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Title: Tell England - A Study in a Generation
Author: Raymond, Ernest, 1888-1974
Language: English
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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.

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TELL ENGLAND

_A Study in a Generation_


By ERNEST RAYMOND



NEW YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
1922



     _For all emotions that are tense and strong,
        And utmost knowledge, I have lived for these--
      Lived deep, and let the lesser things live long,
        The everlasting hills, the lakes, the trees,
      Who'd give their thousand years to sing this song
        Of Life, and Man's high sensibilities,
      Which I into the face of Death can sing--
      O Death, then poor and disappointed thing--

           Strike if thou wilt, and soon; strike breast and brow;
           For I have lived: and thou canst rob me now
           Only of some long life that ne'er has been.
           The life that I have lived, so full, so keen,
           Is mine! I hold it firm beneath thy blow
           And, dying, take it with me where I go._



  CONTENTS


  A PROLOGUE BY PADRE MONTY


  BOOK I: FIVE GAY YEARS OF SCHOOL

  _Part I: Tidal Reaches_

 Chapter
      I  RUPERT RAY BEGINS HIS STORY
     II  RUPERT OPENS A GREAT WAR
    III  AWFUL ROUT OF RAY
     IV  THE PREFECTS GO OVER TO THE ENEMY
      V  CHEATING
     VI  AN INTERLUDE

  _Part II: Long, Long Thoughts_

    VII  CAUGHT ON THE BEATEN TRACK
   VIII  THE FREEDHAM REVELATIONS
     IX  WATERLOO OPENS
      X  WATERLOO CONTINUES: THE CHARGE AT THE END OF THE DAY
     XI  THE GREAT MATCH
    XII  CASTLES AND BRICK-DUST


  BOOK II: AND THE REST--WAR

  _Part I: "Rangoon" Nights_

      I  THE ETERNAL WATERWAY
     II  PADRE MONTY AND MAJOR HARDY COME ABOARD
    III  "C. OF E., NOW AND ALWAYS"
     IV  THE VIGIL
      V  PENANCE
     VI  MAJOR HARDY AND PADRE MONTY FINISH THE VOYAGE

  _Part II: The White Heights_

    VII  MUDROS, IN THE ISLE OF LEMNOS
   VIII  THE GREEN ROOM
     IX  PROCEEDING FORTHWITH TO GALLIPOLI
      X  SUVLA AND HELLES AT LAST
     XI  AN ATMOSPHERE OF SHOCKS AND SUDDEN DEATH
    XII  SACRED TO WHITE
   XIII  "LIVE DEEP, AND LET THE LESSER THINGS LIVE LONG"
    XIV  THE NINETEENTH OF DECEMBER
     XV  TRANSIT
    XVI  THE HOURS BEFORE THE END
   XVII  THE END OF GALLIPOLI
  XVIII  THE END OF RUPERT'S STORY



TELL ENGLAND



A PROLOGUE BY PADRE MONTY


§1

In the year that the Colonel died he took little Rupert to see the
swallows fly away. I can find no better beginning than that.

When there devolved upon me as a labour of love the editing of
Rupert Ray's book, "Tell England," I carried the manuscript into my
room one bright autumn afternoon, and read it during the fall of a
soft evening, till the light failed, and my eyes burned with the
strain of reading in the dark. I could hardly leave his ingenuous
tale to rise and turn on the gas. Nor, perhaps, did I want such
artificial brightness. There are times when one prefers the
twilight. Doubtless the tale held me fascinated because it revealed
the schooldays of those boys whom I met in their young manhood, and
told afresh that wild old Gallipoli adventure which I shared with
them. Though, sadly enough, I take Heaven to witness that I was not
the idealised creature whom Rupert portrays. God bless them, how
these boys will idealise us!

Then again, as Rupert tells you, it was I who suggested to him the
writing of his story. And well I recall how he demurred, asking:

"But what am I to write about?" For he was always diffident and
unconscious of his power.

"Is Gallipoli nothing to write about?" I retorted. "And you can't
have spent five years at a great public school like Kensingtowe
without one or two sensational things. Pick them out and let us have
them. For whatever the modern theorists say, the main duty of a
story-teller is certainly to tell stories."

"But I thought," he broke in, "that you're always maintaining that
the greatest fiction should be occupied with Subjective Incident."

"Don't interrupt, you argumentative child," I said (you will find
Rupert is impertinent enough in one place to suggest that I have a
tendency to be rude and a tendency to hold forth). "Surely the ideal
story must contain the maximum of Objective Incident with the
maximum of Subjective Incident. Only give us the exciting events of
your schooldays, and describe your thoughts as they happened, and
you will unconsciously reveal what sort of scoundrelly characters
you and your friends were. And when you get to the Gallipoli part,
well, you can give us chiefly your thoughts, for Gallipoli, as far
as dramatic incident is concerned, is well able to shift for
itself."

Little wonder that I was fascinated to read Rupert's final
manuscript. And, when I had finished the last words, I
announced aloud a weighty decision: "We must have a Prologue,
Rupert,"--though, to be sure, my study was empty at the time--"and
it must give pictures of what your three heroes were like, when they
were small, abominable boys."

And thereafter I busied myself in seeking information of the early
childhood of Rupert Ray, Archibald Pennybet, and Edgar Gray Doe. Not
without misgiving do I offer the result of these researches, for I
fear all the time lest my self-conscious hand should profane
Rupert's artless narrative.

In the year that the Colonel died he took little Rupert to see the
swallows fly away. Colonel Ray was a stately, grey-bearded
grandfather; and Rupert his flushed and blue-eyed grandson of six
years old; and the two stood side by side and watched. Behind them
lay the French town, Boulogne; beside them went the waters of the
French river, the Liane. Suddenly Rupert, who had kept his blue eyes
on a sky but little bluer, cried out excitedly: "There they are!"
For him at that moment the most interesting thing in the world was
the flight of swallows overhead. The Colonel, also, looked at the
birds till they were out of sight, and then, after keeping silence
awhile, uttered a remark which was rather sent in pursuit of the
birds than addressed to his young companion. "I shall not see the
swallows again," he said.

Colonel Rupert Ray was no ordinary person. He was one of those of
whom tales are told; and such people are never ordinary. The most
treasured of these tales is the story of the swallows; and it goes
on to tell, as you would expect, how the Colonel died that year,
before the swallows came flying north and home again. He was buried,
while little Rupert and Rupert's mother looked on, in that untidy
corner of the Boulogne Cemetery, where many another English half-pay
officer had been laid before him.

Of course the burial of the Colonel was very sad for Rupert; but he
soon forgot it all in the excitement of preparing for the journey
back to London. The Colonel, you see, had known that his old life
would break up soon, and had summoned from their home in London the
widow and child of his favourite son, "that Rupert, the best of the
lot," as he used to call him. And now the Colonel was dead. So his
grandson, the last of the Rupert Rays, could look forward to all the
jolly thrills of steaming across the Channel to Folkestone and
bowling in a train to London. Really life was an excellent thing.

The day of the venturesome voyage began with excited sleeplessness
and glowing health, and ended with a headache and great tiredness.
There was the bustle of embarkation on to the boat; the rattle and
bang of falling luggage; the jangle of French and English tongues;
the unstraining of mighty ropes; the "hoot! hoot!" from the funnel,
a side-splitting incident; the _suff-suff-lap-suff_ of the
ploughed-up sea; the spray of the Channel, which sprinkling one's
cheeks, caused one to roar with laughter, till more moderation was
enjoined; the incessant throb of the engines; the vision of white
cliffs, and the excitement among the passengers; the headache; the
landing on a black old pier; the privilege of guarding the luggage
by sitting upon as much of one trunk as six years' growth of boy
will cover, and pressing firmly upon two other trunks with either
hand, while Mrs. Ray (that capable lady) changed francs into
shillings; there was the wearisome and rolling train-journey,
wherein one slept, first against the window and then against the
black sleeve of an unknown gentleman; and lastly there was the
realisation that pale and sunny France had withdrawn into the past
to make room for pale and smutty London.

Now the Captain of all these manoeuvres, as the meanest
intelligence will have observed, was Mrs. Ray. Mrs. Ray was Rupert's
mother, and as beautiful as every mother must be, who has an only
son, and is a widow. Moreover she was a perfect teller of stories:
all really beautiful mothers are. And, for years after, she used at
evening time to draw young Rupert against her knees, and tell him
the traditional stories of that old half-pay officer at Boulogne.
And grandfather was indeed a hero in these stories. We suspect--but
who can sound the artful depths of a woman who is at once young,
lovely, a mother, and a widow?--that Mrs. Ray, knowing that Rupert
could never recall his father, was determined that at least one
soldierly figure should loom heroic in his childish memories. She
would tell again and again how he asked repeatedly, as he lay dying,
for "that Rupert, the best of the lot." And her son would say: "I
s'pose he meant Daddy, mother." "Yes," she would answer. "You see,
you were all Ruperts: Grandfather Rupert Ray, Daddy Rupert Ray, and
Sonny Rupert Ray, my own little Sonny Ray." (Mothers talk in this
absurd fashion, and Mrs. Ray was the chief of such offenders.)

But quite the masterpiece of all her tales was this. One summer
morning, when the Boulogue promenade was bright and crowded and
lively, the Colonel was seated with his grandson beside him. A
little distance away sat Rupert's mother, who was just about as shy
of the Colonel as the Colonel was shy of her (which fact accounts,
probably, for Rupert Ray's growing up into the shy boy we knew).
Well, all of a sudden, the boy got up, stood immediately in front of
his grandsire, and leaned forward against his knees. There was no
mistaking the meaning in the child's eyes; they said plainly: "This
is entirely the best attitude for story-telling, so please."

The officer, with military quickness, summed up the perilous
situation on his front; he had suffered himself to be bombarded by a
pair of patient eyes. And now he must either acknowledge his
incompetence by a shameful retreat, or he must stir up the dump of
his imagination and see what stories it contained. So with no small
apprehension, he drew upon his inventive genius.

A wonderful story resulted--wonderful as a prophetic parable of
things which the Colonel would not live to see. Perhaps it was only
coincidence that it should be so; perhaps the approach of death
endowed the old gentleman with the gift of dim prophecy--did he not
know that he would follow the swallows away?--perhaps all the Rays,
when they stand in that shadow, possess a mystic vision. Certainly
the boy Rupert--but there! I knew I was in danger of spoiling his
story.

If the Colonel's tale this morning was wonderful to the listener,
the author suspected that he was plagiarising. The hero was a knight
of peculiar grace, who sustained the spotless name of Sir R----
R----. He was not very handsome, having hair that was neither gold
nor brown, and a brace of absurdly sea-blue eyes. But he was
distinguished by many estimable qualities; he was English, for
example, and not French, very brave, very sober, and quite fond of
an elderly relation. And one day he was undoubtedly (although the
Colonel's conscience pricked him) plunging on foot through a dense
forest to the aid of a fellow-knight who had been captured and
imprisoned.

"What was the other knight like?" interrupted Rupert.

"What, indeed?" echoed the Colonel, temporising till he should
evolve an answer. "Yes, that's a very relevant question. Well, he
was a good deal fairer than Sir R---- R----, but about the same age,
only with brown eyes, and he was a very nice little boy--young
fellow, I mean."

"What was his name?"

"His name? Oh, well--" and here the Colonel, feeling with some taste
that "Smith," or "Jones," or "Robinson" was out of place in a forest
whose mediæval character was palpable, and being quite unable at
such short notice to recall any other English names, gained time by
the following ingenious detail: "Oh, well, he lost his good name by
being captured. And then--and then to his aid came the stalwart Sir
R----, with his sword drawn, and his--er--"

"Revoller," suggested the listener.

"Yes, his revolver fixed to his chain-mail--"

In this strain the Colonel proceeded, wondering whether such
abominable nonsense was interesting the child, whose gaze had now
begun to reach out to sea. In reality Rupert was thrilled, and did
not like to disturb the flow of a story so affecting. But the
strength of his feelings was too much. He was obliged to suggest an
amendment.

"Are you sure I didn't go upon a horse?" he asked.

"Why, of course, the unknown knight in question did, and the sheath
of his sword clanked against his horse's side, as he dashed through
the thicket."

"Had the fair-haired knight anything to eat all this time?"

This important problem was duly settled, and several others which
were seen to be involved in such an intricate story; and a very
happy conclusion was reached, when Mrs. Ray decided that it was time
for Rupert to be taken home. She was about to lead him away, when
the Colonel, who seldom spoke to her much, abruptly murmured:

"He has that Rupert's eyes."

For a moment she was quite taken aback, and then timorously replied:
"Yes, they are very blue."

"Very blue," repeated the Colonel.

Mrs. Ray thereupon felt she must obviate an uncomfortable silence,
and began with a nervous laugh:

"He was born when we were in Geneva, you know, and we used to call
him 'our mountain boy,' saying that he had brought a speck of the
mountain skies away in his eyes."

The Colonel conceded a smile, but addressed his reply to the child:
"A mountain boy, is he?" and, placing his hand on Rupert's head, he
turned the small face upward, and watched it break into a smile.
"Well, well. A mountain boy, eh?--from the lake of Geneva. H'm. _Il
a dans les yeux un coin du lac._"

At this happy description the tears of pleasure sprang to the
foolish eyes of Mrs. Ray, while Rupert, thinking with much wisdom
that all the conditions were favourable, gazed up into the Colonel's
face, and fired his last shot.

"What really was the fair-haired knight's name?"

"Perhaps you will know some day," answered the Colonel, half
playfully, half wearily.


§2

In the course of the same summer Master Archibald Pennybet, of
Wimbledon, celebrated his eighth birthday. He celebrated it by a
riotous waking-up in the sleeping hours of dawn; he celebrated it by
a breakfast which extended him so much that his skin became
unbearably tight; and then, in a new white sailor-suit and brown
stockings turned over at the calves to display a couple of
magnificent knees, he celebrated some more of it in the garden.
There on the summer lawn he stood, unconsciously deliberating how
best to give new expression to the personality of Archibald
Pennybet. He was dark, gloriously built, and possessed eyes that
lazily drooped by reason of their heavy lashes; and, I am sorry to
say, he evoked from a boudoir window the gurgling admiration of his
fashionable mother, who, while her hair was being dressed, allowed
her glance to swing from her hand-mirror, which framed a gratifying
vision of herself, to the window, which framed a still more
gratifying vision of her son. "He gets his good looks from me," she
thought. And, having noticed the drooping of his eyelids,
over-weighted with lashes, she brought her hand-mirror into play
again. "He is lucky," she added, "to have inherited those lazy eyes
from me."

Soon Archie retired in the direction of the kitchen-garden. The
kitchen-garden, with its opportunities of occasional refreshment
such as would not add uncomfortably to his present feeling of
tightness, was the place for a roam. Five minutes later he was
leaning against the wire-netting of the chicken-run, and offering an
old cock, who asked most pointedly for bread, a stone. To know how
to spend a morning was no easier on a birthday than on any ordinary
day.

Suddenly, however, he overheard the gardener mentioning a murder
which had been committed on Wimbledon Common, a fine tract of wild
jungle and rolling prairie, that lay across the main road. Without
waiting to prosecute inquiries which would have told him that,
although the confession was only in the morning papers, the murder
was twenty years old, he escaped unseen and set his little white
figure on a walk through the common. He was out to see the blood.

But, for a birthday, it was a disappointing morning. He discovered
for the first time that Wimbledon Common occupied an interminable
expanse of country; and really there was nothing unusual this
morning about its appearance, or about the looks of the people whom
he passed. So he gave up his quest and returned homeward. Then it
was that his lazy eyes looked down a narrow, leafy lane that ran
along the high wall of his own garden. Now all Wimbledon suspects
that this lane was designed by the Corporation as a walk for lovers.
There is evidence of the care and calculation that one spends on a
chicken-run. For the Corporation, knowing the practice of lovers,
has placed in the shady recesses of the lane a seat where these
comical people can intertwine. At the sight of the lane and the
seat, Master Pennybet immediately decided how he would occupy his
afternoon. He would move that seat along his garden wall, till it
rested beneath some ample foliage where he could lie hidden. Then he
would wait the romantic moments of the evening.

This idea proved so exciting that the luncheon of which he partook
was (for a birthday) regrettably small. And no sooner was it
finished than he rushed into the lane, and addressed his splendid
muscles to removing the seat.

To begin with he tried pushing. This failed. The more he pushed the
more his end of the seat went up into the air, while the other
remained fast in the ground. The only time he succeeded in making
the seat travel at all it went so fast that it laid him on his
stomach in the lane. So he tried pulling from the other end. This
was only partially successful. The seat moved towards him with
jerks, at one time arriving most damnably on his shins, and at
another throwing him into a sitting position on to the ground. And
there is a portion of small boys which is very sensitive to stony
ground. At these repeated checks the natural child in Mr. Pennybet
caused his eyes to become moist, whereupon the strong and
unconquerable man in him choked back a sob of temper, and pulled the
seat with a passionate determination. I tell you, such indomitable
grit will always get its way, and the seat was well lodged against
Mr. Pennybet's wall and beneath his green fastness, before the
afternoon blushed into the lovers' hour. He returned into his
garden, and, climbing up the wall by means of the mantling ivy,
reached his chosen observation-post. Through curtains of greenery he
watched the arrival of a pair of lovers, and held his breath, as
they seated themselves beneath him.

They were an even more ridiculous couple than their kind usually
are. And, when the gentleman squeezed the lady, she laughed so
foolishly that Archie Pennybet was within an ace of forgetting
himself and heartily laughing too. It was worse still, when they
began the pernicious practice of "rubbing noses." For the operation
was so new and unexpected, and withal so congenial to Archie, that
he risked discovery by craning forward to study it. He watched with
jaws parted in a wide gape of amazement, and then said to himself:
"Well, I'm damned!" There is but one step (I am told) from rubbing
noses to the real business of the kiss. And it was when the
gentleman brought the lady's lips into contact with his own, and the
peculiar sound was heard in the lane, that Mr. Pennybet's moment had
come.

"Hem! Hem! Oh, I say!" he suggested loudly, and sought safety by
slipping rapidly down his side of the wall, scratching his hands and
bare knees as he fell.

This fine triumph had been at a cost. Archie surveyed himself. His
new suit was clearly disreputable. And, in his mother's eyes, the
one crime punishable by whipping was to make a new suit
disreputable. The more he studied the extent of the damage, the more
he felt convinced that, in the expiation of this potty little
offence, his body would be commandeered to play a painful and rather
passive part.

His brain, therefore, worked rapidly and well. It was more than
possible, thought he, that his mother's sympathy could be induced to
exceed her indignation. She was really an affectionate woman; and
this was the line to go upon. So he squeezed the scratches in his
knees to expedite the issue of blood, and bravely entered the house.

"Mother," he called, introducing suitable pathos into his tones,
"Mother, I've fallen all down the wall!"

This effective opening, should it seem successful, it was his
intention to follow up with seasonable allusions to his birthday.
But alas! one glimpse of Mrs. Pennybet's face when she saw his suit,
showed him the folly of remaining on the scene, and with the speed
of a fawn, he was out in the garden, and up an elm tree, swaying
about like a crow's nest. And there, a minute later, was Mrs.
Pennybet standing below, her skirts held up in one hand, a small
cane in the other.

"Come down, Archie," she said. "Come down."

"Not a bit of it," replied her son. "You come up!"

       *       *       *       *       *

At least Mrs. Pennybet, a vivacious _raconteuse_, always declared to
me that such was his reply. I do not trust these mothers, however,
and regard it as a piece of her base embroidery. At any rate, it is
certain that her effort to secure Archie for punishment was quite
unsuccessful. And, an hour afterwards, a small figure came quietly
down the trunk of the tree, and, entering the room where his mother
was, sat quickly in a big arm-chair, and held on tightly to its
arms. This position prevented access to that particular area of
Archie Pennybet, which, in the view of himself, his mother, and all
sound conservatives, must be exposed, if corporal punishment is to
be the standard thing. Mrs. Pennybet, good woman, admitted her
defeat, and kissed him repeatedly, while he still held himself tight
in his chair.

Such was Archie Pennybet, whom Mrs. Pennybet considered a remarkably
fine boy, and the son of a remarkably fine woman. In this battle of
wits he undoubtedly won. And it is a fact that throughout life he
made a point of winning, as all shall see, who read Rupert Ray's
story.

He was a mischievous, tumbling scamp, I suppose; but what are we to
say? All young animals gambol, and are saucy. Only this morning I
was watching a lamb butt its mother in the ribs, and roll in the
grass, and dirty its wool--the graceless young rascal!


§3

But come, we are keeping Edgar Gray Doe waiting.

If you have ever steamed up the Estuary of the Fal, that stately
Cornish river, and gazed with rapture at the lofty and thick-wooded
hills, through which the wide stream runs, you have probably seen on
the eastern bank the splendid mansion of Graysroof. You have admired
its doric façade and the deep, green groves that embrace it on every
side. Perhaps it has been pointed out to you as the home of Sir
Peter Gray, the once-famous Surrey bowler, and the parent of a whole
herd of young cricketing Grays.

It was in this palatial dwelling that little Edgar Gray Doe awoke to
a consciousness of himself, and of many other remarkable things;
such things as the broad, silver mouth of the Fal; the green slopes,
on which his house stood; the rather fearsome woods that surrounded
it; and, above all, the very obvious fact that he was not as other
boys. For instance, his cricketing cousins, these Gray boys, were
sons with a visible mother and father, and, in being so, appeared to
conform to a normal condition, while _he_ was a nephew with an uncle
and aunt. Again these fellows were blue-eyed and drab, and, as such,
were decent and reasonable, while _he_ was brown-eyed and
preposterously fair-haired. To be sure, it was only his oval face
that saved him from the horrible indignity of being called
"Snowball."

One morning of that perfect summer, which was the sixth of Rupert
Ray, and the eighth of Archie Pennybet, Edgar Gray Doe felt some
elation at the prospect of a visit from a very imposing friend. This
person was staying down the stream at Falmouth; and he and his
mother had been invited by Lady Gray to spend the day at Graysroof.
His name was Archie Pennybet. And the power of his personality lay
in these remarkable qualities: first, he enjoyed the distinction of
being two years older than Master Doe; secondly, he had a genius for
games that thrilled, because they were clearly sin; and thirdly, his
hair was dark and glossy, so he could legitimately twit other people
with being albinos.

And to-day this exciting creature would have to devote himself
entirely to Edgar Doe, as the Gray boys were safely billeted in
public and preparatory schools, and there was thus no sickening
possibility of his chasing after them, or going on to their side
against Edgar.

Edgar Doe knew that Mrs. Pennybet and Archie were coming in a
row-boat from Falmouth, and it was a breathless moment when he saw
them stepping on to the Graysroof landing-stage, and Lady Gray
walking down the sloping lawn to meet them.

"Hallo, kid," shouted Archie. "Mother, there's Edgar!"

Rather startled by this sudden notoriety, Edgar approached the new
arrivals.

"Hallo, kid," repeated Master Pennybet; and then stopped, his supply
of greetings being exhausted.

"Hallo," answered Edgar, slowly and rather shyly, for he was two
years younger than anyone present.

"Welcome to the Fal," said Lady Gray to Mrs. Pennybet. "Archie, are
you going to give me a kiss?"

"No," announced Archie firmly. "I don't kiss mother's friends now."

Lady Gray concealed the fact that she thought her guest's little
boy a hateful child, and, having patted his head, sent him off with
Edgar Doe to play in the Day-nursery.

Of course the Master of the Ceremonies in the Day-nursery was Master
Pennybet. Master Doe was his devoted mate. The first game was a
disgusting one, called "Spits." It consisted in the two combatants
facing each other with open umbrellas, and endeavouring to register
points by the method suggested in the title of the game; the
umbrella was a shield, with which to intercept any good shooting.
Luckily for their self-respect in later years, this difficult game
soon yielded place to an original competition, known as "Fire and
Water." You placed a foot-bath under that portable gas-stove which
was in the Day-nursery; you lit all the trivets in the stove to
represent a house on fire; and you had a pail, ready to be filled
from the bathroom, which, need we say, was the fire-station. The
rules provided that the winner was he who could extinguish the
conflagration raging in the foot-bath in the shortest possible time,
and with the least expenditure of water. But the natural desire to
win and to record good times meant that you were apt, in the haste
and enthusiasm of the moment, to miss the bath entirely, and to
flood quite a different part of the nursery. It was this flaw in an
otherwise simple game, which brought the play to an end. Intimations
that an aquatic tourney of some sort was the feature in the
Day-nursery began to leak through to the room below. The competitors
were apprehended and brought for judgment before the ladies, who
were sitting in the garden and watching the Fal as it streamed by to
the sea.

"They had better go and play in the Beach Grove," sighed Lady Gray.

This ruling Archie did not veto or contest, for he had wearied of
indoor amusements, and felt that the well-timbered groves would
afford new avenues for play. So the boys departed like deer among
the trunks of the trees.

It was a cosy conversation which the ladies enjoyed after this. Any
conversation would be cosy that had been reared in the glory of such
a garden, and in the comfort of those lazy chairs. Mrs. Pennybet
began by declaring, as these shameless ladies do, that her hostess's
fair-haired nephew was quite the most beautiful child she had ever
seen; she could hug him all day; nay, she could eat him. And,
thereupon Lady Gray told her the whole story of Edgar Gray Doe; how
his mother had been Sir Peter's sister, and the loveliest woman in
Western Cornwall; how she had paid with her life for Edgar's being;
and how her husband, the chief of lovers, had quickly followed his
young bride.

"They're an emotional lot, these Does," said Lady Gray. "As surely
as they come fair-haired, they are brilliantly romantic and blindly
adoring. And Edgar's every inch a Doe. Anybody can lead him into
mischief. And anybody who likes will do so."

"Oh, I suppose he's troublesome like all boys," suggested Mrs.
Pennybet, with a rapid mental survey of the existence of Archie. "He
will grow into a fine man some day."

"Perhaps," said Lady Gray, staring over the tranquil water of the
Fal, as though it represented the intervening years. "We shall see."

"And Archie," continued Mrs. Pennybet, "though he's a plague now,
will be a brilliant and dominating man, I think. He's not easily
mastered, and I don't believe adverse circumstances will ever beat
him.... Isn't it funny to think that these restless boys are here to
inherit the world? We old fogies"--Mrs. Pennybet laughed, for she
didn't mean what she said--"are really done for and shelved. These
boys are the interesting ones, whose tales have yet to be told."

The speaker dropped her voice, as she found herself moralising; and
Lady Gray perceived that an atmosphere of tender speculation had
risen around their conversation. She turned her face away, and
looked over that part of the inheritable world which met her gaze.
From her feet perfect lawns sloped down to a gracious waterway,
which shuddered occasionally in a gentle wind; on every side
pleasing trees were massed into shady and grateful woods; overhead
the noonday sun lit up a deep-blue sky. Perhaps the sublimity of the
scene played upon her softer emotions. Perhaps all intense beauty is
pathetic, and makes one think of poor illusions and unavailing
dreams. Lady Gray wondered why she could not feel, on this serene
morning, the same confidence in Edgar Doe's future, as her friend
felt in Archie's; why she should rather be conscious of a romantic
foreboding. But she only murmured:

"Yes, we must bow before sovereign youth."

And that was the last word uttered, till the sound of hearty boys'
voices, coming from the trunks of the trees, prompted Mrs. Pennybet
to say cheerfully:

"Here they come, the heirs to the world."

As she spoke, Archie Pennybet, dark and dictatorial, and Edgar Doe,
fair and enthusiastic, came into view.

"Yes," replied Lady Gray, "but only two of them. There are others
they must share it with. Shall we go indoors?"

And indoors or out-of-doors, that was a very delightful day spent at
Graysroof. And, when the sun's rays began to grow ruddy, there came
the pleasant journey down the Estuary to Falmouth Town. Mrs.
Pennybet and her son were rowed homeward by Baptist, that sombre
boatman employed at Graysroof, in Master Doe's own particular boat.
"_The Lady Fal_," men called it, from the dainty conceit that it was
the spouse of the lordly Estuary. Edgar Doe accompanied them, as the
master of his craft.

Nobody talked much during the voyage. Baptist was always too solemn
for speech. Master Doe, on these occasions, liked to dream with one
hand trailing in the water. Master Pennybet, in the common way of
tired children, finished the day in listless woolgathering. And his
mother, recalling the conversation in the stately garden up the
stream, fell to wondering whither these boys were tending.

So the passage down the full and slumbery Fal seemed nearly a
soundless thing. But all the real river-noises were there; the birds
were singing endlessly in the groves; the gulls with their hoarse
language were flying seawards from the mud-flats of Truro; the water
was gently lapping the sides of the boat; and voices could be heard
from the distances higher up and lower down the stream. And behind
all this prattle of the Estuary hung the murmur of the sea.

It was a very quiet boat that unladed the Pennybets on the steps of
a stone pier at Falmouth, and then swung round and carried Edgar up
its own wake. Baptist was a glorious hand with the paddles, and, as
the _Lady Fal_ swept easily over the glassy water, Edgar gazed at
the familiar things coming into view. There, at last, was the huge
house of Graysroof, belittled by the loftiness of the quilted hill,
on whose slope it stood, and by the extent of its surrounding woods.
And there in the water lay mirrored a reflection of house and trees
and hillside. Baptist rested on his oars, and, turning round on his
seat, drank in the loveliness of England and the Fal. His oars
remained motionless for a long time, till he suddenly commented:

"H'm."

This encouraging remark Master Doe interpreted as a willingness to
converse, and he let escape a burst of confidence.

"You know, I like Archie Pennybet very much indeed. In fack, I think
I like him better than anyone else in the world, 'septing of course
my relations."

Watching his hearer nervously to see how he would receive this
important avowal, Master Doe flushed when he saw no signs of emotion
on Baptist's countenance. He didn't like thinking he had made
himself look a fool. Probably Baptist perceived this, for he felt he
must contrive a reply, and, abandoning "H'm" as too uncouth and too
unflavoured with sympathy, gave of his best, muttering:

"Ah, he's one of we."

Then, realising that the sun had gone in a blaze of glory, and that
he must waste no further time in prolonged gossip, he dipped his
blade into the still water, and turned the head of the boat for the
Graysroof bank; and for the things that should be.



BOOK I
FIVE GAY YEARS OF SCHOOL


_Part I: Tidal Reaches_


CHAPTER I

RUPERT RAY BEGINS HIS STORY


§1

"I'm the best-looking person in this room," said Archibald Pennybet.
"Ray's face looks as though somebody had trodden on it, and
Doe's--well, Doe's would be better if it had been trodden on."

It was an early morning of the Kensingtowe Summer Term, and the
three of us, Archie Pennybet, Edgar Gray Doe, and I, Rupert Ray,
were waiting in the Junior Preparation Room at Bramhall House, till
the bell should summon us over the playing fields to morning school.
Kensingtowe, of course, is the finest school in England, and
Bramhall its best house. Now, Pennybet, though not himself
courteous, always insisted that Doe and I should treat him with
proper respect, so, since he was senior and thus magnificent, I'll
begin by describing him.

He was right in saying that he was the handsomest. He was a tall boy
of fifteen years, with long limbs that were saved from any unlovely
slimness by their full-fleshed curves and perfect straightness. His
face, whose skin was as smooth as that of a bathed and anointed
Greek, was crowned by dark hair, and made striking by a pair of
those long-lashed eyes that are always brown. And in character he
was the most remarkable. Though two years our senior, he
deliberately lagged behind the boys of his own age, and remained the
oldest member of our form. Thoughtless masters called him a dunce,
but abler ones knew him to be only idle. And Pennybet cared little
for either opinion. He had schemed to remain in a low form; and that
was enough. It was better to be a field-marshal among the "kids"
than a ranker among his peers. Like Satan, for whom he probably felt
a certain admiration, he found it better to reign in hell than serve
in heaven.

The personal attendants of this splendid sultan consisted of Edgar
Doe and myself. We were not allowed by him to forget that, if he
could total fifteen years, we could only scrape together a bare
thirteen. We were mere children. Doe and I, being thirteen and an
exact number of days, were twins, or we would have been, had it not
been for the divergence of our parentage. We often expressed a wish
that this divergence were capable of remedy. It involved minor
differences. For instance, while Doe's eyes were brown, mine were
blue; and while Doe's hair was very fair, mine was a tedious drab
that had once been gold. Moreover, in place of my wide mouth, Doe
possessed lips that were always parted like those of a pretty girl.
Indeed, if Archie Pennybet was the handsomest of us three, it is
certain that Edgar Gray Doe was the prettiest.

We came to be discussing our looks this morning, because Pennybet,
having discovered that among other accomplishments he was a fine
ethnologist, was about to determine the race and tribe of each of us
by an examination of our features and colouring.

"I'm a Norman," he decided, and threw himself back on his chair,
putting his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat, as though
that were a comely Norman attitude, "a pure Norman, but I don't know
how my hair got so dark, and my eyes such a spiffing brown."

"What am I?" I interrupted, as introducing a subject of more
immediate interest.

"You, Ray? Oh, you're a Saxon. Your name's Rupert, you see, and
you've blue eyes and a fair skin, and all that rot."

I was quite satisfied with being a pure Saxon, and left Doe to his
examination.

"What am I?" he eagerly asked, offering his oval face and parted
lips for scrutiny.

"You? Oh, Saxon, with a dash of Southern blood. Brown eyes, you see,
and that sloppy milk-and-coffee skin. And there's a dash of Viking
in you--that's your fair hair. Adulterated Saxon you are."

At this Doe loudly protested that he was a pure Saxon, a perfect
Cornish Saxon from the banks of the Fal.

Penny always discouraged precocious criticism, so he replied:

"I'm not arguing with you, my child."

"_You?_ Who are you?"

Penny let his thumbs go further into his armholes, and assured us
with majestic suavity:

"I? I'm _Me_."

"No, you're not," snapped Doe. "You're not me. I'm me."

"Well, you're neither of you me," interrupted the third fool in the
room. "I'm me. So sucks!"

"Now you two boys," began our stately patron, "don't you begin
dictating to _me_. Once and for all, Doe is Doe, Ray is Ray, and I'm
Me. Why, by Jove! Doe-Ray-Me! It's a joke; and I'm a gifted person."

This discovery of the adaptability of our names was so startling
that I exclaimed:

"Good Lord! How mad!"

Penny only shrugged his shoulders, and generally plumed himself on
his little success. And Doe said:

"Has that only just dawned on you?"

"Observe," sneered Penny. "The Gray Doe is jealous. He would like
the fame of having made this fine jest. So he pretends he thought of
it long ago. He bags it."

"Not worth bagging," suggested Doe, who was pulling a lock of his
pale hair over his forehead, and trying with elevated eye-brows to
survey it critically. His feet were resting on a seat in front of
him, and his trousers were well pulled up, so as to show a certain
tract of decent sock. Penny scanned him as though his very
appearance were nauseating.

"Well, why did you bag it?"

"I didn't."

"I say, you're a bit of a liar, aren't you?"

"Well, if I'm a bit of a liar, you're a lot of one."

"My dear little boy," said Penny, with intent to hurt, "we all know
the reputation for lying you had at your last school."

As we had all been at Kensingtowe's Preparatory School together, I
was in a position to know that this was rather wild, and
remonstrated with him.

"I say, that's a bit sticky, isn't it?"

The nobility of my interference impressed me as I made it.
Meanwhile the angry blood mounted to Doe's face, but he carelessly
replied:

"You show what a horrible liar you are by your last remark. I never
said your beastly idea was mine; and because you accused me of doing
so, and I said I didn't, you call me a liar: which is a dirty lie,
if you like. But of course one expects lies from you."

"That may be," rejoined Pennybet. "But you know you don't wash."

Doe parried this thrust with a sarcastic acquiescence.

"No, I know I don't--never did--don't believe in washing."

Now Penny was out to hurt. A mere youngster had presumed to argue
and be cheeky with him: and discipline must be maintained. To this
end there must be punishment; and punishment, to be effective, must
hurt. So he adopted a new line, and with his clever strategy strove
to enlist my support by deigning to couple my name with his.

"At any rate," he drawled, "Ray and I don't toady to Radley."

This poisonous little remark requires some explanation. Mr. Radley,
the assistant house-master at Bramhall House, was a hard master, who
would have been hated for his insufferable conceptions of
discipline, had he not been the finest bat in the Middlesex team.
Just about this time there was a libel current that he made a
favourite of Edgar Doe because he was pretty. "Doe," I had once
said, "Radley's rather keen on you, isn't he?" And Doe had turned
red and scoffed: "How absolutely silly--but, I say, do you really
think so?" Seeing that he found pleasure in the insinuation, I had
followed it up with chaff, upon which he had suddenly cut up rough,
and left me in a pique.

This morning, as Penny pricked him with this poisoned fang, Doe
began to feel that for the moment he was alone amongst us three; and
odd-man-out. He put a tentative question to me, designed to see
whether I were siding with him or with the foe.

"Now, Ray, isn't that the dirtiest lie he's told so far?"

"No," I said. I was still under the glamour of having been appealed
to by the forceful personality of Pennybet; and, besides, it
certainly wasn't.

"Oh, of course you'd agree with anything Penny said, if he asked
you to. But you know you don't really believe I ever sucked up to
Radley."

This rejoinder was bad tactics, for by its blow at my face it forced
me to take sides against him in the quarrel. So I answered:

"Rather! Why, you always do."

"Dir-dirty liar!"

"Ha-ha!" laughed Penny. He saw that he had been successful in his
latest thrust, and set himself to push home the advantage. The
dominance of his position must be secured at all costs. He let down
his heavy-lashed eyelids, as though, for his part, he only desired a
peaceful sleep, and said: "Ha-ha! Ray, that friend of yours is
losing his temper. He's terribly vicious. Mind he doesn't scratch."

Doe's parted lips came suddenly together, his face got red, and he
moved impatiently as he sat. But he said nothing, either because the
words would not come, or lest something more unmanly should.

"Ray," pursued the tormentor, "I think that friend of yours is going
to blub."

Doe left his seat, and stood upon his feet, his lips set in one firm
line. He tossed his hair off his forehead, and, keeping his face
averted from our gaze lest we should detect any moisture about the
eyes, opened a desk, and selected the books he would require. They
were books over which he had scrawled with flourishes:

          "Mr. Edgar Gray Doe, Esq.,"
          "E. Gray Doe, M.A.,"
          "Rev. Edgar G. Doe, D.D.,"
          "E. G. Doe, Physician and Surgeon,"

and, when he had placed them on his arm, he walked towards the door
with his face still turned away from us.

"Oh, don't go, Doe. Don't be a sloppy ass," I said, feeling that I
had been fairly trapped into deserting a fellow-victim, and backing
our common tyrant.

My appeal Doe treated as though he had not heard it; and Penny,
certain that his victory was won, and that he had no further need
of my support, kicked it away with the sneer: "Hit Doe, and Ray's
bruised! What a David and Jonathan we're going to be! How we agree
like steak and kidney!... Rather a nice expression, that."

Penny's commentary was thus turned inwards upon himself, in an
affectionate criticism of his vocabulary, to show the utter
detachment of his interest from the pathetic exit of Edgar Doe. For
now Doe had reached the door, which he opened, passed, and slammed.
In a twinkling I had opened it again, and was looking down the
corridor. There was no sign of my friend anywhere. The moment he had
slammed the door he must have run.

I returned to the preparation room, and Penny sighed, as much as to
say: "What a pity little boys are so petulant and quarrelsome." But
the victory was his, as it always was, and he could think of other
things. There was a clock on the wall behind him, but, too
comfortable to turn his head, he asked me:

"What's the beastly?"

I glanced at the clock, and intimated, sulkily enough, that the
beastly was twenty minutes past nine. He groaned.

"Oh! Ah! An hour's sweat with Radley. Oh, hang! Blow! Damn!"

He stood up, stretched himself, yawned, apologised, got his books,
and occasionally tossed a remark to me, as if he were quite unaware
that I was not only trying to sulk, but also badly wanted him to
know it. As I looked for my books, I sought for the rudest and most
painful insult I could offer him. My duty to Doe demanded that it
should be something quite uncommon. And from a really fine selection
I had just chosen: "You're the biggest liar I've ever met, and, for
all I know, you're as big a thief," when I turned round and found he
was gone. Pennybet always left the field as its master.


§2

Within Radley's spacious class-room some twenty of us took our way
to our desks. Radley mounted his low platform, and, resting his
knuckles on his writing-table, gazed down upon us. He was a man of
over six feet, with the shoulders, chest, and waist of a forcing
batsman. His neck, perhaps, was a little too big, the fault of a
powerful frame; and the wrist that came below his cuff was such that
it made us wonder what was the size of his forearm. His mouth was
hard, and set above a squaring chin, so that you thought him
relentless, till his grey eyes shook your judgment.

"Let me see," he said, as he stood, looking down upon us, "you
should come to me for both periods this morning. Well, I shall
probably be away all the second period. You will come to this
class-room as usual, and Herr Reinhardt will take you in French."

"Oh, joy!" I muttered. Boys whom Radley could not see flipped their
fingers to express delight. Others lifted up the lids of their
desks, and behind these screens went through a pantomime that
suggested pleasure at good news. The fact was that the announcement
that we were to have second period with the German, Reinhardt, was
as good as promising us a holiday. Nay, it was rather better; for,
in an unexpected holiday, we might have been at a loss what to do,
whereas under Reinhardt we had no doubt--we played the fool.

"And now get on with your work," concluded Radley.

We got on with it, knowing that it was only for a short time that we
need work that morning.

It was writing work I know, for, after a while, I had a note
surreptitiously passed to me between folded blotting-paper. The note
bore in Doe's ambitiously ornate writing the alarming statement: "I
shall never like you so much after what you said this morning Yours
Edgar Gray Doe." There was room for me to pen an answer, and in my
great round characters I wrote: "I never really meant anything and
after you left I tried to be rude to Penny but he'd gone and will
you still be my chum Yours S. Ray." (My real name was Rupert, but I
was sometimes nicknamed "Sonny Ray" from the sensational news, which
had leaked out, that my mother so called me, and I took pleasure in
signing myself "S. Ray.") My handsome apology was passed back to the
offended party, and in due course the paper returned to me, bearing
his reply: "I don't know We must talk it over, but don't tell anyone
Yours Edgar Gray Doe." That was the last sentence destined to be
written on this human document, for Radley, without looking up from
the exercise he was correcting, said quietly:

"In the space of the last five minutes Doe has twice corresponded
with Ray, and Ray has once replied to Doe. Now both Ray and Doe will
come up here with the letters."

To the accompaniment of a titter or two, Ray and Doe came up, I
trying to look defiantly indifferent to the fact that he was going
to read my silly remarks, and Doe with his lips firmly together, and
his fair hair the fairer for the blush upon his forehead and cheeks.

Radley left us standing by his desk, while at his leisure he
finished his correcting; then, still without looking up, he ordered:

"Hand over the letters."

A little doggedly I passed over the single sheet of paper feeling
some absurd satisfaction that, since he evidently thought there were
several sheets involved, his uncanny knowledge was at least wrong in
one particular. Doe, on my right hand, turned redder and redder to
see the paper going beneath the master's eye, and made a few nervous
grimaces. Radley read the correspondence pitilessly; and, with his
hard mouth unrelaxed, turned first on Doe, as though sizing him up,
and then on me. He stared at my face till I felt fidgety, and my
mind, which always in moments of excitement ran down most ridiculous
avenues, framed the sentence: "Don't stare, because it's rude," at
which involuntary thought I scarcely restrained a nervous titter.
After this critical inspection, Radley murmured:

"Yes, talk your quarrel over. The bands of friendship mustn't snap
at a breath."

As he said this, Doe edged closer to me, and I wondered if Radley
was a decent chap.

"But why do you sign yourself 'S. Ray'?"

Now my blush outclassed anything Doe had yet produced, and I looked
in dumb confusion towards my friend. Radley refrained from forcing
the question, but pursued with brutal humour:

"Well, there's nothing like suffering together to cement a
friendship. Doe, put out your knuckles."

Radley was ever a man of surprises. This was the first time he had
invited the use of our knuckles for his punitive practices. Doe
proffered four of those on the back of his narrow, cream-coloured
right hand. He did it readily enough, but trembled a little, and the
blush that had disappeared returned at a rush to his neck. Radley
took his ruler, and struck the knuckles with a very sharp rap. Doe's
lips snapped together and remained together,--and that was all.

"And Ray," invited Radley.

I offered the back of my right hand, and, copying my friend, kept my
lips well closed. My eyes had shut themselves nervously, when I
heard a clatter, and realised that Radley had dropped his ruler.
Leaving my right hand extended for punishment, I stooped down,
picked up the ruler with my left, and gave it back to Radley.
Perhaps the blood that now coloured my face was partly due to this
stooping. Radley smiled. It was his habit to become suddenly gentle
after being hard. One second, his hard mouth would frame hard
things; another second, and his grey eyes would redress the balance.

"Ray, you disarm me," he said. "Go to your seats, both of you."

Back we walked abreast to our places, Doe palpably annoyed that he
had not been the one to pick up the ruler. He was a romantic youth
and would have liked to occupy my picturesque and rather heroic
position.

"Why didn't you let me pick up the ruler?" he whispered. "You knew I
wanted to."

This utterly senseless remark I had no opportunity of answering, so
I determined to sulk with Doe, as soon as the interval should
arrive. When, however, the bell rang for that ten-minutes'
excitement, I forgot everything in the glee of thinking that the
second period would be spent with Herr Reinhardt. Ten minutes to go,
and then--and then, Mr. Cæsar!


§3

In the long corridor, on to which Radley's class-room opened,
gathered our elated form, awaiting the arrival of Herr Reinhardt. He
was late. He always was: and it was a mistake to be so, for it gave
us the opportunity, when he drew near, of asking one another the
time in French: "Kell er eight eel? Onze er ay dammy. Wee, wee."

Cæsar Reinhardt, the German, remains upon my mind chiefly as being
utterly unlike a German: he was a long man, very deaf, with drooping
English moustaches, and such obviously weak eyes that now, whenever
Leah's little eye-trouble is read in Genesis, I always think of
Reinhardt. But I think of him as "Mr. Cæsar." Why "Mr. Cæsar" and
not purely "Cæsar" I cannot explain, but the "Mr." was inseparable
from the nickname. Good Mr. Cæsar was misplaced in his profession.
Had he not been obliged to spend his working life in the position of
one who has just been made to look a fool, he would have been an
attractive and lovable person. He had the most beautiful tenor
voice, which, when he spoke was like liquid silver, and, when he
sang elaborate opera passages, made one see glorious wrought-steel
gateways of heavenly palaces. This inefficient master owed his
position to the great vogue enjoyed by his books: "Reinhardt's
German Conversation," "Reinhardt's French Pieces," and others. But
the boys, by common consent, decided not to identify this "Cæsar
Reinhardt, Modern Language Master at Kensingtowe School" with their
own dear Mr. Cæsar. Thus, you see, in their ignorance, they were
able to bring up the Reinhardt works to Mr. Cæsar, and say with
worried brows: "Here, sir. This bally book's all wrong"; "I could
write a better book than this myself, sir"; "The Johnny who wrote
this book, sir--well, _st. st._" Pennybet, however, used to tremble
on the brink of identification, when he made the idiotic mistake of
saying: "Shall I bring up my Cæsar, sir,--I mean, my Reinhardt?"

The jubilation of our class, as we lolled or clog-danced in the
corridor, had need to be organised into some systematic fooling; and
for once in a way, the boys accepted a suggestion of mine.

"Let's all hum 'God Save the King' exactly at twelve o'clock. Mr.
Cæsar won't hear; he's too deaf."

Immediately several boys started to sing the popular air in
question, and others went for a slide along the corridor, both of
which performances are generally construed as meaning: "Right-ho!"

"It's crude," commented Penny, "but I'll not interfere. I might
even help you--who knows? And here comes Mr. Cæsar. Ah, wee, wee."

It was our custom to race in a body along the corridor to meet Mr.
Cæsar, and to arrive breathless at his side, where we would fight to
walk, one on his right hand, and another on his left. In the course
of a brilliant struggle several boys would be prostrated, not
unwillingly. We would then escort him in triumph to his door, and
all offer to turn the lock, crying: "Let _me_ have the key, sir."
"Do let _me_, sir." "You never let _me_, sir--dashed unfair." When
someone had secured the key, he would fling wide the door, as though
to usher in all the kings of Asia, but promptly spoil this courtly
action by racing after the door ere it banged against the wall,
holding it in an iron grip like a runaway horse, and panting
horribly at the strain. This morning I was honoured with the key. I
examined it and saw that it was stuffed up with dirt and there would
be some delay outside the class-room door while the key underwent
alterations and repairs.

"Has any boy," I asked, "a pin?"

None had; but Pennybet offered to go to Bramhall House in search of
one. He could do it in twenty minutes, he said.

"Dear me, how annoying!" I shook the key, I hammered it, I blew down
it till it gave forth a shrill whistle, and Penny said: "Off side."
And then I giggled into the key.

Don't think Mr. Cæsar tolerated all this without a mild protest. I
distinctly remember his saying in his silvery voice: "Give it to me,
Ray. I'll do it," and my replying, as I looked up into his delicate
eyes: "No, it's all right, sir. You leave it to me, sir."

In due course I threw open the door with a triumphant "There!" The
door hit the side-wall with a bang that upset the nervous systems of
neighbouring boys, who felt a little faint, had hysterics, and
recovered. Mr. Cæsar, feeling that the class was a trifle unpunctual
in starting, hurriedly entered.

Then Pennybet distinguished himself. He laid his books unconcernedly
on the master's desk, and walked with a dandy's dignity to the
window. Having surveyed the view with a critical air, he faced round
and addressed Mr. Cæsar courteously: "May I shut the window for you,
sir?" adding in a lower tone that he was always willing to oblige.
Without waiting for the permission to be granted, he turned round
again and, pulling up each sleeve that his cuffs might not be soiled
in the operation, proceeded to turn the handle, by means of which
the lofty window was closed.

Now there were four long windows in a row, and they all needed
shutting--this beautiful summer morning. None of us was to be
outdone in politeness by Penny; and all rushed to the coveted
handles so as to be first in shutting the remaining windows. The
element of competition and the steeplechasing methods necessary, if
we were to surmount the intervening desks, made it all rather
exciting. Several boys, converging from different directions,
arrived at the handles at the same time. It was natural, then, that
a certain amount of discussion should follow as to whose right it
was to shut the windows, and that the various little assemblies
debating the point should go and refer the question simultaneously
to Mr. Cæsar.

Mr. Cæsar gave his answer with some emphasis:

"Will--you--all--sit--down?"

This rhetorical question being in the nature of a command, we
sullenly complied, tossing our heads to show our sense of the
indignity to which we had been submitted. Pennybet, meanwhile,
continued to turn his handle in a leisurely fashion and touch his
forehead like an organ-grinder.

Mr. Cæsar looked at him angrily and pathetically, conscious of his
powerlessness.

"Que faites vous, Pennybet? Asseyez vous toute suite!"

"Yes, sir," answered Penny, who had no sympathy with German, French,
or any of these ludicrous languages. "Yes, sir, we had two, and one
died."

"Que voulez vous dire? Allez à votre place!"

"It's all right, sir, if you cross your fingers," suggested Penny.

Poor Mr. Cæsar made a movement, as though he would go and push the
mutineer to his place.

"You will go to your seat immediately, Pennybet," he ordered.

Penny cocked his head on one side. "Oh, _sir_," said he
reproachfully.

Our friend always expressed his sense of injustice with this sad
"Oh, _sir_," and, as he generally detected a vein of injustice in
any demand made upon him, the expression was of frequent occurrence.

Mr. Cæsar first moved his lips incompetently, and then, with a
studied slowness that was meant to sound imperious, began:

"When I say 'Sit'--"

"You mean 'Sit,'" explained Penny promptly.

"That's impertinence."

But Penny had his head thrown back, and was gazing out of eyes,
curtained by the fall of heavy-fringed lids, at the ceiling.

"Pennybet," cried his master, his very voice apprehensive, "will you
have the goodness to attend?"

"Oh, ah, yes, sir," agreed Penny, awaking from his reverie.

"You haven't the manners of a savage, boy."

"Oh, _sir_."

Mr. Cæsar bit his lip, and his silver voice would scarcely come.

"Or of a pig!"

"Would a pig have manners, sir?" corrected Penny.

"That's consummate impudence!"

"Oh, is it, sir?" Penny's tone suggested that he was grateful for
the enlightenment. Henceforth he would not be in two minds on the
subject.

Mr. Cæsar, repulsed again by the more powerful character of the boy,
tried to cover the feebleness of his position by sounding as
threatening as possible.

"Go to your seat at once! The impudence of this class is
insufferable!"

Loud murmurs of dissent from twenty boys greeted this aspersion. The
class resolved itself into an Opposition, inspired by one object,
which was to repudiate aspersions. Penny excellently voiced their
resentment.

"Oh, _sir_." (Opposition cheers.)

Mr. Cæsar hurled his chair behind him, and approached very close to
Penny.

"Will you go to your seat at once?"

Penny, with all his power, was still a boy; and for a moment the
child in him flinched before the exceedingly close approach of Mr.
Cæsar. But the next minute he looked up at the still open window;
shivered, and shuddered; rubbed his cold hands (this beautiful
summer morning); buttoned himself up warmly; went to the master's
desk for his books; dropped them one after another; blew on his
numbed fingers to infuse a little warmth into them, contriving a
whistle, and all the time looking most rebukingly at his tyrannical
master; picked up four books and dropped two of them; picked up
those and dropped one more; walked to his seat in high sorrow, and
banged the whole lot of the books down upon the desk and floor in an
appalling cataract, as the full cruelty of Mr. Cæsar's treatment
came suddenly home to him.

When we recovered from this shattering explosion of Penny's books, a
little quiet work would have begun, had not Doe, with his romantic
imagination lit by the glow of Penny's audacity, started to crave
the notoriety of being likewise a leader of men. He rose from his
desk, approached Mr. Cæsar, and extended his hand with a belated
"Good morning, sir."

Poor Mr. Cæsar, in the kindliness of his heart, was touched by Doe's
graceful action, and grasped the proffered hand, saying: "Good
morning, Doe." By this time the whole class was arranged in a
tolerably straight line behind Doe, and waiting to go through the
ceremony of shaking hands.

Work commenced at about twenty minutes to twelve, and, when twelve
should come, we were to render, according to programme, "God Save
the King," with some delicate humming. For want of something better
to do, I wrote a clause of the exercise set. Mr. Cæsar's back was
now turned and he was studying a wall-map.

"Shall I?"

"Yes, rather!"

These two whispered sentences I heard from behind me. Inquisitively
I turned round to see what simmered there.

"Keep working, you fool!" hissed my neighbour.

Events of some moment were happening in the rear. It had occurred to
several that the hands of the clock might be encouraged with a
slight push to hasten their journey over the next few minutes. Doe,
half anxious to be the daring one to do it, half nervous of the
consequences, had whispered: "Shall I?" And his advisers had
answered: "Yes, rather!" He threw down a piece of blotting paper,
and tip-toed towards it, as though to pick it up. Seeing with a
side-glance that Mr. Cæsar's back was still turned, he mounted a
form, and pushed on the clock's hands. Then, hurriedly getting
down, he flew back nervously to his seat, where he pretended to be
rapidly writing.

Hearing these slithy and suggestive movements, I declined to remain
any longer ignorant of their meaning. After all, I had suggested the
"whole bally business," and was entitled to know the means selected
for its conduct. So round went my inquisitive head. Then I shook in
my glee. Someone had pushed on the hands of the clock, and it was
three minutes to twelve. There was a rustle of excitement in the
room. The silence of expectancy followed. "Two-minutes-to" narrowed
into "One-minute-to"; and after a premonitory click, which produced
sufficient excitement to interfere with our breath, the clock struck
twelve.

Inasmuch as I occupied a very favourable position, I got up to
conduct proceedings. I faced the class, stretched out my right hand,
which held a pen by way of a baton, and whispered: "One. Two.
_Three_."

It began. I have often wondered since how I could have been so wrong
in my calculations. I had estimated that, if we all hummed, there
would result a gentle murmur. I never dreamt that each of the twenty
boys would respond so splendidly to my appeal. Instead of a gentle
murmur, the National Hymn was opened with extraordinary volume and
spirit.

My first instinct was the low one of self-preservation. Feeling no
desire to play a leading part in this terrible outbreak, I hastily
sat down with a view to resuming my studies. Unfortunately I sat
down too heavily, and there was the noise of a bump, which served to
bring the performance to an effective conclusion. My books clattered
to the floor, and Mr. Cæsar turned on me with a cry of wrath.

"Ray, what are you doing?"

It was a sudden and awkward question; and, for a second, I was at a
loss for words to express to my satisfaction what I was doing. Penny
seemed disappointed at my declension into disgrace, and murmured
reproachfully: "O Rupert, my little Rupert, _st. st._" I saw that
the game was up. Mr. Cæsar had inquired what I was doing; and a
survey of what I was doing showed me that, between some antecedent
movements and some subsequent effects, my central procedure was a
conducting of the class. So, very red but trying to be impudent, I
said as much, after first turning round and making an unpleasant
face at Penny.

"Conducting, sir," I explained, as though nothing could be more
natural at twelve o'clock.

"Conducting!" said Mr. Cæsar. "Well, you may be able to conduct the
class, but you certainly cannot conduct yourself."

This resembling a joke, the class expressed its appreciation in a
prolonged and uproarious laugh. It was a stupendous laugh. It had
fine crescendo and diminuendo passages, and only died hard, after a
chain of intermittent "Ha-ha's." Then it had a glorious
resurrection, but faded at last into the distance, a few stray
"Ha-ha's" from Pennybet bringing up the rear.

Mr. Cæsar trembled with impotent passion, his weak eyes eloquent
with anger and suffering.

"Are you responsible for this outrage, Ray?"

I looked down and muttered: "It was my suggestion, sir."

"Then you shall suffer for it. Who has tampered with the clock?"

There was no answer, and every boy looked at the remainder of the
class to show his ignorance of the whole matter. Doe glanced from
one to another for instructions. Some by facial movements suggested
an avowal of his part, but he whispered: "Not yet," and waited,
blushing.

"Then the whole class shall do two hours' extra work."

The words were scarcely out of Mr. Cæsar's mouth, before every boy
was protesting. I caught above the confusion such complaints as:
"Oh, sir!" "But _really_, sir," or a more sullen: "I never touched
the beastly clock!" or even a frank: "I won't do it." I observed
that Penny was taking advantage of the noise to deliver an emotional
sermon, which he accompanied with passionate gestures and concluded
by turning eastward and profanely repeating the ascription: "And now
to God the Father--"

A sudden silence, and every boy sits awkwardly in his place.
Radley's tall figure stood in the room: and the door was being shut
by his hand. I kept my eyes fixed on him. I was changed. I no longer
felt disorderly nor impudent: for disorderliness and impudence in me
were but unnatural efforts to copy Pennybet, that master-fool. I
dropped into my natural self, a thing of shyness and diffidence. I
was not conscious of any ill-will towards Radley for returning to
his class-room, when he was not expected; it was just a piece of bad
fortune for me. I was about to be "whacked," I knew; and, though I
did not move, I felt strange emotions within me. Certainly I was a
little afraid, for Radley whacked harder than they all.

And then, as usual, my brain ran down a wildly irrelevant course. I
reflected that the height of my ambition would be reached, if I
could grow into as tall a man as Radley. My frame, at present, gave
no promise of developing into that of a very tall man; but
henceforth I would do regular physical exercises of a stretching
character, and eschew all evils that retarded the growth. In the
enthusiasm of a new aim, towards which I would start this very day,
I almost forgot my present embarrassing position. Hasty calculations
followed as to how much I would have to grow each year. Let me see,
how old was I? Just thirteen. How many years to grow in?

"Who is the ringleader of this?" asked Radley..

I stood up and whispered: "Me, sir."

Somehow a ready acknowledgment seemed to agree with my latest
ambition.

"Then come and stand out here. You know you ought to be caned, so
you'll thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, being a decent boy, you'd be
miserable without it."

Here Mr. Cæsar, who bore no grudge against Radley for assuming the
reins of command, whispered to him; and Radley asked the class:

"Who touched the clock?"

"I did, sir."

It was Doe's voice.

"Why didn't you say so before?"

"I was just going to when you came in."

Radley looked straight into the brown eyes of the boy who was
supposed to be his favourite, and Doe looked back unshiftingly; he
had heard those condemned, who did not look people straight in the
face, and I fancy he rather exaggerated his steady return gaze.

"I'm sure you were," said Radley.

Then the foreman of the other boys got up.

"Some of us suggested it to Doe, sir."

"Very well, you will have the punishment of seeing him suffer for
it."

And thereupon, without waiting to be told, Doe left his desk, and
came and stood by me. It was a theatrical action, such as only he
would have done, and our master concealed his surprise, if he felt
any, by an impassive face.

"I shall now cane these two boys," he said with cold-blooded
directness.

"Certainly," whispered Penny.

Both corners of my mouth went down in a grim resignation. Doe's lips
pressed themselves firmly together, and his eyelids trembled. Mr.
Cæsar, ever generous, looked through the window over green lawns and
flower-beds. Radley went to his cupboard, and took out a cane.

"Bend over, Ray."

"Certainly," muttered Penny again. "Bend over."

I bent over, resting my hands on my knees. Radley was a cricketer
with a big reputation for cutting and driving; and three drives,
right in the middle of the cane, convinced me what a first-class
hitter he was. At the fourth, an especially resounding one, Penny
whistled a soft and prolonged whistle of amazement, and murmured:
"Well, _that's_ a boundary, anyway." And I heard suppressed giggles,
and knew that my class-fellows were enjoying the exquisite agony of
forcing back their laughter.

When my performance was over, the second victim, Edgar Doe, with the
steel calm of a French aristocrat, which he affected under
punishment, walked to the spot where I had been operated on. He bent
over (again without being told to do so), and only spoiled his proud
submission by telegraphing to Radley one uncontrolled look of
pathetic appeal like the glance of a faithful dog. Radley, not
noticing these unnerving actions, or possibly a little annoyed by
them, administered justice severely enough for Doe, proud as he was,
to wince slightly at every cut. Then he put his cane away, and
issued, as before, his little ration of gentleness.

"You're two plucky boys," he said.


§4

That night I measured my barefoot height against the dormitory wall,
and made a deep pencil-mark thereon: which done, I reached up to a
great height, and made a mark to represent Radley. After these
preliminaries there was nothing to do but to wait developments. One
practice which aided growth was to lie full-length in bed instead of
curled up. So, after I had cut with nail-scissors the few fair hairs
from my breast and calves, in an endeavour to encourage a plentiful
crop like that which added manliness to Pennybet's darker
form--after this delicate, operation, I got between the sheets, and
straightened out my limbs with a considerable effort of the will.
Later on I forced them down again, when I found that my knees had
once more strayed up to my chin.

Our dormitory at Bramhall House was a long many-windowed room,
containing thirty beds, Edgar Doe's being on my left. He suddenly
made reference to our punishment of the morning.

"I wonder why he gave me a worse dose than you."

"Yes, he did let into you," I said cheerfully.

Doe flushed, and continued talking so as to be heard only by me.

"If it had been any other master, I'd have been mad with him. Fancy,
practically two whackings in a morning; one on the knuckles and one
on the--and the other. But you can't hate Radley, can you?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said, with grave doubts.

There was a pause. But a desire to tell confidences had been
begotten of warm bed and darkness, and my friend soon proceeded:

"It's funny, Rupert, but I like talking to you better than to any of
the other chaps. I feel I can tell you things I wouldn't tell
anybody else. Do you know, I really think I like Radley better than
anyone else in the world. I simply loved being whacked by him."

I pulled the clothes off my head that I might see the extraordinary
creature that was talking to me. A dim light always burned near our
beds, and by it I was able to see that Doe was very red and clearly
wishing he had not made his last remark. My immediate desire, on
witnessing his discomfiture, was to put him at his ease by
pretending that I saw nothing unusual in the words. So I quickly
evolved a very casual question.

"What! Better than your father and mother?"

"Well, you see--" and he shifted uneasily--"you know perfectly well
that my father and mother are dead."

"O law!" I said.

Awkwardly the conversation dropped. And, as I lay upon my pillow,
down went my brain along a line of wandering thoughts. Doe's remark,
I reflected, was like that of a school-girl who adored her mistress.
Perhaps Doe was a girl. After all, I had no certain knowledge that
he wasn't a girl with his hair cut short. I pictured him, then, with
his hair, paler than straw, reaching down beneath his shoulders, and
with his brown eyes and parted lips wearing a feminine appearance.
As I produced this strange figure, I began to feel, somewhere in the
region of my waist, motions of calf-love for the girl Doe that I had
created. But, as Doe's prowess at cricket asserted itself upon my
mind, his gender became conclusively established, and--ah, well, I
was half asleep.

But, so strange were the processes of my childish mind that this
feeling of love at first sight for the girl Doe, who never existed,
I count as one of the strongest forces that helped to create my
later affection for the real Edgar Gray Doe.

"I think you and I must have been intended to come together,
Rupert," I heard him saying later on, as I was fast dozing off. "I
s'pose that's why we were called Doe and Ray."

"Er," I dreamily assented from beneath the bedclothes.

And still later a voice said:

"It was rather fun being whacked side by side, being twins."

From a great distance I heard it, as I listened upon the frontier of
sleep. And, recalling without any effort Radley's words: "There's
nothing like suffering together to cement a friendship," I crossed
the frontier. All coiled up again, my knees nearly touching my chin,
I passed into the country of dreams.



CHAPTER II

RUPERT OPENS A GREAT WAR


§1

Poor Mr. Cæsar, with the weak eyes! He had left his class-room door
unlocked. _Golly_, so he had! And since the bell had only just
ceased to echo, and Mr. Cæsar would certainly be some minutes late,
what was to stop us from conducting a few operations within the
class-room? Under the command of Pennybet, we entered the room and
with due respect lifted the master's large writing-desk from its
little platform, and carried it to the further end of the room. We
left him his armchair, decently disposed upon the platform, thinking
it would be ungenerous to keep him standing through an hour's
lesson.

Then we guiltily stole out of the class-room, closed the door, and
lined up in the corridor, as smartly as a squad of regulars. Aided
by Penny's hand, we right-dressed. We kept our eyes front, heads
erect, and heels together. We braced ourselves up still better when
Mr. Cæsar appeared at the end of the corridor. None of us spoke nor
moved. A few fools like myself giggled nasally, and were promptly
subdued: "Don't spoil it all, you stinking fish!"

On came the gallant Mr. Cæsar, his eyes mutely inquiring the reason
for this ominous quiet. He reached the door with no sign from any of
us that we were aware of a new arrival. He tried the lock with his
key and, after an expression of surprise to find it already turned,
opened the door and walked in. Immediately, in accordance with a
pre-arranged code of signals, Penny dropped _one_ book. We
right-turned. We did it in faultless time, turning as one man, and
each of us bringing his left foot with a brisk stamp on the floor.
Then, a suitable silence having ensued, Penny dropped two books.
Instantly we obeyed. In single file, our left feet stamping
rhythmically, with heads erect and eyes front, we marched after Mr.
Cæsar, and gradually diverged from one another till each man stood
marking time at his particular desk. At this point Penny tripped
over his left heel, and in an unfortunate accident flung all his
books on to the floor. Abruptly, and like machines, we sat down. The
room shook.

It was difficult for our master to know what to do; as there was no
real reason to associate our military movements with Penny's series
of little accidents, and there was certainly no fault to find with
our orderly entry into the class-room. So he did nothing beyond
sadly sweeping us with his eyes. And then he inquired:

"Where's my desk?"

Goodness gracious, where could his great desk be? We got out of our
seats, foreseeing a long search. We began by opening our own desks
and looking inside. Certain high lockers that stood against the wall
we opened. It was in none of them. We pulled ourselves up and looked
along the top of these lockers. It was not there. Penny did three or
four of these "pull-ups" by way of extending his biceps. We looked
along the walls and under the forms. Penny created a little
excitement by declaring that "he thought he saw it then." And Doe
opened the door and looked up and down the corridor.

"It's not anywhere in the corridor," said he. The whole class felt
he might be mistaken, and went to the door to satisfy themselves.

Mr. Cæsar affected a little sarcasm.

"Is not that it at the other end of the room?"

We turned round and gazed down the direction in which he was
looking. Yes, there was surely something there. Penny flung up his
hand and cried:

"Please, teacher, I've found it."

