Many months passed by with indolence, with sameness. Rania was growing into womanhood, rounding with maturity angular corners of body and soul. She was flowing into the quiet rhythm of a life in which the rippling of wavelets of excitement born of studio mock-storms was alternating with the quasi-seclusion of the canyon house, rich with loving-kindness and soul-stirring books. She had quieted down the pace of her reading, allowing life to pour and personalities to reach through her distant pride into her heart. She began to draw herself out toward human beings, no longer fearful of impacts, but eager to give. For she had found wealth that was indestructible and she saw men wearily dragging with spiritual poverty, hollowing out their looks — youthful, lovely looks of children, of beautiful soulless bodies.
City of soulless bodies, of pure instinct and receptive sensibilities. It seemed like a fresh moist clay craving for the sculptor's hands. And the hands joyously would mold and shape, unheeding the sticky matter clinging to nails and fingers. The night passed. At dawn the clay had dried up and there was nothing left but a heap of sand, ever-virgin sand, ever-soiled, ever-throbbing, ever-lusting . . . yet ever-virgin. For virginity ceases only when mind awakens from within — even be it but instinctual mind; and Rania was staring at beautiful bodies, unlighted windows of some dark rooms, limbo of unborn selves.
"Oh my poor unborn!" she would sigh to Johan. "I feel them begging me to mother them into being real men. They cling to me, they beat me in my womb of soul. I am willing, Johan . . . should I not be? But what is the use? What is the use! . . . "
He was willing, too. He had brought no chain to bind her to their happiness. Their happiness was free, with but few shadows of race feelings that were old and outworn to stir nervous tensions soon absorbed. She was free to go as she felt the urge. If destiny called for her service, she should answer.
Johan lived with the poise of one who had known destiny. He had seen the heights of what men call success; he had loved and won and withdrawn, for he felt it was not worthwhile. As he had called upon the higher, outer failure answered — as it so often must. Failure and pain he accepted as part of the game. Perhaps he had nothing to offer. But what matters "nothing"? He had himself to offer; his life, to make noble and strong and peaceful. And he went through, his grey eyes veiled to concentrate better on birth within. She had come to him, as some one always comes when destiny is ripe. He accepted happiness as he had accepted failure. He would accept whatever would be next, as he accepted happiness.
The year was still a slack one; much distress prevailed among the extras flocking in hordes ever increasing to the magic gates of the slave market. Drastic steps had to be used to stem the tide and the pressure of hungry looks and of willing bodies upon already satiated offices. Wages went down. Production being cut, the fewer the openings. Yet now and then sensational rises stimulated the hopes or cravings of always new recruits.
Rania was known and could easily get usual jobs. Johan found it harder, but somehow kept going. Often they improvised picnics in the hills, excuses to feed empty stomachs and legs weary of endless stations following long walks from corner to corner of the ever-widening studio districts. Boys and girls came, some with nothing but beauty, others with some vague craving for adventure, for reaching beyond. Hollywood — center of a world of unreality! Its glamour sucked youths from all races into its ever-shifting core, its poignant emptiness. It was no longer the little village kind and hospitable, filled with communal care, getting together and the like; and not yet a unit — a city-ensouled with a purpose. Here and there some dreamer would start a little "salon." For a few weeks few kindred souls would come and talk, escape from the rut of cranking cameras. Then friends would bring friends. Drinks would move on; radio twitter and squeak. And the "salon" ended in a fair, or a bored and sinless brothel.
Yet there was a strange uncouth fascination in this empty and soul-shattering existence with no tomorrow, with no chance of planning anything, always on the go or waiting, waiting to go, hanging on the phone day after day, hours of faithful presence near the dismal receiver, hoping for a studio call toward six o'clock, then calling to make sure one is not forgotten. "Nothing today. Sorry. Call again — in a week." Politeness, strained affability of casting offices worn to utmost irritability by endlessly ringing phones, by questions, by inquiries for jobs, by interruptions, schedules changed, directors' whims, lack of organization, waste, utter waste of time, money, lives. One wondered how they could keep on the grinning smile. Often they did not, of course. And curses flew and beastly treatment. Men, women herded like cattle; no consideration, no attention, no sense of human worth. Merely moving bodies to fit costumes on. "How many uniforms left?"
"Damn you! Speed up and get ten men in the streets." There were hundreds of men waiting for the ten costumes. Five bucks a day — but many, many empty foodless days between the luck of fitting into costumes, and being herded around in the wet, blood-freezing draught of winter stages, in the suffocating heat of dozens of arc lights focused between walls upon which the fierce sun beat all day.
