Dead kings and queens who rejoiced in its beauty. See!’

He laid his hand on hers and suddenly she saw. Amazing — amazing! They were alone no longer.

Sitting in the pavilion, looking down into the moon-mirroring water, was a woman in the ancient dress of Persia, golden and jeweled. She flung up her head magnificently, as if at the words, and looked at them, the moon full in her eyes. The garden was peopled now, not only with roses, but with large white blossoms sending out fierce hot shafts of perfume. They struck Beatrice Veronica like something tangible and half dazed her as she stared at the startling beauty of the unveiled woman, revealed like a flaming jewel in the black-and-white glory of the night.

With his hand on hers she knew without words. Nourmahal, the Empress, ruler of the Emperor who made the Shalimar for her pleasure, who put India with all its glories at her feet. Who else should be the soul of the garden, its perfume, and its blossom?

It seemed to Beatrice Veronica that she had never beheld beauty before. But as she watched, spellbound, the man lifted his hand from hers and the garden was empty of all but moonlight and roses once more, and he and she were alone.

‘Was it a ghost?’ she asked, trembling.

‘No, no — an essential something that remains in certain places, not a ghost. There is nothing of what you mean by that word. Don’t be frightened! You ‘ll often see them.’

She stared at him perplexed, and he added:—

‘You see? One has only to put one’s self in the receptive state and time is no more. One sees — one hears. You are only a beginner, so I cannot show you much. But you are a beginner or you would not be here in the Shalimar with me now. There is a bond between us which goes back — ‘ He paused, looking keenly at her, and said quickly, ‘Centuries — and more.’

She was stunned, dazed by the revelations. They meant so much more than it is possible to record. Also, the sensation was beginning in her which we all know before waking. The dream wavers on its foundation, loosens, becomes misty, makes ready to disappear. It would be gone — gone before she could know. She caught his hand as if to steady it. ‘Are you V. Lydiat? ‘ she cried. ‘ You must be. You are. You come to me every day — a voice. Oh, let me come to you like this, and teach me, teach me, that I may know and see! I am a blind creature in a universe of wonders. Let me come every night.’

His face was receding, palpitating, collapsing, but his voice came as if from something beyond it.

‘That is what you call me. Names are nothing. Yes, come every night.’


Beatrice Veronica woke that morning with the sun glorying through the eastern arch of her verandah. She was still dressed. She had slept there all night. Of the dream she remembered snatches, hints, which left new hopes and impulses germinating in her soul. That was the beginning of a time of strange and enchanting gladness. Thus one may imagine the joy of a man born blind who by some miraculous means is made to see and wakes in a world of wonders.

The morning was V. Lydiat’s. At ten o’clock she would betake herself to her high verandah and, folding her hands and composing her mind, look out to sea through the wide way of pines which terminated in its azure beauty. Then, as has been told before, her mind would blow softly away on a dream-wind, and the story would begin.

And at night there was now invariably the meeting. At first it was always in some place she knew — some spot she recognized from memory, haunts of her own with Sidney Verrier. But one night a new thing happened — she woke into dream by the Ganges at Cawnpore, at the terrible Massacre Ghaut, a place she had always avoided because of the horrible memories of the Indian Mutiny which sicken the soul of every European who stands there.

Now she stood at the top of the beautiful broken steps under the dense shade of the very trees where the mutineers ambushed, and he was below, beckoning her.

‘Well done, well done!’ he said, as she came slowly down to where the holy Ganges lips the lowest step. ‘This was a great experiment. You could never have come here alone — I could not have brought you until now, and I had to fight the repugnance in you; but here you are. You see? We have been putting stepping-stones, you and I, each from our own side, and now the bridge is made and we hold hands in the middle. You can come anywhere now. And listen! I too am learning to go where I have never been. The world will be open to us soon.’

He looked at her with glowing eyes — the eyes of the explorer, the discoverer, on the edge of triumph.

‘ But why here — in this horrible place?’ She shrank a little even from him as she looked about her. He laughed.

‘That is no more now than a last year’s winter-storm. They know. They were not afraid even then. They laugh now as they go on their way. Be happy, beloved. They are beyond the mysteries.’

Of that dream she carried back to earth the word ‘beloved.’ Who had said it she could not tell. Was it — could it be V. Lydiat? She did not know. Also she remembered that she had dreamed of the Massacre Ghaut at Cawnpore, and took pains to search for pictures and stories of the place to verify her dream. Yes — it was true. Things were becoming clearer.

