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Dark Ann by Marjorie Bowen

Published in Dark Ann and Other Stories, John Lane, London, 1927

NOTHING could have been more neutral, more dull; the scene was the lecture hall of one of our most learned societies, as austere and grim a place as the cold mind and lifeless taste of Science could conceive, or anyhow did conceive and execute in the days when this hall, and many others, was built.

A lecture was in progress.

A man as austere, as grim as the hall, but in the same way rather grand and imposing, was in the rostrum, talking about hygiene and sanitation.

Like the hall, like the society, he seemed, in his disdain of any concession to the lighter graces, dreary and forbidding, ageless, featureless, drab.

I wondered why I had come; Minnie Levine had brought me; she was one of those women who try, and quite successfully, to make good works fashionable.

This had brought her into the chill and lofty circle where Sir William Torrance moved, and, somehow, to this lecture.

Not altogether purposelessly, for afterwards we were to take the great man back to Minnie's reception and introduce him to a number of other earnest and charming workers in the cause of health and happiness for others.

Minnie had said a great deal about the personality of the lecturer, but to me he seemed to have no personality; he was part of the remote classic decorations of that depressing room, something almost dehumanized.

Yet, as I studied the man (for there was nothing else to do since I could not concentrate on the matter of his speech), I discovered that he was not by any means unattractive, though subdued to the drab dignity of his surroundings, eclipsed by the sombre correctness of his orthodox clothes, those dull blacks, greys and icy white linen.

He was not so old though his hair was ash coloured, his face haggard, not so old, I was sure, perhaps forty-eight, fifty. Handsome features, aquiline, dark, with a narrow high nose and full lips, bluish eyes, cold and clever, a figure that would have been graceful enough if he had not so carefully refrained from any movement, any gesture, if he had not held himself with such monotonous stateliness.

The lecture was over; I thought I caught Minnie's sigh of relief.

I, too, was glad to leave, though it was a cruel winter's day without, colourless, biting, grim.

We waited for the lecturer; he carefully and gravely answered the earnest questioners who came timidly up to the platform, then waited for us, methodically rolling up his charts of 'Drainage Systems for Country Houses' that he had been showing us.

He was presented to me and I felt further depressed by his lifeless courtesy; perhaps he had heard of me as a foolish trifler in dreams and visions, a writer of stories fantastical and strange; I felt uncomfortable thinking how he must despise me; of course I didn't believe he had any right to despise me, yet, unreasonably it made me wince to realize that he probably did, he had so much weight about him, an air of being unassailable.

He hadn't much to say as we went home in Minnie's car; I believe he was wondering why he had consented to come. I've often seen that surprised resentment lurking in the eyes of Minnie's celebrated guests.

What he did say was heavy and wise, fragments of his lecture.

'Instructive but not amusing,' whispered Minnie, 'but rather a dear, don't you think?'

'No, I really don't. He knows too mustory-he's quite dried up.'

'But so good-looking,' insisted Minnie. 'And not married--'

'A lucky escape for some woman'--the obvious gibe came sincerely to my lips. 'Think of being married to a treatise on Sanitation--'

'Oh, he's much more than that,' said Minnie earnestly, 'a really great doctor, you know.'

I did know, but I was quite vague as to his actual achievements; one generally is vague as to the achievements of those outside one's own world.

I noticed him once or twice, impassive, bored, grave, among the guests; I was surprised not to see the familiar gesture of the hand to the watch, the murmur of 'an appointment' which is such a man's usual escape from a crowd of women.

But he stayed.

When tea was over and dancing had begun, he, alone for a moment, looked round as if searching for someone.

He caught my eye and came so directly over to me that my companion rose at once and wandered off.

Sir William took the vacant chair; I was more overwhelmed than flattered.

'You must have been very bored this afternoon,' he said seriously.

I replied that I rather made a point of never being bored, but that I'd been depressed--and understood very little; I paid him the compliment of not trying to 'play up' to him.

'Of course you were. You write, don't you?'

'Only a little. As an amateur.'

'I've read them. Phantasmagoria.'

This was amazing.

'Yes, they're phantasmagoria--don't you love the word? But strange you should bother with them, Sir William.'

'Do you think so?'

'Well--I shouldn't have thought you'd have much time for that kind of thing.'

He looked at me, wistfully, I thought.

'Yet I could tell you something.'

And then he was silent, as if I had discouraged him; he seemed so remote from the scene, the warm, shaded room, the dancers, the hot-house flowers, that he made me too feel detached.

