Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Snake and Sword - A Novel
Author: Wren, Percival Christopher, 1885-1941
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 "Snake and Sword - A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



SNAKE AND SWORD

_A NOVEL_

BY

PERCIVAL CHRISTOPHER WREN



DEDICATED TO MY WIFE ALICE LUCILLE WREN



CONTENTS


PART I.

THE WELDING OF A SOUL

   I. The Snake and the Soul


PART II.

THE SEARING OF A SOUL

  II. The Sword and the Snake

 III. The Snake Appears

  IV. The Sword and the Soul

   V. Lucille

  VI. The Snake's "Myrmidon"

 VII. Love--and the Snake

VIII. Troopers of the Queen

  IX. A Snake avenges a Haddock and Lucille behaves
      in an un-Smelliean Manner

   X. Much Ado about Almost Nothing--A Mere
      Trooper

  XI. More Myrmidons


PART III.

THE SAVING OF A SOUL

 XII. Vultures and Luck--Good and Bad

XIII. Found

 XIV. The Snake and the Sword

      Seven Years After



PART I.


THE WELDING OF A SOUL.



CHAPTER I.

THE SNAKE AND THE SOUL.


When Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne, V.C., D.S.O., of the Queen's
Own (118th) Bombay Lancers, pinned his Victoria Cross to the bosom of
his dying wife's night-dress, in token of his recognition that she was
the braver of the twain, he was not himself.

He was beside himself with grief.

Afterwards he adjured the sole witness of this impulsive and emotional
act, Major John Decies, never to mention his "damned theatrical folly"
to any living soul, and to excuse him on the score of an ancient
sword-cut on the head and two bad sun-strokes.

For the one thing in heaven above, on the earth beneath, or in the
waters under the earth, that Colonel de Warrenne feared, was breach of
good form and stereotyped convention.

And the one thing he loved was the dying woman.

This last statement applies also to Major John Decies, of the Indian
Medical Service, Civil Surgeon of Bimariabad, and may even be
expanded, for the one thing he ever _had_ loved was the dying
woman....

Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne did the deed that won him his
Victoria Cross, in the open, in the hot sunlight and in hot blood,
sword in hand and with hot blood on the sword-hand--fighting for his
life.

His wife did the deed that moved him to transfer the Cross to her, in
darkness, in cold blood, in loneliness, sickness and silence--fighting
for the life of her unborn child against an unseen foe.

Colonel de Warrenne's type of brave deed has been performed thousands
of times and wherever brave men have fought.

His wife's deed of endurance, presence of mind, self-control and cool
courage is rarer, if not unique.

To appreciate this fully, it must be known that she had a horror of
snakes, so terrible as to amount to an obsession, a mental deformity,
due, doubtless, to the fact that her father (Colonel Mortimer Seymour
Stukeley) died of snake-bite before her mother's eyes, a few hours
before she herself was born.

Bearing this in mind, judge of the conduct that led Colonel de
Warrenne, distraught, to award her his Cross "For Valour".

One oppressive June evening, Lenore de Warrenne returned from church
(where she had, as usual, prayed fervently that her soon-expected
first-born might be a daughter), and entered her dressing-room. Here
her Ayah divested her of hat, dress, and boots, and helped her into
the more easeful tea-gown and satin slippers.

"Bootlair wanting ishweets for dinner-table from go-down,[1] please,
Mem-Sahib," observed Ayah, the change of garb accomplished.

"The butler wants sweets, does he? Give me my keys, then," replied
Mrs. de Warrenne, and, rising with a sigh, she left the dressing-room
and proceeded, _via_ the dining-room (where she procured some small
silver bowls, sweet-dishes, and trays), to the go-down or store-room,
situate at the back of the bungalow and adjoining the
"dispense-khana"--the room in which assemble the materials and
ministrants of meals from the extra-mural "bowachi-khana" or kitchen.
Unlocking the door of the go-down, Mrs. de Warrenne entered the small
shelf-encircled room, and, stepping on to a low stool proceeded to
fill the sweet-trays from divers jars, tins and boxes, with
guava-cheese, crystallized ginger, _kulwa_, preserved mango and
certain of the more sophisticated sweetmeats of the West.

It was after sunset and the _hamal_ had not yet lit the lamps, so that
this pantry, a dark room at mid-day, was far from light at that time.
But for the fact that she knew exactly where everything was, and could
put her hand on what she wanted, she would not have entered without a
light.

For some minutes the unfortunate lady stood on the stool.

Having completed her task she stepped down backwards and, as her foot
touched the ground, she knew _that she had trodden upon a snake._

Even as she stood poised, one foot on the ground, the other on the
stool, both hands gripping the high shelf, she felt the reptile
whipping, writhing, jerking, lashing, flogging at her ankle and
instep, coiling round her leg.... And in the fraction of a second the
thought flashed through her mind: "If its head is under my foot, or
too close to my foot for its fangs to reach me, I am safe while I
remain as I am. If its head is free I am doomed--and matters cannot be
any the worse for my keeping as I am."

_And she kept as she was,_ with one foot on the stool, out of reach,
and one foot on the snake.

And screamed?

No, called quietly and coolly for the butler, remembering that she had
sent Nurse Beaton out, that her husband was at polo, that there were
none but native servants in the house, and that if she raised an alarm
they would take it, and with single heart consider each the safety of
Number One.

"Boy!" she called calmly, though the room swam round her and a deadly
faintness began to paralyse her limbs and loosen her hold upon the
shelf--"Boy! Come here."

Antonio Ferdinand Xavier D'Souza, Goanese butler, heard and came.

"Mem-Sahib?" quoth he, at the door of the go-down.

"Bring a lamp quickly," said Lenore de Warrenne in a level voice.

The worthy Antonio, fat, spectacled, bald and wheezy, hurried away and
peremptorily bade the _hamal_[2], son of a jungle-pig, to light and
bring a lamp quickly.

The _hamal_, respectfully pointing out to the Bootlair Sahib that the
daylight was yet strong and lusty enough to shame and smother any
lamp, complied with deliberation and care, polishing the chimney,
trimming the wick, pouring in oil and generally making a satisfactory
and commendable job of it.

Lenore de Warrenne, sick, faint, sinking, waited ... waited ... waited
... gripping the shelf and fighting against her over-mastering
weakness for the life of the unborn child that, even in that awful
moment, she prayed might be a daughter.

After many cruelly long centuries, and as she swayed to fall, the good
Antonio entered with the lamp. Her will triumphed over her falling
body.

"Boy, I am standing on a snake!" said she coolly. "Put the lamp--"

But Antonio did not stay to "put" the lamp; incontinent he dropped it
on the floor and fled yelling "Sap! Sap!" and that the Mem-Sahib was
bitten, dying, dead--certainly dead; dead for hours.

And the brave soul in the little room waited ... waited ... waited ...
gripping the shelf, and thinking of the coming daughter, and wondering
whether she must die by snake-bite or fire--unborn--with her unhappy
mother. For the fallen lamp had burst, the oil had caught fire, and
the fire gave no light by which she could see what was beneath her
foot--head, body, or tail of the lashing, squirming snake--as the
flame flickered, rose and fell, burnt blue, swayed, roared in the
draught of the door--did anything but give a light by which she could
see as she bent over awkwardly, still gripping the shelf, one foot on
the stool, further prevented from seeing by her loose draperies.

Soon she realized that in any case she could not see her foot without
changing her position--a thing she would _not_ do while there was
hope--and strength to hold on. For hope there was, inasmuch as _she
had not yet felt the stroke of the reptile's fangs_.

Again she reasoned calmly, though strength was ebbing fast; she must
remain as she was till death by fire or suffocation was the
alternative to flight--flight which was synonymous with death, for, as
her other foot came down and she stepped off the snake, in that
instant it would strike--if it had not struck already.

Meantime--to call steadily and coolly again.

This time she called to the _hamal_, a Bhil, engaged out of
compassion, and likely, as a son of the jungle's sons, to be of more
courage than the stall-fed butler in presence of dangerous beast or
reptile.

"_Hamal_: I want you," she called coolly.

"Mem-Sahib?" came the reply from the lamp-room near by, and the man
approached.

"That stupid butler has dropped a lamp and run away. Bring a pail of
water quickly and call to the _malli_[3] to bring a pail of earth as
you get it. Hasten!--and there is baksheesh," said Mrs. de Warrenne
quietly in the vernacular.

Tap and pail were by the door of the back verandah. In a minute the
_hamal_ entered and flung a pail of water on the burning pool of oil,
reducing the mass of blue lambent flames considerably.

"Now _hamal_," said the fainting woman, the more immediate danger
confronted, "bring another lamp very quickly and put it on the shelf.
Quick! don't stop to fill or to clean it."

Was the pricking, shooting pain the repeated stabbing of the snake's
fangs or was it "pins and needles"? Was this deadly faintness death
indeed, or was it only weakness?

In what seemed but a few more years the man reappeared carrying a
lighted lamp, the which he placed upon a shelf.

"Listen," said Mrs. de Warrenne, "and have no fear, brave Bhil. I have
_caught_ a snake. Get a knife quickly and cut off its head while I
hold it."

The man glancing up, appeared to suppose that his mistress held the
snake on the shelf, hurried away, and rushed back with the cook's big
kitchen-knife gripped dagger-wise in his right hand.

"Do you see the snake?" she managed to whisper. "Under my foot!
Quick! It is moving ... moving ... moving _out_."

With a wild Bhil cry the man flung himself down upon his hereditary
dread foe and slashed with the knife.

Mrs. de Warrenne heard it scratch along the floor, grate on a nail,
and crush through the snake.

"Aré!! Dead, Mem-Sahib!! Dead!! See, I have cut off its head! Aré!!!!
Wah!! The brave mistress!----"

As she collapsed, Mrs. de Warrenne saw the twitching body of a large
cobra with its head severed close to its neck. Its head had just
protruded from under her foot and she had saved the unborn life for
which she had fought so bravely by just keeping still.... She had won
her brief decoration with the Cross by--keeping still. (Her husband
had won his permanent right to it by extreme activity.) ... Had she
moved she would have been struck instantly, for the reptile was, by
her, uninjured, merely nipped between instep and floor.

Having realized this, Lenore de Warrenne fainted and then passed from
fit to fit, and her child--a boy--was born that night. Hundreds of
times during the next few days the same terrible cry rang from the
sick-room through the hushed bungalow: "It is under my foot! It is
moving ... moving ... moving ... _out!_"

       *       *       *       *       *

"If I had to make a prophecy concerning this young fella," observed
the broken-hearted Major John Decies, I.M.S., Civil Surgeon of
Bimariabad, as he watched old Nurse Beaton performing the baby's
elaborate ablutions and toilet, "I should say that he will _not_ grow
up fond of snakes--not if there is anything in the 'pre-natal
influence' theory."



PART II.


THE SEARING OF A SOUL.



CHAPTER II.

THE SWORD AND THE SNAKE.


Colonel Matthew Devon De Warrenne, commanding the Queen's Own (118th)
Bombay Lancers, was in good time, in his best review-order uniform,
and in a terrible state of mind.

He strode from end to end of the long verandah of his bungalow with
clank of steel, creak of leather, and groan of travailing soul. As the
top of his scarlet, blue and gold turban touched the lamp that hung a
good seven feet above his spurred heels he swore viciously.

Almost for the first time in his hard-lived, selfish life he had been
thwarted, flouted, cruelly and evilly entreated, and the worst of it
was that his enemy was--not a man whom he could take by the throat,
but--Fate.

Fate had dealt him a cruel blow, and he felt as he would have done had
he, impotent, seen one steal the great charger that champed and pawed
there at the door, and replace it by a potter's donkey. Nay,
worse--for he had _loved_ Lenore, his wife, and Fate had stolen her
away and replaced her by a squealing brat.

Within a year of his marriage his wife was dead and buried, and his
son alive and--howling. He could hear him (curse him!).

The Colonel glanced at his watch, producing it from some mysterious
recess beneath his belted golden sash and within his pale blue tunic.

Not yet time to ride to the regimental parade-ground and lead his
famous corps to its place on the brigade parade-ground for the New
Year Review and march-past.

As he held the watch at the length of its chain and stared,
half-comprehending, his hand--the hand of the finest swordsman in the
Indian Army--shook.

Lenore gone: a puling, yelping whelp in her place.... A tall,
severe-looking elderly woman entered the verandah by a distant door
and approached the savage, miserable soldier. Nurse Beaton.

"_Will_ you give your son a name, Sir?" she said, and it was evident
in voice and manner that the question had been asked before and had
received an unsatisfactory, if not unprintable; reply. Every line of
feature and form seemed to express indignant resentment. She had
nursed and foster-mothered the child's mother, and--unlike the
man--had found the baby the chiefest consolation of her cruel grief,
and already loved it not only for its idolized mother's sake, but with
the devotion of a childless child-lover.

"The christening is fixed for to-day, Sir, as I have kept reminding
you, Sir," she added.

She had never liked the Colonel--nor considered him "good enough" for
her tender, dainty darling, "nearly three times her age and no better
than he ought to be".

"Name?" snarled Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne. "Name the little
beast? Call him what you like, and then drown him." The tight-lipped
face of the elderly nurse flushed angrily, but before she could make
the indignant reply that her hurt and scandalized look presaged, the
Colonel added:--

"No, look here, call him _Damocles_, and done with it. The Sword hangs
over him too, I suppose, and he'll die by it, as all his ancestors
have done. Yes--"

"It's not a nice name, Sir, to my thinking," interrupted the woman,
"not for an only name--and for an only child. Let it be a second or
third name, Sir, if you want to give him such an outlandish one."

She fingered her new black dress nervously with twitching hands and
the tight lips trembled.

"He's to be named Damocles and nothing else," replied the Master, and,
as she turned away with a look of positive hate, he added
sardonically:--

"And then you can call him 'Dam' for short, you know, Nurse."

Nurse Beaton bridled, clenched her hands, and stiffened visibly. Had
the man been her social equal or any other than her master, her
pent-up wrath and indignation would have broken forth in a torrent of
scathing abuse.

"Never would I call the poor motherless lamb _Dam_, Sir," she
answered with restraint.

"Then call him _Dummy!_ Good morning, Nurse," snapped the Colonel.

As she turned to go, with a bitter sigh, she asked in the hopeless
tone of one who knows the waste of words:--

"You will not repent--I mean relent--and come to the christening of
your only son this afternoon, Sir?"

"Good morning, Nurse," observed Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne, and
resumed his hurried pacing of the verandah.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not enough that a man love his wife dearly and hold her the
sweetest, fairest, and best of women--he should tell her so, morning
and night.

There is a proverb (the unwisdom of many and the poor wit of one) that
says _Actions speak louder than Words_. Whether this is the most
untrustworthy of an untrustworthy class of generalizations is
debateable.

Anyhow, let no husband or lover believe it. Vain are the deeds of dumb
devotion, the unwearying forethought, the tender care, the gifts of
price, and the priceless gifts of attentive, watchful guard and guide,
the labours of Love--all vain. Silent is the speech of Action.

But resonant loud is the speech of Words and profitable their
investment in the Mutual Alliance Bank.

"_Love me, love my Dog?_" Yes--and look to the dog for a dog's
reward.

"_Do not show me that you love me--tell me so._" Far too true and
pregnant ever to become a proverb.

Colonel de Warrenne had omitted to tell his wife so--after she had
accepted him--and she had died thinking herself loveless, unloved, and
stating the fact.

This was the bitterest drop in the bitter cup of the big, dumb,
well-meaning man.

And now she would never know....

She had thought herself unloved, and, nerve-shattered by her terrible
experience with the snake, had made no fight for life when the
unwanted boy was born. For the sake of a girl she would have striven
to live--but a boy, a boy can fend for himself (and takes after his
father)....

Almost as soon as Lenore Seymour Stukeley had landed in India (on a
visit with her sister Yvette to friends at Bimariabad), delighted,
bewildered, depolarized, Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne had burst
with a blaze of glory into her hitherto secluded, narrow life--a great
pale-blue, white-and-gold wonder, clanking and jingling, resplendent,
bemedalled, ruling men, charging at the head of thundering
squadrons--a half-god (and to Yvette he had seemed a whole-god).

He had told her that he loved her, told her once, and had been
accepted.

_Once_! Only once told her that he loved her, that she was beautiful,
that he was hers to command to the uttermost. Only once! What could
_she_ know of the changed life, the absolute renunciation of pleasant
bachelor vices, the pulling up short, and all those actions that speak
more softly than words?

What could she know of the strength and depth of the love that could
keep such a man as the Colonel from the bar, the bridge-table, the
race-course and the Paphian dame? Of the love that made him walk
warily lest he offend one for whom his quarter of a century, and more,
of barrack and bachelor-bungalow life, made him feel so utterly unfit
and unworthy? What could she know of all that he had given up and
delighted to give up--now that he truly loved a true woman? The
hard-living, hard-hearted, hard-spoken man had become a gentle
frequenter of his wife's tea-parties, her companion at church, her
constant attendant--never leaving the bungalow, save for duty, without
her.

To those who knew him it was a World's Marvel; to her, who knew him
not, it was nothing at all--normal, natural. And being a man who spoke
only when he must, who dreaded the expression of any emotion, and who
foolishly thought that actions speak louder than words, he had omitted
to tell her daily--or even weekly or monthly--that he loved her; and
she had died pitying herself and reproaching him.

Fate's old, old game of Cross Purposes. Major John Decies, reserved,
high-minded gentleman, loving Lenore de Warrenne (and longing to tell
her so daily), with the one lifelong love of a steadfast nature;
Yvette Stukeley, reserved, high-minded gentlewoman, loving Colonel de
Warrenne, and longing to escape from Bimariabad before his wedding to
her sister, and doing so at the earliest possible date thereafter:
each woman losing the man who would have been her ideal husband, each
man losing the woman who would have been his ideal wife.

Yvette Stukeley returned to her uncle and guardian, General Sir Gerald
Seymour Stukeley, K.C.B., K.C.S.I., at Monksmead, nursing a broken
heart, and longed for the day when Colonel de Warrenne's child might
be sent home to her care.

Major John Decies abode at Bimariabad, also nursing a broken heart
(though he scarcely realized the fact), watched over the son of Lenore
de Warrenne, and greatly feared for him.

The Major was an original student of theories and facts of Heredity
and Pre-natal Influence. Further he was not wholly hopeful as to the
effect of all the _post_-natal influences likely to be brought to bear
upon a child who grew up in the bungalow, and the dislike of Colonel
Matthew Devon de Warrenne.

Upon the infant Damocles, Nurse Beaton, rugged, snow-capped volcano,
lavished the tender love of a mother; and in him Major John Decies,
deep-running still water, took the interest of a father. The which
was the better for the infant Damocles in that his real father had no
interest to take and no love to lavish. He frankly disliked the
child--the outward and visible sign, the daily reminder of the cruel
loss he so deeply felt and fiercely resented.

Yet, strangely enough, he would not send the child home. Relations who
could receive it he had none, and he declined to be beholden to its
great-uncle, General Sir Gerald Seymour Stukeley, and its aunt Yvette
Stukeley, in spite of the warmest invitations from the one and earnest
entreaties from the other.

Nurse Beaton fed, tended, clothed and nursed the baby by day; a
worshipping ayah wheeled him abroad, and, by night, slept beside his
cot; a devoted sepoy-orderly from the regiment guarded his cavalcade,
and, when permitted, proudly bore him in his arms.

Major John Decies visited him frequently, watched and waited, waited
and watched, and, though not a youth, "thought long, long thoughts".

He also frequently laid his views and theories on paternal duties
before Colonel de Warrenne, until pointedly asked by that officer
whether he had no duties of his own which might claim his valuable
time.

Years rolled by, after the incorrigible habit of years, and the infant
Damocles grew and developed into a remarkably sturdy, healthy,
intelligent boy, as cheerful, fearless, impudent, and irrepressible as
the heart of the Major could desire--and with a much larger
vocabulary than any one could desire, for a baby.

On the fifth anniversary of his birthday he received a matutinal call
from Major Decies, who was returning from his daily visit to the Civil
Hospital.

The Major bore a birthday present and a very anxious, undecided mind.

"Good morrow, gentle Damocles," he remarked, entering the big verandah
adown which the chubby boy pranced gleefully to meet his beloved
friend, shouting a welcome, and brandishing a sword designed, and
largely constructed, by himself from a cleaning-rod, a tobacco-tin
lid, a piece of wood, card-board and wire.

"Thalaam, Major Thahib," he said, flinging himself bodily upon that
gentleman. "I thaw cook cut a fowl's froat vis morning. It squorked
boofly."

"Did it? Alas, that I missed those pleasing-er-squorks," replied the
Major, and added: "This is thy natal day, my son. Thou art a man of
five."

"I'm a debble. I'm a _norful_ little debble," corrected Damocles,
cheerfully and with conviction.

"Incidentally. But you are five also," persisted the senior man.

"It's my birfday to-day," observed the junior.

"I just said so."

"_That_ you didn't, Major Thahib. This is a thword. Father's charger's
got an over-weach. Jumping. He says it's a dam-nuithanth."

"Oh, that's a sword, is it? And 'Fire' has got an over-reach. And
it's a qualified nuisance, is it?"

"Yeth, and the mare is coughing and her _thythe_ is a blathted fool
for letting her catch cold."

"The mare has a cold and the _syce_[4] is a qualified fool, is he?
H'm! I think it's high time you had a look in at little old England,
my son, what? And who made you this elegant rapier? Ochterlonie Sahib
or--who?" (Lieutenant Lord Ochterlonie was the Adjutant of the Queen's
Greys, a friend of Colonel de Warrenne, an ex-admirer of his late
wife, and a great pal of his son.)

"'Tithn't a waper. It'th my thword. I made it mythelf."

"Who helped?"

"Nobody. At leatht, Khodadad Khan, Orderly, knocked the holes in the
tin like I showed him--or elthe got the Farrier Thargeant to do it,
and thaid _he_ had."

"Yes--but who told you how to make it like this? Where did you see a
hand-part like this? It isn't like Daddy's sword, nor Khodadad Khan's
_tulwar_. Where did you copy it?"

"I didn't copy it.... I shot ten rats wiv a bow-and-arrow last night.
At leatht--I don't think I shot ten. Nor one. I don't think I didn't,
pwaps."

"But hang it all, the thing's an Italian rapier, by Gad. Some one
_must_ have shown you how to make the thing, or you've got a picture.
It's a _pukka_[5] mediaeval rapier."

"No it'th not. It'th my thword. I made it.... Have a jolly
fight"--and the boy struck an extraordinarily correct fencing
attitude--left hand raised in balance, sword poised, legs and feet
well placed, the whole pose easy, natural, graceful.

Curiously enough, the sword was held horizontal instead of pointing
upward, a fact which at once struck the observant and practised eye of
Major John Decies, sometime champion fencer.

"Who's been teaching you fencing?" he asked.

"What ith 'fenthing'? Let'th have a fight," replied the boy.

"Stick me here, Dam," invited the Major, seating himself and
indicating the position of the heart. "Bet you can't."

The boy lunged, straight, true, gracefully, straightening all his
limbs except his right leg, rigidly, strongly, and the "sword" bent
upward from the spot on which the man's finger had just rested.

"Gad! Who _has_ taught you to lunge? I shall have a bruise there, and
perhaps--live. Who's behind all this, young fella? Who taught you to
stand so, and to lunge? Ochterlonie Sahib or Daddy?"

"Nobody. What is 'lunge'? Will you buy me a little baby-camel to play
with and teach tricks? Perhaps it would sit up and beg. Do camelth lay
eggth? Chucko does. Millions and lakhs. You get a thword, too, and
we'll fight every day. Yeth. All day long----"

"Good morning, Sir," said Nurse Beaton, bustling into the verandah
from the nursery. "He's as mad as ever on swords and fighting, you
see. It's a soldier he'll be, the lamb. He's taken to making that
black orderly pull out his sword when he's in uniform. Makes him wave
and jab it about. Gives me the creeps--with his black face and white
eyes and all. You won't _encourage_ the child at it, will you, Sir?
And his poor Mother the gentlest soul that ever stepped. Swords! Where
he gets his notions _I_ can't think (though I know where he gets his
language, poor lamb!). Look at _that_ thing, Sir! For all the world
like the dressed-up folk have on the stage or in pictures."

"You haven't let him see any books, I suppose, Nurse?" asked the
Major.

"No, Sir. Never a book has the poor lamb seen, except those you've
brought. I've always been in terror of his seeing a picture of a
you-know-what, ever since you told me what the effect _might_ be. Nor
he hasn't so much as heard the name of it, so far as I know."

"Well, he'll see one to-day. I've brought it with me--must see it
sooner or later. Might see a live one anywhere--in spite of all your
care.... But about this sword--where _could_ he have got the idea?
It's unlike any sword he ever set eyes on. Besides if he ever _did_
see an Italian rapier--and there's scarcely such a thing in
India--he'd not get the chance to use it as a copy. Fancy his having
the desire and the power to, anyhow!"

"I give it up, Sir," said Nurse Beaton.

"I give it upper," added the Major, taking the object of their wonder
from the child.

And there was cause for wonder indeed.

A hole had been punched through the centre of the lid of a tobacco tin
and a number of others round the edge. Through the centre hole the
steel rod had been passed so that the tin made a "guard". To the other
holes wires had been fastened by bending, and their ends gathered,
twisted, and bound with string to the top of the handle (of bored
corks) to form an ornamental basket-hilt.

But the most remarkable thing of all was that, before doing this, the
juvenile designer had passed the rod through a piece of bored stick so
that the latter formed a _cross-piece_ (neatly bound) within the tin
guard--the distinctive feature of the ancient and modern Italian
rapiers!

Round this cross-piece the first two fingers of the boy's right hand
were crooked as he held the sword--and this is the one and only
correct way of holding the Italian weapon, as the Major was well
aware!

"I give it most utterly-uppermost," he murmured. "It's positively
uncanny. No _uninitiated_ adult of the utmost intelligence ever held
an Italian-pattern foil correctly yet--nor until he had been pretty
carefully shown. Who the devil put him up to the design in the first
place, and the method of holding, in the second? Explain yourself, you
two-anna[6] marvel," he demanded of the child. "It's _jadu_--black
magic."

"Ayah lothted a wupee latht night," he replied.

"Lost a rupee, did she? Lucky young thing. Wish I had one to lose. Who
showed you how to hold that sword? Why do you crook your fingers round
the cross-piece like that?"

"Chucko laid me an egg latht night," observed Damocles. "He laid it
with my name on it--so that cook couldn't steal it."

"No doubt. Look here, where can I get a sword like yours? Where can I
copy it? Who makes them? Who knows about them?"

"_I_ don't know, Major Thahib. Gunnoo sells 'Fire's' gram to the
_methrani_ for her curry and chuppatties."

"But how do you know swords are like this? _That_ thing isn't a
_pukka_ sword."

"Well, it'th like Thir Theymour Thtukeley's in my dweam."

"What dream?"

"The one I'm alwayth dweaming. They have got long hair like Nurse in
the night, and they fight and fight like anything. Norful good
fighters! And they wear funny kit. And their thwords are like vis.
_Egg_zackly. Gunnoo gave me a ride on 'Fire,' and he'th a dam-liar. He
thaid he forgot to put the warm _jhool_ on him when Daddy was going to
fwash him for being a dam-fool. I thaid I'd tell Daddy how he alwayth
thleepth in it himthelf, unleth he gave me a ride on 'Fire'. 'Fire'
gave a _norful_ buck and bucked me off. At leatht I think he didn't."

Major Decies' face was curiously intent--as of some midnight worker in
research who sees a bright near glimpse of the gold his alchemy has so
long sought to materialize in the alembic of fact.

"Come back to sober truth, young youth. What about the dream? Who are
they, and what do they say and do?"

"Thir Theymour Thtukeley Thahib tellth Thir Matthew Thahib about the
hilt-thwust. (What _is_ 'hilt-thwust'?) And Lubin, the thervant, ith a
_white_ thervant. Why ith he white if he ith a Thahib's 'boy'?"

"Good Gad!" murmured the Major. "I'm favoured of the gods. Tell me all
about it, Sonny. Then I'll undo this parcel for you," he coaxed.

"Oh, I don't wemember. They buck a lot by the tents and then Thir
Theymour Thtukeley goes and fights Thir Matthew and kills him, and
it'th awful lovely, but they dreth up like kids at a party in big
collars and silly kit."

"Yes, I know," murmured the Major. "Tell me what they say when they
buck to each other by the tents, and when they talk about the
'hilt-thrust,' old chap."

"Oh, I don't wemember. I'll listen next time I dweam it, and tell you.
Chucko's egg was all brown--not white like those cook brings from the
bazaar. He's a dam-thief. Open the parcel, Major Thabib. What's in
it?"

"A picture-book for you, Sonny. All sorts of jolly beasts that you'll
_shikar_ some day. You'll tell me some more about the dream to-morrow,
won't you?"

"Yeth. I'll wemember and fink, and tell you what I have finked."

Turning to Nurse Beaton, the Major whispered:--

"Don't worry him about this dream at all. Leave it to me. It's
wonderful. Take him on your lap, Nurse, and--er--be _ready_. It's a
very life-like picture, and I'm going to spring it on him without any
remark--but I'm more than a little anxious, I admit. Still, it's _got_
to come, as I say, and better a picture first, with ourselves present.
If the picture don't affect him I'll show him a real one. May be all
right of course, but I don't know. I came across a somewhat similar
case once before--and it was _not_ all right. Not by any means," and
he disclosed the brilliantly coloured Animal Picture Book and knelt
beside the expectant boy.

On the first page was an incredibly leonine lion, who appeared to have
solved with much satisfaction the problem of aerial flight, so far was
he from the mountain whence he had sprung and above the back of the
antelope towards which he had propelled himself. One could almost hear
him roar. There was menace and fate in eye and tooth and claw, yea, in
the very kink of the prehensile-seeming tail wherewith he apparently
steered his course in mid-air. To gaze upon his impressive and
determined countenance was to sympathize most fully with the
sore-tried Prophet of old (known to Damocles as Dannle-in-the-lines-den)
for ever more.

The boy was wholly charmed, stroked the glowing ferocity and observed
that he was a _pukka Bahadur_.[7]

On the next page, burning bright, was a tiger, if possible one degree
more terrible than the lion. His "fearful cemetery" appeared to be
full, judging by its burgeoned bulge and the shocking state of
depletion exhibited by the buffalo on which he fed with barely
inaudible snarls and grunts of satisfaction. Blood dripped from his
capacious and over-furnished mouth.

"Booful," murmured Damocles. "I shall go shooting tigerth to-mowwow.
Shoot vem in ve mouth, down ve froat, so as not to spoil ve wool."

Turning over the page, the Major disclosed a most grievous grizzly
bear, grizzly and bearish beyond conception, heraldic, regardant,
expectant, not collared, fanged and clawed proper, rampant, erect,
requiring no supporters.

"You could thtab him wiv a thword if you were quick, while he was
doing that," opined Damocles, charmed, enraptured, delighted. One by
one, other savage, fearsome beasts were disclosed to the increasingly
delighted boy until, without warning, the Major suddenly turned a page
and disclosed a brilliant and hungry-looking snake.

With a piercing shriek the boy leapt convulsively from Nurse Beaton's
arms, rushed blindly into the wall and endeavoured to butt and bore
his way through it with his head, screaming like a wounded horse. As
the man and woman sprang to him he shrieked, "It'th under my foot!
It'th moving, moving, moving _out_" and fell to the ground in a fit.

Major John Decies arose from his bachelor dinner-table that evening,
lit his "planter" cheroot, and strolled into the verandah that looked
across a desert to a mountain range.

Dropping into a long low chair, he raised his feet on to the long
leg-rest extensions of its arms, and, as he settled down and waited
for coffee, wondered why no such chairs are known in the West; why the
trunks of the palms looked less flat in the moonlight than in the
daylight (in which, from that spot, they always looked exactly as
though cut out of cardboard); why Providence had not arranged for
perpetual full-moon; why the world looked such a place of peaceful,
glorious beauty by moonlight, the bare cruel mountains like diaphanous
clouds of tenderest soothing mist, the Judge's hideous bungalow like a
fairy palace, his own parched compound like a plot of Paradise, when
all was so abominable by day; and, as ever--why his darling, Lenore
Stukeley, had had to marry de Warrenne and die in the full flower and
promise of her beautiful womanhood.

Having finished his coffee and lighted his pipe (_vice_ the over-dry
friable cheroot, flung into the garden) the Major then turned his mind
to serious and consecutive thought on the subject of her son, his
beloved little pal, Dammy de Warrenne.

Poor little beggar! What an eternity it had seemed before he had got
him to sleep. How the child had suffered. Mad! Absolutely stark,
staring, raving _mad_ with sheer terror.... Had he acted rightly in
showing him the picture? He had meant well, anyhow. Cruel phrase,
that. How cuttingly his friend de Warrenne had observed, "You mean
well, doubtless," on more than one occasion. He could make it the most
stinging of insults.... Surely he had acted rightly.... Poor little
beggar--but he was bound to see a picture or a real live specimen,
sooner or later. Perhaps when there was no help at hand.... Would he
be like it always? _Might_ grow out of it as he grew older and
stronger. What would have happened if he had encountered a live snake?
Lost his reason permanently, perhaps.... What would happen when he
_did_ see one, as sooner or later, he certainly must?

What would be the best plan? To attempt gradually to inure him--or to
guard him absolutely from contact with picture, stuffed specimen,
model, toy, and the real thing, wild or captive, as one would guard
him against a fell disease?

_Could_ he be inured? Could one "break it to him gently" bye and bye,
by first drawing a wiggly line and then giving it a head? One might
sketch a suggestion of a snake, make a sort of dissimilar clay model,
improve it, show him a cast skin, stuff it, make a more life-like
picture, gradually lead up to a well-stuffed one and then a live one.
Might work up to having a good big picture of one on the nursery wall;
one in a glass case; keep a harmless live one and show it him daily.
Teach him by experience that there's nothing supernatural about a
snake--just a nasty reptile that wants exterminating like other
dangerous creatures--something to _shikar_ with a gun. Nothing at all
supernatural....

But this was "super"-natural, abnormal, a terrible devastating agony
of madness, inherited, incurable probably; part of mind and body and
soul. Inherited, and integrally of him as were the colour of his eyes,
his intelligence, his physique.... Heredity ... pre-natal influence
... breed....

Anyhow, nothing must be attempted yet awhile. Let the poor little chap
get older and stronger, in mind and body, first. Brave as a little
bull-dog in other directions! Absolutely devoid of fear otherwise, and
with a natural bent for fighting and adventure. Climb anywhere,
especially up the hind leg of a camel or a horse, fondle any strange
dog, clamour to be put on any strange horse, go into any deep water,
cheek anybody, bear any ordinary pain with a grin, thrill to any story
of desperate deeds--a fine, brave, manly, hardy little chap, and with
art extraordinary physique for strength and endurance.

Whatever was to be attempted later, he must be watched, day and
night, now. No unattended excursions into the compound, no uncensored
picture-books, no juggling snake-charmers.... Yet it _must_ come,
sooner or later.

Would it ruin his life?

Anyhow, he must never return to India when he grew up, or go to any
snake-producing country, unless he could be cured.

Would it make him that awful thing--a coward?

Would it grow and wax till it dominated his mind--drive him mad?

Would succeeding attacks, following encounters with picture or
reality, progressively increase in severity?

_Her_ boy in an asylum?

No. He was exaggerating an almost expected consequence that might
never be repeated--especially if the child were most carefully and
gradually reintroduced to the present terror. Later though--much later
on.

Meanwhile, wait and hope: hope and wait....



CHAPTER III.

THE SNAKE APPEARS.


The European child who grows up in India, if only to the age of six or
seven years, grows under a severe moral, physical, and mental
handicap.

However wise, devoted, and conscientious its parents may be, the evil
is great, and remains one of the many heavy costs (or punishments) of
Empire.

When the child has no mother and an indifferent father, life's
handicap is even more severe.

By his sixth birthday (the regiment being still in Bimariabad owing to
the prevalence of drought, famine, and cholera elsewhere) Damocles de
Warrenne, knowing the Urdu language and _argot_ perfectly, knew, in
theory also, more of evil, in some directions, than did his own
father.

If the child who grows up absolutely straight-forward, honest,
above-board and pure in thought, word, and deed, in England, deserves
commendation, what does the child deserve who does so in India?

Understanding every word they spoke to one another, the training he
got from native servants was one of undiluted evil and a series of
object-lessons in deceit, petty villainy, chicanery, oppression,
lying, dishonesty, and all immorality. And yet--thanks to his equal
understanding of the words and deeds of Nurse Beaton, Major Decies,
Lieutenant Ochterlonie, his father, the Officers of the Regiment, and
the Europeans of the station--he had a clear, if unconscious,
understanding that what was customary for native servants was neither
customary nor possible for Sahibs....

But he knew too much....

He knew what percentage of his or her pay each servant had to hand to
the "butler-sahib" monthly--or lose his or her place through false
accusation.

He knew why the ayah was graciously exempted from financial toll by
this autocrat. He knew roughly what proportion of the cook's daily
bill represented the actual cost of his daily purchases. He knew what
the door-peon got for consenting to take in the card of the Indian
aspirant for an interview with Colonel de Warrenne.

He knew the terms of the arrangements between the head-syce and the
grain-dealer, the lucerne-grass seller, the _ghas-wallah_[8] who
brought the hay (whereby reduced quantities were accepted in return
for illegal gratifications). He knew of retail re-sales of these
reduced supplies.

He knew of the purchase of oil, rice, condiments, fire-wood and other
commodities from the cook, of the theft (by arrangement) of the
poultry and eggs, of the surreptitious milking of the cow, and of the
simple plan of milking her--under Nurse Beaton's eye--into a
narrow-necked vessel already half full of water.

He knew that the ayah's husband sold the Colonel's soda-water,
paraffin, matches, candles, tobacco, cheroots, fruit, sugar, etc., at
a little portable shop round the corner of the road, and of the terms
on which the _hamal_ and the butler supplied these commodities to the
ayah for transfer to her good man.

He knew too much of the philosophy, manners, habits, and morals of the
dog-boy, of concealed cases of the most infectious diseases in the
compound, of the sub-letting and over-crowding of the servants'
quarters, of incredible quarrels, intrigues, jealousies, revenges,
base villainies and wrongs, superstitions and beliefs.

He would hear the hatching of a plot--an hour's arrangement and
wrangle--whereby, through far-sighted activity, perjury, malpractice
and infinite ingenuity, the ringleader would gain a _pice_ and the
follower a _pie_ (a farthing and a third of a farthing respectively).

Daily he saw the butler steal milk, sugar, and tea, for his own use;
the _hamal_ steal oil when he filled the lamps, for sale; the _malli_
steal flowers, for sale; the coachman steal carriage-candles; the cook
steal a moiety of everything that passed through his hands--every one
in that black underworld stealing, lying, back-biting, cheating,
intriguing (and all meanwhile strictly and stoutly religious, even
the sweeper-descended Goanese cook, the biggest thief of all, purging
his Christian soul on Sunday mornings by Confession, and fortifying
himself against the temptations of the Evil One at early Mass).

Between these _nowker log_, the servant-people, and his own _jat_ or
class, the _Sahib-log_, the master-people, were the troopers, splendid
Sikhs, Rajputs, Pathans and Punjabis, men of honour, courage,
physique, tradition. Grand fighters, loyal as steel while properly
understood and properly treated--in other words, while properly
officered. (Men, albeit, with deplorably little understanding of, or
regard for, Pagett, M.P., and his kind, who yearn to do so much for
them.)

These men Damocles admired and loved, though even _they_ were apt to
be very naughty in the bazaar, to gamble and to toy with opium, bhang,
and (alleged) brandy, to dally with houris and hearts'-delights, to
use unkind measures towards the good _bunnia_ and _sowkar_ who had
lent them monies, and to do things outside the Lines that were not
known in the Officers' Mess.

The boy preferred the Rissaldar-Major even to some Sahibs of his
acquaintance--that wonderful old man-at-arms, horseman, _shikarri_,
athlete, gentleman. (Yet how strange and sad to see him out of his
splendid uniform, in sandals, _dhotie_, untrammelled shirt-tails,
dingy old cotton coat and loose _puggri_, undistinguishable from a
school-master, clerk, or post-man; so _un_-sahib-like.)

And what a fine riding-master he made for an ambitious, fearless
boy--though Ochterlonie Sahib said he was too cruel to be a good
_horse_-master.

How _could_ people be civilians and live away from regiments? Live
without ever touching swords, lances, carbines, saddles?

What a queer feeling it gave one to see the regiment go past the
saluting base on review-days, at the gallop, with lances down. One
wanted to shout, to laugh--to _cry_. (It made one's mouth twitch and
chin work.)

Oh, to _lead_ the regiment as Father did--horse and man one welded
piece of living mechanism.

Father said you couldn't ride till you had taken a hundred tosses,
been pipped a hundred times. A hundred falls! Surely Father had
_never_ been thrown--it must be impossible for such a rider to come
off. See him at polo.

By his sixth birthday Damocles de Warrenne, stout and sturdy, was an
accomplished rider and never so happy (save when fencing) as when
flogging his active and spirited little pony along the "rides" or over
the dusty _maidans_ and open country of Bimariabad. To receive a
quarter-mile start on the race-course and ride a mile race against
Khodadad Khan on his troop-horse, or with one of the syces on one of
the Colonel's polo-ponies, or with some obliging male or female early
morning rider, was the joy of his life. Should he suspect the
competitor of "pulling" as he came alongside, that the tiny pony might
win, the boy would lash at both horses impartially.

People who pitied him (and they were many) wondered as to how soon he
would break his neck, and remonstrated with his father for allowing
him to ride alone, or in charge of an attendant unable to control him.

In the matter of his curious love of fencing Major John Decies was
deeply concerned, obtained more and more details of his "dweam,"
taught him systematically and scientifically to fence, bought him
foils and got them shortened. He also interested him in a series of
muscle-developing exercises which the boy called his "dismounted
squad-dwill wiv'out arms," and performed frequently daily, and with
gusto.

Lieutenant Lord Ochterlonie (Officers' Light-Weight Champion at
Aldershot) rigged him up a small swinging sand-bag and taught him to
punch with either hand, and drilled him in foot-work for boxing.

Later he brought the very capable ten-year-old son of a boxing
Troop-Sergeant and set him to make it worth Dam's while to guard
smartly, to learn to keep his temper, and to receive a blow with a
grin.

(Possibly a better education than learning declensions, conjugations,
and tables from a Eurasian "governess".)

He learnt to read unconsciously and automatically by repeating, after
Nurse Beaton, the jingles and other letter-press beneath the pictures
in the books obtained for him under Major Decies' censorship.

On his sixth birthday, Major John Decies had Damocles over to his
bungalow for the day, gave him a box of lead soldiers and a
schooner-rigged ship, helped him to embark them and sail them in the
bath to foreign parts, trapped a squirrel and let it go again, allowed
him to make havoc of his possessions, fired at bottles with his
revolver for the boy's delectation, shot a crow or two with a
rook-rifle, played an improvised game of fives with a tennis-ball,
told him tales, and generally gave up the day to his amusement. What
he did _not_ do was to repeat the experiment of a year ago, or make
any kind of reference to snakes....

A few days later, on the morning of the New-Year's-Day Review, Colonel
Matthew de Warrenne once again strode up and down his verandah,
arrayed in full review-order, until it should be time to ride to the
regimental parade-ground.

He had coarsened perceptibly in the six years since he had lost his
wife, and the lines that had grown deepest on his hard, handsome face
were those between his eyebrows and beside his mouth--the mouth of an
unhappy, dissipated, cynical man....

He removed his right-hand gauntlet and consulted his watch.... Quarter
of an hour yet.

He continued the tramp that always reminded Damocles of the restless,
angry to-and-fro pacing of the big bear in the gardens. Both father
and the bear seemed to fret against fate, to suffer under a sense of
injury; both seemed dangerous, fierce, admirable. Hearing the clink
and clang and creak of his father's movement, Damocles scrambled from
his cot and crept down the stairs, pink-toed, blue-eyed, curly-headed,
night-gowned, to peep through the crack of the drawing-room door at
his beautiful father. He loved to see him in review uniform--so much
more delightful than plain khaki--pale blue, white, and gold, in full
panoply of accoutrement, jackbooted and spurred, and with the great
turban that made his English face look more English still.

Yes--he would ensconce himself behind the drawing-room door and watch.
Perhaps "Fire" would be bobbery when the Colonel mounted him, would
get "what-for" from whip and spur, and be put over the compound wall
instead of being allowed to canter down the drive and out at the
gate....

Colonel de Warrenne stepped into his office to get a cheroot.
Re-appearing in the verandah with it in his mouth he halted and thrust
his hand inside his tunic for his small match-case. Ere he could use
the match his heart was momentarily chilled by the most blood-curdling
scream he had ever heard. It appeared to come from the drawing-room.
(Colonel de Warrenne never lit the cheroot that he had put to his
lips--nor ever another again.) Springing to the door, one of a
dozen that opened into the verandah, he saw his son struggling on the
ground, racked by convulsive spasms, with glazed, sightless eyes and
foaming mouth, from which issued appalling, blood-curdling shrieks.
Just above him, on the fat satin cushion in the middle of a low
settee, a huge half-coiled cobra swayed from side to side in the Dance
of Death.

"_It's under my foot--it's moving--moving--moving out_," shrieked the
child.

Colonel de Warrenne attended to the snake first. He half-drew his
sword and then slammed it back into the scabbard. No--his sword was
not for snakes, whatever his son might be. On the wall was a trophy of
Afghan weapons, one of which was a sword that had played a prominent
part on the occasion of the Colonel's winning of the Victoria Cross.

Striding to the wall he tore the sword down, drew it and, with raised
arm, sprang towards the cobra. A good "Cut Three" across the coils
would carve it into a dozen pieces. No. Lenore made that cushion--and
Lenore's cushion made more appeal to Colonel de Warrenne than did
Lenore's son. No. A neat horizontal "Cut Two," just below the head,
with the deadly "drawing" motion on it, would meet the case nicely.
Swinging it to the left, the Colonel subconsciously placed the sword,
"resting flat on the left shoulder, edge to the left, hand in front of
the shoulder and square with the elbow, elbow as high as the hand," as
per drill-book, and delivered a lightning stroke--thinking as he did
so that the Afghan _tulwar_ is an uncommonly well-balanced, handy
cutting-weapon, though infernally small in the hilt.

The snake's head fell with a thud upon the polished boards between the
tiger-skins, and the body dropped writhing and twitching on to the
settee.

Damocles appeared to be dead. Picking him up, the callous-hearted
father strode out to where Khodadad Khan held "Fire's" bridle, handed
him to the orderly, mounted, received him again from the man, and,
holding him in his strong right arm, cantered to the bungalow of Major
John Decies--since it lay on the road to the parade-ground.

Would the jerking hurt the little beggar in his present comatose
state? Well, brats that couldn't stand a little jerking were better
dead, especially when they screamed and threw fits at the sight of a
common snake.

Turning into Major Decies' compound and riding up to his porch, the
Colonel saw the object of his search, arrayed in pyjamas, seated in
his long cane chair beside a tray of tea, toast, and fruit, in the
verandah.

"Morning, de Warrenne," he cried cheerily.

"How's little--" and caught sight of the inanimate child.

"Little coward's fainted after throwing a fit--over a common snake,"
observed the Colonel coolly.

"Give him here," answered the Major, taking the boy tenderly in his
arms,--"and kindly--er--clear out."

He did not wish to strike his friend and senior. How the black rage
welled up in his heart against the callous brute who had dared to
marry Lenore Seymour Stukeley.

Colonel de Warrenne wheeled his horse without a word, and rode out of
Major Decies' life and that of his son.

Galloping to the parade-ground he spoke a few curt words to his
Adjutant, inspected the _rissala_, and then rode at its head to the
brigade parade-ground where it took up its position on the left flank
of the Guns and the Queen's Greys, "sat at ease," and awaited the
arrival of the Chief Commissioner at the saluting-base. A British
Infantry regiment marched to the left flank of the 118th (Bombay)
Lancers, left-turned and stood at ease. Another followed and was
followed in turn by Native Infantry Regiments--grand Sikhs in scarlet
tunics, baggy black breeches and blue putties; hefty Pathans and
Baluchis in green tunics, crimson breeches and high white gaiters,
sturdy little Gurkhas in rifle-green, stalwart Punjabi Mahommedans.

The great double line grew and grew, and stood patiently waiting,
Horse, Foot, and Guns, facing the sun and a dense crowd of spectators
ranked behind the rope-encircled, guard-surrounded saluting-base over
which flew the Flag of England.

The Brigadier and his Staff rode on to the ground, were saluted by
the mile of troops, and took up their position.

Followed the Chief Commissioner in his state carriage, accompanied by
a very Distinguished Guest, and surrounded by his escort. The mile of
men again came to attention and the review began. Guns boomed, massed
bands played the National Anthem, the crackling rattle of the
_feu-de-joie_ ran up the front rank and down the rear.

After the inspection and the salutes came the march-past by the
regiments.

Now the Distinguished Visitor's wife had told the Chief Commissioner
that she "did not want to see the cavalry go past at the gallop as it
raised such a dreadful dust". But her maid bungled, her toilette
failed, and she decided not to accompany her husband to the Review at
all. Her husband, the Distinguished Visitor, _did_ desire to see the
cavalry go past at the gallop, and so the Chief Commissioner's
Distinguished Visitor's wife's maid's bungling had a tremendous
influence upon the fate of Damocles de Warrenne, as will be seen.

