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´╗┐Title: When William Came
Author: Saki, 1870-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "When William Came" ***

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Transcribed from the 1914 John Lane edition by David Price,


WHEN WILLIAM CAME


CHAPTER I: THE SINGING-BIRD AND THE BAROMETER


Cicely Yeovil sat in a low swing chair, alternately looking at herself in
a mirror and at the other occupant of the room in the flesh.  Both
prospects gave her undisguised satisfaction.  Without being vain she was
duly appreciative of good looks, whether in herself or in another, and
the reflection that she saw in the mirror, and the young man whom she saw
seated at the piano, would have come with credit out of a more severely
critical inspection.  Probably she looked longer and with greater
appreciation at the piano player than at her own image; her good looks
were an inherited possession, that had been with her more or less all her
life, while Ronnie Storre was a comparatively new acquisition, discovered
and achieved, so to speak, by her own enterprise, selected by her own
good taste.  Fate had given her adorable eyelashes and an excellent
profile.  Ronnie was an indulgence she had bestowed on herself.

Cicely had long ago planned out for herself a complete philosophy of
life, and had resolutely set to work to carry her philosophy into
practice.  "When love is over how little of love even the lover
understands," she quoted to herself from one of her favourite poets, and
transposed the saying into "While life is with us how little of life even
the materialist understands."  Most people that she knew took endless
pains and precautions to preserve and prolong their lives and keep their
powers of enjoyment unimpaired; few, very few, seemed to make any
intelligent effort at understanding what they really wanted in the way of
enjoying their lives, or to ascertain what were the best means for
satisfying those wants.  Fewer still bent their whole energies to the one
paramount aim of getting what they wanted in the fullest possible
measure.  Her scheme of life was not a wholly selfish one; no one could
understand what she wanted as well as she did herself, therefore she felt
that she was the best person to pursue her own ends and cater for her own
wants.  To have others thinking and acting for one merely meant that one
had to be perpetually grateful for a lot of well-meant and usually
unsatisfactory services.  It was like the case of a rich man giving a
community a free library, when probably the community only wanted free
fishing or reduced tram-fares.  Cicely studied her own whims and wishes,
experimented in the best method of carrying them into effect, compared
the accumulated results of her experiments, and gradually arrived at a
very clear idea of what she wanted in life, and how best to achieve it.
She was not by disposition a self-centred soul, therefore she did not
make the mistake of supposing that one can live successfully and
gracefully in a crowded world without taking due notice of the other
human elements around one.  She was instinctively far more thoughtful for
others than many a person who is genuinely but unseeingly addicted to
unselfishness.

Also she kept in her armoury the weapon which can be so mightily
effective if used sparingly by a really sincere individual--the knowledge
of when to be a humbug.  Ambition entered to a certain extent into her
life, and governed it perhaps rather more than she knew.  She desired to
escape from the doom of being a nonentity, but the escape would have to
be effected in her own way and in her own time; to be governed by
ambition was only a shade or two better than being governed by
convention.

The drawing-room in which she and Ronnie were sitting was of such
proportions that one hardly knew whether it was intended to be one room
or several, and it had the merit of being moderately cool at two o'clock
on a particularly hot July afternoon.  In the coolest of its many alcoves
servants had noiselessly set out an improvised luncheon table: a tempting
array of caviare, crab and mushroom salads, cold asparagus, slender hock
bottles and high-stemmed wine goblets peeped out from amid a setting of
Charlotte Klemm roses.

Cicely rose from her seat and went over to the piano.

"Come," she said, touching the young man lightly with a finger-tip on the
top of his very sleek, copper-hued head, "we're going to have
picnic-lunch to-day up here; it's so much cooler than any of the
downstairs rooms, and we shan't be bothered with the servants trotting in
and out all the time.  Rather a good idea of mine, wasn't it?"

Ronnie, after looking anxiously to see that the word "picnic" did not
portend tongue sandwiches and biscuits, gave the idea his blessing.

"What is young Storre's profession?" some one had once asked concerning
him.

"He has a great many friends who have independent incomes," had been the
answer.

The meal was begun in an appreciative silence; a picnic in which three
kinds of red pepper were available for the caviare demanded a certain
amount of respectful attention.

"My heart ought to be like a singing-bird to-day, I suppose," said Cicely
presently.

"Because your good man is coming home?" asked Ronnie.

Cicely nodded.

"He's expected some time this afternoon, though I'm rather vague as to
which train he arrives by.  Rather a stifling day for railway
travelling."

"And is your heart doing the singing-bird business?" asked Ronnie.

"That depends," said Cicely, "if I may choose the bird.  A missel-thrush
would do, perhaps; it sings loudest in stormy weather, I believe."

Ronnie disposed of two or three stems of asparagus before making any
comment on this remark.

"Is there going to be stormy weather?" he asked.

"The domestic barometer is set rather that way," said Cicely.  "You see,
Murrey has been away for ever so long, and, of course, there will be lots
of things he won't be used to, and I'm afraid matters may be rather
strained and uncomfortable for a time."

"Do you mean that he will object to me?" asked Ronnie.

"Not in the least," said Cicely, "he's quite broad-minded on most
subjects, and he realises that this is an age in which sensible people
know thoroughly well what they want, and are determined to get what they
want.  It pleases me to see a lot of you, and to spoil you and pay you
extravagant compliments about your good looks and your music, and to
imagine at times that I'm in danger of getting fond of you; I don't see
any harm in it, and I don't suppose Murrey will either--in fact, I
shouldn't be surprised if he takes rather a liking to you.  No, it's the
general situation that will trouble and exasperate him; he's not had time
to get accustomed to the fait accompli like we have.  It will break on
him with horrible suddenness."

"He was somewhere in Russia when the war broke out, wasn't he?" said
Ronnie.

"Somewhere in the wilds of Eastern Siberia, shooting and bird collecting,
miles away from a railway or telegraph line, and it was all over before
he knew anything about it; it didn't last very long, when you come to
think of it.  He was due home somewhere about that time, and when the
weeks slipped by without my hearing from him, I quite thought he'd been
captured in the Baltic or somewhere on the way back.  It turned out that
he was down with marsh fever in some out-of-the-way spot, and everything
was over and finished with before he got back to civilisation and
newspapers."

"It must have been a bit of a shock," said Ronnie, busy with a
well-devised salad; "still, I don't see why there should be domestic
storms when he comes back.  You are hardly responsible for the
catastrophe that has happened."

"No," said Cicely, "but he'll come back naturally feeling sore and savage
with everything he sees around him, and he won't realise just at once
that we've been through all that ourselves, and have reached the stage of
sullen acquiescence in what can't be helped.  He won't understand, for
instance, how we can be enthusiastic and excited over Gorla Mustelford's
debut, and things of that sort; he'll think we are a set of callous
revellers, fiddling while Rome is burning."

"In this case," said Ronnie, "Rome isn't burning, it's burnt.  All that
remains to be done is to rebuild it--when possible."

"Exactly, and he'll say we're not doing much towards helping at that."

"But," protested Ronnie, "the whole thing has only just happened; 'Rome
wasn't built in a day,' and we can't rebuild our Rome in a day."

"I know," said Cicely, "but so many of our friends, and especially
Murrey's friends, have taken the thing in a tragical fashion, and cleared
off to the Colonies, or shut themselves up in their country houses, as
though there was a sort of moral leprosy infecting London."

"I don't see what good that does," said Ronnie.

"It doesn't do any good, but it's what a lot of them have done because
they felt like doing it, and Murrey will feel like doing it too.  That is
where I foresee trouble and disagreement."

Ronnie shrugged his shoulders.

"I would take things tragically if I saw the good of it," he said; "as
matters stand it's too late in the day and too early to be anything but
philosophical about what one can't help.  For the present we've just got
to make the best of things.  Besides, you can't very well turn down Gorla
at the last moment."

"I'm not going to turn down Gorla, or anybody," said Cicely with
decision.  "I think it would be silly, and silliness doesn't appeal to
me.  That is why I foresee storms on the domestic horizon.  After all,
Gorla has her career to think of.  Do you know," she added, with a change
of tone, "I rather wish you would fall in love with Gorla; it would make
me horribly jealous, and a little jealousy is such a good tonic for any
woman who knows how to dress well.  Also, Ronnie, it would prove that you
are capable of falling in love with some one, of which I've grave doubts
up to the present."

"Love is one of the few things in which the make-believe is superior to
the genuine," said Ronnie, "it lasts longer, and you get more fun out of
it, and it's easier to replace when you've done with it."

"Still, it's rather like playing with coloured paper instead of playing
with fire," objected Cicely.

A footman came round the corner with the trained silence that tactfully
contrives to make itself felt.

"Mr. Luton to see you, Madam," he announced, "shall I say you are in?"

"Mr. Luton?  Oh, yes," said Cicely, "he'll probably have something to
tell us about Gorla's concert," she added, turning to Ronnie.

Tony Luton was a young man who had sprung from the people, and had taken
care that there should be no recoil.  He was scarcely twenty years of
age, but a tightly packed chronicle of vicissitudes lay behind his
sprightly insouciant appearance.  Since his fifteenth year he had lived,
Heaven knew how, getting sometimes a minor engagement at some minor music-
hall, sometimes a temporary job as secretary-valet-companion to a roving
invalid, dining now and then on plovers' eggs and asparagus at one of the
smarter West End restaurants, at other times devouring a kipper or a
sausage in some stuffy Edgware Road eating-house; always seemingly amused
by life, and always amusing.  It is possible that somewhere in such heart
as he possessed there lurked a rankling bitterness against the hard
things of life, or a scrap of gratitude towards the one or two friends
who had helped him disinterestedly, but his most intimate associates
could not have guessed at the existence of such feelings.  Tony Luton was
just a merry-eyed dancing faun, whom Fate had surrounded with streets
instead of woods, and it would have been in the highest degree inartistic
to have sounded him for a heart or a heartache.

The dancing of the faun took one day a livelier and more assured turn,
the joyousness became more real, and the worst of the vicissitudes seemed
suddenly over.  A musical friend, gifted with mediocre but marketable
abilities, supplied Tony with a song, for which he obtained a trial
performance at an East End hall.  Dressed as a jockey, for no particular
reason except that the costume suited him, he sang, "They quaff the gay
bubbly in Eccleston Square" to an appreciative audience, which included
the manager of a famous West End theatre of varieties.  Tony and his song
won the managerial favour, and were immediately transplanted to the West
End house, where they scored a success of which the drooping music-hall
industry was at the moment badly in need.

It was just after the great catastrophe, and men of the London world were
in no humour to think; they had witnessed the inconceivable befall them,
they had nothing but political ruin to stare at, and they were anxious to
look the other way.  The words of Tony's song were more or less
meaningless, though he sang them remarkably well, but the tune, with its
air of slyness and furtive joyousness, appealed in some unaccountable
manner to people who were furtively unhappy, and who were trying to
appear stoically cheerful.

"What must be, must be," and "It's a poor heart that never rejoices,"
were the popular expressions of the London public at that moment, and the
men who had to cater for that public were thankful when they were able to
stumble across anything that fitted in with the prevailing mood.  For the
first time in his life Tony Luton discovered that agents and managers
were a leisured class, and that office boys had manners.

He entered Cicely's drawing-room with the air of one to whom assurance of
manner has become a sheathed weapon, a court accessory rather than a
trade implement.  He was more quietly dressed than the usual run of music-
hall successes; he had looked critically at life from too many angles not
to know that though clothes cannot make a man they can certainly damn
him.

"Thank you, I have lunched already," he said in answer to a question from
Cicely.  "Thank you," he said again in a cheerful affirmative, as the
question of hock in a tall ice-cold goblet was propounded to him.

"I've come to tell you the latest about the Gorla Mustelford evening," he
continued.  "Old Laurent is putting his back into it, and it's really
going to be rather a big affair.  She's going to out-Russian the
Russians.  Of course, she hasn't their technique nor a tenth of their
training, but she's having tons of advertisement.  The name Gorla is
almost an advertisement in itself, and then there's the fact that she's
the daughter of a peer."

"She has temperament," said Cicely, with the decision of one who makes a
vague statement in a good cause.

"So Laurent says," observed Tony.  "He discovers temperament in every one
that he intends to boom.  He told me that I had temperament to the finger-
tips, and I was too polite to contradict him.  But I haven't told you the
really important thing about the Mustelford debut.  It is a profound
secret, more or less, so you must promise not to breathe a word about it
till half-past four, when it will appear in all the six o'clock
newspapers."

Tony paused for dramatic effect, while he drained his goblet, and then
made his announcement.

"Majesty is going to be present.  Informally and unofficially, but still
present in the flesh.  A sort of casual dropping in, carefully heralded
by unconfirmed rumour a week ahead."

"Heavens!" exclaimed Cicely, in genuine excitement, "what a bold stroke.
Lady Shalem has worked that, I bet.  I suppose it will go down all
right."

"Trust Laurent to see to that," said Tony, "he knows how to fill his
house with the right sort of people, and he's not the one to risk a
fiasco.  He knows what he's about.  I tell you, it's going to be a big
evening."

"I say!" exclaimed Ronnie suddenly, "give a supper party here for Gorla
on the night, and ask the Shalem woman and all her crowd.  It will be
awful fun."

Cicely caught at the suggestion with some enthusiasm.  She did not
particularly care for Lady Shalem, but she thought it would be just as
well to care for her as far as outward appearances went.

Grace, Lady Shalem, was a woman who had blossomed into sudden importance
by constituting herself a sort of foster-mother to the fait accompli.  At
a moment when London was denuded of most of its aforetime social leaders
she had seen her opportunity, and made the most of it.  She had not
contented herself with bowing to the inevitable, she had stretched out
her hand to it, and forced herself to smile graciously at it, and her
polite attentions had been reciprocated.  Lady Shalem, without being a
beauty or a wit, or a grand lady in the traditional sense of the word,
was in a fair way to becoming a power in the land; others, more capable
and with stronger claims to social recognition, would doubtless
overshadow her and displace her in due course, but for the moment she was
a person whose good graces counted for something, and Cicely was quite
alive to the advantage of being in those good graces.

"It would be rather fun," she said, running over in her mind the
possibilities of the suggested supper-party.

"It would be jolly useful," put in Ronnie eagerly; "you could get all
sorts of interesting people together, and it would be an excellent
advertisement for Gorla."

Ronnie approved of supper-parties on principle, but he was also thinking
of the advantage which might accrue to the drawing-room concert which
Cicely had projected (with himself as the chief performer), if he could
be brought into contact with a wider circle of music patrons.

"I know it would be useful," said Cicely, "it would be almost historical;
there's no knowing who might not come to it--and things are dreadfully
slack in the entertaining line just now."

The ambitious note in her character was making itself felt at that
moment.

"Let's go down to the library, and work out a list of people to invite,"
said Ronnie.

A servant entered the room and made a brief announcement.

"Mr. Yeovil has arrived, madam."

"Bother," said Ronnie sulkily.  "Now you'll cool off about that supper
party, and turn down Gorla and the rest of us."

It was certainly true that the supper already seemed a more difficult
proposition in Cicely's eyes than it had a moment or two ago.

   "'You'll not forget my only daughter,
   E'en though Saphia has crossed the sea,'"

quoted Tony, with mocking laughter in his voice and eyes.

Cicely went down to greet her husband.  She felt that she was probably
very glad that he was home once more; she was angry with herself for not
feeling greater certainty on the point.  Even the well-beloved, however,
can select the wrong moment for return.  If Cicely Yeovil's heart was
like a singing-bird, it was of a kind that has frequent lapses into
silence.



CHAPTER II: THE HOMECOMING


Murrey Yeovil got out of the boat-train at Victoria Station, and stood
waiting, in an attitude something between listlessness and impatience,
while a porter dragged his light travelling kit out of the railway
carriage and went in search of his heavier baggage with a hand-truck.
Yeovil was a grey-faced young man, with restless eyes, and a rather
wistful mouth, and an air of lassitude that was evidently only a
temporary characteristic.  The hot dusty station, with its blended crowds
of dawdling and scurrying people, its little streams of suburban
passengers pouring out every now and then from this or that platform,
like ants swarming across a garden path, made a wearisome climax to what
had been a rather wearisome journey.  Yeovil glanced quickly, almost
furtively, around him in all directions, with the air of a man who is
constrained by morbid curiosity to look for things that he would rather
not see.  The announcements placed in German alternatively with English
over the booking office, left-luggage office, refreshment buffets, and so
forth, the crowned eagle and monogram displayed on the post boxes, caught
his eye in quick succession.

He turned to help the porter to shepherd his belongings on to the truck,
and followed him to the outer yard of the station, where a string of taxi-
cabs was being slowly absorbed by an outpouring crowd of travellers.

Portmanteaux, wraps, and a trunk or two, much be-labelled and
travel-worn, were stowed into a taxi, and Yeovil turned to give the
direction to the driver.

"Twenty-eight, Berkshire Street."

"Berkschirestrasse, acht-und-zwanzig," echoed the man, a bulky spectacled
individual of unmistakable Teuton type.

"Twenty-eight, Berkshire Street," repeated Yeovil, and got into the cab,
leaving the driver to re-translate the direction into his own language.

A succession of cabs leaving the station blocked the roadway for a moment
or two, and Yeovil had leisure to observe the fact that Viktoria Strasse
was lettered side by side with the familiar English name of the street.  A
notice directing the public to the neighbouring swimming baths was also
written up in both languages.  London had become a bi-lingual city, even
as Warsaw.

The cab threaded its way swiftly along Buckingham Palace Road towards the
Mall.  As they passed the long front of the Palace the traveller turned
his head resolutely away, that he might not see the alien uniforms at the
gates and the eagle standard flapping in the sunlight.  The taxi driver,
who seemed to have combative instincts, slowed down as he was turning
into the Mall, and pointed to the white pile of memorial statuary in
front of the palace gates.

"Grossmutter Denkmal, yes," he announced, and resumed his journey.

Arrived at his destination, Yeovil stood on the steps of his house and
pressed the bell with an odd sense of forlornness, as though he were a
stranger drifting from nowhere into a land that had no cognisance of him;
a moment later he was standing in his own hall, the object of respectful
solicitude and attention.  Sprucely garbed and groomed lackeys busied
themselves with his battered travel-soiled baggage; the door closed on
the guttural-voiced taxi driver, and the glaring July sunshine.  The
wearisome journey was over.

"Poor dear, how dreadfully pulled-down you look," said Cicely, when the
first greetings had been exchanged.

"It's been a slow business, getting well," said Yeovil.  "I'm only three-
quarter way there yet."

He looked at his reflection in a mirror and laughed ruefully.

"You should have seen what I looked like five or six weeks ago," he
added.

"You ought to have let me come out and nurse you," said Cicely; "you know
I wanted to."

"Oh, they nursed me well enough," said Yeovil, "and it would have been a
shame dragging you out there; a small Finnish health resort, out of the
season, is not a very amusing place, and it would have been worse for any
one who didn't talk Russian."

"You must have been buried alive there," said Cicely, with commiseration
in her voice.

"I wanted to be buried alive," said Yeovil.  "The news from the outer
world was not of a kind that helped a despondent invalid towards
convalescence.  They spoke to me as little as possible about what was
happening, and I was grateful for your letters because they also told me
very little.  When one is abroad, among foreigners, one's country's
misfortunes cause one an acuter, more personal distress, than they would
at home even."

"Well, you are at home now, anyway," said Cicely, "and you can jog along
the road to complete recovery at your own pace.  A little quiet shooting
this autumn and a little hunting, just enough to keep you fit and not to
overtire you; you mustn't overtax your strength."

"I'm getting my strength back all right," said Yeovil.  "This journey
hasn't tired me half as much as one might have expected.  It's the awful
drag of listlessness, mental and physical, that is the worst after-effect
of these marsh fevers; they drain the energy out of you in bucketfuls,
and it trickles back again in teaspoonfuls.  And just now untiring energy
is what I shall need, even more than strength; I don't want to degenerate
into a slacker."

"Look here, Murrey," said Cicely, "after we've had dinner together to-
night, I'm going to do a seemingly unwifely thing.  I'm going to go out
and leave you alone with an old friend.  Doctor Holham is coming in to
drink coffee and smoke with you.  I arranged this because I knew it was
what you would like.  Men can talk these things over best by themselves,
and Holham can tell you everything that happened--since you went away.  It
will be a dreary story, I'm afraid, but you will want to hear it all.  It
was a nightmare time, but now one sees it in a calmer perspective."

"I feel in a nightmare still," said Yeovil.

"We all felt like that," said Cicely, rather with the air of an elder
person who tells a child that it will understand things better when it
grows up; "time is always something of a narcotic you know.  Things seem
absolutely unbearable, and then bit by bit we find out that we are
bearing them.  And now, dear, I'll fill up your notification paper and
leave you to superintend your unpacking.  Robert will give you any help
you want."

"What is the notification paper?" asked Yeovil.

"Oh, a stupid form to be filled up when any one arrives, to say where
they come from, and their business and nationality and religion, and all
that sort of thing.  We're rather more bureaucratic than we used to be,
you know."

Yeovil said nothing, but into the sallow greyness of his face there crept
a dark flush, that faded presently and left his colour more grey and
bloodless than before.

The journey seemed suddenly to have recommenced; he was under his own
roof, his servants were waiting on him, his familiar possessions were in
evidence around him, but the sense of being at home had vanished.  It was
as though he had arrived at some wayside hotel, and been asked to
register his name and status and destination.  Other things of disgust
and irritation he had foreseen in the London he was coming to--the
alterations on stamps and coinage, the intrusive Teuton element, the
alien uniforms cropping up everywhere, the new orientation of social
life; such things he was prepared for, but this personal evidence of his
subject state came on him unawares, at a moment when he had, so to speak,
laid his armour aside.  Cicely spoke lightly of the hateful formality
that had been forced on them; would he, too, come to regard things in the
same acquiescent spirit?



CHAPTER III: "THE METSKIE TSAR"


"I was in the early stages of my fever when I got the first inkling of
what was going on," said Yeovil to the doctor, as they sat over their
coffee in a recess of the big smoking-room; "just able to potter about a
bit in the daytime, fighting against depression and inertia, feverish as
evening came on, and delirious in the night.  My game tracker and my
attendant were both Buriats, and spoke very little Russian, and that was
the only language we had in common to converse in.  In matters concerning
food and sport we soon got to understand each other, but on other
subjects we were not easily able to exchange ideas.  One day my tracker
had been to a distant trading-store to get some things of which we were
in need; the store was eighty miles from the nearest point of railroad,
eighty miles of terribly bad roads, but it was in its way a centre and
transmitter of news from the outside world.  The tracker brought back
with him vague tidings of a conflict of some sort between the 'Metskie
Tsar' and the 'Angliskie Tsar,' and kept repeating the Russian word for
defeat.  The 'Angliskie Tsar' I recognised, of course, as the King of
England, but my brain was too sick and dull to read any further meaning
into the man's reiterated gabble.  I grew so ill just then that I had to
give up the struggle against fever, and make my way as best I could
towards the nearest point where nursing and doctoring could be had.  It
was one evening, in a lonely rest-hut on the edge of a huge forest, as I
was waiting for my boy to bring the meal for which I was feverishly
impatient, and which I knew I should loathe as soon as it was brought,
that the explanation of the word 'Metskie' flashed on me.  I had thought
of it as referring to some Oriental potentate, some rebellious rajah
perhaps, who was giving trouble, and whose followers had possibly
discomfited an isolated British force in some out-of-the-way corner of
our Empire.  And all of a sudden I knew that 'Nemetskie Tsar,' German
Emperor, had been the name that the man had been trying to convey to me.
I shouted for the tracker, and put him through a breathless
cross-examination; he confirmed what my fears had told me.  The 'Metskie
Tsar' was a big European ruler, he had been in conflict with the
'Angliskie Tsar,' and the latter had been defeated, swept away; the man
spoke the word that he used for ships, and made energetic pantomime to
express the sinking of a fleet.  Holham, there was nothing for it but to
hope that this was a false, groundless rumour, that had somehow crept to
the confines of civilisation.  In my saner balanced moments it was
possible to disbelieve it, but if you have ever suffered from delirium
you will know what raging torments of agony I went through in the nights,
how my brain fought and refought that rumoured disaster."

The doctor gave a murmur of sympathetic understanding.

"Then," continued Yeovil, "I reached the small Siberian town towards
which I had been struggling.  There was a little colony of Russians
there, traders, officials, a doctor or two, and some army officers.  I
put up at the primitive hotel-restaurant, which was the general gathering-
place of the community.  I knew quickly that the news was true.  Russians
are the most tactful of any European race that I have ever met; they did
not stare with insolent or pitying curiosity, but there was something
changed in their attitude which told me that the travelling Briton was no
longer in their eyes the interesting respect-commanding personality that
he had been in past days.  I went to my own room, where the samovar was
bubbling its familiar tune and a smiling red-shirted Russian boy was
helping my Buriat servant to unpack my wardrobe, and I asked for any back
numbers of newspapers that could be supplied at a moment's notice.  I was
given a bundle of well-thumbed sheets, odd pieces of the Novoe Vremya,
the Moskovskie Viedomosti, one or two complete numbers of local papers
published at Perm and Tobolsk.  I do not read Russian well, though I
speak it fairly readily, but from the fragments of disconnected telegrams
that I pieced together I gathered enough information to acquaint me with
the extent of the tragedy that had been worked out in a few crowded hours
in a corner of North-Western Europe.  I searched frantically for
telegrams of later dates that would put a better complexion on the
matter, that would retrieve something from the ruin; presently I came
across a page of the illustrated supplement that the Novoe Vremya
publishes once a week.  There was a photograph of a long-fronted building
with a flag flying over it, labelled 'The new standard floating over
Buckingham Palace.'  The picture was not much more than a smudge, but the
flag, possibly touched up, was unmistakable.  It was the eagle of the
Nemetskie Tsar.  I have a vivid recollection of that plainly-furnished
little room, with the inevitable gilt ikon in one corner, and the samovar
hissing and gurgling on the table, and the thrumming music of a balalaika
orchestra coming up from the restaurant below; the next coherent thing I
can remember was weeks and weeks later, discussing in an impersonal
detached manner whether I was strong enough to stand the fatigue of the
long railway journey to Finland.

"Since then, Holham, I have been encouraged to keep my mind as much off
the war and public affairs as possible, and I have been glad to do so.  I
knew the worst and there was no particular use in deepening my
despondency by dragging out the details.  But now I am more or less a
live man again, and I want to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of what
happened.  You know how much I know, and how little; those fragments of
Russian newspapers were about all the information that I had.  I don't
even know clearly how the whole thing started."

Yeovil settled himself back in his chair with the air of a man who has
done some necessary talking, and now assumes the role of listener.

"It started," said the doctor, "with a wholly unimportant disagreement
about some frontier business in East Africa; there was a slight attack of
nerves in the stock markets, and then the whole thing seemed in a fair
way towards being settled.  Then the negotiations over the affair began
to drag unduly, and there was a further flutter of nervousness in the
money world.  And then one morning the papers reported a highly menacing
speech by one of the German Ministers, and the situation began to look
black indeed.  'He will be disavowed,' every one said over here, but in
less than twenty-four hours those who knew anything knew that the crisis
was on us--only their knowledge came too late.  'War between two such
civilised and enlightened nations is an impossibility,' one of our
leaders of public opinion had declared on the Saturday; by the following
Friday the war had indeed become an impossibility, because we could no
longer carry it on.  It burst on us with calculated suddenness, and we
were just not enough, everywhere where the pressure came.  Our ships were
good against their ships, our seamen were better than their seamen, but
our ships were not able to cope with their ships plus their superiority
in aircraft.  Our trained men were good against their trained men, but
they could not be in several places at once, and the enemy could.  Our
half-trained men and our untrained men could not master the science of
war at a moment's notice, and a moment's notice was all they got.  The
enemy were a nation apprenticed in arms, we were not even the idle
apprentice: we had not deemed apprenticeship worth our while.  There was
courage enough running loose in the land, but it was like unharnessed
electricity, it controlled no forces, it struck no blows.  There was no
time for the heroism and the devotion which a drawn-out struggle, however
hopeless, can produce; the war was over almost as soon as it had begun.
After the reverses which happened with lightning rapidity in the first
three days of warfare, the newspapers made no effort to pretend that the
situation could be retrieved; editors and public alike recognised that
these were blows over the heart, and that it was a matter of moments
before we were counted out.  One might liken the whole affair to a snap
checkmate early in a game of chess; one side had thought out the moves,
and brought the requisite pieces into play, the other side was hampered
and helpless, with its resources unavailable, its strategy discounted in
advance.  That, in a nutshell, is the history of the war."

Yeovil was silent for a moment or two, then he asked:

"And the sequel, the peace?"

