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Title: Walking Shadows
Author: Noyes, Alfred, 1880-1958
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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                    WALKING SHADOWS

                 _SEA TALES AND OTHERS_

                    BY ALFRED NOYES


    NEW YORK
    FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
    PUBLISHERS

    _Copyright, 1918, by_
    Alfred Noyes

    _Copyright, 1918, by_
    Frederick A. Stokes Company

    _All Rights Reserved_



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER                                              PAGE

           PRELUDE                                        xi

        I. THE LIGHT-HOUSE                                 1

       II. UNCLE HYACINTH                                 28

      III. THE CREATIVE IMPULSE                           82

       IV. THE MAN FROM BUFFALO                          117

        V. THE _Lusitania_ WAITS                         138

       VI. THE LOG OF THE _Evening Star_                 151

      VII. GOBLIN PEACHES                                177

     VIII. MAY MARGARET                                  205

       IX. MAROONED                                      249

        X. THE GARDEN ON THE CLIFF                       281

       XI. THE HAND OF THE MASTER                        292



WALKING SHADOWS



_Prelude_


    Of those who fought and died
    Unreckoned, undescried,
      Breaking no hearts but two or three that loved them;
    Of multitudes that gave
    Their memories to the grave,
      And the unrevealing seas of night removed them;

    Of those unnumbered hosts
    Who smile at all our boasts
      And are not blazed on any scroll of glory;
    Mere out-posts in the night,
    Mere keepers of the light,
      Where history stops, let shadows weave a story.

    Shadows, but ah, they know
    That history's pomp and show
      Are shadows of a shadow, gilt and painted.
    They see the accepted lie
    In robes of state go by.
      They see the prophet stoned, the trickster sainted.

    And so my shadows turn
    To truths that they discern
      Beyond the ordered "facts" that fame would cherish.
    They walk awhile with dreams,
    They follow flying gleams
      And lonely lights at sea that pass and perish.

    Not tragic all indeed,
    Not all without remede
      Of clean-edged mirth. Our Rosalie of laughter,
    The bayonet of a jest,
    May pierce the devil's breast,
      And give us room and time for grief, here-after.

    So let them weep or smile
    Or kneel, or dance awhile,
      Fantastic shades, by wandering fires begotten;
    Remembrancers of themes
    That dawn may mock as dreams.
      Then let them sleep, at dawn, with the forgotten.



WALKING SHADOWS



I

THE LIGHT-HOUSE


The position of a light-house keeper, in a sea infested by submarines,
is a peculiar one; but Peter Ramsay, keeper of the _Hatchets' Light_,
had reasons for feeling that his lonely tower, six miles from the
mainland, was the happiest habitation in the world.

At five o'clock, on a gusty October afternoon, of the year 1916, Peter
had just finished his tea and settled down, with a pipe and the last
number of the _British Weekly_, for five minutes' reading, before he
turned to the secret of his happiness again. Precisely at this moment,
the Commander of the U-99, three miles away to the north, after making
sure through his periscope that there were no patrol boats in the
vicinity, rose to the surface, and began to look for the _Hatchets'_.
He, too, had reasons for wishing to get inside the light-house, if only
for half an hour. It was possible only by trickery; but he thought it
might be done under cover of darkness, and he was about to reconnoiter.

When he first emerged, he had some difficulty in descrying his goal
across that confused sea. His eye was guided by a patch of foam, larger
than the ordinary run of white-caps, and glittering in the evening sun
like a black-thorn blossom. As the sky brightened behind it, he saw,
rising upright, like the single slim pistil of those rough white petals,
the faint shaft of the light-house itself.

He stole nearer, till these pretty fancies were swallowed up in the
savagery of the place. It greeted him with a deep muffled roar as of a
hundred sea-lions, and the air grew colder with its thin mists of spray.
The black thorns and white petals became an angry ship-wrecking ring of
ax-headed rocks, furious with surf; and the delicate pistil assumed the
stature of the Nelson Column.

It made his head reel to look up at its firm height from the tossing
conning-tower, as he circled the reef, making his observations. He noted
the narrow door, twenty feet up, in the smooth wall of the shaft. There
was no way of approaching it until the rope-ladder was let down from
within. But, after midnight, when the custodian's wits might be a little
drowsy, he thought his plan might succeed. He noted the pool on the
reef, and the big boulder near the base of the tower. There was only one
thing which he did not see, an unimportant thing in war-time. He did not
see the beauty of that unconscious monument to the struggling spirit of
man.

Its lofty silence and endurance, in their stern contrast with the tumult
below, had touched the imagination of many wanderers on that sea; for it
soared to the same sky as their spires on land, and its beauty was
heightened by the simplicity of its practical purpose. But it made no
more impression on Captain Bernstein than on the sea-gulls that mewed
and swooped around it.

When his observations were completed, the U-99 sheered off and
submerged. She had to lie "doggo," at the bottom of the sea, for the
next few hours; and there were several of her sisters waiting, a mile or
so to the north, on a fine sandy bottom, to compare notes. Two of these
sisters were big submarine mine-layers of a new type. The U-99 settled
down near them, and began exchanging under-water messages at once.

"If you lay your mines properly, and lie as near as possible to the
harbor mouth, you can leave the rest to me. They will come out in a
hurry, and you ought to sink two-thirds of them." This was the final
message from Captain Bernstein; and, shortly after eight o'clock, all
the other submarines moved off, in the direction of the coast. The U-99
remained in her place, till the hour was ripe.

About midnight, she came to the surface again. Everything seemed
propitious. There were no patrols in sight; and, in any case, Captain
Bernstein knew that they seldom came within a mile of the light-house,
for ships gave it a wide berth, and there was not likely to be good
hunting in the neighborhood. This was why the U-boats had found it so
useful as a rendezvous lately.

It was a moonless night; and, as the U-99 stole towards the _Hatchets'_
for the second time, even Captain Bernstein was impressed by the
spectacle before him. Against a sky of scudding cloud and flying stars,
the light-house rose like the scepter of the oldest Sea-god. The mighty
granite shaft was gripped at the base by black knuckles of rock in a
welter of foam. A hundred feet above, the six-foot reflectors of solid
crystal sheathed the summit with fire, and flashed as they revolved
there like the facets of a single burning jewel.

"They could be smashed with a three-inch gun," thought Bernstein, "and
they are very costly. Many thousand pounds of damage could thus be done,
and perhaps many ships endangered." But he concluded, with some regret,
that his other plans were more promising.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was long past Peter's usual bedtime; but he was trimming his oil
lamp, just now, in his tiny octagonal sitting-room, half-way up the
tower. He had been busy all the evening, with the secret of his
happiness, which was a very queer one indeed. He was trying to write a
book, trying and failing. His papers were scattered all over the worn
red cloth that tried--and failed--to cover his oak table, exactly as
poor Peter's language was trying to clothe his thought. Indeed, there
were many clues to his life and character in that room, which served
many purposes. It had only one window, hardly larger than the
arrow-defying slits of a Norman castle. It was his kitchen, and a
cooking-stove was fitted compactly into a corner. It was his library;
and, facing the window, there was a book-shelf, containing several
tattered volumes by Mark Rutherford; a Bible; the "Impregnable Rock of
Holy Scripture," by Gladstone; the "First Principles" of Herbert
Spencer; and the Essays of Emerson. There was also a small volume, bound
in blue leather, called "The Wonders of the Deep." The leather binding
was protected by a brown paper jacket, for it was a prize, awarded by
the Westport Grammar School, in 1864, to Peter Ramsay, aged fourteen,
for his excellence in orthography. This, of course, was the beginning of
all his dreams; and it was still their sustainment, though the death of
his father, who had been the captain of a small coasting steamer, had
thrown Peter on the world before he was fifteen, and ended his hopes of
the scholarship, which was to have carried him eventually to the
heights.

The bound volumes were buttressed between piles of the _British Weekly_.
The only picture on the wall was a framed oleograph of Gladstone, his
chief hero, though Peter had long ago renounced the theology of the
Impregnable Rock. Whether the great statesman deserved this worship or
not is a matter for historians. The business of this chronicle is to
record the views of Peter, and these were quite clear.

He was restless to-night. It was his sixty-sixth birthday, and it
reminded him that he was behindhand with his great work. Nobody else had
reminded him of it, for he was quite alone in the world. He was
beginning to wonder, almost for the first time, whether he was really
destined to fail. He had begun to look his age at last; but he was a
fine figure of a man still. His white hair and flowing white beard
framed a face of the richest mahogany brown, in which the blood mantled
like wine over the cheek-bones. His deep eyes, of the marine blue, that
belongs only to the folk of the sea, were haunted sometimes by visionary
fires, like those in the eyes of an imaginative child. He might have
posed for the original fisherman of his first name. Of course, he was
regarded as a little eccentric by the dwellers on the coast, whom he had
often amazed by what they called his "innocence." The red nosed landlord
of the _Blue Dolphin_ had often been heard, on Sundays, to say that we
should all do well if we were as innocent as Peter. When he visited the
little town of Westport (which was now a naval base), the urchins in the
street sometimes expressed their view of the matter by waiting until he
was safely out of hearing, and then crowing like cocks.

Nobody knew of Peter Ramsay's secret, or the urchins might not have
waited at all, and even the kindest of his friends would have regarded
him as daft. But the comedy was not without its tragic aspect. Peter
Ramsay may have been cracked, but it was with the peculiar kind of crack
that you get in the everlasting hills, a rift that shows the sky. With
his imperfect equipment and hopeless lack of technique, he was trying to
write down certain truths, for the lack of which the civilized world, at
that moment, was in danger of destruction.

This does not mean that Peter was the sole possessor of those truths. He
was only one among millions of simple and unsophisticated souls, all
over the world, who possessed those truths dumbly, and knew, with
complete certainty, that their intellectual leaders, for the most part,
lacked them, or had lost them in a multitude of details. These dumb
millions were right about certain important matters; and their leaders,
for all their dialectical cleverness, had lost sight of the truth which
has always proceeded _ex ore infantium_. It was the tragedy of the
twentieth century, and it had culminated in the tragedy of philosophical
Germany. There were certain features of modern books, modern paintings,
and modern music, that mopped and mowed like faces through the bars of a
mad-house, clamoring for dishonor and brutality in every department of
life. These things could not be dissociated from the international
tragedy. They were its heralds. Peter Ramsay was one of those obscure
millions who were the most important figures in Armageddon because they,
and they alone, in our modern world, had retained the right to challenge
the sophistries of Germany. They had not needed the war to teach them
the reality of evil; and if they had sinned, they had never for a moment
tried to prove that they did right in sinning.

Peter knew all this, though he would not have said it in so many words.
In his book, he was trying to meet the main onset of all those
destructive forces. He had realized that the modern world had no faith,
since the creeds had gone into the melting pot; and he was trying to
write down, plainly, for plain men, exactly what he believed.

He turned over the red-lined pages of the big leather-bound ledger, half
diary, half commonplace book, in which, for the last forty years, he had
made his notes. It was a queer medley, beginning with passages written
in his youth, that recalled many of his old struggles. There was one, in
particular, that always reminded him of a school friend named Herbert
Potts, who had eventually won the coveted scholarship. They used to go
for walks together, over the hills, and talk about science and religion.

"So you don't believe there is any future life," Peter had said to him
one day.

"Not for the individual," replied Herbert Potts, adjusting his glasses,
with a singularly intellectual expression.

"But if there is none for the individual, it means the end of all we are
fighting for, because the race will come to an end, eventually," said
Peter. "Why, think, Potts, think, it means that all your progress drops
over a precipice at last. It means that instead of the Figure of Love,
we must substitute the Figure of Death, stretching out his arms and
saying to the whole human race, 'Come unto _Me_! Suffer little children
to come unto _Me_!'"

"I am afraid all the evidence points that way," said Potts, and as he
had just passed the London matriculation examination, the words rang
like a death-knell in Peter's foolish heart. He remembered how the words
had recurred to him in his dreams that night, and how he awoke in the
gray dawn to find that his pillow was wet with tears.

There were many other memories in his book, memories of the long
struggle, the wrestling with the angel, and at last the music of that
loftier certainty which he longed to impart.

A little after midnight, he threw aside the hopeless chaos of the
manuscript, into which he had been trying to distil the essence of his
scrap-book. He rose and went upstairs to his bedroom on the next floor.
It was a little smaller than his sitting-room, and contained a camp-bed,
a wash-stand, with a cracked blue jug and basin, and a chest of
drawers. Over the head of the bed was a photogravure reproduction of
_The Light of the World_; and on the wall, facing it, an illuminated
prayer: _Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord_! Under this,
affixed to the wall, was the telephone which connected the _Hatchets'_
with the Naval Station on the coast, by an under-sea wire.

But in spite of this modern invention, Peter Ramsay had quietly gone
back through the centuries. He looked as if he were talking to a very
great distance indeed, a distance so great that it became an immediate
presence. (Do not mathematicians declare that if you could throw a stone
into infinity, it would return to your hand?) He was kneeling down by
the bed, clasping his hands, lifting his face, closing his eyes, and
moving his lips, exactly like a child at his prayers.

It is an odd fact, and doubtless it would have fortified the great
ironic intellects of our day (though seventy feet in this unfathomable
universe may hardly be reckoned as depth) to know that in the darkness
of the reef outside, seventy feet below, four shadowy figures had just
landed from a collapsible boat, belonging to the U-99. Three of them
were now hauling it out of reach of the waves. The fourth was Captain
Bernstein. He stood, fingering his revolver, and looking up at the two
lighted windows.

Concerning these things, Peter received no enlightenment; but he rose
from his knees with a glowing countenance, and hurried down to his work
again.

"I'll begin at the beginning," he muttered.

He took a clean sheet of paper and headed it: _Chapter I_. Under this,
he wrote the first four words of the Bible: "_In the beginning, God_."
Then he crossed them out, and wrote again: "_First Principles_," as a
better means of approach to the moderns.

He consulted his ledger, and decided that a certain paragraph, written
long ago, must take the first place in his book. He wrote it down just
as it stood.

"We have forgotten the first principles of straight thinking--the
axioms. We have forgotten that the whole is greater than the part. Hence
comes much fallacy among modern writers, even great ones, like that
pessimist who has said that man, the creature, possesses more nobility
than that from which he came.

"One thing must be acknowledged as _known_, even by agnostics,--namely,
that if we have experienced here on earth the grandeurs of the soul of
Beethoven and Shakespeare, there must be at the heart of things, before
ever this earth was born, something infinitely greater. It is infinitely
greater because it is the Producer--not the Product.

"There are some who say that this is only putting the mystery back a
stage. This is not a true statement. The mystery is that there should be
anything in existence at all. The moment you have a grain of sand in
existence, the impossible has happened, and the miracle of the things
that we see around us can only be referred to some primal miracle,
greater than all, because it contained all their possibilities within
itself.