Passed the massed Guns at the walk, followed by the Cavalry at the
walk in column of squadrons and the Infantry in column of companies,
each unit saluting the Chief Commissioner by turning "eyes right" as
it passed the spot where he sat on horseback surrounded by the civil
and military staffs.

Wheeling to the left at the end of the ground the Guns and Cavalry
again passed, this time at the trot, while the Infantry completed its
circular march to its original position.

Finally the Cavalry passed for the third time, and now at the gallop,
an orderly whirlwind, a controlled avalanche of men and horses, with
levelled lances, and the hearts of all men were stirred at one of the
most stirring sights and sounds in the world--a cavalry charge.

At the head of the leading squadron galloped Colonel de Warrenne,
cool, methodical, keeping a distant flag-staff in line with a still
more distant church spire, that he might lead the regiment in a
perfectly straight line. (Few who have not tried it realize the
difficulty of leading a galloping line of men absolutely straight and
at true right-angles to the line of their ranks.)

On thundered the squadrons unbending of rank, uncrowded, unopened,
squadron-leaders maintaining distance, the whole mass as ordered,
shapely, and precisely correct as when at the walk.

Past the saluting-base thundered the squadrons and in full career
Colonel de Warrenne's charger put his near fore into ground
honey-combed by insect, reptile, or burrowing beast, crashed on its
head, rolled like a shot rabbit, and Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne
lay dead--killed by his own sword.

Like his ancestors of that fated family, he had died by the sword, but
unlike them, he had died by the _hilt_ of it.

Major John Decies, I.M.S., Civil Surgeon of Bimariabad, executor of
the will of the late Colonel de Warrenne and guardian of his son,
cabled the sad news of the Colonel's untimely death to Sir Gerald
Seymour Stukeley at Monksmead, he being, so far as Major Decies knew,
the boy's only male relative in England--uncle of the late Mrs. de
Warrenne.

The reply, which arrived in a day or two, appeared from its redundancy
and incoherence to be the composition of Miss Yvette Seymour Stukeley,
and bade Major Decies either send or bring the infant Damocles to
Monksmead _immediately_.

The Major decided to apply forthwith for such privilege-leave and
furlough as were due to him, and to proceed to England with the boy.
It would be as well that his great-uncle should hear from him,
personally, of the matter of the child's mental condition resultant
upon the tragedy of his own birth and his mother's death. The Major
was decidedly anxious as to the future in this respect--all might be
well in time, and all might be very far indeed from well.

Nurse Beaton absolutely and flatly refused to be parted from her
charge, and the curious party of three set sail for England in due
course.

"Hm!--He's every inch a Stukeley," remarked the General when Damocles
de Warrenne was ushered into his presence in the great library at
Monksmead. "Hope he's Stukeley by nature too. Sturdy young fella!
'Spose he's vetted sound in wind and limb?"

The Major replied that the boy was physically rather remarkably
strong, mentally very sound, and in character all that could be
desired. He then did his best to convey to the General an
understanding of the psychic condition that must be a cause of
watchfulness and anxiety on the part of those who guarded his
adolescence.

At dinner, over the General's wonderful Clos Vougeot, the Major again
returned to the subject and felt that his words of advice fell upon
somewhat indifferent and uncomprehending ears.

It was the General's boast that he had never feed a doctor in his
life, and his impression that a sound resort for any kind of invalid
is a lethal chamber....

The seven years since the Major had last seen her, seemed to have
dealt lightly with the sad-faced, pretty Miss Yvette, gentle, good,
and very kind. Over the boy she rhapsodized to her own content and his
embarrassment. Effusive endearments and embraces were new to Dam, and
he appeared extraordinarily ignorant of the art of kissing.

"Oh, how like his dear Father!" she would exclaim afresh every few
minutes, to the Major's slight annoyance and the General's plain
disgust.

"Every inch a Stukeley!" he would growl in reply.

But Yvette Seymour Stukeley had prayed for Colonel de Warrenne nightly
for seven years and had idealized him beyond recognition. Possibly
Fate's greatest kindness to her was to ordain that she should not see
him as he had become in fact, and compare him with her wondrous mental
image.... The boy was to her, must be, should be, the very image of
her life's hero and beloved....

The depolarized and bewildered Damocles found himself in a strange and
truly foreign land, a queer, cold, dismal country inhabited by vast
quantities of "second-class sahibs," as he termed the British lower
middle-class and poor, a country of a strange greenness and
orderedness, where there were white servants, strangely conjoined rows
of houses in the villages, dangerous-looking fires inside the houses,
a kind of tomb-stones on all house-tops, strange horse-drawn vehicles,
butlerless and _ghari_[9]-less sahibs, and an utter absence of
"natives," sepoys, _byle-gharies_,[10] camels, monkeys, kites,
squirrels, bulbuls, _minahs_,[11] mongooses, palm-trees, and temples.
Cattle appeared to have no humps, crows to have black heads, and trees
to have no fruit. The very monsoon seemed inextricably mixed with the
cold season. Fancy the rains coming in the cold weather! Perhaps there
was no hot weather and nobody went to the hills in this strange
country of strange people, strange food, strange customs. Nobody
seemed to have any tents when they left the station for the districts,
nor to take any bedding when they went on tour or up-country. A queer,
foreign land.

But Monksmead was a most magnificent "bungalow" standing in a truly
beautiful "compound"--wherein the very _bhistis_[12] and _mallis_ were
European and appeared to be second-class sahibs.

Marvellous was the interior of the bungalow with its countless rooms
and mountainous stair-cases (on the wall of one of which hung _the
Sword_ which he had never seen but instantly recognized) and its army
of white servants headed by the white butler (so like the Chaplain of
Bimariabad in grave respectability and solemn pompousness) and its
extraordinary white "ayahs" or maids, and silver-haired Mrs. Pont,
called the "house-keeper". Was she a _pukka_ Mem-Sahib or a
_nowker_[13] or what? And how did she "keep" the house?

A wonderful place--but far and away the most thrilling and delightful
of its wonders was the little white girl, Lucille--Damocles' first
experience of the charming genus.

The boy never forgot his first meeting with Lucille.

On his arrival at Monksmead he had been "vetted," as he expressed it,
by the Burra-Sahib, the General; and then taken to an attractive place
called "the school-room" and there had found Lucille....

"Hullo! Boy," had been her greeting. "What's your name?" He had
attentively scrutinized a small white-clad, blue-sashed maiden, with
curling chestnut hair, well-opened hazel eyes, decided chin, Greek
mouth and aristocratic cheek-bones. A maiden with a look of blood and
breed about her. (He did not sum her up in these terms at the time.)

"Can you ride, Boy?"

"A bit."

"Can you fight?"

"A bit."

"Can you swim?"

"Not well."

"_I_ can--ever so farther. D'you know French and German?"

"Not a word."

"Play the piano?"

"Never heard of it. D'you play it with cards or dice?"

"Lucky dog! It's music. I have to practise an hour a day."

"What for?"

"Nothing ... it's lessons. Beastly. How old are you?"

"Seven--er--nearly."

"So'm I--nearly. I've got to be six first though. I shall have a
birthday next week. A big one. Have you brought any ellyfunts from
India?"

"I've never seen a nellyfunt--only in pictures."

A shudder shook the boy's sturdy frame.

"Why do you go like that? Feel sick?"

"No. I don't know. I seemed to remember something--in a book. I dream
about it. There's a nasty blue room with a mud floor. And _Something_.
Beastly. Makes you yell out and you can't. You can't run away either.
But the Sword dream is lovely."

Lucille appeared puzzled and put this incoherence aside.

"What a baby never to see ellyfunts! I've seen lots. Hundreds. Zoo.
Circuses. Persessions. Camels, too."

"Oh, I used to ride a camel every day. There was one in the compound
with his _oont-wallah_,[14] Abdul Ghaffr; and Khodadad Khan used to
beat the _oont-wallah_ on cold mornings to warm himself."

"What's an _oont-wallah_?"

"Don't you _know_? Why, he's just the _oont-wallah_, of course. Who'd
graze the camel or load it up if there wasn't one?"

At tea in the nursery the young lady suddenly remarked:--

"I like you, Boy. You're worth nine Haddocks."

This cryptic valuation puzzled Damocles the more in that he had never
seen or heard of a haddock. Had he been acquainted with the fowl he
might have been yet more astonished.

Later he discovered that the comparison involved the fat boy who sat
solemnly stuffing on the other side of the table, his true baptismal
name being Haddon.

Yes, Lucille was a revelation, a marvel.

Far quicker of mind than he, cleverer at games and inventing "make
believe," very strong, active, and sporting, she was the most
charming, interesting, and attractive experience in his short but
eventful life.

How he loved to make her laugh and clap her hands! How he enjoyed her
quaint remarks, speculations, fairy-tales and jokes. How he yearned to
win her approval and admiration. How he strove to please her!

In Lucille and his wonderful new surroundings he soon forgot Major
Decies, who returned to live (and, at a ripe old age, to die) at
Bimariabad, where had lived and died the woman whom he had so truly
and purely loved. The place where he had known her was the only place
for him.

On each of his birthdays Damocles received a long fatherly letter and
a handsome present from the Major, and by the time he went away to
school at Wellingborough, he wondered who on earth the Major might be.

To his great delight Damocles found that he was not doomed to
discontinue his riding, fencing, boxing, and "dismounted drill without
arms".

General Seymour Stukeley sent for a certain Sergeant Havlan (once a
trooper in his own regiment), rough-rider, swordsman, and boxer, now a
professional trainer, and bade him see that the boy learned all he
could teach him of arms and horsemanship, boxing, swimming, and
general physical prowess and skill. Lucille and Haddon Berners were to
join in to the extent to which their age and sex permitted.

The General intended his great-nephew to be worthy of his Stukeley
blood, and to enter Sandhurst a finished man-at-arms and horseman, and
to join his regiment, Cavalry, of course, with nothing much to learn
of sword, lance, rifle, revolver, and horse.

Sergeant Havlan soon found that he had little need to begin at the
beginning with Damocles de Warrenne in the matter of riding, fencing
or boxing, and was unreasonably annoyed thereat.

In time, it became the high ambition and deep desire of Dam to
overcome Sergeant Havlan's son in battle with the gloves. As young
Havlan was a year his senior, a trained infant prodigy, and destined
for the Prize Ring, there was plenty for him to learn and to do.

With foil or sabre the boy was beneath Dam's contempt.

Daily the children were in Sergeant Havlan's charge for riding and
physical drill, Dam getting an extra hour in the evening for the more
manly and specialized pursuits suitable to his riper years.

He and Lucille loved it all, and the Haddock bitterly loathed it.

Until Miss Smellie came Dam was a happy boy--but for queer sudden
spasms of terror of Something unknown; and, after her arrival, he
would have been well content could he have been assured of an early
opportunity of attending her obsequies and certain of a long-postponed
resurrection; well content, and often wildly happy (with Lucille) ...
but for the curious undefinable fear of Something ... Something about
which he had the most awful dreams ... Something in a blue room with a
mud floor. Something that seemed at times to move beneath his foot,
making his blood freeze, his knees smite together, the sunlight turn
to darkness....



CHAPTER IV.

THE SWORD AND THE SOUL.


One of the very earliest of all Dam's memories in after life--for in a
few years he forgot India absolutely--was of _the Sword_ (that hung on
the oak-panelled wall of the staircase by the portrait of a cavalier),
and of a gentle, sad-eyed lady, Auntie Yvette, who used to say:--

"Yes, sonny darling, it is more than two-hundred-and-fifty years old.
It belonged to Sir Seymour Stukeley, who carried the King's Standard
at Edgehill and died with that sword in his hand ... _You_ shall wear
a sword some day."

(He did--with a difference.)

The sword grew into the boy's life and he would rather have owned it
than the mechanical steamboat with real brass cannon for which he
prayed to God so often, so earnestly, and with such faith. On his
seventh birthday he preferred a curious request, which had curious
consequences.

"Can I take the sword to bed with me to-night, Dearest, as it is my
birthday?" he begged. "I won't hurt it."

And the sword was taken down from the oak-panelled wall, cleaned, and
laid on the bed in his room.

"Promise you will not try to take it out of the sheath, sonny
darling," said the gentle, sad-eyed lady as she kissed him "Good
night".

"I promise, Dearest," replied the boy, and she knew that she need have
no fear.

He fell asleep fondling and cuddling the sword that had pierced the
hearts of many men and defended the honour of many ancestors, and
dreamed, with far greater vividness and understanding, the dream he
had so often dreamt before.

Frequently as he dreamed it during his chequered career, it was
henceforth always most vivid and real. It never never varied in the
slightest detail, and he generally dreamed it on the night before some
eventful, dangerful day on which he risked his life or fought for it.

Of the early dreamings, of course, he understood little, but while he
was still almost a boy he most fully understood the significance of
every word, act, and detail of the marvellous, realistic dream.

It began with a view of a camp of curious little bell-tents about
which strode remarkable, big-booted, long-haired, bedizened
men--looking strangely effeminate and strangely fierce, with their
feathered hats, curls, silk sashes, velvet coats, and with their long
swords, cruel faces, and savage oaths.

Some wore steel breastplates, like that of the suit of armour in the
hall, and steel helmets. The sight of the camp thrilled the boy in
his dream, and yet he knew that he had seen it all before actually,
and in real life--in some former life.

Beside one of a small cluster of tents that stood well apart from the
rest sat a big man who instantly reminded the boy of his dread
"Grandfather," whom he would have loved to have loved had he been
given the chance.

The big man was even more strangely attired than those others who
clumped and clattered about the lower part of the camp.

Fancy a great big strong man with long curls, a lace collar, and a
velvet coat--like a kid going to a party!

The velvet coat had the strangest sleeves, too--made to button to the
elbow and full of slits that seemed to have been mended underneath
with blue silk. There was a regular pattern of these silk-mended slits
about the body of the coat, too, and funny silk-covered buttons.

On his head the man had a great floppy felt hat with a huge feather--a
hat very like one that Dearest wore, only bigger.

One of his long curls was tied with a bow of ribbon--like young
Lucille wore--and the boy felt quite uncomfortable as he noted it. A
grown man--the silly ass! And, yes! he had actually got lace round the
bottoms of his quaint baggy knickerbockers--as well as lace cuffs!

The boy could see it, where one of the great boots had sagged down
below the knee.

Extraordinary boots they were, too. Nothing like "Grumper's"
riding-boots. They were yellowish in colour, and dull, not nicely
polished, and although the square-toed, ugly foot part looked solid as
a house, the legs were more like wrinkled leather stockings, and so
long that the pulled-up one came nearly to the hip.

Spurs had made black marks on the yellow ankles, and saddle and
stirrup-leather had rubbed the legs....

And a sash! Whoever heard of a grown-up wearing a sash? It was a great
blue silk thing, wound round once or twice, and tied with a great bow,
the ends of which hung down in front.

Of all the Pip-squeaks!

And yet the big man's face was not that of a Pip-squeak--far from it.
It was very like Grumper's in fact.

The boy liked the face. It was strong and fierce, thin and
clean-cut--marred only, in his estimation, by the funny little tuft of
hair on the lower lip. He liked the wavy, rough, up-turned moustache,
but not that silly tuft. How nice he would look with his hair cut, his
lower lip shaved, and his ridiculous silks, velvet, and lace exchanged
for a tweed shooting-suit or cricketing-flannels! How Grumper, Father,
Major Decies, and even Khodadad Khan and the sepoys would have laughed
at the get-up. Nay, they would have blushed for the fellow--a Sahib, a
gentleman--to tog himself up so!

The boy also liked the man's voice when he turned towards the tent and
called:--

"Lubin, you drunken dog, come hither," a call which brought forth a
servant-like person, who, by reason of his clean-shaven face and red
nose, reminded the boy of Pattern the coachman.

He wore a dark cloth suit, cotton stockings, shoes that had neither
laces nor buttons, but fastened with a kind of strap and buckle, and,
queer creature, a big Eton collar!

"Sword and horse, rascal," said the gentleman, "and warn Digby for
duty. Bring me wine and a manchet of bread."

The man bowed and re-entered the tent, to emerge a moment later
bearing _the Sword_.

How the cut-steel hilt sparkled and shone! How bright and red the
leather scabbard--now black, dull, cracked and crumbling. But it was
unmistakeably _the_ Sword.

It hung from a kind of broad cross-belt and was attached to it by
several parallel buckled straps--not like Father's Sam Browne belt at
all.

As the gentleman rose from his stool (he must have been over six feet
in height) Lubin passed the cross-belt over his head and raised left
arm so that it rested on his right shoulder, and the Sword hung from
hip to heel.

To the boy it had always seemed such a huge, unwieldy thing. At this
big man's side it looked--just right.

Lubin then went off at a trot to where long lines of bay horses pawed
the ground, swished their tails, tossed their heads, and fidgeted
generally....

From a neighbouring tent came the sounds of a creaking camp-bed, two
feet striking the ground with violence, and a prodigious, prolonged
yawn.

A voice then announced that all parades should be held in Hell, and
that it was better to be dead than damned. Why should gentlemen drill
on a fine evening while the world held wine and women?

After a brief space, occupied with another mighty yawn, it loudly and
tunefully requested some person or persons unknown to superintend its
owner's obsequies.

"Lay a garland on my hearse
Of the dismal yew;
Maidens, willow branches bear;
Say I died true.
My love was false, but I was firm
From my hour of birth.
Upon my buried body lie
Lightly, gentle earth...."


"May it do so soon," observed the tall gentleman distinctly.

"What ho, without there! That you, Seymour, lad?" continued the voice.
"Tarry a moment. Where's that cursed ..." and sounds of hasty search
among jingling accoutrements were followed by a snatch of song of
which the boy instantly recognized the words. He had often heard
Dearest sing them.

"Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine:
Or leave a kiss within the cup
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine."

Lubin appeared, bearing a funny, fat, black bottle, a black cup (both
appeared to be of leather), and a kind of leaden plate on which was a
small funnily-shaped loaf of bread.

"'Tis well you want none," observed the tall gentleman, "I had asked
you to help me crush a flask else," and on the word the singer emerged
from the tent.

"Jest not on solemn subjects, Seymour," he said soberly, "Wine may
carry me over one more pike-parade.... Good lad.... Here's to thee....
Why should gentlemen drill?... I came to fight for the King, not to
... But, isn't this thy day for de Warrenne? Oh, ten million fiends!
Plague and pest! And I cannot see thee stick him, Seymour ..." and the
speaker dashed the black drinking-vessel violently on the ground,
having carefully emptied it.

The boy did not much like him.

His lace collar was enormous and his black velvet coat was embroidered
all over with yellow silk designs, flowers, and patterns. It was like
the silly mantel-borders and things that Mrs. Pont, the housekeeper,
did in her leisure time. ("Cruel-work" she called it, and the boy
quite agreed.)

This man's face was pink and fair, his hair golden.

"Warn him not of the hilt-thrust, Seymour, lad," he said suddenly.
"Give it him first--for a sneering, bullying, taverning, chambering
knave."

The tall gentleman glanced at his down-flung cup, raised his eyebrows,
and drank from the bottle.

"Such _would_ annoy _you_, Hal, of course," he murmured.

A man dressed in what appeared to be a striped football jersey under a
leather waistcoat and steel breast-plate, high boots and a steel
helmet led up a great horse.

The boy loved the horse. It was very like "Fire".

The gentleman (called Seymour) patted it fondly, stroked his nose, and
gave it a piece of his bread.

"Well, Crony Long-Face?" he said fondly.

He then put his left foot in the great box-stirrup and swung himself
into the saddle--a very different kind of saddle from those with which
the boy was familiar.

It reminded him of Circuses and the Lord Mayor's Show. It was big
enough for two and there was a lot of velvet and stuff about it and a
fine gold _C.R._--whatever that might mean--on a big pretty cloth
under it (perhaps the gentleman's initials were C.R. just as his own
were D. de W. and on some of his things).

The great fat handle of a great fat pistol stuck up on each side of
the front of the saddle.

"Follow," said the gentleman to the iron-bound person, and moved off
at a walk towards a road not far distant.

"Stap him! Spit him, Seymour," called the pink-faced man, "and warn
him not of the hilt-thrust."

As he passed the corner of the camp, two men with great axe-headed
spear things performed curious evolutions with their cumbersome
weapons, finally laying the business ends of them on the ground as the
gentleman rode by.

He touched his hat to them with his switch.

Continuing for a mile or so, at a walk, he entered a dense coppice and
dismounted.

"Await me," he said to his follower, gave him the curb-rein, and
walked on to an open glade a hundred yards away.

(It was a perfect spot for Red Indians, Smugglers, Robin Hood,
Robinson Crusoe or any such game, the boy noted.)

Almost at the same time, three other men entered the clearing, two
together, and one from a different quarter.

"For the hundredth time, Seymour, lad, _mention not the hilt-thrust_,
as you love me and the King," said this last one quietly as he
approached the gentleman; and then the two couples behaved in a
ridiculous manner with their befeathered hats, waving them in great
circles as they bowed to each other, and finally laying them on their
hearts before replacing them.

"Mine honour is my guide, Will," answered the gentleman called
Seymour, somewhat pompously the boy considered, though he did not know
the word.

Sir Seymour then began to remove the slashed coat and other garments
until he stood in his silk stockings, baggy knickerbockers, and jolly
cambric shirt--nice and loose and free at the neck as the boy thought.

He rolled up his right sleeve, drew the sword, and made one or two
passes--like Sergeant Havlan always did before he began fencing.

The other two men, meantime, had been behaving somewhat
similarly--talking together earnestly and one of them undressing.

The one who did this was a very powerful-looking man and the arm he
bared reminded the boy of that of a "Strong Man" he had seen recently
at Monksmead Fair, in a tent, and strangely enough his face reminded
him of that of his own Father.

He had a nasty face though, the boy considered, and looked like a
bounder because he had pimples, a swelly nose, a loud voice, and a
swanky manner. The boy disapproved of him wholly. It was like his
cheek to resemble Father, as well as to have the same name.

His companion came over to the gentleman called Will, carrying the
strong man's bared sword and, bowing ridiculously (with his hat, both
hands, and his feet) said:--

"Shall we measure, Captain Ormonde Delorme?"

Captain Delorme then took the sword from Sir Seymour, bowed as the
other had done, and handed him the sword with a mighty flourish, hilt
first.

It proved to be half an inch shorter than the other, and Captain
Delorme remarked that his Principal would waive that.

He and the strong man's companion then chose a spot where the grass
was very short and smooth, where there were no stones, twigs or
inequalities, and where the light of the setting sun fell sideways
upon the combatants--who tip-toed gingerly, and rather ridiculously,
in their stockinged feet, to their respective positions. Facing each
other, they saluted with their swords and then stood with the right
arm pointing downwards and across the body so that the hilt of the
sword was against the right thigh and the blade directed to the rear.

"One word, Sir Matthew de Warrenne," said Sir Seymour as they paused
in this attitude. "If my point rests for a second on your hilt _you
are a dead man_."

Sir Matthew laughed in an ugly manner and replied:--

"And what is your knavish design now, Sir Seymour Stukeley?"

"My design _was_ to warn you of an infallible trick of fence, Sir
Matthew. It _now_ is to kill you--for the insult, and on behalf of ...
your own unhappy daughter."

The other yawned and remarked to his friend:--

"I have a parade in half an hour."

"On guard," cried the person addressed, drawing his sword and
striking an attitude.

"Play," cried Captain Delorme, doing similarly.

Both principals crouched somewhat, held their swords horizontal, with
point to the adversary's breast and hilt drawn back, arm sharply
bent--for both, it appeared, had perfected the Art of Arts in Italy.

These niceties escaped the boy in his earlier dreamings of the
dream--but the time came when he could name every pass, parry,
invitation, and riposte.

The strong man suddenly threw his sword-hand high and towards his left
shoulder, keeping his sword horizontal, and exposing the whole of his
right side.

Sir Seymour lunged hard for his ribs, beneath the right arm-pit and,
as the other's sword swooped down to catch his, twist it over, and
riposte, he feinted, cleared the descending sword, and thrust at the
throat. A swift ducking crouch let the sword pass over the strong
man's head, and only a powerful French circular parry saved the life
of Sir Seymour Stukeley.

As the boy realized later, he fought Italian in principle, and used
the best of French parries, ripostes, and tricks, upon occasion--and
his own perfected combination of the two schools made him, according
to Captain Delorme, the best fencer in the King's army. So at least
the Captain said to the other second, as they amicably chatted while
their friends sought to slay each other before their hard,
indifferent-seeming eyes.

To the boy their talk conveyed little--as yet.

The duellists stepped back as the "phrase" ended, and then Sir Seymour
gave an "invitation," holding his sword-arm wide to the right of his
body. Sir Matthew lunged, his sword was caught, carried out to the
left, and held there as Sir Seymour's blade slid inward along it. Just
in time, Sir Matthew's inward pressure carried Sir Seymour's sword
clear to the right again. Sir Matthew disengaged over, and, as the
sudden release brought Sir Seymour's sword springing in, he thrust
under that gentleman's right arm and scratched his side.

As he recovered his sword he held it for a moment with the point
raised toward Sir Seymour's face. Instantly Sir Seymour's point
tinkled on his hilt, and Captain Delorme murmured "Finis" beneath his
breath.

Sir Stukeley Seymour's blade shot in, Sir Matthew's moved to parry,
and the point of the advancing sword flickered under his hand, turned
upward, and pierced his heart.

"Yes," said Captain Delorme, as the stricken man fell, "if he parries
outward the point goes under, if he anticipates a feint it comes
straight in, and if he parries a lunge-and-feint-under, he gets
feint-over before he can come up. I have never seen Stukeley miss when
once he rests on the hilt. _Exit_ de Warrenne--and Hell the worse for
it----" and the boy awoke.

He kissed the sword and fell asleep again.

One day, when receiving his morning fencing and boxing lessons of
Sergeant Havlan, he astonished that warrior (and made a bitter enemy
of him) by warning him against allowing his blade to rest on the
Sergeant's hilt, and by hitting him clean and fair whenever it was
allowed to happen. Also, by talking of "the Italian school of fence"
and of "invitations"--the which were wholly outside the
fencing-philosophy of the French-trained swordsman. At the age of
fifteen the boy was too good for the man who had been the best that
Aldershot had known, who had run a _salle d'armes_ for years, and who
was much sought by ambitious members of the Sword Club.

The Sword, from the day of that newly vivid dream, became to the boy
what his Symbol is to the religious fanatic, and he was content to sit
and stare at it, musing, for hours.

The sad-eyed, sentimental lady encouraged him and spoke of Knights,
Chivalry, Honour, _Noblesse Oblige_, and Ideals such as the nineteenth
century knew not and the world will never know again.

"Be a real and true Knight, sonny darling," she would say, "and live
to _help_. Help women--God knows they need it. And try to be able to
say at the end of your life, 'I have never made a woman weep'. Yes--be
a Knight and have 'Live pure, Speak true, Right wrong' on your shield.
Be a Round Table Knight and ride through the world bravely. Your dear
Father was a great swordsman. You may have the sword down and kiss it,
the first thing every morning--and you must salute it every night as
you go up to bed. You shall wear a sword some day."

(Could the poor lady but have foreseen!)

She also gave him over-copiously and over-early of her simple,
fervent, vague Theology, and much Old and New Testament History, with
the highest and noblest intentions--and succeeded in implanting a deep
distrust and dislike of "God" in his acutely intelligent mind.

To a prattling baby, _Mother_ should be God enough--God and all the
angels and paradise in one ... (but he had never known a mother and
Nurse Beaton had ever been more faithfully conscientious in deed than
tenderly loving in manner).

She filled his soul with questionings and his mouth with questions
which she could not answer, and which he answered for himself. The
questions sometimes appalled her.

If God so loved the world, why did He let the Devil loose in it?

If God could do _anything_, why didn't He lay the Devil out with one
hand?

If He always rewarded the Good and punished the Bad, why was Dearest
so unhappy, and drunken Poacher Iggulsby so very gay and prosperously
naughty?

He knew too that his dead Father had not been "good," for he heard
servant-talk, and terrible old "Grandfather" always forgot that
"Little Pitchers have Long Ears".

If God always answered devout and faith-inspired prayer, why did He
not

1. Save Caiaphas the cat when earnestly
prayed for--having been run over by
Pattern in the dog-cart, coming out of
the stables?

2. Send the mechanical steam-boat so long
and earnestly prayed for, with Faith and
Belief?

3. Help the boy to lead a higher and a better
life, to eat up his crusts and fat as directed,
to avoid chivvying the hens, inking his
fingers, haunting the stables, stealing
green apples in the orchard, tearing his
clothes, and generally doing evil with
fire, water, mud, stones and other tempting
and injurious things?

And was it entirely decent of God to be eternally spying on a fellow,
as appeared to be His confirmed habit?

As for that awful heart-rending Crucifixion, was that the sort of
thing for a Father to look on at.... As bad as that brutal old Abraham
with Isaac his son ... were _all_ "Good" Fathers like that ...?

And nightmare dreams of Hell--a Hell in which there was a
_Snake_--wrought no improvement.

And the Bible! How strangely and dully they talked, and what people!
That nasty Jacob and Esau business, those horrid Israelites, the
Unfaithful Steward; the Judge who let himself be pestered into
action; those poor unfortunate swine that were made to rush violently
down the steep place into the sea; Ananias and Sapphira. No--not a
nice book at all.

The truth is that Theology, at the age of seven, is not
commendable--setting aside the question of whether (at any age)
Theology is a web of words, ritual, dogma, tradition, invention,
shibboleth; a web originally spun by interested men to obscure God
from their dupes.

So the boy worshipped Dearest and distrusted and disliked the God she
gave him, a big sinister bearded Man who hung spread-eagled above the
world, covering the entire roof of the Universe, and watched, watched,
watched, with unwinking, all-seeing eye, and remembered with
unforgetting, unrelenting mind. Cruel. Ungentlemanly. _Jealous!_ Cold.

Also the boy fervently hoped it might never be his lot to go to
Heaven--a shockingly dreary place where it was always Sunday and one
must, presumably, be very quiet except when singing hymns. A place
tenanted by white-robed Angels, unsympathetic towards dirty-faced
little sinners who tore their clothes. Angels, cold, superior,
unhuggable, haughty, given to ecstatic throes, singers of _Hallelujah_
and other silly words--always _praising_.

How he loathed and dreaded the idea of Dearest being an Angel! Fancy
sweet Dearest or his own darling Lucille with silly wings (like a
beastly goose or turkey in dear old Cook's larder), with a long
trumpet, perhaps, in a kind of night-gown, flying about the place, it
wasn't decent at all--Dearest and Lucille, whom he adored and
hugged--unsympathetic, cold, superior, unhuggable, haughty; and the
boy who was very, _very_ tender-hearted, would throw his arms round
Dearest's neck and hug and hug and hug, for he abhorred the thought of
her becoming a beastly angel.

Surely, if God knew His business, Dearest would be always happy and
bright and live ever so long, and be ever so old, forty years and
more.

And Dearest, fearing that her idolized boy might grow up a man
like--well, like "Grumper" had been--hard, quarrelsome, adventurous,
flippant, wicked, pleasure-loving, drunken, Godless ... redoubled her
efforts to Influence-the-child's-mind-for-good by means of the
Testaments and Theology, the Covenant, the Deluge, Miracles, the
Immaculate Conception, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, Pentecost,
Creeds, Collects, Prayers.

And the boy's mind weighed these things deliberately, pondered them,
revolted--and rejected them one and all.

Dearest had been taken in....

He said the prayers she taught him mechanically, and when he felt the
need of real prayer--(as he did when he had dreamed of the Snake)--he
always began, "If you _are_ there, God, and _are_ a good, kind God"
... and concluded, "Yours sincerely, Damocles de Warrenne".

He got but little comfort, however, for his restless and logical mind
asked:--

"If God _knows_ best and will surely _do_ what is best, why bother
Him? And if He does not and will not, why bother yourself?"

But Dearest succeeded, at any rate, in filling his young soul with a
love of beauty, romance, high adventure, honour, and all physical,
mental, and moral cleanliness.

She taught him to use his imagination, and she made books a necessity.
She made him a gentleman in soul--as distinct from a gentleman in
clothes, pocket, or position.

She gave him a beautiful veneration for woman that no other woman was
capable of destroying--though one or two did their best. Then the
sad-eyed lady was superseded and her professional successor, Miss
Smellie, the governess, finding the boy loved the Sword, asked Grumper
to lock it away for the boy's Good.

Also she got Grumper to dismiss Nurse Beaton for impudence and not
"knowing her place".

But Damocles entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with
Lucille, on whom he lavished the whole affection of his deeply, if
undemonstratively, affectionate nature, and the two "hunted in
couples," sinned and suffered together, pooled their resources and
their wits, found consolation in each other when harried by Miss
Smellie, spent every available moment in each other's society and,
like the Early Christians, had all things in common.

On birthdays, "high days and holidays" he would ask "Grumper" to let
him have the Sword for an hour or two, and would stand with it in his
hand, rapt, enthralled, ecstatic. How strange it made one feel! How
brave, and anxious to do fine deeds. He would picture himself bearing
an unconscious Lucille in his left arm through hostile crowds, while
with the Sword he thrust and hewed, parried and guarded.... Who could
fear _anything_ with the Sword in his hand, the Sword of the Dream!
How glorious to die wielding it, wielding it in a good cause ...
preferably on behalf of Lucille, his own beloved little pal, staunch,
clever, and beautiful. And he told Lucille tales of the Sword and of
how he loved it!



CHAPTER V.

LUCILLE.


"If you drinks a drop more, Miss Lucy, you'll just go like my pore
young sister goed," observed Cook in a warning voice, as Lucille
paused to get her second wind for the second draught.

(Lucille had just been tortured at the stake by Sioux and
Blackfeet--thirsty work on a July afternoon.)

"And how did she go, Cookie-Bird--_Pop?_" inquired Lucille politely,
with round eyes, considering over the top of the big lemonade-flagon
as it rose again to her determined little mouth.

"No, Miss Lucy," replied Cook severely. "Pop she did not. She swole
... swole and swole."

"You mean 'swelled,' Cookoo," corrected Lucille, inclined to be a
little didactic and corrective at the age of ten.

"Well, she were _my_ sister after all, Miss Lucy," retorted Cook, "and
perhaps I may, or may not, know what she done. _I_ say she swole--and
what is more she swole clean into a dropsy. All along of drinking
water.... _Drops_ of water--_Dropsy_."

"Never drink water," murmured Dam, absentmindedly annexing, and
pocketing, an apple.

"Ah, water, but you see this is lemonade," countered Lucille.
"Home-made, too, and not--er--gusty. It doesn't make you go----" and
here it is regrettable to have to relate that Lucille made a
shockingly realistic sound, painfully indicative of the condition of
one who has imbibed unwisely and too well of a gas-impregnated liquor.

"No more does water in my experiants," returned Cook, "and I was not
allooding to wulgarity, Miss Lucy, which you should know better than
to do such. My pore young sister's systerm turned watery and they
tapped her at the last. All through drinking too much water, which
lemonade ain't so very different either, be it never so 'ome-made....
Tapped 'er they did--like a carksk, an' 'er a Band of 'Oper, Blue
Ribander, an' Sunday Schooler from birth, an' not departin' from it
when she grew up. Such be the Ways of Providence," and Cook sighed
with protestive respectfulness....

"Tapped 'er systerm, they did," she added pensively, and with a little
justifiable pride.

"Were they hard taps?" inquired Lucille, reappearing from behind the
flagon. "I hate them myself, even on the funny-bone or knuckles--but
on the _cistern!_ Ugh!"

"_Hard_ taps; they was _silver_ taps," ejaculated Cook, "and drawed
gallings and gallings--and nothing to laugh at, Master Dammicles,
neether.... So don't you drink no more, Miss Lucy."

"I can't," admitted Lucille--and indeed, to Dam, who regarded his
"cousin" with considerable concern, it did seem that, even as Cook's
poor young sister of unhappy memory, Lucille had "swole"--though only
locally.

"Does _beer_ make you swell or swole or swellow when you swallow,
Cooker?" he inquired; "because, if so, _you_ had better be--" but he
was not allowed to conclude his deduction, for cook, bridling,
bristling, and incensed, bore down upon the children and swept them
from her kitchen.

To the boy, even as he fled _via_ a dish of tartlets and cakes, it
seemed remarkable that a certain uncertainty of temper (and figure)
should invariably distinguish those who devote their lives to the
obviously charming and attractive pursuit of the culinary art.

Surely one who, by reason of unfortunate limitations of sex, age,
ability, or property, could not become a Colonel of Cavalry could
still find infinite compensation in the career of cook or
railway-servant.

Imagine, in the one case, having absolute freedom of action with
regard to raisins, tarts, cream, candy-peel, jam, plum-puddings and
cakes, making life one vast hamper, and in the other case, boundless
opportunity in the matter of leaping on and off moving trains,
carrying lighted bull's-eye lanterns, and waving flags.

One of the early lessons that life taught him, without troubling to
explain them, and she taught him many and cruel, was that Cooks are
Cross.

"What shall we do now, Dam?" asked Lucille, and added, "Let's raid
the rotten nursery and rag the Haddock. Little ass! Nothing else to
do. How I _hate_ Sunday afternoon.... No work and no play. Rotten."

The Haddock, it may be stated, owed his fishy title to the fact that
he once possessed a Wealthy Relative of the name of Haddon. With
far-sighted reversionary intent his mother, a Mrs. Berners _née_
Seymour Stukeley, had christened him Haddon.

But the Wealthy Relative, on being informed of his good fortune, had
bluntly replied that he intended to leave his little all to the
founding of Night-Schools for illiterate Members of Parliament,
Travelling-Scholarships for uneducated Cabinet Ministers, and
Deportment Classes for New Radical Peers. He was a Funny Man as well
as a Wealthy Relative.

And, thereafter, Haddon Berners' parents had, as Cook put it, "up and
died" and "Grandfather" had sent for, and adopted, the orphan Haddock.

Though known to Dam and Lucille as "The Haddock" he was in reality an
utter Rabbit and esteemed as such. A Rabbit he was born, a Rabbit he
lived, and a Rabbit he died. Respectable ever. Seen in the Right
Place, in the Right Clothes, doing the Right Thing with the Right
People at the Right Time.

Lucille was the daughter of Sylvester Bethune Gavestone, the late and
lamented Bishop of Minsterbury (once a cavalry subaltern), a school,
Sandhurst, and life-long friend of "Grandfather," and husband of
"Grandfather's" cousin, Geraldine Seymour Stukeley.

Poor "Grandfather," known to the children as "Grumper," the ferocious
old tyrant who loved all mankind and hated all men, with him adoption
was a habit, and the inviting of other children to stay as long as
they liked with the adopted children, a craze.

And yet he rarely saw the children, never played with them, and hated
to be disturbed.

He had out-lived his soldier-contemporaries, his children, his power
to ride to hounds, his pretty taste in wine, his fencing, dancing,
flirting, and all that had made life bearable--everything, as he said,
but his gout and his liver (and, it may be added, except his
ferocious, brutal temper).

"Yes.... Let us circumvent, decoy, and utterly destroy the common
Haddock," agreed Dam.

The entry into the nursery was an effective night-attack by Blackfeet
(not to mention hands) but was spoilt by the presence of Miss Smellie
who was sitting there knitting relentlessly.

"Never burst into rooms, children," she said coldly. "One expects
little of a boy, but a _girl_ should try to appear a Young Lady. Come
and sit by me, Lucille. What did you come in for--or rather for what
did you burst in?"

"We came to play with the Haddock," volunteered Dam.

"Very kind and thoughtful of you, I am sure," commented Miss Smellie
sourly. "Most obliging and benevolent," and, with a sudden change to
righteous anger and bitterness, "Why don't you speak the truth?"

"I am speaking the truth, Miss--er--Smellie," replied the boy. "We did
come to play with the dear little Haddock--like one plays with a
football or a frog. I didn't say we came for Haddock's _good_."

"We needed the Haddock, you see, Miss Smellie," confirmed Lucille.

"How many times am I to remind you that Haddon Berners' name _is_
Haddon, Lucille," inquired Miss Smellie. "Why must you always prefer
vulgarity? One expects vulgarity from a boy--but a girl should try to
appear a Young Lady."

With an eye on Dam, Lucille protruded a very red tongue at surprising
length, turned one eye far inward toward her nose, wrinkled that
member incredibly, corrugated her forehead grievously, and elongated
her mouth disastrously. The resultant expression of countenance
admirably expressed the general juvenile view of Miss Smellie and all
her works.

Spurred to honourable emulation, the boy strove to excel. Using both
hands for the elongation of his eyes, the extension of his mouth, and
the depression of his ears, he turned upon the Haddock so horrible a
mask that the stricken child burst into a howl, if not into actual
tears.

"What's the matter, Haddon?" demanded Miss Smellie, looking up with
quick suspicion.

"Dam made a _fathe_ at me," whimpered the smitten one.

"Say 'made a grimace' not 'made a face,'" corrected Miss Smellie.
"Only God can make _faces_."

Dam exploded.

"At what are you laughing, Damocles?" she asked sternly.

"Nothing, Miss Smellie. What you said sounded rather funny and a
little irrevilent or is it irrembrant?"

"Damocles! Should _I_ be likely to say anything Irreverent? Should _I_
ever dream of Irreverence? What _can_ you mean? And never let me see
you make faces again."

"I didn't let you see me, Miss Smellie, and only God can make faces--"

"Leave the room at once, Sir, I shall report your impudence to your
great-uncle," hissed Miss Smellie, rising in wrath--and the bad
abandoned boy had attained his object. Detention in the nursery for a
Sunday afternoon was no part of his programme.

Most unobtrusively Lucille faded away also.

"_Isn't_ she a hopeless beast," murmured she as the door closed.

"Utter rotter," admitted the boy. "Let's slope out into the garden and
dig some worms for bait."

"Yes," agreed Lucille, and added, "Parse _Smellie,_" whereupon, with
one voice and heart and purpose the twain broke into a paean, not of
praise--a kind of tribal lay, and chanted:--

"_Smellie_--Very common noun, absurd person, singular back number,
tutor gender, objectionable case governed by the word _I_," and so _da
capo_.

And yet the poor lady strove to do her duty in that station of life in
which it had pleased Providence (or a drunken father) to place
her--and to make the children "genteel". Had she striven to win their
love instead, her ministrations might have had some effect (other than
infinite irritation and bitter dislike).

She was the Compleat Governess, on paper, and all that a person
entrusted with the training of young children should not be, in
reality. She had innumerable and admirable testimonials from various
employers of what she termed "aristocratic standing"; endless
certificates that testified unto her successful struggles in Music,
Drawing, Needlework, German, French, Calisthenics, Caligraphy, and
other mysteries, including the more decorous Sciences (against
Physiology, Anatomy, Zoology, Biology, and Hygiene she set her face as
subjects apt to be, at times, improper), and an appearance and manner
themselves irrefragible proofs of the highest moral virtue.

She also had the warm and unanimous witness of the children at
Monksmead that she was a Beast.

To those who frankly realize with open eyes that the student of life
must occasionally encounter indelicacies upon the pleasant path of
research, it may be revealed, in confidence, that they alluded to
Miss Smellie as "Sniffy" when not, under extreme provocation, as
"Stinker".

She taught them many things and, prominently, Deceit, Hate, and an
utter dislike of her God and her Religion--a most disastrous pair.

Poor old "Grumper"; advertising, he got her, paid her highly, and gave
her almost absolute control of the minds, souls, and bodies of his
young wards and "grandchildren".

"The best of everything" for them--and they, at the average age of
eight, a band of depressed, resentful babes, had "hanged, drawed, and
quartered" her in effigy, within a month of coming beneath her stony
ministrations.

In appearance Miss Smellie was tall, thin, and flat. Most exceedingly
and incredibly flat. Impossibly flat. Her figure, teeth, voice, hair,
manner, hats, clothes, and whole life and conduct were flat as
Euclid's plane-surface or yesterday's champagne.

To counter-balance the possession, perhaps, of so many virtues, gifts,
testimonials, and certificates she had no chin, no eyebrows, and no
eyelashes. Her eyes were weak and watery; her spectacles strong and
thick; her nose indeterminate, wavering, erratic; her ears large, her
teeth irregular and protrusive, her mouth unfortunate and not
guaranteed to close.

An ugly female face is said to be the index and expression of an ugly
mind. It certainly was so in the case of Miss Smellie. Not that she
had an evil or vicious mind in any way--far from it, for she was a
narrowly pious and dully conscientious woman. Her mind was ugly as a
useful building may be very ugly--or as a room devoid of beautiful
furniture or over-crowded with cheap furniture may be ugly.

And her mind was devoid of beautiful thought-furniture, and
over-crowded with cheap and ugly furniture of text-book facts. She was
an utterly loveless woman, living unloving, and unloved--a terrible
condition.

One _could not_ like her.

Deadly dull, narrow, pedantic, petty, uninspiring, Miss Smellie's
ideals, standards, and aims were incredibly low.

She lived, and taught others to live, for appearances.

The children were so to behave that they might appear "genteel". If
they were to do this or that, no one would think they were young
ladies or young gentlemen.

"If we were out at tea and you did that, I _should_ be ashamed," she
would cry when some healthy little human licked its jarnmy fingers,
and "_Do_ you wish to be considered vulgar or a little gentleman,
Damocles?"

Damocles was profoundly indifferent on the point and said so plainly.

They were not to be clean of hand for hygienic reasons--but for fear
of what people might "think"; they were not to be honourable, gentle,
brave and truthful because these things are fine--but because of what
the World might dole out in reward; they were not to eat slowly and
masticate well for their health's sake--but by reason of "good
manners"; they were not to study that they might develop their powers
of reasoning, store their minds, and enlarge their horizons--but that
they might pass some infernal examination or other, _ad majorem
Smelliae gloriam_; they were not to practise the musical art that they
might have a soul-developing aesthetic training, a means of solace,
delight, and self-expression--but that they might "play their piece"
to the casual visitor to the school-room with priggish pride,
expectant of praise; they were not to be Christian for any other
reason than that it was the recommended way to Eternal Bliss and a
Good Time Hereafter--the whole duty of canny and respectable man being
to "save his soul" therefore.

Her charges were skilfully, if unintentionally, trained in hypocrisy
and mean motive, to look for low reward and strive for paltry ends--to
do what looked well, say what sounded well, to be false, veneered,
ungenuine.

And Miss Smellie was giving them the commonly accepted "education" of
their class and kind.

The prize product of the Smellie system was the Haddock whose whole
life was a pose, a lie, a refusal to see the actual. Perhaps she
influenced him more strongly than the others because he was caught
younger and was of weaker fibre. Anyhow he grew up the perfect and
heartless snob, and by the time he left Oxford, he would sooner have
been seen in a Black Maria with Lord Snooker than in a heavenly
chariot with a prophet of unmodish garment and vulgar ancestry.

To the finished Haddock, a tie was more than a character, and the cut
of a coat more than the cutting of a loving heart.

To him a "gentleman" was a person who had the current accent and
waistcoat, a competence, the entree here and there--a goer unto the
correct places with the correct people. Manners infinitely more than
conduct; externals everything; let the whitening be white and the
sepulchre mattered not.

The Haddock had no bloodful vice, but he was unstable as water and
could not excel, a moral coward and weakling, a liar, a borrower of
what he never intended to return, undeniably and incurably mean, the
complete parasite.

From the first he feared and blindly obeyed Miss Smellie, propitiated
while loathing her; accepted her statements, standards, and beliefs;
curried favour and became her spy and informer.

"What's about the record cricket-ball throw, Dam?" inquired Lucille,
as they strolled down the path to the orchard and kitchen-garden,
hot-houses, stream and stables, to seek the coy, reluctant worm.

"Dunno," replied the boy, "but a hundred yards wants a lot of doing."

"Wonder if _I_ could do it," mused Lucille, picking up a tempting
egg-shaped pebble, nearly as big as her fist, and throwing it with
remarkably neat action (for a girl) at the first pear-tree over the
bridge that spanned the trout-stream.

_At_, but not into.

With that extraordinary magnetic attraction which glass has for the
missile of the juvenile thrower, the orchid-house, on the opposite
side of the path from the pear-tree, drew the errant stone to its
hospitable shelter.

Through the biggest pane of glass it crashed, neatly decapitated a
rare, choice exotic, the pride of Mr. Alastair Kenneth MacIlwraith,
head gardener, released from its hold a hanging basket, struck a large
pot (perched high in a state of unstable equilibrium), and passed out
on the other side with something accomplished, something done, to earn
a long repose.

So much for the stone.

The descending pot lit upon the edge of one side of the big glass
aquarium, smashed it, and continued its career, precipitating an
avalanche of lesser pots and their priceless contents.

The hanging basket, now an unhung and travelling basket, heavy,
iron-ribbed, anciently mossy, oozy of slime, fell with neat exactitude
upon the bald, bare cranium of Mr. Alastair Kenneth MacIlwraith, head
gardener, and dour, irascible child and woman hater.

"Bull's-eye!" commented Dam--always terse when not composing
fairy-tales.

"Crikey!" shrieked Lucille. "That's done it," and fled straightway to
her room and violent earnest prayer, not for forgiveness but for
salvation, from consequences. (What's the good of Saying your Prayers
if you can't look for Help in Time of Trouble such as this?)

