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Title:      A Prince of the Captivity (1933)
Author:     John Buchan
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      A Prince of the Captivity (1933)
Author:     John Buchan




TO

EDWARD STEPHEN HARKNESS




"As when a Prince
Of dispers'd Israel, chosen in the shade,
Rules by no canon save his inward light.
And knows no pageant save the pipes and shawms
Of his proud spirit."




Thus said Jesus, upon whom be peace.
The World is a bridge; pass over
it, but build no house upon it.

The Emperor Akbar's inscription at Fatehpur-Sikri.




BOOK ONE



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--I


I


On a warm June evening three men were sitting in the smoking-room
of a London club.  One was an old man, with a face which had once
been weather-beaten and was now intricately seamed with veins and
wrinkles.  His bearing, his shoulders trimly squared even at
seventy, spoke of the old style of British regimental officer.  The
second was in his early thirties, a heavy young man, with nothing
of the Guardsman about him except his tie.  The third might have
been any age between forty and sixty, and had writ plain upon him
the profession of the law.

The newsboys were shouting in Pall Mall.

"They can't have got the verdict yet," said the last.  "Jenks was
only beginning to sum up when I left.  We shall hear nothing for
another hour."

The old man shivered.  "Good God!  It is awful to be waiting here
to know whether Tom Melfort's boy is to go to prison for six years
or ten.  I suppose there's no chance of an acquittal."

"None," said the lawyer.  "You see, he pled guilty.  Leithen was
his counsel, and I believe did his best to get him to change his
mind.  But the fellow was adamant."

The young soldier, whose name was Lyson, shook his head.

"That was like Adam.  There never was a more obstinate chap in his
quiet way.  Very easy and good-natured till you presumed just a
little too much on his placidity, and then you found yourself hard
up against a granite wall."

"How well did you know him?" the lawyer asked.

"I was at school with him and we passed out of Sandhurst together.
He was a friend, but not what you would call an intimate.  Too
clever, and a little too much of the wise youth. . . .  Oh yes, he
was popular, for he was a first-class sportsman and a good fellow,
but he had a bit too much professional keenness for lazy dogs like
me.  After that he went straight ahead, as you know, and left us
all behind.  Somebody told me that old Mullins said he was the most
brilliant man they had had at the Staff College for a generation.
He had got a European war on the brain, and spent most of his leave
tramping about the Ardennes or bicycling in Lorraine."

"If this thing hadn't happened, what would you have said about his
character?"

"Sound as the Bank of England," was the answer.  "A trifle
puritanical, maybe.  I used to feel that if I ever did anything
mean I should be more ashamed to face Adam Melfort than any other
man alive.  You remember how he looked, sir," and he turned to the
old man.  "Always in training--walked with a light step as if he
were on the hill after deer--terribly quick off the mark in an
argument--all fine and hard and tightly screwed together.  The grip
of his small firm hand had a sort of electric energy.  Not the kind
of man you would think likely to take the wrong turning."

"I am not very clear. . . .  What exactly happened?" asked the old
man.

"Common vulgar forgery," the lawyer replied.  "He altered a cheque
which was made out to his wife--part of her allowance from a rich
great-uncle.  The facts were not in doubt, and he made no attempt
to dispute them.  He confessed what he had done, and explained it
by a sudden madness.  The funny thing was that he did not seem to
be ashamed of it.  He stood there quite cool and collected, with a
ghost of a smile on his face, making admissions which he must have
known were going to wreck him for good.  You say he was wrapt up in
his career, but I never saw anyone face a crash more coolly. . . .
The absence of motive puzzles me.  Were the Melforts hard up?  They
never behaved as if they were."

"Adam was supposed to be fairly well off.  He was an only son, and
his father died years ago.  But I fancy his lady wife made the
money fly."

"I saw her in the witness-box," said the lawyer.  "Pretty as a
picture and nicely dressed for the part.  She gave her evidence in
a voice like music and wept most becomingly.  Even old Jenks was
touched. . . .  Poor little soul!  It isn't much fun for her. . . .
Who was she, by the way?  Somebody told me she was Irish."

"She was Camilla Considine," said Lyson.  "Sort of far-away cousin
of my own.  Adam first met her hunting with the Meath.  I haven't
seen a great deal of them lately, but I shouldn't have said that
the marriage was made in Heaven.  Oh yes!  She was--she is--
angelically pretty, with spun-gold hair and melting blue eyes--the
real fairy-tale princess type.  But I never considered that she had
the mind of a canary.  She can't be still, but hops from twig to
twig, and her twigs were not the kind of perch that Adam fancied.
They each went pretty much their own way.  There was a child that
died, you know, and after that there was nothing to hold them
together. . . .  Adam had his regimental duties, and, when he got
leave, as I have said, he was off to some strategic corner of
Europe.  Camilla hunted most of the winter--she rode superbly, and
there were plenty of people ready to mount her--and in London she
was always dancing about.  You couldn't open a picture-paper
without seeing her photograph.

"No," he continued in reply to a question, "I never heard any
suggestion of scandal.  Camilla lived with rather a raffish set,
but she was not the kind of woman to have lovers.  Not human
enough.  There was something curiously sexless about her.  She
lived for admiration and excitement, but she gave passion a
miss. . . .  She and Adam had one thing in common--they were
both fine-drawn and rarefied--not much clogged with fleshly
appetites.  But while Adam had a great brain and the devil of a
purpose, Camilla was rather bird-witted--a lovely inconsequent
bird.  God knows how he ever came to be attracted by her!  I
thought the marriage absurd at the time, and, now that it has
crashed, I see that it was lunacy from the start.  I reckoned on
disaster, but not from Adam's side."

"It's the motive I can't get at," said the lawyer.  "If, as you
say, Melfort and his wife were more or less estranged, why should
he risk his career, not to speak of his soul, to provide her with
more money?  The cheque was made out to her, remember, so she must
have been privy to the business.  I can imagine a doting husband
playing the fool in that way, but I understand that they scarcely
saw each other.  He didn't want money for himself, did he?  Had he
been speculating, do you suppose?"

"Not a chance of it.  He had no interests outside soldiering--
except that he used to read a lot. . . .  I daresay Camilla may
have outrun the constable.  Her clothes alone must have cost a
pretty penny. . . .  No, I can't explain it except by sudden
madness, and that gets us nowhere, for it's not the kind of madness
that I ever connected with Adam Melfort.  I can see him killing a
man for a principle--he had always a touch of the fanatic--but
cheating, never!"

The newsboys' shouting was loud in Pall Mall.  "Let's send for the
last evening paper," said the lawyer.  "It ought to have the
verdict. . . .  Hullo, here's Stannix.  He may know."

A fourth man joined the group in the corner.  He was tall, with a
fine head, which looked the more massive because he wore his hair
longer than was the fashion.  The newcomer flung himself wearily
into a chair.  He summoned a waiter and ordered a whisky-and-soda.
His face was white and strained, as if he had been undergoing
either heavy toil or heavy anxiety.

"What's the news, Kit?" the younger soldier asked.

"I've just come from the court.  Two years imprisonment in the
second division."

The lawyer whistled.  "That's a light sentence for forgery," he
said. . . .  But the old man, in his high dry voice, quavered, "My
God!  Tom Melfort's boy!"

"Leithen handled it very well," said the newcomer.  "Made the most
of his spotless record and all that sort of thing, and had a fine
peroration about the sudden perversities that might overcome the
best of men.  You could see that Jenks was impressed.  The old chap
rather relishes pronouncing sentence, but in this case every word
seemed to be squeezed out of him unwillingly, and he did not
indulge in a single moral platitude."

"I suppose we may say that Melfort has got off easily," said the
lawyer.

"On the contrary," said the man called Stannix, "he has been
crushed between the upper and the nether millstone."

"But on the facts the verdict was just."

"It was hideously unjust--but then Adam courted the injustice.  He
asked for it--begged for it."

Lyson spoke.  "You're his closest friend, Kit.  What in God's name
do you make of it all?"

Stannix thirstily gulped down his drink.  "I wish you had seen him
when he heard the sentence.  You remember the quiet dreamy way he
had sometimes--listening as if his thoughts were elsewhere--half-
smiling--his eyes a little vacant.  Well, that was how he took it.
Perfectly composed--apparently quite unconscious that he was set up
there for all the world to throw stones at.  Think what a proud
fellow he was, and then ask yourself how he managed to put his
pride behind him. . . .  Mrs Melfort was sitting below, and when
Jenks had finished Adam bowed to him, and looked down at his wife.
He smiled at her and waved his hand, and then marched out of the
dock with his head high. . . .  I caught a glimpse of her face,
and--well, I don't want to see it again.  There was a kind of
crazed furtive relief in it which made my spine cold."

"You think . . ." the lawyer began.

"I think nothing.  Adam Melfort is the best friend I have in the
world--the best man I have ever known--and I am bound to back him
up whatever line he takes.  He has chosen to admit forgery and go
to gaol.  He drops out of His Majesty's service and his life is
ruined.  Very well.  That is his choice, and I accept it. . . .
But I am going to say something to you fellows which I must say,
but which I will never repeat again.  I sat through the trial and
heard all the evidence.  I watched Adam's face--you see, I know his
ways.  And I came to one clear conclusion, and I'm pretty certain
that Ned Leithen reached it too.  He was lying--lying--every word
he spoke was a lie."

'"I see!" said the lawyer.  "Splendide mendax!"

The old man, who had not listened very closely, took up his tale.
"Lying!" he moaned.  "Great God!  Tom Melfort's boy!"


II


Adam Melfort began his new life in a kind of daze.  The stone walls
which made his prison did not circumscribe him, for he was living
in a far narrower enclosure of the mind.  The dismal fare, the
monotonous routine were scarcely noticed: he was allowed books, but
he never opened them; visitors were permitted on certain days, but
he did not welcome them, and the few who came--a cousin, a brother
officer or two, Christopher Stannix--found a man who seemed to have
lost interest in the outer world and had no need of consolation.
His wife was not among these visitors.

The truth was, that ever since the tragedy Adam's mind had been
busied with a problem of conduct.  He believed that he had acted
rightly, but doubt intervened with maddening iteration, and a
thousand times he had to set the facts in order and review his
decision.

It was a long story which he had to recount to himself and it
involved a stern inquisition into his past.  Much he could pass
lightly over--fortunately, for the recollection was like opening
graves. . . .  His boyhood, for example, the intricate, exciting
world of school, the shining months of holiday on Eilean Bn--the
pictures which crowded on him were almost too hard a trial for his
fortitude. . . .  Sandhurst was easier, for there he had entered
manhood and begun the life which had now shipwrecked.  There the
vague dreams of boyhood had hardened into a very clear purpose
which absorbed all his interests, and for which he believed that he
had a special talent.  Military problems fascinated him, and he had
the kind of brain, half-mathematical, half-imaginative, which they
demand.  There is no higher pleasure in life than to discover in
youth a clear aptitude and to look forward to a lifetime to be
spent in its development.  He had been very serious about the
business, and had prided himself on keeping mind and body in
perfect discipline, for at the back of his head he had a vision of
a time coming when every atom of his power would be requisitioned.
He felt himself dedicated to a cause far higher than personal
success.  But this success had come to him--at Sandhurst, in his
regiment, at the Staff College.  Adam had little vanity, but he
could not be insensitive to the opinion of his colleagues, and that
opinion had, beyond doubt, marked him out for high achievement.

Then into his absorbed Spartan life Camilla had come like a
disquieting west wind.  She was the kind of woman with whom men
like Adam have fallen in love since the beginning of time--that
Rosalind-youth, which to the mystery of sex adds the mystery of
spring, the germinal magic of a re-created earth.  He had
marvellously idealised her, and had never sought to penetrate the
secret of her glancing, bewildering charm.  His carefully planned
scheme of life went to pieces, and for three tempestuous months he
was the devout, unconsidering lover.

Disillusion came in the first year of marriage.  The woman he lived
with could no longer be set on a pedestal for worship; he had
perforce to explore the qualities of head and heart behind the airy
graces.  His exploration yielded nothing.  Camilla was almost
illiterate, having been brought up in a ramshackle country-house
among dogs and horses and hard-riding squireens.  That he had
known, but he had not realised the incurable lightness of her mind.
During their courtship her eyes had often been abstracted when he
talked to her, and he had fancied that this betokened a world of
private thought.  He learned now that it meant only vacuity.  Her
brain was featherweight, though she had many small ingenuities in
achieving her own purposes.  Into his interests and pursuits she
stubbornly refused to enter.  At first she would turn the edge of
graver topics with a laugh and a kiss, but presently she yawned in
his face.

He discovered, too, that her tenderness was only skin-deep.  Her
soft melting eyes were not an index to a sensitive heart.  Her
nature had a hard glossy enamel of selfishness, and her capacity
for emotion seemed to be limited to occasional outbursts of self-
pity.  Her light laughter could be cruel indeed, and often cut him
deep, but he hid his wounds when he saw that she could never
understand in what she had offended.  She lived for admiration and
gaiety, blind to anything but the surface of things.  She was
curiously obtuse to human values, and made intimates of all who
flattered her; but she was safe enough, for she had no passion, and
her bird-like flutterings carried her through dangerous places. . . .
A child was born after a year of marriage, in whom she took
little interest, except now and then to pose with him, as the young
mother, to a fashionable photographer.  The boy died when he was
five years old, and, after an hour's sobbing Camilla tripped again
into the limelight.  The broken-hearted Adam sat down to face the
finality of his blunder.  He realised that he had been a romantic
fool, who had sought a goddess and found a dancing-girl.  His wife
was untamable, since there was nothing to tame.

He did not blame her; his reproaches were all for himself.  He
understood that if she gave him no affection, his affection for her
was also long ago dead.  He had been in love with a dream, and had
awakened to detest the reality.  Not detest perhaps; his feelings
were rather disillusion, pity, and self-reproach.  Especially self-
reproach.  He blamed himself bitterly for his folly and blindness.
He had married this woman on false pretences, loving something
which she was not; so from the first the marriage had been stained
with infidelity.  Adam was one of those people who keep so much
space around their souls that they are always lonely, and this
leads often to quixotic codes of conduct.  The hard good sense
which he showed in his profession was absent in his inner world.
He tortured himself with remorse; he had domesticated a being
without mind or heart, but the blame was wholly his.

So he schooled himself to make reparation.  He let Camilla go her
own way, and stinted himself that she might have money to spend.
His Continental wandering was done in third-class carriages and on
a bicycle, while she had the car on the Riviera.  Occasionally they
dined out together, but for the most part they went their own
roads.  Some of her doings and many of her companions gravely hurt
his pride, but he made no complaint.  His manner towards her was
always courteous and friendly, and if now and then his face showed
involuntary disapproval she did not observe it.  She set him down
as a part of the conventional background of her life, like the
butler or the chauffeur--a pleasant piece of background which was
never out of temper.

After seven years of marriage the crash came.  Camilla had always
been extravagant, and for the past year she had been rapidly
amassing debts.  Twice she had appealed to Adam, who had paid off
all the liabilities she confessed to, liabilities which were far
short of the true figure.  Then had come a final recklessness, so
wild that she was afraid to approach her husband again.  For a
certain fancy-dress ball she bought a jewel for which she had no
means of paying, and, when a little later she was in need of
immediate money for a trip to Nice, she sold it at a heavy loss.
The jewellers became pressing, her bank refused to allow her a
further overdraft and clamoured for a reduction, and in a panic she
had recourse to the money-lenders.  That settled the jewellers, but
it left her the prey to periodical demands which she had no means
of meeting.  Somewhere at the back of her mind she had a real dread
of the fraternity; a tradesman's pertinacity could be overcome, but
the soft-spoken people with Scotch names and curved noses would
take no denial.  For all her light-headedness, she had a certain
sense of social decorum, and she shrank from a public scandal like
a child from the dark.

For a week or two she was a harassed woman, and then her great-
uncle's quarterly cheque seemed to offer a way of escape.  He was a
rich man and would never notice a few hundreds less to his credit.
If she asked him for the money he would be certain to give it to
her; but she was afraid to plague an old man in bad health with her
affairs.  She presumed on his generosity, for he had always been
indulgent to her.  She was behaving well, she told herself, since
she was saving him trouble. . . .  She was neat-handed and took
pains with the forgery, and when it was done she breathed freely.
She paid in the cheque and had once again an easy mind.

But suddenly dreadful things began to happen.  It was like a
volcanic eruption in ground where no volcano had ever been dreamed
of.  There were enquiries from the bank, urgent enquiries.  Then
came a visit of solemn, smooth-faced men who, she realised with
terror, were detectives.  After that there was a wild fluttering
panic, a breakdown in tears, an incoherent confession like that of
a bewildered child. . . .

Adam, she thought, behaved well, for he invented a very clever
story.  She had changed the figure--that could not be denied and
she had admitted it--but Adam with a very white face had declared
that she had done it by his command, that he had forced her to
it. . . .  After that no one seemed to trouble about her, only to
look at her sympathetically, but they troubled a great deal about
Adam.  It appeared that he had done something very wrong--or said
he had--Camilla was rather confused about the whole affair.  Of
course he had not touched the cheque, but perhaps he was right, and
she had altered it under his influence--she had heard of such things
happening--anyhow, Adam always spoke the truth.  She was sorry for
him, but immensely relieved that she was out of the scrape, and
soon she was far more sorry for herself.  For Adam had to leave the
house and be tried in a court and perhaps go to prison, and that
would be a terrible business for her. . . .

For a moment Camilla had felt a glow of gratitude towards him, but
that was soon swamped in self-pity.  If only she had not meddled
with the wretched cheque!  But Adam said he was responsible for
that and she would not let herself think further about it. . . .
After all, she did not care much for him, though he seemed to care
for her.  Their marriage had been comfortable but nothing more.
And now the comfort was gone, and she foresaw endless worries.
Camilla took refuge in tears.

Adam's action had surprised himself, but he realised that it
was the consequence of a long process of thought.  For years he
had been convincing himself that he had wronged Camilla, and
that it was his duty to make restitution, and his sudden resolve
on that tragic morning in Eaton Place was the result of this
premeditation. . . .  For a little the necessity of playing a part
and brazening it out kept him from thinking, but during the trial
he had been beset with doubts.

He had smashed his career.  Well, that was inevitable, for in
making reparation something must be broken. . . .  He had cut
himself off from serving his country.  That was more serious, but
private honour must come first with a man. . . .  But this private
honour!  That was what most concerned him.  He had lied deliberately,
and never in his life had he lied before.  Adam felt himself
smirched and grubby, fallen suddenly out of a clean world into the
mire.  He was no casuist, and this tormenting doubt pursued him to
the dock, and from the dock to his prison cell.  A man was entitled
to sacrifice much in the way of duty, but was he entitled to
sacrifice his soul?

Peace came to him at last because of one reflection.  The
alternative was that Camilla should be sitting in this place of
bare walls and rude furniture.  Such a wheel would have broken the
butterfly.  God would forgive, thought Adam, a man's sin if it was
designed to shield the weak.


III


The peace did not last long.  He had settled a scruple, but he had
still to face the litter of a broken life.  He had been desperately
in love with his work, and had developed a loyalty to his service
and to his regiment the stronger because it had no rival in his
home.  The task of a modern soldier is a curious compound of those
of the mathematician and the imaginative creator, for he has to
work meticulously at intricate combinations of detail, and at the
same time allow for the human factor's innumerable permutations.
Adam's mind had wrought happily among the undergrowth, but he had
also an eye for the trees, and in his moments of insight for the
shape of the wood.  It was these last flashes of pre-vision which
had been the high moments in his career, and had impressed his
colleagues.  He had always been an assiduous student of military
history, and that had led him into other history, and he had
learned the major part played by economics and civil statesmanship
in the art of war.  As he studied Europe he seemed to see forces
everywhere straining towards the point of clash, and he had set
himself to work out the problems which that clashing involved.
Along with one or two other young men he had established a new
school of military thought, to which one distinguished statesman
had been converted.  There was a cognate school in the French Army,
and the two exchanged memoranda.  Academic for the moment, but
soon, he believed, to be an urgent reality. . . .  And now this
happy activity, this happier companionship, was gone for ever.

For days Adam lived in blank, unrelieved misery.  This was not a
problem to be solved, but a judgment to be endured, and he could
only meet it with a leaden stoicism. . . .  He had settled a large
part of his income on Camilla, but he had enough left to support
existence.  Existence it would be, not life.  He was a disgraced
man to whom all honourable careers were closed.  His interest had
been so concentrated on his profession that outside it the world
was blank.  He struggled to attain fortitude by reminding himself
of others who had built up broken lives--disgraced men who had
fought their way back, blind men who had won new energy from their
handicap. . . .  But what could he do?  He had but the one calling,
and he could not force the gate that had clanged behind him.  There
was the Foreign Legion, of course.  But could he face the blind
monotony of the rabble at the foot of the tower when he had once
been the watchman on the battlements?

He slept badly, and would lie and torture himself with a retrospect
like a chess-board.  He saw everything in cold black and white, so
that what he looked at seemed scarcely human life, but a kind of
cosmic puzzle for which there was no solution.



One morning he woke with an odd feeling that something pleasant had
happened.  He had been dreaming of Eilean Bn.

It was different from the island which he remembered.  There were
the white sands that he knew, and the white quartz boulders tumbled
amid the heather.  There were the low hills, shaped into gracious
folds, with the little sea-trout river running through green
pastures to the sea.  There was the forest of wild-wood on Sgurr
Bn, where the first woodcock came in October, and Sgurr Bn, with
its queer stony fingers that used to flush blood-red in the sunset.
There was the whitewashed lodge among the dwarfish oaks and
birches, the mossy lawn, and the pond where the wildfowl thronged
in winter.

But the place seemed to have grown larger.  Beyond Sgurr Bn should
have been the cliffs where the choughs bred, and the long slopes of
thyme and bent stretching to that western sea which in the stillest
summer weather did not cease its murmur.  But now the sea had fled
from Sgurr Bn.  In his dream he had been walking westward, for he
wanted to visit again the sandy cove where he used to bathe and
look out to the skerries where the great grey seals lived.  But it
seemed to him that the thymy downs now extended for ever.  He had
stridden over them for hours and had found delectable things--a new
lochan with trout rising among yellow water-lilies, a glen full of
alders and singing waters, a hollow with old gnarled firs in it and
the ruins of a cottage pink with foxgloves.  But he had never come
within sight of the sea, though it seemed to him that the rumour of
its tides was always in his ear.



That dream opened a new stage in Adam's life.  His mind ceased to
move in a terrible wheel of abstractions, and he saw concrete
pictures again.  Two especially, on which he would dwell with an
emotion that had in it more of comfort than pain.

The first was a small child slowly ascending the steep stairs in a
London house that led from the day-nursery to the night-nursery.
Nigel, named after Adam's grandfather, was a solemn, square boy
with a Roman head set finely upon stalwart little shoulders.  Adam
led a busy life in those days, but he usually contrived to return
home just as the child, his hair still damp from his bath, was
moving bedwards.  Nigel would never permit himself to be carried by
the nurse up those stairs.  Very slowly he made his progress,
delaying on each step, impeded by bedroom slippers slightly too
large for him.  He carried in both hands his supper, a glass of
milk, and a plate containing two biscuits, an orange or a banana.
It was part of the ritual that he should be his own food-bearer,
and it was his pride that he never spilled a drop of milk, except
on one disastrous day when over-lengthy new pyjamas had tripped him
up, and he and his supper had cascaded back to the landing.  Adam
generally found him on the second lowest step, and used to applaud
his grave ascent.  Then he would tuck him up in bed, when the
supper was eaten, and listen to his prayers repeated slowly and
dogmatically to his Scotch nurse.  Sometimes, when there was no
dinner engagement, Adam would tell Nigel a story, most often a
recollection from his own childhood and always about Eilean Bn.

Camilla rarely appeared on these occasions, except to hurry Adam's
dressing when they were dining out.  She had not much to say to
Nigel, or he to her.  But the father and the son had an immense
deal to confide to each other.  The child was fanciful, and had
invented a batch of familiar spirits out of his sponge, his tooth-
brush, his dressing-gown, and an old three-pronged poker which
stood by the nursery fireplace.  He would recount the sayings of
these familiars, who held strong and damnatory views on unpleasant
duties like nail-cutting and hair-washing and visits to the
dentist.  But especially he would question his father about Eilean
Bn.  Adam drew many maps of the island in a realistic Elizabethan
manner, and Nigel would make up stories about sundry appetising
creeks and provocative skerries.  He never visited Eilean Bn, for
Camilla was bored by it when she was taken there at the end of her
honeymoon, so it had been let for a term of years to a Glasgow
manufacturer.  But any seaside place to which Nigel journeyed was
contrasted by him unfavourably with that isle of dreams.  There
were too many houses at Bournemouth, and too many people at
Broadstairs, and a horrible band in green jackets at Eastbourne,
and a man who made ugly faces at Littlehampton, but at Eilean Bn
there would be only his father and the sea and the grey seals and
the curlews and a kindly genie called "Peteross."

When Nigel died of meningitis after two days' delirium the bottom
dropped out of Adam's world.  Fortunately at the time he was
desperately busy, and his duties took him on a two months' mission
to a foreign capital.  He drugged himself with work, and when the
strain slackened and his mind could again make timid excursions, he
found that he could patch up his world with stoicism.  Stoicism had
always been Nigel's strong suit, for the little boy had been
wonderfully brave, and had taken pride in never whimpering.  Adam
told himself that he must do likewise to be worthy of the child who
had so brightened his house of life.  One regret tormented him--
that he had never taken Nigel to Eilean Bn.  He put the thought of
the place from him in distaste, for it awoke an unavailing
bitterness.



But now he found that by some happy magic the two memories had
intertwined themselves.  Nigel had taken possession of Eilean Bn.
He was to be met with not only on the nursery stairs in Eaton
Place, but on the white island sands and on the slopes of the
hills, a tiny figure in shorts and a light blue jersey, with hair
the palest gold against a sunburnt skin.

Adam had found a companion for his dream revisitings.  He would let
himself fall into a waking trance, and spend happy hours recaptured
from childhood. . . .  Nigel was a delight to behold.  It had been
a hot summer when he died, and the child had been ailing a little
before his last illness.  Adam remembered meeting him one sultry
evening as he returned with his nurse from the Park, and a pang had
gone through his heart at the sight of the small pale face and
clammy forehead.  He had then and there resolved to send him to the
country; indeed, the very day when the child sickened he had been
negotiating for rooms in a Cotswold farm. . . .  But now Nigel was
as firm and sweet as a nut, and nearly as brown.  It was a joy to
see his hard little legs twinkle as he ran shouting in the ripples
of the tide.

In Nigel's company Adam seemed to live over again his very early
childhood, when the place was as big as a continent, and as little
explored as central Arabia.  Peter Ross, the keeper, was the
tutelary deity of those days.  Peter was a very old man who did not
belong to the islands, but had come centuries before from the
mainland in the time of Adam's grandfather.  The Melforts had been
a mainland family, until Kinloch Melfort was sold by the
grandfather in the time when Highland deer-forests fetched fancy
prices.  That grandfather had been a famous diplomat, whose life
had been mostly spent out of England, and he had longed for an
island in which to spend his old age.  Consequently the lodge at
Eilean Bn was filled with strange foreign things, rugs on which
were pictured funny little men and horses, great jars of china and
many-coloured metals, and heads of grim wild beasts among which the
island deer-horns looked shy and feeble.  To the boy's eye the
house had been full of enchantments, but Peter Ross made the out-
of-doors more magical still.

Peter was full of stories in all of which he had himself played a
part.  He had been down among the whales like Jonah, and he had
heard the silkies singing at dawn on farther islets than St Kilda,
and he had seen in the gloaming the white hind, which means to the
spectator death or fortune according as he behaves in face of the
portent.  Peter could tell tales far more exciting than those in
the big Grimm in the nursery, since most of them were laid in
Eilean Bn.  There was a mermaid who once lived on Craiglussa, and
her songs used to wile ships on to cruel reefs; at low tide you
could see some of the timbers of the lost merchantmen.  Up in a
cave on Sgurr Bn a holy man had dwelt, so holy that his prayers
could bring the fish into Ardmore bay, and immobilise pirates so
that they remained stuck fast a mile from shore, where they danced
in fury on their decks.  The tumbled grey stones in the heather as
you went south to Silver Strand had once been the house of a witch
who flew daily to France to dine in the French king's kitchen.  The
old folk knew the sound of her flight, which was like the whistle
of gigantic wild geese before a frost.  And Peter had other stories
into which the great ones out of history entered.  The good King
Robert had sat on the topmost rock of Sgurr Bn watching for the
spire of smoke from the far mainland which would tell him that he
might safely go back to Scotland and take up his quest for the
crown; and only the other day, so Peter reckoned it, a young prince
with yellow hair had hidden for a week in the caves beyond the
Strand, while English ships, his enemies, quartered the seas.
Peter had sung many songs about this prince, and he called him the
Prionnsa Bn, which made Adam fancy that Eilean Bn must have been
his peculiar kingdom.

So the whole island had been a haunted place, and every day an
adventure.  Adam went over in minutest detail each step of the
ritual.  There was the waking to the sound of clucking hens, and
corncrakes in the meadow, and very far off the tinkle of anvil and
hammer in John Roy's smithy.  Through the open window drifted the
scent of climbing white roses and new-cut hay.  That was part of
the morning smell of the house, and the rest was a far-off odour of
cooking, a faint flavour of paraffin lamps, and the delicious
mustiness of an old dwelling.  When he went to school there was a
corner in one of the passages where you could get the same kind of
smell, and Adam used to hang about and sniff it hungrily till his
eyes filled. . . .  Then came breakfast--porridge and milk, with
the stern eye of a lady called Missmass watching to see that the
bowl was tidily emptied.  Miss Mathieson was part housekeeper and
part governess, a kindly dragon who could be cajoled into providing
a snack of scones and jelly, and permitting a meal to be eaten on
the hills or by the sea instead of in the nursery.  But she was
iron on one point--that all expeditions beyond the garden and the
home meadow should be accompanied by Peter Ross. . . .

Then with beating heart Adam would set out with Peter--Peter with
his old gun in the crook of his arm, and at his heels a wall-eyed
retriever called Toss.  Sometimes they fished, with worm when the
Lussa was red and swollen, but more often with black hackles of
Peter's dressing.  Sometimes Adam was permitted to fire a shot, the
gun resting on a dyke, at a ruffian hoodie crow.  Usually Adam
would go into camp, on his honour not to stray beyond certain
limits, while Peter departed on his own errands.  These were the
happiest times, for the boy could make a castle for himself and
defend it against the world; or play the explorer in deep dells of
the burn where the water-crows flashed and sometimes an otter would
slide into a pool; or climb the little rocks at the tide's edge and
discover green darting crabs and curious star-fish.  When they
returned home Adam felt that he had been roaming the wide earth and
had been in touch with immense mysteries.  There were certain
specific smells which belonged to those wonderful days--thyme hot
in the sun, bog-myrtle crushed in grubby hands, rotting seaweed,
and the salty wind which blew up the Sound from the open seas of
the south.  Freshness above all, freshness which stung the senses
like icy water.

For a time Adam in his memories stuck to his childhood, for he
wanted Nigel's company.  But gradually he seemed to be growing up
in the dream world, while the little boy remained the same.  Almost
before he knew he had become a youth, and was no longer at Eilean
Bn in June, that month which is the high tide of the northern
spring.  He was at school now, in his last year there, and his
holiday was at Easter, when the shadow of winter had scarcely
lifted. . . .  Nigel was still at his ageless play in the glen
below the house and on the nearest beach under Peter Ross's eye,
but Adam himself went farther afield.  He remembered the first time
he climbed Sgurr Bn and saw the mysterious waters on the far side,
and the first sea-trout caught by himself in the Lussa's sea-pool,
which filled and emptied with the tides.  Once in a long day he had
walked the whole twenty-three miles of the island's circumference.
The place, before so limitless, had now shrunk to a domain which
could be mastered.  Soon he knew every cranny as well as Peter Ross
himself.

But if the terrestrial horizon had narrowed the spiritual was
enlarged.  Adam was back in the delirious mood when youth is first
conscious of its temporal heritage.  In those April days he would
stride about Eilean Bn with his thoughts half in the recesses of
his own soul and half in the undiscovered world which lay beyond
the restless seas.  The landscape suited his mood, for it was still
blanched with the winter storms, and the hills would look almost
transparent under the pale April skies, the more since a delicate
haze of moorburn brooded over them.  The hawthorns, which in June
were heavy with blossom, were scarcely budding, and this bareness
discovered the primrose clumps at their roots.  The burns were blue
and cold, and there was a perpetual calling of migrant birds.  To
Adam it seemed the appropriate landscape and weather for his now-
conscious youth, for it was tonic and austere, a spur to
enterprise, a call to adventure. . . .  He had discovered poetry,
too, and his head was a delectable confusion of rhymes.  As he sat
in his narrow cell he had only to shut his eyes, and croon to
himself the airs which he had then sung, to recover the exquisite
delirium of those April days.  Shakespeare especially, it was
Shakespeare's songs that had haunted him then.  Blow, blow, thou
winter wind--that had been his accompaniment on tempestuous
mornings, when from the south-west came the scurries of chill rain.
Sigh no more, ladies, had been for him the last word in philosophy.
O mistress mine! where are you roaming?--was there not in that all
the magic of youth and spring?  He hummed it to himself now without
a thought of Camilla, for the mistress he had sung of was not of
flesh and blood.  And then there was Fear no more the heat o' the
sun, which made a noble conclusion to the whole matter.  The race
must have a goal, or it would be no race; some day man must take
his wages and go bravely home.

A scent is the best reviver of memories, but there were no scents
in his cell except those of scrubbed wood, yellow soap, and new
linoleum.  But a tune is the next best, and, as Adam soothed to
himself the airs which had entranced the boy, he seemed to slip
happily into his old world.

Gradually the feeling grew upon him that everything was not lost.
He had still Eilean Bn, and only now he understood that it was the
dearest thing to him in life.  It was still his--the lease to the
Glasgow manufacturer would be up in a year's time.  It was there
waiting for Nigel and himself.  The thought of it obliterated all
the misery of the last years.  To return there would be like the
sick Naaman bathing in the waters of Jordan.



For a little while Adam was happy in this resolution.  He would go
back to the home of his fathers, and live as they had lived in
simpler days.  The world had broken him, so he would flee from the
world.  People had gone into monasteries after disasters to re-make
their souls, and why not he?  The very thought of the green island
gave him a sense of coolness and space and peace.  Youth was
waiting there to be recaptured, youth and happiness.  And Nigel
too--Nigel would be lonely without him.  He had dreamed himself
into a mood in which the little figure in shorts and blue jersey
was as much a part of his home as Sgurr Bn itself.

And then one morning he had a dismal awakening.  All the rosy veils
of fancy seemed to be ripped from the picture as if by a sharp east
wind, and he saw the baselessness of his dreams.

For what had been the magic of Eilean Bn to the heart of youth?  A
call to enterprise, nothing less.  A summons to go out and do great
things in the world.  Once, long ago, when he had realised his
passion for the place, he had toyed with the notion of making his
life in it, and had instantly rejected the thought.  Eilean Bn
would scorn such a weakling.  Its ancient peace was not for the
shirker.  It was a paradise from which a man might set out, and to
which he might return when he had fought his battles, but in which
he dared not pitch his camp till he had won a right to rest.

Miserably he understood that the peace for which he had longed had
to be fought for. . . .  But now he was tragically out of the
fighting-line for ever.


IV


There followed a week of more bitter emptiness than he had ever
known before.  He had let his dreams run away with him, and had
suddenly awoke to their baselessness.  Eilean Bn seemed to slip
out of the world into some eternal ocean where Nigel, for ever out
of his reach, played on its sands.  He felt himself naked, stripped
to the buff, without a rag to call his own.

Those were days of dull misery and nights of dreamless sleep and
unrefreshed awakening. . . .  And then one morning he arose with a
verse in his head.  He had always been a voracious reader of
poetry, and had remembered the things which caught his fancy.  This
verse was about the soul and body being ploughed under by God.  He
had forgotten the author, but bit by bit he managed to build up one
quatrain, and it seemed to run something like this:


     "Come ill, come well, the cross, the crown,
      The rainbow or the thunder--
      I fling my soul and body down
      For God to plough them under."


There was a strange fascination in the idea.  Adam had the
underlying fatalism which is the bequest of ancestral Calvinism,
even though its specific tenets may have been long ago forgotten.
He had always drawn comfort from the thought that, while it was a
man's duty to strive to the uttermost, the result was determined by
mightier things than man's will.  He had believed most devoutly in
God, though he would have been puzzled to define his creed.
Suddenly there came over him a sense of the microscopic littleness
and the gossamer fragility of human life.  Everything lay in the
hands of God, though men fussed and struggled and made a parade of
freedom.  Might not there be a more potent strength in utter
surrender?

His mind became acid-clear.  He had nothing--nothing.  His chances
in life, so zealously cherished, had departed like smoke.  His
reputation was shattered for ever.  He had sunk into the underworld
of those who are eternally discounted. . . .  But if he was
stripped to the bone, that meant also that he had nothing to lose--
nothing but Eilean Bn, which was not really of this world. . . .
But had he nothing left?  He had health and an exercised body--
brains--much knowledge.  Was there no use to be made of these even
in the underworld of the disconsidered?  Might there not be a
tremendous power in complete submission?  If soul and body were
offered to God to plough under, might not there be a harvest from
the sacrifice?

The thought came upon him with the force of a revelation.  His
feebleness had suddenly become strength.  He asked nothing of life,
neither length of days, nor wealth, nor fame, nor comfort.  He was
out of the daylight and honour of the firing-line, but there must
be work to do in dark places for one who was prepared to keep
nothing back.  Desperate men he had been told were always
formidable, but desperation was commonly a wild neurotic thing,
incalculable and undirected, based on ignoble passions like
jealousy and fear.  What of a desperation which had in it no taint
of self, which was passionless and reasoned, not a wayward
lightning but a steady flame?  He might win the right to Eilean Bn
by other means than the glittering career he had once mapped out
for himself.

A new kind of peace fell upon him.  It was not the peace of the
fakir who has renounced everything for the high road and the
begging-bowl, but something more absolute still, for Adam did
not ask for a hope of Heaven.  Even Eilean Bn dropped out of
his picture.  He was content to lay himself under the eternal
plough. . . .  He took to prayer, which was a kind of communing
with his own soul. . . .  And finally there came a night when he
dedicated himself humbly yet exultingly to whatever uttermost
service might be asked, and rose from his knees with the certainty
that his vow had been accepted.



Christopher Stannix, who was his most regular visitor, noticed a
change in Adam.  The muddy prison colour in his face had given
place to the hue of health, which was inevitable, for he was now
striving consciously to keep his body fit.  His old alertness had
returned, and, instead of the dull apathy of the first days, he
showed a lively curiosity about events in the outer world.  He
asked for books, and an odd collection they made.  Milton was the
only poet--naturally, Stannix thought, for Adam seemed to have
pulled himself together and to be making a stand against fortune,
and Milton in his blindness had done the same.  There were various
books of philosophy, including a newly published volume of Bergson,
and various works on the higher mathematics.  Also there was a mass
of travel literature, and many grammars.  There was no request for
any military books.

Adam had resolved to equip himself for his task in this enforced
leisure which had been granted him.  The first thing was to keep
his mind bright and clear, so he toiled at the stiffest mental
gymnastics which he could find.  The second was to enlarge his
knowledge, for one who worked in the shadows must know more than
those in the daylight.  He had decided that soldiering, the
scientific side of it at any rate, was no more for him, so he put
his old interests aside.  Since he did not know where his future
service might lie, he set about informing himself on those parts of
the globe which were strange to him.  He had always had a passion
for geography, and now, by much reading and poring over maps, he
acquired an extensive book-knowledge of many countries.  Languages,
too, for which he had a turn.  He already spoke French and German
well--German almost like a native, and he had a fair knowledge of
Italian and Spanish.  To these he now added Russian and Turkish,
and, having in his youth learned enough Icelandic to read the
Sagas, he made himself a master of the Scandinavian tongues.  He
found his days pass pleasantly, for he had an ordered programme to
get through, and he had the consciousness that he was steadily
advancing in competence.  Every scrap of knowledge which he
acquired might some day, under God's hand, be of vital import.

But there were two tasks which he could not yet touch--the most
urgent tasks of all.  He must school his body to endure the last
extremes of fatigue and pain and prison gave him no chance for such
a training.  Also he must acquire a courage like tempered steel.
It was not enough to hold one's life cheap: that was merely a
reasoned purpose; what was needed was to make fortitude a settled
habit, so that no tremor of nerves should ever mar his purpose.  On
that point alone he had qualms.  He had still to lift his body,
with all its frailties, to the close-knit resolution of his mind.


V


Adam came out of prison in March 1914.  His lawyer had seen to the
preliminaries, and Camilla intended to divorce him for desertion
under Scots law.  He had settled upon her most of his income,
leaving himself one thousand pounds a year, apart from Eilean Bn.
She ultimately married a hunting baronet in Yorkshire, and passed
out of his life.  The island he let for a further term of seven
years to its former tenant.  If he was ever to return there, he had
a heavy road to travel first.

Most of the summer was spent in getting back his body to its former
vigour, for the effects of a long spell of confinement do not
disappear in a day.  He took rooms at a farmhouse in Northumberland
and set himself to recruit his muscles and nerves as steadily as if
he had been preparing for an Olympic race.  He spent hours daily on
the moors in all weathers, and the shepherds were puzzled by the
man with the lean face and friendly eyes who quartered the
countryside like a sheep-dog.  At one of the upland fairs he
entered for a hill race, and beat the longest-legged keeper by half
a mile.  His mind needed no recruitment, for it had been long in
training.  He spent the evenings with his books, and once a week
walked to the nearest town to get the London newspapers.  He was
waiting for a sign.

That sign came in the first days of August with the outbreak of
war.



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--II


I


In Whitehall on an August morning Adam met Stannix.

The latter had just left the War Office, which had changed suddenly
from a mausoleum to a hive.  He was in uniform, with scarlet
gorget-patches, and was respectfully saluted by whatever wore
khaki.  At sight of Adam he cried out.

"The man in all the world I most want to see!  Where have you come
from?"

"From Northumberland, where I have been getting fit.  It looks as
if I had finished the job just in time."

"And where are you bound for?"

"To join up."

"As a private?"

"Of course.  I'm no longer a soldier."

"Nonsense, man.  That can't be allowed.  We're running this
business like a pack of crazy amateurs, but there's a limit to the
things we can waste.  Brains is one."

"I must fight," said Adam.  "You're doing the same."

"Not I.  I'm stuck at home in this damned department store.  I want
to go out to-morrow, for I've been in the Yeomanry for years and
know something about the job, but they won't let me--yet.  They
told me I must do the thing I'm best fitted for.  I pass that on to
you."

Adam shook his head.

"I'm fit for nothing but cannon-fodder.  You know that well enough,
Kit.  And I'm quite content.  I'll find some way of making myself
useful, never fear."

"I daresay you will, but not the best way.  This wants perpending.
Promise me on your honour that you'll do nothing to-day, and lunch
with me tomorrow.  By that time I may have a plan."

Adam protested, but the other was so urgent that at last he agreed.

Next day they lunched together and Stannix wore an anxious face.

"I've seen Ritson and Marlake," he said, "and they think as I do.
If you join up as a private, you'll presently get your stripes, and
pretty soon you'll be offered a commission.  But in a battalion
you'll be no better than a hundred thousand others.  I want you to
have a show.  Well, it can't be in the open, so it must be in the
half-light or the dark.  That means risks, far bigger risks than
the ordinary fellow is now facing in Flanders, but it also means an
opportunity for big service.  How do you feel about it?"

Adam's face brightened.

"I haven't much capital left, and I want to spend it.  I don't mind
risks--I covet them.  And I don't mind working in the dark, for
that is where I must live now."

Stannix wrinkled his brows.

"I was certain you'd take that view, and I told Ritson so.  But
Adam, old man, I feel pretty miserable about it.  For a chance of
work for you means a certainty of danger--the most colossal
danger."

"I know, I know," said Adam cheerfully.  "That's what I'm looking
for.  Hang it, Kit, I must squeeze some advantage out of my
troubles, and one is that my chiefs should not concern themselves
about what happens to me.  I'm a volunteer for any lost hope."

"I may be helping to send my best friend to his death," said
Stannix gloomily.

"Everybody is doing that for everybody.  You'll be doing the
kindest thing in the world if you give me a run for my money.  I've
counted the cost."

The result of this talk was that during the following week Adam had
various interviews.  The first was with Ritson at the War Office, a
man who had been one of his instructors at the Staff College.
Ritson, grey with overwork, looked shyly at his former pupil.
"This is a queer business, Melfort," he said.  "I think you are
right.  You're the man I would have picked above all others--only
of course I couldn't have got you if certain things hadn't
happened. . . .  You know what's expected of you and what you're up
against.  Good-bye and God bless you!  I'll be like a man looking
down into deep water and now and then getting a glimpse of you
moving at the bottom."



Thereafter Adam entered upon a varied life.  First he made a
journey into the City, to a little street in the neighbourhood of
Leadenhall Market.  On the door of every narrow, flat-chested house
were a score of names, mostly attorneys and notaries public.  At
the foot of one such list he found J. N. Macandrew, who professed
to follow the calling of an average-adjuster.  Mr Macandrew was
hard to come at.  Adam was received in a dingy slip of an office by
a pallid boy, who took his card and disappeared.  He returned and
led the way up a maze of wooden stairs and murky passages, till he
left him in a room where sunlight was pouring through a dirty
window.  There for half an hour Adam kicked his heels.  The place
had all the cheerful features of an attorney's waiting-room.  On
the walls, where the paper was dark with grime, hung an ancient
almanac, a bad print of Lord Chancellor Cairns, and a faded
photograph of the court of some livery company in the year 1889.
On a rickety table stood three venerable Law Lists, an antediluvian
Burke, a London directory and a pile of shipping journals.  There
was a leather arm-chair which looked as if it had seen service, and
a pile of cigarette ends in the empty grate, which suggested that
the room was much in use.

Adam examined the scanty properties, and then stared out of the
window at the jumble of roofs and house-backs.  The place was oddly
depressing.  Here in this rabbit-warren life seemed to shrink to an
infinite pettiness.  What part could it have in the storm which was
scourging the world? . . .  He turned, to find that Mr Macandrew
had entered the room, though he had heard no door open.

Mr Macandrew's name was misleading, for he was clearly a Jew, a
small man with a nervous mouth and eyes that preferred to look
downward.  He seemed to have been expecting Adam, for he cut short
his explanation.  "Yes, yes, yes," he said.  "Please take a seat.
Yes, I know all about you.  We can have a little talk, can't we?
Will you smoke?"

Adam sat in the rubbed arm-chair, while the other perched himself
on the table.  It was a curious interview, of which the purpose
only gradually became clear.  Macandrew asked a few questions about
a corner of Belgium which Adam had often visited.  Ritson knew
about those visits, and might have told him.  Then he suddenly
broke into the guttural French which is talked in the Meuse valley.
"You understand that?" he snapped.  "Every word?"  Adam replied in
the same patois, and was corrected on a point or two.  "Pretty
good," said Macandrew.  "Good enough, perhaps.  You have the right
gurgle, but not all the idioms."

Then he spoke Flemish, which Adam translated after him.  "That is
good--very good.  You do not need to speak it, but it is well to
understand it."  He drawled a few sentences in some tongue which
sounded mere gibberish.  "You do not follow?  No matter.  That is
the speech of the hill people in the high Ardennes--peasant people
only, you understand.  There are gipsy words in it."

There followed a series of interrogatories.  Adam was asked to
describe the daily life on a farm in southeast Belgium.  "You have
stayed in such a place.  Now, give me the duties of the farmer's
son, beginning with the first daylight."  Adam ransacked his memory
and did his best, but the catalogue was sketchy.  He pleased his
interlocutor better with his account of a wayside estaminet, a
cattle-fair, and a Sunday pilgrimage.  "You can observe," said
Macandrew.  "Not yet with sufficient nicety.  Yet you have eyes in
your head."

He was suddenly dismissed.  The pallid boy appeared, and Macandrew
held out his hand.  "Goodbye, Mr More.  Perhaps we shall meet again
soon."

As Adam re-threaded the labyrinth of stair and passage, he wondered
why he had been addressed as More.  That must have been Ritson's
arrangement, and he had not been told of it because his chiefs
assumed that he knew enough to be passive in their hands.



A few days later he found himself a guest in a country house which
lay under the Hampshire Downs.  The invitation had been sent to him
by Ritson, and in it he figured as Mr John More.  His host was
called Warriner, a fine, old, high-coloured sportsman, who looked
as if his winters had been spent in the hunting-field, and his
summers in tramping his paternal acres.  There was a son, in his
early twenties, who had come over from a neighbouring training-
camp.  It appeared that young Warriner was a noted mountaineer,
and Adam remembered his name in connection with ascents in the
Caucasus.  At dinner the talk was very little of the war, and there
was no hint of any knowledge of Adam's past.  The father and son,
with all the courtesy in the world, seemed to be bent on
discovering his tastes in sport and his prowess in games, so that
he set them down as the type of Englishman who never outgrows the
standards of his public school.

"You look uncommonly fit," said the son, as they left the smoking-
room.

"I try to be," said Adam.  "I haven't got many things to my credit,
but one of them is a hard body."

"Good," was the answer.  "We'll have a long day to-morrow.  You'll
be called at five.  Put on something old and light--flannel bags
will do--and strong shoes.  We have a bit of striding before us."

It was a clear cool morning when they started, and Adam thought
that he had never seen such a light-foot walker as Frank Warriner.
He led him out of the vale up on to the Downs at a steady pace of
nearly five miles an hour.  Presently the sun grew hot, but there
was no slackening of their speed.  Adam's spirits rose, for he
understood that his endurance was being tested, and he had little
fear of the result.  To his surprise their first halt was at a
country rectory, where a parson in slippers gave them a tankard of
home-brewed beer.  He was a fantastic old gentleman, for he
directed all his conversation to Adam, and engaged him in a
discussion on Norse remains in Britain which appeared to be his
hobby.  Adam thought it strange that he should have hit on a
subject which had always been one of his private interests, and for
the half-hour of their visit he did his best to live up to the
parson's enthusiasm.  "Good," said Frank Warriner, as they left the
house.  "You managed that quite well."

In the early afternoon they came to a stone wall bounding a great
estate.  Frank led the way over the wall.  "Follow me," he said.
"Colonel Ambridge is a devil about his pheasants.  We'll have some
fun getting through this place."  They found themselves in a park
studded with coppices, and bordered by a large wood full of thick
undergrowth.  Frank took an odd way of crossing prohibited ground,
for he began by making himself conspicuous, walking boldly across
the open in full view of a keeper's cottage.  Presently a man's
voice was heard uplifted, and the two became fugitives.  They
doubled back behind a group of trees, and Frank made for the big
wood.  They were followed, for as Adam looked behind him he saw two
excited men running to cut them off.

In the wood Frank led him through gaps in the undergrowth, stopping
now and then to listen like a stag at pause.  There was no doubt
about the pursuit, for the noise of heavy feet and crackling twigs
was loud behind them.  Frank seemed to know the place well, and he
had an uncanny gift of locating sound, for he twisted backward and
forward like a rabbit.  Adam found running bent double and eel-like
crawling through bracken a far harder trial than the speed of the
morning, but he managed to keep close to his companion.  At last
Frank straightened himself and laughed.  "Now for a sprint," he
said, and he led the way at a good pace down a woodland path, which
ended in an alley of rhododendrons.

To Adam's surprise, instead of avoiding the house they made for it.
Frank slowed down at the edge of a carriage drive and walked boldly
across the lawn to a stone terrace, and through French windows into
a library where a man was sitting.  "Hullo, Colonel Ambridge," he
said.  "We're out for a walk and looked in to pass the time of day.
May I introduce my friend Mr More?"

The Colonel, a lean dark man of about sixty, behaved like the
parson.  He gave them drinks, and plunged into military talk, most
of it directed to Adam.  This was no somnolent retired soldier, but
a man remarkably up-to-date in his calling.  He spoke of the French
generals whose names were becoming familiar in Britain--of Joffre's
colonial service and of Foch's Principes de la Guerre, and he was
critical of the French concentration in Lorraine.  France he
maintained had departed from the true interpretation of the "war of
manoeuvre," and he was contemptuous of false parallels drawn from
Napoleon's bataillon carre at Jena.  He seemed to have an exact
knowledge of the terrain of the war, maps were produced, and Adam,
the sweat on his brow and the marks of brier scratches on his
cheek, found himself debating closely on points of strategy.  There
was something sharp and appraising in their host's eye as they took
their leave.  "Good," said Frank again.  "You handled old Ambridge
well.  Now for home, for we mustn't be late."

The last part of the ground was covered mainly in a loping trot,
which took them back along the ridge of the Downs till they looked
down upon the Warriners' house.  Adam calculated that they had done
nearly thirty miles, but he realised that the day had not been
meant as a mere test of bodily endurance.  Those queer visits had
had a purpose, and he guessed what it was.  To his delight it
seemed to him that his companion was flagging a little--at any rate
the edge was off his keenness--while he himself had got his second
wind.

He found a large tea-party at the Warriners'.  "I'm going to cut
it," Frank said, "but you must show yourself.  You look all right.
You've kept amazingly tidy."  Adam obeyed, for he thought he
understood the reason.

He could have drunk pints, but he was only given one small cup of
weak tea.  But he had a full dose of conversation.  It appeared to
be the special purpose of everyone to talk to him.  He had to
listen to schemes of hospital work from local ladies, and to
amateur military speculations from an old Yeomanry colonel.  A
Bishop discussed with him the ethics of the war, and a parliamentary
candidate had much to say about the party truce.  He felt hot, very
thirsty, and rather drowsy, but he collected his wits, for he saw
that his host's eye was continually fixed on him. The elder
Warriner managed to add himself to any group where Adam talked,
and it appeared that he was adroitly trying to draw him out.

"You have been drinking in the peace of England," the Bishop told
him.  "To-day will be a cool oasis to remember in the feverish
months before you."

When the guests had gone and he was left with his host, the rosy
country squire seemed to have changed to somebody shrewd and
authoritative.

"We shall be alone to-night," he said, "for Frank has gone back to
camp.  You acquitted yourself well, Mr More.  Frank is pretty
nearly all out, and he is harder than most people.  I daresay you
realise the purpose of to-day's performance.  In the game you are
entering physical fitness is not enough.  A man must have full
control of his wits, and be able to use them when his bodily
vitality is low.  The mind must have the upper hand of the carcass,
and not be drugged by exertion into apathy.  You appear to fill the
bill. . . .  Now you'll want a bath before dinner.

"By the way," he added, "there's one thing you may like to know.
We won't talk about the past, but long ago at school I fagged for
your father."



Adam's next visit was of a different kind.  Slowly there had been
growing in his mind the comforting reflection that he might be of
use to the world, since other people seemed to take pains to
assess his capacities.  He recognised that the tests were only
superficial--what could anyone learn of a man's powers from a few
experiments?--but that they should have been considered worth while
increased his confidence.  So when he was sent down to spend a day
with a certain Theophilus Scrope in a little market-town in
Northamptonshire he speculated on what might next be put to the
proof.  Certain branches of his knowledge had been probed, and his
bodily strength, but no one had attempted to assay his mental
powers or the quality of his nerves.  The latter, he believed,
would now be the subject, and he thought of Mr Scrope as a mixture
of psychologist and physician.

Mr Scrope was neither.  He was a small elderly man with a Chinese
cast of face, who wore a skull-cap, and sat with a tartan plaid
round his shoulders, though the weather was warm.  He had a dreamy
eye, and a voice hoarse with age and endless cigarettes.  At first
his talk meandered about several continents.  It appeared that he
had spent much of his life in the East, and he entertained Adam
with fantastic tales of the Tibetan frontier.  His experiences
seemed to have impressed themselves on his face, for he had the air
of a wise and ancient Lama.  He was fond of quoting proverbs from
native languages, and now and then he would deliver oracles of his
own, looking sideways under his heavy eyelids to see how they were
received.

Adam spent a confused morning, sitting in a little garden heavy
with the scents of autumn flowers.  Mr Scrope seemed to have a
genius for the discursive.  But gradually it appeared that his
reminiscences were directed to one point especially, the
everlasting temperamental differences of East and West.  His chief
instance was the virtue of courage.  The East, he said, which did
not fear the hereafter, was apathetic towards the mere fact of
death, but it had not the same fortitude about life.  It was
capable of infinite sacrifice but not of infinite effort--it was
apt to fling in its hand too soon, and relapse upon passivity.  The
West, when it had conquered the fear of death, demanded a full
price for any sacrifice.  Rightly, said the old man, since man's
first duty was towards life.

Then they went indoors to luncheon, which was a modest meal of
eggs, cheese and vegetables.  After that his host must sleep for an
hour, and Adam was left alone to his reflections in a chair on the
veranda. . . .  He was beginning to see some purpose in the talk of
this ancient, who looked like a Buddhist holy man.  Mr Scrope must
have been informed about his case, and realised that he was dealing
with one who had nothing to lose.  The moral of his talk was that
desperation was valueless by itself and must be subordinated to a
purpose.  A man's life was an asset which must be shrewdly
bargained for.  Adam wondered why he had been sent down into
Northamptonshire to hear this platitude.

But when the old man appeared he changed his view.  For Mr Scrope,
refreshed by sleep, became a shrewd inquisitor, and probed with a
lancet Adam's innermost heart.  Never had he dreamed that he could
so expose his secret thoughts to any man.  More, he had his own
beliefs made clear to himself, for what had been only vague
inclinations crystallised under this treatment into convictions.
His companion was no longer a whimsical old gentleman with the
garrulity of age, but a sage with an uncanny insight into his own
private perplexities.  Duty was expounded as a thing both terrible
and sweet, transcending life and death, a bridge over the abyss to
immortality.  But it required the service of all of a man's being,
and no half-gods must cumber its altar.  Adam felt himself
strangely stirred; stoicism was not his mood now, but exaltation.
"He that findeth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his
life shall find it," the other quoted.  "That is not enough," he
added.  "He that findeth his soul shall lose it--that is the
greater commandment.  You must be prepared to sacrifice much that
you think honourable and of good report if you would fulfil the
whole Law."

There was a kindly gleam in his dim old eyes as he bade his guest
good-bye.  "You have the root of the matter, I think," were his
last words.  "You will make your soul, as the priests say, and if
you do that you have won, whatever happens--yes, whatever happens."
It seemed almost a benediction.



After that Adam was sent back to the City of London.  There he was
no longer received in the dingy waiting-room, but in Macandrew's
own sanctum, a place to which the road was even more intricate.  He
realised, though he had had no word from Ritson, that his services
had been accepted.

For weeks he worked hard under the tuition of a very different
Macandrew.  His instruction was of the most detailed and practical
kind.  From plans and books he studied a certain area of Flanders,
and was compelled to draw map after map and endure endless cross-
examinations till his tutor was satisfied.  He was made to learn
minutely the routine of the country life.  "You will work on a
farm," he was told, "but as you will have come from the town you
must have urban knowledge, too, and that I will provide."  It was
provided at immense length, for his master was not easily
satisfied.  "There is nothing too small to be unimportant,"
Macandrew said.  "It is the very little things that make the
difference."  He had to commit to memory curious pieces of slang
and patois and learn how to interweave them naturally with his
talk.  Disguises, too; there were afternoons when Adam had to
masquerade in impossible clothes and be taught how to live up to
them, and to acquire the art of giving himself by small changes a
different face.  His special part was kept always before his mind.
"You must think yourself into it," he was told, "and imagine that
you have never been otherwise.  That is the only real disguise."

Then there was the whole complicated business of cyphers and codes.
These must be subtle and yet simple, for Adam must carry them in
his head.  He had to practise his powers of memory, and was
surprised to find how they developed with exercise.  And he was
told of certain people who were key-people, the pivots of the
intelligence system in which he would serve.  This was the most
difficult business of all, for these persons would take on many
forms, and it was necessary to have certain marks of identification
and passports to their confidence.  Adam was almost in despair at
the mass of knowledge, vital knowledge, which he must keep always
in the background of his mind.  "It is altogether necessary," said
Macandrew.  "You are a quick learner and will not fail.  The clues
are intricate because the facts are intricate.  There is no simple
key to complex things."

As the weeks passed Adam had moments of impatience.  "There will be
peace before I am ready," he complained, and was told, "Not so.
The war will be very long."

A new Macandrew had revealed himself, a man confident and eager and
untiring, but one who still kept his eyes lowered when he spoke.
Adam often wondered what was in those eyes.  It appeared that his
real name was Meyer, and that he was a Belgian Jew, who had long
foreseen the war and had made many preparations.  Adam discovered
one day the motive for his devotion to the British cause.  The man
was an ardent Zionist, and the mainspring of his life was his dream
of a reconstituted Israel.  He believed that this could not come
about except as a consequence of a great war, which should break
down the traditional frontiers of Europe, and that Britain was the
agent destined by God to lead his people out of the wilderness.  He
would not speak much on the subject, but it was the only one which
made him raise his eyes and look Adam in the face, and then Adam
read in them the purpose which makes saints and martyrs.

When they parted at last he gave Adam a tiny amulet of silver and
ebony, shaped like a blunt cross.  "You will wear that, please--
people will think it a peasant charm--it may be useful when we
meet, for I am not quick at faces. . . .  Assuredly we shall meet.
Are we not both working for the peace and felicity of Jerusalem?"


II


In the second week of January, in the year 1915, those who passed
the untidy farm of the Widow Raus might have seen a new figure busy
about the steading.  When the neighbours enquired his name they
were told that he was the Widow's nephew Jules--Jules Broecker, the
only child of Marie, her dead sister.  The Widow was volubly
communicative.  The poor Jules had no near kinsfolk but her, and
she could not leave him alone in Brussels, for he was simpler than
other folk--and she meaningly tapped her forehead.  He would be
useful about the farm, for he was a strong lad, and would have his
bite and sup and a bed to lie on in these bad times as long as she
was above ground.  Madame Raus was a short plump woman with grey
hair neatly parted in the middle and plastered down with grease.
Out of doors--and she was mostly out of doors--she wore a man's cap
to keep her head tidy.  She had a name for closeness, and she was
the soul of discretion, for she did not grumble like most people at
the high-handed ways of the local German Commandant.  She has no
proper feelings, that one, her neighbours said, and they looked on
her with cold eyes as being apathetic about her country's wrongs.
But the Widow had had an only son who never returned from the Yser,
and she did not forget.

Jules Broecker appeared suddenly one morning at the farm, having
come on foot from Brussels, his little trunk of bullock-hide
following him in a farm-cart.  When summoned before the Commandant
he had his papers in good order, his certificate of residence in
the city, his permission to leave, and the vis on it stamped by
the officer at Nivelles.  The neighbours knew all about him, for
they remembered Marie Broecker and had heard of her simpleton son.
But no one had met him on the Brussels road--which was natural, for
he came not from Brussels but from the south, having been landed
from an aeroplane in a field twenty miles off during the darkness
of a January night.

His appearance supported his aunt's commendation.  He seemed wiry
and strong, though he slouched heavily.  He had a wispish blond
beard which looked as if it had never been shaved, and sandy hair
which was cut at long intervals by the blacksmith in Villers
l'Evque.  His clothes were odd, for he wore corduroy trousers,
much too small for him, which had once belonged to the deceased
Raus, and though the first months of the year were chilly he was
generally coatless.  His face was always dirty, which, said the
neighbours, was a disgrace to the Widow; but on Sundays he was
smartened up, and appeared at mass in a celluloid collar and a
queer old jacket with metal buttons.  From long before the first
light he was busy about the farm, and could be heard after dark had
fallen whistling lugubriously as he fed the cattle.

The steading was an ill-tended place--a vast midden surrounded by
wooden pens and byres, with at one end a great brick barn, and at
the other the single-storeyed dwelling-house.  There was not much
grown in the way of crops, only a few roots and a patch of barley,
but the grass-lands along the brook were rich, and the Widow
pastured no less than six cows.  She had a special permit for this,
which was ill-regarded in the neighbourhood, for she was a famous
cheese-maker, and sold her cheese (at a starvation price) to the
nearest German base-camp.  Jules had a hard life of it, for he was
cow-herd, milker, and man of all work; but he bore it with a
simpleton's apathy, clumping about the dirty yard in his wooden
clogs, his shoulders bowed and his head on his chest.  Now and then
he was observed to straighten his back and listen, when the wind
brought from the west the low grumble of distant guns.  Then he
would smile idiotically to himself, as if it was some play got up
for his entertainment.

Clearly a natural, all agreed.  Marie's husband was remembered as
having been a little weak in his wits, and the son plainly took
after him.  Jules had large vacant blue eyes, and when he was
spoken to his face took on a vacant simper.  His habits were odd,
for he would work hard for a week and then go off wandering,
leaving his aunt to make the rafters ring with maledictions.  On
such occasions she would reveal shamelessly the family skeleton.
"He is Jean Broecker's own son," she would declare, "feckless,
witless, shiftless!  But what would you have?  An old woman cannot
control an able-bodied idiot.  Would that Raus were alive to lay a
dog-whip on the scamp's shoulders!"  But the Widow's wrath was
short-lived, and when Jules returned he was not given a dog-whip
but a special supper, and she would even bathe his inflamed feet.
For it appeared that he was a mighty walker, and in his wanderings
travelled far up and down the Meuse valley to places which no one
in Villers l'Evque had ever visited.  He would tell foolish empty
tales of his travels, and giggle over them.  Beyond doubt, a
natural!

But a harmless one.  Jules was not unpopular.  For one thing he was
socially inclined, and when he was idle would gossip with anyone in
his queer high voice and clipped town accent.  Sometimes he would
talk about his life in Brussels, but his stories never reached any
point--he would break off with a guffaw before the end.  But he
seemed to have picked up some good ideas about farming, and in the
Three Parrots estaminet, which was the farmers' house of call, he
was sometimes listened to.  He liked of an evening, if his work was
finished in time, to go down to the village, and he patronised all
three of the alehouses.  He never stood treat, for he was not
entrusted with money, and he never drank himself--did not like the
smell of beer and brandy, he said, and made faces of disgust.  His
one vice was smoking, but unlike the other countryfolk he did not
use a pipe--only cigarettes, which he was clever at rolling when
anyone gave him tobacco.  Now and then he was presented with a
packet of cheap caporals which lasted him a long time, and he had
generally a cigarette stuck behind his left ear as a sort of iron
ration.  People tolerated him because he was quiet and simple, and
many even came to like him, for so far as his scattered wits
allowed he was neighbourly.  Also he provided the village with
perpetual surprises.  He seemed to be oblivious of the severe
regime of the military occupation, and many prophesied early
disaster.

But no disaster came to this chartered libertine.  Villers l'Evque
was a key-point, for it stood at the crossing of two great high
roads and not three miles from the junction of two main railways.
Therefore the discipline for its dwellers was strict.  There were
always second-line troops stationed near, and the beer-shops were
usually full of Landsturm.  At first Jules was made a butt of by
the German soldiers, raw young peasants like himself for the most
part, with a sprinkling of more elderly tradesmen.  They played
tricks on him, pulled a chair from beneath him, slipped lighted
matches down his neck, and once gave him an explosive cigarette
which badly burned his lips.  But he was so good-humoured under
this persecution that it presently ceased, and he was treated more
like a pet dog or a mascot.  They taught him their songs, which he
sang in an absurd falsetto that became a recognised evening's
entertainment.  Also they talked freely to him, for they could not
regard anything so feckless as an enemy.  Homesick boys who had
picked up a little French would tell him of their recent doings--he
was a good listener and quick at helping them out when they were at
a loss for a word and relapsed into German.  His pale eyes had
sympathy in them, if little intelligence.

Word of this village natural came to headquarters, and every now
and then he had to appear before the local Commandant.  These
officers were frequently changed, but for the most part they were
of the same type--elderly dug-outs who asked only for a quiet life.
At such interviews Jules produced his papers, and told in a wailing
recitative the simple story of his life.  The worst that happened
was usually a warning to stay at home and not tramp the country,
lest he should find himself one fine day against a wall looking at
a firing squad--at which he would grin sheepishly and nod his head.
But one day he had a terrifying experience.  There was a new
Commandant, a Bavarian captain who had been temporarily invalided
from the front line, a young man with an eye like an angry bird's,
and no bowels of compassion for simple folk.  For two hours he kept
Jules under the fire of his questions, which he delivered with a
lowering brow and a menacing voice.  "That animal may be
dangerous," he told his lieutenant.  "He is witless, and so can be
used as a tool by clever men.  A telephone wire, you understand--a
senseless thing over which news passes.  He must be sent farther
east."  But this Commandant was moved elsewhere in a week, and
nothing more was heard of his threat.  A more dangerous man, if
Jules had had the sense to realise it, was a friendly, fatherly
personage, who tried to draw him into confidences, and would
suddenly ask questions in German and English.  But Jules only
stared dully at such experiments, until his inquisitor shrugged his
shoulders and gave them up.