"The collapse was so complete that I fancy even the enemy were hardly
prepared for the consequences of their victory.  No one had quite
realised what one disastrous campaign would mean for an island nation
with a closely packed population.  The conquerors were in a position to
dictate what terms they pleased, and it was not wonderful that their
ideas of aggrandisement expanded in the hour of intoxication.  There was
no European combination ready to say them nay, and certainly no one Power
was going to be rash enough to step in to contest the terms of the treaty
that they imposed on the conquered.  Annexation had probably never been a
dream before the war; after the war it suddenly became temptingly
practical.  Warum nicht? became the theme of leader-writers in the German
press; they pointed out that Britain, defeated and humiliated, but with
enormous powers of recuperation, would be a dangerous and inevitable
enemy for the Germany of to-morrow, while Britain incorporated within the
Hohenzollern Empire would merely be a disaffected province, without a
navy to make its disaffection a serious menace, and with great tax-paying
capabilities, which would be available for relieving the burdens of the
other Imperial States.  Wherefore, why not annex?  The warum nicht? party
prevailed.  Our King, as you know, retired with his Court to Delhi, as
Emperor in the East, with most of his overseas dominions still subject to
his sway.  The British Isles came under the German Crown as a Reichsland,
a sort of Alsace-Lorraine washed by the North Sea instead of the Rhine.
We still retain our Parliament, but it is a clipped and pruned-down
shadow of its former self, with most of its functions in abeyance; when
the elections were held it was difficult to get decent candidates to come
forward or to get people to vote.  It makes one smile bitterly to think
that a year or two ago we were seriously squabbling as to who should have
votes.  And, of course, the old party divisions have more or less
crumbled away.  The Liberals naturally are under the blackest of clouds,
for having steered the country to disaster, though to do them justice it
was no more their fault than the fault of any other party.  In a
democracy such as ours was the Government of the day must more or less
reflect the ideas and temperament of the nation in all vital matters, and
the British nation in those days could not have been persuaded of the
urgent need for military apprenticeship or of the deadly nature of its
danger.  It was willing now and then to be half-frightened and to have
half-measures, or, one might better say, quarter-measures taken to
reassure it, and the governments of the day were willing to take them,
but any political party or group of statesmen that had said 'the danger
is enormous and immediate, the sacrifices and burdens must be enormous
and immediate,' would have met with certain defeat at the polls.  Still,
of course, the Liberals, as the party that had held office for nearly a
decade, incurred the odium of a people maddened by defeat and
humiliation; one Minister, who had had less responsibility for military
organisation than perhaps any of them, was attacked and nearly killed at
Newcastle, another was hiding for three days on Exmoor, and escaped in
disguise."

"And the Conservatives?"

"They are also under eclipse, but it is more or less voluntary in their
case.  For generations they had taken their stand as supporters of Throne
and Constitution, and when they suddenly found the Constitution gone and
the Throne filled by an alien dynasty, their political orientation had
vanished.  They are in much the same position as the Jacobites occupied
after the Hanoverian accession.  Many of the leading Tory families have
emigrated to the British lands beyond the seas, others are shut up in
their country houses, retrenching their expenses, selling their acres,
and investing their money abroad.  The Labour faction, again, are almost
in as bad odour as the Liberals, because of having hob-nobbed too
effusively and ostentatiously with the German democratic parties on the
eve of the war, exploiting an evangel of universal brotherhood which did
not blunt a single Teuton bayonet when the hour came.  I suppose in time
party divisions will reassert themselves in some form or other; there
will be a Socialist Party, and the mercantile and manufacturing interests
will evolve a sort of bourgeoise party, and the different religious
bodies will try to get themselves represented--"

Yeovil made a movement of impatience.

"All these things that you forecast," he said, "must take time,
considerable time; is this nightmare, then, to go on for ever?"

"It is not a nightmare, unfortunately," said the doctor, "it is a
reality."

"But, surely--a nation such as ours, a virile, highly-civilised nation
with an age-long tradition of mastery behind it, cannot be held under for
ever by a few thousand bayonets and machine guns.  We must surely rise up
one day and drive them out."

"Dear man," said the doctor, "we might, of course, at some given moment
overpower the garrison that is maintained here, and seize the forts, and
perhaps we might be able to mine the harbours; what then?  In a fortnight
or so we could be starved into unconditional submission.  Remember, all
the advantages of isolated position that told in our favour while we had
the sea dominion, tell against us now that the sea dominion is in other
hands.  The enemy would not need to mobilise a single army corps or to
bring a single battleship into action; a fleet of nimble cruisers and
destroyers circling round our coasts would be sufficient to shut out our
food supplies."

"Are you trying to tell me that this is a final overthrow?" said Yeovil
in a shaking voice; "are we to remain a subject race like the Poles?"

"Let us hope for a better fate," said the doctor.  "Our opportunity may
come if the Master Power is ever involved in an unsuccessful naval war
with some other nation, or perhaps in some time of European crisis, when
everything hung in the balance, our latent hostility might have to be
squared by a concession of independence.  That is what we have to hope
for and watch for.  On the other hand, the conquerors have to count on
time and tact to weaken and finally obliterate the old feelings of
nationality; the middle-aged of to-day will grow old and acquiescent in
the changed state of things; the young generations will grow up never
having known anything different.  It's a far cry to Delhi, as the old
Indian proverb says, and the strange half-European, half-Asiatic Court
out there will seem more and more a thing exotic and unreal.  'The King
across the water' was a rallying-cry once upon a time in our history, but
a king on the further side of the Indian Ocean is a shadowy competitor
for one who alternates between Potsdam and Windsor."

"I want you to tell me everything," said Yeovil, after another pause;
"tell me, Holham, how far has this obliterating process of 'time and
tact' gone?  It seems to be pretty fairly started already.  I bought a
newspaper as soon as I landed, and I read it in the train coming up.  I
read things that puzzled and disgusted me.  There were announcements of
concerts and plays and first-nights and private views; there were even
small dances.  There were advertisements of house-boats and week-end
cottages and string bands for garden parties.  It struck me that it was
rather like merrymaking with a dead body lying in the house."

"Yeovil," said the doctor, "you must bear in mind two things.  First, the
necessity for the life of the country going on as if nothing had
happened.  It is true that many thousands of our working men and women
have emigrated and thousands of our upper and middle class too; they were
the people who were not tied down by business, or who could afford to cut
those ties.  But those represent comparatively a few out of the many.  The
great businesses and the small businesses must go on, people must be fed
and clothed and housed and medically treated, and their thousand-and-one
wants and necessities supplied.  Look at me, for instance; however much I
loathe coming under a foreign domination and paying taxes to an alien
government, I can't abandon my practice and my patients, and set up anew
in Toronto or Allahabad, and if I could, some other doctor would have to
take my place here.  I or that other doctor must have our servants and
motors and food and furniture and newspapers, even our sport.  The golf
links and the hunting field have been well-nigh deserted since the war,
but they are beginning to get back their votaries because out-door sport
has become a necessity, and a very rational necessity, with numbers of
men who have to work otherwise under unnatural and exacting conditions.
That is one factor of the situation.  The other affects London more
especially, but through London it influences the rest of the country to a
certain extent.  You will see around you here much that will strike you
as indications of heartless indifference to the calamity that has
befallen our nation.  Well, you must remember that many things in modern
life, especially in the big cities, are not national but international.
In the world of music and art and the drama, for instance, the foreign
names are legion, they confront you at every turn, and some of our
British devotees of such arts are more acclimatised to the ways of Munich
or Moscow than they are familiar with the life, say, of Stirling or York.
For years they have lived and thought and spoken in an atmosphere and
jargon of denationalised culture--even those of them who have never left
our shores.  They would take pains to be intimately familiar with the
domestic affairs and views of life of some Galician gipsy dramatist, and
gravely quote and discuss his opinions on debts and mistresses and
cookery, while they would shudder at 'D'ye ken John Peel?' as a piece of
uncouth barbarity.  You cannot expect a world of that sort to be
permanently concerned or downcast because the Crown of Charlemagne takes
its place now on the top of the Royal box in the theatres, or at the head
of programmes at State concerts.  And then there are the Jews."

"There are many in the land, or at least in London," said Yeovil.

"There are even more of them now than there used to be," said Holham.  "I
am to a great extent a disliker of Jews myself, but I will be fair to
them, and admit that those of them who were in any genuine sense British
have remained British and have stuck by us loyally in our misfortune; all
honour to them.  But of the others, the men who by temperament and
everything else were far more Teuton or Polish or Latin than they were
British, it was not to be expected that they would be heartbroken because
London had suddenly lost its place among the political capitals of the
world, and became a cosmopolitan city.  They had appreciated the free and
easy liberty of the old days, under British rule, but there was a stiff
insularity in the ruling race that they chafed against.  Now, putting
aside some petty Government restrictions that Teutonic bureaucracy has
brought in, there is really, in their eyes, more licence and social
adaptability in London than before.  It has taken on some of the aspects
of a No-Man's-Land, and the Jew, if he likes, may almost consider himself
as of the dominant race; at any rate he is ubiquitous.  Pleasure, of the
cafe and cabaret and boulevard kind, the sort of thing that gave Berlin
the aspect of the gayest capital in Europe within the last decade, that
is the insidious leaven that will help to denationalise London.  Berlin
will probably climb back to some of its old austerity and simplicity, a
world-ruling city with a great sense of its position and its
responsibilities, while London will become more and more the centre of
what these people understand by life."

Yeovil made a movement of impatience and disgust.

"I know, I know," said the doctor, sympathetically; "life and enjoyment
mean to you the howl of a wolf in a forest, the call of a wild swan on
the frozen tundras, the smell of a wood fire in some little inn among the
mountains.  There is more music to you in the quick thud, thud of hoofs
on desert mud as a free-stepping horse is led up to your tent door than
in all the dronings and flourishes that a highly-paid orchestra can reel
out to an expensively fed audience.  But the tastes of modern London, as
we see them crystallised around us, lie in a very different direction.
People of the world that I am speaking of, our dominant world at the
present moment, herd together as closely packed to the square yard as
possible, doing nothing worth doing, and saying nothing worth saying, but
doing it and saying it over and over again, listening to the same
melodies, watching the same artistes, echoing the same catchwords,
ordering the same dishes in the same restaurants, suffering each other's
cigarette smoke and perfumes and conversation, feverishly, anxiously
making arrangements to meet each other again to-morrow, next week, and
the week after next, and repeat the same gregarious experience.  If they
were not herded together in a corner of western London, watching each
other with restless intelligent eyes, they would be herded together at
Brighton or Dieppe, doing the same thing.  Well, you will find that life
of that sort goes forward just as usual, only it is even more prominent
and noticeable now because there is less public life of other kinds."

Yeovil said something which was possibly the Buriat word for the nether
world.  Outside in the neighbouring square a band had been playing at
intervals during the evening.  Now it struck up an air that Yeovil had
already heard whistled several times since his landing, an air with a
captivating suggestion of slyness and furtive joyousness running through
it.

He rose and walked across to the window, opening it a little wider.  He
listened till the last notes had died away.

"What is that tune they have just played?" he asked.

"You'll hear it often enough," said the doctor.  "A Frenchman writing in
the Matin the other day called it the 'National Anthem of the fait
accompli.'"



CHAPTER IV: "ES IST VERBOTEN"


Yeovil wakened next morning to the pleasant sensation of being in a
household where elaborate machinery for the smooth achievement of one's
daily life was noiselessly and unceasingly at work.  Fever and the long
weariness of convalescence in indifferently comfortable surroundings had
given luxury a new value in his eyes.  Money had not always been
plentiful with him in his younger days; in his twenty-eighth year he had
inherited a fairly substantial fortune, and he had married a wealthy
woman a few months later.  It was characteristic of the man and his breed
that the chief use to which he had put his newly-acquired wealth had been
in seizing the opportunity which it gave him for indulging in unlimited
travel in wild, out-of-the-way regions, where the comforts of life were
meagrely represented.  Cicely occasionally accompanied him to the
threshold of his expeditions, such as Cairo or St. Petersburg or
Constantinople, but her own tastes in the matter of roving were more or
less condensed within an area that comprised Cannes, Homburg, the
Scottish Highlands, and the Norwegian Fiords.  Things outlandish and
barbaric appealed to her chiefly when presented under artistic but highly
civilised stage management on the boards of Covent Garden, and if she
wanted to look at wolves or sand grouse, she preferred doing so in the
company of an intelligent Fellow of the Zoological Society on some fine
Sunday afternoon in Regent's Park.  It was one of the bonds of union and
good-fellowship between her husband and herself that each understood and
sympathised with the other's tastes without in the least wanting to share
them; they went their own ways and were pleased and comrade-like when the
ways happened to run together for a span, without self-reproach or heart-
searching when the ways diverged.  Moreover, they had separate and
adequate banking accounts, which constitute, if not the keys of the
matrimonial Heaven, at least the oil that lubricates them.

Yeovil found Cicely and breakfast waiting for him in the cool breakfast-
room, and enjoyed, with the appreciation of a recent invalid, the comfort
and resources of a meal that had not to be ordered or thought about in
advance, but seemed as though it were there, fore-ordained from the
beginning of time in its smallest detail.  Each desire of the
breakfasting mind seemed to have its realisation in some dish, lurking
unobtrusively in hidden corners until asked for.  Did one want grilled
mushrooms, English fashion, they were there, black and moist and
sizzling, and extremely edible; did one desire mushrooms a la Russe, they
appeared, blanched and cool and toothsome under their white blanketing of
sauce.  At one's bidding was a service of coffee, prepared with rather
more forethought and circumspection than would go to the preparation of a
revolution in a South American Republic.

The exotic blooms that reigned in profusion over the other parts of the
house were scrupulously banished from the breakfast-room; bowls of wild
thyme and other flowering weeds of the meadow and hedgerow gave it an
atmosphere of country freshness that was in keeping with the morning
meal.

"You look dreadfully tired still," said Cicely critically, "otherwise I
would recommend a ride in the Park, before it gets too hot.  There is a
new cob in the stable that you will just love, but he is rather lively,
and you had better content yourself for the present with some more sedate
exercise than he is likely to give you.  He is apt to try and jump out of
his skin when the flies tease him.  The Park is rather jolly for a walk
just now."

"I think that will be about my form after my long journey," said Yeovil,
"an hour's stroll before lunch under the trees.  That ought not to
fatigue me unduly.  In the afternoon I'll look up one or two people."

"Don't count on finding too many of your old set," said Cicely rather
hurriedly.  "I dare say some of them will find their way back some time,
but at present there's been rather an exodus."

"The Bredes," said Yeovil, "are they here?"

"No, the Bredes are in Scotland, at their place in Sutherlandshire; they
don't come south now, and the Ricardes are farming somewhere in East
Africa, the whole lot of them.  Valham has got an appointment of some
sort in the Straits Settlement, and has taken his family with him.  The
Collards are down at their mother's place in Norfolk; a German banker has
bought their house in Manchester Square."

"And the Hebways?" asked Yeovil.

"Dick Hebway is in India," said Cicely, "but his mother lives in Paris;
poor Hugo, you know, was killed in the war.  My friends the Allinsons are
in Paris too.  It's rather a clearance, isn't it?  However, there are
some left, and I expect others will come back in time.  Pitherby is here;
he's one of those who are trying to make the best of things under the new
regime."

"He would be," said Yeovil, shortly.

"It's a difficult question," said Cicely, "whether one should stay at
home and face the music or go away and live a transplanted life under the
British flag.  Either attitude might be dictated by patriotism."

"It is one thing to face the music, it is another thing to dance to it,"
said Yeovil.

Cicely poured out some more coffee for herself and changed the
conversation.

"You'll be in to lunch, I suppose?  The Clubs are not very attractive
just now, I believe, and the restaurants are mostly hot in the middle of
the day.  Ronnie Storre is coming in; he's here pretty often these days.
A rather good-looking young animal with something mid-way between talent
and genius in the piano-playing line."

"Not long-haired and Semetic or Tcheque or anything of that sort, I
suppose?" asked Yeovil.

Cicely laughed at the vision of Ronnie conjured up by her husband's
words.

"No, beautifully groomed and clipped and Anglo-Saxon.  I expect you'll
like him.  He plays bridge almost as well as he plays the piano.  I
suppose you wonder at any one who can play bridge well wanting to play
the piano."

"I'm not quite so intolerant as all that," said Yeovil; "anyhow I promise
to like Ronnie.  Is any one else coming to lunch?"

"Joan Mardle will probably drop in, in fact I'm afraid she's a certainty.
She invited herself in that way of hers that brooks of no refusal.  On
the other hand, as a mitigating circumstance, there will be a point
d'asperge omelette such as few kitchens could turn out, so don't be
late."

Yeovil set out for his morning walk with the curious sensation of one who
starts on a voyage of discovery in a land that is well known to him.  He
turned into the Park at Hyde Park corner and made his way along the
familiar paths and alleys that bordered the Row.  The familiarity
vanished when he left the region of fenced-in lawns and rhododendron
bushes and came to the open space that stretched away beyond the
bandstand.  The bandstand was still there, and a military band, in sky-
blue Saxon uniform, was executing the first item in the forenoon
programme of music.  Around it, instead of the serried rows of green
chairs that Yeovil remembered, was spread out an acre or so of small
round tables, most of which had their quota of customers, engaged in a
steady consumption of lager beer, coffee, lemonade and syrups.  Further
in the background, but well within earshot of the band, a gaily painted
pagoda-restaurant sheltered a number of more commodious tables under its
awnings, and gave a hint of convenient indoor accommodation for wet or
windy weather.  Movable screens of trellis-trained foliage and climbing
roses formed little hedges by means of which any particular table could
be shut off from its neighbours if semi-privacy were desired.  One or two
decorative advertisements of popularised brands of champagne and Rhine
wines adorned the outside walls of the building, and under the central
gable of its upper story was a flamboyant portrait of a stern-faced man,
whose image and superscription might also be found on the newer coinage
of the land.  A mass of bunting hung in folds round the flag-pole on the
gable, and blew out now and then on a favouring breeze, a long
three-coloured strip, black, white, and scarlet, and over the whole scene
the elm trees towered with an absurd sardonic air of nothing having
changed around their roots.

Yeovil stood for a minute or two, taking in every detail of the
unfamiliar spectacle.

"They have certainly accomplished something that we never attempted," he
muttered to himself.  Then he turned on his heel and made his way back to
the shady walk that ran alongside the Row.  At first sight little was
changed in the aspect of the well-known exercising ground.  One or two
riding masters cantered up and down as of yore, with their attendant
broods of anxious-faced young girls and awkwardly bumping women pupils,
while horsey-looking men put marketable animals through their paces or
drew up to the rails for long conversations with horsey-looking friends
on foot.  Sportingly attired young women, sitting astride of their
horses, careered by at intervals as though an extremely game fox were
leading hounds a merry chase a short way ahead of them; it all seemed
much as usual.

Presently, from the middle distance a bright patch of colour set in a
whirl of dust drew rapidly nearer and resolved itself into a group of
cavalry officers extending their chargers in a smart gallop.  They were
well mounted and sat their horses to perfection, and they made a brave
show as they raced past Yeovil with a clink and clatter and rhythmic
thud, thud, of hoofs, and became once more a patch of colour in a whirl
of dust.  An answering glow of colour seemed to have burned itself into
the grey face of the young man, who had seen them pass without appearing
to look at them, a stinging rush of blood, accompanied by a choking catch
in the throat and a hot white blindness across the eyes.  The weakness of
fever broke down at times the rampart of outward indifference that a man
of Yeovil's temperament builds coldly round his heartstrings.

The Row and its riders had become suddenly detestable to the wanderer; he
would not run the risk of seeing that insolently joyous cavalcade come
galloping past again.  Beyond a narrow stretch of tree-shaded grass lay
the placid sunlit water of the Serpentine, and Yeovil made a short cut
across the turf to reach its gravelled bank.

"Can't you read either English or German?" asked a policeman who
confronted him as he stepped off the turf.

Yeovil stared at the man and then turned to look at the small
neatly-printed notice to which the official was imperiously pointing; in
two languages it was made known that it was forbidden and verboten,
punishable and straffbar, to walk on the grass.

"Three shilling fine," said the policeman, extending his hand for the
money.

"Do I pay you?" asked Yeovil, feeling almost inclined to laugh; "I'm
rather a stranger to the new order of things."

"You pay me," said the policeman, "and you receive a quittance for the
sum paid," and he proceeded to tear a counterfoil receipt for a three
shilling fine from a small pocket book.

"May I ask," said Yeovil, as he handed over the sum demanded and received
his quittance, "what the red and white band on your sleeve stands for?"

"Bi-lingual," said the constable, with an air of importance.  "Preference
is given to members of the Force who qualify in both languages.  Nearly
all the police engaged on Park duty are bi-lingual.  About as many
foreigners as English use the parks nowadays; in fact, on a fine Sunday
afternoon, you'll find three foreigners to every two English.  The park
habit is more Continental than British, I take it."

"And are there many Germans in the police Force?" asked Yeovil.

"Well, yes, a good few; there had to be," said the constable; "there were
such a lot of resignations when the change came, and they had to be
filled up somehow.  Lots of men what used to be in the Force emigrated or
found work of some other kind, but everybody couldn't take that line;
wives and children had to be thought of.  'Tisn't every head of a family
that can chuck up a job on the chance of finding another.  Starvation's
been the lot of a good many what went out.  Those of us that stayed on
got better pay than we did before, but then of course the duties are much
more multitudinous."

"They must be," said Yeovil, fingering his three shilling State document;
"by the way," he asked, "are all the grass plots in the Park out of
bounds for human feet?"

"Everywhere where you see the notices," said the policeman, "and that's
about three-fourths of the whole grass space; there's been a lot of new
gravel walks opened up in all directions.  People don't want to walk on
the grass when they've got clean paths to walk on."

And with this parting reproof the bi-lingual constable strode heavily
away, his loss of consideration and self-esteem as a unit of a sometime
ruling race evidently compensated for to some extent by his enhanced
importance as an official.

"The women and children," thought Yeovil, as he looked after the
retreating figure; "yes, that is one side of the problem.  The children
that have to be fed and schooled, the women folk that have to be cared
for, an old mother, perhaps, in the home that cannot be broken up.  The
old case of giving hostages."

He followed the path alongside the Serpentine, passing under the archway
of the bridge and continuing his walk into Kensington Gardens.  In
another moment he was within view of the Peter Pan statue and at once
observed that it had companions.  On one side was a group representing a
scene from one of the Grimm fairy stories, on the other was Alice in
conversation with Gryphon and Mockturtle, the episode looking
distressingly stiff and meaningless in its sculptured form.  Two other
spaces had been cleared in the neighbouring turf, evidently for the
reception of further statue groups, which Yeovil mentally assigned to
Struwelpeter and Little Lord Fauntleroy.

"German middle-class taste," he commented, "but in this matter we
certainly gave them a lead.  I suppose the idea is that childish fancy is
dead and that it is only decent to erect some sort of memorial to it."

The day was growing hotter, and the Park had ceased to seem a desirable
place to loiter in.  Yeovil turned his steps homeward, passing on his way
the bandstand with its surrounding acreage of tables.  It was now nearly
one o'clock, and luncheon parties were beginning to assemble under the
awnings of the restaurant.  Lighter refreshments, in the shape of
sausages and potato salads, were being carried out by scurrying waiters
to the drinkers of lager beer at the small tables.  A park orchestra, in
brilliant trappings, had taken the place of the military band.  As Yeovil
passed the musicians launched out into the tune which the doctor had
truly predicted he would hear to repletion before he had been many days
in London; the "National Anthem of the fait accompli."



CHAPTER V: L'ART D'ETRE COUSINE


Joan Mardle had reached forty in the leisurely untroubled fashion of a
woman who intends to be comely and attractive at fifty.  She cultivated a
jovial, almost joyous manner, with a top-dressing of hearty good will and
good nature which disarmed strangers and recent acquaintances; on getting
to know her better they hastily re-armed themselves.  Some one had once
aptly described her as a hedgehog with the protective mimicry of a
puffball.  If there was an awkward remark to be made at an inconvenient
moment before undesired listeners, Joan invariably made it, and when the
occasion did not present itself she was usually capable of creating it.
She was not without a certain popularity, the sort of popularity that a
dashing highwayman sometimes achieved among those who were not in the
habit of travelling on his particular highway.  A great-aunt on her
mother's side of the family had married so often that Joan imagined
herself justified in claiming cousin-ship with a large circle of
disconnected houses, and treating them all on a relationship footing,
which theoretical kinship enabled her to exact luncheons and other
accommodations under the plea of keeping the lamp of family life aglow.

"I felt I simply had to come to-day," she chuckled at Yeovil; "I was just
dying to see the returned traveller.  Of course, I know perfectly well
that neither of you want me, when you haven't seen each other for so long
and must have heaps and heaps to say to one another, but I thought I
would risk the odium of being the third person on an occasion when two
are company and three are a nuisance.  Wasn't it brave of me?"

She spoke in full knowledge of the fact that the luncheon party would not
in any case have been restricted to Yeovil and his wife, having seen
Ronnie arrive in the hall as she was being shown upstairs.

"Ronnie Storre is coming, I believe," said Cicely, "so you're not
breaking into a tete-a-tete."

"Ronnie, oh I don't count him," said Joan gaily; "he's just a boy who
looks nice and eats asparagus.  I hear he's getting to play the piano
really well.  Such a pity.  He will grow fat; musicians always do, and it
will ruin him.  I speak feelingly because I'm gravitating towards
plumpness myself.  The Divine Architect turns us out fearfully and
wonderfully built, and the result is charming to the eye, and then He
adds another chin and two or three extra inches round the waist, and the
effect is ruined.  Fortunately you can always find another Ronnie when
this one grows fat and uninteresting; the supply of boys who look nice
and eat asparagus is unlimited.  Hullo, Mr. Storre, we were all talking
about you."

"Nothing very damaging, I hope?" said Ronnie, who had just entered the
room.

"No, we were merely deciding that, whatever you may do with your life,
your chin must remain single.  When one's chin begins to lead a double
life one's own opportunities for depravity are insensibly narrowed.  You
needn't tell me that you haven't any hankerings after depravity; people
with your coloured eyes and hair are always depraved."

"Let me introduce you to my husband, Ronnie," said Cicely, "and then
let's go and begin lunch."

"You two must almost feel as if you were honeymooning again," said Joan
as they sat down; "you must have quite forgotten each other's tastes and
peculiarities since you last met.  Old Emily Fronding was talking about
you yesterday, when I mentioned that Murrey was expected home; 'curious
sort of marriage tie,' she said, in that stupid staring way of hers,
'when husband and wife spend most of their time in different continents.
I don't call it marriage at all.'  'Nonsense,' I said, 'it's the best way
of doing things.  The Yeovils will be a united and devoted couple long
after heaps of their married contemporaries have trundled through the
Divorce Court.'  I forgot at the moment that her youngest girl had
divorced her husband last year, and that her second girl is rumoured to
be contemplating a similar step.  One can't remember everything."

Joan Mardle was remarkable for being able to remember the smallest
details in the family lives of two or three hundred acquaintances.

From personal matters she went with a bound to the political small talk
of the moment.

"The Official Declaration as to the House of Lords is out at last," she
said; "I bought a paper just before coming here, but I left it in the
Tube.  All existing titles are to lapse if three successive holders,
including the present ones, fail to take the oath of allegiance."

"Have any taken it up to the present?" asked Yeovil.

"Only about nineteen, so far, and none of them representing very leading
families; of course others will come in gradually, as the change of
Dynasty becomes more and more an accepted fact, and of course there will
be lots of new creations to fill up the gaps.  I hear for certain that
Pitherby is to get a title of some sort, in recognition of his literary
labours.  He has written a short history of the House of Hohenzollern,
for use in schools you know, and he's bringing out a popular Life of
Frederick the Great--at least he hopes it will be popular."

"I didn't know that writing was much in his line," said Yeovil, "beyond
the occasional editing of a company prospectus."

"I understand his historical researches have given every satisfaction in
exalted quarters," said Joan; "something may be lacking in the style,
perhaps, but the august approval can make good that defect with the style
of Baron.  Pitherby has such a kind heart; 'kind hearts are more than
coronets,' we all know, but the two go quite well together.  And the dear
man is not content with his services to literature, he's blossoming forth
as a liberal patron of the arts.  He's taken quite a lot of tickets for
dear Gorla's debut; half the second row of the dress-circle."

"Do you mean Gorla Mustelford?" asked Yeovil, catching at the name; "what
on earth is she having a debut about?"

"What?" cried Joan, in loud-voiced amazement; "haven't you heard?  Hasn't
Cicely told you?  How funny that you shouldn't have heard.  Why, it's
going to be one of the events of the season.  Everybody's talking about
it.  She's going to do suggestion dancing at the Caravansery Theatre."

"Good Heavens, what is suggestion dancing?" asked Yeovil.

"Oh, something quite new," explained Joan; "at any rate the name is quite
new and Gorla is new as far as the public are concerned, and that is
enough to establish the novelty of the thing.  Among other things she
does a dance suggesting the life of a fern; I saw one of the rehearsals,
and to me it would have equally well suggested the life of John Wesley.
However, that is probably the fault of my imagination--I've either got
too much or too little.  Anyhow it is an understood thing that she is to
take London by storm."

"When I last saw Gorla Mustelford," observed Yeovil, "she was a rather
serious flapper who thought the world was in urgent need of regeneration
and was not certain whether she would regenerate it or take up miniature
painting.  I forget which she attempted ultimately."

"She is quite serious about her art," put in Cicely; "she's studied a
good deal abroad and worked hard at mastering the technique of her
profession.  She's not a mere amateur with a hankering after the
footlights.  I fancy she will do well."

"But what do her people say about it?" asked Yeovil.

"Oh, they're simply furious about it," answered Joan; "the idea of a
daughter of the house of Mustelford prancing and twisting about the stage
for Prussian officers and Hamburg Jews to gaze at is a dreadful cup of
humiliation for them.  It's unfortunate, of course, that they should feel
so acutely about it, but still one can understand their point of view."

"I don't see what other point of view they could possibly take," said
Yeovil sharply; "if Gorla thinks that the necessities of art, or her own
inclinations, demand that she should dance in public, why can't she do it
in Paris or even Vienna?  Anywhere would be better, one would think, than
in London under present conditions."

He had given Joan the indication that she was looking for as to his
attitude towards the fait accompli.  Without asking a question she had
discovered that husband and wife were divided on the fundamental issue
that underlay all others at the present moment.  Cicely was weaving
social schemes for the future, Yeovil had come home in a frame of mind
that threatened the destruction of those schemes, or at any rate a
serious hindrance to their execution.  The situation presented itself to
Joan's mind with an alluring piquancy.

"You are giving a grand supper-party for Gorla on the night of her debut,
aren't you?" she asked Cicely; "several people spoke to me about it, so I
suppose it must be true."