The face of Mr. Alastair Kenneth MacIlwraith was not pleasant to see
as he pranced forth from the orchid-house, brandishing an implement of
his trade.

"Ye'll be needing a wash the day, Mon Sandy, and the Sawbath but fower
days syne," opined Dam, critically observing the moss-and-mud streaked
head, face and neck of the raving, incoherent victim of Lucille's
effort.

When at all lucid and comprehensible Mr. MacIlwraith was understood to
say he'd give his place (and he twanty-twa years in it) to have the
personal trouncing of Dam, that Limb, that Deevil, that predestined
and fore-doomed Child of Sin, that--

Dam pocketed his hands and said but:--

"_Havers_, Mon Sandy!"

"I'll tak' the hide fra y'r bones yet, ye feckless, impident--"

Dam shook a disapproving head and said but:--

"_Clavers_, Mon Sandy!"

"I'll _see_ ye skelped onny-how--or lose ma job, ye--"

More in sorrow than in anger Dam sighed and said but:--

"_Hoots_, Mon Sandy!"

"I'll go straight to y'r Grandfer the noo, and if ye'r not flayed
alive! Aye! I'll gang the noo to Himself----"

"_Wi' fower an twanty men, an' five an' thairrty pipers_," suggested
Dam in tuneful song.

Mr. Alastair Kenneth MacIlwraith did what he rarely did--swore
violently.

"_Do you think at your age it is right_?" quoted the wicked boy ...
the exceedingly bad and reprehensible boy.

The maddened gardener turned and strode to the house with all his
imperfections on his head and face and neck.

Taking no denial from Butterson, he forced his way into the presence
of his master and clamoured for instant retributive justice--or the
acceptance of his resignation forthwith, and him twanty-twa years in
the ane place.

"Grandfather," roused from slumber, gouty, liverish, ferociously
angry, sent for Dam, Sergeant Havlan, and Sergeant Havlan's cane.

"What's the meaning of this, Sir," he roared as Dam, cool, smiling,
friendly ever, entered the Sanctum. "What the Devil d'ye mean by it,
eh? Wreckin' my orchid-houses, assaultin' my servants, waking me up,
annoying ME! Seven days C.B.[15] and bread and water, on each count.
What d'ye mean by it, ye young hound? Eh? Answer me before I have ye
flogged to death to teach ye better manners! Guilty or Not Guilty? and
I'll take your word for it."

"The missile, describing a parabola, struck its subjective with
fearful impact, Sir," replied the bad boy imperturbably, misquoting
from his latest fiction (and calling it a "parry-bowler," to
"Grandfather's" considerable and very natural mystification).

"_What?_" roared that gentleman, sitting bolt upright in astonishment
and wrath.

"No. It's _ob_jective," corrected Dam. "Yes. With fearful impact.
Fearful also were the words of the Mon Sandy."

"Grandfather" flushed and smiled a little wryly.

"You'd favour _me_ with pleasantries too, would you? I'll reciprocate
to the best of my poor ability," he remarked silkily, and his mouth
set in the unpleasant Stukeley grimness, while a little muscular pulse
beat beneath his cheek-bone.

"A dozen of the very best, if you please, Sergeant," he added, turning
to Sergeant Havlan.

"Coat off, Sir," remarked that worthy, nothing loath, to the boy who
could touch him almost as he would with the foil.

Dam removed his Eton jacket, folded his arms, turned his back to the
smiter and assumed a scientific arrangement of the shoulders with
tense muscles and coyly withdrawn bones. He had been there before....

The dozen were indeed of the Sergeant's best and he was a master. The
boy turned not a hair, though he turned a little pale.... His mouth
grew extraordinarily like that of his grandfather and a little
muscular pulse beat beneath his cheek-bone.

"And what do you think of _my_ pleasantries, my young friend?"
inquired Grandfather. "Feeling at all witty _now_?"

"Havlan is failing a bit, Sir," was the cool reply. "I have noticed it
at fencing too--Getting old--or beer perhaps. I scarcely felt him and
so did not see or feel the point of your joke."

"Grandfather's" flush deepened and his smile broadened crookedly. "Try
and do yourself justice, Havlan," he said. "'Nother dozen. 'Tother
way."

Sergeant Havlan changed sides and endeavoured to surpass himself. It
was a remarkably sound dozen.

He mopped his brow.

The bad boy did not move, gave no sign, but retained his rigid,
slightly hunched attitude, as though he had not counted the second
dozen and expected another stroke.

"Let that be a lesson to you to curb your damned tongue," said
"Grandfather," his anger evaporating, his pride in the stiff-necked,
defiant young rogue increasing.

The boy changed not the rigid, slightly hunched attitude.

"Be pleased to wreck no more of my orchid-houses and to exercise your
great wit on your equals and juniors," he added.

Dam budged not an inch and relaxed not a muscle.

"You may go," said "Grandfather".... "Well--what are you waiting for?"

"I was waiting for Sergeant Havlan to _begin_," was the reply. "I
thought I was to have a second dozen."

With blazing eyes, bristling moustache, swollen veins and bared teeth,
"Grandfather" rose from his chair. Resting on one stick he struck and
struck and struck at the boy with the other, passion feeding on its
own passionate acts, and growing to madness--until, as the head
gardener and Sergeant rushed forward to intervene, Dam fell to the
ground, stunned by an unintentional blow on the head.

"Grandfather" stood trembling.... "_Quite_ a Stukeley," observed he.
"Oblige me by flinging his carcase down the stairs."

"'Angry Stookly's mad Stookly' is about right, mate, wot?" observed
the Sergeant to the gardener, quoting an ancient local saying, as they
carried Dam to his room after dispatching a groom for Dr. Jones of
Monksmead.

"Dammy Darling," whispered a broken and tear-stained voice outside
Dam's locked and keyless door the next morning, "are you dead yet?"

"Nit," was the prompt reply, "but I'm starving to death, fast."

"I am so glad," was the sobbed answer, "for I've got some flat food to
push under the door."

"Shove it under," said Dam. "Good little beast!"

"I didn't know anything about the fearful fracass until tea-time,"
continued Lucille, "and then I went straight to Grumper and confessed,
and he sent me to bed on an empty stummick and I laid upon it, the bed
I mean, and howled all night, or part of it anyhow. I howled for your
sake, not for the empty stummick. I thought my howls would break or at
least soften his hard heart, but I don't think he heard them. I'm sure
he didn't, in fact, or I should not have been allowed to howl so loud
and long.... Did he blame you with anger as well as injustice?"

"With a stick," was the reply. "What about that grub?"

"I told him you were an innocent unborn babe and that Justice had had
a mis-carriage, but he only grinned and said you had got C.B. and dry
bread for insilence in the Orderly Room. What is 'insilence'?"

"Pulling Havlan's leg, I s'pose," opined Dam. "What about that _grub_?
There comes a time when you are too hungry to eat and then you die.
I--"

"Here it is," squealed Lucille, "don't go and die after all my
trouble. I've got some thin ice-wafer biscuits, sulphur tablets, thin
cheese, a slit-up apple and three sardines. They'll all come under the
door--though the sardines may get a bit out of shape. I'll come after
lessons and suck some brandy-balls here and breathe through the
key-hole to comfort you. I could blow them through the key-hole when
they are small too."

"Thanks," acknowledged Dam gratefully, "and if you could tie some up
and a sausage and a tart or two and some bread-and-jam and some
chicken and cake and toffee and things in a handkerchief, and climb on
to the porch with Grumper's longest fishing-rod, you might be able to
relieve the besieged garrison a lot. If the silly Haddock were any
good he could fire sweets up with a catapult."

"I'd try that too," announced Lucille, "but I'd break the windows. I
feel I shall never have the heart to throw a stone or anything again.
My heart is broken," and the penitent sinner groaned in deep travail
of soul.

"Have you eaten everything, Darling? How do you feel?" she suddenly
asked.

"Yes. Hungrier than ever," was the reply. "I like sulphur tablets with
sardines. Wonder when they'll bring that beastly dry bread?"

"If there's a sulphur tablet left I could eat one myself," said
Lucille. "They are good for the inside and I have wept mine sore."

"Too late," answered Dam. "Pinch some more."

"They were the last," was the sad rejoinder. "They were for Rover's
coat, I think. Perhaps they will make your coat hairy, Dam. I mean
your skin."

"Whiskers to-morrow," said Dam.

After a pregnant silence the young lady announced:--

"Wish I could hug and kiss you, Darling. Don't you?... I'll write a
kiss on a piece of paper and push it under the door to you. Better
than spitting it through the key-hole."

"Put it on a piece of _ham_,--more sense," answered Dam.

The quarter-inch rasher that, later, made its difficult entry, pulled
fore and pushed aft, was probably the only one in the whole history of
Ham that was the medium of a kiss--located and indicated by means of a
copying-ink pencil and a little saliva.

Before being sent away to school at Wellingborough Dam had a very
curious illness, one which greatly puzzled Dr. Jones of Monksmead
village, annoyed Miss Smellie, offended Grumper, and worried Lucille.

Sitting in solitary grandeur at his lunch one Sabbath, sipping his old
Chambertin, Grumper was vexed and scandalized by a series of
blood-curdling shrieks from the floor above his breakfast-room.
Butterson, dispatched in haste to see "who the Devil was being killed
in that noisy fashion," returned to state deferentially as how Master
Damocles was in a sort of heppipletic fit, and foaming at the mouth.
They had found him in the General's study where he had been reading a
book, apparently; a big Natural History book.

A groom was galloping for Dr. Jones and Mrs. Pont was doin' her
possible.

No. Nothing appeared to have hurt or frightened the young
gentleman--but he was distinctly 'eard to shout: "_It is under my
foot. It is moving--moving--moving out_...." before he became
unconscious.

No, Sir. Absolutely nothing under the young gentleman's foot.

Dr. Jones could shed no light and General Sir Gerald Seymour Stukeley
hoped to God that the boy was not going to grow up a wretched
epileptic. Miss Smellie appeared to think the seizure a judgment upon
an impudent and deceitful boy who stole into his elders' rooms in
their absence and looked at their books.

Lucille was troubled in soul for, to her, Damocles confessed the
ghastly, terrible, damning truth that he was a Coward. He said that he
had hidden the fearful fact for all these years within his guilty
bosom and that now it had emerged and convicted him. He lived in
subconscious terror of the Snake, and in its presence--nay even in
that of its counterfeit presentment--he was a gibbering, lunatic
coward. Such, at least, was her dimly realized conception resultant
upon the boy's bald, stammering confession.

But how could her dear Dammy be a _coward_--the vilest thing on earth!
He who was willing to fight anyone, ride anything, go anywhere, act
anyhow. Dammy the boxer, fencer, rider, swimmer. Absurd! Think of the
day "the Cads" had tried to steal their boat from them when they were
sailing it on the pond at Revelmead. There had been five of them, two
big and three medium. Dam had closed the eye of one of them, cut the
lip of another, and knocked one of the smaller three weeping into the
dust.

They had soon cleared off and flung stones until Dam had started
running for them and then they had fled altogether.

Think of the time when she set fire to the curtains. Why, he feared no
bull, no dog, no tramp in England.

A coward! Piffle.

And yet he had screamed and kicked and cried--yes _cried_--as he had
shouted that it was under his foot and moving out. Rum! _Very_ rum!

On the day that Dam left Monksmead for school Lucille wept till she
could weep no more. Life for the next few years was one of
intermittent streaks of delirious joy and gloomy grief, vacation time
when he was at Monksmead and term time when he was at school. All the
rest of the world weighed as a grain of dust against her hero, Dam.



CHAPTER VI.

THE SNAKE'S "MYRMIDON".


For a couple of years and more, in the lower School at Wellingborough,
Damocles de Warrenne, like certain States, was happy in that he had no
history. In games rather above the average, and in lessons rather
below it, he was very popular among his fellow "squeakers" for his
good temper, modesty, generous disposition, and prowess at football
and cricket.

Then, later, dawned the day when from this comfortable high estate a
common adder, preserved in spirits of wine, was the cause of his
downfall and Bully Harberth the means of his reinstatement....

One afternoon Mr. Steynker, the Science Master, for some reason and
without preliminary mention of his intent, produced a bottled specimen
of a snake. He entered the room with the thing under his arm and
partly concealed by the sleeve of his gown. Watching him as he
approached the master's desk and spoke with Mr. Colfe, the
form-master, Dam noted that he had what appeared to be a long oblong
glass box of which the side turned towards him was white and opaque.

When Mr. Steynker stepped on to the dais, as Mr. Colfe took up his
books and departed, he placed the thing on the desk with the other
side to the class....

And there before Dam's starting, staring eyes, fastened to the white
back of the tall glass box, and immersed in colourless liquid was the
Terror.

He rose, gibbering, to his feet, pale as the dead, and pointed,
mopping and mowing like an idiot.

How should a glass box restrain the Fiend that had made his life a
Hell upon earth? What did Steynker and Colfe and these others--all
gaping at him open-mouthed--know of the Devil with whom he had
wrestled deep beneath the Pit itself for ten thousand centuries of
horror--centuries whose every moment was an aeon?

What could these innocent men and boys know of the living Damnation
that made him pray to die--provided only that he could be _really_
dead and finished, beyond all consciousness and fear. The fools!... to
think that it was a harmless, concrete thing. It would emerge in a
moment like the Fisherman's Geni from the Brass Bottle and grow as big
as the world. He felt he was going mad again.

"Help!" he suddenly shrieked. "_It is under my foot. It is moving ...
moving ... moving out_." He sprang to his astounded friend, Delorme,
and screamed to him for help--and then realizing that there was _no_
help, that neither man nor God could save him, he fled from the room
screaming like a wounded horse.

Rushing madly down the corridor, falling head-long down the stone
stairs, bolting blindly across the entrance-hall, he fled until
(unaware of his portly presence up to the moment when he rebounded
from him as a cricket-ball from a net) he violently encountered the
Head.

Scrambling beneath his gown the demented boy flung his arms around the
massy pillar of the Doctor's leg, and prayed aloud to him for help,
between heart-rending screams.

Now it is undeniable that no elderly gentleman, of whatsoever position
or condition, loves to be butted violently upon a generous lunch as he
makes his placid way to his arm-chair, cigar, book, and ultimate
pleasant doze. If he be pompous by profession, precise by practice,
dignified as a duty, a monument of most stately correctness and, to
small boys and common men, a great and distant, if tiny, God--he may
be expected to resent it.

The Doctor did. Almost before he knew what he was doing, he struck the
sobbing, gasping child twice, and then endeavoured to remove him by
the ungentle application of the untrammelled foot, from the leg to
which, limpet-like, he clung.

To Dam the blows were welcome, soothing, reassuring. Let a hundred
Heads flog him with two hundred birch-rods, so they could keep him
from the Snake. What are mere blows?

Realizing quickly that something very unusual was in the air, the
worthy Doctor repented him of his haste and, with what dignity he
might, inquired between a bleat and a bellow:--

"What is the matter, my boy? Hush! Hush!"

"The Snake! The Snake!" shrieked Dam. "Save me! Save me! _It is under
my foot! It is moving ... moving ... moving out_," and clung the
tighter.

The good Doctor also moved with alacrity--but saw no snake. He was
exceedingly perturbed, between a hypothetical snake and an all too
actual lunatic boy.

Fortunately, "Stout" (so called because he was Porter), passing the
big doors without, was attracted by the screams.

Entering, he hastened to the side of the agitated Head, and, with some
difficulty, untied from that gentleman's leg, a small boy--but not
until the small boy had fainted....

When Dam regained consciousness he had a fit, recovered, and found
himself in the Head's study, and the object of the interested regard
of the Head, Messrs. Colfe and Steynker, the school medico, and the
porter.

It was agreed (while the boy fought for his sanity, bit his hand for
the reassuring pleasure of physical pain, and prayed for help to the
God in whom he had no reason to believe) that the case was "very
unusual, very curious, v-e-r-y interesting indeed". Being healthier
and stronger than at the time of previous attacks, Dam more or less
recovered before night and was not sent home. But he had fallen from
his place, and in the little republics of the dormitory and
class-room, he was a thing to shun, an outcast, a disgrace to the
noble race of Boy.

Not a mere liar, a common thief, a paltry murderer or vulgar
parricide--but a COWARD, a blubberer, a baby. Even Delorme, more in
sorrow than in anger, shunned his erstwhile bosom-pal, and went about
as one betrayed.

The name of "Funky Warren" was considered appropriate, and even the
Haddock, his own flesh and blood, and most junior of "squeakers,"
dared to apply it!....

The infamy of the Coward spread abroad, was talked of in other Houses,
and fellows made special excursions to see the cry-baby, who funked a
dead snake, a blooming bottled, potted, dead snake, and who had
blubbed aloud in his terror.

And Bully Harberth of the Fifth, learning of these matters, revolved
in his breast the thought that he who fears dead serpents must, even
more, fear living bullies, put Dam upon his list as a safe and pliant
client, and thereby (strange instrument of grace!) gave him the chance
to rehabilitate himself, clear the cloud of infamy from about his
head, and live a bearable life for the rest of his school career....

One wet Wednesday afternoon, as Dam, a wretched, forlorn Ishmael, sat
alone in a noisy crowd, reading a "penny horrible" (admirable,
stimulating books crammed with brave deeds and noble sentiments if
not with faultless English) the Haddock entered the form-room,
followed by Bully Harberth.

"That's him, Harberth, by the window, reading a penny blood," said the
Haddock, and went and stood afar off to see the fun.

Harberth, a big clumsy boy, a little inclined to fat, with small eyes,
heavy low forehead, thick lips, and amorphous nose, lurched over to
where Dam endeavoured to read himself into a better and brighter world
inhabited by Deadwood Dick, Texas Joe, and Red Indians of no manners
and nasty customs.

"I want you, Funky Warren. I'm going to torture you," he announced
with a truculent scowl and a suggestive licking of blubber lips.

Dam surveyed him coolly.

Of thick build, the bully was of thicker wit and certainly of no
proven courage. Four years older than Dam and quite four inches
taller, he had never dreamed of molesting him before. Innumerable as
were the stories of his brutalities to the smallest "squeakers" and of
his cruel practical jokes on new boys, there were no stories of his
fighting, such as there were about Ormond Delorme, of Dam's form,
whose habit it was to implore bigger boys of their courtesy to fight
him, and to trail his coat where there were "chaws" about.

"I'm going to torture you, Funky. Every day you must come to me and
_beg_ me to do it. If you don't come and pray for it I'll come to
_you_ and you'll get it double and treble. If you sneak you'll get it
quadru--er--quadrupedal--and also be known as Sneaky as well as Funky.
See?" he continued.

"How will you torture me, Harberth, please?" asked Dam meekly, as he
measured the other with his eye, noted his puffiness, short reach, and
inward tendency of knee.

"Oh! lots of ways," was the reply. "Dry shaves, tweaks, scalpers,
twisters, choko, tappers, digs, benders, shinners, windos, all sorts."

"I don't even know what they are," moaned Dam.

"Poor Kid!" sympathized the bully, "you soon will, though. Dry shaves
are beautiful. You die dotty in about five minutes if I don't see fit
to stop. Twisters break your wrists and you yell the roof off--or
would do if I didn't gag you first with a cake of soap and a towel.
Tappers are very amusing, too, for me that is--not for you. They are
done on the side of your knee with a cricket stump. Wonderful how kids
howl when you understand knee-treatment. Choko is good too. Makes you
black in the face and your eyes goggle out awful funny. Done with a
silk handkerchief and a stick. Windos and benders go together and
really want two fellows to do it properly. I hit you in the wind and
you double up, and the other fellow un-doubles you from behind--with a
cane--so that I can double you up again. Laugh! I nearly died over
young Berners. Shinners, scalpers, and tweaks are good too--jolly
good!... but of course all this comes after lamming and tunding....
Come along with me...."

"Nit," was Dam's firm but gentle reply, and a little pulse began to
beat beneath his cheek bone.

"Oh! Ho!" smiled Master Harberth, "then I'll _begin_ here, and when
you're broke and blubbing you'll come with me--and get just double for
a start."

Dam's spirits rose and he felt almost happy--certainly far better than
he had done since the hapless encounter with the bottled adder and his
fall from grace. It was a positive, _joy_ to have an enemy he could
tackle, a real flesh-and-blood foe and tormentor that came upon him in
broad daylight and in mere human form.

After countless thousands of centuries of awful nightmare
struggling--in which he was bound hand-and-foot and doomed to failure
and torture from the outset, the sport, plaything, and victim of a
fearful, intangible Horror--this would be sheer amusement and
recreation. What could mere man do to _him_, much less mere boy! Why,
the most awful torture-chamber of the Holy Inquisition of old was a
pleasant recreation-room compared with _any_ place where the Snake
could enter.

Oh, if the Snake could only be met and fought in the open with free
hands and untrammelled limbs, as Bully Harberth could!

Oh, if it could only inflict mere physical pain instead of such
agonies of terror as made the idea of any bodily injury--mere cutting,
burning, beating, blinding--a trifling nothing-at-all. Anyhow, he
could _imagine_ that Bully Harberth was the Snake or Its emissary and,
since he was indirectly brought upon him by the Snake, regard him as a
myrmidon--and deal with him accordingly....

"How do you like this?" inquired that young gentleman as he suddenly
seized the seated and unsuspecting Dam by the head, crushed him down
with his superior weight and dug cruelly into the sides of his neck,
below the ears, with his powerful thumb and fingers. "It is called
'grippers'. You'll begin to enjoy it in a minute." ... In a few
seconds the pain became acute and after a couple of minutes,
excruciating.

Dam kept absolutely still and perfectly silent.

To Harberth this was disappointing and after a time he grew tired.
Releasing his impassive victim he arose preparatory to introducing the
next item of his programme of tortures.

"How do you like _this_?" inquired Dam rising also--and he smote his
tormentor with all his strength beneath the point of his chin. Rage,
pain, rebellion, and undying hatred (of the Snake) lent such force to
the skilful blow--behind which was the weight and upward spring of his
body--that Bully Harberth went down like a nine-pin, his big head
striking the sharp edge of a desk with great violence.

He lay still and white with closed eyes. "Golly," shrilled the
Haddock, "Funky Warren has murdered Bully Harberth. Hooray! Hooray!"
and he capered with joy.

A small crowd quickly collected, and, it being learned from credible
eye-witnesses that the smaller boy had neither stabbed the bully in
the back nor clubbed him from behind, but had well and truly smitten
him on the jaw with his fist, he went at one bound from despised
outcast coward to belauded, admired hero.

"You'll be hung, of course, Warren," said Delorme.

"And a jolly good job," replied Dam, fervently and sincerely.

As he spoke, Harberth twitched, moved his arms and legs, and opened
his eyes.

Sitting up, he blinked owl-like and inquired as to what was up.

"You are down is what's up," replied Delorme.

"Oh--he's not dead," squeaked the Haddock, and there was a piteous
break in his voice.

"What's up?" asked Harberth again.

"Why, Funky--that is to say, Warren--knocked you out, and you've got
to give him best and ask for _pax_, or else fight him," said Delorme,
adding hopefully, "but of course you'll fight him."

Harberth arose and walked to the nearest seat.

"He hit me a 'coward's poke' when I wasn't looking," quoth he. "It's
well known he is a coward."

"You are a liar, Bully Harberth," observed Delorme. "He hit you fair,
and anyhow he's not afraid of _you_. If you don't fight him you become
Funky Harberth _vice_. Funky Warren--no longer Funky. So you'd better
fight. See?" The Harberth bubble was evidently pricked, for the
sentiment was applauded to the echo.

"I don't fight cowards," mumbled Harberth, holding his jaw--and, at
this meanness, Dam was moved to go up to Harberth and slap him right
hard upon his plump, inviting cheek, a good resounding blow that made
his hand tingle with pain and his heart with pleasure.

He still identified him somehow with the Snake, and had a glorious, if
passing, sensation of successful revolt and some revenge.

He felt as the lashed galley-slave must have felt when, during a
lower-deck mutiny, he broke from his oar and sprang at the throat of
the cruel overseer, the embodiment and source of the agony,
starvation, toil, brutality, and hopeless woe that had thrust him
below the level of the beasts (fortunate beasts) that perish.

"Now you've _got_ to fight him, of course," said Delorme, and fled to
spread the glad tidings far and wide.

"I--I--don't feel well now," mumbled Harberth. "I'll fight him when
I'm better," and shambled away, outraged, puzzled, disgusted. What was
the world coming to? The little brute! He had a punch like the kick of
a horse. The little cad--to _dare_! Well, he'd show him something if
he had the face to stand up to his betters and olders and biggers in
the ring....

News of the affair spread like wild-fire, and the incredible conduct
of the extraordinary Funky Warren--said to be no longer Funky--became
the topic of the hour.

At tea, Dam was solemnly asked if it were true that he had cast
Harberth from a lofty window and brought him to death's door, or that
of the hospital; whether he had strangled him with the result that he
had a permanent squint; if he had so kicked him as to break both his
thigh bones; if he had offered to fight him with one hand.

Even certain more or less grave and reverend seniors of the upper
school took a well-disguised interest in the matter and pretended that
the affair should be allowed to go on, as it would do Harberth a lot
of good if de Warrenne could lick him, and do the latter a lot of good
to reinstate himself by showing that he was not really a coward in
essentials. Of course they took no interest in the fight as a fight.
Certainly not (but it was observed that Flaherty of the Sixth stopped
the fight most angrily and peremptorily when it was over, and that no
sign of anger or peremptoriness escaped him until it was over--and he
happened to pass behind the gymnasium, curiously enough, just as it
started)....

Good advice was showered upon Dam from all sides. He was counselled to
live on meat, to be a vegetarian, to rise at 4 a.m. and swim, to avoid
all brain-fag, to run twenty miles a day, to rest until the fight, to
get up in the night and swing heavy dumb-bells, to eat no pudding, to
drink no tea, to give up sugar, avoid ices, and deny himself all
"tuck" and everything else that makes life worth living.

He did none of these things--but simply went on as usual, save in one
respect.

For the first time since the adder episode, he was really happy. Why,
he did not know, save that he was about to "get some of his own back,"
to strike a blow against the cruel coward Incubus (for he persisted in
identifying Harberth with the Snake and in regarding him as a
materialization of the life-long Enemy), and possibly to enjoy a brief
triumph over what had so long triumphed over him.

If he were at this time a little mad the wonder is that he was still
on the right side of the Lunatic Asylum gates.

Mad or not, he was happy--and the one thing wanting was the presence
of Lucille at the fight. How he would have loved to show her that he
was not really a coward--given a fair chance and a tangible foe.

If only Lucille could be there--dancing from one foot to the other,
and squealing. (Strictly _between_, and not during, the rounds, of
course.)

"Buck up, Dammy! Ginger for pluck! Never say croak!"

A very large and very informal committee took charge of the business
of the fight, and what was alluded to as "a friendly boxing contest
between Bully Harberth of the Fifth and de Warrenne--late Funky--" was
arranged for the following Saturday afternoon. On being asked by a
delegate of the said large and informal committee as to whether he
would be trained by then or whether he would prefer a more distant
date, Dam replied that he would be glad to fight Harberth that very
moment--and thus gained the reputation of a fierce and determined
fellow (though erstwhile "funky"--the queer creature).

Those who had been loudest in dubbing him Funky Warrenne were quickest
in finding explanations of his curious conduct and explained it well
away.

It was at this time that Dam's heart went wholly and finally out to
Ormonde Delorme who roundly stated that his father, a bemedalled
heroic Colonel of Gurkhas, was "in a blind perishing funk" during a
thunderstorm and always sought shelter in the wine cellar when one was
in progress in his vicinity.

Darn presented Delorme with his knife and a tiger's tooth forthwith.
Saturday came and Dam almost regretted its advent, for, though a child
in years, he was sufficiently old, weary, and cynical in spirit to
know that all life's fruit contains dust and ashes, that the joys of
anticipation exceed those of realization, and that with possession
dies desire.

With the fight would end the glorious feeling of successful revolt,
and if he overcame one emissary of the Snake there would be a million
more to take his place.

And if Providence should be, as usual, on the side of the "big
battalions," and the older, taller, stronger, heavier boy should win?
Why--then he would bully the loser to his heart's content and the
limit of his ingenuity.

Good! Let him! He would fight him every day with the greatest
pleasure. A chance to fight the Snake on fair terms was all he
asked....

Time and place had been well chosen and there was little likelihood of
interference.

Some experienced youth, probably Cokeson himself, had made
arrangements as to seconds, time-keeper, judges, and referee; and,
though there was no ring of ropes and stakes, a twenty-four-foot
square had been marked out and inclosed by forms and benches. Seating
was provided for the "officials" and seniors, and two stools for the
principals. A couple of bowls of water, sponges, and towels lent a
business-like air to the scene.

To his delight, Dam discovered that Delorme was to be his second--a
person of sound advice, useful ministrations, and very present help in
time of trouble....

Delorme led him to his stool in an angle of the square of benches,
bade him spread wide his arms and legs and breathe deeply "for all he
was worth, with his eyes closed and his thoughts fixed on jolly
things".

Feeling himself the cynosure of neighbouring eyes and able to hear
the comments of the crowd, the last part of his second's instructions
was a little difficult of strict observation. However, he continued to
think of licking Harberth--the "jolliest" thing he could conceive,
until his mind wandered home to Lucille, and he enhanced the imaginary
jollity by conceiving her present.... "Sturdy little brute," observed
a big Fifth Form boy seated with a couple of friends on the bench
beside him, "but I'd lay two to one in sovs. (if I had 'em) that he
doesn't last a single round with Harberth".

"Disgrace to Harberth if he doesn't eat the kid alive," responded the
other.

"Got a good jaw and mouth, though," said the third. "Going to die
hard, you'll see. Good little kid."

"Fancy funking a bottled frog or something and fighting a chap who can
give him about four years, four inches, and four stone," observed the
first speaker.

"Yes. Queer little beast. He knocked Harberth clean out, they say.
Perhaps his father has had him properly taught and he can really box.
Ever seen him play footer? Nippiest little devil _I_ ever saw. Staunch
too. Rum go," commented his friend.

Dam thought of Sergeant Havlan and his son, the punching-ball, and the
fighting days at Monksmead. Perhaps he could "really" box, after all.
Anyhow he knew enough to hit straight and put his weight into it, to
guard chin and mark, to use his feet, duck, dodge, and side step.
Suppose Harberth knew as much? Well--since he was far stronger,
taller, and heavier, the only hope of success lay in the fact that he
was connected with the Snake--from whom mere blows in the open would
be welcome.

Anyhow he would die or win.

The positive joy of fighting _It_ in the glorious day and open air,
instead of in the Bottomless Pit--bound, stifled, mad with Fear--none
could realize....

Bully Harberth entered the ring accompanied by Shanner, who looked
like a Sixth Form boy and was in the Shell.

Harberth wore a thick sweater and looked very strong and heavy.

"If the little kid lasts three rounds with _that_" observed Cokeson to
Coxe Major, "he ought to be chaired."

Dam was disposed to agree with him in his heart, but he had no fear.
The feeling that _his_ brief innings had come--after the Snake had had
Its will of him for a dozen years--swallowed up all other feelings.

Coxe Major stepped into the ring. "I announce a friendly boxing
contest between Harberth of the Fifth, nine stone seven, and Funky
Warren (said to be no longer Funky) of Barton's House, weight not
worth mentioning," he declaimed.

"Are the gloves all right," called Cokeson (whose father owned
racehorses, was a pillar of the National Sporting Club, and deeply
interested in the welfare of a certain sporting newspaper).

"No fault can be found with Warren's gloves," said Shanner, coming
over to Dam.

"There's nothing wrong with the gloves here," added Delorme, after
visiting Harberth's corner.

This was the less remarkable in that there were no gloves whatsoever.

Presumably the fiction of a "friendly boxing contest" was to be
stoutly maintained. The crowd of delighted boys laughed.

"Then come here, both of you," said Cokeson.

The combatants complied.

"Don't hold and hit. Don't butt nor trip. Don't clinch. Don't use
knee, elbow, nor shoulder. When I call 'Break away,' break without
hitting. If you do any of these things you will be jolly well
disqualified. Fight fair and God have mercy on your souls." To Dam it
seemed that the advice was superfluous--and of God's mercy on his soul
he had had experience.

Returning to their corners, the two stripped to the waist and sat
ready, arrayed in shorts and gymnasium shoes.

Seen thus, they looked most unevenly matched, Harberth looking still
bigger for undressing and Dam even smaller. But, as the knowing Coxe
Major observed, what there was of Dam was in the right place--and was
muscle. Certainly he was finely made.

"Seconds out of the ring. _Time!_" called the time-keeper and Dam
sprang to his feet and ran at Harberth who swung a mighty round-arm
blow at his face as Dam ducked and smote him hard and true just below
the breast-bone and fairly on the "mark ".

The bully's grunt of anguish was drowned in howls of "Shake hands!"
"They haven't shaken hands!"

"Stop! Stop the fight," shouted Cokeson, and as they backed from each
other he inquired with anger and reproach in his voice:--

"Is this a friendly boxing-contest or a vulgar fight?" adding, "Get to
your corners and when _Time_ is called, shake hands and then begin."

Turning to the audience he continued in a lordly and injured manner:
"And there is only _one_ Referee, gentlemen, please. Keep silence or I
shall stop the fight--I mean--the friendly boxing contest."

As Dam sat down Delorme whispered:--

"Splendid! _In_fighting is your tip. Duck and go for the body every
time. He knows nothing of boxing I should say. Tire him--and remember
that if he gets you with a swing like that you're out."

"Seconds out of the ring. _Time!_" called the time-keeper and Dam
walked towards Harberth with outstretched hand, met him in the middle
of the ring and shook hands with great repugnance. As Harberth's hand
left Dam's it rose swiftly to Dam's face and knocked him down.

"Shame! Foul poke! Coward," were some of the indignant cries that
arose from the spectators.

"Silence," roared the referee. "_Will_ you shut up and be quiet.
Perfectly legitimate--if not very sporting."

Dam sprang to his feet, absolutely unhurt, and, if possible, more
determined than ever. It was only because he had been standing with
feet together that he had been knocked down at all. Had he been given
time to get into sparring position the blow would not have moved him.
Nor was Harberth himself in an attitude to put much weight behind the
blow and it was more a cuff than a punch.

Circling round his enemy, Dam sparred for an opening and watched his
style and methods.

Evidently the bully expected to make short work of him, and he carried
his right fist as though it were a weapon and not a part of his body.

As he advanced with his right extended, quivering, menacing, and
poised for a knock-out blow, his left did not appear in the matter at
all.

Suddenly he aimed his fist at Dam like a stone and with great force.
Dam side-stepped and it brushed his ear; with his right he smote with
all his force upon Harberth's ribs and with his left he drove at his
eye as he came up. Both blows were well and truly laid and with good
sounding thuds that seemed to delight the audience.

Bully Harberth changed his tactics and advanced upon his elusive
opponent with his left in the position of guard and his right drawn
back to the arm-pit. Evidently he was going to hold him off with the
one and smash him with the other. Not waiting for him to develop his
attack, but striking the bully's left arm down with his own left, Dam
hit over it with his right and reached his nose and--so curious are
the workings of the human mind--thought of Moses striking the rock and
bringing forth water.

The sight of blood seemed to distress Harberth and, leaping in as the
latter drew his hand across his mouth, Dam drove with all his strength
at his mark and with such success that Harberth doubled up and fetched
his breath with deep groans. Dam stood clear and waited.

Delorme called out, "You've a right to finish him," and was sternly
reproved by the referee.

As Harberth straightened up, Dam stepped towards him, but the bully
turned and ran to his stool. As he reached it amid roars of execration
the time-keeper arose and cried "_Time!_"

"You had him, you little ass," said Delorme, as he squeezed a sponge
of water on Dam's head. "Why on earth didn't you go in and finish
him?"

"It didn't seem decent when he was doubled up," replied Dam.

"Did it seem decent his hitting you while you shook hands?" returned
the other, beginning to fan his principal with a towel.

"Anyhow he's yours if you go on like this. Keep your head and don't
worry about his. Stick to his body till you have a clear chance at the
point of his jaw."

"Seconds out of the ring. _Time!_" cried the time-keeper.

This round was less fortunate for the smaller boy. Harberth's second
had apparently given him some good advice, for he kept his mark
covered and used his left both to guard and to hit.

Also he had learned something from Dam, and, on one occasion as the
latter went at his face with a straight left, he dropped the top of
his head towards him and made a fierce hooking punch at Dam's body.
Luckily it was a little high, but it winded him for a moment, and had
his opponent rushed him then, Dam could have done nothing at all.

Just as "Time" was called, Harberth swung a great round-arm blow at
Dam which would have knocked him head over heels had not he let his
knees go just in time and ducked under it, hitting his foe once again
on the mark with all his strength.

"How d'you feel?" asked Delorme as Dam went to his stool.

"Happy," said he.

"Don't talk piffle," was the reply. "How do you feel? Wind all right?
Groggy at all?"

"Not a bit," said Dam. "I am enjoying it."

And so he was. Hitherto the Snake had had him bound and helpless. As
it pursued him in nightmares, his knees had turned to water, great
chains had bound his arms, devilish gags had throttled him, he could
not breathe, and he had not had a chance to escape nor to fight. He
could not even scream for help. He could only cling to a shelf. _Now_
he had a chance. His limbs were free, his eyes were open, he could
breathe, think, act, defend himself and _attack_.

"Seconds out of the ring. _Time!_" called the time-keeper and Delorme
ceased fanning with the towel, splashed a spongeful of water in Dam's
face and backed away with his stool.

Harberth seemed determined to make an end.

He rushed at his opponent whirling his arms, breathing stertorously,
and scowling savagely.

Guarding hurt Dam's arms, he had no time to hit, and in ducking he was
slow and got a blow (aimed at his chin) in the middle of his forehead.
Down he went like a nine-pin, but was up as quickly, and ready for
Harberth who had rushed at him in the act of rising, while the referee
shouted "Stand clear".

As he came on, Dam fell on one knee and drove at his mark again.

Harberth grunted and placed his hands on the smitten spot.

Judging time and distance well, Dam hit with all his force at the
bully's chin and he went down like a log.

Rising majestically, the time-keeper lifted up his voice and counted:
"_One--two--three--four--five--six"_--and Harberth opened his eyes,
sat up, "_seven--eight--nine_"--and lay down again; and just as Dam
was about to leap for joy and the audience to roar their
approval--instead of the fatal "_OUT_" the time-keeper called
"_Time_".

Had Dam struck the blow a second sooner, the fight would have been
over and he would have won. As it was, Harberth had the whole interval
in which to recover. Dam's own luck! (But Miss Smellie had always said
there is no such thing as Luck!) Well--so much the better. _Fighting_
the Snake was the real joy, and victory would end it. So would defeat
and he must not get cock-a-hoop and careless.

Delorme filled his mouth with water and ejected it in a fine spray
over Dam's head and chest. He was very proud of this feat, but, though
most refreshing, Dam could have preferred that the water had come from
a sprayer.

"Seconds out of the ring, _Time!_" called the referee.

Harberth appeared quite recovered, but he was of a curious colour and
seemed tired.

Acting on his second's advice, Dam gave his whole attention to getting
at his opponent's body again, and overdid it. As Harberth struck at
him with his left, he ducked, and as he was aiming at Harberth's mark,
he was suddenly knocked from day into night, from light into darkness,
from life into death....

Years passed and Dam strove to explain that the mainspring had broken
and that he had heard it click--when suddenly a great black
drop-curtain rolled up, while some one snapped back some slides that
had covered his ears, and had completely deafened him.

Then he saw Harberth and heard the voice of the time-keeper saying:
"_five--six--seven_".

He scrambled to his knees, "_eight_" swayed and staggered to his feet,
collapsed, rose, "_nine_" and was knocked down by Harberth.

The time-keeper again stood up and counted, "_One--two--three_". But
this blow actually helped him.

He lay collecting his strength and wits, breathing deeply and taking
nine seconds' rest.

On the word _"nine"_ he sprang to his feet and as Harberth rushed in,
side-stepped, and, as that youth instinctively covered his
much-smitten "mark," Dam drove at his chin and sent him staggering. As
he went after him he saw that Harberth was breathing hard, trembling,
and swaying on his feet. Springing in, he rained short-arm blows until
Harberth fell and then he stepped well back.

Harberth sat shaking his head, looking piteous, and, in the middle of
the time-keeper's counting, he arose remarking, "I've had enough"--and
walked to his chair.

Bully Harberth was beaten--and Dam felt that the Snake was farther
from him than ever it had been since he could remember.

"De Warrenne wins," said Cokeson, and then Flaherty of the Sixth
stepped into the ring and stopped the fight with much show of wrath
and indignation.

Dam was wildly cheered and chaired and thence-forth was as popular and
as admired as he had been shunned and despised.

Nor did he have another Snake seizure by day (though countless
terrible nightmares in what must be called his sleep) till some time
after he had left school.

When he did, it had a most momentous influence upon his career.

She is mine! She is mine!
By her soul divine
By her heart's pure guile
By her lips' sweet smile
She is mine! She is mine.

Encapture? Aye
In dreams as fair
As angel whispers, low and rare,
In thoughts as pure
As childhood's innocent allure
In hopes as bright
In deeds as white
As altar lilies, bathed in light.

She is mine! She is mine!
By seal as true
To spirit view
As holy scripture writ in dew,
By bond as fair
To vision rare
As holy scripture writ in air,
By writ as wise to spirit eyes
As holy scripture in God's skies v
She is mine! She is mine!

Elude me? Nay,
Ere earth reclaimed
In joy unveils a Heaven regained,
Ere sea unbound,
Unfretting, rolls in mist--nor sound,
Ere sun and star repentent crash
In scattered ash, across the bar
She is _mine_ I She is _mine_!

A. L. WREN.



CHAPTER VII.

LOVE--AND THE SNAKE.


Damocles de Warrenne, gentleman-cadet, on the eve of returning from
Monksmead to the Military Academy of Sandhurst, appeared to have
something on his mind as he sat on the broad coping of the terrace
balustrade and idly kicked his heels. Every time he had returned to
Monksmead from Wellingborough and Sandhurst, he had found Lucille yet
more charming, delightful, and lovable. As her skirts and hair
lengthened she became more and more the real companion, the pal, the
adviser, without becoming any less the sportsman.

He had always loved her quaint terms of endearment, slang, and
epithets, but as she grew into a beautiful and refined and dignified
girl, it was still more piquant to be addressed in the highly
unladylike (or un-Smelliean) terms that she affected.

Dam never quite knew when she began to make his heart beat quicker,
and when her presence began to act upon him as sunshine and her
absence as dull cloud; but there came a time when (whether she were
riding to hounds in her neat habit, rowing with him in sweater and
white skirt, swinging along the lanes in thick boots and tailor-made
costume, sitting at the piano after dinner in simple white
dinner-gown, or waltzing at some ball--always the belle thereof for
him) he _did_ know that Lucille was more to him than a jolly pal, a
sound adviser, an audience, a confidant, and ally. Perhaps the day she
put her hair up marked an epoch in the tale of his affections. He
found that he began to hate to see other fellows dancing, skating, or
playing golf or tennis with her. He did not like to see men speaking
to her at meets or taking her in to dinner. He wanted the blood of a
certain neighbouring spring-Captain, a hunter of "flappers" and
molester of parlour-maids, home on furlough, who made eyes at her at
the Hunt Ball and followed her about all Cricket Week and said
something to her which, as Dam heard, provoked her coolly to request
him "not to be such a priceless ass". What it was she would not tell
Dam, and he, magnifying it, called, like the silly raw boy he was,
upon the spring-Captain, and gently requested him to "let my cousin
alone, Sir, if you don't mind, or--er--I'll jolly well make you". Dam
knew things about the gentleman, and considered him wholly unfit to
come within a mile of Lucille. The spring-Captain was obviously much
amused and inwardly much annoyed--but he ceased his scarce-begun
pursuit of the hoydenish-queenly girl, for Damocles de Warrenne had a
reputation for the cool prosecution of his undertakings and the
complete fulfilment of his promises. Likewise he had a reputation for
Herculean strength and uncanny skill. Yet the gay Captain had been
strongly attracted by the beauty and grace of the unspoilt,
unsophisticated, budding woman, with her sweet freshness and dignity
(so quaintly enhanced by lapses into the slangy, unfettered schoolgirl
...). Not that he was a marrying man at all, of course.... Yes--Dam
had it weightily on his mind that he might come down from Sandhurst at
any time and find Lucille engaged to some other fellow. Girls did get
engaged.... It was the natural and obvious thing for them to do. She'd
get engaged to some brainy clever chap worth a dozen of his own
mediocre self.... Of course she liked him dearly as a pal and all
that, an ancient crony and chum--but how should he hope to compete
with the brilliant fellers she'd meet as she went about more, and knew
them. She was going to have a season in London next year. Think of the
kind of chaps she'd run across in Town in the season. Intellectual
birds, artists, poets, authors, travellers, distinguished coves,
rising statesmen, under-secretaries, soldiers, swells, all sorts. Not
much show for him against that lot!

Gad! What a rotten look-out! What a rotten world to be sure! Fancy
losing Lucille!... Should he put his fortunes to the touch, risk all,
and propose to her. Fellows did these things in such circumstances....
No--hardly fair to try to catch her like that before she had had at
least one season, and knew what was what and who was who.... Hardly
the clean potato--to take advantage of their long intimacy and try to
trap her while she was a country mouse.

It was not as though he were clever and could hope for a great career
and the power to offer her the position for which she was fitted. Why,
he was nearly bottom of his year at Sandhurst--not a bit brilliant and
brainy. Suppose she married him in her inexperience, and then met the
right sort of intellectual, clever feller too late. No, it wouldn't be
the straight thing and decent at all, to propose to her now. How would
Grumper view such a step? What had he to offer her? What was he? Just
a penniless orphan. Apart from Grumper's generosity he owned a single
five-pound note in money. Never won a scholarship or exam-prize in his
life. Mere Public Schools boxing and fencing champion, and best
man-at-arms at Sandhurst, with a score or so of pots for running,
jumping, sculling, swimming, shooting, boxing, fencing,
steeple-chasing and so forth. His total patrimony encashed would
barely pay for his Army outfit. But for Grumper's kindness he couldn't
go into the Army at all. And Grumper, the splendid old chap, couldn't
last very much longer. Why--for many a long year he would not earn
more than enough to pay his mess-bills and feed his horses. Not in
England certainly.... Was he to ask Lucille to leave her luxurious
home in a splendid mansion and live in a subaltern's four-roomed hut
in the plains in India? (Even if he could scrape into the Indian army
so as to live on his pay--more or less.) Grumper, her guardian, and
executor of the late Bishop's will, might have very different views
for her. Why, she might even be his heiress--he was very fond of her,
the daughter of his lifelong friend and kinsman. Fancy a pauper making
up to a very rich girl--if it came to her being that, which he
devoutly hoped it would not. It would remove her so hopelessly beyond
his reach. By the time he could make a position, and an income visible
to the naked eye, he would be grey-haired. Money was not made in the
army. Rather was it becoming no place for a poor gentleman but the
paradise of rich bounders, brainy little squits of swotters, and
commission-without-training nondescripts--thanks to the growing
insecurity of things among the army class and gentry generally. If she
were really penniless he might--as a Captain--ask her to share his
poverty--but was it likely shed be a spinster ten years hence--even if
he were a Captain so soon? Promotion is not violently rapid in the
Cavalry.... And yet he simply hated the bare thought of life without
Lucille. Better to be a gardener at Monksmead, and see her every day,
than be the Colonel of a Cavalry Corps and know her to be married to
somebody else.... Yes--he would come home one of these times from
Sandburst or his Regiment and find her engaged to some other fellow.
And what then? Well--nothing--only life would be of no further
interest. It was bound to happen. Everybody turned to look at her.
Even women gave generous praise of her beauty, grace, and sweetness.
Men raved about her, and every male creature who came near her was
obviously dpris in five minutes. The curate, plump "Holy Bill," was
well known to be fading away, slowly and beautifully, but quite
surely, on her account. Grumper's old pal, General Harringport, had
confided to Dam himself in the smoking-room, one very late night, that
since he was fifty years too old for hope of success in that direction
he'd go solitary to his lonely grave (here a very wee hiccup), damn
his eyes, so he would, unwed, unloved, uneverything. Very trag(h)ic,
but such was life, the General had declared, the one alleviation being
the fact that he might die any night now, and ought to have done so a
decade ago.

Why, even the little useless snob and tuft-hunter, the Haddock, that
tailor's dummy and parody of a man, cast sheep's eyes and made what he
called "love" to her when down from Oxford (and was duly snubbed for
it and for his wretched fopperies, snobberies, and folly). He'd have
to put the Haddock across his knee one of these days.

Then there was his old school pal and Sandhurst senior, Ormonde
Delorme, who frequently stayed at, and had just left, Monksmead
--fairly dotty about her. She certainly liked Delorme--and no
wonder, so handsome, clever, accomplished, and so fine a gentleman.
Rich, too. Better Ormonde than another--but, God! what pain even to
think of it.... Why had he cleared off so suddenly, by the way, and
obviously in trouble, though he would not admit it?...

Lucille emerged from a French window and came swinging across the
terrace. The young man, his face aglow, radiant, rose to meet her. It
was a fine face--with that look on it. Ordinarily it was somewhat
marred by a slightly cynical grimness of the mouth and a hint of
trouble in the eyes--a face a little too old for its age.

"Have a game at tennis before tea, young Piggy-wig?" asked Lucille as
she linked her arm in his.