"Well," began Mr. Cæsar, "if one or two of you would bring the desk
up here--"

If one or two of us would! Why, we all would--all twenty of us. We
took off our coats and, folding them carefully, laid them on the
desks. We rolled up our shirt-sleeves above the elbows, disclosing a
lot of white, childish forearms. We spat on our hands and rubbed
them together. We did a little spitting on one another's hands.
Then we hustled and crowded round the desk. We lifted it off the
ground, brought it a foot or two, and dropped it heavily. Phew! it
was hard work. We took out our handkerchiefs, and wiped the sweat
from our brows. Anyone who had no handkerchief borrowed from someone
who had finished with his. Returning to our task, we carried the
desk a little nearer and dropped it. Doe got a serious splinter in
his hand, and we all pulled it out for him. Puffing and groaning as
we dragged the unwieldy desk, we approached the dais on which it
must be placed. We all stepped upon the dais (slightly incommoding
Mr. Cæsar, who was standing there), and lifted up one end of the
desk so that the pens and pencils rattled inside. One pull, my lads,
and the desk was half on the platform and half on the floor. Leaving
it in this inclined position, we stepped down to the floor again,
and three of us placed our shoulders against the lower end, while
the rest scrummed down, Rugby fashion, in row upon row behind one
another. A good co-operative shove, accompanied by murmurs of
"Coming on your right, forwards; heel it out, whites; break away,
forwards!" and up she went, a diagonal route into the air.
Unfortunately, we all raised our heads at the same time to see how
much further she had to go, and back she tobogganed again on to the
shins of the boys in the front row. They declared they were
henceforth incapacitated for life.

We got it on to the platform at last with a good run, but the
enthusiasm of the back row of scrummers, who apparently thought the
task could not be completed till they were off the floor and on the
platform, was so strong that the desk was pushed much too far, and
toppled over the further side of the platform.

This was too much. My suppressed giggling burst like a grenade into
uncontrolled laughter. Then I said: "I'm sorry, sir."


§2

But this disorder is a strong dish, and we've talked about quite as
much as is good for us. So let us change the hour and visit another
class-room, where there are no rebellions, but nevertheless
arithmetic and trouble--and Ray and Doe and Pennybet. And here is a
dear little master in charge. It is Mr. Fillet, the housemaster of
Bramhall House, where, as you know, we were paying guests--a fat
little man with a bald pate, a soft red face, a pretty little
chestnut beard, and an ugly little stutter in his speech. Bless him,
the dear little man, we called him Carpet Slippers. This was because
one of his two chief attributes was to be always in carpet slippers.
The other attribute was to be always round a corner.

Fillet, or Carpet Slippers, disliked his young boarder, Rupert Ray.
The reason is soon told. One night, when I was out of my bed and
gambolling in pyjamas about the first story of his house, I looked
up the well of the staircase and saw the little shadow of someone
parading the landing above. Thinking it to be a boy, I called out in
a stage-whisper: "Is that old pig, Carpet Slippers, up there?" And a
dear little chestnut beard and a smile came over the balusters,
accompanied by a voice: "Yes, h-h-here he is. Wh-what do you want
with him?"

It was Fillet, in carpet slippers, and round a corner.

And then in his class-room, this day, I got a sum wrong. I deduced
that in a certain battle "point 64" of a soldier remained wounded on
the field, while "point 36" escaped with the retreating army unhurt.
This did not seem a satisfactory conclusion either to the sum or to
the soldier, and I was not surprised, on looking up the answer, to
find that I was wrong. There were two methods of detecting the
error: one was to work through the sum again, the other was to
submit it to Fillet for revision. The latter seemed the less irksome
scheme, and in a sinister moment--heavens! how pregnant with
consequences it was--I left my desk, approached Carpet Slippers, and
laid the trouble before him.

Now Fillet was in the worst of tempers, having been just incensed by
a boy who had declared that two gills equalled one pint, two pints
one quart, and two quarts one rod, pole, or perch. So, when I
brought my sum up and giggled at the answer, he looked at me as if
he neither liked me nor desired that I should ever like him. Then he
indulged in cheap sarcasms. This he was wont to do, and, after
emitting them through his silky beard, he would draw in his breath
through parted teeth, as a child does when it has the taste of
peppermint in its mouth.

"I-I-I t-tell you, a boy in a kindergarten could get it right--a
g-g-guttersnipe could. I-I-I-I--"

This was so much like what they yell from a fire-engine that, though
I struggled hard, I could not contain a giggle.

"I-I-I'll do it for you."

He got it wrong, which elicited a bursting giggle from me. Fillet
turned on me like a barking dog.

"Go to your place, boy, and take your vulgar guffaws with you!"

Surprised at Fillet's taking it to heart in this way, I went, much
abashed, to my seat, and tried to control my fit of giggling. But it
so possessed me that finally it made a very horrible noise in my
nose. Carpet Slippers raised his little head that was a hybrid
between a peach and a billiard ball--a peach as to the face, and a
billiard ball as to the cranium--and when he saw me sitting with
lips tightly set and my desk trembling with my internal laughter,
anger put a fresh coating of red upon both peach and ball. But he
took no action at present.

"I-I'll d-do one of these sums on the board for you."

Getting up, he turned his back on us and, facing the board, wrote
with his chalk the number 10. Now, as he wrote on a level with his
eyes, his fat little head quite eclipsed his writing. So, simply to
show that I was no longer laughing, I called out loudly:

"What number, sir?"

Round swung Carpet Slippers, his peach-face assuming the tint of a
tomato.

"What number? I-I'll t-teach you to ask 'what number' when I've
written '10' on the board. I-I've heard what you do in other
class-rooms. D-don't think you're going to introduce your
hooliganism here. Go and ask the p-porter to let me have a cane."

The boys pricked up their ears and looked at me. Penny let his jaw
drop in amazement and, leaving his mouth open, maintained an
expression like that of the village idiot. I stared, flabbergasted,
into Carpet Slippers' face.

"But, sir--" I ventured. Tears and temper began to rise in me.

"D-don't argue. Do what you're told."

"But, sir--" And then, like a cloud, sullen obstinacy came down upon
me. I was certain that he had been longing for an excuse to flog me.
The pride and the relish of the martyr supported me as, without
telling him that his head had obstructed my view, I walked out to do
my message.

Finding the porter in his office, I politely inquired if he could
spare a cane for Mr. Fillet; and, at my query, he grinned--the
blithering idiot. The cane that he handed me I took, and, being at
that moment a youngster who wouldn't have let his spirits sink for
all the Fillets in the world, I offered back the cane and suggested:

"I say, are you sure you couldn't lose this?"

"Quite sure, sir."

"Well, look here, do you really think you can manage to part with
it?"

"Quite sure, sir."

"Well, don't you think that, for a man of your age, you look rather
a fool standing up there and saying 'Quite sure' to everything
that's said to you? Don't you think it's rather a fat and silly
thing to do?"

I put it to him as man to man.

"Quite sure, sir," he replied with a laugh.

"Go to blazes," I said, "and take your vulgar guffaws with you."

On my way back I stayed to admire the classical busts and statues
that lined the deserted corridors like exhibits in a museum. All the
life-size ones I whacked with my cane. I took a wistful pleasure in
giving the naked ones two good strokes each. As I drew near the
class-room door I certainly felt uncomfortable, for I knew Fillet
intended to sting. But my sense of martyrdom carried me through. I
gathered my dignity about me and knocked heavily on the door.
Annoyed that my hand had trembled and spoilt the effect, I opened
the door briskly and shut it briskly. With a calm step and fearless
look, both studied, for I copied Doe in these matters, I walked
towards Carpet Slippers. The little man was pretending he had
forgotten all about me, while really he had prepared a sarcasm with
which to poison my wounds.

"Oh, indeed. You've b-been a long time gone; but thrashings are like
good wine--they improve with keeping."

He sucked in his breath with satisfaction.

"Yes, sir," replied I. If there was any trembling about me it was
inside and not visible.

He took the cane from my hand and examined its effectiveness. Then,
intending a pretty little jest, he faced the class and commanded:

"St-stand out, that boy who asked the number of the sum after I had
put it on the board."

"Swine!" hissed somebody. I fancy it was Edgar Doe.

"I'm here, sir," replied I from his side, white.

Pennybet, who all this time had kept his mouth agape and
impersonated the village idiot, laid down his pen, closed his book,
and disposed himself to watch out the matter. He was always callous
when in pursuit of his object; and his object now was to suck the
humour out of my painful position. He put his elbow on the desk,
rested his head at a graceful angle on the palm of his hand, and
half closed his Arab eyes. He looked like an earnest parson posing
for a photograph.

Our engaging little master, having bent me over and arranged me for
punishment, gave me ten strokes instead of the usual six--the number
of the sum had been "ten."

When I rose from my bended posture, how I hated Carpet Slippers, and
was happy in my hate! I hated the silkiness of his chestnut beard; I
hated the sheen of his pink cranium; I hated his soft rotundity and
his little curvilinear features; I hated, above all, his poisonous
speeches. As I walked to my seat, my body stinging still, I resolved
to go to war with Fillet. I declared with all a child's power of
make-believe that a state of war existed between Rupert Ray and
Carpet Slippers. War, then, war, open or understood!

And when that class closed, no boy was more forcedly loud and lively
than I: no boy shut his books with greater claps; no boy banged his
desk more carelessly. Nor would I listen to sympathising friends,
but laughed out in Fillet's hearing: "You don't think I care, do
you?"

Fillet noticed my ostentatious display of indifference and perhaps
felt apprehensive of the latent devil that he had aroused, but his
inward comment, I doubt not, was: "We'll see who's going to be
master here. He can feel the weight of my hand again, if he likes.
We can't let a bad-spirited little boy have all his own way. I think
we'll break his defiance. I think we will." And possibly, as he said
it, he sucked in his breath with satisfaction. Fillet realised that
it was War and the first shots had been exchanged.


§3

This was the preliminary skirmish. Real and bloody battle was joined
twenty-four hours later. But, in the meantime, there was an
early-evening lull which enclosed a delightful cricket match. A team
of junior Kensingtonians, that included Doe and myself, was going
across Kensingtowe High Road to play the First Eleven of the
Preparatory School, an academy flippantly known as the "Nursery,"
its boys being "Suckers." Edgar Doe had been a certain choice.
Brought up in the midst of a great cricketing family, the Grays of
Surrey tradition, in his beautiful Falmouth home which boasted
cricket pitches of its own, he was as polished a bat as the Nursery
had ever known. I came to be selected as a promising change-bowler.

We were walking in our flannels towards the Nursery gates, when Doe,
referring with bad taste to the Fillet incident just closed, began
to chastise me with his cricket bat. I returned the treatment with a
pair of pads. So we went along, full in the public view, each trying
to "get in a good one" on the other. I managed to knock Doe's bat
out of his hand, and, as he stooped to pick it up, he received my
pads upon his person. This was actually in the middle of the High
Street. He laughed loudly, and crying "O you young beast!" started
to belabour me with his fists. Suddenly we stopped, let our hands
fall to our sides, and began to walk like nuns in a cloister. Radley
had joined us.

"If you're so anxious to whack each other," said he pleasantly,
"won't you commission me to do it in both cases?"

We grinned sheepishly and said nothing. My mind formulated the
sentence "Good Lord, no!" and, quickly constructing what would have
happened had I uttered it aloud, I tittered uncomfortably and looked
away. There was an awkward pause as we walked along with our master
between us.

"Well, Ray," he said, endeavouring to put us at our ease, "are you a
great batsman?"

"No, sir," replied I. "Doe is."

"So I've heard. I'm coming to see what he's made of."

Doe could find nothing to say in reply, but lifted up his face and
looked at Radley with the gratitude of a dog. For my part I felt a
pleasing, squirmy excitement to think that we were to walk on to the
Nursery field in the company of the great Middlesex amateur; and,
incidentally, I took the opportunity of measuring myself against
him.

We arrived on the ground, creating less sensation than I would have
liked. Radley took a deck-chair in front of the pavilion next to Dr.
Chapman, or "Chappy," surely the stoutest and jolliest of school
doctors. The fact that Chappy, occupying so withdrawn a position as
medical officer to the two schools, should have been such a
memorable figure in the life of the boys testifies to the largeness
of his personality. And, not being the most modest of stout and
hearty doctors, he was always willing himself to testify to the
largeness of his personality. He dearly loved cricket, he would tell
you, for he had been a cricketer himself and seen many worse; and he
dearly loved boys, for he had been a boy himself and never seen any
worse: so, where there was a boys' cricket match, there, old man,
you would find Dr. Chapman. Besides, when boys played cricket, it
was well to have a doctor on the field, and he was a doctor and had
never met a better. Would you have a cigar? All tobacco, in his
opinion, led to the overthrow of body and soul--believe him; it
did--but you would never see him without a cigar. Not he!

Such was Chappy, the medicine man. He was right, about the cigar. As
I figure him in my mind, the things that I immediately associate
with his stout, jolly presence are a chewed cigar drooping from his
mouth and a huge white waistcoat soiled by the tumbled ash. I sum
him up as a genial soul whose religion was to seek comfort, to find
popularity a comfortable thing, and to love popularity among young
things as the most comfortable of all. And, if that last dogma of
his be not Heaven's truth, then my outlook on life is all wrong, and
this book's a failure!

As Radley placed his muscular frame in the deck-chair, Chappy
greeted him with these regrettable remarks: "Hallo, Radley, aren't
you dead yet? How the devil are you? My word, how you've grown!"

The match started, Doe and our captain opening the Kensingtowe
innings. I left the other boys and lay down upon the grass a little
behind Radley's chair. Converging reasons led me there: one--I
desired that my old friends, the Suckers, should know of my intimacy
with S.T. Radley, of Middlesex; two--I felt Chappy's conversation
would certainly be entertaining; and three--I should soon have to go
in to bat, and was feeling too nervous to talk to offensively happy
boys who were unworried by such imminent publicity.

"So they've sent us a cricketer in young Doe," Radley was saying to
Dr. Chapman.

Chappy turned in his chair, which creaked alarmingly, and composed
himself to talk comfortably.

"Oh, the Gray Doe--yes, charming little squirt--best bat the Nursery
had last year. And, though nobody but myself recognised it, the Gem
was the best bowler."

"The Gem?" queried Radley. "Who was the 'Gem'?"

"Don't you know the Gem? Why, Ray, the little snipe with eyes
something between a diamond and a turquoise. The ladies here called
him 'The Gem' because of this affliction. He'd be a great bowler,
only he's too shy."

At this point I rolled on to my stomach so as to appear unaware of
their conversation, which was even more entertaining than I had
hoped. Radley turned round and, having seen me, said something in an
undertone to Chappy. I imagine he drew attention to my proximity,
for Chappy laughed out: "O law! Glory be!" and continued in a lower
voice.

My sense of honour was not so nice that it prevented me from trying
to catch the rest of their conversation. They had opened so
promisingly: and now Chappy was getting quite enthusiastic, and the
rapid motion of his lips was causing the cigar to be so restless
that it constantly changed its position and scattered ash down his
expanse of white waistcoat. I had no need, however, to strain my
ears, for Chappy was incapable of speaking softly for any length of
time. I caught him proceeding:

"He's clever, his masters say, and got a big future. Handsome little
rogue, too. He's none of your ordinary boys. He's a twig from the
cedar-top."

For two reasons--first, that this was a fine rhetorical flourish on
which to close; and secondly, that his breath was giving out--Chappy
concluded his remarks, swept his waistcoat, and re-arranged his
position in the deck-chair. I was feeling horribly anxious lest I
should die without knowing whether it was of Doe or of me that he
had spoken, when Radley cleared up the matter by saying:

"He's playing a straight bat, isn't he?"

So it was Doe. Well, he was clever, I supposed, but not as clever as
all that.

"Straight bat, rather!" agreed Chappy.

"Does he play a straight bat in all things?"

"My dear fellow, what the la-diddly-um do you mean?"

"Why, he seems to be a bit of an actor--to do things because he
wants to appear in a favourable light."

"I say, that's doocid ungenerous of you," said Chappy. "And, by
jove, if he likes to imagine himself very noble and heroic, and
tries to act accordingly, very fine of him."

"Very," endorsed Radley, cryptically.

"I've a great liking for him."

"So have I."

"Good. Now, what first attracted you--his good looks or his
virtues?"

"Neither. His vices."

"Here, hang me, Radley," said Chappy, "you want examining. You're
not only a shocking bad conversationalist, but also a little mad.
That's your doctor's opinion; that'll be a guinea, please."

After this I ceased to listen. The talk was all about Doe, and
rather silly. And I wanted to think over the little fact, which
Chappy had let fall, that certain ladies called me the "Gem." I
chewed a blade of grass and ruminated. That flattering little
disclosure balanced the weight of Fillet's dislike. I wished it
could be brought to his knowledge; and I imagined conversations in
which he was told. This was the first time that it dawned upon me
that there was anything in my looks to admire. Pennybet I conceived
to be dark and handsome, Doe fair and pretty, and myself drab and
plain. But now I got up and took myself, completely thrilled, to a
mirror in the changing room to have a look at these same eyes. I was
prepared for something good. The result was that I became almost
sick with disappointment. A close examination showed them to be
quite commonplace. I could not really detect that they were blue. I
even thought they looked a little foolish. And, as I gazed at them,
they certainly turned very sad.

I strolled back to the pavilion just as a burst of applause
announced a fine drive by Doe.

"Oh, pretty stroke!" shouted Chappy, sprinkling quantities of ash.
"Pretty play! By jove, the little fool's a genius!"

"He may be a genius of some other sort," said Radley, "but he's not
a genius at cricket. Look at his diffidence in the treatment of
swift balls. He's a cricketer _made_, not born. He has imagination
and a sense of artistic effect, and a natural grace--that's all.
They'll make him a poet, perhaps, but not a cricketer."

"Don't talk such flapdoodle!" grumbled Chappy. "Look at that!"

All that Doe did then was to direct the ball with perfect ease
between Point and Short Slip and to glance quickly towards the
pavilion to see if the stroke had been noticed. The sight of him
batting there made me feel another squirmy sensation at the thought
that he was my especial friend. He had given, I recall, his grey hat
to the umpire to hold, and the wind was playing with his hair. His
shirt-sleeves were rolled up, showing arms smooth and round like a
woman's.

Just then, however, my attention was attracted by a new arrival. The
boy Freedham, having listlessly wandered across from Kensingtowe,
slouched on to the Nursery playground. He was a tall, weedy youth of
sixteen; and the unhealthiness of his growth was shown by the long,
graceless neck, the spare chest, and the thin wrists. There was a
weakness, too, at his knees which caused me to think that they had
once worked on springs which now were broken. But the greatest
abnormality was seen in his eyes. Startlingly large, startlingly
bright, they were sometimes beautiful and always uncanny.

This Freedham, with his slack gait and carriage, strolled towards a
railing and, resting both elbows on it, watched Doe at his cricket.
The whole picture is very clear on my mind. A sunny afternoon seemed
to have forgotten the time and only just made up its mind to merge
into a mellow evening: the boys, watching the game, were sending
their young and lively sounds upon the air; those of the smaller
cattle, whose interest had waned, were engaging with the worst taste
in noisy French cricket: the flannelled figures of the players, with
their wide little chests, neat waists, and round hips, promised fine
things for the manhood of England ten years on: at the wicket stood
the attractive figure of Edgar Doe in an occupation very congenial
to him--that of shining: and Chappy had just said: "I say, Radley,
don't you think this generation of boys is the most shapely lot
England has turned out? I wonder what use she'll make of them," when
he saw Freedham's entry and opened a new conversation.

"That's old Freedham's boy over there, isn't it?" he asked.
"Shocking specimen."

"Yes, he's a day-boy. You know his father, the doctor?"

"Doctor be damned!" answered Chappy. "He's no more a doctor than a
Quaker's a Christian. Old Freedham's surgery is a bally schism-shop.
He's one of those homoeopathic Johnnies, and would be blackballed on
societies of which I'm a vice-president. You know--just as I can
never go into dissenting chapels without feeling certain of the
presence of evil spirits--my wife says it's the stuffiness of the
atmosphere, but I say: 'No, my dear, it's evil spirits; I know
what's evil spirits and what's bad air'--well, just so I could never
go into old Freedham's--but I'm not likely to be asked.
Doctor--bah!"

And Chappy flung away the moist and masticated end of his cigar and
all such nonsensical ideas with it. Then he took a new cigar from
his case, proceeding:

"And the man's not only a nonconformist in the Medicine Creed, but
he's actually a deacon in a Presbyterian chapel--or something
equally heathen--and a fluent one at that, I expect. I make a point
of never trusting those people. Look at his sickening son and heir
yonder. Did you ever see an orthodox doctor produce a cockchafer
like that? That's homoeopathy, that is--"

And Chappy flourished his new cigar towards Freedham.

Doe, too, had seen Freedham's entry, and some sign of recognition
passed between them. The next ball came swiftly and threateningly
down upon the leg side, and Doe, perhaps with the nervousness
consequent upon the arrival of a new critic before whom he would
fain do well, stepped back. A shout went up as it was seen that the
ball had taken the leg bail. Doe looked flurried at this sudden
dismissal and a bit upset. He involuntarily shot a glance at
Freedham and after some hesitation left the crease. He rather
dragged his bat and drooped his head as he walked to the pavilion,
till, realising that this might be construed into an ungracious
acceptance of defeat, he brought his head erect and swung his bat
with a careless freedom.

"Heavens!" murmured Radley. "Isn't he self-conscious?"

Chappy didn't hear. He was taken up in applauding the stylish
innings of the retiring batsman, and swearing he would stand the boy
a liquor.

"Bravo, Doe!" he shouted. "Don't think you can play cricket, 'cos
you can't. So there!"

Doe entered blushing and stood nervously by an empty chair near
Radley, who read his meaning and said: "Sit there, if you like."

My friend put the chair very close to his hero and, having sat in
it, began to remove his pads. I think Radley was pleased with this
action and liked having the worshipping youth beside him. The fall
of Doe's wicket had brought my innings nearer and started a fresh
attack of stage-fright. In my agitation movement seemed imperative.
So I came and reclined on the ground by Edgar, intruding myself on
his notice by asking:

"That beastly tapeworm Freedham spoilt your game, didn't he?"

Edgar heard my question, and his lips fumbled with a reply. The face
that he turned upon me was a deep plum-pink from recent running and
surmounted with fair hair whose disordered ends were darkened with
moisture.

"No," he said; "at least, I don't know him. But what's it to do with
you?"

This remark was sufficiently discouraging to impel me on to my feet
and to send me to districts where I should be less unpopular. I
conceived the idea of examining Freedham at nearer range. Perhaps I
was jealous of him. Though as yet I had no unordinary love for Doe,
I had a sense of proprietorship in him which was quickened the
minute it was disturbed. So I moored myself on the railing about
three yards from Freedham. This could easily be managed, Freedham
being one of those boys who were always alone. For a little I
pretended to watch the game and then stole a furtive, sideways
glance at his lank profile. I had immediate cause to wish I had done
nothing of the sort, for he turned his unholy eyes on mine and so
disconcerted me that I swung my face back upon the cricket field and
affected complete indifference. I even hummed a little ditty to show
that if any mind was free from the designs of the private detective,
mine was. But my acting was not made easier by the certainty that
Freedham's eyes were steadily examining my burning cheek. And, if it
be possible to see a question in eyes which you are only imagining,
I saw in Freedham's: "What the blazes do you want?" After giving him
time to forget me, I turned again to look at him. But once more I
caught his weird orbs full upon mine, and muttering. "Oh, dash!"
concentrated my attention on the cricket.

A few minutes later the heavy wooden rail on which I was leaning
began to vibrate horribly. I looked in alarm at Freedham. He was
standing rigid, as though sudden death had stiffened him upright.
His left hand was grasping the railing, and through this channel an
electric trembling of his whole frame had communicated itself to the
wood. His face was unnaturally red, and his right hand had passed
over his heart which it was pressing. His eyes were fixed on the
cricket match.

My first sensation, I confess, was one of pride at being the boy to
discover Freedham in what appeared to be a fit. I went quickly to
him and said: "I say, Freedham. Freedham, what's the matter?"

"N-nothing," he replied, still stiff and trembling. "But it's
all--right. I shall be quite--fit again in a minute. Don't look at
me."

"But shall I get you water or something?"

"No. It's all right. I've had these attacks before. In class
sometimes and--I've conquered them, and--no one's known anything
about them. So don't tell anyone about this. Promise."

It cost me something to throw away the prospect of telling this
thrilling story of which I had exclusive information, but the man in
pain is master of us all, so I readily promised.

"All right, Freedham. That's all right."

Though some years his junior, I said it much as a mother would
soothe a frightened child to sleep.

"Thanks awfully," said Freedham gratefully.

"Oh, by the by, there's old Dr. Chapman over there. Should I fetch
him?"

"No, damn you!" cried my patient with extraordinary conviction.
"Can't you mind your own infernal business and leave me to mind
mine?"

This was so rude that I felt quite justified in leaving him to mind
his own infernal business, whatever it might be. I strolled away.

Now, with this interesting performance of Freedham's, my desire to
describe this cricket match ends. There was a hot finish, but, in
spite of some fortunate overs from myself, the Suckers won. The last
wicket down, Chappy got out of his deck-chair with a sudden
quickness which suggested that such was the only method of
successfully getting his fat self upon his feet; and, when he had
shaken down his white waistcoat and said: "Bye-bye, Radley. Reg'lar
meals, no smoke, and you may grow into a fine lad yet," carried
himself off with the awkward leg-work of a heavy-bodied man,
cheerily acknowledging the greetings of the little Sucker boys, and
prodding the fattest of them in the ribs. Radley strolled away,
followed by the wondering looks of boys who were told that this big
man was S.T. Radley, of Middlesex. Freedham, quite recovered,
returned to his day-boy roof among the endless roofs of Kensingtowe
Town. And I plied homeward to Bramhall House, depressed by the
prospect of Preparation for the rest of the evening, and by the
restored consciousness of Fillet's hostility, which, forgotten
during the cricket match, now came back upon me like a sense of
foreboding.



CHAPTER III

AWFUL ROUT OF RAY


§1

The following afternoon I was looking rather glumly out of a window
at the broad playing fields which, in the greyness of a rainy day,
seemed as deserted as myself. From my place I could see nearly all
the red-brick wall that surrounds Kensingtowe grounds; I could see
the iron railings which, at long intervals, break the monotony of
the wall. Now the railings of Kensingtowe, like all places with sad
memories, have an honourable place in my heart.

Naturally it was a rule, strictly enforced, that boys must make
their exit from the fields by going through the Bramhall gate rather
than over the railings. Naturally, too, this rule was sometimes
disregarded, for the architect, whom I deem a desirable soul, had
made the passage over the railings invitingly possible by means of
some well-placed cross-pieces, which he sketched into his designs,
saying (I imagine): "We shall have the lads climbing over at this
point--well, God bless 'em--I hope they're not caught and whopped
for it." Right at the farthest corner of the field was the Bramhall
gate, which--But the Bramhall gate needn't interest us: _we_ leave
by the railings.

The noise of a footstep disturbing the gravel caused me to look
down. A boy, hatless, ran across to the wall and walked guiltily
beneath it till he reached the railings. The fairness of his hair
arrested my attention. And, while I was wondering what any boy might
be doing hatless in the rain, my friend Doe had grasped the
railings, pulled himself to their top, and dropped on to the
pavement beyond.

Now, my dear Watson, here was a case of exceptional interest. In all
the annals of criminal investigation I know of none that presented
possibilities more bizarre, none that called more urgently for the
subtlest qualities of the private detective. I rushed out of the
building, letting doors slam behind me. Quickly I reached the
railings, raised myself to the top, and glanced down the road in
time to see Doe join the lank and sinister figure of Freedham at the
corner.

But alas! just over the road was Bramhall House, Fillet's own
kingdom, and even at that moment I saw a bald head emerge from its
central doorway. A feeling that was partly terror and partly temper
manacled me to the top of the railings; and after a few tense
seconds I was gazing fascinated into a little bearded face which was
staring with interest up at me. It was Carpet Slippers, and he may
be said to have been round a corner.

"Oh, dash!" I muttered. And then, as I stared down at him, thinking
it right that he, by virtue of his seniority, should open the
conversation, I gradually began to feel better, for I remembered
that it was War.

"Hallo, Ray," said Fillet, "what may you be d-d-doing up there?"

"Climbing over, sir." (Indeed, what more obvious?)

"Oh, you-you are climbing over, are you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Oh, indeed."

When I saw that he was trifling with me, I determined that he should
know it was War. Defiantly I answered:

"Yes, sir. Climbing over. YES, SIR. *YES, SIR*."

Fillet went white, but he only sucked in his breath and said:

"Oh, indeed. And d-d-do you contemplate coming down?"

I borrowed a favourite word of Penny's. "Ultimately, sir."

"Ah! you do, do you? Well, wh-when you 'ultimately' come down, you
will go straight to my study."

"Delighted, sir." The blood rushed to my face as I realised my own
impudence, but I was glad that I had said it.

Fillet went his way, and I came down from my railing, combating the
sickening certainty that I had made a fool of myself, and
determining to believe in the splendour of my attitude and to carry
it through to victory. Carry on, Rupert, carry on. Onward, Christian
soldiers.

I sauntered over to Bramhall House and climbed the stairs to the
house-master's study. Hearing Fillet grunt at my knock, I walked in
to execution.

"Oh, let's see, Ray, you were cl-climbing over, weren't you?"

"I believe so, sir."

"Oh, indeed. Then you shall write five hundred lines of Cicero.
You'll play no games till they're done."

Five hundred Latin lines! God! I had nerved myself for physical
punishment, but for nothing so dreadful as this. This meant long
days of confinement with hard, hard labour. A great mass of tears
rose from somewhere and came dangerously near the surface. But I
kept them down and tried to show, though there was a catch in my
voice, that I was still unbroken.

"Yes, sir. Anything further?"

"Yes indeed." Carpet Slippers sucked in his breath. "A further
hundred lines. P-p-perhaps that'll teach you that rebellion is
expensive."

I swallowed the tears. "No, sir. That won't teach me."

"So? Well, let's say yet another hundred."

Mentally stunned and bleeding, but ready to do battle with the Day
of Judgment itself, I retorted:

"That won't teach me either, sir."

"Oh, indeed. Then we'll add another _three_ hundred--eh?--making a
thousand in all."

And at that point I shamefully broke off the fight. It wasn't
fair--he had all the artillery. I held back the tears, fast
gathering in volume, and gave up the unequal contest. One day my own
guns would come. Quite respectfully I said "Yes, sir," and walked
out. The vanguard of that mighty array of tears had forced its way
as far as my eyes, which felt suspiciously moist. In fact, as I shut
the door and found myself alone--absolutely alone--they nearly came
forth in full cataract. But I saved the situation by thinking hard
of other things and whistling loudly.

I went to an open window in the corridor and, looking out, saw that
the sun had just dispelled the rain. The railings of Kensingtowe
over the roadway were still burnished and glistening with wet, as
were the leaves of shrubs and trees. And the air that touched my
cheek was all soft and sweet-smelling after rain. Resting my elbows
on the window-sill, I told myself that I hated Carpet Slippers;
that I hated Doe and it was all his fault; that I wouldn't do the
lines--I wouldn't do them; that I didn't care if I was expelled;
Kensingtowe was a beastly school, and Bramhall was its filthiest
house.

The sound of a step in the corridor behind me arrested my thoughts.
I leaned farther out of the window and muttered: "Oh, I hope he
won't speak to me. I hope he'll pass by. I hate him, whoever he is.
O God, make him pass by," for I knew there was a moisture in my
eyes. I hurriedly held them wide open, that they might dry in the
sun.

"Ray?" It was Radley's voice, but I wilfully paid no attention.

In a second he had laid violent hands on me and swung me round, so
that I was held facing him.

"What? Crying, Ray? That's a luxury we men must deny ourselves."

It seems, as I recall it, a fine sentence, but at that moment, when
I wanted to be a wild ass among men, it was a _lie_. The hot blood
flooded my forehead. "I'm _not_ crying!" I snapped, keeping my face
upturned, my eyes fixed on his, and my teeth firmly set, that he
might see that he had lied.

"No, of course you're not. But come, now, Ray, what's the matter?
Out with it! There's nobody but me to hear you. And I understand."

I didn't want him to speak kindly to me, for I hated him. So I said
in a rapid, trembling voice:

"I've got a thousand lines from Mr. Fillet. I didn't deserve them
and I'm not going to do them!"

Immediately I felt that a catastrophe had occurred--that an edifice,
which had been standing a second ago, was now no more. Before that
sentence I had faced a kindly friend, now I faced an offended
master. But, though I knew the ruin my words had wrought, I indulged
a glow of self-righteousness and was prepared to relate my defiance
to an approving world.

"Come with me," commanded Radley. Swinging round, he walked towards
his room. At first I remained at the window without moving, and
waited for him to turn his head and tell me a second time to come.
But he walked on, never entertaining the thought of my not obeying
him. And I followed, armed with indifference. It was a pity that
walking behind him should give me so fine a view of his splendid
proportions and inflate me with strange aspirations, for I hated the
man and _wanted_ to do so. I hated him--let no other thought replace
that.

He led me to his room and said "Come in." I entered and, when I had
closed the door, looked aimlessly about, taking little interest in
the suggestive fact that Radley was opening a cupboard. There was
little change in my countenance when he placed himself opposite me
with his cane in his hand.

"You have been very rude to me in speaking defiantly of your
house-master. Do you understand?"

There was no alternative for me but to say "Yes, sir." The answer
came huskily. I was annoyed that my voice sounded hoarse.

"Put out your hand."

I obeyed, stretching out my right hand as far as I could and
displaying no perturbation, though I was wondering what it would be
like to be caned on the hand. This was one of Radley's surprises,
and he followed it with one of his brutal remarks:

"Put that right hand down. You'll need it to be in good condition
for writing your lines. Put up your left."

I held out my left hand. The cane sang in the air and whistled on to
my open palm. A spasm of pain passed up my arm, my hand closed
convulsively, my elbow drooped, and that vast array of tears made a
tremendous effort to carry everything before them. But with all the
strength at my command I got the better of them. Angry at having
closed my hand, I extended the scorching palm again, and, very pale
and trembling perceptibly, looked with set features straight at
Radley.

He threw the cane away and, sitting on the edge of his table, took
hold of the hand that he had struck and drew me towards him.

"Don't you think, Ray, that you, who can take a licking so pluckily,
ought to face bad luck in a less cowardly fashion than you have this
afternoon? You'll meet worse things than lines before you're ten
years older; and, Ray, I want you always to face your fate, whatever
it may be, as you faced my cane--teeth set, no wincing."

It was a stroke of master play. His gentleness, following
immediately upon his severity, burst the dam. His words were an
"Open Sesame" to the leaky floodgates I had held so tightly closed.
I hung my head and the huge throng of tears broke forth. Wo-ho, what
a cascade! My eyes overflowed with salt tears and my nose wanted
wiping. Oh, waly, waly. Radley seemed indisposed to let go of my
left hand, so I was compelled to search for my handkerchief with my
right. After sounding the depths of four pockets, I found it, a
singularly dirty one, in the fifth. And, while great internal sobs
shook my frame with the regularity of minute-guns, Radley spoke so
nicely that I determined I would be everything he wanted, a really
beautiful character--always providing that it didn't interfere with
my war with Fillet. For one day--one great and distant day--I would
terribly overthrow that little old pantaloon.

"Now, Ray, we must get someone to dictate a few of these lines to
you."

I looked up and smiled. "Thank you very much, sir," and I
unconsciously pressed his hand.

"Doe is your friend. We'll test his metal and see whether he thinks
friendship is something more than getting into scrapes together." He
touched a bell. "I'll send for him."

I gave a sudden shiver. Doe was out in the world with Freedham,
probably without an "exeat," and certainly without a hat. I began to
wonder whether by a dramatic _dénouement_ I was to be the cause of
Doe's capture.

"You rang, sir?" inquired the manservant.

"Yes; find Master Doe. He's in the house."

"Yes, sir." The door closed, and it was too late. Too late for what?
I was sure I didn't know, for there was nothing I could have done to
prevent the search for Doe. Late emotion had left, I suppose, my
imagination in an overwrought state. And I had reason to wonder if I
was moving in a dream, when, after a knock at the door, Doe walked
in, his eyes sparkling at having been sent for by the object of his
worship.

"Now, Doe," began Radley, with a smile--

          "This life's mostly froth and bubble.
             Two things stand like stone:
           Kindness in another's trouble,
             Courage in your own.

Ray's just got a thousand lines of Cicero. But he understands all
about 'courage in your own,' and you understand all about 'kindness
in another's trouble.'"

"Yes, sir," agreed Doe, a bit bewildered, but instantly prepared to
live up to this noble reputation.

"Well, what do you say to dictating some of the lines to him?"

"Rather, sir. I'll dictate them.... Besides, sir," he added, as if
this explained everything, "Ray and I are twins."


§2

And not a game did Doe play until he had dictated all those lines.
It occupied a week and two days. When I dropped my pen, having
written the last word, the relief of thinking that I had no more
lines to write was almost painful. I felt suddenly ill. My loins,
aching alarmingly, reminded me that I had been in a sitting posture
for many a weary hour; and my fingers, suffering from what I judged
to be rheumatism or gout, fidgeted to go on writing. My mind, too,
was confused so that I found myself repeating whole lines of Cicero,
sometimes aloud; and my face was pale, save for a dangerous pink
flush on the forehead.

Life, however, seemed brightened by the sense of a task completed,
and I began to think of someone else besides myself.

"I say, Doe," I asked, "aren't you going to tell me where you were
going when you joined that knock-kneed idiot Freedham?"

"No," announced Doe.

"But look here," I began, and was just about to tell him that
Freedham was an unwholesome creature who had mysterious fits like a
demoniac, when I remembered my promise of silence: so I went on
lamely: "You will tell me one day, won't you?"

"No," he repeated, feeling very firm and adamant and Napoleonic.

"But, my darling blighter, why not?"

"Because I don't choose to."

"Then you're a pig. But you might, Doe. Out with it. There's nobody
but me to hear you. And I understand."

"No."

"Well, tell me, how did you get back so early?"

"You see," answered Doe, cryptically, "the sun came out; and when
the sun came out, I came in."

It was a romantic sentence such as would delight this rudimentary
poet. Why he condescended to break his mighty silence even to this
extent, I don't know. It was perhaps a boyish love of hinting at a
secret which he mustn't disclose. An awful idea struck me. I say it
was awful because, though stirring in itself, it brought the thought
that I was left out of it.

"Oh, Doe, have you--have you a SECRET SOCIETY?"

"No."

"Here, hang me, Doe," I said, "you're not only a shocking bad
conversationalist, but also a little mad. That's your doctor's
opinion. That'll be a guinea, please."

And I got up to take the lines to Fillet.

"I say, Rupert," said Doe, blushing and looking away.

"Well?" I asked, with my hand on the door-knob.

"I say," he stuttered, "you--you might just mention to Radley that I
dictated _all_ the lines. It would sort of--I mean--Oh, but you
needn't, if you don't want to."


§3

That night there happened in Bramhall House one of those strange
events that are best chronicled in a few cold sentences. That night,
I say, while honest men and boys slept, Mr. Fillet sat up in bed and
listened. He distinctly heard movements in his study below. Jumping
up, he slided into his carpet slippers and crept downstairs. There
was a light in his study. He looked round the half-open door and saw
the back view of a boy in pyjamas. The whole incident is much too
sinister for me to remind you frivolously that little Carpet
Slippers was once again round his corner. He began: "Wh-what are you
doing?" and the boy at once did what any properly constituted
midnight visitor should do--switched off the electric light. When
Mr. Fillet, with a heart going like a motor engine, found the switch
and flooded the room with light, there was, of course, no one there.
But on his writing-table lay his cane, broken into pieces, and my
own copy of the thousand lines torn into little bits.



CHAPTER IV

THE PREFECTS GO OVER TO THE ENEMY


§1

What more exciting than for the whole school to learn by rumour the
next morning that all the prefects of Bramhall House had been
mysteriously withdrawn from their Olympian class-rooms to a special
cabinet meeting under the presidency of Stanley, the gorgeous
house-captain? Clearly some awful crime had been committed at
Bramhall, and there would be a public whacking and an expulsion. We
humans may or may not be brutal, but life is certainly more
stimulating when there is an execution in the air.

Chattering, prophesying, and wondering who was the criminal, we
found our way to our various class-rooms. It being First Period,
Doe, Penny, and I were under Radley's stern rule and obliged to sit
quietly in our desks, knowing that he would allow no more licence on
this exciting day than on any other. Our heads were bent over our
work when Bickerton, the junior prefect of Bramhall, entered the
room, approached the master's desk, and spoke in an undertone to
Radley.

I saw--for I was gazing at the new arrival over my work--Radley look
astonished, and turn his eyes in my direction.

"Ray."

"Yes, sir."

"You're wanted in the Prefects' Room."

I remember the universal flutter of excitement and surprise; I
remember Doe raising his head like a startled deer as I went out and
shut the door; I remember catching, from outside, Radley's sharp
rebuke, "Get on with your work." His voice sounded strangely
distant, and seemed to be on the happier side of a closed door.

Bickerton, who was enjoying himself, walked in front; and I followed
behind, bringing my attention to bear upon keeping in step.
Rearranging my stride now and then, I marched through the empty
corridors, listening to the drone of masters' voices teaching in
their class-rooms, and wondering at the loudness of our footsteps.
The sight of the prefects' door gave me my first sense of fear.

Being a prefect and thus mightily privileged, Bickerton turned the
door-handle of the room without knocking. It was like laying a hand
upon the Ark. Into the holy place Doe and I had passed before, not
as prisoners, but as patronised pets who were suffered to amuse the
august tenants with our "lip" until we became too disrespectful,
when we would be ejected with a kick. This morning it struck strange
and cold to hear Bickerton say:

"Here's the little bounder."

I entered, and saw the whole array of Bramhall prefects assembled,
Stanley, their senior, presiding. Bickerton shut the door
ceremoniously.

There were twelve of them, and every man was a blood. They had
reached a solemn age and, in the dignity of their bloodhood, were
quite unaware that they were playing at a mock-trial and enjoying
it. I'm sure none of them would have missed it. Were Stanley alive
now, instead of lying beneath the sea off Gallipoli, he would be
twenty-seven years of age, very junior in his profession, and
therefore much younger than when he was a house-captain of nineteen:
and he would admit that on this famous occasion he and his
fellow-prefects were highly pleased with the transaction entrusted
to them. For at twenty-seven we are people who have been old and now
are young again.

His team sat down two sides of a long table, and himself was
enthroned at the top in front of foolscap and blotting-paper. It was
a splendid tribunal.

I tried to persuade myself that I was perfectly comfortable, and
could, if need be, show my easy conscience by a little old-time
impudence. In reality my heart was fluttering, and a perspiration
had broken out upon my head and the palms of my hands. My brows I
wiped on my sleeve, and my hands I rubbed on the seat of my
trousers. Nor had I lost the headache which asserted itself directly
my long imposition was done. My forehead felt as if it had swollen
and extended the skin across it like elastic. And for the last
twelve hours my face had been warm and burning.

"Now, Rupert Ray," said Stanley, "we want you to own up to this
blooming business of last night. So fire away."

"I don't know what you're gassing about," said I.

"Now don't be sulky. You'll only make matters worse by trying to
bluff us. And goodness knows they're bad enough as it is."

"Oh, to think how we've been disappointed in you!" interposed
Bickerton, who had taken up a position on the fender. "To think how
we've cherished this viper in our bosom!" And he raised his hands in
mock despair.

"Now don't be an ass, Bicky," said Stanley, who deemed that a Court
of Inquiry over which he presided was much too weighty an affair to
be approached with levity; "it's no joking matter. The kid's in a
beastly mess, and, when he owns up, we must try to get him off as
lightly as possible. I think perhaps we've let this youth and his
chum, the Gray Doe, get too cheeky, and to that extent we're to
blame.... Now, Ray, answer me some questions. Did you get a thousand
lines from our revered housemaster, Carpet--Mr. Fillet?"

"Yes."

"When did you complete them?"

"Yesterday afternoon."

"In short, on the afternoon immediately preceding the tragedy which
took place in the microscopic hours of this morning?"

"Yes, I s'pose so."

"That's a remarkable coincidence, isn't it?"

"I'm bothered if I see why."

"My dear child, you really mustn't be 'bothered' in here. It's gross
disrespect to my brother-prefects--my colleagues. Besides, you knew
perfectly well that in the stilly night a malicious attempt was made
upon--not upon the life--but upon the cane of Mr. Fillet, which is,
after all, the life and soul of the little man."

There was laughter in court, in which his worship joined.

"O law!" ejaculated I, as things began to fall into shape.

"Really, child, such expressions as 'O law!' are out of order,
especially when they're only so much bluff.... I must now approach a
subject which may have sordid recollections for you, but in the
interest of the law I am bound to allude to it. Were you
whacked--ahem!--chastised a few days ago by the aforesaid Mr.
Fillet?"

"Yes."

"When did the old gaffer--when did Mr. Fillet whack you?"

"Yes, tell the gentleman that," put in Kepple-Goddard, a prefect who
felt that he was not playing a sufficiently imposing part and wished
to have his voice heard.

"A week ago last Monday," I answered.

"Where did he whack you?" pursued Stanley.

"On the recognised spot."

"Now, don't be cheeky. In what place did he whack you?"

"Why, in his class-room, of course," I retorted. "Where do you think
he'd do it? In the High Street?" As I said this I was seized with a
nervous fit of giggling.

"Look here, sonny," said Kepple-Goddard, rapping on the table,
"you're going the right way towards getting a prefects' whacking for
contempt of court."

Stanley raised his hand for silence.

"Why did he whack you?"

"Because he couldn't get my sum right."

Here Banana-Skin, a large and overbearing prefect, so called because
of his yellowish complexion, burst in with the skill of a
prosecuting counsel:

"Oh, then, are we to understand that you were whacked unjustly and
had reason for vindictiveness?"

"Go easy, Banana-Skin," protested Stanley. "Don't bully the kid."

"But," I said, beginning to feel that horrid array of tears
mobilising again, "that was some time before he gave me the lines--"

"Don't beat about the bush," interrupted Banana-Skin. "Did you feel
that you hated him?"

The question was not answered at once. I cannot explain how it was,
but the figure of Radley stood very clearly before my mind's eye,
and this helped me to speak the truth, though my voice broke a bit.

"Yes."

"Ah!" Everybody considered Banana-Skin to have elicited a damning
admission.

"Now," continued Stanley, his curiosity superseding his sense of
what was relevant, "how many cuts did he give you?"

"Ten."

"Poor little beggar! Didn't that seem to you rather a lot?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Now answer the Coroner that," commanded Kepple-Goddard.

"Yes," I replied.

"H'm!" grunted Stanley. "How did you know where you could find your
thousand lines so that you could tear them up?"

"I don't know what you mean. _You're_ bluffing now."

"Hallo!" cried Banana-Skin. "Didn't you hear him say '_You're_
bluffing now'? That shows that _he_ was bluffing before."

"Oh, that's a bit _too_ clever!" objected Stanley. "Give the kid a
chance."

There's nothing like sympathy for provoking misery and starting
tears, and, as Stanley uttered that sentence, I decided that God had
gone over to the prefects, and I would very much like to cry. To
drive back the tears I called to my aid all the callousness and
sulkiness which I possess. My face was the portrait of a sulky
schoolboy as Stanley continued:

"Now, Ray, which door did you leave the dormitory by?"

"I didn't leave it."

"I say," suggested Kepple-Goddard, "couldn't we send Bickerton to
ask all the boys who sleep in the same dormitory whether they saw
him leave it?"

"But they'd have been asleep, you ox!" put in Banana-Skin.

"Not necessarily."

"But it doesn't follow that, if they didn't see him leave
the dormitory, he didn't do it," objected Banana-Skin, the
self-constituted prosecuting counsel, who didn't want to see his
case fall to the ground.

"Not quite. But if they _did_ see him, it proves him a liar and
pretty well shows that he did."

"There's more sense in Kepple's idea than one would expect," gave
Stanley as his decision. "Dash away, Bicky, and find out."

So Bickerton--or shall I call him Mercury, the messenger of the
gods?--went, and I remained. It was no matter to me what news he
brought back. I stood there, in the lions' den, and counted the
cracks in the ceiling. I counted, also, the number of corners that
the room possessed, and remembered how these same prefects had often
(as when gods disport themselves) tried to make Doe and me stand in
them for what they termed "unmitigated cheek"; how, giggling, we
would fight them and kick them till they surrounded us and held us
with our faces to the wall; and how we would call them all the rude
names we could think of till they stuffed handkerchiefs in our
mouths as a gag. One of their favourite pastimes had been to do
Doe's hair, which they darkened with their wet brushes. It was
usually a difficult business, as Doe would treat the whole operation
in a disorderly spirit and declare that it tickled.

Presently Bickerton was heard running up the corridor (rather
undignified for a prefect) and came bursting into the room.

"Now listen," said he, somewhat out of breath, and looking at a
sheet of paper which he held in his hand. "Two boys saw Ray get up
and leave the dormitory last night. They sleep on either side of
him, and their names are Pennybet and Doe. The latter isn't sure
whether he dreamt it."

"Well, Ray, what have you got to say to that?" asked Stanley.

"Nothing," I answered, "except that, if it's true, I must have been
walking in my sleep. I did once, when I was a small boy."

Stanley ignored my feeble defence. He submitted to his colleagues
that it was all his eye and Betty Martin; and the others nodded
assent. Then the Chairman, recovering from his slight relapse into
the vernacular of the Fourth Form, enunciated the following
remarkable sentence:

"This inquest has, you will agree, been conducted by me in a
strictly impartial and disinterested way, and the proceedings have
been conspicuous for the absence of any bias, prejudice, or
bigotry."

"Whew!" whistled several boys. Stanley let a grin hover in a
well-bred way about his lips as he recommenced, the sentence being
well-prepared and worth repeating:

"There has been no bias, prejudice, or bigotry. Well, gentlemen, is
the corpse guilty or not guilty?"

"Guilty, the little beast!"

I went out of that cruel room resolved that "beneath all the
bludgeonings of chance my head should be bloody but unbowed." I was
unconquerable! I walked along the corridor, blown out with injured
virtue--a King among men. We assure you, our beloved subjects, we
were Rupert Head-in-Air.


§2

I returned to Radley's class-room and entered jauntily. All eyes
turned and followed me as I walked to the master's desk. The
excitement experienced by each boy seemed communicated to me. Radley
feigned indifference.

"Well?" said he.

"I've come back, sir."

"Right. Go and sit down."

Scarcely had I reached my seat before the bell rang loudly for the
Interval. The boys in their anxiety to hear the latest news flowed
out hurriedly. I lingered apprehensively behind. At last I summoned
up courage to venture into the corridor, where I found a group of
boys awaiting me. Through these I broke at a rush and went and hid.

All that Interval lip tossed to lip such remarks as: "Ray did it."
"I say, have you heard Ray's the culprit?" "What'll be done to him?"
"Oh, the prefects have issued an edict that anyone who holds
communication with him will get a Prefects' Whacking." "Ray did it."
"What? that kid? Little devil--it's good-bye to him, I suppose."
"What'll Radley say? He's one of his latest bally pets." "Ray did
it."

After ten minutes the Second Period began. As our form went to Herr
Reinhardt, the great Mr. Cæsar, and he would certainly be late, I
dawdled in my hiding-place, not having the courage to face the boys
in the corridor. I waited till I conjectured that Mr. Cæsar must be
safe in his class-room, and the boys in their desks. Then I entered
his room, famous character as I was, and apologised for being late.
Mr. Cæsar wrote my name in the Imposition Book, but, having raised
his face and given one look at my swollen, tearful eyes, he
deliberately crossed the name out again. And, indeed, throughout
that period he so consistently refused to see that the boys were
showing detestation of my degrading presence, and was so
inexpressibly gentle in his manner towards me, that now I always
think of this weak-eyed German master as a quiet and Christian
gentleman.

When school-hours were over I went to a window, and there, leaning
on the sill, thought how badly my war was going. Fillet was winning;
he had won when he caned me for asking the number of the sum; he had
won when he gave me the thousand lines; and now he was assaulting in
mass formation with the whole school as his allies. Ah, well! as
Wellington said at Waterloo--it depended who could stand this
pounding longest, gentlemen.

And, as Wellington did, I would charge at the end of the day. One
splendid way of charging, I thought, would be to die immediately.
That would be most effective. How Fillet would prick up his ears on
Monday morning when he heard the Head Master say to the school
assembled in the Great Hall: "Your prayers are asked for your
schoolfellow, Rupert Ray, who is lying at the point of death." And
on Tuesday, when he should say in a shaking voice: "Your
schoolfellow, Ray, died early this morning. His passing was
beautiful; and may my last moments be like his." And then there
would be the Dead March.

Having no one to talk to, I drew out from among the crumbs and
rubbish in my pockets a letter that had arrived from my mother that
morning. My young mother's love for me was always of the extravagant
kind, and the words with which she closed this letter were:

     "I do hope you are having a magnificent time and that everybody
     is fond of you and nice to you. I must stop now, so good-bye,
     my darling little son, and God bless you. With heaps of love
     from your ever devoted and affectionate Mother."

It was funny that I had not even noticed those words when I
hurriedly read them in the morning. But now I found them strangely
comforting, strangely satisfying.

A slap on the back awoke me from my reverie. It was Doe.

"Come along, Rupert. I know you didn't do it. Or, if you did, I
don't care. We're twins."

"Go away. You'll get into a dreadful row if you're caught talking to
me."

"I don't care. They won't think any the worse of me, whatever they
do."

"Go away, I tell you. Or, if you don't, I shall have to, and I'm
very comfortable here."

"I shan't. And if you try to escape me I'll follow you."

"Oh, why can't you go away?" I grumbled with something like a sob.
"Go away. Go away."

But Doe persisted. In full view of the prefects he chatted gaily to
me. Once, as Radley passed, he slipped his arm into mine. And when
the master was out of hearing he asked:

"I s'pose Radley knows you're in Coventry?"

"Of course. Everybody does."

"Do you think he saw I had my arm in yours?"

"I should think so. You made it pretty obvious."

"I wonder what he thought."

All this time the skin on my forehead seemed to tighten and my
cheeks to tingle with warmth. Towards evening my temples began to
beat regularly. At these symptoms I was rather thrilled than
otherwise, for I felt there was a distinct prospect of my turning
the tables on everybody by dying.

At preparation the boys, with that lust to punish to which a crowd
is always susceptible, slid along the form to get as far from
me as possible and to leave plenty of room for myself and my
contamination.

In the dormitory no one spoke to me, but as I was getting into my
pyjamas one of the dormitory prefects burst in and addressed a
senior boy:

"I say, talking about this row of Rupert Ray's, isn't the Gray Doe
going to catch it to-morrow, by jove?"

In my anxiety about Doe I forgot that I was banned.

"What's he going to get?" My voice sounded husky and strange. The
boys didn't answer me or show that they had heard. They
ostentatiously proceeded with their conversation. Even Pennybet had
his back turned. I flung myself into my bed in a way that nearly
broke the springs, and, pulling the clothes furiously over my head,
left my bare feet showing, at which several boys laughed
contemptuously.

Oh, the horrid activity of my wide-awake brain! I couldn't sleep,
and even found difficulty in keeping my eyes shut. Once, as I raised
my weary lids, I found that the lights had gone out since I last
opened my eyes. And my headache, which had spread to the back of my
neck, was getting but little relief from my frequent changes of
position. Oh, the horrible conglomeration of ideas that crowded my
mind! Recent scenes and conversations entangled themselves in one
another. Ray did it--Ray did it--my darling little son--good-bye and
God bless you--there has been no bias, prejudice, or bigotry, but
heaps of love from your devoted and affectionate mother--Ray did
it--it's good-bye to him, I suppose--good-bye and God bless you--

"_Good-night, Ray_."

That must be Doe's voice; it came from reality and not from dreams:
it came loudly out of the silence of the dormitory and not from the
chorus of conflicting sentences droning in my mind: it was a real
voice, but I was too tired and too far lost in stupor to answer it:
good-night, Ray--it's good-bye to him, I suppose--heaps of
love--there was some comfort in that--heaps of love from your
devoted and affectionate mother. Ah! when shall I get properly off
to sleep? Let me turn over on to my other side and put my hand under
the pillow--but it was young Ray--Ray did it--Ray did it--how that
detestable sentence swells till it packs my head!--and I must be
asleep now, for I see Fillet fitting a rope across the door of an
unknown bedroom wherein I am confined with some invisible Terror
which drives me out of my bed: as I rush into the passage the rope
trips me up, and I fall forwards but am saved from injury by my
mother's arms: she catches me in the dark and says something about
my darling little son. And she remonstrates with Fillet, who is
standing by that dreadful bedroom door, till he merges into Stanley
listening shame-facedly to my mother's silvery, chiding laugh and
assuring her that the inquest was conducted in a strictly impartial
and disinterested way. He changes into old Doctor Chapman, who tells
her that Freedham died early this morning. For everything changes in
the dream except one thing: which is that there is a head aching
somewhere; now it is my own, now someone else's. I draw my mother
along a passage to a window and explain that the pencil-mark on the
glass is the register of my height. I put my back against the wall
to let her see that I can just reach the mark, when lo! it is a
great distance above me. I get on the cold stone window-sill that I
may reach it, and would fall a thousand feet, only something in my
breast goes "click"--and the dream was gone. With my return to
consciousness came the knowledge that the headache had been my own
throughout.

But it was terribly cold--and what a draught! Perhaps it was because
I was lying so dreadfully straight, whereas I generally lay curled
up. I wanted to bring my knees towards my chest, but couldn't move
my legs. How cold my chest was! Why had the bedclothes fallen away
and left it exposed to this horrible draught? I would have liked to
pull them right over my head that I might get warm again, but I was
too tired to make the effort. At last, however, the cold was more
than I could bear. So I put out both hands to pull up the
blankets--but could find none anywhere. God! I wasn't in bed at all,
but was standing!

The horror of that moment! A wild heart beat lawlessly at my side.
One more touch of terror, and it would rebel in utter panic. Why was
the dormitory so dark? Why had the little night-lamp gone out? And
the wooden floors were stone-cold like the window-sill in my dream.
I couldn't see if my bed were close to me or far away because of the
impenetrable darkness; but I was so very, very tired, and my eyes
were so uncomfortably warm with interrupted sleep that I must try to
feel my way. I put out my hand and touched a _padlock_. Like a
flash, it came with all its terror upon me: I was not in the
dormitory nor anywhere near it, but right away in a cellar below the
ground where there were some old lockers and play-boxes. Flinging
myself first to one side of the cellar and then to the other, I tore
at the walls in an agonised endeavour to get out. The last thing
that I remember was shrieking loudly and feeling a moisture rise to
my dry lips and pass down my chin.


§3

I awoke with a dull sense of impending trouble to find myself abed
in the Bramhall sick-room, into which long shafts of noonday
sunlight were streaming from behind drawn blinds. Looking down upon
me was Dr. Chapman, with his usual white waistcoat and moist cigar.

"Ah ha!" he said. "Now, Gem, what the dooce do you think is the
matter with you?"

I replied that I didn't know, and, just to see what he would say,
asked him why he called me "Gem."

"Gem? Whoever called you 'Gem'? Did I? Yes, of course I did--it's
short for Jeremiah."

"The gifted old liar!" I thought, while I demanded aloud his reason
for calling me "Jeremiah."

"Why, because you look so dam--miserable, as though your eyes would
gush out with water."

And partly at this idea, partly at his skill in getting out of a
difficulty, Chappy laughed so heartily that I laughed too, only with
this difference--that, whereas his laugh was like sounding brass,
mine was like a tinkling cymbal. Then he sat down by my bed and,
taking my wrist in one hand, pushed up the sleeve of my pyjama
jacket and felt my smooth, firm forearm. "Good enough," he said, and
proceeded to open the jacket down the front, and feel my chest and
waist, thumping me in both of them, and expecting me to gurgle
thereat like a sixpenny toy.

"You're all right," he decided, "except that you're an ass. Take
your medical man's word for it--you're an ass. My prescription is
'Cease to be lunatic three times daily and after eating.' My fee'll
be a guinea, please."

I said nothing, but looked at him for further advice.

"Confound you! Don't look at me with those Jeremiad eyes. What have
you been doing, moping indoors for the last ten days instead of
playing in the fresh air?"

"I wasn't moping--" I began sullenly.

"Now, sulky--sulky!" interrupted Chappy.

"I wasn't moping. I went and got a thousand lines from Mr. Fillet--"

"Yes, I know. The damned old stinker!" said Chappy, always coarse
and delightful.

I think I loved him for those words. I felt that my allies were
swinging into line for the great war against Carpet Slippers. There
was Doe, and now Chappy.

"I know all about it," continued the new ally, "and then you filled
your excitable mind with thoughts of revenge--eh?"

"Yes," I admitted, and looked down at the clean white sheet.

"And off you go on your midnight perambulations--the cold wakes you
up--and there's the devil to pay--and the old doctor to pay! One
guinea, please. And now I'm off."

"Oh, don't go," I pleaded, before I was aware of saying it. I didn't
want him to go, for he was an entertaining apothecary and a
sympathetic person, before whom I could act my sullenness and
aggrievement.

"Don't go? Why shouldn't I?" demanded Chappy, who seemed, however,
touched at my wanting him. "Now, my son, don't you run away with the
idea that you're of the slightest importance. All boys are the most
useless, burdensome, and expensive animals in the world. It wouldn't
matter twopence if they were all wiped out of existence--there'd be
a sigh of relief. So don't think it interesting that you're ill.
Because it isn't. And you ain't ill. So good-bye."

He disappeared into the matron's room next door, and his hearty
voice could be heard haranguing the lady:

"The Gem's got a healthy young constitution, but his brain's a
ticklish instrument. His _corpore_ is as _sano_ as you like, but his
_mens_ is rather too _excitabilis_. Ah ha! Matron, what it is to
move in this classic atmosphere! Certain sproutings of his
imagination must be repressed--push 'em down, Matron. Young beggar,
I'd sit on him and crush him. But then, it's all the fault of that
stuttering old barbarian slave-driver, Fillet."

Here the matron must have been speaking, for I heard no more till
Chappy began again:

"He's got a tough little breast, fine stomach-muscles, and limbs
firm and round enough to get him a prize in a Boy Show. But the
beast is spoiled as a specimen by his little Vesuvius of a mind. And
oh, Matron, I lied to him like an under-secretary. I said that boys
were the least important arrangements in the world, when, dammit--I
mean, God bless my soul--they're the most important things in
Creation, and this particular hotbed of the vermin has some of the
finest editions of them all. But never let the little blades know
it--never let 'em know it."

With that he must have taken his leave, for quiet assumed possession
of everything. I settled down to the boredom of the afternoon,
letting my eyes travel up and down the stripes of the wall-paper. Up
one stripe I went, down the next, and up the third, till I had
covered the whole of one wall. Then I tossed myself on to my other
side with an audible groan that gave me but little relief, since
there was no one to hear. The day wore on, and the long streaks of
light worked their way round the room, grew ruddier, and climbed up
the wall.

Oh, wearisome, wearisome afternoon! I began to sing quietly to
myself such songs as I knew: "Rule, Brittania," "God save the King,"
and "A Life on the Ocean Wave." This I gave up at last, and thought
out _corking_ replies that I might have made to the prefects, had my
wit been readier.

"Ding-ding-ding!" That was tea. Would Doe be any less happy when he
saw my vacant place, and wonder if I were very ill? How was Penny
feeling, who had lifted up his heel against me? Might he, together
with Stanley and his colleagues, think me dying! What would Stanley
and the prefects do to Doe for his flagrant breach of their edict?
Perhaps at this moment he was being tried by the great Stanley and
his Tribunal. Perhaps even now they had him bent over a chair and
were giving him a Prefects' Whacking. At any rate, I wished he would
walk in his sleep or do something that would bring him to this
monotonous sick-room. Why shouldn't he? Like me, he had been immured
indoors for ten days; like me, also, he had reasons for being
unhealthily excited.

"Ding-ding-ding!" I had closed my eyes when this bell sounded. It
meant Preparation, so it must be getting dark. I would open my eyes
and see. I did so, and saw nothing except darkness, which made me
think I must have dozed. The sudden view of the darkness frightened
me, for I remembered the terror of the preceding night and that,
before many hours, the whole world would be silenced in sleep, while
I might be wandering in the fearful cellars. At the thought my lips
formed the words: "O God, don't make me wake again in the Old
Locker Room. O God, don't. I wish I had somebody to talk to."

As I mechanically uttered this prayer, I began to feel rather
strongly that, if I were going to ask God to make this arrangement
for me, I ought to do something for Him. Clearly I must get out of
bed and say my prayers properly. So I stepped on to the floor,
reeling dizzily from my enforced recumbence, and knelt by the side
of the bed. Falling into prayers that I knew by heart, and scarcely
heeding what I was saying, I prayed (as my mother had taught me to
do when I was a little knickerbockered boy) for the whole chain of
governesses who had once taken charge of me. I enumerated them by
their nicknames: "Tooby and Dinky and Soaky and Miss Smith."
Trapping myself in this mistake, I actually blushed as I knelt
there. I realised that I must be more up to date. So I prayed for
Penny, Freedham, Stanley, Bickerton, and Banana-Skin, but I drew up
abruptly at Carpet Slippers. I couldn't forgive him. I felt I ought
to, but I couldn't. There, on my knees, I thought it all out; and at
last light broke upon me. To forgive didn't necessarily mean to
forgo the punishment. Yes, I would forgive him and pray for him, but
his punishment would go on just the same.

After this satisfactory compromise I got back into bed, happy at
being spiritually solvent, and repeating: "O God, don't make me wake
in the Old Locker Room; I wish I had someone to talk to."

And almost immediately, as if my prayers were to be answered, I
heard the noise of feet running towards my door. It opened, and
Bickerton, taking no notice of me, walked to the middle of the room,
struck a match, and lit the gas. Returning quickly, he said to
someone else who was approaching: "Oh, there you are. I've lit the
gas. Bring him and get him to bed. Put him beside the other ass for
company." I sat up in my excitement, and with a thrill--first of
elation and then of dismay--saw Stanley enter, bearing a boy, who,
with arms and legs hanging limply downwards, was apparently
lifeless: his fair head was a contrast with Stanley's dark blue
sleeve on which it rested, and his brown eyes, wide open, were
shining in the gas like glass.


§4

In committee that morning Stanley and his colleagues had decided
that Doe had deliberately asked for a Prefects' Whacking, and must
therefore be given an extra severe dose. He should be summoned to
judgment after games. So, just as Doe, who was standing bare-chested
in the changing room, had pushed his head into his vest, a voice,
shouting to him by name, obliged him to withdraw it that he might
see his questioner. It was Pennybet, acting as Nuncius from the
prefects.

"You're in for it, Edgar Doe," said this graceful person, leisurely
taking a seat and watching Doe dress. "I'm Cardinal Pennybet, papal
legate from His Holiness Stanley the Great. Bickerton had the sauce
to send for me and to describe me as a ringleader in all your
abominations. I represented to him that he was a liar, and had been
known to be from his birth, and that he probably cheated at Bridge;
and he told me to jolly well disprove his accusation by fetching you
along. I explained they were making beasts of themselves over this
Ray business--"

"It would have been more sporting of you," said Doe, drawing on his
trousers and thanking Heaven that he was not as other men, nor even
as this Pennybet, "if you'd stuck by Rupert and defied the
prefects."

"My dear Gray Doe," this statesman expounded, "I go in for nothing
that I can't win. And if you want to win, you must always make sure
that the adverse conditions are beatable. I like to tame
circumstances to my own ends (hear, hear), but if they aren't
tamable I let them alone. So now you know. But about these prefects.
They've got their cane ready, so push your shirt well down."

Doe studiously refused to hurry over his dressing, and, having
assumed his jacket, went to a mirror and took great pains with his
hair. At this moment, though the hand which held the brush trembled,
he was almost happy: for he was playing, I know, at being a French
Aristocrat going to the guillotine dressed like a gentleman.

"My time is valuable," hinted Penny. "Still, by all means let us be
spotless.... That's right. Now you look ripping. Come along, and
I'll stand you a drink when it's over."

For Penny, the callous opportunist, had a sort of patronising
tenderness for his two acolytes.

Doe followed his conductor in a silence which not only saved him
from betraying timidity by a trembling voice, but also suited the
dignity of a French Aristocrat. But no--at this point, I think, he
was a Christian martyr walking to the lions.

