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Title: Tatterdemalion
Author: Galsworthy, John, 1867-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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"Gentillesse cometh fro' God allone."

New York
Charles Scribner's Sons

Copyright, 1917, 1918, 1920, by
Charles Scribner's Sons

Copyright, 1915, 1916, by The Ridgway Company
Copyright, 1919, by The New Republic Publishing Co., Inc.
Copyright, 1914, 1916, 1919, by The Atlantic Monthly Co.


       *       *       *       *       *


VILLA RUBEIN, and Other Stories

THE LITTLE MAN, and Other Satires

_and Separately_


_and Separately_


_and Separately_



MEMORIES. Illustrated

       *       *       *       *       *




       I. THE GREY ANGEL                             3

      II. DEFEAT                                    27

     III. FLOTSAM AND JETSAM                        51

      IV. THE BRIGHT SIDE                           75

       V. "CAFARD"                                 105

      VI. RECORDED                                 117

     VII. THE RECRUIT                              125

    VIII. THE PEACE MEETING                        137

      IX. "THE DOG IT WAS THAT DIED"               147

       X. IN HEAVEN AND EARTH                      169

      XI. THE MOTHER STONE                         173

     XII. POIROT AND BIDAN                         179

    XIII. THE MUFFLED SHIP                         187

     XIV. HERITAGE                                 191

      XV. 'A GREEN HILL FAR AWAY'                  199


       I. SPINDLEBERRIES                           209

      II. EXPECTATIONS                             227

     III. MANNA                                    239

      IV. A STRANGE THING                          255

       V. TWO LOOKS                                271

      VI. FAIRYLAND                                279

     VII. THE NIGHTMARE CHILD                      283

    VIII. BUTTERCUP-NIGHT                          295






Her predilection for things French came from childish recollections of
school-days in Paris, and a hasty removal thence by her father during
the revolution of '48, of later travels as a little maiden, by
diligence, to Pau and the then undiscovered Pyrenees, to a Montpellier
and a Nice as yet unspoiled. Unto her seventy-eighth year, her French
accent had remained unruffled, her soul in love with French gloves and
dresses; and her face had the pale, unwrinkled, slightly aquiline
perfection of the 'French marquise' type--it may, perhaps, be doubted
whether any French marquise ever looked the part so perfectly.

How it came about that she had settled down in a southern French town,
in the summer of 1914, only her roving spirit knew. She had been a widow
ten years, which she had passed in the quest of perfection; all her life
she had been haunted by that instinct, half-smothered in ministering to
her husband, children, and establishments in London and the country.
Now, in loneliness, the intrinsic independence of her soul was able to
assert itself, and from hotel to hotel she had wandered in England,
Wales, Switzerland, France, till now she had found what seemingly
arrested her. Was it the age of that oldest of Western cities, that
little mother of Western civilisation, which captured her fancy? Or did
a curious perversity turn her from more obvious abodes, or was she kept
there by the charm of a certain church which she would enter every day
to steep herself in mellow darkness, the scent of incense, the drone of
incantations, and quiet communion with a God higher indeed than she had
been brought up to, high-church though she had always been? She had a
pretty little apartment, where for very little--the bulk of her small
wealth was habitually at the service of others--she could manage with
one maid and no "fuss." She had some "nice" French friends there, too.
But more probably it was simply the war which kept her there, waiting,
like so many other people, for it to be over before it seemed worth
while to move and re-establish herself. The immensity and wickedness of
this strange event held her, as it were, suspended, body and spirit,
high up on the hill which had seen the ancient peoples, the Romans,
Gauls, Saracens, and all, and still looked out towards the flat
Camargue. Here in her three rooms, with a little kitchen, the maid
Augustine, a parrot, and the Paris _Daily Mail_, she dwelt as it were
marooned by a world event which seemed to stun her. Not that she
worried, exactly. The notion of defeat or of real danger to her country
and to France never entered her head. She only grieved quietly over the
dreadful things that were being done, and every now and then would glow
with admiration at the beautiful way the King and Queen were behaving.
It was no good to "fuss," and one must make the best of things, just as
the "dear little Queen" was doing; for each Queen in turn, and she had
seen three reign in her time, was always that to her. Her ancestors had
been uprooted from their lands, their house burned, and her pedigree
diverted, in the Stuart wars--a reverence for royalty was fastened in
her blood.

Quite early in the business she had begun to knit, moving her slim
fingers not too fast, gazing at the grey wool through glasses, specially
rimless and invisible, perched on the bridge of her firm, well-shaped
nose, and now and then speaking to her parrot. The bird could say,
"Scratch a poll, Poll," already, and "Hullo!" those keys to the English
language. The maid Augustine, having completed some small duty, would
often come and stand, her head on one side, gazing down with a sort of
inquiring compassion in her wise, young, clear-brown eyes. It seemed to
her who was straight and sturdy as a young tree both wonderful and sad
that _Madame_ should be seventy-seven, and so frail--_Madame_ who had no
lines in her face and such beautiful grey hair; who had so strong a
will-power, too, and knitted such soft comforters "_pour nos braves
chers poilus_." And suddenly she would say: "_Madame n'est pas
fatiguée?_" And _Madame_ would answer: "No. Speak English,
Augustine--Polly will pick up your French! Come here!" And, reaching up
a pale hand, she would set straight a stray fluff of the girl's
dark-brown hair or improve the set of her fichu.

Those two got on extremely well, for though madame was--oh! but very
particular, she was always "_très gentille et toujours grande dame_."
And that love of form so deep in the French soul promoted the girl's
admiration for one whom she could see would in no circumstances lose her
dignity. Besides, _Madame_ was full of dainty household devices, and
could not bear waste; and these, though exacting, were qualities which
appealed to Augustine. With her French passion for "the family" she used
to wonder how in days like these _Madame_ could endure to be far away
from her son and daughter and the grandchildren, whose photographs hung
on the walls; and the long letters her mistress was always writing in a
beautiful, fine hand, beginning, "My darling Sybil," "My darling
Reggie," and ending always "Your devoted mother," seemed to a warm and
simple heart but meagre substitutes for flesh-and-blood realities. But
as _Madame_ would inform her--they were too busy doing things for the
dear soldiers, and working for the war; they could not come to her--that
would never do. And to go to them would give so much trouble, when the
railways were so wanted for the troops; and she had their lovely
letters, which she kept--as Augustine observed--every one in a
lavender-scented sachet, and frequently took out to read. Another point
of sympathy between those two was their passion for military music and
seeing soldiers pass. Augustine's brother and father were at the front,
and _Madame's_ dead brother had been a soldier in the Crimean war--"long
before you were born, Augustine, when the French and English fought the
Russians; I was in France then, too, a little girl, and we lived at
Nice; it was so lovely, you can't think--the flowers! And my poor
brother was so cold in the siege of Sebastopol." Somehow, that time and
that war were more real to her than this.

In December, when the hospitals were already full, her French friends
first took her to the one which they attended. She went in, her face
very calm, with that curious inward composure which never deserted it,
carrying in front of her with both hands a black silk bag, wherein she
had concealed an astonishing collection of treasures for the poor men! A
bottle of acidulated drops, packets of cigarettes, two of her own
mufflers, a pocket set of drafts, some English riddles translated by
herself into French (very curious), some ancient copies of an
illustrated paper, boxes of chocolate, a ball of string to make "cat's
cradles" (such an amusing game), her own packs of Patience cards, some
photograph frames, post-cards of Arles, and--most singular--a
kettle-holder. At the head of each bed she would sit down and rummage in
the bag, speaking in her slow but quite good French, to explain the use
of the acidulated drops, or to give a lesson in cat's cradles. And the
_poilus_ would listen with their polite, ironic patience, and be left
smiling, and curiously fascinated, as if they had been visited by a
creature from another world. She would move on to other beds, quite
unconscious of the effect she had produced on them and of their remarks:
"_Cette vieille dame, comme elle est bonne!_" or "_Espèce d'ange aux
cheveux gris._" "_L'ange anglaise aux cheveux gris_" became in fact her
name within those walls. And the habit of filling that black silk bag
and going there to distribute its contents soon grew to be with her a
ruling passion which neither weather nor her own aches and pains, not
inconsiderable, must interfere with. The things she brought became more
marvellous every week. But, however much she carried coals to Newcastle,
or tobacco pouches to those who did not smoke, or homoeopathic
globules to such as crunched up the whole bottleful for the sake of the
sugar, as soon as her back was turned, no one ever smiled now with
anything but real pleasure at sight of her calm and truly sweet smile,
and the scent of soap on her pale hands. "_Cher fils, je croyais que
ceci vous donnerait un peu de plaisir. Voyez-vous comme c'est commode,
n'est ce pas?_" Each newcomer to the wards was warned by his comrades
that the English angel with the grey hair was to be taken without a
smile, exactly as if she were his grandmother.

In the walk to the hospital Augustine would accompany her, carrying the
bag and perhaps a large peasant's umbrella to cover them both, for the
winter was hard and snowy, and carriages cost money, which must now be
kept entirely for the almost daily replenishment of the bag and other
calls of war. The girl, to her chagrin, was always left in a safe place,
for it would never do to take her in and put fancies into her head, and
perhaps excite the dear soldiers with a view of anything so taking. And
when the visit was over they would set forth home, walking very slowly
in the high, narrow streets, Augustine pouting a little and shooting
swift glances at anything in uniform, and _Madame_ making firm her lips
against a fatigue which sometimes almost overcame her before she could
get home and up the stairs. And the parrot would greet them indiscreetly
with new phrases--"Keep smiling!" and "Kiss Augustine!" which he
sometimes varied with "Kiss a poll, Poll!" or "Scratch Augustine!" to
_Madame's_ regret. Tea would revive her somewhat, and then she would
knit, for as time went on and the war seemed to get farther and farther
from that end which, in common with so many, she had expected before
now, it seemed dreadful not to be always doing something to help the
poor dear soldiers; and for dinner, to Augustine's horror, she now had
nothing but a little soup, or an egg beaten up with milk and brandy. It
saved such a lot of time and expense--she was sure people ate too much;
and afterwards she would read the _Daily Mail_, often putting it down to
sigh, and press her lips together, and think, "One must look on the
bright side of things," and wonder a little where it was. And
Augustine, finishing her work in the tiny kitchen, would sigh too, and
think of red trousers and peaked caps, not yet out of date in that
Southern region, and of her own heart saying "Kiss Augustine!" and she
would peer out between the shutters at the stars sparkling over the
Camargue, or look down where the ground fell away beyond an old, old
wall, and nobody walked in the winter night, and muse on her nineteenth
birthday coming, and sigh with the thought that she would be old before
any one had loved her; and of how _Madame_ was looking "_très

Indeed, Madame was not merely _looking "très fatiguée"_ in these days.
The world's vitality and her own were at sad January ebb. But to think
of oneself was quite impossible, of course; it would be all right
presently, and one must not fuss, or mention in one's letters to the
dear children that one felt at all poorly. As for a doctor--that would
be sinful waste, and besides, what use were they except to tell you what
you knew? So she was terribly vexed when Augustine found her in a faint
one morning, and she found Augustine in tears, with her hair all over
her face. She rated the girl soundly, but feebly, for making such a fuss
over "a little thing like that," and with extremely trembling fingers
pushed the brown hair back and told her to wash her face, while the
parrot said reflectively: "Scratch a poll--Hullo!" The girl who had seen
her own grandmother die not long before, and remembered how "_fatiguée_"
she had been during her last days, was really frightened. Coming back
after she had washed her face, she found her mistress writing on a
number of little envelopes the same words: "_En bonne Amitié._" She
looked up at the girl standing so ominously idle, and said:

"Take this hundred-franc note, Augustine, and go and get it changed into
single francs--the ironmonger will do it if you say it's for me. I am
going to take a rest. I sha'n't buy anything for the bag for a whole
week. I shall just take francs instead."

"Oh, _Madame!_ You must not go out: _vous êtes trop fatiguée_."

"Nonsense! How do you suppose our dear little Queen in England would get
on with all she has to do, if she were to give in like that? We must
none of us give up in these days. Help me to put on my things; I am
going to church, and then I shall take a long rest before we go to the

"Oh, _Madame!_ Must you go to church? It is not your kind of church. You
do not pray there, do you?"

"Of course I pray there. I am very fond of the dear old church. God is
in every church, Augustine; you ought to know that at your age."

"But _Madame_ has her own religion?"

"Now, don't be silly. What does that matter? Help me into my cloth
coat--not the fur--it's too heavy--and then go and get that money

"But _Madame_ should see a doctor. If _Madame_ faints again I shall die
with fright. _Madame_ has no colour--but no colour at all; it must be
that there is something wrong."

_Madame_ rose, and taking the girl's ear between thumb and finger
pinched it gently.

"You are a very silly girl. What would our poor soldiers do if all the
nurses were like you?"

Reaching the church she sat down gladly, turning her face up towards her
favourite picture, a Virgin standing with her Baby in her arms. It was
only faintly coloured now; but there were those who said that an
Arlésienne must have sat for it. Why it pleased her so she never quite
knew, unless it were by its cool, unrestored devotion, by the faint
smiling in the eyes. Religion with her was a strange yet very real
thing. Conscious that she was not clever, she never even began to try
and understand what she believed. Probably she believed nothing more
than that if she tried to be good she would go to God--whatever and
wherever God might be--some day when she was too tired to live any more;
and rarely indeed did she forget to try to be good. As she sat there she
thought, or perhaps prayed, whichever it should be called: "Let me
forget that I have a body, and remember all the poor soldiers who have

It struck cold that morning in the church--the wind was bitter from the
northeast; some poor women in black were kneeling, and four candles
burned in the gloom of a side aisle--thin, steady little spires of gold.
There was no sound at all. A smile came on her lips. She was forgetting
that she had a body, and remembering all those young faces in the wards,
the faces too of her own children far away, the faces of all she loved.
They were real and she was not--she was nothing but the devotion she
felt for them; yes, for all the poor souls on land and sea, fighting and
working and dying. Her lips moved; she was saying below her breath, "I
love them all"; then, feeling a shiver run down her spine, she
compressed those lips and closed her eyes, letting her mind alone murmur
her chosen prayer: "O God, who makes the birds sing and the stars shine,
and gives us little children, strengthen my heart so that I may forget
my own aches and wants and think of those of other people."

On reaching home again she took gelseminum, her favourite remedy against
that shivering, which, however hard she tried to forget her own body,
would keep coming; then, covering herself with her fur coat, she lay
down, closing her eyes. She was seemingly asleep, so that Augustine,
returning with the hundred single francs, placed them noiselessly beside
the little pile of envelopes, and after looking at the white, motionless
face of her mistress and shaking her own bonny head, withdrew. When she
had gone, two tears came out of those closed eyes and clung on the pale
cheeks below. The seeming sleeper was thinking of her children, away
over there in England, her children and their children. Almost
unbearably she was longing for a sight of them, not seen for so long
now, recalling each face, each voice, each different way they had of
saying, "Mother darling," or "Granny, look what I've got!" and thinking
that if only the war would end how she would pack at once and go to
them, that is, if they would not come to her for a nice long holiday in
this beautiful place. She thought of spring, too, and how lovely it
would be to see the trees come out again, and almond blossom against a
blue sky. The war seemed so long, and winter too. But she must not
complain; others had much greater sorrows than she--the poor widowed
women kneeling in the church; the poor boys freezing in the trenches.
God in his great mercy could not allow it to last much longer. It would
not be like Him! Though she felt that it would be impossible to eat, she
meant to force herself to make a good lunch so as to be able to go down
as usual, and give her little presents. They would miss them so if she
didn't. Her eyes, opening, rested almost gloatingly on the piles of
francs and envelopes. And she began to think how she could reduce still
further her personal expenditure. It was so dreadful to spend anything
on oneself--an old woman like her. Doctor, indeed! If Augustine fussed
any more she would send her away and do for herself! And the parrot,
leaving his cage, which he could always do, perched just behind her and
said: "Hullo! Kiss me, too!"

That afternoon in the wards every one noticed what a beautiful colour
she had. "_L'ange anglaise aux cheveux gris_" had never been more
popular. One _poilu_, holding up his envelope, remarked to his
neighbour: "_Elle verse des gouttes d'ciel, notr' 'tite gran'mè_." To
them, grateful even for those mysterious joys "cat's cradles," francs
were the true drops from heaven.

She had not meant to give them all to-day, but it seemed dreadful, when
she saw how pleased they were, to leave any out, and so the whole
ninety-seven had their franc each. The three over would buy Augustine a
little brooch to make up to the silly child for her fright in the
morning. The buying of this brooch took a long time at the jeweller's in
the _rue des Romains_, and she had only just fixed on an amethyst before
feeling deadly ill with a dreadful pain through her lungs. She went out
with her tiny package quickly, not wanting any fuss, and began to mount
towards home. There were only three hundred yards to go, and with each
step she said to herself: "Nonsense! What would the Queen think of you!
Remember the poor soldiers with only one leg! You have got both your
legs! And the poor men who walk from the battlefield with bullets
through the lungs. What is your pain to theirs! Nonsense!" But the pain,
like none she had ever felt--a pain which seemed to have sharp double
edges like a knife--kept passing through and through her, till her legs
had no strength at all, and seemed to move simply because her will said:
"If you don't, I'll leave you behind. So there!" She felt as if
perspiration were flowing down, yet her face was as dry as a dead leaf
when she put up her hand to it. Her brain stammered; seemed to fly
loose; came to sudden standstills. Her eyes searched painfully each
grey-shuttered window for her own house, though she knew quite well
that she had not reached it yet. From sheer pain she stood still, a wry
little smile on her lips, thinking how poor Polly would say: "Keep
smiling!" Then she moved on, holding out her hand, whether because she
thought God would put his into it or only to pull on some imaginary rope
to help her. So, foot by foot, she crept till she reached her door. A
most peculiar floating sensation had come over her. The pain ceased, and
as if she had passed through no doors, mounted no stairs--she was up in
her room, lying on her sofa, with strange images about her, painfully
conscious that she was not in proper control of her thoughts, and that
Augustine must be thinking her ridiculous. Making a great effort, she

"I forbid you to send for a doctor, Augustine. I shall be all right in a
day or two, if I eat plenty of francs. And you must put on this little
brooch--I bought it for you from an angel in the street. Put my fur coat
on Polly--he's shivering; dry your mouth, there's a good girl. Tell my
son he mustn't think of leaving the poor War Office; I shall come and
see him after the war. It will be over to-morrow, and then we will all
go and have tea together in a wood. Granny will come to you, my

And when the terrified girl had rushed out she thought: "There, now
she's gone to get God; and I mustn't disturb Him with all He has to see
to. I shall get up and do for myself." When they came back with the
doctor they found her half-dressed, trying to feed a perch in the empty
cage with a spoon, and saying: "Kiss Granny, Polly. God is coming; kiss
Granny!" while the parrot sat away over on the mantelpiece, with his
head on one side, deeply interested.

When she had been properly undressed and made to lie down on the sofa,
for she insisted so that she would not go to bed that they dared not
oppose her, the doctor made his diagnosis. It was double pneumonia, of
that sudden sort which declares for life or death in forty-eight hours.
At her age a desperate case. Her children must be wired to at once. She
had sunk back, seemingly unconscious; and Augustine, approaching the
drawer where she knew the letters were kept, slipped out the lavender
sachet and gave it to the doctor. When he had left the room to extract
the addresses and send those telegrams, the girl sat down by the foot of
the couch, leaning her elbows on her knees and her face on her hands,
staring at that motionless form, while the tears streamed down her broad
cheeks. For many minutes neither of them stirred, and the only sound
was the restless stropping of the parrot's beak against a wire of his
cage. Then her mistress's lips moved, and the girl bent forward. A
whispering came forth, caught and suspended by breathless pausing:

"Mind, Augustine--no one is to tell my children--I can't have them
disturbed--over a little thing--like this--and in my purse you'll find
another--hundred-franc note. I shall want some more francs for the day
after to-morrow. Be a good girl and don't fuss, and kiss poor Polly, and
mind--I won't have a doctor--taking him away from his work. Give me my
gelseminum and my prayer-book. And go to bed just as usual--we must
all--keep smiling--like the dear soldiers--" The whispering ceased, then
began again at once in rapid delirious incoherence. And the girl sat
trembling, covering now her ears from those uncanny sounds, now her eyes
from the flush and the twitching of that face, usually so pale and
still. She could not follow--with her little English--the swerving,
intricate flights of that old spirit mazed by fever--the memories
released, the longings disclosed, the half-uttered prayers, the curious
little half-conscious efforts to regain form and dignity. She could only
pray to the Virgin. When relieved by the daughter of _Madame's_ French
friend, who spoke good English, she murmured desperately: "_Oh!
mademoiselle, madame est très fatiguée--la pauvre tête--faut-il enlever
les cheveux? Elle fait ça toujours pour elle-même._" For, to the girl,
with her reverence for the fastidious dignity which never left her
mistress, it seemed sacrilege to divest her of her crown of fine grey
hair. Yet, when it was done and the old face crowned only by the thin
white hair of nature, that dignity was still there surmounting the
wandering talk and the moaning from her parched lips, which every now
and then smiled and pouted in a kiss, as if remembering the maxims of
the parrot. So the night passed, with all that could be done for her,
whose most collected phrase, frequently uttered in the doctor's face,
was: "Mind, Augustine, I won't have a doctor--I can manage for myself
quite well." Once for a few minutes her spirit seemed to recover its
coherence, and she was heard to whisper: "God has given me this so that
I may know what the poor soldiers suffer. Oh! they've forgotten to cover
Polly's cage." But high fever soon passes from the very old; and early
morning brought a deathlike exhaustion, with utter silence, save for the
licking of the flames at the olive-wood logs, and the sound as they
slipped or settled down, calcined. The firelight crept fantastically
about the walls covered with tapestry of French-grey silk, crept round
the screen-head of the couch, and betrayed the ivory pallor of that
mask-like face, which covered now such tenuous threads of life.
Augustine, who had come on guard when the fever died away, sat in the
armchair before those flames, trying hard to watch, but dropping off
into the healthy sleep of youth. And out in the clear, hard shivering
Southern cold, the old clocks chimed the hours into the winter dark,
where, remote from man's restless spirit, the old town brooded above
plain and river under the morning stars. And the girl dreamed--dreamed
of a sweetheart under the acacias by her home, of his pinning their
white flowers into her hair, till she woke with a little laugh. Light
was already coming through the shutter chinks, the fire was but red
embers and white ash. She gathered it stealthily together, put on fresh
logs, and stole over to the couch. Oh! how white! how still! Was her
mistress dead? The icy clutch of that thought jerked her hands up to her
full breast, and a cry mounted in her throat. The eyes opened. The white
lips parted, as if to smile; a voice whispered: "Now, don't be silly!"
The girl's cry changed into a little sob, and bending down she put her
lips to the ringed hand that lay outside the quilt. The hand moved
faintly as if responding, the voice whispered: "The emerald ring is for
you, Augustine. Is it morning? Uncover Polly's cage, and open his door."

_Madame_ spoke no more that morning. A telegram had come. Her son and
daughter would arrive next morning early. They waited for a moment of
consciousness to tell her; but the day went by, and in spite of oxygen
and brandy it did not come. She was sinking fast; her only movements
were a tiny compression now and then of the lips, a half-opening of the
eyes, and once a smile when the parrot spoke. The rally came at eight
o'clock. _Mademoiselle_ was sitting by the couch when the voice came
fairly strong: "Give my love to my dear soldiers, and take them their
francs out of my purse, please. Augustine, take care of Polly. I want to
see if the emerald ring fits you. Take it off, please"; and, when it had
been put on the little finger of the sobbing girl: "There, you see, it
does. That's very nice. Your sweetheart will like that when you have
one. What do you say, _Mademoiselle_? My son and daughter coming? All
that way?" The lips smiled a moment, and then tears forced their way
into her eyes. "My darlings! How good of them! Oh! what a cold journey
they'll have! Get my room ready, Augustine, with a good fire! What are
you crying for? Remember what Polly says: 'Keep smiling!' Think how bad
it is for the poor soldiers if we women go crying! The Queen never
cries, and she has ever so much to make her!"

No one could tell whether she knew that she was dying, except perhaps
for those words, "Take care of Polly," and the gift of the ring.

She did not even seem anxious as to whether she would live to see her
children. Her smile moved _Mademoiselle_ to whisper to Augustine: "_Elle
a la sourire divine_."

"_Ah! mademoiselle, comme elle est brave, la pauvre dame! C'est qu'elle
pense toujours aux autres._" And the girl's tears dropped on the emerald

Night fell--the long night; would she wake again? Both watched with her,
ready at the faintest movement to administer oxygen and brandy. She was
still breathing, but very faintly, when at six o'clock they heard the
express come in, and presently the carriage stop before the house.
_Mademoiselle_ stole down to let them in.

Still in their travelling coats her son and daughter knelt down beside
the couch, watching in the dim candle-light for a sign and cherishing
her cold hands. Daylight came; they put the shutters back and blew out
the candles. Augustine, huddled in the far corner, cried gently to
herself. _Mademoiselle_ had withdrawn. But the two still knelt, tears
running down their cheeks. The face of their mother was so transparent,
so exhausted; the least little twitching of just-opened lips showed that
she breathed. A tiny sigh escaped; her eyelids fluttered. The son,
leaning forward, said:

"Sweetheart, we're here."

The eyes opened then; something more than a simple human spirit seemed
to look through--it gazed for a long, long minute; then the lips parted.
They bent to catch the sound.

"My darlings--don't cry; smile!" And the eyes closed again. On her face
a smile so touching that it rent the heart flickered and went out.
Breath had ceased to pass the faded lips.

In the long silence the French girl's helpless sobbing rose; the parrot
stirred uneasily in his still-covered cage. And the son and daughter
knelt, pressing their faces hard against the couch.



She had been standing there on the pavement a quarter of an hour or so
after her shilling's worth of concert. Women of her profession are not
supposed to have redeeming points, especially when--like May Belinski,
as she now preferred to dub herself--they are German; but this woman
certainly had music in her soul. She often gave herself these "music
baths" when the Promenade Concerts were on, and had just spent half her
total wealth in listening to some Mozart and a Beethoven symphony.

She was feeling almost elated, full of divine sound, and of the
wonderful summer moonlight which was filling the whole dark town. Women
"of a certain type" have, at all events, emotions--and what a comfort
that is, even to themselves! To stand just there had become rather a
habit of hers. One could seem to be waiting for somebody coming out of
the concert, not yet over--which, of course, was precisely what she
_was_ doing. One need not forever be stealthily glancing and perpetually
moving on in that peculiar way, which, while it satisfied the police
and Mrs. Grundy, must not quite deceive others as to her business in
life. She had only "been at it" long enough to have acquired a nervous
dread of almost everything--not long enough to have passed through that
dread to callousness. Some women take so much longer than others. And
even for a woman "of a certain type" her position was exceptionally
nerve-racking in war-time, going as she did by a false name. Indeed, in
all England there could hardly be a greater pariah than was this German
woman of the night.

She idled outside a book-shop humming a little, pretending to read the
titles of the books by moonlight, taking off and putting on one of her
stained yellow gloves. Now and again she would move up as far as the
posters outside the Hall, scrutinising them as if interested in the
future, then stroll back again. In her worn and discreet dark dress, and
her small hat, she had nothing about her to rouse suspicion, unless it
were the trail of violet powder she left on the moonlight.

For the moonlight this evening was almost solid, seeming with its cool
still vibration to replace the very air; in it the war-time precautions
against light seemed fantastic, like shading candles in a room still
full of daylight. What lights there were had the effect of strokes and
stipples of dim colour laid by a painter's brush on a background of
ghostly whitish blue. The dreamlike quality of the town was perhaps
enhanced for her eyes by the veil she was wearing--in daytime no longer
white. As the music died out of her, elation also ebbed. Somebody had
passed her, speaking German, and she was overwhelmed by a rush of
nostalgia. On this moonlight night by the banks of the Rhine--whence she
came--the orchards would be heavy with apples; there would be murmurs,
and sweet scents; the old castle would stand out clear, high over the
woods and the chalky-white river. There would be singing far away, and
the churning of a distant steamer's screw; and perhaps on the water a
log raft still drifting down in the blue light. There would be German
voices talking. And suddenly tears oozed up in her eyes, and crept down
through the powder on her cheeks. She raised her veil and dabbed at her
face with a little, not-too-clean handkerchief, screwed up in her
yellow-gloved hand. But the more she dabbed, the more those treacherous
tears ran. Then she became aware that a tall young man in khaki was also
standing before the shop-window, not looking at the titles of the books,
but eyeing her askance. His face was fresh and open, with a sort of
kindly eagerness in his blue eyes. Mechanically she drooped her wet
lashes, raised them obliquely, drooped them again, and uttered a little

This young man, Captain in a certain regiment, and discharged from
hospital at six o'clock that evening, had entered Queen's Hall at
half-past seven. Still rather brittle and sore from his wound, he had
treated himself to a seat in the Grand Circle, and there had sat, very
still and dreamy, the whole concert through. It had been like eating
after a long fast--something of the sensation Polar explorers must
experience when they return to their first full meal. For he was of the
New Army, and before the war had actually believed in music, art, and
all that sort of thing. With a month's leave before him, he could afford
to feel that life was extraordinarily joyful, his own experiences
particularly wonderful; and, coming out into the moonlight, he had taken
what can only be described as a great gulp of it, for he was a young man
with a sense of beauty. When one has been long in the trenches, lain out
wounded in a shell-hole twenty-four hours, and spent three months in
hospital, beauty has such an edge of novelty, such a sharp sweetness,
that it almost gives pain. And London at night is very beautiful. He
strolled slowly towards the Circus, still drawing the moonlight deep
into his lungs, his cap tilted up a little on his forehead in that
moment of unmilitary abandonment; and whether he stopped before the
book-shop window because the girl's figure was in some sort a part of
beauty, or because he saw that she was crying, he could not have made
clear to any one.

Then something--perhaps the scent of powder, perhaps the yellow glove,
or the oblique flutter of the eyelids--told him that he was making what
he would have called "a blooming error," unless he wished for company,
which had not been in his thoughts. But her sob affected him, and he

"What's the matter?"

Again her eyelids fluttered sideways, and she stammered:

"Not'ing. The beautiful evening--that's why!"

That a woman of what he now clearly saw to be "a certain type" should
perceive what he himself had just been perceiving, struck him forcibly,
and he said:

"Cheer up."

She looked up again swiftly: "Cheer up! You are not lonelee like me."

For one of that sort, she looked somehow honest; her tear-streaked face
was rather pretty, and he murmured:

"Well, let's walk a bit, and talk it over."

They turned the corner, and walked east, along streets empty, and
beautiful, with their dulled orange-glowing lamps, and here and there
the glint of some blue or violet light. He found it queer and rather
exciting--for an adventure of just this kind he had never had. And he
said doubtfully:

"How did you get into this? Isn't it an awfully hopeless sort of life?"

"Ye-es, it ees--" her voice had a queer soft emphasis. "You are
limping--haf you been wounded?"

"Just out of hospital to-day."

"The horrible war--all the misery is because of the war. When will it

He looked at her attentively, and said:

"I say--what nationality are you?"


"Really! I never met a Russian girl."

He was conscious that she looked at him, then very quickly down. And he
said suddenly:

"Is it as bad as they make out?"

She slipped her yellow-gloved hand through his arm.

"Not when I haf any one as nice as you; I never haf yet, though"; she
smiled--and her smile was like her speech, slow, confiding--"you stopped
because I was sad, others stop because I am gay. I am not fond of men
at all. When you know, you are not fond of them."

"Well! You hardly know them at their best, do you? You should see them
at the front. By George! they're simply splendid--officers and men,
every blessed soul. There's never been anything like it--just one long
bit of jolly fine self-sacrifice; it's perfectly amazing."

Turning her blue-grey eyes on him, she answered:

"I expect you are not the last at that. You see in them what you haf in
yourself, I think."

"Oh! not a bit--you're quite out. I assure you when we made the attack
where I got wounded, there wasn't a single man in my regiment who wasn't
an absolute hero. The way they went in--never thinking of themselves--it
was simply superb!"

Her teeth came down on her lower lip, and she answered in a queer voice:
"It is the same too perhaps with--the enemy."

"Oh yes, I know that."

"Ah! You are not a mean man. How I hate mean men!"

"Oh! they're not mean really--they simply don't understand."

"Oh! you are a baby--a good baby, aren't you?"

He did not quite like being called a baby, and frowned; but was at once
touched by the disconcertion in her powdered face. How quickly she was

She said clingingly:

"But I li-ike you for it. It is so good to find a ni-ice man."

This was worse, and he said abruptly:

"About being lonely? Haven't you any Russian friends?"

"Rooshian! No!" Then quickly added: "The town is so beeg! Haf you been
in the concert?"


"I, too--I love music."

"I suppose all Russians do."

She looked up at his face again, and seemed to struggle to keep silent;
then she said quietly:

"I go there always when I haf the money."

"What! Are you so on the rocks?"

"Well, I haf just one shilling now." And she laughed.

The sound of that little laugh upset him--she had a way of making him
feel sorry for her every time she spoke.

They had come by now to a narrow square, east of Gower Street.

"This is where I lif," she said. "Come in!"

He had one long moment of violent hesitation, then yielded to the soft
tugging of her hand, and followed. The passage-hall was dimly lighted,
and they went upstairs into a front room, where the curtains were drawn,
and the gas turned very low. Opposite the window were other curtains
dividing off the rest of the apartment. As soon as the door was shut she
put up her face and kissed him--evidently formula. What a room! Its
green and beetroot colouring and the prevalence of cheap plush
disagreeably affected him. Everything in it had that callous look of
rooms which seem to be saying to their occupants: "You're here to-day
and you'll be gone to-morrow." Everything except one little plant, in a
common pot, of maidenhair fern, fresh and green, looking as if it had
been watered within the hour; in this room it had just the same
unexpected touchingness that peeped out of the girl's matter-of-fact

Taking off her hat, she went towards the gas, but he said quickly:

"No, don't turn it up; let's have the window open, and the moonlight
in." He had a sudden dread of seeing anything plainly--it was stuffy,
too, and pulling the curtains apart, he threw up the window. The girl
had come obediently from the hearth, and sat down opposite him, leaning
her arm on the window-sill and her chin on her hand. The moonlight
caught her cheek where she had just renewed the powder, caught her fair
crinkly hair; it caught the plush of the furniture, and his own khaki,
giving them all a touch of unreality.

"What's your name?" he said.

"May. Well, I call myself that. It's no good askin' yours."

"You're a distrustful little party, aren't you?"

"I haf reason to be, don't you think?"

"Yes, I suppose you're bound to think us all brutes?"

"Well, I haf a lot of reasons to be afraid all my time. I am dreadfully
nervous now; I am not trusting anybody. I suppose you haf been killing
lots of Germans?"

He laughed.

"We never know, unless it happens to be hand to hand; I haven't come in
for that yet."

"But you would be very glad if you had killed some?"

"Glad? I don't think so. We're all in the same boat, so far as that's
concerned. We're not glad to kill each other. We do our job--that's

"Oh! it is frightful. I expect I haf my broders killed."

"Don't you get any news ever?"

"News! No indeed, no news of anybody in my country. I might not haf a
country; all that I ever knew is gone--fader, moder, sisters, broders,
all--never any more I shall see them, I suppose, now. The war it breaks
and breaks, it breaks hearts." Her little teeth fastened again on her
lower lip in that sort of pretty snarl. "Do you know what I was thinkin'
when you came up? I was thinkin' of my native town, and the river there
in the moonlight. If I could see it again, I would be glad. Were you
ever homeseeck?"

"Yes, I have been--in the trenches; but one's ashamed, with all the

"Ah! ye-es!" It came from her with a hiss. "Ye-es! You are all comrades
there. What is it like for me here, do you think, where everybody hates
and despises me, and would catch me, and put me in prison, perhaps?"

He could see her breast heaving with a quick breathing painful to listen
to. He leaned forward, patting her knee, and murmuring: "Sorry--sorry."

She said in a smothered voice:

"You are the first who has been kind to me for so long! I will tell you
the truth--I am not Rooshian at all--I am German."

Hearing that half-choked confession, his thought was: "Does she really
think we fight against women?" And he said:

"My dear girl, who cares?"

Her eyes seemed to search right into him. She said slowly:

"Another man said that to me. But he was thinkin' of other things. You
are a veree ni-ice boy. I am so glad I met you. You see the good in
people, don't you? That is the first thing in the world--because there
is really not much good in people, you know."