Had anyone from Villers l'Evque met Jules on the road on one of
his tramps he would have seen only a shaggy young peasant--rather
better shod than most peasants, since he had got the cobbler to
make him a stout pair of marching boots--who seemed in high
spirits, for he cried a greeting to every passer-by and would sing
silly child's songs in his high falsetto.  But much of Jules's
travelling was done off the roads, where no one saw him, and in the
dark of moonless nights.  Then he was a different being.  His
clumsy gait and slouching carriage disappeared, and he would cover
country at a pace which no peasant could have matched.  Into queer
places his road often took him.  He would lie for long in a marshy
meadow till a snipe's bleat made him raise his head, and then
another man would crawl through the reeds and the two would talk.
Once he spent two days in the undergrowth of a wood close to a road
where German columns passed without end.  He seemed to have many
friends.  There was an old wood-cutter in the hills between the
Meuse and the Ourthe who several times gave him shelter, and
foresters in the Ardennes, and a blind woman who kept an inn
outside Namur on the Seilles road.  Indeed, there was a host of
people who had something to say to him in whispers, and when he
listened to them his face would lose its vacancy.  They seemed to
respect him too, and when they spoke to him their tone had not the
condescension of the Villers folk. . . .

Sometimes he did strange things.  In a lonely place at night he
would hide himself for many hours, his head raised like that of a
horse at covert-side who waits for the first music of the hounds.
Often he waited till dawn and nothing came, but sometimes there
would be a beat of wings far up in the air which was not the beat
of a Fokker, and the noise would follow of a heavy body crushing
the herbage.  He would grope his way in the direction of the sound,
and a man would appear from the machine with whom he spoke--and
that speech was not French or Flemish.  By and by the aeroplane
would vanish again into the night sky, and Jules would look after
it wistfully for a little, before by devious paths he took his road
home.

A close observer, had there been one at hand, would have been
puzzled by his treatment of cigarettes.  On his travels he was
always giving and receiving them, and some he never smoked.  A
barmaid would toss him carelessly a dilapidated caporal, and it
would go behind his ear, and no match would come near it.  More
than once in the Three Parrots a pedlar from Lige, or a drover who
had brought to the valley some of the small cattle of the hills,
would offer him a box from which he would take two, one to smoke
and one to keep.  In turn he would give away cigarettes which he
had rolled himself, and some went to very special people, who did
not smoke them, but carried them with them in their travels, and in
the end handed them secretly to somebody else.  If such cigarettes
had been unrolled, it would have been found that the paper was
stiffer than the ordinary and more opaque, and that on the inner
side next the tobacco there was something written in a small fine
hand.  Jules himself could write this hand, and practised it late
at night in his cubby-hole of a bedroom next to Widow Raus's cow-
shed.

These cigarettes wandered far, most of them beyond the frontier.  A
girl who had been a mannequin in a Paris shop took some of them to
Holland; some went into the heavens with the airmen whom Jules met
in the dark of the night; and some journeyed to Brussels and
Antwerp and then by devious ways to the coast and over-seas.  There
was that in them which would have interested profoundly the
Commandant at Villers l'Evque--notes of German troops and
concentrations, and now and then things which no one knew outside
the High Command, such as the outline for the Ypres attack in the
spring of '15, and the projected Flanders offensive which was to
follow the grand assault on Verdun. . . .  Only once was Jules in
danger of detection, and that was when a Wrtemberg captain, who
was a little fuddled, plucked the cigarette from his ear and lit
it.  He swore that the thing drew badly and flung it on the floor,
whereupon the provident Jules picked up the stump and himself
smoked it to a finish.

Twice he went to Brussels to see his relatives, journeys arranged
for by much weary intercession with the Commandant, and duly
furnished with passes.  On these visits he did not see much of his
kin, but he interviewed a motley of queer persons in back streets.
Under the strictest military rule there are always a few people who
can move about freely--women who are favoured by high officials,
bagmen of the right sympathies who keep the wheels of commerce
moving, all the class, too, who pander to human vices.  With some
of these Jules mixed, and Villers would have rubbed its eyes to see
how he bore himself.  Instead of a disconsidered servant he became
a master, and in back rooms, which could only be reached by
difficult alleys and through a multitude of sentries, he would give
instructions which were docilely received by men and women who were
not peasants.

Once it was necessary that he should cross the Dutch border by what
was called in the slang of his underworld the "Alle Couverte."  He
started his journey as an old mechanic with a permit to take up a
plumber's job at Turnhout.  But long before he got to Turnhout he
changed his appearance, and he had a week in the straw of barns and
many anxious consultations with furtive people till early one dark
autumn morning he swam a canal, crawled through a gap in the
electrified wire (where oddly enough the sentry was for a moment
absent) and two hours later breakfasted with a maker of chemical
manures who seemed to be expecting him.  His host spoke to him in
English and lent him clothes which made him look like a young
merchants' clerk after he had shaved his beard. . . .  Jules spent
four days in Holland, and at an hotel in Amsterdam had a meeting,
which lasted late into the night, with an English business man who
was interested in oil--a business man whose back was very straight
for one who spent his days in a counting-house.  Jules called him
"Sir" and stood at attention till he was bidden to sit down.  This
Englishman had much to tell him and much to hear, and what he heard
he wrote down in a little black note-book.  He addressed Jules as
"More," but once he slipped and called him "Melfort."  Then he
seemed to recollect himself.  "I think you knew Melfort," he said.
"Adam Melfort.  You may be interested to hear that his D.S.O. has
just been gazetted--he is a second-lieutenant on the Special List."

Jules was absent that time for more than a month from the Raus
farm.  He returned at last from Brussels with a doctor's
certificate duly countersigned by the military, which testified
that he had been ill with typhoid in the house of a second cousin.
His beard had been shaved during his fever, and his lean cheeks and
the sprouting growth on his chin were visible proof of his
sickness.  He returned to his old routine, except that the Widow
for a little did not work him so hard on the farm.  "That Jules!"
she complained to the neighbours.  "The good God is too hard on
him.  He has bereft him of sense, and now He has made him as feeble
as a pullet."  Also his wanderings ceased for the space of more
than a month.



Time passed and the Widow's half-witted nephew grew into the life
of the place, so that he was as familiar an object as the windmill
on the rise above the Bois de Villers.  Commandant succeeded
Commandant, and the dossier of Jules was duly handed on.  The tides
of war ebbed and flowed.  Sometimes the neighbourhood of Villers
was black with troops moving westward, and then would come a drain
to the south and only a few Landsturm companies were left in the
cantonments.  There was such a drain during the summer of '16 when
the guns were loud on the Somme.  But early in '17 the movement
from the east began again, and Jules took to wandering more widely
than ever.  Great things seemed to be preparing on the Flanders
front.

In two years he had acquired a routine and a technique.  He had
taken the advice of Macandrew and thought himself so comprehensively
into his part that his instincts and half his thoughts had become
those of a Flanders peasant.  In a difficulty he could trust himself
to behave naturally according to his type. Yet there remained one
side of him which was not drugged.  He had to keep his mind very
bright and clear, quick to catch at gossamer threads of evidence,
swift to weave them into the proper deductions, always alert and
resourceful and wholly at his command.

It was this continual intellectual stimulus which made bearable a
life as brutish as a farm animal's.  Now and then, to be sure, he
had his moments of revolt which were resolutely suppressed.  He had
long ago conquered any repugnance to his physical environment, the
smells, the coarse food, the bestial monotony, the long toil in mud
and filth.  But there would come times when he listened to the far-
off grumbling guns in the west with a drawn face.  His friends were
there, fighting cleanly in the daylight, while he was ingloriously
labouring in the shadows.  He had moods when he longed desperately
for companionship.  British prisoners would pass on their way to
Germany, heavy-eyed men, often wounded and always weary, who tried
to keep their heads high.  He would have given his soul for a word
with them.  And once he saw in such a batch some men of his own
regiment, including an officer who had joined along with him.  The
mere sound of English speech was torture.  In those moods he had no
source of comfort save in the bare conviction that he must stick to
his duty.  At night on his bed he could recapture no healing
memories of Eilean Bn.  He was so deep in a hideous rut that he
could not see beyond it to his old world.

He had two experiences which shook his foundations.  Once at a
midnight rendezvous with an English aeroplane there was a hitch in
taking-off, an alarm was given, and soldiers from a German post
appeared at the edge of the meadow.  Jules knew that with his help
the machine could get away, but it would mean a grave risk of
discovery.  As it was, he obeyed the airman's hoarse injunction,
"For God's sake clear out--never mind me," and, crawling down a
little brook, found safe hiding in the forest.  He saw the airman
badly wounded and carried off into captivity, but not before he had
reduced the 'plane to ashes; and he realised that he could have
saved him.  That was a bitter draught of which the taste long
remained.  It was no good reminding himself that he had done his
duty, when that duty seemed a defiance of every honest human
inclination. . . .

The other experience was worse.  There was a girl who had been a
prostitute in Lille, and who served in an estaminet on the Brussels
road.  She was one of his helpers--M 23 on the register of his
underworld.  Now a certain Bavarian sergeant, who desired to be her
lover, but whom she had repulsed, discovered her in some small act
of treachery to the authorities which was no part of Jules's own
affair.  He exacted his revenge to the full, and Jules happened to
enter the estaminet when the sergeant and another soldier were in
the act of arresting her.  They made a brutal business of it, the
sergeant had her arms twisted behind her back, and her face was
grey with fear and pain.  For an instant Jules forgot his part, the
simper left his mouth, his jaw set, and he ran to her aid.  But the
girl was wiser than he.  She flung at him a string of foul names,
and the black eyes under the tinted lids blazed a warning.  He had
to submit to be soundly cuffed by the soldiers, and to see the
woman dragged screaming into a covered waggon.  After that it took
him a long time to recover his peace of mind.  The words of the old
man in the Northamptonshire village were his chief comfort.  "You
must be prepared to sacrifice much that you think honourable and of
good report if you would fulfil the whole Law."

On a certain day in March '17 an urchin from the village brought
Jules a message which had been left for him by a farmer from the
Sambre side--that he had better bestir himself about the summering
of the young beasts.  It was an agreed password, and it made Jules
knit his brows, for it meant that the long chain of intelligence
which he supervised was in danger.  That night he went on his
travels and presently his fears were confirmed.  The enemy had
discovered one link and might discover the whole, for the
interconnection was close, unless his suspicions could be switched
on to a different track.

Three nights later Jules found a British aeroplane at a place
agreed on for emergency meetings, meetings appointed by a very
delicate and bold method which was only to be used in an hour of
crisis.  There was a passenger beside the pilot, an officer in a
great blanket coat, who sat hunched on the ground and listened with
a grim face to Jules's story.

"What devil's own luck!" he said.  "At this time of all others!
The Arras affair as you know is due in three weeks--and there are
others to follow.  We simply cannot do without your crowd.  Have
you anything to suggest?"

"Yes," was the answer.  "I have thought it all out, and there is
one way.  The enemy is on the alert and must be soothed down.  That
can be done only by giving him good ground for his suspicions--but
it must not be the right ground.  We want a decoy.  You follow me,
sir?"

The other nodded.  "But what--or rather who?" he asked.

"Myself.  You see, sir, I think I have done my work here.  The
machine is working well, and I can safely hand over the direction
of it to S. S.  I have taught him all I know, and he's a sound
fellow.  It's the machine that matters, not me, so my proposal is
that to save the machine I draw suspicion on myself.  I know the
Germans pretty well, and they like to hunt one hare at a time.  I
can so arrange it that every doubt and suspicion they entertain can
be made to fasten on me.  I will give them a run for their money,
and after that S. S. and his lads will be allowed to function in
peace."

"Gad, that's a sporting notion," said the officer.  "But what about
yourself?  Can you keep out of their hands long enough?"

"I think so.  I know the countryside better than most people, and I
have a good many possible lairs.  I shall want a clear week to make
arrangements, for they are bound to be rather complicated.  For one
thing I must get Mother Raus to a hole where she cannot be found.
Then I press the button and become a fugitive.  I think I can count
on keeping the hounds in full cry for a week."

"Won't it be hard to pick you up if the pace is hot?"

"I don't want to be picked up.  I must draw the hunt as far east as
possible--away from the front.  That will make S. S. and his
machine more secure."

The other did not reply for a little.  "You realise that if you're
caught it's all up with you?" he said at length.

"Of course.  But that has been true every moment during the past
two years.  I'm only slightly speeding up the risks.  Besides, I
don't think I shall be caught."

"You'll try for Holland?"

"Holland or Germany.  It will probably take some time."

The officer stood up and glanced at his luminous wrist-watch.  "We
should be safe here for the next hour.  I want all the details of
the new lay-out--S. S. I mean."

When this conference was finished he turned to Jules and offered
his hand.

"You are right.  It's the only way, and a big part of the fate of
the war hangs on it.  I won't wish you good luck, for that's too
feeble for such an occasion.  But I'd like to say this to you,
More.  I've seen many gallant things done in my time, and I've met
many brave men, but by God! for sheer cold-blooded pluck I never
knew the like of you.  If you win out, I shall have a good deal to
say about that."



Two days later the Widow Raus set off for Brussels to visit her
relations.  She took with her a great basket of eggs and butter,
and she got a lift in a German transport waggon to save the railway
fare.  Thereafter she disappeared, and though her whereabouts were
sought by many they were never discovered.  She did not emerge into
the light again till a certain day in December 1918, when she was
one of many women thanked by her King, and was given a red ribbon
to wear on her ample bosom.

Left alone at the farm, Jules went on his travels for two days,
during which he had interviews with many people in retired places.
Then he returned and showed himself in the Three Parrots.  But that
night he left the farm, which was occupied next morning by soldiers
who were in a hurry.  They ransacked every room, slit the
mattresses, pulled up the floors, probed in straw heaps in the
outhouses.  There were wild rumours in the village.  Jules the
simpleton had, it appeared, been a spy--some said an Englishman--
and a confederate had betrayed him.  A damning message from him had
been found, for it seemed he could write, and he had been drawn
into rash talk by a woman in the German pay.  Much of the leakage
to the Allies of vital secrets had been traced to him.  He would be
taken soon, of course, and set up against a wall--there was no hope
of escape from the fine-meshed net which enveloped the land.  But
the bravery of it!  Many a villager wished he had been kinder to
the angel they had entertained unawares, and dolefully awaited the
news of his end.

It did not come, for Jules seemed to have slipped out of the world.
"He has been taken," said one rumour.  "He will be taken," said
all.  But the best-informed knew nothing for certain.  Only the
discipline was uncomfortably tightened in the countryside, and the
German officers looked darkly on every peasant they met.  "Curse
that Jules!" some began to say.  "He has only made our bondage more
burdensome."

Meantime Jules was far away.  He had made his plans with care, and
began by drawing the hunt northward as if he were making for
Brussels.  The first day he took pains to show himself at places
from which the news could be carried.  Then he doubled back to the
Meuse valley, and in the dark, in a miller's cellar, shaved his
beard, and was transformed into a young woodcutter who spoke the
patois of the hills and was tramping to Lige, with papers all
complete, to a job in a timber yard.  His plan was to change his
appearance again in Lige, and, having muddied the trail, to get to
Antwerp, where certain preparations had been made in advance.

But on one point he had miscalculated.  The chase became far closer
than he had foreseen, for Belgium was suddenly stirred to a fury of
spy-hunting.  The real Jules had been lost sight of somewhere in
the beet-fields of Gembloux, but every stranger was a possible
Jules, and a man had to be well-accredited indeed before he could
move a step without suspicion.  He realised that he simply could
not afford to be arrested, or even detained, so he was compelled to
run desperate risks.

The story of his month's wanderings was never fully told, but these
are the main points in it.

In Lige the woodcutter only escaped arrest on suspicion by
slipping into a little civilian hospital where he knew the matron,
and being in bed with the blankets up to his chin and bandages
round his forehead when the military police arrived in quest of
him. . . .  He travelled by rail to Malines as a young doctor who
had taken a Berlin degree, and was ready to discourse in excellent
German on the superior medical science of the exalted country where
he had had his training.  At Malines there was danger, for his
permit was not strictly in order, and he realised that five
minutes' cross-examination by a genuine doctor would expose the
nakedness of the land.  So he had to sink again into the gutter,
and had a wretched week in a downpour of rain doing odd jobs among
the market gardens, where there was a demand for labour.  He was
now a Dutch subject, speaking abominable French, and had been
provided with papers by a little man who wore a skull-cap, was
rarely sober, kept a disreputable pawnshop, and was known to
certain people by a letter and a numeral. . . .

He tramped his way to Antwerp, and there suffered so severe an
interrogation that he did not return for his permission de sjour.
Instead he found lodging in a street near the docks, where his
appearance was considerably improved by the attentions of a lady of
doubtful fame who had many friends.  He was still a Dutchman, but
of a higher class, for he had now a good black coat and a white
collar, and his papers showed that he was a clerk in a Rotterdam
office, who had come to Antwerp on his firm's business.  He had
permission to return to Holland, a permission which expired two
days ahead.

Then, as bad luck would have it, he fell ill--the first time in two
years.  The drenchings in the rain and the scanty food had reduced
his vitality, and he caught some infection in his squalid lodgings.
For twenty-four hours he was in a high fever, and when he rose he
could scarcely stagger.  He dared not delay.  If he stayed he must
go to hospital, and there he would suffer a stern inquisition.  As
it was, before he had the strength to move, he had outstayed by one
day the limits of his permit. . . .  There was nothing for it but
to take the risk.  With a blinding headache, and legs that gave at
the knees, and a deadly oppression on his chest, he took the
tramway which jolted him to the frontier.  There he was examined by
the German post.

"Back you go," said the sergeant.  "You have outstayed your
permitted time.  This permit must be corrected at the office of the
Military Governor."

"Let him pass," said another, who seemed to have more authority.
"The Dutchman is sick--mortally sick.  We have no use for another
bloody consumptive."

The Dutch sentries did no more than glance at his papers.  That
afternoon he took the train for Rotterdam, drove to a good hotel,
and sent a message to a man he knew.  Then for the next month he
descended into the pit of pneumonia and very slowly climbed up the
farther side.


III


Adam took a long time to recover his strength.  There were friends
who came to sit with him when he was permitted to receive visitors,
one especially who was of a family long settled in Java, and whose
dark colouring and yellow-tinged eyeballs suggested a dash of
native blood.  He called himself Lassom, and seemed to be a man of
influence, for he managed to procure little comforts which were
hard to come by in that difficult time.  On his watch-chain he wore
a little amulet of ebony and silver.  From him the convalescent got
the first news of the progress of the war on all fronts, for
hitherto he had been shut up in a narrow enclave.  Lassom, whose
name had been Macandrew in the office near Leadenhall Street,
required an exact report of all that had happened during the past
two years in the neighbourhood of Villers l'Evque.

Once an Englishman came to see Adam as he sat in a corner of the
hotel balcony in the sunshine of early summer.  "In the Army List,"
he told him, "you still figure as a second-lieutenant on the
Special List.  That, however, may not be for long.  By the way,
they have given you a bar to your D.S.O. for your last performance.
I take it that for some time you have been shooting at your limit,
as the gunners say.  Well, you won't have anything so arduous for a
bit--anyhow, till you're fit again.  Lassom will give you your
instructions when you are ready, and will make all arrangements."

The Englishman was a friendly person, and showed himself ready to
gossip, but the man whom he called John More seemed curiously
uninterested.  The news about the bar to his D.S.O. left him cold.
The truth was that he was suffering from a heavy drop in mental
vitality.  He had been like a squirrel going steadily round a cage,
and he found it hard to realise the world outside the bars, or to
think of any other form of motion but the treadmill.  The fact that
so far he had succeeded gave him no satisfaction.  Lassom divined
his mood and took the best way of doctoring it.  Having got the
information he wanted, he strove to draw the convalescent out of
the abyss of the immediate past and to wash from his memory the
Raus farm and all it stood for.  There were bigger duties before
him, he said, and he tried to divert his thoughts, so to speak,
from minor tactics to major strategy, thereby giving his mind new
subjects to play with.  But above all he looked after his body, and
in the beginning of June carried him off to a village on the Texel
coast.

There, in a little painted wooden inn above the salty dunes, the
invalid became whole again in mind and body.  But it was not the
wholesome food and the tonic sea winds that worked the cure, but
the fact that he had recovered Eilean Bn.  Something in the tang
of the air, the scents, and the crying of curlews along the shore
did the trick, and Adam, who had long been excluded from the happy
isle, found that once more his dreams and his waking visions
carried him swiftly to its greenery. . . .  Nigel was there
unchanged; it was two years since he had been able to see the child
clearly, but now he heard his voice, felt the firm cool clutch of
his hand, saw the grey eyes light up with recognition. . . .  The
boy accompanied him in his rambles, a docile little figure trotting
at his heels.  It was to the west side of Sgurr Bn that they went
most often, where the magical western ocean always sounded in their
ears.  But they never came within actual sight of its waters, so he
could not show Nigel the far skerries, the black ribs of wave-
scourged basalt where the grey seals lived.  There was always a
ridge of hill or a thicket which shut off the view.  But Adam felt
no impatience.  Some day he would cross the last rise and descend
upon those sands which were whiter than Barra or Iona.

One day he began to bestir himself and asked about his next job.

"Ha!" cried the delighted Lassom.  "For this I have been waiting.
You are cured now, and we talk business.  In your next job you
enter Germany with the approbation of her Imperial Government.  You
will be a Danish commis-voyageur, who is confided in by the
authorities.  You will give these authorities information, and most
of it will be true--but not all.  You will likewise gather
information, which must all be true.  You will not be alone as in
Flanders, for I accompany you.  But for the purpose it is necessary
that we approach the Fatherland by what you call a voluptuous
curve.  Next week we cross the Skager Rack.

"You have been happy these last days," Lassom said that night after
supper.  "Your eyes bear witness.  You have been seeing pretty
pictures.  Tell me."

Then for the first time Adam told another of Eilean Bn--not much,
only a sentence or two about his childhood's home, and its lonely
peace.  But Lassom understood.

"Ah," he said, "it is as I guessed.  We have each our Jerusalem."



The two men had a difficult journey, mostly in coasting smacks,
whose skippers demanded a great price before they would tempt the
infested seas.  In the end they reached Gothenburg, where a noted
merchant of the place, who had a Scots name, but whose family had
been Swedish for three centuries, assisted them to a change in
their mode of life.  Adam became a high-coloured business man in
early middle age, who wore horn spectacles like an American--he
professed to have been much in America--dressed carefully, and had
a neat blond moustache.  He spoke Swedish like a Dane, said his
host.  He travelled in wood-pulp propositions, and was minutely
instructed in the business by the merchant with the Scots name.
Presently he knew enough to talk technicalities, and he met at
dinner various local citizens in the same line of business, to whom
he paraded his experiences in Britain, Canada, and the States.
Lassom also was different.  He had let his beard grow, and had
trimmed it to a point, and he too wore glasses.  He was an American
citizen of German descent, and of an extreme German patriotism--by
profession a lecturer in chemistry at a Middle Western university.
His country's entry into the war on the Allied side had left him
without a home, and driven him for comfort to pure science.  He had
much to say of new processes in the making of chemical wood-pulp,
which he hoped to perfect.  Altogether a gentle academic figure,
who woke up now and then to deliver an impassioned harangue on the
wickedness of the world.

The two went to Stockholm at different times and by different
routes.  In that city of the isles Adam found himself in a society
which was strongly sympathetic to Germany, and he met many
unobtrusive folk in whom it was easy to recognise German agents.
Presently with some of them he began to have highly confidential
conversations, especially when Lassom arrived, for Lassom seemed to
have a vast acquaintanceship.  One day in an office on the top
floor of a fine new apartment-house he had an interview with a
thin, grey-bearded man, who spoke openly of his visiting Germany.
"It can be arranged," he was told, "for one who is discreet and
well-accredited, such as you, Herr Randers."  He bent his brows on
Adam, and his small bright eyes seemed to hold a world of menace
and warning.  "You are neutral, yes," he continued, "but neutrality
is no protection for the bungler--or the traitor."  He gave him
certain provisional instructions with the same heavily charged
voice and the same lowering brows.

Lassom, when he was told of the interview, laughed.  "That is
according to plan," he said.  "That is he whom we call the Cossack.
Formidable, is he not?  He has also another name and a number, for
he is one of us.  He is a Czech, and the Czechs, having no
fatherland at present, are the greatest secret agents in this war."

Then they went to Copenhagen, a precarious journey, and in
Copenhagen Adam spent two weeks of crowded busyness.  His Danish
was fluent, but, said his friends, the speech of a man who had been
much about the world and had picked up uncouth idioms.  But
oftenest he found himself talking German, for that tongue was
favoured by the men--and women--whom he met by appointment at odd
hours in back rooms in hotels and suburban tea-houses and private
flats.  Lassom did not appear at these conferences, but he was
always at hand to advise.  "It is necessary that you have open
communications behind you," he said, "for you are a channel between
an enclosed Germany and the world--one of a thousand channels.  You
must have a conduit both for your exports and your imports."

Adam met, too, many people in Copenhagen who made no secret of
their sympathy with the Allies, and with such he had to be on his
best behaviour.  The florid bagman had no bias one way or another;
the war was not his war, and would to Heaven it was over, that
honest men might get to work again!  "These folk do not like you,"
Lassom told him, "but it is necessary that the others should know
that you have access to their company. . . .  Now, my friend, to
work.  There is much to talk over between us, for the day after to-
morrow you cross the frontier."

Adam left Copenhagen alone.  But, when five days later he sat in
the lounge of a Cologne hotel, he saw Lassom at the other side of
the room behind a newspaper.



Flanders had been lonely enough, but this new life was a howling
desert for Adam, because he could not even keep company with
himself.  For every waking hour he was on the stretch, since he
lived in the midst of a crowd and had to maintain a tight clutch on
his wits.  No more days and nights of wandering when he could
forget for a little the anxieties of his task.  His existence was
passed in a glare like that of an arc-lamp.

Lassom he saw regularly, but only for hurried moments, for Lassom
was constantly on the road.  He recrossed the Dutch and Danish
frontiers frequently; sometimes the Swiss too, for he was busy in
mysterious negotiations with neutrals on the supply of vital
chemicals.  Adam himself had a double rle.  He was supposed to be
engaged in various branches of neutral trade, and carried samples
which, with Lassom's assistance, were periodically renewed.  But
his main task in the eyes of the authorities was to be the means of
bringing them news through neighbouring countries of the Allied
plans.  This meant that he, too, occasionally passed the borders,
and was fed with tit-bits of confidential information by several
people in Zurich and Copenhagen.  These tit-bits were mostly of
small importance, but they were invariably true, and their accuracy
was his prime credential.  But now and then came pieces of
weightier news, which he made a point of offering diffidently, as
if not perfectly sure of their source.  Yet, on the credit of the
many accurate details he had furnished, these other things were as
a rule believed--and acted upon--and their falsity did not shake
his credit.  For example, there was the report of a British attack
due at Lens in February, '18, which led to a wasteful and futile
German concentration.

That was one side.  The other was not known to the stiff soldiers
who received him for regular conferences and treated him so
condescendingly.  All the time he was busy collecting knowledge for
export--knowledge of the condition of the people and the state of
the popular mind, and word of military operations, which great folk
sometimes discussed in highly technical language in his presence,
believing them beyond his comprehension.  It was Adam's news that
largely filled those desperately secret reports on Germany's
internal condition which circulated among the inner Cabinets of the
Allies.  Now and then he sent them fateful stuff--the story, for
instance, of the exact sector and day of the great German assault
of March, '18, which the British staff alone believed.  Lassom was
the principal agency for getting this information out of Germany,
but sometimes impersonal means had to be found--sealed Kodak films,
the inner packets of chewing-gum, whatever, in the hands of
innocent-looking returning nationals, might be trusted to escape
the eye of the frontier guards.

Adam had still another task.  There was much ingenious Allied
propaganda already circulating in the country, based for the most
part on Switzerland.  It was not anti-German but anti-war, and its
distributors were largely members of the Socialist Left Wing.  He
had to keep an eye on this, and now and then to direct it.  It was
a delicate business, for it would have been ruin to one of his
antecedents to be seen speaking to the intellectuals of the
pavement.  Yet this was the only duty from which he extracted any
comfort, for each encounter involved a direct personal risk which
steadied his nerves.

For the rest he hated his work bitterly--far more bitterly than at
any moment of his years in Flanders.  There was no groove to get
into where one could move automatically, since every day, almost
every hour, demanded a new concentration of his powers.  It was
work which he loathed, dirty work, all the dirtier for being done
under conditions of comparative bodily comfort.  He had nothing to
complain of; he lived as well and slept as soft as other people; he
had even a certain amount of consideration paid to him; the risk,
so long as he kept his head, was not great, and he had a task which
kept his mind working at high tension.  There were immense ultimate
dangers, no doubt, but they did not come within his immediate
vision.  What irked him was the necessity of thinking another's
thoughts and living another's life every minute of his waking
hours.  He felt the man who had been Adam Melfort slipping away
from him, and his place being taken by a hard, glossy, fraudulent
being whom he detested.

Now and then he had narrow escapes which helped his self-respect.
Once he was all but caught in the kitchen of a man who had a
cobbler's shop in Freiburg, and who had for some time been closely
sought in Westphalia.  Adam got out of a back window, and had two
days of circuitous tramping in snowy forests before he was certain
that he had shaken off pursuit.  Twice, when his secret information
had proved false, he looked into the barrel of a pistol in the hand
of a furious Erster Generalstabsoffizier.  More than once he was
rigorously examined and every detail of his dossier tested.  But he
had grown an adept at this business, and each syllable of his
bourgeois bewilderment rang true.

Once, when his soul was sick within him, he laid it bare to Lassom.

"I have learned nothing," he told him, "except to be an actor of
character parts, and to keep the shutter down on my thoughts."

"Not so," said the other.  "You have sharpened your mind to a razor
edge, and made steel hawsers of your nerves.  You have acquired the
patience of God.  You have taught yourself to look at life
uncoloured by the personal equation.  What more would you have?"

"Tell me, am I honestly and truly serving my country?"

"You served her nobly in Flanders--that you know as well as I."

"But here?"

Lassom looked grave.  "Here you are worth to her--how shall I put
it?--more than a division of good troops.  More, I think, than an
army corps."

There came an hour in May '18 when Lassom arrived by night and sat
on his bed.

"There are commands for you to leave Germany," he said.  "You have
finished your task.  This people is breaking, for the last
gambler's throw has failed, and your work now lies elsewhere."

"Am I suspected?"

"Not yet.  But suspicion is coming to birth, and in a week, my
friend, it might be hard for you to cross the frontier."

"And you?"

"I stay.  I have still work to do."

"You will be in danger?"

"Maybe.  That is no new thing."

"Then I will not leave you."

"You must.  You add to my danger, if danger there is.  I am a man
of many shifts, remember.  Also it is your duty to obey orders."
He passed to Adam a slip of paper with a few words on it, which
Adam read carefully and then burned.

"Au revoir," said Lassom gaily.  "We will meet some day outside
Jerusalem."

On the fourth morning after that visit Adam was speaking English to
two men in a small hotel in a side street of Geneva.  A few hours
earlier, in the courtyard of a military prison in a certain
Rhineland city, a small man with a pointed beard and a nervous
mouth had confronted a firing squad.  On that occasion he did not
look down, as had been his habit, but faced the rifles with steady,
smiling eyes.


IV


On the quay at Marseilles, as Adam was embarking in a converted
liner, he met Lyson, the brother-officer whom we have seen waiting
in the Pall Mall club for the verdict.  They said much to each
other before they had to separate.

Lyson, who was on his way to Palestine, was now an acting
lieutenant-colonel on the staff.  He looked curiously at Adam's
Special List badge, second-lieutenant's star, and undecorated
breast.

"I suppose your rig is part of the game," he said, "but it is a
little behind the times.  What has become of your order ribbons?"

Adam smiled.  "They're not much use in this show.  I have been on
enemy soil till a week ago, and I fancy I am going back to it."

"Still, you're among friends for the present.  I should have
thought too that you'd take your proper rank on your travels."
When Adam looked puzzled, he exclaimed.  "Didn't you know?  It was
in the Gazette months ago.  You have been reinstated in the
regiment without any loss of seniority.  Also they gave you a
brevet."

Adam was surprised that the news excited him so little.  The
regiment and all it stood for seemed a thing very small and far-
away.  The name on his passport was John More, and he did not
trouble to have it altered.  But he held his head a little higher
among the crowd of officers, mostly very young, who for the next
fortnight voyaged in his company over dangerous seas.



At Salonika after various interviews he was handed over to a Greek
doctor, whose profession seemed to embrace many queer duties.  In
his house he stayed for three days, and during that time he
exchanged his khaki uniform for reach-me-down flannels.  Also
various things were done to his appearance.  His face had become
very lean, but his skin was puffy and white from a sedentary life,
so now it was stained to an even brown.  During those days he
talked nothing but Turkish, and his host had something to say about
his pronunciation.  Then one evening, with a brand-new kit-bag, he
embarked in a sea-plane and headed eastward.  Two days later he was
in occupation of a back room in the house of a man called Kuriotes,
a Greek fruit-merchant in the town of Kassaba, where the railway
line from Smyrna climbs to the Anatolian plateau.

Here he suffered a complete metamorphosis and acquired a new set of
papers.  It appeared that he was a Hanoverian by birth, who had for
ten years been in business in Stambul--there were all kinds of
details about his past life set down very fully in close German
typescript.  His identity card was signed by the German Ambassador,
and stamped by the Turkish Ministry of the Interior.  It seemed
that he had been commissioned, and had served on the Balkan front
as an interpreter, and was now to act in the same capacity with a
Turkish division.

To the back room came a certain Circassian colonel, Aziz by name,
who commanded a battalion in the same division, and from him Adam
learned many things.  One was that the best German troops had been
withdrawn from the Palestine front to stop the gaps in Europe, and
that many of the guns were following.  The latter were being
replaced by an odd assortment, including Skoda mountain howitzers
which had once been destined for the Hedjaz.  The word of Germany
was now all in all, and Enver was sulking.  But the great Liman was
not loved, and the Turks were very weary of the business.  "They
will send us south," said the colonel, "but if Allah wills, the war
may be over before we reach Aleppo."  He winked, for he had been
much in Egypt and had picked up foreign manners.

Adam joined his division at Afium Karahissar on the great Bagdad
railway, and found his task as interpreter a delicate one.  The
Austrian officers of the Skoda batteries were sullen and puzzled,
and perpetually quarrelling with the divisional staff. . . .  But
bit by bit he discovered other duties.  His business now was not
that of a spy but of a fomenter of mischief, a begetter of delays--
for great things were preparing in the south, where Liman was
holding a long line in face of an enemy who showed an ominous
quiescence.  Adam had been instructed in his rle and he found many
helpers.  Aziz, for one, who during the endless delays of the
journey was very busy and often absent from camp.  Everywhere in
the army there seemed to be disaffection, and the countryside was
plagued with brigandage and full of deserters and broken men.
Purposeless brigandage it seemed to be, for there was a perpetual
destruction of bridges and culverts and telegraphs, which can have
offered no booty to the destroyers.  Adam, as the only German
officer in the division, was the recipient of the complaints and
curses of many furious Teutonic colleagues.  More than once he was
placed under arrest, and was only released by the intercession of
his corps commander.  He was set down by his German superiors as
lazy and incompetent, one whose natural loutishness had been
swollen by the idleness of his years in Stambul.  Yet he was
quietly busy, and in his own purposes he was rather efficient.

Orders from headquarters, frequently countermanded and habitually
misinterpreted, kept the division north of the Bulgar Dagh till
early August, and it did not reach Aleppo till the beginning of
September.  During the summer heats Adam had been a good deal away
from headquarters by permission of Colonel Aziz, and had been in
many strange places and among many queer folk in his task of
tangling up the connections which linked the embarrassed Liman to
his base. . . .  These were laborious and difficult days, but he
found them curiously exhilarating.  He felt himself within the
electric zone of war, an actor in a drama which was moving to some
stupendous climax.  The toil of it rejuvenated a body which had
been too long cramped and under-exercised.  Moreover, he was among
novel scenes, and his interest in the unfamiliar revived in him.
Almost he became young again.

By way of motor-car, motor-bicycle or weedy horse, and sometimes on
his own feet, he prowled about a land which had been for many
thousands of years the cockpit of war.  It was all pared and gnawed
to the bone.  He found everywhere irrigated fields where the water-
furrows were dry, and orchards which had been felled for firewood.
He entered towns where the lattices hung broken, and the mud walls
crumbled, and only a lean child or a beggar showed in the narrow
streets.  He had days of blistering heat, when the sky was copper
above and the earth iron below, and when hot winds stirred the
baked mud into dust-devils.  He had days, too, when bitter blasts
blew from the north-east, or when the rain storms swept in
battalions till he could almost cheat himself into the belief that
he was on a Scots moor and that the tamarisk scrub was heather.
The open air and the weather's moods put new vigour into his body,
and never for one moment was he sick or sorry.  There was disease
everywhere among the troops, but, while his colleagues went down
like ninepins with fever and dysentery and heat-stroke, Adam in his
shabby field-grey went steadily about his business.  "You are a
mountaineer like my own folk," said the admiring Aziz.  "You are as
hard as the hillside quartz."

As they moved south he began to mix with new types--shaggy Druses,
sleek Damascenes, Arabs from the Syrian desert as thin and fine as
sword-blades.  His imagination caught fire, and he had visions of
the vast hidden life astir behind the front where Liman played his
mechanical game of war.  That life was breaking loose from the
game, and it was his task to expedite the breaking.  For a blow was
in preparation, and its force must be aided by defection in the
rear, so that when it fell it would strike not a solid but a hollow
shell.



The blow came, as all the world knows, at dawn on the 19th of
September, by which time Adam's division had not reached the Asian
corps in Djevad's Eighth Army to which it had been attached as
reserve.  It was still a mile or two short of Nablus.  Presently it
was caught up in the backwash of the great defeat, and turned its
face northward.  Down upon it came the fog of war, nay the deeper
fog of a pell-mell retreat. . . .  These were busy days for Adam--
and for Aziz and for many obscurer folk.  There was a German staff-
officer who used to appear mysteriously at cross-roads and give
authoritative orders to fleeing columns.  He must have been raw to
his job, for most of his orders contrived to shepherd those who
obeyed them into the arms of Allenby's terrible horsemen.

Adam had one moment of indecision.  Liman was routed, so his task
must be over.  Was not the next step for him to be picked up by the
pursuit and restored to his own people?  But a thought deterred
him.  He did not know what might be happening in the north.  There
might be a stand beyond the Lebanon at Homs or Aleppo, or in
Anatolia itself, and work for him to do.  So he clung to his
fleeing division, and struggled with it past Rayat to the broad-
gauge line, and across the Orontes till the minarets of Aleppo rose
above its orchards--on past the junction with the Bagdad railway,
and up the long slopes of the hills which circle Alexandretta.  The
division was now only a rabble of scared and starving men, and soon
he was convinced that Turkey's last shot was fired, and that for
her broken army not even the shores of the Marmora would be a
sanctuary.  His work was done.

He realised something more--that it was high time for him to go.
Aziz had left him, and there were ugly faces turned on him among
the troops.  He was a reminder of the race that had led the
children of Islam into the mire.  One night he had to run for it to
escape a rifle bullet at the hands of a crazed sergeant.  He had
for some days dropped his uniform, retaining only his field-boots,
and wore a ragged Turkish tunic and greatcoat.  He had made ready,
too, a slender packet of food, and he had a map, a compass, and
twenty rounds for his revolver.  Thus equipped, he hid for one
night in the scrub of a nullah, and next morning started, like
Xenophon's Ten Thousand, on his march to the sea.

For three weeks he was a hunted man, and had his fill of the
hardships which those British soldiers suffered who escaped from a
Turkish prison-camp.  To be sure, there was no pursuit, but there
was a more menacing thing, a land where all order and discipline
had gone, and a stranger was like a sheep among wolf-packs.  The
countryside was starving, with the people fighting like wild beasts
for food.  Also it was strewn with broken men on the same desperate
errand as himself, striking out frantically for safety like a weak
swimmer in a heavy sea.  He moved only by night, and in these weeks
he learned the shifts of primeval man whose mind is narrowed to a
single purpose--the purpose of the meanest sentient thing.  He had
schooled his body to need the minimum of food, but even that little
was in constant jeopardy.  He had twice to fight for his life with
famished dogs, and used up four of his pistol cartridges.  Once he
stumbled on a group of Kurdish soldiers who had set up as bandits,
and only the fortunate approach of a moonless night enabled him to
escape.  Every day he felt his strength growing less, so he
husbanded it like a miser.  Lightheadedness was what he feared: too
often the scrub and the hills would dance about him, and he would
lie face down, his fingers pressed on his throbbing eyeballs, till
he won touch with earth again.

It was a nightmare time, but he was not unhappy, for a veil seemed
to be lifting from his horizon.  He had recaptured his own country.
The most alien sights and scents were translated into the idiom of
home.  As he lay in the hot tamarisk at midday he smelled thyme and
bracken, and under a sky of glittering stars he could make believe
that he was belated on some familiar moorland.  Especially in rain
could he retrieve these links, for the odour of wet earth seemed to
re-create for him a whole world of ancient comfortable things.  His
body might be stretched to its ultimate endurance, but his mind was
at peace. . . .

One afternoon he came over a scarp of hill and looked down at last
on the sea.  There was a little bay below him and a few fishers'
huts; off shore lay a British destroyer, from which a watering-
party had just landed.  He looked at this assurance of safety with
no quickening of the pulse, for he was too weary for such emotion.
Besides, he had somehow expected it.

He was taken on board and met by a brisk young lieutenant.  There
had been a conversation between the lieutenant and a petty officer.
"Escaped prisoner, I suppose.  Good God, what a scarecrow!  I
suppose we must take charge of the poor devil.  Bring him along at
once."

A few words from Adam sent the lieutenant's hand to his cap.

"Adam Melfort!  Of course I know all about you, sir!  What almighty
luck that we put in to this God-forgotten hole!  You want a long
drink, and then a bath, and a square meal, and then you ought to
sleep for a week.  I can lend you some kit. . . .  Hold on, sir.
Perhaps you haven't heard the news.  It came through to us last
night.  The jolly old war is over.  Yesterday morning Germany got
down from her perch."

But Adam scarcely listened, for he was in a happy dream.  The
lapping of green water and the tang of salt had carried him over
great tracts of space and time.  He had found Eilean Bn.



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--III


I


In the smoking-room of the club where this story opened Christopher
Stannix sat on a warm June evening.  It was the day of the Peace
celebrations in London, when the returning generals had passed
through the streets, and from Pall Mall came the shuffling sound of
homing spectators.  The war had grizzled Stannix's thick dark hair
above the temples, and had slightly rounded his shoulders, for he
had spent four years at office work.  Also it had hollowed his
cheeks, and made faint pencillings at the corners of his eyes.  His
face was that of a man a decade older than his age.  The lawyers'
primness of mouth had gone, for he had given up the Bar, and,
having been in the House of Commons since 1913, had now turned
definitely to politics.  He was one of the younger men who were
beginning to make their mark in the dull and docile Coalition
Parliament.

Lyson, his companion, was in uniform, for he had been engaged in
the day's procession.  He was skimming an evening paper while the
other ordered tea, and dispensing fragments of news.

"Hullo!" he said, "I see Falconet is lost.  No word of him for four
months, and he is more than a month overdue at his base.  You
remember him, Kit?  The long American who had a hospital at
Arville?  Began the war as a French airman, till he smashed himself
up.  He was a bit of a nuisance to us at G.H.Q."

"He was a bit of a nuisance to us at the War Office," said Stannix.
"I never saw a man with his temper so handy.  I daresay that was
due to his left arm giving him neuritis.  Also he was some kind of
multi-millionaire and used to getting his own way.  Well I remember
his lean twitching face and his eye like a moulting eagle's.  Where
do you say he has got to now?"

"That's the puzzle.  He has gone over the edge somewhere in
Northern Greenland.  He always made a hobby of exploring unholy
corners of the earth and financed several expeditions, and he had
some theory about Greenland, so, as soon as he was certain that the
Allies were winning, he bolted off to have a look at it.  Funny
business, if you come to think of it, changing the racket of the
front for the peace of an Arctic desert!  And now he has gone and
lost himself, and this paper says they're talking of a relief
party."

"We're in for a lot of that sort of thing," said Stannix.  "There's
going to be all kinds of queer byproducts of the war.  You know how
after a heavy day you are sometimes too tired to sleep.  Well, that
is the position of a good many to-day--too tired to rest--must have
some other kind of excitement--running round like sick dogs till
the real crash comes.  The big problem for the world is not
economic but psychological--how to get men's minds on an even keel
again."

"I daresay that is true," said the other.  "But the odd thing is
that it is not the people who had the roughest time that are the
most unsettled.  There was a little chap at home who was the local
postman.  He enlisted at the start in a Fusilier battalion and had
four of the most hellish years that ever fell to the lot of man--
Gallipoli and France--blown-up, buried, dysentery, trench-fever,
and most varieties of wounds.  To-day he is back at his old job,
toddling round the villages, and you would never guess from his
looks or his talk that he had been out of Dorset. . . .  Then take
Adam Melfort.  I suppose he had about as nerve-racking a show as
anybody, but you couldn't tell it on him.  I ran across him the
other day, and, except that he was fined down to whalebone and
catgut, he was just the same quiet, placid, considering old bird."

Stannix smiled.  "Funny that you should mention Adam, for he was
the case I had chiefly in mind.  With him it's not so simple an
affair as your postman.  You see, he was in the war, but not OF it.
He stood a little way apart and got a bird's-eye view.  For him it
was only a spell of training for something much bigger, and now he
is looking at the world like a philosopher and wondering what his
real job is to be."

Lyson's face kindled into interest.  "Tell me about Adam.  You see
a lot of him, I know, and I don't often manage to run him to
ground.  I'd give a good deal to get back to the old terms with
him."

Stannix shook his head.  "You never will.  I can't myself.  Adam
has made his choice.  When he crashed, he decided that God meant
him to drop out of the firing-line, and had work for him somewhere
in the rear.  He has gone deliberately underground, and means to
stay there.  That was why he was by miles the best secret-service
man we had--he took to the job like a crusade, something to which
he was specially called by the Almighty.  He is the complete
philosophic fatalist, waiting for destiny to show him his next
move.  He's a lonely man, if you like, but he doesn't mind that,
for he knows that it is his strength.  Every journalist is talking
about the 'brotherhood of the trenches'--a silly, rhetorical
phrase, but there's something in it--people who went through the
same beastliness together did acquire a sort of common feeling.
Well, Adam had no chance of that; he was as much outside it as if
he had been a conchy.  He has missed all the comfort one gets from
a sense of companionship, but he has missed, too, the confusion of
the mass-mind.  He has no delusions and no sentimentalities.  He is
looking at our new world with clear dispassionate eyes, like a
visitor from another planet.  But, all the same, when he finds his
predestined job it will be like the releasing of a steel spring."

"By Jove, that sounds like trouble for somebody.  What is it to be?
Russia?"

"It might be.  He talks the language, and might put a spoke in the
Bolshy wheels.  But he hasn't made up his mind--at least he hadn't
last week.  He has been spending recent months having a general
look round."

"Go on.  Tell me," said Lyson.  "I'm deeply interested."

Stannix laughed.  "It was a funny business, and I saw something of
it, for I had to chaperon him in most of his investigations.  You
see, he had lost touch a little with his kind, and he realised that
he must find it again if he was to be of any use. . . .  The first
thing was to meet the people who had been fighting, of whom he knew
nothing at all.  He saw a fairly representative lot, from the
hearty fellows who had found it rather a lark and were half sorry
it was over to the damaged sensitives who had a grievance against
humanity.  I fancy he did not get much out of any of them, and
decided that it would be many a day before we could be certain what
effect the war had had on our people. . . .  Then he made a tour of
the serious folk--the internationalists and the social reformers.
He hung about the universities to have a look at the young entry,
and went into W.E.A. circles, and put in some time with a Glasgow
riveter.  Adam was never very communicative, so I don't know what
conclusion he came to, but he did not seem to be depressed by his
experiences. . . .  Oh, and he sat out a good many debates in the
House of Commons.  He found them a dusty business, and used to come
down from the gallery with puzzled eyes.  I wanted to get some of
the politicians to meet him, but he wouldn't have it--didn't want
to hear other people's conclusions--wanted to make his own."

"Can't we get him back into the Service?" Lyson asked.  "I know he
has sent in his papers, but that could be arranged.  There are
twenty jobs on hand for which he would be the spot man."

"Not a chance of it.  I put that to him, for it seemed to me common
sense.  I told him that he was a brilliant soldier and should stick
to the profession for which he had been trained.  No earthly use.
You know that look of intelligent obstinacy which is more
unshakable than the Pyramids.  'You forget,' he said, 'that in the
past four years I've had a training for other things.'"

"A pretty desperate training," Lyson commented.

"Yes," said Stannix, "that is the right word.  Remember that Adam
is a desperate man.  There is nothing in Heaven or earth left for
him to fear."



One night later in the summer Stannix dined with Adam Melfort at a
restaurant.  Thereafter they made a curious progress.  First they
went to a meeting of a group of serious people who were perturbed
about the state of the world, and listened to a paper on the
"Economics of Victory."  It was held in the drawing-room of a
private house and the paper was read by a brilliant young Oxford
don who had made a high reputation for his work abroad on behalf of
the British Treasury. . . .  They did not wait for the discussion,
but moved on to a newly-formed club, patronised mainly by ex-
cavalry officers, which boasted a super-excellent American bar.
There, as they drank cocktails, they listened to the gossip of
youth.  Stannix knew many of the members, but he did not introduce
Adam.  The talk was chiefly of money, for most of the young men
seemed to have gone into business and precociously acquired the
City jargon.  They were determined to have a good time and had
somehow or other to find the cash for it. . . .  Then they went to
a ball, given by a celebrated hostess who was making a resolute
effort to restore the pre-war gaiety.  It was gay enough;
dementedly gay, it seemed to Adam, as he recalled the balls where
he had once danced with Camilla.  The female clothes were odd, the
dances were extravagant things, the music was barbarous, and the
men and women seemed to be there not for amusement but for an
anodyne.  Adam and Stannix stood in a corner and looked on.

"Isn't that Meeson?" the former asked, mentioning the name of a
Cabinet Minister.

"Yes," said Stannix.  "He comes to this sort of thing, for he
thinks it smart, and smartness was beyond him in his old days in
the suburbs.  There's Wendell--that man dancing with the Jewess.
He comes because he wants to be thought young--age, you know, is
the chief crime to-day.  Most of the boys want to make up for the
war, and the girls have four dull years to forget.  It's all
perfectly natural, I suppose, but rather foolish.  Half the world
is destroyed, so we caper among the ruins.  You don't seem as
shocked as I expected."

"I'm not in the least shocked," was the answer.  "I'm only
wondering how long it will last.  We must pull up our socks pretty
soon, or the rest of the world will go."

Late that night the two sat in Stannix's rooms.

"Well, you've had your look-round," the host said.  "I take it that
to-night was the last lap.  I hope I took you to the right places.
What do you make of it all?"

"Nothing very clear."  Adam had acquired a trick of speaking very
slowly and softly, as if words were precious and had to be
respectfully treated--a common thing with men who for a long season
have had to forgo their own language.  "There must be a time of
confusion--another year at least, I should say.  Everybody is self-
conscious and egotistical.  Creevey to-night was not trying to
solve an economic problem, but to show how clever he was.  The lads
at the Pegasus have had too much in the way of duty and want to
make pets of themselves.  The dancing people were not natural--they
were all trying to make-believe and play a part.  That is going on
for a little while till the ground begins to quake under them.  I'm
not wanted yet, I think.

"And I'm not ready myself," he went on.  "I've been coming to
realise that for some time, and now I'm sure.  First of all, I'm
not fit enough. . . .  Oh yes, I'm fitter than you, far fitter than
most people, but I'm not in the hard training I should be in.
Today I couldn't make my body do what it ought to do.  I want some
good, tough, physical toil."

"Anything else?" Stannix asked.  He smiled as he looked at Adam's
lean face, his frame without an ounce of needless flesh, and the
alert poise of his head.

"Yes, I want a spell of quiet.  You see, I have been living for
four years in a circus.  It hasn't damaged my nerves in the
ordinary sense--they're under pretty good control--but it has made
my mind airless and stuffy.  I want to get some sort of poise
again, and that means being alone.  What I need is space and
silence--frozen silence."

"How are you going to find it?"

"I'm on the road to it.  I've been busy for weeks making
arrangements with the Danish Government and with his American
relatives.  The day after tomorrow I sail for Iceland.  I'm going
to find Falconet."


II


On the last day of September Adam sat on a hummock of snow looking
east to where, far below Danmarks Fjord, lay a blue gash in the
white ice-cap.  The cirrhus clouds of the afternoon before had been
a true augury, and all night a gale had howled round the little
tent.  But the wind had blown itself out before morning, and now
the air was clear and quiet.  It was the first peaceful hour he had
had for days when he could review his position.

At Shannon Island he had found the schooner which Falconet had
instructed to meet him in June.  A base had been erected there like
a lumber-camp, huts and store-rooms and dog-houses, for money had
not been spared, but there was no sign of its master.  Falconet had
made elaborate plans.  A sealing sloop had crawled up the coast as
soon as spring opened the shore waters, and its crew had pushed on
when navigation became impossible, and had laid down depots and
caches of food at points up the coast as far north as Independence
Fjord.  Such spots had been carefully marked on the latest map,
which was Rasmussen's.  Falconet himself had set off with two
sledges and dog teams in March to cross the inland ice.  His
objective was a bay on the extreme north shore of Greenland, of
which Rasmussen had heard rumours through the Arctic Highlanders of
Thule.  They called it Gundbjorns Fjord--a curious name, thought
Adam, who remembered that to the old Norsemen Gundbjorns Reef had
been the legendary edge of the world.  Falconet had his own
theories about Greenland travel.  He had taken but the one
companion, his stores were of a scientific compactness, his dogs
were the best that money could buy, and he held that by travelling
light he could reach his goal in early summer, replenish his
supplies from bear and musk-ox (he was a famous shot), and return
by the coast depots in time to rejoin his ship at the end of July.

But something had miscarried.  Ship's parties had gone up the coast
almost as far as Kronprinz Christians Land, and had found no sign
of him.  He could not be returning by the inland ice, for his food
supplies would not permit of that.  His American friends had been
anxious, and Washington and Copenhagen had laid their heads
together, so Adam had found his proposal welcomed.  Falconet might
be ill, or he might have had an accident; if he did not come south
before the winter he would perish; clearly someone must go and look
for him.  Time was of the essence of the business, so the route
must be the inland ice, the road Falconet had himself travelled,
for the coast road would mean a detour round two sides of a
triangle.

So Adam started from Shannon Island with three sledges and two
companions--one a Danish naval officer called Nelles who had been
with Koch, and the other a young American, Myburg, who had explored
the Beaufort Sea before the war.  Their plan was to find Falconet
somewhere in the north of Peary Land and bring him down the coast
by the chain of depots, before the sun disappeared.  If they were
delayed they would winter on Shannon Island and go home in the
spring.  Nine years before Ejnar Mikkelsen had covered most of the
ground in a couple of months, and Nelles, who was the local expert,
believed that, if Falconet was alive, he could be found and brought
back before the close of September.  It was arranged that in that
month relays of dog-teams should be waiting at points on the coast
as far north as Danmarks Fjord.

At first fortune had been with Adam and his party.  They climbed on
to the ice-cap a little south of Cape Bismarck, and, keeping the
nunataks of Dronning Louises Land on their left, travelled for five
days on tolerable ice in good weather, with few bergs to surmount
and no crevasses to delay them.  Then suddenly their luck turned.
A wind of 120 miles an hour blew from the east, and the plateau
became the playground of gales.  They came on ice-fields like
mammoth ploughlands, where they scarcely made three miles in the
day, and mountainous seracs which would have puzzled an Alpine
climber.  They found valleys with lakes and rivers of blue ice out
of which they had to climb painfully.  There was trouble, too, with
the dogs.  Five of them one night broke into the stores and ate
one-half of the total dog-feed.  Several died of gashes from the
sharp ice, and two more from eating the livers of their dead
companions.  For nearly a week the party was storm-bound, lying in
their tents in the lee of an ice-scarp, while blizzard after
blizzard threatened to blow the whole outfit to Baffin's Bay.

The culminating disaster came in the fourth week out, when one of
the sledges, driven by the young American Myburg, broke through the
crust and disappeared in a bottomless abyss.  Adam and Nelles made
vain efforts at rescue, and Adam had himself lowered on a cable
made up of haul-ropes into the cruel blue depths.  There was no
sign of life; hundreds of feet down in the bowels of the ice-cap,
man and dogs had met their death.  The tragedy was followed by a
storm which delayed the survivors for three days, and gave Nelles
too good a chance to brood.  He was a dreamy morose man, and an
indifferent companion, and from that day onward Adam found his
moods hard to deal with.  Death and the madness which is worse than
death had cast their shadow over him.

Adam himself had found the weeks pass quickly.  He had a
straightforward task--to shape a course which he more or less
understood, and to complete that course in the shortest possible
time.  It was only a question of common sense, resolution and
physical fitness; the difficulties were known, and had been
surmounted by many others since the days of Henry Hudson; if each
of them put out his powers to the fullest stretch they would reach
Gundbjorns Fjord, barring accidents, and whether or not they found
Falconet was in the lap of the gods.  Such was his mood at the
start, and even the tragic fate of Myburg did not greatly change
it.  Death was an irrelevant factor in any enterprise, and since
one could not ensure against it one must leave it out of reckoning.
His fatalism was more than a creed now, and had become an instinct
of which he was conscious in every waking hour.  Always, above and
around him, was this sense of guidance.

He had got the solitude he desired, and the long white distances
streaked with blue shadows, the unfeatured universe in which
nothing moved but winds and clouds, soothed and comforted him. . . .
But it was a kind of comfort which he had not expected.  He had
wanted to get away from men and their littleness, but he found that
the littleness was in nature.  All his life he had dreamed of
exploring the last undiscovered geographical secrets, and had
thought of the world as a field of mystery of which only the edge
had been lit up.  Now he realised that the globe had suddenly gone
small, and that man had put his impress upon the extremest wilds.
The forgotten khanates of central Asia were full of communist
squabbles.  The holy cities of Arabia had been bases and objectives
in the war.  Epidemics, germinated in the squalor of Europe, had
destroyed whole tribes of savages in Africa.  He remembered
conversations he had heard that summer in England, when untrodden
equatorial forests had been thought of only as reservoirs of wood
alcohol, and plans were preparing for making a road by air to every
corner of the inaccessible.  The world had shrunk, but humanity was
extended--that was the moral that he drew from his reflections.
Many things had gone, but the spirit of man had enlarged its
borders.  The problem of the future was the proper ordering of that
spirit.



As they moved north from the head of Danmarks Fjord over the snow-
cap of Erichsens Land, there was one human spirit that troubled
him.  Every day Nelles became more difficult.  He was a big fellow,
and with his heavy clothes and matted hair and beard and red-rimmed
eyes he looked like a bear wakened out of its winter sleep.  He had
always been silent and uncompanionable, though a magnificent
worker, but since Myburg's death he had taken to talking--wild
incoherent talk in a voice that rose often into a scream.

He wanted to turn back.  They had lost time and would for certain
be caught by winter.  Falconet was dead--must be dead long ago--and
what advantage was there in finding a corpse?  His passion made him
eloquent, and he would draw terrible pictures of an ice-cave at
Gundbjorns Fjord, and two dead men with staring eyes awaiting them.
"I will not go!" he cried.  "I will not meet the dead.  For the
love of God let us turn now, or we shall be wrapped in the same
winding-sheet."

Adam reasoned with him patiently, but the madness grew with every
hour.  He became slovenly, and one night left the dogs unfed, with
the consequence that next day two were sick.  He would eat little
himself, and his blackening lips showed signs of scurvy.  Adam
decided that this state of affairs could not go on, and that it
would be better to send him home with one sledge.  He had no doubt
where his own duty lay.  Even if Falconet was dead he must reach
him and make certain of his fate.  He might be alive and crippled
or ill; in that case the only hope was to winter with him and nurse
him.  If provisions ran short he would get him down to the nearest
depot on Independence Fjord, the farthest north of those which the
schooner parties had established.  Adam, with his blistered flaking
skin and bleared eyes, would not have seemed to an unskilled
observer a man in the best physical condition, but he knew that his
body had never been harder, and he believed that he had strength
enough and to spare for his purpose.

He gave Nelles one final trial.  Down perilous icy shelves they
descended to the shore of Independence Fjord, and, travelling half
a day to the east, found without trouble the beacon which marked
the ultimate food depot.  The cache was a large one and in good
order, and they strengthened with boulders its defences against
inquisitive bears.  A fresh snowfall had covered all but the top of
the dwarf Arctic willows and the heather, but there was at least a
hint of vegetation, the first they had seen for many weeks.  They
went into camp, and since the place had a reputation for game they
went hunting.  A seal was killed which gave the dogs fresh food,
and, though each of the men had a touch of snow-blindness which
made stalking difficult, they managed to get a young musk-ox and a
brace and a half of ptarmigan.  That night they had a feast of fat
things.

But the meal did not change Nelles's purpose, though it seemed to
give him a better balance.  The sight of something other than snow
and ice and the taste of fresh meat had increased his determination
to go back.  He began by arguing reasonably.  This, he said, was
the last chance, and there was just time, if God willed, to reach
the ship before the winter gales.  They would go down the coast and
get supplies from the chain of depots.  He understood sledging on
shore ice better than on the ice-cap, and he had no fear for the
journey.  Otherwise only death awaited them--death beside a dead
man, if indeed they ever found Falconet's corpse.  When his
arguments did not prevail his voice grew wild and shrill, he
gesticulated, implored and wept.  Adam came to a decision.

"I am going on," he said, "for I have a charge laid on me.  You are
different.  If I find Falconet you will only be another mouth to
feed, and if I fail you will be another victim.  I order you to go
back.  You have a map with the depots marked, and you already know
something of the coast route.  I put you on your honour to take no
more food than you need from the caches, for Falconet and I must
depend on them on our way south.  If the ship has gone when you
reach Shannon Island you can winter comfortably in the huts.  If
she is still there, you will tell Captain Tonning to come back as
soon as the seas are open and to send his sloop to scout up the
coast.  Tell him I will have Falconet home by next summer."

That night Adam heard Nelles babbling in his sleep.  Next morning
he set off with four dogs and one of the sledges for Cap Rigsdagen,
and did not once look back.  He was whistling as far as his cracked
lips allowed him.



Beyond Independence Fjord Adam entered a fantastic world.  The
shadow of the coming night was beginning to droop over it, but it
had a queer sunset opalescence, so that often it was hard to
believe that there was substance behind the dissolving shapes of
cloud and rock and snow.  For the first days there was little wind,
the four dogs travelled well, and Adam had peace to consider his
plans.  He had enough food and petroleum to last him till the
spring, but not enough for more than one.  Falconet and his
companion had taken ample stores with them for the time they
expected to be absent, but not enough for a winter.  There was no
chance now of getting back to the ship before it was forced to
escape from the grip of the ice; so, if he found Falconet and
supplies were short, there would be nothing for it but to make for
the nearest depot--Independence Fjord--and work their way from
cache to cache down the coast.  Even in winter such short journeys
would be feasible.  He must find Falconet, alive or dead, for he
could not have missed him on the road.  He had never met him, but
he had heard much of his furious energy and resolution.  That was
not the sort of man to be easily beaten by difficulties.  Adam was
fairly certain of his course, and had taken observations as
regularly as a deep-sea skipper.  In four days--a week at the most--
he should be across the low ice-cap of Peary Land and looking down
on the ultimate Polar Sea.

But suddenly the weather worsened.  A gale blew from the north
while he was among a chain of nunataks glazed into black ice, where
the going was hard.  One evening he saw a great white wall moving
towards him, which was the snow blown into a solid screen by the
wind.  He and his dogs were almost smothered; in the teeth of it
movement was impossible, and it was late before the tent could be
pitched and the stove got going.  For the first time he really felt
the Arctic cold, since that night the heat of his body seemed
powerless to conquer the chill of his soaked clothes.  As he peered
through the blizzard he began to share Nelles's forebodings of what
might lie beyond it.

The storm died down, and there fell a strange calm; the air was
still and not too cold, but even at midday there was a sense of
twilight.  At last one afternoon he found himself looking down on a
long sword-cut which cleft the ice-cap, and beyond it to a
wilderness of opal and pearl, and he knew that he had reached his
goal.  But the gale had blown the sun out of the sky.  The whole
heavens were a pale gold, and pinnacles of the land ice were tipped
and flushed with fire.  Even as he gazed a grey shadow seemed to
creep slowly from the horizon and one by one put out the fairy
lights.  Adam realised that he was watching the Polar night emerge
from the Polar Sea, and that for a third of the year the world
would be sunless.

He guided the dogs without difficulty down a cleft of the ice-cap
to the edge of the fjord.  There he saw what he expected.  On a
mound of snow a discoloured American flag hung limply from a post.
There was something beside it which startled him--a little cross of
wood, with an inscription burned on it--M. P., July 27th, 1919.  He
remembered that Falconet's companion had been called Magnus
Paulsen.

His first thought was that he had arrived too late.  Falconet was
gone, after burying his dead comrade under his country's flag. . . .
Then a little to the left under the lee of a cliff he saw
something which was not a hummock of snow.  A boulder, riven from
the precipice by some winter storm, made a small cave over which a
kind of roof had been stretched.  Inside there was darkness, and
Adam stumbled over something which he recognised as a food box.  He
struck a light, and saw a rough bed on which lay the figure of a
man.  He thought he was dead, till his breathing told him that he
was asleep.


III


Adam found a lantern and lit up the interior of the cleft.  It made
a lop-sided hut, but, except at the mouth, where blocks of snow had
been piled to lessen the aperture, the floor was dry.  The light
woke the sleeper, who started up as if to reach for a weapon, and
then dropped feebly back.  Adam saw a face as thin and beaky as a
crow's, with pallid skin showing between a black, tangled mane of
hair.

"Who the devil are you?"  The words came out in slow gasps.

"I was sent to find you.  Melfort's my name--an Englishman.  You're
Falconet, aren't you?"

"What is left of him," was the answer.  "You can't move me. . . .
I think my back is broken. . . .  Paulsen is dead--his head was
smashed to pulp by an accursed ice-fall.  The dogs too--I had to
shoot the last to put him out of pain.  I'm for it all right. . . .
But I'm glad to see you, whoever you are. . . .  I'd like company
when I peg out."

"You're not going to peg out.  Let me have a look at you before I
put things straight."

Slowly and painfully layers of filthy clothing were stripped off,
till Falconet's body was revealed.  His back and shoulders were a
mass of bruises and unhealed scars, and his left arm was broken and
unset.  He was in the last stage of emaciation.  Adam had enough
medical knowledge to decide that there was no damage to the spine,
but that lacerated muscles had induced a partial paralysis of one
side.  The man was worn to a shadow by pain, malnutrition and
poisoned blood.

Bit by bit Falconet's story came out.  He and Paulsen had reached
Gundbjorns Fjord a month later than they had planned, owing to
storms on the ice-cap.  They had made camp in the cleft, and,
believing that they had still ample time to rejoin the ship by the
coast route, had set out to explore the coast to the west.  Their
dogs had been reduced to six, but, since the coast depots would
enable them to travel light, this loss did not trouble them.  They
had pushed forty miles or so along the shore and had discovered and
surveyed a new fjord, living largely off the ptarmigan and duck
which they shot.  On their return, when they were within a mile of
their camp, they passed under a great nose of ice, which had been
loosened by a spell of warm weather.  It fell on them, killing
Paulsen, killing or maiming all the dogs, and leaving Falconet
himself unconscious under a corner of the avalanche.  He had come
to his senses, extricated Paulsen's body, and somehow dragged it
and himself back to camp.

All this had happened nine weeks earlier.  Since then he had been
in constant pain, and had had much ado to get himself the means of
life, for every movement had become agony.  He was almost too weak
to cook meals, and had subsisted largely on chocolate and meat
lozenges.  But indeed food mattered little to him, for the torture
of his body forced him to have recourse to opiates from the
medicine box, and thirst vexed him more than hunger.  He had made
up his mind for death, and had been growing so lightheaded that he
was scarcely conscious of his surroundings.  Adam's arrival had
startled him into sanity, but presently he fancied that it was
Paulsen he saw, and his mind wavered miserably between the living
and the dead.

Adam boiled water on the stove and washed the foul body.  He set
the broken arm in splints, and dressed such of the wounds as had
become sores.  He forced him to drink a bowl of hot soup, found him
a change of shirt, and did his best to make him a softer bed.
Falconet was asleep before he had finished these ministrations.  It
was rough nursing, but the best he could give.  As he watched the
figure in its restless sleep, looking for all the world like some
peasant victim of a Russian famine, he could not refrain from
smiling, for he remembered that this was Jim Falconet, who had once
captained a famous polo team on their visit to England, and was
believed to be the third or fourth richest man in the world.

Then he set about making an inventory.  There was enough dog-feed
to last the winter, and Falconet's stores and his own ought to
carry the two of them through.  The risk lay in running short of
petroleum, which would have to be strictly rationed.  Clearly the
man could not be moved for weeks.  Adam believed that he had
suffered no serious mischief, and that with care his strong
physique would right itself. . . .  He tidied up the hut, which was
in a hideous mess, and found quarters for his dogs in an alcove
near the entrance.  Then out of some broken packing-cases he made a
fire, more for the comfort of his mind than of his body, and as he
watched its tiny glow struggling with the velvet dark he had a
moment of satisfaction.  He had carried out the first part of his
task.



Very soon Adam found that what had been his fancies on the ice-cap
had become grim truth.  For the wide Arctic world was narrowed for
him to a few stuffy cubic feet in a cranny of rock, and his problem
to a strife not with wild nature but with a human soul.

