Dr. Owen Francis felt a sudden wave of pleasure
and admiration sweep over him as he saw her enter
the room. He was in the act of going out; in fact, he
had already said good-bye to his hostess, glad to make his
escape from the chattering throng, when the tall and graceful
young woman glided past him. Her carriage was superb;
she had black eyes with a twinkling happiness in
them; her mouth was exquisite. Round her neck, in spite
of the warm afternoon, she wore a soft thing of fur or
feathers; and as she brushed by to shake the hand he
had just shaken himself, the tail of this touched his very
cheek. Their eyes met fair and square. He felt as though
her eyes also touched him.
Changing his mind, he lingered another ten minutes,
chatting with various ladies he did not in the least remember,
but who remembered him. He did not, of course,
desire to exchange banalities with these other ladies, yet
did so gallantly enough. If they found him absent-minded
they excused him since he was the famous mental specialist
whom everybody was proud to know. And all the time
his eyes never left the tall graceful figure that allured him
almost to the point of casting a spell upon him.
His first impression deepened as he watched. He was
aware of excitement, curiosity, longing; there was a touch
even of exaltation in him; yet he took no steps to seek the
introduction which was easily enough procurable. He
checked himself, if with an effort. Several times their eyes
met across the crowded room; he dared to believe—he felt
instinctively—that his interest was returned. Indeed, it
was more than instinct, for she was certainly aware of his
presence, and he even caught her indicating him to a
woman she spoke with, and evidently asking who he was.
Once he half bowed, and once, in spite of himself, he went
so far as to smile, and there came, he was sure, a faint,
delicious brightening of the eyes in answer. There was, he
fancied, a look of yearning in the face. The young woman
charmed him inexpressibly; the very way she moved delighted
him. Yet at last he slipped out of the room without
a word, without an introduction, without even knowing
her name. He chose his moment when her back was
turned. It was characteristic of him.
For Owen Francis had ever regarded marriage, for
himself at least, as a disaster that could be avoided. He
was in love with his work, and his work was necessary to
humanity. Others might perpetuate the race, but he must
heal it. He had come to regard love as the bait wherewith
Nature lays her trap to fulfill her own ends. A man
in love was a man enjoying a delusion, a deluded man.
In his case, and he was nearing forty-five, the theory had
worked admirably, and the dangerous exception that proved
it had as yet not troubled him.
“It’s come at last—I do believe,” he thought to himself,
as he walked home, a new tumultuous emotion in his
blood; “the exception, quite possibly, has come at last.
And it seemed he said it to the tall graceful figure by
his side, who turned up dark eyes smilingly to meet his
own, and whose lips repeated softly his last two words “I
The experience, being new to him, was baffling. A
part of his nature, long dormant, received the authentic
thrill that pertains actually to youth. He was a man of
chaste, abstemious custom. The reaction was vehement.
That dormant part of him became obstreperous. He
thought of his age, his appearance, his prospects; he
looked thirty-eight, he was not unhandsome, his position
was secure, even remarkable. That gorgeous young
woman—he called her gorgeous—haunted him. Never
could he forget that face, those eyes. It was extraordinary—he
had left her there unspoken to, unknown, when
an introduction would have been the simplest thing in the
“But it still is,” he replied. And the reflection filled
his being with a flood of joy.
He checked himself again. Not so easily is established
habit routed. He felt instinctively that, at last, he
had met his mate; if he followed it up he was a man in
love, a lost man enjoying a delusion, a deluded man. But
the way she had looked at him! That air of intuitive
invitation which not even the sweetest modesty could conceal!
He felt an immense confidence in himself; also he
felt oddly sure of her.
The presence of that following figure, already precious,
came with him into his house, even into his study at the
back where he sat over a number of letters by the open
window. The pathetic little London garden showed its
pitiful patch. The lilac had faded, but a smell of roses
entered. The sun was just behind the buildings opposite,
and the garden lay soft and warm in summer shadows.
He read and tossed aside the letters; one only interested
him, from Edward Farque, whose journey to China
had interrupted a friendship of long standing. Edward
Farque’s work on eastern art and philosophy, on Chinese
painting and Chinese thought in particular, had made its
mark. He was an authority. He was to be back about this
time, and his friend smiled with pleasure. “Dear old unpractical
dreamer, as I used to call him,” he mused. “He’s
a success, anyhow!” And as he mused, the presence that
sat beside him came a little closer, yet at the same time
faded. Not that he forgot her—that was impossible—but
that just before opening the letter from his friend, he
had come to a decision. He had definitely made up his
mind to seek acquaintance. The reality replaced the remembered
“As the newspapers may have warned you,” ran the
familiar and kinky writing, “I am back in England after
what the scribes term my ten years of exile in Cathay.
