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Title: War and the Weird
Author: Phillips, Forbes, 1866-1917, Hopkins, R. Thurston (Robert Thurston), 1884-1958
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "War and the Weird" ***

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     WAR AND THE WEIRD


             BY
      FORBES PHILLIPS
            AND
    R. THURSTON HOPKINS


 LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL,
 HAMILTON, KENT & CO., LTD.



     _Copyright
 All rights reserved
        1916_


Transcriber's Note:

    Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.
    Punctuation has been normalised. Dialect spellings have been
    retained. The oe ligature is shown as [oe].



CONTENTS


               INTRODUCTION

                                      PAGE

   I. THE UNCANNY UNDER FIRE            11

  II. WAR THE REVEALER                  17

 III. THE SOUL'S BOUNDARY LINE          21

  IV. THE SPIRITUAL ENTITY              27

   V. ANGELS                            31

  VI. FELLOWSHIP WITH THE UNSEEN        35

 VII. THE WHITE COMRADE                 39


               FIVE SKETCHES

   I. OMBOS                             49

  II. THE DE GAMELYN TRADITIONS        101

 III. THE MILLS OF GOD                 127

  IV. THE STORY OF A SPY               137

   V. THROUGH THE FURNACE              161



INTRODUCTION

BY FORBES PHILLIPS



I

THE UNCANNY UNDER FIRE


"Do you think there is anything in it?" He was a clean-set six-foot
specimen of English manhood, an officer of the R.F.A. wounded at Mons,
who spoke. "I mean I haven't studied these subjects much--in fact, I
haven't studied them at all. Sport is more in my line than spiritualism
and that kind of thing, but when you have experiences brought under your
very nose again and again, you cannot help thinking there must be
something in such things." He had just told me that in the last few
minutes' sleep he managed to get on the march to Mons he dreamt that he
was unable to sit his horse. The next day he was wounded inside his
right knee, not seriously, but sufficient to stop him riding for a week
or two. "I should never have thought anything more of it--I mean,
connecting the dream with the ill-luck--but in the South African
campaign there were quite remarkable instances. You see, at such times
when you are playing hide-and-seek with shrapnel, officers and men get
very chummy when we do get a spell for a talk. The Tommies give us their
confidences, and ask us all kinds of strange questions about religious
and super-natural things."

Take premonitions, for example. How shall we account for the British
soldier's actual versions of the matter? There are countless stories in
this war, in every war, of men having a warning, a sub-conscious
certainty of death. The battlefield is armed with a full battery of
shot, which thrill with human interest and have around them a halo of
something uncanny, supernormal. It may be that in the stress and shock
of battle the strings--some of the strings--of the human instrument get
broken; that poor Tommy, gazing into the night of the long silence,
becomes a prey to morbid fancies, which presently are worked up into
premonitions. There may be something in this, but the men of inaction
are more prone to fancies than men on active service. Another theory
suggests that the same power within which questions, supplies an answer.
It may be so; but no one is anxious for the answer Death brings. One can
only smile at the crass stupidity of most of the explanations given by
those who deny the existence of super-natural agencies and powers. The
region of spiritual dynamics is destined to be the science of the
future.

In a somewhat sceptical age it is worth while noticing that from the
earliest dawn of history, under varying forms of government and
civilisation with which we are acquainted, the belief in premonitions
was unchallenged. The old Greeks and Latins were the keenest thinkers
the world so far has seen; yet they believed in ghosts, omens, and
premonitions. (They would smile in lofty scorn at some of the
superstitions to-day taught under the Elementary Education Act of 1870.)
Unbelief in such things super-natural, therefore, cannot be accepted as
a sign of lofty mentality. A journalistic friend was staying with me
some few months ago. We were sitting smoking rather late after dinner.
"Do you believe in ghosts?" I asked. "Don't be so absurdly foolish!" he
cried angrily. "That's all right," I remarked quietly. "Now I know you
won't mind sleeping in our haunted room; many foolish people do object."
"Great Scott!" he ejaculated, "no haunted room for me!" Nor would he
even look at it. He would not face the logical sequence of his dogmatic
unbelief. Only a brave man dare express all he believes.

Now it is well known that every advance in scientific knowledge is
greeted with mocking laughter. We know the jeers with which even clever
men greeted the Marconi claims. It is not so many years ago that a
distinguished member of the French Academy of Science rose up amongst
his colleagues and pronounced the Edison phonograph to be nothing more
than an acoustical illusion. So we are told that soldiers' visions are
optical illusions. That is no answer. Call them optical delusions if you
like, then the query arises what causes these optical delusions, of
which we have countless instances, which inform a man of the hour, and
sometimes the manner, of his death? To call an effect by another name
does not dispose of the cause of such effect, nor is it any solution of
the mystery.

Few thinkers now, worthy of the name, seriously dispute the existence of
super-natural forces and influences. The whole system of Christianity,
of belief in all ages, is founded upon such things. To-day front-rank
men are investigating in avenues of research where once they sneered.
There is much fraud and cheap talk in ordinary life, but not under fire.
Men are not cheap then, nor are they paltry. Strange that where death is
busiest the evidence of life beyond and above it all should abound. The
invisible, full of awe, is also full of teaching, it is pregnant with
whispers. The mind, tuned up to a new tension, receives all kinds of
Marconi-like messages. What sends such whispers? Is it that in the
moment of supreme self-sacrifice and splendid devotion to duty that
spiritual perceptions are sharpened? Who shall say? "He was hit, and he
rushed forward shouting, 'Why, there's my----' then he dropped dead,
but he saw someone, of that I am sure." So spoke a man of the A.S.C.,
who saw his comrade die. Deep calls to deep, and if we put our ear to
the call we may hear the message. On the battlefield, as in no other
place, there is the call of soul to soul, of heart to heart, intensified
by all our powers of emotion, which duty calls forth at their best.
Tommy Atkins stares more fixedly into the dim future, the greater the
gloom the more he searches for the gleam, and sometimes it is vouchsafed
to him. There is no doubt that mind calls to mind. After all, time and
space are artificial things. They cannot be spiritual barriers. Why
should a mother, thinking of her lad at the front in a supreme moment of
affection and deep yearning, not be able to do what frequently happens
unconsciously among ordinary acquaintances? Often a thought will pass
from one mind to another in a moment of silence.

The uncanny under fire must take its place among things to be
investigated, the evidence is too convincing to be pooh-poohed. Science
and philosophy are now boldly entering the dim regions of the occult in
search of its laws; on the battlefield Tommy Atkins is already there
thinking over weird things and he comes to conclusions, finding the
lights by which he steers.

This chapter could not be complete without mentioning another mystery of
the battlefield: it is this--the number of instances in which the
Germans have savagely pounded a church with their artillery, only to
find on entering the ruin that the cross was still there erect and
intact. One Uhlan soldier climbed upon an altar to smash a crucifix,
slipped and put his ankle out. That may be a coincidence. Next moment a
shell killed him and one of his comrades, the crucifix remained
uninjured. Soldiers, French and British, talk of these uncanny things,
interpreting them in several ways, but each of these ways is the pathway
of the spirit--perhaps part of the altar steps on which men climb up
through the darkness to God.



II

WAR THE REVEALER


War is not only the Great Educator, it is the Great Revealer. Its
marches and bivouacs, its battles, its commonplaces and surprises, its
trials and its triumphs, are a singular school of experience. The
various impacts upon man's psychological anatomy produce strange
results. They seem like the blows of some Invisible Sculptor, producing
out of commonplace material a hero and it may be a demi-god. The opening
orchestra of shot and shell braces up the mind of the soldier and
attunes it up to receive new sensitiveness. The bullets play strange
dirges on the strings of life before they break them, and each dirge has
its theme, some song of spiritual things. His gaze is towards the sky
line and he sees strange things, a whole battery of lights each of which
is in its way a revelation. The battle chorus crying to the night of
long silence becomes a prayer, and the response is ever helpful.

The individual amid the thunder of his surroundings in the red surge of
battle somehow never allows his soul to become obscured. It is taking
impressions which later in the day as he sits by the camp fire cause
him to think and to reach conclusions which leave him a different man
from what he has been. We see this in the glow of the soldiers' letters
to those he loves: he has come within the shadow of the Divine Reality
as the wondrous book of Life and Death opens on the battlefield. The
result is the Soldier's Gospel. It would cause the devotees of little
Bethel to faint with its crude "superstitions" and absence of
meaningless and stupid dogma yet its grip of spiritual things and Divine
Aid would make the ordinary "go to meeting" Christian gape with
astonishment. The soldier's simple faith, his willing endurance, his
quiet heroisms, his silent self-sacrifice, though they call for no
louder name than duty, are just those chords which link him to the Great
Heroism which saw its culmination in Calvary. After all, deeds only are
the words of love.

The Soldier's Gospel is a wonderful revelation: the world grows
gratefully small as it appreciates its work, worth and effect upon the
man. All the lights by which he steers sum up good citizenship rather
than sectarianship. We had long ceased to cultivate the former.

"There goes a hospital ship," and a Commander of one of H.M. Patrols
pointed out to me a transport full of wounded. We thought in pity of
that array of maimed men, of silent suffering, of bandages, slings,
crutches and artificial limbs, but suddenly there arose from the
transport a mighty cheer of greeting and salutation to the white ensign.
That was the reply of war's wreckage to those who pitied. It is a
wonderful Gospel that produces this. But the invisible, while full of
awe, does not daunt him, the soldier reaches out towards the rather
unknown searching for light and finding it. Under fire means so much, it
is filled up with so many experiences, you march through a lifetime in a
few seconds, you get new views of the past years from another angle of
vision. Shadow and darkness and doubt are lifted, the soldier is frank
and honest, he is not hide-bound by petty superstitions, he is willing
fairly to consider and weigh all sensations, visions and inner
illuminations. He is not blinded with the dogma of either agnosticism or
sectarianism, while his sense of humour saves him from many of the
errors of the various "Christian" brotherhoods. Curious enough, the
people who object to duty, who are unwilling to strike a blow for
righteousness, invariably belong to some of the freak sects and are
devotees of sectarianism in its narrowest meaning.

No doubt "Vicarious Suffering" the root doctrine of many sects in this
country is responsible for the general shirking of duty on the part of
so many men to-day. Men look to the ballot box for their meat in due
season. They want all the privileges of citizenship without the
responsibilities. The sects of to-day in teaching that the historic
Christ took all our sins upon His shoulder have produced a type of
sentimental immoralist who creeps under the shelter of the Cross,
content that Christ should suffer in his place. So long as the Cross
does not offend his eyesight, he is willing to find refuge in its
shadow. Where selfishness reigns there is no vision. The gaze is upon
gain, personal comfort, things entirely earthly. A man who is always
looking at mud thinks in terms of mud. Just as a great naturalist
confesses a loss of the finer sense of music, so there is the loss of
the spiritual vision, for the spiritual sense is just as real as any
other sense, but it can become useless and drop out of our life, if we
do not value it and no longer use it. There are people with an artistic
sense. There are more without it.

The doctrine of the atonement is used to promote the crude idea that to
put our responsibilities upon others is more religious than facing them
oneself. Christ's atonement is no isolated fact in history to make men
cowards, but a sustained attitude of devotion in which every man and
woman is to take a part. Instead of thanking Christ for hanging there
upon the Cross in our place we should strive for the same courage, the
same endurance, the supreme devotion to duty and the vision of Divine
Aid will be ours perhaps in Angel form. To the brave in all ages has
come the vision of higher things.



III

THE SOUL'S BOUNDARY LINE


"I never was religious, but this business is changing me and many
thousands more," so writes a soldier. From another soldier's letter we
get, "War is the most sobering influence I know ... it sobers their
every day. They listen more attentively to the religious services.
Sometimes I wish for the sake of the morals of our army that we were
always at war."

When I was in Northern France I came in contact with many wounded French
soldiers, men who had gone to the front as atheists and returned firm
believers. "Thank the good God I have really seen. I fell wounded in
twenty-three places they tell me. I fell cursing a God I did not believe
in: then a cold hand was laid upon my brow. I looked up and saw--ah! my
God! how beautiful a Being. Now I do not want, I do not care to live for
I want to see that beautiful Being again. I know I shall. Leave me. See
to the others." This was a voluntary statement of a French soldier who
called me to his side simply to light a cigarette for him. I left him
perfectly happy and it was quite true about his number of wounds. He
lived only a few hours and he knew that he was dying. Men do not usually
tell lies on their death beds.

Wonderful is the warp and woof of life under fire. It is the parade of
the living, the dead and those on the borderland. Men go through the
whole gamut of emotions. War is an object lesson of laughter and tears
playing hide and seek with each other. The tragedy and the comedy follow
close on each other's heels. Deep calls not only to deep but to shallow
as well, and in the end all notes harmonize. Where the swathe of the
scythe is wide men's souls expand in heart qualities. Amidst the
wreckage of a battlefield he picks up all kinds of things, every faculty
picks up something and they become contributions to soul force. The
greater the gloom the more the soldier searches for the gleam. Religion
and resolution meet in the soldier and give him deeper vision. He hears
his comrade say, "I shall be taken to-day, give this to ----." Examples
of this premonition abound. He enters a bombarded village, the only
thing standing intact frequently is a figure of Christ crucified, or the
Madonna looking down upon a mass of crumbling ruin. These facts are
again and again verified by photographs. Often the talk of the camp as
the men settle down by the fire is of the weird and the uncanny that
has happened during the day; and there are pauses when the soldiers
stare into the embers and forget to suck their pipes.

To explain the book of life, one would require the scrolls of eternity.
War throws light on some of its stray pages as they flutter for a second
on the wings of time and then disappear, but not before it has flung its
cressets of light upon the black pall of doubt. Everyone now talks of
psychic phenomena. In a paltry generation of superficial thinking the
subject was one for jest, but there is far more in it than jesters are
likely to discover. Mocking laughter never discovered anything except
the vacuous fool. The appearances of spiritual beings give but scant
opportunity for examination but serious investigation has now taken the
place of cheap sneering. After all religion is founded upon a philosophy
of apparitions. The vision of angels at Mons is no new thing.
Catholicism is founded on such visions and no religion worthy of the
name is without its story of angels. New aspects of matter have laid
many materialistic theories in the dust, the mysterious potencies of
matter which the latest science is revealing, the energy of electrons,
and radium are giving us a new science of super-sensual physics and with
it new vistas of thought.

It is no longer necessary to apologize for the work of psychic research,
that is among intelligent people. Light is gaining on the darkness. "I
felt another hand assisting me to steer," said a sailor man to me who
vainly tried to explain how he kept his boat from what appeared certain
destruction. He would scorn to be called a religious man. "There is
nothing of the ranter in me--you know sir," and he used uncomplimentary
remarks which I omit. "But there sir, it was no skill of mine. All I saw
was death and destruction for me and my mates, yet I knew we should pull
through all right. There was another that shipped as passenger in the
darkness."

The question of immortality and of the existence of spiritual entities
which had been relegated to the limits of illusions and dreams in
Victorian times by the fumbling amateur philosophers of that day, can
now be discussed with quiet in the old philosophic vein which
characterized the great age of thought when Greek sages argued in the
Gardens of Athens. This fact alone justifies a book of the present
character. The bumptious and dull ass who announces "Miracles do not
happen," is now seen in true perspective and he cuts a poor figure.

Apparitions, telepathy and clairvoyance are not explanations, but names
for facts demanding separate explanations. In regard to such the
"ecclesiastical damn" and the "scientific damn" have been freely used.
If men have been hypnotized by ghost stories, they certainly have been
deluded by stories of unnatural science. To deny activities of life
natural and super-natural is rather silly considering no man has solved
the life principle. The atoms forming the material of the brain may be
proved ultimately to be identical with those that compose a jelly-fish
or a jar of margarine, and brain appears to be the organ of mind, but it
is mind that grasps things, places things, and thinks. Life is concerned
with _thought_ as well as atoms. It receives thoughts from all sides,
sometimes it claims to detect the thought giver--and that is to have a
fuller vision. Men think quickly on the field of battle. They are not
constrained by a narrow education and a narrower conventionalism to
limit their thoughts to what others think in their own circle.



IV

THE SPIRITUAL ENTITY


Why is it that men in all ages, the best of men, the most gifted of men,
with the evidence of the senses so strongly against them, have believed
that a spiritual personal entity survives death's disaster? That men do
so is seen in all literature and witnessed to in all lands. Vedic hymns,
3,500 years old sing of a spiritual body with as clear a vision as S.
Paul. We are collecting the evidence that has floated down the ages and
examining it with a new criticism. The attitude of "Pooh! Bah!" of Early
Victorian times is no longer the mark of superiority. It is now, as it
was then, the mark not only of ignorance but stupid dullness. The frame
of mind which used to dismiss everything with the word "impossible" is
now recognized not as science but ignorance. The researches of a
Crookes, of a Sir Oliver Lodge, Myers, Gurney, Rochas, Gabriel Delanne,
Lombroso, in the region of the occult command serious attention.
Swedenborg communicated messages from people who had long passed to
their relatives on matters of fact which were found accurate in every
detail.

M. Rochas speaks of an externalized consciousness which feels a touch.
Within man is the plant and machinery of all kinds of faculties, one is
the perception of the spiritual. Had it been trained like his sense of
music, we should no longer be in the dark of despair over our dead. The
trend of thought to-day is to show man a spiritual being in a spiritual
universe, that death is merely transition. If not, then God is the
Cosmic Murderer. The spiritual sense of man is his faculty of response
to the spiritual world around him, just as his musical sense is his
measure of response and his reception of the world of music around him.
By some magic in the red surge of war, this spiritual response is
sharpened and quickened as every other sense is, and the soldier sees
visions. Man working within time and space is influenced by what is
beyond the one and the other, the full significance of this world would
seem to be in another scheme of things to which this is only the
vestibule. The soul's wave movements have their laws. In that soul is
some fine Marconi-like instrument which registers impressions, and from
time to time receives spiritual warnings and perceives spiritual beings.
Serious men are now boldly investigating. Little help comes from the
sectarians who seem to begrudge God his universe; everything has to be
cheapened to the worm's-eye view of little Bethel, which steeped in
politics has long lost sense of the spiritual. The old Greeks and Latins
were acute thinkers, yet they believed in spiritual beings and their
appearances. It was only in the days of cheap thinking that it required
a special valour to express belief in the super-natural. The fact is,
most people are like the devils of scripture who "believe and tremble"
without admitting the authority of their belief. It is refreshing to
find a writer like Mr. W. S. Lilley in the _Nineteenth Century_
professing his absolute belief in ghosts. To man, and it would appear to
man alone on this plane, it is given to explore the unknown and to
establish the communion of soul with soul.

After all it is a question of evidence. If a man say "I won't believe in
anything super-natural whatever the evidence may be," it is best to
leave him to his folly. If he will accept the evidence that would pass
muster in a court of law, then you have a common ground, you can weigh
evidence. To me the evidence for spiritual appearances is overwhelming
looking at it from the strictly legal angle of vision.

In years gone by the scientific genius began with the assertion that
everything must have had a beginning, and to assert that there was a
spiritual Being with no beginning was nonsense. To the dim indistinct
crowd such appeared to be clever reasoning. But our very consciousness
insists that there is something which had no beginning, and Reason adds,
"else there could be nothing now." For example, Space could not have had
a beginning, that Duration could not, that Truth could not, that
somehow, somewhere these Three Eternals must have been co-eternal,
incomprehensible. And in this Trinity "none is afore or after the
other," which recalls the Athanasian Creed.

I cannot prove that Truth had no beginning, yet my consciousness tells
me at no period was it laid down as something new, that the shortest
distance between two points would be a straight line. No mathematician
has ever proved that there is no boundary to space, but something within
me tells me that there can be no such boundary. Even Reason tells me
that an impassable boundary would only serve to indicate the unlimited
extension beyond.

In all ages we have the mystic. Now the mystic is common to all
religions. He is the man who has felt the touch of spiritual beings, the
call of Heavenly things, and we have to explain him. In seeking to do
this we shall realize some of the truth of the things soldiers see which
we have called "The Weird in War."



V

ANGELS


The evidence for the existence and the appearance of angels does not
rest on the testimony merely of men who fought at Mons. But even that
evidence which is accepted by the talented author of _The Bowmen_
requires some explaining away and he admits that there is a difficulty
in ignoring it. But there is the accumulating evidence of the ages. When
we have explained away the soldiers' delusions, we have to confront
those of the world's wisest sons--giants in thought. We have to confront
the fact that all great religions have the theory of angels.

After all, every good thought may be the whisper of an angel, every
beautiful prospect may be but the glint of the wing, every ray of light
and heat but the waving of the robes of those higher spiritual
intelligences which rush hither and thither on God's service, whose
faces see God in Heaven. Such a belief is just as sound, and far more
philosophical than any of the guesses I have read so far, given us as
"explanation" of such phenomena.

I am in hearty agreement with much that Mr. Arthur Machen writes in his
book _The Bowmen_. It is a book everyone should read. That splendid
story of failure and triumph, the Retreat from Mons, prompted him to
write a story on an Angelic Host coming to the aid of the British force.
He wrote it after the manner of the journalist who is an eye-witness of
the event. Many people still believe what they read in the newspapers;
and many people believed his story. But he is altogether wrong when he
imagines that he is the author of the belief in Angelic visions. I was
in France hearing stories of angelic intervention long before Mr. Machen
wrote his delightful yarn. A frog might as well imagine that his croak
is responsible for the whole world of music, as to postulate that his
story gave rise to the theory of Angels. Men had visions of such long
before the first stone of our venerable shrine at Westminster was laid,
before the Romans built their first mud huts in the valley of the Tiber,
before the Pyramids raised their terrific greatness to the heavens. So
Mr. Machen need not concern himself on that score.

The Anglican Church has failed dismally to keep before people the
teaching of the Church in regard to Angels and Angelic intervention in
the affairs of men. There I am in entire agreement with Mr. Machen.
Soldiers tell their stories of angels and a few bishops cackle; but not
one of them dares to speak of the fuller belief of the Church in angels
and the soul-inspiring mystery of the Communion of Saints, the
inter-relationship between those on the earth-plane and those who have
passed to the higher life. The hardworking priest in the slums
fearlessly proclaims this one sacrament of life with the Divine Life,
his belief in angels and their help, in saints and their prayers, and
because he believes he is able to work under conditions which make life
for a cultured man almost intolerable. But he works, thankful to be left
alone by his bishop: for war has declared a close time for ritualistic
curates. But the soldier whose patriotism he has nurtured writes home to
him telling frankly his experiences, his dreams, his visions. I have
seen many of these letters. The writers are not liars nor are they
hysterical subjects, but fine specimens of healthy manhood. Here and
there a dissenting divine has raised his voice to declare there may be
something in these stories of angels, but the dissenting pulpit is under
the despotism of the pew and cry of "Rome" is enough. "Honest doubt" is
always sure of a sympathetic audience, "honest belief" is greeted with
the cry of superstition or the cuckoo cry of "Popery."