Tony Luton and young Storre had taken care to spread the news of the
projected supper function, in order to ensure against a change of plans
on Cicely's part.

"Gorla is a great friend of mine," said Cicely, trying to talk as if the
conversation had taken a perfectly indifferent turn; "also I think she
deserves a little encouragement after the hard work she has been through.
I thought it would be doing her a kindness to arrange a supper party for
her on her first night."

There was a moment's silence.  Yeovil said nothing, and Joan understood
the value of being occasionally tongue-tied.

"The whole question is," continued Cicely, as the silence became
oppressive, "whether one is to mope and hold aloof from the national
life, or take our share in it; the life has got to go on whether we
participate in it or not.  It seems to me to be more patriotic to come
down into the dust of the marketplace than to withdraw oneself behind
walls or beyond the seas."

"Of course the industrial life of the country has to go on," said Yeovil;
"no one could criticise Gorla if she interested herself in organising
cottage industries or anything of that sort, in which she would be
helping her own people.  That one could understand, but I don't think a
cosmopolitan concern like the music-hall business calls for personal
sacrifices from young women of good family at a moment like the present."

"It is just at a moment like the present that the people want something
to interest them and take them out of themselves," said Cicely
argumentatively; "what has happened, has happened, and we can't undo it
or escape the consequences.  What we can do, or attempt to do, is to make
things less dreary, and make people less unhappy."

"In a word, more contented," said Yeovil; "if I were a German statesman,
that is the end I would labour for and encourage others to labour for, to
make the people forget that they were discontented.  All this work of
regalvanising the social side of London life may be summed up in the
phrase 'travailler pour le roi de Prusse.'"

"I don't think there is any use in discussing the matter further," said
Cicely.

"I can see that grand supper-party not coming off," said Joan
provocatively.

Ronnie looked anxiously at Cicely.

"You can see it coming on, if you're gifted with prophetic vision of a
reliable kind," said Cicely; "of course as Murrey doesn't take kindly to
the idea of Gorla's enterprise I won't have the party here.  I'll give it
at a restaurant, that's all.  I can see Murrey's point of view, and
sympathise with it, but I'm not going to throw Gorla over."

There was another pause of uncomfortably protracted duration.

"I say, this is a top-hole omelette," said Ronnie.

It was his only contribution to the conversation, but it was a valuable
one.



CHAPTER VI: HERR VON KWARL


Herr Von Kwarl sat at his favourite table in the Brandenburg Cafe, the
new building that made such an imposing show (and did such thriving
business) at the lower end of what most of its patrons called the
Regentstrasse.  Though the establishment was new it had already achieved
its unwritten code of customs, and the sanctity of Herr von Kwarl's
specially reserved table had acquired the authority of a tradition.  A
set of chessmen, a copy of the Kreuz Zeitung and the Times, and a slim-
necked bottle of Rhenish wine, ice-cool from the cellar, were always to
be found there early in the forenoon, and the honoured guest for whom
these preparations were made usually arrived on the scene shortly after
eleven o'clock.  For an hour or so he would read and silently digest the
contents of his two newspapers, and then at the first sign of flagging
interest on his part, another of the cafe's regular customers would march
across the floor, exchange a word or two on the affairs of the day, and
be bidden with a wave of the hand into the opposite seat.  A waiter would
instantly place the chessboard with its marshalled ranks of combatants in
the required position, and the contest would begin.

Herr von Kwarl was a heavily built man of mature middle-age, of the blond
North-German type, with a facial aspect that suggested stupidity and
brutality.  The stupidity of his mien masked an ability and shrewdness
that was distinctly above the average, and the suggestion of brutality
was belied by the fact that von Kwarl was as kind-hearted a man as one
could meet with in a day's journey.  Early in life, almost before he was
in his teens, Fritz von Kwarl had made up his mind to accept the world as
it was, and to that philosophical resolution, steadfastly adhered to, he
attributed his excellent digestion and his unruffled happiness.  Perhaps
he confused cause and effect; the excellent digestion may have been
responsible for at least some of the philosophical serenity.

He was a bachelor of the type that is called confirmed, and which might
better be labelled consecrated; from his early youth onward to his
present age he had never had the faintest flickering intention of
marriage.  Children and animals he adored, women and plants he accounted
somewhat of a nuisance.  A world without women and roses and asparagus
would, he admitted, be robbed of much of its charm, but with all their
charm these things were tiresome and thorny and capricious, always
wanting to climb or creep in places where they were not wanted, and
resolutely drooping and fading away when they were desired to flourish.
Animals, on the other hand, accepted the world as it was and made the
best of it, and children, at least nice children, uncontaminated by grown-
up influences, lived in worlds of their own making.

Von Kwarl held no acknowledged official position in the country of his
residence, but it was an open secret that those responsible for the real
direction of affairs sought his counsel on nearly every step that they
meditated, and that his counsel was very rarely disregarded.  Some of the
shrewdest and most successful enactments of the ruling power were
believed to have originated in the brain-cells of the bovine-fronted
Stammgast of the Brandenburg Cafe.

Around the wood-panelled walls of the Cafe were set at intervals well-
mounted heads of boar, elk, stag, roe-buck, and other game-beasts of a
northern forest, while in between were carved armorial escutcheons of the
principal cities of the lately expanded realm, Magdeburg, Manchester,
Hamburg, Bremen, Bristol, and so forth.  Below these came shelves on
which stood a wonderful array of stone beer-mugs, each decorated with
some fantastic device or motto, and most of them pertaining individually
and sacredly to some regular and unfailing customer.  In one particular
corner of the highest shelf, greatly at his ease and in nowise to be
disturbed, slept Wotan, the huge grey house-cat, dreaming doubtless of
certain nimble and audacious mice down in the cellar three floors below,
whose nimbleness and audacity were as precious to him as the forwardness
of the birds is to a skilled gun on a grouse moor.  Once every day Wotan
came marching in stately fashion across the polished floor, halted mid-
way to resume an unfinished toilet operation, and then proceeded to pay
his leisurely respects to his friend von Kwarl.  The latter was said to
be prouder of this daily demonstration of esteem than of his many coveted
orders of merit.  Several of his friends and acquaintances shared with
him the distinction of having achieved the Black Eagle, but not one of
them had ever succeeded in obtaining the slightest recognition of their
existence from Wotan.

The daily greeting had been exchanged and the proud grey beast had
marched away to the music of a slumberous purr.  The Kreuz Zeitung and
the Times underwent a final scrutiny and were pushed aside, and von Kwarl
glanced aimlessly out at the July sunshine bathing the walls and windows
of the Piccadilly Hotel.  Herr Rebinok, the plump little Pomeranian
banker, stepped across the floor, almost as noiselessly as Wotan had
done, though with considerably less grace, and some half-minute later was
engaged in sliding pawns and knights and bishops to and fro on the chess-
board in a series of lightning moves bewildering to look on.  Neither he
nor his opponent played with the skill that they severally brought to
bear on banking and statecraft, nor did they conduct their game with the
politeness that they punctiliously observed in other affairs of life.  A
running fire of contemptuous remarks and aggressive satire accompanied
each move, and the mere record of the conversation would have given an
uninitiated onlooker the puzzling impression that an easy and crushing
victory was assured to both the players.

"Aha, he is puzzled.  Poor man, he doesn't know what to do . . .  Oho, he
thinks he will move there, does he?  Much good that will do him. . . .
Never have I seen such a mess as he is in . . . he cannot do anything, he
is absolutely helpless, helpless."

"Ah, you take my bishop, do you?  Much I care for that.  Nothing.  See, I
give you check.  Ah, now he is in a fright!  He doesn't know where to go.
What a mess he is in . . . "

So the game proceeded, with a brisk exchange of pieces and incivilities
and a fluctuation of fortunes, till the little banker lost his queen as
the result of an incautious move, and, after several woebegone
contortions of his shoulders and hands, declined further contest.  A
sleek-headed piccolo rushed forward to remove the board, and the
erstwhile combatants resumed the courteous dignity that they discarded in
their chess-playing moments.

"Have you seen the Germania to-day?" asked Herr Rebinok, as soon as the
boy had receded to a respectful distance.

"No," said von Kwarl, "I never see the Germania.  I count on you to tell
me if there is anything noteworthy in it."

"It has an article to-day headed, 'Occupation or Assimilation,'" said the
banker.  "It is of some importance, and well written.  It is very
pessimistic."

"Catholic papers are always pessimistic about the things of this world,"
said von Kwarl, "just as they are unduly optimistic about the things of
the next world.  What line does it take?"

"It says that our conquest of Britain can only result in a temporary
occupation, with a 'notice to quit' always hanging over our heads; that
we can never hope to assimilate the people of these islands in our Empire
as a sort of maritime Saxony or Bavaria, all the teaching of history is
against it; Saxony and Bavaria are part of the Empire because of their
past history.  England is being bound into the Empire in spite of her
past history; and so forth."

"The writer of the article has not studied history very deeply," said von
Kwarl.  "The impossible thing that he speaks of has been done before, and
done in these very islands, too.  The Norman Conquest became an
assimilation in comparatively few generations."

"Ah, in those days, yes," said the banker, "but the conditions were
altogether different.  There was not the rapid transmission of news and
the means of keeping the public mind instructed in what was happening; in
fact, one can scarcely say that the public mind was there to instruct.
There was not the same strong bond of brotherhood between men of the same
nation that exists now.  Northumberland was almost as foreign to Devon or
Kent as Normandy was.  And the Church in those days was a great
international factor, and the Crusades bound men together fighting under
one leader for a common cause.  Also there was not a great national past
to be forgotten as there is in this case."

"There are many factors, certainly, that are against us," conceded the
statesman, "but you must also take into account those that will help us.
In most cases in recent history where the conquered have stood out
against all attempts at assimilation, there has been a religious
difference to add to the racial one--take Poland, for instance, and the
Catholic parts of Ireland.  If the Bretons ever seriously begin to assert
their nationality as against the French, it will be because they have
remained more Catholic in practice and sentiment than their neighbours.
Here there is no such complication; we are in the bulk a Protestant
nation with a Catholic minority, and the same may be said of the British.
Then in modern days there is the alchemy of Sport and the Drama to bring
men of different races amicably together.  One or two sportsmanlike
Germans in a London football team will do more to break down racial
antagonism than anything that Governments or Councils can effect.  As for
the Stage, it has long been international in its tendencies.  You can see
that every day."

The banker nodded his head.

"London is not our greatest difficulty," continued von Kwarl.  "You must
remember the steady influx of Germans since the war; whole districts are
changing the complexion of their inhabitants, and in some streets you
might almost fancy yourself in a German town.  We can scarcely hope to
make much impression on the country districts and the provincial towns at
present, but you must remember that thousands and thousands of the more
virile and restless-souled men have emigrated, and thousands more will
follow their example.  We shall fill up their places with our own surplus
population, as the Teuton races colonised England in the old
pre-Christian days.  That is better, is it not, to people the fat meadows
of the Thames valley and the healthy downs and uplands of Sussex and
Berkshire than to go hunting for elbow-room among the flies and fevers of
the tropics?  We have somewhere to go to, now, better than the scrub and
the veldt and the thorn-jungles."

"Of course, of course," assented Herr Rebinok, "but while this desirable
process of infiltration and assimilation goes on, how are you going to
provide against the hostility of the conquered nation?  A people with a
great tradition behind them and the ruling instinct strongly developed,
won't sit with their eyes closed and their hands folded while you carry
on the process of Germanisation.  What will keep them quiet?"

"The hopelessness of the situation.  For centuries Britain has ruled the
seas, and been able to dictate to half the world in consequence; then she
let slip the mastery of the seas, as something too costly and onerous to
keep up, something which aroused too much jealousy and uneasiness in
others, and now the seas rule her.  Every wave that breaks on her shore
rattles the keys of her prison.  I am no fire-eater, Herr Rebinok, but I
confess that when I am at Dover, say, or Southampton, and see those dark
blots on the sea and those grey specks in the sky, our battleships and
cruisers and aircraft, and realise what they mean to us my heart beats
just a little quicker.  If every German was flung out of England
to-morrow, in three weeks' time we should be coming in again on our own
terms.  With our sea scouts and air scouts spread in organised network
around, not a shipload of foodstuff could reach the country.  They know
that; they can calculate how many days of independence and starvation
they could endure, and they will make no attempt to bring about such a
certain fiasco.  Brave men fight for a forlorn hope, but the bravest do
not fight for an issue they know to be hopeless."

"That is so," said Herr Rebinok, "as things are at present they can do
nothing from within, absolutely nothing.  We have weighed all that
beforehand.  But, as the Germania points out, there is another Britain
beyond the seas.  Supposing the Court at Delhi were to engineer a
league--"

"A league?  A league with whom?" interrupted the statesman.  "Russia we
can watch and hold.  We are rather nearer to its western frontier than
Delhi is, and we could throttle its Baltic trade at five hours' notice.
France and Holland are not inclined to provoke our hostility; they would
have everything to lose by such a course."

"There are other forces in the world that might be arrayed against us,"
argued the banker; "the United States, Japan, Italy, they all have
navies."

"Does the teaching of history show you that it is the strong Power, armed
and ready, that has to suffer from the hostility of the world?" asked von
Kwarl.  "As far as sentiment goes, perhaps, but not in practice.  The
danger has always been for the weak, dismembered nation.  Think you a
moment, has the enfeebled scattered British Empire overseas no undefended
territories that are a temptation to her neighbours?  Has Japan nothing
to glean where we have harvested?  Are there no North American
possessions which might slip into other keeping?  Has Russia herself no
traditional temptations beyond the Oxus?  Mind you, we are not making the
mistake Napoleon made, when he forced all Europe to be for him or against
him.  We threaten no world aggressions, we are satiated where he was
insatiable.  We have cast down one overshadowing Power from the face of
the world, because it stood in our way, but we have made no attempt to
spread our branches over all the space that it covered.  We have not
tried to set up a tributary Canadian republic or to partition South
Africa; we have dreamed no dream of making ourselves Lords of Hindostan.
On the contrary, we have given proof of our friendly intentions towards
our neighbours.  We backed France up the other day in her squabble with
Spain over the Moroccan boundaries, and proclaimed our opinion that the
Republic had as indisputable a mission on the North Africa coast as we
have in the North Sea.  That is not the action or the language of
aggression.  No," continued von Kwarl, after a moment's silence, "the
world may fear us and dislike us, but, for the present at any rate, there
will be no leagues against us.  No, there is one rock on which our
attempt at assimilation will founder or find firm anchorage."

"And that is--?"

"The youth of the country, the generation that is at the threshold now.
It is them that we must capture.  We must teach them to learn, and coax
them to forget.  In course of time Anglo-Saxon may blend with German, as
the Elbe Saxons and the Bavarians and Swabians have blended with the
Prussians into a loyal united people under the sceptre of the
Hohenzollerns.  Then we should be doubly strong, Rome and Carthage rolled
into one, an Empire of the West greater than Charlemagne ever knew.  Then
we could look Slav and Latin and Asiatic in the face and keep our place
as the central dominant force of the civilised world."

The speaker paused for a moment and drank a deep draught of wine, as
though he were invoking the prosperity of that future world-power.  Then
he resumed in a more level tone:

"On the other hand, the younger generation of Britons may grow up in
hereditary hatred, repulsing all our overtures, forgetting nothing and
forgiving nothing, waiting and watching for the time when some weakness
assails us, when some crisis entangles us, when we cannot be everywhere
at once.  Then our work will be imperilled, perhaps undone.  There lies
the danger, there lies the hope, the younger generation."

"There is another danger," said the banker, after he had pondered over
von Kwarl's remarks for a moment or two amid the incense-clouds of a fat
cigar; "a danger that I foresee in the immediate future; perhaps not so
much a danger as an element of exasperation which may ultimately defeat
your plans.  The law as to military service will have to be promulgated
shortly, and that cannot fail to be bitterly unpopular.  The people of
these islands will have to be brought into line with the rest of the
Empire in the matter of military training and military service, and how
will they like that?  Will not the enforcing of such a measure enfuriate
them against us?  Remember, they have made great sacrifices to avoid the
burden of military service."

"Dear God," exclaimed Herr von Kwarl, "as you say, they have made
sacrifices on that altar!"



CHAPTER VII: THE LURE


Cicely had successfully insisted on having her own way concerning the
projected supper-party; Yeovil had said nothing further in opposition to
it, whatever his feelings on the subject might be.  Having gained her
point, however, she was anxious to give her husband the impression of
having been consulted, and to put her victory as far as possible on the
footing of a compromise.  It was also rather a relief to be able to
discuss the matter out of range of Joan's disconcerting tongue and
observant eyes.

"I hope you are not really annoyed about this silly supper-party," she
said on the morning before the much-talked-of first night.  "I had
pledged myself to give it, so I couldn't back out without seeming mean to
Gorla, and in any case it would have been impolitic to cry off."

"Why impolitic?" asked Yeovil coldly.

"It would give offence in quarters where I don't want to give offence,"
said Cicely.

"In quarters where the fait accompli is an object of solicitude," said
Yeovil.

"Look here," said Cicely in her most disarming manner, "it's just as well
to be perfectly frank about the whole matter.  If one wants to live in
the London of the present day one must make up one's mind to accept the
fait accompli with as good a grace as possible.  I do want to live in
London, and I don't want to change my way of living and start under
different conditions in some other place.  I can't face the prospect of
tearing up my life by the roots; I feel certain that I shouldn't bear
transplanting.  I can't imagine myself recreating my circle of interests
in some foreign town or colonial centre or even in a country town in
England.  India I couldn't stand.  London is not merely a home to me, it
is a world, and it happens to be just the world that suits me and that I
am suited to.  The German occupation, or whatever one likes to call it,
is a calamity, but it's not like a molten deluge from Vesuvius that need
send us all scuttling away from another Pompeii.  Of course," she added,
"there are things that jar horribly on one, even when one has got more or
less accustomed to them, but one must just learn to be philosophical and
bear them."

"Supposing they are not bearable?" said Yeovil; "during the few days that
I've been in the land I've seen things that I cannot imagine will ever be
bearable."

"That is because they're new to you," said Cicely.

"I don't wish that they should ever come to seem bearable," retorted
Yeovil.  "I've been bred and reared as a unit of a ruling race; I don't
want to find myself settling down resignedly as a member of an enslaved
one."

"There's no need to make things out worse than they are," protested
Cicely.  "We've had a military disaster on a big scale, and there's been
a great political dislocation in consequence.  But there's no reason why
everything shouldn't right itself in time, as it has done after other
similar disasters in the history of nations.  We are not scattered to the
winds or wiped off the face of the earth, we are still an important
racial unit."

"A racial unit in a foreign Empire," commented Yeovil.

"We may arrive at the position of being the dominant factor in that
Empire," said Cicely, "impressing our national characteristics on it, and
perhaps dictating its dynastic future and the whole trend of its policy.
Such things have happened in history.  Or we may become strong enough to
throw off the foreign connection at a moment when it can be done
effectually and advantageously.  But meanwhile it is necessary to
preserve our industrial life and our social life, and for that reason we
must accommodate ourselves to present circumstances, however distasteful
they may be.  Emigration to some colonial wilderness, or holding
ourselves rigidly aloof from the life of the capital, won't help matters.
Really, Murrey, if you will think things over a bit, you will see that
the course I am following is the one dictated by sane patriotism."

"Whom the gods wish to render harmless they first afflict with sanity,"
said Yeovil bitterly.  "You may be content to wait for a hundred years or
so, for this national revival to creep and crawl us back into a semblance
of independence and world-importance.  I'm afraid I haven't the patience
or the philosophy to sit down comfortably and wait for a change of
fortune that won't come in my time--if it comes at all."

Cicely changed the drift of the conversation; she had only introduced the
argument for the purpose of defining her point of view and accustoming
Yeovil to it, as one leads a nervous horse up to an unfamiliar barrier
that he is required eventually to jump.

"In any case," she said, "from the immediately practical standpoint
England is the best place for you till you have shaken off all traces of
that fever.  Pass the time away somehow till the hunting begins, and then
go down to the East Wessex country; they are looking out for a new master
after this season, and if you were strong enough you might take it on for
a while.  You could go to Norway for fishing in the summer and hunt the
East Wessex in the winter.  I'll come down and do a bit of hunting too,
and we'll have house-parties, and get a little golf in between whiles.  It
will be like old times."

Yeovil looked at his wife and laughed.

"Who was that old fellow who used to hunt his hounds regularly through
the fiercest times of the great Civil War?  There is a picture of him, by
Caton Woodville, I think, leading his pack between King Charles's army
and the Parliament forces just as some battle was going to begin.  I have
often thought that the King must have disliked him rather more than he
disliked the men who were in arms against him; they at least cared, one
way or the other.  I fancy that old chap would have a great many
imitators nowadays, though, when it came to be a question of sport
against soldiering.  I don't know whether anyone has said it, but one
might almost assert that the German victory was won on the golf-links of
Britain."

"I don't see why you should saddle one particular form of sport with a
special responsibility," protested Cicely.

"Of course not," said Yeovil, "except that it absorbed perhaps more of
the energy and attention of the leisured class than other sports did, and
in this country the leisured class was the only bulwark we had against
official indifference.  The working classes had a big share of the
apathy, and, indirectly, a greater share of the responsibility, because
the voting power was in their hands.  They had not the leisure, however,
to sit down and think clearly what the danger was; their own industrial
warfare was more real to them than anything that was threatening from the
nation that they only knew from samples of German clerks and German
waiters."

"In any case," said Cicely, "as regards the hunting, there is no Civil
War or national war raging just now, and there is no immediate likelihood
of one.  A good many hunting seasons will have to come and go before we
can think of a war of independence as even a distant possibility, and in
the meantime hunting and horse-breeding and country sports generally are
the things most likely to keep Englishmen together on the land.  That is
why so many men who hate the German occupation are trying to keep field
sports alive, and in the right hands.  However, I won't go on arguing.
You and I always think things out for ourselves and decide for ourselves,
which is much the best way in the long run."

Cicely slipped away to her writing-room to make final arrangements over
the telephone for the all-important supper-party, leaving Yeovil to turn
over in his mind the suggestion that she had thrown out.  It was an
obvious lure, a lure to draw him away from the fret and fury that
possessed him so inconveniently, but its obvious nature did not detract
from its effectiveness.  Yeovil had pleasant recollections of the East
Wessex, a cheery little hunt that afforded good sport in an unpretentious
manner, a joyous thread of life running through a rather sleepy
countryside, like a merry brook careering through a placid valley.  For a
man coming slowly and yet eagerly back to the activities of life from the
weariness of a long fever, the prospect of a leisurely season with the
East Wessex was singularly attractive, and side by side with its
attractiveness there was a tempting argument in favour of yielding to its
attractions.  Among the small squires and yeoman farmers, doctors,
country tradesmen, auctioneers and so forth who would gather at the
covert-side and at the hunt breakfasts, there might be a local nucleus of
revolt against the enslavement of the land, a discouraged and leaderless
band waiting for some one to mould their resistance into effective shape
and keep their loyalty to the old dynasty and the old national cause
steadily burning.  Yeovil could see himself taking up that position,
stimulating the spirit of hostility to the fait accompli, organising
stubborn opposition to every Germanising influence that was brought into
play, schooling the youth of the countryside to look steadily Delhiward.
That was the bait that Yeovil threw out to his conscience, while slowly
considering the other bait that was appealing so strongly to his senses.
The dry warm scent of the stable, the nip of the morning air, the
pleasant squelch-squelch of the saddle leather, the moist earthy
fragrance of the autumn woods and wet fallows, the cold white mists of
winter days, the whimper of hounds and the hot restless pushing of the
pack through ditch and hedgerow and undergrowth, the birds that flew up
and clucked and chattered as you passed, the hearty greeting and pleasant
gossip in farmhouse kitchens and market-day bar-parlours--all these
remembered delights of the chase marshalled themselves in the brain, and
made a cumulative appeal that came with special intensity to a man who
was a little tired of his wanderings, more than a little drawn away from
the jarring centres of life.  The hot London sunshine baking the soot-
grimed walls and the ugly incessant hoot and grunt of the motor traffic
gave an added charm to the vision of hill and hollow and copse that
flickered in Yeovil's mind.  Slowly, with a sensuous lingering over
detail, his imagination carried him down to a small, sleepy, yet withal
pleasantly bustling market town, and placed him unerringly in a wide
straw-littered yard, half-full of men and quarter-full of horses, with a
bob-tailed sheep-dog or two trying not to get in everybody's way, but
insisting on being in the thick of things.  The horses gradually detached
themselves from the crowd of unimportant men and came one by one into
momentary prominence, to be discussed and appraised for their good points
and bad points, and finally to be bid for.  And always there was one
horse that detached itself conspicuously from the rest, the ideal hunter,
or at any rate, Yeovil's ideal of the ideal hunter.  Mentally it was put
through its paces before him, its pedigree and brief history recounted to
him; mentally he saw a stable lad put it over a jump or two, with credit
to all concerned, and inevitably he saw himself outbidding less
discerning rivals and securing the desired piece of horseflesh, to be the
chief glory and mainstay of his hunting stable, to carry him well and
truly and cleverly through many a joyous long-to-be-remembered run.  That
scene had been one of the recurring half-waking dreams of his long days
of weakness in the far-away Finnish nursing-home, a dream sometimes of
tantalising mockery, sometimes of pleasure in the foretaste of a joy to
come.  And now it need scarcely be a dream any longer, he had only to go
down at the right moment and take an actual part in his oft-rehearsed
vision.  Everything would be there, exactly as his imagination had placed
it, even down to the bob-tailed sheep-dogs; the horse of his imagining
would be there waiting for him, or if not absolutely the ideal animal,
something very like it.  He might even go beyond the limits of his dream
and pick up a couple of desirable animals--there would probably be fewer
purchasers for good class hunters in these days than of yore.  And with
the coming of this reflection his dream faded suddenly and his mind came
back with a throb of pain to the things he had for the moment forgotten,
the weary, hateful things that were symbolised for him by the standard
that floated yellow and black over the frontage of Buckingham Palace.

Yeovil wandered down to his snuggery, a mood of listless dejection
possessing him.  He fidgetted aimlessly with one or two books and papers,
filled a pipe, and half filled a waste-paper basket with torn circulars
and accumulated writing-table litter.  Then he lit the pipe and settled
down in his most comfortable armchair with an old note-book in his hand.
It was a sort of disjointed diary, running fitfully through the winter
months of some past years, and recording noteworthy days with the East
Wessex.

And over the telephone Cicely talked and arranged and consulted with men
and women to whom the joys of a good gallop or the love of a stricken
fatherland were as letters in an unknown alphabet.



CHAPTER VIII: THE FIRST-NIGHT


Huge posters outside the Caravansery Theatre of Varieties announced the
first performance of the uniquely interesting Suggestion Dances,
interpreted by the Hon. Gorla Mustelford.  An impressionist portrait of a
rather severe-looking young woman gave the public some idea of what the
danseuse might be like in appearance, and the further information was
added that her performance was the greatest dramatic event of the season.
Yet another piece of information was conveyed to the public a few minutes
after the doors had opened, in the shape of large notices bearing the
brief announcement, "house full."  For the first-night function most of
the seats had been reserved for specially-invited guests or else bespoken
by those who considered it due to their own importance to be visible on
such an occasion.

Even at the commencement of the ordinary programme of the evening (Gorla
was not due to appear till late in the list) the theatre was crowded with
a throng of chattering, expectant human beings; it seemed as though every
one had come early to see every one else arrive.  As a matter of fact it
was the rumour-heralded arrival of one personage in particular that had
drawn people early to their seats and given a double edge to the
expectancy of the moment.

At first sight and first hearing the bulk of the audience seemed to
comprise representatives of the chief European races in well-distributed
proportions, but if one gave it closer consideration it could be seen
that the distribution was geographically rather than ethnographically
diversified.  Men and women there were from Paris, Munich, Rome, Moscow
and Vienna, from Sweden and Holland and divers other cities and
countries, but in the majority of cases the Jordan Valley had supplied
their forefathers with a common cradle-ground.  The lack of a fire
burning on a national altar seemed to have drawn them by universal
impulse to the congenial flare of the footlights, whether as artists,
producers, impresarios, critics, agents, go-betweens, or merely as highly
intelligent and fearsomely well-informed spectators.  They were prominent
in the chief seats, they were represented, more sparsely but still in
fair numbers, in the cheaper places, and everywhere they were voluble,
emphatic, sanguine or sceptical, prodigal of word and gesture, with eyes
that seemed to miss nothing and acknowledge nothing, and a general
restless dread of not being seen and noticed.  Of the theatre-going
London public there was also a fair muster, more particularly centred in
the less expensive parts of the house, while in boxes, stalls and circles
a sprinkling of military uniforms gave an unfamiliar tone to the scene in
the eyes of those who had not previously witnessed a first-night
performance under the new conditions.

