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Title: Danger! and Other Stories (1918)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
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eBook No.: 0700581.txt
Language:  English
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Title: Danger! and Other Stories (1918)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle





CONTENTS

PREFACE
I DANGER!
II ONE CROWDED HOUR
III A POINT OF VIEW
IV THE FALL OF LORD BARRYMORE
V THE HORROR OF THE HEIGHTS
VI BORROWED SCENES
VII THE SURGEON OF GASTER FELL
VIII HOW IT HAPPENED
IX THE PRISONER'S DEFENCE
X THREE OF THEM:
   1. A CHAT ABOUT CHILDREN, SNAKES, AND ZEBUS
   2. ABOUT CRICKET
   3. SPECULATIONS
   4. THE LEATHERSKIN TRIBE



PREFACE


The Title story of this volume was written about eighteen months before
the outbreak of the war, and was intended to direct public attention to
the great danger which threatened this country. It is a matter of
history how fully this warning has been justified and how, even down to
the smallest details, the prediction has been fulfilled. The writer
must, however, most thankfully admit that what he did not foresee was
the energy and ingenuity with which the navy has found means to meet the
new conditions. The great silent battle which has been fought beneath
the waves has ended in the repulse of an armada far more dangerous than
that of Spain.

It may be objected that the writer, feeling the danger so strongly,
should have taken other means than fiction to put his views before the
authorities. The answer to this criticism is that he did indeed adopt
every possible method, that he personally approached leading naval men
and powerful editors, that he sent three separate minutes upon the
danger to various public bodies, notably to the Committee for National
Defence, and that he touched upon the matter in an article in the
Fortnightly Review. In some unfortunate way, subjects of national
welfare are in this country continually subordinated to party politics
so that a self-evident proposition, such as the danger of a nation being
fed from without, is waved aside and ignored, because it will not fit in
with some general political shibboleth. It is against this tendency that
we have to guard in the future, and we have to bear in mind that the
danger may recur, and that the remedies in the text (the only remedies
ever proposed) have still to be adopted. They are the sufficient
encouragement of agriculture, the making of adequate channel tunnels,
and the provision of submarine merchant men, which, on the estimate of
Mr. Lake, the American designer, could be made up to 7,000 ton burden at
an increased cost of about 25 per cent. It is true that in this war the
channel tunnels would not have helped us much in the matter of food, but
were France a neutral and supplies at liberty to come via Marseilles
from the East the difference would have been enormous. Apart from food,
however, when one considers the transports we have needed, their
convoys, the double handling of cargo, the interruptions of traffic from
submarines or bad weather, the danger and suffering of the wounded, and
all else that we owe to the insane opposition to the Channel Tunnels,
one questions whether there has ever been an example of national
stupidity being so rapidly and heavily punished. It is as clear as
daylight even now that it will take years to recover all our men and
material from France, and that if the tunnel (one will suffice for the
time) were at once set in hand, it might be ready to help in this task
and so free shipping for the return of the Americans.

One thing, however, is clear. It is far too big and responsible and
lucrative an undertaking for a private company, and it should be carried
out and controlled by Government, the proceeds being used towards the
war debt.

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE. Crowborough



I - DANGER!

BEING THE LOG OF CAPTAIN JOHN SIRIUS


It is an amazing thing that the English, who have the reputation of
being a practical nation, never saw the danger to which they were
exposed. For many years they had been spending nearly a hundred millions
a year upon their army and their fleet. Squadrons of Dreadnoughts
costing two millions each had been launched. They had spent enormous
sums upon cruisers, and both their torpedo and their submarine squadrons
were exceptionally strong. They were also by no means weak in their
aerial power, especially in the matter of hydroplanes. Besides all this,
their army was very efficient, in spite of its limited numbers, and it
was the most expensive in Europe. Yet when the day of trial came, all
this imposing force was of no use whatever, and might as well have not
existed. Their ruin could not have been more complete or more rapid if
they had not possessed an ironclad or a regiment. And all this was
accomplished by me, Captain John Sirius, belonging to the navy of one of
the smallest Powers in Europe, and having under my command a flotilla of
eight vessels, the collective cost of which was eighteen hundred
thousand pounds. No one has a better right to tell the story than I.

I will not trouble you about the dispute concerning the Colonial
frontier, embittered, as it was, by the subsequent death of the two
missionaries. A naval officer has nothing to do with politics. I only
came upon the scene after the ultimatum had been actually received.
Admiral Horli had been summoned to the Presence, and he asked that I
should be allowed to accompany him, because he happened to know that I
had some clear ideas as to the weak points of England, and also some
schemes as to how to take advantage of them. There were only four of us
present at this meeting the King, the Foreign Secretary, Admiral Horli,
and myself. The time allowed by the ultimatum expired in forty-eight
hours.

I am not breaking any confidence when I say that both the King and the
Minister were in favour of a surrender. They saw no possibility of
standing up against the colossal power of Great Britain. The Minister
had drawn up an acceptance of the British terms, and the King sat with
it before him on the table. I saw the tears of anger and humiliation run
down his cheeks as he looked at it.

"I fear that there is no possible alternative, Sire," said the Minister.
"Our envoy in London has just sent this report, which shows that the
public and the Press are more united than he has ever known them. The
feeling is intense, especially since the rash act of Malort in
desecrating the flag. We must give way."

The King looked sadly at Admiral Horli.

"What is your effective fleet, Admiral?" he asked.

"Two battleships, four cruisers, twenty torpedo-boats, and eight
submarines," said the Admiral.

The King shook his head.

"It would be madness to resist," said he.

"And yet, Sire," said the Admiral, "before you come to a decision I
should wish you to hear Captain Sirius, who has a very definite plan of
campaign against the English."

"Absurd!" said the King, impatiently. "What is the use? Do you imagine
that you could defeat their vast armada?"

"Sire," I answered, "I will stake my life that if you will follow my
advice you will, within a month or six weeks at the utmost, bring proud
England to her knees."

There was an assurance in my voice which arrested the attention of the
King.

"You seem self-confident, Captain Sirius."

"I have no doubt at all, Sire."

"What then would you advise?"

"I would advise, Sire, that the whole fleet be gathered under the forts
of Blankenberg and be protected from attack by booms and piles. There
they can stay till the war is over. The eight submarines, however, you
will leave in my charge to use as I think fit."

"Ah, you would attack the English battleships with submarines?"

"Sire, I would never go near an English battleship."

"And why not?"

"Because they might injure me, Sire."

"What, a sailor and afraid?"

"My life belongs to the country, Sire. It is nothing. But these eight
ships everything depends upon them. I could not risk them. Nothing would
induce me to fight."

"Then what will you do?"

"I will tell you, Sire." And I did so. For half an hour I spoke. I was
clear and strong and definite, for many an hour on a lonely watch I had
spent in thinking out every detail. I held them enthralled. The King
never took his eyes from my face. The Minister sat as if turned to
stone.

"Are you sure of all this?"

"Perfectly, Sire."

The King rose from the table.

"Send no answer to the ultimatum," said he. "Announce in both houses
that we stand firm in the face of menace. Admiral Horli, you will in all
respects carry out that which Captain Sirius may demand in furtherance
of his plan. Captain Sirius, the field is clear. Go forth and do as you
have said. A grateful King will know how to reward you."

I need not trouble you by telling you the measures which were taken at
Blankenberg, since, as you are aware, the fortress and the entire fleet
were destroyed by the British within a week of the declaration of war. I
will confine myself to my own plans, which had so glorious and final a
result.

The fame of my eight submarines, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Theta, Delta,
Epsilon, Iota, and Kappa, have spread through the world to such an
extent that people have begun to think that there was something peculiar
in their form and capabilities. This is not so. Four of them, the Delta,
Epsilon, Iota, and Kappa, were, it is true, of the very latest model,
but had their equals (though not their superiors) in the navies of all
the great Powers. As to Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Theta, they were by no
means modern vessels, and found their prototypes in the old F class of
British boats, having a submerged displacement of eight hundred tons,
with heavy oil engines of sixteen hundred horse-power, giving them a
speed of eighteen knots on the surface and of twelve knots submerged.
Their length was one hundred and eighty-six and their breadth
twenty-four feet. They had a radius of action of four thousand miles and
a submerged endurance of nine hours. These were considered the latest
word in 1915, but the four new boats exceeded them in all respects.
Without troubling you with precise figures, I may say that they
represented roughly a twenty-five per cent, advance upon the older
boats, and were fitted with several auxiliary engines which were wanting
in the others. At my suggestion, instead of carrying eight of the very
large Bakdorf torpedoes, which are nineteen feet long, weigh half a ton,
and are charged with two hundred pounds of wet gun-cotton, we had tubes
designed for eighteen of less than half the size. It was my design to
make myself independent of my base. And yet it was clear that I must
have a base, so I made arrangements at once with that object.
Blankenberg was the last place I would have chosen. Why should I have a
port of any kind? Ports would be watched or occupied. Any place would do
for me. I finally chose a small villa standing alone nearly five miles
from any village and thirty miles from any port. To this I ordered them
to convey, secretly by night, oil, spare parts, extra torpedoes, storage
batteries, reserve periscopes, and everything that I could need for
refitting. The little whitewashed villa of a retired confectioner that
was the base from which I operated against England.

The boats lay at Blankenberg, and thither I went. They were working
frantically at the defences, and they had only to look seawards to be
spurred to fresh exertions. The British fleet' was assembling. The
ultimatum had not yet expired, but it was evident that a blow would be
struck the instant that it did. Four of their aeroplanes, circling at an
immense height, were surveying our defences. From the top of the
lighthouse I counted thirty battleships and cruisers in the offing, with
a number of the trawlers with which in the British service they break
through the mine-fields. The approaches were actually sown with two
hundred mines, half contact and half observation, but the result showed
that they were insufficient to hold off the enemy, since three days
later both town and fleet were speedily destroyed.

However, I am not here to tell you the incidents of the war, but--to
explain my own part in it, which had such a decisive effect upon the
result. My first action was to send my four second-class boats away
instantly to the point which I had chosen for my base. There they were
to wait submerged, lying with negative buoyancy upon the sands in twenty
foot of water, and rising only at night. My strict orders were that they
were to attempt nothing upon the enemy, however tempting the
opportunity. All they had to do was to remain intact and unseen, until
they received further orders. Having made this clear to Commander Panza,
who had charge of this reserve flotilla, I shook him by the hand and
bade him farewell, leaving with him a sheet of notepaper upon which I
had explained the tactics to be used and given him certain general
principles which he could apply as circumstances demanded.

My whole attention was now given to my own flotilla, which I divided
into two divisions, keeping Iota and Kappa under my own command, while
Captain Miriam had Delta and Epsilon. He was to operate separately in
the British Channel, while my station was the Straits of Dover. I made
the whole plan of campaign clear to him. Then I saw that each ship was
provided with all it could carry. Each had forty tons of heavy oil for
surface propulsion and charging the dynamo which supplied the electric
engines under water. Each had also eighteen torpedoes as explained and
five hundred rounds for the collapsible quick-firing twelve-pounder
which we carried on deck, and which, of course, disappeared into a
water-tight tank when we were submerged. We carried spare periscopes and
a wireless mast, which could be elevated above the conning-tower when
necessary. There were provisions for sixteen days for the ten men who
manned each craft. Such was the equipment of the four boats which were
destined to bring to naught all the navies and armies of Britain. At
sundown that day it was April 10th we set forth upon our historic
voyage.

Miriam had got away in the afternoon, since he had so much farther to go
to reach his station. Stephan, of the Kappa, started with me; but, of
course, we realise that we must work independently, and that from that
moment when we shut the sliding hatches of our conning-towers on the
still waters of Blankenberg Harbour it was unlikely that we should ever
see each other again, though consorts in the same waters. I waved to
Stephan from the side of my conning-tower, and lie to me. Then I called
through the tube to my engineer (our water-tanks were already filled and
all kingstons and vents closed) to put her full speed ahead.

Just as we came abreast of the end of the pier and saw the white-capped
waves rolling in upon us, I put the horizontal rudder hard down and she
slid under water. Through my glass portholes I saw its light green
change to a dark blue, while the manometer in front of me indicated
twenty feet. I let her go to forty, because I should then be under the
warships of the English, though I took the chance of fouling the
moorings of our own floating contact mines. Then I brought her on an
even keel, and it was music to my ear to hear the gentle, even ticking
of my electric engines and to know that I was speeding at twelve miles
an hour on my great task.

At that moment, as I stood controlling my levers in my tower, I could
have seen, had my cupola been of glass, the vast shadows of the British
blockaders hovering above me. I held my course due westward for ninety
minutes, and then, by shutting off the electric engine without blowing
out the water-tanks, I brought her to the surface. There was a rolling
sea and the wind was freshening, so I did not think it safe to keep my
hatch open long, for so small is the margin of buoyancy that one must
run no risks. But from the crests of the rollers I had a look backwards
at Blankenberg, and saw the black funnels and upper works of the enemy's
fleet with the lighthouse and the castle behind them, all flushed with
the pink glow of the setting sun. Even as I looked there was the boom of
a great gun, and then another. I glanced at my watch. It was six
o'clock. The time of the ultimatum had expired. We were at war.

There was no craft near us, and our surface speed is nearly twice that
of our submerged, so I blew out the tanks and our whale-back came over
the surface. All night we were steering south-west, making an average of
eighteen knots.

At about five in the morning, as I stood alone upon my tiny bridge, I
saw, low down in the west, the scattered lights of the Norfolk coast.
"Ah, Johnny, Johnny Bull," I said, as I looked at them, "you are going
to have your lesson, and I am to be your master. It is I who have been
chosen to teach you that one cannot live under artificial conditions and
yet act as if they were natural ones. More foresight, Johnny, and less
party politics that is my lesson to you." And then I had a wave of pity,
too, when I thought of those vast droves of helpless people, Yorkshire
miners, Lancashire spinners, Birmingham metal-workers, the dockers and
workers of London, over whose little homes I would bring the shadow of
starvation. I seemed to see all those wasted eager hands held out for
food, and I, John Sirius, dashing it aside. Ah, well! war is war, and if
one is foolish one must pay the price. Just before daybreak I saw the
lights of a considerable town, which must have been Yarmouth, bearing
about ten miles west-south-west on our starboard bow. I took her farther
out, for it is a sandy, dangerous coast, with many shoals. At
five-thirty we were abreast of the Lowestoft lightship. A coast-guard was
sending up flash signals which faded into a pale twinkle as the white
dawn crept over the water. There was a good deal of shipping about,
mostly fishing-boats and small coasting craft, with one large steamer
hull-down to the west, and a torpedo destroyer between us and the land.
It could not harm us, and yet I thought it as well that there should be
no word of our presence, so I filled my tanks again and went down to ten
feet. I was pleased to find that we got under in one hundred and fifty
seconds. The life of one's boat may depend on this when a swift craft
comes suddenly upon you.

We were now within a few hours of our cruising ground, so I determined
to snatch a rest, leaving Vornal in charge. When he woke me at ten
o'clock we were running on the surface, and had reached the Essex coast
off the Maplin Sands. With that charming frankness which is one of their
characteristics, our friends of England had informed us by their Press
that they had put a cordon of torpedo-boats across the Straits of Dover
to prevent the passage of submarines, which is about as sensible as to
lay a wooden plank across a stream to keep the eels from passing. I knew
that Stephan, whose station lay at the western end of the Solent, would
have no difficulty in reaching it. My own cruising ground was to be at
the mouth of the Thames, and here I was at the very spot with my tiny
Iota, my eighteen torpedoes, my quick-firing gun, and, above all, a
brain that knew what should be done and how to do it.

When I resumed my place in the conning-tower I saw in the periscope (for
we had dived) that a lightship was within a few hundred yards of us upon
the port bow. Two men were sitting on her bulwarks, but neither of them
cast an eye upon the little rod that clove the water so close to them.
It was an ideal day for submarine action, with enough ripple upon the
surface to make us difficult to detect, and yet smooth enough to give me
a clear view. Each of my three periscopes had an angle of sixty degrees
so that between them I commanded a complete semi-circle of the horizon.
Two British cruisers were steaming north from the Thames within half a
mile of me. I could easily have cut them off and attacked them had I
allowed myself to be diverted from my great plan. Farther south a
destroyer was passing westwards to Sheerness. A dozen small steamers
were moving about. None of these were worthy of my notice. Great
countries are not provisioned by small steamers. I kept the engines
running at the lowest pace which would hold our position under water,
and, moving slowly across the estuary, I waited for what must assuredly
come.

I had not long to wait. Shortly after one o'clock I perceived in the
periscope a cloud of smoke to the south. Half an hour later a large
steamer raised her hull, making for the mouth of the Thames. I ordered
Vornal to stand by the starboard torpedo-tube, having the other also
loaded in case of a miss. Then I advanced slowly, for though the steamer
was going very swiftly we could easily cut her off. Presently I laid
the lot a in a position near which she must pass, and would very gladly
have lain to, but could not for fear of rising to the surface. I
therefore steered out in the direction from which she was coming. She
was a very large ship, fifteen thousand tons at the least, painted black
above and red below, with two cream-coloured funnels. She lay so low in
the water that it was clear she had a full cargo. At her bows were a
cluster of men, some of them looking, I dare say, for the first time at
the mother country. How little could they have guessed the welcome that
was awaiting them!

On she came with the great plumes of smoke floating from her funnels,
and two white waves foaming from her cut-water. She was within a quarter
of a mile. My moment had arrived. I signalled full speed ahead and
steered straight for her course. My timing was exact. At a hundred yards
I gave the signal, and heard the clank and swish of the discharge. At
the same instant I put the helm hard down and flew off at an angle.
There was a terrific lurch, which came from the distant explosion. For a
moment we were almost upon our side. Then, after staggering and
trembling, the Iota came on an even keel. I stopped the engines, brought
her to the surface, and opened the conning-tower, while all my excited
crew came crowding to the hatch to know what had happened.

The ship lay within two hundred yards of us, and it was easy to see that
she had her deathblow. She was already settling down by the stern. There
was a sound of shouting and people were running wildly about her decks.
Her name was visible, the Adela, of London, bound, as we afterwards
learned, from New Zealand with frozen mutton. Strange as it may seem to
you, the notion of a submarine had never even now occurred to her
people, and all were convinced that they had struck a floating mine. The
starboard quarter had been blown in by the explosion, and the ship was
sinking rapidly. Their discipline was admirable. We saw boat after boat
slip down crowded with people as swiftly and quietly as if it were part
of their daily drill. And suddenly, as one of the boats lay off waiting
for the others, they caught a glimpse for the first time of my
conning-tower so close to them. I saw them shouting and pointing, while
the men in the other boats got up to have a better look at us. For my
part, I cared nothing, for I took it for granted that they already knew
that a submarine had destroyed them. One of them clambered back into the
sinking ship. I was sure that he was about to send a wireless message as
to our presence. It mattered nothing, since, in any case, it must be
known; otherwise I could easily have brought him down with a rifle. As
it was, I waved my hand to them, and they waved back to me. War is too
big a thing to leave room for personal ill-feeling, but it must be
remorseless all the same.

I was still looking at the sinking Adela when Vornal, who was beside me,
gave a sudden cry of warning and surprise, gripping me by the shoulder
and turning my head. There behind us, coming up the fairway, was a huge
black vessel with black funnels, flying the well-known house-flag of the
P. and O. Company. She was not a mile distant, and I calculated in an
instant that even if she had seen us she would not have time to turn and
get away before we could reach her. We went straight for her, therefore,
keeping awash just as we were. They saw the sinking vessel in front of
them and that little dark speck moving over the surface, and they
suddenly understood their danger. I saw a number of men rush to the
bows, and there was a rattle of rifle-fire. Two bullets were flattened
upon our four-inch armour. You might as well try to stop a charging bull
with paper pellets as the Iota with rifle-fire. I had learned my lesson
from the Adda, and this time I had the torpedo discharged at a safer
distance two hundred and fifty yards. We caught her amidships and the
explosion was tremendous, but we were well outside its area. She sank
almost instantaneously. I am sorry for her people, of whom I hear that
more than two hundred, including seventy Lascars and forty passengers,
were drowned. Yes, I am sorry for them. But when I think of the huge
floating granary that went to the bottom, I rejoice as a man does who
has carried out that which he plans.

It was a bad afternoon that for the P. and O. Company. The second ship
which we destroyed was, as we have since learned, the Moldavia, of
fifteen thousand tons, one of their finest vessels; but about half-past
three we blew up the Cusco, of eight thousand, of the same line, also
from Eastern ports, and laden with corn. Why she came on in face of the
wireless messages which must have warned her of danger, I cannot
imagine. The other two steamers which we blew up that day, the Maid of
Athens (Robson Line) and the Cormorant, were neither of them provided
with apparatus, and came blindly to their destruction. Both were small
boats of from five thousand to seven thousand tons. In the case of the
second, I had to rise to the surface and fire six twelve-pound shells
under her water-line before she would sink. In each case the crew took
to the boats, and so far as I know no casualties occurred.

After that no more steamers came along, nor did I expect them. Warnings
must by this time have been flying in all directions. But we had no
reason to be dissatisfied with our first day. Between the Maplin Sands
and the Nore we had sunk five ships of a total tonnage of about fifty
thousand tons. Already the London markets would begin to feel the pinch.
And Lloyd's poor old Lloyd's what a demented state it would be in! I
could imagine the London evening papers and the howling in Fleet Street.
We saw the result of our actions, for it was quite laughable to see the
torpedo-boats buzzing like angry wasps out of Sheerness in the evening.
They were darting in every direction across the estuary, and the
aeroplanes and hydroplanes were like flights of crows, black dots
against the red western sky. They quartered the whole river mouth, until
they discovered us at last. Some sharp-sighted fellow with a telescope
on board of a destroyer got a sight of our periscope, and came for us
full speed. No doubt he would very gladly have rammed us, even if it had
meant his own destruction, but that was not part of our programme at
all. I sank her and ran her east-south-east with an occasional rise.
Finally we brought her to, not very far from the Kentish coast, and the
search-lights of our pursuers were far on the western skyline. There we
lay quietly all night, for a submarine at night is nothing more than a
very third-rate surface torpedo-boat. Besides, we were all weary and
needed rest. Do not forget, you captains of men, when you grease and
trim your pumps and compressors and rotators, that the human machine
needs some tending also.

I had put up the wireless mast above the conning-tower, and had no
difficulty in calling up Captain Stephan. He was lying, he said, off
Ventnor and had been unable to reach his station, on account of engine
trouble, which he had now set right. Next morning he proposed to block
the Southampton approach. He had destroyed one large Indian boat on his
way down Channel. We exchanged good wishes. Like myself, he needed rest.
I was up at four in the morning, however, and called all hands to
overhaul the boat. She was somewhat up by the head, owing to the forward
torpedoes having been used, so we trimmed her by opening the forward
compensating tank, admitting as much water as the torpedoes had weighed.
We also overhauled the starboard air-compressor and one of the periscope
motors which had been jarred by the shock of the first explosion. We had
hardly got ourselves shipshape when the morning dawned.

I have no doubt that a good many ships which had taken refuge in the
French ports at the first alarm had run across and got safely up the
river in the night. Of course I could have attacked them, but I do not
care to take risks and there are always risks for a submarine at night.
But one had miscalculated his time, and there she was, just abreast of
Warden Point, when the daylight disclosed her to us. In an instant we
were after her. It was a near thing, for she was a flier, and could do
two miles to our one; but we just reached her as she went swashing by.

She saw us at the last moment, for I attacked her awash, since otherwise
we could not have had the pace to reach her. She swung away and the
first torpedo missed, but the second took her full under the counter.
Heavens, what a smash! The whole stern seemed to go aloft. I drew off
and watched her sink. She went down in seven minutes, leaving her masts
and funnels over the water and a cluster of her people holding on to
them. She was the Virginia, of the Bibby Line twelve thousand tons and
laden, like the others, with foodstuffs from the East. The whole surface
of the sea was covered with the floating grain. "John Bull will have to
take up a hole or two of his belt if this goes on," said Vornal, as we
watched the scene.

And it was at that moment that the very worst danger occurred that could
befall us. I tremble now when I think how our glorious voyage might have
been nipped in the bud. I had freed the hatch of my tower, and was
looking at the boats of the Virginia with Vornal near me, when there was
a swish and a terrific splash in the water beside us, which covered us
both with spray. We looked up, and you can imagine our feelings when we
saw an aeroplane hovering a few hundred feet above us like a hawk. With
its silencer, it was perfectly noiseless, and had its bomb not fallen
into the sea we should never have known what had destroyed us. She was
circling round in the hope of dropping a second one, but we shoved on
all speed ahead, crammed down the rudders, and vanished into the side of
a roller. I kept the deflection indicator falling until I had put fifty
good feet of water between the aeroplane and ourselves, for I knew well
how deeply they can see under the surface. However, we soon threw her
off our track, and when we came to the surface near Margate there was no
sign of her, unless she was one of several which we saw hovering over
Herne Bay.

There was not a ship in the offing save a few small coasters and little
thousand-ton steamers, which were beneath my notice. For several hours I
lay submerged with a blank periscope. Then I had an inspiration. Orders
had been marconied to every food-ship to lie in French waters and dash
across after dark. I was as sure of it as if they had been recorded in
our own receiver. Well, if they were there, that was where I should be
also. I blew out the tanks and rose, for there was no sign of any
warship near. They had some good system of signalling from the shore,
however, for I had not got to the North Foreland before three destroyers
came foaming after me, all converging from different directions. They
had about as good a chance of catching me as three spaniels would have
of overtaking a porpoise. Out of pure bravado I know it was very wrong I
waited until they were actually within gunshot. Then I sank and we saw
each other no more.

It is, as I have said, a shallow sandy coast, and submarine navigation
is very difficult. The worst mishap that can befall a boat is to bury
its nose in the side of a sand-drift and be held there. Such an accident
might have been the end of our boat, though with our Fleuss cylinders
and electric lamps we should have found no difficulty in getting out at
the air-lock and in walking ashore across the bed of the ocean. As it
was, however, I was able, thanks to our excellent charts, to keep the
channel and so to gain the open straits. There we rose about midday,
but, observing a hydroplane at no great distance, we sank again for half
an hour. When we came up for the second time, all was peaceful around
us, and the English coast was lining the whole western horizon. We kept
outside the Goodwins and straight down Channel until we saw a line of
black dots in front of us, which I knew to be the Dover-Calais
torpedo-boat cordon. When two miles distant we dived and came up again
seven miles to the southwest, without one of them dreaming that we had
been within thirty feet of their keels.

When we rose, a large steamer flying the German flag was within half a
mile of us. It was the North German Lloyd Altona, from New York to
Bremen. I raised our whole hull and dipped our flag to her. It was
amusing to see the amazement of her people at what they must have
regarded as our unparalleled impudence in those English-swept waters.
They cheered us heartily, and the tricolour flag was dipped in greeting
as they went roaring past us. Then I stood in to the French coast.

It was exactly as I had expected. There were three great British
steamers lying at anchor in Boulogne outer harbour. They were the
Caesar, the King of the East, and the Pathfinder, none less than ten
thousand tons. I suppose they thought they were safe in French waters,
but what did I care about three-mile limits and international law! The
view of my Government was that England was blockaded, food contraband,
and vessels carrying it to be destroyed. The lawyers could argue about
it afterwards. My business was to starve the enemy any way I could.
Within an hour the three ships were under the waves and the Iota was
steaming down the Picardy coast, looking for fresh victims. The Channel
was covered with English torpedo-boats buzzing and whirling like a cloud
of midges. How they thought they could hurt me I cannot imagine, unless
by accident I were to come up underneath one of them. More dangerous
were the aeroplanes which circled here and there.

The water being calm, I had several times to descend as deep as a
hundred feet before I was sure that I was out of their sight. After I
had blown up the three ships at Boulogne I saw two aeroplanes flying
down Channel, and I knew that they would head off any vessels which were
coming up. There was one very large white steamer lying off Havre, but
she steamed west before I could reach her. I dare say Stephan or one of
the others would get her before long. But those infernal aeroplanes
spoiled our sport for that day. Not another steamer did I see, save the
never-ending torpedo-boats. I consoled myself with the reflection,
however, that no food was passing me on its way to London. That was what
I was there for, after all. If I could do it without spending my
torpedoes, all the better. Up to date I had fired ten of them and sunk
nine steamers, so I had not wasted my weapons. That night I came back to
the Kent coast and lay upon the bottom in shallow water near Dungeness.

We were all trimmed and ready at the first break of day, for I expected
to catch some ships which had tried to make the Thames in the darkness
and had miscalculated their time. Sure enough, there was a great steamer
coming up Channel and flying the American flag. It was all the same to
me what flag she flew so long as she was engaged in conveying contraband
of war to the British Isles. There were no torpedo-boats about at the
moment, so I ran out on the surface and fired a shot across her bows.
She seemed inclined to go on so I put a second one just above her
water-line on her port bow. She stopped then and a very angry man began
to gesticulate from the bridge. I ran the Iota almost alongside.

"Are you the captain?" I asked.

"What the--" I won't attempt to reproduce his language.

"You have food-stuffs on board?" I said.

"It's an American ship, you blind beetle!" he cried. "Can't you see the
flag? It's the Vermondia, of Boston."

"Sorry, Captain," I answered. "I have really no time for words. Those
shots of mine will bring the torpedo-boats, and I dare say at this very
moment your wireless is making trouble for me. Get your people into the
boats."

I had to show him I was not bluffing, so I drew off and began putting
shells into him just on the water-line. When I had knocked six holes in
it he was very busy on his boats. I fired twenty shots altogether, and
no torpedo was needed, for she was lying over with a terrible list to
port, and presently came right on to her side. There she lay for two or
three minutes before she foundered. There were eight boats crammed with
people lying round her when she went down. I believe everybody was
saved, but I could not wait to inquire. From all quarters the poor old
panting, useless war-vessels were hurrying. I filled my tanks, ran her
bows under, and came up fifteen miles to the south. Of course, I knew
there would be a big row afterwards as there was but that did not help
the starving crowds round the London bakers, who only saved their skins,
poor devils, by explaining to the mob that they had nothing to bake.

By this time I was becoming rather anxious, as you can imagine, to know
what was going on in the world and what England was thinking about it
all. I ran alongside a fishing-boat, therefore, and ordered them to give
up their papers. Unfortunately they had none, except a rag of an evening
paper, which was full of nothing but betting news. In a second attempt I
came alongside a small yachting party from Eastbourne, who were
frightened to death at our sudden appearance out of the depths. From
them we were lucky enough to get the London Courier of that very
morning.

It was interesting reading so interesting that I had to announce it all
to the crew. Of course, you know the British style of headline, which
gives you all the news at a glance. It seemed to me that the whole paper
was headlines, it was in such a state of excitement. Hardly a word about
me and my flotilla. We were on the second page. The first one began
something like this:

CAPTURE OF BLANKENBERG! DESTEUCTION OF ENEMY S FLEET BURNING OF TOWN
TRAWLERS DESTROY MINE FIELD LOSS OF TWO BATTLESHIPS IS IT THE END?

Of course, what I had foreseen had occurred. The town was actually
occupied by the British. And they thought it was the end! We would see
about that.

On the round-the-corner page, at the back of the glorious resonant
leaders, there was a little column which read like this:

HOSTILE SUBMARINES

"Several of the enemy's submarines are at sea, and have inflicted some
appreciable damage upon our merchant ships. The danger-spots upon Monday
and the greater part of Tuesday appear to have been the month of the
Thames and the western entrance to the Solent. On Monday, between the
Nore and Margate, there were sunk five large steamers, the Adda,
Moldavia, Cusco, Cormorant, and Maid of Athens, particulars of which
will be found below. Near Ventnor, on the same day, was sunk the
Verulam, from Bombay. On Tuesday the Virginia, Caesar, King of the East,
and Pathfinder were destroyed between the foreland and Boulogne. The
latter three were actually lying in French waters, and the most
energetic representations have been made by the Government of the
Republic. On the same day The Queen of Sheba, Orontes, Diana, and
Atalanta were destroyed near the Needles. Wireless messages have stopped
all ingoing cargo-ships from coming up Channel, but unfortunately there
is evidence that at least two of the enemy's submarines are in the West.
Four cattle-ships from Dublin to Liverpool were sunk yesterday evening,
while three Bristol-bound steamers, The Hilda, Mercury, and Maria Toser,
were blown up in the neighbourhood of Lundy Island. Commerce has, so far
as possible, been diverted into safer channels, but in the meantime,
however vexatious these incidents may be, and however grievous the loss
both to the owners and to Lloyd's, we may console ourselves by the
reflection that since a submarine cannot keep the sea for more than ten
days without refitting, and since the base has been captured, there must
come a speedy term to these depredations."