A soldier sees something super-natural. Some one says I know a hundred
or a thousand soldiers who did not see it. A man may witness a murder.
His evidence is accepted in the law courts. They do not call the hundred
thousand people who did not see it in proof that no murder was
perpetrated. Few people know the fundamental principles of evidence.
More people misuse it.



VI

FELLOWSHIP WITH THE UNSEEN


Religion is man's fellowship with the Unseen, and it would seem that
bishops and various crank divines are determined that such a belief
shall be discouraged. Man's nature has upon it the Hall Marks of Heaven.
Woven into man's anatomical texture we find faculties that transcend
this world, that are for ever intent upon the waves that beat upon us
from another shore. He sees the coastline of another world to which he
commits his dead. We call such people Mystics, Catholics, Seers, etc.
They are the people who have had touch with the Unseen. After all, the
people with actual personal experience of spiritual power, who shape
their lives by their experience are the real assets of belief.

Man may or may not be sprung from the beast, he may or may not have been
raised from slime. Man's spirit did not arise in slime, that at all
events came from a race of flame. Dust will not account for everything.

The Church in its greatest office of all, the Communion Service, claims
to worship in union with "Angels and Archangels and with _all_ the
Company of Heaven." Having proclaimed this tremendous fact the Church,
for the most part leaves it, and bishops view any further annunciation
of the fact with suspicion and sometimes with threats.

On one solemn day in the year the Church invokes S. Michael and all
Angels. S. Michael's Mass as it is still called. The old teaching of the
Church bids us lift our eyes to behold those more intimate intelligences
which stand nearer the Great and Central Mystery. When a soldier
stumbles by chance upon one of those higher beings he is regarded as the
victim of hallucination, of superstition or drink or all of them. A
chaplain with dull German Protestantism obscuring his view of spiritual
things treats him as some unclean thing. Dissent in England for years
has been synonymous with pro-Germanism. It has been at war with the
historic creed of Christendom. It was better for their aims that angels
should not exist.

Before dull German Protestantism with its gross materialism raised the
plentiful crop of sects in England, our country was known through Europe
as "Merrie England." Our people loved the festival of S. Michael. S.
Michael's Mass was a red letter day. The Communion and Inter-Communion
of earth with heaven was emphasized. Families met that day to pray and
feast, lovers plighted their troth, gatherings of relatives and friends
was the rule, joy was the key-note. Then dissent raised its ugly head,
dissent that had its birth in Germany. These kill-joys got the upper
hand. The recognition of the Christ-Mass, Christmas and the
Michael-Mass, Michaelmas, was put down by law. Dissent has never
hesitated to use compulsion when it lay ready to hand to enforce
materialism. So belief in angels well nigh ceased to exist. To-day the
revival comes from actual experience rather than from church teaching.
The antagonism to such belief amounts to unreasonable heights of folly.
Luther has so long occupied the place of Christ that dissent has
forgotten what Christ taught us in regard to angels. We ignore the fact
that He claimed to have seen angels, and to have had their help and
ministration. When politics mix with religion, spirituality dies, there
is no vision, for there is little belief and less sincerity. No wonder
the soldier's vision of angels strikes them as something altogether
beyond the pale of belief.

It is time that our "spiritual fathers" and other stepfathers began to
give us a lead in spiritual things. We are burdened with bishops who
play to the gallery and the cheaper press, who would rather take a
confirmation service in a coal-pit than in a consecrated shrine of
prayer, for the simple reason that "Confirmation in a Coal-pit" gets a
flaming advertisement in every paper. Their vision is set on notoriety:
the spiritual vision recedes. How can they have sympathy with those who
pierce the boundary line that separates this world from a higher plane?

Men who have spent their lives on office seeking can never be seers or
priests. Parsons who beat the political drum may rise to power
political, never to the power spiritual. The vision glorious is to those
who face duty, self-sacrifice, and see in them the Divine Call, who
believe in the sacrifice of the Gospel rather than its comfort. The
charlatan must not dominate the Christian in our spiritual pastors, if
it do, then such are not qualified to minister in spiritual things.



VII

THE WHITE COMRADE


The story that angels fought on the side of the Allies in the battle of
Mons must rest upon evidence, coupled with experience. If we begin by
assuming that there can be no intelligences in the universe unless they
are clothed in the regulated fashion, then no amount of evidence will
suffice. It is a worm's-eye view that regards man as the last word in
mind.

Meanwhile France is pursuing the evidence for another story exclusively
of French origin and vouched for by men to whom the belief in spiritual
beings is repugnant, viz., the apparition of "Le Camarade Blanc," of
whom at Nancy, in the Argonne, at Soissons and Ypres men talked with
hushed voices but with the quiet assurance of men who had seen. It must
be something arresting which changes an atheist into a mystic. Again and
again the French wounded speak of a man in white bending over them as
they lay on the field helpless, and ministering relief. The mysterious
one whom our allies call the "Comrade in White" appears simultaneously
on different parts of the battlefield. His mission ever is one of
mercy.

_The Living Church_ reprints from _Work and Life_ an article giving a
full account of "The White Comrade," furnished by a wounded soldier. All
accounts agree in the main facts. He is generally observed after "severe
fighting," he appears where "death is busiest," he "ignores shot and
shell," he is ever "calm, collected," and brings with him an atmosphere
of peace. Men of the 87th and 128th French Infantry who have been
fighting in the Argonne, have seen him, and on several occasions he has
been seen in the trenches.

The soldier's account which appeared in _The Living Church_ is worth
reading. It is not conclusive evidence, but the number of such
experiences has value on the great subject of Spiritual Intervention.
Religion pledges itself to such a belief. This is the soldier's story,
one of many similar stories:

"It was the next day. At noon we got word to take the trenches in front
of us. They were two hundred yards away, and we weren't well started
till we knew that the big guns had failed in their work of preparation.
We had advanced 150 yards when we found it was no good. Our captain
called to us to take cover, and just then I was shot through both legs.

"I fell into a hole of some sort. I suppose I fainted, for when I opened
my eyes I was all alone. The pain was horrible, but I didn't dare to
move lest the Germans should see me, for they were only fifty yards
away, and I did not expect mercy. I was glad when the twilight came.
There were men in my own company who would run any risk in the darkness
if they thought a comrade was still alive.

"The night fell, and soon I heard a step, not stealthy, as I expected,
but quiet and firm, as if neither darkness nor death could check those
untroubled feet. So little did I guess what was coming that, even when I
saw the gleam of white in the darkness I thought it was a peasant in a
white smock, or perhaps a woman deranged. Suddenly I guessed that it was
'The Comrade in White.'

"At that very moment the German rifles began to shoot. The bullets could
scarcely miss such a target, for he flung out his arms as though in
entreaty, and then drew them back till he stood like one of those
wayside crosses that we saw so often as we marched through France. And
he spoke. The words sounded familiar, but all I remember was the
beginning, 'If thou hadst known,' and the ending, 'but now they are hid
from thine eyes.' And then he stooped and gathered me into his arms--me,
the biggest man in the regiment--and carried me as if I had been a
child.

"I must have fainted again, for I awoke to consciousness in a little
cave by a stream, and 'The Comrade in White' was washing my wounds and
binding them up. I wanted to know what I could do for my friend to help
him or to serve him. He was looking toward the stream and his hands were
clasped in prayer; and then I saw that he, too, had been wounded. I
could see, as it were, a shot-wound in his hand, and as he prayed a drop
of blood gathered and fell to the ground. I cried out. I could not help
it, for that wound of his seemed to be a more awful thing than any that
bitter war had shown me. 'You are wounded, too,' I said. Perhaps he
heard me, perhaps it was the look on my face, but he answered gently:
'This is an old wound, but it has troubled me of late.' And then I
noticed sorrowfully that the same cruel mark was on his feet. You will
wonder that I did not know sooner. I wonder myself. But it was only when
I saw his feet that I knew him."

An incident which left a great impression upon me occurred at a hospital
in North West France in September 1914 quite early in the war. I was
visiting some wounded English and French soldiers. One poor fellow, a
Parisian, called me to his side. "Come close, monsieur, for I would talk
in a whisper. You are English--yes: and you English are common sense,
practical--tell me--do you believe in God and angels, such things as
priests teach children and women?"

"My measure of experience in life has compelled my belief in angels or
spiritual beings, and common sense demands my belief in a Supreme Mind
which I call God, the one Basic Fact," I replied.

"Monsieur I would talk with you. Do you believe that this God has
priests to reveal such things to us?"

"The Great Supreme Mind has priests, leaders, prophets, in all
departments of knowledge, music, mathematics, chemistry, navigation or
engineering--why should He not have chosen instruments to reveal
theological truth?"

He lay some time quiet, then he said, "It is good; now I feel I can tell
you, for you will not smile. For years, ever since I could think, I have
been an atheist. I went into this war an atheist. A few days ago a shell
burst near me and I was wounded in twenty-nine places." (This statement
was subsequently substantiated by the doctor and a nursing sister of
mercy.) "Monsieur, I was in great pain: then suddenly a kind face was
looking into mine, something touched my brow, the awful pain ceased.
'You called me,' a soft voice said. Then I remembered that when I was
wounded I had cried, 'Oh, my God!' and I laughed, monsieur, for I was an
atheist. Then I lost consciousness with that kind face still bending
over me. Now I lie and think of that kind face. The doctors say maybe I
shall recover, and the sisters here say to me that it is all in the Good
God's hands and I am content. I say it is all in the Good God's hands.
When that kind face was looking into mine I cried out 'I am an atheist,'
and he just smiled and said 'But you called me.'"

I offered to get a priest for the poor fellow, but he shook his head.
"No, monsieur. I have been an enemy of priests all my life--an enemy of
religion--the Church. To offer the remaining days of my wreckage to
God--no--I have but a few hours to live, and I would think of that kind
face, and when I think of it the pain ceases. Ah, monsieur, I had
wonderful arguments to show that there was no God, and that the clerics
are the people's enemies--yet when I was struck down I called 'Oh, my
God!' It is comical. That is why the kind face smiled."

Another wounded French soldier said to me: "When I go back to Toulon I
shall have something to say to my comrades. I always thought priests
were only half men, but my God! I have seen them fight. It is
magnificent. A priest led us when we hesitated, I got my two wounds
following him--a priest. Oh! it is truly unbelievable to think that I
should follow a priest. He led us to triumph. He led me to something
more. That day I knew religion was true. I saw something in his face. I
saw it again when he fell wounded, and I was wounded but I could only
think of him. Ah, life is droll--Now I go back to Toulon with two bad
wounds and a religion. Priests--I have seen them fight, and I lie and
laugh at myself and my comrades as fools for we thought of them as mere
amusements for women and children. I saw priests go forward where my
noble comrades held back--my noble comrades who sneer at priests. It is
droll."



FIVE SKETCHES

BY R. THURSTON HOPKINS



I

OMBOS


We were talking at the club about spirit manifestations, and retailing
the usual second or third-hand accounts of family spooks and deceased
aunts showing themselves to their sorrowing relatives.

"It is strange the tricks which our brains will sometimes play us," said
Barton. "I remember once seeing a ghost myself, and I can tell you that
the sensation is a very curious one. It was a good many years ago, when
I was out in Bombay in the National Indian Bank, and I had been sitting
up until the early hours trying to trace some fraudulent entries in the
bank's books by one of our clerks who had absconded with a considerable
sum of money.

"Everybody in the bank building had long since gone home or to bed,
where I ought to have been myself, so I was vastly astonished when I
looked up from the ledger to see somebody sitting at the desk where I
myself had been writing a few moments before. I felt quite upset for a
moment, until I recognised the intruder. He was nebulous, but I could
see plainly enough who it was."

"A member of your family in England?" asked Duckford, who was a firm
believer in the good old-fashioned second sight of the Scotch
Highlanders. Barton answered in his peculiarly quiet way.

"No, it was myself. The appearance of seeing an image of one's self is
not altogether unusual, I believe. But, of course, such a thing is
really all nonsense ... a matter of nerves."

"Now, I do not think it is fair of you to put all such things down to
nerves," said Captain Crabbe, who had returned wounded from France after
being in the field since the outbreak of the Great War. "If one cannot
always explain, one need not therefore ridicule." Crabbe made this
remark with a gravity that was somewhat unusual with him.

"Bless my soul, boy, you haven't been seeing the Angels of Mons or the
Agincourt Bowmen over there in Flanders, have you?" asked Duckford,
regarding Crabbe with a keen eye, and scenting something savouring of
the mysterious, the super-natural. "Do you believe in these stories? I
mean--superstitions?"

Captain Crabbe shook his head. "Not greatly," he said smiling. "But I am
not one of those who thoughtlessly laugh at that which is out of the
common, merely because it cannot be explained on ordinary grounds. Not
since I have spent nearly twelve months over in France, at any rate. Are
you interested in the weird?"

"I'd be a fool if I wasn't," said Duckford, selecting a cigar from his
case. "What's your story about--I see you have one to tell. I am not
inquisitive as a rule; but, somehow your manner has warned me that you
have something singularly interesting to tell."

Crabbe remained silent a short time. Then, looking at Duckford very
earnestly, he answered:

"Well, perhaps I may tell you my story, though I would not tell it to
all these heretics around me. Indeed, only two or three other people
have ever heard it. I hate--ah! more than I can convey to any living
soul--even to think about it. But to you it may be of special interest."

"You know that I look upon all such things from the point of a simple,
unbiassed inquirer," returned Duckford. "Come along, Crabbe."

"A good cigar in front of the card room fire, and your story, eh?"
Duckford led the way up to the snug card room where a cheerful fire was
blazing. "Sit down. Where is that dashed waiter? Oh, you there, Griggs.
Come along with some whisky and soda."

Crabbe sat down in a deep chair by the fire, and stretched his feet to
the flame. Duckford said nothing; only pulled at his cigar and
patiently waited for what he knew was soon coming.

"Do you know--but, no, of course you don't," he began presently. "But
can you imagine how it can be that a man could pass all his force into a
bronze statue and make it live.... You've heard these literary men and
artists talk about putting their souls into their work, Duckford?"
Duckford pursed his lips. "Everything lives--even a bronze statue," he
said seriously. "If it was not so it would atrophy, it would crumble and
disappear. Look at the case of----"

"That's just what old Ombos said. And if he didn't understand all about
those things, I should jolly well like to be led to the man who did.
Ombos told me hundreds of times that a man walked about this earth
throwing his force into everything he came in contact with--scattering
some kind of power; and of course that power is picked up by stones and
houses and ... statues, or anything. Ombos misused it; that was
disastrous. It seems to me that it is safe to use this god-energy only
in its own proper sphere. You have very likely heard of men who have
tried to pass themselves into inanimate objects? Well, what would you
say if I tell you that _I_ even _I_--who sit now so soberly before you,
whom before the war you knew to be ordinarily, a quiet,
peaceably-disposed, sport-loving English fellow--had once been under
the spell of a bronze statue that somebody had passed clean into?"

"You were under the hypnotic influence of your friend Ombos, probably,"
I suggested.

"You may think so, _now_; but you just wait till I have told you all
about Ombos, and the bronze statue. Then you'll be able to decide if it
was trickery.... It would be different if you could have seen the
statue."

Then Crabbe proceeded to unfold his strange tale.

"You know that when the war first broke out I was attached to the
Loamshires, and we were one of the first British Regiments to start for
the land across the water. After six months' fighting, during which
every day was crowded with enough incident to provide a three-reel
thriller for a cinema-man, I found myself quartered at Ypres. Have you
ever been to Ypres? If you have, it will act as a kind of antidote to
those wretched picture post-cards which show it in its last phase--a
heap of senseless wreckage. The 'Coal Boxes,' 'Jack Johnsons' and other
varied presents from Krupp's had not fallen on the town with such
lavishness at the time my regiment found shelter there. It was a June
afternoon when I first found my way there. A mellow drowsiness hung over
the Cloth Hall and Cathedral. It was indeed a very pleasant little town.
The old houses of the square, the Prior's Gate, the noble trees, the
stretch of green turf, all shared in the dream-like repose. In the Rue
Bar-le-Duc, as everybody knows, just where it winds around to the fine
gateway of the Cathedral, there is a row of little shops with bulging
leaded windows, dusty and delightful. The one that took my eye was an
antique shop. I had a whole regiment of aunts and uncles at home who in
every letter demanded souvenirs, and here was the chance to lodge a
shipping order, with about a hundred labels, and leave the old
antiquarian fogey to send 'em off. It was inside that I met Ombos for
the first time. I selected the souvenirs, and wrote labels; but old
Ombos made a devil of a muddle over sending them off, and a very prim
maiden aunt received a snuff box adorned with a young French lady in
very scanty attire.... By the way, you don't know my aunt Sylvia, do
you?"

Crabbe laughed heartily for the first time that evening.

"I spent some hours in the bulging window of that old shop examining the
wonderful collection of beautiful old things, and staggering about on
piles of andirons and copper warming pans, old Ombos watching me all the
time with an amused smile.

"I can still see Ombos standing like a figure carved in old ivory, with
one skinny yellow hand resting on the edge of a black oak table.

"'I call all this stuff here rubbish; not worth looking at. But people
do not understand real good stuff if I show it to 'em,' he said, and
smiled a remotely contemptuous smile. 'Now if you really want to see
some choice antiques ...'

"He motioned me to follow, and taking a lighted taper, led the way into
a room at the back of his shop. Ombos pottered about with the taper on
the end of a rod; suddenly a big overhead chandelier burst into light
and I stood blinking in amazement.

"It was one of the most gorgeously furnished oak-panelled rooms I have
ever seen. The floor was of black polished ebony, and strewn on the
floor were priceless leopard skins and Persian rugs. There were heavy
Chinese tapestries worked in crimson and gold, Tibetan devil-masks, gold
candelabra, armour richly inlaid with precious stones, wondrous black
oak furniture.... But I can assure you, I could continue indefinitely
describing the contents of that room without giving you any adequate
idea of what it was like!

"'Hardly what you expected to see, eh?' Ombos said, and there was a
faint trace of mockery in his tone.

"I looked around me helplessly.

"'No!' I said, sinking into a most luxurious silk-cushioned divan.
'Trenches, and this! I suppose I'll wake up soon.'

"'Would you like to see my bronze statue of Albert of Cologne? It's the
gem of my collection, and has a world-wide reputation!'

"'It's rather different, you may say.' He looked full over my head as I
spoke, and following the direction of his eyes, I turned. In a dark
recess in that part of the room stood a bronze statue, some six feet in
height. It portrayed the great mystic in a long habit fashioned after a
monkish cowl, and his hair and face reminded me of a bust of Nero I had
once seen in the gallery of the Louvre. Ombos told me that the life of
Albert Magnus had been written by Dr. Sighart. This Dominican, _magnus
in magia_, _major in philosophia_, _maximus in theologia_, was
distinguished alike for his knowledge of the black art and his great
virtue, for austerity of regimen, and dislike of any form of society.
For other details of this philosopher I must refer you to Sighart's
excellent monograph and Mr. James Mew's work on _The Black Art_ from
which we learn that Albert of Cologne was accused by the vulgar of
holding illicit commerce with the devil. They believed as a matter of
course that he was aided by Beelzebub. And legends grew about him in
wild luxuriance. In particular he is credited with the creation of an
android, homunculus, or, as some say, a fair maiden--an idea which
Goethe may have copied in his celebrated play--able, according to some,
to say only 'Salve,' but, according to others, to predict with the
unerring accuracy of a Zadkiel a change of government, or the advent of
a pestilence, a royal marriage or a royal death. But all agree that
this automaton was smashed by his pupil Thomas Aquinas, who ought to
have known better than to believe it a device of the Evil One. This
story of the speaking statue may go with those other marvels of his
vision of the Holy Virgin to encourage him in theological study, and his
stupendous garden of flowers and birds and fountains in mid-winter for
William of Holland, and that gracious scent which arose after a longer
time than four days out of his sacred sepulchre, and his vision of St.
Dominic, who himself revealed to him the secret of the stone, whereby he
discharged all the debts of his bishopric.

"These bald facts about our friend Magnus must suffice. Old Ombos had a
splendid edition of his works, lately published in Paris under the
direction of a certain August Borguet; twenty large folios on all
imaginable subjects. They included chapters on hawks and adhering to
God, on meteors and the mystery of the Mass, on the healing of the leper
and the _eau de vie_.

"I was a gross Philistine in those days--still am, as a matter of
fact--and I could not appreciate the statue. A strenuous life with my
Regiment had stifled what little appreciation for such things a more
leisured existence might have fostered. I could not appreciate nor
understand the things that Ombos was saying about the bronze statue and
the strange Master of the Masters it portrayed.

"Old Ombos--you could not help but think that he had grown very much
like the statue himself; or had the statue grown like him?--held up a
candelabra which threw the details of the bronze figure into relief and
cast flickering reflections on the dark oak panelling of the recess.

"'It's an exquisite thing,' said Ombos. 'See how he rears himself on his
black granite plinth. A noble pile of mellow bronze, irregular yet
graceful.' Ombos regarded it smilingly, yet with one of his queer,
sinister looks. It would have been hard to know what he was thinking. He
was one of those tall, emaciated chaps, that make us men of ordinary
stature feel dwarfish; and as I looked at his skull-like face I wondered
at first where his eyes were hidden ... they seemed so far back in the
dark hollows on each side of his nose.

"I placed myself before Albert of Cologne--to try and appreciate it, you
know. Well, I didn't think a great deal of it, but of course I was a
Philistine. I had seen many great, heavy bronzes in the British Museum,
and they hadn't even stirred my heart, so it is not surprising that this
one failed to affect me. I told Ombos, merely to please him, that I
thought it was an extraordinary piece of work. But he very soon saw that
I was not able to appreciate old Magnus, and he drew a heavy plush
curtain back in front of him.

"'Come back! Come away!' he said. 'You have not yet the understanding.
Oh, it's big! It's a big god, I tell you.'