"Beyond this, we are all agnostics. But our reason, building on what we
see around us, carries us thus far. Modern thinkers have reversed this
process. They begin with man as the summit, and explain him by something
less. This again they explain by something less; and slowly whittle away
all the visible universe till they arrive at the smallest possible
residuum. There is no more tragic spectacle in this age than that of
the philosophers who, like Herbert Spencer, having reduced the whole
universe to a nebula, try to bridge the gulf between this nebula and
nothingness. The great intellect of Spencer grovels below the mental
capacity of a child of ten as he makes this absurd attempt, announcing
that perhaps the primal nebula might be conceived as thinning itself out
until nothingness were reached. It is the agnostics who evade the issue.
For there are certain things here and now which we must accept. We know
that Love and Thought are greater than the dust to which we consign
them. There is only one choice before us. Either there is nothing behind
these things, or else there is everything behind them. If we say that
there is nothing behind them, all our human struggle goes for nothing.
We abandon even the axioms of our reason, and we are doubly traitors to
the divine light that lives in every man. If we say that there is
everything behind the universe, each of us has his own private door into
that divine reality, the door of his own heart."

At this moment three of the shadowy figures on the reef below were
ensconcing themselves behind a boulder of rock, close to the base of
the tower, and the fourth figure was groping about on the reef,
collecting a handful of stones.

"I have heard men say," Peter continued, "that they cannot believe in a
God who would permit all the suffering on this earth, or else he must be
a limited God who cannot help himself.

"This is another question involving the freedom of the will. How long
would a world hold together if we could all depend on a miracle to help
us at every turn, or even to save the innocent from the consequences of
our guilt? Those who ask the question usually assume that our sufferings
here are the end of all. The fact that the opposite assumption accords
better with our sense of justice is surely no reason for denying it,
especially when it follows from the answer given in the first paragraph.
These men, asking for miraculous proof of omnipotence, to save the world
from suffering, are asking for nothing less than the abolition of law in
the universe; and it is only in law that freedom can be found. The
rising of the sun cannot be timed to suit each individual; but this is
what modern thinkers demand. They say that an all-powerful God could do
even this. When they have settled between themselves exactly what they
wish, doubtless the Almighty could answer their prayer. Till then, it is
better to say 'Thy law is a lantern unto my feet.'"

At this moment a stone came through the little window behind Peter. The
glass scattered itself in splinters all over his red tablecloth. He
leapt to his feet, blew the lamp out, and went to the window. He could
see nothing in the darkness at first; but as he stood and listened, he
thought he heard a voice in the pauses of the wind, crying for help.

Instantly, he hurried out and down the winding stair to the narrow door.
He shot back the great bolts, and opened it. He stood there fifteen feet
above the rocks, framed in the opening, his white hair and beard blowing
about him, as he peered to right and left.

"Come down and help us, for God's sake!" the voice cried again.

And as Peter's eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he saw a dark
figure crawling laboriously over the reef to the foot of the tower,
where it fell as if in a faint. Peter's only thought was that a fishing
boat had foundered. He dropped the rope ladder at once and descended.
He stooped over the fallen man. In the same flash of time, he recognized
that this was an enemy seaman, and three more shadowy figures leapt from
their hiding-place behind a boulder of rock and gripped him.

"There is no cause for fear," said their leader, rising to his feet.
"Our boat has foundered; but we shall die of cold if we stay out here.
You must take us into the light-house."

Peter regarded them curiously, saying nothing. The leader went up the
ladder, and beckoned to the others, who ordered Peter to go next, and
then followed him.

"I regret that it was necessary to smash your window," said Captain
Bernstein, as the queer group gathered round the lamp in Peter's living
room. "But we might have died out there on a night like this, before you
could have heard us shouting. We shall not harm you, although there are
four of us. We are in danger ourselves. My friends and I are sick of
this work; and, if we are sure of good treatment, we are prepared to
help the British with all the information in our possession."

"How did you escape from the submarine?" said Peter.

"We were alone on deck," replied Bernstein, "and we took our chance of
swimming for the _Hatchets'_."

Peter surveyed the four drenched figures thoughtfully. One of them was
not realistic enough to satisfy him. There were several obviously dry
patches about the shoulders.

"There's a pool on the reef," said Peter at last to this man. "Did you
find it too cold?"

A change came over Bernstein's face at once.

"There's no time to be wasted," he said. "If you want to help your
country, go to your telephone and give this message to the naval base,
exactly as I tell it to you. You must say you have just sighted three
submarines, two hundred yards due north of the _Hatchets'_ light. You
must say that you have sighted them yourself, because they would not
take our word for it; and you must not say anything about our being here
at present. If you depart from these instructions, you will be shot
instantly. Now, then, go to your telephone and speak."

Peter gathered up his beloved leather-bound book from the table, and
held it under his arm. It was his most precious possession, and the
protective act was quite unconscious. Then, for the second time that
night, he went into his bedroom, followed by the four Germans. He was
white and shaking. He could not understand what these men were after,
and the message they proposed seemed to be useful to his own side. After
all, the only kind of message that he could send would be something very
like it. He might as well deliver it, since these crazy autocrats had
decided that it must be given thus, and not otherwise.

He laid the precious book down on the bed, turned to the telephone, and
lifted the receiver to his ear. As he did so, the cold muzzle of a
revolver pressed against his right temple. The first buzzings of the
telephone resolved themselves into a voice from the coast of England,
asking what he wanted. Then, it seemed as if a new light were thrown
upon the character of the words he was about to speak. He knew
instinctively that, if he spoke them, he would be working for the enemy.

In the same instant, he saw exactly what he must do.

"This is Peter Ramsay speaking," he said, "from the _Hatchets' Light_. I
have just sighted three submarines due north of the _Hatchets'_."

He paused. Then, with a rush, he said:

"Trap! Germans in light-house, forcing me to say this!"

The hand of one of his captors struck down the hook of the receiver. In
the same instant, the shot rang out, and Peter Ramsay dropped sidelong,
a mere bundle of old clothes and white hair, dabbled with blood.

The German at the telephone replaced the receiver on the hook which he
was still holding down.

"Crazy old fool," muttered Bernstein. He was staring at the red-lined
scrap-book on the bed. It lay open at a page describing in Peter's big
sprawling hand, an open-air service among some Welsh miners which he had
once witnessed, a memorial service on the day of Gladstone's funeral. He
had been greatly impressed by their choral singing of what was supposed
to be Gladstone's favorite hymn, and it ended with a quotation:

    "_While I draw this fleeting breath,
    When my eyelids close in death,
    When I soar through tracts unknown,
    See Thee on Thy Judgment Throne,
    Rock of Ages, cleft for me.
    Let me hide myself in Thee._"

The murderer stooped and laid the revolver near the right hand of the
dead man. One of his men touched him on the elbow as he did it, and
pointed to Peter's own old-fashioned revolver on the little shelf beside
the bed. Captain Bernstein nodded and smiled. The idea was a good one,
and he put Peter's own revolver in his stiffening fingers. He had just
succeeded in making it look quite a realistic suicide, when the
telephone bell rang sharply, making him start upright, as if a hand were
laid upon his shoulder. He took the receiver again and listened.

"Can't hear," he said, trying to imitate Peter's gruff voice. "No--I
dropped the telephone on the floor--no--it was a mistake--no--I said
three submarines--two hundred yards due north of the _Hatchets'
Light_--all right, sir."

He hung the receiver up again, and looked at the others.

"We may succeed yet," he said. "Come quickly."

A minute later they were standing on the lee of the reef. Bernstein
blew a whistle thrice. It was answered from the darkness by another,
shrill as the cry of a sea-gull; and in five minutes more, the four men
and the collapsible boat were aboard their submarine. It submerged at
once, and went due south at twelve knots an hour below the unrevealing
seas.

       *       *       *       *       *

Commander Pickering, the officer on duty at the naval base, was not sure
whether it was worth while paying any attention to the message from the
old man at the _Hatchets'_. He went to the window and looked at the
starry flash of the light-house in the distance.

"Old Peter probably sighted a school of porpoises. They frightened him
into a fit," he said.

The two men of the naval reserve who were waiting for orders, watched
him like schoolboys expecting a holiday; but he could not make up his
mind. He left the window and studied the big chart on the wall, where
the movements of a dozen submarines were marked in red ink from point to
point as the daily reports came in, till the final red star announced
their destruction. He chewed his lip as he pondered. There was a fleet
of submarine destroyers in Westport Harbor at this moment, but they had
only just come in from a long spell, and he was loath to turn them out
on a wild-goose chase.

"Confound the old idiot," he muttered again. "He can't even talk
straight. Wanted to say that he had seen submarines, and starts
jabbering about Germans in the light-house. Ring him up again, Dawkins,
and find out whether he is drunk or talking in his sleep."

Dawkins went to the telephone. For five minutes, he alternately growled
into the mouth-piece and moved the hook up and down.

"Don't get any answer at all, sir."

"That's queer. He can't be asleep yet after that beautiful
conversation."

Commander Pickering went to the window again with his night-glasses.

"Damned if there isn't a light in both his rooms, and it's getting on
for two o'clock in the morning. There's something rum happening. We'll
take a sporting chance on it, and make a regular sweep of the bay. I'll
go out to the _Hatchets'_ myself on the _Silver King_. I think the old
boy is dotty, and I suppose the Admiral will have my scalp for it
to-morrow; but there's just one chance in a hundred thousand that Mr.
Peter Ramsay did spot a squadron of U-boats. If so, we may as well
strafe them properly."

He went to the telephone himself this time, and began issuing orders all
over the base. His final sentence was an after-thought, an echo and an
elaboration of the queer warning he had received from the _Hatchets'_.

"Don't go straight out. Make a sweep round by the south. There may be a
trap; and you may as well let the dirigibles go ahead of you and do some
scouting."

       *       *       *       *       *

"It often happens with these chaps," said Commander Pickering to
Dawkins, as they stood in Peter's bedroom an hour before dawn. "It's the
lonely life that does it. They ought always to have a couple of men in
these places; and, if it hadn't been for the war, of course, there would
have been two men at the _Hatchets'_. Look here, at all this stuff. The
poor chap had religious mania or something. See what he has written on
these scraps of paper, twenty or thirty times over, every blessed text
he could find about lanterns and lights, and it's all mixed up with bits
from Herbert Spencer on the Unknowable."

"It was well known all over Westport," said Dawkins, "that old Peter had
a screw loose about religion, but he seemed such a reliable old boy. You
don't think he could have seen anything to set him off like, sir? It
seems funny that the door was left open like that."

"Lord knows what he may have been playing at before he did this. We'd
better go upstairs, and have a look at the light."

The two men plodded up the steep winding stair, poking into every corner
on their way up, till they emerged on the little railed platform under
the great crystal moons of the lantern. The glare blinded them.

"Turn those lights off," said Commander Pickering.

Dawkins ducked into the tower and obeyed.

Half a dozen patrol boats, each with its tiny black gun, at bow and
stern, were cruising to and fro over rough seas, that looked from that
height very much like the wrinkles on poor old Peter's gray face.
Another sailor hauled himself to the platform, breathing hard from the
ascent, and saluted.

"A telephone message for you, sir," he said. "There's been a lot of
mines discovered off the point. We should have run straight into them,
if we had neglected your warning and steered a straight course out."

Commander Pickering looked at Dawkins in silence. Far away to eastward,
the dawn was breaking, red as blood, through a low fringe of ragged gray
clouds. In a few moments the crystal moons of the _Hatchets' Light_ were
afire with it, and breaking it up into the colors of the rainbow round
the black figures of the three men.

"We'll have to apologize to Peter," said Dawkins at last.

"It was a very lucky coincidence," said Commander Pickering; and he led
the way downstairs at a smart pace to Peter's room again.

"There's no doubt that he shot himself," he said. "Look at all this. The
man was stark mad. See what he has written on the title-page, under his
own name: '_Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my
Church_.'"



II

UNCLE HYACINTH


On a bright morning, early in the year 1917, Herr Sigismund Krauss,
secret agent for the German Government, stopped at the entrance of
Harrods' Stores, looked at himself in one of the big mirrors, thought
that he really did look a little like Bismarck, and adjusted his tie. To
relieve the tension, let it be added that this scene was not enacted in
London, but in the big branch of Harrods' that had recently been opened
in Buenos Aires.

Nevertheless, it was because it looked so very much like the London
branch that it had rasped the nerves of Herr Krauss. He was in a very
nervous condition, owing to the state of his digestive system, and he
was easily irritated. He had been annoyed in the first place because the
German houses in Buenos Aires were unable to sell him several things
which he thought necessary for the voyage he was about to take across
the Atlantic. He had been almost angry when the bald-headed Englishman
who had waited on him in Harrods' advised him to buy a safety waistcoat.
All that he needed for his safety was the fraudulent Swedish passport,
made out in the name of Erik Neilsen, which he carried in his breast
pocket.

"I am an American citizen," he said, complicating matters still further.
"I am sailing to Barcelona on an Argentine ship, vich the Germans are
pledged nod to sink."

"This is the exact model of the waistcoat that saved the life of Lord
Winchelsea," said the Englishman. "I advise you to procure one. You
never know what those damned Germans will do."

Here was a chance of raising a little feeling against the United States,
and Herr Krauss never lost an opportunity. He pretended to be even more
angry than he really was.

"That is a most ungalled-for suggestion to a citizen of a neutral
guntry," he snorted. "I shall report id to the authorities."

These mixed emotions had disarranged his tie. But he had obtained all
that he wanted, and when he emerged into the street the magic of the
blue sky and the brilliance of the sunlight on the stream of motor cars
and gay dresses cheered him greatly. After all, it was not at all like
London; and there were still places where a good German might speak his
mind, if he did not insist too much on his allegiance.

He was in a great hurry, for his ship, the _Hispaniola_, sailed that
afternoon. When he reached his hotel he had only just time enough to
pack his hand luggage and drive down to the docks. His trunk had gone
down in advance. It was very important, indeed, that he should not miss
the boat. There was trouble pending, which might lead to his arrest if
he remained in Argentina for another week; and there was urgent--and
profitable--work for him to do in Europe.

In his cab on the way to the docks he examined the three letters which
had been waiting for him at the hotel. Two of them were requests for a
settlement of certain bills. "They can wait," he murmured to himself
euphemistically, "till after the war."

The third letter ran thus:

     _Dear Erik: Bon voyage! Most amusing news. Operation successful.
     Uncle Hyacinth's appetite splendid. Six meals daily._

     _Yours affectionately,_

     _Bolo._

This was the most annoying thing of all. Herr Krauss knew nothing about
any operation. He knew even less about Uncle Hyacinth; and in order to
interpret the message he would require the code--Number Six, as
indicated by the last word but two, and the code was locked up in his
big brass-bound steamer trunk. It was not likely to be anything that
required immediate attention. He had received a number of code messages
lately which did not even call for a reply. It was merely irritating.

