Puslapio vaizdai

specialist, it adds still more to the graph that he could remember: "To value."

From that day onward Baptiste took particular interest in the dedications. When they were long and elegantly expressed, he prized them; but if, on the other hand, the author limited himself to some such banal phrase as "devoted homage," without even addressing it "To M. Sébastien Mahaut," he would exclaim, "Ah, the pig!" As for those who wrote nothing at all, he regarded them as the mud upon his shoes.

Finally, he took a bold step. One day, in the absence of the academician, he seized the best pen he could find upon his table, and transcribed on the fly-leaf of a book that had just arrived the most touching and fulsome epi

"He laughed and laughed as he had not done since his first communion"

the great philologist Sébastien Mahaut, humble and faithful homage of an admiration without bounds." And he bravely signed it with the name of the author as printed on the cover.

His hand trembled a little when he offered the book to the bouquiniste, but the trick was not discovered, and the transaction was an advantageous one. Baptiste soon became hardened to these lucrative misdeeds. But one day he had a great surprise. The bookseller opened the volume that Baptiste had brought, and then burst out laughing in the most outrageous manner. He laughed and laughed as he had not done since his first communion.

"Ah, no!" he gasped, "ah, no! That, you know "

"What?" asked Baptiste, indignantly.

The bouquiniste pointed to the dedication, and again his unseemly hilarity bade fair to bring him to the point of death. Finally, he recovered sufficiently to put his finger on the title. ""Traité de la vie et de la mort' —and it is dedicated, "To M. Sébastien Mahaut, my master and friend, FRANCIS BACON.'"

"Well?" said Baptiste, innocently. "He has been dead these four hundred years, Francis Bacon. It's a translation. Ah, no! no! You have the cheek!"

Baptiste turned away, brokenhearted. Books without inscriptions inspired him thenceforth with a holy terror. He abandoned them to the worms, in the garret. But the losses he suffered thereby grieved him sorely. The names of the authors became for him a chronological problem that he worried over, but could not solve.

He ended by asking M. Mahaut one day:

"Does monsieur always know whether they are alive or dead, the people who write all this?"

"Naturally," replied M. Sébastien Mahaut, with some surprise.

For the first time since he had known him Baptiste had a feeling akin to admiration for his master. Until then he had always taken him for a poor sort of man.

"Monsieur knows a devil of a lot!" he admitted.



Because the little gentleman made nautical instruments
And lived in a street which ran down to the sea,
The neighbors called him "Salt Charlie."

I wonder what they would have said if they had known
That he stole out every evening to a sweet-shop

And bought sticks of red-and-white sugar candy.

It was a pleasant thing to see him,

Standing meekly before the custom-house,

Sucking a sugar-stick,

And gazing at the dead funnels of anchored steamers
Against a star-sprung sky.

I thought of him in an oval gilt frame

Against sprigged wall-paper,

Done in Fra Angelico pinks and blues

Of a clear and sprightly elegance.

Wherefore, being convinced of his value as ornament,

I have set him on paper for the delectation

Of sundry scattered persons

Who consider such things important.

The Hole in the Film

Drawing by O. F. HOWARD


UMORS of the Koom Katia affair leaked out despite the pompous seals of military sanction and silence. They came seeping up through the gossip of the Cairo bazaars, spreading into the Arabic sheets circulated by the Egyptian Nationalists; in hints that General Sir Everard Boultbee's fatal "sunstroke" had really been contracted in a quarrel with his own officers-a quarrel over a dancing girl, and that the girl herself had afterward been shot. There had been something too hushed and hasty about the whole business; then, again Hollis and Le Marchant lacked imagination, adhering too doggedly to the story told by Frayne Millard, while of Hamid Vansittart there was no trace. But through it all there was never any mention of its chief figure. In his curious isolation behind the camera whose moving-pictures not only recorded, but actually precipitated the finality, Sears slipped by without once appearing on the public screen.

It was Frayne Millard who first discovered Sears on a morning in 1919, sitting on a baggage-laden motorcycle before the gate of Koom Katia, about the last place in which one would have expected such a fellow, with its sand, blazing sun, mangy dum palms, houses of sun-dried mud, and the fort itself, imposingly obsolete; and all about it the plain, vast, old, and ashen, under

a sky that seemed to clamp down upon it like an inverted, blue-hot bowl.

To Millard, in his tired keenness, it looked like the end of everywhere, and nowhere in particular at that. But they were there to "hold it"-the usual British affair of a big name and an inadequate handful of troops, projected into a place virtually indefensible, with the rest left to the gods of luck. As he walked out through the gate that morning Millard was considering it all in a weary amazement at War-Office psychology, realizing how completely the department depended upon Sir Everard Boultbee, in his bronzed austerity, his personality merged into the blankness of thirty years of national prestige, and that peculiarly English combination of warrior and scholar, with a plastered-on reputation for something of a mystic. His presence there showed Koom Katia as a place of import, a ganglion of Sudanese legend, a city just then forbidden to all save the few. Yet here, all at once, was this Sears.

He was rather unbelievable as he sat there, straddling his motorcycle, with a trickle of smoke from his nostrils and that steady stare which one came to know as habitual to him; a fellow probably in his later twenties, obviously American, lithely supple, lean almost to angularity, his face smoothly narrow under a shock of hair.