Falconet's body was the least part of the task.  The problem was to
avoid blood-poisoning, and Adam put all his wits to the job.  His
own case of medicines was well stocked, but Falconet's was in dire
disorder; but out of the two he got enough drugs on which to base a
simple regime.  Diet was the trouble, for to a sick man the coarse
satisfying Arctic food was ill suited.  Adam managed, before the
last daylight disappeared, to shoot some ptarmigan on the fringes
of the ice-cap, and to give the patient a few days of fresh
chicken-broth.  With careful dressing the sores began to mend, and
the swollen and displaced muscles after much bandaging came slowly
into order.  The arm, too, set well, and presently Falconet was
able to move more comfortably.  But acute attacks of neuritis
followed, and the flow of returning strength into the man's veins
seemed to be as painful as the running back of the blood to a
frozen limb.

Meantime the daylight ebbed, till at noon there was only a misty
grey twilight.  There was a spell of fine weather in November, when
the stars blazed so bright that they seemed to be set not in two
dimensions on a flat plane but hung solidly in receding avenues of
utter blackness.  The brightest time was night, when there was a
moon, and the cliffs and the fjord swam in frosty silver.  With
December came storms, which howled among the crags and blocked up
the entrance to the hut with forty-foot drifts.  The place became
as cold as a hyperborean hell, cold and yet airless.  There was no
means of making fire, and there was little light, for the
petroleum, if it was to last the winter, had to be jealously
conserved.  Already with the constant melting of snow and boiling
of water for Falconet's dressings it had run lower than Adam's
plans allowed.  He would have made an effort to get a further
supply from the cache at Independence Fjord if he had dared to
leave the sick man alone for a week.

By Christmas Falconet's body had mended, and he was able to walk to
the door in a lull of the weather and breathe fresh air.  But this
return of his physical powers seemed to be accompanied by a
disorientation of mind.  In his lonely vigil before Adam's arrival
he had brought himself to face death with calmness, but, having
been plucked from the grave, it appeared that he could not
recover his bearings.  He was morose and peevish, and liable to
uncontrollable rages.  The spirit of a grown man had been exchanged
for the temper of a suspicious child.  He had lost the power of
self-restraint, and there was no companionship to be got out of
him.  He babbled to himself, his voice acquired a high querulous
pitch, and he became the prey of childish nightmares.  For no
apparent cause he would lie shivering and moaning, and when Adam
tried to soothe him he screamed like an animal. . . .  On Christmas
night a little extra feast was prepared, a fire was made of empty
boxes, and two cigars were added to the rations.  But the festival
was a tragic failure, for the cigar made Falconet sick, and, when
Adam tried to cheer him with talk about the world they had left, he
cursed and wept and went sulking to his sleeping-bag.  For the
better part of a week his wits seemed to leave him altogether, and
Adam had to watch his every movement lest he should cut his throat.

The two men in the hut came to loathe each other.  Adam confessed
it to himself with shame.  His tending of the other's body in all
its noisomeness had given him a horror of it.  As the cold
increased it was necessary for warmth that they should creep close
together, and he shrank with a kind of nausea from such contacts.
Falconet's growing witlessness added to the repulsion, for the
gaunt hairy creature seemed to have shed all that made humanity
tolerable.  Days and nights were alike dark, for they could afford
little light.  They rarely spoke to each other, and never
conversed.  They sat or lay in their sleeping-bags in a dreadful
frozen monotony of dislike.  Adam's one relaxation was to tend the
dogs.  He would bury his head in their fur, for the smell of it
brought back to him a happier world.  To feed them and exercise
them seemed his one link with sanity.  The dark world out-of-doors
was a less savage place than the squalid hut.

He realised that he was facing the severest test of his life, for
he had himself to conquer.  Here at the back end of creation he was
bound to a lunatic, and all the terrors and perils of the Polar
night were narrowed to the relation between two human souls.  In
his loneliness during the war he had had at any rate the free use
of his mind, but now under the strain he felt his mind warping.  He
had to fight down crude and petty things which he thought he had
long since put behind him--above all he had to conquer the sane
man's horror of the insane, the clean man's repulsion from the
foul.  This was a fiercer trial than he had envisaged when he set
out from England.  He had desired space and solitude and he had
found them; he had wanted to inure his body to extreme fatigue and
he had done it; but he had not reckoned upon this spiritual
conflict in a kennel darker than a city slum. . . .  But he must go
through with the job he had undertaken.  Falconet had been a great
man and was worth saving, and the task could not be left half-
finished.

Adam nerved himself for a supreme effort.  Through all his
outbreaks and spasms he nursed Falconet with patient tenderness.
He soothed him and coaxed him and in the end he quieted him.  By
the beginning of February Falconet's increased bodily well-being
reacted on his mind.  Now and then he talked rationally.  He began
to fuss about Paulsen's grave, which, he feared, might be exposed
when summer thinned the snow.  Once or twice he stammered a few
words of gratitude.



One February day, while Adam was feeding the dogs, he saw in the
south a strange glow.  For a moment he was puzzled and thought of
some new kind of aurora borealis; then an explanation flashed on
him, and he called excitedly to Falconet to come out.  The two men
watched the glow deepen, till their eyes, so long accustomed to
darkness, ached at the sight.  Then suddenly one of the ice peaks
above the fjord flushed into deep rose, and the glow from the south
seemed to run across the frozen ocean to meet them.  A ray, an
authentic ray of sunlight, made a path in it, and over the edge of
the world appeared a semicircle of blood-red.  The dogs in the hut
felt its advent, for they set up a wild barking.  The sun had come
back to the world.

Adam and Falconet moved down towards the shore, bathed in the cold
primeval radiance.  For the first time for months they saw their
shadows, ghostly indeterminate things running far behind them into
the north.  Then they heard a croak overhead, and looked up to see
a raven.  He had been flying west to the icecap, but the sight of
the sun made him change his course, and with a steady beat of wings
he flew south to welcome it.

Falconet grinned, and his face was that of a sane man.

"We've got to follow that old bird," he said.  "It knows what's
good for it."


IV


They started for home on the first day of March, when the allowance
of daylight was still scanty.  The easier road to Independence
Fjord was by the shore ice, but it would have been three times as
long, so, since the petroleum supply was very low, Adam decided to
return as he had come, by the ice-cap.  The advent of spring had
worked a miracle with Falconet.  His great bodily strength came
back in waves, the hollows in his cheeks filled out, his voice lost
its ugly pitch, and he became at moments almost jolly.  Adam shut
away the memory of the dark days of hatred, and set himself to
rediscover his companion.  One thing he realised with alarm.  The
winter's strain had told on his own health.  He looked at food with
distaste, and he began to suffer from blinding headaches.

The ice-cap greeted them with violent gales, and once again among
the nunataks they had to lie up for days, desperately cold, for
they had only a minimum of petroleum to carry them to Independence
Fjord.  The dogs' pads had become soft during the winter, and every
one went lame and left blood in its tracks.  After the gales came a
clammy fog, through which the sun's rays never penetrated.  It was
hard travelling for both men, for their reindeer-skin kamiks had
been worn into holes, and there was no fresh sedge-grass with which
to stuff them.  The novel light induced snow-blindness in both, and
they had to fumble along with their eyes partially bandaged.  Adam
felt his strength steadily ebbing.  Tasks which on the outward
journey he would have made light of were now beyond his power.  His
gums were swelling, and the skin all over his body was mysteriously
peeling off in strips.  Worst of all he suffered from distressing
fits of light-headedness, during which every ice-fall became an
Alpine peak and the nunataks danced like dervishes around him.

When they reached the depot at Independence Fjord and could get
warmth and light again, Falconet insisted that they should keep
camp for two days to give Adam a chance to recover.  The rest cured
his snow-blindness, and, since Falconet managed to shoot a bear, he
had a diet of beef-tea which put a little vigour into his bones.
Also the signs of the returning spring seemed to unlock his past
again.  There were gulls about--Sabine's gull and the ivory gull--
and skuas and king-eiders, and the sight brought back Eilean Bn.
In baking days in Anatolia he had thought most pleasantly of that
island as wreathed in mist or scourged by spring hail, but now he
pictured it as green and flowery, sleeping in the blue of summer
afternoons.  In this world of ice and rock he drew warmth from the
vision of its graciousness.

The winter rles were reversed, and Falconet took charge.  There
was a fierce kindliness in the man, and, as they lay at night in
the little tent, he talked--talked well, with an obvious purpose of
cheering his companion.  He asked many questions about Adam's past,
and, since two men in such a position have no need of reticence, he
heard the full truth.

"I was a soldier," Adam told him.  "Then I had to leave the army,
for I went to prison."

"So!"  Falconet whistled.  "I wonder whom you were shielding.  Skip
that bit, sonny, and get on to the war.  What front were you on--
the Western, Palestine, Mespot?"

"None.  I wasn't a combatant--except for a few months when I wore
German uniform with the Turks.  For nearly four years I was behind
the enemy lines."

Falconet's eager questions bit by bit drew out the story.  Adam
told it candidly, for he had no self-consciousness about it--he saw
small credit in the course which had been the only one open to a
man in his position.  But Falconet was loud in his exclamations.

"Say," he asked.  "What did your Government give you for your four
years in hell?"

"I was restored to my regimental rank."

"Yes.  That's the sort of thing you would want. . . .  Great God,
man, I never heard a yarn like yours.  You must have a nerve like a
six-inch cable.  What's to be done with you?  You're not going to
throw all that training away?"

"Not if I can help it.  I came out here to round it off."

Falconet pondered.  "I see the sense in that.  You wanted to get
away from mankind for a bit . . . and you struck the most ill-
conditioned specimen on the American continent.  You saved that
specimen's life, too.  But for you I should have been a corpse in
that bloody hut. . . .  Now you're going to drink some soup and get
off to sleep again."

They moved on in a flush of fine weather, and crossed the mouth of
Danmarks Fjord on snow which was beginning to break up into
channels and rivulets.  The sun shone and they journeyed in a world
of gleaming crystal, out of which would rise towards evening
wonderful mirages of hills and cities.  Close to the land the ice
was smooth and bare, and it was possible to hoist a sail and travel
fast.  But the first day out Adam realised that the days of rest
had not cured his malady.  So far he had had no fever, but now his
temperature rose high, and he became so weak and giddy that he
could not keep up with the sledge, even when holding on to the
uprights.  There was nothing for it but that he should become a
passenger, which was possible, since they travelled light, having
the depots to count on for supplies.  He wandered off into a mad
world, and one day he was so delirious that he had to be tied on to
keep him from rolling off in his wild starts.  To make things worse
they struck a bad patch of shore ice, seamed with water lanes and
acres of deep slushy snow.

Of these days Adam had no clear remembrance.  He seemed to be
perpetually sinking into gulfs and screaming warnings . . . and
then he would know nothing till he saw Falconet's anxious face and
felt hot soup being fed to him in spoonfuls.  Nelles had carried
out his orders, and had taken little from each depot, so there was
no lack of petroleum and man's food and dogs' food.  Once they made
camp on a shore where the spring had begun to melt the snow, and
mosses were showing, and willow scrub and greening grass.  Here
Falconet was lucky enough to shoot a bear, and, following some wild
lore of his boyhood, he stripped Adam and wrapped him in the
reeking pelt.

The fever may have run its natural course, or the bearskin may have
had some therapeutic power, for from that night Adam began to mend.
His temperature fell, the giddy world became stable, his limbs
moved again according to his will.  Soon he could leave the sledge
and stagger beside it, and he could help to set up the tent in the
evening.  Falconet would have none of his aid till he was satisfied
that he was a whole man once more.

"There's one thing you've got to learn," he said fiercely, "and
that's to TAKE.  So far you've only known how to GIVE.  But if a
fellow isn't ready to take from a friend when he's in need, then
his giving is only a darned insult and an infernal bit of
patronage.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mister Melfort."



Suddenly something went wrong with the depots.  They came to one
which looked as if it had been pulled about by wild beasts.  The
boxes were stove in and their contents scattered and spoiled, and
there was not a drop of petroleum in the cans.  They put the
mischief down to a bear, and, since the stage from the last depot
had been over difficult ice, it did not seem worth while to go back
and collect the supplies which still remained there.  They decided
to push on to the next cache.

But the next cache, reached after a desperate toil over shore ice
from which the snow was fast melting, proved no better.  Nelles
seemed to have made a fire and burned up everything, for among the
ashes they found only a crumpled petroleum tin and some twisted
iron fragments which had once been the hoops of a barrel.

They held a council, for the position was grave.  Nelles had broken
faith--or he had lost his wits--or someone or something coming
after him had rifled the depots.  They had with them food at the
utmost for seven days and petroleum for a little longer.  They
could not go back, for though they had left a fair quantity of
stores at the first caches there was not enough to enable them to
reach Shannon Island.  On they must go in the hope that in the next
depot, or the next, there would be supplies, or that they might
meet a search-party from the ship, which by this time must have
reached the Greenland coast.  They slept ill that night and next
morning reduced their rations to a pound a day.  There were no
biscuits left--only pemmican, some tinned vegetables and a little
tea.

At the next depot they found the same devastation, and they found
also the clue to it.  Two of Nelles's dogs lay dead with split
skulls, their bones picked clean by the ravens.  The man had gone
mad--berserk mad--and had raged down the coast rioting in
destruction.  Adam remembered his lowering brows and sullen
brooding eyes.

Every day the going became harder.  From the icecap above the shore
cliffs waterfalls were thundering, and the beaches were chains of
little torrents.  The snow was melting fast from the sea ice, and
soon that ice would begin to break up, and they would be forced to
keep to the terrible moraines of the land.  They were now on half a
pound of food a day and the dogs had become miserable bags of skin
and bone.  Presently one died, and his companion lost his senses
and ran round in circles till they were forced to shoot him.  The
sledge was light enough, but with only two dogs they made slow
going among the slush and the water-logged ice.  Once the sledge
toppled into a voe, and Falconet's diaries were only rescued by a
miracle.  Each depot told the same tragic tale of blackened
desolation, except that in one they found an undamaged tin of
cocoa.

Presently they were forced to kill the remaining two dogs, and
relinquish the sledge.  This meant that each had to carry a load,
and stumble painfully along the boulder-strewn shore.  Their one
hope now was a search-party from the ship, and that was only a
shadow.  Dog-flesh is not good for human beings, but it was
sufficient to keep life in them, and that and a little tea were all
they had.  They had petroleum to last for two days more.  In grim
silence they struggled on, savage with hunger, their feet so heavy
that to lift them at all was an effort.  They made short days with
long rests, and the nights in the open were bitter.  They would
rise from the tortures of cold and emptiness and take the road
without looking at each other, as if each feared what he might see
in his companion's eyes.

Once Falconet said:  "If we come out of this, we two are going to
keep together for the rest of our lives.  How do you reckon the
chances?  A million to one against?"

"Evens," said Adam.  "They're never worse than evens if you keep up
your heart."

That day Falconet shot a goose and, finding a patch of scrub and
heather on the edge of a small fjord, they made a fire and roasted
it.  The meat carried them on for two days, while they traversed a
much-encumbered beach under huge dripping cliffs where there was no
hope of game.  After that they had half a pound of pemmican and a
rib of dog to carry them to the next depot--their tea and petroleum
were finished.

Next morning Adam's bleared eyes studied the map.

"We shall make the depot before evening," he said.

"And leave our bones there," said Falconet.

That day their exhaustion reached the outside limit of what man can
endure.  The sharpness of the hunger-pangs had gone, but both men
were half-delirious.  They constantly fell, and Falconet twisted
his ankle so badly that they could only move at a snail's pace.
Neither spoke a word, and Adam had to concentrate all his vanishing
faculties to keep in touch with solid earth.  Sometimes he thought
that he was walking on clouds, till he found himself lying among
the stones with blood oozing from his forehead.  He took Falconet's
pack on his own shoulders, and had to give Falconet a hand over the
icy streams.  "I will not go mad," he told himself, and he bent his
mind to the road, fixing a point ahead, and wagering with himself
about the number of steps he would take to reach it.  According to
the map a depot lay beyond a rocky cape which bounded the long
beach over which they were floundering.

They turned the cape in the late afternoon and looked on a little
bay with a beacon on a knoll.  A wild hope rose in Adam's heart.
Surely this place was still intact--the demented Nelles must have
broken down before he reached it.  Hope put strength into his legs,
the more as he found his feet suddenly on soft herbage.

But Nelles had reached it.  There was something dark and crumpled
lying half-buried by a patch of old snow.  He had reached it and
died beside it, for the stones had not been moved from the cache's
mouth.  Adam's feeble hands uncovered the food box, which was
intact.  "We have won on the post," he whispered to Falconet, for
his tongue had swollen with starvation.  "Lie flat on your back
till I get a fire going.  We touch nothing but soup to-night, but
tomorrow we shall breakfast in style."

They made a mighty bonfire and slept beside it for twelve hours.
Next day Falconet nursed his ankle, and dozed in the sun, and in
the evening two men, plucked from the jaws of death, feasted nobly,
since the rest of the depots were safe and there was no need to
hoard.  Falconet had come out of his stupor, and sat staring into
the green dusk, which was all the night at that season.

"We're two mighty small atoms," he said, "to have beaten old man
Odin and his bunch.  And the dice weren't kind to us.  My God, I've
taken some risks in my day, but nothing like this. . . .  Do you
know, I asked you a week back what the chances were, and you said
'Evens.'  I expect you were a bit loony at the time--we both were."

"No, I meant it," said Adam.  "It's the strength of the human
spirit that matters.  Man can face up to anything the universe can
pit against him if his nerve doesn't crack.  Our trouble was not
snow and cold and famine but the human part.  Something gave in
Nelles's brain, and he played the deuce with a perfectly sound
scheme.  The hell of that winter hut of ours was not the cold
and the dark but the boredom--the way you and I got across each
other. . . .  We're going back to a badly broken world, and the
problem is to find the men big enough to mend it.  Our business
is to discover genius and put quality into humanity."

"That's the job you've been training for?"

"I think so."

"Well, you can count me in to my last dime," said Falconet.



A week later the two men met the party from the ship which had been
sent out to find them.



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--IV


At Reykjavik in Iceland Adam and Falconet were met by the latter's
yacht.  Falconet was, among other things, a newspaper proprietor on
a large scale, and he was able to control the curiosity of the
press.  The message which he sent off from Reykjavik merely
announced his safe return, accompanied by his companion Mr Melfort,
after wintering in North Greenland, adding that the scientific
results of the expedition would in due course be given to the
world.  This was published copiously in the American press, and to
a lesser degree in the English papers, many of which left out the
name of Falconet's companion.  Not more than half a dozen people
realised that Adam was back from the wilds.

The yacht touched at Liverpool, where Falconet turned a flinty face
to enquiring journalists.  There Adam left it, and, dressed in a
suit of Falconet's which did not fit him, returned to the rooms in
the Temple which he had taken when he came out of prison, and had
retained ever since.  His first business was to provide himself
with clothes and other necessaries.  Then he engaged a servant,
a man called Crabb, who had once been his footman and had lost
his left arm in the war; he had found on his arrival a letter
from Crabb asking for employment, and had some difficulty in
disinterring him from a Rotherhithe slum.  After that he set
himself down for two long days to read the weekly papers for the
past year.  Then, having got his bearings, he rang up Christopher
Stannix, who, he gathered from his reading, had become lately a
prominent figure in the national life and was now a member of the
Government.

Stannix came to the Temple that evening during a slack interval in
the House.  To Adam's eyes he seemed to have put on flesh, and his
face had acquired that slightly frozen composure which is a
necessary protection for those who are much in the limelight.  What
he thought of Adam may be judged by his behaviour.  He dragged him
to the window and looked at him from all sides, and then dropped
into a chair and laughed.

"Man, you have come back ten years younger--more--twenty years.
You don't look twenty-five.  I've seen Falconet, who told me
something.  Not much, for he said you didn't want it talked about--
but I gather that the two of you went through a rather special
hell.  It has shaken Falconet, but you seem to have thriven on
it. . . .  But for God's sake, get a new tailor. . . .  What's your
next step?  Whom do you want to meet?  I'm rather tied up just now,
but I'm entirely at your service. . . .  Oh, Adam, old fellow, I'm
glad to see you.  You're like somebody recovered from the dead."

"I want to meet Scrope, if he's alive.  I told you about him--the
old fellow in Northamptonshire that Ritson sent me to see in
September '14."

"That's a queer thing, for he wants to meet YOU.  I had a letter
from him this morning.  He knows that you're home, as he knows most
things.  I'll get in touch with him at once."

Stannix telephoned next morning that Scrope was coming to town, and
desired Adam to dine with him three days thence.  That afternoon
there arrived an emissary from Scrope in the shape of a tall young
man with perfect clothes and a pleasant vacant face.  He introduced
himself as Captain Frederick Shaston, late of the 9th Lancers, and
now an idle sojourner in the metropolis.

"Mr Scrope sent me to be kind to you, sir," he said with a very
boyish grin.  "I gather you've been having a tough time, and he
thought you ought to frisk a bit, so I've come to show you
round. . . .  It's a jolly morning, and I've got my car here.
What about a run down to the country?  You'd like to see England
again at her best."

So Adam spent a day of clear sunshine on the roads of the southern
midlands.  They climbed the Chilterns, where the beeches were in
their young green livery, and ran across the Aylesbury vale among
blossoming hawthorns and through woods which were a mist of blue.
High up on Cotswold they had the kingdoms of the earth beneath
them, and from the Severn scarp looked over to the dim hills of
Wales.  Shaston would stop at some view-point, and make some
enthusiastic comment, but Adam noted that the banality of his
speech was at variance with the cool appraising eyes which he
turned on him.  In the bright afternoon they slipped slowly down
the scented valley-roads of Thames.  Adam said little, but after a
year of barrens and icy seas the ancient habitable land was an
intoxication.

That evening Shaston took him to dine at a restaurant with a party
of young men, who treated him at first with nervous respect.  But,
though he was not disposed to talk of himself and had still the
slow formal speech of one who had not spoken English much for
years, his friendliness presently dispelled their shyness, and the
evening ended merrily with a visit to a boxing match and a supper
of broiled bones and beer.  Next day Shaston took him to Roehampton
to watch polo, where he, who had not spoken to a woman for years,
was compelled to mingle with a group of laughing girls.  They went
to a play that night with a party, and Adam did not fall asleep.

"Please don't thank me," said Shaston when they parted.  "I've had
the time of my life.  I can't tell you what a privilege it is to
show you round.  I hope you'll tell Mr Scrope that I didn't bore
you too much."

"How do you come to know Mr Scrope so well?" Adam asked.

"I don't know him well," was the surprising answer.  "No one does.
But he knows all about me, and about everybody else and everything.
He's about the largest size of man we've got, don't you think?"



Adam rubbed his eyes at the sight of Scrope in the little
restaurant in Jermyn Street.  He had been a few minutes late, and
found his host already seated at a table in a quiet corner.  When
he had last seen him six years before he had thought him very frail
and old, a valetudinarian nearer eighty than seventy, shivering
under his plaid on a mild autumn day.  The man now before him
looked a hale fellow not beyond the sixties, and his Mongolian
countenance was ruddy instead of ivory-white.  Two things only
remained unchanged, his voice husky from cigarette-smoking, and his
dreamy heavy-lidded eyes.

Scrope seemed to be no longer a vegetarian, for instead of the mess
of eggs and vegetables with which he had once regaled Adam, he had
now ordered a well-considered normal meal.  He seemed to divine his
guest's surprise.

"I have come out into the world again.  I thought I had found
sanctuary, but it was ordained otherwise; and if I am to be of use
in the world I must conform--ever so little.  So must you, my
friend.  You liked Shaston?"

"Yes.  You sent him to find out if I had become a fossil.  What did
he report?"

Scrope laughed.

"Shaston is what you call a flat-catcher.  He looks innocent, and
sometimes foolish, but he is very, very acute.  He reported that
you had not lost touch with common life.  He described you as
'bonhomous,' which is old-fashioned slang, for he is sometimes old-
fashioned.  That has laid my fears, but I confess that it has also
surprised me.  I have acquainted myself with your doings for the
past six years, and they have been the kind to drive a man back
inside himself, and make him an alien from the ordinary tastes of
mankind.  By all the rules you should have become a prig, Mr
Melfort, and somewhat inhuman.  Shaston reports otherwise.  He says
that you can still feel the elation of a May morning, that you can
laugh with simple people at obvious things, and even condescend a
little to play the fool.  That means that there is something about
you that I do not yet know.  What is it?  You have falsified rules
which cannot be falsified.  I expected to find you stiff and
angular and insensitive, and I thought that it would be my first
business to crack your shell.  But lo and behold! there is no shell
to crack.  What has kept you mellow?"

"I will tell you," said Adam.  With this man, as with Meyer, the
Belgian Jew who had called himself Macandrew, he could have no
secrets.  He told him the story of Eilean Bn.

Scrope listened with his eyes downcast, and his fingers playing
tunes on the table-cloth.  When Adam stopped his face was
marvellously wrinkled by a smile, so that he looked like the good
mandarin from a willow-pattern plate.

"That is right.  You have had a fountain in the desert.  That means
that you are hard-trained, but not, as I had feared, over-trained.
Eilean Bn!  I think I too could be happy with dreams of such a
place.  Our race must turn its eyes west when it looks for Mecca."

Till the meal was over Scrope talked of what had been going on in
the world since Adam went behind the northern ice.  He talk
brilliantly, with hoarse chuckles and much gesticulation of
delicate hands, and again the many-wrinkled smile.  But when coffee
had been served and he had presented Adam with a cigar from a case
like a sarcophagus, he fell suddenly silent.  There was a party
dining a little way off, with a man in it who seemed to claim his
attention.

"You know him?" he asked.

Adam saw a short, squarely-built young man with a big head of dark
hair, a sallow face with a lofty brow and high cheek-bones, and a
strong, slightly protuberant chin.  He was talking volubly, and
kept his chin thrust forward so that there was something almost
simian in his air.  He looked like an immensely intelligent ape,
poised and ready to bound upon an enemy.  But his face was
pleasant, for he had a quick smile, and everything about him from
the crouched shoulders to the glowing eyes spoke of an intense
vitality.

"No. . . .  Wait a moment.  I think . . . Yes, I have seen him
before.  A year ago I heard him read a paper at a club--I've
forgotten its name.  Creevey, isn't he?  Some kind of university
swell?"

"Creevey--Warren Creevey," said Scrope.  "A very remarkable man.
Take a good look at him, for you will see him again.  I've a notion
that you will have a deal to do with him before you die."

Adam obeyed.

"I don't like him," he said.

Scrope laughed.

"You have had to learn in the last five years to judge men rapidly
and to go mainly by their faces.  I don't quarrel with your
verdict.  You have learned also to judge ability by the same test.
How do you place Mr Warren Creevey?"

"I should try to avoid antagonising him.  If he were my enemy I
should cross to the other side of the road."

"So!  Well, you will not meet him just yet, for he swims in a
different pool.  He is very clever and is making a great deal of
money, and he also lives the life of pleasure.  But some day . . ."

Scrope kept his eyes fixed on the party for a second longer, and
then swung round and looked Adam in the face.

"I have seen Falconet.  Have you found your work yet?"

"I know what the world needs."

"Come, that is something.  That's more than the world itself knows.
What is it?"

"Quality."

"By which you mean leaders?"

Adam nodded.

"Are you going to take on the job yourself?"

"No.  I can never be in the firing-line.  I belong to the
underworld.  But I can help to find the men we want, and perhaps
give them confidence."

"I see.  A midwife to genius."

There was a big mirror opposite where the two men sat, and, as it
chanced, both were gazing at it and saw their faces reflected.
Adam had not much interest in his own looks, but as he gazed and
saw Scrope's ruddy Mongolian countenance beside him, and a little
way off half the profile of Creevey, he could not but be aware that
he looked different from other people in England.  Scrope saw the
distinction in sharper contrast.  He saw a face, irregular and not
specially handsome, in which supreme concentration had brought all
the parts into unity, and to which cool nerves and peace of spirit
had given the bloom of a boy.  He laid his hand on Adam's shoulder.

"You accept that?  And yet you are also disappointed?  Confess that
you are disappointed."

"I have no cause to be disappointed."

"Which means that you are.  You must be.  You have fined down your
body till it is like that of a blood-horse--you have every muscle
and nerve in proper control--you have taught yourself to endure in
silence like a fakir--you have a brain which is a noble machine and
which is wholly at your command--and you have forgotten the meaning
of fear.  Such a man as you was meant to ride beside Raymond into
Jerusalem.  As it is, you propose to be bottle-holder to something
called genius, which you will probably have to dig out of the mud."

"I might have wished for something different," was Adam's reply,
"but I must take what is sent me."

The old hand patted his shoulder.

"You are wiser than Naaman the Syrian," said Scrope.  "I was afraid
that I should have to say to you like Naaman's servant 'My lord,
had the prophet commanded thee some great thing'--but I find that
you have renounced the great thing."

"Not the great thing.  But we cannot expect the spectacular thing,
we who work in the shadows."

"I stand corrected."  Scrope withdrew his hand from his companion's
shoulder, and sat farther back in his chair from where he could see
Adam's face clearly in the glow of a neighbouring lamp.

"Yes," he said.  "You are a formidable fellow, Melfort.  You are
the rational fanatic--the practical mystic--the unselfish
careerist--any blend of contradictories you please. . . .  You
should have been a preacher.  You might have been a second John
Wesley, riding on his old white horse throughout England preparing
the day of the Lord."

"I have no gospel to preach.  My business is to find the man who
has."

"Oh yes, I know.  I agree. . . .  All the same, you are a leader,
though you may pretend only to follow.  For before you follow you
will have to create your leader."

Scrope flung himself back in his chair, and looked at Adam from
under wrinkled brows.

"You say you have no gospel?  Man, you have the gospel which the
world needs to-day, and that is, how to get comfort.  What said old
Solomon?--'Behold the tears of such as were oppressed and they had
no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power,
but they had no comforter.' . . .  Do not be afraid, my son.  I may
not live to see it, but every atom of your training will be called
into play before you die.  You are right to stick to the shadows,
but I think that before the end you will be forced out into the
sunlight.  You may yet enter Jerusalem by the side of Raymond."

The party at the next table were leaving.  Mr Warren Creevey was
putting a cloak about a pretty woman's shoulders, and his rich
voice, thick as if it came through layers of chalk, was elevated in
some species of banter.

Without raising his chin from his breast Scrope nodded in his
direction.

"But I think that first you will have left that paynim skewered on
your lance."



Falconet was raging about London.  A year's seclusion from the
world seemed to have released a thousand steel springs in his body
and mind.  He lectured to the Royal Geographical Society on his
discoveries in North Greenland, which were of some importance, but
he kept to his bargain, and so minimised the hardships of his
journey that he had no need to bring in Adam's name.  But what
filled his days and encroached on his nights was a series of
consultations with every type of man--financier, merchant,
journalist, politician--on the organisation which he meant to set
up in his own country.  It was characteristic of Falconet that in
an enterprise he began by seeking advice from all and sundry, and
ended by following strictly his own notions.

Adam's words at the end of the Greenland journey had sunk deep into
his mind.  The hope of a broken world was to find men big enough to
mend it.  Quality, human quality, was the crying need, and just as
the war had revealed surprising virtues in unlikely places, so this
quality must not be sought for only in the old grooves.  He gave a
dinner at a flat which he had taken in St James's Street, and to it
he summoned Stannix and Adam.

"I've seen your wise man," he told Stannix.  "Had two hours with
him on Monday and an hour yesterday.  He impressed me considerably,
but I couldn't quite place him.  Say, what's his record?  He looks
as if he had been a lot about the globe."

"It would be hard to say exactly," Stannix replied, "for Scrope has
always been something of a mystery man.  He began, I believe, as a
famous Oriental scholar and a professor at Cambridge.  Then he had
a call, and went out to India on his own account as some kind of
missionary.  He led a queer life, if all tales be true, on the
Sikkim frontier, and became our chief authority on Tibet--he
accompanied Younghusband's 1903 expedition.  After that he
disappeared for years, during which he is believed to have been
wandering about the world. . . .  No, I don't think he has written
anything since his Cambridge days.  He amasses knowledge, but he
gives it out sparingly. . . .  When he returned to England he
somehow or other got in touch with the Government, and the War
Office especially thought the world of him.  He was by way of being
a sick man and never left his country retreat.  Then during the war
he picked up amazingly, and now he looks a generation younger.
I fancy he can't be more than sixty-eight.  He is the most
knowledgeable creature alive, for if he doesn't know a thing
himself he knows how to find out about it.  You press a button and
get immediate results.  But his wisdom is greater than his
knowledge.  I don't know anyone whose judgment I'd sooner trust
about men or things."

Falconet listened intently.

"I admit all that.  Anyone with half an eye-could see it.  Where he
falls down is that he isn't interested in organisation.  He is like
an oracle in a cave that gives sound advice but doesn't trouble
about seeing it carried out.  He agrees with our view, Adam's and
mine, but he isn't worrying about what to do next.  Now that man
Creevey--"

Falconet broke off to expound his own plans.  "Organisation is
nine-tenths of the fight," he proclaimed, "I'm going to start a
great machine for the inquisition of genius."  He produced from a
pocket of his dinner-jacket a formidable sheaf of papers.  "See
here," he said as he spread them on the table.  "First we have the
geographical lay-out.  I'm going to have informal committees up and
down the land to consider likely cases.  No advertising, you
understand--all the work must be private and underground--but I
shall have on these committees just the people who will made good
sleuths.  Then here is my system of checking-up on their reports.
We can't afford to make mistakes, so I've got this elaborate
arrangement for getting cross-bearings--the schools, the
universities, the bankers, the business folk, and a lot of shrewd
private citizens. . . .  So, when we get a likely case, it will be
sifted and winnowed, and before we bank on it we'll be certain that
it's the best-grade wheat."

Falconet's dark hawk-like face was flushed with enthusiasm.

"Here's the kind of thing I figure on.  There's a lad on a farm in
Nebraska who has mathematical genius.  Well, he won't be allowed to
drift into a third-class bank or a second-class job in a school--
we'll give him a chance to beat Einstein.  Another is a natural-
born leader of men.  That kind of fellow is apt to become an
agitator and end in gaol, but we'll see that he gets a field where
his talent won't be cramped and perverted. . . .  We'll cast our
net wide over all sorts of talent--art and literature and
philosophy and science and every kind of practical gift, but it's
the last I'm specially thinking about.  I want to spot the men who
might be leaders--in business, politics, I don't care what--for
it's leaders we're sick for the lack of.  We've got to see that our
Miltons don't remain mute and inglorious, but above all that our
Hampdens are not left to rot on a village green."

"Is the real Hampden ever left to rot?" Stannix asked.

"You bet your life he is.  It's only one in a hundred that gets his
feet out of the clay.  And in these days it's only going to be one
in a thousand, unless we lend a hand.

"It's a question of organisation," Falconet continued.  "We have
all the parts of a fine excavating and sifting machine if we can
assemble them.  That's going to be my business till I cross Jordan--
to see that the best man gets his chance."

"It will cost a lot of money."

"I have money to burn.  I've been spending nothing for two years,
and God knows how my pile has been mounting up.  This is a darned
lot better way of getting quit of it than founding dud libraries or
paying hordes of dingy fellows to cut up frogs. . . .  Say, Adam,
you'll need some cash.  I'm sticking to my own country, but you'll
need the same kind of machine here.  Remember what I told you.  I
expect you to draw on me for all you want."

"I don't think I shall want much," said Adam.  "I have a little of
my own, and it may be enough."

"But that's idiocy," said Falconet fiercely.  "You can't do
anything without a machine.  Take it from me, that's sound, though
old man Scrope doesn't understand it.  And a good machine costs a
hell of a lot."

"But I'm different from you.  You're a big man in the public eye,
and you can do things on the grand scale.  I must keep in the
background."

"Well, if that isn't the darnedest nonsense!  I'm speaking
seriously, Adam.  I count myself your best friend--at any rate you
are mine--and Stannix here is another.  You've got to forget all
that's by and gone.  The prison business, as all the world knows,
was an infernal blunder, and it's been washed out by what happened
since.  Weren't you restored to your regiment with full honours?
You did a hundred men's jobs in the war, and if people had been
allowed to know about it you'd have been as famous as Lawrence--the
Arabian fellow, I mean.  In Greenland you were the largest scale
hero, but your infernal modesty wouldn't let me breathe a word
about it.  What's the sense of it all?  You could do the job you're
out for a million times better if every man and woman in England
had your picture in their album."

Adam shook his head.

"I'm afraid that is impossible.  You see, I know best where my
usefulness comes in."

"That you don't, and you won't get any sane man to agree with you.
Creevey . . ."  Falconet stopped.

"Creevey?" Stannix asked.  "Do you mean Warren Creevey?"  There was
a sharp note in his voice.

"That's the man.  About the brightest citizen I've struck on these
shores.  Mailsetter put me on to him, and he has helped me some.  I
never met a fellow with such a lightning brain.  HE understands
organisation, if you like.  If you throw out a notion he has a
scheme ready for carrying it out before you have finished your
sentence.  He'd be worth half a million dollars salary to any big
concern.  They tell me he's a pretty successful business man
anyway.  Well, Creevey takes my view about Adam."

"But Creevey knows nothing about him--never heard of him--never met
him," said Stannix.  His face wore an air of mystified apprehension.

"Oh yes, he does.  I can't remember how Adam's name came up,
and of course I gave nothing away--about Greenland and the other
thing.  But he seemed to know a lot about him and to be very
interested. . . ."

The door bell rang, and Falconet looked a little shy.

"Speak of the Devil!  I expect that's our friend.  I asked him to
come round this evening.  You know him, Stannix, don't you?  I want
to introduce him to Adam."

The man who followed Falconet's servant looked different from the
crouching, sparkling figure, set among appreciative women, whom
Adam had seen at the restaurant.  Creevey wore a dark morning suit,
and explained that he had been sitting on a currency committee at
the Treasury till eight-thirty.  He had snatched a mouthful of
dinner at his club, but he accepted a glass of Falconet's old
brandy and a cigar.

It was strange how he seemed to take up space in the room.  He in
no way asserted himself.  The thick chalky voice was low-pitched,
the forward thrust of the jaw was rather enquiring than aggressive,
and the dark glowing eyes were friendly enough.  He talked
brilliantly about common things--the last news of the Europe-
Australia flight, the obstructiveness of M. Poincar, Mr Shaw's
latest mammoth drama, and--with a compliment to Stannix--the level
of debate in the new Parliament.  He seemed to take the measure of
his company, and effortlessly to dominate it.

Yet he did not put it at its ease.  Stannix was coldly polite, and
his haggard face was set hard.  Falconet, anxious to be showman to
this phoenix and at the same time detecting Stannix's dislike, was
patently unhappy.  Only Adam seemed oblivious of the strain.  He
looked at Creevey's blunt mobile features, agreeable because of the
extreme intelligence that lit them up from behind, and his
fathomless eyes, and they seemed to cast him into a trance.  His
face had the air of one in mazes of curious dreams.

That night Stannix wrote in his diary:

"I have seen in the body two anti-types--Warren Creevey and Adam
Melfort.  I believe they were conscious of it too, for Creevey has
been making enquiries about Adam, and Adam to-night sat fascinated,
as if a snake's eyes were fixed on him.  A queer contrast--the one
all grossness and genius, the other with his 'flesh refined to
flame.'  I thought of other antitypes in history--Marius and Sulla,
Pompey and Csar, Lorenzo and Savonarola, Napoleon and Wellington--
but none seemed quite to make a parallel: Ormuzd and Ahriman were
the nearest. . . .

"Of one thing I am certain.  That meeting in Falconet's flat had
fate behind it.  To-night two remarkable men for the first time saw
each his eternal enemy."




BOOK II



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--I


I


Adam's first sight of Utlaw was on a dry-fly stream on the Warwick
and Gloucester borders.

He had been down for a week-end to stay with Kenneth Armine, who
had been at school with him, and on the Saturday morning he went
out to remove a few grayling from Armine's little river.  It was a
quiet November day, windless and very mild.  Early frosts and the
gales of late October had stripped the leafage from the coverts and
yellowed the water-side meadows, but the woods had not yet taken on
their winter umbers and steel-greys and the only colour was in the
patches of fresh-turned plough.  It was a moment in the year which
Adam loved, when the world seemed to rest for a little before
beginning its slow germinal movement towards spring.

To take the soft-mouthed grayling on a dry-fly needs a good eye and
a deft hand.  Fishing the shallow stickles with a long line, Adam
had failed to satisfy himself, and he was in the fisherman's mood
of complete absorption when, turning a corner, he was aware of
another angler on the water.  He waded ashore, intending to begin
again at a point some distance upstream.  As he passed the other he
stopped for a moment to watch him.  He was a young man with a shock
of untidy fair hair, who had an old-fashioned wicker creel slung on
his back.  He was fishing earnestly but clumsily the tail of a deep
pool--a good place for a trout in June, but not for a grayling in
November.  He turned and cried out a greeting.  "Done anything?" he
asked.  "A few," said Adam.  "Good for you.  I can't stir a fin."
The voice was attractive and the half-turned face was merry.

An hour later the sun came out and Adam sat himself on a ridge of
dry moss to eat his sandwiches.  Presently he was joined by the
other fisherman, who came whistling up the bank.  He was a young
man who might be thirty, but no more.  He was of the middle size,
square-shouldered and thickly made, and his shock head was massive
and well-shaped.  He wore a tattered trench waterproof and what
looked like ancient trench-boots, and his walk revealed a slight
limp.  He had wide-set friendly grey eyes, which scanned Adam
sharply and seemed to approve of him.

"May I lunch beside you?" he asked, and again Adam noted the charm
of his voice.  The accent was the soft slur of the west midlands.

He peered inside the fishing-bag which lay on the moss.

"Great Scott!  You've a dozen beauties, and I've nothing to show
for my morning.  I raised several, but they wouldn't take hold.
Not nippy enough at the striking, I expect.  But what does it
matter on a day like this?  It's enough to be alive."  He inhaled a
long breath of the soft air, and then fell to work vigorously on a
packet of bread and cheese.  Clearly he was lame, for when he sat
down he stretched out his left leg stiffly.  His fishing
paraphernalia was not elaborate, for, besides the old wicker
basket, he had a cheap rod with an antiquated type of reel.

He had nothing to drink with him, so Adam handed him over the
bottle of beer with which Armine's butler had provided him.  The
young man required some pressing, and only accepted it on the
donor's assurance that he never drank at meals and did not want to
carry the beastly thing home.

"I say, this is fine," he exclaimed after a long draught.  "Bass
tastes its best out of doors.  This reminds me of my first drink
after Bourlon Wood--about the same time of the year as this, and
much the same weather.  It's funny to think that that was only
three years ago.  Were you on the Western Front?"

"I didn't fight in the War."

The grey eyes, regarding Adam's lean fitness, had a shadow of
surprise in them.

"Lucky for you!  I got a bit too much of it, but mercifully the
worst was a crocked leg.  I can still enjoy life, not like the poor
devils who have gas in their lungs or damaged guts.  It must be
rotten to come out to a place like this and get no good of it
because of your vile body.  Thank God, that isn't my way of it.  I
don't often get a day in the country, but when I do it makes me
daft.  If I hadn't a game leg I could dance a jig. . . .  No, I'm
not much of a fisherman, though I love it.  I get few chances on a
stream like this--mostly bait-fishing in the Canal or an odd day
after perch on one of the Club reservoirs.  You must be a dab at
the game.  Do you live hereabouts?"

Adam told him that he lived in London, but that his job took him a
good deal about the country.  He could see that his companion set
him down as a commercial traveller.

"I do a bit of moving about too," he said.  "But not in places
where you can catch fish.  I come from Birkpool, and my beat is a
score or two grimy villages round about it.  I'm not complaining,
for I'm after bigger things than fish, but I thank Heaven that
there are still places like this in the world.  When things get too
beastly, I think about a bend of a river with a wooded hill above
and a meadow between."

Adam felt oddly attracted to this expansive young man.  There was
such frank gusto in his enjoyment, and his eyes looked out on the
world with so much candour and purpose.

"I'm going to help you to catch a few grayling," he said.  "You
mustn't go home with an empty creel."

So till the dusk fell the other was given his first lesson in the
mysteries of the dry-fly.  Adam made him take his own rod and
instructed him how to cast the tiny midge on a long line, how to
recognise the gentle sucking rises, and how to strike with a firm
but delicate hand.  The young man proved an apt pupil, for he had
excellent eyesight and a quick wrist.  By the end of the afternoon
he had half a dozen fragrant fish of his own catching.

"I must be off to catch my train back," he said, as he reeled in
regretfully.  "You're staying the night at the pub?  Lucky dog!
What does a rod like that cost?  I must save up my pennies for one,
for this old weaver's beam of mine is no earthly . . .  I wish
you'd tell me your name.  Milford?  Mine's Utlaw--Joe Utlaw.  I'm
district organiser for the Associated Metal-workers--not a sinecure
these days I can tell you.  Look me up the next time your round
takes you to Birkpool.  Here's my office address, and also my
private digs."  He tore a leaf from a notebook and scribbled
something on it.

"I'm very much obliged to you, Mr Milford.  You've given me the
afternoon of my life.  If I can do anything for you in return . . ."
The care-free boy had gone and the young man became suddenly
formal, and rather impressive.  But as he disappeared up the farm-
road to the station Adam could hear his whistling begin again.  The
tune was "The Lincolnshire Poacher."



The way back for Adam lay through a wood of tall beeches which
lined the northern slopes of the valley.  The air was clear and
sharpening with a premonition of frost, while behind the trees the
sun was setting in a sky of dusky gold.  Beyond the wood the ground
fell to the hollow in the hills where the Court lay among trim
lawns.  Adam stopped to admire the old brick which glowed like a
jewel in the sunset.  From the chimneys spires of amethyst smoke
rose into the still evening.

A cocker spaniel fawned at his feet, a wire-haired terrier butted
its head against his knees, and the owner of the dogs swung himself
over a fence.

"Had one of your idyllic days?" he asked.  He looked into the
fishing-bag.  "Not bad.  We'd better leave the fish at old
Perley's, for Jackie can't abide grayling."

Kenneth Armine was three years Adam's junior.  At school he had
been his fag, and their friendship had been sincere ever since,
though till lately their converse had been intermittent.  He had
gone to Oxford and then to an honorary attachship at an Embassy,
after which followed half a dozen years of travel in outlandish
places, varied by two unsuccessful contests for Parliament.  In the
war he had fought his way up from second-lieutenant to the command
of a famous line battalion, and he had acquired a considerable
reputation as a fire-eater.  He was adored by his men, who let
their imaginations expand on his doings.  But the repute was
unjustified, for he was the least pugnacious of mortals, and had a
horror of suffering which he jealously concealed.  The truth was
that he had one of those short-range imaginations which are a
safeguard against common fear, so that under shell-fire he was
composed, and in an attack a model of businesslike calm.  One young
officer who accompanied him in a morning's walk in an unpleasant
part of the Ypres Salient reported that at a particularly
unwholesome sunken road his commanding officer seemed to be deep in
thought.  But his mind was not on some high matter of strategy, for
when he beckoned the nervous youth to him it was only to observe
that this was a place where the partridges would come over well.

Like many others of his type Armine went through the war without a
scratch or an ailment.  For some months he had a job with the Army
on the Rhine, and then he came home and married.  His father, the
old Marquis of Warmestre, lived secluded with his collection of
coins and gems at the main family place in Devonshire, and gave
over Armine Court to his son.  Armine was a friend of Christopher
Stannix, in whose company Adam met him again and picked up the
threads of their friendship.  He had the slight trim figure of one
who has once been a good light-weight boxer.  Like all his family
he was sallow and dark, with a hint of the Celt in his long nose
and quick black eyes.  Yet his stock was solid English, descending
without admixture from the ancientry of Saxondom, and his Scottish
Christian name was due to a mother's whim.

His muddy boots fell into step with Adam's brogues, as they
descended the slope to a ha-ha which bounded the lawns.

"I've had a heavy agricultural afternoon," Armine said.  "Been
round the near farms, and must have walked ten miles in mud.  I
can't get these fellows to see reason.  Old Stockley wants to buy
his farm--made a bit of money, and would like to feel himself a
landowner.  I don't mind, for very soon land is going to be a
millstone round a man's neck and I'd be glad to lessen the size of
mine.  But what on earth is old Stockley to do when he has spent
his nest-egg on becoming a squire and is pinched for working
capital?  He is a fine Randolph Caldecott type with a red face and
a bird's-eye neckcloth, but his notion of farming is to hunt two
days a week and to potter round his fields on a fat cob.  How is he
going to live when prices drop and there's a glut of production
throughout the globe?  Labour costs are bound to go up--the
labourer has higher wages but is a dashed lot worse off than his
father for all that.  And when trouble comes Stockley and his kind
won't have me to lean on, if they set up for themselves.  A good
thing for me, you say?  Maybe, but we've been too long here for me
to take a bagman's view of property.  I know it's absurd, and
Jenkinson keeps pressing me to take the chance of a good bargain,
but I simply can't do it.  Too infernally unconscientious.  There's
another chap called Ward--started ten years ago with a hundred
pounds, and now has a pedigree flock of Oxford Downs, and a big
milk run in Birkpool, and his wife and three sons and two daughters
all work on the farm like blacks.  I'd sell him his land to-morrow,
but he is far too wise to buy--he likes a squire as a buffer.  The
trouble is that everybody wants to pinch some little advantage for
themselves out of things as they are to-day, and nobody bothers to
look ahead."

Armine expanded on the topic.  He had large dreams for English
agriculture.  He wanted more people on the land--smaller farms,
more arable, less pasture--but the drift seemed to be towards
letting plough slip back to prairie.  Stock, he held, was the
English staple, for the quality of English stock would always beat
the world, so he held that arable should be subsidiary to stock,
and that the full richness of English pasturing was untapped.
Adam, who knew nothing of midland farming, listened with half an
ear.

"I wish to Heaven," his host concluded, "we could get the right
kind of leader for our country labourers, somebody who would act as
a gadfly and make our jolly old bucolics sit up and think.  It's
the only chance of salvation for master and man.  But the common
breed of Labour leader has a head like a door-post."

"There was one on the river to-day," said Adam, "a man called Utlaw
from Birkpool."

Armine awoke to a lively interest.

"Utlaw!  The chap was in my battalion.  Got a commission after
Cambrai.  Now I come to think of it, he wrote to me about fishing,
and I told Jenkinson to give him a day whenever he asked for it.
Why the devil doesn't he look me up when he comes here?  I've heard
about his doings in Birkpool.  He's a big swell in his Union, and
I'm told as red as they make 'em.  They want me to be Mayor of that
delectable city, and if I am I daresay I'll run up hard against Mr
Utlaw. . . .  But I don't know.  He was a dashed good battalion
officer, and a very decent sort of fellow."

Armine continued to soliloquise.

"I'm glad you mentioned him, for I must keep my eye on him.  Horrid
the way one forgets about all the good fellows one fought beside.
I tell you what--Utlaw is some sort of shape as a leader.  He had
no luck in the war or he would have had his company.  Bit of a sea-
lawyer he was, but reasonable too.  Now I remember, he put up a
good show at Calais in December '18.  You remember there was a
nasty business with the troops there, for the demobbing was
mismanaged and some of the older men were getting a dirty deal from
the War Office.  So far as my lot was concerned there was no
trouble, for Utlaw got hold of them at the start, found out their
grievances, made himself their spokesman, and gave me the case I
wanted to put up to headquarters.  It needed some doing to hold a
lot of tired, disgruntled men and talk them into reason. . . .
What's he like now?  The same tow-headed, cheery, talkative
blighter?  The next time he comes here I must get hold of him.  I
want a yarn with him, and he'd amuse Jackie."



Adam descended the broad shining staircase very slowly, for he felt
that he was recovering a lost world.  He had had a bath and had
dressed leisurely before a bright fire, and his senses seemed to
have a new keenness and to be the quick conveyers of memories.  The
scents of the Court--half-sweet, half-acrid--wood smoke, old
beeswaxed floors, masses of cut flowers--blended into a delicate
comfort, the essence of all that was habitable and secure.  He had
dwelt so long in tents that he had forgotten it.  Now it laid a
caressing touch on him, and seemed to clamour to have its spell
acknowledged.  He found himself shaking his head; he did not want
it, and very gently he relaxed the clinging hands.  But it was
something to preserve--for others, for the world.  As he descended
he looked at the pictures on the staircase, furniture pictures most
of them, with their crudities mellowed by time.  There were two
tall ivory pagodas at the foot of the stairs, loot from the Summer
Palace; in the hall there were skins and horns of beasts, and curio
cabinets, and settees whose velvet had withstood the wear of
generations, and above the fireplace a family group of seventeenth-
century Armines, with the dead infants painted beneath as a row of
tiny kneeling cherubs.  The common uses of four centuries were
assembled here--crude English copies of Flemish tapestry, a
Restoration cupboard, Georgian stools, a Coromandel screen, the
drums of a Peninsular regiment, a case of Victorian samplers--the
oddments left by a dozen generations.  This was a house which
fitted its possessors as closely as a bearskin fits the bear.  To
shake loose from such a dwelling would be like the pulling up of
mandrakes. . . .  Need there be any such shaking loose?  Surely a
thing so indigenous must be left to England?  But at the back of
his head he heard the shriek of the uprooted mandrakes.

A young woman was standing on the kerb of the fireplace with her
head resting on the ledge of the stone chimney.  When she saw him
she came forward and gave him both her hands.

"Such a damned disinheriting countenance!" she quoted.  "I never
saw such a solemn face, Adam dear.  Do you disapprove of my new
arrangements?  You can't pull the Court about much, you know--
something comes in the way and the furniture simply refuses to be
moved. . . .  I only got back an hour ago and I'm stiffer than a
poker.  Thirty miles in a car driven by myself after a day in those
rotten Mivern pastures!  Ken will be down in a moment.  He has been
farming, and I left him getting the mud out of his hair."

Jacqueline Armine had a voice so musical and soothing that whatever
she said sounded delicious.  She was tall, and the new fashion in
clothes intensified her slimness.  One could picture her long
graceful limbs moving about the great house followed by a retinue
of dogs and children.  Dogs there were in plenty--two terriers, the
cocker that Adam had met that afternoon, and a most ingratiating
lurcher, but the children were represented only by a red-haired
urchin of one year now asleep upstairs in bed.  He drew his
colouring from his mother, for Jacqueline's hair was a brilliant
thing, a fiery aureole in sunlight, but a golden russet in the
shadows.  It was arranged so as to show much of the forehead, and
the height of the brow and her clear pale colouring gave her the
air of a Tudor portrait.  She came of solid East Anglian stock, for
the Albans had been settled on the brink of the fen-country since
the days of Hereward, but a Highland mother had given her a sparkle
like light on a river shallow, as well as a voice which should have
been attuned to soft Gaelic.  Her manner seemed to welcome everyone
into a warm intimacy, but it was illusory, for the real Jacqueline
lived in her own chamber well retired from the public rooms of
life.  The usual thing said about her was that she oxygenated the
air around her and made everything seem worth doing; consequently
she was immensely popular, as those must be who give to the world
more than they take from it.  Having been brought up largely in the
company of grooms and gillies she had a disconcerting frankness
about matters commonly kept out of polite conversation.  Someone
once said that to know her was to understand what Elizabethan girls
were like, virgins without prurience or prudery.

At dinner Armine, who had gone without luncheon and tea, was very
hungry, and it was his habit when hungry to be talkative.  He
discoursed on his farming investigations of the afternoon.

"They keep on telling me that the one part of England that isn't
shell-shocked is the deep country.  Like the county line regiments,
they say--honest fellows that did their job and won the war, and
never asked questions.  It's all bunkum.  The old shire-horse of a
farmer is just as unsettled as the rest of us, and wants to snaffle
a bit for himself out of the pool.  There is a lunatic idea about
that we won something by the war, and that there's a big pile of
loot to be shared out.  Whereas of course we won nothing.  All we
did was to lose a little less than the other chap, and that's what
we call a victory.  The fellow that said that no war could ever be
profitable to anybody was dead right.  Yet everybody's after his
share in an imaginary loot.  Old Stockley wants to become a squire,
and Ward's reaching out for another farm over Ambleton way.  And
Utlaw and his lot want higher wages and shorter hours.  You must
meet Utlaw, Jackie.  He was in my battalion, and Adam forgathered
with him to-day on the river.  You've often said you wanted to make
a domestic pet of a Labour leader.--And the politicians are
promising a new earth, and the parsons a new Heaven, and there's a
general scramble each for the booty he fancies.  But there's no
booty, only an overdraft at the bank."

"That's nonsense," said his wife.  "You shouldn't go too much into
agricultural circles, Ken.  It goes to your head, my dear, and you
grouse like an old moss-back.  You shall come to London with me at
once and get your mind clear.  You shall meet my Mr Creevey."

"Now who on earth is your Mr Creevey?"

"He's a friend of Aunt Georgie, and the cleverest thing alive.
When I was up shopping last week, Aunt Georgie gave a party, and I
sat next to Mr Creevey--rather a hideous young man till you notice
his eyes.  Somebody was talking just like you, how we had won the
war only to lose the peace--that kind of melancholia.  Up spake Mr
Creevey and made us all cheerful again.  I can't repeat his
arguments, for he talked like a very good book, but the gist of
them was that we had gained what mattered most.  He called it a
quickened sense of acquisitiveness, and he said that the power to
acquire would follow, if we had a little intelligence."

Armine shook his head.

"That's begging the whole question.  It's the lack of intelligence
I complain of.  What's the good of wanting to acquire if you
haven't the sense to know how to do it.  There's a get-rich-quick
mania about--that's my complaint.  Everybody wants to take short
cuts--those rotten painters who splash about colours before they
have learned how to draw, and those rotten writers whose tricks
disguise their emptiness, and those rotten politicians who--who--
well, I'm hanged if I know what they want to do.  I don't say we
haven't a chance, for the war has burned up a lot of rubbish, and
you can't go through four years of hell without getting something
out of it--being keyed up to something pretty big.  There's a great
game to be played, I don't deny, but nobody is trying to understand
the rules.  We're all muddled or feverish--all except Adam, who
stands aside and smiles."

"I wish I knew what you were doing!" Lady Armine turned on Adam.

"I've cross-examined him, Jackie," said her husband.  "He never
tells me anything, and I've known him ever since he used to lick me
for burning his toast."

Adam had slowly felt his way back into the social atmosphere.  He
was no longer tongue-tied, and his words were not drawn slowly and
painfully as out of a deep well.  But he was still the observer,
and even the friendliest of company could not make him expand.

"It wouldn't interest you to hear what I've been doing.  I've been
exploring queer places."

"Among what Utlaw calls the 'workers'?"

"Yes.  I've had a look at most of the big industries.  From close
at hand, too.  I've lived among the people."

"And the intellectuals?  They're an uneasy lot.  Every batch of
them has got a different diagnosis and a different cure, and
they're all as certain about things as the Almighty."

Adam smiled.  "I've sampled most varieties of them--the half-baked,
the over-baked, and the cracked in the firing."

"Have you tried the uplift circles?" Jacqueline interposed.

"You mean?"

"Oh, all the fancy creeds.  The gentry who minister to minds
diseased.  The mystics who lift you to a higher plane.  The psycho-
therapists who dig out horrors from your past.  The Christian
Scientists with large soft hands and a good bedside manner.  The
spooky people.  Aunt Georgie has them all.  The last I saw there
was a drooping Hindu who was some kind of god."

"No," said Adam, "I left the toy-shops alone!"

"Well, and what do you make of it?"  Armine was fiercely
interrogative.  "You've had a look round politics.  Is there any
fellow in that show who can pull things straight?  They're playing
the old game in which they are experts, but it isn't the game the
country requires.  I had hopes of Kit Stannix, but I'm afraid the
machine is too strong for him.  He has become just a cog in it like
the rest.  And the Church--the Churches?  Have you discovered a
prophet who can put the fear of God into the tribes of Israel?"

"Do you know my brother?" Jacqueline asked.

Armine raised his head.

"Yes," said Armine.  "What about Frank Alban?  You haven't run
across him?  Well, you ought to.  Brother Frank is just a little
different from anybody else.  He takes my view of things, but,
being a saint, he is hopeful."

"He's at St Chad's now," said Jacqueline.  "There are tremendous
crowds at his Wednesday afternoon sermons.  They are the strangest
things you ever heard--mostly the kind of slangy familiar stuff he
used to give the troops, and then suddenly comes a sort of self-
communing that you can't forget, and an impassioned appeal that
makes you want to howl.  Ken, this must be seen to at once.  Adam
and Frank must meet.  They'd do each other good."

"That's the best we can do for you," said Armine.  "Frank Alban
with only one lung, and plenty of people who think him loony. . . .
Another glass of port?  Well, let's get round the library fire, for
it's going to freeze.  'Pon my soul, things are so dicky that I may
have to take a hand myself."


II


Mrs Gallop, at No 3, Charity Row, in the dingy suburb of Birkpool
which went by the incongruous name of Rosedale, had found a tenant
for the back room on her upper floor.  The houses in the Row were a
relic of happier days when Rosedale had been almost country, for
they were small two-storeyed things, built originally to
accommodate the first overspill of Birkpool residents.  To-day
their undue lowliness contrasted oddly with the tall tenements
which hemmed them round.

Her tenant was a pleasant gentleman who, she understood, was by
profession an insurance agent or a commercial traveller.  The room
was not easy to let, for it was small, and its outlook was on the
blank wall of the new block behind Charity Row.  She had two good
rooms on the ground-floor, which Mr Utlaw occupied; he needed
space, for he had many visitors, and what had once been the best
parlour, before Mr Gallop's decease compelled his widow to take
lodgers, was often full of folk who stayed till all hours--Mrs
Gallop was apt to be kept awake by their talk.  But Mr Milford, for
that was her upstairs tenant's name, was easily satisfied and never
complained.  He was not often there, so there was little profit
from his board, but he kept the room on during his absences.  He
was a quiet gentleman, very easy and soft-spoken, and he was a
friend of Mr Utlaw, so the household at No 3 was a happy family.

Adam's base was his chambers in the Temple.  There for perhaps half
the year he lived an ordinary London life.  He saw his old friends--
few in number now, for the war had cut deep swathes in that group--
and he made new ones.  He forced himself to move in as many
circles as possible, and in the lax post-war society this was easy
enough.  To his satisfaction he found that he was taken as a
newcomer, cumbered with no past.  No one associated him with the
ancient scandal, and his doings in the war were known to only a
dozen or two people who held their tongues.  He was good to look
upon, still young, apparently comfortably off, and something remote
and mysterious about him, his modesty and reticence in an expansive
world, gave him the charm of strangeness.  He might have been a
social success if he had allowed himself to be exploited.  As it
was, he was a Cinderella who departed before the stroke of
midnight; no one saw enough of him to place him, but he had the
gift of whetting people's appetites for a fuller knowledge.  Only
with Stannix, Shaston and a few others did he put off his defensive
armour and live in any intimacy.

With the help of his servant Crabb he made his Temple rooms a
starting-point for a descent into a variety of new worlds.  He was
very clear that to understand these worlds he must live in them as
a veritable inhabitant, and the power of adapting his personality,
which he had acquired during four difficult years, stood him in
good stead.  An odd figure often left the Temple whom only Crabb
could have recognised as his master, and after a long interval an
odder figure would return, sometimes with its fingers flattened and
stained with unfamiliar tasks, once or twice very ragged and the
worse for wear.  It had been easy for him to slip into the bagman
of Mrs Gallop's lodgings--a few Cockney vowels, clothes slightly
astray from the conventions of Mayfair, one or two mannerisms
unknown to his class; his homeliness and friendliness did the rest.

Utlaw took him for what he professed to be, one of the cogs in the
commercial machine, who had a better mind than was usual with his
type, and aspired to higher things.  Two nights after his first
arrival, Adam had been invited to a coffee-drinking in Utlaw's
rooms.  There was nearly a score of people there, who made the air
solid with cigarette smoke, strained the resources of the
establishment in the matter of black coffee, and argued till three
in the morning.  Most of the guests were young, and about half of
them were returned soldiers, while the others had been exempted for
bodily weakness or munition work, or had had a stormy conscientious
career in and out of gaol.  By tacit consent the war was never
mentioned, and all were very busy in pegging out claims in the new
world.  It was an atmosphere with which Adam was familiar, the
crude, violent, innocent disputation of bewildered youth.  One man
he found who was busy educating himself in tutorial classes,
reading Plato no less, with a dream of a university far ahead.
Another preached the pure Marxian gospel, and there was a heated
argument between a group who found their spiritual home in Russia
and a League of Nations enthusiast who upheld the virtues of law.
All were poor, each had a precarious present, but all believed in a
better future which with their hands and brains they would wring
out of the reluctant lords of society.  Adam had heard it all a
hundred times, but he was impressed with Utlaw's handling of the
talkers.  He seemed to treat the whole thing as a relaxation from
the business of life, an adventure not to be taken too seriously.
He would prick a speculative bubble with a hard fact, and reduce
the temperature of debate with his homely humour.  Once he
interposed with a cold douche.

"How on earth can you get Lenin's workers' paradise in Britain?" he
cried.  "For that you want a self-supporting country.  We're
parasites and must live by our exports, and that means capitalism
until the day comes when we have halved our population and can be
independent of our neighbours.  We're as complicated as hell, and
for Bolshevism you want simplicity. . . ."  "Savagery," someone
suggested.  "Aye, savagery," he said.  "You can't have it both
ways.  Our job is to make the best of what we've got."

Adam found it hard to see much of Utlaw.  The man was furiously
busy.  There were the weekly lodge meetings and a host of less
formal gatherings to be attended.  There was the day-to-day work of
health insurance, and pensions, and workmen's compensation cases--
work equivalent to that of a solicitor in a large practice.  There
were endless little disputes to be arranged before they became
acrimonious, difficulties with arrogant foremen and with slack
workmen, and now and then full-dress diplomatic conferences with
employers singly and in combination.  There was a daily letter-bag
like that of the editor of a popular newspaper.  But if he heard
little of Utlaw's work from Utlaw himself, he heard much of it from
other people.  At the coffee-party a man called Bill Wrong had been
present, an official of another Union, and with him Adam struck up
an acquaintance, which presently ramified into many acquaintances
in Bill's class.  Everywhere he found Utlaw spoken of with a
curious respect.

"He's got guts, has Joe," said Wrong.  "The best kind, for he'll
not only stand up to the enemy, but he'll knock his own folk about
if he thinks they're playing the goat."

He had a dozen stories to tell of how Utlaw had fought with the
masters and won, and the fights had left no unpleasantness behind
them.  "He's got a wonderful gift that way.  Learned it in the
army, maybe. . . .  My varicose veins kept me out of that kind of
thing and I often wish to God they hadn't.  Joe can hand you out
the rough stuff and you only like him the better for it.  If I call
a man a bloody fool I'm apt to get a bloody nose, but if Joe does
it he gets stood a drink."



One Saturday afternoon Adam was bidden to tea in the rooms
downstairs.  There was another guest, a girl in a biscuit-coloured
coat trimmed with some cheap fur, who moved away from Utlaw's side
when Adam entered.  She was small and slight and pale, with dark
hair rather badly shingled.  The moulding of her face was fine, and
the deep eyes under the curiously arched eyebrows made her nearly
beautiful.  The impression which Adam received was of ardour and
purpose and speed--almost of hurry, for she seemed to have spared
little time to attend to her appearance.  She was untidy, but she
suggested haste rather than slovenliness.

"I want to introduce you to my fiance," Utlaw said.  "Florrie,
this is Mr Milford--Miss Florence Covert.  Since we're all going to
be friends, you'd better get her name right at the start.  It's
spelt Covert and pronounced Court in the best Norman style.  But
that's the only oligarchic touch about Florrie.  Otherwise she's a
good democrat."

Miss Covert, as Adam learned afterwards, was the daughter of a
country clergyman of ancient stock.  Finding the tedium of vicarage
life unbearable, she had broken away to make her own career.  The
family were very poor, but she had managed to get a scholarship at
a women's college where she had taken a good degree, and she was
now a welfare-worker in Eaton's, the big biscuit factory.  Adam was
at first a little nervous, for this girl had sharp eyes and might
penetrate his disguise, so he was at some pains to accentuate the
idioms of his new rle.  He must have succeeded, for her manner,
which was at first suspicious and defensive, presently became easy
and natural.  She accepted him for what he professed to be--one of
Joe's friends of the lesser bourgeoisie, who were to be tolerated
but not encouraged, since they could never be of much use to him.

It was easy to place her.  She was devouringly ambitious, first for
her man and then for herself.  There could be no question but that
she was deeply in love.  Her protective, possessing eyes followed
Utlaw with an ardent affection.  He had spruced himself up for the
tea-party, and wore a neat blue suit, coloured linen, and the tie
of his old grammar-school, but his smartness only accentuated his
class.  He was the child of the people, and the girl, for all her
dowdiness, was clearly not.

"I saw our new Mayor yesterday," Utlaw observed, "Viscount Armine--
ain't Birkpool going up in the world?  I've told you about him,
Florrie.  He commanded my battalion, and he's given me some fine
days fishing on his water at the Court.  A good chap, old Sniffy--
that was the men's name for him, for when he gave you a telling-off
he would look down his nose and sniff as if he had a cold in his
head.--Bet he wakens up some of the frozen feet on the Town
Council, for he's a pretty good imitation of a Bolshie.  Half these
young lords are, for the war has stirred 'em up, and being
aristocrats and never having had to bother about ways and means,
they're of the spending type and quite ready for a new deal."

