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Title: The Boy with Wings
Author: Ruck, Berta
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 "The Boy with Wings" ***

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  THE BOY WITH WINGS



  The Boy With Wings

  By BERTA RUCK
  (MRS. OLIVER ONIONS)

  AUTHOR OF

  "His Official Fiancée,"
  "The Wooing of Rosamond Fayre,"
  "In Another Girl's Shoes," Etc.


  [Illustration]


  A. L. BURT COMPANY
  Publishers New York

  Published by arrangement with DODD, MEAD & COMPANY



  COPYRIGHT, 1915,
  By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

  Published in England under the title of
  "The Lad With Wings."



  DEDICATED, WITH AFFECTION
  TO THAT BRAINLESS ARMY TYPE.
  MY YOUNGEST BROTHER

    "The men of my own stock
      Bitter-bad they may be,
    But at least they hear the things I hear.
      They see the things I see."

                                KIPLING.



CONTENTS


PART I

_MAY, JUNE, JULY, 1914_

  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE
      I  AERIAL LIGHT HORSE                                        3
     II  THE BOSOM-CHUMS                                          19
    III  THE EYES OF ICARUS                                       34
     IV  THE SONG OF ALL THE AGES                                 54
      V  THE WORKADAY WORLD                                       62
     VI  THE INVITATION                                           71
    VII  A BACHELOR'S TEA-PARTY                                   75
   VIII  LAUGHING ODDS                                            82
     IX  A DAY IN THE COUNTRY                                     89
      X  LESLIE, ON "THE ROOTS OF THE ROSE"                      107
     XI  THE HEELS OF MERCURY                                    122
    XII  THE KISS WITHHELD                                       128
   XIII  THE FLYING DREAM                                        144
    XIV  AN AWAKENING                                            152
     XV  LESLIE ON "TOO MUCH LOVE"                               168
    XVI  THE AEROPLANE LADY                                      178
   XVII  LESLIE ON "MARRIAGE"                                    186
  XVIII  THE OBVIOUS THING                                       193
    XIX  THE SEALED BOX                                          212


PART II

_JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER, 1914_

      I  THE AVIATION DINNER                                     223
     II  THE WHISPER OF WAR                                      235
    III  THE LAST SUNDAY OF PEACE                                241
     IV  THAT WEEK-END                                           259
      V  THE DIE IS CAST                                         265
     VI  HER GUARDIAN'S CONSENT                                  267
    VII  HASTE TO THE WEDDING!                                   280
   VIII  THE GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND HIM                             293
     IX  THIS SIDE OF "THE FRONT"                                300
      X  LESLIE, ON "THE MOTLEY OF MARS"                         310
     XI  A LOVE-LETTER--AND A ROSE                               321


PART III

_SEPTEMBER, NINETEEN-FOURTEEN_

      I  A WAR-TIME HONEYMOON                                    335
     II  THE SOUL OF UNDINE                                      345
    III  A LAST FAVOUR                                           350
     IV  THE DEPARTURE FOR FRANCE                                361
      V  THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT                                      364
     VI  THE WINGED VICTORY                                      370
         POSTSCRIPT--MYRTLE AND LAUREL LEAF                      376



PART I

_MAY, JUNE, JULY, 1914_



CHAPTER I

AERIAL LIGHT HORSE


Hendon!

An exquisite May afternoon, still and sunny. Above, a canopy of
unflecked sapphire-blue. Below, the broad khaki-green expanse of the
flying-ground, whence the tall, red-white-and-blue pylons pointed giant
fingers to the sky.

Against the iron railings of the ground the border of chairs was
thronged with spectators; women and girls in summery frocks, men in
light overcoats with field-glasses slung by a strap about them. The
movement of this crowd was that of a breeze in a drift of coloured
petals; the talk and laughter rose and fell as people looked about at
the great sheds with their huge lettered names, at the big stand, at the
parked-up motors behind the seats; at the men in uniform carrying their
brass instruments slowly across to the bandstand on the left.

At intervals everybody said to everybody else: "Isn't this just a
perfect afternoon for the flying?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently, there passed the turnstile entrance at the back of the parked
motor-cars a group of three young girls, chattering together.

One was in pink; one was in cornflower-blue. The girl who walked
between them wore all white, with a sunshine-yellow jersey-coat flung
over her arm. Crammed well down upon her head she wore a shady white
hat, bristling with a flight of white wings; it seemed to overshadow the
whole of her small compact, but supple little person, which was finished
off by a pair of tiny, white-canvas-shod feet. She was the youngest as
well as the smallest of the trio standing at the turnstile. (Observe
her, if you please; then leave or follow her, for she is the Girl of
this story.)

"This is my show!" she declared. Her softly-modulated voice had a trace
of Welsh accent as she added, "I'm paying for this, indeed!"

"No, you aren't, then, Gwenna Williams!" protested the girl in pink
(whose accent was Higher Cockney). "We were all to pay for ourselves!"

"Yes; but wasn't it me that made you come into the half-crown places
because I was so keen to see a flying-machine _close_?... I'll pay the
difference then, if you _must_ make a fuss. We'll settle up at the
office on Monday," said the girl who had been addressed as Gwenna
Williams.

With a girlish, self-conscious little gesture she took half a sovereign
out of her wash-leather glove and handed it to the tall, be-medalledd
commissionaire.

"Come on, now, girls," she said. "This is going to be lovely!" And she
led the way forward to that line of seats, where there were just three
green chairs vacant together.

Laughing, chattering, gay with the ease of Youth in its own company,
the three, squeezed rather close together by the press, sat down;
Gwenna, the Welsh girl, in the middle. The broad brim of her hat brushed
against the roses of the pink-clad girl's cheaper hat as Gwenna leaned
forward.

"Sorry, Butcher," she said. She moved.

This time one of the white wings caught a pin in the hat of the plump
blonde in blue, who exclaimed resignedly and in an accent that was
neither of Wales nor of England, "Now komm I also into this hat-business
of Candlestick-maker. It _is_ a bit of oll right!"

"_So_ sorry, Baker," apologised the girl in white again, putting up her
hands to disengage the hat. "I'll take it off, like a matinée. Yes, I
will, indeed. We shall all see better." She removed the hat from a small
head that was very prettily overgrown with brown, thick, cropped curls.
The bright eyes with which she blinked at first in the strong sunlight
were of the colour of the flying-ground before them: earth-brown and
turf-green mixed.

"I will hold your hat, since it is for me that you take him off," said
the girl whom they called Baker.

Her real name was Becker; Ottilie Becker. She worked at the German
correspondence of that London office where the other two girls, Gwenna
Williams and Mabel Butcher, were typists. It was one of the many small
jokes of the place to allude to themselves as the Butcher, the Baker,
and the Candlestick-maker.

All three were excellent friends....

The other two scarcely realised that Gwenna, the Celt, was different
from themselves; more absent-minded, yet more alive. A passer-by might
have summed her up as "a pretty, commonplace little thing;" a girl like
millions of others. But under the ready-made muslin blouse of that
season's style there was ripening, all unsuspected, the dormant bud of
Passion. This is no flower of the commonplace. And her eyes were full of
dreams, innocent dreams. Some of them had come true already. For hadn't
she broken away from home to follow them? Hadn't she left the valley
where nothing ever went on except the eternal Welsh rain that blurred
the skylines of the mountains opposite, and that drooped in curtains of
silver-grey gauze over the slate roofs of the quarry-village, set in
that brook-threaded wedge between wooded hillsides? Hadn't she escaped
from that cage of a chapel house sitting-room with its kitchen-range and
its many bookshelves and its steel print of John Bunyan and its
maddening old grandfather-clock that _always_ said half-pastt two and
its everlasting smell of singeing hearthrug, and _never_ a window open?
Yes! she'd given her uncle-guardian no peace until he'd washed his hands
over Gwenna's coming up to London. So here she was in London now, making
fresh discoveries every day, and enjoying that mixture of drudgery and
frivolling that makes up the life of the London bachelor-girl. She was
still "fancy-free," as people say of a girl who loves and lives in
fancies, and she was still at the age for bosom-friendships. One
sincerely adored girl-chum had her confidence. This was a young woman at
the Residential Club, where Gwenna lived; not one of these from the
office.

But the office trio could take an occasional Saturday jaunt together as
enjoyingly as if they never met during the week.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Postcards, picture postcards!" chanted a shrill treble voice above the
buzz of the talking, waiting crowds.

Before the seats a small boy passed with a tray of photographs. These
showed views of the hangars and of the ground; portraits of the
aviators.

"Postcards!" He paused before that cluster of blue and white and pink
frocks. "Any picture postcards?"

"Yes! Wait a minute. Let's choose some," said Miss Butcher. And three
heads bent together over the display of glazed cards. "Tell you what,
Baker; we'll send one off to your soldier-brother in Germany. Shall we?
All sign it, like we did that one to your mother, from the Zoo."

"Ah, yes. A _bier-karte_!" said the German girl, with her good-natured
giggle. "Here, I choose this one. View of Hendon. We write '_Es lassen
grüssen unbekannter Weise_'--'there send greeting to Karl, the
Unknown.'"

"Oh, but hadn't we better send him this awfully nice-looking airman,
just as a sort of example of what a young man really can do in the way
of appearance, what?" suggested Miss Butcher, picking out another card.
"Peach, isn't he? Look! He's standing up in the thingamagig _just_ like
an archangel in his car; or do I mean Apollo?--Gwenna'd know.... Which
are you going to choose, Gwenna?"

Gwenna had picked out three cards. A view of the ground, a picture of a
biplane in mid-air, and a portrait of one of the other airmen.

He had been taken in his machine against the blank background of sky.
The big, boyish hands gripped the wheel, the cap, goggles in front, peak
behind, was pushed back from the careless, clean-shaven lad's face, with
its cheeks creased with deep dimples of a smile.

"This one," said Gwenna Williams. And there was no whisper of Fate at
her heart as she announced lightly, "This is _my_ love." (She did not
guess, as you do, that here was the portrait of the Boy of this story.)

The other girls leaned across her to look as she added: "_He's_ the most
like Icarus, I think."

"Who's Icarus, when he's at home?" inquired Miss Butcher. And Gwenna,
out of one of her skimmed books, gave a hurried explanation of Icarus,
the first flying-man, the classic youth who "dared the sun" on wings of
wax.... Together the girls inspected the postcard of his modern type,
the Hendon aviator. They laughed; they read aloud the name "_P.
Dampier_;" they compared his looks with those of other airmen, treating
the whole subject precisely as they would have treated the dancing or
singing of their favourite actresses in the revues....

For it was still May, Nineteen-fourteen in England. The feeling of warm
and drowsy peace in the air was only intensified by the brisk, sharp
strains of the military band on the left of the flying-ground, playing
the "Light-Cavalry" march....


"Dear me! Are we going on like this for ever?" remonstrated Gwenna
presently. "Aren't they _ever_ going up?"

She was answered by a shattering roar from the right.

It ceased. Then, on the field before her excited eyes, there was brought
out of one of the hangars by a cluster of mechanics in khaki-brown
overalls the Winged Romance that came into this tired and _blasé_ world
with that most wondrous of all Ages--the Twentieth Century. At first
only a long gleaming upper plane, jolting over the uneven ground, could
be seen over the heads of the watchers. Then it reached the enclosure.
For the first time in her life Gwenna beheld a Maurice Farman biplane.

And for the moment she was a little disappointed, for she had said it
was "going to be so lovely!"

She had expected--what? Something that would look more like what it was,
the new Bird of man's making. Here the sunlight gleamed on the taut,
cambered wings, on the bamboo spars, the varnished blade of the
motionless propeller, all shiny as a new toyshop. But the girl saw no
grace in it. Its skids rested on the sunburned grass like a couple of
_ski_ in the _Sketch_ photographs of winter sports. It had absurd
little wheels, too, looking as if, when it had finished skiing, the
machine might take to roller-skating. The whole thing seemed gaunt and
cumbrous and clogged to the earth. Gwenna did not then know that, unlike
Antæus, this half-godlike creature only awoke to life and beauty when it
felt the earth no more.

Then, as she watched, a mechanic, the Dædalus who strapped on the wings
for the Icarus seized the propeller, which kicked thrice, rebelliously,
and then, with another roar, dissolved into a circle of mist. Other
brown figures were clinging to the under parts of the structure, holding
it back; Gwenna did not see the signal to let go. All that she saw was
the clumsy forward run of the thing as, like a swan that tries to clear
its feet of the water, the biplane struggled to free itself from the
drag of Earth....

Then, as the wonder happened, the untried and imaginative little Welsh
country-girl, watching, gave a gasp. "_Ah----!_"

The machine was fettered no longer.

Suddenly those absurd skids and wheels had become no more than the tiny
feet that a seagull tucks away under itself, and like a gull the biplane
rose. It soared, its engine shouting triumph as it sped. Gwenna's heart
beat as tensely as that engine. Her eyes sparkled. What they saw was not
now a machine, but the beauty of those curves it cut in the conquered
air. It soared, it banked, it swayed gently as if on a keel. Swiftly
circling, up and up it went, until it seemed to dwindle to something not
even larger than the seagull it resembled; then it was a flying-fish,
then a dragonfly wheeling in the blue immensity above.

Suddenly, like a fog-signal, there boomed out the voice of the man with
the megaphone, the man who made from the judges' stand, behind the
committee-enclosure all announcements for the meeting:

     "Ladies  and  gentul  MEN,"  it  boomed.

     "Mis  ter  Paul  Dampier  on  a  Maurice  Farman  bi  plane!"

The huge convolvulus-trumpet of the megaphone swung round. The
announcement was made from the other side of the stand; the sound of
that booming voice being subdued as it reached the group of three girls.

     "Mister  Paul  Dampier----"

"You hear, Gwenna? It is _your_ young man," said Miss Baker; Miss
Butcher adding, "Hope you had a good look at him and saw if that photo
did him justice?"

"From here? Well, how could I? It's not much I could see of him,"
complained Gwenna, laughing. "He only looked about as big as a knot in a
cat's cradle!"

Another roar, another small commotion on the ground. Another of those
ramshackle looking giant grasshoppers slid forward and upward into the
air. Presently three aeroplanes, then four together were circling and
soaring together in the sapphire-blue arena.

Below, a pair of swallows, swift as light, chased each other over the
ground, above their own shadows, towards the tea-pavilion.

Yet another flyer winged his tireless way across the aerodrome. He was a
droning bee, buzzing and hovering unheeded over a tuft of dusty white
clover growing by the rails that were so closely thronged by human
beings come to watch and wonder over man's still new miracle of flight.


"Oh, flying! Mustn't it be too glorious!" sighed the Welsh girl,
watching the aeroplane that was now scarcely larger than a winged bullet
in the blue. "Oh, wouldn't I love to go up! Wouldn't it be Heaven!"

"It's been Heaven for several poor fellows lately," suggested the
shrewd, Cockney-voiced little Miss Butcher, grimly, from her right.
"What about that poor young What's-his-name, fallen and killed on the
spot at twenty-one!"

"I don't call him 'poor,'" declared Gwenna Williams softly. "I should
think there could be worse things happen to one than get killed,
quickly, right in the middle of being so young and jolly and doing such
things----"

"Ah, look! That's it! See that?" murmured a voice near them. "Flying
upside down, now, that first one--see him?"

And now Gwenna, at gaze, watched breathlessly the wonder that seemed
already natural enough to the multitude; the swoop and curve, the loop
and dash and recover of the biplane that seemed for the moment a winged
white quill held in a hand unseen, writing its challenge on the blue
wall of Heaven itself.


Again the megaphone boomed out through the still and soft June air:

     "Ladies  and  gentul  MEN!  Pass  enger  flights  from  this
     aer  riodrome  may  now  be  booked  at  the  office  un  der
     this  Stand!"

"Two guineas, my dears, for the chance of breaking your necks,"
commented Miss Butcher. "Three guineas for a longer flight, I believe;
that is, a better chance. Well, I bet that if I did happen to have two
gleaming golden jimmyohgoblins to my name, I'd find something else to
spend 'em on, first!"

"I also!" agreed Miss Baker.

Gwenna moved a little impatiently. She hadn't two guineas, either, to
spend. She still owed a guinea, now, for that unjustifiable
extravagance, that white hat with the wings. In spite of earning her own
living, in spite of having a little money of her own, left her by her
father who had owned shares in a Welsh quarry, she _never_ had any
guineas! But oh, if she had! _Wouldn't_ she go straight off to that
stand and book for a passenger-flight!...

While her covetous eyes were still on the biplane, her ears caught a
stir of discussion that came from the motor nearest to the chairs.

A lady was speaking in a softly dominant voice, the voice of a class
that recognises no overhearing save by its chosen friends.

"My dear woman, it's as safe as the Tubes and the motor-buses. These
exhibition passenger-flights aren't really _flying_, Cuckoo said. Didn't
you, Cuckoo?"

A short deep masculine laugh sounded from behind the ladies, then a
drawled "What are they then, what? Haw? Flip-flap, White City, what?"

"Men always pretend afterwards that they've never said _anything_.
Cuckoo told me that when these people 'mean business' they can fly
_millions_ of times higher and faster than we _ever_ see them here. He
said there wasn't the _slightest_ reason why Muriel shouldn't----"

Here the sound, hard and clear as an icicle, of a very young girl's
voice, ringing out:

"And anyhow, mother, I'm _going_ to!"

Glancing round, Gwenna saw a lanky girl younger than herself spring down
from the big, dove-grey car, and stride, followed by a tall man wearing
a top-hat, to the booking-office below the stand. This girl wore a long
brown oilskin coat over her white sweater and her short, admirably-cut
skirt; a brown chiffon veil tied over her head showed the shape and the
auburn gleam of it without giving a hair to the breeze.

"Lovely to be those sort of people," sighed the enviously watching
Gwenna, as other girls from the cars strolled into the enclosure with
the notice "COMMITTEE ONLY," and seemed to be discussing, laying bets,
perhaps, about the impending race for machines carrying a
lady-passenger. "Fancy, whenever any of _them_ want to do or to see or
even to _be_ anything, they've only got to say, 'Anyhow, I'm going to!'
and there they are! _That's_ the way to live!"

Presently the three London typists were sitting at a table under the
green awning and the hanging flower-baskets; one of a score of tables
where folk sat and chattered and turned their eyes ceaselessly upwards
to the blue sky, pointed at by those giant pylon-fingers, invaded by
those soaring, whirring, insolent, space daring creatures of man.


The first biplane had been preparing for the Ladies' Race. Now came the
start; with the dropped white flag the announcement from that dominating
magnified voice:

     "Mis  ter  Damp  ier  on  a  Maurice  Far  man  bi  plane  ac
     companied  by  Miss  Mu  riel  Con  yers----"

The German girl put in, "Your man again, Gwenna!"

"My man indeed. And I haven't seen him, even yet," complained the Welsh
girl again, laughing over her cup of cooling tea, "only in the
photograph! Don't suppose I ever shall, either. It's my fate, girls.
Nothing really exciting ever happens to me!" She sighed, then
brightened again as she remembered something. "I must be off now....
I've got to go out this evening."

"Anywhere thrilling?" asked Miss Butcher.

"I don't know what it'll be like. It's Leslie Long; it's my friend at
the Club's married sister somewhere in Kensington, giving a
dinner-party," Gwenna answered in the scrambling New English in which
she was learning to disguise her Welshiness, "and there's a girl fallen
through at the last minute. So she 'phoned through this morning to ask
if this girl could rake any one up."

"How mouldy for you, my dear," said Mabel Butcher in her sympathetic
Cockney as the Welsh girl rose, took up her sunshine-yellow coat from
the back of her chair and chinked down a shilling upon her thick white
plate. "Means you'll have to sit next some youth who only forced himself
into his dress-suit for the sake of taking that 'fallen through' girl
into dinner. He'll be scowling fit to murder you, I expect, for being
you and not her. (I know their ways.) Never mind. Pinch a couple of
liqueur-choc'lates off the table for me when the Blighted Being isn't
looking, will you? And tell us what he's like on Monday, won't you?"

"All right," promised the Welsh girl, smiling back at her friends. She
threaded her way through the tables with the plates of coloured cakes,
the brown teapots, the coarse white crockery. She passed behind that
park of cars with that leisured, well-dressed, upward-gazing throng. She
turned her back on the glimpse beyond them of the green field where the
brown-clad mechanics ran up towards the slowly downward swooping
biplane.

As she reached the entrance she caught again the announcement of that
distant megaphone:

     "Ladies  and  gentul  men  Pass  enger  flights  may  now
     be  booked----"

The band in the distance was playing the dashing tune of the
"Uhlanenritt."

Gwenna Williams passed out of the gates beside the big poster of the
aeroplane in full flight carrying a girl-passenger who waved a scarf. It
was everywhere, that Spring. So was the other notice:

"_An afternoon in the country is always refreshing! Flying is always
interesting to watch!_"

In the dusty bit of lane mended by the wooden sleepers a line of
grass-green taxis was drawn up.

Gwenna hesitated.

Should she----? Taxi all the way home to the Ladies' Residential Club in
Hampstead where she lived?

Four shillings, perhaps.... Extravagance again! "But it's not an
everyday sort of day," Gwenna told herself as she hailed the taxi. "This
afternoon, the flying! This evening, a party with Leslie! Oh, and there
was I saying to the other girls that nothing exciting ever happened to
me!"

For even now every day of her life seemed to this enjoying Welsh
_ingénue_, packed with thrills. Thrills of anticipation, of
amusement--sometimes of disappointment and embarrassment. But what did
those matter? Supreme through all there glowed the conviction of youth
that, at any moment, Something-More-Exciting still might happen....

It might be waiting to happen, waiting now, just round the corner....

All young people know that feeling. And to many it remains the most
poignant pleasure that they are to know--that thought of "the party
to-night," that wonder "what may happen at it!"



CHAPTER II

THE BOSOM-CHUMS


Through leafy side-streets and little squares of Georgian houses,
Gwenna's taxi took her to a newer road that sloped sharply from the
Heath at the top to the church and schools at the bottom.

The taxi stopped at the glass porch of the large, red-brick building
with the many casement-windows, out of which some enterprising committee
had formed the Ladies' Residential Club. It was a place where a mixed
assembly of young women (governesses, art-students, earnest suffrage
workers, secretaries and so on) lived cheaply enough and with a good
deal of fun and noise, of feud and good-fellowship. The head of it was a
clergyman's widow and the sort of lady who is never to be seen otherwise
than wearing a neat delaine blouse of the Edwardian era, a gold curb
tie-pin, a hairnet and a disapproving glance.

Gwenna passed this lady in the tessellated hall; she then almost
collided with the object of the lady's most constant disapproval.

This was a very tall, dark girl with an impish face, a figure boyishly
slim. She looked almost insolently untidy, for she wore a shabby brown
hat, something after the pattern of a Boy Scout's, under which her black
hair was preparing to slide down over the collar of a rain-coat which
(as its owner would have told you) had seen at least two reigns. It was
also covered with loose white hairs, after the fashion of garments whose
wearers are continually with dogs.

Gwenna caught joyously at the long arm in the crumpled sleeve.

"Oh, Leslie!" she cried eagerly.

For this was the bosom-chum.

"Ha, Taffy-child! Got back early for this orgie of ours? Good,"
exclaimed Leslie Long in a clear, nonchalant voice. It was very much the
same voice, Gwenna noticed now, as those people's at the flying-ground,
who belonged to that easy, lordly world of which Gwenna knew nothing.
Leslie, now, did seem to know something about it. Yet she was the
hardest-up girl in the whole club. She had been for a short time a Slade
student, for a shorter time still a probationer at some hospital. Now
all her days were given up to being paid companion to an old lady in
Highgate who kept seventeen toy-Poms; but her evenings remained her own.

"Afraid this party isn't going to be much of a spree for you," she told
Gwenna as they went upstairs. "I don't know who's going, but my
brother-in-law's friends seldom are what you could describe as 'men.'
Being a stockbroker and rich, he feels he must go in heavily for Art and
Music. Long hair to take you in, probably. Hope you don't awfully mind
coming to the rescue----"

"Don't mind what it is, as long as I'm going out somewhere, and with
you, Leslie!" the younger girl returned blithely. "Will you do me up the
back, presently?"

"Rather! I'm dressing in your room. There's a better light there. Hurry
up!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Gwenna's long, narrowish front bedroom at the club was soon breathing of
that characteristic atmosphere that surrounds the making of a full-dress
toilette; warm, scented soap-suds, hot curling-irons, powder, Odol,
perfume. The room possessed a large dressing-table, a long wardrobe, and
a fairly spacious chest-of-drawers. But all this did not prevent the
heaping of Gwenna's bed with the garments, with the gilded, high-heeled
cothurns and with the other gauds belonging to her self-invited guest.

That guest, with her hair turbaned in a towel and her lengthy young body
sheathed in tricot, towered above the toilet-table like some modern's
illustration of a genie in the Arabian Nights. The small, more
closely-knit Welsh girl, who wore a kimono of pink cotton crêpe slipping
from shoulders noticeably well modelled for so young a girl, tried to
steal a glimpse at herself from under her friend's arm.

"Get out, Taffy," ordered the other coolly. "You're in my way."

"I like _that_," remonstrated Gwenna, laughing. "It's _my_ glass,
Leslie!"

But she was ready to give up her glass or any of her belongings to this
freakish-tongued, kind-hearted, unconventional Leslie Long. Nearly
everybody at the club, whether they were of the advanced suffrage party
or the orthodox set, were "shocked" at her. Gwenna loved her. Leslie had
taken a very homesick little Welsh exile under her wing from her first
night at the club; Leslie had mothered her with introductions, loans,
advice. Leslie had bestowed upon her that last favour which woman shows
to sister-woman when she tells her "_at which shops to buy what_."
Leslie had, practically, dressed her. And it was thanks to this that
Gwenna had all the freshness and bloom of the country-girl without any
of the country-girl's all-concealing frumpiness.

Leslie talked an obligato to everything that Leslie did.

"I must dress first. I need it more, because I'm so much plainer than
you," said she. "But never mind; it won't take me more than half an hour
to transform myself into a credit to my brother-in-law's table. '_I am
a chrysoberyl, and 'tis night._' The Sometimes-Lvely Girl, that's the
type I belong to. I was told that, once, by one of the nicest boys who
ever loved me. Once I get my hair done, I'll show you. In the meantime
you get well out of my way on the bed, Taffy, like a sweet little cherub
that sits up aloft. And then I'll explain to you why Romance is
dead--oh, shove that anywhere; on the floor--and what the matter is with
us modern girls. Fact is, we're losing our Femininity. We're losing the
power, dear Miss Williams, to please Men."

She took up a jar of some white paste, and smeared it in a scented mask
above her features. As she did so she did not for one moment cease to
rattle.

"Men--that is, Nice Men," she gave out unctuously, as she worked the
paste with her palms over her Pierrot-like face, "detest all this
skin-food--and massage. It's Pampering the Person. No nice girl would
think of it. As for this powder-to-finish business, it's only another
form of make-up. They always see through it. (Hem!) And they abhor
anything that makes a girl--a nice girl--look in the least----" The
mocking voice was lowered at the word--"Actressy ...! This is what I was
told to-day, Taff, dear, by my old lady I take the Poms and Pekes out
for. I suppose she's never heard of any actress marrying. But she's a
mine of information. Always telling me where I've missed it, and how."

Here the tall girl reached for the silver shoe-horn off Gwenna's
dressing-table, and proceeded to use it as the Greek youth used his
strigil, stripping the warmed unguent from her face and neck. She went
on talking while Gwenna, putting a gloss on her short curls with a brush
in each hand, listened and laughed, and watched her from the bed with
greeny-brown eyes full of an unreserved admiration. So far, Leslie
Long's was the society in which Gwenna Williams most delighted. The
younger, less sophisticated girl poured out upon her chum that affection
which is not to be bribed or begged. It is not even to be found in any
but a heart which is yet untouched, save in its dreams, by Love.

"No Charm about us modern girls. No Mystery," enlarged Miss Long. "No
Glamour. (What is glamour? Is it a herb? State reasons for your answer.)
What Nice Men love to see in a girl is The Being Apart. (Gem of
Information Number Sixty-three.) Sweet, refined, modest; in every look
and tone the _gentlewoman_. Not a mere slangy imitation of themselves.
(Chuck us that other towel.) Not a creature who makes herself cheap,
calls out 'Hi!' and waves to them from the top of omnibuses. Ah, no, my
dear; the girl who'll laugh and 'lark' with men on equal terms may
_seem_ popular with them in a way, but"--here the voice was again
lowered impressively--"that's not the girl they marry. She's just 'very
good fun,' 'a good sort,' a 'pal.' She's treated just as they'd treat
another young man. (I'd watch it!) Which is the girl with whom they fall
in love, though? The shrinking, clinging, feminine creature who is
all-wool--I mean all-woman, Taffy. _She_"--with enormous expression--"is
_never_ left long without her mate!"

"But," objected Gwenna doubtfully, "she--this old lady of yours--wasn't
married ever?"

"Oh, never. Always lets you know that she has 'loved and lost.' Whether
that means 'Killed at the Battle of Waterloo' or merely 'Didn't propose'
I couldn't say.... Poor old dear, she's rather lonely, in spite of the
great cloud of Poms," said the old lady's paid "daily companion,"
dropping the mockery for the moment, "and I believe she's thankful to
have even me to talk to and scold about the horrid, unsexed girl of
To-day.... Our lack of ... everything! Our clothes! Why, she, as a girl,
would have sunk into the ground rather than be seen in--you know the
kind of thing. Our general shapelessness!--Well, of course," turning to
meet that adoring glance from the little heroine-worshipper on the bed,
"you never see a young woman nowadays with what you could call a
_figure_!"

Here Leslie, reaching for the giant powder-puff she had flung on to the
foot of the bed, gave a backward bend and a "straighten" that would not
have disgraced an acrobat.

"No waists! Now if there is a feature that a man admires in a girl it's
her tiny, trimly-corseted waist. My old lady went to a fancy-dress dance
once, in a black-and-yellow plush bodice as '_A Wasp_,' and everybody
said how splendid. She never allowed herself to spread into anything
more than Eighteens until she was thirty! But now the girls are allowed
to slop about in these loud, fast-looking, golf-jackets or whatever they
call them, made just like a man's--and the young men simply aren't
marrying any more. No wonder!"

"Oh, Leslie! do you think it's true?" put in Gwenna, a trifle nervously.

"So she told me, my dear. Told Bonnie Leslie, whose bag had been two
proposals that same week," said Miss Long nonchalantly. "One of 'em with
me in the act of wearing that Futurist Harlequin's get-up at the Art
Rebel's Revel. You know; the one I got the idea of from noticing the
reflections of the ground-glass diamond patterns on me through the
bath-room window. I say! she'd have sunk pretty well through into the
Antipodes at the sight of me in that rig, what? Yet here was an
infatuated youth swearing that:

  '_He would like to have the chance
  All his life with me to dance,
  For he liked his partner best of all!_'"

Leslie hummed the old musical-comedy tune. "Son of a _Dean_, too!"

Gwenna looked wistfully thrilled. "Wasn't he--nice enough?"

"Oh, a sweet boy. Handsome eyes. (I always want to pick them out with a
fork and put them into my own head.) But too simple for me, thanks,"
said Leslie lightly. "He was _rather_ cut up when I told him so."

"Didn't you tell your old lady--anything about it, Leslie?"

"Does that kind of woman _ever_ get told the truth, Gwenna? I trow not.
That's why the dear old legends live on and on about what men like and
who they propose to. Also the kind old rules, drawn up by people who are
past taking a hand in the game."

Again she mimicked the old lady's voice: "Nice men have one standard for
the women they marry, and another (a very different standard!) for
the--er--women they flirt with. (So satisfactory, don't you know, for
the girl they marry. No _wonder_ we never find those marriages being a
complete washout!) But supposing that a sort of Leslie-girl came along
and insisted upon Marriage being brought up to the flirtation
standard--_hein_?"

"But your old lady, Leslie? D'you mean you just let her go on thinking
that you've never had any admiration, and that you've got to agree with
everything she says?"

"Rather!" said Miss Long with her enjoying laugh. "I take it in with
r-r-rapt attention, looking my worst, as I always do when I'm behaving
my best. Partly because one's bound to listen respectfully to one's
bread-and-butter speaking. And partly because I am genuinely interested
in her remarks," said Leslie Long. "It's the interest of a rather smart
young soldier--if I may say so--let loose in a museum of obsolete
small-arms!"

Even as she spoke her hands were busy with puff and brush, with
hair-pad, pins, and pencil. Gwenna still regarded her with that full,
discriminating admiration which is never grudged by one attractive girl
to another--of an opposite type.

With the admiration for this was mixed a tiny dread, well known to the
untried girl--"If she is what They like, _they won't like me_!" ... Also
a wonder, "What in the world would Uncle have said to _her_?"

And a mental picture rose before Gwenna of the guardian she had left in
the valley. She saw his shock of white, bog-cotton hair, his face of a
Jesuit priest and his voice of a Welsh dissenting minister. She heard
that much-resented voice declaiming slowly. "Yes, Yes. I know the
meaning of London and _self-respect and earning one's own living_. I
know all about these College girls and these girls going to business and
working same as the men, 'shoulder to shoulder'--Indeed, it's very
likely! _'Something better to do, nowadays, than sit at home frowsting
over drawn-thread work until a husband chooses to appear'_--All the same
thing! All the same thing! As it was in the beginning! _'A wider
field'_--for making eyes! And only two eyes to make them with. Oh,
forget-ful Providence, not to let a modern girl have four! _'Larger
opportunities'_--more chance of finding a young man! Yes, yes. That's
it, Gwenna!"

Gwenna, at the mere memory of it, broke out indignantly, "Sometimes I
should like to _stab_ old people!"

"Meaning the celebrated Uncle Hugh? Too wise, isn't he?" laughed Leslie
lightly, with her hands at her hair. "Too full of home-truths about the
business girl's typewriter, and the art-student's palette and the
shilling thermometer of the hospital nurse, eh? _He_ knows that they're
the modern girl's equivalent of the silken rope-ladder--what, what? And
the chaise to Gretna Green! _This Way Out. This Way--to Romance._ Why
not? Allow me, Madam----"

Here she took up an oval box of eighteenth-century enamel, picked out a
tiny black velvet patch and placed it to the left of a careless red
mouth.

"Effective, I think?"

"Yes; and how can you say there's such a thing as 'obsolete' in the
middle of all this?" protested Gwenna. "_Look_, how the old fashions
come up again!"

"Child, curb your dialect. '_Look_,'" Leslie mimicked the Welsh girl's
rising accent. "'The old fashshons.' Of course we modify the fashions
now to suit ourselves. My old lady had to follow them just as they were.
We," said this twentieth-century sage, "are just the same as she was in
lots of ways. The all-important thing to us is still what she calls the
Mate!"

"M'm,--I don't believe it would be to me," said Gwenna simply. And
thinking of the other possibilities of Life--fresh experiences, work,
friendship, adventure (flying, say!)--she meant what she said. That was
the truth.

Side by side with this, not contradicting but emphasising it, was
another truth.

For, as in a house one may arrange roses in a drawing-room and reck
nothing of the homely business of the kitchen--then presently descend
and forget, in the smell of baking bread, the flowers behind those other
doors, so divided, so uncommunicating, so pigeon-holed are the
compartments, lived in one at a time, of a young maid's mind.

Clearer to Gwenna's inner eyes than the larch green and slate purple of
her familiar valley had been the colours of a secret picture; herself in
a pink summer frock (always a summer frock, regardless of time, season
or place) being proposed to by a blonde youth with eyes as blue as
lupins....

Mocking Leslie was urging her, again in the old lady's tone, to "wait
until Mr. Right came along. Jewelled phrase! Such an old world
fragrance about it; moth powder, I suppose. Yet we know what it means,
and they didn't. We know it isn't just anybody in trousers that would
_be_ Mr. Right. (My dear! I use such strange expressions; I quite shock
me sometimes)," she interpolated; adding, "It's a mercy for us in some
ways; so good if we do get the right man. Worse than it used to be if we
don't. Swings and roundabouts again. But it's still true that

  Two things greater than all things are,
  The first is Love and the second is War."

"I can't imagine such a thing as war, now," mused Gwenna on the bed.
"Can you?"

"Oh, vaguely; yes," said Leslie Long. "You know my people, poor
darlings, were all in the Army. But the poisonously rich man my sister
married says there'll never be any war again, except perhaps among a few
dying-out savage races. He does so grudge every ha'penny to the Navy
Estimates; and he's quite violent about these useless standing armies!
You know he's no sahib. '_His tongue is like a scarlet snake that dances
to fantastic tunes._' However, never mind him. _I'm_ the central figure.
Which is to be my frock of fascination to-night? '_The White Hope?_' or
'_The Yellow Peril?_' You're wearing your white, Taffy. Righto, then
I'll put on _this_," decided the elder girl.

She stepped into and drew up about her a moulding sheath of
amber-coloured satin that clung to her limbs as a wave clings to a
bather--such was the fleeting fashion now defunct! There was a corolla
of escholtzia-yellow about the strait hips, a heavy golden girdle
dangling.

"There! Now! How's the Bakst view?" demanded Leslie.

She turned slowly, rising on her toes, lifting the glossy black head
above a generous display of creamy shoulder-blades; posing, laughing
while Gwenna caught her breath.

"Les-lie!... And where _did_ you get it?"

"Cast-off from an opulent cousin. What I should do if I didn't get a few
clothes given me I don't know; I should be sent back by the policeman at
the corner, I suppose. One can't _live_ at fancy dances at the Albert
Hall," said Miss Long philosophically. "Don't I look like a Rilette
advertisement on the end page of _Punch_? Don't I vary? Would anybody
think I was the same wispy rag-bag you met in the hall? Nay. 'From
Slattern to Show-girl,' that's my gamut. But you, Taff, I've never seen
you look really plain. It's partly your curls. You've got the sort of
hair some boys have and all women envy. Come here, now, and let's
arrange you. I've already been attending to your frock."

The frock which Gwenna was to wear that evening at the dinner-party was
one which she had bought, without advice, out of an Oxford Street shop
window during a summer sale. It was of satin of which the dead-white
gleam was softened by a misty over-dress. So far, so good; but what of
the heavy, expensive-looking garniture--sash, knots, and what-nots of
lurid colour--with which the French artist's conception had been
"brightened up" in this English version?

"Ripped off," explained Leslie Long, firmly, as its owner gazed in
horror at a mutilated gown. "No cerise--it's a 'married' colour--No
mural decorations for you, Taffy, my child. '_Oh, what a power has white
simplicity._' White, pure white, with these little transparent ruffles
that kind Leslie has sewn into the sleeves and round the fichu
arrangement for you; and a sash of _very_ pale sky-blue."

"Shan't I look like a baby?"

"Yes; the sweetest portrait of one, by Sir Joshua Reynolds."

"Oh! And I'd bought a cerise and _diamanté_ hair-ornament."

"Quite imposs. A hair-ornament? One of the housemaids will love it for
her next tango tea in Camden Town. As for you, don't dare to touch your
curls again--no, nor to put anything round your neck! Take away that
bauble!"

"Aren't I even to wear my gold Liberty beads?"

"No! you aren't. Partly because I am, in my hair. Besides, what d'you
want them for, with a throat like that? Necklaces are such a mistake,"
decreed Leslie. "If a girl's got a nice neck, it hides the line; if she
hasn't, it shows the defect up!"

"Well," protested Gwenna doubtfully, "but mightn't you say that of
anything to wear?"

"Precisely. Still, you can't live up to every counsel of perfection. Not
in this climate!"

"You might let me have my thin silver chain, whatever, and my little
heart that my Auntie Margie gave me--in fact, I'm going to. It's a
mascot," said Gwenna, as she hung the little mother-o'-pearl pendant
obstinately about her neck. "There!"

"Very well. Spoil the look of that lovely little dimply hollow you've
got just at the base there if you must. A man," said Gwenna's chum with
a quick, critical glance, "a man would find that very easy to kiss."

"Easy!" said Gwenna, with a quicker blush of anger. "He wouldn't then,
indeed!"

"Oh, my dear, I didn't mean that," explained Leslie as she caught up her
gloves and wrap and prepared to lead the way out of the room and
downstairs to the hall. They would walk as far as the Tube, then book to
South Kensington. "All I meant was, that a man would--- that is,
_might_--er--possibly get the better--ah--of his--say, his natural
repugnance to _trying_----"

A little wistfully, Gwenna volunteered: "One never has."

"I know, Taffy. Not yet," said Leslie Long. "But one will. '_Cheer up,
girls, he is getting on his boots!_' Ready? Come along."



CHAPTER III

THE EYES OF ICARUS


Gwenna, who was always bubbling over with young curiosity about the
fresh _people_ whom she was to meet at a party, had never taken overmuch
interest in the _places_ where the party might be held.

She had not yet reached the age when, for information about new
acquaintances, one glances first at their background.

To her the well-appointed though slightly "Art"-y Smith establishment
where her friend was taking her to dine was merely "a married house."
She took for granted the arrangements thereof. She lumped them all--from
the slim, deferential parlour-maid who ushered them through a
thickly-carpeted corridor with framed French etchings into a spacious
bedroom where the girls removed their wraps, down to the ivory,
bemonogrammed pin-tray and powder-box in front of the big mirror--she
lumped these all together as "things you have when you're _married_."

It never struck her--it never strikes eight out of ten young girls--that
Marriage does not necessarily bring these "things" with their subtle
assurance of ease, security, and dignity in its train. She never thought
about it. Marriage indeed seemed to her a sort of dullish postscript to
what she imagined must be a thrilling letter.

Why _must_ nearly all married people become so stodgy? Gwenna simply
couldn't imagine herself getting stodgy--or fat, like this married
sister of Leslie Long's, who was receiving her guests in the large
upstairs drawing-room into which the two girls were now shown.

This room, golden and creamy, seemed softly aglow. There were standard
lamps with huge amber crinolines, bead-fringed; and flowers--yellow
roses and white lilies--seemed everywhere.

Leslie Long drew one of the lilies out of a Venetian vase and held it
out, like an usher's rod, towards Gwenna as she followed her into the
bright, bewildering room, full of people. She announced, "Maudie, here's
the stop-gap. Taffy Williams, your hostess."

Her hostess was a version of Leslie grown incredibly matronly. Her
auricula-coloured velvet tea-gown looked as if it had been clutched
about her at the last moment. (Which in point of fact it had. Mrs. Smith
was quite an old-fashioned mother.) Yet from her eyes smiled the
indestructible Girl that is embedded in so many a respectable matron,
and she looked down very kindly at Gwenna, the cherub-headed, in her
white frock.

Mr. Smith, who had a large smooth face and a bald head, gave Gwenna a
less cordial glance. Had the truth been known, he was sulking over the
non-appearance of the intelligent young woman (from the Poets' Club)
whose place was taken by this vacuous-looking flapper (his summing-up
of Miss Gwenna Williams). For Gwenna this bald and wedded patriarch of
forty-five scarcely existed. She glanced, nervous and fluttered and
interested, towards the group of other guests gathered about the nearer
of the two flower-filled fireplaces; a pretty woman in rose-colour and
two men of thirty or thereabouts, one of whom (rather stout, with an
eye-glass, a black stock-tie, and a lock of brown hair brought down
beside his ear like a tiny side-whisker) made straight for Leslie Long.

"Now _don't_ attempt to pretend we haven't met," Gwenna heard him say in
a voice of flirtatious yearning. "Last time you cut my dance----"

Here the maid announced, from the door, some name.... Gwenna, standing
shyly, as if on the brink of the party, heard the hostess saying: "We
hardly hoped you'd come ... we know you people always are besieged by
invitations----"

"Dear me! All these people seem dreat-fully grand," thought the Welsh
girl hastily to herself. "I wonder if it wouldn't have been better, now,
if Leslie had left that cerise velvet trimming as it was on my dress?"

Instinctively she glanced about for the nearest mirror. There was a big
oval gilt-framed one over the yellow brocaded Empire couch near which
Gwenna stood. Her rather bewildered brown eyes strayed from the stranger
faces about her to the reflection of the face and figure that she best
knew. In the oval of gilded leaves she beheld herself framed. She looked
small and very young with her cherub's curls and her soft babyish
white gown and that heaven-coloured sash. But she looked pretty. She
hoped she did....

Then suddenly in that mirror she caught sight of another face, a face
she saw for the first time.


She beheld, looking over her white-mirrored shoulder, the reflection of
a young man. Clear-featured, sunburnt but blonde, he carried his fair
head tilted a little backward, and his eyes--strange eyes!--were looking
straight into hers. They were clear and blue and space-daring eyes, with
something about them that Gwenna, not recognising, would have summed up
vaguely as "like a sailor's." ... They were eyes that seemed to have
borrowed light and colour from long scanning of far horizons. And now
all that keenness of theirs was turned, like a searchlight, to gaze into
the wondering, receptive glance of a girl....

Who was this?

Before Gwenna turned to face this stranger who had followed their
hostess up to her, his gaze seemed to hold hers, as a hand might have
held her own, for longer than a minute....


Afterwards she told herself that it seemed, not a minute, but an age
before that first look was loosed, before she had turned round to her
hostess's, "I want to introduce Mr.----"

(Something or other. She did not catch the name.)

"_He's_ nice!" was the young girl's pristine and uncoloured first
impression.

Then she thought, "Oh, if it's this one who's going to take me in to
dinner, I _am_ glad!"

It was he who was to take her in.

For Mr. Smith took the pretty lady whose name, as far as Gwenna was
concerned, remained "Mrs. Rose-colour." Her husband, a neutral-tinted
being, went in with Mrs. Smith. The man with the side-whisker (who, if
he'd been thinner, certainly might have looked rather like the portrait
of Chopin) laughed and chattered to Leslie as they went downstairs
together. Gwenna, falling to the lot of the blue-eyed young man as a
dinner-partner, altered her mind about her "gladness" almost before she
came to her third spoonful of clear soup.

For it seemed as if this young man whose name she hadn't caught were not
really "nice" after all! That is, of course, he wasn't "_not_ nice." But
he seemed stupid! Nothing in him! Nothing to say! Or else very
absent-minded, which is just as bad as far as the other people at a
party are concerned. Or worse, because it's rude.

Gwenna, taking in every detail of the pretty round table and the lights
under the enormous parasol of a pink shade, approving the banked
flowers, the silver, the glass, those delicious-looking chocolates in
the filigree dishes, the tiny "Steinlen-kitten" menu-holders, Gwenna,
dazed yet stimulated by the soft glitter in her eyes, the subdued buzz
of talk in her ears, stole a glance at Leslie (who was looking her best
and probably behaving her worst) and felt that every prospect was
pleasing--except that of spending all this time beside that silent,
stodgy young man.

"Perhaps he thinks it's me that's too silly to talk to. I knew Leslie'd
made me look too young with this sash! Yes! _indeed_ I look like some
advertisement for Baby's Outfitting Department," thought Gwenna, vexed.
"Or is it because he's the kind of young man that just sits and eats and
never really sees or thinks about anything at all?"

Now, had she known it at the time, the thoughts of the blonde and
blue-eyed youth beside her were, with certain modifications, something
on these lines.

"Dash that stud! Dash the thing. This pin's going into the back of my
neck directly. I know it is. That beastly stud must have gone through a
crack in the boards.... I shall buy a bushel of 'em to-morrow. Why a
man's such a fool as to depend upon one stud.... I know this pin's going
into the back of my neck when I'm not thinking about it. I shall squawk
blue murder and terrify 'em into fits.... What have we here?" (with a
glance from those waking eyes at the menu). "Good. Smiths always do
themselves thundering well.... Now, who are all these frocks? The Pink
'Un. That's a Mrs.... Damsel in the bright yellow lampshade affair
about six foot high, that old Hugo's giving the glad eye to. Old
Hugo weighs about a stone and a half too much. Does _him_self
a lot _too_ well. Revolting sight. I wonder if I can work the
blood-is-thicker-than-water touch on him for a fiver afterwards?...
This little girl I've got to talk to, this little thing with the neck
and the curly hair. Pretty. _Very_ pretty. Knocks the shine out of the
others. I know if I turn my head to speak to her, though, that dashed
pin will cut adrift and run into the back of my neck. _Dash_ that stud.
Here goes, though----"

And, stiffly and cautiously moving his head in a piece with his
shoulders, he turned, remarking at last to Gwenna in a voice that,
though deep-toned and boyish, was almost womanishly gentle, "You don't
live in town, I suppose?"

The girl from that remote Welsh valley straightened her back a little.
"Yes, I do live in town, indeed!" she returned a trifle defensively.
"What made you think I lived in the country?"

"Came up yesterday, I s'pose," the young man told himself as the
soup-plates were whisked away.

Gwenna suspected a twinkle in those unusual blue eyes as he said next,
"_Haven't_ you lived in Wales, though?"

"Well, yes, I have," admitted Gwenna Williams in her soft, quaint
accent, "but how did you know?"

"Oh, I guessed. I've stayed there myself, fishing, one time and
another," her neighbour told her. "Used to go down to a farmhouse there,
sort of place that's all slate slabs, and china dogs, and light-cakes
for tea; ages ago, with my cousin. _That_ cousin," and he gave a little
jerk of his fair head towards the black-stocked, Trelawney-whiskered
young man who was engrossed with Miss Long. "We used to--Ah! _Dash!_"
he broke off suddenly and violently. "It's gone down my back now."

Gwenna, startled, gazed upon this stranger who was so good to look at
and so extremely odd to listen to. Gone down his back? She simply could
not help asking, "What has?"

"That pin," he answered ruefully.

Then he tilted back his fair head and smiled, with deep dimples creasing
his sunburnt cheeks and a flash of even white showing between his
care-free, strongly-modelled lips. And hereupon Gwenna realised that
after all she'd been right. He _was_ "nice." He began to laugh outright,
adding, "You must think me an absolute lunatic: I'd better tell you what
it's all about----"

He took a mouthful of sole and told her, "Fact is, I lost my collar-stud
when I was dressing, the stud for the back of my collar; and I had to
fasten my collar down at the last minute with a pin. It's been getting
on my nerves. Has, really. I've been waiting for it to run into the back
of my neck----"

"So that was why he seemed so absent-minded!" thought Gwenna, feeling
quite disproportionately glad and amused over this trifle. She said, "I
_thought_ you turned as if you'd got a stiff neck! I thought you'd been
sitting in a draught."

He made another puzzling remark.

"Draught, by Jove!" he laughed. "It's always fairly _draughty_ where I
have to sit!"

He went on again to mourn over his collar. "Worse than before, now," he
said. "It's going to hitch up to the back of my head, and I shall have
to keep wiggling my shoulder-blades about as if I'd got St. Vitus's
dance!"

Gwenna felt she would have liked to have taken a tiny safety-pin that
there was hidden away under her sky-blue sash, and to have given it to
him to fasten that collar securely and without danger of pricking.
Leslie, she knew, would have done that. She, Gwenna, would have been too
shy, with a perfect stranger--only, now that he'd broken the ice with
that collar-stud, so to speak, she couldn't feel as if this keen-eyed,
deep-voiced young man were any longer quite a stranger. In her own
dialect, he seemed, now, "so homely, like----"

And over the next course he was talking to her about home, about the
places where he'd fished in Wales.

"There was one topping little trout-stream," he told her in that deep
and gentle voice. "Bubbly as soda-water, green and clear as
bottle-glass. Awfully jolly pools under the shade of the branches. You
look right down and it's all speckly at the bottom, with brown-and-grey
stones and slates and things, under the green water. It's like----"

He was looking straight at her, and suddenly he stopped. He had caught
her eyes, full; as he had caught them before dinner in that mirror. Now
that he was so close to them he saw that they were clear and
browny-green, with speckles of slate-colour. They were not unlike those
pools themselves, by Jove.... Almost as if he had been fishing for
something out of those depths he still looked down, hard into them....
He forgot that he had stopped talking. And then under his own eyes he
saw the little thing begin to colour up; blushing from that sturdy white
throat of hers to the brow where those thick brown cherub's-curls began
to grow. He looked away, hastily. Hastily he said, "It--er--it had a
pretty name, that stream. Quite a pronounceable Welsh name, for once:
The Dulas."

"Oh, dear me! Do _you_ know the Dulas?" cried Gwenna Williams in
delight, forgetting that she had just been feeling acutely conscious and
shy under the fixed stare of a pair of searching blue eyes. "Why! It's
not very far from there that's my home!"

They went on talking--about places. Unconsciously they were leading the
whole table after them; the jerkiness went out of sentences; the pitch
of the talk rose. It was all a buzz to Gwenna; but when, at the joint,
her neighbour turned at last to answer a comment of the rose-coloured
lady on his other hand, she amused herself by seeking to find out what
all the others were talking about.


"I like some of his things very much. Now, his water-colours at the----"
This was Mr. Smith, holding forth about pictures.... There appeared to
be a good deal of it. Ending up with, "And I know for a fact that he
only got two hundred guineas for that; two hundred! Incredible!"

It certainly did seem to Gwenna an incredible amount of money for a
picture, a thing you just hang on a wall and forgot all about. Two
hundred guineas! What couldn't she, Gwenna, do with that! Travel all
over the place for a year! Go flying every week, at Hendon!

"What an experience! What a change it's made in the whole of English
thought!" the pretty, rose-coloured lady was saying earnestly. "We can
never be the same again now. It's set us, as a nation, such an entirely
new and higher standard----"

This was very solemn, Gwenna thought. What was it about?

"I can't imagine, now, how we can have existed for so long without that
point of view," went on Mrs. Rose-colour. "As I say, the first time I
ever saw the Russian Ballet----"

The Russian Ballet--Ah! Gwenna had been with Leslie to see that; she had
thought herself in a fairyland of dazzling colour, and of movement as
wonderful as that of the flying biplanes. It had been a magic world of
enchanted creatures that seemed half-bird, half-flower, who whirled and
leaped, light as blown flame, to strangest music.... Gwenna had been
dazed with delight; but she could not have talked about it as these
people talked. "Mr. Rose-colour," Mr. Smith, and Leslie's whiskered
young man were all joining in together now.

"You won't deny that a trace of the Morbid----"

"But that hint of savagery is really the attraction," Mr. Smith
explained rather pompously. "We over-civilised peoples, who know no
savagery in modern life, who have done with that aspect of evolution, I
suppose we welcome something so----"

"Elemental----"

"Primitive----"

"Brutal?" suggested Mrs. Rose-colour, appreciatively.

"And that infinitude of gesture----" murmured the whiskered man, eating
asparagus.

"Yes, but Isadora----"

"Ah, but Karsavina!"

"You must admit that Nijinski is ultra-romantic----"

"_Define_ Romance!"

"Geltzer----"

"Scheherazade----"

Utterly bewildered by the strange words of the language spoken by half
London in early summer, Nineteen-fourteen, the young girl from the wilds
sought a glimpse of her friend's black-swathed head and vivid, impish
face above the banked flowers of the table-centre. Did Leslie know all
these words? Was she talking? She was laughing flippantly enough;
speaking as nonchalantly.

"Yes, I'm going to the next Chelsea Arts Ball in that all-mauve rig he
wears in the 'Spectre de la Rose.' I am. Watch the effect. 'Oh, Hades,
the Ladies! They'll leave their wooden huts!' _You_ needn't laugh, Mr.
Swayne"--this to the Chopin young man. "_Any_body would be taken in. I
can look quite as much of a man as Nijinski does. In fact, far----"

Here suddenly Gwenna's neighbour leaned forward over the table towards
his hostess and broke in, his deep, gentle voice carrying above the
buzz.

"Mrs. Smith! I say! I beg your pardon," he exclaimed quickly, "but isn't
that a baby crying like anything somewhere?"