"No, young Piggy-wee," replied Dam. "Gettin' old an' fat. Joints
stiffenin'. Come an' sit down and hear the words of wisdom of your old
Uncle Dammiculs, the Wise Man of Monksmead."

"Come off it, Dammy. Lazy little beast. Fat little brute," commented
the lady.

As Damocles de Warrenne was six feet two inches high, and twelve stone
of iron-hard muscle, the insults fell but lightly upon him.

"I will, though," she continued. "I shan't have the opportunity of
hearing many more of your words of wisdom for a time, as you go back
on Monday. And you'll be the panting prey of a gang of giggling girls
at the garden party and dance to-morrow.... Why on earth must we muck
up your last week-day with rotten 'functions'. You don't want to dance
and you don't want to garden-part in the least."

"Nit," interrupted Dam.

" ... Grumper means it most kindly but ... we want you to ourselves
the last day or two ... anyhow...."

"D'you want me to yourself, Piggy-wee?" asked Dam, trying to speak
lightly and off-handedly.

"Of course I do, you Ass. Shan't see you for centuries and months.
Nothing to do but weep salt tears till Christmas. Go into a decline or
a red nose very likely. Mind you write to me twice a week at the very
least," replied Lucille, and added:--

"Bet you that silly cat Amelia Harringport is in your pocket all
to-morrow afternoon and evening. _All_ the Harringport crowd are
coming from Folkestone, you know. If you run the clock-golf she'll
_adore_ clock-golf, and if you play tennis she'll _adore_ tennis....
Can't think what she sees in you...."

"Don't be cattish, Lusilly," urged the young man. "'Melier's all
right. It's you she comes to see, of course."

To which, it is regrettable to have to relate, Lucille replied
"Rodents".

Talk languished between the young people. Both seemed unwontedly ill
at ease and nervous.

"D'you get long between leaving Sandhurst and joining the Corps you're
going to distinguish, Dammy?" asked the girl after an uneasy and
pregnant silence, during which they had furtively watched each other,
and smiled a little uncomfortably and consciously when they had
caught each other doing so.

"Dunno. Sure not to. It's a rotten world," replied Dam gloomily. "I
expect I shall come back and find you--"

"Of course you'll come back and find me! What do you mean, Dam?" said
the girl. She flushed curiously as she interrupted him. Before he
could reply she continued:--

"You won't be likely to have to go abroad directly you join your
Regiment, will you?"

"I shall try for the Indian Army or else for a British Regiment in
India," was the somewhat sullen answer.

"Dam! What ever for?"

"More money and less expenses."

"Dam! You mercenary little toad! You grasping, greedy hog!... Why! I
thought...."

Lucille gazed straight and searchingly at her life-long friend for a
full minute and then rose to her feet.

"Come to tea," she said quietly, and led the way to the big lawn
where, beneath an ancient cedar of Lebanon, the pompous Butterton and
his solemn satellite were setting forth the tea "things".

Aunt Yvette presided at the tea-table and talked bravely to two
woolly-witted dames from the Vicarage who had called to consult her
anent the covering of a foot-stool "that had belonged to their dear
Grandmamma".

("'Time somebody shot it," murmured Dam to Lucille as he handed her
cup.)

Anon Grumper bore down upon the shady spot; queer old Grumper, very
stiff, red-faced, dapper, and extremely savage.

Having greeted the guests hospitably and kindly he confined his
subsequent conversation to two grunts and a growl.

Lucille and Damocles could not be said to have left the cane-chaired
group about the rustic tables and cake-stands at any given moment.
Independently they evaporated, after the manner of the Cheshire Cat it
would appear, really getting farther and farther from the circle by
such infinitely small degrees and imperceptible distances as would
have appealed to the moral author of "Little by Little". At length the
intervening shrubbery seemed to indicate that they were scarcely in
the intimate bosom of the tea-party, if they had never really left it.

"Come for a long walk, Liggy," remarked Dam as they met, using an
ancient pet-name.

"Right-O, my son," was the reply. "But we must start off mildly. I
have a lovely feeling of too much cake. Too good to waste. Wait here
while I put on my clod-hoppers."

The next hour was _the_ Hour of the lives of Damocles de Warrenne and
Lucille Gavestone--the great, glorious, and wonderful hour that comes
but once in a lifetime and is the progenitor of countless happy
hours--or hours of poignant pain. The Hour that can come only to
those who are worthy of it, and which, whatever may follow, is an
unspeakably precious blessing, confuting the cynic, shaming the
pessimist, confounding the atheist, rewarding the pure in heart,
revealing God to Man.

Heaven help the poor souls to whom that Hour never comes, with its
memories that nothing can wholly destroy, its brightness that nothing
can ever wholly darken. Heaven especially help the poor purblind soul
that can sneer at it, the greatest and noblest of mankind's gifts, the
countervail of all his cruel woes and curses.

As they walked down the long sweep of the elm-avenue, the pair
encountered the vicar coming to gather up his wife and sister for the
evening drive, and the sight of the two fine young people gladdened
the good man's heart. He beheld a tall, broad-shouldered,
narrow-hipped young man, with a frank handsome face, steady blue eyes,
fair hair and determined jaw, a picture of the clean-bred,
clean-living, out-door Englishman, athletic, healthy-minded,
straight-dealing; and a slender, beautiful girl, with a strong sweet
face, hazel-eyed, brown-haired, upright and active of carriage,
redolent of sanity, directness, and all moral and physical health.

"A well-matched pair," he smiled to himself as they passed him with a
cheery greeting.

For a mile or two both thought much and spoke little, the man thinking
of the brilliant, hated Unknown who would steal away his Lucille; the
woman thinking of the coming separation from the friend, without whom
life was very empty, dull, and poor. Crossing a field, they reached a
fence and a beautiful view of half the county. Stopping by mutual
consent, they gazed at the peaceful, familiar scene, so ennobled and
etherealized by the moon's soft radiance.

"I shall think of this walk, somehow, whenever I see the full moon,"
said Dam, breaking a long silence.

"And I," replied Lucille.

"I hate going away this time, somehow, more than usual," he blurted
out after another spell of silence. "I can't help wondering whether
you'll be--the same--when I come back at Christmas."

"Why--how should I be different, Dammy?" asked the girl, turning her
gaze upon his troubled face, which seemed to twitch and work as though
in pain.

"How?... Why, you might be--"

"Might be what, dear?"

"You might be--engaged."

The girl saw that in the man's eyes to which his tongue could not, or
would not, give utterance. As he spoke the word, with a catch in his
breath, she suddenly flung her arms round his neck, pressed her lips
to his white face, and, with a little sob, whispered:--

"Not unless to you, Dam, darling--there is no other man in the world
but you," and their lips met in their first lover's kiss.... Oh, the
wonderful, glorious world!... The grand, beautiful old world! Place of
delight, joy, wonder, beauty, gratitude. How the kind little stars
sang to them and the benign old moon looked down and said: "Never
despair, never despond, never fear, God has given you Love. What
matters else?" How the man swore to himself that he would be worthy of
her, strive for her, live for her; if need be--die for her. How the
woman vowed to herself that she would be worthy of her splendid, noble
lover, help him, cheer him, watch over him. Oh, if he might only need
her some day and depend on her for something in spite of his strength
and manhood. How she yearned to do something for him, to give, to
give, to give. Their hour lasted for countless ages, and passed in a
flash. The world intruded, spoiling itself as always.

"Home to dinner, darling," said the girl at last. "Hardly time to
dress if we hurry. Grumper will simply rampage and roar. He gets worse
every day." She disengaged herself from the boy's arms and her
terribly beautiful, painfully exquisite, trance.

"Give me one more kiss, tell me once more that you love me and only
me, for ever, and let us go.... God bless this place. I thank God. I
love God--now ..." she said.

Dam could not speak at all.

They walked away, hand in hand, incredulous, tremulous, bewildered by
the beauty and wonder and glory of Life.

Alas!

As they passed the Lodge and entered the dark avenue, Dam found his
tongue.

"Must tell Grumper," he said. Nothing mattered since Lucille loved him
like that. She'd be happier in the subaltern's hut in the plains of
India than in a palace. If Grumper didn't like it, he must lump it.
Her happiness was more important than Grumper's pleasure.

"Yes," acquiesced Lucille, "but tell him on Monday morning when you
go. Let's have this all to ourselves, darling, just for a few hours. I
believe he'll be jolly glad. Dear old bear, isn't he--really."

In the middle of the avenue Lucille stopped.

"Dammy, my son," quoth she, "tell me the absolute, bare, bald truth.
Much depends upon it and it'll spoil everything if you aren't
perfectly, painfully honest."

"Right-O," responded Dam. "Go it."

"Am I the very very loveliest woman that ever lived?"

"No," replied Dam, "but I wouldn't have a line of your face changed."

"Am I the cleverest woman in the world?"

"No. But you're quite clever enough for me. I wouldn't have you any
cleverer. God forbid."

"Am I absolutely perfect and without flaw--in character."

"No. But I love your faults."

"Do you wish to enshrine me in a golden jewel-studded temple and
worship me night and day?"

"No. I want to put you in a house and live with you."

"Hurrah," cried the surprising young woman. "That's _love_, Dam. It's
not rotten idealizing and sentimentalizing that dies away as soon as
facts are seen as such. You're a man, Dam, and I'm going to be a
woman. I loathe that bleating, glorified nonsense that the Reverend
Bill and Captain Luniac and poor old Ormonde and people talk when
they're 'in love'. _Love!_ It's just sentimental idealizing and the
worship of what does not exist and therefore cannot last. You love
_me_, don't you, Dammy, not an impossible figment of a heated
imagination? This will last, dear.... If you'd idealized me into
something unearthly and impossible you'd have tired of me in six
months or less. You'd have hated me when you saw the reality, and
found yourself tied to it for life."

"Make a speech, Daughter," replied Damocles. "Get on a stump and make
a blooming speech."

Both were a little unstrung.

"I must wire this news to Delorme," said he suddenly. "He'll be
delighted." Lucillemade no reply.

As they neared the end of the drive and came within sight of the
house, the girl whispered:--

"My own pal, Dammy, for always. And you thought I could be engaged to
anyone but _you_. There _is_ no one but you in the world, dear. It
would be quite empty if you left it. Don't worry about ways and means
and things, Dam, I shall enjoy waiting for _you_--twenty years."

He thought of that, later.

On the morrow of that incredible day, Damocles de Warrenne sprang from
his bed at sunrise and sought the dew-washed garden below the big
south terrace.

The world contained no happier man. Sunrise in a glorious English
summer and a grand old English garden, on the day after the Day of
Days. He trod on air as he lived over again every second of that
wonderful over-night scene, and scarcely realized the impossible
truth.

Lucille loved him, as a lover! Lucille the _alter ego_, the
understanding, splendid friend; companion in play and work, in idle
gaiety and serious consideration; the _bon camarade_, the real chum
and pal.

Life was a Song, the world a Paradise, the future a long-drawn Glory.

He would like to go and hold the Sword in his hand for a minute,
and--something seemed to stir beneath his foot, and a shudder ran
through his powerful frame.

The brightness of the morning was dimmed, and then Lucille came
towards him blushing, radiant, changed, and all was well with the
world, and God in high heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

After breakfast they again walked in the garden, the truly enchanted
garden, and talked soberly with but few endearments though with
over-full hearts, and with constant pauses to eye the face of the
other with wondering rapture. They came of a class and a race not
given to excessive demonstrativeness, but each knew that the other
loved--for life.

In the afternoon, guests began to arrive soon after lunch, duties
usurped the place of pleasures, and the lovers met as mere friends in
the crowd. There was meaning in the passing glances, however, and an
occasional hand-touch in the giving of tennis-ball, or tea-cup.

"Half the County" was present, and while the younger fry played
tennis, croquet, clock-golf, and bowls, indulged in "mixed cricket,"
or attempted victory at archery or miniature-rifle shooting, the
sedate elders strolled o'er velvet lawns beneath immemorial elms, sat
in groups, or took tea by carpet-spread marquees.

Miss Amelia Harringport, seeing Dam with a croquet-mallet in his hand,
observed that she _adored_ croquet. Dam stated in reply that Haddon
Berners was a fearful dog at it, considered there should be a croquet
Blue in fact, and would doubtless be charmed to make up a set with her
and the curate, the Reverend William Williamson Williams (Holy Bill),
and Another. Dam himself was cut off from the bliss of being the
Other--did not know the game at all.

Miss Amelia quickly tired of her croquet with the Haddock, Holy Bill
and the Vicar's Wife's Sister, who looked straitly after Holy Bill on
this and all other occasions. Seeing Dam shepherding a flock of elders
to the beautifully-mown putting-tracks radiating from the central
circle of "holes" for the putting competition, she informed him that
she _adored_ putting, so much so that she wanted lessons from him, the
local amateur golf-champion.

"I just want a little _personal tuition_ from the Champion and I shall
be quite a classy putter," she gurgled.

"I will personally tuit," replied Dam, "and when you are tuited we
will proceed to win the prize."

Carefully posing the maiden aspirant for putting excellence at the end
of the yard-wide velvety strip leading to the green and "hole," Dam
gave his best advice, bade her smite with restraint, and then
proceeded to the "hole" to retrieve the ball for his own turn. Other
couples did "preliminary canters" somewhat similarly on the remaining
spokes of the great wheel of the putting "clock".

The canny and practised Amelia, who had designs upon the handsome
silver prize as well as upon the handsome Damocles, smote straight and
true with admirable judgment, and the ball sped steadily down the
track direct for the "hole," a somewhat large and deep one.

"By Jove! Magnificent!" cried Dam, with quick and generous
appreciation of the really splendid putt. "You'll hole out in one this
time, anyhow." As the slowing ball approached the "hole" he inserted
his hand therein, laughing gaily, to anticipate the ball which with
its last grain of momentum would surely reach it and topple in.

Then the thing happened!

As he put his hand to the grass-encircled goal of the maiden's hopes
and ball, its gloomy depths appeared to move, swirl round, rise up, as
a small green snake uncoiled in haste and darted beneath Dam's
approaching upturned hand, and swiftly undulated across the lawn.

With a shriek that momentarily paralysed the gay throng, turned all
eyes in his direction, and brought the more cool and helpful running
to the spot, Dam fell writhing, struggling, and screaming to the
ground.

"The SNAKE! The SNAKE!" he howled, while tears gushed from his eyes
and he strove to dig his way into the ground for safety.

"There it goes!" squealed the fair Amelia pointing tragically. Ladies
duly squeaked, bunched their skirts tightly, jumped on chairs or
sought protection by the side of stalwart admirers.

Men cried "Where?" and gathered for battle. One sporting character
emitted an appalling "View Halloo" and there were a few "Yoicks" and
"Gone Aways" to support his little solecism. Lucille, rushing to Dam,
encountered the fleeing reptile and with a neat stroke of her putter
ended its career.

"It's all right, old chap," sneered Haddon Berners, as the mad,
convulsed, and foaming Dam screamed: "_It's under my foot. It's
moving, moving, moving out_," and doubled up into a knot.

"Oh no, it isn't," he continued. "Lucille has killed it. Nothing to be
terrified about.... Oh, chuck it, man! Get up and blow your nose...."
He was sent sprawling on his back as Lucille dropped by Dam's side and
strove to raise his face from the grass.

"Come off it, Dam! You're very funny, we know," adjured the sporting
character, rather ashamed and discomfortable at seeing a brother man
behaving so. There are limits to acting the goat--especially with
wimmin about. Why couldn't Dam drop it?...

Lucille was shocked and horrified to the innermost fibres of her
being. Her dignified, splendid Dam rolling on the ground, shrieking,
sobbing, writhing.... Ill or well, joke or seizure, it was horrible,
unseemly.... Why couldn't the gaping fools be obliterated?...

"Dam, dear," she whispered in his ear, as she knelt over the
shuddering, gasping, sobbing man. "What is it, Dam? Are you ill? Dam,
it's Lucille.... The snake is quite dead, dear. I killed it. Are you
joking? Dam! _Dam_!" ...

The stricken wretch screamed like a terrified child.

"Oh, won't somebody fetch Dr. Jones if he's not here yet," she wailed,
turning to the mystified crowd of guests. "Get some water quickly,
somebody, salts, brandy, anything! Oh, _do_ go away," and she deftly
unfastened the collar of the spasm-wracked sufferer. "Haddon," she
cried, looking up and seeing the grinning Haddock, "go straight for
Dr. Jones. Cycle if you're afraid of spoiling your clothes by riding.
Quick!"

"Oh, he'll be all right in a minute," drawled the Haddock, who did not
relish a stiff ride along dusty roads in his choicest confection.
"He's playing the fool, I believe--or a bit scared at the ferocious
serpent."

Lucille gave the youth a look that he never forgot, and turned to the
sporting person.

"You know the stables, Mr. Fellerton," she said. "Would you tell
Pattern or somebody to send a man for Dr. Jones? Tell him to beat the
record."

The sporting one sprinted toward the shrubbery which lay between the
grounds and the kitchen-gardens, beyond which were the stables.

Most people, with the better sort of mind, withdrew and made efforts
to recommence the interrupted games or to group themselves once more
about the lawns and marquees.

Others remained to make fatuous suggestions, to wonder, or merely to
look on with feelings approaching awe and fascination. There was
something uncanny here--a soldier and athlete weeping and screaming
and going into fits at the sight of a harmless grass-snake, probably a
mere blind worm! Was he a hysterical, neurotic coward, after all--a
wretched decadent?

Poor Lucille suffered doubly--every pang, spasm, and contortion that
shook and wrung the body of her beloved, racked her own frame, and her
mind was tortured by fear, doubts, and agony. "Oh, please go away,
dear people," she moaned. "It is a touch of sun. He is a little
subject to slight fits--very rarely and at long intervals, you know.
He may never have another." A few of the remaining onlookers backed
away a little shamefacedly. Others offered condolences while inwardly
scoffing at the "sun" explanation. Did not de Warrenne bowl, bat, or
field, bare-headed, throughout the summer's day without thinking of
the sun? Who had heard of the "fits" before? Why had they not
transpired during the last dozen years or so? "Help me carry him
indoors, somebody," said the miserable, horrified Lucille. That would
get rid of the silly staring "helpers" anyhow--even if it brought
matters to the notice of Grumper, who frankly despised and detested
any kind of sick person or invalid.

What would he say and do? What had happened to the glowing, glorious
world that five minutes ago was fairy-land and paradise? Was her Dam a
wretched coward, afraid of things, screaming like a girl at the sight
of a common snake, actually terrified into a fit? Better be a
pick-pocket than a.... Into the thinning, whispering circle came
General Sir Gerald Seymour Stukeley, apoplectically angry. Some silly
fool, he understood, had fainted or something--probably a puling
tight-laced fool of a woman who starved herself to keep slim. People
who wanted to faint should stay and do it at home--not come creating
disturbances and interruptions at Monksmead garden-parties....

And then he saw a couple of young men and Lucille striving to raise
the recumbent body of a man. The General snorted as snorts the
wart-hog in love and war, or the graceful hippopotamus in the river.

"What the Devil's all this?" he growled. "Some poor fella fainted with
the exertions of putting?" A most bitter old gentleman.

Lucille turned to him and his fierce gaze fell upon the pale,
contorted, and tear-stained face of Dam.

The General flushed an even deeper purple, and the stick he held
perpendicularly slowly rose to horizontal, though he did not raise his
hand.

He made a loud but wholly inarticulate sound.

Haddon Berners, enjoying himself hugely, volunteered the information.

"He saw a little grass-snake and yelled out. Then he wept and fainted.
Coming round now. Got the funks, poor chap."

Lucille's hands closed (the thumbs correctly on the knuckles of the
second fingers), and, for a moment, it was in her heart to smite the
Haddock on the lying mouth with the straight-from-the-shoulder drive
learned in days of yore from Dam, and practised on the punching-ball
with great assiduity. Apparently the Haddock realized the fact for he
skipped backward with agility.

"He is ill, Grumper dear," she said instead. "He has had a kind of
fit. Perhaps he had sunstroke in India, and it has just affected him
now in the sun...."

Grumper achieved the snort of his life.

It may have penetrated Dam's comatose brain, indeed, for at that
moment, with a moan and a shudder, he struggled to a sitting posture.

"The Snake," he groaned, and collapsed again.

"What the Devil!" roared the General. "Get up, you miserable, whining
cur! Get indoors, you bottle-fed squalling workhouse brat! Get out of
it, you decayed gentlewoman!" ... The General bade fair to have a fit
of his own.

Lucille flung herself at him.

"Can't you see he's very ill, Grumper? Have you no heart at all? Don't
be so cruel ... and ... stupid."

The General gasped.... Insults!... From a chit of a girl!... "Ill!" he
roared. "What the Devil does he want to be ill for now, here, to-day?
I never ..."

Dam struggled to his feet with heroic efforts at self-mastery, and
stood swaying, twitching, trembling in every limb, and obviously in an
agony of terror.

"The Snake!" he said again.

"Ha!" barked General Stukeley. "Been fighting forty boa-constrictors,
what? Just had a fearful struggle with five thousand fearful pythons,
what? There'll be another Victoria Cross in your family soon, if
you're not careful."

"You are an unjust and cruel old man," stormed Lucille, stamping her
foot at the hitherto dread Grumper. "He is ill, I tell you! You'll be
ill yourself someday. He had a fit. He'll be all right in a minute.
Let him go in and lie down. It wasn't the snake at all. There wasn't
any snake--where he was. He is just ill. He has been working too hard.
Let him go in and lie down."

"Let him go to the Devil," growled the infuriated General, and turned
to such few of the guests as had not displayed sufficient good sense
and good taste to go elsewhere and resume their interrupted games,
tea, or scandal, to remark:--

"I really apologize most sincerely and earnestly for this ridiculous
scene. The boy should be in petticoats, apparently. I hope he won't
encounter a mouse or a beetle to-night. Let's all--er--come and have a
drink."

Lucille led her shaking and incoherent lover indoors and established
him on a sofa, had a fire lit for him as he appeared to be deathly
cold, and sat holding his clammy hand until the arrival of Dr. Jones.

As well as his chattering teeth and white frozen lips would allow, he
begged for forgiveness, for understanding. "He wasn't really wholly a
coward in essentials." ...

The girl kissed the contorted face and white lips passionately. Dr.
Jones prescribed bed and "complete mental and bodily rest". He said
he would "send something," and in a cloud of wise words disguised the
fact that he did not in the least know what to do. It was not in his
experience that a healthy young Hercules, sound as a bell, without
spot or blemish, should behave like an anaemic, neurotic girl....

Dam passed the night in the unnameable, ghastly hell of agony that he
knew so well and that he wondered to survive.

In the morning he received a note from Sir Gerald Seymour Stukeley. It
was brief and clear:--"Sandhurst is scarcely the place for a squealing
coward, still less the Army. Nor is there room for one at Monksmead. I
shall not have the pleasure of seeing you before you catch the 11.15
train; I might say things better left unsaid. I thank God you do not
bear our name though you have some of our blood. This will be the one
grain of comfort when I think that the whole County is gibing and
jeering. No--your name is no more Seymour Stukeley than is your
nature. If you will favour my Solicitors with your address, they will
furnish you with an account of your patrimony and such balance thereof
as may remain--if any. But I believe you came to England worth about
fifty pounds--which you have probably spent as pocket-money. I beg of
you to communicate with me or my household in no way whatsoever.

"G.S.S."

Hastily dressing, Dam fled from the house on foot, empty handed and
with no money but a five-pound note legitimately his own private
property. On his dressing-table he left the cheque given to him by his
"grandfather" for ensuing Sandhurst expenses. Hiding in the station
waiting-room, he awaited the next train to London--with thoughts of
recruiting-sergeants and the Guards. From force of habit he travelled
first-class, materially lessening his five pounds. In the carriage,
which he had to himself, he sat stunned. He was rather angry than
dismayed and appalled. He was like the soldier, cut down by a
sabre-slash or struck by a bullet, who, for a second, stares dully at
the red gash or blue hole--waiting for the blood to flow and the pain
to commence.

He was numbed, emotionally dead, waiting the terrible awakening to the
realization that he had _lost Lucille_. What mattered the loss of
home, career, friends, honour--mere anti-climax to glance at it.

Yesterday!... To-day!

What was Lucille thinking? What would she do and say? Would she grow
to hate the coward who had dared to make love to her, dared to win her
love!

Would she continue to love him in spite of all?

_I shall enjoy waiting twenty years for you_, she had said yesterday,
and _The world would be quite empty if you left it_. What would it be
while he remained in it a publicly disgraced coward? A coward
ridiculed by the effeminate, degenerate Haddock, who had no soul
above club-ribbons, and no body above a Piccadilly crawl!

Could she love him in spite of all? She was great-hearted enough for
anything. Perhaps for anything but that. To her, cowardice must be the
last lowest depths of degradation. Anyhow he had done the straight
thing by Grumper, in leaving the house without any attempt to let her
know, to say farewell, to ask her to believe in him for a while. If
there had been any question as to the propriety of his trying to
become engaged to her when he was the penniless gentleman-cadet, was
there any question about it when he was the disgraced out-cast, the
publicly exposed coward?

Arrived at the London terminus he sought a recruiting-sergeant and, of
course, could not find one.

However, Canterbury and Cavalry were indissolubly connected in his
mind, and it had occurred to him that, in the Guards, he would run
more risk of coming face to face with people whom he knew than in any
other corps. He would go for the regiment he had known and loved in
India (as he had been informed) and about which he had heard much all
his life. It was due for foreign service in a year or two, and, so far
as he knew, none of its officers had ever heard of him. Ormonde
Delorme was mad about it, but could not afford its expensive mess. Dam
had himself thought how jolly it would be if Grumper "came down"
sufficiently handsomely for him to be able to join it on leaving
Sandhurst. He'd join it _now_!

He hailed a hansom and proceeded to Charing Cross, whence he booked
for the noble and ancient city of Canterbury.

Realizing that only one or two sovereigns would remain to him
otherwise, he travelled in a third-class carriage for the first time
in his hitherto luxurious life. Its bare discomfort and unpleasant
occupants (one was a very malodorous person indeed, and one a smoker
of what smelt like old hats and chair-stuffing in a rank clay pipe)
brought home to him more clearly than anything had done, the fact that
he was a homeless, destitute person about to sell his carcase for a
shilling, and seek the last refuge of the out-of-work, the
wanted-by-the-police, the disgraced, and the runaway.

That carriage and its occupants showed him, in a blinding flash, that
his whole position, condition, outlook, future, and life were utterly
and completely changed.

He was Going Under. Had anybody else ever done it so quickly?...

He went Under, and his entrance to the Underworld was through the
great main-gates of the depot of the Queen's Own (2nd) Regiment of
Heavy Cavalry, familiarly known as the Queen's Greys.



CHAPTER VIII.

TROOPERS OF THE QUEEN.

GLIMPSES OF CERTAIN "POOR DEVILS" AND THE HELL THEY INHABITED.


The Queen's Own (2nd) Regiment of Heavy Cavalry (The Queen's Greys)
were under orders for India and the influence of great joy. That some
of its members were also under the influence of potent waters is
perhaps a platitudinous corollary.

... "And phwat the Divvle's begone of me ould pal Patsy Flannigan, at
all, at all?" inquired Trooper Phelim O'Shaughnessy, entering the
barrack-room of E Troop of the Queen's Greys, lying at Shorncliffe
Camp. "Divvle a shmell of the baste can I see, and me back from
furlough-leaf for minnuts. Has the schamer done the two-shtep widout
anny flure, as Oi've always foretould? Is ut atin' his vegetables by
the roots he now is in the bone-orchard, and me owing the poor bhoy
foive shillin'? Where is he?"

"In 'orsepittle," laconically replied Trooper Henry Hawker, late of
Whitechapel, without looking up from the jack-boot he was polishing.

"Phwat wid?" anxiously inquired the bereaved Phelim.

"Wot wiv'? Wiv' callin' 'Threes abaht' after one o' the Young
Jocks,"[16] was the literal reply.

"Begob that same must be a good hand wid his fisties--or was it a
shillaleigh?" mused the Irishman.

"'Eld the Helliot belt in Hinjer last year, they say," continued the
Cockney. "_Good?_ Not'arf. I wouldn't go an' hinsult the bloke for the
price of a pot. No. 'Erbert 'Awker would not. (Chuck us yore
button-stick, young 'Enery Bone.) _Good?_ 'E's a 'Oly Terror--and I
don't know as there's a man in the Queen's Greys as could put 'im to
sleep--not unless it's Matthewson," and here Trooper Herbert Hawker
jerked his head in the direction of Trooper Damocles de Warrenne
(_alias_ D. Matthewson) who, seated on his truckle-bed, was engaged in
breathing hard, and rubbing harder, upon a brass helmet from which he
had unscrewed a black horse-hair plume.

Dam, arrayed in hob-nailed boots, turned-up overalls "authorized for
grooming," and a "grey-back" shirt, looked indefinably a gentleman.

Trooper Herbert Hawker, in unlaced gymnasium shoes, "leathers," and a
brown sweater (warranted not to show the dirt), looked quite definably
what he was, a Commercial Road ruffian; and his foreheadless face,
greasy cow-lick "quiff" (or fringe), and truculent expression,
inspired more disgust than confidence in the beholder.

His reference to Dam as the only likely champion of the Heavy Cavalry
against the Hussar was a tribute to the tremendous thrashing he had
received from "Trooper D. Matthewson" when the same had become
necessary after a long course of unresented petty annoyance. Hawker
was that very rare creature, a boaster, who made good, a bully of
great courage and determination, and a loud talker, who was a very
active doer; and the battle had been a terrible one.

The weary old joke of having a heavy valise pulled down on to one's
upturned face from the shelf above, by means of a string, as one
sleeps, Dam had taken in good part. Being sent to the Rough-Riding
Sergeant-Major for the "Key of the Half Passage" by this senior
recruit, he did not mind in the least (though he could have kicked
himself for his gullibility when he learned that the "Half Passage" is
not a place, but a Riding-School manoeuvre, and escaped from the
bitter tongue of the incensed autocrat--called untimely from his tea!
How the man had _bristled_. Hair, eyebrows, moustache, buttons
even--the Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major had been rough indeed, and had
done his riding rough-shod over the wretched lad).

Being instructed to "go and get measured for his hoof-picker" Dam had
not resented, though he had considered it something of an insult to
his intelligence that Hawker should expect to "have" him so easily as
that. He had taken in good part the arrangement of his bed in such a
way that it collapsed and brought a pannikin of water down with it,
and on to it, in the middle of a cold night. He had received with good
humour, and then with silent contempt, the names of "Gussie the Bank
Clurk," references to "broken-dahn torfs" and "tailor's bleedn'
dummies," queries as to the amount of "time" he had got for the
offence that made him a "Queen's Hard Bargain," and various the other
pleasantries whereby Herbert showed his distaste for people whose
accent differed from his own, and whose tastes were unaccountable.

Dam had borne these things because he was certain he could thrash the
silly animal when the time came, and because he had a wholesome dread
of the all-too-inevitable military "crimes" (one of which fighting
is--as subversive of good order and military discipline).

It had come, however, and for Dam this exotic of the Ratcliffe Highway
had thereafter developed a vast admiration and an embarrassing
affection. It was a most difficult matter to avoid his companionship
when "walking-out" and also to avoid hurting his feelings.

It was a humiliating and chastening experience to the man, who had
supported himself by boxing in booths at fairs and show-grounds, to
find this "bloomin' dook of a 'Percy,'" this "lah-de-dar 'Reggie'" who
looked askance at good bread-and-dripping, this finnicky "Clarence"
without a "bloody" to his conversation, this "blasted, up-the-pole[17]
'Cecil'"--a man with a quicker guard, a harder punch, a smarter
ring-craft, a better wind, and a tougher appetite for "gruel"
than himself.

The occasion was furnished by a sad little experience.

Poor drunken Trooper Bear (once the Honourable MacMahon FitzUrse),
kindliest, weakest, gentlest of gentlemen, had lurched one bitter
soaking night (or early morning) into the barrack-room, singing in a
beautiful tenor:--

"Menez-moi" dit la belle,
"A la rive fidèle
Où l'on aime toujours."
...--"Cette rive ma chère
On ne la connait guère
Au pays des amours."....

Trooper Herbert Hawker had no appreciation for Theophile Gautier--or
perhaps none for being awakened from his warm slumbers.

"'Ere! stow that blarsted catawaulin'," he roared, with a choice
selection from the Whitechapel tongue, in which he requested the
adjectived noun to be adverbially "quick about it, too".

With a beatific smile upon his weak handsome face, Trooper Bear
staggered toward the speaker, blew him a kiss, and, in a vain
endeavour to seat himself upon the cot, collapsed upon the ground.

"You're a...." (adverbially adjectived noun) shouted Hawker. "You
ain't a man, you're a...." "[Greek: skias hovar havthropos]" ... "Man
is the dream of a shadow," suggested Bear dreamily with a hiccup....

"D'yer know where you _are_, you ..." roared Hawker.

"Dear Heart, I am in hell," replied the recumbent one, "but by the
Mercy of God I'm splendidly drunk. Yes, hell. '_Lasciate ogni
speranza,_' sweet Amaryllis. I am Morag of the Misty Way. _Mos'_
misty. Milky Way. Yesh. Milk Punchy Way." ...

"I'll give you all the _punch_ you'll want, in abaht two ticks if you
don't chuck it--you blarsted edjucated flea," warned Hawker, half
rising.

Dam got up and pulled on his cloak preparatory to helping the
o'er-taken one to bed, as a well-aimed ammunition boot took the latter
nearly on the ear.

Struggling to his feet with the announcement that he was "the King's
fair daughter, weighed in the balance and found--devilish heavy and
very drunk," the unhappy youth lurched and fell upon the outraged
Hawker--who struck him a cruel blow in the face.

At the sound of the blow and heavy fall, Dam turned, saw the
blood--and went Stukeley-mad. Springing like a tiger upon Hawker he
dragged him from his cot and knocked him across it. In less than a
minute he had twice sent him to the boards, and it took half-a-dozen
men on either side to separate the combatants and get them to postpone
the finish till the morning. That night Dam dreamed his dream and, on
the morrow, behind the Riding-School, and in fifteen rounds, became,
by common consent, champion bruiser of the Queen's Greys--by no
ambition of his own.

And so--as has been said--Trooper Henry Hawker ungrudgingly referred
Trooper Phelim O'Shaughnessy to him in the matter of reducing the
pride of the Young Jock who had dared to "desthroy" a dragoon.

Trooper Phelim O'Shaughnessy--in perfect-fitting glove-tight scarlet
stable-jacket (that never went near a stable, being in fact the smart
shell-jacket, shaped like an Eton coat, sacred to "walking-out"
purposes), dark blue overalls with broad white stripe, strapped over
half-wellington boots adorned with glittering swan-neck spurs, a
pill-box cap with white band and button, perched jauntily on three
hairs--also looked what he was, the ideal heavy-cavalry man, the
swaggering, swashbuckling trooper, _beau sabreur_, good all round and
all through....

The room in which these worthies and various others (varying also in
dress, from shirt and shorts to full review-order for Guard) had their
being, expressed the top note and last cry--or the lowest note and
deepest groan--of bleak, stark utilitarianism. Nowhere was there hint
or sign of grace and ornament. Bare deal-plank floor, bare
white-washed walls, plank and iron truckle beds, rough plank and iron
trestle tables, rough plank and iron benches, rough plank and iron
boxes clamped to bedsteads, all bore the same uniform impression of
useful ugliness, ugly utility. The apologist in search of a solitary
encomium might have called it clean--save around the hideous closed
stove where muddy boots, coal-dust, pipe-dottels, and the bitter-end
of five-a-penny "gaspers"[18] rebuked his rashness.

A less inviting, less inspiring, less home-like room for human
habitation could scarce be found outside a jail. Perhaps this was the
less inappropriate in that a jail it was, to a small party of its
occupants--born and bred to better things.

The eye was grateful even for the note of cheer supplied by the red
cylindrical valise on the shelf above each cot, and by the occasional
scarlet tunic and stable-jacket. But for these it had been, to the
educated eye, an even more grim, grey, depressing,
beauty-and-joy-forsaken place than it was....

Dam (_alias_ Trooper D. Matthewson) placed the gleaming helmet upon
his callous straw-stuffed pillow, carefully rubbed the place where his
hand had last touched it, and then took from a peg his scarlet tunic
with its white collar, shoulder-straps and facings. Having satisfied
himself that to burnish further its glittering buttons would be to
gild refined gold, he commenced a vigorous brushing--for it was now
his high ambition to "get the stick"--in other words to be dismissed
from guard-duty as reward for being the best-turned-out man on
parade.... As he reached up to his shelf for his gauntlets and
pipe-clay box, Trooper Phelim O'Shaughnessy swaggered over with much
jingle of spur and playfully smote him, netherly, with his cutting
whip.

"What-ho, me bhoy," he roared, "and how's me natty Matty--the natest
foightin' man in E Troop, which is sayin' in all the Dhraghoons, which
is sayin' in all the Arrmy! How's Matty?"

"Extant," replied Dam. "How's Shocky, the biggest liar in the same?"

As he extended his hand it was noticeable that it was much smaller
than the hand of the smaller man to whom it was offered. "Ye'll have
to plug and desthroy the schamin' divvle that strook poor Patsy
Flannigan, Matty," said the Irishman. "Ye must bate the sowl out of
the baste before we go to furrin' parts. Loife is uncertain an' ye
moight never come back to do ut, which the Holy Saints forbid--an' the
Hussars troiumphin' upon our prosprit coorpses. For the hanner an'
glory av all Dhraghoons, of the Ould Seconds, and of me pore
bed-ridden frind, Patsy Flannigan, ye must go an' plug the wicked
scutt, Matty darlint."

"It was Flannigan's fault," replied Dam, daubing pipe-clay on the huge
cuff of a gauntlet which he had drawn on to a weird-looking wooden
hand, sacred to the purposes of glove-drying. "He got beastly drunk
and insulted a better man than himself by insulting his Corps--or
trying to. He called a silly lie after a total stranger and got what
he deserved. He shouldn't seek sorrow if he doesn't want to find it,
and he shouldn't drink liquor he can't carry."

"And the Young Jock beat Patsy when drunk, did he?" murmured
O'Shaughnessy, in tones of awed wonder. "I riverince the man, for
there's few can beat him sober. Knocked Patsy into hospital an' him
foightin' dhrunk! Faith, he must be another Oirish gintleman himself,
indade."

"He's a Scotchman and was middle-weight champion of India last year,"
rejoined Dam, and moistened his block of pipe-clay again in the most
obvious, if least genteel, way.

"Annyhow he's a mere Hussar and must be rimonsthrated wid for darin'
to assault and batther a Dhraghoon--an' him dhrunk, poor bhoy. Say the
wurrud, Matty. We'll lay for the spalpeen, the whole of E Troop, at
the _Ring o' Bells_, an' whin he shwaggers in like he was a Dhraghoon
an' a sodger, ye'll up an' say _'Threes about'_ an' act accordin'
subsequint, an' learn the baste not to desthroy an' insult his
betthers of the Ould Second. Thread on the tail of his coat,
Matty...."

"If I had anything to do with it at all I'd tread on Flannigan's coat,
and you can tell him so, for disgracing the Corps.... Take off your
jacket and help with my boots, Shocky. I'm for Guard."

"Oi'd clane the boots of no man that ud demane himself to ax it," was
the haughty reply of the disappointed warrior. "Not for less than a
quart at laste," he amended.

"A quart it is," answered Dam, and O'Shaughnessy speedily divested
himself of his stable-jacket, incidentally revealing the fact that he
had pawned his shirt.

"You have got your teeth ready, then?" observed Dam, noting the
underlying bareness--and thereby alluded to O'Shaughnessy's habit of
pawning his false teeth after medical inspection and redeeming them in
time for the next, at the cost of his underclothing--itself redeemed
in turn by means of the teeth. Having been compelled to provide
himself with a "plate" he invariably removed the detested contrivance
and placed it beside him when sitting down to meals (on those rare
occasions when he and not his "uncle" was the arbiter of its
destinies)....

A young and important Lance-Corporal, a shocking tyrant and bully,
strode into the room, his sword clanking. O'Shaughnessy arose and
respectfully drew him aside, offering him a "gasper". They were joined
by a lean hawk-faced individual answering to the name of Fish, who
said he had been in the American navy until buried alive at sea for
smiling within sight of the quarter-deck.

"Yep," he was heard to say to some statement of O'Shaughnessy's.
"We'll hatch a five-bunch frame-up to put the eternal kibosh on the
tuberous spotty--souled skunklet. Some. We'll make him wise to whether
a tippy, chew-the-mop, bandy-legged, moke-monkey can come
square-pushing, and with his legs out, down _this_ side-walk, before
we ante out. Some."

"Ah, Yus," agreed the Lance-Corporal. "Damned if I wouldn't chawnce me
arm[19] and go fer 'im meself before we leave--on'y I'm expectin'
furver permotion afore long. But fer that I'd take it up meself"--and
he glanced at Dam.

"Ketch the little swine at it," remarked Trooper Herbert Hawker, as
loudly as he dared, to his "towny," Trooper Henry Bone. "'Chawnst 'is
arm!' It's 'is bloomin' life 'e'd chawnce if that Young Jock got
settin' abaht 'im. Not 'arf!" and the exotic of the Ratcliffe Highway
added most luridly expressed improprieties anent the origins of the
Lance-Corporal, his erstwhile enemy and, now, superior officer, in
addition.

"That's enough," said Dam shortly.

"Yep. Quit those low-browed sounds, guttermut, or I'll get mad all
over," agreed Fish, whose marvellous vocabulary included no foul
words. There was no need for them.

"Hi halso was abaht ter request you not to talk beastial, Mr. 'Erbert
'Awker," chimed in Trooper "Henery" Bone, anxious to be on the side of
the saints. "Oo'd taike you to be the Missin' Hair of a noble 'ouse
when you do such--'Missin' Hair!' _Missin' Link_ more like," he added
with spurious indignation.

The allusion was to the oft-expressed belief of Trooper Herbert
Hawker, a belief that became a certainty and subject for bloodshed and
battle after the third quart or so, that there was a mystery about his
birth.

There was, according to his reputed papa....

The plotters plotted, and Dam completed the burnishing of his arms,
spurs, buckles, and other glittering metal impedimenta (the quantity
of which earned the Corps its barrack-room soubriquet of "the Polish
Its"), finished the flicking of spots of pipe-clay from his uniform,
and dressed for Guard.

Being ready some time before he had to parade, he sat musing on his
truckle-bed.

What a life! What associates (outside the tiny band of
gentlemen-rankers). What cruel awful _publicity_ of existence--that
was the worst of all. Oh, for a private room and a private coat, and a
meal in solitude! Some place of one's own, where one could express
one's own individuality in the choice and arrangement of property, and
impress it upon one's environment.

One could not even think in private here.

And he was called a _private_ soldier! A grim joke indeed, when the
crying need of one's soul was a little privacy.

A _private_ soldier!

Well--and what of the theory of Compensations, that all men get the
same sum-total of good and bad, that position is really immaterial to
happiness? What of the theory that more honour means also more
responsibility and worry, that more pay also means more expenses and
a more difficult position, that more seniority also means less youth
and joy--that Fate only robs Peter to pay Paul, and, when bestowing a
blessing with one hand, invariably bestows a curse with the other?

Too thin.

Excellent philosophy for the butterfly upon the road, preaching
contentment to the toad, who, beneath the harrow, knows exactly where
each tooth-point goes. Let the butterfly come and try it.

_What_ a life!

Not so bad at first, perhaps, for a stout-hearted, hefty sportsman,
during recruit days when everything is novel, there is something to
learn, time is fully occupied, and one is too busy to think, too busy
evading strange pit-falls, and the just or (more often) unjust wrath
of the Room Corporal, the Squadron Orderly Sergeant, the Rough-Riding
Corporal, the Squadron Sergeant-Major, the Rough-Riding
Sergeant-Major, the Regimental Sergeant-Major, the Riding-Master.

But when, to the passed "dismissed soldier," everything is familiar
and easy, weary, flat, stale and unprofitable?

The (to one gently nurtured) ghastly food, companions, environment,
monotony--the ghastly ambitions!

Fancy an educated gentleman's ambitions and horizon narrowed to a
good-conduct "ring," a stripe in the far future (and to be a
Lance-Corporal with far more duty and no more pay, in the hope of
becoming a Corporal--that comfortable rank with the same duty and much
more pay, and little of the costly gold-lace to mount, and heavy
expenses to assume that, while putting the gilt on, takes it off, the
position of Sergeant); and, for the present, to "keep off the peg,"
not to be "for it," to "get the stick," for smartest turn-out, to
avoid the Red-Caps,[20] to achieve an early place in the scrimmage at
the corn-bin and to get the correct amount of two-hundred pounds in
the corn-sack when drawing forage and corn; to placate Troop
Sergeants, the Troop Sergeant-Major and Squadron Sergeant-Major; to
have a suit of mufti at some safe place outside and to escape from the
branding searing scarlet occasionally; possibly even the terrible
ambition to become an Officer's servant so as to have a suit of mufti
as a right, and a chance of becoming Mess-Sergeant and then
Quarter-Master, and perhaps of getting an Honorary Commission without
doing a single parade or guard after leaving the troop!...

What a life for a man of breeding and refinement!... Fancy having to
remember the sacred and immeasurable superiority of a foul-mouthed
Lance-Corporal who might well have been your own stable-boy, a being
who can show you a deeper depth of hell in Hell, wreak his dislike of
you in unfair "fatigues," and keep you at the detested job of
coal-drawing on Wednesdays; who can achieve a "canter past the
beak"[21] for you on a trumped-up charge and land you in the
"digger,"[22] who can bring it home to you in a thousand ways that you
are indeed the toad beneath the harrow. Fancy having to remember,
night and day, that a Sergeant, who can perhaps just spell and cypher,
is a monarch to be approached in respectful spirit; that the
Regimental Sergeant-Major, perhaps coarse, rough, and ignorant, is an
emperor to be approached with fear and trembling; that a Subaltern,
perhaps at school with you, is a god not to be approached at all.
Fancy looking forward to being "branded with a blasted worsted spur,"
and, as a Rough-Riding Corporal, receiving a forfeit tip from each
young officer who knocks off his cap with his lance in Riding-School....

Well! One takes the rough with the smooth--but perceives with great
clearness that the (very) rough predominates, and that one does not
recommend a gentleman to enlist, save when a Distinguished Relative
with Influence has an early Commission ready in his pocket for him.

Lacking the Relative, the gently-nurtured man, whether he win to a
Commission eventually or not, can only do one thing more rash than
enlist in the British Army, and that is enlist in the French Foreign
Legion.

Discipline for soul and body? The finest thing in all the world--in
reason. But the discipline of the tram-horse, of the blinded bullock
at the wheel, of the well-camel, of the galley-slave--meticulous,
puerile, unending, unchanging, impossible ...? Necessary perhaps, once
upon a time--but hard on the man of brains, sensibility, heart, and
individuality.

Soul and body? Deadly for the soul--and fairly dangerous for the body
in the Cavalry Regiment whose riding-master prefers the abominable
stripped-saddle training to the bare-backed....

Dam yawned and looked at the tin clock on the shelf above the cot of
the Room Corporal. Half an hour yet.... Did time drag more heavily
anywhere in the world?...

His mind roamed back over his brief, age-long life in the Queen's
Greys and passed it in review.

The interview with the Doctor, the Regimental Sergeant-Major, the
Adjutant, the Colonel--the Oath on the Bible before that dread
Superman.... How well he remembered his brief exordium--"Obey your
Superiors blindly; serve your Queen, Country, and Regiment to the best
of your ability; keep clean, don't drink, fear God, and--most
important of all--take care of your horse. _Take care of your horse_,
d'ye hear?"

Also the drawled remark of the Adjutant afterwards,
"Ah--what--ah--University?"--his own prompt reply of "Whitechapel,
sir," and the Adjutant's approving "Exactly.... You'll get on here by
good conduct, good riding, and good drill--not by--ah--good accent or
anything else."

How well he remembered the strange depolarized feeling consequent
upon realizing that his whole worldly possessions consisted in three
"grey-back" shirts, two pairs of cotton pants, two pairs of woollen
socks, a towel; a hold-all containing razor, shaving-brush, spoon,
knife and fork, and a button-stick; a cylindrical valise with
hair-brush, clothes-brush, brass-brush, and boot-brushes; a whip,
burnisher, and dandy-brush (all three, for some reason, to be paid for
as part of a "free" kit); jack-boots and jack-spurs, wellington-boots
and swan-neck box-spurs, ammunition boots; a tin of blacking and
another of plate powder; blue, white-striped riding-breeches, blue,
white-striped overalls, drill-suit of blue serge, scarlet tunic,
scarlet stable-jacket, scarlet drill "frock," a pair of trousers of
lamentable cut "authorized for grooming," brass helmet with black
horse-hair plume, blue pill-box cap with white stripe and button,
gauntlets and gloves, sword-belt and pouch-belt, a carbine and a
sword. Also of a daily income of one loaf, butter, tea, and a pound of
meat (often uneatable), and the sum of one shilling and twopence
subject to a deduction of threepence a day "mess-fund," fourpence a
month for delft, and divers others for library, washing, hair-cutting,
barrack-damages, etc.

Yes, it had given one a strange feeling of nakedness, and yet of a
freedom from the tyranny of things, to find oneself so meagrely and
yet so sufficiently endowed.