We were sitting a little apart in one of Minnie's famous alcoves lit by a painted alabaster lamp; we were left alone, because all the others were enjoying themselves.

Minnie glanced at me and nodded cheerfully; I think that she was rather glad to have the great man taken off her hands.

As for him, I really think he was as unconscious of his surroundings now as he had been during his lecture, he never asked if I danced, he never seemed to notice that anyone was dancing.

He spoke again, almost in a challenging tone.

'Do I seem to you very alien to all that?' he asked.

I was at a loss as to what thought he was finishing with this sentence, and so I said, 'All--what?'

He hesitated.

'Romance is perhaps the word.'

Even to me that word was rather profaned.

'Oh, Romance--'

'I use it,' said Sir William stiffly, 'in the purest sense. It has of course been cheapened by our lesser writers. Like several other beautiful words--love, lovely, and others. They become clichés, slick, disgusting. Think, however, what Romance would mean to a lonely man who never saw a newspaper or heard a gossip and never read a book that was less than two hundred years old.'

I agreed that everything was overdone.

'Nothing fresh is left,' I lamented, 'every story has been told and staled.'

Sir William corrected me.

'You should know better. Told, but not staled. What of a kiss, the rose's scent? You've been kissed before, if you're lucky; you've smelt a rose before, if you've any sense--yet you are just as eager for the present kiss, the present rose.

'And with Romance. It is always the same Romance, of course, but only a fool seeks for novelty.'

He spoke abstractedly, dryly, and his words, so at variance with his manner, surprised me a great deal.

'It is quite true,' I said, 'but I hardly thought you would know as much, Sir William.'

'Why?'

I did not know how to explain to him how remote, how stern, how impressive and cold he seemed.

'You're too wise,' I said, 'you know too much to know that.'

'Exactly. "With all thy wisdom get understanding", eh? Yes, I know too much, and none of it much use. But I know that too. A materialist may have his glimpses into spiritual matters.'

'Not if he's really a materialist, Sir William.'

He ignored that.

'I came here to speak to you,' he said in a coldly impersonal tone, 'because of some things of yours I've read. I thought I'd like to tell you something that happened to me, perhaps get you to write it down as a sort of record. One ages, memory weakens. I always fear that what is so vivid today tomorrow may be dim. That is,' he added with perfunctory politeness, 'if it interests you.'

I said with truth that it did interest me. Of course.

'That's good of you. And then, on my death--I am considerably your senior--you might publish the story, as--a lesson to other people.'

He looked at his watch (the familiar gesture at last!) and excused himself in conventional tones.

Another time perhaps he might tell me the story? Or, no, there wasn't a story. I hoped he wouldn't forget, but thought he would.

Three days later he rang up to ask for an appointment; I begged him to come that afternoon; I should be alone.

He came; immaculate, stately, unsmiling, very impressive.

And, after an apology for tea, he began speaking, looking into the fire the while just as if I wasn't there; I saw at once that he was intensely lonely and that it was an immense joy and relief for him to speak, which he did carefully and without a trace of emotion, in a concise, stately language.

'It's twenty years ago, 1905, exactly twenty years, in the winter. I was very hard-working, very absorbed and very successful for a youngster. I had no ties and a little money of my own, I'd taken all the degrees and honours I could take, and I'd just finished a rather stiff German course in Munistory-physical chemistry--and I was rather worn out.

'I had not begun to practise and I decided to rest before I did so.

'I recognized in myself those dangerous symptoms of fatigue, lack of interest in everything and a nervous distrust of my powers. And by nature I was fairly confident, even, I daresay, arrogant.

'While I was still in Munich a cousin I had almost forgotten, died and left me a house and furniture.

'Not of much value and in a very out-of-the-way place.

'I thought the bequest queer and paid no attention to it; of course I was rather pleased, but I decided to sell.

'I meant to live in London and I had not the least intention of an early marriage, nor indeed of any marriage at all.

'I was nearly thirty and sufficiently resolute and self-contained.

'When I returned to London and consulted my lawyers about the sale of the house, which was called "Stranger's End", they advised that I should see it first and check the inventories of the contents.

'They said that there were some curious old pieces there I might care to keep; I did not think this likely, as I had no interest in such things, but I thought I would go to see the house.

'I was too tired for pleasure or amusement; one can be, you know.

'The thought of this lonely, quiet house attracted me; it was near Christmas and I dreaded the so-called festivities, the invitations of friends, the upset to routine.