"Ombos was very patient with me, but as he walked up and down the room
kicking the leopard skin rugs I knew he was thinking what an idiot I
was, and I just waited.

"'You have not yet the understanding,' he muttered. 'It may come to you
one day ... the doors of life and death are left ajar from time to time,
and the light of Al Tughrai's lamp of wisdom shines out upon us for a
moment between the opening and closing.' The carved ivory face of old
Ombos seemed softer when he said that.

"'Did my brother care for the old bronze? Did he love it as I do, every
curve in the lean and corded neck ...'

"And then all of a sudden he walked over to me! 'Come!' he said, putting
his hand on my shoulder and speaking in a voice which he had the trick
of making wonderfully amiable. 'Dear me, dear me! How I must bore you
with my old relics. You want some tea and muffins or something of the
kind, eh? Will you do me the honour of taking tea with me?' he said,
leading me through a door in a recess and a wilderness of corridors to a
small room, where a charming French girl presided over a steaming
tea-pot of massive silver.

"'This is Captain Crabbe,' said Ombos introducing me to her. He turned
to me. 'This is Margot, my niece,' he said with a smile.

"I made a step forward and bowed slightly; she was very pretty, this
girl, as she stood there with the rich red light from the silk lamp
shades behind her. She was one of those dark, seductive women that look
their best in a warm light; and that evening her face and figure seemed
instinct with the joy of youth.

"Never before have I tasted such hot-cakes and sandwiches, and muffins
... there could be nothing like them, nor any hot-cakes to set above
them in all Europe. The sinister look had now quite passed from my
host's face as he sat before me stirring tea and munching muffins
comfortably; he seemed goodheartedness embodied. On the table were some
wonderful lucid china bowls filled with cigarettes, Parascho and
_caporal ordinaire_, Egyptian and every imaginable kind. After tea we
pushed back our chairs and smoked. His conversation was delightful, and
showed me at once that he was a man of brilliant gifts, yet an
eccentric. I felt much as Mark Twain must have felt when he first met
Rudyard Kipling; Twain has summed up, in that inimitable way of his, the
feeling of being in the presence of an overwhelming personality. 'I
believed that he knew more than any person I had met before, and I knew
that he knew that I knew less than any person he had met before--though
he did not say it, and I was not expecting that he would.'... That was
exactly how I felt when I was talking tea with Ombos ... his
conversation was as exhilarating as wine; his presence diffused a
stimulating atmosphere; I felt exalted by his joyous enthusiasm.

"Well (to get on), after I left him at the door of his old shop (which
was such a dingy entrance to all the luxury of the interior of the
place), and I think we were loth to part, it was agreed between us that,
should I remain in the town, we were to meet again. As I walked down the
little _pavé_ street something I couldn't account for began to sweep
over me; it was not merely that the presence of Ombos had fascinated me;
there was something else. There was something that stirred in my
heart--a thing which you will not understand. If you had known Ombos you
might have understood. I wanted to go back and have another look at that
bronze statue; I was becoming desperately afraid that I had been too
hasty in my inspection of it--that I had under-estimated it. I was very
young, heedless, self-esteemed and smug, and had hardly paused to pay a
moment's tribute to it. I felt that Albert of Cologne was standing
there, absorbed, proud, erect, and defiant, waiting for me to find my
_true_ eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Of course, I did see the bronze statue again, or I shouldn't be
sitting here wasting your time and patience. Within a few days I went
round again to the old shop, and old Ombos was standing there amid his
Queen Anne candlesticks and piles of books just as if he had been
waiting for me.

"'Come in, come in!' he said, speaking in a voice that made me feel
honestly welcome. 'Dear me, dear me! I am very glad you have not
forgotten me.'

"'No,' I said. 'Not forgotten you or the bronze statue. It was the only
thing in your place that did not interest me when I first walked in.'

"I paused, and Ombos prompted me half unconsciously: 'Yes?'

"'Now!' I said, meeting his eyes misting my own in doing so, 'it is the
only thing I should like to see.'

"'Ah!' he said.... 'Well, I told you that he might come over you slowly;
but the gods direct rightly whom they will. I tell you that such things
as the Keys of Mercy and the Lamps of Wisdom are not gained in one swift
breath. What's gained in a few moments is not worth having. All those
who have through toil and pain entered into citizenship in the Celestial
City will tell you that. Gods do not grow in one night like mushrooms.
Every great masterpiece is an evolution, be it a statue, a poem, a
painting, a man--or a god. If it is ever given to you to see my Albert
of Cologne as I see him you will understand what I mean.' He turned
round to me and I gave a start, I can tell you. Never have I seen such
lurid gleams of light as those that danced from those two deep-set eyes!
I say 'lurid,' for at times, the colour of them took a blood red hue,
and changed quickly again to a glittering green. As I stared at him--it
was all over in a few seconds--the baleful glare seemed to grow in
intensity, till I felt as though I were enduring the mocking gaze of
Albert of Cologne himself; and verily, I half expected any moment to see
Ombos change into a mighty bronze demon or some appalling, devilish
shape from the under-world.

"'Er--shall we go and have a look at the statue?' I said, with a
half-conscious determination to see whether it really ever had existed
(I was beginning to think that Ombos had been using a kind of hypnotic
influence on me, thus inducing me to see visions); and also, as I
believe, with some vague wish to shut out the sight of those rolling,
glittering eyes. For the first time I felt towards him a fierce anger,
and I found myself making a resolution never to return to see him again
when once I was free of the place.

"'Ah!' he said, 'I thought you'd want to come back and see Albertus
Magnus; I want you to have a good look at him this time and tell me if
he looks quite as commonplace as he did before. Such things can only
trickle slowly into the soul, but presently, ah! they get right hold of
one--they permeate one, and then there comes a time ...'

"Ombos snatched at the heavy curtain, and the rings screeched on the
brass rod. Clothed in his monkish garb, his face furrowed and seamed;
the lustre of his eyes dimmed by the tears of centuries--there stood
Albertus. The sunken cheeks spoke of years of study and aspiration, but
the swelling muscles of his arms, the deep chest, the wonderful
hands--big, bony, horrible hands--spoke of one from whom age has taken
little toll. Here was age, wisdom, mysticalness, a subtle sense of
pensive melancholy, and a persistence that never tires.

"'Well, how do you like my statue this time?' asked Ombos.

"'Splendid!' I breathed.

"'Yes,' he said looking hard at me. 'The best of it is Albertus asks for
nothing. You can neither bribe nor buy him; your flattery will not move
him; your approbation or blame alike are vain ... he has the
self-sufficiency of the Master of Masters.'

"'Yes,' I found myself saying eagerly. 'He is the Master of Masters.'

"Suddenly he turned and threw the curtain back and took me by the arm
and led me away. 'My force is all going into Albertus--but I must not
overdo it. If I stand too long before him he drains me of all my
god-energy, you know ... that leaves me sick and exhausted. You've heard
about how Michael Angelo put all his power into his marble statue of
Moses? You've read about such things? You know the kind of gush. I met a
poor, half-crazed, devil-driven poet-fellow in Paris some years ago who
told me he had written a great poem; he had lured the crucified soul of
a murderer into his verses. Confoundedly conceited about it, too, he was
... called it _The Ballad of Reading Gaol_. Bah! It would have taken him
a lifetime to put a murderer's socks into a poem. He was a mountebank
... a posturer! And what is this winged thing men name the soul? And who
did make the stars?' Ombos turned demon-like eyes on me, and his whole
face seemed lit up with an appalling mirth.

"'Believe them not, for they are not miraculous ones. They will be lost
for ever; they will die. Their books and statues may live, but they will
die, as sure as the grass grows over graves. My force and body and soul
is passing into the Master of Masters.... I shall live and be a god, I
shall stand oblivious and indifferent to the centuries as they stalk
by.'

"'You don't mean to tell me ...'

"Ombos looked up, his red-green eyes gleaming as he answered,

"'Most certainly I do ... my soul will pass into that bronze statue when
I am ready to give it up.'

"'The war, Mr. Ombos,' I thought as I looked at his shrivelled fearsome
figure, 'has turned your head. There are certainly a few bats in your
belfry. You will find your way into an asylum before many weeks have
passed.'

"You must understand, I didn't realize what kind of a chap I was dealing
with then, I didn't know that he was all cold and calm and apart from
life ... very clever and--philosophical, _but not human_.

"'Nonsense! How can a man's soul pass into a bronze statue?' I asked
rather testily. 'Good heavens, man, do you realize that you're trying to
make me believe that which is beyond the pale of all human possibility!'

"'Human possibility! What is human possibility? I tell you that all this
is fact; simply.' Ombos rose and began to pace to and fro over the
Persian rugs like a tiger. 'I'm not given to imagining things.'

"'Bah!' he grunted. 'Every child will tell you that the tendency of
spirits to return to the old haunts of bodily life is almost universal.
The universal laws apply ... there is no escape from the great law, the
attraction of environment.'

"'The rest is merely every-day knowledge. Have you ever heard of ancient
formula by which the grosser factors of the body may be eliminated,
leaving the ethereal portions to retain the spirit? Do you not
understand that the body may be preserved from absolute disintegration?
The old alchemists all knew that death could be indefinitely deferred
in this way. Professor Vaini left among his papers a work of two
thousand pages in which he clearly demonstrated that it was possible for
a spiritualized body to retain a modified life practically for ever. Any
doctor will tell you the hair and nails of a dead person will often grow
for years after....'

"Ombos turned his glittering eyes on me a moment inquisitively.

"'Oh, tell me all that kind of stuff if you like,' I protested
good-humouredly. 'It makes no impression on me. I'm a normal man, Ombos,
and I object to having my free imagination harrowed over things that
don't count. Behind that curtain is a bronze statue, and it never can or
will be anything else but a bronze statue, and that's about the sum and
total of it all.'

"'I was merely telling you a few cold and scientific facts,' returned
Ombos argumentatively.

"'Now, if I wished to impress you it would be easy enough. I would like
to test that sensitiveness which you boast that you don't possess. I
think I could give you a severe shaking-up! And I will begin by telling
you that I will employ mere vulgar trickery ... the trickery of any
mountebank who fools people at a country fair!'

"He looked at me with that slow smile of his--the smile of the
mystic--mocking, mysterious.

"I answered him with a weak laugh. 'You may try some of your tricks,
wizard; but you will fail to impress me, I think!'

"'I make it a habit not to fail.'

"His keen eyes flamed, and his brow was dark and hot. He started up and
walked over to the small oak escritoire. Bending down he produced a
small glass lamp, and put a light to it. It burnt with the imperceptible
flame of pure spirit of wine. He took it and vanished a moment. When he
returned, and set it before me, it gave out a keen white glare and
heavily-scented smoke. He took me by the arm and pointed to the black
velvet curtain which hid the bronze statue. 'See, there: behind--through
the curtain. Who is that?'

"While I looked, Ombos gave a strange rasping sound. Then, in a tone of
weird intensity: 'See! See!' and he laid his hand on mine ... the
curtain was no longer there, and some vague thing gathered--the statue
was dim behind it--the form of a man.

"'The veil is drawn,' said the voice of Ombos. 'Master, the veil is
drawn. See, if you will. See!'

"In a fluid light the form darkened. I saw Ombos seated before a table
with his head bowed down over a folio volume, quiet and still. The head
was ill to look at, and I knew he was dead.... All grew misty and faded
into light again.

"'The veil is drawn,' he droned. 'Look again!'

"Again a film gathered in the light and I saw the Albertus Magnus for a
moment. Then it changed to Ombos, himself.... A lean and grim form with
dim mocking features, and yellow eyes that glittered and flickered....

"And again the vision blurred and faded into light. Then Ombos dashed
the lamp aside, and the room was in red darkness ... the silence and
darkness seemed to endure for an eternity. I heard the hiss of a quick
indrawn breath at last ... it was my own breathing.... I opened my eyes.

"I was in the small room where I had taken tea with Ombos and Margot
some weeks before. Supper was laid on a superb octagon table. 'They were
good tricks, were they not?' said Ombos, with an easy laugh. His keen
eyes smote keen into mine. 'Now you will in truth be able to go away and
tell people how I tricked you, how it was plainly all a cheat.'

"At that moment Margot came in with a big apron tied about her. She
greeted me pleasantly, setting a tray down on the table.

"'We do our own work here, Captain Crabbe,' she said. 'Do you want to
make yourself useful?'

"I rose promptly. My little adventure into the occult world with Ombos
had been rather exhilarating. I was glad when she told me to follow her
out, through a long corridor into the kitchen, where she gave me a
can-opener and a tin of sardines.

"'Open those up and turn them into this little dish, please. And if you
have any hygienic aversion to tinned things, please forget it. Otherwise
you will have to eat some of my hot teacakes.'

"Margot was standing at the table, cleaning a crisp head of celery. The
position showed me her profile, with a little wisp of black hair
escaping near one ear.

"We sat down to one of the most cheerful meals three people have ever
enjoyed. We sat chatting there for nearly an hour. All the while I was
trying to reconcile this man Ombos who sat talking boyishly with the
student of occultism and black magic I had talked with an hour or so
before. If I had felt any resentment of the tricks he had played on me
it would have vanished utterly. Afterwards Margot made real Turkish
coffee over a dainty spirit lamp ... once--in a critical stage in the
coffee-making, too--she looked up and her eyes sought mine; then her red
lips parted in a smile. She poured out the coffee deftly, blowing out
the lamp, and put the little copper pot on a plate.

"Ombos surveyed his coffee with the air of a connoisseur, his head
turned on one side.

"Margot produced the bowls of cigarettes and reached over my shoulder to
offer me one. 'You want Egyptian?' she said smiling. 'You see I have a
good memory--you smoked them last time.'

"A warm faint perfume came from her hair.

"It was ten o'clock when I rose to leave, Ombos and Margot came out to
the front to say good night: my last glimpse, as I walked down the
_pavé_ street, was of Margot--a bare-headed figure, with wistful grey
eyes, calm with the mysterious wisdom of pure womanhood. She waved her
dainty lace handkerchief to me.

"That was the last of Ombos in the flesh. The next day, after German
shells had poured on Ypres for six hours without cessation, my regiment
left the town, and we went out a mile or two to take over some trenches.

"A month later my duty took me back to Ypres, and I found myself walking
up the Rue Bar-le-Duc towards the little antique shop. Overhead the
shells whistled without cessation. It was now a city of the dead--one
could not realize that it was the same pleasant little town where I had
met with so strange an experience a few weeks back. Men, children and
horses were lying dead in every gutter.

"In due course I arrived at the shop. A large hole had been ripped in
the _pavé_ road before the door, and I had to step over a dead and
twisted soldier to gain an entrance. Of course the place was empty.
Ombos, Albertus Magnus and all the wonderful contents of the spacious
old rooms had disappeared. I made a search of the house, and it was not
without a curious sensation in my heart that I entered the room where
the Master of Masters had towered in his niche. Silence--only the faint
boom of a gun far away in the French trenches--awful, ghastly silence.
Then a deafening roar and a falling of masonry as Krupp's marked down
another house in the town of sorrow. The horror of it!

"I turned dismally away, out into the Rue Bar-le-Duc, and along the
square. A few scattered lights shone feebly through the evening mist,
and over towards the Norman bridge the yellow flames from a burning
house lit up the sky with a lurid glow. At nearly every street corner
little groups of civilians had collected and were talking and
gesticulating in a terrified manner. When a big shell came with a
hoarse, rattling noise through the air, like a racing motor cycle on the
track at Brooklands, they would rush into their homes, panic-smitten. If
death winked, and passed them over, out they would creep again. And so
they lived in an inferno of shells for weeks on end.

"An ambulance wagon overturned in the middle of the road attracted my
attention. I could not repress a shudder as I looked on the
shell-shattered wreck.... It was the old type of four-horse ambulance
used by the army in South Africa; possibly it had jolted into the
shell-swept death-trap of Spion Kop, or carried men into the reeking
enteric camps of Ladysmith. Well, it had made its last journey this
time! The four dead horses had not been cut away from the traces, and
from underneath the huddled and twisted heap stuck out an arm, and in
the hand was clutched one of those short, stumpy whips which are used by
the lead driver of a gun. I can see that poor chap in my mind thrashing
and urging his team of horses into a gallop, for it was not reckoned
wise to meander about the streets of Ypres, and then--one blinding
crash.

"I swung round with a great desire to get away from the appalling scene,
and as I did so, I noticed a girl in a doorway struggling in the grip of
a powerful, swarthy-faced man of middle age. In the fading light I
caught a glimpse of her face, and I was out of the shadow and by her
side like a sky-rocket.

"'Let her go!' I said shortly. 'Before I mop out the gutter with you.'

"The man turned on me.

"'Who the devil----'

"'That's enough!'

"A Red Cap--a corporal in the Military Police--loomed into view, and
with an imprecation the rough backed away from the girl, turned, and in
a moment was lost in the gloom. I brought my eyes back to the girl who
had confronted me in the red light of sunset, and I stood gazing at her
dumbly, fascinated, but with never a word to say. She was burning with
anger and shame, trembling like an aspen, too.

"_It was Margot!_

"The girl glanced up at me, a look that set my heart throbbing. It was
my first real sight of her since I had seen her that afternoon with
Ombos. I had thought her pretty then, but there is a distinct gap
between a pretty woman and a lovely woman, and she was as beautiful as a
Greek marble. Indeed, but for the carmine of her lips, and long dark
eyelashes, she might have been chiselled out of pellucid stone, for her
skin was dead white. She was--or had been--beautifully and expensively
dressed, and there was breeding and refinement in every line of her
face.

"'Don't you know me?' I said.

"The girl looked at me intently.

"'I know you, of course,' she said.

"I won't waste time in trying to tell you what my thoughts and
sensations were. Rather I will tell you instead, what I did.

"It was some minutes later, and already we had started to walk slowly
back in the direction of the Rue Bar-le-Duc.

"'And now you want to know--' she said.

"'Yes--that's it--what's become of Ombos ... and the bronze statue?'

"Margot looked up at me, and a strange melancholy transformed her
face.... She was at a loss for words.... 'Poor Ombos--oh, poor, cranky
Ombos,' she muttered. 'One morning I found him dead in his room, with
all his wonderful, brown, powdery-looking books. He was leaning on a
table over an old volume that he was fond of.... And then the doctors
came. He had died, they afterwards said, of failure of the heart's
action.'

"'Dead,' I murmured mechanically....

"'Then everything was very uncomfortable. But I saved a good sum of
money, and I sent most of the valuable things to Paris to be sold--no
living soul coming forward to make any claims. Ombos left everything to
me ... bonds, securities, and all. Come this way--I have a little room
up the side-street.

"'He left me well provided for. He----'

"'Yes; but why on earth do you stay in this dead city,' I broke in.

"'Sssh!... Don't interrupt unless I ask you questions.

"'I'll tell you all about everything. It's extraordinarily
difficult....'

"I waited.

"'You see,' she picked her words carefully, 'Ombos was so--queer about
that horrible Albertus Magnus of his. He had made me promise never to
part with it and it seemed to me--stupidly perhaps--that I owed him
that--to see that his only wish was carried out to the letter. Otherwise
I should never dare to have stayed here. You couldn't expect me to move
about with a gigantic bronze figure without making ample preparations.'

"'Ah!'...

"'This is where I live,' she said in a low voice.

"Margot had halted in front of an alley leading over rough cobbles, into
a small square of what appeared to be old oak-fronted houses. A narrow
passage-way ran down by one side of the end house.

"'Won't you come inside, and--see Albertus? This way,' she said. 'It's
rather dark, I'm afraid.'

"In pitch-black darkness, guided by Margot's hand, I stumbled through a
doorway into a spacious hall--a mysterious, fusty-smelling cavern of a
place--along a passage, and then up a flight of worn stone stairs. It
was one of those old houses where one could feel the silence and hear
the shadows. The steps came out upon a bare landing with oak-lined
walls, lit only by a solitary flickering candle, and Margot, halting
before a locked door, opened it and motioned me to enter.

"The room was in darkness, and I knew not what fear, akin to that little
grey shadow of a fear, was to be found in the darkness there. At first I
hesitated. Then Margot came with the candle, and as it guttered, the
flame threw distorted shadows; at one moment lighting up a dark spot
with a sudden flash, and then sending queer, erratic reflections chasing
across the oak panelling. Then a flicker displayed the unmade bed on
which Margot had lain.... She coloured deeply.

"'You have stored the bronze statue in some other part of the house,' I
said at a venture.

"She looked at me, as I thought, a little uneasily.

"'You aren't afraid of that old statue?' she exclaimed. 'We might at
least light up the candles,' she added, as I made no reply; and she
turned and put a burning taper to the candelabra.

"As Margot spoke the candles flared up, and then, with a sudden start of
unexplained dismay, I saw in a corner by the bed stood the bronze
figure.

"As I looked at it I felt the horror of nightmare seize me, for it bore
a striking resemblance to Ombos. A dreadful exuberance and vitality
seemed to shine through the thing, an exuberance wholly malign, a
vitality that foamed and frothed with unimaginable evil. Evil beamed
from the deep cavernous eyes; it leered in the demon-like mouth....
Ugh!--

"Margot walked up to me and patted my shoulder. 'Well, and are you
really afraid of that thing,' she said, pointing to the statue.

"'But, don't you see?' said I. 'It's scarcely the face of a bronze
figure. It's almost human. No; it isn't even human. It's the face of
some devil.' Margot laughed.

"'Yes: he isn't very cheerful,' she said. 'Scarcely a boudoir ornament,
eh? I'll throw a blanket over Albertus if you like.'

"'I really wish you would,' I said, 'I don't care so long as he can't
grin at me.'

"Somehow, with the bronze figure covered up, I felt much lighter and
happier.

"I think that Margot--that Margot must have been rather overstrained
after the struggle with that brute. She seemed to be all nerves--upset:
insisted in putting her little white hand on mine in a very solemn way,
and thanking me for all sorts of imaginary favours.... Got 'a wheeze'
into her head, among other rot, that I had saved her life.

"'Look here,' I said. 'I wish you wouldn't talk so jolly silly. I'm not
a bit unselfish, I'm a novelist. There was nothin' doin' with my
crowd--regiment I mean--and so I came here to look for "copy." That was
why I persisted in seeing you home here. It was all just a matter of
"copy" to me--at the start.' I paused, and Margot turned her tourmaline
eyes full on me. Had you asked me after my first visit to old Ombos what
Margot's eyes were like I could not have told you the colour to save my
life. If I had been forced to weigh out a guess I might have said they
were a shade of grey. Grey? Name of a little dog! Yes, I should have
called 'em grey, but that would have been like describing the Pyramids
by saying they were stone. However can I describe the wonder that I
found ..."