Her power in writing increased very noticeably about this time. V. Lydiat was recognized as holding a unique place among writers about the Orient. On the one side were the scholars, the learned men who wrote in terms of ancient Oriental thought, terms no ordinary reader could understand; and on the other, the writers of the manyfaceted surface, the adventurers, toying with the titillating life of the zenana and veiled and dangerous love-affairs, a tissue of colored crime. But V. Lydiat recorded all, and with a method of his own which approached perfect loveliness in word and phrase. The faiths of the East were his — in India and China alike, his soul sheltered under the wings of the Divine, at home in strange heavens, and hells which one day were to blossom into heavens.

‘I ‘m only a pioneer. You too,’ he said to her one day, — she could dream the day as well as the night, — sitting in the gardens of the Taj Mahal. ‘It will be done very much better soon. See how we are outgrowing our bounds and feeling out after the wonders —the essential self which hands on the torch when we die? Die? No — I hate that word. Let’s say—climb a step higher on the ladder of existence. Every inch gives us a wider view of the country. You see?’

She liked that ‘You see?’ which came so often. It was so eager — so fraternal in a way. Yes, they were good comrades, she and V. Lydiat.

‘Do you know I write for you?’ she ventured to ask. ‘I have often wondered if you speak as unconsciously as I write.’

‘No, no. I know. I always know. Longer ago than you would believe you used to write for me. We are in the same whirlpool, you and I. Our atoms must always be whirled together again. You can’t escape me, B. V., however hard you try.’

‘Do you think I want to?’ she asked.

But in daily life she clung to her secret like grim death. She would not have been burdened with V. Lydiat’s laurels for the world. The dishonesty of it! And yet one could never explain. Hopeless — who would believe? And, apart from that, she had a kind of growing belief that he would enter on his own one day. Not that she understood him as more than a dim dream-influence, but the realization of a presence was growing, and she herself developing daily.

There is no space here to tell of the wondrous sights she saw, holding his hand. Beatrice Veronica bid fair to be a remarkable woman if some day the inner and outer perceptions should unite.

But what was to be the solvent? That, this story can indicate only faintly, for the end is not yet.

She went out less into her little world — not shunning it, but so enfolded in secret joys that it seemed insipid enough. People liked her, but she moved in her own orbit and it intersected theirs only at well-defined points. Her soft abstracted air won, but eluded. It put an atmosphere about her of thoughts not to be shared.


One day came a letter from Sidney Verrier, now Sidney Mourilyan, from her husband’s plantation in the Shevaroy Hills in Southern India. She wrote from the settlement of Yercaud. ‘Not a town,’ she wrote, ‘but dear little scattered houses in the trees. We have even a club! — think of it, after the wilds where you and I have been. I wish half the day you would come. You would like it, B. V. — you would like it! The heliotropes are almost trees; the jasmines have giant stars. The house is stormed with flowers, almost too sweet. Don’t you hear the East a-calling? At all events you hear me, for I want you. It’s a cold country you ‘re in — frigid pines, and stark mountains, and icy seas. Do come out into real sunshine again.

‘And listen, B. V. — there’s a man going round by Japan to Canada. A man called Martin Welland. I should like you to know him for two reasons. First, he can tell you all about us and this place. Second, I find him interesting. If you don’t, shunt him. My love, my dear B. V., and do come.’

There was more, but that is the essential.

It was about four months later that Beatrice Veronica was rung up in her verandah. The imperative call annoyed her, for she was writing. A man’s voice.

‘ Miss Leslie? I think Mrs. Mourilyan told you I was coming this way. My name is Welland.’

Polite assurances from the verandah.

‘Yes. I am at the Empress. May I come and see you this afternoon? I have a small parcel from Mrs. Mourilyan.’

With her Chinese servant she made the little black-oak table beautiful with silver and long-stemmed flowers in old English glass bowls. If he went back to Yercaud he should at least tell Sidney that her home in ‘that cold country’ was desirable.

He came at four and she could hear his voice in the hall before she saw him. She liked it. The words were clear, well-cut, neither blurred nor bungled. Then the door opened. A tall man, broad-shouldered; a sensitive mouth and deep-set eyes. Possibly thirtyeight or so. All these things flashed together in an impression of something to be liked and trusted. On his side, he saw a young woman in a flowing bluegray gown, with hazel eyes and hair to match, a harmony of delicate browns enhancing a pale face, with faintly pink lips, and a look of fragility which belied the nervous strength beneath.

