Merely to watch me was wasted labor. They meant to do more,
or they would have done nothing.
Thinking so, another idea took possession of me with a shock
of terror the man was following me to kill me as the sole Chris-
tian witness of the crime that had been committed. By the light
of that theory everything became plain. When I visited the
Kasbah nothing was known of my acquaintance with the murdered
man. My bribes were taken, and I was allowed to leave Fez m
spite of public orders. But then came Larby with alarming mtelli
gence. I had been a friend of the American, and had been seen
g86 THE LAST CONFESSION
to speak with him in the public streets. Perhaps Larby himself had
seen me, or perhaps my own guide, Alee, had betrayed me to his
friend and "brother." At that the Kaid or his Kaleefa had raised
their eyebrows and sworn at each other for simpletons and fools.
To think that the very man who had intended to betray them had
come with an innocent face and a tale of a sick child in England !
To think that they had suffered him to slip through their fingers
and leave them some paltry bribes of fifty pounds! Fifty pounds
taken by stealth against twenty thousand dollars to be plumped
down after the Christian had told his story ! These Nazarenes were
so subtle, and the sons of Ishmael were so simple. But diamond
cut diamond. Everything was not lost. One hundred and twenty-
five miles this Christian had still to travel before he could sail
from Barbary, and not another Christian could he encounter on
that journey. Then up, Larby, and after him ! God make your
way easy! Remember, Larby, remember, good fellow, it is not
only the pockets of the people of Fez that are in danger if that
Christian should escape. Let him leave the Gharb alive, and your
own neck is in peril. You were the spy, you were the informer,
you were the hotheaded madman who led the attack that ended in
the spilling of Christian blood. If the Sultan should have to pay
twenty thousand dollars to the Minister for America at Tangier for
the life of this dead dog whom we have grubbed into the earth in a
garden, if the Basha of Fez should have to pay forty thousand
dollars to the Sultan, if the people should have to pay eighty thou-
sand dollars to the Basha, then you, Larby, you in your turn will
have to pay with your life to the people. It is your life against the
life of the Christian. So follow him, watch him, silence him, he
knows your secret away!
Such was my notion of what happened at the Kasbah of Fez
after I had passed the gates of the city. It was a wild vision, but
to my distempered imagination it seemed to be a plausible theory.
And now Larby, the spy upon the American, Larby, my assassin-
elect, Larby, who to save his own life must take mine, Larby was
with me, was beside me, was behind me constantly !
God help you, my son, God help you! Larby! O Larby! Again,
What was I to do? Open my heart to Larby; to tell him it was
a blunder ; that I meant no man mischief ; that I was merely hasten-
ing back to my sick boy, who was dying for want of me? That
was impossible; Larby would laugh in my face, and still follow
me. Bribe him? That was useless; Larby would take my money
and make the surer of his victim. It was a difficult problem; but
THE LAST CONFESSION 387
at length I hit on a solution. Father, you will pity me for a fool
when you hear it. I would bargain with Larby as Faust bargained
with the devil. He should give me two weeks of life, and come
with me to England. I should do my work here, and Larby should
never leave my side. My boy's life should be saved by that opera-
tion, which I alone knew how to perform. After that Larby and
I should square accounts together. He should have all the money
I had in the world, and the passport of my name and influence for
his return to his own country. I should write a confession of
suicide, and then and then only then at home here in my
own room Larby should kill me in order to satisfy himself
that his own secret and the secret of his people must be safe
It was a mad dream, but what dream of dear life is not mad that
comes to the man whom death dogs like a bloodhound? And mad
as it was I tried to make it come true. The man was constantly
near me, and on the third morning of our journey I drew upi
sharply, and said:
"Sidi," he answered.
"Would you not like to go on with me to England?"
He looked aj me with his glittering eyes, and I gave an invol-
untary shiver. I had awakened the man's suspicions in an instant.
He thought I meant to entrap him. But he only smiled know-
ingly, shrugged his shoulders, and answered civilly: "I have my
shop in the Sok de Barra, Sidi. And then there are my wives
and my sons and my little Hoolia God be praised for all his
"Hoolia?" I asked.
"My little daughter, Sidi."
"How old is she?"
"Six, Sidi, only six, but as fair as an angel."