This remark of the young man's, and that which followed it, surprised
and puzzled Gwenna even more than his curious remark about draughts. Who
was he? What sort of a young man was this who always sat in draughts and
who could catch the sound of a baby's cry when even its own mother
hadn't heard it through the thick _portière_, the doors, the walls and
that high-pitched buzz of conversation round about the table?

For Mrs. Smith had fled from the table with a murmured word of apology,
and had presently returned just as the ornate fruit-and-jelly mould was
being handed round, and Gwenna heard her saying to Mrs. Rose-colour,
"Yes, it was. He's off again now. He simply won't go down for Nurse--I
always have to rush----"

Gwenna turned to her companion, whose collar was now well up over the
back of his neck. Wondering, she said to him, "_Fancy_ your hearing
that, through all this other noise!"

"Ah, one gets pretty quick at listening to, and placing, noises," he
told her, helping himself to the jelly and shrugging his shoulders and
that collar at the same time. "It's being accustomed to notice any
squeak that oughtn't to be there, you know, in the engines. One gets to
hear the tiniest sound, through anything."

Gwenna, more puzzled than before, turned from that delectable pudding on
her plate, to this strangely interesting young man beside her. She said:
"Are you an engineer?"

"I used to be," he said. "A mechanic, you know, in the shops, before I
got to be a pilot."

"A pilot?" She wondered if he thought it rude of her, if it bothered him
to be asked questions about himself like this, by just a girl? And still
she couldn't help asking yet another question.

She said, "Are you a sailor, then?"

"Me?" he said, as if surprised. "Oh, no----"

And then, quite simply and as if it were nothing, he made what was to
Gwenna an epic announcement.

"I'm an airman," he said.

She gasped.

He went on. "Belong to a firm that sends me flying. Taking up passengers
at Hendon, that sort of thing."

"An airman? _Are_ you?" was all that Gwenna could for the moment reply.
"Oh ... _Oh!_"

Perhaps her eyes, widening upon the face above her, were more eloquent
of what she felt.

That it was to her a miracle to find herself actually sitting next to
him! Actually speaking to one of these scarcely credible beings whom she
had watched this afternoon! _An airman_.... There was something about
the very word that seemed mysterious, uncanny. Was it because of its
comparative newness in the speech of man? Perhaps, ages ago, primitive
maids found something as arresting in the term "_A seaman_"? But this
was an airman! It was his part to ride the Winged Victory, the aeroplane
that dared those sapphire heights above the flying-ground. Oh! And she
had been chattering to him about the slate-margined brooks and the ferny
glens of her low-lying valley, just as if he'd been what this ingenuous
maid called to herself "_Any_ young man" who had spent holidays fishing
in Wales? She hadn't known. _That_ was why he had those queer, keen
eyes: blue and reckless, yet measuring.

Not a sailor's, not a soldier's ... but the eyes of Icarus!...

"I--I never heard your name," said Gwenna, a little breathless, timid.
"Which is it, please?"

For reply he dabbed a big, boyish finger down on the slender name-card
among the crumbs of his bread. "Here you are," he said, "Dampier; Paul
Dampier."


So whirling and bewildered was Gwenna's mind by this time that she
scarcely wondered over the added surprise. This, she just realised, was
the name she had first heard bellowed aloud through the megaphone from
the judges' stand. She hardly remembered then that a photograph of this
same aviator was tossed in among her wash-leather gloves, velvet
hair-bands, and her handkerchief-sachet in the top right-hand drawer of
her dressing-table at the Club. Certainly she did not remember at this
minute what she had said, laughing, over that portrait, to her two
friends on the flying-ground.

There, she had admired the machine; that un-Antæus-like thing that was
not itself until it had shaken off the fetters of Earth from its skids
and wheels. Here, she marvelled over the man; _for he was part of it_.
He was its skill and its will. He was the planner of those curves and
bankings and soarings, those vol-planés that had left, as it were,
their lovely lines visible in the air. His Icarian mind had
determined--his large but supple body had executed them.

A girl could understand that, without understanding how it was all done.
Those big, boyish hands of his, of course, would grasp certain
mechanisms; his feet, too, would be busy; his knees--every inch of his
lithe length and breadth--every muscle of him; yes! even to the tiny
muscles that moved his wonderful eyes.

"I saw you, then," she told him, in a dazed little voice. "I was at
Hendon this afternoon! It was the first time in my life...."

"Really?" he said. "What did you think of it all?"

"Oh, splendid!" she said, ardently, though vaguely.

How she longed to be able to talk quickly and easily to anybody, as
Leslie could! How stupid he--the Airman--must think her! A little
shakily she forced herself to go on: "I did think it so wonderful, but I
can't explain, like. Ever. I _never_ can. But----"

Perhaps, again, she was explaining better than she knew, with that
small, eager face raised to his.

"Oh!" she begged. "Do _tell_ me about it!"

He laughed. "Tell you what? Isn't much to tell."

"Oh, yes, there must be! You tell me," she urged softly, unconscious
that her very tone was pure and concentrated flattery. "Do!"

And with another short, deprecating laugh, another shrug to his collar,
the boy began to "tell" her things, though the girl did not pretend to
understand. She listened to that voice, strong and deep, but womanishly
gentle. She forgot that by rights she ought to pay some attention to her
neighbour, the imitation Chopin. She listened to this other.

Words like "_controls_," "_pockets_," "_yawing_," went in at one of the
ears under her brown curls and out at the other, leaving nothing but a
quivering atmosphere of "the wonderfulness" of it all. Presently she saw
those hands of his, big, sensitive, clever, arranging forks and spoons
upon the sheeny tablecloth before her.

"Imagine that's your machine," he said. "Now you see there are three
possible movements. _This_"--he tilted a dessert-knife from side to
side--"_and this_"--he dipped it--"_and this_, which is yawing--you
understand?"

"No!" she confessed, with the quickest little gesture. "I couldn't
understand those sort of things. I shouldn't want to. What I really want
to know is--well, about _it_, like!"

"About what?"

"About _flying_!"

He laughed outright again. "But, that _is_ flying!"

She shook her head. "No, not what I mean. That's all--machinery!" She
pronounced the word "machinery" with something almost like disdain. He
looked at her as if puzzled.

"Sorry you aren't interested in machinery," he said quite reprovingly,
"because, you know, that's just what I _am_ interested in. I'm up to my
eyes in it just now, pretty well every minute that I can spare. In fact
I've got a machine--only the drawings for it, of course, but----"

"Do you mean you've _invented_ one?"

"Oh, I don't know about 'invent.' Call it an improvement. It should be
about as different from the lumbering concern you saw me go up in to-day
as that's different from--say from one of those old Cambrian Railway
steam engines," he declared exultantly. "It's----"

Here, he plunged into another vortex of mysterious jargon about
"automatic stability," about "skin friction," and a hundred other
matters that left the listening girl as giddy as a flight itself might
have done.

What she did understand from all this was that here, after all, in the
Machine, must be the secret of all the magic. This was what interested
the Man. An inventor, too, he talked as if he loved to talk of it--even
to her; his steel-blue eyes holding her own. Perhaps he didn't even see
her, she thought; perhaps he scarcely remembered there was a girl there,
leaving strawberries and cream untasted on an apple-green plate,
listening with all her ears, with all of _herself_--as he, with all of
himself, guided a machine. Ah, he talked of a just-invented machine as
in the same tone Gwenna had heard young mothers talk of their new-born
babies.

This was what he lived for!

"Yes," concluded the enthusiast with a long sigh, "if I could get that
completed, and upon the market----"

"Well?" Gwenna took up softly; ignorant, but following his every change
of tone. "Why can't you?"

"Why not? For the usual reason that people who are keen to get things
done can't do 'em," the boy said ruefully, watching that responsive
shadow cloud her face as he told her. "It's a question of the dashed
money."

"Oh!" said the girl more softly still. "I see."

So he, too, even he knew what it was to find that fettering want of
guineas clog a soaring impulse? What a _shame_, she thought....

He thought (as many another young man with a Subject has thought of
some rapt and girlish listener!) that the little thing was jolly
intelligent, _for_ a girl, more so than you were supposed to expect of
such a pretty face---- Pretty? Come to look at her she was quite lovely.
Made that baggage in the yellow dress and the Mrs. in the Pink look like
a couple of half-artificial florists' blooms by the side of a
lily-of-the-valley freshly-plucked from some country garden, sappy and
sturdy, and sweet. And her skin was like the bit of mother-of-pearl she
was wearing as a heart-shaped locket.

Quite suddenly he said to her: "Look here! Should you care to go up?"

Gwenna gasped.

The whole room, the bright table and the chattering guests seemed now to
whirl about her in a circle of shiny mist--as that aeroplane propeller
had whirled.... Care to go up? "_Care!_" Would she? Would she _not_?

"Oh----" she began.

But this throbbing moment was the moment chosen by her hostess to glance
smilingly at Mrs. Rose-colour and to rise, marshalling the women from
the room.



CHAPTER IV

THE SONG OF ALL THE AGES


"Now isn't life _extraordinary_?" thought Gwenna Williams, incoherently
in the drawing-room as she sat on the yellow Empire sofa under the
mirror, holding a tiny coffee-cup and answering the small-talk of kindly
Mrs. Smith. "Fancy, before this afternoon I'd never seen any flying! And
now on the very same evening I'm asked to go flying myself! Me! Just
like that girl who was with him in the race! (I wonder is she a great
friend of his.) I wonder when he'll take me? Will he come and settle
about it--oh, I do hope so!--before we all have to go away?"

But there was no chance of "settling" this for some time after the door
opened to a little commotion of bass laughter, a trail of cigar-scent,
and the entrance of the man.

Mrs. Rose-colour, with some coquettish remark that Gwenna didn't catch,
summoned the tall airman to the yellow-brocaded pouffe at her feet. Her
husband crossed over to Gwenna (who suddenly discovered that she hated
him) and began talking Welsh folk-songs. Whereupon Hugo Swayne, fondling
his Chopin curl, asked Leslie, who towered above him near the piano, if
she were going to sing.

"I'm in such a mood," he told her, "to listen to something rawly and
entirely modern!"

"You shall, then," agreed Miss Long, suddenly demure. "D'you know
the--er--_Skizzen Macabres_, those deliciously perverse little things of
Wedekind's? They've been quite well translated.... Righto, my dear"--in
answer to a nervous glance from her sister, "I'll only sing the
_primmer_ verses. The music is by that wonderful new Hungarian
person--er--Sjambok."

Her tall golden figure reflected itself in the ebony mirror of the piano
as Leslie, with a malicious gleam in the tail of her eye, sat down.

"I shan't sing for _him_, all the same," she thought. "I shall sing for
Taffy and that Air-boy. I bet I can hit on something that _they'll_ both
like.... Yes...."

And she struck the first chords of her accompaniment.

And what was it, this "crudely modern" song that Leslie had chosen for
the sake of the two youngest people present at that party?

There is a quintette of banjo-players and harpists who are sometimes
"on" at the Coliseum in London, but who are more often touring our
Colonies from Capetown to Salter, Sask. And wherever they may go, it
seems, they bring down the house with that same song. For, to the hearts
of exiled and homesick and middle-aged toilers that simple tune means
England, Home and Beauty still. They waltzed to it, long ago in the
Nineteenth Century. They "turned over" for some pretty girl who
"practised" it. So, when they hear it, they encore it still, with a lump
in their throats....

It was the last verse of this song that drifted in Leslie's deep
contralto, across this more enlightened drawing-room audience of
Nineteen-fourteen. Softly the crooning, simply phrased melody stole out:

  "_Even to-day we hear Love's song of yore!
  Low in our hearts it rings for evermore.
  Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
  Still we can hear it at the close of day!_"

--"and it's at least as pleasant as any of their beastly 'artistic'
music," thought Leslie, rebelliously, as she sang:

  "_Still to the end_," (chord) "_while Life's dim shadows fall,
  Love will be found the sweetest song of all_!"

She ended in a ripple of arpeggios, triumphantly, for she had glanced at
the two youngest people in the room. Little Gwenna's eyes were full of
the facile tears of her race; and the Dampier boy's face was grave with
enjoyment. Alas, for the musical taste of these two! They _had_ liked
the old song....

The enlightened others were puzzled for a moment. _What_ was that
thing----?

Mr. Swayne explained languidly. "Priceless old ditty entitled 'Love's
Old Sweet Song.' A favourite of the dear late Queen's, long before any
of US were thought of. Miss Long has been trying to pull our legs with
it!"

"Oh, Leslie, dear, you are so amusing always," said Mrs. Rose-colour,
turning with her little superior smile to the singer. "But won't you
sing something _really_?"

Leslie's quick black eyes caught a glance of half-conscious,
half-inarticulate sympathy that was passing between the youngest girl in
the room and the man who had taken her in to dinner. It was as if they'd
said, together, "I wish she'd sing again. I wish she'd sing something
like _that_ again...."

They were alone in their wish!

For now Mrs. Smith sat down and played something. Something very
long....

And still what Gwenna longed to happen did not happen. In spite of that
glance of sympathy just now, it did not happen.

The Airman, sitting there on that brocaded _pouffe_, his long legs
stretched out over the soft putty-coloured carpet, did _not_ come up to
her to speak again of that so miraculously proffered flight in his
aeroplane. He went on being talked to by Mrs. Rose-colour.

And when that pretty lady and her husband rose to go, the young girl in
her corner had a very blank and tense moment. For she heard those people
offer to take Mr. Dampier with them and drop him at his rooms. Oh, that
would mean that she, Gwenna, wouldn't have another word with him! He'd
go! And his invitation had been unanswered!

"Care to go up?" he'd said--and Gwenna hadn't even had time to tell him
"Yes!"

Ah, it would have been too good to be true!----

Very likely he'd forgotten what he'd said at, dinner....

He hadn't meant it....

He'd thought she'd meant "No."

He was going now----

But no. To her unspeakable relief she heard his deep "Thanks awfully,
but I'm going on with Hugo presently. Taking him to meet some people at
the Aero Club."


Now, just imagine that! thought the country girl. Here it was already
half-past ten at night; but he was going on to meet some more people
somewhere else. This wonderful party, which had marked an epoch in her
life, was nothing to him; it was just the beginning of the evening. And,
after days in the skies, all his evenings were like this! Hadn't Mrs.
Smith said when he came in, "We know you are besieged with invitations?"
Oh, the inconceivably interesting life that was his! Why, why was Gwenna
nothing but a girl, a creature who, even nowadays, had to stay within
the circumscribed limits where she was put, who could not see or be or
do _anything_, really! Might as well be born a _tortoise_....

Here the voice of Mr. Hugo Swayne (to which she'd paid scant attention
so far) said something about taking Miss Long and her friend up to
Hampstead first, and that Paul could come along.

Gwenna, enraptured, discovered that this meant in his, Mr. Swayne's,
car. The four of them were to motor up to her and Leslie's Club
together. All that lovely long drive?

But though "lovely," that journey back to Hampstead, speeding through
the broad, uncrowded streets that the lights showed smooth and polished
as a ballroom floor, with the giant shadows of plane-tree leaves
a-dance upon the pavement--that journey was unbelievably, relentlessly
short.

Mr. Swayne seemed to tear along! He was driving, with Leslie, gay and
talkative and teasing, beside him in front. The younger girl sat behind
with his cousin. The Airman was hatless; and he wore a light loose
overcoat of which the big sleeve brushed the black satin of Gwenna's
wrap.

"Warm enough?" he asked, gently, and (as carefully as if she'd been some
old invalid, she thought) he tucked a rug about her. Eagerly Gwenna
longed for him to return to that absorbing question he'd put to her at
the dinner-table. But there seemed scarcely time to say a single word
before, with a jarring of brakes, the car drew up in the slanting road
before the big square block of the Club. The arc-lights blazed into the
depths of the tall chestnut-trees beside the street, while the four
young people stood for a moment clustered together on the asphalt walk
before the glass-porch.

"All over now," thought Gwenna with quite a ridiculously sharp little
pang as good-nights and good-byes were said.

Oh! Wasn't he going to say anything else? About the flying? _She_
couldn't!

He was holding her hand (for good-night) while Mr. Swayne still laughed
with Leslie.

"Look here," the Airman said abruptly. "About that flying----"

"Yes! Oh, yes!" Gwenna returned in a breathless little flurry. There
mustn't be any _mistake_ about what she wished. She looked up into his
holding eyes once more, and said quiveringly, "I would so love it!"

"You would. Right," he said, and seemed to have forgotten that they had
shaken hands, and that he had not yet loosed her fingers from his large
and hearty grip. He shook hands again. "Then I'll come round And fix it
up----"

And the next instant, it seemed, he was whirled away from her again,
this Stranger who had dropped into the middle of her life as it were
from the skies which were his hunting-ground. There was the noise of a
retreating car droning down the hill (not unlike the receding drone of a
biplane in full flight), then the grating of a key in the lock of the
Club door....

Gwenna sighed. Then she went upstairs, humming softly, without knowing
what the tune was, Leslie's song:

  "_Once in the dear, dead days beyond recall----_"

Leslie followed her into her room where she turned up the gas.

"I'll undo you, Taffy, shall I?... Enjoyed yourself rather, after all,
didn't you?" said the elder girl, adding quickly, "What's the matter?"

For Gwenna before the glass stood with a dismayed look upon her face.
Her hand was up to her round white throat, touching the dimpled hollow
where there had rested--where there rested no longer--that
mother-of-pearl pendant.

"It's gone," she exclaimed ruefully.

"What has, child? What have you dropped?"

Gwenna, still with her hand at her throat, explained, "I've lost my
heart".



CHAPTER V

THE WORKADAY WORLD


The day after the dinner-party was spent by Gwenna metaphorically, at
least, in the clouds.

By her vivid day-dreams she was carried off, as Ganymede was carried by
the eagle, sky-high; she felt the rush of keen air on her face; she saw
the khaki-green flying-ground beneath her with the clustered onlookers,
as small as ants. And--thus she imagined it--she heard that megaphone
announcement:

     "Ladies  and  gentul  MEN!  Mis  ter  Paul  Dampier  on
     a  Maurice  Farman  bi  plane  ac  companied  by  Miss
     Williams!"

with the sound of it dying down, faintly, below her.


Then in her musing mind she went over and over what had already
happened. Those throbbing moments when her new friend had said, "Look
here! Would you care to come up?" and, "Then I'll come up here and fix
it----"

Would he? Oh, when would he? It was of course hardly to be thought that
this flying-man ("besieged with invitations" as he was) would come to
ratify his offer on Sunday, the very day after he'd made it. Too much
to expect....

Therefore that Sunday Gwenna Williams refused to go out, even on the
Heath for the shortest loitering stroll. Leslie Long, with an
indescribable look that the younger girl did not catch, went out without
her. Gwenna stayed on the green bench in the small, leafy garden at the
back of the Club, reading and listening, listening for the sound of the
bell at the front door, or for the summons to the telephone.

None came, of course.


Also, of course, no note to make an appointment to go flying appeared at
that long, crowded breakfast-table of the Club on Monday morning for
Miss Gwenna Williams.

That, too, she could hardly have expected.

Quite possibly he'd forgotten that the appointment had ever been made. A
young man of that sort had got so many things to think about. So many
people to make appointments with. So many other girls to take up.

"I wonder if he's promised to go up again soon with that girl called
Muriel," she thought. "Sure to know millions of girls----"

And it was in a very chastened mood of reaction that Gwenna Williams,
typist--now dressed in the business-girl's uniform of serge costume,
light blouse, and small hat--left her Club that morning. She walked down
the sunny morning road to the stopping-place of the motor-omnibuses and
got on to a big scarlet "24" bus, bound for Charing Cross and her day's
work.

The place where she worked was a huge new building in process of
construction on the south side of the Embankment near Westminster
Bridge.

Above the slowly sliding tides of the river, with its barges and boats,
there towered several courses of granite blocks, clean as a
freshly-split kernel. In contrast to them were the half demolished,
dingy shells of houses on either side, where the varied squares of
wallpaper and the rusting, floorless fireplaces showed where one room
had ended and the next begun. The scaffolding rose above the new pile
like a mighty web. Above this again the enormous triangular lattice rose
so high that it seemed like a length of ironwork lace stretched out on
two crochet-needles against the blue-grey and hot vault of the London
sky.

As she passed the entrance Gwenna's eyes rose to this lattice.

"It looks almost as high up in the air as one could fly in that
biplane," she thought. "Oh, to be right _up_! Looking down on
everything, with the blue _beneath one_ instead of only above!"

She crossed the big yard, which was already vocal with the noises of
chipping and hammering, the trampling and the voices of men. Two of
them--the genial young electrician called Grant and the Yorkshire
foreman who was a regular father to his gang, nodded good-morning to
the youngest typist as she passed. She walked quickly past the stacks of
new timber and the gantries and travelling cranes (plenty of machinery
here; it ought to please Mr. Dampier, since he'd said that was what he
was interested in!). One great square of the hewn granite was swinging
in mid-air from a crane as she left the hot sunlight and noise outside
and entered the door of the square, corrugated iron building that held
the office where she worked.

To reach it she had to pass through the clerk-of-the-works' offices,
with long drawing-benches with brass handled drawers beneath, full of
plans, and elevations. These details seemed mysteriously, tantalisingly
incomprehensible and yet irritating to Gwenna's feminine mind. She was
imaginative enough to realise that all these details, these
"man's-things," from the T-squares on the benches to the immense iron
safe in the corner, seemed to put her, Gwenna, "in her place." She was
merely another detail in the big whole of man's work that was going on
here. The place made her feel tiny, unimportant. She went on to the
light and airy room, smelling of new wood and tracing-paper, the
extension of the clerk-of-the-works' office that she shared with her two
colleagues.

In the centre of this room there was a large square table with a
telephone, a telephone-book, various other books of reference and a
shallow wicker basket for letters. Besides this there were the typing
tables for each of the three girl-clerks. Gwenna's and Miss Baker's
were side by side. The German girl sat nearest to the window that gave
the view up the river, with Lambeth Bridge and the Houses of Parliament
looming grey and stately against the smiling June sky, and a distant
glimpse of Westminster Abbey. On the frame of the pane just above her
Miss Baker had fastened, with drawing-pins, two photographs. One was a
crude coloured postcard of a red-roofed village among pine-forests. The
other was a portrait of a young man, moustached and smiling under a
spiked German helmet; across this photograph ran the autograph, "_Karl
Becker_." Thus the blue and guileless eyes of this young foreigner in
our midst could rest upon mementoes of her Fatherland and her family any
time she raised her blonde head from bending over her work. Both girls
looked up this morning as Gwenna, the last arrival, came in. They
scolded her good-naturedly because she'd brought none of those
chocolates she'd promised from the dinner-table. They asked how she'd
enjoyed herself at that party.

It would have been presumably natural to the young Welsh girl to have
broken out into a bubblingly excited--"And, girls! _Who_ d'you suppose I
sat next. A real live airman! _And_, my dears!" (with a rapturous gasp),
"who should it be but the one I bought the photo of on Saturday! You
know; the one you called my young man--Mr. Dampier--Paul Dampier--Yes,
but wait; that isn't all. Just fancy! He talked to me yards and yards
about his new aeroplane, and I say, _what_ do you think! This was the
best. He's asked me to come up one day--yes, indeed! He's going to take
me flying--with him!"

But, as it was, Gwenna said not one word of all this. She could not have
explained why, even to herself. Only she replied to Miss Butcher's,
"What was the party like?" with a flavourless, "Oh, it was all right,
thanks."

That sounded _so_ English, she thought!


She had a dull day at the office. Dry-as-dust letters and
specifications, builders' quantities, and so on, to type out. Tiresome
calls on the telephone that had to be put through to the other
office....

Never before had she seemed to mind the monotony of those clicking keys
and that "_I'll inquire. Hold the line, please._" Never before had she
found herself irritated by the constant procession of men who were in
and out all day; including Mr. Grant, who sometimes seemed to _make_
errands to talk to Miss Butcher, but who never stayed for more than a
moment, concluding invariably with the cheerful remark, "Well! Duty
calls, I must away." Men seemed actually to _enjoy_ "duty," Gwenna
thought. At least the men here did. All of them, from Mr. Henderson in
the other office to the brown-faced men in the yard with their
shirt-sleeves rolled up above tattooed arms, seemed to be "keen" on the
building, on the job in hand. They seemed glad to be together. Gwenna
wondered how they could....

To-day she was all out of tune. She was quite cross when, for the
second time, Albert, the seventeen-year old Cockney office-boy, bustled
in, stamping a little louder than was strictly necessary on the echoing
boards. He rubbed his hands together importantly, demanding in a voice
that began in a bass roar and ended in a treble squeak, "Those
specifications, miss. Quick, too, or you'll hear about it!"

"Goodness _me_, what an ugly way you London boys do have of talking!"
retorted the Welsh girl pettishly. "_Sut_-ch an accent!"

The rebuked Albert only snorted with laughter as he took her sheaf of
papers. Then, looking back over his shoulder at the pretty typist
perched on the edge of the centre table to refill her fountain pen, he
added in his breaking treble, "Don't you sit on that tyble, Miss!
_Sittin' on the tyble's s'posed to mean you want to be kissed_, and it
looks so bad! Don't it, Miss Butcher? There's other ways of gittin' orf
than that, isn't there?"

"Outside!" snapped Miss Butcher, blushing, as the boy stumped away.

Gwenna sighed angrily and longed for lunch-time, so that she could get
out.


At one o'clock, an hour after the buzzer had sounded for the mid-day
meal of the yard-men, the other two girls in the office would not even
come out for a breath of air. They had brought fruit and cake. They made
Bovril (with a kettle of hot water begged from the fatherly foreman) and
lunched where they'd sat all the morning. Miss Butcher, munching, was
deep in a library-book lent to her by the young electrician. Miss Baker
counted stitches in a new pattern for a crochet-work _Kante_, or length
of fine thread insertion. It was not unlike the pattern of the iron
trellis above the scaffolding, that tapered black against the sky; man's
fancy-work.

What hideously tame things women had to fill their lives with, Gwenna
thought as she sat in the upper window of her tea-shop at the corner of
the Embankment. She watched the luncheon-time crowd walking over
Westminster Bridge. So many of these people were business-girls just
like herself and the Butcher and the Baker! Would anything more amusing
ever happen to them, or to her?

But that German girl, Gwenna thought, would stare to hear her work
called "hideous" or "tame." It was her greatest interest. Already, she'd
told Gwenna, her bottom drawer at her boarding-house was crammed with
long, rolled-up crochet-work strips of white or creamy lace. There were
also her piles of tray-cloths, petticoat flounces and chemise-tops, all
hand-embroidered and bemonogrammed by Miss Baker herself. She was not
engaged to be married, but, as she'd artlessly said, "_Something_ a
young girl can have always ready."

Day-dreams in crochet!

"I'd rather never fall in love than have it all spoilt by mixing it up
with such a lot of sewing and cookery that it wouldn't get disentangled,
like," thought the dreamy, impatient Gwenna. She returned, to find the
German girl measuring her crochet lace against her arm and crying,
"Since Saturday I have made till there." ...

Then Miss Baker turned to her German version of an English trade firm's
letter. Miss Butcher unfastened another packet of stationery. Miss
Williams fetched a number of envelopes from the inner office to be
addressed....

Would the afternoon _never_ come to an end?



CHAPTER VI

THE INVITATION


At last six o'clock found her, released from the day's work and back at
her Club.

But still, still there was no envelope addressed to Miss Gwenna Williams
stuck up in the criss-cross tapes of the green-baize-covered
letter-board in the hall.

She went upstairs rather slowly to take off her hat. On the landing the
voice of Leslie Long called to her from the bathroom.

"Come in here, Taffy. I'm washing blouses. I want to tell you some
news."

Gwenna entered the steamy bathroom, to find her chum's tall figure bent
in two over the bath and up to its bare elbows in suds of Lux.

"I say, child, you know your locket that you lost at my sister's?"
announced Leslie. "It's all right. It's been found."

"Has it?" said Gwenna, not very enthusiastically. "Did I leave it in
Mrs. Smith's room?"

"You didn't. You left it in Hugo Swayne's car," said Leslie, wringing
out the wet handful of transparent net that would presently serve her as
a garment. "That young man came up about half an hour ago to tell you."

"Mr. Swayne did? How kind of him."

"Yes, wasn't it? But not of Mr. Swayne," said Leslie, wringing. "It
was--just let out the water and turn me on some fresh hot, will you?--It
was the other one that came: the aviator boy."

"What?" cried Gwenna sharply. "Mr. Dampier?"

"Yes. Your bird-man. He came up here--in full plumage and song! Nice
grey suit--rather old; brown boots awfully well cleaned--by himself;
blue tie, very expensive Burlington Arcade one--lifted from his cousin
Hugo, I bet," enlarged Leslie, spreading the blouse out over the white
china edge of the bath. "I met him at the gate just as I got back from
my old lady's. He asked for my friend--meaning you. Hadn't grasped your
name. He came in for ten minutes. But he couldn't wait, Taffy, so----"

Here, straightening herself, Leslie suddenly stopped. She stopped at the
sight of the small, blankly dismayed face with which her chum had been
listening to this chatter.

And Gwenna, standing aghast against the frosted glass panes of the
bathroom door, pronounced, in her softest, most agitated Welsh accent,
an everyday Maid's Tragedy in just six words:

"_He came! When I was out!_"

"He was awfully sorry----"

But Gwenna, seeming not to hear her friend, broke out: "He _said_ he'd
come and settle about taking me flying, and there was I _think_-ing he'd
forgotten all about it, and then he did come after all, and I wasn't
here! Oh, _Leslie_!----"

Leslie, sitting on the edge of the bath, gave her a glance that was
serious and whimsical, rueful and tender, all at once.

"Yes, you can't understand," mourned Gwenna, "but I _did_ so want to go
up in an aeroplane for once in my life! I'd set my heart on it, Leslie,
ever since he said about it. It's only now I see how badly I wanted it,"
explained the younger girl, flushed with emotion, and relapsing into her
Welshiest accent, as do all the Welsh in their moments of stress. "And
_now_ I shan't get another chance. I know I shan't----"

And such was the impetus of her grief that Leslie could hardly get her
to listen to the rest of the news that should be balm for this wound of
disappointment; namely, that Mr. Dampier was going to make an
appointment with both girls to come and have tea with him at his rooms,
either on Saturday or Sunday.

"He'll write to you," concluded Leslie Long, "and let you know which. I
said we'd go either day, Taffy."

Gwenna, caught up into delight again from the lowest depths of
disappointment, could hardly trust herself to speak. Surely Leslie must
think her a most _awful_ baby, nearly crying because she'd had an outing
postponed! So the young girl (laughing a little shakily) put up quite
a plucky fight to treat it all as quite a trifle....

Even the next morning at breakfast she took it quite casually that there
was a note upon her plate stamped with the address of the Aero Club. She
even waited a moment before she opened it and read in a handwriting as
small as if it had been traced by a crow-quill:

                                                        "Monday night.

     "DEAR MISS WILLIAMS,

     "Will you and Miss Long come to tea with me at my place about 4.30
     on Sunday? I find I shall not have to go to Hendon on that day.
     I'll come and call for you if I may.

                                          "Yours sincerely,
                                                         "P. DAMPIER."

"At last!" thought Gwenna to herself, rather breathlessly, as she put
the note back into the envelope. "Now he'll settle about when I'm to go
flying with him. Oh! I do, _do_ hope there's nothing going to get in the
way of that!"



CHAPTER VII

A BACHELOR'S TEA-PARTY


The first of a series of "things that got in the way" of Gwenna's making
an appointment to go flying occurred on that Sunday afternoon, when
Leslie and she were to have tea at Paul Dampier's place.


"A mixture of chaos and comfy chairs, I expect; ash everywhere, and
_beastly_ cakes. (I know these bachelor tea-parties.) That," Leslie
said, "is what his 'place' will be like."

Gwenna, as usual, hadn't wasted any thoughts over this. She had been too
full of what their host himself would say and do--about the flying. She
was all ready, in the white dress, the white hat with the wings, half an
hour after Sunday mid-day dinner at the Ladies' Club. But it was very
nearly half-past four by the time Mr. Dampier did come, as he had
promised, to fetch the two girls.

He came in the car that had driven them back on the night of the
dinner-party.

And he was hurried, and apologetic for his lateness. He even seemed a
little shy. This had the effect of making Gwenna feel quite
self-possessed as she took the seat beside him ("I hate sitting by the
driver, really. Makes me _so_ nervous!" Leslie had declared) and
inquired whether he borrowed his cousin's car any time he had visitors.

"Well, but Hugo's _got_ everything," he told her, with a twinkle, "so I
always borrow anything of his that I can collar!"

"Studs, too?" asked Gwenna, quickly.

"Oh, come! I didn't think it of you. _What_ a pun!" he retorted.

She coloured a little, shy again, hurt. But he turned his head to look
at her, confided to her: "It was _on_ the chest-of-drawers, all the
time!"

And, as the car whizzed westwards, they laughed together. That
dinner-table incident of the collar--or collared--stud brought, for the
second time, a sudden homely glow of friendly feeling between this boy
and girl.

She thought, "He's just as easy to get on with as if he were another
girl, like Leslie----"

For always, at the beginning of things, the very young woman compares
her first man-friend with the dearest girl-chum she has known.

--"Or as if he were just nobody, instead of being so wonder-ful, and an
airman, good gracious!"

Appropriately enough for an airman, his place seemed to be nearly on the
house-tops of a block of buildings near Victoria Street.

The lift carried them up past six landings and many boards inscribed
with names of firms. It stopped at the seventh story, almost directly
opposite a cream-coloured door with a small, old-fashioned brass
knocker, polished like gold.

Paul Dampier tapped sharply at it.

The door was opened by a thick-set man in an excellent suit of clothes
and with the face of a wooden sphinx.

"Tea as soon as you can, Johnson," said the young Airman over his
shoulder, as the trio passed in.

The long sitting-room occupied half the flat and its windows took up the
whole of one side. It was to these open windows that Gwenna turned.

"Oh, what a view!" she cried, looking out, enraptured at the height and
airiness, looking past the leads, with their wooden tubs of standard
laurel-bushes, among which pigeons were strutting and bridling and
pecking crumbs. She looked down, down, at the bird's-eye view of London,
spread far below her in a map of grey roofs and green tree-tops under a
soft mist of smoke that seemed of the clouds themselves.

"Oh, can't you see for miles!" exclaimed Gwenna. "There's St. Paul's,
looks like a big grey soap-bubble, coming up out of the mist! Oh, you
can see between a crack in the houses, our place at Westminster! It's
like a cottage from here! Oh, and that iron lacey thing on the roof!
Even this must be something like being up in an aeroplane, I should
think! Look, Leslie!"

Miss Long seemed more engrossed in looking round Mr. Dampier's bachelor
sitting-room. It was incredibly luxurious compared to what she'd
expected. The polished floor was black and shiny as the wood of the
piano at the further end, the Persian rugs softly brilliant. In the
middle of the Adams mantelpiece simpered an exquisite Chelsea
shepherdess; to the left and right of her there stood squat toys in
ivory, old slender-stalked champagne-glasses holding sweet-peas. And
upon the leaf-brown walls were decorations that seemed complacently to
draw attention to the catholic taste of their owner. A rare
eighteenth-century print of Tom Jones upon his knees, asking
"forgiveness" of his Sophia, hung just above a Futurist's grimace in
paint; and there was a frieze of ultra-modern French fashion-designs,
framed in _passe-partout_, from the "_Bon Ton_."

"What a--what a surprising number of pictures you have, Mr. Dampier,"
said Leslie, mildly. "Hasn't he, Taffy?"

Gwenna, turning at last from the window, realised dimly that this
sophisticated room did seem somehow out of keeping as an eyrie for this
eagle. The view outside, yes! But these armchairs? And she wouldn't have
thought that he would have bothered to have things _pretty_, like
this----

"And what a lot of books you've got," she said. For the wall opposite to
the windows was taken up by bookshelves, set under a trophy of swords of
out-of-date patterns, and arranged with some thought.

The top shelves held volumes of verse, and of plays, from Beaumont and
Fletcher to Galsworthy. The Russian novelists were ranged together; also
the French. There was a corner for Sudermann and Schnitzler. A shelf
further down came all the English moderns, and below that all the
_Yellow Books_, a long blue line of all the _English Reviews_, from the
beginning; a stack of _The New Age_, and a lurid pink-covered copy of
_Blast_.

But before Gwenna could wonder further over these possessions of this
young man, more incongruous possessions were brought in by the
Sphinx-faced man-servant; a tea-table of beaten copper, a
peasant-embroidered cloth, a tea-service of old Coalport; with a silver
spirit-kettle, with an iced cake, with toast, and wafer,
bread-and-butter and cress-sandwiches and Parisian _petits-fours_ that
all seemed, as the young girl put it simply to herself, "So unlike
_him_!"

Her chum had already guessed the meaning of it all.

The Dampier boy's rooms? _His_ library and ornaments? Ah, no. He'd never
read one of all those books there. Not he! And these were not the type
of "things" he'd buy, even if he'd had the money to throw away, thought
Leslie. It was no surprise to that young woman when the legitimate owner
of this lavishly appointed _garçonnière_ made his sudden appearance in
the middle of tea.


The click of a latchkey outside. Two masculine voices in the hall. Then
the door was thrown open.

There walked in a foreign-looking young man, with bright dark eyes and a
small moustache, followed by Mr. Hugo Swayne, attired in a Victorian
mode that, as Leslie put it afterwards, "cried '_Horse, horse!_' where
there was no horse." His tall bowler was dove-grey; his black stock
allowed a quarter-inch of white collar to appear; below his striking
waistcoat dangled a bunch of seals and a fob. This costume Leslie
recognised as a revival of the Beggarstaff Touch. Gwenna wondered why
this young man seemed always to be in fancy dress. Leslie could have
told her that Mr. Swayne's laziness and vanity had led him to abandon
himself on the coast of Bohemia, where he had not been born. His father
had been quite a distinguished soldier in Egypt. His father's son took
things more easily at the Grafton Gallery and the Café Royal and
Artists' Clubs. He neither painted, wrote, nor composed, but his life
was set largely among flatterers who did these things--after a fashion.

He came in saying, "Now this is where I live when I'm----"

He broke off with a start at the sight of the party within. The girls
turned to him with surprised and smiling greeting.

Paul Dampier, fixing him with those blue eyes, remarked composedly,
"Hullo, my dear chap. Have some tea, won't you? I'll ring for Johnson to
bring in two more cups."

"That will be very nice," said Hugo Swayne, rising to the occasion with
all the more grace because he was backed up by a tiny understanding
glance from Miss Long. And he introduced his young Frenchman by a name
that made Leslie exclaim, "Why! You are that Post-Impressionist painter,
aren't you?"

"Not I, mademoiselle, but my brother," returned Hugo's French friend,
slowly and very politely. His dark face was simple and intelligent as
that of a nice child; he sat up as straight in his chair as he talked.
"It is for that Mr. Swayne, who is admirer of my brother's pictures, is
so amiable for to show me London. Me, I am not artiste. I am ingénieur
only."

"'Only'!" thought Gwenna over her teacup.

Surely any one should be proud of being an engineer, considering that
Mr. Dampier had thus begun _his_ career; he who was now in what the
romantic girl considered the First of All Professions? Perhaps her
attitude towards the Airman as such was noted by the Airman's cousin.
Hugo, who had dropped a little heavily into the softest chair near Miss
Long, turned his Chopinesque profile against a purple cushion to shoot a
rather satirical glance at the cleaner-built youth in the worn grey
suit.

"Now, how like a man! He doesn't admire Taffy particularly, but he's
piqued to see her admire another type." Leslie summed this up quickly to
herself. "Not really a bad sort; he behaved well about the invasion of
these rooms. But he's like all these well-off young men who potter about
antique shops when they ought to be taking exercise--he's plenty of
feminine little ways. Since they call spitefulness 'feminine'!"

There was a distinctly spiteful note in the young man's voice as he made
his next remark to his cousin.

This remark surprised even Leslie for a moment.

And to Gwenna's heart it struck with a sudden, unreasonable shock of
consternation.

For Mr. Swayne inquired blandly across the tea-table:

"Well, Paul; how's your _fiancée_?"



CHAPTER VIII

LAUGHING ODDS


Before he answered, Gwenna had time to think smartingly, "His _fiancée_!
There! I might have _known_ he was engaged. I might have guessed it!
It's nothing to do with me.... Only ... I believe _that's_ what's going
to get in the way of my flying with him. She won't let him. I mean he'll
always be taking her up! And I know who it is, too. It's sure to be the
one called Muriel that I saw go up with him at Hendon with the red hair
and the scarf. I sort of guessed when I heard they were going up
together that she must be his _fiancée_."

And all the while her eyes were, apparently, on the silver stand of the
spirit-kettle, they watched the young Airman's face (which looked a
little sheepish). She listened, tensely, for his reply. Quite shortly
Paul Dampier, still munching cake, said, "Who? Oh! Going on as usual,
thanks."

"Now I may tell you that _that's_ merely a pose to conceal devotion,"
laughed his cousin, turning to Gwenna. "Just as if every moment were not
grudged that he spends away from HER!"

"Is it?" said the young girl with a smile. There was a bad lump in her
throat, but she spoke with her most carefully-fostered "English"
accent. "I--I suppose that's natural!" she remarked.

Hugo, fondling his Chopin curl again, went on amusing himself with this
chosen subject.

"But, as is so often the case with a young man's fancy," he announced,
"nobody else sees anything in 'her'!"

The stricken Gwenna looked quickly at young Dampier, who was cutting the
Titan wedges that men call "slices," of cake. How would _he_ take it
that it had been said of his adored one that no one saw anything in her?

He only gave a short laugh, a confident nod of his fair head and said,
"They will, though."

"Infatuated youth!" commented Hugo Swayne, resignedly, leaning back.
"And he tries to cover it up by seeming casual. '_Going on as usual_' is
said just as a blind. It sounds so much more like a mere wife than a
_fiancée_, don't you think?"

"Ah, but you are cynique, monsieur," protested the young Frenchman,
looking mildly shocked. "For you it is not sacred, the love for a wife?"

"Oh, look here! Hadn't you better explain to them," broke in Paul
Dampier boyishly, having finished a large mouthful of his cake, "that
you're rotting? _Fiancée_, indeed. Haven't got such a thing in the
world, of course."

At this Gwenna suddenly felt as if some crushing weight of
disappointment had fallen from her. "It's because I shall be able to go
flying with him after all," she thought.

Young Dampier, rising to take her cup, grumbled laughingly, "D'you
suppose girls will look at a man nowadays who can't afford to spend the
whole of his time gadding about after 'em, Hugo, as you can, or blowing
what's my salary for an entire year on their engagement-rings----"

"My dear fellow, no girl in the world exacts as much of a man's time and
money as that _grande passion_ of yours does," retorted Hugo Swayne, not
ill-naturedly. And turning to Leslie, he explained: "What I call Paul's
_fiancée_ is that eternal aeroplane he's supposed to be making."

"Ah!" said Gwenna, and then blushed violently; partly because she hadn't
meant to speak, and partly because this had drawn the blue eyes of the
Airman quickly upon herself.

"Yes, that incessant flying-machine of his," enlarged Mr. Swayne,
lolling back in his chair and addressing the meeting. "She--I believe
it's correct to call the thing 'she'?--is more of a nuisance even than
any engaged girl I've ever met. She interferes with everything this man
does. Ask him to come along to a dance or the Opera or to see some
amusing people, and it's always 'Can't; I'm working on the cylinder or
the spiral or the Fourth Dimension' or whatever it is he does think he's
working on. Practically 'she' spends all the time he's away from her
ringing him up, or getting him rung up, on the telephone. 'She' eats all
his spare cash, too----"

"In steel instead of chocolate, I suppose?" smiled Leslie. "And must
she be humoured? She seems to have every drawback of a young woman with
'a diamond half-hoop.' Is she jealous, as well?"

And then, while taking a cigarette from Hugo's case, the elder girl
made, lightly, a suggestion that the listening Gwenna was fated to
remember.

"What would happen," asked Leslie dryly, "if a real flesh-and-blood
_fiancée_ were to come along as a rival to the one of machinery?"

"Nothing would happen," Hugo assured her, holding out a lighted match.
"That's why it would be rather interesting to watch. The complication of
the Aeroplane or the Lady. The struggle in the mind of the young
Inventor, what? The Girl"--he tossed aside the match and glanced
fleetingly at the grave cherub's-face under Gwenna's white-winged
hat--"The Girl versus the Flying Machine. I'd lay fifteen to one on the
Machine, Miss Long."

"Done," said Leslie, demurely but promptly. "In half-crowns."

"Yes! You'd back your sex, of course," Hugo took up gaily. The young
Frenchman murmured: "But the Machine--the Machine is also of the sex of
Mademoiselle."


Here, suddenly, the silently listening Gwenna gave a tiny shiver. She
turned her head abruptly towards the open windows behind her with the
strutting pigeons and the sailing clouds beyond. It had seemed to the
fanciful Celt that there in that too dainty room now hazy with
cigarette-smoke, in that careless company of two girls and three young
men, she had felt the hint of another Presence. It was rather horrid and
ghostly--all this talk of a Machine that was made more of than a Woman!
A Machine who "clawed" the man that owned her, just like a jealous
betrothed who will not let her lover out of her sight! And supposing
that Conflict did come, on which Gwenna's chum and Mr. Dampier's cousin
had laid their laughing bets? The struggle between the sweetheart of
steel springs and the sweetheart of soft flesh and warm blood? For one
clear instant Gwenna knew that this fight would, must come. It was
coming----


Then she turned her head and forgot her presentiments; coming back to
the light-hearted Present. She watched Leslie, to whom the young
Frenchman had been talking; he was now fixing dark earnest eyes upon
"Mademoiselle Langue" as she, in the rather stilted phraseology with
which our nation speaks its own language for the benefit of foreigners,
expounded to him an English story.

There was a short pause.

Then the room rang to the laughter of the foreigner. "Ha! Yes! I have
understood him! It is very amusing, that! It is good!" he cried
delightedly, with a flash of white teeth and dark eyes. "He say, 'There
are parts of it that are excellent!' Aha! _Très spirituel_," and he
laughed again joyously over the story of the Curate's Egg, while Hugo
murmured something about how stimulating it was to hear, for once, the
Immemorial Anecdote fall upon Virgin Soil.

The young Airman moved nearer to Gwenna, who, still watching Leslie,
gave a little start to hear that deep and gentle voice so close beside
her as he spoke.

"Look here, we haven't settled up yet," he said, his voice gentle but
carrying above the chatter of the others. "About that flying. Sunday
this week I have got to be off somewhere. Now, are you free next
Saturday?"

Gwenna, eager and tremulous, was just about to say, "Yes." But Hugo
Swayne interrupted.

"I say, I hate to make mischief. But if you're talking about
Saturday----? D'you remember, Paul? It was the only day I could take you
down to Ascot to see Colonel Conyers."

"Oh, Lord, so it was," said the young Airman, turning an apologetic face
to the girl. "I'm so sorry," he explained, "but this is a man I've
simply got to get hold of if I can. It's the Air-craft Conyers--'Cuckoo'
Conyers they call him. And he was a friend of Hugo's father, and what
I've been trying to see him about is working the War-office to take up
my new Machine----"

"The _Fiancée_ again, you notice," laughed his cousin, with an
imperceptible aside to Leslie. "Score to the Aeroplane."

"Yes, I see," said Gwenna, nodding at the Airman. "Of course! I mean of
course I don't mind!"

"Then shall we say Saturday week for you to come up with me instead?"
suggested young Dampier.

And Gwenna agreed to the date, thinking, "If only nothing stops it
again! If only there isn't something else, then, to do with his Machine!
That Machine! I----" Here she paused.

After all, it would be too ridiculous to allow oneself even to think
that one "_hated_" a machine!



CHAPTER IX

A DAY IN THE COUNTRY


Eagerly as Gwenna longed to fly, she was not to do so even yet.

After that appointment made at Hugo Swayne's rooms she lived through a
fortnight of dreaming, tingling anticipation. Then came another of those
brief direct notes from "_hers, P. Dampier_." The girl jumped for joy.
It was not to be at Hendon this time, but at Brooklands. Was she not
rapidly gaining experiences? First Hendon, then Brooklands; at this rate
she would soon know all the flying-grounds--Shoreham, Eastchurch,
Farnborough, all of them!

"I'll call for you," the note said, "in the car."

"'_The_' car is good," commented Leslie, arranging a mist-blue scarf
over Gwenna's small hat just before she started off on this expedition.
"_In the Army all things are in common, including money and tobacco_ but
the Dampier boy isn't in the Army."

"Why shouldn't he?" took up Gwenna, ungrammatically and defiantly. She
considered Mr. Swayne's motor was honoured by this other young man who
condescended to drive it, to fetch and whirl away with him a girl who
felt herself a nymph about to be swept up and up above the clouds to
some modern version of Elysium.

So twelve o'clock that Saturday morning (Gwenna having obtained special
leave of absence from the office) found the young man and the girl
speeding through Kensington and Hammersmith, on the Woking Road.

The sun was hot above them; the road white; the hedges so dusty that
they seemed grey ribbons streaming past. Gwenna scarcely realised how
they went. She sat there beside him, thrilled and breathless, hardly
knowing to which delight to give herself up, that of the coming flight,
that of the present swift drive in the fresh breeze, or that of the
companionship of this Demigod of Modern Times, whose arm almost touched
hers sometimes as he moved or turned, or put on the brake.

Except for an occasional remark to the car: "Come on, don't be funny,
old lady, don't be funny," or "Now for the hills; watch her sit down and
laugh at 'em!" he spoke little; Gwenna didn't particularly want him to
speak. The girl was in a golden and moving dream, and scarcely knew
where it carried her.


She came out of that dream, not with a shock, but gradually. Was the car
slowing down? It stopped; stopped in a wide part of that dust-white road
between the tall, dust-grey hedges, opposite to a creosoted
telegraph-pole spiked with nails. Through a gap in the hedge Gwenna
caught sight of a moon-daisied field, with a dark hedge and trees
beyond. Not a house, not a cottage in sight. This couldn't be
Brooklands?


"Hul-lo," the boy was muttering. "What's up now?"

"What is it?" she asked.

He did not reply. This was not rudeness, as she guessed, but intentness;
he took it for granted that she would not understand the mechanical
explanation. Resignedly she said to herself, "Machinery gone wrong?
Sometimes it really seems as if that were all machinery ever _did_ do!
Yet that's what he said he was interested in, more than anything!"

He was out of the car and had flung back the bonnet. Then he took off
his coat and hung it up on one of the nails on that telegraph-pole. He
pushed up his shirt-sleeves and bent over the tool-box on the step.

Sitting there on the hot leather, Gwenna watched him, she heard the
chinking of wrenches and spanners. Then he returned to the bonnet again,
fumbling, handling, burrowing, grunting at things.... Ten minutes
elapsed....

He then broke out emphatically: "Oh, _Lord_! I _have_ done it _now_!"

"Done what?" asked the girl anxiously.

In tightening a nut with a spanner the spanner had slipped. He had
broken the porcelain insulation of the plug controlling the current.

And now, good-humouredly smiling at his guest, he leaned on the door of
the car with his brown forearms crossed and said, "Short circuited. Yes.
I'm afraid that's killed it."

"Killed what?" asked little Gwenna, in affright.

"Our flying for to-day," he said.

He went on to speak about "spare parts," and how it would be necessary
to send some one back to fetch--something--Gwenna didn't care what it
was. Her heart sank in dismay. No flying? Must they go back after all,
now?

"Can't we get on?" she sighed.

He shook his shining head.

"We can make a picnic of it, anyhow," he said more encouragingly. "Shall
you be all right here if I run back to that inn we passed just now with
the bit of green outside? I shan't be ten minutes. Send some one off on
a bicycle, and bring some grub back here."

He jerked on his coat and was off.


Little Gwenna, sitting there waiting in the useless car--her small,
disconsolate face framed in the gauze scarf with which she'd meant to
bind her curls for the flying--was passed by half a dozen other motors
on the road to Brooklands. It did not strike her, dreamily downcast as
she was, that surely what the messenger from the inn was being
despatched to fetch might have been borrowed from one of these other
motorists? Some of them, surely, would be men who knew young Paul
Dampier quite well. Any of them might have come to the rescue?

This, as a matter of fact, had struck Paul Dampier at once. But he
didn't want to go on to Brooklands! Brooklands? Beastly hot day; crowds
of people; go up in an affair like an old Vanguard?

What he wanted, after a hard day's work yesterday on his own (so
different) Machine, was a day's peace and quiet and to think things a
bit over about her (the Machine) lying on his back somewhere shady, with
a pipe. Actually, he would rather have been alone. But this little girl,
Miss Williams.... She was all right. Not only pretty ... but such a
quiet, sensible sort of little thing. He'd take her up another time,
since she was keen. He certainly would take her up. Not to-day. To-day
they'd just picnic. _She_ wouldn't want to be giggling and chattering
about herself the whole time, and all that sort of thing, like some of
them. She liked to listen.

She'd be interested to hear what he'd been doing lately, about the
Machine. For a girl, she was pretty bright, and even if she didn't grasp
things at once, she evidently liked hearing about the Machine; besides
which, it often cleared one's own ideas to one's self, to have to set
'em out and explain about the machinery very simply, to some one who was
keen, but who hadn't a notion. They'd have a nice, peaceful time, this
afternoon; somewhere cool, instead of Brooklands. And a nice long
talk--_all_ about the Machine.


He returned to the girl waiting in the car. Gwenna, cheering up at the
sight of him, saw that his pockets were bulging with bottles, and that
he carried a square, straw basket.

"There. I might have taken Hugo's luncheon-basket and filled that while
I was about it; only I forgot there was one," he said, standing on the
road and screwing up his eyes a little in the midday sun as he faced
the car. "It's nicer eating out of doors, when you get a chance. Beastly
dusty on the road here, though, and things going by all the time and
kicking up clouds of it all over you. We'll find a pitch in that field."

So she jumped down from her seat and the two left the glaring road and
got through that gap in the hedgerow where maybush and blackberry trail
and grass and campion alike were all thickly powdered and drooping with
dust.

The boy and girl skirted another hedge that ran at right angles to the
road. Half-way up that field a big elm tree spread a patch of shade at
its base like a dark-green rug for them to sit on. Paul Dampier put his
coat down also. They sat, with moon-daisies and branching buttercups,
and cow-parsley all sweet and clean about them.

Here the country-bred girl, forgetting her disappointment, gave a quick
little sigh of content. She glanced about her at the known faces of
flower-friends in the grass; a diaper of colours. Each year she had
loved the time when white daisies and red sorrel and yellow rattle
flaunted together over the heads of the lower-growing clovers and
speedwells and potentillas. This year it seemed lovelier than ever. She
put out her hand and pulled up a lance of jointed grass, nibbling the
soft, pale-green end of it.

"Here, are you as hungry as all that?" laughed young Dampier at her
side. "We'll feed."

He let Gwenna spread out upon the clean dinner-napkin in which they were
wrapped the provisions that he had brought from the inn.

"All I could get. Bread-and-cheese. Couple of hunks of cold beef.
Butter--salt," he said, giving her the things as he named them. "Plates
I said we wouldn't worry about; chuck the crumbs to the birds. Here's
what I got to drink; cider. D'you like it?"

"Love it," said Gwenna, who had never happened to taste it. But she knew
that she would love it.

"Good. Oh! _Now_ I've forgotten the glass, though," exclaimed young
Dampier, sitting up on his knees on the shaded patch of grass beside
her. "We shall both have to use the lower half of my flask. Sorry--hope
you don't mind."

