The Great Amulet
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The Great Amulet

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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Great Amulet, by Maud DiverThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.orgTitle: The Great AmuletAuthor: Maud DiverRelease Date: December 31, 2006 [eBook #20238]Language: English***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GREAT AMULET***E-text prepared by Al HainesTHE GREAT AMULETbyMAUD DIVER"Love is the greatest Amulet that makes this world a garden: and 'Hope comes to all' outwears the accidents of life; andreaches with tremulous hands beyond the grave and Death."—R. L. S."Four things come not back to man or woman: the sped arrow; the spoken word; the past life; and the neglectedopportunity."—Omar El Khuttub.THE GREAT AMULETbyMAUD DIVERAuthor of "Captain Desmond, V.C."Shilling EditionWilliam Blackwood and SonsEdinburgh and LondonMCMXVAll rights reservedTHIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TOTRIX FLEMINGIN MEMORY OF DALHOUSIE DAYS. Let thy heart see that still the same Burns early friendship's sacred flame, The affinities have strongest part In youth, to draw men heart to heart: As life draws on, and finds no rest, The individual in each breast Is tyrannous to sunder them.—Rossetti.CONTENTS.PROLOGUEBOOK I.AFTER FIVE YEARSBOOK II.JUST IMPEDIMENTBOOK III.THE TENTS OF ISHMAELBOOK IV.THE VALLEY OF ...

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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Great Amulet, by Maud Diver
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: The Great Amulet
Author: Maud Diver
Release Date: December 31, 2006 [eBook #20238]
Language: English
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GREAT AMULET***
E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE GREAT AMULET
by
MAUD DIVER
"Love is the greatest Amulet that makes this world a garden: and 'Hope comes to all' outwears the accidents of life; and reaches with tremulous hands beyond the grave and Death."
—R. L. S.
"Four things come not back to man or woman: the sped arrow; the spoken word; the past life; and the neglected opportunity."
—Omar El Khuttub.
THE GREAT AMULET by
MAUD DIVER
Author of "Captain Desmond, V.C."
Shilling Edition
William Blackwood and Sons Edinburgh and London MCMXV All rights reserved
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO
TRIX FLEMING
IN MEMORY OF DALHOUSIE DAYS.
 Let thy heart see that still the same  Burns early friendship's sacred flame,  The affinities have strongest part  In youth, to draw men heart to heart:  As life draws on, and finds no rest,  The individual in each breast  Is tyrannous to sunder them. —Rossetti.
CONTENTS.
PROLOGUE
BOOK I.
AFTER FIVEYEARS
BOOK II.
JUST IMPEDIMENT
BOOK III.
THETENTS OFISHMAEL
BOOK IV.
THEVALLEYOFDECISION
THE GREAT AMULET.
PROLOGUE.
I.
 "The little more, and how much it is!  The little less, and what worlds away."  —Browning.
No one in Zermatt dreamed that a wedding had been solemnised in the English church on that September afternoon of the early eighties. Tourists and townsfolk alike had been cheated of a legitimate thrill of interest and speculation. Nor would even the most percipient have recognised as bride and bridegroom the tall dark Englishman, in a rough shooting suit, and the girl, in simple white travelling gear, who stood together, an hour later, on the outskirts of the little town, and took leave of their solitary wedding guest:—an artistcao-à-oie; velveteen coat, loosely knotted tie, and soft felt hat complete.
In this Bohemian garb Michael Maurice,—as the bride's brother,—had led his sister up the aisle, and duly surrendered her to Captain Lenox, R.A., serenely unaware, the while, of censorious side-glances bestowed upon him by the ascetic-featured chaplain, who had an air of officiating under protest, of silently asserting his own aloofness from this hole-and-corner method of procedure. But his attitude was powerless to affect the exalted emotion of that strange half-hour, wherein, by the repetition of a few simple, forcible words, a man and woman take upon themselves the hardest task on earth with a valiant assurance which is at once pathetic and sublime.
To Quita Maurice, impressionable at all times, the absence of ceremony, of those trivialities which obscure and belittle the one supreme fact, gave an added solemnity to the unadorned service: forced upon her a half-disturbing realisation that she was passing from an independence, dearer to her than life, into the keeping of a man:—a man of whom she knew little beyond the fact that he loved her with a strength and singleness of heart which is the heritage of those who reach life's summit without indulging in emotional excursions by the way.
And now all needful preliminaries were over; even to the wedding breakfast, a cheerful, casual meal of cold chicken, iced cake, and a bottle of champagne, served in Maurice's unpretentious rooms, on the pastry-cook's second floor.