I have taken a little house in Hampstead for six months,
and am just settling in. Come to us to-morrow night and
let me prove it to you. Come to dinner. We shall have
much to say; we both are ten years wiser. You know
how glad I shall be to see my old-time critic and disparager,
but let me add frankly that I want to ask you
a few professional, or, rather, technical, questions. So
prepare yourself to come as doctor and as friend. I am
writing, as the papers said truthfully, a treatise on Chinese
thought. But—don’t shy!—it is about Chinese Magic
that I want your technical advice [the last two words were
substituted for “professional wisdom,” which had been
crossed out] and the benefit of your vast experience. So
come, old friend, come quickly, and come hungry! I’ll
feed your body as you shall feed my mind.—Yours,
“P.S.—‘The coming of a friend from a far-off land—is
not this true joy?’”
Dr. Francis laid down the letter with a pleased anticipatory
chuckle, and it was the touch in the final sentence
that amused him. In spite of being an authority, Farque
was clearly the same fanciful, poetic dreamer as of old.
He quoted Confucius as in other days. The firm but
kinky writing had not altered either. The only sign of
novelty he noticed was the use of scented paper, for a
faint and pungent aroma clung to the big quarto sheet.
“A Chinese habit, doubtless,” he decided, sniffing it
with a puzzled air of disapproval. Yet it had nothing in
common with the scented sachets some ladies use too
lavishly, so that even the air of the street is polluted by
their passing for a dozen yards. He was familiar with
every kind of perfumed note-paper used in London, Paris,
and Constantinople. This one was difficult. It was delicate
and penetrating for all its faintness, pleasurable too.
He rather liked it, and while annoyed that he could not
name it, he sniffed at the letter several times, as though
it were a flower.
“I’ll go,” he decided at once, and wrote an acceptance
then and there. He went out and posted it. He meant
to prolong his walk into the Park, taking his chief preoccupation,
the face, the eyes, the figure, with him. Already
he was composing the note of inquiry to Mrs. Malleson,
his hostess of the tea-party, the note whose willing
answer should give him the name, the address, the means
of introduction he had now determined to secure. He
visualized that note of inquiry, seeing it in his mind’s
eye; only, for some odd reason, he saw the kinky writing of
Farque instead of his own more elegant script. Association
of ideas and emotions readily explained this. Two
new and unexpected interests had entered his life on the
same day, and within half an hour of each other. What
he could not so readily explain, however, was that two
words in his friend’s ridiculous letter, and in that kinky
writing, stood out sharply from the rest. As he slipped his
envelope into the mouth of the red pillar-box they shone
vividly in his mind. These two words were “Chinese
It was the warmth of his friend’s invitation as much
as his own state of inward excitement that decided him
suddenly to anticipate his visit by twenty-four hours. It
would clear his judgment and help his mind, if he spent
the evening at Hampstead rather than alone with his own
thoughts. “A dose of China,” he thought, with a smile,
“will do me good. Edward won’t mind. I’ll telephone.”
He left the Park soon after six o’clock and acted upon
his impulse. The connexion was bad, the wire buzzed and
popped and crackled; talk was difficult; he did not hear
properly. The Professor had not yet come in, apparently.
Francis said he would come up anyhow on the chance.
“Velly pleased,” said the voice in his ear, as he rang
Going into his study, he drafted the note that should
result in the introduction that was now, it appeared, the
chief object of his life. The way this woman with the
black, twinkling eyes obsessed him was—he admitted it
with joy—extraordinary. The draft he put in his pocket,
intending to re-write it next morning, and all the way up
to Hampstead Heath the gracious figure glided silently
beside him, the eyes were ever present, his cheek still
glowed where the feather boa had touched his skin. Edward
Farque remained in the background. In fact, it
was on the very door-step, having rung the bell, that
Francis realized he must pull himself together. “I’ve
come to see old Farque,” he reminded himself, with a
smile. “I’ve got to be interested in him and his, and,
probably, for an hour or two, to talk Chinese——” when
the door opened noiselessly, and he saw facing him, with
a grin of celestial welcome on his yellow face, a China-man.
“Oh!” he said, with a start. He had not expected a
“Velly pleased,” the man bowed him in.
Dr. Francis stared round him with astonishment he
could not conceal. A great golden idol faced him in the
hall, its gleaming visage blazing out of a sort of miniature
golden palanquin, with a grin, half dignified, half cruel.
Fully double human size, it blocked the way, looking so
life-like that it might have moved to meet him without too
great a shock to what seemed possible. It rested on a
throne with four massive legs, carved, the doctor saw,
with serpents, dragons, and mythical monsters generally.
Round it on every side were other things in keeping.
Name them he could not, describe them he did not try.
He summed them up in one word—China: pictures,
weapons, cloths and tapestries, bells, gongs, and figures of
every sort and kind imaginable.
Being ignorant of Chinese matters, Dr. Francis stood
and looked about him in a mental state of some confusion.
He had the feeling that he had entered a Chinese
temple, for there was a faint smell of incense hanging
about the house that was, to say the least, un-English.