When he reached the docks he found that his trunk was buried under a
mountain of other baggage on the lower deck of the _Hispaniola_, and
that he would not be able to get at it before they sailed. He had just
ten minutes to dash ashore and ring up the German legation on the
telephone. He wasted nearly all of them in getting the right change to
slip into the machine. A most exasperating conversation followed.

"I wish to speak to the German minister."

"He is away for the week-end. This is his secretary."

"This is Sigismund Krauss speaking."

"Oh, yes."

"I have received a message about Uncle Hyacinth."

"I can't hear."

"Uncle Hyacinth's appetite!" This was bellowed.

"Oh, yes." The voice was very cautious and polite.

"I want to know if it's important."

"Whose appetite did you say?"

"Uncle Hyacinth's!" This was like Hindenburg himself thundering.

There seemed to be some sort of consultation at the other end of the
wire. Then the reply came very clearly:

"I'm sorry, but we cannot talk over the telephone. I can't hear anything
you say. Please put your question in writing."

It was an obvious lie for any one to say he could not hear the
tremendous voice in which Herr Krauss had made his touching inquiry; but
he fully understood the need for caution. He had tapped too many wires
himself to blame his colleagues for timidity. He had only a minute to
burst out of the telephone booth and regain the deck, before the
gang-planks were hoisted in and the ship began to slide away to the open
sea.

He was more than annoyed, he was disgusted, to find that half the people
on board were talking English. Two or three of them, including the
captain, were actually British subjects; while the purser, a few of the
stewards and several passengers were citizens of the United States.

It was late that evening and the shore lights had all died away over the
pitch-black water when the brass-bound trunk belonging to Mr. Neilsen,
as we must call him henceforward, was carried into his stateroom by two
grunting stewards. The mysterious letter could be of no use to the
Fatherland now, and he certainly did not expect it to be important from
a selfish point of view. Also, he was hungry, and he did not hurry over
his dinner in order to decode it. It was only his curiosity that
impelled him to do so before he turned in; but a kind of petrefaction
overspread his well-fed countenance as the significance of the message
dawned upon him. He sat on a suitcase in his somewhat cramped quarters
and translated it methodically, looking up the meaning of each word in
the code, like a very unpleasant schoolboy with a dictionary. He was
nothing if not efficient, and he wrote it all down in pencil on a sheet
of note-paper, in two parallel columns, thus:

    _Bon voyage_            _U-boats_

    _Most_                  _Instructed_

    _Amusing_               _Sink_

    _News_                  _Argentine_

    _Operation_             _Ships_

    _Successful_            _Destruction_

    _Uncle Hyacinth's_      _Hispaniola_

    _Appetite_              _Essential_

    _Splendid_              _Cancel_

    _Six_                   _Code number_

    _Meals_                 _Passage_

    _Daily_                 _Immediately_

Perhaps to make sure that his eyes did not deceive him Mr. Neilsen wrote
the translation out again mechanically, in its proper form, at the foot
of the page, thus:

     _U-boats instructed sink Argentine ships. Destruction Hispaniola
     essential. Cancel passage immediately._

It seemed to have exactly the same meaning. It was ghastly. He knew
exactly what that word "destruction" meant as applied to the
_Hispaniola_. He had been present at a secret meeting only a month ago,
at which it was definitely decided that it would be inadvisable to carry
out a certain amiable plan of sinking the Argentine ships without
leaving any traces, while an appearance of friendship was maintained
with the Argentine Government. Evidently this policy had suddenly been
reversed. There would be a concentration of half a dozen U-boats, a
swarm of them probably, for the express purpose of sinking the
_Hispaniola_, just as they had concentrated on the _Lusitania_; but in
this case there would be no survivors at all. The ship's boats would be
destroyed by gunfire, with all their occupants, because it was necessary
that there should be no evidence of what had happened; and necessity
knows no law. There was no chance of their failing. They would not dare
to fail; and he himself had organized the system by which the most
precise information with regard to sailings was conveyed to the German
Admiralty.

He crushed all the papers into his breast pocket and hurried up on deck.
It was horribly dark. At the smoking-room door he met one of the ship's
officers.

"Tell me," said Mr. Neilsen, "is there any possibility of our--of our
meeting a ship--er--bound the other way?"

The officer stared at him, wondering whether Mr. Neilsen was drunk or
seasick.

"Certainly," he said; "but it's not likely for some days on this
course."

"Will it be possible for me to be taken off and return? I have found
among my mail an important letter. A friend is very ill."

"I'm afraid it's quite impossible. In the first place we are not likely
to meet anything but cattle ships till we are in European waters."

"Oh, but in this case, even a cattle ship--" said Mr. Neilsen with great
feeling.

"It is impossible, I am afraid, in any case. It is absolutely against
the rules; and in war-time, of course, they are more strict than ever."

"Even if I were to pay?"

"Time is not for sale in this war, unfortunately. It's _verboten_," said
the officer with a smile; and that of course Mr. Neilsen understood at
once.

He was naturally an excitable man, and his inability to obtain his wish
made him feel that he would give all his worldly possessions at this
moment for a berth in the dirtiest cattle boat that ever tramped the
seas, if only it were going in the opposite direction.

He returned to his stateroom almost panic-stricken. He sat down on the
suitcase and held his head between his hands while he tried to think. He
was a slippery creature and his fellow countrymen had often admired his
"slimness" in former crises; but it was difficult to discover a cranny
big enough for a cockroach here, unless he made a clean breast of it to
the captain. In that case he would be incriminated with all the
belligerents and most of the neutrals. There would be no place in the
world where he could hide his head, except perhaps Mexico. He would
probably be penniless as well.

At this point in his cogitations there was a knock on the door, which
startled him like a pistol shot. He opened it a cautious inch or
two--for his papers were all over his berth--and a steward handed him a
telegram.

"This was waiting for you at the purser's office, sir," he said. "The
mail has only just been sorted. If you wish to reply by wireless you can
do so up to midnight." The man was smiling as if he knew the contents.
There had been some jesting, in fact, about this telegram at the office.

A gleam of hope shot through Mr. Neilsen's chaotic brain as he opened
the envelope with trembling fingers. Perhaps it contained reassuring
news. His face fell. It simply repeated the former sickening message
about Uncle Hyacinth. But the steward had reminded him of one last
resource.

"Yes," he said, trying hard to be calm; "I shall want to send a reply."

"Here is a form, sir. You'll find the regulations printed on the back."

Mr. Neilsen closed the door and sank, gasping, on to the suitcase to
examine the form. The regulations stated that no message would be
accepted in code. This did not worry him at first, as he thought he
could concoct an apparently straightforward and harmless message with
the elaborate vocabulary of his Number Six. But the code had not been
intended for agonizing moments like these. It abounded in commercial
phrases, medical terms and domestic greetings; and though there were a
number of alternative words and synonyms it was not so easy as he had
expected to make a coherent message which should be apparently a reply
to the telegram he had received. After half an hour of seeking for the
_mot juste_ which would have melted the heart of a Flaubert, he arrived
at the purser's office with wild eyes and handed in the yellow form.

"I wish to send this by Marconi wireless," he said.

The purser tapped each word with his pencil as he read it over:

     _Splendid. Most--amusing. Use--heaps--butter. Congratulate--Uncle
     Hyacinth._

     _Love._

     _Erik._

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the purser, "but we can only accept
messages _en clair_."

"It is as clear as I can make it," said Mr. Neilsen; and he was telling
the truth. "It is the answer to the telegram which was handed to me on
board."

"It looks a little unusual, sir."

"It is gonnected with an unusual operation," said Mr. Neilsen, who was
getting thoroughly rattled, "and goncerns the diet of the batient."

"I see," said the purser. "Well, I'll take your word for it, sir, and
tell the operator."

At this moment the steward, who had entered Mr. Neilsen's stateroom
during his absence, was laying out that gentleman's pyjamas on his
berth. He shook them out in order to fold them properly; and in doing so
he shook a round ball of paper on to the floor. He unrolled it and
discovered two parallel columns of words, which gave a new meaning to
the telegram. He put it in his pocket, looked carefully round the room,
took all the torn scraps out of the wastepaper basket and put those also
in his pocket. Then he went out, just in time to avoid meeting Mr.
Neilsen, and trotted by another companionway to the purser's office.

Ten minutes later a consultation was held in the captain's cabin. The
two messages and the scraps of paper were spread out on the table, while
the purser took another large, clean sheet, on which he jotted down as
many of the words as could be deciphered, together with their
equivalents, in two parallel columns, almost as neat as those of Mr.
Neilsen himself. When he had finished there was a very nice little
vocabulary--though it was only a small part of the code; and in a very
short time they were staring in amazement at the full translation of the
messages concerning Uncle Hyacinth. Then they proceeded to business.

Captain Abbey was an Englishman who had commanded many ships in many
parts of the world. He had worked his way up from before the mast, and
in moments of emotion he was still inclined to be reckless with his
aitches. He was very large and red-faced, and looked as the elder Weller
might have looked if he had taken to the sea in youth. Captain Abbey was
not a vindictive man; but the _Hispaniola_ was the finest ship he had
yet commanded, and the opportunity had come to him as a result of the
war and the general dearth of neutral skippers who were ready to take
risks. He was not anxious to lose the ship on his first voyage, and his
face grew redder and redder as he sat reading the messages on the table.

"What's the translation of '_onions_'?" he said.

"I think it means '_abroad_,' according to this column," said the
purser.

"Put it down. Now, what does '_tonsils_' mean?"

"_Tonsils? Tonsils?_ Oh, yes; here we are. It means '_von Tirpitz_.'"

"The devil it does," said Captain Abbey.

"And what does '_meat_' mean?"

"'_German_,' I think."

"And '_colossal_'?"

"I had it here a moment ago. Ah, '_colossal_' means _twenty_."

"Just like 'em," said the captain. "Here's _appendix_! I suppose they
find these medical terms useful. How do you translate that?"

"_Appendix?_ H'm; let me see. Appendix means _false_."

"'E deserves to 'ave it cut out with a blunt saw, blast 'is eyes. And
what d'you make of this message 'e's just 'anded in?"

"As far as I can make it out this is the translation: 'Cancel
instructions sink; message too late; aboard _Hispaniola_.'"

"And the lily-livered little skunk wanted to get orf and save his own
'ide! But 'e was quite ready to let the rest of us go to 'ell! There are
twenty women and four children aboard, too; and we're guaranteed by the
German Government! It would serve 'im right if we made 'im walk the
plank, like they used to do. But drowning's too good for 'im. If we put
'im in irons 'e'll know we're on the watch, and that'll ease 'is mind
too much. I know what to do with 'im when we get 'im on the other side.
But in the meantime we'll give that little bit of sauerkraut a taste of
'is own medicine. 'Ere's the idea: We've got enough of the code to work
it. We'll give him another radiogram to take to bed with 'im to-night.
'Ow's this? Steward, get me one of them yellow telegraph forms and one
of the proper envelopes. We'll fix it all up in good shape. And, look
'ere, steward; not a word about this to any one, you understand?"

The steward departed on his errand. Captain Abbey took another sheet of
paper and laboriously, with tongue outthrust, constructed a sentence,
consulting the purser's two columns from time to time, and occasionally
chuckling as he altered or added a word.

The purser slapped his thighs with delight as he followed the work over
the captain's shoulder; and when the form arrived he wrote out the
captain's composition in a very large, clear hand, with the fervor of a
man announcing good news. Then he licked the flap of the yellow
envelope, closed it, addressed it and handed it to the steward.

"Give this wireless message to Mr. Neilsen in half an hour. Tell him it
has just arrived. If there is any reply to-night he must send it before
twelve o'clock."

"I 'ope that will make 'im sit up and think," said Captain Abbey. "I'll
consider what steps I'd better take to save the ship; and then I shall
probably 'ave a wireless or two of my own to send elsewhere."

Mr. Neilsen was greatly excited when the steward knocked at his door and
handed him the second wireless message. He opened it with trembling
fingers and read:

     _Still more successful. Uncle Hyacinth's tonsils removed. Appetite
     now colossal. Bless him. Taking large quantities frozen meat._

He could hardly wait to translate it. He sat down on his suitcase again,
and spelled it out with the help of his Number Six, word by word,
refusing to believe his eyes, refusing even to read it as a consecutive
sentence till the bottom of the two parallel columns had been reached,
thus:

    _Still_                 _Impossible_

    _More_                  _Total_

    _Successful_            _Destruction_

    _Uncle Hyacinth's_      _Hispaniola_

    _Tonsils_               _Von Tirpitz_

    _Removed_               _Advises_

    _Appetite_              _Essential_

    _Now_                   _Squadron_

    _Colossal_              _Twenty_

    _Bless him_             _Submarines_

    _Taking_                _Waiting_

    _Large_                 _Appropriate_

    _Quantities_            _Death_

    _Frozen_                _Good_

    _Meat_                  _German_

    _Best_                  _Enviable_

    _Greetings_             _Position_

This was hideous. He remembered all that he had done all over the world
in the interests of the Fatherland. He remembered the skilful way in
which long before the war he had stirred up feeling in America against
Japan, and in Japan against both America and England. He remembered the
way in which he had manipulated the peace societies in the interest of
militarism. He had spent several years in London before the war, and he
believed he had helped to make the very name of England a reproach in
literary coteries; so that current English literature, unless it went
far beyond honest criticism of English life, unless indeed it manifested
a complete contempt for that pharisaical country and painted it as
rotten from head to foot, lost caste among the self-enthroned British
intellectuals.

It was very easy to do this, because, though English editors paid
considerable attention to their leading articles, some of them did not
care very much what kind of stuff was printed in their literary columns;
and they would allow the best of our literature, old and new, and the
most representative part of it, to be misrepresented by an anonymous
Sinn Feiner in half a dozen journals simultaneously. The editors were
patriotic enough, but they didn't think current literature of much
importance. He had been able, therefore, to quote extracts from
important London journals in the foreign press.

He had been helped, too, by lecturers who drew pensions from the British
Government for their literary merits, and told American audiences that
the one flag they loathed was the flag of the land that pensioned them.
He had reprinted these utterances, together with the innocent bleatings
of the intellectuals, and scattered them all over the world in pamphlet
form. He had marked passages in their books and sent them to friends.
Thousands of columns were devoted to them in the newspapers of foreign
countries, while the English press occasionally referred to them in
brief paragraphs, announcing to a drugged public at home that the
vagaries of these writers were of no importance. He had carried out the
program of his country to the letter, and poisoned the intellectual
wellsprings.