"I dare say she misses you when you are away, Larby," I said.
"You have truth, Sidi. She sits in the Sok by the tents of the
brassworkers and plaits rushes all the day long, and looks over to
where the camels come by the saints' houses on the hill, and waits
"Larby," I said, "I, too, have a child at home who is waiting
and watching. A boy, my little Noel, six years of age, just as old
as your own little Hoolia. And so bright, so winsome. But he is
ill, he is dying, and he is all the world to me. Larby, I am a
surgeon, I am a doctor, if I could but reach England "
It was worse than useless. I stopped, for I could go no farther.
388 THE LAST CONFESSION
The cold glitter of the man's eyes passed over me like frost over
flame, and I knew his thought as well as if he had spoken it. "I
have heard that story before," he was telling himself, "I have
heard it at the Kasbah, and it is a lie and a trick."
My plan was folly, and I abandoned it; but I was more than
ever convinced of my theory. This man was following me to kill
me. He was waiting an opportunity to do his work safely, secretly,
and effectually. His rulers would shield him in his crime, for by
that crime they would themselves be shielded.
Father, my theory, like my plan, was foolishness. Only a
madman would have dreamt of concealing a crime whereof there
was but one witness, by a second crime, whereof the witnesses must
have been five hundred. The American had traveled in disguise
and cut off the trace of his identity to all men save myself. When
he died at the hands of the fanatics whose faith he had outraged, I
alone of all Christians knew that it was Christian blood that had
stained the streets of Fez. But how different my own death must
have been. I had traveled openly as a Christian and an English-
man. At the consulate of Tangier I was known by name and re-
pute, and at that of Fez I had registered myself. My presence had
been notified at every town I had passed through, and the men of
my caravan would not have dared to return to their homes without
me. In the case of the murder of the American the chances to
the Moorish authorities of claim for indemnity were as one to five
hundred. In the case of the like catastrophe to myself they must
have been as five hundred to one. Thus, in spite of fanaticism
and the ineradicable hatred of the Moslem for the Nazarene,
Morocco to me, as to all Christian travelers, traveling openly and
behaving themselves properly, was as safe a place as England
But how can a man. be hot and cold and wise and foolish in a
moment? I was in no humor to put the matter to myself tem-
perately, and, though I had been so cool as to persuade myself
that the authorities whom I had bribed could not have been mad-
men enough to think that they could conceal the murder of the
American by murdering me, yet I must have remained convinced
that Larby himself was such a madman.
As a surgeon, I had some knowledge of madness, and the cold,
clear, steely glitter of the man's eyes when he looked at me was
a thing that I could not mistake. I had seen it before in religious
monomaniacs. It was an infallible and fatal sign. With that light
in the eyes, like the glance of a dagger, men will kill the wives they
love, and women will slaughter the children of their bosom. When
THE LAST CONFESSION 389
I saw it in Larby I shivered with a chilly presentiment. It seemed
to say that I should see my home no more. I have seen my home
once more; I am back in England, I am here, but
No, no, not THAT! Larby! Don't tell ME you did THAT.
Father, is my crime so dark ? That hour comes back and back.
How long will it haunt me? How long? For ever and ever.
When time for me is swallowed up in eternity, eternity will be
swallowed up in the memory of that hour. Peace! Do you say
peace? Ah! yes, yes; God is merciful!
Before I had spoken to Larby his presence in our company had
been only as a dark and fateful shadow. Now it was a foul and
hateful incubus. Never in all my life until then had I felt hatred
for any human creature. But I hated that man with all the sinews
of my soul. What was it to me that he was a madman? He in-
tended to keep me from my dying boy. Why should I feel tender-
ness toward him because he was the father of his little Hoolia?
By killing me he would kill my little Noel.
I began to recall the doctrines of the American as he pro-
pounded them on the ship. It was the life of an honest man against
the life of a scoundrel. These things should be rated ad valorem.
If the worst came to the worst, why should I have more respect
for this madman's life than for my own?
I looked at the man and measured his strength against mine.