"Come, my lamb, to the slaughter-house," said Penny, in the best of
spirits, "and don't try that looking-defiant game, 'cos it won't
pay. They're not taking any to-day, thank you. That's their tone....
There's the door. Now remember not to say a word on your own behalf,
for with these bally prefects anything that you say will be taken
down in evidence against you.... Enter the prisoner, gentlemen.
Sorry to be so long, but we had to make ourselves presentable.
Anything else in the same line to-day?"

Penny paused for breath, but showed no desire to leave the Prefects'
Room. He wanted to see at least the commencement of judicial
proceedings. They looked so promising. All the Bramhall prefects
were there--Bickerton, Kepple-Goddard, and the prosecuting counsel,
Banana-Skin; and Stanley--Stanley by the grace of God.

"Bring the boy Doe in," ordered Stanley, "and kick that gas-bag
Pennybet out. If he were a year younger we'd whack him too."

No one thought himself specifically addressed, and Penny was left in
possession of the floor. But Stanley's curt treatment rankled in his
heart. So, placing his feet wide apart and his hands in his
waistcoat pockets, he respectfully drew attention to the opprobrious
epithet "gas-bag" which had been employed in requesting him to
retire from this Chamber of Horrors, and asked that the offensive
remark might be withdrawn.

Stanley scorned communication with an impertinent junior. He
telegraphed a glance to Bickerton.

"Turf him out, Bicky."

But Penny, perceiving that rough treatment would ensue, gracefully
removed himself from the room, so timing his motions that he closed
the door from outside just as Bickerton from within arrived at the
handle. Bickerton, defeated, swung round upon the assembly and
asked if he should follow the fugitive.

"That kid's too smart to live," said Stanley, more generous than his
peers. "Let him be. He'd best you and a good many more of us.
Besides, it's nearly tea-time, and we've got to get this Doe
business over."

Bickerton accordingly took up his place on the fender and considered
himself empanelled upon the jury. Doe stood with his hands behind
his back, his cheeks very flushed, and his knees slightly shivering,
but upheld by the thought of his resemblance to Charles I. He would
scorn to plead before this unjust tribunal.

"Now, Edgar Doe," began Stanley, and his voice was the signal for
silence in the court and for all eyes to be concentrated on the
prisoner. "You've made a little fool of yourself. You've openly set
us all at defiance and, no doubt, thought yourself mighty clever. I
don't think you'd have been so ready to do it if we hadn't been
decent and had you in here sometimes. But that's beside the point,
only I may say in passing that we shan't have you here any more."

"I don't care," said Doe. "I don't want to come, and I wouldn't come
if you asked me."

"Yes, we all know that. It was the obvious thing to say, Mr. Edgar
Gray Doe. Now we aren't bullies, and perhaps, had you comforted your
friend on the Q.T., and been copped doing so, we'd have let you off.
But it's the beastly blatancy of it all that constitutes the gravity
of your offence and detracts from its value as a self-denying act of
friendship. Do I express myself clearly?" concluded Stanley, turning
to his colleagues.

"Perfectly," said Kepple-Goddard.

"Well, Doe, did you grasp the drift of all I said?"

"I wasn't listening."

Stanley, nonplussed, looked round upon the jury. Banana-Skin
muttered: "The little devil!" Bickerton from the fender sighed:
"_St. St._ Ah, me! to think how we've swept and garnished the Gray
Doe! 'I never loved a dear gazelle, But what it turned and stung me
well.'"

"Dry up, Bicky," came the president's rebuke, "and go and turn away
those kids who are making a row with their feet in the corridor.
Remain on guard out there, if you don't mind. It's behaviour like
Doe's that makes these kids so uppish. Thanks, Bicky."

There was a sound of scurrying feet and repressed impish laughter,
as Bickerton opened the door and shut it behind him.

"Now, Doe," resumed Stanley, "what have you to say for yourself
before we leave the talking and get to business?"

"Nothing," replied Doe, "except that I'll go on being pally with Ray
whatever you do, you--you set of cads!"

"I say"--Stanley was keeping his temper--"don't play the persecuted
hero defying the world. It won't wash here."

"I'm not playing the persecuted hero," retorted Doe loudly, but with
drowned eyes. "I didn't think myself mighty clever--I--"

"I thought you hadn't been listening," put in Banana-Skin in a quiet
and torturing way.

"And I thought you'd nothing to say for yourself," added another.

"Steady, Banana," remonstrated Stanley, "don't tease the kid."

"They're not teasing me. I don't care what they say or what any of
you do."

"What a little liar it is!" taunted Banana-Skin, "when he's fairly
blubbing there."

"I'm not!"

"Fetch the cane out," pursued Banana-Skin, unheeding. "It's no good
talking. Get him over that chair, Kepple."

"You shan't!" said Doe, trembling terribly.

"By jove!" cried Stanley, jumping up. "He's going to show fight, is
he? Pass over that cane. Now, bend over that chair, youngster."

"I won't."

"Look here, you unutterable fool. Here's the cane. See it? If you do
what you're told you'll get a stiff whacking, but if you don't, by
God, there's no saying what you'll get."

Doe sprang forward, seized the cane, smashed it, and hurled the
pieces into their midst. "Now then, you cads, you can't lick me, you
brutes, you fools! Come for me--you lot of great devils!" He roared
this at them, and the last words were shouted in a burst of
hysterical crying. With head down he charged into Stanley, crashing
his fist on the senior prefect's chin.

The outraged prefects lost their heads. They surrounded him as he
fought. Above the turmoil came the cries: "Get hold of the little
devil!" "Pin his hands to his sides!" "He shan't forget this!" "Trip
him up, if you can't do anything else!" "It's not pluck, it's
temper!" "He's down--he's up again!" "By jove, the little blackguard
is going to beat the lot of you!" "Get him on the ground--don't be
afraid to go for him--he's asked for it." "That's right--got his
wrist? Twist it!" "Devil take it, he's wrenched it free again." "Get
out of the light--I'll settle him!" "I've got him--no, by God, I
haven't!"

Stanley, the first to recover himself, fell away from the rest.

"Come away, you fools. There are ten of you. Leave him alone."

"Can't help it!" yelled back Banana-Skin. "It's his fault. Let him
have it. That's right. Get him against the wall."

"Come away, you fools!" And Stanley began to pull them off and fling
them away furiously. Banana-Skin had a shock when he found himself
seized and hurled against the opposite wall.

It had been well had Stanley done this earlier, for Doe, turning
very white, fell forwards.

"Heaven save us!" exclaimed Stanley, as white as Doe. "We've done it
now. What brutes we are! Lock the door. He's fainted. By heaven, I
wish this had never happened!"

Doe had not fainted. He was in a state of semi-unconsciousness when
he knew where he was, but it was a long way off--when he heard all
that was said, but it came from a great distance--when neither his
position nor the sound of voices was of any interest to him, and his
only desire was to pass into complete unconsciousness, which would
bring rest and sleep. He felt them catch hold of him, one by the
armpits and another by the ankles, and knew that he was being lifted
on to a table.

Then the voices began from the top of a great well, while he lay at
the bottom. He could hear what they said; but why would they persist
in talking and keeping him awake? He was indifferent to them: they
were like voices in a railway carriage to a dozing traveller.

"I wouldn't have thought he had so much in him."

"Oughtn't we to undo his collar?"

Then the remarks evaporated into nonsense, but only for a space,
after which the nonsense solidified into sentences again.

"Don't you think we ought to send for Chappy?"

"Wait and see if he'll come round. His colour's returning."

Doe was ascending from the bottom of his great well: the voices were
becoming distincter, a pain in his head and body worse.

"Yes, he's less white. Sprinkle water over his forehead."

Doe was coming up and must have reached the top, for it was raining.
How silly! That wasn't rain, but the water being sprinkled over his
forehead. How hard the top of the well was! But there--he was
nowhere near a well, but in the Prefects' Room, lying on a deal
table. Or was he at the bottom of the sea?

"He's looking better now."

Up he came from the bottom of the ocean. Above him he could see the
surface, a broad expanse of pale green, through which the sun was
trying to shine and succeeding better every second. Though all the
while conscious that his eyes were closed, he saw dancing on the
green rippling veil, beneath which he lay, little spots of colour
that grew in number till they became a dazzling kaleidoscope.

"Doe, are you all right now?"

The kaleidoscope was gone; and the top of the sea was above him,
getting steadily closer and brighter. Good--he was above the surface
now, and the water seemed out of his ears, so that he heard with
perfect clearness the voice of Stanley saying:

"That's right--you're round again."

Though his eyes were still shut he felt he must be awake, because
the Prefects' Room with its furniture had crowded his mental vision.
So he opened his eyes, and there, sure enough, were the prefects'
chairs and cupboards; they seemed, however, to have moved with a
jump from the positions they had occupied in his mental picture.

If you wake and see faces looking down on you, the natural thing to
do is to smile round upon them all; and this Doe did, so that his
persecutors were touched, and Stanley said:

"How are you feeling now, kid? We're all of us beastly sorry."

"And I'm beastly sorry if I cheeked you."

"Well, never mind about that; but tell us if you're feeling putrid,
because then we'll tell old Dr. Chapman and make a clean breast of
it. My colleagues and I are determined to do the right thing."

"Oh, I'm all right. Don't say anything to anyone."

Ding-ding-ding!

"Are you fit for walking in to tea?" asked Stanley.

"Rather! I'm quite the thing now. Thanks awfully."

So Doe, sustained by a pride in his determination to conceal what
had happened and screen the prefects, walked with racking head and
aching limbs into tea, where he made a show of eating and drinking,
though periodically the room went spinning round him.

Tea over, he staggered into the Preparation room and sat at his desk
with his brows on his hand and his eyes on his book. The print
danced before his gaze: letter rushed into letter, word merged
mistily into word, line into line, till all was a grey blur. A blink
of the eyes--an effort of the will--a sort of "squad, shun!" to the
type before him--and the words jumped back into their places,
letters separated from their entanglement and stood like soldiers at
spruce attention. A relaxing of the effort--and dismiss!
helter-skelter, pell-mell went letter, word, and line. It was all a
blur again. Once more he made the necessary exercise of his will and
was able to read a line or two; but, if the mistiness were not to
come before his eyes, the effort had to be sustained, and that made
his head feel very heavy. It proved too much for him; the will to do
it expired, and away went the letters into the fog. Some boys
whispered that he was sighing for his friend Ray; others teased him
by muttering: "Diddums get whacked by the prefects? Diddums get a
leathering?"

Poor Doe! He must have been strongly tempted to retort: "I wasn't
whacked, so sucks!" and to describe that picturesque incident when
he smashed the prefects' cane, for his milk was the praise of men.
But he had to choose whether, by a little honourable bragging, he
should gratify his desire for glory, or by a martyr's silence he
should give himself the satisfaction of playing a fine hero. The
latter was the stronger motive. He kept silence, and only hoped that
his valorous deeds would leak out.

Preparation was nearly over when there came one of those
heart-stopping crashes which all who hear know to be the total
collapse of a human being. A faint--aye, and a faint in the first
degree, when life goes out like a candle.

"Who's that? What's that?" cried the master-in-charge, quickly
rising.

"It's Doe, sir. He's fainted."

"Oh, ah, I see," said he, leaving his desk and hastening to the
spot. "Sit down, all of you. There's nothing very extraordinary in a
boy fainting. Here, Stanley, pick him up and take him to the
sick-room; and, Bickerton, go with him. The rest of you get on with
your work."


Thereafter Pennybet--or, at least, so he assured us--expended his
spare time in knocking his head against walls and holding his breath
in the hope that he, too, might faint and have a restful holiday in
the sick-room.

"For," said he, "where Doe and Ray are, there should Me be also."


§5

"It's funny that we do everything together," said Doe that same
evening, as we lay in our beds and watched each other's eyes in the
light of the turned-down gas. "First we're twins; then we get
whacked together; then we both get rowed by prefects; and I do a
faint and you do a sort of fit.... But, I say, Rupert, look here; I
want to ask you something: will people think I was a fool in
everything I did, or will they think--well, the other thing? I mean,
let's put it like this--what would Radley think?"

"I don't know," said I, not very helpfully.

"I s'pose he's heard all about it. I hope he has--at least, I mean,
I'd like him to think I stuck by you. Only, when the prefects were
talking about defiance, it struck me that Radley might call it
'insubordination.'"

There was a pause, and then he proceeded: "I wonder if he'll be
sorry when he hears we are both laid up."

"Who?"

"Why, Radley, of course."

"_Mr._ Radley," said a voice, "if you please."

Radley, who had walked softly lest the invalids should be wakened
from sleep, was standing in the room and looking at us in the
glimmer. We were very surprised, and Doe's blushes at being caught
were only exceeded by the pleasure-sparkling of his eyes.

Radley approached my bed and placed the clothes carefully over my
chest. I didn't know whether to thank him for this, and only smiled
and reddened. And after he had done the same for Doe he sat at the
foot of his bed.

"When the world turns against you, always go sick," said he,
smiling. "It's an excellent rule for changing ill-will to sympathy.
If you're sent to Coventry, go straight to bed there. Oh, you're a
subtle pair, aren't you?"

We were both too shy to answer.

"Well, Ray, I've come to tell you to sleep with an easy mind. The
Head Master is satisfied that, if you were conducting operations in
Mr. Fillet's room, you were not conscious of it. It was Dr. Chapman
who worked all this for you. He threatened to go on strike if any
other conclusion were come to. He asked the Head whether he'd ever
dreamt he was doing most impossible things. The Head said 'Yes,' and
the doctor replied triumphantly: 'Well, don't let your brain get as
excited as a child's, or, maybe, if you're feverish and run down,
you'll go and do them.' He even suggested that possibly it was not
you but the Head who had committed the crime. He asked him if he
could imagine 'a silly and excitable kid' (which is an excellent
description of Ray) dreaming that he had done what actually was
done.... The Head was incredulous at first, but the doctor talked so
learnedly about the Subliminal Consciousness and Alternating
Personalities that the Head, if only for fear of getting out of his
depth, began to yield. I drove home the advantage by saying that I
believed you didn't generally lie--which was true, wasn't it?"

"Good Lord, no!" I replied.

"Well, it will be some day." Radley rose and strolled to the door.
"Yes, there's been a slump in Rupert Ray recently, but I'm afraid
there'll be a boom in him when he comes back to work, and he'll get
too big for his boots. It's a pity. Good-night."

And though Stanley, as we learnt later, had manfully revealed the
full story of Doe's sufferings at the hands of the prefects, Radley
walked away without giving the young hero one word of admiration.
And as the door shut Doe turned round in his bed, so that his face
was away from me, and maintained a wonderful silence.



CHAPTER V

CHEATING


§1

Time carried us a year nearer the shadow of the Great War. It
brought us to our fourteenth year, at which period Doe's mysterious
intrigue with Freedham still awaited solution, and my Armageddon
with Fillet still languished in a sort of trench-warfare.

It was now that our abominable form took to cheating once a week in
Fillet's class-room. A Roman History lesson left invitingly open the
opportunity to do so. For Fillet's method of examining our
acquaintance with the chapter he had set to be learnt in Preparation
was invariably the same. He asked twenty questions, whose answers we
had to write on paper. He would then tell us the answers and allow
us to correct our own work. After this he would take down our marks.

Now, our form had been organised by the all-powerful statesman,
Pennybet, who had lately been reading the Progressive Papers, into a
Trade Union, of which the President was Mr. Archibald Pennybet. He
had decided (as it is the business of all trade unions to decide)
that we were worked too hard. We must organise to effect an
improvement in the conditions of living. To demand from the Head
Master an instant reduction in the hours of labour didn't seem
feasible to our union of twenty members, but it would be quite easy
by a co-operative effort to modify the extent of our Preparation. At
a mass-meeting of the workers Penny outlined his scheme--Penny loved
scheming, moving forces, and holding their reins.

It was a marvellous scheme. We were to leave undone our Preparation
for the Roman History lesson, and, when Fillet told us the answers,
we were to write them down and credit ourselves with the marks.
"It's not cheating," explained our leader in his speech (and we
were all very glad, I think, to hear that it wasn't cheating),
"because it's not an effort to take an unfair advantage of each
other. It's just a cordial understanding, by which we all lessen one
another's burdens.

"I and my executive," continued Penny, "have all the details worked
out to a nicety. Here is a table for the whole term, showing how
many marks each worker will give up week by week. It is so graduated
that the clever fellows will end up at the top, and those who would
naturally slack will end up at the bottom. My executive has decided
that Doe is about the brainiest, so he comes out first"--blushes
from Doe--"and I myself am willing to stand at the bottom."

By this revelation of astonishing magnanimity Penny came out of the
transaction, as he did out of most things that he put his hand to,
with nothing but credit.

For half a term this comfortable scheme ran as merrily as a stream
down hill. And then a strange thing happened to me. I was talking
one afternoon to Penny on the absurdities of the Solar System, when
I became conscious that my mind had closed upon seven words: "That
Rupert, the best of the lot."

"That Rupert, the best of the lot." What on earth had resuscitated
those words? I politely bowed them out and continued my
conversation. But the phrase had entered like a bailiff into
possession of my mind. Even as I put it from me, believing it would
be lost in the flow of an absorbing conversation, I knew that there
had appeared upon the horizon a cloud no bigger than a man's hand.

"That Rupert, the best of the lot." The words, as first told to me
by my mother, had been the dying words of my grandfather, Colonel
Rupert Ray, with which he asked repeatedly for his dead son, my
father. So the words were uttered by the first Rupert Ray, applied
to the second, and recalled by the third at a most inopportune
moment. And the third would have bowed them out. Why? Because he was
a cheat? No--let us not be ridiculous--because he was in the midst
of an important conversation.

I pretended to listen to Penny, but really I was reasoning something
else. I was admitting that, now that this little phrase had popped
up through some trap-door of my mind, my conscience, long dormant on
the cheating theme, would have to be talked round again. And, as
something like suspense set in, I was anxious to join issue at once.

I left Penny abruptly and retired to a window (as you will have
observed it was my fashion to do), where I leant upon the sill and
prepared to argue out the problem.

Our co-operative effort to avoid preparing our lesson, was it wrong?
Yes. In spite of the old sophistry I knew it to be so. But what
attitude should one adopt? To refuse publicly to have any part in
the system would seem like mock-heroics. The only course open was to
learn the work and earn the marks. Inevitably I had arrived at the
conclusion which I dreaded. To learn the work seemed a task
surprisingly difficult and menacing after half-a-term's freedom. I
hugged that freedom. I wished my calm acquiescence in the system had
not been ruffled.

To learn the work--it was a little thing surely: to learn it unseen
and alone, while other boys went free of the labour, and gave
themselves the marks, notwithstanding. But no, I could no more
persuade myself that it was a little thing than I could believe that
any other course was the right one. I felt it was big--too big for
_me_.

Then the old thought, probably not an hour younger than sin itself,
was quick to take advantage of my indecision: I would go on as I was
a little while longer--till the end of the term--and then begin with
a clean sheet. There was much to be said in favour of this: for see,
if I were to do the thing thoroughly this term, I ought to forgo all
the marks that I had already come by dishonestly. To do that was
impossible. The confession involved would court expulsion.
Expulsion! As the word occurred to me, I realised the enormity of my
offence. How could I go on with that which, if detected, would mean
expulsion? To answer this question I went the whole dreary round of
reasoning once more and arrived at the conviction that the straight
action was incumbent upon me; which conviction I hastened to explain
away with the same dull casuistry. Sick and weary, I left the
window-sill and ceased to think any more. My conscience had given
battle to evil and neither lost nor won. Indecisive as the issue
was, I knew in my heart of hearts that it partook of the nature of a
defeat.

Later on, I wrote to my mother quite an effective analysis of this
spiritual difficulty: and I wrote it, so she loves to say, on a
postcard, and signed it "yours truly, Rupert Ray." Her reply I could
not expect till Wednesday morning, the morning of the lesson. Of
that I was glad. For to this extent I had temporised: I would wait
till I heard from her before attempting to learn the work. If
necessary, I could cram it up on Wednesday morning. And with this
settlement I was satisfied in a sickly way.


§2

While Tuesday is passing in silence and inaction, and the issue of
this crisis is in the bag of the postman, let me tell you something
of my relations with my mother. Her love for me, I have said, was of
the extravagant kind. It was ever and actively present. Though she
discharged her social duties with a peculiar grace, yet I am certain
that the thought she bestowed on them was an intruder amongst her
thoughts of me. My figure was present to her in the drawing-room,
the ball-room, or the theatre.

I fear I was not demonstrative in my affection for her. Perhaps,
when we sat alone at dinner on holiday evenings, and her dress was
one that left her arms bare, I would think that the softness of the
limbs was such as to make one wish to touch them; and I would stroke
them; or, when she laid her hand upon the table, I would rest my own
hot palm upon it. But I am certain that it was not till our stories
marched into the shadow of the Great War that I became at all
demonstrative.

Enough of that, then--the postman's feet are on the steps of
Bramhall House. May I just ask you to think of my mother as a very
gracious lady, gracious in form and feature and character?


§3

When breakfast was over on Wednesday morning, I repaired to the
Steward's Room, where letters had to be sought. I was attacked by a
feverish nervousness, which increased as I passed other boys
returning with letters in their hands. Anxiety seemed to be a
physical thing deflating my breast and loins. My heart, too, was
affected when I asked the Steward with feigned unconcern if there
were any letters for Ray. It beat rapidly as I awaited the reply.

None. I was stupefied: but soon stupefaction became anger; anger
hardened into sulkiness; and, as more sinister feelings grew,
sulkiness lost itself in guilty belief. Now I knew what course I
would take--I would go on cheating.

I turned to go out. Since that afternoon when the choice between
good and evil came so plainly before me, I had been dilly-dallying
at the spot where the two ways met. The more I hesitated, the
greater had become the desire to take the easier road. And now in
open rebellion against my scruples I stepped firmly upon it. My
reasoning was played out, and, as I walked back along the corridor,
I felt like one released from irksome fetters. Oh, it was good to be
free! At the same time, however, with the obstinacy of one who seeks
to justify himself, I muttered: "She might have written, I think,
she might have written."

Then a step sounded behind me, a hand touched my shoulder, so that
my heart jumped like a startled frog, and Radley said:

"Come and have a talk with me a minute."


§4

My mother had written, but not to her son. The postman, who
disappointed me, brought a graceful note to Radley:

     "I am most sorry for this trespass upon your time, and yet I
     have little hesitation in asking your help in a matter that
     concerns my son. Rupert, in his talks during the holidays, so
     often mentions your name, that it is not difficult to see that
     he owes you a good deal. Although he is too reserved to say so,
     I fancy he is quite devoted to you. His postcard, which I
     enclose, will explain all.

     "May I take this opportunity of expressing my thanks, and of
     saying how grateful his father would have been for all that you
     are doing for our son?"

Radley, when we reached the privacy of his room, took up his
favourite position of sitting on the edge of the table. Before him
stood I, all reasoning suspended.

"Well, how's the cheating going on?" he asked.

"What ch--?"

"Stop! Don't say 'What cheating?' because that would be acting a
lie. I tell you what we'll do. We'll wait a whole minute before you
answer me. We'll collect our thoughts and think whether we'll act
straightly or crookedly." He took his watch off his chain and placed
it upon the table beside him. "Right, we're off."

As the seconds sped by I tried to find some excuses. But, bewildered
and sick, I could only wonder how he came to know of it all. I had
found no answer when I saw him replacing his watch on his chain.

"Well, Ray, how's the cheating going on?"

"I didn't think it exactly cheating."

"Ray, don't." Radley protruded and withdrew his lower jaw with
irritation. "You know it was cheating. If you didn't, why did you
know what I was referring to? Well, we'll have another sixty
seconds' interval. We must have time to think, or else we lie."

Out came the watch again. The pantomime of waiting in silence and of
replacing the watch was re-enacted. Then Radley, half smiling, as if
he knew the worst was over, took up his question once more.

"Well, how's the cheating going on?"

Since I was not allowed to prevaricate, all that remained for me to
do was to return no reply. But there was stubbornness in my silence;
I should have liked to say pettishly: "But you won't let me explain,
you won't let me explain."

And then--quickly--Radley grasped me by the elbow and looked
straight down at me. For a second I resisted and tried to pull the
elbow away. His grip, however, was too strong, and I yielded.

I know now that his feeling for all the boys, as he gazed down upon
them from his splendid height, was love--a strong, active love. We
were young, human things, of soft features gradually becoming firmer
as of shallow characters gradually deepening. And he longed to be in
it all--at work in the deepening. We were his hobby. I have met
many such lovers of youth. Indeed, I think this is a book about
them.

And, as I am certain of his feelings for us all, so am I certain of
his feelings for myself. Those who were most pliant to his touch
loomed, of course, largest in his thoughts: and my mother's letter,
giving him the proof of my affection, which, since it was less
obtrusive than Doe's, had been probably less clear to him, brought
me in the foreground of his view. Be it right or wrong, this man
with the hard chin and kind eyes had his favourites; and I date from
this moment my usurping of Doe's position as Radley's foremost
favourite. The way in which he took hold of my elbow, my willing
submission of the army to his grasp told me that something was given
by him and taken by me. And my eyes, as was to be expected of them,
became suddenly moist and luminous.

"Time's going," he said, "and this Roman History lesson is upon us.
Have you learnt it?"

"No, sir."

"Well, the issue is simple: either you continue cheating, or you
give up no marks. Shall you cheat any more?"

"N-no, sir."

"Good, then you give up no marks."

"All right, sir."

"Well, hurry away. And if, when the big moment comes, you succeed in
doing what's right, come and see me again."


§5

The big moment came. Fillet opened his mark-book and read the names
in the order of last term's examination-list, which brought Doe's
name first. Doe was mending a nib when his name was called, and,
without raising his head, replied "100, sir."

Other names followed, and the boys gave up the marks allotted them
by Penny's system. Then came mine.

"Ray?"

For a second my voice or will failed me, so I pretended I had not
heard, and let him ask again.

"Ray?"

"_None, sir._"

Every boy turned towards me, and my cheeks burned to maroon. I
caught mutters of "Well, I'm hanged!" "Ye gods!" "Good-night!"

"Wh-what did you say?" stuttered Carpet Slippers.

I was irritated and nervous and replied rather too loudly:

"_None, sir._"

"None? Why none?"

"I didn't learn it."

The mutterings began again: "Oh, I say, stow it!" "Lie down."

"You didn't learn it? St-stand up when I question you. Wh-why didn't
you learn it?"

Here I failed. I had answered the first two questions truthfully
because I had reasoned about them. The third took me unawares. And,
such is the result of trifling with conscience, I had lost the knack
of doing right without premeditation. "We must have time to think,"
Radley had said bitterly, "or else we lie." Obliged to answer
without delay, I lied.

"I hadn't time, sir."

No sooner had I uttered the words than the dull and sickening sense
of failure came over me. In spite of all--in spite of the fact that
I had dealt honourably with the first two questions--I had ended by
lying. I sat down slowly, and stared vacantly in front of me. The
big moment had come and passed, and I had missed it. I couldn't
believe it. I had been determined, and yet I had failed. My breath
became tremulous, and across my brows went the sudden invasion of a
headache.

Little it matters what Fillet said. Destiny ordains for our
correction that there shall be some people before whom we shall
always appear at our worst. Fillet occupied that place in my
schooldays.

Little would it matter, either, what my fellow trade-unionists
thought of this black-leg in the camp, were it not for the
remarkable deed of Pennybet. He, I am convinced, felt that he must
rise to the occasion. There were few things he liked better than
rising to an occasion. Here was an opportunity for a _coup d'état_.
Here, praise the gods, were circumstances to be tamed. So he at once
threw all his weight on my side, knowing full well that he had but
to do that to secure me from all persecution or contempt.

"P-pennybet?"

"Oh--er--none, sir."

"None? Another boy with none? Why none?"

Penny admired the nails on his right hand and then said:

"I didn't exactly learn it."

"Oh, indeed? And wh-why, pray?"

As though deploring such tactless persistency, Penny pursed up his
mouth, laid his head on one side, shrugged his shoulders, and held
his peace.

"Had you, too, no time?"

"Well, not a great deal, sir."

There were some titters, and Penny looked deprecatingly in the
direction whence they came. Fillet passed judgment so severe that
Penny made a shocking grimace and said: "Thank you, sir. It shall
not occur again," which, to be sure, might have meant anything.

I think the characters of both my friends stood out, clearly
defined, in the words with which they referred to this incident
afterwards. Doe was generous in his praise. "Golly," he said, "I
wish I could feel I had done it as you can now. I cursed my luck
that my name didn't come after yours, so that I could have stood by
you, as Penny did. I could have throttled him with jealousy. Do you
know, I almost wished the other boys had mobbed you a bit, so that I
could have stuck by you." And Penny said: "You didn't really think I
was going to throw the weight of my trade union on to the side of
that foul, caitiff knave of a Carpet Slippers? Why, the man's a low
fellow--the sort of person one simply doesn't know. He'd drink his
own bath-water."


§6

"If you succeed in doing what is right, come and see me again." I
decided to stay away. Many times that morning I passed Radley in the
school buildings, and, pretending not to have seen him, went by with
a hum or a whistle. In the afternoon he came and coached our game at
cricket; and after tea he bowled at the Bramhall Nets where I was
practising. When he instructed me he spoke as though there were
nothing between us. But he was watching me, I knew; wondering why I
had not come, and longing for me: and I rather overplayed my part.

It had been a grey, dull day, but, just before retiring, the sun
came out and shamed the clouds into a sullen withdrawal. Then it
went under, leaving behind it a glorious red glow and the hope of
better things in the morning. All this I was in the mood to notice,
for, though trying to be indifferent to destiny, I was heavy and
dispirited. I did not see how I could ever do right again, since
Radley's determination and my own had been insufficient to brace me
for the onslaught. It was evident that mine was the stuff from which
criminals were made.

And, as the red glow departed and the darkness gathered, if there
was one lonely boy in the world, languidly despairing, it was I.
Many times I found myself uttering aloud such slang expressions as:
"Oh, my hat! If only I had told the beastly truth for the third
time! Dash it, why didn't I? Why the deuce didn't I?" I addressed
myself as: "You blithering, blithering fool!" And my temples began
to ache and now and then to hammer. For, always in these my early
days of puberty, excitement and worry produced such immediate
sensuous results.

Radley sent for me at last, and it was a relief to go. He was very
kind. Frankly, I believe he was pleased to have his new favourite in
his room again. I was indeed his hobby at present.

"Have I ever bullied you at the nets," he said, "for stepping back
to a straight ball?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, the universal habit of 'stepping back' is exactly parallel to
that of arguing with conscience. The habit grows; one's wicket
always falls after a few straight balls; and one's batting goes from
bad to worse. Never mind, you stood up splendidly to the first two
straight balls and scored boundaries off both. That shows you are
getting into your old form. You are out of practice a bit, that's
all."

And I went out of his room, feeling sure that for some time I would
be very good.


§7

I always left Radley's room, feeling that I could blast a way
through every mountain. And it was not long after he had received my
mother's letter with its allusion to my lack of a father, that he
addressed himself to a bigger mountain than any of these little
trumpery hills that you have watched me conquering. He invited me to
his room one evening, and sat me in an armchair opposite him: and
then he talked, while I watched the fire getting redder, as the room
grew darker. Soon he came unhesitatingly to a subject that I was
just at an age to understand. He spoke so fearlessly as to be quite
unrestrained and natural. Nevertheless, I was glad that the room was
getting darker, as I felt that my cheeks were red and hot. And when
he said: "You mustn't mind my talking to you like this," I could
only reply: "Oh, it's all right, sir."

But, once again, I left his room feeling that, though already I had
had my reverses in the moral contest of which he spoke, I would win
through in the end.



CHAPTER VI

AN INTERLUDE


In the summer holidays of that year I received a letter from Doe
inviting me to spend a few days with him at his Cornish home on the
Fal. Radley, he told me, was already his guest.

There was some excitement the morning I left home for this adventure
into the West Country. My mother had clothed me in a new dark-blue
suit. Her son must look his best, she said. She insisted on my
wearing a light-blue tie, for "it matched the colour of my eyes." I
rather opposed this on the ground that it was "all dashed silly."
But she disarmed me by pointing out that I was _her_ doll and not my
own, and the only one she had had since she was my age, which was a
century ago--a terrible lie, as she looked about twenty-seven. She
carried her point with a kiss, called me her Benjamin, tied the tie
very gingerly, and subsequently disarranged it completely by hugging
me to say good-bye, as though I were off for a lifetime.

Alone in my corner seat I was rolled over the Trail of Beauty that
the line of the Great Western follows. And I watched the telegraph
wires switchbacking from post to post, as we sped along.

When we steamed into Falmouth station, I easily distinguished
Radley's majestic figure standing on the platform, with Doe actually
hanging on his arm--a thing I would never have dared to do. In fact,
I guessed that Doe was doing it for my benefit. Our young host was
in a light grey suit that would have brought tears to the eyes of
Kensingtowe's administrators, who stipulate for dark garments only:
and, evidently, he had been allowed to dictate to his tailor, for
the suit was an exact copy of one that Radley had worn during the
previous term. He looked more than ever like his nickname, "the Gray
Doe."

Next morning the sun blazed out over England's loveliest stream,
the Fal, as, widening, it flowed seaward. We hurried down to the
foot of Doe's garden, where a rustic boat-house sheltered his
private vessel, the _Lady Fal_. Doe stepped into its stern, and I
into its bows, and Radley took the oars. With a few masterly
manoeuvres he turned the boat into midstream, and then pulled a
rapid and powerful stroke towards Tresillian Creek, where we had
decided to bathe. We touched the bank at a suitable landing-place,
disembarked, and prepared to undress.

The events of this day linger with me like a string of jewels; and
the bathe was one of the brightest of them all. There was a race
between Doe and myself to be first in the water. As I tossed off my
clothes, the excitement of anticipation was inflating me. I would
surprise them with my swimming.

My mother had taught me to swim. We began our studies in the bath,
when I was still a baby, she leaning over the side and directing my
splashing limbs. We achieved the desired result some years later in
the French seas off Boulogne. She never could swim a stroke herself,
but was splendid in the book-work of the thing. Since those days she
had given me unlimited opportunities to acquire perfection. So now,
Radley and Doe, my masters, you should learn a thing or two!

The undressing race resulted in a dead-heat, but whereas Doe
contented himself with a humble jump into the stream, I contrived to
execute a racing dive. Glorious immersion! It was lovely, oh,
lovely! The embrace of the cool river seemed entrancing, and I
remained a fathom down, experiencing one continuous delight.
Unfortunately I was under water longer than my breath would hold
out, and came to the view of Radley and Doe, choking and spluttering
and splashing. Anxious to retrieve my reputation, for I was
detestably conceited about my art, I started off for a long, speedy
swim, displaying my best racing stroke. Back again, at an even
faster pace, I got entangled with Doe, who greeted me a little
jealously with: "Gracious! Where did you learn to swim like that?"
Radley's mouth was set, and he remained mercilessly silent. He
wasn't going to teach me conceit.

Soon we were clothed again, and back in the boat with untidy wet
hair and stinging eyes, but with the glow of health warming our
bodies.

Throughout the day we plied our craft over the Fal, lunching up
King Harry Reach, and taking tea not far from Truro. When we turned
the head of the _Lady Fal_ for home, the sun was sinking fast, and
Radley pulled his swiftest, as he wished to be at Graysroof before
dark. So I lay in the bows and wondered at the straightness of his
back, and Doe nestled in the stern and admired the width of his
chest.

We glided over the surface: and there were no sounds anywhere, save
the rushes kissing the reeds, the water lapping the sides of the
boat, the little fishes chattering beneath, and the rhythmic music
of Radley's graceful feathering, which sounded like the flutter of a
bird upon the wing.

To dwell upon this beautiful evening is to recover a little of its
serene exaltation. I like to recall it as one of those days about
which we ask ourselves why we did not value them more when we had
them. I speak of it here, because, in the soothing peace of the Fal
that twilight, the Æsthetic seemed to stir in me--not so as to wake,
but so as to wake soon. I felt some vague premonition of all the
love, the sentiment, and the sorrow which would be mine in the
manhood that was brightening to a pale, but tinted, dawn.



_Part II: Long, Long Thoughts_


CHAPTER VII

CAUGHT ON THE BEATEN TRACK


§1

I am sixteen now, and the marks on the dormitory wall show me that I
am many inches nearer the height of my ambition, which is the height
of Radley. Second in importance, Kensingtowe has a new headmaster,
an extraordinary phenomenon in the scholastic heavens, a long man of
callow years and restless activity, with a stoop and a pointing
forefinger. He has a quaint habit, when addressing a bewildered
pupil, of prefacing his remarks, be they gracious or damnatory, with
the formula: "Ee, bless me, my man." (Nowadays none of us speaks to
a schoolfellow without beginning: "Ee, bless me, my man.") "Salome"
we call the entertaining creature. This nickname adhered like a
barnacle to him, immediately after he had employed, in his exegesis
of the Greek narrative of Herodias' daughter, the expression: "Now,
if I had been Salome--"

Ill fares it with a youth, if he has his hands in his pockets and is
seen by Salome. Before he is aware of the great presence, that stoop
overhangs him, that forefinger points to the tip of his nose, and a
drawling voice says with rhythmic emphasis: "Ee, bless me, my
man, you've _got_--your _hands_--in your _pockets_. Take off your
spectacles, sir. I'm _going_--to _smack_--your _face_."

And he can put his foot down, too. The Bramhallites recently
organised a very successful punitive raid on the local errand boys,
who were getting too uppish, and now he has stopped all "exeats"
for the members of Bramhall House. The town is out of bounds.

Third in importance is my quarrel with Edgar Doe. It began, I think,
with his jealousy of me as Radley's new favourite. Then he has
apparently thrown over all desire for glory in the cricket world and
decided that, for an elect mind such as his, a reputation for
intellectual brilliance is the only seemly fame. He delights to
shock us by boldly saying that he would rather win the Horace Prize
than his First Eleven Colours; and is actually at work, I believe,
on a translation of the Odes into English verse. At any rate, he is
two forms ahead of Penny and me, and has joined the Intellectuals.
He has views on the Pre-Raphaelites, Romanticism, and the Housing
Question.

Maybe, too, I have been very willing for the quarrel to proceed,
because he will persist in his collusion with that mystery-man,
Freedham.

Archibald Pennybet is the same as ever, unless, perhaps, his eyelids
are drooping a little more in satisfaction with himself, and his
nostrils becoming more sensitive to the inferiority of everybody
else.

In a rash moment, one half-holiday, Penny and I made use of the
privilege, to which we became entitled when we completed two years
at Kensingtowe, of strolling across to the Preparatory School
and organising a cricket match between some of the younger
"Sucker-boys." Not being allowed to go down to the town, we thought
there might be fun in playing the heavy autocrat at the "Nursery."

"We'll make these beastly little maggots sit up, unless they play
properly," said Penny. "There shall be no fooling when _we_ umpire."

The Suckers received us with gratifying awe. One of them in a moment
of forgetfulness called Pennybet "sir." He accepted it without
remark, as his due.

For half-an-hour we did well. Six balls went to every "over," no
more and no less. Our decisions, when we were appealed to, were
given promptly and decisively. But the boys were so small, and the
play was so bad, that the novelty soon wore off. Our feeling of
importance died away, when we realised we were umpiring in a match
where the stumps were kept in position by the bails, and there was
no one who could bowl a straight ball, or anyone who could hit it,
if he did. The wicket-keeper, also, gave Penny much trouble; and
sulked because he had been forbidden to stop the swift bowler's
deliveries by holding a coat in front of him and allowing the ball
to become entangled in its folds. My fellow-umpire had occasion to
speak very seriously to him. "Really," he said, "you're a stench in
my nostrils. Mr. Ray, who's kindly umpiring for you at the other
end, never gave me half the cheek you do, when _he_ was a kid." For
a second the little boy wondered if he had made a mistake and Penny
was really a master.

Having given eight balls to an over, I got bored and retired to my
position at square-leg, displeased with the condition on which our
privilege was granted that, having organised a game, we were to
remain at our posts to the end. Someone awoke Penny, who walked with
a yawn to the bowler's wicket, and, graciously putting into his
mouth a huge green fruit-ball, offered by one of the more minute
players, said with this obstruction on his tongue:

"Plo-ay."

When the twenty-eighth ball of that over had been bowled, I went
across to Penny, presented my compliments, and intimated that six
balls constituted an over. In a reply of some length he showed that
he had a sucked fruit-ball in his mouth, which he must of necessity
finish before he called "over," as the word required a certain
rounding of the lips, and the confectionery might shoot out of his
mouth at the effort. An impertinent little junior echoed my
criticism.

"Yes," he protested, "there are six balls to an over."

Penny placed the fruit-ball between his gums and his cheek, and
answered magnificently:

"There are not. There are just as many as I choose to give."

Then he took the fruit-ball on his tongue again and added:

"We-soom your plo-ay."

The bowler having exerted himself twenty-nine times, was a little
tired and erratic, and the thirtieth ball hit Square-leg in the
stomach.

"Wide," announced Penny, without a smile.

The thirty-first ball, amid disorderly laughter, was caught by
Point before it pitched. The batsman meanwhile sat astride his bat:
he was the only person who seemed out of harm's way. Point held up
the ball triumphantly and yelled to Penny: "What's that, umpire?"

"I think it would not be unreasonable," answered Penny, "to call
that a wide."

This was a long sentence, and the fruit-ball shot out about half-way
through.

Relieved of this confectionery, Penny proceeded to give a practical
illustration of "How to bowl." I fear he intended to show off, and
to send down a ball at express speed which should shatter the
stumps. At any rate, while the Suckers watched with breathless
interest, he took a long run and let fly. One thing in favour of
Penny's ball was that it went straight. But it flew two feet over
the head of the batsman, who flung himself upon his face. It pitched
opposite Long-stop.

"Run!" yelled the batsman, picking himself up. "_Bye!_ Run, you
fool! Bye, idiot!" This was addressed to the batsman at the other
end, who was swinging his bat like an Indian club and paying no
attention to the game. He pulled himself together on being appealed
to, and ran, but it was evident that he could not reach his crease,
as Long-stop had accidentally stopped the lightning-ball--much to
his own chagrin--and was hurling it back to the wicket-keeper with
all the enthusiasm of acute agony.

Our unhappy batsman did what excitable little boys always do--flung
in his bat and sprawled on the ground. The bat struck the
wicket-keeper, who had just knocked off the bails. It hit him, so he
said, on his bad place.

"Out," ruled I.

"Over," proclaimed Penny victoriously, as who should say: "There!
I've got a man out for you"; and he retired honourably to the leg
position, where he composed himself for a happy day-dream.

The new bowler at my end began by bowling swift. The wicket-keeper
jumped out of the way, as his mother would have wished him to do,
and Long-stop shut his eyes and hoped for the best. The batsman
blindly waved his bat, and, inasmuch as the ball hit it, and
rebounded some distance, called to his partner, who was mending the
binding on his bat-handle.

"Will you come? Osborne, you fool! Yes. _Yes_. YES! No, no.
YE-E-ES! No--go back, you fool. All right, come. No-no-no. O,
Osborne, why didn't you run that? It was an easy one."

"Silly ass, Osborne," roared Cover-point, quite gratuitously, for no
one had addressed him for the last twenty minutes.

The batsman ran wildly out to the next ball and missed it. The
wicket-keeper successfully stumped him. It was a clear case of
"out," and a shout went up: "How's that?"

"That," said Penny, who had been in a dream and seen nothing, "is
Not Out."

I was disheartened to learn on this occasion that little boys could
be so rude to those who were sacrificing their spare time to teach
them cricket.

"Really," sighed Penny, adjusting his tie, "unless you treat me with
due respect, I will not come and coach you again."

This was greeted with an unmannerly cheer.

"Resume your play," commanded Pennybet. "It was Not Out."

"Why?" loudly demanded the bowler.

Penny seized the only escape from his sensational error.

"Because, you horrid little tuberculous maggot, it was a no-ball.
Besides, you smell."

The little boy looked defiantly at him, and, pointing to me, said:

"Bowler's umpire didn't give 'no-ball.'"

"Then," said Penny promptly, "he ought to have done."

I was so shocked at this unscrupulous method of sacrificing me to
save his reputation that I shouted indignantly: "You're a liar!"

Later a warm discussion arose between the batsman and the bowler as
to whether the former could be out, if "centre" had not been given
to him properly. I took no part in it, but looked significantly at
Pennybet. He gazed reproachfully at me, as much as to say: "How
could you suggest such a thing?" I walked over to him, ostensibly to
ask his advice. The quarrel continued, most of the fieldsmen
asserting that the batsman was out: they wanted an innings.
Unperceived, we strolled leisurely away and disappeared round a
corner. The last thing that I heard was the batsman's voice
shouting: "I'm not an ass. I haven't got four legs, so sucks for
you!"


§2

Reaching the road, we linked arms with the affection born of sharing
a crime and the risk of detection.

"Where are we going to?" asked I.

"Ee, bless me, my man. Down town, of course."

"But it's out of bounds."

"Ee, bless me, my man, don't you know that to me all rules are but
gossamer threads that I break at my will? I'm off to buy sausages. I
haven't had anything worth eating since the holidays."

And so, arm in arm, we marched briskly down the Beaten Track. The
Beaten Track, I must tell you, was a route into the town which
Penny, Doe, and I regarded as our private highway. We would have
esteemed it disloyalty to an inanimate friend to approach the town
by any other channel. It led through the residential district of
Kensingtowe, past a fashionable church, and down a hill. Dear old
Beaten Track! How often have I mouched over it, alone and dreamy,
adjusting my steps to the cracks between its pavement-flags! How
often have I sauntered along it, arm in arm with one of my friends,
talking those great plans which have come to nothing!

We always became confidential on the Beaten Track; and to-day I
suddenly pressed Penny's arm and opened the subject that, though I
would not have admitted it, was the most pressing at the moment.

"I say, why does Doe avoid us now?"

"The Gray Doe," sneered Penny. "Oh, he--She's in love, I suppose.
With Radley."

"Don't drivel," I commanded; "why does he hang about with that awful
Freedham?"

"When you're my age, Rupert," began Penny, in kind and accommodating
explanation, "you'll know that there are such things as degenerates
and decadents. Freedham is one. And very soon Doe will be another."

"Well, hang it," I said, "if you think that, how can you joke about
it, and leave him to go his way?"

"Oh, the young fellow must learn wisdom. And he's not in any danger
of being copped. I'm the only one that suspects; and I guessed
because I'm exceptionally brilliant. Besides, if he wants to go to
the devil for a bit, you can't take his arm and go with him."

"No," said I, "but you can take his arm and lug him back."

"There are times, Rupert," conceded Penny graciously, "when you show
distinct promise. I have great hopes of you, my boy."

"Oh, shut up!" I said, mentally overthrown to find that, without
forewarning of any kind, something had filled my throat like a sob
of temper. What was the matter with me? I unlinked my arm and walked
beside Penny in moody silence, determining that at an early
opportunity I would bring about a quarrel between us which should
not be easily repaired. He, however, was disposed to continue being
humorous, and frequently cracked little jokes aloud to himself.
"Here's the butcher's shop," he explained, pointing to an array of
carcasses; "hats off! We're in the presence of death." And, when he
had purchased his sausages, he stepped gaily out of the place,
saying: "Come along, Rupert, my boy. Home to tea! Trip along at
Nursie's side." Just as I, thoroughly sulky, was wondering how best
to break with him, and deciding to let him walk on alone a hundred
yards, before I resumed my homeward journey, I heard his voice
saying:

"Talking about Doe, there he is. And the naughty lad has been
strictly forbidden to enter the town. Dear, dear!"

It was an acute moment. There, far ahead of us, was Doe in the
company of Freedham, with whom he was turning into a doorway. A pang
of jealousy stabbed me, and with a throb, that was as pleasing as
painful, I realised that I loved Doe as Orestes loved Pylades.

The truth is this: ever since our form had been engaged on Cicero's
"De Amicitia," I had wanted to believe that my friendship for Doe
was on the classical models. And now came the gift of faith. It was
born of my sharp jealousy, my present weariness of Pennybet, and my
heroic resolution to rescue Doe from the degenerate hands of
Freedham. Only go nobly to someone's assistance, and you will love
him for ever. Love! It was an unusual word for a shy boy to admit
into his thoughts, but I was even taking a defiant and malicious
pleasure in using it. I was Orestes, and I loved Pylades.

In the glow of this romantic discovery, I no longer thought Penny
worth any anger or resentment, so I slipped my arm back into his. He
patted my hand with just such an action as an indulgent father would
use in welcoming a sulky child who has returned for forgiveness.
After this we climbed the slope of the Beaten Track at a faster
pace. And then--what an afternoon of strange moods and tense moments
this was!--I encountered on the other side of the road the surprised
gaze of Radley.

It was a very awkward recognition, and I hope he felt half as
uncomfortable as I did. I pinched Penny's arm and hurried him on
quickly.

"Don't push me," he grumbled. "The damage is done. And it's all your
fault for leading me astray. Radley'll tell. He never spares anyone;
least of all, his pets, like you. There's one comfort; I can't be
whacked; I'm too old. But you'll get it, Rupert. Salome's already
done several of the sixteen-year-olds. Cheer up, Rupert!"

"Hang you, I don't want your sympathy," I retorted sullenly. And as
I said it, I passed through Kensingtowe's gates to the punishment
that awaited me within.


§3

We were not summoned for judgment for several uneasy hours. It was
dreary, waiting. About six o'clock I paid a lonesome visit to the
swimming baths, and was glad to find them deserted. Even Jerry
Brisket, the professional instructor, was not in his little private
room. Jerry Brisket, that supreme swimmer, loomed as an heroic
figure to me who fancied myself no common devotee of his art. I had
often thought that my ideal would be to build a private swimming
bath and to employ Jerry at a salary of some thousands as my own
particular coach. But to-night, in spite of this lavish worship, I
was relieved to find him absent. I flung off my clothes and took a
long, splashless dive into the shallow end.

Water was my favourite element, especially the clear, green water of
the baths. I loved to feel that it was covering every part of my
body. With my breast nearly touching the tiled bottom, I swam under
water for a long spell. And, moving down there, like a young eel, I
compared this dip with that in the beautiful Fal of a year ago.
Certainly there was still pleasure, glorious pleasure, in complete
submersion, but on that bejewelled day there was joy above as well
as below the surface. This evening all that awaited me, when I rose
from the transparent water, was punishment and indignity.

"Hang it," I said to myself. "I think I'll stay in the baths. They
can't dive after me here."

With the unreasonableness of guilt I stigmatised all those plotting
my hurt as "they." I did not specialise individuals, possibly
because Radley was one. They were "they"--a contemptible "they."

"They are brutes," I concluded, "and I don't care a hang for any of
them."

Then, in the luxury of defiance, I swam my fastest and most furious
racing-stroke, till my breath gave out with a gasp, my breast felt
like bursting, and my heart beat heavily on my ribs. So I lay supine
upon the water, closed my eyes, and derived a surfeit of joy from
this rest after fatigue.

And, while I was doing that, I suffered a queer thing. Through my
closed lids I saw a yellow atmosphere that was fast whitening. It
seemed to smell very sweet; and the sensation of seeing it and
smelling it was intoxicatingly delightful. It was like an opiate.
What Freedham was doing in the atmosphere I know not, but I saw him,
as one would in a dream. An exquisite sleepiness was entrancing me,
when the cold water rushed in at my ears and mouth, and with an
"Oh!" and a choking, I struggled to the rope. Dizzily, and feeling a
pain in my head and neck, I scrambled out and lay upon the cold
sides of the baths.

"Heavens!" thought I. "That was a close shave. I must have strained
myself and nearly fainted. Why have I got that ass, Freedham, on the
brain?"

At that moment the sound of Jerry Brisket's return caused me to
jump up and dress. I was quite recovered, but tired and depressed.
And, as a result of the curious conditions of the evening, there
seemed to be gathering about me a presentiment of disaster.

When I passed Jerry's door on my way out of the building, I thought
I would like to hear a friendly voice, so I called:

"Good-night, Jerry."

He came to the door in his white sweater and white trousers.

"Good-night, Mr. Ray. Where are you off to now?"

"Well, to tell the truth, I'm off to be walloped."

Jerry was too courteous to seek particulars.

"Oh, bad luck," he said. "Come to the baths this time to-morrow, and
it'll be all over."

"Oh, I don't mind, it, Jerry," I replied. "Good-night"; and, letting
the door swing behind me, I passed out of the baths.

"Good old Jerry," I murmured sentimentally. "By Jove, if I could
only swim like him! Dear--old--Jerry."

An unaccountable melancholy overcame me, as I rambled in this
strain. I sighed: "I think I'm getting too old to be whacked."

And, as I phrased the thought, walking dreamily outside the baths,
the strangest thing of this evening happened. There seemed to be
thrown over me, far more heavily than on that evening up the Fal,
the shadow of my oncoming manhood. And with it came ineffable
longings--longings to live, and to feel; to do, and to be. The vague
wish to avoid the indignity of corporal punishment threw off its
cloak and showed itself to be Aspiration. There, outside the baths,
the Æsthetic awoke in me. The sensation, infinitely sad and yet
pleasing, was so complete that it left me hot-cheeked and
wondering....

In truth, so warm and all-pervading was it that the other day, when
during a short leave from France I stood on the gravel that sweeps
to the entrance of the baths, I felt the memory of that moment of
yearning egoism hanging over the spot like a restless spirit of the
past.


§4

The whole period of Preparation passed in suspense. And, when the
bell had gone, Penny and I found our way to one of the Bramhall
class-rooms, where I sat upon the hot-water pipes (the wisdom of
which proceeding I have since doubted). After about five minutes
there rushed in a bad little boy who, having more relish in the
thought of his message than breath to deliver it, puffed out: "Oh,
there you are. I've searched for you everywhere." Then he paused,
recovered his breath, and actually pointed a finger at us, saying:

"Ee, bless me, my men, Salome wants you in Radley's room."

Penny took the small boy's head and banged it three times on a desk.

In Radley's familiar room we found Salome, who no sooner saw me than
he cried:

"Ee, bless me, my man. Will you _take_--your _hand_--out of your
_pocket_?"

This was such a surprise that I blushed and--oh, accursed
nervousness!--began to giggle. My terror at giggling in the Presence
was so real that I compressed my lips to secure control. But control
was as impossible as concealment. Salome came very close, pointed at
my mouth, and said:

"I think you're _giggling_. Take off that ridiculous expression, my
man. I'm _going_--to _smack_--your _face_."

Sobered in a moment, I composed my features for the punishment and
received it, stinging and burning, on my reddened cheek.

Salome again pointed at me.

"You're a _sportsman_, sir, a _sportsman_, and I _like_ you," an
affection which I at once reciprocated.

"Ee, bless me, my man," he pursued. "What's your horrible name?"

"Ray, sir."

"Well, Ray, I'm going to cane you hard"--(rather crudely expressed,
I thought)--"because your offence is serious, bless me, my man"--(an
unreasonable request at this stage).

He took out his cane and turned first to Pennybet.

"I find, Mr. Pennybet, that, when you were breaking bounds, you
should have been with your _company_--your _company_, sir--at
shooting practice. It's _desertion_, sir--and punishable by _death_.
But I shan't shoot you. You're not _worth_ it--not _worth_ it. I
shan't even cane you, sir. You're too _old_--too _old_."

Penny looked at him, as much as to say he thought his point of view
was very sensible.

"But ee, bless me, my man, take off that complacent expression, or I
feel I may certainly smack your face."

Poor Penny, for once in a way, was rather at a loss, which was all
Salome desired, so he turned to me.

"Ray--I think _that_ was your detestable name--I shall now cane you.
Get _over_, my man--get _over_."

When the ceremony was completed, Salome talked to us so nicely,
although periodically asking us to bless him, that I told myself I
would never break bounds again; thereby making one of those good
resolutions which pave, we are told, another Beaten Track.



CHAPTER VIII

THE FREEDHAM REVELATIONS


§1

The next half-holiday I was walking towards the tuck-shop and
gloomily deciding that Doe's wilful estrangement from me was fast
being frozen into tacit enmity, when I felt an arm tucked most
affectionately into mine. It was done so quietly and quickly that I
nearly leapt a yard at the shock. The arm belonged to Doe.

"Ray, you old ass," he began.

Doe, now sixteen, was not so very different from the small fawning
creature of three years before. Although the perfect curve of the
cheek-line had given place to a perceptible depression beneath the
cheek-bone; although the usual marks of a boy's adolescence--the
slight pallor, the quick blush of diffidence, the slimness of
limb--were all very noticeable in Doe, there was yet much of the
original Baby about his appearance. It could be marked in his soft,
indeterminate mouth, whose flower-like lips seemed always parted; in
his inquiring eyes and unkempt hair; and, at the present moment, in
an artless excitement that I had not seen for many a day.

I tried to drag my arm away, but he held it too tight, and proceeded
to make the remarkable statement:

"You old ass! Surely you've been sulking long enough."

"Well, I like that," replied I, with an empty laugh. "You drop me,
sulk like a pig, and then say it's the other way round--"

"Rot!" he interrupted. "Didn't you deliberately cut me out with
Radley?"

"I don't know what you mean," I said, although the hint that I was
Radley's favourite always gave me a flush of pleasure.

"And haven't you been hanging on to Penny, just to make me
jealous?"

"Never entered my head," I replied promptly, and with truth. "I
leave that sort of thing to schoolgirls like you. But it evidently
did make you jealous."

"_Yes_, it did," he admitted with an engaging smile. This softened
me; and my affection for him began at once to throb into activity.

"_Yes_, it did; and now that you've said you're sorry, I feel
frightfully lively. Let's go and smash a window or something."

His spirits were infectious, and he dragged me off to the study
which his intellectual eminence had recently secured for him. When
we arrived there, he tossed me a bag of sweets, which had clearly
been bought as a means to sugar the reconciliation, and, dropping
into his armchair, stretched his legs in front of him, and said:

"Let's talk as we used to."

I was relieved from the necessity of finding some opening remark by
the bursting into the room of "Molés" White.

If you look up the Latin word "Molés" in the dictionary, you will
find that it means "a huge, shapeless mass"; and all of us had been
very quick to see that this was an excellent description of our
junior house-prefect, White. Moles White was as enormous and ugly in
his dimensions as he was genial and simple in face. You saw at a
glance that he possessed all the traditional kindliness and
generosity of the giant. As he crashed into Doe's study, he was
swinging some books on the end of a strap.

"Found you, Doe," said he. "Look here, Bramhall's got to make the
best house-team it can, which means you must give up slacking at
cricket. You'll play at the nets this evening."

"Heavens! Ray," Doe murmured in mock dismay, as he stared out of
eyes that sparkled with impudence at White's huge frame, "what on
earth is this coming in?"

White smiled meaningly.

"Don't be cheeky now, Doe," he suggested. "No lip, please."

Doe's reply was a laugh, and the question addressed to me:

"I say, Ray, do you think it's an Iguanodon?"

"Well," said White, striding forward and beginning to swing his
books ominously, "if you're asking for trouble, you shall have it."

Doe ducked down and raised his right hand to protect his head.

"I never said it, White," he affirmed, giggling. "Really, I didn't.
You thought I did. I never called you an Iguanodon--I've too much
respect for you."

"Yes, you did. Take your hand away. I'm determined to swing these
books on to your head."

"Ray," shouted Doe between his giggles, "take him away. Don't bully,
Moles! You great beast! Ray, he's bullying me."

White paused. Bullying, even in fun, was a horrible idea. The books
fell limply to his side.

"Be sensible, if you can, Doe. You've got to play this evening."

The change in White's voice prompted Doe to raise his head and look
up from under his arm at his attacker.

"Great Scott, Ray," he blurted out. "If it's not an Iguanodon, it's
a prehistoric animal of some sort."

"My hat!" exclaimed White. "You young devil! Put that hand down
while I smite you over the head with these books." And he made as
though to execute his threat. Doe accordingly retired still further
down into his chair, and placed his elbow to ward off the swinging
books.

"I didn't say it, White, you liar! Shut up, will you? You might hurt
me seriously. Go away. I hate you! Oh, hang it!"--(this was when the
books struck him on the elbow),--"it hurts, Moles. Leave off, while
I rub my elbow."

The gentle giant responded to this reasonable request; the books
dropped; and Doe, looking reproachfully at his executioner, set
about massaging his elbow.

"Ray," he said, when the operation was complete, "is there any known
means of removing this nightmare?"

Immediately his uplifted arm was seized in White's huge paw. Doe's
eyes were sparkling, his cheeks red, and his hair tumbled. His right
arm being now held, he laughed more loudly and nervously and raised
his left.

"By Jove, White," he cried, "if you rouse my ire, I'll get up and
lick you. Let go of my hand--it's not yours. Oh, shut up, you great
swine! Hang it, Ray"--(this with a shriek, half of laughter, half of
anticipation)--"he's got my left hand as well--O, White, I'm sorry."

White held both his victim's wrists in one hand. Too honourable to
take advantage of this, he swung his books at a distance and said:

"You've got to play at the nets, do you hear?"

My friend simulated anger. Struggling to get free, he ejaculated:

"I'll not be ordered about by an Iguanodon. I'm not that sort of
man. O, White, I said I was--he, he, ha!--sorry. I didn't mean to be
rude. I didn't see it in that light--"

"Whack" came the books gently on his back.

"Oh, please, Moles White, please stop. There's a dear old Iguanodon.
Ow--Ow--Ow!"

By this time Doe was much out of breath, and his sentences were
short and broken: "It doesn't hurt. It's lovely! Ray, don't stand
there grinning like this chimpanzee, White."

Suddenly at an upward swing the slender strap broke, and the books
crashed through the window.

"Damn!" said White.

Doe, flushed and dishevelled, picked himself out of his chair.

"That's what comes of bullying, Moles White. I'll pay for it. It was
my beastly fault!"

"No, you won't," said White.

"Don't presume to contradict me, Moles White, or I'll lick you! I
have stated that I'll pay for it."

"No," White decided. "We'll split the difference and go shags."

I felt the old fellow was not displeased at this compromise, for his
purse had its limitations. He withdrew from the scene and left us to
our confidential chat.

When he had gone, there set in a reaction from the excited
liveliness of his visit. Doe looked sadly through the broken pane
and said:

"Isn't Moles a corking old thing? The sort of chap who's naturally
good, and couldn't be anything else if he tried."

Something wistful in the words caused me to see a vision of the
gravel-path sweeping to the doorway of the baths.

"I say, Doe," I began, "have you ever felt that you'd like to
be--something different from the ordinary run?"

Doe swung round on me.

"Have I ever? Why, you know, Rupert, that I'm the most ambitious
person in the world. And, by Jove! I believe I might have done
something great--"

"_Might_ have done!" interrupted I, surprised that he should have
decided at sixteen that his life was earmarked for a failure.
"You'll probably live quite ten years more, so there's still time."

Doe turned again and sent his gaze through the broken window,
replying in a little while:

"Oh, I've lived long enough to know that I'm the sort that's
destined to make a mess of his life. I--oh, hang it, you wouldn't
understand..."

Evidently in Doe, as in me, his manhood had come down the corridor
of the future and met his childhood face to face. One minute before
this he was an irresponsible baby "cheeking" Moles White; now he was
the germinal man, borne down with the weight of life. He paused for
me to plead my understanding, and invite his confidence. But an
awkwardness held me dumb, and he was obliged to continue:

"I wish you could understand, because--Do you know, Rupert, why I
made it up with you this afternoon?" He came away from the window
and sat in a chair opposite me. "It was because I was glowing with a
new resolution. It was the rippingest feeling in the world. I--I had
just decided to cut with Freedham."

Up to this point I had been looking into his face, but now I turned
away. Instinctively I felt that, if he were going to, speak of his
transactions with Freedham, he would be abashed by my gaze. He
rested his elbows on his knees, and began to tie knot after knot in
a piece of string.

"Freedham's an extraordinary creature," he proceeded. "He first got
hold of me when I was at the Nursery. He would get me in a dark
corner, and alternately pet and bully me. I remember his once
holding me in a frightful grip and saying: 'You're so--' (I'm only
telling you what he said, Rupert)--'You're so pretty that I'd love
to see you cry.' He's _that_ type, you know."

For a while Doe, whose cheeks and neck were crimson, knotted his
string in silence.

"Then he used to give me money to encourage me to like him, and dash
it, Ray! I _do_ like him. He's got such weird, majestic ideas that
are different from anyone else's,--and he attracts me. His great
theory is that Life is Sensation, and there must be no sensation--a
law, or no law--which he has not experienced. I believed him to be
right (as I do still, in part) and we--we tried everything together.
We--we got drunk on a beastly occasion in his room. We didn't like
it, but we pushed on, so as to find out what the sensation was. And
then--oh! I wish I'd never started telling you all this--"

He tied a knot with such viciousness that few would have had the
patience to untie it.

"Go on, old chap," I said encouragingly. I was proud of playing the
sympathetic confidant; but, less natural than that, a certain
abnormality in the conversation had stimulated me; I was excited to
hear more.

"Well, he told me that years before he had wanted to see what taking
drugs was like, and he had been taking them ever since. He was mad
keen on the subject and had read De Quincey and those people from
beginning to end. I've tried them with him.... There are not many
things we haven't done together."

Doe tossed the string away.

"I know I might have done well in cricket, but Freedham used to say
that excelling in games was good enough for Kipling's 'flannelled
fools' and 'muddied oafs.' We thought we were superior, chosen
people, who would excel in mysticism and intellectualism."

As he said it, Doe looked up and smiled at me, while I sat, amazed
to discover how far he, with his finer mind, had outstripped me in
the realms of thought. I had no idea what mysticism was.

"And I still think," he pursued, "that Freedham's got hold of the
Truth, only perverted; just as he himself is a perversion. Life _is_
what feeling you get out of it; and the highest types of feeling
are mystical and intellectual. I only knew yesterday what a
perversion he really was. I saw something that I'd never seen
before--he had a sort of paroxysm--like a bad _rigor_; something to
do with the drug-habit, I s'pose--"

A powerful desire came over me to say: "I knew all about his fits
years ago," but it melted before the memory of a far-away promise.
At this point, too, I became perfectly sure that, although Doe's
sudden self-revelation was an intense and genuine outburst, yet he
was sufficiently his lovable self to feel pride in his easy use of
technical terms like _paroxysm_ and _rigor_.

"It frightened me," continued he. "It's only cowardice that's made
me cut with him. I know my motives are all rotten, but no matter; I
was gloriously happy half-an-hour ago, when I had made the
resolution. And now I'm melancholy. That's why I'm talking about
being a great man. You must be melancholy to feel great."

As he said the words, Doe leapt to his feet and unconsciously struck
his breast with a fine action.

"And I sometimes _know_ I could be great. I feel it surging in me.
But I shall only dream it all. I haven't the cold, calculating power
of Penny, for instance. He's the only one of us who'll set the
Thames on fire. At present, Rupert, I've but one goal; and that is
to win the Horace Prize before I leave. If I can do that, I'll
believe again in my power to make something of my life."


§2

I fear I'm a very ignoble character, for this conversation, instead
of filling me with pain at Doe's deviations, only gave me a selfish
elation in the thought that I had utterly routed my shadowy rival,
Freedham, and won back my brilliant twin, who could talk thus
familiarly about mysticism. And now there only remained the very
concrete Fillet to be driven in disorder from the field.



CHAPTER IX

WATERLOO OPENS


§1

And here begins the record of my Waterloo with Fillet.

One June morning of the following year all we Bramhallites were
assembled in the Preparation Room for our weekly issue of "Bank" or
pocket-money; we were awaiting the arrival of Fillet, our
house-master, with his jingling cash-box. Soon he would enter and,
having elaborately enthroned himself at his desk, proceed to ask
each of us how much "Bank" he required, and to deliberate, when the
sum was proposed, whether the boy's account would stand so large a
draft. The boy would argue with glowing force that it would stand
that and more; and Fillet would put the opposing case with
irritating contumacy.

This morning he was late; the corridors nowhere echoed the rattle of
his cash-box. So it occurred to me to entertain the crowd with a
little imitation of Fillet. Seating myself at his desk, I frowned at
a nervous junior, and addressed him thus:

"N-now, my boy, how much b-b-bank do you want? Shilling? B-b-bank
won't stand it. T-take sixpence. Sixpence not enough? Take ninepence
and run away."

The Bramhallites enjoyed my impersonation.

"N-now, Moles--White, I mean--how much b-b-bank do you want? Two
shillings? B-bank won't stand it. Take three halfpence--take it,
Moles, and toddle away."

There were roars of laughter, and a grin from White like the smile
of a brontosaurus.