So much for the Courier's account of our proceedings. Another small
paragraph was, however, more eloquent:

"The price of wheat, which stood at thirty-five shillings a week before
the declaration of war, was quoted yesterday on the Baltic at fifty-two.
Maize has gone from twenty-one to thirty-seven, barley from nineteen to
thirty-five, sugar (foreign granulated) from eleven shillings and
threepence to nineteen shillings and sixpence."

"Good, my lads!" said I, when I read it to the crew. "I can assure you
that those few lines will prove to mean more than the whole page about
the Fall of Blankenberg. Now let us get down Channel and send those
prices up a little higher."

All traffic had stopped for London not so bad for the little Iota and we
did not see a steamer that was worth a torpedo between Dungeness and the
Isle of Wight. There I called Stephan up by wireless, and by seven
o'clock we were actually lying side by side in a smooth rolling sea
Hengistbury Head bearing N.N.W. and about five miles distant. The two
crews clustered on the whale-backs and shouted their joy at seeing
friendly faces once more. Stephan had done extraordinarily well. I had,
of course, read in the London paper of his four ships on Tuesday, but he
had sunk no fewer than seven since, for many of those which should have
come to the Thames had tried to make Southampton. Of the seven, one was
of twenty thousand tons, a grain-ship from America, a second was a
grain-ship from the Black Sea, and two others were great liners from
South Africa. I congratulated Stephan with all my heart upon his
splendid achievement. Then as we had been seen by a destroyer which was
approaching at a great pace, we both dived, coming up again off the
Needles, where we spent the night in company. We could not visit each
other, since we had no boat, but we lay so nearly alongside that we were
able, Stephan and I, to talk from hatch to hatch and so make our plans.

He had shot away more than half his torpedoes, and so had I, and yet we
were very averse from returning to our base so long as our oil held out.
I told him of my experience with the Boston steamer, and we mutually
agreed to sink the ships by gun-fire in future so far as possible. I
remember old Horli saying, "What use is a gun abroad a submarine?" We
were about to show. I read the English paper to Stephan by the light of
my electric torch, and we both agreed that few ships would now come up
the Channel. That sentence about diverting commerce to safer routes
could only mean that the ships would go round the North of Ireland and
unload at Glasgow. Oh, for two more ships to stop that entrance!
Heavens, what would England have done against a foe with thirty or forty
submarines, since we only needed six instead of four to complete her
destruction! After much talk we decided that the best plan would be that
I should despatch a cipher telegram next morning from a French port to
tell them to send the four second-rate boats to cruise off the North of
Ireland and West of Scotland. Then when I had done this I should move
down Channel with Stephan and operate at the mouth, while the other two
boats could work in the Irish Sea. Having made these plans, I set off
across the Channel in the early morning, reaching the small village of
Etretat, in Brittany. There I got off my telegram and then laid my
course for Falmouth, passing under the keels of two British cruisers
which were making eagerly for Etretat, having heard by wireless that we
were there.

Half-way down Channel we had trouble with a short circuit in our
electric engines, and were compelled to run on the surface for several
hours while we replaced one of the cam-shafts and renewed some washers.
It was a ticklish time, for had a torpedo-boat come upon us we could not
have dived. The perfect submarine of the future will surely have some
alternative engines for such an emergency. However by the skill of
Engineer Morro, we got things going once more. All the time we lay there
I saw a hydroplane floating between us and the British coast. I can
understand how a mouse feels when it is in a tuft of grass and sees a
hawk high up in the heavens. However, all went well; the mouse became a
water-rat, it wagged its tail in derision at the poor blind old hawk,
and it dived down into a nice safe green, quiet world where there was
nothing to injure it.

It was on the Wednesday night that the Iota crossed to Etretat. It was
Friday afternoon before we had reached our new cruising ground. Only one
large steamer did I see upon our way. The terror we had caused had
cleared the Channel. This big boat had a clever captain on board. His
tactics were excellent and took him in safety to the Thames. He came
zigzagging up Channel at twenty-five knots, shooting off from his course
at all sorts of unexpected angles. With our slow pace we could not catch
him, nor could we calculate his line so as to cut him off. Of course, he
had never seen us, but he judged, and judged rightly, that wherever we
were those were the tactics by which he had the best chance of getting
past. He deserved his success.

But, of course, it is only in a wide Channel that such things can be
done. Had I met him in the mouth of the Thames there would have been a
different story to tell. As I approached Falmouth I destroyed a
three-thousand-ton boat from Cork, laden with butter and cheese. It was
my only success for three days.

That night (Friday, April 16th) I called up Stephan, but received no
reply. As I was within a few miles of our rendezvous, and as he would
not be cruising after dark, I was puzzled to account for his silence. I
could only imagine that his wireless was deranged. But, alas! I was soon
to find the true reason from a copy of the Western Morning News, which I
obtained from a Brixham trawler. The Kappa, with her gallant commander
and crew, were at the bottom of the English Channel.

It appeared from this account that after I had parted from him he had
met and sunk no fewer than five vessels. I gathered these to be his
work, since all of them were by gun fire, and all were on the south
coast of Dorset or Devon. How he met his fate was stated in a short
telegram which was headed "Sinking of a Hostile Submarine." It was
marked "Falmouth," and ran thus:

The P. and O. mail steamer Macedonia came into this port last night with
five shell holes between wind and water. She reports having been
attacked by a hostile submarine ten miles to the south-east of the
Lizard. Instead of using her torpedoes, the submarine for some reason
approached from the surface and fired five shots from a semi-automatic
twelve-pounder gun. She was evidently under the impression that the
Macedonia was unarmed. As a matter of fact, being warned of the presence
of submarines in the Channel, the Macedonia had mounted her armament as
an auxiliary cruiser. She opened fire with two quick-firers and blew
away the conning-tower of the submarine. It is probable that the shells
went right through her, as she sank at once with her hatches open. The
Macedonia was only kept afloat by her pumps.

Such was the end of the Kappa, and my gallant friend, Commander Stephan.
His best epitaph was in a corner of the same paper, and was headed "Mark
Lane." It ran:

"Wheat (average) 66, maize 48, barley 50." Well, if Stephan was gone
there was the more need for me to show energy. My plans were quickly
taken, but they were comprehensive. All that day (Saturday) I passed
down the Cornish coast and round Land's End, getting two steamers on the
way. I had learned from Stephan's fate that it was better to torpedo the
large craft, but I was aware that the auxiliary cruisers of the British
Government were all over ten thousand tons, so that for all ships under
that size it was safe to use my gun. Both these craft, the Yelland and
the Playboy the latter an American ship were perfectly harmless, so I
came up within a hundred yards of them and speedily sank them, after
allowing their people to get into boats. Some other steamers lay farther
out, but I was so eager to make my new arrangements that I did not go
out of my course to molest them. Just before sunset, however, so
magnificent a prey came within my radius of action that I could not
possibly refuse her. No sailor could fail to recognise that glorious
monarch of the sea, with her four cream funnels tipped with black, her
huge black sides, her red bilges, and her high white top-hamper, roaring
up Channel at twenty-three knots, and carrying her forty-five thousand
tons as lightly as if she were a five-ton motor-boat. It was the queenly
Olympic, of the White Star once the largest and still the comeliest of
liners. What a picture she made, with the blue Cornish sea creaming
round her giant fore-foot, and the pink western sky with one evening
star forming the background to her noble lines.

She was about five miles off when we dived to cut her off. My
calculation was exact. As we came abreast we loosed our torpedo and
struck her fair. We swirled round with the concussion of the water. I
saw her in my periscope list over on her side, and I knew that she had
her deathblow. She settled down slowly, and there was plenty of time to
save her people. The sea was dotted with her boats. When I got about
three miles off I rose to the surface, and the whole crew clustered up
to see the wonderful sight. She dived bows foremost, and there was a
terrific explosion, which sent one of the funnels into the air. I
suppose we should have cheered somehow, none of us felt like cheering.
We were all keen sailors, and it went to our hearts to see such a ship
go down like a broken egg-shell. I gave a gruff order, and all were at
their posts again while we headed north-west. Once round the Land's End
I called up my two consorts, and we met next day at Hartland Point, the
south end of Bideford Bay. For the moment the Channel was clear, but the
English could not know it, and I reckoned that the loss of the Olympic
would stop all ships for a day or two at least.

Having assembled the Delta and Epsilon, one on each side of me, I
received the report from Miriam and Var, the respective commanders. Each
had expended twelve torpedoes, and between them they had sunk twenty-two
steamers. One man had been killed by the machinery on board of the
Delta, and two had been burned by the ignition of some oil on the
Epsilon. I took these injured men on board, and I gave each of the boats
one of my crew. I also divided my spare oil, my provisions, and my
torpedoes among them, though we had the greatest possible difficulty in
those crank vessels in transferring them from one to the other. However,
by ten o'clock it was done, and the two vessels were in condition to
keep the sea for another ten days. For my part, with only two torpedoes
left, I headed north up the Irish Sea. One of my torpedoes I expended
that evening upon a cattle-ship making for Milford Haven. Late at night,
being abreast of Holyhead, I called upon my four northern boats, but
without reply. Their Marconi range is very limited. About three in the
afternoon of the next day I had a feeble answer. It was a great relief
to me to find that my telegraphic instructions had reached them and that
they were on their station. Before evening we all assembled in the lee
of Sanda Island, in the Mull of Kintyre. I felt an admiral indeed when I
saw my five whale-backs all in a row. Panza's report was excellent. They
had come round by the Pentland Firth and reached their cruising ground
on the fourth day. Already they had destroyed twenty vessels without any
mishap. I ordered the Beta to divide her oil and torpedoes among the
other three, so that they were in good condition to continue their
cruise. Then the Beta and I headed for home, reaching our base upon
Sunday, April 25th. Off Cape Wrath I picked up a paper from a small
schooner.

"Wheat, 84; Maize, 60; Barley, 62." What were battles and bombardments
compared to that!

The whole coast of Norland was closely blockaded by cordon within
cordon, and every port, even the smallest, held by the British. But why
should they suspect my modest confectioner's villa more than any other
of the ten thousand houses that face the sea? I was glad when I picked
up its homely white front in my periscope. That night I landed and found
my stores intact. Before morning the Beta reported itself, for we had
the windows lit as a guide.

It is not for me to recount the messages which I found waiting for me at
my humble headquarters. They shall ever remain as the patents of
nobility of my family. Among others was that never-to-be-forgotten
salutation from my King. He desired me to present myself at Hauptville,
but for once I took it upon myself to disobey his commands. It took me
two days or rather two nights, for we sank ourselves during the daylight
hours to get all our stores on board, but my presence was needful every
minute of the time. On the third morning, at four o'clock, the Beta and
my own little flagship were at sea once more, bound for our original
station off the mouth of the Thames.

I had no time to read our papers whilst I was refitting, but I gathered
the news after we got under way. The British occupied all our ports, but
otherwise we had not suffered at all, since we have excellent railway
communications with Europe. Prices had altered little, and our
industries continued as before. There was talk of a British invasion,
but this I knew to be absolute nonsense, for the British must have
learned by this time that it would be sheer murder to send transports
full of soldiers to sea in the face of submarines. When they have a
tunnel they can use their fine expeditionary force upon the Continent,
but until then it might just as well not exist so far as Europe is
concerned. My own country, therefore, was in good case and had nothing
to fear. Great Britain, however, was already feeling my grip upon her
throat. As in normal times four-fifths of her food is imported, prices
were rising by leaps and bounds. The supplies in the country were
beginning to show signs of depletion, while little was coming in to
replace it. The insurances at Lloyd's had risen to a figure which made
the price of the food prohibitive to the mass of the people by the time
it had reached the market. The loaf, which under ordinary circumstances
stood at five-pence, was already at one and twopence. Beef was three
shillings and fourpence a pound, and mutton two shillings and nine-pence.
Everything else was in proportion. The Government had acted with energy
and offered a big bounty for corn to be planted at once. It could only
be reaped five months hence, however, and long before then, as the
papers pointed out, half the island would be dead from starvation.
Strong appeals had been made to the patriotism of the people, and they
were assured that the interference with trade was temporary, and that
with a little patience all would be well. But already there was a marked
rise in the death-rate, especially among children, who suffered from
want of milk, the cattle being slaughtered for food. There was serious
rioting in the Lanarkshire coalfields and in the Midlands, together with
a Socialistic upheaval in the East of London, which had assumed the
proportions of a civil war. Already there were responsible papers which
declared that England was in an impossible position, and that an
immediate peace was necessary to prevent one of the greatest tragedies
in history. It was my task now to prove to them that they were right.

It was May 2nd when I found myself back at the Maplin Sands to the north
of the estuary of the Thames. The Beta was sent on to the Solent to
block it and take the place of the lamented Kappa. And now I was
throttling Britain indeed London, Southampton, the Bristol Channel,
Liverpool, the North Channel, the Glasgow approaches, each was guarded
by my boats. Great liners were, as we learned afterwards, pouring their
supplies into Galway and the West of Ireland, where provisions were
cheaper than has ever been known. Tens of thousands were embarking from
Britain for Ireland in order to save themselves from starvation. But you
cannot transplant a whole dense population. The main body of the people,
by the middle of May, were actually starving. At that date wheat was at
a hundred, maize and barley at eighty. Even the most obstinate had begun
to see that the situation could not possibly continue.

In the great towns starving crowds clamoured for bread before the
municipal offices, and public officials everywhere were attacked and
often murdered by frantic mobs, composed largely of desperate women who
had seen their infants perish before their eyes. In the country, roots,
bark, and weeds of every sort were used as food. In London the private
mansions of Ministers were guarded by strong pickets of soldiers, while
a battalion of Guards was camped permanently round the Houses of
Parliament. The lives of the Prime Minister and of the Foreign Secretary
were continually threatened and occasionally attempted. Yet the
Government had entered upon the war with the full assent of every party
in the State. The true culprits were those, be they politicians or
journalists, who had not the foresight to understand that unless Britain
grew her own supplies, or unless by means of a tunnel she had some way
of conveying them into the island, all her mighty expenditure upon her
army and her fleet was a mere waste of money so long as her antagonists
had a few submarines and men who could use them. England has often been
stupid, but has got off scot-free. This time she was stupid and had to
pay the price. You can't expect Luck to be your saviour always.

It would be a mere repetition of what I have already described if I were
to recount all our proceedings during that first ten days after I
resumed my station. During my absence the ships had taken heart and had
begun to come up again. In the first day I got four. After that I had to
go farther afield, and again I picked up several in French waters. Once
I had a narrow escape through one of my kingston valves getting some
grit into it and refusing to act when I was below the surface. Our
margin of buoyancy just carried us through. By the end of that week the
Channel was clear again, and both Beta and my own boat were down West
once more. There we had encouraging messages from our Bristol consort,
who in turn had heard from Delta at Liverpool. Our task was completely
done. We could not prevent all food from passing into the British
Islands, but at least we had raised what did get in to a price which put
it far beyond the means of the penniless, workless multitudes. In vain
Government commandeered it all and doled it out as a general feeds the
garrison of a fortress. The task was too great the responsibility too
horrible. Even the proud and stubborn English could not face it any
longer.

I remember well how the news came to me. I was lying at the time off
Selsey Bill when I saw a small war-vessel coming down Channel. It had
never been my policy to attack any vessel coming down. My torpedoes and
even my shells were too precious for that. I could not help being
attracted, however, by the movements of this ship, which came slowly
zigzagging in my direction.

"Looking for me," thought I. "What on earth does the foolish thing hope
to do if she could find me?"

I was lying awash at the time and got ready to go below in case she
should come for me. But at that moment she was about half a mile away
she turned her quarter, and there to my amazement was the red flag with
the blue circle, our own beloved flag, flying from her peak. For a
moment I thought that this was some clever dodge of the enemy to tempt
me within range. I snatched up my glasses and called on Vornal. Then we
both recognised the vessel. It was the Juno, the only one left intact of
our own cruisers. What could she be doing flying the flag in the enemy's
waters? Then I understood it, and turning to Vornal, we threw ourselves
into each other's arms. It could only mean an armistice or peace!

And it was peace. We learned the glad news when we had risen alongside
the Juno, and the ringing cheers which greeted us had at last died away.
Our orders were to report ourselves at once at Blankenberg. Then she
passed on down Channel to collect the others. We returned to port upon
the surface, steaming through the whole British fleet as we passed up
the North Sea. The crews clustered thick along the sides of the vessels
to watch us. I can see now their sullen, angry faces. Many shook their
fists and cursed us as we went by. It was not that we had damaged them I
will do them the justice to say that the English, as the old Boer War
has proved, bear no resentment against a brave enemy but that they
thought us cowardly to attack merchant ships and avoid the warships. It
is like the Arabs who think that a flank attack is a mean, unmanly
device. War is not a big game, my English friends. It is a desperate
business to gain the upper hand, and one must use one's brain in order
to find the weak spot of one's enemy. It it not fair to blame me if I
have found yours. It was my duty. Perhaps those officers and sailors who
scowled at the little Iota that May morning have by this time done me
justice when the first bitterness of undeserved defeat was passed.

Let others describe my entrance into Blankenberg; the mad enthusiasm of
the crowds, and the magnificent public reception of each successive boat
as it arrived. Surely the men deserved the grant made them by the State
which has enabled each of them to be independent for life. As a feat of
endurance, that long residence in such a state of mental tension in
cramped quarters, breathing an unnatural atmosphere, will long remain as
a record. The country may well be proud of such sailors.

The terms of peace were not made onerous, for we were in no condition to
make Great Britain our permanent enemy. We knew well that we had won the
war by circumstances which would never be allowed to occur again, and
that in a few years the Island Power would be as strong as ever
stronger, perhaps for the lesson that she had learned. It would be
madness to provoke such an antagonist. A mutual salute of flags was
arranged, the Colonial boundary was adjusted by arbitration, and we
claimed no indemnity beyond an undertaking on the part of Britain that
she would pay any damages which an International Court might award to
France or to the United States for injury received through the
operations of our submarines. So ended the war!

Of course, England will not be caught napping in such a fashion again!
Her foolish blindness is partly explained by her delusion that her enemy
would not torpedo merchant vessels. Common sense should have told her
that her enemy will play the game that suits them best that they will
not inquire what they may do, but they will do it first and talk about
it afterwards. The opinion of the whole world now is that if a blockade
were proclaimed one may do what one can with those who try to break it,
and that it was as reasonable to prevent food from reaching England in
war time as it is for a besieger to prevent the victualling of a
beleaguered fortress.

"I cannot end this account better than by quoting the first few
paragraphs of a leader in the Times, which appeared shortly after the
declaration of peace. It may be taken to epitomise the saner public
opinion of England upon the meaning and lessons of the episode.

"In all this miserable business," said the writer, "which has cost us
the loss of a considerable portion of our merchant fleet and more than
fifty thousand civilian lives, there is just one consolation to be
found. It lies in the fact that our temporary conqueror is a Power which
is not strong enough to reap the fruits of her victory. Had we endured
this humiliation at the hands of any of the first-class Powers it would
certainly have entailed the loss of all our Crown Colonies and tropical
possessions, besides the payment of a huge indemnity. We were absolutely
at the feet of our conqueror and had no possible alternative but to
submit to her terms, however onerous. Norland has had the good sense to
understand that she must not abuse her temporary advantage, and has been
generous in her dealings. In the grip of any other Power we should have
ceased to exist as an Empire.

"Even now we are not out of the wood. Some one may maliciously pick a
quarrel with us before we get our house in order, and use the easy
weapon which has been demonstrated. It is to meet such a contingency
that the Government has rushed enormous stores of food at the public
expense into the country. In a very few months the new harvest will have
appeared. On the whole we can face the immediate future without undue
depression, though there remain some causes for anxiety. These will no
doubt be energetically handled by this new and efficient Government,
which has taken the place of those discredited politicians who led us
into a war without having foreseen how helpless we were against an
obvious form of attack.

"Already the lines of our reconstruction are evident. The first and most
important is that our Party men realise that there is something more
vital than their academic disputes about Free Trade or Protection, and
that all theory must give way to the fact that a country is in an
artificial and dangerous condition if she does not produce within her
own borders sufficient food to at least keep life in her population.
Whether this should be brought about by a tax upon foreign foodstuffs,
or by a bounty upon home products, or by a combination of the two, is
now under discussion. But all Parties are combined upon the principle,
and, though it will undoubtedly entail either a rise in prices or a
deterioration in quality in the food of the working-classes, they will
at least be insured against so terrible a visitation as that which is
fresh in our memories. At any rate, we have got past the stage of
argument. It must be so. The increased prosperity of the farming
interest, and, as we will hope, the cessation of agricultural
emigration, will be benefits to be counted against the obvious
disadvantages.

"The second lesson is the immediate construction of not one but two
double-lined railways under the Channel. We stand in a white sheet over
the matter, since the project has always been discouraged in these
columns, but we are prepared to admit that had such railway
communication been combined with adequate arrangements for forwarding
supplies from Marseilles, we should have avoided our recent surrender.
We still insist that we cannot trust entirely to a tunnel, since our
enemy might have allies in the Mediterranean; but in a single contest
with any Power of the North of Europe it would certainly be of
inestimable benefit. There may be dangers attendant upon the existence
of a tunnel, but it must now be admitted that they are trivial compared
to those which come from its absence. As to the building of large fleets
of merchant submarines for the carriage of food, that is a new departure
which will be an additional insurance against the danger which has left
so dark a page in the history of our country."



II - ONE CROWDED HOUR


The place was the Eastbourne-Tunbridge road, not very far from the Cross
in Hand a lonely stretch, with a heath running upon either side. The
time was half-past eleven upon a Sunday night in the late summer. A
motor was passing slowly down the road.

It was a long, lean Rolls-Royce, running smoothly with a gentle purring
of the engine. Through the two vivid circles cast by the electric
head-lights the waving grass fringes and clumps of heather streamed
swiftly like some golden cinematograph, leaving a blacker darkness
behind and around them. One ruby-red spot shone upon the road, but no
number-plate was visible within the dim ruddy halo of the tail-lamp
which cast it. The car was open and of a tourist type, but even in that
obscure light, for the night was moonless, an observer could hardly fail
to have noticed a curious indefiniteness in its lines. As it slid into
and across the broad stream of light from an open cottage door the
reason could be seen. The body was hung with a singular loose
arrangement of brown holland. Even the long black bonnet was banded with
some close-drawn drapery.

The solitary man who drove this curious car was broad and burly. He sat
hunched up over his steering-wheel, with the brim of a Tyrolean hat
drawn down over his eyes. The red end of a cigarette smouldered under
the black shadow thrown by the headgear. A dark ulster of some
frieze-like material was turned up in the collar until it covered his
ears. His neck was pushed forward from his rounded shoulders, and he
seemed, as the car now slid noiselessly down the long, sloping road,
with the clutch disengaged and the engine running free, to be peering
ahead of him through the darkness in search of some eagerly-expected
object.

The distant toot of a motor-horn came faintly from some point far to the
south of him. On such a night, at such a place, all traffic must be from
south to north when the current of London week-enders sweeps back from
the watering-place to the capital from pleasure to duty. The man sat
straight and listened intently. Yes, there it was again, and certainly
to the south of him. His face was over the wheel and his eyes strained
through the darkness. Then suddenly he spat out his cigarette and gave a
sharp intake of the breath. Far away down the road two little yellow
points had rounded a curve. They vanished into a dip, shot upwards once
more, and then vanished again. The inert man in the draped car woke
suddenly into intense life. From his pocket he pulled a mask of dark
cloth, which he fastened securely across his face, adjusting it
carefully that his sight might be unimpeded. For an instant he uncovered
an acetylene hand-lantern, took a hasty glance at his own preparations,
and laid it beside a Mauser pistol upon the seat alongside him. Then,
twitching his hat down lower than ever, he released his clutch and slid
downward his gear-lever. With a chuckle and shudder the long, black
machine sprang forward, and shot with a soft sigh from her powerful
engines down the sloping gradient. The driver stooped and switched off
his electric head-lights. Only a dim grey swathe cut through the black
heath indicated the line of his road. From in front there came presently
a confused puffing and rattling and clanging as the oncoming car
breasted the slope. It coughed and spluttered on a powerful,
old-fashioned low gear, while its engine throbbed like a weary heart.
The yellow, glaring lights dipped for the last time into a switchback
curve. When they reappeared over the crest the two cars were within
thirty yards of each other. The dark one darted across the road and
barred the other's passage, while a warning acetylene lamp was waved in
the air. With a jarring of brakes the noisy new-comer was brought to a
halt.

"I say," cried an aggrieved voice, "'pon my soul, you know, we might
have had an accident. Why the devil don't you keep your head-lights on?
I never saw you till I nearly burst my radiators on you!"

The acetylene lamp, held forward, discovered a very angry young man,
blue-eyed, yellow-moustached, and florid, sitting alone at the wheel of
an antiquated twelve-horse Wolseley. Suddenly the aggrieved look upon
his flushed face changed to one of absolute bewilderment. The driver in
the dark car had sprung out of the seat, a black, long-barrelled,
wicked-looking pistol was poked in the traveller's face, and behind the
further sights of it was a circle of black cloth with two deadly eyes
looking from as many slits.

"Hands up!" said a quick, stern voice. "Hands up! or, by the Lord--"

The young man was as brave as his neighbour, but the hands went up all
the same.

"Get down!" said his assailant, curtly.

The young man stepped forth into the road, followed closely by the
covering lantern and pistol. Once he made as if he would drop his hands,
but a short, stern word jerked them up again.

"I say, look here, this is rather out o'date, ain't it?" said the
traveller. "I expect you're joking what?"

"Your watch," said the man behind the Mauser pistol.

"You can't really mean it!"

"Your watch, I say!"

"Well, take it, if you must. It's only plated, anyhow. You're two
centuries out in time, or a few thousand miles longitude. The bush is
your mark or America. You don't seem in the picture on a Sussex road."

"Purse," said the man. There was something very compelling in his voice
and methods. The purse was handed over.

"Any rings?"

"Don't wear em."

"Stand there! Don't move!"

The highwayman passed his victim and threw open the bonnet of the
Wolseley. His hand, with a pair of steel pliers, was thrust deep into
the works. There was the snap of a parting wire.

"Hang it all, don't crock my car!" cried the traveller.

He turned, but quick as a flash the pistol was at his head once more.
And yet even in that flash, whilst the robber whisked round from the
broken circuit, something had caught the young man's eye which made him
gasp and start. He opened his mouth as if about to shout some words.
Then with an evident effort he restrained himself.

"Get in," said the highwayman.

The traveller climbed back to his seat.

"What is your name?"

"Ronald Barker. What's yours?"

The masked man ignored the impertinence.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"My cards are in my purse. Take one."

The highwayman sprang into his car, the engine of which had hissed and
whispered in gentle accompaniment to the interview. With a clash he
threw back his side-brake, flung in his gears, twirled the wheel hard
round, and cleared the motionless Wolseley. A minute later he was
gliding swiftly, with all his lights gleaming, some half-mile southward
on the road, while Mr. Ronald Barker, a side-lamp in his hand, was
rummaging furiously among the odds and ends of his repair-box for a
strand of wire which would connect up his electricity and set him on his
way once more.

When he had placed a safe distance between himself and his victim, the
adventurer eased up, took his booty from his pocket, replaced the watch,
opened the purse, and counted out the money. Seven shillings constituted
the miserable spoil. The poor result of his efforts seemed to amuse
rather than annoy him, for he chuckled as he held the two half-crowns
and the florin in the glare of his lantern. Then suddenly his manner
changed. He thrust the thin purse back into his pocket, released his
brake, and shot onwards with the same tense bearing with which he had
started upon his adventure. The lights of another car were coming down
the road.

On this occasion the methods of the highwayman were less furtive.
Experience had clearly given him confidence. With lights still blazing,
he ran towards the new-comers, and, halting in the middle of the road,
summoned them to stop. From the point of view of the astonished
travellers the result was sufficiently impressive. They saw in the glare
of their own head-lights two glowing discs on either side of the long,
black-muzzled snout of a high-power car, and above the masked face and
menacing figure of its solitary driver. In the golden circle thrown by
the rover there stood an elegant, open-topped, twenty-horse Humber, with
an undersized and very astonished chauffeur blinking from under his
peaked cap. From behind the wind-screen the veil-bound hats and
wondering faces of two very pretty young women protruded, one upon
either side, and a little crescendo of frightened squeaks announced the
acute emotion of one of them. The other was cooler and more critical.

"Don't give it away, Hilda," she whispered. "Do shut up, and don't be
such a silly. It's Bertie or one of the boys playing it on us."

"No, no! It's the real thing, Flossie. It's a robber, sure enough. Oh,
my goodness, whatever shall we do?"

"What an 'ad.'!" cried the other. "Oh, what a glorious 'ad.'! Too late
now for the mornings, but they'll have it in every evening paper, sure."

"What's it going to cost?" groaned the other. "Oh, Flossie, Flossie, I'm
sure I'm going to faint! Don't you think if we both screamed together we
could do some good? Isn't he too awful with that black thing over his
face? Oh, dear, oh, dear! He's killing poor little Alf!"

The proceedings of the robber were indeed somewhat alarming. Springing
down from his car, he had pulled the chauffeur out of his seat by the
scruff of his neck. The sight of the Mauser had cut short all
remonstrance, and under its compulsion the little man had pulled open
the bonnet and extracted the sparking plugs. Eaving thus secured the
immobility of his capture, the masked man walked forward, lantern in
hand, to the side of the car. He had laid aside the gruff sternness with
which he had treated Mr. Ronald Barker, and his voice and manner were
gentle, though determined. He even raised his hat as a prelude to his
address.

"I am sorry to inconvenience you, ladies," said he, and his voice had
gone up several notes since the previous interview. "May I ask who you
are?"

Miss Hilda was beyond coherent speech, but Miss Flossie was of a sterner
mould.

"This is a pretty business," said she. "What right have you to stop us
on the public road, I should like to know?"

"My time is short," said the robber, in a sterner voice. "I must ask you
to answer my question."

"Tell him, Flossie! For goodness' sake be nice to him!" cried Hilda.

"Well, we're from the Gaiety Theatre, London, if you want to know," said
the young lady. "Perhaps you've heard of Miss Flossie Thornton and Miss
Hilda Mannering? We've been playing a week at the Royal at Eastbourne,
and took a Sunday off to ourselves. So now you know!"

"I must ask you for your purses and for your jewellery."

Both ladies set up shrill expostulations, but they found, as Mr. Ronald
Barker had done, that there was something quietly compelling in this
man's methods. In a very few minutes they had handed over their purses,
and a pile of glittering rings, bangles, brooches, and chains was lying
upon the front seat of the car. The diamonds glowed and shimmered like
little electric points in the light of the lantern. He picked up the
glittering tangle and weighed it in his hand.

"Anything you particularly value?" he asked the ladies; but Miss Flossie
was in no humour for concessions.

"Don't come the Claude Duval over us," said she. "Take the lot or leave
the lot. We don't want bits of our own given back to us."

"Except just Billy's necklace!" cried Hilda, and snatched at a little
rope of pearls. The robber bowed, and released his hold of it.

"Anything else?"

The valiant Flossie began suddenly to cry. Hilda did the same. The
effect upon the robber was surprising. He threw the whole heap of
jewellery into the nearest lap.

"There! there! Take it!" he said. "It's trumpery stuff, anyhow. It's
worth something to you, and nothing to me."

Tears changed in a moment to smiles.

"You're welcome to the purses. The 'ad.' is worth ten times the money.
But what a funny way of getting a living nowadays! Aren't you afraid of
being caught? It's all so wonderful, like a scene from a comedy."

"It may be a tragedy," said the robber.

"Oh, I hope not I'm sure I hope not!" cried the two ladies of the drama.

But the robber was in no mood for further conversation. Far away down
the road tiny points of light had appeared. Fresh business was coming to
him, and he must not mix his cases. Disengaging his machine, he raised
his hat, and slipped off to meet this new arrival, while Miss Flossie
and Miss Hilda leaned out of their derelict car, still palpitating from
their adventure, and watched the red gleam of the tail-light until it
merged into the darkness.

This time there was every sign of a rich prize. Behind its four grand
lamps set in a broad frame of glittering brasswork the magnificent
sixty-horse Daimler breasted the slope with the low, deep, even snore
which proclaimed its enormous latent strength. Like some rich-laden,
high-pooped Spanish galleon, she kept her course until the prowling craft
ahead of her swept across her bows and brought her to a sudden halt. An
angry face, red, blotched, and evil, shot out of the open window of the
closed limousine. The robber was aware of a high, bald forehead, gross
pendulous cheeks, and two little crafty eyes which gleamed between
creases of fat.