Yet there was a fascination, a strange disappointment when not called for next day set. One felt a dim jealousy for whomsoever rose to the thankless if well-paid task of sweating and grinning in the terrific glare and heat of spots beating you in the face — while camera grinds, director sweats, and again and again the same scene done over, tears once more, laughter once more; a silly, aimless, devastating sequence of harsh strain and empty hours of vague chattering, or bridge playing when the crew was not tough on the game.
It was all so unnatural, so unreal. Not like the theater, a few hours every night of plays reaching climax in front of responsive audience; but every day the putting on of illusion, the whole day the dragging on into tinsel costumes through backless sceneries, in strange company, doing awkward gestures supposedly real. It ate into your blood. It sapped your moral strength. You went down to the level rhythm, vaguely stimulated by an atmosphere of excited boredom and meaningless sex craving. God! One had to do something to stand it all, month after month. If faking be, then faking all along the line; in and out the sets. Freedom and restraint alternated. Mixture of reticence — one must keep a reputation — and of complete breaking down for favors from the "masters," or for the mere filling of one's own emptiness.
Yet a lovely illusion of spontaneity, of charm; life of bodies, of young, strong, muscular flesh, always in motion, always going — anywhere, nowhere — but going, riding, playing, shouting; couples everywhere, alive, sun-burnt; sense of mating, of rhythm-broken, hectic rhythm, but dance all the same — and the endless hope that, out of this chaos, the one, the expected, might surge and meet you with this same freedom and this same dance, where there is no class, no tradition, no prejudice, where one starves today, tomorrow makes merry, climbs and falls — huge gamble, life gambling, strip poker, body poker, soul poker, chaos, madness; but going, going, on, madly on, on.
There were big sets in the air and extras were pulling wires to get the many "bits" promised, expected, dreamt. Superpicture of the Thousand and One Nights. Extravagance. Gold costumes. Elephants. Camels. Mobs. Lots of excitement. Studio buzzing madly. Hammers. Curses. Hair-tearing. Rush of worn-out faces from office to office. Pandemonium. The greatest picture ever made!
Rania interviewed, waited, interviewed some more. "Come again. No time. We have not the continuity yet. For God's sake! Let us breathe. Sure, promised; next week. Call us."
For once it came through. She got a part, a real one. And she had not slept with the director, or kissed the assistant, or given booze to the wardrobe! Marvelous. Johan too had a part as a monk, dervish or whatnot. She was a slave turning into a bad princess who seduced the son of the hero and caused everything to go wrong.
Rania felt suddenly like a kid, being drawn into the mad vortex of days of costuming, tests, wig-making and the like. She forgot everything and was going to have a good time. Dance rehearsals. The first sequence was a grand orgy a la motion picture. Naked girls whirling vehemently and swooning into the arms of sedulous princes breathing heavily in big robes, gold-heavied and stiff. It was glorious.
After a week of steady dancing, muscles aching and feet bleeding under the strain, the dancer's group was ready. Rania was the second best. There was a star dancer; but the prince obviously would not have her, was to rush to Rania instead, drag her before the throne, and order her to dance; and then his heart would be lost and the next thing she would know, she would be a princess.
All inspired, though freezing-winter dampness made unheated dressing rooms breeding places for colds — the dancers, ankles tinkling, hair excited into feverish curls, skin darkened, nails reddened, with the utmost brevity of clothes thought advisable, came onto the huge set. Massive columns, gold draperies, bejeweled throne, black varnished floor from which assistants cursed away too-curious extras, completed the paraphernalia of Hollywood-bred Oriental splendor. Around the floor were colossal cushions on which some hundred gentlemen with grand mien, false beards and rubescent clothes were trying to stabilize with dignity their preposterous and warlike appendages. A couple of braziers were burning in a corner of the big high-roofed stage. The girls flocked to them shivering in coats they dared not keep close to their skin, the browning of which was not yet very dry. Yellings, whistle, shutting, opening of spotlights, heavy smell of floor varnish, of ether-pasting wigs and moustaches on rebellious faces, fumes of slow burning coal in the braziers. Heavy eyes half asleep still; too much love, perhaps! Hands stiff with quick rides in open cars from suburbs. And over it all the queer tension of something about to happen, of something being made; not really with the world public in mind, but as a thing in itself, self-sufficient in its unreality.