Nothing English, in fact, was visible at all. The matting
on the floor, the swinging curtains of bamboo beads that
replaced the customary doors, the silk draperies and pictured
cushions, the bronze and ivory, the screens hung with
fantastic embroideries, everything was Chinese. Hampstead
vanished from his thoughts. The very lamps were
in keeping, the ancient lacquered furniture as well. The
value of what he saw, an expert could have told him, was
“You likee?” queried the voice at his side.
He had forgotten the servant. He turned sharply.
“Very much; it’s wonderfully done,” he said. “Makes
you feel at home, John, eh?” he added tactfully, with a
smile, and was going to ask how long all this preparation
had taken, when a voice sounded on the stairs beyond. It
was a voice he knew, a note of hearty welcome in its deep
“The coming of a friend from a far-off land, even from
Harley Street—is not this true joy?” he heard, and the
next minute was shaking the hand of his old and valued
friend. The intimacy between them had always been of
“I almost expected a pigtail,” observed Francis, looking
him affectionately up and down, “but, really—why,
you’ve hardly changed at all!”
“Outwardly, not as much, perhaps, as Time expects,”
was the happy reply, “but inwardly——!” He scanned
appreciatively the burly figure of the doctor in his turn.
“And I can say the same of you,” he declared, still holding
his hand tight. “This is a real pleasure, Owen,” he
went on in his deep voice, “to see you again is a joy
to me. Old friends meeting again—there’s nothing like
it in life, I believe, nothing.” He gave the hand another
squeeze before he let it go. “And we,” he added, leading
the way into a room across the hall, “neither of us is
a fugitive from life. We take what we can, I mean.”
The doctor smiled as he noted the un-English turn of
language, and together they entered a sitting-room that
was, again, more like some inner chamber of a Chinese
temple than a back room in a rented Hampstead house.
“I only knew ten minutes ago that you were coming,
my dear fellow,” the scholar was saying, as his friend
gazed round him with increased astonishment, “or I would
have prepared more suitably for your reception. I was out
till late. All this”—he waved his hand—“surprises you,
of course, but the fact is I have been home some days
already, and most of what you see was arranged for me
in advance of my arrival. Hence its apparent completion.
I say ‘apparent,’ because, actually, it is far from faithfully
carried out. Yet to exceed,” he added, “is as bad as
to fall short.”
The doctor watched him while he listened to a somewhat
lengthy explanation of the various articles surrounding
them. The speaker—he confirmed his first impression—had
changed little during the long interval; the same
enthusiasm was in him as before, the same fire and dreaminess
alternately in the fine grey eyes, the same humour
and passion about the mouth, the same free gestures, and
the same big voice. Only the lines had deepened on the
forehead, and on the fine face the air of thoughtfulness
was also deeper. It was Edward Farque as of old, scholar,
poet, dreamer and enthusiast, despiser of western civilization,
contemptuous of money, generous and upright, a type
of value, an individual.
“You’ve done well, done splendidly, Edward, old
man,” said his friend presently, after hearing of Chinese
wonders that took him somewhat beyond his depth perhaps.
“No one is more pleased than I. I’ve watched your
books. You haven’t regretted England, I’ll be bound?”
“The philosopher has no country, in any case,” was
the reply, steadily given. “But out there, I confess, I’ve
found my home.” He leaned forward, a deeper earnestness
in his tone and expression. And into his face, as he
spoke, came a glow of happiness. “My heart,” he said,
“is in China.”
“I see it is, I see it is,” put in the other, conscious that
he could not honestly share his friend’s enthusiasm. “And
you’re fortunate to be free to live where your treasure is,”
he added after a moment’s pause. “You must be a happy
man. Your passion amounts to nostalgia, I suspect. Already
yearning to get back there, probably?”
Farque gazed at him for some seconds with shining
eyes. “You remember the Persian saying, I’m sure,” he
said. “‘You see a man drink, but you do not see his
thirst.’ Well,” he added, laughing happily, “you may see
me off in six months’ time, but you will not see my happiness.”
While he went on talking, the doctor glanced round
the room, marvelling still at the exquisite taste of everything,
the neat arrangement, the perfect matching of form
and colour. A woman might have done this thing, occurred
to him, as the haunting figure shifted deliciously
into the foreground of his mind again. The thought of her
had been momentarily replaced by all he heard and saw.
She now returned, filling him with joy, anticipation and
enthusiasm. Presently, when it was his turn to talk, he
would tell his friend about this new, unimagined happiness
that had burst upon him like a sunrise. Presently,
but not just yet. He remembered, too, with a passing
twinge of possible boredom to come, that there must be
some delay before his own heart could unburden itself in
its turn. Farque wanted to ask some professional questions,
of course. He had for the moment forgotten that
part of the letter in his general interest and astonishment.
“Happiness, yes....” he murmured, aware that his
thoughts had wandered, and catching at the last word he
remembered hearing. “As you said just now in your own
queer way—you haven’t changed a bit, let me tell you,
in your picturesqueness of quotation, Edward—one must
not be fugitive from life; one must seize happiness when
and where it offers.”