"Out of my way, sir! Out of my way this instant!" cried a rasping voice.
"Drive over him, Hearn! Get down and pull him off the seat. The fellow's
drunk he's drunk I say!"

Up to this point the proceedings of the modern highwayman might have
passed as gentle. Now they turned in an instant to savagery. The
chauffeur, a burly, capable fellow, incited by that raucous voice behind
him, sprang from the car and seized the advancing robber by the throat.
The latter hit out with the butt-end of his pistol, and the man dropped
groaning on the road. Stepping over his prostrate body the adventurer
pulled open the door, seized the stout occupant savagely by the ear, and
dragged him bellowing on to the highway. Then, very deliberately, he
struck him twice across the face with his open hand. The blows rang out
like pistol-shots in the silence of the night. The fat traveller turned
a ghastly colour and fell back half senseless against the side of the
limousine. The robber dragged open his coat, wrenched away the heavy
gold watch-chain with all that it held, plucked out the great diamond
pin that sparkled in the black satin tie, dragged off four rings not one
of which could have cost less than three figures and finally tore from
his inner pocket a bulky leather note-book. All this property he
transferred to his own black overcoat, and added to it the man's pearl
cuff-links, and even the golden stud which held his collar. Having made
sure that there was nothing else to take, the robber flashed his lantern
upon the prostrate chauffeur, and satisfied himself that he was stunned
and not dead. Then, returning to the master, he proceeded very
deliberately to tear all his clothes from his body with a ferocious
energy which set his victim whimpering and writhing in imminent
expectation of murder.

Whatever his tormentor's intention may have been, it was very
effectually frustrated. A sound made him turn his head, and there, no
very great distance off, were the lights of a car coming swiftly from
the north. Such a car must have already passed the wreckage which this
pirate had left behind him. It was following his track with a deliberate
purpose, and might be crammed with every county constable of the
district.

The adventurer had no time to lose. He darted from his bedraggled
victim, sprang into his own seat, and with his foot on the accelerator
shot swiftly off down the road. Some way down there was a narrow side
lane, and into this the fugitive turned, cracking on his high speed and
leaving a good five miles between him and any pursuer before he ventured
to stop. Then, in a quiet corner, he counted over his booty of the
evening the paltry plunder of Mr. Ronald Barker, the rather
better-furnished purses of the actresses, which contained four pounds
between them, and, finally, the gorgeous jewellery and well-filled
note-book of the plutocrat upon the Daimler. Five notes of fifty pounds,
four of ten, fifteen sovereigns, and a number of valuable papers made up
a most noble haul. It was clearly enough for one night's work. The
adventurer replaced all his ill-gotten gains in his pocket, and,
lighting a cigarette, set forth upon his way with the air of a man who
has no further care upon his mind.

It was on the Monday morning following upon this eventful evening that
Sir Henry Hailworthy, of Walcot Old Place, having finished his breakfast
in a leisurely fashion, strolled down to his study with the intention of
writing a few letters before setting forth to take his place upon the
county bench. Sir Henry was a Deputy-Lieutenant of the county; he was a
baronet of ancient blood; he was a magistrate of ten years' standing;
and he was famous above all as the breeder of many a good horse and the
most desperate rider in all the Weald country. A tall, upstanding man,
with a strong, clean-shaven face, heavy black eyebrows, and a square,
resolute jaw, he was one whom it was better to call friend than foe.

Though nearly fifty years of age, he bore no sign of having passed his
youth, save that Nature, in one of her freakish moods, had planted one
little feather of white hair above his right ear, making the rest of his
thick black curls the darker by contrast. He was in thoughtful mood this
morning, for having lit his pipe he sat at his desk with his blank
note-paper in front of him, lost in a deep reverie.

Suddenly his thoughts were brought back to the present. From behind the
laurels of the curving drive there came a low, clanking sound, which
swelled into the clatter and jingle of an ancient car. Then from round
the corner there swung an old-fashioned Wolseley, with a
fresh-complexioned, yellow-moustached young man at the wheel. Sir Henry
sprang to his feet at the sight, and then sat down once more. He rose
again as a minute later the footman announced Mr. Ronald Barker. It was
an early visit, but Barker was Sir Henry's intimate friend. As each was
a fine shot, horseman, and billiard-player, there was much in common
between the two men, and the younger (and poorer) was in the habit of
spending at least two evenings a week at Walcot Old Place. Therefore,
Sir Henry advanced cordially with outstretched hand to welcome him.

"You're an early bird this morning," said he. "What's up? If you are
going over to Lewes we could motor together."

But the younger man's demeanour was peculiar and ungracious. He
disregarded the hand which was held out to him, and he stood pulling at
his own long moustache and staring with troubled, questioning eyes at
the county magistrate.

"Well, what's the matter?" asked the latter.

Still the young man did not speak. He was clearly on the edge of an
interview which he found it most difficult to open. His host grew
impatient.

"You don't seem yourself this morning. What on earth is the matter?
Anything upset you?"

"Yes," said Ronald Barker, with emphasis.

"What has?"

"You have."

Sir Henry smiled. "Sit down, my dear fellow. If you have any grievance
against me, let me hear it."

Barker sat down. He seemed to be gathering himself for a reproach. When
it did come it was like a bullet from a gun.

"Why did you rob me last night?"

The magistrate was a man of iron nerve. He showed neither surprise nor
resentment. Not a muscle twitched upon his calm, set face.

"Why do you say that I robbed you last night?"

"A big, tall fellow in a motor-car stopped me on the Mayfield road. He
poked a pistol in my face and took my purse and my watch. Sir Henry,
that man was you."

The magistrate smiled.

"Am I the only big, tall man in the district? Am I the only man with a
motor-car?"

"Do you think I couldn't tell a Rolls-Royce when I see it I, who spend
half my life on a car and the other half under it? Who has a Rolls-Royce
about here except you?"

"My dear Barker, don't you think that such a modern highwayman as you
describe would be more likely to operate outside his own district? How
many hundred Rolls-Royces are there in the South of England?"

"No, it won't do, Sir Henry it won't do! Even your voice, though you
sunk it a few notes, was familiar enough to me. But hang it, man! What
did you do it for? That's what gets over me. That you should stick up
me, one of your closest friends, a man that worked himself to the bone
when you stood for the division and all for the sake of a Brummagem
watch and a few shillings is simply incredible."

"Simply incredible," repeated the magistrate, with a smile.

"And then those actresses, poor little devils, who have to earn all they
get. I followed you down the road, you see. That was a dirty trick, if
ever I heard one. The City shark was different. If a chap must go
a-robbing, that sort of fellow is fair game. But your friend, and then
the girls well, I say again, I couldn't have believed it."

"Then why believe it?"

"Because it is so."

"Well, you seem to have persuaded yourself to that effect. You don't
seem to have much evidence to lay before any one else."

"I could swear to you in a police-court. What put the lid on it was that
when you were cutting my wire and an infernal liberty it was! I saw that
white tuft of yours sticking out from behind your mask."

For the first time an acute observer might have seen some slight sign of
emotion upon the face of the baronet.

"You seem to have a fairly vivid imagination," said he.

His visitor flushed with anger.

"See here, Hailworthy," said he, opening his hand and showing a small,
jagged triangle of black cloth. "Do you see that? It was on the ground
near the car of the young women. You must have ripped it off as you
jumped out from your seat. Now send for that heavy black driving-coat of
yours. If you don't ring the bell I'll ring it myself, and we shall have
it in. I'm going to see this thing through, and don't you make any
mistake about that."

The baronet's answer was a surprising one. He rose, passed Barker's
chair, and, walking over to the door, he locked it and placed the key in
his pocket.

"You are going to see it through," said he. "I'll lock you in until you
do. Now we must have a straight talk, Barker, as man to man, and whether
it ends in tragedy or not depends on you."

He had half-opened one of the drawers in his desk as he spoke. His
visitor frowned in anger.

"You won't make matters any better by threatening me, Hailworthy. I am
going to do my duty, and you won't bluff me out of it."

"I have no wish to bluff you. When I spoke of a tragedy I did not mean
to you. What I meant was that there are some turns which this affair
cannot be allowed to take. I have neither kith nor kin, but there is the
family honour, and some things are impossible."

"It is late to talk like that."

"Well, perhaps it is; but not too late. And now I have a good deal to
say to you. First of all, you are quite right, and it was I who held you
up last night on the Mayfield road."

"But why on earth--?"

"All right. Let me tell it my own way. First I want you to look at
these." He unlocked a drawer and he took out two small packages. "These
were to be posted in London to-night. This one is addressed to you, and
I may as well hand it over to you at once. It contains your watch and
your purse. So, you see, bar your cut wire you would have been none the
worse for your adventure. This other packet is addressed to the young
ladies of the Gaiety Theatre, and their properties are enclosed. I hope
I have convinced you that I had intended full reparation in each case
before you came to accuse me?"

"Well?" asked Barker.

"Well, we will now deal with Sir George Wilde, who is, as you may not
know, the senior partner of Wilde and Guggendorf, the founders of the
Ludgate Bank of infamous memory. His chauffeur is a case apart. You may
take it from me, upon my word of honour, that I had plans for the
chauffeur. But it is the master that I want to speak of. You know that I
am not a rich man myself. I expect all the county knows that. When Black
Tulip lost the Derby I was hard hit. And other things as well. Then I
had a legacy of a thousand. This infernal bank was paying 7 per cent, on
deposits. I knew Wilde. I saw him. I asked him if it was safe. He said
it was. I paid it in, and within forty-eight hours the whole thing went
to bits. It came out before the Official Receiver that Wilde had known
for three months that nothing could save him. And yet he took all my
cargo aboard his sinking vessel. He was all right confound him! He had
plenty besides. But I had lost all my money and no law could help me.
Yet he had robbed me as clearly as one man could rob another. I saw him
and he laughed in my face. Told me to stick to Consols, and that the
lesson was cheap at the price. So I just swore that, by hook or by
crook, I would get level with him. I knew his habits, for I had made it
my business to do so. I knew that he came back from Eastbourne on Sunday
nights. I knew that he carried a good sum with him in his pocket-book.
Well it's my pocket-book now. Do you mean to tell me that I'm not
morally justified in what I have done? By the Lord, I'd have left the
devil as bare as he left many a widow and orphan if I'd had the time!"

"That's all very well. But what about me? What about the girls?"

"Have some common sense, Barker. Do you suppose that I could go and
stick up this one personal enemy of mine and escape detection? It was
impossible. I was bound to make myself out to be just a common robber
who had run up against him by accident. So I turned myself loose on the
high road and took my chance. As the devil would have it, the first man
I met was yourself. I was a fool not to recognise that old ironmonger's
store of yours by the row it made coming up the hill. When I saw you I
could hardly speak for laughing. But I was bound to carry it through.
The same with the actresses. I'm afraid I gave myself away, for I
couldn't take their little fal-lals, but I had to keep up a show. Then
came my man himself. There was no bluff about that. I was out to skin
him, and I did. Now, Barker, what do you think of it all? I had a pistol
at your head last night, and, by George! whether you believe it or not,
you have one at mine this morning!"

The young man rose slowly, and with a broad smile he wrung the
magistrate by the hand.

"Don't do it again. It's too risky," said he. "The swine would score
heavily if you were taken."

"You're a good chap, Barker," said the magistrate. "No, I won't do it
again. Who's the fellow who talks of 'one crowded hour of glorious
life'? By George! it's too fascinating. I had the time of my life! Talk
of fox-hunting! No, I'll never touch it again, for it might get a grip
of me."

A telephone rang sharply upon the table, and the baronet put the
receiver to his ear. As he listened he smiled across at his companion.

"I'm rather late this morning," said he, "and they are waiting for me to
try some petty larcenies on the county bench."



III - A POINT OF VIEW


It was an American journalist who was writing up England or writing her
down as the mood seized him. Sometimes he blamed and sometimes he
praised, and the case-hardened old country actually went its way all the
time quite oblivious of his approval or of his disfavour being ready at
all times, through some queer mental twist, to say more bitter things
and more unjust ones about herself than any critic could ever venture
upon. However, in the course of his many columns in the New York Clarion
our journalist did at last get through somebody's skin in the way that
is here narrated.

It was a kindly enough article upon English country-house life in which
he had described a visit paid for a week-end to Sir Henry Trustall's.
There was only a single critical passage in it, and it was one which he
had written with a sense both of journalistic and of democratic
satisfaction. In it he had sketched off the lofty obsequiousness of the
flunkey who had ministered to his needs. "He seemed to take a smug
satisfaction in his own degradation," said he. "Surely the last spark of
manhood must have gone from the man who has so entirely lost his own
individuality. He revelled in humility. He was an instrument of service
nothing more."

Some months had passed and our American Pressman had recorded
impressions from St. Petersburg to Madrid. He was on his homeward way
when once again he found himself the guest of Sir Henry. He had returned
from an afternoon's shooting, and had finished dressing when there was a
knock at the door and the footman entered. He was a large cleanly-built
man, as is proper to a class who are chosen with a keener eye to
physique than any crack regiment. The American supposed that the man had
entered to perform some menial service, but to his surprise he softly
closed the door behind him.

"Might I have a word with you, sir, if you can kindly give me a moment?"
he said in the velvety voice which always got upon the visitor's
republican nerves.

"Well, what is it?" the journalist asked sharply.

"It's this, sir." The footman drew from his breast-pocket the copy of
the Clarion. "A friend over the water chanced to see this, sir, and he
thought it would be of interest to me. So he sent it."

"Well?"

"You wrote it, sir, I fancy."

"What if I did?"

"And this 'ere footman is your idea of me?"

The American glanced at the passage and approved his own phrases.

"Yes, that's you," he admitted.

The footman folded up his document once more and replaced it in his
pocket.

"I'd like to 'ave a word or two with you over that, sir," he said in the
same suave imperturbable voice. "I don't think, sir, that you quite see
the thing from our point of view. I'd like to put it to you as I see it
myself. Maybe it would strike you different then."

The American became interested. There was "copy" in the air.

"Sit down," said he.

"No, sir, begging your pardon, sir, I'd very much rather stand."

"Well, do as you please. If you've got anything to say, get ahead with
it."

"You see, sir, it's like this: There's a tradition what you might call a
standard among the best servants, and it's 'anded down from one to the
other. When I joined I was a third, and my chief and the butler were
both old men who had been trained by the best. I took after them just as
they took after those that went before them. It goes back away further
than you can tell."

"I can understand that."

"But what perhaps you don't so well understand, sir, is the spirit
that's lying behind it. There's a man's own private self-respect to
which you allude, sir, in this 'ere article. That's his own. But he
can't keep it, so far as I can see, unless he returns good service for
the good money that he takes."

"Well, he can do that without without crawling."

The footman's florid face paled a little at the word. Apparently he was
not quite the automatic machine that he appeared.

"By your leave, sir, we'll come to that later," said he. "But I want you
to understand what we are trying to do even when you don't approve of
our way of doing it. We are trying to make life smooth and easy for our
master and for our master's guests. We do it in the way that's been
'anded down to us as the best way. If our master could suggest any
better way, then it would be our place either to leave his service if we
disapproved it, or else to try and do it as he wanted. It would hurt the
self-respect of any good servant to take a man's money and not give him
the very best he can in return for it."

"Well," said the American, "it's not quite as we see it in America."

"That's right, sir. I was over there last year with Sir Henry in New
York, sir, and I saw something of the men-servants and their ways. They
were paid for service, sir, and they did not give what they were paid
for. You talk about self-respect, sir, in this article. Well now, my
self-respect wouldn't let me treat a master as I've seen them do over
there."

"We don't even like the word 'master,'" said the American.

"Well, that's neither 'ere nor there, sir, if I may be so bold as to say
so. If you're serving a gentleman he's your master for the time being
and any name you may choose to call it by don't make no difference. But
you can't eat your cake and 'ave it, sir. You can't sell your
independence and 'ave it, too."

"May be not," said the American. "All the same, the fact remains that
your manhood is the worse for it."

"There I don't 'old with you, sir."

"If it were not, you wouldn't be standing there arguing so quietly.
You'd speak to me in another tone, I guess."

"You must remember, sir, that you are my master's guest, and that I am
paid to wait upon you and make your visit a pleasant one. So long as you
are 'ere, sir, that is 'ow I regard it. Now in London--"

"Well, what about London?"

"Well, in London if you would have the goodness to let me have a word
with you, I could make you understand a little clearer what I am trying
to explain to you. 'Arding is my name, sir. If you get a call from
'Enery 'Arding, you'll know that I 'ave a word to say to you."

So it happened about three days later that our American journalist in
his London hotel received a letter that a Mr. Henry Harding desired to
speak with him. The man was waiting in the hall dressed in quiet tweeds.
He had cast his manner with his uniform and was firmly deliberate in all
he said and did. The professional silkiness was gone, and his bearing
was all that the most democratic could desire.

"It's courteous of you to see me, sir," said he. "There's that matter of
the article still open between us, and I would like to have a word or
two more about it."

"Well, I can give you just ten minutes," said the American journalist.

"I understand that you are a busy man, sir, so I'll cut it as short as I
can. There's a public garden opposite if you would be so good as to talk
it over in the open air."

The Pressman took his hat and accompanied the footman. They walked
together down the winding gravelled path among the rhododendron bushes.

"It's like this, sir," said the footman, halting when they had arrived
at a quiet nook. "I was hoping that you would see it in our light and
understand me when I told you that the servant who was trying to give
honest service for his master's money, and the man who is free born and
as good as his neighbour are two separate folk. There's the duty man and
there's the natural man, and they are different men. To say that I have
no life of my own, or self-respect of my own, because there are days
when I give myself to the service of another, is not fair treatment. I
was hoping, sir, that when I made this clear to you, you would have met
me like a man and taken it back."

"Well, you have not convinced me," said the American. "A man's a man,
and he's responsible for all his actions."

"Then you won't take back what you said of me the degradation and the
rest?"

"No, I don't see why I should."

The man's comely face darkened.

"You will take it back," said he. "I'll smash your blasted head if you
don't."

The American was suddenly aware that he was in the presence of a very
ugly proposition. The man was large, strong, and evidently most earnest
and determined. His brows were knotted, his eyes flashing, and his fists
clenched. On neutral ground he struck the journalist as realty being a
very different person to the obsequious and silken footman of Trustall
Old Manor. The American had all the courage, both of his race and of his
profession, but he realised suddenly that he was very much in the wrong.
He was man enough to say so.

"Well, sir, this once," said the footman, as they shook hands. "I don't
approve of the mixin' of classes none of the best servants do. But I'm
on my own to-day, so we'll let it pass. But I wish you'd set it right
with your people, sir. I wish you would make them understand that an
English servant can give good and proper service and yet that he's a
human bein' after all."



IV - THE FALL OF LORD BARRYMORE


There are few social historians of those days who have not told of the
long and fierce struggle between those two famous bucks, Sir Charles
Tregellis and Lord Barrymore, for the Lordship of the Kingdom of St.
James, a struggle which divided the whole of fashionable London into two
opposing camps. It has been chronicled also how the peer retired
suddenly and the commoner resumed his great career without a rival. Only
here; however, one can read the real and remarkable reason for this
sudden eclipse of a star.

It was one morning in the days of this famous struggle that Sir Charles
Tregellis was performing his very complicated toilet, and Ambrose, his
valet, was helping him to attain that pitch of perfection which had long
gained him the reputation of being the best-dressed man in town.

Suddenly Sir Charles paused, his coup d'archet half-executed, the final
beauty of his neck-cloth half-achieved, while he listened with surprise
and indignation upon his large, comely, fresh-complexioned face. Below,
the decorous hum of Jermyn Street had been broken by the sharp,
staccato, metallic beating of a door-knocker.

"I begin to think that this uproar must be at our door," said Sir
Charles, as one who thinks aloud. "For five minutes it has come and
gone; yet Perkins has his orders."

At a gesture from his master Ambrose stepped out upon the balcony and
crane his discreet head over it. From the street below came a voice,
drawling but clear.

"You would oblige me vastly, fellow, if you would do me the favour to
open this door," said the voice.

"Who is it? What is it?" asked the scandalized Sir Charles, with his
arrested elbow still pointing upwards.

Ambrose had returned with as much surprise upon his dark face as the
etiquette of his position would allow him to show.

"It is a young gentleman, Sir Charles."

"A young gentleman? There is no one in London who is not aware that I do
not show before midday. Do you know the person H rave you seen him
before?"

"I have not seen him, sir, but he is very like someone I could name."

"Like someone? Like whom?"

"With all respect, Sir Charles, I could for a moment have believed that
it was yourself when I looked down. A smaller man, sir, and a youth; but
the voice, the face, the bearing--"

"It must be that young cub Vereker, my brother's ne'er-do-weel,"
muttered Sir Charles, continuing his toilet. "I have heard that there
are points in which he resembles me. He wrote from Oxford that he would
come, and I answered that I would not see him. Yet he ventures to
insist. The fellow needs a lesson! Ambrose, ring for Perkins."

A large footman entered with an outraged expression upon his face.

"I cannot have this uproar at the door, Perkins!"

"If you please, the young gentleman won't go away, sir."

"Won't go away? It is your duty to see that he goes away. Have you not
your orders? Didn't you tell him that I am not seen before midday?"

"I said so, sir. He would have pushed his way in, for all I could say,
so I slammed the door in his face."

"Very right, Perkins."

"But now, sir, he is making such a din that all the folk are at the
windows. There is a crowd gathering in the street, sir."

From below came the crack-crack-crack of the knocker, ever rising in
insistence, with a chorus of laughter and encouraging comments from the
spectators. Sir Charles flushed with anger. There must be some limit to
such impertinence.

"My clouded amber cane is in the corner," said he. "Take it with you,
Perkins. I give you a free hand. A stripe or two may bring the young
rascal to reason."

The large Perkins smiled and departed. The door was heard to open below
and the knocker was at rest. A few moments later there followed a
prolonged howl and a noise as of a beaten carpet. Sir Charles listened
with a smile which gradually faded from his good-humoured face.

"The fellow must not overdo it," he muttered. "I would not do the lad an
injury, whatever his deserts may be. Ambrose, run out on the balcony and
call him off. This has gone far enough."

But before the valet could move there came a swift patter of agile feet
upon the stairs, and a handsome youth, dressed in the height of fashion,
was standing framed in the open doorway. The pose, the face, above all
the curious, mischievous dancing light in the large blue eyes, all
spoke of the famous Tregellis blood. Even such was Sir Charles when,
twenty years before, he had by virtue of his spirit and audacity, in one
short season taken a place in London from which Brummell himself had
afterwards vainly struggled to depose him. The youth faced the angry
features of his uncle with an air of debonair amusement, and he held
towards him, upon his outstretched palms, the broken fragments of an
amber cane.

"I much fear, sir," said he, "that in correcting your fellow I have had
the misfortune to injure what can only have been your property. I am
vastly concerned that it should have occurred."

Sir Charles stared with intolerant eyes at this impertinent apparition.
The other looked back in a laughable parody of his senior's manner. As
Ambrose had remarked after his inspection from the balcony, the two were
very alike, save that the younger was smaller, finer cut, and the more
nervously alive of the two.

"You are my nephew, Vereker Tregellis?" asked Sir Charles.

"Yours to command, sir."

"I hear bad reports of you from Oxford."

"Yes, sir, I understand that the reports are bad."

"Nothing could be worse."

"So I have been told."

"Why are you here, sir?"

"That I might see my famous uncle."

"So you made a tumult in his street, forced his door, and beat his
footman?"

"Yes, sir."

"You had my letter?"

"Yes, sir."

"You were told that I was not receiving?"

"Yes, sir."

"I can remember no such exhibition of impertinence."

The young man smiled and rubbed his hands in satisfaction.

"There is an impertinence which is redeemed by wit," said Sir Charles,
severely. "There is another which is the mere boorishness of the
clodhopper. As you grow older and wiser you may discern the difference."

"You are very right, sir," said the young man, warmly. "The finer shades
of impertinence are infinitely subtle, and only experience and the
society of one who is a recognized master "--here he bowed to his
uncle--"can enable one to excel."

Sir Charles was notoriously touchy in temper for the first hour after
his morning chocolate. He allowed himself to show it.

"I cannot congratulate my brother upon his son," said he. "I had hoped
for something more worthy of our traditions."

"Perhaps, sir, upon a longer acquaintance--"

"The chance is too small to justify the very irksome experience. I must
ask you, sir, to bring to a close a visit which never should have been
made."

The young man smiled affably, but gave no sign of departure.

"May I ask, sir," said he, in an easy conversational fashion, "whether
you can recall Principal Munro, of my college?"

"No, sir, I cannot," his uncle answered, sharply.

"Naturally you would not burden your memory to such an extent, but he
still remembers you. In some conversation with him yesterday he did me
the honour to say that I brought you back to his recollection by what he
was pleased to call the mingled levity and obstinacy of my character.
The levity seems to have already impressed you. I am now reduced to
showing you the obstinacy." He sat down in a chair near the door and
folded his arms, still beaming pleasantly at his uncle.

"Oh, you won't go?" asked Sir Charles, grimly.

"No, sir; I will stay."

"Ambrose, step down and call a couple of chairmen."

"I should not advise it, sir. They will be hurt."

"I will put you out with my own hands."

"That, sir, you can always do. As my uncle, I could scarce resist you.
But, short of throwing me down the stair, I do not see how you can avoid
giving me half an hour of your attention."

Sir Charles smiled. He could not help it. There was so much that was
reminiscent of his own arrogant and eventful youth in the bearing of
this youngster. He was mollified, too, by the defiance of menials and
quick submission to himself. He turned to the glass and signed to
Ambrose to continue his duties.

"I must ask you to await the conclusion of my toilet," said he. "Then we
shall see how far you can justify such an intrusion."

When the valet had at last left the room Sir Charles turned his
attention once more to his scapegrace nephew, who had viewed the details
of the famous buck's toilet with the face of an acolyte assisting at a
mystery.

"Now, sir," said the older man, "speak, and speak to the point, for I
can assure you that I have many more important matters which claim my
attention. The Prince is waiting for me at the present instant at
Carlton House. Be as brief as you can. What is it that you want?"

"A thousand pounds."

"Really I Nothing more? Sir Charles had turned acid again.

"Yes, sir; an introduction to Mr. Brinsley Sheridan, whom I know to be
your friend."

"And why 'to him?

"Because I am told that he controls Drury Lane Theatre, and I have a
fancy to be an actor. My friends assure me that I have a pretty talent
that way."

"I can see you clearly, sir, in Charles Surface, or any other part where
a foppish insolence is the essential. The less you acted, the better you
would be. But it is absurd to suppose that I could help you to such a
career. I could not justify it to your father. Return to Oxford at once,
and continue your studies."

"Impossible!"

"And pray, sir, what is the impediment?"

"I think I may have mentioned to you that I had an interview yesterday
with the Principal. He ended it by remarking that the authorities of the
University could tolerate me no more."

"Sent down?"

"Yes, sir."

"And this is the fruit, no doubt, of a long series of rascalities."

"Something of the sort, sir, I admit."

In spite of himself, Sir Charles began once more to relax in his
severity towards this handsome young scapegrace. His absolute frankness
disarmed criticism. It was in a more gracious voice that the older man
continued the conversation.

"Why do you want this large sum of money?" he asked.

"To pay my college debts before I go, sir."

"Your father is not a rich man."

"No, sir. I could not apply to him for that reason."

"So you come to me, who am a stranger!"

"No, sir, no! You are my uncle, and, if I may say so, my ideal and my
model."

"You flatter me, my good Vereker. But if you think you can flatter me
out of a thousand pounds, you mistake your man. I will give you no
money."

"Of course, sir, if you can't--"

"I did not say I can't. I say I won't."

"If you can, sir, I think you will."

Sir Charles smiled, and flicked his sleeve with his lace handkerchief.

"I find you vastly entertaining," said he. "Pray continue your
conversation. Why do you think that I will give you so large a sum of
money?

"The reason that I think so," continued the younger man, "is that I can
do you a service which will seem to you worth a thousand pounds."

Sir Charles raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Is this blackmail?" he inquired.

Vereker Tregellis flushed.

"Sir," said he, with a pleasing sternness, "you surprise me. You should
know the blood of which I come too well to suppose that I would attempt
such a thing."

"I am relieved to hear that there are limits to what you consider to be
justifiable. I must confess that I had seen none in your conduct up to
now. But you say that you can do me a service which will be worth a
thousand pounds to me?"

"Yes, sir."

"And pray, sir, what may this service be?"

"To make Lord Barrymore the laughing-stock of the town."

Sir Charles, in spite of himself, lost for an instant the absolute
serenity of his self-control. He started, and his face expressed his
surprise. By what devilish instinct did this raw undergraduate find the
one chink in his armour? Deep in his heart, unacknowledged to anyone,
there was the will to pay many a thousand pounds to the man who would
bring ridicule upon this his most dangerous rival, who was challenging
his supremacy in fashionable London.

"Did you come from Oxford with this precious project?" he asked, after a
pause. "No, sir. I chanced to see the man himself last night, and I
conceived an to him, and would do him a mischief."

"Where did you see him?"

"I spent the evening, sir, at the Vauxhall Gardens."

"No doubt you would," interpolated his uncle.

"My Lord Barrymore was there. He was attended by one who was dressed as
a clergyman, but who was, as I am told, none other than Hooper the
Tinman, who acts as his bully and thrashes all who may offend him.
Together they passed down the central path, insulting the women and
browbeating the men. They actually hustled me. I was offended, sir--so
much so that I nearly took the matter in hand then and there."

"It is as well that you did not. The prize-fighter would have beaten you."

"Perhaps so, sir--and also, perhaps not."

"Ah, you add pugilism to your elegant accomplishments?"

The young man laughed pleasantly.

"William Ball is the only professor of my Alma Mater who has ever had
occasion to compliment me, sir. He is better known as the Oxford Pet. I
think, with all modesty, that I could hold him for a dozen rounds. But
last night I suffered the annoyance without protest, for since it is
said that the same scene is enacted every evening, there is always time
to act."

"And how would you act, may I ask?"

"That, sir, I should prefer to keep to myself; but my aim, as I say,
would be to make Lord Barrymore a laughing-stock to all London."

Sir Charles cogitated for a moment.

"Pray, sir," said he, "why did you imagine that any humiliation to Lord
Barrymore would be pleasing to me?"

"Even in the provinces we know something of what passes in polite
circles. Your antagonism to this man is to be found in every column of
fashionable gossip. The town is divided between you. It is impossible
that any public slight upon him should be unpleasing to you."

Sir Charles smiled.

"You are a shrewd reasoner," said he. "We will suppose for the instant
that you are right. Can you give me no hint what means you would adopt
to attain this very desirable end?"

"I would merely make the remark, sir, that many women have been wronged
by this fellow. That is a matter of common knowledge. If one of these
damsels were to upbraid him in public in such a fashion that the
sympathy of the bystanders should be with her, then I can imagine, if
she were sufficiently persistent, that his lordship's position might
become an unenviable one."

"And you know such a woman?"

"I think, 'sir, that I do."

"Well, my good Vereker, if any such attempt is in your mind, I see no
reason why I should stand between Lord Barrymore and the angry fair. As
to whether the result is worth a thousand pounds, I can make no
promise."

"You shall yourself be the judge, sir."

"I will be an exacting judge, nephew."

"Very good, sir; I should not desire otherwise. If things go as I hope,
his lordship will not show face in St. James's Street for a year to
come. I will now, if I may, give you your instructions."

"My instructions! What do you mean? I have nothing to do with the
matter."

"You are the judge, sir, and therefore must be present."

"I can play no part."

"No, sir. I would not ask you to do more than be a witness."

"What, then, are my instructions, as you are pleased to call them?"

"You will come to the Gardens to-night, uncle, at nine o'clock
precisely. You will walk down the centre path, and you will seat
yourself upon one of the rustic seats which are beside the statue of
Aphrodite. You will wait and you will observe."

"Very good; I will do so. I begin to perceive, nephew, that the breed of
Tregellis has not yet lost some of the points which have made it
famous."

It was at the stroke of nine that night when Sir Charles, throwing his
reins to the groom, descended from his high yellow phaeton, which
forthwith turned to take its place in the long line of fashionable
carriages waiting for their owners. As he entered the gate of the
Gardens, the centre at that time of the dissipation and revelry of
London, he turned up the collar of his driving-cape and drew his hat
over his eyes, for he had no desire to be personally associated with
what might well prove to be a public scandal. In spite of his attempted
disguise, however, there was that in his walk and his carriage which
caused many an eye to be turned after him as he passed and many a hand
to be raised in salute. Sir Charles walked on, and, seating himself upon
the rustic bench in front of the famous statue, which was in the very
middle of the Gardens, he waited in amused suspense to see the next act
in this comedy.

