THE STRENUOUS WAY
She was coming . . .
The miserable young cat that had once been Long-whiskers, and then, Sandy, was not yet six months old, and she was already sailing across the Mediterranean.
It was night: a warm, moonlit night, through which the eye distinguished very few stars and hardly any horizon. Heliodora was standing on the front deck, her face to the wind — absorbed in the splendour of her surroundings and in the thrill of feeling herself “on her way,” in the service of the one Cause she had always lived for. It seemed to her as though she was progressing into an infinity of light, — over the shining silver sea, into the shining, phosphorescent sky which prolonged it, and was one with it . . .
“Les deux goufres ne font qu’un abîme sans borne
De tristesse, de paix, et d’éblouissement . . .”1
Again, like on her desperate journey to Europe, nearly twelve years before, she recalled the verses of Leconte de Lisle, one of her favourite poets, and let her spirit merge into the double abyss.
Far, far away, beyond hundreds of miles of water and land, the cat was scratching in the refuse, next to an overturned dustbin; scratching and scratching in search of some scrap, for he had had practically nothing to eat since the day before. He did not know that “she” existed. His only concern was — something to eat!
She was coming . . .
On the shining sea, she was gliding — still very far away, yet, nearer and nearer every minute.
Before embarking, she had left Miu in the care of the kind old friend who had already taken charge of Black Velvet. (She had seen Black Velvet again, healthy and happy. But she had not been able to stroke him, for he would not condescend to come down from the tree, on a branch of which he lay, watching birds.)
Until she had got on board the ship, she sometimes had been sad at the thought of all she was leaving„ and had wondered when she would come back again. Her heart had
1 “The two abysses make but one fathomless depth of sadness, of peace and of radiant light.”
ached every time she had recalled the peaceful little house in the woods, the lamp upon the table full of books, the faithful young comrade seated in his usual corner, with Miu purring on his lap. But now that she was on the sea, she thought of the purpose for which she was travelling: to reach India — a free land; freer than Europe, at any rate — and have some of her writings printed there. It was all she could do, just now, for her persecuted comrades and for the everlasting National Socialist faith. She would stop some time in Egypt on her way, and visit a few people; then, sail to Beirut, and go to India overland.
Round her, the sea gleamed under the moon, and the luminous sky prolonged the sea. Deep below her feet she could hear the noise the water made as the ship cut its way through it. The next morning, she would be in Alexandria, and a few hours later in Cairo, greeted by people she had long wished to meet. Every moment brought her nearer.
Separated from her by some two thousand miles of desert land, the cat finally managed to dig a chicken’s gizzard out of a heap of mixed stale rice and ashes, and started gnawing at it greedily . . .
* * *
Nearly a month later Heliodora was still in Cairo, in a Greek hotel of Soliman Pasha Street, ill in bed, and wondering when she would be able to get up and continue her journey.
This is how it had happened: she had gone to spend a day or two at Tell-el-Amarna, and wandered from sunrise to sunset from the scattered ruins of the City of the Sun, ancient Akhetaton, to the twenty-five rock tombs in the neighbouring hills, and to the boundary stones that mark the limits of the consecrated territory, and back again to the ruins. She had pictured herself the Only-One-of-the-Sun, Living in Truth, seated in glory amidst gardens and artificial lakes there where she then stood in burning, barren sand, and telling his disciples of the mystery of matter and power, — of the Sun-Disc and of the energy within the Sun-rays, — which are the same. And she had imagined him lifting his hands before the altar of the Sun, in the open court of that temple of Aton of which nothing remains, and praising Him and His creation in words that foreshadowed the spirit of her own modern faith:
“Thou hast set every man in his place;
Thou hast made them different
in shape, in the colour of their skins and in speech.
As a Divider, Thou hast divided the foreign people
from one another . . .”1
And from the torrid desert, the reverberation of which penetrated her and nearly made her faint, her mind had rushed back to the Leader, whose Sign she boldly wore. Had he not written of the basic tenets of his Teaching: “Our new ideas, which are entirely in keeping with the original meaning of things . . .”?2
And at the thought of the everlastingness of his doctrine of Life, of which the very best hymns of the world’s hazy past appeared to her as an echo, and which the future would continue proclaiming from age to age, forever, she had felt as though she had been lifted beyond herself with joy.
But she had exhausted herself in her struggle to face the flame of the sky and the burning breath of the sands, and had, again after many years, known the torture of thirst. And at sunset, as she had walked back, leaving the purple cliffs behind her, and seen from a distance, under the palms, amidst the first cultivated tracks of land, the first irrigation furrows reflecting the glory of fleeting twilight, she had run as to a feast and, as soon as she had reached the first liquid ribbon, thrown herself flat upon the ground, thrust her lips forwards and sucked up the muddy water with delight.