The parcel was given — a chain of Indian moonstones in silver, very lovely in its shifting lights. And then came news of Yercaud.

‘I heard of you so much there that you are no stranger to me,’ he said, watching with curious interest while she filled the jade-and-pink Chinese cups with jasmine tea from a far-off valley in Anhui. It fascinated him, the hands flitting like little white birds on their quick errands, the girl, so quiet and self-possessed, mistress of herself and her house.

‘You have a delightful home,’ he said at last, rather abruptly.

‘Yes. When you return do try to convince Mrs. Mourilyan that I don’t live in a hut on an iceberg. You agree with me, I know, that only Kashmir and one or two other places can be more beautiful than this.’

‘I fully agree. Yet it misses something which permeates India in places far less lovely. It lacks atmosphere. Just as the dead leaves of a forest make up a rich soil where all growth is luxuriant, so the dead ancientry of India makes the air rich with memory and tradition. You can’t get that in these new countries.’

‘I know! Here it’s just a lovely child with all the complexities ahead.’

‘I can understand that. And they tell me the climate is delightful. I wish I could stay here. I may come back some day, but I have to return to India for a while in any case.’

‘You have work?’

‘Yes, and no. I have collected an immense quantity of notes for several books on Indian subjects, but — now you will laugh! — I shall never write them.’

‘But why — why? I know there’s an immense opening for true books about the Orient.’

‘I think so too, but you ‘ll allow it ‘s a drawback that I am entirely devoid of the writing-gift. I have my knowledge. I have the thing flame-clear in my mind, but let me put it on paper and it evaporates. Dull as ditchwater! You see?’

That last little phrase sent a blush flying up her cheek. It recalled many things.

‘Yes, I see. But then, could n’t you put it in skillful hands?’

He turned suddenly on her.

‘Could you do it?’

‘I? I wish I could, but I am doing work at present —


‘Of a sort. Secretarial. I write from dictation.’

‘ May I ask what sort of things ? ‘

With a curious reluctance she answered, ‘Indian,’ and said no more.

He seemed to meditate on that; then said slowly: ‘It seems that you have experience of the very things which interest me. Tell me, for I have been so long in the wilds, is there any writer nowadays taking the place with regard to things Indian which Lafcadio Hearn did with things Japanese? A man who gets at the soul of it as well as the beautiful surface?’

With her eyes on the ground and a sense of something startling in the air, she answered with a question: ‘Have you ever heard of V. Lydiat’s books?’

‘Not that I know of. Up in Kulu and beyond, the new books don’t penetrate. A man or a woman?’

‘People are not certain. The initial might mean either, but the critics think a man. The last is called The Unstruck Music; the one before Dreams and Delights; the first The Way of Stars.’

‘Beautiful names. Can I get them here?’

‘Oh yes. But I can lend them to you.’

They talked happily long after that in a curiously intimate way which gave her secret but intense happiness.

When he went off he carried The Way of Stars and the rest under his arm, and they parted like friends.


That night she had no dream and next day she tried even more eagerly than usual to get in touch with V. Lydiat, but in vain. The oracle was silent. It frightened her a little, for the whole thing had been so strange that she always touched it with a certain doubt. She sat patiently all the morning, hoping and sorely disturbed; but the Pacific hung a relentless azure curtain before her fairyland and the pines dreamed in their own sunshine and made no way for palms.

At one o’clock the telephone rang.

‘ Welland speaking. May I come and see you this afternoon?’

It was impossible, for she had an engagement, but she named the evening at eight. He caught at this—his voice was evidence of his eagerness. He came a minute or two before the time, and a book was in his hand. She knew the cover with the drift of stars across it before he spoke, though he broke out the minute he was in the room.

‘The most amazing thing! I hardly know how to tell you. You ‘ll think I’m mad. It’s my book — mine, yet I never wrote a word of it.’

They stared at each other in a kind of consternation, and the little color in her face died away. She felt but could not control the trembling of her hands.

‘ You mean — ‘

‘ I mean — there are my notes one after another, but expressed in a way I could never hope for, exquisitely expressed. But it’s mine all the same. A cruel, enchanting robbery! You don’t believe me — how could you? But I can prove it. See here!’