Gwenna, taking her first taste of cider in bird-like sips from that
oblong silver thing, remembered the old saying, "Drink from my cup and
you will think my thoughts." Then he put down upon the dinner napkin the
half-loaf and the lump of cheese that he had been munching. He took the
half of the flask, simply, out of the girl's hand, poured out more
cider, and drank in turn.

"That's better," he said, smiling. She smiled back at him.

She had ceased to feel any shyness of this fair-haired aviator who
rested there beside her in this oasis of shade from the elm, while
beyond them stretched the wide, dazzlingly bright desert of the
flowering meadow, bounded by its hedges. He cut off the crusty part of
the loaf for her (since she said she liked it). He sliced for her the
damp and pinkish beef, since she would not confide to him her deep and
feminine loathing of this fare. The woman is not yet born who can look
upon cold meat as a food. And they drank in turn from his silver flask.
This was their third meal together; yet Gwenna felt that she had been
grown-up and conscious of delight in the world about her only since they
had met.

Ease and gaiety rose between them in a haze like that which vibrated
over the warm hay-field where they feasted.

"I say, I shall have to give a lunch at the Carlton to everybody I
know," he laughed, half to himself, presently, "if I do get Colonel
Conyers to make 'em take up the P.D.Q." Then, turning more directly to
her. "Sorry--you don't know that joke. It's my Aeroplane, you know."

"Oh, yes, the one Mr. Swayne calls your _Fiancée_!" took up Gwenna
quickly. Then she wished she hadn't said that. She reddened. She turned
her supple little body to toss crumbs to a yellow-hammer that was eyeing
them from a branch in the hedge behind her. And then she asked. "Why
'the P.D.Q.'?"

"Because she will be the Paul Dampier One, I hope," explained the young
inventor, "and I always think of her as that other because it means
'Pretty Dam--Dashed Quick.'"

"Oh, is that it?" said Gwenna.

She echoed crossly to herself, "'_I always think of her_' indeed! It
sounds like----"

And she finished her thought with the hardest-working word in her native
tongue; the Welsh for sweetheart.

"It does sound just as if he were talking about his _cariad_."

Absently she brushed more crumbs off her side of the dinner-napkin.

For one-half only of Gwenna now seemed to note that they were eating
crusty loaf and drinking cider out of doors between a lupin-blue sky and
a flowerful meadow; the other was conscious of nothing but her
companion; of the clear friendliness of his eyes, those eyes of Icarus!
Of his deep and gentle voice saying, "Mind if I smoke? You don't, I
know," of those brown hard-looking forearms from which he had not
troubled to pull down the sleeves, of his nearness.

Suddenly he came nearer still.

He had not stopped talking of his aeroplane, but she hardly remembered
that she had asked him the meaning of one of the expressions that he had
used.

He was repeating it.

"'Camber?' ... Well, it's a curve. A curve like----" He glanced about
for an example of the soft, end-wise curve on the great wings of an
aeroplane; his eyes passing quickly from the green hedge to the ground,
to the things on the picnic cloth, to Gwenna Williams's small hand as it
rested in the grass.

She wondered, thrilled, if the young Airman were actually going to take
hold of her hand.

He did take her hand, as simply as he had taken the silver cup from it.
He bent it over so that her wrist made a gentle curve. He passed his own
large fingers across it.

"Yes; there--that's the curve," he said. "Almost exactly."

It might have been a caress.

But, done as he did it, the light movement was nothing of the kind.
Instinct told the girl that. It wasn't her small and soft and
pink-palmed hand that he was thinking of holding. She looked at him as
he said, "That's the curve," and she caught a gleam of quickened
interest in his eyes. But in one mortified flash she knew that this had
nothing to do with her. She guessed that at this moment he'd forgotten
that there was a girl sitting there beside him at all.

And she knew why.

Angrily she said to herself, "He's thinking of nothing but that old
machine of his! And I do--yes, I do, _do_ hate her!"

Then she sat for a moment still as the elm-trunk against which she'd
been leaning.

She had been struck thus motionless by a thought.

Something had been brought home to her by that sharp and sudden twinge
of--Jealousy!

Yes! She knew now! What she felt, and must have been feeling for days
past, was what they meant by falling in love.

"That's what I've done!" she thought rapidly; half in consternation,
half in delight. "It's beginning to happen what Mr. Swayne was talking
about at that tea: the Girl or the Flying Machine!"

She glanced towards the gap in the hedge as if to look at the car that
had brought them, motionless by the road-side; she turned her face away
from the Airman, who sat lighting a pipe with the shadows of the
elm-branches dappling his fair head and shirt-sleeved shoulders.

She was blushing warmly at her own thoughts.

"It's only the flying-machine he cares about! He does like me, too; in a
way.... If only he'd forget that other for a minute! But if he won't,"
thought Gwenna, happening upon an ancient piece of feminine philosophy,
"I'd rather have him talking about _her_ than not talking to me at all!"

She spoke aloud, sedately but interestedly.

"Oh, is _that_ a camber?" That light touch of his seemed still upon her
wrist, though he had withdrawn it carelessly at once. She paused, then
said, "And what was that other thing, Mr. Dampier? Something about an
angle?"

"A dihedral angle?" he said, drawing at that pipe. "Oh, that's the angle
you see from the front of the thing. It's--look, it's like that."

This time it was not her hand he took as an illustration. He pointed,
pipe in hand, to where, above the opposite hedge, a crow was sailing
slowly, a vandyke of black across the cloudless blue.

"See that bird? It's that very slight V he makes; _now_."

"And this machine of yours?" persisted the girl, with a little twitch of
her mouth for the rival whom he, it seemed, always thought of as "the
P.D.Q." and whom Gwenna must always think of as "the _Fiancée_." She
wondered where it lived, the creature that meant all to him. She said,
"Where--where d'you _make_ that machine?"

"Oh, I'm afraid it isn't a machine yet, you see. It's only a model of
one, so far. You know, like a model yacht," he explained. "That's the
worst of it. You see, you can make a model do anything. It's when you
get the thing life-size that the trouble begins. Model doesn't give a
really fair idea of what you've got to get. The difficulties--it's never
the real thing."

Gwenna thought, "It must be like making love to the person you aren't
really in love with!" But what she said, with her hand stripping a spike
of flowering grass, was, "I suppose it's like practising scales and all
that on a mute piano?"

"Never tried", he said. Then: "_The model's_ at my own place, my rooms
in"----here he broke off with a laugh. He looked straight into her face
and said, still laughing, and in a more personal tone:

"Not in Victoria Street. I say, you spotted that _that_ place wasn't
mine, didn't you?"

"Leslie 'spotted' and said so, afterwards," admitted Gwenna demurely,
picking and sniffing at a piece of pink clover before she fastened it
into her white blouse. "I did think at the time that it wasn't--wasn't
the sort of place where you'd find a man living who _did_ things, like."

"Rather rough on old Hugo."

"Well, but _does_ he do things?"

"He doesn't have to. He'd be all right if he did. Sweat some of that
beef off him, give him something to think about," averred his cousin,
carelessly knocking out his pipe against the heel of his shoe. "But, you
know, my place is in Camden Town; most inferior. Three rooms over a
paper shop; two small cubby-holes where I sleep and eat, and a rather
bigger one where I keep the 'P.D.Q.' stuff. I couldn't have you there
that Sunday."

"Why not?" Gwenna asked sharply, and jealous again. It was almost as if
the _Fiancée_ had said to him, "_No, not here_!"

"Because," he said with a chuckle, "because at the last moment, when I'd
got the tea ready and everything"--he tossed his fair head back--"a fall
of soot down the chimney! Everything in the most ghastly mess! Pitch
black wherever you put a finger. I simply couldn't--it was four o'clock
then; I expect you both thought it rotten of me. Still," he concluded,
rather ruefully, "I couldn't give you the sort of polite tea Hugo can,
anyhow."

"I don't want polite teas!" Gwenna protested, looking round at the field
where she had feasted as if in Elysium. "You don't suppose I care for
things all grand like that, do you?"

He responded, "Would you care to see my Camden Town place, then, and the
model? You and Miss Long. It's quite near you, you know."

"Yes, I should," said Gwenna quietly, stripping her grass.


How could he, she wondered, ask if she "cared" for these things that
opened out new worlds to her? If he only knew, just to be with him was
part of that new, soaring freedom which to her was summed up in the idea
of flying! This, she felt, _was_ flying. She didn't care, after all, if
there were no other flying that afternoon. Care? _She_ wouldn't mind
sitting there until the sun slipped slowly downwards towards the western
hedge and the moon-daisies closed in the tall grass, and clouds of other
tiny flying creatures poised and hovered above them. _She_ wasn't sorry
that the mechanic did not return in haste to minister to that
broken-down car. When she did remember about it, it was almost to hope
that he would not be back! Not just yet! Not to put an end to this
golden afternoon of talk that, trivial as it was, seemed to her to be
the endowment of a new faculty, and of comradeship that was as beguiling
and satisfying as that of her bosom-chum, Leslie. Only newer, only more
complete. So it seemed to Gwenna, as the shadows moved further up the
grass where she sat with her new boy-friend.

For it is a commonplace that in all comradeship between man and woman
passionate love claims a share. But also in all passionate love there is
more comradeship than the unimaginative choose to admit; there is a
happy inner meaning to the cottage phrase, "To keep company with."


What he thought about it she did not know. Except that he surely must
like talking to her? He could not go on like this out of politeness.

Ah, besides--! Besides, she knew, without reasoning about it, that, even
with that absorbing interest of the aeroplane in the background, he did
like her. Just as Leslie, her other friend, who also knew so much more
than she did, had liked her at once.

"Only," decided Gwenna, in the uttermost depths of her shy and daring
heart, "only he's _got_ to like me, some day, better than Leslie ever
could. He must. Yes; he _must_!"

And she thought it so ardently that she almost expected him, catching
her thought, to answer it in words. She looked--no, he had caught
nothing. But, meeting his eyes again, her own read a message that her
fluttered mind had been told before this, but would scarcely let her
believe. He thought she was pretty to look at. She had taken off her hat
now, as she liked to do in the open air, and the light breeze tossed her
short locks about.

"I _believe_ he thinks," Gwenna told herself, "that my hair's nice."


As a matter of fact she was right. If she could have read her
companion's thoughts at the moment she would have known of a quite
foolish but recurrent wish on his part. A wish that he might just run
his fingers through all those brown and thickly-twisting curls, to find
out if they felt as silky as they looked.

A lark was carolling over her head, soaring, poising, poising, soaring,
and singing all the while....

"That's what we can't do, even yet; _hover_," he said. And again he went
on talking to the Little Thing (in his mind this babyish-faced but quite
quick-witted girl was now always to be "the Little Thing") about the
chance of getting Colonel Conyers to take up that invention of his.

"I'm to go to spend the week-end at Ascot with him and have another talk
about it," he said. "I know he's dead keen. _He_ knows that it's
aeroplanes that are going to make all the difference; simply knock out,
under some conditions, any other form of scouting. In modern warfare,
you know--it's bound to come, some time--anybody with any sense knows
that----"

"Yes, of course," agreed Gwenna, watching him as he stretched himself
lazily out, chest downwards, elbows in, on the grass, chin propped in
his hands, talking (all about the Machine).

"If he gave me a chance to build Her--make trial flights in the P.D.Q.!
If he'd only back me----"

"Oh, he will, surely!" said Gwenna, her whole small face brightening or
sobering in response to every modulation of his voice.

It was jolly, he thought, to find a girl who wasn't in the least bored
by "Shop." She _was_ a very jolly Little Thing. So sensible. No
nonsense about her, thought the boy.


And she, when at last they rose and left the place, threw a last look
back at that patch of sky above the hedge, where the black crow had made
a dihedral angle, at that brooding elm, at that hay field, golden in the
level rays, at that patch of dusty road where the car had pulled up, at
that black telegraph-pole where he had hung up his coat. That picture
was graven, as by a tool, into the very heart of the girl.


At the end of an expedition that a young woman of more experience and
less imagination would have pronounced "tame enough," Gwenna,
bright-eyed and rosy from her day in the sunshine, could hardly believe
that a whole lifetime had not elapsed since last she'd seen the
everyday, the humdrum and incredibly dull Club where she lived.

She burst into her chum's bedroom as Leslie was going to bed.

"Taffy--back at last?" smiled Leslie, between the curtains of black hair
on either side of her nightgown. "How's flying?--_What?_" she exclaimed,
"you didn't go up at all? Broke down on the way to Brooklands? I say!
How rotten for you, my poor lamb. Had anything to eat?"

"I think so--I mean, rather! He gave me a _lovely_ lunch on the road
while we were waiting for the man to mend the car--and then we'd tea at
a cottage while he was doing it--and then there wasn't time to do
anything but come back to town," explained Gwenna breathlessly,
untying her scarf; "and then we'd sort of dinner at the inn before we
started back; they brought out a table and things into the garden under
the trees."

"What did you have for dinner?"

"I don't know. Oh, there were gooseberries," said Gwenna vaguely, "and a
lamp. And the moths all came. Oh, Leslie! It's _been_ so splendid!" She
caught her breath. "I mean, it was _dreat_ful about no flying, but----"

"Glad the afternoon wasn't entirely a washout," said Miss Long, in an
even voice as she plaited her hair.

"By the way, did the Dampier boy give you back that locket of yours?"

"I forgot all about it," said Gwenna, picking up the head of pink clover
that had fallen out of her blouse. "I'll ask him next time. He's going
to take me up soon, you know, again."

Just as an alarm is "set" to sound at some given hour, so the whole of
the girl's innocent being was set, to wait and wait for that "next time"
of meeting him--whenever it should be.



CHAPTER X

LESLIE, ON "THE ROOTS OF THE ROSE"


Leslie Long was lounging in a rickety deck-chair under the acacia tree
that overshadowed the small lawn behind the Ladies' Residential Club.
Miss Long looked nonchalantly untidy and her hair was coming down again.
But she had an eye to an occasion on which she meant to shine. She was
carefully darning a pair of silk stockings, stockings she was to wear
with her all-mauve Nijinski rig at a costume dance in a week's time. She
was looking forward to that dance.

It was a late Saturday afternoon, a fortnight after that Saturday that
Gwenna Williams had spent in the country with the Dampier boy. Most of
the girls in the Club were out somewhere now. Only one of the students
from the College of Music was practising Liszt's "Liebestraum."
Presently however, a sunshine-yellow jersey coat appeared on the steps
at the back entrance of the Club. Gwenna Williams was looking out. She
saw her chum in the garden and ran down to her; dropping upon the lawn
at her feet, and nestling her curly head down upon the lengthy knee that
supported the darning-basket.

Gwenna's small face looked petulant, miserable. She felt it. Leslie, to
whom, of course, the other girl was as an open book, asked no question.
She left that to Gwenna, who had never, so far, made any spoken
admission of what had happened--or not happened--since the evening when
they had dressed together to go to that dinner-party at the Smiths'. It
was Gwenna who asked the first question.

With a stormy and troubled sigh, she broke out, à propos of nothing:
"How is one to make him? I mean how is one ever to get a young man to
like one if he hardly ever sees one?"

Leslie looked down at her over the second mauve stocking that she was
drawing over a yellow wooden darning mushroom.

"Tut," said Leslie, with her usual mock unction. "What is all this about
'getting' a young man to like one? What an expression, my love. And,
worse; what a _sentiment_! Surely you know that men (nice men) think
very lightly of a girl who does not have to be _wooed_. With deference,
Taffy. With _reverence_. With hovering uncertainty and suspense
and--er--the rest of that bag of tricks."

The soft, persistent notes of the "Liebestraum" coming through the open
Club windows filled a short pause. Leslie threaded her needle with mauve
silk, then took up her mushroom--and her theme--once more.

"Men care little for the girl who drops like a ripe plum (unripe fruit
being obviously so much sweeter) into their mouths. (Query, why go about
with their mouths open?) Not so. The girl who pleases is the girl who is
hard to please."

A small discouraged sigh from Gwenna, as she sat there with her yellow
jersey coat spread round her like a great dandelion in the grass.

"Oh, but supposing she _isn't_ hard to please?" she faltered. "Supposing
somebody pleased her awfully? If he'd let her, I mean--oh, I daresay you
think I'm dreadful?"

"You outrage my most sacred what's-their-names--convictions, Taffy,"
declared Leslie, solemnly running her needle in and out of the stretched
silk. "How many times must you be told that the girl a man prizes is she
who knows how to set the very highest Value upon herself? The sweetly
reserved Girl who keeps Him Guessing. The ter-_ruly_ maidenly type who
puts a Barrier about herself, and, as it were, says, 'Mind the barbed
wire. Thus far--unless it's going to be made worth my while, for good.'
Haggling little Hebrew!" concluded Miss Long.

For the girl at whom everybody is shocked has standards of her own. Yes!
There are things at which she, even she, is shocked in turn.

Leslie, speaking of that other, belauded type, quoted:

  "'_Oh, the glory of the winning when she's won!_'

(per-haps!)."

And in her voice there was honest disgust.

"No, but Leslie! _Stop_ laughing about it all! And tell me, really,
now--" appealed the younger girl, leaning an arm upon her friend's knee
and looking up with eyes imploring guidance. "_You've_ known lots of
men. _You've_ had them--well, admiring you and telling you so?"

"Thank you, yes," said Leslie, demurely darning. "You mightn't think it,
to look at me in this blouse, but I have been--er--stood plenty of
emotional drinks of that kind."

"Then you know. You tell me--" pleaded Gwenna, pathetically earnest. "Is
it true that men don't like you if they think you like them very much?"

Leslie's impish face peeped at her over the silk stocking held up over
the mushroom. And Leslie's mouth was one crooked scarlet curve of
derision.

But it straightened into gravity again as she said, "I don't know,
Taffy. Honest injun! One woman can't lay down rules for another woman.
She's got to reckon with her own type--just pick up that hairpin, will
you--and his. I can only tell you that what is one man's meat
is--another man's won't meet."

Gwenna, at her knee, sighed stormily again.

Leslie, rearranging herself cautiously in the insecure deck-chair, put a
finger through one of Gwenna's curls, and said very gently, "Doesn't the
Dampier boy come to meet it, then?"

Gwenna, carnation red, cried, "Oh _no_! Of _course_ not. I wasn't
_thinking_ of him."

In the same breath she added shamefacedly, "How did you know, Leslie?
You are clever!" And then, in a soft burst of confidence, "Oh, I _have_
been so worrying! All these days and days, Leslie! And to-day I felt I
simply _had_ to tell you about it--or _burst_! I haven't really been
able to think of anything but him. And he--he _hates_ me, I know."

She used that word to console herself. Hate is so infinitely less
discouraging than polite indifference!

Leslie glanced very kindly at the flushed face, at the compact yet
lissom little body sitting up on its heels on the Club lawn. She asked,
"Doesn't the creature _look_ at you? The other day when he took you out
and broke down the motor? Didn't he then?"

"Yes, he did," admitted Gwenna, "a little."

"That's a start, then. So 'Cheer up, Taff, don't let your spirits go
down,'" hummed Leslie. "Ask your Fräulein at the works if she knows an
excellent slang German phrase for falling in love. 'Der hat sich aber
man ordentlich verguckt?' 'He's been and looked himself well into it'--I
am glad the Dampier boy did look. It _is_ engendered in the eyes, as
poor old Bernard Shaw used to say. It will be all right."

"Will it, d'you think? Will it?"

Gwenna, kneeling beside the dishevelled, graceful figure with its long
limbs stretched out far beyond the deck-chair, gazed up as if into the
face of an oracle.

"What do I _do_," she persisted innocently, "to make him look--to make
him like me?"

"You don't 'do.' You 'be,' and pretty hard too. You, my child, sit
tight. It's what they call the Passive Rôle of Woman," explained Leslie,
with a twinkle. "Like _this_." And she drew out of her darning-basket a
slender horseshoe-shaped implement such as workwomen use to pick up a
dropped needle, painted scarlet to within half an inch of its end. She
held it motionless a little away from her darning. There was a flash in
the sunlight and a sharp little "click" as the needle flew up and clung
to the magnet.

"D'you see, Turtle-dove?"

"Yes; but _that_ isn't what you seemed to be talking about just now,"
objected Gwenna. "You seemed to think that a girl _needn't mind_ 'doing'
something about it. Letting a person see that she liked him."

"That isn't 'doing.' A girl can get in such a lot of useful
execution--excuse my calling spade work spade work--all the time she is
going on being as passive as--as that magnet," pronounced the mentor.
"Of course you've got to take care to look as nice as you know how to
all the time.

"And here you score, Miss Williams. Allow a friend to say that you're
not only as pretty as they make 'em, but you know how to take care that
you're as pretty _as they're made_!"

The younger girl, puzzled, asked the difference.

"I mean that you've cultivated the garden, and haven't got to start
digging up the weeds and sweeping the lawn five minutes before you
expect the garden-party," explained Leslie, in the analogies that she
loved. "Some girls don't seem to think of 'making the most of
themselves' until the man comes along that they want to make much of
_them_. Then it's so often a scramble. You've had the instinct. You
haven't got your appearance into any of the little ways that put a man
off without his knowing quite what he's been put off _by_. One excellent
thing about you----"

"Yes?" said Gwenna, rapt, expectant.

The particular unsolicited testimonial that followed was unexpected
enough.

"For one thing, Taffy, you're always--_washed_!"

"Why, of course. But, Leslie--surely--so's _everybody_!"

"_Are_ they?" ejaculated Miss Long darkly. "They think they are. They
simply haven't grasped how much soap and water and loofah go to that, in
big towns. Half the girls aren't what _I_ call tubbed. How many of them,
with bathrooms a yard from their bedrooms, bother to have a scrub at
night as well as in the mornings? It's at night they're grimy, Taff.
It's at night they leave it on, powder and all, to work into themselves
until that 'unfresh' look gets chronic. My dear, I tell you that the
two-bath-a-day rule would give us much less of the Lonely-and-Neglected
Women Problem. There!"

Gwenna Williams, twisting between finger and thumb the stalk of a daisy
she had picked off the lawn, murmured something about it's being funny,
love having anything to do with how often a girl _washed_!

"Of course you think Leslie is revoltingly unpoetic to suggest it. But
it's sound enough," declared the elder girl. "Flowers don't look as if
'anything to do with' earth had ever touched them, do they? But aren't
their roots bedded deep down in it right enough? All these hints I give
you about Health and Body-culture, these are the Roots of the Rose.
Some of them, anyhow. Especially _washing_. I tell you, Taff"--she spoke
sepulchrally--"_half the 'nice' girls we know don't wash enough_.
_That's_ why they don't get half the attention they'd like. Men like
what they call a 'healthy-looking' girl. As often as not it simply means
the girl happens to be specially _clean_. Beauty's skin-deep; moral,
look after your skin. Now, you do. No soap on your face, Taff?"

"No; just a 'clean' after washing, with Oatine and things like that."

"Right. Costs you about fourpence a week. It might cost four guineas, to
judge from the economical spirit of some girls over that," said Leslie.
"Then, to go on with this grossly material subject that is really the
root of Poetry, do you shampoo your hair nice and often? It looks thick
and soft and glossy and with the curls all big, as if you did."

"Oh, yes, I do. But then that's easy for me; it's short."

"Mine's long enough, but I do it religiously every fortnight. Pays me,"
said Miss Long candidly as she went on working. "Untidy it may be, but
it does feel and smell all right. One of my medical students at the
hospital where I trained for five minutes--the boy Monty, the Dean's
son--_he_ said once that the scent of my hair was like cherry-wood.
'Course I didn't confide in _him_ that I watered it well with bay rum
and rosemary every night. Better than being like Miss Armitage, the
suffragette-woman here, who's so nice-minded that she's 'above'
pampering the body. What's the consequence? She, and half the girls
here, go about smelling--to put it plainly--like cold grease and
goloshes! Can they wonder that men don't seem to think they'd be--be
very nice to marry?"

"Some suffragettes, and sort of brainy women," hesitated Gwenna, "are
married."

"Yes; and _have_ you observed the usual type of their husbands?" scoffed
Leslie. "Eugh!"

Gwenna, set upon her own subject, drew her back with innocent directness
to the matter in hand.

"What else ought one to do? Besides lots of washing, besides taking care
of one's hair and skin?"

"One's shape, of course," mused Leslie. "There you're all right. Thank
goodness--_and me_--that you've left off those weird, those unearthly
stays you came up to town in. My dear, they were like a hamper strapped
round the middle of you and sending your shoulders up, squared, into
your ears! You've got a pretty slope there now, besides setting free all
your 'lines.' I suppose elastic has pretty well solved the great corset
question at last."

"Thirty shillings was a dreat-ful lot to give for just an elastic belt,"
murmured Gwenna, with her little hand at her supple waist. "Still, you
said I must, even if I didn't have a new blouse over it for eighteen
months." Again she looked up for guidance. "What else? What's a good
_thing_, Leslie? About clothes and that?"

"Oh, child, you know it all now, practically. Let's see--shoes"--she
glanced at the tiny brown one half-tucked under Gwenna's knee. "_Boots
and shoes_ men seem to notice as much as any other part of your get-up.
Attractive shoes, even with an unfashionable skirt, will pull you
through, when shabby shoes would ruin the look of the smartest rig. They
see that, even when they've no idea what colour you've got on."

She went on to another hole in the stocking and continued: "As for
colours, a man does seem to notice 'a girl in black,' or all-white, or
pale blue. I read once that pale blue is 'the sex colour'--couldn't tell
you, never worn it myself. Managed well enough without it, too!" mused
Leslie. "Then 'a girl in pink' is very often a success in the evening.
Men seem to have settled vaguely that pink is 'the pretty girl's
colour.' So then they fondly imagine that anything that dares to wear
it must be lovely. _You_ needn't yet. Keep it for later. Pink--judicious
pink--takes off ten years, Taffy!"

"I--I suppose I shall still care what I look like," murmured the young
girl wistfully, "at thirty-two...."

"Pearl of Wisdom Number Forty-eight: When in doubt, wear the
coat-and-skirt (if it's decently cut) rather than the frock," decreed
Leslie. "White silk shirts they seem to like, always. (I'm glad
I weaned you of the pin-on tie, Taffy. It always looked like
'sixpence-three-farthings.' Whereas you buy a piece of narrow ribbon for
'six-three,' you _tie_ it, you fasten it with a plain silver brooch to
your shirt, and it looks _good_.)"

"I'll remember," murmured Gwenna devoutly, from the grass.

Leslie said, "One of the housemaids here--(never stoop to gossip with
the servants, dearest. It _is_ so unhelpful and demoralising to both
classes)--one of the housemaids once told me that _her_ young man had
told her that 'nothing in the wide world set a young woman off like a
nice, fresh, clean, simple shirt blouse, same as what she was wearing
then!' Of course, _he_ was a policeman. Not an aviator or a dean's son.
But when it comes to a girl in the case, I expect they're _'brothers
under their skins_,'" said Leslie Long.

Husky with much talking, she cleared her throat.

"Pearl of Wisdom Number Forty-nine: Be awfully careful about your
collar, the ends of your sleeves and the hem of your skirt. (Keeping a
strong force on the Frontier; that is always important.) Don't ever let
your clothes be 'picturesque,' except for indoors. A man loathes walking
along beside anything that flaps in the wind, or anything that looks
like what he calls 'fancy dress.' Outside, don't wear anything that you
can't skip easily on to the last bus in. Don't have 'bits' of anything
about you. Try to be as neat as the very dowdiest girl you know,
_without the dowdiness_. Neatness, my belovèd sisters, is the---- (Here
am I talking like this; but why," she interrupted herself, laughing,
"_why_ aren't I neater myself when in mufti? I mean, when there's nobody
about? '_In time of Peace, prepare for War._' It would be better. Might
get my hair out of its _habit_ of descending at the wrong moment.) And
then, then, when all your good points are mobilised, you wait for the
Enemy."

"The _enemy_?" said little Gwenna, doubtfully.

"Yes. The Man. The opposing force, if you like. You can think and think
and wish and wish about him then until the whole air about you goes
shivery-quivery with it. 'Creating an atmosphere' is what they call it,
I believe. And get him well into the zone of _that_," advised Leslie.
"For it's no use the magnet being a magnet if it doesn't allow itself to
get within miles of a needle, is it? Might as well be any old bit of
scrap-iron. Plenty of girls--_nice_ girls, I mean--not like that
deplorably vulgar Miss Long. What _she's_ doing in a Club that's
supposed to be for _ladies_ I don't know. The _horrid_ things she says!
Bad! _Bad_ form! And I'm sure if she says those here, she must have
heaps of other worse things she _could_ say, and probably _does_, to
some people! Er--oh, where _was_ I? Ah, yes!" rattled on Leslie, with
her black head flung against the striped canvas back of the chair, her
eyes on her surprisingly neat darning. "I was going to say--plenty of
nice girls muff everything by putting too much distance that doesn't
lend enchantment to the view between themselves and the men that aren't
often sharp enough to deserve being called 'the needle.' Don't you make
the mistake of those nice girls, Taffy."

"Well, do I _want_ to? But how can I help it? How can I even try to 'be'
anything, if he isn't there to know anything at all about it? I don't
see him! I don't meet him!" mourned the Welsh girl in the soft accent
that was very unmistakable to-day. "It's a whole fortnight, Leslie,
since that lovely day in the fields. It seems years. He hasn't written
or anything. I've waited and waited.... And sometimes I feel as if
perhaps I _shouldn't_ ever see him again. After all, I never did see him
properly before we went to your sister's that night. Oh, isn't it awful
to think what little _chances_ make all the difference to who one sees
or doesn't see? I can't know for certain that I shall _ever_ see him
again. Oh, Leslie!"

Leslie cut her last needleful of lilac silk and answered in the most
reassuringly matter-of-fact tone:

"But of course you will. If you want to enough. For instance--should you
like to see him at this dance?"

"Dance?" inquired Gwenna, dazed.

"Yes. This fancy-dress affair that I'm doing these stockings for. (I won
these in a bet from one of my Woolwich cadets.) This tamasha next week?"

"But--_he_ isn't going, is he? And I'm not even asked."

"And can't these things ever be arranged?" demanded her chum, laughing.
"Can do, Taffy. Leslie will manage."

"Oh--but that's so _kind_!" murmured the younger girl, overcome.

"Do you expect me _not_ to be 'kind'? To another girl, in love? Nay, oh
Taffy! I leave that to the 'nicest' of the girls who think it 'horrid'
to think about young men, even. Gem of Truth Number Eighty: It isn't the
little girl who's _had_ plenty to eat who's ready to snatch the bun out
of the hand of the next little girl," said Leslie. She rolled the silk
stockings into a ball, and rose in sections from that sagging chair.
"Leslie will see you're done all right. All that remains to be discussed
is the question of what you're to wear at the dance."

This question Leslie settled as the two girls went for an after-supper
stroll. They went past the summer crowd patrolling the Spaniards Road,
past the patch of common and the benches and the pond by the flagstaff
that make that part of Hampstead so like a bit of the seaside. It was a
golden evening. In the hazy distance a small, greyish, winged object
rose above the plane which was Hendon, and moved to the left towards the
blue taper of Harrow Church, then sank out of sight again.

"There's one," sighed Gwenna, her eyes on the glowing sky, where the
biplane had been circling. "He's in it, perhaps."

"Little recking what plans are now being made for his welfare by me,"
observed Miss Long, as the two girls descended the hill and found at
last a birch thicket that was not held by Cockney lovers. She let
herself down cross-legged into the bracken. The Welsh girl perched
herself on a branch of the birch tree that was polished smooth as an old
bench. Thus she sat among the stirring leaves, head on one side,
listening, her babyish face looking down intent against the sky.

"Ah! That's _you_! '_A Cherub._' That's what your fancy dress is to be,"
pronounced the elder girl. "Just your own little crop-curled head with
nothing on it; and a ruff of cherub's wings up to your chin. Those
little wings off your hat will do beautifully. Below the ruff, clouds.
Appropriate background for cherubs. Your misty-white frock with no sash
this time, and one of those soap-bubble coloured scarves of Liberty
gauze draped over it to represent a rainbow. Little silver shoes.
_Strictly_ speaking, cherubs don't have those, of course. But if you
can't become a Queen of Spain--if you can't be realistic, be pretty.
Your own, nearly-always expression of dreamy innocence will come in
nicely for the costume," added Leslie. "Quite in keeping."

"I'm sure I'm not that," protested the Welsh girl, piqued. "_I'm_ not
what they call 'innocent.'"

"No, I don't think you are. 'What they call innocent' in a girl is such
a mixture. It means (a) no sense of humour at all; (b) the chilliest
temperament you can shiver at, and (c) a complete absence of
observation. But I believe _you_ have '_beneath your little frostings
the brilliance of your fires_,' Taffy. Yours is the real innocence."

"It isn't, indeed," protested the girl, who was young enough to wish to
be everything but what she was. "Why, look at the way you say anything
to me, Leslie!"

Leslie laughed, with a remoter glance. Then suddenly she dropped her
black head and put a light caress on the corner of the sunshine-yellow
jersey coat.

"Be as sweet always," she said, lightly too. "Look as sweet--at the
dance!"



CHAPTER XI

THE HEELS OF MERCURY


This injunction Gwenna carried out to the letter a week later. Never had
she looked so pretty as when she smiled at her own reflection in her
bedroom mirror above the cherub's ruff of wings on the evening of the
dance.

It was given by some wealthy theatrical people whose "set" often
intermingled with that to which Hugo Swayne belonged. And it was held in
a couple of big marquees that had been set up on the lawn behind their
house; a lawn of which the banks sloped down to the willows that fringed
the river. There was a houseboat as buffet. There were Japanese lanterns
and fairy-lights. Red carpet had been put down to save costumes from
dewy grass or gravel.

For this dance was held at the height of that brief and grotesque period
in the English history when dancing and costume--more particularly when
the two were combined--became an affair of national moment. That was the
time when tickets for an Artists' Ball were gambled with even as stocks
and shares; when prizes for costume were given of which the value ran
into hundreds of pounds. When columns of responsible newspapers were
given up to descriptions of some "brilliant carnival." When Society,
the Arts, Commerce, the Stage and the Middle Class joined hands to dance
the maddest ring-o'-roses round some mulberry bush rooted in Heaven knew
what soil of slackness. That was the time when women who were mothers
and able-bodied men were ready to fritter away the remnant of their
youth on what could be no longer pleasure, since they chased it with
such deadly ardour, discussing the lightest types of merrymaking as if
thereupon hung the fate of an empire!

Even little cherub-headed Gwenna Williams found something disquieting
about the sight of this throng as she scanned it with anxious eyes,
for--no, HE hadn't come! He was late. Not here. Perhaps it was merely
this that caused her to dislike the look of some of these other people?
That buxomly-formed young woman of twenty-five tricked out in the
costume of a child of three! That tall, fragile youth in black
grave-clothes, mouthing falsetto patter! That pretty "lady" in spreading
Georgian brocade and a white wig, from whose crimsoned lips there came
presently a robust masculine shout! That Madame Potiphar in the--Good
gracious!--it was another boy! No! Gwenna _didn't_ like them,
somehow.... Perhaps it was just because they were here and he, the only
partner she wished for, had not arrived. Oh, _supposing_ he were not
coming, after all?

Under the canvas roof where garlands swung and an installation of
electric light had been improvised, the crowd eddied and chattered and
laughed from one end to the other of the marquee where the long tables
were laid out. For it was a theatrical ball, late in beginning. Supper
was to come first. Gwenna, sitting beside a Futurist Folly whom her
friend Leslie had introduced vaguely as "one of my medical students,"
watched that supper-crowd (still he did not come), as they feasted,
leaning across the tables to laugh and shriek to acquaintances. It was
not the girls or the younger men who seemed most boisterous, but those
well over thirty. This surprised her. And even when they were most
unrestrained "they seemed," as the Welsh girl put it, "to be _making_
themselves do it, like." ...

Then she saw, by an opening in the canvas of the marquee, the apparition
of a steady man's figure, dead-white against the purple gloom outside. A
figure erect and neatly-shouldered under the close linen jacket of a
Continental waiter. Gwenna wondered where she had seen him before? In a
photograph? Or perhaps attending to one of the tables at Appenrodt's,
when she and Leslie had had tea after a matinée somewhere? She _had_
seen that young waiter, whose appearance was in such arresting contrast
to the bizarre costumes and painted faces of the noisy, laughing rabble
about him. His face was restrained and grave as that of some very young
Daniel at the feast of some modern Belshazzar.

Suddenly besides that still, watching apparition there came up another
boyish figure--typically English, in ordinary evening dress, and tall,
towering above the young German waiter of whom he was making some
inquiry. For a second they stood so; the waiter glancinc up, the
newcomer, Paul Dampier, with his blonde head tilted a little back, his
eyes raking the crowd.

"Ah! he's come," cried Gwenna aloud, but unheard in the universal
clatter. Her heart leaped....

But Paul Dampier, the airman, was swallowed up again almost directly in
a forest of odd, luridly-coloured head-dresses. He had not seen her.

And she did not see him again until some time after supper was ended,
and the throng was whirling and writhing in one-step and ragtime in the
other marquee.

Gwenna had danced with an Apache, with a Primitive Man, with Mr. Hugo
Swayne (in a mask and crazy-work domino as a Simultaneous Dynamism of
Something), and she was standing waiting, one of a figure in a revived
cotillon.

While the Viennese band swooped and tore through the waltz "Nights of
Gladness" a sheet had been fetched and was held up at the end of the
ballroom between a Morris-dancer and an incredibly handsome "Turco" (who
presently revealed himself as Mr. Swayne's French engineer), as a screen
before six of the girls. Six men were to be led up to it in turn; each
to choose his partner by the feet that were just allowed to show below
the sheet.

Soft laughter and twittering went on at the side where the half-dozen
girls stood.

"I say," exclaimed a damsel dressed as an Austrian Peasant to her
crinolined neighbour, "_now_ we see why you were so anxious to explain
why you were wearing scarlet----"

"Of course he'd know yours anywhere," retorted the next girl.

"Ssh! Play fair!" protested the next. "Mustn't be recognised by your
voice!"

"Oh, look at the Cherub girl's little shoes! Aren't they sweet? Just
like silver minnows peeping out----"

Here Gwenna, standing sedately beside the scintillating, mauve-limbed
Nijinski, Leslie, lifted her head in quick attention. She had recognised
a voice on the other side of the sheet. A voice deep and gentle and
carrying through the clatter of talk and the mad, syncopated music. It
protested with a laugh, "But, look _here_! I can't dance all these
weird----" It was the Airman--her Airman.

"Oh, he's just there. He's going to choose. If only he'd choose me,"
thought Gwenna, breathlessly fluttering where she stood. Then she
remembered. "Oh, but he won't know me. He doesn't know I was to have
silver shoes. If there was only _some_thing! Something to show him which
I was, I believe he'd choose me. What could I do?"

Suddenly she thought what she could do.... Yes! Winged feet, of course,
for a girl who longed to fly!

Hurriedly she put her hands up to the ruff made of those white wings.
Hastily she plucked two of them out. How was she to fasten them to her
feet, though? Alas, for the short curls that deprived her of woman's
universal tool! She turned to her chum who was impatiently jigging in
time to the music, with her long black hair swathed for once securely
under that purple casque.

"Leslie, quick, a hairpin! Lend me two hairpins," she whispered and
snatched them from her friend's hand. Then, holding on to Leslie's mauve
silken shoulder to support herself, Gwenna raised first one small foot,
and then the other, fastening to each between the stocking and the
silver shoe, one of those tiny wings.

They were the feathered heels of Mercury, the flying-god, that the girl
who loved a flying-man allowed to peep under the curtain behind which
she stood.

Above the commotion of people laughing and talking all about her and the
music she felt that he was close, only just behind that sheet. She could
have put out a hand and, through that sheet, have touched his
shoulder.... Mustn't, of course.... Must play fair. Would he note the
message of the winged feet? Would he stop and choose her?

Or would he pass on?



CHAPTER XII

THE KISS WITHHELD


He did not pass.

He stopped--Gwenna felt the touch of his finger on the silver tip of her
shoe. All a-tremble with delight she moved aside, and stepped from
behind the screen to face the partner who had chosen her.

"_Hullo_!" exclaimed Paul Dampier, with real surprise in his smile. "I
didn't know it was _you_!"

Gwenna felt a little dashed, even as he slipped his arm about her and
they began to waltz. She looked up into the blonde face that seemed
burned so very brown against his dress-shirt, and she ventured, "You
didn't know it was me? I thought that was why you chose me--I mean, I
thought because I was somebody you knew----"

"Didn't know you were here. I never thought those were your feet!" he
said in that adorably deep and gentle voice of his. Adding, as they
turned with the turning throng, something that lifted her heart again,
"I chose them because they were the prettiest, I thought."

It was simply stated, as a fact. But this, the first compliment he'd
paid her, kept her silent with delight. Even as they waltzed, his arm
about her rainbow scarf, the girl felt the strongest wish--the wish that
the dance were at an end and she back in her bedroom at the Club,
alone, so that she might think and think again over what he had said.
He'd thought she had the prettiest feet!

"D'you think you could manage to spare me some others?" he asked at the
end of that waltz. "You know, you're about the only girl here that I
know except Miss Long."

"Leslie would introduce you to anybody you liked"--suggested little
Gwenna, feeling very good for having done so. And virtue brought its
reward. For with a glance about him at that coloured noisy crowd that
seemed a handful of confetti tossed by a whirlwind, he told her he
didn't think he wanted to be introduced, much. He wasn't really keen on
a lot of people he'd never seen. But if she and Miss Long would give him
a few dances----?

The girl from the country thought it almost too good to be true that she
need not share him with any of these dangerously fascinating London
people here, except Leslie!

In a pause they went up to where Leslie was standing near the band.
Close beside her the Morris-dancer was wrangling with Hugo Swayne in his
crazy-work domino, who declared, "Miss Long promised _me_ every other
dance. A week ago, my dear man. Ten days ago----"

Yes; Leslie seemed to be engaged for every dance and every extra. She
tossed a "_so_ sorry, Mr. Dampier!" over her shoulder, following it with
an imperceptible feminine grimace for Gwenna's benefit. With the first
bars of the next waltz she was whirled away by a tall youth garbed,
becomingly enough, as a Black Panther. The room was still clear. The
Black Panther and the boyishly slim girl in mauve tunic and tights
waltzed, for one recurrence of the tune, alone....

Gwenna, looking after that shapely couple, knew who _he_ was; Monty
Scott, the Dean's son who had been a medical student when Leslie was at
the Hospital. He had followed her to the Slade to study sculpture, and
already he had proposed to her twice.

The tall and supple youth held Leslie, now, by his black-taloned gloves
on her strait hips. Leslie waltzed with hands clasped at the back of his
neck. Then, with a backward fling of her head and body, she twisted
herself out of his hold. She waltzed, holding the flat palms of her
hands pressed lightly to the palms of his. The music altered; Leslie
varying her step to suit it. She threw back her head again. Round and
round her partner she revolved, undulating from nape to heels, not
touching him, not holding him save by the attraction of her black eyes
set upon his handsome eyes, and of her red lips of a flirt, from which
(it was evident!) the boy could not take his gaze. Once more she shook
her purple-casqued head; once more she let him catch her about the hips.
Over the canvas floor they spun, Leslie and Monty, black-and-mauve,
moving together with a voluptuous swing and zest that marked them as the
best-matched dancers in the room. Well-matched, perhaps, for life,
thought Leslie's chum.... But no; as they passed Gwenna saw that the
black eyes and the red mouth were laughing cynically together; she
caught, through the music, Leslie's clear "Don't _talk_! _don't_ talk
when you're dancing, my good boy.... Spoils everything.... You _can_
waltz.... You know you've never anything to _say_, Mont!"

"I have. I say----"

Leslie waltzed on unheeding. Whatever he had to say she did not take it
seriously. She laughed over his shoulder to little Gwenna, watching....

Couple after couple had joined in now, following the swift tall graceful
black shape and the light-limbed mauve one as they circled by. A flutter
of draperies and tinsel, a toss and jingle of stage accoutrements; the
dancers were caught and sped by the music like a wreath of
rainbow-bubbles on the rise and fall of a wave.

Gwenna, the Cherub-girl, was left standing for a wistful moment by the
side of the tall Airman in evening dress.

He said, through the music, "Who's your partner for this?"

She had forgotten. It was the Futurist Folly again. He had to find
another partner. Gwenna danced with her Airman again ... and again....

Scarcely realising how it happened--indeed, how do these arrangements
make themselves?--this boy and girl from a simpler world than that of
this tinsel Bohemia spent almost the whole of the rest of that evening
as they had spent that day in the country, as she would have asked to
spend the rest of their lives together.

Some of the time they danced in the brilliant, heated marquee under the
swinging garlands and the lamps. Then again they strolled out into the
Riverside garden. Here it was cool and dewy and dim except where, from
the tent-openings, there was flung upon the grass a broad path of light,
across which flitted, moth-like, the figures of the dancers. Above the
marquee the summer night was purple velvet, be-diamonded with stars. At
the end of the lawn the river whispered to the willows and reflected,
here the point of a star, there the red blot of a lantern caught in a
tree.

Hugo Swayne went by in this bewildering stage, light-and-shade with a
very naughty-looking lady who declared that her white frock was merely
"'Milk,' out of 'The Blue Bird.'" In passing he announced to his cousin
that the whole scene was like a Conder fan that he had at his rooms.
Groups of his friends were simply sitting about and _making_ themselves
into quite good Fragonards. Little Gwenna did not even try to remember
what Fragonard was. None of these people in this place seemed real to
her but herself and her partner. And the purple dusk and velvet shadows,
the lights and colours, the throb and thrill of the music were just the
setting for this "night of gladness" that was only a little more
substantial than her other fancies.

More quickly it seemed to be passing! Every now and again she exultantly
reminded herself, "I am here, with him, out of all these people! He is
only speaking to me! I have him to myself--I must feel that as hard as I
can all the time now, for we shall be going home at the end of this
Ball, and then I shall be alone again.... If _only_ I could be with him
for always! How extraordinary, that just to be with one particular
person out of all the world should be enough to make all this
happiness!"

With her crop-curled head close against his shoulder as they danced, she
stole at her boyish partner the shy, defiantly possessive glance that a
child gives sometimes to the favourite toy, the toy that focusses all
his dreams. This was "the one particular person out of all the world"
whose company answered every conscious and unconscious demand of the
young girl's nature even as his waltz-step suited her own.

Yet she guessed that this special quiet rapture could not last. Even
before the end of the dance the end of _this_ must surely come.


It must have been long hours after the waltz-cotillon that they strolled
down to a sitting-out arbour that had been arranged at the end of the
path nearest the river. It was softly lighted by two big Chinese
lanterns, primrose-coloured, ribbed like caterpillars, with a black base
and a splash of patterned colour upon each; a rug had been thrown on the
grass, and there were two big white-cane chairs, with house-boat
cushions.

Here the two sat down, to munch sandwiches, drink hock-cup.

"I remembered to bring two glasses, this time," said Paul Dampier.

Gwenna smiled as she nodded. Her eyes were on those silver white-finned
minnows of her feet, that he had called pretty.

He followed her glance as he took another sandwich. "Rather a good idea,
wings to your shoes because you're supposed to be a cherub."

"Oh, but that's not what the wings were supposed to be for," she said
quickly. "I only put those in at the waltz-cotillon so that----"

Here she stopped dead, wishing that the carpeted grass might open at
those winged feet of hers and swallow her up!

How could she have given herself away like this? Let him _know_ how she
had wanted him to choose her! when he hadn't even known she was there;
hadn't been thinking about her!

She flurried on: "S-so that they should look more like fancy-dress shoes
instead of real ones!"

He turned his head, dark and clean-cut against the lambent swaying
lantern. He said, out of the gloom that spared her whelming blush, "Oh,
was that it! I thought," he added with a teasing note in his voice, "I
thought you were going to say it was to remind me that I'd promised to
take you flying, and that it's never come off yet!"

Gwenna, hesitating for a moment, sat back against the cushions of the
wicker-chair. She looked away from him, and then ventured a retort--a
tiny reproach.

"Well--it _hasn't_ come off."

"No, you know--it's too bad, really. I have been most frightfully busy,"
he apologised. "But we'll fix it up before you go to-night, shall we?
You must come." At this he was glad to see that the Little Thing looked
really pleased.

She was awfully nice and sensible, he thought for the severalth time.
Again the odd wish took him that had taken him in that field. Yes! He
_would_ like to touch those babyish-looking curls of hers with a finger.
Or even to rumple them against his cheek.... Another most foolish and
incomprehensible wish had occurred to him about this girl, even in her
absence. Apropos of nothing, one evening in his rooms he had remembered
the look of that throat of hers; round and sturdy and white above her
low collar. And he had thought he would rather like to put his own hands
about it, and to pretend--quite gently, of course--to throttle the
Little Thing. To-night she'd bundled it all up in that sort of feather
boa.... Pity.... She was ever so much prettier without.

Fellow can't say that sort of thing to a girl, though, thought the
simple Paul.

So he merely said, instead, "Let me stick that down for you somewhere,"
and he leant forward and took from her the plate that had held her
cress-and-chicken sandwiches. Then he crossed his long legs and leant
back again. It was jolly and restful here in the dim arbour with her;
the sound of music and laughter came, much softened, from the marquee.
Nearer to them, on the water below the willows, there was a little
splashing and twittering of the moor-hen, roused by something, and the
scarcely audible murmur of the Thames, speeding past House-boat Country
to London ... the workaday Embankment.... It was jolly to be so
quiet....


Then, into the happy silence that had fallen between them, there came a
sound--the sound of the crunching of gravel. Gwenna looked up. Two
figures sauntered past down the path; both tall and shapely and black
against the paling, star-sprinkled sky above the frieze of sighing
willows. Then Leslie's clear, careless voice drifted to their ears.

"Afraid not.... Anyhow, what on earth would be the good of caring '_a
little_'?... I look upon you as such an infant--in arms----"

Here there was a bass mutter of, "Make it _your_ arms, and I don't
mind!"

Then Leslie's insouciant: "I _knew_ you'd say that obvious thing. I
always do know what you're going to do or say next ... fatal, that.... A
girl _can't_ want to marry a man when----"

Apparently, then, the Dean's son was proposing again?

As the couple of free-limbed black shadows passed nearer, Paul Dampier
kicked his heel against his chair. He moved in it to make it creak more
noisily.

Good manners wasted!

For Leslie, as she afterwards told her chum, took for her motto upon
such occasions, "_And if the others see, what matter they_?"

Her partner seemed oblivious that there were any "others" sitting in
the shadows. The couple passed, leaving upon the night-breeze a trail of
cigarette-smoke (Leslie's), and an indistinguishable growl, presumably
from the Black Panther.

Leslie's voice floated back, "Not in the mood. Besides! You _had_, last
time, 'to soften the edges,' as you call it."

More audibly her partner grumbled, "What's a kiss you've _had_? About as
satisfying as last summer's strawberry-ice----"


A mere nothing--the incident.

Yet it brought (or hastened) a change into the atmosphere of that arbour
where, under the giant glowworms of lights swinging above them, two
young people sat at ease together without speaking.

For Gwenna, envious, thought, "Leslie can make a man think of nothing
but her, even when she's 'not in the mood!' I can't. Yet I believe I
could, but for one thing. Even now I don't know that he isn't thinking
about That Other----"

"That Other" was her rival, that machine of his that Gwenna had not
mentioned all the evening....

It had come, she knew, that duel between the Girl and the Aeroplane for
the first place in the heart of a Flying Man. A duel as old as the
world, between the thing a man greatly loves, and that which he loves
more greatly still. She thought of Lovelace who "_loved Honour more_."
She thought of the cold Sea that robs the patient, warm-hearted women
ashore, of the icy Pole whose magnetism drew men from their wives. The
work that drew the thoughts of her Airman was that Invention that was
known already as his _Fiancée_....

"Leslie says it's not as bad as if it were another woman, but I see her
as a woman," thought the silent, fanciful girl, "I see her as a sort of
winged dragon with a figure-head--aeroplanes don't have figure-heads,
but this one seems to me to have, just like some of those vessels that
come into the harbour at Aberdovey. Or like those pictures of harps that
are half a woman. Smooth red hair she has, and a long neck stretched
out, and a rather thin, pale, don't-care sort of face like that girl
called Muriel. And--and eagle's talons for hands. That's how I see that
_Fiancée_ of his, with claws for hands that won't, _won't_ ever let him
go...."

A puff of wind knocked one of the lanterns above their heads softly
against the other; the willows rustled silkily outside. Gwenna sat
motionless, holding her breath. Suddenly her reverie had broken off with
an abrupt, unspoken--"but it's me he's thinking of _now_...."

Paul Dampier had been lightly amused by that passing of the other
couple. That friend of hers, Miss Long, was more than a bit of a flirt,
he considered. This Little Thing wasn't. Couldn't imagine _her_ giving a
kiss as some girls give a dance; or even to "soften" a refusal.... Her
mouth, he found himself noticing, was full and curly and exactly the
colour of the buds of those fox-gloves that grew all over the shop at
her place in Wales. It was probably softer than those curls of hers
that he would (also) like to touch.

Idiotic idea, though----

But an idea which is transmittable.

Gwenna, thrilled by this message which she had caught by a method older
and less demonstrable than Marconi's, realised: "He heard _that_, just
now; that boy wanting to kiss Leslie.... He's thinking, now, that he
might kiss me."

The boy scarcely at arm's length from her thought a little confusedly,
"I say, though.... Rotten thing to do...."

The girl thought, "He would like to. _What_ is he waiting about? We
shall have to go directly----"

For the sky outside had been swiftly paling. Now that pure pallor was
changing to the glow of Abyssinian gold. Dawn! From the marquee came a
louder blare of music; two long cornet notes and then a rollicking
tune--The old "Post Horn" Galop--the last dance. Presently a distant
noise of clapping and calls for "Extra"! There would be no time for
extras, she'd heard. They would have to go after this. People were
beginning to go. Already they had heard the noise of a car. His chair
creaked as he moved a little sidewards.

He told himself, more emphatically, "Beastly rotten thing to do. This
Little Thing would never speak to me again----"

And the girl sat there, without stirring, without glancing at him. Yet
every curve of her little body, every eyelash, every soft breath she
drew was calling him, was set upon "making" him. What could she do more
to make herself, as Leslie called it, a magnet? Love and innocent
longing filled her to the eyes, the tender fox-glove buds of lips that
could have asked for nothing better. Even if this _were_ the only time!
Even if she never saw him again!

Wasn't he going to set the crown upon her wonderful dream of a summer
night?

"No, look _here_," the boy remonstrated silently with something in
himself; something that seemed to mock him. He lifted his fair head with
a gleam of that pride that goes so often before a fall. "Dash it
all----"

"He will!" the girl thought breathlessly. And with her thought she
seemed to cast all of her heart into the spell....


And then, quite suddenly, something happened whereby that spell was
snapped. Even as she thought "_he will_," he rose from his chair.

He took a step to the entrance of their arbour, his shoulders blotting
out the glowing light.

"Listen," he said.

And Gwenna, rising too, listened, breathlessly, angrily. He would
_not_--she had been cheated. What was it that had--_interfered_?
Presently she heard it, she heard what she would have taken for the
noise of another of the departing motors.

Through the clatter from the last galop it was like, yet unlike, the
noise of a starting car. But there was in it an _angrier_ note than
that.

It is angry for want of any help but its own. A motor-car has solid
earth against which to drive; a steamship has dense water. But the
Machine that caused this noise was beating her metal thews against
invisible air.

It was an aeroplane.

"Look!" said Paul Dampier.

Far away over the still benighted land she rose, and into that glory of
Abyssinian gold beyond the river. Gwenna, moving out on to the path,
watched the flight. Before, she had wondered that these soaring things
didn't come down. Now, she would have wondered if they had done so.