'I went to "Stranger's End" and my first impression justified my lawyers' warning; it was not a very saleable property.

'The house stood one end of a lonely Derbyshire valley, on the site of one much older that had been burnt down.

'The style was classic-Palladian, purplish brick, white pilasters, hard, square, ugly, more like Kent than Wren.

'The garden had been very formal, with broderie beds, but was neglected, the stucco summer-houses, statues and fountains being in a dilapidated condition, and the parterres a tangle of wild growth.

'The situation was lonely in the extreme, really isolated; the railway had missed the valley and there was no passable motor road near; the approaches to "Stranger's End" were mean tracks across moor and mountain.'

Sir William Torrance was silent here; he seemed to sink into deep abstraction, as he stared into the fire.

And I, too, could see what he was seeing, that solitary, pretentious, ugly and neglected mansion in the Derbyshire dales.

'It sounds haunted,' I suggested.

He roused himself.

'No, it wasn't. I never heard the least suggestion of that. There was no story about the place at all. It had come to my cousin through his father's people; our connection was through the female side, and they had been quiet, prosperous folk who hadn't for a hundred years lived much at "Stranger's End". But my cousin, an eccentric sort of man, had taken a liking to the place.'

'Why did he leave it to you?'

'I don't know. We had been slightly friendly as boys, but he was queer. We went such different ways. He was a little older than I. And died rather tragically, through an accident. Well, there was the place. I liked it.

'Really relished the isolation; I was terrified of a breakdown, of losing my capacity, my zest for work; I thought--whatever I do, I'll get fit.

'That was a very severe winter, at least in Derbyshire; the fells and dales were covered with snow, and all that cracked stucco frippery in the garden, those sham deities of the eighteenth century, were outlined in white and masked in ice.

'I had no personal servant in those days; the caretaker, an old man, and his widowed daughter looked after me; they were rather a dour couple but efficient enough and seemed attached to "Stranger's End", for they asked if I would "speak for them" to my purchaser who did not yet exist.

'The house was furnished exactly as you would expect it to be, panelled walls, heavy walnut furniture, indigo blue green tapestry, gilt wood mirrors, and pictures of the schools of Van Dyck and Kneller.

'It was a large house, much larger than you would think from that stern façade, and I was there a while before I knew all the rooms.

'I enjoyed, with a sense of irony, the grandeur of the state bedroom which probably had chiefly been used for the "lying in state" of defunct owners.

'The four-poster was adorned by dusky plumes and curtains stiff with needlework, rotting at the cracks and faded a peculiar dove-like colour.'

Sir William spoke with a lingering relish curious to hear.

'Strange,' I thought, 'that he should remember all these details, strange, too, that this is the man who gave that drab lecture in that drab hall.'

He seemed to want no encouragement nor comment from me, and continued in his level, pleasant tones that were so virile and powerful even when muted as they were now.

'I found, during those first few days, several odd pieces in the house. Of course I had nothing to do but look for them.

'It was ferociously cold and snowed steadily; all prospect from the windows even was blotted out.

'Among other things I found a little box of blue velvet sewn with a very intricate design in seed pearl and embroidered in gold thread--"Made by mee, Darke Ann". Impossible to describe how that fascinated me!

'An empty, trifling sort of box, rather worn, odorous of some aromatic--musk or tonquin.

'Made by "Darke Ann"!

'Why should she so describe herself, in that formal age to which she belonged?

'There was no date, but I thought the thing went back to the time of my grandmother.

'It was because, perhaps, my brain was so exhausted, because I was so studiously keeping it free from all serious matter, that this absurd detail so obsessed me; I had never had any imagination nor cared for fanciful things, I'd worked too hard.

'But now, when my mind was empty this seized on it--"Darke Ann."

'I had no difficulty in visualizing her; I could see her moving about the house, bending over that box, looking out of the windows on to the snow.'

'The house, then, was haunted after all,' I suggested.

Sir William denied this earnestly.

'No. I have been trying to convey to you that it was not.

'Nothing of the kind. It was merely that I, shut up alone in this queer (to me) house in this great solitude, was able to picture, very clearly, this creature of my fancy.

'Purely of my fancy:

'You know how the snow will give one that enclosed feeling, shut in alone, remote, softly imprisoned.

'So few people came to the house, and those few I never saw.

