The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories
The Interpreter A Romance Of The East
There are strange things in this story, but, so far as I understand them, I tell the truth. If
you measure the East with a Western foot-rule you will say, "Impossible." I should have
said it myself.
Of myself I will say as little as I can, for this story is of Vanna Loring. I am an incident
only, though I did not know that at first.
My name is Stephen Clifden, and I was eight-and-thirty; plenty of money, sound in wind
and limb. I had been by way of being a writer before the war, the hobby of a rich man;
but if I picked up anything in the welter in France, it was that real work is the only
salvation this mad world has to offer; so I meant to begin at the beginning, and learn my
trade like a journeyman labourer. I had come to the right place. A very wonderful city is
Peshawar - rather let us say, two cities - the compounds, the fortifications where
Europeans dwell in such peace as their strong right arms can secure them; and the native
city and bazaar humming and buzzing like a hive of angry bees with the rumours that
come up from Lower India or down the Khyber Pass with the camel caravans loaded with
merchandise from Afghanistan, Bokhara, and farther. And it is because of this that
Peshawar is the Key of India, and a city of Romance that stands at every corner, and cries
aloud in the market - place. For at Peshawar every able-bodied man sleeps with his
revolver under his pillow, and the old Fort is always ready in case it should be necessary
at brief and sharp notice to hurry the women and children into it, and possibly, to die in
their defense. So enlivening is the neighbourhood of the frontier tribes that haunt the
famous Khyber Pass and the menacing hills where danger is always lurking.
But there was society here, and I was swept into it - there was chatter, and it galled me.
I was beginning to feel that I had missed my mark, and must go farther afield, perhaps up
into Central Asia, when I met Vanna Loring. If I say that her hair was soft and dark; that
she had the deepest hazel eyes I have ever seen, and a sensitive, tender mouth; that she
moved with a flowing grace like "a wave of the sea - it sounds like the portrait of a
beauty, and she was never that. Also, incidentally, it gives none of her charm. I never
heard any one get any further than that she was "oddly attractive" - let us leave it at that.
She was certainly attractive to me.
She was the governess of little Winifred Meryon, whose father held the august position of
General Commanding the Frontier Forces, and her mother the more commanding position
of the reigning beauty of Northern India, generally speaking. No one disputed that. She
was as pretty as a picture, and her charming photograph had graced as many illustrated
papers as there were illustrated papers to grace.