"It won't last," said the girl scornfully.

"I don't say it will--with most.  With some, maybe.  When they get
down to rock facts, most will be scared and run away.  But I
daresay one or two will finish the course.  You see that class of
fellow is accustomed to take risks--loves 'em--the sporting
instinct you'd call it, while the middle-classes play for safety.
So if you're going to have a big experiment you'll always get one
or two of the old gentry to back you.  Their fathers were shy of
the working man apart from their own folk, for they knew nothing
about him, but this generation has lived four years with him in the
trenches and is inclined to make a pal of him.  No, it isn't
patronage.  It's a natural affinity, just as a pedigree hound will
make friends with a tyke and both combined will maul a respectable
collie.  If you set Armine down among our boys, in half an hour
they'll be calling each other by their Christian names, whereas a
man like Tombs will be 'sirred' till the end of time."

"I don't think these public-house affinities count for much," said
Miss Covert.  "Charles Tombs is a stick, but he has a wonderful
mind.  What has your Lord Armine to give to the world?"

"Oh, I don't say that Sniffy is much of a thinker, but he's a human
being, which is something.  The world could do with more like him
to-day.  He's very friendly to yours truly.  He wanted to know all
about my work.  You haven't to tell him a thing twice, for he's
very quick in the uptake.  He asked if I was married, so I told him
about you, and he said he must meet you--said his wife would like
to know you.  I've never seen Lady Armine."

"I have.  She was pointed out to me the other day in Bertram
Street.  A lovely lady with Titian hair, who walks as if she knew
she was somebody and expected people to make way for her.  Don't
let's have any nonsense, Joe dear.  I'm not going to be taken up by
Lady Armine, and I won't let these grandees make a fool of you.
There's no more contemptible figure than a Labour leader who allows
himself to be made a lap-dog by the enemy.  We're a class army and
we must stick together till the battle is won."

Utlaw laughed.  "Good for you, Florrie.  You would have made a fine
tricotreuse in the French Revolution."

The girl neither assented nor demurred to any of Utlaw's
generalities; what attracted her was the technique of the game.
Adam drank his tea and listened in silence to a discussion on
Utlaw's prospects, for it appeared that Miss Covert accepted him as
a loyal friend of her lover's, though not a friend who could be of
much use.  At any rate his advice was never asked.  There was the
question of a seat in Parliament.  Not just yet, perhaps.  There
was no chance of a vacancy in Birkpool, and a constituency in the
North, where his Union was powerful, was too rich a prize to be had
at the first time of asking.  Besides, the present Parliament was
hopeless, and to be a member of it would only compromise him. . . .
But he must keep himself before the public.  He must speak at Mr
Twining's big meeting next month, and he must be ready for a great
effort at the next Conference.  Who were his real friends?
Deverick was no use, but Judson, and Gray, and Trant himself were
friendly.  Trant had said to someone who had told a friend of
hers. . . .

Adam had the impression that Miss Covert was suffering from
inverted snobbery.  She was contemptuous about the Armines, and
would have Utlaw stick to his class, but she was determined that he
should be high in that class's hierarchy.  She pronounced the names
of Labour notables with an almost sacramental reverence.  She
retailed what she believed to be the gossip of the inner circle as
an aspiring hostess exults over the doings of Royalty.  Trant, the
party leader, Gray with his wizard locks and wild eloquence, Judson
with his smashing repartees were all to her creatures of romance,
as fascinating as a duke to a novel-reading shopgirl. . . .  Well,
that was no bad thing.  If the woman who adored Utlaw had this
minor worldly wisdom, she would keep his feet on the ground.  The
danger was that he would think too much of ultimate things and
forget the gross and immediate facts.

Yet Adam felt that he had not succeeded with Miss Covert.  She had
held him at arm's length, not because she was suspicious of him,
but because she considered him negligible.  An incident a few days
later did not help matters.  In the street he met Jacqueline
Armine.

"Carry this puppy for me, Adam," she cried.  "My car's parked at
the Town Hall and I've mislaid my chauffeur.  I had to bring the
little brute to the vet, for he has damaged his off hind paw.  I
won't ask what you're doing here, for Ken says that is what I must
never ask.  You're very shabby, my dear.  Have you come down in the
world?"

"The Court!" she exclaimed in answer to his question.  "Ken is
there, and half a dozen young couples who have planted themselves
on us uninvited.  What is to be made of the youth of to-day?
They're all penniless, and they all want to get married at once.
When their parents frown they fly for refuge to me, because I'm
believed to have a large heart.  I can tell you it's no fun having
your house made a rendezvous for amorous paupers.  The chaperone
business is beyond me, so I don't try.  They're scarcely out of the
nursery, you know.  What is to be done about this craze for child
marriage?  It's worse than India.  Why couldn't we adopt a good
Indian custom when we were at it?  Suttee, for example.  The world
is cluttered up with superfluous widows."

Just before they reached the car Miss Covert passed them.  Adam
lifted his hat with difficulty owing to the puppy, and to
Jacqueline's hand, which at the moment was affectionately laid on
his arm.  He received a curt bow and a surprised glance from the
deep eyes.

"Who's that Charlotte Corday?" Jacqueline asked.

"The girl Utlaw is engaged to.  You've heard Kenneth speak of him."

"Rather.  I want to meet him.  Her too.  We're going to take our
Mayoral duties very seriously.  Hullo, there's Simpson.  Give him
the puppy and thank you so much, Adam dear.  Can't you come on to
us and see our Abode of Love?  Oh, by the way, brother Frank is
coming here soon to preach.  If you're in Birkpool, go and hear
him.  It's an experience."

If Miss Covert remained aloof, Adam found that he was moving
towards a closer friendship with Utlaw.  His silent ways made him a
good listener, and presently he became the recipient of the other's
confidences.  Utlaw was one of those people who discover their own
minds to themselves by talking, and often he would ascend to Adam's
little room before going to bed and unburden himself of some of his
cogitations of the day.  The man had an explosive vitality which
carried him through the roughest places.  His maxim was that you
must always be, as he phrased it, "atop of your job."  Once let it
crush you or tangle you, and you were done.  But it was not always
easy to keep this pre-eminence, and he had often in Adam's presence
to argue himself out of moods which inclined to lethargy or
depression.  His humour was his salvation, for he had a pleasant
gift of laughing at himself.  "Life's a perpetual affair of going
over the top," he said; "and it doesn't provide a rum ration.
You've got to find that for yourself.  Mine is a jack-in-the-box
elasticity.  If I'm suppressed I can't help bobbing up.  Also my
feeling about the comedy of it all.  Once I can see the idiocy of a
fellow and laugh at him I know I've got him in my hand.

"Florrie tells me she saw you with Lady Armine," he said one
evening.  "I didn't know you knew her."

"I don't know her very well.  She asked me to carry her lame pup.
She's a sister of a parson called Frank Alban who's coming to
preach next month in St Mark's."

"Alban!  You don't say!  I met him in France.  I don't trouble
Church much, but I shall go to hear him.  He used to have fire in
his belly."



One morning a strange figure presented itself in Adam's room.  It
was that of a short elderly man who was nearly as broad as he was
long.  He must have been over sixty, for his mop of hair was white
and his square face was deeply lined.  His eyes under bushy
eyebrows were a steely grey; his chin and portentous upper lip were
clean shaven, but hair like a fur muffler enveloped his cheeks and
throat.  His name was Andrew Amos, and in the war he had been a
pillar of a service so secret that the name of no one of its
members and no one of its reports ever appeared on paper.  Adam had
been sent to him by Scrope and had lodged with him during some
illuminating months on the Clyde.  Amos was as inflexible in his
politics as he had been in his patriotism; he was a Radical of the
old rock and no Socialist, but his class loyalty was as vigorous as
Miss Covert's.  He had a conception of the rights of the wage-
earner which he held as stoutly as he held his own creed of
militant atheism, and he would never deviate one jot from it as
long as he had breath in his body.  Eighty years earlier he would
have been a Chartist leader.

He accepted a second breakfast--tea and two of Mrs Gallop's
indifferent eggs.

"Maister Scrope sent me here," he explained.  "He wanted me to get
a line on Joe Utlaw, and as I ken a' the Union folk and they ken
me, he thocht I would be better at the job than you.  I've been
here three weeks, and I think I've made a fair diagnosis.  He'll
dae.  Utlaw will dae.  Yon yin has the root o' the matter in him."

When his clay pipe was lit Mr Amos expanded.

"There's twae types o' Labour prophets on the road the day.
There's them that canna see an inch beyond bigger wages and shorter
hours, and there's them that takes the long view.  I ca' them the
arithmetical and the pheelosophical schools.  Utlaw belongs to the
second.  The warst o't is that most o' his school are inclined to a
windy Socialism.  He is not, at least not in the ordinary sense,
and that's a proof o' an independent mind.  The feck o' the workers
o' my acquaintance wad spew if they properly understood what the
Socialism was that a man like Tombs preaches.  They've mair in
common wi' an oppressive Tweedside laird than wi' the wersh
callants that ca' themselves Marxians.  But unless there's folk to
guide them richt they'll be stampeded like sheep intil a fauld
whaur they dinna belong.  Utlaw kens this, and that's why I say
he's a man wi' a superior and independent mind.

"He's a queer yin too."  Amos removed his pipe and grinned broadly,
thereby revealing a dazzling set of new, ill-fitting teeth.  "He
doesna care muckle what he says.  He can be dooms funny when he
likes--whiles not altogether decent--like Robert Burns he can give
ye a waft o' the kitchen-midden.  But his great gift is for rough-
tonguing without offence.  I've heard straight langwidge in my
time, but no often as straight as his.  He can misca' an audience
till ye'd think they'd want his blood, and yet they only like him
the better for't.  I've been considerin' the why and wherefore o't
and my conclusion is this.  He's the common denominator of a'
that's English.  Not Scotch--he wadna gang down wi' our lads, and
he'd get his heid broke afore he was a week on the Clyde.  But he's
English to the marrow o' his banes, and the folk that listen to him
ken that they're listenin' to their ainsels if they had just the
power o' expression.

"His danger?" he said in reply to a question of Adam's.  "'Deed I
think that he'll maybe be ower successful.  He has an uncommon gift
o' the gab, and he's young, and he has imagination, and guid kens
this warld's a kittle place for them that has ten talents.  I
whiles think that there's mair to be gotten out o' the folk that
has just the yin talent--or maybe twae.  Brains and character are
no often in equal proportions, and if they're no, the balance, as
Robert Burns says, is wrang adjusted."



Adam attended St Mark's when Frank Alban preached.  The church was
in the centre of a large slum parish, and had been famous in the
past for certain audacities of ritual which had led to episcopal
interference.  Its vicar had recently died, and at the moment the
living was vacant.  There was a movement abroad which called itself
the Faith and Brotherhood League, and under its auspices special
sermons were being preached in the industrial cities.  St Mark's
had been selected in Birkpool because of its size and its
situation.

The place was crowded, for Alban's recent utterances had given him
some celebrity in the popular press.  The congregation was made up
largely of women, most of them well-dressed, but there was a fair
proportion of young men.  Adam went there expecting little, but
eager to see Jacqueline Armine's brother.  He had not been greatly
impressed by what he had read in the newspapers.  The Wednesday
services at St Chad's, from the published extracts, had seemed to
him clever nonsense, the provocative utterance of paradoxical
youth.  He expected this, combined with some breezy, man-to-man
padre talk, for Alban had made a considerable reputation among the
troops in the war.

The first sight of the man confirmed this expectation.  Frank Alban
had none of his sister's colouring.  He had a finely cut pale face
like a tragic actor's, dark hair thinning into a natural tonsure,
and nondescript deep-sunk eyes.  He looked a fragile, almost a sick
man. . . .  Then came a series of surprises.  To begin with there
was the voice.  It was sweet, not powerful, husky and a little
breathless, the voice of a man with weak lungs.  But it had a
curiously attractive, even compelling, power.  One could not choose
but listen.  The face of the man, too, was transfigured when he
spoke, as if a light had been lit behind it.  The impression he
gave was one of intense, quivering earnestness.  He read the New
Testament lesson, a chapter of St John's Gospel, and Adam thought
that he had never heard the Scriptures more nobly interpreted.  It
was not that the voice and elocution were pre-eminent, but that the
reader seemed to be communicating to his audience exultingly a
revelation which had just been granted him.

The next surprise was the sermon.  Here was none of the jolly man-
and-a-brother business which Adam had anticipated.  Alban stood in
the pulpit like some medival preaching friar, and held his hearers
in a sort of apocalyptic trance.  He had no topical allusions, no
contemporary morals; his theme was the eternal one of the choice
which confronts every mortal, the broad path or the narrow path,
the mountain-gate which is too narrow for body and soul and sin.
It reminded Adam of sermons he had heard from old Calvinistic
divines in his youth.  The tenor was the same, though it was
notably free from the language of conventional piety.  In a world,
said the preacher, where everyone was clamouring for material
benefits, there was a risk of soul-starvation.  He pictured the
Utopia of the arrivistes and the Utopia of the social reformers,
the whole gamut of dreams from the vulgar to the idealistic.  But
did even the noblest express the full needs of humanity?  He
repeated in his wistful voice the text which Scrope had once quoted
to Adam:  "Behold the tears of such as were oppressed and they had
no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power,
but they had no comforter."

In the church porch, as the solemnised and rather mystified
congregation dispersed, Adam ran across Andrew Amos.

"What did ye think o' him?" asked the old man, who had not
forgotten the sermon-tasting habits of his youth in spite of his
latter-day scepticism.  "Yon's an orator and no mistake.  Man, it's
queer to reflect that if he strippit his discourse of Biblical
jargon, it would be a very fair statement of faact.  There's a
sound biological basis for the doctrine o' the twa roads.  In a'
evolution there's a point where a movement must swither between
progress and degeneration, and that's just the amount o' free-will
I'll admit in the universe."

That night Utlaw came up to Adam's room before going to bed.  He
too had been to St Mark's.

"That's dangerous stuff," was his comment.  "I've heard a lot about
Frank Alban, but I never thought he was that class.  Oh, wonderful,
I allow!  If anybody in my job could talk like that he'd be leading
the country inside four years.  But all the same it's dangerous
stuff.  That's the 'otherworldliness' that our Marxians are
terrified of.  If you take his view, then all we're trying to
achieve is futile, and the only thing that matters is for a man to
save his soul though he lives his life in hoggish misery.  That
sort of thing is the anodyne that blankets reform. . . .  All the
same there's some truth in it, but I can't quite fix it.  No soft
soap about Frank Alban.  He is out to make the world uncomfortable,
and, by God, he succeeds.  My mind felt all rubbed up the wrong
way. . . .  By the way, he's staying some days in Birkpool.  He's
coming to tea with some of us at the Institute on Wednesday.  You'd
better come along.  You know his sister and might like to meet
him."

Frank Alban out of church was a most unclerical figure, for he
turned up on the Wednesday night in a tweed suit and an Eton
Ramblers' tie.  He had none of the hearty ways of the traditional
army padre, and none of the earnestness of his preaching manner.
He looked a retiring delicate man, perhaps a few years over thirty.
His voice was low and hoarse, and he was liable to fits of
coughing.

But he had the gift of putting people at their ease.  There was
something about his shy friendliness which bound together in one
fraternity the motley group in the upper room of the Institute.
The guests were all Utlaw's friends and associates--minor Union
officials, the organisers of W.E.A. classes, a Socialist parson who
had won a seat on the town council, one or two women, including
Florrie Covert.  Alban greeted Adam as a stranger, at which Florrie
opened her eyes.  She had gathered from Utlaw that Adam knew Lady
Armine through her brother.

It appeared that Alban had been spending his time looking at
housing conditions in Birkpool and going over some of the chief
works.  He deplored the flimsiness of his London life.

"St Chad's is too fashionable.  How can I speak to men's hearts if
there is a microphone two feet off broadcasting my sermon as if it
were a music-hall turn, and half a dozen reporters looking out for
spicy tit-bits?  I know it is all well meant, but it kills freedom.
The result is that I dare not be unprepared, and must write
everything beforehand, and that you know, Mr Utlaw, is the end of
sincere speaking.  You can't hope to persuade unless you can look
into people's eyes. . . .  Also there are too many women."

"What ails you at the women?" Florrie asked tartly.

"There are too many of them, and they are there for the wrong
purpose.  They are either good souls who lead a sheltered life, or
girls looking for a new sensation."

"You mean they're in love with you?" said Florrie.

He flushed.  "God forbid!  I mean that I've nothing to say to them.
If I'm any use it's not in confirming believers in their faith or
giving the idle a new thrill.  My job is to trouble people's minds
as my own is troubled.  I want to be a gadfly to sting honest
lethargy into thought.  We're done, you know, if we go on being
self-satisfied."

"That's my complaint about you," said a shaggy youth in a red tie.
"You want to keep us in a state of blind torpor about the dirty
deal we're getting in this world, and satisfy us with celestial
husks."

Frank did not answer.  Instead he asked questions--questions about
the way in which the Birkpool workers lived.  He had seen enough
for himself to make his interrogations intelligent, and Utlaw, who
did most of the answering, took him seriously.

"They've a better life than their fathers had who were in the same
job.  You can say that if you can say nothing else.  Big wages were
earned in the war, and there were a good many nest-eggs laid by.
At present there's not much poverty and only the average amount of
unemployment.  That will come, for the whole system is rotten.  The
firms have been afraid to declare too big dividends, so they've
been 'cutting the cake,' as we call it, and distributing bonus
shares to their shareholders.  What's the result?  Every business
is over-capitalised and trembling like a pyramid stuck on its
point.  Once let the draught come--and it's coming all right--and
the whole thing will topple over.  It's a mug's game, and do you
think our fellows don't know it?  It's maddening for an intelligent
man to see a business on which his livelihood depends at the mercy
of stock-jobbing finance and him and his friends powerless to
interfere.  The human touch has gone to-day.  There's a board of
big-wigs in London, and a general manager who spends his life in
the train and doesn't know a single man by head-mark, and, as like
as not, a works manager who knows the men all right but whose job
is only to be a slave-driver.  Oh, there's plenty of decent fellows
among the masters, but the system is bad.  Capital gets too much
out of the pool, and labour and brains too little.  That's the
first thing we've got to change."

The parson town-councillor replied to one of Frank's questions
about housing.  Birkpool, he said, was as bad as any place in the
land, except some of the mining villages in the North.  There was
little comfort and not much decency.  The parson was a dreamer, but
he was also full of facts.

"The life is hard," he said, "but that by itself wouldn't matter.
It's not so hard as a miner's or a deep-sea fisherman's.  The
trenches were foul enough, but our men learned there the blessings
of cleanliness, and they haven't forgotten it.  The younger lot
don't take well with six days of filth year in and year out and a
perfunctory clean-up at the week-ends.  The marvel is that they
manage somehow to keep their self-respect."

The talk ranged at large, Frank interrupting many times with
questions.  He never looked at Adam, but he kept his eyes steadily
on Utlaw.

"You say we're at the cross-roads?" he asked.  "You mean, that the
men want more of everything--money, leisure, chances?  Their
horizon has been enlarged?  That's partly the spread of education,
I suppose, and partly the war."

"Yes, but we're at the cross-roads in another sense.  Unless I'm
wildly wrong we're on the brink of devilish bad times.  Britain has
lost her monopoly in most things, and she has to compete against
rivals who can undersell her every day.  How are we going to meet
that situation?  By scaling down our standard of life?"

"By God, no," said the young man with the red tie.  "We can't scrap
what we have so painfully won.  There'll be a revolution first."

"I don't know about that," said Utlaw.  "It's no good kicking
against the pricks.  Our people will stand up to an economic crisis
as they stood up to the war, if it's put fairly before them.  But
they must be prepared for it.  You must take them into your
confidence.  Above all, they must be certain that they are getting
a fair deal."

"I want you to tell me something," said Frank.  He had been sitting
on the table dangling his legs, and he now stood up before the gas
fire.  "I see generally what you're after--a fairer share of the
reward of industry for labour and more say in its management.  You
want first of all security, and after that better chances, better
conditions and more leisure.  You want to give the ordinary fellow
a better life.  But merely tinkering at his material environment
won't do that."

"Agreed," said Utlaw.  "We've got to go further and think of what
you call his soul.  Leisure's no use to him unless he is fitted to
make something out of it.  He must be given access to all the
treasures of thought and knowledge which till the other day were
the perquisites of the few."  Utlaw delivered this oracularly, for
it had been the peroration of a speech.

"I know, I know," said Frank.  "There's fine work being done in
that direction--I've seen something of it in Birkpool this week.
But does it go far enough?  After all, everyone hasn't a capacity
for culture.  But everyone has a soul to be saved and perfected."

There was an odd silence in the room, for Frank's voice had lost
its easy friendliness and suddenly become hoarse and strained.  He
was not looking at Utlaw now, but through him to something very
distant.

"This is my point," he said, and the words seemed to come with
difficulty.  "Succeed as much as you please, recast industry on a
better pattern, and manual labour will still be the ancient curse
of Adam.  It has lost the interest of the craftsman, and is for the
most part a dismal monotonous grind. . . .  Again, you may tidy up
your shops and factories, but most of the work will have to be done
among dirt--and not honest country muck but the hideous grime of
man's devising.  Too much of that kind of dirt is bad for the human
spirit. . . .  Then you say that even the material side is
insecure.  At any moment, in spite of all you have done, the worker
may have to face an economic blizzard, and he has no shelter
against it such as his master possesses.  But you admit that he
must stand up and face it, for there is no other way. . . .  What
does all that mean?  Surely that the one thing which matters is to
strengthen the man's soul.  Open his eyes, enlarge his interests as
much as you please, but make certain above all that he has an inner
peace and fortitude of spirit."

"How are you going to do it?"

Frank smiled.

"I apologise for talking shop.  My answer is by what theologians
call the grace of God.  The way to it was laid down nineteen
hundred years ago, and it is still open. . . ."

"Christ was a red-hot Socialist," said the young man.

"Not the ordinary kind," said Frank.  "He did not call the rich men
knaves--he called them fools."



Adam found his arm seized as he made his way home, and to his
surprise saw Frank at his side.

"I didn't introduce myself properly," he said, "for I gather that
you don't want to have attention called to you.  I noticed you
never opened your mouth tonight.  But I know a good deal about you
from Jackie.  Lyson, too--you served with him, didn't you?  He's an
old friend of mine, and once he told me a little--a very little--
about your doings.  I want to talk to you--not now, but somewhere
soon--a long talk.  You can help me a lot."

The street was well lit, so he may have seen surprise in Adam's
face, for he laughed.

"Oh, I know I'm supposed to be officially helpful, but I'm a broken
reed.  I'm as much adrift from my moorings as anybody.  I'm sick to
death of my work in London, and unless I chuck it I shall become a
public scandal.  I believe in God, but I'm not very clear about
anything else.  I call myself a Seeker.  You remember Cromwell's
words--'The best sect next to a Finder, and such an one shall every
faithful humble Seeker be at the end.'  That's my comfort, and I'm
on the look out for others to keep me company. . . .  You're one.
Kenneth Armine's voice becomes reverential when he mentions you,
and he has no great bump of veneration. . . .  And I think Utlaw is
another.  You agree?  One man with faith can move mountains, but
three might be an Army of the Lord."


III


A month later Adam noticed that Utlaw's face had begun to wear a
curious look of strain and worry.  He dated it from Twining's great
meeting in the Town Hall, a Labour rally at which Utlaw had
proposed the vote of thanks in a speech which completely outclassed
the banal rhetoric of the principal orator.  Twining was a man who
had grown grey in the service of the party, and was very generally
respected, but constant speaking out-of-doors had stripped his
voice of all tone, and his ideas were those of the last little
official handbook.  After him Utlaw's living appeal was like
champagne after skim milk.  It had been a fine performance, but it
had been interrupted.  He got no such respectful hearing as Twining
got.  Clearly there were elements in Birkpool hostile to him, and
one man in particular had made himself conspicuous by savage
interjections.

Ever since then Utlaw's manner had been constrained, as if he were
cumbered with difficult private thoughts.  He never appeared now in
Adam's room before going to bed.  He seemed to avoid him, and,
though very friendly when they met, showed no wish to meet often.
Florrie, too, looked haggard and miserable.  Twice Adam saw her
leaving Utlaw's room, and he met her occasionally in the street,
and each time he was struck by the anxiety in her face.  Was it a
lovers' quarrel?  Or was Utlaw face to face with some serious
difficulty in his work?

One evening came Andrew Amos, who enlightened him.

"I've been verifyin' my faacts," said Amos, "and now I've come to
put them before you.  Utlaw's in bad trouble--ye might say in
danger.  It's no blame to him, but it's no just that easy to see
the way out o' it."

Then Andrew told his tale.  There was a man called Marrish, who had
once been an official of Utlaw's Union, and had indeed been the
runner-up for the post of local organiser.  After his rejection he
had left his Union job and become a free-lance journalist.  He was
a small dark man with a touch of the Jew in him, and had been born
in the Transvaal and begun life in the Rand mines.  For Utlaw he
cherished an extreme jealousy, which was not improved by certain
public encounters in which he got the worst of it.  He was a
fanatic of the Left, and Utlaw's moderation seemed to him treason
to the cause, so public differences were added to private
grievances.  The situation was embittered by his lack of success in
his new profession.  Marrish had a clever pen, but he had not much
sense of atmosphere, and he attributed the coldness of the Labour
press towards his work to Utlaw's influence.  The man had a
delicate wife, and was himself threatened by diabetes, and the
misery of his existence he set down at Utlaw's door.  Utlaw, young,
healthy, popular, expansive, seemed to his morose soul to be the
enemy to whose sinister power all his misfortunes were due.  He was
excluded from lodge meetings, but whenever Utlaw appeared on a
public platform Marrish was there to make a row, and at Twining's
rally he had been especially violent.

Now things had become worse.  Marrish had grown half demented.  He
had not enough to eat and far too much to think about.  He had
begun to drink, too, which was bad, for he had once been a
fanatical teetotaller.  Not in his cups only, but in cold blood he
was announcing his intention of doing Utlaw in.  He had relapsed
into the atmosphere of his early days when a revolver was apt to be
the final arbitrament.

"It's a nasty business," said Amos.  "Ye see the man is no what you
might ca' certifiably mad.  It wadna be possible to get him locked
up.  And his threats are no enough to bring him inside the law--
he's ower clever for that--just a hint here and a hint there--
nothing ye could frame a charge on.  Besides, if ye sent him to
prison or got him bound over, what good would that do?  He would be
wilder than ever and the mair determined to wait his chance.  I've
made it my job to see something o' the body, and, I tell ye,
there's murder in his een. . . .  Now, sir, what's to be done?  Any
moment Marrish may put a bullet in Joe's brain.  After that they
may lock him up or hang him, but the mischief will be done.  Till
Marrish is settled wi' Utlaw gangs in constant danger o' his life.
It's like that auld story about the sword o' Damicockles."

There was that in Amos's eye which made Adam ask if he had ever
been himself in the same predicament.

"Yince," was the grinning answer, "and I took the offensive.  I lay
in wait for the man and gie'd him sic a hammerin' that he never
wantit to see my face again.  But my yin wasna mad--just bad, and
that was simple.  Daftness is the wanchancy thing that ye canna
deal wi'.  My mind's clear that something must be done and the
thing brocht to a heid, or Joe will get a bullet where he doesna
want it, or gang in fear that will make his life a misery."

"Have you anything to suggest?" Adam asked.

"Not preceesely.  But he canna go on dodgin' the body and keepin'
him at arm's length.  He maun get some kind o' settlement."

"And precipitate a tragedy?"

"Maybe.  But onything is better than to gang as the Bible says in
an awful looking for of judgment."

Adam spent a day in making enquiries, after telephoning to London
to one or two obscure acquaintances.  He had Marrish pointed out to
him in a back room of a public house, and he did not like the look
of his dead-white face and hot eyes.  Utlaw had an evening meeting,
and Adam attended it, and contrived to keep close behind him on his
walk home.  He entered the house a minute later and walked into the
big downstairs room.

Utlaw was shuttering the window.  He turned his head and Adam noted
the quick hunted look.  "I can't talk to you to-night, Milford," he
said.  "I've a lot of work to do.  Sorry, but you must be a good
chap and leave me alone."

"I'm afraid I must talk to you.  Sit down and have a pipe.  I've
come to know about Marrish.  You and I must have it out.  The thing
is too serious to let slide."

Utlaw dropped the bar of the shutter, and flung himself into an
arm-chair.  "Did you lock the front door when you came in? . . .
You're right.  It's damnably serious.  I've been living in hell for
the last week or two.  And poor Florrie also.  But it's no good.
You can't do anything for me.  It's my own show which I must go
through alone."

"That's true.  You must go through it alone.  But possibly I can
help you."

Utlaw said nothing for a minute.  He was staring into the ashes of
a dying fire with his brows knitted.

"I could ask for police protection," he said at last.  "But that
would mean publicity, and it would be no use, for Marrish if he
means business would get me in the end.  Or I could have my own
bodyguard--there are plenty of young fellows who would be ready for
the job.  But that would be no good either, for there would be
bound to come a time when Marrish would have his chance.  So I have
simply ignored the whole thing and led my ordinary life.  My hope,
if I have any hope, is that Marrish when he sees how little I care
for his threats will think better of them--that my sanity will cure
his madness."

"Isn't the other result more likely--that your contempt may
increase his madness?  Besides, he has only to catch a glimpse of
you to see that his threats are taking effect.  You're a different
man since Twining's meeting.  You look ill--sometimes you look as
if you were under sentence of death."

"You've realised that?  Well, that's exactly how I feel.  But what
else is there to do?  Any action I take will merely postpone the
trouble.  The only thing for me is to set my teeth and go through
with it, trusting to luck.  But, my God! it's a stiff test of
fortitude.  I don't think I'm more of a coward than other folk, but
this waiting and waiting and waiting turns my nerve to water.
There are moments when I could go down on my knees to Marrish and
ask him to shoot and shoot quick."

"You are an uncommonly brave man.  But you're trying yourself too
high.  It would break the nerve of an archangel to go on as you're
doing.  Now, I'm going to prescribe for you.  I'm older than you,
and I've seen more of the world.  Things must be brought to a head
right now. . . .  Listen to me and don't interrupt.  You and
Marrish must meet.  Here--in this room--with nobody near.  He must
be given every chance, so that if he means to murder you he can do
it and get away.  You mustn't be armed.  You must offer him the key
and tell him to lock the door and put it in his pocket. . . .  He
may shoot at once, but it isn't likely.  He will feel himself on
the top of the situation and be in no hurry.  Then you must talk to
him--you know how to talk.  Tell me, has he any earthly shadow of a
grievance against you?"

"Not an earthly.  It's all a wretched misunderstanding.  I rather
liked him and wanted to help him, but he went off at a bend into
raving dislike."

"Good.  Well, you must dig up all his grievances, and spread them
out and explain them.  Madmen get things in a tangled clump, and it
is half the battle if you can sort out the threads.  The clump
looks big, but each of the threads looks small and silly. . . .
You run a risk, of course, but you have a good chance, and if you
don't do something of the kind the risk becomes a black certainty.
You've got to end the thing once and for all--that's common sense,
for you can't go on the way you're going.  Marrish must leave this
room satisfied--a sane man again as far as you are concerned--and
he must leave it your friend."

Utlaw got to his feet.  "Come now, that sounds good sense.  It's
action anyway, and that's easier for me than waiting."

They talked for an hour till Adam said good night.  Utlaw asked a
final question.

"Were you ever in deadly danger of your life?"

"Often."

"But I mean, a cold-blooded affair like this?"

"Yes.  Worse than this."

"For God's sake tell me about it."

"Not now.  Some day, perhaps."

"You're an extraordinary fellow, Milford, and I can't make you out.
I thought of going to Lord Armine, for he was my old commanding
officer, and I felt that my trouble might be a soldier's affair.
But I didn't, for I reflected that Sniffy was a bit too thick in
the head to take it in.  But you--you order me about like a
brigadier and you seem to have the wisdom of the serpent and the
dove all in one.  If I survive the next week I'm going to know what
you were doing before you settled into your bagman's job."



Early next morning Adam saw Amos and despatched him on an errand.
An hour later Amos telephoned and his voice was grave.

"I've seen him, Mr Milford.  Things is waur than I thought.  The
man's bleezin' mad.  He's a sort of a fisherman, and I said it was
a grand mornin' and proposed that him and me should take a day on
the Nesh.  I saw that his thoughts were far awa' from fishing, but
he agreed.  He said he wanted to get a look at the countryside,
for, says he, this is likely my last day on earth.  He has a pistol
in his pooch, and I can see that he's ettlin' to kill Joe and syne
do awa' wi' himsel'.  He has gotten his resolution up to the
stickin' point, and means the blackest kind o' business.  Joe's
been in no danger afore, for the body hadna made up his mind, but
now he's for it.  What about speeritin' Marrish away for a month
or two in the hopes that he will cool down?  I could maybe arrange
it. . . ."

"No, no," said Adam, "that would only postpone the reckoning.  I'll
join you at one o'clock at the bend of the Nesh below Applecombe
Mill.  Then I'll judge for myself.  If he's stark mad we'll have
him certified, and if there's any rudiments of sense in him we may
straighten things out.  Keep him off the drink at all costs."

"That'll be easy enough.  He hasna tastit for three days.  There's
ower muckle fire in his heid to want alcohol. . . .  Weel, I'll
expect ye at yin o'clock.  It's no likely I'll have a very cheery
mornin'."

Adam reached the river in the high noon of a May day, when the
hawthorns were bowed down with blossom, and the waterside meadows
were "enamelled," as the poets say, with daisies and buttercups.
He was wearing an old suit of rough tweeds, and a broad-brimmed
felt hat that gave him something of a colonial air.  Amos sat
stolidly on the bank watching his float, a figure as square and
restful as a tree-stump.  Marrish had given up the pretence of
fishing and was walking about bareheaded, sometimes throwing a word
to Amos, sometimes talking to himself.  He looked ill; his face had
the yellow pallor of the diabetic, he had not shaved for days, his
thick black hair was unkempt, and his eyes were not good to look
on.  He started as Adam appeared, and his hand went to his pocket.

Amos slowly raised himself to his feet.

"Hullo, Mr Milford.  Are you out like huz for a day's airin'?  Man,
it's graund weather.  But the fish are no takin'; for I've had just
the yin bite.  Maybe there's thunder in the air.  D'ye ken my
freend, Mr Marrish?  He's out o' South Africa like yoursel'."  He
consulted an enormous silver watch.  "It's about time for our meat.
Haud on, and I'll fetch the creel wi' our pieces."

Adam held out his hand.

"I'm glad to meet you, Mr Marrish.  I've heard a lot of you from a
friend, Johnny Sprot."

Marrish stared at him for a moment, and then extended an unwilling
hand.  Adam noted how hot and dry it was.  He seemed to be
wrestling with a painful memory.

"Johnny Sprot!  That's a thousand years ago.  I've forgotten all
about that."

"Johnny hasn't forgotten," said Adam cheerfully.  "He was in London
the other day.  He constantly talks about you.  Says you were his
best friend and a comrade of his boyhood and all that, and longs to
see you again.  Sit down and let's have a crack while old Amos
fetches the lunch."

Marrish sat himself slowly on the grass as if his legs were
cramped.  Adam was so situated that he looked him full in the face
and his kindly domineering manner had its effect.  Marrish's hot
gaze met his and Adam's steady grey eyes seemed to hold him
fascinated.  He stopped jerking his shoulders and his lips ceased
to mutter.

"I don't want to hear about Johnny Sprot," he said.  "That's all
dead and buried."

"Nonsense, man.  You can't bury your youth, and you can't bury
Johnny.  He's the alivest thing on earth--the kind of friend that
sticks closer than a brother.  I'd rather lose twenty thousand
pounds than wreck a friendship."

"I'm done with friends.  I have only enemies."

"Well, that's better than nothing, for an enemy may be a friend to-
morrow."

"By God, no.  My enemies are enemies to the other side of Tophet.
I stand alone."

"Not you.  You've a wife, haven't you?"

"What the hell has that to do with you?"

Adam looked at him steadily.

"Look here, Mr Marrish, you've got to mend your manners.  When I
ask a civil question, I expect a civil answer.  I don't stand for
insolence."

"You don't," Marrish almost screamed, and half rose to his feet.
"Then, by God, you've got to lump it or clear out of this."

His right hand went to his pocket, but Adam was too quick for him.
In a single deft movement he had one arm round the other's
shoulders, pinioning Marrish's left arm to his side, while his
right had grasped the hand in the pocket.  Marrish, under-nourished
and sick, had no chance against this exercised strength.  The
pressure of Adam's fingers on the other's right wrist paralysed it.
Adam drew out the pistol.

He ignored Marrish utterly and examined the little weapon.

"A pretty toy.  Loaded too.  Isn't that unnecessary for an English
riverside on a summer day?  You're a bit of a marksman, Mr Marrish,
aren't you?  Johnny had a story of a scrap with some drunken
natives at Geduld where you were pretty useful."

Adam turned round and faced him.  Marrish was sitting humped up
with eyes like a sick dog's.

"Geduld, wasn't it?" he repeated.

"No, it was at the Vlak Reef."

"Well, it was a good show, anyway.  Take back your gun and keep it
for its proper use."

Marrish did not replace the pistol in his pocket.  It lay on the
grass between them.  There was no sign of Amos with the lunch, for
that worthy was obeying orders.

"Johnny said you were the best-natured chap going," Adam went on.
"You're a little off-colour this morning, aren't you?  You look to
me like a sick man.  Give me your hands.  I know something about
doctoring."

Marrish, who seemed in a daze, surrendered both hands, and Adam's
strong grasp enclosed his wrists, and his cool eyes held the
other's fevered ones in a strict control.  "Do you remember this?"
he asked.  "It's not the English way of diagnosis.  It's the trick
of the old witch-doctor on the Black Umvelos', that you and Johnny
Sprot met when you took a waggon-load of stores to peddle in
Zululand.  But it's mighty sound medicine. . . .  Shall I tell you
what I learn from the blood beat in your veins and the pupils of
your eyes?  You are sick in body, but not deathly sick.  There's a
whole man behind waiting to be cleansed of its leprosy.  You are
sick in mind, but not deathly sick, for there's a good fellow
behind that ought to be released.  But I see in the back of your
eyes a small crazy devil.  I know that devil well, and out he must
come, for he's the source of all the mischief. . . .  What a
godless fool you were ever to come to Birkpool!  You were never
meant for a rotten black city like that.  It has poisoned your
blood and choked your lungs.  And you were never meant for the game
you've been trying to play--too good in one way--too stiff in your
joints also.  England wants a darned lot of understanding, and you
hadn't the patience to learn.  I'll tell you where you should be."

Still holding Marrish's wrists and mastering his eyes Adam began to
talk about the High Veld.  He had never been there himself, but he
had made it his business from his early days at the Staff College
to study the atmospheres of many parts of the globe.  Once in the
Rhineland he had escaped from a dangerous place by talking to a
Bavarian of the Wettersteingebirge with apparently intimate
knowledge.  He knew enough of Marrish's early career to select the
high lights.  He spoke of prospecting journeys in Lydenburg and the
Zoutspansberg, where the uplands break down in forested cliffs to
the bushveld, and a man may look across a hundred miles to the blue
peaks in Portuguese territory.  He spoke of trading journeys in the
Low Country, the red, scarred tracks through the bush, the slow
milky rivers, and the camp in the evening with the mules kicking at
their peg-ropes, and the wood fires crackling, and the guinea-fowl
clucking in the trees.  He spoke of hot middays on the High Veld,
when the pans of Ermelo become in the mirage a shoreless ocean.
Above all he spoke of that delectable climate where a man could go
to bed supperless and weary on the cold ground and wake whistling
with sheer bodily well-being--and of a world where there was hope
and horizon, since everything was still in the making.  Into
Marrish's glazed eyes there came gleams of reminiscence, and now
and then a flicker of assent.  Sometimes he corrected Adam.  "Not
the Olifants," he would say.  "It was farther north--the Klein
Letaba."

By and by Adam dropped his wrists.  He lifted the pistol.

"Johnny said you used to be a fine shot.  Let me see you hit the
grey knot in that willow stump across the river, three yards below
the big elm."

Marrish automatically took the weapon and fired.  He was within six
inches of the knot.

"Let me try," said Adam.  His shot was an inch nearer.

Marrish fired again, almost repeating Adam's shot.

Adam's next attempt was wide, but he fired a second time and just
grazed the knot.  Marrish almost plucked the pistol from his hand
and sent a bullet plumb into the knot's centre.

"By Jove, that's pretty shooting.  Johnny was right.  Hullo, the
gun's empty.  Have you any more cartridges?"

Marrish seemed to awake to a maddened recollection.  "Curse you!"
he cried.  "You've done me in.  I wanted those bullets . . . I
wanted them to-day for . . ."

"For what?" Adam asked, and once again he took the other's hands--
his hands, not his wrists.

For my enemy--the man who has ruined me . . . and a last one for
myself."

"So?" said Adam.  "You're a sicker man than I thought.  There's
that small crooked devil to be got out of you.  Now take your time--
very slowly.  I want to know all about that little devil."

The hands in Adam's grasp were quivering like a bird that a boy has
caged.  Marrish was talking rapidly, incoherently, words tripping
on each other's heels.  His voice had lost its shrillness, and had
become low and intense. . . .  He told of his coming to Birkpool,
his dreams and ambitions, his successes--and then the appearance of
the other man who jostled him aside.  He did not mention Utlaw by
name--he was only "he," as if the figure so dominated the world
that even a stranger must recognise the incubus.  There followed a
long catalogue of injuries evidently carefully tabulated in his
mind--many of them childish, but clearly to him a great mountain of
wrongs.  Little sayings were misconstrued, casual acts perverted,
till all his troubles--his journalistic failures, the slights of
his party, his poverty, his own ill-health and his wife's--were
made to spring from the one tap-root of personal malevolence.  Adam
let him talk till his confession ebbed away in a moan of misery.

He dropped his hands.

"Poor old chap," he said.  "You've made an infernal mess of
things."

"Not me . . ." Marrish began.

"Yes, you.  For you've lost your pride.  You've forgotten the man
you once were.  Do you mean to say that when you and Johnny were
partners you would have ever admitted that any man could down you?
When you took a knock you blamed it on the cussedness of things and
not on the other fellow.  But now, when you've taken a collection
of knocks because you're in the wrong groove and a world you don't
understand, you're weak enough to put it all on the other chap.
You're a fool, Marrish.  And a bit of a coward."

"That's a lie.  I've faced up squarely . . ."

"Not you.  You've knuckled under, and consoled yourself by putting
it all down to an imaginary enemy, and nursing your hate for him
till you can't see daylight.  That's the behaviour of a sulky
child.  If you had faced up to things you'd have seen you were
in the wrong place, cut your losses, and shifted yourself to a
better. . . .  Who, by the way, is the man you blame?"

Marrish muttered a word, and it was spoken not defiantly but
shamefacedly.  Adam had planned out beforehand every move in the
game, and the slight change of tone told him that he was winning.

"Utlaw!" he cried, and then laughed.  "Utlaw!  Man, you've been
barking up the wrong tree.  Utlaw never had a hard thought about
you.  If he had, he would have scored heavily, for he has made you
hate him, and that's the worst affliction you can put on a man.
Have you ever had a happy moment since you started this grouch?
No.  It has come between you and food and sleep, and it's made the
whole earth black for you.  Utlaw would have scored, if he had
wanted to--only he's not that kind of fellow."

"What do you know about him?" Marrish asked fiercely, as if he
claimed a proprietary right in his enemy.

"I knew him in the war, where one learned a good deal about other
people.  Utlaw never in all his days cherished a grudge against
anybody.  He hasn't time for it--his head is too full of his
maggots.  He's a good chap, but he's a fool--like you, Marrish--the
same kind of fool."

The other lifted his weary eyes.

"I'm a fool all right--Utlaw's a scoundrel," he said.

"No, he's a fool.  He's like you--he's in a game where he can't win
and he'll eat out his heart in trying.  He wants to build things
up, and has all kinds of fine notions--just as you had once.  But
he is working with tools that will break in his hand.  He is
slaving for people who in the end will turn him down.  That's the
curse of this rotten political game.  In two years or five years he
will be sitting with a broken heart in the dust among the ruins of
his dreams.  That is why I call him a fool.  But he won't be such
an utter fool as you, for he won't have invented an imaginary enemy
and be torturing himself with hating.  He has too much guts and
sense for that. . . .  You thought of putting a bullet into him?
Well, if he deserved it he would still have scored off you.  He
would have made your life a hell with your hate, and you would be
putting him out of the world before he had lost his illusions.  Not
a bad way of dying, you know--only of course he doesn't deserve it.
If you killed him it would be like murdering a child."

Marrish had his eyes on the ground.  Adam's steady gaze exercised
some mysterious compulsion, for slowly he lifted them and looked
him in the face.  The heat of purpose had gone out of him, and what
remained was bewilderment, almost fear.

"You meant your last bullet for yourself?  Well, you'd probably
make a mess of it.  Then you would spend some weeks in a prison
hospital till they patched you up.  After that would come the
trial.  If you were well defended, they might find you mad, and put
you away during His Majesty's pleasure.  A nice kind of life for
you!  For of course you are not mad.  You're as sane as I am.  If
you were lucky the judge would put on a black cap and presently
you'd swing.  You're a man of imagination--you started life with
hopes and ideals--do you realise what the bitterness of those last
days would be when you knew that they were all to end with a six-
foot drop?"

"I wouldn't mind," the other muttered.

"Don't be too sure.  God never meant you for a murderer--you're not
a cool hand--when you saw Utlaw's brains on the floor you'd be sick
and scared and as like as not would blow away a bit of your jaw.
It often happens that way.  But assume that your shot went true.
You'd be done with your troubles, you say.  Maybe, but you'd also
be done with life.  You're still a young man.  You've been living
in a bad dream, but you know that there are still jolly things in
the world.  This countryside, for instance.  You came out to-day to
have a last look at it?  Am I right?  That shows that you have not
lost the capacity for pleasure.  When I was talking about the
Houtbosch I saw a spark come into your eyes.  You're not the
shrivelled husk you think yourself.  There's still blood in your
veins.  Are you going to end all that--for a babyish whim?

"And there's another thing," Adam went on.  "You've always been a
proud fellow.  You've been proud of yourself, and your friends have
been proud of you.  How are those friends going to feel when they
hear that David Marrish has died shamefully--either by his own hand
or by the hangman's? . . .  And what about your wife?  You thank
God that you have no children, though there was a time when you
didn't feel like that.  But you're going to leave a wife behind who
trusts in you.  You've been a good husband to her, but now you're
going to inflict on her the uttermost wrong. . . .  A murderer's
widow. . . .  Without a hope or a penny in the world. . . .  You've
been kind to her, and nursed her tenderly and stinted yourself that
she might have food and medicine.  And now you're going to be
savagely, brutally, hellishly cruel to a poor woman who gave you
all she had."

For a moment it looked as if Marrish would attack him.  The man got
to his feet and stood with a contorted face and uplifted arm.  Then
he seemed to collapse into a heap.  He was weeping, bitterly,
convulsively, and his meagre body was shaken with sobs.

Adam flung an arm round his shoulders.

"Poor old chap," he said gently.  "That's right.  Let the tears
come.  When you've wept enough, you'll be yourself again."

For some time the two men sat there as the afternoon lengthened.
Adam's arm seemed to comfort Marrish, and he lay back into the
curve of it.  Presently the sobbing ceased, and there was a long
silence.

"I'm going to take charge of you," Adam said.  "Never mind who I
am.  Say that I'm a healer of sick souls, and that I intend to make
a proper job of you.  This country's no place for you, and you're
going back to the place where your roots are.  You've plenty of
good work in you, and I'll see that you get it out.  Johnny Sprot
wants you to join him.  He has a tidy handful of propositions up in
Rhodesia, and he wants a partner.  Among other things, there's a
newspaper for you to run.  You're a good organiser, and there's a
field with Johnny for your talents. . . .  Are you hungry?  For I
am, ravenously, and Amos seems to have gone over the sky-line with
the lunch.  I've got a little two-seater car and I'm going to take
you back to Birkpool.  Then I'll tell you what you must do.  Get
shaved and tidied up, and you and Mrs Marrish will come and feed
with me.  I'm at the King's Head.  There we'll talk about plans,
and to-morrow I'll take you up to London to see some friends.  I'm
in charge of this outfit, remember, and you must obey orders."

Marrish turned on him a white tear-stained face.  His eyes were
quiet now and a little dim.

"I don't know . . ." he began.

"You don't, but never mind that now--you will in time.  One thing
you do know, that you're the old David Marrish again. . . .  Oh, by
the way, you've another job before you to-night.  You were going to
see Utlaw--you had fixed that up, hadn't you?  Well, you must keep
the appointment just the same.  He knows that you've been talking
loose about him.  Tell him you have come to apologise and make up
the quarrel.  Say that you have been all kinds of a fool.  That's
the amends that an honest man makes for an occasional folly. . . .
If you like, you can tell him that he's a fool also--that he has
got into the wrong game the same as you, and will find it out some
day."

Adam took up the pistol from the grass.

"There!  You'd better take that," he said.

Marrish looked at it with a shudder.

"Take it," Adam repeated.  "You can't leave it lying here.  It's
your property."

Marrish took the thing gingerly as if it had been a hot iron.  But
he did not replace it in his pocket.  Holding it by the muzzle he
hurled it from him high into the air.  It fell in the middle of the
stream, and he watched till the last ripple made by it had died
away.  He had the face of one performing an act of reparation.



That night Utlaw came up and sat on Adam's bed.  He looked like a
man dog-tired but very happy.

"It's all over," he said.  "I've seen Marrish.  He asked for an
appointment to-night and I gave it him.  I did all you advised me--
nobody about, the key lying on the table ready to hand him, nothing
to defend myself with--but I felt like a criminal going to the
gallows.  I opened the door to him myself, and I can tell you my
knees were knocking together. . . .  Then a miracle happened.  I
didn't offer him the key--I saw at the first glance there was no
need.  He looked quiet and sober and--and--kindly.  Yes, kindly.
He said he had come to apologise for playing the goat.  Apparently
he is leaving Birkpool at once. . . .  We sat down and smoked a
pipe together and had a long friendly talk.  I blame myself for not
having had it all out with him before--it's a lesson to me I shall
never forget.  It was all a hideous misunderstanding.  The man's a
thundering good fellow--a better fellow than me by a long sight.
He has brains, too.  He knows the difficult job I've got and talked
acutely about it--told me I was a bit of a fool myself for trying
to do the impossible.  We parted like long-lost brothers, and he's
going to keep me posted about his doings. . . .  Then I went round
to see Florrie and took her out and gave her supper, for neither of
us has been able to eat a bite to-day.  We both felt as if we had
got a reprieve.  She's fallen for you completely, Milford, and by
God, so have I.  You're the kind of friend to go to in a fix. . . .
As I say, I've learned my lesson.  Never funk trouble.  It's Mount
Everest when you fight shy of it, but when you face up to it it's a
molehill. . . .  Whew!  I'm weary.  I'm going to bed to sleep a
round of the clock."



Adam did not go to bed.  He sat and smoked long into the night.  He
thought of Utlaw; now that he had faced death in cold blood Utlaw
would be twice the man he had been.  But chiefly he thought of
himself.

This was the kind of thing that he could do, for which his long
training fitted him.  But the other job--the main job?  He believed
that he had found the quality that he sought in three men, but it
was still only potential, it had still to be shaped to leadership.
At any moment one or the other, or all three, might crack in his
hands.  In his hands!  That was the trouble.  Had he the power, the
brain, the mastery, to shape the career of a fellow-mortal?  For a
black moment of disillusion he felt that such a purpose was sheer
arrogance.  It was a task which should be left to God, and who was
he to thrust himself in as God's vicegerent?



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--II


I


As Adam dressed for dinner in his little Temple bedroom, which
looked out on the top of a dusty plane tree and a flat-chested
building of old brick, he had one of his rare moments of
introspection when he tried to orientate himself with the world.

He was living a normal life again in close contact with his
fellows.  To that he had schooled himself--not without difficulty
after his six years of solitude.  He had a task before him which
absorbed all his energies of mind and body, but he had early
realised that he must fail if he regarded people as only figures in
a mathematical problem.  So he laboured to cultivate the common
sympathies.  But he knew that his success was limited.  He
understood them and could use them, but they did not deeply move
him.  Marrish was a case in point.  He had saved the man from
disaster, and Marrish's letters now were full of a doglike
worshipping affection.  But for Marrish himself he had no strong
feeling; he had been only an incident in Utlaw's life.  Utlaw was
the vital matter.  Yet how much did he care for Utlaw apart from
Utlaw's political career? . . .  Adam laid down his brushes and
regarded his face in the mirror.  All his emotions were now tenuous
things with a utilitarian purpose.  Might not this lack of an
ultimate human warmth be fatal in some critical hour?

It was the same, he reflected, with other things.  He nominally
shared in the ordinary tastes and pursuits of his kind, but how
much did they mean to him?  He was a brilliant fisherman, but he
fished only to get solitude for his thoughts.  Books he read only
to extend his knowledge, the conversation of his fellows he
welcomed only for the light it cast upon the talkers.  The beauty
of nature and of art scarcely affected him.  He had no weaknesses
of the flesh, no foibles of the mind.  Had he any friends for whom
he felt the true unself-regarding passion of friendship?  Stannix,
perhaps.  Lyson, maybe?  Kenneth Armine?  He was not certain.  He
realised suddenly that he was living in a world where all things,
except the one, were dim and subfusc and shadowy.

But was this wholly true?  What of that steady exhilaration of his
which was like a recovered youth?  He had no need for stoicism.  In
his dingy Birkpool room, in the monotonous life to which for months
he would condemn himself, he had never a moment of ennui.  There
seemed to be an inner fount of cheerfulness always flowing.  His
cause was an anchor to keep him steady, but it could not give this
perpetual afflatus of spirit like a May morning.

He had no need to ask himself the reason.  There was a secret world
waiting for him across whose border he could step at will.  It was
only in moments of reflection like this that he understood how
large a part Eilean Bn played in his life.  Half his time was
spent among its cool winds and shining spaces.  For him it was all
that art and literature could give.  How could he be rapt by the
sight of a lush English meadow or a flowery woodland when his heart
was given to his own place--the spire of Sgurr Bn, the thymy
downlands, the singing tides of the western sea? . . .  And Nigel
who trotted by his side and talked the wise talk of childhood.  He
had retained humanity because Nigel and Eilean Bn were the passion
of his innermost heart.  His secret world was no lotus-eating
paradise where a man squandered his strength in dreams.  It was
rather a vantage-ground which gave him a Pisgah view of the things
of common life and a half-contemptuous empire over them.

He laughed as he finished dressing, for he thought how inviolable
was his secret.  He went a great deal about in London and had been
at some pains to keep up a pretence of the commonplace.  A few
people, his old friends, knew something of him, but they respected
his desire to be inconspicuous.  The others, the men and women he
casually met, regarded him as an agreeable, well-mannered rentier
who filled a place at a dinner-party, took a gun at a shoot, and
joined in a rubber of bridge at the club.  He was aware that he was
popular, since he trod on no toes and stood in no one's light. . . .
Women rather liked him, but women interested him not at all.
Jacqueline Armine perhaps was an exception.  With her he had
advanced to a certain intimacy, for there was something about her
which reminded him of Nigel.  One or two had shown a desire for
friendship, or at least flirtation, but his reserve had warned them
off.  He could when he chose become as wooden as a fence-post.

As he filled his cigarette case he remembered that there were two
people who had seemed to detect more in him than he wished to
reveal.  The first was Warren Creevey, who was becoming a very
notable figure in the public eye.  On one side he was a professional
sophist, a master of brilliant dialectic, who delighted in
maintaining paradoxes of his own and still more in shattering the
platitudes of other men.  But he was also a great figure in the
City, a bold speculator in the wavering exchanges of the globe, and
at the same time an acute economist who was frequently taken into
the conclaves which discussed international settlements.  Creevey
had shown some wish for his acquaintance.  They rarely met without
Creevey trying to probe him with his delicate scalpel.

The other was Mrs Pomfrey.  Of her he had no fear, for she made no
advances, but he had a lively curiosity about her.  He was aware of
her as a quiet figure with intelligent eyes, content to wait in the
background, but wielding enormous power in her apparent detachment.
She had succeeded in imposing her personality on contemporary life
without obviously exerting herself.  She had of course the
advantage of great wealth.  Her husband had been a shipowner whose
fortune had become colossal during the war, and at his death just
before the Armistice all of it had been left to her.  The Pomfreys
had come to London from the North in 1912, and, though they
professed to be plain folk without social ambition, their house in
Charles Street had very soon become a meeting-place for important
people of diverse types.  The attraction was the wife, for Pomfrey
was a silent man, concerned with the cares of many businesses.
Lilah Pomfrey had no beauty to help her, and only a sketchy
education.  She had been her husband's secretary in far-off days,
and came out of a middle-class Northumbrian home; her one
affectation was that she was disposed to exaggerate the humility of
her origin, and to speak of herself as a "daughter of the people."
She was short and powerfully built--had she been a man her physical
strength would have been remarkable.  Her face was broad, with
strong cheek-bones and a wide kindly mouth; her colouring was a
little dusky, and with her coal-black hair and dark eyes it
suggested some trace of gipsy blood.

Most people when they talked of her set down her attraction to her
gift of sympathy and her staunch fidelity.  She never betrayed a
confidence and was the most loyal of friends; she had proved on
more than one occasion that she could also be an unforgiving enemy.
She had succeeded where her rivals had failed.  Lady Bland
ruthlessly pursued every notable, and by dint of much asking swept
a motley crowd of celebrities into her drawing-room, but she
remained a comic figure and the target for malicious gibes.  Mrs
Macrimmon collected bored royalties, most of them foreign, but her
fame was confined to the picture-papers.  Mrs Diamond from Chicago
made a speciality of youth, and was consequently a frequent
character in the novels of youth, and now and then the subject of
odes in vers libres by young poets.  These all had an ambition to
be queens of salons to which intellect would gather and which would
be a power-house of many movements; but their much-paragraphed
entertainments were like circuses which were forgotten utterly when
the last performer had made his bow.

Mrs Pomfrey was different.  She did not seek, she was sought; her
invitations were to most people like royal commands.  She spoke
little, but what she said in her deep voice with its pleasant
north-country burr was remembered.  She dispensed not entertainment
but friendship.  Men of every type, leaders in finance and
politics, were believed to seek her advice, but, since she was not
vain, she never talked about it. . . .  Adam was nervous when he
caught her deep, appraising eyes fixed on him.  Twice she had asked
him to dinner, and both times he had found an excuse for declining.

To-night he was dining with Lady Flambard in Berkeley Square.
Sally Flambard was Mrs Pomfrey's exact opposite, like her only in
the absence of vanity.  She was slight, fair, and volatile as a
bird, living, as a French admirer once said, perpetually sur la
branche.  All that was new intoxicated her, but the waves of
novelty passed through her life and left no mark.  The basis of her
character was her eager interest in things and her human warmth.
She was prepared to do battle to the death for her friends, and
never refused a challenge, but her affection was not yoked with
prudence, and those who liked her best had to be most on their
guard.  She was popular because of her power of aerating the
atmosphere, but she was a dynamo, not an anchor.  Those who went to
Mrs Pomfrey for counsel sought Lady Flambard's company for
stimulus.



There were five people in the long, low drawing-room, which was dim
with summer twilight.  Sir Evelyn Flambard had gone down to the
country to look at his young horses, so there was no host.
Creevey, wearing knee-breeches and decorations, for he was going on
to a ceremonial ball, was talking to Jacqueline Armine.  The latter
rose at Adam's entrance and came forward.

"Bless you, Adam," she said, "where have you been hiding yourself?
Ken is dying to see you.  He's Mayor of Birkpool, you know, and
he's down in that filthy city to-day talking sense to town
councillors.  No, we're at the Court--we've no town house this
summer--economy, I say--self-indulgence, Ken says, for he hates
London.  Have you heard the news about Frank?  He has taken St
Mark's--the living is in the gift of the Corporation, and they were
lucky to get him. . . .  Hullo, here he is.  Not dressed, too, like
a sordid Member of Parliament.  That's an affectation, for he can't
be as busy as all that. . . ."

Lady Flambard took Adam's arm.

"You take in Mrs Pomfrey.  You know her, don't you?"

He bowed to a lady in the dusk behind Jacqueline.  Mrs Pomfrey was
going on to the same ball as Creevey and wore a wonderful gown of
black and red.  Her jewels were emeralds.  Adam realised anew the
air of substance she carried with her--not material only, but a
certain tough solidity of spirit.  She seemed like one who could
command all the apparatus of life, moving in a sphere in which she
was securely at home.  Beside her Jacqueline Armine and Sally
Flambard looked like gossamer visitants from a more rarefied
planet.  Frank Alban, too, with his lean plain face and shabby
clothes, suggested failure, disquiet, the uncomfortable struggles
of a lower order of things.  But Creevey paired well with her, and
it seemed appropriate that they should both be in gala dress.  They
were both assured and successful children of their world.

At the little round dinner-table Adam sat between Mrs Pomfrey and
Jacqueline.  Sally Flambard and Frank Alban at the start did most
of the talking.  His hostess had much to say of Frank's flight from
London.

"Don't tell me it's the call of duty.  You're afraid, Frank, black
afraid of the worshipping ladies in trouble about their souls."

"Not their souls," said Jacqueline.  "Their emotions, my dear.
It's the idle young women in search of a new sensation who scare
Frank.  Well, he won't have any in Birkpool.  We've not a feminised
society down there.  Ken has forbidden me to powder my nose in
public."

"Frank's afraid of women," said Sally firmly.  "That's the drawback
of British youth.  In my country we bring up boys and girls
together so that they mix naturally, but here you still hanker
after the convent and the monastery till they reach what you call
years of discretion.  But discretion has to be learned and you
expect it to come in a single dose.  In America we break in our
young bit by bit."

"It works well with your adorable ladies," said Creevey.  "But what
about the men?"

"They're well enough.  A little apt to be run by their womenkind,
but that's a fault on the right side.  If I have any doubt it's
about the girls.  They don't transplant well.  Our bright brittle
young things should marry into their own kind.  I know I'm giving
away my case to Lilah, who hates Englishmen marrying Americans.
But take me--I'm a warning.  I love every inch of England, but I
shall never belong here.  If I hadn't Evelyn to anchor me, I should
be the most dracin thing alive."

"What has an angel to do with roots?" Creevey asked.

"You should have been an American, Mr Creevey," Sally replied.
"That's just the kind of heavy compliment our menfolk are always
paying.  I mean what I say.  When I look at the way you Englishwomen
have your feet in your native mud, I could howl with envy.  I know
my cottagers at Flambard and all their troubles, and I doctor their
babies, and look after the district nurse, and run a Women's
Institute, and get up every sort of show, and yet I no more belong
there than my pekinese."

"No, no, my dear," said Jacqueline.  "You're a model.  I wish I did
my duty by Armine Court as you do yours by Flambard.  All of us to-
day are hopping about on the twigs.  Ken gave me a talking-to
yesterday--said I was of a composition to which water would add
stability!  He got that out of some book, and was very pleased with
it."

She turned to Creevey, who was her neighbour on the left.

"We're becoming a new type--physically, I mean.  There's very
little need for slimming now.  I agree with Julius Csar--I prefer
people about me that are fat and comfortable, and I can't find
them.  Look at us here.  Sally and I are wraiths, and Frank is a
mere anatomy.  I often feel as wispish as a leaf in the wind.  I
want to be substantial.  Lilah and Mr Creevey are better, but of
course they're not plump, and Adam looks like a prize-fighter in
hard training.  What has become of the nice, easy-going, well-
padded people with soft voices and wide smiles?  We don't breed 'em
nowadays."

"What about Jimmy Raven?" someone asked.

"Oh, Jimmy!  He used to be a beautiful young man, and now he is fat
and waddles--but that's because he has taken up with some slushy
religion, and believes that there is no such thing as pain or
wickedness, and that we're all in a Pullman express bound for the
Golden Shore.  Charles Lamancha says it's biology--that atrophy of
mind is usually attended by hypertrophy of body.  Have I got the
words right?"

"We're lean," said Creevey, and his voice belied his words, for its
chalky richness seemed to argue a eupeptic body--"because we're
dissatisfied, and that is not a bad thing to be.  We're all
seekers."

Adam glanced across the table at Frank and saw a whimsical look on
his face.  These were the very words he had used during that walk
home through the Birkpool streets.

"Seekers after what?" Frank asked.  "A City of God?  Or only some
new thing?"

Creevey raised his massive head, and his eyes had an ironic
seriousness.

"You can give it any fine name you like.  Geraldine says it is a
land fit for heroes, and President Wilson says it is a world fit
for democracy, and the little poets call it a new renaissance.  But
we are not so much the slave of words to-day, and these pretty
things are only meant for perorations.  The motive at the base of
everything is money.  Call it economic stability if it pleases you,
but that only means money.  Everyone wants more out of the pool--
workman, master, professional man, rentier, statesman, people.
What's behind the League of Nations?  Not the horror of war, not
humanity, except in the case of a few old ladies and imaginative
youths.  It's disgust at having to waste good money in blowing
things to bits."

"But Ken says that there is no pool to grab things out of," put in
Jacqueline.

"My dear lady, there will always be a pool, and clever people will
always have their hands in it."

"But what is to happen," Frank asked, "even if the pool turns out
to be large enough and a great multitude can have a share in it?
What are they going to do with their share?  Is the new millennium
to be like a Brighton hotel, all upholstery and rich cooking and a
jazz band?"

"Why should it?  Comfort need not be gross, it may have all the
refinements.  You can't have civilisation without money behind it.
The great day of Athens was when she was cock of the Aegean and
levied tribute from her dependencies.  I'm no materialist, but I
thank my stars I live in an age when people have an eye for facts.
A little sound biology is what is needed.  You've got to have a
quantitative basis, as the wiseacres say, for qualitative
progress."

"But how if quality is choked by quantity?" Frank asked.

"It needn't be.  That's one of the arbitrary antitheses that your
profession is always inventing--God or Mammon, the Church or the
World, the Narrow Road or the Broad Road, and so forth.  Quality
may be choked by quantity, but it will most certainly be starved by
scarcity."

Adam, who had been talking to Mrs Pomfrey, addressed Creevey for
the first time.

"Perhaps you're right that the money motive is predominant with
everybody.  But assume that the confusion of the globe is only
beginning, and that in a year or two the whole economic fabric will
be cracking.  Assume too that the only hope of saving it will be by
a great effort of discipline and sacrifice.  Will you get that
effort merely for the money motive?  Mustn't you bring in an
altogether different kind of appeal?"

Creevey shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't think there need be any cracking if people show common
sense.  If there is, you won't mend it by any of the old-fashioned
appeals.  The world is out of the mood for them.  It doesn't
understand the language."

He broke off to answer a question from his hostess.  Mrs Pomfrey
was speaking in her low-pitched husky voice, and Adam had to
incline his head to catch her words.

"I think Mr Creevey is wrong," she said.  "Our troubles are only
beginning, and we need a change of heart if we are to meet them.  I
want to see a new Crusade and I want Mr Alban to be its Peter the
Hermit."

Frank Alban opposite seemed to be trying to catch her words, and
Adam repeated them.  The young man laughed, but there was no mirth
in his laugh.

"I wish I had Peter the Hermit's job.  It was a simple affair to
persuade men who believed in God to set out to reclaim God's holy
city from the infidel--and to go with them.  To go with them, to
share all their hardships and dangers.  I have to persuade people
that there is a God at all, and to make them believe that evil is a
more awful thing than pain, and that a starved soul is worse than a
starved body.  I can't tell them to pack up and follow me across
the globe--that would be straightforward enough.  I can only tell
them to go on as they are and grub along in their deadly monotonous
lives.  And the infernal thing is that I can't join them.  I can't
make my life like theirs.  If I tried it would only be a pose and
they would see through it.  People like me need never fear an empty
belly or the loss of a roof over our heads.  A preacher should be
a little bit above his hearers, and I feel most of the time below
mine.  When I see a woman with a thin face and hands worn to the
bone with toil, or a middle-aged workman struggling to keep his
job against the handicap of failing strength--then I feel that
my job is an infernal imposture.  I wish that I were a penniless
Franciscan in the fifteenth century, because then we should
all be on a level.  Only you can't put back the hands of your
accursed clock.  I'm suffering from the nightmare of other people's
poverty . . . and I sometimes think that the nightmare is worse
than the fact."

Mrs Pomfrey nodded.  "I think I know what you mean.  But may not
your suffering give you power?  It will sharpen your sympathy."

She turned to Adam.  "Don't you agree with me?"

"Melfort doesn't know what we mean," Frank said.  "He's the real
Franciscan if you like.  He has been through so many kinds of naked
hell that a consumptive tramp on a winter day expects more from the
world than he does.  He is the man who should be at my job--only if
my perch is too low his is too high, and he could never drag an
ordinary fellow within sight of it."

Adam shook his head.

"Nonsense, Alban," he said, "I can't lead men.  The best I can do
is to help those who can."

Mrs Pomfrey turned to him.

"I wish you could tell me something about yourself," she said.  "I
have only heard rumours.  But I am afraid you won't.  You seem to
me the only modest person left in an advertising world."  She
looked on him with her friendly eyes, and then turned them on
Frank, and Adam seemed to see in the way in which she regarded the
other something more than friendliness, something possessive and
affectionate.