Yeovil, while standing aloof from his wife's participation in this social
event, had made private arrangements for being a personal spectator of
the scene; as one of the ticket-buying public he had secured a seat in
the back row of a low-priced gallery, whence he might watch, observant
and unobserved, the much talked-of debut of Gorla Mustelford, and the
writing of a new chapter in the history of the fait accompli.  Around him
he noticed an incessant undercurrent of jangling laughter, an unending
give-and-take of meaningless mirthless jest and catchword.  He had
noticed the same thing in streets and public places since his arrival in
London, a noisy, empty interchange of chaff and laughter that he had been
at a loss to account for.  The Londoner is not well adapted for the
irresponsible noisiness of jesting tongue that bubbles up naturally in a
Southern race, and the effort to be volatile was the more noticeable
because it so obviously was an effort.  Turning over the pages of a book
that told the story of Bulgarian social life in the days of Turkish rule,
Yeovil had that morning come across a passage that seemed to throw some
light on the thing that had puzzled him:

"Bondage has this one advantage: it makes a nation merry.  Where
far-reaching ambition has no scope for its development the community
squanders its energy on the trivial and personal cares of its daily life,
and seeks relief and recreation in simple and easily obtained material
enjoyment."  The writer was a man who had known bondage, so he spoke at
any rate with authority.  Of the London of the moment it could not,
however, be said with any truth that it was merry, but merely that its
inhabitants made desperate endeavour not to appear crushed under their
catastrophe.  Surrounded as he was now with a babble of tongues and
shrill mechanical repartee, Yeovil's mind went back to the book and its
account of a theatre audience in the Turkish days of Bulgaria, with its
light and laughing crowd of critics and spectators.  Bulgaria!  The
thought of that determined little nation came to him with a sharp sense
of irony.  There was a people who had not thought it beneath the dignity
of their manhood to learn the trade and discipline of arms.  They had
their reward; torn and exhausted and debt-encumbered from their
campaigns, they were masters in their own house, the Bulgarian flag flew
over the Bulgarian mountains.  And Yeovil stole a glance at the crown of
Charlemagne set over the Royal box.

In a capacious box immediately opposite the one set aside for royalty the
Lady Shalem sat in well-considered prominence, confident that every press
critic and reporter would note her presence, and that one or two of them
would describe, or misdescribe, her toilet.  Already quite a considerable
section of the audience knew her by name, and the frequency with which
she graciously nodded towards various quarters of the house suggested the
presence of a great many personal acquaintances.  She had attained to
that desirable feminine altitude of purse and position when people who go
about everywhere know you well by sight and have never met your dress
before.

Lady Shalem was a woman of commanding presence, of that type which
suggests a consciousness that the command may not necessarily be obeyed;
she had observant eyes and a well-managed voice.  Her successes in life
had been worked for, but they were also to some considerable extent the
result of accident.  Her public history went back to the time when, in
the person of her husband, Mr. Conrad Dort, she had contested two
hopeless and very expensive Parliamentary elections on behalf of her
party; on each occasion the declaration of the poll had shown a heavy
though reduced majority on the wrong side, but she might have perpetrated
an apt misquotation of the French monarch's traditional message after the
defeat of Pavia, and assured the world "all is lost save honours."  The
forthcoming Honours List had duly proclaimed the fact that Conrad Dort,
Esquire, had entered Parliament by another door as Baron Shalem, of
Wireskiln, in the county of Suffolk.  Success had crowned the lady's
efforts as far as the achievement of the title went, but her social
ambitions seemed unlikely to make further headway.  The new Baron and his
wife, their title and money notwithstanding, did not "go down" in their
particular segment of county society, and in London there were other
titles and incomes to compete with.  People were willing to worship the
Golden Calf, but allowed themselves a choice of altars.  No one could
justly say that the Shalems were either oppressively vulgar or
insufferably bumptious; probably the chief reason for their lack of
popularity was their intense and obvious desire to be popular.  They kept
open house in such an insistently open manner that they created a social
draught.  The people who accepted their invitations for the second or
third time were not the sort of people whose names gave importance to a
dinner party or a house gathering.  Failure, in a thinly-disguised form,
attended the assiduous efforts of the Shalems to play a leading role in
the world that they had climbed into.  The Baron began to observe to his
acquaintances that "gadding about" and entertaining on a big scale was
not much in his line; a quiet after-dinner pipe and talk with some
brother legislator was his ideal way of spending an evening.

Then came the great catastrophe, involving the old order of society in
the national overthrow.  Lady Shalem, after a decent interval of
patriotic mourning, began to look around her and take stock of her
chances and opportunities under the new regime.  It was easier to achieve
distinction as a titled oasis in the social desert that London had become
than it had been to obtain recognition as a new growth in a rather
overcrowded field.  The observant eyes and agile brain quickly noted this
circumstance, and her ladyship set to work to adapt herself to the
altered conditions that governed her world.  Lord Shalem was one of the
few Peers who kissed the hand of the new Sovereign, his wife was one of
the few hostesses who attempted to throw a semblance of gaiety and lavish
elegance over the travesty of a London season following the year of
disaster.  The world of tradesmen and purveyors and caterers, and the
thousands who were dependent on them for employment, privately blessed
the example set by Shalem House, whatever their feelings might be towards
the fait accompli, and the august newcomer who had added an old Saxon
kingdom and some of its accretions to the Teutonic realm of Charlemagne
was duly beholden to an acquired subject who was willing to forget the
bitterness of defeat and to help others to forget it also.  Among other
acts of Imperial recognition an earldom was being held in readiness for
the Baron who had known how to accept accomplished facts with a good
grace.  One of the wits of the Cockatrice Club had asserted that the new
earl would take as supporters for his coat of arms a lion and a unicorn
oublie.

In the box with Lady Shalem was the Grafin von Tolb, a well-dressed woman
of some fifty-six years, comfortable and placid in appearance, yet alert
withal, rather suggesting a thoroughly wide-awake dormouse.  Rich,
amiable and intelligent were the adjectives which would best have
described her character and her life-story.  In her own rather difficult
social circle at Paderborn she had earned for herself the reputation of
being one of the most tactful and discerning hostesses in Germany, and it
was generally suspected that she had come over and taken up her residence
in London in response to a wish expressed in high quarters; the lavish
hospitality which she dispensed at her house in Berkeley Square was a
considerable reinforcement to the stricken social life of the metropolis.

In a neighbouring box Cicely Yeovil presided over a large and lively
party, which of course included Ronnie Storre, who was for once in a way
in a chattering mood, and also included an American dowager, who had
never been known to be in anything else.  A tone of literary distinction
was imparted to the group by the presence of Augusta Smith, better known
under her pen-name of Rhapsodic Pantril, author of a play that had had a
limited but well-advertised success in Sheffield and the United States of
America, author also of a book of reminiscences, entitled "Things I
Cannot Forget."  She had beautiful eyes, a knowledge of how to dress, and
a pleasant disposition, cankered just a little by a perpetual dread of
the non-recognition of her genius.  As the woman, Augusta Smith, she
probably would have been unreservedly happy; as the super-woman,
Rhapsodic Pantril, she lived within the border-line of discontent.  Her
most ordinary remarks were framed with the view of arresting attention;
some one once said of her that she ordered a sack of potatoes with the
air of one who is making enquiry for a love-philtre.

"Do you see what colour the curtain is?" she asked Cicely, throwing a
note of intense meaning into her question.

Cicely turned quickly and looked at the drop-curtain.

"Rather a nice blue," she said.

"Alexandrine blue--my colour--the colour of hope," said Rhapsodie
impressively.

"It goes well with the general colour-scheme," said Cicely, feeling that
she was hardly rising to the occasion.

"Say, is it really true that His Majesty is coming?" asked the lively
American dowager.  "I've put on my nooest frock and my best diamonds on
purpose, and I shall be mortified to death if he doesn't see them."

"There!" pouted Ronnie, "I felt certain you'd put them on for me."

"Why no, I should have put on rubies and orange opals for you.  People
with our colour of hair always like barbaric display--"

"They don't," said Ronnie, "they have chaste cold tastes.  You are
absolutely mistaken."

"Well, I think I ought to know!" protested the dowager; "I've lived
longer in the world than you have, anyway."

"Yes," said Ronnie with devastating truthfulness, "but my hair has been
this colour longer than yours has."

Peace was restored by the opportune arrival of a middle-aged man of blond
North-German type, with an expression of brutality on his rather stupid
face, who sat in the front of the box for a few minutes on a visit of
ceremony to Cicely.  His appearance caused a slight buzz of recognition
among the audience, and if Yeovil had cared to make enquiry of his
neighbours he might have learned that this decorated and obviously
important personage was the redoubtable von Kwarl, artificer and shaper
of much of the statecraft for which other men got the public credit.

The orchestra played a selection from the "Gondola Girl," which was the
leading musical-comedy of the moment.  Most of the audience, those in the
more expensive seats at any rate, heard the same airs two or three times
daily, at restaurant lunches, teas, dinners and suppers, and occasionally
in the Park; they were justified therefore in treating the music as a
background to slightly louder conversation than they had hitherto
indulged in.  The music came to an end, episode number two in the
evening's entertainment was signalled, the curtain of Alexandrine blue
rolled heavily upward, and a troupe of performing wolves was presented to
the public.  Yeovil had encountered wolves in North Africa deserts and in
Siberian forest and wold, he had seen them at twilight stealing like dark
shadows across the snow, and heard their long whimpering howl in the
darkness amid the pines; he could well understand how a magic lore had
grown up round them through the ages among the peoples of four
continents, how their name had passed into a hundred strange sayings and
inspired a hundred traditions.  And now he saw them ride round the stage
on tricycles, with grotesque ruffles round their necks and clown caps on
their heads, their eyes blinking miserably in the blaze of the
footlights.  In response to the applause of the house a stout,
atrociously smiling man in evening dress came forward and bowed; he had
had nothing to do either with the capture or the training of the animals,
having bought them ready for use from a continental emporium where wild
beasts were prepared for the music-hall market, but he continued bowing
and smiling till the curtain fell.

Two American musicians with comic tendencies (denoted by the elaborate
rags and tatters of their costumes) succeeded the wolves.  Their musical
performance was not without merit, but their comic "business" seemed to
have been invented long ago by some man who had patented a monopoly of
all music-hall humour and forthwith retired from the trade.  Some day,
Yeovil reflected, the rights of the monopoly might expire and new
"business" become available for the knockabout profession.

The audience brightened considerably when item number five of the
programme was signalled.  The orchestra struck up a rollicking measure
and Tony Luton made his entrance amid a rousing storm of applause.  He
was dressed as an errand-boy of some West End shop, with a livery and box-
tricycle, as spruce and decorative as the most ambitious errand-boy could
see himself in his most ambitious dreams.  His song was a lively and very
audacious chronicle of life behind the scenes of a big retail
establishment, and sparkled with allusions which might fitly have been
described as suggestive--at any rate they appeared to suggest meanings to
the audience quite as clearly as Gorla Mustelford's dances were likely to
do, even with the aid, in her case, of long explanations on the
programmes.  When the final verse seemed about to reach an unpardonable
climax a stage policeman opportunely appeared and moved the lively
songster on for obstructing the imaginary traffic of an imaginary Bond
Street.  The house received the new number with genial enthusiasm, and
mingled its applause with demands for an earlier favourite.  The
orchestra struck up the familiar air, and in a few moments the smart
errand-boy, transformed now into a smart jockey, was singing "They quaff
the gay bubbly in Eccleston Square" to an audience that hummed and nodded
its unstinted approval.

The next number but one was the Gorla Mustelford debut, and the house
settled itself down to yawn and fidget and chatter for ten or twelve
minutes while a troupe of talented Japanese jugglers performed some
artistic and quite uninteresting marvels with fans and butterflies and
lacquer boxes.  The interval of waiting was not destined, however, to be
without its interest; in its way it provided the one really important and
dramatic moment of the evening.  One or two uniforms and evening
toilettes had already made their appearance in the Imperial box; now
there was observable in that quarter a slight commotion, an unobtrusive
reshuffling and reseating, and then every eye in the suddenly quiet semi-
darkened house focussed itself on one figure.  There was no public
demonstration from the newly-loyal, it had been particularly wished that
there should be none, but a ripple of whisper went through the vast
audience from end to end.  Majesty had arrived.  The Japanese
marvel-workers went through their display with even less attention than
before.  Lady Shalem, sitting well in the front of her box, lowered her
observant eyes to her programme and her massive bangles.  The evidence of
her triumph did not need staring at.



CHAPTER IX: AN EVENING "TO BE REMEMBERED"


To the uninitiated or unappreciative the dancing of Gorla Mustelford did
not seem widely different from much that had been exhibited aforetime by
exponents of the posturing school.  She was not naturally graceful of
movement, she had not undergone years of arduous tutelage, she had not
the instinct for sheer joyous energy of action that is stored in some
natures; out of these unpromising negative qualities she had produced a
style of dancing that might best be labelled a conscientious departure
from accepted methods.  The highly imaginative titles that she had
bestowed on her dances, the "Life of a fern," the "Soul-dream of a
topaz," and so forth, at least gave her audience and her critics
something to talk about.  In themselves they meant absolutely nothing,
but they induced discussion, and that to Gorla meant a great deal.  It
was a season of dearth and emptiness in the footlights and box-office
world, and her performance received a welcome that would scarcely have
befallen it in a more crowded and prosperous day.  Her success, indeed,
had been waiting for her, ready-made, as far as the managerial profession
was concerned, and nothing had been left undone in the way of
advertisement to secure for it the appearance, at any rate, of popular
favour.  And loud above the interested applause of those who had personal
or business motives for acclaiming a success swelled the exaggerated
enthusiasm of the fairly numerous art-satellites who are unstinted in
their praise of anything that they are certain they cannot understand.
Whatever might be the subsequent verdict of the theatre-filling public
the majority of the favoured first-night audience was determined to set
the seal of its approval on the suggestion dances, and a steady roll of
applause greeted the conclusion of each item.  The dancer gravely bowed
her thanks; in marked contradistinction to the gentleman who had
"presented" the performing wolves she did not permit herself the luxury
of a smile.

"It teaches us a great deal," said Rhapsodic Pantril vaguely, but
impressively, after the Fern dance had been given and applauded.

"At any rate we know now that a fern takes life very seriously," broke in
Joan Mardle, who had somehow wriggled herself into Cicely's box.

As Yeovil, from the back of his gallery, watched Gorla running and
ricochetting about the stage, looking rather like a wagtail in energetic
pursuit of invisible gnats and midges, he wondered how many of the middle-
aged women who were eagerly applauding her would have taken the least
notice of similar gymnastics on the part of their offspring in nursery or
garden, beyond perhaps asking them not to make so much noise.  And a
bitterer tinge came to his thoughts as he saw the bouquets being handed
up, thoughts of the brave old dowager down at Torywood, the woman who had
worked and wrought so hard and so unsparingly in her day for the well-
being of the State--the State that had fallen helpless into alien hands
before her tired eyes.  Her eldest son lived invalid-wise in the South of
France, her second son lay fathoms deep in the North Sea, with the hulk
of a broken battleship for a burial-vault; and now the grand-daughter was
standing here in the limelight, bowing her thanks for the patronage and
favour meted out to her by this cosmopolitan company, with its lavish
sprinkling of the uniforms of an alien army.

Prominent among the flowers at her feet was one large golden-petalled
bouquet of gorgeous blooms, tied with a broad streamer of golden riband,
the tribute rendered by Caesar to the things that were Caesar's.  The new
chapter of the fait accompli had been written that night and written
well.  The audience poured slowly out with the triumphant music of
Jancovius's Kaiser Wilhelm march, played by the orchestra as a happy
inspiration, pealing in its ears.

"It has been a great evening, a most successful evening," said Lady
Shalem to Herr von Kwarl, whom she was conveying in her electric brougham
to Cicely Yeovil's supper party; "an important evening," she added,
choosing her adjectives with deliberation.  "It should give pleasure in
high quarters, should it not?"

And she turned her observant eyes on the impassive face of her companion.

"Gracious lady," he replied with deliberation and meaning, "it has given
pleasure.  It is an evening to be remembered."

The gracious lady suppressed a sigh of satisfaction.  Memory in high
places was a thing fruitful and precious beyond computation.

Cicely's party at the Porphyry Restaurant had grown to imposing
dimensions.  Every one whom she had asked had come, and so had Joan
Mardle.  Lady Shalem had suggested several names at the last moment, and
there was quite a strong infusion of the Teutonic military and official
world.  It was just as well, Cicely reflected, that the supper was being
given at a restaurant and not in Berkshire Street.

"Quite like ole times," purred the beaming proprietor in Cicely's ear, as
the staircase and cloak-rooms filled up with a jostling, laughing throng.

The guests settled themselves at four tables, taking their places where
chance or fancy led them, late comers having to fit in wherever they
could find room.  A babel of tongues in various languages reigned round
the tables, amid which the rattle of knives and forks and plates and the
popping of corks made a subdued hubbub.  Gorla Mustelford, the motive for
all this sound and movement, this chatter of guests and scurrying of
waiters, sat motionless in the fatigued self-conscious silence of a great
artist who has delivered a great message.

"Do sit at Lady Peach's table, like a dear boy," Cicely begged of Tony
Luton, who had come in late; "she and Gerald Drowly have got together, in
spite of all my efforts, and they are both so dull.  Try and liven things
up a bit."

A loud barking sound, as of fur-seals calling across Arctic ice, came
from another table, where Mrs. Mentieth-Mendlesohnn (one of the
Mendlesohnns of Invergordon, as she was wont to describe herself) was
proclaiming the glories and subtleties of Gorla's achievement.

"It was a revelation," she shouted; "I sat there and saw a whole new
scheme of thought unfold itself before my eyes.  One could not define it,
it was thought translated into action--the best art cannot be defined.
One just sat there and knew that one was seeing something one had never
seen before, and yet one felt that one had seen it, in one's brain, all
one's life.  That was what was so wonderful--yes, please," she broke off
sharply as a fat quail in aspic was presented to her by a questioning
waiter.

The voice of Mr. Mauleverer Morle came across the table, like another
seal barking at a greater distance.

"Rostand," he observed with studied emphasis, "has been called le Prince
de l'adjectif Inopine; Miss Mustelford deserves to be described as the
Queen of Unexpected Movement."

"Oh, I say, do you hear that?" exclaimed Mrs. Mentieth-Mendlesohnn to as
wide an audience as she could achieve; "Rostand has been called--tell
them what you said, Mr. Morle," she broke off, suddenly mistrusting her
ability to handle a French sentence at the top of her voice.

Mr. Morle repeated his remark.

"Pass it on to the next table," commanded Mrs. Mentieth-Mendlesohnn.
"It's too good to be lost."

At the next table however, a grave impressive voice was dwelling at
length on a topic remote from the event of the evening.  Lady Peach
considered that all social gatherings, of whatever nature, were intended
for the recital of minor domestic tragedies.  She lost no time in
regaling the company around her with the detailed history of an
interrupted week-end in a Norfolk cottage.

"The most charming and delightful old-world spot that you could imagine,
clean and quite comfortable, just a nice distance from the sea and within
an easy walk of the Broads.  The very place for the children.  We'd
brought everything for a four days' stay and meant to have a really
delightful time.  And then on Sunday morning we found that some one had
left the springhead, where our only supply of drinking water came from,
uncovered, and a dead bird was floating in it; it had fallen in somehow
and got drowned.  Of course we couldn't use the water that a dead body
had been floating in, and there was no other supply for miles round, so
we had to come away then and there.  Now what do you say to that?"

"'Ah, that a linnet should die in the Spring,'" quoted Tony Luton with
intense feeling.

There was an immediate outburst of hilarity where Lady Peach had
confidently looked for expressions of concern and sympathy.

"Isn't Tony just perfectly cute?  Isn't he?" exclaimed a young American
woman, with an enthusiasm to which Lady Peach entirely failed to respond.
She had intended following up her story with the account of another
tragedy of a similar nature that had befallen her three years ago in
Argyllshire, and now the opportunity had gone.  She turned morosely to
the consolations of a tongue salad.

At the centre table the excellent von Tolb led a chorus of congratulation
and compliment, to which Gorla listened with an air of polite detachment,
much as the Sheikh Ul Islam might receive the homage of a Wesleyan
Conference.  To a close observer it would have seemed probable that her
attitude of fatigued indifference to the flattering remarks that were
showered on her had been as carefully studied and rehearsed as any of her
postures on the stage.

"It is something that one will appreciate more and more fully every time
one sees it . . . One cannot see it too often . . . I could have sat and
watched it for hours . . . Do you know, I am just looking forward to to-
morrow evening, when I can see it again. . . .  I knew it was going to be
good, but I had no idea--" so chimed the chorus, between mouthfuls of
quail and bites of asparagus.

"Weren't the performing wolves wonderful?" exclaimed Joan in her fresh
joyous voice, that rang round the room like laughter of the woodpecker.

If there is one thing that disturbs the complacency of a great artist of
the Halls it is the consciousness of sharing his or her triumphs with
performing birds and animals, but of course Joan was not to be expected
to know that.  She pursued her subject with the assurance of one who has
hit on a particularly acceptable topic.

"It must have taken them years of training and concentration to master
those tricycles," she continued in high-pitched soliloquy.  "The nice
thing about them is that they don't realise a bit how clever and
educational they are.  It would be dreadful to have them putting on airs,
wouldn't it?  And yet I suppose the knowledge of being able to jump
through a hoop better than any other wolf would justify a certain amount
of 'side.'"

Fortunately at this moment a young Italian journalist at another table
rose from his seat and delivered a two-minute oration in praise of the
heroine of the evening.  He spoke in rapid nervous French, with a North
Italian accent, but much of what he said could be understood by the
majority of those present, and the applause was unanimous.  At any rate
he had been brief and it was permissible to suppose that he had been
witty.

It was the opening for which Mr. Gerald Drowly had been watching and
waiting.  The moment that the Italian enthusiast had dropped back into
his seat amid a rattle of hand-clapping and rapping of forks and knives
on the tables, Drowly sprang to his feet, pushed his chair well away, as
for a long separation, and begged to endorse what had been so very aptly
and gracefully, and, might he add, truly said by the previous speaker.
This was only the prelude to the real burden of his message; with the
dexterity that comes of practice he managed, in a couple of hurried
sentences, to divert the course of his remarks to his own personality and
career, and to inform his listeners that he was an actor of some note and
experience, and had had the honour of acting under--and here followed a
string of names of eminent actor managers of the day.  He thought he
might be pardoned for mentioning the fact that his performance of
"Peterkin" in the "Broken Nutshell," had won the unstinted approval of
the dramatic critics of the Provincial press.  Towards the end of what
was a long speech, and which seemed even longer to its hearers, he
reverted to the subject of Gorla's dancing and bestowed on it such
laudatory remarks as he had left over.  Drawing his chair once again into
his immediate neighbourhood he sat down, aglow with the satisfied
consciousness of a good work worthily performed.

"I once acted a small part in some theatricals got up for a charity,"
announced Joan in a ringing, confidential voice; "the Clapham Courier
said that all the minor parts were very creditably sustained.  Those were
its very words.  I felt I must tell you that, and also say how much I
enjoyed Miss Mustelford's dancing."

Tony Luton cheered wildly.

"That's the cleverest speech so far," he proclaimed.  He had been asked
to liven things up at his table and was doing his best to achieve that
result, but Mr. Gerald Drowly joined Lady Peach in the unfavourable
opinion she had formed of that irrepressible youth.

Ronnie, on whom Cicely kept a solicitous eye, showed no sign of any
intention of falling in love with Gorla.  He was more profitably engaged
in paying court to the Grafin von Tolb, whose hospitable mansion in
Belgrave Square invested her with a special interest in his eyes.  As a
professional Prince Charming he had every inducement to encourage the
cult of Fairy Godmother.

"Yes, yes, agreed, I will come and hear you play, that is a promise,"
said the Grafin, "and you must come and dine with me one night and play
to me afterwards, that is a promise, also, yes?  That is very nice of
you, to come and see a tiresome old woman.  I am passionately fond of
music; if I were honest I would tell you also that I am very fond of good-
looking boys, but this is not the age of honesty, so I must leave you to
guess that.  Come on Thursday in next week, you can?  That is nice.  I
have a reigning Prince dining with me that night.  Poor man, he wants
cheering up; the art of being a reigning Prince is not a very pleasing
one nowadays.  He has made it a boast all his life that he is Liberal and
his subjects Conservative; now that is all changed--no, not all; he is
still Liberal, but his subjects unfortunately are become Socialists.  You
must play your best for him."

"Are there many Socialists over there, in Germany I mean?" asked Ronnie,
who was rather out of his depth where politics were concerned.

"Ueberall," said the Grafin with emphasis; "everywhere, I don't know what
it comes from; better education and worse digestions I suppose.  I am
sure digestion has a good deal to do with it.  In my husband's family for
example, his generation had excellent digestions, and there wasn't a case
of Socialism or suicide among them; the younger generation have no
digestions worth speaking of, and there have been two suicides and three
Socialists within the last six years.  And now I must really be going.  I
am not a Berliner and late hours don't suit my way of life."

Ronnie bent low over the Grafin's hand and kissed it, partly because she
was the kind of woman who naturally invoked such homage, but chiefly
because he knew that the gesture showed off his smooth burnished head to
advantage.

The observant eyes of Lady Shalem had noted the animated conversation
between the Grafin and Ronnie, and she had overheard fragments of the
invitation that had been accorded to the latter.

"Take us the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines," she
quoted to herself; "not that that music-boy would do much in the
destructive line, but the principle is good."



CHAPTER X: SOME REFLECTIONS AND A "TE DEUM"


Cicely awoke, on the morning after the "memorable evening," with the
satisfactory feeling of victory achieved, tempered by a troubled sense of
having achieved it in the face of a reasonably grounded opposition.  She
had burned her boats, and was glad of it, but the reek of their burning
drifted rather unpleasantly across the jubilant incense-swinging of her
Te Deum service.

Last night had marked an immense step forward in her social career;
without running after the patronage of influential personages she had
seen it quietly and tactfully put at her service.  People such as the
Grafin von Tolb were going to be a power in the London world for a very
long time to come.  Herr von Kwarl, with all his useful qualities of
brain and temperament, might conceivably fall out of favour in some
unexpected turn of the political wheel, and the Shalems would probably
have their little day and then a long afternoon of diminishing social
importance; the placid dormouse-like Grafin would outlast them all.  She
had the qualities which make either for contented mediocrity or else for
very durable success, according as circumstances may dictate.  She was
one of those characters that can neither thrust themselves to the front,
nor have any wish to do so, but being there, no ordinary power can thrust
them away.

With the Grafin as her friend Cicely found herself in altogether a
different position from that involved by the mere interested patronage of
Lady Shalem.  A vista of social success was opened up to her, and she did
not mean it to be just the ordinary success of a popular and influential
hostess moving in an important circle.  That people with naturally bad
manners should have to be polite and considerate in their dealings with
her, that people who usually held themselves aloof should have to be
gracious and amiable, that the self-assured should have to be just a
little humble and anxious where she was concerned, these things of course
she intended to happen; she was a woman.  But, she told herself, she
intended a great deal more than that when she traced the pattern for her
scheme of social influence.  In her heart she detested the German
occupation as a hateful necessity, but while her heart registered the
hatefulness the brain recognised the necessity.  The great
fighting-machines that the Germans had built up and maintained, on land,
on sea, and in air, were three solid crushing facts that demonstrated the
hopelessness of any immediate thought of revolt.  Twenty years hence,
when the present generation was older and greyer, the chances of armed
revolt would probably be equally hopeless, equally remote-seeming.  But
in the meantime something could have been effected in another way.  The
conquerors might partially Germanise London, but, on the other hand, if
the thing were skilfully managed, the British element within the Empire
might impress the mark of its influence on everything German.  The
fighting men might remain Prussian or Bavarian, but the thinking men, and
eventually the ruling men, could gradually come under British influence,
or even be of British blood.  An English Liberal-Conservative "Centre"
might stand as a bulwark against the Junkerdom and Socialism of
Continental Germany.  So Cicely reasoned with herself, in a fashion
induced perhaps by an earlier apprenticeship to the reading of Nineteenth
Century articles, in which the possible political and racial developments
of various countries were examined and discussed and put away in the
pigeon-holes of probable happenings.  She had sufficient knowledge of
political history to know that such a development might possibly come to
pass, she had not sufficient insight into actual conditions to know that
the possibility was as remote as that of armed resistance.  And the role
which she saw herself playing was that of a deft and courtly political
intriguer, rallying the British element and making herself agreeable to
the German element, a political inspiration to the one and a social
distraction to the other.  At the back of her mind there lurked an honest
confession that she was probably over-rating her powers of statecraft and
personality, that she was more likely to be carried along by the current
of events than to control or divert its direction; the political
day-dream remained, however, as day-dreams will, in spite of the clear
light of probability shining through them.  At any rate she knew, as
usual, what she wanted to do, and as usual she had taken steps to carry
out her intentions.  Last night remained in her mind a night of important
victory.  There also remained the anxious proceeding of finding out if
the victory had entailed any serious losses.

Cicely was not one of those ill-regulated people who treat the first meal
of the day as a convenient occasion for serving up any differences or
contentions that have been left over from the day before or overlooked in
the press of other matters.  She enjoyed her breakfast and gave Yeovil
unhindered opportunity for enjoying his; a discussion as to the right
cooking of a dish that he had first tasted among the Orenburg Tartars was
the prevailing topic on this particular morning, and blended well with
trout and toast and coffee.  In a cosy nook of the smoking-room, in
participation of the after-breakfast cigarettes, Cicely made her dash
into debatable ground.

"You haven't asked me how my supper-party went off," she said.

"There is a notice of it in two of the morning papers, with a list of
those present," said Yeovil; "the conquering race seems to have been very
well represented."

"Several races were represented," said Cicely; "a function of that sort,
celebrating a dramatic first-night, was bound to be cosmopolitan.  In
fact, blending of races and nationalities is the tendency of the age we
live in."

"The blending of races seems to have been consummated already in one of
the individuals at your party," said Yeovil drily; "the name Mentieth-
Mendlesohnn struck me as a particularly happy obliteration of racial
landmarks."

Cicely laughed.

"A noisy and very wearisome sort of woman," she commented; "she reminds
one of garlic that's been planted by mistake in a conservatory.  Still,
she's useful as an advertising agent to any one who rubs her the right
way.  She'll be invaluable in proclaiming the merits of Gorla's
performance to all and sundry; that's why I invited her.  She'll probably
lunch to-day at the Hotel Cecil, and every one sitting within a hundred
yards of her table will hear what an emotional education they can get by
going to see Gorla dance at the Caravansery."

"She seems to be like the Salvation Army," said Yeovil; "her noise
reaches a class of people who wouldn't trouble to read press notices."

