The House of the Vampire
By George Sylvester Viereck
SEVERAL weeks had elapsed since the conversation in Reginald Clarke's studio. The spring was now well advanced and had sprinkled the meadows with flowers, and the bookshelves of the reviewers with fiction. The latter Ernest turned to good account, but from the flowers no poem blossomed forth. In writing about other men's books, he almost forgot that the springtide had brought to him no bouquet of song. Only now and then, like a rippling of water, disquietude troubled his soul.
The strange personality of the master of the house had enveloped the lad's thoughts with an impenetrable maze. The day before Jack had come on a flying visit from Harvard, but even he was unable to free Ernest's soul from the obsession of Reginald Clarke.
Ernest was lazily stretching himself on a couch, waving the smoke of his cigarette to Reginald, who was writing at his desk.
"Your friend Jack is delightful," Reginald remarked, looking up from his papers. "And his ebon-coloured hair contrasts prettily with the gold in yours. I should imagine that you are temperamental antipodes."
"So we are; but friendship bridges the chasm between."
"How long have you known him?"
"We have been chums ever since our sophomore year."
"What attracted you in him?"
"It is no simple matter to define exactly one's likes and dislikes. Even a tiny protoplasmic animal appears to be highly complex under the microscope. How can we hope to analyse, with any degree of certitude, our souls, especially when, under the influence of feeling, we see as through a glass darkly."
"It is true that personal feeling colours our spectacles and distorts the perspective. Still, we should not shrink from self-analysis. We must learn to see clearly into our own hearts if we would give vitality to our work. Indiscretion is the better part of literature, and it behooves us to hound down each delicate elusive shadow of emotion, and convert it into copy."
"It is because I am so self-analytical that I realise the complexity of my nature, and am at a loss to define my emotions. Conflicting forces sway us hither and thither without neutralising each other. Physicology isn't physics. There were many things to attract me to jack. He was subtler, more sympathetic, more feminine, perhaps, than the rest of my college-mates."
"That I have noticed. In fact, his lashes are those of a girl. You still care for him very much?"
"It isn't a matter of caring. We are two beings that live one life."
"A sort of psychic Siamese twins?"
"Almost. Why, the matter is very simple. Our hearts root in the same soil; the same books have nourished us, the same great winds have shaken our being, and the same sunshine called forth the beautiful blossom of friendship."
"He struck me, if you will pardon my saying so, as a rather commonplace companion."
"There is in him a hidden sweetness, and a depth of feeling which only intimate contact reveals. He is now taking his post-graduate course at Harvard, and for well-nigh two months we have not met; yet so many invisible threads of common experience unite us that we could meet after years and still be near each other."
"You are very young," Reginald replied.
"What do you mean?"
"So you do not believe that two hearts may ever beat as one?"
"No, that is an auditory delusion. Not even two clocks beat in unison. There is always a discrepancy, infinitesimal, perhaps, but a discrepancy nevertheless."
A sharp ring of the bell interrupted the conversation. A moment later a curly head peeped through the door.
"Hello, Ernest! How are you, old man the intruder cried, with a laugh in his voice. Then, noticing Clarke, he shook hands with the great man unceremoniously, with the nonchalance of the healthy young animal bred in the atmosphere of an American college.
His touch seemed to thrill Clarke, who breathed heavily and then stepped to the window, as if to conceal the flush of vitality on his cheek.
It was a breath of springtide that Jack had brought with him. Youth is a Prince Charming. To shrivelled veins the pressure of his hand imparts a spark of animation, and middle age unfolds its petals in his presence, as a sunflower gazing at late noon once more upon its lord.
"I have come to take Ernest away from you," said Jack. "He looks a trifle paler than usual, and a day's outing will stir the red corpuscles in his blood."
"I have no doubt that you will take very good care of him," Reginald replied.
"Where shall we go?" Ernest asked, absent-mindedly.
But he did not hear the answer, for Reginald's scepticisms had more deeply impressed him than he cared to confess to himself.