He said it lightly enough, hugging internally his own
sweet secret; but he was a little surprised at the earnestness
of his friend’s rejoinder: “Both of us, I see,” came
the deep voice, backed by the flash of the far-seeing grey
eyes, “have made some progress in the doctrine of life
and death.” He paused, gazing at the other with sight
that was obviously turned inwards upon his own thoughts.
“Beauty,” he went on presently, his tone even more serious,
“has been my lure; yours, Reality....”
“You don’t flatter either of us, Edward. That’s too
exclusive a statement,” put in the doctor. He was becoming
every minute more and more interested in the workings
of his friend’s mind. Something about the signs
offered eluded his understanding. “Explain yourself, old
scholar-poet. I’m a dull, practical mind, remember, and
can’t keep pace with Chinese subtleties.”
“You’ve left out Beauty,” was the quiet rejoinder,
“while I left out Reality. That’s neither Chinese nor
subtle. It is simply true.”
“A bit wholesale, isn’t it?” laughed Francis. “A big
A bright light seemed to illuminate the scholar’s face.
It was as though an inner lamp was suddenly lit. At the
same moment the sound of a soft gong floated in from
the hall outside, so soft that the actual strokes were not
distinguishable in the wave of musical vibration that
reached the ear.
Farque rose to lead the way in to dinner.
“What if I——” he whispered, “have combined the
two?” And upon his face was a look of joy that reached
down into the other’s own full heart with its unexpectedness
and wonder. It was the last remark in the world
he had looked for. He wondered for a moment whether
he interpreted it correctly.
“By Jove...!” he exclaimed. “Edward, what d’you
“You shall hear—after dinner,” said Farque, his voice
mysterious, his eyes still shining with his inner joy. “I
told you I have some questions to ask you—professionally.”
And they took their seats round an ancient, marvellous
table, lit by two swinging lamps of soft green jade,
while the Chinese servant waited on them with the silent
movements and deft neatness of his imperturbable celestial
To say that he was bored during the meal were an
over-statement of Dr. Francis’s mental condition, but to
say that he was half-bored seemed the literal truth; for
one-half of him, while he ate his steak and savoury and
watched Farque manipulating chou chop suey and chou
om dong most cleverly with chop-sticks, was too pre-occupied
with his own romance to allow the other half to give
its full attention to the conversation.
He had entered the room, however, with a distinct
quickening of what may be termed his instinctive and infallible
sense of diagnosis. That last remark of his friend’s
had stimulated him. He was aware of surprise, curiosity,
and impatience. Willy-nilly, he began automatically to
study him with a profounder interest. Something, he gathered,
was not quite as it should be in Edward Farque’s
mental composition. There was what might be called an
elusive emotional disturbance. He began to wonder and
They talked, naturally, of China and of things Chinese,
for the scholar responded to little else, and Francis listened
with what sympathy and patience he could muster. Of art
and beauty he had hitherto known little, his mind was
practical and utilitarian. He now learned that all art was
derived from China, where a high, fine, subtle culture had
reigned since time immemorial. Older than Egypt was
their wisdom. When the western races were eating one
another, before Greece was even heard of, the Chinese had
reached a level of knowledge and achievement that few
realized. Never had they, even in earliest times, been deluded
by anthropomorphic conceptions of the Deity, but
perceived in everything the expressions of a single whole
whose giant activities they reverently worshipped. Their
contempt for the western scurry after knowledge, wealth,
machinery, was justified, if Farque was worthy of belief.
He seemed saturated with Chinese thought, art, philosophy,
and his natural bias towards the celestial race had
hardened into an attitude to life that had now become
“They deal, as it were, in essences,” he declared;
“they discern the essence of everything, leaving out the
superfluous, the unessential, the trivial. Their pictures
alone prove it. Come with me,” he concluded, “and see
the ‘Earthly Paradise,’ now in the British Museum. It
is like Botticelli, but better than anything Botticelli ever
did. It was painted”—he paused for emphasis—“600
The wonder of this quiet, ancient civilization, a sense
of its depth, its wisdom, grew upon his listener as the
enthusiastic poet described its charm and influence upon
himself. He willingly allowed the enchantment of the
other’s Paradise to steal upon his own awakened heart.
There was a good deal Francis might have offered by way
of criticism and objection, but he preferred on the whole
to keep his own views to himself, and to let his friend
wander unhindered through the mazes of his passionate
evocation. All men, he well knew, needed a dream to
carry them through life’s disappointments, a dream that
they could enter at will and find peace, contentment, happiness.
Farque’s dream was China. Why not? It was
as good as another, and a man like Farque was entitled
to what dream he pleased.
“And their women?” he inquired at last, letting both
halves of his mind speak together for the first time.
But he was not prepared for the expression that leaped
upon his friend’s face at the simple question. Nor for
his method of reply. It was no reply, in point of fact.
It was simply an attack upon all other types of woman,
and upon the white, the English, in particular—their emptiness,
their triviality, their want of intuitive imagination,
of spiritual grace, of everything, in a word, that should
constitute woman a meet companion for man, and a little
higher than the angels into the bargain. The doctor
listened spellbound. Too humorous to be shocked, he was,
at any rate, disturbed by what he heard, displeased a little,
too. It threatened too directly his own new tender dream.