From the pavilion, whence the paths radiated, there came the strains of
the band of the Foot Guards, and by the many-coloured lamps twinkling
from every tree Sir Charles could see the confused whirl of the dancers.
Suddenly the music stopped. The quadrilles were at an end.

An instant afterwards the central path by which he sat was thronged by
the revellers. In a many-coloured crowd, stocked and cravated with all
the bravery of buff and plum-colour and blue, the bucks of the town
passed and repassed with their high-waisted, straight-skirted,
be-bonneted ladies upon their arms.

It was not a decorous assembly. Many of the men, flushed and noisy, had
come straight from their potations. The women, too, were loud and
aggressive. Now and then, with a rush and a swirl, amid a chorus of
screams from the girls and good-humoured laughter from their escorts,
some band of high-blooded, noisy youths would break their way across the
moving throng. It was no place for the prim or demure, and there was 'a
spirit of good-nature and merriment among the crowd which condoned the
wildest liberty.

And yet there were some limits to what could be tolerated even by so
Bohemian an assembly. A murmur of anger followed in the wake of two
roisterers who were making their way down the path. It would, perhaps,
be fairer to say one roisterer; for of the two it was only the first who
carried himself with such insolence, although it was the second who
ensured that he could do it with impunity.

The leader was a very tall, hatchet-faced man, dressed in the very
height of fashion, whose evil, handsome features were flushed with wine
and arrogance. He shouldered his way roughly through the crowd, peering
with an abominable smile into the faces of the women, and occasionally,
where the weakness of the escort invited an insult, stretching out his
hand and caressing the cheek or neck of some passing girl, laughing
loudly as she winced away from his touch.

Close at his heels walked his hired attendant, whom out of insolent
caprice and with a desire to show his contempt for the prejudices of
others, he had dressed as a rough country clergyman. This fellow
slouched along with frowning brows and surly, challenging eyes, like
some faithful, hideous human bulldog, his knotted hands protruding from
his rusty cassock, his great under-hung jaw turning slowly from right to
left as he menaced the crowd with his sinister gaze. Already a close
observer might have marked upon his face a heaviness and looseness of
feature, the first signs of that physical decay which in a very few
years was to stretch him, a helpless wreck, too weak to utter his own
name, upon the causeway of the London streets. At present, however, he
was still an unbeaten man, the terror of the Ring, and as his ill-omened
face was seen behind his infamous master many a half-raised cane was
lowered and many a hot word was checked, while the whisper of "Hooper!
'Ware Bully Hooper!" warned all who were aggrieved that it might be
best to pocket their injuries lest some even worse thing should befall
them. Many a maimed and disfigured man had carried away from Vauxhall
the handiwork of the Tinman and his patron.

Moving in insolent slowness through the crowd, the bully and his master
had just come opposite to the bench upon which sat Sir Charles
Tregellis. At this place the path opened up into a circular space,
brilliantly illuminated and surrounded by rustic seats. From one of
these an elderly, ringleted woman, deeply veiled, rose suddenly and
barred the path of the swaggering nobleman. Her voice sounded clear and
strident above the babel of tongues, which hushed suddenly that their
owners might hear it.

"Marry her, my lord! I entreat you to marry her!"

"Oh, surely you will marry my poor Amelia!" said the voice.

Lord Barrymore stood aghast. From all sides folk were closing in and
heads were peering over shoulders.

He tried to push on, but the lady barred his way and two palms pressed
upon his beruffled front.

"Surely, surely you would not desert her! Take the advice of that good,
kind clergyman behind you!" wailed the voice. "Oh, be a man of honour
and marry her!"

The elderly lady thrust out her hand and drew forward a lumpish-looking
young woman, who sobbed and mopped her eyes with her handkerchief.

"The plague take you!" roared his lordship, in a fury. "Who is the
wench? I vow that I never clapped eyes on either of you in my life!"

"It is my niece Amelia," cried the lady, "your own loving Amelia! Oh, my
lord, can you pretend that you have forgotten poor, trusting Amelia,
of Woodbine Cottage at Lichfield?"

"I never set foot in Lichfield in my life!" cried the peer. "You are two
impostors who should be whipped at the cart's tail."

"Oh, wicked! Oh, Amelia!" screamed the lady, in a voice that resounded
through the Gardens. "Oh, my darling, try to soften his hard heart;
pray him that he make an honest woman of you at last."

With a lurch the stout young woman fell forward and embraced Lord
Barrymore with the hug of a bear. He would have raised his cane, but his
arms were pinned to his sides.

"Hooper! Hooper!" screamed the furious peer, craning his neck in
horror, for the girl seemed to be trying to kiss him.

But the bruiser, as he ran forward, found himself entangled with the old
lady.

"Out o' the way, marm," he cried. "Out o' the way, I say!" and pushed her
violently aside.

"Oh, you rude, rude man!" she shrieked, springing back in front of him.
"He hustled me, good people; you saw him hustle me I A clergyman, but no
gentleman! What I you would treat a lady so--you would do it again? Oh,
I could slap, slap, slap you!"

And with each repetition of the word, with extraordinary swiftness, her
open palm rang upon the prize-fighter's cheek.

The crowd buzzed with amazement and delight.

"Hooper! Hooper!" cried Lord Barrymore once more, for he was still
struggling in the ever-closer embrace of the unwieldy and amorous
Amelia.

The bully again pushed forward to the aid of his patron, but again the
elderly lady confronted him, her head back, her left arm extended, her
whole attitude, to his amazement, that of an expert boxer.

The prize-fighter's brutal nature was roused. Woman or no woman, he
would show the murmuring crowd what it meant to cross the path of the
Tinman. She had struck him. She must take the consequence. No one should
square up to him with impunity. He swung his right with a curse. The
bonnet instantly ducked under his arm, and a line of razor-like knuckles
left an open cut under his eye.

Amid wild cries of delight and encouragement from the dense circle of
spectators, the lady danced round the sham clergyman, dodging his
ponderous blows, slipping under his arms, and smacking back at him most
successfully. Once she tripped and fell over her own skirt, but was up
and at him again in an instant.

"You vulgar fellow!" she shrieked. "Would you strike a helpless woman!
Take that! Oh, you rude and ill-bred man!"

Bully Hooper was cowed for the first time in his life by the
extraordinary thing that he was fighting. The creature was as elusive as
a shadow, and yet the blood was dripping down his chin from the effects
of the blows. He shrank back with an amazed face from so uncanny an
antagonist. And in the moment that he did so his spell was for ever
broken, Only success could hold it. A check was fatal. In all the crowd
there was scarce one who was not nursing some grievance against master
or man, and waiting for that moment of weakness in which to revenge it.

With a growl of rage the circle closed in. There was an eddy of furious,
struggling men, with Lord Barrymore's thin, flushed face and Hooper's
bulldog jaw in the centre of it. A moment after they were both upon the
ground, and a dozen sticks were rising and falling above them.

"Let me up! You're killing me! For God's sake let me up!" cried a
crackling voice.

Hooper fought mute, like the bulldog he was, till his senses were beaten
out of him.

Bruised, kicked, and mauled, never did their worst victim come so badly
from the Gardens as the bully and his patron that night. But worse than
the ache of wounds for Lord Barrymore was the smart of the mind as he
thought how every club and drawing-room in London would laugh for a week
to come at the tale of his Amelia and her aunt.

Sir Charles had stood, rocking with laughter, upon the bench which
overlooked the scene. When at last he made his way back through the
crowds to his yellow phaeton, he was not entirely surprised to find
that the back seat was already occupied by two giggling females, who
were exchanging most unladylike repartees with the attendant grooms.

"You young rascals!" he remarked, over his shoulder, as he gathered up
his reins.

The two females tittered loudly.

"Uncle Charles!" cried the elder, "may I present Mr. Jack Jarvis, of
Brasenose College? I think, uncle, you should take us somewhere to sup,
for it has been a vastly fatiguing performance. To-morrow I will do
myself the honour to call, at your convenience, and will venture to
bring with me the receipt for one thousand pounds."



V. - THE HORROR OF THE HEIGHTS


The idea that the extraordinary narrative which has been called the
Joyce-Armstrong Fragment is an elaborate practical joke evolved by
some unknown person, cursed by a perverted and sinister sense of
humour, has now been abandoned by all who have examined the matter.
The most macabre and imaginative of plotters would hesitate
before linking his morbid fancies with the unquestioned and tragic
facts which reinforce the statement. Though the assertions
contained in it are amazing and even monstrous, it is none the less
forcing itself upon the general intelligence that they are true,
and that we must readjust our ideas to the new situation. This
world of ours appears to be separated by a slight and precarious
margin of safety from a most singular and unexpected danger. I
will endeavour in this narrative, which reproduces the original
document in its necessarily somewhat fragmentary form, to lay
before the reader the whole of the facts up to date, prefacing my
statement by saying that, if there be any who doubt the narrative
of Joyce-Armstrong, there can be no question at all as to the facts
concerning Lieutenant Myrtle, R. N., and Mr. Hay Connor, who
undoubtedly met their end in the manner described.

The Joyce-Armstrong Fragment was found in the field which is
called Lower Haycock, lying one mile to the westward of the village
of Withyham, upon the Kent and Sussex border. It was on the 15th
September last that an agricultural labourer, James Flynn, in the
employment of Mathew Dodd, farmer, of the Chauntry Farm, Withyham,
perceived a briar pipe lying near the footpath which skirts the
hedge in Lower Haycock. A few paces farther on he picked up a pair
of broken binocular glasses. Finally, among some nettles in the
ditch, he caught sight of a flat, canvas-backed book, which proved
to be a note-book with detachable leaves, some of which had
come loose and were fluttering along the base of the hedge. These
he collected, but some, including the first, were never recovered,
and leave a deplorable hiatus in this all-important statement. The
note-book was taken by the labourer to his master, who in turn
showed it to Dr. J. H. Atherton, of Hartfield. This gentleman at
once recognized the need for an expert examination, and the
manuscript was forwarded to the Aero Club in London, where it now
lies.

The first two pages of the manuscript are missing. There is
also one torn away at the end of the narrative, though none of
these affect the general coherence of the story. It is conjectured
that the missing opening is concerned with the record of Mr.
Joyce-Armstrong's qualifications as an aeronaut, which can be gathered
from other sources and are admitted to be unsurpassed among the
air-pilots of England. For many years he has been looked upon as
among the most daring and the most intellectual of flying men, a
combination which has enabled him to both invent and test several
new devices, including the common gyroscopic attachment which is
known by his name. The main body of the manuscript is written
neatly in ink, but the last few lines are in pencil and are so
ragged as to be hardly legible--exactly, in fact, as they might be
expected to appear if they were scribbled off hurriedly from the
seat of a moving aeroplane. There are, it may be added, several
stains, both on the last page and on the outside cover which have
been pronounced by the Home Office experts to be blood--probably
human and certainly mammalian. The fact that something closely
resembling the organism of malaria was discovered in this blood,
and that Joyce-Armstrong is known to have suffered from
intermittent fever, is a remarkable example of the new weapons
which modern science has placed in the hands of our detectives.

And now a word as to the personality of the author of this
epoch-making statement. Joyce-Armstrong, according to the few
friends who really knew something of the man, was a poet and a
dreamer, as well as a mechanic and an inventor. He was a man of
considerable wealth, much of which he had spent in the pursuit of
his aeronautical hobby. He had four private aeroplanes in his
hangars near Devizes, and is said to have made no fewer than one
hundred and seventy ascents in the course of last year. He was a
retiring man with dark moods, in which he would avoid the
society of his fellows. Captain Dangerfield, who knew him better
than anyone, says that there were times when his eccentricity
threatened to develop into something more serious. His habit of
carrying a shot-gun with him in his aeroplane was one manifestation
of it.

Another was the morbid effect which the fall of Lieutenant
Myrtle had upon his mind. Myrtle, who was attempting the height
record, fell from an altitude of something over thirty thousand
feet. Horrible to narrate, his head was entirely obliterated,
though his body and limbs preserved their configuration. At every
gathering of airmen, Joyce-Armstrong, according to Dangerfield,
would ask, with an enigmatic smile: "And where, pray, is Myrtle's
head?"

On another occasion after dinner, at the mess of the Flying
School on Salisbury Plain, he started a debate as to what will be
the most permanent danger which airmen will have to encounter.
Having listened to successive opinions as to air-pockets, faulty
construction, and over-banking, he ended by shrugging his shoulders
and refusing to put forward his own views, though he gave the
impression that they differed from any advanced by his companions.

It is worth remarking that after his own complete disappearance
it was found that his private affairs were arranged with a
precision which may show that he had a strong premonition of
disaster. With these essential explanations I will now give the
narrative exactly as it stands, beginning at page three of the
blood-soaked note-book:

"Nevertheless, when I dined at Rheims with Coselli and Gustav
Raymond I found that neither of them was aware of any particular
danger in the higher layers of the atmosphere. I did not actually
say what was in my thoughts, but I got so near to it that if they
had any corresponding idea they could not have failed to express
it. But then they are two empty, vainglorious fellows with no
thought beyond seeing their silly names in the newspaper. It is
interesting to note that neither of them had ever been much beyond
the twenty-thousand-foot level. Of course, men have been higher
than this both in balloons and in the ascent of mountains. It
must be well above that point that the aeroplane enters the danger
zone--always presuming that my premonitions are correct.

"Aeroplaning has been with us now for more than twenty years,
and one might well ask: Why should this peril be only revealing
itself in our day? The answer is obvious. In the old days of weak
engines, when a hundred horse-power Gnome or Green was considered
ample for every need, the flights were very restricted. Now that
three hundred horse-power is the rule rather than the exception,
visits to the upper layers have become easier and more common.
Some of us can remember how, in our youth, Garros made a world-wide
reputation by attaining nineteen thousand feet, and it was
considered a remarkable achievement to fly over the Alps. Our
standard now has been immeasurably raised, and there are twenty
high flights for one in former years. Many of them have been
undertaken with impunity. The thirty-thousand-foot level has been
reached time after time with no discomfort beyond cold and asthma.
What does this prove? A visitor might descend upon this planet a
thousand times and never see a tiger. Yet tigers exist, and if he
chanced to come down into a jungle he might be devoured. There are
jungles of the upper air, and there are worse things than tigers
which inhabit them. I believe in time they will map these jungles
accurately out. Even at the present moment I could name two of
them. One of them lies over the Pau-Biarritz district of France.
Another is just over my head as I write here in my house in
Wiltshire. I rather think there is a third in the Homburg-Wiesbaden
district.

"It was the disappearance of the airmen that first set me
thinking. Of course, everyone said that they had fallen into the
sea, but that did not satisfy me at all. First, there was Verrier
in France; his machine was found near Bayonne, but they never got
his body. There was the case of Baxter also, who vanished, though
his engine and some of the iron fixings were found in a wood in
Leicestershire. In that case, Dr. Middleton, of Amesbury, who was
watching the flight with a telescope, declares that just before the
clouds obscured the view he saw the machine, which was at an
enormous height, suddenly rise perpendicularly upwards in a
succession of jerks in a manner that he would have thought to
be impossible. That was the last seen of Baxter. There was a
correspondence in the papers, but it never led to anything. There
were several other similar cases, and then there was the death of
Hay Connor. What a cackle there was about an unsolved mystery of
the air, and what columns in the halfpenny papers, and yet how
little was ever done to get to the bottom of the business! He came
down in a tremendous vol-plane from an unknown height. He never
got off his machine and died in his pilot's seat. Died of what?
'Heart disease,' said the doctors. Rubbish! Hay Connor's heart
was as sound as mine is. What did Venables say? Venables was the
only man who was at his side when he died. He said that he was
shivering and looked like a man who had been badly scared. 'Died
of fright,' said Venables, but could not imagine what he was
frightened about. Only said one word to Venables, which sounded
like 'Monstrous.' They could make nothing of that at the inquest.
But I could make something of it. Monsters! That was the last
word of poor Harry Hay Connor. And he DID die of fright, just
as Venables thought.

"And then there was Myrtle's head. Do you really believe--does
anybody really believe--that a man's head could be driven clean
into his body by the force of a fall? Well, perhaps it may be
possible, but I, for one, have never believed that it was so with
Myrtle. And the grease upon his clothes--'all slimy with grease,'
said somebody at the inquest. Queer that nobody got thinking after
that! I did--but, then, I had been thinking for a good long time.
I've made three ascents--how Dangerfield used to chaff me about my
shot-gun--but I've never been high enough. Now, with this new,
light Paul Veroner machine and its one hundred and seventy-five
Robur, I should easily touch the thirty thousand tomorrow. I'll
have a shot at the record. Maybe I shall have a shot at something
else as well. Of course, it's dangerous. If a fellow wants to
avoid danger he had best keep out of flying altogether and subside
finally into flannel slippers and a dressing-gown. But I'll visit
the air-jungle tomorrow--and if there's anything there I shall know
it. If I return, I'll find myself a bit of a celebrity. If I
don't this note-book may explain what I am trying to do, and how I
lost my life in doing it. But no drivel about accidents or
mysteries, if YOU please.

"I chose my Paul Veroner monoplane for the job. There's
nothing like a monoplane when real work is to be done.
Beaumont found that out in very early days. For one thing it
doesn't mind damp, and the weather looks as if we should be in the
clouds all the time. It's a bonny little model and answers my hand
like a tender-mouthed horse. The engine is a ten-cylinder rotary
Robur working up to one hundred and seventy-five. It has all the
modern improvements--enclosed fuselage, high-curved landing skids,
brakes, gyroscopic steadiers, and three speeds, worked by an
alteration of the angle of the planes upon the Venetian-blind
principle. I took a shot-gun with me and a dozen cartridges filled
with buck-shot. You should have seen the face of Perkins, my old
mechanic, when I directed him to put them in. I was dressed like
an Arctic explorer, with two jerseys under my overalls, thick socks
inside my padded boots, a storm-cap with flaps, and my talc
goggles. It was stifling outside the hangars, but I was going for
the summit of the Himalayas, and had to dress for the part.
Perkins knew there was something on and implored me to take him
with me. Perhaps I should if I were using the biplane, but a
monoplane is a one-man show--if you want to get the last foot of
life out of it. Of course, I took an oxygen bag; the man who goes
for the altitude record without one will either be frozen or
smothered--or both.

"I had a good look at the planes, the rudder-bar, and the
elevating lever before I got in. Everything was in order so far as
I could see. Then I switched on my engine and found that she was
running sweetly. When they let her go she rose almost at once upon
the lowest speed. I circled my home field once or twice just to
warm her up, and then with a wave to Perkins and the others, I
flattened out my planes and put her on her highest. She skimmed
like a swallow down wind for eight or ten miles until I turned her
nose up a little and she began to climb in a great spiral for the
cloud-bank above me. It's all-important to rise slowly and adapt
yourself to the pressure as you go.

"It was a close, warm day for an English September, and there was the
hush and heaviness of impending rain. Now and then there came sudden
puffs of wind from the south-west--one of them so gusty and unexpected
that it caught me napping and turned me half-round for an instant. I
remember the time when gusts and whirls and air-pockets used to be
things of danger--before we learned to put an overmastering power into
our engines. Just as I reached the cloud-banks, with the altimeter
marking three thousand, down came the rain. My word, how it poured! It
drummed upon my wings and lashed against my face, blurring my glasses so
that I could hardly see. I got down on to a low speed, for it was
painful to travel against it. As I got higher it became hail, and I had
to turn tail to it. One of my cylinders was out of action--a dirty plug,
I should imagine, but still I was rising steadily with plenty of power.
After a bit the trouble passed, whatever it was, and I heard the full,
deep-throated purr--the ten singing as one. That's where the beauty of
our modern silencers comes in. We can at last control our engines by
ear. How they squeal and squeak and sob when they are in trouble! All
those cries for help were wasted in the old days, when every sound was
swallowed up by the monstrous racket of the machine. If only the early
aviators could come back to see the beauty and perfection of the
mechanism which have been bought at the cost of their lives!

"About nine-thirty I was nearing the clouds. Down below me, all blurred
and shadowed with rain, lay the vast expanse of Salisbury Plain. Half a
dozen flying machines were doing hackwork at the thousand-foot level,
looking like little black swallows against the green background. I dare
say they were wondering what I was doing up in cloud-land. Suddenly a
grey curtain drew across beneath me and the wet folds of vapours were
swirling round my face. It was clammily cold and miserable. But I was
above the hail-storm, and that was something gained. The cloud was as
dark and thick as a London fog. In my anxiety to get clear, I cocked her
nose up until the automatic alarm-bell rang, and I actually began to
slide backwards. My sopped and dripping wings had made me heavier than I
thought, but presently I was in lighter cloud, and soon had cleared the
first layer. There was a second--opal-coloured and fleecy--at a great
height above my head, a white, unbroken ceiling above, and a dark,
unbroken floor below, with the monoplane labouring upwards upon a vast
spiral between them. It is deadly lonely in these cloud-spaces. Once a
great flight of some small water-birds went past me, flying very fast to
the westwards. The quick whir of their wings and their musical cry were
cheery to my ear. I fancy that they were teal, but I am a wretched
zoologist. Now that we humans have become birds we must really learn to
know our brethren by sight.

"The wind down beneath me whirled and swayed the broad cloud-plain.
Once a great eddy formed in it, a whirlpool of vapour, and
through it, as down a funnel, I caught sight of the distant world.
A large white biplane was passing at a vast depth beneath me. I
fancy it was the morning mail service betwixt Bristol and London.
Then the drift swirled inwards again and the great solitude was
unbroken.

"Just after ten I touched the lower edge of the upper cloud-stratum.
It consisted of fine diaphanous vapour drifting swiftly
from the westwards. The wind had been steadily rising all this
time and it was now blowing a sharp breeze--twenty-eight an hour by
my gauge. Already it was very cold, though my altimeter only
marked nine thousand. The engines were working beautifully, and we
went droning steadily upwards. The cloud-bank was thicker than I
had expected, but at last it thinned out into a golden mist before
me, and then in an instant I had shot out from it, and there was an
unclouded sky and a brilliant sun above my head--all blue and gold
above, all shining silver below, one vast, glimmering plain as far
as my eyes could reach. It was a quarter past ten o'clock, and the
barograph needle pointed to twelve thousand eight hundred. Up I
went and up, my ears concentrated upon the deep purring of my
motor, my eyes busy always with the watch, the revolution
indicator, the petrol lever, and the oil pump. No wonder aviators
are said to be a fearless race. With so many things to think of
there is no time to trouble about oneself. About this time I noted
how unreliable is the compass when above a certain height from
earth. At fifteen thousand feet mine was pointing east and a point
south. The sun and the wind gave me my true bearings.

"I had hoped to reach an eternal stillness in these high
altitudes, but with every thousand feet of ascent the gale grew
stronger. My machine groaned and trembled in every joint and rivet
as she faced it, and swept away like a sheet of paper when I banked
her on the turn, skimming down wind at a greater pace, perhaps,
than ever mortal man has moved. Yet I had always to turn again and
tack up in the wind's eye, for it was not merely a height
record that I was after. By all my calculations it was above
little Wiltshire that my air-jungle lay, and all my labour might be
lost if I struck the outer layers at some farther point.

"When I reached the nineteen-thousand-foot level, which was
about midday, the wind was so severe that I looked with some
anxiety to the stays of my wings, expecting momentarily to see them
snap or slacken. I even cast loose the parachute behind me, and
fastened its hook into the ring of my leathern belt, so as to be
ready for the worst. Now was the time when a bit of scamped work
by the mechanic is paid for by the life of the aeronaut. But she
held together bravely. Every cord and strut was humming and
vibrating like so many harp-strings, but it was glorious to see
how, for all the beating and the buffeting, she was still the
conqueror of Nature and the mistress of the sky. There is surely
something divine in man himself that he should rise so superior to
the limitations which Creation seemed to impose--rise, too, by such
unselfish, heroic devotion as this air-conquest has shown. Talk of
human degeneration! When has such a story as this been written in
the annals of our race?

"These were the thoughts in my head as I climbed that monstrous,
inclined plane with the wind sometimes beating in my face and sometimes
whistling behind my ears, while the cloud-land beneath me fell away to
such a distance that the folds and hummocks of silver had all smoothed
out into one flat, shining plain. But suddenly I had a horrible and
unprecedented experience. I have known before what it is to be in what
our neighbours have called a tourbillon, but never on such a scale as
this. That huge, sweeping river of wind of which I have spoken had, as
it appears, whirlpools within it which were as monstrous as itself.
Without a moment's warning I was dragged suddenly into the heart of one.
I spun round for a minute or two with such velocity that I almost lost
my senses, and then fell suddenly, left wing foremost, down the vacuum
funnel in the centre. I dropped like a stone, and lost nearly a thousand
feet. It was only my belt that kept me in my seat, and the shock and
breathlessness left me hanging half-insensible over the side of the
fuselage. But I am always capable of a supreme effort--it is my one
great merit as an aviator. I was conscious that the descent was slower.
The whirlpool was a cone rather than a funnel, and I had come to the
apex. With a terrific wrench, throwing my weight all to one side, I
levelled my planes and brought her head away from the wind. In an
instant I had shot out of the eddies and was skimming down the sky.
Then, shaken but victorious, I turned her nose up and began once more my
steady grind on the upward spiral. I took a large sweep to avoid the
danger-spot of the whirlpool, and soon I was safely above it. Just after
one o'clock I was twenty-one thousand feet above the sea-level. To my
great joy I had topped the gale, and with every hundred feet of ascent
the air grew stiller. On the other hand, it was very cold, and I was
conscious of that peculiar nausea which goes with rarefaction of the
air. For the first time I unscrewed the mouth of my oxygen bag and took
an occasional whiff of the glorious gas. I could feel it running like a
cordial through my veins, and I was exhilarated almost to the point of
drunkenness. I shouted and sang as I soared upwards into the cold, still
outer world.

"It is very clear to me that the insensibility which came upon
Glaisher, and in a lesser degree upon Coxwell, when, in 1862, they
ascended in a balloon to the height of thirty thousand feet, was
due to the extreme speed with which a perpendicular ascent is made.
Doing it at an easy gradient and accustoming oneself to the
lessened barometric pressure by slow degrees, there are no such
dreadful symptoms. At the same great height I found that even
without my oxygen inhaler I could breathe without undue distress.
It was bitterly cold, however, and my thermometer was at zero,
Fahrenheit. At one-thirty I was nearly seven miles above the
surface of the earth, and still ascending steadily. I found,
however, that the rarefied air was giving markedly less support to
my planes, and that my angle of ascent had to be considerably
lowered in consequence. It was already clear that even with my
light weight and strong engine-power there was a point in front of
me where I should be held. To make matters worse, one of my
sparking-plugs was in trouble again and there was intermittent
misfiring in the engine. My heart was heavy with the fear of
failure.

"It was about that time that I had a most extraordinary
experience. Something whizzed past me in a trail of smoke and
exploded with a loud, hissing sound, sending forth a cloud of
steam. For the instant I could not imagine what had happened.
Then I remembered that the earth is for ever being bombarded by
meteor stones, and would be hardly inhabitable were they not in
nearly every case turned to vapour in the outer layers of the
atmosphere. Here is a new danger for the high-altitude man, for
two others passed me when I was nearing the forty-thousand-foot
mark. I cannot doubt that at the edge of the earth's envelope the
risk would be a very real one.

"My barograph needle marked forty-one thousand three hundred
when I became aware that I could go no farther. Physically, the
strain was not as yet greater than I could bear but my machine had
reached its limit. The attenuated air gave no firm support to the
wings, and the least tilt developed into side-slip, while she
seemed sluggish on her controls. Possibly, had the engine been at
its best, another thousand feet might have been within our
capacity, but it was still misfiring, and two out of the ten
cylinders appeared to be out of action. If I had not already
reached the zone for which I was searching then I should never see
it upon this journey. But was it not possible that I had attained
it? Soaring in circles like a monstrous hawk upon the forty-thousand-foot
level I let the monoplane guide herself, and with my Mannheim
glass I made a careful observation of my surroundings. The heavens
were perfectly clear; there was no indication of those dangers
which I had imagined.

"I have said that I was soaring in circles. It struck me
suddenly that I would do well to take a wider sweep and open up a
new airtract. If the hunter entered an earth-jungle he would drive
through it if he wished to find his game. My reasoning had led me
to believe that the air-jungle which I had imagined lay somewhere
over Wiltshire. This should be to the south and west of me. I
took my bearings from the sun, for the compass was hopeless and no
trace of earth was to be seen--nothing but the distant, silver
cloud-plain. However, I got my direction as best I might and kept
her head straight to the mark. I reckoned that my petrol supply
would not last for more than another hour or so, but I could afford
to use it to the last drop, since a single magnificent vol-plane
could at any time take me to the earth.

"Suddenly I was aware of something new. The air in front of me had lost
its crystal clearness. It was full of long, ragged wisps of something
which I can only compare to very fine cigarette smoke. It hung about in
wreaths and coils, turning and twisting slowly in the sunlight. As the
monoplane shot through it, I was aware of a faint taste of oil upon my
lips, and there was a greasy scum upon the woodwork of the machine. Some
infinitely fine organic matter appeared to be suspended in the
atmosphere. There was no life there. It was inchoate and diffuse,
extending for many square acres and then fringing off into the void. No,
it was not life. But might it not be the remains of life? Above all,
might it not be the food of life, of monstrous life, even as the humble
grease of the ocean is the food for the mighty whale? The thought was in
my mind when my eyes looked upwards and I saw the most wonderful vision
that ever man has seen. Can I hope to convey it to you even as I saw it
myself last Thursday?

"Conceive a jelly-fish such as sails in our summer seas, bell-shaped
and of enormous size--far larger, I should judge, than the
dome of St. Paul's. It was of a light pink colour veined with a
delicate green, but the whole huge fabric so tenuous that it was
but a fairy outline against the dark blue sky. It pulsated with a
delicate and regular rhythm. From it there depended two long,
drooping, green tentacles, which swayed slowly backwards and
forwards. This gorgeous vision passed gently with noiseless
dignity over my head, as light and fragile as a soap-bubble, and
drifted upon its stately way.

"I had half-turned my monoplane, that I might look after this
beautiful creature, when, in a moment, I found myself amidst a
perfect fleet of them, of all sizes, but none so large as the
first. Some were quite small, but the majority about as big as an
average balloon, and with much the same curvature at the top.
There was in them a delicacy of texture and colouring which
reminded me of the finest Venetian glass. Pale shades of pink and
green were the prevailing tints, but all had a lovely iridescence
where the sun shimmered through their dainty forms. Some hundreds
of them drifted past me, a wonderful fairy squadron of strange
unknown argosies of the sky--creatures whose forms and substance
were so attuned to these pure heights that one could not conceive
anything so delicate within actual sight or sound of earth.

"But soon my attention was drawn to a new phenomenon--the
serpents of the outer air. These were long, thin, fantastic coils
of vapour-like material, which turned and twisted with great speed,
flying round and round at such a pace that the eyes could
hardly follow them. Some of these ghost-like creatures were twenty
or thirty feet long, but it was difficult to tell their girth, for
their outline was so hazy that it seemed to fade away into the air
around them. These air-snakes were of a very light grey or smoke
colour, with some darker lines within, which gave the impression of
a definite organism. One of them whisked past my very face, and I
was conscious of a cold, clammy contact, but their composition was
so unsubstantial that I could not connect them with any thought of
physical danger, any more than the beautiful bell-like creatures
which had preceded them. There was no more solidity in their
frames than in the floating spume from a broken wave.

"But a more terrible experience was in store for me. Floating
downwards from a great height there came a purplish patch of
vapour, small as I saw it first, but rapidly enlarging as it
approached me, until it appeared to be hundreds of square feet in
size. Though fashioned of some transparent, jelly-like substance,
it was none the less of much more definite outline and solid
consistence than anything which I had seen before. There were more
traces, too, of a physical organization, especially two vast,
shadowy, circular plates upon either side, which may have been
eyes, and a perfectly solid white projection between them which was
as curved and cruel as the beak of a vulture.

"The whole aspect of this monster was formidable and
threatening, and it kept changing its colour from a very light
mauve to a dark, angry purple so thick that it cast a shadow as it
drifted between my monoplane and the sun. On the upper curve of
its huge body there were three great projections which I can only
describe as enormous bubbles, and I was convinced as I looked at
them that they were charged with some extremely light gas which
served to buoy up the misshapen and semi-solid mass in the rarefied
air. The creature moved swiftly along, keeping pace easily with
the monoplane, and for twenty miles or more it formed my horrible
escort, hovering over me like a bird of prey which is waiting to
pounce. Its method of progression--done so swiftly that it was not
easy to follow--was to throw out a long, glutinous streamer in
front of it, which in turn seemed to draw forward the rest of the
writhing body. So elastic and gelatinous was it that never for
two successive minutes was it the same shape, and yet each change
made it more threatening and loathsome than the last.