He was a brawny fellow with broad shoulders, and I was no bet-
ter than a weakling. I was afraid of him, but I was yet more
afraid of myself. Sometimes I surprised my half-conscious mind
in the act of taking out of its silver-mounted sheath the large
curved knife which I had bought of the hawker at Tangier, and
now wore in the belt of my Norfolk jacket. In my cowardice and
my weakness this terrified me. Not all my borrowed philosophy
served to support me against the fear of my own impulses. Mean-
time, I was in tn agony of suspense and dread. The nights brought
me no rest and the mornings no freshness.
On the fourth day out of Fez we arrived at Wazzan, and there,
though the hour was still early, my men decided to encamp for the
night. I protested, and they retorted; I threatened, and they ex-
cused themselves. The mules wanted shoeing. I offered to pay
double that they might be shod immediately. The tents were torn
by a heavy wind the previous night. I offered to buy new ones.
When their trumpery excuses failed them, the men rebelled openly,
and declared their determination not to stir out of Wazzan that
But they had reckoned without their host this time. I found
390 THE LAST CONFESSION
that there was an English Consul at Wazzan, and I went in search
of him. His name was Smith, and he was a typical Englishman
ample, expansive, firm, resolute, domineering, and not troubled
with too much sentiment. I told him of the revolt of my people and
of the tyranny of the subterfuges whereby they had repeatedly ex-
torted bribes. The good fellow came to my relief. He was a man
of purpose, and he had no dying child twelve hundred miles away
to make him a fool and a coward.
"Men," he said, "you've got to start away with this gentleman
at sundown, and ride night and day do yow hear me, night and
day until you come to Tangier. A servant of my own shall go
with you, and if you stop or delay or halt or go slowly he shall see
that every man of you is clapped into the Kasbah as a blackmailer
and a thief."
There was no more talk of rebellion. The men protested that
they had always been willing to travel. Sidi had been good to
them, and they would be good to Sidi. At sundown they would
"You will have no more trouble, sir," said the Consul; "but I
will come back to see you start."
I thanked him and we parted. It was still an hour before sun-
set, and I turned aside to look at the town. I had barely walked a
dozen paces when I came face to face with Larby. In the turmoil
of my conflict with the men I had actually forgotten him for one
long hour. He looked at me with his glittering eyes, and then his
cold, clear gaze followed the Consul as he passed down the street.
That double glance was like a shadowy warning. It gave me a
shock of terror.
How had I forgotten my resolve to baffle suspicion by ex-
changing no word or look with any European Minister or Consul
as long as I remained in Morocco? The expression in the man's
face was not to be mistaken. It seemed to say, "So you have told
all; very well, Sidi, we shall see."
With a sense as of creeping and cringing I passed on. The
shadow of death seemed to have fallen upon me at last. I felt
myself to be a doomed man. That madman would surely kill me.
He would watch his chance ; I should never escape him ; my home
would see me no more ; my boy would die for want of me.
A tingling noise, as of the jangling of bells, was in my ears.
Perhaps it was the tinkling of the bells of the water-carriers, pro-
longed and unbroken. A gauzy mist danced before my eyes. Per-
haps it was the palpitating haze which the sun cast back from the
gilded domes and minarets.
THE LAST CONFESSION 391
Domes and minarets were everywhere in this town of Wazzan.
It seemed to be a place of mosques and saints' houses. Where the
wide arch and the trough of the mosque were not, there was the
open door in the low white-washed wall of the saint's house, sur-
mounted by its white flag. In my dazed condition, I was some-
times in danger of stumbling into such places unawares. At the
instant of recovered consciousness I always remembered the warn-
ings of my guide as I stood by the house of Sidi Gali at Tangier:
"Sacred place? Yes, sacred. No Nazarene may enter it. But
Moslems, yes, Moslems may fly here for sanctuary. Life to the
Moslem, death to the Nazarene. So it is."
Oh, it is an awful thing to feel that death is waiting for you
constantly, that at any moment, at any turn, at any corner it may
be upon you! Such was my state as I walked on that evening,
waiting for the sunset, through the streets of Wazzan. At one
moment I was conscious of a sound in my ears above the din of
traffic the Arrah of the ass-drivers, the Bdlak of the men riding
mules, and the general clamor of tongues. It was the steady beat
of a footstep close behind me. I knew whose footstep it was. I
turned about quickly, and Larby was again face to face with
me. He met my gaze with the same cold, glittering look. My
impulse was to fly at his throat, but that I dare not do. I
knew myself to be a coward, and I remembered the Moorish
"Larby," I said, "what do you want?"