Only with the utmost self-restraint did he keep his
temper under, and prevent hot words he would have regretted
later from tearing his friend’s absurd claim into
ragged shreds. He was wounded personally as well. Never
now could he bring himself to tell his own secret to him.
The outburst chilled and disappointed him. But it had
another effect—it cooled his judgment. His sense of diagnosis
quickened. He divined an idée fixe, a mania possibly.
His interest deepened abruptly. He watched. He
began to look about him with more wary eyes, and a sense
of uneasiness, once the anger passed, stirred in his friendly
and affectionate heart.
They had been sitting alone over their port for some
considerable time, the servant having long since left the
room. The doctor had sought to change the subject many
times without much success, when suddenly Farque
changed it for him.
“Now,” he announced, “I’ll tell you something,” and
Francis guessed that the professional questions were on
the way at last. “We must pity the living, remember, and
part with the dead. Have you forgotten old Shan-Yu?”
The forgotten name came back to him, the picturesque
East End dealer of many years ago. “The old merchant
who taught you your first Chinese? I do recall him dimly;
now you mention it. You made quite a friend of him,
didn’t you? He thought very highly of you—ah, it comes
back to me now—he offered something or other very wonderful
in his gratitude, unless my memory fails me?”
“His most valuable possession,” Farque went on, a
strange look deepening on his face, an expression of
mysterious rapture, as it were, and one that Francis recognized
and swiftly pigeon-holed in his now attentive mind.
“Which was?” he asked sympathetically. “You told
me once, but so long ago that really it’s slipped my mind.
Something magical, wasn’t it?” He watched closely for
his friend’s reply.
Farque lowered his voice to a whisper almost devotional:
“The Perfume of the Garden of Happiness,” he murmured,
with an expression in his eyes as though the mere
recollection gave him joy. “‘Burn it,’ he told me, ‘in a
brazier; then inhale. You will enter the Valley of a
Thousand Temples wherein lies the Garden of Happiness,
and there you will meet your Love. You will have seven
years of happiness with your Love before the Waters of
Separation flow between you. I give this to you who
alone of men here have appreciated the wisdom of my land.
Follow my body towards the Sunrise. You, an eastern
soul in a barbarian body, will meet your Destiny.’”
The doctor’s attention, such is the power of self-interest,
quickened amazingly as he heard. His own romance
flamed up with power. His friend—it dawned upon him
suddenly—loved a woman.
“Come,” said Farque, rising quietly, “we will go into
the other room, and I will show you what I have shown to
but one other in the world before. You are a doctor,” he
continued, as he led the way to the silk-covered divan
where golden dragons swallowed crimson suns, and
wonderful jade horses hovered near. “You understand
the mind and nerves. States of consciousness you also
can explain, and the effect of drugs is, doubtless, known
to you.” He swung to the heavy curtains that took the
place of door, handed a lacquered box of cigarettes to his
friend, and lit one himself. “Perfumes, too,” he added,
“you probably have studied, with their extraordinary evocative
power.” He stood in the middle of the room, the
green light falling on his interesting and thoughtful face,
and for a passing second Francis, watching keenly,
observed a change flit over it and vanish. The eyes grew
narrow and slid tilted upwards, the skin wore a shade of
yellow underneath the green from the lamp of jade, the
nose slipped back a little, the cheek-bones forward.
“Perfumes,” said the doctor, “no. Of perfumes I
know nothing, beyond their interesting effect upon the
memory. I cannot help you there. But, you, I suspect,”
and he looked up with an inviting sympathy that concealed
the close observation underneath, “you yourself, I
feel sure, can tell me something of value about them?”
“Perhaps,” was the calm reply, “perhaps, for I have
smelt the perfume of the Garden of Happiness, and I have
been in the Valley of a Thousand Temples.” He spoke
with a glow of joy and reverence almost devotional.
The doctor waited in some suspense, while his friend
moved towards an inlaid cabinet across the room. More
than broad-minded, he was that much rarer thing, an
open-minded man, ready at a moment’s notice to discard
all preconceived ideas, provided new knowledge that
necessitated the holocaust were shown to him. At present,
none the less, he held very definite views of his own.
“Please ask me any questions you like,” he added. “All
I know is entirely yours, as always.” He was aware of
suppressed excitement in his friend that betrayed itself in
every word and look and gesture, an excitement intense,
and not as yet explained by anything he had seen or heard.
The scholar, meanwhile, had opened a drawer in the
cabinet and taken from it a neat little packet tied up with
purple silk. He held it with tender, almost loving care, as
he came and sat down on the divan beside his friend.
“This,” he said, in a tone, again, of something between
reverence and worship, “contains what I have to
show you first.” He slowly unrolled it, disclosing a yet
smaller silken bag within, coloured a deep rich orange.