"On the set! Everybody on the set!" Latecomers push through, while assistants run, scold, drag here, drag there, scream, curse counter-orders, listen for the loudspeaker echoing through the din, scanning the directors' whims and ever-changing commands. The orchestra tunes in. The show is on; while the small one-eyed cameras record with blank faces the momentous events of the scene which will set millions of hearts and sexes athrill through five continents, which will set some to kill perhaps, others to quarrel with a banal wife, youngsters to mate hiding in corners; all because of the dream, the insistent dream, repeated endlessly, theater after theater, hour after hour to onflowing herds of wasteful minds craving release from meaningless jobs.
"Camera!" The dance is on — whirling flesh, dazzling scarves, fake jewels, shimmering lights. Men's faces glow on. A few twitter. Warmth increases, of perspiring nude bodies, of movement, of riveted eyes following arms, legs, supple torsos bending, twisting, offering themselves, near, very near, coming, gliding. Arms undulate, hands call, smiles glitter from lovely faces, dark, blue eyes, rouged lips. Paroxysm of the dance. The glorious bodies are to be seized, to be thrown, panting from the dance, into one's arms, over one's knees. One must kiss almost the moist flesh, kiss the lips . . . not too much, not too much; it is not in the game of extras, only for close-ups. Yet kiss the lips, be very real, very convincing.
The director shouts: "Warm it up, boys! Be yourself. Now let go. Throw them away." And bodies are thrown away; but bodies remember, are hot. Acting? Oh yes, of course, it's all a fake. But flesh plus flesh is never entirely fake. And when the climax comes, when the girls rushing, whirling down some huge stairs are to be grabbed, fought for, carried away, with torn clothing and hot, convincing gestures, there are many who do not entirely fake, who fight a little too hard for the throbbing prey, who crave a little less fake, a little more real, whose blood must be restrained now of course, but is kept feverish and that night must rage forth with pent up power.
Somehow Rania at first fell into the arms of a dark-eyed man who looked suspiciously Hindu. Somehow she liked him and arranged to fall again at the same spot, as many, many times the passionate scene was re-enacted. During shots there were moments to rest in these arms which had grabbed her, to relax on these cushions, huge and soft, where the male body had dragged her. Words were better than silence. Conversation ensued. The man had a strange, powerful face. It was not fake; real brown skin, real long hair. She wondered, questioned. He laughed with big white teeth. He did not answer; but looked at her long. She became uneasy, near withdrawing.
"You, beautiful, strong girl," he said slowly, with a marked accent. "This is no place for you. You belong to the old, old countries, my country. They don't understand you."
She looked at him, puzzled, inquiring.
"Yes, of course, they will love you and you will think it must be so, because you are young, your body is young. But the real you is old, so old. It is lovely, very lovely. I can feel it lovely. All old beings are lovely; for young ones cannot understand why they are so quiet, and know so much."
Whistle. "Camera!" She had hurried away, troubled. The rest of the day she had to play her action with the prince who snatched her away and forced her to dance. She danced, eyed by the crowd; gazed at by friends and enemies, desired, envied, an image to be kept for long solitary nights for some not favored with love, a thing of beauty, selflessly moving, warmed by the primal urge of her own dark-skinned race that wandered over lands and struck no roots; race of free beings, of vehement loves.
At lunch hour she watched for the Asiatic with the strange knowledge of her. But could not find him in the rush that followed the words of release. Before going home, she looked again. He saw her, smiled and waved his hand from afar. She came home, uneasy and sullen.
The next day and the day that followed she saw him, the Asiatic. His dark eyes clung to her, piercing her beyond the flesh, rousing strange unbodily fires, longings for deeds of power.
He talked to her; deep, metallic, harsh voice. "You do not belong here. You are not of this puny race. You are strong. They are children, silly little children; just tearing through their easy dreams with no aim, gesticulating like madmen.
"In my land there are still some who know. There are secrets which give power. I shall teach you. Why waste your life doing foolish gestures, when you can be a god, command the gods and have nature your servant?
"I knew you as soon as I saw your body move. You have rhythm and will. I shall teach you how to breathe for power, how to still your wandering thoughts, how to rouse the Great Mother in you, the fire that makes one master.
"We shall work both as one. There will be more power. Life is like a battery. We need two poles for the spark. With the spark in us, we shall see through the wall. There are forces everywhere. All is alive. All these lives we can master, if we have knowledge and power.
