Reginald in Russia and Other Stories
The Lost Sanjak
The prison Chaplain entered the condemned's cell for the last time, to give such
consolation as he might.
"The only consolation I crave for," said the condemned, "is to tell my story in its entirety
to some one who will at least give it a respectful hearing."
"We must not be too long over it," said the Chaplain, looking at his watch.
The condemned repressed a shiver and commenced.
"Most people will be of opinion that I am paying the penalty of my own violent deeds. In
reality I am a victim to a lack of specialisation in my education and character."
"Lack of specialisation!" said the Chaplain.
"Yes. If I had been known as one of the few men in England familiar with the fauna of
the Outer Hebrides, or able to repeat stanzas of Camoens' poetry in the original, I should
have had no difficulty in proving my identity in the crisis when my identity became a
matter of life and death for me. But my education was merely a moderately good one, and
my temperament was of the general order that avoids specialisation. I know a little in a
general way about gardening and history and old masters, but I could never tell you off-
hand whether 'Stella van der Loopen' was a chrysanthemum or a heroine of the American
War of Independence, or something by Romney in the Louvre."
The Chaplain shifted uneasily in his seat. Now that the alternatives had been suggested
they all seemed dreadfully possible.
"I fell in love, or thought I did, with the local doctor's wife," continued the condemned.
"Why I should have done so, I cannot say, for I do not remember that she possessed any
particular attractions of mind or body. On looking back at past events if seems to me that
she must have been distinctly ordinary, but I suppose the doctor had fallen in love with
her once, and what man had done man can do. She appeared to be pleased with the
attentions which I paid her, and to that extent I suppose I might say she encouraged me,
but I think she was honestly unaware that I meant anything more than a little neighbourly
interest. When one is face to face with Death one wishes to be just."
The Chaplain murmured approval. "At any rate, she was genuinely horrified when I took
advantage of the doctor's absence one evening to declare what I believed to be my
passion. She begged me to pass out of her life, and I could scarcely do otherwise than
agree, though I hadn't the dimmest idea of how it was to be done. In novels and plays I
knew it was a regular occurrence, and if you mistook a lady's sentiments or intentions
you went off to India and did things on the frontier as a matter of course. As I stumbled
along the doctor's carriagedrive I had no very clear idea as to what my line of action was