Jacqueline had caught a word.

"Modest!" she exclaimed.  "You're utterly wrong, Lilah.  Adam is
the most immodest creature alive.  We are wistful waifs compared to
him.  He knows where he is, and knows it so clearly that he never
troubles to explain.  Mr Creevey says that we are all seekers to-
day.  I don't think Adam is one.  He has found something--only he
won't tell."

Creevey lifted his head, which as usual had sunk between his broad
drooping shoulders.  He looked at Adam with his inscrutable,
challenging smile.

"That is my notion of success," he said--"to have found what you
want and to be able to keep it to yourself.  Only there is no
standing still in life.  What one man has found may conflict with
what others are seeking, and he may have to fight to retain it."

He lifted his glass of port.

"I drink," he said, "to the success of the best man.  That the best
should win is all that matters."

Afterwards in the drawing-room Adam talked to Jacqueline Armine.

"I can't make Ken out," she said.  "I seem to have entirely lost
the hang of him.  He came back from the war declaring that he meant
to enjoy himself for the rest of his natural life.  He was crazy
about the Court and started putting it to rights--got the coverts
tidied up and began to rear pheasants in the old way.  He spent a
lot of money on the farms, far more than he'll ever get back.  He
wouldn't take the hounds, but he hunted regularly twice a week.
Then you know how keen he is about horses--he has every kind of
theory about how to breed up to an ideal--and he talked about a
racing stable.  Well, he seems to have forgotten all that.  He's
had a call and has gone dotty about the public service, and I find
it very wearing to keep pace with him.

"No, it's not Birkpool only," she said in reply to a question of
Adam's.  "It was quite natural that he should be Mayor--that's a
family tradition.  It's everything else.  He naturally wishes he
was in the House--not the Lords, but the Commons--he has so much he
wants to say.  You've seen from the papers that he has taken to
making speeches?  He has heaps of queer friends up and down the
country and they arrange meetings for him.  Pretty strong meat he
gives them too.  The seventh Marquis has been sending anxious
wires, and small wonder, if Ken said half the things he's reputed
to have said!  He's a mixture of high Tory and rampant Bolshie--
says he doesn't care a hoot for democracy and all the old Victorian
idols, but that we have got to preserve the stamina of England, and
that it can only be done by facing facts and having a fresh deal.
He has big meetings and plenty of oppositions, for he slangs all
sides impartially, but it looks as if he were getting a following,
and where it's to end I'm blessed if I know.  The idyllic existence
I had hoped for is all in smithereens."

"What about Birkpool?" Adam asked.

"Birkpool!" she exclaimed.  "That's going to be a tough proposition.
Instead of being content with a few functions--Lady Armine's Charity
Ball, the Mayor's dinners--that sort of thing, after the peaceful
fashion of his forbears, he must needs stick his nose into all the
unsavoury corners and shout his criticisms from the roof-tops.  He
has quarrelled with half the councillors because he told them they
were silly old men who didn't understand their silly old jobs.  He
is on to housing at present--says it's a howling scandal, and that
he'll show up the grafters if he has to spend the rest of his days
fighting libel actions.  He has managed to hang up the new Town
Hall--says that Birkpool must wash its face first before it thinks
about a bib and tucker.

"Popular?" she went on.  "Ken will always be popular with his own
kind.  Most of the respectables hate him and blackguard him in
private, but they are too great snobs to attack him openly.  The
press crabs him respectfully and regretfully.  The man in the
street is ready to cheer him on as he would back a dog in a fight.
I do my best to keep the peace by making love to the womenkind of
the magnates.  I stuff the Court with week-end parties that need
the tact of an archangel, and my face is perpetually contorted in
an uneasy smile. . . .  Adam, I verily believe you had something to
do with all this.  Ken is constantly quoting you.  If you have, you
have done an ill turn to a woman that always wished you well."

"I think you rather like it," said Adam.

"I don't dislike it--yet, for I love a row.  But I'm worried about
where it is going to lead.  I'm a wife and a mother and I want
peace.  Birkpool is rapidly becoming a powder magazine.  There's
Ken, and there's the Labour man Utlaw.  Of course you know him.
And you know his sweetheart, too.  There's a clever girl if you
want 'em clever.  I've made great friends with Miss Florence
Covert, pronounced Court.  I like Utlaw, and Ken swears by him, but
the association of the two bodes trouble.  Ken, if you please, is
President of the Conservative Association, and spends most of his
time with the Labour leaders, so honest Tories feel as if they were
standing on their heads.  Utlaw's salvation will be his wife--they
are to be married next month, you know.  You thought her very rabid
and class-conscious.  So she is, but I'm not quite sure which
class.  It may not be her husband's. . . .  And last of all there's
Frank, and he's the worst.  It's hard luck for Birkpool that all
the high explosives should be concentrated there.  God knows what
will happen when Frank gets into his stride, and adds the thunder
of Sinai to the very considerable noise which Ken and Utlaw are
making.  Lilah may get her Peter the Hermit after all accompanying
the crusade to Westminster."

She looked across the room to where Creevey and Mrs Pomfrey were
talking in a corner.  The two heads seen in the shadowed light had
a certain resemblance in their suggestions of massiveness and
restrained power.

"What, by the way, do you make of Lilah?" she asked.  "No, I
forgot, you never attempt hasty summaries of people.  You've only
just got to know her?  Well, I'll give you the benefit of my larger
knowledge.  Lilah fascinates me--she is so good, so unscrupulously
good.  There is no trouble she won't take to help a friend, and
there's none I believe she wouldn't take to down an enemy, if she
had one.  She is always quite convinced that she is on the side of
the angels.  How blessed that must be!  I wish I had half her
conviction."

"She has an odd face," said Adam.  "What do you read in it?  A
woman is the best judge of a woman."

"I read heart--genuine goodness of heart.  I read brains.  There's
no doubt about that.  I haven't any myself, but I can recognise
them and admire them from afar.  Ask Kit Stannix, and he will tell
you that she knows more and can reason better than most men. . . .
I read also complete lack of imagination.  She has sympathy, but it
is of the obvious kind, without insight--and she has no wings.  She
is devoted to brother Frank, and very good for him.  She may be his
salvation, just as Florence Covert may be the salvation of Utlaw.
Oh no, I don't mean that they're in love or will ever marry.  Frank
is not the marrying kind, and Lilah has had all the matrimony she
wants.  But she will keep his feet on the ground, and prevent him
becoming an ineffectual angel. . . .  You don't look as if you
liked the prospect.  I believe you have a morbid weakness for
angels."


II


After his marriage Utlaw moved to a little raw house in the
Portsdown Road, and Adam occupied his former rooms on the ground-
floor in Charity Row.  This was convenient in many ways, for it
enabled him to put up Amos in his old room, when that worthy
descended upon Birkpool from the North.  Also he could leave the
house inconspicuously at odd hours without distracting Mrs Gallop.

In these days he had gone back to his former habits.  The bagman
remained only for the benefit of his landlady and the Utlaws.
Marrish before he left England had put him in touch with the
disgruntled section of Birkpool Labour, and with Amos's help he had
penetrated to circles which even the Utlaws scarcely touched.  He
was now a Scot, back from South Africa, who had been much about on
the Continent and had the name of an extremist.  He talked little,
but he looked the part of a maker of revolutions, and hints from
Amos skilfully established that repute.  So bit by bit he got the
confidence of the wilder elements without scaring the moderates.
One conclusion he soon reached.  He felt under his hand the
throbbing of a great unrest which must sooner or later be
dangerous.  There was no confidence in the masters, and less in the
Government; so soon as the economic strain began--and that was
daily drawing nearer--there would be a perilous stirring of
overwrought nerves and puzzled brains.

But there was confidence in Utlaw--that was plain.  Even the
fiercest was not prepared to do more than respectfully criticise.
The man had some dmonic power which gave him an unquestioned
mastery.  Perhaps the main reason was that which Amos had once
given, that he was Englishness incarnate, and therefore a natural
leader of Englishmen.  His familiar kindliness endeared him even to
those who suffered from the rough edge of his tongue.  He was
credited with illimitable "guts."  His joyous ribaldries were
affectionately quoted.  They were proud of him too--he had placed
their Union on the national map in a way that old Deverick had
never done--he was a "coming man," and when he arrived his
followers would not be forgotten.  Deverick was due for retirement
soon, and Utlaw must be his successor.  There was talk of
Parliament too.  Birkpool chuckled to think how Joe would batter
the hard faces there, and set the frozen feet jigging.

One afternoon Adam went to call on Mrs Utlaw.  Jacqueline Armine
had warned him of a change in that young woman.

"We had the Utlaws at the Court for the weekend before last," she
told him.  "It was rather a wonderful menagerie even for me.  We
had three couples of Birkpool grandees: Sir Thomas and Lady, Sir
Josiah and Lady--war knights, you know--and the Clutterbucks, who
have just bought the Ribstones' place and are setting up as gentry.
Rather nice couples they were, very genteel, very mindful of their
manners, and the womenkind had the latest Paris models.  Their fine
feathers made me feel a crone.  Then we had the Lamanchas by way of
pleasing Birkpool, and I must say Mildred played up nobly.  But the
real yeast in the loaf was the Utlaws.  Do you know, Adam, that's
an extraordinary fellow?  He can lay himself alongside any type of
man or woman and get on with them.  He had been having all kinds of
rows with the grandees and been calling them outrageous names and
making game of them, which is what they like least, but he hadn't
been an hour in their company before they would have fed out of his
hand.  I think it's his gift of liking people and showing that he
likes them.  He had them roaring at his jokes, and I believe they
actually came to regard him as a sort of ally, for I heard old
Clutterbuck confiding to him some of his grievances against Ken.
Charles Lamancha, too.  You know how he behaves--elaborately civil
to anybody he regards as an inferior, but shockingly impolite to
his equals.  Well, Charles was very polite to the grandees, but he
wasn't polite to Utlaw, and that's the greatest compliment he could
have paid him.  It was 'Sir Thomas' and 'Sir Josiah' and 'Mr
Clutterbuck,' but it was 'Utlaw' and 'Don't be a damned fool'--
Charles's best barrack-room form.  I believe he asked him to stay
with him when he could take a holiday--I know he liked him--you
could see it in Charles's crooked smile.  How does Utlaw manage it?
I suppose it was his regimental training which has made him at home
with Charles's type.  He would have made a great diplomat if he had
been caught young."

"And the bride?" Adam asked.

"That was the greatest marvel of all.  Florrie--oh, we're on
Christian terms now--was the perfect little lady.  She cast back to
her great-grandmother, who I believe was a Risingham.  You would
have thought she had spent all her life in the soft lazy days of an
old country house.  She had the air, you know, of helping Mildred
and me to put the Birkpool people at their ease.  No effort, no
show, very quiet and modest, but perfectly secure.  She's beginning
to learn how to dress herself, too.  All the men fell in love with
her, and Mildred took her to her bosom, and you know that our dear
Mildred is not forthcoming.  But I could see that the grandee
ladies hated her.  Not that she patronised them, but they could
feel that she was of a different type and they weren't prepared for
it.  That young person is going to raise antagonisms which her
husband won't find it easy to settle."

The Utlaws' house was the ordinary suburban bungalow, but its
mistress had made the interior delightful.  It was furnished with
economy and taste, the little drawing-room was full of flowers and
books, and Adam was given tea out of very pretty china.  Jacqueline
was right.  Florrie Utlaw had begun to take pains with her
appearance.  Her hair was better waved, her face was less thin, and
a new air of well-being revealed its charming contours, while her
deep eyes, though hungry as ever, were also happy.

She greeted Adam with a quiet friendliness.  He was on her man's
side and therefore she was on his.  She had given up her job at
Eaton's she told him--Joe had insisted--and now she reigned in a
little enclave of their own which was going to enlarge itself some
day into a great domain.

There was none of the uneasy inverted snobbery in her manner which
he had formerly noted.  She talked briskly of affairs and
personages in the world in which Utlaw was making his mark, but
with a cool businesslike air.  She condescended a little to Adam,
for he was not of that world; he was not a person to be cultivated
for any use he might be--only to be welcomed for his loyalty. . . .
Of Judson, him of the smashing repartees, once to her a demigod,
she was frankly critical.  "He's so rough that people believe him
to be a diamond," she said.  "That's not mine, it's Joe's.  I think
the men are growing a little tired of him--the perpetual steam-
hammer business is getting to be a bore."  Gray was still a hero,
for he had magnetism and poetry.  About Trant, the party leader,
she was enthusiastic.  Joe had been seeing a lot of him lately, and
was being brought into private consultation.  "He is a great
gentleman," she said, "for he has no vanity.  Joe always says that
the man without vanity can do anything he pleases."  Friendliness
to Joe was of course a sufficient passport to her favour, but Adam
remembered also that Sir Derrick Trant belonged to a family that
had fought at Crcy.

He asked how the new Mayor was doing.  Her eyes sparkled.

"You remember what I said when we first met, Mr Milford?  I was
utterly wrong.  Lord Armine is a real man.  He is on the wrong side
of course, but he has courage and big ideas, many of them quite
sound.  It's great luck that Joe and he were in the same battalion,
for they meet on a proper basis.  They are like two schoolboys when
they get together--it's 'Mr Utlaw' and 'Lord Armine' at the start,
and at the end it's 'Joe' and 'Sniffy.'  I love Lady Armine, too,
and think her perfectly beautiful.  You know her a little, don't
you?  She told me she remembered meeting you."

There was no mention of the Utlaws' visit to the Court.  If there
was any snobbishness in Florrie, she was too clever to show it.

Chiefly she talked of Joe's career.  There was a chance of an early
seat in Parliament, for Robson was dying and the East division of
Flackington was in the pocket of the Union.  She was anxious for
him to get at once into the House.  "He needs a proper sounding-
board," she said, "to make his voice carry.  Meetings up and down
the country are all very well, but the papers only report the big
men.  In the House Joe would be a national figure within six
months.  He is a deadly debater, not a tub-thumper like Judson.
Trant says he would give anything to have him at his back when the
Factory Bill comes on."

But the urgent matter was the national secretaryship of the Union
when Deverick resigned next month.  Mrs Utlaw's new matronly calm
slipped from her and she became the eternal female fighting for her
mate's rights.

"It's a test case," she declared.  "Joe is far the biggest man in
the show, and if it goes by merit nobody else can have a look in.
If they pass him over, then there's no gratitude in the movement,
and no decency."

She let herself go, and Adam was introduced to a long roll of
grievances.  It was a thankless job serving the people--plenty of
kicks, no ha'pence, and only once in a blue moon a thank you.
Florrie twined her fingers, her eyes glowed, and her words were
like a torrent long dammed.  Adam understood that this was her way
of seeking relief; she could do it with him, for he was obscure and
safe.  He was very certain that to most of the complaints Utlaw
himself would never have given a second thought; he had mentioned
them in her presence in his expansive way, and she had docketed
them and stored them up in her heart.  He realised two other
things.  Florrie--perhaps Utlaw too--was getting a little out of
sympathy with the whole Trade Union machine and the political party
of which it was the centre.  And there was a reasonable chance that
Utlaw would not succeed Deverick.



Lord Lamancha, a member of the Cabinet, gave a dinner with a small
party to follow, and, since a royal personage was to be present,
Adam had to wear his miniature medals.  They made a formidable
string, for a number of foreign orders had been thrown upon him
unsought, dispensed from the pool which his superiors had had at
their discretion.  He hated displaying them, but it was less
conspicuous to fall in with the conventional etiquette than to
disregard it.  He had accepted the invitation, because a German
statesman was to be there whom he wanted to meet.

It was a man's dinner, and his seat was on the right hand of the
German guest, whose name was Hermann Loeffler, with on his other
side Christopher Stannix.  Loeffler was a small spare man who
carried himself so well that he seemed to be of the ordinary
height.  He looked fifty, but was probably younger, for his thick
black hair was prematurely grizzled.  It grew low on a broad
forehead, beneath which the face narrowed till it terminated in a
short beard.  This beard obscured the lower part, but Adam had a
notion that, if the man were clean-shaved, his mouth and jaw would
be seen to be firmly and delicately modelled.

Loeffler was in the uneasy German Cabinet--Minister of Commerce,
Adam thought--and like most of his colleagues, his career had been
variegated.  He had begun life as a scholar, and long ago had
published a learned work on St Augustine.  Then for a short period
he had been a journalist on a famous Rhineland paper, where he had
become a friend of Walter Rathenau, who had detected in him a
special financial talent and had brought him into the banking
business.  He had served during the four years of war in a
Westphalian regiment, and after the Armistice, again under the gis
of Rathenau, had entered politics.  He was sprung from the lower
bourgeoisie, and was the kind of man who would never have risen
under the old regime, but who might have a career in a middle-class
republic.  Stannix had praised him--said he was honest and
courageous and reasonable, the sort of fellow one could work with.

But it was not Loeffler's political prospects that interested Adam.
Once early in 1918 a certain middle-aged Danish business man called
Randers, who had a neat blond moustache and wore big horn-rimmed
spectacles like an American, had found himself in a difficult
position in a Rhineland town.  Circumstances had arisen which
caused the military authorities to have their suspicions about this
well-credentialled Dane.  In particular there had been a Major
Loeffler, who had been badly wounded at Cambrai and had been given
a base job for six months.  Of all his war experiences Adam looked
back upon his examination by Loeffler as his severest trial.  He
had liked him, he remembered, liked his honest eyes and his good
manners, and he had profoundly respected his acumen.  This was one
of the men whom he had hoped to meet again, and the first mention
of him in the press had set him following his career.

Loeffler spoke English slowly and badly, though he understood it
fairly well, so after he had been engaged in an embarrassed
conversation with Lamancha for a quarter of an hour he was relieved
when his other neighbour addressed him in German.  Excellent
German, too, spoken with the idiom, and almost with the accent, of
his own district.  Adam pushed his name card towards him, and
Loeffler read it with eye-glasses poised on the tip of his blunt
nose.

"You speak our language to admiration," he said.  "Ah, you learned
it as a staff officer long ago?  You English are better linguists
than us Germans--your tongues are more adaptable.  Maybe your minds
also."  He smiled in his friendly, peering way.

They slipped into an intimate conversation, for Loeffler found it
easy to be frank with one to whom understanding seemed to come
readily and who had an air of good-will.  He spoke of the
sufferings of his country--the middle-classes for the most part
ruined, with all their careful standards of life crumbling about
them--world-famous scholars earning their bread by typing and
copying--little businesses that had been so secure and comfortable
gone in a night.  "They are bearing it well," he said.  "My people
have much stoicism in their bones, and they can endure without
crying out."  He spoke of evil elements, the financiers who
flourished in any dbcle, the hordes of the restless and
disinherited, the poison of Communism filtering through from
Russia.  "Yet there is hope.  We have a stalwart youth growing up
which, if it is well guided, may build our land again.  The peril
is that even honest men may be tempted to seek short cuts, and the
good God does not permit of short cuts in this life of ours.  If
they are shown a little light, even though it is at the end of a
long tunnel, they will endure.  But if not--if they have no hope--
they may break loose, and that will mean a world-confusion.

"There must be no more war," he said.  "Now is the time, when all
men have seen its folly, to purge mankind of that ancient auto-
intoxication.  But you will not do this only by erecting a supra-
national machine for peace.  I am a supporter of the League of
Nations--beyond doubt, but it is not enough.  You cannot have a
League without the nations, and these nations must first of all be
re-made.  Only then can you have a new world-mind.  Chiefly Germany
and Britain, for these are the key-points.  France is a great
people unlike all others, but France will never stand out.  She
will fall in--after protestations--with the general sense of
humanity, and presently make herself its high priest and
interpreter.  That is her mtier--she gives form to what others
originate.  America!  She is a world to herself, and will walk
alone and listen to no one's advice till she learns the folly of it
by harsh experience.  Like our practical people she will practise
the mistakes of her predecessors till she finds them out.  But
Germany must set her house in order without delay, for delay means
disaster.  Britain, too, for you are still the pivot of the world,
and if you fall no one can stand.  I am not very happy about your
Britain.  You will pardon a stranger for his arrogance, but I do
not think you are yet awake.  We Germans are awake--to a far more
difficult task than yours, and wakefulness, however unpleasant, is
better than sleep."

He broke off to answer a question of Lamancha's, which had to be
repeated twice before he grasped its purport.  Adam turned to
Stannix.

"Lord, I wish I had your gift of tongues, Adam," the latter said.
"I am not much of a judge, but you seem to speak rather better
German than Loeffler. . . .  You asked me about Utlaw before
dinner, and I hadn't the chance to reply.  I heard this afternoon
that he had missed the Union secretaryship.  They have taken
Potter.  A bad mistake, I think, in their own interest, but that's
not any concern of mine.  What worries me is its effect on Utlaw.
He is bound to be pretty sick about it.  I only hope it won't make
him run out."

"How do you mean?"

"Forswear his class.  Utlaw's strength is that he is class-
conscious in the only reasonable way.  He knows his people through
and through, and, while he is just a little above them so as to
give him the vantage for leadership, he is bone of their bone and
flesh of their flesh.  He is loyal to them and they know it, but
he's too loyal to them to tell them lies and mislead them, and they
know that too.  But he's devouringly ambitious, and a man of his
brains won't stand being elbowed aside by nonentities.  We mustn't
forget the cut-throat competition among the Labour people.  There
are too many running for the same stakes, and if a man stumbles
he's trampled down.  It's a far crueller business than in our own
jog-trot party.  Besides, they are eaten up with vanity."

"Utlaw has no vanity."

Stannix pursed his lips.

"Perhaps not.  But all his competitors have it abundantly, and that
means that merit isn't given a chance.  How can it be if everybody
thinks himself God Almighty. . . .  I am not so sure that Utlaw has
none, either.  He wouldn't be human if he hadn't.  He has been up
here at the Economy Commission, as you know, and has done amazingly
well.  I've rarely seen a better performance.  Made his points
clearly and neatly--always ready to meet a sound argument and
genially contemptuous of a bad one--prepared to give way with a
good grace when necessary--accepted gratefully half a loaf and
adroitly swapped it for a whole one--he has a real genius for
affairs.  Compliments were flying about, Trant made a pet of him,
and Geraldine laid himself out to be gracious.  The man couldn't
help being flattered.  Now what I ask is, with all this reputation
behind him, how he is going to take being turned down by his own
people."

"I don't think he'll play the fool," said Adam firmly.

"I hope not, but the temptation will be great, and I think too well
of him to want him on our side.  His strength is to stay where
Providence has put him. . . .  Happily I don't suppose he could
afford to cut the painter.  He hasn't a bob, I'm told."

After dinner Adam saw no more of Loeffler, who had a short talk
with the royal personage, and then seemed to be engaged in
conference with various members of the Cabinet.  The Lamanchas'
house was well adapted for entertaining, and the big rooms were not
inconveniently crowded.  Adam found a corner by the balustrade at
the head of the main staircase, where he could see the guests
arriving in the hall below and the procession upwards to where they
were received by the host and hostess.  It amused him to watch this
particular ritual on the few occasions when he went to parties--the
free-and-easy ascent, the sudden moment of self-consciousness as
they made their bow, the drifting off into absorbed little
coteries.  Most people had a party guise, something different in
their faces as well as in their clothes, a relapse to the common
denominator of the herd.  But some retained a rugged individuality
and so were out of the picture.  Thirlstone, for instance, who
looked a backwoodsman however he was dressed, and Manton, the
steeplechase rider, whose trousers always suggested breeches.

One man he noted on the staircase who was different from the
others.  He was taking nothing for granted, for his eager, curious
eyes darted about with evident enjoyment, as if he were a child out
for a treat.  Adam saw that it was Utlaw, rather smart, with a
flower in his buttonhole, and a new dress-suit, which had certainly
not been made in Birkpool.  He saw too that the uplifted face had
recognised him, recognised him with surprise.  So he did not move
from his place, for the time had come to drop the bagman.

Utlaw made his way to him.

"Good Lord, Milford," he said, "what are you doing here?"

"I dined here," said Adam.  "The Lamanchas are old friends of
mine."

Utlaw's eyes were on his medal ribbons.

"The D.S.O. and a bar.  I thought you told me you weren't in the
war.  You didn't get that for staying at home."

"I didn't say I wasn't in the war.  I said I wasn't fighting."

"Your service must have been pretty active, anyway, or you wouldn't
have got that.  Look here, Milford, what sort of a game have you
been playing with me?  What about the bagman in Mrs Gallop's
upstairs room?"

Adam laughed.

"You invented that for yourself, you know.  I only didn't undeceive
you.  I went to Birkpool to make friends with you and I hope I have
succeeded?"

Utlaw's face, which for a moment had clouded, broke into a grin.

"You jolly well have, old chap.  And I can tell you I want all the
friends I've got.  Have you heard that they've turned me down for
the Union secretaryship?  Dirty work at the cross-roads!  My lads
in Birkpool will have something to say about that. . . ."

He broke off and advanced to greet a lady who had just arrived and
who seemed to welcome the meeting.  Adam saw that it was Mrs
Pomfrey.


III


For some months Adam was little absent from Birkpool.

His relations with Utlaw were on a new basis.  He was still to most
people the commercial gentleman who lodged with Mrs Gallop, but
Utlaw was aware that he played other parts into which he forbore to
enquire, though he showed his awareness by often asking his opinion
about this man and that and his views on popular feeling.  But he
treated him now not only as a friend but as a counsellor, the
repository of much knowledge which he did not himself possess.

Clearly Utlaw was going through a difficult time.  Robson, though
given up by the doctors, obstinately refused to die, and the East
Flackington seat, which might have been a consolation for the loss
of the Union secretaryship, had not yet come his way.  He had lost
something of his easy mastery of his job--was no longer "on the top
of it," to use his own phrase; he was self-conscious and inclined
to be irritable, and Florrie in the background was no peacemaker.
He must have told her something of Adam's real position, for she
showed a new desire for his society, and would pour out her
grievances to him.  Her politics now were her husband's career,
nothing else.  She was inclined to be impatient with any who raised
difficulties for him in his daily work, and she was beginning to be
contemptuous about the leaders of his party.  "There's only one
relic of feudalism left in Britain," she used to declare, "the
super-fatted, hermetically-sealed, feudal aristocracy of the trade
unions.  People like Judson and Potter are the real oligarchs.
Compared to them Lord Armine is a Jacobin."  Adam recognised the
sentence from a recent anonymous article in the press, of whose
authorship he was now made aware.  Florrie was trying to supplement
their income by journalism, and succeeding.

It was his business to keep Utlaw to his job in spite of his wife,
and he found it increasingly difficult.  Utlaw had lost some of his
old mastery over his people; he was still a leader, but a leader
without any clear purpose.  He had lost his single-heartedness, and
appeared not to regret it.  He invited Creevey to Birkpool to talk
to a big debating society which he had founded, and though
Creevey's brilliant opportunism may have been unintelligible to
most of his audience, it seemed to be acceptable to Utlaw, and it
helped to confuse the minds of some of his chief lieutenants.  The
man's opinions were in a flux.  More serious, he seemed to be
slipping away from his class.  He was less a worker in a wide
movement than the chief of a private army of condottieri which he
might swing over to any side.

Frank Alban was also difficult.  His first months at St Mark's had
been the biggest sensation Birkpool had ever known.  The church was
crowded, and Frank's sermons to his disgust were reported in the
popular London press.  That soon passed, but he remained a potent
influence, and the Albanites became a force in the city.  So long
as he dealt with faith there was no opposition, but when he turned
to works he encountered ugly obstacles.  He had a remarkable way of
handling boys, and his first big enterprise was a chain of boys'
clubs in which he enlisted as fellow-workers an assortment of
Birkpool youth.  But presently he came hard up against social evils
in the employment of boy labour and the eternal housing tangle, and
he broke his shins against many educational and industrial stone
walls.  Birkpool did not know what to make of this turbulent priest
who was not content to stick to his own calling, and Frank had
moments of bitter hopelessness.

Adam was his chief consultant, and in his case as in Utlaw's the
difficulty was to keep him to his job.  He had much of Newman's
gallant intransigence, but that inability to compromise, which gave
him his power as a preacher, made his path thorny in practical
affairs.  The temptation was to retire inside his own soul, the old
temptation of the saint.  His high-strung spirituality was in
perpetual danger of being introverted, and the crusader of retiring
to his cell.

In dealing with him Adam had an ally in Kenneth Armine.  The Mayor
was not a saint, but he was notably a crusader.  His father died
about this time, and the new Marquis of Warmestre had now the House
of Lords as a platform.  On several occasions he uplifted his voice
there to the amazement of his friends and the embarrassment of his
party, and he could draw large audiences in most parts of the land.
His creed was a hotch-potch, much of it crude and boyish, but it
was preached with amazing gusto, and one or two dogmas stood out
like rocks in a yeasty ocean.  One was the gravity of the times,
since Britain and the world stood at the cross-roads.  Another was
the need for a great effort of intelligence, sacrifice, and
discipline if the people were to pull through.  When his critics
pointed out that much of his stuff was not remarkable for its
intelligence, he joyfully agreed.  That was not his business, he
said; he was no thinker, his job was to stir up the thinkers; but
he knew the one thing needful, which might be hid from the wise but
was revealed to plain fellows like himself.

"Send brother Frank to me," he would say; "I'll cure him of his
megrims.  Hang it all, does the man expect to find his job easy?
Mine is as stiff as Hades, and it's by a long chalk simpler than
his.  I'll keep him up to the mark. . . .  No, I'm enjoying myself.
Jackie hates it, and I'm sorry about that, but I'm bound to go
through with it.  We've got a chance here, what with Frank and
Utlaw to help me, and I'm going to see that we don't miss it.  It's
the only way, you know.  You can't fire the country as a whole--too
big and too damp.  You must take it bit by bit.  If we kindle
Birkpool the blaze will spread, and presently we'll have a glorious
bonfire of rubbish."



One day Adam visited Scrope at the same house in the Northamptonshire
village where he had first met him.  He had had a letter from Freddy
Shaston telling him that the old man was failing rapidly and could
not last long.  "He wants to see you and you must go.  Take the
chance, for a lot of wisdom will leave the world with him."  Adam
had come to know Shaston well.  A partner in a firm of stockbrokers,
his real business in life was to be Scrope's chela, to be his eyes
and ears for a world in which he could no longer mingle.  He had no
desire to do anything, only to find out about things; as he said,
his job was Intelligence not Operations, but it was a task in which
he had few equals.

It was a bleak day in December, and there was no sitting out, as on
the first visit, in a garden heavy with autumn blossom.  The garden
was now sprinkled with snow.  Adam found Scrope propped up with
pillows in an arm-chair beside a blazing fire, and the first glance
showed him that he had not many weeks to live.  The vigour which he
had recovered in the war had ebbed, the face had fallen in and the
cheekbones stood out white and shining, the voice had lost its
crispness and came out slow and flat and languid.  But there was
still humour and interest in the old eyes.

"I have gone back to sanctuary," he said, "my last sanctuary.  I am
very near that happy island of which you told me.  What, by the
way, was its name?  Eilean Bn?"

He looked for a little into the fire and smiled.

"You still frequent it?  Not in the body, of course.  You cannot go
back to it yet awhile.  But it is more to you than a pleasant
fancy, I think.  It is a Paradise to which you will some day
return.  But you must earn the right to it.  Is it not so? . . .
You see I understand you, for all my life I too have lived with
dreams."

For some time he seemed to be sunk in a feebleness from which he
could not rouse himself.  He asked questions and did not wait for
their answer.  Then some wave of life flowed back into his body,
and he sat more upright among his pillows.  "Give me a cigarette,
please," he said, "one of the little black ones in the Chinese box.
I allow myself six in the day.  Now I think we can talk. . . .
Have you found your Messiah?"

"No," said Adam.  "I do not think there will be any one Messiah."

Scrope nodded.

"I think likewise.  The day has gone when one man could swing the
world into a new orbit.  It is too large, this world, and people
speak with too many tongues.  But you have found something?  Shall
I guess?  You have found one who may be a John the Baptist, and you
have found an apostle or two?  Am I right?  You see, I have been
trying to follow your doings a little.  I have learned much of
Birkpool."

"I can have no secrets from you," Adam said.  "I have found a man
who preaches the fear of God.  I have found a man who can lead.
And I have found a man who has a fire in his belly and fears
nothing."

Scrope mused.

"And your hope is that these may be the grain of mustard seed which
will grow into a great tree--an Yggdrasil with its roots in the sea
and its shadow over all the land?  Something that will bind
together the loose soil of the country?  Well, I agree with you in
one thing.  Our malady to-day is disintegration.  We are in danger
of splitting into nebul of whirling atoms.  There is no cohesion
in any of our beliefs and institutions, and what is worse, we have
lost the desire for cohesion.  It is a pleasant world for some
people.  Mr Warren Creevey, for instance.  He loves dilapidation,
for it gives scope to his swift flashing mind.  Also he makes much
money by it.  He would keep the world disintegrated if he could,
for he has no interest in things that endure.  He is a good
Heraclitean, and worships the flux. . . .  A pleasant world for
such as he, but a dangerous world.  Do you see much of Mr Creevey?"

Adam replied that he met him occasionally, but did not know him
well.

"No!  Then my prophecy is not yet fulfilled that your lines of life
would cross.  But I stick to it.  Somewhen, somewhere, somehow you
will do battle with him. . . .  And now for the apostles you have
discovered."

"Do you know them?" Adam asked.

Scrope smiled.

"I can guess them.  Yes, I know a good deal about them.  I do not
think your discernment has been at fault.  But--but!!  I would
prepare you for disappointments.  No one of them is quite of your
own totem, and they may fail you.  Your John the Baptist may grow
weary of the Scribes and Pharisees and flee to his hermitage--or,
worse still, to a papal throne.  Your leader may lead his people
into the desert and lose them there.  Your fearless man may become
muscle-bound and the fire die out of him.  One and all may get soft
or sour.  That is the trouble of working through other people.  Are
you prepared for that?  You are?  Well, what then?"

"I shall find others."

"Doubtless.  But they also may fail you.  And meanwhile time is
passing and any day crisis may be upon us. . . .  You wish to be a
king-maker, but what if there are no kings?  The king-maker may be
forced in spite of himself to be royal."

Adam shook his head.

"Not this one.  He knows his limitations.  I have no power except
in the shadows."

"I think you may be deceiving yourself.  Power is one and
indivisible.  It is only an accident whether it works behind the
scenes or on the stage. . . .  Listen to me, my friend.  You have a
divine patience and have been content to work at that for which you
are least fitted--imponderable, monotonous things--a touch here and
an adjustment there.  You have succeeded--perhaps.  But what of
those other gifts, your real gifts?  You say you have found the man
who is fearless.  But you yourself fear nothing but God.  You have
found a leader.  But leadership is only courage and wisdom and a
great carelessness of self.  Do you lack these things?  Will you
not be forced some day into the light?"

Once again, as at Birkpool after the Marrish business, doubt
descended upon Adam's mind.  Scrope's confidence in him seemed to
be a searchlight which revealed his own incapacity.  He was not a
leader, and yet he was essaying the task of a leader--to shape
men's souls.  Was he succeeding?  Could he succeed?  Were they not
slipping away from him?  He had trained himself for one purpose,
and that was sacrifice, but in this work the utmost sacrifice of
himself would avail nothing.  He was attempting a creative task,
but had God destined him for any such high purpose?  Was not the
clay exalting itself above the potter?

A nurse entered to give Scrope his medicine, and to warn Adam that
the time permitted by the doctor was up.  When she had gone, and
Adam was on his feet to depart, the old man held his hand.

"This is good-bye.  The troublesome accident we call death will
come between us for a little.  Presently I return to the anima
mundi for a new birth.  Let us put it in that way, for one metaphor
is as good as another when we speak of mysteries.  But I believe
that I shall still be aware of this little world of time, and from
somewhere in the stars I shall watch the antics of mankind.  I
think I shall see one thing.  You will ride beside Raymond into
Jerusalem . . . or if you cannot find your Raymond you will enter
alone. . . ."

"I shall find my Raymond," said Adam, "but I shall not ride beside
him. . . ."

Scrope was not listening.

"Or," he continued, his voice ebbing away into feebleness, "you
will leave your body outside the gate."



Falconet had been a regular if not very voluminous correspondent,
but he had stuck to his own country.  Early in the spring, however,
he visited England and occupied his old flat in St James's Street.
He had changed little; he was still lean and dark and hawklike and
impetuous, but his full lower lip projected more than ever as if he
had encountered a good deal of opposition and had had some trouble
with his temper.

"I'm mighty glad to see you," he told Adam.  "I've a whale of a lot
to tell you and to hear from you.  Which will begin?  Me?  Right.
Well, I've got my lay-out pretty satisfactory and it's starting to
work.  Dandiest bit of organisation you ever saw.  Cross-bearings
come in a flood whenever I press the button.  Any fellow we fancy
is passed on by those that don't make mistakes.  Result is, we've
gotten some high-grade ore and pretty soon we shall have the
precious metal."

"Then you are satisfied?"

Falconet twisted his face.

"I'm satisfied that I'm going to add twenty per cent, or maybe
twenty-five per cent, to the net competence of the American people.
I'm on the way to grading up its quality.  I'm saving for it a
lot of fine stuff that would otherwise be stifled in its native
mud. . . .  That's something, anyway."

"But you don't think it enough?"

Falconet laughed.

"Say, Adam, do you take me for a man that's easy contented?  I
don't think it enough--not by the length and breadth of hell.  I've
got some lads that will make good--one of them is going to be the
biggest chemist on earth, they tell me--another will make big
business sit up in a year or two.  Fine work, you say.  Yes, but it
doesn't come within a million miles of touching the spot.  They're
going to make their names and their piles, but they're not going to
help America one little bit in the thing she needs.  They're not
considering the real things, and if they were they wouldn't be any
manner of good.  They're not the type that can swing opinion.

"We're in a mighty bad way," he continued, getting to his feet and,
after his fashion, picking up the sofa cushions, pummelling them,
and flinging them down again.  "Oh, I know we're richer than
Croesus--fat as Jeshurun, and consequently kicking.  We have drawn
in our skirts from poor old Europe in case we are defiled, and we
are looking to go on prospering in God's country and letting the
world go hang.  It won't be God's country long at that rate.  Our
pikers don't see that in the end they can't keep out of the world
any more than they kept out of the war.  We're as smug as a mayor
of a one-horse township that imagines his burg the centre of
creation.  How in hell can you get quality into a nation that don't
believe in quality--that just sits back and counts its dollars and
thanks God that it isn't as other men?  What we need is a change of
view--not heart, for our heart's sound enough--the trouble is with
our eyes.  But as I say, there's nobody that can swing opinion.
I've done my best, and I've been giving a good deal of attention
to my newspapers.  You know I bought the Beacon.  I've got a
crackerjack of an editor, and day in and day out we keep on
preaching common sense.  But we're only read by the converted, and
don't cut any ice with the masses.  That's the cursed thing about a
democracy.  In the old days, when you had converted the King and
the Prime Minister you had done your job, but now you have got to
convert about a hundred million folks that don't know the first
thing about the question.  Cut out a strip of the East and we're
the most ignorant nation on earth about fundamentals.  We have
built up a wonderful, high-powered machine that don't allow us to
think."

"There's the same trouble everywhere," said Adam.  "We're too
clever to be wise."

"And that's God's truth.  I'm weary to death of clever men.  That's
what's muddying the waters.  And I've gotten to be very weary of
your man Creevey.  At first I thought him the brightest thing I had
ever struck.  Well, he is too infernally bright.  He has crossed to
our side of the water pretty often--three months ago he was over
about the French loan, and I can tell you that your Mr Creevey
hasn't been doing any good.  He has a great reputation in Wall
Street and our newspapers have fallen for him, for he takes some
pains to cultivate them and knows just the sort of dope to hand
out.  He can make a thing more clear than the Almighty ever meant
it to be, and the ordinary citizen, finding his prejudices made to
look scientific, cheers loudly and thinks himself a finer guy than
ever.  He has been doing his best to confirm us in our self-
sufficiency.  If money was his object, I would say that he was a
bear of American securities and was out to engineer a smash.
That's partly why I came over here--to get a close-up of the doings
of Mr Warren Creevey."

Adam asked about Falconet's visit to the Continent.

"I had three weeks in Paris.  There Creevey is their own white-
haired boy.  They told me there that he was the only Englishman
with an international mind. . . .  Then I went to Germany.  That's
a difficult proposition, and I haven't rightly got the hang of it.
I'm going back next week.  But I've got the hang of one German.  A
little dusty fellow.  One of their leading politicians.  Loeffler
they call him.  Heard of him?"

Adam nodded.

"Write his name down in your pocket book and remember my words.
Loeffler is going to matter a lot.  He hasn't any cleverness, but
he has a whole heap of horse sense and all the sand on earth.  That
little man goes in as much danger of his life as a Chicago
gangster, and he don't scare worth a damn.  I'm going back to
Loeffler. . . .  And now let's hear what you've been doing."

When Adam had reported Falconet scratched his head.

"You've got to put me wise about this island," he said.  "It's a
big disappointment that old man Scrope has died on me.  I was sort
of counting on a talk with him. . . .  Maybe you have been wiser
than me.  I've been looking too much for brains, and you've gone
for magnetism.  You must let me in on your game, for I'd like to
see your notion of quality. . . .  I've heard of your man Utlaw.
Say, do you know Mrs Pomfrey?"

"A little.  Have you been meeting her?"

"Yes.  I got a note from her when I landed--with a line of
introduction from Creevey, no less.  I took luncheon with her
yesterday.  That's a fine lady.  I'd like to check up with you on
what she told me about England--I reckon she's likely to be right,
though, for they tell me she's close to your Government.  She has
never been in America, but she seemed to have a pretty cute notion
of how things were with us.  She didn't mention you, but she had
quite a lot to say about Mr Utlaw.  Said that in a year or two he
would be the only one of the Labour men that counted.  Do you pass
that?  On our side they don't signify--not yet.  Our work-folk are
too busy buying automobiles and radio sets to trouble about
politics.  Here I know it is different.  But tell me, Adam.  Is it
healthy for a Labour man to be made a pet of by society dames?"

"I'm not afraid of Mrs Pomfrey for Utlaw," said Adam.  "I'm more
afraid of Creevey."

Falconet looked thoughtful.

"Yep.  I can see Creevey making mischief there. . . .  Well, it's a
darned interesting world, though mighty confusing.  As my old
father used to say when he was running a merger and had all the
yellow dogs howling at his heels, it's a great game if you don't
weaken."



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--III


I


In the late summer things began to go ill in Birkpool.  The big
works had few contracts, and the extension which the war had
brought about, and which had rarely been accompanied by any serious
reorganisation or replacement of antiquated machinery, was
beginning to prove so much adipose tissue.  Men were turned away
daily, and the programme of forward orders was so lean that the
city anticipated a grim winter.  One or two small expert businesses
were still flourishing, but Birkpool had its eggs in few baskets,
and the weight of taxation and the competition of foreign countries
were playing havoc with its heavy industries.  The minds of those
who live by the work of their hands are not elastic or easily
adjusted to a new outlook.  The ordinary wage-earner was puzzled,
angry, apprehensive, and deeply suspicious.

The weather did not improve matters.  August is the Birkpool
holiday month, and all August a wet wind had blown from Wales.
September was little better, and in October gales from the North
Sea and the fenlands brought scurries of cold rain.  Lowering skies
and swimming streets added to the depression which was settling
upon Birkpool as thick as its customary coronal of smoke.

On one such day Adam was passing down a side street, where dingy
tram-cars screamed on the metals, and foul torrents roared in the
gutters, and the lash of the rain washed the grease from the
cobbles.  There was a shabby post-office, for in that quarter of
Birkpool even the banks and post-offices looked shabby, from the
swing-doors of which men and women were emerging.  They had been
drawing their old-age pensions, the women were clutching their
purses in their lean, blue-veined hands, and all had that look of
desperate anxiety which the poor wear when they carry with them the
money that alone stands between them and want.  A miserable tramp
on the kerb was singing "Annie Laurie" in a cracked voice, and from
a neighbouring alley, which led to a factory, there poured a crowd
of grimy workmen released at the dinner-hour, turning up the
collars of their thin jackets against the sleet.  The place smelt
of straw, filth, stale food and damp--damp above everything.

Outside the post-office Adam found Frank Alban.  He carried an
umbrella which he had not opened, and the rain had soaked his
ancient flannel suit.  He was watching the old-age pensioners, some
of whom recognised him; an old woman bobbed a curtsy, and a man or
two touched his cap.  But Frank did not return the greetings.  He
seemed wrapped up in some painful dream.

He gripped Adam's arm fiercely.

"I wanted to see you," he said.  "Where are you going?  I'll walk
with you.  Never mind the rain--I like it--a wetting's neither here
nor there.  I can't talk holding up an umbrella."

"I'm going to my rooms," Adam said.  "I can give you luncheon--
bread and cheese and beer.  And a dry coat. . . .  You're a fool to
allow yourself to get wet," he added, as Frank coughed.

"I'm a fool--yes.  But a risk of pneumonia is not the worst kind of
folly."

He said nothing more, but held Adam's arm in a vice till they
reached Charity Row, and Adam had insisted on his changing his
socks and had sent his coat to be dried in Mrs Gallop's kitchen.

"Now, what's your trouble?" Adam asked.

"The old one.  I'm a misfit.  A humbug.  I have no business to be
here.  I'm not tough enough.  You won't understand me, Adam, for
you're tough in the right way.  Most people are only tough because
they are callous, but that's not your case.  You're tough because
there's very few hells you haven't been through yourself and come
out on the other side.  I'm not like that.  I have to tell people
to keep a high head and endure what I've never endured myself--what
I couldn't stick out for a week.  That's why I say that I'm a
humbug."

"What has happened?  You have done a power of good here."

"Have I?" Frank asked bitterly.  "Well, I haven't it in me to do
any more.  Man, don't you see what is happening?  The shadow of
misery is closing down upon this place.  It's so thick that you can
almost touch it.  I see the eyes of men and women getting fear into
them--fear like a captured bird's.  They see all the little
comforts they have created beginning to slip away and themselves
drifting back to the kennels.  They are the finest stock on earth--
there's nothing soft or rotten in them, and that's the tragedy.
What in God's name can I do for them?"

He checked Adam's interruption with a lifted hand.

"Oh, I know what you are going to say.  That my job is to give them
a celestial hope to make up for their terrestrial beastliness.  I
believe in that hope--I believe in it as passionately as ever--but
I can't hand it on to them.  Why?  Because I'm not worthy.  I feel
the most abject inferiority in my bones.  I blush and get cold
shivers in my spine when I try it.  I ought to be one of them,
sharing in all their miseries.  I ought to be doing a day's work
beside them in the shops, and then preaching to them as to brothers
in misfortune.  They would respect me then, and I should respect
myself. . . .  The day of the fatted parson is past.  He should be
a preaching friar as in the Middle Ages, or a fakir with nothing to
him but a begging-bowl and the message of God."

"You wouldn't last long at that job," said Adam.

"I wouldn't.  I wouldn't last a month--I'm not man enough.  But
it's the honest way.  Only I can't do it, I've come out of the
wrong kind of stable.  That's why I say I'm a wretched misfit.
It's killing me.  That wouldn't matter if I were to go down in a
good cause, but as it is I should only be perishing for my folly.
I can't think with my head now--only with my heart."

"Or your nerves," said Adam.

"Call it anything you like.  I'm beneath my job instead of being
above it.  I've been trying to puzzle the thing out, and unless I'm
going to crash I must get back to thinking with my mind."

"We have often had this out before, haven't we?"

"Yes, and you've always cheered me up.  A stalwart fellow like you
heartens a waif like me.  But not for ever.  Things have come to a
pass when even you can do nothing for me.  I'm in the wrong crowd
and must get out of it!"

"What do you propose?"

Frank lifted a miserable face.

"I must get back to my cell--to some kind of cell.  I must get my
balance again.  Perhaps there is still work for me to do. . . .
Someone said that the great battles of the world were all won first
in the mind."

"Who said that?" Adam asked sharply.

"I'm not sure.  I think it was that man Creevey.  You met him at
Lady Flambard's, you remember."

"You've been meeting him?"

"Yes.  He's a friend of Mrs Pomfrey's. . . ."

There was a knock at the door, and Mrs Gallop appeared, a
breathless and flushed Mrs Gallop.  She saw Frank, recognised him,
for she was a great churchgoer, and bobbed a curtsy, a reminiscence
of her village school-days.

"Beg pardon, sir, but her ladyship is 'ere.  The Marchioness--"

She ushered in Jacqueline, a picturesque figure in a white hunting
waterproof, the collar of which framed a face all aglow with the
sting of the rain.

"Hurrah, Adam!" she cried, "what fun to find you at home!  This is
the first time I've raided your lair. . . .  And brother Frank no
less!  You oughtn't to be out in this weather, you know.  I'm glad
to see that Adam's looking after you.  And food!  May I have some
luncheon, please?  I love bread and cheese above all things--and
beer--have you any more beer?  I'm in Birkpool on my usual errand--
the vet.  Gabriel, my Irish setter, has got what looks like canker
in the ear.  I've just deposited him with Branker, and I thought
I'd look you up.  My car will be round in half an hour.  I'm at the
Court, a grass widow.  Ken is off on one of his provincial ramps."

Frank looked at his watch, got up, and announced that he must keep
an appointment.  He nodded to his sister, who had flung off her
waterproof and laid a small dripping green hat on the fender.

"You're an unfeeling brute, Frank," she said.  "You never ask after
my health, though you see I'm as lame as a duck.  Cubbing the day
before yesterday.  I'm going to ride straddle, and have no more to
do with those infernal side-saddles.  They're all right when you
fall clear in a big toss, but in a little one they hurt you
horribly.  No bones broken, thank you--only a strained muscle.
Good-bye, Frank dear.  Go and buy yourself a mackintosh.  An
umbrella in Birkpool is no more use than a sick headache."

When he had gone Jacqueline looked quizzically at Adam.

"Frank is a little shy with me at present," she said.  "He knows I
don't approve of the company he keeps."

As she munched her bread and cheese, her small delicate face took
on a sudden shrewdness.  The airy Artemis became for a moment the
reflecting Athene.

"This is telling tales out of school, but he sees too much of Lilah
Pomfrey.  I don't mean that there's any philandering, and I've
nothing against Lilah, but she's not the best company for Frank in
his present frame of mind.  She rather worships him and that brings
out his weak points.  He takes after my mother's side of the house--
Highland sensitiveness and self-consciousness--and instead of
laughing at his moods she encourages them.  She is making a
sentimentalist out of an idealist.  And the next step, you know, is
a cynic."

Jacqueline poured herself out a glass of beer with a most
professional head on it.

"Didn't somebody say that the world was divided into the hard-
hearted kind and the soft-hearted cruel?  Ken is always quoting
that. . . .  More by token I want to talk to you about Ken.  I
can't stay now, but some day soon we must have it out.  You've made
him a perfectly impossible husband, Adam dear."

"I?"

"Yes, you," she went on.  "You know very well that you're behind
all Ken's daftness.  He takes everything you say for gospel.  But
for you he would have been a most respectable Mayor of Birkpool,
and at the end of his term of office would have been presented with
a service of plate subscribed for by all good citizens.  As it is,
good citizens spit when his name is mentioned.  He has made
everybody uncomfortable, and has got nothing out of it except the
affection of the rag-tag and bob-tail. . . .  And look at his
processing up and down the country.  He is never off the stump, and
he talks the wildest stuff.  Oh, I know some people admire it.
Charles Lamancha says that if you know Ken you understand the kind
of fellows the Cavaliers were who rode with Rupert.  But that is
not much of a certificate, for as far as I can understand history
Rupert muddled all his battles.  He is getting a black name with
his party, too.  Mr Stannix told me that he would have been safe
for the vacant under-secretary-ship last spring if he hadn't
blotted his copy-book.  As it was, they were compelled to give it
to Jimmy Raven, who is a congenital idiot."

Jacqueline glanced through the rain-dimmed window and saw that her
car had arrived.  She rescued her partially dried hat from the
fender, and with Adam's help struggled into her waterproof.

"I'm going to have all this out with you some day soon," she said.
"I'm not thinking of Ken's career---I'm thinking of his happiness--
and mine and young Jeremy's.  And the country's good, too.  Ken's
digging up dangerous things out of people's minds--and dangerous
things out of his own.  The Armines are a queer race, you know, and
I don't want any return to prehistoric freaks.  Atavism is a kittle
thing to play with.  He says that he is getting back to Old
England, but Old England had its unpleasant side.  We learned that
last June with our Women's Institute.  Did I tell you about it?
Well, we have an enlightened vicar who is keen on teaching the
people history by ocular demonstration, and so he got them to act
the founding of Arcote priory, and the flight after Naseby, and
Lady Armine sheltering Charles--all with the proper clothes and
correct detail.  Then this summer he thought he would go a bit
farther back and have the dancing on Midsummer Eve round the
standing stones on Armine Hill.  It was a fine moonlight night, but
everybody was rather shy at first, and I thought it was going to be
a fiasco.  And then it began to go well--a little too well.  You
will scarcely believe it, but our village started to revert to
type.  You never saw such a pandemonium.  The Sunday-school
teachers became mnads, and those that weren't shingled let their
hair down, and Pobjoy the earth-stopper behaved like a dancing
dervish, and Gosling the verger thought he was a high-priest and
tried to brain the vicar.  It seems that the chief feature of those
revels had been the sacrifice of a virgin, and they dashed nearly
succeeded--Jenny Dart it was--one of our laundrymaids.  I can tell
you we had the deuce's own job whipping them off."


II


A fortnight later Adam dined with Christopher Stannix in a private
room at the House of Commons.  The only other guest was Falconet,
who was on the eve of returning to America.

Stannix held a curious position in the Government.  He was reported
to be a most competent administrator and his actual department was
little criticised.  In the House he confined himself in his
speeches to sober and incontrovertible arguments on facts.  But he
was also credited with a singularly receptive mind, and had become
the acknowledged unofficial intelligence officer of the Cabinet.
What his views on policy were the world was left to guess.  He was
believed to be often at variance with some of his colleagues,
notably with Geraldine the Prime Minister, and his friendship with
members of the Opposition, particularly with Trant, was a scandal
to the more precise.  Yet no one questioned his party loyalty, and
the many who at the time professed themselves sick of politics and
politicians were accustomed to except Stannix, and to wish him a
cleaner job.

Adam and Falconet had been waiting for ten minutes before he joined
them and dinner could begin.

"Well, we're in for it," he announced, when the waiter had left the
room after serving the soup.  "I ran across Judson in the Lobby
just now, and he was positively menacing.  You know how he slings
the 'bloodys' in his talk.  To-night he was so excited that his
conversation was mostly expletives and not very easy to follow.
The big strike apparently is pretty well certain.  The employers
want a cut in wages in the new agreement and an extension of hours--
they are on their uppers they say, and a lot of shops will have to
close down if they don't get what they ask.  They've been at the
Ministry of Labour to-day presenting their case, and I gather from
Leveson that he is so convinced by it that he won't have the
Government intervene."

"Have you seen their case?" Adam asked.

"Not yet.  But I can imagine what it is like.  A perfectly
conclusive argument on facts and figures on the present basis of
the industry.  The only answer to it would be to question the
basis.  That is probably pretty rotten--all top-heavy from ill-
considered war development and financial hokey-pokey."

"What do the men say?"

"Adamant, so far.  Stuck their toes in.  Won't budge and won't
argue.  The usual thing.  They're certain they are getting a dirty
deal, but they can't put it into reasonable English.  Our people
won't stand out for logic, but they'll fight like devils for an
instinct.  It's going to be an ugly business if it comes off, for
God knows we can't afford a big stoppage.  Our finances are running
briskly downhill.  I saw Creevey to-day--I don't much care for him
as you know, but whenever he talks on finance I'm impressed.  He
was pointing out that we had established a standard of living for
our people which was not warranted by the saleable value of our
products--which means that we are not paying our way.  He is not
prepared to go back on our social services--says it can't be done.
Perhaps he is right, for all parties go on sluicing out, or
promising to sluice out, new benefits from the public funds--our
own people are just as bad as any other.  Creevey doesn't seem to
mind that--he has no politics, he says, but I often think that he
is the biggest Socialist of them all--he has the kind of quick
autocratic mind that always wants to boss and regiment people.  But
he is clear that sooner or later we must face a scaling down of
wages--money wages.  As a matter of fact, it is quite true that we
have enormously raised the standard of real wages in our trades as
compared with before the war."

"That's because you have taught people to want a better kind of
life."

"No doubt.  And that is a good thing if we could afford it.  But it
looks as if we couldn't.  A strike won't help matters.  The poor
devils will be beaten in the end, and the national income will have
dropped by thirty or forty millions, and nobody, master or man,
will be a penny the better off. . . .  Leveson says there is only
one hope.  If the metal-workers stand out the strike will probably
never begin."

"Is there any chance of that?"

"I gather there is a fair chance.  Potter, their new leader, is the
ordinary thick-headed bellicose type, but there is Utlaw to be
reckoned with.  That means Birkpool.  If Birkpool is against a
strike it won't come off--at least so they tell me.  You know more
about that than I do, Adam.  Could Utlaw swing his men the way he
wanted?"

"Probably--any way he wanted.  But what is to be his way?"

"Creevey seems to think that he is sound."

"What do you call sound?"

"On the side of common sense.  He knows that it is folly to quarrel
about the share from the pool, when the pool is shrinking."

"But aren't you all behaving as if the pool were bottomless with
your policy of increased social services?  Creevey and the rest of
you?"

Stannix laughed.  "That's a fair riposte.  But it's easier to be
provident in the finance of one industry, where you can get the
facts into a reasonable compass, than in the finances of a nation,
when you can get few of the facts agreed. . . .  But tell us about
Utlaw, for you know him better than I.  By the way, I see that
Robson is dead at last.  That means a vacancy in East Flackington,
and Utlaw will have a bye-election to add to his other cares.  We
shall oppose him of course--bound to--but not very whole-heartedly,
and I fancy he'll get a lot of our people's votes.  But about the
strike--which way will he go?"

"I don't know," Adam replied.  "But I know which way he ought to
go."

"And that is?"

"Bring every man out and keep them out till they win."

"But--hang it, man, what do you mean?"

"Look at it this way.  Utlaw is nothing of your ordinary Socialist.
He's an English brand that looks at facts rather than Marxian
whimsies.  He knows his people and loves them--yes, loves them--
that's half the secret of his power.  He sees that they have
painfully and slowly climbed a little way up the hill and he wants
to keep them there.  He doesn't believe in a society where wage-
earners are only a set of figures in a state register; he thinks of
them as individuals, each of whom is entitled to some kind of free
individual life.  He won't have the moral fibre of his people
weakened.  Therefore he stands for high wages.  Wages, he says, are
the key to everything.  It's the old question of property.  A
reasonable amount of property is necessary for liberty.  Therefore
any attack on wages is to be fought tooth and nail.  If the masters
produce figures to show that they can't pay, he says he is entitled
to ask whether the masters are not muddling their businesses.
That's what the ordinary workman is asking.  You don't find much
belief in the plenary inspiration of employers to-day.  Utlaw would
go farther.  If the extravagance of the State is crippling the
employers he would have that checked in the interests of the
worker.  He has no notion of expensive pauperization.  Wages are
his Ark of the Covenant, for he regards them as the price of
individuality. . . .  One thing more.  He admits that matters may
get worse with us, and that if we are to go on we may have to ask
for a great effort of sacrifice and discipline from everybody.  But
that must be equal all round.  He won't have the chance of that
appeal spoiled by compulsory, one-sided, premature sacrifice."

"Good God, Adam," said Stannix, "that's the longest speech you ever
made in your life.  Is that your confession of faith?"

Adam laughed.

"I'm sorry to be so verbose.  No, it isn't my creed.  I should put
it quite differently, and nobody would agree with me.  But I know
that it is what Utlaw believes."

"Then it looks as if Creevey and Leveson were backing the wrong
horse.  Will he stick to that?"

"I don't know.  If he doesn't he ceases to be a leader.  I should
be sorry, for we want all the leaders we can get against the evil
days that are coming."

"Hullo!" said Stannix as the door opened.  "Here's another rebel.
Come in, Ken, and join us.  Here, waiter, lay another place for
Lord Warmestre.  You'll soon catch us up.  Do you know Mr Falconet?
Adam has been talking the wildest heresies, and they came out so
pat that he must have been bottling them up for months.  Where have
you been?  Putting spokes in their Lordships' wheels?"

"I've been listening to the dullest debate you ever heard in your
days.  I think I went to sleep.  I heard that Adam was dining here,
so I tracked you to this underground den.  I never know whether I'm
still on speaking terms with you fellows."

"I don't mind you," said Stannix.  "I rather like your way of
behaving.  But Geraldine is looking for you with a tomahawk.  To
crown all your other offences, you've stolen his thunder.  It
appears that he has been incubating an emigration scheme on the
same lines as yours, and now the thing has gone off at half-cock.
He can't touch it now that you've given it the flavour of
heterodoxy."

"He can't--and he never would," said Kenneth grimly.  "None of your
crowd wants to get things done.  They're content if they get a nice
little formula for their perorations.  I don't mean you, Kit.
You're not so bad, but you're a lone wolf in the pack."

Kenneth in his new mood was contemptuous of social customs.  He was
so full of his cause that he overflowed with it on all occasions.
Now, long before coffee was served and cigars were lit, he was
expounding his emigration ideas.

"Ken is the new Rhodes," said Stannix.  "Can't you see him leading
out a colony in the ancient Greek fashion?  What will you call it?
Warmestria?  No, Arminia would be better.  Did you see Creevey in
The Times on your figures?"

"I can answer that blighter.  You'll see me in the paper to-morrow.
And Linaker says his talk about inflation is all moonshine.  He is
going to write a letter to the press on the subject.  No, my
trouble is not Creevey or any of his kind.  It's the black, blank
apathy of your Government crowd, Kit.  I can't get a move on with
them.  They'll neither bless nor ban, only shilly and shally. . . .
I've sweated hard for a year and what's the result?  I've stirred
up Birkpool, but whether or not it settles down again into a mud-
hole depends upon one man."

"You mean Utlaw, and the strike," Stannix put in.

"What strike?  I haven't heard of it.  I mean Utlaw."  And he
looked across the table at Adam.

"Then there's this emigration racket.  That depends upon the dozen
fatted calves who call themselves a Cabinet.  Well, I've had my
try.  If they won't play then I chuck the game.  Back to the land I
go and breed 'chasers."

"Not you," said Adam.

"Why not me?"  But his truculent voice and the firm set of his jaw
did not suggest an easy surrender.



Falconet accompanied Adam a little way on his homeward walk along
the Embankment.

"I like your Marquis," he said.  "He's a fighting man all right.
He's got the eye of an old-time marshal in the Bad Lands.  But I
wouldn't put it past him to fling in his hand.  Seems as if he were
up against too many pikers."


III


Andrew Amos one morning found Adam at breakfast in Charity Row.
It was dark February weather, with a swirling east wind that
stirred up the dust of Birkpool and made the streets a torment.
Andrew had a cold, and a red-spotted handkerchief was constantly at
his snuffy nose.

"I've come to report," he said.  "I was at the meeting last night.
Joe Utlaw is in bigger danger the day from himsel' than he ever was
from Davie Marrish.  He has come out against the strike."

Amos fixed Adam with a fierce and rheumy eye.

"Aye, and he'll get awa' wi' it.  That's my judgment.  Seventy per
cent of the men will vote his way.  Joe will be the biggest strike-
breaker in history.  For, mind you, if Birkpool stands out the
metal-workers will stand out, and the strike is broke afore it's
begun.

"It was a most re-markable occasion," he went on.  "Ye might ca' it
a triumph o' personality.  Joe was arguin' against a' the instincts
o' his folk, and what's more, he was goin' back on a' he had been
preachin' for five years.  And yet, ma God! he kept the upper hand.
He had four mortal hours o' it, and the questions cam like machine-
gun fire, some o' them gey nesty yins.  Man, he never turned a
hair.  He had a grand grip on his temper, too, for the mair
impident a question was the mair ceevil his answer."

Adam asked what line he had taken.

"The cleverest.  He wasna arguin' the employers' case.  If he had,
he wad hae been doomed from the start.  He put it to them that they
were up against the granite o' economic facts.  If they chose to
kick against the pricks, says he, the pricks wad be ower muckle for
them.  They couldna win, says he, and at the end o' three months or
six months they wad be where they were--only their belts wad be
drawn tighter and their wives and weans wad be thinner, and the
country wad have gotten anither shog doun the brae. . . .  Man, it
was an extraordinary performance, and though ye kent that every man
in his audience was girnin' in his soul, he got the majority on his
side.  In my judgment he has done the job.  There'll be nae
strike."

"What about himself?" Adam asked.

"Oh, he's done.  Joe is done.  He has won this ae time, but he'll
never win again.  A' the purchase he has gotten will be exhausted
by this effort.  Besides, he has defied his Union, and there will
be nae mercy for sic a blackleg.  I'm inclined to think--"

Amos stopped abruptly, for Utlaw himself had entered the room.  He
crossed and stood by the fire behind Adam's chair.

"I heard your last words, Amos," he said.  "You think I have done
wrong?"

Andrew was on his feet.

"I think ye've done black wrong, though maybe your conscience is
clear and ye think it is right.  I'm no here to judge ye--I leave
that to whatever Power sums up in the hinder end.  Ye're a Union
man and ye've gone back on the ae thing on which the Unions have
never weakened.  Ye've betrayed the men's wages.  No doubt ye have
put up a great argument--I heard ye last nicht--but you havena
convinced me, for to my mind there's a thing ayont logic, and
that's a man's freedom, and if ye take that from him ye'd better
far wind up the concern.  Ye've relapsed on the fosy Socialism that
a' parties dabble in the day, Tory and Labour alike.  Ye'll be for
makin' it up to a worker wi' mair education and widows' pensions
and a bigger dole, as if onything on God's earth could make up to a
man for the loss of the right to guide his life in his ain way! . . .
But I'm no gaun to argue wi' ye.  I've ower bad a cauld.  I just
cam here to report to Mr Milford.  Guid day to ye."  Amos departed
in a tornado of sneezing.

Utlaw sat himself in a vacant chair.

"Do you agree with Amos?" he asked Adam.

"I haven't heard your case.  I gather you can carry the men with
you."

"I think so.  The big majority. . . .  My case?  It's simply common
sense.  When we have wasting assets, it's folly to waste them
farther.  In a crisis we must sink legitimate interests and--and
revise principles."  He looked at Adam a little shyly.

"I've been going pretty deep into the facts," he went on.
"Creevey--you know him?--Warren Creevey--has been helping me.  Half
our troubles are due to ignorance.  Well, I've been sweating at the
facts of the case.  Our whole industrial fabric needs remaking--on
that I agree--but meantime the storm is coming and we can't start
rebuilding in the thick of it.  Also we have to take precautions
against the storm, and one of them may be shoring up the walls
which we intend later to pull down.  That's how I have come to look
at it.  It is pretty nearly the case of all the intelligence of the
country arrayed against the obstinacy of the Unions."

"Your power has been in the Unions?"

"I know.  And all my loyalty has been with them.  That's what has
made this step a bitter one for me.  It would have been far easier
to go on thumping the tub with Potter and Judson.  It takes some
nerve to break with old associations."

"Did I ever deny your courage?"

Utlaw, who had been speaking to the tablecloth, looked up sharply.

"But you think I am wrong?  You agree with old Amos?"

"It doesn't matter what I think.  The question is, what at the
bottom of your heart do you believe yourself?"

"I don't know what I believe.  My creed is a collection of layers,
and I don't know which is deepest.  You think I may find that I
have been mistaken.  I don't know.  God, life is an awful muddle!
But if I disregard one truth for the moment it is only because
there are other and more urgent truths which have to be attended
to.  I haven't forgotten what I stand for, and I'll return to it."

"But can you?  You have lost your hold on the men's instincts, and
that is not compensated for by a temporary grip on their minds."

Into Utlaw's eyes came an expression of sheer misery.

"That's maybe true.  I've given up a good deal.  The Union will
spew me out.  You think I have wrecked my career?"

"I think you are going to be a very successful man.  You'll be in
the Cabinet in a year or two, if you want that.  Only the poor
devils who believed in you will have to find another leader. . . .
I'm sorry. . . .  They won't find it too easy, and a man to lead
them is the most important thing in life."



The Birkpool metal-workers broke the strike and Utlaw became a
figure of public importance.  What was said about him in Labour
circles did not reach print except in a bowdlerised form, but to
nine out of ten newspapers he was a national hero.  He had had the
grit to defy his class, his Union and his party, and he had won; a
hundred leading articles descanted on the scarcity and the potency
of such courage.  Speculations about his future were for a time the
favourite pursuit of the gossip-writers.  The East Flackington
election was treated as a chance of testifying to a rare virtue.
He was not yet disowned by his party, but at the last moment an
Independent Labour candidate had appeared, so the fight was
triangular.

Presently the rumour spread that things were not going smoothly
there.  One afternoon at Euston Adam met Florrie Utlaw, just
returned from the North and looking rather weary and battered.  She
would not admit the possibility of defeat, but her confident words
seemed to lack conviction.  It was a horrible election, she said,
of personalities and mud-slinging.  The Tory candidate was behaving
like a gentleman, and seemed to wish Joe to win, but Latta, the
Independent, was a scurrilous savage.  Joe was marvellous, but he
had to fight against organised interruptions, and Judson and Porter
and even Gray were up there doing mischief.  "He will have his
revenge on them," she said, with a tightening of her determined
little mouth.  "He will show up Judson for the noisy fool he is."