'Then one night--it could not have been long before Christmas, of which festival I took no account--I went up to my room holding a lamp--there was no other means of lighting in the old house--and glancing at the bed I saw there--'

He paused, and when he continued I had the strangest sensation, for this man, so dry, so austere, so conventionally clothed, whom I had heard lecturing on 'Sanitation', whose reputation was so lofty, whose life and career were well known to have been so dry, cold and laborious, spoke like a poet making an embroidery of beautiful words.

'A woman,' he went on with infinite tenderness. 'She lay lightly to one side with her arms crossed, so that the delicate fingers rested on her rounded elbows, but so lightly! She wore a plain robe and a cap, with a crimped edge, tied under her chin; tucked into her breast was a posy of flowers, winter flowers, aconite, I think. She was so fine, so airy that she did not press the bed at all, but rested there, as a little bird might rest on a water flower without rippling the pool.

'She smiled; her face was soft and dimpled, her eyes closed, yet not so completely that a streak of azure did not show beneath the fragile lids; her lips were full, but pale--the whole colour of her pearl and mist, merged into the faded tarnish of the bed.'

Sir William, who had been gazing into the fire, suddenly looked at me.

'Not a ghost,' he said. 'I knew she was not there. I knew the bed was empty. Hallucination is perhaps the word. I had been over-working. Mind and nerves were strained.

'I told myself that she was not there, and I seated myself with my needless lamp beside the bed and looked at her; I say, needless lamp, for when I had extinguished it, I saw her in the dark as easily, as precisely.

'Then the window must rattle at the pane and make me look round with a start, and when I looked back again she was gone.

'The next day I examined my casket of blue velvet with even greater tenderness, and chancing to pull at a little odd thread, ripped the stuff, so old and perished it was, so that there was an ugly slit across the lid.

'I was looking at this in much chagrin when my caretaker entered.

"Who would this be?" I asked, as lightly as I could. "Darke Ann"?

"That would be Lady Ann Marly, sir," he answered sullenly. "There's her portrait upstairs."

"Where?" I was startled.

"In the attics. I don't think you've been up to the attics, sir."

'I went; that bitter, windy day I went up to the attics of "Stranger's End". The snow had ceased and I could see the valley white from end to end, and the hills, sombre against a sky like a grey goose's breast.

'There was the portrait, standing with others amid dusty lumber, cobwebs and decay.

'It was she, of course, Dark Ann, but as I turned the picture round I was shocked.

'She was so much further away than I had thought.

'A hundred years, I had guessed, but the costume was that of the first Charles, a tight gown of grey satin, monstrous pearls at throat and ears, a confusion of jet black ringlets and the face that I had seen in my--hallucination.

'It was a fine painting by that sterling artist, Janssens van Ceulen, and I wondered why it had been banished to that sad obscurity.

'On the black background was painted "The Lady Ann Marly, aetat. 25, 'Darke Ann.'"

'Dark she was, as a gipsy, as a Spaniard, in eyes and hair, yet pure and clear in her complexion as a lily, as a rose.

'I had the picture taken downstairs and hung in the room where I usually sat. The man, old Doveton, knew nothing of the portrait, or of the Lady Ann Marly, only what I could see for myself, the names on canvas and casket, but he told me that the Marlys were buried in Baswell Church and probably this "black Madam" amongst them, and also that there was an antique shop in the same town where I could get my casket repaired.

'I will not bother you,' said Sir William at this part of his extraordinary narrative, 'with any of my feelings, moods, or states of mind. I will merely tell you the facts.

'The first day it was fit to leave the house (for the snow had fallen again in great abundance), I went down across the valley to Baswell, a town so small, so old, so grim and silent, that it seemed to me like a thing imagined, not seen.

'The church, heavy, mutilated, dark, squatted on a little slope and was flanked by tombs so gaunt, monstrous, ponderous and grim as to seem a very army of death; the snow touched them here and there with a ghastly white, and the ivy on the tower was a green darker than black against that pallid winter sky.

'Inside, the place was musty, dull, crowded with tombs, knights, priests, ladies, children in busts and effigies--so much dust on everything!

'As if it had risen from the vaults below to choke the holy air!

'The pale dimness of the faint December light struggled through panes of old, dingy glass in withered reds and blues, only to be blocked by melancholy pillars and frowning arches.

'I found her tomb; a gigantic rococo urn draped with a fringed cloth with boastful letters setting forth her prides and virtues, and a Latin epigram, florid and luscious, punning on her name of "Dark Ann" and the eternal Darkness that had swallowed her loveliness.