She had felt ill in the train, on her way back to Cairo, and remained immobilised in bed ever since, with fever and swollen legs. She was now just beginning to get better, and was trying to brush aside all worries and all questions and to “think of nothing,” when she heard a knock at the door. “Come in!” said she.
The person who stepped into the room was an elderly woman with bright blue eyes and silver-white hair, — a German woman, whom she had met in Egypt.
Heliodora’s face brightened. “Do sit down! I’m so glad you came!” exclaimed she, with the unmistakable accent of sincerity. “I’m so happy to see you again!”
She knew that woman was not a fanatical disciple of Adolf Hitler, but she did not mind. Her visitor was, at any rate, not against him (anything but that!) and she was a German — his compatriot. Heliodora loved all Germans except the downright enemies of National Socialism,
1 Akhnaton’s “Longer Hymn to the sun.”
2 “. . . unsere neue Auffassung, die ganz dem Ursinn der Dinge entspricht . . .” (Mein Kampf, edit. 1939, p. 440).
whom she regarded as the enemies of Germany and of Life itself.
After inquiring about her health, the visitor put her a question: “Would you not rather go back to Germany than continue your journey in the state you are?”
The words had an alluring effect upon Heliodora’s mind. In a flash, she recalled her peaceful little house in the woods; the beauty of dawn and sunset; the fragrance of lilacs and of fir trees; the young National Socialist who used to speak inspiring words to her, at the fireside; the cats that used to come at night and eat the food she would put for them upon the windowsill. All that was still waiting for her. And the thought of it brought tears into her eyes. But she reflected and said:
“However much I may be longing to go back, I can’t. For then, how can I have my books printed? That can be done only in a free land.”
And she added, as though to strengthen herself in her resolution to continue travelling eastwards: “It is better to be serving Germany than to be in Germany. My writings are, as you know, all I can possibly give the Cause just now.”
The visitor remained a while talking of things of everyday life, giving news of her husband and family, of neighbours and friends; and then, she left.
A few days later, Heliodora was again on her way. She knew she was going to try to have her books printed. But what she did not know was that . . . a cat was calling her from the depth of misery; a cat that she had held in her arms in two at least of his former births, and that had come into the world again and was suffering, precisely so that he might lie in her arms once more, be it only once; and that she had to be in Teheran on the day appointed by Destiny, and at the appointed hour.
She was coming . . . coming in spite of herself.
* * *
She was coming . . . Seated near the window, in the railway carriage, and gazing at the plain over which the Sun was rising in glory, she was on her way to Alexandria. She was thinking to herself that all would, in the end, turn to the advantage of the Cause of life — for the sight of the rising Sun always gave her the elation of future triumph.
She spent two days in Alexandria, putting up at a cheap Greek hotel and wandering for hours along the quays of one of the most splendid harbours in the world, watching the passersby, deploring the racial characteristics of many
of them, imagining the dreadful melting pot which the city had been, already in Antiquity — and still is — and recalling by contrast, within her heart, her Leader’s eternal words: “The State which, at the epoch of race-mixing, devotes itself to the care of its best racial elements is bound one day to become the ruler of the earth.”1 She pictured herself future S.S. regiments of a great Aryan Reich, master of the world, marching along those quays to the rhythm of harsh, aggressive music, in front of the last generation of mongrels, as though these did not exist. And she could not repress the joyous feeling: “I shall have, in my humble way, contributed to that — whenever it comes!” But a deeper voice within her bade her sternly brush aside that movement of conceit!” It is not you, silly fool! It is the irresistible Life-force, that Power Whom they call God, Who will bring about that. Bow down and thank its inscrutable wisdom if It cares at all to use you for the edification of those who believe in Adolf Hitler, the Chosen One!”
At last, she sat upon a bench on the jetty and started eating, out of a paper bag, some black olives which she had bought, for she had taken no food all day. She ate a little of her bread with them and gave the remainder of it to a starving dog.
The next day she was lying upon a rug, on the deck, aboard the Greek steamer “Lydia,” on her way to Beirut — lying upon a rug on the deck, facing the immensity of the sky, in which a couple of seagulls were flying majestically, like she had done so many times across the Mediterranean, from West to East and East to West, over thirty years before, on board the “Andros” and the “Patris” and many more Greek ships, always “fourth class without food,” free, happy, alone with her great dreams and tremendous ambitions. The dreams had changed — broadened and become more rational; become “Aryandom” instead of “Hellenism,” and the “Greater Reich that has no boundaries”: — Adolf Hitler’s faithful ones inspiring the regeneration of all Aryan nations, and Germany, revered as “Holy Land of the West,” — instead of the “Great Idea” (Megale Idea) of all Hellenes, united into one large Greek State stretching all round the Aegean Sea on all sides. And the ambitions had become more and more staggering, and even defeat had not crushed them, but fanned them, on the contrary, into something immense “beyond Germany and beyond our times.” She recalled the books she was planning to have printed. It occurred to her that the
1 “Ein Staat der im Zeitalter der Rassenvergiftung sich der Pflege seiner besten raasischen Elemente widmet, muss eines Tages zum Herrn der Erde werden.” (Mein Kampf, edit. 1935, p. 782).