The scene of their brief courtship lay behind them, dozing in the golden stillness of late September: before them a footpath climbed through a forest of pine and fir to the Eiffel Alp Hotel; and on all sides multitudinous mountains flung heroic contours outward and upward, to a galaxy of peaks, that glittered diamond-bright upon a turquoise sky. A mule, ready-saddled, champed his bit at a respectful distance from the trio: for Lenox, an indefatigable mountaineer, had insisted on taking the footpath up to the Eiffel; where they would spend ten days, before crossing into Italy, and so on to Brindisi,en rOhtefor his station in India.
The expiration of his leave, and his determination to take Quita Maurice back with him, were responsible for the brevity of their engagement, and for the absence, in both, of that brand-new aspect which proclaims a bride and bridegroom to an eternally interested world.
For this last Eldred Lenox was abundantly grateful. All the Scot in him asserted itself in a fierce reticence, an inbred sense of privacy where a man's deepest feelings were concerned: and now, as he stood battling with his impatience to be gone, he was suffering acute discomfiture from the demonstrative leave-taking in progress between Maurice and his sister. For their sakes, at least, he would fain have effaced himself: while they, as a matter of fact, were momentarily oblivious of his existence.
Artists both, of no mean quality, they had lived and worked together for five years, since the day when Michael had rented his first modest studio in the King's Road, Chelsea: and, setting aside Art, his feeling for Quita was the one serious element in a nature light and variable as a summer cloud. From his French mother he derived an elastic spirit that yielded itself to the emotion of the passing moment; and Lenox, watching him, marvelled at the sharp dividing-lines drawn between the different races of earth.
He half resented such facility of self-expression. Possibly he envied it: though no doubt he would have denied the impeachment with an oath.
Eventually it occurred to Maurice that he could not well stand in the roadway till sunset, taking leave of the sister he was so loth to lose, and, with a sigh of exasperation, he pushed her gently towards her husband.
"VOilà, cHerie, . . . enough of my endless adieux, orce bOnLenox may be tempted to break the sixth commandment on my account, in addition to the eighth."
Lenox smiled tolerantly down from six feet of height upon his slim, fair brother-in-law.
"That temptation should be your own prerogative, my dear fellow, since
I am taking her from you for good."
Maurice laughed.
"MOn Dieh, yes. You have certainly given me a fair excuse to hate you. And I have wondered more than once, in the last three months, why one could not manage it."
"Too fatiguing for a man of your calibre!" the other answered with good-humoured bluntness. "You could never be bothered to keep it up."
"Ah,mOn ami, you men who speak little speak to the point! You are altogether too discerning. But for Quita's sake, at least, we could never be otherwise than firm friends. With all my heart I wish good fortune to you both, and count the days to your return."
The two men shook hands cordially: and Lenox, beckoning the muleteer, lifted his wife into the saddle; thus averting a final demonstration. She waved her hand to a blurred vision of her brother, smiling resolutely, till his back was turned: and he departed townward;—a lonely brown figure, to which a slight stoop of the shoulders lent an added air of pathos.
Quita sat looking after him, her stillness belying the clash of emotions at her heart.
That vanishing figure on the sunlit road stood for all that she knew and loved best in the world: for Art, independence, good comradeship: for the happy, irresponsible, hand-to-mouth life of Bohemia: for the Past, dear and familiar, as a well-loved voice: while the quiet man at her side,—whose mere presence suggested latent force, and gave her a sense of protection wholly new to her,—stood for the Future; the undiscovered country, peopled with possibilities, dark and bright. And Quita Lenox, being blest, or curst, with the insight and detached spirit of the artist, saw clearly that the Great Experiment held, for her, a large element of hazard; that she had staked her all upon a turn of the wheel, with what resulting Time alone could show.
Her husband's hand on her arm brought reflection abruptly to an end.
"He is almost out of sight now," Lenox said quietly. "And I think it's time we made a start. Will you come?"
She turned to him at once, with a smile whose April quality heightened its charm.
"Of course I will; and gladly. Don't think me horrid, Eldred. I have always been frank with you, haven't I? And . . . itisa wrench leaving Michael to live and work alone."
"I quite understand that: and I value your devotion to him for selfish reasons. It proves what you may be capable of feeling . . . for me, one of these days."
The mingled dignity and humility of his tone so moved her that her only answer was an impulsive pressure of the hand resting on her arm: and they went forward for a long while without further speech, the muleteer having set off for the summit by a series of short cuts known to his kind.