Then, the strange, lost, homeless feeling that Home is nothing but a
cot and a box in a big bare barrack-room, that the whole of God's wide
Universe contains no private and enclosed spot that is one's own
peculiar place wherein to be alone--at first a truly terrible feeling.

How one envied the Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major his Staff
Quarters--without going so far as to envy the great Riding-Master his
real separate and detached house!

No privacy--and a scarlet coat that encarnadined the world and made
its wearer feel, as he so often thought, like a live coal glowing
bright in Hell.

Surely the greatest of all an officer's privileges was his right of
mufti, his daily escape from the burning cloth.

"Why does not the British officer wear his uniform always?" writes the
perennial gratuitous ass to the Press, periodically in the Silly
Season.... Dam could tell him.

Memories ...!

Being jerked violently from uneasy slumber and broken, vivid dreams at
5 a.m., by the thunderous banging of the Troop Sergeant's whip on the
table, and his raucous roar of "Tumble out, you lazy swine, before you
get sunstroke! Rise and shine! Rise and shine, you tripe-hounds!" ...
Broken dreams on a smelly, straw-stuffed pillow and lumpy
straw-stuffed pallet, dreams of "_Circle and cha-a-a-a-a-a-a-nge" "On
the Fore-hand, Right About" "Right Pass, Shoulder Out" "Serpentine"
"Order Lance" "Trail Lance" "Right Front Thrust"_ (for the front rank
of the Queen's Greys carry lances); dreams of riding wild mad horses
to unfathomable precipices and at unsurmountable barriers....

Memories ...!

His first experience of "mucking out" stables at five-thirty on a
chilly morning--doing horrible work, horribly clad, feeling horribly
sick. Wheeling away intentionally and maliciously over-piled barrows
to the muck-pits, upsetting them, and being cursed.

Being set to water a notoriously wild and vicious horse, and being
pulled about like a little dog at the end of the chain, burning into
frozen fingers.

Not much of the glamour and glow and glory left!

Better were the interesting and amusing experiences of the
Riding-School where his trained and perfected hands and seat gave him
a tremendous advantage, an early dismissal, and some amelioration of
the roughness of one of the very roughest experiences in a very rough
life.

Even he, though, knew what it was to have serge breeches sticking to
abraided bleeding knees, to grip a stripped saddle with twin
suppurating sores, and to burrow face-first in filthy tan _via_ the
back of a stripped-saddled buck-jumper. How he had pitied some of the
other recruits, making their first acquaintance with the Trooper's
"long-faced chum" under the auspices of a pitiless, bitter-tongued
Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major! _Rough!_ What a character the fellow was!
Never an oath, never a foul word, but what a vocabulary and gift of
invective, sarcasm and cruel stinging reproof! A well-educated man if
not a gentleman. "Don't dismount again, Muggins--or is it
Juggins?--without permission" when some poor fellow comes on his head
as his horse (bare of saddle and bridle) refuses at a jump. "Get up
(and SIT BACK) you--you--hen, you pierrot, you _Aard Vark,_ you
after-thought, you refined entertainer, you pimple, you performing
water-rat, you mistake, you _byle_, you drip, you worm-powder....
What? You think your leg's broken? Well--_you've got another_, haven't
you? Get up and break that. Keep your neck till you get a stripped
saddle and no reins.... Don't embrace the horse like that, you
pawn-shop, I can hear it blushing.... Send for the key and get inside
it.... Keep those fine feet forward. Keep them _forward_ (and SIT
BACK), Juggins or Muggins, or else take them into the Infantry--what
they were meant for by the look of them. Now then--over you go without
falling if I have to keep you here all night.... Look at _that_" (as
the poor fellow is thrown across the jump by the cunning brute that
knows its rider has neither whip, spurs, saddle nor reins). "What? The
_horse_ refuse? One of _my_ horses _refuse? If the man'll jump, the
horse'll jump._ (All of you repeat that after me and don't forget it.)
No. It's the _man_ refuses, not the poor horse. Don't you know the
ancient proverb 'Faint heart ne'er took fair jump'....? What's the
good of coming here if your heart's the size of your eye-ball instead
of being the size of your fist? _Refuse?_ Put him over it, man. _Put_
him over--SIT BACK and lift him, and _put_ him over. I'll give you a
thousand pounds if he refuses _me_...."

Then the day when poor bullied, baited, nervous Muggins had reached
his limit and come to the end of his tether--or thought he had.
Bumped, banged, bucketed, thrown, sore from head to foot, raw-kneed,
laughed at, lashed by the Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major's cruel tongue,
blind and sick with dust and pain and rage, he had at last turned his
horse inward from his place in the ride to the centre of the School,
and dismounted.

How quaintly the tyrant's jaw had dropped in sheer astonishment, and
how his face had purpled with rage when he realized that his eyes had
not deceived him and that the worm had literally turned--without
orders.

Indian, African, and Egyptian service, disappointment, and a bad wife
had left Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major Blount with a dangerous temper.

Poor silly Muggins. He had been Juggins indeed on that occasion, and,
as the "ride" halted of its own accord in awed amazement, Dam had
longed to tell him so and beg him to return to his place ere worse
befell....

"I've 'ad enough, you bull-'eaded brute," shouted poor Muggins,
leaving his horse and advancing menacingly upon his (incalculably)
superior officer, "an' fer two damns I'd break yer b---- jaw, I would.
You ..."

Even as the Rough-Riding Corporal and two other men were dragging the
struggling, raving recruit to the door, _en route_ for the Guard-room,
entered the great remote, dread Riding-Master himself.

"What's this?" inquired Hon. Captain Style, Riding-Master of the
Queen's Greys, strict, kind-hearted martinet.

Salute, and explanations from the Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major.

Torrent of accusation and incoherent complaint and threat from the
baited Muggins.

"Mount that horse," says the Riding-Master.

"I'll go to Clink first," gasps Muggins. "I'll go to 'Ell first."

"No. _Afterwards,_" replies the Riding-Master and sends the
Rough-Riding Corporal for the backboard--dread instrument of
equestrian persuasion.

Muggins is forcibly mounted, put in the lunging ring and sent round
and round till he throws himself off at full gallop and lies crying
and sobbing like a child--utterly broken.

Riding-Master smiles, allows Muggins to grow calmer, accepts his
apologies and promises, shows him he has had his Hell _after_, as
promised, and that it is a better punishment than one that leaves him
with a serious "crime" entry on his Defaulter's Sheet for life....
That vile and damning sheet that records the youthful peccadilloes and
keeps it a life-long punishment after its own severe punishment....
To the Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major he quietly remarks: "No good
non-com _makes_ crimes ... and don't forget that the day of
riding-school brutality is passing. You can carry a man further than
you can kick him."

And the interrupted lesson continues.

"Sit _back_ and you can't come off. Nobody falls off backwards." ...

Poor "Old Sit-Back"! (as he was called from his constant cry)--after
giving that order and guarantee daily for countless days--was killed
in the riding-school by coming off backwards from the stripped saddle
of a rearing horse--(which promptly fell upon him and crushed his
chest)--that had never reared before and would not have reared then,
it was said, but for the mysterious introduction, under its saddle, of
a remarkably "foreign" body.

Memories ...!

How certain old "Sit-Back" had been that Dam was a worthless
"back-to-the-Army-again" when he found him a finished horseman, an
extraordinarily expert swordsman, and a master of the lance.

"You aren't old enough for a 'time-expired,'" he mused, "nor for a
cashiered officer. One of the professional 'enlist-desert-and-sell-me-kit,'
I suppose. Anyhow you'll do time for one of the three if _I_ don't
approve of ye.... You've been in the Cavalry before. Lancer regiment,
too. Don't tell _me_ lies ... but see to it that I'm satisfied with your
conduct. Gentlemen-rankers are better in their proper place--_Jail_." ...

None the less it had given Dam a thrill of pride when, on being
dismissed recruit-drills and drafted from the reserve troop to a
squadron, the Adjutant had posted him to E Troop, wherein were
congregated the seven other undoubted gentlemen-rankers of the Queen's
Greys (one of whom would one day become a peer of the realm and,
meantime, followed what he called "the only profession in the world"
in discomfort for a space, the while his Commission ripened).

To this small band of "rankers" the accession of the finest boxer,
swordsman, and horseman in the corps, was invaluable, and helped them
notably in their endeavour to show that there are exceptions to all
rules, and that a gentleman _can_ make a first-class trooper. At least
so "Peerson" had said, and Dam had been made almost happy for a day.

Memories ...!

His first walk abroad from barracks, clad in the "walking-out" finery
of shell-jacket and overalls, with the jingle of spurs and effort at
the true Cavalry swagger, or rather the first attempt at a walk
abroad, for the expedition had ended disastrously ere well begun.
Unable to shake off his admirer, Trooper Herbert Hawker, Dam had just
passed the Main Guard and main gates in the company of Herbert, and
the two recruits had encountered the Adjutant and saluted with the
utmost smartness and respect....

"What the Purple Hell's that thing?" had drawled the Adjutant
thereupon--pointing his whip at Trooper Henry Hawker, whose trap-like
mouth incontinent fell open with astonishment. "It's got up in an
imitation of the uniform of the Queen's Greys, I do believe!... It's
not a rag doll either.... It's a God-forsaken undertaker's mute in a
red and black shroud with a cake-tin at the back of its turnip head
and a pair of chemises on its ugly hands.... Sergeant of the Guard!...
Here!"

"Sir?" and a salute of incredible precision from the Sergeant of the
Guard.

"What the name of the Devil's old Aunt is _this_ thing? What are you
on Guard for? To write hymns and scare crows--or to allow decayed
charwomen to stroll out of barracks in a dem parody of your uniform?
Look at her! Could turn round in the jacket without taking it off.
Room for both legs in one of the overalls. Cap on his beastly neck.
Gloves like a pair of ... _Get inside you_!... Take the thing in with
a pair of tongs and bury it where it won't contaminate the dung-pits.
Burn it! Shoot it! Drown it! D'ye hear?... And then I'll put you under
arrest for letting it pass...."

It had been a wondrously deflated and chapfallen Herbert that had
slunk back to the room of the reserve troop, and perhaps his
reputation as a mighty bruiser had never stood him in so good stead as
when it transpired that an Order had been promulgated that no recruit
should leave barracks during the first three months of his service,
and that the names of all such embryos should be posted in the Main
Guard for the information of the Sergeant....

Memories ...!

His first march behind the Band to Church....

The first Review and March Past....

His first introduction to bread-and-lard....

His wicked carelessness in forgetting--or attempting to disregard--the
law of the drinking-troughs. "So long as one horse has his head down
no horse is to go." There had been over a score drinking and he had
moved off while one dipsomaniac was having a last suck.

His criminal carelessness in not removing his sword and leaving it in
the Guard-room, when going on sentry after guard-mounting--"getting
the good Sergeant into trouble, too, and making it appear that _he_
had been equally criminally careless ".

The desperate quarrel between Hawker and Bone as to whether the 10th
Hussars were called the "Shiny Tenth" because of their general
material and spiritual brilliance, or the "Chainy Tenth" because their
Officers wore pouch-belts of gold chain-mail.... The similar one
between Buttle and Smith as to the reason of a brother regiment being
known as "The Virgin Mary's Body-guard," and their reluctant
acceptance of Dam's dictum that they were both wrong, it having been
earned by them in the service of a certain Maria Theresa, a lady
unknown to Messrs. Buttle and Smith.... Dam had found himself
developing into a positive bully in his determination to prevent
senseless quarrelling, senseless misconduct, senseless humourless
foulness, senseless humourless blasphemy, and all that unnecessary,
avoidable ugliness that so richly augmented the unavoidable....

Memories ...!

Sitting throughout compulsory church, cursing and mutinous of heart,
because after spending several hours of the Day of Rest in burnishing
and pipe-claying, blacking and shining ("Sunday spit an' polish"), he
was under orders for sharp punishment--because at the last moment his
tunic had been fouled by a passing pigeon! When would the Authorities
realize that soldiers are still men, still Englishmen (even if they
have, by becoming soldiers, lost their birthright of appeal to the Law
of the Land, though not their amenability to its authority), and cease
to make the Blessed Sabbath a curse, the worst day of the week, and to
herd angry, resentful soldiers into church to blaspheme with politely
pious faces? Oh, British, British, Pharisees and Humbugs--make Sunday
a curse, and drive the soldier into church to do his cursing--make it
the chief day of dress "crimes" and punishments, as well as the
busiest day, and force the soldier into church to Return Thanks....

The only man in the world flung into church as though into jail for
punishment! Shout it in the Soldier's ear, "_You are not a Man, you
are a Slave_," on Sundays also, on Sundays louder than usual.... And
when he has spent his Sunday morning in extra hard labour, in
suffering the indignity of being compulsorily marched to church, and
very frequently of having been punished because it is a good day on
which a Sergeant may decide that he is not sufficiently cleanly shaved
or his boots of minor effulgence--then let him sit and watch his hot
Sunday dinner grow stone cold before the Colonel stalks through the
room, asks a perfunctory question, and he is free to fall to.

"O Day of Rest and Gladness,
 O Day of Joy most Bright...."

_Yah!_

A pity some of the energy that went to making the annual 20,000
military "criminals" out of honest, law-abiding, well-intending men
could not go to harassing the Canteen instead of the soldier (whom the
Canteen swindles right and left, and whence _he_ gets salt-watery
beer, and an "ounce" of tobacco that will go straight into his pipe in
one "fill"--no need to wrap it up, thank you) and discovering how
handsome fortunes, as well as substantial "illegal gratifications,"
are made out of his much-stoppaged one-and-tuppence-a-week.

Did the Authorities really yearn to _dis_courage enlistment and to
_en_courage desertion and "crime"? When would they realize that making
"crimes," and manufacturing "criminals" from honest men, is _not_
discipline, is _not_ making soldiers, is _not_ improving the Army--is
_not_ common ordinary sanity and sense? When would they break their
dull, unimaginative, hide-bound--no, tape-bound--souls from the ideas
that prevailed before (and murdered) the Crimean Army.... The Army is
not now the sweepings of the jails, and more in need of the wild-beast
tamer than of the kind firm teacher, as once it was. How long will
they continue to suppose that you make a fine fighting-man, and a
self-reliant, intelligent soldier, by treating him as a depraved
child, as a rightless slave, as a mindless automaton, and by
encouraging the public (whom he protects) to regard him as a low
criminal ruffian to be classed with the broad-arrowed convict, and to
be excluded from places where any loafing rotten lout may go.... When
would a lawyer-ridden Army Council realize that there is a trifle of
significance in the fact that there are four times as many soldier
suicides as there are civilian, and that the finest advertisement for
the dwindling Army _is the soldier_. To think that sober men should,
with one hand spend vast sums in lying advertisements for the Army,
and with the other maintain a system that makes the soldier on
furlough reply to the question "Shall I enlist, mate?" with the words
"Not while you got a razor to cut yer throat".... Ah, well, common
sense would reach even the Army some day, and the soldier be treated
and disciplined as a man and a citizen--and perhaps, when it did, and
the soldier gave a better description of his life, the other citizen,
the smug knave who despises him while he shelters behind him, will
become less averse from having his own round shoulders straightened,
his back flattened and his muscles developed as he takes his part in
the first fundamental elementary duty of a citizen--preparation for
the defence of hearth and home.... Lucille! Well ... Thank God she
could not see him and know his life. If _she_ had any kindness left
for him she would suffer to watch him eating well-nigh uneatable food,
grooming a horse, sweeping a stable, polishing trestle-legs with
blacklead, scrubbing floors, sleeping on damp straw, carrying coals,
doing scullion-work for uneducated roughs, being brow-beaten, bullied,
and cursed by them in tight-lipped silence--not that these things
troubled him personally--the less idle leisure for thought the better,
and no real man minds physical hardship--there is no indignity in
labour _per se_ any more than there is dignity....

"'Ere, Maffewson, you bone-idle, moonin' waster," bawled the raucous
voice of Lance-Corporal Prag, and Dam's soaring spirit fell to earth.

The first officer to whom Trooper Matthewson gave his smart respectful
salute as he stood on sentry-duty was the Major, the Second-in-Command
of the Queen's Greys, newly rejoined from furlough,--a belted Earl,
famous for his sporting habit of riding always and everywhere without
a saddle--who, as a merry subaltern, had been Lieutenant Lord
Ochterlonie and Adjutant of the Queen's Greys at Bimariabad in India.
There, he had, almost daily, taken upon his knee, shoulder, saddle,
or dog-cart, the chubby son of his polo and pig-sticking exemplar,
Colonel Matthew Devon de Warrenne.

The sentry had a dim idea that he had seen the Major somewhere before.



CHAPTER IX.

A SNAKE AVENGES A HADDOCK AND LUCILLE BEHAVES IN AN UN-SMELLIEAN
MANNER.


Finding himself free for the afternoon, and the proud possessor of
several shillings, "Trooper Matthewson" decided to walk to Folkestone,
attend an attractively advertised concert on the pier, and then
indulge in an absolutely private meal in some small tea-room or
confectioner's shop.

Arrayed in scarlet shell-jacket, white-striped overalls, and pill-box
cap, he started forth, carrying himself as though exceeding proud to
be what he was, and wondering whether a swim in the sea, which should
end somewhere between Shorncliffe and Dieppe (and end his troubles
too), would not be a better pastime.

Arrived at the Folkestone pier, Dam approached the ticket office at
the entrance and tendered his shilling to the oily-curled, curly-nosed
young Jew who sat at the receipt of custom.

"Clear out o' this," said Levi Solomonson.

"I want a ticket for the concert," said Dam, not understanding.

"Would you like a row o' stalls to sprawl your dirty carcase on?...
Outside, I tell yer, Tommy Atkins, this ain't a music-'all nor yet a
pub. Soldiers _not_ ''alf-price to cheap seats' nor yet
full-price--nor yet for ten pound a time. Out yer go, lobster."

The powerful hand of Damocles de Warrenne approached the window and,
for a second, Mr. Levi Solomonson was in danger--but only for a
second. Dam was being well-broken-in, and quickly realized that he was
no longer a free British citizen entitled to the rights of such so
long as he behaved as a citizen should, but a mere horrible defender
of those of his countrymen, who were averse from the toils and
possible dangers of self-defence. It was brought home to him, then and
there, with some clearness, that the noble Britons who (perhaps)
"never never will be slaves," have a fine and high contempt for those
whose life-work is to save them from that distressing position; that
the noble Briton, while stoutly (and truly Britishly) refusing to hear
of universal service and the doing by each man of his first duty to
the State, is informed with a bitter loathing of those who, for
wretched hire and under wretched conditions, perform those duties for
him. Dam did not mind, though he did not enjoy, doing housemaid's work
in the barrack-room, scrubbing floors, blackleading iron table-legs
and grates, sweeping, dusting, and certain other more unpleasant
menial tasks; he did not mind, though he did not like, "mucking-out"
stables and scavenging; he could take at their proper value the
insults of ignorant boors set in authority over him; he could stand,
if not enjoy, the hardships of the soldier's life--but he did _not_
see why his doing his duty in that particular sphere--an arduous,
difficult, and frequently dangerous sphere--should earn him the united
insult of the united public! Why should an educated and cultured man,
a gentleman in point of fact, be absolutely prohibited from hearing a
"classical" concert because he wore the Queen's uniform and did that
most important and necessary work which the noble Briton is too
slack-baked, too hypocritically genteel, too degenerate, to perform,
each man for himself?

In a somewhat bitter frame of mind the unfortunate young man strolled
along the Leas and seated himself on a public bench, honestly
wondering as he did so, whether he were sufficiently a member of the
great and glorious public to have a right to do it while wearing the
disgraceful and disgracing garb of a Trooper of the Queen.... Members
of that great and glorious public passed him by in rapid succession.
Narrow-chested youths of all classes, and all crying aloud in
slack-lipped silence for the drill-sergeant to teach them how to stand
and walk; for the gymnasium-instructor to make them, what they would
never be, _men_; for some one to give them an aim and an ideal beyond
cigarettes, socks, and giggling "gels" or "gals" or "garls" or
"gyurls" or "gurrls" according to their social sphere. Vast-stomached
middle-aged men of all classes, and all crying aloud in fat-lipped
silence of indulgence, physical sloth, physical decay before physical
prime should have been reached, of mental, moral, and physical
decadence from the great Past incredible, and who would one and all,
if asked, congratulate themselves on living in these glorious modern
times of 'igh civilization and not in the dark, ignorant days of old.

(Decidedly a bitter young man, this.)

Place Mister Albert Pringle, Insurance Agent; Mister Peter Snagget,
Grocer; Mister Alphonso Pumper, Rate Collector; Mister Bill 'Iggins,
Publican; Mister Walter Weed, Clerk; Mister Jeremiah Ramsmouth, Local
Preacher; Mr. 'Ookey Snagg, Loafer; Mister William Guppy,
Potman--place them beside Hybrias, Goat-herd; Damon, Shepherd;
Phydias, Writer; Nicarchus, Ploughman; Balbus, Bricklayer; Glaucus,
Potter; Caius, Carter; Marcus, Weaver; Aeneas, Bronze-worker;
Antonius, Corn-seller; Canidius, Charioteer--and then talk of the
glorious modern times of high civilization and the dark ignorant days
of old!...

And as he sat musing thus foolishly and pessimistically, who should
loom upon his horizon but--of all people in the world--the Haddock,
the fishy, flabby, stale, unprofitable Haddock! Most certainly Solomon
in all his glory was not arrayed like this. A beautiful confection of
pearly-grey, pearl-buttoned flannel draped his droopy form, a
pearly-grey silk tie, pearl-pinned, encircled his lofty collar,
pearly-grey silk socks spanned the divorcing gap 'twixt beautiful grey
kid shoes and correctest trousers, a pearly-grey silk handkerchief
peeped knowingly from the cuff of his pearly-grey silk shirt by his
pearly-grey kid glove, and his little cane was of grey lacquer, and of
pearl handle. One could almost have sworn that a pearl-grey smile
adorned the scarce-shut mouth of the beautiful modern product of
education and civilization, to carry on the so well-devised
colour-scheme to the pearly-grey grey-ribboned soft hat.

The Haddock's mind wandered not in empty places, but wrestled sternly
with the problem--_would_ it not have been better, after all, perhaps,
to have worn the pearly-grey spats (with the pearl buttons) instead of
relying on the pearly-grey socks alone? When one sat down and modestly
protruded an elegant foot as one crossed one's legs and gently drew up
one's trouser (lest a baggy knee bring black shame), one could display
both--the spat itself, _and_, above it, the sock. Of course! To the
passer-by, awe-inspired, admiring, stimulated, would then have been
administered the double shock and edification. While gratefully
observing the so-harmonizing grey spat and grey shoe he would have
noted the Ossa of grey silk sock piled upon that Pelion of
ultra-fashionable foot-joy! Yes. He had acted hastily and had erred
and strayed from the Perfect Way--and a cloud, at first no bigger than
a continent or two, arose and darkened his mental sky.

But what of the cloud that settled upon him, black as that of the
night's Plutonian shore, a cloud much bigger than the Universe, when
a beastly, awful, ghastly, common private soldier arose from a seat--a
common seat for which you do not pay a penny and show your
selectitude--arose, I say, from a beastly common seat and SEIZED HIM
BY THE ARM and remarked in horrible, affected, mocking tones:--

"And how's the charming little Haddock, the fourpenny, common
breakfast Haddock?"

Yes, in full sight of the Leas of Folkestone, and the nobility,
gentry, shopmen, nurse-girls, suburban yachtsmen, nuts, noisettes,
bath-chairmen and all the world of rank and fashion, a common soldier
took the pearly-grey arm of _the_ Haddon Berners as he took the air
and walked abroad to give the public a treat. And proved to be his
shameful, shameless, disgraced, disgraceful, cowardly relative,
Damocles de Warrenne!

The Haddock reeled, but did not fall.

On catching sight of the beautiful young man, Dam's first impulse was
to spring up and flee, his second to complete the work of Mr. Levi
Solomonson of the pier concert and see for himself, once again, how he
was regarded by the eyes of all right-minded and respectable members
of society, including those of a kinsman with whom he had grown up.

Yes, in his bitterness of soul, and foolish youthful revolt against
Fate, he was attracted by the idea of claiming acquaintance with the
superb Haddock in his triumphant progress, take him by the arm, and
solemnly march him the whole length of the Leas! He would, by Jove!
_He did_.

Confronting the resplendent languid loafer, he silkily observed, as he
placed his cutting-whip beneath his left arm and extended his white
cotton-gloved right hand:--

"And how's the charming little Haddock, the fourpenny, common
breakfast Haddock?"

Had it been Ormonde Delorme, any friend of Monksmead days, any school
or Sandhurst acquaintance, had it been any other relative, had it been
Lucille, he would have fled for his life, he would have seen his hand
paralysed ere he would have extended it, he would have been struck
dumb rather than speak, he would have died before he would have
inflicted upon them the indignity of being seen in the company of a
common soldier. But the Haddock! 'twould do the Haddock a world of
good; the Haddock who had mocked him as he fought for sanity and life
on the lawn at Monksmead--the Haddock who "made love" to Lucille.

The Haddock affected not to see the hand.

"I--er--don't--ah--know you, surely, do I?" he managed to mumble as he
backed away and turned to escape.

"Probably not, dear Haddock," replied the embittered desperate Dam,
"but you're going to. We're going for a walk together."

"Are you--ah--dwunk, fellow? Do you suppose I walk
with--ah--_soldiers_?"

"I don't, my Fish, but you're going to now--if I have to carry you.
And if I have to do that I'll slap you well, when I put you down!"

"I'll call a policeman and give you in charge if you dare molest me.
What do you--ah--desire? Money?... If you come to my hotel this
evening--" and the hapless young man was swung round, his limp thin
arm tucked beneath a powerful and mighty one, and he was whirled along
at five miles an hour in the direction of the pier, gasping, feebly
struggling, and a sight to move the High Gods to pity.

"To the pier, my Haddock, and then back to the turnpike gate, and if
you let a yell, or signal a policeman, I'll twist your little neck.
Fancy our Haddock in a vulgar street row with a common soldier and in
the Police Court! Step it out, you worm!"

Then the agonized Haddock dropped pretence.

"Oh, Dam, I'm awf'ly sorry. I apologize, old chap. _Let up_--I
say--this is _awful_.... Good God, here's Lady Plonk, the Mayor's
wife!"

"You shall introduce me, Lovely One--but no, we mustn't annoy ladies.
You must _not_ go trying to introduce your low companions--nay,
relations--to Lady Plonkses. Step out--and look happy."

"Dam--for God's sake, let me go! I didn't know you, old chap. I swear
I didn't. The disgrace will kill me. I'll give you--"

"Look here, wee Fish, you offer me money again and I'll--I'll undress
you and run away with your clothes. I will, upon my soul."

"I shall call to this policeman," gasped the Haddock.

"And appear with your low-class _relation_ in Court? Not you, Haddock.
I'd swear you were my twin brother, and that you wouldn't pay me the
four pence you borrowed of me last week."

And the cruel penance was inflicted to the last inch. Near the end the
Haddock groaned: "Here's Amelia Harringport--Oh! my God," and Dam
quickly turned his face unto the South and gazed at the fair land of
France. He remembered that General Harringport dwelt in these parts.

At the toll-gate Dam released the perspiration-soaked wretch, who had
suffered the torments of the damned, and who seemed to have met every
man and woman whom he knew in the world as he paraded the promenade
hanging lovingly to the arm of a common soldier! He thought of suicide
and shuddered at the bare idea.

"Well, I'm awf'ly sorry to have to run away and leave you now, dear
Haddock. I might have taken you to all the pubs in Folkestone if I'd
had time. I might have come to your hotel and dined with you. You
_will_ excuse me, won't you? I _must_ go now. I've got to wash up the
tea things and clean the Sergeant's boots," said Dam, cruelly wringing
the Haddock's agonized soft hand, and, with a complete and
disconcerting change, added, "And if you breathe a word about having
seen me, at Monksmead, or tell Lucille, _I'll seek you out, my
Haddock_, and--we will hold converse with thee". Then he strode away,
cursing himself for a fool, a cad, and a deteriorated, demoralized
ruffian. Anyhow, the Haddock would not mention the appalling incident
and give him away.

Nemesis followed him.

Seeking a quiet shop in a back street where he could have the
long-desired meal in private, he came to a small taxidermist's,
glanced in as he passed, and beheld the pride and joy of the
taxidermist's heart--a magnificent and really well-mounted
boa-constrictor, and fell shrieking, struggling, and screaming in the
gutter.

That night Damocles de Warrenne, ill, incoherent, and delirious,
passed in a cell, on a charge of drunk and disorderly and disgracing
the Queen's uniform.

Mr. Levi Solomonson had not disgraced it, of course.

"If we were not eating this excellent bread-and-dripping and drinking
this vile tea, what would you like to be eating and drinking,
Matthewson?" asked Trooper Nemo (formerly Aubrey Roussac d'Aubigny of
Harrow and Trinity).

"Oh, ... a little real turtle," said Dam, "just a lamina of _sole
frite_, a trifle of _vol an vent à la financière_, a breast of
partridge, a mite of _paté de fois gras_, a peach _à la Melba_, the
roe of a bloater, and a few fat grapes--"

"'Twould do. 'Twould pass," sighed Trooper Burke, and added, "I would
suggest a certain Moselle I used to get at the Byculla Club in Bombay,
and a wondrous fine claret that spread a ruby haze of charm o'er my
lunch at the Yacht Club of the same fair city. A '_Mouton Rothschild_
something,' which was cheap at nine rupees a small bottle on the
morrow of a good day on the Mahaluxmi Racecourse." (It was strongly
suspected that Trooper Burke had worn a star on his shoulder-strap in
those Indian days.)

"It's an awful shame we can't all emerge from the depths and run up to
Town to breathe the sweet original atmosphere for just one night
before we leave old England," put in Trooper Punch Peerson (son of a
noble lord) who would at that moment have been in the Officers' Mess
but for a congenital weakness in spelling and a dislike of
mathematics. "Pity we can't get 'leaf,' and do ourselves glorious at
the Carlton, and 'afterwards'. We could change at my Governor's place
into borrowed, stolen, and hired evening-kit, paint the village as
scarlet as Sin or a trooper's jacket, and then come home, like the
Blackbird, to tea. I am going, and if I can't get 'leaf' I shall
return under the bread in the rations-cart. Money's the root of all
(successful) evil."

Trooper Punch Peerson was a born leader of men, a splendid horseman
and soldier, and he had the Army in his ardent, gallant blood and
bones; but how shall a man head a cavalry charge or win the love and
enthusiastic obedience of men and horses when he is weak in spelling
and has a dislike of mathematics?

However, he was determined to follow in the footsteps of his
ancestors, to serve his country in spite of her, and his Commission
was certain and near. Meanwhile he endeavoured to be a first-class
trooper, had his uniform made of officers' materials in Bond Street by
his father's famous tailor, and "got the stick" with ease and
frequency.

"We're not all gilded popinjays (nor poppin' bottles)," observed a
young giant who called himself Adam Goate, and had certainly been one
in the days when he was Eugene Featherstonthwaite. "All very well for
you to come to the surface and breathe, seeing that you'll be out of
it soon. You're having nothing but a valuable experience and a
hardening. You're going through the mill. We've got to _live_ in it.
What's the good of our stirring everything up again? Dam-silly of a
skinned eel to grow another skin, to be skinned again.... No, 'my
co-mates and brothers in exile,' what I say is--you can get just as
drunk on 'four-'arf' as on champagne, and a lot cheaper. Ask my
honourable friend, Bear."

(Trooper Bear gave a realistic, but musical hiccup.)

"Also, to the Philosopher, bread-and-dripping is as interesting and
desirable prog as the voluble-varied heterogeny of the menu at the
Carlton or the Ritz--'specially when you've no choice."

"Hear, hear," put in Dam.

"Goatey ol' Goate!" said Trooper Bear with impressive solemnity. "Give
me your hand, Philossiler. I adore dripping. I'ss a (hic) mystery.
(No, I don' want both hands," as Goate offered his right to Bear's
warm embrace.) I'm a colliseur of Dripping. I understan' it. I
write odes to it. Yesh. A basin of dripping is like a Woman.
'Strornarillily. You never know what's beneath fair surface.... Below
a placid, level, unrevealing surface there may be--nothing ... and
there may be a rich deposit of glorious, stimulating, piquant
_essence_."

"Oh, shut up, Bear, and don't be an Ass," implored Trooper Burke
(formerly Desmond Villiers FitzGerald) ... "but I admit, all the same,
there's lots of worse prog in the Officers' Mess than a crisp crust
generously bedaubed with the rich jellified gravy that (occasionally)
lurks like rubies beneath the fatty soil of dripping."

"Sound plan to think so, anyway," agreed Trooper Little (_ci devant_
Man About Town and the Honourable Bertie Le Grand). "Reminds me of a
proverb I used to hear in Alt Heidelberg, _'What I have in my hand is
best'_."

"Qui' sho," murmured Trooper Bear with a seraphic smile, "an' wha' I
have in my 'place of departed _spirits_,' my tummy, is better. Glor'us
mixshure. Earned an honest penny sheven sheparate times cleaning the
'coutrements of better men ... _'an look at me for shevenpence'_ ..."
and he slept happily on Dam's shoulder.

In liquor, Trooper Bear was, if possible, gentler, kinder, and of
sweeter disposition than when sober; wittier, more hopelessly lovable
and disarming. These eight men--the "gentlemen-rankers" of the
Queen's Greys, made it a point of honour to out-Tommy "Tommy" as
troopers, and, when in his company, to show a heavier cavalry-swagger,
a broader accent, a quiffier "quiff," a cuttier cutty-pipe, a smarter
smartness; to groom a horse better, to muck out a stall better, to
scrub a floor better, to spring more smartly to attention or to a
disagreeable "fatigue," and to set an example of Tomminess from
turning out on an Inspection Parade to waxing a moustache.

Trooper Bear professed to specialize as a model in the carrying of
liquor "like a man and a soldier". When by themselves, they made it a
point of honour to behave and speak as though in the clubs to which
they once belonged, to eat with washen hands and ordered attire, to
behave at table and elsewhere with that truest of consideration that
offends no man willingly by mannerism, appearance, word or act, and
which is the whole Art of Gentility.

They carefully avoided any appearance of exclusiveness, but sought
every legitimate opportunity of united companionship, and formed a
"mess" of eight at a table which just held that number, and on a
couple of benches each of which exactly fulfilled the slang expression
"room for four Dragoons on a form".

It was their great ambition to avoid the reproach of earning the
soubriquet "gentleman-ranker," a term that too often, and too justly,
stinks in the nostrils of officer, non-commissioned officer, and man
(for, as a rule, the "gentleman-ranker" is a complete failure as a
gentleman and a completer one as a ranker).

To prove a rule by a remarkably fine exception, these eight were among
the very smartest and best troopers of one of the smartest and best
Corps in the world--and to Damocles de Warrenne, their "Society of the
Knights of the dirty Square Table" was a Rock and a Salvation in the
midst of a howling sea of misery--a cool pool in a searing branding
Hell.

Trooper Bear's brief nap appeared to have revived him wonderfully.

"Let us, like the Hosts of Midian, prowl around this happy Sabbeth
eve, my dear," quoth he to Dam, "and, like wise virgins, up and smite
them, when we meet the Red-Caps.... No, I'm getting confused. It's
they up and smite us, when we've nothing to tip them.... I feel I
could be virtuous in your company--since you never offer beer to the
(more or less) fatherless and widowed--and since I'm stony. How _did_
you work that colossal drunk, Matty, when you came home on a stretcher
and the Red-Caps said you _'was the first-classest delirious-trimmings
as ever was, aseein' snakes somethink 'orrible,'_ and in no wise to be
persuaded _'as 'ow there wasn't one underyer bloomin' foot the 'ole
time'_. Oh you teetotallers!"

Dam shuddered and paled. "Yes, let's go for as long a walk as we can
manage, and get as far from this cursed place as time allows," he
replied.

His hair was still short and horribly hacked from the prison-crop he
had had as a preliminary to "168 hours cells," for "drunk and
disorderly".

"I'll come too," announced the Honourable Bertie.

"Yes," chimed in Trooper Adam Goate, "let's go and gladden the eyes,
if not the hearts of the nurse-maids of Folkestone."

"Bless their nurse-maidenly hearts," murmured Trooper Bear. "One made
honourable proposals of marriage to me, quite recently, in return for
my catching the runaway hat of her young charge.... Come on." And in
due course the four derelicts set forth with a uniformity of step and
action that corresponded with their uniformity of dress.

"Let's take the Lower Road," said Dam, as they reached the western
limit of the front at Folkestone. "I fear we rather contaminate the
pure social air of the Upper Road and the fashionable promenade."

"Where every prospect pleases and only man, in the Queen's uniform, is
vile," observed Trooper Bear.

Dam remembered afterwards that it was he who sought the quiet Lower
Road--and he had good reason to remember it. For suddenly, a
fashionably dressed and beautiful young girl, sitting alone in a
passing private victoria, stood up, called "Stop! Stop!" to the
coachman, and ere the carriage well came to a standstill, sprang out,
rushed up to the double file of soldiers, and flung her arms around
the neck of the outside one of the front rank.

With a cry of "Oh, _Dam_! Oh, _Dammy_!"--a cry that mightily
scandalized a serious-minded policeman who stood monumentally at the
corner--she kissed him again and again!

Troopers Bear, Goate, and Little, halting not in their stride,
glancing not unto the right hand nor unto the left hand, speaking no
word, and giving no sign of surprise, marched on in perfect silence,
until Trooper Bear observed to the world in general "The lady was
_not_ swearing. His _name_ must be Dam--short for Damon or Pythias or
Iphigenia or something which we may proceed to forget.... Poor old
chappie--no wonder he's taking to secret drinking. _I_ should drink,
myself. _Poor_ chap!" and Trooper Goate, heaving a sympathetic sigh,
murmured also "Poor chap!"

But Trooper Little, once the Hon. Bertie Le Grand, thought "Poor
_lady_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The heart of Damocles de Warrenne bounded within him, stood still, and
then seemed like to burst.

"Oh, _Lucille_! Oh, darling!" he groaned, as he kissed her fiercely
and then endeavoured to thrust her from him. "Jump into your carriage
quickly. _Lucille_--Don't ... _Here_ ...! Not _here_.... People are
looking ... _You ...!_ A common soldier.... Let me go. Quick.... Your
carriage.... Some one may--"

"Let you _go_, darling ...! Now I have found you.... If you say
another word I'll serve you as you served the Haddock. I'll hang on to
your arm right along the Leas. I'll hang round your neck and scream if
you try to run away. This is poetic justice, darling. Now you know how
our Haddock felt. _No_--I _won't_ leave go of your sleeve. Where shall
we go, dearest darling Dammy. Dare you drive up and down the Front
with me in Amelia Harringport's sister's young man's mother's
victoria? oh, my _darling_ Dam...." and Lucille burst into happy
tears.

"Go up that winding path and I'll follow in a minute. There will be
secluded seats."

"And you'll bolt directly I leave go of you?... I--"

"No, darling, God knows I should if I were a man, but I can't, _I
can't_. Oh, Lucille!"

"Stay here," cried the utterly fearless, unashamed girl to the
unspeakably astounded coachman of the mother of the minor Canon who
had the felicity of being Amelia Harringport's sister's young man, and
she strode up the pathway that wound, tree-shaded, along the front of
the gently sloping cliff.

In the utter privacy of a small seat-enclosing, bush-hidden half-cave,
Damocles de Warrenne crushed Lucille to his breast as she again flung
her arms around his neck.

"Oh, Lucille, how _could_ you expose yourself to scandal like that; I
ought to be hung for not taking to my heels as you came, but I could
not believe my eyes, I thought I was going mad again," and he
shivered.

"What should I have cared if every soul in the world who knows me had
arranged himself and herself in rows and ranks to get a good view? I'd
have done the same if Grumper had been beside me in the carriage. What
is the rest of the World to me, beside _you_, darling?... Oh, your
_poor_ hair, and what is that horrid scar, my dearest? And you are a
'2 Q.G.' are you, and how soon may you marry? I'm going to disappear
from Monksmead, now, just like you did, darling, and I'm coming here
and I'm going to be a soldier's wife. Can I live with you in your
house in barracks, Dammy, or must I live outside, and you come home
directly your drill and things are finished?"

Dam groaned aloud in hopeless bitterness of soul.

"Lucille--listen," said he. "I earn one-and tuppence a day. I may not
marry. If you were a factory-girl or a coster-woman I would not drag
you down so. Apart from that, I am unfit to marry any decent woman. I
am--what you know I am.... I have--fits. I am not--sound--normal--I
may go m...."

"Don't be a pure priceless Ass, darling. You are my own splendid
hero--and I am going to marry you, if I have to _be_ a factory-girl or
a coster-woman, and I am going to live either with you or near you.
You want looking after, my own boy. I shall have some money, though,
when I am of age. When may I run away from Monksmead, darling?"

"Lucille," groaned the miserable man. "Do you think that the sight of
you in the mire in which I wallow would make me happier? Can't you
realize that I'm ruined and done--disgraced and smashed? Lucille, I am
not sane at times.... The SNAKE ... _Do_ you love me, Lucille? Then if
so, I beg and implore you to forget me, to leave me alone, to wait
awhile and then marry Delorme or some sane, wholesome _man_--who is
neither a coward nor a lunatic nor an epileptic. Lucille, you double
and treble my misery. I _can't_ bear it if I see you. Oh, why didn't
you forget me and do the right and proper thing? I am unfit to touch
you! I am a damned scoundrel to be here now," and leaping up he fled
like a maddened horse, bounded down the slope, sprang into the road,
nor ceased to run till he fell exhausted, miles away from the spot
whereon he had suffered as he believed few men had done before.

And thus and thus we women live!
With none to question, none to give
The Nay or Aye, the Aye or Nay
That might smoothe half our cares away.
O, strange indeed! And sad to know
We pitch too high and doing so,
Intent and eager not to fall,
We miss the low clear note of call.
Why is it so? Are we indeed
So like unto the shaken reed?
Of such poor clay? Such puny strength?
That e'en throughout the breadth and length
Of purer vision's stern domain
We bend to serve and serve in vain?
To some, indeed, strange power is lent
To stand content. Love, heaven-sent,
(For things or high or pure or rare)
Shows likest God, makes Life less bare.
And, ever and anon there stray
In faint far-reaching virèlay
The songs of angels, Heav'nward-found,
Of little children, earthward-bound.

A. L. WREN.



CHAPTER X.

MUCH ADO ABOUT ALMOST NOTHING--A TROOPER.


Mr. Ormonde Delorme, Second Lieutenant of the 34th Lancers, sat in his
quarters at Aldershot, reading and re-reading with mingled feelings a
letter from the woman he loved.

It is one thing to extract a promise from The Woman that she will turn
to you for help if ever your help should be needed (knowing that there
could be no greater joy than to serve her at any cost whatsoever,
though it led to death or ruin), but it is quite another thing when
that help is invited for the benefit of the successful rival!

To go to the world's end for Lucille were a very small matter to
Ormonde Delorme--but to go across the road for the man who had won her
away, was not.

For Dam _had_ won her away from him, Delorme considered, inasmuch as
he had brought him to Monksmead, time after time, had seen him falling
in love with Lucille, had received his confidences, and spoken no
warning word. Had he said but "No poaching, Delorme," nothing more
would have been necessary; he would have kept away thenceforth, and
smothered the flame ere it became a raging and consuming fire. No, de
Warrenne had served him badly in not telling him plainly that there
was an understanding between him and his cousin, in letting him sink
more and more deeply over head and ears in love, in letting him go on
until he proposed to Lucille and learnt from her that while she liked
him better than any man in the world but one--she did not love him,
and that, frankly, yes, she _did_ love somebody else, and it was
hopeless for him to hope....

He read the letter again:--

  "MY DEAR ORMONDE,

  "This is a begging letter, and I should
  loathe to write it, under the circumstances, to any
  man but such a one as you. For I am going to
  ask a great deal of you and to appeal to that nobleness
  of character for which I have always admired
  you and which made you poor Dam's hero from
  Lower School days at Wellingborough until you left
  Sandhurst (and, alas! quarrelled with him--or
  rather with his memory--about me). That was a
  sad blow to me, and I tell you again as I told you
  before, Dam had not the faintest notion that _I_ cared
  for _him_ and would not have told me that he cared
  for me had I not shown it. Your belief that he
  didn't trouble to warn you because he had me safe
  is utterly wrong, absurd, and unjust.

  "When you did me the great honour and paid
  me the undeserved and tremendous compliment of
  asking me to marry you, and I told you that I
  could not, and _why_ I could not, I never dreamed
  that Dam could care for me in that way, and I
  knew that I should never marry any one at all
  unless he did.

  "And on the same occasion, Ormonde, you
  begged me to promise that if ever you could serve
  me in any way, I would ask for your help. You
  were a dear romantic boy then, Ormonde, and I
  loved you in a different way, and cried all night
  that you and I could not be friends without thought
  of love, and I most solemnly promised that I would
  turn to you if I ever needed help that you could give.
  (Alas, I thought to myself then that nobody in the
  world could do anything for me that Dam could
  not do, and that I should never need help from
  others while he lived.)

  "I want your help, Ormonde, and I want it for
  Dam--and me.

  "You have, of course, heard some garbled scandal
  about his being driven away from home and cut off
  from Sandhurst by grandfather. I need not ask if
  you have believed ill of him and I need not say he
  is absolutely innocent of any wrong or failure whatever.
  He is _not_ an effeminate coward, he is as
  brave as a lion. He is a splendid hero, Ormonde,
  and I want you to simply strangle and kill any man
  who says a word to the contrary.

  "When he left home, he enlisted, and Haddon
  Berners saw him in uniform at Folkestone where
  he had gone from Canterbury (cricket week) to
  see Amelia Harringport's gang. Amelia whose
  sister is to be the Reverend Mrs. Canon Mellifle at
  Folkestone, you know, met the wretched Haddon
  being rushed along the front by a soldier and
  nearly died at the sight--she declares he was
  weeping!

  "Directly she told me I guessed at once that he
  had met Dam and either insulted or cut him, and
  that poor Dam, in his bitter humour and self-loathing
  had used his own presence as a punishment
  and had made the Haddock walk with him!
  Imagine the company of Damocles de Warrenne
  being anything but an ennobling condescension!
  Fancy Dam's society a horrible injury and disgrace!
  To a thing like Haddon Berners!

  "Well, I simply haunted Folkestone after that,
  and developed a love for Amelia Harringport and
  her brothers that surprised them--hypocrite that I
  am! (but I was punished when they talked slightingly
  of Dam and she sneered at the man whom
  she had shamelessly pursued when all was well
  with him. She 'admires' Haddon now.)

  "At last I met him on one of my week-end visits--on
  a Sunday evening it was--and I simply flew
  at him in the sight of all respectable, prayer-book-displaying,
  before-Church-parading, well-behaved
  Folkestone, and kissed him nearly to death....
  And can you believe a woman could be such a _fool_,
  Ormonde--while carefully noting the '2 Q.G.'
  on his shoulder-straps, I never thought to find out
  his _alias_--for of course he hides his identity, thinking
  as he does, poor darling boy, that he has brought
  eternal disgrace on an honoured name--a name that
  appears twice on the rolls of the V.C. records.

  "Ormonde, were it not that it would _increase_ his
  misery and agony of mind I would run away from
  Monksmead, take a room near the Queen's Greys
  barracks, and haunt the main gates until I saw him
  again. He should then tell me how to communicate
  with him, or I would hang about there till he did.
  I'd marry him 'off the strength' and live (till I am
  'of age') by needlework if he would have me.
  But, of course, he'd _never_ understand that I'd be
  happier, and a better woman, in a Shorncliffe
  lodging, as a soldier's wife, than ever I shall be here
  in this dreary Monksmead--until he is restored and
  re-habilitated (is that the word? I mean--comes
  into his own as a brave and noble gentleman who
  never did a mean or cowardly action in his life).

  "And he is _so_ thin and unhappy looking, Ormonde,
  and his poor hands are in such a state
  and his beautiful hair is all hacked about and done
  like a soldier's, all short except for a long piece
  brushed down his forehead and round to his cap--oh,
  dreadful ... and he has a scar on his face!
  No wonder Amelia never recognized him. Oh, _do_
  help me, Ormonde. I _must_ find out how to address
  him. I dare not let them know there is a _D. de
  Warrenne_ in the regiment--and he'd never get it
  either--he's probably Smith or Jones or Robinson
  now. If some horrid Sergeant called out 'Trooper
  D. de Warrenne,' when distributing letters, Dam
  would never answer to the name he thinks he has
  eternally disgraced, and disgrace it further by dragging
  it in the mire of the ranks. How _can_ people
  be such snobs? Isn't a good private a better man
  than a bad officer? Why should there be any
  'taint' about serving your country in any capacity?

  "How _can_ I find him, Ormonde, unless you help
  me? I could pay a servant to hang about the
  barracks until he recognized Dam--but that would
  be horrible for the poor boy. He'd deny it and say
  the man was mad, I expect--and it would be most
  unpleasant and unfair to Dam to set some one to
  find out from his comrades what he calls himself.
  If he chooses to hide from what he thinks is the
  chance of further disgracing his people, and suffers
  what he does in order to remain hidden, shall _I_ be
  the one to do anything to show him up and cause
  him worse suffering--expose him to a servant?