"N-now, Doe, you don't want any this week--you've come to pay in
some, I suppose. You--oh, damn!"

This whispered oath, accompanied by a dismayed stare at the door,
turned the heads of all in that direction. Fillet, in his carpet
slippers, had come round the corner and was an interested critic of
my little imitation.

Very red, I vacated the seat to its owner and stepped down among the
boys. Without a word he took it in my stead, placed his cash-box on
the desk, and opened his book.

"N-now, White, how much b-b-bank do you want?"

Having heard this before, several boys tittered. Out of nervousness
I tittered too, and cursed myself as I did so. Fillet looked at me
as though he would have liked to repeat the flogging he had given me
many years before. But the blushing boy in front of him was now
seventeen, and taller than he.

When the last account had been duly debited, the Bramhallites
dispersed to their classes. Throughout that day the incident was a
painful recollection for me. I felt I could beat Fillet with cleaner
weapons than an exploiting of his affliction: and the more I thought
of it, the more I decided that I must go and apologise to him. The
sentence to be used crystallised in my mind: "Please, sir, I came to
say I was sorry I was imitating you this morning."

With this little offering I walked in the fall of the evening
upstairs to his study. My knock eliciting a "C-come in," I entered
and began:

"Please, sir, I came to say--" I got no further, for, with a sour
look, he interrupted testily:

"Run away, b-boy, run away."

This rejection of my apology I had never contemplated, and it was
with a sinking heart that I persisted:

"Please, sir, I wanted to--"

"_Run away, boy._ I'm accustomed to dealing with gentlemen."

At once my attitude of submission was changed at Fillet's clumsy
touch into one of hot defiance.

"Indeed, sir," I retorted. "I'm not always so fortunate." I went
quickly out and managed to slam the door. Blood up, I muttered:

"Brute! Beast! Swine! Devil!"


§2

Moles White, who was now the house-captain, was occupied two
afternoons later in discussing with the bloods of Bramhall the
composition of the House Swimming Four for the Inter-house relay
races.

"Erasmus House have a splendid Four," he said. "We've only got three
so far: there's myself and Cully and Johnson."

"And a precious rotten three too," said Doe.

"Well," grumbled White, "there's nobody else in the House who can
swim a stroke; a good many think they can."

"Not so sure," whispered Doe, obscurely. "Come along with me. No,
Moles alone." And he dragged White towards the baths.

Within that beloved building I was trying to see how many lengths I
could swim. It was rather late, and I had the water to myself. I
was doing my sixth length when I saw entering the baths the
ungainly carcass of White with the graceful form of Doe hanging
affectionately on his arm. The latter was explaining that no one
knew how well I could swim, as I had once nearly fainted when
extending myself to the utmost and had gone easy ever since. "But
Rupert can really swim at ninety miles an hour," he concluded.

So White called: "Come here, Ray."

"When you say 'please,'" shouted I, swimming about.

Doe thereupon took the matter in hand and addressed me:

"Now, Ray, I want you to swim your best. Here's a little kiddy
friend of mine I've brought to see you. Mr. Ray, this is Master
Moles."

White ignored his companion's playfulness and asked me:

"Can you swim sixty yards?"

I hurled about five pints of water at him to show that I detected
the insult.

"You old Moles!" said Doe. "Serves you right. Why, he's just
finished swimming about seventy thousand yards."

"Well, sheer off and let's see you do it," ordered White.

I accordingly swam my fastest to the deep end and back.

"My word!" gasped White. "I didn't know you could swim like that."

Doe laughed in his face.

"You loon! He could swim before you were born."

Moles seized Doe by the throat and pretended to push him into the
water, but characteristically saved him from falling by placing an
arm round his waist.

"Apologise," he hissed, "or I'll drop you."

"Moles," replied Doe reproachfully. "At once let me go; or I'll push
you in." I rendered my friend immediate assistance by filling
White's shoes with water.

"Shut up that!" said he, quickly releasing Doe, who retired from the
baths shouting: "Moles, you ugly old elephant, Ray could give you
eighty yards in a hundred, and beat you."

This last impertinence suggested an idea to White. He arranged that
Cully, Johnson, he, and I should have a private race, "in camera,"
as he put. The event came off the following day, and I won it with
some yards to spare. My three defeated opponents were generous in
their praise.

"Golly!" said Johnson. "I thought we'd be last for the Swimming Cup.
But snakes alive! we'll get in the semi-final."

"Why, man," declared Cully. "I see us in the final with Erasmus."

"Final be damned!" said White. "Train like navvies and we'll lift
the Cup!"


§3

Never did human boy have three more sporting associates in a
swimming four than I had in White, Cully, and Johnson. Because I was
a year younger than they it was their pleasure to call me the "Baby
of the Team," and to take a pride in my successes. They would, in
order to pace me, take half-a-length's start in a two-lengths'
practice race, and make me strain every nerve to beat them. Or they
would time me with their watches over the sixty yards, and, all
arriving at different conclusions as to my figures, agree only in
the fact that I was establishing records. Once, when according to a
stop-watch I really did set up a record, Cully, forgetting his
dignity as a prefect in his enthusiasm as a Bramhallite, cried
"Alleluia! alleluia!" and hurled Johnson's hat into the air, so that
it fell into the water.

The members of Erasmus' Four were at first incredulous.

"Heard of Bramhall's find?" said they. "They've discovered a young
torpedo in Ray. He's quite good and they'll probably get into the
final. But we needn't be afraid. They've a weak string in Johnson,
while we haven't a weakness anywhere. However, we'll take no risks."
And so they started a savagely severe system of training.

Meantime White constituted himself my medical adviser, and some such
dialogue as this would take place every morning:

"Now, Ray, got any pain under the heart?"

"No."

"Do you feel anything like a stomach-ache?"

"Only when I see your face."

"Look here, I'd knock your face through your head, if I didn't want
your services so badly. Are you at all stiff?"

"Yes, bored stiff with your conversation."

It was true that there had been no trace of the faintness which had
attacked me a year before. Had there been, I should have kept quiet
about it, for, in that time of excitement, I would willingly have
shortened my life by ten years, if I could have made certain of
securing the Cup for Bramhall. Only one thing marred this period of
my great ascendency; Radley, Bramhall's junior house-master, never
gave me a word of praise or flattery.

That wound to my self-love festered stingingly. I persisted in
letting my thoughts dwell on it. I would frame sentences with which
Radley would express his surprise at my transcendent powers, such
as: "Ray, you're a find for the house"; "I'm glad Bramhall possesses
you, and no other house"; "I don't think I've ever seen a faster
boy-swimmer"; "You're the best swimmer in the school by a long way."
I would turn any conversation with him on to the subject of the
race, and suffer a few seconds' acute suspense, while I waited for
his compliment. I would depreciate my own swimming to him, feeling
in my despair that a murmured contradiction would suffice: but this
method I gave up, owing to the horror I experienced lest he should
agree.

And, when he mercilessly refused to gratify me, I would wander
away and review all the occasions on which he had seen me swim,
recalling how I then acquitted myself; or I would laboriously
enumerate all the people who must have told him in high terms of
my performances. A growing annoyance with him pricked me into a
defiant determination, so that I reiterated to myself: "I'll do
it. I'll win it. I swear I will!"

Bramhall passed easily into the final. Erasmus, too, romped home in
their first and second rounds. So on the eve of the great race it
was known throughout Bramhall that the house must be prepared to
measure itself against Erasmus' famous four.

Betting showed Erasmus as firm favourites, the school critics
looking askance at Johnson, our weakest man. Only the Bramhallites
laid nervous half-crowns on the house, and hoped a mighty hope. That
excellent fellow, White, displayed his unfortunate features glowing
with an expression that was almost beautiful.

As the day of the race led me, steadily and without pity, to the
time of ordeal, I sickened so from nerves that I could scarcely
swallow food; and what I did swallow I couldn't taste. I was glad
when at five o'clock something definite could be done like going to
the baths, selecting a cabin, and beginning to undress. Four minutes
were scarcely sufficient for me to undo my braces, such was the
trembling of my hand. I longed for the moments to pass, so that the
time to dive in could come; every delay ruffled me; I wished the
whole thing were over. It didn't lessen my suffering to watch the
gallery filling with excited boys, and to see the crowd on the
ground-floor make way for Salome himself, followed by Fillet and
Radley as representatives of Bramhall, and Upton as house-master of
Erasmus. Perspiration beaded my forehead. My heart fluttered, and I
began to fear some failure in that quarter. At one moment, when I
was _in extremis_, I would willingly have exchanged positions with
the humblest of the onlookers: at another I caught a faint gleam of
hope in the thought that the end of the world might yet come before
I was asked to do anything publicly. And I conceived of happier boys
who had died young.

The baths were prepared for the event. Across the water, thirty feet
from the diving-station, a large beam was fixed, which the
competitors must reach and touch, before turning round and swimming
back to the starting point. More boys were allowed to crowd into the
gallery and the cabins. Very conspicuous was the expansive white
waistcoat of old Dr. Chapman, who was busy backing Erasmus when
talking to the boys of Erasmus, and Bramhall when questioned by
Bramhallites. Fillet, as master of Bramhall; Upton, as master of
Erasmus; and Jerry Brisket, as a neutral, were appointed judges.

White gathered the Bramhall four into his cabin and arranged with
sanguine comments that we should swim in this order:

1. Himself--to give us a good start.

2. Johnson--to lose as little as possible of the fine lead
established.

3. Ray--to make the position absolutely certain.

4. Cully--to maintain the twenty-yards' lead secured by Ray.

"See, Ray," he said to me, after he had dismissed the others, "you
swim third--last but one."

"Ye--es," I stuttered.

"Nervous?" he inquired softly.

I smiled and made a grimace. "Beastly."

He gripped my hand in his powerful fist and whispered: "Rot! you are
certain to do everything for us. My heart is set on winning this and
staggering the school."

I smiled again. "You're a ripping chap, and I'm sorry if I've ever
cheeked you."

Sudden cheering told us that the great Erasmus four had emerged from
their cabins. They were as fine a little company of Saxon boys as
ever school could show; comely, tall, and fair-skinned. On the left
side of the diving-boards they took up their pre-arranged positions:
Atwood, first; Southwell Primus, behind him; Lancelot, third (and
therefore my opponent); and then Southwell Secundus. And all four
had tied on their heads the black and white polo-caps of the school.
Upton looked with satisfaction upon his house's representatives;
while Dr. Chapman, standing near, exclaimed: "Fine young shoots of
yours, Uppy. I tell you, this is England's best generation. Dammit,
there are three things old England _has_ learnt to make: ships, and
poetry, and boys."

Now, amid less resounding but still enthusiastic applause, the
Bramhall four assumed positions on the right. White stood on the
diving-mat; behind him, Johnson, frowning; next myself; and lastly
Cully. We were of very varying heights, from White, whose huge
proportions exaggerated the difference, to little thick-set Cully,
who was the shortest of all. And only these two wore the polo-cap.
So both fours stood before the multitude, inviting comparison:
Erasmus, a team; Bramhall, a scratch lot.

Behind me Cully observed the contrast, and, striving with courage to
belie his agitation, murmured: "Look at Erasmus. Did you ever see
such a measly lot? If we can't beat that crew, Ray, my boy, we must
be duffers," to emphasise which remark he tickled me under both
armpits, so that, nearly jumping out of my skin, I fell forward on
to Johnson, who fell forward on to White, who, having nobody to fall
forward on to, fell prematurely into the water. This extra item was
loudly "encored," and White scrambled back to his place and bowed
his acknowledgments.

Salome, as starter, thereupon addressed the competitors.

"Ee, bless me, my men, I shall say 'Are you ready? Go!'"

His words were like a bell for silence. Upton and Fillet eyed the
swimmers narrowly.

"_Are you ready? Go!_"

And then a calamity supervened. While Atwood dived with the grace of
a swallow, White, well--White missed his dive; he leapt into the
air, his great arms and legs appeared to hang limply down, and his
body struck the water with a splash that set the whole surface in a
turmoil. "Moles has gone a belly-flopper," shouted the crowd, as it
wept with laughter. "Good old Moles, 'a huge, shapeless mass!'" I
was too nervous to laugh, and wished that I had trousers on, for my
limbs were trembling so noticeably that I felt everybody must be
studying them. Johnson swore. Cully said: "Bang goes the Cup!" But
White rose and started furiously to recover the lost ground,
thrashing the water with his limbs. Bravely done! How the building
cheered, as his long arms swung distances behind them! But he
failed. Atwood, swimming with coolness, kept and increased the
advantage; and, accompanied by a din from his housemates and an
all-embracing smile from Upton, touched the rope beneath the
diving-mat full two yards in front. Over his head dived Southwell
Primus, while Johnson, in an agony, yelled to White to hurry his
shapeless stumps. Moles, with a last tremendous stretch, touched the
rope, and Johnson plunged splendidly to his work. I took up my
position on the mat and helped White to flounder out.

"Ray," were his first words, "it's up to you now. I'm awfully sorry
I muddled it, but _you'll_ make it good. I know you will--you must.
I shall weep if we go down."

"I'll try," I said.

Meanwhile Johnson, as is often the case with the weakest man,
outstripped the most hazardous faith. To the joy of Bramhall he
matched Southwell Primus with a yard for his yard. But, even so, his
pace couldn't eat up the lost ground; and the Erasmus man touched
home still two yards in front of the Bramhallite. In flew Lancelot,
my opponent; and, with the coming of Johnson, it would be my turn.
The Bramhallites, in a burst of new hope, shouted sarcastically: "Go
it, Lancelot. Ray's coming. He's just coming." I got the spring in
my toes, watched carefully to see Johnson touch the rope beneath me,
and then, to the greatest shout of our supporters, dived into the
beloved element.

They told me (but probably it was in their enthusiasm) that it was
the best and longest racing-dive I had ever done; that, remaining
almost parallel to the surface, I just pierced the water as a knife
pierces cheese. All I know is that at the grasp of the cool water
every symptom of nerves left me: and, with my face beneath the
surface, and the water rushing past my ears, half shutting out a
frenzied uproar, I raced confidently for the beam. The position of
Lancelot I cared not to know. My one aim was to cover the sixty
yards in record time; and, so doing, to pass him. On I shot, feeling
that my arms were devouring the course; and, some five strokes
sooner than I expected, became conscious that I was near the beam.
In an overarm reach I scraped it with my finger-tips. Swinging
round, I swam madly back. Extending myself to the utmost, I felt as
if every stroke was swifter than its predecessor. Now my breath grew
shorter and my limbs began to stiffen; but all this proved a source
of speed, for, in a spirit of defiance of nature, I whipped arms
and legs into even faster movement; it was my brain against my body.
Then there came into view the rope, which I touched with a reach.
Making no attempt to grasp it, for I seemed to be travelling too
rapidly, I saw the atmosphere darken with the shadow of Cully
passing over my head, and crashed head-first into the end of the
baths. Not stunned, for the cold water refreshed me, I turned
immediately to see if I had really got home before Lancelot. He was
still in the water, three yards from the rope.


§4

That moment, while many hands helped me out of the water; while the
building echoed with cheers and whistles; while White, too happy to
speak, beamed upon the world; while fists hammered me on the back;
while Cully, splendidly swimming, made the victory sure; I
experienced such a happiness as would not be outweighed by years of
subsequent misery. Though my limbs were so stiff that it was pain to
move them, they glowed with diffused happiness; though my heart was
fluttering at an alarming pace, it beat also with the electric
pulsations of joy: though my breath was too disturbed for speech,
yet my mind framed the words: "I've done it, I've done it"; though
my head ached with the blow it had received, it was also bursting
with a delight too great to hold. I had never done anything for the
house before, and now I had won for its shelf the Swimming Cup.

They helped me to my cabin, and, as I sat there, I composed the tale
of success that I would send to my mother. Then I stood up to dress,
and, in my excitement, put on my shirt before my vest. There was a
confusion of cheers within and without the building; and Upton,
Fillet, and Jerry Brisket, the judges, were to be seen in animated
debate, while many others stood round and listened. Dazed, faint,
and unconscious of the passage of momentous events, I took no notice
of them, but drank deeply of victory. It exhilarated me to
reconstruct the whole story, beginning with my early stage-fright
and ending with the triumphant climax, when I crashed into the end
of the baths.

I was indulging the glorious retrospect when there broke upon my
reverie a sullen youth who said:

"Well, Ray, we haven't won it after all."

There was a hitch in my understanding, and I asked:

"What d'you mean?"

"You were disqualified."

"I!" It was almost a hair-whitening shock. "I! What? Why? What for?"

"They say you dived before Johnson touched the rope. Nobody believes
you did."

So then; I had _lost_ the cup for Bramhall. The lie! Too old to vent
suffering in tears, I showed it in a panting chest, a trembling lip,
and a dry, wide-eyed stare at my informant. Backed by a disorder
outside, he repeated: "Nobody believes you did."

All happiness died out of my ken. Conscious only of aching limbs, a
fluttering heart, uneven breath, and a bursting head, I cried:

"I didn't. I didn't. Who said so?"

"Fillet--Carpet Slippers."

"The liar! The liar!" I muttered; and, with a sudden attack of
something like cramp down my left side, I fell into a sitting
position, and thence into a huddled and fainting heap upon the
floor.



CHAPTER X

WATERLOO CONTINUES: THE CHARGE AT THE END OF THE DAY


§1

While I was recovering there fell the first thunderdrops of mutiny.
A youth at the back of the gallery, on intercepting the flying
message that Fillet had demanded my disqualification and Jerry
Brisket had ended by supporting him, roared out a threatening
"_No!_" Maybe, had he not done so, there would never have been the
great Bramhall riot. But many other boys, catching the contagion of
his defiance, cried out "_No!_" The crowd, recently so excited, was
easily flushed by the new turn of events, and shouted in unison
"_No!_" Isolated voices called out "Cheat!" "Liar!" Dr. Chapman, as
tactless as he was kindly, declared to those about him that Fillet's
judgment was at fault, and thus helped to increase the uproar. The
disaffection spread to the Erasmus men, who said openly: "We don't
want the beastly cup. Bramhall won it fair and square."

And then came the report that I, on receiving the news, had fainted.
This, by provoking deeper sympathy with the hero and greater
execration of the villain, acted like paraffin oil on the flames.
Before the masters realised that anything more than disappointment
was abroad, rebellion looked them in the face.

Salome saw it and knew that, if his short but brilliant record as
headmaster was not to be abruptly destroyed, he must rise to prompt
and statesmanlike action. His first step was to summon all the
prefects in the building and say:

"Ee, bless me, my men, clear the baths."

The prefects quickly emptied the building of all boys; but outside
the door they could do no more than link arms like the City Police
and keep back a turbulent mob. Then Salome, accompanied by Fillet,
Upton, and Radley, passed with dignity through his pupils. He was
received in an ominous silence.

Now, behind this revolt there was a hidden hand; and it was the hand
of Pennybet. To effect a _coup d'état_ and to control and move blind
forces were, we know, the particular hobbies of Pennybet. Here this
evening he found blind disorder and rebellion, which, if they were
not to die out feebly and expose the rebels to punishment, must be
guided and controlled. So he flattered himself he would take over
the reins of mutiny, and hold them in such a clandestine manner that
none should recognise whose was the masterhand. He would cross
swords with Salome. As he said to me the following day: "_I_ ran
that riot, Rupert, and I never enjoyed anything so much in my life."

His method outside the baths was to keep himself in the background
and to whisper to boys, at various points on the circumference of
the vast and gathering mob, battle orders, which he knew would be
quickly circulated. They were really his own composition, but, like
a good general keeping open his means of retreat, he attributed them
to some visionary people, who, in the event of failure, could bear
the brunt of the insurrection.

"Some of the chaps are talking about a real organised revolt. How
corking!"

"The idea seems to be that it's no good doing anything, unless it's
done on a large scale. I shall stick by the others and see what they
do."

"You're to pass the word, they say, to keep massed. I suppose their
game is that small bodies can be dispersed, but we can't be touched
if we're all caked together. You'd better pass that on and explain
it."

"There are to be no dam black-legs. I've just heard that any who
slink off will be mobbed."

"What are we waiting for? Can't say. Depends who's managing this
shindy. You can be sure somebody's organising it, and we'll do what
the others do. Toss that along."

Really, Penny didn't know what his great crowd _was_ waiting for. He
had not had time to formulate a plan, but had contented himself with
keeping his forces together. And, while, closely compacted, they
swayed about, unconscious that they were the plaything of one cool
and remarkable boy, he hit upon the scheme of an offensive. He
decided that it would be futile to fight here, where all the
school-prefects were concentrated; it would be better to transfer
the attack to the courtyard of Bramhall House, where only the
Bramhall prefects would have to be reckoned with. To stay here was
to attempt a frontal attack. No, he would retreat as a feint, and
outflank the school-prefects by a surprise movement in the direction
of Bramhall.

"Have you heard?" he said. "We're all to disperse and meet again in
five minutes in Bramhall courtyard. I wonder what's in the wind."

Penny knew that not a single boy would fail to arrive at the
advertised station, if only to see what _was_ in the wind; and as
the crowd disintegrated and the prefects strolled away, thinking the
mutiny had petered out, he murmured to himself: "A crowd's an easy
thing for a man to handle."


§2

So it was that there was silence everywhere when, returning to
consciousness, I found myself in the empty baths with Dr. Chapman
looking down upon me.

"One day we must thoroughly overhaul you, young man," he said.
"There may be a weakness at your heart. How're you feeling now?"

"Oh, all right, thanks."

"Bit disappointed, I suppose?"

"Rather!"

"Frightfully so?"

I didn't answer. His words filled my throat with a lump.

"Would blub, if you could, but can't, eh?"

The question nearly brought the tears welling into my eyes. He
watched them swell, and said:

"As a doctor, I should tell you to try and blub, but, as an old
public-schoolboy, I should say 'Try not to.' Do which you like, old
man. Both are right. I'll not stay to see."

And, without looking round, he withdrew from the building.

About ten minutes later I found myself in the deserted playing
fields. Knowing nothing of any breaches of the peace, I crossed the
road and passed through the gateway into the courtyard of Bramhall
House. Immediately a great roar of cheers went up, I was seized by
excited hands, raised on to the shoulders of several boys, and
carried through a shouting multitude to the boys' entrance, where I
was deposited on the steps.

Probably not a soul knew that Salome was looking down from the
window of Fillet's study and watching the effect of my arrival. As
soon as the theatre of hostilities had changed from the baths to
Bramhall House, he, too, had crossed the road and entered unobserved
by Fillet's private doorway. He knew well enough that of all the
outposts in his schools' system of discipline Bramhall was the
weakest held. The house was under the sway of an ineffective master
with a stinging tongue; and trouble would have stirred long ago had
it not been for the heavy hand of the junior house-master, Radley,
whom Salome's predecessor had placed there to strengthen the
position. And insubordination had been not uncommon since the
accession of the too genial White to the captaincy.

In justice to White I must say that, if he had been present this
evening, he would have done his best to quell the disturbance. But
the decision of the judges had no sooner reached him than he had
disappeared from the sight of men. As a matter of fact his great
heart was breaking in the privacy of the science buildings. The only
other house-prefects were, strangely enough, the redoubtable Cully
and Johnson, who had sought consolation by retiring together to a
café in the town. So, when Salome arrived at Fillet's study, there
were no prefects available to disband the rebels. What was he to do?
It would be quite inexpedient for a master to venture himself into
the field of fire. If he suffered indignity, severe punishment would
be necessary, and that might provoke further defiance. Then again,
an alien prefect from another house would have little hope of
success on Bramhall territory. Truly Salome was out in a storm.

Hardly had they placed me on the steps, very surprised and
gratified, before Pennybet roared out:

"Was it true that you cheated, as Fillet tried to make out?"

"No!" I cried.

If I had been a nobler youth, I should have assumed that Fillet
acted conscientiously from a mistake. But I believed, and wanted to
believe, that his had been a piece of deliberate revenge; that,
recalling my imitation of his affliction, he had determined to rob
me of my triumph. So, being a vindictive young animal, I declared to
the mob what I conceived to be the truth. And all of them agreed,
while many began to hoot.

"Now, I've been sent by some boys at the back," said Penny, "to tell
you that what you've got to do is to go up to Fillet's room and
tender him a mock-apology for losing the Cup for his house. We're to
cheer ironically and hoot down here, and make a hell of a noise.
Then if he says 'Are those young devils cheering you or hooting me?'
you're to say 'They're doing both, sir.' It's a good scheme, whoever
invented it, because he can't touch you for civilly apologising and
then for telling the truth when you are asked a question."

The idea fired me. Aye, it would be good to attack in a last charge
and beat old Fillet, while I had all his house in fighting array
behind me. It would be good that he, who had rejected my serious
apology, should be obliged to hear my contemptuous one, backed by
the tumult and hooting of half the school. Never had I thought that
my decisive victory, for which I had waited years, would assume
these splendid proportions.

Into the house I went, flushed and determined, and quite unaware
that by invading Fillet's study I should walk into the arms of the
head master himself. Up the stairs I rushed, but, as I set foot upon
the first landing, Radley, coming out of his room, stood in the way
of my further ascent.

"Come in here a minute," he said.

"Sir, I can't--"

He seized me by the right wrist and swung me almost brutally into
his room. I was a muscular stripling, and he meant me to feel his
strength. Suddenly disconcerted, I heard the door slam, and found
that Radley was face to face with me. My breast went up and down
with uncontrollable temper, while my wrist, all red and white with
the marks of powerful fingers, felt as if it were broken.

"Where were you going?" he demanded, his hard mouth set.

"To Mr. Fillet's study," I snapped, purposely omitting the "sir."

"What for?"

"To apologise for losing the Swimming Cup."

"In a spirit of sincerity or one of scoffing?"

It was with no desire for veracity, but as a challenge to fight,
that I replied: "One of scoffing."

"Good." Radley's grey eyes unveiled some of their gentleness, "you
can tell the truth still. Now, Ray, the shock of your disappointment
has deprived you of reason, or you, of all people, would see that
this tomfoolery outside is unsportsmanlike in the extreme."

"But, sir," I ventured, surprised and rather pleased to hear myself
mannerly again, "every boy declares I didn't dive too soon."

"But unfortunately, Ray," replied Radley, also pleased, "every boy
was not appointed a judge, and your housemaster was. Now, do you
think that the judge's decision can be overruled by a mere counting
of the heads that disagree with him? I put it to you; undo the
damage you've done in associating yourself with this exhibition
outside--at this moment you wield more influence than any other boy
in the school--go out and establish order."

"Sir, I can't, sir. I'm their sort of deputy."

"Ray, there's a wave of rebellion outside, and you're nothing more
important than the foam on the crest of the wave. Look here, you're
a magnificent swimmer, the best in the school by a long way"--thus
came the word of praise for which I had hungered so long--"well, a
good swimmer will go out and breast the wave."

As he said it, he laid his hand gently upon my shoulder, and I felt,
as I did once before, that in his peculiar sacramental touch there
was something given by him and taken by me.

"But, sir," I said, desiring to justify myself, "I couldn't help
thinking that Mr. Fillet did it on purpose to pay me out."

Radley frowned. "You mustn't say such things. But, were it so, any
fool can be resentful, while it takes a big man to sacrifice himself
and his petty quarrels for the good of great numbers. You will do it
to save the school from hurt. I have always believed you big enough
for these things."

My answer must have showed Radley how sadly I was less than his
estimate of me.

"But, sir, if I turn back now they'll say I funked."

"Exactly; then go out and face their abuse. Go out and get hurt. I'm
determined your life shall be big, so begin now by learning to stand
buffeting. Besides, Ray, does it matter to a strong swimmer if the
wave beats against him?"

I answered nothing, but gazed out of the window. And Radley shot
another appeal--a less lofty one, but it flew home. Arrows pierce
deeper, if they don't soar too high.

"Ray, _they'll_ say you funked your master, if you don't go up to
Mr. Fillet's study; _I_ shall say you funked the boys, if you don't
go out to them. You must choose between their contempt and mine."

I looked down at my boots.

"Which would you rather have, their contempt or mine?"

"Theirs, sir."

Radley was quite moved when I answered him thus; and it was a little
while before he proceeded:

"I might have stopped your access to Mr. Fillet's study by telling
you that the head master was waiting for you there. But I wanted you
to stop from your own high motives, and not from fear. Come along
now; we'll go together."

We ascended the stairs to the study and entered. Salome at once
raised his long figure from his seat and, pointing at my tie, said:

"Ee, bless me, my man, you're very slovenly; put your tie straight."

I blushed and did so.

Then he turned to Radley.

"Did you find him in the right disposition?"

"Yes, sir."

It would not have been I if at this "Yes, sir" of Radley's my mind
had not run up an irrelevant alley, in which I found myself
wondering that Radley, who was always called "sir," should ever have
to call anyone else "sir." Perhaps I was staring dreamily into
vacancy, for Salome said:

"Bless me, I'm very glad to hear that his disposition is all right.
But is the boy a fool? Why does he stand staring into vacancy like a
brainless nincompoop?"

I turned redder than ever and wondered at whom to look so as to
avoid vacancy, and what to do with my hands. Nervously I used the
right hand to button up my coat, and then put it out of mischief in
my pocket.

"Good God, man!" cried the Head. "Take that hand out of your
pocket!"

I took it quickly out and unbuttoned one coat-button: then, for lack
of something to do with the hand, did the button up again. I decided
to keep the miserable member fingering the button. To make matters
worse Salome rested his eyes like a searchlight on the hand. At last
he looked distressingly straight at my face.

"Ray," he asked, "are you a perfect fool?"

"No, sir," I said, and grinned.

The Head turned to my housemaster for his testimony.

"Mr. Fillet, is the boy a fool?"

"One couldn't call him a _fool_," replied Fillet, obviously
intending the conclusion: "One might, however, call him a _knave_."

The Head turned to Radley.

"Mr. Radley, is he a fool?"

"He's anything but a fool, sir; and he's still less of a knave,"
said Radley, angry and caring only to repudiate Fillet's innuendo.

"Ray," Salome was again staring me out of countenance. "Do you ever
do any work?"

"Yes, sir," I said brightly. It was kind of him to ask questions to
which I could honestly answer in the affirmative. I did occasionally
do some work.

"Mr. Fillet?" queried Salome, desiring the housemaster to have his
say.

"I suppose there are idler boys," announced Fillet grudgingly; and
it was open to anyone to hear in his words the further meaning;
"but, on the other hand, there are many more studious and more
deserving." The fact is, the little man was irritated that Radley
should have tried to contradict him before the Head.

"Mr. Radley?" pursued Salome, as though he were bored with the
evidence, but realised that everyone must be allowed his turn to
speak.

"Ray has always worked well for _me_," Radley promptly answered,
and we all knew he meant it as a second stab for Fillet.

Salome once more fixed me with his disconcerting stare.

"Ray," he asked, "have you any glimmerings of moral courage?"

"I don't know, sir," said I, wondering where the conversation was
leading.

The Head, apparently tired out by this catechising, contented
himself with turning his face in the direction of Fillet for his
endorsement or denial.

"He's as bold as they make 'em," said Fillet; and this time the
double meaning was as clear as before: "the boy is utterly
shameless."

The Head turned to Radley, who answered with a snap:

"Yes, he's plenty of courage; and what's better, he's easily
shamed."

"Bless me, are you any good whatever at games?" continued the weary
catechist.

"I can swim a bit, but I'm not much good at anything else."

"As he says, he swims a bit," corroborated Fillet. "But I don't know
what else he can do."

"He's the best swimmer in the school," snapped Radley, "and will one
day be the best bowler."

"Well, bless me, my man, have you any position or influence with
your schoolfellows?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Hm!" sneered Fillet, whose temper was gone. "He has his
_confederates_."

"Yes," said Radley, "he has a _very loyal following_."

I think it pleased the drowsy Head to see two of his masters boxing
over the body of one of his boys.

"Well, well," he said, "I'm glad, Ray, to hear you give such a good
account of yourself. We are satisfied, I may say, with your prowess
in the baths this evening--you did your best, sir, you did your
best--and we are satisfied with the attitude you have taken up in
regard to this nonsensical business outside--"

"But, sir," I began, deprecatingly.

"God bless me, my man, don't interrupt! I tell you, we are
satisfied. We don't sigh for the _moon_; and we're not talking of
your shortcomings. We haven't _time_, bless me, we haven't _time_.
We're only talking of your virtues, which won't occupy many minutes.
We are satisfied that you're not altogether a fool--that you do
some work--that you have some moral courage--that you're an
athlete--and--what else was the matter, with him, Mr. Radley?--oh,
that you have some position with your schoolfellows. We make you a
house-prefect, sir, a house-prefect."

Staggered beyond measure, I suppose I showed it in my face, for
Salome continued:

"Ee, my man, take off that ridiculous expression. I congratulate
you, sir--congratulate you."

And I mechanically shook hands with him. Then Radley gripped my
fingers and nearly broke the knuckle-bones. Fillet also formally
proffered his hand, and I pressed it quite heartily. It was no good
gloating over a man when he was down.

After this ceremony all waited for Salome to clinch proceedings,
which he did as offensively as possible by saying:

"Ee, bless me, my man, don't stand there idling all day. Go out at
once and establish order."

I went slowly down the stairs to the entrance, and, facing the
crowd, was greeted with a fire of questions: "Did you do it?" "What
did he say?" "How did he take it?" "Didn't you do it?"

"No," I said, and there was a temporary silence.

"Why not? Why not?"

"Because it wasn't the thing."

While no more eloquence came to my lips, plenty flowed from those of
the boys before me. For a moment their execration seemed likely to
turn upon me. At last I made myself heard.

"You see," I shouted, "only cads dispute the decision of the
referee."

"Yes, but there are exceptions to every rule," said Penny's voice.

And here I sipped the sweets of authority.

"Well, there isn't going to be any exception in this case," I said.

The crowd detected something humorous in my high-handed sentence and
laughed sarcastically. So, giving up all attempts to be persuasive,
I said bluntly:

"Look here, Salome's upstairs, and he's made me a prefect and sent
me down to establish order."

There were elements of greatness in Pennybet. He willingly
acknowledged that the _coup d'état_ was not his but Salome's, and
the riot must inevitably crumble away. So he made a point of leading
the cheers that greeted my announcement, and, coming forward, was
the first to congratulate me. His example was extensively followed,
while he looked on approvingly, as though it had all been his doing,
and chirruped every now and then: "This is the jolliest day I've
spent at Kensingtowe."



CHAPTER XI

THE GREAT MATCH


§1

The next year was 1914. It found Pennybet at Sandhurst; Doe
brilliantly high in the Sixth Form, and, since he was a classical
scholar and a poet, first favourite for the Horace Prize. In the
cricket annals of Kensingtowe it was a remarkable year. Throughout
the Summer Term victory followed victory. The M.C.C., having heard
of Kensingtowe's super-batsmen, sent a strong team against us, which
went under, amid cheering that lasted from 6 to 6.30 p.m. The
_Sportsman_ spoke of our fast bowler and captain as the "Coming
Man." We called him "Honion," partly because his head, being
perfectly bald, resembled that vegetable, and partly because he
enjoyed the prefix "The Hon." before his name. Yes, I am speaking of
the Hon. F. Lancaster, who appeared for a few moments like a new
comet in the cricket heavens, just as the thundercloud of war
blotted everything out. When the cloud should roll away, that new
comet would be no longer there.

As the term drew to its close, and the world to the War, the cricket
enthusiasm possessing Kensingtowe focussed itself on the annual
fixture, "The School _v._ The Masters." For eight years the Masters,
thanks to their captain, Radley, had won with ease. The previous
year their task had been more difficult, for the shadow of "Honion"
was already looming. This year that shadow overspread the world.

We had conquered everywhere, and this was our last fixture. We would
win: we _must_ win. If Radley could be eliminated from the Masters'
team--if, for instance, some arsenic could be placed in his tea--our
victory would be a foregone conclusion. It was a question of
"Honion" _v._ Radley. The enthusiasm swelled and burst the
boundaries of the school. Local papers took up the subject. London
papers, in small-print paragraphs, copied them. Party feeling ran
quite high outside the school: Middlesex supporters desired the
triumph of the Masters, which would be the triumph of S.T. Radley,
their hero; Sussex supporters backed the School, for they knew that
"Honion" Lancaster was to come to them. There was no party within
the school, the school being solid for "The School."

One day Radley tapped me on the shoulder.

"Why don't you try to get in the Team?" asked he. "You're the best
bowler in the Second Eleven."

I grinned, and represented that such a consummation was of all
earthly things impossible.

"I don't see why," said he. "The school's batting talent is great,
but the bowling's weak."

Ye Gods! Had he ever heard of Honion?

"O, sir," I remonstrated, "but our strength lies in Honion--in
Lancaster, I mean."

Radley smiled.

"What other bowler of any class have you?"

It was true. I mentioned Moles White as a fine slow bowler, and
could think of no more "star-turns."

"Well, you come," said Radley, "and bowl at my private net every
evening. Your leg-breaks are teasers. I was talking to Lancaster
this morning, and he says he doesn't know who will be the last man
of the Eleven. Why shouldn't it be you?"

So evening after evening I bowled to Radley, who coached me
enthusiastically. I think that he was making a fascinating hobby of
training his favourite pupil for the Team, much as an owner delights
in running a favourite horse for the Derby. And, when one evening I
uprooted his leg-stump twice in succession, he said:

"Good. Now we shall see what we shall see."

In the meantime Lancaster had buttonholed Doe.

"You used to be a great cricketer, usedn't you?"

"When I was a boy, Honion," said Doe.

"And you've slacked abominably."

"Thou sayest so, Honion."

"Well, my son, the last place in the Team is vacant. You should be
too good for the Second. Practise like fury, and the situation's
yours."


§2

"What do you think, Doe?" said I. "Radley's making me sweat to get
into the Team."

A momentary pain and jealousy overspread Doe's face. Quickly
passing, it gave place to a whimsical glance, as he rejoined:

"What do you think? Honion's doing the same with me."

"Look here, then," said I, as much despairingly as generously, "I'll
stand down. You'll be fifty times better than I shall."

"You won't do anything of the sort. Don't you see Radley's running
you as a candidate to spite me? No, we'll fight this out, you and I.
Shake on it, and good luck to your candidature!"

"You ripping old tragedy hero!" answered I. "Good luck to yours."

Now, all Kensingtowe amused itself speculating who would be the last
man. Many names were mentioned, but Ray was not one of them. Bets
were made, and the odds were slightly in favour of Doe. The
sentiment of the school said that he ought to be played on the
strength of the brilliant things he might do.

The match drew nearer, and the secret as to the last man was
severely kept, if, indeed, any decision had been come to. But Doe
was establishing himself as favourite. Every day a crowd surrounded
the Second Eleven net, where he, with his face suffused in colour
and his hair glistening with moisture, was striving to create the
necessary impression. Honion, as general, surrounded by his
staff-officers in their caps and colours, sometimes stood by the net
and pulled his chin contemplatively. And, if Doe made a fine
off-drive, all the onlookers (and Doe himself) turned and glanced at
Honion, as though for a sign from Heaven. But the great man's face
betrayed no emotion.

On the day before the match, which was to be a one-day game, Honion
might have been seen crossing the field from the pavilion, where a
council of war had just concluded. He was approaching the
school-buildings, and, like the Pied Piper, had an enormous crowd
of small boys at his back. In his hand was the paper which bore the
list of the Team.

"Who is it? Who is it?" demanded the crowd.

"Wait and see," said Lancaster, as great captains do.

And at that moment a first spot of rain fell. Honion looked up
apprehensively at a clouding sky. "I thought so," said he; and the
weighty words were passed from lip to lip.

The multitude swelled as the Captain drew near the notice-boards.
Rumour stalked abroad and loudly proclaimed that the lot had fallen
upon Doe. That young cricketer was walking with me at the tail of
the procession, very nervous but fairly confident. As for me, my
heart was fluttering, and there was an emptiness within.

"Come and tell me who it is," I said to Doe. "You'll find me
trembling like a frightened sparrow in the study."

With that I left him, and, going to our study, stood gazing out of
the window at a sudden shower of rain. To nerve myself for any shock
of disappointment I muttered monotonously some old words of
Radley's: "Does it matter to a strong swimmer if the wave beats
against him? Does it matter--does it matter--" Soon a roar of many
voices was heard in the distance. The list was up. I could not tell
whether they were cheering in triumph or groaning in dismay. Then
someone ran along the corridor and burst in. I remained looking out
of the window lest the expression on my friend's face should betray
the secret which I longed but dreaded to hear.

"My dear old fellow," said he, "it's--"

It was coming now. What a long time he took to tell it.

"It's _you_!"

"Good Lord!"

I had swung round on him.

"And I hope you take all the wickets," said he, with a smile of
generosity that he wished me to observe.

I couldn't speak, but turned again to look out of the window. The
rain was beating heavily against the panes. And Doe said nothing
till, being in a chastened mood, he resumed:

"I think you'll always cut me out, Rupert, because you're the solid
stuff, while I'm all show. You left me nowhere in Radley's good
books, and now in cricket--"

"But you leave me nowhere in brain-work," objected I, feeling that
the handsome appreciation, which he had tossed to me, ought to be
returned like a tennis ball.

"Oh, yes, of course, there _is_ that," he assented. "And I may yet
have won the Horace Prize."

Just then the kindly White, coming to express his sympathy, broke
into the study and exclaimed:

"Well, we've boosted you out all right, Doe."

"Why, had I been chosen at one time, then?" asked Doe, seizing upon
this little sop to his pride.

"Of course, but look at the rain. It'll be a bowlers' wicket, and
the Skipper's done a daring thing. The school's never known it, but
Ray's been our difficulty, ever since Radley started booming him."

Doe brought his lips firmly together, and turned on me with a bright
smile.

"Radley's won this journey," he said, "but let him know I was the
first to congratulate you."


§3

By ten o'clock on the Great Day a huge crowd had assembled,
including visitors, parents, old boys, and quite a number of
Pressmen. Pennybet arrived, invested with all the sleek majesty that
Sandhurst could give him: and, seeking out Doe and myself, he lent
us the dignity of his presence.

At about half-past-ten Radley came to the nets for a little
practice, and most of us walked up to see what sort of form he was
showing. I was feeling a little shy in my Second Eleven colours and
convinced that all the ladies were asking why my blazer was
different from the others. Pennybet quickly saw that I was sensitive
on this point, and, with his cruel humour, began emphasising the
little difficulty: "Ray, how comes it that your blazer's unlike the
others? It's very noticeable, isn't it?"

"Oh, shut up," urged I, blushing over face and neck and throat.

"All the ladies," continued my torturer, "will notice it and pity
you, saying 'Isn't he lovely?'"

I ignored him and devoted my attention to watching Radley, as he
took his place at the net, where Honion was bowling. It was clear
that he did not underestimate Honion's express deliveries, for he
rolled up his sleeve, displaying a massive forearm that alarmed us
seriously; re-arranged his rubber bat-handle; placed his bat firmly
in the block; and faced Honion.

The silence spoke of the importance of the moment; Lancaster, our
captain, was measuring himself with Radley. He took his long run and
bowled. Radley, with little apparent effort, drove the ball out of
the net-mouth to the far end of the field, and re-commenced
attending to his bat-handle.

"Oh, the full-blooded villain!" exclaimed Penny.

Someone handed Honion another ball, and he bowled. Radley hit it
with great force into the net on the off side. Our spirits sank.
Honion was good; he was great; but he was not great enough for
Radley.

The third ball Radley tapped straight to where I was standing, and I
fielded it.

"Bowl," said he.

I did not wish to do so, but it was impossible to disobey. And, as I
prepared to bowl, the silence became eloquent again. The new man,
the eleventh-hour bowler, was measuring himself with Radley. I
realised that my first ball teased him. My second laid his leg-stump
on the ground. A yell of joy showed to what a height the spirits of
the crowd had risen. But mine sank in proportion: I should never
bowl him out twice in one day....

The bell rang, and the field was cleared.

All over the ground there was an anticipatory silence, which made
the striking of the school-clock sound wonderfully loud. Then an
ovation greeted Lancaster, as he led his classic team on to the
ground.

The Masters had won the toss, and the two, who were to open the
batting, left the pavilion amid applause, and assumed their places
at the wicket. Lancaster placed his field, bowled a lightning ball,
and splintered an old Oxonian's middle stump.

Here was excitement! Delirious boys prophesied that eight years'
defeats would be wiped off the slate by the school's dismissing the
Masters for a handful of runs, scoring a great score, and then
dismissing them again, so as to win an innings victory. But stay!
Who is this coming in first-wicket-down? Not Radley? Yes, by
heaven, it is! He has come to see that no rot sets in. Now, Honion,
you may well spit on your hands. A laugh trembles its way round the
spectators, as Lancaster places his men in the deep field. He is
ready to be knocked about.

The first over closes for ten, all off Radley's bat, two fours and a
two. The new bowler, White, deals in slows, and the scoring partakes
of the nature of the bowling. But the outstanding fact of that over
is this: that Radley hit the last ball with terrific force along the
ground, and it was so brilliantly fielded and thrown in that it
scattered the stumps before Radley, who had started to run, could
reach the crease. Suddenly, crisply, half a thousand mouths snapped
out the query: "How's that!"

"_Out._"

With great good-humour Radley continued his run a little way, but in
the direction of the pavilion. Boys stood up and clapped
frantically, not a few seizing their neighbours and pummelling them
with clenched fists on the back. Pennybet, sitting beside Doe, shook
hands with him and with a couple of undemonstrative old gentlemen,
whom he had never seen before. They seemed a little overawed, as he
wrung their hands.

By one o'clock the Masters were out, having compiled the diminutive
score of 99. Not once had they been asked to face my bowling. Honion
and White shared the wickets between them.

Now the only question was: would the school be able to beat them by
an innings, and so crown their glorious season? They had better, for
the onlookers would be content with nothing less.

Everyone adjourned for lunch. The noise in the dining halls, which
the masters made no attempt to check, was tremendous, since all were
offering their forecasts of the result. But this fact was
universally accepted: the School Eleven would play carefully till
they had scored a hundred runs and so passed the Masters' total,
after which they would adopt forcing tactics and lift the score over
300. Then they would declare, and bowl the Masters out for a price
under the spare 200 runs. Thus the innings victory would be
achieved.


§4

The most effective, the most spectacular, and probably the worst
innings of the School Eleven was that played by Moles White. He
dragged his elephantine form to the wicket, and, looking round with
his genial smile, prepared to enjoy the Masters' bowling. Again and
again he lifted the ball high into the air and grinned as master
after master dropped the catches. It was a method that could only
have been successful in such a match as this, where the field had
been taken by a team like the Masters, whose "tail" was quite out of
practice and rather stiff in the joints.

Every vigorous hit of White's, even if it soared skyward, was
cheered with loud cries of "Good old Moles!" Every time his
unpardonable catches were dropped, the acclamations were lost in
laughter. And when with a splendid stroke he lifted the score over
the Masters' total and into three figures, White enjoyed the triumph
of his school career.

By this time there was collected behind the railings that surround
Kensingtowe a fine crowd of carters and cabmen, who had "woahed"
their horses and were standing on their boxes, enjoying an excellent
view. They had no idea what the match was, or who were winning, but
every time they heard the boys begin to cheer, they waved their
hats, brandished their whips, and cheered and whistled as well. The
excellent fellows only knew that the great crowd of young gents was
happy, and were benignantly pleased to share their happiness.

White made his fifty and was bowled in attempting the most
abominable of blind-swipes. He returned towards the pavilion, so far
forgetting himself in his pleasure as to swing about his bat like a
tennis-racket. What thunderous applause he received! It was his last
term, and his last match. And I am glad that the final picture,
which our memory preserves of White alive, shows us the sterling oaf
departing after a glorious innings, surrounded by uproarious
school-fellows, and smiling as only the righteous can. Grand old
boy, may we meet many more like you!

By a quarter to five the School total had reached the astonishing
figure of 350. To this I had contributed 4, with which I was very
satisfied, as it was four more than I expected. Lancaster declared,
and the school by its applause endorsed the decision.

Now, how did the position stand? Stumps were to be drawn at 7.30. To
save the innings defeat the Masters must score over 250 in two hours
and a half. An impossible achievement--a hundred to one on an
innings defeat! But would they all be bowled out in the little time
left? With luck, and Honion in form, yes. And luck was with us, and
Honion in great form this afternoon. Oh, a thousand to one on an
innings defeat!


§5

The School took the field without unnecessary delay, and Radley
opened the Masters' innings. They were going to make a fight of it,
then. But the School had set its heart on the innings victory, and
the team had the moral strength derived from the concentrated
determination of six hundred boys. What had the Masters to oppose
this? Nothing save Radley and a handful of tarnished Blues.

It is stated that the third innings of the day opened like this:
Honion started on a longer run than usual, as if to terrify this
Radley fellow. The latter, so an enormous number declared, though I
contend they were mistaken, started to run at the same time as the
bowler, and, meeting the ball at full-pitch, smote it for six. The
jubilant expectations of the crowd, always as sensitive as the Stock
Exchange, fluctuated. The second ball was square-cut more quietly
for four. The third was driven high over the bowler's head and
travelled to the boundary-rope. Honion placed a man at the spot
where the ball passed the rope, and sent down a similar delivery.
Radley pulled it, as a great laugh went up, to the very spot from
which the fieldsman had been removed. Eighteen in four balls! The
spirits of the crowd drooped.

Penny, at his place with Doe, began to sulk, saying he was sick of
it all, and wished he hadn't come.

"Oh, rot," said Doe, "they haven't put our Rupert, the dark horse,
on yet. I'm afraid all that's rotten in me is wanting him to be a
failure. I can't help it, and I'm _trying_ to hope he'll come off.
If he does, I'll bellow! Over. White's going to bowl now."

The ground apparently favoured the slow bowler, for the first wicket
fell to White's second ball. But the victim, sad to tell, was not
Radley.

Hush--oh, hush. The head master was coming out to partner Radley!
And, considering the silence of respect with which he was greeted, I
think Salome scarcely behaved becomingly. He hit an undignified
boundary for four.

"Ee, bless me, my man!" whispered the wits.

But Salome, ignorant of this mild flippancy, actually undertook to
run a vulgar five for an overthrow: and by like methods succeeded in
amassing a score of runs in a dozen minutes.

Meanwhile, Radley, who from the beginning had taken his life in his
hands, was flogging the bowling. He and Salome quickly added fifty
to the Masters' total.

But Salome's bright young life was destined to be curtailed. A
straight, swift ball from Honion he stopped with his instep, and
promptly obeyed two laws which operate in such circumstances: the
one compelling him to execute a pleasing dance and rub the injured
bone; and the other involving his return to the pavilion (l.b.w.) in
favour of the succeeding batsman.

At this interesting development Penny bobbed up and down in his seat
with glee. "Ee, bless me! Ee, hang me! Ee, curse me!" he chirruped.
"He's bust the bone. He'll never walk again. Probably mortification
will set in, and he'll have his foot off. Next man in, please. Oh, I
never enjoyed anything so much in my life."

The following two wickets were shared by Honion and White, and the
score stood at 90 for four, when the school chaplain approached the
wicket. This reverend gentleman walked to his place with zealous
rapidity, and proceeded to propagate the gospel with some excellent
hits to leg. Three such yielded him nine runs, and at the end of the
over he found himself facing Honion's bowling. The temporary dismay
of the crowd disappeared. Honion, it was conjectured, would soon
send the parson indoors to evensong. But the conjecture was faulty.
Honion instead was sent for a two, a boundary, and a single.

"Curse me!" grumbled Penny. "It's not in the best taste for the
learned divine to play like any godless layman. Has he nothing
better to do? Are there no souls to save?"

"No, but there's a match to save," suggested Doe.

There was perhaps some justification for Penny's indignation, when
this indecent ecclesiastic scored two fours in succession, and
by his beaming face and intermittent giggle showed that he was
feeling a very carnal satisfaction in sending ten members of his
congregation, one after another, in search of the ball. Ultimately
he was caught low down in the slips, having compiled an excellent
thirty; and he walked off, hardly concealing a smile.

As he ran up the steps of the pavilion, Upton came down, drawing on
his gloves and ready to prove that Erasmus could exhibit very
creditable pedagogues, as well as Bramhall. This slender,
grey-haired master with the ruddy countenance was much favoured by
the ladies. He looked a young and blooming veteran. The boys of
Erasmus gave him a cheer (for he was a good man) and prayed that he
might not survive the first ball. He did, however, and held his end
up in dogged fashion, leaving Radley to develop the score, and only
occasionally taking a modest four for himself.

It was about this time that Radley got under a ball and sent a
chance whizzing towards me. It flew high, and I shot up my left hand
for it. The ball hit me right in the centre of the palm with such
force that it stung most painfully, and I had not the least
hesitation in dropping it. There were groans of disappointment from
the males, execrations from Penny, and murmurs of sympathy and love
from the female portion of the crowd. But my sensations were again
the opposite to the crowd's. The pain in my hand was exactly the
same as when Radley caned me years before on the left hand: and I
was reminded of the scene. "Put up your left hand," he had said
sarcastically. "You'll need the other for writing your lines." Now I
had accidentally put up my left. It was surely because I should need
the other for bowling him out. Such strange alleys do my thoughts
run along when I am woolgathering in the field.

It must be admitted that Honion was by this time a failure. Radley
was doing what he liked with the bowling. By six-thirty the score
stood at 180, and the Masters only required 70 to save them from the
innings defeat. There was an hour before them, and they had five
wickets in hand. But the light was not so good. We might do it yet.

Thirty minutes of that last hour passed, and in them forty runs were
scored at a cost of three wickets. So there was half an hour left to
play, two wickets in hand, and thirty runs to get.

The ninth man failed at a quarter past seven, leaving the score at
225. It rested, then, with Radley and the last man to make 25 in
fifteen minutes and a bad light.

The schoolboy crowd was suffering; and, when Radley smote Honion for
a six, the suffering became agony. Some drastic step must be taken.

Suddenly a shrill-voiced boy sang out:

"Put Ray on. Give Ray a chance."

The crowd took it up and roared out its instructions to put Ray on.
Bad form, I grant you, but then they scarcely knew what they were
doing, for they were in an ecstasy of suspense and excitement. The
cry became formidable. "Put Ray on." My face felt as if it had been
scorched at the fire. One boy roared out: "Hoo-_Ray_, hoo-_Ray_,
hoo-blooming-_Ray_!"

The crowd laughed, and, while many inquired of one another: "What
did he say? Do tell me," the majority adopted the cry as a slogan.

"Hoo-_Ray_, hoo-_Ray_, hoo-blooming-_Ray_!"

Our captain deferred to the voice of public opinion.

"Take next over this end, Ray," he said.

The permission was belated enough. When amid terrific applause I
faced Radley, there were only fourteen runs to be made and ten
minutes to play.

But, then, I had only one wicket to take. The pulsations of my heart
were rapid--but dull, deliberate, and heavy as a strong man's fist.
I felt as though I had not eaten anything for weeks, nor was ever
likely to eat again. Honion shook his head; he saw that I was
trembling. Radley smiled encouragingly. White said: "For God's sake,
Ray, pull it off." And I murmured: "Right. I'll try." I was
surprised at the way my voice shook.

I took a quiet run (though my feet sounded noisily on the turf,
owing to the breathless silence) and bowled.

"Wide!"

The crowd laughed, but it was the laugh of despair. My second ball
Radley hit for four. My third followed it to the boundary.

"This'll be Ray's last over," said the witty critics. It was. There
were only five more runs to be made. The ladies, preparing for
departure, drew on their gloves. Sedate gentlemen, who had removed
top-hats from perspiring brows, brushed the silk with their sleeves.
Within a few minutes the innings victory would be won or lost.

Despair cured me of nerves. I bowled my fourth ball without any
excitement. Radley fumbled and missed it. He smiled grimly, twisted
his bat round, adjusted the handle, and resumed his position at the
block.

Murmurs of "Well bowled" reached me: and so silent was the crowd and
so still the evening, that I heard a voice saying to someone: "That
was a good ball, wasn't it? Absolutely beat him. In a light like
this--"

Now I was trembling, if you like. But it was not nerves. It was
confidence that the supreme moment of my schooldays was upon me. I
picked up the ball, muttering repeatedly but unconsciously: "O God,
make me do it." I turned and faced Radley. As I took my short run, I
felt perfectly certain that I should bowl him. And the next thing I
remember was seeing my master's leg-bail fall to the ground.

All together, none before and none after the other, every male in
the crowd bellowed forth the accumulated excitement of the day:

"OUT!"


§6

Not for half an hour that evening did the cheering cease or the mass
of boys begin to disperse. Even then there were little outbreaks of
fresh cheering coming from separate groups. A line of day-boys, who
had linked arms as, homeward bound, they left the field, droned
merrily:

          "Now the day is over,
             Night is drawing nigh,
           Shadows of the evening
             Steal across the sky."

And among the dissolving cheers from the distance could occasionally
be heard the refrain of "Hoo-_Ray_, hoo-_Ray_, hoo-blooming-_Ray_!"



CHAPTER XII

CASTLES AND BRICK-DUST


§1

It was on the day when those two pistol shots were fired at an
Austrian Archduke in the streets of Serajevo that the Masters' match
was played out at Kensingtowe. By the early evening the
reverberation of the revolver reports had been felt like an
earthquake-shock in all the capitals of Europe; and in a failing
light the last wicket had fallen at Kensingtowe. So it happened
that, while the Emperors of Central Europe were whispering that the
Day had come and the slaughter of the youth of Christendom might
begin, there was a gathering in Radley's room of those insignificant
people whose little doings you have watched at Kensingtowe. They
were assembled to drink tea and discuss the match. There were Radley
as host; Pennybet, to represent the Old Boys; Doe and I, in fine
fettle for the School; and Dr. Chappy, who, having sworn that he was
a busy man and couldn't spare the time, sat spilling cigar-ash in
the best armchair, and looked like remaining for the rest of the
evening.

"Stop quarrelling about the match," said Radley, as he stood with
his back to the mantelpiece, "and listen to me. It's a great day,
this--a day of triumph. Ray has won the innings victory for the
School, and Doe--"

Doe pricked up his ears.

"It's just out--Doe has won the Horace Prize."

At this news there were great congratulations of the poet, who went
red with pleasure.

"When you've all finished," said Radley, "I'll read the Prize Poem."

So Radley began faithfully from a manuscript:

                "Horace, Odes I, 9. _Vides ut Alta Stet._
          "White is the mountain, fleeced in snows,
           And the pale trees depress their weighted boughs--"

"Oh, spare us!" interrupted Chappy.

"Not a bit," said Radley. "Hark to this:

          "Bring out the mellow wine, the best,
           The sweet convivial wine, and test
             Its four-year-old maturity:
           To Jove commit the rest,
           Nor question his divine intents
           For, when he stays the battling elements,
             The wind shall brood o'er prostrate seas
           And fail to move the ash's crest
             Or stir the stilly cypress trees.
           Be no forecaster of the dawn;
             Deem it an asset, and be gay--
           Come, merge to-morrow's misty morn
             In the resplendence of to-day.

          "Youth is the day the field to scour,
             The time of conquests won,
           The pause, wherein to hark at trysting hour
               To the whispered word
               That is gently heard
             In the wake of the passing sun--"

"What's it all about?" grumbled Chappy. "And I'm sure 'morn' doesn't
rhyme with 'dawn.'" at which Doe went white with pain, and numbered
the doctor among the Philistines.

"It's a very distinguished attempt to catch the spirit of Horace's
fine ode," answered Radley, and Doe turned red again with pleasure,
forgiving Radley all the unkindness he had ever perpetrated, and
enrolling him among the Elect.

Now Pennybet liked to be the centre of attraction at friendly little
gatherings like this, and had little inclination to sit and listen
to people praising those who recently had been nothing but his
satellites. So he lit a cigarette and said:

"It's entirely the result of my training that these young people
have turned out so well."

"Pennybet," explained Radley, "you're a purblind egotist and will
come to a bad end."

"Oh, I don't think so, sir," said Penny, crossing his legs that he
might the more comfortably discuss his end with Radley. "I've always
managed to do what I've wanted and to come out of it all right."

"Oh, you have, have you?" sneered Chappy.

"Always," answered Penny, unabashed. "It's a favourite saying of my
mother's that 'adverse conditions will never conquer her wilful
son.'"

"Good God!" cried the doctor, rightly appalled.

"Yes," continued the speaker, delighted to tease the doctor, "for
instance, I made up my mind all the time I was here to stick in a
low form. It was an easier life, and fun to boss kids like Edgar Doe
and Rupert Ray. And I pulled all the strings of the famous Bramhall
Riot, as Ray knows. And I just did sufficient work to pass into
Sandhurst. And I shall be just satisfactory enough to get my
commission. Then I shall do all in my power to provoke a European
War, so that there will be a good chance of promotion--"

"There's a type of man," interrupted Radley, "who'd start a prairie
fire, if it were the only way to light his pipe."

"Exactly. And I am he."

"Good God!" repeated Chappy.

"And, after peace is declared, I shall settle down to a comfortable
life at the club."

"It's a relief," smiled Radley, "that you won't lead a revolution
and usurp the throne."

"Too much trouble. I may go into Parliament, which is a comfortable
job. On the Tory side, of course, because there you don't have to
think."

"You've about fifty years of life," suggested Radley. "And don't you
want to do anything constructive in that time?"

"Not in these trousers! I know that, if I were sincere and
constructive in my politics, I should be a Socialist. It stands to
reason that it can't be right for all the wealth to be in the
pockets of the few, and for there to be a distinct and cocky
governing class. But, as I want to amass wealth and enjoy the
position of the ruling class, I shall be careful not to think out my
politics, lest I develop a pernicious Socialism."

"Oh, Lord!" groaned the doctor.

"I think _I_'m a Socialist," suddenly put in Doe, and Chappy turned
to him, dumbfounded to witness the eruption of a second youth.
"I've long thought that, when I find my feet in politics, I shall be
in the Socialist camp. They may be visionary, but they are
idealists. And I think it's up to us public-schoolboys to lead the
great mass of uneducated people, who can't articulate their needs.
I'd love to be their leader."

"What you're going to be," said Radley, "is an intellectual
rebel. When you go up to Oxford in a year or so, you'll pose
as most painfully intellectual. You'll be a Socialist in
Politics, a Futurist in Art, and a Modernist or Ultramontane in
Religion--anything that's a rebellion against the established order.
At all costs let us be original and outrageous."

"Hear, hear," whispered Penny.

"Ray has been the strong, silent man so far," said Radley. "Let's
hear his Castle in the Air."

"For God's sake--" began Chappy.

"Speech! Speech!" demanded Pennybet.

"Oh, I don't know," demurred I. "I've not many ideas. I generally
think I'd like to be a country squire, very popular among the
tenants, who'd have my photo on their dressers. And I'd send them
all hares and pheasants at Christmas and be interested in their
drains--"

I was elaborating this picture, when Penny, feeling that he had made
his speech and was not particularly interested in anyone else's,
glanced at a gold wrist-watch, and decided that it was time for him
to go. He made a peculiarly effective exit, his hat tilted at what
he called a "damn-your-eyes" angle. Never again did Doe or I see
him, though we heard of his doings. God speed to him, our cocksure
Pennybet. Let us always think the best of him.

No sooner had the door clicked than Chappy exploded.

"That high youth ought to have his trousers taken down and be
birched. What are we coming to, when boys like him lecture their
elders on how to run the world?"

"That question," Radley retorted, "Adam probably asked Eve, when
Cain and Abel decided to be Socialists."

"I tell you, these self-opinionated boys want whipping, and so do
you, Master Doe, with your damned Fabianism."

"Oh, come, come," objected Radley. "I like them to be gloriously
self-confident. Young blood is heady stuff. And there'd be
something wrong, if a body full of young blood didn't have a head
full of glittering illusions."

"Rot!" proclaimed Chappy.

"I like them to be Socialists and Futurists and everything. If
_they_ don't want to put the world to rights, who will?"

"Damned rot!"

"It's nothing of the sort," rejoined Radley, getting annoyed. "They
ought to break out at this time. You can't bind up a bud to prevent
it bursting into flower."

"If I'd children who burst like that, I'd bind them for you!"

"No, you wouldn't," contradicted Radley, softening again. "You'd
expect them to be intolerant of you as old fashioned. You'd withdraw
behind your cigar-smoke and your old-fashioned ideas, and leave
_them_ to put the world to rights. After all, it's their world."


§2

Now, though you may think this a very uninteresting chapter--a mere
dialogue over the tea-cups, I take leave to present it to you as
quite the most dramatic and most central of our humble tale. The
events that lend it this distinguished character were happening
hundreds of miles from Radley's room, in places where more powerful
people than Penny or Doe or I were building Castles in the Air. An
Emperor was dreaming of a towering, feudal Castle, broad-based upon
a conquered Europe and a servile East. Nay, more, he had finished
with dreaming. All the materials of this master-mason were ready to
the last stone. And, if the two pistol-shots meant anything, they
meant that the Emperor had begun to build.

And, since building was the order of the day, there were wise men in
the councils of the Free Nations who saw that they must destroy the
Emperor's handiwork and build instead a Castle of their own, where
Liberty, International Honour, and many other lovely things might
find a home. So for all of us self-opinionated boys, it was a matter
of hours this summer evening before we should be told to tumble our
petty Castles down, and shape from their ruins a brick or two for
the Castle of the Free Peoples. Well, we tumbled them down. And the
rest of this story, I think, is the story of the bricks that were
made from their dust.


§3

Doe and I left Radley and the doctor to their dispute, and retired
to our study. It was then that Doe began to blush and say:

"Funny the subject of our ambitions cropped up. Only a few days ago
I tried to write a poem about it."

I pleaded for permission to read it.

"You can, if you like," he said, getting very crimson. With
trembling hands he extracted a notebook from his pocket and
indicated the poem to me. From that moment I saw that he was waiting
in an agony of suspense for my approval.

I took it to the window, and, by the half-light of evening, read:

   If God were pleased to satisfy
     My every whim,
   I'd tell you just the little things
     I'd ask of Him:
   A little love--a little love, and that comes first of all,
   And then a chance, and more than one, to raise up them that fall;
     Enough, not overmuch, to spend;
   And discourse that would charm me
     With one familiar friend;
   A little music, and, perhaps, a song or two to sing;

   And I would ask of God above to grant one other thing:
     Before old Death can grimly smile
       And take me unawares,
     A little time to rest awhile,
       To think, and say my prayers.

"Gad!" I said. "You're a poet."

I liked the little trifle, not least because I suspected that the
"one familiar friend" was myself. Everyone likes to be mentioned in
a poem.

Doe beamed with pleasure that I had not spoken harshly of his
off-spring.

"Glad you like it," he said.

"There's this," I suggested, "you talk about only wanting 'these
little things' out of life. But it seems to me that you want quite a
lot."

"A lot! By Jove, Ray," cried Doe excitedly, "it's only when I'm in
my unworldly moods that I want so little as that. In my worse
moments--that's nine-tenths of the day--I want yards more: Fame and
Flattery and Power."

"Funny. Once, outside the baths, I had a sort of longing to--"

"Ray, I only tell _you_ these things," interrupted Doe, now worked
up, "but often I feel I've something in me that must come
out--something strong--something forceful."

"I don't think I ever felt quite like that," said I, ruminating.
"But I did once feel outside the baths--"

"The trouble is," Doe carried on, "that this something in me isn't
pure. It's mixed up with the desire for glory. When I told Radley
I'd like to be a leader of the people, I knew that one-third was a
real desire for their good, and two-thirds a desire for my own
glory."

"Yes, but I was going to tell you that once--"

"And I wish it were a pure force. I'd love to pursue an Ideal for
its own sake, and without any thought for my own glory. I wonder if
I shall ever do a really perfect thing."

"I was going to tell you," I persisted; and, though I knew he
measured my temperament as far inferior to Edgar Doe's artistic
soul, and would rather have continued his own revelations, yet must
I interrupt by telling him of my one moment of aspiration and
yearning. Perhaps, I, too, wanted to pour out my mind's little
adventures. We're all the same, and like a heart-to-heart talk, so
long as it is about ourselves.

I told him, accordingly, of that strange evening outside the baths,
when I had felt so overpowering an aspiration towards a vague
ideal--an ideal that could not be grasped or seen, but was somehow
both great and good.