Before long massed pines were above and below them; their jagged stems and branches sharply imprinted on stretches of sunlit glacier, and on the pathway in mottled patches of shadow.
Eldred Lenox walked close to his wife, one hand resting on the crupper behind her. The man's intensity of feeling did not rise readily to the surface; and a certain proud sensitiveness, the cardinal weakness of big natures, withheld him from the full expression of an emotion to which she could not adequately respond. He was content to wait, and hope; and in the meanwhile, he walked at her side wrapt in the mere joy of possession; one of the strongest, yet least recognised passions of a man's heart. From time to time he glanced at her attentively; and each glance strengthened his faith in that which had come upon him, sudden as an earthquake, and no less subversive of ancient landmarks, of confirmed prejudices and convictions in regard to the woman element in man's life.
For Quita Lenox, though far from beautiful, in the accepted sense, was undeniably good to look at. Coils of soft hair, golden in the sun, brown in the shade; eyes neither grey nor green, intensified by unusually large pupils, and by brows and lashes almost black; a straight nose, low at the root; a mouth too long, too mobile for beauty, its emotional quality safeguarded by an uncompromising chin, completed a face whose charm lay in no particular excellence of details; but in the vivid spirit,—quick to see, to feel, to understand,—that informed and harmonised a somewhat contradictory whole. An abiding sense of humour, hovering about her lips and in her eyes, kept the world sane and sweet for her, and leavened her whole outlook on life. A minor quality completed her charm. By virtue of the French blood in her veins, she imparted, even to the simplest garments, an air of distinction, of exquisite finish, to which an Englishwoman rarely attains.
At three-and-twenty Quita Lenox was very artist, though not, as yet, very woman. The complex Ego, which is the keystone of Art, had not been tested and dominated by the great simple forces, which are the keystone of life.
But her husband was in no mood to analyse her appearance, or her charm. He wanted beyond all things to know what was passing in her mind, and because his own thoughts were too passionate for utterance, he waited for her to speak. But for the first time in his knowledge of her, he waited in vain. Protracted silence on her part was a phenomenon so unusual, that at length he turned to her definitely, a shadow of misgiving in his clear Northern eyes.
"Are you thinking over it all very seriously . . . now that it is done past undoing?"
He smiled in speaking, and she met his look with her accustomed frankness.
"And if I am . . . ? Surely that service gives one food for reflection. I had not so much as looked at it since early days when curiosity impelled me to read it through; and weddings have never been in my line. As a matter of fact, I was thinking just then what unaccountable creatures we men and women are! How we ponder, and debate, and fuss over trifles, and then plunge headlong past the big turning-points of life, without a thought of the consequences lurking round the corner. Which doesn't mean that you and I need spell our consequences with a capital C, or label them tragic in advance," she added with a laugh. "For honestly, it seems to me that a rising artist, and a rising explorer, both devout worshippers of the eternal hills, may reasonably expect to possess many ideas and interests in common: and those are the bricks out of which two people build their House of Happiness,n'est-ce oas, mOn ami?"
"Yes; if you choose to leave mutual trust, and mutual devotion, out on the doorstep."
"I don't choose: only, they are not the bricks, Eldred. One is the foundation-stone; and the other,—the other is a great mysterious Something, that transforms the House into an enchanted palace. But we must be content to begin with the House,—do you see?"
"Yes—I see. I am abundantly content to begin on any terms."
Something in the man's tone impelled her to lean outward a little, so that her shoulder rested lightly against the arm passed behind her. "You are much too good to me, dear," she said softly. "I don't think one could possibly live with you and fail to love you. That is why I have dared to take the risk." He did not answer in words, nor did he give her the kiss she half expected; but his hand deserted the crupper, and the mule pricked a velvet ear at the check in his progress. Then Quita straightened herself, as if reasserting her cherished independence.
"After all, it is more interesting, in some ways, not to have everything cut and dried from the start," she went on, striking off at a tangent, with an innate perversity incomprehensible to a mere man. "It prevents a headlong fall into the commonplace: and there is a certain excitement in looking on, so to speak, at one's own personal drama, without feeling quite sure of its developments."
Lenox knitted his brows. He could not always keep pace with her more fantastic moods.
"Quita, are you talking nonsense?" he asked with a touch of irritation. "No." "Well, I wish you were. I don't like that sort of attitude towards serious things; and I don't understand what you mean about looking on at one's own life. It sounds brutally detached, not to say egotistical."