A sort of flush appeared on Crabbe's boyish face. "I--I'm afraid I have
run off the track of my story a bit," he stammered, "but I may as well
tell you all of it."

"Take a drink of whiskey;" said Duckford slowly, "and take your own
time."

"Margot looked at me, her lips quivering. 'You've not found much "copy"
I'm afraid,' she answered despondently.

"'Now,' I said, meeting her eyes, '"copy" matters not at all ... you are
all that matters.'

"It does not in the least concern you or the story to know what manner
of a woman Margot is. But I might say that she is in fulness a
woman--not a fribble, or one of those pick-me-up-and-carry-me women. So
when I said plain words to her she did not pretend to misunderstand.

"'Don't let us be conventional,' I went on, 'It wouldn't fit in with
these wonderful days a bit. Perhaps I've no right to talk to you like
this--but Ombos is dead and you seem to have no friend in the world. We
have got caught up, you and I, in one of the marvellous tangles of this
great conflict, and God knows how it's all going to end. But it seems to
have been written in the book of fate that we should meet, and whether
Ombos and his bronze statue haunts me to the end of my days or he
doesn't, I'm glad I have met you, and to know for just one swift hour
I've used these hands of mine in your service. I wouldn't take back one
minute of these great days!'

"Margot was regarding me with her wide eyes, a little startled, but I
saw beyond those rounds of tourmaline a soft light.

"'How is it?' said Margot calmly. 'A few hours ago you hadn't spoken
more than a few words to me ... you don't know me.'

"'In times of war,' I reminded her, 'we live a year in a day.'

"Margot rested her chin on her hands. 'What a strange world it is,' she
murmured.

"'Confoundedly strange,' I agreed. 'I can't help thinking even now that
my meeting with Ombos in that weird den in the Rue Bar-le-Duc was all a
dream, and I'm going to wake up soon.'

"'I didn't mean that,' Margot said quietly. 'That didn't seem so strange
to me. Perhaps it's because I lived with Ombos for nearly four years.'

"'It was just like a page torn from the _Arabian Nights_ to me,' I said.
She smiled at me wanly.

"'The only other home I've known was with foster-parents in Paris when I
was quite a child,' she said. 'I was brought here straight from a
convent school in Brussels. Ombos was my guardian. He'--she hesitated,
shivering--'I don't think he was quite--sane, but he was always very
kind to me.'

"'Margot,' I stammered as I imprisoned her hands in mine, 'I'm going to
take you out of this mudhole of a place.... I'm going to send you over
to England. I'll stay here and look after you to-night, and to-morrow
I'll see you on your way.'

"She dragged her hands away suddenly.

"'But are you _sure_?' Margot said, half sobbing. 'Please reflect ...
you are in too much of a hurry. When an idea comes to you--the idea,
that you want me for instance--what do you do? Instead of taking the
idea for a long, cool walk, you sit down here to work it up ... it is
the eternal boyishness of the Englishman. You must first think of your
future.'

"'But do you think that the future holds anything for me now that I
wouldn't throw away with both hands for you?' I said, and the passion of
my voice whipped the blood up into that alabaster face ... she put out
her hands with a little pleading movement.

"'Don't,' she said again.

"'I must,' I said stubbornly. 'There's nothing in the world powerful
enough to take you from me ... if you will have me. Margot, you must
believe me ... you shall believe me!' I added almost savagely, and my
hands closed round her waist as she leaned against the back of a huge
old divan. Margot closed her eyes for a moment and her head dropped
gently on my shoulder. Her hair brushed my face, and the faint musky
scent that came from it is woven into all my after memories of that
moment, I drew her closer and she sighed for very happiness, while life
drifted past in uncounted minutes or hours.

"It was the next evening that I arranged to have one of the A.S.C.
cars,--then running between Ypres and St. Omer,--wait for us outside
Margot's rooms. Under cover of darkness I bundled Margot into the
motor-lorry, got the bronze statue in, and jumped up on the driver's
seat beside her, and sank down with a gasp of relief. One last glimpse
of the little bulgy window of the shop as the lorry rounded the corner,
and then I turned and looked at the girl. Tears glittered in her eyes,
and her lips were quivering. I put my hand out and closed over her
ice-cold fingers.

"'Margot!' I said, 'I'm taking you to Boulogne and then you will go to
England to my home. My people will look after you....'

"'But--' she hesitated.

"'There are no "buts,"' I said firmly, 'You are coming with me. You
can't stay in this infernal hole, like a rat in a trap.'

"Margot gave a weary little sigh and leaned closer to me, giving herself
into my care as trustfully as a child. Until that time she had been just
a figure in the great war game that might provide me with something to
'write up' into a book. That had been my principal thought. Now, all in
a few moments, her beauty, the frightened look which had shone in her
great grey eyes, her distress made me forget all that, drove all
thoughts of traffic with publishers from my mind. I knew only that it
was good to help her.

"Then I set about thinking how I could get Margot and Albertus Magnus to
England. It was going to be a difficult game. I went carefully over all
the good fellows I knew who could help me. There was old Longden of the
A.S.C. depôt at St. Omer, there was Captain Chester, the transport
officer at Boulogne, and Orgles of ammunition supply at Cassel, which is
a small place where the strings of motors from the base unload.

"Well, (to get on,) we arrived late that night at St. Omer, and by a
vast amount of bribery and cajolery I got some A.S.C. men to knock up a
strong case for the Albertus Magnus and--but enough. It is sufficient to
say that an officer who was going home on leave was kind enough to see
Margot as far as Boulogne, and in the fullness of time both Albertus
Magnus and the girl came safely to England.

"I have endeavoured to give you the facts of my strange story up to this
point, without omission or exaggeration. I have been careful not to miss
out the slightest items. If I have failed, it must not be put down to
forgetfulness: for I do not think there is a single thing about old
Ombos that has not been permanently fixed in my mind. Even now I have
but to shut my eyes to see the leering face of Albertus, to stand once
more trembling with terror and see that green shadow jump into the dusk
with hellish glee and frolicsome skippings and toppings gallop away, to
walk into the old library at home and see poor Price with his knees
drawn up and eyes fixed open in extreme terror--But enough. I do not
exaggerate.

"And now I must come to what you'll call the second part of the
story--though it was all one long connected nightmare to me. I returned
from France, as you know, six months ago, with a bullet in my leg, and
thought myself in the best of luck to get a 'blighty' one; I mean a
slight wound which necessitated me being sent back to England. I went
down to a charming old house at Monk's Ely which my father had lately
moved into, and soon drifted into peaceful ways of country life. The
trivial little objects and customs of rustic life--those simple things
that are best of all--attracted me surprisingly.

"A delightful room full of my books and pictures had been prepared on
the ground floor of the house, but I was not often in it. Still, I
accorded to my bronze statue a prominent corner in the room, where he
frowned upon all my other possessions with that great look of
disinterestedness which only bronze or death can typify.

"A week or two passed without incident, except that again and again a
curious feeling that sometimes I was not _alone_ was present in my mind.
In a way I got used to it, because after being in the trenches and
looking in the face of death as a kind of hobby the feeling of release
and lightness that comes over one drives all other troubles clean away.
But after a while this feeling seemed to be growing in poignancy. In
fact at the end of the first fortnight I mentioned it to my father.

"'Strange you should have felt like that,' he said one night after
dinner, 'because for the last day or so, the same sensation has been
creeping over me. When is it that you have your ghostly visitor? Have
you any feeling now of such a thing, for instance?'

"We were having a smoke on the lawn ... it was a beautiful evening of
stars, and as he spoke I felt the unseen presence with terrific
intensity. At that moment the door that led from the library quietly
swung open, and just as quietly closed again, as if someone had passed
out into the garden.

"'Did you see that?' I said. 'There is not a breath of wind stirring:
odd thing that a door should play those kind of tricks.'

"My father was silent a moment.

"'You felt it then,' he said.

"'Frightfully!' I breathed.

"'Let's get back to the dining-room,' my father urged.

"Just as we got up to the house door (not the library door which opened
on the path), I saw, as I thought, a figure move in the bushes near the
library. Perhaps it would be better to describe it as a shadow ... but I
could swear that it was of a greenish colour. For one moment, from sheer
terror of the unseen, I stood frozen to the doorstep, and then my father
touched my arm and we walked in together.

"That evening, my friend Price, after his wont, dropped in. I had just
run the car round to the front door and was about to run into the
village to bring the vicar back to stay with us over the
week-end--besides I badly wanted to get away from those infernal gusts
of depression that swept the place. I did not scruple to keep to my
arrangements and told Price to make himself comfortable in the library
till my return. 'You'll find cigars, spirits--and _the_ spirit,' I said
jokingly. He nodded and laughed, and I jumped into the car, and quickly
put a mile between myself and--the bronze statue, for I was convinced
that Albertus of Cologne was connected in some unearthly way with the
face of Fear that often turned full on me.

"A half-hour afterwards I had pulled up at the vicarage, and was hanging
on to the bell which gave forth a mighty clamour. I was impatient to get
inside for a moment and behold the good genial face of the vicar.
Somehow, wherever the vicar went, he had a wonderful way of cheering
things up; his presence diffused an atmosphere of merriment. The door
suddenly opened and I was face to face with him:

"'My dear boy,' cried the vicar, 'I am glad to see you.'

"Then he stared at me in amazement. 'What have you done to yourself? You
have aged years since I saw you last week.'

"'Ah, I have things to tell you,' I said, 'Things that will make you
think I am off my head, but I shall convince you----'

"The vicar took my arm and walked me up to his sanctum, a fine spacious
chamber, beautified with that simplicity which throws a wonderful
dignity over all, and tends to show how in omission so much more
refinement is to be discovered than in ornament. Touches of the vicar's
keen discernment of those things which are worthy and noble were
revealed on every hand--knowledge of this sort is older than ten
thousand years. The room received one like a friend. The alcoves were
filled with well-bound books, there was a superb Persian carpet, old
gate-legged tables--oak was there everywhere; in the beams and the
shelves and the mighty writing desk. The servant had brought in a small
table with syphons and spirits, and had set a lamp upon it. 'Help
yourself,' said the vicar.

"I poured out a dose of whisky and was lifting it for a squirt of soda
when all at once I saw Fear; not apprehension, not foreboding, but
FEAR--the glass fell from my hand and my fingers sagged on the handle of
the syphon. I saw my reflection in a long glass, and my face was
bleached to an unhealthy dull whiteness.

"Suddenly like a shot, right in the middle of things, I found myself
wondering about poor Price. And I wasn't only wondering somehow I was
horribly uneasy about him. It came to me that I had been heartless to
leave him all alone with the statue. At last I couldn't stand the strain
any longer. I got up.

"'Vicar,' I said, 'I'm going back to see if Price is all right. It will
sound quite mad to you, I expect, but if you want to know the sober
truth, I will tell you that I have just seen him in a vision: he was in
trouble, I know. But come, let us get into the car. I have never told
anyone my whole story yet, but I shall like to tell you about Ombos and
his statue. I will tell you on the way back to Abbot's Ely. It is about
time, in fact, that I tried to classify what I have learned.'

"I then briefly related the story of Ombos and our acquaintance. I
concealed nothing, dwelling on the irresistible alluring influence of
the bronze statue. I described the depression, the despair, the
overpowering moral weakness which seemed to follow me since the
Albertus Magnus had become one of my possessions. In short, I lifted the
curtain, for the first time, and showed the vicar a true picture of the
strange world I had moved in for the last few weeks.

"When we had returned and backed the car into the coach house we walked
across the lawn to the back door. Here we met Clayton, the butler. He
appeared to be frightened, and told me that he had heard a kind of
quivering, sobbing voice coming from the library. He thought Mr. Price
was ill. We went to the door. It was locked, and an application of a
spare key proved that the other key had been left in the lock inside. We
knocked loudly, and called. There was no reply. Clayton's conviction
that 'something had happened' worked on my nerves frightfully, and in
the end the vicar and I forced open the door with some gardening tools.

"Something _had_ happened.

"The room was in complete darkness, and at first nothing could be
discerned at all. A slight wind had got up in the last half an hour; and
it rustled the trailers of ivy against the opened windows. The heavy
curtains moved carelessly in the draught, and the trees creaked faintly.
But beyond these inevitable noises, the room was quiet. Then gradually,
the outline of the room became visible and the framework of the window
began to shape itself dimly before my eyes. In the hazy light from the
glass doors, and the vague light of a lamp in the hall, I saw that the
chesterfield in the window bay where Price so often lounged was
tenanted. A gleam of his light tweed suit showed there and across
that.... Oh, I fully expected to see the other thing! Across that there
was an obscure greenish shadow.

"I walked towards it, when suddenly the shadow shot upwards and was lost
to sight. Then the springs of the chesterfield creaked and wheezed, the
same as they will when suddenly released from pressure. Clayton came in
at that moment holding a candelabra aloft and the feeble flames
disclosed poor old Price. He was on his back, his knees slightly drawn
up. The face was not the face of a man at all--it was a horrible mask of
contorted terror. His eyes were opened and fixed; the mouth was twisted
in a gape of fearful wonder.

"'Run, Clayton,' said I; 'a doctor and a policeman!' Clayton placed the
candelabra on the table and bounced out and down the front steps.

"Price was dead without a doubt. He had been strangled, the doctor
thought from the greenish-black marks on his neck and other
circumstances. The savage deed had been accomplished with frightful
ferociousness and strength. Soon the room was in the possession of the
police, and the vicar and I turned out. There was little evidence at
the inquest. The cries of poor Price had been heard by my man, the body
had been found--that was the practical summing-up of the whole matter.
The doctor gave his evidence as to the probability of murder, and the
police evidence tended in the same direction. It was affirmed that (some
would say) he had been baffled by Price in an attempt to rob the house,
had sacrificed the poor fellow to the fury of his checked greed, and had
afterwards escaped by the window. The jury found that Price had died by
the hand of some person unknown.

"'Well, vicar,' I asked afterwards, 'what do you think of the verdict?'

"He told me that from _his_ point of view it seemed to be the most
reasonable one that could be given; and to agree with the laws of
common-sense.

"'Yes,' I replied, 'perhaps you are right from the common-sense point of
view. Nevertheless, I know that Price did not die by any human agency.
It is too ghastly; I can still see that green shadow hovering above his
body on the couch. The huge shadow, the Elemental, the spirit of
Ombos--whatever you like to call it--was there in that room with Price.
It was there in a form that could be seen and felt. It is something more
substantial than an ordinary shadow ... it is a thing of hellish terror,
and it comes from that infernal bronze statue.'

"Thence forward, as day followed day, the ghastly memory of the murder
of Price seemed to recede from my mind. I neither heard nor saw
anything, nor did that sense of the unseen presence lurking about the
house, come to me. I was beginning to hope that the spell of the bronze
statue had passed away for good. But one night after this interval I
again felt fear looking whitely on me again. If I were to describe all
the incidents of the next few days in their order my story would never
come to an end, and your patience would be exhausted. Wherever I went
after dark had fallen the shadow of the unseen followed me. I had a
passion for inviting people to stay with me, and I longed for
companionship of my kind which I had never known before; I was eager to
throw myself into the realities of life. The sense of a certain kind of
separateness is hell! Just you ask anybody who knows. I called on
people, lived in my car, and dined out on the slightest provocation. I
remember I spent one evening, (after my desperate efforts to find some
good Samaritan to bear me company), with a party of road-menders; I
helped them break up the stones and all that kind of thing. But after
they had packed up their tools and tea cans and bid me 'thanks and good
night,' I met fear on the homeward road--a shadow among shadows. It
would be almost impossible to describe the swerves that my mind took
from that time till the end. The presence of the Albertus Magnus filled
me by turns with dread, blind fear, an overshadowed sort of pleasure,
and utter hopelessness. I dare not have it taken away; and I knew that
its presence was driving me mad. The vicar told me that if I could make
up my mind to have the statue removed or destroyed, it might dispel all
my troubles. I ought to make an application to the authority on bronzes
at the British Museum, who would be only too pleased to accept it. An
application to escape the company of Albertus Magnus! A request that the
British Museum would graciously take over a bronze statue, the soul of
departed Ombos, and a blind terror that walked at twilight! The vicar's
proposal sent me into a paroxysm of hysterical laughter.

"I'd gone into the library one afternoon about four, as I had heavy
arrears of letter-writing to make up. It was surprising that I should
choose that room where Albertus Magnus towered in his corner--and (I
don't know why) I felt vaguely unhappy when I had been separated too
long from him. By half past six I had finished. I went to the door to
ring for Clayton to post my letters, and turned to light up the
candelabra (I forgot to say that it was a fad of my father's all through
his life to use candelabra in preference to electric light or gas), when
I heard, I thought I heard a chuckle behind me--low, faint, but
unmistakably malicious. The fate of poor Price flashed into my mind, and
at the same time, I myself was watching myself fight on that same
chesterfield with something horrible, unclean, intangible. I turned
round instantaneously, feeling that the Albertus Magnus was at his
hellish game again. With sudden horror I saw where the chuckle had come
from. The statue had changed from the bronze-green to a fleshy-green. It
was alive, and the great muscles were twitching and quivering. To my
unutterable horror, I perceived it was not Albertus Magnus.... _It was
Ombos!_ His breath came in horrid little flutters, with seconds between
each one, as if he had just come to life and was not quite used to it. A
dreadful viciousness and vitality shone from his green eyes, and his
demon-like mouth was twisted into a grin of unimaginable evil.

"'Gods don't grow in one night like mushrooms,' he said with a leer.
(There was no mistake about his voice--it was Ombos; the words rang
through my brain as if they had been shouted.) 'You can't expect a
statue to turn into a god in a breath, or to come down and skip about
... it takes time and faith.'

"At that moment I must have gone mad. I snatched the heavy candelabra
and with a howl of rage I hurled it with all my force at his narrow
leering eyes. It struck the solid bronze with a terrific crash and fell
at the base of the pedestal whereon Ombos had stood a moment before.

"Clayton rushed in at this juncture, and we went into the sitting-room.
I saw him wipe his forehead with the back of his hand.

"'He's been here again, sir,' he said. 'I was standing on the gravel
path by the library, a minute ago, when I saw him close by me in the
bushes. He came across the water-meadow, I think. And any way he made
off back that way when I shouted at him. Begad, though, it'll be worth a
trifle to see who this rascal is, sir. I wonder what he's after. Not the
common kind of assassin. What?'

       *       *       *       *       *

"This was the climax; I felt that another such encounter would drive me
raving mad. Somewhere there must be a natural explanation; it was only a
question of finding it. Among other things it occurred to me that
someone, for reason unknown, might be playing a series of practical
jokes upon me, but it was hard to believe a hoax of such malignant and
serious intent. Besides, it did not explain the death of Price which, I
felt more and more convinced, was in some way connected with the bronze
statue. I felt it would be my own fault if I did not get some part of
the mystery cleared up soon. It was plain, too, that I must virtually
act alone. The first thing was to find a helper, and after casting about
me I thought of a member of my company, John Travers, who had lost two
fingers at Charleroi at the first stage of the war. He was a giant in
stature, his muscular force would have warranted him in contesting a
fall or two with a full-grown lion.

"I wrote to Travers the same evening and his answer came a couple of
days later, saying that he would be down by the first train that he
could catch. I said nothing in my letter about the bronze statue, but
merely mentioned that I feared a gang of thieves had marked my house
down, and I wanted his help to guard the place for a week or so.

"Well, Travers arrived. Armed with two new service rifles, we each in
turn kept watch over the statue, agreeing that a shot out of the window
should warn the other, were any sudden danger to arise.

"On the second night of our vigil I retired to bed hugely sleepy. I had
left Travers on guard in the library. He was seated in an armchair under
my Albertus Magnus, with his rifle over his knees. I did not take off my
clothes, but threw myself, dressed as I was, upon the bed. Determining
to make sure of some rest I took a stiff glass of hot brandy. I slept--I
could scarcely help sleeping--but not for long, for I suddenly awoke
from a tumultuous dream, my limbs atremble, and my forehead sticky with
cold sweat. It seemed as though somebody was calling my name from a vast
distance. The room was full of whisperings and moanings and strange
uncanny things. Something was evidently at work in my sub-consciousness.
Nothing was wrong with Travers or I should have heard the report of his
rifle. Yet something _was_ wrong! The conviction grew stronger and
stronger within me. Then came the faint sound of rattling at the brass
knob, and with sudden horror I saw the door open a couple of inches. A
pause of some seconds and it was pushed open still farther. For a space
of five seconds my heart seemed to stop beating, and then the worst
came. You will think I was beside myself; but as the door was pushed
open a face peeped round behind it, and I saw two green eyes looking at
me! I had at once recognised the face, and the face was that of Ombos!
He appeared to smile at me, but it was a leer of inscrutable evil and
malevolence, and I took up my rifle and fired at a venture. A howl of
pain, hoarse with anger, rent the air, and the face vanished.... I
rushed downstairs and into the library. As I entered, the body of
Travers came twisting across the room like a penny whirligig. His head
struck the marble fire-place with a frightful dull thud, and he fell a
motionless heap on the floor. I struck straight in front of me with a
rifle--and hit something--something that pushed past me. Then the front
door opened and shut with a deafening clang. A sudden qualm of real fear
took hold of my heart, but, mastering it as best I could, I opened the
front door and tore madly down the drive. I looked down the hushed
street. Past the lamp-posts, skipping from the gloom into the light and
from light into shadow, with a series of bounds, sped a horrible apish
form. It bounded along with incredible fleetness, and was soon lost to
view in the distant gloom. Just at that moment Clayton came down the
drive. I could not speak. I pointed to the library.... I beckoned him to
follow. On the floor lay the dead body of John Travers. The statue of
Albertus Magnus had vanished!

"And there the story ends. I can give no explanation whatever, beyond
what I have related. The bronze figure has never, so far as I know, been
seen again, nor has the restless spirit of poor Ombos walked again in
our garden and library. But, taking the circumstances into
consideration, the whole train of events points to the fact that Ombos
_had_ in some occult way passed his ethereal body into that statue, and
for that very reason he was unable to rest quietly in his grave."

"You will continue to live in the house at Abbot's Ely, of course," said
Duckford.