No grain of poison was too small. He had even written letters to the
newspapers in Scotland, which had stimulated the belief of certain
zealous Scots that whenever the name of England was used it was intended
as a deliberate onslaught upon the Union. There was hardly any
destructive force or thought or feeling, good, bad or merely trivial,
which he had not turned to the advantage of Germany and the disadvantage
of other nations. Then when the war broke out he had redoubled his
activities. He was amazed when he thought of the successful lies he had
fostered all over the world. He had plotted with Hindus on the coast of
California, and provided them with the literature of freedom in the
interests of autocracy. He worked for dissension abroad and union in
Germany. He was hand-in-glove with the I. W. W. He was idealist,
socialist, pacifist, anarchist, futurist, suffragist, nationalist,
internationalist and always publicist, all at once, and for one cause
only--the cause of Germany.

And this was the gratitude of the--of the--swine! Well, he would teach
them a lesson. God in heaven! There was only one thing he could do to
save his skin. He would send them an ultimatum! It was their last
chance. He shivered to think that it might be his own!

But it was not so easy as he thought it would be to burn all his boats.
It cost him two days and two nights of tortuous thinking before he could
bring himself to the point. At eleven o'clock on the third night the
purser brought the captain a new message, which Mr. Neilsen had just
handed in to be despatched by wireless. It ran as follows:

     _Continue treatment. Vastly amusing. Uncle Hyacinth's magnificent
     constitution stand anything. Apply mustard. Try red pepper._

The group that met to consider this new development included three
passengers, whom the captain had invited to share what he called the
fun. They were a Miss Depew, an American girl who was going to Europe to
do Red Cross work; and a Mr. and Mrs. Pennyfeather, English residents of
Buenos Aires, with whom she was traveling. The message, as they
interpreted it, ran as follows:

     _Unless instructions to sink Hispaniola countermanded, shall inform
     captain. No alternative. Most important papers my possession._

"Good!" said Captain Abbey. "'E's beginning to show symptoms of
blackmail. I'd send this message on, only we're likely to make a bigger
bag by keeping quiet. We'll let 'im 'ave the reply to-morrow morning.
What shall we do to 'im next?"

"Shoot him," said Miss Depew with complete calm.

"Oh, I want to 'ave a little fun with 'im first," said Captain Abbey.
"I'm afraid you 'aven't got much sense of humor, Miss Depew."

"Do you think so?" she said. She was of the purest Gibson type, and
never flickered an innocent eyelash or twisted a corner of her red
Cupid's bow of a mouth as she drawled: "I think it would be very
humorous indeed to shoot him, now that we know he is a German."

"Well, after 'is trying to leave us without warning 'e deserves to be
skinned and stuffed. But we're likely to make much more of it if we keep
'im alive for our entertainment. Besides, 'e's going to be useful on
the other side. Now, what do you think of this for a scheme?"

The heads of the conspirators drew closer round the table; and Mr.
Neilsen, wandering on deck like a lost spirit, pondered on the tragic
ironies of life. The thoughtless laughter that rippled up to him from
the captain's cabin filled him with no compassion toward any one but
himself. It was merely one more proof that only the Germans took life
seriously. All the same, if he could possibly help it, he was not going
to let them take his own life.


II

There was no radiogram for Mr. Neilsen on the following day; and he was
perplexed by a new problem as he walked feverishly up and down the
promenade deck.

Even if he received an assurance that the _Hispaniola_ would be spared,
how could he know that he was being told the truth? Necessity, as he
knew quite well, was the mother of murder. It was very necessary,
indeed, that his mouth should be sealed. Besides, he had more than a
suspicion that his use was fulfilled in the eyes of the German
Government, and that they would not be sorry if they could conveniently
get rid of him. He possessed a lot of perilous knowledge; and he wished
heartily that he didn't. He was tasting, in fact, the inevitable hell of
the criminal, which is not that other people distrust him, but that he
can trust nobody else.

He leaned over the side of the ship and watched the white foam veining
the black water.

"Curious, isn't it?" said dapper little Mr. Pennyfeather, who stood near
him. "Exactly like liquid marble. Makes you think of that philosophic
Johnny--What's-his-name--fellow that said 'everything flows,' don't you
know. And it does, too, by Jove! Everything! Including one's income!
It's curious, Mr. Neilsen, how quickly we've changed all our ideas about
the value of human life, isn't it? By Jove, that's flowing too! The
other morning I caught myself saying that there was no news in the
paper; and then I realized that I'd overlooked the sudden death of about
ten thousand men on the Western Front. Well, we've all got to die some
day, and perhaps it's best to do it before we deteriorate too far. Don't
you think so?"

Mr. Neilsen grunted morosely. He hated to be pestered by these gadflies
of the steamer. He particularly disliked this little Englishman with the
neat gray beard, not only because he was the head of an obnoxious bank
in Buenos Aires, but because he would persist in talking to him with a
ghoulish geniality about submarine operations and the subject of death.
Also, he was one of those hopeless people who had been led by the
wholesale slaughter of the war to thoughts of the possibility of a
future life. Apparently Mr. Pennyfeather had no philosophy, and his
spiritual being was groping for light through those materialistic fogs
which brood over the borderlands of science. His wife was even more
irritating; for she, too, was groping, chiefly because of the fashion;
and they both insisted on talking to Mr. Neilsen about it. They had
quite spoiled his breakfast this morning. He did not resent it on
spiritual grounds, for he had none; but he did resent it because it
reminded him of his mortality, and also because a professional quack
does not like to be bothered by amateurs.

Mrs. Pennyfeather approached him now on the other side. She was a faded
lady with hair dyed yellow, and tortoise-shell spectacles.

"Have you ever had your halo read, Mr. Neilsen?" she asked with a sickly
smile.

"No. I don't believe in id," he said gruffly.

"But surely you believe in the spectrum," she continued with a ghastly
inconsequence that almost curdled the logic in his German brain.

"Certainly," he replied, trying hard to be polite.

"And therefore in specters," she cooed ingratiatingly, as if she were
talking to a very small child.

"Nod at all! Nod at all!" he exploded somewhat violently, while Mr.
Pennyfeather, on the other side, came to his rescue, sagely repudiating
the methods of his wife.

"No, no, my dear! I don't think your train of thought is quite correct
there. My wife and I are very much interested in recent occult
experiments, Mr. Neilsen. We've been wondering whether you wouldn't join
us one night, round the ouija board."

"Id is all nonsense to me," said Mr. Neilsen, gesticulating with both
arms.

"Quite so; very natural. But we got some very curious results last
night," continued Mr. Pennyfeather. "Most extraordinary. The purser was
with us, and he thought it would interest you. I wish you would join
us."

"I should regard id as gomplete waste of time," said Mr. Neilsen.

"Surely, nothing can be waste of time that increases our knowledge of
the bourne from which no traveler returns," replied the lyric lips of
Mrs. Pennyfeather.

"To me the methods are ridiculous," said Mr. Neilsen. "All this
furniture removal! Ach!"

"Ah," said Mr. Pennyfeather, "you should read What's-his-name. You know
the chap, Susan. Fellow that said it's like a shipwrecked man waving a
shirt on a stick to attract attention. Of course it's ridiculous! But
what else can you do if you haven't any other way of signaling? Why, man
alive! You'd use your trousers, wouldn't you, if you hadn't anything
else? And the alternative--drowning--remember--drowning beneath what
Thingumbob calls 'the unplumbed salt, estranging sea.'"

"Eggscuse me," said Mr. Neilsen; "I have some important business with
the captain. I must go."

Mr. Neilsen had been trying hard to make up his mind, despite these
irrelevant interruptions. He had received no assurance by wireless, and
he had convinced himself that even if he did receive one it would be
wiser to inform the captain. But there were many difficulties in the
way. He had taken great care never to do anything that might lead to the
death penalty--that is to say, among nations less civilized than his
own. But there was that affair of the code. It might make things very
unpleasant. A dozen other suspicious circumstances would have to be
explained away. A dozen times he had hesitated, as he did this morning.
He met the captain at the foot of the bridge.

"Ah, Mr. Neilsen," said Captain Abbey with great cordiality, "you're the
very man I want to see. We're 'aving a little concert to-night in the
first-class dining room on behalf of the wives and children of the
British mine sweepers and the auxiliary patrols. You see, though this is
a neutral ship, we depend upon them more or less for our safety. I
thought it would be pleasant if you--as a neutral--would say just a few
words. I understand that they've rescued a good many Swedish crews from
torpedoed ships; and whatever view we may take of the war we 'ave to
admit that these little boats are doing the work of civilization."

Mr. Neilsen thought he saw an opportunity of ingratiating himself, and
he seized it. He could broach the other matter later on. "I vill do my
best, captain."

"'Ere is a London newspaper that will tell you all about their work."

Mr. Neilsen retired to his stateroom and studied the newspaper
fervently.

The captain took the chair that evening, and he did it very well. He
introduced Mr. Neilsen in a few appropriate words; and Mr. Neilsen spoke
for nearly five minutes, in English, with impassioned eloquence and a
rapidly deteriorating accent.

"Dese liddle batrol boads," he said in his peroration, "how touching to
the heart is der vork! Some of us forget ven ve are safe on land how
much ve owe to them. But no matter vot your nationality, ven you are on
the high seas, surrounded with darkness and dangers, not knowing ven you
shall be torpedoed, vot a grade affection you feel then to dese liddle
batrol boads! As a citizen of Sweden I speak vot I _know_. The ships of
my guntry have suffered much in dis war. The sailors of my guntry have
been thrown into the water by thousands through der submarines. But dese
liddle batrol boads, they save them from drowning. They give them
blankets and hot goffee. They restore them to their veeping mothers."

Mr. Neilsen closed amid tumultuous applause, and when the collection was
taken up by Miss Depew his contribution was the largest of the evening.

The rest of the entertainment consisted chiefly of music and recitation.
Mr. Pennyfeather contributed a song, composed by himself. Typewritten
copies of the words were issued to the audience; and a very fat and
solemn Spaniard accompanied him with thunderous chords on the piano.
Every one joined in the chorus; but Mr. Neilsen did not like the song at
all. It was concerned with Mr. Pennyfeather's usual gruesome subject;
and he rolled it out in a surprisingly rich barytone with the gusto of a
schoolboy:

    _If they sink us we shall be
    All the nearer to the sea!
    That's no hardship to deplore!
    We've all been in the sea before._

    _Chorus_:

    _And then we'll go a-rambling,
      A-rambling, a-rambling,
    With all the little lobsters
      From Frisco to the Nore._

    _If we swim it's one more tale,
    Round the hearth and over the ale;
    When your lass is on your knee,
    And love comes laughing from the sea._

    _Chorus_:

    _And then we'll go a-rambling,
      A-rambling, a-rambling,
    A-rambling through the roses
      That ramble round the door._

    _If we drown, our bones and blood
    Mingle with the eternal flood.
    That's no hardship to deplore!
    We've all been in the sea before._

    _Chorus_:

    _And then we'll go a-rambling,
      A-rambling, a-rambling,
    The road that Jonah rambled
      And twenty thousand more._

"Now," said Mr. Pennyfeather, holding out his hands like the conductor
of a revival meeting, "all the ladies, very softly, please."

The solemn Spaniard rolled his great black eyes at the audience, and
repeated the refrain _pianissimo_, while the silvery voices caroled:

    _With all the little lobsters
      From Frisco to the Nore._

"Now, all the gentlemen, please," said Mr. Pennyfeather. The Spaniard's
eyes flashed. He rolled thunder from the piano, and Mr. Neilsen found
himself bellowing with the rest of the audience:

    _The road that Jonah rambled
      From Hull to Singapore,
    And twenty thousand, thirty thousand,
      Forty thousand, fifty thousand,
      Sixty thousand, seventy thousand,
        Eighty thousand more!_

It was an elaborate conclusion, accompanied by elephantine stampings of
Captain Abbey's feet; but Mr. Neilsen retired to his room in a state of
great depression. The frivolity of these people, in the face of his
countrymen, appalled him.

On the next morning he decided to act, and sent a message to the captain
asking for an interview. The captain responded at once, and received
him with great cordiality. But the innocence of his countenance almost
paralyzed Mr. Neilsen's intellect at the outset, and it was very
difficult to approach the subject.

"Do you see this, Mr. Neilsen?" said the captain, holding up a large
champagne bottle. "Do you know what I've got in this?"

"Champagne," said Mr. Neilsen with the weary pathos of a logician among
idiots.

"No, sir! Guess again."

"Pilsener!"

"No, sir! It's plain sea water. I've just filled it. I'm taking it 'ome
to my wife. She takes it for the good of 'er stummick, a small wineglass
at a time. She always likes me to fill it for her in mid-Atlantic. She's
come to depend on it now, and I wouldn't dare to go 'ome without it. I
forgot to fill it once till we were off the coast of Spain. And, would
you believe it, Mr. Neilsen, that woman knew! The moment she tasted it
she knew it wasn't the right vintage. Well, sir, we shall soon be in the
war zone now. But you are not looking very well, Mr. Neilsen. I 'ope
you've got a comfortable room."

"I have reason to believe, captain, that there will be an attempt made
by the submarines to sink the _Hispaniola_," said Mr. Neilsen abruptly.

"Nonsense, my dear sir! This is a neutral ship and we're sailing to a
neutral country, under explicit guarantees from the German Government.
They won't sink the _Hispaniola_ for the pleasure of killing her
superannuated English captain."

"I have reason to believe they intended to--er--change their bolicy. I
was not sure of id till I opened my mail on the boad; but--er--I have a
friend in Buenos Aires who vas in glose touch--er--business
gonnections--with members of the German legation; he--er--advised me,
too late, I had better gancel my bassage. I fear there is no doubt they
vill change their bolicy."

"But they couldn't. There ain't any policy! The Argentine Republic is a
neutral country. You can't make me believe they'd do a thing like that.
It wouldn't be honest, Mr. Neilsen. Of course, it's war-time; but the
German Government wants to be honorable, don't it--like any other
government?"

"I don'd understand the reasons; but I fear there is no doubt aboud the
facts," said Mr. Neilsen.

"Have you got the letter?"

"No; I thought as you do, ad first, and I tore id up."

"Was that why you wanted to get off and go back?" the captain inquired
mercilessly.

"I gonfess I vas a liddle alarmed; but I thought perhaps I vas unduly
alarmed at the time. I gouldn't trust my own judgment, and I had no ride
to make other bassengers nervous."

"That was very thoughtful of you. I trust you will continue to keep this
matter to yourself, for I assure you--though I consider the German
Government 'opelessly wrong in this war--they wouldn't do a dirty thing
like that. They're very anxious to be on good terms with the South
American republics, and they'd ruin themselves for ever."

"But my information is they vill sink the ships vithoud leaving any
draces."

"What do you mean? Pretend to be friendly, and then--Come, now! That's
an awful suggestion to make!"

At these words Mr. Neilsen had a vivid mental picture of his
conversation with the bald-headed Englishman in Harrods'.