"That is because you only climb mountains and handle men,mOn cHer, instead of trying to paint them, or translate them into verse. You are spared the artist's complication of a dual personality; of two souls imprisoned in one body; the one who enjoys, and loves, and suffers; and the one who looks on, and picks every emotion to pieces. I am afraid the one you disapprove of has had the upper hand in me so far. Perhaps it is your mission to develop the other into a healthier state of activity."
"I hope to Heaven it may be," her husband answered fervently. "The present state of things strikes me as a trifle inhuman."
"But indeed I am not inhuman! Only . . . we have still a good deal to learn about one another, Eldred, although we are man and wife. You confess to an amazing ignorance of women; while my own varied experience of men has lain chiefly among 'the sayers of words'; and one can hardly class you under that heading!"
"Good Lord, no! I should hope not."
Quita threw up her head and laughed outright.
"Really, Eldred, you are delightful!"
"Glad to hear it," Lenox replied, a shade of sarcasm in his tone. "It's the first time I have been accused of such a thing."
He quickened his pace; and she, divining a slight jar in the atmosphere, said no more. The supreme art in human intercourse is the art of punctuation, and in the long pause that ensued, silence accomplished her perfect work.
Higher up they emerged on an open space of roadway, where the pines came abruptly to an end; and the path shelved sheer from its broken railing to the Visp Valley below. Instinctively Quita drew rein and drank in every detail of the vision
before her with the wordless satisfaction that is the hall-mark of the true Nature-worshipper. Lenox stood quietly at her side, his gaze riveted on her face. He had seen many mountains, giants among their kind; but never till now had he beheld the glory of them reflected in a woman's eyes. At that moment they seemed the only sentient things in a world of rock, and snow, and sunshine. It was as if the round earth, and the pillars thereof, had been made for them, and them alone.
Above the road a weather-beaten hut struck an isolated note of life, and across the valley Matterhorn towered,—solitary, superb,—his rugged head and shoulders thrust heavenward through a diaphanous scarf of cloud. Suddenly Quita Lenox fronted her husband, and his face softened to a smile that hovered in the eyes an appreciable time before it reached his lips.
"À la bOnHehr!" she said, smiling back at him. "We will break our journey here. You can tether 'Modestina' to that stump. I must do a rough sketch of this, and put in notes for colouring, while you sit beside me and smoke, and talk. When it's complete, I'll present it to you as a memento of to-day. Will that suit you?" "Rather!" He lifted her from the saddle, in defiance of her laughing protest, and, holding her at arm's length, looked long and steadily into her eyes, as though he would reach and capture, by force of will, the elusive spirit that lived in their depths.
It was in these rare moments of revelation that Quita was troubled by a disconcerting sense of exchanging false coin for gold. She tried to free herself from his grasp; and the colour deepened in her cheeks.
"Eldred,—let me go!" she said, with something less than her wonted assurance. "It frightens me when you look right into me like that."
"Frightens you? Dearest, . . . what nonsense!" But for once he disregarded her behest.
"It's not nonsense. It makes me see too clearly the chained-up forces hidden under that surface quietness of yours. I think you might be rather terrible if they ever broke loose."
He laughed abruptly, and let her go.
"I keep them chained up, I promise you: and they are never likely to do you any harm. Now, begin upon your picture, and don't alarm yourself about nothing."
She watched him thoughtfully as he led "Modestina" away, and tethered her to a pine stump. It needed small discernment to perceive that the equitable poise of his character rested upon the noiseless conviction that he was a man, and a gentleman: and it seemed to her that she did well to feel proud of her husband.
With which satisfying conviction she settled herself upon a slab of a rock, whipped out the sketch-book, that hung permanently in a flat leather bag at her waist, and plunged headlong into her picture. For in her case, impression and expression were almost simultaneous: the most distinctive quality of her work being the rapidity and certainty with which she produced her effects.
Lenox, returning, extended his firmly-knit length of figure on the sloping ground near by, and flung aside his cap; thus revealing more clearly the rugged contour of his head, and the black hair whose obstinate ripple no amount of brushing could subdue. With leisurely deliberation he filled his pipe, and surrendered himself to the enchantment of the hour, before it slipped from him into the region of accomplished things. And it is this very evanescence, this rainbow quality of our hill-top moments, that adds such poignant intensity to their charm.
Much of their brief courtship had been spent in such wordless companionship: the man smoking beside her, with, or without, a book, while she worked; and he never wearied of watching that abiding miracle, a picture springing to life under an artist's fingers.