"I have knowledge. I have studied ancient books. My father was one of a brotherhood in Nepal. He taught me. There are huge monasteries deep in the rock. They light fires that burn you, but make you god. Don't be afraid. There is no danger if you are strong. Only the fools fail, soft-headed, soft-hearted fools. They cannot keep their desires. But we shall not waste power, just to be like animals. Power which one keeps; out of that, one rises and masters.
"I don't want your love. What is love! Mock bubbles of dreams, dead before they begin. I want you immortal, a power. I need you as you need me. Together, we can have power, if we forget this race of fools, this suckling West, and go back to our old knowledge, our old secrets, our old strong nerves that do not collapse under shadows of pain.
"You love strength. I know. Of course not silly muscle strength soon turned over to worms. But strength that keeps, that grows stronger through centuries, free from the body. Body is but an instrument, a dynamo, just a form to focus and release energy. When it is worn out, we get another one. But we, we need not go down and forget.
"Come out of these silly passions and silly loving, strong one! I shall show you the way. We shall leave these bodies and work, unseen. I know great men who will welcome you, too. Our old mountains will welcome you. They will uplift you. Cease bewailing the weakness of the mob-selves squirming around in this mock world. You want heroes, noble men to live a life glorious and free. You won't find them here.
"But in Asia, there are many. They are too great to let themselves be known and become prey to idle curiosity. What do they care about being known, when the world within, when all the powers of nature are theirs? But they work, be sure! They command; the fools obey, not knowing even that they are led from within their own brains. Will you stay a fool or be master?"
To become a master of life. To gain power. To live the hidden life of one for whom the outer show of man is worthy but of scorn, for whom the world of energy, form-controlling, is real, is known, is dominated. Oh! She was so weary of puny selves, of aimless chattering, foolish sentimentality and neurotic yearnings without strength. She was weary of this constant disrupting strain, of this ceaseless agitation without purpose, without concentration, without heroism and nobility. She was craving life real and dangerous, life that exalts, that dares, life of deep confrontations, face to face with the powers she knew were lurking beyond, powers she could only dimly sense, yet felt one with in intensity and stoic grandeur.
She was tired of happiness; she loved her old Johan dearly. But his very calm and peace was too quiet a pool for her windblown self raised in the vast abysses of life. Her Gypsy, Mongol blood was crying out for Asia, for immensities to sweep clean at the frantic pace of horses that had fire. She dreamt of huge mountains, endless steppes. She saw herself galloping through, breaking through this world into the other, claiming new tumultuous oceans to sail across, unchartered voyaging to unknown mastery.
The dark strength of these big, unmoved eyes fascinated her. She did not desire the man, though she felt his body rigid and steel-like, a tense yet strangely relaxed source of power. She did not love him; but she must follow him. This was the call for a greater life that could not be dismissed, that could not be delayed, that surged from within as a torrid electric tide when she was near him and he touched her back. It surged from her loins and rose along the spine, shiver of desireless yearning, reaching up, up, almost bursting toward the head. Powerful stillness, expectation of mystery, regulated breathing that produced a sense of not-being, yet intense energy, controlled strain-like steam speeding on joltlessly the huge monsters that tear along glittering steel.
They met as often as work permitted in his small cottage up in Laurel Canyon. A couple of tough, creepy oaks, Hydralike; rose spiraling up the earth. The wooden house was gripped into their iron tentacles, resisting, glaring with silk-curtained windows; a fireplace, a couple of divans, a few red and green draperies, printed scarves, cushions. He cooked strong curry. She loved it. It burned through. It made the breath dry and hot. He made black heavy coffee out of long-handled ibziks, boiled in the open fire. He had pungent, spicy incenses, benzoin, galbanum, and many strangenamed ones which he mixed and burned, till the air was like a hot fog, dizzying and intoxicating.
He sat near her, gazed fixedly at her. She must still her thoughts, fix some dark spot, train her nerves, be rigid yet relaxed. He would touch certain spots of her body. And fire would seem to burn through her. Sometimes she would stay all night. They would not sleep. The world had gone out of consciousness almost. At daybreak he would take her, half-faint under the nervous stress and strain, to the top of the canyon. He would massage her limbs and make her breathe slowly, rhythmically; a subtle, uncanny life-stream would pour through her. She would feel relaxed and vigorous. She would hurry through the day's work as if she had slept long hours.