words she had written in praise of her Führer and of his doctrine would still be true in millions of years to come — true forever — even though nobody should know they were hers; even though nobody should know of them at all. And that certitude poured unshakable serenity into her heart. She felt as happy, as free and as young as she had in the days she had lain upon a rug on the deck of the “Andros” or of the “Patris,” reading Palamas’ “Legend of the One-who-never-wept”1 or Nietzsche’s Will to Power, when she was seventeen.
But she did not know that a task was awaiting her, already appointed to her by Destiny; a task as unique as any written creation, if not more so, although it was apparently very simple: that of picking up a dying cat that had, without having, himself, the slightest recollection of it, been born in misery and suffered all his life in order to meet her again.
* * *
She was coming . . . Leaning over the railing of the ship, in the port of Beirut, she was now enumerating, to a young Syrian who had spent more than a year in Cairo and who seemed intelligent, the different reasons that the Moslem world and the European disciples of Adolf Hitler had to stand together in the struggle against Jewry. She knew, no doubt, that the Arabs’ hostility to the Jews had very little in common with that of her German and English comrades and with her own. But she cleverly put stress upon their apparent similarity and, the conversation being carried on in French, she summed up her point of view with a quotation out of Racine’s Andromaque:
“Nos ennemis communs devraient nous réunir.”2
(she had learnt the whole play by heart, for her own pleasure, at the age of twelve, and still remembered parts of it fairly well).
She was pleased when the young Syrian admitted to her that he looked upon Adolf Hitler as “the greatest of all Europeans”; but that satisfaction could not outweigh her sadness at the sudden thought that so many Aryans refuse to accept even that much.
She remained two days in Beirut, and two days in Damascus where she spent the best of her time in the quiet coolness of the Omayyad Mosque, meditating upon all that a prominent German National Socialist had told her in Egypt about the necessity of using the forces of
1 “To Paramythi tou Adakrytou,” out of that modern Greek poet’s “Dodekalogoe tou gyftou” (“The twelve discourses of the Gypsy”), edit. 1902.
2 Our common enemies should bring us together” (“Adromaque,” Act 1, Scene IV).
the non-Aryan world in the double struggle — against Jew-ridden parliamentary Democracy, on one hand, and Communism on the other. She remembered the tragic words: “Now, after the defeat of 1945, we can no longer do it by ourselves; we need powerful allies . . .” Heliodora would have much preferred her comrades to be able to carry on the fight alone. She was wondering why the East, that she had loved, years and years before, now appeared to her so indifferent, so foreign. Was it (by contrast) because of her prolonged close contact with real Europe, especially with real German National Socialists? And yet . . . it would be in the broad-minded East, — freer than post-war Europe a thousand times — that she would, if at all, have her writings printed. How? With what means? She did not know. But on she went, untiringly. The heavenly Powers would help her for the sake of the divine Cause . . .
She was coming . . . — now rolling through the burning wilderness of Iraq in a bus.
Vague shapes and pale colours — patches of watery light blue that seemed to change places at the limit of the immense expanse of dust and gravel; hazy greyish hills that turned out to be just waves of whirling sand — or dust — that the torrid wind pushed ever and ever further; shimmering outlines that looked, from a distance, like moving clouds and finally turned out to be hills, — appeared and disappeared at the horizon, while Heliodora wondered how the driver could find his way through that endless, flat, barren country, in which she could distinguish no landmarks.
The bus rolled all day and, at nightfall, reached a sort of settlement: warehouses, Customs offices, and other such official buildings; modern refreshment rooms and, side by side, a few primitive sheds and huts.
It was not the first time Heliodora was following the desert route between Damascus and Baghdad: she had done so twenty years before, on her return to India from the Middle East (with the only difference that she had then sailed back from Basra, through the Persian Gulf). She remembered a halt in the midst of the desert — an old fort upon a hillock; a picturesquely-dressed man of the purest Arab type standing in the arched doorway, like an evocation of another age; a primitive little inn nearby, where a Greek fellow-traveller had treated her to a cup of coffee; and an old gramophone that had been playing Arabic songs . . . She vividly recalled the beauty of those nostalgic melodies under the first stars; the wilderness all round the tiny group of travellers; and the name of the
spot: Rutbaj. Was this brand new seat of trade and of officialdom the same spot? She asked someone: “Is this Rutbaj?” And as the man said “yes,” she felt depressed.