He said, smiling:

"You're a dreadful little cynic!" Then thought: "Of course she is--poor

"Cyneec? How long do you think I would live if I was not a cyneec? I
should drown myself to-morrow. Perhaps there are good people, but, you
see, I don't know them."

"I know lots."

She leaned forward eagerly.

"Well now--see, ni-ice boy--you haf never been in a hole, haf you?"

"I suppose not a real hole."

"No, I should think not, with your face. Well, suppose I am still a good
girl, as I was once, you know, and you took me to some of your good
people, and said: 'Here is a little German girl that has no work, and no
money, and no friends.' Your good people they will say: 'Oh! how sad! A
German girl!' and they will go and wash their hands."

Silence fell on him. He saw his mother, his sisters, others--good
people, he would swear! And yet--! He heard their voices, frank and
clear; and they seemed to be talking of the Germans. If only she were
not German!

"You see!" he heard her say, and could only mutter:

"I'm sure there _are_ people."

"No. They would not take a German, even if she was good. Besides, I
don't want to be good any more--I am not a humbug--I have learned to be
bad. Aren't you going to kees me, ni-ice boy?"

She put her face close to his. Her eyes troubled him, but he drew back.
He thought she would be offended or persistent, but she was neither;
just looked at him fixedly with a curious inquiring stare; and he leaned
against the window, deeply disturbed. It was as if all clear and simple
enthusiasm had been suddenly knocked endways; as if a certain splendour
of life that he had felt and seen of late had been dipped in cloud. Out
there at the front, over here in hospital, life had been seeming so--as
it were--heroic; and yet it held such mean and murky depths as well! The
voices of his men, whom he had come to love like brothers, crude burring
voices, cheery in trouble, making nothing of it; the voices of doctors
and nurses, patient, quiet, reassuring voices; even his own voice,
infected by it all, kept sounding in his ears. All wonderful somehow,
and simple; and nothing mean about it anywhere! And now so suddenly to
have lighted upon this, and all that was behind it--this scared girl,
this base, dark, thoughtless use of her! And the thought came to him: "I
suppose my fellows wouldn't think twice about taking her on! Why! I'm
not even certain of myself, if she insists!" And he turned his face, and
stared out at the moonlight. He heard her voice:

"Eesn't it light? No air raid to-night. When the Zepps burned--what a
horrible death! And all the people cheered--it is natural. Do you hate
us veree much?"

He turned round and said sharply:

"Hate? I don't know."

"I don't hate even the English--I despise them. I despise my people
too--perhaps more, because they began this war. Oh, yes! I know that. I
despise all the peoples. Why haf they made the world so miserable--why
haf they killed all our lives--hundreds and thousands and millions of
lives--all for not'ing? They haf made a bad world--everybody hating, and
looking for the worst everywhere. They haf made me bad, I know. I
believe no more in anything. What is there to believe in? Is there a
God? No! Once I was teaching little English children their
prayers--isn't that funnee? I was reading to them about Christ and love.
I believed all those things. Now I believe not'ing at all--no one who is
not a fool or a liar can believe. I would like to work in a hospital; I
would like to go and help poor boys like you. Because I am a German they
would throw me out a hundred times, even if I was good. It is the same
in Germany and France and Russia, everywhere. But do you think I will
believe in love and Christ and a God and all that?--not I! I think we
are animals--that's all! Oh! yes--you fancy it is because my life has
spoiled me. It is not that at all--that's not the worst thing in life.
Those men are not ni-ice, like you, but it's their nature, and," she
laughed, "they help me to live, which is something for me anyway. No, it
is the men who think themselves great and good, and make the war with
their talk and their hate, killing us all--killing all the boys like
you, and keeping poor people in prison, and telling us to go on hating;
and all those dreadful cold-blooded creatures who write in the
papers--the same in my country, just the same; it is because of all them
that I think we are only animals."

He got up, acutely miserable. He could see her following him with her
eyes, and knew she was afraid she had driven him away. She said
coaxingly: "Don't mind me talking, ni-ice boy. I don't know any one to
talk to. If you don't like it, I can be quiet as a mouse."

He muttered:

"Oh! go on, talk away. I'm not obliged to believe you, and I don't."

She was on her feet now, leaning against the wall; her dark dress and
white face just touched by the slanting moonlight; and her voice came
again, slow and soft and bitter:

"Well, look here, ni-ice boy, what sort of a world is it, where millions
are being tortured--horribly tortured, for no fault of theirs, at all? A
beautiful world, isn't it! 'Umbug! Silly rot, as you boys call it. You
say it is all 'Comrade'! and braveness out there at the front, and
people don't think of themselves. Well, I don't think of myself veree
much. What does it matter--I am lost now, anyway; but I think of my
people at home, how they suffer and grieve. I think of all the poor
people there and here who lose those they love, and all the poor
prisoners. Am I not to think of them? And if I do, how am I to believe
it a beautiful world, ni-ice boy?"

He stood very still, biting his lips.

"Look here! We haf one life each, and soon it is over. Well, I think
that is lucky."

He said resentfully:

"No! there's more than that."

"Ah!" she went on softly; "you think the war is fought for the future;
you are giving your lives for a better world, aren't you?"

"We must fight till we win," he said between his teeth.

"Till you win. My people think that, too. All the peoples think that if
they win the world will be better. But it will not, you know, it will be
much worse, anyway."

He turned away from her and caught up his cap; but her voice followed

"I don't care which win, I despise them all--animals--animals--animals!
Ah! Don't go, ni-ice boy--I will be quiet now."

He took some notes from his tunic pocket, put them on the table, and
went up to her.


She said plaintively:

"Are you really going? Don't you like me, enough?"

"Yes, I like you."

"It is because I am German, then?"


"Then why won't you stay?"

He wanted to answer: "Because you upset me so"; but he just shrugged his

"Won't you kees me once?"

He bent, and put his lips to her forehead; but as he took them away she
threw her head back, pressed her mouth to his, and clung to him.

He sat down suddenly and said:

"Don't! I don't want to feel a brute."

She laughed. "You are a funny boy, but you are veree good. Talk to me a
little, then. No one talks to me. I would much rather talk, anyway. Tell
me, haf you seen many German prisoners?"

He sighed--from relief, or was it from regret?

"A good many."

"Any from the Rhine?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Were they very sad?"

"Some were--some were quite glad to be taken."

"Did you ever see the Rhine? Isn't it beaudiful? It will be wonderful
to-night. The moonlight will be the same here as there; in Rooshia too,
and France, everywhere; and the trees will look the same as here, and
people will meet under them and make love just as here. Oh! isn't it
stupid, the war?--as if it was not good to be alive."

He wanted to say: "You can't tell how good it is to be alive, till
you're facing death, because you don't live till then. And when a whole
lot of you feel like that--and are ready to give their lives for each
other, it's worth all the rest of life put together." But he couldn't
get it out to this girl who believed in nothing.

"How were you wounded, ni-ice boy?"

"Attacking across open ground--four machine-gun bullets got me at one go

"Weren't you veree frightened when they ordered you to attack?" No, he
had not been frightened just then! And he shook his head and laughed.

"It was great. We did laugh that morning. They got me much too soon,
though--a swindle!"

She stared at him.

"You laughed?"

"Yes, and what do you think was the first thing I was conscious of next
morning--my old Colonel bending over me and giving me a squeeze of
lemon. If you knew my Colonel you'd still believe in things. There _is_
something, you know, behind all this evil. After all, you can only die
once, and if it's for your country all the better."

Her face, with intent eyes just touched with bistre, had in the
moonlight a most strange, otherworld look. Her lips moved:

"No, I believe in nothing. My heart is dead."

"You think so, but it isn't, you know, or you wouldn't have been crying,
when I met you."

"If it were not dead, do you think I could live my life--walking the
streets every night, pretending to like strange men--never hearing a
kind word--never talking, for fear I will be known for a German. Soon I
shall take to drinking, then I shall be 'Kaput' very quick. You see, I
am practical, I see things clear. To-night I am a little emotional; the
moon is funny, you know. But I live for myself only, now. I don't care
for anything or anybody."

"All the same, just now you were pitying your people, and prisoners, and

"Yes, because they suffer. Those who suffer are like me--I pity myself,
that's all; I am different from your Englishwomen. I see what I am
doing; I do not let my mind become a turnip just because I am no longer

"Nor your heart either."

"Ni-ice boy, you are veree obstinate. But all that about love is 'umbug.
We love ourselves, nothing more."

Again, at that intense soft bitterness in her voice, he felt stifled,
and got up, leaning in the window. The air out there was free from the
smell of dust and stale perfume. He felt her fingers slip between his
own, and stay unmoving. Since she was so hard, and cynical, why should
he pity her? Yet he did. The touch of that hand within his own roused
his protective instinct. She had poured out her heart to him--a perfect
stranger! He pressed it a little, and felt her fingers crisp in answer.
Poor girl! This was perhaps a friendlier moment than she had known for
years! And after all, fellow-feeling was bigger than principalities and
powers! Fellow-feeling was all-pervading as this moonlight, which she
had said would be the same in Germany--as this white ghostly glamour
that wrapped the trees, making the orange lamps so quaint and
decoratively useless out in the narrow square, where emptiness and
silence reigned. He looked around into her face--in spite of bistre and
powder, and the faint rouging on her lips, it had a queer, unholy,
touching beauty. And he had suddenly the strangest feeling, as if they
stood there--the two of them--proving that kindness and human fellowship
were stronger than lust, stronger than hate; proving it against meanness
and brutality, and the sudden shouting of newspaper boys in some
neighbouring street. Their cries, passionately vehement, clashed into
each other, and obscured the words--what was it they were calling? His
head went up to listen; he felt her hand rigid within his arm--she too
was listening. The cries came nearer, hoarser, more shrill and
clamorous; the empty moonlight seemed of a sudden crowded with
footsteps, voices, and a fierce distant cheering. "Great victory--great
victory! Official! British! Defeat of the 'Uns! Many thousand
prisoners!" So it sped by, intoxicating, filling him with a fearful joy;
and leaning far out, he waved his cap and cheered like a madman; and the
whole night seemed to him to flutter and vibrate, and answer. Then he
turned to rush down into the street, struck against something soft, and
recoiled. The girl! She stood with hands clenched, her face convulsed,
panting, and even in the madness of his joy he felt for her. To hear
this--in the midst of enemies! All confused with the desire to do
something, he stooped to take her hand; and the dusty reek of the
table-cloth clung to his nostrils. She snatched away her fingers, swept
up the notes he had put down, and held them out to him.

"Take them--I will not haf your English money--take them." And suddenly
she tore them across twice, three times, let the bits flutter to the
floor, and turned her back to him. He stood looking at her leaning
against the plush-covered table which smelled of dust; her head down, a
dark figure in a dark room with the moonlight sharpening her
outline--hardly a moment he stayed, then made for the door....

When he was gone she still stood there, her chin on her breast--she who
cared for nothing, believed in nothing--with the sound in her ears of
cheering, of hurrying feet, and voices; stood, in the centre of a
pattern made by fragments of the torn-up notes, staring out into the
moonlight, seeing, not this hated room and the hated square outside, but
a German orchard, and herself, a little girl, plucking apples, a big dog
beside her; a hundred other pictures, too, such as the drowning see. Her
heart swelled; she sank down on the floor, laid her forehead on the
dusty carpet, and pressed her body to it.

She who did not care--who despised all peoples, even her own--began,
mechanically, to sweep together the scattered fragments of the notes,
assembling them with the dust into a little pile, as of fallen leaves,
and dabbling in it with her fingers, while the tears ran down her
cheeks. For her country she had torn them, her country in defeat! She,
who had just one shilling in this great town of enemies, who wrung her
stealthy living out of the embraces of her foes! And suddenly in the
moonlight she sat up and began to sing with all her might--"_Die Wacht
am Rhein_."





The tides of the war were washing up millions of wrecked lives on all
the shores; what mattered the flotsam of a conscripted deep-sea Breton
fisherman, slowly pining away for lack of all he was accustomed to; or
the jetsam of a tall glass-blower from the 'invaded countries,' drifted
into the hospital--no one quite knew why--prisoner for twenty months
with the Boches, released at last because of his half-paralysed
tongue--What mattered they? What mattered anything, or any one, in days
like those?

Corporal Mignan, wrinkling a thin, parchmenty face, full of suffering
and kindly cynicism, used to call them '_mes deux phénomènes_.' Riddled
to the soul by gastritis, he must have found them trying roommates, with
the tricks and manners of sick and naughty children towards a
long-suffering nurse. To understand all is to forgive all, they say;
but, though he had suffered enough to understand much, Mignan was
tempted at times to deliver judgment--for example, when Roche, the
Breton fisherman, rose from his bed more than ten times in the night,
and wandered out into the little courtyard of the hospital, to look at
the stars, because he could not keep still within four walls--so
unreasonable of the '_type_.' Or when Gray, the tall glass-blower--his
grandfather had been English--refused with all the tenacity of a British
workman to wear an undervest, with the thermometer below zero,

They inhabited the same room, Flotsam and Jetsam, but never spoke to one
another. And yet in all that hospital of French soldiers they were the
only two who, in a manner of speaking, had come from England. Fourteen
hundred years have passed since the Briton ancestors of Roche crossed in
their shallow boats. Yet he was as hopelessly un-French as a Welshman of
the hills is to this day un-English. His dark face, shy as a wild
animal's, his peat-brown eyes, and the rare, strangely-sweet smile which
once in a way strayed up into them; his creased brown hands always
trying to tie an imaginary cord; the tobacco pouched in his brown cheek;
his improperly-buttoned blue trousers; his silence eternal as the stars
themselves; his habit of climbing trees--all marked him out as no true
Frenchman. Indeed, that habit of climbing trees caused every soul who
saw him to wonder if he ought to be at large: monkeys alone pursue this
pastime. And yet,--surely one might understand that trees were for Roche
the masts of his far-off fishing barque, each hand-grip on the branch of
plane or pine-tree solace to his overmastering hunger for the sea. Up
there he would cling, or stand with hands in pockets, and look out, far
over the valley and the yellowish-grey-pink of the pan-tiled town-roofs,
a mile away, far into the mountains where snow melted not, far over this
foreign land of '_midi trois quarts_,' to an imagined Breton coast and
the seas that roll from there to Cape Breton where the cod are. Since he
never spoke unless spoken to--no, not once--it was impossible for his
landsmen comrades to realise why he got up those trees, and they would
summon each other to observe this '_phénomène_,' this human
ourang-outang, who had not their habit of keeping firm earth beneath
their feet. They understood his other eccentricities better. For
instance, he could not stay still even at his meals, but must get up and
slip out, because he chewed tobacco, and, since the hospital regulations
forbade his spitting on the floor, he must naturally go and spit
outside. For '_ces types-la_' to chew and drink was--life! To the
presence of tobacco in the cheek and the absence of drink from the
stomach they attributed all his un-French ways, save just that one
mysterious one of climbing trees.

And Gray--though only one-fourth English--how utterly British was that
'arrogant civilian,' as the '_poilus_' called him. Even his clothes,
somehow, were British--no one knew who had given them to him; his short
grey workman's jacket, brown dingy trousers, muffler and checked cap;
his long, idle walk, his absolute _sans-gêne_, regardless of any one but
himself; his tall, loose figure, with a sort of grace lurking somewhere
in its slow, wandering movements, and long, thin fingers. That wambling,
independent form might surely be seen any day outside a thousand British
public-houses, in time of peace. His face, with its dust-coloured hair,
projecting ears, grey eyes with something of the child in them, and
something of the mule, and something of a soul trying to wander out of
the forest of misfortune; his little, tip-tilted nose that never grew on
pure-blooded Frenchman; under a scant moustache his thick lips,
disfigured by infirmity of speech, whence passed so continually a
dribble of saliva--sick British workman was stamped on him. Yet he was
passionately fond of washing himself; his teeth, his head, his clothes.
Into the frigid winter he would go, and stand at the '_Source_' half an
hour at a time, washing and washing. It was a cause of constant
irritation to Mignan that his '_phénomène_' would never come to time, on
account of this disastrous habit; the hospital corridors resounded
almost daily with the importuning of those shapeless lips for something
clean--a shirt, a pair of drawers, a bath, a handkerchief. He had a
fixity of purpose; not too much purpose, but so fixed.--Yes, he was

For '_les deux phénomènes_' the soldiers, the servants, and the 'Powers'
of the hospital--all were sorry; yet they could not understand to the
point of quite forgiving their vagaries. The twain were outcast,
wandering each in a dumb world of his own, each in the endless circle of
one or two hopeless notions. It was irony--or the French system--which
had ordered the Breton Roche to get well in a place whence he could see
nothing flatter than a mountain, smell no sea, eat no fish. And God
knows what had sent Gray there. His story was too vaguely understood,
for his stumbling speech simply could not make it plain. '_Les
Boches--ils vont en payer cher--les Boches_,' muttered fifty times a
day, was the burden of his song. Those Boches had come into his village
early in the war, torn him from his wife and his '_petite fille_.' Since
then he had 'had fear,' been hungry, been cold, eaten grass; eyeing some
fat little dog, he would leer and mutter: '_J'ai mangé cela, c'est
bon!_' and with fierce triumph add: '_Ils ont faim, les Boches!_' The
'arrogant civilian' had never done his military service, for his
infirmity, it seemed, had begun before the war.

Dumb, each in his own way, and differing in every mortal thing except
the reality of their misfortunes, never were two beings more lonely.
Their quasi-nurse, Corporal Mignan, was no doubt right in his estimate
of their characters. For him, so patient in the wintry days, with his
'_deux phénomènes_,' they were divested of all that halo which
misfortune sets round the heads of the afflicted. He had too much to do
with them, and saw them as they would have been if undogged by Fate. Of
Roche he would say: '_Il n'est pas mon rêve. Je n'aime pas ces types
taciturnes; quand même, il n'est pas mauvais. Il est marin--les
marins--!_' and he would shrug his shoulders, as who should say: 'Those
poor devils--what can you expect?' '_Mais ce Gray_'--it was one bitter
day when Gray had refused absolutely to wear his great-coat during a
motor drive--'_c'est un mauvais type! Il est malin--il sait très bien ce
qu'il veut. C'est un egoiste!_' An egoist! Poor Gray! No doubt he was,
instinctively conscious that if he did not make the most of what little
personality was left within his wandering form, it would slip and he
would be no more. Even a winter fly is mysteriously anxious not to
become dead. That he was '_malin_'--cunning--became the accepted view
about Gray; not so '_malin_' that he could 'cut three paws off a duck,'
as the old grey Territorial, Grandpère Poirot, would put it, but
'_malin_' enough to know very well what he wanted, and how, by sticking
to his demand, to get it. Mignan, typically French, did not allow enough
for the essential Englishman in Gray. Besides, one _must_ be _malin_ if
one has only the power to say about one-tenth of what one wants, and
then not be understood once in twenty times. Gray did not like his
great-coat--a fine old French-blue military thing with brass
buttons--the arrogant civilian would have none of it! It was easier to
shift the Boches on the Western front than to shift an idea, once in his
head. In the poor soil of his soul the following plants of thought alone
now flourished: Hatred of the Boches; love of English tobacco--'_Il est
bon--il est bon!_' he would say, tapping his Virginian cigarette; the
wish to see again his 'petite fille'; to wash himself; to drink a '_café
natur_' and bottled beer every day after the midday meal, and to go to
Lyons to see his uncle and work for his living. And who shall say that
any of these fixed ideas were evil in him?

But back to Flotsam, whose fixed idea was Brittany! Nostalgia is a long
word, and a malady from which the English do not suffer, for they carry
their country on their backs, walk the wide world in a cloud of their
own atmosphere, making that world England. The French have eyes to see,
and, when not surrounded by houses that have flatness, shutters, and
subtle colouring--yellowish, French-grey, French-green--by café's, by
plane-trees, by Frenchwomen, by scents of wood-smoke and coffee roasted
in the streets; by the wines, and infusions of the herbs of France; by
the churches of France and the beautiful silly chiming of their
bells--when not surrounded by all these, they know it, feel it, suffer.
But even they do not suffer so dumbly and instinctively, so like a wild
animal caged, as that Breton fisherman, caged up in a world of hill and
valley--not the world as he had known it. They called his case
'shell-shock'--for the French system would not send a man to
convalescence for anything so essentially civilian as home-sickness,
even when it had taken a claustrophobic turn. A system recognises only
causes which you can see; holes in the head, hamstrung legs, frostbitten
feet, with other of the legitimate consequences of war. But it was not
shell-shock. Roche was really possessed by the feeling that he would
never get out, never get home, smell fish and the sea, watch the
bottle-green breakers roll in on his native shore, the sun gleaming
through wave-crests lifted and flying back in spray, never know the
accustomed heave and roll under his feet, or carouse in a seaport
cabaret, or see his old mother--_la veuve_ Roche. And, after all, there
was a certain foundation for his fear. It was not as if this war could
be expected to stop some day. There they were, in the trenches, they and
the enemy set over against each other, 'like china dogs,' in the words
of Grandpère Poirot; and there they would be, so far as Roche's ungeared
nerves could grasp, for ever. And, while like china dogs they sat, he
knew that he would not be released, not allowed to go back to the sea
and the smells and the sounds thereof; for he had still all his limbs,
and no bullet-hole to show under his thick dark hair. No wonder he got
up the trees and looked out for sight of the waves, and fluttered the
weak nerves of the hospital 'Powers,' till they saw themselves burying
him with a broken spine, at the expense of the subscribers. Nothing to
be done for the poor fellow, except to take him motor-drives, and to
insist that he stayed in the dining-room long enough to eat some food.

Then, one bright day, a 'Power,' watching his hands, conceived the idea
of giving him two balls of string, one blue, the other buff, and all
that afternoon he stayed up a single tree, and came down with one of his
rare sweet smiles and a little net, half blue, half buff, with a handle
covered with a twist of Turkey-red twill--such a thing as one scoops up
shrimps with. He was paid for it, and his eyes sparkled. You see, he had
no money--the '_poilu_' seldom has; and money meant drink, and tobacco
in his cheek. They gave him more string, and for the next few days it
rained little nets, beautifully if simply made. They thought that his
salvation was in sight. It takes an eye to tell salvation from
damnation, sometimes.... In any case, he no longer roamed from tree to
tree, but sat across a single branch, netting. The 'Powers' began to
speak of him as 'rather a dear,' for it is characteristic of human
nature to take interest only in that which by some sign of progress
makes you feel that you are doing good.

Next Sunday a distinguished doctor came, and, when he had been fed, some
one conceived the notion of interesting him, too, in Flotsam. A learned,
kindly, influential man--well-fed--something might come of it, even that
'_réforme_,' that sending home, which all agreed was what poor Roche
needed, to restore his brain. He was brought in, therefore, amongst the
chattering party, and stood, dark, shy, his head down, like the man in
Millet's 'Angelus,' his hands folded on his cap, in front of his
unspeakably buttoned blue baggy trousers, as though in attitude of
prayer to the doctor, who, uniformed and grey-bearded, like an old
somnolent goat, beamed on him through spectacles with a sort of shrewd
benevolence. The catechism began. So he had something to ask, had he? A
swift, shy lift of the eyes: 'Yes.' 'What then?' 'To go home.' 'To go
home? What for? To get married?' A swift, shy smile. 'Fair or dark?' No
answer, only a shift of hands on his cap. 'What! Was there no one--no
ladies at home?' '_Ce n'est pas ça qui manque!_' At the laughter
greeting that dim flicker of wit the uplifted face was cast down again.
That lonely, lost figure must suddenly have struck the doctor, for his
catechism became a long, embarrassed scrutiny; and with an: '_Eh bien!
mon vieux, nous verrons!_' ended. Nothing came of it, of course. '_Cas
de réforme?_' Oh, certainly, if it had depended on the learned, kindly
doctor. But the system--and all its doors to be unlocked! Why, by the
time the last door was prepared to open, the first would be closed
again! So the 'Powers' gave Roche more string--so good, you know, to see
him interested in something!... It does take an eye to tell salvation
from damnation! For he began to go down now of an afternoon into the
little old town--not smelless, but most quaint--all yellowish-grey, with
rosy-tiled roofs. Once it had been Roman, once a walled city of the
Middle Ages; never would it be modern. The dogs ran muzzled; from a
first-floor a goat, munching green fodder, hung his devilish black beard
above your head; and through the main street the peasant farmers, above
military age, looking old as sun-dried roots, in their dark _pélerines_,
drove their wives and produce in little slow carts. Parched oleanders in
pots one would pass, and old balconies with wilting flowers hanging down
over the stone, and perhaps an umbrella with a little silver handle, set
out to dry. Roche would go in by the back way, where the old town
gossips sat on a bench in the winter sunshine, facing the lonely cross
shining gold on the high hill-top opposite, placed there in days when
there was some meaning in such things; past the little '_Place_' with
the old fountain and the brown plane-trees in front of the Mairie; past
the church, so ancient that it had fortunately been forgotten, and
remained unfinished and beautiful. Did Roche, Breton that he was--half
the love-ladies in Paris, they say--falsely, no doubt--are
Bretonnes--ever enter the church in passing? Some rascal had tried to
burn down its beautiful old door from the inside, and the flames had
left on all that high western wall smears like the fingermarks of hell,
or the background of a Velasquez Crucifixion. Did he ever enter and
stand, knotting his knot which never got knotted, in the dark loveliness
of that grave building, where in the deep silence a dusty-gold little
angel blows on his horn from the top of the canopied pulpit, and a dim
carved Christ of touching beauty looks down on His fellow-men from above
some dry chrysanthemums; and a tall candle burned quiet and lonely here
and there, and the flags of France hung above the altar, that men might
know how God--though resting--was with them and their country? Perhaps!
But, more likely, he passed it, with its great bell riding high and open
among scrolls of ironwork, and--Breton that he was--entered the nearest
cabaret, kept by the woman who would tell you that her soldier husband
had passed 'within two fingers' of death. One cannot spend one's
earnings in a church, nor appease there the inextinguishable longings of
a sailor.

And lo!--on Christmas day Roche came back so drunk that his nurse Mignan
took him to his bedroom and turned the key of the door on him. But you
must not do this to a Breton fisherman full of drink and
claustrophobia. It was one of those errors even Frenchmen may make, to
the after sorrow of their victims. One of the female 'Powers,' standing
outside, heard a roar, the crash of a foot against the panel of a door,
and saw Roche, 'like a great cat' come slithering through the hole. He
flung his arm out, brushed the 'Power' back against the wall, cried out
fiercely: '_La boîte--je ne veux pas la boîte!_' and rushed for the
stairs. Here were other female 'Powers'; he dashed them aside and passed
down. But in the bureau at the foot was a young Corporal of the '_Legion
Etrangère_'--a Spaniard who had volunteered for France--great France; he
ran out, took Roche gently by the arm, and offered to drink with him.
And so they sat, those two, in the little bureau, drinking black coffee,
while the young Corporal talked like an angel and Roche like a wild
man--about his mother, about his dead brother who had been sitting on
his bed, as he said, about '_la boîte_,' and the turning of that key.
And slowly he became himself--or so they thought--and all went in to
supper. Ten minutes later one of the 'Powers,' looking for the twentieth
time to make sure he was eating, saw an empty place: he had slipped out
like a shadow and was gone again. A big cavalryman and the Corporal
retrieved him that night from a _café_ near the station; they had to
use force at times to bring him in. Two days later he was transferred to
a town hospital, where discipline would not allow him to get drunk or
climb trees. For the 'Powers' had reasoned thus: To climb trees is bad;
to get drunk is bad; but to do both puts on us too much responsibility;
he must go! They had, in fact, been scared. And so he passed away to a
room under the roof of a hospital in the big town miles away--_la boîte_
indeed!--where for liberty he must use a courtyard without trees, and
but little tobacco came to his cheek; and there he eats his heart out to
this day, perhaps. But some say he had no heart--only the love of drink,
and climbing. Yet, on that last evening, to one who was paying him for a
little net, he blurted out: 'Some day I will tell you something--not
now--in a year's time. _Vous êtes le seul--!_' What did he mean by that,
if he had no heart to eat?... The night after he had gone, a little
black dog strayed up, and among the trees barked and barked at some
portent or phantom. 'Ah! the camel! Ah! the pig! I had him on my back
all night!' Grandpère Poirot said next morning. That was the very last
of Flotsam....

And now to Jetsam! It was on the day but one after Roche left that Gray
was reported missing. For some time past he had been getting stronger,
clearer in speech. They began to say of him: 'It's wonderful--the
improvement since he came--wonderful!' His salvation also seemed in
sight. But from the words 'He's rather a dear!' all recoiled, for as he
grew stronger he became more stubborn and more irritable--'cunning
egoist' that he was! According to the men, he was beginning to show
himself in his true colours. He had threatened to knife any one who
played a joke on him--the arrogant civilian! On the day that he was
missing it appears that after the midday meal he had asked for a '_café
natur_' and for some reason had been refused. Before his absence was
noted it was night already, clear and dark; all day something as of
Spring had stirred in the air. The Corporal and a 'Power' set forth down
the wooded hill into the town, to scour the _cafés_ and hang over the
swift, shallow river, to see if by any chance Gray had been overtaken by
another paralytic stroke and was down there on the dark sand. The sleepy
gendarmes too were warned and given his description. But the only news
next morning was that he had been seen walking on the main road up the
valley. Two days later he was found, twenty miles away, wandering
towards Italy. '_Perdu_' was his only explanation, but it was not
believed, for now began that continual demand: '_Je voudrais aller à
Lyon, voir mon oncle--travailler!_' As the big cavalryman put it: 'He is
bored here!' It was considered unreasonable, by soldiers who found
themselves better off than in other hospitals; even the 'Powers'
considered it ungrateful, almost. See what he had been like when he
came--a mere trembling bag of bones, only too fearful of being sent
away. And yet, who would not be bored, crouching all day long about the
stoves, staunching his poor dribbling mouth, rolling his inevitable
cigarette, or wandering down, lonely, to hang over the bridge parapet,
having thoughts in his head and for ever unable to express them. His
state was worse than dumbness, for the dumb have resigned hope of
conversation. Gray would have liked to talk if it had not taken about
five minutes to understand each thing he said--except the refrain which
all knew by heart: '_Les Boches--ils vont en payer cher--les Boches!_'
The idea that he could work and earn his living was fantastic to those
who watched him dressing himself, or sweeping the courtyard, pausing
every few seconds to contemplate some invisible difficulty, or do over
again what he had just not done. But with that new access of strength,
or perhaps the open weather--as if Spring had come before its time--his
fixed idea governed him completely; he began to threaten to kill himself
if he could not go to work and see his uncle at Lyon; and every five
days or so he had to be brought back from far up some hill road. The
situation had become so ridiculous that the 'Powers' said in despair:
'Very well, my friend! Your uncle says he can't have you, and you can't
earn your own living yet; but you shall go and see for yourself!' And go
he did, a little solemn now that it had come to his point--in specially
bought yellow boots--he refused black--and a specially bought overcoat
with sleeves--he would have none of a _pélerine_, the arrogant civilian,
no more than of a military _capote_. For a week the hospital knew him
not. Deep winter set in two days before he went, and the whole land was
wrapped in snow. The huge, disconsolate crows seemed all the life left
in the valley, and poplar-trees against the rare blue sky were dowered
with miraculous snow-blossoms, beautiful as any blossom of Spring. And
still in the winter sun the town gossips sat on the bench under the
wall, and the cross gleamed out, and the church bell, riding high in its
whitened ironwork, tolled almost every day for the passing of some
wintered soul, and long processions, very black in the white street,
followed it, followed it--home. Then came a telegram from Gray's uncle:
'Impossible to keep Aristide (the name of the arrogant civilian), takes
the evening train to-morrow. Albert Gray.' So Jetsam was coming back!
What would he be like now that his fixed idea had failed him? Well! He
came at midday; thinner, more clay-coloured in the face, with a bad
cold; but he ate as heartily as ever, and at once asked to go to bed. At
four o'clock a 'Power,' going up to see, found him sleeping like a
child. He slept for twenty hours on end. No one liked to question him
about his time away; all that he said--and bitterly--was: 'They wouldn't
let me work!' But the second evening after his return there came a knock
on the door of the little room where the 'Powers' were sitting after
supper, and there stood Gray, long and shadowy, holding on to the
screen, smoothing his jaw-bone with the other hand, turning eyes like a
child's from face to face, while his helpless lips smiled. One of the
'Powers' said: 'What do you want, my friend?'

'_Je voudrais aller à Paris, voir ma petite fille._'

'Yes, yes; after the war. Your _petite fille_ is not in Paris, you

'_Non?_' The smile was gone; it was seen too plainly that Gray was not
as he had been. The access of vigour, stirring of new strength,
'improvement' had departed, but the beat of it, while there, must have
broken him, as the beat of some too-strong engine shatters a frail
frame. His 'improvement' had driven him to his own undoing. With the
failure of his pilgrimage he had lost all hope, all 'egoism.'... It
takes an eye, indeed, to tell salvation from damnation! He was truly
Jetsam now--terribly thin and ill and sad; and coughing. Yet he kept the
independence of his spirit. In that bitter cold, nothing could prevent
him stripping to the waist to wash, nothing could keep him lying in bed,
or kill his sense of the proprieties. He would not wear his overcoat--it
was invalidish; he would not wear his new yellow boots and keep his feet
dry, except on Sundays: '_Ils sont bons!_' he would say. And before he
would profane their goodness, his old worn-out shoes had to be reft from
him. He would not admit that he was ill, that he was cold, that he
was--anything. But at night, a 'Power' would be awakened by groans, and,
hurrying to his room, find him huddled nose to knees, moaning. And now,
every evening, as though craving escape from his own company, he would
come to the little sitting-room, and stand with that deprecating smile,
smoothing his jaw-bone, until some one said: 'Sit down, my friend, and
have some coffee.' '_Merci, ma soeur--il est bon, il est bon!_' and
down he would sit, and roll a cigarette with his long fingers, tapering
as any artist's, while his eyes fixed themselves intently on anything
that moved. But soon they would stray off to another world, and he would
say thickly, sullenly, fiercely: '_Les Boches--ils vont en payer
cher--les Boches!_' On the walls were some trophies from the war of
'seventy.' His eyes would gloat over them, and he would get up and
finger a long pistol, or old _papier-maché_ helmet. Never was a man who
so lacked _gêne_--at home in any company; it inspired reverence, that
independence of his, which had survived twenty months of imprisonment
with those who, it is said, make their victims salute them--to such a
depth has their civilisation reached. One night he tried to tell about
the fright he had been given. The Boches--it seemed--had put him and two
others against a wall, and shot those other two. Holding up two tapering
fingers, he mumbled: '_Assassins--assassins! Ils vont en payer cher--les
Boches!_' But sometimes there was something almost beautiful in his
face, as if his soul had rushed from behind his eyes, to answer some
little kindness done to him, or greet some memory of the days before he
was 'done for'--_foutu_, as he called it.