Steady as if running on rails, the aeroplane came on overhead; her sound
as she came now loud, now soft, but always angry, harsh--harshness like
that of a woman who lives to herself and her strivings, with no
comradeship of Earth on which to lean. Against the sky that was her
playground she showed as a slate-coloured dragonfly--a purple Empress of
the Air soaring on and on into the growing dazzle of the day.

"Oh, it _is_ beautiful, though," cried the girl on the path, looking up,
and losing for that moment the angry sense that had fallen upon her of
pleasure past, of the end of the song. "It is wonderful."

"Pooh, that old horse-bus," laughed Paul Dampier above her shoulder,
and mentioned the names of the machine, the flyer in her. He could pick
them out of the note of her angry song.

"That will be nothing to my P.D.Q.," he declared exultantly as they
walked on up the path towards the marquee. "You wait until I've got my
aeroplane working! That'll be something new in aviation, you know.
Nearest thing yet to the absolute identity of the Man with the Machine."

He yawned a little with natural sleepiness, but his interest was
wide-awake. He could have gone on until breakfast-time explaining some
fresh point about his invention, while the girl in those little
silver-heeled shoes paced slowly up the path beside him.... He was going
on.

"Make all those other types, English or foreign, as clumsy as the
old-fashioned bone-shake bicycle. Fact," he declared. "Now, take the
Taube--Hullo----"

"_Bitte_," said a voice.

The German word came across a pile of plates deftly balanced upon a
young man's forearm. That arm was clad in the sleeve of a trim white
jacket, buttoned over a thick and compact little chest. The waiter's
hair was a short, upright golden stubble, and another little stubble of
gold sprouted upon his steady upper lip. He had come up, very softly,
behind them.

He spoke again in excellent English.

"By your leave, sir."

Dampier made way for him, and he passed. Gwenna, with a little shiver,
looked after him. The sight of the young waiter whom she had noticed at
the beginning of the evening had given her an unreasonable little
chill.... Perhaps it was because his softly-moving, white figure against
those willows had loomed so like a ghost....

Dampier said, "Rotten job for a man, I always think, hanging about and
picking up things for other people like that."

"Yes," said Gwenna, absently, sadly. It _was_ the end now. Quite the
end. They'd got to go home. Back to everyday life. The Club, the Works.
Nothing to live for, except--Ah, yes! His promise that he _would_ take
her flying, soon....

Above in the glowing sky the aeroplane was dwindling--to disappear. The
waiter, turning a corner of the dark shrubbery, had also disappeared as
they passed. From behind the shelter of the branches he was watching,
watching....

He was looking after Paul Dampier, the Airman--the inventor of the
newest aeroplane.



CHAPTER XIII

THE FLYING DREAM

"_Those dreams come true that are dreamed on Midsummer night!_"


This saying Gwenna had read somewhere. But she had forgotten all about
it until, on the night of June 24th, 1914, she dreamed the most vivid
dream of all her twenty-two years.

Many people have that same dream--or versions of it--often in a
lifetime. Scientists have written papers on the whys and hows of it.
They tack a long name to it. But little Gwenna Williams had never heard
of "_levitation_." To herself she called it afterwards "_that flying
dream_."

It seemed to her that when it began she was still half-awake, lying in
her narrow white bed with the blankets tossed on to the floor of her
Club bedroom, for it was a sultry night and close, in spite of her
window on to the garden being wide open and allowing what breeze there
was to blow full upon the girl's face, stirring her curls on the pillow,
the ruffle of her night-gown as she lay.

Suddenly a violent start ran over the whole of her body. And with that
one jerk she seemed to have come out of herself. She realised, first,
that she was no longer lying down, curled up in the kitten-like ball
which was her attitude for sleeping. She was upright as if she were
standing.

But she was not standing. Her feet were not resting on anything. Looking
down, she found, without very much surprise, that she was poised, as a
lark is poised, in mid-air, at some immeasurable height. It was night,
and the earth--a distant hassock of dim trees and fields--was far, far
below her.

She found herself moving downwards through the air.

_She was flying!_

Gently, gently, she sped, full of a quiet happiness in her new power,
which, after all, did not seem to be something new, but something
restored to her.

"Dear me, I've flown before, I know I have," said Gwenna to herself as
she swooped downwards in her dream, with the breeze cool on the soles of
her little bare feet. "This is as lovely as swimming! It's lovelier,
because one doesn't have to _do_ anything. So silly to imagine that one
has to have _wings_ to fly!"

Now she was nearer to earth, she was hovering over a dark stream of
water with reflections that circled and broke. And beside it she saw
something that seemed like a huge lambent mushroom set in the dim fields
below her. This was a lighted tent, and from it there floated up to her
faintly the throb and thrill of dance-music, the two long-drawn-out
notes of the "Post Horn" Galop, the noise of laughter and clapping....
She wondered whom she would see, if she were to alight. But the Force
in her dream bore her up again, higher, and away. She found presently
that she had left the dancing-tent far behind, and that what streamed
below her was no longer a river with reflections, but a road, white with
dust, and by the side of it a car was standing idle by the dusty hedge.
On the other side of the hedge, as she flew over, the grass was clean
and full of flowers, and half-way up the field stood a brooding elm that
cast a patch of shadow.

"Sunshine, now!" wondered Gwenna. "How quickly it's changed from night!"

She felt from head to foot her body light and buoyant as a drifting
thistle-down as on she went through the air. Close beside her, against a
bank of cloud, she noticed some black V-shaped thing that slanted and
flapped slow wings, then planed downwards out of her sight. "That's that
crow. A dihedral angle, they call it," said the dreaming girl. Her next
downward glance, as she sped upwards now, without effort, above the
earth, showed her a map of distant grey roofs and green trees, and
something that looked like a giant soap-bubble looming out of the mist.

"St. Paul's! London!" thought Gwenna. "I wonder shall I be able to look
down on our Westminster place."

Then, glancing about her, she saw that the scene had suddenly changed.
She was no longer in the free air with clouds about her as she flew like
a little white windblown feather with the earth small as a toy puzzle
below. She was between walls, with her feet not further than her own
height from the ground. Night again in a room. A long, narrowish room
with an open window through which came the light of a street-lamp that
flung a bright patch upon the carpet, the edge of a dressing-table, the
end of a white bed. Upon the bed, from which the coverings had been
flung down, there lay sleeping, curled up like a kitten, a figure in a
white, ruffled night-gown, with a cherub's head thrown backwards against
the pillow. Gwenna, looking down, thought, "Where have I seen _her_?"

In the next flash she had realised.

Herself!... Her own sleeping body that her dreaming soul had left for
this brief flight....

A start more violent than that with which her dream had begun shook the
dreamer as she came to herself again.

She woke. With a pitiful little "Oh," sounding in her own ears, she sat
up in bed and stared about her Club bedroom with its patches of light
from the street-lamp outside. She was trembling from head to foot, her
curls were wet with fright, and her first thought as she sprang out of
bed and to the door of that ghostly room was "I must go to Leslie."

But Leslie's bedroom was a story higher. Gwenna paused in the corridor
outside the nearest bedroom to her own. A thread of light showed below
the door. It was a Miss Armitage's, and she was one of the Club members,
who wrote pamphlets on the Suffrage, and like topics, far into the
night. Gwenna, feeling already more normal and cheered by the sense of
any human nearness, decided, "I won't go to her. She'll only want to
read aloud to me.... She laughed at me because I said I adored 'The
Forest Lovers,' but what books does _she_ like? Only those _dreat_-ful
long novels all about nothing, except the diseases of people in the
Potteries. Or else it'll be one of her own tracts.... Somehow she does
make everything she's interested in sound so _ugly_. All those
intellectual ones here do! Whether it's Marriage or Not-getting-married,
you really don't know which would be the most _dull_, from these
suffragettes," reflected the young girl, pattering down the corridor
again. "I'll go back to bed."

She went back, snuggling under the clothes. But she could not go to
sleep again for some time. She lay curled up, thinking.

She had thought too often and too long of that dance now three whole
weeks behind her. She had recalled, too many times! every moment of it;
every word and gesture of her partner's, going over and over his look,
his laugh, the tone in which he'd said, "Give _me_ this waltz, will
you?" All that memory had had the sweetness smelt out of it like a
child's posy. By this time it was worn thin as heirloom silver. She
turned from it.... It was then she remembered that saying about the
Midsummer Night's Dream. If that were true, then Gwenna might expect
soon to fly in reality.

For after all her plans and hopes, she had not even yet been taken up
by Paul Dampier in an aeroplane!

In that silent, unacknowledged conflict between the Girl and the
Machine, so far scarcely a score could have been put down to the credit
of the Girl. It was she who had always found herself put back,
disappointed, frustrated. This had been by the merest accidents.

First of all, the Airman hadn't been able to ask her and Miss Long to
his rooms in Camden Town to look at his model aeroplane. He had been
kept hanging on, not knowing which Saturday-to-Monday Colonel Conyers
("the great Air-craft Conyers") was going to ask him down to stay at
that house in Ascot, to have another talk over the subject of the new
Machine. ("A score for the Machine," thought the girl; wakeful, tossing
on her bed.)

She did not even know that the week after, on a glorious and cloudless
Saturday, young Dampier, blankly unaware that there was any conflict
going on in his world! had settled to ask "the Little Thing" to Hendon.
On the Friday afternoon, however, his firm had sent him out of town,
down to the factory near Aldershot. Here he had stayed until the
following Tuesday, putting up at the house of a kindred soul employed at
that factory, and wallowing in "Shop." ... Another win for the Machine!

The following Sunday the cup had been almost to Gwenna's lips. He had
called for her. Not in the car, this time. They had taken the Tube to
Golders Green; the motor-bus to Hendon Church; and then the path over
the fields together. Ah, delight! For even walking over the dusty grass
beside that swinging boy's figure in the grey tweed jacket was a joyous
adventure. It had been another when he had presently stooped and said,
"Shoelace come untied; might trip over that. I'll do it up," and had
fastened her broad brown shoe-ribbon securely for her. Her shoes had
been powdered white. He had taken his handkerchief out of his pocket and
had flicked the dust off, saying, as he did so, in a tone of some
interest, "I say, what tiny feet girls do have!"

("Pie for you, Taffy, of course," as Leslie had said later, when she'd
heard of this. "Second time he'd noticed them.")

Gwenna, in a tone half pleased, half piqued, had told him, "_All_ girls
don't have them so small! And yet you don't seem to notice anything
about people but their feet." She had walked on, delightedly conscious
of his laugh, his amused, "Oh, don't I?" and his downward glance....
Wasn't this, she had thought, something of a score at last for the Girl!

But hadn't even that small score been wiped out on the flying-ground?
There Gwenna had stood, waiting, gleeful and agitated; her mist-blue
scarf aflutter in the brisk breeze, but not fluttering as wildly as her
heart....

And then had come frustration once again! Paul Dampier's deep and
womanishly-soft tone saying, "I say, I'm afraid it's going to be a bit
too blowy, after all. Wind's rising all the time;" and that other giant
voice from the megaphone announcing:

     "Ladies  and  gentul  Men!  As  the  wind  is  now  blowing
     forty  miles  an  hour  it  will  be  im  possible  to  make
     passenger  flights!"

Oh, bitter defeat for the Girl! For, this time, there had been no
idyllic picnic _à deux_ to console her for any disappointment. There had
been nothing but a rather noisy tea in the Pavilion, with a whole
chattering party of the young Airman's acquaintances; with another young
woman who had meant to fly, but who had seemed resigned enough that it
was "not to be, _this_ afternoon," and with half a dozen strange,
irrelevant young men; quite _silly_, Gwenna had thought them. Two of
them had given Gwenna a lift back to Hampstead in their car afterwards,
since Paul Dampier had explained that he "rather wanted to go on with
one of the other fellows"--somewhere! Gwenna didn't know where. Only,
out of her sight! Out of her world! And she was quite certain, even
though he hadn't said so, that he had been bent on some quest that had
something to do with the _Fianceé_ of his, the "P.D.Q.," the Machine!



CHAPTER XIV

AN AWAKENING


The sore of that jealousy still smarted in the girl's mind as she turned
her pillow restlessly.... She could not sleep until long after the
starlings had been twittering and the milk-carts rattling by in the
suburban road outside. She awoke, dispirited. She came down late for
breakfast; Leslie had already gone off to her old lady in Highgate. Over
the disordered breakfast-table Miss Armitage was making plans, with some
of the other Suffrage-workers, to "speak" at a meeting of the Fabian
Nursery. Those young women talked loudly enough, but they didn't
pronounce the ends of any of their words; hideously slipshod it all
sounded, thought the Welsh girl fretfully. Her world was a desert to
her, this fine June morning. For at the Westminster office things seemed
as dreary as they had at the Club. She began to see what people meant
when they said that on long sea-voyages one of the greatest hardships
was never to see a fresh face, but always the same ones, day after day,
well-known to weariness, all about one. It was just like that when one
was shut up to work day after day in an office with the same people. She
was sick to death of all the faces of all the people here. Miss Butcher
with her Cockney accent! Miss Baker with her eternal crochet! The men in
the yards with their _awful_ tobacco and trousers! Nearly all men, she
thought, were ugly. All old men. And most of the young ones; _round_
backs, _horrid_ hands, _disgusting_ skins--Mr. Grant, for instance!
(with a glance at that well-meaning engineer, when he brought in some
note for Mabel Butcher). Those swarthy men never looked as if they had
baths and proper shaves. He'd a head like a black hatpin. And his
accent, thought the girl from the land where every letter of a word is
pronounced, his accent was more excruciating than any in Westminster.

"Needn't b'lieve me, if you don't want. But it's true-oo! Vis'ters this
aft'noon," he was saying to Miss Butcher. "Young French Dook or Comp or
something, he is; taking out a patent for a new crane. Coming in early
with some swagger friends of his. Wants to be shown the beauties of the
buildin', I s'pose. Better bring him in here and let him have a good
look at you girls first thing, hadn't I? S'long! Duty calls. I must
away."

And away he went, leaving Miss Butcher smiling fondly after him, while
Miss Williams wondered how on earth any girl ever managed to fall in
love, considering there was nothing but young men to fall in love with.
All ordinary young men were awful. And all young men _were_ ordinary....
Except, now and again, one ... far away ... out of reach.... Who just
showed how different and wonderful a thing a lover might be! If one
could only, only ever get near him!--instead of being stuck down here,
in this perfectly beastly place----

As the morning wore on, she found herself more and more dissatisfied
with all her surroundings. And for a girl of Gwenna's sort to be
thoroughly dissatisfied predicts one thing only. She will not long stay
where she is.

Impatiently she sighed over her typing-table. Irritably she fidgeted in
her chair. This was what jerked the plump arm of Ottilie Becker, who was
passing behind her, and who now dropped a handful of papers on to the
new boards.

"Zere! Now see what you have made me do," said the German girl
good-naturedly enough. "My letter! Pick him up, Candlesticks-maker."

"Oh, pick him up yourself," retorted Gwenna school-girlishly, crossly.
"It wasn't my fault."

At this tone from a colleague of whom she was genuinely fond, tears rose
to Miss Becker's blue eyes. Miss Butcher, coming across to the centre
table, saw those tears.

"Well, really, anybody might _apologise_," she remarked reproachfully,
"when they've _upset_ anybody."

At this rebuke Gwenna's strained nerves snapped.

An Aberystwith Collegiate School expression rose naturally to her
lips--"_Cau dy gêg_!" She translated it: "Shut _up_!" she said, quite
rudely.

Then, the moment after she had given way to this little outburst of
temper she felt better. She was ready to be on the best of terms again
with her fellow-typists. They, as Miss Butcher would have said, "weren't
having any." They turned offended backs upon her. They talked pointedly
to each other, not to her.

"That's a precious long letter you've got written there, Baker," said
Miss Butcher, helping to gather up the half-dozen thin foreign sheets,
covered with neat, pointed German writing. "Is that to the beloved
brother?"

Miss Becker nodded her plait-wreathed head as she put the letter that
began: "_Geliebter Karl!_" into the grey-lined envelope.

"He likes to hear what they make--do--at the works. Always he ask," she
said, "after what they do. And who come hier; and where everythings is
kept."

"Gracious! I do believe he's a regular German spy, like in the
magazines, this brother of yours," smiled Miss Butcher lightly. "Don't
you give away any of our State secrets, Baker, will you? We'd be having
the authorities, whoever they are, poking round and inquiring. Awful if
England and your country went to war, wouldn't it?--and you were
supposed to be 'the Enemy'!"

She spoke as if of something that was more fantastic than Gwenna's
flying dream of the night before. The German typist answered in the same
strain.

"If it _was_ war, I would speak to Karlchen's regiment that your house
in Clapham and your people should be saved," she promised. "But he is
not thinking now of war; he interests himself very much for buildings
(because our father is architect). And for maps of the river, and such.
So I must write on him every week a long letter.... We go out to-day to
have our lunch, yes?"

The two went out together towards Whitehall. The Welsh girl was left in
Coventry--and the deserted offices.

She didn't want any lunch. She drank a glass of tepid tap-water from the
dressing-room. She ate some strawberries, bought in their little flat
basket as she had come along. Then, hatless, and in her thin, one-piece
dress of grey linen, she strolled out into the yard for a breath of air.

It was empty and hot and sunny. Gwenna looked up from the wood-littered
ground where the ubiquitous London pigeons strutted and flirted and
"Croo--_croo_--do--I--do"-ed about her feet. Overhead, that giant
lacework on its iron crochet-hooks looked as if its pattern had been
drawn with a pen and black ink against the opaque blue-grey sky. The
sight of that far-off pinnacle put into her head again the thought of
flying.

"I don't believe that I shall ever be as high up as that, with the blue
beneath me, like I've always wanted!" reflected the young girl,
dolefully looking up. "I believe that last night in my dream is all the
flying I'm ever going to have had!"

And again that longing took her. That pure longing to be high; above the
Law that clogs the children of Man to the Earth from which he came. To
feel the unfettered air above and below and about her all at once!...
But what could she do to gratify the impulse even a little?

Only one thing.

She might _climb_.

The idea with which she started off on her mad prank was to climb up to
that iron lattice of lacework; to run up that as a sailor climbs the
rope-ladders of his masts, and thence from the very highest peak
attainable to look down on London, even as last night she had looked
down on it from her dream.

Her start was not in the open air at all, but from the bottom of the
scaffolding inside, where it was all beams and uprights and floors of
planks. It reminded Gwenna of being underneath the old wooden pier at
Aberdovey, and looking up. She went up ladders, through trap-doors,
walked over wooden floors to other ladders until she got up to the last
trap-door and through it out of the shadow and the stuffiness to the
sunshine and the fresh air again. She stood on the top platform of the
gantry which supported that engine and the wheels that worked (she
supposed) the iron lattice that was still far above her head.

Presently she would climb that. She knew that she could. She was never
afraid of heights. Her head was steady enough. Her feet in their brown
shoes were as sure as the feet of the tiny sheep that picked their way
up the rocky steeps of her Welsh mountains. She could climb as well as
any of the men ... but for the moment she rested, standing by the
platform hand-railing, breathing in the freshened breeze.

The birds of the City--pigeons and sparrows--were taking their short
flights far beneath her perch. All London was spread below her, as it
had been in that flying dream, and with as strong a sense of security
as in the dream she looked down upon it.

There, between the forests of chimney-pots, gleamed that highway of the
Thames, blue-grey now as it reflected the sky, winding out of the
distance that meant the clean, green country and the willows below the
lawns where people had danced; flowing on into London that sullied it,
and burdened it with her barges, and spanned it with her bridges, but
could not stay it; on and out its waters passed towards Greenwich and
the Docks and the tall ships and the North Sea!

And there on its bank was the office, the dwindled yard from which
Gwenna had started. The men returning....

The whole place looked nothing more than a hen-run full of fowls. Their
voices ascended, more loudly than she would have expected to hear from
their diminished figures. How funny to see what midgets the creatures
looked from here, and to remember how majestically important each
considered himself! thought little Gwenna, forgetting that from the yard
she herself, with her grey linen frock, her brown feet and ankles, must
look no larger than a roosting pigeon.

She looked down, past the railing and the ends of timbers, feeling
immeasurably aloof from everybody in her world. She wished she need
never go down to it again.

"I've a _good_ mind to give notice at the office, whatever, and go
somewhere quite different!" she thought defiantly, and immediately she
felt elated. A weight of depression seemed to have dropped from her
already. Up, up went the feather-weight spirits of Youth. She had
forgotten for this moment the longing and frustration of the last weeks,
the exasperations of this morning, her squabble with those other girls.
She had climbed out of all that....

Now, before she left this place, she would do something that none of the
girls she knew would dare. She'd climb further.

She turned to take a step towards the crane.


Then something gave her a start as violent as that in which she had,
that night before, been jerked out of her dream.

For now, into her absorbed musing there had broken without warning the
sound of a voice. It had seemed to have come out of nothing, from behind
her, and it had said, with a laugh deep and soft at once, "_My_ machine?
Oh, yes.... Good of you to remember her----"

Paul Dampier's voice!

Little Gwenna, with her back to the trap-door, and wrapped in her own
thoughts, had heard nothing of the steps of five pairs of feet coming up
the way that she had come. In the violence of her surprise of hearing a
voice, so often heard in her daydreams now, here, in this unexpected
place between sky and ground, she started so that she lost her balance.

The girl's foot slipped. She fell. She was half over the platform--one
small foot and ankle stretched out over the giddy height as that crane
was stretched. She clutched on the crook of a slender grey arm, the
railing of the platform--So, for an agonised moment, she hung.

But hardly had she cried out before there was the dash of a tall man's
figure across the planks from the trap-door.

"It's all right--I've got you," said Paul Dampier, and caught her up
from the edge, in his arms.

They held her. That armful of a girl, soft and warm as one of the grey
pigeons, was crushed for a moment against the boy's chest. She was
closer to him than she had been in any of those waltzes. Yet it seemed
no strangeness to be so near--feeling his heart beat below hers, feeling
the roughness of his tweed jacket through the thin linen of her frock.
She felt as she'd felt about flying, in that dream of hers. "I must have
known it all before."

Then, dazed but happy, resting where she seemed to belong, she thought
in a twink, "I shall have to let go. _Why_ can't I stay like this?...
Oh, it's very cruel. There! Now I have let go. But he won't.... He's
getting his balance."

He had taken a step backwards.

Then she slid through his arms. She slipped, lightly as a squirrel slips
down the length of a beech, to the wooden floor of the platform.

Cruel; yes, _cruel_! And to add to the cruelty that such a moment must
end, the Airman, when she left his enforced clasp, scarcely looked at
her. He barely returned her greeting. He did not answer her breathless
thanks. He turned away from her--whom he had saved. Yes! He left her to
the meaningless babble of the others (she recognised now, in a dazed
way, that there were other men with him on the scaffolding). He left her
to the politenesses of his cousin Hugo and of that young French engineer
(Mr. Grant's "Comp" who had come up to inspect the crane). He never
looked again as Miss Williams was guided down the trap-door and the
ladders by the scolding Yorkshire foreman, who didn't leave her until
she was safely at the bottom.

She was met by the two other typists who had, from the office window,
seen her perched up, small as a bird, on the heights. Both girls had
been terrified. Miss Butcher now brought lavender salts. Miss Becker's
pink moon of a face was blanched with horror over her colleague's
danger.

"Do you know what could have happened, Candlesticks-maker, my dear?"
cried the German girl with real emotion, as they all made tea together
in the varnished, stifling office. "You could have been killed, you!"

Gwenna thought, "That would have been too bad. Because then--_then_ I
shouldn't have known when he held me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As it was, there were several things about that incident that the young
girl--passionate and infatuated and innocent--did not know.

For one thing, there was the resolution that Paul Dampier took just
after he had turned abruptly from her, had taken short leave of the
others, and when he was striding down Whitehall to the bus that went
past the door of his Camden Town rooms. And for another thing, there was
the reason for that resolution.

Now, in the fairy-stories of modern life, it is (of the two principals)
not always the Princess who has to be woken by a kiss, a touch, from the
untroubled sleep of years. Sometimes it is the Prince who is suddenly
stirred, jarred, or jolted broad awake by the touch, in some form or
other, of Love. In Paul Dampier's case the every-day miracle had been
wrought by the soft weight of that dove-breasted girl against his heart
for no longer than he could count ten, by her sliding to the earth
through an embrace that he had not intended for an embrace at all.

It hadn't seemed to matter what _he_ had intended!

In a flock as of homing pigeons there flew back upon the young aviator
all at once his thoughts of the Little Thing ever since he'd met her.

How he'd thought her so jolly to look at ("So sensible"--this he
forgot). How topping and natural it had seemed to sit there with her in
that field, talking to her, drinking with her out of one silver cup. How
he'd found himself wanting to touch her curls; to span and squeeze her
throat with his hands. How he'd been within an inch of summarily kissing
that fox-glove pink mouth of hers, that night at the Dance....

And to-day, when he'd come to Westminster for another talk with that
rather decent young Frenchman of Hugo's, when he hadn't thought of
seeing the girl at all, what had happened? He'd actually held her
clasped in his arms, as a sweetheart is clasped.

Only by a sheer accident, of course.

Yes, but an accident that had left impressed on every fibre of him the
feeling of that warm and breathing burden which seemed even yet to rest
against his quickened heart.

In that heart there surged up a clamorous impulse to go back at once. To
snatch her up for the second time in his arms, and not to let her go
again, either. To satisfy that hunger of his fingers and lips for the
touch of her----

"_Hold_ hard!" muttered the boy to himself. "Hang it all, this won't
do."

For he had found himself actually turning back, his face set towards the
Abbey.

He spun round on the hot pavement towards home again.

"Look here; can't have this!" he told himself grimly as he walked on,
swinging his straw hat in his hand, towards Trafalgar Square. "At this
rate I shall be making an ass of myself before I know where I am; going
and falling in--going and getting myself much too dashed fond of the
Little Thing."

Yes! He now saw that he was in some danger of that.

And if it did come to anything, he mused, walking among the London
summer crowd, it wouldn't be one of these Fancy-dress-dance
flirtations. Not that sort of girl. "Nor was he; really." Not that sort
of man, he meant. Sort of thing never had amused him, much; not, he
knew, because he was cold-blooded ("Lord, no!") but partly because he'd
had such stacks of other things to do, partly because--because he'd
always thought it ought to be (and could be) so much more--well, amusing
than it was. This other. This with the Little Thing--he somehow knew
that it would have to be "for keeps."

And _that_ he couldn't have. Good Lord, no! There could be no
question--Great Scott!

For yes, if there _was_ anything between him and the Little Thing, it
would have to be an engagement. Marriage, and all that.

And Paul Dampier didn't intend to get married. Out of the question for
him.

He'd only just managed to scrape through and make "some sort of a
footing" for himself in the world as it was. His father, a hard-up Civil
engineer, and his mother (who had been looked askance at by her people,
the Swaynes, for marrying the penniless and undistinguished Paul
Dampier, senior)--they'd only just managed to give their boy "some kind
of an education" before they pegged out. Lessons at home when he'd been
a little fellow. Afterwards one of the (much) smaller public-schools.
For friends and pleasures and holidays he had been dependent on what he
could "pick up" for himself. Old Hugo had been decent enough. He'd asked
his cousin to fish with him in Wales, twice, and he hadn't allowed Paul
to feel that he was--the poor relation.

Only Paul remembered the day that Hugo was going back to Harrow for the
last time. He, Paul, had then been a year in the shops, to the day. He
remembered the sudden resentment of that. It was not snobbery, not envy.
It was Youth in him crying out, "I will be served! I won't be put off,
and stopped doing things, and shoved out of things for ever, just
because I'm poor. If being poor means being 'out of it,' having no Power
of any kind, I'm dashed if I _stay_ poor. I'll show that I can make
good----"

And, gradually, step by step, the young mechanic, pilot, aero-racer and
inventor had been "making good."

He'd made friends, too. People had been decent. He'd been made to feel
that _they_ felt he was going to be a useful sort of chap. He'd quailed
a bit under the eyes of butlers in these houses where he'd stayed, but
he'd been asked again. That Mrs. What's-her-name (the woman in the pink
frock at the Smiths) had been awfully kind. Introducing him to her
brothers with capital; asking him down to the New Forest to meet some
other influential person; and knowing that he couldn't entertain in
return. (He'd just sent her some flowers and some tickets for
Brooklands.) Then there was Colonel Conyers. He'd asked whether he
(Dampier) were engaged. And, at his answer, had replied, "Good. Much
easier for a bachelor, these days."

And now! Supposing he got married?

On his screw? Paul Dampier laughed bitterly.

Well, but supposing he got engaged; got some wretched girl to wait
for----

Years of it! Thanks!

Then, quite apart from the money-question, what about all his work?

Everything he wanted to do! Everything he was really in earnest about.

His scheme--his invention--his Machine!

"End of it all, if he went complicating matters by starting a _girl_!"

Take up all his time. Interrupt--putting him off his job--yes, he knew!
Putting him off, like this afternoon in the yard, and that other night
at the Dance. Only more so. Incessant. "Mustn't have it; quite simply,
he must _not_."

Messing up his whole chance of a career, if----

But he was pulling himself up in time from that danger.

Up to now he hadn't realised that there might be something in all that
rot of old Hugo's about the struggle in a man's mind between an
Aeroplane and a Girl. Now--well, he'd realised. All the better. Now he
was forewarned. Good thing he could take a side for himself now.

By the time he'd reached the door of the National Portrait Gallery and
stood waiting for his motor omnibus, he had definitely taken that
resolution of which Gwenna Williams did not know.

Namely, that he must drop seeing the Girl. Have nothing more to say to
her. It was better so; wiser. Whatever he'd promised about taking her up
would have to be "off."

A pity--! Dashed shame a man couldn't have _everything_! She was ... so
awfully sweet....

Still, got to decide one way or the other.

This would fix it before it was too late, before he'd perhaps managed to
put ideas into the head of the Little Thing. She shouldn't ever come
flying, with him!

That _ended_ it! he thought. He'd made up _his_ mind. He would not allow
himself to wonder what _she_ might think.

After all, what _would_ a girl think? Probably nothing.

Nothing at all, probably.



CHAPTER XV

LESLIE ON "TOO MUCH LOVE"


It seemed to be decided for Gwenna that she should, after all, give
notice at the office.

For on the evening of the day of her climb up the scaffolding she met
the tall, sketchily-dressed figure of her chum coming down the hill that
she was ascending on her way to the Club. And Leslie accosted her with
the words, "Child, d'you happen to want to leave your place and take
another job? Because, if so, come along for a walk and we'll talk about
it."

So the two "inseparables" strolled on together up past the Club, passing
at the crest of the hill a troop of Boy Scouts with their band.

"Only chance one ever gets of hearing a drum; jolly sound," sighed
Leslie, watching the brown faces, the sturdy legs marching by. "I wonder
how many of those lads will be soldiers? Very few, I suppose. We're told
that the authorities are _so_ careful to keep the Boy Scout Movement
apart from any pernicious militarism, and ideas about National Service!"

And the girls took the road that dips downward from Hampstead, and the
chestnut avenue that leads into the Park of Golders Green. They passed
the Bandstand ringed by nurse-girls and perambulators. They crossed the
rustic bridge above the lily-pond, where children tossed crumbs to the
minnows. They went in at the door of the little flower-garden.

Here, except for an occasional sauntering couple, London seemed shut
out. In the late sunlight above the maze of paths, the roses were just
at their best. Over the pergolas and arbours they hung in garlands, they
were massed in great posies of pink and cream and crimson. The little
fountain set in the square of velvet turf tossed up a spray of white
mist touched with a rainbow, not unlike Gwenna's dance-frock.

The girls sat down on a shaded seat facing that fountain. Gwenna,
turning to her chum, said, "Now do tell me about that job you asked if
I'd take. What is it?"

"Oh! it's a woman who used to know some of my people; she came to the
Club this afternoon, and then on to my old lady's to see me about it,"
said Leslie. "She wants a girl--partly to do secretarial work, partly to
keep her company, partly to help her in the 'odd bits' of her work down
there where she has her business."

Gwenna, rather listlessly thinking of typewriting offices, of blouses,
or tea-shops, asked what the lady did.

Leslie gave the extraordinary answer, "She builds aeroplanes."

"_She_ does?" cried Gwenna, all thrilled. "_Aeroplanes?_"

"Yes. She's the only woman who's got an Aircraft Factory, men, shops and
all. It's about an hour's run from town. She's a pilot herself, and her
son's an aviator," said Leslie, speaking as though of everyday things.
"Everything supplied, from the Man to the Machine, what?"

"Oh! But what a _gorgeous_ sort of Life for a woman, Leslie!" cried the
younger girl, her face suddenly alight. "Fancy spending her time making
things like _that_! Things that are going to make a difference to the
whole world! Instead of her just 'settling down' and embroidering
'duchesse sets,' and sitting with tea-cups, like Uncle Hugh's 'Lady
parishioners,' and talking to callers about servants; and operations!
Oh, oh, don't _you_ want to take her job?"

"I'm not especially keen on one job more than another. And my old lady
would be rather upset if I did leave her in the lurch," said Leslie,
more unselfishly than her chum suspected. The truth was that this much
disapproved-of Leslie had resigned a congenial post because it might
mean what Gwenna loved. "I told the Aeroplane Lady about you," she
added. "And she'd like you to go down and interview her at the Factory
next Saturday, if you'd care to."

"Care? Of _course_ I'd care! Aeroplanes! After silly buildings and
specifications!" exclaimed Gwenna, clasping her hands in her grey linen
lap. But her face fell suddenly as she added, "But--it's an hour's run
from London, you say? I should have to live there?"

"'_Away from Troilus, and away from Troy_,'" quoted Leslie, smiling.
"You could come back to Troy for week-ends, Taffy. And I'll tell you
what. _It's no bad thing for a young man who's always thought of a girl
as being planted in one particular place, to realise suddenly that
she's been uprooted and set up in quite another place._ Gives him just a
little jerk. By the way, is there any fresh news of Troilus--of the
Dampier boy?"

And Gwenna, sitting there with troubled eyes upon the roses, gave her
the history of that afternoon's adventure. She ended up sadly, "Never
even said 'Good-bye' to me!"

"Getting nervous that he's going to like you too well!" translated
Leslie, without difficulty. "Probably deciding at this minute that he'd
better not see much more of you----"

"Oh, Leslie!" exclaimed the younger girl, alarmed.

"Sort of thing they _do_ decide," said Leslie, lightly. "Well, we'll see
what it amounts to. And we'll wire to-morrow to the Aeroplane Lady. Or
telephone down to-night. I am going to telephone to Hugo Swayne to tell
him I don't feel in the mood to have dinner out to-night again."

"Again?" said Gwenna, rather wistfully, as they rose from the arbour and
walked slowly down the path by the peach-houses. "Has he been asking you
out _several_ times, then?"

"Several," said Leslie with a laugh. She added in her insouciant way,
"You know, _he_ wants to marry me now."

Gwenna regarded her with envy. Leslie spoke of what should be the eighth
wonder of the world, the making or rejecting of a man's life, as if it
were an everyday affair.

"Don't look so unflatteringly _surprised_, Taffy. Strictly pretty I may
not be. But a scrupulously neat and lady-like appearance," mocked
Leslie, putting out a long arm in a faded-silk sleeve that was torn at
the cuff, "has often (they tell one) done more to win husbands than
actual good looks!"

Little Gwenna said, startled, "You aren't--aren't going to _let_ Mr.
Swayne be your husband, are you?"

"I don't know," said Leslie, reflectively, a little wearily. "I don't
know, yet. He's fat--but of course _that_ would come off after I'd
worried him for a year or so. He's flabby. He's rather like Kipling's
person whose '_rooms at College was beastly_!' but he's good-natured,
and his people were all right, and, Taffy, he's delightfully well-off.
And when one's turned twenty-six, one does want to be _sure_ of what's
coming. One must have some investment that'll bring in one's frocks and
one's railway-fares and one's proper setting."

"There are other things," protested little Gwenna with a warm memory of
that moment's clasping on the heights that afternoon. "There are things
one wants more."

"Not me."

"Ah! That's because you don't _know_ them," declared Gwenna, flushed.

And at that the elder girl gave a very rueful laugh.

"Not know them? I've known them too well," she admitted. "Listen, Taffy,
I'll tell you the sort of girl I am. I'm afraid there are plenty of us
about."

She sighed, and went on with a little nod.

"We're the girl who works in the sweetshop and who never wants to touch
chocolates again. We're the sort of girl who's been turned loose too
early at dances and studio-parties and theatricals and so forth. The
girl who's come in for too much excitement and flattery and love-making.
Yes! For in spite of all my natural disadvantages (tuck in that bit of
hair for me, will you?) and in _spite_ of not being quite a fool--I've
been made too much of, by men. The Monties and so forth. _Here's where I
pay for it._ I and the girls like me. We can't ever take a real live
interest in men again!"

"But----!" objected Gwenna, seeing a mental image of Leslie as she had
been at that dance, whirling and flushed and radiant. "You _seem_ to
like----"

"'_The chase, not the quarry_,'" quoted Leslie. "For when I've brought
down my bird, what happens?--He doesn't amuse me any more! It's like
having sweets to eat and such a cold that one can't taste 'em."

"But--that's such a _pity_!"

"D'you suppose I don't _know_ that?" retorted Miss Long. "D'you suppose
I don't wish to Heaven that I could be 'in Love' with somebody? I can't
though. I see through men. And I don't see as much in them as there is
in myself. They can't boss _me_, or take _me_ out of myself, or surprise
_me_ into admiring them. Why can't they, _dash_ them? they can't even
_say_ anything that I can't think of, quicker, first!" complained the
girl with many admirers, resentfully. "And that's a fatal thing to any
woman's happiness. Remember, there's no fun for a woman in just _being_
adored!"

The girl in love, kicking her small brown shoe against the pebbles of
the garden path, sighed that she wished that she could try "being
adored." Just for a change.

"Ah, but you, Taffy, you're lucky. You're so fresh, so eager. You're as
much in love with that aviator's job as you are with anything else about
him. You're as much amused by 'ordinary things' as any other girl is
amused by getting a young man. As for what you feel about the young man
himself, well!--I suppose _that's_ a tune played half a yard to the
right of the keyboard of an ordinary girl's capacity. You're keen for
Life; you've got what men call '_a thirst you couldn't buy_.' Wish I
were like that!"

"Well, but it's so easy to be," argued Gwenna, "when you _do_ meet some
one so wonderful----"

"It's not so easy to see 'wonder,' let me tell you. It's a gift. I've
had it; lost it; spoilt it," mourned the elder girl. "To you
everything's thrilling: their blessed airships--the men in them--the Air
itself. All miracles to you! Everything's an Adventure. So would
Marriage be----"

"Oh, I don't--don't ever think of _that_. Being always _with_ a person!
Oh, it would be _too_ wonderful---- I shouldn't expect--Even to be a
little _liked_, if he once told me so, would be enough," whispered the
little Welsh girl, so softly that her chum did not catch it.

Leslie, striding along, said, "To a girl like me all that's as far
behind as the school-room. At the stage where I am, a girl looks upon
Marriage--how? As '_The Last 'Bus Home, or A Settled Job at last_.'
That's why she so often ends up as an old man's darling--with some very
young man as her slave. That's what makes me ready to accept Hugo
Swayne. And now forget I ever told you so."

The two girls turned homewards; Gwenna a little sad.

To think that Leslie should lack what even ordinary little Mabel Butcher
had! To think that Leslie, underneath all her gaiety and rattle, should
not know any more the taste of real delight!

Gwenna, the simple-hearted, did not know the ways of self-critics. She
did not guess that possibly Miss Long had been analysing her own
character with less truth than gusto.... And she was surprised when, as
they passed the Park gates again, her chum broke the silence with all
her old lightness of tone.

"Talking of young men--a habit for which Leslie never bothers to
apologise--talking of young men, I believe there might be some at the
Aeroplane Lady's place. She often has some one there. A
gentleman--'prentice or pupil or something of that sort. Might be rather
glad to see a new pretty face about with real curls."

It was then that Gwenna turned up that blushing but rather indignant
little face. "But, Leslie! Don't you _understand_? If there were a
million other young men about, all thinking me--all thinking what you
say, it wouldn't make a _bit_ of difference to _me_!"

"Possibly not," said Miss Long, "but there's no reason why it shouldn't
be made to make a difference to the Dampier boy, is there?"

"What d'you mean, Leslie?" demanded the other girl as they climbed the
hill together. For the first time a look of austerity crossed Gwenna's
small face. For the first time it seemed to her that the adored
girl-chum was in the wrong. Yes! She had never before been shocked at
Leslie, whatever wild thing she said. But now--now she was shocked. She
was disappointed in her. She repeated, rebukefully, "What do you mean?"

"What," took up Leslie, defiantly, "do you think I meant?"

"Well--_did_ you mean make--make Mr. Dampier think other people liked
me, and that I might like somebody else better than _him_?"

"Something of the sort _had_ crossed the mind of Leslie the Limit."

"Well, then, it isn't _like_ you----"

"Think not?" There was more than a hint of quarrel in both the girlish
voices. Up to now they had never exchanged a word that was not of
affection, of comradeship.

Gwenna, flushing deeper, said, "It's--it's _horrid_ of you, Leslie."

"Why, pray?"

"Because it would be sort of _deceiving_ Mr. Dampier, for one thing.
It's a _trick_."

"M'yes!"

"And not a pretty one, either," said little Gwenna, red and angry now.
"It's--it's----"

"What?"

"Well, it's what I should have thought that you yourself, Leslie, would
have called '_so obvious_.'"

"Exactly," agreed Miss Long, with a flippant little laugh that covered
smarting feelings. _Taffy_ had turned against her now! Taffy, who used
to think that Leslie could do no wrong! This was what happened when
one's inseparable chum fell in love....

Leslie said impenitently, "I've never yet found that '_the obvious
thing_' was '_the unsuccessful thing_.' Especially when it comes to
anything to do with young men. My good child, you and the Dampier boy,
you

    '_Really constitute a pair,
  Each being rather like an artless woodland elf._'

I mean, can't you see that the dear old-fashioned simple remedies and
recipes remain the best? For a sore throat, black-currant tea. (Never
fails!) For the hair, Macassar oil. (Unsurpassed since the Year
Eighteen-dot!) For the stimulation of an admirer's interest, jealousy.
Jealousy and competition, Taffy."

"He isn't an admirer," protested the younger girl, mollified. Then they
smiled together. The cloud of the first squabble had passed.

Leslie said, "Never mind. If you don't approve of my specific, don't
think of it again."



CHAPTER XVI

THE AEROPLANE LADY


Curiously enough, Gwenna did think of it again.

On the Saturday morning after that walk and talk she took that long dull
train-journey. The only bright spot on it was the passing of Hendon
Flying Ground. Over an hour afterwards she arrived at the little
station, set in a sunburnt waste, for the Aircraft Works.

She asked her way of the ticket-collector at the booking-office. But
before he could speak, she was answered by some one else, who had come
down to the station for a parcel. This was a shortish young man in
greasy blue overalls. He had a smiling, friendly, freckled face under a
thatch of brilliant red hair; and a voice that seemed oddly out of
keeping with his garments. It was an "Oxford" voice.

"The Works? I'm just going on there myself. I'll come with you and show
you, if I may," he said with evident zest.

Gwenna, walking beside him, wished that she had not immediately
remembered Leslie's remarks about young men at aircraft works who might
be glad of the arrival of a new pretty face. This young man, piloting
her down a straggling village street that seemed neither town nor
country, told her at once that he was a pupil at the Works and asked
whether she herself were going to help Mrs. Crewe there.

"I don't know yet," said Gwenna. "I hope so."

"So do I," said the young man gravely, but with a glint of unreserved
admiration in the eyes under the red thatch.

Little Gwenna, walking very erect, wished that she were strong and
self-reliant enough not to feel cheered by that admiration.

(But she was cheered. No denying that!)

The young man took her down a road flanked on either hand by sparse
hedges dividing it from that parched and uninteresting plain. The
mountain-bred girl found all this flat country incredibly ugly. Only, on
her purple Welsh heights and in the green ferny depths threaded by
crystal water, nothing ever happened. It was here, in this half-rural
desert littered by builders' rubbish and empty cans, that Enterprise was
afoot. Strange!

       *       *       *       *       *

On the right came an opening. She saw a yard with wooden debris and what
looked like the wrecks of a couple of motor-cars. Beyond was a cluster
of buildings with corrugated iron roofs.

The red-haired pupil mentioned the name of the Aeroplane Lady and said,
"I think you'll find her in the new Wing-room, over here----"

"What a wonderful name for it," thought the little enthusiast, catching
her breath, as she was shown through a door. "The Wing-room!"

It was high and clean and spacious, with white distempered walls and a
floor of wood-dura, firm yet comforting to the feet. The atmosphere of
it was, on that July day, somewhat overpowering. Two radiators were
working, and the air was heavy with a smell of what seemed like
rubber-solution and spirits mixed: this, Gwenna presently found, was the
"dope" to varnish the strong linen stretched across the wings of
aeroplanes. Two of those great wings were laid out horizontally on
trestles to dry. Another of the huge sails with cambered sections was
set up on end across a corner; and from behind it there moved, stepping
daintily and majestically across the floor, the tawny shape of a Great
Dane, who came inquiringly up to the stranger.

Then from behind the screening wing there came a slight, woman's figure
in dark blue. She followed the dog. Little Gwenna Williams, standing
timidly in that great room so strange and white, and characteristically
scented, found herself face to face with the mistress of the place; the
Aeroplane Lady.

Her hair was greying and fluffy as a head of windblown Traveller's
Joy; beneath it her eyes were blue and young and bright and--yes! with a
little glad start Gwenna recognised that in these eyes too there was
something of that space-daring gleam of the eyes of Icarus, of her own
Flying Man.

"Ah ... I know," said the lady briskly. "You're the girl Leslie's sent
down to see me."

"Yes," said Gwenna, thinking it nice of her to say "Leslie" and not
"Miss Long." She noticed also that the Aeroplane Lady wore at the collar
of her shirt a rather wonderful brooch in the shape of the _caducæus_,
the serpent-twisted rod of Mercury. "Oh, I _do_ hope she'll take me!"
thought the young girl, agitated. "I do want more than anything to come
here to work with her. Oh, supposing she thinks I'm too silly and young
to be any use--supposing she won't take me----"

She was tense with nervousness while the Aeroplane Lady, fondling the
Great Dane's tawny ear with a small, capable hand as she spoke, put the
girl through a short catechism; asking questions about her age, her
people, her previous experience, her salary.... And then she was told
that she might come and work on a month's trial at the Factory,
occupying a room in the Aeroplane Lady's own cottage in the village. The
young girl, enraptured, put down her success to the certificates from
that Aberystwith school of hers, where she had passed "with distinction"
the Senior Cambridge and other examinations. She did not guess that the
Aeroplane Lady had taken less than two minutes to make sure that this
little Welsh typist-girl carried out what Leslie Long had said of her.

Namely that "she was so desperately keen on anything to do with flying
and flyers that she'd scrub the floors of the shops for you if you
wished it, besides doing your business letters as carefully as if each
one was about some important Diplomatic secret ... try her!"

So on the following Monday Gwenna began her new life.

At first this new work of Gwenna's consisted very largely of what Leslie
had mentioned; the writing-out of business letters at the table set
under the window in the small private office adjoining the great
Wing-room.

(Curious that the Wings for Airships, the giant butterfly aeroplanes
themselves, should grow out of a chrysalis of ordinary business, with
letters that began, "_Sir, we beg to thank you for your favour of the
2nd instant, and to assure you that same shall receive our immediate
attention_," exactly the sort of letters that Gwenna had typed during
all those weeks at Westminster!)

Then there were orders to send off for more bales of the linen that was
stretched over the membranes of those wings; or for the great reels of
wire which strung the machines, and which cost fifteen pounds apiece;
orders for the metal which was to be worked in the shops across the
parched yard, where men of three nationalities toiled at the
lathe; turning-screws, strainers, washers, and all the tiny,
complicated-looking parts that were to be the bones and the sinews
and the muscles of the finished Flying Machine.

Gwenna, the typist, had at first only a glimpse or so of these other
sides of the Works.

Once, on a message from some visitor to the Aeroplane Lady she passed
through the great central room, larger than her Uncle's chapel at home,
with its concrete floor and the clear diffused light coming through the
many windows, and the never-ceasing throb of the gas-driven engine
pulsing through the lighter sounds of chinking and hammering. Mechanics
were busy all down the sides of this hall; in the aisle of it, three
machines in the making were set up on the stands. One was ready all but
the wings; its body seemed now more than it would ever seem that of a
giant fish; it was covered with the doped linen that was laced at the
seams with braid, eyelets and cord, like an old-fashioned woman's
corset. The second was half-covered. The third was all as yet uncovered,
and looked like the skeleton of a vast seagull cast up on some
prehistoric shore.

Wondering, the girl passed on, to find her employer. She found her in
the fitter's shop. In a corner, the red-haired pupil, with goggles over
his eyes, was sitting at a stand working an acetylene blow-pipe; holding
in his hand the intense jet that shot out showers of squib-like sparks,
and wielding a socket, the Lady directing him. She took the girl's
message, then walked back with her to the office, her tawny dog
following at her heels.

"Letters finished?... then I'd like you to help me on with the wings of
that machine that's all but done," she said. "That is"--she smiled--"if
you don't mind getting your hands all over this beastly stuff----"

Mind? Gwenna would have plastered her whole little white body with that
warmed and strongly-smelling dope if she'd thought that by so doing she
was actually taking a hand in the launching of a Ship for the Clouds.

The rest of the afternoon she spent in the hot and reeking Wing-room,
working side by side with the Aeroplane Lady. Industriously she pasted
the linen strips, patting them down with her little fingers on to the
seams of those wide sails that would presently be spread--for whom?

In her mind it was always one large and springy figure that she saw
ascending into the small plaited wicker seat of the Machine. It was
always the same careless, blonde, lad's face that she saw tilted
slightly against the background of plane and wires....

"I would love to work, even a little, on a machine that he was going to
fly in," thought Gwenna.

She stood, enveloped in a grey-blue overall, at the trestle-table,
cutting out fresh strips of linen with scissors that were sticky and
clogged with dope. She peeled the stuff from her hands in flakes like
the bark of a silver-birch as she added to her thought, "But I shouldn't
want to do anything for that aeroplane; his _Fiancée_, for the P.D.Q.
Hateful creature, with her claws that she doesn't think are going to let
him go!"

Here she set the pannikin of dope to reheat, and there was a smile of
defiance on the girl's lips as she moved about from the trestles to the
radiator or the sewing-table.

For ever since she had been at the Works a change had come over Gwenna.

Curiously enough, she was happier now than she had been in her life. She
was more contented with what the present brought her; more steadily
hopeful about the future. It didn't seem to matter to her now that, the
last time she had seen him, her Aviator had turned almost sullenly away.
She laughed to herself over that, for she believed at last in Leslie's
theory: "Afraid he's going to like me." She did not fret because she
hadn't had even one of his brief notes since she had left London; nor
sigh over the fact that she, living down here in this Bedfordshire
village, was so much further away from those rooms of his at Camden Town
than she had been when she had stayed at the Hampstead Club.

For somehow she felt nearer to him now.

Absence can, in some subtle, unexplained way, spin fine threads of
communication over the gulf between a boy and a girl....

She found a conviction growing stronger and stronger in her girl's mind,
that gay, tangled chaos where faults and faculties, blindness and
intuitions flourish entwined and inseparable. _She was meant to be his._

She'd no "reason" for thinking so, of course. There was very little
reason about Gwenna's whole make-up.

For instance, Leslie had tried "reasoning" with her, the night before
she'd left the Hampstead Club. Leslie had taken it into her impish black
head to be philosophical, and to attempt to talk her chum into the same
mood.

Leslie, the nonchalant, had given a full hour to her comments on
Marriage. We will allow her a full chapter--but a short one.



CHAPTER XVII

LESLIE ON "MARRIAGE"


She'd said, "Supposing the moon _did_ fall into your lap, Taffy? Suppose
that young Cloud-Dweller of yours did (a) take you flying, and (b)
propose to you?" and she'd recited solemnly:

  "_Somewhere I've read that the gods, waxing wroth at our mad
          importunity,
  Hurl us our boon and it falls with the weight of a curse at our feet;
  Perilous thing to intrude on their lofty Olympian immunity!
  'Take it and die,' say the gods, and we die of our fondest conceit._"

"Yes; 'of' it! After _having_ it. Who'd mind dying _then_?"

"But if it hadn't been worth it, Taffy? Suppose you were air-sick?"
Leslie had suggested. "Worse, suppose you were Paul-sick?"

"_What?_"

"Yes, supposing that Super-Boy of yours himself was the disappointment?
Suppose none of his 'little ways' happened to please you? Men don't
realise it, but, in love, a man is much easier to please than a woman!"

"No, Leslie. No," had come from the girl who knew nothing of
love-making--less than nothing, since she _thought_ she knew.

Leslie had persisted. "The first pet-name a man calls you--awfully
important, that!--may hash up Love's young dream for ever. Some men, I
believe, begin with 'Dear old--something or other.' That's the _end_. Or
something that you know you're obviously _not_. Such as 'Little Woman,'
to _me_. Or they don't notice something that's specially there for them
to notice. That's unforgivable. Or they do notice something that's quite
beside the mark. Or they repeat themselves. Not good enough, a man who
can't think of _one_ new way of saying he cares, each day. (Even a
calendar can do that.) Saying the wrong thing, though, isn't as bad as
being _silent_. That's fatal. Gives a girl _such_ a lot of time to
imagine all the things that another man might have been saying at the
time. That's why men with no vocabularies ought never to get engaged or
married. '_I'm a man of few words_,' they say. They ought to be told,
'_Very well. Outside! It simply means you won't trouble to amuse me._'
Exit the Illusion.

  '_Alas, how easily things go wrong!
  A look too short, or a kiss too long----_'

(Especially with a look too short.) Yes," Leslie had concluded
impressively, "suppose the worst tragedy happened? _Suppose_ the Dampier
boy did get engaged to you, and then you found out that he didn't in the
least know how to make love? To make love to _you_, I mean."

"There wouldn't have to be any love '_made_,'" little Gwenna had
murmured, flushing. "Where he was, the love would _be_."

"My dear, you _are_ what Hugo Swayne calls '_a Passé-iste_' in love.
Why, why wasn't _I_ brought up in the heart of the mountains (and far
away from any other kind of heart) until I was twenty-two, and then
hurled into a love-affair with the first decent-looking young man?"
Leslie had cried, with exaggerated envy. "The happier you! But, Taff, do
remember that 'Love is a Lad with Wings'--like yours. Even if the
engagement were all your fancy painted, that Grand Firework Display sort
of feeling couldn't _last_. Don't shoot! It's true. People couldn't go
on living their lives and earning their livings and making their careers
and having their babies if it _did_ last. It _must_ alter. It _must_ die
down into the usual dear old sun rising every morning. So, when your
'_Oiseau de feu_' married you, and you found he was just--a husband,
like everybody else's----"

"Not 'like' anybody!"--indignantly.

"How d'you know _what_ he's like?" Leslie had demanded. "What d'you know
of his temper? Men with that heather-honey kind of smile and those deep
dimples very often have a beastly temper. Probably jealous----"

"I would _love_ him to be that."

"You wouldn't love to be poor, though," Leslie had gone off on another
tack. "Poor, and uncomfortable."

"I shall never be comfortable again without him," Gwenna had said
obstinately. "Might as well be uncomfortable _with_ him!"