She was coming, however. Whatever changes the East might have undergone within the past ten or twenty years, she was coming. It was, this time, neither the “picturesque East” of her adolescent dreams, nor the East full of memories of Aryan Antiquity — hallowed old “Aryavarta,” which could be coaxed into adding “the latest great Aryan Incarnation” to its time-honoured heroes and gods — that attracted her now. She knew it would take long years for the “great Aryan Incarnation” of our times to receive world-wide divine honours in spite of defeat in war. No; all she now sought was the East of freedom and of toleration — of freedom, because of apathy; of toleration, because of indifference, — the East in which one could print whatever one liked, provided one paid. She knew she never again would have a home: nor the one in which she had spent her early youth; nor the one in Calcutta, with more cats purring round her; nor the one in the heart of Germany, the little house in the woods that she had loved so much and yet forsaken. And she did not really care. Her brothers in faith were her only family, the future Great Reich, of which she longed to become an honorary citizen, her only home, and the echo (if any) of a few sentences of hers in her comrades’ minds, her only immortality.
She did not know that one of the creatures she had loved the most in Calcutta, in the great days of victory and of staggering hopes, had been reborn for her sake, and was now bleeding upon a dust heap in Teheran, after a nasty child had flung him a stone — bleeding, and waiting for her (he too, without knowing it).
The bus was starting again. She felt the vibrations of the machinery under her seat, then saw the surrounding lights and shadows and lines change places as she went by. Within two minutes she was again rolling through the night towards Baghdad, breathing the breath of the desert.
She was coming . . .
* * *
She watched the Sun rise in majesty over the flat, dry, grey landscape — the same Sun that she used to greet with her arm outstretched, in the cool morning, before her little house in Germany, as His rays reached her through the high trees.
She gazed at Him and whispered, in the language of her Leader„ which had become a sacred language to her:
“Heil Dir, Lichtvater allwaltende!” And she added in Sanskrit, as though wishing to re-link all that her Aryan faith meant to her with a whole world of thought and fervour that had also been partly hers: “Aum Suryam! Namah, namah!”
After stopping for a short time at a last inhabited spot, the bus at last reached Baghdad, at about ten o’clock in the morning.
Heliodora would have liked to spend a few days in the old city of the Abbasid Caliphs — to seek and meet once more the kind Hindu friends whose hospitality she had enjoyed on her first trip; to revisit the ruins of Babylon, so nearby. She had ample time, apparently. Her books had waited so long for the printing-press, that they could afford to wait another week. But something was urging her not to stop; causing her to feel as though she had been in a hurry. What was it? The fact that she had very little money? However little she had, she could have managed to remain at least a day or two. The fact that there were no organised excursions to Babylon in July, and that she really could not afford to take a taxi all to herself, there and back? But she could have wandered about Baghdad without revisiting Babylon. It was not that which drove her on. It was something of which she did not know: a poor, half-grown tabby cat — that could have been beautiful, had it not been so miserable — limping from one dustbin to another in search of scraps of decaying food, a thousand miles away from her; a cat whose Destiny was to bring him to see her, or feel her, once more, after twelve years of separation and whose deeper, unconscious self was calling her: “Come! Come! Don’t waste a minute lest you should not reach me in time. I have lived a life of misery so that I might die in your arms. Come!”
She was coming . . . She left Baghdad the very same day, a little before sunset, in a small, overcrowded bus, in which she had been given a seat near the window, on the last wooden bench but one, at the back. She had been waiting the whole afternoon in a primitive, overcrowded “office”, in one of the poorest, noisiest (and dirtiest) localities of the rapidly expanding city, to get that uncomfortable seat.
* * *
She was coming . . . The bus was rushing through the golden evening, full-speed, along the road to Kermancha.
The road was dusty, and extremely uneven. At every depression, the bus would suddenly sink, and come up
again with a powerful jerk, which meant that Heliodora was bluntly projected four or five inches above her seat, only to fall back immediately upon the hard wood, getting bruised every time, yet thanking her stars that she had not being flung straight out of the window, which had neither a glass pane nor any bars for protection.
At first, she tried to grin and bear it without complaining. Nobody complained. Was not she, a National Socialist, to prove herself at least as tough as any of her co-travellers, none of whom had (apart from one or two Iranians, with exceptionally classical features) the slightest physical relationship with Aryandom? She made it a point of honour to remain silent and even recalled in her mind the famous motto of the Stoics: “Put up with (suffering) and abstain from (complaining).”1 It seemed to her as though the old Greek words, faint echo of a world that she had once, long, long before, so enthusiastically accepted as hers, gave her strength. She also thought of her German comrades who had suffered and died for the glorious Faith — theirs and hers, — and for the Reich of her dreams, without a word. And she felt small. The very thought of them in that darkening wilderness, amidst that rough crowd, so far away from Europe, worked upon her as a spell of pride. She forced herself to concentrate her mind upon the difference that existed between the ethics of the Stoa and those of her own faith, in spite of the stress laid by both upon will-power and indifference to personal sufferings. And she continued to be tossed up and down as the bus rolled on towards the east, towards Iran.