"Exactly," said Cicely.  "Gorla gets quite good notices on the whole,
doesn't she?"

"The one that took my fancy most was the one in the Standard," said
Yeovil, picking up that paper from a table by his side and searching its
columns for the notice in question.  "'The wolves which appeared earlier
in the evening's entertainment are, the programme assures us, trained
entirely by kindness.  It would have been a further kindness, at any rate
to the audience, if some of the training, which the wolves doubtless do
not appreciate at its proper value, had been expended on Miss
Mustelford's efforts at stage dancing.  We are assured, again on the
authority of the programme, that the much-talked-of Suggestion Dances are
the last word in Posture dancing.  The last word belongs by immemorial
right to the sex which Miss Mustelford adorns, and it would be ungallant
to seek to deprive her of her privilege.  As far as the educational
aspect of her performance is concerned we must admit that the life of the
fern remains to us a private life still.  Miss Mustelford has abandoned
her own private life in an unavailing attempt to draw the fern into the
gaze of publicity.  And so it was with her other suggestions.  They
suggested many things, but nothing that was announced on the programme.
Chiefly they suggested one outstanding reflection, that stage-dancing is
not like those advertised breakfast foods that can be served up after
three minutes' preparation.  Half a life-time, or rather half a youth-
time is a much more satisfactory allowance.'"

"The Standard is prejudiced," said Cicely; "some of the other papers are
quite enthusiastic.  The Dawn gives her a column and a quarter of notice,
nearly all of it complimentary.  It says the report of her fame as a
dancer went before her, but that her performance last night caught it up
and outstripped it."

"I should not like to suggest that the Dawn is prejudiced," said Yeovil,
"but Shalem is a managing director on it, and one of its biggest
shareholders.  Gorla's dancing is an event of the social season, and
Shalem is one of those most interested in keeping up the appearance, at
any rate, of a London social season.  Besides, her debut gave the
opportunity for an Imperial visit to the theatre--the first appearance at
a festive public function of the Conqueror among the conquered.
Apparently the experiment passed off well; Shalem has every reason to
feel pleased with himself and well-disposed towards Gorla.  By the way,"
added Yeovil, "talking of Gorla, I'm going down to Torywood one day next
week."

"To Torywood?" exclaimed Cicely.  The tone of her exclamation gave the
impression that the announcement was not very acceptable to her.

"I promised the old lady that I would go and have a talk with her when I
came back from my Siberian trip; she travelled in eastern Russia, you
know, long before the Trans-Siberian railway was built, and she's
enormously interested in those parts.  In any case I should like to see
her again."

"She does not see many people nowadays," said Cicely; "I fancy she is
breaking up rather.  She was very fond of the son who went down, you
know."

"She has seen a great many of the things she cared for go down," said
Yeovil; "it is a sad old life that is left to her, when one thinks of all
that the past has been to her, of the part she used to play in the world,
the work she used to get through.  It used to seem as though she could
never grow old, as if she would die standing up, with some unfinished
command on her lips.  And now I suppose her tragedy is that she has grown
old, bitterly old, and cannot die."

Cicely was silent for a moment, and seemed about to leave the room.  Then
she turned back and said:

"I don't think I would say anything about Gorla to her if I were you."

"It would not have occurred to me to drag her name into our
conversation," said Yeovil coldly, "but in any case the accounts of her
dancing performance will have reached Torywood through the
newspapers--also the record of your racially-blended supper-party."

Cicely said nothing.  She knew that by last night's affair she had
definitely identified herself in public opinion with the Shalem clique,
and that many of her old friends would look on her with distrust and
suspicion on that account.  It was unfortunate, but she reckoned it a
lesser evil than tearing herself away from her London life, its successes
and pleasures and possibilities.  These social dislocations and severing
of friendships were to be looked for after any great and violent change
in State affairs.  It was Yeovil's attitude that really troubled her; she
would not give way to his prejudices and accept his point of view, but
she knew that a victory that involved estrangement from him would only
bring a mockery of happiness.  She still hoped that he would come round
to an acceptance of established facts and deaden his political malaise in
the absorbing distraction of field sports.  The visit to Torywood was a
misfortune; it might just turn the balance in the undesired direction.
Only a few weeks of late summer and early autumn remained before the
hunting season, and its preparations would be at hand, and Yeovil might
be caught in the meshes of an old enthusiasm; in those few weeks,
however, he might be fired by another sort of enthusiasm, an enthusiasm
which would sooner or later mean voluntary or enforced exile for his
part, and the probable breaking up of her own social plans and ambitions.

But Cicely knew something of the futility of improvising objections where
no real obstacle exists.  The visit to Torywood was a graceful attention
on Yeovil's part to an old friend; there was no decent ground on which it
could be opposed.  If the influence of that visit came athwart Yeovil's
life and hers with disastrous effect, that was "Kismet."

And once again the reek from her burned and smouldering boats mingled
threateningly with the incense fumes of her Te Deum for victory.  She
left the room, and Yeovil turned once more to an item of news in the
morning's papers that had already arrested his attention.  The Imperial
Aufklarung on the subject of military service was to be made public in
the course of the day.



CHAPTER XI: THE TEA SHOP


Yeovil wandered down Piccadilly that afternoon in a spirit of
restlessness and expectancy.  The long-awaited Aufklarung dealing with
the new law of military service had not yet appeared; at any moment he
might meet the hoarse-throated newsboys running along with their papers,
announcing the special edition which would give the terms of the edict to
the public.  Every sound or movement that detached itself with isolated
significance from the general whirr and scurry of the streets seemed to
Yeovil to herald the oncoming clamour and rush that he was looking for.
But the long endless succession of motors and 'buses and vans went by,
hooting and grunting, and such newsboys as were to be seen hung about
listlessly, bearing no more attractive bait on their posters than the
announcement of an "earthquake shock in Hungary: feared loss of life."

The Green Park end of Piccadilly was a changed, and in some respects a
livelier thoroughfare to that which Yeovil remembered with affectionate
regret.  A great political club had migrated from its palatial home to a
shrunken habitation in a less prosperous quarter; its place was filled by
the flamboyant frontage of the Hotel Konstantinopel.  Gorgeous Turkey
carpets were spread over the wide entrance steps, and boys in Circassian
and Anatolian costumes hung around the doors, or dashed forth in
un-Oriental haste to carry such messages as the telephone was unable to
transmit.  Picturesque sellers of Turkish delight, attar-of-roses, and
brass-work coffee services, squatted under the portico, on terms of
obvious good understanding with the hotel management.  A few doors
further down a service club that had long been a Piccadilly landmark was
a landmark still, as the home of the Army Aeronaut Club, and there was a
constant coming and going of gay-hued uniforms, Saxon, Prussian,
Bavarian, Hessian, and so forth, through its portals.  The mastering of
the air and the creation of a scientific aerial war fleet, second to none
in the world, was an achievement of which the conquering race was
pardonably proud, and for which it had good reason to be duly thankful.
Over the gateways was blazoned the badge of the club, an elephant, whale,
and eagle, typifying the three armed forces of the State, by land and sea
and air; the eagle bore in its beak a scroll with the proud legend: "The
last am I, but not the least."

To the eastward of this gaily-humming hive the long shuttered front of a
deserted ducal mansion struck a note of protest and mourning amid the
noise and whirl and colour of a seemingly uncaring city.  On the other
side of the roadway, on the gravelled paths of the Green Park, small
ragged children from the back streets of Westminster looked wistfully at
the smooth trim stretches of grass on which it was now forbidden, in two
languages, to set foot.  Only the pigeons, disregarding the changes of
political geography, walked about as usual, wondering perhaps, if they
ever wondered at anything, at the sudden change in the distribution of
park humans.

Yeovil turned his steps out of the hot sunlight into the shade of the
Burlington Arcade, familiarly known to many of its newer frequenters as
the Passage.  Here the change that new conditions and requirements had
wrought was more immediately noticeable than anywhere else in the West
End.  Most of the shops on the western side had been cleared away, and in
their place had been installed an "open-air" cafe, converting the long
alley into a sort of promenade tea-garden, flanked on one side by a line
of haberdashers', perfumers', and jewellers' show windows.  The patrons
of the cafe could sit at the little round tables, drinking their coffee
and syrups and aperitifs, and gazing, if they were so minded, at the
pyjamas and cravats and Brazilian diamonds spread out for inspection
before them.  A string orchestra, hidden away somewhere in a gallery, was
alternating grand opera with the Gondola Girl and the latest gems of
Transatlantic melody.  From around the tightly-packed tables arose a
babble of tongues, made up chiefly of German, a South American rendering
of Spanish, and a North American rendering of English, with here and
there the sharp shaken-out staccato of Japanese.  A sleepy-looking boy,
in a nondescript uniform, was wandering to and fro among the customers,
offering for sale the Matin, New York Herald, Berliner Tageblatt, and a
host of crudely coloured illustrated papers, embodying the hard-worked
wit of a world-legion of comic artists.  Yeovil hurried through the
Arcade; it was not here, in this atmosphere of staring alien eyes and
jangling tongues, that he wanted to read the news of the Imperial
Aufklarung.

By a succession of by-ways he reached Hanover Square, and thence made his
way into Oxford Street.  There was no commotion of activity to be noticed
yet among the newsboys; the posters still concerned themselves with the
earthquake in Hungary, varied with references to the health of the King
of Roumania, and a motor accident in South London.  Yeovil wandered
aimlessly along the street for a few dozen yards, and then turned down
into the smoking-room of a cheap tea-shop, where he judged that the
flourishing foreign element would be less conspicuously represented.
Quiet-voiced, smooth-headed youths, from neighbouring shops and wholesale
houses, sat drinking tea and munching pastry, some of them reading,
others making a fitful rattle with dominoes on the marble-topped tables.
A clean, wholesome smell of tea and coffee made itself felt through the
clouds of cigarette smoke; cleanliness and listlessness seemed to be the
dominant notes of the place, a cleanliness that was commendable, and a
listlessness that seemed unnatural and undesirable where so much youth
was gathered together for refreshment and recreation.  Yeovil seated
himself at a table already occupied by a young clergyman who was smoking
a cigarette over the remains of a plateful of buttered toast.  He had a
keen, clever, hard-lined face, the face of a man who, in an earlier stage
of European history, might have been a warlike prior, awkward to tackle
at the council-board, greatly to be avoided where blows were being
exchanged.  A pale, silent damsel drifted up to Yeovil and took his order
with an air of being mentally some hundreds of miles away, and utterly
indifferent to the requirements of those whom she served; if she had
brought calf's-foot jelly instead of the pot of China tea he had asked
for, Yeovil would hardly have been surprised.  However, the tea duly
arrived on the table, and the pale damsel scribbled a figure on a slip of
paper, put it silently by the side of the teapot, and drifted silently
away.  Yeovil had seen the same sort of thing done on the musical-comedy
stage, and done rather differently.

"Can you tell me, sir, is the Imperial announcement out yet?" asked the
young clergyman, after a brief scrutiny of his neighbour.

"No, I have been waiting about for the last half-hour on the look-out for
it," said Yeovil; "the special editions ought to be out by now."  Then he
added: "I have only just lately come from abroad.  I know scarcely
anything of London as it is now.  You may imagine that a good deal of it
is very strange to me.  Your profession must take you a good deal among
all classes of people.  I have seen something of what one may call the
upper, or, at any rate, the richer classes, since I came back; do tell me
something about the poorer classes of the community.  How do they take
the new order of things?"

"Badly," said the young cleric, "badly, in more senses than one.  They
are helpless and they are bitter--bitter in the useless kind of way that
produces no great resolutions.  They look round for some one to blame for
what has happened; they blame the politicians, they blame the leisured
classes; in an indirect way I believe they blame the Church.  Certainly,
the national disaster has not drawn them towards religion in any form.
One thing you may be sure of, they do not blame themselves.  No true
Londoner ever admits that fault lies at his door.  'No, I never!' is an
exclamation that is on his lips from earliest childhood, whenever he is
charged with anything blameworthy or punishable.  That is why school
discipline was ever a thing repugnant to the schoolboard child and its
parents; no schoolboard scholar ever deserved punishment.  However
obvious the fault might seem to a disciplinarian, 'No, I never'
exonerated it as something that had not happened.  Public schoolboys and
private schoolboys of the upper and middle class had their fling and took
their thrashings, when they were found out, as a piece of bad luck, but
'our Bert' and 'our Sid' were of those for whom there is no condemnation;
if they were punished it was for faults that 'no, they never' committed.
Naturally the grown-up generation of Berts and Sids, the voters and
householders, do not realise, still less admit, that it was they who
called the tune to which the politicians danced.  They had to choose
between the vote-mongers and the so-called 'scare-mongers,' and their
verdict was for the vote-mongers all the time.  And now they are bitter;
they are being punished, and punishment is not a thing that they have
been schooled to bear.  The taxes that are falling on them are a grievous
source of discontent, and the military service that will be imposed on
them, for the first time in their lives, will be another.  There is a
more lovable side to their character under misfortune, though," added the
young clergyman.  "Deep down in their hearts there was a very real
affection for the old dynasty.  Future historians will perhaps be able to
explain how and why the Royal Family of Great Britain captured the
imaginations of its subjects in so genuine and lasting a fashion.  Among
the poorest and the most matter-of-fact, for whom the name of no public
man, politician or philanthropist, stands out with any especial
significance, the old Queen, and the dead King, the dethroned monarch and
the young prince live in a sort of domestic Pantheon, a recollection that
is a proud and wistful personal possession when so little remains to be
proud of or to possess.  There is no favour that I am so often asked for
among my poorer parishioners as the gift of the picture of this or that
member of the old dynasty.  'I have got all of them, only except Princess
Mary,' an old woman said to me last week, and she nearly cried with
pleasure when I brought her an old Bystander portrait that filled the gap
in her collection.  And on Queen Alexandra's day they bring out and wear
the faded wild-rose favours that they bought with their pennies in days
gone by."

"The tragedy of the enactment that is about to enforce military service
on these people is that it comes when they've no longer a country to
fight for," said Yeovil.

The young clergyman gave an exclamation of bitter impatience.

"That is the cruel mockery of the whole thing.  Every now and then in the
course of my work I have come across lads who were really drifting to the
bad through the good qualities in them.  A clean combative strain in
their blood, and a natural turn for adventure, made the ordinary anaemic
routine of shop or warehouse or factory almost unbearable for them.  What
splendid little soldiers they would have made, and how grandly the
discipline of a military training would have steadied them in after-life
when steadiness was wanted.  The only adventure that their surroundings
offered them has been the adventure of practising mildly criminal
misdeeds without getting landed in reformatories and prisons; those of
them that have not been successful in keeping clear of detection are
walking round and round prison yards, experiencing the operation of a
discipline that breaks and does not build.  They were merry-hearted boys
once, with nothing of the criminal or ne'er-do-weel in their natures, and
now--have you ever seen a prison yard, with that walk round and round and
round between grey walls under a blue sky?"

Yeovil nodded.

"It's good enough for criminals and imbeciles," said the parson, "but
think of it for those boys, who might have been marching along to the tap
of the drum, with a laugh on their lips instead of Hell in their hearts.
I have had Hell in my heart sometimes, when I have come in touch with
cases like those.  I suppose you are thinking that I am a strange sort of
parson."

"I was just defining you in my mind," said Yeovil, "as a man of God, with
an infinite tenderness for little devils."

The clergyman flushed.

"Rather a fine epitaph to have on one's tombstone," he said, "especially
if the tombstone were in some crowded city graveyard.  I suppose I am a
man of God, but I don't think I could be called a man of peace."

Looking at the strong young face, with its suggestion of a fighting prior
of bygone days more marked than ever, Yeovil mentally agreed that he
could not.

"I have learned one thing in life," continued the young man, "and that is
that peace is not for this world.  Peace is what God gives us when He
takes us into His rest.  Beat your sword into a ploughshare if you like,
but beat your enemy into smithereens first."

A long-drawn cry, repeated again and again, detached itself from the
throb and hoot and whir of the street traffic.

"Speshul!  Military service, spesh-ul!"

The young clergyman sprang from his seat and went up the staircase in a
succession of bounds, causing the domino players and novelette readers to
look up for a moment in mild astonishment.  In a few seconds he was back
again, with a copy of an afternoon paper.  The Imperial Rescript was set
forth in heavy type, in parallel columns of English and German.  As the
young man read a deep burning flush spread over his face, then ebbed away
into a chalky whiteness.  He read the announcement to the end, then
handed the paper to Yeovil, and left without a word.

Beneath the courtly politeness and benignant phraseology of the document
ran a trenchant searing irony.  The British born subjects of the Germanic
Crown, inhabiting the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, had
habituated themselves as a people to the disuse of arms, and resolutely
excluded military service and national training from their political
system and daily life.  Their judgment that they were unsuited as a race
to bear arms and conform to military discipline was not to be set aside.
Their new Overlord did not propose to do violence to their feelings and
customs by requiring from them the personal military sacrifices and
services which were rendered by his subjects German-born.  The British
subjects of the Crown were to remain a people consecrated to peaceful
pursuits, to commerce and trade and husbandry.  The defence of their
coasts and shipping and the maintenance of order and general safety would
be guaranteed by a garrison of German troops, with the co-operation of
the Imperial war fleet.  German-born subjects residing temporarily or
permanently in the British Isles would come under the same laws
respecting compulsory military service as their fellow-subjects of German
blood in the other parts of the Empire, and special enactments would be
drawn up to ensure that their interests did not suffer from a periodical
withdrawal on training or other military calls.  Necessarily a heavily
differentiated scale of war taxation would fall on British taxpayers, to
provide for the upkeep of the garrison and to equalise the services and
sacrifices rendered by the two branches of his Majesty's subjects.  As
military service was not henceforth open to any subject of British birth
no further necessity for any training or exercise of a military nature
existed, therefore all rifle clubs, drill associations, cadet corps and
similar bodies were henceforth declared to be illegal.  No weapons other
than guns for specified sporting purposes, duly declared and registered
and open to inspection when required, could be owned, purchased, or
carried.  The science of arms was to be eliminated altogether from the
life of a people who had shown such marked repugnance to its study and
practice.

The cold irony of the measure struck home with the greater force because
its nature was so utterly unexpected.  Public anticipation had guessed at
various forms of military service, aggressively irksome or tactfully
lightened as the case might be, in any event certain to be bitterly
unpopular, and now there had come this contemptuous boon, which had
removed, at one stroke, the bogey of compulsory military service from the
troubled imaginings of the British people, and fastened on them the cruel
distinction of being in actual fact what an enemy had called them in
splenetic scorn long years ago--a nation of shopkeepers.  Aye, something
even below that level, a race of shopkeepers who were no longer a nation.

Yeovil crumpled the paper in his hand and went out into the sunlit
street.  A sudden roll of drums and crash of brass music filled the air.
A company of Bavarian infantry went by, in all the pomp and circumstance
of martial array and the joyous swing of rapid rhythmic movement.  The
street echoed and throbbed in the Englishman's ears with the exultant
pulse of youth and mastery set to loud Pagan music.  A group of lads from
the tea-shop clustered on the pavement and watched the troops go by,
staring at a phase of life in which they had no share.  The martial
trappings, the swaggering joy of life, the comradeship of camp and
barracks, the hard discipline of drill yard and fatigue duty, the long
sentry watches, the trench digging, forced marches, wounds, cold, hunger,
makeshift hospitals, and the blood-wet laurels--these were not for them.
Such things they might only guess at, or see on a cinema film, darkly;
they belonged to the civilian nation.

The function of afternoon tea was still being languidly observed in the
big drawing-room when Yeovil returned to Berkshire Street.  Cicely was
playing the part of hostess to a man of perhaps forty-one years of age,
who looked slightly older from his palpable attempts to look very much
younger.  Percival Plarsey was a plump, pale-faced, short-legged
individual, with puffy cheeks, over-prominent nose, and thin colourless
hair.  His mother, with nothing more than maternal prejudice to excuse
her, had discovered some twenty odd years ago that he was a well-favoured
young man, and had easily imbued her son with the same opinion.  The
slipping away of years and the natural transition of the unathletic boy
into the podgy unhealthy-looking man did little to weaken the tradition;
Plarsey had never been able to relinquish the idea that a youthful charm
and comeliness still centred in his person, and laboured daily at his
toilet with the devotion that a hopelessly lost cause is so often able to
inspire.  He babbled incessantly about himself and the accessory
futilities of his life in short, neat, complacent sentences, and in a
voice that Ronald Storre said reminded one of a fat bishop blessing a
butter-making competition.  While he babbled he kept his eyes fastened on
his listeners to observe the impression which his important little
announcements and pronouncements were making.  On the present occasion he
was pattering forth a detailed description of the upholstery and fittings
of his new music-room.

"All the hangings, violette de Parme, all the furniture, rosewood.  The
only ornament in the room is a replica of the Mozart statue in Vienna.
Nothing but Mozart is to be played in the room.  Absolutely, nothing but
Mozart."

"You will get rather tired of that, won't you?" said Cicely, feeling that
she was expected to comment on this tremendous announcement.

"One gets tired of everything," said Plarsey, with a fat little sigh of
resignation. "I can't tell you how tired I am of Rubenstein, and one day
I suppose I shall be tired of Mozart, and violette de Parme and rosewood.
I never thought it possible that I could ever tire of jonquils, and now I
simply won't have one in the house.  Oh, the scene the other day because
some one brought some jonquils into the house!  I'm afraid I was
dreadfully rude, but I really couldn't help it."

He could talk like this through a long summer day or a long winter
evening.

Yeovil belonged to a race forbidden to bear arms.  At the moment he would
gladly have contented himself with the weapons with which nature had
endowed him, if he might have kicked and pommelled the abhorrent specimen
of male humanity whom he saw before him.

Instead he broke into the conversation with an inspired flash of
malicious untruthfulness.

"It is wonderful," he observed carelessly, "how popular that Viennese
statue of Mozart has become.  A friend who inspects County Council Art
Schools tells me you find a copy of it in every class-room you go into."

It was a poor substitute for physical violence, but it was all that
civilisation allowed him in the way of relieving his feelings; it had,
moreover, the effect of making Plarsey profoundly miserable.



CHAPTER XII: THE TRAVELLING COMPANIONS


The train bearing Yeovil on his visit to Torywood slid and rattled
westward through the hazy dreamland of an English summer landscape.  Seen
from the train windows the stark bare ugliness of the metalled line was
forgotten, and the eye rested only on the green solitude that unfolded
itself as the miles went slipping by.  Tall grasses and meadow-weeds
stood in deep shocks, field after field, between the leafy boundaries of
hedge or coppice, thrusting themselves higher and higher till they
touched the low sweeping branches of the trees that here and there
overshadowed them.  Broad streams, bordered with a heavy fringe of reed
and sedge, went winding away into a green distance where woodland and
meadowland seemed indefinitely prolonged; narrow streamlets, lost to view
in the growth that they fostered, disclosed their presence merely by the
water-weed that showed in a riband of rank verdure threading the mellower
green of the fields.  On the stream banks moorhens walked with jerky
confident steps, in the easy boldness of those who had a couple of other
elements at their disposal in an emergency; more timorous partridges
raced away from the apparition of the train, looking all leg and neck,
like little forest elves fleeing from human encounter.  And in the
distance, over the tree line, a heron or two flapped with slow measured
wing-beats and an air of being bent on an immeasurably longer journey
than the train that hurtled so frantically along the rails.  Now and then
the meadowland changed itself suddenly into orchard, with close-growing
trees already showing the measure of their coming harvest, and then
strawyard and farm buildings would slide into view; heavy dairy cattle,
roan and skewbald and dappled, stood near the gates, drowsily resentful
of insect stings, and bunched-up companies of ducks halted in seeming
irresolution between the charms of the horse-pond and the alluring
neighbourhood of the farm kitchen.  Away by the banks of some rushing
mill-stream, in a setting of copse and cornfield, a village might be
guessed at, just a hint of red roof, grey wreathed chimney and old church
tower as seen from the windows of the passing train, and over it all
brooded a happy, settled calm, like the dreaming murmur of a trout-stream
and the far-away cawing of rooks.

It was a land where it seemed as if it must be always summer and
generally afternoon, a land where bees hummed among the wild thyme and in
the flower beds of cottage gardens, where the harvest-mice rustled amid
the corn and nettles, and the mill-race flowed cool and silent through
water-weeds and dark tunnelled sluices, and made soft droning music with
the wooden mill-wheel.  And the music carried with it the wording of old
undying rhymes, and sang of the jolly, uncaring, uncared-for miller, of
the farmer who went riding upon his grey mare, of the mouse who lived
beneath the merry mill-pin, of the sweet music on yonder green hill and
the dancers all in yellow--the songs and fancies of a lingering olden
time, when men took life as children take a long summer day, and went to
bed at last with a simple trust in something they could not have
explained.

Yeovil watched the passing landscape with the intent hungry eyes of a man
who revisits a scene that holds high place in his affections.  His
imagination raced even quicker than the train, following winding roads
and twisting valleys into unseen distances, picturing farms and hamlets,
hills and hollows, clattering inn yards and sleepy woodlands.

"A beautiful country," said his only fellow-traveller, who was also
gazing at the fleeting landscape; "surely a country worth fighting for."

He spoke in fairly correct English, but he was unmistakably a foreigner;
one could have allotted him with some certainty to the Eastern half of
Europe.

"A beautiful country, as you say," replied Yeovil; then he added the
question, "Are you German?"

"No, Hungarian," said the other; "and you, you are English?" he asked.

"I have been much in England, but I am from Russia," said Yeovil,
purposely misleading his companion on the subject of his nationality in
order to induce him to talk with greater freedom on a delicate topic.
While living among foreigners in a foreign land he had shrunk from
hearing his country's disaster discussed, or even alluded to; now he was
anxious to learn what unprejudiced foreigners thought of the catastrophe
and the causes which had led up to it.

"It is a strange spectacle, a wonder, is it not so?" resumed the other,
"a great nation such as this was, one of the greatest nations in modern
times, or of any time, carrying its flag and its language into all parts
of the world, and now, after one short campaign, it is--"

And he shrugged his shoulders many times and made clucking noises at the
roof of his voice, like a hen calling to a brood of roving chickens.

"They grew soft," he resumed; "great world-commerce brings great luxury,
and luxury brings softness.  They had everything to warn them, things
happening in their own time and before their eyes, and they would not be
warned.  They had seen, in one generation, the rise of the military and
naval power of the Japanese, a brown-skinned race living in some island
rice fields in a tropical sea, a people one thought of in connection with
paper fans and flowers and pretty tea-gardens, who suddenly marched and
sailed into the world's gaze as a Great Power; they had seen, too, the
rise of the Bulgars, a poor herd of zaptieh-ridden peasants, with a few
students scattered in exile in Bukarest and Odessa, who shot up in one
generation to be an armed and aggressive nation with history in its
hands.  The English saw these things happening around them, and with a
war-cloud growing blacker and bigger and always more threatening on their
own threshold they sat down to grow soft and peaceful.  They grew soft
and accommodating in all things in religion--"

"In religion?" said Yeovil.

"In religion, yes," said his companion emphatically; "they had come to
look on the Christ as a sort of amiable elder Brother, whose letters from
abroad were worth reading.  Then, when they had emptied all the divine
mystery and wonder out of their faith naturally they grew tired of it,
oh, but dreadfully tired of it.  I know many English of the country
parts, and always they tell me they go to church once in each week to set
the good example to the servants.  They were tired of their faith, but
they were not virile enough to become real Pagans; their dancing fauns
were good young men who tripped Morris dances and ate health foods and
believed in a sort of Socialism which made for the greatest dulness of
the greatest number.  You will find plenty of them still if you go into
what remains of social London."

Yeovil gave a grunt of acquiescence.

"They grew soft in their political ideas," continued the unsparing
critic; "for the old insular belief that all foreigners were devils and
rogues they substituted another belief, equally grounded on insular lack
of knowledge, that most foreigners were amiable, good fellows, who only
needed to be talked to and patted on the back to become your friends and
benefactors.  They began to believe that a foreign Minister would
relinquish long-cherished schemes of national policy and hostile
expansion if he came over on a holiday and was asked down to country
houses and shown the tennis court and the rock-garden and the younger
children.  Listen.  I once heard it solemnly stated at an after-dinner
debate in some literary club that a certain very prominent German
statesman had a daughter at school in England, and that future friendly
relations between the two countries were improved in prospect, if not
assured, by that circumstance.  You think I am laughing; I am recording a
fact, and the men present were politicians and statesmen as well as
literary dilettanti.  It was an insular lack of insight that worked the
mischief, or some of the mischief.  We, in Hungary, we live too much
cheek by jowl with our racial neighbours to have many illusions about
them.  Austrians, Roumanians, Serbs, Italians, Czechs, we know what they
think of us, and we know what to think of them, we know what we want in
the world, and we know what they want; that knowledge does not send us
flying at each other's throats, but it does keep us from growing soft.
Ah, the British lion was in a hurry to inaugurate the Millennium and to
lie down gracefully with the lamb.  He made two mistakes, only two, but
they were very bad ones; the Millennium hadn't arrived, and it was not a
lamb that he was lying down with."

"You do not like the English, I gather," said Yeovil, as the Hungarian
went off into a short burst of satirical laughter.

"I have always liked them," he answered, "but now I am angry with them
for being soft.  Here is my station," he added, as the train slowed down,
and he commenced to gather his belongings together.  "I am angry with
them," he continued, as a final word on the subject, "because I hate the
Germans."

He raised his hat punctiliously in a parting salute and stepped out on to
the platform.  His place was taken by a large, loose-limbed man, with
florid face and big staring eyes, and an immense array of fishing-basket,
rod, fly-cases, and so forth.  He was of the type that one could
instinctively locate as a loud-voiced, self-constituted authority on
whatever topic might happen to be discussed in the bars of small hotels.