"In a nasty little brick villa near Hendon, so as to be close to the
flying, perhaps? With a horrid dark bathroom? And the smell of cooking
haddocks and of Lux all over it!" Leslie had enlarged. "And you having
to use up all your own little tiny income to help pay the butcher, and
the Gas Light and Coke Company, and the rates, and loathsome details of
that sort that a woman never feels a ha'porth the better for! Instead of
being able to get yourself fresh gloves and silk stockings and a few
trifles of that sort that make absolutely _all_ the difference to a
woman's life!"

"Not _all_ the difference, indeed," Gwenna had said softly. But Leslie
had continued to draw these fancy pictures of married life as lived with
Mr. Paul Dampier.

"Taffy, for one thing, you've never seen him anything but nicely-groomed
and attractive to look at. You try to imagine him in what Kipling calls
'_the ungirt hour_.' They talk of a woman's slatternliness killing love.
Have they seen a _man_ when he '_hasn't bothered_' to groom himself?
That sight----"

She had shaken her black head ineffably over the mental image of it, and
had averred, "That sight ought to be added to the Valid and Legitimate
Causes for Divorce! A wife ought to be able to consider herself as free
as air after the first time that she sees her husband going about the
house without a collar. Sordid, unbecoming grey flannel about his neck.
Three half buttons, smashed in the wringer, hanging by their last
threads to his shirt. And his old slippers bursting out at the side of
the toe. And his 'comfortable' jacket on, with matches and fur in all
the pockets and a dab of marmalade--also furred--on the front. And
himself unshaved, with a zig-zag parting to his hair. I believe some men
do go about like this before their wives, and then write wistful letters
to the _Daily Mirror_ about, 'Why is Marriage the Tomb of Romance?'"

Gwenna had sniffed. "Oh! _Some_ men! _Those!_"

"Valid cause for Divorce Number Ninety-three: The state of the bedroom
floor," Leslie had pursued. "I, slut as I am, do pick things up
sometimes. Men, never. Ask any married woman you know. Maudie told _me_.
Everything is hurled down, or stepped out of, or merely dropped. And
left. Left, my child, for _you_ to gather up. Everything out of the
chest-of-drawers tossed upon the carpet. Handkerchiefs, dirty old pipes,
shirts, ties, '_in one red burial blent_.' That means he's been 'looking
for' something. Mind, _you've_ got to find it. Men are born
'find-silly.' Men never yet have found anything (except the North Pole
and a few things like that, that are no earthly good in a villa), but
they are for ever _losing_ things!"

Gwenna had given a smile to the memory of a certain missing collar-stud
that she had heard much of.

"Yes, I suppose to be allowed to find his collar-studs is what he'd
consider '_Paradise enow_' for any girl!" Leslie had mocked. "I misdoubt
me that the Dampier boy would settle down after a year of marriage into
a regular Sultan of the Hearthrug. Looking upon his wife as something
that belongs to him, and goes about with him; like a portmanteau.
Putting you in your place as '_less than the dust beneath his
chariot_,' that is, '_beneath his biplane wheels_.'"

"Leslie! I shouldn't mind! I'd _like_ to be! I believe it _is_ my
place," Gwenna had interrupted, lifting towards her friend a small face
quivering with conviction. "He could make anything he liked or chose of
me. What do I care----"

"Not for clothes flung down in rings all over the floor like when a
trout's been rising? Nor for trousers left standing there like a pair of
opera-glasses--or concertinas? Braces all tangled up on the gas-bracket?
Overcoat and boots crushing your new hat on the bed? Seventeen holey
socks for you to mend? _All_ odd ones--for _you_ to sort----"

Little Gwenna had cried out: "I'd _want_ to!"

"I'm not afraid you won't get what you want," Leslie had said finally.
"All I hope is that your wish won't fail when you get it!"

And of that Gwenna was never afraid.

"I should not care for him so much if he were not the only one who could
make me so happy," she told herself; "and _unless_ the woman's very
happy, surely the man can't be. It must mean, then, that he'll feel,
some day, that this would be the way to happiness. I'm sure there are
_some_ marriages that are different from what Leslie says. Some where
you go on being sweethearts even after you're quite old friends, like.
I--I could make it like that for him. I _feel_ I could!"

Yes; she felt that some day (perhaps not soon) she must win him.

Sometimes she thought that this might be when her rival, the perfected
machine, had made his name and absorbed him no longer. Sometimes, again,
she told herself that he might have no success at all.

"Then, _then_ he'd see there was _something_ else in the world. Then he
would turn to me," said the girl to herself. She added, as every girl in
love must add, "No one _could_ care as I do."

And one day she found on the leaf of the tear-off calendar in her
cottage bedroom a line of verse that seemed to have been written for
her. It remained the whole of Browning as far as Gwenna Williams was
concerned. And it said:

  "_What's Death? You'll love me yet!_"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE OBVIOUS THING


She was in this mood to win a waiting game on the day that Paul Dampier
came down to the Aircraft Works.

This was just one of the more wonderful happenings that waited round the
corner and that the young girl might hope to encounter any day.

The first she knew of it was from hearing a remark of the Aeroplane
Lady's to one of her French mechanics at the lathes.

"This will make the eighteenth pattern of machine that we've turned out
from this place," she said. "I wonder if it's going to answer, André?"

"Which machine, madame?" the man asked. He was a big fellow, dark and
thick-haired and floridly handsome in his blue overalls; and his bright
eyes were fixed interestedly upon his principal as she explained through
the buzz and the clack and the clang of machinery in the large room,
"This new model that Colonel Conyers wants us to make for him."

Gwenna caught the name. She thought breathlessly, "That's _his_ machine!
He's got Aircraft Conyers to take it up and have it made for him! It's
_his_!"

She'd thought this, even before the Aeroplane Lady concluded, "It's the
idea of a young aviator I know. Such a nice boy: Paul Dampier of
Hendon."

The French mechanic put some question, and the Aeroplane Lady answered,
"Might be an improvement. I hope so. I'd like him to have a show,
anyhow. He's sending the engine down to-morrow afternoon. They'll bring
it on a lorry. Ask Mr. Ryan to see about the unloading of it; I may not
get back from town before the thing comes."

Now Mr. Ryan was that red-haired pupil who had conducted Gwenna from the
station on the day of her first appearance at the Works. Probably Leslie
Long would have affirmed that this Mr. Ryan was also a factor in the
change that was coming over Gwenna and her outlook. Leslie considered
that no beauty treatment has more effect upon the body and mind of a
woman than has the regular application of masculine admiration.
Admiration was now being lavished by Mr. Ryan upon the little new typist
with the face of a baby-angel and the small, rounded figure; and Mr.
Ryan saw no point in hiding his approval. It did not stop at glances.
Before a week had gone by he had informed Miss Williams that she was a
public benefactor to bring anything so delightful to look at as herself
into those beastly, oily, dirty shops; that he hated, though, to see a
woman with such pretty fingers having to mess 'em up with that vile
dope; and that he wondered she hadn't thought of going on the stage.

"But I can't act," Gwenna had told him.

"What's that got to do with it?" the young man had inquired blithely.
"All they've got to do is to _look_. You could beat 'em at that."

"Oh, what nonsense, Mr. Ryan!" the girl had said, more pleased than she
admitted to herself, and holding her curly head erect as a brown tulip
on a sturdy stem.

"Not nonsense at all," he argued. "I tell you, if you went into musical
comedy and adopted a strong enough Cockney accent there'd be another
Stage and Society wedding before you could say 'knife.' You could get
any young peer to adore you, Miss Gwenna, if you smiled at him over the
head of a toy pom and called him 'Fice.' I can just see you becoming a
Gaiety puss and marrying some Duke----"

"I don't want to marry any Dukes, thanks."

"I'm sure I don't want you to," Mr. Ryan had said softly. "I'd miss you
too much myself...."

The fact is that he was a flirt for the moment out of work. He was also
of the type that delights in the proximity of "Girl"--using the word as
one who should say "Game." "Girl" suggested to him, as to many young
men, a collective mass of that which is pretty, soft, and
to-be-made-love-to. He found it pleasant to keep his hand in by paying
these compliments to this new instalment of Girl--who was rather a
little pet, he thought, though _rather_ slow.

As for Gwenna, she bloomed under it, gaining also in poise. She learned
to take a compliment as if it were an offered flower, instead of dodging
it like a brick-bat, which is the very young girl's failing. She found
that even if receiving a compliment from the wrong man is like wearing a
right-hand glove on the left hand, it is better than having no gloves.
(Especially it is better than _looking_ as if one had no gloves.)

The attentions of young Ryan, his comment on a new summer frock, the
rose laid by him on her desk in the morning; these things were not
without their effect--it was a different effect from any intended by the
red-haired pupil, who was her teacher in all this.

She would find herself thinking, "He doesn't look at me nearly so much,
I notice, in a trimmed-up hat, or a 'fussy' blouse. Men don't like them
on me, perhaps." (That blouse or hat would be discarded.) Or, "Well! if
so-and-so about me pleases him, it'll please other men."

And for "men" she read always, always the same one. She never realised
that if she had not met Paul Dampier she _might_ have fallen in love
with young Peter Ryan. Presently he had begged her to call him "Peter."

She wouldn't.

"I think I'd do anything for you," young Ryan had urged, "if you asked
for it, using my Christian name!"

Gwenna had replied: "Very well! If there's anything I ever want,
frightfully badly, that you could give me, I shall ask for it like
that."

"You mean there's nothing _I_ could give you?" he had reproached her, in
the true flirt's tone. It can sound so much more tender, at times, than
does the tone of the truest lover. A note or so of it had found its way
into Gwenna's soft voice these days.

Yes; she had half unconsciously learned a good deal from Mr. Ryan.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I say! Miss Gwenna!"

Mr. Ryan's rust-red head was popped round the door of the Wing-room
where Gwenna, alone, was pouring dope out of the tilted ten-gallon can
on the floor into her little pannikin.

"Come out for just one minute."

"Too busy," demurred the girl. "No time."

"Not just to look," he pleaded, "at the really _pretty_ job I'm making
of unloading this lorry with Dampier's engine?"

Quickly Gwenna set down the can and came out, in her pinafore, to the
breezes and sunshine of the yard outside. It was as much because she
wanted to see what there was to be seen of that "_Fiancée_" of the
aviator's, as because this other young man wanted her to admire the work
of his hands.

Those hands themselves, Gwenna noticed, were masked and thick, half way
up his forearms, with soft soap. This he seemed to have been smearing on
certain boards, making a sliding way for that precious package that
stood on the low lorry. The boards were packed up in banks and stages,
an irregular stairway. This another assistant was carefully trying with
a long straight edge with a spirit level in the middle of it; and a
third man stood on the lorry, resting on a crowbar and considering the
package that held the heart of Paul Dampier's machine.

"You see if she doesn't come down as light as a bubble and stop exactly
_there_," said Mr. Ryan complacently, digging his heel into a pillowy
heap of debris. "Lay those other planks to take her inside, André." He
wiped his brow on a moderately clear patch of forearm, and moved away to
check the observations of the man in the shirt-sleeves.

Gwenna, watching, could not help admiring both this self-satisfied young
mudlark and his job. This was how women liked to see men busy: with
strenuous work that covered them with dirt and sweat, taxing their
brains and their muscles at the same time. Those girls who were so keen
on the Enfranchisement of Women and "Equal Opportunities" and those
things, those suffragettes at her Hampstead Club who "couldn't see where
the superiority of the male sex was supposed to come in"--Well! The
reason why they "couldn't" was (the more primitive Gwenna thought)
simply because they didn't see enough men at _this_ sort of thing. The
men these enlightened young women knew best sat indoors all day,
writing--_that_ sort of thing. Or talking about fans, like Mr. Swayne,
and about "the right tone of purple in the curtains" for a room. The
women, of course, could do that themselves. They could also go to
colleges and pass men's exams. Lots did. But (thought Gwenna) not many
of them could get through the day's work of Mr. Ryan, who had also been
at Oxford, and who not only had forearms that made her own look like
ivory toys, but who could plan out his work so that if he said that that
squat, ponderous case would "stop exactly _there_"--stop there it would.
She watched; the breeze rollicking in her curls, spreading the folds of
her grey-blue pinafore out behind her like a sail, moulding her skirt
to her rounded shape as she stood.

Then she turned with a very friendly and pretty smile to young Ryan.

It was thus that Paul Dampier, entering the yard from behind them, came
upon the girl whom he had decided not to see again.


He knew already that "his little friend," as old Hugo insisted upon
calling her, had taken a job at the Aircraft Works. He'd heard that from
his cousin, who'd been told all about it by Miss Long.

And considering that he'd made up his mind that it would be better all
round if he were to drop having anything more to say to the girl, young
Dampier was glad, of course, that she'd left town. That would make
things easier. He wouldn't seem to be avoiding her, yet he needn't set
eyes upon her again.

Of course he'd been glad. He hadn't _wanted_ to see her.

Then, at the end of his negotiations with Colonel Conyers, he'd
understood that he would have to go over and pay a visit to the
Aeroplane Lady. And even in the middle of the new excitement he had
remembered that this was where Gwenna Williams was working. And for a
moment he'd hesitated. That would mean seeing the Little Thing again
after all.

Then he'd thought, Well? Fellow can't _look_ as if he were trying to
keep out of a girl's way? Besides, chances were he wouldn't see her
when he did go, he'd thought.

It wasn't likely that the Aeroplane Lady kept her clerk, or whatever she
was, in her pocket, he'd thought.

He'd just be taken to where the P.D.Q. was being assembled, he'd
supposed. The Little Thing would be kept busy with her typing and one
thing and another in some special office, he'd expected!


What he had _not_ expected to find was the scene before him. The Little
Thing idling about outside the shops here; hatless, pinafored, looking
absolutely top-hole and perfectly at home, chatting with the
ginger-haired bloke who was unloading the engine as if he were no end of
a pal of hers! She was smiling up into his face and taking a most
uncommon amount of interest, it seemed, in what the fellow had been
doing!

And, before, she'd said she wasn't interested in machinery! thought
Dampier as he came up, feeling suddenly unconscionably angry.

He forgot the hours that the Little Thing had already passed in hanging
on every word, mostly about a machine, that had fallen from his own
lips. He only remembered that moment at the Smiths' dinner-party, when
she'd admitted that that sort of thing didn't appeal to her.

Yet, here she was! _Deep_ in it, by Jove!

He had come right up to her and this other chap before they noticed
him....

She turned sharply at the sound of the young aviator's rather stiff
"Good afternoon."

She had expected that day to see his engine--no more. Here he stood, the
maker of the engine, backed by the scorched, flat landscape, in the
sunlight that picked out little clean-cut, intense shadows under the rim
of his straw hat, below his cleft chin, along his sleeve and the lapel
of his jacket, making him look (she thought) like a very good snapshot
of himself. He had startled her again; but this time she was
self-possessed.

She came forward and faced him; prettier than ever, somehow (he thought
again), with tossed curls and pinafore blowing all about her. She might
have been a little schoolgirl let loose from some class in those gaunt
buildings behind her. But she spoke in a more "grown-up" manner, in some
way, than he'd ever heard her speak before. Looking up, she said in the
soft accent that always brought back to him his boyish holidays in her
country, "How do you do, Mr. Dampier? I'm afraid I can't shake hands.
Mine are all sticky with dope."

"Oh, are they," he said, and looked away from her (not without effort)
to the ginger-haired fellow.

"This," said Gwenna Williams, a little self-consciously at last, "is Mr.
Ryan."

Plenty of self-assurance about _him_! He nodded and said in a
hail-fellow-well-met sort of voice, "Hullo; you're Dampier, are you?
Glad to meet you. You see we're hard at it unpacking your engine here."
Then he looked towards the opening, the road, and the car--borrowed as
usual--in which the young aviator had motored down. There was another
large package in the body of the car; a box, iron-clamped, with letters
stencilled upon it, and sealed. "Something else interesting that you've
brought with you?" said this in sufferable man called Ryan. "Here,
André, fetch that box down----"

"No," interrupted young Dampier curtly. The curtness was only partly for
this other chap. That sealed box, for reasons of his own and Colonel
Conyers', was not to be hauled about by any mechanic in the place. "You
and I'll fetch that in presently for Mrs. Crewe."

"Right. She'll be back at three o'clock," Ryan told him. "She told me to
ask you to have a look round the place or do anything you cared to until
she came in."

"Oh, thanks," said young Dampier.

At that moment what he would have "cared to do" would have been to get
this girl to himself somewhere where he could say to the Little Humbug,
"Look here. You aren't interested in machinery. You said so yourself.
What are you getting this carroty-headed Ass to talk to you about it
for?"

Seeing that this was out of the question he hesitated.... He didn't want
to go round the shops with this fellow, to whom he'd taken a dislike. On
sight. He did that sometimes. On the other hand, he couldn't do what he
wanted to do--sit and talk to the Little Thing until the Aeroplane Lady
returned. What about saying he'd got to look up some one in the village,
and bolting, until three o'clock? No. No fear! Why should this other
fellow imagine he could have the whole field to himself for talking to
Her?

So the trio, the age-old group that is composed of two young men and a
girl, stood there for a moment rather awkwardly.

Finally the Little Thing said, "Well, I've got to go back to my wings,"
and turned.

Then the fellow Ryan said, "One minute, Miss Gwenna----"

Miss Gwenna! All but her Christian name! And he, Paul Dampier, who'd
known her a good deal longer--he'd never called her anything at all, but
"_you_"! Miss _Gwenna_, if you please!

What followed was even more of a bit of dashed cheek.

For the fellow turned quickly aside to her and said, "I say, it's Friday
afternoon. Supposing I don't see you again to-morrow morning--it's all
right, isn't it, about your coming up to town for that matinée with me?"

"Oh, yes, thanks," said the Little Thing brightly. "I asked Mrs. Crewe,
and it's all right."

Then the new note crept into her voice; the half-unconsciously-acquired
note of coquetry. She said, smiling again at the red-haired Ryan, "I am
so looking forward to that."

And, turning again to the Airman, she said with a half-shy, half-airy
little smile that, also, he found new in her, "Have you seen _The Cinema
Star_? Mr. Ryan is going to take me to-morrow afternoon."

"Oh, is he?" said Paul Dampier shortly.

_Was_ he, indeed? _Neck!_

"You do come up to town sometimes from here, then?" added Mr. Dampier to
Miss Gwenna Williams, speaking a trifle more distinctly than usual, as
he concluded, "I was just going to ask you whether you could manage to
come out with _me_ to-morrow evening?"

Nobody was more surprised to hear these last words than he himself.

Until that moment he hadn't had the faintest intention of ever asking
the girl out anywhere again. Now here he was; he'd done it. The Little
Thing had murmured, "Oh----" and was looking--yes, she was looking
pleased. The fellow was looking as if he'd been taken aback. Good. He'd
probably thought he was going to have her to himself for the evening as
well as for the matinée. Dinner at the "Petit Riche"--a music-hall
afterwards--travel down home with her. Well, Dampier had put a stopper
on that plan. But now that he had asked her, where was he going to take
her himself? To another musical comedy? No. Too like the other chap. To
one of the Exhibitions? No; not good enough. Anyhow, wherever he took
her, he hadn't been out-bidden by this soft-soapy young idiot. Infernal
cheek.... Then, all in a flash the brilliant solution came to Paul
Dampier. Of course! Yes, he could work it! The Aviation Dinner! He'd
meant to go. He would take her. It would involve taking Mrs. Crewe as
well. Never mind. It was something to which that other young ass
wouldn't have the chance of taking her, and that was enough.

"Yes," he went on saying, as coolly as if it had all been planned.
"There's a show on at the Wilbur Club; Wilbur Wright, you know. I
thought I'd ask if you and Mrs. Crewe would care to come with me to the
dinner. Will you?--Just break that packing up a bit more," he added
negligently to the red-haired youth. "And check those spaces--Will you
take me into your place, Miss Williams?"

_That_, he thought, was the way to deal with poachers on his particular
preserves!

It was only when he got inside the spacious white Wing-room and sat
down, riding a chair, close to the trestle-table where the girl bent her
curly head so conscientiously over the linen strips again, that he
realised that this Little Thing wasn't his particular preserves at all!

Hadn't he, only a couple of weeks ago, definitely decided that she was
never to mean anything of the sort to him? Hadn't he resolved----

Here, with his long arms crossed over the back of the chair as he sat
facing and watching her, he put back his head and laughed.

"What are you laughing at?" she asked, straightening herself in the big
pinafore with its front all stiff with that sticky mess she worked with.

He was laughing to think how dashed silly it was to make these
resolutions. Resolutions about which people you were or were not to see
anything of! As if Fate didn't arrange that for you! As if you didn't
_have_ to leave that to Fate, and to take your chance!

Possibly Fate meant that he and the Little Thing should be friends,
great friends. Not now, of course. Not yet. In some years' time,
perhaps, when his position was assured; when he'd achieved some of the
Big Things that he'd got to do; when he _had_ got something to offer a
girl. Ages to wait.... Still, he could leave it at that, now, he
thought.... It might, or might not, come to anything. Only, it was
ripping to see her!

He didn't tell her this.

He uttered some conventional boy's joke about being amused to see her
actually at work for the first time since he'd met her. And she made a
little bridling of her neck above that vast, gull-like wing that she was
pasting; and retorted that, indeed, she worked very hard.

"Really," he teased her. "Always seem to be taking time off, whenever
I've come."

"You've only come twice, Mr. Dampier; and then it's been sort of
lunch-time."

"Oh, I see," he said. ("I may smoke, mayn't I?" and he lighted a
cigarette.) "D'you always take your lunch out of doors, Miss Gwenna?"
(He didn't see why _he_ shouldn't call her that.)

She said, "I'd like to." Then she was suddenly afraid he might think she
was thinking of their open-air lunch in that field, weeks ago, and she
said quickly (still working): "I--I was so glad when I heard about the
engine coming, and that Colonel Conyers had ordered the P.D.Q. to be
made here. I--do congratulate you, Mr. Dampier. Tell me about the
Machine, won't you?"

He said, "Oh, you'll hear all about that presently; but look here, you
haven't told me about _you_----"

Gwenna could scarcely believe her ears; but yes, it was true. He was
turning, turning from talk about the Machine, the P.D.Q., the _Fiancée_!
Asking, for the first time, about herself. She drew a deep breath; she
turned her bright, greeny-brown eyes sideways, longing at that moment
for Leslie with whom to exchange a glance. Her own shyly triumphant look
met only the deep, wise eyes of the Great Dane, lying in his corner of
the Wing-room beside his kennel. He blinked, thumped his tail upon the
floor.

"Darling," whispered Gwenna, a little shakily, as she passed the tawny
dog. "_Darling!_" She had to say it to something just then.

Paul Dampier pursued, looking at her over his crossed arms on the back
of that chair, "You haven't said whether you'll come to-morrow night."

She asked (as if it mattered to her where she went, as long as it was
with him), "What is this dinner?"

"The Wilbur dinner? Oh, there's one every year. Just a meeting of those
interested in flying. I thought you might care----"

"Who'll be there?"

"Oh, just people. Not many. Some ladies go. Why?"

"Only because I haven't got anything at all to wear," announced Gwenna,
much more confidently, however, than she could have done before Mr. Ryan
had told her so much about her own looks, "except my everlasting white
and the blue sash like at the Smiths'."

"Well, that was awfully pretty; wasn't it? Only----"

"What?"

"Well, may I say something?"

"Well, what is it?"

"Frightfully rude, really," said Paul Dampier, tilting himself back on
his chair, and still looking at her over a puff of smoke, staring even.
She was something to stare at. Why was she such a lot prettier? Had he
_forgotten_ what her looks were? She seemed--she seemed, to-day, so much
more of a woman than he'd ever seen her. He forgot that he was going to
say something. She, with a little fluttering laugh for which he could
have clasped her, reminded him.

"What's the rude thing you were going to say to me?"

"Oh! It's only this. Don't go muffling your neck up in that sort of ruff
affair this time; looks ever so much nicer without," said the boy.

The girl retorted with quite a good show of disdainfulness, "I don't
think there's anything _quite_ so funny as men talking about what we
wear."

"Oh, all right," said the boy, and pretended to be offended. Then he
laughed again and said, "I've still got something of yours that you
wear, as a matter of fact----"

"Of mine?"

"Yes, I have; I've never given it you back yet. That locket of yours
that you lost."

"Oh----!" she exclaimed.

That locket! That little heart-shaped pendant of mother-o'-pearl that
she had worn the first evening that she'd ever seen him; and that
she had dropped in the car as they were driving back. So much had
happened ... she felt she was not even the same Gwenna as the girl who
had snapped the slender silver chain about her neck before they set out
for the party.... She'd given up wondering if her Airman had forgotten
to give it back to her. She'd forgotten all about it herself. And he'd
had it, one of her own personal belongings, somewhere in his keeping all
this time.

"Oh, yes; my--my little mascot," she said. "Have you got it?"

"Not here. It's in my other jac--it's at my rooms, I'll bring it to the
dinner for you. And--er--look here, Miss Gwenna----"

He tilted forward again as the girl passed his side of the table to
reach for the little wooden pattern by which she cut out a patch for the
end of the strip, and then passed back again.

"I say," he began again, a trifle awkwardly, "if you don't mind, I want
you to give me something in exchange for that locket."

"Oh, do you?" murmured Gwenna. "What?"

And a chill took her.

She didn't want him, here and now, to ask for--what Mr. Ryan might have
asked.

But it was not a kiss he asked for, after all.

He said, "You know those little white wings you put in your shoes? You
remember, the night of that river dance? Well, I wish you'd let me have
one of those to keep as my mascot."

He hadn't thought of wishing it until there had intruded into his ken
that other young man who made appointments--and who might have
the--cheek to ask for keepsakes, but who shouldn't be first, after all!

Anxiously, as if it were for much more than that feathered trifle of a
mascot that he asked, he said, "Will you?"

"Oh! If you like!"

"Sure you don't mind?"

"Mind? I should like you to have it," said Gwenna softly. "Really."

And across the great white aeroplane wing the girl looked very sweetly
and soberly at her Aviator, who had just asked that other tiny wing of
her, as a knight begged his lady's favour.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was at this moment that the Aeroplane Lady, an alert figure in dark
blue, came into a room where a young man and a girl had been talking
idly enough together while one smoked and the other went on working with
that five-foot barrier of the wing between them.

The Aeroplane Lady, being a woman, was sensitive to atmosphere--not the
spirit-and-solution-scented atmosphere of this place of which she was
mistress, but another.

In it she caught a vibration of something that made her say to herself,
"Bless me, what's _this_? I never knew those two had even met! 'Not
saying so,' I suppose. But certainly engaged, or on the verge of it!"

--Which all went to prove that the rebuked, the absent Leslie, was not
far wrong in saying that it is the Obvious Thing that always succeeds!



CHAPTER XIX

THE SEALED BOX


Whatever the Aeroplane Lady thought to herself about the two in the
Wing-room, there was no trace of it in her brisk greeting to Paul
Dampier.

"I hope you haven't been waiting long?" she said. "I'm ready now."

Then she turned to her girl-assistant, who was once more laying the
tacky strips of linen along the seams. "That's right," she said. "You
can go straight on with that wing; that will take you some time. One of
the wings for _your_ machine," she added to the aviator. "I'm ready, Mr.
Dampier."

She and the young man left the Wing-room together and entered the
adjoining office, closing the door behind them.

Left alone, Gwenna went on swiftly working, and as swiftly dreaming.
Rapidly, but none the less surely, seam after long seam was covered; and
the busyness of her fingers seemed to help the fancies of her brain.

"One of the wings for _his_ Machine!" she thought. "And there was I,
thinking I should mind working for that--for 'Her,'" she smiled. "I
don't, after all. I needn't care, now."

Her heart seemed singing within her. Nothing had happened, really. Only,
she was sure of her lover. That was all. All! She worked; and her small
feet on the floor seemed set on air, as in that flying dream.

"Such a great, huge wing for 'Her,'" she murmured to herself. "Such a
little, little wing for himself that he asked for. My tiny one that I
put in my shoe. It was for him I put it there! And now it's begun to
bring him to me. It _has_!" she exulted. "He's begun to care. I _know_
he does."

From the other side of the door came a heightened murmur of voices in
the office. Something heavy seemed to be set down on the floor. That
sealed box, perhaps, that he'd brought with him in the car. Then came
the shutting of the outer door. Mr. Ryan passed the window. Then a sound
of hammering in the office, and the long squeak of a nail being prized
out of wood. They were opening that mysterious package of his. Gwenna's
fingers flew over her own task to the tune of her joyous thoughts.

"I don't care how long it lasts before _anything_ else happens. Don't
care how this flying-machine of his does try to keep him from me. She
won't. She can't. Nothing can!" triumphed the girl, smoothing the canvas
that was her Rival's plumage. "He's going to be mine, with everything
that he knows. So much better, and cleverer, and belonging to different
sort of people as he is, and yet he's going to have _me_ belonging to
him. She's had the last of him putting her always first!"

She heard in the office Paul Dampier's short laugh and his "Oh? you
think so?" to the Aeroplane Lady. Gwenna scarcely wondered what this
might be about. Some business to do with the Machine; but he would come
to an end of that, soon. He'd come back to her, with that look in his
blue eyes, that tone in his deep voice. She could wait patiently now for
the day, whenever it came, when he should tell her definitely that he
loved her and wanted her to be his. There would be that, of
course--Gwenna, the inexperienced, still saw "the proposal" as the scene
set and prepared; the inevitable milestone beside the course of true
love. Never mind that now, though. It didn't matter when. What mattered
was that it _would_ come. Then she would always be with him. It would be
for ever, like that blissful day in the hayfield, that summer night by
the river at the dance, those few bewildering seconds on the Westminster
scaffolding. And with no cruelty of separation afterwards to spoil it.
Nothing--nothing was going to part them, after all.

       *       *       *       *       *

She had finished the wing. She looked about for the next thing to do.

There were three wings in the room, and all were finished. A fourth wing
still lay, a skeleton of fretted and glued wood, in the workshops; the
skin was not yet stretched over it.

And there were no more letters to write for the firm.

Gwenna had nothing to do.

"I shall _have_ to go into the office and ask," she said, admitting to
herself that she was glad enough to go. So often she had painted for
herself, out of mere memories, the picture of her Airman. He was now in
the office, in the flesh! She need not have to satisfy herself with
pictures of him. She slipped off her sticky pinafore; the white muslin
blouse beneath it was fresh and pretty enough. She moved to the
office-door. It was her room; she had never yet had to knock at that
door.

She pushed it open and stood waiting. For a moment she only saw the
Aeroplane Lady and the tall Aviator. They had their backs to her; they
were standing side by side and examining a plan that they had pinned up
on the matchboarding wall. Paul Dampier's finger was tracing a little
arc on the plan, and he was slowly shaking his head, with the gesture of
a man who says that something "won't do." The Aeroplane Lady's fingers
were meditatively at her lips, and her attitude echoed that of the young
man. Something that they had planned wouldn't do----

Then Gwenna's eyes fell, from these two people, to that "_Something_."
It was something that she had never seen about the Aircraft Works
before. Indeed, she did not remember having seen it ever before,
anywhere, except in pictures. This object was on the floor, half in and
half out of the sealed wooden box that Paul Dampier had brought down
with him in the car, and that he wouldn't let the workmen handle.... So
this was why....

This was it. Aghast, she stared at it.

It was a long, khaki-painted cylinder, and from one end of it a
wicked-looking little nozzle projected for an inch or so. The other
end, which disappeared into the box, showed a peep of a magazine and a
pistol-grip.

Even to Gwenna's unskilled eyes the thing appeared instantly what it
was.

A machine-gun.

"A gun?" she thought, stupefied; "dear me--on an aeroplane?"

"No," said Paul Dampier's voice suddenly, decisively, speaking to the
Aeroplane Lady, "it'll have to be a rifle after all."

And with the sudden breaking of his voice upon her ear, there seemed to
be torn from before the girl's eyes a corner of some veil.

Quite suddenly (how, she could not explain) she knew what all this
meant.

That plan for that new flying-machine. That gun. The whole object of the
ambitions of these people with their so romantic profession. Scraps of
her Aviator's talk about "scouting," and "the new Arm," and "modern
warfare." ...

Just now she had been swept up aloft by his look and tone into the
seventh heaven of a woman's delight. That was Love. Here, epitomised in
that cylinder with that vicious little nozzle, she saw the Power that
could take him from her yet. This was War!

A shudder ran over her.

Her mind took no notice of the facts that there was no War for him to go
to, that this grim preparation must be for experimenting only, for
manoeuvres, sham fights; that this was July, Nineteen-fourteen, an era
of sleepy peace (except for that gossip, half a joke, that we might
have civil war in Ireland yet), and that she and he and everybody they
had to do with lived in the Twentieth Century, in England....

Perhaps it was because she was not English, but British, Welsh. She
entirely lacked that Anglo-Saxon "balance" of which the English are so
proud, and that stolidity and that unimaginativeness. Her imagination
caught some of those unheard, unsuspected messages with which the air
must have been vibrant, all those midsummer weeks.

Her quick, unbalanced Celtic fancy had already shown her as clearly as
if she had seen it with her eyes that image of his Aeroplane as a winged
and taloned Woman-rival. Now it flashed before her, in a twink, another
picture:

Paul Dampier, seated in that Aeroplane, swooping through the air, _armed
and in danger_!

The danger was from below. She did not see that danger. She saw only the
image, against grey, scudding clouds, of the Beloved. But she could feel
it, that poignant Threat to him, to him in every second of his flight.
It was not the mere risk of accident or falling. It was a new peril of
which the shadow, cast before, fell upon the receptive fancy of the girl
who loved the adventurer. And, set to that shadow-picture in her mind,
there rang out to some inner sense of hers a Voice that sounded clear
and ominous words.

They called to her: "_Fired at both by friend and foe----_"

Then stopped.

The young girl didn't remember ever to have heard or even to have read
these words. How should she? It was the warning fore-echo of a phrase
now historic, but then as yet unuttered, that had transmitted itself to
some heightened sense of hers:

"_Fired at both by friend and foe!_"[A]

  [A] This phrase occurred in a despatch from Sir David Henderson.


There! It was gone, the waking vision that left her trembling, with a
certainty.

Yes; here was the meaning of the sealed box, of the long confabulation
of her Airman with the Aeroplane Lady.... War was coming. And _they
knew_.

Gwenna, standing there in the doorway, drawing a long breath and feeling
suddenly rather giddy, knew that she had come upon something that she
had not been meant to guess.

What was she to do about it?

Her hand was on the knob of the door.

Must she close it upon herself, or behind her?

Should she come forward and cry, "Oh, if it was a dreadful secret, why
didn't you lock the door?"

Or should she go out noiselessly, taking that burden of a secret with
her? She might confess to the Aeroplane Lady afterwards....

Here she saw that the Airman had half turned. His boyish, determined
profile was dark in shadow against the plan on the wall; the plan of the
P.D.Q. Sunlight through the office window touched and gilded the edge
of his blonde head.

"Yes; I thought so. Have to be a rifle after all," he repeated in a
matter-of-fact tone. Then, turning more round, his glance met the
startled eyes of the girl in the doorway.

And that finished the dilemma for Gwenna.

Something rose up in her and was too strong to let her be silent.

"Oh! I've _seen_ it!" she cried sharply. "_Paul!_"

He took one stride towards her and slipped his arm about her as she
swayed. She was white to the lips.

"Is there any water----" began young Dampier, but already the Aeroplane
Lady had poured out a glassful.

It was he, however, who put it to Gwenna's lips, holding her still.

"It's all _right_, darling," he said reassuringly (and the give-away
word slipped very easily from his tongue). "Better, aren't you?
Frightfully muggy in that room with those radiators! You oughtn't to
be---- Here!" He took some of the cold water and dabbed it on her curls.

"I suppose he knew he could trust the child," thought the Aeroplane Lady
as she closed the door of the Wing-room between herself and those two in
the office, "but I don't know that I should have engaged her if I'd
known. I don't want lovers about the place, here. Of course, this
explains his Aviation dinner and everything----"

       *       *       *       *       *

Little Gwenna, standing with her small face buried against the Aviator's
tweed jacket, was sighing out that she hadn't _meant_ to come in, hadn't
_meant_ to look at that horrible gun....

The girl didn't know what she was saying. The boy scarcely heard it. He
was rumpling with his cheek the short, silky curls he had always longed
to touch. Presently he tilted her cherub's head back against his
shoulder, then put both his hands about that throat of hers.

She gave an unsteady little laugh.

"You'll throttle me," she murmured.

Without loosening his clasp, he bent his fair head further down, and
kissed her, very gently, on the mouth.

"Don't mind, do you?" he said, into another kiss. "_Do_ you?"

At that moment the Little Thing in his arms had banished all thought of
those Big Things from his mind.



PART II

_JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER, 1914_



CHAPTER I

THE AVIATION DINNER


Gwenna began to feel a little nervous and intimidated, even in the car
that took herself and the Aeroplane Lady and the Airman to the Aviation
dinner.

A hundred yards before they reached the portals of the Club in Pall Mall
that car stopped. Then it began to advance again a yard or two at a
time. A long row of other cars and taxis was ahead, and from them
alighted guests in dull black opera hats, with mufflers; once or twice
there was the light and jewelled gleam of a woman's wrap, but they were
mostly men who were driving up.

"Colonel Conyers," said Paul Dampier to the attendant in the great
marble-tiled entrance.

Then he was shown off to the right; Gwenna and the Aeroplane Lady to the
dressing-rooms on the left. Before an immense glass they removed their
wraps and came out to the waiting-room, the girl all misty-white with
the sky-blue sash and the dancing-shoes; the Lady gowned in grey satin
that had just the gleam of aluminium in that factory of hers, and with
her brooch of the winged serpents fastened at her breast.

They sat down at one of the little polished tables in the waiting-room
under the long windows on to Pall Mall; it was a high, light-panelled
room, with a frieze of giant roses. A couple of ladies went by to the
dressing-room, greeting Mrs. Crew as they passed.

Then there stopped to speak to her a third and older and very handsome
lady all in black, with diamonds ablaze in her laces and in her grey,
piled-up hair.

"There should be some good speeches to-night, shouldn't there?" said
this lady. "All these splendid men!... You know, my dear, take us for
all in all"--and she gave a little laugh--"we _are_ splendid!"

"But there are so few of us," said the Aeroplane Lady, ruefully.

The other woman, about to pass on, stopped for a moment again, and
looking over her white shoulder said, very seriously, something that
both her hearers were to remember. "If England is ever to be saved, it
will be by a few."

She went out; and Mrs. Crewe said to Gwenna, "That was Lady----"
(Something) "the wife of the man who's as responsible as most people for
the security of this Empire----"

Most of the people there seemed to know the Aeroplane Lady quite well,
Gwenna noticed, when Paul Dampier came up and took them out into the
Central Hall again, where the guests were assembling. The place seemed
as high as a cathedral, with a marble floor, and alcoves, and tall,
classic, brass tripod things to hold the end of men's cigarettes and
ashes. The Aeroplane Lady was at once surrounded by a group of men.
Gwenna, feeling very shy and little and of no account, turned to her
Airman.

"You said," she murmured reproachfully, "that there _weren't_ going to
be a lot of grand people."

"These aren't 'grand,' bless you! People aren't, who are really--well,
who 'do things,' as you say. Not nearly as frilly here as at the Smiths,
that other dinner," he said, smiling down at her. "I'm going to bring up
Colonel Conyers and introduce him to you----"

"_Him?_ Good _gracious_!" thought the little Welsh girl in consternation
to herself. "Colonel Conyers!--oh, no, please--I should be much too
frightened----"

But the tall figure had detached itself from a group at a word from Paul
Dampier, and Colonel Conyers came up. Gwenna recognised the lean,
smiling, half-mischievous face of the soldier who--those ages ago!--had
talked to those ladies in the motor-car at Hendon.

This was the man they called "Aircraft Conyers," the man practically at
the head of Aeronautics, Paul had, said, the man in whose hands rested
(among so many, many other things) the whole career of the inventor of
the P.D.Q.! Gwenna, with her curly head whirling, felt inclined to drop
a schoolchild's curtsy to this Great One of the Councils of the Earth.

He took her hand into his own long, lean one.

"How d'you do?" he drawled, smiling cheerfully. "Starving, what? I am, I
can tell you. Always late here. Won't be long, now. You're at my table,
I believe." Then, almost anxiously, "Fond of chocolates? You are? Good.
Then I can collect the lot of those little silver dishes around us and
pretend it's all for you. It's for me, really."

Gwenna, who was not able to help laughing at this unexpectedness on the
part of the great Aircraft Conyers, said: "Are _you_ fond of them?"

"Passionately. Passionately!" said Colonel Conyers with a nod, as he
turned to find his own dinner-partner.

"Didn't frighten you much, did he?" laughed Paul Dampier to the Little
Thing at his side. "Course he didn't. I'll tell you who most of the
others are when we get into the supper-room."

In the great supper-room with its painted ceiling and gilded pillars
dinner was laid on a number of small tables for parties of six or eight.
Gwenna found herself the only woman at their table, the Aeroplane Lady
sitting far down at the other end of the room.

All dazed, the young girl looked about her like a stray bird that has
fluttered in through an open window. Beside her, Paul Dampier pointed
out to her this celebrity and that at the tables.

"Colonel Conyers you've seen...." (That personage had nodded to the
young girl over a stack of pink roses and had made a little movement to
show the basket of sweets beside his plate.) "Now that man with the
Order, that's Lord" (So-and-So), "Director of Coast Defence. And that"
(So-and-So), "Chief Engineer. And that little man one down--in the
opposite direction from where I'm looking--that's" (So-and-So), "editor
of _The Air_. Wonderful chap; brains enough to sink a ship."

An extraordinary mixture of men, Gwenna thought, as her glance followed
his direction, and he went on talking. Soldiers, sailors, chemists,
scientists, ministers; all banded together. Ranks and fortunes were
merged. Here were men of position, men of brains, men of money. Men
whose names were in all the newspapers, and men the papers had never
heard of, all with one aim and object, the furtherance of Civilisation's
newest advance: the Conquest of the Air.

The dinner proceeded. Pale amber wine whispered and bubbled in her
glass, dishes came and went, but the girl scarcely knew what she ate or
drank. She was in a new world, and _he_ had brought her there. She felt
it so intensely that presently it almost numbed her. She was long past
the stage of excitement that manifests itself in gasps and exclamations.
She could speak ordinarily and calmly when Paul Dampier, turning from
his talk to a Physical Laboratory man in a very badly brushed coat,
asked her: "Well? Find it interesting?"

"You know I do," she said, with a grave little glance.

He said, smiling, "What did you say to the red-haired youth about not
going to the matinée with him first?"

"Mr. Ryan? Oh! I just told him I hadn't got over my headache from the
smell of dope, and that I was afraid it would tire me too much to do
both."

"Pretty annoyed, I expect, wasn't he?"

"Yes, he was," replied Gwenna, with the absolute callousness of a woman
in love towards the feelings of any but the one man. She did not even
trouble whether it had been the feelings or the vanity of Mr. Peter Ryan
that had been hurt. What mattered was that Paul Dampier had not wished
her to go to that matinée.

Paul Dampier said, "Well, I cried off an engagement to-night, too.
Colonel Conyers wanted to take me back with him. But I'm seeing you
home."

"Oh, but you mustn't; you needn't!" she protested happily. "I'm not
going down to the Works, you know, to-night. I'm sleeping at the Club.
I'm staying this week-end with Leslie."

"With Leslie, are you? M'm. But I'm taking you up to the Club
afterwards," he persisted. "A fellow's got to look after"--here he
laughed a little as if it were a joke that pleased him--"a fellow's got
to look after his _fiancée_, hasn't he?"

She was a little subdued. She thought for the moment that he had put
Colonel Conyers off, not for her, after all! but for that Machine of
his. Then she thought: No!--the machine was second now. She said, half
in hope, half in dread, "D'you mean the P.D.Q.?"

He turned, with his mouth full of salad, staring whimsically at her.

"The P.D.Q.? What you thinking of? I meant _you_."

"_Me?_" She gave a little gasp.

Life and happiness were too much for her again. She felt as if that
whispering untouched champagne in her glass had gone to her head. Was
it really true--_that_, that he had said?

"Well, aren't you?" he said gaily, but dropping his voice a little as
the conversation rose about them. "Aren't you that to me? Engaged,
aren't we?"

"Oh, I don't know," the young girl said, breathlessly. It was as if the
moon that one had cried for had suddenly dropped, to lie like a round,
silver mirror in one's lap. "Did you mean _that_, yesterday afternoon?"

"Didn't I mean it before that?" he said, half to himself. "What about
all those dances? that time when Hugo dragged me off to that place by
the river? Those would have been _most_ incorrect," he teased her, "if
we hadn't been. We shall have to be, my dear."

Then an impulse took her. (It is known to any young girl who is
sincerely in Love.)

"No. Don't let's----" she said suddenly. "Don't let's be 'engaged'!"

For it seemed to her that a winged Dream was just about to alight and to
become a clumsy creature of Earth--like that Aeroplane on the Flying
Ground. The boy said, staring at her, "_Not_ be engaged? Why on earth?
How d'you mean?"

"I mean, everybody gets '_engaged_,'" she explained very softly and
rapidly over the bread that she was crumbling in her little fingers.
"And it's such a sort of _fuss_, with writing home, and congratulations,
and how-long-has-this-been-going-on, and all that sort of thing! People
at tea-parties and things _talking_ about us! I _know_ they would!"
declared the Welsh girl with distaste, "and saying, 'Dear me, she looks
very young' and _wondering_ about us! Oh, no, _don't_ let's have it! It
would seem to _spoil_ it, for me! Don't let's _call_ it anything, need
we? Don't let's say anything yet, except to--just US."

"All right," said the boy with an easy shrug. (He was too young to know
what he was escaping.) "Sure I don't mind, as long as you're just with
me, all the time we can."

She said, wonderfully sedate above the tumult in her heart, "Did you
bring my locket with you to-night?"

"No. I didn't. D'you know why? Can't you guess? Because I wanted to give
it back to you when _I_ could put it round my Girl's neck," he told her.
And she turned away from him, so happily confused again that she could
not speak.

She was his Girl; his. And because he was one of this band of brothers,
sitting here feasting and talking, each making it his business to
contribute his share to the sum of what was to be one of the World's
greatest Forces, why! because of that, even she, little Gwenna Williams,
could feel herself to be a tiny part of that Force. She was an Aviator's
girl--even if it were a wonderful secret that nobody knew, so far, but
he and she.

(Already everybody at that table and many others in the room had
remarked what a pretty little creature young Dampier's sweetheart was.)

       *       *       *       *       *

"_The King!_" announced the President of the Dinner.

There was a movement and a rustle all round the great supper-room as the
guests rose to the toast; another rustle as they reseated themselves.
One of the celebrities whom Paul had pointed out to her began to speak
upon the achievements of Wilbur Wright. At the table next to Gwenna some
journalists bent absorbed over scribbling pads. Speech followed speech
as the toasts were gone through. The opal-blue haze of cigarette smoke
drifted up above the white tables with their rose-pink and ferny
decorations. Chairs were pushed sidewards as guests turned alert and
listening faces towards the head of the room; and every now and again
the grave and concise and pleasantly modulated tones of some
speaker-on-the-subject of his heart were broken in upon by a soft storm
of applause.

"Colonel Conyers to speak now," murmured Paul to Gwenna, as the long,
lean figure that had been sitting opposite to them rose. He stepped
backwards, to stand against one of those gilded pillars as he made his
speech, responding to the toast that had coupled his name with that of
the Flying Wing of the Army.

Gwenna listened with even more breathless attention than she had paid to
the other speakers.

Colonel Conyers spoke easily and lightly, as if he had been, not making
a speech, but talking to a knot of friends at his house. He reviewed, in
terms so simple that even the young girl at his table could follow all
he said, the difficulties and the risks of aviation, and the steps that
had been taken to minimise those risks. Wind, it seemed, had been in a
great measure overcome. Risk from faulty workmanship of machines--that,
too, was overcome. Workmanship was now well-nigh as perfect as it could
be made.

Here Gwenna glowed with pride, exchanging a glance with her employer far
down the tables. This meant _their_ workmanship at Aircraft Factories;
their Factory, too! This meant the labours of Mrs. Crewe and of Mr.
Ryan, and of André, and of the workmen in overalls at the lathes in that
noisy central shop. Even the brushful of dope that she, Gwenna, spread
conscientiously over each seam of the great wings, played its tiny part
in helping to preserve a Flyer's life!

The risk in stability, too, Colonel Conyers said, had been successfully
combatted by the gyroscope. There remained, however, Fog and Darkness as
the chief perils, which, at the present moment, of July,
Nineteen-fourteen, our Airmen had to fight....

In the soldier's lean face that shrewd, half-mischievous smile was
flickering as he spoke; his grey trim head turning now and again against
the gilded column, his keen eyes fixed upon some objective of his own,
his strong hand fidgeting in the small mechanical gesture of a man who
is less accustomed to speaking about things than to doing them.

Gwenna thought how different, how entirely different were all these
people here from that other dinner-party at the house of the prosperous
and artistic Smiths who had found so much to say about the Russian
Ballet!

Definitely now Gwenna saw what the chief difference between them was.

_Those other people treated and spoke of a pastime as though it were a
matter of Life and Death. These people here made Life and Death matters
their pastime._

"And these splendid real people are the ones I'm going to belong to,"
the girl told herself with a glance at the tall boy beside her who had
decided her fate. That thought was to glow in the very depths of her,
like a firefly nestling at the heart of a rose, for as long as she
lived.

The even, pleasant tones of Colonel Conyers went on to give as one of
the most hopeful features of aviation the readiness of the quite young
man of the present day to volunteer. No sooner was a fatality announced
than for one airman who, cheerfully giving his life for the service of
his country, had been put out of action, half a dozen promising young
fellows were eager to come forward and take his place.

"Two of 'em again yesterday.... Two of his lieutenants, killed in
Yorkshire," whispered Paul Dampier, leaning to Gwenna.

She missed the next sentence of Colonel Conyers, which concluded
cheerily enough with the hard-worked but heartening reminder that whom
the Gods love die young....

Then, with a broadening of that humorous smile and with a glint in his
eyes, he referred to "those other people (plump and well-to-do--and
quite young people) who do, still, really appear to consider that the
whole of a man's duty to his country is to preserve his health for as
long as possible and then, having reached a ripe old age, to die
comfortably and respectably in his bed!----"

There was a short ripple of laughter about the room; but after this
Gwenna heard very little.

Not only was she incapable of taking any more in, but this last sentence
pulled her up with a sudden memory of what she had seen, yesterday.

_That gun at the Aircraft Works. That pictured presentiment in her own
mind._

And she heard again, through Colonel Conyers' pleasant voice, the queer,
unexplained words that had haunted her:

"_Fired at by both friend and foe._"

She thought, "I must ask! I must say something to Paul about that----"



CHAPTER II

THE "WHISPER OF WAR"


She said it after the dinner had broken up.

In the great hall young Dampier had turned to the Aeroplane Lady with
his offer of motoring her to her Hotel first. She had good-naturedly
laughed at him and said, "No. I'm going to be driven back by the
rightful owner of the car this time. You take Miss Williams."

And then she had gone off with some friend of Paul's who had motors to
lend, and Paul had taken Gwenna to find a taxi to drive up to Hampstead.

They drove slowly through Piccadilly Circus, now brighter than at
midday. It was thronged with the theatre-crowds that surged towards the
crossings. Coloured restaurant-coats and jewelled head-gear and laughing
faces were gay in the lights that made that broad blazing belt about the
fountain. Higher up the whole air was a soft haze of gold, melting into
the hot, star-strewn purple of the night-sky. And against this there
tapered, black and slender, the apex of the fountain, the
downward-swooping shape that is not Mercury, but the flying Love--the
Lad with Wings.

Paul Dampier leant back in the closed cab and would have drawn the girl
to him.

She put both hands on his broad chest to hold him a little away from
her.

"I want to ask you something," she began a little tremulously. "It's
just--Is there going to be----"

"Well, what?" he asked, smiling close to her.

Of all things that he least expected came what the girl had to say.

"Is there going to be--a War, Paul?"

"A _what_?" he asked, thinking he had not heard aright.

She repeated it, tremulously. "A war. Real war."

"War?" he echoed, blankly, taken aback. He was silent from puzzled
astonishment over her asking this, as they turned up Shaftesbury Avenue.
They were held up outside the Hippodrome for some minutes. He was still
silent. The taxi gave a jerk and went on. And she still waited for his
reply. She had to remind him.

"Well," she said again, tremulous. "_Is_ there going to be?"

"A war? A _war_ indeed," he said again. "What an
extraordinary--Who's--What put such a thing into your head?"

She said, "_Is_ there?"

The boy gave a half-amazed, half-uneasy laugh. He retorted, "What d'you
mean, Gwenna? A war _where_?"

She said flutteringly, "Anywhere."

"Oh," he said, and laughed as if relieved. "Always some war, somewhere.
Frontier shows in India, and so on. There is some scrapping going on in
Europe too, now, you know. Looks as if Austria and Servia were going to
have a set-to. You mean that."

"No, I don't," persisted the Welsh girl, to whom these places seemed
indescribably remote and beside the mark. "I mean ... a war to do with
_us_, like."

"Us----?"

"To do with England."

"But----" he said, frowning. "Why, how absurd! A war with England?
Why ... of course not. Why should you think of it?"

She cleared her throat and answered with another tremulous question.

"Why should you have--that gun-thing--on your aeroplane?"

"Not going to. Not on the P.D.Q.," he said, shaking his head. "Only an
experiment, anyhow."

"Why should you have 'experiments' with those things?" she faltered.
"'_Have to be a rifle_,' you said. Why should you talk about 'scouting'
and 'modern warfare'?"

"I wasn't!" he said quite hotly.

"Yes, you were. That day we were together. That day in the field when
you were talking to me about the Machine."

"Oh, _then_! Weeks ago."

"Yes. Why should there _be_ all that, unless you meant that there'd be a
war, with England in it. _Paul!_" she cried, almost accusingly, "you
said yourself that it was '_bound to come_!'"

"Oh, well! Everybody said _that_," he assured her lightly. "Can't help
seeing Germany and that Fleet of hers, and her Zeppelins and things,
going on build, build, build. They don't do that for their health, you
bet! Scrap's bound to come; yes. Sooner or later."

"Yes, Paul; but _when_?"

"How should I know, my _dear_ child?" retorted the young Airman. "Why
didn't you ask Lord Thingummy, or Conyers at the Club just now?" he
laughed. "Good speech of his, wasn't it?"

"Does _he_ know?" persisted Gwenna, paling. "About the war coming, I
mean?"

"More likely to know than I am, those people. Not that they'd give it
away if they did. It won't be to-morrow, anyway. To-morrow; that's
Sunday. _Our_ holiday. Another day we shall have all to ourselves. Tell
me what time I'm to call for you at the Club."

Not to be put off, she retorted, timid, persistent, "Tell me when _you_
think it would come. Soon?"

Half laughing, half impatient, he said, "I _don't_ know. Soon enough for
it to be in my time, I hope."

"But--" she said, with a little catch in her voice, "you're not a
soldier?"

He said quietly, "I'm an aviator."

An aviator; yes. That was what she meant. He belonged to the most daring
and romantic of professions; the most dangerous, but not _that_ danger.
An inventor, part of his time; the rest of his time an airman at Hendon
who made flights above what the man with the megaphone called the
"Aer-rio-drome" above the khaki-green ground with the pylons and the
border of summer-frocked spectators. _Her_ boy! An aviator.... Would
that mean presently a man flying above enemy country, to shoot and be
shot at? ("_Fired at by both friend and foe._"). She said quiveringly:
"_You_ wouldn't have to fight?"

He said: "Hope so, I'm sure."