"Nothing, Sidi, nothing," he answered.
"Then why are you following me like this ?"
"Following you, Sidi?" The fellow raised his eyebrows and
lifted both hands in astonishment.
"Yes, following me, dogging me, watching me, tracking me
down. What does it mean? Speak out plainly."
"Sidi is jesting," he said, with a mischievous smile. "Is not
this Wazzan the holy city of Wazzan? Sidi is looking at the
streets, at the mosques, at the saints' houses. So is Larby. That
One glance at the man's evil eyes would have told you that he
"Which way are you going?" I asked.
"This way." With a motion of the head he indicated the
street before him.
"Then I am going to this," I said, and I walked away in the
I resolved to return to the English Consul, to tell him every-
'392 THE LAST CONFESSION
thing, and claim his protection. Though all the Moorish author-
ities in Morocco were in league with this religious monomaniac,
yet surely there was life and safety under English power for one
whose only offense was that of being witness to a crime which
might lead to a claim for indemnity.
That it should come to this, and I of all men should hear it!
God help me! God lead me! God give me light! Light, light,
O God; give me light!
THE LAST CONFESSION 393
FULL of this new purpose and of the vague hope inspired by it,
I was making my way back to the house of the Consul, when I came
upon two postal couriers newly arrived from Tangier on their way
to Fez. They were drawn up, amid a throng of the townspeople,
before the palace of the Grand Shereef, and with the Moorish pas-
sion for "powder-play" they were firing their matchlocks into the
air as salute and signal. Sight of the mail-bags slung at their sides,
and of the Shereef's satchel, which they had come some miles out
of their course to deliver, suggested the thought that they might
be carrying letters for me, which could never come to my hands
unless they were given to me now. The couriers spoke some little
English. I explained my case to them, and begged them to open
their bags and see if anything had been sent forward in my name
from Tangier to Fez. True to the phlegmatic character of the
Moor in all affairs of common life, they protested that they dare
not do so; the bags were tied and sealed, and none dare open them.
If there were letters of mine inside they must go on to Fez, and then
return to Tangier. But with the usual results I had recourse to
my old expedient; a bribe broke the seals, the bags were searched
and two letters were found for me.
The letters, like those that came to Fez, were one from my
wife and one from Wenman. I could not wait till I was alone,
but broke open the envelopes and read my letters where I stood.
A little crowd of Moors had gathered about me men, youths, boys,
and children the ragged inhabitants of the streets of the holy
city. They seemed to be chaffing and laughing at my expense,
but I paid no heed to them.
Just as before, so now, and for the same reason I read Wen-
man's letter first. I remember every word of it, for every word
seemed to burn into my brain like flame.
"My dear fellow," wrote Wenman, "I think it my duty to tell
you that your little son is seriously ill."
I knew it I knew it ; who knew it so well as I, though I was
more than a thousand miles away?
"It is a strange fact that he is down with the very disease of the
throat which you have for so long a time made your especial
394 THE LAST CONFESSION
study. Such, at least, is our diagnosis, assisted by your own dis-
coveries. The case has now reached that stage where we must
contemplate the possibility of the operation which you have per-
formed with such amazing results. Our only uneasiness arises
from the circumstance that this operation has hitherto been done
by no one except yourself. We have, however, your explanations
and your diagrams, and on these we must rely. And, even if you
were here, his is not a case in which your own hand should be en-
gaged. Therefore, rest assured, my dear fellow," etc., etc.
Blockheads ! If they had not done it already they must not do
it at all. I would telegraph from Tangier that I was coming.
Not a case for my hand ! Fools, fools ! It was a case for my
I did not stop to read the friendly part of Wenman's letter,
the good soul's expression of sympathy and solicitude, but in the
fever of my impatience, sweating at every pore and breaking into
loud exclamations, I tore open the letter from my wife. My
eyes swam over the sheet, and I missed much at that first reading,
but the essential part of the message stood out before me as if
written in red:
"We ... so delighted . . . your letters . . . Glad you
are having warm, beautiful weather . . . Trust . . . make you
strong and well . . . We are having blizzards here . . . snow-
ing to-day ... I am sorry to tell you, dearest, that our darling
is very ill. It is his throat again. This is Friday, and he has
grown worse every day since I wrote on Monday. When he can
speak he is always calling for you. He thinks if you were here
he would soon be well. He is very weak, for he can take no nour-
ishment, and he has grown so thin, poor little fellow. But he looks
very lovely, and every night he says in his prayers, 'God bless
papa, and bring him safely home.' ..."