"I knew that it meant mischief. Every purple flush of its
hideous body told me so. The vague, goggling eyes which were
turned always upon me were cold and merciless in their viscid
hatred. I dipped the nose of my monoplane downwards to escape it.
As I did so, as quick as a flash there shot out a long tentacle
from this mass of floating blubber, and it fell as light and
sinuous as a whip-lash across the front of my machine. There was
a loud hiss as it lay for a moment across the hot engine, and it
whisked itself into the air again, while the huge, flat body drew
itself together as if in sudden pain. I dipped to a vol-pique, but
again a tentacle fell over the monoplane and was shorn off by the
propeller as easily as it might have cut through a smoke wreath.
A long, gliding, sticky, serpent-like coil came from behind and
caught me round the waist, dragging me out of the fuselage. I tore
at it, my fingers sinking into the smooth, glue-like surface, and
for an instant I disengaged myself, but only to be caught round the
boot by another coil, which gave me a jerk that tilted me almost on
to my back.

"As I fell over I blazed off both barrels of my gun, though,
indeed, it was like attacking an elephant with a pea-shooter to
imagine that any human weapon could cripple that mighty bulk. And
yet I aimed better than I knew, for, with a loud report, one of the
great blisters upon the creature's back exploded with the puncture
of the buck-shot. It was very clear that my conjecture was right,
and that these vast, clear bladders were distended with some
lifting gas, for in an instant the huge, cloud-like body turned
sideways, writhing desperately to find its balance, while the white
beak snapped and gaped in horrible fury. But already I had shot
away on the steepest glide that I dared to attempt, my engine still
full on, the flying propeller and the force of gravity shooting me
downwards like an aerolite. Far behind me I saw a dull, purplish
smudge growing swiftly smaller and merging into the blue sky behind
it. I was safe out of the deadly jungle of the outer air.

"Once out of danger I throttled my engine, for nothing tears a
machine to pieces quicker than running on full power from a height.
It was a glorious, spiral vol-plane from nearly eight miles of
altitude--first, to the level of the silver cloud-bank, then to
that of the storm-cloud beneath it, and finally, in beating rain,
to the surface of the earth. I saw the Bristol Channel beneath me
as I broke from the clouds, but, having still some petrol in my
tank, I got twenty miles inland before I found myself stranded in
a field half a mile from the village of Ashcombe. There I got
three tins of petrol from a passing motor-car, and at ten minutes
past six that evening I alighted gently in my own home meadow at
Devizes, after such a journey as no mortal upon earth has ever yet
taken and lived to tell the tale. I have seen the beauty and I
have seen the horror of the heights--and greater beauty or greater
horror than that is not within the ken of man.

"And now it is my plan to go once again before I give my
results to the world. My reason for this is that I must surely
have something to show by way of proof before I lay such a tale
before my fellow-men. It is true that others will soon follow and
will confirm what I have said, and yet I should wish to carry
conviction from the first. Those lovely iridescent bubbles of the
air should not be hard to capture. They drift slowly upon their
way, and the swift monoplane could intercept their leisurely
course. It is likely enough that they would dissolve in the
heavier layers of the atmosphere, and that some small heap of
amorphous jelly might be all that I should bring to earth with me.
And yet something there would surely be by which I could
substantiate my story. Yes, I will go, even if I run a risk by
doing so. These purple horrors would not seem to be numerous. It
is probable that I shall not see one. If I do I shall dive at
once. At the worst there is always the shot-gun and my knowledge
of..."


Here a page of the manuscript is unfortunately missing. On the
next page is written, in large, straggling writing:


"Forty-three thousand feet. I shall never see earth again.
They are beneath me, three of them. God help me; it is a dreadful
death to die!"


Such in its entirety is the Joyce-Armstrong Statement. Of the
man nothing has since been seen. Pieces of his shattered monoplane
have been picked up in the preserves of Mr. Budd-Lushington
upon the borders of Kent and Sussex, within a few miles of the spot
where the note-book was discovered. If the unfortunate aviator's
theory is correct that this air-jungle, as he called it, existed
only over the south-west of England, then it would seem that he had
fled from it at the full speed of his monoplane, but had been
overtaken and devoured by these horrible creatures at some spot in
the outer atmosphere above the place where the grim relics were
found. The picture of that monoplane skimming down the sky, with
the nameless terrors flying as swiftly beneath it and cutting it
off always from the earth while they gradually closed in upon their
victim, is one upon which a man who valued his sanity would prefer
not to dwell. There are many, as I am aware, who still jeer at the
facts which I have here set down, but even they must admit that
Joyce-Armstrong has disappeared, and I would commend to them his
own words: "This note-book may explain what I am trying to do, and
how I lost my life in doing it. But no drivel about accidents or
mysteries, if YOU please."



VI - BORROWED SCENES


"It cannot be done. People really would not stand it. I know because I
have tried."--Extract from an unpublished paper upon George Borrow and
his writings.

Yes, I tried and my experience may interest other people. You must
imagine, then, that I am soaked in George Borrow, especially in his
Lavengro and his Romany Rye, that I have modelled both my thoughts, my
speech and my style very carefully upon those of the master, and that
finally I set forth one summer day actually to lead the life of which I
had read. Behold me, then, upon the country road which leads from the
railway-station to the Sussex village of Swinehurst.

As I walked, I entertained myself by recollections of the founders of
Sussex, of Cerdic that mighty sea-rover, and of. Ella his son, said by
the bard to be taller by the length of a spear-head than the tallest of
his fellows. I mentioned the matter twice to peasants whom I met upon
the road. One, a tallish man with a freckled face, sidled past me and
ran swiftly towards the station. The other, a smaller and older man,
stood entranced while I recited to him that passage of the Saxon
Chronicle which begins, "Then came Leija with longships forty-four, and
the fyrd went out against him." I was pointing out to him that the
Chronicle had been written partly by the monks of Saint Albans and
afterwards by those of Peterborough, but the fellow sprang suddenly over
a gate and disappeared.

The village of Swinehurst is a straggling line of half-timbered houses
of the early English pattern. One of these houses stood, as I observed,
somewhat taller than the rest, and seeing by its appearance and by the
sign which hung before it that it was the village inn, I approached it,
for indeed I had not broken my fast since I had left London. A stoutish
man, five foot eight perhaps in height, with black coat and trousers of
a greyish shade, stood outside, and to him I talked in the fashion of
the master.

"Why a rose and why a crown?" I asked as I pointed upwards.

He looked at me in a strange manner. The man's whole appearance was
strange. "Why not?" he answered, and shrank a little backwards.

"The sign of a king," said I.

"Surely," said he. "What else should we understand from a crown?"

"And which king?" I asked.

"You will excuse me," said he, and tried to pass. "Which king?" I
repeated.

"How should I know?" he asked.

"You should know by the rose," said I, "which is the symbol of that
Tudor-ap-Tudor, who, coming from the mountains of Wales, yet seated his
posterity upon the English throne. Tudor," I continued, getting between
the stranger and the door of the inn, through which he appeared to be
desirous of passing, "was of the same blood as Owen Glendower, the
famous chieftain, who is by no means to be confused with Owen Gwynedd,
the father of Madoc of the Sea, of whom the bard made the famous cnylyn,
which runs in the Welsh as follows:--"

I was about to repeat the famous stanza of Dafyddap-Gwilyn when the man,
who had looked very fixedly and strangely at me as I spoke, pushed past
me and entered the inn. "Truly," said I aloud, "it is surely Swinehurst to
which I have come, since the same means the grove of the hogs." So
saying I followed the fellow into the bar parlour, where I perceived him
seated in a corner with a large chair in front of him. Four persons of
various degrees were drinking beer at a central table, whilst a small
man of active build, in a black, shiny suit, which seemed to have seen
much service, stood before the empty fireplace. Him I took to be the
landlord, and I asked him what I should have for my dinner.

He smiled, and said that he could not tell.

"But surely, my friend," said I, "you can tell me what is ready?"

"Even that I cannot do," he answered; "but I doubt not that the landlord
can inform us." On this he rang the bell, and a fellow answered, to whom
I put the same question.

"What would you have?" he asked.

I thought of the master, and I ordered a cold leg of pork to be washed
down with tea arid beer.

"Did you say tea aid beer?" asked the landlord. "I did."

"For twenty-five years have I been in business," said the landlord, "and
never before have I been asked for tea and beer."

"The gentleman is joking," said the man with the shining coat.

"Or else--" said the elderly man in the corner. "Or what, sir?" I asked.

"Nothing," said he--"nothing." There was something very strange in this
man in the corner--him to whom I had spoken of Dafydd-ap-Gwilyn.

"Then you are joking," said the landlord.

I asked him if he had read the works of my master, George Borrow. He
said that he had not. I told him that in those five volumes he would
not, from cover to cover, find one trace of any sort of a joke. He would
also find that my master drank tea and beer together. Now it happens
that about tea I have read nothing either in the sagas or in the bardic
cnylynions, but, whilst the landlord had departed to prepare my meal, I
recitedto the company those Icelandic stanzas which praise the beer of
Gunnar, the long-haired son of Harold the Bear. Then, lest the language
should be unknown to some of them, I recited my own translation, ending
with the line--

"If the beer be small, then let the mug be large."

I then asked the company whether they went to church or to chapel. The
question surprised them, and especially the strange man in the corner,
upon whom I now fixed my eye. I had read his secret, and as I looked at
him he tried to shrink behind the clock-case.

"The church or the chapel?" I asked him.

"The church," he gasped.

"Which church?" I asked.

He shrank farther behind the clock. "I have never been so questioned,"
he cried.

I showed him that I knew his secret. "Rome was not built in a day," said
I.

"He! He!" he cried. Then, as I turned away, he put his head from behind
the clock-case and tapped his forehead with his fore-finger. So also did
the man with the shiny coat, who stood before the empty fireplace.

Having eaten the cold leg of pork--where is there a better dish, save
only boiled mutton with capers?--and having drunk both the tea and the
beer, I told the company that such a meal had been called to box Harry
by the master, who had observed it to be in great favour with commercial
gentlemen out of Liverpool. With this information and a stanza or two
from Lopez de Vega I left the Inn of the Rose and Crown behind me,
having first paid my reckoning. At the door the landlord asked me for my
name and address.

"And why?" I asked.

"Lest there should be inquiry for you," said the landlord.

"But why should they inquire for me?"

"Ah, who knows?" said the landlord, musing. And so I left him at the
door of the Inn of the Rose and Crown whence came, I observed, a great
tumult of laughter. "Assuredly," thought I, "Rome was not built in a
day."

Having walked down the main street of Swinehurst, which, as I have
observed, consists of half-timbered buildings in the ancient style, I
came out upon the country road, and proceeded to look for those wayside
adventures, which are, according to the master, as thick as blackberries
Tor those who seek them upon an English highway. I had already received
some boxing lessons before leaving London, so it seemed to me that if I
should chance to meet some traveller whose size and age seemed such as
to encourage the venture, I would ask him to strip off his coat and
settle any differences which we could find in the old English fashion. I
waited, therefore, by a stile for anyone who should chance to pass, and
it was while I stood there that the screaming horror came upon me, even
as it came upon the master in the dingle. I gripped the bar of the
stile, which was of good British oak. Oh, who can tell the terrors of
the screaming horror! That was what I thought as I grasped the oaken bar
of the stile. Was it the beer--or was it the tea? Or was it that the
landlord was right and that other, the man with the black, shiny coat,
he who had answered the sign of the strange man in the corner? But the
master drank tea with beer. Yes, but the master also had the screaming
horror. All this I thought as I grasped the bar of British oak, which
was the top of the stile. Fora half an hour the horror was upon me. Then
it passed, and I was left feeling very weak and still grasping the oaken
bar.

I had not moved from the stile, where I had been seized by the screaming
horror, when I heard the sound of steps behind me, and turning round I
perceived that a pathway led across the field upon the farther side of
the stile. A woman was coming towards me along this pathway, and it was
evident to me that she was one of those gipsy Rias, of whom the master
has said so much. Looking beyond her, I could see the smoke of a fire
from a small dingle, which showed where her tribe were camping. The
woman herself was of a moderate height, neither tall nor short, with a
face which was much sunburned and freckled. I must confess that she was
not beautiful, but I do not think that anyone, save the master, has
found very beautiful women walking about upon the high-roads of England.
Such as she was I must make the best of her, and well I knew how to
address her, for many times had I admired the mixture of politeness and
audacity which should be used in such a case. Therefore, when the woman
had come to the stile, I held out my hand and helped her over.

"What says the Spanish poet Calderon?" said I. "I doubt not that you
have read the couplet which has been thus Englished:

Oh, maiden, may I humbly pray
That I may help you on your way."

The woman blushed, but said nothing.

"Where," I asked, "are the Romany chals and the Romany chis?"

She turned her head away and was silent.

"Though I am a gorgio," said I, "I know something of the Romany lil,"
and to prove it I sang the stanza--

"Coliko, coliko saulo wer Apopli to the farming ker Will wel and mang
him mullo, Will wel and mang his truppo."

The girl laughed, but said nothing. It appeared to me from her
appearance that she might be one of those who make a living at telling
fortunes or "dukkering," as the master calls it, at racecourses and
other gatherings of the sort.

"Do you dukker?" I asked.

She slapped me on the arm. "Well, you are a pot of ginger!" said she.

I was pleased at the slap, for it put me in mind of the peerless Belle.
"You can use Long Melford," said I, an expression which, with the
master, meant fighting.

Get along with your sauce "said she, and struck me again.

"You are a very fine young woman," said I, "and remind me of Grunelda,
the daughter of Hjalmar, who stole the golden bowl from the King of the
Islands."

She seemed annoyed at this. "You keep a civil tongue, young man," said
she.

"I meant no harm, Belle. I was but comparing you to one of whom the saga
says her eyes were like the shine of sun upon icebergs."

This seemed to please her, for she smiled. "My name ain't Belle," she
said at last.

"What is your name?"

"Henrietta."

"The name of a queen," I said aloud.

"Go on," said the girl.

"Of Charles's queen," said I, "of whom Waller the poet (for the English
also have their poets, though in this respect far inferior to the
Basques)--of whom, I say, Waller the poet said:

"That she was Queen was the Creator's act, Belated man could but endorse
the fact."

"I say!" cried the girl. "How you do go on!"

"So now," said I, "since I have shown you that you are a queen you will
surely give me a choomer "--this being a kiss in Romany talk.

"I'll give you one on the ear-hole," she cried.

"Then I will wrestle with you," said I. "If you should chance to put me
down, I will do penance by teaching you the Armenian alphabet--the very
word alphabet, as you will perceive, shows us that our letters came from
Greece. If, on the other hand, I should chance to put you down, you will
give me a choomer."

I had got so far, and she was climbing the stile with some pretence of
getting away from me, when there came a van along the road, belonging,
as I discovered, to a baker in Swinehurst. The horse, which was of a
brown colour, was such as is bred in the New Forest, being somewhat
under fifteen hands and of a hairy, ill-kempt variety. As I know less
than the master about horses, I will say no more of this horse, save to
repeat that its colour was brown--nor indeed had the horse or the
horse's colour anything to do with my narrative. I might add, however,
that it could either be taken as a small horse or as a large pony, being
somewhat tall for the one, but undersized for the other. I have now said
enough about this horse, which has nothing to do with my story, and I
will turn my attention to the driver.

This was a man with a broad, florid face and brown side-whiskers. He was
of a stout build and had rounded shoulders, with a small mole of a
reddish colour over his left eyebrow. His jacket was of velveteen, and
he had large, iron-shod boots, which were perched upon the splashboard
in front of him. He pulled up the van as he came up to the stile near
which I was standing with the maiden who had come from the dingle, and
in a civil fashion he asked me if I could oblige him with a light for
his pipe. Then, as I drew a matchbox from my pocket, he threw his reins
over the splashboard, and removing his large, iron-shod boots he
descended on to the road. He was a burly man, but inclined to fat and
scant of breath. It seemed to me that it was a chance for one of those
wayside boxing adventures which were so common in the olden times. It
was my intention that I should fight the man, and that the maiden from
the dingle standing by me should tell me when to use my right or my
left, as the case might be, picking me up also in case I should be so
unfortunate as to be knocked down by the man with the iron-shod boots
and the small mole of a reddish colour over his left eyebrow.

"Do you use Long Melford?" I asked.

He looked at me in some surprise, and said that any mixture was good
enough for him.

"By Long Melford," said I, "I do not mean, as you seem to think, some
form of tobacco, but I mean that art and science of boxing which was
held in such high esteem by our ancestors, that some famous professors
of it, such as the great Gully, have been elected to the highest offices
of the State. There were men of the highest character amongst the
bruisers of England, of whom I would particularly mention Tom of
Hereford, better known as Tom Spring, though his father's name, as I
have been given to understand, was Winter. This, however, has nothing to
do with the matter in hand, which is that you must fight me."

The man with the florid face seemed very much surprised at my words, so
that I cannot think that adventures of this sort were as common as I had
been led by the master to expect.

"Fight!" said he. "What about?"

"It is a good old English custom," said I, "by which we may determine
which is the better man."

"I've nothing against you," said he.

"Nor I against you," I answered. "So that we will fight for love, which
was an expression much used in olden days. It is narrated by Harold
Sygvynson that among the Danes it was usual to do so even with
battle-axes, as is told in his second set of runes. Therefore you will
take off your coat and fight." As I spoke, I stripped off my own.

The man's face was less florid than before. "I'm not going to fight,"
said he.

"Indeed you are," I answered, "and this young woman will doubtless do
you the service to hold your coat."

"You're clean balmy," said Henrietta.

"Besides," said I, "if you will not fight me for love, perhaps you will
fight me for this," and I held out a sovereign. "Will you hold his
coat?" I said to Henrietta.

"I'll hold the thick 'un," said she.

"No, you don't," said the man, and put the sovereign into the pocket of
his trousers, which were of a corduroy material. "Now," said he, "what
am I to do to earn this?"

"Fight," said I.

"How do you do it?" he asked.

"Put up your hands," I answered.

He put them up as I had said, and stood there in a sheepish manner with
no idea of anything further. It seemed to me that if I could make him
angry he would do better, so I knocked off his hat, which was black and
hard, of the kind which is called billy-cock.

"Heh, guv'nor!" he cried, "what are you up to?"

"That was to make you angry," said I.

"Well, I am angry," said he.

"Then here is your hat," said I, "and afterwards we shall fight."

I turned as I spoke to pick up his hat, which had rolled behind where I
was standing. As I stooped to reach it, I received such a blow that I
could neither rise erect nor yet sit down. This blow which I received as
I stooped for his billy-cock hat was not from his fist, but from his
iron-shod boot, the same which I had observed upon the splashboard.
Being unable either to rise erect or yet to sit down, I leaned upon the
oaken bar of the stile and groaned loudly on account of the pain of the
blow which I had received. Even the screaming horror had given me less
pain than this blow from the iron-shod boot. When at last I was able to
stand erect, I found that the florid-faced man had driven away with his
cart, which could no longer be seen. The maiden from the dingle was
standing at the other side of the stile, and a ragged man was running
across the field from the direction of the fire.

"Why did you not warn me, Henrietta?" I asked.

"I hadn't time," said she. "Why were you such a chump as to turn your
back on him like that?"

The ragged man had reached us, where I stood talking to Henrietta by the
stile. I will not try to write his conversation as he said it, because I
have observed that the master never condescends to dialect, but prefers
by a word introduced here and there to show the fashion of a man's
speech. I will only say that the man from the dingle spoke as did the
Anglo-Saxons who were wont, as is clearly shown by the venerable Bede,
to call their leaders 'Enjist and 'Orsa, two words which in their proper
meaning signify a horse and a mare.

"What did he hit you for?" asked the man from the dingle. He was
exceedingly ragged, with a powerful frame, a lean brown face, and an
oaken cudgel in his hand. His voice was very hoarse and rough, as is the
case with those who live in the open air.

"The bloke hit you," said he. "What did the bloke hit you for?"

"He asked him to," said Henrietta.

"Asked him to--asked him what?"

"Why, he asked him to hit him. Gave him a thick 'un to do it."

The ragged man seemed surprised. "See here, gov'nor," said he. "If
you're collectin', I could let you have one half-price."

"He took me unawares," said I.

"What else would the bloke do when you bashed his hat?" said the maiden
from the dingle.

By this time I was able to straighten myself up by the aid of the oaken
bar which formed the top of the stile. Having quoted a few lines of the
Chinese poet Lo-tun-an to the effect that, however hard a knock might
be, it might always conceivably be harder, I looked about for my coat,
but could by no means find it.

"Henrietta," I said, "what have you done with my coat?"

"Look here, gov'nor," said the man from the dingle, "not so much
Henrietta, if it's the same to you. This woman's my wife. Who are you to
call her Henrietta?"

I assured the man from the dingle that I had meant no disrespect to his
wife. "I had thought she was a mort," said I; "but the ria of a Romany
chal is always sacred to me."

"Clean balmy," said the woman.

"Some other day," said I, "I may visit you in your camp in the dingle
and read you the master's book about the Romanys."

"What's Romanys?" asked the man.

Myself. Romanys are gipsies.

The Man. We ain't gipsies.

Myself. What are you then?

The Man. We are hoppers.

Myself (to Henrietta). Then how did you understand all I have said to
you about gipsies?

Henrietta. I didn't.

I again asked for my coat, but it was clear now that before offering to
fight the florid-faced man with the mole over his left eyebrow I must
have hung my coat upon the splashboard of his van. I therefore recited a
verse from Ferideddin-Atar, the Persian poet, which signifies that it is
more important to preserve your skin than your clothes, and bidding
farewell to the man from the dingle and his wife I returned into the old
English village of Swinehurst, where I was able to buy a secondhand
coat, which enabled me to make my way to the station, where I should
start for London. I could not but remark with some surprise that I was
followed to the station by many of the villagers, together with the man
with the shiny coat, and that other, the strange man, he who had slunk
behind the clock-case. From time to time I turned and approached them,
hoping to fall into conversation with them; but as I did so they would
break and hasten down the road. Only the village constable came on, and
he walked by my side and listened while I told him the history of
Hunyadi Janos and the events which occurred during the wars between that
hero, known also as Corvinus or the crow-like, and Mahommed the second,
he who captured Constantinople, better known as Byzantium; before the
Christian epoch. Together with the constable I entered the station, and
seating myself in a carriage I took paper from my pocket and I began to
write upon the paper all that had occurred to me, in order that I might
show that it was not easy in these days to follow the example of the
master. As I wrote, I heard the constable talk to the station-master, a
stout, middle-sized man with a red neck-tie, and tell him of my own
adventures in the old English village of Swinehurst.

"He is a gentleman too," said the constable, "and I doubt not that he
lives in a big house in London town."

"A very big house if every man had his rights," said the station-master,
and waving his hand he signalled that the train should proceed.



VII - THE SURGEON OF GASTER FELL


1 - HOW THE WOMAN CAME TO KIRKBY-MALHOUSE


Bleak and wind-swept is the little town of Kirkby-Malhouse, harsh and
forbidding are the fells upon which it stands. It stretches in a single
line of grey-stone, slate-roofed houses, dotted down the furze-clad
slope of the rolling moor.

In this lonely and secluded village, I, James Upperton, found myself in
the summer of '85. Little as the hamlet had to offer, it contained that
for which I yearned above all things--seclusion and freedom from all
which might distract my mind from the high and weighty subjects which
engaged it. But the inquisitiveness of my landlady made my lodgings
undesirable and I determined to seek new quarters.

As it chanced, I had in one of my rambles come upon an isolated dwelling
in the very heart of these lonely moors, which I at once determined
should be my own. It was a two-roomed cottage, which had once belonged
to some shepherd, but had long been deserted, and was crumbling rapidly
to ruin. In the winter floods, the Gaster Beck, which runs down Gaster
Fell, where the little dwelling stood, had overswept its banks and torn
away a part of the wall. The roof was in ill case, and the scattered
slates lay thick amongst the grass. Yet the main shell of the house
stood firm and true; and it was no great task for me to have all that
was amiss set right.

The two rooms I laid out in a widely different manner--my own tastes are
of a Spartan turn, and the outer chamber was so planned as to accord
with them. An oil-stove by Rippingille of Birmingham furnished me with
the means of cooking; while two great bags, the one of flour, and the
other of potatoes, made me independent of all supplies from without. In
diet I had long been a Pythagorean, so that the scraggy, long-limbed
sheep which browsed upon the wiry grass by the Gaster Beck had little to
fear from their new companion. A nine-gallon cask of oil served me as a
sideboard; while a square table, a deal chair and a truckle-bed
completed the list of my domestic fittings. At the head of my couch hung
two unpainted shelves--the lower for my dishes and cooking utensils, the
upper for the few portraits which took me back to the little that was
pleasant in the long, wearisome toiling for wealth and for pleasure
which had marked the life I had left behind.

If this dwelling-room of mine were plain even to squalor, its poverty
was more than atoned for by the luxury of the chamber which was destined
to serve me as my study. I had ever held that it was best for my mind to
be surrounded by such objects as would be in harmony with the studies
which occupied it, and that the loftiest and most ethereal conditions of
thought are only possible amid surroundings which please the eye and
gratify the senses. The room which I had set apart for my mystic studies
was set forth in a style as gloomy and majestic as the thoughts and
aspirations with which it was to harmonise. Both walls and ceilings were
covered with a paper of the richest and glossiest black, on which was
traced a lurid and arabesque pattern of dead gold. A black velvet
curtain covered the single diamond-paned window; while a thick, yielding
carpet of the same material prevented the sound of my own footfalls, as
I paced backward and forward, from breaking the current of my thought.
Along the cornices ran gold rods, from which depended six pictures, all
of the sombre and imaginative caste, which chimed best with my fancy.

And yet it was destined that ere ever I reached this quiet harbour I
should learn that I was still one of humankind, and that it is an ill
thing to strive to break the bond which binds us to our fellows. It was
but two nights before the date I had fixed upon for my change of
dwelling, when I was conscious of a bustle in the house beneath, with
the bearing of heavy burdens up the creaking stair, and the harsh voice
of my landlady, loud in welcome and protestations of joy. From time to
time, amid the whirl of words, I could hear a gentle and softly
modulated voice, which struck pleasantly upon my ear after the long
weeks during which I had listened only to the rude dialect of the
dalesmen. For an hour I could hear the dialogue beneath--the high voice
and the low, with clatter of cup and clink of spoon, until at last a
light, quick step passed my study door, and I knew that my new
fellow-lodger had sought her room.

On the morning after this incident I was up betimes, as is my wont; but
I was surprised, on glancing from my window, to see that our new inmate
was earlier still. She was walking down the narrow pathway, which
zigzags over the fell--a tall woman, slender, her head sunk upon her
breast, her arms filled with a 'bristle of wild flowers, which she had
gathered in her morning rambles. The white and pink of her dress, and
the touch of deep red ribbon in her broad, drooping hat, formed a
pleasant dash of colour against the dun-tinted landscape. She was some
distance off when I first set eyes upon her, yet I knew that this
wandering woman could be none other than our arrival of last night, for
there was a grace and refinement in her bearing which marked her from
the dwellers of the fells. Even as I watched she passed swiftly and
lightly down the pathway, and turning through the wicket gate, at the
farther end of our cottage garden, she seated herself upon the green
bank which faced my window, and strewing her flowers in front of her,
set herself to arrange them.

As she sat there, with the rising sun at her back, and the glow of the
morning spreading like an aureole around her stately and well-poised
head, I could see that she was a woman of extraordinary personal beauty.
Her face was Spanish rather than English in its type--oval, olive, with
black, sparkling eyes, and a sweetly sensitive mouth. From under the
broad straw hat two thick coils of blue-black hair curved down on either
side of her graceful, queenly neck. I was surprised, as I watched her,
to see that her shoes and skirt bore witness to a journey rather than to
a mere morning ramble. Her light dress was stained, wet and bedraggled;
while her boots were thick with the yellow soil of the fells. Her face,
too, wore a weary expression, and her young beauty seemed to be clouded
over by the shadow of inward trouble. Even as I watched her, she burst
suddenly into wild weeping, and throwing down her bundle of flowers,
ran swiftly into the house.

Distrait as I was and weary of the ways of the world, I was conscious of
a sudden pang of sympathy and grief as I looked upon the spasm of
despair which seemed to convulse this strange and beautiful woman. I
bent to my books, and yet my thoughts would ever turn to her proud,
clear-cut face, her weather-stained dress, her drooping head, and the
sorrow which lay in each line and feature of her pensive face.

Mrs. Adams, my landlady, was wont to carry up my frugal breakfast; yet
it was very rarely that I allowed her to break the current of my
thoughts, or to draw my mind by her idle chatter from weightier things.
This morning, however, for once, she found me in a listening mood, and
with little prompting, proceeded to pour into my ears all that she knew
of our beautiful visitor.

"Miss Eva Cameron be her name, sir," she said "but who she be, or where
she came fra, I know little more than yoursel'. Maybe it was the same
reason that brought her to Kirkby-Malhouse as fetched you there
yoursel', sir."

"Possibly," said I, ignoring 'the covert question; "but I should hardly
have thought that Kirkby-Malhouse was a place which offered any great
attractions to a young lady."

"Heh, sir!" she cried, "there's the wonder of it. The leddy has just come
fra France; and how her folk come to learn of me is just a wonder. A
week ago, up comes a man to my door--a fine man, sir, and a gentleman,
as one could see with half an eye. 'You are Mrs. Adams,' says he. 'I
engage your rooms for Miss Cameron,' says he. She will be here in a
week,' says he; and then off without a word of terms. Last night there
comes the young leddy hersel'--soft-spoken and downcast, with a touch of
the French in her speech. But my sakes, sir I must away and mak' her
some tea, for she'll feel lonesome-like, poor lamb, when she wakes under
a strange roof."


2 - HOW I WENT FORTH TO GASTER FELL


I was still engaged upon my breakfast when I heard the clatter of dishes
and the landlady's footfall as she passed toward her new lodger's room.
An instant afterward she had rushed down the passage and burst in upon
me with uplifted hand and startled eyes. "Lord 'a mercy, sir!" she
cried, "and asking your pardon for troubling you, but I'm feared o' the
young leddy, sir; she is not in her room."

"Why, there she is," said I, standing up and glancing through the
casement. "She has gone back for the flowers she left upon the bank."

"Oh, sir, see her boots and her dress!" cried the landlady wildly. "I
wish her mother was here, sir--I do. Where she has been is more than I
ken, but her bed has not been lain on this night."

"She has felt restless, doubtless, and went for a walk, though the hour
was certainly a strange one."

Mrs. Adams pursed her lip and shook her head. But then as she stood at
the casement, the girl beneath looked smilingly up aeher and beckoned to
her with a merry gesture to open the window.

"Have you my tea there?" she asked in a rich, clear voice, with a touch
of the mincing French accent. "It is in your room, miss."

"Look at my boots, Mrs. Adams!" she cried, thrusting them out from under
her skirt. "These fells of yours are dreadful places--_effroyable_--one
inch, two inch; never have I seen such mud! My dress, too--_voila_!"

"Eh, miss, but you are in a pickle," cried the landlady, as she gazed
down at the bedraggled gown. "But you must be main weary and heavy for
sleep."

"No, no," she answered laughingly, "I care not for sleep. What is sleep?
it is a little death--_voila tout_. But for me to walk, to run, to
breathe the air--that is to live. I was not tired, and so all night I
have explored these fells of Yorkshire."

"Lord 'a mercy, miss, and where did you go?" asked Mrs. Adams.

She waved her hand round in a sweeping gesture which included the whole
western horizon. "There," she cried. "O comme elles sont tristes et
sauvages, ces collines! But I have flowers here. You will give me
'water, will you not? They will wither else." She gathered her treasures
in her lap, and a moment later we heard her light, springy footfall upon
the stair.

So she had been out all night, this strange woman. What motive could
have taken her from her snug room on to the bleak, wind-swept hills?
Could it be merely the restlessness, the love of adventure of a young
girl? Or was there, possibly, some deeper meaning in this nocturnal
journey?

Deep as were the mysteries which my studies had taught me to solve, here
was a human problem which for the moment at least was beyond my
comprehension. I had walked out on the moor in the forenoon, and on my
return, as I topped the brow that overlooks the little town, I saw my
fellow-lodger some little distance off amongst the gorse. She had raised
a light easel in front of her, and, with papered board laid across it,
was preparing to paint the magnificent landscape of rock and moor which
stretched away in front of her. As I watched her I saw that she was
looking anxiously to right and left. Close by me a pool of water had
formed in a hollow. Dipping the cup of my pocket-flask into it, I
carried it across to her.