His clothes, beneath their powdering of desert dust, consisted of a striped shirt turned collarlessly in about the neck, a pair of ancient riding-breeches, and leather puttees above shoes of shabby tan. Since he was never seen in anything else, they were probably all he possessed. Minus the leather helmet and goggled visor, and with the addition of a cigarette stuck in a corner of his mouth, he appeared to consider himself presentable for any occasion.

For credentials he tendered the yellow slip of a radiogram addressed to himself at Assuan.

British headquarters Cairo want pictures Koom Katia you only available increased terms to undertake proceed via Khartum. COSMIC NEWS & FILM SYNDICATE, New York.

He seemed quite uninterested in it as he held it out, appeals from the very giants of publicity appearing to leave him unimpressed. Even at that first moment Millard found himself wondering what under the sun would impress this fellow, he looked so infernally detached from everything as he sat unconcernedly there in the face of those verities of earth and sky and the more pompous problems of official sanction for his presence. It was the latter that were the more pressing, and Millard realized that it was his duty to take them up.

"How did you get here without a military pass?" he demanded, and drew a stare of surprise.

"Me? I get anywhere." That was plainly just a statement of fact; then, from mere graciousness, Sears offered details. "I sat in trains until the end of the line, then I came on my motor. cycle."

Millard visualized the two hundred miles from rail-head under the torment of a Sudanese May. It was intolerable enough even by the semi-speed of motor transport, and all the equipment this chap seemed to have was a suitcase, a ukulele strapped to its side, a motion-picture camera incased in canvas, and some hermetically sealed drums of film. But he seemed unimpressed by his exploit and gazed disgustedly at the radiogram.

"My rotten luck-one darn job after another."

"You have worked for the Cosmic people before?" Millard asked. "They are my middle name. Len Cosmic Sears; that 's me. I was born in a projection room and weaned on developing fluid. I 'd just finished filming the Egyptian revolt for them, and now they send me up here."

"By George! you went through the revolt?" exclaimed Millard, and the other spat dispassionately into the sands.

"Yep; twenty reels of it, bully stuff. I was figuring on beating it back to Los Angeles. I always do seem figuring on that, but I never seem to do it."

There was a weariness in that which brought to Millard a mental glimpse of the fellow as some sort of young Wandering Jew of motion-pictures. He could imagine him as always aloof in the midst of some strange situation, viewing it all from the point of view of so many "reels," while the powers of the press stirred the air with messages for him to plunge into another.

Touching a match to his dying cigarette, Sears shot forth a question: "What's on up here, anyhow?"

"You mean that you have been down in Egypt and don't know?" Millard exclaimed.

"The first thing a guy learns in the movies is to mind his own business." "But considering that you have been in it all-"

"All I 'm in is pictures, thank you." It was then that Millard first appreciated the peculiar quality of Sears's gaze. It came at him, across the sun and silence, in a glint of narrow-lidded, cool gray, as though Egypt, Koom Katia, even Millard himself, were merely the substance of a possible film

-the sort of gaze he might have given had his hand been actually upon the camera-crank, translating it all into markings of light and shade upon a strip of celluloid.

Millard wondered if Sears would also look at Sir Everard in that way; still more, just how Sir Everard would regard Sears. The general did not take kindly to these modern methods of waging war by propaganda and governing by pictures. But since Sears was here, he must be looked after.

§ 2

Hamid Vansittart, of the secret service, came that evening, slipping inside the fort in some unexplained fashion of his own from one of his mysterious errands out on the face of the desert. One would hear a cameldriver howling under the palms, or see a youth from the Abyssinian border stalking naked and sullen through Koom Katia's mud-walled bazaar, and then suddenly Vansittart would appear, with his face like carved ivory underlaid by dark warmth, his ready laugh, and an arm quick to fall about one's shoulders. He appeared as they sprawled for vain coolness on a topmost roof, the fort piled beneath them under the moon like some cubist's dream.

"The kinema?" Hamid laughed. "You will have trouble photographing this." With a shrug he indicated the fort, weird with moon shadows, with a single golden window in the tower where Sir Everard sat in habitual seclusion. He went on: "Can you photograph a superstition? That is all Koom Katia is, a Sudanese superstition-which is why we are here."

"We must hold it if we are to hold Egypt," Hollis put in, much as he might recite a formula. It sounded like part of a ritual, of such sacredness that its utterance brought an effect of rising and facing the East. By contrast Sears was startling as he asked: "Is it so necessary that you should hold Egypt?"

There was a chill at that, such as might have greeted the head of a snake suddenly thrust up through a crack in the flagstones. Hamid's voice grew dangerously velvet.

"Are we to understand that you are not in sympathy with the British occupation?"

"I'm asking, that 's all," Sears answered. "If I'm to make the films, I must understand the script."

Outlined against the Southern night, the two impressed themselves on Millard's mind, Sears so out of everything but those flickering pictures of light and shade; Hamid so tremendously "in" everything else. It was impossible to think of Vansittart as anything but the center of things; he was that now as he smoothed the situation.

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