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specialist, it adds still more to the graph that he could remember: “To value.”
the great philologist Sébastien Mahaut, From that day onward Baptiste humble and faithful homage of an adtook particular interest in the dedica- miration without bounds." And he tions. When they were long and ele- bravely signed it with the name of the gantly expressed, he prized them; but author as printed on the cover. if, on the other hand, the author lim- His hand trembled a little when he ited himself to some such banal phrase offered the book to the bouquiniste, but as "devoted homage,” without even the trick was not discovered, and the addressing it “To M. Sébastien Ma- transaction was an advantageous one. haut," he would exclaim, "Ah, the Baptiste soon became hardened to pig!" As for those who wrote nothing these lucrative misdeeds. But one at all, he regarded them as the mud day he had a great surprise. The upon his shoes.
bookseller opened the volume that Finally, he took a bold step. One Baptiste had brought, and then burst day, in the absence of the academician, out laughing in the most outrageous he seized the best pen he could find manner. He laughed and laughed as upon his table, and transcribed on the he had not done since his first comfly-leaf of a book that had just arrived munion. the most touching and fulsome epi- “Ah, no!” he gasped, “ah, no! That,
“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. "He laughed and laughed as he had not
The names of the authors became for done since his first communion"
him a chronological problem that he worried over, but could not solve. He ended by asking M. Mahaut one For the first time since he had known day:
him Baptiste had a feeling akin to ad“Does monsieur always know miration for his master. Until then whether they are alive or dead, the he had always taken him for a poor people who write all this?”
sort of man. "Naturally," replied M. Sébastien "Monsieur knows a devil of a lot!" Mahaut, with some surprise.
Because the little gentleman made nautical instruments
I thought of him in an oval gilt frame
UMORS of the Koom Katia a sky that seemed to clamp down upon
affair leaked out despite the it like an inverted, blue-hot bowl. pompous seals of military sanction To Millard, in his tired keenness, and silence. They came seeping up it looked like the end of everywhere, through the gossip of the Cairo ba- and nowhere in particular at that. zaars, spreading into the Arabic sheets But they were there to "hold it"-the circulated by the Egyptian Nation- usual British affair of a big name and alists; in hints that General Sir an inadequate handful of troops, proEverard Boultbee's fatal "sunstroke" jected into a place virtually indefensihad really been contracted in a quarrel ble, with the rest left to the gods of with his own officers—a quarrel over a luck. As he walked out through the dancing girl, and that the girl herself gate that morning Millard was conhad afterward been shot. There had sidering it all in a weary amazement been something too hushed and hasty at War-Office psychology, realizing about the whole business; then, again how completely the department deHollis and Le Marchant lacked imag- pended upon Sir Everard Boultbee, ination, adhering too doggedly to the in his bronzed austerity, his personality story told by Frayne Millard, while of merged into the blankness of thirty Hamid Vansittart there was no trace. years of national prestige, and that But through it all there was never any peculiarly English combination of warmention of its chief figure. In his rior and scholar, with a plastered-on curious isolation behind the camera reputation for something of a mystic. whose moving-pictures not only re- His presence there showed Koom corded, but actually precipitated the Katia as a place of import, a ganglion finality, Sears slipped by without once of Sudanese legend, a city just then appearing on the public screen. forbidden to all save the few. Yet
It was Frayne Millard who first here, all at once, was this Sears. discovered Sears on a morning in 1919, He was rather unbelievable as he sitting on a baggage-laden motorcycle sat there, straddling his motorcycle, before the gate of Koom Katia, about with a trickle of smoke from his nosthe last place in which one would have trils and that steady stare which one expected such a fellow, with its sand, came to know as habitual to him; a blazing sun, mangy dum palms, houses fellow probably in his later twenties, of sun-dried mud, and the fort itself, obviously American, lithely supple, imposingly obsolete; and all about it lean almost to angularity, his face the plain, vast, old, and ashen, under smoothly narrow under a shock of hair. His clothes, beneath their powdering Millard visualized the two hundred of desert dust, consisted of a striped miles from rail-head under the torment shirt turned collarlessly in about the of a Sudanese May. It was intolerneck, a pair of ancient riding-breeches, able enough even by the semi-speed of and leather puttees above shoes of motor transport, and all the equipment shabby tan. Since he was never seen this chap seemed to have was a suitin anything else, they were probably case, a ukulele strapped to its side, a all he possessed. Minus the leather motion-picture camera incased in canhelmet and goggled visor, and with vas, and some hermetically sealed the addition of a cigarette stuck in a drums of film. But he seemed unimcorner of his mouth, he appeared to pressed by his exploit and gazed disconsider himself presentable for any gustedly at the radiogram. occasion.