"Do you mean," the captain continued, waxing eloquent, "do you mean
they'd sink the ships and massacre every blessed soul aboard, regardless
of their nationality? Of course I'm an Englishman, and I don't love 'em,
but that ain't even murder. That's plain beastliness. It couldn't be
done by anything that walks on two legs. I tell you what, Mr. Neilsen,
you're a bit overwrought and nervous. You want a little recreation.
You'd better join the party to-night in my cabin. Mr. and Mrs.
Pennyfeather are coming, and a very nice American girl--Miss Depew.
We're going to get a wireless message or two from the next world. Ever
played with the ouija board? Nor had I till this voyage; but I must say
it's interesting. You ought to see it, as a scientific man. I understand
you're interested in science, and you know there's no end of
scientists--big men too--taking this thing up. You'd better come. Half
past eight. Right you are!"

And so Mr. Neilsen was ushered out into despair for the rest of the day,
and booked for an unpleasant evening. He had accepted the captain's
invitation as a matter of policy; for he thought he might be able to
talk further with him, and it was not always easy to secure an
opportunity. In fact, when he thought things over he was inclined to
feel more amiably toward the Pennyfeathers, who had put the idea of
psychical research into the captain's head.

Promptly at half past eight, therefore, he joined the little party in
the captain's cabin. Miss Depew looked more Gibsonish than ever, and she
smiled at him bewitchingly; with a smile as hard and brilliant as
diamonds. Mrs. Pennyfeather looked like a large artificial
chrysanthemum; and she examined his black tie and dinner jacket with the
wickedly observant eye of a cockatoo. Three times in the first five
minutes she made his hand travel over his shirt front to find out which
stud had broken loose. They had driven him nearly mad in his stateroom
that evening, and he had turned his trunk inside out in the process of
dressing, to find some socks.

Moreover, he had left his door unlocked. He was growing reckless.
Perhaps the high sentiments of every one on board had made him trustful.
If he had seen the purser exploring the room and poking under his berth
he might have felt uneasy, for that was what the purser was doing at
this moment. Mr. Neilsen might have been even more mystified if he had
seen the strange objects which the purser had laid, for the moment, on
his pillow. One of them looked singularly like a rocket, of the kind
which ships use for signaling purposes. But Mr. Neilsen could not see;
and so he was only worried by the people round him.

Captain Abbey seemed to have washed his face in the sunset. He was
larger and more like a marine Weller than ever in his best blue and
gilt. And Mr. Pennyfeather was just dapper little Mr. Pennyfeather, with
his beard freshly brushed.

"You've never been in London, Miss Depew?" said Captain Abbey
reproachfully, while the Pennyfeathers prepared the ouija board. "Ah,
but you ought to see the Thames at Westminster Bridge! No doubt the
Amazon and the Mississippi, considered as rivers, are all right in their
way. They're ten times bigger than our smoky old river at 'ome. But the
Thames is more than a river, Miss Depew. The Thames is liquid 'istory!"

As soon as the ouija board was ready they began their experiment. Mr.
Neilsen thought he had never known anything more sickeningly
illustrative of the inferiority of all intellects to the German. He
tried the ouija board with Mrs. Pennyfeather, and the accursed thing
scrawled one insane syllable.

It looked like "cows," but Miss Depew decided that it was "crows." Then
Mrs. Pennyfeather tried it with Captain Abbey; and they got nothing at
all, except an occasional giggle from the lady to the effect that she
didn't think the captain could be making his mind a blank. Then Mr.
Pennyfeather tried it with Miss Depew--with no result but the obvious
delight of that sprightly middle-aged gentleman at touching her polished
finger tips, and the long uneven line that was driven across the paper
by the ardor of his pressure. Finally Miss Depew--subduing the glint of
her smile slightly, a change as from diamonds to rubies, but hard and
clear-cut as ever--declared, on the strength of Mr. Neilsen's first
attempt, that he seemed to be the most sensitive of the party, and she
would like to try it with him.

Strangely enough Mr. Neilsen felt a little mollified, even a little
flattered, by the suggestion. He was quite ready to touch the finger
tips of Miss Depew, and try again. She had a small hand. He could not
help remembering the legend that after the Creator had made the rosy
fingers of the first woman the devil had added those tiny, gemlike
nails; but he thought the devil had done his work, in this case, like an
expert jeweler. Mr. Neilsen was always ready to bow before efficiency,
even if its weapons were no more imposing than a manicure set.

The ouija board was quiet for a moment or two. Then the pencil began to
move across the paper. Mr. Neilsen did not understand why. Miss Depew
certainly looked quite blank; and the movement seemed to be independent
of their own consciousness. It was making marks on the paper, and that
was all he expected it to do.

At last Miss Depew withdrew her hand and exclaimed: "It's too
exhausting. Read it, somebody!"

Mr. Pennyfeather picked it up, and laughed.

"Looks to me as if the spirits are a bit erratic to-night. But the
writing's clear enough, in a scrawly kind of way. I'm afraid it's utter
nonsense."

He began to read it aloud:

     "Exquisitely amusing! Uncle Hyacinth's little appendix----"

At this moment he was interrupted. Mr. Neilsen had risen to his feet as
if he were being hauled up by an invisible rope attached to his neck.
His movement was so startling that Mrs. Pennyfeather emitted a faint,
mouselike screech. They all stared at him, waiting to see what he would
do next.

But Mr. Neilsen recovered himself with great presence of mind. He drew a
handkerchief from his trousers pocket, as if he had risen only for that
purpose. Then he sat down again.

"Bardon me," he said; "I thought I vas aboud to sneeze. Vat is the rest
of id?"

He sat very still now, but his mouth opened and shut dumbly, like the
mouth of a fish, while Mr. Pennyfeather read the message through to the
end:

     "Exquisitely amusing! Uncle Hyacinth's little appendix cut out.
     Throat enlarged. Consuming immense quantities pork sausages; also
     onions wholesale. Best greetings. Fond love. Kisses."

"I'm afraid they're playing tricks on us to-night," said Mr.
Pennyfeather. "They do sometimes, you know. Or it may be fragments of
two or three messages which have got mixed."

"Hold on, though!" said the captain. "Didn't you send a wireless the
other day, Mr. Neilsen, to somebody by the name of Hyacinth?"

"Well--ha! ha! ha! It was aboud somebody by that name. I suppose I must
have moved my hand ungonsciously. I've been thinking aboud him a great
deal. He's ill, you see."

"How very interestin'," cooed Mrs. Pennyfeather, drawing her chair
closer. "Have you really an uncle named Hyacinth? Such a pretty name for
an elderly gentleman, isn't it? Doesn't the rest of the message mean
anything to you, then, Mr. Neilsen?"

He stared at her, and then he stared at the message, licking his lips.
Then he stared at Captain Abbey and Miss Depew. He could read nothing in
their faces but the most childlike amusement. The thing that chilled his
heart was the phrase about onions. He could not remember the meaning,
but it looked like one of those innocent commercial phrases that had
been embodied in the code. Was it possible that in his agitation he had
unconsciously written this thing down?

He crumpled up the paper and thrust it into his side pocket. Then he
sniggered mirthlessly. Greatly to his relief the captain began talking
to Miss Depew, as if nothing had happened, about the Tower of London;
and he was able to slip away before they brought the subject down to
modern times.


III

Mr. Neilsen may have been a very skeptical person. Perhaps his intellect
was really paralyzed by panic, for the first thing he did on reaching
his stateroom that night was to get out the code and translate the
message of the ouija board. It was impossible that it should mean
anything; but he was impelled by something stronger than his reason. He
broke into a cold sweat when he discovered that it had as definite a
meaning as any of the preceding messages; and though it was not the kind
of thing that would have been sent by wireless he recognized that it was
probably far nearer the truth than any of them. This is how he
translated it:

     "Imperative sink _Hispaniola_ after treacherous threat. Wiser
     sacrifice life. Otherwise death penalty inevitable. Flight abroad
     futile. Enviable position. Fine opportunity hero."

He could not understand how this thing had happened. Was it possible
that in great crises an agitated mind two thousand miles away might
create a corresponding disturbance in another mind which was
concentrated on the same problem? Had he evolved these phrases of the
code out of some subconscious memory and formed them into an
intelligible sentence? Trickery was the only other alternative, and that
was out of the question. All these people were of inferior intellect.
Besides, they were in the same peril themselves; and obviously ignorant
of it. His code had never been out of his possession. Yet he felt as if
he had been under the microscope. What did it mean? He felt as if he
were going mad.

He crept into his berth in a dazed and blundering way, like a fly that
has just crawled out of a honey pot. After an hour of feverish tossing
from side to side he sank into a doze, only to dream of the bald-headed
man in Harrods' who wanted to sell him a safety waistcoat, the exact
model of the one that saved Lord Winchelsea. The most hideous series of
nightmares followed. He dreamed that the sides of the ship were
transparent, and that he saw the periscopes of innumerable submarines
foaming alongside through the black water. He could not cry out, though
he was the only soul aboard that saw them, for his mouth seemed to be
fastened with official sealing wax--black sealing wax--stamped with the
German eagle. Then to his horror he saw the quick phosphorescent lines
of a dozen torpedoes darting toward the _Hispaniola_ from all points of
the compass. A moment later there was an explosion that made him leap,
gasping and fighting for breath, out of his berth. But this was not a
dream. It was the most awful explosion he had ever heard, and his room
stank of sulphur. He seized the cork jacket that hung on his wall,
pulled his door open and rushed out, trying to fasten it round him as he
went.

When the steward arrived, with the purser, they had the stateroom to
themselves; and after the former had thrown the remains of the rocket
through the porthole, together with the ingenious contrivance that had
prevented it from doing any real damage under Mr. Neilsen's berth, the
purser helped him with his own hands to carry the brass-bound trunk down
to his office.

"We'll tell him that his room was on fire and we had to throw the
contents overboard. We'll give him another room and a suit of old
clothes for to-morrow. Then we can examine his possessions at leisure.
We've got the code now; but there may be lots of other things in his
pockets. That's right. I hope he doesn't jump overboard in his fright.
It's lucky that we warned these other staterooms. It made a hellish row.
You'd better go and look for him as soon as we get this thing out of the
way."

But it was easier to look for Mr. Neilsen than to find him. The steward
ransacked the ship for three-quarters of an hour, and he began to fear
that the worst had happened. He was peering round anxiously on the boat
deck when he heard an explosive cough somewhere over his head. He looked
up into the rigging as if he expected to find Mr. Neilsen in the
crosstrees; but nobody was to be seen, except the watch in the crow's
nest, dark against the stars.

"Mr. Neilsen!" he called. "Mr. Neilsen!"

"Are you galling me?" a hoarse voice replied. It seemed to come out of
the air, above and behind the steward. He turned with a start, and a
moment later he beheld the head of Mr. Neilsen bristling above the
thwarts of Number Six boat. He had been sitting in the bottom of the
boat to shelter himself from the wind, and some symbolistic Puck had
made him fasten his cork jacket round his pyjamas very firmly, but
upside down, so that he certainly would have been drowned if he had been
thrown into the water.

"It's all right, Mr. Neilsen," said the steward. "The danger is over."

"Are ve torpedoed?" The round-eyed visage with the bristling hair was
looking more and more like Bismarck after a debauch of blood and iron,
and it did not seem inclined to budge.

"No, sir! The shock damaged your room a little, but we must have left
the enemy behind. You had a lucky escape, sir."

"My Gott! I should think so, indeed! The ship is not damaged in any
vay?"

"No, sir. There was a blaze in your room, and I'm afraid they had to
throw all your things overboard. But the purser says he can rig you out
in the morning; and we have another room ready for you."

"Then I vill gum down," said Mr. Neilsen. And he did so. His bare feet
paddled after the steward on the cold wet deck. At the companionway they
met the shadowy figure of the captain.

"I'm afraid you've 'ad an unpleasant upset, Mr. Neilsen," he said.

"Onbleasant! It vos derrible! Derrible! But you see, captain, I vas
correct. And this is only the beginning, aggording to my information. I
hope now you vill take every bre-caution."

"They must have mistaken us for a British ship, Mr. Neilsen, I'm afraid.
I'm having the ship lighted up so that they can't mistake us again. You
see? I've got a searchlight playing on the Argentine flag aloft; and
we've got the name of the ship in illuminated letters three feet high,
all along the hull. They could read it ten miles away. Come and look!"

Mr. Neilsen looked with deepening horror.

"But dis is madness!" he gurgled. "The _Hispaniola_ is marked, I tell
you, marked, for gomplete destruction!"

The captain shook his head with a smile of skepticism that withered Mr.
Neilsen's last hope.

"Very vell, then I should brefer an inside cabin this time."

"Yes. You don't get so much fresh air, of course; but I think it's
better on the 'ole. If we're torpedoed we shall all go down together.
But you're safer from gunfire in an inside room."

The unhappy figure in pyjamas followed the steward without another word.
The captain watched him with a curious expression on his broad red face.
He was not an unkindly man; and if this German in the cork jacket had
not been so ready to let everybody else aboard drown he might have felt
the sympathy for him that most people feel toward the fat cowardice of
Falstaff. But he thought of the women and children, and his heart
hardened.

As soon as Mr. Neilsen had gone below, the lights were turned off, and
the ship went on her way like a shadow. The captain proceeded to send
out some wireless messages of his own. In less than an hour he received
an answer, and almost immediately the ship's course was changed.

It was a strange accident that nobody on board seemed to have any
clothes that would fit Mr. Neilsen on the following day. He appeared at
lunch in a very old suit, which the dapper little Mr. Pennyfeather had
worn out in the bank. Mr. Neilsen was now a perfect illustration of the
schooldays of Prince Blood and Iron, at some period when that awful
effigy had outgrown his father's pocket and burst most of his buttons.
But his face was so haggard and gray that even the women pitied him. At
four o'clock in the afternoon the captain asked him to come up to the
bridge, and began to put him out of his misery.

"Mr. Neilsen," he said, "I'm afraid you've had a very anxious voyage;
and, though it's very unusual, I think in the circumstances it's only
fair to put you on another ship if you prefer it. You'll 'ave your
chance this evening. Do you see those little smudges of smoke out
yonder? Those are some British patrol boats; and if you wish I'm sure I
can get them to take you off and land you in Plymouth. There's a statue
of Sir Francis Drake on Plymouth 'Oe. You ought to see it. What d'you
think?"

Mr. Neilsen stared at him. Two big tears of gratitude rolled down his
cheeks.

"I shall be most grateful," he murmured.

"They're wonderful little beggars, those patrol boats," the captain
continued. "Always on the side of the angels, as you said so feelingly
at the concert. They're the police of the seas. They guide and guard us
all, neutrals as well. They sweep up the mines. They warn us. They pilot
us. They pick us up when we're drowning; and, as you said, they give us
'ot coffee; in fact, these little patrol boats are doing the work of
civilization. Probably you don't like the British very much in Sweden,
but--"

"I have no national brejudices," Mr. Neilsen said hastily. "I shall
indeed be most grateful."