There were two vertical columns of writing on it, painted
in Chinese characters. The doctor leaned forward to examine
them. His friend translated:
“The Perfume of the Garden of Happiness,” he read
aloud, tracing the letters of the first column with his
finger. “The Destroyer of Honourable Homes,” he finished,
passing to the second, and then proceeded to unwrap
the little silken bag. Before it was actually open,
however, and the pale shredded material resembling
coloured chaff visible to the eyes, the doctor’s nostrils had
recognized the strange aroma he had first noticed about
his friend’s letter received earlier in the day. The same
soft, penetrating odour, sharply piercing, sweet and delicate,
rose to his brain. It stirred at once a deep emotional
pleasure in him. Having come to him first when he was
aglow with his own unexpected romance, his mind and
heart full of the woman he had just left, that delicious,
torturing state revived in him quite naturally. The evocative
power of perfume with regard to memory is compelling.
A livelier sympathy towards his friend, and towards
what he was about to hear, awoke in him spontaneously.
He did not mention the letter, however. He merely
leaned over to smell the fragrant perfume more easily.
Farque drew back the open packet instantly, at the
same time holding out a warning hand. “Careful,” he
said gravely, “be careful, my old friend—unless you desire
to share the rapture and the risk that have been mine.
To enjoy its full effect, true, this dust must be burned in a
brazier and its smoke inhaled; but even sniffed, as you
now would sniff it, and you are in danger——”
“Of what?” asked Francis, impressed by the other’s
extraordinary intensity of voice and manner.
“Of Heaven; but, possibly, of Heaven before your
The tale that Farque unfolded then had certainly a
strange celestial flavour, a glory not of this dull world;
and as his friend listened, his interest deepened with every
minute, while his bewilderment increased. He watched
closely, expert that he was, for clues that might guide his
deductions aright, but for all his keen observation and
experience he could detect no inconsistency, no weakness,
nothing that betrayed the smallest mental aberration. The
origin and nature of what he already decided was an idée
fixe, a mania, evaded him entirely. This evasion piqued
and vexed him; he had heard a thousand tales of similar
type before; that this one in particular should baffle his
unusual skill touched his pride. Yet he faced the position
honestly, he confessed himself baffled until the end of the
evening. When he went away, however, he went away
satisfied, even forgetful—because a new problem of yet
more poignant interest had replaced the first.
“It was after three years out there,” said Farque, “that
a sense of my loneliness first came upon me. It came upon
me bitterly. My work had not then been recognized; obstacles
and difficulties had increased; I felt a failure; I had
accomplished nothing. And it seemed to me I had misjudged
my capacities, taken a wrong direction, and wasted
my life accordingly. For my move to China, remember,
was a radical move, and my boats were burnt behind me.
This sense of loneliness was really devastating.”
Francis, already fidgeting, put up his hand.
“One question, if I may,” he said, “and I’ll not interrupt
“By all means,” said the other patiently, “what is it?”
“Were you—we are such old friends”—he apologized—“were
you still celibate as ever?”
Farque looked surprised, then smiled. “My habits had
not changed,” he replied, “I was, as always, celibate.”
“Ah!” murmured the doctor, and settled down to listen.
“And I think now,” his friend went on, “that it was
the lack of companionship that first turned my thoughts
towards conscious disappointment. However that may be,
it was one evening, as I walked homewards to my little
house, that I caught my imagination lingering upon English
memories, though chiefly, I admit, upon my old
Chinese tutor, the dead Shan-Yu.
“It was dusk, the stars were coming out in the pale
evening air, and the orchards, as I passed them, stood
like wavering ghosts of unbelievable beauty. The effect
of thousands upon thousands of these trees, flooding the
twilight of a spring evening with their sea of blossom, is
almost unearthly. They seem transparencies, their colour
hangs sheets upon the very sky. I crossed a small wooden
bridge that joined two of these orchards above a stream,
and in the dark water I watched a moment the mingled
reflection of stars and flowering branches on the quiet surface.
It seemed too exquisite to belong to earth, this
fairy garden of stars and blossoms, shining faintly in the
crystal depths, and my thought, as I gazed, dived suddenly
down the little avenue that memory opened into former
days. I remembered Shan-Yu’s present, given to me when
he died. His very words came back to me: The Garden
of Happiness in the Valley of the Thousand Temples,
with its promise of love, of seven years of happiness, and
the prophecy that I should follow his body towards the
Sunrise and meet my destiny.
“This memory I took home with me into my lonely
little one-storey house upon the hill. My servants did not
sleep there. There was no one near. I sat by the open
window with my thoughts, and you may easily guess that
before very long I had unearthed the long-forgotten packet
from among my things, spread a portion of its contents
on a metal tray above a lighted brazier, and was comfortably
seated before it, inhaling the light blue smoke with
its exquisite and fragrant perfume.
“A light air entered through the window, the distant
orchards below me trembled, rose and floated through the
dusk, and I found myself, almost at once, in a pavilion of
flowers; a blue river lay shining in the sun before me, as
it wandered through a lovely valley where I saw groves
of flowering trees among a thousand scattered temples.