However, as a particularly violent jerk nearly threw her out of the window, she cried out aloud while struggling in vain to catch hold of the wooden frame, too far ahead of her seat. The whole bus burst out laughing. Aching, humiliated, enraged, Heliodora shouted back in Turkish (for she did not know how to say it in Arabic or Persian) “Zemdeme!” — “You go to hell!” Her fellow-travellers laughed all the more. And she hated them for laughing; and felt doubly miserable, doubly ashamed for having lost her temper in front of them.
The bus halted for a few minutes in the night. Heliodora saw a few tents pitched on each side of the track, and one or two huts. Men — some dressed in the picturesque loose robes of the desert folk, others in tattered international shirts and pants, — were sitting or standing about. There were a number of young boys among them. There were donkeys, also — little grey donkeys that stood still, staring blankly before them, listless, worn-out, utterly miserable;
1 “Anekhou kai apekhou.”
— and dogs, quite a number of dogs, all of them skin and bone. Heliodora got down from the bus and started giving the animals the bread she had bought in Baghdad for her journey. A skeleton-like bitch, with hanging paps, heavy with milk, was just thrusting herself forward to seize a chunk of bread that the woman had thrown to her, when she suddenly ran, howling, into the wilderness: one of the boys had flung a sharp stone at her and hit her right upon her belly. The same boy then stood grinning before Heliodora, begging for “baksheesh.” But she turned away from him in indignation: “Baksheesh? Not for you, dirty coward!” she cried, even though she thought no one could understand her. (She would have beaten him, scratched him, trampled him, till he, too, would have howled with pain, had she not known beforehand that the whole crowd would have taken his defence, and that it is useless to try to fight with bare fists, alone against fifty or more.)
She was going back to the bus when a dark, frizzy-haired young man in well-cut European clothes addressed her in English:
“You are angry because the child hit that poor bitch?” he said.
“Of course I am. He hit her so hard that one can still hear her howling. But if he thinks he will get any money from me he makes a mistake. Money, indeed! A beating — a beating till he is more than half dead — that is all the slimy coward deserves!”
“You see,” pursued the would-be humanitarian, who had learnt oil technology and democratic principles somewhere in the U.S.A., “you must try to understand these people: they are poor, very poor; and they don’t like dogs. Nobody likes dogs here. They are a nuisance.”
“And I,” replied Heliodora, shivering with passion; “I hate people who have no regard for living creatures. I look upon them as a nuisance, and hold that they should be destroyed.”
The well-dressed defender of human priority walked away. From the hostile glances of her fellow-travellers, Heliodora gathered that he had translated to them what she had said. Only an old, very old and kind-looking desert dweller, seated at the entrance of a tent on the roadside, shook his head and muttered something which, from the expression of his face, seemed to suggest, if not wholehearted approval, at least understanding. She looked back and faintly smiled at him. She imagined him to be a devout Moslem and, for a minute, recalled the Prophet of Islam — a man who hated cruelty, as all true warriors do, and who, although he had a very definite predilection
for cats, and looked upon dogs as “unclean” and had forbidden his followers to “touch” them, had certainly never urged anybody to hit or hurt any creature.
She wrapped up her remaining bread for “another time” — when she could give it to some dog without any jealous child noticing her — and went and took back her seat in the bus, more alone than ever. The howling of the wounded bitch had ceased under the stars. The bus rolled on, full-speed. At every jerk, Heliodora felt as though she would faint and fall. But she did not.
The border between Iraq and Iran was crossed. Late in the night, the bus reached Kermancha and halted at the entrance of a broad, open courtyard with an arched gallery along one side of it.
* * *
All the passengers got down. Heliodora, if only for the sake of relaxation, went and took a stroll and had a look at the surroundings. At first, she had intended to remain a couple of days in Kermancha: she knew the famous rock-reliefs and inscriptions of Behistun are not far from there, and she had always longed to see them. It would have been easy: she would only have had to go and tell the man seated at what could have been called the “office” — a little room containing a table and a bench, not far from the bus stop — to reserve a seat for her in one of the northbound buses that were to pass, perhaps the next day, perhaps the day after. Somebody in the office would understand English — or Greek, or Turkish, or Hindustani, or perhaps German, or some other language she could speak, (there always are polyglots to be found in the East). And there would be some corner where she would be able to keep her luggage, and some other corner in which she would be able to spend the night — or perhaps there would be a guest house near the rocks of Behistun? It did not make the slightest difference whether she reached India in three weeks’ time or in three weeks and three days.