“My rotten luck-one darn job after For credentials he tendered the another.” yellow slip of a radiogram addressed to “You have worked for the Cosmic himself at Assuan.
people before?” Millard asked.
"They are my middle name. Len British headquarters Cairo want pic- Cosmic Sears; that's me. I was born tures Koom Katia you only available
in a projection room and weaned on increased terms to undertake proceed via Khartum. Cosmic News & FILM developing fluid. I'd just finished SYNDICATE, New York.
filming the Egyptian revolt for them,
and now they send me up here.” He seemed quite uninterested in it "By George! you went through the as he held it out, appeals from the very revolt?" exclaimed Millard, and the giants of publicity appearing to leave other spat dispassionately into the him unimpressed. Even at that first sands. moment Millard found himself won- “Yep; twenty reels of it, bully stuff. dering what under the sun would im- I was figuring on beating it back to press this fellow, he looked so infer- Los Angeles. I always do seem figurnally detached from everything as he ing on that, but I never seem to do it.” sat unconcernedly there in the face of There was a weariness in that which those verities of earth and sky and the brought to Millard a mental glimpse of more pompous problems of official the fellow as some sort of young Wansanction for his presence. It was the dering Jew of motion-pictures. He latter that were the more pressing, and could imagine him as always aloof in Millard realized that it was his duty the midst of some strange situation, to take them up.
viewing it all from the point of view "How did you get here without a of so many "reels," while the powers of military pass?” he demanded, and drew the press stirred the air with messages a stare of surprise.
for him to plunge into another. “Me? I get anywhere.” That was Touching a match to his dying plainly just a statement of fact; then, cigarette, Sears shot forth a question: from mere graciousness, Sears offered “What 's on up here, anyhow?” details. "I sat in trains until the end “You mean that you have been of the line, then I came on my motor- down in Egypt and don't know?” · cycle."
"The first thing a guy learns in the “The kinema?" Hamid laughed. movies is to mind his own business.” “You will have trouble photographing
“But considering that you have been this." With a shrug he indicated the in it all"
fort, weird with moon shadows, with "All I 'm in is pictures, thank you." a single golden window in the tower
It was then that Millard first ap- where Sir Everard sat in habitual preciated the peculiar quality of Sears's seclusion. He went on: “Can you gaze. It came at him, across the sun photograph a superstition? That is and silence, in a glint of narrow-lidded, all Koom Katia is, a Sudanese supercool gray, as though Egypt, Koom stition—which is why we are here.” Katia, even Millard himself, were “We must hold it if we are to hold merely the substance of a possible film Egypt,” Hollis put in, much as he -the sort of gaze he might have given might recite a formula. It sounded had his hand been actually upon the like part of a ritual, of such sacredness camera-crank, translating it all into that its utterance brought an effect of markings of light and shade upon a rising and facing the East. By constrip of celluloid.
trast Sears was startling as he asked: Millard wondered if Sears would also "Is it so necessary that you should look at Sir Everard in that way; still hold Egypt?” more, just how Sir Everard would re- There was a chill at that, such as gard Sears. The general did not take might have greeted the head of a kindly to these modern methods of snake suddenly thrust up through a waging war by propaganda and gov- crack in the flagstones. Hamid's voice erning by pictures. But since Sears grew dangerously velvet. was here, he must be looked after. “Are we to understand that you are
not in sympathy with the British
occupation?" Hamid Vansittart, of the secret "I 'm asking, that 's all," Sears service, came that evening, slipping answered. "If I'm to make the films,
", inside the fort in some unexplained I must understand the script.” fashion of his own from one of his Outlined against the Southern night, mysterious errands out on the face of the
the two impressed themselves on the desert. One would hear a camel- Millard's mind, Sears so out of everydriver howling under the palms, or see thing but those flickering pictures of a youth from the Abyssinian border light and shade; Hamid so tremenstalking naked and sullen through dously "in" everything else. It was Koom Katia's mud-walled bazaar, and impossible to think of Vansittart as then suddenly Vansittart would ap- anything but the center of things; he pear, with his face like carved ivory was that now as he smoothed the underlaid by dark warmth, his ready situation. laugh, and an arm quick to fall about “Then I 'll explain. It 's like the one's shoulders. He appeared as they house that Jack built. Egypt is the sprawled for vain coolness on a top- key of India; to hold Egypt one must most roof, the fort piled beneath them hold the Sudan, and it is the belief that under the moon like some cubist's to hold the Sudan one must hold Koom dream.