Johan was distressed by her new life. Not only she refused herself to him, to save her life power she said — he would have accepted that — but she seemed to fade away from him into a realm of mystery which, he sensed, would certainly mean eventual disaster. He had read books dealing with many types of Yoga; his friend, Richard Newell, had told him about curious encounters he had had in India, about fakirs, adepts and priests using many-sided powers to charm, heal . . . or kill. He was also acquainted with European writings on so-called occultism and had had experiences in Paris with a group dabbling in ceremonial magic; a group from which he escaped in time to avert the fate of most of its members, who met tragic deaths which he could not help considering as fateful sequences to the practices indulged in.
Rania truly looked more beautiful than ever with her eyes deepened by a kind of inner glow, her cheeks somewhat emaciated and a provocative air of intense jubilation as if intoxicated with powerful visions. But this very glow frightened him. He had seen it in consumptives when, at the threshold of death, life seems to brim over the cup of a translucent body. He had seen it once in an ecstatic nun who went insane with holy visions of saints and angels. Old-blooded Hindus might stand it and reach beyond; but could Rania, in spite of her strength, resist the hollowing from within, the burning of an energy, no longer normally spent, but volatilized and, under forced draught, hissing and flaring to the brain?
He advised her gently, calmly; begged her to be wary and probe the motive back of it all. Why did she want power? Why this frantic desire to transcend the normal boundaries of her race-body? Was it real spirituality? He opened books she loved, read to her from the Bhagavad Gita, from the calm, quiescent wisdom of the Tao. But she confronted him with many arguments he could not well answer. She quoted many texts proving that powers need be acquired, that concentration practices were necessary for spiritual development. How could one hope to reach supermanhood before the powers of the body were transmuted, the animal mastered, and the Fire raised, opener of the great world where regenerated men live and work.
Her destiny had come. Characteristic indeed, that it should have been in the midst of the mob illusion of a wild set. But did not heaven and hell react the one upon the other; and would not the highest bound up from the deepest, as if powered by some mystic springboard? He did not need to be afraid. Their friendship and love need not be altered, because she was being reborn into a greater world. She would love him from some deeper and vaster recess of her heart as she would grow into her richer self. He was old and wise enough not to cling to dream bubbles and bodily lure, to transcend the personal into the impersonal, and love her into universal life.
But he shook his head and could not answer.
Long strained weeks went by.
The Oriental film was slow in the making. Rania's part was lasting all through, with periods of rest, alternating with feverish all-day-and-night sessions in hot then cold stages — outdoors under the blatant sun blindly focused on one's body by means of huge reflectors, indoors under the pitiless convergence of burning lights — then freezing hours of rest wrapped in fur coats around stoves, lashed by draughts making the perspiring, dance-weary body shiver.
Johan, too, was working almost constantly, a fantastic part requiring the utmost of exertion, long night vigils, almost acrobatic feats, acting with lions and panthers strange to stand by, with queer steady eyes laughing at you, devouring you, scorning from the noble depth of untamable power.
Long strained weeks of mad illusion.
The spring rains had come, bursting open flowers over the hills.
The spring rains had come, swelling wide-bedded arroyos, whirling streams of power cataracting through unaccustomed sands and willow-haired banks. They had come with torrential strength, that year. Streets were flooded, Johan's canyon was torn by tumultuous waters. The house was nearly surrounded by moving mud, thick, brownish clay clinging to the feet. The road to his canyon was practically blocked by washouts. The studios were islands emerging from swirling pools. Extras could not reach their work. Stagehands, assistants, directors cursed and roared, in dripping clothes. Every roof leaked. Life itself leaked from every frame. Blood seemed to have turned into water, seeping mournfully through the skin ashen with grey skies.
The rains poured for weeks into swollen canyons.
It had been a tense, hectic day. She had worked constantly. Nerves were high-pitched. Everything went wrong. She had to stage a frantic scene, of tears over the body of her dead lover. She couldn't do it at first. She was bored, sullen. She acted like a machine. The director scolded, insulted her. Everyone's will was pressing against her. "Cry, girl! Cry! You are mad! Your lover is dead. Break down girl! Break down!" She couldn't do it. The director shook her. By God! She would cry! He pinched her so hard blood came on her arm. She screamed. Someone gave her whiskey. She was shaking. "Camera!" The dead body. She bites her lips. Tears stream as her face twitches convulsively. She cries. She cries. "Again! Once more! More movement. Tear your clothes, your hair!" Her arms beat the air. Broken, she falls, prostrated, lifeless. "Good shot!"
Good shot . . . good shot.