Drenched in light and colour, the Valley lay dreaming
amid a peaceful loveliness that woke what seemed impossible,
unrealizable, longings in my heart. I yearned towards
its groves and temples, I would bathe my soul in
that flood of tender light, and my body in the blue coolness
of that winding river. In a thousand temples must I worship.
Yet these impossible yearnings instantly were satisfied.
I found myself there at once ... and the time that
passed over my head you may reckon in centuries, if not
in ages. I was in the Garden of Happiness and its marvellous
perfume banished time and sorrow, there was no
end to chill the soul, nor any beginning, which is its foolish
“Nor was there loneliness.” The speaker clasped his
thin hands, and closed his eyes a moment in what was
evidently an ecstasy of the sweetest memory man may ever
know. A slight trembling ran through his frame, communicating
itself to his friend upon the divan beside him—this
understanding, listening, sympathetic friend, whose
eyes had never once yet withdrawn their attentive gaze
from the narrator’s face.
“I was not alone,” the scholar resumed, opening his
eyes again, and smiling out of some deep inner joy. “Shan-Yu
came down the steps of the first temple and took my
hand, while the great golden figures in the dim interior
turned their splendid shining heads to watch. Then,
breathing the soul of his ancient wisdom in my ear, he led
me through all the perfumed ways of that enchanted garden,
worshipping with me at a hundred deathless shrines,
led me, I tell you, to the sound of soft gongs and gentle
bells, by fragrant groves and sparkling streams, mid a
million gorgeous flowers, until, beneath that unsetting sun,
we reached the heart of the Valley, where the source of the
river gushed forth beneath the lighted mountains. He
stopped and pointed across the narrow waters. I saw the
“The woman,” his listener murmured beneath his
breath, though Farque seemed unaware of interruption.
“She smiled at me and held her hands out, and while
she did so, even before I could express my joy and wonder
in response, Shan-Yu, I saw, had crossed the narrow
stream and stood beside her. I made to follow then, my
heart burning with inexpressible delight. But Shan-Yu
held up his hand, as they began to move down the flowered
bank together, making a sign that I should keep pace with
them, though on my own side.
“Thus, side by side, yet with the blue sparkling stream
between us, we followed back along its winding course,
through the heart of that enchanted valley, my hands
stretched out towards the radiant figure of my Love, and
hers stretched out towards me. They did not touch, but
our eyes, our smiles, our thoughts, these met and mingled
in a sweet union of unimagined bliss, so that the absence
of physical contact was unnoticed and laid no injury on
our marvellous joy. It was a spirit union, and our kiss a
spirit kiss. Therein lay the subtlety and glory of the
Chinese wonder, for it was our essences that met, and for
such union there is no satiety and, equally, no possible
end. The Perfume of the Garden of Happiness is an
essence. We were in Eternity.
“The stream, meanwhile, widened between us, and as
it widened, my Love grew farther from me in space,
smaller, less visibly defined, yet ever essentially more perfect,
and never once with a sense of distance that made
our union less divinely close. Across the widening reaches
of blue, sunlit water I still knew her smile, her eyes, the
gestures of her radiant being; I saw her exquisite reflection
in the stream; and, mid the music of those soft gongs
and gentle bells, the voice of Shan-Yu came like a melody
to my ears:
“‘You have followed me into the sunrise, and have
found your destiny. Behold now your Love. In this Valley
of a Thousand Temples you have known the Garden
of Happiness, and its Perfume your soul now inhales.’
“‘I am bathed,’ I answered, ‘in a happiness divine. It
“‘The Waters of Separation,’ his answer floated like
a bell, ‘lie widening between you.’
“I moved nearer to the bank, impelled by the pain in
his words to take my Love and hold her to my breast.
“‘But I would cross to her,’ I cried, and saw that, as
I moved, Shan-Yu and my Love came likewise closer to the
water’s edge across the widening river. They both obeyed,
I was aware, my slightest wish.
“‘Seven years of Happiness you may know,’ sang his
gentle tones across the brimming flood, ‘if you would
cross to her. Yet the Destroyer of Honourable Homes lies
in the shadows that you must cast outside.’
“I heard his words, I noticed for the first time that in
the blaze of this radiant sunshine we cast no shadows on
the sea of flowers at our feet, and—I stretched out my
arms towards my Love across the river.
“‘I accept my destiny,’ I cried, ‘I will have my seven
years of bliss,’ and stepped forward into the running flood.
As the cool water took my feet, my Love’s hands stretched
out both to hold me and to bid me stay. There was acceptance
in her gesture, but there was warning too.
“I did not falter. I advanced until the water bathed
my knees, and my Love, too, came to meet me, the stream
already to her waist, while our arms stretched forth above
the running flood towards each other.
“The change came suddenly. Shan-Yu first faded behind
her advancing figure into air; there stole a chill upon
the sunlight; a cool mist rose from the water, hiding the
Garden and the hills beyond; our fingers touched, I gazed
into her eyes, our lips lay level with the water—and the
room was dark and cold about me. The brazier stood
extinguished at my side. The dust had burnt out, and no
smoke rose. I slowly left my chair and closed the window,
for the air was chill.”