"Are you English?" he asked, after a preliminary stare at Yeovil.

This time Yeovil did not trouble to disguise his nationality; he nodded
curtly to his questioner.

"Glad of that," said the fisherman; "I don't like travelling with
Germans."

"Unfortunately," said Yeovil, "we have to travel with them, as partners
in the same State concern, and not by any means the predominant partner
either."

"Oh, that will soon right itself," said the other with loud
assertiveness, "that will right itself damn soon."

"Nothing in politics rights itself," said Yeovil; "things have to be
righted, which is a different matter."

"What d'y'mean?" said the fisherman, who did not like to have his
assertions taken up and shaken into shape.

"We have given a clever and domineering people a chance to plant
themselves down as masters in our land; I don't imagine that they are
going to give us an easy chance to push them out.  To do that we shall
have to be a little cleverer than they are, a little harder, a little
fiercer, and a good deal more self-sacrificing than we have been in my
lifetime or in yours."

"We'll be that, right enough," said the fisherman; "we mean business this
time.  The last war wasn't a war, it was a snap.  We weren't prepared and
they were.  That won't happen again, bless you.  I know what I'm talking
about.  I go up and down the country, and I hear what people are saying."

Yeovil privately doubted if he ever heard anything but his own opinions.

"It stands to reason," continued the fisherman, "that a highly civilised
race like ours, with the record that we've had for leading the whole
world, is not going to be held under for long by a lot of damned sausage-
eating Germans.  Don't you believe it!  I know what I'm talking about.
I've travelled about the world a bit."

Yeovil shrewdly suspected that the world travels amounted to nothing more
than a trip to the United States and perhaps the Channel Islands, with,
possibly, a week or fortnight in Paris.

"It isn't the past we've got to think of, it's the future," said Yeovil.
"Other maritime Powers had pasts to look back on; Spain and Holland, for
instance.  The past didn't help them when they let their sea-sovereignty
slip from them.  That is a matter of history and not very distant history
either."

"Ah, that's where you make a mistake," said the other; "our
sea-sovereignty hasn't slipped from us, and won't do, neither.  There's
the British Empire beyond the seas; Canada, Australia, New Zealand, East
Africa."

He rolled the names round his tongue with obvious relish.

"If it was a list of first-class battleships, and armoured cruisers and
destroyers and airships that you were reeling off, there would be some
comfort and hope in the situation," said Yeovil; "the loyalty of the
colonies is a splendid thing, but it is only pathetically splendid
because it can do so little to recover for us what we've lost.  Against
the Zeppelin air fleet, and the Dreadnought sea squadrons and the new
Gelberhaus cruisers, the last word in maritime mobility, of what avail is
loyal devotion plus half-a-dozen warships, one keel to ten, scattered
over one or two ocean coasts?"

"Ah, but they'll build," said the fisherman confidently; "they'll build.
They're only waiting to enlarge their dockyard accommodation and get the
right class of artificers and engineers and workmen together.  The money
will be forthcoming somehow, and they'll start in and build."

"And do you suppose," asked Yeovil in slow bitter contempt, "that the
victorious nation is going to sit and watch and wait till the defeated
foe has created a new war fleet, big enough to drive it from the seas?  Do
you suppose it is going to watch keel added to keel, gun to gun, airship
to airship, till its preponderance has been wiped out or even threatened?
That sort of thing is done once in a generation, not twice.  Who is going
to protect Australia or New Zealand while they enlarge their dockyards
and hangars and build their dreadnoughts and their airships?"

"Here's my station and I'm not sorry," said the fisherman, gathering his
tackle together and rising to depart; "I've listened to you long enough.
You and me wouldn't agree, not if we was to talk all day.  Fact is, I'm
an out-and-out patriot and you're only a half-hearted one.  That's what
you are, half-hearted."

And with that parting shot he left the carriage and lounged heavily down
the platform, a patriot who had never handled a rifle or mounted a horse
or pulled an oar, but who had never flinched from demolishing his
country's enemies with his tongue.

"England has never had any lack of patriots of that type," thought Yeovil
sadly; "so many patriots and so little patriotism."



CHAPTER XIII: TORYWOOD


Yeovil got out of the train at a small, clean, wayside station, and
rapidly formed the conclusion that neatness, abundant leisure, and a
devotion to the cultivation of wallflowers and wyandottes were the
prevailing influences of the station-master's life.  The train slid away
into the hazy distance of trees and meadows, and left the traveller
standing in a world that seemed to be made up in equal parts of rock
garden, chicken coops, and whiskey advertisements.  The station-master,
who appeared also to act as emergency porter, took Yeovil's ticket with
the gesture of a kind-hearted person brushing away a troublesome wasp,
and returned to a study of the Poultry Chronicle, which was giving its
readers sage counsel concerning the ailments of belated July chickens.
Yeovil called to mind the station-master of a tiny railway town in
Siberia, who had held him in long and rather intelligent converse on the
poetical merits and demerits of Shelley, and he wondered what the result
would be if he were to engage the English official in a discussion on
Lermontoff--or for the matter of that, on Shelley.  The temptation to
experiment was, however, removed by the arrival of a young groom, with
brown eyes and a friendly smile, who hurried into the station and took
Yeovil once more into a world where he was of fleeting importance.

In the roadway outside was a four-wheeled dogcart with a pair of the
famous Torywood blue roans.  It was an agreeable variation in modern
locomotion to be met at a station with high-class horseflesh instead of
the ubiquitous motor, and the landscape was not of such a nature that one
wished to be whirled through it in a cloud of dust.  After a quick spin
of some ten or fifteen minutes through twisting hedge-girt country roads,
the roans turned in at a wide gateway, and went with dancing, rhythmic
step along the park drive.  The screen of oak-crowned upland suddenly
fell away and a grey sharp-cornered building came into view in a setting
of low growing beeches and dark pines.  Torywood was not a stately,
reposeful-looking house; it lay amid the sleepy landscape like a couched
watchdog with pricked ears and wakeful eyes.  Built somewhere about the
last years of Dutch William's reign, it had been a centre, ever since,
for the political life of the countryside; a storm centre of discontent
or a rallying ground for the well affected, as the circumstances of the
day might entail.  On the stone-flagged terrace in front of the house,
with its quaint leaden figures of Diana pursuing a hound-pressed stag,
successive squires and lords of Torywood had walked to and fro with their
friends, watching the thunderclouds on the political horizon or the
shifting shadows on the sundial of political favour, tapping the
political barometer for indications of change, working out a party
campaign or arranging for the support of some national movement.  To and
fro they had gone in their respective generations, men with the passion
for statecraft and political combat strong in their veins, and many oft-
recurring names had echoed under those wakeful-looking casements, names
spoken in anger or exultation, or murmured in fear and anxiety:
Bolingbroke, Charles Edward, Walpole, the Farmer King, Bonaparte, Pitt,
Wellington, Peel, Gladstone--echo and Time might have graven those names
on the stone flags and grey walls.  And now one tired old woman walked
there, with names on her lips that she never uttered.

A friendly riot of fox terriers and spaniels greeted the carriage,
leaping and rolling and yelping in an exuberance of sociability, as
though horses and coachman and groom were comrades who had been absent
for long months instead of half an hour.  An indiscriminately
affectionate puppy lay flat and whimpering at Yeovil's feet, sending up
little showers of gravel with its wildly thumping tail, while two of the
terriers raced each other madly across lawn and shrubbery, as though to
show the blue roans what speed really was.  The laughing-eyed young groom
disentangled the puppy from between Yeovil's legs, and then he was
ushered into the grey silence of the entrance hall, leaving sunlight and
noise and the stir of life behind him.

"Her ladyship will see you in her writing room," he was told, and he
followed a servant along the dark passages to the well-remembered room.

There was something tragic in the sudden contrast between the vigour and
youth and pride of life that Yeovil had seen crystallised in those
dancing, high-stepping horses, scampering dogs, and alert, clean-limbed
young men-servants, and the age-frail woman who came forward to meet him.

Eleanor, Dowager Lady Greymarten, had for more than half a century been
the ruling spirit at Torywood.  The affairs of the county had not
sufficed for her untiring activities of mind and body; in the wider field
of national and Imperial service she had worked and schemed and fought
with an energy and a far-sightedness that came probably from the blend of
caution and bold restlessness in her Scottish blood.  For many educated
minds the arena of politics and public life is a weariness of dust and
disgust, to others it is a fascinating study, to be watched from the
comfortable seat of a spectator.  To her it was a home.  In her town
house or down at Torywood, with her writing-pad on her knee and the
telephone at her elbow, or in personal counsel with some trusted
colleague or persuasive argument with a halting adherent or
half-convinced opponent, she had laboured on behalf of the poor and the
ill-equipped, had fought for her idea of the Right, and above all, for
the safety and sanity of her Fatherland.  Spadework when necessary and
leadership when called for, came alike within the scope of her
activities, and not least of her achievements, though perhaps she hardly
realised it, was the force of her example, a lone, indomitable fighter
calling to the half-caring and the half-discouraged, to the laggard and
the slow-moving.

And now she came across the room with "the tired step of a tired king,"
and that look which the French so expressively called l'air defait.  The
charm which Heaven bestows on old ladies, reserving its highest gift to
the end, had always seemed in her case to be lost sight of in the dignity
and interest of a great dame who was still in the full prime of her
fighting and ruling powers.  Now, in Yeovil's eyes, she had suddenly come
to be very old, stricken with the forlorn languor of one who knows that
death will be weary to wait for.  She had spared herself nothing in the
long labour, the ceaseless building, the watch and ward, and in one short
autumn week she had seen the overthrow of all that she had built, the
falling asunder of the world in which she had laboured.  Her life's end
was like a harvest home when blight and storm have laid waste the fruit
of long toil and unsparing outlay.  Victory had been her goal, the death
or victory of old heroic challenge, for she had always dreamed to die
fighting to the last; death or victory--and the gods had given her
neither, only the bitterness of a defeat that could not be measured in
words, and the weariness of a life that had outlived happiness or hope.
Such was Eleanor, Dowager Lady Greymarten, a shadow amid the young red-
blooded life at Torywood, but a shadow that was too real to die, a shadow
that was stronger than the substance that surrounded it.

Yeovil talked long and hurriedly of his late travels, of the vast
Siberian forests and rivers, the desolate tundras, the lakes and marshes
where the wild swans rear their broods, the flower carpet of the summer
fields and the winter ice-mantle of Russia's northern sea.  He talked as
a man talks who avoids the subject that is uppermost in his mind, and in
the mind of his hearer, as one who looks away from a wound or deformity
that is too cruel to be taken notice of.

Tea was served in a long oak-panelled gallery, where generations of
Mustelfords had romped and played as children, and remained yet in
effigy, in a collection of more or less faithful portraits.  After tea
Yeovil was taken by his hostess to the aviaries, which constituted the
sole claim which Torywood possessed to being considered a show place.  The
third Earl of Greymarten had collected rare and interesting birds,
somewhere about the time when Gilbert White was penning the last of his
deathless letters, and his successors in the title had perpetuated the
hobby.  Little lawns and ponds and shrubberies were partitioned off for
the various ground-loving species, and higher cages with interlacing
perches and rockwork shelves accommodated the birds whose natural
expression of movement was on the wing.  Quails and francolins scurried
about under low-growing shrubs, peacock-pheasants strutted and sunned
themselves, pugnacious ruffs engaged in perfunctory battles, from force
of habit now that the rivalry of the mating season was over; choughs,
ravens, and loud-throated gulls occupied sections of a vast rockery, and
bright-hued Chinese pond-herons and delicately stepping egrets waded
among the waterlilies of a marble-terraced tank.  One or two dusky shapes
seen dimly in the recesses of a large cage built round a hollow tree
would be lively owls when evening came on.

In the course of his many wanderings Yeovil had himself contributed three
or four inhabitants to this little feathered town, and he went round the
enclosures, renewing old acquaintances and examining new additions.

"The falcon cage is empty," said Lady Greymarten, pointing to a large
wired dome that towered high above the other enclosures, "I let the
lanner fly free one day.  The other birds may be reconciled to their
comfortable quarters and abundant food and absence of dangers, but I
don't think all those things could make up to a falcon for the wild range
of cliff and desert.  When one has lost one's own liberty one feels a
quicker sympathy for other caged things, I suppose."

There was silence for a moment, and then the Dowager went on, in a
wistful, passionate voice:

"I am an old woman now, Murrey, I must die in my cage.  I haven't the
strength to fight.  Age is a very real and very cruel thing, though we
may shut our eyes to it and pretend it is not there.  I thought at one
time that I should never really know what it meant, what it brought to
one.  I thought of it as a messenger that one could keep waiting out in
the yard till the very last moment.  I know now what it means. . . .  But
you, Murrey, you are young, you can fight.  Are you going to be a
fighter, or the very humble servant of the fait accompli?"

"I shall never be the servant of the fait accompli," said Yeovil.  "I
loathe it.  As to fighting, one must first find out what weapon to use,
and how to use it effectively.  One must watch and wait."

"One must not wait too long," said the old woman.  "Time is on their
side, not ours.  It is the young people we must fight for now, if they
are ever to fight for us.  A new generation will spring up, a weaker
memory of old glories will survive, the eclat of the ruling race will
capture young imaginations.  If I had your youth, Murrey, and your sex, I
would become a commercial traveller."

"A commercial traveller!" exclaimed Yeovil.

"Yes, one whose business took him up and down the country, into contact
with all classes, into homes and shops and inns and railway carriages.
And as I travelled I would work, work on the minds of every boy and girl
I came across, every young father and young mother too, every young
couple that were going to be man and wife.  I would awaken or keep alive
in their memory the things that we have been, the grand, brave things
that some of our race have done, and I would stir up a longing, a
determination for the future that we must win back.  I would be a counter-
agent to the agents of the fait accompli.  In course of time the
Government would find out what I was doing, and I should be sent out of
the country, but I should have accomplished something, and others would
carry on the work.  That is what I would do.  Murrey, even if it is to be
a losing battle, fight it, fight it!"

Yeovil knew that the old lady was fighting her last battle, rallying the
discouraged, and spurring on the backward.

A footman came to announce that the carriage waited to take him back to
the station.  His hostess walked with him through the hall, and came out
on to the stone-flagged terrace, the terrace from which a former Lady
Greymarten had watched the twinkling bonfires that told of Waterloo.

Yeovil said good-bye to her as she stood there, a wan, shrunken shadow,
yet with a greater strength and reality in her flickering life than those
parrot men and women that fluttered and chattered through London drawing-
rooms and theatre foyers.

As the carriage swung round a bend in the drive Yeovil looked back at
Torywood, a lone, grey building, couched like a watchdog with pricked
ears and wakeful eyes in the midst of the sleeping landscape.  An old
pleading voice was still ringing in his ears:

   Imperious and yet forlorn,
   Came through the silence of the trees,
   The echoes of a golden horn,
   Calling to distances.

Somehow Yeovil knew that he would never hear that voice again, and he
knew, too, that he would hear it always, with its message, "Be a
fighter."  And he knew now, with a shamefaced consciousness that sprang
suddenly into existence, that the summons would sound for him in vain.

The weary brain-torturing months of fever had left their trail behind, a
lassitude of spirit and a sluggishness of blood, a quenching of the
desire to roam and court adventure and hardship.  In the hours of waking
and depression between the raging intervals of delirium he had
speculated, with a sort of detached, listless indifference, on the
chances of his getting back to life and strength and energy.  The
prospect of filling a corner of some lonely Siberian graveyard or Finnish
cemetery had seemed near realisation at times, and for a man who was
already half dead the other half didn't particularly matter.  But when he
had allowed himself to dwell on the more hopeful side of the case it had
always been a complete recovery that awaited him; the same Yeovil as of
yore, a little thinner and more lined about the eyes perhaps, would go
through life in the same way, alert, resolute, enterprising, ready to
start off at short notice for some desert or upland where the eagles were
circling and the wild-fowl were calling.  He had not reckoned that Death,
evaded and held off by the doctors' skill, might exact a compromise, and
that only part of the man would go free to the West.

And now he began to realise how little of mental and physical energy he
could count on.  His own country had never seemed in his eyes so comfort-
yielding and to-be-desired as it did now when it had passed into alien
keeping and become a prison land as much as a homeland.  London with its
thin mockery of a Season, and its chattering horde of empty-hearted self-
seekers, held no attraction for him, but the spell of English country
life was weaving itself round him, now that the charm of the desert was
receding into a mist of memories.  The waning of pleasant autumn days in
an English woodland, the whir of game birds in the clean harvested
fields, the grey moist mornings in the saddle, with the magical cry of
hounds coming up from some misty hollow, and then the delicious abandon
of physical weariness in bathroom and bedroom after a long run, and the
heavenly snatched hour of luxurious sleep, before stirring back to life
and hunger, the coming of the dinner hour and the jollity of a
well-chosen house-party.

That was the call which was competing with that other trumpet-call, and
Yeovil knew on which side his choice would incline.



CHAPTER XIV: "A PERFECTLY GLORIOUS AFTERNOON"


It was one of the last days of July, cooled and freshened by a touch of
rain and dropping back again to a languorous warmth.  London looked at
its summer best, rain-washed and sun-lit, with the maximum of coming and
going in its more fashionable streets.

Cicely Yeovil sat in a screened alcove of the Anchorage Restaurant, a
feeding-ground which had lately sprung into favour.  Opposite her sat
Ronnie, confronting the ruins of what had been a dish of prawns in aspic.
Cool and clean and fresh-coloured, he was good to look on in the eyes of
his companion, and yet, perhaps, there was a ruffle in her soul that
called for some answering disturbance on the part of that superbly
tranquil young man, and certainly called in vain.  Cicely had set up for
herself a fetish of onyx with eyes of jade, and doubtless hungered at
times with an unreasonable but perfectly natural hunger for something of
flesh and blood.  It was the religion of her life to know exactly what
she wanted and to see that she got it, but there was no possible
guarantee against her occasionally experiencing a desire for something
else.  It is the golden rule of all religions that no one should really
live up to their precepts; when a man observes the principles of his
religion too exactly he is in immediate danger of founding a new sect.

"To-day is going to be your day of triumph," said Cicely to the young
man, who was wondering at the moment whether he would care to embark on
an artichoke; "I believe I'm more nervous than you are," she added, "and
yet I rather hate the idea of you scoring a great success."

"Why?" asked Ronnie, diverting his mind for a moment from the artichoke
question and its ramifications of sauce hollandaise or vinaigre.

"I like you as you are," said Cicely, "just a nice-looking boy to flatter
and spoil and pretend to be fond of.  You've got a charming young body
and you've no soul, and that's such a fascinating combination.  If you
had a soul you would either dislike or worship me, and I'd much rather
have things as they are.  And now you are going to go a step beyond that,
and other people will applaud you and say that you are wonderful, and
invite you to eat with them and motor with them and yacht with them.  As
soon as that begins to happen, Ronnie, a lot of other things will come to
an end.  Of course I've always known that you don't really care for me,
but as soon as the world knows it you are irrevocably damaged as a
plaything.  That is the great secret that binds us together, the
knowledge that we have no real affection for one another.  And this
afternoon every one will know that you are a great artist, and no great
artist was ever a great lover."

"I shan't be difficult to replace, anyway," said Ronnie, with what he
imagined was a becoming modesty; "there are lots of boys standing round
ready to be fed and flattered and put on an imaginary pedestal, most of
them more or less good-looking and well turned out and amusing to talk
to."

"Oh, I dare say I could find a successor for your vacated niche," said
Cicely lightly; "one thing I'm determined on though, he shan't be a
musician.  It's so unsatisfactory to have to share a grand passion with a
grand piano.  He shall be a delightful young barbarian who would think
Saint Saens was a Derby winner or a claret."

"Don't be in too much of a hurry to replace me," said Ronnie, who did not
care to have his successor too seriously discussed.  "I may not score the
success you expect this afternoon."

"My dear boy, a minor crowned head from across the sea is coming to hear
you play, and that alone will count as a success with most of your
listeners.  Also, I've secured a real Duchess for you, which is rather an
achievement in the London of to-day."

"An English Duchess?" asked Ronnie, who had early in life learned to
apply the Merchandise Marks Act to ducal titles.

"English, oh certainly, at least as far as the title goes; she was born
under the constellation of the Star-spangled Banner.  I don't suppose the
Duke approves of her being here, lending her countenance to the fait
accompli, but when you've got republican blood in your veins a Kaiser is
quite as attractive a lodestar as a King, rather more so.  And Canon
Mousepace is coming," continued Cicely, referring to a closely-written
list of guests; "the excellent von Tolb has been attending his church
lately, and the Canon is longing to meet her.  She is just the sort of
person he adores.  I fancy he sincerely realises how difficult it will be
for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and he tries to make up for
it by being as nice as possible to them in this world."

Ronnie held out his hand for the list.

"I think you know most of the others," said Cicely, passing it to him.

"Leutnant von Gabelroth?" read out Ronnie; "who is he?"

"In one of the hussar regiments quartered here; a friend of the Grafin's.
Ugly but amiable, and I'm told a good cross-country rider.  I suppose
Murrey will be disgusted at meeting the 'outward and visible sign' under
his roof, but these encounters are inevitable as long as he is in
London."

"I didn't know Murrey was coming," said Ronnie.

"I believe he's going to look in on us," said Cicely; "it's just as well,
you know, otherwise we should have Joan asking in her loudest voice when
he was going to be back in England again.  I haven't asked her, but she
overheard the Grafin arranging to come and hear you play, and I fancy
that will be quite enough."

"How about some Turkish coffee?" said Ronnie, who had decided against the
artichoke.

"Turkish coffee, certainly, and a cigarette, and a moment's peace before
the serious business of the afternoon claims us.  Talking about peace, do
you know, Ronnie, it has just occurred to me that we have left out one of
the most important things in our affaire; we have never had a quarrel."

"I hate quarrels," said Ronnie, "they are so domesticated."

"That's the first time I've ever heard you talk about your home," said
Cicely.

"I fancy it would apply to most homes," said Ronnie.

"The last boy-friend I had used to quarrel furiously with me at least
once a week," said Cicely reflectively; "but then he had dark slumberous
eyes that lit up magnificently when he was angry, so it would have been a
sheer waste of God's good gifts not to have sent him into a passion now
and then."

"With your excursions into the past and the future you are making me feel
dreadfully like an instalment of a serial novel," protested Ronnie; "we
have now got to 'synopsis of earlier chapters.'"

"It shan't be teased," said Cicely; "we will live in the present and go
no further into the future than to make arrangements for Tuesday's dinner-
party.  I've asked the Duchess; she would never have forgiven me if she'd
found out that I had a crowned head dining with me and hadn't asked her
to meet him."

* * * * *

A sudden hush descended on the company gathered in the great drawing-room
at Berkshire Street as Ronnie took his seat at the piano; the voice of
Canon Mousepace outlasted the others for a moment or so, and then
subsided into a regretful but gracious silence.  For the next nine or ten
minutes Ronnie held possession of the crowded room, a tense slender
figure, with cold green eyes aflame in a sudden fire, and smooth
burnished head bent low over the keyboard that yielded a disciplined riot
of melody under his strong deft fingers.  The world-weary Landgraf forgot
for the moment the regrettable trend of his subjects towards
Parliamentary Socialism, the excellent Grafin von Tolb forgot all that
the Canon had been saying to her for the last ten minutes, forgot the
depressing certainty that he would have a great deal more that he wanted
to say in the immediate future, over and above the thirty-five minutes or
so of discourse that she would contract to listen to next Sunday.  And
Cicely listened with the wistful equivocal triumph of one whose goose has
turned out to be a swan and who realises with secret concern that she has
only planned the role of goosegirl for herself.

The last chords died away, the fire faded out of the jade-coloured eyes,
and Ronnie became once more a well-groomed youth in a drawing-room full
of well-dressed people.  But around him rose an explosive clamour of
applause and congratulation, the sincere tribute of appreciation and the
equally hearty expression of imitative homage.

"It is a great gift, a great gift," chanted Canon Mousepace, "You must
put it to a great use.  A talent is vouchsafed to us for a purpose; you
must fulfil the purpose.  Talent such as yours is a responsibility; you
must meet that responsibility."

The dictionary of the English language was an inexhaustible quarry, from
which the Canon had hewn and fashioned for himself a great reputation.

"You must gom and blay to me at Schlachsenberg," said the kindly-faced
Landgraf, whom the world adored and thwarted in about equal proportions.
"At Christmas, yes, that will be a good time.  We still keep the Christ-
Fest at Schlachsenberg, though the 'Sozi' keep telling our schoolchildren
that it is only a Christ myth.  Never mind, I will have the
Vice-President of our Landtag to listen to you; he is 'Sozi' but we are
good friends outside the Parliament House; you shall blay to him, my
young friendt, and gonfince him that there is a Got in Heaven.  You will
gom?  Yes?"

"It was beautiful," said the Grafin simply; "it made me cry.  Go back to
the piano again, please, at once."

Perhaps the near neighbourhood of the Canon inspired this command, but
the Grafin had been genuinely charmed.  She adored good music and she was
unaffectedly fond of good-looking boys.

Ronnie went back to the piano and tasted the matured pleasure of a
repeated success.  Any measure of nervousness that he may have felt at
first had completely passed away.  He was sure of his audience and he
played as though they did not exist.  A renewed clamour of excited
approval attended the conclusion of his performance.

"It is a triumph, a perfectly glorious triumph," exclaimed the Duchess of
Dreyshire, turning to Yeovil, who sat silent among his wife's guests;
"isn't it just glorious?" she demanded, with a heavy insistent intonation
of the word.

"Is it?" said Yeovil.

"Well, isn't it?" she cried, with a rising inflection, "isn't it just
perfectly glorious?"

"I don't know," confessed Yeovil; "you see glory hasn't come very much my
way lately."  Then, before he exactly realised what he was doing, he
raised his voice and quoted loudly for the benefit of half the room:

   "'Other Romans shall arise,
   Heedless of a soldier's name,
   Sounds, not deeds, shall win the prize,
   Harmony the path to fame.'"

There was a sort of shiver of surprised silence at Yeovil's end of the
room.

"Hell!"

The word rang out in a strong young voice.

"Hell!  And it's true, that's the worst of it.  It's damned true!"

Yeovil turned, with some dozen others, to see who was responsible for
this vigorously expressed statement.

Tony Luton confronted him, an angry scowl on his face, a blaze in his
heavy-lidded eyes.  The boy was without a conscience, almost without a
soul, as priests and parsons reckon souls, but there was a slumbering
devil-god within him, and Yeovil's taunting words had broken the slumber.
Life had been for Tony a hard school, in which right and wrong, high
endeavour and good resolve, were untaught subjects; but there was a
sterling something in him, just that something that helped poor street-
scavenged men to die brave-fronted deaths in the trenches of Salamanca,
that fired a handful of apprentice boys to shut the gates of Derry and
stare unflinchingly at grim leaguer and starvation.  It was just that
nameless something that was lacking in the young musician, who stood at
the further end of the room, bathed in a flood of compliment and
congratulation, enjoying the honey-drops of his triumph.

Luton pushed his way through the crowd and left the room, without
troubling to take leave of his hostess.

"What a strange young man," exclaimed the Duchess; "now do take me into
the next room," she went on almost in the same breath, "I'm just dying
for some iced coffee."

Yeovil escorted her through the throng of Ronnie-worshippers to the
desired haven of refreshment.

"Marvellous!" Mrs. Menteith-Mendlesohnn was exclaiming in ringing trumpet
tones; "of course I always knew he could play, but this is not mere piano
playing, it is tone-mastery, it is sound magic.  Mrs. Yeovil has
introduced us to a new star in the musical firmament.  Do you know, I
feel this afternoon just like Cortez, in the poem, gazing at the newly
discovered sea."

"'Silent upon a peak in Darien,'" quoted a penetrating voice that could
only belong to Joan Mardle; "I say, can any one picture Mrs. Menteith-
Mendlesohnn silent on any peak or under any circumstances?"

If any one had that measure of imagination, no one acknowledged the fact.

"A great gift and a great responsibility," Canon Mousepace was assuring
the Grafin; "the power of evoking sublime melody is akin to the power of
awakening thought; a musician can appeal to dormant consciousness as the
preacher can appeal to dormant conscience.  It is a responsibility, an
instrument for good or evil.  Our young friend here, we may be sure, will
use it as an instrument for good.  He has, I feel certain, a sense of his
responsibility."

"He is a nice boy," said the Grafin simply; "he has such pretty hair."

In one of the window recesses Rhapsodie Pantril was talking vaguely but
beautifully to a small audience on the subject of chromatic chords; she
had the advantage of knowing what she was talking about, an advantage
that her listeners did not in the least share.  "All through his playing
there ran a tone-note of malachite green," she declared recklessly,
feeling safe from immediate contradiction; "malachite green, my
colour--the colour of striving."

Having satisfied the ruling passion that demanded gentle and dextrous
self-advertisement, she realised that the Augusta Smith in her craved
refreshment, and moved with one of her over-awed admirers towards the
haven where peaches and iced coffee might be considered a certainty.

The refreshment alcove, which was really a good-sized room, a sort of
chapel-of-ease to the larger drawing-room, was already packed with a
crowd who felt that they could best discuss Ronnie's triumph between
mouthfuls of fruit salad and iced draughts of hock-cup.  So brief is
human glory that two or three independent souls had even now drifted from
the theme of the moment on to other more personally interesting topics.

"Iced mulberry salad, my dear, it's a specialite de la maison, so to
speak; they say the roving husband brought the recipe from Astrakhan, or
Seville, or some such outlandish place."

"I wish my husband would roam about a bit and bring back strange
palatable dishes.  No such luck, he's got asthma and has to keep on a
gravel soil with a south aspect and all sorts of other restrictions."

"I don't think you're to be pitied in the least; a husband with asthma is
like a captive golf-ball, you can always put your hand on him when you
want him."