"Very well, then," said the captain; "we'll let 'em know."

At half past six, two of the patrol boats were alongside. They were the
_Auld Robin Gray_ and the _Ruth_; and they seemed to be in high feather
over some recent success.

Mr. Neilsen was mystified again when he came on deck, for he could have
sworn that he saw something uncommonly like his brass-bound trunk
disappearing into the hold of the _Auld Robin Gray_. He was puzzled also
by the tail end of the lively conversation that was taking place between
Miss Depew and the absurdly young naval officer, with the lisp, who was
in command of the patrols.

"Oh, no! I'm afraid we don't uth the dungeonth in the Tower," said that
slender youth, while Miss Depew, entirely feminine and smiling like a
morning glory now, noted all the details of his peaked cap and the gold
stripes on his sleeve. "We put them in country houtheth and feed them
like fighting cockth, and give them flower gardenth to walk in."

He turned to Captain Abbey joyously, and lisped over Mr. Neilsen's head:

"That wath a corking metthage of yourth, captain. I believe we got three
of them right in the courth you would have been taking to-day. You'll
hear from the Admiralty about thith, you know. It wath magnifithent!
Good-bye!"

He saluted smartly, and taking Mr. Neilsen tightly by the arm helped
him down to the deck of the _Ruth_.

"Good-by and good luck!" called Captain Abbey.

He beamed over the bulwarks of the _Hispaniola_ like a large red harvest
moon through the thin mist that began to drift between them.

"Good-by, Mr. Neilsen!" called Mr. and Mrs. Pennyfeather, waving
frantically.

"Good-by, Herr Krauss!" said Miss Depew; and the dainty malice in her
voice pierced Mr. Neilsen like a Röntgen ray.

But he recovered quickly, for he was of an elastic disposition. He was
already looking forward to the home comforts which he knew would be
supplied by these idiotic British for the duration of the war.

The young officer smiled and saluted Miss Depew again. He was a very
ladylike young man, Mr. Neilsen had thought, and an obvious example of
the degeneracy of England. But Mr. Neilsen's plump arm was still bruised
by the steely grip with which that lean young hand had helped him
aboard, so his conclusions were mixed.

The engines of the _Ruth_ were thumping now, and the _Hispaniola_ was
melting away over the smooth gray swell. They watched her for a minute
or two, till she became spectral in the distance. Then the youthful
representative of the British Admiralty turned, like a thoughtful host,
to his prisoner.

"Would you like thum tea?" he lisped sympathetically. "Your Uncle
Hyathinth mutht have given you an awfully anxiouth time."

Herr Krauss grunted inarticulately. He was looking like a very happy
little Bismarck.



III

THE CREATIVE IMPULSE


Undoubtedly Captain Julius Vandermeer had made a pile of money. A Dutch
sea-captain who had been the chief owner of his vessel in the first two
years of the war was a lucky dog. A couple of voyages might bring him
more than he could hope to make in half a century of peace. If he were
lucky enough to make forty or fifty successful voyages across the
Atlantic he could do exactly what Captain Vandermeer had done--retire
from the sea, invest his money, look for a handsome young wife, and
expect the remainder of his years to mellow round him like an orchard,
dropping all the most pleasant fruits of life at his feet. Best of all,
despite the gray streaks in his bushy red beard, he was only half-way
through the forties, and he knew how to enjoy himself.

He sat on the veranda of his white bungalow under the foothills of the
Sierra Madre, puffing at his big meerschaum pipe and explaining these
things to the lady whom he had just married.

"Long ago I settled it in my mind, Mimika," he said, "if ever I came to
be rich there should only be one country in the world for me, and that
should be Southern California. Look at it!"

He waved the stem of his pipe at the broad slopes below. As far as the
eye could see, from the petals that dropped over the dainty little
electric car before the porch, to the distant horizon, they were one
gorgeous pattern of fruit trees in blossom. Masses of white and pink
bloom surged like foam against the veranda; and the soft wind blowing
across that odorous wilderness was like the whisper of wings at sunset
in Eden. Behind the windows of the dining room a Chinese manservant
glided to and fro like a blue shadow.

"Man lives by contrast, Mimika," Vandermeer continued. "For a quarter of
a century salt water was all my world. Now I have chosen seas of peach
blossom; and no danger of shipwreck, heh? Ah, but it smells fine,
Mimika--fine! When I saw my fortune coming I asked a friend in New York
what was the place out of all the world where a man might live most
happily, most healthily, in the most beautiful climate, to the age of
ninety or even to the age of a hundred, enjoying himself also. 'Southern
California,' he said. At once I knew that my friend was right. I
remembered San Diego when I was a boy, and the roses tumbling at my feet
on Christmas Day. I remembered the women, Mimika; and the cantaloupe
melons, cut in halves, with the ice melting in their lovely yellow
hearts; and as soon as the money was in the bank I took the train to the
City of the Angels. Los Angeles--what a name, heh? In three weeks I had
found my ranch with its beautiful bungalow, waiting like a palace for
its queen. In six months I had found the queen, Mimika, heh?"

Mimika rose from her rocking-chair, remarking, "Now listen, Julius!"
This did not mean that she had anything of great importance to say. But
she had a trick, which Vandermeer found fascinating, of prefacing most
of her remarks with the command to listen. "Listen, Julius! You won't
come down with me to meet Roy?" she said.

"No, Mimika, no. The little sister will have much to tell her brother
when she sees him for the first time after--how long has he been in
Europe? Two years? And she will have to tell him all about her
honeymoon, heh?" He pinched her ear playfully as she stooped to kiss
him.

"I guess Roy will open his eyes when he sees my electric," she said.

She went down to the car in a skipping walk, while Captain Vandermeer
surveyed her with the eye of one who has found a prize. She was wearing
a Panama hat, a sweater of emerald green, and a very short yellow skirt
that fluttered round her yellow silk stockings like the petals of a
California poppy. This was not altogether out of keeping with the blaze
of the landscape; but her high-heeled white shoes prevented her from
walking gracefully; and this was really a pity, for she could dance like
a wave of the sea if she chose. Sadder still, her nose was as white with
powder as if she had dipped it into a bag of meal and her lips looked as
if she had been eating damson jam. This was more pathetic than comic,
because in its natural state her face was pretty as a wild flower.

Captain Vandermeer sat blowing rings of blue smoke for a minute or two
longer. Then he entered the bungalow and went to a room at the back of
the house which he had reserved as his own den. It was a very bare room
at present, chiefly furnished by the bright new safe which he now
proceeded to unlock.

He drew out a bundle of papers and examined them with loving care. There
were American railroad bonds to the value of fifty thousand dollars;
some Liberty Loan Bonds to the value of fifty thousand more; twenty-five
thousand dollars' worth of Anglo-French bonds; and the same amount of
the City of Paris, risky enough if the Germans were going to break
through, but he did not think they were, and they yielded more than ten
per cent. It was very wonderful, he thought, and he replaced them like a
man saying good night to his child. Then he drew out a chamois-leather
bag and poured the glittering contents into his left palm. He was a very
wise man in his generation.

"You never know," he muttered--"you never know what will happen, in
these days, to bonds. These are perhaps the best investment of all.
These are the reserves of my little army. It was a good idea to keep
them. Besides, you can put them in your pocket and go where you wish at
a moment's notice. It is not possible always to get money at once for
bonds."

His face glowed with satisfaction as he put the bag in the safe and
locked it.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the way up to the ranch from the railway station Mimika had been
chattering hard to her brother; but he noticed certain changes in her
appearance with a feeling akin to remorse. He was not at all sure that
she was really happy, despite her apparent enthusiasm over what she
called the generosity of Julius. He wished that his mother had delayed
things till he had returned from Europe; and he could not help wondering
how far his failure to send home more than two-thirds of his own scanty
income as a newspaper correspondent had contributed to the haste of this
marriage. He had not been able to learn much about it. His mother was a
vague widow, who, like so many widows, regarded marriage with a kind of
ghostly detachment and a more than maidenly innocence. She was devoted
to Mimika, but quite ready, he feared, to sacrifice Mimika to himself.

Roy himself had not had too easy a time in the last few years. He was
one of those not uncommon Americans who combine an extraordinary
knowledge of the world with the unworldliness and sometimes the
gullibility of an Eastern sage. He knew more about the cathedrals of
England than almost any Englishman; more about the châteaux of France
than most Frenchmen. He could have dictated an encyclopedia of useful
knowledge about Italy and Egypt. He had been a war correspondent in four
quarters of the globe, and he had acquired a sense of the larger
movements in politics that gave his opinions an unusual interest. He
flew over the big guns of international affairs like a man in an
air-plane; and, though his European hearers might not always like his
signals, they usually felt that he was looking beyond their horizon. But
his ambition was to do creative work, and he had not yet succeeded. He
marveled how some other men, without expending a tithe of his energy,
had produced a shelf of books while he was still taking his notes. He
never seemed to have the time for creation, and whenever he approached
any original work he gravitated toward the method of the newspaper
correspondent. He wondered sometimes whether this was due to a lack of
what he called the 'creative impulse.' One of the things to which he had
been looking forward on this visit was the opportunity that it would
give him of obtaining some first-hand material from a real live
sea-captain. Yet he was not sure whether he would ever be able to
transmute it into an original book.

His boyish smile was in somewhat pathetic contrast with his
gold-spectacled, and curiously dreamy, yet overstrained eyes, which
sometimes gave his face in repose the expression of a youthful Buddha.
His frequent abrupt changes between a violently active life and an
almost completely sedentary one had not been good for him physically,
and he was subject to fits of depression, relieved by fits of extreme
optimism.

If only Mimika were happy he thought he might feel very optimistic about
the material that Vandermeer could give him for the book he was
contemplating. Indeed already he could not help sharing a little in her
enthusiasm over her 'electric.'

"And listen, Roy, we've got a marble swimming pool in the garden, all
surrounded with heliotropes," she concluded, almost breathless, as they
rolled up the long aisle of palms and pepper trees.

"Is that so?" said Roy. "And you love him, Mimika?"

"He's a dear," said Mimika. "And of course--" She was going to add that
Captain Vandermeer would do a great deal for Roy; but she had
misgivings, and checked herself.

She had almost broached the subject to her lord this morning, and had
checked herself then, too, feeling instinctively that Vandermeer had
grown rich too recently for him to help any one but himself just at
present.

The introduction of brother to husband went off very well indeed.
Vandermeer was so hearty, and held Roy's hand so affectionately, that
when they were getting ready for dinner Mimika ventured to approach the
subject again.

"And listen, Julius, you'll be able to help Roy just a little, too,
won't you?" she said, putting her hands up to her hair before the mirror
in her bedroom.

"What do you mean, Mimika, by help?" Vandermeer's voice rolled in a very
unsatisfactory way from the adjoining room.

"Oh, of course there's only one kind of help Roy would accept," she
replied hastily. "He's going to write something about the sea, and he
thinks you might give him some hints."

"Why, certainly, Mimika. They say there's a book in every man's life."
The voice was thoroughly hearty again now. "In mine I should say there
would be a hundred books. I will tell him some splendid things."

Even more jovial was the mood of Julius Vandermeer that evening after
dinner; and he expanded his rosy views of the future to his
brother-in-law over their cigars and a steaming rum punch flavored with
lemon, which was his own invention for coping with the cold of a
California night. He called it his "smudge pot."

"And now, Roy," he said at last, "I hope your own affairs go well. It is
a great thing, the gift of expression. I wish I had it. Ah, what books I
could write! The things I have seen, things you will never see in
print!"

"That's precisely what I want to discuss with you, Julius. I have just
signed a contract with the Copley-Willard Publishing Company to write
them a serial dealing with the heroism of the merchant marine in
war-time. I don't mind confessing that I told them a little about
you--said you had no end of crackajack material I could use. The result
was the best contract I've yet made with any publisher; so I owe that to
you. The Star News Company was very well satisfied with my record as a
correspondent; but I bungled the contract with them. If I can put this
thing through it means that I shan't be a poor relation much longer. Now
if you can only give me a good subject and put me wise on the seamanship
and help me to get the local color, the rest will be as easy as falling
off a log. You must have had a good many experiences, for instance, with
the submarines, when you were crossing the Atlantic twice a month."

"Experiences--why, yes, many experiences; but my good fortune
comes--well--from my good fortune. I am like the happy nation. I have
not had much history for these two years. But I have seen things--oh,
yes, I have seen things--that were like what you call clues--clues to
many strange tales."

"That's precisely what I want--a rattling good clue!"

"Well now, let me think. There were some interesting things about those
big merchant submarines that the Germans sent at one time across the
Atlantic."

"Like the _Deutschland_, you mean?"

"Yes; and there were others, never mentioned in the newspapers. One or
two of them disappeared. Perhaps the British destroyed them. Nobody
knows. But it was reported that one of them was carrying a million
dollars' worth of diamonds to the United States. Think of that, Roy! A
submarine full of diamonds! Doesn't that kindle your imagination?"

"Gee! I should say it would!" remarked Mimika, putting down the highly
colored magazine in which she had been studying the latest New York
fashions.

"Depends what happened to it," said Roy.

"Come, then, I will tell you a little story," said Vandermeer; "but you
must not mention my name about this one. How did I come to know it? Ah,
perhaps by some strange accident I met the only man who could tell the
truth about it. Perhaps I was able to do him some small service. In any
case that is a different matter. This story must be your own, Roy. It
shall come from what you call your creative impulse."

Mimika plumped down on a cushion at her lord's feet to listen. He patted
her shoulder affectionately with his big left paw, which showed up in a
somewhat startling contrast with its rough skin and long red hairs
against that smooth whiteness. With his right hand he filled himself the
third glass of rum punch that he had taken that evening. He smacked his
lips between two sips.

"Help yourself, Roy," he said, "and take another cigar. Yes, I will tell
you. Take a sip, Mimika. That is good, heh? Now I shall need no more
sugar.

"Well, Roy, just imagine. This big merchant submarine leaves Hamburg
loaded with diamonds! A million dollars' worth of diamonds, all going to
the United States, because it is necessary that Germany shall pay some
of her bills. There is a crew of only twenty men, because they need them
for the U-boats. All of these men are sulky, rebellious. They have been
forced to do this work against their will. They were happy on their
ships in the Kiel Canal, except that there was always the chance of
being picked for submarine duty. When they are lined up for that--ah, it
is like waiting to be named for the guillotine, in the Reign of Terror!
They have courage, but their hands shake, their lips are blue and their
hearts are sick. It is the death sentence. Either this week, or the
next, or the next they will be missing. Certainly in eight weeks their
places must be filled again. They are just fishes' food. Picture then
the choosing of these men. There is your first chapter, heh?