"You're not likely to give up this sort of thing, I suppose?" he asked suddenly; and she turned upon him with blank astonishment in her eyes.
"Give it up? . . . You might as well ask if I shall ever give up seeing, or hearing, or feeling. It is a part of me. You don't want me to give it up, do you?"
"Far from it. I was merely thinking that it seems suicidal for an artist of your quality to bury herself alive in a little Frontier station, on the edge of a desert, more than a hundred miles from anywhere."
"Rubbish! It simply means a new range of subjects for my brush. Tell me a little about it, please. I like to try and picture things in advance; and I am lamentably ignorant about this remarkable Frontier Force, to which I now have the honour to belong. Are we all on the wrong side of the Indus, always?"
"Yes, for ever and ever; except when we get away on leave."
"And then we go camping and climbing in the far hills beyond Kashmir, don't we?"
"Yes, invariably! For the rest of the time we keep 'cave' along six hundred miles of heart-breaking Border country."
"In other words, you are watch-dogs guarding the gates of an Empire?"
"That sounds far more imposing; and it's no less true. We are also actively engaged in helping the Indian Government to cultivate friendly relations with the tribes at the point of the bayonet!"
"And don't the tribes respond?"
"Yes, vigorously, to the tune of bullets and cold steel; so that we manage to keep things pretty lively between us! Since we annexed the Frontier, nearly forty years ago, the Piffers have taken part in more than thirty Border expeditions, all told, to say nothing of the Afghan War."
Quita's attention had been diverted from her picture to her husband's face.
"You get your fill of fighting at that rate," she said, "And I think you must be rather magnificent when you are fighting, Eldred."
Lenox shrugged his shoulders, and laughed.
"I'm a keen soldier, if that's what you're driving at: and I believe the world holds no finer school for character than constant active service."
"I confess I never thought of looking at war in that light! But I can well believe it, if its horrors and hardships turn out many men . . . like you."
Words and tone set the man's pulses in commotion. But he clenched his teeth upon his pipe-stem, and ignored the personal allusion.
"Well, you can see for yourself, when you get there. Taking 'em all round, I think you'll find the Piffers as fine a set of fellows as you could wish to meet anywhere; and it's hard work, and hard conditions of life, that thrash them into shape."
"And the stations, where I am to be 'buried alive' in such good company?"
"I'm afraid the stations are the least satisfactory part of the programme. There are five of them along our north-west strip of desert; all more or less hopeless to get at. We play general post among them every two or three years, to avoid stagnation and keep the men fit. Just now my battery's quartered at Dera Ghazee Khan, a God-forsaken place, right down by Scindh. I don't know how I have the cheek to think of taking you there."
"But if I refuse to be left behind . . . ?"
"Well, of course . . . in that case . . ." His eyes, looking up into hers, completed the sentence.
"I'm not a 'society woman,' remember; and setting aside your companionship, I should prefer a 'God-forsaken place' on the Indian Frontier to St. John's Wood or Upper Tooting, any day! I am prepared to find it all very interesting."
"So you may, at the start. But the interest is likely to wear thin after the first few years of it."
"Well, perhaps by that time we shall have arrived at the enchanted palace, and then nothing else will matter at all!—There now; I've done all I can to my sketch for the present. Shall we go on?"
Lenox roused himself, not without reluctance, and they went on accordingly.
Towards the summit, trees grew rare: and they found the solitary hotel perched aloft, upon an open space; a hive of restless shifting human life, set in the midst of the changeless hills.
After a short interview with the manager's wife, they found themselves alone again, in the private sitting-room engaged by Lenox. A wood fire burned merrily in the open hearth, for September evenings are chilly at that altitude; and the windows, looking westward, gave generous admittance to a flood of afternoon sunlight.
Eldred, standing on the hearth-rug, surveyed all things in an access of silent satisfaction; while Quita moved lightly to and fro, frankly interested in details.
"Oh, how I love the cleanness and emptiness of these Swiss rooms!" she exclaimed at last. "They make one feel so unspeakably wholesome and good. And we are actually going to have dinner here, you and I? Just our two selves! How strange!"
On a sudden impulse she came close to him, and standing before him, took the lapels of his coat, one in each hand.
"Eldred, . . . I don't seem able to take it in at all! Other brides have so much of external paraphernalia to emphasise the fact they have closed one chapter of life, and begun another. But except for that dreamlike half-hour in church, you and I seem merely to have come away together for an everyday outing; and there is nothing anywhere, . . . except this,"—she lifted the third finger of her left hand,—"to make me realise that we are actually . . . married."