One day he admitted a pain about his heart; and time, too, for at
moments he would look like death itself. His nurse, Corporal Mignan,
had long left his _'deux phénomènes!_' having drifted away on the tides
of the system, till he should break down again and drag through the
hospitals once more. Gray had a room to himself now; the arrogant
civilian's groaning at night disturbed the others. Yet, if you asked him
in the morning if he had slept well, he answered invariably,
'_Oui--oui--toujours, toujours!_' For, according to him, you see, he was
still strong; and he would double his arm and tap his very little
muscle, to show that he could work. But he did not believe it now, for
one day a 'Power,' dusting the men's writing-room, saw a letter on the
blotter, and with an ashamed eye read these words:--

     _'Cher Oncle,_

     _J'ai eu la rage contre toi, mais c'est passé maintenant. Je
     veux seulement me reposer. Je ne peux pas me battre pour la
     France--j'ai voulu travailler pour elle; mais on ne m'a pas

     _Votre neveu, qui t'embrasse de loin.'_

_Seulement me reposer_--only to rest! Rest he will, soon, if eyes can
speak. Pass, and leave for ever that ravished France for whom he wished
to work--pass, without having seen again his _petite fille_. No more in
the corridor above the stove, no more in the little dining-room or the
avenue of pines will be seen his long, noiseless, lonely figure, or be
heard his thick stumbling cry:

_'Les Boches--ils vont en payer cher--les Boches!_'




A little Englishwoman, married to a German, had dwelt with him eighteen
years in humble happiness and the district of Putney, where her husband
worked in the finer kinds of leather. He was a harmless, busy little man
with the gift for turning his hand to anything which is bred into the
peasants of the Black Forest, who on their upland farms make all the
necessaries of daily life--their coarse linen from home-grown flax,
their leather gear from the hides of their beasts, their clothes from
the wool thereof, their furniture from the pine logs of the Forest,
their bread from home-grown flour milled in simple fashion and baked in
the home-made ovens, their cheese from the milk of their own goats. Why
he had come to England he probably did not remember--it was so long ago;
but he would still know why he had married Dora, the daughter of the
Putney carpenter, she being, as it were, salt of the earth: one of those
Cockney women, deeply sensitive beneath a well-nigh impermeable mask of
humour and philosophy, who quite unselfconsciously are always doing
things for others. In their little grey Putney house they had dwelt
those eighteen years, without perhaps ever having had time to move,
though they had often had the intention of doing so for the sake of the
children, of whom they had three, a boy and two girls. Mrs.
Gerhardt--she shall be called, for her husband had a very German name,
and there is more in a name than Shakespeare dreamed of--Mrs. Gerhardt
was a little woman with large hazel eyes and dark crinkled hair in which
there were already a few threads of grey when the war broke out. Her boy
David, the eldest, was fourteen at that date, and her girls, Minnie and
Violet, were eight and five, rather pretty children, especially the
little one. Gerhardt, perhaps because he was so handy, had never risen.
His firm regarded him as indispensable and paid him fair wages, but he
had no "push," having the craftsman's temperament, and employing his
spare time in little neat jobs for his house and his neighbours, which
brought him no return. They made their way, therefore, without that
provision for the future which necessitates the employment of one's time
for one's own ends. But they were happy, and had no enemies; and each
year saw some mild improvements in their studiously clean house and tiny
back garden. Mrs. Gerhardt, who was cook, seamstress, washerwoman,
besides being wife and mother, was almost notorious in that street of
semi-detached houses for being at the disposal of any one in sickness or
trouble. She was not strong in body, for things had gone wrong when she
bore her first, but her spirit had that peculiar power of seeing things
as they were, and yet refusing to be dismayed, which so embarrasses
Fate. She saw her husband's defects clearly, and his good qualities no
less distinctly--they never quarrelled. She gauged her children's
characters too, with an admirable precision, which left, however,
loopholes of wonder as to what they would become.

The outbreak of the war found them on the point of going to Margate for
Bank Holiday, an almost unparalleled event; so that the importance of
the world catastrophe was brought home to them with a vividness which
would otherwise have been absent from folks so simple, domestic, and
far-removed from that atmosphere in which the egg of war is hatched.
Over the origin and merits of the struggle, beyond saying to each other
several times that it was a dreadful thing, Mr. and Mrs. Gerhardt held
but one little conversation, lying in their iron bed with an immortal
brown eiderdown patterned with red wriggles over them. They agreed that
it was a cruel, wicked thing to invade "that little Belgium," and there
left a matter which seemed to them a mysterious and insane perversion of
all they had hitherto been accustomed to think of as life. Reading their
papers--a daily and a weekly, in which they had as much implicit faith
as a million other readers--they were soon duly horrified by the reports
therein of "Hun" atrocities; so horrified that they would express their
condemnation of the Kaiser and his militarism as freely as if they had
been British subjects. It was therefore with an uneasy surprise that
they began to find these papers talking of "the Huns at large in our
midst," of "spies," and the national danger of "nourishing such vipers."
They were deeply conscious of not being "vipers," and such sayings began
to awaken in both their breasts a humble sense of injustice as it were.
This was more acute in the breast of little Mrs. Gerhardt, because, of
course, the shafts were directed not at her but at her husband. She knew
her husband so well, knew him incapable of anything but homely, kindly
busyness, and that he should be lumped into the category of "Huns" and
"spies" and tarred with the brush of mass hatred amazed and stirred her
indignation, or would have, if her Cockney temperament had allowed her
to take it very seriously. As for Gerhardt, he became extremely silent,
so that it was ever more and more difficult to tell what he was feeling.
The patriotism of the newspapers took a considerable time to affect the
charity of the citizens of Putney, and so long as no neighbour showed
signs of thinking that little Gerhardt was a monster and a spy it was
fairly easy for Mrs. Gerhardt to sleep at night, and to read her papers
with the feeling that the remarks in them were not really intended for
Gerhardt and herself. But she noticed that her man had given up reading
them, and would push them away from his eyes if, in the tiny
sitting-room with the heavily-flowered walls, they happened to rest
beside him. He had perhaps a closer sense of impending Fate than she.
The boy, David, went to his first work, and the girls to their school,
and so things dragged on through that first long war winter and spring.
Mrs. Gerhardt, in the intervals of doing everything, knitted socks for
"our poor cold boys in the trenches," but Gerhardt no longer sought out
little jobs to do in the houses of his neighbours. Mrs. Gerhardt thought
that he "fancied" they would not like it. It was early in that spring
that she took a deaf aunt to live with them, the wife of her mother's
brother, no blood-relation, but the poor woman had nowhere else to go;
so David was put to sleep on the horsehair sofa in the sitting-room
because she "couldn't refuse the poor thing." And then, of an April
afternoon, while she was washing the household sheets, her neighbour,
Mrs. Clirehugh, a little spare woman all eyes, cheekbones, hair, and
decision, came in breathless and burst out:

"Oh! Mrs. Gerhardt, 'ave you 'eard? They've sunk the _Loositania_! Has I
said to Will: Isn't it horful?"

Mrs. Gerhardt, with her round arms dripping soap-suds, answered: "What a
dreadful thing! The poor drowning people! Dear! Oh dear!"

"Oh! Those Huns! I'd shoot the lot, I would!"

"They _are_ wicked!" Mrs. Gerhardt echoed: "That was a dreadful thing to

But it was not till Gerhardt came in at five o'clock, white as a sheet,
that she perceived how this dreadful catastrophe affected them.

"I have been called a German," were the first words he uttered; "Dollee,
I have been called a German."

"Well, so you are, my dear," said Mrs. Gerhardt.

"You do not see," he answered, with a heat and agitation which surprised
her. "I tell you this _Lusitania_ will finish our business. They will
have me. They will take me away from you all. Already the papers have:
'Intern all the Huns.'" He sat down at the kitchen table and buried his
face in hands still grimy from his leather work. Mrs. Gerhardt stood
beside him, her eyes unnaturally big.

"But Max," she said, "what has it to do with you? You couldn't help it.

Gerhardt looked up, his white face, broad in the brow and tapering to a
thin chin, seemed all distraught.

"What do they care for that? Is my name Max Gerhardt? What do they care
if I hate the war? I am a German. That's enough. You will see."

"Oh!" murmured Mrs. Gerhardt, "they won't be so unjust."

Gerhardt reached up and caught her chin in his hand, and for a moment
those two pairs of eyes gazed, straining, into each other. Then he said:

"I don't want to be taken, Dollee. What shall I do away from you and the
children? I don't want to be taken, Dollee."

Mrs. Gerhardt, with a feeling of terror and a cheerful smile, answered:

"You mustn't go fancyin' things, Max. I'll make you a nice cup of tea.
Cheer up, old man! Look on the bright side!"

But Gerhardt lapsed into the silence which of late she had begun to

That night some shop windows were broken, some German names effaced. The
Gerhardts had no shop, no name painted up, and they escaped. In Press
and Parliament the cry against "the Huns in our midst" rose with a fresh
fury; but for the Gerhardts the face of Fate was withdrawn. Gerhardt
went to his work as usual, and their laborious and quiet existence
remained undisturbed; nor could Mrs. Gerhardt tell whether her man's
ever-deepening silence was due to his "fancying things" or to the
demeanour of his neighbours and fellow workmen. One would have said that
he, like the derelict aunt, was deaf, so difficult to converse with had
he become. His length of sojourn in England and his value to his
employers, for he had real skill, had saved him for the time being; but,
behind the screen, Fate twitched her grinning chaps.

Not till the howl which followed some air raids in 1916 did they take
off Gerhardt, with a variety of other elderly men, whose crime it was to
have been born in Germany. They did it suddenly, and perhaps it was as
well, for a prolonged sight of his silent misery must have upset his
family till they would have been unable to look on that bright side of
things which Mrs. Gerhardt had, as it were, always up her sleeve. When,
in charge of a big and sympathetic constable, he was gone, taking all
she could hurriedly get together for him, she hastened to the police
station. They were friendly to her there: She must cheer up, Missis,
'e'd be all right, she needn't worry. Ah! she could go down to the 'Ome
Office, if she liked, and see what could be done. But they 'eld out no
'ope! Mrs. Gerhardt waited till the morrow, having the little Violet in
bed with her, and crying quietly into her pillow; then, putting on her
Sunday best she went down to a building in Whitehall, larger than any
she had ever entered. Two hours she waited, sitting unobtrusive, with
big anxious eyes, and a line between her brows. At intervals of half an
hour she would get up and ask the messenger cheerfully: "I 'ope they
haven't forgotten me, sir. Perhaps you'd see to it." And because she was
cheerful the messenger took her under his protection, and answered: "All
right, Missis. They're very busy, but _I'll_ wangle you in some'ow."

When at length she was wangled into the presence of a grave gentleman in
eye-glasses, realisation of the utter importance of this moment overcame
her so that she could not speak. "Oh! dear"--she thought, while her
heart fluttered like a bird--"he'll never understand; I'll never be
able to make him." She saw her husband buried under the leaves of
despair; she saw her children getting too little food, the deaf aunt,
now bedridden, neglected in the new pressure of work that must fall on
the only breadwinner left. And, choking a little, she said:

"I'm sure I'm very sorry to take up your time, sir; but my 'usband's
been taken to the Palace; and we've been married over twenty years, and
he's been in England twenty-five; and he's a very good man and a good
workman; and I thought perhaps they didn't understand that; and we've
got three children and a relation that's bedridden. And of course, we
understand that the Germans have been very wicked; Gerhardt always said
that himself. And it isn't as if he was a spy; so I thought if you could
do something for us, sir, I being English myself."

The gentleman, looking past her at the wall, answered wearily:

"Gerhardt--I'll look into it. We have to do very hard things, Mrs.

Little Mrs. Gerhardt, with big eyes almost starting out of her head, for
she was no fool, and perceived that this was the end, said eagerly:

"Of course I know that there's a big outcry, and the papers are askin'
for it; but the people in our street don't mind 'im, sir. He's always
done little things for them; so I thought perhaps you might make an
exception in his case."

She noticed that the gentleman's lips tightened at the word outcry, and
that he was looking at her now.

"His case was before the Committee no doubt; but I'll inquire.

Mrs. Gerhardt, accustomed to not being troublesome, rose; a tear rolled
down her cheek and was arrested by her smile.

"Thank you, sir, I'm sure. Good-morning, sir."

And she went out. Meeting the messenger in the corridor, and hearing
his: "Well, Missis?" she answered: "I don't know. I must look on the
bright side. Good-bye, and thank you for your trouble." And she turned
away feeling as if she had been beaten all over.

The bright side on which she looked did not include the return to her of
little Gerhardt, who was duly detained for the safety of the country.
Obedient to economy, and with a dim sense that her favourite papers were
in some way responsible for this, she ceased to take them in, and took
in sewing instead. It had become necessary to do so, for the allowance
she received from the government was about a quarter of Gerhardt's
weekly earnings. In spite of its inadequacy it was something, and she
felt she must be grateful. But, curiously enough, she could not forget
that she was English, and it seemed strange to her that, in addition to
the grief caused by separation from her husband from whom she had never
been parted not even for a night, she should now be compelled to work
twice as hard and eat half as much because that husband had paid her
country the compliment of preferring it to his own. But, after all, many
other people had much worse trouble to grieve over, so she looked on the
bright side of all this, especially on those days once a week when
alone, or accompanied by the little Violet, she visited that Palace
where she had read in her favourite journals to her great comfort that
her husband was treated like a prince. Since he had no money he was in
what they called "the battalion," and their meetings were held in the
bazaar, where things which "the princes" made were exposed for sale.
Here Mr. and Mrs. Gerhardt would stand in front of some doll, some
blotting-book, calendar, or walking-stick, which had been fashioned by
one of "the princes." There they would hold each others' hands and try
to imagine themselves unsurrounded by other men and wives, while the
little Violet would stray and return to embrace her father's leg
spasmodically. Standing there, Mrs. Gerhardt would look on the bright
side, and explain to Gerhardt how well everything was going, and he
mustn't fret about them, and how kind the police were, and how auntie
asked after him, and Minnie would get a prize; and how he oughtn't to
mope, but eat his food, and look on the bright side. And Gerhardt would
smile the smile which went into her heart just like a sword, and say:

"All right, Dollee. I'm getting on fine." Then, when the whistle blew
and he had kissed little Violet, they would be quite silent, looking at
each other. And she would say in a voice so matter-of-fact that it could
have deceived no one:

"Well, I must go now. Good-bye, old man!"

And he would say:

"Good-bye, Dollee. Kiss me."

They would kiss, and holding little Violet's hand very hard she would
hurry away in the crowd, taking care not to look back for fear she might
suddenly lose sight of the bright side. But as the months went on,
became a year, eighteen months, two years, and still she went weekly to
see her "prince" in his Palace, that visit became for her the hardest
experience of all her hard week's doings. For she was a realist, as well
as a heroine, and she could see the lines of despair not only in her
man's heart but in his face. For a long time he had not said: "I'm
getting on fine, Dollee." His face had a beaten look, his figure had
wasted, he complained of his head.

"It's so noisy," he would say constantly; "oh! it's so noisy--never a
quiet moment--never alone--never--never--never--never. And not enough to
eat; it's all reduced now, Dollee."

She learned to smuggle food into his hands, but it was very little, for
they had not enough at home either, with the price of living ever going
up and her depleted income ever stationary. They had--her "man" told
her--made a fuss in the papers about their being fed like turkeycocks,
while the "Huns" were sinking the ships. Gerhardt, always a spare little
man, had lost eighteen pounds. She, naturally well covered, was getting
thin herself, but that she did not notice, too busy all day long, and
too occupied in thinking of her "man." To watch him week by week, more
hopeless, as the months dragged on, was an acute torture, to disguise
which was torture even more acute. She had long seen that there _was_ no
bright side, but if she admitted that she knew she would go down; so she
did not. And she carefully kept from Gerhardt such matters as David's
overgrowing his strength, because she could not feed him properly; the
completely bedridden nature of auntie; and worse than these, the
growing coldness and unkindness of her neighbours. Perhaps they did not
mean to be unkind, perhaps they did, for it was not in their nature to
withstand the pressure of mass sentiment, the continual personal
discomfort of having to stand in queues, the fear of air raids, the
cumulative indignation caused by stories of atrocities true and untrue.
In spite of her record of kindliness towards them she became tarred with
the brush at last, for her nerves had given way once or twice, and she
had said it was a shame to keep her man like that, gettin' iller and
iller, who had never done a thing. Even her reasonableness--and she was
very reasonable--succumbed to the strain of that weekly sight of him,
till she could no longer allow for the difficulties which Mrs. Clirehugh
assured her the Government had to deal with. Then one day she used the
words "fair play," and at once it became current that she had "German
sympathies." From that time on she was somewhat doomed. Those who had
received kindnesses from her were foremost in showing her coldness,
being wounded in their self-esteem. To have received little benefits,
such as being nursed when they were sick, from one who had "German
sympathies" was too much for the pride which is in every human being,
however humble an inhabitant of Putney. Mrs. Gerhardt's Cockney spirit
could support this for herself, but she could not bear it for her
children. David came home with a black eye, and would not say why he had
got it. Minnie missed her prize at school, though she had clearly won
it. That was just after the last German offensive began; but Mrs.
Gerhardt refused to see that this was any reason. Little Violet twice
put the heart-rending question to her: "Aren't I English, Mummy?"

She was answered: "Yes, my dear, of course."

But the child obviously remained unconvinced in her troubled mind.

And then they took David for the British army. It was that which so
upset the applecart in Mrs. Gerhardt that she broke out to her last
friend, Mrs. Clirehugh:

"I do think it's hard, Eliza. They take his father and keep him there
for a dangerous Hun year after year like that; and then they take his
boy for the army to fight against him. And how I'm to get on without him
I don't know."

Little Mrs. Clirehugh, who was Scotch, with a Gloucestershire accent,

"Well, we've got to beat them. They're such a wicked lot. I daresay it's
'ard on you, but we've got to beat them."

"But _we_ never did nothing," cried Mrs. Gerhardt; "it isn't us that's
wicked. We never wanted the war; it's nothing but ruin to him. They did
ought to let me have my man, or my boy, one or the other."

"You should 'ave some feeling for the Government, Dora; they 'ave to do
'ard things."

Mrs. Gerhardt, with a quivering face, had looked at her friend.

"I have," she said at last in a tone which implanted in Mrs. Clirehugh's
heart the feeling that Dora was "bitter."

She could not forget it; and she would flaunt her head at any mention of
her former friend. It was a blow to Mrs. Gerhardt, who had now no
friends, except the deaf and bedridden aunt, to whom all things were the
same, war or no war, Germans or no Germans, so long as she was fed.

About then it was that the tide turned, and the Germans began to know
defeat. Even Mrs. Gerhardt, who read the papers no longer, learned it
daily, and her heart relaxed; that bright side began to reappear a
little. She felt they could not feel so hardly towards her "man" now as
when they were all in fear; and perhaps the war would be over before her
boy went out. But Gerhardt puzzled her. He did not brighten up. The iron
seemed to have entered his soul too deeply. And one day, in the bazaar,
passing an open doorway, Mrs. Gerhardt had a glimpse of why. There,
stretching before her astonished eyes, was a great, as it were,
encampment of brown blankets, slung and looped up anyhow, dividing from
each other countless sordid beds, which were almost touching, and a
whiff of huddled humanity came out to her keen nostrils, and a hum of
sound to her ears. So that was where her man had dwelt these thirty
months, in that dirty, crowded, noisy place, with dirty-looking men,
such as those she could see lying on the beds, or crouching by the side
of them, over their work. He had kept neat somehow, at least on the days
when she came to see him--but _that_ was where he lived! Alone again
(for she no longer brought the little Violet to see her German father),
she grieved all the way home. Whatever happened to him now, even if she
got him back, she knew he would never quite get over it.

And then came the morning when she came out of her door like the other
inhabitants of Putney, at sound of the maroons, thinking it was an air
raid; and, catching the smile on the toothless mouth of one of her old
neighbours, hearing the cheers of the boys in the school round the
corner, knew that it was Peace. Her heart overflowed then, and,
withdrawing hastily, she sat down on a shiny chair in her little empty
parlour. Her face crumpled suddenly, the tears came welling forth; she
cried and cried, alone in the little cold room. She cried from relief
and utter thankfulness. It was over--over at last! The long waiting--the
long misery--the yearning for her "man"--the grieving for all those poor
boys in the mud, and the dreadful shell holes, and the fighting, the
growing terror of anxiety for her own boy--over, all over! Now they
would let Max out, now David would come back from the army; and people
would not be unkind and spiteful to her and the children any more!

For all she was a Cockney, hers was a simple soul, associating Peace
with Good-will. Drying her tears, she stood up, and in the little cheap
mirror above the empty grate looked at her face. It was lined, and she
was grey; for more than two years her man had not seen her without her
hat. What ever would he say? And she rubbed and rubbed her cheeks,
trying to smooth them out. Then her conscience smote her, and she ran
upstairs to the back bedroom, where the deaf aunt lay. Taking up the
little amateur ear trumpet which Gerhardt himself had made for "auntie,"
before he was taken away, she bawled into it:

"Peace, Auntie; it's Peace! Think of that. It's Peace!"

"What's that?" answered the deaf woman.

"It's Peace, Auntie, Peace."

The deaf lady roused herself a little, and some meaning came into the
lack-lustre black eyes of her long, leathery face. "You don't say," she
said in her wooden voice, "I'm so hungry, Dolly, isn't it time for my

"I was just goin' to get it, dearie," replied Mrs. Gerhardt, and hurried
back downstairs with her brain teeming, to make the deaf woman's bowl of
bread, pepper, salt, and onions.

All that day and the next and the next she saw the bright side of things
with almost dazzling clearness, waiting to visit her "prince" in his
Palace. She found him in a strange and pitiful state of nerves. The news
had produced too intense and varied emotions among those crowded
thousands of men buried away from normal life so long. She spent all her
hour and a half trying desperately to make him see the bright side, but
he was too full of fears and doubts, and she went away smiling, but
utterly exhausted. Slowly in the weeks which followed she learned that
nothing was changed. In the fond hope that Gerhardt might be home now
any day, she was taking care that his slippers and some clothes of
David's were ready for him, and the hip bath handy for him to have a
lovely hot wash. She had even bought a bottle of beer and some of his
favourite pickle, saving the price out of her own food, and was taking
in the paper again, letting bygones be bygones. But he did not come. And
soon the paper informed her that the English prisoners were
returning--many in wretched state, poor things, so that her heart bled
for them, and made her fiercely angry with the cruel men who had treated
them so; but it informed her too, that if the paper had its way no
"Huns" would be tolerated in this country for the future. "Send them all
back!" were the words it used. She did not realise at first that this
applied to Gerhardt; but when she did, she dropped the journal as if it
had been a living coal of fire. Not let him come back to his home, and
family, not let him stay, after all they'd done to him, and he never did
anything to them! Not let him stay, but send him out to that dreadful
country, which he had almost forgotten in these thirty years, and he
with an English wife and children! In this new terror of utter
dislocation the bright side so slipped from her that she was obliged to
go out into the back garden in the dark, where a sou'-westerly wind was
driving the rain. There, lifting her eyes to the evening sky she uttered
a little moan. It couldn't be true; and yet what they said in her paper
had always turned out true, like the taking of Gerhardt away, and the
reduction of his food. And the face of the gentleman in the building at
Whitehall came before her out of the long past, with his lips
tightening, and his words: "We have to do very hard things, Mrs.
Gerhardt." Why had they to do them? Her man had never done no harm to no
one! A flood, bitter as sea water, surged in her, and seemed to choke
her very being. Those gentlemen in the papers--why should they go on
like that? Had they no hearts, no eyes to see the misery they brought to
humble folk? "I wish them nothing worse than what they've brought to him
and me," she thought wildly: "nothing worse!"

The rain beat on her face, wetted her grey hair, cooled her eyeballs. "I
mustn't be spiteful," she thought; and bending down in the dark she
touched the glass of the tiny conservatory built against the warm
kitchen wall, and heated by the cunning little hot-water pipe her man
had put there in his old handy days. Under it were one little monthly
rose, which still had blossoms, and some straggly small chrysanthemums.
She had been keeping them for the feast when he came home; but if he
wasn't to come, what should she do? She raised herself. Above the wet
roofs sky-rack was passing wild and dark, but in a little cleared space
one or two stars shone the brighter for the blackness below. "I must
look on the bright side," she thought, "or I can't bear myself." And she
went in to cook the porridge for the evening meal.

The winter passed for her in the most dreadful anxiety. "Repatriate the
Huns!" That cry continued to spurt up in her paper like a terrible face
seen in some recurrent nightmare; and each week that she went to visit
Gerhardt brought solid confirmation to her terror. He was taking it
hard, so that sometimes she was afraid that "something" was happening in
him. This was the utmost she went towards defining what doctors might
have diagnosed as incipient softening of the brain. He seemed to dread
the prospect of being sent to his native country.

"I couldn't stick it, Dollee," he would say. "What should I do--whatever
should I do? I haven't a friend. I haven't a spot to go to. I should be
lost. I'm afraid, Dollee. How could you come out there, you and the
children? I couldn't make a living for you. I couldn't make one for
myself now."

And she would say: "Cheer up, old man. Look on the bright side. Think of
the others." For, though those others were not precisely the bright
side, the mental picture of their sufferings, all those poor "princes"
and their families, somehow helped her to bear her own. But he shook
his head:

"No; I should never see you again."

"I'd follow you," she answered. "Never fear, Max, we'd work in the
fields--me and the children. We'd get on somehow. Bear up, my dearie.
It'll soon be over now. I'll stick to you, Max, never you fear. But they
won't send you, they never will."

And then, like a lump of ice pressed on her breast, came the thought:
"But if they do! Auntie! My boy! My girls! However shall I manage if
they do!"

Then long lists began to appear, and in great batches men were shovelled
wholesale back to the country whose speech some of them had well-nigh
forgotten. Little Gerhardt's name had not appeared yet. The lists were
hung up the day after Mrs. Gerhardt's weekly visit, but she urged him if
his name did appear to appeal against repatriation. It was with the
greatest difficulty that she roused in him the energy to promise. "Look
on the bright side, Max," she implored him. "You've got a son in the
British army; they'll never send you. They wouldn't be so cruel. Never
say die, old man."

His name appeared but was taken out, and the matter hung again in awful
suspense, while the evil face of the recurrent nightmare confronted
Mrs. Gerhardt out of her favourite journal. She read that journal again,
because, so far as in her gentle spirit lay, she hated it. It was slowly
killing her man, and all her chance of future happiness; she hated it,
and read it every morning. To the monthly rose and straggly little
brown-red chrysanthemums in the tiny hothouse there had succeeded spring
flowers--a few hardy January snowdrops, and one by one blue scillas, and
the little pale daffodils called "angels' tears."

Peace tarried, but the flowers came up long before their time in their
tiny hothouse against the kitchen flue. And then one wonderful day there
came to Mrs. Gerhardt a strange letter, announcing that Gerhardt was
coming home. He would not be sent to Germany--he was coming home!
To-day, that very day--any moment he might be with her. When she
received it, who had long received no letters save the weekly letters of
her boy still in the army, she was spreading margarine on auntie's bread
for breakfast, and, moved beyond all control, she spread it thick,
wickedly, wastefully thick, then dropped the knife, sobbed, laughed,
clasped her hands on her breast, and without rhyme or reason, began
singing: "Hark! the herald angels sing." The girls had gone to school
already, auntie in the room above could not hear her, no one heard her,
nor saw her drop suddenly into the wooden chair, and, with her bare arms
stretched out one on either side of the plate of bread and margarine,
cry her heart out against the clean white table. Coming home, coming
home, coming home! The bright side! The little white stars!

It was a quarter of an hour before she could trust herself to answer the
knocking on the floor, which meant that "auntie" was missing her
breakfast. Hastily she made the tea and went up with it and the bread
and margarine. The woman's dim long face gleamed greedily when she saw
how thick the margarine was spread; but little Mrs. Gerhardt said no
word of the reason for that feast. She just watched her only friend
eating it, while a little moisture still trickled out from her big eyes
on to her flushed cheeks, and the words still hummed in her brain:

 "Peace on earth and mercy mild,
 Jesus Christ a little child."

Then, still speaking no word, she ran out and put clean sheets on her
and her man's bed. She was on wires, she could not keep still, and all
the morning she polished, polished. About noon she went out into her
garden, and from under the glass plucked every flower that grew
there--snowdrops, scillas, "angels' tears," quite two dozen blossoms.
She brought them into the little parlour and opened its window wide. The
sun was shining, and fell on the flowers strewn on the table, ready to
be made into the nosegay of triumphant happiness. While she stood
fingering them, delicately breaking half an inch off their stalks so
that they should last the longer in water, she became conscious of
someone on the pavement outside the window, and looking up saw Mrs.
Clirehugh. The past, the sense of having been deserted by her friends,
left her, and she called out:

"Come in, Eliza; look at my flowers!"

Mrs. Clirehugh came in; she was in black, her cheekbones higher, her
hair looser, her eyes bigger. Mrs. Gerhardt saw tears starting from
those eyes, wetting those high cheekbones, and cried out:

"Why, what's the matter, dear?"

Mrs. Clirehugh choked. "My baby!"

Mrs. Gerhardt dropped an "angels' tear," and went up to her.

"Whatever's happened?" she cried.

"Dead!" replied Mrs. Clirehugh. "Dead o' the influenza. 'E's to be
buried to-day. I can't--I can't--I can't--" Wild choking stopped her
utterance. Mrs. Gerhardt put an arm round her and drew her head on to
her shoulder.

"I can't--I can't--" sobbed Mrs. Clirehugh; "I can't find any flowers.
It's seein' yours made me cry."

"There, there!" cried Mrs. Gerhardt. "Have them. I'm sure you're
welcome, dearie. Have them--I'm so sorry!"

"I don't know," choked Mrs. Clirehugh, "I 'aven't deserved them." Mrs.
Gerhardt gathered up the flowers.

"Take them," she said. "I couldn't think of it. Your poor little baby.
Take them! There, there, he's spared a lot of trouble. You must look on
the bright side, dearie."

Mrs. Clirehugh tossed up her head.

"You're an angel, that's what you are!" she said, and grasping the
flowers she hurried out, a little black figure passing the window in the

Mrs. Gerhardt stood above the emptied table, thinking: "Poor dear--I'm
glad she had the flowers. It was a mercy I didn't call out that Max was
coming!" And from the floor she picked up one "angels' tear" she had
dropped, and set it in a glass of water, where the sunlight fell. She
was still gazing at it, pale, slender, lonely in that coarse tumbler,
when she heard a knock on the parlour door, and went to open it. There
stood her man, with a large brown-paper parcel in his hand. He stood
quite still, his head a little down, the face very grey. She cried out;
"Max!" but the thought flashed through her: "He knocked on the door!
It's _his_ door--he knocked on the door!"

"Dollee?" he said, with a sort of question in his voice.

She threw her arms round him, drew him into the room, and shutting the
door, looked hard into his face. Yes, it was his face, but in the eyes
something wandered--lit up, went out, lit up.

"Dollee," he said again, and clutched her hand.

She strained him to her with a sob.

"I'm not well, Dollee," he murmured.

"No, of course not, my dearie man; but you'll soon be all right
now--home again with me. Cheer up, cheer up!"

"I'm not well," he said again.

She caught the parcel out of his hand, and taking the "angels' tear"
from the tumbler, fixed it in his coat.

"Here's a spring flower for you, Max; out of your own little hothouse.
You're home again; home again, my dearie. Auntie's upstairs, and the
girls'll be coming soon. And we'll have dinner."

"I'm not well, Dollee," he said.

Terrified by that reiteration, she drew him down on the little horsehair
sofa, and sat on his knee. "You're home, Max, kiss me. There's my man!"
and she rocked him to and fro against her, yearning yet fearing to look
into his face and see that "something" wander there--light up, go out,
light up. "Look, dearie," she said, "I've got some beer for you. You'd
like a glass of beer?"

He made a motion of his lips, a sound that was like the ghost of a
smack. It terrified her, so little life was there in it.

He clutched her close, and repeated feebly:

"Yes, all right in a day or two. They let me come--I'm not well,
Dollee." He touched his head.

Straining him to her, rocking him, she murmured over and over again,
like a cat purring to its kitten:

"It's all right, my dearie--soon be well--soon be well! We must look on
the bright side--My man!"



The soldier Jean Liotard lay, face to the earth, by the bank of the
river Drôme. He lay where the grass and trees ended, and between him and
the shrivelled green current was much sandy foreshore, for summer was at
height, and the snows had long finished melting and passing down. The
burning sun had sucked up all moisture, the earth was parched, but
to-day a cool breeze blew, willow and aspen leaves were fluttering and
hissing as if millions of tiny kisses were being given up there; and a
few swathes of white cloud were drawn, it seemed--not driven--along the
blue. The soldier Jean Liotard had fixed his eyes on the ground, where
was nothing to see but a few dry herbs. He had "_cafard_," for he was
due to leave the hospital to-morrow and go up before the military
authorities, for "_prolongation_." There he would answer perfunctory
questions, and be told at once: _Au dépôt_; or have to lie naked before
them that some "_major_" might prod his ribs, to find out whether his
heart, displaced by shell-shock, had gone back sufficiently to normal
position. He had received one "_prolongation_," and so, wherever his
heart now was, he felt sure he would not get another. "_Au dépôt_" was
the fate before him, fixed as that river flowing down to its death in
the sea. He had "_cafard_"--the little black beetle in the brain, which
gnaws and eats and destroys all hope and heaven in a man. It had been
working at him all last week, and now he was at a monstrous depth of
evil and despair. To begin again the cursed barrack-round, the driven
life, until in a month perhaps, packed like bleating sheep, in the
troop-train, he made that journey to the fighting line again--"_À la
hachette--à la hachette!_"

He had stripped off his red flannel jacket, and lay with shirt opened to
the waist, to get the breeze against his heart. In his brown
good-looking face the hazel eyes, which in these three God-deserted
years had acquired a sort of startled gloom, stared out like a dog's,
rather prominent, seeing only the thoughts within him--thoughts and
images swirling round and round in a dark whirlpool, drawing his whole
being deeper and deeper. He was unconscious of all the summer hum and
rustle--the cooing of the dove up in that willow tree, the winged
enamelled fairies floating past, the chirr of the cicadas, that little
brown lizard among the pebbles, almost within reach, seeming to listen
to the beating of summer's heart so motionless it lay; unconscious, as
though in verity he were again deep in some stifling trench, with German
shells whining over him, and the smell of muck and blood making foetid
the air. He was in the mood which curses God and dies; for he was
devout--a Catholic, and still went to Mass. And God had betrayed the
earth, and Jean Liotard. All the enormities he had seen in his two years
at the front--the mouthless mangled faces, the human ribs whence rats
would steal; the frenzied tortured horses, with leg or quarter rent
away, still living; the rotted farms, the dazed and hopeless peasants;
his innumerable suffering comrades; the desert of no-man's land; and all
the thunder and moaning of war; and the reek and the freezing of war;
and the driving--the callous perpetual driving, by some great Force
which shovelled warm human hearts and bodies, warm human hopes and loves
by the million into the furnace; and over all, dark sky without a break,
without a gleam of blue, or lift anywhere--all this enclosed him, lying
in the golden heat, so that not a glimmer of life or hope could get at
him. Back into it all again! Back into it, he who had been through forty
times the hell that the "_majors_" ever endured, five hundred times the
hell ever glimpsed at by those _députés_, safe with their fat salaries,
and their gabble about victory and the lost provinces, and the future of
the world--the _Canaille!_ Let them allow the soldiers, whose lives they
spent like water--"_les camarades_" on both sides--poor devils who bled,
and froze, and starved, and sweated--let them suffer these to make the
peace! Ah! What a peace that would be--its first condition, all the
sacred politicians and pressmen hanging in rows in every country; the
mouth fighters, the pen fighters, the fighters with other men's blood!
Those comfortable citizens would never rest till there was not a young
man with whole limbs left in France! Had he not killed enough Boches,
that they might leave him and his tired heart in peace? He thought of
his first charge; of how queer and soft that Boche body felt when his
bayonet went through; and another, and another. Ah! he had "_joliment_"
done his duty that day! And something wrenched at his ribs. They were
only Boches, but their wives and children, their mothers--faces
questioning, faces pleading for them--pleading with whom? Ah! Not with
him! Who was he that had taken those lives, and others since, but a poor
devil without a life himself, without the right to breathe or move
except to the orders of a Force which had no mind, which had no heart,
had nothing but a blind will to go on, it knew not why. If only he
survived--it was not possible--but if only he survived, and with his
millions of comrades could come back and hold the reckoning! Some
scare-the-crows then would waggle in the wind. The butterflies would
perch on a few mouths empty at last; the flies enjoy a few silent
tongues! Then slowly his fierce unreasoning rancour vanished into a mere
awful pity for himself. Was a fellow never again to look at the sky, and
the good soil, the fruit, the wheat, without this dreadful black cloud
above him, never again make love among the trees, or saunter down a
lighted boulevard, or sit before a café, never again attend Mass,
without this black dog of disgust and dread sitting on his shoulders,
riding him to death? Angels of pity! Was there never to be an end? One
was going mad under it--yes, mad! And the face of his mother came before
him, as he had seen her last, just three years ago, when he left his
home in the now invaded country, to join his regiment--his mother who,
with all his family, was in the power of the Boche. He had gone gaily,
and she had stood like stone, her hand held over her eyes, in the
sunlight, watching him while the train ran out. Usually the thought of
the cursed Boches holding in their heavy hands all that was dear to him,
was enough to sweep his soul to a clear, definite hate, which made all
this nightmare of war seem natural, and even right; but now it was not
enough--he had "_cafard_." He turned on his back. The sky above the
mountains might have been black for all the joy its blue gave him. The
butterflies, those drifting flakes of joy, passed unseen. He was
thinking: No rest, no end, except by walking over bodies, dead, mangled
bodies of poor devils like himself, poor hunted devils, who wanted
nothing but never to lift a hand in combat again so long as they lived,
who wanted--as he wanted--nothing but laughter and love and rest!
_Quelle vie!_ A carnival of leaping demonry! A dream--unutterably bad!
"And when I go back to it all," he thought, "I shall go all shaven and
smart, and wave my hand as if I were going to a wedding, as we all do.
_Vive la France!_ Ah! what mockery! Can't a poor devil have a dreamless
sleep!" He closed his eyes, but the sun struck hot on them through the
lids, and he turned over on his face again, and looked longingly at the
river--they said it was deep in mid-stream; it still ran fast there!
What was that down by the water? Was he really mad? And he uttered a
queer laugh. There was his black dog--the black dog off his shoulders,
the black dog which rode him, yea, which had become his very self, just
going to wade in! And he called out:

"_Hé! le copain!_" It was not his dog, for it stopped drinking, tucked
its tail in, and cowered at the sound of his voice. Then it came from
the water, and sat down on its base among the stones, and looked at him.
A real dog was it? What a guy! What a thin wretch of a little black dog!
It sat and stared--a mongrel who might once have been pretty. It stared
at Jean Liotard with the pathetic gaze of a dog so thin and hungry that
it earnestly desires to go to men and get fed once more, but has been so
kicked and beaten that it dare not. It seemed held in suspense by the
equal overmastering impulses, fear and hunger. And Jean Liotard stared
back. The lost, as it were despairing look of the dog began to penetrate
his brain. He held out his hand and said: "_Viens!_" But at the sound
the little dog only squirmed away a few paces, then again sat down, and
resumed its stare. Again Jean Liotard uttered that queer laugh. If the
good God were to hold out his hand and say to him: "_Viens!_" he would
do exactly as that little beast; he would not come, not he! What was he
too but a starved and beaten dog--a driven wretch, kicked to hell! And
again, as if experimenting with himself, he held out his hand and said:
"Viens!" and again the beast squirmed a little further away, and again
sat down and stared. Jean Liotard lost patience. His head drooped till
his forehead touched the ground. He smelt the parched herbs, and a faint
sensation of comfort stole through his nerves. He lay unmoving, trying
to fancy himself dead and out of it all. The hum of summer, the smell of
grasses, the caress of the breeze going over! He pressed the palms of
his outstretched hands on the warm soil, as one might on a woman's
breast. If only it were really death, how much better than life in this
butcher's shop! But death, his death was waiting for him away over
there, under the moaning shells, under the whining bullets, at the end
of a steel prong--a mangled, foetid death. Death--his death, had no
sweet scent, and no caress--save the kisses of rats and crows. Life and
Death what were they? Nothing but the preying of creatures the one on
the other--nothing but that; and love, the blind instinct which made
these birds and beasts of prey. _Bon sang de bon sang!_ The Christ hid
his head finely nowadays! That cross up there on the mountain top, with
the sun gleaming on it--they had been right to put it up where no man
lived, and not even a dog roamed, to be pitied! "Fairy tales, fairy
tales," he thought; "those who drive and those who are driven, those
who eat and those who are eaten--we are all poor devils together. There
is no pity, no God!" And the flies drummed their wings above him. And
the sun, boring into his spine through his thin shirt, made him reach
for his jacket. There was the little dog, still, sitting on its base,
twenty yards away. It cowered and dropped its ears when he moved; and he
thought "Poor beast! Someone has been doing the devil's work on you, not
badly!" There were some biscuits in the pocket of his jacket, and he
held one out. The dog shivered, and its thin pink tongue lolled out,
panting with desire, and fear. Jean Liotard tossed the biscuit gently
about half way. The dog cowered back a step or two, crept forward three,
and again squatted. Then very gradually it crept up to the biscuit,
bolted it, and regained its distance. The soldier took out another. This
time he threw it five paces only in front of him. Again the little beast
cowered, slunk forward, seized the biscuit, devoured it; but this time
it only recoiled a pace or two, and seemed, with panting mouth and faint
wagging of the tail, to beg for more. Jean Liotard held a third biscuit
as far out in front of him as he could, and waited. The creature crept
forward and squatted just out of reach. There it sat, with saliva
dripping from its mouth; seemingly it could not make up its mind to
that awful venture. The soldier sat motionless; his outstretched hand
began to tire; but he did not budge--he meant to conquer its fear. At
last it snatched the biscuit. Jean Liotard instantly held out a fourth.
That too was snatched, but at the fifth he was able to touch the dog. It
cowered almost into the ground at touch of his fingers, and then lay,
still trembling violently, while the soldier continued to stroke its
head and ears. And suddenly his heart gave a twitter, the creature had
licked his hand. He took out his last biscuit, broke it up, and fed the
dog slowly with the bits, talking all the time; when the last crumb was
gone he continued to murmur and crumple its ears softly. He had become
aware of something happening within the dog--something in the nature of
conversion, as if it were saying: "O my master, my new master--I
worship, I love you!" The creature came gradually closer, quite close;
then put up its sharp black nose and began to lick his face. Its little
hot rough tongue licked and licked, and with each lick the soldier's
heart relaxed, just as if the licks were being given there, and
something licked away. He put his arms round the thin body, and hugged
it, and still the creature went on feverishly licking at his face, and
neck, and chest, as if trying to creep inside him. The sun poured down,
the lizards rustled and whisked among the pebbles; the kissing never
ceased up there among the willow and aspen leaves, and every kind of
flying thing went past drumming its wings. There was no change in the
summer afternoon. God might not be there, but Pity had come back; Jean
Liotard no longer had "_cafard_." He put the little dog gently off his
lap, got up, and stretched himself. "_Voyons, mon brave, faut aller voir
les copains! Tu es à moi._" The little dog stood up on its hind legs,
scratching with its forepaws at the soldier's thigh, as if trying to get
at his face again; as if begging not to be left; and its tail waved
feverishly, half in petition, half in rapture. The soldier caught the
paws, set them down, and turned his face for home, making the noises
that a man makes to his dog; and the little dog followed, close as he
could get to those moving ankles, lifting his snout, and panting with
anxiety and love.




Just as the train was going out the compartment was stormed by a figure
in khaki, with a rifle, a bad cold, a wife, a basket, a small bundle,
and two babies. Setting his rifle down in the corner, he said:

"Didn't think we shud ever 'a caught it!"

His lean face was streaming with perspiration, and when he took off his
overcoat there rose the sweetish sourish scent of a hot goatskin
waistcoat. It reached below his waist, and would have kept cold out from
a man standing in a blizzard, and he had been carrying a baby, a rifle,
a bundle, a basket, and running, on a warmish day.

"Grand things, these," he said, and took it off. He also took off his
cap, and sat down with the elder baby in a howling draught.

"Proper cold I've caught comin' over here," he added.

His wife, quite a girl, broad-faced, fresh-coloured, with small grey
eyes and a wonderfully placid, comely face, on which a faint shadow
seemed printed, sat beside him with the younger baby, a real hairless
one, as could be seen when its white knitted cap slipped. The elder
baby, perhaps two years old, began whimpering a little. He jigged it
gently, and said:

"We 'ad a lot o' trouble wi' this one yesterday. The Doctor didn't think
'er fit to travel; but I got to see the old people down there, before I
go back out across. Come over Sunday night--only got a week's leave. So
here we are," and he laughed.

"What is your corps?" I asked.


"Join since the war?"

He looked at me as if to say: What a question!

"Twelve years' service. Been everywhere--India, South Africa, Egypt.
Come over to the front from Egypt."

"Where? Ypres?"

"Beg pardon? Wipers? No, Labassy."

"Rough time?"

He winked. "Proper rough time."

He looked straight at me, and his eyes--Celtic-grey, with a good deal of
light in them--stared, wide and fixed, at things beyond me, as only do
the eyes of those who have seen much death. There was a sort of
burnt-gunpowder look about their rims and lashes, and a fixity that
nothing could have stared down.

"The Kazer he says it'll all be over by April!" He laughed, abandoning
the whole of him to enjoyment of that joke.

He was thin as a rail; his head with its thick brown hair was narrow,
his face narrowish too. He had irregular ears, and no feature that could
be called good, but his expression was utterly genuine and unconscious
of itself. When he sat quiet his face would be held a little down, his
eyes would be looking at something--or was it at nothing?--far-off, in a
kind of frowning dream. But if he glanced at his babies his rather thick
mouth became all smiles, and he would make a remark to his wife about
them. Once or twice she looked at him softly, but I could never catch
him responding to that; his life was rather fuller than hers just now.
Presently she took from him the elder baby which, whimpering again, was
quieted at once by her broad placidity. The younger baby she passed to
him; and, having secured it on his knee, he said:

"This one's a proper little gem; never makes a sound; she's a proper
little gem. Never cude stand hearin' a baby cry." It certainly was an
admirable baby, whether her little garments were lifted so that you saw
portions of her--scarlet from being held too tight, whether the shawl
was wrapped over her too much or too little, or her little knitted
trousers seemed about to fall off. For both these babies were elegantly
dressed, and so was the mother, with a small blue hat and a
large-checked blouse over her broad bosom, and a blue skirt all crumbs
and baby. It was pleasant to see that he had ceased to stream with
perspiration now, and some one at the other end of the carriage having
closed the window, he and the babies no longer sat in a howling
draught--not that they had ever noticed it.

"Yes," he said suddenly, "proper rough time we 'ad of it at first.
Terrible--yu cude 'ardly stick it. We Engineers 'ad the worst of it, tu.
But must laugh, you know; if yu're goin' to cop it next minute--must
laugh!" And he did. But his eyes didn't quite lose that stare.

"How did you feel the first day under fire?"

He closed one eye and shook his head.

"Not very grand--not very grand--not for two or three days. Soon get
used to it, though. Only things I don't care about now are those Jack
Johnsons. Long Toms out in South Africa--now Jack Johnsons--funny
names--" and he went into a roar. Then leaning forward and, to make sure
of one's attention, sawing the air with a hand that held perhaps the
longest used handkerchief ever seen, "I seen 'em make a hole where you
could 'ave put two 'underd and fifty horses. Don't think I shall ever
get to like 'em. Yu don't take no notice o' rifle fire after a
little--not a bit o' notice. I was out once with a sapper and two o' the
Devons, fixin' up barbed wire--bullets strikin' everywhere just like
rain. One o' the Devons, he was sittin' on a biscuit-tin, singin': 'The
fields were white wi' daisies'--singing. All of a sudden he goes like
this--" And giving a queer dull "sumph" of a sound, he jerked his body
limp towards his knees--"Gone! Dig a hole, put 'im in. Your turn
to-morrow, perhaps. Pals an' all. Yu get so as yu don't take no notice."

On the face of the broad, placid girl with the baby against her breast
the shadow seemed printed a little deeper, but she did not wince. The
tiny baby on his knees woke up and crowed faintly. He smiled.

"Since I been out there, I've often wished I was a little 'un again,
like this. Well, I made up my mind when first I went for a soldier, that
I'd like to 'ave a medal out of it some day. Now I'll get it, if they
don't get me!" and he laughed again: "Ah! I've 'ad some good times, an'
I've 'ad some bad times----"

"But never a time like this?"

"Yes, I reckon this has about put the top hat on it!" and he nodded his
head above the baby's. "About put the top hat on! Oh! I've seen
things--enough to make your 'eart bleed. I've seen a lot of them country
people. Cruel it is! Women, old men, little children, 'armless
people--enough to make your 'eart bleed. I used to think of the folk
over 'ere. Don't think English women'd stand what the French and Belgian
women do. Those poor women over there--wonderful they are. There yu'll
see 'em sittin' outside their 'omes just a heap o' ruins--clingin' to
'em. Wonderful brave and patient--make your 'eart bleed to see 'em.
Things I've seen! There's some proper brutes among the Germans--must be.
Yu don't feel very kind to 'em when yu've seen what I've seen. We 'ave
some games with 'em, though"--he laughed again: "Very nervous people,
the Germans. If we stop firin' in our lines, up they send the star
shells, rockets and all, to see what's goin' on--think we're goin' to
attack--regular 'lumination o' fireworks--very nervous people. Then we
send up some rockets on our side--just to 'ave some fun--proper display
o' fireworks." He went off into a roar: "Must 'ave a bit o' fun, you

"Is it true they can't stand the bayonet?"

"Yes, that's right--they'll tell yu so themselves--very sensitive,
nervous people."

And after that a silence fell. The elder babe was still fretful, and the
mother's face had on it that most moving phenomenon of this world--the
strange, selfless, utterly absorbed look, mouth just loosened, eyes off
where we cannot follow, the whole being wrapped in warmth of her baby
against her breast. And he, with the tiny placid baby, had gone off into
another sort of dream, with his slightly frowning, far-away look. What
was it all about?--nothing perhaps! A great quality, to be able to rest
in vacancy.

He stirred and I offered him the paper, but he shook his head.

"Thank yu; don't care about lookin' at 'em. They don't know half what we
do out there--from what I've seen of 'em since I come back, I don't seem
to 'ave any use for 'em. The pictures, too--" He shrugged and shook his
head. "We 'ave the real news, y'see. They don't keep nothin' from us.
But we're not allowed to say. When we advance there'll be some lives
lost, I tell yu!"

He nodded, thinking for a second perhaps of his own. "Can't be helped!
Once we get 'em on the run, we shan't give 'em much time." Just then the
baby on his knee woke up and directed on him the full brunt of its
wide-open bright grey eyes. Its rosy cheeks were so broad and fat that
its snub nose seemed but a button; its mouth, too tiny, one would think,
for use, smiled. Seeing that smile he said:

"Well, what do yu want? Proper little gem, ain't yu!" And suddenly
looking up at me, he added with a sort of bashful glee: "My old
people'll go fair mad when they see me--go fair mad they will." He
seemed to dwell on the thought, and I saw the wife give him a long soft
smiling look. He added suddenly:

"I'll 'ave to travel back, though, Saturday--catch the six o'clock from
Victoria, Sunday--to cross over there."

Very soon after that we arrived at where he changed, and putting on his
goatskin, his cap, and overcoat, he got out behind his wife, carrying
with the utmost care those queer companions, his baby and his rifle.

Where is he now? Alive, dead? Who knows?




Several times since that fateful Fourth of August he had said: "I sh'll
'ave to go."

And the farmer and his wife would look at him, he with a sort of
amusement, she with a queer compassion in her heart, and one or the
other would reply smiling: "That's all right, Tom, there's plenty
Germans yet. Yu wait a bit."

His mother, too, who came daily from the lonely cottage in the little
combe on the very edge of the big hill to work in the kitchen and farm
dairy, would turn her dark taciturn head, with still plentiful black
hair, towards his face which, for all its tan, was so weirdly
reminiscent of a withered baby, pinkish and light-lashed, with forelock
and fair hair thin and rumpled, and small blue eyes, and she would

"Don't yu never fret, boy. They'll come for 'ee fast enough when they
want 'ee." No one, least of all perhaps his mother, could take quite
seriously that little square short-footed man, born when she was just
seventeen. Sure of work because he was first-rate with every kind of
beast, he was yet not looked on as being quite 'all there.' He could
neither read nor write, had scarcely ever been outside the parish, and
then only in a shandrydan on a Club treat, and he knew no more of the
world than the native of a small South Sea Island. His life from school
age on had been passed year in, year out, from dawn till dark, with the
cattle and their calves, the sheep, the horses and the wild moor ponies;
except when hay or corn harvest, or any exceptionally exacting festival
absorbed him for the moment. From shyness he never went into the bar of
the Inn, and so had missed the greater part of village education. He
could of course read no papers, a map was to him but a mystic mass of
marks and colours; he had never seen the sea, never a ship; no water
broader than the parish streams; until the war had never met anything
more like a soldier than the constable of the neighbouring village. But
he had once seen a Royal Marine in uniform. What sort of creatures these
Germans were to him--who knows? They were cruel--he had grasped that.
Something noxious, perhaps, like the adders whose backs he broke with
his stick; something dangerous like the chained dog at Shapton Farm; or
the big bull at Vannacombe. When the war first broke out, and they had
called the younger blacksmith (a reservist and noted village marksman)
back to his regiment, the little cowman had smiled and said: "Wait till
regiment gets to front, Fred'll soon shoot 'em up."

But weeks and months went by, and it was always the Germans, the
Germans; Fred had clearly not yet shot them up; and now one and now
another went off from the village, and two from the farm itself; and the
great Fred returned slightly injured for a few weeks' rest, and, full of
whisky from morning till night, made the village ring; and finally went
off again in a mood of manifest reluctance. All this weighed dumbly on
the mind of the little cowman, the more heavily that because of his
inarticulate shyness he could never talk that weight away, nor could
anyone by talk relieve him, no premises of knowledge or vision being
there. From sheer physical contagion he felt the grizzly menace in the
air, and a sense of being left behind when others were going to meet
that menace with their fists, as it were. There was something proud and
sturdy in the little man, even in the look of him, for all that he was
'poor old Tom,' who brought a smile to the lips of all. He was
passionate, too, if rubbed up the wrong way; but it needed the
malevolence and ingenuity of human beings to annoy him--with his beasts
he never lost his temper, so that they had perfect confidence in him. He
resembled indeed herdsmen of the Alps, whom one may see in dumb
communion with their creatures up in those high solitudes; for he too
dwelt in a high solitude cut off from real fellowship with men and women
by lack of knowledge, and by the supercilious pity in them. Living in
such a remote world his talk--when he did say something--had ever the
surprising quality attaching to the thoughts of those by whom the normal
proportions of things are quite unknown. His short square figure,
hatless and rarely coated in any weather, dotting from foot to foot, a
bit of stick in one hand, and often a straw in the mouth--he did not
smoke--was familiar in the yard where he turned the handle of the
separator, or in the fields and cowsheds, from daybreak to dusk, save
for the hours of dinner and tea, which he ate in the farm kitchen,
making sparse and surprising comments. To his peculiar whistles and
calls the cattle and calves, for all their rumination and stubborn
shyness, were amazingly responsive. It was a pretty sight to see them
pushing against each other round him--for, after all, he was as much the
source of their persistence, especially through the scanty winter
months, as a mother starling to her unfledged young.

When the Government issued their request to householders to return the
names of those of military age ready to serve if called on, he heard of
it, and stopped munching to say in his abrupt fashion: "I'll go--fight
the Germans." But the farmer did not put him down, saying to his wife:

"Poor old Tom! 'Twidden be 'ardly fair--they'd be makin' game of 'un."

And his wife, her eyes shining with motherliness, answered: "Poor lad,
he's not fit-like."

The months went on--winter passing to spring--and the slow decking of
the trees and fields began with leaves and flowers, with butterflies and
the songs of birds. How far the little cowman would notice such a thing
as that no one could ever have said, devoid as he was of the vocabulary
of beauty, but like all the world his heart must have felt warmer and
lighter under his old waistcoat, and perhaps more than most hearts, for
he could often be seen standing stock-still in the fields, his browning
face turned to the sun.

Less and less he heard talk of Germans--dogged acceptance of the state
of war having settled on that far countryside--the beggars were not
beaten and killed off yet, but they would be in good time. It was
unpleasant to think of them more than could be helped. Once in a way a
youth went off and ''listed,' but though the parish had given more
perhaps than the average, a good few of military age still clung to life
as they had known it. Then some bright spirit conceived the notion that
a county regiment should march through the remoter districts to rouse
them up.

The cuckoo had been singing five days; the lanes and fields, the woods
and the village green were as Joseph's coat, so varied and so bright the
foliage, from golden oak-buds to the brilliant little lime-tree leaves,
the feathery green shoots of larches, and the already darkening bunches
of the sycamores. The earth was dry--no rain for a fortnight--when the
cars containing the brown-clad men and a recruiting band drew up before
the Inn. Here were clustered the farmers, the innkeeper, the grey-haired
postman; by the Church gate and before the schoolyard were knots of
girls and children, schoolmistress, schoolmaster, parson; and down on
the lower green a group of likely youths, an old labourer or two, and
apart from human beings as was his wont, the little cowman in brown
corduroys tied below the knee, and an old waistcoat, the sleeves of his
blue shirt dotted with pink, rolled up to the elbows of his brown arms.
So he stood, his brown neck and shaven-looking head quite bare, with
his bit of stick wedged between his waist and the ground, staring with
all his light-lashed water-blue eyes from under the thatch of his

The speeches rolled forth glib; the khaki-clad men drank their second
fill that morning of coffee and cider; the little cowman stood straight
and still, his head drawn back. Two figures--officers, men who had been
at the front--detached themselves and came towards the group of likely
youths. These wavered a little, were silent, sniggered, stood their
ground--the khaki-clad figures passed among them. Hackneyed words,
jests, the touch of flattery, changing swiftly to chaff--all the
customary performance, hollow and pathetic; and then the two figures
re-emerged, their hands clenched, their eyes shifting here and there,
their lips drawn back in fixed smiles. They had failed, and were trying
to hide it. They must not show contempt--the young slackers might yet
come in, when the band played.

The cars were filled again, the band struck up: 'It's a long long way to

And at the edge of the green within two yards of the car's dusty passage
the little cowman stood apart and stared. His face was red. Behind him
they were cheering--the parson and farmers, school children, girls, even
the group of youths. He alone did not cheer, but his face grew still
more red. When the dust above the road and the distant blare of
Tipperary had dispersed and died, he walked back to the farm dotting
from one to other of his short feet. All that afternoon and evening he
spoke no word; but the flush seemed to have settled in his face for good
and all. He milked some cows, but forgot to bring the pails up. Two of
his precious cows he left unmilked till their distressful lowing caused
the farmer's wife to go down and see. There he was standing against a
gate moving his brown neck from side to side like an animal in pain,
oblivious seemingly of everything. She spoke to him:

"What's matter, Tom?" All he could answer was:

"I'se goin', I'se goin'." She milked the cows herself.

For the next three days he could settle to nothing, leaving his jobs
half done, speaking to no one save to say:

"I'se goin'; I'se got to go." Even the beasts looked at him surprised.

On the Saturday the farmer having consulted with his wife, said quietly:

"Well, Tom, ef yu want to go, yu shall. I'll drive 'ee down Monday. Us
won't du nothin' to keep yu back."

The little cowman nodded. But he was restless as ever all through that
Sunday, eating nothing.

On Monday morning arrayed in his best clothes he got into the dog-cart.
There, without good-bye to anyone, not even to his beasts, he sat
staring straight before him, square, and jolting up and down beside the
farmer, who turned on him now and then a dubious almost anxious eye.

So they drove the eleven miles to the recruiting station. He got down,
entered, the farmer with him.

"Well, my lad," they asked him, "what d'you want to join?"

"Royal Marines."

It was a shock, coming from the short, square figure of such an obvious
landsman. The farmer took him by the arm.

"Why, yu'm a Devon man, Tom, better take county regiment. An't they gude
enough for yu?"

Shaking his head he answered: "Royal Marines."

Was it the glamour of the words or the Royal Marine he had once seen,
that moved him to wish to join that outlandish corps? Who shall say?
There was the wish, immovable; they took him to the recruiting station
for the Royal Marines.

Stretching up his short, square body, and blowing out his cheeks to
increase his height, he was put before the reading board. His eyes were
splendid; little that passed in hedgerows or the heaven, in woods or on
the hillsides, could escape them. They asked him to read the print.

Staring, he answered: "L."

"No, my lad, you're guessing."


The farmer plucked at the recruiting officer's sleeve, his face was
twitching, and he whispered hoarsely:

"'E don' know 'is alphabet."

The officer turned and contemplated that short square figure with the
browned face so reminiscent of a withered baby, and the little blue eyes
staring out under the dusty forelock. Then he grunted, and going up to
him, laid a hand on his shoulder.

"_Your_ heart's all right, my lad, but you can't pass."

The little cowman looked at him, turned, and went straight out. An hour
later he sat again beside the farmer on the way home, staring before him
and jolting up and down.

"They won't get me," he said suddenly: "I can fight, but I'se not
goin'." A fire of resentment seemed to have been lit within him. That
evening he ate his tea, and next day settled down again among his
beasts. But whenever, now, the war was mentioned, he would look up with
his puckered smile which seemed to have in it a resentful amusement, and

"They a'nt got me yet."

His dumb sacrifice passing their comprehension, had been rejected--or so
it seemed to him He could not understand that they had spared him. Why!
He was as good as they! His pride was hurt. No! They should not get him




Colin Wilderton, coming from the West on his way to the Peace Meeting,
fell in with John Rudstock, coming from the North, and they walked on
together. After they had commented on the news from Russia and the
inflation of money, Rudstock said abruptly:

"We shall have a queer meeting, I expect."

"God knows!" answered Wilderton.

And both smiled, conscious that they were uneasy, but predetermined not
to show it under any circumstances. Their smiles were different, for
Rudstock was a black-browed man, with dark beard and strong, thick
figure, and Wilderton a very light-built, grey-haired man, with kindly
eyes and no health. He had supported the war an immense time, and had
only recently changed his attitude. In common with all men of warm
feelings, he had at first been profoundly moved by the violation of
Belgium. The horrors of the German advance through that little country
and through France, to which he was temperamentally attached, had
stirred in him a vigorous detestation, freely expressed in many ways.
Extermination, he had felt all those early months, was hardly good
enough for brutes who could commit such crimes against humanity and
justice; and his sense of the need for signal defeat of a noxious force
riding rough-shod over the hard-won decency of human life had survived
well into the third year of the war. He hardly knew, himself, when his
feeling had begun--not precisely to change, but to run, as it were, in a
different channel. A man of generous instincts, artistic tastes, and
unsteady nerves too thinly coated with that God-given assurance which
alone fits a man for knowing what is good for the world, he had become
gradually haunted by the thought that he was not laying down his own
life, but only the lives of his own and other peoples' sons. And the
consideration that he was laying them down for the benefit of their own
future had lost its grip on him. At moments he was still able to see
that the war he had so long supported had not yet attained sufficient
defeat of the Prussian military machine to guarantee that future; but
his pity and distress for all these young lives, cut down without a
chance to flower, had grown till he had become, as it were, a gambler.
What good--he would think--to secure the future of the young in a Europe
which would soon have no young! Every country was suffering
hideously--the criminal country not least, thank God! Suppose the war
were to go on for another year, two, three years, and then stop from
sheer exhaustion of both sides, while all the time these boys were being
killed and maimed, for nothing more, perhaps, than could be obtained
to-day. What then? True, the Government promised victory, but they never
promised it within a year. Governments did not die; what if they were to
go on promising it a year hence, till everybody else was dead! Did
history ever show that victory in the present could guarantee the
future? And even if not so openly defeated as was desirable, this
damnable Prussianism had got such a knock that it could never again do
what it had in the past. These last, however, were but side reflections,
toning down for him the fact that his nerves could no longer stand this
vicarious butchery of youth. And so he had gradually become that
"traitor to his country, a weak-kneed Peace by Negotiation man."
Physically his knees really were weak, and he used to smile a wry smile
when he read the expression.

John Rudstock, of vigorous physique, had opposed the war, on principle,
from the start, not because, any more than Wilderton, he approved of
Prussianism, but because, as an essentially combative personality, he
opposed everything that was supported by a majority; the greater the
majority, the more bitterly he opposed it; and no one would have been
more astonished than he at hearing that this was his principle. He
preferred to put it that he did not believe in opposing Force by Force.
In peace-time he was a "stalwart," in war-time a "renegade."

The street leading to the chapel which had been engaged seemed quiet
enough. Designed to make an impression on public opinion, every care had
been taken that the meeting should not attract the public eye. God's
protection had been enlisted, but two policemen also stood at the
entrance, and half a dozen others were suspiciously near by. A thin
trickle of persons, mostly women, were passing through the door. Colin
Wilderton, making his way up the aisle to the platform, wrinkled his
nose, thinking: "Stuffy in here." It had always been his misfortune to
love his neighbours individually, but to dislike them in a bunch. On the
platform some fifteen men and women were already gathered. He seated
himself modestly in the back row, while John Rudstock, less retiring,
took his place at the chairman's right hand. The speakers began with a
precipitancy hardly usual at a public meeting. Wilderton listened, and
thought: "Dreadfully cliché; why can't someone say straight out that
boys enough have been killed?" He had become conscious of a muttering
noise, too, as of the tide coming in on a heavy wind; it broke suddenly
into component parts--human voices clamouring outside. He heard blows
raining on the door, saw sticks smashing in the windows. The audience
had risen to its feet, some rushing to defend the doors, others standing
irresolute. John Rudstock was holding up the chair he had been sitting
on. Wilderton had just time to think: "I thought so," when a knot of
young men in khaki burst into the chapel, followed by a crowd. He knew
he was not much good in a scrimmage, but he placed himself at once in
front of the nearest woman. At that moment, however, some soldiers,
pouring through a side-door, invaded the platform from behind, and threw
him down the steps. He arrived at the bottom with a bump, and was unable
to get up because of the crowd around him. Someone fell over him; it was
Rudstock, swearing horribly. He still had the chair in his hand, for it
hit Wilderton a nasty blow. The latter saw his friend recover his feet
and swing the weapon, and with each swing down went some friend or foe,
until he had cleared quite a space round him. Wilderton, still weak and
dizzy from his fall, sat watching this Homeric battle. Chairs, books,
stools, sticks were flying at Rudstock, who parried them, or diverted
their course so that they carried on and hit Wilderton, or crashed
against the platform. He heard Rudstock roar like a lion, and saw him
advance, swinging his chair; down went two young men in khaki, down went
a third in mufti; a very tall young soldier, also armed with a chair,
dashed forward, and the two fought in single combat. Wilderton had got
on his feet by now, and, adjusting his eyeglass, for he could see little
without, he caught up a hymn-book, and, flinging it at the crowd with
all his force, shouted: "Hoo-bloodyray!" and followed with his fists
clenched. One of them encountered what must have been the jaw of an
Australian, it was so hard against his hand; he received a vicious punch
in the ribs and was again seated on the ground. He could still hear his
friend roaring, and the crash of chairs meeting in mid-air. Something
fell heavily on him. It was Rudstock--he was insensible. There was a
momentary lull, and peering up as best he could from underneath the
body, Wilderton saw that the platform had been cleared of all its
original inhabitants, and was occupied mainly by youths in navy-blue and
khaki. A voice called out:

"Order! Silence!"

Rubbing Rudstock's temples with brandy from a flask which he had had the
foresight to slip into his pocket, he listened as best he could, with
the feet of the crowd jostling his anatomy.

"Here we are, boys," the voice was saying, "and here we'll always be
when these treacherous blighters try their games on. No peace, no peace
at any price! We've got to show them that we won't have it. Leave the
women alone--though they ought to be ashamed of themselves; but for the
men--the skunks--shooting's too good for them. Let them keep off the
course or we'll make them. We've broken up this meeting, and we'll break
up every meeting that tries to talk of peace. Three cheers for the old

During the cheers which followed Wilderton was discovering signs of
returning consciousness in his friend. Rudstock had begun to breathe
heavily, and, pouring some brandy into his mouth, he propped him up as
best he could against a wooden structure, which he suddenly perceived to
be the chapel's modest pulpit. A thought came to his dazed brain. If he
could get up into that, as if he had dropped from Heaven, they might
almost listen to him. He disengaged his legs from under Rudstock, and
began crawling up the steps on hands and knees. Once in the pulpit he
sat on the floor below the level of visibility, getting his breath, and
listening to the cheers. Then, smoothing his hair, he rose, and waited
for the cheers to stop. He had calculated rightly. His sudden
appearance, his grey hair, eyeglass, and smile deceived them for a
moment. There was a hush.

"Boys!" he said, "listen to me a second, I want to ask you something.
What on earth do you think we came here for? Simply and solely because
we can't bear to go on seeing you killed day after day, month after
month, year after year. That's all, and it's Christ's truth. Amen!"

A strange gasp and mutter greeted this little speech; then a dull voice
called out:


Wilderton flung up his hand.

"The Germans to hell!" he said simply.

The dull voice repeated:

"Pro-German!" And the speaker on the platform called out: "Come out of
that! When we want you to beg us off we'll let you know."

Wilderton spun round to him.

"You're all wonderful!" he began, but a hymn-book hit him fearfully on
the forehead, and he sank down into the bottom of the pulpit. This last
blow, coming on the top of so many others, had deprived him of
intelligent consciousness; he was but vaguely aware of more speeches,
cheers, and tramplings, then of a long hush, and presently found
himself walking out of the chapel door between Rudstock and a policeman.
It was not the door by which they had entered, and led to an empty

"Can you walk?" said the policeman.

Wilderton nodded.

"Then walk off!" said the policeman, and withdrew again into the house
of God.

They walked, holding each other's arms, a little unsteadily at first.
Rudstock had a black eye and a cut on his ear, the blood from which had
stained his collar and matted his beard. Wilderton's coat was torn, his
forehead bruised, his cheek swollen, and he had a pain in his back which
prevented him from walking very upright. They did not speak, but in an
archway did what they could with pins and handkerchiefs, and by turning
up Rudstock's coat collar, to regain something of respectability. When
they were once more under way Rudstock said coldly:

"I heard you. You should have spoken for yourself. I came, as you know,
because I don't believe in opposing force by force. At the next peace
meeting we hold I shall make that plainer."

Wilderton murmured:

"Yes, yes; I saw you--I'm sure you will. I apologise; I was carried

Rudstock went on in a deep voice:

"As for those young devils, they may die to a man if they like! Take my
advice and let them alone."

Wilderton smiled on the side which was not swollen.

"Yes," he said sadly, "it does seem difficult to persuade them to go on
living. Ah, well!"

"Ah, well!" he said again, five minutes later, "they're wonderful--poor
young beggars! I'm very unhappy, Rudstock!"

"I'm not," said Rudstock, "I've enjoyed it in a way! Good-night!"

They shook hands, screwing up their mouths with pain, for their fists
were badly bruised, and parted, Rudstock going to the North, Wilderton
to the West.




Until the great war was over I had no idea that some of us who stayed at
home made the great sacrifice.

My friend Harburn is, or rather was, a Northumbrian, or some kind of
Northerner, a stocky man of perhaps fifty, with close-clipped grizzled
hair and moustache, and a deep-coloured face. He was a neighbour of mine
in the country, and we had the same kind of dogs--Airedales, never less
than three at a time, so that for breeding purposes we were useful to
each other. We often, too, went up to Town by the same train. His
occupation was one which gave him opportunity of prominence in public
life, but until the war he took little advantage of this, sunk in a kind
of bluff indifferentism which was almost cynical. I used to look on him
as a typically good-natured blunt Englishman, rather enjoying his
cynicism, and appreciating his open-air tendencies--for he was a devotee
of golf, and fond of shooting when he had the chance; a good companion,
too, with an open hand to people in distress. He was unmarried, and
dwelled in a bungalow-like house not far from mine, and next door to a
German family called Holsteig, who had lived in England nearly twenty
years. I knew them pretty well also--a very united trio, father, mother,
and one son. The father, who came from Hanover, was something in the
City, the mother was Scotch, and the son--the one I knew best and liked
most--had just left his public school. This youth had a frank, open,
blue-eyed face, and thick light hair brushed back without a parting--a
very attractive, slightly Norwegian-looking type. His mother was devoted
to him; she was a real West Highlander, slight, with dark hair going
grey, high cheekbones, a sweet but rather ironical smile, and those grey
eyes which have second sight in them. I several times met Harburn at
their house, for he would go in to play billiards with Holsteig in the
evenings, and the whole family were on very friendly terms with him.

The third morning after we had declared war on Germany Harburn,
Holsteig, and I went up to Town in the same carriage. Harburn and I
talked freely. But Holsteig, a fair, well-set-up man of about fifty,
with a pointed beard and blue eyes like his son, sat immersed in his
paper till Harburn said suddenly:

"I say, Holsteig, is it true that your boy was going off to join the
German army?"

Holsteig looked up.

"Yes," he said. "He was born in Germany; he's liable to military
service. But thank heaven, it isn't possible for him to go."

"But his mother?" said Harburn. "She surely wouldn't have let him?"

"She was very miserable, of course, but she thought duty came first."

"Duty! Good God!--my dear man! Half British, and living in this country
all his life! I never heard of such a thing!" Holsteig shrugged his

"In a crisis like this, what can you do except follow the law strictly?
He is of military age and a German subject. We were thinking of his
honour; but of course we're most thankful he can't get over to Germany."

"Well, I'm damned!" said Harburn. "You Germans are too bally
conscientious altogether."

Holsteig did not answer.