"Miss Cameron, I believe," said I. "I am your fellow-lodger. Upperton is
my name. We must introduce ourselves in these wilds if we are not to be
for ever strangers."

"Oh, then, you live also with Mrs. Adams!" she cried. "I had thought
that there were none but peasants in this strange place."

"I am a visitor, like yourself," I answered. "I am a student, and have
come for quiet and repose, which my studies demand."

"Quiet, indeed!" said she, glancing round at the vast circle of silent
moors, with the one tiny line of grey cottages which sloped down beneath
us.

"And yet not quiet enough," I answered, laughing, "for I have been
forced to move farther into the fells for the absolute peace which I
require."

"Have you, then, built a house upon the fells?" she asked, arching her
eyebrows.

"I have, and hope, within a few days, to occupy it."

"Ah, but that is triste," she cried. "And where is it, then, this house
which you have built?"

"It is over yonder," I answered. "See that stream which lies like a
silver band upon the distant moor? It is the Gaster Beck, and it runs
through Gaster Fell."

She started, and turned upon me her great, dark, questioning eyes with a
look in which surprise, incredulity, and something akin to horror seemed
to be struggling for mastery.

"And you will live on the Gaster Fell?" she cried.

"So I have planned. But what do you know of Gaster Fell, Miss Cameron?"
I asked. "I had thought that you were a stranger in these parts."

"Indeed, I have never been here before," she answered. "But I have heard
my brother talk of these Yorkshire moors; and, if I mistake not, I have
heard him name this very one as the wildest and most savage of them
all."

"Very likely," said I carelessly. "It is indeed a dreary place."

"Then why live there?" she cried eagerly. "Consider the loneliness, the
barrenness, the want of all comfort and of all aid, should aid be
needed."

"Aid! What aid should be needed on Gaster Fell?"

She looked down and shrugged her shoulders. "Sickness may come in all
places," said she. "If I were a man I do not think I would live alone on
Gaster Fell."

"I have braved worse dangers than that," said I, laughing; "but I fear
that your picture will be spoiled, for the clouds are banking up, and
already I feel a few raindrops."

Indeed, it was high time we were on our way to shelter, for even as I
spoke there came the sudden, steady swish of the shower. Laughing
merrily, my companion threw her light shawl over her head, and, seizing
picture and easel, ran with the lithe grace of a young fawn down the
furze-clad slope, while I followed after with camp-stool and paint-box.

* * * * *

It was the eve of my departure from Kirkby-Malhouse that we sat upon the
green bank in the garden, she with dark, dreamy eyes looking sadly ogt
over the sombre fells; while I, with a book upon my knee, glanced
covertly at her lovely profile and marvelled to myself how twenty years
of life could have stamped so sad and wistful an expression upon it.

"You have read much," I remarked at last. "Women have opportunities now
such as their mothers never knew. Have you ever thought of going
further--or seeking a course of college or even a learned profession?"

She smiled wearily at the thought.

"I have no aim, no ambition," she said. "My future is black--confused--a
chaos. My life is like to one of these paths upon the fells. You have
seen them, Monsieur Upperton. They are smooth and straight and clear
where they begin; but soon they wind to left and wind to right, and so
mid rocks and crags until they lose themselves in some quagmire. At
Brussels my path was straight; but now, mon Dieu! who is there can tell
me where it leads?"

"It might take no prophet to do that, Miss Cameron," quoth I, with the
fatherly manner which two-score years may show toward one. "If I may read
your life, I would venture to say that you were destined to fulfil the
lot of women--to make some good man happy, and to shed around, in some
wider circle, the pleasure which your society has given me since first I
knew you."

"I will never marry," said she, with a sharp decision, which surprised
and somewhat amused me.

"Not marry--and why?"

A strange look passed over her sensitive features, and she plucked
nervously at the grass on the bank beside her.

"I dare not," said she in a voice that quivered with emotion.

"Dare not?"

"It is not for me. I have other things to do. That path of which I spoke
is one which I must tread alone."

"But this is morbid," said I. "Why should your lot, Miss Cameron, be
separated from that of my own sisters, or the thousand other young
ladies whom every season brings out into the world? But perhaps it is
that you have a fear and distrust of mankind. Marriage brings a risk as
well as a happiness."

"The risk would be with the man who married me," she cried. And then in
an instant, as though she had said too much, she sprang to her feet and
drew her mantle round her. "The night air is chill, Mr. Upperton," said
she, and so swept swiftly away, laving me to muse over the strange words
which had fallen from her lips. Clearly, it was time that I should go. I
set my teeth and vowed that another day should not have passed before I
should have snapped this newly formed tie and sought the lonely retreat
which awaited me upon the moors. Breakfast was hardly over in the
morning before a peasant dragged up to the door the rude handcart which
was to convey my few personal belongings to my new dwelling. My
fellow-lodger had kept her room; and, steeled as my mind was against her
influence, I was yet conscious of a little throb of disappointment that
she should allow me to depart without a word of farewell. My hand-cart
with its load of books had already started, and I, having shaken hands
with Mrs. Adams, was about to follow it, when there was a quick scurry
of feet on the stair, and there she was beside me all panting with her
own haste.

"Then you go--you really go?" said she.

"My studies call me."

"And to Gaster Fell?" she asked.

"Yes; to the cottage which I have built there."

"And you will live alone there?"

"With my hundred companions who lie in that cart."

"Ah, books!" she cried, with a pretty shrug of her graceful shoulders.
"But you will make me a promise?"

"What is it?" I asked, in surprise.

"It is a small thing. You will not refuse me?"

"You have but to ask it."

She bent forward her beautiful face with an expression of the most
intense earnestness. "You will bolt your door at night?" said she; and
was gone ere I could say a word in answer to her extraordinary request.

It was a strange thing for me to find myself at last duly installed in
my lonely dwelling. For me, now, the horizon was bounded by the barren
circle of wiry, unprofitable grass, patched over with furze bushes and
scarred by the profusion of Nature's gaunt and granite ribs. A duller,
wearier waste I have never seen; but its dullness was its very charm.

And yet the very first night which I spent at Gaster Fell there came a
strange incident to lead my thoughts back once more to the world which I
had left behind me.

It had been a sullen and sultry evening, with great, livid cloud-banks
mustering in the west. As the night wore on, the air within my little
cabin became closer and more oppressive. A weight seemed to rest upon my
brow and my chest. From far away the low rumble of thunder came moaning
over the moor. Unable to sleep, I dressed, and standing at my cottage
door, looked on the black solitude which surrounded me.

Taking the narrow sheep path which ran by this stream, I strolled along
it for some hundred yards, and had turned to retrace my steps, when the
moon was finally buried beneath an ink-black cloud, and the darkness
deepened so suddenly that I could see neither the path at my feet, the
stream upon my right, nor the rocks upon my left. I was standing groping
about in the thick gloom, when there came a crash of thunder with a
flash of lightning which lighted up the whole, vast fell, so that every
bush and rock stood out clear and hard in the vivid light. It was but
for an instant, and yet that momentary view struck a thrill of fear and
astonishment through me, for in my very path, not twenty yards before
me, there stood a woman, the livid light beating upon her face and
showing up every detail of her dress and features.

There was no mistaking those dark eyes, that tall, graceful figure. It
was she--Eva Cameron, the woman whom I thought I had for ever left. For
an instant I stood petrified, marvelling whether this could indeed be
she, or whether it was some figment conjured up by my excited brain.
Then I ran swiftly forward in the direction where I had seen her,
calling loudly upon her, but without reply. Again I called, and again no
answer came back, save the melancholy wail of the owl. A second flash
illuminated the landscape, and the moon burst out from behind its cloud.
But I could not, though I climbed upon a knoll which overlooked the
whole moor, see any sign of this strange, midnight wanderer. For an hour
or more I traversed the fell, and at last found myself back at my little
cabin, still uncertain as to whether it had been a woman or a shadow
upon which I gazed.


3 - OF THE GREY COTTAGE IN THE GLEN


It was either on the fourth or the fifth day after I had taken
possession of my cottage that I was astonished to hear footsteps upon
the grass outside, quickly followed by a crack, as from a stick upon the
door. The explosion of an infernal machine would hardly have surprised
or discomfited me more. I had hoped to have shaken off all intrusion for
ever yet here was somebody beating at my door with as little ceremony as
if it had been a village ale-house. Hot with anger, I flung down my book
and withdrew the bolt just as my visitor had raised his stick to renew
his rough application for admittance. He was a tall, powerful man,
tawny-bearded and deep-chested, clad in a loose-fitting suit of tweed,
cut for comfort rather than elegance. As he stood in the shimmering
sunlight, I took in every feature of his face. The large, fleshy nose;
the steady, blue eyes, with their thick thatch of overhanging brows; the
broad forehead, all knitted and lined with furrows which were strangely
at variance with his youthful bearing. In spite of his weather-stained
felt hat, and the coloured handkerchief slung round his muscular brown
neck, I could see at a glance he was a man of breeding and education. I
had been prepared for some wandering shepherd or uncouth tramp, but this
apparition fairly disconcerted me.

"You look astonished," said he, with a smile. "Did you think, then, that
you were the only man in the world with a taste for solitude? You see
that there are other hermits in the wilderness besides yourself."

"Do you mean to say that you live here?" I asked in no conciliatory
voice.

"Up yonder," he answered, tossing his head backward. "I thought as we
were neighbours, Mr. Upperton, that I could not do less than look in and
see if I could assist you in any way."

"Thank you," I said coldly, standing with my hand upon the latch of the
door. "I am a man of simple tastes, and you can do nothing for me. You
have the advantage of me in knowing my name."

He appeared to be chilled by my ungracious manner. "I learned it from
the masons who were at work here," he said. "As for me, I am a surgeon,
the surgeon of Gaster Fell. That is the name I have gone by in these
parts, and it serves as well as another."

"Not much room for practice here?" I observed. "Not a soul except
yourself for miles on either side."

"You appear to have had need of some assistance yourself," I remarked,
glancing at a broad, white splash, as from the recent action of some
powerful acid, upon his sunburnt cheek.

"That is nothing," he answered, curtly, turning his face half round to
hide the mark. "I must get back, for I have a companion who is waiting
for me. If I can ever do anything for you, pray let me know. You have
only to follow the beck upward for a mile or so to find my place. Have
you a bolt on the inside of your door?"

"Yes," I answered, rather startled at this question.

"Keep it bolted, then," he said. "The fell is a strange place. You never
know who may be about. It is as well to be on the safe side. Good-bye."

He raised his hat, turned on his heel and lounged away along the bank of
the little stream.

I was still standing with my hand upon the latch, gazing after my
unexpected visitor, when I became aware of yet another dweller in the
wilderness. Some distance along the path which the stranger was taking
there lay a great, grey boulder, and leaning against this was a small,
wizened man, who stood erect as the other approached, and advanced to
meet him. The two talked for a minute or more, the taller man nodding
his head frequently in my direction, as though describing what had
passed between us. Then they walked on together, and disappeared in a
dip of the fell. Presently I saw them ascending once more some rising
ground farther on. My acquaintance had thrown his arm round his elderly
friend, either from affection or from a desire to aid him up the steep
incline. The square, burly figure and its shrivelled, meagre companion
stood out against the skyline, and turning their fades, they looked back
at me. At the sight, I slammed the door, lest they should be encouraged
to return. But when I peeped from the window some minutes afterward, I
perceived that they were gone.

All day I bent over the Egyptian papyrus upon which I was engaged but
neither the subtle reasonings of the ancient philosopher of Memphis, nor
the mystic meaning which lay in his pages, could raise my mind from the
things of earth. Evening was drawing in before I threw my work aside in
despair. My heart was bitter against this man for his intrusion.
Standing by the beck which purled past the door of my cabin, I cooled my
heated brow, and thought the matter over. Clearly it was the small
mystery hanging over these neighbours of mine which had caused my mind
to run so persistently on them. That cleared up, they would no longer
cause an obstacle to my studies. What was to hinder me, then, from
walking in the direction of their dwelling, and observing for myself,
without permitting them to suspect my presence, what manner of men they
might be? Doubtless, their mode of life would be found to admit of some
simple and prosaic explanation. In any case, the evening was fine, and a
walk would be bracing for mind and body. Lighting my pipe, I set off
over the moors in the direction which they had taken.

About half-way down a wild glen there stood a small clump of gnarled and
stunted oak trees. From behind these, a thin, dark column of smoke rose
into the still evening air. Clearly this marked the position of my
neighbour's house. Trending away to the left, I was able to gain the
shelter of a line of rocks, and so reach a spot from which I could
command a view of the building without exposing myself to any risk of
being observed. It was a small, slate-covered cottage, hardly larger
than the boulders among which it lay. Like my own cabin, it showed signs
of having been constructed for the use of some shepherd; but, unlike
mine, no pains had been taken by the tenants to improve and enlarge it.
Two little peeping windows, a cracked and weather-beaten door, and a
discoloured barrel for catching the rainwater, were the only external
objects from which I might draw deductions as to the dwellers within.
Yet even in these there was food for thought, for as I drew nearer,
still concealing myself behind the ridge, I daw that thick bars of iron
covered the windows, while the old door was slashed and plated with the
same metal. These strange precautions, together with the wild
surroundings and unbroken solitude, gave an indescribably ill omen and
fearsome character to the solitary building. Thrusting my pipe into my
pocket, I crawled upon my hands and knees through the gorse and ferns
until I was within a hundred yards of my neighbour's door. There,
finding that I could not approach nearer without fear of detection, I
crouched down, and set myself to watch.

I had hardly settled into my hiding-place, when the door of the cottage
swung open, and the man who had introduced himself to me as the surgeon
of Gaster Fell came out, bareheaded, with a spade in his hands. In front
of the door, there was a small, cultivated patch containing potatoes,
peas and other forms of green stuff, and here he proceeded to busy
himself, trimming, weeding and arranging, singing the while in a
powerful though not very musical voice. He was all engrossed in his
work, with his back to the cottage, when there emerged from the
half-open door the same attenuated creature whom I had seen in the
morning. I could perceive now that he was a man of sixty, wrinkled,
bent, and feeble, with sparse, grizzled hair, and long, colourless face.
With a cringing, sidelong gait, he shuffled toward his companion, who
was unconscious of his approach until he was close upon him. His light
footfall or his breathing may have finally given notice of his
proximity, for the worker sprang round and faced him. Each made a quick
step toward the other, as though in greeting, and then--even now I feel
the horror of the instant--the tall man rushed upon and knocked his
companion to the earth, then whipping up his body, ran with great speed
over the intervening ground and disappeared with his burden into the
house.

Case-hardened as I was by my varied life, the suddenness and violence of
the thing made me shudder. The man's age, his feeble frame, his humble
and deprecating manner, all cried shame against the deed. So hot was my
anger, that I was on the point of striding up to the cabin, unarmed as I
was, when the sound of voices from within showed me that the victim had
recovered. The sun had sunk beneath the horizon, and all was grey, save
a red feather in the cap of Pennigent. Secure in the failing light, I
approached near and strained my ears to catch what was passing. I could
hear the high, querulous voice of the elder man and the deep, rough
monotone of his assailant, mixed with a strange metallic jangling and
clanking. Presently the surgeon came out, locked the door behind him and
stamped up and down in the twilight, pulling at his hair and brandishing
his arms, like a man demented. Then he set off, walking rapidly up the
valley, and I soon lost sight of him among the rocks.

When his footsteps had died away in the distance, I drew nearer to the
cottage. The prisoner within was still pouring forth a stream of words,
and moaning from time to time like a man in pain. These words resolved
themselves, as I approached, into prayers--shrill, voluble prayers,
pattered forth with the intense earnestness of one who sees impending
and imminent danger. There was to me something inexpressibly awesome in
this gush of solemn entreaty from the lonely sufferer, meant for no
human ear, and jarring upon the silence of the night. I was still
pondering whether I should mix myself in the affair or not, when I heard
in the distance the sound of the surgeon's returning footfall. At that I
drew myself up quickly by the iron bars and glanced in through the
diamond-paned window. The interior of the cottage was lighted up by a
lurid glow, coming from what I afterward discovered to be a chemical
furnace. By its rich light I could distinguish a great litter of
retorts, test tubes and condensers, which sparkled over the table, and
threw strange, grotesque shadows on the wall. On the farther side of the
room was a wooden framework resembling a hen-coop, and in this, still
absorbed in prayer, knelt the man whose voice I heard. The red glow
beating upon his upturned face made it stand out from the shadow like a
painting from Rembrandt, showing up every wrinkle upon the
parchment-like skin. I had but time for a fleeting glance; then,
dropping from the window, I made off through the rocks and the heather,
nor slackened my pace until I found myself back in my cabin once more.
There I threw myself upon my couch, more disturbed and shaken than I had
ever thought to feel again.

Such doubts as I might have had as to whether I had indeed seen my
former fellow-lodger upon the night of the thunderstorm were resolved
the next morning. Strolling along down the path which led to the fell, I
saw in one spot where the ground was soft the impressions of a
foot--the small, dainty foot of a well-booted woman. That tiny heel and
high instep could have belonged to none other than my companion of
Kirkby-Malhouse. I followed her trail for some distance, till it still
pointed, so far as I could discern it, to the lonely and ill-omened
cottage. What power could there be to draw this tender girl, through
wind and rain and darkness, across the fearsome moors to that strange
rendezvous?

I have said that a little beck flowed down the valley and past my very
door. A week or so after the doings which I have described, I was seated
by my window when I perceived something white drifting slowly down the
stream. My first thought was that it was a drowning sheep; but picking
up my stick, I strolled to the bank and hooked it ashore. On examination
it proved to be a large sheet, torn and tattered, with the initials J.
C. in the corner. What gave it its sinister significance, however, was
that from hem to hem it was all dabbled and discoloured.

Shutting the door of my cabin, I set off up the glen in the direction of
the surgeon's cabin. I had not gone far before I perceived the very man
himself. He was walking rapidly along the hillside, beating the furze
bushes with a cudgel and bellowing like a madman. Indeed, at the sight
of him, the doubts as to his sanity which had risen in my mind were
strengthened and confirmed.

As he approached I noticed that his left arm was suspended in a sling.
On perceiving me he stood irresolute, as though uncertain whether to
come over to me or not. I had no desire for an interview with him,
however, so I hurried past him, on which he continued on his way, still
shouting and striking about with his club. When he had disappeared over
the fells, I made my way down to his cottage, determined to find some
clue to what had occurred. I was surprised, on reaching it, to find the
iron-plated door flung wide open. The ground immediately outside it was
marked with the signs of a struggle. The chemical apparatus within and
the furniture were all dashed about and shattered. Most suggestive of
all, the sinister, wooden cage was stained with blood-marks and its
unfortunate occupant had disappeared. My heart was heavy for the little
man, for I was assured I should never see him in this world more.

There was nothing in the cabin to throw any light upon the identity of
my neighbours. The room was stuffed with chemical instruments. In one
corner a small book-case contained a choice selection of works of
science. In another was a pile of geological specimens collected from
the limestone.

I caught no glimpse of the surgeon upon my homeward journey; but when I
reached my cottage I was astonished and indignant to find that somebody
had entered it in my absence. Boxes had been pulled out from under the
bed, the curtains disarranged, the chairs drawn out from the wall. Even
my study had not been safe from this rough intruder, for the prints of a
heavy boot were plainly visible on the ebony-black carpet.

4 - OF THE MAN WHO CAME IN THE NIGHT

The night set in gusty and tempestuous, and the moon was all girt with
ragged clouds. The wind blew in melancholy gusts, sobbing and sighing
over the moor, and setting all the gorse bushes a-groaning. From time to
time a little sputter of rain pattered up against the window-pane. I sat
until near midnight, glancing over the fragment on immortality by
Iamblichus, the Alexandrian platonist, of whom the Emperor Julian said
that he was posterior to Plato in time but not in genius. At last,
shutting up my book, I opened my door and took a last look at the dreary
fell and still more dreary sky. As I protruded my head, a swoop of wind
caught me and sent the red ashes of my pipe sparkling and dancing
through the darkness. At the same moment the moon shone brilliantly out
from between two clouds and I saw, sitting on the hillside, not two
hundred yards from my door, the man who called himself the surgeon of
Gaster Fell. He was squatted among the heather, his elbows upon his
knees, and his chin resting upon his hands, as motionless as a stone,
with his gaze fixed steadily upon the door of my dwelling.

At the sight of this ill-omened sentinel, a chill of horror and of fear
shot through me, for his gloomy and mysterious associations had cast a
glamour round the man, and the hour and place were in keeping with his
sinister presence. In a moment, however, a manly glow of resentment and
self-confidence drove this petty emotion from my mind, and I strode
fearlessly in his direction. He rose as I approached and faced me, with
the moon shining on his grave, bearded face and glittering on his
eyeballs. "What is the meaning of this?" I cried, as I came upon him.
"What right have you to play the spy on me?"

I could see the flush of anger rise on his face. "Your stay in the
country has made you forget your manners," he said. "The moor is free to
all."

"You will say next that my house is free to all," I said, hotly. "You
have had the impertinence to ransack it in my absence this afternoon."

He started, and his features showed the most intense excitement. "I
swear to you that I had no hand in it!" he cried. "I have never set foot
in your house in my life. Oh, sir, sir, if you will but believe me,
there is a danger hanging over you, and you would do well to be
careful."

"I have had enough of you," I said. "I saw that cowardly blow you struck
when you thought no human eye rested upon you. I have been to your
cottage, too, and know all that it has to tell. If there is a law in
England, you shall hang for what you have done. As to me, I am an old
soldier, sir, and I am armed. I shall not fasten my door. But if you or
any other villain attempt to cross my threshold it shall be at your own
risk." With these words, I swung round upon my heel and strode into my
cabin.

For two days the wind freshened and increased, with constant squalls of
rain until on the third night the most furious storm was raging which I
can ever recollect in England. I felt that it was positively useless to
go to bed, nor could I concentrate my mind sufficiently to read a book.
I turned my lamp half down to moderate the glare, and leaning back in my
chair, I gave myself up to reverie. I must have lost all perception of
time, for I have no recollection how long I sat there on the borderland
betwixt thought and slumber. At last, about 3 or possibly 4 o'clock, I
came to myself with a start--not only came to myself, but with every
sense and nerve upon the strain. Looking round my chamber in the dim
light, I could not see anything to justify my sudden trepidation. The
homely room, the rain-blurred window and the rude wooden door were all
as they had been. I had begun to persuade myself that some half-formed
dream, had sent that vague thrill through my nerves, when in a moment I
became conscious of what it was. It was a sound--the sound of a human
step outside my solitary cottage.

Amid the thunder and the rain and the wind I could hear it--a dull,
stealthy footfall, now on the grass, now on the stones--occasionally
stopping entirely, then resumed, and ever drawing nearer. I sat
breathlessly, listening to the eerie sound. It had stopped now at my
very door, and was replaced by a panting and gasping, as of one who has
travelled fast and far.

By the flickering light of the expiring lamp I could see that the latch
of my door was twitching, as though a gentle pressure was exerted on it
from without. Slowly, slowly, it rose, until it was free of the catch,
and then there was a pause of a quarter minute or more, while I still
sat silent with dilated eyes and drawn sabre. Then, very slowly, the
door began to revolve upon its hinges, and the keen air of the night
came whistling through the slit. Very cautiously it was pushed open, so
that never a sound came from the rusty hinges. As the aperture enlarged,
I became aware of a dark, shadowy figure upon my threshold, and of a
pale face that looked in at me. The features were human, but the eyes
were not. They seemed to burn through the darkness with a greenish
brilliancy of their own; and in their baleful, shifty glare I was
conscious of the very spirit of murder. Springing from my chair, I had
raised my naked sword, when, with a wild shouting, a second figure
dashed up to my door. At its approach my shadowy visitant uttered a
shrill cry, and fled away across the fells, yelping like a beaten hound.

Tingling with my recent fear, I stood at my door, peering through the
night with the discordant cry of the fugitives still ringing in my ears.
At that moment a vivid flash of lightning illuminated the whole
landscape and made it as clear as day. By its light I saw far away upon
the hillside two dark figures pursuing each other with extreme rapidity
across the fells. Even at that distance the contrast between them forbid
all doubt as to their identity. The first was the small, elderly man,
whom I had supposed to be dead; the second was my neighbour, the
surgeon. For an instant they stood out clear and hard in the unearthly
light in the next, the darkness had closed over them, and they were
gone. As I turned to re-enter my chamber, my foot rattled against
something on my threshold. Stooping, I found it was a straight knife,
fashioned entirely of lead, and so soft and brittle that it was a
strange choice for a weapon. To render it more harmless, the top had
been cut square off. The edge, however, had been assiduously sharpened
against a stone, as was evident from the markings upon it, so that it
was still a dangerous implement in the grasp of a determined man.

And what was the meaning of it all? you ask. Many a drama which I have
come across in my wandering life, some as strange and as striking as
this one, has lacked the ultimate explanation which you demand. Fate is
a grand weaver of tales; but she ends them, as a rule, in defiance of
all artistic laws, and with an unbecoming want of regard for literary
propriety. As it happens, however, I have a letter before me as I write
which I may add without comment, and which will clear all that may
remain dark.

"KIRKBY LUNATIC ASYLUM,

"September 4th, 1885.

"I am deeply conscious that some apology and explanation is due to you for
the very startling and, in your eyes, mysterious events which have
recently occurred, and which have so seriously interfered with the
retired existence which you desire to lead. I should have called upon
you on the morning after the recapture of my father, but my knowledge of
your dislike to visitors and also of--you will excuse my saying it--your
very violent temper, led me to think that it was better to communicate
with you by letter.

"My poor father was a hard-working general practitioner in Birmingham,
where his name is still remembered and respected. About ten years ago he
began to show signs of mental aberration, which we were inclined to put
down to overwork and the effects of 'a sunstroke. Feeling my own
incompetence to pronounce upon a case of such importance, I at once
sought the highest advice in Birmingham and London. Among others we
consulted the eminent alienist, Mr. Fraser-Brown, who pronounced my
father's case to be intermittent in its nature, but dangerous during the
paroxysms. 'It may take a homicidal, or it may take a religious turn,'
he said; 'or it may prove to be a mixture of both. For months he may be
as well as you Or me, and then in a moment he may break out. You will
incur a great responsibility if you leave him without supervision.'

"I need say no more, sir. You will understand the terrible task which
has fallen upon my poor sister and me in endeavouring to save my father
from the asylum which in his sane moments filled him with horror. I can
only regret that your peace has been disturbed by our misfortunes, and I
offer you in my sister's name and my own our apologies.

"Yours truly,

"J. CAMERON."



VIII. - HOW IT HAPPENED


She was a writing medium. This is what she wrote:--

I can remember some things upon that evening most distinctly, and others
are like some vague, broken dreams. That is what makes it so difficult
to tell a connected story. I have no idea now what it was that had taken
me to London and brought me back so late. It just merges into all my
other visits to London. But from the time that I got out at the little
country station everything is extraordinarily clear. I can live it
again--every instant of it.

I remember so well walking down the platform and looking at the
illuminated clock at the end which told me that it was half-past eleven.
I remember also my wondering whether I could get home before midnight.
Then I remember the big motor, with its glaring headlights and glitter
of polished brass, waiting for me outside. It was my new
thirty-horse-power Robur, which had only been delivered that day. I
remember also asking Perkins, my chauffeur, how she had gone, and his
saying that he thought she was excellent.

"I'll try her myself," said I, and I climbed into the driver's seat.

"The gears are not the same," said he. "Perhaps, sir, I had better
drive."

"No; I should like to try her," said I.

And so we started on the five-mile drive for home.

My old car had the gears as they used always to be in notches on a bar.
In this car you passed the gear-lever through a gate to get on the
higher ones. It was not difficult to master, and soon I thought that I
understood it. It was foolish, no doubt, to begin to learn a new system
in the dark, but one often does foolish things, and one has not always
to pay the full price for them. I got along very well until I came to
Claystall Hill. It is one of the worst hills in England, a mile and a
half long and one in six in places, with three fairly sharp curves. My
park gate stands at the very foot of it upon the main London road.

We were just over the brow of this hill, where the grade is steepest,
when the trouble began. I had been on the top speed, and wanted to get
her on the free; but she stuck between gears, and I had to get her back
on the top again. By this time she was going at a great rate, so I
clapped on both brakes, and one after the other they gave way. I didn't
mind so much when I felt my footbrake snap, but when I put all my weight
on my side-brake, and the lever clanged to its full limit without a
catch, it brought a cold sweat out of me. By this time we were fairly
tearing down the slope. The lights were brilliant, and I brought her
round the first curve all right. Then we did the second one, though it
was a close shave for the ditch. There was a mile of straight then with
the third curve beneath it, and after that the gate of the park. If I
could shoot into that harbour all would be well, for the slope up to the
house would bring her to a stand.

Perkins behaved splendidly. I should like that to be known. He was
perfectly cool and alert. I had thought at the very beginning of taking
the bank, and he read my intention.

"I wouldn't do it, sir," said he. "At this pace it must go over and we
should have it on the top of us."

Of course he was right. He got to the electric switch and had it off, so
we were in the free; but we were still running at a fearful pace. He
laid his hands on the wheel.

"I'll keep her steady," said he, "if you care to jump and chance it. We
can never get round that curve. Better jump, sir."

"No," said I; "I'll stick it out. You can jump if you like."

"I'll stick it with you, sir," said he.

If it had been the old car I should have jammed the gear-lever into the
reverse, and seen what would happen. I expect she would have stripped
her gears or smashed up somehow, but it would have been a chance. As it
was, I was helpless. Perkins tried to climb across, but you couldn't do
it going at that pace. The wheels were whirring like a high wind and the
big body creaking and groaning with the strain. But the lights were
brilliant, and one could steer to an inch. I remember thinking what an
awful and yet majestic sight we should appear to anyone who met us. It
was a narrow road, and we were just a great, roaring, golden death to
anyone who came in our path.

We got round the corner with one wheel three feet high upon the bank. I
thought we were surely over, but after staggering for a moment she
righted and darted onwards. That was the third corner and the last one.
There was only the park gate now. It was facing us, but, as luck would
have it, not facing us directly. It was about twenty yards to the left
up the main road into which we ran. Perhaps I could have done it, but I
expect that the steering-gear had been jarred when we ran on the bank.
The wheel did not turn easily. We shot out of the lane. I saw the open
gate on the left. I whirled round my wheel with all the strength of my
wrists. Perkins and I threw our bodies across, and then the next
instant, going at fifty miles an hour, my right wheel struck full on the
right-hand pillar of my own gate. I heard the crash. I was conscious of
flying through the air, and then--and then--!

When I became aware of my own existence once more I was among some
brushwood in the shadow of the oaks upon the lodge side of the drive. A
man was standing beside me. I imagined at first that it was Perkins, but
when I looked again I saw that it was Stanley, a man whom I had known at
college some years before, and for whom I had a really genuine
affection. There was always something peculiarly sympathetic to me in
Stanley's personality; and I was proud to think that I had some similar
influence upon him. At the present moment I was surprised to see him,
but I was like a man in a dream, giddy and shaken and quite prepared to
take things as I found them without questioning them.

"What a smash!" I said. "Good Lord, what an awful smash!"

He nodded his head, and even in the gloom I could see that he was
smiling the gentle, wistful smile which I connected with him.

I was quite unable to move. Indeed, I had not any desire to try to move.
But my senses were exceedingly alert. I saw the wreck of the motor lit
up by the moving lanterns. I saw the little group of people and heard
the hushed voices: There were the lodge-keeper and his wife, and one or
two more. They were taking no notice of me, but were very busy round the
car. Then suddenly I heard a cry of pain.

"The weight is on him. Lift it easy," cried a voice.

"It's only my leg!" said, another one, which I recognised as Perkins's.
"Where's master?" he cried.

"Here I am," I answered, but they did not seem to hear me. They were all
bending over something which lay in front of the car.

Stanley laid his hand upon my shoulder, and his touch was inexpressibly
soothing. I felt light and happy, in spite of all.

"No pain, of course?" said he.

"None," said I.

"There never is," said he.

And then suddenly a wave of amazement passed over me. Stanley! Stanley!
Why, Stanley had surely died of enteric at Bloemfontein in the Boer War!

"Stanley!" I cried, and the words seemed to choke my throat--"Stanley,
you are dead."

He looked at me with the same old gentle, wistful smile.

"So are you," he answered.