With passionate haste he pulled a roll of paper from his pocket, and pushed the typed sheets before her. The first story in The Way of Stars was called ‘The Lady of Beauty.’ The notes began: ‘Notes and scene for The Beautiful Lady,’ and went on seriatim with the scaffolding of the story. Rough notes — nothing more — but precise.

‘The way it’s done here, in this book, is the very way I used to see it in my dreams, but it was utterly beyond me! For God’s sake, tell me what you think.’

She laid it down.

‘Of course it’s yours. No doubt of that. But his too. You blocked out the marble. He made the statue. The very judgment of Solomon could n’t decide between you.’

‘That’s true,’ he said hopelessly. ‘But the mystery of it! The hopeless mystery. No eye but mine has ever seen that paper till now.’

Silence. A gray moth flew in from the garden and circled about the lamp. The little flutter of its wings was the only sound. Then, in a shaken voice very unlike its own usual sedate sweetness, she asked, ‘Mr. Welland, do you ever dream?’

‘Awake? Constantly.’

‘Asleep? ‘

She saw caution steal into his frank eyes and drop a curtain before them.

‘Why do you ask? Everyone dreams.’

She gathered up all her courage for the next question.

‘Were you ever in the Shalimar?’

‘Certainly. Does anyone ever go to Kashmir and miss it?’

He was fencing, that was palpable. It gave her hope for a golden gleam through her fear. She clasped her shaking hands tightly in each other.

‘I have the strangest dreams. I can bring back only snatches. Yet I know there is a wonderful connected story behind them. I dreamed the Shalimar not long ago; I brought back one image — a woman in an old Persian dress sitting by the black Pampoor pillars and looking down into the water where the moon dipped and swam all gold.’

‘Yes, yes, go on,’ he breathed.

‘There were flowers — white flowers. I never saw them there in the daylight.’

‘Unbearably sweet,’ he interjected. ‘The scent is like the thrust of a lance. I know, I know. But there was another woman. I can’t remember her face.’

‘How did she stand?’ asked Beatrice Veronica.

‘Near me — but she could see nothing. The day still blinded her, until —’

‘Until you laid your hand on hers. Then she saw.’

Another long silence. Only the beating of the moth’s wings. He leaned forward from his chair and laid his hands on the clasp of hers. Their eyes met, absorbing each other; the way for the electric current was clear.

‘I remember now,’ he said very softly. ‘It was you. It was you at the Temple of Govindhar. At the Massacre Ghaut of Cawnpore. Ah, I dragged you there against your will to show I was the stronger. It is you — always you.’

What was she to say? With his hands on hers it was a union of strength which put the past before both like an open book. She remembered all the dreams now. Impossible to tell them here, they were so many — like and unlike, shaken shifting jewels in a kaleidoscope held in some unseen hand. But jewels. They sat a long time in this way, rapt in wordless memories, their eyes absorbing each other — the strangest reunion. When speech came it brought rapture which needed little explanation. They bathed in wonder as in clear water; they flung the sparkle of it over their heads and glittered to each other in its radiance. When had such a miracle been wrought for any two people in all the world? The dreams of the visionary were actual for them, and Heaven and earth instinct with miracle.

‘ When we are married — when we pass our lives utterly together, the bond will be stronger,’ he said, kissing her hand passionately, two hours later. ‘We shall be awake, with reason and intellect as well as vision to help our work; we shall do such things as the world has never dreamed, prove that miracle is the daily bread of those who know. Two halves of a perfect whole made one forever and ever. You see?’

He looked at her a moment with shining eyes and added, ‘The wise will come to us for wisdom, the poets for beauty, and we shall make our meetingplaces the shrines of a new worship.’

Beatrice Veronica agreed with every pulse of her blood. The Great Adventure, and together!—what bliss could equal that marvel?

They were together perpetually, and surely human happiness was never greater than that of these two adventurers with the blue capes of Wonderland in sight at last over leagues of perilous seas. In another image, their caravan halted outside the gates of Paradise, and in a short few weeks those gates would swing open for them and, closing, shut out Fate.

But she did not dream of Martin Welland now, nor he of her. The discovery and all it involved was so thrilling that it brought every emotion to the surface as blood flushes the face when the heart beats violently. The inner centres were depleted.