  "How _can_ I get him a letter that shall not have
  his name on it? If I wrote to his Colonel or the
  Adjutant and enclosed a letter with just 'Dam'
  on it they'd not know for whom it was meant--and
  I dare not tell them his real name.

  "Could you get a letter to him, Ormonde, without
  letting him know that you know he is a private
  soldier, and without letting a soul know his real
  name?

  "I do apologize for the length of this interminable
  letter, but if you only knew the _relief_ it is to me to
  be doing something that may help him, and to be
  talking, or rather writing about him, you would
  forgive me.

  "His name must not be mentioned here. Think
  of it!

  "Oh, if it only would not make him _more_ unhappy,
  I would go to him this minute, and refuse ever to
  leave him again.

  "Does that sound unmaidenly, Ormonde? I
  don't care whether it does or not, nor whether it _is_
  or not. I love him, and he loves me. I am his
  _friend_. Could I stay here in luxury if it would
  make him happier to marry me? Am I a terribly
  abandoned female? I told Auntie Yvette just what
  I had done, and though it simply saved her life to
  know he had not committed suicide (I believe she
  _worshipped_ father)--she seemed mortally shocked
  at me for behaving so. I am not a bit ashamed
  though. Dam is more important than good form,
  and I had to show him in the strongest possible
  way that he was dearer to me than ever. If it _was_
  'behaving like a servant-girl'--all honour to
  servant-girls, I think ... considering the circumstances.
  You should have seen his face before he
  caught sight of me. Yes--_and_ after, too. Though
  really I think he suffered more from my kissing him--in
  uniform, in the street--than if I had cut him.
  It would be only for the minute though ... it
  _must_ comfort him _now_, and always, to think that
  I love him so (since he loves _me_--and always has
  done). But what I must know before I can sleep
  peacefully again is the name by which he goes in the
  '2 Q.G's.,' so that I can write and comfort him regularly,
  send him things, and make him buy himself out
  when he sees he has been foolish and wicked in supposing
  that he has publicly disgraced himself and his
  name and us. And I'm going to make Grandfather's
  life a misery, and go about skinny and ragged and
  weeping, and say: '_This_ is how you treat the
  daughter of your dead friend, you wicked, cruel,
  unjust old man,' until he relents and sends for Dam
  and gets him into the Army properly.... But I
  am afraid Dam will think it his silly duty to flee
  from me and all my works, and hide himself where
  the names of de Warrenne and Stukeley are unknown
  and cannot be disgraced.

  "I rely on you, Ormonde,

  "Your ashamed grateful friend,

  "LUCILLE GAVESTONE."

Second Lieutenant Delorme rang the bell.

"Bradshaw," he said, as his soldier-servant appeared. "And get me a
telegraph form."

"Yussir," said Private Billings, and marched to the Mess ante-room
purposefully, with hope in his heart that Mr. Delorme 'ad nothink less
than a 'alf dollar for the telegram and would forgit to arx for the
chainge, as was his occasional praiseworthy procedure.

Mr. Delorme, alas, proved to have a mean and vulgar shilling, the
which he handed to Private Billings with a form containing the
message:--

"Can do. So cheer up. Writing his adjutant, pal of mine. Coming over
Saturday if get leave. Going Shorncliffe if necessary. Leave due. Dam
all right. Will blow over. Thanks for letting me help."

"'Fraid they don' give no tick at the Telegraft Orfis, Sir," observed
Private Billings, who, as quondam "trained observer" of his troop, had
noted the length of the telegram and the shortness of the allowance
therefor.

"What the deuce...?"

"This is more like a 'alf-dollar job, Sir," he groaned, waving the
paper, "wot wiv' the haddress an' all."

"Oh--er--yes, bit thick for a bob, perhaps; here's half a sov...."

"_That's_ more like '_'Eres to yer_,' Mr. D----" remarked the good
man--outside the door. "And don't yer werry about trifles o' chainge.
Be a gent!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Lucille read and re-read the telegram in many ways.

"Can do so. Cheer up. Writing his adjutant. Pal of mine coming over
Saturday. If get leave going Shorncliffe if necessary leave due Dam.
All right will blow over thanks." No, _that_ wouldn't do.

(What a pity people _would_ not remember when writing telegrams that
the stops and capitals they put are ignored by the operators.)

At last, the wish being father to the thought, she decided it to be
"Can do" (she knew that to be a navy expression). "So cheer up.
Writing. His adjutant a pal of mine. Coming over Saturday if I get
leave. Going Shorncliffe if necessary. Leave due. Dam all right. Will
blow over. Thanks for letting me help." Which was not far wrong.

Dear old Ormonde! She knew he would not fail her--although he had been
terribly cut up by her rejection of his suit and by his belief that
Dam had let him haunt her in the knowledge that she was his own
private property, secured to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having dispatched his telegram and interviewed his Adjutant, Captain,
and Colonel, Mr. Delorme sat him down and wrote to Lieutenant the
Honourable Reginald Montague Despencer, Adjutant of the Queen's
Greys:--

  "MY DEAR MONTY,

  "At the Rag. the other day, respectfully dining
  with my respected parent, I encountered, respectfully
  dining with his respected parent, your embryo Strawberry
  Leaf, old 'Punch Peerson'. (Do you remember
  his standing on his head on the engine at
  Blackwater Station when he was too 'merry' to be
  able to stand steady on his feet?) I learnt that he
  is still with you and I want him to do something for
  me. He'll be serious about it if _you_ speak to him
  about it--and I am writing to him direct. I'm
  going to send you a letter (under my cover), and
  on it will be one word 'Dam' (on the envelope, of
  course). I want you to give this to Punch and
  order him to show it privately to the _gentlemen-rankers_
  of the corps till one says he recognizes the
  force of the word (pretty forceful, too, what!) and
  the writing. To this chap he is to give it. Be
  good to your poor 'rankers,' Monty, I know one
  damned hard case among them. No fault of _his_,
  poor chap. I could say a lot--surprise you--but
  I mustn't. It's awfully good of you, old chap. I
  know you'll see it through. It concerns as fine a
  gentleman as ever stepped and _the_ finest woman!

  "Ever thine,

  "O. DELORME."

"Look here, my lambs--or rather, Black Sheep," quoth Trooper Punch
Peerson one tea-time to Troopers Bear, Little, Goate, Nemo, Burke,
Jones, and Matthewson, "I suppose none of you answers to the name of
'_Dam_'?"

No man answered, and Trooper Peerson looked at the face of no man, nor
any one at any other.

"No. I thought not. Well, I have a letter addressed in that
objurgatory term, and I am going to place it beneath my pillow before
I go out to-night. If it is there when I come in I'll destroy it
unopened. 'Nuff said,' as the lady remarked when she put the mop in
her husband's mouth. Origin of the phrase 'don't chew the mop,' I
should think," and he babbled on, having let his unfortunate friends
know that for one of them he had a letter which might be received by
the addressed without the least loss of his anonymity.

Dam's heart beat hard and seemed to swell to bursting. He felt
suffocated.

"Quaint superscription," he managed to observe. "How did you come by
it?" and then wished he had not spoken.... Who but the recipient could
be interested in its method of delivery? If anyone suspected him of
being "Dam" would they not at once connect him with the notorious
Damocles de Warrenne, ex-Sandhurst cadet, proclaimed coward and
wretched neurotic decadent before the pained, disgusted eyes of his
county, kicked out by his guardian ... a disgrace to two honoured
names. ... "The Adjer handed it over. Thought _I_ was the biggest Damn
here, I suppose," Trooper Peerson replied without looking up from his
plate. "Practical silly joke I should think. No one here with such a
l_oath_some, name as _Dam_, of course," but Trooper Punch Peerson had
his philosophic "doots". He, like others of that set, had heard of a
big chap who was a marvel at Sandhurst with the gloves, sword, horse,
and other things, and who had suddenly and marvellously disappeared
into thin air leaving no trace behind him, after some public scandal
or other.... But that was no concern of Trooper Punch Peerson,
gentleman....

With a wary eye on Peerson, Dam lay on his bed, affecting to read a
stale and dirty news-sheet. He saw him slip something beneath his
pillow and swagger out of the barrack-room. Anon no member of the
little band of gentleman-rankers was left. Later, the room was empty,
save for a heavily snoring drunkard and a busy polisher who, at the
shelf-table at the far end of the room, laboured on his jack-boots,
hissing the while, like a groom with a dandy-brush.

Going to Peerson's bed, Dam snatched the letter, returned to his own,
and flung himself down again--his heart pumping as though he had just
finished a mile race. _Lucille had got a letter to him somehow_.
Lucille was not going to drop him yet--in spite of having seen him a
red-handed, crop-haired, "quiff"-wearing, coarse-looking soldier....
Was there another woman in the world like Lucille? Would any other
girl have so risen superior to her breeding, and the teachings of
Miss Smellie, as to do what she thought right, regardless of public
scandal...? But he must not give her the opportunity of being seen
talking to a soldier again--much less kissing one. Not that she would
want to kiss him again like that. That was the kiss of welcome, of
encouragement, of proof that she was unchanged to him--her first sight
of him after the _débâcle_. It was the unchecked impulse of a noble
heart--and the action showed that Miss Smellie had been unable to do
it much harm with her miserable artificialities and stiflings of all
that is natural and human and right.... Should he read the letter at
once or treasure it up and keep it as a treat in store? He would hold
it in his hand unopened and imagine its contents. He would spin out
the glorious pleasure of possession of an unopened letter from
Lucille. He could, of course, read it hundreds of times--but he would
then soon know it by heart, and although its charm and value would be
no less, it would merge with his other memories and become a memory
itself. He did not want it to become a memory too soon.

The longer it remained an anticipation, the more distant the day when
it became a memory....

With a groan of "Oh, my brain's softening and I'm becoming a
sentimentalist," he opened the letter and read Lucille's loving,
cheering--yet agonizing, maddening--words:--

  "MY OWN DARLING DAM,

  "If this letter reaches you safely you are to
  sit down at once and write to me to tell me how to
  address you by post in the ordinary way. If you
  don't I shall come and haunt the entrance to the
  Lines and waylay you. People will think I am a
  poor soul whom you have married and deserted, or
  whom you won't marry. _I'll_ show up your wicked
  cruelty to a poor girl! How would you like your
  comrades to say 'Look out, Bill, your pore wife's
  'anging about the gates' and to have to lie low--and
  send out scouts to see if the coast was clear
  later on? Don't you go playing fast and loose with
  _me_, master Dam, winning my young affections,
  making love to me, kissing me--and then refusing
  to marry me after it all! I don't want to be too
  hard on you (and I am reasonable enough to admit
  that one-and-two a day puts things on a smaller
  scale than I have been accustomed to in the home
  of my fathers--or rather uncles, or perhaps uncles-in-law),
  and like the kind Tailor whom the Haddock
  advertises (and like the unkind Judge before whom
  he'll some day come for something) I will 'give you
  time'. But it's only a respite, Mr. de Warrenne.
  You are not going to trifle with my young feelings
  and escape altogether. I have my eye on you--and
  if I respect your one-and-twopence a day _now_,
  it is on the clear understanding that you share my
  Little All on the day I come of age. I will trust
  you once more, although you _have_ treated me so--bolting
  and hiding from your confiding fiancée.

  "So write and tell me what you call yourself, so
  that I can write to you regularly and satisfy myself
  that you are not escaping me again. How _could_
  you treat a poor trusting female so--and then when
  she had found you again, and was showing her delight
  and begging to be married and settled in life--to
  rush away from her, leaving her and her modest
  matrimonial proposals scorned and rejected! For
  shame, Sir! I've a good mind to come and complain
  to your Colonel and ask him to make you keep
  your solemn promises and marry me....

  "Now look here, darling, nonsense aside--I
  solemnly swear that if you don't buy yourself out of
  the army on the day I come of age (or before, if
  you will, and can) I will really come and make you
  marry me and I will live with you as a soldier's wife.
  If you persist in your wrong-headed notion of being
  a 'disgrace' (_you_!) then we'll just adopt the army
  as a career, and we'll go through all the phases till
  you get a Commission. I hope you won't take this
  course--but if you do, you'll be a second Hector
  Macdonald and retire as Lieutenant-General Sir
  Damocles de Warrenne (K.C.B., K.C.M.G.,
  K.C.S.I., D.S.O., and, of course, V.C.), having
  confessed to an _alias_. It will be a long time before
  we should be in really congenial society, that way,
  darling, but I'm sure I should enjoy every hour of
  it with you, so long as I felt I was a comfort and
  happiness to you. And when you got your Commission
  I should not be a social drag upon you as
  sometimes happens. Nor before it should I be a
  nuisance and hindrance to you and make you wish
  you were 'shut of the curse of a soldier'. I could
  'rough it' as well as you and, besides, there would
  _be_ no 'roughing it' where you were, for me. It is
  _here_ that I am 'roughing it,' sitting impotent and
  wondering what is happening to you, and whether
  that terrible illness ever seizes you, and whether
  you are properly looked after when it does.

  "Now, just realize, dearest Dam--I said I would
  wait twenty years for you, if necessary. I would
  and I will, but don't make me do it, darling.
  Realize how happy I should be if I could only come
  and sew and cook and scrub and work for you.
  Can you understand that life is only measurable in
  terms of happiness and that _my_ happiness can only
  be where _you,_ are? If you weren't liable to these
  seizures I could bear to wait, but as it is, I can't.
  I beg and beseech you not to make me wait till I
  am of age, Dam. There's no telling what may
  happen to you and I just can't bear it. _I'm coming_,
  if I don't hear from you, and I can easily do something
  to compel you to marry me, if I come. You
  are _not_ going to bear this alone, darling, so don't
  imagine it. We're not going to keep separate
  shops after all these years, just because you're ill
  with a trouble of some kind that fools can't understand.

  "Now write to me at once and put me in a position
  to write to you in the ordinary way--or look
  out for me! I'm all ready to run away, all sorts
  of useful things packed--ready to come and be a
  soldier's girl.

  "You know that I _do_ what I think I'll do--you
  spoke of my 'steel-straight directness and sweet
  brave will' in the poem you were making about
  me, you poor funny old boy, when you vanished,
  and which I found in your room when I went there
  to cry, (Oh, _how_ I cried when I found your odds
  and ends of verse about me there--I really did think
  my heart was 'broken' in actual fact.) Don't
  make me suffer any more, darling. I'm sure your
  Colonel will be sweet about it and give us a nice
  little house all to ourselves, now he has seen what
  a splendid soldier you are. If you stick to your
  folly about 'disgrace' I need not tell him our names
  and Grumper couldn't take me away from you, even
  if he ever found out where we were.

  "I could go on writing all night, darling, but I'll
  only just say again _I am going to marry you and
  take care of you, Dam, in the army or out of it._

  "Your fiancee and friend,

  "LUCILLE GAVESTONE."

Dam groaned aloud.

"Four o' rum 'ot, is wot _you_ want, mate, for that," said the
industrious self-improver at the shelf-table. "Got a chill on yer
stummick on sentry-go in the fog an' rine las' night.... I'd give a
'ogs'ead to see the bloke who wrote in the bloomin' Reggilashuns _'nor
must bloomin' sentries stand in their blasted sentry-boxes in good or
even in moderate-weather'_ a doin' of it 'isself in 'is bloomin'
'moderate weather' with water a runnin' down 'is back, an' 'is feet
froze into a puddle, an' the fog a chokin' of 'im, an' 'is blighted
carbine feelin' like a yard o' bad ice--an' then find the bloomin'
winder above 'is bed been opened by some kind bloke an' 'is bed a
blasted swamp... Yus--you 'ave four o' rum 'ot and you'll feel like
the bloomin' 'Ouse o' Lords. Then 'ave a Livin'stone Rouser."  "Oh,
shut up," said Dam, cursing the Bathos of Things and returning to the
beginning of Lucille's letter.

       *       *       *       *       *

In his somewhat incoherent reply, Dam assured Lucille that he was in
the rudest health and spirits, and the particular pet of his Colonel
who inquired after his health almost daily with tender solicitude;
that he had exaggerated his feeling on That Evening when he had kissed
Lucille as a lover, and begged forgiveness; that marriage would
seriously hamper a most promising military career; that he had had no
recurrence of the "fit" (a mere touch of sun); that it would be unkind
and unfair of Lucille to bring scandal and disgrace upon a rising
young soldier by hanging about the Lines and making inquiries about
him with a view to forcing him into marriage, making him keep to a
bargain made in a rash, unguarded moment of sentimentality; that, in
any case, soldiers could not marry until they had a certain income and
status, and, if they did so, it was no marriage and they were sent to
jail; that his worst enemy would not do anything to drag him out once
again into the light of publicity, and disgrace his family further,
now that he had effectually disappeared and was being forgotten; and
that he announced that he was known as Trooper Matthewson (E Troop,
The Queen's Greys, Cavalry Lines, Shorncliffe) to prevent Lucille from
keeping her most unladylike promise of persecuting him.

Lucille's next letter was shorter than the first.

  "MY DARLING DAM,

  "Don't be such a _priceless_ Ass. Come
  off it.

  "Your own

  "LUCILLE.

  "P.S.--Write to me properly at once--or expect
  me on Monday."

He obeyed, poured out his whole heart in love and thanks and
blessings, and persuaded her that the one thing that could increase
his misery would be her presence, and swore that he would strain every
nerve to appear before her at the earliest possible moment a free man
with redeemed name--provided he could persuade himself he was not _a
congenital lunatic, an epileptic, a decadent--could cure himself of
his mental disease...._



CHAPTER XI.

MORE MYRMIDONS.


The truly busy man cannot be actively and consciously unhappy. The
truly miserable and despondent person is never continuously and
actively employed. Fits of deep depression there may be for the worker
when work is impossible, but, unless there be mental and physical
illness, sleep is the other anaesthetic, refuge--and reward.

The Wise thank God for Work and for Sleep--and pay large premia of
the former as Insurance in the latter.

To Damocles de Warrenne--to whom the name "Trooper Matthewson" now
seemed the only one he had ever had--the craved necessity of life and
sanity was _work_, occupation, mental and physical labour. He would
have blessed the man who sentenced him to commence the digging of a
trench ten miles long and a yard deep for morning and evening labour,
and to take over all the accounts of each squadron, for employment in
the heat of the day. There was no man in the regiment so
indefatigable, so energetic, so persevering, so insatiable of
"fatigues," so willing and anxious to do other people's duty as well
as his own, so restless, so untiring as Trooper Matthewson of E Troop.
For Damocles de Warrenne was in the Land of the Serpent and lived in
fear. He lived in fear and feared to live; he thought of Fear and
feared to think. He turned to work as, but for the memory of Lucille,
he would have turned to drink: he laboured to earn deep dreamless
sleep and he dreaded sleep. Awake, he could drug himself with work;
asleep, he was the prey--the bound, gagged helpless, abject prey--of
the Snake. The greediest glutton for work in the best working regiment
in the world was Trooper Matthewson--but for him was no promotion. He
was, alas, "unreliable"--apt to be "drunk and disorderly," drunk to
the point of "seeing snakes" and becoming a weeping, screaming
lunatic--a disgusting spectacle. And, when brought up for sentence,
would solemnly assure the Colonel that he was _a total abstainer_, and
stick to it when "told-off" for adding impudent lying to shameful
indulgence and sickening behaviour. No promotion for that type of
waster while Colonel the Earl of A---- commanded the Queen's Greys,
nor while Captain Daunt commanded the squadron the trooper
occasionally disgraced.

But he had his points, mark you, and it was a thousand pities that so
fine a soldier was undeniably subject to attacks of _delirium tremens_
and unmistakeably a secret drinker who might at any time have a
violent outburst, finishing in screams, sobs, and tears. A _most_
remarkable case! Who ever heard of a magnificent athlete--regimental
champion boxer and swordsman, admittedly as fine and bold a horseman
and horse-master as the Rough-Riding Sergeant-Major or the
Riding-Master himself--being a sufficiently industrious secret-drinker
to get "goes" of "d.t.," to drink till he behaved like some
God-and-man-forsaken wretch that lives on cheap gin in a chronic state
of alcoholism. He had his points, and if the Brigadier had ever
happened to say to the Colonel: "Send me your smartest, most
intelligent, and keenest man to gallop for me at the manoeuvres," or
the Inspector of Army Gymnasia had asked for the regiment's finest
specimen, or if one representative private soldier had to be sent
somewhere to uphold the credit and honour of the Queen's Greys,
undoubtedly Trooper Matthewson would have been chosen.

What a splendid squadron-sergeant major, regimental sergeant-major,
yea, what a fine officer he would have made, had he been reliable. But
there, you can't have an officer, nor a non-com., either, who lies
shrieking and blubbering on the floor _coram publico_, and screams to
God and man to save him from the snakes that exist only in his own
drink-deranged mind. For of course it can only be Drink that produces
"Snakes"! Yes, it is only through the ghastly alcohol-tinted glasses
that you can "see snakes"--any fool knows _that_.

And the fools of the Queen's Greys knew it, and hoped to God that
Matthewson would "keep off it" till after the Divisional Boxing
Tournament and Assault-at-Arms, for, if he did, the Queen's Greys
would certainly have the Best Man-at-Arms in the Division and have a
mighty good shot at having the Heavy-Weight All-India Champion, since
Matthewson had challenged the Holder and held an absolutely unbroken
record of victories in the various regimental and inter-regimental
boxing tournaments in which he had taken part since joining the
regiment. And he had been "up against some useful lads" as Captain
Chevalier, the president and Maecenas of the Queen's Greys'
boxing-club, expressed it. Yes, Matthewson had his points and the
man who brought the Regiment the kudos of having best Man-at-Arms and
Heavy-Weight Champion of India would be forgiven a lot.

And Damocles de Warrenne blessed the Divisional Boxing Tournament,
Assault-at-Arms, and, particularly, the All-India Heavy-Weight
Championship.

Occupation, labour, anodyne.... Work and deep Sleep. Fighting to keep
the Snake at bay. No, fighting to get away from it--there was no
keeping it at bay--nothing but shrieking collapse when It came....

From parade ground to gymnasium, from gymnasium to swimming-bath, from
swimming-bath to running-track, from running-track to boxing-ring,
from boxing-ring to gymnasium again. Work, occupation, forgetfulness.
Forget the Snake for a little while--even though it is surely lurking
near--waiting, waiting, waiting; nay, even beneath his very foot and
_moving_....

Well, a man can struggle with himself until the Thing actually appears
in the concrete, and he goes mad--but Night! Oh, God grant deep sleep
at night--or wide wakefulness _and a light_. Neither Nightmare nor
wakefulness _in the dark_, oh, Merciful God.

Yes, things were getting worse. _He was going mad. MAD_. Desert--and
get out of India somehow?

Never! No gentleman "deserts" anything or anybody.

Suicide--and face God unafraid and unashamed?

Never! The worst and meanest form of "deserting".

No. Stick it. And live to work--work to live. And strive and strive
and strive to obliterate the image of Lucille--that sorrow's crown of
sorrow.

And so Trooper Matthewson's course of training was a severe one and he
appeared to fear rest and relaxation as some people fear work and
employment.

His favourite occupation was to get the ten best boxers of the
regiment to jointly engage in a ten-round contest with him, one round
each. He would frequently finish fresher than the tenth man. Coming of
notedly powerful stock on both sides, and having been physically
_educated_ from babyhood, Dam, with clean living and constant
training, was a very uncommon specimen. There may have been one or two
other men in the regiment as well developed, or nearly so; but when
poise, rapidity, and skill were taken into account there was no one
near him. Captain Chevalier said he was infinitely the quickest
heavy-weight boxer he had ever seen--and Captain Chevalier was a
pillar of the National Sporting Club and always knew the current
professionals personally when he was in England. In fact, with the
enormous strength of the best heavy-weight, Dam combined the lightning
rapidity and mobility of the best feather-weight.

His own doubt as to the result of his contest with the heavy-weight
Champion of India arose from the fact that the latter was a person of
much lower nervous development, a creature far less sensitive to
shock, a denser and more elementary organism altogether, and possessed
of a far thicker skull, shorter jaw, and thicker neck. Dam summed him
up thus with no sense of contemptuous superiority, but with a plain
recognition of the facts that the Champion was a fighting machine, a
dull, foreheadless, brutal gladiator who owed his championship very
largely to the fact that he was barely sensible to pain, and
impervious to padded blows. It was said that he had never been knocked
out in all his boxing-career, that the kick of a horse on his chin
would not knock him out, that his head was solid bone, and that the
shortness of his jaw and thickness of his neck absolutely prevented
sufficient leverage between the point of the jaw and the spinal cord
for the administration of the shock to the _medulla oblongata_ that
causes the necessary ten-seconds' unconsciousness of the "knock-out".

He was known as the Gorilla by reason of his long arms, incredible
strength, beauty, and pleasing habits, and he bore the reputation of a
merciless and unchivalrous opponent and one who needed the strictest
and most experienced refereeing. It would be a real terrific fight,
and that was the main thing to Dam, though he would do his very utmost
to win, for the credit of the Queen's Greys, and would leave no stone
unturned to that end. He regretted that he could not get leave and go
to Pultanpur to see the Champion box, and learn something of his style
and methods when easily defending his title in the Pultanpur
tournament. And when the Tournament and Assault-at-Arms were over he
must find something else to occupy him by day and tire him before
night. Meanwhile life was bearable, with the fight to come--except for
sentry-go work. That was awful, unspeakable, and each time was worse
than the last. Sitting up all night in the guard-room under the big
lamp, and perhaps with some other wakeful wretch to talk to, was
nothing. That was well enough--but to be on a lonely post on a dark
night ... well--he couldn't do it much longer.

Darkness and the Snake that was always coming and never came! To prowl
round and round some magazine, store, or boundary-stone with his
carbine at the "support," or to tramp up and down by the horse-lines,
armed only with his cutting-whip; to stand in a sentry-box while the
rain fell in sheets and there was no telling what the next flash of
lightning might reveal--that was what would send him to a lunatic's
padded cell.

To see the Snake by day would give him a cruel, terrible fit--but to
be aware of it in the dark would be final--and fatal to his reason
(which was none too firmly enthroned). No, he had the dreadful feeling
that his reason was none too solidly based and fixed. He had horrible
experiences, apart from the snake-nightmares, nowadays. One night when
he awoke and lay staring up at his mosquito-curtain in the blessed
light of the big room-lamp (always provided in India on account of
rifle thieves) he had suddenly felt an overwhelming surge of fear. He
sat up. God!--he was in a marble box! These white walls and roof were
not mosquito-netting, they were solid marble! He was in a tomb. He was
buried alive. The air was growing foul. His screams would be
absolutely inaudible. He screamed, and struck wildly at the cold cruel
marble, and found it was soft, yielding netting after all. But it was
a worse horror to find that he had thought it marble than if he had
found it to be marble. He sprang from his cot.

"I am going mad," he cried.

"Goin'?... _Gorn_, more like," observed the disrobing room-corporal.
"Why donchew keep orf the booze, Maffewson? You silly gapin' goat. Git
inter bed and shut yer 'ead--or I'll get yew a night in clink, me
lad--and wiv'out a light, see?"

Corporal Prag knew his victim's little weakness and grinned
maliciously as Dam sprang into bed without a word.

The Stone Jug without a gleam of light! Could a man choke himself with
his own fingers if the worst came to the worst? The Digger and Stygian
darkness--now--_when he was going mad_! Men could not be so cruel....
But they'd say he was drunk. He would lie still and cling with all his
strength and heart and soul to sanity. He would think of That Evening
with Lucille--and of her kisses. He would recite the Odes of Horace,
the Aeneid, the Odyssey as far as he could remember them, and then
fall back on Shakespeare and other English poets. Probably he knew a
lot more Greek and Latin poetry (little as it was) than he did of
English....

Corporal Prag improved the occasion as he unlaced his boots. "Bloomin'
biby! Afraid o' the dark! See wot boozin' brings yer to. Look at yer!
An' look at _me_. Non-c'misshn'd orficer in free an' a 'arf years from
j'inin'. Never tasted alc'ol in me life, an' if any man offud me a
glarse, d'ye know what I'd _dew_?"

"No, Corporal, I'd like to hear," replied Dam. (Must keep the animal
talking as long as possible for the sake of human company. He'd go mad
at once, perhaps, when the Corporal went to bed.)

"I'd frow it strite in 'is faice, I would," announced the virtuous
youth. A big boot flopped heavily on the floor.

"I daresay you come of good old teetotal stock," observed Dam, to make
conversation. Perhaps the fellow would pause in his assault upon the
other boot and reply--so lengthening out the precious minutes of
diversion. Every minute was a minute nearer dawn....

"_Do_ yer? Well, you're bloomin' well wrong, Maffewson, me lad. My
farver 'ad a bout every Saturday arternoon and kep' it up all day a
Sund'y, 'e did--an' in the werry las' bout 'e ever 'ad 'e bashed 'is
ole woman's 'ead in wiv' a bottle."

"And was hanged?" inquired Dam politely and innocently, but most
tactlessly.

"Mind yer own b---- business," roared Corporal Prag. "Other people's
farvers wasn't gallows-birds if yourn was. 'Ow'd you look if I come
and punched you on the nose, eh? Wot 'ud you do if I come an' set
abaht yer, eh?"

"Break your neck," replied Dam tersely.

"Ho, yus. _And_ wot 'ud yew say when I calls the guard and they frows
you into clink? Without no light, Trooper Maffewson!"

Dam shuddered.

Corporal Prag yet further improved the occasion, earning Dam's
heartfelt blessing.

"Don't you fergit it, Trooper Maffewson. I'm yore sooperier orficer.
You _may_ be better'n me in the Ring, praps, or with the sword (Dam
could have killed him in five minutes, with or without weapons), but
if I 'olds up my little finger _you_ comes to 'eel--or other'ow you
goes ter clink. 'Ung indeed! You look after yer own farver an' don'
pass remarks on yer betters. Why! You boozin' waster, I shall be
Regimental Sargen' Majer when you're a bloomin' discharged private wiv
an 'undred '_drunks_' in red on yer Defaulter's Sheet. Regimental
Sarjen' Majer! I shall be an Orficer more like, and walk acrost the
crossin' wot _you're_ asweepin', to me Club in bloomin' well
Pickerdilly! Yus. This is the days o' _? Demockerycy_, me lad. 'Good
Lloyd George's golden days' as they sing--and steady fellers like me
is goin' to ave C'missh'ns--an' don' you fergit it! Farver 'ung
indeed!"

"I'm awf'ly sorry, Corporal, really," apologized Dam. "I didn't
think...."

"No, me lad," returned the unmollified superior, as he stooped to the
other boot, "if you was to think more an' booze less you'd do
better.... 'Ow an' where you gets 'old of it, beats me. I've seed you
in delirium trimmings but I ain't never seed you drinkin' nor yet
smelt it on yer. You're a cunnin' 'ound in yer way. One o' them
beastly secret-drinkin' swine wots never suspected till they falls
down 'owlin' blue 'orrors an' seem' pink toadses. Leastways it's
snakes _you_ sees. See 'em oncte too orfen, you will.... See 'em on
p'rade one day in front o' the Colonel. Fall orf yer long-face an get
trampled--an' serve yer glad.... An' now shut yer silly 'ed an' don't
chew the mop so much. Let me get some sleep. _I_ 'as respontsibillaties
_I_ do...."

A crossing outside a Club! More likely a padded cell in a troopship
and hospital until an asylum claimed him.

In the finals, "Sword versus Sword Dismounted," Dam had a foeman
worthy of his steel.

A glorious chilly morning, sunrise on a wide high open _maidan_, rows
of tents for the spectators at the great evening final, and crowds of
officers and men in uniform or gymnasium kit. On a group of chairs sat
the Divisional General, his Colonel on the Staff, and Aide-de-Camp;
the Brigadier-General, his Brigade-Major, and a few ladies, wives of
regimental colonels, officers, and leading Civilians.

Semi-finals of Tent-pegging, Sword v. Sword Mounted, Bayonet-fighting,
Tug-of-War, Fencing, and other officers' and men's events had been, or
were being, contested.

The finals of the British Troops' Sword _v._ Sword Dismounted, was
being reserved for the last, as of supreme interest to the experts
present, but not sufficiently spectacular to be kept for the evening
final "show," when the whole of Society would assemble to be thrilled
by the final Jumping, Driving, Tent-pegging, Sword _v._ Sword Mounted,
Bayonet-fighting, Sword _v._ Lance, Tug-of-War, and other events for
British and Indian officers and men of all arms.

It was rumoured that there was a Sergeant of Hussars who would give
Trooper Matthewson a warm time with the sabre. As the crowd of
competitors and spectators gathered round the sabres-ring, and chairs
were carried up for the Generals, ladies, and staff, to witness the
last and most exciting contest of the morning's meeting, a
Corporal-official of the Assault-at-Arms Executive Committee called
aloud, "Sergeant O'Malley, 14th Hussars, get ready," and another
fastened a red band to the Sergeant's arm as he stepped forward, clad
in leather jacket and leg-guards and carrying the heavy
iron-and-leather head-guard necessary in sabre combats, and the
blunt-edged, blunt-pointed sabre.

Dam approached him.

"Don't let my point rest on your hilt, Sergeant," he said.

"What's the game?" inquired the surprised and suspicious Sergeant.

"My little trick. I thrust rather than cut, you know," said Dam.

"I'll watch it, me lad," returned Sergeant O'Malley, wondering whether
Dam were fool or knave.

"Trooper Matthewson, get ready," called the Corporal, and Dam stepped
into the ring, saluted, and faced the Sergeant.

A brief direction and caution, the usual preliminary, and the word--

"On guard--_Play_" and Dam was parrying a series of the quickest cuts
he had ever met. The Sergeant's sword flickered like the tongue of
a--_Snake_. Yes--of a _Snake_! and even as Dam's hand dropped limp and
nerveless, the Sergeant's sword fell with a dull heavy thud on his
head-guard. The stroke would have split Dam's head right neatly, in
actual fighting.

"Stop," shouted the referee. "Point to Red."

"On guard--_Play_"

But if the Sergeant's sword flickered like the tongue of a snake--why
then Dam must be fighting the Snake. _Fighting the Snake_ and in
another second the referee again cried "Stop!" And added, "Don't fight
savage, White, or I'll disqualify you".

"I'm awf'ly sorry," said Dam, "I thought I was fighting the Sn----"

"Hold your tongue, and don't argue," replied the referee sternly.

"On Guard--_Play_."

Ere the Sergeant could move his sword from its upward-inclined
position Dam's blade dropped to its hilt, shot in over it, and as the
Sergeant raised his forearm in guard, flashed beneath it and bent on
his breast.

"Stop," cried the referee. "Point to White. Double"--two marks being
then awarded for the thrust hit, and one for the cut.

"On guard--_Play_."

Absolutely the same thing happened again within the next half-second,
and Dam had won the British Troops' Sword _v_. Sword Dismounted, in
addition to being in for the finals in Tent-pegging, Sword _v_. Sword
Mounted, Jumping (Individual and By Sections), Sword _v_. Lance, and
Tug-of-War.

"Now jest keep orf it, Matthewson, and sweep the bloomin' board,"
urged Troop-Sergeant-Major Scoles as Dam removed his fencing-jacket,
preparatory to returning to barracks. "You be Best Man-at-arms in the
Division and win everythink that's open to British Troops Mounted, and
git the 'Eavy-Weight Championship from the Gorilla--an' there'll be
some talk about promotion for yer, me lad."

"Thank you, Sergeant," replied Dam. "I am a total abstainer."

"Yah! _Chuck_ it," observed the Sergeant-Major.

_Of no interest to Women nor modern civilized Men_.

The long-anticipated hour had struck, the great moment had arrived,
and (literally) thousands of British soldiers sat in a state of
expectant thrill and excited interest, awaiting the appearance of the
Gorilla (Corporal Dowdall of the 111th Battery, Royal Garrison
Artillery--fourteen stone twelve) and Trooper Matthewson (Queen's
Greys--fourteen stone) who were to fight for the Elliott Belt, the
Motipur Cup, and the Heavy-Weight Championship of India.

The Boxing Tournament had lasted for a week and had been a huge
success. Now came the _pièce de resistance, the_ fight of the Meeting,
the event for which special trains had brought hundreds of civilians
and soldiers from neighbouring and distant cantonments. Bombay herself
sent a crowded train-load, and it was said that a, by no means small,
contingent had come from Madras. Certainly more than one sporting
patron of the Great Sport, the Noble Art, the Manly Game, had
travelled from far Calcutta. So well-established was the fame of the
great Gorilla, and so widely published the rumour that the Queen's
Greys had a prodigy who'd lower his flag in ten rounds--or less.

A great square of the grassy plain above Motipur had been enclosed by
a high canvas wall, and around a twenty-four foot raised "ring" (which
was square) seating accommodation for four thousand spectators had
been provided. The front rows consisted of arm-chairs, sofas, and
drawing-room settees (from the wonderful stock of Mr. Dadabhoy
Pochajee Furniturewallah of the Sudder Bazaar) for the officers and
leading civilians of Motipur, and such other visitors as chose to
purchase the highly priced reserved-seat tickets.

Not only was every seat in the vast enclosure occupied, but every
square inch of standing-room, by the time the combatants entered the
arena.

A few dark faces were to be seen (Native Officers of the pultans[23]
and rissal[24] of the Motipur Brigade), and the idea occurred to not
a few that it was a pity the proceedings could not be witnessed by
every Indian in India. It would do them good in more ways than one.

Although a large number of the enormously preponderating military
spectators were in the khaki kit so admirable for work (and so
depressing, unswanksome and anti-enlistment for play, or rather for
walking-out and leisure), the experienced eye could see that almost
every corps in India furnished contingents to the gathering. Lancers,
dragoons, hussars, artillery, riflemen, Highlanders, supply and
transport, infantry of a score of regiments, and, rare sight away from
the Ports, a small party of Man-o'-War's-men in white duck, blue
collars, and straw hats (huge, solemn-faced men who jested with
grimmest seriousness of mien and insulted each other outrageously).
Officers in scarlet, in dark blue, in black and cherry colour, in
fawn and cherry colour, in pale blue and silver, in almost every
combination of colours, showed that the commissioned ranks of the
British and Indian Services were well represented, horse, foot, guns,
engineers, doctors, and veterinary surgeons--every rank and every
branch. On two sides of the roped ring, with its padded posts, sat the
judges, boxing Captains both, who had won distinction at Aldershot and
in many a local tournament. On another side sat the referee,
_ex_-Public-Schools Champion, Aldershot Light-Weight Champion, and,
admittedly, the best boxer of his weight among the officers of the
British Army. Beside him sat the time-keeper. Overhead a circle of
large incandescent lamps made the scene as bright as day.

"Well, d'you take it?" asked Seaman Jones of Seaman Smith. "Better
strike while the grog's 'ot. A double-prick o' baccy and a gallon o'
four-'arf, evens, on the Griller. I ain't never 'eard o' the Griller
till we come 'ere, and I never 'eard o' t'other bloke neether--but I
'olds by the Griller, cos of 'is name and I backs me fancy afore I
sees 'em.--Loser to 'elp the winner with the gallon."

"Done, Bill," replied the challenged promptly, on hearing the last
condition. (He could drink as fast as Bill if he lost, and he could
borrer on the baccy till it was wore out.) "Got that bloomin'
'igh-falutin' lar-de-dar giddy baccy-pouch and yaller baccy you
inwested in at Bombay?" he asked. "Yus, 'Enery," replied William,
diving deeply for it.

"Then push it 'ere, an' likewise them bloomin' 'igh-falutin'
lar-de-dar giddy fag-papers you fumble wiv'. Blimey! ain't a honest
clay good enough for yer now? I knows wots the matter wiv _you_, Billy
Jones! You've got a weather-heye on the Quarter Deck you 'ave. You
fink you're agoin' to be a blighted perishin' orficer you do! Yus, you
flat-footed matlot--not even a blasted tiffy you ain't, and you buys a
blighted baccy-pouch and yaller baccy and fag-pipers, like a Snottie,
an' reckons you's on the 'igh road to be a bloomin' Winnie Lloyd
Gorgeous Orficer. 'And 'em 'ere--fore I'm sick. Lootenant,--Gunnery
Jack,--Number One,--Commerdore!"

"Parding me, 'Enery Smiff," returned William Jones with quiet dignity.
"In consequents o' wot you said, an' more in consequents o' yore
clumsy fat fingers not been used to 'andlin' dellikit objex, and most
in consequents o' yore been a most ontrustable thief, I will perceed
to roll you a fag meself, me been 'ighly competent so fer to do. Not
but wot a fag'll look most outer place in _your_ silly great ugly
faice."

The other sailor watched the speaker in cold contempt as he prepared a
distinctly exiguous, ill-fed cigarette.

"Harthur Handrews," he said, turning to his other neighbour, "'Ave yew
'appened to see the Master Sail-maker or any of 'is mermydiuns
'ere-abahts, by any chawnst?"

"Nope. 'An don' want. Don' wan' see nothink to remind me o'

  Ther blue, ther fresh, ther _hever_ free,
  Ther blarsted, beastly, boundin' sea.

Not even your distressin' face and dirty norticle apparile. Why do you
arksk sich silly questchings?"

"Willyerm Jones is amakin' a needle for 'im."

"As 'ow?"

"Wiv a fag-paper an' a thread o' yaller baccy. 'E's makin' a bloomin'
needle," and with a sudden grab he possessed himself of the pouch,
papers, and finished product of Seaman Jones's labours and generosity.

Having pricked himself severely and painfully with the alleged
cigarette, he howled with pain, cast it from him, proceeded to stick
two papers together and to make an uncommonly stout, well-nourished,
and bounteous cigarette.

"I 'fought I offered you to make yourself a cigarette, 'Enery,"
observed the astounded owner of the _materia nicotina_.

"I grabbed for to make myself a cigarette, Willyerm," was the
pedantically correct restatement of Henry.

"Then why go for to try an' mannyfacter a bloomin' banana?" asked the
indignant victim, whose further remarks were drowned in the roars of
applause which greeted the appearance from the dressing-tents of the
Champion and the Challenger.

Dam and Corporal Dowdall entered the ring from opposite corners,
seated themselves in the chairs provided for them, and submitted
themselves to the ministrations of their respective seconds.

Trooper Herbert Hawker violently chafed Dam's legs, Trooper Bear his
arms and chest, while Trooper Goate struggled to force a pair of new
boxing-gloves upon his hands, which were scientifically bandaged
around knuckles, back, and wrist, against untimely dislocations and
sprains.

Clean water was poured into the bowls which stood behind each chair,
and fresh resin was sprinkled over the canvas-covered boards of the
Ring.

Men whose favourite "carried their money" (and each carried a good
deal) anxiously studied that favourite's opponent.

The Queen's Greys beheld a gorilla indeed, a vast, square, long-armed
hairy monster, with the true pugilist face and head.

"Wot a werry ugly bloke," observed Seaman Arthur Andrews to Seaman
Henry Smith. "'E reminds me o' Hadmiral Sir Percy 'Opkinton, so 'e do.
P'raps 'e's a pore relation."

"Yus," agreed Seaman Smith. "A crost between our beloved 'Oppy an' ole
Bill Jones 'ere. Bill was reported to 'ave 'ad a twin brother--but it
was allus serposed Bill ate 'im when 'e wasn' lookin'."

The backers of Corporal Dowdall were encouraged at seeing a man who
looked like a gentleman and bore none of the traditional marks of the
prize-fighter. His head was not cropped to the point of bristly
baldness, his nose was unbroken, his eyes well opened and unblackened,
his ears unthickened, his body untattooed. He had the white skin,
small trim moustache, high-bred features, small extremities, and
general appearance and bearing of an officer.

Ho, G'rilla Dowdall would make short work of _that_ tippy young toff.
Why, look at him!

And indeed it made you shudder to think of that enormous ferocity,
that dynamic truculence, doing its best to destroy you in a space
twenty-four feet square.

Let the challenger wait till G'rilla put his fighting face on--fair
terrifyin'.

Not an Artilleryman but felt sure that the garrison-gunner would
successfully defend the title and "give the swankin' Queen's Greys
something to keep them _choop_[25] for a bit. Gettin' above 'emselves
they was, becos' this bloke of theirs had won Best Man-at-Arms and had
the nerve to challenge G'rilla Dowdall, R.G.A."

Even the R.H.A. admitted the R.G.A. to terms of perfect equality on
that great occasion.

But a few observant and experienced officers, gymnasium instructors,
and ancient followers of the Noble Art were not so sure.

"Put steel-and-whalebone against granite and I back the former," said
Major Decoulis to Colonel Hanking; "other things being equal of
course--skill and ring-craft. And I hear that No. 2--the Queen's
Greys' man--is unusually fast for a heavy-weight."

"I'd like to see him win," admitted the Colonel. "The man looks a
gentleman. _Doesn't_ the other look a Bill Sykes, by Jove!"

The Staff Sergeant Instructor of the Motipur Gymnasium stepped into
the ring.

"Silence, please," he bawled. "Fifteen-round contest between Corporal
Dowdall, 111th Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, Heavy-Weight
Champion of Hindia, fourteen twelve (Number 1--on my right 'and) and
Trooper Matthewson, Queen's Greys, fourteen stun (Number 2--on my left
'and). Please keep silence durin' the rounds. The winner is
Heavy-Weight Champion of Hindia, winner of the Motipur Cup and 'older
of the Elliott Belt. All ready there?"

Both combatants were ready.

"Come here, both of you," said the referee.

As he arose to obey, Dam was irresistibly reminded of his fight with
Bully Harberth and smiled.

"Nervous sort o' grin on the figger-'ead o' the smaller wessel, don't
it," observed Seaman Smith.

"There wouldn't be no grin on _your_ fat face at all," returned Seaman
Jones. "It wouldn't be there. You'd be full-steam-ahead, bearings
'eated, and showin' no lights, for them tents--when you see wot you
was up against."

The referee felt Dam's gloves to see that they contained no foreign
bodies in the shape of plummets of lead or other illegal
gratifications. (He had known a man fill the stuffing-compartments of
his gloves with plaster of Paris, that by the third or fourth round he
might be striking with a kind of stone cestus as the plaster moulded
with sweat and water, and hardened to the shape of the fist.)

As he stepped back, Dam looked for the first time at his opponent,
conned his bruiser face and Herculean body, and, with a gasp and
shudder, was aware that a huge tattooed serpent reared its head in the
centre of his vast chest while smaller ones encircled the mighty
biceps of his arms. He clutched the rope and leant trembling against
the post as the referee satisfied himself (with very great care in
this case) of the innocence of the Gorilla's gloves.

"I know you of old, Dowdall," he said, "and I shall only caution you
once mind. Second offence--and out you go."

Corporal Dowdall grinned sheepishly. He appeared to think that a
delicate and gentlemanly compliment had been paid to his general
downiness, flyness, and ring-craft,--the last of which, for Corporal
Dowdall, included every form of foul that a weak referee would pass,
an inexperienced one misunderstand, or a lazy one miss. Major
O'Halloran, first-class bruiser himself, was in the habit of doing his
refereeing inside the ring and within a foot or two of the principals,
where he expected foul play.

As the Major cautioned the Gorilla, Dam passed his hand wearily across
his face, swallowed once or twice and groaned aloud.

It was _not_ fair. Why should the Snake be allowed to humiliate him
before thousands of spectators? Why should It be brought here to shame
him in the utmost publicity, to make him fail his comrades, disgrace
his regiment, make the Queen's Greys a laughing-stock?

But--he had fought an emissary of the Snake before--and he had won.
This villainous-looking pugilist was perhaps _the Snake Itself in
human form_--and, see, he was free, he was in God's open air, no
chains bound him, he was not gagged, this place was not a pit dug
beneath the Pit itself! This was all tangible and real. He would have
fair play and be able to defend himself. This was not a blue room
with a mud floor. Nay, he would be able to attack--to fight, fight
like a wounded pantheress for her cubs. This accursed Snake in Human
Form would only be able to use puny fists. Mere trivial human fists
and human strength. Everything would be on the human plane. It would
be unable to wrap him in its awful coils and crush and crush the soul
and life and manhood out of him, as it did at night before burrowing
its way ten million miles below the floor of Hell with him, and
immuring him in a molten incandescent tomb where he could not even
scream or writhe.

"Get to your corners," said the referee, and Dam returned to his place
with a cruel smile upon his compressed lips. By the Merciful Living
God he had the Snake Itself delivered unto him in human form--to do
with as he could. Oh, that It might last out the fifteen times of
facing him in his wrath, his pent-up vengeful wrath at a ruined life,
a dishonoured name and _a lost Lucille!_

When would they give the word for him to spring upon it and batter it
lifeless to the ground?

"Don't grind yer silly teeth like that," whispered Hawker, his grim
ugly face white with anxiety and suspense (for he loved Damocles de
Warrenne as the faithfullest of hounds loves the best of masters).
"You're awastin' henergy all the time."

"God! if they don't give the word in a minute I shall be unable to
hold off It," replied Dam wildly.

"That's the sperrit, Cocky," approved Hawker, "but donchew fergit you
gotter larst fifteen bloomin' rahnds. 'Taint no kindergarters.
'_E_'ll stick it orlrite, an' you'll avter win on _points_----"

"Seconds out of the Ring," cried the time-keeper, staring at his
watch.

"Don't get knocked out, dear boy," implored Trooper Bear. "Fight to
win on points. You _can't_ knock him out. I'm going to pray like hell
through the rounds----"

_"Time"_ barked the time-keeper, and, catching up the chair as Dam
rose, Trooper Bear dropped down from the boards of the ring to the
turf, where already crouched Hawker and Goate, looking like men about
to be hanged.