Crabbe shook his head. "Never! I wrote a week ago putting it in the
agent's hands for sale. There may be nothing in it, but I hardly want to
make any new experiments now. The bronze statue has disappeared. I
should like to think it was stolen by a gang of burglars. But I
remember that chuckle--the malicious mirth of some unearthly thing, it
seemed. And I remember ... let us leave it at that. I want to forget, to
walk in the Sunshine, in the crowded Strand, away from the darknesses
and silences. As I say, there the story ends.... I have told you all of
it."

       *       *       *       *       *

But Captain Crabbe did not tell it all. The best part was "strictly
private." He married Margot at half-past ten on the following Saturday
morning but one, at St. George's, Hart Street, Bloomsbury.



II

THE DE GAMELYN TRADITIONS


He was just an Irish soldier's son; a real boy in real life, and his
name was Tim, and that was the only name he had besides his surname
which was Gamelyn. And somehow he was perfectly happy. But one day he
found an old book and read about a boy whose name was Victor; and the
more he read about Victor the more ardent was his wish to be like
Victor, and he wished that he had been called Victor--for Victor was a
genius and a gentleman, and all things which Victor put his hands to
were crowned with success. But Tim's name _was_ Tim Gamelyn, which was
unfortunate; and when he went to an English school at Margate they
called him, because his hair was red, "Carrots" which was heartbreaking.

In the book nobody had ever jeered at Victor or called him nicknames;
they would have been dealt with very severely, besides they would not
have dared; he was far too heroic. So Tim became very furious when the
other fellows called him "Carrots." But the more he showed his dislike
for this name the more the boys made use of it, also when they had time
to spare--they warmed their hands in the imaginary heat radiated by his
ruddy hair. It was impossible to uphold any dignity under the
circumstances, and he began to wonder what Victor would have done in a
like predicament. But then Victor's hair was rich and brown and curly,
and no one could have said a word against it; Tim's was red and of the
kind that fate keeps in stock of the humble and low, and it made a
little lump come up in his throat when he realized it. Then the football
season on, Victor, Tim well remembered, had gone in for every kind of
athletic sport. When he had first arrived at a strange boarding school
he had refused, with a heedless laugh, to say whether he could play or
not. Victor did not even deign to go near the football field for a
month. But ten minutes before the Match of the year commenced he
suddenly made up his mind to play. During the first half of the game
Victor had "laid low"; he was waiting. Then his eyes flashed, and his
lithe, active figure flashed up the field sending the ball into the
posts like a shot from a gun, thus scoring the first and only goal. He
had then fainted away; and a beautiful girl had exclaimed "A-a-a-a-a-h,"
and had hurried to him with a smelling-bottle and much sympathy. When he
recovered, he sat up and made an apology for stopping the game and was
loudly cheered by both teams. This was the model which Tim had to keep
in his mind's eye. In one or two ways he succeeded, and in others he
failed--failed dismally.

When Tim came to ask questions about football at Thetford Grammar School
he found it was quite another thing. In the first place the boys all
spoke to him in that specially offensive you're-only-a-little-kid sort
of way. They also took it for granted that he had never seen a football
in his life. He found it impossible to refuse (with a careless laugh) to
say whether he had ever kicked a ball before. He was told that he would
have to play in the next school practice match, and that if he could
kick a ball, he might be allowed to play in a _real_ match one fine day.
When the first practice game commenced, Tim remembered that an
enthusiastic crowd had run by Victor's side, shouting wildly: "Hurrah!
hurrah for Victor." It is true that a few of the smaller boys shouted at
him. But what they shouted was: "Put a bit of life into it, old
Carrots!" and "Go it, Rufus! You'll never score a goal if you kick the
ball in that mother-may-I-have-an-orange style." During the first part
of the game Tim was rather quiet--he was waiting for a golden
opportunity, just as Victor had waited. It came when the forwards were
in full movement, and the ball came travelling neatly along the line on
the right wing. It finally came to rest at Tim's feet, and he, avoiding
a man who darted at him, raced forward a few yards. Then something,
which came through the air like a Whitehead Torpedo, sent him spinning
backwards on the grass. Amidst roars of laughter from the other fellows,
the Whitehead Torpedo, (who was a boy and smaller than Tim), spun round,
ran the ball a few dozen yards, and sent it soaring away with a vent
kick straight for the goal. There was a moment of silence. The ball
pitched fair and square on the top bar, and then trickled gently between
the posts.

A howl of joy went up from the small fry who had been "ragging" Tim all
the time.

Tim sat up and looked about him. He had not fainted, but he felt very
sick and dizzy, and nobody sympathised with him. A small freckle-faced
boy was standing over him.

"The ground _is_ slippery to-day," he grinned, extending a hand to the
unfortunate Tim, who lay on the sludgy, squdgy mud gasping like a
recently-landed trout.

Tim accepted, and scrambled painfully to his feet. The pomp of battle
had departed from him.

A few weeks afterwards, as Tim was walking across the water meadows, he
saw a youth of serious and agricultural appearance throwing a poor,
defenceless little terrier into the mill stream. Every time the
miserable little animal crawled up on to the river bank the youth
hurled it into the deep water again. Now, that was the kind of thing
that Victor was very down on. In every chapter Victor punished people
for cruelty to animals. Victor's blood always boiled at such a
sight--moreover, his strong arm always shot out, his eyes always
flashed, and the great hulking coward _always_ lay prone at his feet
begging for mercy with clasped hands. So Tim gathered together his
recollections of Victor's stock phrases, and advanced on the stolid
youth:

"You cowardly ruffian! Have you no feelings that you ill-treat a man's
best friend in that way?"

The stolid-looking youth seemed slightly astonished. He thrust his face
forward and shook his fist under Tim's nose. "Not your blooming
business," he said. "You shift."

"You've got no right," began Tim.

"Right!" The youth's note was fierce. Then he took poor Tim by the
scruff of his neck, and observed that he had been teaching the pup to
swim because he was water-shy, and that it was good for all kinds of
pups to know how to swim. Then he pushed Tim into the water after the
pup in order to teach him to keep his mouth shut and mind his own
business.

Tim went away with the idea (perfectly correct) that the stolid-looking
youth's hands that had gripped his neck and the seat of his knickers
were very strong, and another impression that even Victor would not have
stood an earthly chance against such a fellow. And it was just then that
he was aware of a little grey idea floating in the background of his
mind that Victor was a bit of a prig--also a fraud. It annoyed him that
any such notion should occur to him that the glory of his hero was an
illusion, and he shook his head to get rid of it. Then his brain sent a
"wireless" that Victor might be all right in a little toy world of his
own, peopled entirely by heroes and scoundrels, and with all the
scoundrels physically contemptible; but that he would have done less
brilliantly in the mixed-up old world that we have got at present.

Suddenly, as from a clear sky, came a bolt of common-sense to Tim, and
he realized he had been a fond and foolish jay. And that was why, when
he had finished prep that evening, he exchanged a copy, bound in calf,
of _Victor the Valiant_ for two oranges and a catapult.

Of course, the reaction set in. Tim was sent up to the station to bring
home a new bicycle for the head master, and he was especially warned
_not_ to ride it--just to walk it. Of course he tried to ride it down
Castle Hill, and collided violently with a milk cart. He returned with
what had been a new machine. So the Head made him write out one hundred
times:

    And since he cannot spend or use aright
      The little time here given in his trust;
    But wasteth it in weary underlight
      Of foolish toil and trouble, strife and lust,
    He naturally clamours to inherit
      The Everlasting Future that his merit
    May have full scope--as surely is most just.

And Tim muttered, "All right, keep your hair on, Ben!"

"H'm;" said the Head, overhearing Tim. "Write it out _two_ hundred times
for your insolent conduct."

That was the start of his demoralisation. According to the laws of the
Medes and Persians, and the laws of Victor the Valiant, disaster and
dishonour would be the end of _this_! It was not at all the way Victor
would have behaved. As a matter of fact on one occasion when a master
had been idiotic enough to give Victor a hundred lines, the valiant one
had replied: "Pardon me, sir, but if I may be so presumptuous I think I
can call your attention to the fact that you--unintentionally, of
course--are treating me too severely." And the master had at once seen
the error of his ways and relieved Victor of the imposition.

Tim failed to get the verse written out in the stipulated time and the
imposition was trebled. Also he gathered up another hundred lines for
"failure to attend prayers" and this placed him in a state of hopeless
bankruptcy.

When he wrote home to his mother. Here is what he said:

    "DEAREST MOTHER:

    "I got two hundred lines for breaking the Head's bicycle yesterday.
    Give my love to Dad. I got another hundred lines to-day for not
    being present at prayers. But don't you worry--I am not really
    bad--God has forgotten me, that is all.

                                           "Your loving Son,
                                                              "TIM."

And Tim--such was his natural depravity--did not much care. So callous
and indifferent did he become that he ceased to be hurt when the boys
called him "Carrots." In fact he laughed. And as he no longer objected
when he was called "Carrots" the boys dropped that name, and the
shortest one survived. The boys started to call him "Tims" and in a few
months he had won their affection from the lowest fag to the highest lad
in the school.

Two years afterwards, by dint of practice and pluck he had so far
advanced that he ran second in the quarter-mile at the Sports. Of course
this was not very heroic. He was rewarded for this feat of strength with
a patent egg-boiler, which was of no sort of use to him, and, as he
discovered afterwards, of no use to anybody else. But he was exceedingly
proud of the thing and also exceedingly careful to conceal this fact
from the other boys.

He became, to sum up his attitude, less and less like Victor. But it is
not to be presumed that he was sinking into mental nothingness. He was
not perhaps quite so refined in his language as he might have been, he
used slang, and sometimes was inclined to hang his hat on the floor and
talk back. He was rather untidy in his dress. But certain compensating
qualities of the highest value were appearing in Tim. He had gathered to
himself a plentiful supply of gumption--genius is all right, but if it
comes to a slow-down gumption is better. His hatred of "swank" reached
the point of unreasoning prejudice. He made many mistakes; but depend
upon this: the man who has never made a mistake has never made anything
else worth having.

And Tim never became a great soldier, or a great sailor, or anything
great. But he had good spirits, and he concealed about his person a
heart of gold; and after he left Thetford Grammar School, boys found
that somehow the games in the old playground seemed flat and spiritless.
They said that things weren't as they used to be in Tim's time.

I have told the reader that Tim Gamelyn's father was a retired
non-commissioned officer who lived near Dublin on a small private income
and a pension. It will be seen that Tim's people did not roll in wealth
any to speak of. They owned a small farm with five cows, twenty pigs and
a flock of hens. There was beer always in the cellar, bacon hanging up
in the kitchen and a bucket of soft soap in the out-house. In the top
lean-to room where Tim slept, in the winter time the rain and sleet
drifted cheerily in through the cracks and covered the army blankets
which covered him. But he didn't lie awake thinking about it--boys like
Tim who help on farms start playing shut-eye as soon as they hit the
pillow.

Old Sergeant Gamelyn came of an ancestry which, somebody or other of
distinction once said--and very truly--is the backbone of the British
Army. To put it briefly, if not gracefully, "what old Gamelyn didn't
know about soldiering weren't worth knowin'!" He had the ten thousand
and ten commandments of the King's Regulations always at his finger
tips, and he and his people had served in the same battalion, under the
same officers or descendants for generations. There was Michael Gamelyn
who fell at Malplaquet; there was another Gamelyn who had served at
Minden; four Gamelyns served through the Peninsular. But only one came
through to Waterloo. Balaclava, the Indian Mutiny and Spion Kop each
claimed a Gamelyn, and when the British troops returned from Lhasa in
1904 they left one Sergeant Royden Gamelyn--resting in peace ten paces
to the rear of the Pargo Keeling Gate. Of course Tim Gamelyn grew up in
the shadow of these things. There was an old book in his father's oak
kit box which Tim loved. In it he read about forgotten drill and manual
exercises, the uncomfortable and graceless man[oe]uvres of the rigid but
redoubtable men who fought at Waterloo. Also there were pictures in
colour of warriors in three-cornered hats, high stocks and powdered
wigs. These men Tim worshipped. He had by heart the quaint words of
command in which Wellington's men were told to charge a musket with
powder and ball. And I doubt not that he could have taken a brigade and
marched them to the attack with the best of the old-time sergeants.

Then in August 1914 came the great war, and when Tim suggested going
into Dublin to see Colonel Arbuthnot about joining up to that battalion
through which all the best of the Gamelyn men had passed, his mother
tried to laugh. But Tim saw the tears running down her cheeks, as she
threw her apron over her head and went out to bring the clothes in off
the line. His father then flung out his hand to him and said:

"Good boy, I thought 'twas in you. Good luck."

But when Tim joined his regiment soldiering had taken many new turns.
The modern rifle would not allow men to march into battle with colours
flying and bands playing: the old brave way was impossible in the face
of machine guns. The pomp and pageantry of battle had departed and there
was nothing left but for the attacking party to crawl in a most
inelegant fashion upon the ground.

"Down!" cried the sergeant-instructor to poor Tim, who started his
lessons in field training with some vague idea about marching on the foe
with "head and eyes erect" and with "pace unfaltering and slow." "When
you get out to Flanders you will have to get right down on your belly if
you want to _live_ a little longer than ten minutes. Extend to
five-six-ten paces and get as close to old mother earth as possible and
hide your bloomin' selves!"

"Hide yourselves!" thought Tim. "Not thus is it written in my father's
book of drill! It plainly said therein that the duty of a soldier was to
learn how to die, not to hide from death."

Crushed and dejected he returned that morning to breakfast to wolf a
chunk of bread and butter, washed down by dishwater, misnamed tea.

After breakfast he retired to a corner and thought it all out. The words
of the Sergeant came back to him: "_Hide yourself if yer want to live!_"

These words stuck in his memory, as words which bring a new light on an
outlook will. That was the start of his demoralisation. He was the first
of all his line who had been told to hide himself from death. No more
the worsted bravery, the pipeclay, lace and scarlet. No more the old
military swagger. No more the drummer boy with a waist like a French
dancing girl, wrists like Bombardier Wells, and shoulders like a wooden
man out of a Noah's Ark. No more the throbbing and growling of the
drums; the staccato detonations and the insolent crescendoes of the
drums. No more the wild music that the bands played to the men who
fought at Minden, Malplaquet and Wynendael. No more the brushing of a
comrade's arm one's own, inspiring boldness; no more a thousand red
coats marching on the enemy with slow and unfaltering pace. Tim could
see the men of his dreams now, in his mind's eye, marching with heads
and eyes erect ... see, too, the smoke of continuous volleys bursting
out along the steady lines as they fired by sections and companies on
their foes. Well, it was all a thing of the past now. It was plainly his
duty not to be reckless. "Do not be dashing, do not expose yourself, do
not cheer and make a noise," they said; "creep along like a worm in the
grass; be crafty, be wary--and fall down on the face before death."

It did not stop there. Lastly and worst they took away the officers of
his dreams. They even dressed them like privates and some were armed
with rifles. There were no flashing swords to follow. Not once did he
see an officer anything like his father's picture of the Duke of
Wellington on the white horse pointing a curly sword to the skies and
waving a cocked hat. Then there came the day when Tim made his first
acquaintance with field training, and beheld a loose and disorderly
scramble which men called an advance. To him it seemed just a mob of
masterless men, crawling and crouching on the grass, firing as they
passed, and bowing cringingly before death. It was a sight he could
hardly endure--an exhibition offensive to any soldier whose forbears had
learnt to achieve the impossible as a matter of routine and had held
firm for half a day at Quatre Bras with never so much as the flicker of
an eye-lid. Gad! there could only be one end to this kow-towing to
death, and that would be disaster and disgrace.

       *       *       *       *       *

The long dull plains of northern Europe stretched before Tim's
gaze--great undulations of hard, hot earth and waving grass. He'd been
marching all day, and it was hot. Hot!... ye Gods!... On those plains it
was like a Turkish bath. Then "down" came the order, and the battalion
flung itself to the ground. Oh, but it was good to rest! Towards sunset
the clouds piled up blacker and blacker, and some hung frothy over the
ridge in the distance. As the sun dropped, the west turned red--all
blood red--and he heard the order to march. He heard the word passed
down the line in half whispers, and the impressive sound of regiments
getting under arms came to his ears. Another five miles they marched
and halted for tea. Then all the men became very silent--and while they
rested they talked in whispers as they watched the awful sky. When it
grew dark the flick-flack of lightening played across the sky and it
showed the men's faces white and drawn. Presently Tim's Company
lieutenant came up with the news that they would not be able to rest
until morning as they had anticipated. There could be no stopping, for
the regiment had to reach the rendezvous at daybreak. As the storm
rolled nearer, the wind got up, in puffs--first warm and then cold, and
a few drops of rain fell--great drops that fell flop-flop-flop--on Tim's
face. With a flash that leapt crackling over the plain, the storm loosed
itself. The lightning turned the rain into sheets of glittering silver,
and the hot ground fairly boiled. Tim, with a thousand others drenched,
and blinded, struggled over the slippery turf. That was a storm. Tim
could have seen to read; and the thunder wrestled in the low churning
clouds like a million devils, and through it all ran the chorus of wind
and lashing rain. Presently the storm lessened and died away, and the
rain settled to pour down on them for an hour or so. The squelch-squelch
of soaking boots and the creaking of leather equipment was all he heard.
They halted for breakfast, and Tim chewed his rations sitting on the
sodden ground in sodden clothes; and as he sipped his lukewarm coffee,
he shivered in the coming dawn.

Almost immediately they went on again.

Right before them, at the head of a valley, rose a ridge. In the creepy
light it looked miles high and a million spitting points of fire flashed
from it. The British guns in the woods at the back then began, and they
seemed to have no relation to the unvarying plumes of smoke bursting
above the long lines of fresh-turned earth two thousand yards away--no
connection with the screeching of the shells overhead. "Extended order!"
came the command, and Tim with his regiment stumbled forward. His breath
came and went in little painful gasps. From the right came a curious
gasping choke, and looking, he saw the man next to him throw up his arms
and pitch forward on his face. Suddenly he became aware of a peculiar
wailing above him, as if the air itself was in torture. Again a long
line of fire flashed out ahead of him and again came the wailing sound.
A Boche machine-gun loosed a few belts of cartridges in the spasmodic
style of her kind. There was no mistake about it this time--massed
infantry were sweeping the plain with rifle fire, and the quick-firers
were feeling for an opening.

Another man was hit--close to Tim. He squealed like a girl; and a fellow
near turned a dirty white, stumbled, with a clatter fell in a fainting
fit. Tardily the men advanced, and any acute observer would have seen
they had little heart in the business. Some hung behind almost
unconsciously, and had to be hurried up by the sergeants. The bullets
became more thick. A man started to blubber behind. "Gawd 'ave mercy! I
... I can't stand it! I won't go on!" he whined. It turned out to be a
sergeant, who had broken down too. He'd had little rest, poor chap,
through shepherding his company ... and now he had knocked under. The
company swayed and hesitated. Some of them faced round. It was touch and
go. "Steady there! Steady! Come on, men;" said Stansfield, the little
company lieutenant, as the men wavered on the grey edge of collapse.
"Steady that company; what in hell's the matter with 'em. Keep your men
up and going, Sir!" shouted a captain rushing over. But the company had
gone all to pieces. The fire of battle had departed from them, and it
flung itself on the ground. And soon the whole battalion was taking
cover in the same way. A captain called on Tim's company to advance. Two
men obeyed and one of them was Tim. But the enemy's fire redoubled and
the other man was shot, and so Tim at once took cover again. The saying
of his sergeant-instructor in England came to his mind, that a man must
lie down and hide if he wished to live, and he felt quite justified in
hugging the earth. Tim ached in every inch of his body. Surely
something was snapping in his brain, for those dusty khaki figures on
the ground, the sky, the earth all seemed to be dancing madly about him.
It was not yet light and Tim strained his eyes to pierce the darkness.
Then he made a discovery. A dark mass, like some prehistoric monster,
was gradually approaching. Tim spoke to a man next to him who was softly
swearing and bandaging a shattered hand. He peered through the light and
half-light of dawn, and then started to laugh in a nervous way. "Hell,
mate;" he said, "the whole German race are advancing against us; it's
all up with us. Look, they are coming on like a solid wall ... springing
out of the earth just solid ... no end to 'em."

It was just about that time that Tim observed a light mist rising in
front of him. It seemed to scintillate and sparkle as it rose, and
curled in a sort of pillar or spiral. "Great Heaven!" he whispered to
himself, "the thing is taking shape."

And true enough, in a very few moments he saw standing erect in front of
him a tall man--and he was dressed in shining armour; that was the
strange thing about him. A strange-looking fellow this! He was more like
a Spaniard than an Englishman, with black eyes and olive complexion. His
expression was lofty and noble, and his tall lithe figure was in strict
accordance with British traditions. So were the bold features, which
were rather marred by a white scar which stretched from his left nostril
to the angle of his jaw. But the jet-black hair and the eyes--the deep,
dark, challenging eyes--were those of Seville. A straight sword by his
side and a painted long-bow at his shoulder proclaimed him a bowman. A
white surcoat with the red lion of St. George upon it covered his broad
chest, while a sprig of new-plucked furze at the side of his steel cap
gave a touch of gaiety to his grim war-worn clothes.

No sooner had Tim looked up than a deep rich voice exclaimed:

"_Corpus Domini!_ do you need a leader?"

Tim was not a man to be easily startled, and with the bullets whining
and ping-thudding all around him, it was no manner of a time to be
easily startled. But the voice, on account of its unearthly sound,
fairly made him jump. He picked up his rifle, and stood upright. "Come
along! Come along!" the voice went on. "Why dost stand there, De
Gamelyn?"

"Oh, my God! I ... I can't stand it! The loss of blood and the marching
has done for me!"

"So! coming into the fight like a lion, you go out like a lamb. By Saint
Paul! this is not in accordance with the De Gamelyn traditions. Take up
thy arms! Come along!" said the stranger tapping him on the shoulder
with a barbed shaft trimmed with grey goose feather.

"Oh! please ... please.... I'm so tired!" said Tim, like a child
speaking to its nurse.

The bowman saw that the boy's lips and tongue were black with thirst,
and his eyes were blood-shot. And when Tim staggered over to him all his
body heaved and trembled like an overdriven horse. Sick and dizzy with
pain, he cast himself to earth again, and waited for death. "Why don't
they hit me?... I've tried,--oh, so hard!" he sobbed.

"Steady there! Steady, De Gamelyn! Take this," said the bowman, and drew
something from his side and handed it to him. It was a sword, if swords
be made of fire, of lightning, of dazzling lights; and the moment Tim
grasped it all his pain and dizziness fell from him.