'She had died, unmarried, "of a sudden feaver" in her 25th year, 1648.

'The year the portrait was painted.

'I had the casket in my pocket and I set out to find the antique shop.

'There was only one, in a side street, in a house as old, as sad, as grim as the church, with a tiny window, crowded by melancholy lumber, the broken toys and faded vanities of the dead.

'Clocks that had stopped for ever, rusty vessels from which no one would drink again, queer necklaces no woman would ever again clasp round her throat, snapped swords and chipped tea cups--oh, a very medley of pathetic rubbish!

'I pulled the bell, for the door was locked, and was opened immediately by a woman who stood smiling and asking me in out of the uncharitable afternoon.

'It was Dark Ann--or, as my common sense assured me, a creature exactly like her.

"What is your name?" I asked stupidly.

"Ann Marly," she replied in the sweetest accents.

"Why, I've just been looking at your tomb."

'She smiled, not, though, surprised.

'"I believe there is such a name in the churstory-many of them, indeed. The Marlys were great people round about here. And yet we have been long away and only just returned."

'As she spoke she held the door for me and I entered the low, dusky shop, which was piled with lumber and lit by only a twilight greyness.

'"Long away?" I echoed.

'"Yes, a long time," she smiled. "And, please what did you want?"

'In a delicious amaze I handed her the casket; she looked at it and sighed.

'"You want that mended?"

'"Yes, please--she was called Dark Ann and that should be your name too, you know."

'She did not answer this, but said gravely that the box could be mended--she herself would do the exquisite stitching.

'I could look at nothing but the lady--I must use this word; neither woman nor girl will express this creature.

'She wore a dark dress that might have been of any period, low in the neck, and the clouds of her dark ringlets were lightly confined by a comb I could not see.

'She asked me into an old room at the back of the shop, and there she gave me tea in shallow yellow cups.

'The whole place was old, she said--the high-backed cane chairs in which we sat, the boards beneath our feet, the beams above our heads, the dark pictures of carnations and gillyflowers in gilt bronze frames, the sea green glass mirror in red tortoiseshell, all these things were old.

'She and her grandfather had opened the little shop only lately, and only, it seemed, because they wanted to come back to Baswell; she told me nothing more of herself, nor did I speak of myself.

'I could not think of her as another than the Dark Ann of the portrait, the casket, the tomb; I did not wish to think of her as another; hallucination and reality blended in one.

'I went over every day to see her; it was understood we were lovers, that we should marry and live in "Stranger's End" all our lives.

'Understood but not spoken of--

'Once I brought her up to the ugly, queer house that now I no longer had any intention of selling.

'I had found an old pair of tiny gauntlets in a chest, much worn, fringed with gold; she slipped them on, and they fitted to the very creases.

'Enough of this.

'As you know, one can't describe a rapture--sometimes, when I stood near her, there was a sense of radiance, well--

'With every year it becomes more difficult to recall, sometimes I forget it altogether, and yet I know it was there, it actually happened--that time of ecstasy.'

He was silent for a little, and in my quiet room I could see the glittering evanescent gleams of a vision that would not wholly vanish through all the prosaic years.

'And I suppose,' I said, 'that you forgot your work and your ambitions.'

He looked at me sharply.

'That was exactly what happened. I remembered nothing, I lived in the moment, I hardly thought even of the future, though that was to be spent with her. I lived in that queer, ugly house in that lonely valley, and I went to and fro that grim, silent little town, accompanied by snow, wind and clouds, to sit in the little dim parlour behind the huddled shop and drink tea with Ann Marly out of those flat yellow cups, beneath the old beams, the old pictures, lit by a clear fire that glittered on the smooth surface of bluish tiles with puce-coloured landscapes, and the mellow radiance of wax candles in heavy plated sticks that showed the red copper through where they were worn.'

'You remember it all very distinctly, Sir William.'

'Even the threads in her dress--where the sleeve was sewn to the bodice--a little lighter than the silk.

'I said I would keep to the facts,' he sighed. 'So let all that go. One day I received a telegram.

'I read it as if it had been in an unknown language at first.

'When I came to understand it, I remembered who I was, where I was, what I had been and hoped to be, what was expected of me.

'It was from a friend, a man I greatly admired and respected, a really eminent, brilliant doctor--

'It was a long telegram.

'At that time Medicine was beginning to be very interested in Encephalitis Lethargica and a Swiss doctor claimed to have found a--what you would call a cure. Would I go, with three other men and investigate, report, and if need be, learn the treatment?