I could bear no more, the page in my hands was blotted out,
and for the first time since I became a man I broke into a flood of
O Omnipotent Lord of Heaven and earth, to think that this
child is as life of my life and soul of my soul, that he is dying, that
I alone of all men living can save him, and that we are twelve hun-
dred miles apart ! Wipe them out, O Lord wipe out this accursed
space dividing us; annihilate it. Thou canst do all, thou canst
remove mountains, and this is but a little thing to Thee. Give me
my darling under my hands, and I will snatch him out of the arms
of death itself.
Did I utter such words aloud out of the great tempest of my
THE LAST CONFESSION 395
trouble? I can not say; I do not know. Only when I had lifted
my eyes from my wife's letter did I become conscious of where
I was and what was going on around me. I was still in the midst
of the crowd of idlers, and they were grinning, and laughing, and
jeering, and mocking at the sight of tears weak, womanish, stupid
tears on the face of a strong man.
I was ashamed, but I was yet more angry, and to escape from
the danger of an outbreak of my wrath I turned quickly aside, and
walked rapidly down a narrow alley.
As I did so a second paper dropped to the ground from the
sheet of my wife's letter. Before I had picked it up I saw
what it was. It was a message from my boy himself, in the hand-
writing of his nurse.
"He is brighter to-night," the good creature herself wrote at
the top of the page, "and he would insist on dictating this letter."
"My dear, dear papa "
When I had read thus far I was conscious again that the yell-
ing, barking, bleating mob behind were looking after me. To
avoid the torment of their gaze I hurried on, passed down a second
alley, and then turned into a narrow opening which seemed to
be the mouth of a third. But I paid small heed to my footsteps,
for all my mind was with the paper which I wished to read.
Finding myself in a quiet place at length, I read it. The
words were my little darling's own, and I could hear his voice as
if he were speaking them:
"My dear, dear papa, I am ill with my throat, and sometimes
I can't speak. Last night the ceiling was falling down on me, and
the fire was coming up to the bed. But I'm werry nearly all
right now. We are going to have a Thanksgiving party soon me,
and Jumbo, and Scotty, the puppy. When are you coming home?
Do you live in a tent in Morocco? I have a fire in my bedroom:
do you? Write and send me some foreign stamps from Tangier.
Are the little boys black in Morocco ? Nurse showed me a picture
of a lady who lives there, and she's all black except her lips, and
her mouth stands out. Have you got a black servant? Have you
got a horse to ride on? Is he black? I am tired now. Good-
night. Mama says I must not tell you to come home quick.
Jumbo's all right. He grunts when you shove him along. So
good-night, papa, x x x x. These kisses are all for you. I am so
"From your little boy,
396 THE LAST CONFESSION
Come home! Yes, my darling, I will come home. Nothing
shall stop me now nothing, nothing! The sun is almost set.
Everything is ready. The men must be saddling the horses again.
In less than half an hour I shall have started afresh. I will ride
all night to-night and all day to-morrow, and in a week I shall be
standing by your side. A week ! How long ! how long ! Lord of
life and death, keep my boy alive until then !
I became conscious that I was speaking hot words such as these
aloud. Even agony like mine has its lucidities of that kind. At
the same moment I heard footsteps somewhere behind me. They
were slow and steady footsteps, but I knew them too well. The
blood rushed to my head and back to my heart. I looked up and
aroftnd. Where was I? Where? Where?
I was in a little court, surrounded by low, white-washed walls.
Before me there was an inner compartment roofed by a rude dome.
From the apex of this dome there floated a tiny white flag. I
was in a saint's house. In the confusion of my mind, and the
agonizing disarray of all my senses, I had stumbled into the sacred
The footsteps came nearer. They seemed to be sounding on the
back of my neck. I struggled forward a few paces. By a last
mechanical resource of despair I tried to conceal myself in die
inner chamber. I was too late. A face appeared in the opening
at which I had entered. It was Larby's face, contracted into a