"What is this?" he asked.

"The Sword of Life and Death," said the bowman.

"Who the blazes are you?" Tim asked sceptically.

It was with a touch of the Irish brogue that a cheery voice answered. "A
friend to a friend," said the bowman, "and the devil to a foe."

"Irish?" Tim questioned.

"Citizen of the world in time past ... now a citizen of heaven."

Tim gazed at the strange man in earnest scrutiny. He appeared quite at
his ease with bullets whining around him and he unslung a jack of wine
and drank.

"May a parched man claim a drink of your wine?" Tim cried.

"Give what you have, ask what you need. That is the De Gamelyn code of
law," said the man, and handed Tim the flagon.

"You are cheerful, sir," said Tim, his blood somewhat warmed by the
wine. "In the name of the devil, who are you, and of what country?"

"My name is Nigel De Gamelyn. My Mother, dear soul, was French. My
father was wise enough to be an Irishman. So much for my blood, which
unites happily the practical and the dreamer fluids. I am of no country
but I know all places from the King's tombs at Rome to the old inns that
stand about the upper Arun. I have marched with armies over this
territory aforetime. There is no shadow, I believe, on my soul, has such
strength in him as I, and I rest content to be nothing to myself and all
things to every man. That being bliss."

As the bowman spoke, a bullet kicked up a cloud of dust at his feet.

"Holà, by my hilt! it is time that we were stirring," he said. "Leave
these fellows to grovel and remove yourself. Follow: who follows Nigel
de Gamelyn?" He hitched up his belt and strode forward with his great
bow, and Tim saw him send a shaft with a twanging noise five hundred and
thirty paces. One of the German officers, towering above the other men,
stood out distinctly, and then he dropped.

"I'd like to take a look at that knave," the bowman remarked, drawing a
fresh arrow from his sheaf. "By the twang of string! I'll swear I
drilled him clean between his eyes."

The enemy were getting closer now, and from the men lying around them
broke a violent fusillade. It was quite useless, but it relieved their
nerves. Some were discharging their shots into the turf a few yards in
front of them. Others were shooting at aeroplanes.

Then suddenly there came upon Tim a great anger. A bullet striking him
brought him to his senses, and he saw the men sprawling belly-flat about
him. This was not war, this ignominious crawling, this grovelling in the
soil, this halting! The spirit of his fathers spoke to him. He
remembered one of his father's favourite sayings: "The duty of a man of
the line is to fight, and if needs be, die, not to avoid dying." His
anger grew--"damn them for a pack of cringing, footling cowards: he, Tim
Gamelyn, descendant of the De Gamelyns who fought in a hundred battles,
would teach them how men of his father's house went into battle."

A senior officer called on those nearest to Tim to advance. And men rose
up.

"D. Company, fix bayonets! Close in!" came the order. Tim gripped his
sword and strode over to the Bowman. Then the advancing Germans poured a
blasting volley on them.

"The Old Battalion--_charge!_" came the stentorian voice of a senior.
The men scrambled to their feet, and Tim following the Bowman sprang
ahead of the Battalion. The men leapt across the blood-smeared grass
after them with the speed of a winged fury, but they struck the Germans
a dozen yards ahead of the battalion. The bowman had hurled aside his
long bow and was using a short battle mace with terrific effect. As for
Tim: all he wanted to do was to slash; stab and slash again with that
wonderful sword. There followed a nightmare of drawn, grinning faces, of
fierce yells and groans. The mud-stained grey figures struck at him
wildly, futilely. On and on Tim went, his glittering blade now at a
white face, now at a throat, now at a chest, still stabbing and
thrusting to pass through the wall of men which barred his way.

The man with the bow ranged up alongside him: "On, man, on, in the name
of God, march forward.... By St. George and Our Lady! we are breaking up
their front;" he muttered.

"Strike me crimson!" bellowed a man near to Tim, "but you're a blooming
marvel! Those German beggars are going down for twenty yards around
your (decorated) sword without being hit at all. Look! Look! there goes
another Hun down. Let me come over near you, mate!"

But Tim knew that De Gamelyn the Bowman had summoned to their help the
armies of the unconquered dead. They came, the De Gamelyns of all
generations from Crécy to Waterloo: they fought by his side, and the
machine gun bullets, which fell upon the dusty earth like tropical rain,
hurt them not.

Again and again the Bowman's mace smashed and lashed out before him, and
Tim thrust, and thrust yet again with his sword. He heard the
deep-throated roar of the bowman's singing "The Song of the Bow."

    What of the shaft?
      The shaft was cut in England:
    A long shaft, a strong shaft,
      Barbed and trim and true;
      So we'll drink all together
      To the grey goose feather
    And the land where the grey goose flew.

Suddenly a yell, horrible and fierce, uprose from the soldiers, and he
heard the bowman's voice no more.

"They're on the run, by Gawd, they've got it right in the neck this
journey," bellowed a soldier as the German infantry broke and tailed
away. Then something took Tim in the chest, something wet and red, that
went through him.

The man next to Tim saw the long bayonet stand out beyond his back, saw
Tim sway, laughing, and snap the steel short as he fell upon it.

A body of kilted men suddenly swept from the right of the hard-pressed
battalion, swept by in silence, and in silence swept the remaining
Boches up one side of the ridge and down the other into eternity.

Two days later Colonel Arbuthnot inquired after the welfare of Private
Tim Gamelyn at the field hospital.

"He was admitted suffering from sunstroke, and a terrible bayonet wound.
He died early in the morning," said the doctor.

"Is it true that he saved the battalion by urging our fellows on at the
critical moment?"

"Yes," said Colonel Arbuthnot, "but do you happen to know if he had an
officer's sword with him by chance when he was carried in here? All my
men speak of a 'sword of flame' with which he drove the Huns before him.
Even hardened soldiers who have been through many campaigns have been
babbling all sorts of nonsense of ghostly regiments of bowmen who helped
to turn the German attack!"

The doctor walked over to a shelf, and, taking down a rusty old sword,
placed it on the table.

"Perhaps that is what you refer to, Colonel," he said. "Where the fellow
picked it up is a mystery to me. It must be some hundreds of years
old."

Colonel Arbuthnot took it in his hands and read this inscription on the
blade:

    NIGEL DE GAMELYN
      ... ADSUM ...



III

THE MILLS OF GOD


They were putting little Boudru to bed--the R.H.A. and the Corps of
Royal Engineers and Stansfield, the big fat Infantry Sergeant. His
little sister, already tucked up in bed, was nearly asleep. Boudru had
been allowed to stay up till Sergeant Stansfield had come in from duty.
The special privilege had been accorded to the little French boy on
this, the last night that the British troops were to spend in the
village. Boudru's home was in a portion of our line in which the defence
trenches were of the semi-detached type--they did not join up with the
other part of the line, and at times the place was distinctly unhealthy.
Sometimes it was in the hands of the Huns, sometimes the British rushed
it, and held on for a few weeks; there had been times when it had been
occupied by both, at other times it was written on the squared official
maps as no man's land. It was a spot in which there was always a feeling
of something dreadful being close at hand; there was an air of
expectancy about it and one felt there was a marked atmosphere of
nerves about. You might be sniped from the house opposite, or blown out
of the windows by a seventeen-inch shell. You never know. The man who
sold you tobacco the day before might be lying stiff in the gutter next
day, or more probably still, he might be dining with the German Staff a
mile and a half away. All this uncertainty, coupled with the fact that
the place was full of spies, and that valuable information had been
finding its way through to the German lines, made the General decide to
withdraw his troops and take up some trenches behind it.

Boudru sat on the big armchair and swung his white bare legs defiantly.
Perhaps it had better be explained that my lord Boudru was five years
old. "Boudru going to shut eye?" said the fat infantry sergeant
suggestively.

"The cots are down and the beds unrolled," said the R.H.A. man falling
into the diction of the barrack-room.

"No," said Boudru. "You must tell me for the last time the story about
the wicked German baby killer who was turned into a pig. The man of the
guns must tell it, and the fat man of the infantry shall hide beneath
the bed and make pig shrieks--many pig shrieks--at the time when he is
killed."

"But we shall disturb little sister Elise," said the fat sergeant with
visions of a dismal ten minutes wedged beneath the small cot and the
floor.

"Elise is not bye-o yet," piped a thin voice from where two eyes were
sparkling elfishly from a tangle of golden locks.

"Go on, my English man--There was once a big fat baby killer who lived
in Potsdam ..."

Then the R.H.A. man (a journalist by profession, a duke by inclination,
and now by destiny a very clever gunner) began the famous story. Never
before had the telling of that tale been given with such splendour of
effect. The fat sergeant had made pig-noises with multitudinous yells in
at least fifteen different keys, and the little cross-eyed driver of the
Engineers had dressed up in a real Hun helmet and grey coat. The grand
finale in which the Engineer had turned into a pig on all fours and had
been mercilessly put to death with the fat sergeant's bayonet, had
filled Boudru's soul with joy. He reflected and gloated on the scene far
into the night. Then he fell fast asleep and met with most dazzling
adventures with a German soldier who had been hiding in the Jacobean oak
chest with the fleur-de-lis carved on the side, which stands beneath the
bulgy leaded window.

As a grey and wretched dawn came in with a cold and dispiriting rain
there came to the ears of little Boudru the steady champing of marching
feet in the street below. Slush, slush, slush went all those feet,
beating the muddy road, and then the noise of metal on metal woke the
silent village streets as the guns went by.

"The soldiers! The soldiers!" exclaimed Boudru as he bounded over and
jumped on to the Jacobean chest to watch them pass. It was fated that
they were the last English soldiers that Boudru would ever see.

Some weeks later Boudru's mother was busy with odd jobs in the kitchen
garden and the children were playing in the front room, there was a ring
at the door and the sound of a butt-end of a rifle, as it "grounded" on
the cobble stones. When Boudru on tiptoe lifted the latch, the door
swung open, and a big man in a greenish uniform stood before him. There
was no sign of cap-badge or title on his shoulder straps, and he was
horribly dirty. He carried two English ration bags, besides his own
rucksack, and they were all filled to bursting with loot. Evil beamed
from his narrow, leering eyes; and when he smiled at Boudru it twirled
his demon-like mouth into a grotesque shape. He looked both depraved and
suspicious, a disreputable scoundrel with a gun, and that, you will find
in the fullness of time, was just what he was.

"Let us shut the door," said Elise. "This is not a pretty man." But the
man from Stettin pushed past.

"Brat;" said he, "drink."

Boudru's mother had hurried up to the door as fast as her bulk and her
stout legs would permit.

Every day she had expected a visit from the Huns. It was useless to
argue with such a man, so she took the German in.

"Brandy," said the man.

"There is only a little left ... it is over there, on the sideboard."

The soldier walked over, finished half a bottle, and announced that it
was like water.

"More," he ordered, "Shoot you if no find."

The woman at last managed to unearth a bottle of good Burgundy and
another bottle of brandy.

He drank both the bottles, and when he had finished, he asked for more
like every other Boche will do. Then he chose the front bedroom and
threw himself down on the bed in a drunken sleep.

When the next morning broke the French woman went to awaken the thief
and while the latter was making his toilet little Boudru entered. He
regarded the Hun with gravity for at least five minutes and then
delivered himself of his opinion.

"I don't like you," he said slowly, regarding the Hun, with his elfish
eyes. "I don't like you. I think you may be like the man in the English
soldiers' story, who turned into a pig--a baby killer perhaps. It is
because of your red hair that I think you may turn ..."

The man from Stettin who had been trying to drag a comb through his
horrible beard and hair, turned, and he looked like a big red devil, the
sun being on his head, and red beard and all.

"What's that?" he said, as he lurched ominously across the room. He had
swallowed the contents of a flask of Benedictine which he had taken from
his rucksack, and the repeated drinks were taking effect.

"I'll sweep the house, so there isn't a bug in a blanket left--you
damned brat!" He was bellowing like a bull, chewing his red beard and
muttering to himself. As he passed a table, he knocked the empty flask
on the floor. It did not break, and he viciously stamped his feet on it,
smashing it to pieces. He began to go mad from that moment. As he kicked
the wreckage about the room, his glance fell upon his rifle with the
fixed bayonet. And then the swine-dog ran amok. Boudru stood with his
back to the door: the blood froze in his veins, and his little body
stiffened into absolute rigidity.

"Turn into a pig!" shrieked the Hun. "What did you say? Turn into ..."

The bayonet flashed, and little Boudru--but what followed shall not be
printed. It would be passing the decent bounds of descriptive writing to
put it in black and white. It is sufficient to say that some minutes
later the Hun prised the floor-boards up with his bayonet, and Boudru,
from that moment, without warning, or leaving any trace, disappeared
from the world. He returned in the fullness of time. And this was the
way of it.

For the hundredth time that day, the Hun had gone into the bedroom to
look out of the bulgy bedroom window. Fear began to come over him
without any warning, and he was thinking of little Boudru down there in
the dark. The thing within him that served him for a heart was beating
queer rhythms ... the beating sounded like a regiment of British
Infantry on the march.

"Look," said he to the housewife, "look out on the road. Do you see
soldiers?"

The good woman, distraught between suspense and hope for her little one,
who had been missing for six long hours, blinked away a tear on her
lashes and peered through the diamond panes.

No one was to be seen. But between three and four in the morning the
first faint champing of marching feet could be heard and the Hun came
down from the bedroom looking as pale as death. He opened the door and
stood there listening. The insolent crunch, crunch, crunch of heavy
nail-studded service boots came nearer, and a khaki column appeared on
the winding road. The housewife, whose aching eyes had searched the road
for Boudru all day, saw them too.

"Look," she cried, "look! The English soldiers are coming. Do you see?"

_They were coming!_

The man from Stettin rushed up to the bedroom, and jumped into the oak
chest.

"Not tell the English! Not tell!"

Fifteen or twenty soldiers were to be heard grounding rifles and
throwing off their equipment in front of the house.

Entered here Sergeant Stansfield, and shouted gaily to the housewife,
but the moment he looked into her pale and worn face he understood that
some sorrow had befallen her. Before he could hold her she had slid
silently down on the floor, at his feet, and covered her face.
"Ah,--ah,--ah! O God, help and pity me! They have taken my little son,"
she cried.

At this moment a soldier rushed in at the door. "I think there is a man
who looks like a Boche trying to get out of the bedroom window!" he
said. "Will you come, Sergeant? Quick!"

The sergeant went quickly, and returned with some men with fixed
bayonets and led them up to the bedroom: He told them to break in. The
man was on his knees, with his horrible hands lifted up in supplication.
The soldiers kicked the man up and made him go downstairs into the front
room.

"See!" said a soldier, who held his bayonet ready, "there is blood on
his sleeve." The Hun cursed within his heart.

"It was none of my shedding," he whimpered.

"I had not said so," returned the sergeant quietly.

"We are here to find that out. Perhaps you know something about the lost
child?"

"I had no hand in it, God strike me dead!" the Hun answered fervently.

At that moment there was a sort of earthquake upstairs, a clash of
falling bricks and slates, a crashing pandemonium that sent everyone's
heart to his mouth. A shell had struck the roof. Then the ceiling above
bulged like a stuffed sack and burst in a cloud of pink-yellow dust.
Something dropped with a dead thud fair and square in the centre of the
fine oak refectory table. Sergeant Stansfield bent forward, looked, and
then started back. He gave a cry and turned sickly white. On the table
lay _the little huddled form of Boudru_. The morning sun that had been
paling the candles in the sconces, struck the golden hair and staring
eyes, that had a few hours before, held all the spring-time; struck,
too, a heavy scarlet patch on the little overall, as the sergeant
tenderly turned the little body over....

"Oh! God of Mercy!... How horrible! A bayonet through his heart ..." he
muttered. The Hun's sleeve spotted with blood came back to his mind, and
filled him with blind, unreasoning rage.

"You swine," he said. "I'll----"

The man from Stettin suddenly felt his heart stop beating. He stood
petrified for a moment; then he clutched the table with one feverish
movement; and when he saw the pale cherub face, he became covered at
once with perspiration. Then the terror, which had paralyzed him a
second or so, gave way to the wild instinct of self-preservation. He hit
out wildly with both arms, kicking out at the same moment. In a second
he was out in the hall, and had locked the door behind him. A door
opened somewhere outside, and they heard him running down the garden.
Some of the men snatched their rifles, rushed to the window, and threw
it open. Four or five shots rang out simultaneously, and the stench of
cordite was wafted back on the sharp morning air as the man from Stettin
fell in a crumpled heap, his face buried in a clump of violets. The
sergeant went into the garden.

"Hum!" he remarked after an instant, "dead, did you say? He's as dead as
a doornail ... anyway, it's nothing to do with us! If ever a soul went
straight to hell," he muttered to himself, "it was that red devil's."



IV

THE STORY OF A SPY


Donald McNab, private (and distinguished ornament) of the London
Regiment, leaned his elbows on the little oak table in the bar of the
"Three Nuns," and eyed me with withering contempt. From a corner of the
settle I stared--with a wholly unsuccessful attempt to look
unconcerned--at a quaint old painting of Sergeant Broughton who first
taught Englishmen to box scientifically. When the great are really
wrathful it ill becomes pigmy people to jabber or argue. So I waited
with bent head and respectful silence to which the passing moods of such
an erratic genius are entitled.

When McNab and I had met an hour or so before we had been on the most
friendly terms. We had both ordered our pint of beer, filled our pipes,
and retired to a corner in the bar parlour feeling at peace with the
world--barring of course the German Empire and their allied forces.
Everything, in fact, made for peace and goodwill between us; yet,
because I had spoken with some levity about our incomplete spy system,
McNab's wrath had come down on my head like the proverbial "hundred of
bricks."

"It seems strange," I had remarked to him, "that the Huns can always
forestall our most carefully-prepared plans through their almost perfect
spy system. Our fellows must be dead stupid at the game. Why aren't
these German vipers ever nabbed?"

"Dead stupid!" McNab had exclaimed, after gazing at me for a minute in
dazed stupefaction at my unspeakable temerity in challenging the
proficiency of the British Army. "Get under your Blanco pot!"

Now, when McNab used this picturesque term to me I knew that there was a
storm brewing. He only used the expression when he wished to be
particularly "cutting," and I received his reproof with, I hope, a
correct realisation of my own insignificance.

The old world had rolled along for another twenty minutes ere McNab
shifted his legs, cleared his throat, and interfered with what was left
in his tankard.

"I wonder," he said musingly to himself, "if these poor yobs over here
will ever know the true 'istory of this bloomin' war?" Then back came a
smile to his face and he shook his head, indicating, perhaps, that he
had answered the question to his complete satisfaction. The joyousness
at the thought of some of those unrecorded slices of military history
caused my friend to drop again into a contemplative mood, and he
started humming a little tune under his breath:

    Hello! Hello! who's your lady friend?
    Who's the little girlie by your side?
    I've seen you with a girl or two,
    Oh, oh, oh, I AM surprised at you!
    Hello! Hello! what's your little game?
    Don't you think it's time your ways to mend?
    That's not the gal I saw you with at Brighton,
    Oh, oh, oh, who's your lady friend?

"If it is not a rude question," I ventured, after another few moments,
"did you ever see the capture of a German spy over in France, Mr.
McNab?"

"Who are you getting at ... trying to pull my leg?" he demanded, with
increased suspicion.

"Come, come," I laughed, "let us agree to differ about our--er--inferior
spy system."

"Superior," he insisted.

I surrendered before the gleam of his eye. Fool that I had been, ever to
have imagined that I could conquer McNab's steely glance!

"Superior then, if you prefer it."

McNab's eyes, which had glared with indignation, lost their fire and
assumed their normal expression of calm and relentless despotism, and
the red flag of agitated displeasure disappeared from his tanned face.
He seized with alacrity the olive branch (also another tankard of beer)
which I held out to him.

"The history of the British Army," he observed as he blew at his ale
"'minds me of a married soldier's letter to his wife. The most
interesting parts are all left out ... do you get me?"

McNab tilted his hat at a perilous angle on one side of his head, and
thrust his hands deep into his pockets.

"Touching upon some of those unwritten exploits of the Army," I darkly
hinted: "I'll bet I can find a brilliant historiographer not a hundred
miles away from the 'Three Nuns' who could dictate a few of 'em that
would fairly make the _Daily Mail_ turn green with envy--eh, McNab?"

"I know the brilliant bloke you mean," my friend conceded modestly,
"though calling me 'orrible names like that would brand you as a swanker
or a gentleman wot had left his manners in the hall in any barrack room
from here to Hindustan. When we were resting at Quality Street near
Loos, for example"--he paused a moment, and with a playful dig from his
banana-like thumb nearly knocked me on the floor--"why, name of a dog!
There you have a case in point!"

"A case of a swanker?"

"A case of one of those spies. We caught the perisher. Begad, we did!"

McNab put the red-hot end of a cigarette into his mouth, stammered with
wrath in a medley of international profanity at the unexpected warmth,
and would not be comforted till his favourite barmaid had placed a
slice of cooling lemon on his tongue.

"My first introduction to the entertaining sport of spy tracking," he
mumbled, "was at Loos, where I was sent with several hundred other chaps
to help push the Huns out of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. At the present
moment, as you know (or ought to by this time), I am a military genius
'ighly thought of at the War Office, a strategist Kitchener has his eye
on, and a model soldier quoted every day by my colonel as a shining
light to the regiment. But of course you must remember that a few months
ago I was practically a yob at the game, and now of the fame (and the
extreme shyness that seems to come with it) of my later avatar.

"We took over some temporary billets at a shady little spot not far
behind the British trenches which was then known as 'Quality Street,'"
he continued, "and, as I not unreasonably supposed that the smartest and
most intelligent bloke in the regiment would be sent to 'elp the
colonel, I requested the Dog's Leg (Anglice--lance-corporal) to point
out his abode to me.

"'Ask the Quarter Bloke over along in the end cottage, old sport,' he
said with a grin, 'he'll be most 'appy, I've no doubt to personally
conduct to the old pot-an-pan, and while you're there just ask him to
let you have that jug of defaulters' extra milk for me.' It was a
'wheeze' among the boys to send a poor innocent bloke off for this
milk. The point of the 'wheeze' is in the fact that as defaulters are
chaps doing jankers (Anglice--punishment) they are hardly likely to get
any extra milk dished out to them. I did not see the joke at first; but
on application to that autocratic beggar--Quartermaster King was his
tally--he fully explained things to me in that witheringly sarcastic
manner peculiar to sergeant-majors and quarter-blokes.