The large assembly drew a deep breath as the combatants approached
each other with extended right hands--Dam clad in a pair of blue silk
shorts, silk socks and high, thin, rubber-soled boots, the Gorilla in
an exiguous bathing-garment and a pair of gymnasium shoes.

Dam a picture of the Perfect Man, was the taller, and the Gorilla, a
perfect Caliban, was the broader and had the longer reach. Their right
hands touched in perfunctory shake, Dam drew back to allow the Snake
to assume sparring attitude, and, as he saw the huge shoulders hunch,
the great biceps rise, and the clenched gloves come to position, he
assumed the American "crouch" attitude and sprang like a tiger upon
the incarnation of the utter Damnation and Ruin that had cursed his
life to living death.

The Gorilla was shocked and pained! The tippy pink-and-white blasted
rookie was "all over him" and he was sent staggering with such a rain
of smashing blows as he had never, never felt, nor seen others
receive. The whole assembly of soldiers, saving the Garrison
Artillerymen, raised a wild yell, regardless of the referee's
ferocious expostulations (in dumb-show) and even the ranks of the
Horse-Gunners could scarce forbear to cheer. The Queen's Greys howled
like fiends and Hawker, unknown to himself, punched the boards before
him with terrific violence. Never had anything like it been seen.
Matthewson was a human whirlwind, and Dowdall had not had a chance to
return a blow. More than half the tremendous punches, hooks and
in-fighting jabs delivered by his opponent had got home, and he was
"rattled". A fair hook to the chin might send him down and out at any
moment.

Surely never had human being aimed such an unceasing, unending, rain
of blows in the space of two minutes as had Trooper Matthewson. His
arms had worked like the piston rods of an express engine--as fast and
as untiringly. He had taken the Gorilla by surprise, had rushed him,
and had never given him a fraction of time in which to attack. Beneath
the rain of sledge-hammer blows the Gorilla had shrunk, guarding for
dear life. Driven into a corner, he cowered down, crouched beneath his
raised arms, and allowed his face to sink forward. Like a whirling
piece of machinery Dam's arm flew round to administer the
_coup-de-grace_, the upper cut, that would lay the Snake twitching
and unconscious on the boards.

The Gorilla was expecting it.

As it came, his bullet head was jerked aside, and as the first swung
harmlessly up, he arose like a flash, and, as he did so, his mighty
right shot up, took Darn on the chin and laid him flat and senseless
in the middle of the ring.

The Gorilla breathed heavily and made the most of the respite. He knew
it must be about "Time," and that he had not won. If it wasn't "Time,"
and the cub arose he'd knock him to glory as he did so. Yes, the
moment the most liberal-minded critic could say he was just about on
his feet, he'd give him a finisher that he'd bear the mark of. The
bloomin' young swine had nearly "had" him--him, the great G'rilla
Dowdall, about to buy himself out with his prize-money, and take to
pugilism as a profession.

"_One--two--three--four,_" counted the timekeeper amid the most
deathly silence, and, as he added, _"five--six--Time,"_ a shout arose
that was heard for miles.

Trooper Matthewson was saved--if his seconds could pull him round in
time.

At sound of the word "Time," the seconds leapt into the ring. Hawker
and Bear rushed to the prostrate Dam, hauled him to his feet, and
dragged him to the chair which Goate had placed ready. As he was
dropped into it, a spongeful of icy water from Goate's big sponge
brought Dam to consciousness.

"Breave for all y'r worf," grunted Hawker, as he mightily swung a big
bath-towel in swift eddies, to drive refreshing air upon the heaving,
panting body of his principal.

Bear and Goate applied massaging hands with skilled violence.

"By Jove, I thought you had him," panted Goate as he kneaded triceps
and biceps. "And then I thought he had you. It's anybody's fight,
Matty--but _don't_ try and knock him out. You couldn't do it with an
axe."

"No," agreed Bear. "You've got to keep on your feet and win on
points."

"I've got to kill _the Snake_," hissed Dam, and his seconds glanced at
each other anxiously.

He felt that nothing could keep him from victory. He was regaining his
faith in a just Heaven, now that the Snake had been compelled to face
him in the puny form of a wretched pugilist. Some one had said
something about an axe. It would be but fair if he had an axe, seeing
that hitherto the Snake had had him utterly defenceless while
exercising its own immeasurable and supernatural powers, when
torturing him to its heart's content for endless aeons. But--no--since
it was here in human form and without weapons, _he_ would use none,
and would observe the strictest fairness in fight, just as he would to
a real human enemy.

"Abaht that there little bet, 'Enery," observed Seaman Jones, "I fink
we'll alter of it. I don't wish to give no moral support to this 'ere
Griller. T'other bloke's only jus' fresh from the Novice Class, I
reckon, jedgin' by 'is innercent young faice, an' e's aputtin' up the
werry best fight as ever I see. We'll chainge it like this 'ere. We
backs the 'orse-soldier to win, and, if he _do_, we drinks a gallon
between us. If 'e don't, we drinks _two_ fer to console 'im, an' drahn
sorrer, wot?"

"So it are, Will'm," agreed Henery. "Then we wins _either_ way! _You_
got a 'ead fer logger-rhythms. Oughter been a bloomin' bookie. They
'as to be big an' ugly----"

"Seconds out of the Ring," called the referee, and a hush fell upon
the excited throng.

Bear and Goate dropped to the ground, Hawker splashed water all over
Dam's body and, as he rose on the word "_Time_" snatched away the
chair and joined his colleagues, who crouched with faces on a level
with the boards.

"Oh, buck him up, good Lord, and put ginger in his short-arm work, and
O Lord, take care of his chin and mark," prayed Trooper Bear, with
deep and serious devoutness.

No need to shake hands this bout--not again till the fifteenth, noted
Dam, as he arose and literally leapt at his opponent with a smashing
drive of his right and a feint of his left which drew the Gorilla's
guard and left his face exposed. The Gorilla received Dam's full
weight and full strength, and, but for the ropes, would have been
knocked among the spectators.

A tremendous yell went up, led by the Queen's Greys.

As the tautening of the ropes swayed the Gorilla inward again, Dam
delivered a brace of lightning strokes that, though they did not find
the chin, staggered and partly stunned him, and, ere he could pull
himself together, Dam was inside his guard, almost breast to breast
with him, and raining terrific blows, just above the belt. Left,
right, left, right, and no chance for the Gorilla to get his own hands
up for a couple of seconds, and, when he could, and drove an appalling
blow at Dam's chin, it was dodged and he received a cross-counter that
shook him. He must sham weariness and demoralization, lead the tippy
rookie on to over-confidence and then land him clean over the ropes. A
sullen rage grew in the Gorilla's heart. He wasn't doing himself
justice. He wasn't having a fair show. This blasted half-set pink and
white recruit hadn't given him time to settle down. A fifteen-round
contest shouldn't be bustled like _this!_ The bloke was more like a
wild-cat than a sober heavyweight boxer.

He received a heavy blow in the face and, as he shook his head with an
evil grin, according to his custom when well struck, he found it
followed practically instantaneously by another. The swab was about
the quickest thing that ever got into a ring. He was like one of these
bloomin', tricky, jack-in-the-box featherweights, instead of a steady
lumbering "heavy". And the Gorilla allowed himself to be driven to a
corner again, and let his head sink forward, that the incautious youth
might again put all his strength into an upper-cut, miss as the other
dodged, and be at the mercy of the Gorilla as the errant fist
completed its over-driven swing.

But Damocles de Warrenne fought with his brain as well as his strength
and skill. He had learnt a lesson, and no dull-witted oaf of a Gorilla
was going to have him like that twice. As the Gorilla cowered and
crouched in simulated defeat and placed his face to tempt the _coup de
grace_ which he would see swinging up, and easily dodge, Dam swiftly
side-stepped and summoning every ounce of strength, rage, and mad
protesting frenzy against the life-long torturing tyrant, he delivered
a Homeric blow at the champion's head, beside and behind the ear.
(Since he was indestructible by the ordinary point-of-the-chin
knock-out, let him make the best of that fearful blow upon the base of
the brain and spinal cord, direct.)

Experienced men said it was the heaviest blow they had ever seen
struck with the human fist. It was delivered slightly downward,
coolly, at measured distance, with change from left foot to right in
the act of delivery, and with the uttermost strength of a most
powerful athlete in perfect training--and Hate Incarnate lent the
strength of madness to the strength of training and skill.

THUD!--and the Gorilla dropped like a log.

_"One--two--three--four--five--six--seven--"_ counted the
time-keeper, as men scarcely breathed in the dead silence into which
the voice cut sharply--_"eight--"_ and, in perfect silence, every man
of those thousands slowly rose to his feet--_"nine--OUT!"_ and such a
roar arose as bade fair to rend the skies. _"Outed" in two rounds!_
Men howled like lunatics, and the Queen's Greys behaved like very
dangerous lunatics. Hawker flung his arms round Dam and endeavoured to
raise him on his shoulders and chair him unaided. Bear and Goate got
each a hand and proceeded to do their best to crush it.

Seamen Jones and Smith exchanged a chaste kiss.

Damocles de Warrenne was the hero of the Queen's Greys. Best
Man-at-Arms in the Division, winner in Sword v. Sword Mounted and
Dismounted, Tent-pegging, Sword v. Lance, and Individual Jumping, and
in the winning teams for Tug-of-War, Section Jumping, and Section
Tent-pegging!

"Give him a trial as Corporal then, from the first of next month, sir,
if there's no sign of anything wrong during the week," agreed Captain
Daunt, talking him over with the Colonel, after receiving through
Troop-Sergeant-Major Scoles a petition to promote the man.

Within twenty-four hours of his fight with the Gorilla, Dam found
himself on sentry-go over what was known in the Regiment as "the Dead
'Ole"--which was the mortuary, situated in a lonely, isolated spot
beyond a nullah some half-furlong from the Hospital, and cut off from
view of human habitation by a belt of trees.

On mounting guard that evening, the Sergeant of the Guard had been
informed that a corpse lay in the mortuary, a young soldier having
been taken ill and having died within a few hours, of some disease of
a distinctly choleraic nature.

"I'll tell _you_ orf for that post, Matthewson," said the Sergeant.
"P'raps you'll see ghosties there, for a change," for it was customary
to mount a sentry over "the Dead 'Ole" when it contained an occupant,
and one of the sentry's pleasing duties was to rap loudly and
frequently upon the door throughout the night to scare away those
vermin which are no respecters of persons when the persons happen to
be dead and the vermin ravenous.

"I'm not afraid of ghosts, Sergeant," replied Dam--though his heart
sank within him at the thought of the long lonely vigil in the dark,
when he would be so utterly at the mercy of the Snake--the Snake over
whom he had just won a signal victory, and who would be all the more
vindictive and terrible in consequence. Could he keep sane through the
lonely darkness of those dreadful hours? Perhaps--if he kept himself
in some severe physical agony. He would put a spur beneath his
tight-drawn belt and next to his skin, he would strike his knee
frequently with the "toe of the butt" of his carbine, he would put
pebbles in his boots, and he would cause cramp in his limbs, one
after the other. Any kind of pain would help.

       *       *       *       *       *

It must be quarter of an hour since he had rapped on the mortuary door
and sent his messages of prohibition to mouse, rat, bandicoot,
civet-cat, wild-cat or other vermin intruder through the
roof-ventilation holes. He would knock again. A strange thing
this--knocking at a dead man's door in the middle of the night.
Suppose the dead man called "Come in!" It would be intensely
interesting, but in no wise terrifying or horrible. Presumably poor
young Trooper Priddell was no more dangerous or dreadful in the spirit
than he had been in the flesh.... Fortunate young man! Were he only on
sentry-go outside the peaceful mortuary and Damocles de Warrenne
stretched on the bier within, to await the morrow and its pomp and
ceremony, when the carcass of the dead soldier would receive honours
never paid to the living, sentient man, be he never so worthy, heroic,
virtuous and deserving. Oh, to be lying in there at rest, to be on the
other side of that closed door at peace!...

To-morrow that poor dead yokel's body would receive a "Present Arms"
(as though he were an armed party commanded by an Officer) from the
Guard, which the sentry would turn out as the coffin passed the
Guard-room. For the first and last time in his life, he would get a
"_Present Arms_". It wouldn't be in his _life_ though. For the first
and last time in his death? That didn't sound right either. Anyhow he
would get it, and lots of strange, inexplicable, origin-forgotten
rites would be observed over this piece of clay--hitherto so cheaply
held and roughly treated.

Queer! As "Trooper Priddell" he was of no account. As a piece of
fast-decaying carrion he would be the centre of a piece of elaborate
ceremonial! His troop would parade in full dress and (save for a
firing-party of twelve who would carry carbines) without arms. A
special black horse would be decked out with a pall of black velvet
and black plumes. Across this horse the spurred jackboots of the dead
man would be slung with toes pointing to the rear. Two men, wearing
black cloaks, would lead the horse by means of new handkerchiefs
passed through the bridoon rings of its bridle, handkerchiefs which
would become their perquisites and _memento mori_.

With crape-draped drums, the band, in silence, would lead the troop to
the mortuary where would await it a gun-carriage with its six horses
and coffin-supporting attachment. Here the troop would break ranks,
file into the mortuary and bare-headed take, each man, his last look
at the face of the dead as he lay in his coffin. The lid would then be
screwed on, the troop would form a double line, facing inward, the
firing-party would "present arms," and six of the dead man's more
particular pals, or of his "townies," would bear the coffin out and
place it upon the gun-carriage. It would then be covered with a Union
Jack and on it would be placed the helmet, sword, and carbine of the
deceased trooper, the firing-party standing meanwhile, leaning on
their reversed carbines, with bowed heads.

As the melancholy procession formed up for its march to the graveyard,
the smallest and junior men would take front place, the bigger and
senior men behind them, non-commissioned officers would follow, and
subalterns and captain last of all. In stepping off from the halt, all
would step off with the right foot instead of with the left.
Apparently the object was to reverse ordinary procedure to the
uttermost--which would but be in keeping with the great reversal of
showing honour to such an unhonoured thing as a private soldier--one
of the despised and rejected band that enable the respectable,
wealthy, and smug to remain so; one of the "licentious soldiery" that
have made, and that keep, the Empire of which the respectable wealthy
and smug are so proud.

At the "slow march," and in perfect silence until beyond hearing by
the inmates of the Hospital, the cortege would proceed. Anon the band
would call heaven and earth to mourn with the sonorous dreadful
strains of the Dead March; whereafter the ordinary "quick march" would
bring the funeral party to the cemetery, in sight of which the "slow
march" would be resumed, and the Chaplain, surpliced, book-bearing,
come forth to put himself at its head, leading the way to the
grave-side where, with uncovered heads, the mourners would listen to
the impressive words with feelings varying as their education,
religion, temperament, and--digestion--impelled.

At the close of the service, the firing-party in their places, six on
either side of the grave, would fire three volleys into the air, while
the band breathed a solemn dirge.

And--perhaps most impressively tragic touch of all--the party would
march briskly off to the strains of the liveliest air in the whole
repertoire of the band.

_Why_ should John Humphreyville Priddell--doubtless scion of the great
Norman houses of Humphreyville and Paradelle, who shared much of
Dorsetshire between them from Domesday Book to Stuart downfall--have
been born in a tiny village of the Vale of Froom in "Dorset Dear," to
die of cholera in vile Motipur? Was some maid, in barton, byre, or
dairy, thinking of him but now--with an ill-writ letter in her bosom,
a letter beginning with "_I now take up my pen to right you these few
lines hopping they find you the same which they now leave me at
present_" according to right tradition and proper custom, and
continuing to speak of homesick longings, dreams of furlough,
promotion, marrying "on the strength," and retirement to green fair
Dorset Dear on a Sergeant-Major's pension?

What was the meaning of it all? Was it pure chance and accident--or
had a Living, Scheming, Purposeful Deity a great wise object in this
that John Humphreyville Priddell should have been born and bred and
nurtured in the Vale of Froom to be struck from lusty life to a death
of agony in a few hours at Motipur in the cruel accursed blighted land
of Ind?

Well, well!--high time to rap again upon the door, the last door, of
John Humphreyville Priddell, Trooper, ex-dairyhand, decaying
carrion,--and scare from his carcass such over-early visitants as
anticipated....

How hollowly the blows re-echoed. Did they strike muffled but
murderous upon the heart of the thousand-league distant dairymaid, or
of the old cottage-mother whose evenings were spent in spelling out
her boy's loving letters--that so oft covered a portion of his
exiguous pay?...

Was that a scuttling within? Quite probably. It might be--rats, it
might be a bandicoot; it could hardly be a jackal; it might be a
SNAKE,--and Trooper Matthewson's carbine clattered to the ground and
his knees smote together as he thought the word. Pulling himself
together he hastily snatched up his carbine with a flush of shame at
the slovenly unsoldierly "crime" of dropping it. He'd be dropping his
arms on parade next! But it _might be a snake_--for he had certainly
heard the sound of a movement of some sort. The strong man felt faint
and leant against the mortuary wall for a moment.

Oh, that the wretched carbine were a sword! A man could feel a _man_
with a sword in his hand. He could almost face the Snake, even in
Snake form, if he had a sword ... but what is a carbine, even a
loaded Martini-Henry carbine with its good soft man-stopping slug?
There are no traditions to a carbine--nothing of the Spirit of one's
Ancestors in one--a vile mechanic thing of villainous saltpetre. How
should the Snake fear that? Now a sword was different. It stood for
human war and human courage and human deeds from the mistiest past,
and behind it must be a weight of human wrath, feats, and tradition
that must make even the Snake pause. Oh, for his sword--if the Snake
came upon him when he had but this wretched carbine he would probably
desert his post, fling the useless toy from him, and flee till he fell
blind and fainting on the ground.... And what would the Trooper of the
Queen get who deserted his sentry-post, threw away his arms and
fled--and explained in defence that he had seen a snake? Probably a
court-martial would give him a spell of Military Prison.
Yes--_Jail_.... What proportion of truth could there be in the
firmly-held belief of the men that "crimes" are made so numerous and
so inevitable, to the best-meaning and most careful, because there
exist a great Military Prison System and a great Military Prison
personnel--and that "criminals" are essential to the respective proper
inhabitation and _raison d'être_ thereof--that unless a good supply of
military "criminals" were forthcoming there might have to be
reductions and curtailments--loss of snug billets.... Certainly
soldiers got years of imprisonment for "crimes" for which civilians
would get reprimands or nominal fines, and, moreover, when a man
became a soldier he certainly lost the elementary fundamental rights
guaranteed to Englishmen by Magna Charta--among them the right of
trial by his peers....

Would poor Priddell mind if he did not knock again? If it were the
Snake it could do Priddell no harm now--he being happily
dead--whereas, if disturbed, it might emerge to the utter
undoing--mind, body, and soul--of Trooper Matthewson. It would
certainly send him to Jail or Lunatic Asylum--probably to both in due
succession, for he was daily getting worse in the matter of the Snake.

No--it was part of his orders, on this sentry-post, to knock at the
door, and he would do his duty, Snake or not. He had always tried to
do his duty faithfully and he would continue....

Once more to knock at a dead man's door....

_Bump, Bump: Bump, Bump: Bump, Bump_.

"You'll soon be at rest, Priddell, old chap--and I wish I could join
you," called Dam, and it seemed to his excited brain that _a deep
hollow groan replied_.

"By Jove! He's not dead," coolly remarked the man who would have fled
shrieking from a harmless blind-worm, and, going round to the back of
the building, he placed his carbine against the wall and sprang up at
a kind of window-ledge that formed the base of a grated aperture made
for purposes of ventilation. Slowly raising his body till his face
was above the ledge, he peered into the dimly moonlit cell and then
dropped to the ground and, catching up his carbine, sprinted in the
direction of the Hospital Guard-room.

There arrived, he shouted for the Corporal of the Guard and was
quickly confronted by Corporal Prag.

"Wot the devil you deserted yore".... he began.

"Get the key of the mortuary, send for the Surgeon, and come at once,"
gasped Dam as soon as he could speak. "_Priddell's not dead_. Must be
some kind of catalepsy. Quick, man"....

"Catter wot? You drunken 'og," drawled the Corporal. "Catter_waulin'_
more like it. Under arrest you goes, my lad. Now you _'ave_ done it.
'Ere, 'Awker, run down an' call up the Sergeant o' the Guard an' tell
'im Maffewson's left 'is post. 'E'll 'ave to plant annuvver sentry.
Maffewson goes ter clink."

"Yes--but send for the Surgeon and the key of the mortuary too,"
begged Dam. "I give you fair warning that Priddell is alive and
groaning and off the bier--"

"Pity _you_ ain't 'off the beer' too," said the Corporal with a yawn.

"Well--there are witnesses that I brought the report to you. If
Priddell is found dead on the ground to-morrow you'll have to answer
for manslaughter."

"'Ere, _chuck_ it you snaike-seeing delirying trimmer, _will_ yer!
Give anyone the 'orrers to listen to yer! When Priddell is wrote off
as 'Dead' 'e _is_ dead, whether 'e likes it or no," and he turned to
give orders to the listening guard to arrest Trooper Matthewson.

The Sergeant of the Guard arrived at the "double," followed by Trooper
Bear carrying a hurricane-lamp.

"What's the row?" panted the Sergeant. "Matthewson on the booze agin?"

"I report that there is a living man in the mortuary, Sergeant,"
replied Dam. "Priddell is not dead. I heard him groan, and I scrambled
up to the grating and saw him lying on the ground by the door."

"Well, you'll see yerself groanin' an' lyin' on the ground in the
Digger, now," replied the Sergeant, and, as much in sorrow as in
anger, he added, "An' _you_'re the bloke I signed a petition for his
permotion are yer? At it agin a'ready!"

"But, good Heavens, man, can't you see I'm as sober as you are, and
much less excited? Can't you send for the key of the mortuary and call
the doctor? The poor chap may die for your stupidity."

"You call _me_ a 'man' again, my lad, an' I'll show you what a
Sergeant can do fer them as 'e don't like! As fer 'sober'--I've 'ad
enough o' you 'sober'. W'y, in two ticks you may be on the ground
'owlin' and bellerin' and squealin' like a Berkshire pig over the
blood-tub. _Sober_! Yus--I seen you at it."

"Why on earth can't you come and _prove_ I'm drunk or mad," besought
Dam. "Open the mortuary and prove I'm wrong--and then put me under
arrest. Call the Surgeon and say the sentry over the mortuary reports
the inmate to be alive--_he_ has heard of catalepsy and comatose
collapse simulating death if _you_ haven't."

"Don' use sech 'orrible languidge," besought the respectable Corporal
Prag.

"Ho, yus! _I_'m agoin' to see meself whipt on the peg fer turnin' out
the Surgin from 'is little bed in the middle o' the night--to come an'
'ave a look at the dead corpse 'e put in orders fer the Dead 'Ole,
ain't I? Jest becos the champion snaike-seer o' E Troop's got 'em
agin, wot?"

Corporal Prag laughed merrily at the wit of his superior.

Turning to Bear, whom he knew to be as well educated as himself, Dam
remarked:--

"Poor chap has rallied from the cholera collapse and could probably be
saved by stimulants and warmth. This suspended animation is common
enough in cholera. Why, the Brahmins have a regular ritual for dealing
with cases of recovery on the funeral pyre--purification after
defilement by the corpse-washers or something of the sort. These
stupid oafs are letting poor Priddell die--"

"What! you drunken talkin' parrot," roared the incensed Sergeant.
"'Ere, sling 'is drunken rotten carkis--"

"What's the row here?" cut in a quiet curt voice. "Noise enough for a
gang of crows----"

Surgeon-Captain Blake of the Royal Army Medical Corps had just left
the Hospital, having been sent for by the night Nursing Sister. The
men sprang to attention and the Sergeant saluted.

"Drunk sentry left 'is post, Sir," he gabbled. "'Spose the Dead
'Ole--er--Morshuerry, that is, Sir, got on 'is nerves. 'E's given to
secret boozin', Sir----"

"Excuse me, Sir," broke in Dam, daring to address an Officer unbidden,
since a life was at stake, "I am a total abstainer and Trooper
Priddell is not dead. It must have been cataleptic trance. I heard him
groan and I climbed up and saw him lying on the ground."

"This man's not drunk," said Captain Blake, and added to himself, "and
he's an educated man, and a cultured, poor devil."

"Oh, that's how 'e goes on, Sir, sober as a judge you'd say, an' then
nex' minnit 'e's on the floor aseein' blue devils an' pink
serpients----"

"The man's dying while we talk, Sir," put in Dam, whose wrath was
rising. (If these dull-witted ignorant louts could not tell a drunken
man from a sober, nor realize that a certified dead man may _not_ be
dead, surely the doctor could.)

The Sergeant and the Corporal ventured on a respectful snigger.

"Bring me that lamp," said Captain Blake, and Trooper Bear raised it
to his extended hand. Lifting it so that its light shone straight in
Dam's face the doctor scanned the latter and examined his eyes. This
was not the face of a drunkard nor was the man in any way under the
influence of liquor now. Absurd! Had he fever? Was he of deranged
intellect? But, alas, the light that shone upon Dam's face also shone
upon Captain Blake's collar and upon the badge of his Corps which
adorned it--and that badge is a serpent entwining a rod.

It was the last straw! Dam had passed through a most disturbing night;
he had kept guard in the lonely Snake-haunted darkness, guard over a
mortuary in which lay a corpse; he had had to keep knocking at the
corpse's door, his mind had run on funerals, he had thought he heard
the dead man groan, he believed he had seen the dead man moving, he
had wrestled with thick intelligences who held him drunk or mad while
precious moments passed, and he had had the Snake before his mental
vision throughout this terrible time--and here was another of its
emissaries _wearing its badge_, an emissary of high rank, an
Officer-Emissary!... Well, he was in the open air, thank God, and
could put up a fight as before.

Like a panther he sprang upon the unfortunate officer and bore him to
the ground, with his powerful hands enclosing the astounded
gentleman's neck, and upon the couple sprang the Sergeant, the
Corporal, and the Hospital Guard, all save the sentry, who
(disciplined, well-drilled man!) brought his carbine to the "order"
and stood stiffly at "attention" in a position favourable for a good
view of the proceedings though strictly on his beat.

Trooper Bear, ejaculating "Why do the heathen rage furiously
together," took a running jump and landed in sitting posture on the
heap, rolled off, and proceeded to seize every opportunity of
violently smiting his superior officers, in his apparent zeal to help
to secure the dangerous criminal-lunatic. Thoughts of having just
_one_ punch at a real Officer (if only a non-combatant still a genuine
Commissioned Officer) flashed across his depraved mind.

It was a Homeric struggle. Captain Blake was himself an old Guy's
Rugger three-quarter and no mean boxer, and the Sergeant, Corporal,
and Guard, were all powerful men, while Dam was a Samson further
endowed with the strength of undeniable madness. When at length he was
dragged from Captain Blake's recumbent form, his hands torn from that
officer's throat, and the group stood for a second panting, Dam
suddenly felled Corporal Prag with such a blow as had been the undoing
of the Gorilla, sent Sergeant Wotting head over heels and, ere the
Guard could again close with him, drove his fist into the face of the
supposed myrmidon of the Snake and sprang upon his body once more....

It was some time before seven strong men could pinion him and carry
him on a stretcher to the Guard-room, and, of those seven strong men,
only Trooper Bear bore no mark of serious damage. (Trooper Bear had
struck two non-commissioned officers with great violence, in his
misdirected zeal, and one Commissioned Officer--though only playfully
and for the satisfaction of being able to say that he had done so.)
That night, half dead, wholly mad, bruised and bleeding, Damocles de
Warrenne lay in the dark cell awaiting trial on a charge of assaulting
an Officer, striking his superior officers, resisting the Guard,
deserting his sentry-post, and being drunk and disorderly.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What'll he get, d'you think?" sadly asked Trooper Goate of Trooper
Hawker.

"Two stretch 'ard laiber and discharged from the Army wiv'
iggernerminny," groaned Trooper Hawker. "Lucky fer 'im floggin's
erbolished in the British Army."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the mortuary door was unlocked next morning a little force was
required to open it, some obstacle apparently retarding its inward
movement. The obstacle proved to be the body, now certainly the dead
body, of Trooper Priddell who had died with his fingers thrust under
the said door.[26]



PART III.


THE SAVING OF A SOUL



CHAPTER XII.

VULTURES AND LUCK--GOOD AND BAD.


To the strongest and sanest mind there is something a small trifle
disturbing, perhaps, in riding silently hour after hour on a
soft-footed camel over soft sand in a silent empty land through the
moonlit silent night, beside an overland-telegraph wire on every
individual post of which sits a huge vulture!... Just as the sun set,
a fiery red ball, behind the distant mountains, Damocles de Warrenne,
gentleman-at-large, had caught sight of what he had sought in the
desert for some days, the said overland telegraph, and thereby saved
himself from the highly unpleasant death that follows prolonged
deprivation of water. He had also saved his camel from a little
earlier death, inasmuch as he had decided to probe for the faithful
creature's jugular vein and carotid artery during the torturing heats
of the morrow and prolong his life at its expense. (Had he not
promised Lucille to do his best for himself?)

The overland telegraph pointed absolutely straight to the border city
of Kot Ghazi and, better still, to a river-bed which would contain
pools of water, thirty miles this side of it, at a spot a few miles
from which stood a lost lone dak-bungalow on Indian soil--a
dak-bungalow whereat would be waiting a _shikarri_ retainer, and such
things as tea, fuel, potted foods, possibly fresh meat, and luxury of
luxuries, a hot bath....

And, with a sigh of relief, he had wheeled his camel under the
telegraph wires after a glance at the stars and brief calculation as
to whether he should turn to left or right. (He did not want to
proceed until he collapsed under the realization that he was making
for the troubled land of Persia.)

Anyhow, without knowing where he was, he knew he was on the road to
water, food, human companionship (imagine Abdul Ghani a human
companion!--but he had not seen a human face for three weeks, nor
heard nor uttered a word), and safety, after suffering the unpleasant
experience of wandering in circles, lost in the most inhospitable
desert on the earth. Vultures! He had not realized there were so many
in the world. Hour after hour, a post at every few yards, and on every
post a vulture--a vulture that opened its eyes as he approached,
regarded him from its own point of view--that of the Eater whose life
is an unending search for Meat--calculatingly, and closed them again
with a sigh at his remaining vigorousness.

He must have passed hundreds, thousands,--had he died of thirst in
actual fact and was he doomed to follow this line through this desert
for evermore as a punishment for his sins? No--much too mild a
punishment for the God of Love to inflict, according to the Chaplain.
This would be Eternal Bliss compared with the Eternal Fire. He must be
still alive ... Was he mad, then, and _imagining_ these unending
bird-capped posts? If not mad, he soon would be. Why couldn't they say
something--mannerless brutes! Should he swerve off and leave the
telegraph line? No, he had starved and suffered the agonies of thirst
for nearly a week--and, if he could hang on all night, he might reach
water tomorrow and be saved. Food was a minor consideration and if he
could drink a few gallons of water, soak his clothes in it, lie in
it,--he could carry on for another day or two. Nearly as easy to
sprawl face-downward on a camel-saddle as on the ground--and he had
tied himself on. The camel would rub along all right for days with
camel-thorn and similar dainties.... No, better not leave the line.
Halt and camp within sight of it till the morning, when the brutes
would fly away in search of food? No ... might find it impossible to
get going again, if once man and beast lay down now ... Ride as far as
possible from the line, keeping it in sight? No ... if he fell asleep
the camel would go round in a circle again, and he'd wake up a dozen
miles from the line, with no idea of direction and position. Best to
carry straight on. The camel would stick to the line so long as he was
left exactly on it ... think it a road ... He could sleep without
danger thus. He would shut his eyes and not see the vultures, for if
he saw a dozen more he knew that he would go raving mad, halt the
camel and address an impassioned appeal to them to _say_
something--for God's sake to _say something_. Didn't they know that he
had been in solitary confinement in a desert for three weeks or three
centuries (what is time?) without hearing a sound or seeing a living
thing--expecting the SNAKE night and day, and, moreover, that he was
starving, dying of thirst, and light-headed, and that he was in the
awful position of choosing between murdering the camel that had stood
by him--no, under him--all that fearful time, and breaking his word to
Lucille--cheating and deceiving Lucille. Then why couldn't they _say_
something instead of sitting there in their endless millions, mile
after billions of miles, post after billions of trillions of
posts--menacing, watchful, silent, silent as the awful desert, silent
as the SNAKE.... This would not do ... he must think hard of Lucille,
of the Sword, of his Dream, his Dream that came so seldom now. He
would repeat Lucille's last letter, word for word:--

  "MY DARLING,

  "It is over, thank God--Oh, thank God--and you can
  leave the army at once and become a 'gentleman' in
  position as well as in fact. Poor old Grumper died
  on Saturday (as I cabled) and before he died he
  became quite another man--weak, gentle and anxious
  to make any amends he could to anybody. For nearly
  a week he was like this, and it was a most
  wonderful and pathetic thing. He spent most of the
  time in telling me, General Harringport, Auntie
  Yvette or the Vicar, about wicked things he had
  done, cruelties, meannesses, follies--it was most
  distressing, for really he has been simply a
  strong character with all the faults of
  one--including, as we know too well, lack of
  sympathy, hardness, and sometimes savage cruelty,
  which, after all, was only the natural result of
  the lack of sympathy and understanding.

  "As he grew weaker he grew more sympathetic with
  illness and suffering, I suppose, for he sent for
  me in the middle of the night to say that he had
  suddenly remembered Major Decies' story about your
  probably being subject to fits and seizures in
  certain circumstances, and that he was coming to
  the conclusion that he had been hasty and unjust
  and had unmercifully punished you for no fault
  whatever. He said 'I have punished him for being
  punished. I have added my injustice to that of
  Fate. Write to him that I ask his pardon and
  confess my fault. Tell him I'll make such
  reparation as I can,' and oh, Dam--he leaves _you_
  Monksmead, and _me_ his money, on the
  understanding that we marry as soon as any
  physician, now living in Harley Street, says that
  you are fit to marry (I must write it I suppose)
  without fear of our children being epileptic,
  insane, or in any way tainted. If none of them
  will do this, I am to inherit Monksmead and part
  of the money and you are to have a part of the
  money. If we marry _then_, we lose everything and
  it goes to Haddon Berners. Mr. Wyllis, who has
  been his lawyer and agent for thirty years, is to
  take you to Harley Street (presumably to prevent
  your bribing and corrupting the whole of the
  profession there residing).

  "Come at once, Darling. If the silly old
  physicians won't certify, why--what _does_ it
  matter? I am going to let lodgings at Monksmead to
  a Respectable Single Man (with board) and Auntie
  Yvette will see that he behaves himself.

  "Cable what boat you start by and I'll meet you at
  Port Said. I don't know how I keep myself sitting
  in this chair. I could turn head over heels for
  joy! (And poor Grumper only just buried and his
  Will read!) He didn't lose quite all his grim
  humour in that wonderful week of softening,
  relenting and humanizing. What do you think he
  solemnly gave and bequeathed to the poor Haddock?
  His _wardrobe_!!! And nothing else, but if the
  Haddock wears only Grumper's clothes, including
  his boots, shirts, ties, collars and everything
  else, for one full and complete year, and wears
  absolutely nothing else, he is to have five
  thousand pounds at the end of it--and he is to
  begin on the day after the funeral! And even at
  the last poor Grumper was a foot taller and a foot
  broader (not to mention _thicker_) than the
  Haddock! It appears that he systematically tried
  to poison Grumper's mind against you--presumably
  with an eye on this same last Will and Testament.
  He hasn't been seen since the funeral. I wonder if
  he is going to try to win the money by remaining
  in bed for a year in Grumper's pyjamas!

  "Am I not developing 'self-control and balance'?
  Here I sit writing news to you while my heart is
  screaming aloud with joy, crying 'Dam is coming
  home. Dam's troubles are over. Dam is saved!'
  Because if you are ever so 'ill,' Darling, there
  is nothing on earth to prevent your coming to your
  old home at once--and if we can't marry we can be
  pals for evermore in the dear old place of our
  childhood. But of _course_ we can marry. Hurry
  home, and if any Harley Street doctor gives you
  even a doubtful look, throw him up his own stairs
  to show how feeble you are, or tie his poker round
  his neck in a neat bow, and refuse to undo it
  until he apologizes. I'm sure you could! '_Ill_'
  indeed! If you can't have a little fit, on the
  rare occasions when you see a snake, without fools
  saying you are ill or dotty or something, it is a
  pity! Anyhow there is one small woman who
  understands, and if she can't marry you she can at
  any rate be your inseparable pal--and if the
  Piffling Little World likes to talk scandal, in
  spite of Auntie Yvette's presence--why it will be
  amusing. Cable, Darling! I am just bursting
  with excitement and joy--and fear (that something
  may go wrong at the last moment). If it saved a
  single day I should start for Motipur myself at
  once. If we passed in mid-ocean I should jump
  overboard and swim to your ship. Then you'd do the
  same, and we should 'get left,' and look silly....
  Oh, what nonsense I am talking--but I don't think
  I shall talk anything else again--for sheer joy!

  "You can't write me a lot of bosh _now_ about
  'spoiling my life' and how you'd be ten times more
  miserable if I were your wife. Fancy--a soldier
  to-day and a 'landed proprietor' to-morrow! How I
  wish you were a _landed_ traveller, and were in
  the train from Plymouth--no, from Dover and
  London, because of course you'd come the quickest
  way. Did my cable surprise you very much?

  "I enclose fifty ten-pound notes, as I suppose
  they will be quicker and easier for you to cash
  than those 'draft' things, and they'll be quite
  safe in the insured packet. Send a cable at once,
  Darling. If you don't I shall imagine awful things
  and perhaps die of a broken heart or some other
  silly trifle.

  "Mind then:--Cable to-day; Start to-morrow; Get
  here in a fortnight--and keep a beady eye open at
  Port Said and Brindisi and places--in case there
  has been time for me to get there. Au revoir.
  Darling Dam,

  "Your

  "LUCILLE.

  "Three cheers! And a million more!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Yes, a long letter, but he could almost say it backwards. He couldn't
be anything like mad while he could do that?... How had she received
his answer--in which he tried to show her the impossibility of any
decent man compromising a girl in the way she proposed in her sweet
innocence and ignorance. Of course _he_, a half-mad, epileptic,
fiend-ridden monomaniac--nay, dangerous lunatic,--could not _marry_.
Why, he might murder his own wife under some such circumstances as
those under which he attacked Captain Blake. (Splendid fellow Blake!
Not every man after such a handling as that would make it his business
to prove that his assailant was neither drunk, mad, nor
criminal--merely under a hallucination. But for Blake he would now be
in jail, or lunatic asylum, to a certainty. The Colonel would have had
him court-martialled as a criminal, or else have had him out of the
regiment as a lunatic. Nor, as a dangerous lunatic, would he have been
allowed to buy himself out when Lucille's letter and his money
arrived. Blake had got him into the position of a perfectly sober and
sane person whose mind had been temporarily upset by a night of
horror--in which a coffin-quitting corpse had figured, and so he had
been able to steer between the cruel rocks of Jail and Asylum to the
blessed harbour of Freedom.)

Yes--in spite of Blake's noble goodness and help, Dam knew that he was
_not_ normal, that he _was_ dangerous, that he spent long periods on
the very border-line of insanity, that he stood fascinated on that
border-line and gazed far into the awful country beyond--the Realms of
the Mad....

Marry! Not Lucille, while he had the sanity left to say "No"!

As for going to live at Monksmead with her and Auntie Yvette--it would
be an even bigger crime. Was it for _him_ to make _Lucille_ a
"problem" girl, a girl who was "talked about," a by-word for those
vile old women of both sexes whose favourite pastime is the invention
and dissemination of lies where they dare, and of even more damaging
head-shakes, lip-pursings, gasps and innuendoes where they do not?

Was it for _him_ to get _Lucille_ called "The Woman Who Did," by those
scum of the leisured classes, and "That peculiar young woman," by the
better sort of matron, dowager and chaperone,--make her the kind of
person from whose company careful mothers keep their innocent
daughters (that their market price may never be in danger of the
faintest depreciation when they are for sale in the matrimonial
market), the kind of woman for whom men have a slightly and subtly
different manner at meet, hunt-ball, dinner or theatre-box? Get
Lucille "talked about"?

No--setting aside the question of the possibility of living under the
same roof with her and conquering the longing to marry.

No--he had some decency left, tainted as he doubtless was by his
barrack-room life.

Tainted of course.... What was it he had heard the senior
soldierly-looking man, whom the other addressed as "General," say
concerning some mutual acquaintance, at breakfast in the dining-car
going up to Kot Ghazi?

"Yes, poor chap, was in the ranks--and no man can escape the
barrack-room taint when he has once lived in it. Take me into any
Officers' Mess you like--say 'There is a promoted gentleman-ranker
here,' and I'll lay a thousand to one I spot him. Don't care if he's
the son of a Dook--nor yet if he's Royal, you can spot him
alright...."

Pleasant hearing for the "landed proprietor," whom a beautiful,
wealthy and high-bred girl proposed to marry!

Tainted or not, in that way--he was _mentally_ tainted, a fact beside
which the other, if as true as Truth, paled into utterest
insignificance.

No--he had taken the right line in replying to Lucille that he was
getting worse mentally, that no doctor would dream of "vetting" him
"sound," that he was not scoundrel enough to come and cause scandal
and "talk" at Monksmead, and that he was going to disappear completely
from the ken of man, wrestle with himself, and come to her and beg her
to marry him directly he was better--sufficiently better to "pass the
doctor," that is. If, meanwhile, she met and loved a man worthy of
her, such a man as Ormonde Delorme, he implored her to marry him and
to forget the wholly unworthy and undesirable person who had merely
loomed large upon her horizon through the accident of propinquity ...

(He could always disappear again and blow out such brains as he
possessed, if that came to pass, he told himself.)

Meanwhile letters to the Bank of Bombay would be sent for, at least
once a year--but she was not to write--she was to forget him. As to
searching for him--he had not quite decided whether he would walk
from Rangoon to Pekin or from Quetta to Constantinople--perhaps
neither, but from Peshawur to Irkutsk. Anyhow, he was going to hide
himself pretty effectually, and put himself beyond the temptation of
coming and spoiling her life. Sooner or later he would be mad, dead,
or cured. If the last--why he would make for the nearest place where
he could get news of her--and if she were then happily married to
somebody else--why--why--she _would_ be happy, and that would make
him quite happy ...

Had the letter been quite sane and coherent--or had he been in a
queer mental state when he wrote it?...

He opened his eyes, saw a vulture within a few yards of him, closed
them again, and, soon after, fell into an uneasy slumber as the camel
padded on at a steady seven miles an hour unurged--save by the _smell_
of pure clear water which was still a score of miles distant....

When Damocles de Warrenne awoke, he was within a few hundred yards of
the nearly dry River Helnuddi, where, failing occasional pools, the
traveller can always procure water by digging and patiently awaiting
the slow formation of a little puddle at the bottom of the hole.

For a minute he halted. Should he dig while he had strength, or should
he turn to the left and follow the river-bed until he came to a
pool--or could go no farther? Perhaps he would be too weak to dig,
though, by that time.... Remarkable how eager to turn to the left and
get on, the camel was--considering how tired he must be--perhaps he
could smell distant water or knew of a permanent pool hereabouts.
Well, let that decide it....

An hour later, as the camel topped a rise in the river-bank, a
considerable pool came into view, tree-shaded, heron-haunted, too
incredibly beautiful and alluring for belief. Was it a mirage?...

A few minutes later, Damocles de Warrenne and his camel were drinking,
and a few hours later entered the dreary featureless compound of a
wretched hovel, which, to the man at least, was a palatial and
magnificent asylum (no, not _asylum_--of all words)--refuge and
home--the more so that a camel knelt chewing in the shade of the
building, and a man, Abdul Ghani himself, lay slumbering in the
verandah....

"You understand, then," said Dam in the vernacular, to the malodorous,
hideous, avaricious Abdul who reappeared from Kot Ghazi a few days
later, "you return here again, one week from to-day, bringing the
things written down on this paper, from the shop of Rustomji at Kot
Ghazi. Here you wait until I come. If I find there is truth in your
_khubbar_[27] of ibex you will be rewarded ... Why don't I take you?
Because I want to be alone. Set out now for Kot Ghazi. I may return." A
stone fell and clattered. Dam shrank, cringed, and shut his eyes--as
one expecting a heavy blow. _Ah-h-h-h-h_--had the beast bolted? With
the slowness of an hour-hand he raised his head above the bank of the
watercourse until his eye cleared the edge. _No_--still there. After a
painful crawl that seemed to last for hours, he reached the point
where the low ridge ran off at right-angles, crept behind it, and lay
flat on his face, to rest and recover breath. He was soaked in
perspiration from head to foot, giddy with sun and unnatural posture,
very sore as to elbows and knees, out of breath, trembling--and
entirely happy. The half-mile crawl, with the greater part of his body
on the burning ground, and the rifle to shuffle steadily along without
noise or damage, was the equivalent of a hard day's work to a strong
man. At the end of it he lay gasping and sick, aching in every limb,
almost blind with glare and over-exertion, weary to death--and
entirely happy. Thank God he would be able to stand up in a moment and
rest behind a big cactus. Then he would have a spell of foot-work for
a change, and, though crouching double, would not be doing any
crawling until he had crossed the plateau and reached the bushes.

The upward climb was successfully accomplished with frequent halts for
breath, behind boulders. On the plateau all that was required was
silence. The ibex could not see him up there. In his rubber-soled
khaki-coloured shoes he could almost run, but it was a question
whether a drink of cold water would not be worth more than all the
ibexes in the world.

He tip-toed rapidly across the level hill-top, reached the belt of low
bushes, dropped, and lay to recover breath before resuming the painful
and laborious crawling part of his journey. Was it possible to tap
one's tongue against one's teeth and hear the noise of it as though it
were made of wood? It seemed so. Was this giddiness and dimness of
vision sunstroke? What would he give to have that fly (that had
followed him for hundreds of thousands of miles that morning) between
his fingers?

Last lap! There was the rock, and below it must be the quarry--if it
had not fled. He must keep that rock between himself and his prey and
he must get to it without a sound. It would be easy enough without the
rifle. Could he stick it through his belt and along his back, or trail
it behind him? What nonsense! He must be getting a touch of sun. Would
these stones leave marks of burns on his clothes? Surely he could
smell himself singeing. Enough to explode the rifle ... The big rock
at last! A rest and then a peep, with infinite precaution. Dam held
his breath and edged his face to the corner of the great boulder.
Moving imperceptibly, he peeped ... _No ibex!_ ... He was about to
spring up with a hearty malediction on his luck when he perceived a
peculiar projection on a large stone some distance down the hill. It
moved--and Dam dropped back. It must be the top of the curve of one
of the horns of the ibex and the animal must be lying down.... What to
do? It might lie for hours and he himself might go to sleep. It might
get up and depart at any moment without coming into the line of
fire--without being seen indeed. Better continue the stalk and hope to
get a standing shot, or, failing that, a running one.

It looked a nasty descent, since silence was essential--steep,
slippery, and strewn with round stones. Anyhow, he could go down on
his feet, which was something to be thankful for, as it was agony to
put a knee or elbow to the ground. He crept on.

Surely his luck was changing, for here he was, within fifty yards of a
stone behind which lay an unsuspecting ibex with a world's-record
head. Hullo! a nasty little precipice! With a nastily sloping shelf at
the bottom too, eight feet away--and then another little precipice and
another sloping shelf at its base.

Better lay the rifle on the edge, slip over, hang by the hands, grab
it with one, and then drop the intervening few inches. Rubber soles
would play their part here! Damn this giddiness--touch of sun, no
doubt. Damocles de Warrenne knelt on the edge of the eight-foot drop,
turned round, swayed, fell, struck the sloping ledge, rolled off it,
fell, struck the next sloping ledge, fell thirty feet--arousing an
astounded ibex _en route_--and landed in a queer heap on a third
shelf, with a few broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, broken ankles,
and a fractured thigh.

A vulture, who had been interested in his proceedings for some time,
dropped a few thousand feet and had a look. What he saw decided him to
come to earth. He perched on a rock and waited patiently. He knew the
symptoms and he knew the folly of taking risks. A friend or two joined
him--each, as he left his place in the sky, being observed and
followed by a brother who was himself in turn observed and followed by
another who brought others....

One of the hideous band had drawn quite near and was meditating
rewarding his own boldness with a succulent eye, when Dam groaned and
moved. The pretty birds also moved and probably groaned in spirit--but
they didn't move far.

What was that Miss Smellie had been so fond of saying? "There is no
such thing as 'luck,' Damocles. All is ordered for the best by an
all-seeing and merciful Providence." Yes. No doubt.

What was that remark of his old friend, "Holy Bill"?

"What do you mean by 'luck,' Damocles? All that happens is ordained by
God in His infinite mercy." Yes.

Holy Bill had never done a day's work in his life nor missed a
meal--save when bilious from overeating....

A pity the infinite mercy didn't run to a little water! It would have
been easy for the all-seeing and merciful Providence to move him to
retain his water-bottle when starting the stalk--if it were necessary
to the schemes of the Deity to have him smashed like a dropped egg....
What agony a human being could endure!...