§4

The last evening of that summer term there was a noisy breaking-up
banquet at Bramhall House. And in the morning I went to Radley's
room to say a separate good-bye. I was exultant. Next term seemed
worlds away: and, meanwhile, eight sunny weeks of holiday stretched
before me. My mother and I were off for Switzerland, to whose white
heights and blue Genevan lake she loved to take me, for it was my
birthplace, and, in her fond way, she would call me her "mountain
boy," and tell an old story of a Colonel who had gazed into his
grandson's eyes, and said: "_Il a dans les yeux un coin du lac._" I
was dreaming, then, of the Swiss mountain air, and of twin white
sails on a lovely lake; and I was visualising, let me admit it, a
new well-tailored suit, grey spats, socks of a mauve variety, and
other holiday eruptions. So there was no space in my parochial mind
for international issues and rumours of wars. Rather I was
ridiculously flushed and shining, as I came upon Radley and wished
him a happy holiday.

Radley seemed strained, as though he had something ominous to break,
and said with a dull and meaning laugh: "I'm sure I hope you have
one too."

Observing that he was in one of his harder moods, I at once became
awkwardly dumb; and there was a difficult silence, till he asked:

"Have you heard about Herr Reinhardt?"

"Mr. Cæsar? No, sir."

"Well, he left to-day for Germany."

"What on earth for?"

"Why, to shoulder a rifle, of course, and fight in the German ranks.
Don't you know Germany is mobilising and will be at war with France
in about thirty hours?"

"Oh, I read something about it. But what fun!"

Radley looked irritated. In trying to break some strange news he had
walked up a blind alley and been met by my blank wall of density. So
he took another path.

"Pennybet is in luck, according to his ideas. All Europe plays into
his hands. He's got the war he wanted to give him rapid promotion."

"Why, sir, how will Germany affect him?"

"Only in this way," Radley announced, desperately trying to get
through my blank wall by exploding a surprise, "that England will be
at war with Germany in about three days."

"Oh, what fun! We'll give 'em no end of a thrashing. I hate
Germans. Excepting Herr Reinhardt. I hope _he_ has a decent time."

"And White and Lancaster, and all who leave this term, and perhaps
even--perhaps others will get commissions at once."

"Why, sir? They're not going to Sandhurst."

"No," sighed Radley, "but they give commissions to all old
public-schoolboys, if there's a big war. White and Lancaster will be
in the fight before many months."

"Lucky beggars!"

It was this fatuous remark which showed Radley that I had no idea of
my own relation to the coming conflict. So he forbore to spring upon
me the greatest surprise of all. He just said with a sadness and a
strange emphasis:

"Well, good-bye, _and the best of luck_. Make the most of your
holiday. There are great times in front of you."

All the while he said it, he held my hand in a demonstrative way,
very unlike the normal Radley. Then he dropped it abruptly and
turned away. And I went exuberantly out--so exuberantly that I left
my hat upon his table, and was obliged to hasten back for it. When I
entered the room again, he was staring out of the window over the
empty cricket fields. Though he heard me come, he never once turned
round, as I picked up my hat and went out through the door.

And because of that I dared to wonder whether his grey eyes, where
the gentleness lay, were not inquiring of the deserted fields: "Have
I allowed myself to grow too fond?" He seemed as if braced for
suffering.

Farewell, Radley, farewell. After all, does it matter to a strong
swimmer if the wave beats against him?



       _Now Thames is long and winds its changing way
        Through wooded reach to dusky ports and gray,
        Till, wearily, it strikes the Flats of Leigh,
        An old life, tidal with Eternity.

        But Fal is short, full, deep, and very wide,
        Nor old, nor sleepy, when it meets the tide;
        Through hills and groves where birds and branches sing
        It runs its course of sunny wandering,
        And passes, careless that it soon shall be
        Lost in the old, gray mists that hide the sea.

              Ah, they were good, those up-stream reaches when
              Ourselves were young and dreamed of being men,
              But Fal! the tide had touched us even then!
              One tribal God, we bow to, thou and we,
              And praise Him, Who ordained our lives should be
              So early tidal with Eternity._



BOOK II
AND THE REST--WAR


_Part I: "Rangoon" Nights_


CHAPTER I

THE ETERNAL WATERWAY


§1

The most clearly marked moment of my life was when I passed the fat
policeman who was standing just inside the great gateway of
Devonport Dockyard. I was to embark that morning on a troopship
bound for the Dardanelles. As I stepped out of the public
thoroughfare, and walking through the gate, saw the fat policeman. I
passed out of one period of my life and entered upon another.

The first period that remained outside the tall walls of the
dockyard was made up of chapters of boyhood and schooldays; and a
gallant last chapter of playing at soldiers. Ah! this last
chapter--it had tennis and theatres and girls and kisses: a great
patch of life! And I left it all outside the docks.

The second period, on to which I now abruptly set foot, was to be
intense, highly-coloured, and scented; a rush of rapidly moving
pictures of the blue waters of the Mediterranean, the bleak hills of
Mudros, and the exploding shells on the peninsula of Gallipoli.

The fat policeman had a revolver slung over his shoulder, and his
businesslike weapon expressed better than anything else that England
was at war and taking no risks. He suitably challenged me:

"Your authority to go through, sir?" demanded he.

"That's where I've got you by the winter garments," said I vulgarly;
and, diving my hand into my pocket, I drew out my Embarkation
Orders. They were heavily marked in red "SECRET," but I judged the
policeman to be "in the know," and showed them to him. Properly
impressed with the historic document, he turned to a fair-haired
young officer who was with me, and asked:

"You the same, sir?"

"Surely," answered my companion, which was a new way he had acquired
of saying "yes."

"Right y'are, sir," said the policeman, and we crossed the line.

My fair-haired companion was, of course, Second Lieutenant Edgar
Gray Doe; and it was in keeping with the destiny that entwined our
lives that we should pass the fat policeman together. And now I had
better tell you how it happened.


§2

On August 3, 1914, eleven months before my solemn admission into
Devonport Dockyard, I was a young schoolboy on my holidays, playing
tennis in a set of mixed doubles. About five o'clock a paper-boy
entered the tennis-club grounds with the _Evening News_. My male
opponent, although he was serving, stopped his game for a minute and
bought a paper.

"Hang the paper!" called I, indifferent to the fact that the Old
World was falling about our ears and England's last day of peace was
going down with the afternoon sun. "Your service. Love--fifteen."

"By Jove," he cried, after scanning the paper, "we're in!"

"What do you mean," cried the girls, "have the Germans declared war
on us?"

"No. But we've sent an ultimatum to Germany which expires at twelve
to-night. That means Britain will be in a state of war with Germany
as from midnight." The hand that held the paper trembled with
excitement.

"How frightfully thrilling!" said one girl.

"How awful!" whispered the other.

"How ripping!" corrected I. "Crash on with the game. Your service.
Love--fifteen."

Five days later it was decided that I should not return to school,
but should go at once into the army. So it was that I never finished
up in the correct style at Kensingtowe with an emotional last
chapel, endless good wishes and a lump in my throat. I just didn't
go back.

Instead, an influential friend, who knew the old Colonel of the 2nd
Tenth East Cheshires, a territorial battalion of my grandfather's
regiment, secured for me and, at my request, for Doe commissions in
that unit. His Majesty the King (whom, and whose dominions, might
God preserve in this grand moment of peril) had, it seemed, great
faith in the loyalty and gallantry of "Our trusty and well-beloved
Rupert Ray," as also of "Our trusty and well-beloved Edgar Gray
Doe," and was pleased to accept our swords in the defence of his
realm.

So one day we two trusty and well-beloved subjects, flushed, very
nervous, and clad in the most expensive khaki uniforms that London
could provide, took train for the North to interview the Colonel of
the 2nd Tenth. He was sitting at a littered writing-table, when we
were shown in by a smart orderly. We saw a plump old territorial
Colonel, grey-haired, grey-moustached, and kindly in face. His khaki
jacket was brightened by the two South African medal ribbons; and we
were so sadly fresh to things military as to wonder whether either
was the V.C. We saluted with great smartness, and hoped we had made
the movement correctly: for really, we knew very little about it. I
wasn't sure whether we ought to salute indoors; and Doe, having
politely bared his fair head on entering the office, saluted without
a cap. I blushed at my bad manners and surreptitiously removed mine.
Not knowing what to do with my hands, I put them in my pockets. I
knew that, if something didn't happen quickly, I should start
giggling. Here in the presence of our new commanding officer I felt
as I used to when I stood before the head master.

"Sit down," beamed the C.O.

We sat down, crossed our legs, and tried to appear at our ease, and
languid; as became officers.

"How old are you?" the Colonel asked Doe.

Doe hesitated, wondering whether to perjure himself and say
"Twenty."

"Eighteen, sir," he admitted, obviously ashamed.

"And you, Ray?"

"Eighteen, sir," said I, feeling Doe's companion in guilt.

"Splendid, perfectly splendid!" replied the Colonel. "Eighteen, by
Jove! You've timed your lives wonderfully, my boys. To be eighteen
in 1914 is to be the best thing in England. England's wealth used to
consist in other things. Nowadays you boys are the richest thing
she's got. She's solvent with you, and bankrupt without you.
Eighteen, confound it! It's a virtue to be your age, just as it's a
crime to be mine. Now, look here"--the Colonel drew up his chair, as
if he were going to get to business--"look here. Eighteen years ago
you were born for this day. Through the last eighteen years you've
been educated for it. Your birth and breeding were given you that
you might officer England's youth in this hour. And now you enter
upon your inheritance. Just as this is _the_ day in the history of
the world so yours is _the_ generation. No other generation has been
called to such grand things, and to such crowded, glorious living.
Any other generation at your age would be footling around, living a
shallow existence in the valleys, or just beginning to climb a
slope to higher things. But you"--here the Colonel tapped the
writing-table with his forefinger--"you, just because you've timed
your lives aright, are going to be transferred straight to the
mountain-tops. Well, I'm damned. Eighteen!"

I remember how his enthusiasm radiated from him and kindled a
responsive excitement in me. I had entered his room a silly boy with
no nobler thought than a thrill in the new adventure on which I had
so suddenly embarked. But, as this fatherly old poet, touched by
England's need and by the sight of two boys entering his room, so
fresh and strong and ready for anything, broke into eloquence, I saw
dimly the great ideas he was striving to express. I felt the
brilliance of being alive in this big moment; the pride of youth and
strength. I felt Aspiration surging in me and speeding up the action
of my heart. I think I half hoped it would be my high lot to die on
the battlefield. It was just the same glowing sensation that
pervaded me one strange evening when, standing outside the baths at
Kensingtowe, I first awoke to the joy of conscious life.

"D'you see what I'm driving at?" asked the old Colonel.

"Rather!" answered Doe, with eagerness. Turning towards him as he
spoke, I saw by the shining in his brown eyes that the poet in him
had answered to the call of the old officer's words. His aspiration
as well as mine was inflamed. Doe was feeling great. He was
picturing himself, no doubt, leading a forlorn hope into triumph, or
fighting a rearguard action and saving the British line. The heroic
creature was going to be equal to the great moment and save England
dramatically.

Pleased with Doe's ready understanding--my friend always captivated
people in the first few minutes--our C.O. warmed still more to his
subject. Having put his hands in his pockets and leant back in his
chair to survey us the better, he continued:

"What I mean is--had you been eighteen a generation earlier, the
British Empire could have treated you as very insignificant fry,
whereas to-day she is obliged to come to you boys and say 'You take
top place in my aristocracy. You're on top because I must place the
whole weight of everything I have upon your shoulders. You're on top
because you are the Capitalists, possessing an enormous capital of
youth and strength and boldness and endurance. You must give it all
to me--to gamble with--for my life. I've nothing to give you in
return, except suffering and--'"

The Colonel paused, feeling he had said enough--or too much. We made
no murmur of agreement. It would have seemed like applauding in
church. Then he proceeded:

"Well, you're coming to my battalion, aren't you?"

"Yes, rather, sir," said Doe.

"Right. You're just the sort of boys that I want. If you're young
and bold, your men will follow you anywhere. In this fight it's
going to be better to be a young officer, followed and loved because
of his youth, than to be an old one, followed and trusted because of
his knowledge. Dammit! I wish I could make you see it. But, for
God's sake, be enthusiastic. Be enthusiastic over the great crisis,
over the responsibility, over your amazingly high calling."

He stopped, and began playing with a pencil; and it was some while
before he added, speaking uncomfortably and keeping his eyes upon
the pencil:

"Take a pride in your bodies, and hold them in condition. You'll
want 'em. There are more ways than one of getting them tainted in
the life of temptations you're going to face. I expect you--you
grasp my meaning.... But, if only you'll light up your enthusiasm,
everything else will be all right."

He raised his eyes and looked at us again, saying:

"Well, good-bye for the present."

We shook hands, saluted, and went out. And, as I shut the door, I
heard the old enthusiast call out to someone who must have been in
an inner room: "I've two gems of boys there--straight from school.
Bless my soul, England'll win through."


§3

But, lack-a-day, here's the trouble with me. My moments of
exaltation have always been fleeting. Just as in the old school-days
I would leave Radley's room, brimful of lofty resolutions, and fall
away almost immediately into littleness again, so now I soon allowed
the lamp of enthusiasm, lit by the Colonel, to grow very dim.

It was ridicule of the fine old visionary that destroyed his power.
"Hallo, here come two more of the Colonel's blue-eyed boys," laughed
the officers of our new battalion the first time we came into their
view. And "The old man's mounted his hobby again," said they, after
any lecture in which he alluded to Youth and Enthusiasm.

Yet the Colonel was right, and the scoffers wrong. The Colonel was a
poet who could listen and hear how the heart of the world was
beating; the scoffers were prosaic cattle who scarcely knew that the
world had a heart at all. He turned us, if only for a moment, into
young knights of high ideals, while they made us sorry, conceited
young knaves.

You shall know what knaves we were.

So far from being enthusiastic over parades and field days, we found
them most detestably dull and longed for the pleasures that followed
the order to dismiss. And after the Dismiss we were utterly happy.

It was happiness to walk the streets in our new uniforms, and to
take the salutes of the Tommies, the important boy-scouts, and the
military-minded gutter urchins. I longed to go home on leave, so
that in company with my mother I could walk through the world
saluted at every twenty paces, and thus she should see me in all my
glory. And when one day I strolled with her past a Hussar sentry who
brought his sword flashing in the sun to the salute, I felt I had
seldom experienced anything so satisfying.

I was secretly elated, too, in possessing a soldier servant to wait
on me hand and foot--almost to bath me. I spoke with a concealed
relish of "my agents," and loved to draw cheques on Cox and Co. I
looked forward to Sunday Church Parade, for there I could wear my
sword. It was my grandfather's sword, and I'm afraid I thought less
of the romance of bearing it in defence of the Britain that he loved
and the France where he lay buried than of its flashy appearance and
the fine finish it gave to my uniform. I was a strange mixture, for,
when the preacher, looking down the old Gothic arches, said: "This
historic church has often before filled with armed men," I shivered
with the poetry of it; and yet, no sooner had I come out into the
modern sunlight and seen the congregation waiting for the soldiers
to be marched off, than I must needs be occupied again with the
peculiarly dashing figure I was cutting.

Once Doe and I went on a visit to Kensingtowe, partly out of loyalty
to the old school, and partly to display ourselves in our new
greatness. We wore our field-service caps at the jaunty angle of all
right-minded subalterns. Though only unmounted officers, we were
dressed in yellow riding-breeches with white leather strappings.
Fixed to our heels were the spurs that we had long possessed in
secret. They jingled with every step, and the only thing that marred
the music of their tinkle was the anxiety lest some officer of the
2nd Tenth should see us thus arrayed. Doe was in field boots, but
his pleasure in being seen in this cavalry kit was quite spoiled by
his fear of being ridiculed for "swank." Both of us would have liked
to take our batmen with us and to say: "Don't trouble, my man will
do that for you."

We created a gratifying sensation at Kensingtowe. It was
exhilarating to have a friend come up to me and exclaim: "By Jove,
Ray, you're no end of a dog now," and to notice that he didn't heed
my self-depreciatory answer because he was busy looking into every
detail of my uniform. "What devilish fine fellows we are, eh what?"
cried our admirers, and we blushed and said "Oh, shut up." We met
old Dr. Chappy, who looked us up and down, roared with laughter, and
said "Well, I'll be damned!" We were welcomed into Radley's room,
and were boys enough to address him as "sir" as though we were still
his pupils. He examined our appearance like a big brother proud of
two young ones, and said after a silence:

"So this is what it has all come to."

I took a lot of my cronies out to tea in the town, and, as we walked
to the shops, stared down the road to see if any Tommies were coming
who would salute me in front of my guests. Luck was kind to me. For
a large party, marching under an N.C.O., approached us; and the
N.C.O. in a voice like the crack of doom cried "Party--eyes RIGHT!"
Heads and eyes swung towards me, the N.C.O. saluted briskly, and,
when the party had passed us, yelled "Eyes FRONT!" It was one of the
most triumphant moments of my career.

Scarcely, however, had this pride-tickling honour been paid to me
before there happened as distressing a thing as--oh, it was
dreadful! I passed one of your full-blooded regular-army sergeants,
and, since he raised his hand towards his face, I apprehended he was
about to salute me. Promptly I acknowledged the expected salute,
only to discover that the sergeant had raised his hand for no other
purpose than to blow his nose with his naked fingers. Believe me,
even now, when I think of this blunder, I catch my breath with
shame.

What young bucks we were, Doe and I! We bought motor-bicycles and
raced over the country-side, Doe, ever a preacher of Life, calling
out "This is Life, isn't it?" I remember our bowling along a
deserted country road and shouting for a lark: "Sing of joy, sing of
bliss, it was never like this, Yip-i-addy-i-ay!" I remember our
scorching recklessly down white English highways, with a laugh for
every bone-shaking bump, and a heart-thrill for every time we risked
our lives tearing through a narrow passage between two War
Department motor lorries. I see the figure of Doe standing
breathless by his bicycle after a break-neck run, his hair blown
into disorder by the wind, and the white dust of England round his
eyes and on his cheeks, and saying: "My godfathers, this is Life!"
Oh, yes, it was a rosy patch of life and freedom.


§4

But, in our abandonment, we tumbled into more sinister things. It
was disillusionment that bowled us down. The evil that we saw in the
world and the army smashed our allegiance to the old moral codes. We
suddenly lost the old anchors and blew adrift, strange new theories
filling our sails. We ceased to think there was any harm in being
occasionally "blotto" at night, or in employing the picturesque army
word "bloody." Worse than that, we began to believe that vicious
things, which in our boyhood had been very secret sins, were
universally committed and bragged about.

"It's so, Rupert," said Doe, in a corner of the Officers' ante-room
one night before dinner, "I'm an Epicurean. Surely the Body doesn't
prompt to pleasure only to be throttled? There's something in what
they were saying at Mess yesterday that these things are normal and
natural. I mean, human nature is human nature, and you can't alter
it. I don't think any man is, or can be, what they call 'pure.' I
s'pose every man has done these things, don't you?"

"No, I don't," I answered, conscious of hot cheeks. "_We_ may do
them, but there are people I can't imagine it of."

"But, again, there's the question whether War doesn't mean the
suspension of all ordinary moral laws. The law that you shan't kill
is in abeyance. The instinct of self-preservation has to be
suppressed. There's some justification for being an Epicurean for
the duration of the war."

"Perhaps so," acknowledged I. "I don't know."

As we left the ante-room and sat down to Mess, Doe announced:

"I've every intention of getting tight to-night."

"_Pourquoi pas?_" said I. "_C'est la guerre!_"

"Before I die," continued Doe, who was already flushed with gin and
vermouth, "I want to have lived. I want to have touched all the joys
and experiences of life. Pass the Chablis. Here's to you, Rupert.
Cheerioh!"

"Cheerioh!" toasted I, raising my glass. "Happy days!"

"I'm determined to be able to say, Rupert, whatever happens: 'Never
mind, I had a good time while it lasted!'"

"I'm with you," said I, who was now nearly as flushed as he. "Let's
be in everything up to the neck."

"Surely," Doe endorsed. "_C'est la guerre!_"

So with the meat and sweets went the wines of France; with the nuts
the sparkling "bubbly"; and in the ante-room Martinis, Benedictines,
and Whisky-Macdonalds. Soon the night became noisy, and Doe,
encouraged by riotous subalterns, jumped on a table and declaimed a
little thickly his prize Horatian Ode:

          "Bring out the mellow wine, the best,
           The sweet, convivial wine, and test
             Its four-year-old maturity;
           To Jove commit the rest:
           Nor question his divine intents,
           For, when he stays the battling elements
             The wind shall brood o'er prostrate sea
           And fail to move the ash's crest
             Or stir the stilly cypress trees.
           Be no forecaster of the dawn;
             Deem it an asset, and be gay--
           Come, merge to-morrow's misty morn
             In the resplendence of to-day."

And, after all this, it was an easy step, lightly taken, to the
things of night. We set out for the strange streets; and there, in
the night air, the precocious young pedant, Edgar Doe, became,
despite all the new theories, the shy, simple boy he really was. We
would both become shy--shy of each other, and shy of the shameful
doorway.

And then the misery of the morning, to be quickly forgotten in the
joy of life!


§5

It was now that the Battle of Neuve Chapelle quenched Pennybet.
Archibald Pennybet, the boy who left school, determined to conquer
the world, and coolly confident of his power to mould circumstances
to his own ends, was crushed like an insect beneath the heavy foot
of war. He was just put out by a high-explosive shell. It didn't
kill him outright, but whipped forty jagged splinters into his body.
He was taken to an Advanced Dressing Station, where a chaplain, who
told us about his last minutes, found him, swathed in bandages from
his head to his heel. On a stretcher that rested on trestles he was
lying, conscious, though a little confused by morphia. He saw the
chaplain approaching him, and murmured, "Hallo, padre." So numerous
were his bandages that the chaplain saw nothing of the boy who was
speaking save the lazy Arab eyes and the mouth that had framed
impudence for twenty years.

"Hallo, what have you been doing to yourself?" asked the chaplain.

"Oh, only trying conclusions with an H.E., padre." The mouth smiled
at the corners.

"What about a cup of tea, now? Could you drink it?"

"I'll--try, padre." The eyes twinkled a little.

So the chaplain brought a mug of stewed tea, and Penny, laughing
weakly, said:

"You'll--have to pour it down--for me, padre. I can't move a muscle.
These bloody bandages--sorry, padre--these bandages. O God--"

"In pain?" gently inquired the chaplain.

"No. Only a prisoner. I can't move. Pour the tea down."

He gulped a little of the drink, and, dropping the heavily-fringed
eyelids, so that he appeared to be asleep, muttered:

"I suppose--I haven't a dog's chance. Find out if--I'm done for.
Find out for me, please."

"I asked the doctor before I came to you, old chap."

On hearing this, Penny opened and shut his eyes, and remained so
long just breathing that the chaplain wondered if he had lost
consciousness. But the eyes unclosed again, and the lips asked:

"Aren't you going to tell me, padre?"

"Yes, I--you won't be a prisoner much longer, old chap."

Not a word said Penny, but stared in wonder at his informant. It was
clear that he wanted to live, and to mould the world to his will.
There was a long silence, and then he murmured:

"Well, there are lots of others--who've gone through it--and lots
more who'll--have to go." And he shut his eyes in weary submission.

The chaplain suggested a prayer with him, and Penny agreed in the
half-jesting words: "But you'll--have to do it all for me, just as
you poured the tea down. I'm no good at that sort of thing."

And, when the prayer was over, he said with his old haughtiness:

"You know, padre--I was thinking--while you prayed. I suppose I've
led a selfish life--seeking my own ends--but, by Jove, I've had my
good time--and am ready to pay for it--if I must." His eyes flashed
defiantly. "If God puts me through it, _I_ shan't whine."

As the end drew nearer, he turned more and more into a child. After
all, he had never come of age. He spoke about his mother, sending
her his love, and saying: "I'm afraid, padre, that I led her a
life--but I'll bet she'd rather have had me and my plagues than not.
Don't you think so?"

He mentioned us with affection as "those two kids," and sent the
message that he hoped we at least should come through all right.

And then the lazy eyes closed in their last weariness, the impudent
lips parted, and Penny was dead. The War had beaten him. It was too
big a circumstance for him to tame.


§6

The night we heard of it, Doe threw himself into a chair and said:

"I'm miserable to-night, Rupert."

"So'm I," said I, looking out of the window over a moonlit sea.
"Poor old Penny. I don't know why it makes one feel a cur, but it
does, doesn't it?"

"Surely," answered Doe.

For a time we smoked our pipes in silence. I gazed at the long
silver pathway that the light of the moon had laid on the sea. Right
on the horizon, where the pathway met the sky, a boat with a tall
sail stood black against the light. Fancifully I imagined that its
dark shape resembled the outline of a man--say, perhaps, the figure
of Destiny--walking down the sparkling pathway towards us. I was in
the mood to fancy such things. Then Doe from his chair said:

"Old Penny always took the lead with us, didn't he? He's taken it
again."

"I don't see what you mean," answered I.

"Oh, it doesn't matter what I mean. I'm depressed to-night."

We spoke of it with the Colonel the next afternoon, when we were
having tea in his private room.

"It doesn't seem fair," complained Doe. "He could have done anything
with his life," and he added rather tritely: "Penny's story which
might have been monumental is now only a sort of broken pillar over
a churchyard grave."

"Nonsense," snapped the Colonel. "It was splendid, perfectly
splendid." And he arose from his chair and took down from a shelf a
little blue volume bearing the title "1914." With a pencil he
underlined certain phrases in a sonnet, and handed the book to us.
Doe brought his head close to mine, and we leant over the marked
page and read the lines together:

          "These laid the world away, poured out the red
           Sweet wine of youth, gave up the years to be
           Of hope and joy--

           Blow, bugles, blow--
           Nobleness walks in our ways again--"

The Colonel--how like him!--saw the story of Pennybet, not as a
broken pillar, but as a graceful, upright column, with a richly
foliated capital.


§7

The march of History in these wonderful months brought with it an
event that stirred the world. This was the first great landing of
the British Forces on the toe of the Gallipoli Peninsula, in their
attempt to win a way for the Allied Navy through the Straits of the
Dardanelles. On April 25th, 1915, as all the world knows, the men of
the 29th Division came up like a sea-breeze out of the sea, and,
driving the Turks and Germans from their coastal defences, swept
clear for themselves a small tract of breathing room across that
extremity of Turkey. Leaping out of their boats, and crashing
through a murderous fire, they won a footing on Cape Helles, and
planted their feet firmly on the invaded territory.

Three Kensingtonians known to us fell dead in that costly battle.
Stanley, who tried me in the Prefects' Room, took seven machine-gun
bullets in his body, and died in a lighter as it approached the
beach. Lancaster, who in less grand years would undoubtedly have
bowled for Oxford and England, lay down on W. Beach and died. And
White, the gentle giant--Moles White, who swam so bravely in the
Bramhall-Erasmus Race, was knocked out somewhere on the high ground
inland.

And, almost immediately after that distant battle of the Helles
beaches, in the early days of May, when England was all blossom and
bud, our First Line of the Cheshires was landed on Gallipoli to
support the 29th Division. The news was all over the regiment in no
time. The First Line had gone to the Dardanelles! Had we heard the
latest? The First Line were actually on Gallipoli!

Consider what it meant to us. We were the Second Line, whose object
was to supply reinforcing drafts to the First Line in whatever
country it might be ordered to fight. The First Line--we were proud
of the fact--had been the first territorial division to leave
England. In September, 1914, it had sailed away, in an imposing
convoy of transports escorted by cruisers and destroyers, under
orders to garrison Egypt. There it had acted as the Army of
Occupation till that April day when the 29th Division laughed at the
prophecies of the German experts and stormed from the Ægean Sea the
beaches of Cape Helles. Scarcely had the news electrified Egypt
before the First Line received its orders to embark for Overseas.
And every man of them knew what _that_ meant.

So all we of the 2nd Tenth seemed marked down like branded sheep for
the Gallipoli front. The Colonel was full of it. With his elect mind
that saw right into the heart of things, he quickly unveiled the
poetry and romance of Britain's great enterprise at Gallipoli. He
crowded all his young officers into his private room for a lecture
on the campaign that was calling them. Having placed them on
chairs, on the carpet, on the hearth-rug, and on the fender, he
seated himself at his writing-table, like a hen in the midst of its
chickens, and began:

"For epic and dramatic interest this Dardanelles business is easily
top."

To the Colonel everything that he was enthusiastic about was epic
and dramatic and "on top." Just as he told us that our day was _the_
day and our generation _the_ generation, so now he set out to assure
us that Gallipoli was _the_ front.

"If you'll only get at the IDEAS behind what's going on at the
Helles beaches," he declared, with a rap on the table, "you'll be
thrilled, boys."

Then he reminded us that the Dardanelles Straits were the Hellespont
of the Ancient world, and the neighbouring Ægean Sea the most mystic
of the "wine-dark seas of Greece": he retold stories of Jason and
the Argonauts; of "Burning Sappho" in Lesbos; of Achilles in Scyros;
of Poseidon sitting upon Samothrace to watch the fight at Troy; and
of St. John the Divine at Patmos gazing up into the Heavenly
Jerusalem.

As he spoke, we were schoolboys again and listened with wide-open,
wistful eyes. From the fender and the hearth-rug, we saw Leander
swimming to Hero across the Dardanelles; we saw Darius, the Persian,
throwing his bridge over the same narrow passage, only to be
defeated at Marathon; and Xerxes, too, bridging the famous straits
to carry victory into Greece, till at last his navy went under at
Salamis. We saw the pathetic figure of Byron swimming where Leander
swam; and, in all, such an array of visions that the lure of the
Eternal Waterway gripped us, and we were a-fidget to be there.

"Have eyes to see this idea also," said the Colonel, who was a Tory
of Tories. "England dominates Gibraltar and Suez, the doors of the
Mediterranean; let her complete her constellation by winning from
the Turk the lost star of the Dardanelles, the only other entrance
to the Great Sea."

This roused the jingo devil in us, and we burst into applause.

Knowing thereby that he had won his audience, the Colonel beamed
with inspiration. He rose, as though so enthralling a subject could
only be dealt with standing, and cried:

"See this greater idea. For 500 years the Turk, by occupying
Constantinople, has blocked the old Royal Road to India and the
East. He is astride the very centre of the highways that should link
up the continents. He oppresses and destroys the Arab world, which
should be the natural junction of the great trunk railways that,
to-morrow, shall join Asia, Africa, and Europe in one splendid
spider's web. You are going to move the block from the line, and to
join the hands of the continents. Understand, and be enthusiastic. I
tell you, this joining of the continents is an unborn babe of
history that leapt in the womb the moment the British battleships
appeared off Cape Helles."

"By Jove, the Colonel's great!" thought I, as my heart jumped at his
magnificent words. "Where are his scoffers to-day? He's come into
his own." Lord, how small my little vanities seemed now! A fig for
them all! I was going out to build history. The Colonel had one at
least who was with him to the death.

"So much for secular interest," continued the Colonel, dropping
his voice. "Now, boys, follow me through this. You're not
over-religious, I expect, but you're Christians before you're
Moslems, and your hands should fly to your swords when I say the
Gallipoli campaign is a New Crusade. You're going out to force
a passage through the Dardanelles to Constantinople. And
Constantinople is a sacred city. It's the only ancient city purely
Christian in its origin, having been built by the first Christian
Emperor in honour of the Blessed Virgin. Which brings us to the
noblest idea of all. In their fight to wrest this city from the
Turk, the three great divisions of the Church are united once more.
The great Roman branch is represented by the soldiers and ships of
France: the great Eastern Orthodox branch by the Russians, who are
behind the fight: the great Anglican branch by the British, who can
be proud to have started the movement, and to be leading it. Thus
Christendom United fights for Constantinople, under the leadership
of the British, whose flag is made up of the crosses of the saints.
The army opposing the Christians fights under the crescent of Islam.

"It's the Cross against the Crescent again, my lads. By Jove, it's
splendid, perfectly splendid! And an English cross, too!

"Thank you, gentlemen; that's all; thank you."


§8

The blossom and buds of our English May became the fruit and flowers
of July, and Doe and I, maturing too, entered upon the age for
Active Service. There came a day when we were ordered to report for
a doctor's examination to see if we were fit for the front.

I shan't forget that testing. All thought we had little to fear from
the doctor. The drills and route-marches in sun, wind and rain had
tanned our flesh to pink and brown, and lit the lamps of health in
our eyes. And the whites of those eyes were blue-white.

But the doctor, a curt major, said "Strip," and took Doe first.

Now, a glance at Doe, when stripped, ought to have satisfied a
doctor. His figure, small in the hips, widened to a chest like a
Greek statue's; his limbs were slender and rounded; his skin was a
baby's. But no, the stolid old doctor carried on, as though Doe were
nothing to sing songs about. He tested his eyes, surveyed his teeth,
tried his chest, tapping him before and behind, and telling him to
say "99" and to cough. All these liberties so amused Doe that he
could scarcely manage the "99" or the cough for giggling. And I was
doing my best to increase his difficulty by pretending to be in
convulsions of smothered laughter.

Then the doctor sounded Doe's heart, and, as he did it, all the
laughter went out of my life. I suddenly remembered a scene, wherein
I lay in the baths at Kensingtowe, recovering from a faint, and Dr.
Chappy looked down upon me and said: "There may be a weakness at
your heart." As I remembered it, the first time for years, my heart
missed its beats. I saw rapidly succeeding visions of my rejection
by the doctor; my farewell to Doe, as he left for romantic
Gallipoli; and my return to the undistinguished career of the
Medically Unfit. I found myself repeating, after the fashion of
younger days (though at this wild-colt period I had done with God):
"O God, make him pass me. O God, make him pass me."

"All right, get dressed," the doctor commanded Doe.

"Come here, you," he said to me, brutally.

My eyes, teeth, and chest satisfied him; and then, like a loathly
eavesdropper, he listened at my heart. I was afraid my nervousness
would cause some irregular action of the detestable organ that would
finally down me in his eyes.

"All right, get dressed," he said; and, having put his stethoscope
away, he wrote something on two printed Army Forms and sealed them.

"Are we fit, sir?" asked I, in suspense.

"I've written my verdict," he said snappily, looking at me as
much as to say: "You aren't asked to converse. This isn't a
conversazione"; but, when he caught my gaze, he seemed, to repent
of his harshness, and answered gruffly:

"Both perfect."

"Oh, thanks, sir," said I. I could have kissed the old churl.

And so, before July was out, when Doe and I were at our separate
homes on a last leave, we received from the Director-General of
Movements our Embarkation Orders. Marked "SECRET," the documents
informed us that we were to report at Devonport "in service dress
uniform," with a view to proceeding to "the Mediterranean."
Seemingly we were to take no drafts of men, but travel independently
as reinforcements to the First Line at Cape Helles.

My mother turned very white when I showed her the letter. She had
heard ugly things about the Gallipoli Peninsula. People were saying
that the life of a junior subaltern on Helles was working out to an
average of fourteen days; and that, in the heat, the flies and dust
were scattering broadcast the germs of dysentery and enteric. And I
believe my restless excitement hurt her. But she only said: "I'm so
proud of it all," and kissed me.

The last night, however, as she sat in her chair, and I, after
walking excitedly about, stood in front of her, she took both my
hands and drew me, facing her, against her knees. I know she found
it sweet and poignant to have me in that position, for, when I was a
very small boy, it had been thus that she had drawn me to tell me
stories of my grandfather, Colonel Ray. She had dropped the habit,
when I was a shy and undemonstrative schoolboy, but had resumed it
happily during the last two years, for, by then, I had learnt in my
growing mannishness to delight in half-protectingly, half-childishly
stroking and embracing her.

She drew me, then, this last night against her knees and looked
lovingly at me. Her yearning heart was in her eyes. Her hands,
clasping mine, involuntarily gripped them very tight, as though she
were thinking: "I cannot give him up; I cannot let him go."

I smiled down at her, and, as I saw the moisture veil her eyes, I
felt that I, too, would like to cry. At last she said:

"If I'm never to see you again, Rupert, I shall yet always be
thankful for the nineteen years' happiness you've given me."

"Oh, mother," I said. No more words could I utter, for my eyes were
smarting worse than ever. I felt about eight years old.

"If all the rest of my life had to be sorrow," she whispered, no
longer concealing the fact that she was breaking down, "the last
nineteen years of you, Rupert, have made it all so well worth
living. I shall have had more happiness out of it than sorrow. Thank
you--for all you've given me."

She let go of my left hand, so as to free her own, with which she
might wipe her overflowing eyes. Then she dropped the cambric
handkerchief into her lap, and grasped my hand again. As for me, I
kept silence, for my mother's thanks were making my breath come in
those short, quick gasps, which a man must control if he would
prevent them breaking into sobs.

"You see," she explained, "you had _his_ eyes. Your grandfather used
to say of you, 'he has that Rupert's eyes.'"

"Mother!" I ejaculated. Only in that last moment did I, thoughtless
boy that I was, enter into an understanding of my mother's love for
the father I had never seen. In the last evening of nineteen years
there was revealed to me all that my mother's young widowhood had
meant to her.

"I didn't want to break down," she apologised, drawing me even
closer to her, as though appealing for my forgiveness, "but, oh! I
couldn't help it. I've never loved you so desperately as I do at
this moment."

"Mother," I stuttered, "I've been rotten--more rotten than you
know."

"No, my big boy, you've been perfect. I wouldn't have had you
different in any way. Everything about you pleased me. And how--how
can I give you up?"

"I'll come back to you, mother. I swear I will."

"Oh, but you mustn't allow any thought of me to unnerve you out
there, Rupert," she said, quickly releasing my hands, lest it were
traitorous to hold me back. "Do everything you are called to
do--however dangerous--" The word caused her to sob. "Don't think of
me when you've got to fight. No, I don't mean that--" Mother
was torn between her emotions. "Rather think of me, and do
the--dangerous thing--if it's right--yes, do it--because I want you
to, but oh!" she sobbed, "come back to me--come back--come back."

I leant over and, lifting her face up gently with both my hands,
kissed her and said:

"Yes, mother."

And then by a sudden effort of her will she seemed to recover. She
said smilingly and almost calmly:

"I'm so proud. I think it's wonderful your going out there."


§9

What more is there to tell of that old first period of my life which
ended at the gates of Devonport Dockyard? There was a long railway
journey with Doe, where half the best of green England, clad in
summer dress, swept in panorama past our carriage windows. Perhaps
we both watched it pass a little wistfully. Perhaps we thought of
bygone holiday-runs, when we had watched the same telegraph lines
switchbacking to Falmouth. There was a one-night stay at the Royal
Hotel, Devonport; and a walk together in the fresh morning down to
the Docks. There was a woman who touched Doe's sleeve and said: "You
poor dear lamb," and annoyed him grievously. There was the fat
policeman's challenge at the gates. And then we were through.

We had walked a little way, when a boy from the Royal Hotel, whom
the policeman suffered to pass, ran up to us like a messenger from a
world we had left behind.

"Lieutenant Ray, sir," he called.

I turned round and said "Yes?" inquiringly.

"Here's a telegram, sir, that arrived just after you left."

I took it undismayed, knowing it to be yet another telegram of good
wishes. "I'll bet you, you poor dear lamb," I said to Doe, "the
words are either 'Good-bye and God-speed,' or 'Cheerioh and a safe
return.'"

"Not taking the bet," said Doe. "How else could it be phrased?"

"Well, we'll see," said I, and opened the envelope. The words were:

"I am with you every moment--MOTHER."



CHAPTER II

PADRE MONTY AND MAJOR HARDY COME ABOARD


§1

Doe and I have often looked back on our first glimpse of Padre Monty
and wondered why nothing foreshadowed all that he was going to be to
us. We had entered the Transport Office on one of the Devonport
Quays, to report according to orders. Several other officers were
before us, handing in their papers to a Staff Officer. The one in a
chaplain's uniform, bearing on his back a weighty Tommy's pack, that
made him look like a campaigner from France, was Padre Monty. We
could only see his back, but it seemed the back of a young man,
spare, lean, and vigorous. His colloquy with the Staff Officer was
creating some amusement in his audience.

"Well, padre," the Staff Officer was saying, as he handed back
Monty's papers, "I'm at a loss what to do with you."

"The Army always is at a loss what to do with padres," rejoined
Monty pleasantly, as he took the papers and placed them in a pocket.
"However, you needn't worry, because, having got so far, I'm going
on this blooming boat."

"But I've no official intimation of your embarking on the
_Rangoon_."

Padre Monty picked up a square leather case and, moving to the door,
said:

"No, but you've ocular demonstration of it."

And he was gone.

When our turn came, the Staff Officer consulted a list of names
before him and said:

"The _Rangoon_. She's at the quay opposite the Great Crane."

The _Rangoon_, as we drew near, showed herself to be a splendid
liner, painted from funnel to keel the uniform dull-black of a
transport. All over and about this great black thing scurried and
swarmed khaki figures, busy in the work of embarkation. We rushed up
the long gangway, and pleaded with the Embarkation Officer for a
two-berth cabin to ourselves. The gentleman damned us most heartily,
and said: "Take No. 54." We hurried away to the State Rooms and
flung our kit triumphantly on to the bunks of Cabin 54.

It was at this moment that a mysterious occupant of Cabin 55, next
door, who had been singing "A Life on the Ocean Wave," came to the
end of his song and roared: "Steward!"; after which he commenced to
whistle "The Death of Nelson." We heard the steps of the steward
pass along the alley-way and enter 55.

"Yes, sir?" his voice inquired.

But our neighbour was not to be interrupted in his tune. He whistled
it to its last note, and then said:

"I say, steward, I'm sure you're not at all a damnable fellow, so I
want you to understand early that you'll get into awful trouble if
I'm not looked after properly--_-what_. There'll be the most
deplorable row if I'm not looked after properly."

"Well, I'm hanged!" whispered Doe. "I'm going to see who the
merchant is." He disappeared; and was back in ten seconds,
muttering, "Good Lord, Rupert, it's a middle-aged major with a
monocle; and its kit's marked 'Hardy.'"

And, while we were wondering at such spirits in a major, and in one
who was both middle-aged and monocled, two bells sounded from the
bows, two more answered like an echo from the boat-deck above, and
Major Hardy was heard departing with unbecoming haste down the
alley-way.

"What's that mean?" asked Doe.

"Luncheon bell, I s'pose," replied I. "Come along."

We found our way down to the huge dining saloon, which was furnished
with thirty separate tables. Looking for a place where we could
lunch together, we saw two seats next the padre, whose conversation
in the Transport Office had entertained us. We picked a route
through the other tables towards him.

"Are these two seats reserved, sir?" I asked.

Padre Monty turned a lean face towards Doe and me, and looked us up
and down.

"Yes," he said. "Reserved for you."

I smiled at so flattering a way of putting it, and, sitting down,
mumbled: "Thanks awfully."

There were two other people already at the table. One was a long and
languid young subaltern, named Jimmy Doon, who declared that he had
lost his draft of men (about eighty of them) and felt much happier
without them. He thought they were perhaps on another boat.

"Are they _officially_ on board the _Rangoon_?" asked Padre Monty.

"Officially they are," sighed Jimmy Doon, "but that's all. However,
I expect it's enough."

"Well, your draft is better off than I am," said Monty. "It at least
exists officially, whereas I'm _missing_. I haven't officially
arrived at Devonport. The War Office will probably spend months and
reams of paper (which is getting scarce) in looking for me. But I
don't suppose it matters."

"Oh, what does anything matter?" grumbled Jimmy Doon. "We shall all
be dead in a month--all my draft and you and I; and that'll save the
War Office a lot of trouble and a lot of paper." He trifled with a
piece of bread, and concluded wearily: "Besides this unseemly war
will be over in six months. The Germans will have us beaten by
then."

At this point the other passenger at the table gave us a shock by
suddenly disclosing his identity. He put a monocle in his eye,
summoned a steward, and explained:

"This is my seat at meals--_what_. Do you see, steward? And
understand, there'll be the most awful bloody row, if I'm not looked
after properly."

Major Hardy dropped the monocle on his chest and apologised to
Monty: "Sorry, padre." Then he took the menu from the steward, and,
having replaced his monocle and read down a list of no less than
fourteen courses, announced:

"Straight through, steward--_what_."

The steward seemed a trifle taken aback, but concealed his emotion
and passed the menu to Jimmy Doon. Mr. Doon, it was clear, found in
this choosing of a dish an intellectual crisis of the first order.

"Oh, I don't know, steward, damn you," he sighed. "I'll have a
tedious lemon sole. No--as you were--I'll, have a grilled chop."
And, quite spent with this effort, he fell to making balls out of
pellets of bread and playing clock golf with a spoon.

During the meal Major Hardy and Padre Monty talked "France," as
veterans from the Western Front will continue to do till their
generation has passed away.

"I was wounded at Neuve Chapelle--_what_," explained the Major.
"Sent to a convalescent home in Blighty. Discharged as fit for duty
the day we heard of the landing at Cape Helles. Moved Heaven and
earth, and ultimately the War Office, to be allowed to go to
Gallipoli."

(Major Hardy might have said more. He might have told us that he had
been recommended once for a D.S.O., and twice for a court-martial,
because he persisted in devoting his playtime to sharpshooting and
sniping in No Man's Land, and to leading unauthorised patrols on to
the enemy's wire. But it was not till later that we were to learn
why he had been known throughout his Army Corps as Major
Fool-hardy.)

Padre Monty had not been wounded, it seemed, but only buried alive.

"The doctor and I had been taking cover in a shell-hole," he
explained, between the sweet and the dessert, "when a high-explosive
hurled the whole of our shelter on top of us, leaving only our heads
free. We were two heads sticking out of the ground like two turnips.
After about five hours the C.O. sent a runner to find the padre and
the M.O., alive or dead. The fellow traced us to our shell-hole, and
when he saw our heads, he actually came to attention and saluted.
'The C.O. would like to see you in the Mess, sir,' said he to me.
'And I should dearly like to see him in the Mess,' said I. 'However,
stand at ease.' 'Stand at the devil,' said the doctor. 'Go and get
spades and dig us out.'"

"Hum," commented Major Hardy, "if you weren't a padre, I should
believe that story. But all padre are liars, _what_."

Monty bowed acknowledgments.

"And then," suggested the Major, "you felt the pull of the
Dardanelles."

"Exactly, who could resist it? I wasn't going to miss the most
romantic fight of all. The whole world's off to the Dardanelles. I
knew the East Cheshire's chaplain was coming home, time expired, so
I applied--"

"How ripping! That's our brigade," interrupted I, unconsciously
returning his previous flattery.

"Is that so?" said he. "Well, let's go above and get to know one
another."

We went on deck, he, Doe, and I, and watched the new arrivals.
Troop-trains were rolling right up to the quay and disgorging
hundreds of men, spruce in their tropical kit of new yellow drill
and pith helmets. Unattached officers arrived singly or in pairs; in
carriages or on foot. Many of them were doctors, who were being
drafted to the East in large numbers. A still greater proportion
consisted of young Second Lieutenants, who, like ourselves, were
being sent out to replace the terrible losses in subalterns.

"The world looks East this summer," mused Monty. Then he turned to
me in a sudden, emphatic way that he had when he was going to hold
forth. "But there's a thrill about it all, my lads. It means great
developments where we're going to. Six new divisions are being
quietly shipped to the Mediterranean. You and I are only atoms in a
landslide towards Gallipoli. There's some secret move to force the
gates of the Dardanelles in a month, and enter Constantinople before
Christmas. Big things afoot! Big things afoot!"

"Jove! I hope so," said I, caught by his keenness.

"Just look round," pursued Monty, switching off in his own style to
a new subject, "isn't our Tommy the most lovable creature in the
world?"

I followed his glance, and saw that the decks were littered with
recumbent Tommies, who, considering themselves to have embarked, had
cast off their equipment and lain down to get cool and rested.

"Look at them!" spouted Monty, and by his suddenness I knew he was
about to hold forth at some length. "You'll learn that the Army,
when on active service, does an astonishing amount of waiting; and
Tommy does an astonishing amount of reclining. Lying down, while you
wait to get started, is two-thirds of the Army's work. Directly the
Army begins to wait, Tommy relieves his aching back and shoulders of
equipment, and reclines. Quite right, too. There's no other
profession in the world, where, with perfect dutifulness, you can
spend so much time on your back. Active Service is two-parts
Inaction--"

What more of his views Monty would have expounded I can't say, for a
voice yelled from the promenade-deck above us:

"You there! What's your rank?"

I jumped out of my skin, and Doe out of his, for we thought the
voice was addressing us, Monty turned without agitation and looked
up at the speaker. It was Major Hardy. He was leaning against the
deck-rail, and had fixed with his monocle the nearest recumbent
soldier. This soldier was just the other side of us, so the Major
was obliged to shout over our heads.

"What's your rank?" he repeated. "Come along, my man. Get a move on.
Jump to it. What's your rank?"

The Tommy, flurried by this surprise attack, climbed on to his feet,
came to attention, and said:

"Inniskillings, sir."

"Damn the man--_what_," cried the Major. "What's your _rank_? I
said."

"What, sir?" respectfully inquired the Tommy, whose powers of
apprehension had been disorganised by so sudden a raid.

The Major adopted two methods calculated to penetrate the soldier's
intelligence: he leant over the rail, and he spoke very slowly.

"What's--your--bloody--rank? Are you a general, or a private?"

"No, sir," answered the bewildered Tommy.

"Oh, God damn you to hell! What's your _rank_?"

"Oh, private, sir."

"Then, for Christ's sake, go and do some work. What are privates
for? Get that kit of mine from the quay."

The Major dropped his monocle on his chest, and looked down at us.

"Sorry, padre," he said, and walked away.

I watched till he was out of sight, and then said indignantly:

"So he jolly well ought to have apologised."

"And he _did_," retorted Monty. "Be just to him. It took me six
months--"

"He's off," thought I.

"--to get the Army's bad language into proportion. At first I opened
on it with my heavies in sermon after sermon. Then I saw proportion,
and decided on a tariff, allowing an officer a 'damn' and a man a
'bloody.' Winter and Neuve Chapelle taught me the rock-bottom level
on which we are fighting this war, and I spiked my guns. No one has
a right to condemn them, who hasn't floundered in mud under
shell-fire."

I think that, after this, we dropped into silence, and watched the
quay emptying itself of men, and the _Rangoon's_ decks becoming more
and more crowded, as the day declined. The Embarkation was
practically complete. The Devonport Staff Officers wished us "a good
voyage," and went home to their teas in Plymouth. And, just before
dinner, the gangway was hauled on to the quay. This was the final
act, for, though the ship was not yet moving, we had broken
communication with England.


§2

At dinner, it being the first night afloat, the champagne corks
began to pop, and the conversation to grow noisier and noisier. By
the time the nutcrackers were busy, the more riotous subalterns had
reached that state of merriness, in which they found every distant
pop of a cork the excuse for a fresh cheer and cries of "Take
cover!"

Major Hardy, too, was beaming. He had sipped the best part of three
bottles of champagne, and was feeling himself, multiplied by three.
He assured Monty that the padres had been the most magnificent
people of the war. He told three times the story of one who had died
going over the top with his men. That padre was a man. The men would
have followed him anywhere. For he was a man every inch of him. But,
of course, the victim and hero of the war, said Major Hardy, looking
at Doe, myself, and the weary Jimmy Doon, was the junior subaltern.
Everybody was prepared to take off his hat to the junior subaltern.
He had died in greater numbers than any other rank. He had only just
left school, and yet he had led his men from in front. The Major, if
he had fifty hats, would take them all off to the junior subaltern.
His heart beat at one with the heart of the junior subaltern. And,
steward, confound it, where was the drink-steward? There would be
the most awful bloody row, if he weren't looked after properly.

Dinner over, the riotous juniors rushed upstairs to the Officers'
Lounge, a large room with a bar at one end, and a piano at the
other. Some congregated near the bar to order liqueurs, while others
surrounded the piano to roar rag-time choruses that one of their
number was playing. This artist had a whole manual of rag-time
tunes, and seemed to have begun at Number One and decided to work
through the collection. Each air was caught up and sung with more
enthusiasm than the last. And see, there was Major Hardy, leaning
over the pianist that he might read the words through his monocle,
and singing with the best of them: "Everybody's doing it--doing
it--doing it," and "Hitchy-koo, hitchy-koo, hitchy-koo."

The Spirit of Riot was aboard to-night. The wines of Heidsieck and
Veuve Pommery glowed in the cheeks of the subalterns. It was the
last night in an English harbour, and what ho! for a rag. It was the
first night afloat, and what ho! for a rough-house. And there was
Elation in the air at the sight of Britain embarking for the
Dardanelles to teach the Turk what the Empire meant. So shout, my
lads. "Hitchy-koo, hitchy-koo, hitchy-koo."

Major Hardy was equal to any of them. He was the Master of the
Revels. He had a big space cleared at one end of the lounge, and
organised a Rugby scrum. He arranged the sides, interlocked the
subalterns in the three-two-three formation, forced their heads down
like a master coaching boys, and, when he had given the word "Shove
like hell," ran round to the back of the scrum, got into it with his
head well down, and pushed to such purpose that the whole of the
opposite side was rushed off its feet, and the scrum sent hurtling
across the lounge. A few chairs were broken, as the scrimmagers
swept like an avalanche over the room. Major Hardy was hot with
success. "A walk over! Absolutely ran them off their feet! Come and
shove for them, you slackers," he shouted to those, who so far had
only looked on and laughed. A score of fellows rushed to add their
weight to the defeated side, and another score to swell the pack of
the victors. "That's the style," cried the Major. "There are only
about sixty of us in this scrum. Pack well down, boys. Not more
than twenty in the front row. Ball's in! Shove like blazes!" Into it
he got himself, and shoved--shoved till the scrum was rolled back
across the lounge; shoved till the side, which was being run off its
feet, broke up in laughter, and was at once knocked down like
ninepins by the rush of the winning forwards; shoved till his own
crowd fell over the prostrate forms of their victims, and collapsed
into a heap of humanity on to the floor.

Wiping his brow and whistling, he organised musical chairs; and,
after musical chairs, cock-fighting. Already he was limping on one
knee, and his left eye was red and swollen. But he was enjoying
himself so much that his enjoyment was infectious. To see him was to
feel that Life was a riotous adventure, and this planet of ours the
liveliest of lively worlds. And really, in spite of all, I'm not
sure that it isn't.

Doe and I with our hands in our pockets had contented ourselves with
being onlookers. The high spirits of Major Hardy's disorderly mob
were radiating too much like electric waves through the room for us
not to be caught by an artificial spell of happiness. But neither of
us felt rowdy to-night. Monty, too, as he stood between us, looked
on and moralised.

"It's three parts Wine and seven parts Youth," he ruled (he was
always giving a ruling on something), "so I'm three parts shocked
and seven parts braced. But I say, Doe, we're a race to rejoice in.
Look at these officers. Aren't they a bonny crowd? The horrible,
pink Huns, with their round heads, cropped hair, and large necks,
may have officers better versed in the drill-book. But no army in
the world is officered by such a lot of fresh sportsmen as ours.
Come on deck."

When we got out into the warm air of a July evening, we found that
the quay, which before dinner had been alongside the ship, was
floating away from our port-quarter. Clearer thinking showed us that
it was the ship which was veering round, and not the shore. We were
really moving. The _Rangoon_ was off for the Dardanelles. There was
no crowd to cheer us and wave white handkerchiefs; nothing but a
silent, deserted dockyard--because of that policeman at the gate. It
was only as we crept past a great cruiser, whose rails were crowded
with Jack Tars, that cheers and banter greeted us.

"The Navy gives a send-off to the Army," said Doe; and the voice of
one of our Tommies shouted from the stern of the _Rangoon_:

"Bye-bye, Jack. We'll make a passage for you through them
Dardanelles."

"We will," whispered Monty.

"We will," echoed I.

Soon the _Rangoon_ was past the cruiser and abreast of the sinister
low hulls of the destroyers that were going to escort us out to sea.
But here, to our surprise, the noise of an anchor's cable rattling
and racing away grated on our ears.

"She's dropping anchor till the morning," said Monty. "All right,
then we'll sit down."

We placed hammock-chairs on a lonely part of the boat-deck. I
reclined on the right of Monty, and Doe took his chair and placed it
on his left. Just as, in the old world behind the dockyard gates, he
would not have been satisfied unless he had been next to Radley, so
now he must contrive to have no one between himself and Monty.
Meantime down in the lounge they seemed to have abandoned
cock-fighting for music. A man was singing "Come to me, Thora," and
his voice modified by distance could be heard all over the ship. The
refrain was taken up by a hundred voices: "Come--come--come to me,
Thora"; and, when the last note had been finished, the hundred
performers were so pleased with their effort that they burst into
cheers and whistling and catcalls. It sounded like a distant jackal
chorus.

Now that we were on deck, the spell, which the electric waves of
enjoyment had played on me in the lounge, was removed. Rather, an
emptiness and a loneliness began to oppress me, only increased by
the rowdyism below.

"It's going to degenerate into a drunken brawl," I complained.

Monty turned and slapped me merrily on the knee. "Don't be so ready
to think the worst of things," he said.

Something in the gathering darkness and the gathering sadness of
this farewell evening made me communicative. I wanted to speak of
things that were near my heart.

"I s'pose just nowadays I _am_ thinking the worst of people. I've
seen so much evil since I've been in the army that my opinion of
mankind has sunk to zero."

"So's mine," murmured Doe.

"And mine has gone up and up and up with all that I've seen in the
army," said Monty, speaking with some solemnity. "I never knew till
I joined the army that there were so many fine people in the world.
I never knew there was so much kindliness and unselfishness in the
world. I never knew men could suffer so cheerfully. I never knew
humanity could reach such heights."

We remained silent and thinking.

"Good heavens!" continued Monty. "There's beauty in what's going on
in the lounge. Can't you see it? These boys, a third of them, have
only a month or more in which to sing. Some of them will never see
England again. And all know it, and none thinks about it. Granted
that a few of them are flushed with wine, but, before God, I've
learnt to forgive the junior subaltern everything--

"Everything," he added, with passionate conviction.

Doe turned in his seat towards Monty. I knew what my friend was
feeling, because I was feeling the same. These words had a personal
application and were striking home.

"What do you mean by 'everything'?" asked Doe, after looking round
to see that the deck was deserted. "Just getting tight?"

"I said 'everything,'" answered Monty deliberately. "I learnt to do
it out in France. What's the position of the junior subaltern out
there? Under sentence of death, and lucky if he gets a reprieve. The
temptation to experience everything while they can must be pretty
subtle. I don't say it's right--" Monty furrowed his forehead, as a
man does who is trying to think things out--"To say I would forgive
it is to admit that it's wrong, but ah! the boy-officer's been so
grand, and so boyishly unconscious of his grandeur all the time. I
remember one flighty youth, who sat down on the firing-step the
night before he had to go over the top, and wrote a simple letter to
everybody he'd cared for. He wrote to his father, saying: 'If
there's anything in my bank, I'd like my brother to have it. But, if
there's a deficit, I'm beastly sorry.' Think of him putting his
tin-pot house in order like that. He was--he was blown to pieces in
the morning....

"They found he had £60 to his credit. It wouldn't have been there a
week, if the young spendthrift had known."

It was now dark enough for the stars and the lights of England and
the glow in our pipe-bowls to be the most visible things.

"Go on," said Doe. "You're thrilling me."

"I remember another coming to me just before the assault, and
handing me a sealed letter addressed to his mother. What he said was
a lyric poem, but, as usual, he didn't know it. He just muttered:
'Padre, you might look after this: I may not get an opportunity of
posting it.' So English that! A Frenchman would have put his hand on
his heart and exclaimed: 'I die for France and humanity.' This
reserved English child said: 'I may not get an opportunity of
posting it.' My God, they're wonderful!"

Monty stared across the stream at the thousand lights of Devonport
and Plymouth. He was listening to the voices in the lounge singing:
"When you come to the end of a perfect day"; and he waited to hear
the song through, before he pursued:

"There was one youngster who, the morning of an attack, gave me a
long envelope. He said: 'I'll leave this with you, padre. It's
my--it's my--' And he laughed. Laughed, mind you. You see, he was
shy of the word 'will'; it seemed so silly...."

Monty stopped; and finally added:

"Neither did that boy know he was a Poem."

"Go on," said Doe, "I could listen all night."

"It's a lovely night, isn't it?" admitted Monty. "Inspires one to
see only the Beauty there is in everything. Isn't there Beauty in
Major Hardy's black eye?"

"It's a Poem--_what_," laughed Doe.

"You may laugh, but that's just what it is. He said that his heart
beat at one with the heart of a junior subaltern; and it does that
because it's the heart of a boy. And the heart of a boy is matter
for a poem."

"By Jove," said Doe, "you seem to be in love with all the world."

"So I am," Monty conceded, pleased with Doe's poetic phrase; "and
with the young world in particular."

"I think I could be that too," began Doe--

Doe was carrying on the conversation with ease. I left it to him,
for these words were winning eternity in my memory: "I could forgive
them everything." With a sense of loneliness, and that I had lost my
anchor in those last days of the old world, I felt that one day I
would unburden myself to Monty. I would like an anchor again, I
thought. The same idea must have been possessing Doe, for he was
saying:

"Somehow I could forgive everything to those fellows you've been
telling us about, but I'm blowed if I can forgive myself
everything."

And here Monty, with the utmost naturalness, as though so deep a
question flowed necessarily from what had gone before, asked:

"Have you _everything_ to be forgiven?"

It is wonderful the questions that will be asked and the answers
that will be given under the stars.

Doe looked out over the water, and moved his right foot to and fro.
Then he drew his knee up and clasped it with both hands.

"Everything," he said, rather softly.

And, when I heard him say that, I felt I was letting him take blame
that I ought to share with him. So I added simply:

"It's the same with both of us."

Monty held his peace, but his eyes glistened in the starlight. I
think he was happy that we two boys had been drawn to him, as
inevitably as needles to a magnet. At last he said:

"I suppose we ought to turn in now. But promise me you'll continue
this talk to-morrow, if it's another lovely night like this."

"Surely," assented Doe, as we arose and folded up the chairs.

"I hope when we wake we shan't be out at sea," suggested I, "for I
want to watch old England receding into the distance."

Monty looked at me and smiled.

"Rupert," he said, and it was like him to use my Christian name
without as much as a "by your leave" within the first dozen hours of
our acquaintance, "you're one of them."

"One of whom?"

"One of those to whom I could forgive everything. You both are. Good
night, Rupert. Good night, Edgar."



CHAPTER III

"C. OF E., NOW AND ALWAYS"


§1

Awaking at 5.30 the next morning, I heard a noise as of the anchor's
cable being hauled in. The engines, too, were throbbing, and
overhead there were rattling and movement. I tumbled Doe out of his
top bunk, telling him to get up and see the last of England.
Slipping a British warm over my blue silk pyjamas--mother always
made me wear pale blue--I went on deck. Doe covered his pink-striped
pyjamas with a grey silk kimono embroidered with flowers--the chance
of wearing which garment reconciled him to this cold and early
rising--and followed me sleepily. In a minute we were leaning over
the deck-rails, and watching the sea, as it raced past the ship's
hull.

Our _Rangoon_ was really off now. As we left Devonport, two devilish
little destroyers gave us fifty in the hundred, caught us up, and
passed us, before we were in the open sea. Then they waited for us
like dogs who have run ahead of their master, and finally took up
positions one on either side of us. We felt it was now a poor look
out for all enemy submarines.

"Well, ta-ta, England," said Doe, looking towards a long strip of
Devon and Cornwall. "See, there, Rupert? Falmouth's there somewhere.
In a year's time I'll be back, with you as my guest. We'll have the
great times over again. We'll go mackerel-fishing, when the wind is
fresh. We'll put a sail on the _Lady Fal_, and blow down the breeze
on the estuary. We'll--"

"And when's all this to be?" broke in a languid voice. We turned and
saw our exhausted young table companion, Jimmy Doon, who had arrived
on deck, yawning, to assume the duties of Officer on Submarine
Watch.

"After the war, sure," answered Doe.

Mr. Doon looked pained at such folly.

"My tedious lad," he said, "do I gather that you are in the
cavalry?"

"You do not, Jimmy," said Doe.

"Nor yet in the artillery?"

"No, Jimmy."

"Then I conceive you to be in the infantry."

"You conceive aright, Jimmy."

"Well, then, don't be an unseemly ass. There'll be no 'after the
war' for the infantry."

"In that case," laughed Doe, who had been offensively classical,
ever since he won the Horace Prize, "_Ave, atque vale_, England."

After gazing down the wake of the _Rangoon_ a little longer, we
decided that England was finished with, and returned to our cabins
to dress in silence. And then, having read through twice the
directions provided with Mothersill's Sea-sick Remedy, we went down
to breakfast.

At this meal the chief entertainment was the arrival of Major Hardy,
limping from injuries sustained the previous night, and with an eye
the colour of a Victoria plum. "The old sport!" whispered the
subalterns. And that's just what he was; for he was a major, who
could run amok like any second lieutenant, and he was forty, if a
day.

In the afternoon, when the sea was very lonely, the destroyers left
us, which we thought amazingly thin of them. So we searched out
Jimmy Doon, and told him that, as Officer on Submarine Watch, he
ought to swim alongside in their place.

Jimmy was much aggrieved, it appeared, at being detailed for the
tiresome duty of looking for submarines. It was the unseemly limit,
he said, to watch all day for a periscope, and it would be the very
devil suddenly to see one. Besides, he had hoped that by losing his
draft of men he would be freed from all duties, and a passenger for
a fortnight. He would have just sat down, and drawn his pay. As it
was, he assured us, he hadn't the faintest idea what to do if he
should sight a submarine--whether to shoot it, or tell the skipper.
He was nervous lest in his excitement he should shoot the skipper.
At any rate, he had a firing-party of twenty in the bows, and was
determined to shoot someone, if he spotted a periscope. And,
moreover, the whole thing made him tediously homesick, and he wanted
his mother.

He was mouching off quite sad and sulky about it all, when the
ship's clock pointed to 4 p.m. (and no one ever argues with a ship's
clock), eight bells rang out, and all the junior officers were
impressed into a lecture on Turkey--even including Jimmy Doon, who
thought that his important duties ought to have secured him
exemption from such an ordeal. The lecturer was Major Hardy, who,
being a man of the wanderlust, had planted in Assam, done some shady
gun-running in Mexico, fought for one, or both, or all sides in the
late Balkan War, and sauntered, with a hammock to hang under the
trees, in all parts of Turkey, Anatolia, and the Ottoman world. He
limped to the lecturer's table, in the lounge, and, holding his
monocle in his hand from the first word to the last, delivered a
discourse of which this was the gist:

Before Christmas we should be in Constantinople--_what_. (Laughter,
rather at the _what_ than at the substance of the sentence.) He was
confident the Dardanelles would be conquered any day now, and wished
the ship would go a bit faster, so that we should not be too late to
miss all the fun. (Hear, hear.) The only thing that was holding up
our army at Cape Helles was the hill of Achi Baba. Now he had stood
on Achi Baba and looked down upon the Straits at that point where
they became the silver Narrows: and he knew that old Achi was a wee
pimple, which he could capture before breakfast, given a fighting
crowd of blaspheming heathens, like those he saw before him. (Loud
cheers.) When we penetrated Turkey, we were to understand that the
Turk with a beard was a teetotaller, like himself, Major Hardy.
(Cheers.) We were never to kick a dog in Turkey--_what_ (laughter),
and, above all, never to raise our eyes to a Turkish woman, whether
veiled or not, if we would keep our lives worth the value of a tram
ticket. "One thinks," he concluded, "of the crowd of susceptible
Tommies reclining on the decks outside, and fears the worst." (Loud
laughter, cheers, and Jimmy Doon's weary voice: "Good-bye-ee.")


§2

So the first afternoon at sea declined into evening. I had been
looking forward all day to the starlight night, in which we should
discuss again with Monty the things that had crept into our
conversation the night before. I had gone to bed, happy in the
thought that the breastworks had been broken down, and the way made
easier for further unburdening. I had fallen asleep, contented in
the conviction that Monty had been sent into my life to help me to
put things straight. In my simple theology, I was pleased to imagine
I saw how God was working. Somewhere in that old world behind the
dockyard lay my shattered ideals, shattered morals, shattered
religion. Monty was to rebuild my faith in humanity and in God. Some
where in that rosy year which was past lay the anchor that I had
cast away. Monty was to find me drifting to the Dardanelles with no
anchor aboard, and to give me one that would hold. Yes, I saw a
ruling Hand. Radley had been the great influence of my schooldays;
and, now that he was fast fading into the memories of a remote past,
Monty, this lean and whimsical priest, had stepped in to fill the
stage. The story of our spiritual development must ever be the story
of other people's influence over us. I could see it all, and went to
sleep lonely but happy.