I travelled back with Harburn the same evening, and he said to me:

"Once a German, always a German. Didn't that chap Holsteig astonish you
this morning? In spite of living here so long and marrying a British
wife, his sympathies are dead German, you see."

"Well," I replied; "put yourself in his place."

"I can't; I could never have lived in Germany. I wonder," he added
reflectively, "I wonder if the chap's all right, Cumbermere?"

"Of course he's all right." Which was the wrong thing to say to Harburn
if one wanted to re-establish his confidence in the Holsteigs, as I
certainly did, for I liked them and was sure of their good faith. If I
had said: "Of course he's a spy"--I should have rallied all Harburn's
confidence in Holsteig, for he was naturally contradictious.

I only mention this little passage to show how early Harburn's thoughts
began to turn to the subject which afterwards completely absorbed and
inspired him till he died for his country.

I am not sure what paper first took up the question of interning all the
Huns; but I fancy the point was raised originally rather from the
instinct, deeply implanted in so many journals, for what would please
the public, than out of any deep animus. At all events I remember
meeting a sub-editor, who told me he had been opening letters of
approval all the morning. "Never," said he, "have we had a stunt catch
on so quickly. 'Why should that bally German round the corner get my
custom?' and so forth. Britain for the British!"

"Rather bad luck," I said, "on people who've paid us the compliment of
finding this the best country to live in!"

"Bad luck, no doubt," he replied, "_mais la guerre c'est la guerre_. You
know Harburn, don't you? Did you see the article he wrote? By Jove, he
pitched it strong."

When next I met Harburn himself, he began talking on this subject at

"Mark my words, Cumbermere, I'll have every German out of this country."
His grey eyes seemed to glint with the snap and spark as of steel and
flint and tinder; and I felt I was in the presence of a man who had
brooded so over the German atrocities in Belgium that he was possessed
by a sort of abstract hate.

"Of course," I said, "there have been many spies, but----"

"Spies and ruffians," he cried, "the whole lot of them."

"How many Germans do you know personally?" I asked him.

"Thank God! Not a dozen."

"And are they spies and ruffians?"

He looked at me and laughed, but that laugh was uncommonly like a snarl.

"You go in for 'fairness,'" he said; "and all that slop; take 'em by the
throat--it's the only way."

It trembled on the tip of my tongue to ask him whether he meant to take
the Holsteigs by the throat, but I swallowed it, for fear of doing them
an injury. I was feeling much the same general abhorrence myself, and
had to hold myself in all the time for fear it should gallop over my
commonsense. But Harburn, I could see, was giving it full rein. His
whole manner and personality somehow had changed. He had lost geniality,
and that good-humoured cynicism which had made him an attractive
companion; he was as if gnawed at inwardly--in a word, he already had a
fixed idea.

Now, a cartoonist like myself has got to be interested in the psychology
of men and things, and I brooded over Harburn, for it seemed to me
remarkable that one whom I had always associated with good humour and
bluff indifference should be thus obsessed. And I formed this theory
about him: 'Here'--I said to myself--'is one of Cromwell's Ironsides,
born out of his age. In the slack times of peace he discovered no outlet
for the grim within him--his fire could never be lighted by love,
therefore he drifted in the waters of indifferentism. Now suddenly in
this grizzly time he has found himself, a new man, girt and armed by
this new passion of hate; stung and uplifted, as it were, by the sight
of that which he can smite with a whole heart. It's deeply
interesting'--I said to myself--'Who could have dreamed of such a
reincarnation; for what on the surface could possibly be less alike than
an 'Ironside,' and Harburn as I've known him up to now?' And I used his
face for the basis of a cartoon which represented a human weather-vane
continually pointing to the East, no matter from what quarter the wind
blew. He recognised himself, and laughed when he saw me--rather pleased,
in fact, but in that laugh there was a sort of truculence, as if the man
had the salt taste of blood at the back of his mouth.

"Ah!" he said, "you may joke about it, but I've got my teeth into them
all right. The swine!"

And there was no doubt he had--the man had become a force; unhappy
Germans, a few of them spies, no doubt, but the great majority as
certainly innocent, were being wrenched from their trades and families,
and piled into internment camps all day and every day. And the faster
they were piled in, the higher grew his stock, as a servant of his
country. I'm sure he did not do it to gain credit; the thing was a
crusade to him, something sacred--'his bit'; but I believe he also felt
for the first time in his life that he was really living, getting out of
life the full of its juice. Was he not smiting hip and thigh? He
longed, I am sure, to be in the thick of the actual fighting, but age
debarred him, and he was not of that more sensitive type which shrinks
from smiting the defenceless if it cannot smite anything stronger. I
remember saying to him once:

"Harburn, do you ever think of the women and children of your victims?"

He drew his lips back, and I saw how excellent his teeth were.

"The women are worse than the men, I believe," he said. "I'd put them
in, too, if I could. As for the children, they're all the better for
being without fathers of that kidney."

He really was a little mad on the subject; no more so, of course, than
any other man with a fixed idea, but certainly no less.

In those days I was here, there, and everywhere, and had let my country
cottage, so I saw nothing of the Holsteigs, and indeed had pretty well
forgotten their existence. But coming back at the end of 1917 from a
long spell with the Red Cross I found among my letters one from Mrs.

     "Dear Mr. Cumbermere,

     You were always so friendly to us that I have summoned up
     courage to write this letter. You know perhaps that my
     husband was interned over a year ago, and repatriated last
     September; he has lost everything, of course; but so far he
     is well and able to get along in Germany. Harold and I have
     been jogging on here as best we can on my own little
     income--'Huns in our midst' as we are, we see practically
     nobody. What a pity we cannot all look into each other's
     hearts, isn't it? I used to think we were a 'fair-play'
     people, but I have learned the bitter truth--that there is no
     such thing when pressure comes. It's much worse for Harold
     than for me; he feels his paralysed position intensely, and
     would, I'm sure, really rather be 'doing his bit' as an
     interned, than be at large, subject to everyone's suspicion
     and scorn. But I am terrified all the time that they _will_
     intern him. You used to be intimate with Mr. Harburn. We have
     not seen him since the first autumn of the war, but we know
     that he has been very active in the agitation, and is very
     powerful in this matter. I have wondered whether he can
     possibly realise what this indiscriminate internment of the
     innocent means to the families of the interned. Could you not
     find a chance to try and make him understand? If he and a few
     others were to stop hounding on the government, it would
     cease, for the authorities must know perfectly well that all
     the dangerous have been disposed of long ago. You have no
     notion how lonely one feels in one's native land nowadays; if
     I should lose Harold too I think I might go under, though
     that has never been my habit.

     Believe me, dear Mr. Cumbermere,
     Most truly yours

On receiving this letter I was moved by compassion, for it required no
stretch of imagination to picture the life of that lonely British
mother and her son; and I thought very carefully over the advisability
of speaking to Harburn, and consulted the proverbs: "Speech is silver,
but Silence is golden--When in doubt play trumps." "Second thoughts are
best--He who hesitates is lost." "Look before you leap--Delays are
dangerous." They balanced so perfectly that I had recourse to
Commonsense, which told me to abstain. But meeting Harburn at the Club a
few days later and finding him in a genial mood, I let impulse prevail,
and said:

"By the way, Harburn, you remember the Holsteigs? I had a letter from
poor Mrs. Holsteig the other day; she seems terrified that they'll
intern her son, that particularly nice boy. Don't you think it's time
you let up on these unhappy people?"

The moment I reached the word Holsteig I saw I had made a mistake, and
only went on because to have stopped at that would have been worse
still. The hair had bristled up on his back, as it were, and he said:

"Holsteig? That young pup who was off to join the German army if he
could? By George, is he at large still? This Government will never
learn. I'll remember him."

"Harburn," I stammered, "I spoke of this in confidence. The boy is half
British, and a friend of mine. I thought he was a friend of yours too."

"Of mine?" he said. "No thank you. No mongrels for me. As to confidence,
Cumbermere, there's no such thing in war time over what concerns the
country's safety."

"Good God!" I exclaimed. "You really are crazy on this subject. That
boy--with his bringing-up!"

He grinned. "We're taking no risks," he said, "and making no exceptions.
The British army or an internment camp. I'll see that he gets the

"If you do," I said, rising, "we cease to be friends. I won't have my
confidence abused."

"Oh! Hang it all!" he grumbled; "sit down! We must all do our duty."

"You once complained to Holsteig himself of that German peculiarity."

He laughed. "I did," he said; "I remember--in the train. I've changed
since then. That pup ought to be in with all the other swine-hounds. But
let it go."

There the matter rested, for he had said: "Let it go," and he was a man
of his word. It was, however, a lesson to me not to meddle with men of
temperament so different from my own. I wrote to young Holsteig and
asked him to come and lunch with me. He thanked me, but could not, of
course, being confined to a five-mile radius. Really anxious to see him,
I motorbiked down to their house. I found a very changed youth; moody
and introspective, thoroughly forced in upon himself, and growing
bitter. He had been destined for his father's business, and, marooned as
he was by his nationality, had nothing to do but raise vegetables in
their garden and read poetry and philosophy--not occupations to take a
young man out of himself. Mrs. Holsteig, whose nerves were evidently at
cracking point, had become extremely bitter, and lost all power of
seeing the war as a whole. All the ugly human qualities and hard people
which the drive and pressure of a great struggle inevitably bring to the
top seemed viewed by her now as if they were the normal character of her
fellow countrymen, and she made no allowance for the fact that those
fellow countrymen had not commenced this struggle, nor for the certainty
that the same ugly qualities and hard people were just as surely to the
fore in every other of the fighting countries. The certainty she felt
about her husband's honour had made her regard his internment and
subsequent repatriation as a personal affront, as well as a wicked
injustice. Her tall thin figure and high-cheekboned face seemed to have
been scorched and withered by some inner flame; she could not have been
a wholesome companion for her boy in that house, empty even of servants.
I spent a difficult afternoon in muzzling my sense of proportion, and
journeyed back to Town sore, but very sorry.

I was off again with the Red Cross shortly after, and did not return to
England till August of 1918. I was unwell, and went down to my cottage,
now free to me again. The influenza epidemic was raging, and there I
developed a mild attack; when I was convalescent my first visitor was
Harburn, who had come down to his bungalow for a summer holiday. He had
not been in the room five minutes before he was off on his favourite
topic. My nerves must have been on edge from illness, for I cannot
express the disgust with which I listened to him on that occasion. He
seemed to me just like a dog who mumbles and chews a mouldy old bone
with a sort of fury. There was a kind of triumph about him, too, which
was unpleasant, though not surprising, for he was more of a 'force' than
ever. 'God save me from the fixed idea!' I thought, when he was gone.
That evening I asked my old housekeeper if she had seen young Mr.
Holsteig lately.

"Oh! no," she said; "he's been put away this five month. Mrs. 'Olsteig
goes up once a week to see 'im, 'Olsteig. She's nigh out of her mind,
poor lady--the baker says; that fierce she is about the Gover'ment."

I confess I could not bring myself to go and see her.

About a month after the armistice had been signed I came down to my
cottage again. Harburn was in the same train, and he gave me a lift from
the station. He was more like his old good-humoured self, and asked me
to dinner the next day. It was the first time I had met him since the
victory. We had a most excellent repast, and drank the health of the
Future in some of his oldest port. Only when we had drawn up to the
blazing wood fire in that softly lighted room, with our glasses beside
us and two Airedales asleep at our feet, did he come round to his hobby.

"What do you think?" he said, suddenly leaning towards the flames, "some
of these blazing sentimentalists want to release our Huns. But I've put
my foot on it; they won't get free till they're out of this country and
back in their precious Germany." And I saw the familiar spark and
smoulder in his eyes.

"Harburn," I said, moved by an impulse which I couldn't resist, "I
think you ought to take a pill."

He stared at me.

"This way madness lies," I went on. "Hate is a damned insidious disease;
men's souls can't stand very much of it without going pop. You want

He laughed.

"Hate! I thrive on it. The more I hate the brutes, the better I feel.
Here's to the death of every cursed Hun!"

I looked at him steadily. "I often think," I said, "that there could
have been no more unhappy men on earth than Cromwell's Ironsides, or the
red revolutionaries in France, when their work was over and done with."

"What's that to do with me?" he said, amazed.

"They too smote out of sheer hate, and came to an end of their smiting.
When a man's occupation's gone----"

"You're drivelling!" he said sharply.

"Far from it," I answered, nettled. "Yours is a curious case, Harburn.
Most of our professional Hun-haters have found it a good stunt, or are
merely weak sentimentalists; they can drop it easily enough when it
ceases to be a good stunt, or a parrot's war-cry. You can't; with you
it's mania, religion. When the tide ebbs and leaves you high and

He struck his fist on the arm of his chair, upsetting his glass and
awakening the Airedale at his feet.

"I won't let it ebb," he said; "I'm going on with this--Mark me!"

"Remember Canute!" I muttered. "May I have some more port?" I had got up
to fill my glass when I saw to my astonishment that a woman was standing
in the long window which opened on to the verandah. She had evidently
only just come in, for she was still holding the curtain in her hand. It
was Mrs. Holsteig, with her fine grey hair blown about her face, looking
strange and almost ghostly in a grey gown. Harburn had not seen her, so
I went quickly towards her, hoping to get her to go out again as
silently, and speak to me on the verandah; but she held up her hand with
a gesture as if she would push me back, and said:

"Forgive my interrupting; I came to speak to that man."

Startled by the sound of her voice, Harburn jumped up and spun round
towards it.

"Yes," she repeated quite quietly; "I came to speak to you; I came to
put my curse on you. Many have put their curses on you silently; I do
so to your face. My son lies between life and death in your prison--your
prison. Whether he lives or dies I curse you for what you have done to
poor wives and mothers--to British wives and mothers. Be for ever
accursed! Good-night!"

She let the curtain fall, and had vanished before Harburn had time to
reach the window. She vanished so swiftly and silently, she had spoken
so quietly, that both he and I stood rubbing our eyes and ears.

"A bit theatrical!" he said at last.

"Perhaps," I answered slowly; "but you have been cursed by a live
Scotswoman. Look at those dogs!"

The two Airedales were standing stock-still with the hair bristling on
their backs.

Harburn suddenly laughed, and it jarred the whole room.

"By George!" he said, "I believe that's actionable."

But I was not in that mood, and said tartly:

"If it is, we are all food for judges."

He laughed again, this time uneasily, slammed the window to, bolted it,
and sat down again in his chair.

"He's got the 'flue,' I suppose," he said. "She must think me a prize
sort of idiot to have come here with such tomfoolery."

But our evening was spoiled, and I took my leave almost at once. I went
out into the roupy raw December night pondering deeply. Harburn had made
light of it, and though I suppose no man likes being cursed to his face
in the presence of a friend, I felt his skin was quite thick enough to
stand it. Besides, it was too cheap and crude a way of carrying on.
Anybody can go into his neighbour's house and curse him--and no bones
broken. And yet--what she had said was no doubt true; hundreds of
women--of his fellow countrywomen--must silently have put their curse on
one who had been the chief compeller of their misery. Still, he had put
_his_ curse on the Huns and their belongings, and I felt he was man
enough to take what he had given. 'No,' I thought, 'she has only fanned
the flame of his hate. But, by Jove! that's just it! Her curse has
fortified my prophecy!' It was of his own state of mind that he would
perish; and she had whipped and deepened that state of mind. And, odd as
it may seem, I felt quite sorry for him, as one is for a poor dog that
goes mad, does what harm he can, and dies. I lay awake that night a long
time thinking of him, and of that unhappy, half-crazed mother, whose son
lay between life and death.

Next day I went to see her, but she was up in London, hovering round
the cage of her son, no doubt. I heard from her, however, some days
later, thanking me for coming, and saying he was out of danger. But she
made no allusion to that evening visit. Perhaps she was ashamed of it.
Perhaps she was demented when she came, and had no remembrance thereof.

Soon after this I went to Belgium to illustrate a book on
Reconstruction, and found such subjects that I was not back in Town till
the late summer of 1919. Going into my Club one day I came on Harburn in
the smoking-room. The curse had not done him much harm, it seemed, for
he looked the picture of health.

"Well, how are you?" I said. "You look at the top of your form."

"Never better," he replied.

"Do you remember our last evening together?"

He uttered a sort of gusty grunt, and did not answer.

"That boy recovered," I said. "What's happened to him and his mother,

"The ironical young brute! I've just had this from him." And he handed
me a letter with the Hanover post mark.

     "Dear Mr. Harburn,

     It was only on meeting my mother here yesterday that I
     learned of her visit to you one evening last December. I
     wish to apologise for it, since it was my illness which
     caused her to so forget herself. I owe you a deep debt of
     gratitude for having been at least part means of giving me
     the most wonderful experience of my life. In that camp of
     sorrow--where there was sickness of mind and body such as I
     am sure you have never seen or realised, such endless
     hopeless mental anguish of poor huddled creatures turning and
     turning on themselves year after year--I learned to forget
     myself, and to do my little best for them. And I learned, and
     I hope I shall never forget it, that feeling for one's fellow
     creatures is all that stands between man and death; I was
     going fast the other way before I was sent there. I thank you
     from my heart, and beg to remain,

     Very faithfully yours

I put it down, and said:

"That's not ironical. He means it."

"Bosh!" said Harburn, with the old spark and smoulder in his eyes. "He's
pulling my leg--the swinelet Hun!"

"He is not, Harburn; I assure you."

Harburn got up. "He _is_; I tell you he _is_. Ah! Those brutes! Well! I
haven't done with them yet."

And I heard the snap of his jaw, and saw his eyes fixed fiercely on some
imaginary object. I changed the subject hurriedly, and soon took my
departure. But going down the steps, an old jingle came into my head,
and has hardly left it since:

 "The man recovered from the bite,
 The dog it was that died."




We were yarning after dinner, and, whether because three of us were
fishermen, or simply that we were all English, our yarns were taking a
competitive turn. The queerest thing seen during the War was the subject
of our tongues, and it was not till after several tit-bits had been
digested that Mallinson, the painter, ill and ironical, blue-eyed, and
with a fair pointed beard, took his pipe out of his mouth, and said:

"Well, you chaps, what I saw last week down in Kent takes some beating.
I'd been sketching in a hay-field, and was just making back along the
top hedge to the lane when I heard a sound from the other side like a
man's crying. I put my eye to a gap, and there, about three yards in,
was a grey-haired bloke in a Norfolk jacket and flannel trousers,
digging like a fiend, and crying like a baby--blowing, and gasping and
sobbing, tears and sweat rolling down into his beard like rivers. He'd
plunge his pick in, scratch, and shovel, and hack at the roots as if for
dear life--he was making the hole too close to the hedge, of
course--and all the time carrying on like that. I thought he must be
digging his own grave at least. Suddenly he put his pick down, and there
just under the hedge I saw a dead brown dog, lying on its side, all
limp. I never see a dead animal myself, you know, without a bit of a
choke; they're so soft, and lissom; the peace, and the pity--a sort of
look of: "Why--why--when I was so alive?" Well, this elderly Johnny took
a good squint at it, to see if the hole was big enough, then off he went
again, sobbing and digging like a fiend. It was really a bit too weird,
and I mouched off. But when I'd gone about half a mile, I got an attack
of the want-to-knows, came back, and sneaked along the hedge. There he
was still, but he had finished, and was having a mop round, and putting
the last touches to a heap of stones. I strolled up, and said:

'Hot work, Sir, digging, this weather!'

He was a good-looking old grey-beard, with an intellectual face, high
forehead and all that.

'I'm not used to it,' he said, looking at his blisters.

'Been burying a dog? Horrid job that!--favourite, I'm afraid.'

He seemed in two minds whether to shut me up and move off, but he

'Yes,' he said; 'it's cut me up horribly. I never condemned a creature
to death before. And dogs seem to know.'

'Ah! They're pretty uncanny,' I said, for I wasn't going to let on, of
course, that I had seen him.

'I wouldn't have done it but for the War,' he muttered; 'but she stole
eggs, poor thing; you couldn't break her of it. She ate three times as
much as any other dog, too, and in spite of it was always a perfect
skeleton--something wrong inside. The sort of dog, you know, no one
would take, or treat decently if they did. Bad habits of every kind,
poor dear. I bought her because she was being starved. But she trusted
me, that's why I feel so like a murderer. When the Vet and I were in the
yard discussing her, she knew there was something wrong--she kept
looking at my face. I very nearly went back on it; only, having got him
out on purpose, I was ashamed to. We brought her down here, and on the
way she found the remains of a rabbit about a week old--that was one of
her accomplishments--bringing me the most fearful offal. She brought it
up wagging her tail--as much as to say: 'See--I _am_ some use!' The Vet
tied her up here and took his gun; she wagged her tail at that, too; and
I ran away. When the shot came, my own little spaniel fawned on
me--they _are_ uncanny--licked me all over, never was so gushing,
seemed saying: 'What awful power you have! I do love you! You wouldn't
do that to me, would you? We've got rid of that other one, though!' When
I came back here to bury the poor thing, and saw her lying on her side
so still, I made a real fool of myself. I was patting her an hour ago,
talking to her as if she were a human being. Judas!'"

Mallinson put his pipe back into his mouth. "Just think of it!" he said:
"The same creatures who are blowing each other to little bits all the
time, bombing babies, roasting fellow creatures in the air and cheering
while they roast, working day and night to inflict every imaginable kind
of horror on other men exactly like themselves--these same chaps are
capable of feeling like that about shooting a wretched ill cur of a dog,
no good to anybody. There are more things in Heaven and Earth--!" And he
relit his pipe, which had gone out.

His yarn took the prize.




It was after dinner, and five elderly Englishmen were discussing the
causes of the war.

"Well," said Travers, a big, fresh-coloured grey-beard, with little
twinkling eyes and very slow speech, "you gentlemen know more about it
than I do, but I bet you I can lay my finger on the cause of the war at
any minute."

There was an instant clamour of jeering. But a man called Askew, who
knew Travers well, laughed and said: "Come, let's have it!" Travers
turned those twinkling little eyes of his slowly round the circle, and
with heavy, hesitating modesty began:

"Well, Mr. Askew, it was in '67 or '68 that this happened to a great big
feller of my acquaintance named Ray--one of those fellers, you know,
that are always on the look-out to make their fortunes and never do.
This Ray was coming back south one day after a huntin' trip he'd been in
what's now called Bechuanaland, and he was in a pretty bad way when he
walked one evenin' into the camp of one of those wanderin' Boers. That
class of Boer has disappeared now. They had no farms of their own, but
just moved on with their stock and their boys; and when they came to
good pasture they'd outspan and stay there till they'd cleared it
out--and then trek on again. Well, this old Boer told Ray to come right
in, and take a meal; and heaven knows what it was made of, for those old
Boers, they'd eat the devil himself without onion sauce, and relish him.
After the meal the old Boer and Ray sat smokin' and yarnin' in the door
of the tent, because in those days these wanderin' Boers used tents.
Right close by in the front, the children were playin' in the dust, a
game like marbles, with three or four round stones, and they'd pitch 'em
up to another stone they called the Moer-Klip, or Mother-stone--one,
two, and pick up--two, three, and pick up--you know the game of marbles.
Well, the sun was settin' and presently Ray noticed this Moer-Klip that
they were pitchin' 'em up to, shinin'; and he looked at it, and he said
to the old Boer: 'What's that stone the children are playin' with?' And
the old Boer looked at him and looked at the stone, and said: 'It's just
a stone,' and went on smokin'.

"Well, Ray went down on his knees and picked up the stone, and weighed
it in his hand. About the size of a hazel-nut it was, and looked--well,
it looked like a piece of alum; but the more he looked at it, the more
he thought: 'By Jove, I believe it's a diamond!'

"So he said to the old Boer: 'Where did the children get this stone?'
And the old Boer said: 'Oh! the shepherd picked it up somewhere.' And
Ray said: '_Where_ did he pick it up?' And the old Boer waved his hand,
and said: 'Over the Kopje, there, beyond the river. How should I know,
brother?--a stone is a stone!' So Ray said: 'You let me take this stone
away with me!' And the old Boer went on smokin', and he said: 'One
stone's the same as another. Take it, brother!' And Ray said: 'If it's
what I think, I'll give you half the price I get for it.'

"The old Boer smiled, and said: 'That's all right, brother; take it,
take it!'

"The next morning Ray left this old Boer, and, when he was going, he
said to him: 'Well,' he said, 'I believe this is a valuable stone!' and
the old Boer smiled because he knew one stone was the same as another.

"The first place Ray came to was C--, and he went to the hotel; and in
the evenin' he began talkin' about the stone, and they all laughed at
him, because in those days nobody had heard of diamonds in South Africa.
So presently he lost his temper, and pulled out the stone and showed it
round; but nobody thought it was a diamond, and they all laughed at him
the more. Then one of the fellers said: 'If it's a diamond, it ought to
cut glass.'

"Ray took the stone, and, by Jove, he cut his name on the window, and
there it is--I've seen it--on the bar window of that hotel. Well, next
day, you bet, he travelled straight back to where the old Boer told him
the shepherd had picked up the stone, and he went to a native chief
called Jointje, and said to him: 'Jointje,' he said, 'I go a journey.
While I go, you go about and send all your "boys" about, and look for
all the stones that shine like this one; and when I come back, if you
find me plenty, I give you gun.' And Jointje said: 'That all right,

"And Ray went down to Cape Town, and took the stone to a jeweller, and
the jeweller told him it was a diamond of about 30 or 40 carats, and
gave him five hundred pound for it. So he bought a waggon and a span of
oxen to give to the old Boer, and went back to Jointje. The niggers had
collected skinfuls of stones of all kinds, and out of all the skinfuls
Ray found three or four diamonds. So he went to work and got another
feller to back him, and between them they made the Government move. The
rush began, and they found that place near Kimberley; and after that
they found De Beers, and after that Kimberley itself."

Travers stopped, and looked around him.

"Ray made his fortune, I suppose?"

"No, Mr. Askew; the unfortunate feller made next to nothin'. He was one
of those fellers that never do any good for themselves."

"But what has all this to do with the war?"

Again Travers looked round, and more slowly than ever, said:

"Without that game of marbles, would there have been a
Moer-Klip--without the Moer-Klip, would there have been a
Kimberley--without Kimberley, would there have been a Rhodes--without a
Rhodes, would there have been a Raid--without a Raid, would the Boers
have started armin'--if the Boers hadn't armed, would there have been a
Transvaal War? And if there hadn't been the Transvaal War, would there
have been the incident of those two German ships we held up; and all the
general feelin' in Germany that gave the Kaiser the chance to start his
Navy programme in 1900? And if the Germans hadn't built their Navy,
would their heads have swelled till they challenged the world, and
should we have had this war?"

He slowly drew a hand from his pocket, and put it on the table. On the
little finger was blazing an enormous diamond.

"My father," he said, "bought it of the jeweller."

The mother-stone glittered and glowed, and the five Englishmen fixed
their eyes on it in silence. Some of them had been in the Boer War, and
three of them had sons in this. At last one of them said:

"Well, that's seeing God in a dew-drop with a vengeance. What about the
old Boer?"

Travers's little eyes twinkled.

"Well," he said, "Ray told me the old feller just looked at him as if he
thought he'd done a damn silly thing to give him a waggon; and he nodded
his old head, and said, laughin' in his beard: 'Wish you good luck,
brother, with your stone.' You couldn't humbug that old Boer; he knew
one stone was the same as another."





Coming one dark December evening out of the hospital courtyard into the
corridor which led to my little workroom, I was conscious of two new
arrivals. There were several men round the stove, but these two were
sitting apart on a bench close to my door. We used to get men in all
stages of decrepitude, but I had never seen two who looked so completely
under the weather. They were the extremes--in age, in colouring, in
figure, in everything; and they sat there, not speaking, with every
appearance of apathy and exhaustion. The one was a boy, perhaps
nineteen, with a sunken, hairless, grey-white face under his peaked
cap--never surely was face so grey! He sat with his long grey-blue
overcoat open at the knees, and his long emaciated hands nervously
rubbing each other between them. Intensely forlorn he looked, and I
remember thinking: "That boy's dying!" This was Bidan.

The other's face, in just the glimpse I had of it, was as if carved out
of wood, except for that something you see behind the masks of driven
bullocks, deeply resentful. His cap was off, and one saw he was
grey-haired; his cheeks, stretched over cheekbones solid as
door-handles, were a purplish-red, his grey moustache was damp, his
light blue eyes stared like a codfish's. He reminded me queerly of those
Parisian _cochers_ one still sees under their shining hats, wearing an
expression of being your enemy. His short stocky figure was dumped
stolidly as if he meant never to move again; on his thick legs and feet
he wore mufflings of cloth boot, into which his patched and stained
grey-blue trousers were tucked. One of his gloved hands was stretched
out stiff on his knee. This was Poirot.

Two more dissimilar creatures were never blown together into our haven.
So far as I remember, they had both been in hospital about six months,
and their ailments were, roughly speaking, Youth and Age. Bidan had not
finished his training when his weak constitution gave way under it;
Poirot was a Territorial who had dug behind the Front till rheumatism
claimed him for its own. Bidan, who had fair hair and rather beautiful
brown eyes over which the lids could hardly keep up, came from
Aix-en-Provence, in the very south; Poirot from Nancy, in the
northeast. I made their acquaintance the next morning.

The cleaning of old Poirot took, literally speaking, days to accomplish.
Such an encrusted case we had never seen; nor was it possible to go,
otherwise than slowly, against his prejudices. One who, unless taken
exactly the right way, considered everyone leagued with Nature to get
the better of him, he had reached that state when the soul sticks its
toes in and refuses to budge. A coachman--in civil life--a socialist, a
freethinker, a wit, he was the apex of--shall we say?--determination.
His moral being was encrusted with perversity, as his poor hands and
feet with dirt. Oil was the only thing for him, and I, for one, used oil
on him morally and physically, for months. He was a "character!" His
left hand--which he was never tired of saying the "_majors_" had ruined
("_Ah! les cochons!_") by leaving it alone--was stiff in all its joints,
so that the fingers would not bend; and the little finger of the right
hand, "_le petit_," "_le coquin_," "_l'empereur_," as he would severally
call it, was embellished by chalky excrescences. The old fellow had that
peculiar artfulness which comes from life-long dealing with horses, and
he knew exactly how far and how quickly it was advisable for him to mend
in health. About the third day he made up his mind that he wished to
remain with us at least until the warm weather came. For that it would
be necessary--he concluded--to make a cheering amount of progress, but
not too much. And this he set himself to do. He was convinced, one could
see, that after Peace had been declared and compensation assured him, he
would recover the use of his hand, even if "_l'empereur_" remained stiff
and chalky. As a matter of fact, I think he was mistaken, and will never
have a supple left hand again. But his arms were so brawny, his
constitution so vigorous, and his legs improved so rapidly under the
necessity of taking him down into the little town for his glass, of an
afternoon, that one felt he might possibly be digging again sooner than
he intended.

"_Ah, les cochons!_" he would say; "while one finger does not move, they
shall pay me!" He was very bitter against all "_majors_" save one, who
it seemed had actually sympathised with him, and all _députés_, who for
him constituted the powers of darkness, drawing their salaries, and
sitting in their chairs. ("_Ah! les chameaux!_")

Though he was several years younger than oneself, one always thought of
him as "Old Poirot" indeed, he was soon called "_le grand-père_," though
no more confirmed bachelor ever inhabited the world. He was a regular
"Miller of Dee," caring for nobody; and yet he was likeable, that
humorous old stoic, who suffered from gall-stones, and bore horrible
bouts of pain like a hero. In spite of all his disabilities his health
and appearance soon became robust in our easy-going hospital, where no
one was harried, the food excellent, and the air good. He would tell you
that his father lived to eighty, and his grandfather to a hundred, both
"strong men" though not so strong as his old master, the squire, of
whose feats in the hunting-field he would give most staggering accounts
in an argot which could only be followed by instinct. A great narrator,
he would describe at length life in the town of Nancy, where, when the
War broke out, he was driving a market cart, and distributing
vegetables, which had made him an authority on municipal reform. Though
an incorrigible joker, his stockfish countenance would remain perfectly
grave, except for an occasional hoarse chuckle. You would have thought
he had no more power of compassion than a cat, no more sensibility than
a Chinese idol; but this was not so. In his wooden, shrewd, distrustful
way he responded to sympathy, and was even sorry for others. I used to
like very much his attitude to the young "stable-companion" who had
arrived with him; he had no contempt, such as he might easily have felt
for so weakly a creature, but rather a real indulgence towards his
feebleness. "Ah!" he would say at first; "he won't make old bones--that
one!" But he seemed extremely pleased when, in a fortnight or so, he had
to modify that view, for Bidan (Prosper) prospered more rapidly even
than himself. That grey look was out of the boy's face within three
weeks. It was wonderful to watch him come back to life, till at last he
could say, with his dreadful Provençal twang, that he felt "_très
biang_." A most amiable youth, he had been a cook, and his chief
ambition was to travel till he had attained the summit of mortal hopes,
and was cooking at the Ritz in London. When he came to us his limbs
seemed almost to have lost their joints, they wambled so. He had no
muscle at all. Utter anæmia had hold of all his body, and all but a
corner of his French spirit. Round that unquenchable gleam of gaiety the
rest of him slowly rallied. With proper food and air and freedom, he
began to have a faint pink flush in his china-white cheeks; his lids no
longer drooped, his limbs seemed to regain their joints, his hands
ceased to swell, he complained less and less of the pains about his
heart. When, of a morning, he was finished with, and "_le grand-père_"
was having his hands done, they would engage in lively repartee--oblivious
of one's presence. We began to feel that this grey ghost of a youth had
been well named, after all, when they called him Prosper, so lyrical
would he wax over the constitution and cooking of "_bouillabaisse_,"
over the South, and the buildings of his native Aix-en-Provence. In all
France you could not have found a greater contrast than those two who had
come to us so under the weather; nor in all France two better instances of
the way men can regain health of body and spirit in the right surroundings.

We had a tremendous fall of snow that winter, and had to dig ourselves
out of it. Poirot and Bidan were of those who dug. It was amusing to
watch them. Bidan dug easily, without afterthought. "_Le grand-père_"
dug, with half an eye at least on his future; in spite of those stiff
fingers he shifted a lot of snow, but he rested on his shovel whenever
he thought you could see him--for he was full of human nature.

To see him and Bidan set off for town together! Bidan pale, and wambling
a little still, but gay, with a kind of birdlike detachment; "_le
grand-père_" stocky, wooden, planting his huge feet rather wide apart
and regarding his companion, the frosted trees, and the whole wide
world, with his humorous stare.

Once, I regret to say, when spring was beginning to come, Bidan-Prosper
returned on "_le grand-père's_" arm with the utmost difficulty, owing to
the presence within him of a liquid called Clairette de Die, no amount
of which could subdue "_le grand-père's_" power of planting one foot
before the other. Bidan-Prosper arrived hilarious, revealing to the
world unsuspected passions; he awoke next morning sad, pale, penitent.
Poirot, _au contraire_, was morose the whole evening, and awoke next
morning exactly the same as usual. In such different ways does the gift
of the gods affect us.

They had their habits, so diverse, their constitutions, and their
dreams--alas! not yet realised. I know not where they may be now;
Bidan-Prosper cannot yet be cooking at the Ritz in London town; but
"_grand-père_" Poirot may perchance be distributing again his vegetables
in the streets of Nancy, driving his two good little horses--_des
gaillards_--with the reins hooked round "_l'empereur_." Good
friends--good luck!



It was cold and grey, but the band on shore was playing, and the flags
on shore were fluttering, and the long double-tiered wharf crowded with
welcomers in each of its open gaps, when our great ship slowly drew
alongside, packed with cheering, chattering crowds of khaki figures,
letting go all the pent-up excitement of getting home from the war. The
air was full of songs and laughter, of cheers, and shouted questions,
the hooting of the launches' sirens, the fluttering flags and hands and
handkerchiefs; and there were faces of old women, and of girls, intent,
expectant, and the white gulls were floating against the grey sky, when
our ship, listed slightly by those thousands of figures straining
towards the land which had bred them, gently slurred up against the high
wharf, and was made fast.

The landing went on till night had long fallen, and the band was gone.
At last the chatter, the words of command, the snatches of song, and
that most favourite chorus: "Me! and my girl!" died away, and the wharf
was silent and the ship silent, and a wonderful clear dark beauty
usurped the spaces of the sky. By the light of the stars and a half moon
the far harbour shores were just visible, the huddled buildings on the
near shore, the spiring masts and feathery appanage of ropes on the
moored ship, and one blood-red light above the black water. The night
had all that breathless beauty which steeps the soul in a quivering,
quiet rapture....