And yet . . . some intuition, or some telepathic call, at any rate something stronger than any logical thinking, was holding her back and urging her, as insistently as ever, along the road to Teheran. It was the miserable, hungry, wounded cat, beautiful in spite of all in his long, stripy fur, — Sandy; Long-whiskers, reborn in suffering only to feel the touch of her hands once more — that was calling her over miles and hundreds of miles of wilderness, from the other end of Iran: “Come! Come for my sake! The rocks of Behistun can wait; I can’t.”
She thought, without realising why: “Let it be on another occasion! The reliefs and inscriptions are not going to run away, and I shall revisit Iran, although I don’t know when.” And, just as she had in Baghdad, she decided to continue her journey without a break.
But she did not like the crowded caravanserai — and especially not the loud-speaker, transmitting radio music to the many travellers. Most of the latter had started eating chicken pilau that was being served to them from a nearby kitchen, or food that they had brought with them. Some were preparing their meal upon open fires, in the courtyard. The women and children were seated, most of them, with their brightly coloured metal suitcases and enormous bundles, in a huge hall that opened into the arched gallery. Their quarters were the noisiest of all, and Heliodora shuddered at the prospect of spending the night there. It would be at least an hour or two before everybody had finished eating and gone to sleep — and she was longing to rest. In addition to that she pictured herself babies crying, and the anxious mothers constantly switching on the light to see what the matter was, and she remaining awake all night. (She had always resented the presence of so many babies in the buses, trains and waiting-rooms of the East.) So she inquired whether she could not spend the night in the empty bus. There was no objection, save that one imagined that she would not be comfortable.
“I shall sleep far better there alone than in the dormitory,” said she.
“But there is a place reserved for women and children . . .”
“I know,” replied she, somewhat embarrassed, for she knew it was useless to express the reasons of her reluctance: nobody would understand them. “I know; still, I’d rather be in the bus, alone.”
She was locked in — for safety. She then spread a few newspapers upon the floor, between the two rows of seats, and lay upon them, wrapped in her coat, using her handbag as a pillow. And she slept . . . after the accursed loudspeaker had at last become silent.
Far away, in Teheran, the tabby cat was walking along Roosevelt Avenue, crying in the warm starry night” — Mee-u! Meee-u! — like he had fifteen years before, when “she” had heard him, a poor black-and-white kitten, and his distressed mother, and come down to fetch them both. It was not hunger, this time, that caused him to cry: he had gulped down a whole heap of chicken’s entrails that he had found in a dustbin, and then caught and ate a mouse for his “dessert.” It was not lust either: he was
barely six months old. It was some mysterious uneasiness that possessed him, and that even a two-legged one could not have defined — let alone a cat; some unexplainable fear, and, at the same time, some extraordinary, joyous prescience.
O Cat, whose purr had once sufficed to tell her what she needed to know in order to remain herself; Cat, who, without being able to grasp human affairs, had yet saved her from the spirit of rash questioning that leads to heresy, you now dimly felt that she was coming; that she was on her way; that the time of supreme trial and of supreme fulfillment, which you had accepted before that miserable present birth, was drawing nigh. And your mew was a mew of terror — a call for help — like then, in the dark Calcutta “go-down,” and a mew of welcome to the “Two-legged goddess.”
* * *
She woke up at daybreak, after a short, but sound, dreamless sleep. She gathered her newspapers and folded them up neatly, in order to use them again for the second night in case she did not manage to find clean ones; for she was not to reach Teheran till the evening of the following day — the third day after her departure from Baghdad. She got down as soon as the bus was unlocked, washed her face, arms and legs the best she could, at a tap in the crowded courtyard, drank a glass of tea — which was sweet, and too strong, and which she did not like — only because she had been told that there was no coffee, and got back and seated herself in her place in the bus. The other passengers came in after they had finished their breakfast, and the journey continued.
The road was not quite as bad as the day before. And it was morning. There is joy in every landscape, however barren, for some time after sunrise. Heliodora let her eyes rest upon the reddish-brown road, upon the reddish-brown empty expanses on either side of it, and soon, upon the succession of harmoniously shaped hill ranges that appeared at the horizon. She was impressed by the beauty and variety of their colouring: ochre, greyish-yellow, greyish or reddish-brown, in the foreground; pinkish-grey, bluish-grey, and pale violet, as their distance increased. And as one drove nearer, their colours would change, and new hazy blues and purples would appear behind those that had, merged into warmer foreground shades. She was also impressed by the scarcity of people one met along the road, and by the beauty of some of those one
did meet, now and then, at long, long intervals. She automatically interpreted the contrast between the features of those rare passersby and those of most of her co-travellers who, even when Iranians, were town people. “Races are purer in the countryside, in whatever land it be,” thought she, as the bus rolled on.