Three days later Kenneth Warmestre found Adam in the vestibule of
the club and drew him towards the tape.  "East Flackington is
coming out," he said, and edged his way to the front of the little
crowd.  He returned with a grin on his face.

"Utlaw is bottom of the poll," he said.  "Serve him dam' well
right.  He should have stuck to his crowd, even if they had the
wrong end of this particular stick, if he believed them right on
the main point.  I don't like fellows that run out.  I see he has
resigned his Union job.  He'll have to get his friend Creevey to
find him something else."


IV


On an afternoon in May, when the London streets were bright with
the baskets of flower-girls, and the smell of petrol and wood-
paving could not altogether drown the vagrant scents of summer,
Adam went to see Mrs Pomfrey at her great house in Curzon Street.
He went by appointment.  He had been summoned that morning by an
urgent telephone message from Mrs Pomfrey herself.  "I want to see
you so badly," she had said, "and we have much to talk over.
Things have become extraordinarily interesting, haven't they?"

Adam had a conviction as to whom he should meet in the big sunny
drawing-room.  Mrs Pomfrey was making tea, seated in a straight-
backed chair with something of the look of a wise Buddha, and
beside her was Frank Alban.  Frank had abandoned his shapeless grey
flannels and wore the ordinary garb of his profession.  The clothes
accentuated his leanness, but somehow they also gave him an air of
greater solidity.  He was no longer the lone wolf, but a member of
a pack--perhaps of a hierarchy.

His eyes met Adam's with some embarrassment, for that morning he
had had a curious talk about him with his brother-in-law.  He had
found himself slipping into criticism, and that had roused Kenneth
to a vigorous defence.  He had called Adam self-centred, and had
been roughly contradicted.

"You don't understand what I mean, Ken," he had said.  "Not
selfish.  There isn't a scrap of selfishness in him.  But he has
this mission of his, and it narrows him.  He is like a wind forced
through a funnel, terrific in its force, but limited in its area of
impact, and that funnel is himself, remember.  He couldn't, if he
tried, get outside himself."

"Rot," said Kenneth.  "Adam's power is just that he wants to be
only a funnel.  How can you call a man self-centred if he looks on
himself as a tool to be used and then scrapped.  He has the self-
forgetfulness of a saint."

"I don't agree," Frank had argued.  "A saint is not only a servant
of God, but a son.  Adam is a bondman.  He obeys, but without
fellowship.  He lacks what I call religion."

"Your kind, anyhow," Kenneth had answered rudely.

"We wanted you to be the first to hear our news," said Mrs.
Pomfrey.  "Dr Colledge has got his deanery at last--it will be in
the papers in the morning, and Frank is coming back to St Chad's to
take his place.  Isn't it wonderful?  Now he will have a platform
from which his voice can really carry.  Mr Geraldine says he will
very soon be the most important figure in the Church.

"Of course it is a terrible wrench for him," she went on.  "He
hates leaving Birkpool and all the poor people who have come to
love him.  But it was his duty, don't you think?  He has to do the
work he can do best.  It would not have been right for him to bury
his talent in a napkin, and Birkpool was a napkin.  One oughtn't to
use a razor to peel potatoes."

Frank spoke.

"No, Lilah, that's not what I feel.  My trouble is that I have only
the one talent, and it is no use for peeling potatoes.  If it were
I'd be happy to peel them for the rest of my days, for I should be
doing honest work. . . .  But all I have got is a brittle thing and
I must use it for the only job it is fit for."

"Nonsense, my dear," said Mrs Pomfrey.  "You have ten talents and
you must use them all for the good of the world.  It would be
sinful waste if you didn't.  Do you call vision a small thing?  Or
the gift of awakening people.  Or poetry?  Or the power of thought?
What we need is a new revelation and you can give it us.  All the
battles of the world, you know, are first won in the mind."

Frank looked a little shyly at Adam.

"Don't believe her.  She rates me far higher than I rate myself.  I
want something very humble.  I'm the preaching friar going back to
his cell.  I told you, you know, that I was coming to feel that it
was my only course--to find a cell."

"Or a papal throne."  Adam remembered Scrope's words.

A flicker which may have been pain shot across Frank's eyes.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Only that your kind of cell may easily become a papal throne."

Mrs Pomfrey clapped her hands.

"He is right.  That is the way to put it.  A papal throne.  A
new and better Vatican.  The Power of the Keys to unlock men's
hearts. . . ."

At that moment Lord Warmestre was announced.  At the sight of Adam
he seemed for a moment put out.  "Hullo!  I didn't expect to find
you. . . .  I'm looking for Jackie, and thought I might run her to
earth here.  She must have gone back to the flat.  Yes, please, I'd
like some tea.  I'm going to Warmestre to-night.  You heard that we
are going to live there and let the Court if we can.  We are pretty
well pinched by the death duties."

"Surely you are not crying poverty," said Mrs Pomfrey.

"No.  We'll be right enough presently.  But Warmestre wants a deal
of looking after.  My father was old, and the agent was old, and
things were allowed to slide.  It's wonderful farming land, and I'm
going to try out some notions of mine."

"And your 'chasers?"

Kenneth glanced at Adam.

"Perhaps.  It's the right place for a training stable.  Perfect
downland without a stone in it.  But that's for the future.
Meantime Jackie and I will have our work cut out getting the house
habitable.  It's an immense barrack, and we shall have to begin by
camping in a corner."

The conversation passed to other topics.  Mrs Pomfrey discoursed of
Utlaw.

"He has come over to us.  Oh yes, complete allegiance.  Ours is the
only party for him, for with us a man is given liberty to use his
brains.  He has behaved magnificently and has been abominably
treated.  Mr Creevey has found him a post in Addison's--he is to
look after the labour side of the business, and he is on the board
of the new evening paper.  He ought to be quite well off soon.  A
seat in the House?  Yes, of course we want him there as soon as
possible.  There may be a vacancy in Birmingham, if Mr Platt gets a
peerage in the Birthday Honours.  Why do you smile like that,
Kenneth?"

"I don't like it.  I wish Utlaw had gone the other way, for I
fancied the chap.  A man should stick to a half-truth, if it is his
own, rather than swallow the truths of other people. . . .  Not
that I have any right to judge him."  And again he looked at Adam.

The two walked away from the house together.  There seemed to be
some constraint in Kenneth's mind, for his manner lacked its
customary exuberance.

"The may-fly will be on in another week," he said.  "You'll be
coming down to the Court.  What about Friday week?  I won't be
there, for I must stay on at Warmestre, but you'll find Jackie when
you go in for tea.  Oh, by the way, I had a message to you from
her.  She specially wants to see you.  Told me to tell you if I saw
you that she had to have it out with you.  Have you been getting
into her black books?"

In Berkeley Square they met Florrie Utlaw, a very different being
from the drab little woman whom Adam had first known.  She had a
new gown, a new hat, and what seemed to be a new complexion.  Also
she had acquired a new manner, vivacious, confident, pleasantly and
audaciously youthful.

"I can't stop," she said, "for I'm late already.  Yes, we've got a
flat in Westminster.  You must come and have tea with us.  I saw
Lady Warmestre last night at Jean Rimington's dance.  Were you
there?  Jos is very well, thank you."  (She had dropped "Joe" as
too painfully reminiscent.)  "He is desperately busy, but very
happy.  You see, he is working with white men now.  But he has so
much to do that I don't know how he will manage the House.  You've
heard about that?  Yes, it is practically certain."

She cried them a gay good-bye, and tripped off in the direction of
Mount Street.

The meeting unloosed Kenneth's tongue.

"Ye gods, it's a crazy world!" he said.  "Utlaw in Creevey's pocket
and destined to be a Tory silver-tongue! . . .  His wife Jean
Rimington's latest find! . . .  Brother Frank returned from the
styes to the fatted calf and soon to be a fashionable Pope! . . .
It is a nice thing, Adam, to see virtue rewarded.  All the same,
they have left a lot of poor disappointed devils behind them."

They stopped at the corner of Berkeley Street and Piccadilly.
Kenneth looked round him at the motley throng on the pavement and
the congested stream of traffic, and up to the blue May sky.

"It's a crazy world," he said, "but it's a busy one.  An amusing
one, too.  I'm going back to my corner of it.  Yes, I'm chucking my
work, for it wasn't mine.  I'm not man enough to knock the heads of
a thousand idiots together and teach them sense, and for all I'm
concerned they can go on with their jabbering.  What's the thing in
the Bible?  'Ephraim is joined to his idols--let him alone.'  I've
had my run and I've failed, and I'm going back to my paddock."

He put his hand on Adam's shoulder.

"I'm sorry for you, old man.  Sorry--and rather ashamed.  You have
backed three bad 'uns, and two have gone soft and one has gone
sour."



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--IV


Adam had in his bag the three brace of trout which were the
recognised limit of the water, the rise was over, and now he was
amusing himself with idle casting, dropping his fly by the edge of
a water-lily or a snag at the far side of the stream.  It had been
a day of gentle sunshine and light western breezes, the day of an
angler's dream.  The hay in the meadows was already high, and the
wind tossed it into eddies of grey and green, but by the riverside
the turf was short and starry with flowers.

His fishing had had many interludes.  He stopped to watch a
kingfisher dart from a bole, and a young brood of moorhens
scuttling under the shadow of the bank, and a diving dabchick.  He
sniffed the rich rooty scents of the water's edge, moist and sweet,
the fragrance of the summer midlands--and wondered why it seemed to
change to something salt and fresh, as the terrestrial scene faded
from his eyes and he looked inward at a very different landscape.

Disappointment had not troubled him.  He had no sense of failure.
These things were ordained and it was not for him to question the
ordering.  The long monotonous grind behind him, the struggle with
imponderables, the effort to keep his grip on what in his hands
became slippery and evasive, the anxious thoughts and the baffled
plans--the memory of these did not oppress him.  That had been his
task and it was finished; he was waiting for fresh marching orders.
He was only a subaltern obeying a command: the setting of the
battle was with the general-in-chief.  He was in a mood of
passivity which was almost peace.  He had aimed too high; now he
waited for a humbler task.

As always in such moods his fancy ranged, and he was back in his
secret world.  As the vigour of midday declined to the mellowness
of afternoon, his rod fell idle.  He was not looking at the deep
midland pastures or the green waters fringed with white ranunculus.
He was on the western side of Sgurr Bn, on the thymy downlands
with their hollows full of wild-wood, their shallow glens and their
singing streams.  Nigel was with him, babbling happily, his small
firm hand clutching one of his fingers, except when it was loosed
to permit him to dart aside after a nest or a flower.  This was
their favourite afternoon ramble, when they could watch the sun
moving down to the horizon and bask in its magic.  The horizon
should have been the sea, but Adam knew that it was not yet
permitted to come within sight of it.  He was aware of it--
somewhere just a little ahead beyond the ridges of down and the
hazel coverts--they could even hear the beat of the green waves on
the white sands.  Nigel was full of it, always asking questions
about the wonderful pink and pearl-grey shells, and the strange
nuts carried by the tides from remote lands, and the skerries where
the grey seals lived, and far out the little isle called the Island
of Sheep where had dwelt the last saint of the Great Ages.  But
Nigel was not impatient.  They were going there of a surety, but
perhaps not that afternoon.  Meantime there were the blue rock-
doves and the merlins and the furry rabbits in their burrows and an
occasional loping hare--and his father's hand which he sometimes
pressed against his cool cheek. . . .

About five o'clock Adam woke from his absorption, and remembered
his engagement at the Court.  He crossed the stream by a plank
bridge and turned up through a fir-wood over the intervening ridge
of hill.  He had regard and loyalty for his friends, but he was
aware that it was not the fierce rapturous thing which it had been
in the old days.  For him the world had now sharper and harder
lines and dimmer colours.  But Jacqueline was a little different.
She reminded him somehow of Nigel, and he felt for her just a
little of the same wondering affection.  Besides, she understood
him best.  When he was with her he had the comfortable feeling
of being with one who comprehended him without the need of
explanation--comprehended him, sympathised with him, humoured him a
little, perhaps, as she humoured her small Jeremy.  Those bright
eyes of hers saw very far.

He reached the Court on the garden side and entered the house by
the open window of the library.  There was no one in the room, so
he passed through the big drawing-room out on to the terrace.  He
found a tea-table set where a great magnolia made a forest in the
angle of the east wing.  Below was the Dutch garden, and the view
was to the west through a glade in the park to far-away blue hills.

Jacqueline appeared on the terrace steps.  She had been gardening
among the lily ponds, and wore Newmarket boots a little splashed
and stained.  Her long limbs, her slimness, and her retinue of dogs
gave her more than ever the air of the huntress.

The kettle was boiling, so she at once made tea.  Then she flung
herself into a chair, took off her gauntlets, and tossed them into
another.

"Had a good day?" she asked.  "You must have, for you're late.
When Ken has no luck he is back clamouring for tea by four o'clock.
I hope you're as hungry as I am."  She was busy cutting slices from
a wheaten loaf and buttering them.

To Adam she seemed a little nervous.  She talked fast and busied
herself about giving him tea, all with a certain air of
preoccupation.  She had much to say about Jeremy, and she was not
in the habit of talking about her son.  Also of Warmestre--regret
at leaving the Court, complaints of the magnitude of the task that
awaited them in Devonshire.  Adam listened with half an ear.
Jacqueline's presence always gave him a sense of well-being and
ease, but now she was notably restless.

"Kenneth told me that you specially wanted to see me," he said.

"Yes, of course."  She did not look at him, and was busy taking
shots at a thrush on the terrace with bits of crust.  "I always
want to see you.  I wanted to talk over our friends with you."

"Which ones?"

She laughed.  "Well, let's begin with Mr Creevey."

"Why Creevey?"

"Isn't he the rock on which you have shipwrecked, Adam dear?"

"You think I have shipwrecked?"

"Haven't you?  I'm desperately sorry for you.  But of course I
don't pity you.  I would as soon think of pitying God."

She sat upright and for the first time looked straight at him.

"You and I are too close friends to have secrets.  What do you make
of Mr Creevey?"

"I don't know him well."

"You don't.  No one does.  But you can feel him. . . .  Shall I
tell you what I think about him?  First of all, I don't like him.
His manners to women are atrocious.  Not to Lilah Pomfrey, who is
too old, or to Sally Flambard, who is too ethereal.  But with
anyone like myself whom he thinks good-looking he has a horrid
streak of the common philanderer.  But let that pass.  We all know
that he takes his pleasures rather in the farm-yard way. . . .
Apart from that there's nothing much against him.  He has made a
lot of money, but no one ever suggested that he was a crook.  I
took the trouble to ask a lot of questions about that.  He is not
supposed to go back on his friends.  Lastly, he is amazingly,
superhumanly clever.  Everyone admits that.  It's the chief thing
about him, and his chief passion.  He lives for the exercise of his
splendid brain and cares for nothing much else.  Kit Stannix says
that he is the perfect sophist, and I think I know what he means.
Life is for him a very difficult and absorbing game of chess.

"Well, you have come hard up against him," she continued.  "The
apostle against the sophist!  And the sophist has won the first
round.  If you had any human failings, Adam, you ought to hate him.
For he hates you."

"He scarcely knows me."

"But he FEELS you and you feel him.  And he hates you like sin.
Trust a woman's instinct.  Perhaps he fears you a little too.
You don't fear him?  No, you wouldn't, because you're scarcely
human. . . .  Don't you realise what he has done?"

"He has taken Utlaw away from me."

"Yes.  Utlaw was clay in his hands, and Mr Creevey succeeded just
because he was mostly clay, not gold.  I like the shaggy Jos--Jos,
remember, for the future, not Joe.  I prophesy that he will be a
prodigious success--the one honest working man, the darling of the
gentlemen of England.  I like little Florrie too.  In a year she
will be so smart she will scarcely be able to see out of her eyes.
She will drop me as too dowdy.  Jean Rimington is a fool, but she
always backs the right mare for those particular stakes.  But the
Utlaws were easy fruit.  Mr Creevey made a bigger coup than that."

"Your brother?"

She nodded.

"Brother Frank.  Make no mistake about it--Frank is a saint.
You're not.  You're an apostle, which is something very different.
Frank has a wonderful soul, which he is going to cosset and polish
and perfect.  You don't care a rush about your soul.  You'd
sacrifice it to-morrow if you thought the cause was big enough. . . .
How was it done?  Through Lilah Pomfrey of course.  Lilah was
born to be a nursing mother to saints.  She is full of all kinds of
wonderful emotions and ideals, and she has the supreme worldliness
which can make them all fit in nicely with each other.  No, no.
She won't marry him.  Frank is incapable of marrying, and she knows
very well that Frank's wife would never be more than a morganatic
one.  She'll be his mother and his confidante and his good genius
and--his impresario.  I adore my Frank and want him to have a
pleasant life.  He'll get it, I think.  He will be a tremendous
figure before he is done.  He will be the greatest preacher in
England, and there will be scores of little birthday-books with his
comforting sayings, and little manuals about his teaching.  He'll
do a lot of good too.  All kinds of dingy beings will warm
themselves at the fires he lights.  And he'll die in the odour of
sanctity, and people will say that a prophet has fallen in Israel,
and it will be quite true.  Only--you see Frank is not a fool, and
at the end I think that he may have some rather bad thoughts about
it all."

Jacqueline got up.

"Let's walk," she said.  "A cigarette?  Not for me, thank you.
I give up smoking in summer because it spoils my nose for the
flowers."

They crossed the terrace, and descended into the Dutch garden,
which with lupins and the first delphiniums was all a mist of blue.
Jacqueline linked her arm in Adam's, for she had the habits of a
friendly boy.

"What are you going to do now?" she asked.  "I'm anxious about you,
Adam dear.  You've been slaving--oh, I've watched you--slaving at
what was no job for a man like you.  You have been a bottle-holder
to champions that won't fight.  What next?"

"I shall find champions who will."

She withdrew her arm.

"Why will you be so absurdly modest?  You say you are trying to
find leaders.  But you have more grit than anybody.  Why won't you
do the leading yourself?"

Adam shook his head.

"You don't understand.  I could never make you understand.  I am
only a servant--a bottle-holder if you like.  I can never lead.  It
isn't the task I have been given."

"Stuff and nonsense!" she said.  "I have prophesied about Mr Utlaw
and brother Frank, and now I'll prophesy about you.  You'll be
forced to come into the open and take charge.  If you don't
you'll go on being beaten.  By people like Mr Creevey and Lilah
Pomfrey. . . .  And by me."

Jacqueline moved away from him and stood with one foot on a low
parapet--a defiant huntress.

"I have a confession to make, Adam," she said.  "It was I that took
Ken away from you.  He is far the best of them--far more grit and
fire.  He has the makings of an apostle.  He would have followed
you in sandals and a hair shirt.  It was I that stopped him."

She stood up, very slim and golden in the light of the westering
sun, and if there was defiance in her pose there was also a sudden
shyness.

"You couldn't compete with me, you know.  I often felt rather a cad
about it, but I had a right to fight for my own. . . .  How shall I
explain?  Four years ago I married Ken.  I wasn't madly in love
with him--perhaps I wasn't in love with him at all.  But I greatly
admired and liked him.  There was no glamour about him, but he was
the best man I knew, the most really good and reliable.  A woman,
you know, generally marries for safety.  She may fall in love for
all kinds of reasons, but when she marries she takes the long view.
Ken stood for something in England which I wanted to see continue,
and as his wife I could help to keep it going.  Marrying him gave
me a career.  I knew that if I had a son he would have a career
also--he would be born to all kinds of fine sturdy obligations--
with a niche ready from the start.  So I married Ken partly for
himself--quite a lot for himself--and partly for the great system
behind him.  Do you understand me?"

Adam nodded.  He remembered his feelings the first night when he
had descended the broad oaken staircase at the Court.

"Well, since our marriage I have come to like him enormously--the
solid affection into which people grow when they live together.
And there's Jeremy, too.  Jeremy is Ken and Ken is Jeremy. . . .
And I have found out things I never guessed before.  When I married
I thought that if Ken had a fault it was that he was commonplace,
the ordinary banal Christian gentleman.  I was a blind little fool.
There are queer things in the Armine blood.  I'm half Highland and
therefore half daft, but my daftness is like summer wild-fire, and
Ken's might be a steady devouring flame.  He has it in him to fling
everything to the winds and tramp the world. . . .  And I did not
marry to be a beggar-wife."

Jacqueline's singing voice sunk to a whisper.

"I hadn't the courage.  I wasn't good enough.  Besides, it was all
against reason.  I saw his restlessness and at first I encouraged
him, for I didn't want him to sink into a rustic clod.  That's
another side of the Armines.  If they don't happen to go crusading
they will relapse into the perfect chaw-bacon.  I encouraged him to
become Mayor of Birkpool because that was a family job.  But his
doings there opened my eyes--and frightened me.  And then I saw the
power you had over him and that frightened me more.  I realised
that I had to fight for my rights.  Not my rights only--it wasn't
altogether selfish.  I was fighting for Jeremy and for all the old
things--for the Court here and for Warmestre, and for the people
who lie carved in stone in the chapel, and for all the kind,
peaceful life that depended on him.  I was fighting for Ken, too--
for his peace of mind, for if he had gone crusading there would
have been no more peace for him.  He's not a saint, you see, and he
is only part of an apostle--the other strain in him would have been
pulling hard and a good deal of his life would have been hell. . . .
Do you blame me?"

"I don't blame you."

She sighed.

"It was a stiff fight and I only won on the post.  I had all the
chances, of course.  I had Jeremy and I had Ken's affection for us
both to help me.  I knew him much better than he knew himself and I
could play on all kinds of secret strings.  His love of country
life and horses.  His laziness--he has plenty of it.  His
sentiment--he is a mass of it.  His feeling for the past and for
his family--he is no respecter of persons, but he has a big bump of
veneration.  But I could not have won, I think, if Mr Utlaw had not
run out--and brother Frank.  That gave Ken a kind of nausea about
the whole concern, and I worked on that. . . .  So I have got him
back to me and to Jeremy and to all the Armines that ever were.
But sometimes I feel as if I had sinned against the Holy Ghost, the
sin my old nurse used to frighten me with.  I'm not sure that I
mind that--I'll face up to the Holy Ghost when my time comes--but I
mind horribly having fought against YOU.  I have beaten you, and I
hate myself for it."

She looked at him timidly, as if much hung on his words.  He did
not speak, and she continued, her voice low and rapid, as of one
making a difficult confession.

"You see--you see I could have been madly in love with someone--
you, perhaps--someone like you.  I think you are the only one in
the world who could have made me feel like that, and then I would
have flung everything behind me.  My grandmother used to say that
the women of her family would either sell their shift for a man, or
make a packman's bargain with him.  Nobody wanted my shift, so I
have made my bargain.  Do you blame me for fighting for my share in
it? . . .  I would like you to say that you forgive me."

Jacqueline's eyes had become solemn, like a wise child's.

"There is nothing to forgive," Adam said.  "I think you did right--
entirely right."

She came towards him and put her hands on his shoulders.  Her lips
were trembling.

"I believe you mean that," she said.  "God bless you for it. . . .
If I were a man I should wring your hand and wish you well.  But I
am going to kiss you. . . ."

Adam was scarcely conscious of her kiss.  But there was something
novel in his heart, which he recognised as tenderness.  As he
walked across the park the light touch of her lips seemed in the
recollection like the clutch of Nigel's hand.



A week later he had a letter from Jacqueline, who was in London.


"Last night," she wrote, "I went to a wonderful little party at
Lilah Pomfrey's.  Ken was asked but wouldn't go--said he was sick
of monkey-tricks.  The Utlaws were there, and Mr Creevey was in
great form, and Frank of course, and one or two young men and
several yearning women.  Lilah has a regular group now and this was
their second meeting.  The invitation card may amuse you."


The card she enclosed had Mrs Pomfrey's name in the centre, and
neatly printed in the left-hand top corner The Seekers.




Book III



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--I


The little low-roofed caf in the Rue des Clestins in which
Falconet sat on a certain October afternoon was flooded with the
hazy golden light which is the glory of Paris in a fine autumn.
The patron was busy in a corner with his own avocations; a party of
four stout citizens were drinking bocks and disputing vivaciously;
but otherwise the place was empty, for it was the slack period when
djeuner is over and the hour of apritifs has not arrived.
Falconet was waiting for Adam, and as he smoked a delayed after-
luncheon cigar he let his mind run over the events of the past
week, since he had landed in England.

In the retrospect the chief was a talk with Christopher Stannix,
for whom he had acquired a puzzled respect.  Falconet loved
politics and their practitioners no more than the rest of his
countrymen, but Stannix was unlike any politician he had ever met.
He seemed to stand aside, intervening now and then to put his
weight into the scales to adjust the balance.  He was a noted
pricker of bladders, and had deflated some of Falconet's pet ones,
but he was as much in earnest as Falconet himself.  He called
himself a "trimmer," and had justified the name from a period of
English history with which Falconet was not familiar.  But above
all he was Adam's friend.

For Adam Falconet had come to entertain one of the passionate
friendships which were as much a feature in his character as
his passionate dislikes.  At first Adam's ways had seemed to
him inertia and his fastidiousness mere pedantry.  But his
disillusionment with his own bustling methods across the Atlantic
had made him revise his views.  The breakdown of Adam's plans the
summer before had been to him less of a disappointment than a
relief.  His friend was free to start again, and to start again
with him as an ally.  For Falconet was at heart an artist, and
could never be content with the second-rate.  His own complex
organisation in America he regarded without pride, as a useful
nursery of talent.  But it would not produce genius, the rare
quality which was needed to heal the world's ills.  Now as ever he
was a pioneer in quest of the major secrets.

Adam was a hard man to know, and Falconet, in spite of their months
of close companionship in the Arctic ice, felt that he had only
penetrated the outer fringe.  His explorer's instinct was aroused,
and he sought enlightenment from Stannix; and Stannix, detecting an
honest affection, opened his heart to him.

"Melfort," he had told Falconet, "is a religious genius.  I don't
know how to define that, for it is a thing which you can feel
better than you can explain.  I don't know what his religion is--
never talked to him about it--it's sure to be very different from
any orthodox brand.  But whatever it is it is a living fire in
him. . . .  Yes, I have known him since he was a boy.  As a young
man he was, I think, the most remarkable fellow I knew--'remarkable'
is the word--you couldn't help noticing him, for he was unlike
anybody else.  We used to put him in a class by himself, not for
what he had done but for what he was.  He had an odd spiritual
distinction, and an extraordinary fineness--fine as a slim, tempered
sword.  Then the crash came and he went under.  After that I can
only guess, but some time eight or nine years ago--yes, in prison--
he had a great visionary experience.  Like Dante's, and much about
the same age as Dante.  He has never breathed a word to me about it,
but the results are there for anyone to see.  Everything about him
is devoted--dedicated--consecrated--whatever you choose to call
it."

Falconet had nodded.  That much he had long been aware of.  He
asked further questions.

Stannix puckered his brow.

"Oh yes, there are flaws in him.  One is that he is--just a little--
inhuman, and he used to be the jolliest of mortals.  I wonder if I
can make you understand me, for it is not ordinary inhumanity.  My
old tutor, I remember, used to define Platonism as the love of the
unseen and the eternal cherished by those who rejoice in the seen
and the temporal.  Adam rather lacks the second part.  He thinks
about God a great deal more than he thinks about the things and the
creatures He has made.  He is a little too much aloof from the
world, and that weakens his power.  If he could only be in love
with a woman again!--but of course that's all past and done with.
I wonder how much he really cares about his friends.  Not a great
deal for them in themselves, only as instruments in his purpose.
He might have made a better job of Utlaw and Frank Alban if he had
got really close to them.  There must have been something a little
chilly about those friendships.  Kenneth Warmestre was different
perhaps--I believe there was a sort of affection there--but, then,
Warmestre was hopeless from the start."

Falconet had dissented.  "I know what you mean, but I don't think I
agree.  My grouch with Adam is that he is too infernally modest.
He rates himself too low and the other fellows too high."

"You haven't got it quite right," Stannix had replied.  "He doesn't
rate other people too high.  He rates them too low--he's bound to
do that considering the sort of standard he has--and they are bound
subconsciously to recognise it, and perhaps resent it.  That is one
bar to the proper sort of friendship.  But you are right on one
thing--he is too modest about himself.  He's always contrasting
himself with perfection and feeling a worm.  He has made up his
mind that his business is only to serve--not to serve God only, but
to serve other men who are the agents of God's purpose, and the
trouble is that there is nobody big enough for him to serve.  He
wants to untie our shoe-latchets, and none of us is worthy of it.
He has the opposite of folie des grandeurs--the folly of humility,
I suppose you might call it.  But he hasn't found the Moses whose
hands he can hold up, and I don't think he ever will."

Falconet had agreed, but with a cheerful air.  For he believed that
he was on the track of a Moses.



An hour slipped away in the sunny caf and Falconet still waited.
The party of four finished their bocks and their argument and went
out.  A man in a blue blouse came in and talked to the patron.  The
patron himself came over to Falconet's table and spoke of the
weather, politics and the manners of travelling Americans, thereby
showing that he took Falconet for an Englishman.  Then a great
peace fell on the empty place, and a white cat, who had been
sunning herself outside on the pavement beyond the green awning,
came in and slept on the top of the patron's little desk.

A man entered, a typical French bourgeois, wearing a bowler hat, a
tightly buttoned grey coat, a stiff white collar and a flamboyant
tie.  He ordered a vermouth, and after a glance at the empty table
came towards Falconet.  He took off his hat with a flourish,
revealing a head of close-clipped fair hair--the familiar Normandy
type.

"I await a friend, Monsieur," said Falconet.  "But pray take the
seat till my friend arrives."

The stranger sat down and sipped his vermouth.  He summoned the
patron, and commented on the quality of the beverage, a friendly
comment with much advice as to how to secure the best brands.

"Monsieur is a connoisseur," said the patron.  "He travels much?"

"I go up and down the land," was the answer, "and I find out
things, and I share my knowledge with my friends."  He spoke a
rapid guttural French, with a curious flatness in his voice.

"You come from the East," said the patron.  "Lille, I should say at
a guess."

"But no.  I am out of Lorraine.  As are you, my friend."

He proved to be right, and for a few minutes there was a quick
exchange of questions and recollections.  Then the patron was
called away and the stranger turned to Falconet.

"It delights me to detect the origins of those whom I meet by
chance.  You, Monsieur, I take to be American.  Your eyes are
quicker and hungrier than the English, and your mouth is shaped to
the smoking of thin cigars.  Is it not so?"

"You've got it in one," said Falconet.  "Now, I'll guess about you.
You're a Lorrainer, but you live in Paris.  You're in some kind of
trade--high-class commis-voyageur, I presume.  What exactly do you
sell?"

"I do not sell.  I am looking for something to buy, but what I want
is not easily bought."

"Meaning?"

"A man," was the surprising answer given in English.  "But I think
I have found one."

Falconet stared.  Then he burst out laughing, and leaned forward
with outstretched hand.

"You fooled me properly, Adam.  I'm mighty glad to see you, but how
in thunder did you get into the skin of a French bourgeois?  You're
the dead spit of one, and even now I've got to rub my eyes to
recognise you.  You've a face one doesn't forget in a hurry, but
you've managed to camouflage it out of creation.  I've been sitting
opposite you for five minutes, and, though I was expecting you, I
wasn't within a thousand miles of spotting you.  How d'you do it?"

"I had four years' practice," was the answer.  "Well, I have got
alongside your great man.  Tell me, what was there about him that
first took your fancy?"

Falconet considered.  "I think it was his old-fashioned face.  That
was a phrase of my grandmother's, and it means just what it says.
Loeffler looks like the good old tough New England stock I remember
as a boy.  A plain face with nothing showy about it, but all the
horse-sense and sand in the world.  Like Abraham Lincoln--only not
so darned ugly.  Then I had some talk with him and I liked him
better still.  He wasn't like my friend Creevey, who between drinks
will sketch out a dozen plans of salvation for everything and
everybody.  Loeffler don't talk much, but what he says counts a
hell of a lot.  He sees the next job and sits down to it--stays
still and saws wood, as Lincoln said.  I've gotten to be suspicious
of all showy fellows, for what glitters isn't often gold.  It's the
plain people that are going to pull us out of the mess.  That
little Cosgrave man in Ireland is one, and I'll bet my last dollar
that Hermann Loeffler is another.  What do you say?"

Adam nodded.

"Well, let's hear what you make of him.  You started from London
twenty-seven days ago.  How often have you seen him?"

"Only three times.  But they were pretty useful occasions.  First,
I started in at the top.  I got the right kind of introductions
from the Foreign Office and the City, and I sat down at the Adler
as an enquiring cosmopolitan with a liking for Germany.  I had my
pedigree arranged--aunt married in Wrtemberg, school-days in
Heidelberg, a year in Munich under Luigi Brentano--all the proper
credentials."

"Did my man Blakiston help you?" Falconet asked.

"Tremendously.  I could have done nothing without him.  He had your
millions behind him, and I shared in their reflected glory. . . .
It's a long story and it falls into three parts.  First, there was
the week in Berlin.  Then the scene changes to the Black Forest.
Last I spent three days in the Rhineland, and had a little trouble
in getting away.  Yesterday I wasn't sure that I would be able to
meet you here.  It looked as if I mightn't be alive many hours
longer."

Falconet lit a fresh cigar.  "Go on.  I'm listening.  You start off
at the Adler all nicely dressed up."

Adam told his story slowly and drily.  He seemed more interested in
his evidence than in the way he had collected it.

His introductions had given him ready access to Loeffler, now for
two months the German Chancellor.  The meeting at Lamancha's
dinner-table had been recalled, and Loeffler, who forgot nothing,
was intrigued at the transformation of the former British staff-
officer into the amateur publicist, with Blakiston and the American
millions in the background.  Adam played his part carefully, his
rle being that of an honest enquirer, and something in his face or
his manner must have attracted Loeffler, for he talked freely.  The
little man was drabber and leaner than ever, for he was engaged in
the thankless job of demonetising the old mark, and getting his
country's finances straight by a colossal act of sacrifice.  He
talked finance to Adam, but, when the latter disclaimed expert
knowledge, he turned to the things behind finance--the national
temper, the attitude of other Powers, the forces in the world which
made for stability or chaos.

"He doesn't deceive himself," said Adam.  "He knows what he is up
against down to the last decimal.  When he has stated the odds
against him, he has a trick of smiling ruefully, just like a plucky
child who has to face up to something he hates.  I wanted to pat
him on the back--like a good dog."

That was the first meeting in Loeffler's flat, late one night, over
several tankards of beer.  The second was a grander occasion.  It
was at a private dinner given by a great banker, a dinner at which
the guests sat on into the small hours and at which momentous
things were spoken of.  Loeffler was there and two of his
colleagues in the Government; several bankers and financiers, one
of them a noted figure in Paris; a general who had had to face the
supply question of the armies in the last year of war, and who was
now grappling with difficult questions of public order; a Swedish
economist, Blakiston and Creevey.

"That yellow dog!" Falconet exclaimed at the mention of the last.

"He behaved well enough," said Adam.  "You see, his intellectual
interest was aroused and he tackled the thing like a problem in
mathematics.  He's honest in one thing, you know--he'll never be
false to his mind."

The atmosphere had been tense, since destiny hung on that talk.  It
had been tense in another way, for the guests were shepherded in
and out of the house as if they had been visitors to a gun factory.
Everywhere there were solid, quiet-faced watchers.

At this point Adam became more expansive.  Loeffler, he said, had
dominated the talk, a solemn, pale little man in a badly-cut dinner
jacket among people starched, trim and resplendent.  They had
talked of the London Conference fixed for the beginning of
November, and of the burden of war debts and reparations which was
to be the staple of the discussion there.  The General was inclined
to be explosive and melodramatic, and the German bankers to make a
poor mouth about it, but Loeffler was as steadfast as a rock.  He
was a loyal nationalist, but he was also a citizen of the world,
and to him Germany's interests and world interests could not be
separated.  Again and again he brought the debate down to the test
of the practicable, but his conception of the practicable was
generous.  Clearly he was speaking against the prepossessions of
his colleagues, but they could not gainsay his stubborn good sense.
It was, said Adam, like a masterful chairman at a company meeting
comforting and soothing recalcitrant shareholders, and sometimes
like a wise old sheep-farmer pricking the bubbles of agricultural
theorists.

But it was on the question of Germany's internal finance that he
rose to the heights.

"He put the grim facts before them and what seemed to him the only
road out.  Here he had the others with him--all but the General,
who hadn't much to say.  You could see that Loeffler hated the job--
hated those glossy people who did not need to look beyond the
figures.  There was one of them, a fellow with a big fat face and
small eyes--I needn't tell you his name--who talked as if he
controlled the flow of money in the world.  I daresay he did.  He
was almost insolent with his air of cold dictation.  They were all
insolent, even Creevey, though he was better than some.  It was the
dictation of masters who were thinking only of their bank balances
to a poor devil who was responsible for millions of suffering human
beings.  Yet Loeffler was on their side.  He took their view,
because he thought it was right, though his instinct was to beat
them about the head.  That wanted grit, you know, and he never
betrayed his feelings except that he half closed his eyes, and sank
his voice to a flatter level.  There was another side to it, too.
He knew that in the interests of his country he was sacrificing his
own class--the professional people with their small savings, the
tradesman with his scanty reserves--all the decent humble folk who
are the best stuff in Germany.  They had trusted him, they had put
him in power, and now he was sacrificing them.  He was in hell, but
he went through with it and never winced.  I don't think I have
often respected a man so much."

Falconet nodded.  "I see you've gotten my notion of Loeffler.  I'm
glad about that.  What next?"

"Next I took a holiday because he took one.  He was pretty nearly
all out, as anyone could see, and I discovered that he was going
off for a few days to the country.  I had a hint about what he
meant to do.  He was determined to give his bodyguard the slip, and
be alone for a bit.  I decided to follow him, for you can get a
good line on a man when he is on holiday."

"Did you find him?"

"It took some doing.  Blakiston was useful, for he has a graft with
the police, and the police of course had to keep an eye more or
less on his whereabouts, though I fancy he must have gone several
times clean out of their ken.  Anyhow, I was lucky.  I got into
tramping kit and I came up with him at a little inn in the Black
Forest at a place called Andersbach.  He had come north from
Freiburg way, following the course of a stream that makes a long
glen in the pine-woods.  He was tired and dusty, wearing an old
suit of loden and carrying an ancient rucksack, and he was alone.

"The inn as it happened was packed--it was a small place with
cellars on the ground-floor and a dining-hall up wooden steps which
was pure Middle Ages.  The place was like a bee-hive with trampers--
the Wandervgel, you know--boys and girls holidaying on twopence a
day.  A queer crowd, but a merry one--shorts and open shirts--
determined to enjoy life though the ground was cracking under them.
They overflowed into the meadows round the stream and into the
clearings among the pines, and slept anywhere, and ate sausage and
rye bread and made coffee round little bivouacs.  Innocent jolly
folk, ready to talk the hind-leg off a donkey.  I was swallowed up
in them at once, for my rig was much the same as theirs, and they
were not inquisitive.  Loeffler, too.  That was what he wanted.
None of them had a guess who he was--probably took him for a small
provincial professor.  But he and I were the elders of the party,
so we naturally came together.  That was when I had my real talk
with him."

"Didn't he spot you?" Falconet asked.  "He had been seeing you a
few days before."

"No.  You see I was a different man--a chemist from Freiburg
talking with a Breisgau accent.  I learned long ago that disguise
doesn't consist in changing your face and sticking on a beard, but
in having a different personality.  There was nothing about me to
link me up with the Englishman who had been Blakiston's protg and
had been greeted as an acquaintance by Creevey.  We were in a
different world of mind and body."

"What did he pretend to be?"

"Nobody in particular.  I think that he meant to let me imagine he
was of the professor class.  He is a bit of a scholar, you know,
and we talked a lot about books.  It was that that made him take to
me, when he found that I had read Augustine and could recognise a
tag from Plato.  Loeffler's an extraordinary being to have the job
he has.  He has to work twelve hours a day at stony facts and
figures, and yet all the time he is thinking of a little house in
the Jura where he can look across at the Alps and botanise and read
his books.  He is uncommonly well read--even in English, though he
talks it badly.  You won't guess who his favourite authors are--
Landor and Sir Thomas Browne!  He was meant for the contemplative
life, but he won't get it in this world.  An exile from the
cloister."

Falconet grinned.  "Same as you, maybe.  Did he talk politics?"

"Yes--the abstract kind--as if he were looking down at Germany from
a great height.  He seemed to enjoy that, for I fancy he doesn't
get many chances of letting his mind run free.  He was very
illuminating.  I suppose you would call him a common-sense
Nationalist.  One thing he said that struck me, that Communism and
Capitalism were growths from the same root, both involving a
servile state.  He hates both as the spawn of hell, and he thinks
that Germany is near the edge of the first and can only be saved by
curbing the second.  He would go a long way in that direction, by
limiting rates of interest and striking at the sanctity of free
contract.  You see, he doesn't mind going back a step or two to get
a run for his leap.  But it's freedom that he cares about--he has
the sound bourgeois clutch on the individual.  One felt all the
time that this fellow might have dreams but had no liking for
theories.  Always the practical man stuck out, but the kind of
practical man who is ready for anything that will take him one step
forward.  That's how he struck me, since I knew who he was, and
could read between the lines.  To a stranger he might have seemed a
windy provincial who talked boldly about things he was never likely
to have much to do with."

"What did the Wandervgel make of him?"

"Only a friendly elderly chap who wasn't accustomed to being in the
sun and had got all the skin peeled off his nose.  He had a lot of
trouble with that nose of his, and was always doctoring it with
lanoline. . . .  He talked to the hobbledehoys and joined in their
games--he's a useful man still on a hill walk--and we all shouted
songs after supper.  They chaffed him and romped with him and
called him uncle."

"Did they call you uncle?"

Adam laughed.  "No.  I don't know why, but they didn't.  I'm not as
good a mixer as Loeffler.  We were there three days, for it was a
kind of base-camp for the trampers, and it did Loeffler a world of
good.  He got hill air into his lungs, and the sun comforted him,
and the sight of youth cheered him.  I had a walk with him one
night after a blistering day, up on a ridge of the forest, where we
could look down upon the meadows with their twinkling fires, and
the noise of speech and singing came up to us in a queer
disembodied way as if it were a sound of wild nature.  There was a
moon and I could see his face clearly, and for the first time he
looked happy.  I remember he linked his arm in mine and his voice
had a thrill in it, as if he were repeating poetry.  'See, mein
Herr,' he said, 'yonder is the hope of the world.  These children
have fallen heir to a heritage of troubles, but they have the
spirit that makes light of them.  They are very poor, and sweat all
the year in dismal places for a pittance, but their youth will not
be denied.  Comfort is the foe of enthusiasm--and enthusiasm is
everything, if only we can keep it from becoming madness.  That is
our good German folk.  They have the patience of God, but their
slow blood can kindle to noble things.'  Then he gripped my
shoulder and almost cried, 'What does it matter about the old men--
you and me and our like?  We have the stain of blood and folly, but
these young ones are innocent.  Can we ask for anything better than
to be the manure for the fields from which will spring a better
grain?'  He went off next morning before I was awake, without
saying good-bye.  Four days later I read in the papers that he was
in Berlin."

"Where did you go next?"

"I thought I had better look into the question of Loeffler's
becoming manure too soon.  That can't be allowed to happen.  I knew
that he was in constant danger.  Blakiston told me as much, and
that frozen-faced bodyguard of his was proof of it.  So I went back
to Berlin, and after certain preparations descended into the
shadows.  I knew the road, you see, for I had spent three years
among those particular shadows.  I had confirmation of my fears.
Loeffler's life is not a thing an insurance company would look at
if it knew a quarter of the facts."

The caf was filling up as the hour of apritifs approached.  "This
isn't quite the place for the rest of my story," Adam said.  "We'll
adjourn till after dinner."

That night in the hotel Adam resumed.

"The danger lay in two directions--the Iron Hands and the
Communists, the two groups that hanker after short cuts.  The
second was the easier job, for in the war I had laid down my lines
there.  But the first promised to be difficult, and I had to get
the help of a queer fellow.  His name was La Cecilia, an Italian by
descent, but through his mother the owner of a little estate in
Pomerania.  He had English relations, and his parents died young,
so he was sent to school in England.  One of the smaller schools--I
can't remember which.  He was an under-sized, dirty, ill-
conditioned boy, but the most daring young devil I ever knew.  I
met him several times in the holidays when he was staying in the
same neighbourhood, and we rather made friends.  You see, I was the
elder and he took it into his head to believe in me.

"I lost sight of him till after I joined the regiment.  Then we met
at a deer-forest in Scotland.  He had been asked there because he
was a wonderful shot with a rifle, but he didn't mix well with the
other guests.  He was in the German Army by that time and had more
than the average conceit of the old-fashioned Prussian officer.
His manners were good enough, but they had lapses.  He and I got on
fairly well, for he hadn't quite forgotten his boyish respect for
me. . . .  There was a regrettable incident during the visit.  He
lost his temper with one of the stalkers and struck him, and the
stalker knocked him down and, since he looked nasty, confiscated
his rifle.  Cecilia went raving mad about it and made a scene at
the lodge, and--well, public opinion was pretty hot against him.  I
helped to smooth things over, and got him quietly off the place.
He handed me a good deal of abuse, but I suppose, when he came to
think it over, he was grateful.

"Anyhow, the next time I ran across him he was friendly.  It was at
a little mountain inn in the Vosges, where I had turned up on a
push-bike in one of my private explorations.  I was then at the
Staff College.  Cecilia was on the same errand, I think--for the
other side.  He was using a different name, and was got up like a
clerk on holiday.  We both knew what the other was doing, and we
didn't refer to it.  But we had a great evening's talk about things
in general.  At first he was cold to me--you see, I had been a
witness of his humiliation at Glenfargie, and the man was as proud
as Lucifer.  But he thawed in the end, and gave me about a quarter
of his confidence.  He had grown into a tough, lean, sallow little
fellow, with a quiet manner hiding the embanked fires.  A real
volcano, for he was the complete dare-devil, with a passion for all
that was desperate and spectacular and incalculable, and at the
same time as cunning as a monkey, and with shrewdness behind his
grandiose imagination.  A sort of d'Annunzio.  I remember thinking
that, if war came, he would be killed in the first month.

"But he wasn't.  I had a letter from him in 1920.  He did not know
what I had been after in the war, but somehow or other he had heard
that I had done something, so he assumed that I must be a fire-
eater like himself.  It was a long, crazy epistle.  He complained
that the world was no longer fit for a gentleman, but that there
was still hope if the gentlemen would only get together.  National
hatreds, he said, were over, the battle was now between the
gentlemen and the rabble, and it was for all men of breeding and
courage to work together.  I gathered that he was in the inner
circle of the Iron Hands, and he wanted to connect up with those
who were fighting the same battle elsewhere, for, as he saw it, it
was a world conflict. . . .  I took some pains in replying to his
nonsense.  I didn't choke him off, but told him that just at
present I was out of action and lying low.  I was interested in the
Iron Hand business and wanted to keep in touch with Cecilia.

"Well, I succeeded in doing that, and I found out a good deal.  The
Iron Hand movement was on the face of it just an organisation of
ex-soldiers, like the American Legion, partly benevolent and partly
nationalist.  There were thousands of members who only joined to
keep up the fellowship of the trenches.  But there was an inner
circle to it which was playing a big part in politics, and an
innermost circle which meant real mischief.  This last cherished
the old idea of iron discipline and class supremacy, and meant to
win or perish.  Peace in the world was the last thing they sought,
for their only hope lay in a new and bigger ferment.  They were
violent German nationalists, but they were cosmopolitan too in
their outlook--they wanted to brigade all the elements in every
land that would help to restore the old world.  They were true
storm-troops, ready for any forlorn hope and prepared to use any
means however devilish, and Cecilia was one of their brains.

"As soon as I left the Black Forest I went to Cecilia--I had been
keeping track of him, you see.  I didn't say much, but he believed
that I was ready for the field again.  Anyhow, he welcomed me.  He
sat and stared at me for a minute or two, and seemed to be
satisfied."

Falconet laughed.

"I judge he was," he said.  "If I was looking for a confederate in
a desperate job, your face would be enough for me.  Go on, Adam."

"He told me that if he took me among his friends there would be no
going back, and he fixed me with his solemn mad eyes.  I said that
I perfectly understood that.  Then my doings became like a crude
detective yarn, and I needn't trouble you with the details.  He
gave me passports to the inner circle, but I had to find my way
there alone--that was part of the ritual.  I had to pass through
layers and layers of vedettes--all kinds of people you wouldn't
suspect--bagmen, and small officials, and tradesmen, and peasants,
each doing his appointed job in the dark.  In the end I landed in
the upper room of a squalid little eating-house in--never mind
where.  And there I became an honorary member of a fairly
mischievous brotherhood.

"Cecilia was there, but he wasn't the most important member.  There
was a small plump man with the thick rings on his hands that people
wear for rheumatism, and a face all puckered into grey bags.  He
only spoke in grunts, but he seemed to be the final court of
appeal.  They called him Gratias--Dr Gratias.  And there was one
wonderful fellow, with a neck like the busts of Julius Csar and
atop of it a small round head.  He looked the pure human animal,
one-idea'd, with the force and fury of a bull.  He was a noble of
sorts--the Baron von Hilderling.  There were others too. . . .  No,
there was no melodrama.  No signature in blood, no swearing of
oaths--those gentry are beyond the inhibitions of oaths.  They
treated me with immense civility, but rather as if I was a criminal
whose dossier was wanted by the police.  They most politely took
down every detail about my appearance, every measurement--even my
finger-prints.  You see, they were determined never to lose sight
of me again, and if I turned traitor to make certain of a
reckoning."

Falconet looked grave.  "That's bad.  They've gotten a tight cinch
on you."

"It was the only way.  I had to put myself in their hands.  It adds
to the odds in the game, but only a little. . . .  After that was
done they were perfectly frank with me, and Cecilia was almost
affectionate.  They took it for granted that I was heart and soul
on their side, but they didn't ask me to do anything--not yet.  I
was only a friendly foreign associate.  But I learned a good deal
about their plans."

"Loeffler?" Falconet asked sharply.

"Yes, he is the enemy.  Partly because he is Chancellor, and
therefore the prop of a system which they detest.  Partly because
he is Loeffler.  They are black afraid of him, for they are clever
men, and recognise that he is the greatest force to-day making for
peace.  They have the wits to see that he is utterly honest and
utterly courageous, and therefore they fear him more than anyone
else. . . .  But they are not yet quite sure, and that is the hope.
He has always been a Nationalist, remember--he had a first-class
war record--he's not a Jew--and he's not a Socialist.  They are
waiting and watching him.  As soon as he declares himself the
thumbs go down."

"How do you mean?"

"They may let him attend the London Conference if his policy is
still in doubt.  But if in order to prepare the ground he thinks it
necessary to make some preliminary declaration--some gesture to
France or to America--then they will do their best to see that he
doesn't cross the Channel."

Falconet whistled.

"But he means to say something.  I heard that from Blakiston."

"Yes, he means to.  I gathered that in Berlin. . . .  Well, so much
for the Iron Hands.  The Communists were an easier proposition.  I
dropped back into the underworld in which I moved in '17 and '18,
and I had no trouble in picking up the threads.  With the Iron
Hands I was Melfort, formerly a lieutenant-colonel in the British
Army, but among the anarchs I was somebody very different--a shabby
Munich journalist called Brasser--Hannus Brasser.  Some of them
remembered me--one of them had actually hidden me for twelve hours
in his wood-cellar.

"I met the Iron Hands in a room in a slum public-house, but the
other lot were gathered in a castle!  It was a great empty,
shuttered schloss in a park of a thousand acres, and it belonged
to one of them who bore a name more famous in history than
Hohenzollern.  What a mad turn-up the world is--gutter-blood out to
restore aristocracy and blue blood eager to blast it! . . .  It was
a funny party, but not as impressive as the Iron Hands.  You see,
the Iron Hands are a new thing, idiomatically national, with a
single definite purpose, while the others are only cogs in an
international machine.  Active cogs, of course.  The last word in
cold deadly fanaticism.  They accepted me in my old rle of fellow-
worker, and didn't trouble to ask what I had been doing since we
met in cellars in '17.  I noticed changes in them--they were
wilder, less confident, a little more desperate.  There was a woman
among them called Probus--Netta Probus--who struck me as nearly the
evillest thing I had ever set eyes on."

"How do they look at Loeffler?" Falconet asked.

"With respect--and utter hatred.  He is the triumphant bourgeois
who may just pull Germany out of the mire, which is the last thing
they want.  They don't underrate his abilities--if anything they
overrate them.  They are as afraid as the Iron Hands of the London
Conference, and will do their best to keep him away from it.  Oh
yes, murder is their usual card, and no doubt they will have a try
at it--they are an unimaginative lot with a monotonous preference
for the crude.  But they are less to be feared than the Iron Hands,
for they have been trying that game for years, and the police have
a line on most of them.  I had some difficulty in getting away from
that cheerful party, for it broke up in confusion.  Yes, a police
raid.  It was piquant to be hunted by Loeffler's own watch dogs,
when I was trying my hand at the same game."

Falconet demanded the full story, but he got little of it, for Adam
seemed to regard it as a thing of minor importance.

"Two, I think, were caught.  The woman Probus got away unfortunately.
I had a bit of a cross-country run, with several automatics behind
me to improve my speed.  A good thing that I was in pretty hard
condition!  Lucky for me too that I had kept my communications
open.  I had rather a difficult twelve hours till I reached one
of my hidy-holes.  After that it was easy, and I emerged the spruce
Parisian commis-voyageur you saw this afternoon.  Flew into France
with a water-tight passport and a valise full of samples."

Adam yawned.  "I'm for bed.  To-night I am a Christian gentleman,
but Heaven knows what I shall be to-morrow.  You and I must part
for a week or two, for I'm going to be rather busy.  My job is to
see Loeffler safe in England.  There we can leave him to the best
police in the world."

"And after that?" Falconet asked.

"One stage at a time.  The London Conference is the thing that
matters most to the world at this moment.  After it I stand back.
I leave Loeffler to have it out with Creevey and his friends.  By
the way, Creevey has a bigger international reputation than I
thought.  The Iron Hands know all about him, and don't approve of
him.  Same with the Communist lot.  He's their pet mystery man, and
they have built a wonderful bogy out of him, something which they
can fear and hate to their heart's content.  He may find some day
that his life isn't as healthy as he would like."

Adam stretched his arms like a tired boy.  For one of his years his
movements were curiously young.  Falconet dragged his long limbs
from his arm-chair and complained of stiffness.

"I'm growing old," he said.  "I get rheumatism if I sit long in the
same position.  How in thunder do you manage to keep so spry, Adam?
You look happy, too."

The other laughed.

"I have an active job to look forward to.  And I haven't had much
of that since you and I left the Polar ice. . . .  Also, I now know
where I am.  I have been flying too high and my pinions won't carry
me.  I have been trying to work on the stage, when my proper job is
in the wings.  Loeffler has the right word for it.  I'm content to
be the manure to make the corn spring."



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--II


I


On the 23rd of October the Chancellor spent a busy day in the
important city of Rottenburg.  He arrived in the morning by special
train from Berlin, and drove to the apartments taken for him at the
Kaiserhof, which stands near the middle of the Koenigplatz, the
famous street which divides the new industrial and residential city
from the older quarter of Altdorf.  In the forenoon, attended by
the burgomaster and councillors, he opened the new Handelshochschule,
one of the extravagant public buildings which Germany had indulged
in since the war, and made a speech on his country's industrial
future.  After luncheon he fulfilled many engagements, including
visits to the new technical museum and to several schools, at each
of which he had something pleasant to say, for the Chancellor had a
gift for apposite occasional speeches.  Thereafter he had long
interviews with certain steel magnates, and then retired to deal
with his papers.  It was understood that he proposed to himself
dinner in his rooms with his secretaries and a quiet evening,
leaving early next morning for Cologne.

But this programme was only for the public.  The Chancellor did not
dine at the Kaiserhof, and the dinner ordered for him was eaten by
his secretaries alone.  As the October dusk fell he descended,
wrapped up in a heavy ulster with a white muffler round his neck,
and, emerging from a side door in a narrow street which ran at
right angles from the Koenigplatz, entered a waiting motor-car.
Outside the town he stopped the car, and took his seat beside the
driver, for the evening was fine and he was a glutton for fresh
air.

Twenty miles from Rottenburg is the important railway junction of
Neumarkt, on the main line between Paris and eastern Europe.  It is
the junction from which travellers branch off to Switzerland and
the south.  The main day express from Paris arrives there at seven
o'clock, but the night express which crosses the Alps does not
leave till nine-thirty, having to wait for the connection with
the Rhineland and the north.  Passengers for the south have
consequently two hours and a half at their disposal, which they
usually spend in dining at the excellent table of the Htel
Splendide, adjacent to the railway station.

A certain French Minister of State left Paris that morning, his
destination, as the press announced, being a well-known holiday
resort on the Italian lakes, where he proposed to take a week's
rest before the toil of the London Conference.  But the Minister
did not dine at the Htel Splendide.  He left his secretary to see
to his baggage, and hurried into the street, where a car awaited
him by arrangement.  After that he was driven rapidly through the
pleasant woodland country to the north of Neumarkt to a village
called Neustadt, where a little inn stood apart in a rose garden.
There he found a modest dinner awaiting him, and he ate it in the
company of a small man with a peaked beard to whom he had much to
say.  At a quarter to nine he left the inn, rejoined his car, which
was waiting in a retired place, duly caught the south-bound
express, and next morning was among the pines and vineyards of the
Italian foothills.

A quarter of an hour later his companion paid the bill, and ordered
his car.  Night had fallen, but it was the luminous dark of a fine
autumn.  As on the outward journey he sat beside the driver, partly
for fresh air, and partly for another reason.  He wore a white
scarf round his neck, a dark ulster, and a soft black hat.

A mile from Neustadt the road was under repair for several hundred
yards, and there was passage only for a single car at a time.
Traffic had to wait at each end at the dictation of a man with a
red lamp, who blocked ingress till the other end was clear.  At the
Rottenburg end several men with motor bicycles might have been
seen, lounging and smoking.  They were men with unsmiling faces and
broad shoulders that had once been drilled, and, though in ordinary
civilian dress, they had the air of being on duty.  They had
inconspicuously accompanied the Chancellor from the Kaiserhof as
his bodyguard, and now awaited his return, for their orders had
been to stop short of Neustadt.

A car came out of the alley-way which they recognised.  It was a
big Mercedes, and beside the driver sat a small man in a dark coat
with a white muffler.  That white muffler was their cue.  They
mounted their bicycles, and two preceded the car, and two followed
it.  They attended it till it stopped in the side street running up
from the Koenigplatz, and they saw the passenger descend and enter
the hotel, after which they dispersed for supper.  But one of them
had stopped for a moment and rubbed his eyes.  "His Excellency has
dined well," he said.  "He trips like a young 'un."

Five minutes or so after the cyclists had started, another car
passed the road-mending operations.  It was exactly the same as its
predecessor--a Mercedes limousine, and beside the driver sat a
small man in a dark greatcoat and a white scarf.  There were no
cyclists to accompany this car, which made its best speed along the
fine broad highway towards Rottenburg.

Presently the speed slackened, and the driver stopped to examine
his engine.

"She pulls badly, mein Herr," he said.  "I do not know why, for she
was overhauled but yesterday."

The journey continued, but it was a limping business, scarcely ten
miles an hour.  Loeffler looked at his watch, and compared it with
the far-off chiming of the half-hour from the Rottenburg clocks.
He was in no hurry, for he had nothing more to do that night, and
he was enjoying the mild autumn weather.

But when the Rottenburg lights were near and lamp-posts had begun
to dot the country road, the car came to a dead stop.  The
chauffeur descended, and, after examination, shook his head.

"As I thought.  It is the big end which has had some mischief done
to it.  Somehow it has not been getting its oil.  We cannot
continue.  I must wait here in the hope of a tow, and you, I fear,
must go on on foot.  We are almost in Rottenburg.  That is Altdorf
before you, and in half an hour you will be in the Koenigplatz."

Loeffler was not unwilling.  He had had too little exercise of
late, and he was glad to stretch his legs.  He took off his ulster
and bade the driver leave it at his hotel when he reached the city.
But he retained his white neckerchief, for his throat was weak, and
he had a good deal of public speaking before him in the near
future.

"You will continue till you meet the tram-lines," said the driver.
"See, there is their terminus just ahead.  But stop, there is a
better road, I think."  He removed his cap and scratched his head.
"I am a newcomer to this place, but it sticks in my mind that the
tram-lines fetch a circuit.  Here, friend," he cried to a man who
stood on the side-path.  "What's the nearest way to the Kaiserhof
hotel?"

The man, who looked like a workman, took his pipe from his mouth
and came forward.

"The Kaiserhof?" he said.  "Through Altdorf undoubtedly.  It will
save the gentleman a mile at least.  By the Ganzstrasse which
enters the Koenigplatz almost at the hotel door.  See, mein Herr.
After the tramway terminus you take the second street on your left
and continue.  That is the Ganzstrasse.  You cannot miss it."

Loeffler thanked him, gave some final orders to his driver, and
stepped out briskly.  He had many things to think about and was
glad of this chance, for he thought best when he was alone and
using his legs.  He looked back once and saw his driver sitting on
the kerb, lighting his pipe.  He did not notice the workman, who
had crossed the road and was following him.

The Chancellor had had for many months to submit to the perpetual
surveillance of a bodyguard from the secret police.  He submitted,
for he knew that it was wise, since his life was not his own, but
he did not like it, and he welcomed a chance to escape from
tutelage.  He felt happier mixing freely with his own people than
set on a guarded pinnacle.  He liked, too, the spectacle of the
evening life of the streets--it was not yet ten o'clock and they
would be thronged--and he enjoyed the soft dry air into which was
creeping the first chill of the coming winter.  He strode
vigorously along, and had soon reached the entrance to the
Ganzstrasse.

This was a narrower street with no tram-lines.  At the beginning it
ran through a new workman's quarter of small houses interspersed
with timber-yards.  Here it was open and well-lit, and there were
few people about.  But presently it entered the old quarter of
Altdorf, for it had been the principal street when Altdorf was a
fortified town, whose inhabitants kept geese on the wide adjoining
pasturelands.  A good many new tenements had been erected, but
between these rookeries were the bowed fronts of old buildings, and
there were many narrow lanes running into mazes of slums.  Loeffler
remembered that Altdorf did not bear the best of reputations.
There had been bread riots and other disorders in recent years, and
he had a vague recollection of reports in which certain notorious
suspects were said to have harboured here.  The street certainly
did not look too respectable.  The broken pavement was crowded with
people, sauntering youths and shop-girls, workmen, seedy-looking
flotsam and jetsam, and the cafs seemed of a low type.  He glanced
in at a window now and then, and saw ugly heads bent over beer-
mugs.  But the crowd was orderly enough, and he noticed a policeman
here and there.  Somewhere, too, must be the watchful figures of
his bodyguard.  He had to abate his pace, and keep close to the
wall to avoid being uncomfortably jostled.  Several loutish-looking
fellows had pushed against him, and one or two had peered
suspiciously into his face.  The height of the houses made the
lighting bad.  Between the lamps there were patches which were
almost dark.

In one of these dark patches he found himself suddenly addressed.
It was by a man in rough clothes, who had a cap with a broken peak
and a knitted scarf knotted about his throat.  The fellow rubbed
shoulders with him and spoke low in his ear, and the voice and
speech were not those of a workman.

"Excellency," he said, "do not look at me, but listen.  You are in
danger--grave danger.  You must do as I tell you if you would save
your life."

Loeffler in the war and ever since had lived in crises and had been
forced to take swift decisions.  Now he did not look at the
speaker.  In a level voice he asked:  "What are your credentials?
Why should I trust you?"

The man sidled away from him as they passed a lamp-post, and drew
near again as the street darkened.

"I am the man Buerger who walked with you in the woods at
Andersbach a month ago.  We talked of St Augustine."

"Good," said Loeffler.  "I remember.  Tell me, what must I do?"

"Your bodyguard have been decoyed away," was the answer.  "There
are men close to you who seek your life.  In three and a half
minutes, when you have passed the third lamp-post from here,
shooting will begin farther up the street, and the police whistles
will be blown, and the few people here will hurry to the sound.
But the shooting will be a blind, for it is you--here--that
matters.  Your enemies will seize you.  They may kill you now, if
they are hustled, but anyhow they will kill you soon."

"So!"  Loeffler's voice was unchanged.  The news only made him slow
down his pace a little.  "And you propose?"

"When the shots are fired we shall be abreast a little slit of a
passage.  It is called the Ganzallee, and is very ancient.  It
turns south from this street and then runs parallel to it and
debouches just where it meets the Koenigplatz.  It is narrow, so
that two men can scarcely walk abreast.  You must turn down it and
run--run for your life.  If you reach the Koenigplatz you are safe,
and within fifty yards of your hotel."

"But they may catch me.  I am not a young man."

"Your Excellency is not slow with your legs, for I have seen you.
But I will lead the pursuit--and shepherd it.  The others will not
be allowed to pass me, and the place is so dark and narrow that
they cannot shoot ahead. . . .  Are you ready, Excellency?  We are
almost there."

"I am ready," said Loeffler.  Under the last lamp-post he had
glanced at the dirty, white face of his companion, and seen there
that which he had recognised--something he believed he could trust.

The man slowed down a little, and Loeffler fell into step.  It
seemed to him that figures were crowding in on him on the pavement,
all keeping pace with him.  But he did not turn his head, though
his eyes shifted to the left to look out for the crack in the
masonry which was the Ganzallee.

Then suddenly a hundred yards up the street shots rang out, and at
the same moment his companion hustled him.  "There!" he whispered.
"Run for your life and do not look back.  Straight on.  There is no
turning."

Loeffler cannoned against an iron post in the entrance of the
alley, bruising his thigh.  Then he charged into a slit of
darkness, while behind him he heard a sudden babble like a baying
of hounds.

Things moved fast in that minute.  The shots up the street were
followed by a tumult of shouting, out of which rang shrilly the
whistles of the police.  The crowd at the mouth of the Ganzallee
thinned, for some fled back down the street, and others ran towards
the tumult.  One or two policemen with drawn batons passed at the
double.  But half a dozen figures remained and drew quickly towards
the man who had warned Loeffler.

This man behaved oddly.  He whistled on his fingers, and waved his
hand.  Then he shouted something which may have been a password.
Then he turned down the Ganzallee with the half-dozen at his heels.
Each man of them had a pistol drawn.

The place was as dark as a tunnel, but now and then it was pricked
with light from some window far up in the ravine of old masonry.
The men behind saw nothing of the fugitive, but it was quiet in
there, away from the noise of the street, and they could hear him
slipping and stumbling ahead.  The ground was cobbled and uneven,
but the soft-soled shoes of the pursuit did not slip, while those
of the quarry were clearly giving him trouble.  The contest looked
to be unequal in another way, for the seven men ran confidently in
the dark as if the ground was familiar to them, while the man they
sought could not put forth his best speed, in case of colliding
with the wall at the many windings.

The chase was mute, except for laboured breathing.  The man who led
the pack may not have been the slowest, but he was far the
clumsiest.  Unlike the rest he wore nailed boots, which scrawled on
the cobbles and made him often stumble.  Yet none of the others
succeeded in passing him, for he had the trick--learned long ago on
an English football field--of edging off a competitor.

Once they were nearly up to the fugitive--he could not have been
more than five yards ahead--but at that moment the leader tripped
and staggered, causing the next two men to cannon into him and
thereby delaying the chase for at least ten seconds.  A second time
success seemed to be within their grasp, at a point where the alley
turned to the right and sloped steeply towards the Koenigplatz.
They could see the glow of an arc lamp dimly reflected, and in it
the figure of the man they sought, twisting like a hare, as his
nails slipped on the greasy stones.

Undoubtedly the pursuit would have caught him, for he was making
bad time, had it not been for the mishap to its leader.  For his
feet seemed suddenly to go from under him, and he came down with a
crash, blocking the narrow road.  The next three men cascaded over
him on to their heads, and the last three sat down violently in
their attempt to pull up.  For a minute there was a struggling heap
of humanity in the alley, and when it had sorted itself out the
fugitive was in the bright light of the alley's debouchment.

"Our bird has escaped us," said one of them after a mouthful of
oaths.  "God's curse on you, Hannus, for a clumsy fool."

The leader, whom they called Hannus, sat on the ground nursing a
bruised shoulder.

"God's curse on the cobbler that nailed my boots," he groaned.
"Who was to guess that he would turn in to this rabbit-run!  Had I
known I would have come barefoot!"



Loeffler had some anxious moments when he almost felt the breath of
his pursuers on his neck.  Even at the sound of the final cataclysm
he dared not turn his head, and he did not slacken pace till he
emerged, breathless and very warm, in the Koenigplatz, with the
lights of the Kaiserhof just across the street.  He had a glimpse
of the upper end of the Ganzstrasse, where the row seemed to be
over.  He went straight to his rooms, and informed his secretaries
that he was ready for bed.

"And by the way, Karl," he said, "you might have up the police
escort that Goertz insists on, and give them a wigging.  They lost
me to-night for the better part of an hour.  Bad staff-work
somewhere."


