It was intrigue, of course he knew that much, as he had known all evil since he could speak, but what he loved was the game for its own sake the stealthy prowl through the dark gullies and lanes, the crawl up a waterpipe, the sights and sounds of the women's world on the flat roofs, and the headlong flight from housetop to housetop under cover of the hot dark.
She lived a life of her own, and her brain was not purely imitative. She not only acted often originally, but thought for herself. She was not merely a very pretty girl. She was somebody. And somehow she had trained people to accept her daring way of life. In Paris she did exactly what she chose, and quite openly. There was no secrecy in her methods. In London she pursued the same housetop course.
"'I heard the owl beneath my eaves complaining," chirped Mr. Moses, taking two or three high notes in a delicate tenor voice. "'I looked forth great Scot! How it was raining! Is it an owl, mother? Ask it to screech to Briskin." "It is no owl," said Eureka to the Prophet. "It is a sparrow your bird." "Is it upon the housetop, mother, having a spree all on its little alone?"
When the Lord came back to Capernaum the people thronged Him, and when He rested in the shaded court of a friend's house it was soon filled with the eager people who longed to hear His word, or be healed by His touch. Once it was so crowded in the court that some men, who were bringing a friend to Jesus who was helpless with palsy, took him up by the outside stairs to the housetop.
Men are often better than their customs and sometimes better than their religions. Standing with a friend of mine on a high flat housetop in Calcutta one day, I saw a Hindu father on the next-door housetop proudly and lovingly walking and talking with his daughter who was just budding into maidenhood.
None had any thought of that black spectre which is the enemy of all living creatures, which constrains the huge watch-dog to dig up graves with his hind feet, which bids the night owl utter her dismal notes on the housetop alongside of the creaking weather-cock, which sends into the vestibules and corridors its living visiting-cards in the shape of those large, black, night-moths with pale skull-like effigies painted on their backs as upon tombs, beneath whose feet the furniture creaks and crackles, which makes that tiny invisible beetle hidden between the boards of the beds begin tick-tick-ticking like a fairy watch, eleven times in succession, by way of showing that the witching hour of night is close at hand.
He lacks the day-dreams of Stevenson and preaches from every housetop the gospel of virile, acting morality. Many of his readers have criticised adversely his spiritual teachings, because of the furious energy with which he denounces an apathetic religion and eulogizes the person who works with all his might, day after day, for the highest he knows and never fears the day of death and judgment.
So being in our saddles forth we set once more and on a path no easier than before, but worse like a very housetop for steepness, without a tinge of any living thing for succour if one fell, but only sharp, jagged rocks, and that which now added to our peril was here and there a patch of snow, so that the mules must cock their ears and feel their way before advancing a step, now halting for dread, and now scuttling on with their tails betwixt their legs as the stones rolled under them.
He led us at a smart pace from one roof to another, for here they were all of the same height, and only low parapets and screens divided them. We never saw a soul, for a winter's night is not the time you choose to saunter on your housetop. I kept my ears open for trouble behind us, and in about five minutes I heard it.
But still the lagoon outside was packed with boats overloaded boats.... Screams of terror, choked into silence ... boats with frenzied occupants leaping into the water to find a quicker, happier death ... a woman with a babe in her arms on a housetop across the lagoon the infant already dead; the crazed mother flinging it down into the water, herself following with a long, gasping scream...