‘It could be a tale not of this world,’ she explained.

‘You want a tale of the other, the better world?’ he asked, with a matter-of-fact surprise. ‘You must evoke for that task those who have already gone there.’

‘No. I don’t mean that. I mean another—some other—world. In the universe—not in heaven.’

‘I am relieved. But you forget that I have only five days’ leave.’

‘Yes. And I’ve also taken a five days’ leave from—from my duties.’

‘I like that word.’

‘What word?’


‘It is horrible—sometimes.’

‘Oh, that’s because you think it’s narrow. But it isn’t. It contains infinities, and—and so—’

‘What is this jargon?’

He disregarded the interjected scorn. ‘An infinity of absolution, for instance,’ he continued. ‘But as to this “another world”—who’s going to look for it and for the tale that is in it?’

‘You,’ she said, with a strange, almost rough, sweetness of assertion.

He made a shadowy movement of assent in his chair, the irony of which not even the gathered darkness could render mysterious.

‘As you will. In that world, then, there was once upon a time a Commanding Officer and a Northman.* Put in the capitals, please, because they had no other names. It was a world of seas and continents and islands—’

‘Like the earth,’ she murmured, bitterly.

‘Yes. What else could you expect from sending a man made of our common, tormented clay on a voyage of discovery? What else could he find? What else could you understand or care for, or feel the existence of even? There was comedy in it and slaughter.’

‘Always like the earth,’ she murmured.

‘Always. And since I could find in the universe only what was deeply rooted in the fibres of my being there was love in it too. But we won’t talk of that.’

‘No. We won’t,’ she said, in a neutral tone which concealed perfectly her relief—or her disappointment. Then after a pause she added: ‘It’s going to be a comic story.’

‘Well—’ he paused, too. ‘Yes. In a way. In a very grim way. It will be human, and, as you know, comedy is but a matter of the visual angle. And it won’t be a noisy story. All the long guns in it will be dumb—as dumb as so many telescopes.’

‘Ah, there are guns in it, then! And may I ask—where?’

‘Afloat. You remember that the world of which we speak had its seas. A war was going on in it. It was a funny world and terribly in earnest. Its war was being carried on over the land, over the water, under

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