IX - THE PRISONER'S DEFENCE


The circumstances, so far as they were known to the public, concerning
the death of the beautiful Miss Ena Gamier, and the fact that Captain
John Fowler, the accused officer, had refused to defend himself on the
occasion of the proceedings at the police-court, had roused very general
interest. This was increased by the statement that, though he withheld
his defence, it would be found to be of a very novel and convincing
character. The assertion of the prisoner's lawyer at the police-court,
to the effect that the answer to the charge was such that it could not
yet be given, but would be available before the Assizes, also caused
much speculation. A final touch was given to the curiosity of the public
when it was learned that the prisoner had refused all offers of legal
assistance from counsel and was determined to conduct his own defence.
The case for the Crown was ably presented, and was generally considered
to be a very damning one, since it showed very clearly that the accused
was subject to fits of jealousy, and that he had already been guilty of
some violence owing to this cause. The prisoner listened to the evidence
without emotion, and neither interrupted nor cross-questioned the
witnesses. Finally, on being informed that the time had come when he
might address the jury, he stepped to the front of the dock. He was a
man of striking appearance, swarthy, black-moustached, nervous, and
virile, with a quietly confident manner. Taking a paper from his pocket
he read the following statement, which made the deepest impression upon
the crowded court:

I would wish to say, in the first place, gentlemen of the jury, that,
owing to the generosity of my brother officers for my own means are
limited I might have been defended to-day by the first talent of the
Bar. The reason I have declined their assistance and have determined to
fight my own case is not that I have any confidence in my own abilities
or eloquence, but it is because I am convinced that a plain,
straightforward tale, coming direct from the man who has been the tragic
actor in this dreadful affair, will impress you more than any indirect
statement could do. If I had felt that I were guilty I should have asked
for help. Since, in my own heart, I believe that I am innocent, I am
pleading my own cause, feeling that my plain words of truth and reason
will have more weight with you than the most learned and eloquent
advocate. By the indulgence of the Court I have been permitted to put my
remarks upon paper, so that I may reproduce certain conversations and be
assured of saying neither more nor less than I mean.

It will be remembered that at the trial at the police-court two months
ago I refused to defend myself. This has been referred to to-day as a
proof of my guilt. I said that it would be some days before I could open
my mouth. This was taken at the time as a subterfuge. Well, the days are
over, and I am now able to make clear to you not only what took place,
but also why it was impossible for me to give any explanation. I will
tell you now exactly what I did and why it was that I did it. If you, my
fellow-countrymen, think that I did wrong, I will make no complaint, but
will suffer in silence any penalty which you may impose upon me.

I am a soldier of fifteen years' standing, a captain in the Second
Breconshire Battalion. I have served in the South African Campaign and
was mentioned in despatches after the battle of Diamond Hill. When the
war broke out with Germany I was seconded from my regiment, and I was
appointed as adjutant to the First Scottish Scouts, newly raised. The
regiment was quartered at Radchurch, in Essex, where the men were placed
partly in huts and were partly billeted upon the inhabitants. All the
officers were billeted out, and my quarters were with Mr. Murreyfield,
the local squire. It was there that I first met Miss Ena Garnier.

It may not seem proper at such a time and place as this that I should
describe that lady. And yet her personality is the very essence of my
case. Let me only say that I cannot believe that Nature ever put into
female form a more exquisite combination of beauty and intelligence. She
was twenty-five years of age, blonde and tall, with a peculiar delicacy
of features and of expression. I have read of people falling in love at
first sight, and had always looked upon it as an expression of the
novelist. And yet from the moment that I saw Ena Garnier life held for
me but the one ambition that she should be mine. I had never dreamed
before of the possibilities of passion that were within me. I will not
enlarge upon the subject, but to make you understand my action for I
wish you to comprehend it, however much you may condemn it you must
realise that I was in the grip of a frantic elementary passion which
made, for a time, the world and all that was in it seem a small thing if
I could but gain the love of this one girl. And yet, in justice to
myself, I will say that there was always one thing which I placed above
her. That was my honour as a soldier and a gentleman. You will find it
hard to believe this when I tell you what occurred, and yet though for
one moment I forgot myself my whole legal offence consists in my
desperate endeavour to retrieve what I had done.

I soon found that the lady was not insensible to the advances which I
made to her. Her position in the household w r as a curious one. She had
come a year before from Montpelier, in the South of France, in answer to
an advertisement from the Murreyfields in order to teach French to their
three young children. She was, however, unpaid, so that she was rather a
friendly guest than an employee. She had always, as I gathered, been fond
of the English and desirous to live in England, but the outbreak of the
war had quickened her feelings into passionate attachment, for the
ruling emotion of her soul was her hatred of the Germans. Her
grandfather, as she told me, had been killed under very tragic
circumstances in the campaign of 1870, and her two brothers were both in
the French army. Her voice vibrated with passion when she spoke of the
infamies of Belgium, and more than once I have seen her kissing my sword
and my revolver because she hoped they would be used upon the enemy.
With such feelings in her heart it can be imagined that my wooing was
not a difficult one. I should have been glad to marry her at once, but
to this she would not consent. Everything was to come after the war, for
it was necessary, she said, that I should go to Montpelier and meet her
people, so that the French proprieties should be properly observed.

She had one accomplishment which was rare for a lady; she was a skilled
motor-cyclist. She had been fond of long, solitary rides, but after our
engagement I was occasionally allowed to accompany her. She was a woman,
however, of strange moods and fancies, which added in my feelings to the
charm of her character. She could be tenderness itself, and she could be
aloof and even harsh in her manner. More than once she had refused my
company with no reason given, and with a quick, angry flash of her eyes
when I asked for one. Then, perhaps, her mood would change and she would
make up for this unkindness by some exquisite attention which would in
an instant soothe all my ruffled feelings. It was the same in the house.
My military duties were so exacting that it was only in the evenings
that I could hope to see her, and yet very often she remained in the
little study which was used during the day for the children's lessons,
and would tell me plainly that she wished to be alone. Then, when she
saw that I was hurt by her caprice, she would laugh and apologise so
sweetly for her rudeness that I was more her slave than ever.

Mention has been made of my jealous disposition, and it has been
asserted at the trial that there were scenes owing to my jealousy, and
that once Mrs. Murreyfield had to interfere. I admit that I was jealous.
When a man loves with the whole strength of his soul it is impossible, I
think, that he should be clear of jealousy. The girl was of a very
independent spirit. I found that she knew many officers at Chelmsford
and Colchester. She would disappear for hours together upon her
motor-cycle. There were questions about her past life which she would
only answer with a smile unless they were closely pressed. Then the
smile would become a frown. Is it any wonder that I, with my whole
nature vibrating with passionate, whole-hearted love, was often torn by
jealousy when I came upon those closed doors of her life which she was
so determined not to open? Reason came at times and whispered how
foolish it was that I should stake my whole life and soul upon one of
whom I really knew nothing. Then came a wave of passion once more and
reason was submerged.

I have spoken of the closed doors of her life. I was aware that a young,
unmarried Frenchwoman has usually less liberty than her English sister.
And yet in the case of this lady it continually came out in her
conversation that she had seen and known much of the world. It was the
more distressing to me as whenever she had made an observation which
pointed to this she would afterwards, as I could plainly see, be annoyed
by her own indiscretion, and endeavour to remove the impression by every
means in her power. We had several small quarrels on this account, when
I asked questions to which I could get no answers, but they have been
exaggerated in the address for the prosecution. Too much has been made
also of the intervention of Mrs. Murreyfield, though I admit that the
quarrel was more serious upon that occasion. It arose from my finding
the photograph of a man upon her table, and her evident confusion when I
asked her for some particulars about him. The name "H. Vardin" was
written underneath evidently an autograph. I was worried by the fact
that this photograph had the frayed appearance of one which has been
carried secretly about, as a girl might conceal the picture of her lover
in her dress. She absolutely refused to give me any information about
him, save to make a statement which I found incredible, that it was a
man whom she had never seen in her life. It was then that I forgot
myself. I raised my voice and declared that I should know more about her
life or that I should break with her, even if my own heart should be
broken in the parting. I was not violent, but Mrs. Murreyfield heard me
from the passage, and came into the room to remonstrate. She was a kind,
motherly person who took a sympathetic interest in our romance, and I
remember that on this occasion she reproved me for my jealousy and
finally persuaded me that I had been unreasonable, so that we became
reconciled once more. Ena was so madly fascinating and I so hopelessly
her slave that she could always draw me back, however much prudence and
reason warned me to escape from her control. I tried again and again to
find out about this man Vardin, but was always met by the same
assurance, which she repeated with every kind of solemn oath, that she
had never seen the man in her life. Why she should carry about the
photograph of a man a young, somewhat sinister man, for I had observed
him closely before she snatched the picture from my hand was what she
either could not, or would not, explain.

Then came the time for my leaving Radchurch. I had been appointed to a
junior but very responsible post at the War Office, which, of course,
entailed my living in London. Even my weekends found me engrossed with
my work, but at last I had a few days' leave of absence. It is those few
days which have ruined my life, which have brought me the most horrible
experience that ever a man had to undergo, and have finally placed me
here in the dock, pleading as I plead to-day for my life and my honour.

It is nearly five miles from the station to Radchurch. She was there to
meet me. It was the first time that we had been reunited since I had put
all my heart and my soul upon her. I cannot enlarge upon these matters,
gentlemen. You will either be able to sympathise with and understand the
emotions which overbalance a man at such a time, or you will not. If you
have imagination, you will. If you have not, I can never hope to make
you see more than the bare fact. That bare fact, placed in the baldest
language, is that during this drive from Radchurch Junction to the
village I was led into the greatest indiscretion the greatest dishonour,
if you will of my life. I told the woman a secret, an enormously
important secret, which might affect the fate of the war and the lives
of many thousands of men.

It was done before I knew it before I grasped the way in which her quick
brain could place various scattered hints together and weave them into
one idea. She was wailing, almost weeping, over the fact that the allied
armies were held up by the iron line of the Germans. I explained that it
was more correct to say that our iron line was holding them up, since
they were the invaders. "But is France, is Belgium, never to be rid of
them?" she cried. "Are we simply to sit in front of their trenches and
be content to let them do what they will with ten provinces of France?
Oh, Jack, Jack, for God's sake, say something to bring a little hope to
my heart, for sometimes I think that it is breaking! You English are
stolid. You can bear these things. But we others, we have more nerve,
more soul! It is death to us. Tell me! Do tell me that there is hope!
And yet it is foolish of me to ask, for, of course, you are only a
subordinate at the War Office, and how should you know what is in the
mind of your chiefs?"

"Well, as it happens, I know a good deal," I answered. "Don't fret, for
we shall certainly get a move on soon."

"Soon! Next year may seem soon to some people."

"It's not next year."

"Must we wait another month?"

"Not even that."

She squeezed my hand in hers. "Oh, my darling boy, you have brought such
joy to my heart! What suspense I shall live in now! I think a week of it
would kill me."

"Well, perhaps it won't even be a week."

"And tell me," she went on, in her coaxing voice, "tell me just one
thing, Jack. Just one, and I will trouble you no more. Is it our brave
French soldiers who advance? Or is it your splendid Tommies? With whom
will the honour lie?"

"With both."

"Glorious!" she cried. "I see it all. The attack will be at the point
where the French and British lines join. Together they will rush forward
in one glorious advance."

"No," I said. "They will not be together."

"But I understood you to say of course, women know nothing of such
matters, but I understood you to say that it would be a joint advance."

"Well, if the French advanced, we will say, at Verdun, and the British
advanced at Ypres, even if they were hundreds of miles apart it would
still be a joint advance."

"Ah, I see," she cried, clapping her hands with delight. "They would
advance at both ends of the line, so that the Boches would not know
which way to send their reserves."

"That is exactly the idea a real advance at Verdun, and an enormous
feint at Ypres."

Then suddenly a chill of doubt seized me. I can remember how I sprang
back from her and looked hard into her face. "I've told you too much!"
I cried. "Can I trust you? I have been mad to say so much."

She was bitterly hurt by my words. That I should for a moment doubt her
was more than she could bear. "I would cut my tongue out, Jack, before I
would tell any human being one word of what you have said." So earnest
was she that my fears died away. I felt that I could trust her utterly.
Before we had reached Radchurch I had put the matter from my mind, and
we were lost in our joy of the present and in our plans for the future.

I had a business message to deliver to Colonel Worral, who commanded a
small camp at Pedley-Woodrow. I went there and was away for about two
hours. When I returned I inquired for Miss Gamier, and was told by the
maid that she had gone to her bedroom, and that she had asked the groom
to bring her motor-bicycle to the door. It seemed to me strange that she
should arrange to go out alone when my visit was such a short one. I had
gone into her little study to seek her, and here it was that I waited,
for it opened on to the hall passage, and she could not pass without my
seeing her.

There was a small table in the window of this room at which she used to
write. I had seated myself beside this when my eyes fell upon a name
written in her large, bold hand-writing. It was a reversed impression
upon the blotting-paper which she had used, but there could be no
difficulty in reading it. The name was Hubert Vardin. Apparently it was
part of the address of an envelope, for underneath I was able to
distinguish the initials S. W., referring to a postal division of
London, though the actual name of the street had not been clearly
reproduced.

Then I knew for the first time that she was actually corresponding with
this man whose vile, voluptuous face I had seen in the photograph with
the frayed edges. She had clearly lied to me, too, for was it
conceivable that she should correspond with a man whom she had never
seen? I don't desire to condone my conduct. Put yourself in my place.
Imagine that you had my desperately fervid and jealous nature. You would
have done what I did, for you could have done nothing else. A wave of
fury passed over me. I laid my hands upon the wooden-writing desk. If it
had been an iron safe I should have opened it. As it was, it literally
flew to pieces before me. There lay the letter itself, placed under lock
and key for safety, while the writer prepared to take it from the house.
I had no hesitation or scruple. I tore it open. Dishonourable, you will
say, but when a man is frenzied with jealousy he hardly knows what he
does. This woman, for whom I was ready to give everything, was either
faithful to me or she was not. At any cost I would know which.

A thrill of joy passed through me as my eyes fell upon the first words.
I had wronged her. "Cher Monsieur Vardin." So the letter began. It was
clearly a business letter, nothing else. I was about to replace it in
the envelope with a thousand regrets in my mind for my want of faith
when a single word at the bottom of the page caught my eyes, and I
started as if I had been stung by an adder. "Verdun" that was the word.
I looked again. "Ypres" was immediately below it. I sat down,
horror-stricken, by the broken desk, and I read this letter, a
translation of which I have in my hand:

MURREYFIELD HOUSE, RADCHURCH.

Dear M. Vardin, Stringer has told me that he has kept you sufficiently
informed as to Chelmsford and Colchester, so I have not troubled to
write. They have moved the Midland Territorial Brigade and the heavy
guns towards the coast near Cromer, but only for a time. It is for
training, not embarkation.

And now for my great news, which I have straight from the War Office
itself. Within a week there is to be a very severe attack from Verdun,
which is to be supported by a holding attack at Ypres. It is all on a
very large scale, and you must send off a special Dutch messenger to Von
Starmer by the first boat. I hope to get the exact date and some further
particulars from my informant to-night, but meanwhile you must act with
energy.

I dare not post this here you know what village postmasters are, so I am
taking it into Colchester, where Stringer will include it with his own
report which goes by hand.

Yours faithfully,

SOPHIA HEFFNER.

I was stunned at first as I read this letter, and then a kind of cold,
concentrated rage came over me. So this woman was a German and a spy! I
thought of her hypocrisy and her treachery towards me, but, above all, I
thought of the danger to the Army and the State. A great defeat, the
death of thousands of men, might spring from my misplaced confidence.
There was still time, by judgment and energy, to stop this frightful
evil. I heard her step upon the stairs outside, and an instant later she
had come through the doorway. She started, and her face was bloodless as
she saw me seated there with the open letter in my hand.

"How did you get that?" she gasped. "How dared you break my desk and
steal my letter?"

I said nothing. I simply sat and looked at her and pondered what I
should do. She suddenly sprang forward and tried to snatch the letter. I
caught her wrist and pushed her down on to the sofa, where she lay,
collapsed. Then I rang the bell, and told the maid that I must see Mr.
Murreyfield at once.

He was a genial, elderly man, who had treated this woman with as much
kindness as if she were his daughter. He was horrified at what I said. I
could not show him the letter on account of the secret that it
contained, but I made him understand that it was of desperate
importance.

"What are we to do?" he asked. "I never could have imagined anything so
dreadful. What would you advise us to do?"

"There is only one thing that we can do," I answered. "This woman must
be arrested, and in the meanwhile we must so arrange matters that she
cannot possibly communicate with any one. For all we know, she has
confederates in this very village. Can you undertake to hold her
securely while I go to Colonel Worral at Pedley and get a warrant and a
guard?"

"We can lock her in her bedroom."

"You need not trouble," said she. "I give you my word that I will stay
where I am. I advise you to be careful, Captain Fowler. You've shown
once before that you are liable to do things before you have thought of
the consequence. If I am arrested all the world will know that you have
given away the secrets that were confided to you. There is an end of
your career, my friend. You can punish me, no doubt. What about
yourself?"

"I think," said I, "you had best take her to her bedroom."

"Very good, if you wish it," said she, and followed us to the door. When
we reached the hall she suddenly broke away, dashed through the
entrance, and made for her motor-bicycle, which was standing there.
Before she could start we had both seized her. She stooped and made her
teeth meet in Murreyfield's hand. With flashing eyes and tearing fingers
she was as fierce as a wild cat at bay. It was with some difficulty that
we mastered her, and dragged her almost carried her up the stairs. We
thrust her into her room and turned the key, while she screamed out
abuse and beat upon the door inside.

"It's a forty-foot drop into the garden," said Murreyfield, tying up his
bleeding hand. "I'll wait here till you come back. I think we have the
lady fairly safe."

"I have a revolver here," said I. "You should be armed." I slipped a
couple of cartridges into it and held it out to him. "We can't afford to
take chances. How do you know what friends she may have?"

"Thank you," said he. "I have a stick here, and the gardener is within
call. Do you hurry off for the guard, and I will answer for the
prisoner."

Having taken, as it seemed to me, every possible precaution, I ran to
give the alarm. It was two miles to Pedley, and the colonel was out,
which occasioned some delay. Then there were formalities and a
magistrate's signature to be obtained. A policeman was to serve the
warrant, but a military escort was to be sent in to bring back the
prisoner. I was so rilled with anxiety and impatience that I could not
wait, but I hurried back alone with the promise that they would follow.

The Pedley-Woodrow r Road opens into the high-road to Colchester at a
point about half a mile from the village of Radchurch. It was evening
now and the light was such that one could not see more than twenty or
thirty yards ahead. I had proceeded only a very short way from the point
of junction when I heard, coming towards me, the roar of a motor-cycle
being ridden at a furious pace. It was without lights, and close upon
me. I sprang aside in order to avoid being ridden down, and in that
instant, as the machine flashed by, I saw clearly the face of the rider.
It was she the woman whom I had loved. She was hatless, her hair
streaming in the wind, her face glimmering white in the twilight, flying
through the night like one of the Valkyries of her native land. She was
past me like a flash and tore on down the Colchester Road. In that
instant I saw all that it would mean if she could reach the town. If she
once was allowed to see her agent we might arrest him or her, but it
would be too late. The news would have been passed on. The victory of
the Allies and the lives of thousands of our soldiers were at stake.
Next instant I had pulled out the loaded revolver and fired two shots
after the vanishing figure, already only a dark blur in the dusk. I
heard a scream, the crashing of the breaking cycle, and all was still.

I need not tell you more, gentlemen. You know the rest. When I ran
forward I found her lying in the ditch. Both of my bullets had struck
her. One of them had penetrated her brain. I was still standing beside
her body when Murreyfield arrived, running breathlessly down the road.
She had, it seemed, with great courage and activity scrambled down the
ivy of the wall; only when he heard the whirr of the cycle did he
realise what had occurred. He was explaining it to my dazed brain when
the police and soldiers arrived to arrest her. By the irony of fate it
was me whom they arrested instead.

It was urged at the trial in the police-court that jealousy was the
cause of the crime. I did not deny it, nor did I put forward any
witnesses to deny it. It was my desire that they should believe it. The
hour of the French advance had not yet come, and I could not defend
myself without producing the letter which would reveal it. But now it is
over gloriously over and so my lips are unsealed at last. I confess my
fault my very grievous fault. But it is not that for which you are
trying me. It is for murder. I should have thought myself the murderer
of my own countrymen if I had let the woman pass.

These are the facts, gentlemen. I leave my future in your hands. If you
should absolve me I may say that I have hopes of serving my country in a
fashion which will atone for this one great indiscretion, and will also,
as I hope, end forever those terrible recollections which weigh me down.
If you condemn me, I am ready to face whatever you may think fit to
inflict.



X - THREE OF THEM

1. A CHAT ABOUT CHILDREN, SNAKES, AND ZEBUS


These little sketches are called "Three of Them," but there are really
five, on and off the stage. There is Daddy, a lumpish person with some
gift for playing Indian games when he is in the mood. He is then known
as "The Great Chief of the Leatherskin Tribe." Then there is my Lady
Sunshine. These are the grown-ups, and don't really count. There remain
the three, who need some differentiating upon paper, though their little
spirits are as different in reality as spirits could be all beautiful
and all quite different. The eldest is a boy of eight whom we shall call
"Laddie." If ever there was a little cavalier sent down ready-made it is
he. His soul is the most gallant, unselfish, innocent thing that ever
God sent out to get an extra polish upon earth. It dwells in a tall,
slight, well-formed body, graceful and agile, with a head and face as
clean-cut as if an old Greek cameo had come to life, and a pair of
innocent and yet wise grey eyes that read and win the heart. He is shy
and does not shine before strangers. I have said that he is unselfish
and brave. When there is the usual wrangle about going to bed, up he
gets in his sedate way. "I will go first," says he, and off he goes, the
eldest, that the others may have the few extra minutes while he is in
his bath. As to his courage, he is absolutely lion-hearted where he can
help or defend any one else. On one occasion Daddy lost his temper with
Dimples (Boy Number 2), and, not without very good provocation, gave him
a tap on the side of the head. Next instant he felt a butt down
somewhere in the region of his waist-belt, and there was an angry little
red face looking up at him, which turned suddenly to a brown mop of hair
as the butt was repeated. No one, not even Daddy, should hit his little
brother. Such was Laddie, the gentle and the fearless.

Then there is Dimples. Dimples is nearly seven, and you never saw a
rounder, softer, dimplier face, with two great roguish, mischievous eyes
of wood-pigeon grey, which are sparkling with fun for the most part,
though they can look sad and solemn enough at times. Dimples has the
making of a big man in him. He has depth and reserve in his tiny soul.
But on the surface he is a boy of boys, always in innocent mischief. "I
will now do mischief," he occasionally announces, and is usually as
good as his word. He has a love and understanding of all living
creatures, the uglier and more slimy the better, treating them all in a
tender, fairy-like fashion which seems to come from some inner
knowledge. He has been found holding a buttercup under the mouth of a
slug "to see if he likes butter." He finds creatures in an astonishing
way. Put him in the fairest garden lawn, and presently he will approach
you with a newt, a toad, or a huge snail in his custody. Nothing would
ever induce him to hurt them, but he gives them what he imagines to be a
little treat and then restores them to their homes. He has been known to
speak bitterly to the Lady when she has given orders that caterpillars
be killed if found upon the cabbages, and even the explanation that the
caterpillars were doing the work of what he calls "the Jarmans" did not
reconcile him to their fate.

He has an advantage over Laddie, in that he suffers from no trace of
shyness and is perfectly friendly in an instant with any one of every
class of life, plunging straight into conversation with some such remark
as "Can your Daddy give a war-whoop?" or "Were you ever chased by a
bear?" He is a sunny creature but combative sometimes, when he draws
down his brows, sets his eyes, his chubby cheeks flush, and his lips go
back from his almond-white teeth. "I am Swankie the Berserker," says he,
quoting out of his favourite "Erling the Bold," which Daddy reads aloud
at bed-time. When he is in this fighting mood he can even drive back
Laddie, chiefly because the elder is far too chivalrous to hurt him. If
you want to see what Laddie can really do, put the small gloves on him
and let him go for Daddy. Some of those hurricane rallies of his would
stop Daddy grinning if they could get home, and he has to fall back off
his stool in order to get away from them.

If that latent power of Dimples should ever come out, how will it be
manifest? Surely in his imagination. Tell him a story and the boy is
lost. He sits with his little round, rosy face immovable and fixed,
while his eyes never budge from those of the speaker. He sucks in
everything that is weird or adventurous or wild. Laddie is a rather
restless soul, eager to be up and doing; but Dimples is absorbed in the
present if there be something worth hearing to be heard. In height he is
half a head shorter than his brother, but rather more sturdy in build.
The power of his voice is one of his noticeable characteristics. If
Dimples is coming you know it well in advance. With that physical gift
upon the top of his audacity, and his loquacity, he fairly takes command
of any place in which he may find himself, while Laddie, his soul too
noble for jealousy, becomes one of the laughing and admiring audience.

Then there is Baby, a dainty elfin Dresden-china little creature of five,
as fair as an angel and as deep as a well. The boys are but shallow,
sparkling pools compared with this little girl with her self-repression
and dainty aloofness. You know the boys, you never feel that you quite
know the girl. Something very strong and forceful seems to be at the
back of that wee body. Her will is tremendous. Nothing can break or even
bend it. Only kind guidance and friendly reasoning can mould it. The
boys are helpless if she has really made up her mind. But this is only
when she asserts herself, and those are rare occasions. As a rule she
sits quiet, aloof, affable, keenly alive to all that passes and yet
taking no part in it save for some subtle smile or glance. And then
suddenly the wonderful grey-blue eyes under the long black lashes will
gleam like coy diamonds, and such a hearty little chuckle will come from
her that every one else is bound to laugh out of sympathy. She and
Dimples are great allies and yet have continual lovers' quarrels. One
night she would not even include his name in her prayers, "God bless"
every one else, but not a word of Dimples. "Come, come, you must!" urged
the Lady. "Well, then, God bless horrid Dimples!" said she at last,
after she had named the cat, the goat, her dolls, and her Wriggly.

That is a strange trait, the love for the Wriggly. It would repay
thought from some scientific brain. It is an old, faded, disused downy
from her cot. Yet go where she will, she must take Wriggly with her. All
her toys put together would not console her for the absence of Wriggly.
If the family go to the seaside, Wriggly must come too. She will not
sleep without the absurd bundle in her arms. If she goes to a party she
insists upon dragging its disreputable folds along with her, one end
always projecting "to give it fresh air." Every phase of childhood
represents to the philosopher something in the history of the race. From
the newborn baby which can hang easily by one hand from a broomstick
with its legs drawn up under it, the whole evolution of mankind is
re-enacted. You can trace clearly the cave-dweller, the hunter, the
scout. What, then, does Wriggly represent? Fetish worship nothing else.
The savage chooses some most unlikely thing and adores it. This dear
little savage adores her Wriggly.

So now we have our three little figures drawn as clearly as a clumsy pen
can follow such subtle elusive creatures of mood and fancy. We will
suppose now that it is a summer evening, that Daddy is seated smoking in
his chair, that the Lady is listening somewhere near, and that the three
are in a tumbled heap upon the bearskin before the empty fireplace
trying to puzzle out the little problems of their tiny lives. When three
children play with a new thought it is like three kittens with a ball,
one giving it a pat and another a pat, as they chase it from point to
point. Daddy would interfere as little as possible, save when he was
called upon to explain or to deny. It was usually wiser for him to
pretend to be doing something else. Then their talk was the more
natural. On this occasion, however, he was directly appealed to.

"Daddy!" asked Dimples.

"Yes, boy."

"Do you fink that the roses know us?"

Dimples, in spite of his impish naughtiness, had a way of looking such a
perfectly innocent and delightfully kissable little person that one felt
he really might be a good deal nearer to the sweet secrets of Nature
than his elders. However, Daddy was in a material mood.

"No, boy; how could the roses know us?"

"The big yellow rose at the corner of the gate knows me."

"How do you know that?"

"'Cause it nodded to me yesterday."

Laddie roared with laughter.

"That was just the wind, Dimples."

"No, it was not," said Dimples, with conviction. "There was none wind.
Baby was there. Weren't you, Baby?"

"The wose knew us," said Baby, gravely.

"Beasts know us," said Laddie. "But then beasts run round and make
noises. Roses don't make noises."

"Yes, they do. They rustle."

"Woses wustle," said Baby.

"That's not a living noise. That's an all-the-same noise. Different to
Roy, who barks and makes different noises all the time. Fancy the roses
all barkin' at you. Daddy, will you tell us about animals?"

That is one of the child stages which takes us back to the old tribe
life their inexhaustible interest in animals, some distant echo of those
long nights when wild men sat round the fires and peered out into the
darkness, and whispered about all the strange and deadly creatures who
fought with them for the lordship of the earth. Children love caves, and
they love fires and meals out of doors, and they love animal talk all
relics of the far distant past.

"What is the biggest animal in South America, Daddy?"

Daddy, wearily: "Oh, I don't know."

"I s'pose an elephant would be the biggest?"

"No, boy; there are none in South America."

"Well, then, a rhinoceros?"

"No, there are none."

"Well, what is there, Daddy?"

"Well, dear, there are jaguars. I suppose a jaguar is the biggest."

"Then it must be thirty-six feet long."

"Oh, no, boy; about eight or nine feet with his tail."

"But there are boa-constrictors in South America thirty-six feet long."

"That's different."

"Do you fink," asked Dimples, with his big, solemn, grey eyes wide open,
"there was ever a boa-'strictor forty-five feet long?"

"No, dear; I never heard of one."

"Perhaps there was one, but you never heard of it. Do you fink you would
have heard of a boa-'strictor forty-five feet long if there was one in
South America?"

"Well, there may have been one."

"Daddy," said Laddie, carrying on the cross-examination with the intense
earnestness of a child, "could a boa-contrictor swallow any small
animal?"

"Yes, of course he could."

"Could he swallow a jaguar?"

"Well, I don't know about that. A jaguar is a very large animal."

"Well, then," asked Dimples, "could a jaguar swallow a boa-'strictor?"

"Silly ass," said Laddie. "If a jaguar was only nine feet long and the
boa-constrictor was thirty-five feet long, then there would be a lot
sticking out of the jaguar's mouth. How could he swallow that?"

"He'd bite it off," said Dimples. "And then another slice for supper and
another for breakfast but, I say, Daddy, a 'stricter couldn't swallow a
porkpine, could he? He would have a sore throat all the way down."

Shrieks of laughter and a welcome rest for Daddy, who turned to his
paper.

"Daddy!"

He put down his paper with an air of conscious virtue and lit his pipe.

"Well, dear?"

"What's the biggest snake you ever saw?"

"Oh, bother the snakes! I am tired of them."

But the children were never tired of them. Heredity again, for the snake
was the worst enemy of arboreal man.

"Daddy made soup out of a snake," said Laddie. "Tell us about that
snake, Daddy."

Children like a story best the fourth or fifth time, so it is never any
use to tell them that they know all about it. The story which they can
check and correct is their favourite.

"Well, dear, we got a viper and we killed it. Then we wanted the
skeleton to keep and we didn't know how to get it. At first we thought
we would bury it, but that seemed too slow. Then I had the idea to boil
all the viper's flesh off its bones, and I got an old meat-tin and we
put the viper and some water into it and put it above the fire."

"You hung it on a hook, Daddy?"

"Yes, we hung it on the hook that they put the porridge pot on in
Scotland. Then just as it was turning brown in came the farmer's wife,
and ran up to see what we were cooking. When she saw the viper she
thought we were going to eat it. 'Oh, you dirty divils!' she cried, and
caught up the tin in her apron and threw it out of the window."

Fresh shrieks of laughter from the children, and Dimples repeated "You
dirty divil!" until Daddy had to clump him playfully on the head.

"Tell us some more about snakes," cried Laddie. "Did you ever see a
really dreadful snake?"

"One that would turn you black and dead you in five minutes?" said
Dimples. It was always the most awful thing that appealed to Dimples.

"Yes, I have seen some beastly creatures. Once in the Sudan I was dozing
on the sand when I opened my eyes and there was a horrid creature like a
big slug with horns, short and thick, about a foot long, moving away in
front of me."

"What was it, Daddy?" Six eager eyes were turned up to him.

"It was a death-adder. I expect that would dead you in five minutes,
Dimples, if it got a bite at you."

"Did you kill it?"

"No; it was gone before I could get to it."

"Which is the horridest, Daddy a snake or a shark?"

"I'm not very fond of either!"

"Did you ever see a man eaten by sharks?"

"No, dear, but I was not so far off being eaten myself."