II


The packet boat had scarcely passed the end of the breakwater which
outlined the river channel when it encountered the heavy swell of
the Channel, tormented by a north-easter.  The tourist season was
over, and it no longer ferried backwards and forwards crowds of
cheerful trippers.  Very few passengers had come on board, and
those few were composing themselves in the cabins or in corners of
the lower deck for several hours of misery.

But the steamer carried a good deal of cargo, and in the loading of
it had fallen behind her scheduled time of starting.  There were
several touring-cars the owners of which had crossed by the quicker
route, and left their cars to follow by the cheaper.  There was
also a certain amount of perishable fruit from the Normandy
orchards.  So the French harbour had witnessed a busy scene before
the boat's departure.  On the quay there had been none of the usual
sellers of picture-postcards and chocolates and cherries, but there
had been more than the usual complement of stevedores and dock-
labourers to assist with the cargo.

There had indeed been a bustle opposite the after-part of the
steamer which contrasted with the meagre traffic at the passengers'
entry.  The gangways to the hold had been crowded, and when the
whistle blew for departure there was a scurrying ashore of blue-
breeched dockers.  One man, who had been fussing about the position
of a motor-car and giving instructions in excellent French, did not
leave with the rest, though he did not seem to be a passenger.  He
remained inconspicuously on the side farthest from the quay where a
ladder led to the middle deck, and, when the ship was leaving the
river and the bustle in the hold had subsided, he ascended the
ladder, and found a seat in a place which the spindrift did not
reach.  He was dressed in a worn trench-waterproof, and he wore a
soft green hat well pulled down over his brows.

Loeffler had come aboard early and had sat himself in a corner of
the smoking-room with a novel.  After much thought he had chosen
this route across the Channel.  It was of extreme importance that
he should be in England before the other delegates to the London
Conference, for he had many preliminary matters to discuss.  Had he
crossed from Calais or Ostend his journey would have been
conspicuous, and would have been broadcast throughout the world,
thereby raising suspicion when suspicion must at all costs be
avoided.

There was another reason.  In a speech at Bonn three days earlier
he had said things which had been nicely calculated to prepare the
atmosphere for the Conference, but which, as he well knew, meant a
declaration of war against certain potent forces in his own
country.  He had repeated them in a statement to an international
news agency.  He was perfectly aware of the danger he ran, and
understood that these words of his would make certain people
determined that he should not sit at the London council-board.  He
was dealing, he knew, with enemies to whom human life meant little.
His colleagues would have had him travel by some way where he could
be securely guarded.  An aeroplane had been suggested, but by air
he could not preserve his incognito, since it was the most public
of all methods of conveyance, and his arrival would immediately be
known.  The same argument applied against the ordinary routes.
There, indeed, he could have been well guarded, but it meant
publicity and that must be shunned.

So he had chosen the long sea-route from a western French port at a
season when few people were travelling.  It fitted in with his
plans, for he had to have certain conversations in Paris which
could not be missed.  Instead of an escort he had decided to
trust in the protection of obscurity.  He had reached Paris
inconspicuously, and there had been no official greetings at the
station.  He had met the man to whom he wished to talk in an
obscure caf on the Rive Gauche.  His hotel had been humble, and he
had driven to the coast in an ordinary hired car.  His passport did
not bear his own name.  On the English side all had been arranged.
There he would be met by his host and driven to a country house.
Once in England he believed that any risk would be past, for he
would have the guardianship of the famous English police till the
Conference was over.  Beyond that he did not look, for it was his
habit, so far as he himself was concerned, to live for the day.  If
the Conference succeeded much of his task was done, and the rest
was in the lap of the gods.

Loeffler was a good sailor, and did not mind the violent pitching
of the vessel.  His novel did not interest him, and he relapsed
into those complex reflections from which he was never for long
free.  Much of his power lay in the fact that he really thought.
He gave less time to official papers than do most men, for he had
the gift of plucking the heart swiftly from them, but he gave many
hours to thought.

There was only one other man in the smoking-room, a plump gentleman
in knickerbockers who was trying to write at a table, and finding
it difficult.  He was smoking a rank cigar and was bespattering
himself with ash and ink.  Loeffler lit his pipe to counteract the
cigar, and half shut his eyes.  But he found the place ill suited
for his meditations.  It was stuffy and smelly; each minute it
seemed to hurl itself into the air and settle back with a
disquieting wriggle, while the spray lashed at the closed windows.
He took off his short overcoat, and laid it beside his big white
waterproof.  Then he changed his mind, put on his waterproof and
went out.

He sought the upper deck, from which a bridge led across the hold
to the after-part of the ship.  All morning he had sped along the
French roads amid scurries of rain, but now the skies had cleared
and a cold blue heaven looked down upon the tormented seas.  But
from stem to stern the vessel was swept with salt water--stinging
spray, and on the starboard side great grey-green surges.  Loeffler
had always loved wild weather, and his spirits rose as he inhaled
the keen air and felt the drive of spindrift on his cheek.  He put
his thoughts back under lock and key and prepared to enjoy an hour
or two of sanctuary.

Sanctuary--yes, that was the right word.  He was enclosed between
sea and sky in a little cosmos of his own.  There was no sign of
human life about, sailor or passenger; the vessel seemed to be
impelled by no human power, like the ship in the strange English
poem which he admired.  Loeffler had been a mountaineer from his
youth, because of his love of deep solitude.  He was far from that
nowadays, in a life which was all heat and sound and movement, but
the gods had sent him a taste of it this afternoon.  He strode the
deck, his mackintosh collar buttoned round his throat.  The seas
were breaking heavily over the after-deck.  He would like to go
there and get wet, as he had often done when a boy.

There was another figure on the deck, and he saw that it was the
knickerbockered gentleman of the smoking-room.  He had finished his
cigar, and had put on oilskins.  A hat with the brim turned down
almost met the oilskin collar, so that only a nose and eyes were
visible.  Loeffler realised that he had been wrong in thinking the
man plump, for as he moved he gave the impression of immense
strength.  Those shoulders were overlaid not with fat but with
muscle.

The man seemed to be in the same mood as Loeffler.  He cried out in
French about the weather, not in malediction but in praise.

"Here is the wind to blow away megrims!  Like me, I see, you are
fond of a buffeting."

He fell into step and paced the deck beside him, laughing loudly
when a wave more insolent than the rest topped the bulwarks and
sent its wash swirling round their feet.

They covered the length of the deck twice, and then came to a halt
above the hold, where there was some little shelter from the wind.
The capstan and anchors in the stern were almost continually awash,
and waves seemed to strike the place obliquely and half submerge
the staff from which the red ensign fluttered.

"We are well defended both of us," the man cried in a jolly voice.
"Let us adventure there.  We can dodge the bigger waves.  My God,
that is the spectacle!"

Loeffler followed him across the bridge, bending to the buffets of
the gale.  A man in a trench-waterproof, ensconced in a corner of
the deck below, watched the two and smiled.  He had been getting
uneasy about Loeffler's sojourn in the cabin.  He knew that if he
did not leave it he would die there, since those who sought his
life were determined to have it at all costs, but that they
preferred another plan, with which Loeffler had now obligingly
fallen in.

The starboard side of the after-deck was running like a river, but
on the port side there was a thin strip which the waves did not
reach.  There were no bulwarks here, only a low rail; in quiet
summer passages travellers would sun themselves here in deck-chairs
and watch the track behind them outlined in white foam amid the
green.  There had been some carelessness, for several of the
stanchions of the starboard railing had been removed and not
replaced.  For a yard or two there was no defence between the
planking and the sea.

"What a spectacle!" repeated the large man in knickerbockers.  "It
is a parable of life, Monsieur.  A line, a hair, a sheet of glass
alone separates man at all times from death."  He was looking at
the sea, but now and then he glanced forward over the empty ship
ploughing steadily through the waste.  Not a soul was visible.  He
did not see the man in the trench-waterproof, who had scrambled
half-way up the iron ladder from the hold, and was now flattening
himself under the edge of the after-deck.  Nor could the man see
him, though he could hear his voice.

Loeffler, awed by the majesty of the scene, and thinking his own
thoughts, found his arm taken by the other.

"See, that big surge is past.  Now we may look over the other side
and be back before the next one."

Obediently he took three steps amid the back-wash of the last wave,
and looked into a trough of green darkness over which the little
vessel was slightly heeling.

Then suddenly he found himself grasped in arms like a bear's,
grasped so firmly that the breath went from him.  The big man was
bracing himself for some effort against which he was powerless to
struggle.  He felt his feet leave the deck. . . .

The grip slackened.  A sharp voice had cried out behind them.  It
cried a single word, but that word was enough to check Loeffler's
assailant.

Then it spoke in fierce German.

"You fool, Kurbin.  You have got the wrong man."

The giant let his arms relax, and Loeffler found himself switched
from his grasp by a man in a trench-waterproof.  The ship was
heeling again to port, and a shove sent him reeling against the
port rails.

"Back," a voice shouted.  "Run, man, run for your life."

Loeffler had heard that voice before.  When the next surge broke
over the stern he was already halfway across the bridge over the
hold.  He glanced back once and saw the after-part of the ship
blotted out in a shroud of spray.

Loeffler's going seemed to rouse the knickerbockered man to a
berserk fury.  He flung himself upon the other, and the two swung
against the port rails.  But the man in the trench-waterproof was
equal to the occasion.  The giant was wearing rubber-soled shoes
which had a poor purchase on the swimming deck.  He slipped, and
the other wriggled out of his clutch and managed to clasp him round
the middle from behind.  Then, while his balance had gone, he swung
him in his arms against the low rail which defended the place from
the hold.  The rail gave under the weight and the big man pitched
down among the motor-cars.  His head hit the bonnet of one, and he
rolled over and lay quiet.

The man in the trench-waterproof glanced forward and saw that no
one was in sight.  He slipped down into the hold and had a look at
his adversary.  The man was bleeding from a gash on the head, and
was doubtless concussed, but his neck was unbroken.

Then he went forward and found a sailor.  "There has been an
accident," he said.  "A gentleman has fallen into the hold from the
after-deck.  He is unconscious, but not, I think, badly hurt.  Get
him moved to a cabin.  Meantime I will see the captain."

He showed the captain certain papers, and told him a story which
caused that honest seaman to rub his eyes.

"There need be no fuss," he said.  "There must be no fuss, since no
harm has been done.  You know Lord Lamancha by sight?  He will meet
the small gentleman in the white mackintosh and take charge of him.
Never mind who the gentleman is.  He travels incognito, but he is a
person of some importance.  As for the other, the doctor had better
attend to him.  He has no baggage, but he has plenty of money--he
will probably wish to return to France with you to-morrow.  Only,
till we reach England, his cabin door must be kept locked."


III


As Lamancha drove Loeffler through the dusk from the coast, by way
of a broad river valley into wooded uplands, he did not talk
politics.

"You'll have five days of peace here," he told him, "peace very
slightly interrupted by discussion.  Geraldine is coming down, and
Stannix, and that is the party.  It is a jolly place and the
weather looks to be mending.  Don't you call this time the 'Old
Wives' Summer' in Germany?  You don't shoot, I know, but I will
take you for some long rides on the Moor.  One doesn't often get
the chance of entertaining a man like you in our simple country
way.  The last European celebrity who came here had three
secretaries with him and Scotland Yard sent down a couple of men."

Loeffler observed that it was a pleasure to get away from the
surveillance of detectives, and Lamancha laughed.

"Well, as it happens, you won't quite escape that.  The fact is, we
had a burglary two night ago.  Oh no, nothing serious.  It was very
much the usual business--my wife's room while we were at dinner,
open windows, a ladder from the garden.  The burglars were scared
away by the return of her maid, and had no time to pinch anything.
But the police have chosen to take it seriously, and there are
London men in the village making enquiries.  It has nothing to do
with you, of course, for nobody knows that you are here.  But I
thought I'd let you know about it, in case you are surprised by the
sight of sharp-faced fellows looking on at our doings."

The weather mellowed, as Lamancha had hoped, into a St Luke's
summer, and for five days Loeffler enjoyed a leisure the existence
of which he had almost forgotten.  The old house, set among meadows
of hill turf and flanked by russet woods, seemed a sanctuary remote
from a fevered world.  The hostess was the only woman in the party,
and Mildred Lamancha's slow, sweet, drawling voice gave the
appropriate key of peace.  Geraldine, the Prime Minister, shot all
day with Stannix, while Lamancha and his guest, mounted on hill
ponies, quartered the uplands, and Loeffler's face took on a
wholesome colour from wind and sun.  At night they talked, and
their talk ranged far.  In such company Loeffler felt at his ease,
and threw off much of his habit of caution.  Through his dogged
matter-of-factness there came glimpses of enthusiasms and dreams.
Geraldine, who of the three ministers knew him least well, was
moved to confide to his host that he had got a new notion of the
little man.

On the evening before they were due to leave for London there was a
small party.  "Old Jocelyn is coming to dine," Lamancha told
Loeffler; "asked himself and I didn't like to refuse.  He used to
be our Ambassador at Vienna, and he speaks good German--not the
limping affair of the rest of us.  You'll like the old fellow.
He's uncommonly knowledgeable, and he'll be thrilled to meet you.
There's no more need for secrecy, for to-morrow evening the papers
will announce your arrival.  I hope you have had a pleasant time
here.  It has been a very educative time for all of us, especially
for the P.M.  I don't mind telling you that I have been rather
anxious about him.  He sees a little too much of Creevey and his
lot."

"I have learned much," Loeffler replied with his slow smile, "and I
have seen many beautiful things.  Also my English has improved, is
it not so?"

To his wife later in the day Lamancha brought a message.

"Jocelyn wants to know if he can bring a friend to dinner to-night.
He has a man staying with him, an American doctor.  Upcott's the
name.  Trust Jocelyn to have an assortment of odd friends.  He
collects them up and down the world like rare postage stamps.  I
suppose it's all right, for Jocelyn thinks it's only a country
dinner-party.  Anyhow, it's too late to matter.  Things have gone
well so far, I think."

"I have loved it," said Lady Lamancha.  "I have completely lost my
heart to the Chancellor.  He is like one of the old wise collie
dogs at Leriot.  I don't suppose he realised he was being so
closely looked after.  He has been, you know.  Kit spoke to me
about it.  He asked what dark secret we were hiding.  The police
have been simply squatting round the place.  You didn't notice it
perhaps, for you were out most of the day, but there's always been
somebody hanging about each of the gates.  And then there's the
absurd old Scotsman that Adam Melfort insisted on our having in the
house.  I believe he is the life and soul of the housekeeper's
room, but he is an odd figure for a servant.  I am sure that he is
wearing his best Sunday blacks."

Lamancha laughed.

"Amos is a wonderful graven image, but you couldn't get a better
watch-dog.  There's a new ghost haunting the west corridor, the
wraith of an elder of the kirk. . . .  By the way, you remember
that Adam himself is coming to-night.  He'll arrive late, and will
have dined already."

Sir Francis Jocelyn was a stately old gentleman verging upon eighty
whose gout made him lean heavily upon two sticks.  He was a little
surprised at finding himself in what looked like a committee of
the Cabinet, and his eyes opened wide when he was presented to
Loeffler.  Retirement from the world had not dimmed his interest in
the world's affairs.  Mr Upcott, the American doctor, proved to be
a youngish man with a cheerful clean-shaven face and a mop of fair
hair brushed back from his forehead.  He spoke almost with an
English intonation, for it seemed that he was a Bostonian, though
now a professor at Baltimore.  Jocelyn introduced him with a short
sketch of his attainments, and he gravely informed each member of
the party that he was pleased to meet them.

On a side table in the hall stood the materials for making
cocktails.

"I told Upcott that he would find here what he was accustomed to,"
said Jocelyn.  "Better let him mix the drinks.  He has already
turned my butler into an artist."

Mr Upcott announced his willingness, and set to work at the side
table with a professional air.  Lamancha, who detested cocktails,
drank sherry, but the others accepted an agreeable mixture which
appeared to be known as a "Maryland side-car."  Loeffler raised his
glass to the health of the compounder.

It was a pleasant meal.  Jocelyn was too skilled a talker to steer
near the shoals of current politics.  His memory dallied with old
days in pre-war Vienna, and Geraldine, who had many continental
friendships, kept up the ball of reminiscence.  It was a world
which Loeffler knew only by hearsay, but he was eager in his
questions, and the Maryland side-car seemed to have thawed his
gentle taciturnity.  But the success of the dinner was Mr Upcott,
who showed that medical science had not monopolised his interests.
He seemed to know everybody and to have been everywhere in the
civilised world.  He was enlightening in his comments on his own
land, and he had the lovable solemnity on public questions which
characterises one type of young American.  But he had also a wealth
of idiomatic slang and curious metaphors which introduced an
agreeable spice of comedy.  He had often to be explained to
Loeffler, generally by Jocelyn, who professed to specialise in
American idioms, and the explanations produced that rare thing in
the Chancellor, hearty laughter.

After dinner Jocelyn, Lamancha, Stannix and Geraldine made a four
at bridge.  Loeffler and Mr Upcott did not play, and sat with Lady
Lamancha round the library hearth, for the autumn frosts had begun.
Their talk was desultory, for the Chancellor had relapsed into his
customary silence, and sat with his eyes on the fire, as if he were
seeing pictures in the flames.  Mr Upcott was as sparkling as
before, and entertained his hostess with an account of the last St
Cecilia's ball at Charleston which he had attended, and which he
said was the ultimate outpost of the well-born South against a
vulgar world.  He was very amusing, and the third in the group was
forgotten.

Suddenly Loeffler raised himself from his chair.

"I think if you will permit me, gracious lady," he said, "I will go
to bed.  I am feeling weary, and I have much to do to-morrow."

He spoke in a small, strained voice, and his face was very white.
Lady Lamancha was full of kindly anxiety.

"No.  I am quite well," he said.  "Only tired.  Pray do not disturb
yourself.  I will have a long sleep."

He swayed a little as he passed the bridge-table.

"What!  Off already!" Lamancha cried.  "Well, perhaps it's wise."

Loeffler shook hands ceremoniously with Jocelyn and left the room.
Lamancha rose and came over to the fire.

"Anything wrong, Mildred?  Can his food have upset him?  He had the
complexion of a deerstalker when he came down to dinner.  Perhaps
it was your cocktail, Mr Upcott!"

The young American looked grave.

"He certainly doesn't look good.  Say, Lord Lamancha, hadn't I
better go up to him?  It's my job, after all.  We oughtn't to take
chances with so big a man."

"That's a good idea.  It would ease my mind.  I'll show you his
room."

He said something to the bridge-players, and led the young doctor
up the main staircase to where the west corridor turned off from
the upper hall.  In the dim light at the end of it stood the rock-
like figure of Andrew Amos.  Lamancha knocked at the door of
Loeffler's bedroom, and opened it for Mr Upcott to enter.  "You'll
find your way down again all right," he said.  As he turned away he
noticed that Amos was no longer in the corridor.

Loeffler had taken off his coat and waistcoat and was lying on his
bed.  He opened his eyes languidly as the young doctor entered, and
made an effort to sit up.

"You stay still, Excellency," said Mr Upcott.  "Lord Lamancha
thought I might as well have a look at you, for I'm a doctor by
profession.  Just keep as you are."

He felt his patient's pulse, looked at his tongue, and listened to
the beating of his heart.

"Nothing much the matter, Excellency," he said.  "But I'm going to
fix you so that you'll have a good night and wake in the morning as
jolly as a bird.  We doctors don't work with coarse medicines now.
Just a prick of a needle and a spot of the right kind of dope.
Give me your arm."

Mr Upcott took from the pocket of his dinner jacket a small flat
leather case, from which he selected a tiny syringe.  He did not
fill it, so it appeared that it had been already prepared.  He was
about to take Loeffler's arm, when suddenly his right hand was
seized from behind and the syringe was forced from his grasp.

Mr Upcott turned to find that two men had entered from the adjacent
sitting-room.  One was the grotesque figure in black that he had
noticed in the corridor.  The other was a tallish man in tweeds.

"No," said the latter.  "You do nothing more, Mr Upcott."

He balanced the syringe in his palm, and then picked up the leather
case from the bed.

"You have made your preparations well," he said.  "One touch of
this and your job would have been done.  It's the new stuff,
hamaline, isn't it?  Doesn't kill, but atrophies the mind and drugs
the body for a week or two.  I congratulate you on your ingenuity."

Mr Upcott had been transformed from the bland doctor into something
alert and formidable.  He looked as if he were going to strike, but
there was that in the air of the two men that made him think better
of it.

The man who had spoken handed him back his case.

"I take it there's nothing much wrong with Herr Loeffler," he said.
"Something in your cocktail, perhaps.  They tell me you are very
adroit at that game. . . .  You will go quietly downstairs and tell
Lord Lamancha that everything is well.  Then you will go home with
Sir Francis Jocelyn.  You had better leave England to-morrow or
there may be trouble.  Do you understand me?"

Mr Upcott lifted the bedside lamp and looked at the other's face.
Then he put it down and shrugged his shoulders.  He laughed and his
laugh was not pleasant.

"I've got you now," he said.  "Colonel Melfort, isn't it?  One of
us too, by God!  Well, we shan't forget this evening."



Adam appeared in the library about eleven o'clock after Jocelyn and
his friend had departed.

"Just arrived," he explained.  He glanced at the array of glasses
around the siphons and decanters.  "Hullo, have you had a party?"
he said.  "Where is the great man?"

"Gone to bed," said Lamancha.  "He wasn't feeling his best, but a
man that old Jocelyn brought to dinner, a young American doctor,
had a look at him and reported him all right.  Amusing chap, that
doctor.  Mildred went upstairs whooping at some jape of his on the
doorstep.  I must get her to tell it me in the morning."


IV


After breakfast next day Adam sat in Loeffler's sitting-room.  The
Chancellor had breakfasted in bed, but had sent word to his host
that he was wholly recovered.  Lamancha had interviewed him, and
then Adam had been sent for.

"I have to thank you, Colonel Melfort, for a great service,"
Loeffler said in his shy, deprecating voice.  "How great a service
I do not know, but I can guess.  That man last night--he would have
drugged me?  Would the drug have killed?"

Adam shook his head.

"I do not think so--from what I know of hamaline.  But it would
have made you useless in the Conference.  The Iron Hands are
artists, and do not take stronger measures than the case requires."

"What do you know of the Iron Hands?"

"A good deal.  I am by way of being one of their inner brotherhood--
the extremists who stick at nothing.  You cannot defeat such
people unless you are of them.  For three weeks, Excellency, you
have been leading a dangerous life, but now for a little you are
safe.  Since you are now officially in England you are in the
keeping of the English police.  As a matter of fact, you have been
in their charge for the last five days, but your anonymity made it
difficult to take full precautions."

Loeffler had been staring at him, and suddenly recognition awoke in
his eyes.

"You were the man on the boat," he said, "the man who saved me from
being flung into the sea?  Am I right?"

"I was the man.  Do not blame the Iron Hands for that.  That was
the work of another branch of your enemies who are clumsier and
more desperate."

Loeffler's puzzled face broke into a smile.

"It is a world of marvels," he said.  "I did not think when we sat
at dinner in August in Berlin that at our next meeting you would
save my life.  You have been my good angel."

"We met in between," said Adam.  "Consider, Excellency, search your
memory.  What of the Freiburg chemist at Andersbach and the
Wandervgel?"

Loeffler sprang to his feet.

"Then you were the man at Rottenburg that plucked me out of the
Ganzstrasse business?  Him I recognised.  God in Heaven, who and
what are you?  Can you change your person like a wizard?  You are
miraculous--beyond belief.  I can observe and my memory is good,
but you have vanquished me utterly."

"I served a long apprenticeship to the job," said Adam.  "You think
we first met at dinner with Lord Lamancha in London eighteen months
ago.  But you are wrong.  We met before that."

"It cannot be."

"It is true.  Do you remember a day in February '18 at Bodenheim?
You were then Major Loeffler, a convalescent recovering from
wounds.  You had before you for examination a neutral commercial
agent, a Dane called Randers, with whose doings you were not
altogether satisfied.  You and your colleagues--you especially--
gave Randers a pretty hot time.  More than once you nearly broke
through his defences.  Had you succeeded Randers would have died,
and I think that you yourself would not be alive this morning."

Loeffler passed his hand over his eyes.

"It comes back to me.  A middle-aged man with a high colour and a
blond moustache.  Rather a vulgar fellow?  I suspected him, but I
had not enough to act upon.  But I was right, you say?"

"You were right.  I was a British officer, and for three years of
the war I was behind your front.  Thank God I was able to do your
country a fair amount of harm."

"And now you would atone for it by doing my country much good.  No,
not atone.  There was no need of atonement, for you were doing your
rightful duty.  But you are chivalrous, and now you would do an old
enemy a kindness."

"May I put it differently?  I want to help to build up the world.
You are at the moment the chief builder, so my services are at your
disposal.  I cannot direct--I cannot even carry a hod--but I may be
able to keep wreckers away."

"I thank you."  Loeffler spoke gravely and held out his hand.  He
seemed to be under the influence either of some emotion or some
sudden thought, for he walked to the window and stood there in
silence looking out at the morning landscape.

"Come here," he said, and Adam took his place beside him.

The view was over the terraced garden to the park, which rose to a
low wooded ridge.  The early hours had been clear and sparkling
with frost, but now banks of vapour were drifting athwart the
landscape.  The garden was plain in every detail, with its urns and
parapets and statues, its rose-beds and grass-plots drenched in
dew.  But the park was dim, and the trees were wreathed in mist,
and the ridge was only a shadow.  But, far beyond, some trick of
light revealed a distant swell of moorland, dark as a sapphire
against the pale sky.

"Look!" said Loeffler.  "That is how I see the world.  The
foreground is plain--and the horizon--but the middle distance is
veiled.  So it is with me.  I see the next stage very clear, but
all beyond that is hidden from me.  But I see also the horizon to
which I would move. . . .  Let us sit down, Colonel Melfort, and
talk a little.  I can lay open my heart to my preserver.  You are a
friend of Germany, but still more you are a friend of the world.
I, likewise--for Germany cannot be safe until the world is safe.
Nor, I would add, can the world be safe until Germany is at peace.
These things are a circle, which the pessimist will call vicious
and the optimist virtuous."

He held his head low, and dropped his clasped hands between his
knees, looking, thought Adam, much as Ulysses Grant might have
looked at some difficult hour of the Wilderness Campaign.

"This Conference," he said, "I now think that it will succeed.  But
its success will only carry us a little way.  We shall have a
breathing space, no more--not yet a place to rest.  After it there
will come for Germany the slow business of waiting and toiling and
suffering.  She will face it, I think, and she will go through with
it, but she must have some streak of light on her horizon.  If that
light is denied, she will despair and sink into the slough of
anarchy, from which it will be hard to raise her.  Then she will
suffer most, but all the world will suffer much, and all our dreams
of peace will have gone.  We shall be back in the old cruel world--
crueller than before, because there will be deeper poverty and no
hope.  Do you understand me, Colonel Melfort?"

Adam nodded.  "You look to the Conference to give you the streak of
light?"

"Assuredly.  Your country will not deny it us.  Nor will America, I
think.  Nor France, if she is wisely handled.  Such a promise of an
ultimate dawn will be much.  After that my task, if God permits me,
is to keep my people steady.  That will not be easy, for there are
many who are impatient and would cut the knot.  Some of them--your
friends of the past week--think that my life is the barrier to
prosperity, and that with me out of the way the road will be clear.
They are foolish, for I matter little.  I am only the housemaid
sweeping the floor and opening the windows.  If I were gone the
dust would be thicker, for I do not make dust.  But most of my
opponents are not violent or criminal, but they are obstinate and
short-sighted.  They cannot endure to wait.  Therefore they will
try other ways, and unless they are held there will be disaster."

Adam looked at Loeffler as he sat with his head poked forward, his
voice grave and level, and his eyes abstracted as if in an inward
vision.

"I think you can hold your people," he said.

"I think I can," was the answer.  "But on one condition only--that
the streak of light is not allowed to die out of their sky."

He got to his feet and stood in front of the fire.

"I will be wholly candid with you, Colonel Melfort.  It is your
right, since you have made yourself my friend. . . .  That streak
of light does not depend upon Germany, but upon the world outside.
It does not altogether depend upon the Governments.  They may be
difficult at times, but I think they will be reasonable, for after
all they understand their own interest.  As for the press it does
not greatly matter, since the press is not an independent power.
But there is a great and potent world which the Governments do not
control.  That is the world of finance, the men who guide the ebb
and flow of money.  With them rests the decision whether they will
make that river a beneficent flood to quicken life, or a dead
glacier which freezes wherever it moves, or a torrent of burning
lava to submerge and destroy.  The men who control that river have
the ultimate word.  Now most of them mean well, but they do not see
far, and they are not very clever; therefore they are at the
bidding of any man who is long-sighted and a master of strategy.
Such a man has the future of the world--the immediate future--in
his hands."

"Is there such a man?" Adam asked.

"I am coming to believe that there is.  And I think you know him.
He can command money, and he can dictate its use, for he is clever--
no, not clever--he has genius, a persuasive genius.  If he wished,
he could move--what?  Not the State treasuries, which are difficult
things.  Those responsible for them have to give strict account and
carry with them in their policy millions of uninstructed voters.
No, he could move the private hoards of which the world is full,
and apply them wisely to sowing here and irrigating there in the
certainty of a rich harvest.  The Rothschilds, you remember, made
their great fortunes by helping a bankrupt Europe through the
Napoleonic wars, by moving money to the point where it was needed.
Such a man as I speak of could do more to-day, for he could move
money not to pay bills for war material and war damages but to
nurse throughout the globe the new life which is waiting to break
forth.  The world is richer to-day than it has ever been, but the
communications are choked, so that one half of it is water-logged
and the other half a parched desert."

"The man you speak of is not doing what you want?"

Loeffler shook his head.

"He is moving money but capriciously, without any wise purpose.  I
do not think that he cares greatly for wealth, but he is scornfully
amassing it--nothing more.  He has persuaded finance to trust him--
in America, in France, to some extent in Britain--and the trust is
not misplaced, for he will earn for it big dividends.  He provides
loans for many lands but at too high a price, for he exacts in
return a control over certain things which in no land should be
under foreign control.  He has his pound of flesh, and the flesh is
taken from vital parts of the body.  Therefore his loans do not
benefit.  They tide over a momentary difficulty, but in the end
they cripple recovery--and they may kill it."

"That is not all," he went on.  "They foster a bitter nationalism
which I would fain see die.  A people is not grateful when it sees
its choicest possessions go in payment for this foreign help.  Such
a man may create violent antagonisms--dangerous for himself, more
dangerous for the world."

"Let's get down to names," said Adam.  "There would be more hope
for things if Creevey were out of the way?"

"Yes," said Loeffler.  "And also No.  You open your eyes, but I
will tell you what I mean.  Mr Creevey has genius beyond question,
but it is a misdirected genius.  Misdirected, not in its essence
malevolent.  As I read him he is still immature.  You may laugh,
but I am very serious.  He has immense abilities, but he uses them
like a clever child.  His fault is an arrogance of intellect.  He
is so wrapped up in the use of a superb intelligence that he does
not permit himself to look to ultimate things.  He is, if you
please, not awakened.  Now there is so little genius in the world
that I cannot wish for its disappearance, even if it stands in my
way.  Mr Creevey is no common man; he is no mere money-spinner.  He
is no doubt very rich, but I do not think that he pays much heed to
his private bank account.  He seeks nobler game--the satisfaction
to be won from the use of a great mind.  But it is not the noblest,
and in its results it may be disastrous.  He is at present a dark
angel in the world, but could his power be orientated otherwise he
might be an angel of light."

"Why do you tell me this?" Adam asked.  "I cannot help you."

Loeffler smiled.

"I tell it you because you are my friend, and I want my friend to
understand me."

There was a knock at the door and Lamancha entered.

"The cars will be ready in half an hour," he said.  "You're coming
with us, Adam, aren't you?"

"If I may.  I'm by way of dining with Falconet to-night."


V


Adam and Falconet dined in the latter's rooms in St James's Street.
Another man joined them after dinner, whose name was Blakiston, an
Englishman who had been for thirty years in New York and was
Falconet's partner in many enterprises.  He was small, grizzled and
clean-shaven, and when he spoke he had the habit of dangling
tortoiseshell eyeglasses at the end of a black ribbon.  He looked
the conventional banker, and he had a note-book which was seldom
out of his hand.

He gave a list of businesses which sounded like an extract from the
speech of the chairman of an investment company.

"Which of them are going to raise questions in the next few
months?" Falconet asked.

Blakiston considered.  There was a group of wood-pulp propositions
in East Prussia which might be difficult--an attempt to combine
several had been blocked by the local boards.  An Italian
artificial silk concern was at loggerheads with the Government over
certain labour questions.  Then there were the michelite mines in
Rhodesia--something had to be done there in the way of a working
agreement with the Swedish and American interests.  The financial
arrangements, too, with Leigh and O'Malley of New York were due for
revision, for some of that group were kicking about the German
municipalities loan.  Blakiston had a list of other activities--a
coffee combine in Brazil, the vast estates of a Westphalian
syndicate in the Argentine, the proposed match monopoly in Turkey,
and a new harbour on the Adriatic.

"All of them boiling up to be nasty, you think?" Falconet asked.
"And with a little trouble you reckon you could make them boil
faster?"

Blakiston did not consult his note-book.

"Sure," he said, smiling.  "Up to a point, that is.  Our interests
are so widely scattered that we can bring some kind of pressure to
bear in most parts of the globe."

"Enough to make it necessary for Mr Creevey to give the business
his personal attention?  I mean, go out and look at things for
himself?"

Blakiston considered.

"Yes, I think so.  He won't go to Rhodesia--couldn't be spared that
long from England.  But we could so fix it that he would have to
visit New York."

"Mr Melfort wants the chance of a long private talk with him, and
that can't be got in London.  What do you recommend?"

"Why not an Atlantic crossing?  We could arrange that they had
adjacent cabins."

Adam shook his head.  "I'm afraid that wouldn't do.  I want rather
more than Mr Creevey's company.  We must set the stage a little."

Presently Blakiston had to leave for an appointment, and the two
others sat on till Big Ben tolled midnight.

"I don't quite get you," said Falconet.  "You want Creevey to
yourself for a bit.  What do you hope to do with him?  Convert
him?"

"No," said Adam.  "I couldn't live with him in argument for ten
minutes.  I don't talk his language.  If Kit Stannix can do nothing
with him it's not likely that I should succeed."

"Agreed.  Then, what do you mean to do?"

"Put myself alongside him--and keep there."

"In the hope that fate will shuffle the cards for you?"

"In the certainty," said Adam simply.  "My job is sharpened to a
point now, and that point is Creevey.  He is the grit in the
machine, and the grit has to be removed."

Falconet whistled.

"Pity we don't live in simpler times.  Or that you were something
of a ruffian.  It would be so easy to knock him on the head. . . .
I don't say you're not right.  There are other kinds of appeals
than argument, and you're an impressive fellow when you get
alongside a man.  You say you want to set the stage?  How d'you
mean?"

"I want to isolate him--get him out of his padded life into a
rougher one.  I want to put him outside all the fortifications he
has built and make him feel naked.  The Arctic ice would be the
place--or the desert--but, since these are impossible, I must find
a substitute."

Falconet grunted.

"I see.  You want to reason with him as man to man--not as the
amateur and the big professional."

"I want to make facts reason with him."

"And you believe that they will?  It's a great thing to have your
grip on predestination.  Well, I daresay something could be
managed.  Blakiston will have to get busy.  Our job is to shepherd
Mister Creevey out of board-rooms and special trains and big hotels
into the wilderness.  It might be done, for, though we are darned
civilised, the wilderness is still only across the road.  Count me
in.  I'm going to get a lot of quiet amusement out of this stunt.
But it's a large-size job.  You're right to look solemn."

As Adam walked home along the Embankment, he stopped to lean over
the parapet and watch the river bubbling with the up-running tide.
He had shown a grave face to Falconet, and gravity was the key of
his mood, a grave expectancy.  His mind ran back to the first sight
of Creevey, when he had dined with Scrope at the restaurant and
Scrope had spoken significant words about the man with the big
forward-thrusting head and the ardent eyes.  He remembered his
first meeting with him in Falconet's room, and his own puzzled
antagonism.  Later meetings were telescoped into one clear
impression--of something formidable, infinitely formidable,
perverse and dangerous.  He had no personal feeling in the matter;
he neither liked nor disliked him, but regarded him as he would
have regarded a thunderstorm or a cyclone, a perilous natural force
against which the world must be protected.

And yet--was this man only an angel of destruction?  In the talk in
Berlin in August he had detected in him a fiery honesty; to one
thing he would never be false, the power of reason with which he
had been so nobly endowed.  Loeffler, too, believed that if fortune
were kind this capricious disintegrating force might be harnessed
for the world's salvation. . . .  Adam had one of those moments of
revelation in which he saw life narrowed to a single road moving
resolutely to a goal.  His mission had been to find quality, and he
had found it.  His task was now to release that quality for the
service of mankind--or to clip its wings and render it impotent for
ever.

He had a passing moment of nervousness.  His opponent was now not
the perversity of the world, but a single man, and that man a
genius.  He mistrusted his powers, till he remembered that he was
only a servant of great allies.  A servant--the humblest of
servants.  He was not architect or builder, not even a labourer
with a hod, but something lowlier still, and in his lowliness was
strength.  As he let himself into his rooms on the quiet Temple
staircase, he was in the same mood which had sent him to his knees
years before in his prison cell.  The sign he had asked for had
been given him.




BOOK IV



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--I


Mr Warren Creevey took his seat in the reserved compartment of the
boat-train, and, as the whistle sounded, unfolded his Times and
settled down to a slightly cynical study of the foreign page.  It
was his custom to travel in a modest state, with the best
reservations; his private secretary was in an adjoining carriage,
and somewhere in the train his assiduous valet; he travelled so
much that he was respectfully greeted by the railway company's
servants, and could count on the way being made smooth for him.
The weather was sharp, so he wore a heavy fur coat, which he
removed in the warm compartment.  As he regarded the luxurious
garment he smiled, for it reminded him of a thought which had
crossed his mind as the train was starting.

A secretary and two clerks had seen him off, bringing him papers to
sign and receiving his final instructions.  This hasty visit to
Italy was a nuisance.  What had caused the Brieg-Suffati people to
get suddenly at loggerheads with the authorities, when hitherto
they had pulled so well together?  He had a great deal of work on
his hands in London and resented this interruption, even if it were
only for a few days. . . .  Yet, as he waved a farewell to his
secretary and tipped the guard, he realised that he was not
altogether displeased.  Mr Creevey was not a vain man--the lack of
vanity was part of his strength--but he could not but be conscious
that he mattered a good deal in the world.  The sable-lined coat on
the seat beside him was an emblem of the place he had won.

Old General Ansell, who sat on one of his boards, had a metaphor
which he was never tired of using.  It was drawn from the Western
Front in the war.  He said it had been like a great pyramid with
its point directed to the enemy.  Behind the lines was a vast
activity--factories like Birmingham, a network of railway lines
like Crewe, camps, aviation grounds, square miles of dumps,
hospitals, research laboratories, headquarters full of anxious
staff officers.  But as one went forward, the busy area narrowed,
and the resources of civilisation grew more slender.  And then at
the apex of the pyramid you were back in barbarism, a few weary
human beings struggling in mire and blood to assert the physical
superiority which had been the pride of the cave-dweller.

The General had usually applied his parable in a far-fetched way,
for he was a little sceptical of the plenary power of science and
harped on human quality.  But Mr Creevey gave it a different
application.  He, so to speak, inverted the pyramid.  All great
human activities expanded from a single point.  Their ultimate
front might be as wide as the globe, but it drew its power from the
brain at the apex.  His was such a brain, and it amused him to
reflect how much depended on him.  He was not the soldier in the
trenches, but the directing mind in the impressive hinterland, from
which both hinterland and trenches drew their life. . . .  While
the train flashed past deserted hop-fields and pastures dim under a
November sky, Mr Creevey smiled as he lit a cigar.  How far was old
Ansell's world of mud and blood from the guarded ritual of his
life!

In Paris he drove to the Meurice, dined in a private room, and
then, having no work on hand, decided to pay his respects to an old
friend, the Duchesse de Rochambeau, in her flat near the Champs
Elyses.  The day was Tuesday, and it was her custom to receive on
Tuesday.  Mr Creevey had a vast acquaintance, which he carefully
tended, for he was a student of humanity.  He had a weakness for a
certain type of aristocratic relic-worshipper, especially in
France; their sentimentality did not appeal to him, but they
cherished wit, a rarity in these days, and he liked the free play
of their minds.  Their illusions were kept apart in a modish
shrine, and did not, like the illusions of democracy, taint and
muddy the springs of thought.  It pleased him to share in the
delicate sword-play of a world without seriousness or passion. . . .
But the Duchesse had a cold in her head, and her salon that
evening was dull.  There was a contentious old gentleman who
buttonholed him and discoursed of Loeffler with the dismal
platitudes of the Nationalist press.  Mr Creevey left early and
retired to bed.

The long journey next day bored him.  He was fond of a day journey,
for it enabled him to make up arrears of reading, and this one he
had marked out for the study of a new Swedish work on currency.
But he found the arguments of Professor Broester so ill-coordinated,
that he turned to a couple of sensational romances which he had
brought from England.  These did not please him more--indeed, they
exasperated him with their pictures of a world where strange things
happened at every street-corner.  Heavy-footed nonsense, he
reflected; strange things happened, but not in this mode of childish
melodrama.  Life was conducted nowadays by great standardised
machines, as exact and ruthless as the processes of nature, and no
casual accident could deflect them.  Adventure lay in designing,
altering, regulating this cosmic mechanism, and not in inserting a
foolish spoke in the wheels.  The spoke would be as futile as a
child's beating of the dome of St Paul's to annoy the Dean.

The train was very empty.  In the restaurant car that night at
dinner he sat opposite a lachrymose German who harped on the
sins of France, much as the old gentleman at the Duchesse de
Rochambeau's had harped on the misdeeds of Loeffler.  He was a
youngish man with fair hair who chose to talk English.  Mr Creevey,
always impatient of amateur politics, did not linger over his meal.
He felt irritated, almost--a rare thing for him--depressed, so he
summoned his private secretary and bent his mind to business.  His
spirits did not recover till next morning when they ran into
sunlight in the Lombard plain.

In Rome he had two days of warm blue weather which was almost
oppressive in his over-heated hotel.  He had never greatly cared
for the Italian capital, and, for a man of his multitudinous
acquaintance, knew comparatively few of its citizens.  He had
luncheon with a few business associates, at which the affairs of
the Brieg-Suffati company were discussed, and a long afternoon with
various departments of State.  He was received with the civility to
which he was accustomed, and realised that the difficulties which
had arisen would not be hard to settle.  But he found that his
necessary interview with the head of the Government must be
postponed till the morrow, and he had the prospect of some hours of
idleness, unpleasing to a man who chess-boarded his life between
strenuous work and strenuous play.  He called at the British
Embassy, and was promptly bidden that evening to dinner.

Before dressing he sat for a little in the hall of his hotel,
watching the guests.  Many were foreigners on their way home, but
there was a considerable sprinkling of Roman residents, for the
hotel had a reputation for its apritifs.  It was rare for Mr
Creevey to be in a place where he did not know by sight many of the
people.  Here he saw only two faces that he recognised.  One was
the lachrymose German whom he had met in the train; he sat by
himself in a corner, and seemed to be waiting for someone, for his
pale eyes scanned with expectation every newcomer.  Mr Creevey was
thankful that he escaped his eye, for he had no wish for more
international politics.  The other was Falconet, who entered, cast
about for a seat, thought better of it, and went out.  Falconet, of
course, was to be looked for anywhere and at any time; he was the
most notorious globe-trotter of the day.

But if Mr Creevey saw few acquaintances, he was conscious that
several people looked at him, as if they recognised him.  He was
not vain, and did not set this down to his celebrity, for he was
not the kind of man whose portraits filled the press.  Nor was
there anything sensational in his appearance; he dressed quietly,
and looked the ordinary travelling Englishman.  But he was aware
that he was being covertly studied by several men and one woman,
who hastened to avert their eyes when he looked in their direction.
He was a little puzzled, for this habit seemed to have been growing
in the last few months.  Wherever he went he was aware that
somebody in his neighbourhood was acutely interested in him.  He
considered the matter for a minute or two and then dismissed it
from his mind.  He had no time to spare for the minor inexplicables
of life.

The dinner at the Embassy passed the evening pleasantly.  Falconet
was the only other guest at the meal, and Falconet was in an urbane
mood and on his best behaviour.  Mr Creevey rarely asked himself
whether or not he liked a man; his criterion was whether he
respected him, and he was not disposed to underrate the American.
At their first meeting he had thought that he had discovered one
with whom he could work, and, detecting Falconet's imaginative
side, had set himself to cultivate it.  But presently he had found
him intractable, the type of American whose mind had two
compartments, realistic business and schwrmerisch dreams, and who
let the one spill into the other.  But Falconet was formidable, for
he had immense wealth, and, when roused, could return to the
predatory brilliance of the grandfather who had made the fortune.
So he had tried to avoid antagonising him, and, though they had
differed often, they had never quarrelled.

To-night he found him polite and unassertive.  Falconet gave no
information about his own doings, and was incurious about
Creevey's.  He was full of Rome, of which he talked with the
enthusiasm of a school-marm on her first visit.  He asked the
ordinary questions about Mussolini, and showed himself grossly
ignorant of the machinery of the Catholic Church.  Indeed, there
was a pleasant touch of the schoolboy about him.

Mr Creevey, whose father and the Ambassador had been at school
together, did most of the talking, and did it very well.  For
example, he gave an amusing account of his talk with the lachrymose
German in the train, to point an argument about the confusion in
the popular mind of Europe.  He quoted several of his phrases, and
one of them seemed to impress Falconet--an odd and rather forcible
metaphor.  Falconet asked to have the speaker described and Mr
Creevey did his best.  "I saw him in my hotel this evening," he
said, and Falconet for some reason knitted his heavy dark brows.
Mr Creevey observed this, as he observed most things.

Falconet was anxious to know his plans for the return journey.
"I'd like to join you," he said.  "Leaving to-morrow night?  Not
stopping off anywhere?"

Mr Creevey answered that he was going straight through to London,
having wasted enough time already.

He was just about to take his leave when, to his surprise,
Jacqueline Warmestre appeared.  He had a great admiration for Lady
Warmestre, the greater because she was one of the few women with
whom he made no progress.  She had never made any secret of her
dislike of him, and in his eyes her frankness increased her charm.
Her beauty was of the kind which fascinated him most, and to-night
she seemed especially lovely, for she had been dining with some
Roman friends, and her long white-furred cloak contrasted
exquisitely with her delicate colouring and her brilliant hair.  Mr
Creevey felt a patriotic thrill; after all English women had a
poise and a freshness which no other nation could match.  She had
been in Italy for the vintage, staying at the country house of some
Italian connections, and was spending a night at the Embassy on her
way home.  She seemed to have something to say to Falconet, and
carried him off downstairs to the Ambassador's library.

Next day Mr Creevey duly had his interview with the head of the
State, and found it satisfactory.  What he did not find so
satisfactory was a telegram which awaited him at his hotel on his
return.  It was from the general manager of the Brieg-Suffati,
announcing that the local board desired a meeting with Mr Creevey,
and suggesting an hour the following day.  Mr Creevey almost wired
consigning the local board to the devil.  But he reflected that he
could not afford to antagonise them, for they had it in their power
to make infinite mischief.  He remembered the trouble he was having
over his wood-pulp concern in East Prussia because the local people
had got out of hand.  So he replied consenting.  It would mean
leaving the main line at Arsignano, and motoring to the works,
which were situated in a little town which bore the odd name of
Grandezza.  That would involve a couple of days' delay.  Why could
the fools not have fixed the meeting in Milan or Turin?  It was too
late to arrange that now, so he must make the best of the stupid
business.

Mr Creevey left Rome that night in a bad temper and, since he was
of an equable humour, this departure from his normal condition
lessened his self-respect.  He felt himself needlessly irritable,
and the sport of petty annoyances.  He saw the lachrymose German in
the train, and for some reason the sight displeased him--he had
come to dislike the man.  Also the Italian railway people were less
careful of his comforts than usual.  His secretary was many coaches
off, and his valet had difficulties with his baggage.  Twice he
found strangers entering his reserved compartment--withdrawing, to
be sure, with apologies, but looking at him with inquisitive eyes.
Was he being subjected to some ridiculous espionage?  The notion
was so ludicrous that it amused him, and almost restored his good
humour.  It reminded him of his power.  That very morning a great
man had quite humbly asked him to do certain things as a kindness
to Italy.

Falconet was on the train.  He came out on the platform at
Arsignano, and wanted to hear the reason of the change in Mr
Creevey's plans.  "Too bad!" he exclaimed.  "I was looking forward
to having a talk with you on the road.  I've got some notions I'd
like to put up to you, but I'll be in London for a week, and I'll
call you up when you get back."

The board meeting at Grandezza proved, as Mr Creevey half expected,
a farce.  There was nothing before the directors which could not
have been settled by correspondence.  The whole affair was
fussiness.  But there must be some reason for his colleagues'
disquiet, and he ascertained that, besides the labour troubles,
there had been a certain pressure from unexpected quarters and
rumours of more coming.  He allayed their fears, for he was an
adept at conciliation, but he was not quite easy in his own mind.
Some hostile influence was at work which he must seek out and
crush, for he was not accustomed to sit down under threats--at any
rate not till he had uncovered them and assessed their importance.

Then a telegram was handed to him.  He had kept London informed of
his movements, and this was from his London office, from his most
confidential manager.  It urged his return at once without an
hour's delay, for certain difficulties with New York had come to a
head, and O'Malley himself had arrived on his way to Berlin, and
must be seen at once.

This was a matter of real urgency, and he cursed the fate which had
brought him on a false errand to Grandezza.  Mr Creevey was instant
in an emergency.  He liked his comfort, but he was aware that the
game must be played according to its rigour.  The board meeting was
summarily wound up, and he had some private talk with the general
manager, in whose competence he believed.  His secretary and his
servant could travel to England by train, but he himself must fly
part of the way home, and that at once.  He ought to be in Paris
that evening, and in London by ten o'clock the following morning.
Could it be done?

The manager thought that it could.  An aeroplane could be obtained
from Arsignano--he himself had flown several times to Paris, and
the service was to be trusted.  Mr Creevey disliked travel by air,
for he was generally sick, and especially he disliked long-distance
travel.  He remembered with disgust a flight from London to Vienna
the year before.  But he bowed to the inevitable, and bade his
servant put a few necessaries in a small suit-case, while the
manager telephoned to the Air Company at Arsignano.  The reply was
that a good machine was available and an experienced pilot.  Two
hours later Mr Creevey was clambering into the aeroplane, which had
landed in the sports ground of the factory.

He settled himself down to some hours of boredom or discomfort.
Chiefly the latter, he thought, for he did not like the look of the
weather.  It had become colder, and a wind from the north-east was
moving up masses of cloud over the Grandezza foothills.  The wind
would be behind him at the start, for they would make a wide
circuit towards the coast so as to turn the butt-end of the Alps
and follow the Rhne valley.  The first stage would probably be the
worst, he reflected, as he buttoned the collar of his fur coat
round his ears.  He was not interested in the champaign spread far
beneath him, and by a conscious effort of will he switched his
thoughts to certain startling theories of Professor Broester's,
expounded in the book which had bored him in the train.

The movement was so smooth that he must have dozed, for he woke to
find that they were among clouds and that it had become much
colder.  He looked at his watch.  By this time the sea should have
been crawling beneath them, but, when there came a gap in the
brume, he saw what seemed to be wooded hills.  Then came a spell of
bumping which stirred his nausea, and then a swift flurry of snow.
This was getting very unpleasant, but things might improve when
they turned into the Rhne valley.  He drank a little sherry from
his flask and ate two biscuits.  He spoke to the pilot, who could
not be made to hear.  Then he scribbled him a note in his
indifferent Italian, and the man glanced at it, nodded and grinned.

After that they came into more snow, with a wind behind it which
made the machine tilt and rock.  Mr Creevey became very sick, so
sick that he was no longer interested in his whereabouts, or the
journey, or anything but his miserable qualms.  In a stupor of
discomfort the time dragged on.  The pilot was no doubt steering a
compass-course, for nothing was visible beneath them but a surging
plain of cloud.

Then it seemed that they were dropping.  Mr Creevey felt the wind
abate as if it were cut off by some cover on his right hand.  No
doubt the flank of the mountains above Nice.  Lower still they
went, till they were out of the clouds and saw the ground.  The
pilot exclaimed, and examined the big compass.  He said something
which Mr Creevey could not understand.  Had the fellow missed the
road?  He seemed to be uncertain, for he cast his eyes round him as
if looking for a landmark.  What Mr Creevey saw was a valley bottom
in which a stream tumbled among rocks and trees, and on each side
what looked like the rise of steep hills.

At the same moment the machine began to behave oddly, as if it were
not answering to the helm.  Mr Creevey found himself pitched from
side to side, and there were strange noises coming from the engine.
Then the bumping ceased and they began to glide down at a long
angle.  The pilot was about to make a landing.  There was a grassy
meadow making a kind of mantelpiece in the valley and this was his
objective.  Mr Creevey held his breath, for he had no experience of
forced landings, and he was relieved when the aeroplane made gentle
contact with the earth, taxi-ed for fifty yards, and came to a
standstill.

The pilot climbed out of his machine and, turning a deaf ear to his
passenger's excited questions, began an elaborate inspection of his
engine.  Mr Creevey also got out and stretched his cramped legs, on
which his nausea had made him a little shaky.

The pilot finished his researches, straightened himself and
saluted.  He spoke excellent English.

"I am very sorry, sir.  We have come out of our course, for
something has gone wrong with the compass."

"Where the devil are we?" Mr Creevey shouted.

"I cannot tell.  We have come too far north and are in a valley of
the mountains.  We were in luck to strike this valley, for it was
very thick.  We must retrace our course.  But meantime my engine
must be seen to."  And he added some technical details which Mr
Creevey did not understand.

Mr Creevey was very angry.

"What an infernal muddle!" he cried.  "How long will you take to
get it right?  I should be in London to-morrow and now I'll be
lucky if I'm in Paris."

"An hour," said the man.  "Not more, I think.  Perhaps less.  See,
there is an hotel above us.  Perhaps your Excellency would prefer
to wait there.  It will be warmer, and no doubt there will be
food."  He was a youngish man, and the removal of his cap revealed
fair hair brushed back from his forehead.  He had an impassive,
rather sullen face.

"Then for God's sake hurry up," said Mr Creevey.  He was choking
with irritation, but he put a check on his utterance, for the
situation was beyond words.  A little, pink, square hotel was
perched on the hillside a few hundred yards above him, and he
started out towards it.  It had become very cold and the powdery
snow was beginning again.

In his thin shoes, and cumbered with his massive coat, he plodded
up through the coarse grass and scrub, till he reached a road.  It
was an indifferent road, but it was just possible for wheeled
traffic.  There he halted, for he heard a sound below him.

The aeroplane was rising.  It left the ground, climbed steadily,
and curved round till it headed the way it had come.  Then it flew
steadily down the valley.

Mr Creevey's voice died in his throat from sheer amazement.  He
stood staring at the departing machine and saw the pilot turn his
head and wave his hand. . . .  The thing was beyond him, but his
predominant feeling was anger, and anger with him always meant
action.  He gathered up the skirts of his fur coat and ran towards
the hotel door.

He pushed it open and entered.  He shouted for the landlord, but
there was no answer.  The place was fairly warm, and ashes were
still red in the stove.  But the hotel was empty.



In the library of the Embassy Jacqueline Warmestre had much to say
to Falconet.  He knew this imperious lady as one of Adam Melfort's
friends--a closer friend, he thought, than any other; but he had
met her only a few times, and had never had more than a few words
with her.  He was a little surprised therefore at her cross-
examination, but it fell in with his own mood.  She was anxious
about Adam, and so was he--acutely.

"I want the latest news," she said.  "You can give it me, I think.
Where is Adam?  In the summer we had--well, a difference of
opinion--but we did not quarrel.  We are good friends and we write
to each other.  I will tell you all I know.  He has been acting as
a kind of bodyguard for the German Chancellor.  I got that from
Mildred Lamancha.  But now? . . .  I am afraid for him.  You see,
he failed in what he was working at--other people let him down--but
he will never give up.  He is trying some other way, and it is sure
to be very difficult and desperate.  Can you help me, Mr Falconet?
We both love him?"

Falconet was shy with beautiful women, but as he looked at
Jacqueline's face he saw something behind the beauty.  There was a
fierce loyalty in her eyes, and gallantry in the tilt of her small
chin.  This was an ally about whom he need have no fear.

"I will tell you all I know," he said.  "Adam is stalking Creevey."

"What do you mean?"

"Just that.  He was shadowing Loeffler in the early fall, and by
all accounts had a tough job of it.  He put it through and got the
Chancellor safe to the London Conference.  But of course that
couldn't be the end.  Loeffler put him wise about the real trouble.
To pull out he has got to have certain forces on his side that just
at present are fighting against him.  The biggest of them is
Creevey.  Well, you know Adam.  When he sees where the mischief is
he makes straight for it, though it's as big as a mountain and as
tough as hell.  He is out to immobilise Creevey."

"But how?"  Jacqueline's eyes were wide and perplexed.

"God knows.  The old way, and maybe the right way, would have been
to knock him on the head.  But that isn't allowed to-day, and
Adam's a gentle fellow, so he is trying another line.  He wants to
get alongside him, and have him to himself, and he thinks that the
Almighty will do the rest.  That's his philosophy, I reckon.  The
Almighty is on his side, and all he has got to do is to give the
Almighty a fair chance."

"But it's lunacy.  He can't argue Mr Creevey round--no one can,
they say--he is the cleverest man alive."

"Adam has allowed for that.  He's not trusting to his own power of
argument.  He is looking to what he calls facts, by which he means
the Almighty.  He wants to get Mr Creevey and himself away out of
his familiar world, and he believes that something may happen then.
It isn't sense, I know, Lady Warmestre.  But it's Adam's way, and
I'm not going to say it isn't the right way.  He's like an old-time
prophet and has inspirations."

"But how can he get him to himself?  Mr Creevey is the busiest man
going and he is surrounded by hordes of secretaries."

Falconet grinned.

"There are ways--and means, and that's where I can help a bit.
We're shepherding Creevey out of the flock into our own little
fold.  We brought him to Rome when he didn't want to come, and,
please God, before he gets back to England we're going to shepherd
him to other places where he doesn't want to go.  I would have you
know that I'm not in big business for nothing, and I've got a
considerable graft up and down Europe."

Jacqueline put a hand on his arm.

"I want to know everything, Mr Falconet.  Please tell me."

"I don't mind giving you the lay-out.  First of all, way up in the
north there is a valley in the mountains called the Val d'Arras."

Jacqueline nodded.  "I know.  My father was a great mountaineer,
and preferred the Italian side of the Alps, and he used to take me
with him when I was a girl.  The Val d'Arras runs up from
Colavella.  At the top is the Saluzzana pass leading to the
Staubthal.  An easy pass, except in bad weather."

"Right.  Way up the Val d'Arras is a little summer hotel where
there's nobody at this time of year.  Well, Adam's notion is to get
Creevey there.  That has all been arranged, and it ought to work to
plan."

"But after that?"

"After that I don't know.  Adam may have his own notion, or he may
be leaving it to the Almighty.  I guess he means to get him over
the Saluzzana, for my orders are to be waiting at Grunewald in the
Staubthal.  If Adam has gotten Creevey into the right frame of mind
I might be able to put in my word."

Jacqueline wrinkled her brows.  "It sounds the wildest nonsense.
That sort of thing isn't done nowadays.  Mr Creevey will either
have the law of Adam for kidnapping, or he will get pneumonia and
die.  Perhaps you want the second."

"No.  Adam doesn't and Loeffler doesn't.  They think Creevey is too
valuable to the world to lose, if only his head could be turned in
another direction.  Still, that may be the solution the Almighty
fancies."

"Then Adam is in Italy?"

"Yep.  And that is where my own private worry comes in.  You see,
Lady Warmestre, Adam has just lately been wading in deepish waters.
To look after Loeffler he had to go way down into the underworld,
and as a consequence I've an idea that some of those gentry are out
gunning for him.  I've seen one of them to-day, and I've heard of
another.  It don't look good to me that they should be in Italy
when Adam is here, and, besides, it shows that they have a pretty
correct line on his movements.  Now, if Adam is stalking Creevey,
it will cramp his style if other fellows are stalking him.  I'm
going right back to my hotel to call up my man Blakiston in Milan,
and put him wise to it."

Jacqueline leaned forward with her chin in her hand and looked her
companion in the face.

"I'm coming into this show, Mr Falconet," she said.  "I did Adam a
great disservice, and yet all the time I was on his side, and now
I'm going to atone for it.  I think his scheme is raving madness,
but he is the only great man I have ever known, and I want to help.
I believe I could be of some use with Mr Creevey.  When do you
plant him in the Val d'Arras?"

"According to schedule about the evening of the day after to-
morrow."

"Well, I'm going to the little pink hotel.  I needn't hurry home.
I have my car here and I meant to go back by easy stages.  I'll
start out to-morrow morning and with any luck I'll be in time.
It's a Lancia and can face the mountain roads.  I'll bring a friend
with me--Andrew Amos."

Falconet exclaimed.  "The old Scotsman with the chin whiskers!
He's a crackerjack."

"He is Adam's watch-dog.  Ken--my husband--adores him.  I found out
that the dream of his life was to see Italy, so I brought him with
me as my courier.  He doesn't know a word of any language but his
own, but you can't defeat him.  He can drive a car too."

Falconet protested.

"It's no place for a lady."

"I'm not a lady.  I'm a woman."

"But Adam wants to be alone with Creevey."

"We won't interfere with their privacy. . . .  If Adam is in
danger, as you think he is, I'm going to plant Amos beside him, and
if the good God is going to work a miracle a woman and an old
Scotsman won't be in the way."

Jacqueline spent the night regretting her rashness.  As she lay
awake in the small hours she seemed to herself only a foolish child
who had forced itself into a game where it was not wanted.  She
half-resolved to ring up Falconet in the morning and cry off.
Falconet would be relieved, for he had not welcomed her intervention.
In the end she fell asleep without having come to any decision, and
when she woke she discovered that her mood had changed.

As she dressed she found it difficult to disentangle her thoughts,
but one thing was clear.  She was wholly resolved on this
adventure.  At the worst she could do no harm, and if Adam did not
want her she could go back.  A clear recollection of the Val
d'Arras came back to her.  The road was bad after Colavella, but it
was possible for a car as far as the little pink inn which she
remembered well; after that there was only the mule track across
the Saluzzana.  She would leave her maid and chauffeur at
Chiavagno, and Amos would drive the car; he was a first-rate
mechanic and a cautious, resourceful driver.  No one would know of
the escapade but Amos and Falconet, and her hosts at the Embassy
would believe that she was starting decorously on her journey home.

By and by her thoughts arranged themselves and she realised the
subconscious purpose which was moving her. . . .  She had made her
choice with open eyes and did not regret it.  She had done the
right thing for Ken and her child and all the long-descended world
built up around them.  She had played for peace and had won it for
them.  Ken was settling down into the life where he would be useful
and happy.  But for herself?  She had had a glimpse of greater
things and had turned her back on them, but they had left a void
in her heart.  She had chosen the second-rate--for others and
for herself, but she was paying for her choice in an aching
wistfulness. . . .  She was not in love with Adam, for love did not
belong to that austere world of his, but he had come to represent
for her all the dreams and longings which made up her religion.
She felt like some fisherman of Galilee who had heard the divine
call and turned instead to his boats and nets.

Yet the cause from which she had held back others she might embrace
herself--for a little only--for one small moment of restitution.
Jacqueline had fatalism in her blood, and Falconet's talk had given
her an eery sense of some strange foreordering.  She had come to
Italy on a sudden impulse, for she had felt restless at Warmestre
before the hunting began.  In coming here she had thought that she
was leaving behind the world which had perplexed her, and lo and
behold! it had moved itself across the sea to meet her.  This was
destiny which could not be shirked.  She had always guided her life
with a high hand, for no man or woman or beast had so far made her
afraid, and she had welcomed risks as the natural spice of living.
But this was different.  This was no light-hearted extravagance of
youth and health, but an inexorable summons to some mysterious
duty.  Jacqueline felt strangely keyed up, but also at peace.

The mood lasted during the day while the car sped up the Tuscan
coast and through the Apennines into the Lombard plain.  It was
still, bright weather, and as mild as an English June.  But when
Jacqueline and Amos left Chiavagno the following morning the skies
had clouded and a sharp wind was blowing from the mountains.  They
stopped for lunch at Colavella, at the mouth of the Val d'Arras,
and the little town set amid its steep woody hills bore the aspect
of winter.  The hotels were mostly shuttered, the vine trellises
leafless, and the Arcio, foaming under the Roman bridge, looked
like molten snow.  Snow-covered peaks showed through gaps in the
hills; these were not the high mountains, so there must have been a
recent snowfall.

Their troubles began when they left Colavella.  The first part of
the road, which wound among pines, had been vilely rutted by wood-
cutters' waggons.  When they climbed to the higher and barer stages
of the valley, the going became worse.  It was a lonely place,
where few came except mountaineers seeking an easy road to the west
face of the Pomagognon, or occasional botanists and walkers bound
for the Staubthal.  Now it seemed utterly deserted, for there were
no farms on its shaly slopes.  Moreover, the road was far worse
than Jacqueline remembered it.  There were places where landslips
had almost obliterated it and Amos had much ado to pass.
Jacqueline was puzzled.  This might have been expected in the
spring after a bad winter; but it must have been set right in the
summer, and since then there had been no weather to account for the
damage.  It almost looked as if it had been wrecked by the hand of
man.

They made slow progress, and presently ran into snow-showers which
blotted out the environs.  In one of these Amos violently put on
his brakes.  Ahead of them was what had once been a wooden bridge
over the deep-cut gorge of a winter torrent.  It had been
destroyed, and the road came to an end at a brink of raw red earth
and a forty-foot drop.

Amos hove himself out of the car and examined the broken timbers of
the bridge.

"Queer!" he observed.  "This brig has been cut down wi' an aixe,
and that no mony hours back."

The sense of fatality had been weighing all day upon Jacqueline,
intensified by the lowering sky, the cold, and the frowning hills.
She had been like a child feeling its way into a dark corridor
where fearsome things might lurk.  But the sight of the broken
bridge comforted her.  Adam had staged the business well.

"Back the car into the trees," she told Amos.  "We can't be far
off.  We must walk the rest of the road."

Amos, laden with baggage, including some provisions which
Jacqueline in a moment of forethought had added to the equipment,
led the way down the side of the ravine, across a trickle of water,
and up the farther bank to where the road began again.  As they
reached it, the snow ceased, and there came a long rift in the
mist.  It revealed a small square hotel about a mile ahead.  In
half an hour the dark would have fallen.



Shortly after noon on that same day Adam Melfort sat in a little
restaurant near the aerodrome at Arsignano.  He must snatch a meal,
for he had much to do that afternoon.  So far all had gone
according to plan.  The aeroplane which Creevey had ordered by
telephone had just started for Grandezza.  It had been a delicate
business, depending on many minute arrangements, but, with the help
of Blakiston's organisation and his own network of queer contacts,
it seemed to have so far succeeded.  There was only one plane at
the moment in the aerodrome suitable for a long-distance journey,
and one pilot who could be selected--it had taken some doing to
arrange that.  This pilot, a veteran of the Alpini, had had
dealings with Adam before, and had been brought into the
conspiracy.  His fidelity was beyond question, and his part was
simple.  He was to have a breakdown in the Val d'Arras and leave
Creevey at the inn, while he flew back for certain repairs; he
would lie low for such time as was necessary to complete the
journey to England and back, and then present himself at the
aerodrome in the usual course of business.  Creevey had paid the
fare before leaving.  That afternoon Adam proposed to go by car to
the Val Saluzzana, and cross the intervening ridge to the Val
d'Arras by a col which he knew of.  Creevey would be at the little
inn in the care of a friendly innkeeper, an old acquaintance of
his, and some time in the late evening Adam would join him,
arriving casually as if on a walking tour.  There would be a moon
that night, though it might be obscured by the weather, but he knew
the col well and had no fears for his journey.  Then he would have
Creevey to himself.  The man would be in a fever to get home, and,
when no aeroplane appeared, and the alternative was to tramp the
long road back down the valley, Adam would persuade him to cross
the Saluzzana with him to the Staubthal, from which return to
England would be simple.  Somewhere and at some time, at the inn or
during the crossing of the pass, he hoped to bring him to another
mind.  He did not attempt to forecast the method of conversion--in
that task he felt himself like a boy with a sling before a
fortress--but he believed that behind him destiny might range great
artillery.

The restaurant was a dim little place and at that hour almost
deserted.  Two waiters and an elderly man of the shopkeeper type
were the only occupants when Adam sat down.  His meal had been
brought him, and he ate it greedily, for he had had no food that
day save a cup of coffee. . . .

Suddenly, as he lifted his eyes from his plate, he saw that two men
had taken their seats at the other end of the room.  They still
wore their ulsters, and seemed to have entered merely for a glass
of wine.  The one with his back to him had thick dark hair, and
something in the shape of his head seemed familiar.  About the one
who faced him there could be no mistake.  He saw a big man with a
small bullet head on a strong neck, and a flat face as hard as
hammered steel.  He knew him for that von Hilderling whom he had
last seen in the upper room of a shabby eating-house in a Rhineland
slum.