Not even his rifle at hand with its means of speedy death. He might
live for days and then be torn alive by those accursed vultures. One
mighty effort to turn on his back and he would breathe easier--but
that would bring his eyes to the sun--and the vultures.... Had he
slept or fainted? How long had he lain there?... Chance of being
found? Absolutely none. Shikarri would have visited the dak-bungalow a
week ago. Camel left below on the plain--and it would wander miles
from where he left it when it grew hungry. Even if Abdul and an
organized search-party were after him _now_ they might as well be
searching for a needle in a hay-stack. No one knew which of the
thousand gullies he had ascended and no one could track camel-pads or
flat rubber soles over bare solid rock, even if given the
starting-point. No--he had got to die of thirst, starvation, and
vultures, barring miracles of luck--and he had _never_ had any good
luck--for luck existed, undoubtedly, in spite of mealy-mouthed
platitude-makers and twaddle about everything being pre-arranged and
ordained with care and deliberation by a kind paternal Providence.

And what luck he had had--all his life! Born fated!

Had he fainted again or slept? And could he hear the tinkle of ice
against the sides of a tall thin tumbler of lemonade, or was it the
sound of a waterfall of clear, cold water close by? Were the servants
asleep, or was the drink he had ordered being prepared?... No--he was
dying in agony on a red-hot rock, surrounded by vultures and probably
watched by foxes, jackals and hyenas. And a few yards away were the
rifle that would have put him out of his misery, and the water-bottle
that would have alleviated his pain--to the extent, at any rate, of
enabling him to think clearly and perhaps scribble a few words in
blood or something, somehow, for Lucille ... Lucille! Would the
All-Merciful let him see her once again for a moment in return for an
extra thousand years of Hell or whatever it was that unhappy mortals
got as a continuation of the joys of this gay world? Could he possibly
induce the vultures to carry him home--if he pledged himself to feed
them and support their progeny? They could each have a house in the
compound. It would pay them far better than eating him now. Did they
understand Pushtoo or was it Persian? Certainly not Hindustani and
Urdu. People who came shooting alone in the desert and mountains,
where vultures abounded, should learn to talk Vulture and pass the
Higher Standard in that tongue. But even if they understood him they
might be unwilling to serve a coward. _Was_ he a coward? Anyhow he lay
glued with his own blood to the spot he would never leave--unless the
vultures could be bribed. Useless to hope anything of the jackals. He
had hunted too many foxes to begin now to ask favours. Besides they
could only drag, and he had been dragged once by a horse. Quite enough
for one lifetime. But he had never injured a vulture. Pity he had no
copy of Grimm or Anderson with him--they contained much useful
information about talking foxes, obliging birds, and other matters
germane to the occasion. If he could only get them to apply it, a
working-party of vultures and jackals certainly had the strength to
transport him a considerable distance--alternately carrying and
dragging him. The big bird, stalking nearer, was probably the
_macuddam_ or foreman. Would it be at all possible for vultures to
bring water? He would be very willing to offer his right hand in
return for a little water. The bird would be welcome to eat it off his
body if it would give him a drink first. Did not ravens bring meat to
the prophet Elijah? Intelligent and obliging birds. Probably cooked
it, too. But water was more difficult to carry, if easier to procure.

How close they were coming and how they watched with their horrible
eyes--and pretended not to watch!...

Oh, the awful, unspeakable agony! Why was he alive again? Was his
chest full of terribly rusty machinery that would go on when it ought
to stop for want of oil?... If pain is punishment for sin, as placid
stall-fed Holy Bill held (never having suffered any), then Damocles de
Warrenne must have been the prince of sinners. Oh God! a little drop
of water! Rivers of it flowing not many miles away!

Monsoons of it falling recently! A water-bottle full a few yards
distant--and he must die for want of a drop ... What a complete circle
the vultures made on the rocks and stunted trees of the sloping
hill-side. Oh, for a revolver! A man ought to carry one on shikar
expeditions. One would give him a chance of life when under a tiger or
panther--and a chance of decent death in a position such as this.
Where had he read that vultures begin on the eyes of their prey?
Without awaiting its death either, so long as it could not defend
itself. There were other depraved gustatory preferences, too, if he
remembered rightly-He would have an opportunity of testing the
accuracy of the statement--though not of assuring its author as to its
correctness.

Water ... Water ... Water ...

Had he fainted again, that the vultures were so much nearer?... Why
should he be a second Prometheus? Had he not had suffering enough in
his life, without having more in his death?... If the sending of a
little water were too obvious a miracle, was it too much to ask that
his next fainting and collapse might last long enough for the vultures
to get to work, make a beginning, and an end?

Surely that would not be too great a miracle, since he had lain for
years on a red-hot rock with blood in his mouth and his body wrecked
like a smashed egg. He must be practically dead. Perhaps if he held
his laboured breath and closed his eyes they _would_ begin, and he
would have the strength to keep still when they did so. That would be
the quickest way. Once they started, it would not be long before his
bones were cleaned. No possible ghost of a chance of being saved.
Probably no human foot had been on these particular rocks since human
feet existed. Nor would he ever again have the strength to drag his
shattered body to where the rifle lay. Only a few yards away lay
speedy happy release.

"No such thing as luck, Damocles."

Perhaps the vultures thought otherwise.

Colonel John Decies, still of Bimariabad, but long retired on pension
from the Indian Medical Service, was showing his mental and physical
unfitness for the service of the Government that had ordered his
retirement, by devoting himself at the age of fifty-nine to
aviation--aviation in the interests of the wounded on the battlefield.
What he wanted to live to see was a flying stretcher-service of the
Royal Army Medical Corps that should flash to and fro at the rate of a
hundred miles an hour between the rear of the firing-line and the
field hospital and base hospital in aeroplanes built especially for
the accommodation of wounded men--an officer of the Corps accompanying
each in the dual capacity of surgeon and potential pilot. When he
allowed his practical mind to wander among the vast possibilities of
the distant future, he dreamed of bigger and bigger aeroplanes until
they became fully equipped flying hospitals themselves, and removed
the wounded from the danger zone to the nearest salubrious spot for
their convalescence. Meanwhile, he saw no reason why the more powerful
biplanes should not carry an operating-table and all surgical
accessories, a surgeon, and two or three wounded men who could not be
made sitting-up cases.

To Colonel John Decies it seemed that if soldiers schemed to adapt the
flying-machine to purposes of death and destruction, doctors might do
the same to purposes of life and salvation. Think of the difference
between being jolted for hours in a bullock-cart in the dust and heat
and being borne through the air without jerk or jar. Think of the
hundreds of men who, in the course of one campaign, would be saved
from the ghastly fate of lying unfound, unseen by the
stretcher-bearers, to starve to death, to lie weltering in their
blood, to live through days of agony....

He was making quite a name for himself by his experiments at the Kot
Ghazi flying-school and by his articles and speeches on the formation
and training of a R.A.M.C. flying branch. Small beginnings would
content him (provided they were intended to lead to great
developments)--an aeroplane at first, that could carry one or two
special cases to which the ordinary means of transport would be
fatal, and that could scour the ground, especially in the case of very
broken terrain and hill-country, for overlooked cases, wounded men
unable to move or call, and undiscovered by the searchers.

He was hard at work on the invention of a strong collapsible
operating-table (that could readily be brought into use in the field
and also be used in aerial transport) and a case for the concentration
of equipment--operation instruments, rubber gloves, surgical
gauntlets, saline infusion apparatus, sterilizer, aseptic towels,
chloroform, bandages, gauze, wool, sponges, drainage-tubing, inhaler,
silk skeins, syringes, field tourniquets, waterproof cloth,
stethoscope--everything, and the whole outfit, table and all, weighing
forty pounds. This would be an improvement on the system of having to
open half a dozen medical and surgical cases when operating on the
line of march, cases requiring the most expert repacking after use ...

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps it was a sign of advancing years and weakening mind that this
fine specimen of a fine service felt that, when flying some thousands
of feet above the earth, he was nearer to Lenore in Heaven. All his
science and sad experience had failed to deprive him of a
sub-conscious belief in an actual place "above," a material Hereafter
beyond the sky, and, when clouds cut him off from sight of the earth,
he had a quaint, half-realized feeling of being in the ante-room of
the Great House of many mansions, wherein dwelt Lenore.

Yes, when flying, Colonel John Decies felt that he was nearer to the
woman he had lost nearly a quarter of a century before. In one sense
he may have been so, for he was a very reckless airman, and never in
greater danger than when engaged in what he called "ground-scouring"
among the air-current haunted, mist-haunted mountains of the Border.
He anticipated an early Border-war and realized that here would be a
great opportunity for a keen-sighted and iron-nerved medical airman to
locate, if not to pick up, overlooked wounded. Here, too, would be a
double need of such service in a country where "the women come out to
cut up what remains"! Imagine, too, cavalry reconnaissances and bad
casualties a score of miles from medical help ...

Whether it brought him nearer in any sense to Lenore de Warrenne, it
brought him nearer to her son, on one of those hundred-mile circular
"scours" which he practised when opportunity offered, generally
accompanied by a like-minded officer of the R.A.M.C., to which Corps
he had become a kind of unofficial and honorary instructor in "First-
Aid Flying" at the Kot Ghazi flying-school, situate in the plains at
the foot of the "Roof of the World".

"Hullo!" said Colonel John Decies to himself--"vultures! I suppose
they might be referred to in my manual as a likely guide to the
wounded. Good idea. 'The flying casualty-scout should always take
note of the conduct of vultures, noting the direction of flight if any
are seen dropping to earth. These birds may prove invaluable guides. A
collection of them on the ground may indicate a wounded man who may be
alive.' ..."

The Colonel was thinking of his _magnum opus_, "The Aeroplane and the
Surgeon, in War," wherewith he lived laborious days at Bimariabad in
the intervals of testing, developing, and demonstrating his theories
at Kot Ghazi.

Turning his head, he shouted to Surgeon-Captain Digby-Soames,
R.A.M.C., his passenger and pupil:--

"Vultures on the left-front or starboard bow. 'Invariable battle-field
sign of wounded man. Note spot if unable to land and rescue. Call up
stretcher-party by signal--_Vide_ page 100 of Decies' great work,'
what?"

"By Jove, it is a wounded man," replied Captain Digby-Soames, who was
using field-glasses. "Damned if it isn't a Sahib, too! Out shikarring
and sprained his ankle, I suppose. Dead, I'm afraid. Poor devil!"

"Vultures aren't _at work_, anyhow," commented Colonel Decies. "Can't
land anywhere hereabouts, and I'm afraid 'calling up the stretcher
party' isn't in the game here."

"Nothing nearer than Kot Ghazi and that's a good thirty miles,"
replied Captain Digby-Soames as the aeroplane hovered and slowly sank.

"Let's see all we can and then find the nearest landing-place. Search
all round for any sign of a tent or encampment. There may be a
dak-bungalow somewhere down in the plains, too. The river-bed down on
the right there, marks the border."

Captain Digby-Soames "scoured" earnestly with his glasses.

"Camel on the port-bow, at the foot of the hills," he announced. "What
may be a dak-bungalow several miles away ... a white square dot,
anyhow ... Camel saddled up, kneeling ... His, no doubt. Wonder where
his shikarri is--"

As the aeroplane approached, the disappointed vultures departed,
misliking the size, shape and sounds of the strange fowl. As it passed
over him, and the Major shouted, Dam opened his eyes.

This must be pretty well the end--when he heard the voice of some one
he knew well, and saw a flying-machine just above him. He would see
blocks of ice and cascades of cold water in a moment, doubtless, and
hear Lucille calling.

A flying-machine in Ghazistan! The voice of an old, old friend to whom
he could not, for the moment, give a name ... Why couldn't the
cowardly brutes of vultures begin their business, and end his? What
was that familiar voice calling:--

"Hold on a bit, we'll soon be with you! Don't give up. We can't land
just here. If we drop anything can you crawl and get it?"

"He opened his eyes," said Captain Digby-Soames, "but I doubt if he's
conscious. He must have come a frightful cropper. You can see there's
a compound fracture of the right femur from here, and one of his feet
is fairly pointing backwards. Blood from the mouth, too. Anyhow he's
alive. Better shoot him if we can't shift him----"

"We'll _get_ him all right. This is a Heaven-sent 'problem' and we'll
solve it--and I'll quote it in my 'manual'. Quite war-conditions. Very
badly wounded man--inaccessible position--stretcher-parties all out of
sight--aeroplane can't land for any first-aid nor to pick up the
casualty--_excellent_ problem and demonstration. That oont[28] will
simplify it, though. Look here--I'll drop down and land you by it, and
then come here again and hover. You bring the beast up--you'll be able
to ride most of the way if you zig-zag, and lead him most of the rest.
Then you'll have to carry the casualty to the oont and bring him
down."

The aeroplane swooped down and grounded gently within a hundred yards
of the kneeling camel, who eyed it with the cold and supercilious
disdain of his kind.

"Tell you what," said Colonel Decies, "when I get up there again, have
a good squint and see if you think you can locate the spot for
yourself from below. If you can, I'll come down again and we'll both
go up on the oont. Bring the poor beggar down much better if one of us
can hold him while the other drives the camel. It's no Grand Trunk
Road, by Jove."

"Right-O," acquiesced Captain Digby-Soames. "If I can get a clear
bearing to a point immediately below where you hover, I'll lie flat on
the ground as an affirmative signal. If there's no good landmark I'll
stay perpendicular, what?"

"That's it," said Colonel Decies, and, with a swift run and throbbing
whirr, the aeroplane soared from the ground and rose to where, a
thousand feet from the plain, lay the mangled "problem". As it came to
a halt and hovered[29] (like a gigantic dragon-fly poised on its
invisibly-rapid wings above a pool), the junior officer's practised
eye noted a practicable gully that debouched on a level with, and not
far from, the ledge over which the aeroplane hung, and that a stunted
thorn-tree stood below the shelf and two large cactus bushes on its
immediate left. Having taken careful note of other landmarks and
glanced at the sun, he lay on the ground at full length for a minute
and then arose and approached the camel, who greeted him with a
bubbling snarl. On its great double saddle were a gun-cover and a long
cane, while from it dangled a haversack, camera, cartridge-case,
satchel, canvas water-bag, and a cord-net holdall of odds and ends.

Obviously the "problem's" shikar-camel. Apparently he was out without
any shikarri, orderly, or servant--a foolish thing to do when
stalking in country in which a sprained ankle is more than a
possibility, and a long-range bullet in the back a probability
anywhere on that side of the border.

The aeroplane returned to earth and grounded near by. Stopping the
engine Colonel Decies climbed out and swung himself into the rear seat
of the camel saddle. Captain Digby-Soames sprang into the front one
and the camel lurched to its feet, and was driven to the mouth of the
gully which the Captain had noted as running up to the scene of the
tragedy.

To and fro, in and out of the gully, winding, zig-zagging, often
travelling a hundred yards to make a dozen, the sure-footed and
well-trained beast made its way upward.

"Coming down will be joy," observed the Colonel. "I'd sooner be on a
broken aeroplane in a cyclone."

"Better hop off here, I should think," said Captain Digby-Soames anon.
"We can lead him a good way yet, though. Case of divided we stand,
united we fall. Let him fall by himself if he wants to," and at the
next reasonably level spot the camel was made to kneel, that his
riders might descend. Slithering down from a standing camel is not a
sport to practise on a steep hillside, if indulged in at all.

Another winding, scrambling climb and the head of the nullah was
reached.

"Have to get the beast kneeling when we climb down to him with the
casualty," opined the Colonel. "Better get him down here, I think.
Doesn't seem any decent place farther on," and the camel was brought
to an anchor and left to his own devices.

"By Jove, the poor beggar _has_ come a purler," said Captain
Digby-Soames, as the two bent over the apparently unconscious man.

"Ever seen him at Kot Ghazi or Bimariabad?" inquired Colonel Decies.

"No," said the Captain, "never seen him anywhere. Why--have you?"

"Certainly seen him somewhere--trying to remember where. I thought
perhaps it might have been at the flying-school or at one of the
messes. Can't place him at all, but I'll swear I've met him."

"Manoeuvres, perhaps," suggested the other, "or 'board ship."

"Extraordinary thing is that I feel I _ought_ to know him well.
Something most familiar about the face. I'm afraid it's a bit too late
to--Broken ribs--fractured thigh--broken ankles--broken
arm--perforated lungs--not much good trying to get him down, I'm
afraid. He might linger for days, though, if we decided to stand by,
up here. A really first-class problem for solution--we're in luck,"
mused Colonel Decies, making his rapid and skilful examination. "Yes,
we must get him down, of course--after a bit of splinting."

"And then the real 'problem' will commence, I suppose," observed
Captain Digby-Soames. "You couldn't put him into my seat and fly him
to Kot Ghazi while I dossed down with the camel and waited for you to
come for me. And it wouldn't do to camel him to that building which
looks like a dak-bungalow."

"No. I think you'll have to stand by while I fly to Kot Ghazi and
bring the necessary things for a temporary job, and then return and
try to guide an ambulance waggon here. Oh, for an aeroplane-ambulance!
This job brings it home to you pretty clearly, doesn't it? Or I might
first go and have a look at the alleged dak-bungalow and see if we
could possibly run him over there on a charpoy[30] or an improvised
camel-stretcher. It'll be a ghastly job getting down. I don't know
that you hadn't better stick to him up here while I go straight back
for proper splints and bandages and so forth, and bring another chap
too ... Where the devil have I seen him before? I shall forget my own
name next."

The Colonel pondered a moment.

"Look here," he decided. "This case is urgent enough to justify a
risky experiment. He's been here a devil of a time and if he's not in
a _pukka_ hospital within the next few hours it's all up with him.
He's going to have the distinction of being the first casualty removed
to hospital by flying-machine. I'll tie him on somewhere. We'll splint
him up as well as possible, and then make him into a blooming cocoon
with the cord, and whisk him away."

"Pity we haven't a few planks," observed Captain Digby-Soames. "We
could make one big splint of his whole body and sling him, planks and
all, underneath the aeroplane."

"Well, you start splinting that right leg on to the left and stiffen
the knees with something (you'll probably be able to get a decent
stick or two off that small tree), and shove the arm inside his
leather legging. We've two pairs of putties you can bandage with, and
there are _puggries_ on all three _topis_. Probably his gun's
somewhere about, for another leg-splint, too. I'll get down to the
machine for the cord and then I'll skirmish around for anything in the
nature of poles or planks. I can get over to that hut and back before
you've done. It'll be the camelling that'll kill him."

At the distant building the Colonel found an abandoned broken-wheeled
bullock-cart, from which he looted the bottom-boards, which were
planks six feet long, laid upon, but not fastened to, the framework of
the body of the cart. From the compound of the place (an ancient and
rarely-visited dak-bungalow, probably the most outlying and deserted
in India) he procured a bamboo pole that had once supported a lamp,
the long leg-rests of an old chair, and two or three sticks, more or
less serviceable for his purpose.

Returning to the camel, he ascended to where his passenger and pupil
awaited him. Over his shoulder he bore the planks, pole and sticks
that the contemptuous but invaluable camel had borne to a point a few
yards below the scene of the tragedy.

"Good egg," observed the younger man. "We'll do him up in those like a
mummy."

"Yes," returned the Colonel, "then carry him to the oont and bind him
along one side of the saddle, and then lead the beast down. Easily
sling him on to the machine, and there we are. Lucky we've got the
coil of cord. Fine demonstration for the Kot Ghazi fellers! Show that
the thing can be done, even without the proper kind of 'plane and
surgical outfit. What luck we spotted him--or that he fell just in our
return track!"

"Doubtless he was born to that end," observed the Captain, who was apt
to get a little peevish when hungry and tired.

And when the Army Aeroplane _Hawk_ returned from its "ground-scouring
for casualties" trip, lo, it bore, beneath and beside the pilot and
passenger, a real casualty slung in a kind of crude coffin-cradle of
planks and poles, a casualty in whose recovery the Colonel took the
very deepest interest, for was he not a heaven-sent case, born to the
end that he might be smashed to demonstrate the Colonel's theories?
But no credit was given to the vultures, without whom the "casualty"
would never have been found.



CHAPTER XIII.

FOUND.


Colonel John Decies, I.M.S. (retired), visiting the Kot Ghazi Station
Hospital, whereof his friend and pupil, Captain Digby-Soames, was
Commandant, scanned the temperature chart of the unknown, the
desperately injured "case," retrieved by his beloved flying-machine,
who, judging by his utterances in delirium, appeared to be even worse
damaged in spirit than he was in body.

"Very high again last night," he observed to Miss Norah O'Neill of the
Queen Alexandra Military Nursing Sisterhood.

"Yes, and very violent," replied Miss O'Neill. "I had to call two
orderlies and they could hardly hold him. He appeared to think he was
fighting a huge snake or fleeing from one. He also repeatedly
screamed: 'It is under my foot! It is moving, moving, moving _out_.'"

"_Got it_, by God!" cried the Colonel, suddenly smiting his forehead
with violence. "_Of course!_ Fool! Fool that I am! Merciful God in
Heaven--_it's her boy_--and _I_ have saved him! _Her boy!_ And I've
been cudgelling my failing addled brains for months, wondering where
I had seen his face before. He's my godson, Sister, and I haven't set
eyes on him for the last--nearly twenty years!"

Miss Norah O'Neill had never before seen an excited doctor in a
hospital ward, but she now beheld one nearly beside himself with
excitement, joy, surprise, and incredulity. (It is sad to have to
relate that she also heard one murmuring over and over again to
himself, "Well, I am damned".)

At last Colonel John Decies announced that the world was a tiny, small
place and a very rum one, that it was just like _The Hawk_ to be the
means of saving _her_ boy of all people, and then took the patient's
hand in his, and sat studying his face, in wondering, pondering
silence.

To Miss Norah O'Neill this seemed extraordinarily powerful affection
for a mere _godson_, and one lost to sight for twenty years at that.
Yet Colonel Decies was a bachelor and, no, the patient certainly
resembled him in no way whatsoever. The tiny new-born germ of a
romance died at once in Miss O'Neill's romantic heart--and yet, had
she but known, here was a romance such as her soul loved above all
things--the son of the adored dead mistress discovered _in extremis_,
and saved, by the devout platonic lover, the life-long lover, and
revealed to him by the utterance of the pre-natally learnt words of
the dead woman herself!

Yes--how many times through those awful days had Decies heard that
heart-rending cry! How cruelly the words had tortured him! And here,
they were repeated twenty years on--for the identification of the son
by the friend!

That afternoon Colonel Decies dispatched a cablegram addressed to a
Miss Gavestone, Monksmead, Southshire, England, and containing the
words, "Have found him, Kot Ghazi, bad accident, doing well, Decies,"
and by the next mail Lucille, with Aunt Yvette and a maid, left Port
Said, having travelled overland to Brindisi and taken passage to Egypt
by the _Osiris_ to overtake the liner that had left Tilbury several
days before the cable reached Monksmead. And in Lucille's largest
trunk was an article the like of which is rarely to be found in the
baggage of a young lady--nothing more nor less than an ancient rapier
of Italian pattern!...

To Lucille, who knew her lover so well, it seemed that the sight and
feel of the worshipped Sword of his Ancestors must bring him comfort,
self-respect, memories, thoughts of the joint youth and happiness of
himself and her.

She knew what the Sword had been to him, how he had felt a different
person when he held its inspiring hilt, how it had moved him to the
telling of his wondrous dream and stories of its stirring past, how he
had revered and loved it ...surely it must do him good to have it? If
he were stretched upon a bed of sickness, and it were hung where he
could see it, it _must_ help him. It would bring diversion of thought,
cheer him, suggest bright memories--perhaps give him brave dreams
that would usurp the place of bad ones.

If he were well or convalescent it might be even more needful as a
tonic to self-respect, a reminder of high tradition, a message from
dead sires. Yes, surely it must do him good where she could not. If
there were any really insurmountable obstacle to their--their
--union--the Sword could still be with him always, and say
unceasingly: "Do not be world-beaten, son of the de Warrennes and
Stukeleys. Do not despair. Do not be fate-conquered. Fight! Fight!
Look upon me not as merely the symbol of struggle but as the actual
Sword of your actual Fathers. Fight Fate! Die fighting--but do not
live defeated"--but of course her hero Dam needed no such
exhortations. Still--the Sword must be a comfort, a pleasure, a hope,
an inspiration, a symbol. When she brought it him he would understand.
Swords were to sever, but _the_ Sword should be a link--a visible bond
between them, and between them again and their common past.

To her fellow-passengers Lucille was a puzzling enigma. What could be
the story of the beautiful, and obviously wealthy, girl with the
anxious, preoccupied look, whose thoughts were always far away, who
took no interest in the pursuits and pastimes usual to her sex and age
on a long sea voyage; who gave no glance at the wares of local vendors
that came aboard at Port Said and Aden; who occupied her leisure with
no book, no writing, no conversation, no deck-games; and who
constantly consulted her watch as though impatient of the slow flight
of time or the slow progress of the ship?

Many leading questions were put to Auntie Yvette, but, dearly as she
would have liked to talk about her charge's romantic trouble, her
tongue was tied and she dreaded to let slip any information that might
possibly lead to a train of thought connecting Lucille, Dam, and the
old half-forgotten scandal of the outcast from Monksmead and
Sandhurst. If her beloved nephew foolishly chose to hide his head in
shame when there was no shame, it was not for those who loved him best
to say anything which might possibly lead to his discovery and
identification.

While cordially polite to all men (including women) Lucille was found
to be surrounded by an impenetrable wall of what was either glass or
ice according to the nature of the investigator. Those who would fain
extend relationship beyond that of merest ephemeral ship-board
acquaintanceship (and the inevitabilities of close, though temporary,
daily contact), while admitting that her manner and manners were
beautiful, had to admit also that she was an extremely difficult young
person "to get to know". A gilt-edged, bumptious young subalternknut,
who commenced the voyage apoplectically full of self-admiration,
self-confidence, and admiring wonder at his enormous attractiveness,
importance, and value, finished the same in a ludicrously deflated
condition--and a quiet civilian, to whom the cub had been shamefully
insolent, was moved to present him with a little poem of his
composition commencing "There was a puppy caught a wasp," which gave
him the transient though salutary gift of sight of himself as certain
others saw him....

Even the Great Mrs. "Justice" Spywell (her husband was a wee meek
joint-sessions-judge) was foiled in her diligent endeavours, and those
who know the Great Mrs. "Justice" Spywell will appreciate the
defensive abilities of Lucille. To those poor souls, throughout the
world, who stand lorn and cold without the charmed and charming circle
of Anglo-Indiandom, it may be explained that the Great Mrs. "Justice"
Spywell was far too Great to be hampered by silly scruples of
diffidence when on the track of information concerning the private
affairs of lesser folk--which is to say other folk.

When travelling abroad she is THE Judge's Wife; when staying at Hill
Stations she is The JUDGE'S Wife, and when adorning her proper sphere,
her native heath of Chota Pagalabad, she is The Judge's WIFE. As she
is the Senior Lady of all Chota Pagalabad she, of course, always (like
Mary) Goes In First at the solemn and superior dinner parties of that
important place, and is feared, flattered, and fawned upon by the
other ladies of the station, since she can socially put down the
mighty from their seat and exalt the humble and meek and them of low
degree (though she would not be likely to touch the last-named with a
pair of tongs, socially speaking, of course). And yet, such is this
queer world, the said lesser ladies of the famous mofussil station of
Chota Pagalabad are, among themselves, agreed _nemine contradicente_
that the Great Mrs. "Justice" Spywell is a vulgar old frump
("country-bred to say the least of it"), and call her The First Seven
Sister. This curious and unsyntactically expressed epithet alludes to
the fact that she and six other "ladies" of like instincts meet daily
for tea and scandal at the Gymkhana and, for three solid hours, pull
to pieces the reputations of all and sundry their acquaintances,
reminding the amused on-looker, by their voices, manner, and
appearance, of those strange birds the _Sat Bai_ or Seven Sisters, who
in gangs of seven make day hideous in their neighbourhood ...

"Are you going to India to be married, my dear child?" she asked
Lucille, before she knew her name.

"I really don't know," replied Lucille.

"You are not actually engaged, then?"

"I really don't know."

"Oh, of course, if you'd rather keep your own counsel, pray do so,"
snapped the Great Lady, bridling.

"Yes," replied Lucille, and Mrs. Spywell informed her circle of
stereotypes that Lucille was a stupid chit without a word to say for
herself, and an artful designing hussy who was probably an adventuress
of the "fishing-fleet".

To Auntie Yvette it appeared matter of marvel that earth and sky and
sea were much as when she last passed that way. In quarter of a
century or so there appeared to be but little change in the Egyptian
and Arabian deserts, in the mountains of the African and Arabian
coasts, of the Gulf of Suez, in the contours of the islands of the Red
Sea, and of Aden, whilst, in mid-ocean, there was absolutely no
observable difference between then and now. Wonderful indeed!

This theme, that of what was going on at Monksmead, and that of what
to do when Dam was recaptured, formed the bulk of her conversation
with her young companion.

"What will you _do_, dear, when we _have_ found the poor darling boy?"
she would ask.

"Take him by the ear to the nearest church and marry him," Lucille
would reply; or--"Stick to him like a leech for evermore, Auntie";
or--"Marry him when he isn't looking, or while he's asleep, if he's
ill--or by the scruff of his neck if he's well...."

(What a pity the Great Mrs. "Justice" Spywell could not hear these
terrible and unmaidenly sentiments! An adventuress of the
"fishing-fleet" in very truth!)

And with reproving smile the gentle spinster would reply:--

"My _dear!_ Suppose anyone overheard you, what _would_ they think?"
Whereunto the naughty girl would answer:--

"The truth, Auntie--that I'm going to pursue some poor young man to
his doom. If Dam were a leper in the gutter, begging his bread, I
would marry him in spite of himself--or share the gutter and bread
in--er--guilty splendour. If he were a criminal in jail I would sit on
the doorstep till he came out, and do the same dreadful thing. I'm
just going to marry Dam at the first possible moment--like the Wild
West 'shoot on sight' idea. I'm going to seize him and marry him and
take care of him for the rest of his life. If he never had another
grief, ache, or pain in the whole of his life, he must have had more
than ten times his share already. Anyhow whether he'll marry me or
whether he won't--in his stupid quixotic ideas of his 'fitness' to do
so--I'm never going to part from him again."

And Auntie Yvette would endeavour to be less shocked than a
right-minded spinster aunt should be at such wild un-Early-Victorian
sentiments.

       *       *       *       *       *

Come, this was a better sort of dream! This was better than dreaming
of prison-cells, lunatic asylums, tortures by the Snake, lying smashed
on rocks, being eaten alive by vultures, wandering for aeons in red-
hot waterless deserts, and other horrors. However illusory and
tantalizing, this was at least a glorious dream, a delirium to
welcome, a wondrous change indeed--to seem to be holding the hand of
Lucille while she gazed into his eyes and, from time to time, pressed
her lips to his forehead. A good job most of the bandages were gone or
she could hardly have done that, even in a dream. And how wondrously
_real!_ Her hand felt quite solid, there were tears trickling down
her cheeks, tears that sometimes dropped on to his own hand with an
incredible effect of actuality. It was even more vivid than his
Sword-dream which was always so extraordinarily realistic and clear.
And there, yes, by Jove, was dear old Auntie Yvette, smiling and
weeping simultaneously. Such a dream was the next best thing to
reality--save that it brought home to one too vividly what one had
lost. Pain of that kind was nevertheless a magnificent change from the
other ghastly nightmares, of the wholly maleficent kind. This was a
kindly, helpful pain....It is so rare to see the faces of our
best-beloved in dreams ... Sleep was going to be something other than
a procession of hideous nightmares then ...

"I believe he knew me, Auntie," whispered Lucille. "Oh, when will
Colonel Decies come back. I want him to be here when he opens his eyes
again. He would know at a glance whether he were in his right mind and
knew me."

"I am certain he did, dear," replied Auntie Yvette. "I am positive he
smiled at you, and I believe he knew me too."

"I _won't_ believe I have found him too late. It _couldn't_ be true,"
wept the girl, overstrained and unstrung by long vigils, heart-sick
with hope deferred, as she turned to her companion.

"Lucille! Is it real?" came a feeble whisper from the bed--and
Lucille, in the next moments, wondered if it be true that joy cannot
kill ...

       *       *       *       *       *

A few weeks later, Damocles de Warrenne sat on the verandah of the
Grand Imperial Hotel Royal of Kot Ghazi, which has five rooms and five
million cockroaches, and stared blankly into the moonlit compound,
beyond which stretched the bare rocky plain that was bounded on the
north and west by mighty mountains, on the east by a mighty river, and
on the south by the more mighty ocean, many hundreds of miles away.

He had just parted from Auntie Yvette and Lucille--Lucille whose last
words as she turned to go to her room had been:--

"Now, understand, Dammy, what you want now is a sea-voyage, a
sea-voyage to England and Monksmead. When we have got you absolutely
right, Mr. Wyllis shall show you as a specimen of the Perfect Man in
Harley Street--and _then_, Dammy ..." and his burning kisses had
closed her mouth.

Was he scoundrel enough to do it? Had he deteriorated to such a depth
of villainy? Could he let that noblest and finest flower of womanhood
marry a--dangerous lunatic, a homicidal maniac who had nearly killed
the man who proved to be almost his greatest benefactor? Could he?
Would the noble-hearted Decies frankly say that he was normal and had
a right to marry? He would not, and no living man was better qualified
to give an opinion on the case of Damocles de Warrenne than the man
who was a foster-father to him in childhood, and who brought him into
the world in such tragic circumstances. Decies had loved his mother,
Lenore de Warrenne. Would he have married _her_ in such
circumstances? Would he have lived under the same roof with her
permanently--knowing how overpowering would be the temptation to give
way and marry her, knowing how scandal would inevitably arise? A
thousand times No. Was there _no_ gentlemanliness left in Damocles de
Warrenne that he should even contemplate the doing of a deed at which
his old comrades-in-arms, Bear, Burke, Jones, Little, Goate, Nemo and
Peerson would stand aghast, would be ready to kick him out of a decent
barrack-room--and the poor demented creature called for a "boy," and
ordered him to send, at once, for one Abdul Ghani who would, as usual,
be found sleeping beside his camels in the market-place ...

Anon the gentle Abdul came, received certain instructions, and
departed smiling till his great yellow fangs gleamed in the moonlight
beneath the bristling moustache, cut back from the lips as that of a
righteous Mussulman _shikarri_ and _oont-wallah_ should be.

Damocles de Warrenne's brain became active with plots and plans for
escape--escape from himself and the temptation which he must avoid by
flight, since he felt he could not conquer it in fight.

He must disappear. He must die--die in such a way that Lucille would
never suppose he had committed suicide. It was the only way to save
himself from so awful a crime and to save her from himself.

He would start just before dawn on Abdul's shikar camel, be well away
from Kot Ghazi by daylight and reach the old deserted dak-bungalow,
that no one ever used, by evening. There Abdul would come to him with
his _bhoja-oont_[31] bringing the usual supplies, and on receipt of
them he would dismiss Abdul altogether and disappear again into the
desert, this time for good. Criminal lunatics and homicidal maniacs
are better dead, especially when they are tempted beyond their
strength to marry innocent, beautiful girls who do not understand the
position.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SNAKE AND THE SWORD.


The dak-bungalow again at last! But how terribly dreary, depressing,
and horrible it looked _now_--the hut that had once seemed a kind of
heaven on earth to the starving wanderer. Then, Lucille was thousands
of miles away (geographically, and millions of miles away in
imagination). Now, she was but thirty miles away--and it was almost
more than human endurance could bear.... Should he turn back even now,
ride straight to Kot Ghazi, fall at her feet and say: "I can struggle
no longer. Come back to Monksmead--and let what will be, be. I have no
more courage."

And go mad, one day, and kill her? Keep sane, and sully her fair name?
On to the hovel. Rest for the night, and, at dawn, strike into the
desert and there let what will be, be.

Making the camel kneel, Damocles de Warrenne removed its saddle,
fastened its rein-cord tightly to a post, fed it, and then detached
the saddle-bags that hung flatly on either side of the saddle frame,
as well as a patent-leather sword-cover which contained a sword of
very different pattern from that for which it had been made.

Entering the hut, of which the doors and windows were bolted on the
outside, he flung open the shutters of the glassless windows, lit a
candle, and prepared to eat a frugal meal. From the saddlebags he took
bread, eggs, chocolate, sardines, biscuits and apples. With a mixture
of permanganate of potash, tea and cold water from the well, if the
puddle at the bottom of a deep hole could be so termed, he made a
drink that, while drinkable by one who has known worse, was unlikely
to cause an attack upon an enfeebled constitution, of cholera,
enteric, dysentery or any other of India's specialities. What would he
not have given for a clean whisky-and-soda in the place of the
nauseating muck--but what should be the end of a man who, in his
position, turned to _alcohol_ for help and comfort? "The last state of
that man ..."

After striking a judicious balance between what he should eat for
dinner and what he should reserve for breakfast, he fell to, ate
sparingly, lit his pipe, and gazed around the wretched room, of which
the walls were blue-washed with a most offensive shade of blue, the
bare floor was frankly dry mud and dust, the roof was bare cob-webbed
thatch and rafter, and the furniture a rickety table, a
dangerous-looking cane-bottomed settee and a leg-rest arm-chair from
which some one had removed the leg-rests. Had some scoundrelly
_oont-wallah_ pinched them for fuel? (No, Damocles, an ex-Colonel of
the Indian Medical Service "pinched" them for splints.) A most
depressing human habitation even for the most cheerful and care-free
of souls, a terrible place for a man in a dangerous mental state of
unstable equilibrium and cruel agony.... Only thirty miles away--and a
camel at the door. _Lucille_ still within a night's ride. Lucille and
absolute joy.... The desert and certain death--a death of which she
must be assured, that in time she might marry Ormonde Delorme or some
such sound, fine man. Abdul must find his body--and it must be the
body not of an obvious suicide, but of a man who, lost in the desert,
had evidently travelled in circles, trying to find his way to the hut
he had left, on a shooting expedition. Yes--he knew all about
travelling in circles--and what he had done in ignorance (as well as
in agony and horror), he would now do intentionally and with grim
purpose. Hard on the poor camel!... Perhaps he could manage so that it
was set free in time to find its way back somehow. It would if it were
loosed within smell of water.... He must die fairly and squarely of
hunger and thirst--no blowing out of brains or throat-cutting, no
trace of suicide; just lost, poor chap, and no more to be said....
Death of _thirst_--in that awful desert--_again_--No! God in Heaven he
had faced the actual pangs of it once, and escaped--he could _not_
face it again--he wasn't strong enough ... and the unhappy man sprang
to his feet to rush from the room and saddle-up the camel for--Life
and Lucille--and then his eye fell on the Sword, the Sword of his
Fathers, brought to him by Lucille, who had said, "Have it with you
always, Dearest. It can _talk_ to you, as even I can not...."

He sat down and drew it from the incongruous modern case and from its
scabbard. Ha! What did it say but "_Honour_!" What was its message but
"Do the right thing. Death is nothing--Honour is everything. Be worthy
of your Name, your Traditions, your Ancestors--"

He would die.

Let him die that Lucille's honour, Lucille's happiness, Lucille's
welfare, might live--and he kissed the hilt of the Sword as he had so
often done in childhood. Having removed boots, leggings and socks, he
lay down on the settee--innocent of bedding and pillows, pulled over
him the coat that had been rolled and strapped trooper-fashion behind
the saddle and fell asleep....

And dreamed that he was shut naked in a tiny cell with a gigantic
python upon whose yard-long fangs he was about to be impaled and, as
usual, awoke trembling and bathed in perspiration, with dry mouth and
throbbing head, sickness, and tingling extremities.

The wind had got up and had blown out the candle which should have
lasted till dawn!...

As he lay shaking, terrified (uncertain as to whether he were a soul
in torment or a human being still alive), and debating as to whether
he could get off the couch, relight the candle, and close the windward
window, he heard a sound that caused his heart to miss a beat and his
hair to rise on end. A strange, dry rustle merged in the sound of
paper being dragged across the floor, and he knew that he _was_ shut
in with a snake, shut up in a _blue room_, cut off from the matches on
the table, and doomed to lie and await the Death he dreaded more than
ten thousand others--or, going mad, to rush upon that Death.

_He was shut in with the SNAKE_. At last it had come for him in its
own concrete form and had him bound and gagged by fascination and
fear--in the Dark, the awful cruel Dark. No more mere myrmidons. _The
SNAKE ITSELF_.

He tried to scream and could not. He tried to strike out at an
imaginary serpent-head, huge as an elephant, that reared itself above
him--and could not.

He could not even draw his bare foot in under the overcoat. And
steadily the paper dragged across the floor ... Was it approaching?
Was it progressing round and round by the walls? Would the Snake find
the bed and climb on to it? Would it coil round his throat and gaze
with-luminescent eyes into his, and torture him thus for hours ere
thrusting its fangs into his brain? Would it coil up and sleep upon
his body for hours before doing so, knowing that he could not move?
Here were his Snake-Dreams realized, and in the actual flesh he lay
awake and conscious, and could neither move nor cry aloud!

In the Dark he lay bound and gagged, in a blue-walled room, and the
Snake enveloped him with its Presence, and he could in no wise save
himself.

Oh, God, why let a sentient creature suffer thus? He himself would
have shot any human being guilty of inflicting a tithe of the agony on
a pariah dog. There could _be_ no God!... and then the beams of the
rising moon fell upon the blade of the Sword, making it shine like a
lamp, and, with a roar as of a charging lion, Damocles de Warrenne
sprang from the bed, seized it by the hilt, and was aware, without a
tremor, of a cobra that reared itself before him in the moonlight,
swaying in the Dance of Death.

With a mere flick of the sword he laid the reptile twitching on the
floor--and for a few minutes was madder with Joy than ever in his life
he had been with Fear.

_For Fear was gone. The World of Woe had fallen from his shoulders.
The Snake was to him but a wretched reptile whose head he would crush
ere it bruised his heel. He was sane--he was safe--he was a Man again,
and ere many days were past he would be the husband of Lucille and the
master of Monksmead._

"Oh, God forgive me for a blind, rebellious worm," he prayed. "Forgive
me, and strike not this cup from my lips. You would not punish the
blasphemy of a madman? I _cannot_ pray in ordered forms, but I beg
forgiveness for my hasty cry 'There is on God' ..." and then pressed
the Sword to his lips--the Sword that, under God, had overthrown the
_"Darling, I am cured! I have not the slightest fear of snakes. The
Sword has saved me. I am a Man again."_

He told her all as she sat laughing and sobbing for joy and the dying
snake lay at their feet.

In her heart of hearts Lucille determined that the wedding should take
place immediately, so that if this were but a temporary respite, the
result of the flash of daring inspired by the Sword, she would have
the right to care for him for the rest of his life ... She would----

"Look!" she suddenly shrieked, and pointed to where, in the doorway,
cutting them off from escape, was the mate of the cobra that lay
mangled before them. Had the injured reptile in some way called its
mate--or were they regular inhabitants of this deserted hut?

It was Lucille's first experience of cobras and she shuddered to see
the second--evidently comprehending, aggressive, vengeful--would it
spring from there ... and the Sword lay on the bed, out of reach.

Dam arose with a laugh, picked up his heavy boot as he did so, and,
all in one swift movement, hurled it at the half-coiled swaying
creature, with the true aim of the first-class cricketer and trained
athlete; then, following his boot with a leap, he snatched at the tail
of the coiling, thrashing reptile and "cracked" the snake as a carter
cracks a whip--whereafter it dangled limp and dead from his hand!
Lucille shrieked, paled, and sprang towards him.

"Oh, Dam!" she cried, "how _could_ you!"

"Pooh, Kiddy," he replied. "I'm going to invite the Harley Street cove
to have a match at that--and I'm going to give a little exhibition of
it on the lawn at Monksmead--to all the good folk who witnessed my
disgrace.... What's a snake after all? It's _my_ turn now;" and
Lucille's heart was at rest and very thankful. This was not a
temporary "cure". Oh, thank God for her inspiration anent the Sword
... Thank God, thank God!...



SEVEN YEARS AFTER.


A beautiful woman, whose face is that of one whose soul is full of
peace and joy, passes up the great staircase of the stately mansion of
Monksmead. Slowly, because her hand holds that of a chubby youth of
five, a picture of sturdy health, strength and happiness. They pass
beneath an ancient Sword and the boy wheels to the right, stiffens
himself, brings his heels together, and raises a fat little hand to
his forehead in solemn salute. The journey is continued without remark
until they reach the day nursery, a big, bright room of which a
striking feature is the mural decoration in a conventional pattern of
entwined serpents, the number of brilliant pictures of snakes, framed
and hung upon the walls, and two glass cases, the one containing a
pair of stuffed cobras and the other a finely-mounted specimen of a
boa-constrictor (which had once been the pride of the heart of a
Folkestone taxidermist).

"Go away, Mitthis Beaton," says the small boy to a white-haired but
fresh-looking and comely old dame; "I'se not going to bed till Mummy
hath tolded me about ve bwacelet again."

"But I've told you a _thousand_ times, Dammykins," says the lady.

"Well, now tell me ten hundred times," replies the young man coolly,
and attempts to draw from the lady's wrist a huge and remarkable
bracelet.

This uncommon ornament consists of a great ruby-eyed gold snake which
coils around the lady's arm and which is pierced through every coil by
a platinum, diamond-hilted sword, an exact model of the Sword which
hangs on the staircase.

"You tell _me_, Sonny, for a change," suggests the lady.

"Velly well," replies the boy.... "Vere was once a Daddy and a
hobberell gweat Thnake always bovvered him and followed him about and
wouldn't let him gone to thleep and made him be ill like he had eaten
too much sweets, and the doctor came and gave him lotths of meddisnin.
Then he had to wun away from the Thnake, but it wunned after him, and
it wath jutht going to kill him when Mummy bwoughted the Thword and
Daddy killed the Thnake all dead. And I am going to have the Thword
when I gwow up, but vere aren't any more bad Thnakes. They is all good
now and Daddy likes vem and I likes vem. Amen."

"_I_ never said _Amen_, when I told you the story, Sonny," remarks the
lady.

"Well you can, now I have tolded you it," permits her son. "It means
_bus_[32]--all finished. Mitthis Beaton thaid tho. And when I am as
big as Daddy I'm going to be the Generwal of the Queenth Gweyth and
thay '_Charge!_' and wear the Thword."

Lucille de Warrenne here smothers conversation in the manner common to
worshipping mothers whose prodigies make remarks indicative of
marvellous precocity, in fact absolutely unique intelligence.



EPILOGUE.

Is it well, O my Soul, is it well?

    In silent aisles of sombre tone
    Where phantoms roam, thou dwell'st apart
    In drear alone.
    Where serpents coil and night-birds dart
    Thou liest prone, O Heart, my Heart,
    In dread unknown.
    O Soul of Night, surpassing fair,
    Guide this poor spirit through the air,
    And thus atone ...

This sad Soul, searching for the light....

O Soul of Night, enstarréd bright,
    Shine over all.
    Enforce thy right to fend for us
    Extend thy power to fight for us
    Raise thou night's pall.
    Ensteep our minds in loveliness
    In all sweet hope and godliness
    Give guard o'er all ...
This brave Soul striving in stern fight....

Thou soul of Night, thou spirit-elf,
    Rise up and bless.
    Help us to cleanse in holiness
    Show how to dress in saintliness
    Our weary selves,
    Expurge our deeds of earthiness
    Expunge desires of selfliness
    Rise up and bless ...
This strong Soul dying in such plight....

       *       *       *       *       *

Night gently spreads her wings and flies
Star-laden, wide across the skies.
My Soul, new strong,
So late enstained with earthly dust
So long estranged in wander-lust
Gives praise and song,
Strives to create in morning light
The starry wonders of the night
In praise and song ...

This strong Soul praising in new right.
It is well, O my Soul, it is well....

A. L. WREN.


[Footnote 1: Store-room.]

[Footnote 2: Footman and male "housemaid".]

[Footnote 3: Gardener.]

[Footnote 4: Groom.]

[Footnote 5: Real, solid, permanent, proper, ripe, genuine.]

[Footnote 6: Anna = a penny.]

[Footnote 7: Strong, powerful chief.]

[Footnote 8: Grass-man.]

[Footnote 9: Carriage.]

[Footnote 10: Bullock-carts.]

[Footnote 11: A kind of starling.]

[Footnote 12: Water-carriers.]

[Footnote 13: Servant.]

[Footnote 14: Camel-man.]

[Footnote 15: Confined to barracks.]

[Footnote 16: A famous Hussar regiment.]

[Footnote 17: Teetotal.]

[Footnote 18: Cigarettes.]

[Footnote 19: When a non-commissioned officer does anything to risk
losing his stripes he says he "chances his arm".]

[Footnote 20: Permanent Military Police.]

[Footnote 21: Summons before the Commanding Officer in Orderly Room.]

[Footnote 22: Guard-room.]

[Footnote 23: Infantry Regiments.]

[Footnote 24: Cavalry Regiment.]

[Footnote 25: Silent.]

[Footnote 26: This actually happened some years ago at
Bangalore.--AUTHOR.]

[Footnote 27: News, information.]

[Footnote 28: Camel.]

[Footnote 29: By means of its "Decies Horizontal Screw Stabilizer,"
which enabled it to "hover" with only a very slight rise and fall.]

[Footnote 30: Native bed-frame.]

[Footnote 31: Baggage-camel.]

[Footnote 32: Hindustani--enough, finished, complete.]





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Snake and Sword - A Novel" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home