"Now for the second. You must picture the captain. He is the most
rebellious of all, for his life has been spared longer than most, but
his life on the submarine is a living death. He is a good sailor, yes,
in any surface vessel; but in the first place the submarine makes him
sick at the stomach--the smells, the bad air, the joggle-joggle of the
engine, the lights turned down to save the batteries. All that depresses
him; and he has always the thought that, if one little thing goes wrong,
he will die like a man buried alive in a big steel coffin, with nineteen
others, all fighting for breath. It is a nightmare--the only nightmare
that ever frightened him."

Captain Vandermeer certainly had a vivid imagination or else his own
creative impulse, aided by frequent draughts of rum punch, was carrying
him away; for his bulging blue eyes looked as if they would burst out of
their canary-lashed lids.

"Moreover, this captain has been in a fighting submarine that has
shocked his nerves. He has grown used to scenes of death. He has come to
the surface and seen many scores of men and women drowning, and he has
watched them till he minds it no more than drowning flies. But twice he
has found himself entangled in a steel net, and escaped by miracle. That
is not so pleasant. When it was decided to send him to the United States
on a merchant submarine, what was his first thought? What would be
yours, Roy, in that position?"

"A bedroom and bath at the hotel Vanderbilt," replied Roy promptly.

"You follow the clue very well, my boy. You have a clever brother,
Mimika. The first thought of the captain is this: If I can get safely
through the ring of the enemy the rest of the voyage will not be so bad.
I shall make most of it on the surface, and I shall have a breathing
spell in a great city outside the war. That will make the second
chapter, heh? Now what is his next thought, Mimika?"

"Why, listen! If I once got to New York I should want to stay there,"
replied Mimika, helping herself to a large piece of candy.

"Ah, what a clever sister you have, my dear Roy!" said Vandermeer, and
both his red streaked paws descended approvingly on Mimika's white
shoulders. "How beautifully we compose this tale together, heh? But he
has not yet reached America, and he has a submarine full of diamonds on
his hands; also a crew of twenty men; also his orders as an officer in
the German Navy.

"Well, let us suppose he has come safely through the ring of the enemy,
after several nightmares. He runs on the surface almost always now, and
he is losing his bad dreams for a time.

"One night he is on deck looking at the stars and thinking, who knows
what thoughts, when the youngest engineer, a nice little fellow, a
Bavarian, you might say, with flaxen hair and blue eyes, just as pretty
as a girl, comes up to him. His face is as white and smooth as Mimika's
shoulders--but there is no powder on it, heh? And his blue eyes are
frightened.

"'Captain,' he says, 'I want to warn you. There is a plot among the men
to kill you.'

"'To kill me!' the captain says. 'Why should they wish to kill me,
Otto?'

"'They've gone crazy about the diamonds. They say they have had enough
of this life, and they will never go back to Germany. They mean to take
the diamonds and sell them a few at a time in America. Then they will
live like princes. They think I'm joining them.'

"'Is there nobody but yourself on my side?' says the captain.

"'Nobody now,' says Otto.

"'Very well. Thank you, my boy. I will see that you are rewarded for
this. When are they going to do it?'

"'When we are submerged and nearing the three-mile limit.'

"'Thank you, Otto,' says the captain again.

"And there's your third chapter; and your fourth, too, Roy--a dramatic
situation, heh?"

Roy appeared to think so, and on the strength of it he filled
Vandermeer's glass again. He was anxious to help the creative impulse.

"What follows?" continued Vandermeer. "In your tales to-day you must
have psychology. The captain is a clever man. What would you do in that
position, Roy? He cannot fight them all. I will tell you what he does.
He is a diplomatist. He shapes his policy, standing there on the deck of
the submarine all alone, under the stars.

"The next evening he orders rum all round, just like this--good rum,
from his own little cask, which he keeps for the sake of his stomach. It
is a beautiful evening, a sea like oil, and the setting sun makes a road
of gold to the shores of America. They are approaching the happy land.
The men themselves are more cheerful, and like a good diplomatist he
seizes the cheerful moment.

"Not only does he give them rum but he gives them cigars, also from his
private box--expensive cigars, just like these.

"'I have a proposition to make,' he says. 'We are all sick of the war,
and I myself am more sick of it than anybody.'

"They all stare at him, wondering what he will say next; and the little
Bavarian opens his blue eyes like a girl, and stares more than any of
them. He thinks perhaps the end of the world will come now.

"'There is nobody here,' says the captain, 'that wishes to return. Why
should we return? There is a million dollars in diamonds aboard, enough
to make every one of us rich. We are going to the great republic. Good!
We will share equally. Every one of us shall have the same amount. I
myself, though I am your captain, will take no more than Otto. That will
be more than fifty thousand dollars for each one of us.'

"Immediately the last of the clouds vanishes like magic from the crew.
There is nothing but smiles all round him, smiles and the smell of rum
and good cigars, just like these. They are all good comrades together,
shaking hands, except the little Bavarian. He is sitting back behind the
gyroscopic compass watching the captain, with big eyes and a solemn face
like the infant Saint John.

"And why should they not all be satisfied--except the captain, who is
perhaps only pretending to be satisfied? They lose only a twentieth part
of their money by including him. On the other hand the captain loses a
million dollars, to which these robbers had no more right than you or
I."

"I guess the little Bavarian was sorry he spoke," said Roy; and he
filled Vandermeer's glass again.

"The little Bavarian was a child, an innocent. He had no will to power,
heh? He comes again to the captain late that night, on deck under the
stars. His face looks thin and miserable. 'Captain,' he says, 'did you
mean your words to those men?'

"'What else could I say, Otto, to save the diamonds, and my life, and
perhaps yours? You do not understand diplomacy, Otto.'

"The face of the little Bavarian grows brighter. 'Forgive me, my
captain!' he says. 'But I had begun to doubt even you, for a moment. I
was thinking of the Fatherland.'

"Now, the captain was much obliged to Otto. His policy was complete in
his mind for fooling those robbers, and he would have been glad to save
this little Bavarian, who had warned him. But he begins to see an
obstacle. He thinks he will put this little fellow to the trial.

"'Come now, Otto,' he says, 'it is very well to think of the Fatherland
if you and I could save it. But do you think a few hundred shining
pebbles will make any odds? These robbers shall not have them. But
supposing we share them, there is nobody in the Fatherland that would be
any poorer. They belong to the state, Otto, and if they should be shared
with every one in Germany not one man would be a pfennig the better.

"'But see what a difference this would make to you and me! We are in a
state of necessity, Otto; and above that state there is no power, as the
Chancellor told the Reichstag. Very well, in this case I quote Louis the
Fourteenth: "_L'état, c'est moi_!" and Frederick the Great, also. Have I
the might to do it, Otto? Very well, then, according to the spokesman of
the Fatherland I have also the right.'

"'I do not understand you, my captain,' says this little blue-eyed baby,
'but I know well that you mean to do right.'

"'You shall have not fifty but a hundred thousand dollars' worth for
your share, Otto, because you have been faithful,' says the captain;
'but you must not think too many beautiful thoughts till we are safe on
shore. I have arranged everything in my mind. Go down and sleep.'

"'For God's sake, captain,' cries this funny little fellow, dropping on
his knees, 'tell me what you mean to do!' And the tears begin to roll
down his face.

"'It is not safe to trust you yet, Otto. You might talk in your sleep,'
says the captain. 'Do as I bid you. We shall see what we shall see.'

"Very well, Roy, there is at least four chapters to be made from that,
heh?

"We come now to the crisis. The submarine is nearing the end of her
voyage. They begin to see ships and they submerge. The captain has told
them, instead of making for New York he is heading for the coast of
Maine, where there will be better opportunities of destroying the
submarine and landing unobserved. It is about six o'clock in the
evening, when he peeks through the periscope. They are within a short
distance of the mainland, but they must lie on the bottom till midnight,
when it will be safer to go ashore. They are all very happy. Once more
he gives them rum all round, just like this, and advises them to sleep,
for they will get no sleep after midnight.

"They sleep very soundly, all except the little Bavarian and the
captain. Why? Because the captain keeps the medicine chest as well as
the diamonds. If he had had something stronger in his medicine chest it
would have saved him much trouble and danger.

"While they sleep the captain takes out the diamonds from the strong box
and puts them in his inside pockets. Then he examines the batteries. He
is an expert engineer. He can make the batteries work when every one
else thinks they are dead. Also he can make them die, so that even he
can never make them work again. He examines other parts of the
machinery--those which enable the submarine to rise to the surface. He
will not allow the little Bavarian to watch what he is doing. Then he
puts on his life-belt, and looks at the men snoring in their hammocks
and on the floor. Some of them are stirring in their sleep. There is no
time to lose or he may be interrupted. At last he is ready. The
submarine will never rise to the surface again, and the sea will never
betray the secret.

"There is only one way for him to get out, and it is not a pleasant way.
But in his nightmares he has often rehearsed it, and he has always made
sure that it could be done before he went to sea. There must always be
a way out for one man at least, if not for more. '_L'état, c'est moi!_'

"He beckons to the little Bavarian. 'I have all the diamonds in my
pocket,' he says. 'The time is come for you to help me, Otto.'

"Now, Roy, you know what the conning tower of a submarine is like
inside? It is like a round chimney, with a lid at the top to keep out
the water when you are submerged. You can climb up into this conning
tower and steer the ship from it if you wish. There is also another lid
at the bottom of the conning tower, which you can close as well. Then if
you wish you can flood your chimney with water.

"Now, if a submarine cannot rise to the surface, it is possible for a
man to climb into this conning tower. Another man then closes the lid
below and floods the tower very slowly. When the water reaches the head
of the man in the tower there is just enough pressure for him to push
open the lid at the top and shoot up to the surface. The lid at the top
can then be closed from the interior of the submarine. The lower lid can
be opened slowly, and the water from the tower pours out into the hull.
Then, perhaps, another man can climb up into the tower, and the process
can be repeated. There is room for only one man at a time.

"The captain tells the little Bavarian that he is going to do this.
'But, my captain, it is very dangerous. You may be drowned. It is not
certain that you can open it. The pressure may be too great above.'

"'It is for the Fatherland, Otto,' says the captain; and the little
Bavarian salutes, standing at attention, just like a pretty little wax
doll.

"'When the men wake, you will be able to follow by the same road,' says
the captain, and he climbs up into the conning tower.

"The lower lid is closed. The water begins to creep up round the
captain's knees in the darkness. He is horribly frightened. He has a
crowbar in his hand to help him to open the upper lid quickly, but he
still thinks perhaps it will not open. When the water has reached his
waist he begins to push at the upper lid, but it cannot move yet. The
weight of the whole sea above is pressing down. He knows it cannot move
but he cannot help pushing at it, till the sweat breaks out on him,
though the water is like ice. It is worse than he expected, worse than
any of his nightmares. The water reaches to his neck. He struggles with
all his strength, and still the lid will not move. A prayer comes to his
lips. The cold water creeps--creeps over his chin. There is only three
inches now between his face and the lid. He holds his head back to keep
his nostrils above the water, fighting, fighting always to open the lid.
Then the water covers his face. The conning tower is full.

"He holds his breath, gives one last push, and feels the lid opening,
opening softly, like the big steel door of a safe in a bank. His crowbar
is wedged under the lid, between the hinges, just as he wished. In four
seconds he is shooting up, up to the surface, with his chest bursting,
like a diver that has seen a shark.

"For a minute he floats there in the darkness, under the stars.
Then--perhaps the struggle has been greater even than he knew--he
faints. It is fortunate that his life-belt is a good one, for when he
recovers he has floated perhaps a long time. He is very cold. He takes a
drink of rum from his flask and gets his bearings. He is two miles from
the coast. Yes, but he is a clever man. There is one of those little
islands, covered with pine trees, just a hundred and fifty yards away.
There is also a wooden house on the island; and a landing stage with a
dinghy hauled up on the shore.

"The owner of the boat is careful. He has taken his oars to bed with
him. But the captain is a clever man. It is a beautiful night. He has
plenty of time, and he can paddle with one of the loose boards in the
bottom of the dinghy."

"But listen! What became of the little Bavarian?" said Mimika.

"Well, I was not there to see," said Captain Vandermeer, lighting a
cigar, "but when the men woke they must all have tried to get out by the
same way."

"And they couldn't?" asked Roy. He was watching Vandermeer with a very
curious expression--almost as if he were examining an eyewitness.

"The captain was an expert engineer--ah, a magnificent engineer!--as I
told you, Roy, and there was a leetle crowbar wedged under what we have
been calling the lid of the conning tower."

"Good God, what an idea! You mean they couldn't close the upper lid
again?"

"They might think they had closed it." Vandermeer gave a deep guttural
chuckle. "Then they would open the lower lid, heh?"

"And then?"

"Why, then the sea would come running into the hull, and they would be
drowned."

"Oh, but not the poor little Bavarian!" said Mimika.

"_L'état, c'est moi_," said Vandermeer with a smile.

Roy was looking at him still with the same pensive expression as of a
youthful Buddha.

"I suppose he had no difficulty in getting rid of the diamonds," he
said.

"Probably not," said Vandermeer. "Perhaps he would keep a few as a
reserve--a kind of Landsturm. But he would buy Liberty Bonds, heh?"

"And you mean to say that a man like that is going about in the United
States now?" said Mimika.

Vandermeer chuckled again.

"Who knows?" he said. "Perhaps he has come to Southern California.
Perhaps he has bought a nice little ranch--a fruit ranch, just like
this, heh?--where he shall live a happy and healthy life to the age of a
hundred. And now, Mimika, it is getting time for little girls to go to
bed."

About two o'clock in the morning Mimika was wakened by a guttural
choking cry from her husband. She was so startled that she slipped out
of bed and stood staring at him. The moon was flooding the room almost
like a searchlight, and Captain Vandermeer lay in the full stream of it.
While she watched him he rose slowly to a sitting posture, with his eyes
still shut and his hands clenched above his face. He began muttering to
himself, in a low voice at first, and then so loudly that it echoed
through the house; and the words sounded more like German than Dutch.
Then he began fighting for breath, like a man in a nightmare. He tore
his pyjama jacket open over the great red hairy chest.

"Otto!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "Otto!" Then with a huge
sigh he sank back on the pillows, whispering "I have opened it."

There was a tap on the door. Mimika snatched up a dressing gown, the
first garment she could lay her hands on--it happened to be
Vandermeer's--wrapped it round her, glided across the room and opened
the door. Her brother stood there, also in a dressing gown and
bare-footed. Their eyes met without a word. He took her hand, led her
outside and closed the door quietly behind them.

"You heard him, Roy?" she whispered.

"Come downstairs," he said. "I want to ask you some questions about
this."

They went down to the den at the back of the house, and stood there
looking at each other's faces.

"He told us a tale to-night," said Roy at last.

"Yes," said Mimika faintly.

"Do you know what he was calling out in his nightmare?"

"It sounded like German," she said.