"All the hangings, violette de Parme, all the furniture, rosewood.
Nothing is to be played in it except Mozart.  Mozart only.  Some of my
friends wanted me to have a replica of the Mozart statue at Vienna put up
in a corner of the room, with flowers always around it, but I really
couldn't.  I couldn't.  One is so tired of it, one sees it everywhere.  I
couldn't do it.  I'm like that, you know."

"Yes, I've secured the hero of the hour, Ronnie Storre, oh yes, rather.
He's going to join our yachting trip, third week of August.  We're going
as far afield as Fiume, in the Adriatic--or is it the AEgean?  Won't it
be jolly.  Oh no, we're not asking Mrs. Yeovil; it's quite a small yacht
you know--at least, it's a small party."

The excellent von Tolb took her departure, bearing off with her the
Landgraf, who had already settled the date and duration of Ronnie's
Christmas visit.

"It will be dull, you know," he warned the prospective guest; "our
Landtag will not be sitting, and what is a bear-garden without the bears?
However, we haf some wildt schwein in our woods, we can show you some
sport in that way."

Ronnie instantly saw himself in a well-fitting shooting costume, with a
Tyrolese hat placed at a very careful angle on his head, but he confessed
that the other details of boar-hunting were rather beyond him.

With the departure of the von Tolb party Canon Mousepace gravitated
decently but persistently towards a corner where the Duchess, still at
concert pitch, was alternatively praising Ronnie's performance and the
mulberry salad.  Joan Mardle, who formed one of the group, was not openly
praising any one, but she was paying a silent tribute to the salad.

"We were just talking about Ronnie Storre's music, Canon," said the
Duchess; "I consider it just perfectly glorious."

"It's a great talent, isn't it, Canon," put in Joan briskly, "and of
course it's a responsibility as well, don't you think?  Music can be such
an influence, just as eloquence can; don't you agree with me?"

The quarry of the English language was of course a public property, but
it was disconcerting to have one's own particular barrow-load of sentence-
building material carried off before one's eyes.  The Canon's impressive
homily on Ronnie's gift and its possibilities had to be hastily whittled
down to a weakly acquiescent, "Quite so, quite so."

"Have you tasted this iced mulberry salad, Canon?" asked the Duchess;
"it's perfectly luscious.  Just hurry along and get some before it's all
gone."

And her Grace hurried along in an opposite direction, to thank Cicely for
past favours and to express lively gratitude for the Tuesday to come.

The guests departed, with a rather irritating slowness, for which perhaps
the excellence of Cicely's buffet arrangements was partly responsible.
The great drawing-room seemed to grow larger and more oppressive as the
human wave receded, and the hostess fled at last with some relief to the
narrower limits of her writing-room and the sedative influences of a
cigarette.  She was inclined to be sorry for herself; the triumph of the
afternoon had turned out much as she had predicted at lunch time.  Her
idol of onyx had not been swept from its pedestal, but the pedestal
itself had an air of being packed up ready for transport to some other
temple.  Ronnie would be flattered and spoiled by half a hundred people,
just because he could conjure sounds out of a keyboard, and Cicely felt
no great incentive to go on flattering and spoiling him herself.  And
Ronnie would acquiesce in his dismissal with the good grace born of
indifference--the surest guarantor of perfect manners.  Already he had
social engagements for the coming months in which she had no share; the
drifting apart would be mutual.  He had been an intelligent and amusing
companion, and he had played the game as she had wished it to be played,
without the fatigue of keeping up pretences which neither of them could
have believed in.  "Let us have a wonderfully good time together" had
been the single stipulation in their unwritten treaty of comradeship, and
they had had the good time.  Their whole-hearted pursuit of material
happiness would go on as keenly as before, but they would hunt in
different company, that was all.  Yes, that was all. . . .

Cicely found the effect of her cigarette less sedative than she was
disposed to exact.  It might be necessary to change the brand.  Some ten
or eleven days later Yeovil read an announcement in the papers that, in
spite of handsome offers of increased salary, Mr. Tony Luton, the
original singer of the popular ditty "Eccleston Square," had terminated
his engagement with Messrs. Isaac Grosvenor and Leon Hebhardt of the
Caravansery Theatre, and signed on as a deck hand in the Canadian Marine.

Perhaps after all there had been some shred of glory amid the trumpet
triumph of that July afternoon.



CHAPTER XV: THE INTELLIGENT ANTICIPATOR OF WANTS


Two of Yeovil's London clubs, the two that he had been accustomed to
frequent, had closed their doors after the catastrophe.  One of them had
perished from off the face of the earth, its fittings had been sold and
its papers lay stored in some solicitor's office, a tit-bit of material
for the pen of some future historian.  The other had transplanted itself
to Delhi, whither it had removed its early Georgian furniture and its
traditions, and sought to reproduce its St. James's Street atmosphere as
nearly as the conditions of a tropical Asiatic city would permit.  There
remained the Cartwheel, a considerably newer institution, which had
sprung into existence somewhere about the time of Yeovil's last sojourn
in England; he had joined it on the solicitation of a friend who was
interested in the venture, and his bankers had paid his subscription
during his absence.  As he had never been inside its doors there could be
no depressing comparisons to make between its present state and aforetime
glories, and Yeovil turned into its portals one afternoon with the
adventurous detachment of a man who breaks new ground and challenges new
experiences.

He entered with a diffident sense of intrusion, conscious that his
standing as a member might not be recognised by the keepers of the doors;
in a moment, however, he realised that a rajah's escort of elephants
might almost have marched through the entrance hall and vestibule without
challenge.  The general atmosphere of the scene suggested a blend of the
railway station at Cologne, the Hotel Bristol in any European capital,
and the second act in most musical comedies.  A score of brilliant and
brilliantined pages decorated the foreground, while Hebraic-looking
gentlemen, wearing tartan waistcoats of the clans of their adoption,
flitted restlessly between the tape machines and telephone boxes.  The
army of occupation had obviously established a firm footing in the
hospitable premises; a kaleidoscopic pattern of uniforms, sky-blue,
indigo, and bottle-green, relieved the civilian attire of the groups that
clustered in lounge and card rooms and corridors.  Yeovil rapidly came to
the conclusion that the joys of membership were not for him.  He had
turned to go, after a very cursory inspection of the premises and their
human occupants, when he was hailed by a young man, dressed with
strenuous neatness, whom he remembered having met in past days at the
houses of one or two common friends.

Hubert Herlton's parents had brought him into the world, and some twenty-
one years later had put him into a motor business.  Having taken these
pardonable liberties they had completely exhausted their ideas of what to
do with him, and Hubert seemed unlikely to develop any ideas of his own
on the subject.  The motor business elected to conduct itself without his
connivance; journalism, the stage, tomato culture (without capital), and
other professions that could be entered on at short notice were submitted
to his consideration by nimble-minded relations and friends.  He listened
to their suggestions with polite indifference, being rude only to a
cousin who demonstrated how he might achieve a settled income of from two
hundred to a thousand pounds a year by the propagation of mushrooms in a
London basement.  While his walk in life was still an undetermined
promenade his parents died, leaving him with a carefully-invested income
of thirty-seven pounds a year.  At that point of his career Yeovil's
knowledge of him stopped short; the journey to Siberia had taken him
beyond the range of Herlton's domestic vicissitudes.

The young man greeted him in a decidedly friendly manner.

"I didn't know you were a member here," he exclaimed.

"It's the first time I've ever been in the club," said Yeovil, "and I
fancy it will be the last.  There is rather too much of the fighting
machine in evidence here.  One doesn't want a perpetual reminder of what
has happened staring one in the face."

"We tried at first to keep the alien element out," said Herlton
apologetically, "but we couldn't have carried on the club if we'd stuck
to that line.  You see we'd lost more than two-thirds of our old members
so we couldn't afford to be exclusive.  As a matter of fact the whole
thing was decided over our heads; a new syndicate took over the concern,
and a new committee was installed, with a good many foreigners on it.  I
know it's horrid having these uniforms flaunting all over the place, but
what is one to do?"

Yeovil said nothing, with the air of a man who could have said a great
deal.

"I suppose you wonder, why remain a member under those conditions?"
continued Herlton.  "Well, as far as I am concerned, a place like this is
a necessity for me.  In fact, it's my profession, my source of income."

"Are you as good at bridge as all that?" asked Yeovil; "I'm a fairly
successful player myself, but I should be sorry to have to live on my
winnings, year in, year out."

"I don't play cards," said Herlton, "at least not for serious stakes.  My
winnings or losings wouldn't come to a tenner in an average year.  No, I
live by commissions, by introducing likely buyers to would-be sellers."

"Sellers of what?" asked Yeovil.

"Anything, everything; horses, yachts, old masters, plate, shootings,
poultry-farms, week-end cottages, motor cars, almost anything you can
think of.  Look," and he produced from his breast pocket a bulky note-
book illusorily inscribed "engagements."

"Here," he explained, tapping the book, "I've got a double entry of every
likely client that I know, with a note of the things he may have to sell
and the things he may want to buy.  When it is something that he has for
sale there are cross-references to likely purchasers of that particular
line of article.  I don't limit myself to things that I actually know
people to be in want of, I go further than that and have theories,
carefully indexed theories, as to the things that people might want to
buy.  At the right moment, if I can get the opportunity, I mention the
article that is in my mind's eye to the possible purchaser who has also
been in my mind's eye, and I frequently bring off a sale.  I started a
chance acquaintance on a career of print-buying the other day merely by
telling him of a couple of good prints that I knew of, that were to be
had at a quite reasonable price; he is a man with more money than he
knows what to do with, and he has laid out quite a lot on old prints
since his first purchase.  Most of his collection he has got through me,
and of course I net a commission on each transaction.  So you see, old
man, how useful, not to say necessary, a club with a large membership is
to me.  The more mixed and socially chaotic it is, the more serviceable
it is."

"Of course," said Yeovil, "and I suppose, as a matter of fact, a good
many of your clients belong to the conquering race."

"Well, you see, they are the people who have got the money," said
Herlton; "I don't mean to say that the invading Germans are usually
people of wealth, but while they live over here they escape the crushing
taxation that falls on the British-born subject.  They serve their
country as soldiers, and we have to serve it in garrison money, ship
money and so forth, besides the ordinary taxes of the State.  The German
shoulders the rifle, the Englishman has to shoulder everything else.  That
is what will help more than anything towards the gradual Germanising of
our big towns; the comparatively lightly-taxed German workman over here
will have a much bigger spending power and purchasing power than his
heavily taxed English neighbour.  The public-houses, bars, eating-houses,
places of amusement and so forth, will come to cater more and more for
money-yielding German patronage.  The stream of British emigration will
swell rather than diminish, and the stream of Teuton immigration will be
equally persistent and progressive.  Yes, the military-service ordinance
was a cunning stroke on the part of that old fox, von Kwarl.  As a
civilian statesman he is far and away cleverer than Bismarck was; he
smothers with a feather-bed where Bismarck would have tried to smash with
a sledge-hammer."

"Have you got me down on your list of noteworthy people?" asked Yeovil,
turning the drift of the conversation back to the personal topic.

"Certainly I have," said Herlton, turning the pages of his pocket
directory to the letter Y.  "As soon as I knew you were back in England I
made several entries concerning you.  In the first place it was possible
that you might have a volume on Siberian travel and natural history notes
to publish, and I've cross-referenced you to a publisher I know who
rather wants books of that sort on his list."

"I may tell you at once that I've no intentions in that direction," said
Yeovil, in some amusement.

"Just as well," said Herlton cheerfully, scribbling a hieroglyphic in his
book; "that branch of business is rather outside my line--too little in
it, and the gratitude of author and publisher for being introduced to one
another is usually short-lived.  A more serious entry was the item that
if you were wintering in England you would be looking out for a hunter or
two.  You used to hunt with the East Wessex, I remember; I've got just
the very animal that will suit that country, ready waiting for you.  A
beautiful clean jumper.  I've put it over a fence or two myself, and you
and I ride much the same weight.  A stiffish price is being asked for it,
but I've got the letters D.O. after your name."

"In Heaven's name," said Yeovil, now openly grinning, "before I die of
curiosity tell me what D.O. stands for."

"It means some one who doesn't object to pay a good price for anything
that really suits him.  There are some people of course who won't
consider a thing unless they can get it for about a third of what they
imagine to be its market value.  I've got another suggestion down against
you in my book; you may not be staying in the country at all, you may be
clearing out in disgust at existing conditions.  In that case you would
be selling a lot of things that you wouldn't want to cart away with you.
That involves another set of entries and a whole lot of cross
references."

"I'm afraid I've given you a lot of trouble," said Yeovil drily.

"Not at all," said Herlton, "but it would simplify matters if we take it
for granted that you are going to stay here, for this winter anyhow, and
are looking out for hunters.  Can you lunch with me here on Wednesday,
and come and look at the animal afterwards?  It's only thirty-five
minutes by train.  It will take us longer if we motor.  There is a two-
fifty-three from Charing Cross that we could catch comfortably."

"If you are going to persuade me to hunt in the East Wessex country this
season," said Yeovil, "you must find me a convenient hunting box
somewhere down there."

"I have found it," said Herlton, whipping out a stylograph, and hastily
scribbling an "order to view" on a card; "central as possible for all the
meets, grand stabling accommodation, excellent water-supply, big
bathroom, game larder, cellarage, a bakehouse if you want to bake your
own bread--"

"Any land with it?"

"Not enough to be a nuisance.  An acre or two of paddock and about the
same of garden.  You are fond of wild things; a wood comes down to the
edge of the garden, a wood that harbours owls and buzzards and kestrels."

"Have you got all those details in your book?" asked Yeovil; "'wood
adjoining property, O.B.K.'"

"I keep those details in my head," said Herlton, "but they are quite
reliable."

"I shall insist on something substantial off the rent if there are no
buzzards," said Yeovil; "now that you have mentioned them they seem an
indispensable accessory to any decent hunting-box.  Look," he exclaimed,
catching sight of a plump middle-aged individual, crossing the vestibule
with an air of restrained importance, "there goes the delectable
Pitherby.  Does he come on your books at all?"

"I should say!" exclaimed Herlton fervently.  "The delectable P.
nourishes expectations of a barony or viscounty at an early date.  Most
of his life has been spent in streets and squares, with occasional
migrations to the esplanades of fashionable watering-places or the
gravelled walks of country house gardens.  Now that noblesse is about to
impose its obligations on him, quite a new catalogue of wants has sprung
into his mind.  There are things that a plain esquire may leave undone
without causing scandalised remark, but a fiercer light beats on a baron.
Trigger-pulling is one of the obligations.  Up to the present Pitherby
has never hit a partridge in anger, but this year he has commissioned me
to rent him a deer forest.  Some pedigree Herefords for his 'home farm'
was another commission, and a dozen and a half swans for a swannery.  The
swannery, I may say, was my idea; I said once in his hearing that it gave
a baronial air to an estate; you see I knew a man who had got a lot of
surplus swan stock for sale.  Now Pitherby wants a heronry as well.  I've
put him in communication with a client of mine who suffers from
superfluous herons, but of course I can't guarantee that the birds'
nesting arrangements will fall in with his territorial requirement.  I'm
getting him some carp, too, of quite respectable age, for a carp pond; I
thought it would look so well for his lady-wife to be discovered by
interviewers feeding the carp with her own fair hands, and I put the same
idea into Pitherby's mind."

"I had no idea that so many things were necessary to endorse a patent of
nobility," said Yeovil.  "If there should be any miscarriage in the
bestowal of the honour at least Pitherby will have absolved himself from
any charge of contributory negligence."

"Shall we say Wednesday, here, one o'clock, lunch first, and go down and
look at the horse afterwards?" said Herlton, returning to the matter in
hand.

Yeovil hesitated, then he nodded his head.

"There is no harm in going to look at the animal," he said.



CHAPTER XVI: SUNRISE


Mrs. Kerrick sat at a little teak-wood table in the verandah of a low-
pitched teak-built house that stood on the steep slope of a brown
hillside.  Her youngest child, with the grave natural dignity of nine-
year old girlhood, maintained a correct but observant silence, looking
carefully yet unobtrusively after the wants of the one guest, and
checking from time to time the incursions of ubiquitous ants that were
obstinately disposed to treat the table-cloth as a foraging ground.  The
wayfaring visitor, who was experiencing a British blend of Eastern
hospitality, was a French naturalist, travelling thus far afield in quest
of feathered specimens to enrich the aviaries of a bird-collecting Balkan
King.  On the previous evening, while shrugging his shoulders and
unloosing his vocabulary over the meagre accommodation afforded by the
native rest-house, he had been enchanted by receiving an invitation to
transfer his quarters to the house on the hillside, where he found not
only a pleasant-voiced hostess and some drinkable wine, but three brown-
skinned English youngsters who were able to give him a mass of
intelligent first-hand information about the bird life of the region.  And
now, at the early morning breakfast, ere yet the sun was showing over the
rim of the brown-baked hills, he was learning something of the life of
the little community he had chanced on.  "I was in these parts many years
ago," explained the hostess, "when my husband was alive and had an
appointment out here.  It is a healthy hill district and I had pleasant
memories of the place, so when it became necessary, well, desirable let
us say, to leave our English home and find a new one, it occurred to me
to bring my boys and my little girl here--my eldest girl is at school in
Paris.  Labour is cheap here and I try my hand at farming in a small way.
Of course it is very different work to just superintending the dairy and
poultry-yard arrangements of an English country estate.  There are so
many things, insect ravages, bird depredations, and so on, that one only
knows on a small scale in England, that happen here in wholesale fashion,
not to mention droughts and torrential rains and other tropical
visitations.  And then the domestic animals are so disconcertingly
different from the ones one has been used to; humped cattle never seem to
behave in the way that straight-backed cattle would, and goats and geese
and chickens are not a bit the same here that they are in Europe--and of
course the farm servants are utterly unlike the same class in England.
One has to unlearn a good deal of what one thought one knew about stock-
keeping and agriculture, and take note of the native ways of doing
things; they are primitive and unenterprising of course, but they have an
accumulated store of experience behind them, and one has to tread warily
in initiating improvements."

The Frenchman looked round at the brown sun-scorched hills, with the
dusty empty road showing here and there in the middle distance and other
brown sun-scorched hills rounding off the scene; he looked at the lizards
on the verandah walls, at the jars for keeping the water cool, at the
numberless little insect-bored holes in the furniture, at the heat-drawn
lines on his hostess's comely face.  Notwithstanding his present
wanderings he had a Frenchman's strong homing instinct, and he marvelled
to hear this lady, who should have been a lively and popular figure in
the social circle of some English county town, talking serenely of the
ways of humped cattle and native servants.

"And your children, how do they like the change?" he asked.

"It is healthy up here among the hills," said the mother, also looking
round at the landscape and thinking doubtless of a very different scene;
"they have an outdoor life and plenty of liberty.  They have their ponies
to ride, and there is a lake up above us that is a fine place for them to
bathe and boat in; the three boys are there now, having their morning
swim.  The eldest is sixteen and he is allowed to have a gun, and there
is some good wild fowl shooting to be had in the reed beds at the further
end of the lake.  I think that part of the joy of his shooting
expeditions lies in the fact that many of the duck and plover that he
comes across belong to the same species that frequent our English moors
and rivers."

It was the first hint that she had given of a wistful sense of exile, the
yearning for other skies, the message that a dead bird's plumage could
bring across rolling seas and scorching plains.

"And the education of your boys, how do you manage for that?" asked the
visitor.

"There is a young tutor living out in these wilds," said Mrs. Kerrick;
"he was assistant master at a private school in Scotland, but it had to
be given up when--when things changed; so many of the boys left the
country.  He came out to an uncle who has a small estate eight miles from
here, and three days in the week he rides over to teach my boys, and
three days he goes to another family living in the opposite direction.  To-
day he is due to come here.  It is a great boon to have such an
opportunity for getting the boys educated, and of course it helps him to
earn a living."

"And the society of the place?" asked the Frenchman.

His hostess laughed.

"I must admit it has to be looked for with a strong pair of
field-glasses," she said; "it is almost as difficult to get a good bridge
four together as it would have been to get up a tennis tournament or a
subscription dance in our particular corner of England.  One has to
ignore distances and forget fatigue if one wants to be gregarious even on
a limited scale.  There are one or two officials who are our chief social
mainstays, but the difficulty is to muster the few available souls under
the same roof at the same moment.  A road will be impassable in one
quarter, a pony will be lame in another, a stress of work will prevent
some one else from coming, and another may be down with a touch of fever.
When my little girl gave a birthday party here her only little girl guest
had come twelve miles to attend it.  The Forest officer happened to drop
in on us that evening, so we felt quite festive."

The Frenchman's eyes grew round in wonder.  He had once thought that the
capital city of a Balkan kingdom was the uttermost limit of social
desolation, viewed from a Parisian standpoint, and there at any rate one
could get cafe chantant, tennis, picnic parties, an occasional theatre
performance by a foreign troupe, now and then a travelling circus, not to
speak of Court and diplomatic functions of a more or less sociable
character.  Here, it seemed, one went a day's journey to reach an
evening's entertainment, and the chance arrival of a tired official took
on the nature of a festivity.  He looked round again at the rolling
stretches of brown hills; before he had regarded them merely as the
background to this little shut-away world, now he saw that they were
foreground as well.  They were everything, there was nothing else.  And
again his glance travelled to the face of his hostess, with its bright,
pleasant eyes and smiling mouth.

"And you live here with your children," he said, "here in this
wilderness?  You leave England, you leave everything, for this?"

His hostess rose and took him over to the far side of the verandah.  The
beginnings of a garden were spread out before them, with young fruit
trees and flowering shrubs, and bushes of pale pink roses.  Exuberant
tropical growths were interspersed with carefully tended vestiges of
plants that had evidently been brought from a more temperate climate, and
had not borne the transition well.  Bushes and trees and shrubs spread
away for some distance, to where the ground rose in a small hillock and
then fell away abruptly into bare hillside.

"In all this garden that you see," said the Englishwoman, "there is one
tree that is sacred."

"A tree?" said the Frenchman.

"A tree that we could not grow in England."

The Frenchman followed the direction of her eyes and saw a tall, bare
pole at the summit of the hillock.  At the same moment the sun came over
the hilltops in a deep, orange glow, and a new light stole like magic
over the brown landscape.  And, as if they had timed their arrival to
that exact moment of sunburst, three brown-faced boys appeared under the
straight, bare pole.  A cord shivered and flapped, and something ran
swiftly up into the air, and swung out in the breeze that blew across the
hills--a blue flag with red and white crosses.  The three boys bared
their heads and the small girl on the verandah steps stood rigidly to
attention.  Far away down the hill, a young man, cantering into view
round a corner of the dusty road, removed his hat in loyal salutation.

"That is why we live out here," said the Englishwoman quietly.



CHAPTER XVII: THE EVENT OF THE SEASON


In the first swelter room of the new Osmanli Baths in Cork Street four or
five recumbent individuals, in a state of moist nudity and
self-respecting inertia, were smoking cigarettes or making occasional
pretence of reading damp newspapers.  A glass wall with a glass door shut
them off from the yet more torrid regions of the further swelter
chambers; another glass partition disclosed the dimly-lit vault where
other patrons of the establishment had arrived at the stage of being
pounded and kneaded and sluiced by Oriental-looking attendants.  The
splashing and trickling of taps, the flip-flap of wet slippers on a wet
floor, and the low murmur of conversation, filtered through glass doors,
made an appropriately drowsy accompaniment to the scene.

A new-comer fluttered into the room, beamed at one of the occupants, and
settled himself with an air of elaborate languor in a long canvas chair.
Cornelian Valpy was a fair young man, with perpetual surprise impinged on
his countenance, and a chin that seemed to have retired from competition
with the rest of his features.  The beam of recognition that he had given
to his friend or acquaintance subsided into a subdued but lingering
simper.

"What is the matter?" drawled his neighbour lazily, dropping the end of a
cigarette into a small bowl of water, and helping himself from a silver
case on the table at his side.

"Matter?" said Cornelian, opening wide a pair of eyes in which unhealthy
intelligence seemed to struggle in undetermined battle with utter
vacuity; "why should you suppose that anything is the matter?"

"When you wear a look of idiotic complacency in a Turkish bath," said the
other, "it is the more noticeable from the fact that you are wearing
nothing else."

"Were you at the Shalem House dance last night?" asked Cornelian, by way
of explaining his air of complacent retrospection.

"No," said the other, "but I feel as if I had been; I've been reading
columns about it in the Dawn."

"The last event of the season," said Cornelian, "and quite one of the
most amusing and lively functions that there have been."

"So the Dawn said; but then, as Shalem practically owns and controls that
paper, its favourable opinion might be taken for granted."

"The whole idea of the Revel was quite original," said Cornelian, who was
not going to have his personal narrative of the event forestalled by
anything that a newspaper reporter might have given to the public; "a
certain number of guests went as famous personages in the world's
history, and each one was accompanied by another guest typifying the
prevailing characteristic of that personage.  One man went as Julius
Caesar, for instance, and had a girl typifying ambition as his shadow,
another went as Louis the Eleventh, and his companion personified
superstition.  Your shadow had to be someone of the opposite sex, you
see, and every alternate dance throughout the evening you danced with
your shadow-partner.  Quite a clever idea; young Graf von Schnatelstein
is supposed to have invented it."

"New York will be deeply beholden to him," said the other;
"shadow-dances, with all manner of eccentric variations, will be the rage
there for the next eighteen months."

"Some of the costumes were really sumptuous," continued Cornelian; "the
Duchess of Dreyshire was magnificent as Aholibah, you never saw so many
jewels on one person, only of course she didn't look dark enough for the
character; she had Billy Carnset for her shadow, representing Unspeakable
Depravity."

"How on earth did he manage that?"

"Oh, a blend of Beardsley and Bakst as far as get-up and costume, and of
course his own personality counted for a good deal.  Quite one of the
successes of the evening was Leutnant von Gabelroth, as George
Washington, with Joan Mardle as his shadow, typifying Inconvenient
Candour.  He put her down officially as Truthfulness, but every one had
heard the other version."

"Good for the Gabelroth, though he does belong to the invading Horde;
it's not often that any one scores off Joan."

"Another blaze of magnificence was the loud-voiced Bessimer woman, as the
Goddess Juno, with peacock tails and opals all over her; she had Ronnie
Storre to represent Green-eyed Jealousy.  Talking of Ronnie Storre and of
jealousy, you will naturally wonder whom Mrs. Yeovil went with.  I forget
what her costume was, but she'd got that dark-headed youth with her that
she's been trotting round everywhere the last few days."

Cornelian's neighbour kicked him furtively on the shin, and frowned in
the direction of a dark-haired youth reclining in an adjacent chair.  The
youth in question rose from his seat and stalked into the further swelter
room.

"So clever of him to go into the furnace room," said the unabashed
Cornelian; "now if he turns scarlet all over we shall never know how much
is embarrassment and how much is due to the process of being boiled.  La
Yeovil hasn't done badly by the exchange; he's better looking than
Ronnie."

"I see that Pitherby went as Frederick the Great," said Cornelian's
neighbour, fingering a sheet of the Dawn.

"Isn't that exactly what one would have expected Pitherby to do?" said
Cornelian.  "He's so desperately anxious to announce to all whom it may
concern that he has written a life of that hero.  He had an uninspiring-
looking woman with him, supposed to represent Military Genius."

"The Spirit of Advertisement would have been more appropriate," said the
other.

"The opening scene of the Revel was rather effective," continued
Cornelian; "all the Shadow people reclined in the dimly-lit centre of the
ballroom in an indistinguishable mass, and the human characters marched
round the illuminated sides of the room to solemn processional music.
Every now and then a shadow would detach itself from the mass, hail its
partner by name, and glide out to join him or her in the procession.
Then, when the last shadows had found their mates and every one was
partnered, the lights were turned up in a blaze, the orchestra crashed
out a whirl of nondescript dance music, and people just let themselves
go.  It was Pandemonium.  Afterwards every one strutted about for half an
hour or so, showing themselves off, and then the legitimate programme of
dances began.  There were some rather amusing incidents throughout the
evening.  One set of lancers was danced entirely by the Seven Deadly Sins
and their human exemplars; of course seven couples were not sufficient to
make up the set, so they had to bring in an eighth sin, I forget what it
was."

"The sin of Patriotism would have been rather appropriate, considering
who were giving the dance," said the other.

"Hush!" exclaimed Cornelian nervously.  "You don't know who may overhear
you in a place like this.  You'll get yourself into trouble."

"Wasn't there some rather daring new dance of the 'bunny-hug' variety?"
asked the indiscreet one.

"The 'Cubby-Cuddle,'" said Cornelian; "three or four adventurous couples
danced it towards the end of the evening."

"The Dawn says that without being strikingly new it was strikingly
modern."

"The best description I can give of it," said Cornelian, "is summed up in
the comment of the Grafin von Tolb when she saw it being danced: 'if they
really love each other I suppose it doesn't matter.'  By the way," he
added with apparent indifference, "is there any detailed account of my
costume in the Dawn?"

His companion laughed cynically.

"As if you hadn't read everything that the Dawn and the other morning
papers have to say about the ball hours ago."

"The naked truth should be avoided in a Turkish bath," said Cornelian;
"kindly assume that I've only had time to glance at the weather forecast
and the news from China."

"Oh, very well," said the other; "your costume isn't described; you
simply come amid a host of others as 'Mr. Cornelian Valpy, resplendent as
the Emperor Nero; with him Miss Kate Lerra, typifying Insensate Vanity.'
Many hard things have been said of Nero, but his unkindest critics have
never accused him of resembling you in feature.  Until some very clear
evidence is produced I shall refuse to believe it."

Cornelian was proof against these shafts; leaning back gracefully in his
chair he launched forth into that detailed description of his last
night's attire which the Dawn had so unaccountably failed to supply.