It was difficult at first to return to Hampstead and the
details of ordinary life about him. Francis looked round
him slowly, freeing himself gradually from the spell his
friend’s words had laid even upon his analytical temperament.
The transition was helped, however, by the details
that everywhere met his eye. The Chinese atmosphere
remained. More, its effect had gained, if anything. The
embroideries of yellow gold, the pictures, the lacquered
stools and inlaid cabinets, above all, the exquisite figures
in green jade upon the shelf beside him, all this, in the
shimmering pale olive light the lamps shed everywhere,
helped his puzzled mind to bridge the gulf from the Garden
of Happiness into the decorated villa upon Hampstead
There was silence between the two men for several
minutes. Far was it from the doctor’s desire to injure his
old friend’s delightful fantasy. For he called it fantasy,
although something in him trembled. He remained, therefore,
silent. Truth to tell, perhaps, he knew not exactly
what to say.
Farque broke the silence himself. He had not moved
since the story ended; he sat motionless, his hands tightly
clasped, his eyes alight with the memory of his strange
imagined joy, his face rapt and almost luminous, as though
he still wandered through the groves of the Enchanted
Garden and inhaled the perfume of its perfect happiness
in the Valley of the Thousand Temples.
“It was two days later,” he went on suddenly in his
quiet voice, “only two days afterwards, that I met her.”
“You met her? You met the woman of your dream?”
Francis’s eyes opened very wide.
“In that little harbour town,” repeated Farque calmly,
“I met her in the flesh. She had just landed in a steamer
from up the coast. The details are of no particular interest.
She knew me, of course, at once. And, naturally, I
The doctor’s tongue refused to act as he heard. It
dawned upon him suddenly that his friend was married.
He remembered the woman’s touch about the house; he
recalled, too, for the first time that the letter of invitation
to dinner had said “come to us.” He was full of a bewildered
The reaction upon himself was odd, perhaps, yet wholly
natural. His heart warmed towards his imaginative
friend. He could now tell him his own new strange
romance. The woman who haunted him crept back into
the room and sat between them. He found his tongue.
“You married her, Edward?” he exclaimed.
“She is my wife,” was the reply, in a gentle, happy
“A Ch——” he could not bring himself to say the
word. “A foreigner?”
“My wife is a Chinese woman,” Farque helped him
easily, with a delighted smile.
So great was the other’s absorption in the actual moment,
that he had not heard the step in the passage that
his host had heard. The latter stood up suddenly.
“I hear her now,” he said. “I’m glad she’s come
back before you left.” He stepped towards the door.
But before he reached it, the door was opened and in
came the woman herself. Francis tried to rise, but something
had happened to him. His heart missed a beat.
Something, it seemed, broke in him. He faced a tall,
graceful young English woman with black eyes of sparkling
happiness, the woman of his own romance. She still wore
the feather boa round her neck. She was no more Chinese
than he was.
“My wife,” he heard Farque introducing them, as he
struggled to his feet, searching feverishly for words of
congratulation, normal, everyday words he ought to use,
“I’m so pleased, oh, so pleased,” Farque was saying—he
heard the sound from a distance, his sight was blurred
as well—“my two best friends in the world, my English
comrade and my Chinese wife.” His voice was absolutely
sincere with conviction and belief.
“But we have already met,” came the woman’s delightful
voice, her eyes full upon his face with smiling pleasure,
“I saw you at Mrs. Malleson’s tea only this afternoon.”
And Francis remembered suddenly that the Mallesons
were old acquaintances of Farque’s as well as of himself.
“And I even dared to ask who you were,” the voice went
on, floating from some other space, it seemed, to his ears,
“I had you pointed out to me. I had heard of you from
Edward, of course. But you vanished before I could be
The doctor mumbled something or other polite and, he
hoped, adequate. But the truth had flashed upon him with
remorseless suddenness. She had “heard of” him—the
famous mental specialist. Her interest in him was cruelly
explained, cruelly both for himself and for his friend.
Farque’s delusion lay clear before his eyes. An awakening
to reality might involve dislocation of the mind. She,
too, moreover, knew the truth. She was involved as well.
And her interest in himself was—consultation.
“Seven years we’ve been married, just seven years to-day,”
Farque was saying thoughtfully, as he looked at
them. “Curious, rather, isn’t it?”
“Very,” said Francis, turning his regard from the
black eyes to the grey.
Thus it was that Owen Francis left the house a little
later with a mind in a measure satisfied, yet in a measure
forgetful too—forgetful of his own deep problem, because
another of even greater interest had replaced it.
“Why undeceive him?” ran his thought. “He need
never know. It’s harmless anyhow—I can tell her that.”
But, side by side with this reflection, ran another that
was oddly haunting, considering his type of mind:
“Destroyer of Honourable Homes,” was the form of words
it took. And with a sigh he added “Chinese Magic.”