"'Defaulter's milk?' echoed he. 'Why, you lop-eared leper, you've got
corpuscular fool wrote as plain as a motor lorry number all over your
ugly face. If I wasn't sure that you was not more of a born idiot than a
ruddy knave, etc., etc., etc., I would have you slick in mush before
your feet could touch the ground!'

"Much crest-fallen, and terribly mortified, I returned to the cottage
which had been selected to shelter me noble self, only to be met there
with a volley of derisive laughter, repeated demands for the jug of
Defaulter's milk, and questions about the quarter bloke's health.

"'A cat may look at a _King_,' said the Dog's Leg, and fell backwards
out of the open window at his own joke, breaking 'is collar bone. One
should never forget, at every time, as the Scriptures say, that pride
allus goes before a fall, and that all the King's 'orses and all the
King's men can't not even pick 'im up again!"

My murmured compliments on his amazing aptness in the knowledge of Holy
Writ were checked by a sudden discovery that my best silver cigarette
case had vanished from the table.

"Which of you civilians has stole the gentleman's silver case?"

This question, uttered not in the friendliest possible terms, was
addressed to a young gentleman with a very pimply face, and
kaleidoscopic coloured socks, of the genus Slacker, who had suddenly
found the painting of Sergeant Broughton an object of absorbing
interest.

This inquiry meeting with no response from the Slimy Slacker, (to use
McNab's expressive name for him), he gave utterance to a sigh of
resignation.

"I believe, sir," suggested an old gentleman who was warming his toes at
the fire, "that you deposited the gentleman's cigarette
case--er--inadvertently in your own pocket!"

"Why, strike me crimson!" cried McNab, diving his beef-steakish hands
into his tunic pockets. "Why, so I did! I'm the biggest giddy fool at
that kind of wheeze that ever lived. It's a knock-out, ain't it? Never
mind--'_honi soit qui mal y_ eighteen pence,' as the French poet bloke
said!

"It so happened that on the very next day our old man's servant went
sick, and in spite of my extreme youth and innocence, I was selected
from the crowd to fill the vacant billet. And then it was that the
Colonel realised that fate had dropped a heaven-sent blessing on his
knees in the shape of a--well, in the shape of an ingenious bloke like
me. He lifted up his voice in thanksgiving for that the British Army
held warriors so wise, and then looked up his whiskey and cigars.

"At one end of Quality Street there stood a Y.M.C.A. hut. On the next
day when I pushed the door of this Bun-Wallah's paradise open, the first
person I saw was old Tommy--Tommy wot had fought up and down the
Godforsaken veldt with me for three years on end, Tommy who had always
the knack of droppin' out of the blue from nowhere.

"'Well, 'ere's a go!' he cried dropping half a cup of boiling coffee
down another chap's neck, as 'is smile broadened, 'it's a 'ell of a time
since I struck you.'

"I saw the dawn of recognition on his ugly mug; and I could have guessed
to a word the joyful expressions of welcome that were springing to his
lips."

McNab paused.

"Quite so," I prompted, seeing the change that took place in my friend's
face.

"I am afraid I should have guessed dead wrong," continued McNab with his
eyes downcast. "However, what he did spit out was: 'strike me up a
gum-tree if it ain't the bloke what borrowed 'alf a crown off me when I
was quartered at the "Shot" in '98.'

"I was pretty well worked up at this remark; but I said to him with
quiet dignity: 'I believe, Tommy, that I sent it back by post.'

"'You sent me back a threepenny bit,' he says, with a very naughty word,
'and told me it was my 'alf crown worn down.'

"'Come, come, old chum!' I laughed, 'let us forget all about that, such
a thing is really only "very small beer" indeed.'

"'Humph!' grunted Tommy. 'It was a blighted small 'alf crown, too.'

"'Sit down,' he continued, clutching me by the wrist and dragging me
into a vacant chair. It was not in champagne, of course, that we drank
each other's health. But you can always trust old Tommy to have a little
pig's ear hidden somewhere. 'What's the matter with a bottle of Bass?'
says he to me. ''Tis against ole Kitchener's wishes,' says I. 'Of course
it is,' says Tommy; 'and wot is more, it's the ruin of dear ole
England--God bless it!' 'Rot yar innards--let's go and 'ave some,' I
says bein' always one to reason out matters to a logical conclusion.

"There is a large slag heap in the neighbourhood of Quality Street where
the French and Germans met early in the war. They wanted each other's
company exclusive on this here heap. Well, they met, and fell to arguin'
whether the French should 'ave it as a mounting for a few machine-guns
or the Germans should keep it for sniping purposes. Hence the air was
soon clouded with shells, shrapnel, and all other deadly diseases.
Seeing the children had got over their shyness in this little fright and
had really played quite a good game, this particular slag heap was
bearing abundant fruit in the way of trophies. Furthermore, Tommy
suggested that it would be indeed nice if we could make our way there
one evening and collect a few German helmets, bayonets, and other
curiosities for the old people at home.

"As a result of our confabulation we found ourselves about ten that
night crawling up a hedge towards the slag heap in question. When we did
get there we went and lost our blighted selves. How long we were
crawling and twisting about that Gawd-forsaken heap or which way our
lines lay I'd no means of knowing. But poor old Tommy rolled down a bank
with an armful of German helmets and other trophies, making a noise like
a fire engine galloping up the Mile End Road. Then suddenly one of those
German flares fell on the ground about a hundred yards away, and all
things, including Tommy and I, shone out in their naked splendour. Then
you can take it from me we _did_ see where we were.

"I thought Tommy was having a bad attack of epileptic fits for a moment,
till it transpired that he had flumped down on a dead Boche in
endeavouring to escape the searching glare of the flare. After the
thing had burnt its giddy self out Tommy crawled crab-fashion over into
the providential cutting in which I had taken shelter. He was wiping his
forehead with the back of his hand, and he looked very solemn and rather
frightened. 'Did you spot that chap crouching in that V-shaped cutting
down there?' he said. 'I thought he was one of our old crowd at first,
but what with that cursed light and the excitement I could not be
certain.'

"'I saw nothing.'

"'Just before the flare went up I noticed a flash lamp; one of those
things used to give signals with. I got an awful turn then.'

"'Rot,' I said: 'I don't believe a word of it.'

"'Do you mind coming over this way then?' said Tommy.

"In the pitch-black darkness, guided by Tommy, I stumbled up a path
which I'll swear was all of a one in three gradient. We came out upon a
little ledge overlooking what we now knew to be the German lines. Tommy
motioned me to keep my eye on the V-shaped cutting in the slag below us.

"'I think the beggar is down in the extreme angle of the V,' he
whispered as he crawled beside me.

"Then I overbalanced, fell over the ridge, and dropped clean on to
something soft and yielding below. Red specks dotted the blackness
before my eyes for a few moments as I bounced on the hard stones. I
jumped up with a jerk and spun round to find, blocking my path, a
menacing figure regarding me over the barrel of a Browning pistol. In
the other hand he held an electric torch.

"'Don't move,' he said in good English.

"His tone was quiet and crisp, an' his face showed me that 'e was out
for blood.

"'I have it in my mind almost to be sorry for you, British Tommy,' he
said calmly, 'You know too much. I am going to decide on the best way to
dis----'

"He got as far as 'dis'--when something leaped out of the shadows and he
was hurled back with a sudden rush. It was Tommy, and he swung his heavy
Boche rifle and stove the man down with terrific force. There was a
dreadful half-choked, whimper and then silence.

"Tommy stood regarding the still form with a bleached face. He then bent
over him, but without touching, looked up at me.

"'Saved a firing party the trouble,' he said. 'He's dead all right.'

"He straightened himself up.

"'What the devil shall we do with it, McNab?'

"''Tis a spy he was,' I answered, 'and it's ten to one that he has a
code or some kind of papers tucked away on him. Just run through his
pockets before we leave him.'

"'No, no,' Tommy said, 'I can't touch him he'll haunt me, sure.'

"The man was quite dead when I rolled him over. I took from his pockets
a leather bound code book, English, French and German bank notes, and a
gold stop watch.

"'No good stayin' here,' said Tommy, 'I vote we crawl back and talk it
over. This is a crummy old place.'

"When we got back to billets and examined our loot, it was a sure enough
German spy's code book, and it contained a rough sketch of all our
trenches and what not, quite sufficient to use in conjunction with the
squared map he carried. The book was printed in German.

"'You know,' said Tommy, 'we must report this to the Colonel as soon as
we can.'

"'An' be collared for being out at night without a pass first thing? Not
much,' said I.

"'We must hide this loot. They may search us when they find him out
there,' said Tommy, looking to the future.

"'Hide away, then,' I said, but my mind was elsewhere, for all of a
sudden, I had been hit in the eye with a brilliant inspiration.

"The following morning, when I took our ole man his early tea, I found
'im sitting up in bed sucking a fat cigar and bewilderin' himself with
the brigade orders.

"'I beg your pardon, sir!' I says, 'but may I have a word with you?'

"'You know, McNab,' he says, screwing his eye-glass into his eye with a
smile--'you know that I am at any hour of the day or night glad to have
a talk to a man of understanding like yourself.'

"'That's good of you, Colonel,' I says, 'to meet me with such kindness.
But I think, as you say, that I have just a little more than the usual
share of intellec' under my hat, but what I have come to lay before your
notice is this: I have discovered why the Boche guns always register on
our artillery positions the moment they are taken up, and the source of
the leakage of information.'

"'Oh, you have, have you?' says he.

"''Tis a spy, sir,' says I, 'and it's signalling to the Huns he was when
I caught him.'

"'Another blessed spy legend,' he yawned, 'I really thought that you,
McNab, would be the last man to become afflicted with the spy craze. I
have arrested half a dozen so-called spies this week already only to
find they were harmless rustics--'

"'I beg your pardon, Colonel,' I returns, with that chilling dignity
which has at times even made generals falter, 'but there is no legend
about Private McNab's spy.'

"'Then trot out your spy,' he says, 'and I'll come and look 'im over.'

"'I not only caught him red-handed at his nefarious trafficking (them
was the very words I used) ... I not only caught the blighter, but I put
his light out.'

"'What?' he shouts, clutching my arm, 'you killed the poor brute.'

"'_We_ did--me and Tommy, and we found this here code in his fob,' said
I.

"With that I threw the little code book on the bed, and the old man,
after looking through it carefully (he could read German, our old man),
got out of bed and started dressing in a businesslike way.

"'Shut that door, McNab,' says he, 'and let me have the benefit of your
invaluable advice.'

"All of a sudden I was struck with a brilliant inspiration, and I let
the old Colonel have it for what it was worth.

"As it happened the old man thought a mighty lot of it--such a lot, in
fact, that by one o'clock that day he started to imagine the inspiration
had come from his own fertile brain. He liked to think that it was his,
and, Lord bless 'im, I don't grudge him the glory.

"After laying our heads together, the Colonel went back to the artillery
lines and spent three hours talking to the Battery Major, and I looted a
dozen three-pounder rockets of var-i-ous colours out of the stores. In
the afternoon the Colonel called all his officers together, and kept the
blighted motorcycle dispatch riders busy buzzing up and down the line
with messages, till late in the evening.

"'I have called you gentlemen together,' he says to his officer, 'in
order to ask you to corporate with me. I shall fire some rockets from
the slag heap to-night about ten o'clock. On the first of these signals
the Germans will open a very heavy cannonade on our trenches. I'll
trouble you to have your men all in the dug-outs, and under cover at a
quarter to ten!'

"That night, soon after the Colonel, Tommy and I started off for the
slag heap in the dark, taking with us a bundle of rockets. My idea was
at last going to be tested--what do you think it was, Sir?"

I discreetly pretended my utter inability to guess.

"Why, nothing more or less than to hoist these German blokes with their
own petard, so to speak. We were going to fool them by giving them
signals in their own code. Well, after stumbling and groping about for
half an hour," McNab continued, "we arrived at the spot near where we
had overlooked the spy.

"'I think this is the ledge from which I fell,' Tommy whispered as we
crawled on. The next instant the Colonel disappeared, and the little
procession came to an abrupt standstill. A crashing noise was heard as
the old man with a quarter of a ton of slag went tobogganing down the
stone-shod slope.

"'This _is_ the spot,' Tommy said tersely. And up to us came hoarse
whispered curses as our ole man tongue-lashed us for a full minute in
gross and detail.

"'Lie quite still, Colonel,' I whispered, 'the Hun swine-dogs may send
up a flare if they hear us.'

"But no flare flared, and no sniper sniped.

"'This game gives me the blooming creeps,' old Tommy muttered
shudderingly, thinking of Huns and guns three miles deep all round.
After that the Colonel struggled clear of the 'alf ton of slag atop o'
him. Tommy and I wandered a little more until we got down to the old
man. Here we halted. 'Here's the place where we left the dead spy,' said
Tommy, his eyes peering into the darkness of the V-shaped cutting. 'I
can still see Fritz lying in the corner. We had better get right over
_this_ side. Come on!'

"'I see,' said the Colonel. 'This is the key of the position. It
overlooks the German trenches and when the spy was using his flash lamp
he could not be observed by the men in our lines.'

"'Good thing we short-circuited his little game,' reflected Tommy
hugging an arm full of rockets.

"'Ah!' says he, fingering the electric torch. 'How this game of war
makes one think. My 'orizon has indeed broadened. Just to think that a
few flashes from this little chap will mean more than all those
glittering stars above to the German fellows in the trenches over there.
It's simply ridiculous to waste our little concert on a few Huns in the
trenches to-night. We must socialise the whole blooming show. We must
get the head up of all the Huns for miles around. Let us consult the
code book,' he said, and then opening it he read out some of the rocket
codes. They all seemed simple enough. But he had some difficulty in
finding the one he wanted, having first of all of course to translate
them into English; but presently he seized upon the one he wanted, he
repeated it over with delight:

"'_Two green rockets in rapid succession mean: "Enemy making active
preparations for offensive movement" and when followed after a suitable
interval by a single red rocket, mean: "Enemy will attack without
delay."_'

"'Touch off two green rockets, McNab, if you please,' said the Colonel
with a tremor in his voice.

"I touched off two three-pounders which rose several thousand yards, and
burst into bunches of gorgeous stars. A faint clattering noise came to
us from the Hun trenches, and we all hugged the earth fairly closely as
a rapid fusillade broke out from all quarters. Rifles cracked all around
us to the extent of thousands, and with that a most impressive humming
noise, which I had never had the pleasure of hearing before, because
being a soldier I had always formed a part of it--the noise of whole
armies turning out to meet an attack.

"'Colonel,' I says, 'it may have escaped you that the angry and 'ighly
intelligent Boche on our front will soon be sending up _their_ rockets
to confuse our own men. Might I recommend a red rocket before they open
their part of the ball, and bend the lights! That will spell to 'em:
Enemy will attack without delay, and it will also expedite their
artillery just a leetle.'

"The Colonel laid his hand on my shoulder.

"'McNab,' says he, 'there's worse blokes than you sitting on thrones.
They shall 'ave that red rocket. None the less,' he remarked, 'the
situation is undeniably getting a bit feverish. Trot out Red Rufus!'

"I rightly took the command to read:

"'Send up a red rocket.' Rufus soared up into the sky and burst into a
red glare that simply shouted: 'Here they come after you' to the Huns.

"'Oh-h-h-h-h!' exclaimed old Tommy as the twirly-whirly red stars fell
through the sky.

"'Silence!' said the old man. 'This is the sanguinary British
Expeditionary Force, not a (decorated) Brock's Benefit at the Crystal
Palace. What in Hong-Kong are you jumping about like a richly decorated
organ-grinder's monkey for?'

"The Huns grasped the meaning of their dead spy's signal as soon as it
showed in the heavens, so to speak. We lay belly-flat and held our
breaths for a moment or so in silence, but we were about the only silent
things for a hundred miles. Flares went up by the thousand and
searchlights cut up the sky in every direction. All kinds of mysterious
guns got into action and all the batteries for a hundred miles must have
let drive as well. From then on, for at least two hours, the shells
poured excruciating-wise into our deserted trenches without
cessation,--shrapnel, high explosive, six inch, twelve inch--thousands
of pounds the Huns wasted that night.

"I wish you could have seen Tommy bowing to right and left of the German
trenches acknowledging the applause which the Huns would have given him
if they'd known the facts. On the other hand, as the Colonel observed,
they might 'ave killed him.

"'They'll have to pull up their socks at Krupp's to replace the shells
they have blazed away in this little pantomime,' said Tommy pressing his
hands to his sides. 'Star programme--heap big star programme! Phew! Oh,
I wish I could stop laughing, I ain't 'ad such a laugh for years!'

"'And in this little code book here,' said the old man, a hand on each
of our shoulders, 'there are hundreds of little love messages we can be
getting ready to surprise 'em with. Presently we'll begin to send 'em
instructions to concentrate their fire on empty houses--tell 'em they
are chock-full of British troops. Then they'll fairly let loose the
bow-yows of war. Damme, how their gunners will gun! Oblige me by
thinking of four hundred guns, pumping val-u-able shells into an empty
house.'

"The exquisite humour of it brought us down screaming with laughter in a
tangle on the slag-heap. A searchlight broke out from the back of the
Hun trenches and began searching our lines.

"'They're looking for our attacking party, or the Angels of Mons,'
panted the old man, his knees in a shell hole and his face in the grass.
'Well, let's get our things packed and hurry back. I think they have
sent back for a fresh supply of shells. The sooner we get out of it the
better. Sufficient unto the day--or night, perhaps one should say.'

"Well, it's dry work talking," said McNab, wistfully surveying the
interior of his empty mug.

I took measures--pint measures--to allay his thirst.

"Let me see now," he said; "let me see."

"And did you do any signalling with the flash lamp the next night?" I
timidly hinted, "I believe you mentioned that it was your intention."

"Yes, we did have some fun, I can tell you, and 'twas better still next
night. Once more we returned, to the slag-heap, then," McNab swept on,
"we started to flash a few messages over to the German lines. They soon
picked up our signals and after a brief interrogation they replied. Then
they started to ask questions. 'At which part of the British line would
it be wise to launch an attack?' they flashed.

"And our old man flashed back a trench that was fairly bristly with
machine guns. Then they asked other questions, but we did not reply. We
laid low and said nothing, for you can take it from me, mister, that a
real spy is a man of few words, and playing with a flashlight in enemy
lines is not exactly a healthy game.

"Had we have signalled too freely the Huns would have soon become
suspicious, for, mark you, the flares that we had popped off at 'em the
night before had left 'em with an uncomfortable feeling that their spy
was taking quite unreasonable risks. It is of course most unusual for a
spy to make use of rocket signals. Do I make myself comprehensible?"

"Perfectly. Did the Huns attack?" I asked.

McNab nodded. "They attacked us three days afterwards at five o'clock in
the morning. It was like a nightmare. The Germans came on, evidently
thinking they were on a soft job, and you can realize what a wonderful
target they made for the gunners who had been waiting for 'em. Such a
target that gunners dream about but never see. We had some
eighteen-and-a-'arf-pounders not five hundred yards away, and they let
go right into the thick of 'em. And each case shot with its four hundred
bullets swept and tore their ranks. With a mighty gasp and something
like a groan the Huns staggered, recovered, and with wild yells came
charging on to a hundred machine guns. And all the time the shells came
over at them and tore wide swathes in their closely-packed ranks. Then
our boys got into 'em and swept the remaining Huns into eternity!"

"Unless this story had come from such a highly-reliable fountain-head,
McNab," I murmured, after a moment or so, "I would never have believed
that the whole thing was not a fabrication."

McNab removed his pot of beer on one side, and leaned across the table.
I moved my chair back quickly, just missing another vigorous stab from
his huge index-finger.

"The history of this war," he observed impressively, "will be interwoven
with extraordinary things like this 'ere tale I have been telling you.
And you may lay to it, mister, that the most extraordinary things of all
will never see the light of day in the printed page."

"I can _quite_ understand that," I said pointedly; "for, although a
student of military history of this war myself, I cannot recall a single
reference to any of the remarkable events which occurred in the trenches
during the eight months you were with your regiment over there!"

McNab regarded me for a full minute with rapidly-rising choler. Then he
shifted his stare from me to an old gentleman who was warming his toes
at the fire.

"The yarn I have told you is as true as the drill book, though you need
not believe it if you have conscientious objections. I have been
recounting real slices of history. Leastways, when I say history I may
be wrong, because they will never appear in history. But they
_'appened_, Mister--'appened as surely as I am sitting here with an
empty pot in front o' me. An'--an'----" McNab stammered in his
excitement--"if any bloke says they didn't, be jabers, I'll--I'll drink
his beer!"

But neither the old gentleman nor any member of the company wished to
disagree with him, and he rose up from the chair with a mug to order his
final half-pint. He returned (a trifle unsteadily, perhaps) with his
beer and a particularly vile cigar in his mouth. Whether it was the
effect of the heat or the--er--beer I cannot say, but he blundered over
my legs, causing me a sharp twinge of pain.

"What an awkward beggar you are that you can't see to walk straight," I
said.

McNab looked down at my legs after giving them another stirring up with
his foot. "Why, Go' bless my soul," he said, "it's quite true, I am an
awkward devil. I certainly should have seen _those_ feet. However did
you get 'em into the bar?"



V

THROUGH THE FURNACE

    Give us our rest, O Father, in thine own appointed time and of thy
    gracious olden fashion. Lay thy annulling seal upon the o'erlabored
    heart: drop thy healing nepenthe into the weary brain. Teach us not
    to fear that which brings us nearer to Thee. Suffer us to go to
    sleep with no more consciousness than the flowers that take no care
    for their awakening. Give us this last and best of all thy
    gifts--Parva domus, magna quies!


Hilaire O'Hagan sat in the September sunshine on the grass that skirted
the roadside. For some time he had been examining with a stare of
melancholy interest the worn toes of his boots. On his head was a dingy
straw hat; to his form and limbs there hung a faded and creased coat and
a pair of shiny black trousers;--he held in his hand five shillings
which had been thrust into his hand when the prison gates had opened to
him that morning. He had taken the money and swaggered out with a
parting gibe at the constable who closed the doors behind him.

O'Hagan was an incorrigible rascal. Some years before, when he stood in
the Assize Court, a venerable judge had told him so. "O'Hagan," said
the judge grimly, "you are what I should term an incorrigible rogue, and
I shall send you to prison for two years with hard labour. You have run
across my path many times before. When you gain your liberty it will be
very much to your advantage if you keep out of my way for good and all."