"Oh, Paul!" she cried, aghast, her hands on his arm. "Just when--when
I've only just _got_ you! To lose you again so soon----! Oh, no----!"

"Oh, I say, darling, don't be so silly," he said briskly and
reassuringly. He patted the little hands. "We're not going to talk about
this sort of thing, d'you hear? There's nothing to talk _about_.
Actually, there's nothing. Understand?"

"Yes," she murmured slowly. She thought, "Actually, 'there's nothing to
talk about' in what's between him and me. _But it's there all the
time._"

And then, gradually, that presentiment of War began to fade in the
reality of her joy at being with him now, with him still....

They turned up the Hampstead Road, flaring with naphtha-lights above the
stalls, noisy with shouts of costers, crowded with the humble shoppers
of Saturday night.

"Well, and what about to-morrow?" Dampier took up.

"I _was_ going with Leslie to----"

"So you said. With Leslie, indeed! D'you think you're going to be
allowed to go anywhere again, except with _me_?" he muttered as he put
his arms about her.

He held her as close as he had done on the scaffolding, that afternoon
when he had arranged with himself never to see the Little Thing again;
close as he'd done next time he did see her, at the Factory.

"Oh, _you_ don't know!" he said quite resentfully (while she laughed
softly and happily in his hold), "you _don't_ know how I've wanted you
with me. I--I haven't been able to think of anything--You _have_ got a
fellow fond of you in a jolly short time, haven't you? How've you done
it? M'm? I--Here!" he broke off savagely, "what _is_ this dashed idiot
stopping the taxi for?"

"Because I get out here. It's the Club," Gwenna explained to him
gravely, opening the door of the cab for herself. "Good-night."

"What? No, you don't," protested the boy. "We're going up the Spaniards
Road and down by the Whitestone Pond, and round by Hendon first. I must
take you for a drive. It's not so late. Hang it, I haven't _seen_ you to
speak to----"

She had made a dash out and across the lamp-lighted asphalt, and now
she nodded to him from the top step of the house, with her key already
clicking in the lock.

"There," she thought.

For even in the tie that binds the most adoring heart there is twisted
some little gay strand of retaliation.

Let _him_ feel that after a whole evening of sitting in her pocket he
hadn't seen anything of her. She'd known that sort of feeling long
enough. Let _him_ take his turn; let _him_ have just a taste of it!

"Good-night!" she called softly to her lover before she disappeared.
"See you to-morrow!"



CHAPTER III

THE LAST SUNDAY OF PEACE


Never had Gwenna risen so early after having spent so little of a night
in sleep!


Into the small hours she had crouched in her kimono on the edge of
Leslie's camp bedstead in the light that came from the street lamp
outside the window; and she had talked and talked and talked.

For by "not saying anything about it" she had never meant keeping her
happiness from that close chum.

Miss Long, sincerely delighted, had listened and had nodded her wise
black head from the pillow. She had thrown in the confidante's running
comments of "There! What did Leslie tell you?... Oh, he would, of
course.... Good.... Oh, my dear, _how_ exactly like them all.... No, no;
I didn't mean that. (Of course there's nobody like _him_); I meant
'Fancy!' ... Yes and then what did Paul say, Virginia?" At last
repetitions had cropped up again and again into the softly chattered
recital, with all its girlish italics of: "Oh, but you _don't_ know what
he's like; oh, Leslie, no, you _can't_ imagine!"--At last Leslie had
sighed, a trifle enviously. And little Gwenna, pattering to the head of
the bed, had put her cheek to the other girl's and had whispered
earnestly: "Oh, Leslie, if I only could, d'you know what I'd do? I'd
arrange so that he had a twin-brother _exactly_ like him, to fall in
love with _you_!"

"Taffy! you are too ... _sweet_," the elder girl had whispered back in a
stifled voice.

Gwenna never guessed how Leslie Long had had much ado not to giggle
aloud over that idea. To think of her, Leslie, finding rapture with any
one of the type of the Dampier boy....

A twin-brother of _his_? Another equally bread-and-buttery blonde
infant--an infant-in-arms who was even "simpler" than Monty Scott? Oh,
Ishtar!... For thus does one woman count as profoundest boredom what
brings to her sister Ecstasy itself.


And now here was Gwenna, all in white, coming down to the Club's Sunday
breakfast with her broad hat already on her head and her gloves and her
vanity-bag in her hand.

At the head of the table sat the Vicar's widow with the gold curb brooch
and the look of resigned disapproval. Over the table Miss Armitage and
the other suffrage-workers were discussing the Cat-and-Mouse Act.
Opposite to them one of the art-students, with her hair cut à la Trilby,
was listening bewildered, ready to be convinced.... Not one of the usual
things remained unsaid....

Presently Gwenna's neighbour and _bête noire_, Miss Armitage, was
denouncing the few remaining members of her sex who still seemed to
acquiesce in the Oriental attitude towards Woman; who still remained
serfs or chattels or toys.

"However! _Thy_ needn't think thy _caount_," declared the lecturer
firmly, stretching without apology across her neighbour to get the salt.
With some distaste Gwenna regarded her. She had spots on her face.
"Pleasers of Men!" she pursued, with noble scorn. "The remnant of the
Slyve-girl Type, now happily extinct----"

"Loud cheers," from Leslie Long.

"The serpent's tile," continued the suffragette, "the serpent's tile
that, after the reptile has been beaten to death, still gows on feebly
wriggling----"

"Better wriggle off now, Taffy, my child," murmured Leslie, who sat
facing the breakfast-room window. "Here's a degraded Oriental coming up
the path now to call for his serf."

"_You_ come," said Gwenna, warmly flushed as she rose. And she held her
chum's long arm, dragging her with her as she came into the hall where
the tall, typically English figure of her Airman stood, his straw hat in
his hand. A splash of scarlet from the stained glass of the hall door
fell upon his fair head and across his cheek as he turned.

"Good-morning," said Gwenna sedately, and without giving him so much as
a glance. She felt at that moment that she would rather keep him at
arm's length for ever than allow him even to hold her hand, with Leslie
there. For it takes those who are cooler in temperament than was the
little Welsh girl, or those who care less for their lovers than she did,
to show themselves warmer in the presence of others.

"Hullo," said Paul Dampier to her. Then, "Hullo, Miss Long! How d'you
do?"

Leslie gave him a very hearty shake of the hand, a more friendly glance
and a still more demure inquiry about that Machine of his.

Paul Dampier laughed, returning her glance.

She was a sport, he thought. She could be trusted not to claim, just
yet, the bet she'd won from his cousin; the laughing wager about the
Aeroplane versus the Girl. Fifteen to one on the Girl, wasn't it? And
here was the Girl home in his heart now, with the whole of a gorgeous
July Sunday before them for their first holiday together.

"I say, I'm not too early now, am I?" he asked as he and the girl walked
down the Club steps together. "I was the first time, so I just went for
a walk round the cricket-pitch and back. Sickening thing I couldn't rake
up a car anywhere for to-day. Put up with trains or tubes and taxis
instead, I'm afraid. D'you mind? Where shall we go?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Flying, of course," was Gwenna's first thought. "Now at last he'll take
me up." But that would be for the afternoon.

For the morning they wanted country, and grass, and trees to sit
under.... Not Hampstead; Richmond Park was finally decided upon.

"We'll taxi to Waterloo," the boy said, with an inward doubt. He dived a
long brown hand into his pocket as they walked together down the road
that Gwenna used to take every morning to her Westminster bus. He was
particularly short of money just then. Dashed nuisance! Just when he
would have wished to be particularly flush! That's what came of buying a
clock for the Machine before it was wanted. Still, he couldn't let the
Little Thing here know that. Manage somehow. A taxi came rattling down
the Pond Street Hill from Belsize Park as they reached the
stopping-place of the buses, and Paul held up his hand.

"Taxi!"

But the driver shook his head. He pulled up the taxi in front of a
small, rather mean-looking house close to where Gwenna and Paul were
standing on the pavement. Then his fare came out of the house, a kit-bag
in each hand and a steamer-rug thrown over his arm; he was a small,
compactly-built young man in clothes so new and so smart that they
seemed oddly out of place with the slatternly entrance of his
lodging-house. It was this that made Paul Dampier look a little hard at
him. Gwenna was wondering where she'd seen that blonde, grave face of
his before.

He sprang lightly into the cab; a pink-faced girl was sitting there,
whom Gwenna did not see. If she had seen her, she would have recognised
her Westminster colleague, Ottilie Becker.

"Liverpool Street," ordered Miss Becker's companion, setting down his
luggage.

Then, raising his head, he caught the eyes upon him of the other young
man in the street. He put a hand to his hat, gave a quick little odd
smile, and leaned forward out of the cab.

"_Auf Wiedersehen!_" he called, as the taxi started off--for Liverpool
Street.

"Deuce did he mean by that?" exclaimed the young Englishman, staring
after the cab. "Who on earth was that fellow? I didn't know him."

"Nor did I. But I _have_ seen him," said Gwenna.

"I believe I have, somewhere," said Paul, musing.

They puzzled over it for a bit as they went on to Waterloo on the top of
their bus.

And then, when they were passing "The Horse Shoe" in Tottenham Court
Road, and when they were talking about something quite different (about
the river-dance, in fact), they both broke off talking sharply. Gwenna,
with a little jump on the slanting front seat, exclaimed, "I know--!"
Just as Paul said, "By Jove! I've got it! I know who that fellow was.
That German fellow just now. He was one of the waiters at that very
dance, Gwenna!"

Gwenna, turning, said breathlessly, "Yes, I know. The one who passed us
on the path. But I've thought of something else, too. I thought then his
face reminded me of somebody's; I know now who it is. It's that fair
young man who came down to try and be taken on at the Works."

"At Westminster?" Paul asked quickly.

"No; at the Aircraft Works one afternoon. He talked English awfully
well, and he said he was Swiss. And then André--you know, the big, dark
French workman--talked to him for quite a long time in French; he said
he seemed very intelligent. But he wouldn't give him a job, whatever."

"He wouldn't?"

"No. I heard him tell the Aeroplane Lady that the young man ('_ce
garçon-là_') came from the wrong canton," said Gwenna. "So he went away.
I saw him go out. He was awfully _like_ that German waiter. I suppose
most Germans look alike, to us."

"S'pose so," said the Aviator, adding, "Was that the day that drawing of
mine was missing from the Aircraft Works, I wonder?"

She looked at him, surprised. "I didn't know one of your drawings was
missing, Paul."

"Yes. It didn't matter, as it happened. Drawing of a detail for my
Machine. I've taken jolly good care not to have complete drawings of it
anywhere," he said, with a little nod.

And some minutes later they had begun to talk of something else again,
as the bus lurched on through the hot, deserted Sunday streets.

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning that had brought Gwenna to her lover left Gwenna's chum for
once at a loose end.

"Leslie, my child, aren't you a little tired of being the looker-on who
sees most of the game? Won't you take a hand?" Miss Long asked herself
as she went back into her Club bedroom. It was scented with the fresh
smell of the rosemary and bay-rum that Leslie used for her ink-black
sheaf of hair, and there drifted in through the open window the sound of
bells from all the churches.

"Sunday. My free morning! '_The better the day._' So I'll settle up at
last what I am going to do about this little matter of my future," she
decided.

She sat down at the little bamboo writing-table set against the bedroom
wall. Above it there hung (since this was a girl's room!) a
looking-glass; and about the looking-glass there was festooned a little
garland made up of dance-programmes, dangling by their pencils, of gaudy
paper-fans from restaurants, and of strung beads. Stuck crookedly into a
corner of the glass there was a cockling snapshot. It showed Monty
Scott's dark head above his sculptor's blouse. Leslie picked it out and
looked at it.

"Handsome, wicked eyes," she said to it lightly. "The only wicked things
about you, you unsophisticated infant-in-arms!" Then she said, "You and
your sculpturing!... _Just_ like a baby with its box of bricks. Besides,
I don't suppose you'll ever have a penny. One doesn't marry a man
because one may like the _look_ of him. No, boy."

She flicked the snapshot aside. There was conscientious carelessness in
the flick.

Then she took out the leather-cased ink-bottle from her dressing-bag,
and some paper.

She wrote: "MY DEAR HUGO----"

Then she stopped and thought--"Maudie and Hilary Smith will be pleased
with me. So will the cousins, the opulent cousins who've always been
kind about clothes they've finished wearing, and invitations to parties
where they want another girl to brighten things up. You can give some
bright parties for _them_ now, Leslie! Good Reason Number Ninety-nine
for saying 'Yes.'"

She took up her pen.

"Nothing," she murmured, "_Nothing_ will ever kill the idea that _the
girl who isn't married is the girl who hasn't been asked_. Nothing will
ever spoil the satisfaction of that girl when showing that she _has_!"

She wrote down the date, which she had forgotten.

"Poor Monty would be so much more decorative for 'show' purposes. But I
explained quite frankly to Hugo that it would be his money I'd want!"

She wrote, "_After thinking it well over_----"

Then again she meditated.

"Great things, reasons! The reason why so many marriages aren't a
success is because they haven't _enough_ 'reasons why' behind them. Now,
how far had I got with mine--ah, yes. Reason Number a Hundred: I'm
twenty-six; I shall never been any better-looking than I am now. Not
unless I'm better-dressed. Which (Reason a Hundred and One) I should be
if I married Hugo. Reason a Hundred and Two: my old lady won't live for
ever, and I should never get a better job than hers. Except his. Reason
Number a Hundred and Two and a Half: I do quite like him. He doesn't
expect anything more, so there's the other half-reason for taking him.
Reason a Hundred and Four: _he's_ never disapproved of me. Whereas Monty
always likes me against his better judgment. Much nicer for me, but
annoying for a husband. I should make Hugo an excellent wife." She added
this half-aloud (to the snapshot).

"I should never shock _him_. Never bore him. Never interfere with him.
Never make him look silly--any sillier than he can't help looking with
that hair and that necktie he will wear. Leslie would have the sense,
when she wasn't amusing him at the moment, to retire to her _own rooms_
(Reason a Hundred and Five for marrying well), and to stay there until
she was fetched. Reason a----"

Here, in the full flow of her reasoning, Miss Long cast suddenly and
rather violently down her pen, and tore the sheet with Hugo's name in it
into tiny strips that she cast into the empty fireplace.

"I can't _think_ to write a good letter to-day!" she excused herself to
herself as she got up from her chair. "I'm tired.... It was all that
talking from Taffy last night. Bother the child. _Bother_ her. _It's
unsettling!_--Bother _all_ engaged girls. (_And all the people shall say
Amen._) I wonder where they went to?... I shall ring up somebody to take
me on the river, I think. Plenty of time to say 'Yes' to Hugo later."

The letter to Hugo, between the lines of which there had come the vision
of an engaged girl's happy face, remained, for the present, unfinished.

Leslie went to the telephone.

"O-o-o Chelsea," she called. "I want to speak to Mr. Scott, please."

She thought, "This shall be my last free Sunday, and I'll have it in
peace!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In Richmond Park the grass was doubly cool and green beneath the shade
both of the oaks and of the breast-high bracken where Gwenna and Paul
Dampier sat, eating the fruit and cake that they had bought on the way,
and talking with long stretches of contented silence.

They were near enough actually to London and the multitude. But town and
people seemed far away, out of their world to-day.

Gwenna's soft, oddly-accented voice said presently into the warm
stillness, "You'll take me up this afternoon?"

"Up?" he said idly. "Where to?"

"Up flying, of course."

"No, I don't think so," said the young Airman quietly, putting his chin
in his hand as he lay in his favourite attitude, chest downwards in the
grass, looking at her.

"Not flying? Not this afternoon?"

"Don't think so, Little Thing."

"Oh, you're lazy," she teased him, touching a finger to his fair head
and taking it quickly back again. "You don't want to move."

"Not going to move, either; not until I've got to."

She sighed, not too disappointed.

Here in the dappled shade and the solitude with him it was heavenly
enough; even if she did glance upward at the peeps of sapphire-blue
through the leaves and wonder what added rapture it would be to soar to
those heights with her lover.

"D'you know how many times you've put me off?" she said presently,
fanning the midges away from herself with her broad white hat. "Always
you've said you'd take me flying with you, Paul. And always there's been
something to stop it. Let's settle it now. Now, when will you?"

"Ah," he said, and flung the stone of the peach he'd been eating into
the dark green jungle of bracken ahead of them. "Good shot. I wanted to
see if I could get that knob on that branch."

She moved nearer to him and said coaxingly, "What about next Sunday?"

"Hope it'll be as fine as this," he said, smiling at her. "I'd like all
the Sundays to be just like this one. Can't think what I did with all
the ripping days before this, Gwenna."

She said, "I meant, what about your taking me up next Sunday?"

"Nothing about it," he said, shaking his head. There was a little pause.
He crossed his long legs in the grass and said, "Not next Sunday. Nor
the Sunday after that. Nor any Sunday. Nor any time. I may as well tell
you now. You aren't ever coming flying," said the young aviator firmly
to his sweetheart. "I've settled _that_."

The cherub face of the girl looked blankly into his. "But, Paul! No
flying? Why? Surely--It's safe enough now!"

"Safe enough for me--and for most people."

"But you've taken Miss Conyers and plenty of girls flying."

"Girls. Yes."

"And you _promised_ to take me!"

"That was ages ago. That was when you were a girl too."

"Well, what am I now, pray?"

"Don't you know? Not '_a_ girl.' _My_ Girl!" he said.

Then he moved. He knelt up beside her. He made love to her sweetly
enough to cause her to forget all else for a time. And presently,
flushed and shy and enraptured, she brought out of her vanity-bag the
tiny white wing that was to be his mascot, and she safety-pinned it
inside the breast of his old grey jacket.

"That ought to be fastened somewhere to the P.D.Q.," he suggested. But
she shook her head. No. It was not for the P.D.Q. It was for him to
wear.

Then she saw him weighing in his hand her own mascot, the little
mother-of-pearl heart with the silver chain.

"Ah! You did remember to bring it, at last?" she said.

Nestling against his arm, she lifted her chin and waited for him to snap
the trinket about her neck.

He laughed and hesitated. She looked at him rather wonderingly. Then he
made a confession.

"D'you know, I--I do hate to have to give it back again, Gwenna. I've
had it _so_ long. Might as well let me hold on to it. May I?"

"Oh, you are greedy for keepsakes," she said, delighted. "What would you
_do_ with a thing like that?"

"I've thought of something," said he, nodding at her.

She asked, "What?"

"Tell you another time," he smiled, with the locket clutched in the hand
that was about her waist. She flung back her head happily against his
shoulder, curling herself up like a kitten in his hold. They had settled
that they were going to walk on to Kew Gardens to tea, but it was not
time yet, and it was so peaceful here. Scarcely any one passed them in
that nook of the Park. Another happy silence fell upon the lovers. It
was long before the boy broke it, asking softly, "You do like being with
me, don't you?" There was no answer from the girl.

"Do you, Gwenna?" It seemed still odd to be able to call her whatever he
liked, now! "Do you, my Little Sweet Thing?"

Still she didn't answer. He bent closer to look at her.... Her long
eyelashes lay like two little dark half-moons upon her cheeks and her
white blouse fell and rose softly to her breathing. Drowsy from the late
hours she'd kept last night and from the sun-warmed silence under the
trees, she had fallen asleep in his arms. Her eyes were still shut when
at last she heard his deep and gentle voice again in her ear, "I suppose
you know you owe me several pairs of gloves, miss!"

She laughed sleepily, returning (still a little shyly and unfamiliarly!)
the next kiss that he put on her parted lips.

"I was _nearly_ asleep," she said, with a little sudden stretch that ran
all over her like a shake given to a sheet of white aluminium at the
Works. "Isn't it quiet? Feels as if _everything_ was asleep." She opened
her eyes, blinking at the rays of the sun, now level in her face. "Oh, I
_should_ like some tea, wouldn't you?"

They rose to go and find a place for tea in Kew Gardens, among the
happy, lazing Sunday crowds of those whom it has been the fashion to
treat so condescendingly: England's big Middle-classes. There were the
conventional young married couples; "She" wearing out the long tussore
coat that seemed so voluminous; "He," pipe in mouth, wheeling the wicker
mail-cart that held their pink-and-white bud of a baby. There were also
courting couples innumerable....

(Not all of these were as reticent in the public eye as Gwenna had been
with her lover before Leslie.)

To Gwenna the bright landscape and the coloured figures seemed a page
out of some picture-book that she turned idly, her lover beside her. She
had to remind herself that to these other lovers she herself and Paul
were also part of a half-seen picture....

They sat down at one of the green wooden tea-tables, and a waiter in a
greasy black coat came out under the trees to take Dampier's order.
Perhaps that started another train of thought in the girl's mind, for
quite suddenly she exclaimed, "Ah! I've thought of _another_ German now
that he was like!"

"Who was that?" asked Paul.

"Only a picture I used to see every day. A photograph that our Miss
Baker kept pinned up over her desk at the works in Westminster,"
explained Gwenna. "The photograph of that brother of hers that she was
always writing those long letters to."

"Always writing, was she? Was _he_ a waiter?"

"No, he was a soldier. He was in uniform in that photo," Gwenna said, as
the little tray was set before her. "Karl was his name, Karl Becker....
Do you take sugar?"

"Yes. You'll have to remember that for later on," he said, looking at
her with his head tilted back and a laugh in his eyes, as she poured out
his tea. She handed it to him, and then sat sipping her own, looking
dreamily over the English gardens, over the green spaces flowered with
the light frocks and white flannels of other couples who perhaps called
themselves "in love," and who possibly imagined they could ever feel as
she and her lover felt. (Deluded beings!)

She murmured, "What do you suppose all these people are thinking
about?"

"Oh! Whether they'll go to Brighton or to South-end for their fortnight,
I expect," returned Paul Dampier. "Everybody's thinking about holidays
just now."

Later, they stood together in the hushed gloom of the big chestnut aisle
beside the river that slipped softly under Kew Bridge, passing the
willows and islands and the incongruously rural-looking street of
Strand-on-the-Green. One of the cottage-windows there showed red blinds,
lighted up and homely.

Young Dampier whispered to his girl--"Going on holidays myself, perhaps,
presently, eh?"

"Oh, Paul!" she said blankly, "you aren't going away for a holiday, are
you?"

"Not yet, thanks. Not without you."

"Oh!" she said. Then she sighed happily, watching the stars. "To-day's
been the loveliest holiday I've ever had in my life. Hasn't it been
perfect?"

"Not quite," he said, with his eyes on those red-lighted windows on the
opposite bank. "Not perfect, Gwen."

"Not----?" she took up quickly, wondering if she had said something that
he didn't like.

Almost roughly he broke out, "Oh, I say, darling! _Don't_ let's go and
have one of these infernally long engagements, shall we?"

She turned, surprised.

"We said," she reminded him, "that we weren't 'engaged' at all."

"I know," he said. Then he laughed as he stooped and kissed her little
ringless fingers and the palms of her hands. "But----"

There was a pause.

"Got to _marry_ me one day, you know," said young Paul Dampier
seriously.

He might have spoken more seriously still if he had known that what he
said must happen in ten days' time from then.



CHAPTER IV

THAT WEEK-END


For the following week-end saw, among many other things that had not
been bargained for, those lovers apart again.

The very next Saturday after that Aviation Dinner was that
not-to-be-forgotten day in England, when this country, still uncertain,
weighed the part that she was to play in the Great War.

Late on the Friday night of an eventful week, Paul Dampier, the Airman,
had received a summons from Colonel Conyers.

And Gwenna, who had left the Aircraft Works on Saturday morning to come
up to her Hampstead Club, found there her lover's message:

     "_Away till Monday. Wait for me._"

She waited with Leslie.

On that bright afternoon the two girls had walked, as they had so often
walked together, about the summer-burnt Heath that was noisy with
cricketers on the grass. They had turned down by the ponds where bathers
dived from the platforms set above the willows; clean-built English
youths splashing and shouting and laughing joyously over their sport.
Last time Gwenna had been with her chum it was she, the girl in love,
who had done all the talking, while Leslie listened.

Now it was Leslie who was restless, strung-up, talkative.... A new
Leslie, her dark eyes anxious and sombre, her usually nonchalant voice
strained as she talked.

"Taffy! D'you realise what it all means? Supposing we don't go in. We
may not go in to war with the others. I know lots of people in this
country will do their best so that we don't lift a finger. People like
the Smiths; my brother-in-law's people. Well-to-do, hating anything that
might get in the way of their having a good year and grubbing up as much
money as usual.... Oh! If we don't go in, I shall emigrate--I shall turn
American--I shan't want to call myself English any more! P'raps you
don't mind because you're Welsh."

Little Gwenna, who was rather pale, but who had a curious stillness over
the growing anxiety in her heart, said, "Of course I mind."

She did not add her thoughts, "_He_ said he hoped the War would come in
his time. I know _he_ would think it perfectly awful if England didn't
fight. And even I can feel that it would be horribly mean--just _looking
on_ at fighting when it came."

Leslie, striding beside her up the hill, went on bitterly, "War! Oh, it
can't come. For years we've said so. Haven't we taken good care not to
let ourselves get 'hysterical' over the German 'scare'? Haven't we
disbanded regiments? Haven't we beaten our swords into cash-registers?
Haven't we even kept down the Navy? Haven't we spread and spread the
idea that soldiering was a silly, obsolete kind of game? Aren't we quite
clever and enlightened enough to look down upon soldiers as a kind of
joke? The brainless Army type. Don't let's forget _that_ phrase," urged
the soldier's daughter. "Why, Taffy, I'll tell you what happened only
last May. I went to Gamage's to get a birthday present for Hilary, my
sister Maudie's little boy. Of course he's _got_ heaps of everything a
child wants. Delightful floor games. Beautiful hand-wrought artistic
toys (made in Munich). Still, I thought he might like a change. I told
the man in the shop I wanted a toy-book of soldiers. Nice simple
drawings and jolly, crude, bright colours of all the different
regiments. Like we used to have at home. And what d'you suppose the
shopman said? He was very sorry, but 'they' hadn't stocked that class of
thing for some time now; so little demand for it! So little demand for
anything that reminds us we've got an Empire to keep!"

Gwenna said half absently, "It was only toys, Leslie."

"Only one more sign of what we're coming to! _Teaching the young idea
not to shoot_," said Leslie gloomily. "That, and a million other
trifles, are going to settle it, I'm afraid. If England is to come down,
_that's_ the sort of thing that will have done it.... Oh, Leslie's been
in it, too, and all her friends. Dancing and drifting and dressing-up
while Rome's been burning.... There'll be no war, Taffy."

Gwenna said, quietly and convinced, "Yes, there will." And she quoted
the saying of the lady at the Aviation Dinner, "_If England is ever to
be saved, it will be by the few._"

       *       *       *       *       *

They walked round the Highgate Ponds and down the steep hill between the
little, ramshackle, Victorian-looking shops of Heath Street. It was busy
as ever on a Saturday afternoon. They passed the usual troop of Boy
Scouts; the usual straggle of cricketers and lovers from or for the
Heath, and then a knot of rather boyish-looking girls and
girlish-looking boys wearing the art-green school-cap of some
co-educational institution.

"What sort of soldiers do we expect those boys ever to make?" demanded
Leslie.

Outside the dark-red-tiled entrance to the Hampstead Tube there was a
little crowd of people gathered about the paper-sellers with their pink
arresting posters of

                            "RUMOURS OF WAR
                          ENGLAND'S DECISION."

"They'll publish a dozen before anything _is_ decided," said Leslie. She
bought a paper, Gwenna another....

No; nothing in them but surmise--suspense--theories--they walked on,
passing Miss Armitage from the Club who had paused on the kerb to talk
to one of her friends, a long-haired man in a broad-leafed brown hat. He
seemed to be dispensing pamphlets to people in the street. As Miss
Armitage smiled and nodded good-bye to him the two other girls came up.
He of the locks slipped a pamphlet into the hand of Leslie Long.

She glanced at it, stopped, and looked at it again. It was headed:

                         "BRITAIN, STAND ASIDE!"

Leslie stood for a moment and regarded this male. She said very gently,
"You don't want any War?"

The long-haired person in the gutter gave a shrug and a little superior
smile. "Oh, well, that's assumed, isn't it?" he said. "_We_ don't want
any War."

"Or any _country_, I suppose?" said Leslie, walking on. She held the
pamphlet a little gingerly between her finger and thumb. She had thought
of tossing it into the gutter--but no. She kept it as a curiosity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late that night she sat on Gwenna Williams' bed at the Club, suspense
eating at her heart. For all the soldier blood in her had taken her back
to old times in barracks, or in shabby lodging-houses in garrison towns,
or on echoing, sunny parade-grounds.... Times before she had drifted
into the gay fringes of the cosmopolitan jungle of Bohemian life in
London. Before the Hospital, the Art-school, the daily "job," with her
evenings for the theatre and the Crab-tree Club, and the dances she
loved. It is the first ten years of a child's life that are said to
"count." They counted now. The twenty-six-year-old Leslie, whose
childhood had been passed within sound of the bugle-call, waited,
waited, waited to know if the ideas of honour and country and glory
which she had taken in unconsciously in those far-off times were now to
be tossed down into the gutter as she would have tossed the leaflet of
that coward. These things, as Miss Armitage and her friends could have
told her, were mere sentimentalities--names--ideas. Yet what has ever
proved stronger than an Idea?

"Oh, _Taffy_!" she sighed impatiently. "If we're told that we're to sit
still and nothing will happen?"

And little Gwenna, lying curled up with a hand in her chum's, murmured
again, "_That's_ not what's coming."

She was quiet because she was dazed with the sheer intensity of her own
more personal anxiety. "What will happen about Paul? What will _he_
do?"



CHAPTER V

THE DIE IS CAST


On Sunday morning she and Leslie went to Church.

In the afternoon they walked again, aimlessly. She felt that she was
only living until Monday, until his return to tell her something. In the
evening the two girls sat out on a seat on Parliament Hill; near where
the man with the standing telescope used to offer peeps at London for a
penny a time. Far, far below, lay London under her web of twinkling
lights. London, England's heart, with that silver ribbon of the river
running through it. Leslie looked away over that prospect as though she
had never seen it before. Little Gwenna turned from it to the view on
the other side--the grass spaces and the trees towards Hendon. She
thought, "On a night as clear as this, aeroplanes could easily go up,
even late."

As the two girls reached the Club again they found a motor drawn up
beside the entrance. Steps came out of the darkness behind them. A man's
voice said "Miss Long." Leslie turned.

There moved into the light of the street-lamp Hugo Swayne. His face,
somehow, had never looked less like an imitation of Chopin; or more like
an ordinary commonplace Englishman's. It was serious, set. Yet it was
exultant. For he, too, was a soldier's son.

He spoke. "I say, I thought I'd bring you the news," he began gravely.
"It's all right. England goes in."

"Is that official?" Leslie asked sharply.

There was a shaky little "War?" from Gwenna.

Then came other, quick steps on the asphalt path, and the girls saw over
Hugo's rather portly shoulder a taller, slighter figure coming up the
road behind him.

It was hatless; the lamplight shone golden on its blonde head. Gwenna's
heart leaped to her lips.

"Paul!" she cried, and made a running step towards him. In a moment
young Dampier was up with the others; the quartette standing as they had
stood on that spring night in this same place, after the Smiths'
dinner-party. There were hasty greetings, murmurs of "Not official?"

"Ah, that's all right----"

"They won't say for a day or so, but----"

Then, clear and distinct, young Dampier's boyish voice rang out in a
curious announcement. "Glad _you're_ here, Hugo. I was coming to you. I
want to borrow rather a lot of money of you, at once. Forty pounds, I
think it is. Sorry. Must have it. It's for a marriage-licence!"

Hugo, utterly taken aback, stared and murmured, "My dear
chap---- Certain---- A m----?"

"Yes. I shall have to be off, you know. Of course. And I shall get
married before I go," announced Paul Dampier, brusquely. He turned as
brusquely to the girl.

"You and I are going to get married by special licence," he told her,
"the day after to-morrow."



CHAPTER VI

HER GUARDIAN'S CONSENT


The Reverend Hugh Lloyd, who was Gwenna Williams' only relative and
guardian and therefore the person from whom consent might be asked if
ever the girl wished to be engaged, sat reading _The Cambrian News_. He
sat, over his breakfast eggs and tea, in the kitchen-sitting-room of his
Chapel House. Inside, the grandfather clock ticked slowly but still
pointed (as ever) to half-past two; and the cosy room, with its Welsh
dresser and its book-shelves, still held its characteristic smell of
singeing hearthrug. Outside, quiet brooded over the valley that fine
August morning. The smoke from the village chimneys rose blue and
straight against the larches of the hill-side. The more distant hills of
that landscape were faintly mauve against the cloudless, fainter blue of
the late-summer sky. All the world seemed so peaceful!

And the expression on the Reverend Hugh's face of a Jesuit priest under
its thatch of bog-cotton hair was that of a man at peace with all the
world.

True, there were rumours, in some of the newspapers, of some War going
on somewhere in the world outside.

But it was a long way from here to that old Continent, as they called
it! For the matter of that, it was a long way to London, where they
settled what they were going to do about Germany....

What they were going to do about Welsh Disestablishment was a good deal
more important, to a Welshman. There were some very good things about
that in this very article. The Reverend Hugh had written it himself.

Presently, in the midst of his reading, his housekeeper (who was a
small, middle-aged woman, rather like a black hen) entered the room at a
run.

"Telegram for you, sir."

"Ah, yes; thank you, Margat," her master said as he took it.

He had guessed already what was in it. Some arrangement to do with his
next Sabbath-day's journey. For he was a very popular preacher, invited
to give sermons by exchange in every country town in Wales.

"This," he told his housekeeper complacently, as he tore open the
envelope, "will be to say am I ex Pected in Carnarvon on the Sat Teudêh,
or----"

Here he broke off, staring at the message in his hand. It was a long
one.

There was a moment's silence while the clock ticked. Then that silence
was broken by an exclamation, in Welsh, from a man startled out of all
professional decorum. He added, with more restraint, but also in Welsh,
"Great King!"

Then he exclaimed, "Dear father!" and "_Name_ of goodness!"

"What is it, Mr. Lloyd _bach_?" demanded his housekeeper excitedly in
Welsh, clutching her black, crochet wool shawl about her shoulders as
she waited by the side of the breakfast.

"Is it somebody died?" In her mind's eye she saw already that loved orgy
of her kind--a funeral.

The Reverend Hugh shook his handsome white head. Again he read through
the longest telegraph message that he had ever received:

It ran:

     "_Dear Sir am going to marry your niece Gwenna to-morrow Tuesday
     morning at Hampstead regret forced to give you this short notice
     but impossible to do otherwise owing military duties trust you will
     excuse apparent casualness will write further particulars yours
     sincerely Paul Dampier Lieutenant Royal Flying Corps._"

"_Name_ of goodness!" breathed the Reverend Hugh, brushing back his
white locks in consternation. And at short intervals he continued to
ejaculate. "What did I tell her? _What_ did I tell her!... Indeed, it's
a great pity I ever let her go away from home.... It was my fault; my
fault.... Young men----! This one sounds as if he was gone quite mad,
whatever."

So the Reverend Hugh addressed his answer to Miss Gwenna Williams at her
Club.

And it said:

     "_Coming up to see you nine-thirty Euston to-night. Uncle._"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I'm sure he'll be simply horrid about it," Gwenna rather tremulously
told her betrothed that evening, as they walked, the small, curly-haired
girl in dark blue and the tall, grey-clad aviator, up and down the
platform at Euston Station, waiting for the Welsh train to come in.

Little Gwenna was experiencing a feeling not unknown among those shortly
to be married; namely, that _every prospect was pleasing--save that of
having to face one's relatives with the affair_!

"He was always rather a dret-ful old man," she confided anxiously to
Paul, as they paced the sooty flags of the platform. "It's _just_ like
him to be sixteen minutes late already just when I want to get this
over. He never understands anything about--about people when they're
young. And the first thing he's sure to ask is whether you've got any
money. Have you, Paul?"

"Stacks," said the Airman, reassuringly. "Old Hugo made it sixty, as a
wedding-present. Decent of him, wasn't it?"

They turned by the blackboard with the chalked-up notices of arrivals
and departures, and Gwenna ruefully went on with her prophecy of what
her Uncle would say.

"He'll say he never _heard_ of anybody marrying an Airman. (I don't
suppose he's ever heard of an Airman at all before now!) Ministers, and
quarry-managers, and people _with some prospects_; that's the sort of
thing they've always married in Uncle Hugh's family," she said
anxiously. "And he'll say we've both behaved awfully badly not to let
him know before this. (Just as if there was anything to know.) And
he'll say you turned my silly head when I was much too young to know my
own mind! And then he's quite, quite sure to say that you only proposed
to me because---- Well, of course," she broke off a little reproachfully,
"you never even _did_ propose to me properly!"

"Too late to start it now," said her lover, laughing, as the knot of
porters surged forward to the side of the platform. "Here's the train
coming in!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Now Gwenna was right about the first thing that Uncle Hugh would ask,
when, after a searching glance and a handshake to this tall young man
that his niece introduced to him at the carriage-door, he carried off
the pair of them to the near-by hotel where the Minister always put up
on his few and short visits to London.

"Well, young gentleman," he began, in his crisp yet deliberate Welsh
accent. He settled himself on the red plush sofa, and gazed steadily at
Paul Dampier on one of the red plush armchairs. "Well! And have you got
the money reck-quisite to keep a wife?"

"No. I'm afraid I haven't, sir, really," returned the young man, looking
frankly back at him. "Of course I'd my screw. Three pounds ten a week, I
was getting as a pilot. But that was only just enough for myself--with
what I had to do for the Machine. Of course I'm going to have her--the
Flying Machine--taken up now, so----"

"It's very little faith I have in such things as flying machines.
Flying? Yes, in the face of Providence, I call it," said the Reverend
Hugh, discouragingly, but with the dawn of some amusement in his
searching eyes. "What I say about the whole idea of Avi_ay_-shon
is--_Kite-high lunacy!_"

"Uncle!" scolded Gwenna; blushing for him. But the young Airman took the
rebuke soberly enough.

"And out of that income," went on Uncle Hugh, still looking hard, at
this modern suitor in that incongruous red-plush setting with its
Nineteenth Century clocks and ornaments, "out of that income you will
not have saved very much."

"Afraid not, sir," agreed young Dampier, who, last night, had been down
to his last eightpence ha'penny and a book of stamps. "Not much to put
by, you know----"

"Not even," took up the Reverend Hugh, shrewdly, "enough to pay for a
special marriage licence?"

"Oh, yes, I had that. That is, I've raised _that_"--("Good old Hugo!" he
thought.)--"and a bit over," he added, "to take us for some sort of a
little trip. To the sea, perhaps. Before I go on Service."

"Military service, do you mean?" said the Reverend Hugh. "Mmph! (I never
have held with soldiery. I do not think that I have ever come into
act--ual con--tackt with _any_.)"

"Yes, I probably am going on Service, Mr. Lloyd," answered the young
man, quickly, and with a glance at the girl that seemed to indicate that
this subject was only to be lightly dealt with at present. "When, I am
not sure. Then I shall get my pay as a Flight-Lieutenant, you see.
Shan't want any money much, then. So _she_"--with a little nod towards
the small, defensively set face of Gwenna, sitting very straight in the
other red-plush armchair--"she will get that sent home, to her."

"_I_ shan't want all your pay, indeed," interrupted the girl, hastily.
It seemed to her too revoltingly horrible, this talk about money
combined with this sense that a woman, married, must be an _expense_, a
burden. A woman, who longs to mean only freedom and gifts and treasure
to her lover!

"Oh, a woman ought never, _never_ to feel she has to be _kept_," thought
Gwenna, rosy again with embarrassment. "If men don't think we _mind_,
very well, then let all the money in the world be taken away from men,
and given to us. Let _them_ be kept. And if they don't mind it--well,
then it will be a happier world, all round!"

And as she was thinking this, she announced eagerly, "If--if you _do_ go
away, I shall stay on with the Aeroplane Lady, as I told you, Paul. Yes.
I'd _much_ rather I should have something to do. And I'd get nearly a
pound a week, and my keep. Besides! I've got my own money."

"Which money, dear?" asked Paul Dampier.

The quick eyes of the Reverend Hugh had not left the young man's face.

They were fixed still more scrutinisingly upon it as the old man
interposed, "Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Dampier, that you were not
aware that my niece had got a little bit of her own?"

"There! I _knew_ Uncle would say that!" burst out the young girl, angry
and blushing and ashamed. "I knew he'd say you were only marrying me
because of that! _He_ won't believe that it wouldn't make any difference
to you that I've got seventy-five pounds a year!"

"Seventy-five pounds a year? _Have_ you?" said the young man, surprised.
"Really?"

And it was Gwenna's turn to be surprised as his frank face cleared and
his voice took a very relieved note.

"I say, how topping! Make no difference to me? But it does. Rather!" he
declared. "Don't you see that I shall know you won't _have_ to work, and
that I shall be ever so much more comfortable about you? Why did you
never tell me?"

"I forgot," said Gwenna truly.

And the Reverend Hugh suddenly laughed aloud.

At the same time he hoped he had concealed his relief, which was great.
His youngest sister's girl was not going to be snapped up by a
fortune-hunter after all. That had always been his anxiety. Seventy-five
pounds a year (certain) remained a considerable fortune to this
Victorian. In his valley quite a large house, with a nice bit of garden,
too (running steeply up a mountain-side), was to be had for a rent of
sixteen pounds. He would have thought of that himself.... But the leggy,
fair-haired boy who was now smiling across the oval hotel table at his
Gwenna had meant only what he had said. The older man realised that.
So, waiving for the present the question of means, the Reverend Hugh
went on, in rather a modified tone, to ask other questions.

Asking questions of the newly accepted suitor seems to be all that
remains for the parent or guardian of our times. It is the sole survival
of that potent authority which once disposed (or said it disposed) of
the young lady's hand. Clearing his throat with the same little sound
that so often heralded the words of some text from his pulpit, the
Reverend Hugh began by inquiring where Gwenna, after her short
honeymoon, was supposed to be going to live.

Nowhere new, it appeared! She had her berth at the Aircraft Factory, her
room at Mrs. Crewe's cottage for when young Dampier was away. (Yes; from
his tone when he spoke of it, evidently that parting was to be kept in
the background and evaded as much as possible for the present.) And if
he were in London, he had his rooms in Camden Town. Do for them both,
perhaps.... His bachelor digs.; not bad ones....

Well, but no _house_? Dear me. That was a gipsyish sort of plan, wasn't
it? That was a new idea of setting up housekeeping to Uncle Hugh. He,
himself, was an old bachelor. But he could see that this was all very
different from the ideas of all the young couples in _his_ time. When
Gwenna's father, now, was courting Gwenna's mother, well! he, Hugh
Lloyd, had never heard such a lot of talk about _Mahoggani_. _And_
tebbel-linen. _And_ who was to have the three feather-beds from the
old Quarry-house; Gwenna's mother, or Gwenna's mother's sister----

(All this the Reverend Hugh declaimed in his most distinct Chapel voice,
but still with his searching eyes upon the face of the husband-to-be.)

The idea of most young girls, in getting married, he thought, was to get
a nice home of their own, as soon as possible. A comfortable house----

("I hate comfortable houses. So stuffy. Just like a tea-cosy. They'd
_smother_ me!" from Gwenna.)

But the House, her Uncle Hugh had _Olwês_ understood, was the Woman's
fetish. Spring-cleaning, now; the yearly rites! And that furniture. "The
Lares," he went on in an ever-strengthening Welsh accent. "The
Pen--nates----!"

"Oh, _those_!" scoffed the girl in love. "_Those_----!"

So Gwenna didn't seem to think she would miss these things? She was
willing to marry without them? Yes? Strange!... Well, well!

And what about this marriage-in-haste? Where was it to take place? In
that Church in Hampstead? A Church. Well! He, as an orthodox dissenting
minister, ought not, perhaps, to enter such a place of worship. But,
after all, this was not at home. This was only up here, in England.
Perhaps it wouldn't matter, just this once.

And who was the clergyman who was going to officiate at the cerrymonny?
And what sort of a preacher, now, was _he_? (This was not known.)

And Mr. Dampier's own relations? Would they all be at the Church?

Only one cousin, he was told. That was the only relation Paul Dampier
had left.

"Same as myself," said the Reverend Hugh, a little quietly. "A big
family, we were. Six boys, two girls; like people used to have. All
gone. Nothing left, but----"

Here, for the first time taking his eyes from young Dampier, he turned
upon his niece with an abrupt question. With a quick nod towards her
husband-to-be, he demanded: "And where did you find _him_?"

Little Gwenna, still on the defensive, but thawing gradually (since,
after all, Uncle Hugh had spoken in friendly tones to the Beloved),
Gwenna asked, "When, Uncle?"

"The time that counts, my girl," said the Reverend Hugh; "the first
time."

"Oh! I think it was--it was at a party I went to with my friend, Miss
Long, that I've told you about," explained Gwenna, a little nervously.
"And--and he was there. It's--_quite_ a long time ago, now."

"Dear me," said the Reverend Hugh. "Dukes! There is a lot of things seem
to go on, still, under the name of 'Party.'" And there was a sudden and
quite young twinkle in the eyes under the white thatch.

Paul Dampier, not seeing it, began hastily: "I hope you understand, sir,
that we were only keeping all this to ourselves, because--well----" He
cleared his throat and made another start. "If I'd had the--er--the the
privilege of seeing Gwenna at your place----" Yet another start. "We had
no _idea_, of course," said Paul Dampier, "until fairly recently----"

"Dear me," said the Reverend Hugh again. Then, turning to the young man
whom Gwenna had said he would accuse of turning the head of one too
young to know her own mind, he remarked with some feeling, "I dare say
she had made up her mind, that first time, not to give you a bit of
peace until you'd sent off that telly-gram to me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As he was taking the bride-to-be back to her Club, young Dampier said,
smiling: "Why, darling, he's not a bad old chap at all! You said he
wouldn't understand anything!"

"Well, he doesn't," persisted the mutinous Gwenna. But she laughed a
little, relentingly.

Twenty minutes later her lover took his leave with a whispered
"Good-night. Do you know that I shan't ever have to say it again
at this blessed door, after this?... And another, for luck....
Good-_night_--er--Miss Williams!"

She ran upstairs humming a tune.

She was so happy that she could feel kind even to old and unsympathetic
and cynical people to-night.

To-morrow she was to be Paul Dampier's wife.

It was hardly believable, still it was true!

War, now threatening to tear him from her, had at least brought him to
her, first, sooner than she had ever hoped. Even if he were forced to
leave her quite soon, say in a month's time!--she would have had him
all to herself first, without any of these small, fretting good-byes
that came so punctually following every meeting! She would have _been_
all his; his very own, she thought.

And here it may be said that upon this subject Gwenna Williams' thoughts
were curiously, almost incredibly vague. That dormant bud of passion
knew so little of its own hidden root.

Marriage! To this young girl it was a journey into a country of which
she had never formed any clear idea. Her own dreams had been the rosy
mists that obscured alike the heights and depths of that scarcely
guessed-at land. All she saw, clearly, was her fellow traveller; the
dear boy-comrade and sweetheart who would not now leave her side. What
did it matter where he took her, so that it was with him always?

Only one more night, now, in the long, narrow Club bedroom where she had
dreamed that queer flying dream, and so many others, so many longing
daydreams about him!

To-morrow was her wedding-day!



CHAPTER VII

HASTE TO THE WEDDING!


The Tuesday morning that brought Gwenna's wedding-day as the morning of
the official declaration of war.

It was in all the papers over which the girls at the Hampstead Club
pored, before they went off to their various avocations, staring,
half-realising only.

"Can it be true?... War?... Nowadays?... Good gracious!... D'you suppose
it means we shall really have to send an army of ours--an English
Army--over to France?... What do you think, Miss Armitage?"

Miss Armitage, the suffragette, then became voluble on the subject of
how very different all would have been if women had had the casting vote
in the matter. Intelligent women. Women with some insight into the wider
interests of their sex.... Not mere---- Here, by way of illustration,
this Feminist shot a vicious glance at Miss Long. Now, Leslie, dressed
in a lilac river-frock and wearing her black picture hat, was going
round the breakfast-table, under the very eye of the disapproving Lady
Principal with the gold curb brooch, on an errand of her own. She was
collecting from it the daintiest bits of dry toast, the nicest-looking
pats of butter, a white rose from the nosegay in the centre bowl, and
all that was left of the marmalade.

For to Leslie Long the question whether War was to be or not to be
seemed now to have been settled an age ago. The burden of that anxiety
was lifted. The other anxieties ahead could be put aside for the
present. And she turned, with a tranquil face, to the immediate matter
in hand. She was going to take a little tray up to Gwenna, whom she had
advised to have her breakfast in bed and not to dress until she should
make herself all ready for her wedding at that church at the foot of the
hill.

"'Good-morning, Madam Bride!'" said Leslie, smiling, as she came, tray
in hand, into the little room where Gwenna was still drowsily curled up
against her pillow. "Here's a little bit of sugar for the bird." She sat
down on the side of the bed, cutting the dry buttered toast into narrow
strips for her chum, taking the top off her egg for her.

"But I won't '_help to salt, help to sorrow_' for you," she went on
talking, just a trifle more brightly than naturally. "Curious thing
about a wedding, Taff--I mean _one_ of the curious things about a
wedding, is the wide desire it gives you to quote every aged, half-pay
proverb and tag that you've ever heard. '_Marriage is a_----"

"Not '_lottery_,' Leslie! Not that one!" begged the bride-to-be, sitting
up and laughing with her mouth full of toast. "We had it four times from
Uncle Hugh before we left him last night. '_Few prizes! Many blanks!_'"
she quoted joyously. All Monday she had been tremulously nervous. The
reaction had come at the right moment.

"'_Happy is the Bride that the sun shines on_,' then," amended Leslie.
"You'll be glad to hear it's shining like Billy-oh this morning."

"_I_ saw it," said Gwenna, nodding her curls towards the open casement.
"And I shall be getting '_Married in white, sure to be right_,' too!"

The white lingerie frock she was to put on was not new, but it was the
prettiest that she had. It lay, folded, crisp as a butterfly's wing and
fresh from the wash, on the top of her chest-of-drawers, with the white
Princesse slip--that _was_ new, bought by her in a hurry the day
before!--and the white silk stockings, and the little white suède shoes.

"'_Something old_, _something new_, _something borrowed_, _something
blue_,'" Leslie capped her quotation. "Where's the '_something blue_,'
Taffy?"

"Ribbons in my camisole; and I shall 'borrow' your real lace
handkerchief, may I?" said the bride-elect.

"Rather! All that I have, even unto the half of the best-man's
attention!" said Leslie, smiling gaily into the cherub face opposite.

But, even as she smiled, she felt that pang which is supposed to be
known only to the _man_ who sees his chosen pal prepare to be "married
and done for."

       *       *       *       *       *

For this morning, that turned an adoring sweetheart into a wife, was
taking something of her own, of the bridesmaid's youth away.

Gwenna Williams married!

That meant one more girl-chum who would never, never be quite the same
again to a once-treasured companion. That bubbling fountain of innocent
confidences would now run low, as far as Leslie was concerned. No longer
would the elder, quickly-sympathising, rebellious-tongued girl be the
first to hear what happened to her little, ingenuous friend.

The girlish gossip would have a masculine censor to pass.

Leslie could foretell the little scene when it first happened.

She could hear Gwenna's eager, "Oh, Paul! Leslie would so laugh at----"
whatever the little incident might be. "I must tell her that!"

Leslie, the bachelor-girl, could imagine the tilt of the young husband's
blonde head, and his doubtful, "Don't see why it should be supposed to
interest _her_."

She could imagine the little wife's agreeing, "Oh! Perhaps not."

And again the young husband's, "Don't you think Miss Long gets a little
bit _much_ sometimes? Oh, she's all right, but--I mean, I shouldn't like
_you_ to go on quite like that."

It would be only after years of marriage that the once-close chum would
turn for sympathy to Leslie Long. And then it would not be the same....

The last of Leslie's forebodings seemed the most inevitable. She heard
Gwenna's soft Welsh voice, once so full of unexpectedness, now grown
almost unrecognisably sedate. She heard it utter that finally
"settled-down"-sounding phrase:

"_Say 'how d'you do' nicely to Auntie Leslie, now!_"

Ah! _That_ seemed to bring a shadow of Autumn already into the summer
sunshine of that bridal room with its white, prepared attire, its
bonnie, bright-eyed occupant. It seemed to show what must some day come:
Taffy middle-aged!

Also what probably would come: Taffy matter-of-fact! Taffy with all the
dreams out of her eyes! Taffy whose only preoccupations were, "Really
that stair-carpet's getting to look awful; I wonder if I could manage to
get a new one and put it on the upper flight?" or, "_I_ never saw
anything like the way _my_ children wear through their boots: it was
only the other day I got that quite expensive pair of Peter Pans for
little Hughie. And now look at them. _Look!..._"

Yes! This sort of change was wrought, by time and marriage and
domesticity, in girl after golden girl. Leslie had seen it. She would
probably see Taffy, the fanciful Celt, grown stodgy; Taffy, even Taffy,
the compactly supple, with all her fruit-like contours, grown
_stout_!...

Horrible thought....

Then Miss Long gave a protesting shrug of her slim shoulders. This
wouldn't do. Come, come! Not on the wedding-morning itself should one
give way to thoughts of coming middle-age! The rose, that must, some
day, be overblown, was only just a pouting bud as yet. There were days
and fragrant days of beauty still before her.

So Leslie picked up her chum's rough towels, her loofah and her
verbena-scented soap.

"I'll turn on the bath for you, Taffy, shall I? Hot or cold?"

"Cold, please," said the Welsh girl, springing out of bed and pattering
over the oil-cloth to fetch her kimono. "Perhaps to-morrow I shall be
able to have a real swim! Oh, won't that be gorgeous?" For the couple
had decided upon Brighton for the honeymoon. It was near enough to
London in case young Dampier received a summons; yet near also to
country-tramps and sea-bathing. "I haven't had a swim this year, except
in the baths. And you can't count that. Oh, _fancy_ the sea again,
Leslie!"

Leslie could guess what was at the back of that little exultant skip of
the younger girl's through the bathroom door. It was sheer innocent
delight over the prospect of being able to display to her lover at last
something that she did really well.

For they had never been by the sea together, he and she.

And she was a pretty swimmer.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Now I'll be your maid for the last time, and fasten you up," said
Leslie, when she returned from the bathroom. "I suppose you know there
isn't a _single_ eye left at the neck of this dress? Always the way with
that laundry! It's nothing to _it_ that untidiness puts a man off worse
than anything else (this from me). Never mind, I'll hook it into the
lace.... That's all right. '_A bonnie bride is soon buskit._' Almost a
pity the girls will all have gone--though I know you'd hate to have them
staring. D'you know, you _are_ a little pocket-Venus? No, I'm _not_
piling it on. You're lovely, Taffy. I hope the Dampier boy tells you so,
very often and much. He's vastly lucky."

"It's me that's lucky," said the girl in all-white devoutly. "Now
where's my hat?"

"Do you think you're going to be allowed to get married in a _hat_?"

"My best white one with the wings, I meant."

"Pooh! I've arranged for you to have these," said Leslie, and brought
out a cardboard box that she had been to fetch while Gwenna was having
her bath. From it she drew a slender chaplet of dark leaves, with round
white buds with waxen flowers.

"Orange-blossoms! _Real_ orange-blossoms," cried Gwenna, delightedly
sniffing up the sensuous perfume of them. "Oh, but _where_ did you get
them?"