It is difficult to say why I wanted to set my life aright. The
thought of my mother; the peaceful movement of the ship away from
England; Monty's stories of his lovable boy officers; and the beauty
of the seascape--all had something to do with it. At any rate, I
found myself longing for the time when, after dinner, Doe and I,
with Monty between us, should recline in deck-chairs under the
stars, and speak of intimate things.

When the time came, it was very dark, for deck-lamps were not
allowed, and every port-hole was obscured, so that no chink of light
should betray our whereabouts to a prowling submarine. We began by
star-gazing. Then we brought eyes and faces downwards, and watched
the wide, rippling sea. Monty, having refilled his pipe on his
knees, lit it with some difficulty in the gentle wind, before he
remembered that, after dark, smoking was forbidden on deck. The
match flared up, and illuminated the world alarmingly.... We
listened for the torpedo.

Nothing evil coming from the darkness, Monty knocked out the
forbidden tobacco, and placed an empty pipe between his teeth.

"I suppose you fellows know," he said, "that we've got a daily Mass
on board."

"What's that?" asked Doe.

Monty removed his pipe and gazed with affected horror at his
questioner. Certainly he would hold forth now.

"Bah!" he began, but he changed it with quick generosity to "Ah
well, ah well, ah well! I know the sort of religion you've
enjoyed--and, for that matter, adorned. It's a wonderful creed! Have
a bath every morning, and go to church with your people. It saves
you from bad form, but can't save you from vice."

Doe moved slightly in his chair, as one does when a dentist touches
a nerve. Monty stopped, and then added:

"'A daily Mass' is my short way of saying 'A daily celebration of
the Holy Communion.'"

"Heavens!" thought I. "He's an R.C."

I felt as though I had lost a friend. Doe, however, was quicker in
appraising the terrible facts.

"I s'pose you're a High Churchman," he said; and I've little doubt
that he thereupon made up his mind to be a High Churchman too. Monty
groaned. He placed in front of Doe his left wrist on which was
clasped a bracelet identity disc. He switched on to the disc a shaft
of light from an electric torch, and we saw engraved on it his name
and the letters "C.E."

"That's what I am, Gazelle," said he, as the light went out, "C. of
E., now and always."

("Gazelle" was ostensibly a silly play on my friend's name, but,
doubtless, Doe's sleek figure and brown eyes, which had made the
name of "The Grey Doe" so appropriate, inspired Monty to style him
"Gazelle.")

"C. of E.," muttered I, audibly. "What a relief!"

"You beastly, little, supercilious snob!" exclaimed Monty, who was
easily the rudest man I have ever met.

I didn't mind him calling me "little," for he so overtopped me
intellectually that in his presence I never realised that I had
grown tall. I felt about fourteen.

"You beastly, little, intolerant, mediæval humbug. I suppose you
think 'C. of E.' is the only respectable thing to be. And yet your
C. of E.-ism hasn't--" He stopped abruptly, as if he had just
arrested himself in a tactless remark.

"Go on," I said.

"And yet your religion," he continued gently, "hasn't proved much of
a vital force in your life, has it? Didn't it go to pieces at the
first assault of the world?"

"I s'pose it did," I confessed humbly.

"Shall I tell you the outstanding religious fact of the war?" asked
he. "Let me recover my breath which your unspeakable friend here put
out by calling me a 'High Churchman,' and then I'll begin. It begins
eighty years ago."

So Monty began the great story of the Catholic movement in the
Church of England. He told us of Keble and Pusey; he made heroes for
us of Father Mackonochie dying amongst his dogs in the Scotch snows,
and of Father Stanton, whose coffin was drawn through London on a
barrow. He knew how to capture the interest and sympathy of boy
minds. At the end of his stories about the heroes and martyrs of the
Catholic movement, though we hadn't grasped the theology of it, yet
we knew we were on the side of Keble and Pusey, Mackonochie and
Stanton. We would have liked to be sent to prison for wearing
vestments.

"But hang the vestments!" cried Monty in his vigorous way. "Hang the
cottas, the candles, and the incense! What the Catholic movement
really meant was the recovery for our Church of England--God bless
her--of the old exalted ideas of the Mass and of the great practice
of private confession. 'What we want,' said the Catholic movement,
'is the faith of St. Augustine of Canterbury, and of St. Aidan of
the North; the faith of the saints who built the Church of England,
and not the faith of Queen Elizabeth, nor even of the Pope of
Rome.'"

We thought this very fine, and Doe, who generally carried on these
conversations while I was silent, inquired what exactly this faith
might be, which was neither Protestantism nor Romanism.

"Rehearse the articles of my belief, eh?" laughed Monty. "Well, I
believe in the Mass, and I believe in confession, and I believe that
where you've those, you've everything else."

"And what's the outstanding fact of the war?" asked Doe.

"The outstanding fact of my experience at least, Gazelle, has been
the astonishing loyalty to his chaplains and his church of that
awful phenomenon, the young High Church fop, the ecclesiastical
youth. He has known what his chaplains are for, and what they can
give him; he hasn't needed to be looked up and persuaded to do his
religious duties, but has rather looked up his chaplains and
persuaded them to do theirs--confound his impudence! He has got up
early and walked a mile for his Mass. His faith, for all its
foppery, has stood four-square."

Monty started to relight his pipe, forgetting again in his
enthusiasm all routine orders. He tossed the match away, and added:

"Yes: and there's another whose religion is vital--the extreme
Protestant. He's a gem! I disagree with him on every point, and I
love him."

Monty held the floor. We were content to wait in silence for him to
continue. He looked at a bright star and murmured, as if thinking
aloud:

"Out there--out there the spike has come into his own."

"What's a spike?" interrupted Doe, intent on learning his part.

"They called those High Church boys who before the war could talk of
nothing but cottas and candles, 'spikes.' They were a bit
insufferable. But, by Jove, they've had to do without all those
pretty ornaments out there, and they've proved that they had the
real thing. My altar has generally been two ration boxes, marked
'Unsweetened Milk,' but the spike has surrounded it. And, look here,
Gazelle, the spike knows how to die. He just asks for his absolution
and his last sacrament, and--and dies."

There was silence again. All we heard was the ship chopping along
through the dark sea, and distant voices in the saloons below. And
we thought of the passing of the spike, shriven, and with food for
his journey.

"And what are we to believe about the Mass?" asked Doe, who, deeply
interested, had turned in his chair towards Monty.

Monty told us. He told us things strange for us to hear. We were to
believe that the bread and wine, after consecration, were the same
Holy Thing as the Babe of Bethlehem; and we could come to Mass, not
to partake, but to worship like the shepherds and the magi; and
there, and there only, should we learn how to worship. He told us
that the Mass was the most dramatic service in the world, for it was
the acting before God of Calvary's ancient sacrifice; and under the
shadow of that sacrifice we could pray out all our longings and all
our loneliness.

"Now, come along to daily Mass," he pleaded. "Just come and see how
they work out, these ideas of worshipping like the shepherds and of
kneeling beneath the shadow of a sacrifice. You'll find the early
half-hour before the altar the happiest half-hour of the day. You'll
find your spiritual recovery there. It'll be your healing spring."

Turning with the Monty suddenness to Doe, he proved by his next
words how quickly he had read my friend's character.

"You boys are born hero-worshippers," he said. "And there's nothing
that warm young blood likes better than to do homage to its hero,
and mould itself on its hero's lines. In the Mass you simply bow the
knee to your Hero, and say: 'I swear fealty. I'm going to mould
myself on you.'"

He had not known Edgar Doe forty-eight hours, but he had his
measure.

"All right," said Doe, "I'll come."

"Tell us about the other thing, confession," I suggested.

"Not now, Rupert. 'Ye are babes,' and I've fed you with milk.
Confession'll come, but it's strong meat for you yet."

"I don't know," demurred I.

Monty's face brightened, as the fact of one who sees the dawn of
victory. But Doe, though his whole nature moved him to be a
picturesque High Churchman, yet, because he wanted Monty to think
well of him, drew up abruptly at the prospect of a detailed
confession.

"You'll never get me to come to confession," he laughed,
"never--never--never."

"My dear Gazelle, don't be silly," rejoined Monty. "I'll have you
within the week."

"You won't!"

"I will! Oh, I admit I'm out to win you two. I want to prove that
the old Church of England has everything you public schoolboys need,
and capture you and hold you. I want all the young blood for her. I
want to prove that you can be the pride of the Church of England.
And I'll prove it. I'll prove it on this ship."

Whether he proved it, I can't say. I am only telling a tale of what
happened. I dare say that, if instead of Monty, the Catholic, some
militant Protestant had stepped at this critical moment into our
lives, full of enthusiasm for his cause and of tales of the
Protestant martyrs, he would have won us to his side, and provided a
different means of spiritual recovery. I don't know.

For the tale I'm telling is simply this: that in these moments, when
every turn of the ship's screw brought us nearer Gibraltar, the gate
of the Great Sea, and God alone knew what awaited us in the
Gallipoli corner of that Mediterranean arena, came Padre Monty,
crashing up to us with his Gospel of the saints. It was the ideal
moment for a priest to do his priestly work, and bring our Mother
Church to our side. And Monty failed neither her nor us.



CHAPTER IV

THE VIGIL


§1

Night or day, the ship ploughed remorselessly on. It was steered a
bewildering zigzag course to outwit the submarines. The second day
of the voyage saw us in the Bay of Biscay, a hundred miles off Cape
Finisterre. The sun got steadily hotter, and the sea bluer.

And the subalterns blessed the sun, because it gave them an excuse
for putting on the white tennis-flannels which they had brought for
deck wear. All honest boys, we know, fancy themselves in their
whites. And the mention of their deck-flannels reminds me, strangely
enough, of Monty's daily masses. It was evident from the attendance
at these quiet little services that he had been busy persuading
other young officers to see "how it worked."

Every morning the smoking room was equipped with a little altar that
supported two lighted candles. And to this chapel there wandered,
morning after morning, stray and rather shy young subalterns, who
knelt "beneath the shadow," occupied with their own thoughts, while
Calvary's ancient sacrifice was acted before God.

Monty had formed a dozen subalterns into a guild of servers. And on
these sun-baked mornings he would insist that his servers should
kneel at their place beside the altar in their white sporting
attire. "_His_ Mass," said he, "was meant to be mixed up with the
week-day play."

It was all quiet--in fact, ever so quiet. Outside on the deck there
would be noises, and in the alley-way there would be bangings of
cabin-doors, and voices calling for the bath steward. But these
things only intensified the quiet of the smoking room. Monty would
keep his voice very low, loud enough to be heard by those who
wished to follow him, and soft enough not to interrupt those who
preferred to pursue their private devotions.

Whether he was right in all that he did and taught, or was only a
joyous rebel, better theologians than I must determine. He was at
least right in this: the attraction of that early morning service
was irresistible. I began to look forward to it. I enjoyed it. When
my comfortable bunk pulled strongly, and I was too lazy to get up, I
would feel all day a sense of having missed something. I had never
been able to pray anywhere else so easily as I prayed there. I had
never before understood the satisfaction of worship.

Monty soon found that the only enemy who could beat him and prevent
a swelling attendance of Youth at the Mass, was Cosy Bed. C.B., as
he contemptuously called him, was most powerful at 7.0 in the
morning. Padre Monty would not have been Padre Monty, had he failed
to declare war on the foe at once. He drew up a "Waking List" of his
family (for he had adopted everybody on the ship under 25), and each
morning went his rounds, visiting a score of cabins, where the
"children" slept. He burst upon them unceremoniously, and threw open
the darkened port-holes to let the sunlight in. For the sunlight,
like all bright things, was on the side of the Mass.

Of course it was only a minority, at best, who thus bowed their
young heads to the Mass. The rest remained gentiles without the Law.
And Monty's undismayed comment was characteristic of him. "I say,
Rupert," he said, coolly assuming that I was his partner in the
work, "We've only a few at present, our apostolic few. But don't you
love these big, handsome boys, who _will not_ come to church?"

One immortal Friday fully forty wandered in to Mass. Monty was
radiant. Immediately after the service he said to me: "Come on deck,
and have a game of quoits-tennis before breakfast. Mass first, then
tennis--that's as it should be." We went on deck, and, having fixed
the rope that acted as a net, played a hard game. And, when the
first game was finished, Monty, still flushed with his victory down
in the smoking room, came and looked at me over the high intervening
rope, much as a horse looks over a wall, and proceeded to hold
forth:

"D'you remember that picture, 'The Vigil,' Rupert, where a knight
is kneeling with his sword before the altar, being consecrated for
the work he has in hand? Well, this voyage is the vigil for these
fellows. Before they step ashore, they shall kneel in front of the
same altar, and seek a blessing on their swords. Hang it! aren't
they young knights setting out on perilous work? And I'll prove we
have a Church still, and an Altar, and a Vigil."

Then he asked me what I was stopping for and talking about, and why
I didn't get on with the game. His spirits were irrepressible.


§2

After tea, on the fourth day, everyone hurried to the boat-deck, for
land was on our port side. There to our left, looking like a long,
riftless cloud bank, lay a pale-washed impression of the coast of
Spain. A little town, of which every building seemed a dead white,
could be distinguished on the slope of a lofty hill. There was a
long undulation of mountainous country, and a promontory that we
were told was Cape Trafalgar.

I should have kept my eyes fixed on this, my first view of Sunny
Spain, if there had not been excited talk of another land looming on
the starboard side. Looking quickly that way, I made out the grey
wraith of a continent, and realised that, for the first time, Dark
Africa had crept, with becomingly mysterious silence, into my range
of vision.

Doe let his field-glasses drop, and stared dreamily at the beautiful
picture, which was being given us, as we approached in the fall of a
summer day towards the famous Straits of Gibraltar. Not long,
however, could his reverie last, for Jimmy Doon poked him in the
ribs and said:

"Wake up. Do you grasp the fact that you are just about to go
through the gate of the Mediterranean, and you'll be damned lucky if
you ever come out through it again? It's like going through the
entrance of the Colosseum to the lions. It's both tedious and
unseemly."

"Oh, get away, Jimmy," retorted Doe, "you spoil the view. Look,
Rupert--don't look out of the bows all the time; turn round and look
astern, if you want to see a glorious sunset."

I turned. We were steering due east, so the disc of the sun, this
still evening, was going down behind our stern. The sea maintained a
hue of sparkling indigo, while the sun encircled itself with
widening haloes of gold and orange. The vision was so gorgeous that
I turned again to see its happy effect upon the coast of Spain, and
found that the long strip of land had become apple pink. Meanwhile I
was aware that my hands and all my exposed flesh had a covering of
sticky moisture, the outcome of a damp wind blowing from grey and
melancholy Africa.

"The sirocco," said someone, and foretold a heavy mist with the
night.

It happened so. The darkness had scarcely succeeded the highly
coloured sunset before the raucous booming of the fog-horn sounded
from the ship's funnel, and the whole vessel was surrounded with a
thick mist--African breath again--which, laden with damp, left
everything superficially wet. The mist continued, and the darkness
deepened, as we went through the Straits. The siren boomed
intermittently, and Gibraltar, invisible, flashed Morse messages in
long and short shafts of light on the thick, moist atmosphere. To
add to the eerie effect of it all, a ship's light was hung upon the
mast, and cast yellow rays over the fog-damp.

"Beastly shame," grumbled Doe, looking into the opaque darkness, "we
shan't see the Rock this trip through. Never mind, we'll see it on
the homeward route."

"_Per_-haps," corrected Jimmy Doon.

Thus we went through the gate into the Mediterranean theatre, where
the big battle for those other Straits was being fought. We left the
fog behind us, as we got into wider seas, and steamed into a hot
Mediterranean night.


§3

Oh, it was torrid. Ere we came on deck for our talk with Monty under
the stars, we had changed into our coolest things. And now, awaiting
his arrival, I lolled in my deck-chair, clothed in my Cambridge blue
sleeping-suit, and Doe lay with his pink stripes peeping from
beneath the grey embroidered kimono.

It had become a regular practice, our nightly talk with Monty on
what he called "Big Things." Certainly he did most of the talking.
But his ideas were so new and illuminating, and he opened up such
undreamed-of vistas of thought, that we were pleased to lie lazily
and listen.

"What's it to be to-night?" he began, as he walked up to us; but he
suddenly saw our pyjama outfit, and was very rude about it, calling
us "popinjays," and "degenerate æsthetes." "My poor boys," he summed
up, as he dropped into the chair, which we had thoughtfully placed
between us for his judgment throne, "you can't help it, but you're a
public nuisance and an offence against society. What's it to be
to-night?"

"Tell us about confession," I said, and curled myself up to listen.

"Right," agreed Monty.

"But wait," warned Doe. "You're not going to get me to come to
confession. I value your good opinion too highly."

"My dear Gazelle, don't be absurd. I'll have your promise to-night."

"You won't!"

"I will! Here goes."

And Monty opened with a preliminary bombardment in which, in his
shattering style, he fired at us every argument that ever has been
adduced for private confession--"the Sacrament of Penance," as he
startled us by calling it. The Bible was poured out upon us. The
doctrine and practice of the Church came hurtling after. Then
suddenly he threw away theological weapons, and launched a
specialised attack on each of us in turn, obviously suiting his
words to his reading of our separate characters. He turned on me,
and said:

"You see, Rupert. Confession is simply the consecration of your own
natural instinct--the instinct to unburden yourself to one who waits
with love and a gift of forgiveness--the instinct to have someone in
the world who knows exactly all that you are. You realise that you
are utterly lonely, as long as you are acting a part before all the
world. But your loneliness goes when you know of at least one to
whom you stand revealed."

As he said it, my whole soul seemed to answer "Yes."

"It's so," he continued. "Christianity from beginning to end is the
consecration of human instincts."

So warmed up was he to his subject that he brought out his next
arguments like an exultant player leading honour after honour from a
hand of trumps. He slapped me triumphantly on the knee, and brought
out his ace:

"The Christ-idea is the consecration of the instinct to have a
visible, tangible hero for a god."

Again he slapped me on the knee, and said:

"The Mass is the consecration of the instinct to have a place and a
time and an Objective Presence, where one can touch the hem of His
garment and worship."

That was his king. He emphasised his final argument on my knee more
triumphantly than ever.

"And confession is the consecration of the instinct to unburden your
soul; to know that you are not alone in your knowledge of yourself;
to know that at a given moment, by a definite sacrament, your sins
are blotted away, as though they had never been."

His victorious contention, by its very impulse, carried its colours
into my heart. I yielded to his conviction that Catholic
Christianity held all the honours. But I fancy I had wanted to
capitulate, before ever the attack began.

"By Jove," I said. "I never saw things like that before."

"Of course you didn't," he snapped.

Having broken through my front, he was re-marshalling his arguments
into a new formation, ready to bear down upon Doe, when that
spirited youth, who alone did any counter-attacking, assumed the
initiative, and assaulted Monty with the words:

"It's no good. If I made my confession to a priest who'd been my
friend, I'd never want to see him again for shame. I'd run round the
corner, if he appeared in the street."

"On the contrary," said Monty, "you'd run to meet him. You'd know
that you were dearer to him than you could possibly have been, if
you had never gone to him in confession. You'd know that your
relations after the sacred moment of confession were more intimate
than ever before."

I saw Doe's defence crumbling beneath this attack. I knew he would
instantly want these intimate relations to exist between Monty and
himself. Monty, subtly enough, had borne down on that part of Doe's
make-up which was most certain to give way--his yielding
affectionateness.

And, while Doe remained silent and thoughtful, Monty attacked with a
new weight of argument at a fresh point--Doe's love of the heroic.

"Don't you think," he asked, "that, if you've gone the whole way
with your sins, it's up to a sportsman to go the whole way with his
confession. And anybody knows that it's much more difficult to
confess to God through a priest than in the privacy of one's own
room. It's difficult, but it's the grand thing; and so it appeals to
an heroic nature more."

"Yes, I see that," assented Doe.

Monty said nothing further for awhile, as if hoping we would declare
our decision without any prompting from him. But we were shy and
silent; and at last he asked:

"Well, what's the decision?"

"I'll come to you," I said, "if you'll show me how to do it all."

He replied nothing. I believe he was too happy to speak. Then he
turned to Doe.

"Gazelle, what about you?"

And Doe said one of those engaging things that only he could utter:

"I imagine I ought to do it for love of Our Lord. But s'posing I
know that isn't the real motive--s'posing I feel that someone has
been sent into my life to put it right, and I do it rather for--for
him?"

There Monty was beaten. Doe's meaning was too plain; and the rich
prize it threw at Monty's feet too overwhelming. The only answer he
could give was: "You must try and link it to love for the Higher
One."

"All right," said Doe, simply. "I'll try."

A silence of unusual length followed. The noise of the ship going
through the water, and the beat of the engines, assumed the monopoly
of sound. Doe and I were thinking of the thorny and troublesome path
of confession, which in a few days we must traverse. And Monty
indicated what his thoughts were by the remark with which he
prepared to close that night's conversation under the stars.

"The two cardinal dogmas of my faith are--"

"The Mass and confession," I volunteered, in a flash of impudence.

"Don't interrupt, you rude little cub. They are these. Just as there
is more beauty in nature than ugliness, so there is more goodness in
humanity than evil, and more happiness in the world than sorrow....

"Now and then one is allowed a joy that would outweigh years of
disappointment. You two pups have given me one of those joys
to-night. It's my task to make this voyage your Vigil; and a perfect
Vigil. It's all inexpressibly dear to me. I'm going to send you down
the gangway when you go ashore to this crusade--properly absolved by
your Church. I'm going to send you into the fight--_white_."



CHAPTER V

PENANCE


§1

Upon the rail leaned Doe and I watching the waves break away from
the ship. It was morning, and we were troubled--troubled over the
awful difficulty of making our life confession on the morrow. Monty
had given much pains to preparing us. He had sat with each under the
awning on sunny days, and told him how to do it. We were to divide
our lives into periods: our childhood, our schooldays, and our life
in the army. We were to search each period carefully, and note down
on a single sheet of writing-paper the sins that we must confess.
But, wanting to do it thoroughly, I had already reached my ninth
sheet. And I was still only at the beginning of my schooldays. I had
acknowledged this to Monty, who smiled kindly, and said: "It is a
_Via Dolorosa_, isn't it? But carry on. For the joy that is set
before you, endure the cross."

"It was easy enough," complained Doe, "to say frankly 'everything'
when he asked us what we had to confess; but, when you've got to go
into details, it's the limit. I wish I were dead. Monty gave me a
long list of questions for self-examination, and I had to go back
and ask him for more. They didn't nearly cover all _I_'d done."

I couldn't help smiling.

"Yes," proceeded Doe, "Monty laughed too, and said: 'Don't get
rattled. You're one of the best, and proving it every moment.' And
that brings me to my other difficulty. Rupert, all my life I've done
things for my own glory; and I did want to make this confession a
perfect thing, free from wrong motives like that. But you've no idea
how self-glorification has eaten into me. I find myself hoping Monty
will say mine is the best life confession he has ever heard. Isn't
it awful?" He sighed and murmured: "I wonder if I shall ever do an
_absolutely perfect_ thing."

Such a character as Doe's must ever love to unrobe itself before a
friend; and he continued:

"No, I know my motives are mixed with wrong. For example, I don't
believe I should do this, if some other chaplain, instead of Monty,
had asked me to do it. And your saying you'd do it had much too much
to do with my consenting. But I _am_ trying to do it properly. And,
after turning my life inside out, I've come to the conclusion that
I'm a bundle of sentiment and self-glorification. The only good
thing that I can see in myself is that where I love I give myself
utterly. It's awful."

So, you see, in these words did Doe admit that the dog-like
devotion, which he had once given to Radley, was transferred to
Monty. In my own less intense way I felt the same thing. Radley had
become remote, and ceased to be a force in our lives; Monty reigned
in his stead. We were boys; and what's the use of pretending? A
boy's affection is not eternal.

Of Doe's confession I can relate no more. It withdraws itself into a
privacy. I can but tell you the tale of my own experience.


§2

Monty's cabin was to be his confessional. I was to go to him early
the next morning, as I had been detailed for Submarine Watch for the
remainder of the day.

I approached his door, stimulating myself for the ordeal by saying
"In half an hour I shall have told all, and the thing will be done."
A certain happiness fought in my mind against my shrinking from
self-humiliation. Two moods wrestled in me; the one said: "The
long-dreaded moment is on you"; the other said: "The eagerly awaited
moment has come."

I found Monty ready for me, robed in a surplice and violet stole. In
front of the place where I was to kneel was a crucifix.

"Kneel there," said Monty, "and, if necessary, look at that. _He_
was so much a man like us that He kept the glory that was set before
Him as a motive for enduring the cross."

I knelt down. Nervousness suddenly possessed me, and my voice
trembled, as I read the printed words:

"Father, give me thy blessing, for I have sinned."

Then nervousness left me. The scene became very calm. It seemed to
be taking place somewhere out of the world. The worldly relations of
the two taking part in it changed as in a transfiguration. I ceased
to think of Monty as a lively friend. He had become a stately
priest, and I a penitent. He had become a father, and I a child.

With a quiet deliberateness that surprised me, I said the
"Confiteor," and accused myself of the long catalogue of sins that I
had prepared. It was almost mechanical. Such merit as there may have
been in my exhaustive confession must have lain in what conquering
of obstacles I achieved before I came to my knees in Monty's
presence, because I was conscious of no meritorious effort then. It
was as if I had battled against a running current, and had at last
got into the stream; for now, as I spoke in the confessional, I was
just floating without exertion down the current.

When I had finished, Monty sat without saying a word. I kept my face
in my hands, and waited for the counsel that he would offer.

He gave me the very thing that my opening manhood was craving; one
clear and lofty ideal. I had felt blindly for it that far-off time
when, as a small boy, the recollection of my grandfather's words:
"That Rupert, the best of the lot," had lifted me out of cheating
and lies. I had aspired towards it, but had not seen it, that
evening outside Kensingtowe's baths. I had seen it hazily that day
the old Colonel spoke of our Youth and our High Calling.

And now Monty set the vision in front of me. I was to see three
ideals, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, and merge them all in one
vision--Beauty. For Goodness was only beauty in morals, and Truth
was only beauty in knowledge. And I was to overcome my sins, not by
negatively fighting against them when they were hard upon me, but by
positively pursuing in the long days free from temptation my goal of
Beauty. Then the things which I had confessed would gradually drop
out of my life, as things which did not fit in with my ideal. For
they were not good, nor true, nor beautiful.

"Pursue Beauty," he said, "like the Holy Grail."

With my head still bowed in my hands, I felt that happiness which
comes upon men when they grasp a great idea. I felt lofty resolution
and serene confidence flowing into me like wine.

"And, finally," said this masterly priest, "know how certain you can
be that the absolution which I am going to pronounce is full and
final. God only asks a true penitence, and you can offer Him no
fairer fruits of penitence than those you have brought this morning.
Know, then, that there will be no whiter soul in all God's church
than yours, when you leave this room. For you will be as white as
when you left the baptismal font. Now listen. You shall hear what
was worked for you on Calvary."

I listened, and heard him speak with studied solemnity the words of
absolution. And if a feeling can be said to grow up and get older,
then there came upon me at that moment the feeling of a child
released to play in the sunlight; only it was that feeling grown to
a man's estate.

I rose from my knees to find that I was standing again in the world.
I saw a ship's cabin, and a man removing a violet stole from a white
surplice. It didn't seem a time in which to talk, so I turned the
handle of the cabin door, and went out quietly.

I went straight to my Submarine Watch on the deck. There was a glow
pervading me, as of something pleasant which had just occurred.
Forgive me if it be weak to have these fleeting moments of
exaltation, but I was seeing goodness, truth, and beauty in
everything. The bright sunlight was beauty; of course it was; the
blue sea was beauty. And it all had something to do with beauty of
character and beauty of life.

Imagine me this rare day, lost in my thoughts, as I watched the sea
running by, or the new world coming to meet the bows. Sometimes I
watched it with my naked eyes. Sometimes I hastened the approach of
the new things by bringing my field glasses to bear upon them. And,
all the time, I had a sense of satisfaction, as of something
pleasant which had just occurred.

At first the broad blue floor of the sea stretched right away on
every side without a sail anywhere to suggest that it was a medium
of traffic. The sky, a far paler blue, met the horizon all round. It
was only a slight restlessness over the surface that made the
Mediterranean distinguishable from a vast and still inland lake.
The ship plied steadily onward in the opposite direction to the sun,
which looked down upon the scene with its hot glance unmodified by
cloud or haze.

With my glasses I swept the empty waters. At last I saw, sketched
over there with palest touch, a line of mountains--just such a range
as a child would draw, one peak having a narrow point, another a
rounded summit. This land lay at so great a distance that it was
shadowless, and looked like a long bit of broken slate with its
jagged ends uppermost. I cast in my mind whether Gallipoli loomed
like this: and Gallipoli, somehow, seemed more peaceful since that
satisfying event of the morning.

I dropped my glasses. For the first time I realised that I was
setting out to do something difficult for England. Actually I! I
glowed in the thought, for to-day, if ever, I was in an heroic mood.
I touched for a moment the perfect patriotism. Yes, if Beauty
demanded it, I could give all for England--all.

As the day went by, we seemed to be rounding that mountainous
island, for it lingered on our port, always changing its aspect, but
always remaining beautiful.

The whole scene was Beauty. And this Beauty, urged the voice of the
priest, was to have something to say in moments when I must choose
between this bad deed and that good one. Of the two, I was to do the
one that was the more like the Mediterranean on a summer day.

Oh, I had a clear enough ideal now. And why had I never seen before,
as Monty had seen, that, just as there was far more beauty in seas
and hills than ugliness, so on the whole there was more goodness in
human characters than evil, and, assuredly, more happiness in life
than pain. And the old Colonel, too, had seen beauty in youth and
strength; he had seen it triumphing in Penny's death and in all this
sanguinary Dardanelles campaign.

Yes, I had closed on the idea. Even the lively excesses of Major
Hardy's mob, even Jimmy Doon's cynical humour at the prospect of
death had much in them like the Mediterranean on a summer day.

Or, say, on a summer night like this. For, as the evening wore on,
we were still passing this long island; and a pale mist had risen in
a narrow ribbon from the sea-line, and hidden a lower belt of its
hills from my view, so that the peaks towered like Mount Ararats
above a rising flood of fog-damp; and, as this bank of mist rose
upward, the sun sank downward, a disc of gold fire.

I followed it with my glasses; and so rapid was its descent that,
before I could count a hundred, it had dipped beneath the
water-line--become a flaming semicircle--then only a glowing
rim--and disappeared. It left a few minutes' afterglow, with the sky
every shade from crimson at the horizon to blue at the zenith.

The world got darker, and the waves, breaking from the ship's bows,
began to spill a luminous phosphorescence on the sea. I watched a
little longer; and then the stars and the phosphorescent wave-crests
glistened in a Mediterranean night.



CHAPTER VI

MAJOR HARDY AND PADRE MONTY FINISH THE VOYAGE


§1

But I must hurry on. Here am I dawdling over what happened indoors
in the minds of two boys, while out of doors nations were battling
against nations, and the whole world was in upheaval. Here am I
happily describing so local a thing as the effort of a big-hearted
priest to rebuild our spiritual lives on the quiet moments of the
Mass and the strange glorious mystery of penance, while the great
Division which captured the beaches of Cape Helles had been brought
to a standstill by the impregnable hill of Achi Baba, and uncounted
troopships like our own were pouring through the Mediterranean to
retrieve the fight.

On with the war, then. One morning I was wakened by much talking and
movement all over the boat, and by Doe's leaping out of his top
bunk, kicking me in passing, and disappearing through the cabin
door. Back he came in a minute, crying: "You must come out and see
this lovely, white dream-city. We're outside Malta."

I rushed out to find Valetta, the grand harbour of Malta, on three
sides of us. We were anchored; and the hull of the _Rangoon_, which
looked very huge now, was surrounded by Maltese bumboats.

Shore leave was granted us. And, ashore, we hurried through the
blazing heat to visit the hospitals and learn from the crowds of
Gallipoli sick and wounded something about the fighting at Helles.
These cheery patients shocked our optimism by telling us that it was
hopeless to expect the capture of the hill of Achi Baba by frontal
assault and that any further advance at Cape Helles was scratched
off the programme. The hosts of troops that were passing through
Malta must, they surprised us by declaring, be destined for some
secret move elsewhere than at Helles, for there was no room for them
on the narrow tongue of land beneath Achi Baba.

"We're wild to know what's in the wind," said a sister. "The stream
of transports has never stopped for the last few days."

That we could well believe. There were two huge liners crammed with
khaki figures in the harbour that morning.

"We are going to win, I imagine?" asked Monty, with a note of doubt.

"O lord, yes," replied a superbly bonny youngster, without a right
arm. "But I don't envy you going to the Peninsula. It's heat, dust,
flies, and dysentery. And Mudros is ten times worse."

"What's Mudros?" asked I.

"Mudros," broke in Doe, blushing, as he aired his classical
learning, "is a harbour in the Isle of Lemnos famous in classical--"

"Mudros," interrupted the one-armed man, proud of his experience,
"is a harbour in the Island of Lemnos, and the filthiest hole--"

"Mudros," continued Doe, refusing to be beaten, "is a harbour in the
Isle of Lemnos, which is the island where Jason and the Argonauts
landed, and found Hypsipele and the women who had murdered their
husbands. Jupiter hurled Vulcan from Heaven, and he fell upon
Lemnos. And it's sad to relate that Achilles and Agamemnon had a bit
of a dust-up there."

"Well, that may be," said the one-armed hero, rather crushed by
Doe's weighty lecture. "But you're going to Mudros first in your
transport, and you'll probably die of dysentery there."

"Good Lord," said I.

We selected the ward where we would have our beds when we came down
wounded, and the particular pretty sister who should nurse us; and
went out into the dazzling sun. Having climbed to a high level that
overlooked the harbour, we leaned against a stone parapet, and
examined the French warships that slept, with one eye open, up a
narrow blue waterway. For Malta in 1915 was a French naval base.

"Sad to see them there, sir," said a convalescent Tommy, pointing to
the grey cruisers flying the tricolour. "They've been bottled up
there, since the submarines appeared off Helles and sank the
_Majestic_ and t'other boats. There's only destroyers loafing around
Cape Helles now, sir."

"Great Scott, is that so?" asked Monty. "But I suppose we're going
to win?"

"O lord, yes," said the Tommy.

We got back to the _Rangoon_ just before sundown. And, when the sun
began to soften and to bathe the white buildings of Valetta in ruddy
hues, our siren boomed out its farewell, and two English girls in a
small boat waved an incessant good-bye. Crowds gathered to brandish
handkerchiefs, as our transport crept away, with the boys singing:
"Roaming in the gloaming on the banks of the Dardanelles," and
yelling: "Are we downhearted? NO! Are we going to win? YES!"

"Well, that's the last of Malta," murmured Jimmy Doon. "Another
landmark in our lives gone."


§2

Two days' run brought us outside Alexandria. And the confoundedly
learned Doe, pointing out to me the pink and yellow town upon the
African sands, among its palms and its shipping, said: "Behold the
city of Alexander the Great, of Julius Cæsar and Cleopatra; the home
of the Greek scriptures; and the see of the great saints, Clement,
Athanasius, and Cyril."

So I did what he wanted. I called him a Classical Encyclopædia, at
which he looked uncomfortable and pleased.

It was Alexandria right enough. We had reached at last the base of
the Dardanelles fight, and entered the outskirts of that ancient
imperial world, which the old Colonel had told us was the theatre of
the campaign.

Travelling very slowly, we steamed into the huge harbour. And soon
we were moored against one of its forty quays, and being addressed
in an infernal jangle of tongues by hundreds of begging Arabs who
came rushing through the guns, limbers and field kitchens arrayed on
the quay.

More anxious than ever for news of the fight, we applied for shore
leave, and, after lunch, went down the gangway, and trod the soil of
Africa for the first time.

At once, like an overpowering personality, the East rose up to
greet us, oppressing us with its merciless Egyptian sun and its
pungent smell of dark humanity. Heady with the sun, and sick with
the smell, we found ourselves in one of the worst streets of
Alexandria, the "Rue des Soeurs," a filthy thoroughfare of
brothels masquerading as shops, and of taverns, which, like the rest
of the world, had gone into military dress and called themselves:
"The Army and Navy Bar," "The Lord Kitchener Bar," and "The Victory
Bar."

Phew! the sweat and the stench! The East was a vapour bath. What a
climate for a white man to make war in! And yet everywhere in this
city of Alexander and Athanasius, British and Australian soldiers
sauntered on foot or drove government waggons through the streets.
Sick and wounded, too, roamed abroad in their blue hospital
uniforms. Only too pleased to display before three eager novices
their superior acquaintance with Gallipoli, they told us the story
we had heard at Malta: the Helles army, firmly stopped by the hill
of Achi Baba, was melting away in the atrocious heat; but some
startling new venture was expected, for the forty quays of
Alexandria had been scarcely sufficient to cater for the troops and
stores that had put in there; and all the hospitals in Egypt had
been emptied to admit twenty thousand casualties.

We hired a buggy, and drove back through the same odorous street to
the dockyard, and, having given the thief of an Arab driver a third
of his demands, went straight to our cabins to rinse our mouths out.

Next day at sundown, the siren boomed good-bye. Perhaps there was a
military reason for it, but we always left these ports at sunset. It
was sunset, as we steamed out of Malta; and now, with the sky
flushed and the air rose-tinted, we began to slip gently out of the
harbour, amid cheers and handwavings from every ship that we passed.
We were picking our course between the ships, when Monty plucked my
sleeve, and, pointing to a home-bound liner, murmured:

"Beauty, Rupert."

I looked, and saw what he meant. For in the big liner's bows two
tiny English children clad in white, a little boy and girl, waved
mechanically under the instructions of their sweet-faced English
mother, who, though a young one, looked with a mother's eyes at our
yellow rows of helmeted lads, and waved the more energetically (I
doubt not) as she strove to keep back her tears. In the sad eyes of
that youthful mother I saw looking out at us the maternal love of
her sex for all the sons of woman. She was the last Englishwoman
that many of these boys ever saw.

As we drew near the entrance of the harbour, a cheery Englishman was
swept past in a white-sailed craft, and called out, as the wind bore
him away: "Good-bye, lads. Do your duty, lads. Give 'em hell ev'ry
time." Almost the next minute he was a white speck among the
shipping of the harbour, and we were out in the open sea.


§3

The _Rangoon_ had taken aboard at Alexandria a number of new
officers who, after being wounded on Gallipoli and treated in Egypt,
were now returning as fit for duty. One showed a long, white scar
across his scalp, where a bullet had just missed his brain. Another,
who had still two bullets in his body, had been with our
schoolfellow Moles White in the _River Clyde_ on the great April
morning. These were people to be stared at and admired. They
occupied exactly the same position to us as the bloods did when we
were at school. They spoke with ease and grace of Mudros Harbour, of
the great April landing at Helles, of the _Eski Line_, the _River
Clyde_, the _Gully Ravine_, and _Asiatic Annie_. We felt very near
the trenches, when they thus tossed fabled names about in
commonplace conversations. They never used the name "Gallipoli," but
always "The Peninsula." We made a mental note of this.

And they affected very shrewd ideas about the surprise push that was
coming off; but since they only nodded their heads wisely and
refused to be drawn, we suspected that they knew no more about it
than we did. They would point, with the pride of previous knowledge,
to the purple-hilled islands of the Ægean that we were passing all
day: Rhodes, and Patmos, and Mitylene. They laughed with damnable
superiority at our extensive kit, declaring that for their part they
had left everything at the base, and were carrying only a few pounds
of necessaries to the Peninsula. Some of them walked the deck in
private's uniform, maintaining that it was suicide to go to the
Peninsula trenches in the distinctive dress of an officer. They were
quite modest, simple folk, no doubt, but they certainly thought they
were the only people who realised that there was a war on.

Jimmy Doon, who had heard nothing of his lost draft at Alexandria,
and was much relieved thereby, became incorrigible when he smelt the
whiff of the trenches brought by these heroes. He would invite our
subscriptions to the daily sweepstake with the words: "Come along,
fork out. Last few sweeps of your life." And he would take me aside
and say: "I suppose I shall be daisy-pushing soon. Tedious, isn't
it?"

Late one afternoon, when we were only an hour's run from Mudros,
there came by wireless the inspiring news that solved the riddle of
the chain of transports in the Mediterranean and the empty hospitals
in Alexandria. The simple typed message that was pinned on the
notice-board, and could scarcely be read for the crowds surrounding
it, ran: "_We have landed in strong force at Suvla Bay and
penetrated seven miles inland. Ends._"

A new landing, hurrah! April 25th over again! The miracle of Helles
repeated at Suvla! Out with the maps to study the strategy of the
move! The map showed us Suvla Bay far up the coast of the Peninsula,
a long way behind Achi Baba. We measured seven miles, and decided
that the Turks' communications with Achi Baba must have been cut.
"Curse it," said an enthusiast, "we're just too late." We had
visions of the Turkish Army flying from the Helles front in frantic
efforts to escape the surrounding threatened by this landing in
their rear. We saw them abandoning their impregnable positions at
Achi Baba, abandoning the forts of the Narrows, and retreating, if
they could elude destruction, upon Constantinople.

And while the strategists on deck were getting delirious in their
prophecies, the ship steered a path round two outlying islets, and
entered the deep indentation in Lemnos Island, which is the mighty,
hill-locked harbour of Mudros. A little French destroyer, pearl-grey
in the evening light, steamed past us, and the French sailors waved
their arms, and danced a welcome to this troopship of their allies.
The _Rangoon_ yelled at them: "What price Suvla?" Some English
sailors, towed past in coal barges, asked us whether we were
downhearted, and we called back: "NO! What--price--SUVLA! Are we
going to win? YES!"

Now, I ask you, have the subalterns an excuse, or have they not, for
a rough-house this night? It's their last night aboard, for
to-morrow morning the smaller boats will come and carry them to the
deadly Peninsula: and it's the evening that has brought the news of
the Suvla landing. Excuse or not, they fetch the money out of their
pockets at dinner, and order the champagne before the soup is off
the table. Jimmy Doon, whipping the golden cap off his magnum of
"bubbly wine," says: "I've the horrible feeling I shall be dead this
time to-morrow. Pass your glasses, damn you. Cheerioh! Many 'appy
returns from the Great War--some day." "Cheerioh, Jimmy," we
acknowledge. "'Appy days!"

And, when the hundred subalterns, who form the first sitting at
dinner, vacate their places at the tables to make room for the
seniors, who come in state to the second sitting, anyone who sees
them rushing upstairs to the lounge, the bar, and the piano, knows
that there will be noise before the clock is an hour older. It
begins in the lounge: but the impulse of the spirit of riot is too
strong for the rough-house to be localised there. It's the end of
the voyage, and they must forthwith go and cheer the General. They
must cheer the Captain. Above all they must cheer Major Hardy, the
old sport! The mass of subalterns flows down the first flight of
stairs to the square gallery which overlooks the dining saloon, like
railings looking down into a bear-pit. And, like the bears, the
seniors were feeding in the bottom of the saloon. They look up from
their nuts and wine to see a hundred flushed young faces staring
from the gallery at their meal.

"Three cheers for the General!" cries a voice in the gallery.

Three of the noisiest fill the ship. And, when a hundred British
officers have yelled three cheers, it's in the nature of them to go
on and sing: "For he's a jolly good fellow," and to finish up with a
final cheer that leaves its forerunners nowhere. It's a way they
have in the Army.

"Speech! Speech!" demand exalted voices.

The General rises: and that's an excuse, heaven help us, for more
cheers, and "He's a jolly good fellow" all over again. The seniors
are young enough to beat time on the tables by hammering with their
spoons till the plates dance; and by tinkling their glasses like
tubular bells. In the last cheer one major so far forgets
himself--his name is Hardy--as to let go with a cat-call, after
which he immediately retires into his monocle, and pretends he
hasn't.

The General, who is a kindly old brigadier with twinkling eyes,
says: "I can't make a speech, but I'll sing you a song." He raises
his glass to the gallery, and to the hundred faces looking down, and
starts in a wheezy tenor: "For _they_ are jolly good fellows." He
gets no further, but takes advantage of the tumult of cheering to
resume his seat.

The Captain, a naval hero of the Helles landing, is put through it.
And in his speech he says: "If the Navy is really the father and
mother of the Army in this Gallipoli stunt, then I say--father and
mother are proud of their children"--(cheers from the ship's
officers). "The ships came as close in shore as possible--and always
will, gentlemen, as long as you're on that plagued Peninsula--but,
by God! it was the Army that left the shelter of the ships, and went
through the blizzard of bullets on to the beaches of Cape Helles."

Can such a compliment be acknowledged otherwise than uproariously?
Close your ears, if you can't stand a noise.

The Chief Officer is put through it. And by way of a speech he says:
"Suppose, instead of cheering me, you cheer the fellows who have
landed at Suvla?"

"Highland Honours!" yells a voice. And the seniors rise, stand upon
their chairs, put one foot on the table amongst the plates, and,
raising their glasses, join in the musical honours given to the new
army at Suvla.

Major Hardy is called, and a speech demanded from him. Loudly
applauded, he limps to the middle of the saloon, puts his monocle in
his eye, and says one sentence: "I never heard such bloody nonsense
in all my life." Releasing his monocle so that it falls on his
chest, he limps back to his seat, and apologises to Monty.

The seniors having been thus sporting, it occurs to some bright
young devil that it would be a graceful thing to sing "Home, sweet
Home" to them, as they finish their meal. And "Home, sweet Home"
leads naturally to "Auld Lang Syne," sung with linked arms and
swaying bodies.

And then the crowd of subalterns, worked up by the licence allowed
it, like a horse excited by a head-free gallop, returns in force to
the lounge. The pianist strikes up "The Old Folks at Home." A
Scotsman breaks in with the proclamation that It's oh! but he's
longing for his ain folk; Though he's far across the sea, Yet his
heart will ever be Away in dear old Scotland with his ain folk. And
an Irishman, feeling that there's too much of Scotland about these
songs, begins to publish the attractions of the hills of Donegal:

          "And, please God, if He so wills,
           Soon I'll see my Irish hills,
           The hills of Donegal, so dear to me."

Then the piano rings out with ancient dance-tunes, and Harry
Fenwick, prince of dancers, seizes Edgar Doe round the waist, and,
clasping the slim youth to him, leads the boy (who's as graceful as
a girl and as sinuous as a serpent) through the voluptuous movements
of the latest dance. Up and down go their outstretched arms like a
pump handle, but oh! so sweetly; round and round with eyes
half-closed swirl their bodies; and, just as you think they are
going round again, they surprise you by teasingly stepping out the
music in a straight line across the lounge; and, when you least
expect it, they are retracing dainty steps along the same straight
line--always seductive, tantalising, enticing.

But stop the dance. Here arrives Major Hardy to a din of welcome.
And under his instructions they burn the champagne corks, and
therewith decorate their faces. One is ornamented with a pointed
beard and the devil's horns, and turned into Mephistopheles. One is
given an unshaven chin, and made to represent Moses Ikeystein.
Another is a White-eyed Kaffir. And don't think Major Hardy omits
himself. Not he. He is Hindenburg.

Jimmy Doon, I regret to say, is undoubtedly drunk. He is walking
about seeking someone to fight. To my discomfiture he approaches me
as his best friend, and therefore the one most likely to fight him.

"Will you fight?" says he. "There's a decent shap."

I try with a sickly laugh to appear at my ease, and answer: "No,
damned if I will," blushing to the roots of my hair, and wishing the
painful person would go away.

"And you call yourself a Christian!" retorts Jimmy; which provokes
the rest of the subalterns to hold a court-martial on James Doon for
being tight. And they court-martial Fishy Fielding, an ugly fellow,
whose eyes are like a cod's. What for, you seek to know. Well, they
court-martial him because of his face. Both culprits are found
guilty.

At 1 a.m. Jimmy staggers to his cabin to rest a swimming head. But
he doesn't go to sleep till he has summoned his steward, and
instructed him to call him early in the morning--call him
early--call him early, for he's to be Queen of the May.


§4

The riot had been still young when Doe entered the lounge from the
deck, and, walking up to me, said:

"Come outside a minute."

He moved and spoke with the slight excitement and mysteriousness of
one who had discovered something. I followed him out from the noise
of the lounge into the silence of the deck.

"Come where it's quiet," he whispered.

We walked to the deserted bows.

"Now listen. Do you hear anything?"

"No," I answered, after awhile.

"Listen again. You won't catch it first go."

I strained my ears, while Doe stared at me.

"Yes, I hear it," I proclaimed at last. "Is it Helles, do you think,
or Suvla?"

"I expect some of it is the old Turk trying to resist the invasion
of Suvla."

For I had heard a distant throb in the air--no more--like a heart
beating miles away. At times the throb became a rumble which could
be felt rather than heard. Something in me jumped at the sound. The
startled feeling was rather pleasing than otherwise. It was not a
small thing to hear for the first time the guns of Gallipoli, to
whose mouths our lives had been slowly drawing us during nineteen
years.


§5

Padre Monty finished the voyage in his own style. Early the next
morning he had a corporate farewell Mass for all his servers and his
family. And this is the true story how Major Hardy chanced to limp
to the service.

He retired early from the revels of the previous night, and, as Doe
and I were getting into our bunks, we heard him in his cabin next
door whistling "Home, sweet Home," while he disrobed. We heard the
steward ask him:

"What time will you be called in the morning, sir?"

"What time?" answered the Major's voice, when he had finished the
tune. "What time? Let's see. I say, Ray," he inquired through the
wall, "this padre-fellow's got a service or something in the
morning--_what_?"

"Yes, sir," shouted I.

"Some unearthly hour, seven or what?"

"Seven-thirty, sir."

"Ah yes," said the Major's voice, soft again, to the steward, "call
me six-thirty."

"Yes, sir. Will you have shaving water then, sir?"

"Shaving water--_what_? Yes, surely." And the Major shouted through
the wall: "We shave, don't we, Ray?"

"Well, yes, sir," agreed I.

"Of course," continued the Major, reproachfully, to the steward.
"Bring shaving water. And there'll be the most deplorable row if
it's not hot."

"Will you have a cup of tea to get up with, sir?" asked the steward.

"Tea? What? No, I don't think so. No, surely not." Once more he
sought enlightenment through the wall. "We don't have tea, do we,
Ray?"

"Well, no, sir. That's as you please."

"No. No tea, steward. Of course not. What nonsense!"

"Very good, sir. Good night, sir."

"Good night, steward.... You see, Ray," shouted Major Hardy, "I am a
bit out of this church business. Must get into it again--_what_. And
the padre's a good fellow."

In such wise Major Hardy half apologised to two boys for being
present, and limped to the service.

Half a hundred others crowded the smoking room. This last Mass being
what Monty called his "prize effort," he insisted on having two
servers, and selected Doe and myself, whom he chose to regard as his
"prize products." On either side of the altar we took our places,
not now clad in white flannels, but uniformed and booted for going
ashore. Monty, as he approached the altar, gave one quick,
involuntary glance at his packed congregation, ready dressed for
war, and slightly sparkled and flushed with pleasure.

After the Creed had been said, Monty turned to deliver a little
farewell address. Very simply he told his hearers that, when in a
few hours' time the boats came to take them to the Peninsula
Beaches, they were to know that they were doing the right thing.
There was a tense stillness, as he said with suggestive slowness: "I
am only the lips of your Church. She has been with you on this ship,
and striven not to fail you. And now to God's mercy and protection
she commits you. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord give you
His peace this day and evermore."

If Monty desired to fill the room with an unworldly atmosphere, and
to raise the cloud "Shechinah" around his little altar, he knew by
the solemn hush, as he turned to continue the Mass, that he had
succeeded. And at the end of it all he added a farewell hymn, which
the congregation rose from their knees to sing. Sung to the tune of
"Home, sweet Home," like an echo from the purer parts of the
previous night, its words were designed by Monty to linger for many
a day in the minds of his soldier-servers.

          "Dismiss me not Thy service, Lord,
             But train me for Thy will:
           For even I in fields so broad
             Some duties may fulfil:
           And I would ask for no reward
             Except to serve Thee still."

So they sang: and they went out on to the sunlit deck trailing
clouds of glory.


§6

It really did seem the end of the voyage, and the beginning of
something utterly new--and something so dangerous withal that our
pulse-rate quickened with suspense--when the Military Landing
Officer came aboard, laden with papers, and, sitting at a table in
the lounge, gave into the hands of boys, who yesterday were playing
quoits-tennis, written orders to proceed at once to such places as
W. Beach on Helles or the new front at Suvla.

"Here we take our tickets for the tumbrils," murmured Jimmy Doon, as
we stood awaiting our turn. "Third single for La Guillotine."

And yet it was with a jar of disappointment that we heard the M.L.O.
say to Doe, after consulting his papers:

"Stop at Mudros. Report to Rest Camp, Mudros East."

"Why, sir, am I not going to--" began Doe.

"Next, please. What name?" interrupted the M.L.O. There was war
forty miles away, and no time to argue with a young subaltern. "What
name, you?"

"Ray, sir. East Cheshires."

"Rest Camp, Mudros."

"But is it for long, sir?" ventured I.

"Next, please. What name, padre?"

"Monty," answered our friend. "East Cheshires."

"Report Rest Camp," promptly said the M.L.O., and, raising his
voice, called to the waiting crowd: "All East Cheshire Details
detained at Mudros."

"But I have to relieve--" began Monty.

"Next, please. What name?" the M.L.O. burst in, looking up into
Jimmy Doon's face.

"Jimmy--I mean, Lieutenant Doon, Fifth East Lancs."

"Held up, Mudros. Report--"

"But my draft, sir, has--"

"Next, please."

And Jimmy came away, hoping he had heard the last of his draft. He
joined our Cheshire group, which was discussing the latest
thunderbolt.

"Lord, isn't it enormously unseemly?" he grumbled. "I'm left out,
too. Why, I've been a year in the Army, and not yet seen a man
killed. I hoped I was certain to see one now."

"You detestably gruesome little cad," said Monty.

"I wonder if it's for long," murmured Doe. "I'd take the risk of
being killed rather than not be able to say I'd seen the great Cape
Helles, or, failing Helles, this new Suvla front."

"As it is," grunted Jimmy, "we shall probably be at Mudros till the
end of the world."

The M.L.O. had not been gone an hour before the Navy sent its
pinnaces with large lighters in tow for conveying the first drafts
to the Peninsula ferry-boats. Each pinnace was in command of a
midshipman, generally a fair-haired English boy looking about
fifteen. These baby officers, who gave their orders to wide-chested
and bronzed Tars, old enough to be their fathers, were stared at by
us with romantic interest. For there had been stories in England of
the deeds of the middies in the famous First Landing at Helles, when
they remained in the bows of the boats they commanded, scorning
cover of any kind, as became British officers in charge of men.

After the lighters, the _Snaefell_, an old Isle of Man steamer, came
alongside, and, having taken some hundreds of men aboard, edged away
from us, while Major Hardy, his heart ever overthrowing his dignity,
said wrathfully:

"Give 'em a cheer or something, damn you."

We raised a cheer. The men responded, though not very effectively,
and cheered and waved as the _Snaefell_ carried them away.

"They know what they're going to, poor lads," mumbled Major Hardy.

Next came the _Redbreast_, whose decks were soon as crowded as the
_Snaefell's_ had been. Major Hardy scanned them through his
eyeglass, and then turned snuffily upon us and said:

"Damn your English reticence! Damn your unimaginative silence! Why
don't you study the psychology of these boys and this moment?"

Leaning over the rail, he cried at the crowd on the _Redbreast_:

"Good-bye, lads. Let fly! Three cheers for the king! Let 'em go!"

The boys caught his enthusiasm, as boys always will, and followed
his lead, cheering the king and singing: "For he's a jolly good
fellow.... And so say all of us. With a hip-hip-hip-hurrah!"

And with them cheering and singing thus, the _Redbreast_ slipped
quietly away.

Major Hardy dropped his monocle on his chest. A good voyage--a jolly
voyage--was over.

And now a little motor-launch puffed alongside to collect the Mudros
Details: and we went down the _Rangoon's_ hull to be ferried ashore.
We were ferried, as you shall see, out of our dazzling news of the
campaign into the darkness of collapsing things.



_Part II: The White Heights_


CHAPTER VII

MUDROS, IN THE ISLE OF LEMNOS


§1

The motor-launch beat away from the _Rangoon_. Monty, standing in
the stern, lit a pipe, and stared over the match-flame at the empty
troopship. Jimmy Doon, sitting in the bows, surveyed the hill-locked
harbour, and said to me:

"Well, there's one comfort: we shan't be killed on Gallipoli."

"Why not?"

"Because we shall certainly die at Mudros."

Doe was brooding over the ships of the Navy on the water, and over
the white camps of the Army on the dull, bleak hill-slopes.

"I didn't know there were so many ships in the world," he said.

It was a wonderful revelation of sea power. There were battleships,
heavy and squat; cruisers, more slender and graceful; low-lying
destroyers, coal black or silver grey; and hospital ships, which, in
their glistening white paint, were as much more lovely than the
men-of-war as ruth is more lovely than ruthlessness. Our little
launch was passing heavy-gunned monitors; skirting round submarines
that lay above the surface like the backs of whales; and panting
along beneath the enormous _Aquitania_, whose funnels appeared to
reach a higher sky than the surrounding hills. Flags flew
everywhere: the white ensign from the masts of the Navy, the red
ensign from the troopers, and the martial tricolour from the vessels
of the Frenchmen.

Jimmy Doon sighed and pointed ashore. "Look at the unseemly
hospitals," he said.

As he spoke, we were steering towards a little landing-jetty, called
the "Egyptian Pier," and could see the Red Cross floating over the
camps.

"Hospitals at Malta," groaned Jimmy, "hospitals at Alexandria,
hospital ships all over the Mediterranean and the Ægean--Ray, it's
dangerous: we'll go home."

But, instead, we stepped ashore. At once the reflected coolness of
the water deserted us; the heady heat off the dusty land hit our
flesh like the hot air from an oven; and a glare from the white,
trampled dust and the white canvas tents troubled our eyes and set
our temples aching. And the rolling hills, empty of growth, except
grass burnt brown and thistles burnt yellow, gave us a shock of
depression.

"Damn, oh damn," said Jimmy.

"Precisely," agreed Monty.

We walked on, till we reached an array of square tents that formed
No. 16 Stationary Hospital. Here pale and emaciated men were
wandering in pyjamas between tents marked "Dysentery," "Enteric,"
and "Infectious Wards."

"Damn," repeated Jimmy.

Then we came upon a barbed-wire compound, and, caught by the morbid
fascination of all prisons, looked in. It was full of sick and
wounded Turks, who lay on stretchers in bell-tents, and, by a
miserable pantomime of raising two fingers to their lips and blowing
into the air, besought of our charity a cigarette. We went in, and
handed Abdullas among them. And that--now I come to think of it--was
our first encounter with the enemy we had been sent to fight.

At the Rest Camp Doe and I were pushed into a tent that,
insufficiently supplied with pegs, was flapping irritatingly in a
rising wind. Sighing for the cosy cabins of the _Rangoon_, we tossed
off our equipment on to the earthy floor and lounged into the mess
for lunch. In the mess tent we sat down to trestle-tables, laid with
coarse enamelled plates and mugs.

Monty turned to Jimmy, and asked: "What was that remark you made
just now, James Doon?"

"Damn," answered Jimmy with great readiness.

"Thanks," said Monty.

After lunch there came to Doe and myself the only pleasing thing in
a day of gloom. That was the joy of dressing up in the true tropical
kit worn at Mudros; brown brogue shoes; pale brown stockings, turned
down at the calves; khaki drill shorts, displaying bare knees; khaki
shirts open at the throats, and with sleeves rolled up above white
elbows; our topees, and no more. And, since we were sure we looked
very nice, we decided to walk abroad among men. Besides, the
shameful whiteness of our knees and forearms must be browned at once
by a walk in the toasting sun.

We set off for the village of Mudros East. It proved to be a
collection of ramshackle dwellings, as little habitable as English
cowhouses; of stores, where thieving Greeks sold groceries to the
soldiers; and of taverns, whose vines hung heavily clustered over
porch and window. There was an ornate and lofty Greek Orthodox
Church, and a little, unconsidered cemetery, where the bones of the
dead were working their way above the ground.

In the streets of this tumble-down town walked every type of
Gallipoli campaigner: British Tommies, grousing and cheerful;
Australians, remarkable for their physique; deep-brown Maoris;
bearded Frenchmen in baggy trousers; shining and grinning African
negroes from French colonies; stately Sikhs; charming little
Gurkhas, looking like chocolate Japanese; British Tars in their
white drill; and similarly clad sailors of Russia, France and
Greece.

It was while strolling through this fancy-dress fair that we
suddenly came upon the camp of the French, and were briskly saluted
by a French sentry. We returned a thrilling acknowledgment. For it
was the first time that our great Ally had greeted our advent into
the area of war.

Lord! how the wind was rising! And with it the dust! The grey motor
ambulances, as they purred past with their sick, raised dust storms,
that blew away over the roofs in clouds as high again as the houses.
The ships and the harbour, though it was a sunny, cloudless day,
could only be seen through a flying veil of dust. Quickly the vines,
overhanging the porches, became white with dust; our teeth and
palates coated with it. We hastened home to the sorry shelter of the
mess that we might wash the dust down our throats with tea.

But bah! we went out of the dust into the flies. The mess was
buzzing with them; and they were accompanied in their attacks upon
our persons by bees, who hummed about like air-ships among
aeroplanes. I dropped upon the table a speck of Sir Joseph Paxton's
excellent jam, now peppered and gritty with dust, and in a few
seconds it was hidden by a scrimmage of black flies, fighting over
it and over one another. Other flies fell into my tea, and did the
breast-stroke for the side of the mug. I pushed the mug along to
Jimmy Doon, and pointed out to him, with the conceit of the expert,
that they were making the mistake of all novices at swimming; they
were moving their arms and legs too fast, and getting no motive
power out of their leg-drive.

"Don't talk to me about 'em," said Jimmy. "I'm fast going mad. I'm
not knocking 'em off my jam, but swallowing the little devils as
they sit there. If I didn't do that, they'd commit suicide down my
throat. Every time so far that I've opened my mouth to inhale the
breeze, I've taken down a fly. It's tedious."

Ah! this wit was all forced gaiety, and the more depressing for
that. It generated melancholy, as a damp fire generates smoke. I
felt there was something wrong around me this afternoon--a shadow of
evil. The conversation died: only the flies buzzed monotonously over
us, as though we were offal or carrion; and the wind blew the dust
in hail-storms against the canvas walls of the tent. And then it
came--the terribly evil thing. The O.C. Rest Camp entered the mess,
and announced with cynical cheerfulness:

"_Well, we've lost this campaign._ The great new landing at Suvla
has failed."

There was a ghastly silence, and a voice muttered, "God!"

"Yes, and had it succeeded we'd have won. But the Turks have got us
held at Suvla beneath Sari Bair, same as they've got us held at
Helles beneath Achi Baba. The news is just filtering through."

With horror I listened to the cold-blooded statement. The shock of
it produced a beating in the head, and a sickness. And I felt
foolish, as though I might do something lunatic, like giving a
witless shout, or running amok with a table-knife. I touched Doe,
and whispered: "I'm going to get out of this. The old fool doesn't
know what he's talking about."

I went away, and flung myself down on my valise in my flapping tent.
I lay on my back, my hands clasped behind my head, and gazed up into
the tent-roof loud with flies. Suvla had failed! It was a lie--an
alarmist lie! Why, only yesterday we had exulted in it as the
winning move, declaring that the game was over bar shouting, and
regretting that we could not be in at the death. What was it
reminding me of--this sudden "black-out," just as the lights had
been brightest? Ah, I had it: that moment, when, in the flush of
winning the Swimming Cup for Bramhall, I learned that I had lost it.
How similar this was! Then the prize had been a silver cup, which
had been fought for by a parcel of schoolboys. Now the grander
trophy was that silver strip of the Dardanelles which men called
"the Narrows," and the combatants were a pack of nations.

Suvla had failed! Why was I identifying my tiny self with a huge
thing like Britain, and feeling that, because she had failed in her
great fight for the Dardanelles, so I would fail, and purposely, in
my little struggle after moral beauty? What a fool I was--but that
was how it was working out. Beauty be hanged! Monty was badly wrong
in proclaiming that nature was chiefly beautiful, and life on the
whole was good. And, if he were wrong, why, then there was no
further need to toil after a beauty of character to match the beauty
of seas and hills. Good heavens! Beauty in the Mudros Hills! They
were but homes of thirsty grass and dying thistles, dust and
torturing flies. These ideals of Monty's were vapoury. Why not throw
them up--throw up moral effort? I would. There was _not_ more
beauty--

It was at this moment that Monty himself stood in the tent door.

"Down, Rupert?" he asked. "What's the matter?"

I looked up into his eyes, and saw in them that inquiring sympathy
which could so quickly transfigure him from a lively friend into a
gentle priest.

"Oh, nothing," I said. I was in no mood just now to tell him
anything. "Bored, that's all."

And then I looked round, and noticed that the tent was full of a
violet light. It was as if limelight had been turned on from behind
a violet glass.

"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "The air's all coloured!"

"Yes," said he, "I was coming to tell you to look at the sunset.
It's bad old Mudros's one good deed."

Out to the tent door I went, and looked over the harbour to the
western shores. And there, very rapidly, the ball of the sun was
going down behind the hills with an affair of gold and crimson
lights, while all the hills were violet. The colour was so strong
that it came out and flushed with violet the black hulls of the
ships. And they, strangely motionless, lay mirrored in a water of
white and gold.

"Listen!" said Monty.

For from all the camps the British bugles were singing the sad call
of "Retreat"; the French trumpets wailing "Sun-down," and their
rifles firing a rapid fusillade to speed the departing day.
Meanwhile the heat had died into a refreshing coolness; the wind had
dropped, leaving the dust undisturbed on the ground; and the flies
were roosting in the tops of the tents.

Very soon it was quite dark. Then everything lit up: first, the
camps on the hills, their innumerable hurricane-lamps resembling the
lights of great cities; then, the vessels in the bay--and, in the
quiet of the windless evening, their bells, telling the hour, came
clearly over the water. The long hulls of the hospital ships marked
themselves off by rows of green lights and large, luminous red
crosses. Reflected in the still water, they gave to the basin the
appearance of a pleasure lake, gay with red and green fairy lamps.
The battleships hid their bellicose features in the darkness, and,
since one or two of them had their bands playing, might have been
pleasure steamers. And from an Indian encampment behind us came a
weird incantation and the steady beat of the tom-tom.

Somehow, in the beauty of the Mudros night, I felt a spring of new
hope in our campaign. We would win in the end. And with this re-born
confidence went nobler resolutions for myself. To-morrow I would
resume moral effort. To-morrow I would begin again.



CHAPTER VIII

THE GREEN ROOM


§1

The story of our two-months' delay at Mudros is largely the story of
Monty's eccentricities. As for Doe and myself, we just watched with
growing pride our knees burning in the sun to a Maori brown. When we
bathed in the bay and saw that, while our bodies as a whole were a
pale English pink, our elbows, knees and necks, that were daily
exposed to the sun, were turning to this beautiful tint, we would
place our limbs side by side to see which of us achieved the greater
depth of colour. For this we drew our pay.

Jimmy Doon received early his orders to join his regiment on the
Peninsula. He left us, declaring that he only contemplated paying a
flying visit to the front, as the very sound of the guns convinced
him that he was a civilian at heart. He would be back soon, he said.

Monty appointed himself Chaplain to No. 16 Stationary Hospital, and
set to work. And during this period at Mudros he was just about as
regrettable and impossible in his behaviour as I have ever known
him. He procured a gramophone, and, touring the tents, in which the
sick men lay, would set the atrocious instrument playing, "Kitty,
Kitty, isn't it a pity in the city you work so hard?" The invalids
loved the jingling refrain, and added to the plagues of Mudros by
roaring its chorus. Then Monty would return in the worst of tempers
to our tent, and, putting the instrument roughly away, sit down and
look miserable. If Doe asked permission to feel his pulse or see his
tongue, he would shut him up with the words, "Oh, stuff!" But once
he laughed sarcastically and burst, with all the Monty enthusiasm
and emphasis, into a diatribe against Broad Churchmanship, the
ignorance of laymen, the timidity of the clergy, wishy-washy
sermons--in short, the criminal lack of dogmatic teaching. Not
seeing any connexion between dogmatic teaching and a gramophone, Doe
looked so amazed that Monty laughed, and grumbled:

"It's fine priestly work I'm doing for these lads, isn't it? Work
any hospital orderly could do. I ought to be hearing their
confessions, and saying Mass for them. Instead I play them 'Kitty,
Kitty, isn't it a pity--?' But they don't understand--they don't
understand."