O'Hagan had received the sentence with the same impertinent smirk on his
face as he had received many similar sentences.

Now he was a free man. He was powerful, full of health, and--lazy. He
reflected aloud, with evident enjoyment (and in the speech of a lettered
gentleman), "This is indeed one of those days when it is good to be
alive!"

"O'Hagan!" came a sudden voice, harsh and authoritative, from behind
him: He rose to his feet and faced about. In the roadway appeared the
constable to whom he had addressed some not over polite remarks on his
way out of prison.

"Well?" said O'Hagan.

The constable snorted. "Didn't you hear me tell you to move on? We don't
want any habitual criminals hanging about here."

O'Hagan dived his hands deep into the pockets of his shiny trousers and
slouched along towards the next village. About a mile ahead was an inn
he knew of where he might enjoy a great refreshment, and drink the
waters of Lethe. He jingled the silver in his pocket and reflected that
for one night at least he could eat strongly, and drink largely, and
sleep deeply.

       *       *       *       *       *

Outside a house screened by a mysterious ten foot wall full of the plain
dignity of unpretending age, a long grey motor car was standing. O'Hagan
turned and surveyed it, and his quick eye rested upon a leather hand
case on a rug beneath the seat. It did not take him a moment to snatch
it and hide it swiftly beneath his coat. For a second or so he stood
back against the wall. At that moment a girl came out of the house, in
company with an elderly gentleman, and walked towards the car. O'Hagan
looked at the girl swiftly. At the same time she glanced at him, and
their eyes met. Things looked unhealthy for O'Hagan. But fate was
altogether with him, and the motor moved off and left him standing there
with the case under his coat. No glorious figure, this man, but one of
those whom specialists now place amongst the doomed as cursed with the
criminal instinct, with the vices that require lavish means to feed
them--a man who only feels a thrill in life when he is preying on his
fellows, or eluding the hand of justice.

       *       *       *       *       *

O'Hagan walked down the road a little way with his hand resting
lovingly on the leather case. He turned a corner, cut through the hedge,
and took a track across a field. In the shelter of a clump of bushes he
sat leisurely on the grass and went over the contents. Among the various
odds and ends was a leather purse. He opened it with trembling fingers.
There was a sovereign, five one pound notes folded up, eight shillings
in silver, and a small silver cross hanging on a black silk riband. He
dropped the silver with a sigh of satisfaction into his trousers pocket,
and the notes he stored in the lining of his hat. He took up the little
cross and was about to thrust it into the thick grass, when he paused
for a moment, and was aware of an oppressive feeling.

    On a sudden, in the midst of men and day,
      And while he sat and looked around,
    He seemed to be in a bygone age,
      And feel himself the shadow of a dream.

O'Hagan felt that his body was decreasing, sinking under the green turf,
falling down, down, down, and yet "He" was still above, gazing,
wondering, open-eyed, open-mouthed, as it were. Gradually, but none the
less surely, he was being crowded round by many moving "?'s" which never
seemed to grow distinct. He seemed to know at once he was back in the
days long past. He shut his eyes against a burning that felt like tears.
When he opened them again he was looking at his own name, fairly carved
in on the silver cross in quaint old English letters:

    Hilaire O'Hagan

The clump of bushes before him was now obscured by a thin white cloud.
As he watched he was aware of a figure that stood out distinctly before
him. He was a man of his own height, thick-set, serious-looking, in a
monk's mantle and hood. O'Hagan gave a hurried glance, and as hurriedly
turned his head away again. The face of the man exactly resembled his
own. But it was an honest face, without the look of dissipation, and the
secret furtive air, which he knew marred his own features. He also
thought he could see a faint nimbus round his head--but this may have
been illusion. O'Hagan moved away as if he had no wish to see him; but
the stranger was not to be put off by any such trick. He touched
O'Hagan's arm, and brought him to a standstill.

"Brother!" he said in a gentle voice.

O'Hagan pulled himself up sharply. For a moment it seemed as if he would
have refused to stay, but the next he realized that it would be of no
use.

"What do you want with me?" he began. "I know I'm a thief and a
drunkard. Do you want to hand me a Sunday School tract? If so get it
over."

The stranger's hand tightened on his arm, and he began to speak in a
calm but strangely thrilling voice. "It is written there: '_men do not
despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry._'"

"Well?" said O'Hagan, trying to hold a countenance of little concern.

"Well?" said the stranger, "for why did you steal?"

O'Hagan coughed and held down his head.

"A man without scruple and without heart," the stranger remarked to
himself.

O'Hagan looked up with a start. "Look here," he began. "You've no right
to----"

Then of a sudden the mist began to rise from the clump of bushes and the
stranger vanished. O'Hagan was back in the flesh. He stood there dazed
for the moment, with the little cross clutched in his hand. He sat down
again and _tried_ to force his spirit back to the other scene, but in
vain. He felt that he had been thrilled through and through. The
oppression, however, unlike the stern-faced monk, did not vanish, it
deepened. A throbbing headache came on, which refused to be shaken off,
and eventually sent O'Hagan to the "Bell Inn" to drink still deeper of
the waters of oblivion.

The day was already falling when he walked, jingling his silver, into
the sanded bar of the "Bell Inn," and an hour or so later, when it began
to fill with drovers and country folk, O'Hagan had looked much on the
good brown ale. He was in fact becoming very noisy. Seated in a corner,
he sang "Nell and Roger at the Wake" in a hoarse voice. The country folk
grinned and looked at him curiously.

"Shut your gab, old sport," said a rough-looking drover at last, "that
song is not fit for decent folk to hear."

O'Hagan swore like any trooper, and reached his hand out to a large
spirit bottle at his elbow, and for a moment the drover thought he would
get it thrown at his head. However, O'Hagan rose to his feet, made a bow
to the company, and made an apology to the drover. He stood there, a
blackguard on the face of him, but a gentleman in spite of that
undefinable and vaguely repulsive smirk which played about his straight
and refined mouth. He slunk away into the night.

As O'Hagan walked the night deepened in throbs of gathering darkness.
The sense of uneasiness that had been with him ever since the priest in
the cassock had appeared to him was not to be easily thrown off. He set
himself to argue down the uneasiness for which there was no more
foundation than a bad attack of "nerves" after the gloomy life in
prison. He told himself, till he believed it, that a man--just a human
man--had been crossing the fields, and that being smitten with religious
fervour he had quoted the Scripture aloud, as he had often heard such
people do. He told himself it was mere fancy that was the cause of the
belief that something was _shining_ around the man's head. As he argued
these things away, and banished the face of his visitor, a certain sort
of reason usurped his place. But he did not feel comfortable, however,
he fell short of any form of fear.

It was O'Hagan's whole business to find desolate corners, where he could
sleep without the fear of interruption by the police; and hence being in
a part of the country that he knew well, he bethought himself suddenly
of the great barn next to the mansion house at Tilney St. Lawrence. It
was always full of good hay, as large as a barrack and no thoroughfare
passed within a quarter of a mile of it. In such a place, and with the
scent of the hay to lull him, O'Hagan threw his tired body down, and
soon lost all the cares of the world in complete repose.

All his life O'Hagan had been a habitual dreamer; the nights were few,
that is to say, when on awakening he did not find that some mental
traffics and discoveries had been his, and at times, the whole night
through he would meet with most dazzling adventures. In prison his
dreams had been a great solace to him, and each night he had settled
down to devote the dark hours to the cultivation of joyous dreams. He
was one of those men who went to sleep fair and square, and looked for
dreams. But as O'Hagan stretched in the hay, things were revealed to him
that were beyond all dreams, and of course he could not keep the
strange priest out of the vision. It opened with finding himself in
front of the doors of an old church, where, he understood, he was going
to hide from someone who wanted to kill him. He knocked on the door and
the man who opened the door was the very priest he had seen in the
afternoon. He asked him to step in and instantly turned round and walked
up the dimly lit aisle, and O'Hagan understood that he had to follow. In
silence they passed through a small arch in the chancel and mounted a
narrow oak staircase with many corners and tortuous turns and arrived at
a small landing with a studded door set in it. Quite inexplicably
O'Hagan's heart sank at the sight of it. However, the priest unlocked
and opened it, and held it open for him to enter, and without coming in
himself, closed it. It was a small oak room with a stone floor, and a
curious smell at once attracted his notice. It was there--there, close
to him--under his very nose--the strong, acrid odour of decay--the
nauseating smell of the grave. Looking about he saw the floor was paved
with grave stones. In one corner stood a fine seventeenth century lead
coffin. A curious greyish light shone from it. O'Hagan's conjecture had
been right: there was something awful in the room, and with the terror
of nightmare seizing him swiftly by the throat and throttling him, he
awoke in a spasm of terror. O'Hagan was sitting bolt upright with the
impression that someone had flashed a lantern in his face, though the
barn was absolutely pitch dark. "I've had a most diabolical nightmare.
It was the drink," he said to himself, and decided to go to sleep again.
But the excessive heat of the barn would let him rest no longer. The
atmosphere seemed to be hot and pungent, and he groped about and opened
the door to let in some air. Almost at the same moment someone cried
"Fire!" and shapes of things began to define in a soft grey
glimmering;--and the gloom was broken up by a red and angry spurt of
flame from a wing of the old manor house. Again cries of "Fire!" came to
his ears, and grew and multiplied. O'Hagan was fully awake in an
instant, and running at top speed towards the old mansion. When he
reached it the whole sky about was illuminated by a red and angry light.
Almost at the moment of his arrival a tower of smoke arose in front of
the porch window, and with a tingling report, a pane fell outwards at
his feet. A crowd of cowed and white-faced country folk drew back when
he rushed up. Then he looked up at the porch window and saw what it was
that made the people go. He saw a girl's terrified face at the window.
"The girl I lifted the bag from," he said aloud. "She'll be burnt to
death."

The heavy hall doors were surrounded by the inmates of the house who had
escaped and O'Hagan pushed through them, and sprang up the broad
stairway mid choking volumes of smoke. When reached the room above the
porch the heat was fierce, and the roaring of the fire filled his ears,
and he had scarce carried the terrified girl out of the room when a side
door fell in, and a branch of flame shot brandishing through the
aperture, and the head of the stairs became lit up with a dreadful and
fluctuating glare. He carried her swiftly down the stairs, he feared
every moment that they would crumple and fall in. But he fought his way
grimly, and his jerky swear words were lost in the roaring of the fire.
Another moment and they were in the open. Firelight and moonlight
illuminating the country around with confused and violent lustre, and
banked against the stars and the sky they could see a glowing track of
smoke.

"That was a near thing, Miss."

"I thought my end had come!" she said, the colour returning slowly to
her face. "There would have been no chance at all if you had not come up
for me, as I was then almost suffocated. It was a very brave act!" She
did not thank him--she couldn't have spoken plain words of thanks to
save her life--but O'Hagan knew what she thought--"Don't say any more
about it, Miss, I am really a coward at heart."

"I'm sure I owe my life to you," she said earnestly. "I know there are
some things for which thanks are an insult, but you will not mind if I
offer you a little token of gratitude?"

O'Hagan's hand was resting on a small silver cross in his pocket, and in
another moment he solemnly handed the girl the money and notes he had
stolen. "Why, whatever is this?" asked the girl, staring at O'Hagan in
bewildered amazement.

"That's yours," he said by way of assistance.

"But I don't understand!" she cried, greatly puzzled.

"Well, Miss, I suppose it does require some elucidation," O'Hagan
replied somewhat nervously. "You see, it's only a return of stolen
goods. You remember visiting a house in the big grey motor car
yesterday, Miss?"

"Yes."

"Well, I stole your bag from under the seat. I have given you back again
all that I have left. But I will take this little cross as a token." He
dangled the little silver charm before her face, and before she had time
to take in the situation O'Hagan had disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

The long plains of Northern Europe stretched before the gaze of a
regiment of British infantry--great undulations of sodden earth left by
the winter rains and thaws. There, in the piercing cold that froze the
feet, they waited the signal to advance. Stray bullets whined and pinged
as they struck the wire and sand bags on the top of the trenches;
occasionally a man fell on his face; and the ghastly change in the faces
of the troops bore testimony to the effects. Hilaire O'Hagan lay
stretched upon his face, occasionally looking towards his officer. His
heart beat like the pulsing of a motor car. His throat felt dry, his
cheeks were burning. At times a cold shiver passed right through his
frame. He fidgeted and lolled from one side, to the other. It seemed to
him that he had waited hours for the signal to get over the trenches. He
tried to strike a match for his pipe; his hand was trembling furiously.
It occurred to him that after having passed through the gory awfulness
of six months' incessant fighting, he was beginning to lose his nerve.
He was no longer master of himself. He was afraid. Every man has the
instinct that prompts fear, for upon that instinct the whole foundation
of life-preservation is founded. But over and above this instinct,
common to all of us, O'Hagan had imagination--the graphic, vivid
imagination that always lurks in Irish blood. Is not the entire history
of the Celt a rejection of the things of this world for the Shadow and
the dream? Upon this basis of fear and imagination O'Hagan started to
build, building and building until he had created a grand structure of
blind terror which yielded a most exquisite torture to his mind.

A whistle sounded and a shudder traversed the men all down the trench.
The officer called to his men. He mounted the parapet and jumped over.
There was a sound like the rushing of a river as the regiment poured
itself over the trench. The men advanced slowly and dazedly. Now any
acute observer would note that the men were bewildered and had little
heart in the fight. Their faces worked; and they struggled to walk on,
but it seemed useless. The bullets were pattering all around and taking
heavy toll. Then a few yards in front a shrapnel shell kicked up the
mud. The German guns had found the range. Someone shouted out the fatal
words "Lie down." The regiment was soon hugging the earth, which was
about the best thing they could have done. Great showers of shrapnel
burst over them, and the bullets struck down on them in a continuous
shower. Some men rose to their feet, and the shrapnel withered them.
Suddenly one shell burst over O'Hagan, blotting out all around him in
smoke and dust, and brutally jerking his mind to fullest tension. This
shell fire was hell! With the crash imagination and fear began to work
together in his overworked brain--both at once in the queerest jumbling
manner. In a few moments O'Hagan was on his feet running away--racing as
if not merely for his life, but his soul.

When O'Hagan's brain cooled and his sight cleared he found himself in
the doorway of a little wrecked church. The German shells had gashed
and ripped the sides and roof, so that birds flew in and out at will.
Hundreds of sparrows chirped in the oak beams above. The shells had
pitted, starred and jerked up the blue flagstones in the porch on which
O'Hagan stood. Parts of the old church had been shelled nearly level;
little twisted fragments of beautiful leaded windows had been swept up
in a pile outside with other wreckage. As O'Hagan walked up the aisle a
feeling came over him that he knew much of the old place. A quintessence
and distillation of peace and comradeship seemed to inhabit the soft
gloam of its chancel. He found himself drifting back to past days and
seeing dimly in a thin white cloud faces that seemed familiar and yet
were unnameable. Then one face stood out distinctly, and O'Hagan watched
it with breathless wonder and fascination. He moved closer up to it; he
would have given much not to have done so, but he could not help
himself--he looked closer, and it was--the face of the monk who had
appeared to him once before. When the cloud had cleared a little, the
outline of the monk wearing a hood and cowl became visible. Then was
there a voice that he identified at once despite the lapse of two years
since he had last heard it. "I have been wanting to speak to you,
brother, for many hours, but _something_ I cannot explain to mortal man
has prevented me." The priest instantly turned round and O'Hagan
understood that he meant him to follow. His heart sank at once, and he
experienced a sense of dreadful oppression and foreboding, and with a
sudden thrill, partly of fear, and partly of curiosity he followed. They
passed up the aisle and a perfectly familiar staircase. Then he opened a
door, and went in, and at the same moment, sheer unreasoning terror
seized him. He was afraid, but did not know why: he was simply afraid.
Then like a sudden recollection, when one remembers some trivial
adventure of childhood, O'Hagan looked for the old lead coffin. He cast
his eyes about with a certain air of proprietorship, and compared the
room with the room of his dreams. Nothing had changed. And then, with a
sudden start of unexplained dread, he saw that the coffin was in the
corner--the same leaden coffin that he knew so well with the same
curious greyish light coming from it. There was lettering on the lid.

"What's written there? What's there? Who's there?" he called. He called
and continued to call; then another terror, the terror of the sound of
his own voice seized him; he did not dare to call again; he whispered.
There was something written on the coffin that his mind reeled to
entertain. Without quite knowing how he came to be there, O'Hagan found
himself bending over the coffin. He read the lettering, and it was:

    _Hilaire O'Hagan ob. 1696 aetat 35.
        Parva domus, magna quies._

He sank down on his knees with a childish sob. Sometimes the old church
seemed absolutely still, and the only sound to be heard was the sighing
of the night breeze below him in the pines, but sometimes the place
seemed full of muffled movements, and once O'Hagan could have sworn that
the large carved handle of the door turned. Even as he stood there he
heard steps just outside, and with a sudden horror, he saw the heavy
door slowly open. A priest stood in the open doorway with an inscrutable
smile on his lips--the same clean-shaven man with a long aquiline nose
and singularly square chin, that he had seen before in his dreams.

"Brother," he said, in a moved voice. "You must go back and help your
comrades. There is no peace for you yet. Yes, brother, I know it is
written that we shall rest from our labours--but the beginning of our
rest is not yet. _We_ must go and help them in the firing line
yonder----"

"No, no, holy man!" O'Hagan pleaded. "I have had enough.... There is
hell over there."

"They are calling us, don't you hear them--the living and the dead----"

O'Hagan could see those great green flashes that burst in the sky so
near to him. He could almost hear the angry zipping of high explosive
shrapnel close over his head. God! how he hated it all!

"How hard it is, Father, to make these children understand!" came softly
from the priest's lips.

O'Hagan's regiment had retired to their trenches in good order. They
were some of those trenches round about Ypres, and all the world has
read how the Germans battered and delivered terrific infantry attacks on
this part of our line without cessation. A certain morning, about six
o'clock, the Huns decided to deliver a sharp attack, and there was
"considerable artillery activity" on the part of the German guns. Such
activity was spoken of in the trenches as "raising the lid off Hell."
There was a lull after about an hour's rain of every kind of missile
that man has invented to batter his brother with. Then the Huns came on
in earnest. Some reached the trenches only to be met with a murderous
fire: they fell in little huddled heaps in the blood and the mud and the
slime of the trenches. But the whole German race seemed to be flowing in
on the British, and they fairly got into the trenches, though they were
twice driven out. Yard by yard the battalion retired. The next moment an
unearthly, fluorescent light shot and flooded along the trenches. The
troops gasped for a moment, and then started back. Standing on a
traverse in full view of Germans and Englishmen was a tall man with
yellow hair, in a priest's cassock. He was brandishing a sword that
flashed like a tongue of flame, and crying "Turn back! turn back!
advance!"

Private Hilaire O'Hagan, the deserter, stood beside him holding a
massive brass altar cross above his head. From that moment O'Hagan
behaved like one possessed. He hurled himself over the traverse into the
"green" of the German regiment, and started hacking and stabbing with
the pointed end of the cross. The Huns did not like the look of such a
wild apparition and refused to face him. Bit by bit they retired and
O'Hagan took advantage of a moment to take a green silk Irish flag, with
a crownless harp, from his pocket, and attach it to the spike of the
cross. Then, roaring like a lion and brandishing his strange weapon, he
fell on them once more--and as they broke he saw the hooded priest
driving them before him with his flaming sword. A great joy seemed to
burn up in his soul. Men who watched him said he ran amok. His great
voice rose high above the chattering machine guns in a beautiful
Franciscan chant and the voice of the priest joined in. What O'Hagan,
bearing his mighty cross, must have looked like in the eerie dawn mist,
Heaven knows. But seeing such an apparition and hearing the strange
chant, it is possible the Huns thought the devil had joined in the
fight. Then a man in the rear trench pointed to the west, where a great
image of the cross was shining against a blood red sky, and a voice
cried "Forward." It passed from man to man, and the regiment advanced,
howling, with O'Hagan. They drove the Germans before them like chaff
before a fan, and fell back, in triumph, to their lost trenches. They
saw O'Hagan stagger a little and then turn round to where the regiment
boiled with joy in the trenches.

"You are back, my children," he shouted. "It is well, for my poor soul
desires rest.... Aye, rest indeed!"

A great peace settled on O'Hagan's face, as he slowly collapsed and lay
very still.

Not long after this a country parson received a letter from a
hare-brained member of his flock, who for many years had been good
enough to keep him in touch with his doings in far lands. The old vicar
had heard that the "young scoundrel," as he called him, had joined a
volunteer regiment, and was in the thick of the fighting around Ypres.
The letter was written in pencil on leaves torn from a note-book. The
portion that will interest the reader of this story most is here quoted.

"On Monday I came across an old friend (?) of ours--Hilaire O'Hagan. We
had a brush with about five thousand Huns, and we had under-estimated
their strength. They rushed us in the dawning--a living, greenish-grey
wave rolled over our trenches, shooting and hacking at the heart of
what had once been a regiment of British Infantry. When the second wave
lapped over, our men were overborne but they were trying, by common
instinct, to reach the second line trenches where they could re-form.
Then I saw O'Hagan who had dropped from God knows where, standing
silhouetted against the red of dawn on the front line trench. He was
waving a brass cross and the bullets were pattering around him and
making a noise like rats skipping about an empty house. My God! Pluck! I
never thought O'Hagan had it in him. I tell you, he hurled himself down
on the rifles of a thousand Huns, and 'drove them hence' with his mighty
brass cross. Our men were soon rallying on the lost trench. The
stragglers clutched at each other, and pointed to where the cross
flashed and reeled in the seething mass. Under cover of night our bearer
party brought in O'Hagan stone dead with over twenty bullet wounds in
him. I know, vicar, when you read this, it will flash into your mind
that poor O'Hagan had been drinking again. You may banish any such
thought ... there was a different look in O'Hagan's eyes. He had seen
the 'immortal light, all young and joyful, million-orbed,
million-coloured, as on the first morning.' We carried him and his cross
over to an old monastery where we found one of those quaint lead
coffins--like the one in the crypt in _our_ old church--and laid him at
rest beneath the cool blue flagstones outside the chancel door. One of
our men, a stone-mason in times of peace, roughly graved his name on the
slab above him. As I walked back to the trenches I turned back to have a
last look at the grave. A priest was standing over it with hands
outstretched to bless...."


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

_Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and
Aylesbury, for Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd._





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