Then it was that clearly, as if I had been a welcomer standing on land
in one of the wharf gaps, I saw her come--slow, slow, creeping up the
narrow channel, in beside the wharf, a great grey silent ship. At first
I thought her utterly empty, deserted, possessed only by the thick
coiled cables forward, the huge rusty anchors, the piled-up machinery of
structure and funnel and mast, weird in the blue darkness. A lantern on
the wharf cast a bobbing golden gleam deep into the oily water at her
side. Gun-grey, perfectly mute, she ceased to move, coming to rest
against the wharf. And then, with a shiver, I saw that something clung
round her, a grey film or emanation, which shifted and hovered, like the
invisible wings of birds in a thick mist. Gradually to my straining eyes
that filmy emanation granulated, and became faces attached to grey filmy
forms, thousands on thousands, and every face bent towards the shore,
staring, as it seemed, through me, at all that was behind me. Slowly,
very slowly, I made them out--faces of helmeted soldiers, bulky with the
gear of battle, their arms outstretched, and the lips of every one
opened, so that I expected to hear the sound of cheering; but no sound
came. Now I could see their eyes. They seemed to beseech--like the eyes
of a little eager boy who asks his mother something she cannot tell him;
and their outstretched hands seemed trying to reach her, lovingly,
desperately trying to reach her! And those opened lips, how terribly
they seemed trying to speak! "Mother! Mother Canada!" As if I had heard,
I knew they were saying--those opened lips which could speak no more!
"Mother! Mother Canada! Home! Home!..."

And then away down the wharf some one chanted: "Me and my girl!" And,
silent as she had come, the muffled ship vanished in all her length,
with those grey forms and those mute faces; and I was standing again in
the bows beside a huge hawser; below me the golden gleam bobbing deep in
the oily water, and above me the cold start in beauty shining.




From that garden seat one could see the old low house of pinkish brick,
with a path of queer-shaped flagstones running its length, and the tall
grey chapel from which came the humming and chanting and organ drone of
the Confirmation Service. But for that, and the voices of two gardeners
working below us among the fruits and flowers, the July hush was
complete. And suddenly one became aware of being watched.

That thin white windmill on the hill!

Away past the house, perhaps six hundred yards, it stood, ghostly, with
a face like that of a dark-eyed white owl, made by the crossing of its
narrow sails. With a black companion--a yew-tree cut to pyramid form, on
the central point of Sussex--it was watching us, for though one must
presume it built of old time by man, it looked up there against the sky,
with its owl's face and its cross, like a Christo-Pagan presence.

What exactly Paganism was we shall never know; what exactly Christianism
is, we are as little likely to discover; but here and there the two
principles seem to dwell together in amity. For Paganism believed in the
healthy and joyful body; and Christianism in the soul superior thereto.
And, where we were sitting that summer day, was the home of bodies
wrecked yet learning to be joyful, and of souls not above the process.

We moved from the grey-wood seat, and came on tiptoe to where house and
chapel formed a courtyard. The doors were open, and we stood unseen,
listening. From the centre of a square stone fountain a little bubble of
water came up, and niched along one high wall a number of white pigeons
were preening their feathers, silent, and almost motionless, as though
attending to the Service.

The sheer emotion of church sounds will now and then steal away reason
from the unbeliever, and take him drugged and dreaming. "Defend, O Lord,
this Thy child!...." So it came out to us in the dream and drowse of
summer, which the little bubble of water cooled.

In his robes--cardinal, and white, and violet--the good Bishop stood in
full sunlight, speaking to the crippled and the air-raid children in
their drilled rows under the shade of the doves' wall; and one felt far
from this age, as if one had strayed back into that time when the
builders of the old house laid slow brick on brick, wetting their
whistles on mead, and knowing not tobacco.

And then, out by the chapel porch moved three forms in blue, with red
neckties, and we were again in this new age, watching the faces of those
listening children. The good Bishop was making them feel that he was
happy in their presence, and that made them happy in his. For the great
thing about life is the going-out of friendliness from being to being.
And if a place be beautiful, and friendliness ever on the peace-path
there, what more can we desire? And yet--how ironical this place of
healing, this beautiful "Heritage!" Verily a heritage of our modern
civilisation which makes all this healing necessary! If life were the
offspring of friendliness and beauty's long companionship, there would
be no crippled children, no air-raid children, none of those good
fellows in blue with red ties and maimed limbs; and the colony to which
the Bishop spoke, standing grey-headed in the sun, would be dissolved.
Friendliness seems so natural, beauty so appropriate to this earth! But
in this torn world they are as fugitives who nest together here and
there. Yet stumbling by chance on their dove-cotes and fluttering
happiness, one makes a little golden note, which does not fade off the

       *       *       *       *       *

How entrancing it is to look at a number of faces never seen before--and
how exasperating!--stamped coins of lives quite separate, quite
different from every other; masks pallid, sunburned, smooth, or
crumpled, to peep behind which one longs, as a lover looking for his
lady at carnival, or a man aching at summer beauty which he cannot quite
fathom and possess. If one had a thousand lives, and time to know and
sympathy to understand the heart of every creature met with, one would
want--a million! May life make us all intuitive, strip away
self-consciousness, and give us sunshine and unknown faces!

What were they all feeling and thinking--those little cripples doing
their drill on crutches; those air-raid waifs swelling their Cockney
chests, rising on their toes, puffing their cheeks out in anxiety to do
their best; those soldiers in their blue "slops," with a hand gone there
and a leg gone here, and this and that grievous disability, all carrying
on so cheerfully?

Values are queer in this world. We are accustomed to exalt those who can
say "bo" to a goose; but that gift of expression which twines a halo
round a lofty brow is no guarantee of goodness in the wearer. The
really good are those plucky folk who plod their silent, often
suffering, generally exploited ways, from birth to death, out of reach
of the music of man's praise.

The first thing each child cripple makes here is a little symbolic
ladder. In making it he climbs a rung on the way to his sky of
self-support; and when at last he leaves this home, he steps off the top
of it into the blue, and--so they say--walks there upright and
undismayed, as if he had never suffered at Fate's hands. But what do he
and she--for many are of the pleasant sex--think of the sky when they
get there; that dusty and smoke-laden sky of the industrialism which
begat them? How can they breathe in it, coming from this place of
flowers and fresh air, of clean bright workshops and elegant huts, which
they on crutches built for themselves?

Masters of British industry, and leaders of the men and women who slave
to make its wheels go round, make a pilgrimage to this spot, and learn
what foul disfigurement you have brought on the land of England these
last five generations! The natural loveliness in this Heritage is no
greater than the loveliness that used to be in a thousand places which
you have blotted out of the book of beauty, with your smuts and wheels,
your wires and welter. And to what end? To manufacture crippled
children, and pale, peaky little Cockneys whose nerves are gone; (and,
to be sure, the railways and motor cars which will bring you here to see
them coming to life once more in sane and natural surroundings!) Blind
and deaf and dumb industrialism is the accursed thing in this land and
in all others.

If only we could send all our crippled soldiers to relearn life, in
places such as this; if, instead of some forty or fifty, forty or fifty
thousand could begin again, under the gaze of that white windmill! If
they could slough off here not only those last horrors, but the dinge
and drang of their upbringing in towns, where wheels go round, lights
flare, streets reek, and no larks sing, save some little blinded victim
in a cage. Poor William Blake:

 "I will not cease from fighting, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
 Till we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land!"

A long vigil his sword is keeping, while the clock strikes every hour of
the twenty-four. We have not yet even laid Jerusalem's foundation stone.
Ask one of those maimed soldier boys. "I like it here. Oh, yes, it's
very pleasant for a change." But he hastens to tell you that he goes in
to Brighton every day to his training school, as if that saved the
situation; almost surprised he seems that beauty and peace and good air
are not intolerable to his town-bred soul. The towns have got us--nearly
all. Not until we let beauty and the quiet voice of the fields, and the
scent of clover creep again into our nerves, shall we begin to build
Jerusalem and learn peacefulness once more. The countryman hates strife;
it breaks his dream. And life should have its covering of dream--bird's
flight, bird's song, wind in the ash-trees and the corn, tall lilies
glistening, the evening shadows slanting out, the night murmuring of
waters. There is no other genuine dream; without it to sweeten all, life
is harsh and shrill and east-wind dry, and evil overruns her more
quickly than blight be-gums the rose-tree or frost blackens fern of a
cold June night. We elders are past re-making England, but our children,
even these crippled children here, may yet take a hand....

We left the tinies to the last--all Montessorians, and some of them
little cripples, too, but with cheeks so red that they looked as if the
colour must come off. They lived in a house past the white mill, across
the common; and they led us by the hand down spotless corridors into
white dormitories. The smile of the prettiest little maid of them all
was the last thing one saw, leaving that "Heritage" of print frocks and
children's faces, of flowers and nightingales, under the lee of a group
of pines, the only dark beauty in the long sunlight.



Was it indeed only last March, or in another life, that I climbed this
green hill on that day of dolour, the Sunday after the last great German
offensive began? A beautiful sun-warmed day it was, when the wild thyme
on the southern slope smelled sweet, and the distant sea was a glitter
of gold. Lying on the grass, pressing my cheek to its warmth, I tried to
get solace for that new dread which seemed so cruelly unnatural after
four years of war-misery.

'If only it were all over!' I said to myself; 'and I could come here,
and to all the lovely places I know, without this awful contraction of
the heart, and this knowledge that at every tick of my watch some human
body is being mangled or destroyed. Ah, if only I could! Will there
never be an end?'

And now there is an end, and I am up on this green hill once more, in
December sunlight, with the distant sea a glitter of gold. And there is
no cramp in my heart, no miasma clinging to my senses. Peace! It is
still incredible. No more to hear with the ears of the nerves the
ceaseless roll of gunfire, or see with the eyes of the nerves drowning
men, gaping wounds, and death. Peace, actually Peace! The war has gone
on so long that many of us have forgotten the sense of outrage and
amazement we had, those first days of August, 1914, when it all began.
But I have not forgotten, nor ever shall.

In some of us--I think in many who could not voice it--the war has left
chiefly this feeling: 'If only I could find a country where men cared
less for all that they seem to care for, where they cared more for
beauty, for nature, for being kindly to each other. If only I could find
that green hill far away!' Of the songs of Theocritus, of the life of
St. Francis, there is no more among the nations than there is of dew on
grass in an east wind. If we ever thought otherwise, we are
disillusioned now. Yet there is Peace again, and the souls of men
fresh-murdered are not flying into our lungs with every breath we draw.

Each day this thought of Peace becomes more real and blessed. I can lie
on this green hill and praise Creation that I am alive in a world of
beauty. I can go to sleep up here with the coverlet of sunlight warm on
my body, and not wake to that old dull misery. I can even dream with a
light heart, for my fair dreams will not be spoiled by waking, and my
bad dreams will be cured the moment I open my eyes. I can look up at
that blue sky without seeing trailed across it a mirage of the long
horror, a film picture of all the things that have been done by men to
men. At last I can gaze up at it, limpid and blue, without a dogging
melancholy; and I can gaze down at that far gleam of sea, knowing that
there is no murk of murder on it any more.

And the flight of birds, the gulls and rooks and little brown wavering
things which flit out and along the edge of the chalk-pits, is once more
refreshment to me, utterly untempered. A merle is singing in a bramble
thicket; the dew has not yet dried off the bramble leaves. A feather of
a moon floats across the sky; the distance sends forth homely murmurs;
the sun warms my cheeks. And all of this is pure joy. No hawk of dread
and horror keeps swooping down and bearing off the little birds of
happiness. No accusing conscience starts forth and beckons me away from
pleasure. Everywhere is supreme and flawless beauty. Whether one looks
at this tiny snail shell, marvellously chased and marked, a very elf's
horn whose open mouth is coloured rose; or gazes down at the flat land
between here and the sea, wandering under the smile of the afternoon
sunlight, seeming almost to be alive, hedgeless, with its many watching
trees, and silver gulls hovering above the mushroom-coloured 'ploughs,'
and fields green in manifold hues; whether one muses on this little pink
daisy born so out of time, or watches that valley of brown-rose-grey
woods, under the drifting shadows of low-hanging chalky clouds--all is
perfect, as only Nature can be perfect on a lovely day, when the mind of
him who looks on her is at rest.

On this green hill I am nearer than I have been yet to realisation of
the difference between war and peace. In our civilian lives hardly
anything has been changed--we do not get more butter or more petrol, the
garb and machinery of war still shroud us, journals still drip hate; but
in our spirits there is all the difference between gradual dying and
gradual recovery from sickness.

At the beginning of the war a certain artist, so one heard, shut himself
away in his house and garden, taking in no newspaper, receiving no
visitors, listening to no breath of the war, seeing no sight of it. So
he lived, buried in his work and his flowers--I know not for how long.
Was he wise, or did he suffer even more than the rest of us who shut
nothing away? Can man, indeed, shut out the very quality of his
firmament, or bar himself away from the general misery of his species?

This gradual recovery of the world--this slow reopening of the great
flower, Life--is beautiful to feel and see. I press my hand flat and
hard down on those blades of grass, then take it away, and watch them
very slowly raise themselves and shake off the bruise. So it is, and
will be, with us for a long time to come. The cramp of war was deep in
us, as an iron frost in the earth. Of all the countless millions who
have fought and nursed and written and spoken and dug and sewn and
worked in a thousand other ways to help on the business of killing,
hardly any have laboured in real love of war. Ironical, indeed, that
perhaps the most beautiful poem written these four years, Julian
Grenfell's 'Into Battle!' was in heartfelt praise of fighting! But if
one could gather the deep curses breathed by man and woman upon war
since the first bugle was blown, the dirge of them could not be
contained in the air which wraps this earth.

And yet the 'green hill,' where dwell beauty and kindliness, is still
far away. Will it ever be nearer? Men have fought even on this green
hill where I am lying. By the rampart markings on its chalk and grass,
it has surely served for an encampment. The beauty of day and night, the
lark's song, the sweet-scented growing things, the rapture of health,
and of pure air, the majesty of the stars, and the gladness of
sunlight, of song and dance and simple friendliness, have never been
enough for men. We crave our turbulent fate. Can wars, then, ever cease?
Look in men's faces, read their writings, and beneath masks and
hypocrisies note the restless creeping of the tiger spirit! There has
never been anything to prevent the millennium except the nature of the
human being. There are not enough lovers of beauty among men. It all
comes back to that. Not enough who want the green hill far away--who
naturally hate disharmony, and the greed, ugliness, restlessness,
cruelty, which are its parents and its children.

Will there ever be more lovers of beauty in proportion to those who are
indifferent to beauty? Who shall answer that question? Yet on the answer
depends peace. Men may have a mint of sterling qualities--be vigorous,
adventurous, brave, upright, and self-sacrificing; be preachers and
teachers; keen, cool-headed, just, industrious--if they have not the
love of beauty, they will still be making wars. Man is a fighting
animal, with sense of the ridiculous enough to know that he is a fool to
fight, but not sense of the sublime enough to stop him. Ah, well! we
have peace!

It is happiness greater than I have known for four years and four
months, to lie here and let that thought go on its wings, quiet and free
as the wind stealing soft from the sea, and blessed as the sunlight on
this green hill.






The celebrated painter Scudamore--whose studies of Nature had been hung
on the line for so many years that he had forgotten the days when, not
yet in the Scudamore manner, they depended from the sky--stood where his
cousin had left him so abruptly. His lips, between comely grey moustache
and comely pointed beard, wore a mortified smile, and he gazed rather
dazedly at the spindleberries fallen on to the flagged courtyard from
the branch she had brought to show him. Why had she thrown up her head
as if he had struck her, and whisked round so that those dull-pink
berries quivered and lost their rain-drops, and four had fallen? He had
but said: "Charming! I'd like to use them!" And she had answered: "God!"
and rushed away. Alicia really was crazed; who would have thought that
once she had been so adorable! He stooped and picked up the four
berries--a beautiful colour, that dull pink! And from below the coatings
of success and the Scudamore manner a little thrill came up; the stir of
emotional vision. Paint! What good! How express? He went across to the
low wall which divided the courtyard of his expensively restored and
beautiful old house from the first flood of the River Arun wandering
silvery in pale winter sunlight. Yes, indeed! How express Nature, its
translucence and mysterious unities, its mood never the same from hour
to hour! Those brown-tufted rushes over there against the gold grey of
light and water--those restless hovering white gulls! A kind of disgust
at his own celebrated manner welled up within him--the disgust akin to
Alicia's "God!" Beauty! What use--how express it! Had she been thinking
the same thing?

He looked at the four pink berries glistening on the grey stone of the
wall, and memory stirred. What a lovely girl she had been with her
grey-green eyes, shining under long lashes, the rose-petal colour in her
cheeks and the too-fine dark hair--now so very grey--always blowing a
little wild. An enchanting, enthusiastic creature! He remembered, as if
it had been but last week, that day when they started from Arundel
station by the road to Burpham, when he was twenty-nine and she
twenty-five, both of them painters and neither of them famed--a day of
showers and sunlight in the middle of March, and Nature preparing for
full Spring! How they had chattered at first; and when their arms
touched, how he had thrilled, and the colour had deepened in her wet
cheeks; and then, gradually, they had grown silent; a wonderful walk,
which seemed leading so surely to a more wonderful end. They had
wandered round through the village and down, past the chalk-pit and
Jacob's ladder, onto the field path and so to the river-bank. And he had
taken her ever so gently round the waist, still silent, waiting for that
moment when his heart would leap out of him in words and hers--he was
sure--would leap to meet it. The path entered a thicket of blackthorn,
with a few primroses close to the little river running full and gentle.
The last drops of a shower were falling, but the sun had burst through,
and the sky above the thicket was cleared to the blue of speedwell
flowers. Suddenly she had stopped and cried: "Look, Dick! Oh, look! It's
heaven!" A high bush of blackthorn was lifted there, starry white
against the blue and that bright cloud. It seemed to sing, it was so
lovely; the whole of Spring was in it. But the sight of her ecstatic
face had broken down all his restraint; and tightening his arm round
her, he had kissed her lips. He remembered still the expression of her
face, like a child's startled out of sleep. She had gone rigid, gasped,
started away from him; quivered and gulped, and broken suddenly into
sobs. Then, slipping from his arm, she had fled. He had stood at first,
amazed and hurt, utterly bewildered; then, recovering a little, had
hunted for her full half an hour before at last he found her sitting on
wet grass, with a stony look on her face. He had said nothing, and she
nothing, except to murmur: "Let's go on; we shall miss our train!" And
all the rest of that day and the day after, until they parted, he had
suffered from the feeling of having tumbled down off some high perch in
her estimation. He had not liked it at all; it had made him very angry.
Never from that day to this had he thought of it as anything but a piece
of wanton prudery. Had it--had it been something else?

He looked at the four pink berries, and, as if they had uncanny power to
turn the wheel of memory, he saw another vision of his cousin five years
later. He was married by then, and already hung on the line. With his
wife he had gone down to Alicia's country cottage. A summer night, just
dark and very warm. After many exhortations she had brought into the
little drawing-room her last finished picture. He could see her now
placing it where the light fell, her tall slight form already rather
sharp and meagre, as the figures of some women grow at thirty, if they
are not married; the nervous, fluttering look on her charming face, as
though she could hardly bear this inspection; the way she raised her
shoulder just a little as if to ward off an expected blow of
condemnation. No need! It had been a beautiful thing, a quite
surprisingly beautiful study of night. He remembered with what a really
jealous ache he had gazed at it--a better thing than he had ever done
himself. And, frankly, he had said so. Her eyes had shone with pleasure.

"Do you really like it? I tried so hard!"

"The day you show that, my dear," he had said, "your name's made!" She
had clasped her hands and simply sighed: "Oh, Dick!" He had felt quite
happy in her happiness, and presently the three of them had taken their
chairs out, beyond the curtains, on to the dark verandah, had talked a
little, then somehow fallen silent. A wonderful warm, black, grape-bloom
night, exquisitely gracious and inviting; the stars very high and white,
the flowers glimmering in the garden-beds, and against the deep, dark
blue, roses hanging, unearthly, stained with beauty. There was a scent
of honeysuckle, he remembered, and many moths came fluttering by towards
the tall narrow chink of light between the curtains. Alicia had sat
leaning forward, elbows on knees, ears buried in her hands. Probably
they were silent because she sat like that. Once he heard her whisper to
herself: "Lovely, lovely! Oh, God! How lovely!" His wife, feeling the
dew, had gone in, and he had followed; Alicia had not seemed to notice.
But when she too came in, her eyes were glistening with tears. She said
something about bed in a queer voice; they had taken candles and gone
up. Next morning, going to her little studio to give her advice about
that picture, he had been literally horrified to see it streaked with
lines of Chinese white--Alicia, standing before it, was dashing her
brush in broad smears across and across. She heard him and turned round.
There was a hard red spot in either cheek, and she said in a quivering
voice: "It was blasphemy. That's all!" And turning her back on him, she
had gone on smearing it with Chinese white. Without a word, he had
turned tail in simple disgust. Indeed, so deep had been his vexation at
that wanton destruction of the best thing she had ever done, or was ever
likely to do, that he had avoided her for years. He had always had a
horror of eccentricity. To have planted her foot firmly on the ladder of
fame and then deliberately kicked it away; to have wantonly foregone
this chance of making money--for she had but a mere pittance! It had
seemed to him really too exasperating, a thing only to be explained by
tapping one's forehead. Every now and then he still heard of her, living
down there, spending her days out in the woods and fields, and sometimes
even her nights, they said, and steadily growing poorer and thinner and
more eccentric; becoming, in short, impossibly difficult, as only
Englishwomen can. People would speak of her as "such a dear," and talk
of her charm, but always with that shrug which is hard to bear when
applied to one's relations. What she did with the productions of her
brush he never inquired, too disillusioned by that experience. Poor

The pink berries glowed on the grey stone, and he had yet another
memory. A family occasion when Uncle Martin Scudamore departed this
life, and they all went up to bury him and hear his Will. The old chap,
whom they had looked on as a bit of a disgrace, money-grubbing up in the
little grey Yorkshire town which owed its rise to his factory, was
expected to make amends by his death, for he had never married--too sunk
in Industry, apparently, to have the time. By tacit agreement, his
nephews and nieces had selected the Inn at Bolton Abbey, nearest beauty
spot, for their stay. They had driven six miles to the funeral in three
carriages. Alicia had gone with him and his brother, the solicitor. In
her plain black clothes she looked quite charming, in spite of the
silver threads already thick in her fine dark hair, loosened by the moor
wind. She had talked of painting to him with all her old enthusiasm, and
her eyes had seemed to linger on his face as if she still had a little
weakness for him. He had quite enjoyed that drive. They had come rather
abruptly on the small grimy town clinging to the river-banks, with old
Martin's long yellow-brick house dominating it, about two hundred yards
above the mills. Suddenly under the rug he felt Alicia's hand seize his
with a sort of desperation, for all the world as if she were clinging to
something to support her. Indeed, he was sure she did not know it was
his hand she squeezed. The cobbled streets, the muddy-looking water, the
dingy, staring factories, the yellow staring house, the little
dark-clothed, dreadfully plain work-people, all turned out to do a last
honour to their creator; the hideous new grey church, the dismal
service, the brand-new tombstones--and all of a glorious autumn day! It
was inexpressibly sordid--too ugly for words! Afterwards the Will was
read to them, seated decorously on bright mahogany chairs in the yellow
mansion; a very satisfactory Will, distributing in perfectly adjusted
portions, to his own kinsfolk and nobody else, a very considerable
wealth. Scudamore had listened to it dreamily, with his eyes fixed on an
oily picture, thinking: "My God! What a thing!" and longing to be back
in the carriage smoking a cigar to take the reek of black clothes, and
sherry--sherry!--out of his nostrils. He happened to look at Alicia. Her
eyes were closed; her lips, always sweet-looking, quivered amusedly. And
at that very moment the Will came to her name. He saw those eyes open
wide, and marked a beautiful pink flush, quite like that of old days,
come into her thin cheeks. "Splendid!" he had thought; "it's really
jolly for her. I _am_ glad. Now she won't have to pinch. Splendid!" He
shared with her to the full the surprised relief showing in her still
beautiful face.

All the way home in the carriage he felt at least as happy over her good
fortune as over his own, which had been substantial. He took her hand
under the rug and squeezed it, and she answered with a long, gentle
pressure, quite unlike the clutch when they were driving in. That same
evening he strolled out to where the river curved below the Abbey. The
sun had not quite set, and its last smoky radiance slanted into the
burnished autumn woods. Some white-faced Herefords were grazing in lush
grass, the river rippled and gleamed, all over golden scales. About
that scene was the magic which has so often startled the hearts of
painters, the wistful gold--the enchantment of a dream. For some minutes
he had gazed with delight which had in it a sort of despair. A little
crisp rustle ran along the bushes; the leaves fluttered, then hung quite
still. And he heard a voice--Alicia's--speaking. "My lovely, lovely
world!" And moving forward a step, he saw her standing on the
river-bank, braced against the trunk of a birch-tree, her head thrown
back, and her arms stretched wide apart as though to clasp the lovely
world she had apostrophised. To have gone up to her would have been like
breaking up a lovers' interview, and he turned round instead and went

A week later he heard from his brother that Alicia had refused her
legacy. "I don't want it," her letter had said simply, "I couldn't bear
to take it. Give it to those poor people who live in that awful place."
Really eccentricity could go no further! They decided to go down and see
her. Such mad neglect of her own good must not be permitted without some
effort to prevent it. They found her very thin, and charming; humble,
but quite obstinate in her refusal. "Oh! I couldn't, really! I should be
so unhappy. Those poor little stunted people who made it all for him!
That little, awful town! I simply couldn't be reminded. Don't talk about
it, please. I'm quite all right as I am." They had threatened her with
lurid pictures of the workhouse and a destitute old age. To no purpose,
she would not take the money. She had been forty when she refused that
aid from heaven--forty, and already past any hope of marriage. For
though Scudamore had never known for certain that she had ever wished or
hoped for marriage, he had his theory--that all her eccentricity came
from wasted sexual instinct. This last folly had seemed to him monstrous
enough to be pathetic, and he no longer avoided her. Indeed, he would
often walk over to tea in her little hermitage. With Uncle Martin's
money he had bought and restored the beautiful old house over the River
Arun, and was now only five miles from Alicia's across country. She too
would come tramping over at all hours, floating in with wild flowers or
ferns, which she would put into water the moment she arrived. She had
ceased to wear hats, and had by now a very doubtful reputation for
sanity about the countryside. This was the period when Watts was on
every painter's tongue, and he seldom saw Alicia without a disputation
concerning that famous symbolist. Personally, he had no use for Watts,
resenting his faulty drawing and crude allegories, but Alicia always
maintained with her extravagant fervour that he was great because he
tried to paint the soul of things. She especially loved a painting
called "Iris"--a female symbol of the rainbow, which indeed in its
floating eccentricity had a certain resemblance to herself. "Of course
he failed," she would say; "he tried for the impossible and went on
trying all his life. Oh! I can't bear your rules, and catchwords, Dick;
what's the good of them! Beauty's too big, too deep!" Poor Alicia! She
was sometimes very wearing.

He never knew quite how it came about that she went abroad with them to
Dauphiné in the autumn of 1904--a rather disastrous business--never
again would he take anyone travelling who did not know how to come in
out of the cold. It was a painter's country, and he had hired a little
_chateau_ in front of the Glandaz mountain--himself, his wife, their
eldest girl, and Alicia. The adaptation of his famous manner to that
strange scenery, its browns and French greys and filmy blues, so
preoccupied him that he had scant time for becoming intimate with these
hills and valleys. From the little gravelled terrace in front of the
annex, out of which he had made a studio, there was an absorbing view
over the pan-tiled old town of Die. It glistened below in the early or
late sunlight, flat-roofed and of pinkish-yellow, with the dim, blue
River Drôme circling one side, and cut, dark cypress-trees dotting the
vineyarded slopes. And he painted it continually. What Alicia did with
herself they none of them very much knew, except that she would come in
and talk ecstatically of things and beasts and people she had seen. One
favourite haunt of hers they did visit, a ruined monastery high up in
the amphitheatre of the Glandaz mountain. They had their lunch up there,
a very charming and remote spot, where the watercourses and ponds and
chapel of the old monks were still visible, though converted by the
farmer to his use. Alicia left them abruptly in the middle of their
praises, and they had not seen her again till they found her at home
when they got back. It was almost as if she had resented laudation of
her favourite haunt. She had brought in with her a great bunch of golden
berries, of which none of them knew the name; berries almost as
beautiful as these spindleberries glowing on the stone of the wall. And
a fourth memory of Alicia came.

Christmas Eve, a sparkling frost, and every tree round the little
_chateau_ rimed so that they shone in the starlight, as though dowered
with cherry blossoms. Never were more stars in clear black sky above
the whitened earth. Down in the little town a few faint points of yellow
light twinkled in the mountain wind, keen as a razor's edge. A
fantastically lovely night--quite "Japanese," but cruelly cold. Five
minutes on the terrace had been enough for all of them except Alicia.
She--unaccountable, crazy creature--would not come in. Twice he had gone
out to her, with commands, entreaties, and extra wraps; the third time
he could not find her, she had deliberately avoided his onslaught and
slid off somewhere to keep this mad vigil by frozen starlight. When at
last she did come in she reeled as if drunk. They tried to make her
really drunk, to put warmth back into her. No good! In two days she was
down with double pneumonia; it was two months before she was up again--a
very shadow of herself. There had never been much health in her since
then. She floated like a ghost through life, a crazy ghost, who still
would steal away, goodness knew where, and come in with a flush in her
withered cheeks, and her grey hair wild blown, carrying her spoil--some
flower, some leaf, some tiny bird, or little soft rabbit. She never
painted now, never even talked of it. They had made her give up her
cottage and come to live with them, literally afraid that she would
starve herself to death in her forgetfulness of everything. These
spindleberries even! Why, probably she had been right up this morning to
that sunny chalk-pit in the lew of the Downs to get them, seven miles
there and back, when you wouldn't think she could walk seven hundred
yards, and as likely as not had lain there on the dewy grass, looking up
at the sky, as he had come on her sometimes. Poor Alicia! And once he
had been within an ace of marrying her! A life spoiled! By what, if not
by love of beauty! But who would have ever thought that the intangible
could wreck a woman, deprive her of love, marriage, motherhood, of fame,
of wealth, of health! And yet--by George!--it had!

Scudamore flipped the four pink berries off the wall. The radiance and
the meandering milky waters; that swan against the brown tufted rushes;
those far, filmy Downs--there was beauty! _Beauty!_ But, damn it
all--moderation! Moderation! And, turning his back on that prospect,
which he had painted so many times, in his celebrated manner, he went
in, and up the expensively restored staircase to his studio. It had
great windows on three sides, and perfect means for regulating light.
Unfinished studies melted into walls so subdued that they looked like
atmosphere. There were no completed pictures--they sold too fast. As he
walked over to his easel, his eye was caught by a spray of colour--the
branch of spindleberries set in water, ready for him to use, just where
the pale sunlight fell, so that their delicate colour might glow and the
few tiny drops of moisture still clinging to them shine. For a second he
saw Alicia herself as she must have looked, setting them there, her
transparent hands hovering, her eyes shining, that grey hair of hers all
fine and loose. The vision vanished! But what had made her bring them
after that horrified "God!" when he spoke of using them? Was it her way
of saying: "Forgive me for being rude!" Really she was pathetic, that
poor devotee! The spindleberries glowed in their silver-lustre jug,
sprayed up against the sunlight. They looked triumphant--as well they
might, who stood for that which had ruined--or, was it, saved?--a life!
Alicia! She had made a pretty mess of it, and yet who knew what secret
raptures she had felt with her subtle lover, Beauty, by starlight and
sunlight and moonlight, in the fields and woods, on the hilltops, and by
riverside! Flowers, and the flight of birds, and the ripple of the wind,
and all the shifting play of light and colour which made a man despair
when he wanted to use them; she had taken them, hugged them to her with
no afterthought, and been happy! Who could say that she had missed the
prize of life? Who could say it?... Spindleberries! A bunch of
spindleberries to set such doubts astir in him! Why, what was beauty but
just the extra value which certain forms and colours, blended, gave to
things--just the extra value in the human market! Nothing else on earth,
nothing! And the spindleberries glowed against the sunlight, delicate,

Taking his palette, he mixed crimson lake, white, and ultramarine. What
was that? Who sighed, away out there behind him? Nothing!

"Damn it all!" he thought; "this is childish. This is as bad as Alicia!"
And he set to work to paint in his celebrated manner--spindleberries.




Not many years ago a couple were living in the South of England whose
name was Wotchett--Ralph and Eileen Wotchett; a curious name, derived,
Ralph asserted, from a Saxon Thegn called Otchar mentioned in Domesday,
or at all events--when search of the book had proved vain--on the edge
of that substantial record.

He--possibly the thirtieth descendant of the Thegn--was close on six
feet in height and thin, with thirsty eyes, and a smile which had fixed
itself in his cheeks, so on the verge of appearing was it. His hair
waved, and was of a dusty shade bordering on grey. His wife, of the same
age and nearly the same height as himself, was of sanguine colouring and
a Cornish family, which had held land in such a manner that it had
nearly melted in their grasp. All that had come to Eileen was a
reversion, on the mortgageable value of which she and Ralph had been
living for some time. Ralph Wotchett also had expectations. By
profession he was an architect, but perhaps because of his expectations,
he had always had bad luck. The involutions of the reasons why his
clients died, became insolvent, abandoned their projects, or otherwise
failed to come up to the scratch were followed by him alone in the full
of their maze-like windings. The house they inhabited, indeed, was one
of those he had designed for a client, but the 'fat chough' had refused
to go into it for some unaccountable reason; he and Eileen were only
perching there, however, on the edge of settling down in some more
permanent house when they came into their expectations.

Considering the vicissitudes and disappointments of their life together,
it was remarkable how certain they remained that they would at last
cross the bar and reach the harbour of comfortable circumstance. They
had, one may suppose, expectations in their blood. The germ of getting
'something for nothing' had infected their systems, so that, though they
were not selfish or greedy people, and well knew how to rough it, they
dreamed so of what they had not, that they continually got rid of what
they had in order to obtain more of it. If for example Ralph received an
order, he felt so strongly that this was the chance of his life if
properly grasped, that he would almost as a matter of course increase
and complicate the project till it became unworkable, or in his zeal
omit some vital calculation such as a rise in the price of bricks; nor
would anyone be more surprised than he at this, or more certain that all
connected with the matter had been 'fat choughs' except--himself. On
such occasions Eileen would get angry, but if anyone suggested that
Ralph had overreached himself, she would get still angrier. She was very
loyal, and fortunately rather flyaway both in mind and body; before long
she always joined him in his feeling that the whole transaction had been
just the usual 'skin-game' on the part of Providence to keep them out of
their expectations. It was the same in domestic life. If Ralph had to
eat a breakfast, which would be almost every morning, he had so many and
such imaginative ways of getting from it a better breakfast than was in
it, that he often remained on the edge of it, as it were. He had special
methods of cooking, so as to extract from everything a more than
ordinary flavour, and these took all the time that he would have to eat
the results in. Coffee he would make with a whole egg, shell and all,
stirred in; it had to be left on the hob for an incomparable time, and
he would start to catch his train with his first cup in his hand; Eileen
would have to run after him and take it away. They were, in fact, rather
like a kitten which knows it has a tail, and will fly round and round
all day with the expectation of catching that desirable appendage.
Sometimes indeed, by sheer perseverance, of which he had a great deal in
a roundabout way, Ralph would achieve something, but, when this
happened, something else, not foreseen by him, had always happened
first, which rendered that accomplishment nugatory and left it expensive
on his hands. Nevertheless they retained their faith that some day they
would get ahead of Providence and come into their own.

In view of not yet having come into their expectations they had waited
to have children; but two had rather unexpectedly been born. The babes
had succumbed, however, one to preparation for betterment too ingenious
to be fulfilled, the other to fulfilment, itself, a special kind of food
having been treated so ingeniously that it had undoubtedly engendered
poison. And they remained childless.