"Covent Garden. I went down there this morning at five, with one of the
housemaids whose young man is at a florist's," explained Leslie,
standing above her to set the pretty wreath upon the pretty head. "Now
you look like a print of 'Cupid's Coronation,' or something like that.
'_Through his curls as the crown on them slips_'--I'll twist this a tiny
bit tighter. And here's the veil."

Gwenna stared. "A veil, too, Leslie?"

"Rather. Only chance you get of appearing in this thoroughly becoming
kit that carries us all back to the worst days of Woman's Enslavement.
May as well take that chance!" remarked Miss Long cheerfully, as she
shook out soft, transparent folds of finest white net that she herself
had embroidered, working late into the night, with a border of leaves in
white silk. "This is from me."

"Oh, _Les_-lie! You got it as a surprise for me," said the little bride,
much touched. "You worked all these beautiful little laurel-leaves----"

"Not laurel, child. Meant for myrtle. Pity your geography is so weak,"
rattled on Leslie, as she heard, outside the Club, the stopping of the
taxi which had brought the Reverend Hugh Lloyd to call for his
detachment of the bridal party. "Refreshingly unconventional sort of
wedding you're having in some ways, aren't you? '_The presents were few
and inexpensive_' (such a change from the usual report). '_The bride was
attended by one bridesmaid: her friend Miss Long, clad in mauve linen,
mystic, wonderful_'--(taking into consideration that it had done her
cousin for Henley last year). '_The ceremony proceeded without a hitch,
except for the usual attempt on the part of the officiating clergyman to
marry the bride to the best man._' Which must not be, Taffy. You must
remember that I've got designs on Mr. Hugo Swayne myself----"

"Don't, Leslie!" protested the bride. "You know I do so hate to think of
you getting engaged in that sort of horrible way--instead of just
because you can't _help_ it! If only there were somebody you could be
really in love with----"

"I shall be really rather in love with Uncle Hugh, I know," prophesied
the bridesmaid. "_What_ a pity he isn't thirty years younger! Come
along. He's waiting. I'm going to kiss _him_, anyhow. Got your gloves?
Right. Got my hankerfish? You won't _want_ to shed any tears into it,
but----"

But there was an added brightness in the green-brown eyes of the little
bride as she glanced round the girlish room where Leslie would pack up
and put everything to rights for her after she had gone.

Impulsively she put her arms round that good chum.

"You've been so--so frightfully sweet to me, Leslie, always. Thanks so
awfully----"

"_Don't_ kiss me through a veil, my child!" protested Leslie, drawing
back. "D'you want to bring me ill luck?"

"Oh, Leslie! I should want to bring you all the good luck in the world,"
cried the younger girl, earnestly, over her shoulder as they went out.
"If I were given three wishes _now_ for a wedding-present, one of them
would be that you would some day be as happy as me!"

"My dear lamb!" said Leslie lightly, running downstairs after her, "How
do you know I'm not quite as happy in another--in my own way?"

Gwenna shook the curly head under the orange-blossom wreath and the
misty veil. It seemed to her that there was only The One Way in which a
woman could be happy.

"And the other two wishes?" suggested Leslie, at the sitting-room door.
"What are they?"

"Mustn't tell," smiled the little bride of Superstition with her finger
at her lips. "If I told they _might_ not come true!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Very earnestly she hoped that those two wishes might come true. She
thought of them again, presently, as she stood, there in church, a
small, white-mist-clad figure, backed by the coloured window and the
crimson altar. She had the kindly glances upon her of her uncle, of her
tall girl-chum, and of Hugo Swayne--who wore a perfect morning coat with
a white flower and grey trousers, admirably pressed by his man Johnson.
Hugo, but for his Chopin stock, would have looked the very model of a
prosperous and conventional bridegroom. He did, in fact, look far more
like the popular conception of a bridegroom than did young Paul Dampier
in his well-cut but ancient grey tweed suit.

--"The only togs I've got in the wide world," he'd confided to Gwenna,
"except working clothes and evening things!"

She stood with her hand in his large, boyish one, repeating in her soft,
un-English accent the vows that once seemed to her such a vast and
solemn and relentless undertaking.

"_To love, honour, and obey ... as long as we both shall live...._"

It seemed now so little to have to promise! It seemed only a fraction of
all that her heart gave gladly to the lord of it!

"_Till Death us do part_," she repeated quietly.

And it was then she thought of the two wishes. One was that Paul should
be always as much in love with her as he was at that moment.

She was too young fully to realise the greater wisdom of her own second
wish.

_It was that she herself should always remain as much in love with
Paul._

If only God would be very, very kind to them, she thought, and allow
just this to be!

       *       *       *       *       *

"And you sign your name here," said the clergyman in the vestry to the
newly-made husband, who put down in his small neat handwriting, "Paul
Dampier, Lieutenant Royal Flying Corps," on the grey-blue sheet, which,
duly witnessed and blotted, he was going to tuck away into the
breast-pocket of his tweed jacket.

"No. Those marriage lines are not yours," the parson stopped him with a
smile. "Those are the property of your wife."

Gwenna, dazed, realised that this referred to herself. She took the
folded marriage-certificate and slipped it into the white satin ribbon
girding her pretty frock. She looked very childish for "a wife"! But for
that bright wedding-ring on her finger (half a size too large for it)
she might have passed for one of the veiled and white-clad First
Communicants of an Easter Sunday in Paris. Then she turned up the little
face, from which the veil had been thrown back, to be kissed by the
others who had followed them into the vestry. Vaguely she heard
Leslie's voice, arranging in murmurs with Hugo Swayne. "No. Perhaps I'll
come on afterwards.... After I've helped her to change.... No; you take
Mr. Lloyd and feed him somewhere. No! I'm sure those two won't want to
come on to any lunch. Lunch? My dear man!... Send them in your car to
Victoria and Johnson can bring it back.... They'll be getting away at
once."

At once! Gwenna looked up into her young husband's blue eyes.

He caught her hand.

"Got you now," he said softly. "Can't run away this time."

By rights she should have walked down the church on his arm. But he did
not loose her hand. So it was hand-in-hand, like children, that they
hurried out again, ahead of the others, into the sunshine of the porch.
The merry breeze took the bride's veil and spread it, a curtain of mist,
across the pair of them. Gwenna Dampier caught it aside, laughing
gleefully as they stepped out of the porch. The gravity of the service
had sparkled into gaiety in their eyes. He crushed her fingers in his.
Her heart sang. They would be off----! It was almost too lovely to be
true, but----

Yes. It _was_ too lovely to be true.

A shadow fell across the path; across the bride's white shoe.

Johnson, Hugo's man, who had been waiting with the car, stepped quickly
up to the bridegroom.

"Excuse me, sir, but this message.... Came just as you'd gone into
church. I waited. The woman brought it on from your rooms, sir."

Paul Dampier took the wire and read it.

The white-frocked girl he had just married stood at the church entrance
watching him, while the breeze lifted her veil and stirred her curls and
tossed a couple of creamy petals, from her wreath, on to the breast of
his coat. She herself stood motionless, stony.

She knew that this was no wire of congratulation such as any bridal
couple may expect to receive as they come out of church from their
wedding. She knew, even before she heard his deep voice saying--blankly
and hurriedly:

"I say. It's from the War Office. I shall have to go. I've got to leave
you. Now. I'm ordered to join at once!"



CHAPTER VIII

THE GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND HIM


Gwenna Dampier was always to be truly thankful that at that thunderbolt
moment of parting at the church door from the lover who had only been
her husband for the last quarter of an hour she had been too dazed to
show any emotion.

As at the Aviation Dinner she had been numbed by excess of joy, so, now,
the shock had left her stony. She knew that she had turned quite a calm
little face to the concerned and startled faces of the others as they
hurried up to ask what was happening that Paul should be getting into
that car alone. It was as quiet and calm to receive Paul's last kiss as
he held her strained for a moment almost painfully close to him,
muttering, "Take care of yourself, Little Thing."

At the moment it struck her as rather funny, that.

_She_ was to take care of herself! She, who was just to stay quietly at
home, doing nothing. And this was what he told her; he, who was going
off on service, _where_, he himself didn't know. Off, to serve as an
Army Aviator, a flyer who swooped above enemy country, to shoot and to
be shot at; every instant in peril of his life.

She even smiled a little as the motor rattled down the hill with him,
leaving her to Leslie, and to Uncle Hugh, and to Mr. Hugo Swayne.

She found herself thinking, sedately, that it was a good thing Paul had
got most of his field service equipment yesterday; shopping while she
had shopped, while she had bought the white shoes and the silk
stockings, the Princesse slip and the handful of other dainty girlish
things that had been all the _trousseau_ she could collect in such a
hurry. Yes, Paul was all ready, she told her friends. She wouldn't see
him again before he left London, she expected.

She did not see him again.

That night at the Club, when she was still dazedly quiet--it was Leslie
Long who had to swallow lumps in her own throat, and to blink back
starting tears from her eyes--that night there arrived the first note of
his that had ever been addressed to:

                    "_Mrs. Paul Dampier._"

It was scrawled and hurried and in pencil. It began:

     "My darling Wife." It told her to address to the War Office until
     she heard from him, and that she would hear from him whenever he
     could manage it. It ended up, "_I was so jolly proud of you because
     you took it like that, you can't think. I always thought you were a
     sweet Little Thing. I knew you'd be a plucky Little Thing too.
     Bless you. It's going to be all right._

                                 "_Your affectionate husband_,
                                                             "P. D."

It was Leslie who cried herself to sleep that night; not Gwenna Dampier.

Only gradually the girl came out of the stupor that had helped her, to
the realisation of what had really happened. He'd gone! She'd been
left--without him! But as one source of help disappeared, another came
to hand.

It was that queer mixture of feelings that the more enlightened young
women at the Club would have called "The conventional point of view."

Miss Armitage at the Club tea-table said to her friends, "Nayowh, I
don't consider them at all 'splendid,' as you call it, these girls who
go about quite smiling and happily after their husbands have embarked
for the War. Saying good-bye without shedding a tear, indeed; and all
that kind of thing. Shows they can't _care_ much. Heartless!
Unsensitive! Callous, I call them."

The art-student with the Trilby hair, who was never quite certain
whether she agreed with all Miss Armitage's views or whether she didn't,
remarked that really--really anybody who'd seen Miss Williams' face when
that young man called for her _couldn't_ help thinking that she cared.
Most awfully. If _she_ didn't make a fuss, it must be because she was
rather brave.

"Brive? _I_ don't call it that," declared Miss Armitage. "It's just 'the
thing to do' among those people. They've made a regular idol of this
stupid, deadening Convention of theirs. They all want to be alike.
'Plucky.' 'Not showing anything.' Pah! I call it crushing out their own
individuality for the sake of an ideal that isn't anything very _much_,
if you ask me. They all catch it from each other, these wretched Army
men's wives. It's no more _credit_ to them than it is to some kinds of
dogs not to howl when you hold them up by their tiles."

The Trilby art-student put in shyly, "Doesn't that show that they're
well bred?"

Miss Armitage, the Socialist, fixing her through her glasses, demanded,
"When you sy 'Well bred' d'you mean the dogs are--or the women that
don't cry?"

"Well--both, perhaps," ventured the art-student, blushing as she helped
herself to jam. Miss Armitage, with her little superior smile, gave out,
"There's no such thing as well bred, what _you_ mean by it. What you
mean's just pewer snobbery. The reel meaning of well bred is somebody
who is specially gifted in mind and body. Well, all you _can_ say of the
minds of Army people is that they haven't got any. And I don't know that
_I'm_ impressed by their bodies."

Here a student of music from the other side of the table said she saw
what Miss Armitage meant, exactly. Only, as for Army people, Gwenna
Williams couldn't have been called that. Her people were just sort of
Welsh Dissenters, awfully _against_ soldiers and that kind of thing.

"Doesn't matter. She's the sort of girl who's just like a chameleon:
takes all her colour from the man she's supposed to be in love with,"
said Miss Armitage loftily. "She'll know that she'll never _keep_ him
unless she's just like the class of women he thinks most of. (As it is,
I don't see what that empty-headed girl's got to keep a man _with_.)
So, as I say, she'll _suppress_ her own identity, and grow the kind 'He'
happens to like."

The art-student murmured that she supposed it didn't really _matter_, a
girl doing that. Provided that the new "identity" which was "grown to
please the man" were a better one than the old.

Miss Armitage the Feminist, sniffed; silent with contempt for this idea.
Then she turned again to the student of music, to conclude the
summing-up of the new bride's character.

"She'll be positively stimulated and buoyed-up, all the time, by the
thought that 'He' considered it plucky of her to go on as if she was
quite pleased that he was fighting!" declared the lecturer. "You see! By
and by she'll believe she _is_ pleased. She'll catch the whole
detestable Jingow spirit, _I_ know. Syme attitude of mind as the Zulu
who runs amuck at the sound of a drum. Hysterical, that's what _I_ call
what's at the root of it all!"

       *       *       *       *       *

But whatever Miss Armitage, the Cockney suffragette, chose to call it,
it was there, that Spirit.

In those few weeks after the declaration of war it spread and throve
over all England. It made Life still worth living, and well worth
living, for thousands of anxious sweethearts, and of mothers giving only
sons for their country, and of wives who missed closest comrades, and of
young widows who had but lately been made brides.

It inspired, through the girl he left behind him, the man who went to
war; and thus its influence became part of that subtle but crucial thing
which is known as the Moral of an Army, and of an Empire and of a
Civilisation.

It was, as Leslie Long, the lover of quotations, often quoted to herself
in those days:

  "The Voice to Kingly boys
    To lift them through the fight;
  And comfortress of Unsuccess
    To give the dead Good-night.

  "A rule to trick the arithmetic
    Too base of leaguing odds,
  The spur of trust, the curb of lust,
    The hand-maid of the gods."

       *       *       *       *       *

Little Gwenna, the wife who had been left at the church door, took all
the help that Spirit gave her.

Two days after her wedding her Uncle Hugh went back to the slate-roofed
village that was wedged between those steep, larch-grown Welch hills.
But, though his niece found that this "dreat-ful" old man could be all
that was gentle and kind for her, she refused to go home, as he begged
her, with him.

She said she must live somewhere where she could "see a little bit of
what was going on." She must have some work, real work, to fill her
time. She thanked him; she would let him know directly she felt she
could come down to Wales. But just now, please, she wanted nothing but
to get back to Mrs. Crewe, her Aeroplane Lady at the Works. She'd go
back just as if nothing had happened.

She returned, to find changes at that Aircraft Factory.



CHAPTER IX

THIS SIDE OF "THE FRONT"


The first of these changes at the Aircraft Works was the sight of the
khaki-clad sentry at the entrance.

He was pacing up and down the bit of dusty road outside the shops; and
he stopped Gwenna peremptorily, not knowing that she was one of the
staff.

She told him, and went on. She found the big central shop in a ferment
of activity. Mr. Ryan, striding out on some hurried errand, nearly
knocked her over. He called an "Awfully sorry, Miss Gwenna--Mrs.
Dampier, I mean," over his shoulder. She saw that his day of dalliance
was past, even had she been still "Miss Gwenna." He had less time for
Girl, nowadays. The frames of no fewer than four aeroplanes were set up
on the stocks; and out of the body of the most nearly completed one
there climbed the slight figure of the Aeroplane Lady. Her blue and
youthful eyes lighted up at the sight of the girl standing in the clear,
diffused light of the many windows and backed by the spinning shafting.

"Ah! You've arrived, Mrs. Dampier," she said briskly, using the new name
without a pause or a smile, for which Gwenna blessed her. "Thank Heaven
I shall have a reliable clerk again.... No end of correspondence now, my
dear. A sheaf of it waiting in the office. Come on and see to it now,
will you? And for goodness' sake remind me that I am 'theirs
obediently,' instead of merely 'truly,' to the Admiralty. I always
forget. If I were left to myself my letters would sound just like the
aviator's who wrote to the POWERS-THAT-BE: '_Commander So-and-So
presents his compliments and begs respectfully to submit that don't you
think it would be a jolly good thing if we started a repairing
shop?_'--somewhere or other. Well! Here we are, you see. Stacks of it!"
she went on as they reached that office where an airman's sweetheart had
first realised the idea that an aeroplane might mean a ship of war--war
in the clouds.

"We shall have as much work as we can get through now," said the
Aeroplane Lady. "Look at this order from the War Office. And this--and
this!"

For to all intents and purposes the War Office and the Admiralty had
"taken over" Mrs. Crewe's Aircraft Factory.

The place rang and echoed, long after the hours of the ordinary working
man's working day, with the clinking and whirring and hammering of those
labours that went to bring forth these great wings of War.

Some of the French mechanics whom Gwenna had known well by sight had
disappeared. They had been served with their mobilisation papers and
were now off to serve under the Tricolour.

One or two of the English fitters, who were Reservists, had rejoined.
One had enlisted.

But now, the Aeroplane Lady explained, the enlisting of any more of her
men had been discouraged. _They_ were too useful where they were. They,
with many other sturdy Britons who fretted because they were not to take
up other, riskier work on the other side of the Channel, were kept busy
enough preparing the arms which those other, envied men were to use.

It was for the encouragement of them and their fellow-workers in
Armament and Ammunition factories that a bundle of blue-lettered posters
came down presently to the Works.

Gwenna, once more arrayed in the grey-blue, dope-stiffened pinafore,
had the job of pinning up here and there, in the shops and sheds, these
notices. They announced to the Man at the Bench that he was as needful
to his country as the Man in the Trench. They gave out:

                   "YOU CAN HIT THE ENEMY AS HARD WITH
                     HAMMER AND RIVET AS YOU CAN WITH
                            RIFLE AND BULLET.
                                HIT HIM!
                   HURRY UP WITH THE SHIPS AND GUNS!"

       *       *       *       *       *

And she, too, little Gwenna Dampier, clerk and odd-job-girl, felt
herself respond to the appeal. As she typed letters and orders, as she
heated dope, as she varnished for the men's handling those huge blue
prints with the white, spider's-web-like "working drawings," or as she
tested square inches of the fine wing-linen, she felt that she, too,
was helping in her way to hurry up with those needed ships and guns.

Was she not lucky in her job?

For always she was buoyed up by the notion that whatever she touched
might be of service, not only to the country which the Beloved was
serving, but to the Beloved himself. Who knew? He himself might have to
fly in any one of these very machines! Every least part, every atom of
metal about them bore the visible, indestructible stamp of the English
War Office. And Gwenna herself bore that unseen but indelible stamp of
her love to her absent lad in every inch of her pliant girl's body, in
every thought of her malleable girl's mind.

So the late summer weeks passed as she worked, glad in the thought that
any or all of it might be for him. She felt sorry for those women who,
when their man is away, have nothing but purely feminine work with which
to fill the empty days. Sewing, household cares, knitting.... She
herself knitted, snatching minutes from the twelve-o'clock dinner-hour
in the cottage with Mrs. Crewe to add rows to the khaki woollen
cap-comforter that she had started for Paul. It was just a detail in her
own busy life. But it struck her that for countless left-behind women
this detail remained all that they had to do; to knit all day, thinking,
wondering, fretting over the Absent.

"That must be so _awful_! I don't think I should want to _live_," she
told the Aeroplane Lady one dinner-hour, "if there wasn't something else
really wanted by the men themselves, that I could have to do with!
Every soldier's wife," said Gwenna, drawing herself up above the table
with a pretty and very proud little gesture which made Mrs. Crewe smile
a little, "I think every soldier's wife ought to have the chance of a
job in some factory of this sort. Or in a shop for soldiers' comforts,
perhaps. Like that woman has in Bond Street where I bought those
extra-nice khaki handkerchiefs for Paul. _She's_ always thinking out
some sort of new 'dodge' for the Front. A new sleeping-rug or
trench-boots or something. A woman can feel she's taking some part in
the actual campaign then. Don't you think so, Mrs. Crewe? But there
aren't many other things she can do," concluded the girl with that soft,
up-and-down accent, "unless she's actually a Red Cross nurse looking
after the wounded. There's nothing else."

"Oh, isn't there? Surely----" began the Aeroplane Lady. Then she
stopped, with a half-humorous, half-sad little smile in her eyes.

She was going to have suggested that the biggest Job that a woman can
achieve has, at the root of things, everything to do with the carrying
on of a campaign. Those English workmen in the shops were responsible
for the perfect and reliable workmanship of the ships and guns. It was
only the women of England who could make themselves responsible for the
soundness and reliability of the men of the next generation, their
little sons now growing up, to be perhaps the soldiers of the next war.
All this flashed through the mind of the Aeroplane Lady, who was also
the mother of a fighting airman.

But, on second thoughts, she decided that she would not say anything
about it. Not to this cherub-headed, guileless girl who bore Paul
Dampier's name, and who wore his glitteringly new wedding-ring on her
finger (that is, when she hadn't forgotten it, where it lay in the
soap-dish in the bathroom or hanging up on a peg in the Wing-room beside
her sunshine-yellow jersey coat. It was, as the newly-married Mrs.
Dampier explained, miles too big for her, and she hated getting it a
mass of dope).

So, instead of saying what she was going to say, the Aeroplane Lady
drank tea out of a workman-like-looking, saucerless Brittany cup with
two handles, and presently asked if there were anything exciting that
she might be allowed to hear out of the letter that had arrived that
morning from Mr. Dampier.

Those eagerly-looked-for, greedily-devoured letters from the young
Airman to his wife were uncertain qualities enough.

Sometimes they came regularly, frequently, even two in a day, for Gwenna
to kiss, and to learn by heart, and to slip under her pillow at night.

Then for days and weeks there would be nothing from him; and Gwenna
would seem to herself to be going about with her flesh holding its
breath in suspense all over her body.

That suspense was not (curiously enough) too agonised for his safety.

She had laughed quite easily the day that one of the older workmen had
said to her kindly, if tactlessly:

"Ah, Miss Williams--or ma'am, as I s'pose I ought to say--I do feel
sorry for you, I do. You here, same as when you was a single young lady.
Your young gentleman God knows where, and you knowing that as likely as
not you never _will_ see him again, p'raps."

"If I were not going to see him again," the girl had said tranquilly, "I
should know. I should feel it. And I haven't that feeling at all, Mr.
Harris. I'm one of those people who believe in presentiments. And I know
I _shall_ see him, though I don't know when."

That was the only trouble! When? _When?_ When would she have something
for her love to live on, besides just messages on lifeless paper?

Paul's letters were sometimes mere hasty scrawls. An "All's well," a
darling or so, and his name on a bit of thin ruled paper torn from a
note-book and scented vaguely with tobacco....

To-day it was a longer one.

"It's dated four days ago only, and it's just headed 'FRANCE,'" said
young Mrs. Dampier, sitting, backed by the cottage window, with the
level Berkshire landscape, flowering now into lines of white tents for
the New Army in training, behind her curly head. "He says:

    "'Last week I had a day, if you like! Engaged with two Taubes in the
    morning. Machine hit in four places. In the afternoon, as I was up
    reconnoitring, I saw below me a railway train, immensely long,
    going along as slow as a slug, with two engines. Sent in my report
    to Head Quarters, and wasn't believed, if you please. They said
    there couldn't be a train there. Line was destroyed. However, they
    did condescend to go and look. Afterwards I was told my report was
    of the greatest value----'

"There! Think of that," broke off Gwenna, with shining eyes.

     "'And it's leaked out now that what I saw was a train crammed with
     ammunition. Afterwards (same day) went and dropped bombs on some
     works at--I'd better not say where!--and hope I get to know what
     damage was done. I know one was a clinking shot. A great game,
     isn't it?'

"_Isn't_ it!" murmured the girl who had shuddered so at her first
realisation of her lover as a possible fighter. But now, after these
weeks, she shrank no longer. Gradually she had come to look upon War as
a stupendous Adventure from which it would have been cruelty to shut him
out. She saw it now as the reward of his years of working, waiting,
experimenting. And she said to herself fancifully, "It must be because
I've 'drunk of his cup,' and now I've come to 'think his thoughts.' I
don't care what those suffragettes say about losing one's individuality.
_I_ do think it's a great game!"

She read on:

     "'Got three letters and _Punch_ from you in the evening. Thanks
     awfully. You will write to me all you can, darling, won't you? The
     little wing is quite safe in my tunic-pocket. Give my love to Mrs.
     Crewe and to your Uncle and to Leslie Long. Heard from old Hugo
     that he was actually going to enlist. Do him lots of good.'

"Then he sort of ends up," said Gwenna, dimpling to herself a little
over the ending:

                                                ("'YOUR ALWAYS BOY.'),

"and then there's a postscript:

     "'Wouldn't it be top-hole if I could get some leave to come over
     and fetch the P.D.Q.? Guess the Censor will be puzzled to know who
     _she_ is; who's your lady friend? in fact.

                                                             "'P. D.'"

"Thank you, Mrs. Dampier," said the Aeroplane Lady as she rose briskly
to return with her assistant to the Works. "Give him my love, too (if I
may), when you write. And I should like to tell you to write and ask
Leslie Long down to see us one Saturday afternoon," she added as they
came through the gap in the dusty hedge to the entrance road. "But
really we're too rushed to think of such relaxations as visitors!"

For since Gwenna had come back to the Works neither she nor her
employer had taken any sort of holiday. That sacred right of the English
worker, the "Saturday half-day off," existed no more at those busy
Aircraft Works. Just as if it were any ordinary day of the week, the
whistle sounded after the midday rest. And just as if it were any other
day of the week, Mrs. Crewe's men (all picked workers, of whom not one
happened to be a Trades Unionist) stacked up the bicycles on which
they'd ridden back from their meal at home in the near-by town, and
trooped into the shops. They continued to hurry up with those ships and
guns.

Again the whirring and the chinking and the other forge-like noises
would fill the place. Again the quick, achieving movements of clever
hands, black and soaked in oil, would be carried on, sometimes until,
from the training-camps on the surrounding ugly, useful plains, the
bugles had sounded "_Lights Out_." ...



CHAPTER X

LESLIE, ON "THE MOTLEY OF MARS"


Now, as it happened, Miss Leslie Long did not choose to wait for her
invitation to the Aircraft Works. Unasked and unexpected, she turned up
there the very next Saturday afternoon.

She was given a chair in that spacious, white,
characteristically-scented room where Mrs. Crewe and Gwenna were again
busy with the wings. She was told not to expect either of them to stop
work to look at her, but to go on talking and to tell them if there were
anything new going on in London.

"Anything? Why, everything's new," Leslie told them gaily.

She wore the mauve linen frock and the shady hat that had been her
bridesmaid's attire for Gwenna's wedding. And she was looking well,
Gwenna noticed, as she stole a glance at her chum; well, and happier
than she had seen Leslie look since the beginning of this eventful
summer.

Leslie then gossiped to them of the many changes in London. These are
now very ancient history to a whole nation. But at that time (in
September, Nineteen-fourteen) they sounded still strange enough to those
who lived out of town.

She spoke of the darkened streets. The bright, purposely-misleading
lights in the Park. Of the recruiting posters; the recruiting results.
Of the first of the refugees. Leslie's old lady had given hospitality to
two ladies, a mother and a daughter from Brussels, and it was Leslie's
new duty to translate English to them. Also of the departure of
regiments she talked....

"Of course there are only two classes into which you _can_ divide the
young men who aren't getting ready to go out," decreed Leslie, the
whole-hearted. "Either they're Objects of Pity, or else they're Objects
of Contempt."

"Come, come!" put in the Aeroplane Lady, laughing a little, but without
raising her eyes from the stretched canvas on the trestles before her.
"What about my men outside there?"

"I bet they envy the rawest recruit in K.'s Army!" declared Leslie. "The
most anæmic little plucky shop-assistant who's only just scraped through
on his chest-measurement and who's never spent so many consecutive hours
in the open air in his whole life before!" She patted the stately head
of the Great Dane as he stepped up to her from his big wooden kennel in
the corner, and went on to say how she loved the New Armies.

"We see plenty of their doings up at Hampstead now, Taffy," she said.
"'_The Heath has Armies plenty, and semi-warlike bands!_' Queen's
Westminsters coming up in sweaters and shorts to do Physical Ekkers on
the cricket-pitch. Swagger young men, some of them, too. Driving up in
cars. Wearing their Jermyn Street winter-sports kit of last year under
common privates' overcoats."

"Mars in motley!" said the Aeroplane Lady.

Leslie said, "It is a _mixture_! New Army Type Number One, Section A:
the boy who was born to be a soldier and bred to be a clerk. The fighter
who wouldn't have got a chance to _live_ if it hadn't been for this war.
The Dear Duck who's being taken to the water for the first time after
twenty years!... Then, of course, there's the New Army Type Number
Forty-three: the Honest Striver in Khaki, putting his back into learning
a job that wasn't ever meant to be his. Not one bit thrilled by the idea
of a scrap. No fun to him. Civilian down to his bones. But--'_It is his
duty, and he does_.'"

"All the more credit," the Aeroplane Lady reminded her quietly, "to the
born civilian."

"Yes, I know, Mrs. Crewe. One thoroughly respects him for it," agreed
the soldier's daughter warmly.

Adding meditatively, "But it's rather an effort to _like_ him as much as
the other kind!"

"Talking of duty, Mr. Grant has gone," said Gwenna as she worked. "You
know, Leslie: the engineer at our Westminster place who was always
talking to Mabel Butcher and then saying, 'Well! Duty calls. I must
away.' I'm _sure_ he said that before he went off to enlist. He's in the
R.E. And the office-boy that had such an _awful_ accent went with him.
_He's_ in the Halberdiers now; billeted in the country in some garage
with six other men."

"How funny! D'you know who one of the men is? My friend, Monty Scott,
the Dean's son," said Leslie, laughing again. "You remember him, Taffy,
at that dance? He wore that Black Panther get-up.... He came up to see
me, in uniform, last Sunday. I told him he'd only joined the Halberdiers
because he thought the touch of black suited him. Then he told me of his
weird billet in the country with these five other men. Two of them had
lately come out of prison, he said; and they were really awfully
interesting, comparing the grub they'd had there with what was served
out to them here. I asked him (Monty) how he was getting on. He summed
up the lot of the New Ranker rather well, I thought. He said, 'I've
_never_ been so uncomfortable or laughed so much in my life'!"

The Aeroplane Lady, working, said she thought he must be a dear.

"He is, rather," agreed the girl who had thrice refused to marry this
young man.

"Why d'you sigh?" asked Gwenna quickly. A sigh meant, to her, only one
thing. Impatience over the absence of the Beloved!

"I--perhaps I was thinking of Monty Scott's eyes," said Leslie lightly,
bending over to smooth the dog's neck. "They _are_ so absurdly handsome.
_Such_ a pity one can't have them to wear as brooches!" Then, quickly,
she turned from the subject of Monty Scott. She drew something out of
her black silk bag. A picture postcard.

"From one of our Allies," said Leslie, showing it.

It gave a view of a French Regiment, still wearing the picturesque
uniform of Eighteen-seventy, marching down a sunny, chestnut-bordered
boulevard. The soldier in the immediate foreground showed under the
jaunty _képi_ a dark, intelligent, mobile face that Gwenna recognised.

She sighed and smiled over the card. It brought back to her that tea at
Hugo Swayne's rooms with Leslie, and the tall, blonde Englishman who was
to be her husband, and that dark young French engineer who had said,
"But the Machine is also of the sex of Mademoiselle!" He had written on
this card in sprawling French writing and blue French ink, "_À
Mademoiselle Langue. Salutation amicale. Remember, please, the private
soldier Gaston, who carries always in his knapsack the memory of the
Curate's Egg!_"

"Fancy, two of the men who were at Mr. Swayne's that afternoon are off
at the Front to-day," said Gwenna Dampier. "That is, all three, perhaps.
Paul said something about his cousin enlisting."

"Poor Hugo Swayne," said Leslie, with a laugh, that she stopped as if
she were sorry she had begun it. "It's too bad, really."

"What is? _Isn't_ he enlisting?"

"Yes. Oh, yes, Taffy, he has. But merely enlisting isn't the whole job,"
said Leslie. "He--to begin with, he could hardly get them to pass
him----"

"Why? Too fat?" asked Gwenna mercilessly.

"Fat--Oh, no. They said three weeks' Swedish exercise _and_ drill would
take that off. He was quite fit, they said, physically. It was his
_mental_ capacity they seemed to doubt," explained Leslie. "Of course
that was rather a shock to Hugo to hear, after the years he's been
looking up to himself as a rather advanced and enlightened and thinking
person. However, he took it very well. He saw what they meant."

"Who were 'they'?" asked Mrs. Crewe.

"The soldier-men he went to first of all, old brother-officers of his
father's, who'd been with his father in Egypt, and whom he asked to find
him a job of some sort. They told him, quite gently, of course, that
they were afraid he was not 'up' to any soldiering job. They said they
were afraid there were heaps of young Englishmen like him, awfully
anxious to 'do their bits,' but simply _not clever enough_! (Rather
nice, isn't it, the revenge, at last, of the Brainless Army Type on the
Cultured Civilian?) And he said to the old Colonel or General or
whatever it was, 'I know, sir. I see, sir. Yes, I suppose I have addled
myself up by too much reading and too much talk. I know I'm a
Stage-Society-and-Café-Royal rotter, and no earthly good at this
crisis.' And then he turned round and said quite angrily, 'Why wasn't I
brought up to be some use when the time came?' And the old soldier-man
said quite quietly, 'My dear Swayne, none of you "enlightened" people
believed us that there was any "time" coming. You see now that we were
right.' And Hugo said, 'You ought to have hammered it into me. Isn't
there anything that I can do, sir?' And at last they got him
something."

"What?" demanded Gwenna.

"Well, of course it sounds _rather_ ludicrous when you come to say what
it is," admitted Leslie, her mouth curling into a smile that she could
not suppress. "But it just shows the Philistines that there _is_ some
use (if not beauty) in Futurist painting, after all. One always knew
'_there must be something, if one could but find it out_.'"

"But your friend Mr. Swayne can't do Futurist paintings," objected the
Aeroplane Lady, "at the Front!"

"Well, but that's just what he _is_ doing! He's in France; at Quisait.
Painting motor-buses to be used for transport wagons," explained Leslie.
"You know the most disguising colour for those things at a distance is
said to be not khaki, or feld-grau, or dull green, or any other _single_
colour. You have to have a sort of heather-mixture of all the most
brilliant colours that can be got! This simply makes the thing invisible
a certain way off. It's the idea of the game-feather tweed on the moors,
you know. So Hugo's using his talents by painting emerald-green and
magenta and scarlet and black triangles and cubes and splodges all over
those big Vanguards----"

"Why, _I_ could do that," murmured the girl who was so busy varnishing
the aeroplane wings. "Sure I could."

"Oh, but, Taffy, you haven't been educated up to it," protested Leslie
gravely. "You _couldn't_ get it sufficiently dynamic and simultaneous
and marinetic!"

A message from the Central Shop to the Aeroplane Lady left the two girls
alone presently in the Wing-room. Then Leslie, putting her hand on the
rounded arm below the loose sleeve of Gwenna's working-pinafore, said
softly and quickly, "Look here, I came down because I had something to
tell you, Taffy."

The Welsh girl glanced quickly up into her chum's black eyes.

"Something to tell me?" Gwenna's heart sank.

She didn't want to hear of Leslie having definitely made up her mind at
last to marry a--well, a man who was good-natured and well bred and
generous enough about wedding-presents, but who confessed himself to be
of "no earthly good" when "it came to the real things of life." "Oh,
Leslie, is it----"

"It is that you can congratulate me."

"Oh, dear. I was _afraid_--You mean you _are_ engaged to him, Leslie. To
Mr. Swayne."

"No," said Leslie, holding her black head high. "No, not to Mr. Swayne.
Why must 'congratulations' always mean 'Mister' Anybody? They don't,
here. I mean you can congratulate me on coming to see reason. I know,
now, that I mustn't think of marrying him."

Gwenna drew a big breath of relief.

She laid her dope-thickened brush carefully down in the tin, and clapped
her little sticky hands.

"I'm _so_ thankful," she cried childishly. "It wouldn't have done,
Leslie!"

"No," said Miss Long.

"He wasn't a quarter good enough."

"Pooh. What's _that_ got to do with caring? Nothing," declared Leslie,
tilting her loose-limbed, mauve-clad figure back on the chair that Paul
Dampier had sat in, the day before the Aviation Dinner. "It's caring
that counts."

"Haven't I _always_ been saying so?" said Gwenna earnestly as she took
up her brush again. "Not just because I'm a happily-married woman
myself, my dear."

Here she drew herself up with the same little gesture of matronly
dignity that had made Mrs. Crewe smile. It forced Leslie to bite her
lips into gravity. And Paul Dampier's girl concluded innocently, "_I've_
always known how much Love means. What's _money_?"

"Nothing to run down, I assure you. Money's gorgeous. Money means
_Power_," affirmed Leslie. "Apart from the silk-stockinged aspect of it,
it lets you live a much fuller life mentally and spiritually. It can
make you almost everything you want to be, to yourself and to other
people, Taff. It's worth almost anything to get it. But there's one
thing it's not worth," said Leslie Long, really gravely: "_It's not
worth marrying the wrong person for._"

"I don't know why you didn't know that _before_," said little Gwenna,
feeling for once in her life _so_ much older and much wiser than her
chum. "What makes you know it now, Leslie?"

"The War, perhaps. Everything's put down to the War nowadays.... But it
has simplified things. One knows better what's what. What one must keep,
what one can throw overboard," said Leslie Long. "Everything is
changed."

Gwenna thought for a moment of telling her that one thing did not
change. Love!

Then she thought that that was not quite true, either.

In its own way Love, too, was changed by this War.

"There's _more_ of it!" thought Gwenna simply.

For had not her own love to her absent lover burned with more steady a
flame within her ever since the morning when she had seen him depart to
take his own share in the struggle? And so she guessed it must be with
many a girl, less ardently in love than she had been, but now doubly
proud of her man--and her soldier. She thought of the other hurried
War-bridals and betrothals all over the country. She thought of the
gentler voice and manner that she had noticed between the husbands and
wives among the cottagers down here. They realised, perhaps, how many
couples were being swept apart by War. Yes, this thought seemed to give
Man and Woman an added value in the eyes of each other, Gwenna thought.
She thought of the gradual disappearance of the suffragette type with
her indictments against Man. She thought of the new courtesy with which
every woman and girl seemed to be treated in the streets and tubes and
omnibuses by every man who wore the livery of War.

Of the two things greater than all things in this world, one fulfilled
the other. And, because War was in the world again, it was bringing home
undeniably to man and maid alike that "_the first is Love_."

Then Gwenna sighed from her heart.

How long? How much longer would it be before she could see her own lover
again?



CHAPTER XI

A LOVE LETTER--AND A ROSE


A couple of days after Leslie's visit Gwenna was moving about the
bedroom at Mrs. Crewe's cottage.

It was an old-fashioned, quaintly pretty room. The low ceiling, on which
the lamplight gleamed, was crossed by two sturdy black oak beams.
Straw-matting covered the uneven floor, and the wall-paper was sprinkled
with a pattern of little prim posies in baskets. The chintz of the
casement-curtains showed flowering sprays on which parrots perched;
there was a patchwork quilt on the oaken bed.

Gwenna had come up early; it was only nine o'clock. So, having undressed
and got into her soft white ruffled night-gown and her kimono of pink
cotton-crêpe, she proceeded to indulge in one of those "bedroom
potterings" so dear to girlhood's heart.

First there was a drawer to be tidied in the dressing-table that stood
in the casement-window. Ribbons to be smoothed out and rolled up; white
embroidered collars to be put in a separate heap. Next there was the
frilling to be ripped out of the neck and sleeves of her grey linen
dress, that she had just taken off, and to be rolled up in a little
ball, and tossed into the wastepaper basket. Then, two Cash's
marking-tapes with her name, GWENNA DAMPIER, to be sewn on to the couple
of fine, Irish linen handkerchiefs that had been brought down to her as
a little offering from Leslie. Then there was her calendar to be brought
up to date; three leaves to tear off until she came to the day's
quotation:

  "Don't call the score at half-time."

Then there was the last button to sew on to a filmy camisole that she
had found leisure, even with her work and her knitting, to make for
herself. Gradually, young Mrs. Dampier meant to accumulate quite a lot
of "pretties" for the Bottom Drawers, that Ideal which woman never
utterly relinquishes. The house and furniture of married life Gwenna
could let go without a sigh. "The nest"--pooh! But the ideal of "the
plumage" was another matter. Even if the trousseau did have to come
after the wedding, never mind! A trousseau she would have by the time
Paul came home again.

Having finished her stitching, she put her little wicker-work basket
aside on the chest-of-drawers and took out the handkerchief-sachet in
which she kept all his letters. She read each one over again.... "I'll
finish mine to him to-night," she decided. "It'll go off before eight in
the morning, then; save a post."

From under her work-basket she took her blotting-pad. The letter to Paul
was between the leaves, with her fountain-pen that she'd used at school.
She sat down in the wicker-seated chair before the dressing-table and
leaned her pad up against the edge of that table, with her brushes and
comb, her wicker-cased bottle of eau-de-Cologne, her pot of skin-cream
and her oval hand-mirror, its silver back embossed by Reynolds' immortal
group of cherubs whose curly heads and soft, tip-tilted faces were not
unlike Gwenna's own as she sat there, reading over what she had already
put in that letter to the Front.

It began in what Gwenna considered an admirably sedate and old-fashioned
style: "_My dearest Husband._" She thought: "The Censor, whoever he is!
that Paul talks about--when he reads that he'll think it's from somebody
quite old and been married for ten years, perhaps; instead of only
just--what is it--seven weeks!"

It went on to acknowledge the last note from Paul and to ask him if she
should send him some more cigarettes, and to beg that he would, if he
could possibly, possibly manage it, get one of his friends to take a
snapshot of him--Paul--in uniform, as Gwenna had never yet seen him.

Beside the swung oval mirror on the dressing-table there was set up in a
silver frame the only portrait that she possessed of her boy-husband:
the glazed picture postcard that Gwenna had bought that Saturday in May,
when she had gone to see the flying at Hendon with her two friends from
the Westminster Office, Mabel Butcher and Ottilie Becker.

Gwenna's eyes fell on that photograph as she raised them from her pad.
Her thoughts, going back to that afternoon, suggested the next item to
be written to Paul.

And the young girl wrote on, in much the same style as she would have
talked, with few full stops and so much underlining that some words
seemed to have a bar of music below them.

     "You remember my telling you about Miss Becker, the German girl
     that I used to be at Westminster with, when we used to call
     ourselves the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick-maker? Well,
     what _do_ you think? She has been _taken away_ from her
     boarding-house where she was in Bloomsbury, and interned in some
     camp as an alien enemy, although she is a girl, and they say she
     _nearly_ was just on trial _as a spy_!

     "Mabel Butcher wrote and told me about it. She (Miss Butcher) went
     with Ottilie Baker when she had to register herself as an alien at
     Somerset House, just after the War broke out, and she said it was
     _awful_, a great place like six National Galleries rolled into one,
     and _miles_ of immense long corridors, and _simply crowds_ of all
     kinds of Germans and Austrians, just like a queue at the theatre,
     waiting to be registered, and all looking scared to _death_, quite
     a lot of pretty girls among them, too.

     "Poor Ottilie Becker cried like anything at having to go, and to be
     an enemy alien, you know she'd got such heaps of friends in England
     and liked lots of English ways. She used to have a bath every
     morning, even. I hate to think of _her_ being a prisoner. Of course
     I know one ought to feel that all Germans ought to be wiped out
     now," wrote Gwenna, "but it makes you feel sort of different when
     it's a girl you've _known_ and had lots of little jokes with, and I
     was with her the very first time I heard of _you_, so I shan't be
     able to help always feeling a little kinder about her.

     "The reason she was arrested was because they found in her room at
     the boarding-house a lot of notes about the engineering-works, our
     works, which she had been going to send off to that soldier-brother
     of hers, Karl. She declared _she_ didn't know she wasn't supposed
     to, and that she hadn't an _idea_ of our going to War with her
     country or anything, and I'm _sure_ she didn't _mean_ any harm at
     all. She said she'd seen her brother Karl in England the week
     before War was declared, and that _he_ hadn't said a word to her
     then. And so perhaps he _was_ that waiter all the time. You know,
     the one we saw, in the cab that last Sunday of peace-time. I expect
     _he_ is fighting us now, isn't it _extraordinary_?"

This was the end of the sheet. Gwenna took another. Her letters to the
Front were always at least six times as long as the answers that she
received to them, but this was only to be expected. And Paul had said he
loved long letters and that she was to tell him absolutely everything
she could. All about herself.

She went on:

     "You tell me to take care of myself and not to work too hard; well,
     I am not. And I am quite well and Mrs. Crewe is most _awfully_
     kind to me, and the little maid here _spoils_ me. Every night when
     I am in bed she _insists_ on bringing me up a glass of hot milk and
     two biscuits, though what for I don't know.

     "_Is_ there anything more about your coming back from the Front to
     fetch the P.D.Q.? Oh, it _would_ be so lovely to see you even for a
     _few days_. I sometimes feel as if I had _never, never_ seen
     you----"

She sighed deeply in the quiet, lamp-lit room, where the chintz-casement
curtains stirred faintly above the open window. It had been so long, so
long, all this time of being without him. Why, she had scarcely had a
week of knowing him hers, before there had come that rushed War-bridal
and the Good-bye! And all she had to live on were her memories and a
glazed picture postcard, and a packet of pencil-scrawled letters of
which the folds were worn into slits. She couldn't even write to him as
she would have wished. Always there brooded over her that spectre "The
Censor," who possibly read every letter that was addressed to a man at
the Front. Gwenna knew that some people at home wrote anything they
wished, heedless that a stranger's eye might see it. Leslie, for
instance, wrote to one of her medical students, now working with the
R.A.M.C. in Paris, as "My dear Harry--and the Censor," adding an
occasional parenthesis: "_You won't understand this expression, Mr.
Censor, as it is merely a quite silly family joke!_" She, Gwenna, felt
utterly unable to write down more than a tithe of the tender things that
she would have liked to say. To-night she had a longing to pour out her
heart to him ... oh, and she would say _something_! Even if she tore up
that sheet and wrote another. She scribbled down hastily: "Darling boy,
do you know I miss you more _every day_; nobody has _ever_ missed
anybody _so dreadfully_."

Here she was wrong, though she did not know it. It was true that she
longed hungrily for the sight of that dear blonde face, with its blue,
intrepid eyes, for the sound of that deep and gentle voice, and for the
touch of those hands, those strongly modelled lips. But all these things
had been a new joy, scarcely realised before it was gone. She would have
told you that it made it worse for her. Actually it meant that she was
spared much. Her lover's presence had been a gift given and snatched
away; not the comradeship of years that, missing, would seem even as the
loss of a limb to her. The ties of daily habit and custom which
strengthen that many-stranded cord of Love had not yet been woven
between these two lovers.

     "I sometimes think it was really _awfully selfish_ of me to _marry_
     you," Gwenna wrote, thinking to herself, "Oh, bother that old
     Censor, just for once." She went on more hurriedly:

     "You might have married somebody like that Miss Muriel Conyers,
     with those frightfully lovely clothes and _all_ her people able to
     help you on in the Army, or somebody very beautiful and _rich_,
     anybody would have been glad to have you, and I _know_ I am just a
     little _nobody_, and not a bit clever and even Leslie used to say
     I had a Welshy accent sometimes when I speak, and I daresay _lots_
     of people will think, oh, 'how _could_ he!--why, she isn't even
     very _pretty_!'"

She raised her eyes, deeper and brighter in the lamplight, and gave a
questioning glance at her reflection in the oval, swung mirror on the
dressing-table at which she wrote. It would have been a captious critic
indeed that could have called her anything less than very pretty at that
moment; with her little face flushed and intent, a mixture of child and
woman in the expression of her eyes and about her soft, parted lips.
Above the ruffle of her night-gown her throat rose proudly; thick and
creamy and smooth. She remembered something he'd told her that afternoon
at Kew. He'd said that she always reminded him of any kind of white
flower that was sturdy and sweet; a posy of white clover, a white,
night-blooming stock, some kinds of white roses.... She would like to
send him a flower, in this letter, to remind him.

She glanced towards the open casement, where the curtain waved. Under
the shading foliage of the clematis that grew up to the cottage-roof
there had climbed the spray of a belated rose. "Rose Ménie" was its
name. Mrs. Crewe had said that it would not flower that year. But there
was one bud, half-hidden by leaves, swelling on its sappy twig, close to
Gwenna's window-sill.

"It'll come out in a day or so," Gwenna thought.

"I'll send it to him, if it comes out white.... _He_ was pleased with my
looks!"

So, reassured, she turned to the letter again, and added:

     "The only thing is, that whatever sort of wife you'd married, they
     _couldn't_ have loved you like I do, or been so proud of being your
     wife; _really_ sometimes I can _hardly believe_ that I am really
     and truly married to----"

She broke off, and again lifted her curly head from bending above the
paper.

There had been a light tap at the door behind her.

"Come in," called Gwenna, writing down as she did so, "here is the
little maid coming to bring me up my hot milk; now, darling, darling
boy, I _do hope_ they give you enough to eat wherever you are----"

Behind her the white door opened and shut. But the maid did not appear
at Gwenna's elbow with the tray that held that glass of hot milk and the
plate of biscuits. The person who had entered gazed silently across the
quiet girlish room at the little lissom figure clad in that soft crumple
of pink and white, sitting writing by the dressing-table, at the
cherub's head, backed by the globe of the lamp that spun a golden
aureole into that wreath of curls.

There was a pause so long that Gwenna, wondering, raised her head.

She gave another glance into the oval mirror that stood on the
dressing-table just in front of her.... And there she saw, not the
homely, aproned figure of the little maid that she had expected to see,
but the last thing that she had expected.

It was a picture like, and unlike, a scene she had beheld long, long
ago, framed in the ornate gold-bordered oval mirror in the drawing-room
at the Smiths'. Over her pink-clad shoulder, she saw reflected a broad,
khaki-covered chest, a khaki sleeve, a blonde boy's face that moved
nearer to her own. Even as she sat there, transfixed by surprise, those
blue and intrepid eyes of Icarus looked, laughing joyously, full into
hers, and held her gaze as a hand might have held her own.

"It's only me," said a deep and gentle voice, almost shyly. "I say----"

"_You!_" she cried, in a voice that rang with amazement, but not with
fright; though he, it seemed, was hurrying out hasty warnings to the
Little Thing not to be frightened.... He'd thought it better than
startling her with a wire.... Mrs. Crewe had met him at the door ...
he'd come straight up: hoped she didn't think he was a ghost---- Not for
a second had she thought so!

Instantly she had known him for her granted and incarnate heart's
desire, her Flyer, home from the Front, her husband to whom she had that
moment been writing as she sat there.

She sprang to her feet.

She whirled round.

She could not have told whether she had first flung herself into those
strong arms of his, or whether he had snatched her up into them.

All that mattered was that they were round her now, lifting and holding
her as though they would never let her go again.

When Reveillé sounded from the Camp on the plain, the sun was bright on
that clematis-grown wall outside the window of Gwenna's bridal-room.

It gilded the September foliage about the window-sill It also touched a
gem of passionate colour, set among the leaves of the Rose Ménie.

That red rose had broken into blossom in the night.



PART III

_SEPTEMBER, NINETEEN-FOURTEEN_



CHAPTER I

A WAR-TIME HONEYMOON


The morning after Paul Dampier's arrival from the Front he and his wife
started off on the honeymoon trip that had been for so many weeks
deferred.

They motored from the Aircraft Works to London, where they stopped to do
a little shopping, and where Gwenna was in raptures of pride to see the
effect produced by the Beloved in the uniform that suited him so well.

For every passer-by in the street must turn to look, with quickened
interest now, at an Army Aviator. Even the young men in their uniforms
gave a glance at the soldier whose tunic buttoned at the side and whose
cap had the tilt that gave to the shape of his blonde head something
bird-like, falcon-like. And every girl in the restaurant where they
lunched murmured, "Look," to her companion, "that's some one in the
Royal Flying Corps," and was all eyes for that kit which, at a time when
all khaki was romantic, had a special, super-glamour of its own.

But the blue eyes of the man who wore it were for no one but the girl
with whom he was taking his first meal alone together since they had
been man and wife.

Her own glance was still hazy with delight. Oh, to see him there facing
her, over the little round table set in a corner!

They ate cold beef and crusty loaf and cheese in memory of their first
lunch together in that field, long ago. They drank cider, touching
glasses and wishing each other all luck and a happy life.

"And fine weather for the whole of our week's honeymoon," added the
bridegroom as he set down his glass. "Lord, I know how it _can_ pour in
your Wales."

For it was to Wales that they went on by the afternoon train from
Euston; to Gwenna's home, arriving late that evening. The Reverend Hugh
Lloyd was away on a round of preaching-visits about Dolgelly. They had
his black-henlike housekeeper to chirp and bustle about them with much
adoring service; and they would have the Chapel House to themselves.

"But we won't be _in_ the house much," Gwenna decided, "unless it
pours."

It did not pour the next morning. It was cloudless and windless and
warm. And looking round on the familiar landscape that she had known
when she was a little child, it seemed now to Gwenna as if War could not
be. As if it were all a dream and a delusion. There was no khaki to be
met in that little hillside village of purple slate and grey stone. Only
one or two well-known figures were missing from it. A keeper from one of
the big houses on the other side of the river, and an English chauffeur
had joined the colours, but that nine-days' wonder was over now. Peace
had made her retreat in these mountain fastnesses that had once echoed
to the war-shouts and the harp-music of a race so martial.

It was the music that had survived....

Paul Dampier had put on again that well-known and well-worn grey tweed
jacket of his, so that he also no longer recalled War. He had come right
away from all that, as she had known he would; come safely back to her.
Here he was, with her, and with a miracle between them, in this valley
of crystal brooks and golden bracken and purple slopes. It was meant
that they two should be together thus. Nothing could have stopped it.
She felt herself exulting and triumphing over all the Fates who might
have tried to stop it; and over all the Forces that might have tried to
keep him from her. His work on the Machine? Pooh! That had actually
helped to bring them together! The Great War? Here he was, home from the
War!

"I've always, always wanted to be with you in the real country, and I
never have," she told him, as together they ran down the slate steps of
Uncle Hugh's porch after breakfast and turned up a path between the
sunny larch-grown steeps. That path would be a torrent in the winter
time. Now the slate pebbles of it were hot under the sun. "I don't
really count that _country_, that field, that day----"

"Didn't seem to mind it when we were there," he teased her as he walked
beside her swinging the luncheon basket that Margaret had put up for
them. "I mean of course when _I_ was there."

Gwenna affected to gasp over the conceit of men. "If I've _got_ to be
with one," she told him as if wearily, "I'd rather it was in a nice
place for me to listen to his nonsense."

"Wasn't any 'nonsense,' as you call it, in that field."

"No," agreed Gwenna, "there wasn't."

He looked sideways and down at her as she climbed that hill-path,
hatless, sure-footed and supple. Then a narrow turn in the path made her
walk a little ahead of him. She was wearing a very simple little sheath
of a grey cotton or muslin or something frock, with a white turn-down
collar that he hadn't seen her in before, he thought. Suited her awfully
well. (Being a man, he could not be expected to recognise it for the
grey linen that she'd had on when he'd come upon her that afternoon,
high up on the scaffolding at Westminster.)

"Yes, though, there was 'nonsense,'" he said, now suddenly answering her
last speech. "Fact of the matter is, it was dashed nonsense to waste
such a lot of time."

"Time, how?" asked Gwenna guilelessly, without turning her head.

"Oh! As if you didn't know!" he retorted. "Wasting time talking about
the Machine, to you. Catching hold of your hand, to show you what the
camber was--and then letting it go! Instead of owning up at once, '_Yes.
All right. You've got me. Pax!_' And starting to do this----"

He was close up behind her now on the mountain-path, and because of the
steep ground on which they stood, her head was on a higher level than
his own. He drew it downwards and backwards, that brown, sun-warmed
head, to his tweed-clad shoulder.