There were two breaks during the journey, before the long halt on the second night. Wherever the bus stopped, there were always a few trees, sometimes many; and the travellers could sit at a table in some quaint and cool little inn, in the common hall of which there generally was water spouting up from the middle of a fairly large, square or rectangular pool, made of stone or marble (or “imitation”). Customers would sit all round it and eat and drink to the crystalline music of the water-drops. But everywhere Heliodora noticed skeleton-like dogs and famishing cats, afraid to come near a human being, and their sight made her feel indignant, and hardened her heart against man and whomsoever proclaims the “rights of all men.” In her eyes, men who have no love for other living creatures have also no rights. She bought bread and curds for the animals, and saw to it that no two-legged mammal snatched away the food before they dared come and eat it. She gave a few coppers to the beggars in order not to look too partial and thus rouse hostility against herself.
After half an hour spent in a cool, shady spot, the burning, barren land through which she was travelling seemed hotter and dustier than ever. Heliodora, however, was absorbed in her thoughts. She was trying to picture herself what Iran had looked like in the days in which Aryans, brothers of those of Vedic India, had ruled it — and, centuries later, in the time of the Achaemenid Kings, and then, under the successors of Alexander; under the Arsacids and, latest of all, under the Sassanids. The Arab conquest (651 A.D.) and the spreading of Islam had been to Iran what Roman conquest and subsequent Christianisation had been to Europe. Heliodora, who willingly described herself as a “nationalist of every land”, would have welcomed a “back to Aryan Iran” movement, parallel to the great European upheaval of which she herself was such a supporter. But could such a movement ever take place? “Perhaps,” thought she, “if we rise again one day in Europe, and if some of these people still have enough Aryan blood and Aryan virtues to take the lead of the others.”
She decided to try to find out — indirectly — how far some of the most “Indo-European” looking among her fellow-travellers
could be brought to share her views, if ever they had proper leaders. The woman in front of her had exceptionally fine Aryan features. She was travelling with six children, the eldest of whom might have been ten years old. She did not speak anything else but Persian. But her husband, who had worked in the Oil Company at Abadan, spoke English. When night came and when the travellers got down, Heliodora drew his notice by offering some sweets to the children and asking him what the latter were called — she believed in the magic of names and in the deeper instinct that urges a parent to chose them, whenever rigid custom does not rule out free choice.
“My eldest child, a daughter, is called Farida,” said he; “but the two others have Iranian names: Parivash, and Mahivash.”
“And your sons?” she asked.
“The eldest, — my second child — is called Mohammed Abbas. But I also gave Iranian names — Cyrus and Ardeshir — to the younger ones.”
Heliodora’s face brightened. “You are beginning to wake up to true nationalism,” said she, with a smile. And she added: “We too, in Europe, had started giving our children names in harmony with our blood and soil. Germany, the natural leader of European nations, had stressed that point and set the example. But, of course, since the disaster of 1945 . . .”
The man asked her whether she was German. She spoke the truth, and said: “No, I am not.”
“Then, why do you believe Germany to be ‘the natural leader of European nations’?” asked the Persian.
“Because she gave birth to Adolf Hitler, who laid down for us the principles of eternal wisdom that we had forgotten for centuries,” was Heliodora’s answer.
People gathered around her as they heard the Name that has echoed throughout the world. The man, who had been working in Abadan translated whatever she said. It was, for her, a joy to praise her Führer before that strange audience, in the heart of Iran. It reminded her of the years she had spent in India preaching the fundamental identity of the National Socialist principles and of those on which Hindu civilisation has been conceived, and the caste hierarchy established; also the identity of National Socialist ethics and of those implied in the Teaching of detached violence, written in the Bhagavad-Gita. How she had been happy during those years of apparent increasing influence, when she had, in her easy enthusiasm, imagined herself preparing the way for her Leader’s New World Order! Now, of course, it was “Aryan Iran” of which she spoke;
of Iran, from King Cyrus to King Jezdedjerd, with its cult of Light, still alive among the Parsis of India (and even in Persia itself); with its invincible language, the roots of which are the same as those of Sanskrit and of all the Aryan tongues of the earth. And remembering that, in spite of all, most Persians are Mohammedans since the 7th Century A.D., she cleverly spoke also of the Islamic world of today in its length and breadth and with its many races and sub-races, as of the natural ally of all Aryans who are conscious of the Jewish danger.