They were about fifty when Ralph received one morning a solicitor's
letter announcing the death of his godmother, Aunt Lispeth. When he read
out the news they looked at their plates a full minute without speaking.
Their expectations had matured. At last they were to come into something
in return for nothing. Aunt Lispeth, who had latterly lived at Ipswich
in a house which he had just not built for her, was an old maid. They
had often discussed what she would leave them--though in no mean or
grasping spirit, for they did not grudge the 'poor old girl' her few
remaining years, however they might feel that she was long past enjoying
herself. The chance would come to them some time, and when it did of
course must be made the best of. Then Eileen said:

"You must go down at once, Ralph!"

Donning black, Ralph set off hurriedly, and just missed his train; he
caught one, however, in the afternoon, and arrived that evening in
Ipswich. It was October, drizzling and dark; the last cab moved out as
he tried to enter it, for he had been detained by his ticket which he
had put for extra readiness in his glove, and forgotten--as if the
ticket collector couldn't have seen it there, the 'fat chough!' He
walked up to his Aunt's house, and was admitted to a mansion where a
dinner-party was going on. It was impossible to persuade the servant
that this was his Aunt's, so he was obliged to retire to a hotel and
wire to Eileen to send him the right address--the 'fat choughs' in the
street did not seem to know it. He got her answer the following midday,
and going to the proper number, found the darkened house. The two
servants who admitted him described the manner of their mistress's
death, and showed him up into her room. Aunt Lispeth had been laid out
daintily. Ralph contemplated her with the smile which never moved from
his cheeks, and with a sort of awe in his thirsty eyes. The poor old
girl! How thin, how white! It had been time she went! A little stiffened
twist in her neck, where her lean head had fallen to one side at the
last, had not been set quite straight; and there seemed the ghost of an
expression on her face, almost cynical; by looking closer he saw that it
came from a gap in the white lashes of one eye, giving it an air of not
being quite closed, as though she were trying to wink at him. He went
out rather hastily, and ascertaining that the funeral was fixed for noon
next day, paid a visit to the solicitor.

There he was told that the lawyer himself was sole executor, and
he--Ralph--residuary legatee. He could not help a feeling of exultation,
for he and Eileen were at that time particularly hard pressed. He
restrained it, however, and went to his hotel to write to her. He
received a telegram in answer next morning at ten o'clock: 'For
goodness' sake leave all details to lawyer, Eileen,' which he thought
very peculiar. He lunched with the lawyer after the funeral, and they
opened his Aunt's will. It was quite short and simple, made certain
specific bequests of lace and jewellery, left a hundred pounds to her
executor the lawyer, and the rest of her property to her nephew Ralph
Wotchett. The lawyer proposed to advertise for debts in the usual way,
and Ralph with considerable control confined himself to urging all speed
in the application for Probate, and disposal of the estate. He caught a
late train back to Eileen. She received his account distrustfully; she
was sure he had put his finger in the pie, and if he had it would all go
wrong. Well, if he hadn't, he soon would! It was really as if loyalty
had given way in her now that their expectations were on the point of
being realised.

They had often discussed his Aunt's income, but they went into it again
that night, to see whether it could not by fresh investment be
increased. It was derived from Norwich and Birmingham Corporation
Stocks, and Ralph proved that by going into industrial concerns the four
hundred a year could quite safely be made into six. Eileen agreed that
this would be a good thing to do, but nothing definite was decided. Now
that they had come into money they did not feel so inclined to move
their residence, though both felt that they might increase their scale
of living, which had lately been at a distressingly low ebb. They spoke,
too, about the advisability of a small car. Ralph knew of one--a
second-hand Ford--to be had for a song. They ought not--he thought--to
miss the chance. He would take occasion to meet the owner casually and
throw out a feeler. It would not do to let the fellow know that there
was any money coming to them, or he would put the price up for a
certainty. In fact it would be better to secure the car before the news
got about. He secured it a few days later for eighty pounds, including
repairs, which would take about a month. A letter from the lawyer next
day informed them that he was attending to matters with all speed; and
the next five weeks passed in slowly realising that at last they had
turned the corner of their lives, and were in smooth water. They ordered
among other things the materials for a fowl-house long desired, which
Ralph helped to put up; and a considerable number of fowls, for feeding
which he had a design which would enable them to lay a great many more
eggs in the future than could reasonably be expected from the amount of
food put into the fowls. He also caused an old stable to be converted
into a garage. He still went to London two or three times a week, to
attend to business, which was not, as a rule, there. On his way from
St. Pancras to Red Lion Square, where his office was, he had long been
attracted by an emerald pendant with pearl clasp, in a jeweller's shop
window. He went in now to ask its price. Fifty-eight pounds--emeralds
were a rising market. The expression rankled in him, and going to Hatton
Garden to enquire into its truth, he found the statement confirmed. 'The
chief advantage of having money,' he thought, 'is to be able to buy at
the right moment.' He had not given Eileen anything for a long time, and
this was an occasion which could hardly be passed over. He bought the
pendant on his way back to St. Pancras, the draft in payment absorbing
practically all his balance. Eileen was delighted with it. They spent
that evening in the nearest approach to festivity that they had known
for several years. It was, as it were, the crown of the long waiting for
something out of nothing. All those little acerbities which creep into
the manner of two married people who are always trying to round the
corner fell away, and they sat together in one large chair, talking and
laughing over the countless tricks which Providence--that 'fat
chough'--had played them. They carried their light-heartedness to bed.

They were awakened next morning by the sound of a car. The Ford was
being delivered with a request for payment. Ralph did not pay; it would
be 'all right' he said. He stabled the car, and wrote to the lawyer that
he would be glad to have news, and an advance of £100. On his return
from town in the evening two days later he found Eileen in the
dining-room with her hair wild and an opened letter before her. She
looked up with the word: "Here!" and Ralph took the letter:

     Lodgers & Wayburn, Solicitors, Ipswich

     Dear Mr. Wotchett,

     In answer to yours of the fifteenth, I have obtained Probate,
     paid all debts, and distributed the various legacies. The
     sale of furniture took place last Monday. I now have pleasure
     in enclosing you a complete and I think final account, by
     which you will see that there is a sum in hand of £43 due to
     you as residuary legatee. I am afraid this will seem a
     disappointing result, but as you were doubtless aware (though
     I was not when I had the pleasure of seeing you), the greater
     part of your Aunt's property passed under a Deed of
     Settlement, and it seems she had been dipping heavily into
     the capital of the remainder for some years past.

     Believe me,
     Faithfully yours,

For a minute the only sounds were the snapping of Ralph's jaws, and
Eileen's rapid breathing. Then she said:

"You never said a word about a Settlement. I suppose you got it muddled
as usual!"

Ralph did not answer, too deep in his anger with the old woman who had
left that 'fat chough' a hundred pounds to provide him--Ralph--with

"You always believe what you want to believe!" cried Eileen; "I never
saw such a man."

Ralph went to Ipswich on the morrow. After going into everything with
the lawyer, he succeeded in varying the account by fifteen shillings,
considerably more than which was absorbed by the fee for this interview,
his fare, and hotel bill. The conduct of his Aunt, in having caused him
to get it into his head that there was no Settlement, and in living on
her capital, gave him pain quite beyond the power of expression; and
more than once he recalled with a shudder that slightly quizzical look
on her dead face. He returned to Eileen the following day, with his
brain racing round and round. Getting up next morning, he said:

"I believe I can get a hundred for that car; I'll go up and see about

"Take this too," said Eileen, handing him the emerald pendant. Ralph
took it with a grunt.

"Lucky," he muttered, "emeralds are a rising market. I bought it on

He came back that night more cheerful. He had sold the car for £65, and
the pendant for £42--a good price, for emeralds were now on the fall!
With the cheque for £43, which represented his expectations, he proved
that they would only be £14 out on the whole business when the fowls and
fowl-house had been paid for; and they would have the fowls--the price
of eggs was going up. Eileen agreed that it was the moment to develop
poultry-keeping. They might expect good returns. And holding up her
face, she said:

"Give me a kiss, dear Ralph?"

Ralph gave it, with his thirsty eyes fixed, expectant, on something
round the corner of her head, and the smile, which never moved, on his

After all there was her reversion! They would come into it some day.





The Petty Sessions court at Linstowe was crowded. Miracles do not happen
every day, nor are rectors frequently charged with larceny. The interest
roused would have relieved all those who doubt the vitality of our
ancient Church. People who never went outside their farms or plots of
garden, had walked as much as three miles to see the show. Mrs. Gloyn,
the sandy-haired little keeper of the shop where soap and herrings,
cheese, matches, boot-laces, bulls'-eyes, and the other luxuries of a
countryside could be procured, remarked to Mrs. Redland, the farmer's
wife, ''Tis quite a gatherin' like.' To which Mrs. Redland replied,
''Most like Church of a Sunday.'

More women, it is true, than men, were present, because of their greater
piety, and because most of them had parted with pounds of butter,
chickens, ducks, potatoes, or some such offertory in kind during the
past two years, at the instance of the rector. They had a vested
interest in this matter, and were present, accompanied by their grief at
value unreceived. From Trover, their little village on the top of the
hill two miles from Linstowe, with the squat church-tower, beautifully
untouched, and ruined by the perfect restoration of the body of the
building, they had trooped in; some even coming from the shore of the
Atlantic, a mile beyond, across the downs, whence other upland square
church-towers could be viewed on the sky-line against the grey January
heavens. The occasion was in a sense unique, and its piquancy
strengthened by that rivalry which is the essence of religion.

For there was no love lost between Church and Chapel in Trover, and the
rector's flock had long been fortified in their power of 'parting' by
fear lest 'Chapel' (also present that day in court) should mock at his
impecuniousness. Not that his flock approved of his poverty. It had
seemed 'silly-like' ever since the news had spread that his difficulties
had been caused by a faith in shares. To improve a secure if moderate
position by speculation, would not have seemed wrong, if he had not
failed instead, and made himself dependent on their butter, their
potatoes, their eggs and chickens. In that parish, as in others, the
saying 'Nothing succeeds like success' was true, nor had the villagers
any abnormal disposition to question the title-deeds of affluence.

But it is equally true that nothing irritates so much as finding that
one of whom you have the right to beg is begging of you. This was why
the rector's tall, thin, black figure, down which a ramrod surely had
been passed at birth; his narrow, hairless, white and wasted face, with
red eyebrows over eyes that seemed now burning and now melting; his
grizzled red hair under a hat almost green with age; his abrupt and
dictatorial voice; his abrupt and mirthless laugh--all were on their
nerves. His barked-out utterances, 'I want a pound of butter--pay you
Monday!' 'I want some potatoes--pay you soon!' had sounded too often in
the ears of those who had found his repayments so far purely spiritual.
Now and then one of the more cynical would remark, 'Ah! I told un _my_
butter was all to market.' Or, 'The man can't 'ave no principles--he
didn't get no chicken out o' me.' And yet it was impossible to let him
and his old mother die on them--it would give too much pleasure 'over
the way.' And they never dreamed of losing him in any other manner,
because they knew his living had been purchased. Money had passed in
that transaction; the whole fabric of the Church and of Society was
involved. His professional conduct, too, was flawless; his sermons long
and fiery; he was always ready to perform those supernumerary
duties--weddings, baptisms, and burials--which yielded him what revenue
he had, now that his income from the living was mortgaged up to the
hilt. Their loyalty held as the loyalty of people will when some great
institution of which they are members is endangered.

Gossip said that things were in a dreadful way at the Rectory; the
external prosperity of that red-brick building surrounded by laurels
which did not flower, heightened ironically the conditions within. The
old lady, his mother, eighty years of age, was reported never to leave
her bed this winter, because they had no coal. She lay there, with her
three birds flying about dirtying the room, for neither she nor her son
would ever let a cage-door be shut--deplorable state of things! The one
servant was supposed never to be paid. The tradesmen would no longer
leave goods because they could not get their money. Most of the
furniture had been sold; and the dust made you sneeze 'fit to bust
yourself like.'

With a little basket on his arm, the rector collected for his household
three times a week, pursuing a kind of method, always in the apparent
belief that he would pay on Monday, and observing the Sabbath as a day
of rest. His mind seemed ever to cherish the faith that his shares were
on the point of recovery; his spirit never to lose belief in his divine
right to be supported. It was extremely difficult to refuse him; the
postman had twice seen him standing on the railway line that ran past
just below the village, 'with 'is 'at off, as if he was in two
minds-like.' This vision of him close to the shining metals had
powerfully impressed many good souls who loved to make flesh creep. They
would say, 'I wouldn' never be surprised if something 'appened to 'im
one of these days!' Others, less romantic, shook their heads, insisting
that 'he wouldn' never do nothin' while his old mother lived.' Others
again, more devout, maintained that 'he wouldn' never go against the
Scriptures, settin' an example like that!'


The Petty Sessions court that morning resembled Church on the occasion
of a wedding; for the villagers of Trover had put on their black clothes
and grouped themselves according to their religious faiths--'Church' in
the right, 'Chapel' in the left-hand aisle. They presented all that rich
variety of type and monotony of costume which the remoter country still
affords to the observer; their mouths were almost all a little open,
and their eyes fixed with intensity on the Bench. The three
magistrates--Squire Pleydell in the chair, Dr. Becket on his left, and
'the Honble' Calmady on his right--were by most seen for the first time
in their judicial capacity; and curiosity was divided between their
proceedings and observation of the rector's prosecutor, a small baker
from the town whence the village of Trover derived its necessaries. The
face of this fellow, like that of a white walrus, and the back of his
bald head were of interest to everyone until the case was called, and
the rector himself entered. In his thin black overcoat he advanced and
stood as if a little dazed. Then, turning his ravaged face to the Bench,
he jerked out:

'Good morning! Lot of people!'

A constable behind him murmured:

'Into the dock, sir, please.'

Moving across, he entered the wooden edifice.

'Quite like a pulpit,' he said, and uttered his barking laugh.

Through the court ran a stir and shuffle, as it might be of sympathy
with his lost divinity, and every eye was fixed on that tall, lean
figure, with the shaven face, and red, grey-streaked hair.

Entering the witness-box, the prosecutor deposed as follows:

'Last Tuesday afternoon, your Honours, I 'appened to be drivin' my cart
meself up through Trover on to the cottages just above the dip, and I'd
gone in to Mrs. 'Oney's, the laundress, leavin' my cart standin' same as
I always do. I 'ad a bit o' gossip, an' when I come out, I see this
gentleman walkin' away in front towards the village street. It so
'appens I 'appened to look in the back o' my cart, and I thinks to
meself, That's funny! There's only two flat rounds--'ave I left two 'ere
by mistake? I calls to Mrs. 'Oney, an' I says, "I 'aven't been absent,
'ave I, an' left ye two?" "No," she says, "only one--'ere 'tis! Why?"
she says. "Well," I says, "I 'ad four when I come in to you, there's
only two now. 'Tis funny!" I says. "'Ave you dropped one?" she says.
"No," I says, "I counted 'em." "That's funny," she says; "perhaps a
dog's 'ad it." "'E may 'ave," I says, "but the only thing I see on the
road is that there." An' I pointed to this gentleman. "Oh!" she says,
"that's the rector." "Yes," I says, "I ought to know that, seein' 'e's
owed me money a matter of eighteen months. I think I'll drive on," I
says. Well, I drove on, and come up to this gentleman. 'E turns 'is
'ead, and looks at me. "Good afternoon!" he says--like that. "Good
afternoon, sir," I says. "You 'aven't seen a loaf, 'ave you?" 'E pulls
the loaf out of 'is pocket. "On the ground," 'e says; "dirty," 'e says.
"Do for my birds! Ha! ha!" like that. "Oh!" I says, "indeed! Now I
know," I says. I kept my 'ead, but I thinks: "That's a bit too
light-'earted. You owes me one pound, eight and tuppence; I've whistled
for it gettin' on for two years, but you ain't content with that, it
seems! Very well," I thinks; "we'll see. An' I don't give a darn whether
you're a parson or not!" I charge 'im with takin' my bread.'

Passing a dirty handkerchief over his white face and huge gingery
moustache, the baker was silent. Suddenly from the dock the rector
called out: 'Bit of dirty bread--feed my birds. Ha, ha!'

There was a deathly little silence. Then the baker said slowly:

'What's more, I say he ate it 'imself. I call two witnesses to that.'

The Chairman, passing his hand over his hard, alert face, that of a
master of hounds, asked:

'Did you see any dirt on the loaf? Be careful!'

The baker answered stolidly:

'Not a speck.'

Dr. Becket, a slight man with a short grey beard, and eyes restive from
having to notice painful things, spoke.

'Had your horse moved?'

''E never moves.'

'Ha, ha!' came the rector's laugh.

The Chairman said sharply:

'Well, stand down; call the next witness.--Charles Stodder, carpenter.
Very well! Go on, and tell us what you know.'

But before he could speak the rector called out in a loud voice:

'Hsssh! Sir!' But through the body of the court had passed a murmur, of
challenge, as it were, from one aisle to the other.

The witness, a square man with a red face, grey hair, whiskers, and
moustache, and lively excitable dark eyes, watering with anxiety, spoke
in a fast soft voice:

'Tuesday afternoon, your Worships, it might be about four o'clock, I was
passin' up the village, an' I saw the rector at his gate, with a loaf in
'is 'and.'

'Show us how.'

The witness held his black hat to his side, with the rounded top

'Was the loaf clean or dirty?'

Sweetening his little eyes, the witness answered:

'I should say 'twas clean.'


The Chairman said sternly:

'You mustn't interrupt, sir.--You didn't see the bottom of the loaf?'

The witness's little eyes snapped.

'Not eggzactly.'

'Did the rector speak to you?'

The witness smiled. 'The rector wouldn' never stop me if I was passin'.
I collects the rates.'

The rector's laugh, so like a desolate dog's bark, killed the bubble of
gaiety rising in the court; and again that deathly little silence

Then the Chairman said:

'Do you want to ask him anything?'

The rector turned. 'Why d' you tell lies?'

The witness screwing up his eyes, said excitedly:

'What lies 'ave I told, please?'

'You said the loaf was clean.'

'So 'twas clean, so far as I see.'

'Come to Church, and you won't tell lies.'

'Reckon I can learn truth faster in Chapel.'

The Chairman rapped his desk.

'That'll do, that'll do! Stand down! Next witness.--Emily Bleaker. Yes?
What are you? Cook at the rectory? Very well. What do you know about the
affair of this loaf last Tuesday afternoon?'

The witness, a broad-faced, brown-eyed girl, answered stolidly:
'Nothin', zurr.'

'Ha, ha!'

'Hssh! Did you see the loaf?'


'What are you here for, then?'

'Master asked for a plate and a knaife. He an' old missus ate et for
dinner. I see the plate after; there wasn't on'y crumbs on et.'

'If you never saw the loaf, how do you know they ate it?'

'Because ther' warn't nothin' else in the 'ouse.'

The rector's voice barked out:

'Quite right!'

The Chairman looked at him fixedly.

'Do you want to ask her anything?'

The rector nodded.

'You been paid your wages?'

'Noa, I 'asn't.'

'D'you know why?'


'Very sorry--no money to pay you. That's all.'

This closed the prosecutor's case; and there followed a pause, during
which the Bench consulted together, and the rector eyed the
congregation, nodding to one here and there. Then the Chairman, turning
to him, said:

'Now, sir, do you call any witnesses?'

'Yes. My bell-ringer. He's a good man. You can believe him.'

The bell-ringer, Samuel Bevis, who took his place in the witness-box,
was a kind of elderly Bacchus, with permanently trembling hands. He
deposed as follows:

'When I passed rector Tuesday arternoon, he calls after me: "See this!"
'e says, and up 'e held it. "Bit o' dirrty bread," 'e says; "do for my
burrds." Then on he goes walkin'.'

'Did you see whether the loaf was dirty?'

'Yaas, I think 'twas dirrty.'

'Don't _think_! Do you _know_?'

'Yaas; 'twas dirrty.'

'Which side?'

'Which saide? I think 'twas dirrty on the bottom.'

'Are you sure?'

'Yaas; 'twas dirrty on the bottom, for zartain.'

'Very well. Stand down. Now, sir, will you give us your version of this

The rector, pointing at the prosecutor and the left-hand aisle, jerked
out the words:

'All Chapel--want to see me down.'

The Chairman said stonily:

'Never mind that. Come to the facts, please.'

'Certainly! Out for a walk--passed the baker's cart--saw a loaf fallen
in the mud--picked it up--do for my birds.'

'What birds?'

'Magpie and two starlings; quite free--never shut the cage-door; well

'The baker charges you with taking it from his cart.'

'Lie! Underneath the cart in a puddle.'

'You heard what your cook said about your eating it. Did you?'

'Yes, birds couldn't eat all--nothing in the house--Mother and


'No money. Hard up--very! Often hungry. Ha, ha!'

Again through the court that queer rustle passed. The three magistrates
gazed at the accused. Then 'the Honble' Calmady said:

'You say you found the loaf under the cart. Didn't it occur to you to
put it back? You could see it had fallen. How else could it have come

The rector's burning eyes seemed to melt.

'From the sky. Manna.' Staring round the court, he added: 'Hungry--God's
elect--to the manna born!' And, throwing back his head, he laughed. It
was the only sound in a silence as of the grave.

The magistrates spoke together in low tones. The rector stood
motionless, gazing at them fixedly. The people in the court sat as if at
a play. Then the Chairman said:

'Case dismissed.'

'Thank you.'

Jerking out that short thanksgiving, the rector descended from the dock,
and passed down the centre aisle, followed by every eye.


From the Petty Sessions court the congregation wended its way back to
Trover, by the muddy lane, 'Church' and 'Chapel,' arguing the case. To
dim the triumph of the 'Church' the fact remained that the baker had
lost his loaf and had not been compensated. The loaf was worth money; no
money had passed. It was hard to be victorious and yet reduced to
silence and dark looks at girding adversaries. The nearer they came to
home, the more angry with 'Chapel' did they grow. Then the bell-ringer
had his inspiration. Assembling his three assistants, he hurried to the
belfry, and in two minutes the little old tower was belching forth the
merriest and maddest peal those bells had ever furnished. Out it swung
in the still air of the grey winter day, away to the very sea.

A stranger, issuing from the inn, hearing that triumphant sound, and
seeing so many black-clothed people about, said to his driver:

'What is it--a wedding?'

'No, zurr, they say 'tis for the rector, like; he've a just been
acquitted for larceny.'

       *       *       *       *       *

On the Tuesday following, the rector's ravaged face and red-grey hair
appeared in Mrs. Gloyn's doorway, and his voice, creaking like a saw,

'Can you let me have a pound of butter? Pay you soon.'

What else could he do? Not even to God's elect does the sky always send
down manna.




Not very long ago, during a sojourn in a part of the West country never
yet visited by me, I went out one fine but rather cold March morning for
a long ramble. I was in one of those disillusioned moods that come to
writers, bankrupt of ideas, bankrupt of confidence, a prey to that
recurrent despair, the struggle with which makes the profession of the
pen--as a friend once said to me--"a manly one." "Yes"--I was thinking,
for all that the air was so brisk, and the sun so bright--"nothing comes
to me nowadays, no flashes of light, none of those suddenly shaped
visions that bring cheer and warmth to a poor devil's heart, and set his
brain and pen to driving on. A bad, bad business!" And my eyes,
wandering over the dip and rise, the woods, the moor, the rocks of that
fine countryside, took in the loveliness thereof with the profound
discontent of one who, seeing beauty, feels that he cannot render it.
The high lane-banks had just been pollarded, one could see right down
over the fields and gorse and bare woods tinged with that rosy brown of
beech and birch twigs, and the dusty saffron of the larches. And
suddenly my glance was arrested by something vivid, a sort of black and
white excitement in the air. "Aha!" I thought, "a magpie. Two! Three!
Good! Is it an omen?" The birds had risen at the bottom of a field,
their twining, fluttering voyage--most decorative of all bird
flights--was soon lost in the wood beyond, but something it had left
behind in my heart; I felt more hopeful, less inclined to think about
the failure of my spirit, better able to give myself up to this new
country I was passing through. Over the next rise in the very winding
lane I heard the sound of brisk church bells, and not three hundred
yards beyond came to a village green, where knots of men dressed in the
dark clothes, light ties, and bowler hats of village festivity, and of
women smartened up beyond belief, were gathered, chattering, round the
yard of an old, grey, square-towered church.

"What's going on?" I thought. "It's not Sunday, not the birthday of a
Potentate, and surely they don't keep Saint days in this manner. It must
be a wedding. Yes--there's a favour! Let's go in and see!" And, passing
the expectant groups, I entered the church and made my way up the aisle.
There was already a fair sprinkling of folk all turned round towards
the door, and the usual licensed buzz and whisper of a wedding
congregation. The church, as seems usual in remote parishes, had been
built all those centuries ago to hold a population in accordance with
the expectations of its tenet, "Be fruitful and multiply." But the whole
population could have been seated in a quarter of its space. It was
lofty and unwarmed save by excitement, and the smell of bear's-grease.
There was certainly more animation than I had ever seen or savoured in a
truly rural district.

The bells which had been ringing with a sort of languid joviality, fell
now into the hurried crashing which marks the approach of a bride, and
the people I had passed outside came thronging in. I perceived a young
man--little more than a boy, who by his semi-detachment, the fumbling of
his gloved hands, and the sheepishness of the smile on his good-looking,
open face, was obviously the bridegroom. I liked the looks of him--a cut
above the usual village bumpkin--something free and kind about his face.
But no one was paying him the least attention. It was for the bride they
were waiting; and I myself began to be excited. What would this young
thing be like? Just the ordinary village maiden with tight cheeks, and
dress; coarse veil, high colour, and eyes like a rabbit's; or
something--something like that little Welsh girl on the hills whom I
once passed and whose peer I have never since seen? Bending forward, I
accosted an apple-faced woman in the next pew. "Can you tell me who the
bride is?"

Regarding me with the grey, round, defensive glance that one bestows on
strangers, she replied:

"Aw, don't 'ee know? 'Tes Gwenny Mara--prettiest, brightest maid in
these parts." And, jerking her thumb towards the neglected bridegroom,
she added: "He's a lucky young chap. She'm a sunny maid, for sure, and a
gude maid tu."

Somehow the description did not reassure me, and I prepared for the

A bubble, a stir, a rustle!

Like everyone else, I turned frankly round. She was coming up the aisle
on the arm of a hard-faced, rather gipsy-looking man, dressed in a
farmer's very best.

I can only tell you that to see her coming down the centre of that grey
church amongst all those dark-clothed people, was like watching the
dance of a sunbeam. Never had I seen a face so happy, sweet, and
radiant. Smiling, eager, just lost enough to her surroundings, her hair
unconquerably golden through the coarse veil; her dancing eyes clear
and dark as a peat pool--she was the prettiest sight. One could only
think of a young apple-tree with the spring sun on its blossom. She had
that kind of infectious brightness which comes from very simple
goodness. It was quite a relief to have taken a fancy to the young man's
face, and to feel that she was passing into good hands.

The only flowers in the church were early daffodils, but those first
children of the sun were somehow extraordinarily appropriate to the
wedding of this girl. When she came out she was pelted with them, and
with that miserable confetti without which not even the simplest souls
can pass to bliss, it seems. There are things in life which make one
feel good--sunshine, most music, all flowers, many children, some
animals, clouds, mountains, bird-songs, blue sky, dancing, and here and
there a young girl's face. And I had the feeling that all of us there
felt good for the mere seeing of her.

When she had driven away, I found myself beside a lame old man, with
whiskers, and delightful eyes, who continued to smile after the carriage
had quite vanished. Noticing, perhaps, that I, too, was smiling, he
said: "'Tes a funny thing, tu, when a maid like that gets married--makes
you go all of a tremble--so it du." And to my nod he added: "Brave bit
o' sunshine--we'll miss her hereabout; not a doubt of it. We ain't got
another one like that."

"Was that her father?" I asked, for the want of something to say. With a
sharpish look at my face, he shook his head.

"No, she an't got no parents, Mr. Mara bein' her uncle, as you may say.
No, she an't got no parents," he repeated, and there was something ill
at ease, yet juicy, about his voice, as though he knew things that he
would not tell.

Since there was nothing more to wait for, I went up to the little inn,
and ordered bread and cheese. The male congregation was whetting its
whistle noisily within, but, as a stranger, I had the verandah to
myself, and, finishing my simple lunch in the March sunlight, I paid and
started on. Taking at random one of the three lanes that debouched from
the bottom of the green, I meandered on between high banks, happy in the
consciousness of not knowing at all where it would lead me--that
essential of a country ramble. Except one cottage in a bottom and one
farm on a rise, I passed nothing, nobody. The spring was late in these
parts, the buds had hardly formed as yet on any trees, and now and then
between the bursts of sunlight a few fine specks of snow would come
drifting past me on the wind. Close to a group of pines at a high
corner, the lane dipped sharply down to a long farm-house standing back
in its yard, where three carts were drawn up, and an empty waggonette
with its shafts in the air. And suddenly, by some broken daffodils on
the seats and confetti on the ground, I perceived that I had stumbled on
the bride's home, where the wedding feast was, no doubt, in progress.

Gratifying but by no means satisfying my curiosity by gazing at the
lichened stone and thatch of the old house, at the pigeons, pigs, and
hens at large between it and the barns, I passed on down the lane, which
turned up steeply to the right beside a little stream. To my left was a
long larch wood, to my right rough fields with many trees. The lane
finished at a gate below the steep moorside crowned by a rocky tor. I
stood there leaning on the top bar, debating whether I should ascend or
no. The bracken had, most of it, been cut in the autumn, and not a
hundred yards away the furze was being swaled; the little blood-red
flames and the blue smoke, the yellow blossoms of the gorse, the
sunlight, and some flecks of drifting snow were mingled in an amazing
tangle of colour.

I had made up my mind to ascend the tor, and was pushing through the
gate, when suddenly I saw a woman sitting on a stone under the wall
bordering the larch wood. She was holding her head in her hands, rocking
her body to and fro; and her eyes were evidently shut, for she had not
noticed me. She wore a blue serge dress; her hat reposed beside her, and
her dark hair was straggling about her face. That face, all blowsy and
flushed, was at once wild and stupefied. A face which has been
beautiful, coarsened and swollen by life and strong emotion, is a
pitiful enough sight. Her dress, hat, and the way her hair had been done
were redolent of the town, and of that unnameable something which clings
to women whose business it is to attract men. And yet there was a
gipsyish look about her, as though she had not always been of the town.

The sight of a woman's unrestrained distress in the very heart of
untouched nature is so rare that one must be peculiar to remain unmoved.
And there I stood, not knowing what on earth to do. She went on rocking
herself to and fro, her stays creaking, and a faint moaning sound coming
from her lips; and suddenly she drooped over her lap, her hands fallen
to her sides, as though she had gone into a kind of coma. How go on and
leave her thus; yet how intrude on what did not seem to me mere physical

In that quandary I stood and watched. This corner was quite sheltered
from the wind, the sun almost hot, and the breath of the swaling reached
one in the momentary calms. For three full minutes she had not moved a
finger; till, beginning to think she had really fainted, I went up to
her. From her drooped body came a scent of heat, and of stale violet
powder, and I could see, though the east wind had outraddled them,
traces of rouge on her cheeks and lips; their surface had a sort of
swollen defiance, but underneath, as it were, a wasted look. Her
breathing sounded faint and broken.

Mustering courage, I touched her on the arm. She raised her head and
looked up. Her eyes were the best things she had left; they must have
once been very beautiful. Bloodshot now from the wind, their wild,
stupefied look passed after a moment into the peculiar, half-bold,
half-furtive stare of women of a certain sort. She did not speak, and in
my embarrassment I drew out the flask of port I always take with me on
my rambles, and stammered:

"I beg your pardon--are you feeling faint? Would you care--?" And,
unscrewing the top, I held out the flask. She stared at it a moment
blankly, then taking it, said:

"That's kind of you. I feel to want it, tu." And, putting it to her
lips, she drank, tilting back her head. Perhaps it was the tell-tale
softness of her u's, perhaps the naturally strong lines of her figure
thus bent back, but somehow the plumage of the town bird seemed to drop
off her suddenly.

She handed back the flask, as empty as it had ever been, and said, with
a hard smile:

"I dare say you thought me funny sittin' 'ere like that."

"I thought you were ill."

She laughed without the faintest mirth, and muttered:

"I did go on, didn't I?" Then, almost fiercely, added: "I got some
reason, too. Seein' the old place again after all these years." Her dark
eyes, which the wine seemed to have cleared and boldened, swept me up
and down, taking me in, making sure perhaps whether or no she had ever
seen me, and what sort of a brute I might be. Then she said: "I was born
here. Are you from these parts?" I shook my head--"No, from the other
side of the county."

She laughed. Then, after a moment's silence, said abruptly:

"I been to a weddin'--first I've seen since I was a girl."

Some instinct kept me silent.

"My own daughter's weddin', but nobody didn't know me--not likely."

I had dropped down under the shelter of the wall on to a stone opposite,
and at those words looked at her with interest indeed. She--this
coarsened, wasted, suspiciously scented woman of the town--the mother of
that sweet, sunny child I had just seen married. And again instinctively
silent about my own presence at the wedding, I murmured:

"I thought I saw some confetti in that farmyard as I came up the lane."

She laughed again.

"Confetti--that's the little pink and white and blue things--plenty o'
that," and she added fiercely: "My own brother didn' know me--let alone
my girl. How should she?--I haven't seen her since she was a baby--she
was a laughin' little thing," and she gazed past me with that look in
the eyes as of people who are staring back into the bygone. "I guess we
was laughin' when we got her. 'Twas just here--summer-time. I 'ad the
moon in my blood that night, right enough." Then, turning her eyes on my
face, she added: "That's what a girl _will_ 'ave, you know, once in a
while, and like as not it'll du for her. Only thirty-five now, I am, an'
pretty nigh the end o' my tether. What can you expect?--I'm a gay woman.
Did for me right enough. Her father's dead, tu."

"Do you mean," I said, "because of your child?"

She nodded. "I suppose you can say that. They made me bring an order
against him. He wouldn't pay up, so he went and enlisted, an' in tu
years 'e was dead in the Boer War--so it killed him right enough. But
there she is, a sweet sprig if ever there was one. That's a strange
thing, isn't it?" And she stared straight before her in a sudden
silence. Nor could _I_ find anything to say, slowly taking in the
strangeness of this thing. That girl, so like a sunbeam, of whom the
people talked as though she were a blessing in their lives--her coming
into life to have been the ruin of the two who gave her being!

The woman went on dully: "Funny how I knew she was goin' to be
married--'twas a farmer told me--comes to me regular when he goes to
Exeter market. I always knew he came from near my old home. 'There's a
weddin' on Tuesday,' 'e says, 'I'd like to be the bridegroom at.
Prettiest, sunniest maid you ever saw'; an' he told me where she come
from, so I knew. He found me a bit funny that afternoon. But he don't
know who I am, though he used to go to school with me; I'd never tell,
not for worlds." She shook her head vehemently. "I don't know why I told
you; I'm not meself to-day, and that's a fact." At her half-suspicious,
half-appealing look, I said quickly:

"I don't know a soul about here. It's all right."

She sighed. "It was kind of you; and I feel to want to talk sometimes.
Well, after he was gone, I said to myself: 'I'll take a holiday and go
an' see my daughter married.'" She laughed--"I never had no pink and
white and blue little things myself. That was all done up for me that
night I had the moon in me blood. Ah! my father was a proper hard man.
'Twas bad enough before I had my baby; but after, when I couldn't get
the father to marry me, an' he cut an' run, proper life they led me, him
and stepmother. Cry! Didn' I cry--I was a soft-hearted thing--never went
to sleep with me eyes dry--never. 'Tis a cruel thing to make a young
girl cry."

I said quietly: "Did you run away, then?"

She nodded. "Bravest thing I ever did. Nearly broke my 'eart to leave my
baby; but 'twas that or drownin' myself. I was soft then. I went off
with a young fellow--bookmaker that used to come over to the sports
meetin', wild about me--but he never married me"--again she uttered her
hard laugh--"knew a thing worth tu o' that." Lifting her hand towards
the burning furze, she added: "I used to come up here an' help 'em
light that when I was a little girl." And suddenly she began to cry. It
was not so painful and alarming as her first distress, for it seemed
natural now.