They were married and Paradise was at hand, but for a while the happy business of settling their life engrossed them. It would be better to live in Canada and make long delightful visits to the Orient to refill the cisterns of marvel, they thought. A room for mutual work must be plotted in the bungalow; then there was the anxious question of a southern aspect. Then it was built, and it became a debatable decision whether some of the pines must fall to enlarge the vista to the sea. Friends rallied about her on the news of the marriage, and rejoiced to see the irradiation of Beatrice Veronica’s pale face. Then they must be entertained.

Then the endless joyful discussions as to whether the author should still be V. Lydiat or whether collaboration should be admitted. These things and many more filled the happy world they dwelt in.


Can the end be foreseen? They never foresaw it.

The hungry claim of human bliss fixed its roots in the inner soil where the Rosa Mystica had blossomed, and exhausted it for all else. That, at least, is the way one endeavors to state the mysterious enervation of the subconscious self which had built the stepping-stones between them to the meeting-point.

She went hopefully to her table when they had settled down, and he sat beside her doing his utmost to force the impulse across inches which had made nothing of oceans. It was dead. He could think of nothing but the sweet mist of brown tendrils in the nape of her neck, the pure line from ear to chin, the delights of the day to be. She sat with the poor remnant of his notes before her — for nearly all had been exhausted in the three books — and tried to shape them into V. Lydiat’s clear and sensitive beauty of words. It could not be done. Her eight thousand words marched and deployed heavy-footed as before. They were as unmanageable as mutineers or idiots. There was no life in them.

So it all descended to calmer levels. They slept in each other’s arms, but they never dreamed of each other now. They had really been nearer in their ghostly meeting by the Taj Mahal or in the evil splendors of Govindhar — far nearer, when she wrote and could not cease for joy, than when Martin Welland sat beside her and struggled to find what had flashed like light in the old days. They had to face it at last — V. Lydiat was dead.

It troubled them much for a while, but troubled the world more. The publishers were besieged with questions. Finally these also slackened off and died. V. Lydiat was buried.

They thought that if they returned to India for a time the dead fire might rekindle under those ardent skies. But no.

One day, at Benares, standing near the great Monkey of Durga, Martin stopped suddenly and a light came into his eyes. ‘B. V., I’ve just remembered that one of the most learned of the native pandits lives near here — a wonderful old fellow called Jadrup Gosein. Let’s go and state the case to him. The wisest man I ever knew.’

The holy man was seated under the shadow of a great image of Ganesa, the Elephant-Headed One, the Giver of Counsel, and when they sat themselves before him at a measured distance the case was stated.

There was a long pause, a deep silence filled with hot sunshine, and the passing of bare feet on sun-baked floors — an extraordinary peace and remoteness.

Jadrup Gosein meditated profoundly, then raised his serene dark face upon them with the dim look that peers from the very recesses of being, dazed as with excess of light. His words, incomprehensible to Beatrice Veronica, had the deep resonance of a bell, near at hand but muffled.

‘There was a man long since,’ he began, ‘to whom the high gods offered in reward of merit a tree, very small and feeble, — a suckling, as it were, among trees, — with feeble fibrous root, accessible to all the dangers of drought and sun, and of a family of trees unknown to him whether as to blossom or fruit. And he beheld it with doubt. So, seeing this, they offered instead a rose from the Earthly Paradise, crimson and perfumed, its hidden bosom pearled with dew like tears. And he said: “The tree may die, and should it live I am ignorant of its virtues, but the rose is sweet in my hand. I choose the rose.” So they gave it. And the wise Elephant-Headed One said: “O fool, what is a rose compared with a divine tree of roses which bears myriads of blossoms forever and ever ? A gathered rose is dead.” My children, you have chosen the rose. Yet, in another life, remember and cling to that which is rooted in the past, present, and future, and flowers immortally.’

Then he dismissed them kindly and returned into his thought.

‘He means,’ said Martin with a troubled brow, ‘that ordinary household happiness shuts a man in from the stars. B. V., do you remember the flute of Pan? He tore the reed from the river and murdered it as a reed to make a flute for the god?’

‘ But we ‘re so happy! ‘ she whispered, clinging against him to feel the warmth of his love. ‘The outer stars are cold. I don’t regret V. Lydiat. I have you.’

Martin sighed. ‘You had both. You have only me now.’

All day he was clouded with a sense of something lost and gone which could never be replaced. But that regret also slipped away. They forgot. It faded into the light of common day and they were extremely happy. They never could account for the way they had come together in the lost dreamworld. The clue to that mystery escaped them once and forever. Jadrup Gosein could have told them all about it, but they never thought of asking him the one question which really mattered.