'I was excited, alert; I wired back an acceptance; in twenty-four hours I was in London.

'I had been tremendously interested in this disease, so rare, deadly and horrible, with its terrible sequelae, of dementia praecox, change of character and loss of memory, and I was again the careful, keen man of science, trained to test, to doubt, to explore--

'We were in the train for Geneva before I thought of Dark Ann.

'I wired her from the first stop; I didn't really know her address, I had never noticed the name of the shop or the street, but I put "Miss Ann Marly, Baswell, Derby"; the place was so small I had no doubt it would find her; I wrote from Geneva, I said I was coming back.

'I wrote and wired often enough during three weeks.

'But she never sent me any message.

'I blamed myself; my flight had been atrocious, I could not explain it to myself, it was extraordinary, incredible. I had started off like a man wakened from a dream!

'She was offended, angry. I thought it reasonable that she should be, I thought of her always as waiting for me.

'It was a month before I got back--the Swiss doctor's work was interesting, but there was nothing in it, really.

'I returned to Derbyshire.

'It was still cold, grey, iron-like in earth and sky.

'"Why on earth is this house called 'Stranger's End'?" I asked old Doveton.

'"I don't know, sir. But it was a fancy in those old days, I think."

'I went to Baswell.

'And this is pretty well the end of my story,' said Sir William ironically.

'She was dead?'

'I could not find the shop. In the street where I could have sworn it was, stood an old empty house; the neighbours said it had been empty a long time, they remembered no antique shop, no Ann Marly--they were vague, stupid, unfriendly.

'I ransacked the town; she, her grandfather, the shop with that delicious parlour had utterly disappeared.

'I went to the post office and they showed me the last of my little heap of letters; the others had travelled back to Switzerland through the dead letter office and must now be waiting for me at my London address.

'"There's a name like this in the church," said the postmaster sullenly, looking at me queerly, "on a tomb. I've never heard of another here."

'I brought Doveton in to Baswell and made him point out the shop he had recommended for the repair of the velvet box.

'He showed me a dingy furniture shop in the High Street where they did upholstering.

'I asked him if he remembered the lady who had come to "Stranger's End".

'And the sulky fellow said that he did not, which may have been true, for I brought her and took her away myself and I do not think she met either of the servants.'

I knew that he had never found her; the room seemed full of a miasma of regret, of remorse, of yearning.

'So you went back to your work,' I said tentatively, for I was not sure of his control.

'Yes, I did. I sold the house and all the contents.' He looked at me wildly. 'I burnt the portrait, I could not endure it. I sold the house to the neighbouring lord who wanted the ground for his shooting--it was just in his way, that old garden, that old ugly house. He destroyed both. I wouldn't have sold to anyone who had not promised to destroy.'

He looked withered, shrunk.

'I have the little blue box, so neatly mended, full of dead aconites, like she held against her breast--'

'You're confusing the vision and the reality,' I said; 'that--hallucination must have been the first Ann--after death, I rather think.'

'After death,' repeated Sir William.

'You've done good work,' I reminded him, 'devoted yourself to real, fine, man's work--she would have spoilt you for that, perhaps.'

He said drearily:

'Yes, I've had my work. And nothing else.'

'Well, fame, applause, gratitude, money, honours.'

'Oh, those,' he looked at me vaguely, 'but I never had another dream. Not one. Now if that telegram hadn't come--'

He paused and I finished for him:

'It broke the spell, you mean. It restored you to your normal self--it made you return to your normal life.'

'Exactly.' He was now composed, austere, even ironic again. 'I would give all I've ever gained since to have that moment again, to have that choice--the dream or the bread and water. And at the moment I didn't know it was a choice.'

'You wish you hadn't gone?'

He rose.

'Do I wish I hadn't gone! Haven't I told you the story as a warning? That was the only real thing that ever happened to me.'

He turned to the door.

'But Ann, Ann Marly?' I asked. 'What of her? Why did she disappear?'

'Why did she come, you mean,' he answered dryly. 'I lost her, because I forgot how to dream.'

'You mean--she didn't really exist?' I felt a pang of fear.

Sir William Torrance smiled.

'I'm due the other end of London at six--I've talked you to death. Good-bye.'

His manner was correct, lifeless again; I knew from the papers that he was lecturing on 'Bacteriology in Food' at some institute.

I let him go, there was nothing to be said.

Nothing.

 
 
 

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