She is carried away. Her body quivers, nerves and fever. Johan is called. He rushed her in his car, unconscious, to the house, across dark stream and molten earth. A physician. Just nervous exhaustion. Nothing but rest, complete rest.
From the roofs, drops fall unceasingly into a big tub; leaks, leaks, everywhere. Drop after drop, like mad gonging; drops upon the skull, beating, fever-mad, torturing. "Please, stop it! Stop it!" He piles up rags under the leaks to muffle the sound. She is hot and tense, delirious. He spends nights watching. A friend comes when he has to go to studio work. Days, he stands up in the rain; nights, he watches the curled body aching with strange pains.
With strange pains . . . Nerves seem to twirl in repressed spasms all along the limbs. If she could only stretch, stretch! He massages the warm body. She clings with her hands to the bed posts. He pulls her feet. Stretch! Stretch! Something is locked, twisted that cannot unwind. The body groans. There is fire that cannot flame, fire smoldering, turned into acid corroding the vitals.
Shooting pains, sharp and rhythmic, lacerate the back of the loins. They seem to pulse and rise from where the spine ends, flashes of blinding fire, bone-rending. They shoot at the heart, contracting, writhing under the mad inrush of power. Rigid face! Cataleptic.
Stretched eyes, dry and glaring, like desert stones torrid with sun. The lips twirl and twist, pitiful. "Oh! rest . . . rest . . . to forget, forever to forget."
The body groans. It howls pain. It bends, it curls, it breaks, exhausted, powerless to shake off the mad demon that ravages, that consumes.
Johan stands up, worn out by work and vigil, staring at her torture, staring. Awesome silence creeps into the room as she relaxes, as she forgets. Huge black faces seem to sneer in the dark, seem to scorn and call for the prey; huge black hands to claw the panting flesh. Confrontation. Who shall win? He or they? His will is tense, tense, like steel cables harboring through the storm an airship to its mast. Someone must win. He or they? Oh! for power, power to cast out the torturing hell — to carry her on, blessed, into the sun, into the silent sun, far into the desert, where stones are kind, peaceful, wondrously nonhuman, stainless and warm!
Someone must win. Someone must suffer. Someone must die, perhaps. It is the law, the great, mysterious law, that calls. Will he accept? Can he accept? He is an old man. What does it matter to love, to compassionate love? His life had been sort of failure. But who knows victory? Is failure victory?
His life opens up, a lightning flash through the black silence. Confrontation. Rania's body groans. Torrid pains tear up again. "Johan! Johan!" Poor, helpless voice. She knows. She has played the mad game. It is hurled back. Aroused power is pitiless. It devours. It sneers at fool's pride. Promethean pygmies craving fire! Now the curse falls, the thunderbolt. It rages forth. Shall it be staved? Can it be stayed?
Johan rises. He accepts. Let the fire burn! And in the black silence hammered by the rain, his naked flesh took her writhing body and quenched the fire that struck at his own heart.
She recovered. Something had been released. The body lay unnerved. Strange weariness, poignant, void. Automatic motions of heart and lungs. Food entering, chemically scattered into molecules, indrawn, dispersed where needed most. Waste leaving the body. And the circuit again, aimless, strange to behold for a soul that wandered beyond the pale of earth-stars and was called back.
It is home again now — confusion, wonderment. It is all quite dark yet — an intricate web of life-streams, red, yellow, black, gold, which flow into one another, yet separate; each necessary, integral, with its own rhythm and its own meaning. But one cannot grasp well. The soul is still blind from the awesome dark, the torrid darkness of beyond the earth-stars. Familiar things stare at you as witnesses to some great expiation. Familiar things are mysterious judges. They confront the soul from a depth of knowledge which men do not possess. On them, destiny writes. The soul cannot help reading, though it may shrink, though it may sob bitterly, as if it had all been in vain, in vain.
Is there ever anything in vain?
Days of recovery, of silence.
Johan went on with his work until the picture's end. He began to cough. He was so weary he could hardly move. His emaciated feverish flesh seemed to stick around him like wet clothes. A sad, faraway look dreamed from the depth of orbits caving under some heavy load. As soon as they were free from work they left for his cabin in the Mojave desert. The physician had listened to Johan's lungs. The wounded tissues within the lungs were tormented again by the destructive powers. They had never entirely recovered from past assaults. Now suddenly the evil had struck deep; there was little hope left of recovery.
They rode to the desert, where stones are kind, where strange cacti-like semaphore arms signal frigidly to the stars the passionate woes of men.