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   Chapter 27 LEONORA'S VOICE

The Blue Germ By Maurice Nicoll Characters: 6966

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"My theory," said the policeman, "is that collectin'-and by that I mean all sorts of collection, including that of money-comes from a craving to 'ave something what other people 'aven't got. It comes from a kind o' pride which is foolish. Take a man like Morgan, for instance. Now he spent his life collecting dollars, and he never once stopped to ask 'imself why he was doin' it. I 'eard a friend of mine, a socialist he was, saying as 'ow no one had wasted his life more than Morgan. At the time it struck me as a silly kind of thing to say. But now I seem to see it in a different light." He meditated for some minutes. "It's the reason why-that's what we 'aven't thought of near enough."

I was about to reply when a motor-car stopped before us. It was a large green limousine. It drew up suddenly, with a scraping of tyres, and a woman got out of it. I recognized her at once. It was Leonora. She was wearing a motoring-coat of russet-brown material, and her hat was tied with a veil.

"Alexis!" she exclaimed.

Sarakoff roused himself. He stood up and bowed.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"Leonora," he said, "I am so glad to see you. We are just taking the air, and discussing a few matters of general interest." He patted her on the shoulder. "I congratulate you, Leonora. You are an Immortal. It suits you very well."

She was certainly one of the Immortals. The stain in her eyes was wonderfully vivid, but it did not produce a displeasing effect, as I had fancied it would. Indeed, her eyes had lost their hard restless look, and in place of it was an expression of bewilderment.

"What has happened to me?" she exclaimed. "Alexis, what is this that you have done to me?"

"What I told you about at the Pyramid Restaurant. You have got the germ in you and now you are immortal. Sit down, Leonora. I find it warmer when I am sitting. My friend and I had to leave Harley Street somewhat hurriedly, and I had not time to dress."

She sat down and loosened her veil.

"Last night a dreadful thing happened," she said. "And yet, although it was dreadful, I do not feel upset about it. I have been trying to feel upset-as I should-but I can't. Let me tell you about it. I lay down yesterday afternoon in my room after tea to rest. I always do that when I can. I think I fell asleep for a moment. Then I felt a curious light feeling, as if I had suddenly been for a long holiday, and I got up. Alexis, when I saw myself in the glass I was horrified. I had the Blue Disease."

"Of course," said Sarakoff. "You were bound to get it. You knew that."

"I didn't know what to do. I wasn't very upset, only I felt something dreadful had happened. Well, I went to the Opera as usual and everyone was very sympathetic, but I said I was all right. But when my call came I suddenly knew-quite calmly, but certainly-that I could not sing properly. I went on the stage and began, but it was just as if I were singing for the first time in my life. They had to ring the curtain down. I apologized. I was quite calm and smiling. But there the fact remained-I had lost my voice. I had failed in public."

"Extraordinary," muttered Sarakoff. "Are you sure it was not just nervousness?"

"No, I'm certain of that. I felt absolutely self-possessed; far more so that I usually do, and that is saying a lot. No, my voice has gone. The Blue Disease has destroyed it. And yet I somehow don't feel any resentment. I don't understand. Richard, tell me what has happ

ened."

I shook my head.

"I don't know," I said. "I can't explain. The germ is doing things that I never foresaw."

"I ought to be furious with you," she said.

"Try to be-if you can," smiled Sarakoff. "That's one of the strange things. I can't be furious. I have only two emotions-perfect calmness, or violent, horrible fear."

"Fear?" she exclaimed.

"Yes, fear of the worst kind conceivable."

"I understand the perfect calmness," she said, "but the fear-no."

"You will understand in time."

The policeman listened to our conversation with grave attention. Leonora was sitting between Sarakoff and me, and did not seem to find the presence of the visitor surprising. The green limousine stood in the road before us, the chauffeur sitting at the wheel looking steadily in front of him. The Heath seemed remarkably empty. The mist over London was lifting under the influence of the sun.

I was revolving in my mind a theory as to why Leonora had lost her voice. I already knew that the germ produced odd changes in the realm of likes and dislikes. I remembered Sarakoff's words that the germ was killing desire. My thoughts were clear, easy and lucid, and the problem afforded by Leonora's singular experience gave me a sense of quiet enjoyment. If the germ really did do away with desire, why should it at the same time do away with Leonora's wonderful voice? I recalled with marvellous facility everything I knew about her. My memory supplied me with every detail at the dinner of the Pyramid Restaurant. The words of Sarakoff, which had at the time seemed coarse, came back to me. He had called her a vain ambitious cold-hearted woman, who thought that her voice and her beauty could not be beaten.

My reflections were interrupted by the policeman.

"The lady," he remarked, "has lost her voice sudden-like. Now I lost my 'abit of arresting people sudden-like too. I lost it this morning. Any other time I should have taken the gentleman in the dressing-gown in charge for being improperly dressed. But this morning it don't come natural to me. If he wants to wear a dressing-gown on the Spaniard's Walk, he presumably 'as his own reasons. It don't concern me."

"It seems to me that the germ takes ambition out of us," said Sarakoff.

"Ambition?" said the policeman. "No, that ain't right. I've got ambition still-only it's a different kind of ambition."

"I have no ambition now," said Leonora at length. "Alexis is right. This malady has taken the ambition out of me. I may be Immortal, but if I am, then I am an Immortal without ambition. I seem to be lost, to be suddenly diffused into space or time, to be a kind of vapour. Something has dissolved in me-something hard, bright, alert. I do not know why I am here. The car came round as usual to take me for my morning run. I got in-why I don't know."

Sarakoff was studying her attentively.

"It is very strange," he said. "You used to arouse a feeling of strength and determination in me, Leonora. You used to stimulate me intensely. This morning I only feel one thing about you."

"What is that?"

"I feel that I have cheated you."

"Cheated her?" exclaimed the policeman. "How do you come to that conclusion?"

"I've destroyed the one thing that was herself-I've destroyed desire in her. I've left her a mind devoid of all values tacked on to a body that no longer interests her. For what was Leonora, who filled the hearts of men with madness, but an incarnation of desire?"

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