"You'll break my neck. I know you will, one day. You are so _rough_,"
complained Gwenna; twisting round, however, and taking a step down to
him.

"I love you to be," she whispered. She kissed his coat-lapel. All the
red of that rose bloomed now on her mouth.... They walked on, with his
arm a close, close girdle about her. The luncheon basket was forgotten
on the turfy slope on which he'd dropped it. So they lunched, late, in
the farm-house four hundred feet above the Quarry village. It was a
lonely place enough, a hillside outpost, fenced by stunted damson trees;
a short slate-flagged end of path led to the open door where a great red
baking crock stood, full of water. Inside, the kitchen was a dark, cool
cave, with ancient, smooth-worn oaken furniture that squeaked on the
slate-slabbed floor, with a dresser rich with willow-pattern and lustre,
and an open fire-place, through which, looking up, they could see
through the wood smoke a glimpse of the blue sky.

And in this sort of place people still lived and worked as if it were
Seventeen Hundred and Something--and scarcely a day's journey away was
the Aircraft Factory where people lived for the work that will remake
the modern world; oh, most romantic of all ages, that can set such sharp
contrasts side by side!

An old Welshwoman, left there by her sheep-farming sons at home in the
chimney corner, set butter-milk before the lovers, and ambrosial
home-churned butter, and a farm-house loaf that tasted of nuts and
peatsmoke. They ate with astonishing appetites; Gwenna sitting in the
window-seat under the sill crowded with flower-pots and a family Bible.
Paul, man-like, stood as near as he could to the comfort of the fire
even on that warm day. The old woman, who wore clumping clogs on her
feet and a black mutch-cap on her head, beamed upon the pair with smiles
as toothless and as irresistible as those of an infant.

"You must have a plenty, whatever," she urged them, bringing out another
loaf, of _bara breeth_ (or currant bread). "Come on, Sir! Come, Miss
Williams, now. Mam, I mean. Yess, yess. You married lady now. Your
husband," with a skinny hand on his grey sleeve, "your husband is _not_
a minnyster?"

"He's a soldier, Mrs. Jones," explained Gwenna, proudly, and with a
strengthening of her own accent, such as occurs in any of her race when
revisiting their wilds. "He's an Airman."

"Ur?" queried Mrs. Jones, beaming.

"He goes flying. You know. On a machine. Up in the sky."

"Well, _oh_!" ejaculated the old woman. And laughed shrilly. To her this
was some eccentric form of English joke. Flying? Like the birds! _Dear_,
dear. "What else does he do, _cariad fâch_?" she asked of Gwenna.

"He's been over in France, fighting the Germans," said the girl, while
the old woman on her settle by the fire nodded her mutched head with
the intense, delighted expression of some small child listening to a
fairy story. It was indeed no more, to her. She said, "Well, indeed. He
took a very _kind_ one, too." Then she added, "I not much English.
Pitty, pitty!" and said something in Welsh at which Gwenna coloured
richly and laughed a little and shook her head.

"What's she say?" demanded Paul, munching; but his girl-wife said it was
nothing--and turned her tip-tilted profile, dark against the diamond
window panes, to admire one of the geranium plants in the pots.

Afterwards, when the couple were outside again in the fresh sunlight on
the mountain lands, young Dampier persisted with his questioning about
what that old woman had said. He betted that he could guess what it was
all about. And he guessed.

Gwenna admitted that he had guessed right.

"She said," she told him shyly, "that it ought to be 'a very pretty one,
whatever.'"

"I've got a very pretty present for it," Paul whispered presently.

"What?"

"Don't you remember a locket I once took? A little mother-of-pearl
heart," he said. "That's what I shall keep it for----"

And there fell a little silence between them as they walked on, swinging
hands above the turf, gravely contented.

They had _had_ to spend the day together thus. It seemed to Gwenna that
all her life before had been just a waiting for this day.

Below the upland on which they swung along, grey figures on the green,
there lay other wide hill-spaces, spread as with turf-green carpets, on
which the squares of mellowing, golden-brown autumn woods seemed rugs
and skins cast down; below these again stretched the further valley with
the marsh, with the silver loops and windings of the river, and the
little white moving caterpillar of smoke from the distant train. There
was also a blue haze above the slate roofs of a town.

But here, in this sun-washed loneliness far above, here was their world;
hers and his.

They walked, sometimes climbing a crest where stag's-horn moss branched
and spread through the springy turf beneath their feet, sometimes
dipping into a hollow, for two miles and more. They could have walked
there for half a day and seen no face except that of a tiny mountain
sheep, cropping among the gorse; heard no voice but those of the calling
plovers, beating their wings in the free air. Then, passing a gap in two
hills, they came quite suddenly upon the cottage and the lake.

The sheet of water, silent, deserted, reflected the warm blue of the
afternoon sky and the deep green of the overhanging boughs of great
hassock-shaped bushes that covered two islands set upon its breast.

"Rhododendron bushes. When they're in blossom they're all simply
_covered_ with flowers, pink and rose-colour, and reflected in the
water! It _is_ so lovely," Gwenna told the lover beside her. "Oh, Paul!
You _must_ come here again and see that with me in the spring!"

On the further bank was another jungle of rhododendron and lauristinus,
half-hiding the grey stone walls and the latticed windows of the square
cottage, a fishing box of a place that had evidently been built for some
one who loved solitude.

Paul Dampier peered in through one of the cobwebby lattices. Just inside
on the sill there stood, left there long since, a man's shaving-tackle.
Blue mildew coated the piece of soap that lay in the dish. Further in he
caught a glimpse of dusty furniture, of rugs thrown down on a wooden
floor, of a man's old coat on a peg. A wall was decorated with sets of
horns, with a couple of framed photographs, with old fishing-rods.

"Make a jolly decent billet, for some one, this," said Paul.

Gwenna said, "It belongs to some people.... They're away, I think. It's
all locked up now. So's the boat for the lake, I expect. They used to
keep a boat up here for fishing."

The long flat boat they found moored to one of the stout-trunked
rhododendron bushes that dipped its pointed leaves in the peat-brown
water fringed with rushes.

Paul stepped in, examining her, picking up the oars. "Nice afternoon for
a row, Ma'am?" he said, smiling up at the girl clad in dove-grey on the
rushy bank, with the spongy dark-green moss about her shoes.

"Jump in, Gwenna. I'll row you across the lake."

"You can't row that old tub, boy."

"Can't I?"

"I'll race you round, then!"

"Right you are!"

The girl skipped round the clump of rhodos that hid the last flicker of
her skirt; and the boy bent to the short, home-made sculls.

The boat was a crank, unhandy little craft; and lacked thole-pins on one
side. Therefore Gwenna, swift-footed Little Thing that she was, had as
good a chance of winning as he.

"Like trying to row a bucket!" he laughed, as the boat spun. "Hi, Gwen!
I ought to have some start, you know!"

He rowed. Presently he rested on his oars and called, "Hullo, have you
started?"

"Started--" came back only the echo from the cottage roof. There was no
sign of any grey-frocked running figure on the bank. He scanned it on
both sides of him, gave a look towards each of those shrub-covered
islands on the smooth expanse.

"Gwenna--Why, where are you? What's become of the girl," he muttered.
"Gwen-na!"

She was nowhere to be seen.



CHAPTER II

THE SOUL OF UNDINE


"Hul-lo!" he shouted. The echo answered as he sat in the boat staring
about him....

Then he felt a twitch at one of his sculls. It turned in his hand; was
wrenched from him.

"What the deuce----" he began, surprised.

Then he heard a laugh.

"What on earth----"

It was nothing on earth that had greeted him. It was something of the
water that laughed up into his face and called, "Hullo, husband!"

A mermaid, a water-nymph, a little white-shouldered Undine was peeping
up and mocking him! She trod water, turned over on her side, swam with
easy strokes.

For always Gwenna had been proud of her swimming.

She had won a medal for it at that Aberystwith school of hers; but she
wanted more than a mere medal for it now. She wanted her boy to see her
swimming, and to praise her stroke. She had looked forward to that. She
wanted to show him that she could make as graceful movements with her
own body in the water as he could make with his biplane in the air. She
could! He should see! She made these movements. She had thought of
making them--just _so_--on the morning of her marriage. Only then she
had thought it would be in the sea off Brighton beach, with whole
crowds of other stupid people about in dark-blue or Turkey-red
"costumes." Here it was so much lovelier; a whole mountain-side and a
clear lake to herself in which to show off her pet accomplishment to her
lover. She was one innocent and pretty Vanity incarnate as she glided
along beside his boat. She gave a quick twist. There was a commotion of
translucent amber water, a gleam of coral white that shaded down into
peaty brown as she dived, reappearing on the other side of the boat,
looking up at him, blinking as her curls streamed water into her eyes.

His eyes, blue and direct and adoring, were upon her.

"I say," he said admiringly, "I didn't know you could _swim_ like that.
Jolly!"

This moment of achievement was possibly the most exquisite in the whole
of Gwenna's life.

Shaking the wet from her hair, she laughed with pure, completed,
rapturous joy; glorying in her youth, in the life that charged each
little blue vein of her, in this power of swimming that she felt had
been given her only to please him.

"Why, I could swim you to--Oh! Mind you don't upset!" she exclaimed.

For Paul had stooped; leaning over the side of the boat he had passed
one arm beneath her shoulders; he was bending over her to take a kiss,
all fresh with lake-water.

"You'll topple over," she warned him.

"Pooh," he said. "One, Gwenna!"

He always said her name as if it were "darling"--he did not call her
"dear" or "darling" much. She found that she adored him for this, as for
everything that he said or did. Once, in one of those old-time talks of
theirs, Leslie had said, "For every three times a man asks for a kiss
refuse him twice. An excellent plan, Taffy----" The happy girl-wife
thought there need be no use of "plans" with him and her. She teased
him--if she wanted to.

Eyes laughed into eyes now. She threw back her head, evading him, but
only for a second. His mouth met hers, dewy as a lotus-bud. The boy and
girl kissed closely. Nothing could come between that kiss, she thought.

Then, sudden as a flash of summer lightning, _something came_.

A thought; a shadow; a fear at last.

All these halcyon hours she had known no fear. All those weeks that her
husband had been in France she had been certain, at the bottom of her
heart, of his safety. She had known by that queer sense of presentiment
she possessed that he would come back to her. He'd come back to make
this perfect time for which all her unawakened girlhood had been
waiting. And now, by that same queer sixth sense, she suddenly found
herself realising that he would not--No, no! _That he might not come
back to her the second time...._ Suddenly, suddenly the shadow crept
over her, taking the glow and colour out of their idyll even at this
golden moment. With his lips warms on hers she shivered as if the water
in which she swayed had suddenly grown many degrees colder. Supposing he
should not return? In two days' time now he was leaving her. Supposing
that she were never to see him again? She shut her eyes, felt herself
for a horrible second surrounded by darkness, and alone.... She heard
his sharp question, "What's the matter?" and opened her eyes again.

His head was dark against the blue little ripples of light passed over
his blonde face; ripples cast up from the water. The boat tilted, and
his arm held her more tightly. He said again, "What is it?"

Then, in her own ears, her voice said serenely, "It's all right."

The cloud had passed, as suddenly as it had fallen. She knew, somehow,
that it would be "all right." Whatever happened, this worst catastrophe
of all was not going to fall upon her. She was not going to be left
alone and in darkness, her sun of Love gone down. Such a light could not
have been kindled, just to be put out again. She would not be forced to
live without him. _That_ could not be. Why, the thing was unthinkable.
Yet, somehow that was going to be made "all right."

"You swim back again and get your things on, as quick as you can," he
ordered her. "That was a touch of cramp you got, I expect."

"I'm all right now," she again said.

She sighed when at last they left that lovely Paradise of theirs behind
them.

They went down hill at a good swinging pace, his arm again girdling the
dove-grey frock. He said, "We'll get tea and topping light-cakes at one
of those cottages before we come to the village, shall we? Are you
starving, Little Thing? I know I am. Soon be there now."

"I know," she said, "I wasn't sighing because I wanted my tea. Only
because ... It seems such a pity that we _ever_ have to come down from
here!" she told him, nestling in his arm.

But she did not tell him of her sudden fear, nor of its sudden passing,
though (in her heart that beat below his hand) the thought of both
remained.



CHAPTER III

A LAST FAVOUR


That thought at the heart of Gwenna seemed to grow with every hour that
passed.

And they were passing now so rapidly, the hours that remained to her
with her husband! One more blissful day spent on the mountains (but
always with that growing thought behind it: "_He has to go soon. Perhaps
he will not come back this time. The new machine may let him down
somehow, perhaps_").

One more train-journey, whizzing through country of twenty different
aspects, just him and her together (but still in her mind that thriving
dread: "_Very likely he may not come back. He has had so many narrow
escapes! That time he told me about when he came down from behind the
clouds and the machine was hit on both sides at once: our men firing on
him as well, thinking his was an enemy craft! He got up into the clouds
again and escaped that time. Next time as likely as not...._").

One more night they were together in the London hotel where Uncle Hugh
had always put up. Paul slept, with a smile on his face that looked so
utterly boyish while he was asleep: his blonde head nestled into her
neck. Gwenna, waking uneasily once or twice, and with his arms still
about her, was haunted by her fear as by a nightmare. "_It's more than
likely that he may not come back this time. This time I feel that he is
not going to come back!_" And the feeling grew with the growing light
outside the window, until she told herself: "_I know it! I know that I
am right_----"

Then came the wonder in her mind, "_Why am I not wretched about this?
Why do I feel that it's not going to matter after all, and that it's
going to be 'all right'?_"

Still wondering, she fell asleep again.

But in the morning her presentiment was a thing full-grown.

Paul, off to the Front, would never come back again.

Quite early they were at the Aircraft Works where he was to leave his
young wife and to fetch his machine, the completed P.D.Q. that was to
take him out to France.

He had spoken of her--that machine--in the train coming along. And
Gwenna, the dazed and fanciful, had thought sharply: "_Ah! That's her
revenge. That's what's going to be the end of this fight between the
Girl and the Machine. I won. I got him from her. This is how she takes
him back, the fiancée! He will be killed in that machine of his._"

Her headstrong, girlish fancy persisted. It was as real to her as any of
the crowd of everyday and concrete realities that they found, presently,
at the bustling Aircraft Works.

When Paul (who was to start at midday, flying across to France) changed
into his uniform and flying-kit, it seemed to her to set the seal upon
her premonition.

He would never wear other kit again now, upon this earth.

The Aeroplane Lady, bracingly cheerful, met them with a sheaf of
official documents for the young Army aviator.

"I'm going to steal him from you for a quarter of an hour, Mrs.
Dampier," she said with a little nod; and she took the young man into
her office.

Gwenna, left alone outside, walked up and down the sunny yard
mechanically.

She could not have said what her thoughts were. Probably she had no
thoughts. Nothing but the steady throb, quiet and reiterated as the
pulse of the machinery in the shops, of that conviction of fatality that
she felt.

It seemed to run on in her head as the belting ran on the shaft: "He
won't come back. He won't come back!"

It was in the middle of this monotonous inward muttering that the door
of the office opened, and there came out a shortish figure,
leather-jacketed and with enveloping overalls and wearing a cap with
goggles, peak behind. It was young Mr. Ryan.

He raised his cap and would have passed Gwenna quickly, but she stopped
him.

She didn't know why. Since her marriage she had (ungratefully enough)
almost forgotten the red-haired young man's existence, and perhaps it
was not so much himself as his cap and mufflings that caught her eye
now.

"Why, are you going up?" she asked.

"Yes," said young Ryan gloomily.

He seemed to be in the worst of tempers as he went on, grumblingly. He
was going up. Just his luck. Plenty of times he'd wanted to go and
hadn't been allowed. Now he'd got to go, just when he didn't want to.

"You don't want to?" Gwenna repeated.

Mr. Ryan coloured a little. "Well, if I've got to, that doesn't matter."

"Why don't you want to?" Gwenna asked, half indifferent, half surprised.
To her it had always appeared the one thing to want to do. She had been
put off time after time. Now here was he, grumbling that it was just his
luck to go.

Then she thought she could guess why he didn't want to go up just now.
She smiled faintly. Was it that Mr. Ryan had--somebody--to see?

Mr. Ryan blushed richly. Probably he did so not on this somebody's
account, but because it was Gwenna who asked the question. One does not
care for the sympathetic questions of the late idol, even when another
fills the shrine. He told Gwenna: "I've got to go with your husband as a
passenger. He's had a wire to bring another man over to one of the
repairing bases; and so he's spotted me."

"To bring over? D'you mean to France?"

"Yes. Not that they want _me_, of course; but just somebody. So I've got
to go, I suppose."

Gwenna was silent, absorbed. She glanced away across the flat
eighty-acre field beyond the yards, where the planes of Paul's new
biplane gleamed like a parallel ruler in the sun. A ruler marked with
inches, each inch being one of the seams that Gwenna had carefully doped
over. About the machine two or three dark figures moved, giving
finishing touches, seeing that all was right.

And young Ryan was to fly in her, with Paul!

It wasn't Ryan they wanted, but "just somebody." ... And then, all in a
moment, Gwenna, thinking, had a very curious little mental experience.
As once before she had had that "flying dream," and had floated up from
earth and had seen her own body lying inert and soulless on her bed, so
now the same thing happened. She seemed to see herself in the yard.
Herself, quite still and nonchalant, talking to this young man in cap
and goggles who had to go to France just when he particularly wanted to
go somewhere else. She saw all the details, quite clearly: his leather
jacket, herself, in her blouse and skirt, the cylindrical iron, steam
chambers where they steamed the skids, the Wing-room door, and beyond it
the new biplane waiting in the field two hundred yards away.

Then she saw herself put her hand on the young man's leathern sleeve.
She heard her own voice ascending, as it were, to her. It was saying
what seemed to be the most matter-of-fact thing in the world.

"Then don't go. You go later, Mr. Ryan. Follow him on. You go and meet
your girl instead; it will be all right."

He was staring blankly at her. She wondered what he saw to stare at.

"What? What d'you mean, Mrs. Dampier? I'm bound to go. Military orders."

"Yes; they are for him, not for you. _You_ aren't under military
orders." This was in her own, quite calm and detached little voice with
its un-English accent. "You say anybody'd do. He can take--somebody
else."

"Isn't anybody else," she heard young Ryan say. Then she heard from her
own lips the most surprising thing of all.

"Yes, there's somebody. You give me those things of yours. I'm going
instead of you."

Then Mr. Ryan laughed loudly. He seemed to see a joke that Gwenna did
not see. "Well, for a film-drama, that takes it!" he laughed.

She did not laugh. She heard herself say, softly, earnestly, swiftly:
"Listen to me. Paul is going away and I have never been up with him yet.
I was always promised a flight. And always something got in the way of
it. And now he's going. He will never----"

Her voice corrected itself.

"He _may_ never come back. I may never get another chance of flying with
him. Let me--let me have it! Say you will!"

But Mr. Ryan, instead of saying he would, became suddenly firm and
peremptory. Perhaps it was the change in his voice that brought Gwenna
Dampier, with a start, back to herself. She was no longer watching
herself. She was watching young Ryan's face, intently, desperately. But
she was still quite calm. It seemed to her that since an idea and a plan
had come to her out of nowhere, it would be mad to throw them away again
untried.

"Let me go; it will be all right! Let me get into your things."

"Quite out of the question," said young Ryan, with growing firmness--the
iron mask of the man who knows himself liable to turn wax in the hands
of a woman. "Not to be thought of."

She set her teeth. It was life and death to her now, what he refused.
She could have flown at him like a fury for his obstinacy. She knew,
however, that this is no road to a woman's attainment of her desires.
With honeyed sweetness, and always calmly, she murmured: "You were
always so nice to me, Mr. Ryan. I liked you so!"

"I say, don't----"

"I am sure that girl must be devoted to you. Isn't she? The one you want
to see? Oh, yes! Well, think if it were _she_ who begged to be with
_you_," pleaded Gwenna softly and deadly calm. Her knuckles were white
on the hands that she held clasped against her breast. "Think if she
begged for one last, last little time!"

"Look here; it's imposs----"

"I never begged for any one anything before, in my whole life. Never!
Not even my husband. Only you! It's the first--the last favour, Mr.
Ryan! You used to say you'd do anything----"

"No, please; I say----!"

"He's always said he would take me. You can follow us on. Yes, indeed it
will be all right----"

Here Paul, passing with the Aeroplane Lady at the end of the yard, on
his way to the machine in the field, saw by the steam reservoir his
young wife talking earnestly to the red-haired Ryan chap, who was to be
his passenger. He heard her say: "You must, Peter, you _must_!"

He hadn't known that the Little Thing called that fellow by his
Christian name, but he thought he knew the kind of thing that she would
be saying to Ryan; begging him to keep an eye upon her husband, to do
anything he could for him (Paul) since they were both going over to
France together.

"It will be all right," repeated Gwenna to young Ryan in a settled kind
of tone. "You'll give me your things, and then you'll stay here, out of
the way until we've gone. You will!"

Thereupon Mr. Ryan became firmer than ever.

"Can't be done, Mrs. Dampier," he said curtly. "Afraid that ends it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In the meantime Paul was making a last tour of the P.D.Q.

"Just start her, will you?" he said to one of his mechanics.

A harsh roar rattled out over the countryside. Paul touched parts here
and there.

"All right," he said; and the engine was shut off again. Then he turned
to Mrs. Crewe.

"Well," he said, "if you don't mind----" He glanced first at his
wrist-watch and then in the direction of the buildings. The Aeroplane
Lady smiled.

"I think you'll find her in the office," she replied.

He crossed the field and walked straight into the office, but Gwenna was
not there. He passed into the Wing-room where he had seen her at work.
She was not there, either; only two of the lads in blue overalls were
bringing in a wing. He said to them: "Is Mrs. Dampier in the central
shop? Just tell her I'm here, will you? I shall have to be off very
soon." In a moment one of the lads returned to say that Mrs. Dampier was
not in the shops.

"Go out that way and find her, will you, then?" he said. "I'll go out
the other way; ask her to wait for me in the Wing-room if you find her
first." He went out to search for his wife. He sought her in the shops
and in the sheds. She was not to be found. He came back to the
Wing-room; it was empty, except for the Great Dane, lying in his corner
blinking wisely, with his head on his paws. Dismayed (for he would have
not more than a moment to spare with her now) young Dampier came out and
sent a lad on a bicycle up to Mrs. Crewe's cottage to find out if his
wife were there. Perhaps the Little Thing had forgotten the
cap-comforter she was going to give him, and had gone to fetch that.
Mrs. Crewe herself walked back from the field, and found him almost
running about the yards again.

"What, haven't you found her? Isn't she anywhere about?" cried the
Aeroplane Lady in astonishment. "This is most extraordinary. She must be
here somewhere----"

"I've been and I've sent all over the place," said the young aviator,
distressed. "Here, I've got to start in a minute, and she isn't here to
see me before I go. I can't imagine what's become of her!"

The Aeroplane Lady could imagine. She had had the quick thought that
Gwenna Dampier, at the last moment, had gone away, hidden herself from
that ordeal of last farewells. "Perhaps the little creature couldn't
stand it," she thought. It was, when all was said, a heart-breaking
moment....

The Aeroplane Lady said softly: "Perhaps your wife's one of the people
who don't want to say any good-bye, Mr. Dampier. Like some people
thinking it's unlucky to watch people out of sight!"

"Well, I've hunted all over the place," he said, turning away, agitated
and dismayed. "Tell her, will you, Mrs. Crewe, I shan't be able to wait
any longer. I was to start at midday. I shall be late. You explain to
her, please. Where's Ryan--ah, there he is."

For across the field he saw a short, muffled-up, brown figure, climbing,
rather hurriedly, into the passenger's seat. It sat, waiting without
looking round.

The last stroke of twelve sounded from the clock of the factory. The
whistle blew. The men trooped out of the works; every one of them cast a
glance towards the field where the biplane was ready. Several of them in
a group turned off there to watch the start.

Paul joined them and walked across the field.

His brows were knitted; it was dashed hard lines that he couldn't see
_her_ for good-bye. His wife! She ought to have seen him off.... Poor
Little sweet Thing, she thought she couldn't stick it---- He wondered
where on earth she'd gone and hidden herself.



CHAPTER IV

THE DEPARTURE FOR FRANCE


Gwenna sat, for the first time in her life, in an aeroplane.

She had very little actual notion of how she came to be there. It was
all confused in her mind, that which had happened between Mr. Ryan's so
resolute "Can't be done, Mrs. Dampier," and its having been "done." What
had prevailed? Her own begging? Mr. Ryan's wish to see his girl? Or her,
Gwenna's, calm assurances, repeated from that day in Wales, that it
would be "all right"? She wasn't sure which of all these things had
brought her here safely where she was, in the passenger-seat of Paul's
biplane. She hardly remembered putting on the rough and voluminous brown
clothes while Mr. Ryan mounted guard over the little stokehole of the
steam chambers.

She only knew that she had walked, easily and undiscovered, across the
field before the whistle blew. That she'd climbed unassisted into that
small wicker seat, and that she was now waiting there, muffled up to the
tip of her nose, the edge of the cap almost meeting the muffler, goggles
down, and gloves hiding her little hands. She was no more to be
distinguished from a man than if she had been a diver encased for a
descent into the sea.

She did not even trouble to wonder at her own wonderful luck in the
affair.

A thousand little accidents might have betrayed her--and and she had
escaped them all. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to her.
Once or twice one of the men had spoken to her, but a wave of the hand
had been answer enough for him. It had been all right. And of course
everything was going to be all right.

She was not going to be put off by pretexts any longer.

And she was not going to be left behind, without him. In another
minute--two minutes--they would be off, he and she!

Furtively she glanced round.

Paul was holding both the Aeroplane Lady's small, capable hands in those
big boy's paws of his.

"Good-bye," he was saying. "So long, I mean. I say, you'll----"

"I'll look after _her_," promised the Aeroplane Lady, very brightly.

"Thanks awfully. You would," said Paul. "Bless you."

"My dear boy----" began the Aeroplane Lady as if she were going to say
something grave, but she ended lightly, "Well, you've a glorious day for
it. The best of luck!--And to you, Mr. Ryan!"

Again the passenger waved a gloved hand in reply.

Then Gwenna felt the tip and creak of the machine, as Paul climbed into
his place behind her.

André dashed up to grasp his hand, calling "_Bonne chance!_"

"Thanks!" said Paul. "Right away."

Then, as the propeller pulsed like an angry nerve, Gwenna gave a start.

An appalling roar and wind seemed all about her. Faintly, very faintly,
the noise of the good-bye cheer rose through it. The hat-waving group of
men with wide-open mouths seemed to slide back. The Aeroplane bumped
over the rough field. And then it ceased to bump. Gwenna drew in her
breath, sharply. To right of her, to left of her, the horizon seemed to
sway ever so gently. She thought, but was not sure, that she heard
Paul's voice behind her, bawling, "Trim."

As she settled herself in her seat, the horizon fell away altogether....
All was sunlit blue! The swiftest run in the motor down the smoothest
bit of hill had been nothing to this that was coming; faster, faster....

"There's only one pity," she thought hastily. "He's thinking now that I
let him go without saying good-bye!"

Here she had a glimpse of the khaki-green earth far below, as blurred
with height and speed as was the raving invisible propeller itself.

For at last--at last--it was flight!



CHAPTER V

THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT


Yes; at last it was flight.

She now, too, was perched up on this structure that had tucked those
little bicycle wheels and skids underneath it, as a bird tucks its no
longer required feet; she, too, was being borne up aloft on those vast
cambered pinions that let the sunlight half through, like the roof of a
transparent marquee. In this new machine of Paul's, the passenger-seat
was set on a slightly projecting platform, with aluminium-like uprights
of a peculiar section. At first, all that Gwenna knew of this easy
balancing and dipping and banking of the machine, was that there was a
bright triangle of sunlight about her feet, and that this triangle grew
sometimes small, sometimes large, and sometimes spread so that half of
her was sitting in the warm September sunlight; presently to swerve into
the shadow again.

Mechanically tightening her grip on one or other of the aluminium stays,
instinctively yielding her body to this unexpected angle or that, she
watched that triangle of sunlight. She was not giddy or breathless; she
felt no fear at all, only a growing triumph and delight as the soaring
biplane sped on--on----

Once she gave a little "Oh, look!" lost in the hum of the engine. It was
when a tiny flicker of shadow fell upon her patch of sunlight and was
gone; the shadow of some bird flying higher than they, a crow, perhaps.
It was just after this that she noticed, near that advancing and
retiring wedge of sunlight at her feet, something else. This was a
little oval hole in the floor of the platform. A hole for observation.
It brought home to her how frail a floor supported her weight and his;
still she felt no terror; only wonder. She smiled under her mufflings,
thinking that hole was like a knot-hole in a wooden bridge over the
river at home. As a small child she had always been fascinated by that
hole, and had gazed down through it at the rushing bottle-green water
and the bubbles and the boulders below. She glanced down this one, but
her unaccustomed eyes could hardly see anything. She leaned forward and
looked down below the machine, but still could distinguish little.
Woods, roads, meadows, or whatever they were crossing, were still only a
warm and moving blur. Once they passed, quickly, a big patch of pink and
purple, she thought it might be a town, but wasn't sure.

She sat up again in her seat, giving herself up to her own feelings in
this new and breathless experience; her feelings, that were as
undistinguishable as the landscape over which the biplane swept--a warm
blur of delights.

She gripped the stays; she laughed happily to herself behind the
mufflings, she even sang aloud, knowing that it was drowned in the noise
of the engine. She hummed the sheerest medley of scraps of things, tags
of Musical Comedy picked up at Westminster--some verses out of Leslie's
love-songs. Once it was the then universal "Tipperary." And presently it
resolved itself into a Welsh folk-song that the singing-class at her
school had practised over and over again--"The Rising of the Lark," a
blithely defiant tune that seemed best to match her mood as the biplane
sped.

Yes! All the bird-like, soaring spirit in her had come to its own.
Everything else was cast behind her.... She'd always felt, dimly and
uncomfortably, that a great part of herself, Gwenna, was just an
uninteresting, commonplace little girl.... That part had gone! It had
been left behind her, just as her bodily form had been left sleeping on
her bed, that midsummer night, while her soul flew through dreams.

"Dreams!" she thought incoherently. "It's _not_ true what people say
about the dream-come-true, and how one's always disappointed in it. I'm
not--ah, I'm not! This flying! This is more glorious than I
expected--even with _him_----!"

Then came a thought that checked her singing rapture.

"If only _he_ knew! But he doesn't."

Behind her, Paul, driving, had made no sign to the passenger. She could
guess at the busyness of him. His dear, strong hands, she knew, were on
the wheel. They were giving a touch to the throttle here and there. His
feet, too, must be vigilantly busy; now this one doing something
essential, now that. She supposed his whole body must be dipping from
time to time, just as that triangle of sunlight dipped and crept. It
was all automatic to him, she expected. He could work that machine
while he was thinking, just as she herself could knit and think.

"He's thinking of me," she told herself with a rueful little pang. "He's
wondering about my not saying good-bye. He must have minded that.
That'll be all right, though. I'll let him know, presently; I'll pull
down my muffler and look round. Presently. Not yet. Not until it's too
late for him to turn back or set me down----"

And again she hummed to herself in her little tune; inaudible, exultant.
The shining triangle of sunlight disappeared from the platform. All
became level light about her. It seemed growing colder. And beyond her,
far ahead, she spied a sweep of monotonous grey.

She guessed what that meant.

"The sea!" she told herself, thrilled. "We'll be flying over the sea
soon. _Then_ he can't do anything about sending me back. Then I shall
put up these goggles and push this cap off my curls. Then he'll see.
He'll know that it's me that's flying with him!" And she held away from
herself that thought that even so this flight could not last for ever,
there would be the descent in France, the good-bye that she had
evaded--No! It must last!

Again she forgot all else in the rushing joy of it.

Suddenly she felt something jolt hard against her left arm, for the
first time Paul was trying to attract his passenger's attention. Twice
her arm was jolted by something. Then she put out her brown gloved hand
to it, grasping what had jolted her. She drew it forward as he loosed it
to her clutch.

It was a gun; a carbine.

What--Why----?

She remembered something that she had heard Paul say, dim ages ago, when
she had watched him in the office, consulting with the Aeroplane Lady
over that machine-gun with that wicked-looking little nozzle that he had
decided not to mount upon the P.D.Q.

"_It'll have to be a rifle after all._"

Little Gwenna in her brown disguise sat with this rifle across her
knees, wondering.

Why did Paul wish Mr. Ryan to be armed with this? Why hadn't he handed
over that carbine just when they were about to start? Why only now, just
when they had got as far as the sea?

For she was certain now that what was below them was the sea. There was
a bright, silvery glitter to the right, but the floating floor of the
biplane shut that out again. To the left all was of a slaty grey. The
sun's level rays shot along the length of the biplane as if it were down
a gallery.

Gwenna sat there, holding that carbine across her brown wrapped knees,
and still puzzling over it. Why had Paul handed the thing over, so
suddenly? She could not see the reason.


Even when it appeared she did not at first see the reason.

Paul Dampier had been quicker to see it than she.

Of a sudden there broke out--there is no other word for it--a silence
more startling than all that harsh raving of the propeller that had been
stopped. At the same instant Gwenna felt the floor fall away suddenly on
her left and mount as dizzily on her right. The biplane was tilted up in
the air just as a ladder is tilted against the side of the house. And
the engine was giving short staccato roars into the silences as Paul
kept her going. He had shut off, and was making a giddy swoop down, down
to the left. She heard his voice. Sharply he cried out:

"There! Out to the left! The Taube! There he is!"

The next moment the engine was roaring again. The biplane had lifted to
the opposite curve of a swooping figure eight.

And now the girl in the passenger-seat saw in the air beside them,
scarcely two hundred yards away, what the pilot had seen.

It was another aeroplane; a monoplane.



CHAPTER VI

THE WINGED VICTORY


Now Gwenna, although she'd been clerk and assistant to the Aeroplane
Lady herself, and although she loved the idea of aeroplanes as other
girls have loved the idea of jewels, scarcely knew one pattern of
monoplane from another.

They were all the same to her as far as overlapping the seams with the
doped strips was concerned. Nevertheless, in this machine that seemed
suddenly to have appeared out of nowhere, there struck her something
that was quite unfamiliar. Never before had she seen that little
blade-shaped drag from the tips of the wings. It gave to this machine
the look of a flying pigeon.... She had only noticed it for a moment, as
the monoplane had lurched, as it were, into view over the edge of their
own lower plane. Then it lurched out of sight again.

Again their engine was shut off; and again she heard Paul's voice,
excited, curt.

"Can you get him, do you think?"

Get him? Bewilderingly she wondered what Paul could mean. Then came
another staccato rush of sound. Then another silence, and Paul's voice
through it.

"All right. I'll get above him; and you can shoot through the floor."

The engine brayed again, this time continuously.

"Shoot!" gasped Gwenna.

Shoot at that machine through the hole in the floor of this one? It was
a German craft, then? And Paul meant Mr. Ryan to shoot whoever was in
that machine. And she, Gwenna, who had never had a gun in her hands
before in her life, found herself in the midst of War, told to shoot----

Hardly knowing one end of the thing from the other, she grasped the
carbine. She guessed that the flyer in the other machine must have
realised what Paul meant to do.

They were rising; he was rising too.

And suddenly she became aware that there was sunlight about them no
longer. All was a dun and chilly white. Paul, trying to get above the
other, and the other trying to prevent him, had both run up together
into a cloud. Once before the Welsh girl had had this experience. On a
rocky mountain-path up Cader Idris she had walked into a thick mist that
wrapped her from seeing anything in front of her, even though she could
hear the voices of tourists just a little ahead.

And now here they saw nothing, but they could hear.

Even through the noise of their propeller Gwenna's ears caught a smaller
noise. It seemed to come from just below.

She had got the muzzle of the carbine through the hole at her feet.
Desperately, blindly she fumbled at what she thought must be the
trigger. Behind her goggles, she shut her eyes tightly. The thing went
off before she knew how it had done so.

Then, nothing....

Then the propeller had stopped again. She felt her shoulder touched
from behind. Paul's voice called, "Got him, Ryan?"

"I--I don't know," she gasped, turning. "I--_Paul! It's me!_"

It was a wonder that the biplane did not completely overturn.

Paul Dampier had wrenched himself forward out of the straps and had
taken one hand from the wheel. His other clutched Gwenna's shoulder, and
the clutch dragged away the muffler at her white throat and her goggles
slipped aside. Aghast he glared at her. The Little Thing herself? Here?

"Good---- here, keep still. Great----! For Heaven's sake, don't move.
I'll run for it. He can't catch me. I was trying to catch him. He can't
touch us---- We'll race--hold tight, Gwen--ready." He opened the throttle
again; while Gwenna, white-faced, took in the tornado of wind with
parted lips and turned sideways to stare with wide-open eyes.

Then a number of things seemed to happen very quickly.

The first of these was a sharp "Ping!" on one of the aluminium stays.
Gwenna found herself gazing blankly at the round hole in the wing a yard
to the right of her. The next thing was that the fog--mist--or cloud,
had disappeared. All was clear sky about them once more. The third thing
was that, hardly a stone's toss away, and only missed by a miracle in
the cloud, they saw the monoplane and the aviator in her.

He was bareheaded, for that blind, wild shot of the British girl's had
stripped away his head-covering, and there was a trickle of scarlet down
his cheek. His hair was a gilded stubble, his eyes hard and blue and
Teutonic. His flying-gear was buttoned plastron-wise above his chest,
just as that white linen jacket of his had been; and Karl Becker,
waiter, spy and aviator, gave a little nod, as much as to say that he
recognised that they were meeting not for the first time....

One glimpse showed all this. The next instant both German and Englishman
had turned to avoid the imminent collision. But the German did more than
turn.

He had been fired on and hit; now was his shot. Dampier, with no thought
now but to get his wife out of danger, crowded the biplane on. As the
machines missed one another by hardly ten feet, she heard the four
cracks of Paul's revolver.

Little Gwenna thought she had never heard anything so fascinating,
horrible, and sweet. He was fighting not for his own life only. And he
was not now being fired at, far from her, hoping that she need never
know. For she also, she was in danger with him; she who did not want to
die before him but who would not wish to live for one moment after him.

Moments? When every moment was a whole life, what could be more
perilously, unimaginedly sweet than this?

"I knew I had to come," she gasped to herself. "Never away from him
again! Never----"

Her heart was racing like the propeller itself with just such speed,
such power. More love than it could bear was crowded into every throb of
it. For one more of those moments that were more than years she must
look at him and see him look at her....

One look!

As they tore through the air she turned in her straps, pushing the curls
back from her brow. Her eyes met his, set and intent over the wheel.

She smiled at him.

Up out of the depths of his intentness she saw the answering smile come
into his own eyes. He nodded. He meant that it was all right. His lips
moved.

"He can't--touch--us!" he was shouting. His girl threw back her head as
far as it would go, offering her face for the kiss that she knew he
could not give. He nodded again, laughed outright, and stretched his own
head forward. It was all a kiss, despite the constraining straps--or
almost all.

More of a kiss than many lovers know, more of a marriage!

For then it was that the German's shot rang out, completing their
caress. Never was dearer nor more precious union, never less pain, so
lost was it in rapture. As gently as if he had only just said Good-night
the boy's head sank on the wheel; as for hers, it never moved. She still
lay, leaning back with lips parted, as if to-morrow would see her kissed
awake again.... His hands twitched once only. That movement cut off the
throttle. Again, for the last time, the propeller stopped.

The Taube was already a vanishing speck in the distance....

The P.D.Q. yawed, hung poised, began to slide tail first, and gathered
speed.

Up, up came the silver waves of the English Channel.



POSTSCRIPT

MYRTLE AND LAUREL LEAF


It was the week before Christmas, Nineteen-fourteen.

London wore her dreariest winter livery of mud-brown and fog-yellow, and
at three o'clock on such an afternoon there would have been brilliant
lights everywhere ... any other, ordinary year.

This year, Londoners had to find their way as best they could through
the gloom.

Across a wide Square with a railed and shrubberied garden in the centre
of it, there picked her way a very tall girl in furs that clung about
her as bushy ivy hangs about some slender tree. She wore a dark velvet
coat broadly belted over her strait hips, and upon her impish head there
was perched one of the little, back velvet, half-military caps that were
still the mode. This girl peered up at the numbers of the great houses
at the side of the Square; finally, seeing the gilt-lettered inscription
that she sought above one of the doors,

                    "ANNEXE TO THE CONVALESCENT HOME
                         FOR WOUNDED OFFICERS,"

she rang the bell.

The door was opened to her by a small trim damsel in the garb of the
Girl-Guides, who ushered her into a large and ornate hall, and into the
presence of a fresh-coloured, fair-haired Personage--she was evidently
no less--in nurse's uniform.

This Personage gazed upon the visitor with a suspicious and disapproving
look.

"I wonder why? It isn't because I'm not blamelessly tidy for once in my
life, and she can't guess that the furs and the brown velvet suit are
cast-offs from the opulent," thought the visitor swiftly. Aloud she
added in her clear, nonchalant tone: "I have come to see Mr. Scott,
please."

"There is the visiting-hour. It is not quite three yet," said the nurse
forbiddingly.

"I'll wait, then," said the visitor. For two minutes she waited. Then
the nurse approached her with a note-book and a pencil.

"Will you write your name down here?" she said austerely. And upon a
page inscribed "_Mr. M. Scott_" the visitor wrote her name, "Miss Leslie
Long."

"Will you come up?" the nurse said reluctantly. And Leslie ascended a
broad red-carpeted stairway, and was shown into a great room of parquet
floors and long windows and painted panels that had been a drawing-room,
and that was now turned by a row of small beds on great castors and by
several screens into a hospital-ward.

A blonde youth in a pink pyjama jacket, and with his arm in a black
silken sling, was sitting up in bed and chatting to a white-moustached
gentleman beside him; another of the wounded was sitting by one of the
great fire-places, reading; a couple were playing picquet in a corner,
under a smiling Academy portrait of the mistress of the mansion.

"Mr. Scott is sitting up to-day, in the ante-room," vouchsafed the
nurse. And Leslie Long entered, through a connecting door, a small room
to the right.

One wall of it was hung with a drapery of ancient brown tapestry,
showing giant figures amidst giant foliage; beneath it was a low couch.
Upon this, covered with a black, panther-skin rug, there lay, half
sitting up, supported on his elbow, the young wounded officer whom
Leslie had come to see.

"Frightfully good of you, this," he said cheerfully, as she appeared.

She looked down at him.

For the moment she could not speak. She set down on his couch the sheaf
of golden chrysanthemums that she had brought, and the copy of the
_Natal Newsletter_ that she had thought might cheer him. She found
herself about to say a very foolish thing: "So they left you your
handsome eyes, Monty."

The face in which those eyes shone now was thin and drawn; and it seemed
as if all the blood had been drained from it. His crutches stood in the
corner at the foot of the couch. He was Monty Scott, the Dean's son,
once a medical student and would-be sculptor. Yes; he had been a
dilettante artist once, but he looked a thorough soldier now. The small
moustache and the close-cropped hair suited him well. He had enlisted in
the Halberdiers at the beginning of the War. He had got his commission
and had lost his leg at Ypres.

Not again would he wear that Black Panther get-up to any fancy-dress
dance.... Never again.

This was the thought, trivial and irrelevant enough, that flashed
through Leslie's mind, bringing with it a rush of tears that she had to
bite her lips to check. She had to clench her nails into her palms, to
open her black eyes widely and smilingly, and to speak in the clearest
and most flippant tone that she could summon.

"Hullo, Monty! Nice to see you again; now that I _can_ see you. You
wounded warriors _are_ guarded by a dragon!--thanks, I'll sit down
here." She turned the low chair by the couch with its back to the light.
"Yes, I could hardly get your Ministering-Angel-Thou to let me through.
Glared at me as if she thought I was after the spoons. (I suppose that's
exactly what some of them _are_ after," suggested Miss Long, laughing
quite naturally.) "She evidently took me for just another predatory
feline come to send the patient's temperature soaring upwards. It's not
often I'm crushed, but----"

"Oh, Nurse Elsa is all right," said the patient, laughing too. "You
know, I think she feels bound to be careful about new people. She seems
to have a mania for imagining that everybody fresh may be a German spy!"

"A _German_? Why should she think that?"

"Oh, possibly because--well----" Young Scott lowered his voice and
glanced towards that connecting door. But it had been shut. "Because she
happens to be 'naturalised' herself, you know!"

They talked; Leslie ever more lightly as she was more deeply touched by
the sight of the young man on his couch. So helpless, he who had been so
full of movement and fitness and supple youth! So pluckily, resolutely
gay, he who had been so early put out of the fun!

Lightly he told Leslie the bare details of his wound. It had been in a
field of beet that he had been pipped; when he had been seeing to some
barbed wire with a sergeant and a couple of his men, at nightfall. One
of those snipers had got him.

"And I was downed in a second," he said ruefully. "_I_ couldn't get the
beggar!"

Leslie thought of the young, mortally-wounded Mercutio and his impatient
cry of "_What! Is he gone, and hath nothing?_" It was the only complaint
at his lot that was ever to pass the lips of this other fighter.

She looked at him, and her heart swelled with pride for him. It sank
with shame for herself. She had always held him--well, not as lightly as
she said she had. There had been always the sneaking tenderness for the
tall, infatuated boy whom she'd laughed at. But why "sneaking"? Why had
she laughed? She had thought him so much less than herself. She said she
knew so much more. What vanity and crass, superficial folly! A new
thrill took her suddenly. Could it be that War, that had cut everybody's
life in two, had worked another wonder?

Presently he remarked, "I say, your friends, the poor Dampiers! I
suppose nothing's ever been heard of them, after that day that they
found out at the Works that his wife had started with him, when he set
off for France, and disappeared?"

"Nothing," said Leslie quietly, "Whether it was an accident with his new
engine, or whether they were killed by a shot from a German aeroplane
they met, we shan't ever know now. It must have been over the sea....
Nothing has ever been found. Much the best way, I think. I said so to
poor young Mr. Ryan, the man who let her take his place. He was beside
himself when he turned up at the Aircraft place again and found that
nothing had been heard. He said he'd killed her. I told him she would
think he'd done more for her than anybody she knew. The best time to go
out! No growing old and growing dull and perhaps growing ill and being
kept half alive by bothering doctors, for years.... No growing out of
love with each other, ever! They, at least, have had something that
nothing can spoil."

Monty Scott, turning his small, close-cropped head of a soldier and his
white face towards the tapestry, blurted out: "Well! At all events
they've _had_ it. But even having it 'spoilt' is better than never
having had any----"

He checked himself abruptly.

He was not going to whine now over his own ill-luck in love to her, to
Leslie, who had turned him down three times. Not much.

In the suddenly tense atmosphere of the little room overlooking the
wide, dim Square, the girl felt the young man's resolution--a
resolution that he would keep. He would never ask her for another
favour.

He cleared his throat and spoke in an altered tone, casual,
matter-of-fact.

"Awfully pretty, the little girl that Dampier married, wasn't she?
Usen't she to live at that Club of yours? I think I saw her once,
somewhere or other----"

"Yes. You did," said Leslie quickly, and a little breathlessly as though
she, too, had just taken a resolution. "At that dance. That river dance.
She was the Cherub-girl. And I wore my mauve Nijinski things. You
remember that time, Monty?"

"Oh, yes," said the wounded man shortly, "I remember."

There was a slight, uneasy movement under the panther-skin rug.

He hadn't thought that Leslie would have reminded him of those times.
Not of that dance, when, with his hands on her hips and her hands
clasped at the back of his neck, he had swung round with her in the
maddest of waltzes.... He wouldn't have expected her to _remind_ him!

Nor was he expecting the next thing that Leslie did. She slipped from
that low chair on to her knees by the couch. Her furs touched his hand,
delicate and whiter now than a woman's, and he took it quickly away. He
could not look at the vivid, impish face with the black, mocking eyes
and the red, mocking mouth that had always bewitched him. Had he looked,
he would have seen that the mockery was gone from both. It was gone,
too, from Leslie's voice when she next spoke, close to him.

"Monty! At that dance---- Have you forgotten? We were walking by the
river--and you said--you asked----"

"Yes, yes; all right. Please don't mind," muttered the man who had been
the Black Panther hastily. It was pretty awful, having girls _sorry_ for
one!

She went on kneeling by him. "I told you that I wasn't in the mood!"

"Yes; but--I say, it doesn't matter one scrap, thanks," declared Monty
Scott, very hoarsely.

This was the hardest thing he'd ever yet had to bear; harder than lying
out wounded in that wet beetroot-field for nine hours before he could be
picked up; harder than the pain, the agonising, jolting journeys; harder
even than the sleepless nights when he had tossed and turned on his bed,
next to the bed where a delirious man who had won the D.S.O. cried out
in his nightmare unceasingly: "Stick it, boys! Stick it, boys! Stick it,
boys!" He (Monty) didn't think he could stick this. There could never be
any one in the world but Leslie for him, that laughing, devil-may-care
Leslie at whom "nice" girls looked askance. Leslie who didn't care.
Leslie who _pitied_ him! Ghastly! Desperately he wished she'd get up and
go--_go_----

Suddenly her voice sounded in his ear. Far from being pitying it was so
petulant as to convince even him. It cried: "Monty! I said then that
you were an infant-in-arms! If you weren't an infant you could _see_!"

He turned his head quickly on the couch-cushion. But even then he didn't
really see. Even then he scarcely took in, for the moment, what he
heard.

For the kneeling, radiant girl had to go on, laughing shakily: "I always
liked you.... After everything I said! After everything I've thought, it
comes round to this. _It's better to have loved and settled down than
never to have loved at all.... Oh!_ I've got my head into as bright a
rainbow as any of them!..." scolded Leslie, laughing again as
flutteringly as Paul Ðampier's sweetheart might have done. "Oh, I
thought that just because one liked a man in the kind of way I liked
you, it was no reason to accept him ... _fool_ that I was----"

"Leslie!" he cried very sharply, scarcely believing his ears. "Could you
have?--_could_ you? And you tell me _now_! When it's too late----"

"Too _late_? _Won't_ you have me? Can't you see that I think you so much
more of a man when you're getting about as well as you can on one leg
than I did when you were just dancing and fooling about on two? As for
me----"

She turned her bright face away.

"It's the same old miracle that never stops happening. I shan't even be
a woman, ever," faltered Leslie Long, "unless you help to make me one!"

"You can't mean it? You can't----"

"Can't I? I am 'in the mood' _now_, Monty!" she said, very softly.
"Believe me!"

And her long arm was flung, gently and carefully, about her soldier's
neck; her lips were close to his.

       *       *       *       *       *

When at last she left her lover, Leslie Long walked down the darkened
streets near Victoria, quietly and meditatively. And her thoughts were
only partly with the man whom she had left so happy. Partly they were
claimed by the girl-friend whose marriage morning wish had been for her,
Leslie, to be happy in the same way.

It seemed to Leslie that she was very near her now.

Even as she walked along the tall girl was conscious, in a way not to be
described, of a Presence that seemed to follow her and to beset her and
to surround her with a sense of loving, laughing, girlish pleasure and
fellowship. She saw, _without seeing_, the small, eager, tip-tilted face
with bright eyes of river-green and brown, crowned by the wreath of
short, thick curls. _Without hearing_, she caught the tone of the soft,
un-English, delighted voice that cried, "Oh, _Les_--lie----!"


"Little Taffy! She'd be so full of it, of course.... Of _course_ she'd
be glad! Of _course_ she'd know; I can't think she doesn't. Not she, who
was so much in love herself," mused Leslie, putting up her hand with her
characteristic gesture to tuck in the stray tress of black hair that had
come loose under her trim velvet cap.

"And the people we've loved can't forget at once, as soon as they've
left us. I don't believe that. _She knows._ If _I_ could only say
something--send some sort of message! Even if it were only like waving a
hand! If _I_ could make some sign that I shall always care----"

As she thought of it she was passing a row of shops. The subdued light
from one of them fell upon swinging garlands of greenery festooned
outside; decorations ready for Christmas.

On an impulse Leslie Long turned into this florist's shop. "I want one
of those wreaths you have, please," she said.

"Yes, Madam; a holly-wreath?"

"No. One of those. Laurel."

And while the man fetched down the wreath of broad, dark, pointed
leaves, Leslie Long took out one of her cards and a pencil, and
scribbled the message that she presently fastened to the wreath. She
would not have it wrapped up in paper, but carried it as it was. Then
she turned down a side-street to the Embankment, near Vauxhall Bridge.
She leaned over the parapet and saw the black, full tide, here and there
only jewelled with lights, flowing on, on, past the spanning bridges and
the town, away to the sea that had been at last the great, silver,
restless resting-place for such young and ardent hearts....

There was a soft splash as she flung the laurel wreath into the flowing
water.

Leslie glanced over and watched it carried swiftly past. In a patch of
light she saw the tiny white gleam of the card that was tied to the
leaves of victory.

This was what she had written upon it:

            "For Gwenna and Paul.

  '_Envy, ah, even to tears!
    The fortune of their years,
  Which, though so few, yet so divinely ended._'"


THE END


       *       *       *       *       *



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  =Abner Daniel.= By Will N. Harben.
  =Adventures of Gerard.= By A. Conan Doyle.
  =Adventures of a Modest Man.= By Robert W. Chambers.
  =Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.= By A. Conan Doyle.
  =Adventures of Jimmie Dale, The.= By Frank L. Packard.
  =After House, The.= By Mary Roberts Rinehart.
  =Alisa Paige.= By Robert W. Chambers.
  =Alton of Somasco.= By Harold Bindloss.
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  =Amateur Gentleman, The.= By Jeffery Farnol.
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  =Anna the Adventuress.= By E. Phillips Oppenheim.
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  =Ben Blair.= By Will Lillibridge.
  =Betrayal, The.= By E. Phillips Oppenheim.
  =Better Man, The.= By Cyrus Townsend Brady.
  =Beulah.= (Ill. Ed.) By Augusta J. Evans.
  =Beyond the Frontier.= By Randall Parrish.
  =Black Is White.= By George Barr McCutcheon.
  =Blind Man's Eyes, The.= By Wm. MacHarg & Edwin Balmer.
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  =Britton of the Seventh.= By Cyrus Townsend Brady.
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  =Buck Peters, Ranchman.= By Clarence E. Mulford.
  =Business of Life, The.= By Robert W. Chambers.
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  =Cape Cod Stories.= By Joseph C. Lincoln.
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  =Chain of Evidence, A.= By Carolyn Wells.
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  =Felix O'Day.= By F. Hopkinson Smith.
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  =Girl Who Won, The.= By Beth Ellis.
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  =Glory of the Conquered, The.= By Susan Glaspell.
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  =Hidden Children, The.= By Robert W. Chambers.
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  =Hopalong Cassidy.= By Clarence E. Mulford.
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TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:


1. Passages in italics are surrounded by _underscores_ and the ones in
bold are indicated by =bold=.

2. Obvious punctuation errors have been silently closed, while those
requiring interpretation have been left as such.

3. The word manoeuvres uses an oe ligature in the original.

4. The following misprints have been corrected:
    "kimona" corrected to "kimono" (page 21)
    "beseiged" corrected to "besieged" (page 62)
    "Esctasy" corrected to "Ecstasy" (page 242)
    "ass" corrected to "as" (page 277)
    "husabnd" corrected to "husband" (page 353)

5. Other than the corrections listed above, printer's inconsistencies in
spelling, hyphenation, and ligature usage have been retained.





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