"Oo!" from all three of them.

"I did a silly thing, for I swam round the ship in water where there are
many sharks. As I was drying myself on the deck I saw the high fin of a
shark above the water a little way off. It had heard the splashing and
come up to look for me."

"Weren't you frightened, Daddy?"

"Yes. It made me feel rather cold." There was silence while Daddy saw
once more the golden sand of the African beach and the snow-white roaring
surf, with the long, smooth swell of the bar.

Children don't like silences.

"Daddy," said Laddie. "Do zebus bite?"

"Zebus! Why, they are cows. No, of course not."

"But a zebu could butt with its horns."

"Oh, yes, it could butt."

"Do you think a zebu could fight a crocodile?"

"Well, I should back the crocodile."

"Why?"

"Well, dear, the crocodile has great teeth and would eat the zebu."

"But suppose the zebu came up when the crocodile was not looking and
butted it."

"Well, that would be one up for the zebu. But one butt wouldn't hurt a
crocodile."

"No, one wouldn't, would it? But the zebu would keep on. Crocodiles live
on sand-banks, don't they? Well, then, the zebu would come and live near
the sand-bank too just so far as the crocodile would never see him. Then
every time the crocodile wasn't looking the zebu would butt him. Don't
you think he would beat the crocodile?"

"Well, perhaps he would."

"How long do you think it would take the zebu to beat the crocodile?"

"Well, it would depend upon how often he got in his butt."

"Well, suppose he butted him once every three hours, don't you think?"

"Oh, bother the zebu!"

"That's what the crocodile would say," cried Laddie, clapping his hands.

"Well, I agree with the crocodile," said Daddy.

"And it's time all good children were in bed," said the Lady as the
glimmer of the Nurse's apron was seen in the gloom.



2. ABOUT CRICKET


Supper was going on down below and all good children should have been
long ago in the land of dreams. Yet a curious noise came from above.

"What on earth?" asked Daddy.

"Laddie practising cricket," said the Lady, with the curious
clairvoyance of motherhood. "He gets out of bed to bowl. I do wish you
would go up and speak seriously to him about it, for it takes quite an
hour off his rest."

Daddy departed upon his mission intending to be gruff, and my word, he
can be quite gruff when he likes! When he reached the top of the stairs,
however, and heard the noise still continue, he walked softly down the
landing and peeped in through the half-opened door.

The room was dark save for a night-light. In the dim glimmer he saw a
little white-clad figure, slight and supple, taking short steps and
swinging its arm in the middle of the room.

"Halloa!" said Daddy.

The white-clad figure turned and ran forward to him.

"Oh, Daddy, how jolly of you to come up!"

Daddy felt that gruffness was not quite so easy as it had seemed.

"Look here! You get into bed!" he said, with the best imitation he could
manage.

"Yes, Daddy. But before I go, how is this?" He sprang forward and the
arm swung round again in a swift and graceful gesture. Daddy was a
moth-eaten cricketer of sorts, and he took it in with a critical eye.

"Good, Laddie. I like a high action. That's the real Spofforth swing."

"Oh, Daddy, come and talk about cricket!" He was pulled on the side of
the bed, and the white figure dived between the sheets.

"Yes; tell us about cwicket!" came a cooing voice from the corner.
Dimples was sitting up in his cot.

"You naughty boy! I thought one of you was asleep, anyhow. I mustn't
stay. I keep you awake."

"Who was Popoff?" cried Laddie, clutching at his father's sleeve. "Was
he a very good bowler?"

"Spofforth was the best bowler that ever walked on to a cricket-field.
He was the great Australian Bowler and he taught us a great deal."

"Did he ever kill a dog?" from Dimples.

"No, boy. Why?"

"Because Laddie said there was a bowler so fast that his ball went frue
a coat and killed a dog."

"Oh, that's an old yarn. I heard that when I was a little boy about some
bowler whose name, I think, was Jackson."

"Was it a big dog?"

"No, no, son; it wasn't a dog at all."

"It was a cat," said Dimples.

"No; I tell you it never happened."

"But tell us about Spofforth," cried Laddie. Dimples, with his
imaginative mind, usually wandered, while the elder came eagerly back to
the point. "Was he very fast?"

"He could be very fast. I have heard cricketers who had played against
him say that his yorker that is a ball which is just short of a full
pitch was the fastest ball in England. I have myself seen his long arm
swing round and the wicket go down before ever the batsman had time to
ground his bat."

"Oo!" from both beds.

"He was a tall, thin man, and they called him the Fiend. That means the
Devil, you know."

"And was he the Devil?"

"No, Dimples, no. They called him that because he did such wonderful
things with the ball."

"Can the Devil do wonderful things with a ball?"

Daddy felt that he was propagating devil-worship and hastened to get to
safer ground.

"Spofforth taught us how to bowl and Blackham taught us how to keep
wicket. When I was young we always had another fielder, called the
long-stop, who stood behind the wicket-keeper. I used to be a thick,
solid boy, so they put me as long-stop, and the balls used to bounce off
me, I remember, as if I had been a mattress."

Delighted laughter.

"But after Blackham came wicket-keepers had to learn that they were
there to stop the ball. Even in good second-class cricket there were no
more long-stops. We soon found plenty of good wicket-keeps like Alfred
Lyttelton and MacGregor but it was Blackham who showed us how. To see
Spofforth, all india-rubber and ginger, at one end bowling, and
Blackham, with his black beard over the bails waiting for the ball at
the other end, was worth living for, I can tell you."

Silence while the boys pondered over this. But Laddie feared Daddy would
go, so he quickly got in a question. If Daddy's memory could only be
kept going there was no saying how long they might keep him.

"Was there no good bowler until Spofforth came?"

"Oh, plenty, my boy. But he brought something new with him. Especially
change of pace you could never tell by his action up to the last moment
whether you were going to get a ball like a flash of lightning, or one
that came slow but full of devil and spin. But for mere command of the
pitch of a ball I should think Alfred Shaw, of Nottingham, was the
greatest bowler I can remember. It was said that he could pitch a ball
twice in three times upon a half-crown!"

"Oo!" And then from Dimples:

"Whose half-crown?"

"Well, anybody's half-crown."

"Did he get the half-crown?"

"No, no; why should he?"

"Because he put the ball on it."

"The half-crown was kept there always for people to aim at," explained
Laddie.

"No, no, there never was a half-crown."

Murmurs of remonstrance from both boys.

"I only meant that he could pitch the ball on anything a half-crown or
anything else."

"Daddy," with the energy of one who has a happy idea. "Could he have
pitched it on the batsman's toe?"

"Yes, boy, I think so."

"Well, then, suppose he always pitched it on the batsman's toe!"

Daddy laughed.

"Perhaps that is why dear old W. G. always stood with his left toe
cocked up in the air."

"On one leg?"

"No, no, Dimples. With his heel down and his toe up."

"Did you know W.G., Daddy?"

"Oh, yes, I knew him quite well."

"Was he nice?"

"Yes, he was splendid. He was always like a great jolly schoolboy who was
hiding behind a huge black beard."

"Whose beard?"

"I meant that he had a great bushy beard. He looked like the pirate
chief in your picture-books, but he had as kind a heart as a child. I
have been told that it was the terrible things in this war that really
killed him. Grand old W.G.!"

"Was he the best bat in the world, Daddy?"

"Of course he was," said Daddy, beginning to enthuse, to the delight of
the clever little plotter in the bed. "There never was such a bat never
in the world and I don't believe there ever could be again. He didn't
play on smooth wickets, as they do now. He played where the wickets were
all patchy, and you had to watch the ball right on to the bat. You
couldn't look at it before it hit the ground and think, 'That's all
right. I know where that one will be!' My word, that was cricket. What
you got you earned."

"Did you ever see W. G. make a hundred, Daddy?"

"See him! I've fielded out for him and melted on a hot August day while
he made a hundred and fifty. There's a pound or two of your Daddy
somewhere on that field yet. But I loved to see it, and I was always
sorry when he got out for nothing, even if I were playing against him."

"Did he ever get out for nothing?"

"Yes, dear; the first time I ever played in his company he was given out
leg-before-wicket before he made a run. And all the way to the pavilion
that's where people go when they are out he was walking forward, but his
big black beard was backward over his shoulder as he told the umpire
what he thought."

"And what did he think?"

"More than I can tell you, Dimples. But I dare say he was right to be
annoyed, for it was a left-handed bowler, bowling round the wicket, and
it is very hard to get leg-before to that. However, that's all Greek to
you."

"What's Gweek?"

"Well, I mean you can't understand that. Now I am going."

"No, no, Daddy; wait a moment! Tell us about Bonner and the big catch."

"Oh, you know about that!"

Two little coaxing voices came out of the darkness.

"Oh, please! Please!"

"I don't know what your mother will say I What was it you asked?"

"Bonner!"

"Ah, Bonner!" Daddy looked out in the gloom and saw green fields and
golden sunlight, and great sportsmen long gone to their rest. "Bonner
was a wonderful man. He was a giant in size."

"As big as you, Daddy?"

Daddy seized his elder boy and shook him playfully. "I heard what you
said to Miss Cregan the other day. When she asked you what an acre was
you said 'Abqut the size of Daddy.'"

Both boys gurgled.

"But Bonner was five inches taller than I. He was a giant, I tell you."

"Did nobody kill him?"

"No, no, Dimples. Not a story-book giant. But a great, strong man. He
had a splendid figure and blue eyes and a golden beard, and altogether
he was the finest man I have ever seen except perhaps one."

"Who was the one, Daddy?"

"Well, it was the Emperor Frederick of Germany."

"A Jarman!" cried Dimples, in horror.

"Yes, a German. Mind you, boys, a man may be a very noble man and be a
German though what has become of the noble ones these last three years
is more than I can guess. But Frederick was noble and good, as you could
see on his face. How he ever came to be the father of such a blasphemous
braggart!" Daddy sank into reverie.

"Bonner, Daddy!" said Laddie, and Daddy came back from politics with a
start.

"Oh, yes, Bonner. Bonner in white flannels on the green sward with an
English June sun upon him. That was a picture of a man! But you asked me
about the catch. It was in a test match at the Oval England against
Australia. Bonner said before he went in that he would hit Alfred Shaw
into the next county, and he set out to do it. Shaw, as I have told you,
could keep a very good length, so for some time Bonner could not get the
ball he wanted, but at last he saw his chance, and he jumped out and hit
that ball the most awful ker-wallop that ever was seen in a
cricket-field."

"Oo!" from both boys, and then: "Did it go into the next county, Daddy?"
from Dimples.

"Well, I'm telling you!" said Daddy, who was always testy when one of
his stories was interrupted. "Bonner thought he had made the ball a
half-volley that is the best ball to hit but Shaw had deceived him and
the ball was really on the short side. So when Bonner hit it, up and up
it went, until it looked as if it were going out of sight into the sky."

"Oo!"

"At first everybody thought it was going far outside the ground. But
soon they saw that all the giant's strength had been wasted in hitting
the ball so high, and that there was a chance that it would fall within
the ropes. The batsmen had run three runs and it was still in the air.
Then it was seen that an English fielder was standing on the very edge
of the field with his back on the ropes, a white figure against the
black line of the people. He stood watching the mighty curve of the
ball, and twice he raised his hands together above his head as he did
so. Then a third time he raised his hands above his head, and the ball
was in them and Bonner was out."

"Why did he raise his hands twice?"

"I don't know. He did so."

"And who was the fielder, Daddy?"

"The fielder was G. F. Grace, the younger brother of W. G. Only a few
months afterwards he was a dead man. But he had one grand moment in his
life, with twenty thousand people all just mad with excitement. Poor
G.F.! He died too soon."

"Did you ever catch a catch like that, Daddy?"

"No, boy. I was never a particularly good fielder."

"Did you never catch a good catch?"

"Well, I won't say that. You see, the best catches are very often flukes,
and I remember one awful fluke of that sort."

"Do tell us, Daddy?"

"Well, dear, I was fielding at slip. That is very near the wicket, you
know. Woodcock was bowling, and he had the name of being the fastest
bowler of England at that time. It was just the beginning of the match
and the ball was quite red. Suddenly I saw something like a red flash
and there was the ball stuck in my left hand. I had not time to move it.
It simply came and stuck."

"Oo!"

"I saw another catch like that. It was done by Ulyett, a fine Yorkshire
player such a big, upstanding fellow. He was bowling, and the batsman--it
was an Australian in a test match--hit as hard as ever he could. Ulyett
could not have seen it, but he just stuck out his hand and there was
the ball."

"Suppose it had hit his body?"

"Well, it would have hurt him."

"Would he have cried?" from Dimples.

"No, boy. That is what games are for, to teach you to take a knock and
never show it. Supposing that--"

A step was heard coming along the passage.

"Good gracious, boys, here's Mumty. Shut your eyes this moment. It's all
right, dear. I spoke to them very severely and I think they are nearly
asleep."

"What have you been talking about?" asked the Lady.

"Cwicket!" cried Dimples.

"It's natural enough," said Daddy; "of course when two boys--"

"Three," said the Lady, as she tucked up the little beds.



3. SPECULATIONS


The three children were sitting together in a bunch upon the rug in the
gloaming. Baby was talking, so Daddy behind his newspaper pricked up his
ears, for the young lady was silent as a rule, and every glimpse of her
little mind was of interest. She was nursing the disreputable little
downy quilt which she called Wriggly and much preferred to any of her
dolls.

"I wonder if they will let Wriggly into heaven," she said.

The boys laughed. They generally laughed at what Baby said.

"If they won't I won't go in, either," she added.

"Nor me, neither, if they don't let in my Teddy-bear," said Dimples.

"I'll tell them it is a nice, clean, blue Wriggly," said Baby. "I love
my Wriggly." She cooed over it and hugged it.

"What about that, Daddy?" asked Laddie, in his earnest fashion. "Are
there toys in heaven, do you think?"

"Of course there are. Everything that can make children happy."

"As many toys as in Hamley's shop?" asked Dimples.

"More," said Daddy, stoutly.

"Oo!" from all three.

"Daddy, dear," said Laddie, "I've been wondering about the deluge."

"Yes, dear. What was it?"

"Well, the story about the Ark. All those animals were in the Ark, just
two of each, for forty days. Wasn't that so?"

"That is the story."

"Well then, what did the carnivorous animals eat?"

One should be honest with children and not put them off with ridiculous
explanations. Their questions about such matters are generally much more
sensible than their parents' replies.

"Well, dear," said Daddy, weighing his words, "these stories are very,
very old. The Jews put them in the Bible, but they got them from the
people in Babylon, and the people in Babylon probably got them from some
one else away back in the beginning of things. If a story gets passed
down like that, one person adds a little and another adds a little, and
so you never get things quite as they happened. The Jews put it in the
Bible exactly as they heard it, but it had been going about for
thousands of years before then."

"So it was not true?"

"Yes, I think it was true. I think there was a great flood, and I think
that some people did escape, and that they saved their beasts, just as
we should try to save Nigger and the Monkstown cocks and hens if we were
flooded out. Then they were able to start again when the waters went
down, and they were naturally very grateful to God for their escape."

"What did the people who didn't escape think about it?"

"Well, we can't tell that."

"They wouldn't be very grateful, would they?"

"Their time was come," said Daddy, who was a bit of a Fatalist. "I
expect it was the best thing."

"It was jolly hard luck on Noah being swallowed by a fish after all his
trouble," said Dimples.

"Silly ass! It was Jonah that was swallowed. Was it a whale, Daddy?"

"A whale! Why, a whale couldn't swallow a herring!"

"A shark, then?"

"Well, there again you have an old story which has got twisted and
turned a good deal. No doubt he was a holy man who had some great escape
at sea, and then the sailors and others who admired him invented this
wonder."

"Daddy," said Dimples, suddenly, "should we do just the same as Jesus
did?"

"Yes, dear; He was the noblest Person that ever lived."

"Well, did Jesus lie down every day from twelve to one?"

"I don't know that He did."

"Well, then, I won't lie down from twelve to one."

"If Jesus had been a growing boy and had been ordered to lie down by His
Mumty and the Doctor, I am sure He would have done so."

"Did He take malt extract?"

"He did what He was told, my son I am sure of that. He was a good man,
so He must have been a good boy perfect in all He did."

"Baby saw God yesterday," remarked Laddie, casually.

Daddy dropped his paper.

"Yes, we made up our mind we would all lie on our backs and stare at the
sky until we saw God. So we put the big rug on the lawn and then we all
lay down side by side, and stared and stared. I saw nothing, and Dimples
saw nothing, but Baby says she saw God."

Baby nodded in her wise way.

"I saw Him," she said.

"What was He like, then?"

"Oh, just God."

She would say no more, but hugged her Wriggly The Lady had entered and
listened with some trepidation to the frank audacity of the children's
views. Yet the very essence of faith was in that audacity. It was all so
unquestionably real.

"Which is strongest, Daddy, God or the Devil?" It was Laddie who was
speculating now.

"Why, God rules everything of course."

"Then why doesn't He kill the Devil?"

"And scalp him?" added Dimples.

"That would stop all trouble, wouldn't it, Daddy?"

Poor Daddy was rather floored. The Lady came to his help.

"If everything was good and easy in this world, then there would be
nothing to fight against, and so, Laddie, our characters would never
improve."

"It would be like a football match with all the players on one side,"
said Daddy.

"If there was nothing bad, then nothing would be good, for you would
have nothing to compare by," added the Lady.

"Well, then," said Laddie, with the remorseless logic of childhood, "if
that is so, then the Devil is very useful; so he can't be so very bad,
after all."

"Well, I don't see that," Daddy answered. "Our Army can only show how
brave it is by fighting the German Emperor, but that does not prove that
the German Emperor is a very nice person, does it now?

"Besides," Daddy continued, improving the occasion, "you must not think
of the Devil as a person. You must think of all the mean things one
could do, and all the dirty things, and all the cruel things, and that
is really the Devil you are fighting against. You couldn't call them
useful, could you?"

The children thought over this for a little.

"Daddy," said Laddie, "have you ever seen God?"

"No, my boy. But I see His works. I expect that is as near as we can get
in this world. Look at all the stars at night, and think of the Power
that made them and keeps each in its proper place."

"He couldn't keep the shooting stars in their proper place," said
Dimples.

"I expect He meant them to shoot," said Laddie.

"Suppose they all shot, what jolly nights we should have!" cried
Dimples.

"Yes," said Laddie; "but after one night they would all have gone, and a
nice thing then!"

"Well, there's always the moon," remarked Dimples. "But, Daddy, is it
true that God listens to all we say?"

"I don't know about that," Daddy answered, cautiously. You never know
into what trap those quick little wits may lead you. The Lady was more
rash, or more orthodox.

"Yes, dear, He does hear all you say."

"Is He listenin' now?"

"Yes, dear."

"Well, I call it vewy rude of Him!"

Daddy smiled, and the Lady gasped.

"It isn't rude," said Laddie. "It is His duty, and He has to notice what
you are doing and saying. Daddy, did you ever see a fairy?"

"No, boy."

"I saw one once."

Laddie is the very soul of truth, quite painfully truthful in details,
so that his quiet remark caused attention.

"Tell us about it, dear."

He described it with as little emotion as if it were a Persian cat.
Perhaps his perfect faith had indeed opened something to his vision.

"It was in the day nursery. There was a stool by the window. The fairy
jumped on the stool and then down, and went across the room."

"What was it dressed like?"

"All in grey, with a long cloak. It was about as big as Baby's doll. I
could not see its arms, for they were under the cloak."

"Did he look at you?"

"No, he was sideways, and I never really saw his face. He had a little
cap. That's the only fairy I ever saw. Of course, there was Father
Christmas, if you call him a fairy."

"Daddy, was Father Christmas killed in the war?"

"No, boy."

"Because he has never come since the war began. I expect he is fightin'
the Jarmans." It was Dimples who was talking.

"Last time he came," said Laddie, "Daddy said one of his reindeers had
hurt its leg in the ruts of the Monkstown Lane. Perhaps that's why he
never comes."

"He'll come all right after the war," said Daddy, "and he'll be redder
and whiter and jollier than ever." Then Daddy clouded suddenly, for he
thought of all those who would be missing when Father Christmas came
again. Ten loved ones were dead from that one household. The Lady put
out her hand, for she always knew what Daddy was thinking.

"They will be there in spirit, dear."

"Yes, and the joiliest of the lot," said Daddy, stoutly. "We'll have
our Father Christmas back and all will be well in England."

"But what do they do in India?" asked Laddie. "Why, what's wrong with
them?"

"How do the sledge and the reindeer get across the sea? All the
parcels must get wet."

"Yes, dear, there have been several complaints," said Daddy, gravely.
"Halloa, here's Frances! Time's up! Off to bed!"

They got up resignedly, for they were really very good children. "Say
your prayers here before you go," said the Lady. The three little
figures all knelt on the rug, Baby still cuddling her Wriggly.

"You pray, Laddie, and the rest can join in."

"God bless every one I love," said the high, clear child-voice. "And
make me a good boy, and thank You so much for all the blessings of
to-day. And please take care of Alleyne, who is fighting the Germans,
and Uncle Cosmo, who is fighting the Germans, and Uncle Woodie, who is
fighting the Germans, and all the others who are fighting the Germans,
and the men on the ships on the sea, and Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle
Pat, and don't ever let Daddy and Mumty die. That's all."

"And please send plenty sugar for the poor people," said Baby, in her
unexpected way.

"And a little petrol for Daddy," said Dimples.

"Amen!" said Daddy. And the little figures rose for the good-night kiss.



4. THE LEATHERSKIN TRIBE


"Daddy!" said the elder boy. "Have you seen wild Indians?"

"Yes, boy."

"Have you ever scalped one?"

"Good gracious, no."

"Has one ever scalped you?" asked Dimples.

"Silly!" said Laddie. "If Daddy had been scalped he wouldn't have all
that hair on his head unless perhaps it grew again!"

"He has none hair on the very top," said Dimples, hovering over the low
chair in which Daddy was sitting.

"They didn't scalp you, did they, Daddy?" asked Laddie, with some
anxiety.

"I expect Nature will scalp me some of these days."

Both boys were keenly interested. Nature presented itself as some rival
chief.

"When?" asked Dimples, eagerly, with the evident intention of being
present.

Daddy passed his fingers ruefully through his thinning locks. "Pretty
soon, I expect," said he.

"Oo!" said the three children. Laddie was resentful and defiant, but the
two younger ones were obviously delighted.

"But I say, Daddie, you said we should have an Indian game after tea.
You said it when you wanted us to be so quiet after breakfast. You
promised, you know."

It doesn't do to break a promise to children. Daddy rose somewhat
wearily from his comfortable chair and put his pipe on the mantelpiece.
First he held a conference in secret with Uncle Pat, the most ingenious
of playmates. Then he returned to the children. "Collect the tribe,"
said he. "There is a Council in a quarter of an hour in the big room.
Put on your Indian dresses and arm yourselves. The great Chief will be
there!"

Sure enough when he entered the big room a quarter of an hour later the
tribe of the Leatherskins had assembled. There were four of them, for
little rosy Cousin John from next door always came in for an Indian
game. They had all Indian dresses with high feathers and wooden clubs or
tomahawks. Daddy was in his usual untidy tweeds, but carried a rifle. He
was very serious when he entered the room, for one should be very
serious in a real good Indian game. Then he raised his rifle slowly over
his head in greeting and the four childish voices rang out in the
warcry. It was a prolonged wolfish howl which Dimples had been known to
offer to teach elderly ladies in hotel corridors. "You can't be in our
tribe without it, you know. There is none body about. Now just try once
if you can do it." At this moment there are half-a-dozen elderly people
wandering about England who have been made children once more by Laddie
and Dimples.

"Hail to the tribe!" cried Daddy.

"Hail, Chief!" answered the voices.

"Red Buffalo!"

"Here!" cried Laddie.

"Black Bear!"

"Here!" cried Dimples.

"White Butterfly!"

"Go on, you silly squaw!" growled Dimples.

"Here," said Baby.

"Prairie Wolf!"

"Here," said little four-year-old John.

"The muster is complete. Make a circle round the camp-fire and we shall
drink the fire-water of the Palefaces and smoke the pipe of peace."

That was a fearsome joy. The fire-water was ginger-ale drunk out of the
bottle, which was gravely passed from hand to hand. At no other time had
they ever drunk like that, and it made an occasion of it which was
increased by the owlish gravity of Daddy. Then he lit his pipe and it
was passed also from one tiny hand to another, Laddie taking a hearty
suck at it, which set him coughing, while Baby only touched the end of
the amber with her little pink lips. There was dead silence until it had
gone round and returned to its owner.

"Warriors of the Leatherskins, why have we come here?" asked Daddy,
fingering his rifle.

"Humpty Dumpty," said little John, and the children all began to laugh,
but the portentous gravity of Daddy brought them back to the warrior
mood.

"The Prairie Wolf has spoken truly," said Daddy. "A wicked Paleface
called Humpty Dumpty has taken the prairies which once belonged to the
Leatherskins and is now camped upon them and hunting our buffaloes, What
shall be his fate? Let each warrior speak in turn."

"Tell him he has jolly well got to clear out," said Laddie.

"That's not Indian talk," cried Dimples, with all his soul in the game.
"Kill him, great Chief him and his squaw, too." The two younger warriors
merely laughed and little John repeated "Humpty Dumpty!"

"Quite right! Remember the villain's name!" said Daddy. "Now, then, the
whole tribe follows me on the war-trail and we shall teach this Paleface
to shoot our buffaloes."

"Look here, we don't want squaws," cried Dimples, as Baby toddled at
the rear of the procession. "You stay in the wigwam and cook."

A piteous cry greeted the suggestion.

"The White Butterfly will come with us and bind up the wounds," said
Daddy.

"The squaws are jolly good as torturers," remarked Laddie.

"Really, Daddy, this strikes me as a most immoral game," said the Lady,
who had been a sympathetic spectator from a corner, doubtful of the
ginger-ale, horrified at the pipe, and delighted at the complete
absorption of the children.

"Rather!" said the great Chief, with a sad relapse into the normal. "I
suppose that is why they love it so. Now, then, warriors, we go forth on
the war-trail. One whoop all together before we start. Capital! Follow
me, now, one behind the other. Not a sound! If one gets separated from
the others let him give the cry of a night owl and the others will
answer with the squeak of the prairie lizard."

"What sort of a squeak, please?"

"Oh, any old squeak will do. You don't walk. Indians trot on the
war-path. If you see any man hiding in a bush kill him at once, but
don't stop to scalp him."

"Really, dear!" from the corner.

"The great Queen would rather that you scalp him. Now, then! All ready!
Start!"

Away went the line of figures, Daddy stooping with his rifle at the
trail, Laddie and Dimples armed with axes and toy pistols, as tense and
serious as any Redskins could be. The other two rather more
irresponsible but very much absorbed all the same. The little line of
absurd figures wound in and out of the furniture, and out on to the
lawn, and round the laurel bushes, and into the yard, and back to the
clump of trees. There Daddy stopped and held up his hand with a face
that froze the children.

"Are all here?" he asked.

"Yes, yes."

"Hush, warriors! No sound. There is an enemy scout in the bushes ahead.
Stay with me, you two. You, Red Buffalo, and you, Black Bear, crawl
forward and settle him. See that he makes no sound. What you do must be
quick and sudden. When all is clear give the cry of the wood-pigeon, and
we will join you."

The two warriors crawled off in most desperate earnest. Daddy leaned on
his gun and winked at the Lady, who still hovered fearfully in the
background like a dear hen whose chickens were doing wonderful and
unaccountable things. The two younger Indians slapped each other and
giggled. Presently there came the "coo" of a wood-pigeon from in front.
Daddy and the tribe moved forward to where the advance guard were
waiting in the bushes.

"Great Chief, we could find no scout," said Laddie.

"There was none person to kill," added Dimples.

The Chief was not surprised, since the scout had been entirely of his
own invention. It would not do to admit it, however.

"Have you found his trail?" he asked.

"No, Chief."

"Let me look." Daddy hunted about with a look of preternatural sagacity
about him. "Before the snows fell a man passed here with a red head,
grey clothes, and a squint in his left eye. His trail shows that his
brother has a grocer's shop and his wife smokes cigarettes on the sly."

"Oh, Daddy, how could you read all that?"

"It's easy enough, my son, when you get the knack of it. But look here,
we are Indians on the war-trail, and don't you forget it if you value
your scalp! Aha, here is Humpty Dumpty's trail!"

Uncle Pat had laid down a paper trail from this point, as Daddy well
knew; so now the children were off like a little pack of eager harriers,
following in and out among the bushes. Presently they had a rest.

"Great Chief, why does a wicked Paleface leave paper wherever he goes?"

Daddy made a great effort.

"He tears up the wicked letters he has written. Then he writes others
even wickeder and tears them up in turn. You can see for yourself that
he leaves them wherever he goes. Now, warriors, come along!"

Uncle Pat had dodged all over the limited garden, and the tribe followed
his trail. Finally, they stopped at a gap in the hedge which leads into
the field. There was a little wooden hut in the field, where Daddy used
to go and put up a printed cardboard: "WORKING." He found it a very good
dodge when he wanted a quiet smoke and a nap. Usually there was nothing
else in the field, but this time the Chief pushed the whole tribe
hurriedly behind the hedge, and whispered to them to look carefully out
between the branches.

In the middle of the field a tripod of sticks supported a kettle. At
each side of it was a hunched-up figure in a coloured blanket. Uncle Pat
had done his work skilfully and well.

"You must get them before they can reach their rifles," said the Chief.
"What about their horses? Black Bear, move down the hedge and bring back
word about their horses. If you see none give three whistles."

The whistles were soon heard, and the warrior returned.

"If the horses had been there, what would you have done?"

"Scalped them!" said Dimples.

"Silly ass!" said Laddie. "Who ever heard of a horse's scalp? You would
stampede them."

"Of course," said the Chief. "If ever you see a horse grazing, you crawl
up to it, spring on its back and then gallop away with your head looking
under its neck and only your foot to be seen. Don't you forget it. But
we must scupper these rascals on our hunting-grounds."

"Shall we crawl up to them?"

"Yes, crawl up. Then when I give a whoop rush them. Take them alive. I
wish to have a word with them first. Carry them into the hut. Go!"

Away went the eager little figures, the chubby babes and the two lithe,
active boys. Daddy stood behind the bush watching them. They kept a line
and tip-toed along to the camp of the strangers. Then on the Chief's
signal they burst into a cry and rushed wildly with waving weapons into
the camp of the Palefaces. A moment later the two pillow-made trappers
were being dragged off into the hut by the whooping warriors. They were
up-ended in one corner when the Chief entered, and the victorious
Indians were dancing about in front of them.

"Anybody wounded?" asked the Chief.

"No, no."

"Have you tied their hands?"

With perfect gravity Red Buffalo made movements behind each of the
pillows.

"They are tied, great Chief."

"What shall we do with them?"

"Cut off their heads!" shrieked Dimples, who was always the most
bloodthirsty of the tribe, though in private life he had been known to
weep bitterly over a squashed caterpillar.

"The proper thing is to tie them to a stake," said Laddie.

"What do you mean by killing our buffaloes?" asked Daddy, severely.

The prisoners preserved a sulky silence.

"Shall I shoot the green one?" asked Dimples, presenting his wooden
pistol.

"Wait a bit!" said the Chief. "We had best keep one as a hostage and
send the other back to say that unless the Chief of the Palefaces pays a
ransom within three days."

But at that moment, as a great romancer used to say, a strange thing
happened. There was the sound of a turning key and the whole tribe of
the Leatherskins was locked into the hut. A moment later a dreadful face
appeared at the window, a face daubed with mud and overhung with grass,
which drooped down from under a soft cap. The weird creature danced in
triumph, and then stooped to set a light to some paper and shavings near
the window.

"Heavens!" cried the Chief. "It is Yellow Snake, the ferocious Chief of
the Bottlenoses!"

Flame and smoke were rising outside. It was excellently done and
perfectly safe, but too much for the younger warriors. The key turned,
the door opened, and two tearful babes were in the arms of the kneeling
Lady. Red Buffalo and Black Bear were of sterner stuff.

"I'm not frightened, Daddy," said Laddie, though he looked a little
pale.

"Nor me," cried Dimples, hurrying to get out of the hut.

"We'll lock the prisoners up with no food and have a council of war upon
them in the morning," said the Chief. "Perhaps we've done enough today."

"I rather think you have," said the Lady, as she soothed the poor little
sobbing figures.

"That's the worst of having kids to play," said Dimples. "Fancy having a
squaw in a warparty!"

"Never mind, we've had a jolly good Indian game," said Laddie, as the
sound of a distant bell called them all to the nursery tea.



THE END





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