“Our Adolf Hitler,” said she at last, “came to show all nations — first his own, and then other Aryan nations, but also the non-Aryan ones; all real nations of the world — the way of true nationalism, i.e., the way of true collective pride and collective virtue, which is the Way of Blood and Soil; the way leading to God, in fact, since man’s blood and the soil of his ancestors are the only things which he can neither acquire nor alter according to his will; that he cannot reject, even if he denies them, even if he becomes unworthy of them — God-given treasures. That is why I say: “He spoke God’s own words, like all true prophets do. That is why I say: “He is a prophet, not a mere politician.” (In India, she would not have said “a prophet” but “an Incarnation of the Divine.” Here, she felt her language had to be different, whatever were her personal views).
The dark young man who had expressed such a dislike of dogs the night before, now put in a word:
“Why did he persecute the Jews if he was, as you say, one sent by God?” said he, referring to Adolf Hitler. “And what do you Nazis all mean with your ‘Jewish danger’? Aren’t Jews human beings like any others? “
“Human beings are, when dangerous, precisely more dangerous than any other living creatures,” replied Heliodora. “And these people are dangerous as a whole, as a people, precisely because they try to teach the rest of mankind, and especially the most gifted and healthiest races, to deny or mock the eternal Doctrine of Blood and Soil, while they (although they are anything but pure-blooded) proclaim it for themselves with religious fanaticism, — even when they maintain that they have done away with every religion.”
“That’s all nonsense!” exclaimed the young man. “All Jews are not Zionists. Many believe as I do that there are no races, only human beings, but rich ones and poor ones, exploiters and exploited; and only want that exploitation of man by man to come to an end, and all men to enjoy the riches of the earth to the full.”
On hearing these words Heliodora understood that the young man was a Jewish Communist. He did not speak to her again, deeming it useless. But several of the other listeners put questions to her, or made remarks. A young Arab, who had learnt English in Egypt, told her that he sincerely admired her Führer. So did a young Iranian student who added: “We are a handful in this country who do stand for Aryan regeneration, and honour him as the greatest of all Aryans since Cyrus and Darius the Truthful, best of our kings.”
Heliodora pictured herself the Doctrine and the cult of her beloved Leader — and, through it, the cult, or at least the reverence of Germany — conquering the whole world according to her life-long dream, in spite of defeat, in spite of stubborn calumny, in spite of widespread indifference; conquering it slowly and irresistibly, as corn grows, or as fruits ripen. And she recalled the words of a German comrade, addressed to her four years before: “Does one see corn grow? Or hear it? So is our onward march: unseen and silent.” “Could this indeed be true?” thought she.
That night, — her last night on the way to Teheran — she took a long time to fall asleep upon her bed of newspapers, in the bus. Not that the hard, wooden floor felt harder than on the night before: she did not feel it. But she was the prey of a strange excitement, as though she were about to do something of great importance; she could not make out what. Yet she did know that anything she would do, in earnest and with all her heart, would, ultimately, directly or indirectly, serve the National Socialist Cause, for this was, in her eyes, the very Cause of Life itself. And she was happy, for she entirely identified herself with it and thus, in .a way, shared its eternity.
From Teheran, like on the night before, came the Cat’s feeble mew, calling her desperately; — and calling Fate; — the mew that nobody could hear, not even she, but that had drawn her all these weeks, all these months, as implacably as her tremendous dreams, over land and sea and torrid wilderness; over Europe, Greece and Egypt, and along the highways of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
This was, her last night. She was coming . . .
* * *
The next day — 9th of July — was the best day of the journey. Heliodora knew she would not have to spend another night on the way. Some of the passengers had also become friendlier since they had heard her speak on the evening before. Nobody made any remarks when, at
the halting places, she bought bread for the stray dogs, or curds, — which she then poured out upon some scrap of paper and quietly placed under a bench or in some corner — for the cats. Little Mahivash, who had been observing her for a long time, even felt prompted to do the same, and was overjoyed when her father gave her a spoonful of curds upon an old piece of tin, which she carefully went and laid upon the ground before an emaciated cat. The cat ran away at the child’s approach, and a dog — a hungry creature, at any rate, — licked up the curds. Heliodora was touched at the little girl’s gesture, and was more seriously than ever prepared to believe in the possibility of “Aryan regeneration in Asia,” for in her eyes children’s love of living creatures was a sign of noble blood.
She also enjoyed more than ever the crystalline coolness of spouting water in the inns, and the palm tree thickets nearby, after the long, burning desert tracks. Even the tea, although much too strong for her taste, and sweet, was beginning to seem tolerable to her.
The bus rolled into Teheran in the late afternoon. Heliodora took leave of the sympathetic family from Abadan as well as from the two young men who had expressed admiration for her Leader on the evening before. She then went and took a room at a hotel owned by Greeks and “not too expensive” — the “Cyrus Hotel” — which someone had recommended to her.
At last, she had come.