"But, gracious heavens," said Doe, "you can't be always doing
priestly work. And we know to our sorrow that you do have sing-song
services sometimes. Why, last night you had at least a couple of
hundred bawling hymns at the tops of their voices, and making the
night hideous. Wasn't that priestly enough?"

"No," he snapped. "It was a service any layman or hot-gospeller
could hold. There they were--a mass of bonny lads, all calling
themselves 'C. of E.,' and none of them knowing anything about the
Mass or confession. Ah, they don't understand. It breaks my heart,
Rupert. All sons of the Church; and they don't know the lines of
their mother's face!"

"Well, why on earth," said Doe, impatiently, "do you run your
beastly gramophone and your rousing services, if they're not your
proper work?"

"Why, don't you see?" murmured Monty, turning away to watch the sun
setting behind a sweep of violet hills, "I _must_ pull my weight. I
can feel patriotic at times. And, if I can't be a priest to the big
majority, I can at least be their pal. That's how a padre's work
pans out: a priest to the tiny few, and a pal to the big majority. I
suppose it's something. Perhaps it's something."


§2

It was Monty who first called Mudros, "The Green Room." The name was
happily chosen, for here at Mudros the actors either prepared for
their entry on the Gallipoli stage, or returned for a breather, till
the call-boy should summon them again. In it, after the manner of
green rooms, we discussed how the show in the limelight was going.
We saw much that made us gossip.

We saw the huge black transports bear into Mudros Bay. Many were
ships that were the pride of this watery planet. Like a duchess
sailing into a ball-room came the _Mauretania_, making the mere
professional warships and the common merchantmen look very small
indeed. But even she, haughty lady, was put in the shade, when her
young but gargantuan sister, the _Aquitania_, floating leisurely
between the booms, claimed the attention of the harbour, and reduced
us all to a state of grovelling homage. And then the _Olympic_, not
to be outdone by these overrated Cunarders, would join the company
with her nose in the air.

They were packed with yellow-clad and helmeted soldiers, who were as
noisy about their entrance as the great ships were silent. Tommy,
coming into harbour at the end of a voyage, had a habit of
announcing his approach. So, when we on the land heard over the
water shouting, singing, genial oaths, "How-d'ye-do's," and
"What-ho's"; and such advices as "Cheerioh! The Cheshires are here!"
"We'll open them Narrows for you"; "Here we are, here we are, here
we are again," or the simple statement "We've coom!" we left our
tents, and just went into our field-glasses, as one goes into a
theatre.

The men in the transports were delayed a night in the harbour, and
on the following day disgorged into the floating omnibuses that
plied nightly to Suvla or Helles. These omnibuses were old Isle of
Man passenger steamers, jolly old tubs, doing their bit like papa
and uncle and grandad in the National Guard at home. Being due to
arrive with their crowds of fighting men at the Peninsula in the
darkness of midnight, they would get under way just before dusk.
They went out with the sun, travelling straight and slowly between
the hulls.

To the lads, thus being drawn to the danger-zone, a send-off would
be given in salvos of cheers from the sides of the anchored vessels,
the bands of the Navy sometimes playing them out with the old airs
of England. And the lads themselves, enjoying their evanescent
triumph, and feeling like the applauded heroes on a carnival car,
would shout back a merry response, or pick up the chorus of the tune
rendered by the distant band.

Many a still evening Doe and I watched their departure, knowing
that soon we should go out of the port like that in the red of a
sunset. And Monty, hearing the cries of "Good Luck," "Love to Johnny
Turk," "Finish it off quickly," "Hi, put yer trust in Gawd, and keep
your 'ead down," and the faint strains of "Steady, boys, steady,
we'll fight and we'll conquer again and again," would bewail the
fact that he was too far off to cheer, and give vent to rising and
choking feelings. He wanted to pat these departing lads on the back.
For in the Green Room they had dressed for their parts, and were now
going through the door on their way to the stage.


§3

Were we really winning on the Peninsula or losing? August, in spite
of that black remark of the O.C. Rest Camp, decided that all was
well. The fresh arrivals on the troopships brought with them like a
breeze from the homeland that atmosphere of glowing optimism which
prevailed in England in the early August days. The same news came
from the opposite direction. For the streams of wounded, who in the
weeks following the Suvla invasion poured into our Mudros hospitals,
told us that the Turk was fairly on the run. "It can't last long,"
they said. "We've only to climb one of them two hills--either Sari
Bair on the Suvla front, or old Achi Baba at Helles--and the trick's
done. From the top of either of 'em we shall look down upon the
Narrows, and blow their forts to glory. Up'll go the Navy, and there
y'are!" It would be over by Christmas, they believed; for Christmas
was always the pivot of Tommy's time.

So spoke August, drinking deep from cups overflowing with
confidence. September detected a taste of doubt in the cheery
optimism of the Green Room, and like a loyal British September, spat
out the unpalatable mouthful. But the taste remained.

Nothing but stagnation seemed to be prevailing on the Peninsula. The
incessant roll of guns could no longer be heard at Mudros. The
old-time shifts of wounded ceased to pour into our hospitals. In
their stead came daily crowds of dysentery, jaundice and septic
cases. And these men told a different tale from the wounded, who, a
month before, had returned from the stage like actors aglow with
triumph. All reported "Nothing doing" on Gallipoli.

And the Big Rains were fast drawing due. The time was at hand when
the ravines and gorges that cracked and spliced the Mudros Hills
would roar to the torrents, and the hard, dust-strewn earth would
become acres of mud, from which our tent-pegs would be drawn like
pins out of butter. We remembered Elijah on Mount Carmel, and looked
at the sky for rain.

But we looked in alarm and not hope. For, if the Narrows were not
forced before the rains and sea-storms began, the campaign, we
understood, would be doomed to disaster. The rain would turn our
great Intermediate Base, Mudros, into a useless lagoon, and the
sea-storms would beat on the beaches of the Peninsula, smash the
frail jetties built at Suvla and Helles, and, by preventing the
landing of supplies, condemn the Suvla army and the Helles army to
annihilation or surrender.

"Surely, oh surely," said Monty, looking up one day at a cloudy sky,
"something largely conceived will be attempted before the rains work
havoc among the communications on land, and the storms slash at the
communications by sea. We _must_ be going to win."

"O Lord, yes," echoed I.

But September with its dry weather began to wane, the rains started
a plaguy pelting, and the winds commenced to excite the placid
Ægean, while we still awaited big movements and final things.


§4

Then the evil Peninsula sent straight to Monty's feet something that
seemed like a direct message of scornful warning to our little
_Rangoon_ group. It was such a message as defiant kings have sent to
banter those who contemplated an invasion of their realms. This is
how it came.

Day after day (you must know) in the early morning, the dead, sewn
up in their blankets, were landed from the ships that had picked
them up in a dying condition at Suvla and Helles. They were laid in
rows on the little landing-jetty, the "Egyptian Pier." After awhile
the men would put them by in a mortuary tent, where they rested till
the evening, when a G.S. waggon conveyed them to the cemetery.

Generally Monty, whose duty it was to bury them, would sit on the
driver's seat and ride to the cemetery, after persuading Doe and me
to ride with him.

On a certain September evening Monty glanced at the Camp
Commandant's "chit," and read it aloud to us: "'Seven bodies for
burial at 1700.' Are you coming?"

Doe turned towards me. "Coming, Rupert?"

"No. I'm too tired."

"Oh, rot, you scrimshanker. You've been hogging it all the
afternoon."

"Yes, come on," said Monty. "We'll drive on the waggon."

The G.S. waggon with its seven blanketed forms was outside waiting
for Monty. It was drawn by two teams of mules with mounted drivers.
The driver's seat was therefore vacant, and on to it Monty, Doe and
I climbed. The waggon started, as Monty whispered: "It's rather like
the Dead Cart in the days of the Great Plague, isn't it?" We never
spoke loud with that load behind us.

The waggon jolted along the straight white road to the cemetery,
which was a little dusty acre on a plain between the hills. We
halted at the gate, and Monty, getting down from his seat, robed by
the front wheels. And, when the seven bodies had been removed in
their stretchers from the waggon and laid in a line upon the road,
the corporal of the Burial Party saluted Monty, and said:

"One's an officer, sir. Will you take him first?"

"I'll go in front," answered Monty. "Then the seven bodies, one
after another, the officer's body leading. Feet first, of course."

"Very good, sir." The corporal, seeing that the bearers stood ready
at the head and foot of each stretcher, said quietly:

"Bearers, raise!"

All the bearers bent in simultaneous motion, and lifted the
stretchers from the road.

"Slow--march!"

The procession moved off, Monty in front picking his way between the
graves towards those open to receive the day's dead. The Greek
grave-diggers rested on their spades, and bared their heads. Some
stray French soldiers sprang to attention, and saluted. A few
curious British and a tall brown Sikh copied the Frenchmen,
remaining at the salute till the procession had passed. And, when
the open graves were reached, all these stragglers gathered round to
form a little company of mourners.

Having seen the bodies laid by the graves, the corporal bent over
the form of the dead officer, and removed from his breast that small
piece of paper, which was always pinned to the blanket to state the
man's identity: in this case it happened to be a government
envelope, marked "On His Majesty's Service." The corporal handed it
to Monty.

I recall the moment of his action as the last quiet moment before an
unexpected shock. I seem to remember that it was a very graceful
body, long and shapely, that lay there, outlined beneath the
tightly-wrapped blanket. It looked like an embalmed Egyptian.

Monty read the envelope, and frowned. He read it again, crumpled it
up, and looked down at the long, slender form of the dead officer.
Then, glancing round for Doe and me, and catching our eyes, as we
watched him in curiosity, he handed the envelope to us. We smoothed
out its crumpled folds, and read: "On His Majesty's Service. Lieut.
James Doon."

This was the message that the Peninsula had contemptuously tossed to
us.

Monty began the service, but I scarcely heard him. I was staring at
the blanketed form, and thinking of Jimmy as he had been: Jimmy with
all his bitter jests about death; Jimmy grumbling on the _Rangoon_
because he would have to stay at Mudros "till the end of the world";
Jimmy leaving for the Peninsula with the words that he would be back
soon. I thought how strange it was that we should have been sitting
on that G.S. waggon, without knowing that we were taking a last ride
with Jimmy Doon. I pictured again Jimmy being borne into the
cemetery, feet first, at the head of his six dead men.

"Man that is born of a woman--" Monty was saying, and, as the words
fell, the bearers raised with ropes the corpse from off its
stretcher, and began to lower it into the grave.

"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust--" At this point the
kindly French and British onlookers and the tall brown Sikh picked
up their handfuls of earth, and threw them upon the body as their
compliment to the dead.

The sight of Jimmy going down into his grave on the lengthening
ropes started in me a real grief, and, when the strangers paid their
simple respect to the unknown dead, I felt momentarily stricken, and
shivered with pride that I had known him whom they thus honoured.
But all this passed away, and left a dull indifference. The war was
fast teaching me its petrifying lesson--to be incapable of horror. I
tried to recover my sorrow, thinking that I ought to do so, but I
could feel no emotion at all. "This sort of thing," ran my thoughts,
"seems to be the order of the day for the generation in which we
were born. It's all very fine, or all very unfair. I don't know. The
old Colonel and Monty said it was very glorious, so no doubt it must
be. But, whatever it is, we're all in it. Poor old Jimmy."

So I fell into a mood that was partly the resignation of perplexity,
partly a sulkiness with fate. With the same blunted mind, perceiving
no pain, I watched the Greek diggers, at the end of the service, as
they began to shovel the earth on to my friend's body. First they
tossed it so that it fell in a little pile on his breast; then they
threw it, dust and clods, over his feet, till at last only the head,
hooded in its blanket, was uncovered. They turned their attention to
that, and the earth fell heavily on Jimmy Doon's face. I turned
unfeelingly away.

Poor Jimmy, a mere super in the Gallipoli drama, had played his
trifling part on the stage, and was now sleeping in the Green Room.

Was it all very fine, or all very unfair? In my tent that evening I
worried the problem out. At first it seemed only sordid that James
Doon should have his gracious body returned by that foul Peninsula,
like some empty crate for which it had no further use, to be buried
without firing party, drums or bugles. But every now and then I
caught a glimpse of my mistake. I was thinking in terms of matter
instead of in terms of spiritual realities. I must try to get the
poetic gift of the old Colonel and Monty, whose thoughts did not
prison themselves in flesh but travelled easily in the upper air of
abstract ideals like glory and beauty and truth. But it was
difficult. Only in my exalted moments could I breathe in that high
air.

And I could not climb to-night. Perhaps if they had but sounded the
"Last Post" at Jimmy's burial, I should have lost sight of its
grossness and caught the vision of its glory. I was wondering if
this would have unveiled the hidden beauty, when, very strangely,
the bugles in all the camps rang out with the great call. It was
dark, and they were sounding the "Last Post" over the close of the
day's work. But for those who preferred to think so, it was blown
over the day's dead.



CHAPTER IX

PROCEEDING FORTHWITH TO GALLIPOLI


§1

"Look here, Doe," said I, with my finger on a map of the Island of
Lemnos. "If you've guts enough to walk with me over these five miles
of hills to this eastern coast, it strikes me we shall actually see
a distant vision of the Peninsula itself."

Doe looked learnedly at the map.

"With a clear sky and field-glasses we might make out the fatal old
spot," said he. "Come on--we'll try."

So we turned our faces eastward through the afternoon, unaware that
we were about to take a last bird's-eye view of the great Naval and
Military Base of Mudros, and a first peep at the Gallipoli
Peninsula, where in less than a hundred hours we should be digging
ourselves a home.

We bent our backs to the task of toiling up the hillsides. We found
the slopes carpeted with dry grass and yellow thistles, and
sprinkled with loose stones and large lumps of rock. Long-haired
sheep with bells a-tinkle, sleepy black cows, and tiny mules browsed
among the arid thistles, or scratched their backs against the broken
rocks.

Down into the valleys we went, and up and over the summits. It was
dull prose in the valleys, but fine poetry on the summits. For,
whereas in the valleys we saw nothing but thistles and stones, on
the summits we enjoyed extensive views of lap-like hollows nursing
little white villages; we caught distant specks, brilliantly lighted
in the sun, of the encircling sea; and we wondered at the
blood-coloured rocks which suggested volcanic disturbances and lava
streams.

After dipping into several depressions and surmounting several
yokes, we suddenly overtopped the last ridge and looked down upon a
tableland, which bore, like a tray of tea-things, the white
buildings of a little village. The plateau was the edge of Lemnos,
and ran to the brink of a jagged cliff. Beyond lay the empty waters.

"Look," said Doe, a little dreamily; "now we shall see what we shall
see."

We lay down on the cliff-edge in the attitude of the sphinx, and
brought our powerful field-glasses into play. And through them we
saw, in the far-off haze, things that accelerated the beating of our
hearts.

There, right away across forty miles of blue Ægean, was a vague,
grey line of land. It was broken in the middle as if it opened a
channel to let the sea through. The grey land, west of the break,
was the end of Europe, the sinister Peninsula of Gallipoli. The
break itself, bathed in a gentle mist, was the deadly opening to the
Dardanelles. Presumably, one of those hill-tops, just visible, was
old Achi Baba, which had defeated the invaders of Helles; and
another, Sari Bair, beneath which lay the invaders of Suvla,
wondering if they, too, had been beaten by a paltry hill.

The entrancing sight was bound to work upon Doe's nature. Still
looking through his glasses, he asked:

"I say, Roop, what's the most appealing name that the War has given
to the history of Britain--Mons, or Ypres, or Coronel, or what?"

"Gallipoli," I replied, knowing this was the answer he wanted.

"Just so. And shall I tell you why?"

"Yes, thanks. If you'll be so obliging."

"Well, it's because the strongest appeal that can be addressed to
the emotional qualities of humanity is made by the power called
Pathos--"

"Good heavens!" I began.

"And there, my boy," pursued Doe, "in picture-form before you, this
humid afternoon, is the answer to your question."

"But it was your question," I suggested.

"Don't be a fool, Rupert. Ask me what I mean."

"What the deuce do you mean?"

"I mean this: that the romantic genius of Britain is beginning to
see the contour of Gallipoli invested with a mist of sadness, and
presenting an appearance like a mirage of lost illusions."

I told him that he was very poetical this afternoon, whereupon he
sat up and, having put his field-glasses in their case, made this
irrelevant remark:

"Do you remember the central tower of Truro Cathedral, near my
home?"

"Yes."

"Well, do you think it's anything like a lily? For mercy's sake say
it is."

"Why?" I demanded.

"And it does change colour in the changing light, doesn't it,
Rupert? Say 'Yes,' you fool--say 'Yes.'"

"Why?"

"Oh, because I've written--I've written some verses about it--when I
was a bit homesick, I s'pose--and I'd like you to tell--"

"Hand them over," sighed I.

"I will, since you're so pressing. They're in the Edgar Doe stanza."

Doe gave me a soiled piece of paper, and watched me breathlessly. I
read:

                    TRURO TOWER

      Stone lily, white against the clouds unfurled
          To mantle skies
          Where thunder lies,
      White as a virtue in a vicious world,
      Give to me, like the praying of a friend,
      White hope, white courage, where the war-clouds blend.

      Stone lily, coloured now in sunny chrome,
          Or washed with rose,
          As long days close,
      And weary English suns go west'ring home,
      Look East, and hither, where there turns to rest
      A homing heart that beats an English breast.

      Stone lily, first to catch the shaft of day,
          And first to wake
          For dawns that break
      While lower things are steeped in gloaming grey,
      Over my banks of twilight look and see
      The breezy morn that fills my sails for thee.

"Oh, you've felt like that, have you?" said I. "So've I. Your poem
exactly expresses my feeling, so it must be absolutely IT."

"Rupert, you ripping old liar!" answered Doe, aglow with pleasure.

"No, I mean it; honestly I do."

"Well, anyhow," said Doe, getting up and brushing thistles off his
uniform, "don't you think that now, as 'this long day's closing,'
it's time we two 'weary English _sons_ go west'ring home'?"

I assured him that this was not only vulgar but also void of wit;
and he sulked, while we turned our faces to the west and retraced
our former path. Once again the summits of the hills, as we stepped
upon them, showed us the lofty grandeur of the Ægean world. We
halted to examine the wonderful sight that loomed in the sky-spaces
to the north of Lemnos. This was the huge brows, fronting the
clouds, of the Island of Samothrace. To me they appeared as one long
precipice, from whose top frivolous people (such as Edgar Doe) could
tickle the stars.

"St. Paul left Troas," ventured I, "and came with a straight course
to Samothrace," a little blossom of news which angered Doe, because
he had not thought of it first. So, after deliberate brain-racking,
he went one better with the information:

"The great Greek god, Poseidon, sat on Samothrace, and watched the
Siege of Troy. It looks like the throne of a god, doesn't it? I
wonder if the old boy's sitting there now, watching the fight for
the Dardanelles."

As he spoke the sun was falling behind the peaks of Lemnos and
nearing the Greek mainland, which revealed itself, through the
evening light, in the splendid conical point of Mount Athos. And, at
our feet, the loose stones and broken rocks had assumed a pink tint
on their facets that looked towards the setting sun. The browsing
sheep, too, had enriched their wool with colours, borrowed from the
sunset. Everywhere hung the impression that a day was done; over
yonder a lonely Greek, side-saddle on his mule, was wending home.

"The sun's going west to Falmouth," said Doe, inflamed by my recent
appreciation of his poem. "It'll be there in two hours. Wouldn't I
like to hang on to one of its beams and go with it!"

"Don't stand there talking such gaff," I said, "but get a move on,
if you want to be back in Mudros before nightfall."

We pursued the homeward journey, and suddenly surprised ourselves by
emerging above a hill-top and looking down over a mile of undulating
country upon the long silver sheet of water that was Mudros Harbour.
To us, so high up, its vast shipping--even including the giant
_Olympic_--seemed a collection of toy steamers. And all around the
harbour were the white specks of toy tents.

"Our mighty campaign looks, I s'pose, even smaller and more toy-like
to Poseidon, sitting on Samothrace," mused Doe. "What insects we
are! 'As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for
their sport.'"

Just at that moment "Retreat" was blown in the camps below. It was
with the bugles as with the bells of a great city. One took the lead
in proclaiming its message; then another, and yet another joined in,
till at last all corroborated the news. And the trumpets and rifles
of the French told the same story.

We hurried on, but within a few minutes darkness dropped a curtain
over all that we had seen from the hills.


§2

We got home in time to be late for dinner, and as we sheepishly
entered the mess the O.C. Rest Camp cried:

"Oh, here you are! Where have you been? Frantic wires have been
buzzing all the afternoon for you--priority messages pouring in.
You're to proceed forthwith to the Peninsula. Headquarters had
forgotten all about you, so they are thoroughly angry with you."

We sat down and began the soup at once, intending to have dinner,
even if it involved the loss of the campaign. Monty explained across
the table that he was included in this urgent summons.

"Yes, rather," endorsed the O.C., who was very full of the news,
"all East Cheshire Details. Apparently the East Cheshires are
holding an awkward position on a place called Fusilier Bluff, and
being killed like stink by a well-placed whizz-bang gun. They've got
about fifty men and half an officer left per company. They're
screaming for reinforcements. Salt and pepper, please. Thanks."

"Where is this Fusilier Bluff, sir?" asked I. "At Suvla or Helles?"

"Haven't the foggiest!" answered the O.C. "The Cheshires always used
to be at Helles, but I daresay they were moved to Suvla for the new
landing there, along with the 29th Division. Fusilier Bluff has only
just become notorious. Poor young Doon got his ticket there--same
gun."

"We've a score to settle with that gun, Rupert," said Doe.

Next day we dressed for our part on the Peninsula. Doe smiled grimly
as he swung round his neck the cord that dangled two identity discs
on his breast. "_Now_ there's some point in these things," he said.
We filled all the chambers of our revolvers and fixed the weapons on
to our belts, wondering what killing men would feel like, and how
soon it would begin. "It'll be curious," Doe suggested, "going
through life knowing that you killed a man while you were still
nineteen. Perhaps in Valhalla we'll be introduced to the men we've
killed. Jove! I'll write a poem about that."

A fatigue party of Turkish prisoners carried our kit down to the
"Egyptian Pier," whence we were ferried to the Headquarters Ship
_Aragon_. Once aboard, Monty took the lead, seeking out the cabin of
the Military Landing Officer and presenting to him our orders. He
was an attractive little person, this M.L.O., and, having glanced
over our papers, said: "East Cheshires? Oh, yes. And where are they?
Are they at Suvla or Helles?"

Monty said that he hadn't the slightest idea, but imagined it was
the business of Headquarters to have some notion of a division's
whereabouts.

"East Cheshire Division? Let me see," muttered the M.L.O., chewing
his pencil.

We let him see, with the satisfactory result that he brightened up
and said:

"Ah, yes. They're at Suvla, I think."

"How nice!" commented Monty. It seemed a suitable remark.

"Well, anyhow," proceeded the M.L.O., in the relieved manner of one
who has chosen which of two doubtful courses to adopt, and is happy
in his choice, "there's a boat going to Suvla to-night. The
_Redbreast_, I think. I'll make you out a passage for the
_Redbreast_."

He did so, and handed the chit to Monty, who replied:

"Thanks. But supposing the Cheshires are _not_ at Suvla?"

"Why, then," explained the M.L.O., smiling at having an indubitable
answer ready, "they'll be at Helles."

And he beamed agreeably.

Just then there entered the cabin a middle-aged major with a
monocle, none other than our old friend, Major Hardy of the
_Rangoon_. He fixed us with his monocle and said: "Well, I'm damned!
Young Ray! Young Doe! Young Padre!" Immediately there followed a
fine scene of reunion, in which Monty explained our delay at Mudros;
Major Hardy told us that he had been appointed Brigade Major to our
own brigade, his predecessor having been killed on Fusilier Bluff by
the whizz-bang gun; and the M.L.O. shone over all like a benignant
angel.

"Ah! Another for the East Cheshires," said he. "Can I have your
name, Major?"

"Hardy," came the answer.

"'Hardy'--let me see," and the M.L.O. ran his finger down a big
Nominal Roll. "Harris, Harrison, Hartop, Hastings--no 'Hardy' here,
Major. Are you sure it's not Hartop?"

The owner of the name declared that he was bloody sure.

"Well, I may be wrong," acknowledged the M.L.O. "Why, yes--here we
are, 'Hardy.' Well, you left yesterday, and are with your unit." And
he put the Nominal Roll away, as much as to say: "The matter's
settled, so, as you're there already, you won't need a passage."

"I beg your pardon, damn you," corrected the Major. "I'm in your
filthy office, seeking a chit to get to the East Cheshires."

"I don't see how that can be," grumbled the M.L.O., so far as such a
delightful person was capable of grumbling. "But, of course, there
may be a mistake somewhere."

"Well, perhaps you'll be good enough," suggested Major Hardy, "to
give me a chit to proceed to the East Cheshires to look into the
matter."

"Oh, certainly," agreed the M.L.O., with that prepossessing smile
which came to his lips when he had discovered the solution of a
problem. "There are two boats going to the Peninsula to-night, one
to Suvla and the other to Helles. The _Redbreast_ is the one that's
going to Suvla, I fancy, and the _Ermine_ to Helles. At any rate,
try the _Redbreast_, Major."

"Yes," interrupted the Major, "but supposing the _Redbreast_
_doesn't_ go to Suvla--_what_?"

"Why, then," replied the M.L.O., promptly and brightly, "it'll go to
Helles."

This enlightened remark produced such a torrent of oaths from Major
Hardy as was only stemmed by the M.L.O.'s assurance that there was
no real doubt about the _Redbreast's_ going to Suvla. We left the
cabin to the sound of a long "Ha-ha-ha!" from its engaging occupant,
who had been tickled, you see, by the Major's outburst.

We were ferried on a steam-tug to the _Redbreast_, and climbed
aboard. She seemed a funny little smack after the huge _Rangoon_. We
could scarcely elbow our way along, so packed was she with drafts of
men belonging to the Lovat Scouts, the Fife and Forfarshire
Yeomanry, and the Essex Regiment.

I was standing among the crowd on her deck, when there was a sound
of a rolling chain and a slight rocking of the boat, which provoked
an indelicate man near me to take off his helmet and pretend to be
sick in it. There was a rumbling of the engines as their wheels
began to revolve, and a throbbing of the _Redbreast's_ heart as
though she found difficulty in getting under way with such a load.
Then a sudden and alarming snort from her siren drew cries of
"Hooter's gone!" "Down tools, lads!" "Ta-ta, Mudros!" "All aboard
for Dixie!" "Hurry up, hurry up, get upon the deck, Find the nearest
girl, and put your arms around her neck, For the last boat's leaving
for home."

With cheering from the anchored ships that we passed; with a band
playing somewhere "The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond"; with greeting
and banter from the _Ermine_, which was steaming out with us on her
voyage to Helles; and with all these things under an overcast sky
that broke frequently into rain, we left Lemnos, the harbour and
the hills, going out through a dulled sunset.

"Put trees on those hills," said Doe, approaching me, "and in this
bad light you could imagine you were going out of the estuary of the
Fal to the open sea."

"Do you wish you were?" asked I, looking at the hills we had climbed
the day before.

"No. I like the excitement of this. It's the best moment in the war
I've had. This is life!"

From the sunset and sounds of the harbour we steamed into the
stillness and dark of the open seas. No lights were allowed on the
decks, for the enemy knew all about these nightly trips to Turkey.
Singing and shouting were suppressed, and we heard nothing but the
noise of the engines, the splatter of the agitated water as it
struck our hull, and the sound, getting fainter and fainter, of the
_Ermine_ ploughing to Helles.

"The stage is in darkness," whispered Doe in his fanciful way. "It's
the changing of the acts."

The rain began to fall in torrents, and the sky periodically was lit
by flashes of an electric storm. And then we suddenly became
conscious of new flashes playing among those of the lightning.

"The guns?" I murmured.

"Sure thing," answered Doe.

A sharp shiver of delight ran through both our bodies. Our eyes at
last were watching war. To think of it! We were off the world-famous
Peninsula!

And it was pitch-darkness, with flashing lights everywhere! From
Navy and Army both, searchlights swept the sea and sky, shut
themselves off, and opened anew. Signals in Morse sparkled with
their dots and dashes. From the distant trenches star-shells rose in
the air, and seemed to hang suspended for a space, while we caught
the rapid tick-tick of far-away rifle fire.

"It's a blinkin' firework show," said a Tommy's voice; and Doe
announced in my ear: "Rupert, I'm inspired! I've an idea for a poem.
Our lives are a pantomime, and the Genius of the Peninsula is the
Demon King; and here we have the flashes and thunder that always
illumine the horrors of his cave.... Jumping Jupiter! What's that?"

A tremendous report had gone off near us; a brilliant light had
shown up the lines of a cruiser; a shell had shrieked past us and
whistled away to explode among the Turks; and a loud, and swelling
murmur of amazement and admiration, rising from the _Redbreast_, had
burst into a thousand laughs.

"Fate laughs at my poem," grumbled Doe.

The rain raced down: and, at about ten o'clock, we learned that, for
the first time in the history of the _Redbreast_, it would be too
rough for anyone to land. We must therefore spend the night aboard,
and take the risk of disembarking under the enemy's guns in the
morning. So, wooing sleep, we huddled into the chairs of the saloon,
and wished for the day. We slept through troubled dreams, and woke
to a gathering calm on the sea. As our eager eyes swept the view by
daylight, we found that we were in a semicircular and unsheltered
bay, whose choppy water harboured two warships that were desultorily
firing. Near us a derelict trawler lay half submerged.

The truth broke upon us: we were floating at anchor in Suvla Bay.



CHAPTER X

SUVLA AND HELLES AT LAST


§1

The morning sun was up as we lay in Suvla Bay. It lit the famous
battlefield, so that we saw in a shining picture the hills, up which
the invading Britons had rushed to win the steps of Sari Bair. From
over Asia it had risen and, doubtless, beyond the unwon ridges that
blocked our view, the Straits of the Narrows were glistening like a
silver ribbon in its light. We would have been dull fools if we had
gazed otherwise than spellbound at this sunlit landscape, where the
blood of lost battles was scarcely dry upon the ground.

What surprised us most was the invisibility of the warring armies.
On the beaches, certainly, there were tents and stores and men
moving. But the rolling countryside beyond seemed bleak and
deserted. Only occasionally a high-explosive shell threw up a spout
of brown earth, or a burst of shrapnel sent a puff of white smoke to
float like a Cupid's cloud along the sky. And yet two armies were
hidden here, with their rifles, machine-guns, and artillery pointed
at each other.

Yes, and yonder invisible Turk had behind him a sun whose rays were
pouring down upon our guilty troopship. Any moment we might expect
to hear a shell, addressed to us, come whistling down the sun-shaft.
We had reached at last the shell-swept zone. From now onwards there
could be no certainty that we would not be alive one moment and dead
the next. We shivered pleasantly.

It was not till noon that a lighter came alongside, and, having
taken us all aboard, proceeded to make for the beach. All the while
the Turk left us unmolested, causing us to wonder whether he were
short of ammunition, or just rudely indifferent to our coming to
Suvla or our staying away. Two shells or three, we thought, would
have had their courteous aspect. But without greeting of any kind
from the enemy our lighter rose on the last wave and bumped against
the jetty. We gathered our equipment, and with egotistical thrills
stepped upon the Gallipoli Peninsula. For the first time we stood in
Turkey. We felt in our breasts the pride of the invader.

Monty, as spokesman of our party, led us into the office of the
M.L.O., and assured the gentleman that we had come to Suvla to find
the East Cheshires.

"The Cheshires aren't at Suvla," said the M.L.O., with the acerbity
of an overworked staff-officer. "They never were, and never will be
at Suvla."

"Oh," answered Monty brightly, seeing a vision of his friend, the
M.L.O. of the _Aragon_, "then they'll be at Helles."

The Suvla M.L.O. blasted Monty with a look, and said: "That's the
remark of a fool."

"Exactly," agreed Monty; "it was the remark of an M.L.O."

And he explained how, all along, he had conjectured that the
pleasant creature on the _Aragon_ had blundered in sending us to
Suvla.

"Well, why the devil did you come?" inquired the M.L.O.

"Because," answered Monty, imperturbably, "I wanted to see the
world, and Suvla in particular; and I might not have had another
opportunity of visiting your delightful bay."

"You mean to say," said the M.L.O., with his eyes on the badges
of the Army Chaplains' Department, "that you deliberately traded
on a mistake in order to get a holiday trip to Suvla? And
still--ha--still you expect us to go to church."

If he was anxious to discuss the question why men didn't go to
church, nobody was more ready to meet him than Monty, who therewith
sat down upon a box, so as comfortably to do justice to a really
interesting topic, I admit I felt a sudden horror lest he should
hold forth on the Mass and Confession. I went quite cold with
apprehension. It's dreadful the embarrassment you elders cause us
young people lest you say something completely out of place and
impossible. In very fact, youth is the age of embarrassing adults.

What Monty would have said remains a mystery, for at this moment
Major Hardy, who had come in our wake, exploded into the discussion.

"Be damned to you, sir!" he said to the M.L.O., wiping his eyeglass
furiously. "Be damned to you--_what_! I see nothing funny in being
sent to the wrong front by a simpering, defective idiot on the
_Aragon_. Kindly give me a chit to proceed to Helles to-morrow by
some bloody trawler, or something."

"With the utmost pleasure," said the M.L.O.; "Suvla can well be rid
of you. You can go to Helles, or Hell, by the 6 A.M. boat
to-morrow."

Bless these M.L.O.'s! Were we not indebted to them? The mistake of
one conceded us a visit to Suvla Bay, and the discourteous dismissal
of another ensured that we should bear down upon Cape Helles, not,
as normally, in a dead darkness, but in the bright light of an
October morning. I began to understand Monty's unscrupulous
opportunism. It would be a wonderful trip, skirting by daylight the
coastline of the Peninsula, till we rounded the point and looked
upon the Helles Beaches, the sacred site of the first and most
marvellous battle of the Dardanelles campaign. It was a pilgrimage
to a shrine that stretched before us on the morrow. The pilgrim's
route was a path in the blue Ægean from Suvla Bay to Helles Point;
and the shrine was the immortal battleground. Enough; let us make
the most of Suvla this day, for to-morrow we should see Helles.

Leaving the office, we sought out some shelter for the night. We
found a line of deserted dug-outs--little cells cut in the sloping
hillside, and scantily roofed by waterproof sheets. It was now late
in the afternoon, and no sooner had we thrown down our kit into
these grave-like chambers than the Turk wiped his mouth after his
tea and opened his Evening Hate. There was the distant boom of a
shell. Before we could realise what the sound was, and say "Hallo!
they've begun," the missile had exploded among the stores on the
beach. That was my baptism of fire. Without the least hesitation I
copied Major Hardy and Monty, and went flat on my face behind some
brushwood. Only Doe, too proud to take cover, remained standing, and
then blushed self-consciously lest he had appeared to be posing.

"Does this go on for long?" asked Monty of a man who, being near
us, had hurled himself prone across my back.

"Don't know, sir," answered he, cheerily, as he picked himself up.
"Yesterday they sent down seventy shells, and killed six men and
four mules.... Oh! there it is again."

And our informant took up a position on his stomach, while a second
shell shrieked into the stores.

"They've the range all right," said Monty, as we all got up again.

"Yes, sir. But they can't have many shells left after yesterday's
effort. They're so starvation short that we reckon last night they
had a surprise camel-load arrive. But ain't it plain, sir, that if
the Germans could get through to the Turk with ammunition, they
could send down ten thousand shells in a day and blow us into the
sea? That's why the 'Uns are thundering along through Servia to
Turkey now, sir. They're coming all right.... Oh! there it is
again."

Once more the soldier stretched his length on the ground, and a
third shell tore towards us.

"As I was saying, sir," continued our new friend, now on his hind
legs again, and brushing dust from his clothes. "This Suvla army,
unless it can get to the top of Sari Bair, is faced with
destruction, and they tell me the Helles army is just the same,
unless it can get to the top of Achi Baba. It never will now, sir.
And how can we quit without being seen from those hills? The 'Uns
know they've got us trapped. That's why they're coming through
Servia, ammunition and all. They'll be on us soon."

"But we'll win," suggested Monty, tentatively.

"O Lord, yes, sir. But not here. Things are going to be interesting
here.... God knows how it'll all end.... Oh! there it is again."

The gun boomed, and the speaker kissed the dust.

I had just decided that it was best to remain recumbent, and Doe,
too, had sat down rather sheepishly, when the Turk either ran out of
ammunition or felt that he had done all that formality required of
him, and returned to his hookah in peace.

Knowing that night would fall quickly, we hastened to make ourselves
some supper. Its last mouthfuls we finished in darkness; and, having
nothing further to do, determined to go to bed in our little
dug-outs on the hillside. Standing in the blue darkness outside
these narrow dwelling-places, like lepers among our tombs, we wished
each other good-night and a good sleep. Then we crawled into our
graves. Wrapping my knees in my British warm, I disposed myself to
rest.

But I could not sleep. My mind was too active with thinking that I
was lying in the historic ground, over which the battle had rolled.
As a light in a room keeps a would-be sleeper awake, so the bright
glow of my thoughts kept my brain from rest. Here was I on that
amazing Peninsula, towards which I had looked in wonder from the
cliffs of Mudros. Around me, and in the earth as I was, the dead
men, more successful than I, were sleeping dreamlessly. On higher
slopes the tired army held the fire-trenches, with its faces and
rifles still turned bravely landward and upward. Above them the
Turks hung to the extremities of their territory with the same
tenacity that we should show in defending Kent or Cornwall. Behind
the Turk ran the silver Narrows, the splendid trophy of the present
tourney. And, as I had been reminded that afternoon, far away the
German armies were battling through the corridors of Servia that
they might come and destroy the invaders of Suvla and Helles.

To increase my wakefulness the rapid fire of rifle and machine-gun,
which had been almost unheard during the day-time, began with the
fall of darkness, and continued sporadic through the night. Like the
chirp of a great cricket, it was doubly insistent in the silent
hours. The artillery, too, was more restless than it had been in the
light of day. Seemingly all were nervous of the dark.

It is ever difficult to sleep in a strange bed. I found myself
opening my eyes and looking up at my oil-sheet roof. So scanty was
it that it left apertures, through which I could see the stars
shining in a perfect sky. I shut my eyes and gave rein to my
thoughts, gradually elaborating the wild dream of a thinker who was
unaware that he had at last dropped off to sleep. It seemed to me
that the whole army at Suvla was that night storming the hills that
intervened between us and the silver Narrows. I was rushing with the
attackers, while the shells roared and pitched harmlessly among us,
and at length I was standing on the summit of Sari Bair, which
showed the Narrows under the moon and stars. The Narrows seen at
last! There, look, was the waterway to Constantinople. I waited
patiently to see the Navy pour up it in triumphant procession.
Beside me was the stranger who had spoken to us in the afternoon,
and I said to him: "The coast seems clear. Let's go down and swim
the Hellespont, where Leander and Byron swam." But at that moment
there was a loud explosion near us, and a sound as of particles of
earth falling upon an oil-sheet roof.

Conscious that this tremendous report was not the creation of a
troubled dreamer, but something real, which had worked itself into
the texture of my dreams, I lifted heavy eyelids, and learned that a
stray night-shell from the Turkish lines had burst very close to my
dug-out, and the debris was tumbling on the roof.... And we were
still low down on the slope to victory.

After that, sleep passed from me, and I watched the dawn break.


§2

At six o'clock the next morning we were all on the little trawler,
due to leave for Cape Helles. Helles! The stirring, pregnant name
was a thing to toy with. Suvla was a great word, but Helles was a
greater. So farewell to Suvla now. We must also see Helles.

"To Helles," said the hardened skipper, with the same dull unconcern
that a cabman might show in saying "To Hyde Park."

The workmanlike boat got under way. As I gazed from its side towards
the Suvla that we were leaving, the whole line of the Peninsula came
into panorama before me. The sun, just awake, bathed a long, waving
skyline that rose at two points to dominant levels. One was Sari
Bair, the stately hill which stood inviolate, although an army had
dashed itself against its fastnesses. The other, lower down the
skyline, was Achi Baba, as impregnable as her sister, Sari Bair. The
story of the campaign was the story of these two hills.

For perfect charm, I recall no trip to equal this cruise betimes in
the sparking Ægean. Our trawler was travelling with the smoothness
of a gondola on a Venetian canal. And the voyage, sunny and
refreshing in itself, was given an added glamour, by reason of the
shrine to which it was a pilgrimage. For, whether I could believe it
or not, we were steaming fast to Helles.

My sensations, as we gaily bore through the sea upon the hallowed
site, were those of one who awaits the rise of a curtain upon a
famous drama. I sprang my imagination to the alert position, that I
might not miss one thrill, when we should enter the bay whose waters
played on W Beach. Conceive it: there would meet my gaze a stretch
of lapping water, a width of beach, and a bluff hill; and I must
say: "Here were confused battle, and blood filtering through the
ground. There was agony here, and quivering flesh. Here the promises
of straight limbs, keen eyes, and clear cheeks were cancelled in a
spring morning. Our schoolfellows died here, Stanley, and Lancelot,
and Moles White. Hither a thousand destinies converged upon the
beach, and here they closed."

The boat was approaching a rounded headland. In a second the vision
would be before me. Come now, could I think all these things--could
I realise them, as we entered the bay? I found not. Before I had
gripped half the thrilling ideas that were the gift of the moment,
we were moored against the jetty at W Beach, and I was stepping
ashore to take my part in the last chapters of the Gallipoli story.



CHAPTER XI

AN ATMOSPHERE OF SHOCKS AND SUDDEN DEATH


§1

One evening, three days later, I was sitting, inconceivably bored,
in my new dug-out on the notorious Fusilier Bluff. This dug-out was
a recess, hewn in damp, crumbling soil, with a frontage built of
sand-bags. Its size was that of an anchorite's cell, and any
abnormal movement or extra loud noise within it brought the stones
and earth in showers down the walls. Indeed, the walls of my new
home so far resembled the walls of Jericho that it only required a
shout to bring them down upon the floor. In the sand-bag front were
two apertures, called the door and the window, which overlooked the
Ægean Sea. For this reason the name "Seaview" had been painted above
the door in lively moments by the preceding tenant, whose grave was
visible lower down the Bluff. I watched the night gathering on the
sea, while over my home the whizz-bang gun--that evil genius of the
place, and the murderer of Jimmy Doon--spat its high-velocity
shells.

I was alone. The C.O. of the East Cheshires, who did not seem to
have grasped that Doe and I were friends, had attached me to D
Company, which was in reserve on the slopes of Fusilier Bluff, and
Doe to B Company, which was holding the fire-trenches. The man was a
fool, of course, but what could a subaltern say to a colonel? And
Monty, too, had gone to live by himself. Finding that his new parish
was extensive and scattered, he had abandoned Fusilier Bluff, and,
choosing the most central spot, had built himself a sand-bag hovel
somewhere in the Eski Line. Struth! Everything was the limit.

I went to bed. And it was after I was deeply submerged in dreams
that I awoke with a start, for someone seemed to be telling me to
get up and dress, as there was an alarm afloat. A voice was saying:
"All the troops have been ordered to stand to, sir. There's an
attack expected. The Adjutant sent me to call you."

"Who are you?"

"Adjutant's orderly, 10th East Cheshires, sir."

"Thanks." Hurriedly dressing, I went out and found that the Bluff,
now white in the moonlight, was lined with men in full equipment.
Orders were being shouted, and telephones were buzzing.

"D Company, fall in."

"See that there are two men to every machine-gun at once."

D Company, with myself attached to it, left the Bluff and filed
through a communication trench to the firing line. Here every man
was a silent sentry, his bayonet shining in the moonlight. Doe,
whose eyes were bright with excitement, was walking hastily up and
down the company front, looking over the parapet, giving orders in a
fine whisper, and pretending in a variety of ways that he was
uncommonly efficient at this sort of surprise attack. I touched his
sleeve and asked:

"What's it all about?"

"Heaven knows! A sergeant spotted some trees waving in front of the
moon, thought they were Turks, and gave the alarm. He saw trees as
men walking. Sorry. Can't stay."

I wandered along the trench, seeing the men of my platoon properly
disposed so as to stiffen the resistance of B Company. Then I
returned for the latest news of the crisis to where Doe was
conversing with an unknown officer. They were recalling how they had
once travelled in the train together from Paddington to Falmouth,
and never seen each other again till this moment. Doe was praising
the lovely country through which the Great Western Railway
passed--Somerset, and the White Horse Vale, and the beautiful
stretch of water at Dawlish; or the red cliffs of Devon, where the
train ran along the coast. Some of the red earth of Gallipoli, he
said, reminded him of Devon's red loam.

Evidently the Turkish attack was not going to materialise. I stood
upon the firing-step and looked over the parapet. In the moonlight I
could see the black sand-bags of the Turks' front line, and the
desolate waste of No Man's Land.... Then my hand sprang to the butt
of my revolver. Something _had_ moved in No Man's Land. "Look out!"
I said. "They're coming!" just as from behind a bit of rising ground
a figure rose on to its hands and knees. I pointed my revolver at
it, and pulled the trigger. The figure collapsed, and rolled
forwards till its progress was arrested by a rocky projection, over
which it finally lay, doubled up like a bolster. As it fell my heart
gave a sickening leap, either of excitement or of fright.

At once the whole of the company front opened rapid fire. A few
things seemed to fall about in No Man's Land, and I saw some figures
pass across the moon as they scurried back to their trenches.

"Cease fire!" ordered the O.C. firing line. "Merely a reconnaissance
raid. Silly trouts, these Turks."

And Doe came up to me, saying almost enviously:

"You've killed your man, Rupert. Congratulations."

Without answering I stood on the firing-step again, and looked at
the limp form of my victim. It was dead beyond question, shapeless
and horrible.

I took my platoon back to the Bluff, dismissed it, and going up to
my dug-out door, stood there for a moment thinking. Since leaving it
an hour ago I had killed a man.

"You mustn't rest till you've slaughtered a Turk," our new C.O. had
said, for he was an apostle of the offensive spirit. "Then, if they
kill you, you'll at least have taken a life for a life. And any more
that you kill before they finish you off will be clear gain for King
George."

Not wishing to go to bed yet, I went back to the firing line, and
looked over our sand-bags once more. The body was still there,
shapeless and horrible, and as limp as a half-empty sack of coals.


§2

Some of the officers of B and D Companies were drinking together the
following day in a hole on the Bluff, when the Brigade Bombing
Officer burst in among us, and seized a mug.

"Thanks. I will," he said. "Just a spot of whisky. Well, here's to
you. Cheerioh!"

He drank half the mug, and addressed me.

"Ray, you have found favour in the sight of the General. He wants
you for his A.D.C., and won't be happy till he gets you. He thinks
you a pretty and a proper child and fairly clean. _What abaht it?_"

"Good Lord," said I. "I don't know what an A.D.C. is! What do I do?"

"Oh, see that the old gentleman is fed. And cut out the saucy girls
from 'La Vie Parisienne,' and decorate the mess walls with them.
And--and all that sort of thing."

"Go on, Ray," urged Doe. "Of course you'll be it. Put him down for
the job. I wish the old general had fallen in love with _me_.'

"I don't mind trying it," I said. "Anything for a change."

"Right," replied the Bombing Officer. "Ray, having been four days
with a company of the East Cheshires, feels in need of a change. He
desires to better himself. Now for the next point. I'm chucking this
Bombing Officer stunt. It's too dangerous. Both my predecessors were
killed, and yesterday the Turk threw a bomb at _me_. Now, is there
anybody tired of his life and laden with his sin? Anyone want to
commit suicide? Anyone feel a call? Anyone want to do the bloody
hero, and be Brigade Bombing Officer?"

Doe blushed at once.

"I'll have a shot at it.... Anything for a change," he added
apologetically.

"That's the spirit that made England great!" said the Bombing
Officer. "I do like keenness. Splendid! Ray goes to the softest job
in the Army, and Doe, stout fellow, to the damnedst. Thanks: just
another little spot. Cheerioh!"

In name my new character was that of Brigade Ammunition Officer, but
it amounted, as the Bombing Officer had said, to being A.D.C. to the
Brigadier. I was entirely miserable in it. Painfully shy of the old
general and his staff-officers, I never spoke at meals in the solemn
Headquarters Mess unless I had carefully rehearsed before what I was
going to say. And, when I said it, I saw how foolish it sounded.

And Major Hardy--who, you will remember, was our Brigade Major--used
to be unnecessarily funny about my youth, fixing me with his monocle
over the evening dinner-table and asking me if I were allowed to sit
up to dinner at home. I imagine he thought he was humorous.

Grand old Major Hardy! I must not speak lightly of him here. It is
only because I have now to finish his story that I have mentioned my
regrettable declension on to the staff.

Major Hardy had not been ten days on the Peninsula before he made
his reputation. His monocle, his "what," and his rich maledictions
were admired and imitated all along the Brigade front. From Fusilier
Bluff to Stanley Street it was agreed that Major Foolhardy was a
Sahib. Twice a day every bay in the trench system was cursed by him.
"God! give me ten Turks and a dog, and I'd capture the whole of this
sector any hour of the day or night," and his head was over the
parapet in broad daylight, examining the Turkish peepholes. It was a
common saying that he would be hit one fine morning.

The morning came. The Signal Officer and I were sitting in the
Headquarters Mess, sipping an eleven o'clock cherry brandy, and
wondering why the General and the Brigade Major had not returned
from their tour of the trenches. Headquarters were situated in Gully
Ravine, that prince among ravines on the Peninsula. From my place I
could see the gully floor, which was the dry bed of a water-course,
winding away between high walls of perpendicular cliffs or steep,
scrub-covered slopes, as it pursued its journey, like some colossal
trench, towards the firing line. Down the great cleft, while I
looked, a horseman came riding rapidly. He was an officer, with a
slight open wound in his chin, and he rode up to our door and said:
"Hardy's hit. A hole in the face."

He was followed by the General, whose clothes and hands were
splashed with Major Hardy's blood. The General told us what had
happened. He had been talking to Hardy and some others on Fusilier
Bluff, when the infamous whizz-bang gun--that messenger of Satan
sent to buffet us--shot a shell whose splinters took the Major in
the face and lungs. He dropped, saying "Dammit, I'm hit, _what_,"
and was now being taken in a dying condition down Gully Ravine to
the Field Ambulance.

It surprised me what an everyday affair this tragedy seemed. There
were expressions of sorrow, but no hush of calamity. Jests were made
at lunch, and all ate as heartily as usual. "Well, he lasted ten
days," said the Brigadier, "which is more than a good many have
done."

Personally, I found myself repeating, in my wool-gathering way, the
word "Two." Already two out of the five who sat down to lunch
together that first day on board the _Rangoon_ had been killed--and,
for that matter, by the same gun. "Two." "The knitting women counted
_two_." Ah! that was what I was thinking of. The knitting women had
knitted two off the strength of that little company. Monty, Doe, and
myself were left. I wondered which of those would have fallen when
the knitting women should count "Three."

It was not difficult to prophesy. Monty, though he was as
venturesome as any combatant, could never quite share the dangers of
the men who lived in the trenches. His dug-out, back in the Eski
Line, was safe from everything but a howitzer shell. And I--ye gods!
I was comparatively secure, loafing about in the softest job in the
Army. Everything pointed to Doe as Number Three.

I thought of our unbroken partnership, and decided--as much in rash
defiance as in loyalty to my friend--that I would ask to be relieved
of my position as Ammunition Officer and allowed to return to my
battalion. The permission was granted. And oh! I cannot explain it,
but it was good to be back with my company after the enervating
experience of staff-life. And, better still, now that Doe was no
longer a platoon commander but Brigade Bombing Officer, he could
live where he liked, and had arranged to share my dug-out--that
delectable villa on Fusilier Bluff known as "Seaview." Really, under
these conditions, the Peninsula, we felt, would be quite "swish."



CHAPTER XII

SACRED TO WHITE


§1

On a certain morning Doe and I in our dug-out on Fusilier Bluff felt
the pull and the fascination, coming over five miles of scrub, of
the magical Cape Helles. It was but a score of weeks since the first
invaders had stormed its beaches: and we wanted to drink again of
the romance that charged the air. So, being free for a time, we
walked to the brow overlooking V Beach, and stood there, letting the
breeze blow on our faces, and thinking of the British Army that blew
in one day like a gale from the sea.

The damage wrought by that tornado was everywhere visible. Near us
were the ruins of a lighthouse. In old days it had glimmered for
distant mariners, who pointed to it as the Dardanelles light. But,
at the outbreak of war, the Turk had closed his Dardanelles and put
out the lamp. He would never kindle it again, for the _Queen
Elizabeth_, or a warship of her kidney, had lain off shore and
reduced the lighthouse to these white stones. Across the
amphitheatre of the bay were the village and broken forts of Seddel
Bahr; and, aground at this point, the famous old hulk, the _River
Clyde_. You remember--who could forget?--how they turned this vessel
into a modern Horse of Troy, cramming its belly with armed men,
running it ashore, and then opening square doors in its hull-sides
and letting loose the invaders--while the plains of Old Troy looked
down from over the Hellespont. What a litter old Mother Clyde
carried in her womb that day! From where we stood we could see those
square doors, cut in her sides, through which the troops and rushed
into the bullet-hail: we could see, too, the semicircular beach,
where they had attempted to land, and the ribbon of blue water in
which so many, weighted with their equipment, had sunk and died.

And what was that thing a few cable lengths out, a rusty iron
something, rising from the water, and being lapped by the incoming
ripples? It was the keel of the old _Majestic_, which lay there,
deck downwards, on the ocean bed.

"It's too pathetic!" exclaimed the sensitive Doe. "Let's go and
visit the _Clyde_. Fancy, old Moles White was in that boat."

We dropped down from the headland into V Beach Bay, and, in doing
so, passed the limit of the British zone and trespassed upon French
territory. The slope, from the beach upward, was as alive with
French and Senegalese as a cloven ant-hill is alive with ants. The
stores of the whole French army seemed accumulated in the
neighbourhood. There was an atmosphere of French excitability, very
different from the stillness of the British Zone. Stepping from the
British Zone into the French was like turning suddenly from the
quiet of Rotten Row into the bustle of the Boulevard des Italiens.
It was _prenez-garde_ and _attention là! depeches-vous_ and _pardon,
m'sieu_, and _sacré nom de dieu!_ before we got through all these
hearty busy-bodies and drew near the hull of the _Clyde_.

With unwitting reverence we approached. I'll swear I was within an
ace of removing my hat, and that, had I talked to Doe, I should have
spoken in a whisper. It was like visiting a church. Look, there by
the square doors were the endless marks of machine-gun bullets that
had swept the men who tried to leave the boat for the shore. God!
they hadn't a dog's chance. If those bullet indentations meant
anything, they meant that the man who left the square door was lucky
if he got ashore with less than a dozen bullets in his flesh.

We stepped on to the gangway that led to the nearest of the doors
and hurried up to it, catching something of the "Get back--get
back!" sensation of those who had been forced by the bullets to
withdraw into the hold. A huge hold it showed itself to be when we
bowed our heads and stepped into it through the square door. Yes,
they could cram battalions here. What a hive the _Clyde_ was when
they hurled it ashore! And what a swarm of bees it housed! In this
hold, now so silent and empty, what emotions throbbed that day!

"Poor old White!" murmured Doe. "He got ashore well enough, and
wasn't killed till the fighting on the high ground. By Jove, Rupert!
we'll search the Peninsula from here to Fusilier Bluff for his
grave. Come on."

We left the comparative darkness of the hold, and stepped through
the square door, that had been so deadly an exit for hundreds, into
the bright daylight. At once there was given us a full view of V
Beach, with the sea sparkling as it broke upon the shingle. The air
all about was strangely opalescent. Seddel Bahr shone in the sun, as
only a white Eastern village can. The hills rising from the beach
looked steep and difficult, but sunlit and shimmering. Everything
shimmered as a result of the sudden contrast from the darkness of
the hold. Even so must the scene have flashed upon the eyes of the
invaders as they issued from the sides of the _Clyde_. For many of
them, how quickly the bright light went out!

We had hardly entered the ruined streets of Seddel Bahr before a
shell screamed into the village and burst with a deafening explosion
in a house, whose walls went up in a volcano of dust and stones.

"Asiatic Annie!" we both said, at once and in unison.

For all of us knew the evil reputation of Asiatic Annie--that large
gun, safely tucked away in the blue hills of Asia, who lobbed her
shells--a seven-mile throw--over the Straits on to the shores of
Cape Helles--a mischievous old lady, who delighted in being the
plague of the Beaches.

"If Asiatic Annie is going to begin," said Doe, "we'll have
important business elsewhere. Hurry on. We're going to find White's
grave."

To get from Seddel Bahr to Fusilier Bluff it was necessary to cross
diagonally the whole of the Helles sector. There lay before us a
long walk over a dusty, scrub-covered plateau, every yard of which
was a yard of battlefield and overspread with the litter of battles.
This red earth, which, when the Army first arrived, was garnished
with grass and flowers, groves, and vineyards, was now beaten by
thousands of feet into a hard, dry drill-ground, where, here and
there, blasted trees stood like calvaries against the sky. The grass
resembled patches of fur on a mangy skin. The birds, which seemed to
revel in the excitements of war, soared and swept over the
devastated tableland. Northward from our feet stretched this
plateau of scarecrow trees, till it began to incline in a gentle
rise, and finally met the sky in the summit of Achi Baba. That was
the whole landscape--a plateau overlooked by a gentle hill.

And here on this sea-girt headland the land-fight had been fought.
No wonder the region was covered with the scars and waste of war.
Our journey took us past old trenches and gun-positions; disused
telephone lines and rusting, barbed wire; dead mules, scattered
cemeteries, and solitary graves.

And not a grave did we pass without examining it to see if it bore
the name of White. Our progress, therefore, was very slow, for, like
highwaymen, these graves held us up and bade us stand and inquire if
they housed our friend. Whenever we saw an isolated cross some
distance away, we left our tracks to approach it, anxious not to
pass, lest this were he. And then, quite unexpectedly, we came upon
twenty graves side by side under one over-arching tree, which bore
the legend: "Pink Farm Cemetery." And Doe said:

"There it is, Rupert."

He said it with deliberate carelessness, as if to show that he was
one not easily excited by sudden surprises.

"Where--where?" I asked.

"There--'Lieutenant R. White, Royal Dublin Fusiliers.'"

"Good Lord!" I muttered: for it was true. We had walked right on to
the grave of our friend. His name stood on a cross with those of six
other officers, and beneath was written in pencil the famous
epitaph:

          "Tell England, ye who pass this monument,
           We died for her, and here we rest content."

The perfect words went straight to Doe's heart.

"Roop," he said, "if I'm killed you can put those lines over me."

I fear I could not think of anything very helpful to reply.

"They are rather swish," I murmured.



CHAPTER XIII

"LIVE DEEP, AND LET THE LESSER THINGS LIVE LONG"


§1

One thing I shall always believe, and it is that Doe found on the
Peninsula that intense life, that life of multiplied sensations,
which he always craved in the days when he said: "I want to have
lived."

You would understand what I mean if you could have seen this Brigade
Bombing Officer of ours hurling his bombs at a gentleman whom he
called "the jolly old Turk." Generally he threw them with a jest on
his lips. "One hundred and _two_. One hundred and _three_," he would
say. "Over she goes, and thank the Lord I'm not in the opposite
trench. BANG! I told you so. Stretcher-bearers for the Turks,
please." Or he would hurl the bomb high into the air, so that it
burst above the enemy like a rocket or a star-shell. He would blow a
long whistle, as it shot skyward, and say "PLONK!" as it exploded
into a shower of splinters.

For Doe was young and effervescing with life. He enjoyed himself,
and his bombers enjoyed him as their officer. Everybody, in fact,
enjoyed Edgar Doe.

In these latter days the gifted youth had suddenly discovered that
all things French were perfect. Gone were the days of classical
elegancies. Doe read only French novels which he borrowed from
Pierre Poilu at Seddel Bahr.

And why? Because they knew how to live, _ces français_. They lived
deeply, and felt deeply, with their lovely emotionalism. They ate
and drank learnedly. They suffered, sympathised, and loved, always
deeply. They were _bons viveurs_, in the intensest meaning of the
words. "They live, they live." And because of this, his spiritual
home was in France. "You English," said he, "_vous autres anglais_,
with your damned un-emotionalism, empty your lives of spiritual
experience: for emotion is life, and all that's interesting in life
is spiritual incident. But the French, they live!"

He even wrote a poem about the faith which he had found, and started
to declaim it to me one night in our little dug-out, "Seaview":

          "For all emotions that are tense and strong,
           And utmost knowledge, I have lived for these--
           Lived deep, and let the lesser things live long,
           The everlasting hills, the lakes, the trees,
           Who'd give their thousand years to sing this song
           Of Life, and Man's high sensibilities--

"Yes, Roop, living through war is living deep. It's crowded,
glorious living. If I'd never had a shell rush at me I'd never have
known the swift thrill of approaching death--which is a wonderful
sensation not to be missed. If I'd never known the shock of seeing
sudden death at my side, I'd have missed a terribly wonderful thing.
They say music's the most evocative art in the world, but, _sacré
nom de dieu_, they hadn't counted the orchestra of a bombardment.
That's music at ten thousand pounds a minute. And if I'd not heard
that, I'd never have known what it is to have my soul drawn out of
me by the maddening excitement of an intensive bombardment.
And--and, _que voulez-vous_, I have _killed_!"

"Hm!" muttered I. He was too clever for me, but I loved him in his
scintillating moments.

"_Tiens_, if I'm knocked out, it's at least the most wonderful
death. It's the _deepest_ death."

I laughed deprecatingly.

"Oh, I'm resigned to the idea," he pursued. "It's more probable than
improbable. Sooner or later. _Tant va la cruche à l'eau qu' à la fin
elle se casse._"

"_Tant_--'aunt,'" thought I. "_Va_--'goes.' _La cruche_--'the
crust.' _Qu' à la fin elle se casse._" And I said aloud: "I've got
it! 'Aunt goes for the crust at the water, into which, in fine, she
casts herself.'"

"No," corrected Doe, looking away from me wistfully and
self-consciously. "'The pitcher goes so often to the well that at
last it is broken.'"


§2

About this time the great blizzard broke over Gallipoli. On the last
Sunday in November I awoke, feeling like iced chicken, to learn that
the blizzard had begun. It was still dark, and the snow was being
driven along by the wind, so that it flew nearly parallel with the
ground, and clothed with mantles of white all the scrub that opposed
its onrush. This morning only did the wild Peninsula look beautiful.
But its whiteness was that of a whited sepulchre. Never before had
it been so mercilessly cruel. For now was opening the notorious
blizzard that should strike down hundreds with frost-bite, and drown
in their trenches Turks and Britons alike.

It was freezing--freezing. The water in our canvas buckets froze
into solid cakes of ice, which we hewed out with pickaxes and kicked
about like footballs. And all the guns stopped speaking. No more was
heard the whip-crack of a rifle, nor the rapid, crisp, unintelligent
report of a machine-gun. Fingers of friend and foe were too numbed
to fire. An Arctic silence settled upon Gallipoli.

And yet I remember the first day of the blizzard as a day of glowing
things. For on the previous night I had read in Battalion Orders
that I was to be Captain Ray. And so, this piercing morning, I could
go out into the blizzard with three stars on my shoulders. With
Gallipoli suddenness I had leapt into this exalted rank, while Doe,
a more brilliant officer, remained only a Second Lieutenant. For
him, as a specialist, there was no promotion. For me, no sooner had
my O.C. Company been buried alive by the explosion of a Turkish
mine, and his second-in-command gone sick with dysentery, than I,
the next senior though only nineteen, was given the rank of Acting
Captain. And Doe, always most generous when most jealous, had been
profuse in his congratulations.

I confess that not even the hail, with its icy bite, could spoil the
glow which I felt in being Captain Ray. I walked along my company
front, behind parapets massed with snow, to have a look at the men
of my command. All these lads with the chattering lips--lads from
twenty to forty years old--were mine to do what I liked with. They
were my family--my children. And I would be a father to them.

And when, at the end of my inspection, a shivering post corporal put
into my hands a letter addressed by my mother to 2nd-Lieut. R. Ray,
I delighted to think how out-of-date she was, and how I must
enlighten her at once on the correct method of addressing her son. I
would do it that day, so that she might have opportunities of
writing "Capt. Ray." For one never knew: some unpleasantly senior
person might come along and take to himself my honourable rank.

I seized the letter and hurried home to our dug-out. Doe was already
in possession of his mail, so, having wrapped ourselves in blankets
to defeat the polar atmosphere, we crouched over a smoking oil-stove
and read our letters.

I was the first to break a long silence.

"Really," I said, "Mother's rather sweet. Listen to this:--

     "'Rupert, I had such a shock yesterday. I heard the postman's
     knock, which always frightens me. I picked up a long, blue
     envelope, stamped "War Office." Oh, my heart stood still. I
     went into my bedroom, and tried to compose myself to break the
     envelope. Then I asked my new maid to come and be with me when
     I opened it. After she had arrived, I said a prayer that all
     might be well with you. Then I opened it: and, Rupert, it was
     only your Commission as 2nd Lieutenant arriving a year late.
     Oh, I went straight to church and gave thanks!'"

Doe gazed into the light of the oil-stove.

"The dear, good, beautiful woman!" he said.

And so it is that the famous blizzard carries with it two glowing
memories: the one, my promotion to Captain's rank; the other, the
sudden arrival of my mother's letter like a sea-gull out of a storm.
Her loving words threw about me, during the appalling conditions of
the afternoon, an atmosphere of England. And, when in the biting
night our elevated home was quiet under the stars, and Doe and I
were rolled up in our blankets, I was quite pleased to find him
disposed to be sentimental.

"I've cold feet to-night," he grumbled. "Roll on Peace, and a
passage home. Let's cheer ourselves up by thinking of the first
dinner we'll have when we get back to England. _Allons_, I'll begin
with turtle soup."

"And a glass of sherry," added I from my pillow.

"Then, I think, turbot and white sauce."

"Good enough," I agreed, "and we'll trifle with the wing of a fowl."

"Two cream buns for sweets," continued the Brigade Bombing Officer,
"or possibly three. And fruit salad. _Ah, mon dieu, que c'est
beau!_"

"And a piece of Stilton on a sweet biscuit," suggested the Captain
of D Company, "with a glass of port."

"Yes," conceded the Bombing Officer, "and then café noir, and an
Abdulla No. 5 in the arm-chair. _Sapristi_! isn't it cold?" He
turned round sulkily in his bed. "If it's like this to-morrow I
shan't get up--no, not if Gladys Cooper comes to wake me."

So he dropped off to sleep.... And, with Doe asleep, I can say that
to which I have been leading up. Always before the war I used to
think forced and exaggerated those pictures which showed the soldier
in his uniform, sleeping on the field near the piled arms, and
suggested, by a vision painted on the canvas, that his dreams were
of his hearth and loved ones. But I know now of a certain
Captain-fellow, who, on that first night of the blizzard, after he
had received a letter from his mother, dreamt long and fully of
friends in England, awaking at times to find himself lying on a
lofty wild Bluff, and falling off to sleep again to continue dreams
of home.



CHAPTER XIV

THE NINETEENTH OF DECEMBER


§1

The grand incident in the last act of the Gallipoli Campaign--the
grand _motif_--was the Germans' successful break through Servia.
They had driven their corridor from Central Europe through Servia to
Constantinople; and, for all we knew, the might of Germany in men
and guns were pouring down it. Of course they were coming; they must
come. Never had the generals of Germany so fine an opportunity of
destroying the British Divisions that languished at Suvla and
Helles. What chance had the Haughty Islanders now of escaping?
The wintry storms were already cutting their frail line of
communications by sea, and smashing up their miserable jetties on
the beaches. The plot should unravel simply. The German-Turk combine
would attack in force, and the British, unable to escape, would
either surrender or, in good Roman style, die fighting.

We knew the Germans were coming. When the blizzard rolled away and
left behind a glorious December, we began to hear their new guns
throbbing on the distant Suvla front. Doubtless more guns were
rumbling along the streets of Constantinople, and troops
concentrating in its squares. They were out for the biggest victory
of the Central Empires since Tannenberg. Six divisions from Suvla
and four from Helles would be a good day's bag. Perhaps the Turks
were not without pity for the tough little British Divisions that,
depleted, exhausted, and unreinforced, lay at their mercy on the
extremities of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

We knew they were coming, and joked about it.