At the side of the cart-track by the gate was an old boot thrown away,
and it served me for something to keep my eyes engaged. The dilapidated
black object among the stones and wild plants on that day of strange
mixed beauty was as incongruous as this unhappy woman herself revisiting
her youth. And there shot into my mind a vision of this spot as it might
have been that summer night when she had "the moon in her blood"--queer
phrase--and those two young creatures in the tall soft fern, in the
warmth and the darkened loneliness, had yielded to the impulse in their
blood. A brisk fluttering of snowflakes began falling from the sky still
blue, drifting away over our heads towards the blood-red flames and
smoke. They powdered the woman's hair and shoulders, and with a sob and
a laugh she held up her hand and began catching them as a child might.

"'Tis a funny day for my girl's weddin'," she said. Then with a sort of
fierceness added: "She'll never know her mother--she's in luck there,
tu!" And, grabbing her feathered hat from the ground, she got up. "I
must be gettin' back for my train, else I'll be late for an

When she had put her hat on, rubbed her face, dusted and smoothed her
dress, she stood looking at the burning furze. Restored to her town
plumage, to her wonted bravado, she was more than ever like that old
discarded boot, incongruous.

"I'm a fool ever to have come," she said; "only upset me--and you don't
want no more upsettin' than you get, that's certain. Good-bye, and thank
you for the drink--it lusened my tongue praaper, didn't it?" She gave me
a look--not as a professional--but a human, puzzled look. "I told you my
baby was a laughin' little thing. I'm glad she's still like that. I'm
glad I've seen her." Her lips quivered for a second; then, with a faked
jauntiness, she nodded. "So long!" and passed through the gate down into
the lane.

I sat there in the snow and sunlight some minutes after she was gone.
Then, getting up, I went and stood by the burning furze. The blowing
flames and the blue smoke were alive and beautiful; but behind them they
were leaving blackened skeleton twigs.

"Yes," I thought, "but in a week or two the little green grass-shoots
will be pushing up underneath into the sun. So the world goes! Out of
destruction! It's a strange thing!"




The old Director of the 'Yew Trees' Cemetery walked slowly across from
his house, to see that all was ready.

He had seen pass into the square of earth committed to his charge so
many to whom he had been in the habit of nodding, so many whose faces
even he had not known. To him it was the everyday event; yet this
funeral, one more in the countless tale, disturbed him--a sharp reminder
of the passage of time.

For twenty years had gone by since the death of Septimus Godwin, the
cynical, romantic doctor who had been his greatest friend; by whose
cleverness all had sworn, of whose powers of fascination all had
gossiped! And now they were burying his son!

He had not seen the widow since, for she had left the town at once; but
he recollected her distinctly, a tall, dark woman with bright brown
eyes, much younger than her husband, and only married to him eighteen
months before he died. He remembered her slim figure standing by the
grave, at that long-past funeral, and the look on her face which had
puzzled him so terribly--a look of--a most peculiar look!

He thought of it even now, walking along the narrow path towards his old
friend's grave--the handsomest in the cemetery, commanding from the
topmost point the whitened slope and river that lay beyond. He came to
its little private garden. Spring flowers were blossoming; the railings
had been freshly painted; and by the door of the grave wreaths awaited
the new arrival. All was in order.

The old Director opened the mausoleum with his key. Below, seen through
a thick glass floor, lay the shining coffin of the father; beneath, on
the lower tier, would rest the coffin of the son.

A gentle voice, close behind him, said:

"Can you tell me, sir, what they are doing to my old doctor's grave?"

The old Director turned, and saw before him a lady well past middle age.
He did not know her face, but it was pleasant, with faded rose-leaf
cheeks, and silvered hair under a shady hat.

"Madam, there is a funeral here this afternoon."

"Ah! Can it be his wife?"

"Madam, his son; a young man of only twenty."

"His son! At what time did you say?"

"At two o'clock."

"Thank you; you are very kind."

With uplifted hat, he watched her walk away. It worried him to see a
face he did not know.

All went off beautifully; but, dining that same evening with his friend,
a certain doctor, the old Director asked:

"Did you see a lady with grey hair hovering about this afternoon?"

The doctor, a tall man, with a beard still yellow, drew his guest's
chair nearer to the fire.

"I did."

"Did you remark her face? A very odd expression--a sort of--what shall I
call it?--Very odd indeed! Who is she? I saw her at the grave this

The doctor shook his head.

"Not so very odd, I think."

"Come! What do you mean by that?"

The doctor hesitated. Then, taking the decanter, he filled his old
friend's glass, and answered:

"Well, sir, you were Godwin's greatest chum--I will tell you, if you
like, the story of his death. You were away at the time, if you

"It is safe with me," said the old Director.

"Septimus Godwin," began the doctor slowly, "died on a Thursday about
three o'clock, and I was only called in to see him at two. I found him
far gone, but conscious now and then. It was a case of--but you know the
details, so I needn't go into that. His wife was in the room, and on the
bed at his feet lay his pet dog--a terrier; you may recollect, perhaps,
he had a special breed. I hadn't been there ten minutes, when a maid
came in and whispered something to her mistress. Mrs. Godwin answered
angrily, 'See him? Go down and say she ought to know better than to come
here at such a time!' The maid went, but soon came back. Could the lady
see Mrs. Godwin for just a moment? Mrs. Godwin answered that she could
not leave her husband. The maid looked frightened, and went away again.
She came back for the third time. The lady had said she must see Dr.
Godwin; it was a matter of life and death! 'Death--indeed!' exclaimed
Mrs. Godwin: 'Shameful! Go down and tell her, if she doesn't go
immediately, I will send for the police!'

"The poor maid looked at me. I offered to go down and see the visitor
myself. I found her in the dining room, and knew her at once. Never mind
her name, but she belongs to a county family not a hundred miles from
here. A beautiful woman she was then; but her face that day was quite

"'For God's sake, Doctor,' she said, 'is there any hope?'

"I was obliged to tell her there was none.

"'Then I must see him,' she said.

"I begged her to consider what she was asking. But she held me out a
signet ring. Just like Godwin--wasn't it--that sort of Byronism, eh?

"'He sent me this,' she said, 'an hour ago. It was agreed between us
that if ever he sent that, I must come. If it were only myself I could
bear it--a woman can bear anything; but he'll die thinking I wouldn't
come, thinking I didn't care--and I would give my life for him this

"Now, a dying man's request is sacred. I told her she should see him. I
made her follow me upstairs, and wait outside his room. I promised to
let her know if he recovered consciousness. I have never been thanked
like that, before or since.

"I went back into the bedroom. He was still unconscious, and the terrier
whining. In the next room a child was crying--the very same young man we
buried to-day. Mrs. Godwin was still standing by the bed.

"'Have you sent her away?'

"I had to say that Godwin really wished to see her. At that she broke

"'I won't have her here--the wretch!'

"I begged her to control herself, and remember that her husband was a
dying man.

"'But I'm his wife,' she said, and flew out of the room."

The doctor paused, staring at the fire. He shrugged his shoulders, and
went on: "I'd have stopped her fury if I could! A dying man is not the
same as the live animal, that he must needs be wrangled over! And
suffering's sacred, even to us doctors. I could hear their voices
outside. Heaven knows what they said to each other. And there lay Godwin
with his white face and his black hair--deathly still--fine-looking
fellow he always was! Then I saw that he was coming to! The women had
begun again outside--first, the wife, sharp and scornful; then the
other, hushed and slow. I saw Godwin lift his finger and point it at the
door. I went out, and said to the woman, 'Dr. Godwin wishes to see you;
please control yourself.'

"We went back into the room. The wife followed. But Godwin had lost
consciousness again. They sat down, those two, and hid their faces. I
can see them now, one on each side of the bed, their eyes covered with
their hands, each with her claim on him, all murdered by the other's
presence; each with her torn love. H'm! What they must have suffered,
then! And all the time the child crying--the child of one of them, that
might have been the other's!"

The doctor was silent, and the old Director turned towards him his
white-bearded, ruddy face, with a look as if he were groping in the

"Just then, I remember," the doctor went on suddenly, "the bells of St.
Jude's close by began to peal out for the finish of a wedding. That
brought Godwin back to life. He just looked from one woman to the other
with a queer, miserable sort of smile, enough to make your heart break.
And they both looked at him. The face of the wife--poor thing!--was as
bitter hard as a cut stone, but she sat there, without ever stirring a
finger. As for the other woman--I couldn't look at her. He beckoned to
me; but I couldn't catch his words, the bells drowned them. A minute
later he was dead.

"Life's a funny thing! You wake in the morning with your foot firm on
the ladder--One touch, and down you go! You snuff out like a candle. And
it's lucky when your flame goes out, if only one woman's flame goes out

"Neither of those women cried. The wife stayed there by the bed. I got
the other one away to her carriage, down the street.--And so she was
there to-day! That explains, I think, the look you saw."

The doctor ceased, and in the silence the old Director nodded. Yes! That
explained the look he had seen on the face of that unknown woman, the
deep, unseizable, weird look. That explained the look he had seen on the
wife's face at the funeral twenty years ago!

And peering wistfully, he said:

"They looked--they looked--almost triumphant!"

Then, slowly, he rubbed his hands over his knees, with the secret
craving of the old for warmth.




It was about three o'clock, this November afternoon, when I rode down
into "Fairyland," as it is called about here. The birch-trees there are
more beautiful than any in the world; and when the clouds are streaming
over in rain-grey, and the sky soaring above in higher blue, just-seen,
those gold and silver creatures have such magical loveliness as makes
the hearts of mortals ache. The fairies, who have been driven off the
moor, alone watch them with equanimity, if they be not indeed the
birch-trees themselves--especially those little very golden ones which
have strayed out into the heather, on the far side of the glen.
"Revenge!" the fairies cried when a century ago those, whom they do not
exist just to amuse, made the new road over the moor, cutting right
through the home of twilight, that wood above the "Falls," where till
then they had always enjoyed inviolable enchantment. They trooped
forthwith in their multitudinous secrecy down into the glen, to swarm
about the old road. In half a century or so they had it almost
abandoned, save for occasional horsemen and harmless persons seeking
beauty, for whom the fairies have never had much feeling of aversion.
And now, after a hundred years, it is all theirs; the ground so golden
with leaves and bracken that the old track is nothing but a vague
hardness beneath a horse's feet, nothing but a runnel for the rains to
gather in. There is everywhere that glen scent of mouldering leaves, so
sweet when the wind comes down and stirs it, and the sun frees and
livens it. Not very many birds, perhaps because hawks are fond of
hovering here. This was once the only road up to the village, the only
communication with all that lies to the south and east! Now the fairies
have got it indeed, they have witched to skeletons all the little
bridges across the glen stream; they have mossed and thinned the gates
to wraiths. With their dapple-gold revelry in sunlight, and their dance
of pied beauty under the moon, they have made all their own.

I have ridden many times down into this glen; and slowly up among the
beeches and oaks into the lanes again, hoping and believing that, some
day, I should see a fairy take shape to my thick mortal vision; and
to-day, at last, I have seen.

I heard it first about half-way up the wood, a silvery voice piping out
very true what seemed like mortal words, not quite to be caught.
Resolved not to miss it this time, I got off quietly and tied my mare
to a tree. Then, tiptoeing in the damp leaves which did not rustle, I
stole up till I caught sight of it, from behind an oak.

It was sitting in yellow bracken as high as its head, under a birch-tree
that had a few branches still gold-feathered. It seemed to be clothed in
blue, and to be swaying as it sang. There was something in its arms, as
it might be a creature being nursed. Cautiously I slipped from that tree
to the next, till I could see its face, just like a child's,
fascinating, very, very delicate, the little open mouth poised and
shaped ever so neatly to the words it was singing; the eyes wide apart
and ever so wide open, fixed on nothing mortal. The song, and the little
body, and the spirit in the eyes, all seemed to sway--sway together,
like a soft wind that goes sough-sough, swinging, in the tops of the
ferns. And now it stretched out one arm, and now the other, beckoning in
to it those to which it was singing; so that one seemed to feel the
invisible ones stealing up closer and closer.

These were the words which came so silvery and slow through that little
mouth: "Chil-dren, chil-dren! Hussh!"

It seemed as if the very rabbits must come and sit-up there, the jays
and pigeons settle above; everything in all the wood gather. Even one's
own heart seemed to be drawn in by those beckoning arms, and the slow
enchantment of that tinkling voice, and the look in those eyes, which,
lost in the unknown, were seeing no mortal glen, but only that mazed
wood, where friendly wild things come, who have no sound to their
padding, no whirr to the movement of their wings; whose gay whisperings
have no noise, whose eager shapes no colour--the fairy dream-wood of the

"Chil-dren, chil-dren! Hus-s-h!"

For just a moment I could see that spirit company, ghosts of the ferns
and leaves, of butterflies and bees and birds, and four-footed things
innumerable, ghosts of the wind, the sun-beams, and the rain-drops, and
tiny flickering ghosts of moon-rays. For just a moment I saw what the
fairy's eyes were seeing, without knowing what they saw.

And then my mare trod on a dead branch, and all vanished. My fairy was
gone; and there was only little "Connemara," as we called her, nursing
her doll, and smiling up at me from the fern, where she had come to
practise her new school-song.




I set down here not precisely the words of my friend, the country
doctor, but the spirit of them:

"You know there are certain creatures in this world whom one simply dare
not take notice of, however sorry one may be for them. That has often
been borne in on me. I realised it, I think, before I met that little
girl. I used to attend her mother for varicose veins--one of those women
who really ought not to have children, since they haven't the very least
notion of how to bring them up. The wife of a Sussex agricultural
labourer called Alliner, she was a stout person, with most peculiar
prominent epileptic eyes, such eyes as one usually associates with men
of letters or criminals. And yet there was nothing in her. She was just
a lazy, slatternly, easy-going body, rather given to drink. Her husband
was a thin, dirty, light-hearted fellow, who did his work and offended
nobody. Her eldest daughter, a pretty and capable girl, was wild, got
into various kinds of trouble, and had to migrate, leaving two
illegitimate children behind her with their grandparents. The younger
girl, the child of this story, who was called Emmeline, of all
names--pronounced Em'leen, of course--was just fifteen at the time of my
visits to her mother. She had eyes like a hare's, a mouth which readily
fell open, and brown locks caught back from her scared and knobby
forehead. She was thin, and walked with her head poked a little forward,
and she so manoeuvred her legs and long feet, of which one turned in
rather and seemed trying to get in front of the other, that there was
something clodhopperish in her gait. Once in a way you would see her in
curl-papers, and then indeed she was plain, poor child! She seemed to
have grown up without ever having had the least attention paid to her. I
don't think she was ill-treated--she was simply not treated at all. At
school they had been kind enough, but had regarded her as almost
deficient. Seeing that her father was paid about fifteen shillings a
week, that her mother had no conception of housekeeping, and that there
were two babies to be fed, they were, of course, villainously poor, and
Em'leen was always draggle-tailed and badly shod. One side of her
too-short dress seemed ever to hang lower than the other, her stockings
always had one hole at least, and her hat--such queer hats--would seem
about to fly away. I have known her type in the upper classes pass
muster as "eccentric" or "full of character." And even in Em'leen there
was a sort of smothered natural comeliness, trying pathetically to push
through, and never getting a chance. She always had a lost-dog air, and
when her big hare's eyes clung on your face, it seemed as if she only
wanted a sign to make her come trailing at your heels, looking up for a
pat or a bit of biscuit.

"She went to work, of course, the moment she left school. Her first
place was in a small farm where they took lodgers, and her duties were
to do everything, without, of course, knowing how to do anything. She
had to leave because she used to take soap and hairpins, and food that
was left over, and was once seen licking a dish. It was just about then
that I attended her mother for those veins in her unwieldy legs, and the
child was at home, waiting to secure some other fate. It was impossible
not to look at that little creature kindly, and to speak to her now and
then; she would not exactly light up, because her face was not made that
way, but she would hang towards you as if you were a magnet, and you had
at once the uncomfortable sensation that you might find her clinging,
impossible to shake off. If one passed her in the village, too, or
coming down from her blackberrying in the thickets on the Downs--their
cottage lay just below the South Downs--one knew that she would be
lingering along, looking back till you were out of sight. Somehow one
hardly thought of her as a girl at all, she seemed so far from all human
hearts, so wandering in a queer lost world of her own, and to imagine
what she could be thinking was as impossible as it is with animals. Once
I passed her and her mother dawdling slowly in a lane, then heard the
dot-and-go-one footsteps pattering after me, and the childish voice,
rather soft and timid, say behind my shoulder: "Would you please buy
some blackberries, sir?" She was almost pretty at that moment, flushed
and breathless at having actually spoken to me, but her eyes hanging on
my face brought a sort of nightmare feeling at once of being unable to
get rid of her.

"Isn't it a cruel thing when you come to think of it, that there should
be born into the world poor creatures--children, dogs, cats, horses--who
want badly to love and be loved, and yet whom no one can quite put up
with, much less feel affection for!

"Well, what happened to her is what will always happen to such as those,
one way or another, in a world where the callous abound; for, however
unlovable a woman or girl, she has her use to a man, just as a dog or a
horse has to a master who cares nothing for it.

"Soon after I bought those blackberries I went out to France on military
duty. I got my leave a year later, and went home. It was late September,
very lovely weather, and I took a real holiday walking or lying about up
on the Downs, and only coming down at sunset. On one of those days when
you really enter heaven, so pure are the lines of the hills, so cool the
blue, the green, the chalk-white colouring under the smile of the
afternoon sun--I was returning down that same lane, when I came on
Em'leen sitting in a gap of the bank, with her dishevelled hat beside
her, and her chin sunk on her hands. My appearance seemed to drag her
out of a heavy dream--her eyes awoke, became startled, rolled furtively;
she scrambled up, dropped her little, old school curtsey, then all
confused, faced the bank as if she were going to climb it. She was
taller, her dress longer, her hair gathered up, and it was very clear
what was soon going to happen to her. I walked on in a rage. At her
age--barely sixteen even yet! I am a doctor, and accustomed to most
things, but this particular crime against children of that helpless sort
does make my blood boil. Nothing, not even passion to excuse it--who
could feel passion for that poor child?--nothing but the cold, clumsy
lust of some young ruffian. Yes, I walked on in a rage, and went
straight to her mother's cottage. That wretched woman was incapable of
moral indignation, or else the adventures of her elder daughter had
exhausted her powers of expression. 'Yes,' she admitted, 'Em'leen had
got herself into trouble too, but she would not tell, she wouldn't say
nothin' against nobody. It was a bad business, surely, an' now there
would be three o' them, an' Alliner was properly upset, that he was!'
That was all there was to be had out of _her_. One felt that she knew or
suspected more, but her fingers had been so burned over the elder girl
that anything to her was better than a fuss.

"I saw Alliner; he was a decent fellow, though dirty, distressed in his
simple, shallow-pated way, and more obviously ignorant than his wife. I
spoke to the schoolmistress, a shrewd and kindly married woman.

"Poor Emmeline! Yes, she had noticed. It was very sad and wicked! She
hinted, but would not do more than hint, at the son of the miller, but
he was back again, fighting in France now, and, after all, her evidence
amounted to no more than his reputation with girls. Besides, one is very
careful what one says in a country village. I, however, was so angry
that I should not have been careful if I could have got hold of
anything at all definite.

"I did not see the child again before my leave was up. The very next
thing I heard of her, was in a newspaper--Emmeline Alliner, sixteen, had
been committed for trial for causing the death of her illegitimate child
by exposure. I was on the sick list in January, and went home to rest. I
had not been there two days before I received a visit from a solicitor
of our assize town, who came to ask me if I would give evidence at the
girl's trial as to the nature of her home surroundings. I learned from
him the details of the lugubrious business. It seems that she had
slipped out one bitter afternoon in December, barely a fortnight after
her confinement, carrying her baby. There was snow on the ground, and it
was freezing hard, but the sun was bright, and it was that perhaps which
tempted her. She must have gone up towards the Downs by the lane where I
had twice met her; gone up, and stopped at the very gap in the bank
where she had been sitting lost in that heavy dream when I saw her last.
She appears to have subsided there in the snow, for there she was found
by the postman just as it was getting dark, leaning over her knees as if
stupefied, with her chin buried in her hands--and the baby stiff and
dead in the snow beside her. When I told the lawyer how I had seen her
there ten weeks before, and of the curious dazed state she had been in,
he said at once: 'Ah! the exact spot. That's very important; it looks
uncommonly as if it were there that she came by her misfortune. What do
you think? It's almost evident that she'd lost sense of her
surroundings, baby and all. I shall ask you to tell us about that at the
trial. She's a most peculiar child; I can't get anything out of her. I
keep asking her for the name of the man, or some indication of how it
came about, but all she says is: "Nobody--nobody!" Another case of
immaculate conception! Poor little creature, she's very pathetic, and
that's her best chance. Who could condemn a child like that?'

"And so indeed it turned out. I spared no feelings in my evidence. The
mother and father were in court, and I hope Mrs. Alliner liked my
diagnosis of her maternal qualities. My description of how Em'leen was
sitting when I met her in September tallied so exactly with the
postman's account of how he met her, that I could see the jury were
impressed. And then there was the figure of the child herself, lonely
there in the dock. The French have a word, _Hébétée_. Surely there never
was a human object to which it applied better. She stood like a little
tired pony, whose head hangs down, half-sleeping after exertion; and
those hare eyes of hers were glued to the judge's face, for all the
world as if she were worshipping him. It must have made him
extraordinarily uncomfortable. He summed up very humanely, dwelling on
the necessity of finding intention in her conduct towards the baby; and
he used some good strong language against the unknown man. The jury
found her not guilty, and she was discharged. The schoolmistress and I,
anticipating this, had found her a refuge with some Sisters of Mercy,
who ran a sort of home not far away, and to that we took her, without a
'by your leave' to the mother.

"When I came home the following summer, I found an opportunity of going
to look her up. She was amazingly improved in face and dress, but she
had attached herself to one of the Sisters--a broad, fine-looking
woman--to such a pitch that she seemed hardly alive when out of her
sight. The Sister spoke of it to me with real concern.

"'I really don't know what to do with her,' she said; 'she seems
incapable of anything unless I tell her; she only feels things through
me. It's really quite trying, and sometimes very funny, poor little
soul! but it's tragic for her. If I told her to jump out of her bedroom
window, or lie down in that pond and drown, she'd do it without a
moment's hesitation. She can't go through life like this; she must learn
to stand on her own feet. We must try and get her a good place, where
she can learn what responsibility means, and get a will of her own.'

"I looked at the Sister, so broad, so capable, so handsome, and so
puzzled, and I thought, 'Yes, I know exactly. She's on your nerves; and
where in the world will you find a place for her where she won't become
a sort of nightmare to some one, with her devotion, or else get it taken
advantage of again?' And I urged them to keep her a little longer. They
did; for when I went home for good, six months later, I found that she
had only just gone into a place with an old lady-patient of mine, in a
small villa on the outskirts of our village. She used to open the door
to me when I called there on my rounds once a week. She retained
vestiges of the neatness which had been grafted on her by the Sister,
but her frock was already beginning to sag down on one side, and her
hair to look ill-treated. The old lady spoke to her with a sort of
indulgent impatience, and it was clear that the girl's devotion was not
concentrated upon her. I caught myself wondering what would be its next
object, never able to help the feeling that if I gave a sign it would be
myself. You may be sure I gave no sign. What's the good? I hold the
belief that people should not force themselves to human contacts or
relationships which they cannot naturally and without irritation
preserve. I've seen these heroic attempts come to grief so often; in
fact, I don't think I've ever seen one succeed, not even between blood
relations. In the long run they merely pervert and spoil the fibre of
the attempter, without really benefiting the attemptee. Behind healthy
relationships between human beings, or even between human beings and
animals, there must be at least some rudimentary affinity. That's the
tragedy of poor little souls like Em'leen. Where on earth can they find
the affinity which makes life good? The very fact that they must worship
is their destruction. It was a soldier--or so they said--who had brought
her to her first grief; I had seen her adoring the judge at the trial,
then the handsome uniformed Sister. And I, as the village doctor, was a
sort of tin-pot deity in those parts, so I was very careful to keep my
manner to her robust and almost brusque.

"And then one day I passed her coming from the post office; she was
looking back, her cheeks were flushed, and she was almost pretty. There
by the inn a butcher's cart was drawn up. The young butcher, new to our
village (he had a stiff knee, and had been discharged from the Army),
was taking out a leg of mutton. He had a daredevil face; and eyes that
had seen much death. He had evidently been chatting with her, for he was
still smiling, and even as I passed him he threw her a jerk of the head.

"Two Sundays after that I was coming down past Wiley's copse at dusk,
and heard a man's coarse laugh. There, through a tiny gap in the
nut-bushes, I saw a couple seated. He had his leg stiffly stretched out,
and his arm round the girl, who was leaning towards him; her lips were
parted, and those hare's eyes of hers were looking up into his face.

"I don't know what it was my duty to have done, I only know that I did
nothing, but slunk on with a lump in my throat.

"Adoration! There it was again! Hopeless! Incurable devotions to those
who cared no more for her than for a slice of suet-pudding to be eaten
hot, gulped down, forgotten, or loathed in the recollection. And there
they are, these girls, one to almost every village of this country--a
nightmare to us all. The look on her face was with me all that evening
and in my dreams.

"I know no more, for two days later I was summoned North to take up work
in a military hospital."




Why is it that in some places one has such a feeling of life being, not
merely a long picture-show for human eyes, but a single breathing,
glowing, growing thing, of which we are no more important a part than
the swallows and magpies, the foals and sheep in the meadows, the
sycamores and ash-trees and flowers in the fields, the rocks and little
bright streams, or even than the long fleecy clouds and their
soft-shouting drivers, the winds?

True, we register these parts of being, and they--so far as we know--do
not register us; yet it is impossible to feel, in such places as I speak
of, the busy, dry, complacent sense of being all that matters, which in
general we humans have so strongly.

In these rare spots, which are always in the remote country, untouched
by the advantages of civilisation, one is conscious of an enwrapping web
or mist of spirit--is it, perhaps the glamourous and wistful wraith of
all the vanished shapes once dwelling there in such close comradeship?

It was Sunday of an early June when I first came on one such, far down
in the West country. I had walked with my knapsack twenty miles; and,
there being no room at the tiny inn of the very little village, they
directed me to a wicket gate, through which, by a path leading down a
field, I would come to a farm-house, where I might find lodging. The
moment I got into that field I felt within me a peculiar contentment,
and sat down on a rock to let the feeling grow. In an old holly-tree
rooted to the bank about fifty yards away, two magpies evidently had a
nest, for they were coming and going, avoiding my view as much as
possible, yet with a certain stealthy confidence which made one feel
that they had long prescriptive right to that dwelling-place. Around,
far as one could see, was hardly a yard of level ground; all hill and
hollow, long ago reclaimed from the moor; and against the distant folds
of the hills the farm-house and its thatched barns were just visible,
embowered amongst beeches and some dark trees, with a soft bright crown
of sunlight over the whole. A gentle wind brought a faint rustling up
from those beeches, and from a large lime-tree which stood by itself; on
this wind some little snowy clouds, very high and fugitive in that blue
heaven, were always moving over. But I was most struck by the
buttercups. Never was field so lighted up by those tiny lamps, those
little bright pieces of flower china out of the Great Pottery. They
covered the whole ground, as if the sunlight had fallen bodily from the
sky, in millions of gold patines; and the fields below as well, down to
what was evidently a stream, were just as thick with the extraordinary
warmth and glory of them.

Leaving the rock at last, I went towards the house. It was long and low,
and rather sad, standing in a garden all mossy grass and buttercups,
with a few rhododendrons and flowery shrubs, below a row of fine old
Irish yews. On the stone verandah a grey sheep-dog and a very small
golden-haired child were sitting close together, absorbed in each other.
A woman came in answer to my knock, and told me, in a pleasant soft,
slurring voice, that I might stay the night; and dropping my knapsack, I
went out again. Through an old gate under a stone arch I came on the
farmyard, quite deserted save for a couple of ducks moving slowly down a
gutter in the sunlight; and noticing the upper half of a stable-door
open, I went across, in search of something living. There, in a rough
loose-box, on thick straw, lay a chestnut, long-tailed mare, with the
skin and head of a thoroughbred. She was swathed in blankets, and her
face, all cut about the cheeks and over the eyes, rested on an ordinary
human's pillow, held by a bearded man in shirt-sleeves; while, leaning
against the white-washed walls, sat fully a dozen other men, perfectly
silent, very gravely and intently gazing. The mare's eyes were
half-closed, and what could be seen of them was dull and blueish, as
though she had been through a long time of pain. Save for her rapid
breathing, she lay quite still, but her neck and ears were streaked with
sweat, and every now and then her hind-legs quivered. Seeing me at the
door, she raised her head, uttering a queer, half-human noise; but the
bearded man at once put his hand on her forehead, and with a "Woa, my
dear, woa, my pretty!" pressed it down again, while with the other hand
he plumped up the pillow for her cheek. And, as the mare obediently let
fall her head, one of the men said in a low voice: "I never see anything
so like a Christian!" and the others echoed him, in chorus, "Like a
Christian--like a Christian!" It went to one's heart to watch her, and I
moved off down the farm lane into an old orchard, where the apple-trees
were still in bloom, with bees--very small ones--busy on the blossoms,
whose petals were dropping on to the dock leaves and buttercups in the
long grass. Climbing over the bank at the far end, I found myself in a
meadow the like of which--so wild and yet so lush--I think I have never
seen. Along one hedge of its meandering length were masses of pink
mayflower; and between two little running streams quantities of yellow
water iris--"daggers," as they call them--were growing; the
"print-frock" orchis, too, was all over the grass, and everywhere the
buttercups. Great stones coated with yellowish moss were strewn among
the ash-trees and dark hollies; and through a grove of beeches on the
far side, such as Corot might have painted, a girl was running with a
youth after her, who jumped down over the bank and vanished. Thrushes,
blackbirds, yaffles, cuckoos, and one other very monotonous little bird
were in full song; and this, with the sound of the streams, and the
wind, and the shapes of the rocks and trees, the colours of the flowers,
and the warmth of the sun, gave one a feeling of being lost in a very
wilderness of Nature. Some ponies came slowly from the far end, tangled,
gipsy-headed little creatures, stared, and went off again at speed. It
was just one of those places where any day the Spirit of all Nature
might start up in one of those white gaps which separate the trees and
rocks. But though I sat a long time waiting, hoping--Pan did not come.

They were all gone from the stable, when I went back to the farm, except
the bearded nurse, and one tall fellow, who might have been the "Dying
Gaul," as he crouched there in the straw; and the mare was sleeping--her
head between her nurse's knees.

That night I woke at two o'clock, to find it bright as day, almost, with
moonlight coming in through the flimsy curtains. And, smitten with the
feeling which comes to us creatures of routine so rarely--of what beauty
and strangeness we let slip by without ever stretching out hand to grasp
it--I got up, dressed, stole downstairs, and out.

Never was such a night of frozen beauty, never such dream-tranquillity.
The wind had dropped, and the silence was such that one hardly liked to
tread even on the grass. From the lawn and fields there seemed to be a
mist rising--in truth, the moonlight caught on the dewy buttercups; and
across this ghostly radiance the shadows of the yew-trees fell in dense
black bars. Suddenly, I bethought me of the mare. How was she faring,
this marvellous night? Very softly opening the door into the yard, I
tiptoed across. A light was burning in her box. And I could hear her
making the same half-human noise she had made in the afternoon, as if
wondering at her feelings; and instantly the voice of the bearded man
talking to her as one might talk to a child: "Oover, me darlin'; yu've
a-been long enough o' that side. Wa-ay, my swate--yu let old Jack turn
'u, then!" Then came a scuffling in the straw, a thud, again that
half-human sigh, and his voice: "Putt your 'ead to piller, that's my
dandy gel. Old Jack wouldn' 'urt 'u; no more'n ef 'u was the queen!"
Then only her quick breathing could be heard, and his cough and mutter,
as he settled down once more to his long vigil. I crept very softly up
to the window, but she heard me at once; and at the movement of her head
the old fellow sat up, blinking his eyes out of the bush of his grizzled
hair and beard. Opening the door, I said:

"May I come in?"

"Oo, ay! Come in, Zurr, if 'u'm a mind to."

I sat down beside him on a sack, and for some time we did not speak,
taking each other in. One of his legs was lame, so that he had to keep
it stretched out all the time; and awfully tired he looked, grey-tired.

"You're a great nurse!" I said at last. "It must be hard work, watching
out here all night."

His eyes twinkled; they were of that bright grey kind through which the
soul looks out.

"Aw, no!" he said. "Ah don't grudge it vur a dumb animal. Poor
things--they can't 'elp theirzelves. Many's the naight ah've zat up with
'orses and beasts tu. 'Tes en me--can't bear to zee dumb creatures
zuffer!" And, laying his hand on the mare's ears: "They zay 'orses
'aven't no souls. 'Tes my belief they'm gotten souls, zame as us. Many's
the Christian ah've seen ain't got the soul of an 'orse. Zame with the
beasts--an' the sheep; 'tes only they can't spake their minds."

"And where," I said, "do you think they go to when they die?" He looked
at me a little queerly, fancying, perhaps, that I was leading him into
some trap; making sure, too, that I was a real stranger, without power
over him, body or soul--for humble folk in the country must be careful;
then, reassured, and nodding in his bushy beard, he answered knowingly:

"Ah don't think they goes zo very far!"

"Why? Do you ever see their spirits?"

"Naw, naw; I never zeen none; but, for all they zay, ah don't think none
of us goes such a brave way off. There's room for all, dead or alive.
An' there's Christians ah've zeen--well, ef they'm not dead for gude,
then neither aren't dumb animals, for sure."

"And rabbits, squirrels, birds, even insects? How about them?"

He was silent, as if I had carried him a little beyond the confines of
his philosophy, then shook his head:

"'Tes all a bit dimsy-like. But yu watch dumb animals, Zurr, even the
laste littlest one, and yu'll zee they knows a lot more'n what us
thenks; an' they du's things, tu, that putts shame on a man's often as
not. They've a got that in 'em as passes show." And not noticing my
stare at that unconscious plagiarism, he added: "Ah'd zuuner zet up of a
naight with an 'orse than with an 'uman; they've more zense, and
patience." And, stroking the mare's forehead, he added: "Now, my dear,
time for yu t' 'ave yure bottle."

I waited to see her take her draught, and lay her head down once more on
the pillow. Then, hoping he would get a sleep, I rose to go.

"Aw, 'tes nothin' much," he said, "this time o' year; not like in
winter. 'Twill come day before yu know, these buttercup-nights"; and
twinkling up at me out of his kindly bearded face, he settled himself
again into the straw. I stole a look back at his rough figure propped
against the sack, with the mare's head down beside his knee, at her
swathed chestnut body, and the gold of the straw, the white walls, and
dusky nooks and shadows of that old stable, illumined by the "dimsy"
light of the old lantern. And with the sense of having seen something
holy, I crept away up into the field where I had lingered the day
before, and sat down on the same half-way rock. Close on dawn it was,
the moon still sailing wide over the moor, and the flowers of this
"buttercup-night" fast closed, not taken in at all by her cold glory!

Most silent hour of all the twenty-four--when the soul slips half out of
sheath, and hovers in the cool; when the spirit is most in tune with
what, soon or late, happens to all spirits; hour when a man cares least
whether or no he be alive, as we understand the word.... "None of us
goes such a brave way off--there's room for all, dead or alive." Though
it was almost unbearably colourless, and quiet, there was warmth in
thinking of those words of his; in the thought, too, of the millions of
living things snugly asleep all round; warmth in realising that
unanimity of sleep. Insects and flowers, birds, men, beasts, the very
leaves on the trees--away in slumber-land. Waiting for the first bird to
chirrup, one had, perhaps, even a stronger feeling than in daytime of
the unity and communion of all life, of the subtle brotherhood of living
things that fall all together into oblivion, and, all together, wake.

When dawn comes, while moonlight is still powdering the world's face,
quite a long time passes before one realises how the quality of the
light has changed; and so, it was day before I knew it. Then the sun
came up above the hills; dew began to sparkle, and colour to stain the
sky. That first praise of the sun from every bird and leaf and blade of
grass, the tremulous flush and chime of dawn! One has strayed far from
the heart of things that it should come as something strange and
wonderful! Indeed, I noticed that the beasts and birds gazed at me as if
I simply could not be there at this hour which so belonged to them. And
to me, too, they seemed strange and new--with that in them "which
passeth show," and as of a world where man did not exist, or existed
only as just another sort of beast or bird.

But just then began the crowning glory of that dawn--the opening and
lighting of the buttercups. Not one did I actually see unclose, yet, of
a sudden, they were awake, and the fields once more a blaze of gold.

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