"I wore a tunic of white Nepaulese silk, with a collar of pearls, real
pearls.  Round my waist I had a girdle of twisted serpents in beaten
gold, studded all over with amethysts.  My sandals were of gold, laced
with scarlet thread, and I had seven bracelets of gold on each arm.  Round
my head I had a wreath of golden laurel leaves set with scarlet berries,
and hanging over my left shoulder was a silk robe of mulberry purple,
broidered with the signs of the zodiac in gold and scarlet; I had it made
specially for the occasion.  At my side I had an ivory-sheathed dagger,
with a green jade handle, hung in a green Cordova leather--"

At this point of the recital his companion rose softly, flung his
cigarette end into the little water-bowl, and passed into the further
swelter room.  Cornelian Valpy was left, still clothed in a look of
ineffable complacency, still engaged, in all probability, in reclothing
himself in the finery of the previous evening.



CHAPTER XVIII: THE DEAD WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND


The pale light of a November afternoon faded rapidly into the dusk of a
November evening.  Far over the countryside housewives put up their
cottage shutters, lit their lamps, and made the customary remark that the
days were drawing in.  In barn yards and poultry-runs the greediest
pullets made a final tour of inspection, picking up the stray remaining
morsels of the evening meal, and then, with much scrambling and
squawking, sought the places on the roosting-pole that they thought
should belong to them.  Labourers working in yard and field began to turn
their thoughts homeward or tavernward as the case might be.  And through
the cold squelching slush of a water-logged meadow a weary, bedraggled,
but unbeaten fox stiffly picked his way, climbed a high bramble-grown
bank, and flung himself into the sheltering labyrinth of a stretching
tangle of woods.  The pack of fierce-mouthed things that had rattled him
from copse and gorse-cover, along fallow and plough, hedgerow and wooded
lane, for nigh on an hour, and had pressed hard on his life for the last
few minutes, receded suddenly into the background of his experiences.  The
cold, wet meadow, the thick mask of woods, and the oncoming dusk had
stayed the chase--and the fox had outstayed it.  In a short time he would
fall mechanically to licking off some of the mud that caked on his weary
pads; in a shorter time horsemen and hounds would have drawn off
kennelward and homeward.

Yeovil rode through the deepening twilight, relying chiefly on his horse
to find its way in the network of hedge-bordered lanes that presumably
led to a high road or to some human habitation.  He was desperately tired
after his day's hunting, a legacy of weakness that the fever had
bequeathed to him, but even though he could scarcely sit upright in his
saddle his mind dwelt complacently on the day's sport and looked forward
to the snug cheery comfort that awaited him at his hunting box.  There
was a charm, too, even for a tired man, in the eerie stillness of the
lone twilight land through which he was passing, a grey shadow-hung land
which seemed to have been emptied of all things that belonged to the
daytime, and filled with a lurking, moving life of which one knew nothing
beyond the sense that it was there.  There, and very near.  If there had
been wood-gods and wicked-eyed fauns in the sunlit groves and hill sides
of old Hellas, surely there were watchful, living things of kindred mould
in this dusk-hidden wilderness of field and hedge and coppice.

It was Yeovil's third or fourth day with the hounds, without taking into
account a couple of mornings' cub-hunting.  Already he felt that he had
been doing nothing different from this all his life.  His foreign
travels, his illness, his recent weeks in London, they were part of a
tapestried background that had very slight and distant connection with
his present existence.  Of the future he tried to think with greater
energy and determination.  For this winter, at any rate, he would hunt
and do a little shooting, entertain a few of his neighbours and make
friends with any congenial fellow-sportsmen who might be within reach.
Next year things would be different; he would have had time to look round
him, to regain something of his aforetime vigour of mind and body.  Next
year, when the hunting season was over, he would set about finding out
whether there was any nobler game for him to take a hand in.  He would
enter into correspondence with old friends who had gone out into the
tropics and the backwoods--he would do something.

So he told himself, but he knew thoroughly well that he had found his
level.  He had ceased to struggle against the fascination of his present
surroundings.  The slow, quiet comfort and interest of country life
appealed with enervating force to the man whom death had half conquered.
The pleasures of the chase, well-provided for in every detail, and
dovetailed in with the assured luxury of a well-ordered, well-staffed
establishment, were exactly what he wanted and exactly what his life down
here afforded him.  He was experiencing, too, that passionate recurring
devotion to an old loved scene that comes at times to men who have
travelled far and willingly up and down the world.  He was very much at
home.  The alien standard floating over Buckingham Palace, the Crown of
Charlemagne on public buildings and official documents, the grey ships of
war riding in Plymouth Bay and Southampton Water with a flag at their
stern that older generations of Britons had never looked on, these things
seemed far away and inconsequent amid the hedgerows and woods and fallows
of the East Wessex country.  Horse and hound-craft, harvest, game broods,
the planting and felling of timber, the rearing and selling of stock, the
letting of grasslands, the care of fisheries, the up-keep of markets and
fairs, they were the things that immediately mattered.  And Yeovil saw
himself, in moments of disgust and self-accusation, settling down into
this life of rustic littleness, concerned over the late nesting of a
partridge or the defective draining of a loose-box, hugely busy over
affairs that a gardener's boy might grapple with, ignoring the struggle-
cry that went up, low and bitter and wistful, from a dethroned
dispossessed race, in whose glories he had gloried, in whose struggle he
lent no hand.  In what way, he asked himself in such moments, would his
life be better than the life of that parody of manhood who upholstered
his rooms with art hangings and rosewood furniture and babbled over the
effect?

The lanes seemed interminable and without aim or object except to bisect
one another; gates and gaps disclosed nothing in the way of a landmark,
and the night began to draw down in increasing shades of darkness.
Presently, however, the tired horse quickened its pace, swung round a
sharp corner into a broader roadway, and stopped with an air of thankful
expectancy at the low doorway of a wayside inn.  A cheerful glow of light
streamed from the windows and door, and a brighter glare came from the
other side of the road, where a large motorcar was being got ready for an
immediate start.  Yeovil tumbled stiffly out of his saddle, and in answer
to the loud rattle of his hunting crop on the open door the innkeeper and
two or three hangers-on hurried out to attend to the wants of man and
beast.  Flour and water for the horse and something hot for himself were
Yeovil's first concern, and then he began to clamour for geographical
information.  He was rather dismayed to find that the cumulative opinions
of those whom he consulted, and of several others who joined unbidden in
the discussion, placed his destination at nothing nearer than nine miles.
Nine miles of dark and hilly country road for a tired man on a tired
horse assumed enormous, far-stretching proportions, and although he dimly
remembered that he had asked a guest to dinner for that evening he began
to wonder whether the wayside inn possessed anything endurable in the way
of a bedroom.  The landlord interrupted his desperate speculations with a
really brilliant effort of suggestion.  There was a gentleman in the bar,
he said, who was going in a motorcar in the direction for which Yeovil
was bound, and who would no doubt be willing to drop him at his
destination; the gentleman had also been out with the hounds.  Yeovil's
horse could be stabled at the inn and fetched home by a groom the next
morning.  A hurried embassy to the bar parlour resulted in the news that
the motorist would be delighted to be of assistance to a
fellow-sportsman.  Yeovil gratefully accepted the chance that had so
obligingly come his way, and hastened to superintend the housing of his
horse in its night's quarters.  When he had duly seen to the tired
animal's comfort and foddering he returned to the roadway, where a young
man in hunting garb and a livened chauffeur were standing by the side of
the waiting car.

"I am so very pleased to be of some use to you, Mr. Yeovil," said the car-
owner, with a polite bow, and Yeovil recognised the young Leutnant von
Gabelroth, who had been present at the musical afternoon at Berkshire
Street.  He had doubtless seen him at the meet that morning, but in his
hunting kit he had escaped his observation.

"I, too, have been out with the hounds," the young man continued; "I have
left my horse at the Crow and Sceptre at Dolford.  You are living at
Black Dene, are you not?  I can take you right past your door, it is all
on my way."

Yeovil hung back for a moment, overwhelmed with vexation and
embarrassment, but it was too late to cancel the arrangement he had
unwittingly entered into, and he was constrained to put himself under
obligation to the young officer with the best grace he could muster.
After all, he reflected, he had met him under his own roof as his wife's
guest.  He paid his reckoning to mine host, tipped the stable lad who had
helped him with his horse, and took his place beside von Gabelroth in the
car.

As they glided along the dark roadway and the young German reeled off a
string of comments on the incidents of the day's sport, Yeovil lay back
amid his comfortable wraps and weighed the measure of his humiliation.  It
was Cicely's gospel that one should know what one wanted in life and take
good care that one got what one wanted.  Could he apply that test of
achievement to his own life?  Was this what he really wanted to be doing,
pursuing his uneventful way as a country squire, sharing even his sports
and pastimes with men of the nation that had conquered and enslaved his
Fatherland?

The car slackened its pace somewhat as they went through a small hamlet,
past a schoolhouse, past a rural police-station with the new monogram
over its notice-board, past a church with a little tree-grown graveyard.
There, in a corner, among wild-rose bushes and tall yews, lay some of
Yeovil's own kinsfolk, who had lived in these parts and hunted and found
life pleasant in the days that were not so very long ago.  Whenever he
went past that quiet little gathering-place of the dead Yeovil was wont
to raise his hat in mute affectionate salutation to those who were now
only memories in his family; to-night he somehow omitted the salute and
turned his head the other way.  It was as though the dead of his race saw
and wondered.

Three or four months ago the thing he was doing would have seemed an
impossibility, now it was actually happening; he was listening to the
gay, courteous, tactful chatter of his young companion, laughing now and
then at some joking remark, answering some question of interest, learning
something of hunting ways and traditions in von Gabelroth's own country.
And when the car turned in at the gate of the hunting lodge and drew up
at the steps the laws of hospitality demanded that Yeovil should ask his
benefactor of the road to come in for a few minutes and drink something a
little better than the wayside inn had been able to supply.  The young
officer spent the best part of a half hour in Yeovil's snuggery,
examining and discussing the trophies of rifle and collecting gun that
covered the walls.  He had a good knowledge of woodcraft, and the beasts
and birds of Siberian forests and North African deserts were to him new
pages in a familiar book.  Yeovil found himself discoursing eagerly with
his chance guest on the European distribution and local variation of such
and such a species, recounting peculiarities in its habits and incidents
of its pursuit and capture.  If the cold observant eyes of Lady Shalem
could have rested on the scene she would have hailed it as another root-
fibre thrown out by the fait accompli.

Yeovil closed the hall door on his departing visitor, and closed his mind
on the crowd of angry and accusing thoughts that were waiting to intrude
themselves.  His valet had already got his bath in readiness and in a few
minutes the tired huntsman was forgetting weariness and the consciousness
of outside things in the languorous abandonment that steam and hot water
induce.  Brain and limbs seemed to lay themselves down in a contented
waking sleep, the world that was beyond the bathroom walls dropped away
into a far unreal distance; only somewhere through the steam clouds
pierced a hazy consciousness that a dinner, well chosen, was being well
cooked, and would presently be well served--and right well appreciated.
That was the lure to drag the bather away from the Nirvana land of warmth
and steam.  The stimulating after-effect of the bath took its due effect,
and Yeovil felt that he was now much less tired and enormously hungry.  A
cheery fire burned in his dressing-room and a lively black kitten helped
him to dress, and incidentally helped him to require a new tassel to the
cord of his dressing-gown.  As he finished his toilet and the kitten
finished its sixth and most notable attack on the tassel a ring was heard
at the front door, and a moment later a loud, hearty, and unmistakably
hungry voice resounded in the hall.  It belonged to the local doctor, who
had also taken part in the day's run and had been bidden to enliven the
evening meal with the entertainment of his inexhaustible store of
sporting and social reminiscences.  He knew the countryside and the
countryfolk inside out, and he was a living unwritten chronicle of the
East Wessex hunt.  His conversation seemed exactly the right
accompaniment to the meal; his stories brought glimpses of wet hedgerows,
stiff ploughlands, leafy spinneys and muddy brooks in among the rich old
Worcester and Georgian silver of the dinner service, the glow and crackle
of the wood fire, the pleasant succession of well-cooked dishes and
mellow wines.  The world narrowed itself down again to a warm, drowsy-
scented dining-room, with a productive hinterland of kitchen and cellar
beyond it, and beyond that an important outer world of loose box and
harness-room and stable-yard; further again a dark hushed region where
pheasants roosted and owls flitted and foxes prowled.

Yeovil sat and listened to story after story of the men and women and
horses of the neighbourhood; even the foxes seemed to have a personality,
some of them, and a personal history.  It was a little like Hans
Andersen, he decided, and a little like the Reminiscences of an Irish
R.M., and perhaps just a little like some of the more probable adventures
of Baron Munchausen.  The newer stories were evidently true to the
smallest detail, the earlier ones had altered somewhat in repetition, as
plants and animals vary under domestication.

And all the time there was one topic that was never touched on.  Of half
the families mentioned it was necessary to add the qualifying information
that they "used to live" at such and such a place; the countryside knew
them no longer.  Their properties were for sale or had already passed
into the hands of strangers.  But neither man cared to allude to the
grinning shadow that sat at the feast and sent an icy chill now and again
through the cheeriest jest and most jovial story.  The brisk run with the
hounds that day had stirred and warmed their pulses; it was an evening
for comfortable forgetting.  Later that night, in the stillness of his
bedroom, with the dwindling noises of a retiring household dropping off
one by one into ordered silence, a door shutting here, a fire being raked
out there, the thoughts that had been held away came crowding in.  The
body was tired, but the brain was not, and Yeovil lay awake with his
thoughts for company.  The world grew suddenly wide again, filled with
the significance of things that mattered, held by the actions of men that
mattered.  Hunting-box and stable and gun-room dwindled to a mere pin-
point in the universe, there were other larger, more absorbing things on
which the mind dwelt.  There was the grey cold sea outside Dover and
Portsmouth and Cork, where the great grey ships of war rocked and swung
with the tides, where the sailors sang, in doggerel English, that bitter-
sounding adaptation, "Germania rules t'e waves," where the flag of a
World-Power floated for the world to see.  And in oven-like cities of
India there were men who looked out at the white sun-glare, the
heat-baked dust, the welter of crowded streets, who listened to the
unceasing chorus of harsh-throated crows, the strident creaking of cart-
wheels, the buzz and drone of insect swarms and the rattle call of the
tree lizards; men whose thoughts went hungrily to the cool grey skies and
wet turf and moist ploughlands of an English hunting country, men whose
memories listened yearningly to the music of a deep-throated hound and
the call of a game-bird in the stubble.  Yeovil had secured for himself
the enjoyment of the things for which these men hungered; he had known
what he wanted in life, slowly and with hesitation, yet nevertheless
surely, he had arrived at the achievement of his unconfessed desires.
Here, installed under his own roof-tree, with as good horseflesh in his
stable as man could desire, with sport lying almost at his door, with his
wife ready to come down and help him to entertain his neighbours, Murrey
Yeovil had found the life that he wanted--and was accursed in his own
eyes.  He argued with himself, and palliated and explained, but he knew
why he had turned his eyes away that evening from the little graveyard
under the trees; one cannot explain things to the dead.



CHAPTER XIX: THE LITTLE FOXES


   "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines"

On a warm and sunny May afternoon, some ten months since Yeovil's return
from his Siberian wanderings and sickness, Cicely sat at a small table in
the open-air restaurant in Hyde Park, finishing her after-luncheon coffee
and listening to the meritorious performance of the orchestra.  Opposite
her sat Larry Meadowfield, absorbed for the moment in the slow enjoyment
of a cigarette, which also was not without its short-lived merits.  Larry
was a well-dressed youngster, who was, in Cicely's opinion, distinctly
good to look on--an opinion which the boy himself obviously shared.  He
had the healthy, well-cared-for appearance of a country-dweller who has
been turned into a town dandy without suffering in the process.  His blue-
black hair, growing very low down on a broad forehead, was brushed back
in a smoothness that gave his head the appearance of a rain-polished
sloe; his eyebrows were two dark smudges and his large violet-grey eyes
expressed the restful good temper of an animal whose immediate
requirements have been satisfied.  The lunch had been an excellent one,
and it was jolly to feed out of doors in the warm spring air--the only
drawback to the arrangement being the absence of mirrors.  However, if he
could not look at himself a great many people could look at him.

Cicely listened to the orchestra as it jerked and strutted through a
fantastic dance measure, and as she listened she looked appreciatively at
the boy on the other side of the table, whose soul for the moment seemed
to be in his cigarette.  Her scheme of life, knowing just what you wanted
and taking good care that you got it, was justifying itself by results.
Ronnie, grown tiresome with success, had not been difficult to replace,
and no one in her world had had the satisfaction of being able to condole
with her on the undesirable experience of a long interregnum.  To
feminine acquaintances with fewer advantages of purse and brains and
looks she might figure as "that Yeovil woman," but never had she given
them justification to allude to her as "poor Cicely Yeovil."  And Murrey,
dear old soul, had cooled down, as she had hoped and wished, from his
white heat of disgust at the things that she had prepared herself to
accept philosophically.  A new chapter of their married life and man-and-
woman friendship had opened; many a rare gallop they had had together
that winter, many a cheery dinner gathering and long bridge evening in
the cosy hunting-lodge.  Though he still hated the new London and held
himself aloof from most of her Town set, yet he had not shown himself
rigidly intolerant of the sprinkling of Teuton sportsmen who hunted and
shot down in his part of the country.

The orchestra finished its clicking and caracoling and was accorded a
short clatter of applause.

"The Danse Macabre," said Cicely to her companion; "one of Saint-Saens'
best known pieces."

"Is it?" said Larry indifferently; "I'll take your word for it.  'Fraid I
don't know much about music."

"You dear boy, that's just what I like in you," said Cicely; "you're such
a delicious young barbarian."

"Am I?" said Larry.  "I dare say.  I suppose you know."

Larry's father had been a brilliantly clever man who had married a
brilliantly handsome woman; the Fates had not had the least intention
that Larry should take after both parents.

"The fashion of having one's lunch in the open air has quite caught on
this season," said Cicely; "one sees everybody here on a fine day.  There
is Lady Bailquist over there.  She used to be Lady Shalem you know,
before her husband got the earldom--to be more correct, before she got it
for him.  I suppose she is all agog to see the great review."

It was in fact precisely the absorbing topic of the forthcoming Boy-Scout
march-past that was engaging the Countess of Bailquist's earnest
attention at the moment.

"It is going to be an historical occasion," she was saying to Sir Leonard
Pitherby (whose services to literature had up to the present received
only a half-measure of recognition); "if it miscarries it will be a
serious set-back for the fait accompli.  If it is a success it will be
the biggest step forward in the path of reconciliation between the two
races that has yet been taken.  It will mean that the younger generation
is on our side--not all, of course, but some, that is all we can expect
at present, and that will be enough to work on."

"Supposing the Scouts hang back and don't turn up in any numbers," said
Sir Leonard anxiously.

"That of course is the danger," said Lady Bailquist quietly; "probably
two-thirds of the available strength will hold back, but a third or even
a sixth would be enough; it would redeem the parade from the calamity of
fiasco, and it would be a nucleus to work on for the future.  That is
what we want, a good start, a preliminary rally.  It is the first step
that counts, that is why to-day's event is of such importance."

"Of course, of course, the first step on the road," assented Sir Leonard.

"I can assure you," continued Lady Bailquist, "that nothing has been left
undone to rally the Scouts to the new order of things.  Special
privileges have been showered on them, alone among all the cadet corps
they have been allowed to retain their organisation, a decoration of
merit has been instituted for them, a large hostelry and gymnasium has
been provided for them in Westminster, His Majesty's youngest son is to
be their Scoutmaster-in-Chief, a great athletic meeting is to be held for
them each year, with valuable prizes, three or four hundred of them are
to be taken every summer, free of charge, for a holiday in the Bavarian
Highlands and the Baltic Seaboard; besides this the parent of every scout
who obtains the medal for efficiency is to be exempted from part of the
new war taxation that the people are finding so burdensome."

"One certainly cannot say that they have not had attractions held out to
them," said Sir Leonard.

"It is a special effort," said Lady Bailquist; "it is worth making an
effort for.  They are going to be the Janissaries of the Empire; the
younger generation knocking at the doors of progress, and thrusting back
the bars and bolts of old racial prejudices.  I tell you, Sir Leonard, it
will be an historic moment when the first corps of those little khaki-
clad boys swings through the gates of the Park."

"When do they come?" asked the baronet, catching something of his
companion's zeal.

"The first detachment is due to arrive at three," said Lady Bailquist,
referring to a small time-table of the afternoon's proceedings; "three,
punctually, and the others will follow in rapid succession.  The Emperor
and Suite will arrive at two-fifty and take up their positions at the
saluting base--over there, where the big flag-staff has been set up.  The
boys will come in by Hyde Park Corner, the Marble Arch, and the Albert
Gate, according to their districts, and form in one big column over
there, where the little flags are pegged out.  Then the young Prince will
inspect them and lead them past His Majesty."

"Who will be with the Imperial party?" asked Sir Leonard.

"Oh, it is to be an important affair; everything will be done to
emphasise the significance of the occasion," said Lady Bailquist, again
consulting her programme.  "The King of Wurtemberg, and two of the
Bavarian royal Princes, an Abyssinian Envoy who is over here--he will
lend a touch of picturesque barbarism to the scene--the general
commanding the London district and a whole lot of other military bigwigs,
and the Austrian, Italian and Roumanian military attaches."

She reeled off the imposing list of notables with an air of quiet
satisfaction.  Sir Leonard made mental notes of personages to whom he
might send presentation copies of his new work "Frederick-William, the
Great Elector, a Popular Biography," as a souvenir of to-day's auspicious
event.

"It is nearly a quarter to three now," he said; "let us get a good
position before the crowd gets thicker."

"Come along to my car, it is just opposite to the saluting base," said
her ladyship; "I have a police pass that will let us through.  We'll ask
Mrs. Yeovil and her young friend to join us."

Larry excused himself from joining the party; he had a barbarian's
reluctance to assisting at an Imperial triumph.

"I think I'll push off to the swimming-bath," he said to Cicely; "see you
again about tea-time."

Cicely walked with Lady Bailquist and the literary baronet towards the
crowd of spectators, which was steadily growing in dimensions.  A newsboy
ran in front of them displaying a poster with the intelligence "Essex
wickets fall rapidly"--a semblance of county cricket still survived under
the new order of things.  Near the saluting base some thirty or forty
motorcars were drawn up in line, and Cicely and her companions exchanged
greetings with many of the occupants.

"A lovely day for the review, isn't it?" cried the Grafin von Tolb,
breaking off her conversation with Herr Rebinok, the little Pomeranian
banker, who was sitting by her side.  "Why haven't you brought young Mr.
Meadowfield?  Such a nice boy.  I wanted him to come and sit in my
carriage and talk to me."

"He doesn't talk you know," said Cicely; "he's only brilliant to look
at."

"Well, I could have looked at him," said the Grafin.

"There'll be thousands of other boys to look at presently," said Cicely,
laughing at the old woman's frankness.

"Do you think there will be thousands?" asked the Grafin, with an anxious
lowering of the voice; "really, thousands?  Hundreds, perhaps; there is
some uncertainty.  Every one is not sanguine."

"Hundreds, anyway," said Cicely.

The Grafin turned to the little banker and spoke to him rapidly and
earnestly in German.

"It is most important that we should consolidate our position in this
country; we must coax the younger generation over by degrees, we must
disarm their hostility.  We cannot afford to be always on the watch in
this quarter; it is a source of weakness, and we cannot afford to be
weak.  This Slav upheaval in south-eastern Europe is becoming a serious
menace.  Have you seen to-day's telegrams from Agram?  They are bad
reading.  There is no computing the extent of this movement."

"It is directed against us," said the banker.

"Agreed," said the Grafin; "it is in the nature of things that it must be
against us.  Let us have no illusions.  Within the next ten years, sooner
perhaps, we shall be faced with a crisis which will be only a beginning.
We shall need all our strength; that is why we cannot afford to be weak
over here.  To-day is an important day; I confess I am anxious."

"Hark!  The kettledrums!" exclaimed the commanding voice of Lady
Bailquist.  "His Majesty is coming.  Quick, bundle into the car."

The crowd behind the police-kept lines surged expectantly into closer
formation; spectators hurried up from side-walks and stood craning their
necks above the shoulders of earlier arrivals.

Through the archway at Hyde Park Corner came a resplendent cavalcade,
with a swirl of colour and rhythmic movement and a crash of exultant
music; life-guards with gleaming helmets, a detachment of Wurtemberg
lancers with a flutter of black and yellow pennons, a rich medley of
staff uniforms, a prancing array of princely horsemen, the Imperial
Standard, and the King of Prussia, Great Britain, and Ireland, Emperor of
the West.  It was the most imposing display that Londoners had seen since
the catastrophe.

Slowly, grandly, with thunder of music and beat of hoofs, the procession
passed through the crowd, across the sward towards the saluting base,
slowly the eagle standard, charged with the leopards, lion and harp of
the conquered kingdoms, rose mast-high on the flag-staff and fluttered in
the breeze, slowly and with military precision the troops and suite took
up their position round the central figure of the great pageant.  Trumpets
and kettledrums suddenly ceased their music, and in a moment there rose
in their stead an eager buzz of comment from the nearest spectators.

"How well the young Prince looks in his scout uniform." . . . "The King
of Wurtemberg is a much younger man than I thought he was." . . . "Is
that a Prussian or Bavarian uniform, there on the right, the man on a
black horse?" . . .  "Neither, it's Austrian, the Austrian military
attache" . . .  "That is von Stoppel talking to His Majesty; he organised
the Boy Scouts in Germany, you know." . . .  "His Majesty is looking very
pleased."  "He has reason to look pleased; this is a great event in the
history of the two countries.  It marks a new epoch." . . .  "Oh, do you
see the Abyssinian Envoy?  What a picturesque figure he makes.  How well
he sits his horse." . . . "That is the Grand Duke of Baden's nephew,
talking to the King of Wurtemberg now."

On the buzz and chatter of the spectators fell suddenly three sound
strokes, distant, measured, sinister; the clang of a clock striking
three.

"Three o'clock and not a boy scout within sight or hearing!" exclaimed
the loud ringing voice of Joan Mardle; "one can usually hear their drums
and trumpets a couple of miles away."

"There is the traffic to get through," said Sir Leonard Pitherby in an
equally high-pitched voice; "and of course," he added vaguely, "it takes
some time to get the various units together.  One must give them a few
minutes' grace."

Lady Bailquist said nothing, but her restless watchful eyes were turned
first to Hyde Park Corner and then in the direction of the Marble Arch,
back again to Hyde Park Corner.  Only the dark lines of the waiting crowd
met her view, with the yellow newspaper placards flitting in and out,
announcing to an indifferent public the fate of Essex wickets.  As far as
her searching eyes could travel the green stretch of tree and sward
remained unbroken, save by casual loiterers.  No small brown columns
appeared, no drum beat came throbbing up from the distance.  The little
flags pegged out to mark the positions of the awaited scout-corps
fluttered in meaningless isolation on the empty parade ground.

His Majesty was talking unconcernedly with one of his officers, the
foreign attaches looked steadily between their chargers' ears, as though
nothing in particular was hanging in the balance, the Abyssinian Envoy
displayed an untroubled serenity which was probably genuine.  Elsewhere
among the Suite was a perceptible fidget, the more obvious because it was
elaborately cloaked.  Among the privileged onlookers drawn up near the
saluting point the fidgeting was more unrestrained.

"Six minutes past three, and not a sign of them!" exclaimed Joan Mardle,
with the explosive articulation of one who cannot any longer hold back a
truth.

"Hark!" said some one; "I hear trumpets!"

There was an instant concentration of listening, a straining of eyes.

It was only the toot of a passing motorcar.  Even Sir Leonard Pitherby,
with the eye of faith, could not locate as much as a cloud of dust on the
Park horizon.

And now another sound was heard, a sound difficult to define, without
beginning, without dimension; the growing murmur of a crowd waking to a
slowly dawning sensation.

"I wish the band would strike up an air," said the Grafin von Tolb
fretfully; "it is stupid waiting here in silence."

Joan fingered her watch, but she made no further remark; she realised
that no amount of malicious comment could be so dramatically effective
now as the slow slipping away of the intolerable seconds.

The murmur from the crowd grew in volume.  Some satirical wit started
whistling an imitation of an advancing fife and drum band; others took it
up and the air resounded with the shrill music of a phantom army on the
march.  The mock throbbing of drum and squealing of fife rose and fell
above the packed masses of spectators, but no answering echo came from
beyond the distant trees.  Like mushrooms in the night a muster of
uniformed police and plain clothes detectives sprang into evidence on all
sides; whatever happened there must be no disloyal demonstration.  The
whistlers and mockers were pointedly invited to keep silence, and one or
two addresses were taken.  Under the trees, well at the back of the
crowd, a young man stood watching the long stretch of road along which
the Scouts should come.  Something had drawn him there, against his will,
to witness the Imperial Triumph, to watch the writing of yet another
chapter in the history of his country's submission to an accepted fact.
And now a dull flush crept into his grey face; a look that was partly new-
born hope and resurrected pride, partly remorse and shame, burned in his
eyes.  Shame, the choking, searing shame of self-reproach that cannot be
reasoned away, was dominant in his heart.  He had laid down his
arms--there were others who had never hoisted the flag of surrender.  He
had given up the fight and joined the ranks of the hopelessly
subservient; in thousands of English homes throughout the land there were
young hearts that had not forgotten, had not compounded, would not yield.

The younger generation had barred the door.

And in the pleasant May sunshine the Eagle standard floated and flapped,
the black and yellow pennons shifted restlessly, Emperor and Princes,
Generals and guards, sat stiffly in their saddles, and waited.

And waited. . . .





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