"It's getting distinctly interesting, Captain Ray," said Doe, as we
sat drinking tea in Monty's dug-out in the Eski Line. "I say, give
me a decent funeral, won't you?"

"We shan't bury you," answered Monty unpleasantly. "We shall put you
on the incinerator."

"If the worst comes to the worst, I shall swim for it," said I,
always conceited on this point. "It'll only be a few miles easy
going, in this gorgeous December weather, from Gully Beach to
Imbros."

"But, _au serieux_," continued the picturesque Doe, "do you realise
that this is December, 1915, and we shall probably never see the
year of grace 1916? Damned funny, Captain Ray, isn't it?"

"Don't be so romantic and treacly," retorted Monty. "You'll do
nothing heroic. You'll just march down to W Beach and get on a boat
and sail away. There's going to be some sort of evacuation, I'm
sure. They've cleared the hospitals at Alexandria and Malta, and
ordered every hospital ship in the world to lie off the Peninsula
empty. They are prepared for twenty thousand casualties."

"Yes," agreed I, "and, as there are no reinforcements, it can't mean
a big advance, so it must mean a big retreat. There's nothing to
bellyache about. We're going to evacuate, praise be to Allah!"

"Oh, try not to be foolish, Captain Ray," returned Doe impatiently.
"Have you been so long on this cursed Peninsula without knowing that
we couldn't evacuate Suvla without being seen from Sari Bair, nor
Helles without being seen from Achi Baba? And, directly the jolly
old Turk saw us quitting, he, and the whole German army, and
Ludendorff, would stream down and massacre us as we ran. We'd want
every man for a rearguard action to hold them off. The bally thing's
impossible."

"Well, we did the impossible in getting on to the Peninsula," put in
Monty, "and we shall probably do the impossible in getting off.
Besides, not even Turks can see at night."

"That's all very fine," rejoined the lively youth. "But the
impossible landing was done by the grandest Division in history,
when they were up to full strength. Now our divisions are jaded and
done for. Besides, only one army could get away. Even if the Suvla
crowd did effect a surprise escape, the Turk would see to it that
the Helles mob didn't repeat the performance. Our Staff would have
to sacrifice one army for the other. And, as the Suvla army is
bigger than ours, they'd sacrifice us for a certainty. So cheer up,
and don't be so damned miserable."

"Oh, well," said Monty, refilling Doe's cup. "Let us eat, drink, and
be merry, for to-morrow we die."

Doe lifted up the mug to toast his host.

"_Morituri te salutamus_," he said, and out of his abounding spirits
began to sing:

          "The Germans are coming, oh dear, oh dear,
           The Germans are coming, oh can't you hear?"


§2

And amid all this speculation on Helles, there came suddenly a
rumour that, so far from the Turks attacking us, our whole line was
about to assume the offensive and move forward. This was a mere
angel's whisper one morning: by the afternoon it had blown like a
dust-drive into every dug-out.

It's a good rule, my friends who shall fight the next war, if you
want to know the secrets about a forthcoming attack, always to ask
the padre. He is the rumour-merchant of the fighting army. And Monty
was no exception. Directly the strange rumour reached the Eski Line,
Monty busied himself tapping every source for more detailed
information.

First he inquired of the Battalion Intelligence Officer whether
there were anything reliable in this talk of an imminent attack.
Intelligence nodded its head, as much as to say: "I've promised that
not a breath of it shall leave my lips, but--" Well, Intelligence
nodded his head.

Then, on another occasion, the Quartermaster, having just returned
from Ordnance (where they know everything), looked a profoundly
sinister look at Monty, and said:

"They're going to keep _you_ busy shortly."

"What, a show on?" asked Monty hypocritically.

"Yes, some stunt--some stunt. But don't know anything about it."

Next Monty was at Divisional Signals (always a well-informed and
oracular body), who said they supposed he knew there would be very
little opportunity for Divine Service on Sunday.

"You mean," said he, with brutal plainness, "that this beastly
attack is fixed for Sunday."

"Now, nobody said that," was the reply. "But take it from us that on
Sunday your men will be too busy parading for other purposes than
for Divine Service. Strictly on the Q.T., of course."

The same day at the Bombing School Monty found but one subject of
conversation.

"It'll be the stickiest thing we've had for some time, as ourselves,
the Scotties, and the French are all involved in it. Your people,
the East Cheshires, are going over at Fusilier Bluff, after we've
blown up a huge mine. Their Brigade Bombers are going to occupy the
crater. But, of course, mum's the word."

Lastly, Monty held mysterious communion with my sergeant-major, a
wonderful cockney humorist, who possessed the truth on all points.
As far as Fusilier Bluff was concerned, said he, the attack was an
effort to reach and destroy the terrible whizz-bang gun. It was
believed that the gun's location was in a nullah where its dump of
ammunition was inaccessible to our artillery. Only bombers could
reach it. So they were going to blow up a mine of 570 pounds of
ammonel, and the bombers, supported by the infantry, were going to
rush for the crater. From the crater they would sally forth and
reach the gun. "And glory be to Gawd," concluded the sergeant-major
piously, "that I ain't a bomber."


§3

On the eve of the attack Doe and I were in our dug-out discussing
what part the C.O. would allot us in the operation, when an orderly
appeared at the door.

"Brigade Bombing Officer here, sir?" he asked, saluting.

"Sure thing," said Doe.

"The C.O. wants to see you at once, sir."

Doe shrugged his shoulders. "_Quand on parle du loup, on en voie le
queue._ Now we shall hear something." And he followed the orderly.

A trifle jealous, I awaited his return. He came back with joy
sparkling in his eyes--how far assumed I know not--and, flinging
himself down on a box, cried: "Rupert, the show in this sector is
_my_ show! They're going to blow up the jolly old mine; and the
minute it goes up I've got to take the bombers over the top and
occupy the crater. Then, if I think it possible, I'm to go further
forward to the whizz-bang gun and blow it into the middle of the
next war. _Voyez-vous_, they know they've a competent young officer
in charge of the bombers. Rupert, we shall not stay long in the
crater. And, if you please, the C.O. wishes to see Captain Ray
immediately."

"Which means I'm for it too," said I, as I went out.

The C.O. explained my share. I was to take over all my company and
capture the trenches on the right of the crater. On capturing them,
I was to open a covering fire to enable the bombers to go further
forward. A similar move was being made by B Company on the bombers'
left. In short, a wedge was being driven into the Turkish line, and
the point of the wedge--Doe's bombing party--was to penetrate to the
gun-position. Both my task and Doe's were dam-dangerous, said the
Colonel, but Doe's was the damnedest. On the effectiveness of my
flanking support might depend his life and the success of the raid.
Did I see?

"Yes, sir."

The hour of the attack was not known, he explained. Since the whole
Helles line was moving, the final order must come from G.H.Q. But
everybody was to be armed and ready in the trenches by dawn.... And
... well, good evening, Ray.

It was about dusk. I returned to the dug-out, and by candle-light
wrote out my company orders. Then Doe and I decided that we ought to
put together a few letters. And Doe tossed his pencil gaily into the
air and caught it. The action was to cover with a veneer of
merriness a question which it embarrassed him to ask.

"Oughtn't we to make a jolly old will?"

"Sure thing," agreed I, in imitation of him. "It'll be rather fun."


§4

Soon after Battalion Orders were out, Monty came and sat down in our
dug-out. We had known he would come, and our reception of him was
planned. Doe, whose affected gaiety had begun to give place to a
certain wistfulness as the darkness fell, spoke first:

"D'you remember telling us one night on the _Rangoon_ about some
fellows who--who--gave you their wills the day before an attack?"

Monty turned his head, and started to frown through the dug-out door
at the still Ægean Sea.

"Yes," he said.

"Well, Rupert and I thought that we'd--that p'raps you'd look after
these envelopes, in case--"

"Oh, damn!" said Monty. I had never heard him swear before, but I
knew that in the word his big heart spoke. Doe still held our
envelopes towards his averted face, and at last he took them
silently.

"Thanks, awfully," said Doe.

"Thanks," said I.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake, shut up!" Monty grumbled, and started
whistling unconsciously. Immediately in my mind the words "Dismiss
me not thy service, Lord" framed themselves to the tune, and
conjured up a vision of the smoking room of the _Rangoon_ and its
decks by starlight. Abruptly Monty broke off, and said, still
frowning at the sea:

"Since those days you've been fairly loyal sons of the Church.
Aren't you going to use her before to-morrow? To-night's a more
literal Vigil than that voyage. Can't I--aren't you going to use
me?"

It was the old Monty of the _Rangoon_ speaking.

"We'd thought about it," answered Doe, reddening.

"I so want," murmured Monty, "to be of use to all the fellows who
are going over the top to-morrow. But they don't understand. They
don't think of me as a priest with something to do for them that
nobody else can do. They think I've done my job when I've had a
hymn-singing service, and preached to them.... And all the time I
want to absolve them. I want to send them into the fight--white."

No word came from us to break a long pause. We had become again
those listening people of _Rangoon_ nights.

"But _you_ understand," he recommenced. "And, if you'll come to your
Confession, I'll at least have done something for somebody before
this scrap. Rupert, you can thank Heaven you don't feel as I
do--that you've nothing positive to do to-morrow--that you're not
pulling your weight. I shall just skulk about, like a dog worrying
the heels of an attack."

"Rot!" said Doe. "You've done wonders for the men."

"No, I haven't, except for those who come to their Mass and
Confession. I've held no services a layman couldn't hold, and done
nothing for the sick a hospital orderly couldn't do. And I want to
be their priest."

"Well, we'll both come to-night."

Monty ceased frowning at the sea, and smilingly turned towards us.

"You may think," he said, "that I've been of some help to you; but
you can never know of what help you two have been to me."

"Oh, rot!" said Doe, tossing a pencil into the air.


§5

It was about ten o'clock when I came away from Monty's home in the
Eski Line, where I had made my Confession. I retain an impression of
myself, as I walked homeward through the darkness, moving along the
summits above Y Ravine. I was listening to the nervous night-firing
of the Turk, who was apprehensive of something in the morning, and
hearing in my mind Monty's last words: "Forget those things which
are behind, and press towards the mark of your high calling."

Walking along the Peninsula at night being always a gloomy matter, I
was glad to arrive at the dug-out, where Doe was already under his
blankets. I lay down and spent a long time battling with my mind to
prevent it keeping me awake by too active thinking. For, if only I
could drop off into unconsciousness, I had the chance of sleeping
till an hour before the dawn.


§6

There is something depressing in being called while it is still
dark, and being obliged to dress by artificial light. As I laced my
boots by the flame of the candle in the dusk before the dawn, I felt
a sensation I used to experience at school, when they lit the
class-room gas in the early twilight of a winter afternoon--a
sensation of the sadness and futility of all things.

I awoke Doe, and could tell, as he sat up, rubbing his eyes and
yawning, that returning memory was filling his mind with speculation
as to what unthinkable things the morning might hold in its womb.
With the feigned gaiety of the day before he flung off his blankets,
and said:

"Well, Roop, it's 'over the top and the best of luck' for us this
morning."

"Strange how quiet everything is," I replied. "The bombardment ought
to have started before this."

"Yes, it's a still and top-hole morning." Saying this, Doe went to
the dug-out window to look at the dawn. The moment that his face
framed itself in the square of the window, dawn, coming in like an
Ægean sunset with a violet light, lit up his half-profile, throwing
into clear relief the familiar features, and dropping a brilliant
spark into each of his wide, contemplative eyes. The effect was a
thing of the stage: it lent him an added wistfulness, and I felt a
pang of pity for him, and a throb of something not lower than love.
He walked back to his bed, whistling, while I completed my
preparations by fixing my revolver to my belt.

"Well, I'm ready," I said. "I must go and look at my braves."

"Don't s'pose I shall see you again, then, before the show," said
Doe, pulling on his boots nonchalantly.

"No. We'll compare notes in the captured trenches this evening."

"Right you are. Cheerioh!"

"Chin-chin."

I went out, reviewing painful possibilities. In the trenches I
found my company "standing-to," armed and ready. Knowing that idle
waiting would mean suspense and agitation, I went about overhauling
ammunition, and instructing my men on the exact objectives and the
work of consolidation. My restlessness brought back vividly that day
when I had suffered from nerves before the Bramhall-Erasmus swimming
race. The same interior hollowness made me chafe at delay and long
to be started--to be busied in the excitement of action--to be
looking back on it all as a thing of the past.

The morning wore on. There was bustling in the communication
trenches, pack-mules bringing up ammunition, and men shouldering
cases of bombs. At ten o'clock the C.O. came round the line. Now
that the imminence of the attack had made unpleasantly real his duty
of sending us over the top, he had grown quite fatherly. "Don't get
killed," he said. "I can't spare any of you--battalion dam-depleted
already.... Is there anything you wish to ask, my boy?"

"Yes, sir. I want to know what time it begins, and what exactly it's
all about."

"At two o'clock," he replied. "The mine goes up then. But what it's
all about I know no more than you do. Personally, I think it is to
cover some operations at Suvla. The Staff is obviously so
dam-anxious to let the Turk know we're going to attack, that I'm
sure this is a diversion intended to keep the Turk's Helles army
occupied, and prevent it reinforcing Suvla. Go and have a look from
the Bluff out to sea, and observe how well the show is being
advertised. There may be reason for this ostentation, but it's
dam-awkward for my lads, who'll have to run up against a
well-prepared enemy."

"But s'posing it means they're going to evacuate Suvla, and leave us
to our fate, what'll be our position on Helles then, sir?"

"Well, we shall be like the rearguard that covered the retreat at
Mons--heroes, but mostly dead ones."

"Good Lord!" thought I, as the C.O. turned away. "We shall be lonely
on Helles to-night if we hear that the Suvla Army has left for
England."

I went, as he suggested, to glance at the preparations on the sea. I
saw a string of devilish monitors, solemnly taking up their
position between Imbros and our eastern coast. Destroyers lay round
the Peninsula like a chain of black rulers. A great airship was
sailing towards us. From Imbros and Tenedos aeroplanes were rising
high in the sky.

The Turk, wide awake to these preliminaries, was firing shrapnel at
the aircraft overhead, and hurling towards the destroyers his
high-explosive shells, which tossed up water-spouts in the sea. The
whizz-bang gun spat continuously.

"You won't spit after to-night," I mused, "if Doe reaches you."

And, from all I knew of Doe and his passion for the heroic, I felt
assured that he would never stay in the crater like a diffident
batsman in his block. He would reach the opposite crease, or be run
out.

"He'll get there. He'll get there," I told myself persistently.


§7

The attack having been postponed till two o'clock, Monty held an
open-air Communion Service in Trolley Ravine. The C.O., myself, and
a few others stole half an hour to attend it. This day was the last
Sunday in Advent, and a morning peace, such as reminded us of
English Sundays, brooded over Gallipoli. Save for the distant and
intermittent firing of the Turk, everything was very still, and
Monty had no need to raise his voice. The Collect was probably being
read thus softly at a number of tiny services dotted about the hills
of Helles and Suvla. Never shall I hear it again without thinking of
the last pages of the Gallipoli story, and of that Advent Sunday of
big decisions. "O Lord, raise up thy power, and come among us ...
that, whereas we are sore let and hindered in running the race that
is set before us, Thy bountiful mercy may speedily help and deliver
us." Like an answer to prayer came the words of the Epistle:
"Rejoice.... The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing. And the
peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts
and minds." Read at Monty's service in Trolley Ravine, it sounded
like a Special Order of the Day. I remembered what the Colonel had
hinted about Suvla, and wondered whether at similar services there
it was being listened to like a last message to the Suvla Army.

Not long had I returned to my fire trenches before our bombardment
opened. The shells streamed over, seeming about to burst in our own
trenches, but exploding instead the other side of No Man's Land.
Distant booms told us that the Navy had joined in the quarrel. The
awful noise of the bombardment, lying so low on our heads, and the
deafening detonations of the shells disarrayed all my thoughts. My
temples throbbed, my ears sang and whistled, and something began to
beat and ache at the back of my head. My brain, crowded with the
bombardment, had room for only two clear thoughts--the one, that I
was standing with a foot on the firing-step, my revolver cocked in
my hand; the other, that, when the mine gave the grand signal, I
should clamber mechanically over the parapet and rush into turmoil.
Hurry up with that mine--oh, hurry up! My limbs at least were
shivering with impatience to be over and away.

A great report set the air vibrating; the voice of my sergeant-major
shouted: "It's gone up, sir!" a burst of rapid rifle and machine-gun
fire, spreading all along the line, showed that the bombers had
leapt out of the protection of the trenches and gone over the
parapet--and, almost before I had apprehended all these things, I
had scrambled over the sand-bags, and was in the open beneath a
shower of earth that, blown by the mine into the air, was dropping
in clods and particles. Confound the smoke and the dust! I could
scarcely see where I was running. The man on my right dropped with a
groan. Elsewhere a voice was crying with a blasphemy, "I'm hit!"
Bullets seemed to breathe in my face as they rushed past. I stumbled
into a hole. I picked myself up, for I saw before me a line of
bayonets, glistening where the light caught them. It was my company;
and I must be in front of them--not behind. Revolver gripped, I ran
through and beyond them, only to fall heavily in a deep depression,
which was the Turkish trench. An enemy bayonet was coming like a
spear at my breast just as I fired. The shadowy foe fell across my
legs. From under him I fired into the breast of another who loomed
up to kill me. Then I rose, as a third, with a downward blow from
the barrel of his rifle, knocked my revolver spinning from my hand.
With an agony in my wrist, I snatched at his rifle, and, wrenching
the bayonet free, stabbed him savagely with his own weapon, tearing
it away as he dropped. Heavens! would my company never come? I had
only been four yards in front of them. Was all this taking place in
seconds? One moment of clear reasoning had just told me that this
cold dampness, moving along my knee, was the soaking blood of one of
my victims, when a Turkish officer ran into the trench-bay, firing
backwards and blindly at my sergeant-major. Seeing me, he whipped
round his revolver to shoot me. My fist shot out towards his chin in
an automatic action of self-defence, and the bayonet, which it held,
passed like a pin right through the man's throat. His blood spurted
over my hand and ran up my arm, as he dropped forward, bearing me
down under him.

"Hurt, sir?" asked the sergeant-major, kindly. "We've got the
trench."

"Man the trench," said I, an English voice bringing my wits back,
"and keep up a covering fire for the bombers."

At the mention of the bombers I thought of Doe. Getting quickly up,
I stood on the piled bodies of my victims to see over the top. As I
looked through the rolling smoke for the position of the bombers, I
heard my sergeant-major saying to a man in the next bay:

"Our babe's done orl right. He's killed four, and is now standin' on
'em."

Without doubting that he was speaking of me, I yet felt no glow at
this rough tribute, for I was worried at what I saw in the open. In
the fog of smoke I descried a figure that must be Doe's. He was
still out on the top, his party straggling and bewildered. It
perplexed me. Why was he not under cover in the crater of the mine?
Had all my blood-letting work only occupied the time it took him to
run from his trench to the lips of the crater?

Seeing his danger, I rushed along my company, shouting: "Curse you!
Double the rapidity of that fire. Do you want all the bombers
killed?" till I reached our extreme left, where we had been in touch
with Doe. Jumping up again, I watched his movements. I saw him
running well in front of his bombers, who were now going forward, as
if to a definite object. "Good--good--good! He'll get there." The
words were mine, but they sounded like someone else's. Then, almost
before the event which provoked it, I heard my own low groan.

Doe stopped, and staggered slightly backwards. His cap fell off, and
the wind blew his hair about, as it used to do on the cricket-field
at school. He recovered an upright position; he smiled very
clearly--then folded up, and collapsed.

I saw his party retire rapidly, but in orderly fashion, under the
command of their sergeant. Beyond them B Company, whose right flank
had been left hanging in the air by the withdrawal of the bombers,
began to execute a similar movement.

"Tain't the bombers' fault, sir," exclaimed my sergeant-major. "The
mine failed to produce a crater. They'd nowt to occupy."

Sick with misery and indecision, I was realising that I must retire
my company, its left flank being exposed--I was taking a last look
at the huddled form that had been my friend, when I saw him rise and
rush forward. Excitedly I cried: "Fire! Fire! Keep up that covering
fire! Be ready to advance at any moment." Ha, there were no tactics
about the position in front of Fusilier Bluff that minute. Doe was
tumbling forward alone. A company, firing furiously to keep down the
heads of the Turks, was "in the air"--and ready to advance.

"Message to retire at once, sir," reported my sergeant-major.

Look! Doe had something in his hand. He hurled it. A distant thud
and a small report merged at once into a great explosion, which
reverberated about the Bluff. Doe laughed shrilly. He fell. But it
could only have been the shock which knocked him over, for he was on
his feet again, and staggering home.

"Gawd!" screamed the sergeant-major. "He's bombed the gun and
exploded the shell-dump. Finish whizz-bang!" And he bellowed with
triumphant laughter.

"I knew he would," cried I. "I knew he would. This way, Doe!"

He was going blindly to his right.

"Message from C.O. to retire at once, sir."

"This way, Doe!" I roared at him, laughing, for I thought he was
well and unhurt.

But no. He pitched, rolled over, and lay still.

I gasped. What was I to do? Ordered to retire, I wanted to jump out
and fetch him in. In those few seconds of indecision, I saw a figure
crash forward, pick up Doe's body, and run back.

"The padre! The padre!" exclaimed the sergeant-major.

"No? Was it?"

"Gawd, yes! The gor-blimey parson!"

"Pass the word to retire," I commanded. "Hang it! We seem to have
done the job we set out to do."


§8

Covered with blood and dust, my jacket torn, I came half an hour
later upon Monty, where he was sitting wearily upon a mound. I had
but one question to ask him.

"Is he dead?"

"No. Hit in the shoulder the first time. Then, after he got up and
bombed the gun, hit four times in the waist."

"Will he die?"

"Of course."

I walked away, as a man does from one who has cruelly hurt him.

"O Christ!" I said, just blasphemously, for in that moment of
tearless agony all my moral values collapsed. "O Christ! Damn
beauty! Damn everything!" Then there came a disorder of the mind, in
which I could only repeat to myself: "The Germans are coming, oh
dear, oh dear. The Germans are coming, oh dear, oh dear. The
Germans--Oh, drop it, for God's sake, drop it!"


A night and a morning passed: and the next afternoon I was sitting
on the Bluff, glumly watching a destroyer flash and smoke, as she
hurled shells over my head to Achi Baba. An officer came up, and
with grim meaning handed me the typed copy of an official telegram.

"Here's the key to yesterday's riddle," he explained.

I took it and read: "Suvla and Anzac successfully evacuated. No
casualties."

The officer waited till I had finished, and then said:

"Well, what's our position on Helles now? A bit dickey, eh?"

Scarcely interested, I looked along the coast of the Peninsula and
saw two great conflagrations, the smoke ascending in pillars to the
sky, at Suvla and Anzac, where the retiring army had fired the
remaining stores.



CHAPTER XV

TRANSIT


§1

Then Monty approached me, as I tossed stones down the slope on to
the beach.

"I've seen him," he said. "He's in No. 17 Stationary Hospital, the
'White City.' Are you coming?"

"Of course," replied I uncivilly. Did he think _he_ would visit Doe
and _I_ wouldn't--I who had known him ten years? The man was
presuming on his six-months' acquaintance with my friend.

"Well, come down to the dump, and we'll find you a horse."

"How is he?" asked I, not choosing to be told what to do.

"Bad. Come along. There's no time to lose."

"All right--I'm coming, aren't I? I don't need to be ordered to go."

In silence we went down Gurkha Mule Trench into Gully Ravine, where
the horse lines were.

"Saddle up Charlie," said Monty to his groom, "and get the Major's
chestnut for Captain Ray."

The groom brought the horses, and, as he tightened up the girth on
Monty's dark bay Arab, asked me:

"Are you going to see Mr. Doe, sir?"

I turned away without answering. I hadn't spoken to him, and there
was no occasion for him to speak to me.

"Yes, we are," said Monty promptly.

"Sad about such a nice young gentleman. He's packing up, they say."

"The damned alarmist!" thought I. "He relishes the grim news."

But I knew in my heart that I was only grudging him his right to be
sorry for Doe. Who was _he_ to grieve? Three months before he had
not heard of us. On all the Peninsula there was only one just claim
to the right of grieving: and that was mine.

Monty mounted. Seizing the reins carelessly, I put my foot in the
chestnut's stirrup. As I rose, the bit pulled on the mare's mouth
and she wheeled and reared, shaking me awkwardly to the ground.

"Damn the bloody horse," I said aloud.

Monty stroked his bay's silk neck, as though he had heard nothing.

"You've got his rein too tight, sir," the groom told me.

"All right! I know how to mount a horse."

I swung into the saddle, and, ignoring Monty, set the mare, which
was very fresh, at a canter towards Artillery Road. Artillery Road
was a winding gun-track that climbed out of Gully Ravine up to the
tableland beneath Achi Baba. Much too fast I ran the chestnut up the
steep incline, and emerged from the ravine on to the high level
ground. Straightway I looked across two miles of scrub to the
seaward point of the plateau, where stood a large camp of square
tents. It was No. 17 Stationary Hospital, the "White City." ... I
wondered which of those tents he was in.

The chestnut, anxious for a gallop through the scrub, and excited by
the noise of Monty cantering behind, pulled hard. My heart was in
sympathy with her, and I let her open into a stretch-gallop. For I
was absurdly thinking that, if once I allowed Monty to draw abreast
of me, I should yield to him a share of my position as chief
mourner. I wanted to be lonely in my grief.

At a point in front of me on the beaten road shells were dropping
with regularity. Savagely grieving, I let the mare race the shells
to the danger zone. What cared I if shell and mare and rider
converged together upon their destruction?

I rode through a rush of confused impressions. At one moment I was
passing Pink Farm Cemetery, which had two of its crosses nearly
broken by a shell-splinter. I was wondering if they would bury him
there, alongside of White, under the solitary tree. At another, I
was galloping through the lines of the Lowland Division, where a
band of pipers was playing "Annie Laurie," and an officer cried out
to me: "Stop that galloping, you young fool." In answer I put heels
to the mare's flanks and urged her on. And all the while the "White
City" was growing nearer and larger, and my heart beginning to beat
with anticipation and fear. I shouldn't know what to do or to say.
Never shy of Doe living, I was shy of Doe dying.

Having pulled the excited mare into control and dismounted, I looked
round, sneakily sideways, for Monty. I wanted his company now, for I
feared what was coming. Too proud to appear to wait for him, I
shammed difficulty with the animal's head-rope, and delayed long
over the task of tethering her securely. And the time, during which
Monty arrived and dismounted, I killed by unloosening girth and
surcingle.

"Come along, Rupert, old chap."

Monty led the way to Doe's tent. And the chief mourner followed
humbly behind. As we dipped our heads to pass under the porch, we
went out of the glare of the open air into the subdued and gentle
light of the tent. At once a coolness like that of evening displaced
the warmth of the afternoon. And a strange quiet fell about our
ears. It seemed to me that the eight cots were empty.

The orderly on duty greeted Monty with a soft whisper: "He's quite
conscious, sir, but won't last long."

Following the glance of the orderly, I saw Doe's wide eyes fixed
upon me.

"Hallo, Rupert."

I hurried to his bedside, feeling, even in that moment, a triumphant
joy that his affectionate welcome had been for me and not for Monty.

"Hallo, Doe."

He looked very beautiful, lying there. His complexion, always as
flawless as a little child's, had assumed a new waxen loveliness,
no touch of colour varying its pale and delicate brown. And his eyes
were brilliant.

"Well--we did in the old gun, Rupert, that killed--Jimmy Doon--and
Major Hardy.... The _Rangoon_ proved too strong for it, after all!"

How characteristic of our dear, dramatic Doe his words were!

"Yes," I said, and could think of nothing more to say.

He moved his body slightly, and I, cudgelling my mind for some
remark, asked:

"Were you hurt much?"

"I was wounded--in the shoulder--and then hit four times, after
I--the doctor seems to think it's pretty bad--but oh, it's nothing."

As he spoke I could see that he was rather pleased with the
picturesqueness of being "Dangerously Wounded," and that, while he
wished to inform us how interesting he had become, he wished also to
appear to be stoically making light of his pain. And I loved him for
being the same self-conscious heroic character up to the last.

The brilliant eyes sought out Monty, who was standing just behind
me. Doe gazed at him, and, after a thoughtful pause, laughed
nervously.

"I wonder if I shall be--here--to-morrow, when you come. I dare say
I shan't."

Again I saw the thought behind his words. Probably my love for him
was blazing up, in these farewell moments, brighter than it had ever
been, and illuminating all things. I saw that he wanted to live, but
feared he was going to die. I saw that he had gambled everything
upon his last remark, and was waiting to see if he would draw life
or death.

Had he said it to me I should have answered hurriedly: "Of course
you will," but Monty was cast in more courageous metal. Boldly he
seized this moment to convey the truth. He offered no denial to
Doe's daring suggestion that the end was near: instead, he laid his
hand very gently on the boy's wrist, as if to tell him that he
wished to help him through with a difficult thought.

Throughout my life, till someone shall tell me that my time has
come, I shall remember Doe's look when he saw that Monty was not
going to dispute his statement. His wide eyes stared inquiringly.
Then they filmed over with a slight moisture, for they belonged to a
boy who was not yet twenty. He dropped his eyelids to conceal the
welling moisture, but raised them a few seconds later, revealing
that the tears had gathered still more abundantly, and his lashes
were wet with them. Nevertheless he smiled, and said:

"Well, it can't be helped. If I'd known when I started that it
would end like this--I'd have gone through with it just the same. I
haven't got cold feet."


§2

"It's an end to all the ambitions and poems," said Doe later, when
the windowless tent seemed to be getting dark, though the afternoon
was yet early. "P'raps you'll be left to fulfil yours, Rupert. Do
you remember you said in Radley's room--all those hundreds of years
ago--that you wanted to be a country squire?"

"Yes," answered I, with a quivering lip.

"And Penny wanted--to be a Tory.... And I wanted to lead the people.
Oh, well. I'd like just to have known--whether we won the war in the
end. P'raps you'll know--"

"We're winning," said I feebly.

"O Lord, yes," agreed Doe, dreamily echoing an old memory.

It grew darker, though not yet three o'clock; and my brain seemed to
be receding from me with the light. I felt tired and frightened.
There was a long pause, till at last I said:

"Well, I s'pose I must be going now."

God! The futility of the words! And they were the last I could utter
to Doe!... I grasped his wrist. If I couldn't speak, I could pass
all my abounding love and misery through the pressure of my hand.

"Good-bye," he said. "Thanks for coming to see me."

The boyish words broke me up. My brows contracted in pain. My eyes
burned, and misery filled my throat. I even felt a smile at the
tragedy of it all pass over my face. Then with an audible moan I
rushed away.

I went out to my horse without waiting for Monty. I could have
waited for nobody. I wanted motion, action, something to occupy my
hands and feet and mind. As I mounted the mare she began to walk
away. But walking was not action enough. Impatiently I urged her to
a canter and a gallop. And, while she galloped, increasing her
distance from the "White City," I asked myself if I realised that I
was riding away from Doe for ever.

The spirited mare, knowing that she was going home to her lines,
opened out like a winner racing up the straight. The extravagance of
her speed exactly fitted my extravagant mood. I promised myself
that, just as I was letting my animal have its head, so I would
slacken all moral reins, and let my life run uncontrolled. There was
_not_ more beauty in things than ugliness, nor more happiness in
life than pain. Have done with this straining after ideals!... The
horse gathered pace.

Then, as I rode savagely and thought savagely, a strange thing
happened. I was gripping the mare with my knees, and, now that she
was attaining her highest speed, I leaned forward like a jockey,
throwing my weight on her withers. The wind rushed past me; the
exhilaration of speed filled me; that invigorating sensation of
strong life pulling upon my reins and springing between the grip of
my knees ran through my veins; my lungs tightened; a pleasing
weariness set in below the heart; and for a moment I almost felt the
unconquerable joy of youth in life!

Instantly I pulled the wild animal in, and dropped into a melancholy
walk. I felt as if I had been trapped. Not yet would I be disloyal
to Doe by admitting beauty in creation or joy in living. I walked
the lathering mare to the lines, like a tired jockey who has run his
race. Then I wandered home to Fusilier Bluff--home to a dug-out for
two! I couldn't enter the dug-out yet. I lay down on the Bluff,
watching the late sun nearing the hills of Imbros.

The misery possessing me was of that passionate kind which embraces
self-torture. I wilfully excavated the ten past years for memories
of Doe, though, in so doing, I was pressing upon my wound to make it
hurt. I watched him as a boy, getting into the next bed in the
Bramhall dormitory, or rowing in the evening light up the river at
Falmouth. I saw two young khaki figures, his and mine, setting out
at midnight to sin and sully ourselves together. I heard him quoting
on the hilltops of Mudros his haunting couplet:

             "As long days close,
          And weary English suns go west'ring home."

The memories made my breath come fast and jerkily. With madly
exalted words I addressed that slight fair-haired figure, which
must now for ever be only a memory. "_My_ friend," I said to it;
"_mine, mine!_" In the freshness of my loss, I thought no lover had
ever loved as I did. "I loved you--I loved you--I loved you," I
repeated. And I even worked myself up into a weary longing to die.
Pennybet had led the way, and Doe now was following him. And why
should not I complete the story? Why not? Why not?

My brain was pulsing thus tempestuously when Monty drew near me. I
affected not to notice his coming, but when he sat down beside me I
decided to speak first. I felt it would be a supreme relief to hurt
him with the news that I had abandoned his ideal, and let my
spiritual life collapse. So, without looking at him, I said angrily:

"There's no beauty in it."

"Rupert, you're wrong," he answered, "and you'll see it when you are
less unhappy." He paused. "Doe--Edgar used to worry himself because
he thought that any really good thing that he did was spoiled by a
desire for glory. He often said that he wanted to do a really
perfect thing. And, Rupert, this afternoon he told me that, when he
went forward to put out that gun, he felt quite alone. He seemed
surrounded with smoke and flying dust. And he thought he would do
one big deed unseen.... He did his perfect thing at the last."

"There's no beauty," I repeated dully.

"Rupert, Edgar is dead.... And there's only one unbeautiful thing
about his death, and that is the way his friend is taking it."

Monty stopped, and both of us watched the sun go down behind Imbros.
It was throwing out golden rays like the spokes of a wheel. These
rays caught the flaky clouds above Samothrace, and just pencilled
their outline with a tiny rim of gold and fire. And the hills of
Imbros, as always in the Ægean Sea, turned purple.

"There's no beauty in death and burial and corruption," I said.

"Yes, there is, even in them. There's beauty in thinking that the
same material which goes to make these earthly hills and that still
water should have been shaped into a graceful body, and lit with the
divine spark which was Edgar Doe. There's beauty in thinking that,
when the unconquerable spark has escaped away, the material is
returned to the earth, where it urges its life, also an
unconquerable thing, into grass and flowers. It's harmonious--it's
beautiful."

This time I forbore to repeat my obstinate denial.

"And your friendship is a more beautiful whole, as things are. Had
there been no war, you'd have left school and gone your different
roads, till each lost trace of the other. It's always the same. But,
as it is, the war has held you in a deepening intimacy till--till
the end. It's--it's perfect."

"It'll be more perfect," I answered, in a low, hollow voice, "if the
war ends us both. Perhaps it will. There is time yet."

At so bitter a sentence Monty gave me a look, and broke through all
barriers with a single generous remark.

"Rupert, old chap, the loss of Edgar leaves _me_ numb with pain, but
I know I'm not suffering like you."

A dry sob tore up my frame.

"Oh, I don't know what I feel," I gulped, "or what I've said. I
think I've been a self-centred cad. I'm--I'm sorry."

Monty muttered something gentle, and left me reclining on the Bluff
and looking out to sea. I didn't turn my head to watch him go. But I
was thinking now less stormily.

Yes, I had been behaving like a fool: but I had been mad, as though
everything had snapped. To-morrow I would recover my mental balance
and resume moral effort. My last loyalty to Doe should be this: that
I would not let his death destroy his friend's ideals. That, as
Monty said, would spoil the beauty of it all. And I, least of any,
should spoil it! But to-night--just for to-night--my fretful,
contrary mood must play itself out. To-morrow I would begin again.

So I lay watching the changing lights. Darkness came close behind
the sunset, and there, yonder, Orion hung low in the sky. I tossed a
few stones down the Bluff, but soon it was too dark to see them
after they had travelled a little distance. Overhead the sky
deepened to the last blue of night, but along the western horizon it
remained a luminous sea-green. Against this bright afterglow the
hills of Imbros stood almost black. I stared at them. Then the
luminous green turned to the blue of the zenith, and the hills were
lost. And the cold of the Gallipoli night chilled me, as I lay
there, too indolent and despairing to seek warmth.



CHAPTER XVI

THE HOURS BEFORE THE END


§1

On the following day we buried Doe at sundown. In a grave on Hunter
Weston Hill, which slopes down to W Beach, he lies with his feet
toward the sea.

The same evening the medical orderly abused my confidence and
informed the doctor that I was running a high temperature; and the
doctor told me to pack up, as he was sending me to hospital. I
refused.

I pointed out to him that if I, as a Company Commander, were to go
sick at this juncture of the Gallipoli campaign, I could never again
look the men of my company in the face. I tried to be funny about
it. I asked him if he knew that Suvla had been evacuated; and that
the Turks had therefore their whole Suvla army released to attack us
on Helles--to say nothing of unlimited reinforcements pouring
through Servia from Germany. I offered him an even bet that a few
days hence we should either be lying dead in the scrub at Helles, or
marching wearily to our prison at Constantinople. How, then, could I
desert my men at this perilous moment? "The Germans are coming, oh
dear, oh dear," I summed up; and then shivered, as I remembered
whose merry voice had first chanted those words.

All this I explained to the doctor, but I did not tell him that,
when I discovered my abnormal temperature, I had felt a quick spring
of joy bubbling up, for here was an excuse for getting out of this
Gallipoli, of which I was so sick and tired; and then I had
remembered how, in loyalty to Doe, I had replaced my old ideals, and
by their light I must stay. I must only leave the Peninsula when I
could leave it with honour of holding Helles for the Empire.

In the end the doctor and I compromised. He said he would not send
me to hospital, but that I must go down to the dump, and take things
easy for a few days. From there I could be summoned, since I took
myself so devilish seriously, to die with my men when the massacre
began. I told him that the dump was too far back, but that, if he
liked, I would go and live with Padre Monty in the Eski Line.

So a few days before Christmas I arrived with my batman and my kit
at Monty's tiny sand-bag dug-out. He gave me a joyous welcome,
stating that he would order the maids to light the fire in the best
bedroom and air the sheets. Meanwhile, would I step into his study?


§2

"I'm glad," said I to Monty at breakfast the next morning, "that I
shall spend Christmas alone with you here. I couldn't have stood
just now a riotous celebration with the regiment."

"Of course not," he agreed, and we both kept a silence in honour of
the dead.

"Though I doubt if it'll be a riotous Christmas for anyone," I
resumed. "Probably the last most of us will ever know."

"Stuff!" murmured Monty.

"'Tisn't stuff. Have you seen the Special Order of the Day that has
been printed and stuck up everywhere, congratulating us on our
attack of December 19, which, it says, 'contributed largely to the
successful evacuation of Suvla,' and telling us that to our Army
Corps 'has been entrusted the honour of holding Helles for the
Empire'?"

"Heavens!" he muttered. "We can't do it."

"Of course we can't; and we can't quit."

"Not without being wiped out," he agreed.

"Exactly. I wonder what it'll feel like, having a Turco bayonet in
one's stomach."

"Rupert," said Monty suddenly, "we've had a bad jar, and we're
getting morbid. Cheer up. Muddly old Britain will get us out of this
mess. And now we're jolly well going to make all we can out of this
Christmas. It'll certainly be the most _piquant_ of our lives.
_Adams!_"

"Sir?" Monty's batman appeared at the dug-out door in answer to the
call.

"Get your entrenching tool. We're going to dig up a little fir for a
Christmas tree."

So we spent the next days making our Christmas preparations,
determined to keep the feast. We decorated the sand-bag cabin--oh,
yes! Over the pictures of our people, pinned to the sand-bag walls,
we placed sprigs of a small-leaf holly that grew on the Peninsula.
We planted the little fir in a disused petrol-tin, and, after a
visit to the canteen, decorated it with boxes of Turkish delight,
sticks of chocolate, packets of chewing-gum, oranges, lemons, soap,
and bits of Government candles. It was a Christmas tree of some
distinction. And mistletoe? No, we couldn't find any mistletoe, but
then, as Monty said, it would have no point on Gallipoli, there
being no--just so; when we should be home again for Christmas of
next year, we would claim an extra kiss for 1915.

"Pest! Rupert," exclaimed Monty, "we've forgotten to send any
Christmas cards. To work at once!"

We sat down at the tiny table and cut notepaper into elegant shapes,
sticking on it little bits of Turkish heather, and printing beneath:
"A Slice of Turkey" (which we thought a very happy jest); "Heather
from Invaded Enemy Territory. Are we downhearted? NO! Are we going
to win? YES!"

And by luck there arrived a parcel from Mother with a cake. Of plum
pudding we despaired, till one fine morning there came a present
(half a pound per man) of that excellent comestible from the _Daily
News_ (whom the gods preserve and prosper).

"All is now ready," proclaimed Monty.

Christmas Day dawned beautiful in sky and atmosphere. It would have
been as mild and gracious as a windless June day had not the Turk,
nervous lest these dogs of Christians should celebrate their
festival with any untoward activity, opened at daylight a
prophylactic bombardment.

We stood in the dug-out door and watched the shells dropping.

"Does it strike you, Rupert," asked Monty, making a grimace, "that
Old-Man-Turk has more guns firing than ever before?"

"Yes," I answered. "The guns from Suvla have come."

The words were no sooner out of my mouth than a shell shrieking into
our own cookhouse, drove us like rabbits into the dug-out.

"Does it strike you, Rupert," said Monty, "that Turk Pasha has some
pals with him who are firing heavier shells than ever before?"

"Yes," said I. "The Germans have come."


§3

The afternoon we devoted to preparations for the feast of the
evening. We laid the table. There was a water-proof ground-sheet for
the cloth. There were little holly branches stuck in tobacco tins.
And there were candles in plenty (for they were a Government issue,
and we could be free with them). At Monty's suggestion, who
maintained that the family must be gathered at the Christmas board,
we placed photographs of our people on the table. There was a
picture of Monty's sister and (for shame, Monty! fie upon you for
keeping it dark so long) the picture of somebody else's sister.
There was the portrait of my mother, and oh! in a silent moment, I
had nearly placed on the table the dear face of Edgar Doe, but,
instead, I put it back in my pocket, saying nothing to Monty, and
feeling guilty of a lapse.

We were glad when the darkness came, for we wanted to try the effect
of the candles, both those on the table and those on the Christmas
tree. And truly the darkness, the candles, the flying sparks from
our Yule log, and the smell of burning wood made Christmas
everywhere.

Then we sat down to the meal. The menu said: "Consommé Gallipoli,
Stew Dardanelles, Plum Pudding, Dessert, Lemonade à la Tour Eiffel."
The soup was very good, even if it was only the gravy from the next
course. And the stew in its plate looked almost too fine to disturb;
the very largest onion was stuck in the middle--was it not Christmas
Day? The pudding we set on fire with the Army rum issue. And the
dish of dessert was a fine pile of lemons and oranges--the lemons
not being there to be eaten, of course, but to make the show more
brave.

Then the batmen were fetched in and given the presents from the
Christmas Tree. And we drank healths in lemonade à la Tour Eiffel.
We toasted the King, the Allies, "Johnny Turk beyond the Parapet,"
and, above all, "Our People at home, God bless 'em!" We sang "For
they are jolly good fellows," and it was wonderful what a fine thing
two officers and their soldier-servants made of it. Somebody, warmed
up by this lively chorus, raised his glass and suggested "To Hell
with the Kaiser!" But this toast we disallowed, on the ground that
it would spoil our kindly feeling, and besides, as Monty observed
compensatingly, he would be toasted enough when he got there.


And, when it was all over, I went out into the darkness to walk
alone for a little, and to get the chill night air blowing upon my
forehead. It was as clear and fine a night as it had been a
day--cloudless, still, and starlit. And--forgive me--but I could
only think of him whom we had left on Hunter Weston Hill, with his
feet toward the sea, lying out there in the cold and the quiet. O
God, when should I get used to it?



CHAPTER XVII

THE END OF GALLIPOLI


§1

Wandering down the Gully Ravine one morning, I encountered a long
line of men marching up it in single file. I passed as close to them
as possible, so that, by a glance at their shoulder-straps, I might
ascertain their regiment. No sooner had I learned who they were than
I turned about and hurried back to Monty's dug-out. This life holds
few pleasures so agreeable as that of conveying startling news.

"Who do you think's marching up the Gully?" I demanded.

"I don't know. Who?" asked Monty.

"The Munster Fusiliers!"

"What? The immortal 29th Division? From Suvla. The dickens! What
does it mean?"

Before we could decide what it meant my batman came back from a
visit to the French canteen at Seddel Bahr.

"They're landing hundreds of troops at V Beach, sir," said he. "The
Worcesters are here, and the Warwicks."

"The 13th Division," exclaimed Monty. "Also from Suvla."

"They're reinforcements," said I. "It's all in accordance with the
Special Order of the Day that we are to 'hold Helles for the
Empire.'"

Monty was just about to pulverise me with a particularly rude
rejoinder, when a voice outside called "Hostile aircraft overhead,"
and we were drawn at a run to the door by the unmistakable sound of
anti-aircraft guns, followed by the bursting out of rifle and
machine-gun fire, which grew and grew till it sounded like a mighty
forest crackling and spluttering in flames. We glanced into the sky
at the shrapnel puffs, and immediately discovered two enemy
aeroplanes flying lower than they had ever done before. We could
almost see the observers leaning over the fuselage to spy out if the
British on Helles were up to the monkey tricks they had played at
Suvla. So low were they that all men with rifles--the infantry in
their trenches, the A.S.C. drivers from their dumps, the transport
men from their horse-lines--were firing a rapid-fire at the
aeroplanes and waiting to see them fall.

"Cheeky brutes!" I shouted, and, observing that our batmen were
hastily loading their rifles, ran for my revolver, determined to
fire something into the air.

"It's like us," growled Monty, "to land reinforcements under the
very eyes of the enemy aeroplanes--" He paused, as though a new idea
had struck him. "Rupert, my boy, did you say that the Special Order
about holding Helles was _extensively_ published?"

"Yes, rather. Hung in the very traverses of the trenches."

"I thought so." He nodded with irritating mysteriousness. "What
fools you and I are! Stop firing at those Taubes. Or fire wide of
them--fire wide."

"Why?"

"Because our Staff will want them to get home and report all that
they've seen. That's why."

Of a truth Monty was quite objectionable, if he was excited with
some secret discovery, and thought it amusing not to disclose it.
And when, later that afternoon, a message came round saying that
irresponsible units were not to fire at hostile aircraft, owing to
the danger of spent bullets, he bragged like any pernicious
schoolboy.

"I told you so. O Rupert, my silly little juggins, you're as dense
as a vegetable marrow. I mean, you're a very low form of life."


§2

The weather broke. Two days of merciless rain turned the trenches
into lanes of red clayey mud, and the floor of the Gully Ravine into
a canal of stagnant brown water. And one evening Monty returned from
his visitations, limping badly. He had slipped heavily, as he
paddled through the ankle-deep mud, and had hurt his back. I sent
him at once to bed, and on the following morning announced that I
was going to no less terrifying a place than Brigade Headquarters
to insist on his being given a pair of trench-waders. He enjoined
me not to be an ass, and I rebuked him severely for speaking to his
doctor like that, and, going out of the dug-out, broke off all
communication with one so rude.

Reaching Brigade Headquarters, which were on the slope across the
Gully, I asked the least alarming of the Staff Officers, the Staff
Captain, for a pair of trench-waders.

"Sorry," answered he, "we've had orders to return them all." He
looked most knowing, as he said it, and seemed to think it a remark
pregnant with excitement.

"Oh, I see," I replied, quite inadequately.

"Yes," he continued, staring whimsically at me, "we've been ordered
to shift our quarters to-night."

"Good Lord!" I said, still confused.

"Yes, we leave--_by ship_--at midnight. It's the Evacuation. The
other two brigades of our Division have already gone, and we go
to-night!"

"The devil!" exclaimed I. "Then I'll go and pack."

"Of course; and tell the padre to meet the battalion at W Beach at
ten o'clock."

Down the hillside I went, across the Gully, forging like a
steam-pinnace through the water, and up the face of the opposite
hill. Full of the glorious bursting weight of good news, I looked
down upon our batmen at work in the cookhouse, and roared: "Pack the
valises. We're off to-night." I rushed into the dug-out. "Get up," I
commanded Monty; "we leave by ship at midnight."

Never did an invalid with a broken back leap so easily out of his
bed, as did Monty. He assured me, however, in an apologetic way,
that he had been feeling much better even before he had the news.

"Now you know," said he, "what the Special Order about holding
Helles was for--to deceive old Tomfool Turk; and why those regiments
from Suvla were landed here--to appear to the Turk like
reinforcements, but really to conduct the evacuation at Helles,
having learnt the job at Suvla; and why we wanted the Turkish
aeroplanes to get back with news of our landing of troops--but, my
bonny lad, for every two hundred we land by day, we'll take off two
thousand by night!"

After a morning of hurried packing we decorated the dug-out walls
with messages for Johnny Turk to find, when he should enter our
deserted dwelling. "Sorry, Johnny, not at home"; "Au revoir, Abdul."

"Really," said Monty, "we possess a pretty wit." And, having placed
a mug of whisky on the table with a bottle of water, so that Old Man
Turk could pour it out to his liking, he wrote: "Have this one with
me, John. You fought well."

"Get my kit down with yours," said I. "I'll meet you at W Beach at
ten pip-emma."

"Why?" he asked in surprise. "Aren't you coming with me?"

"No," I replied, playing scandalous football with the cookhouse;
"I'm going to join my company and lead my braves to safety.
Good-bye."

"For Heaven's sake, don't be rash," he called after me as I set off.
"There may be dangerous work."

"Meet you at W Beach at ten pip-emma," cried I, now some distance
away.

"But you haven't the doctor's permission to return."

"Damn the doctor!" I yelled, and disappeared.


§3

It was quite dark in the fire-trenches by seven o'clock. My men,
with every stitch of equipment on their backs, stood on the
firing-step and kept up a dilatory fire on the Turkish lines.

"Maintain an intermittent fire," I ordered, as I walked among them.
"Not too much of it, or the Turk will think we're nervy, and begin
to suspect--not too little, or he'll wonder if we're moving."

In silence the relief of my company was effected. The men of the
13th Division, who were taking over our line, replaced one after
another my men on the firing-step, and kept the negligent fire
unbroken. With a whisper I officially handed over my sector to their
company commander.

"You'll follow us to-morrow, probably," I said, to comfort myself
rather than him. I didn't want the man who relieved me to be among
the killed.

"What _will_ happen, _will_ happen," he murmured. "Good luck."

"We shan't be sure we're really going," I prattled on, lest silence
became morbid. "I simply can't believe it. Either we shall be
killed, going from here to W Beach, or our orders will be cancelled
at the last moment."

"Pass the word to Captain Ray," whispered a voice, "to march his men
out."

"Word passed to you, sir, to march," said the sergeant-major.

"From whom?"

"Pass the word back--who from?"

"From Commanding Officer."

I walked to the head of my company. "File out in absolute silence,"
said I, not remembering at the moment that this was the great order
of evacuation. I watched my company file past me--twenty-eight men.
Then I followed, wishing it were lighter, for man never quite
outgrows his dislike of utter darkness--and this was a nervous
night. We threaded guiltily through the old trench system, and
emerged into the Gully Ravine, hardly realising that we had bidden
the old lines good-bye.

Since dusk the Turk, as apprehensive as ourselves, had been shelling
the Gully. And now, as we splashed and floundered along it, shells
screamed towards our column, making each of us wonder dreamily
whether he would be left dead by the wayside. We reached Artillery
Road, and discerned the shadowy form of the remainder of the
battalion.

A figure appeared from somewhere, and I recognised the voice as the
C.O.'s.

"I shall take the other companies by the road under the cliffs. Take
your men over the tableland, and wait for me at W Beach. We shall
get there more quickly and less noisily that way."

"Yes, sir," said I, saluting. But under my breath I swore. I had no
desire to take my men along the plateau, because, whereas the road
under the cliffs was well sheltered, the tableland was exposed to
all the guns on Achi Baba, every one of which--so jumpy was the
Turk--seemed manned and firing. And I had set my heart on getting my
company--all twenty-eight of them--off the Peninsula without the
loss of a single man. The route, too, lay over Hunter Weston Hill,
and I wanted to avoid seeing and thinking of Doe's grave to-night.

So, worrying anxiously, I gave the order "D Company--march!" and led
the way up Artillery Road, while the men, observing that the other
companies were proceeding in comparative safety along the Gully,
began to sing quietly: "I'll take the high road, and you'll take the
low road ... and we shall never meet again," and to titter and to
laugh.

"Silence!" I commanded.

Hearing only the padding of our feet as they marched in step, and
keeping our eyes on the ground that we might not miss the beaten
track and wander into the heather, we tramped along the trail which
I had taken on my wild ride to Doe's bedside. We passed Pink Farm
Cemetery, barely distinguishing the outline of its solitary tree. We
left the "White City" on our right. It was brilliantly lit, that the
Turk might think everything was as usual on Helles. We reached the
summit of Hunter Weston Hill, and looked down upon a still grey
plain, which was the sea.

On the slope of the hill, not fifty yards from where Doe was lying,
I had halted my men and was making them sit down, when a voice out
of the darkness asked:

"Who's that?"

My heart bounded with fright. A sense of the eerie was upon me, and
for a second I thought it was Doe's voice.

"D Company," I called hollowly, "10th East Cheshires."

"Ah, good!" repeated the voice, which was Monty's. And he stepped
out of the night, giving me another nasty turn, for it was like some
unexpected presence coming from the darkest corner of a room. He sat
down beside me, and began to talk.

"The moon is due up about midnight. They want to get us off before
moonrise, so that the Turk may not shell us by its light. His
aviators are expected to try night-flying."

"Oh!" said I. I was thinking of other things.

"But they've been shelling us pretty effectively in the dark.
Asiatic Annie is very busy troubling the beaches."

"Oh?" I said again.

And at that moment a flash illuminated the eastern sky like
lightning.

"There you are," said Monty. "She's fired."

No sound of a gun firing or a shell rushing had accompanied the
flash. Only alarm whistles began blowing from different points on
the hillside.

"They're blown by special sentries," explained Monty, "who are
posted to watch the hills of Asia for this flash, and warn the
troops to take cover."

"Take cover," I said to my men.

The shell was on its way, but, as it had a journey of seven miles to
make across the Dardanelles, a certain time must elapse before we
should hear the shriek of the shell as it raced towards us. It
seemed an extraordinary time. We knew the shell was coming with its
destiny, involving our life or death, irrevocably determined, and
yet we heard nothing. The men, under such cover as they could find,
were silent in their suspense. Then the shell roared over our heads,
seeming so low that we cowered to avoid it. It exploded a score of
yards away. A shower of earth rained upon us, but no splinter
touched anyone. The men whistled in their relief and laughed.

"Does this happen often?" I asked Monty, when I found I was still
alive.

"Every few minutes. It's ten o'clock. We embark at midnight."

"I'm moving my men, then. Asiatic Annie has the range of this spot
too well."

I marched my company down to the beach, and told them to take
shelter under the lee of the cliff. We had scarcely got there before
Annie's wicked eye sparkled from Asia, the warning whistles blew,
and, after crying "There she is!" we waited spellbound for the
imminent shriek. The shell burst in the surf, scattering shingle and
spray over every one of us.

"You'd think they'd seen us move," I said, listening for the groans
of any wounded. None came, but I heard instead the sound of muffled
voices and marching feet, and saw men moving through the darkness
along the brink of the sea like a column of Stygian shades. It was
the battalion arriving, with other units of the East Cheshire
Brigade.

"I know what'll happen, Rupert," said Monty, when these men had
crowded the beach and the hill-slope. "Some drunken Turk will lean
against that old gun in Asia, and just push it far enough to perfect
its aim."

And he looked round upon the mass of men and shuddered.

It was getting cold, and we huddled ourselves up on the beach. Some
of us were indifferent in our fatalism to the shells of Asiatic
Annie; if our time had come--well, Kismet. Others, like myself,
waited fascinated. I know I had almost hungered for that meaning
flash in Asia, the terrible delight of suspense, the rush of
thrills, and the sudden arresting of the heart as the shell
exploded.


§4

Then, about one o'clock, the moon broke the clouds and lit the
operations with a white light. It should have filled us with dismay,
but instead it seemed the beginning of brighter things. The men
groaned merrily and burst into a drawling song:

          "Oh, the moon shines bright on Mrs. Porter,
           And on her daughter,
           A regular snorter;
           She has washed her neck in dirty water,
           She didn't oughter,
             The dirty cat."

And Monty, hearing them, whispered one of his delightfully
out-of-place remarks:

"Aren't they wonderful, Rupert? I could hug them all, but I wish
they'd come to Mass."

The moon, moreover, showed us comforting things. There was the old
_Redbreast_ lying off Cape Helles. There were the lighters, crowded
with men, pushing off from the beach to the waiting boat.

"You could get off on any one of those lighters," said I to Monty.
"Why don't you go?"

"Why, because we'll leave this old place together."

After he said this I must have fallen from sheer weariness into a
half-sleep. The next thing I remember was Monty's saying: "Look
alive, Rupert! _We're_ moving now." Glancing round, I saw that my
company was the last left on the beach. I marshalled the
men--twenty-eight of them--on to the lighter.

"Now, get aboard, Rupert," said Monty.

"You first," corrected I. "I'm going to be last off to-night."

"As your senior officer, I order you to go first."

"As the only combatant officer on the beach," I retorted, "I'm O.C.
Troops. You're simply attached to me for rations and discipline.
Kindly embark."

Monty muttered something about "upstart impudence," and obeyed the
O.C. Troops, who thereupon boarded the rocking lighter, and
exchanged with one step the fatal Peninsula for the safety of the
seas.

On the _Redbreast_ we leaned upon the rail, looking back. The boat
began to steam away, and Monty, knowing with whom the thoughts of
both of us lay, said quietly:

"'Tell England--' You must write a book and tell 'em, Rupert, about
the dead schoolboys of your generation--

          'Tell England, ye who pass this monument,
           We died for her, and here we rest content.'"

Unable to conquer a slight warming of the eyes at these words, I
watched the Peninsula pass. All that I could see of it in the
moonlight was the white surf on the beach, the slope of Hunter
Weston Hill, and the outline of Achi Baba, rising behind like a
monument.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE END OF RUPERT'S STORY


§1

Let Monty have the last word, for he spoke it well. He spoke it a
few days ago, in the late autumn of 1918, that is to say, as the war
breaks up, and nearly three years after we slipped away in the
moonlight from W Beach.

In those intervening years the game losers of Gallipoli had avenged
themselves at Bagdad, Jerusalem, and Aleppo. In every field the
Turkish Armies had been destroyed: and now the forts of the
Dardanelles were to be surrendered, and the Narrows thrown open to
the Allies. One wished that the dead on Gallipoli might be awakened,
if only for a minute, at the sound of the old language spoken among
the graves, to see the khaki ashore again, and British ships sailing
in triumph up the Straits.

Many of the old Colonel's visions of the emancipation of the Arab
world, and the control of the junction of the continents, had thus
been realised. And a nobler crusade than that which he saw in the
Dardanelles campaign had been fought and won by the army which
entered Jerusalem. And, note it well, the men who won these
victories were in great part the men who escaped from Suvla and
Helles. For, like the Suvla Army, the whole Helles Army escaped. And
the Turk was a fool to let them go.

But, before I give you Monty's last word, let me tell you where I am
at this moment. It is early evening, and I am writing these closing
lines, in which I bid you farewell, sitting on the floor of my
kennel-like dug-out in a Belgian trench. There is a most glorious
bombardment going on overhead. It has thundered over our trench for
days and nights on to the German lines, which to-morrow, when we go
over the top, we shall capture, as surely as we captured the one I
am sitting in now. Yes, Turkey is out of the game; Bulgaria is out
of it; Austria is crying for quarter; and Germany is disintegrating
before our advance.

Our bombardment is the most uplifting and exciting thing. So fast do
the shells fly over and detonate on the enemy ground that it is
almost impossible to distinguish the isolated shell-bursts; they are
lost in one dense fog of smoke. Just now we ceased to be rational as
we stood watching it. "That's the stuff to give 'em!" cried a Tommy
in his excitement. "Pump it over! Pump it over!" and, as some German
sand-bags flew into the air: "Gee! Look at that! Are we downhearted?
NO! 'Ave we won? YES!" And I wanted to throw up my hat and cheer.
There seized me the sensation I got when my house was winning on the
football-ground at school. "We're on top! On top of the Boche, and
he asked for it!"

I have now returned to my dug-out, feeling it in my heart to be
sorry for the Germans. I am impatient to finish my story, for we go
over the top in the morning.


§2

It is in a letter just arrived from my mother that we find Monty's
last word--his footnote to this history. She describes a ceremony
which she attended at Kensingtowe, the unveiling of a memorial in
the chapel to the Old Kensingtonians who fell at Gallipoli. Monty,
as an old Peninsula padre, had been invited to preach the sermon. My
mother writes in her womanly way:

     "He preached a wonderful sermon. We all thought him like a man
     who had seen terrible things, and was passionately anxious that
     somehow good should come of it all.

     "Calvary, he said, was a sacrifice offered by a Holy Family.
     There was a Father Who gave His Son, because He so loved the
     world; a mother who yielded up her child, whispering (he
     doubted not): 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord'; and a Son Who
     went to His death in the spirit of the words: 'In the volume of
     the Book it was written of me that I should do Thy will, O my
     God; I am content to do it.'

     "And, in days to come, England must remember that once upon a
     time she, too, was a Holy Family; for there had been years in
     which she was composed of fathers who so loved the world that
     they gave their sons; of mothers who whispered, as their boys
     set their faces for Gallipoli or Flanders: 'Behold the handmaid
     of the Lord' (and oh, Rupert, I felt so ashamed to think
     how badly I behaved that last night before you went to
     Gallipoli--how rebellious I was!). He went on to speak of the
     sons, and what do you think he said? He spoke of one who, the
     evening before the last attack at Cape Helles, asked him: 'Will
     you take care of these envelopes, in case--' He declared that
     this simple sentence was, in its shy English way, a reflection
     of the words: 'It was written of me that I should do Thy will;
     I am content to do it.'

     "That boy, an old Kensingtonian, was mortally hit in the
     morning. There was another with him, also an old Kensingtonian,
     who was still alive, and might yet come marching home with the
     victorious army.

     "I lost his next words, for there I broke down. But I seem to
     remember his saying:

     "'All men and all nations are the better for remembering that
     once they were holy. England's past, then, is holy; her future
     is unwritten. But Idealism is mightily abroad among those who
     shall make the England that is to be. And all that remains for
     the preacher to say is this: Nothing but Christianity will ever
     gather in that harvest of spiritual ideals which alone will
     make good our prodigal outlay; for, after all, we have sown the
     world with the broken dreams and spilled ambitions of a
     generation of schoolboys....

     "'All you who have suffered, you fathers and mothers, remember
     this: only by turning your sufferings into the seeds of
     God-like things will you make their memory beautiful.'

     "Oh, Rupert, I was elevated by all he said, and I prayed that
     you might go on with willingness and resolution to the end,
     and that I might face the last few weeks of the war with
     courage. I thought of the remark of your old Cheshire Colonel,
     that, instead of wandering during these years among the
     undistinguished valleys, you have been transferred straight to
     the mountain-tops. Do you remember how I used to call you 'my
     mountain boy'? The name has a new meaning now. Even if you are
     in danger at this time, I try to be proud. I think of you as on
     white heights."


§3

"Only by turning your sufferings into the seeds of God-like things
will you make their memory beautiful."

As I copied just now those last words of Monty's sermon, I laid down
my pencil on the dug-out floor with a little start. As in a
flashlight I saw their truth. They created in my mind the picture of
that Ægean evening, when Monty turned the moment of Doe's death,
which so nearly brought me discouragement and debasement, into an
ennobling memory. And I foresaw him going about healing the sores of
this war with the same priestly hand.

Yes, there are reasons why such wistful visions should haunt me now.
Everything this evening has gone to produce a certain exaltation in
me. First, there has been the bombardment, with its thought of going
over the top to-morrow. Then comes my mother's glowing letter, which
somehow has held me enthralled, so that I find sentences from it
reiterating themselves in my mind, just as they did in the old
schooldays. And lastly, there has been the joyous sense of having
completed my book, on which for three years I have laboured lovingly
in tent, and billet, and trench.

I meant to close it on the last echo of Monty's sermon. But the
fascination was on me, and I felt I wanted to go on writing. I had
so lost myself in the old scenes of schoolroom, playing-fields,
starlit decks, and Grecian battlegrounds, which I had been
describing, that I actually ceased to hear the bombardment. And the
atmosphere of the well-loved places and well-loved friends remained
all about me. It was the atmosphere that old portraits and fading
old letters throw around those who turn them over. So I took up
again my pencil and my paper.

I thought I would add a paragraph or two, in case I go down in the
morning. If I come through all right, I shall wipe these paragraphs
out. Meanwhile, in these final hours of wonder and waiting, it is
happiness to write on.

I fear that, as I write, I may appear to dogmatise, for I am still
only twenty-two. But I must speak while I can.

What silly things one thinks in an evening of suspense and twilight
like this! One minute I feel I want to be alive this time to-morrow,
in order that my book, which has become everything to me, may have a
happy ending. Pennybet fell at Neuve Chapelle, Doe at Cape Helles,
and one ought to be left alive to save the face of the tale. Still,
if these paragraphs stand and I fall, it will at least be a _true_
ending--true to things as they were for the generation in which we
were born.

And the glorious bombardment asserts itself through my thoughts, and
with a thrill I conceive of it--for we would-be authors are persons
obsessed by one idea--as an effort of the people of Britain to make
it possible for me to come through unhurt and save my story. I feel
I want to thank them.

Another minute I try to recapture that moment of ideal patriotism
which I touched on the deck of the _Rangoon_. I see a death in No
Man's Land to-morrow as a wonderful thing. There you stand exactly
between two nations. All Britain with her might is behind your back,
reaching down to her frontier, which is the trench whence you have
just leapt. All Germany with her might is before your face. Perhaps
it is not ill to die standing like that in front of your nation.

I cannot bear to think of my mother's pain, if to-morrow claims me.
But I leave her this book, into which I seem to have poured my life.
It is part of myself. No, it _is_ myself--and I shall only return
her what is her own.

Oh, but if I go down, I want to ask you not to think it anything but
a happy ending. It will be happy, because victory came to the
nation, and that is more important than the life of any individual.
Listen to that bombardment outside, which is increasing, if
possible, as the darkness gathers--well, it is one of the last
before the extraordinary Sabbath-silence, which will be the Allies'
Peace.

And, if these pages can be regarded as my spiritual history, they
will have a happy ending, too. This is why.

In the Mediterranean on a summer day, I learned that I was to
pursue beauty like the Holy Grail. And I see it now in everything. I
know that, just as there is far more beauty in nature than ugliness,
so there is more goodness in humanity than evil. There is more
happiness in life than pain. Yes, there is. As Monty used to say, we
are given now and then moments of surpassing joy which outweigh
decades of grief, I think I knew such a moment when I won the
swimming cup for Bramhall. And I remember my mother whispering one
night: "If all the rest of my life, Rupert, were to be sorrow, the
last nineteen years of you have made it so well worth living."
Happiness wins hands down. Take any hundred of us out here, and for
ten who are miserable you will find ninety who are lively and
laughing. Life is good--else why should we cling to it as we
do?--oh, yes, we surely do, especially when the chances are all
against us. Life is good, and youth is good. I have had twenty
glorious years.

I may be whimsical to-night, but I feel that the old Colonel was
right when he saw nothing unlovely in Penny's death; and that Monty
was right when he said that Doe had done a perfect thing at the
last, and so grasped the Grail. And I have the strange idea that
very likely I, too, shall find beauty in the morning.


THE END





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