The two men were talking low to each other and did not look his
way.  Then the one with his back to him rose and came towards him.
He recognised the trim figure, the fine oval face, and the deep mad
eyes of La Cecilia.

Cecilia smiled and took a chair beside him, and his smile was not
pleasant.

"Well met, Colonel Melfort," he said.  "May I have the honour of a
word with you?"  The Baron von Hilderling had poured himself out a
glass of wine, and seemed to be absorbed in the contents of a small
note-book.

"It would appear that we are on the same errand," Cecilia said.
"You have something to say to Mr Warren Creevey, I understand.  So
also have we.  My instructions are to order you to drop out.  We
will deal with the rest of the business ourselves."

"I wonder what you are talking about," said Adam.

"Oh no, you don't.  You know very well.  You have a grudge against
Mr Creevey, for which we commend you, for we share it.  You have
been stalking him for some days and are very ingeniously
manoeuvring him into a position where you can have him to yourself.
I won't ask what you propose to do with him, but I can guess.  We
know what we propose.  We have been following his trail--and yours--
for it is easy to stalk a stalker, and we have taken over your
arrangements, of which we approve.  This evening Mr Creevey will
find himself in an empty inn in a remote Alpine valley.  There will
be no one in the inn--that we have seen to.  The inn-keeper has
gone to see a sick father in Turin, and will not return for a
while, and the two servants have been dismissed on holiday.  The
plane which takes Mr Creevey there will proceed by the ordinary
route to Paris, but will have an unfortunate accident on the coast,
in which the world will regret to learn that Mr Creevey has
perished.  Meantime, up in the Val d'Arras we shall deal with him
at our discretion.  The pilot is not the man you selected, but one
of ourselves--that is the only serious change we have made in your
otherwise admirable arrangements."

Adam had learned to wear an impassive face in any crisis, but his
brain was working busily.  "I see," he said.  "Will you have a
drink?  I would like to hear more of your plans."

"I'm afraid I have no time," said Cecilia.  "I came only to bring
you the thanks of our brotherhood for what you have done. . . .
Also to say one little thing.  In this matter you have unconsciously
been working with us, and we approve.  But there was a certain
incident some weeks ago in an English country house when you opposed
us, and frustrated an important policy.  That we do not forget--or
forgive.  You may have had reasons to justify you--that we do not
yet know.  But I bring you this message from Gratias. According to
our laws you will be judged for that act--and if necessary you will
be punished.  You are one of us, and cannot escape us, though you
took the wings of a bird and flew into the uttermost parts of the
earth."

Adam smiled.  "I don't quite follow you, but you have the same old
rhetorical tricks, my dear Cecilia.  Well, you know where to find
me."

The full mad eyes regarded him unwinkingly.

"We shall always know where to find you.  Meantime you will please
to go home--at once.  There is a train this evening.  You
understand.  Auf wiedersehen, my friend."

Cecilia went back to his companion, and a minute later the two left
the restaurant.

Adam finished his meal and drank a cup of coffee, while he made
certain calculations on the back of an envelope.  His plans still
held, but now there had entered into them an element of desperate
haste.  He felt curiously at ease.  The game was out of his hands,
for destiny had taken hold of it.



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--II


Mr Creevey looked at the dying ashes in the stove, and, though he
was warm with walking and the weight of his fur coat, he shivered.
He opened the door of the salle--manger, and saw that the table
was bare and the chairs stacked in a corner.  Several times he
shouted, and his voice echoed eerily in an empty house.

The thing was utterly beyond his comprehension.  The breakdown of
an aeroplane he could understand, but how in Heaven's name could
the pilot have blundered so far out of his course?  And why without
a word had he righted his machine and flown away?  He was
accustomed to an orderly world where all things were explicable,
but this folly was beyond explanation.  Unreason always exasperated
him, and for a little his anger blanketed all other thoughts.  Some
fool would be made to pay heavily for this.  It was a blunder--it
could only be a blunder--he refused to admit that there could be
any purpose behind it.  To whose interest could it be to play so
infantile a trick on him?

But the chill of the place and the silence cooled his temper.  He
began to sum up his situation.  He was marooned in an empty inn in
a remote valley, and he had not the dimmest notion of his
whereabouts.  He had no food except the remains of a little packet
of biscuits and half a flask of sherry.  There was no fire, and
probably no bed--the place was empty as a shell.  But it was less
the immediate prospect that perplexed him than the next step.  How
was he to get out of this hole?  The aeroplane might return for
him; or he might make his way down the valley to some place where
he could hire a conveyance; he remembered a little town many miles
back of which he had had a glimpse through the fog.  But he was not
dressed for walking, with his modish clothes and his thin shoes,
and anyhow he had never been much of a pedestrian.  With a feeling
which was almost panic he realised that he had been pitchforked out
of civilisation into a barbaric world, and that he was ill-adapted
to cope with barbarism.  With all his power and brains the
commonest day-labourer was better fitted for this situation than
he.

He forced himself to be calm, for he had a great gift of self-
command.  But he was desperately uneasy, for the mystery tormented
him. . . .  Clearly he must spend the night here, for nothing could
be done till the morning.  The aeroplane might return--must return--
that was his best hope.  He liked the comforts of life, but he was
man enough to forgo them if needs be; the prospect of a miserable
night dismayed him less than the intolerable inexplicableness of
the whole situation. . . .  And something more weighed on him.  He
was not a nervous or a hypersensitive man, but there was that in
this accursed place which sent a chill to his heart.  Its
loneliness weighed on him like a pall, for it was not the solitude
of wild nature, but of a deserted human habitation.  Deserted, and
why?  Could there be some malignant purpose somewhere?

He had left the door open, and he noticed that the twilight had
begun.  He went out and looked at the dismal scene.  The valley was
perhaps a mile wide, filled with coarse grass and big boulders, and
with the narrow gorge of a stream in the centre.  He could hear the
water churning among its pot-holes, but for the rest there was deep
silence.  There was a sprinkling of snow on the ground, but the
snow-scurries had ceased, as had the wind.  Across the valley he
saw the steep rise of the mountains--raw scars of winter torrents,
cliffs of shale with stunted pines perched insecurely on their
face.  There was a little square mantelpiece of gravel before the
door, and a number of green wooden seats from which summer visitors
no doubt admired the prospect, and little iron tables where they
had their meals.  This sight seemed to put the last edge on his
sense of desolation.  He looked down the valley where the road,
rough as a river channel, was presently lost in mist.

Then suddenly out of the mist came two figures.  In a moment his
mood changed.  This infernal desert had after all its inhabitants.
He hastened towards them, and saw that one was a short, square man
heavily laden with baggage, and the other a woman.  Peasants no
doubt; perhaps the people of the inn returning.

He halted and stared.  The man was an odd figure in a heavy
chauffeur's coat.  But the woman he had seen before.  She was
wearing a tweed ulster with a collar of fur, and her light walk was
not that of a peasant.

A minute later he had recognised her as Jacqueline Warmestre.  He
forgot all his dismal vaticinations, for he had now made contact
with his old world.

She was the first to speak.

"Mr Creevey!  I didn't expect to meet you again so soon.  Where
have you come from, and what are you doing here?"

He felt at ease, indeed, he was pleasurably excited.  The
appearance of Jacqueline had taken all the unpleasantness out of
the situation.  It was less of a mischance now than an adventure.

"A ridiculous accident," he explained, and briskly and humorously
he described his recent doings.  "The half-wit of a pilot left me--
God knows whether he means to return--and here am I stuck like
Robinson Crusoe."  He felt obliged to speak lightly, for he knew
that Jacqueline was not apt to make much of the rubs of life.

"What atrocious bad luck!" she cried.  "Well, we are companions in
misfortune.  I was motoring home and took a fancy to spend a night
in this place.  I used to come here with my father ten years ago.
But my Lancia broke down some way back, and we've had to hump our
swag and foot it.  My ankles are aching from this terrible road."

"A car!"  He remembered his urgent business in London.  "Can't we
get it going?  I was flying back because of cables from home."

"To-morrow morning we'll have a look at it and see what can be
done.  Meantime I want food and fire.  I'm rather cold and
perfectly ravenous."

"But the hotel is empty--deserted."

Jacqueline stopped short.  "Is there nobody staying there?" she
asked.  She had expected to hear of Adam.

"No guests, no innkeeper, no servants.  Silent as the grave!"

She was puzzled.  This was not quite the scene she had gathered
from Falconet that Adam meant to stage.

"That's odd.  It used to be the snuggest little place.  Antonio
Menardi the landlord was a great friend of mine, and his wife made
the most wonderful omelets.  Do you mean to say that there's not a
soul there?  Is it shut up?  It used to be open all winter, for
people came for the bouquetin shooting?"

"It isn't shut up, for the door is open.  But it is empty, though
it can't have been empty long.  Here we are, so you can see for
yourself."

Amos dropped his packs on the floor of the little hall, while
Jacqueline sat herself on a stool and proceeded to remove gravel
from her shoes.  "Go and forage, Andrew," she said.  "You must find
a lamp.  It will be dark in half an hour."

Amos's heavy step could be heard pounding through the rooms and
penetrating to the back regions.  Presently he returned to report,
carrying a lit paraffin lamp.

"There's lamps," he said, "and plenty o' wud, so we can hae a fire.
There's bedding in some of the rooms, but no muckle.  Otherwise
it's like the bit in the auld sang, 'Neither man's meat, nor dowgs'
meat, nor a place to sit doun.'"

Jacqueline laughed merrily.  Her spirits were beginning to rise.
No doubt Adam had a plan of his own, and he must soon arrive.

"Then thank Heaven we brought some food," she said.  "Andrew, get
the stove going, please, and prepare some kind of supper.  We are
orphans of the storm, Mr Creevey, and must camp here and make the
best of it.  I hope you are grateful, for if I hadn't turned up you
would have starved."

Soon a roaring stove and three lamps gave an air of comfort to the
bleak little hall.  Amos fetched a table from the salle--manger,
and set out on it a variety of cold food.

"Wait on," he said, "and I'll boil ye eggs.  I've fund some in a
press in the back-kitchen.  I'm nae hand at coffee, but I'll get ye
a cup o' tea."

Mr Creevey made his toilet in icy water, and borrowed a comb from
Amos's pack.  At supper he was a brisk companion, for he was
beginning to see merit in this adventure.  Somehow, by plane or by
car, he would get off next morning, and, though the delay was a
nuisance, it was not disastrous.  His position was too solidly
established for petty set-backs.  Meantime he had the luck to have
as companion one of the most beautiful women in England, one who
had always piqued him by her undisguised aversion.  He was not
accustomed to such treatment from women, and it did his reputation
no good, for Lady Warmestre, though she concerned herself little
with the ordinary social game, had a supreme distinction of her own
and a host of admirers.  To-night she had been very gracious to him
and had treated him like a playfellow and an ally.  Mr Creevey felt
a slight quickening of the blood.  This was a real adventure.

So at supper he exerted himself to be both discreet and agreeable.
He spoke of common friends, of the humours of certain negotiations
in which he had been recently engaged, of politics high and low.
He spoke of Lord Warmestre.  "Cincinnatus, they tell me, has gone
back to the plough," he said.  "I am rather glad of it.  Publicists
and politicians are as common as blackberries, but we have too few
capable landowners.  You approved, I think?"

"Yes, I approved," Jacqueline answered.  She had lost her vivacity
and her attention wandered.  She had an odd air of expectancy, too,
and seemed to be listening for something.

After supper Mr Creevey lit a cigar.  The meal had been satisfying,
and Amos's strong tea had not poisoned but fortified him.
Jacqueline was rather silent, but he was exhilarated by her
presence.  He had never seen her look lovelier, for Mr Creevey,
while paying due homage to the voluptuous charms of Aphrodite, had
a secret respect for Artemis.  Her figure, now--there was no woman
or girl in London who could compete with her there--every movement
was a thing of precision and grace.  She was wearing just the right
shade of blue to go with her hair.  Then her voice.  That of course
was famous for its caressing beauty.  He wished that she would talk
more and he laboured to draw her out.  But she remained rather
silent and distraite.

Twice she sent Amos out to look at the weather.  The first time he
reported that it was "black dark, gey cauld, but nae wund."  The
second time he announced that the moon was up, a moon nearly full.
"It'll freeze the nicht, but there's cluds bankin' up north and
there'll be mair snaw or morn."

"Is there no one about?" she asked.  "On the road?"

"Not a mortal soul."

"I thought that the inn people might be coming back," she
explained.  "I simply can't imagine why this place is empty."

Mr Creevey had a sudden idea.  It was not the weather or the return
of the inn people that she had sent out Amos to investigate.  She
must be expecting someone.  Had she chosen this lonely place for an
assignation?  He searched his memory for gossip about Lady
Warmestre and could find none.  She had always been a pillar of
decorum, devoted to husband, child and home; free-spoken of course,
and sometimes startling in her frankness, but that was only proof
of her innocence.  No one had ever credited her with a lover.  The
thing was unthinkable.  And yet--

Mr Creevey made it his business to chatter freely, and to bring in
the names of her friends.  He did not want his suspicion to be
confirmed--Jacqueline was too rare a being to have the foibles of
many women of his acquaintance--but something puck-like in him made
him itch to discover secrets.  He had no luck.  Her face did not
change from its brooding expectancy.

Still he gossiped on.  It was partly good manners, for long
silences would be awkward, partly a desire to stand well in her
eyes.  He must appear to take misfortune airily, as she did. . . .
Then he said something that roused her interest.  He was describing
his visit to Berlin in August, and giving, after his fashion,
admirably clean-cut sketches of his associates.  He mentioned Adam
Melfort.

"You know Colonel Melfort?" she asked.  "How well?"

"I know him as other people know him.  The surface only, but I
guess at what is behind.  I believe him to be that uncomfortable
thing which Lilah Pomfrey calls an apostle, and to understand an
apostle you must be a disciple."

She awoke to attention.  Her eyes had a sudden light in them.

"That is true," she said; "but even if you refuse his evangel you
can recognise the apostle."

"I remember now.  Of course you and Lord Warmestre are friends of
his.  You admire him?"

"I believe in him," she said.

There was a movement as if someone were coming from the back
quarters, and he looked up, expecting to see Amos.  Instead he saw
a tall man in soiled tweeds, whom he recognised.  Jacqueline had
sprung to her feet.

Mr Creevey smiled, but a little ruefully.  He was sorry that his
guess about an assignation had proved right.



Adam finished his coffee in the restaurant and then walked
leisurely to his hotel.  It was important that he should be
observed, for it was certain that Cecilia and his friends would be
on the watch.  At his hotel he gave instructions for his things to
be packed in readiness for the evening train.  Then he telephoned
to the garage where his car had been ordered, and directed that it
should meet him at a point on the east side of the town.  He left
the hotel by a back entrance, wearing an old waterproof coat and a
tweed cap, and made his way by unfrequented streets to the place
where the car awaited him.  By ten minutes past one he was on the
road, driving in a heavy drizzle of rain due east from Arsignano.

He was in no wise excited or perturbed.  This was the way that fate
had chosen to arrange the cards, and he must shape his game
accordingly.  His plan had always been to strike in on the Val
d'Arras by the col from the Val Saluzzana, which would give him the
appearance of arriving accidentally from a tramp in the hills.  To
have flown to the Val d'Arras, even had an aeroplane been
obtainable, would have aroused Creevey's suspicions, and the way
thither by road was rough and roundabout. . . .  Now everything was
changed.  Creevey was at the pink hotel--or would be there before
the evening--and his enemies were drawing in upon him.  He would be
left alone for a little--but how long?  Some time that evening or
during the early night Cecilia and his gang would be upon him.  How
would they travel?  Not, he thought, by air.  They had already used
the air so far as it was needed, and soon the plane in which
Creevey had started would crash in its appointed place, and the
passenger would officially pass out of the world.  They would
probably travel by road.  All the more reason why he should avoid
the direct route to the Val d'Arras.

His immediate business was to be in time.  As to what he should do
when he arrived at the inn he had no plans, and did not attempt to
make one.  If the enemies were there, his task would be rescue; if
they had not arrived, the task would be escape.  For ways and means
he had no care--these he knew would be provided when the moment
came.  Somehow or other he and Creevey would be enclosed in a
lonely world of their own, and his mission would be accomplished.
It might be that Creevey would die; that was one solution; but it
must come only after he had done his utmost to keep him in life,
for he felt himself in a strict sense this man's keeper.  If
Creevey lived he was assured that he would live to a different
purpose. . . .  One precaution only he had taken.  Years ago he had
made himself a fine marksman, but he had never in all his life
fired a shot at a man in offence or defence.  Now he had brought a
pistol with him.  It was in the right-hand pocket of his coat,
pressing comfortably against his side as he drove.

He was forced to make a wide circuit, for he dare not risk meeting
Cecilia on the road, so it was half-past three before he had
threaded the foothills and climbed to the skirts of the great
mountains and entered the Val Saluzzana.  The road had been almost
deserted, for the weather, as he ascended, had changed from rain to
sleet and from sleet to a powder of snow.  But the surface was
magnificent, for it was one of the great through-roads of the Alps.
As every traveller knows, it ascends the Val Saluzzana to the
hamlet of Santa Chiara, and then turns up a subsidiary vale and
crosses the Staub pass to the Staubthal and Switzerland.  The main
stream descends from a trackless glen, at the head of which is the
famous Colle delle Rondini, a route attempted only by expert
mountaineers.  The Saluzzana pass, threaded by a mule track and not
by a highway, is not in the vale of that name, but in the parallel
Val d'Arras, and why the name should have been transferred no
geographer has yet explained.  A little north of Santa Chiara the
containing ridge is indented by a saddle, which is reached from the
Val Saluzzana by a long tortuous cleft, and offers towards the Val
d'Arras a descent by a series of steep but practicable shelves.
There is a track over the col once used by smugglers in wintertime,
and long ago, when Adam had been on manoeuvres with the Alpini, he
had played the war-game, and this col had been the key of his plan.
By it he had led a force concealed in the Val d'Arras to attack in
flank the invaders coming over the Staub.  He remembered the
details as if it had been yesterday.  Twice he had himself made the
crossing, and he had no doubt about his ability to do it again in
any weather.  He could do it in darkness, he thought, and anyhow
there would be a moon.  But time was the problem.  He dared not
delay one unnecessary minute, for fate was busy beyond the hills.

Never in his life had he driven a car at such breakneck speed.
Twice he was held up by wood-cutters' waggons, and once in a
village he had to back out and make a round to avoid a wedding
procession.  But when he reached the great Saluzzana road there was
good going, and he was at Santa Chiara by a little after four.  The
inn was shuttered, but he drove the car into a farm shed, and gave
the farmer money to keep an eye on it till his return.  In two
miles he was at the mouth of the gorge which led to the col, and
turned up the track by the stream side.  Twilight had fallen, and
he looked up the cleft into a pit of dark vapour, out of which
loomed menacingly a black sentinel crag.

A great peace was on his spirit, peace which was more than the
absence of care, and was almost happiness.  He felt as if a burden
had fallen from his shoulders.  For one thing he was drawing
again upon the strength of that body which for years he had so
scrupulously tended.  Not since the Arctic ice had he used his
muscles to the full, and they responded like a young horse at the
first feel of turf.  Also he felt as if he were in some sense in
sight of his goal.  His duty had narrowed to a strait road which he
could not miss, and the very fact that he could have no prospect
but must wait for light increased his certainty.  He was being led,
and he rejoiced to follow.  But indeed there was no room for self-
examination, for his first purpose must be speed.  He went up the
steep track among the boulders and pine-boles like a hunter running
to cut off a deer.

Above a waterfall the gorge flattened out into an upland glen
strewn with the debris of old rock-falls.  This made slow
travelling, for the bigger rocks had to be circumvented, the track
had disappeared, and sometimes there was scarcely room for passage
between the cliffs and the gorge of the torrent.  Beyond that the
ravine bent to the right, and a long steep had to be scaled, down
which the stream fell in a chain of cascades.  It was dark now,
though the white water was still plain, and bits of old snowdrifts.
There was one point where the only passage was between the gorge of
the stream and a rock which seemed perilously poised.  He felt it
shake as he passed, and he realised that at any minute it might
fall and block the road, since there was no possibility of a
circuit on either hand among the sheer crags.  He passed in safety
and then had the main slope to breast.  The rocks were glazed by
the recent snowstorms, and even his nailed boots bit on them with
difficulty.  This was the most arduous part of the road, but he did
not slacken his pace.  Often he slipped and fell, and there were
parts where it took all his skill and strength to surmount some icy
boiler-plates.  When he reached the top his watch told him that it
was nearly seven.  He was not yet half-way across.

After that for a little it was easier going.  The slope was less
violent and the road was mostly across shaly screes and patches of
snow.  He was far above the pines now, above even the coarsest
herbage.  The wind which had been drifting intermittent snow-
showers had dropped, and the air seemed to be sharpening to frost.
He still strode furiously, but the lack of the need for the severer
kind of exertion left him leisure for his thoughts. . . .

He was back in Eilean Bn, and the time was afternoon.  Just of
late it had always been afternoon; still, golden weather, when the
ardours of day were beginning to melt into the peace of evening.
He was on the west side of Sgurr Bn, his favourite place, a long
way to the west, for he was conscious that he was very near the
sea.  Hitherto the sea had always eluded him, however far he
rambled, though he was never out of sound of its murmuring.  But
now two strange things had happened.  One was that he knew--though
how he knew it he could not tell--that never before in all his
dreams had he been so close to the sea.  Surely a very few steps
more must take him to the white sands, where the tides were never
silent.  The other was that Nigel had escaped him.  It was a long
time since Nigel had gone off to play by himself; usually he stuck
very close to his side, clutching his hand, and babbling like a
brook.  He could still hear him only a little distance away
shouting among the hazels.  But he wondered what fancy had taken
Nigel off by himself. . . .

The pale bright skies of the isle disappeared, and he was looking
at a narrow saddle between rocks.  It was light now, for the moon
was rising.  He was at the col, and a freer air blew in his face.

Far below him the Val d'Arras lay in a deep olive gloom.  The hotel
was out of his sight, blocked by a shoulder of hill, but there was
enough light to see the valley narrowing northward towards the
pass.  He felt quickened and braced and utterly tireless.  He had
made good time, and unless he were hung up on the descent he must
reach the inn before the others.  Eilean Bn vanished from his
thoughts, and he addressed himself to the precipitous screes that
led to the first shelf.

It was a wild descent, now in the darkness of a cleft, now in open
moonshine when he was forced on to the face.  He did not trouble to
look for the track, for in his head he had a general picture of the
route.  Often he would slip for yards, and once on a patch of snow
he had a furious glissade which ended miraculously at a rock above
an ugly drop.  A little stream began, and at one time he had to
take to its channel and got soaked to the skin.  The first flat
shelf was a slower business, for the way had to be picked among
ankle-twisting boulders.  With the second shelf the trees began,
gnarled old relics, with ugly pitfalls in the shape of rotting
trunks.  But the moist smell of vegetation cheered him, for it told
him that he was nearing the valley.  At one corner he caught a
glimpse of the hotel.  There was a light in a window.  Who were
assembled behind that light?

Almost before he knew it, he had reached the valley floor.  He
straightened himself, and wrung out the wet from his sopping
trousers.  He looked at his watch, and had a moment of pride.  In
five hours he had finished a course to which most mountaineers
would have allotted ten, and he was as fresh as when he had
started.  He forded the stream at a shallow, and ran towards the
light which twinkled a mile down the valley.

He must move carefully, for he was now on enemy's ground.  He left
the track, and approached the hotel from behind, where the hill
rose steeply.  He vaulted the wall of the little garden and tip-
toed stealthily towards the back-door.

As he approached it it opened, and a man emerged and looked up,
yawning, at the sky as if to prospect the weather.  He was an
oldish man, very square and stocky, and he had in his hand a
frying-pan.  He dropped it as the stranger came out of the earth
and stood before him.

"Great God, Amos," Adam cried, "what are you doing here?"

The old man peered and blinked.

"Losh, it's the Colonel," he whispered.  "I cam here wi' her
leddyship--the Marchioness, ye ken.  We've been ryngin' about
Italy."

"Who are here?"

"Just Mr Creevey and her leddyship and masel'."

Adam pushed past him through the kitchen and into the little hall,
where before a cheerful stove sat a man and a woman beside the
remains of supper.  He had not grasped Amos's information, for the
sight of Jacqueline made him stand and gasp.  He had no eye for
Creevey's surprised face or his outstretched hand.

"Are you mad?" he asked her.  "Do you know that you have come into
a place of death?"



A PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY--III


I


The three made a strange group around the glowing ashes of the
stove--Creevey and Jacqueline as neat as if they had been denizens
of a common summer hotel, and Adam wet and dishevelled and about
him the tang of wild weather.

Jacqueline, under the spell of his demanding eyes, felt her wits
wandering.  What had happened?  What was his purpose?  Why did he
talk fiercely of death?  She had to make some kind of answer.

"I came by accident," she stammered.  "I have been motoring in
Italy. . . .  I used to come to this inn long ago. . . .  I wanted
to see the place again."

"And I," said Creevey, "am here by misfortune.  I have been left
stranded by an infernal aeroplane which should have taken me to
Paris."  He spoke cheerfully, for indeed he was relieved in mind.
There had been no assignation, for Melfort's surprise at the sight
of the lady was too real to be assumed.  At the meaning of his
words he could make no guess, but apostles must be permitted a
little melodrama.

Adam strode to the door.  It was a heavy thing, which could be
fastened by a thick bar let down from the adjacent wall.  He
dropped the bar and called for Amos.

"Go out," he said, "and look down the valley.  There's a moon.  See
if anyone is coming up the road.  By car or on foot."

"They'll hae to be on foot," said Amos, "for somebody has broke
doun the brig a mile back."

"So much the better.  If anyone appears in that last mile, come
back and warn us at once.  It is now half-past ten.  If they don't
come by midnight we may assume we are safe for the night."

He cut himself a wedge of cold pie.

"Forgive me," he said, "but I've had no food since midday.  I have
come over the col from the Val Saluzzana, and I didn't take it
easy.  Thank God I'm in time."

"Time for what?" Creevey asked a little sharply.  He disliked
mysteries, and Adam's peremptoriness offended him.

"Time to warn you.  And, I hope, to save your life."

He seemed to be about to explain further when Amos appeared again
from the back part of the house.

"There's no muckle prospect doun the road," he announced.  "The
mune's ahint the hill noo and the clouds are comin' up.  It looks
as if they were bankin' for mair snaw.  There's naebody to be
seen."

A light broke in on Adam.

"Of course.  Fool that I am!  They are not coming up the valley.
That would leave too obvious traces.  They are crossing the
mountains by the Marjolana pass and are coming in here from the
north.  From the Staubthal.  They can't arrive till morning.  They
have isolated this place on the south, and to-morrow they will
complete the cordon.  Well, that gives us some hours' grace."

He flung wood on the stove, and sat himself in a wicker chair.  He
took from his knapsack a pair of stout nailed boots and thick
socks.  "I brought these for you," he said to Creevey.  "I think
you may need them."

"For God's sake have done with mystifications, Melfort," Creevey
cried.  "What is all this fuss about?  For the last ten hours I
seem to have been in a lunatic world!"

Adam smiled.

"You have been in a lunatic world much longer than that, and
perhaps you are a little responsible for its lunacy.  That is what
the fuss is about."

"You are in danger, Adam," Jacqueline put in.  "Mr Falconet told
me."

"I?  Oh, no doubt.  But I am not the one that matters.  I will tell
you what I know, but half of it is guess-work."

He turned to Creevey.

"You remember Berlin in August?  You saw how Loeffler was guarded
and you thought it natural, for he was head of a nation and
therefore the chief mark for the discontented.  He was in greater
danger than you thought, and he ran some heavy risks before he got
to the London Conference.  But have you never considered that
others may be in the same position?  Not such conspicuous public
figures as Loeffler, but men who have aroused as deep antagonisms.
Remember that the desperate to-day have good information and look
below the surface of things.  They have organised themselves like
an army."

"Do you mean me?" Creevey asked.

"Why not you?  Everyone who knows anything is aware that you have
more power to-day than most Governments.  You use it, shall we say,
in a certain way.  To you that way is natural and reasonable, but
to other people it may seem an infamous way, the way of the
wrecker.  Madness, you think?  Yes, but an effective kind of
madness.  A disintegrated world lets loose strange forces which do
not bother about the conventions."

Creevey did not answer, for he recalled some curious things that
had been happening lately, words casually dropped, cryptic
warnings, inexplicable little hindrances.  He had set them down to
a perverse chance, but he remembered that the notion had flitted
over his mind that there might be purpose behind them.

"Do you know a man called La Cecilia?" Adam asked.

Creevey shook his head.

"Or a Baron von Kilderling?"

The name seemed familiar to Creevey, but he could not place it.

"Or a Dr Gratias?"

This stirred his memory.  He had met Gratias, who had been the head
of a big German industrial combine which crashed in the inflation
period.  The man had once had a great reputation, not without its
sinister element, and he had marked him down as one to be watched.
Lately he had disappeared from view, and he had sometimes wondered
a little uneasily what had become of him.  Not a month ago he had
instructed his people to try to get news of Dr Gratias.

Adam saw that he had moved him.  He told in detail what he knew of
the inner circle of the Iron Hands, of the meeting at the Rhineland
eating-house, of what happened during Loeffler's visit to Lamancha.
Then he told of his sight of Cecilia and von Kilderling that very
day in Arsignano, and his talk with the former.  He said nothing of
his own plan to get Creevey to himself; that had failed and might
be forgotten.

At first Creevey did not speak.  He sat with his big head sunk on
his chest and his eyes half closed.  That which he had believed
impossible had come to pass.  The world of reason, on which he had
so firm a hold, had dissolved into a chaos of crude passions.  His
alert intelligence told him that this hideous transformation had
always been a possibility.  As for Adam's tale he must credit every
word, for he had too strong a respect for Adam's acumen to think
that he could be mistaken.  He was a brave man, but this sudden
crumbling of foundations sent a chill to his heart.

"What do they want with me?" he asked hoarsely.

"I do not think that you will live long in their hands," was Adam's
reply.  "Some time to-night the aeroplane in which you are supposed
to be travelling will be wrecked and your death will appear in the
evening papers to-morrow.  That report will not be contradicted if
our friends can help it."

"You are in danger, too?  You risk your life in coming to warn me?
Why do you do it?  We have never been friends.  I was under the
impression that my doings were not so fortunate as to have your
approval."

Again Adam smiled, and there was that in his smile, in his fine-
drawn face, and the steady friendliness of his eyes, which stirred
in Creevey a feeling which no human being had ever evoked before.
So novel it was that he scarcely listened to Adam's words.

"I didn't approve of you.  But I have always admired you, and
thought that some day you would awake.  I have a notion that this
may be the awakening.  For you are going to escape--make no mistake
about that.  You will escape, though we have to climb the
Pomagognon."

"But how?"  Jacqueline had been roused out of her first stupefaction,
and was struggling to grasp a situation which she had never
forecast.  Her first thought had been that her mad escapade had
added to Adam's burden.  Then she remembered her car, the only
means of transport at their disposal.  If danger was coming from
the north, might they not escape by the south?"

"My car is all right," she said.  "I lied about it to you, Mr
Creevey.  It is in perfect order, backed in among the trees beyond
the broken bridge.  Let us go off by it at once.  It's the only
way."

Adam shook his head.

"Not a ghost of a chance.  If our friends are coming up the valley
they will meet us.  If they are coming down the valley, as I am
certain they are, the route to the south will be picketed.  Those
gentry leave nothing to luck.  They have already made the road
difficult and broken the bridge.  Amos says it had been hewn down
with axes and that the cuts were fresh.  I am afraid there is no
hope in that direction."

"Then we are caught.  We cannot get into Switzerland."

"We must get into Switzerland.  Once there we are safe.  Falconet
is at Grunewald--and more than Falconet.  Once in the Staubthal we
are out of their net."

"Can't we get away from the inn and hide in the mountains?"

"How long could we keep hidden?  It is going to be wild weather and
we should starve.  Besides, the men we have to deal with are old
hands at the game.  They won't be plump sedentary folk like
Gratias, but the real Iron Hands, like Cecilia and Kilderling, men
who will take any risk and can endure any fatigue.  They have the
best mountaineers in Europe at their command.  It would be a lost
game to play hide-and-seek among the hills with the people who will
come over the pass to-morrow."

Jacqueline dropped her hands on her knees with a gesture of
despair.  But the sight of Adam's face gave her hope.

"Our chance," he said, "lies in our start.  I know the Marjolana
route and I know the Saluzzana, and I do not believe that they can
be here before eight o'clock to-morrow.  If the roads forward and
backward are shut to us we must take to the flank.  We must try the
col by which I crossed to-night from the Val Saluzzana.  At Santa
Chiara you strike the main road over the Staub."

"Then let's start at once."  Jacqueline's anxiety had made her
eager for instant movement.

"Impossible.  The moon is down, and the road is not easy.  If I
were alone I might do it in the darkness, but I could not take
another with me.  We must have daylight--and a little sleep first.
Remember that we are dealing with athletes and trained mountaineers."

Creevey had gone white, but by an obvious effort he kept his
composure.

"Won't they have men on the col?" he asked.

"They may--in which case we are done.  But I don't think so.  Few
people know it and fewer use it.  It was my own discovery, and was
shared with about half a dozen Italian officers, most of whom are
now dead. . . .  But we may be followed, and must allow for that.
They will have men with them who are experts at winter hunting and
can follow spoor.  That means that we shall be in rather a hurry."

Creevey got himself out of his chair, and stood up, an incongruous
figure in his neat blue suit, his coloured linen, and his dark tie
with its pearl pin.  He stretched out his arms as if to assess his
bodily strength, and he shivered as if he felt it to be small at
the best.  Certainly as compared with Adam's lean virility he
looked heavy and feeble.

"Do you think I can do it?" he asked.  "I never climbed a mountain
in all my days.  I am not in good training--I never am--I live too
well and too much indoors."

"I think you can do it," said Adam gently.  "You must do it.  You
see, the stake is your life.  Much more than that, I think, but
first and foremost your life."

"What about Lady Warmestre?  Hadn't she and her servant better get
off at once, if her car is in order?  She, anyhow, won't be stopped
by whoever is on the watch down the valley."

"Nonsense," said Jacqueline, "I'm coming with you.  I'm as active
as a cat--I've climbed the Pomagognon by the west ridge.  My father
said--"

She stopped, for Adam's eyes were on her, and she read in them a
knowledge of all the things that she had left unsaid.  He knew for
what purpose she had come here--her mention of Falconet had
enlightened him.  He knew that she had come to make restitution, to
settle an account between two souls predestined to a strange
community.  He knew, and the knowledge had awakened in him
something which she had not seen before in his face.  He was
looking at her in a passion of tenderness.

"I am going to ask more from Lady Warmestre than that," he said.
"She is our chief hope.  I am going to ask her to stay here and
receive our guests from over the mountains.  If she can delay them
for an hour she may save your life."

Then Creevey did that which surprised at least one of the other
two, and may have surprised himself.  The pallor left his face, and
his voice came out clear and masterful.

"I won't have it," he cried.  "Damn you, Melfort, do you think I'm
so little of a man as to take shelter behind a woman?  God knows
what those devils might not do to her!  It's the most infamous
proposal I ever heard in my life."

"She will be in no danger," said Adam.  "Our enemies are no doubt
devils, but in their own eyes they are gentlemen, rather
punctilious gentlemen.  They won't harm her--"

"I refuse to allow it.  Lady Warmestre must start off at once in
her car and by to-morrow morning she will be out of danger.  I'm in
the hell of a fix, but if I can help it it won't be anybody's
funeral but my own.  Except yours, of course, and you asked for it--"

He said no more, for Jacqueline's face silenced him.  It had a new
strange beauty, the like of which he had never seen before.  He
felt suddenly that here was a woman in relation to whom it was
merely foolish to talk of danger or fear.

"Thank you, Mr Creevey," she said.  "You are very kind and I am
very grateful.  But I wouldn't miss doing what Adam wants for
anything in the world.  It will be the greatest thing in my life.
I'm not in the least afraid--except of not succeeding.  I'm . . .
but I'm going to do more than delay the enemy.  Have you thought of
the next step, Adam?"

It was her turn to rise.  She had put her travelling cloak about
her shoulders and now dropped it and stood up to her full height, a
head taller than Creevey, almost tall enough to look from the level
into Adam's eyes.

"They are bound to let me go," she went on.  "I think they will try
to speed my going.  Very well.  Somehow or other I will get the
car round to the Val Saluzzana--to Santa Chiara--and meet you
there.  It's a long road over the Staub . . . and you will be very
tired . . . and you may be pursued.  I will be there to pick you
up and we will finish the run together.  Do you understand, both
of you?  That is my final decision, and nothing will shake me."

Her face was flushed and gay, her voice had a ringing gallantry.
To Creevey in his confused dejection it was like a sudden
irradiation of the sun.  But Adam did not lift his eyes.

"It's about time we found somewhere to sleep," she said, and she
called to Amos.

That worthy presently brought candles.  "I've been outbye again,"
he announced, "and it's snawing hard.  The auld wife is pluckin'
her geese for Christmas."



Creevey slept little, for his will could not subdue his insurgent
thoughts.  He had moments almost of panic, which he struggled to
repress, but his chief preoccupation was to adjust his mind to a
world of new values.  Oddly enough, in all his confusion the
dominant feeling was surprise mingled with something that was
almost pride.  This man Melfort was ready to risk his life for him.
He had been a leader of men, but what disciples had he ever made
who would have been prepared for such a sacrifice?  And Melfort was
no follower, but a stark antagonist.  He had hated him and been
hated in turn.  Something very novel crept into his mind--a boyish
shame.  He could not allow himself to be outdone in this contest of
generosity.

Adam and Jacqueline slept like children, for the one was physically
weary, and both had suffered a new and profound emotion.

Amos woke the party an hour before dawn.  It was very cold and the
storm of the night had covered the ground with two inches of snow.
He gave them hot chocolate in the little hall, where he had lit the
stove.  Creevey looked pinched and haggard in the candlelight.  He
had put on the nailed boots which Adam had given him, and tucked
the bottoms of his trousers into the heavy socks.  He drank his
chocolate but could eat no food.

But Jacqueline was a radiant figure.  From the baggage which Amos
had brought she had extricated a thick jumper and a short jacket of
russet leather, and the lack of a maid had imparted a gracious
disorder to her hair.  Even so she had often appeared to Adam's
eyes on winter mornings at Armine Court, a little late after a big
day's hunting.

Adam gave his last instructions.  He was still yawning like a
sleepy child.  They went out of doors, where the skies were
beginning to lighten over the Val Saluzzana peaks, and a small
wind, which would probably grow to a gale, was whimpering down the
valley.

"Confound the snow," Adam said.  "It won't melt before midday, and
it shows footsteps.  Amos, you follow us and blur our tracks.
We'll get off the road a hundred yards down, for on that long spit
of rock we'll be harder to trace.  There's a shallow place in the
gorge where we can cross.  We must be inside the big ravine before
daybreak."

He took Jacqueline's hand, as she stood in the snow at the
doorstep.  There was no word spoken, and the manner of each was
cheerful, almost casual--au revoir, not good-bye.  But in the
candlelight which escaped from the hall Creevey saw her face, and
it was a sight which he was never to forget.  For her eyes were the
lit eyes of the bride.


II


Amos was busy indoors removing all signs of occupation, other than
that of himself and Jacqueline.  The relics of breakfast for two
remained in the hall, and only two beds upstairs showed signs of
use.  He repacked the hold-all, which had carried Jacqueline's
baggage, and the provisions.  As he worked, he repeated to himself
the instructions he had been given by Adam and his mistress, and
his gnarled face wore a contented smile.  "It's like auld times,"
he muttered.  "Man, Andrew, this is the proper job for you.  Ye're
ower young to sit back on your hunkers.  But it beats me how the
Colonel is to get yon Creevey ower thae fearsome hills."

Jacqueline put on her hat and her fur-lined coat, and stood in
front of the inn watching the shadows break up in the valley.  The
dawn-wind blew sharper, but she did not feel cold, for her whole
being was aglow.  Adam had trusted her, and had asked of her a
great thing--asked it as an equal.  She fired with pride, and pride
drove out all fear.  She did not attempt to forecast what would
happen at the inn in the next few hours, for her thoughts were with
the two men now entering the long ravine which led by difficult
shelves to the col.  They would succeed--they must succeed--and in
the evening she herself would carry them to sanctuary.  It was the
hour of miracles--she had witnessed them.  She had seen a man
emerge from Creevey's husk, a man who with white lips was prepared
to forget his own interests and sacrifice himself for a whim of
honour.  She did not forget his stubbornness about her own safety.
Could he ever return to his old world?  Had not a new man been
born, the leader of Adam's dream?  And there was still before him a
long day of trial and revelation.  Of Adam she did not allow
herself to think; she had fallen in with his code, and kept her
thoughts firm on that purpose which was his life.

The eastern slopes of the valley were still dark, but the inn and
its environs were flooded now with a cold pure light.  She looked
up at the sky, and saw that the growing wind was drifting clouds
from the north, clouds contoured and coloured like ice-floes in a
Polar sea.  Snow would fall again before midday.  She occupied
herself in recalling the road to the Val Saluzzana--down the Val
d'Arras to Colavella, and then east in a detour among the foothills
to the great Staub highway.  She remembered it vividly; it would be
open even in rough weather, and the Staub pass was low and rarely
blocked by snow-falls.  What about their stock of petrol?  She
turned to look for Amos, and saw him in the doorway. . . .

He was held by two men, and was spluttering in well-simulated
wrath.  She was aware of other men. . . .  One was advancing to her
from the north side of the inn.  He was a slim youngish man, rather
below the middle height, dressed like a mountaineer in breeches and
puttees, with a waterproof cape about his shoulders.  He had been
in deep snow, for he seemed to be wet to the middle.

Jacqueline cried out to Amos.

"What is wrong, Andrew?  What do these men want?"

"I dinna ken.  They grippit me when I was tyin' up the poke.  I
don't understand what they're sayin'."  Then to his warders:  "I'll
be obliged if ye'll let me get at my pipe.  I havena had my
mornin's smoke."  He spat philosophically.

The young man addressed her.  He had a finely cut face, dark level
brows and sombre eyes.

"We want to know who you are, madam, and what you are doing here?"
His tone was civil, but peremptory.

"What business have you with me?  This is an inn."

"It was.  But for a little it has been the private dwelling-house
of myself and my friends.  By what right have you entered it?"

Jacqueline laughed merrily.  "Have I made a gaffe?  It is like the
story of the Three Bears.  I'm so sorry.  Have I been trespassing?
You see, I had a fancy to come here again--I've been motoring in
Italy--and I thought I would like to have a look at the place for
auld lang syne.  Antonio Menardi used to be a friend of mine, and I
came here often with my father.  He was a famous mountaineer.
Hubert Alban.  Perhaps you have heard of him?"

There were now four men on the snow by the inn door, besides the
two who still held Amos in custody.  One was tall, with massive
bull shoulders and a curiously small head.  All six looked
preternaturally alert and vigorous, just such as she remembered
among the Alpine heroes of her youth.  But in their faces there was
a sullen secrecy which she did not remember, and in their eyes a
mad concentration.

One spoke, not to her, but to the others.  "I have heard of Herr
Alban.  Yes, I have seen him.  He did many famous courses in the
mountains."

Her first inquisitor spoke again.

"Will you tell us your name, please?"

"I am married.  My husband is Lord Warmestre."

Recognition stirred in the big man.

"I did not think I could be mistaken," he said.  "She is the
Marchioness of Warmestre, a very famous lady in England.  I have
seen her at the Court balls, and elsewhere."

"Will you tell us how you came here?" the young man asked.  He
seemed to be bridling a deep impatience, though his voice was still
polite.

"I motored here.  The road was bad, and a little way down the
valley a bridge was broken.  But I was determined not to be beaten,
so my servant and I left the car and walked the rest of the way."

"And you found here?"

"An empty house.  No Antonio, no servants.  No food, but thank
goodness I had the sense to bring some of my own. . . .  Oh, and I
found something else.  Another unfortunate guest.  A man I have met
occasionally in London.  A Mr Creevey."

They were masters at their game, for no flicker of interest moved
their faces.

"Will you tell us about this other guest?"

"Oh, he was a dreadful little cross-patch.  He was so angry that he
could not explain properly, but I gathered that he had had a mishap
in an aeroplane, though I can't for the life of me see how he got
here.  He was in a desperate hurry to be gone, and after my servant
had given him a cup of tea he started off down the valley.  He must
have had a rotten night of it."

The faces were still impassive.

"You did not offer to take him away in your car?"

Jacqueline laughed.  "No.  I didn't tell him about the car--or
rather, I said it had broken down hopelessly.  You see, I am not
very fond of Mr Creevey.  I didn't see why I should help him out of
his troubles when he was as uncivil as a bear, and I certainly
didn't want his company.  I was very glad when he decided to go
away."

"And now--you propose?"

"To go home.  We camped the night here, but I can't say it was very
comfortable.  I was just about to start when you turned up.  My
maid and my luggage are in the hotel at Chiavagno."

The young man bowed.  "Will you please to go indoors, Lady
Warmestre?  My friends and I must talk together."

Jacqueline sat down in the inn hall, where Amos's fire had almost
burned itself out.  Amos a little way off puffed stolidly at his
pipe.

So far she had managed well, she decided.  Her tone had been right,
the natural tone of a crazy Englishwoman, and by a great stroke of
luck her father's name had been known to them and she herself had
been recognised.  Now they were trying to verify her story.  She
could hear the tramping of heavy boots upstairs, and twice a
weather-beaten face looked in from the back parts.  The others
would be outside ranging the environs.

Presently the young man entered.

"When did Mr Creevey depart last night?" he asked.

Jacqueline considered.  "Just when it was growing dark and I got my
servant to light a lamp.  I think it would be about five o'clock."

"There are footprints in the new snow."

"Aye," said Amos, "they're mine.  I gaed out for a daunder afore it
was licht to prospect the weather."

When he had gone Jacqueline had a sudden disquieting reflection.
She had thought it very clever to bring in Creevey, but had it not
been the wildest folly?  Could they let her go?  Had she not
fatally compromised their plans?  Creevey was supposed to have
perished in an aeroplane accident the night before somewhere on the
coast, and here was she, a witness to his presence in a remote
Alpine valley no earlier than five o'clock.  For the first time she
knew acute fear.  If she was permitted to go away, permitted even
to live, their story was exploded and their schemes brought to
naught.  They had failed to manoeuvre their victim out of the ken
of the world.  Even if they found his trail and caught him on the
col, she and Amos would share his fate.  Those mad eyes were
capable of the last barbarity.

She told herself that it was impossible.  They could not cumber
themselves with her as a prisoner.  They would not dare to silence
her in the old crude way.  An English great lady--it would be too
dangerous.  They were cunning people and would somehow adapt their
policy to the changed circumstances.  She must carry off things
with a high air. . . .  And meantime, thank God, she was holding
them up.  Every minute that she sat shivering in that wretched inn
was bringing Adam and Creevey nearer to their goal.

At last the door opened and the young man appeared.

"You can take up your baggage," he told Amos.  Then to Jacqueline:
"Are you ready, Lady Warmestre?  We have inspected your car, and it
is in good order.  We wish you to leave--now."

Outside she found four men waiting like terriers about an earth.

"You will take one of us with you as a guide," said the young man.

"To Chiavagno?" Jacqueline asked, with a new fear in her heart.

"To Chiavagno--perhaps.  At any rate he will guide you.  I will
accompany you to your car."

The others bowed ceremoniously as the three set off down the road.
The clouds were no longer floes, but pack-ice almost covering the
sky, and a dull leaden light filtered through them, while the wind
volleyed in bitter gusts.  Jacqueline did not turn her head towards
the eastern wall, lest it might wake suspicion, but she wondered if
from any vantage-ground on the lip of the ravine Adam could see the
party.  He had, she knew, his field-glasses. . . .  One thing she
did not like.  Two of the men were busy looking for prints beside
the road, and they were dangerously near the long rib of rock down
which Adam had gone.  Would the enemy after all hit the trail?

They scrambled across the gully of the broken bridge, and Amos with
a good deal of trouble started the engine and ran the car into the
road.

"I will drive, please," said Jacqueline.  "I am more used to
difficult roads than my servant.  Will your friend sit beside me?"
The rudiments of a wild plan were forming in her brain.

"My friend will sit behind you.  Get in, Franz."  The young man
said something in German to the other which Jacqueline did not
catch, but his face interpreted his words.  The sullen figure
behind was there as a guard--she saw the bulge made by the pistol
in his coat pocket.  What were his orders, she wondered dismally.
Was it Chiavagno, or some darker goal?

"Bon voyage," said the young man.  "Remember my instructions,
Franz," and he turned to re-cross the ravine.

On a rough piece of road a mile farther on the car gave so much
trouble that no one heard a whistle blown behind them.  Had he
heard it, Franz might have insisted on turning back.  That whistle
meant portentous things.  For the trackers by the roadside had
found the spoor on the rib of rock, spoor leading down to the
stream, and five minutes later the pack were following it.

Jacqueline was surprised at her own coolness.  She was certain in
her mind what orders had been given to Franz--that their goal was
not Chiavagno.  And even if they went to Chiavagno her plan would
fail, for then she could not pick up Adam and Creevey at Santa
Chiara, and she had a premonition that if she failed them they were
doomed.  But not a shadow of personal fear lurked in her heart.
Her whole being was keyed up to the highest pitch of active
purpose.

Sometimes she turned round and nodded friendlily to the man behind.
He sat rigid and expectant, his sullen eyes watchful, and one hand
in his coat pocket.

It was a great thing to have Amos beside her.  She talked to him in
a loud voice about the road and the weather, so that Franz might
hear, but interpolated in her remarks some words in a lower tone.
Amos responded.  He modulated his great voice to a whisper and that
whisper was in the broadest Scots.

"We maun find the richt kind o' place," he crooned, "and then I'll
pretend to be no weel.  I'll gie ye the word when I see a likely
bit.  You leave the rest to me, mem. . . .  Dinna you stop the
engine. . . .  This cawr is a fine starter, and it accelerates
brawly. . . .  Watch me and play up till me, and God be kind to His
ain."  When Amos, a bigoted unbeliever, dropped into the speech of
piety, there was trouble awaiting somebody.

Before they were out of the Val d'Arras the wind dropped and the
snow began, a steady resolute fall.  There were people on the vile
road--one or two men who might have been wood-cutters, and
Jacqueline observed that they stared not at her but at Franz, and
that some signal seemed to be exchanged.  Once a fellow who looked
like a gamekeeper dropped from the hillside, and the car was halted
while he whispered to Franz over the back of it.  Jacqueline
preserved an air of aloof inattention, as if such a meeting were
the most natural thing in the world.

After Colavella Franz proposed to drive.  "Please let me go on,"
Jacqueline protested.  "I'm not in the least tired, and we shall be
on better roads now.  It is only driving that keeps me warm."
Franz consented with an ill grace, but he shifted his station so
that he sat directly behind her.

Half an hour after leaving Colavella they came to a fork where the
road to Chiavagno branched to the left.

"Straight on," Franz commanded.

"But we are going to Chiavagno."

"We are going where I direct.  Do as I bid you, or I will take the
wheel."

The snow was thickening, and already it lay an inch or two on the
highway.  "We'll have to do something soon," Jacqueline whispered
to Amos.

"Aye," came grimly through closed teeth.

Soon after that he began to groan.  He huddled himself into the
left-hand corner and sat with shut eyes, so that Franz could see
his profile.  He had the appearance of a man in extreme distress.

Presently they turned down the side of a mountain torrent flowing
in a deep-cut wooded ravine.  Only a low wall protected the road
from the gorge, and in parts the wall had crumbled into stone
heaps.

Suddenly Amos cried out.  He pawed feebly at Jacqueline's arm.
"Stop," he groaned.  "I've an awfu' pain.  Let me oot--let me oot."

Jacqueline brought the car to a standstill.  "What is it?" she
asked anxiously.

Amos's voice came small and weak between his gasps.

"Colic," he answered.  "It's the cauld.  Let me straughten mysel'
on the roadside.  Oh, mem, for God's sake!"

Franz was standing up, and demanding angrily the reason of the
delay.

"My servant has been taken ill.  He says he must be laid flat.
Will you help him, please?"

Franz leaped from the car, and hauled out the groaning Amos, who
staggered a step or two to the edge of the gorge and then fell flat
among the snow.  It was at a point where there was a gap in the
protecting wall.

He bent over the prostrate figure and his face was wrathful.

"A nip o' brandy," Amos whined.  "There's a flask at the bottom o'
the big green poke."

Franz addressed Jacqueline fiercely.  "There is no time for
doctoring.  The fellow must lie here till he recovers.  People will
pass . . . he will be seen to. . . .  Give me the wheel, madam.  I
now will drive. . . ."

His back was to the stricken man, and he was about to re-enter the
car, when a strange thing happened.  Amos drew his legs up with
astonishing agility, and in a second was crouching like a broody
fowl.  Then he flung his enormous arms round Franz's knees.  To
Jacqueline it seemed as if the body of the latter suddenly rose
from the ground and described a curve backward in the air over
Amos's shoulder.  It disappeared into the ravine, and could be
heard crashing among the snow-laden undergrowth.

In an instant Amos was beside her, and the car was in motion.  Amos
dusted the snow from his disreputable breeks.

"That's settled him," he said complacently.  "A dodge I learnt lang
syne at the fit-ba'."

After that there was no delay.  Jacqueline swung to the left, cut
across the road to Chiavagno and, after being at fault once or
twice among the valleys of the foothills and consulting her map,
struck the main road which led to the Val Saluzzana.  There the
snow lightened, but much had fallen, and the pine-woods were white
like the mountain tops.  But on the broad highway it was little
hindrance to speed, and by four o'clock they had passed Santa
Chiara.  The temporary clearness of the air enabled her without
difficulty to follow Adam's directions, and presently she had drawn
up at the mouth of the gorge which led to the col and to the Val
d'Arras.  She could see the faint outline of the track which
followed the stream.

Amos descended, stamped his feet, and swung his arms.  "I'll gang a
wee bit up the burn to meet them," he said.  "Losh, it's a
fearsome-lookin' glen!  Yon puir Creevey will hae an ill journey."

Jacqueline watched his gnome-like figure stumping up the track till
it disappeared among the draggled pines. . . .  The place was
hushed and solitary.  She saw the highway bearing to the right for
the Staub pass, the road that was to carry them to safety.  In
front was the sword-cut of the upper Val Saluzzana, and she could
make out dimly the gap which was the Colle delle Rondini and the
famous ice-ridge of the Pomagognon. . . .  But her eyes were
chiefly on the cleft which led to the col.  The twilight was
falling, and above the pines and the fitful gleams of white water
she saw nothing but a pit of shade across which blew thin streamers
of mist.  That was the way of salvation.  Out of that darkness
would presently come two men on whom the fate of the world
depended.  They must come--they could not fail--not if there was
hope on earth or mercy in heaven.  But as she peered up into that
savage wilderness she shivered.

Suddenly she caught sight of Amos.  He was far up on a jut of crag
and he was looking towards her.  He was waving his hand.  He had
seen them.

Relief made her choke and filled her eyes with happy tears.  She
started the engine.


III


Scarcely a word was spoken between Adam and Creevey for the first
half-hour.  With difficulty they crossed the torrent at a place
where the gorge flattened out and the water ran wide and shallow
before plunging into a new abyss.  After that the way lay along the
east slope of the valley in a chaos of fallen rocks and straggling
pines.  Creevey, like all novices, forced the pace, but Adam made
him fall back into a slow, steady stride.  "We have a long road
before us," he said.  "You must keep your breath for the hills."

Under the lee of the slope it was still very dark, and Adam had to
take the other's arm at many points to help him over clefts hidden
by scrub.  He was straining his ears for sounds from the other side
of the stream, from the track that led to the pass, something that
would tell him that their enemies had crossed the mountains.  That
route was easy even in the darkness for hardened mountaineers.  But
the noise of furious water and the soughing of the dawn wind
blanketed all other sounds.  The light in the inn was soon hidden
from them, and they moved in a shell of loneliness.

Adam was in such a mood as he had not known before.  He was
supremely confident.  He felt that his task was nearing fulfilment,
like a runner who has entered the straight with the tape clear
before him.  He had no fear of failure, so that he did not attempt
to forecast the next difficult stages.  These would be surmounted--
somehow or other Creevey that night would be beyond the reach of
danger.  A new Creevey, too, for the gods would not leave their
work half done. . . .  But to this assurance happiness had been
added, and in recent years he had known peace, but not happiness.
Now something jubilant and ecstatic seemed to have been re-born in
him, and he was aware of the reason.  He had discovered tenderness,
for Jacqueline had taught him.  She had thawed his chilly, dutiful
soul.  He was no longer content to pity humanity, for he had come
to love it.  Creevey, stumbling along at his side, was not merely a
pawn in the game to be guarded, but a friend and a fellow.  The
aching affection which had once been confined to Nigel was now
given to Jacqueline, and through her to all mankind.  "I am a full
man and a free man again," he told himself.  "I have come out of
the shadows."

The slopes on which they moved bent inward, and down the cleft in
the mountains there came the first grey light of dawn.  "Thank
God," said Adam.  "We are now in cover.  We must take it quietly,
for we have four thousand feet to climb to the col."

Adam led at a slow even pace up a track which was only a deeper
shadow among the shadowy fern.  Here the wind was cut off, and the
snow, warded off by the pines, lay thinly on the ground, but it was
damply cold, as if the trees still held the chill of midnight.  It
was steep going, but not difficult, though Creevey's heavy
breathing soon proved the poverty of his training.  It was Adam's
business to keep him cheerful, for he knew the potent effect of the
mind on the body.

"You are doing famously," he told him.  "After the trees we have
the first shelf where the slope eases off.  Then there comes a bit
of a scramble, and then a second shelf.  After that we must hug the
stream till it stops, and the last bit is slabs and screes.  The
snow should be lying there fairly deep and that will help us.  Then
we are at the col and there's no more climbing.  The descent into
the Val Saluzzana is longer, but far less stiff.  In two hours from
the col we should be in the valley."

"You think that Lady Warmestre will be there?"

"I am certain of it."

"You're a queer fellow," said Creevey.  "You go a good deal by
instinct. . . .  Perhaps you are right. . . .  I'm not built that
way."

They came out of the trees to the lip of the first shelf.  There
the track, to avoid an out-jutting crag, bent to the right, and
reached a vantage point from which the valley beneath could be
seen.  It was here that the night before Adam had first caught the
lights of the inn.  He made Creevey keep low in cover, and wriggled
forward to where he could rake the trough of the Val d'Arras.

There was no one on the road which led to the pass, nor on the road
below the inn, as far as he could see it.  Outside the inn itself
stood a solitary figure.  The glass told him that it was neither
Jacqueline nor Amos.  It was a tall man, and he had the air of
being on guard.  As Adam watched him, he shaded his eyes and seemed
to be watching something to the east in the valley bottom.

The, enemy had come.  More, some of them were now down by the
stream.  They might be only casting about for the fugitives; on the
other hand, they might have found the spoor down the rib of rock
which would show up in the snow.  They were bound to have skilled
trackers with them, men accustomed to the winter trails of
bouquetin and chamois.

Adam snapped his glasses back into their case.  "We must push on,"
he said.  "Our friends are below at the inn.  They may pick up our
trail."

"Are they faster than us?"

"Than us two?  Perhaps twice as fast.  But we have a long start.
Never fear, we shall beat them."

Creevey seemed to have exhausted his strength on the first steeps.
He had not the mountaineer's gift of walking delicately in
difficult places, and he slipped and stumbled among the boulder-
strewn herbage and several times fell heavily.  Adam took his arm
and forced the pace, so that when they reached the place where the
stream fell in great leaps down a broken rock-wall he was puffing
hard and limping.

In summer there was a faint track up this wall, but there was no
sign of it now in the waste of glazed rock, snowy cracks and boggy
ledges.  Creevey was most of the time on his knees, for he retched
with vertigo whenever he rose to his feet.  Over most of the ground
Adam simply dragged him, blaming himself bitterly for not having
brought a rope.  Sometimes they came to an impasse up which Creevey
had to be lifted like baggage.  His crawling soaked him to the
skin, and it was a limp and sodden figure that dropped on the
ground when the second shelf was reached.

"Get your breath," Adam told him.  Creevey lay flat on his back
looking up to the sky from which occasional flakes fell, while Adam
made a short detour to the right, to a point where from a steep
overhang he believed that a view could be got of the foot of the
ravine where it debouched on the valley.

He got the view and something more, something which sent him racing
back to Creevey.  For on the spit of open sward below the trees, on
the track by which they had come, he saw four figures, their heads
bent like dogs following a trail.

He plucked Creevey to his feet.  "On," he cried, "the hounds are
out.  At the speed they go they are less than an hour behind us."

The words woke the other's drugged mind to life.  Never before had
he known what it was to be in physical danger.  He, the assured and
authoritative, was being hunted like a fox, and the price of
failure was death.  He felt a cold clutch at his heart, but a new
nervous power in his limbs.  This shelf was more difficult than the
first, but there was no drag on Adam's arm.  Creevey covered the
ground at a shamble which was almost running.  "Don't strain
yourself," said Adam's quiet voice in his ear.  "We shall win all
right"; but the sense of the words hardly penetrated to a brain
obsessed with the passion of flight.

They were now at the last tier of the ascent, where at points, to
avoid knuckles of sheer cliff, it was necessary to take to the bed
of the infant stream.  A round of the clock before Adam had
descended the place like a falling stone, leaping in the strong
moonlight from boulder to boulder.  But now the rocks were more
glazed and treacherous, and the snow, which was falling thickly,
made the route harder to prospect.  There were points where Adam
simply took Creevey in his arms and jumped with him; others where
he forced him up the tiny couloirs on his shoulders.  It was a toil
which few men could have compassed, but he scarcely felt it--at
long last he was finding use for that physical strength which he
had so jealously conserved.  As he clutched the dripping, inert
body of his companion, he felt a strange affection.  This sodden
thing, so feeble and yet so precious!

The stream ceased, a few hundred yards of snowy screes followed,
and then they stood in the throat of the col.  Adam let Creevey
drop on the ground, and looked at his watch.  It was a little after
one o'clock.



The consciousness of having reached the summit seemed to rouse
Creevey to a new vigour.  He swallowed some brandy from Adam's
flask and found his voice.

"Will the snow help us?"  The words came from blue lips.  "Will it
hide us?  What about leaving the road?"

"There is no route but the one, and these men could follow tracks
in any weather."

"Then for God's sake let us get on."  He started down-hill at a
stumbling run.  So far the wind, which was from the north, had been
shut off by a wall of mountain, but the ravine on the Val Saluzzana
side took a northward turn, and they had now the drift in their
faces.  Adam caught the other's arm, for the way down the long
broken moraine was not easy, but his help was scarcely needed.
Creevey had got a new reserve of vigour with the downward slope,
his foothold was surer, and his face, plastered with the drift, was
human again.  On the last stage it had been washed clean of life
like a sick animal's.

"How much longer?" he gasped.

"Two hours--not more.  If the snow lasts we shall be safe, for it
will prevent them shooting."

Then the wind seemed to be shut off again, and they moved in a soft
feathery blanket.  Creevey spoke.

"I did not know the world was so savage," he muttered, and it
sounded like an apology.

"It is very near the edge," said Adam.

"You think I have helped to bring it to the edge? . . .  That is
what Loeffler believes. . . .  I thought it hysteria--he has a good
many blind patches in his mind. . . .  But he was right. . . .  If
we come through, you and I . . . I will go to Loeffler."

"Don't try to talk," Adam said.  "You will want all your strength."
The snow muffled sounds, and they moved in a world of deathly
stillness, but he had the sense of proximity which wild things
have, and it told him that the enemy had passed the col and were on
the moraine.  The hunters were faster by far than the hunted.

The snow was thinning.  Presently they struck the torrent which
came down from a tributary ravine, and the road now was in a narrow
gully.  The wind caught them again, and their immediate environs
were blown clear--the beetling cliffs on their left, like chocolate
dusted with sugar, the leaping white water, the icy ledge lipped by
it where the track lay. . . .

Adam looked back, and saw that the moraine by which they had come
was visible almost as far as the col.  There were figures on it,
moving fast like plover in a spring plough.  Half a mile behind--
less.  Within the next half-hour they must be overtaken.

A dozen plans flitted through his brain as he dragged Creevey down
the gully.  The latter had gone numb again, and was maintained only
by the other's resolution.  They were taking crazy chances, and
again and again Adam's arm saved him from disaster.  But no
audacity could avail them, for the relentless trackers behind were
their masters in pace, and the trail was for a child to read.
Creevey's breath was labouring and he was stumbling drunkenly.
Where was a hope, for hope there must be?  They could not fail on
the brink of success.

Suddenly they came to a point which Adam remembered.  A huge
boulder on the right was delicately poised above the track.  He
recollected it clearly, for here he had had to walk warily, since a
very little would have sent it crashing down to block the route for
ever.  A man could dislodge it--a man on the upper side--and bar
any further descent.  But that man must remain on the near side of
the chasm which he had created.  He would be shut off himself from
reaching the valley.

It was the sign which he had awaited, and a solemn gladness filled
his heart.  He had not been wrong in his hope, and his purpose was
now certain of fulfilment.  Creevey saw that his face was smiling,
and wondered.

"You must go on alone for a bit."  Adam's arm pulled him to a
standstill.  "We are almost over the bad patch.  After this the
road is easy.  The snow has stopped, and you will see where the
track runs.  Soon you will be among the trees."

"What do you mean? . . .  Are you going to stay and fight? . . .
I'll be damned if I leave you."  Creevey was nearly at the end of
his tether, but the weakness of his body was not reflected in his
angry eyes.

"There will be no fighting.  But I see a chance of blocking the
road.  On with you, for it is our only hope--a certain hope."

There was that in Adam's voice which could not be gainsaid.

"You will follow me?  Promise that, or I won't stir.  I must have
you with me--always. . . ."

"I will follow you.  I will be with you always."  Creevey heard the
words, but he did not see the look on the other's face.



Adam circumvented the boulder and reached a point on the cliff
above it, where its shallow roots clung to the mountain.  His
vantage ground gave him a view of Creevey stumbling downward
towards the easier slopes where the first pines began.  Very small
he looked as his figure grew dim in the brume.

Then Adam put forth his strength.  He found a stance where, with
his feet against living rock, he thought he could prise the boulder
from its hold. . . .  It quivered and moved, but at first it seemed
as if it were too deep-rooted to fall.  Desperation gave him the
little extra force which was needed, and suddenly the foreground
heaved, slipped, and with a sickening hollow sigh dropped into
nothingness.  Thunder awoke in the narrow glen, and the solid flank
of the mountain seemed to shudder.  The air was thick with dust and
snow, and Adam, perched above the abyss, was for a moment blinded.
Presently it cleared, and he saw that the side of the ravine had
been planed smooth, smooth as the glassy rock-wall of the torrent.
Only a bird could reach the Val Saluzzana. . . .

Creevey was safe.  He would be alarmed at the earthquake, and might
totter back to look for his friend, but sooner or later he would
reach the valley.  It did not matter how long he took, for he was
now beyond the reach of his enemies. . . .  Presently he would be
restored to a world which had sore need of him.  Loeffler would
have a potent ally.  The rock-fall was a curtain which cut him off
from his foes and inaugurated a new epoch in his life.  He would be
the same man, hungry, masterful, audacious, infinitely resourceful,
still striding with long quick steps, but his face would be turned
to another goal.  The gods did not stop half-way when they wrought
miracles.

Adam looked into the chasm which was filled with a fine dust like
spindrift.  That way lay the long road he had travelled since
boyhood.  Did his eyes deceive him, or was there some brightening
of the mist, as if somewhere behind it there were the fires of
sunset?  Pleasant things were there--all his youth with its hopes,
and all the tense striving of the last years--the grim things
forgotten and only the sunshine hours remaining.  His friends, too,
and Jacqueline above all.  He felt a warm uprush of affection, but
it was an affection without longing or regret.  He had seen life
and beauty and honour, and these things did not die; they would
endure to warm the world he was leaving.

He turned his face up the ravine whence he had come, and there the
air had the bitter clearness of an interval between snow-showers.
His range of vision was small, but every detail stood out hard and
bleak.  It was like the world he had seen from the Greenland ice-
cap, a world barren of life, the ante-chamber of death.  It was
motionless as the grave, for the wind had fallen.  But there was
movement in his ears.  He could hear the rasp of nailed boots on
stone, and what sounded like human speech.  The pack was closing in
on him.

                             *****

Then suddenly he saw beyond it.  His eyes were no longer looking at
clammy rock and lowering clouds, or the icy shoulder of the
Pomagognon lifting through a gap of cliff. . . .  They were on blue
water running out to where the afternoon sun made a great dazzle of
gold.  He knew that he had found the sea which had eluded him in
all his dreams.  He was in a bay of white sand, and in front,
crested with light foam, were the skerries where the grey seals
lived.  The scents of thyme and heather and salt were blent in a
divine elemental freshness.  Nigel had come back to him--he saw him
skipping by the edge of the tide--he saw him running towards him--
he felt his hand in his--he looked into eyes bright with trust and
love.  From those eyes he seemed to draw youth and peace and
immortality.

                             *****

A voice which was not Nigel's broke into his dream, but it did not
mar his peace.  There only remained the trivial business of dying.



THE END




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