"Yes, it was German; and it gave me a good deal more local color than I
expected. That was a true story all right, Mimika."

"You mean that he--"

"Yes."

"Oh, but, Roy!"

"That's his dressing gown you're wearing, isn't it?"

"Yes, I picked it up in a hurry."

"There's been too much hurry about everything, I'm afraid. Why the devil
did I go to Europe! Here, Mimika, take off that thing and put mine on.
I don't like to see you in it. It doesn't suit you, little sister."

She obeyed him, with a small white frightened face; but it was not the
white of powder now. Roy thrust his hand into the pocket of Vandermeer's
dressing gown. Something jingled. He pulled out a bunch of keys.

"Vandermeer told me I was good at following up a clue. I'm going to
follow one now, Mimika," he said. "This is the key of the safe."

He opened the safe, looked hastily at the bundles of papers and then
pulled out the chamois leather bag. "Look here, Mimika!" he said and
poured a glittering river of diamonds, several hundred of them, on to
the table. The moonlight played over them with an uncanny brilliance.

"That's his Landsturm," said Roy; "and that settles it."

He took Mimika's hand, and she made no protest as he withdrew the
wedding ring from her finger and added it to the glittering heap on the
table.

There was a heavy footstep in the room above. Vandermeer was awake and
moving about upstairs. The boards creaked over their heads, then they
heard his bedroom door open, and the heavy footsteps began to descend
the stairs.

Mimika shrank behind her brother and both stood motionless, waiting.
They could hear the heavy breathing of Vandermeer, the breathing of a
man roused from a dyspeptic sleep. He came down with an intolerable
precision, making the twelve steps of that short descent seem almost
interminable. At every step Mimika felt the edges of her heart freezing.
At last that ugly rhythm reached the foot of the stairs; and with three
more shuffling steps, as of a gigantic ape, the hairy bulk of Vandermeer
stood in the doorway, facing them across the glittering mound of gems.
The sharp searchlight of the moon made his face corpselike, showing up
the puffy blue pouches under his eyes and picking out the coarse red
hairs of his bushy beard like strands of copper wire. His eyes
protruded, his mouth opened twice without any sound but the soft
smacking of his tongue as he tried to moisten his lips.

"What are you doing here?" he said at last.

"Looking at your Landsturm," said Roy with all the deadly calm of his
nation.

Vandermeer swayed a little on his feet, like a drunken man. Then he
moved forward to the table and blinked at the diamonds and the gold ring
crowning them.

"I don't understand," he said at last.

"You'd better get dressed, Mimika," said Roy. "Our train goes at a
quarter after four." He led her to the door, watched her pathetic little
figure mounting the stairs and turned to Vandermeer again.

Mimika never knew what passed between the two men. When she came out of
her room, ten minutes later, Roy was waiting, fully dressed, at the foot
of the stairs, with his suit case in his hand. She heard the heavy
breathing of Vandermeer in his den; and out of the corner of her eye as
they passed the door she saw that glowing mass on the table, as if a
fragment of the moon had been dropped there.

They walked down the long avenue of palms in silence. In the
waiting-room at the station neither of them spoke till they heard the
long hoot of the approaching train, and the clangor of the bell on the
transcontinental locomotive.

Six months later Mimika and her mother were sitting up for Roy, in their
fourth-floor flat near the offices of the Copley-Willard Publishing
Company, in Philadelphia.

"I wish he didn't have to keep these late hours," said her mother. "I
thought that everything was turning out for the best when you were
married to Julius. I have never been able to understand why you got your
divorce so quickly. It was all kept so quiet, and you and Roy are so
mysterious about it. You've never even told me the real grounds, I'm
sure."

"Yes, I did. It was desertion," said Mimika grimly.

"Does nobody know what became of him? It seems so strange that he should
have gone away and left all the furniture in that house. He had some
lovely things too. I think you might at least have claimed the
furniture."

"Please, mother, don't talk about that or we shall be making the same
mistake again. I expect he's shaved his beard by now."

"Mimika, child, what do you mean? Are you crazy?"

"I think we were both crazy, mother, a year ago."

"Well, I thought it was all for your happiness, my pet," said her
mother, dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief. "I'm afraid it will be
a long time before you can marry this other young man, that Roy likes so
much. He isn't earning half so good a salary as Roy."

"I don't know that I'm going to marry any one, mother. But listen! I
feel like marrying the first good American that comes to me with a piece
of the original _Mayflower_ in his buttonhole."

And, this time, her mother almost listened.



IV

THE MAN FROM BUFFALO


The patrol boats had been buffeting their way all night against wind and
weather, and before daybreak the long line had lost its order. It was
broken up now into little wandering loops and sections, busily comparing
notes by Morse flashes and wireless. Last evening the _Morning Glory_, a
converted yacht of American ownership, had been working with forty
British trawlers; and her owner, Matthew Hudson, who had obtained
permission to go out with her on this trip, had watched with admiration
the way in which they strung themselves over twenty miles of confused
sea, keeping their exact distances till nightfall. This morning, as he
lurched in gleaming oilskins up and down the monkey house--irreverent
name for his canvas-screened bridge--he could see only three of his
companions--the _Dusty Miller_, the _Christmas Day_ and the _Betsey
Barton_.

They were all having a lively time. They swooped like herring gulls into
the broad troughs of the swell, where the black water looked like liquid
marble with white veins of foam in it. Morning-colored rainbows dripped
from their bows as they rose again through the green sunlit crests. But
the _Morning Glory_ was the brightest and the liveliest of them all. The
seas had been washing her decks all night. Little pools of color shone
in the wet, crumpled oilskins of the crew, and the tarpaulin that
covered the gun in her bow gleamed like a cloak dropped there by the
Angel of the Dawn.

    _When like the morning mist in early day
    Rose from the foam the daughter of the sea----_

Matthew Hudson quoted to himself. He was full of poetry this morning
while he waited for his breakfast; and the radiant aspect of the weapon
in the bow reminded him of something else--if the smell of the frying
bacon would not blow his way and distract his mind--something about
"celestial armories." Was it Tennyson or Milton who had written it?
There was a passage about guns in "Paradise Lost." He must look it up.

Like many Americans, Matthew Hudson was quicker to perceive the true
romance of the Old Country than many of its own inhabitants. He had been
particularly interested in the names of the British trawlers. "It's like
seeing Shakespeare's Sonnets or Percy's Reliques of Ancient English
Poetry going out to fight," he had written to his son, who had just left
Princeton to join the Mosquito Fleet; and the youngster had replied with
a sonnet of his own.

Matthew Hudson had carried it about with him and read it to English
statesmen, greatly to their embarrassment--most of them looked as if
they were receiving a proposal of marriage--and he had found a huge
secret joy in their embarrassment, which, as he said, "tickled him to
death." But he murmured the verses to himself now, with paternal pride,
thinking that the boy had really gone to the heart of the matter:

    _Out of Old England's inmost heart they go,
      A little fleet of ships, whose every name--
    Daffodil, Sea Lark, Rose, and Surf, and Snow--
      Burns in this blackness like an altar flame._

    _Out of her past they sail, three thousand strong--
      The people's fleet, that never knew its worth;
    And every name is a broken phrase of song
      To some remembered loveliness on earth._

    _There's Barbara Cowie, Comely Bank and May,
      Christened at home, in worlds of dawn and dew.
    There's Ruth, and Kindly Light, and Robin Gray,
      With Mizpah. May that simple prayer come true!_

    _Out of Old England's inmost heart they sail,
    A fleet of memories that can never fail._

At this moment the _Morning Glory_ ran into a bank of white mist, which
left him nothing to see from the bridge. The engines were slowed down
and he decided that it was time for breakfast.

The cabin where he breakfasted with the skipper was very little changed,
except that it seemed by contrast a little more palatial than in peace
time. There had been many changes on the exterior of the ship. Her white
and gold had been washed over with service gray, and many beautiful
fittings had been removed to make way for grimmer work. But within there
were still some corners of the yacht that shone like gems in a setting
of lead.

The _Morning Glory_ had been a very beautiful boat. She had been built
for summer cruising among the pine-clad islands off the coast of Maine,
or to carry her master down to the palms of his own little island off
the coast of Florida, where he basked for a month or so among the
ripening oranges, the semitropical blossoms and the cardinal birds,
while Buffalo cleared the worst of the snow from her streets. For
Matthew Hudson was a man of many millions, which he had made in almost
the only country where millions can be made honestly and directly out of
its enormous natural resources.

His own method had been a very simple one, though it required great
organizing ability and a keen eye and brain at the outset. All he had
done was to harness a river at the right place and make it drive a
light-and-power plant. But he had done it on a scale that enabled him,
from this one central station, to drive all the electric trolleys and
light all the lamps in more than a hundred cities. He could supply all
the light and all the power they wanted to cities a hundred miles away
from his plant, and he talked of sending it three hundred miles farther.

Now that the system was established, it worked as easily as the river
flowed; and his power house was a compact little miracle of efficiency.
All that the casual visitor could see was a long, quiet room, in which
it seemed that a dozen clocks were slumbrously ticking. These were the
indicators, from the dials of which the amount of power distributed over
a district as big as England could be read by the two leisurely men on
duty. In the meantime, night and day, the river poured power of another
kind into the treasury of Matthew Hudson.

But his life was as unlike that of the millionaires of fiction as could
be imagined. It reminded one of the room with the slumbrous clocks.

He was, indeed, as his own men described it, preeminently the "man
behind the gun." When the _Morning Glory_ had been accepted by the naval
authorities he had obtained permission to equip her for her own work in
European waters at his own cost, and to make certain experiments in the
equipment.

The Admiralty had not looked with favor on some of his ideas, which were
by no means suitable for general use in the patrol fleet. But Matthew
Hudson had too many weapons at work against Germany for them to deny
him a sentimental pleasure in his own yacht. He seemed to have some
particular purpose of his own in carrying out his ideas; and so it came
about that the _Morning Glory_ was regarded among her companions as a
mystery-ship.

The two men breakfasted in silence. They were both drowsy, for there had
been a U-boat alarm during the night, which had kept them very much
awake; but Hudson was roused from his reverie over the second rasher by
a loud report, followed by a confused shouting above and the stoppage of
the engines.

"That's not a submarine!" said the skipper. "What the devil is it?" And
the two men rushed on deck.

The mist had lifted a little; and, looming out of it, a few hundred
yards away, there was something that looked, at first glance, like a
great gray reef. For a fraction of a moment Hudson thought they had run
into Heligoland in the mist. At the second glance he knew that the gray,
mist-wreathed monster before him was an armored ship, and the skipper
enlightened him further by saying, in a matter-of-fact voice:

"That settles it--enemy cruiser! We're stopped, broadside on. They've
got a couple of guns trained on us and they're sending a boat. What's
the next move?"

Matthew Hudson's face was a curious study at this moment. It suggested a
leopard endowed with a sense of humor. His mouth twitched at the corners
and his amazingly clear eyes were lit with an almost boyish jubilation.
It was a somewhat fierce jubilation; but it undoubtedly twinkled with
the humor of the New World. Then he asked the skipper a mysterious
question:

"Is it impossible?"

"Impossible! We're in the wrong position; and if we try to get right
they'll blow us to bits. Besides, they'll be aboard in half a minute.
We're drifting a little in the right direction; but it will be too late.
They'll search the ship."

"How long will it take us to drift into the right position?"

"If we go on like this, about four minutes. But it will be all over by
then."

"Look here, Davis; I'll try and detain them on deck. You know Americans
have a reputation for oratory. You'd better go through my room.
And--look here--I'll be the skipper for the time being. I'm afraid
they'll want to take Matthew Hudson prisoner; so I'll be the kind of
American they'll recognize--Commander Jefferson B. Thrash, out of the
best British fiction. You don't happen to have a lasso in your pocket,
do you? I lent mine to ex-President Eliot of Harvard, and he hasn't
returned it. Tell the men there. That's right! I don't want to be
playing the fool in Ruhleben for the next three years."

A few moments later, a step at a time, Davis disappeared into Hudson's
cabin, which lay in the fore part of the ship. Two other men prepared to
slip after him by lounging casually in the companionway, while the men
in front moved a little closer to screen them.

They seized their chance as the German boat stopped, twenty yards away
from the _Morning Glory_, and the officer in command announced through a
megaphone, in very good English, that he was in a great hurry. They were
friends, he said; and there was no need for alarm, so long as the
_Morning Glory_ carried out all instructions. All they wanted was the
confidential chart of the British mine fields, which the _Morning
Glory_, of course, possessed, and all other confidential papers of a
similar kind. If the _Morning Glory_ did not carry out his instructions
in every detail the guns of the cruiser would sink her. He was now
coming aboard to secure the papers.

"I guess that's all right, captain!" bawled Matthew Hudson in an
entirely new voice and the accent that Europe accepts as American, with
about as much reason as America would have for accepting the Lancashire,
Yorkshire and Glasgow dialects, all rolled into one, as English.

The quiet member of the Century Club had disappeared, and the golden,
remote Wild Westerner, almost unknown in America itself, had risen. In
half a minute more the German officer and half a dozen armed sailors
were standing on the deck of the _Morning Glory_.

"So you see England does not completely rule the waves," was the opening
remark of the officer, who had not yet received the full benefit of
Hudson's adopted accent.

"Been finding it stormy in the canal, cap?" drawled Hudson. "Don't blame
it on me, anyway. I'm a good Amurrican--Jefferson B. Thrash, of
Buffalo."

"Is this an American ship? I much regret to find an American ship
fighting her best friends."

"Well, cap, I confess I haven't much use for the British, myself; not
since their press talked about my picture-postcard smile--an
ill-considered phrase, by which they unconsciously meant that, among the
effete aristocracies of Europe, they were not used to seeing good teeth.
They lack humor, sir. To regard good teeth as abnormal shows a lack of
humor on the part of the British press.

"However, as George Bernard Shaw says, President Wilson has put it up to
the German people in this way: 'Become a republic and we'll let up on
you. Go on Kaisering and we'll smash you!'"

"I am in a great hurry," the German officer replied. "I must ask you at
once for your confidential papers."

"That's all right, admiral!" said Hudson. "I've sent a man down below to
get them out of my steamer trunk. They'll be here right away."

He looked reflectively at the guns of the destroyer and added
ingratiatingly:

"Of course I disapprove of George Bernard Shaw's vulgarizing the
language of diplomacy in that way. I would rather interpret President
Wilson's message as saying to the German people, in courteous phrase:
'Emerge from twelfth-century despotism into twentieth-century democracy.
Send the imperial liar who misrules you to join Nick Romanoff on his
ranch. Give the furniture-stealing Crown Prince a long term in any Sing
Sing you like to choose; and we will again buy dyestuffs and toys of
you, and sell you our beans and bacon.'"

"Are you aware that you endanger your life by this language? Do you see
those guns?"

Matthew Hudson looked at the guns and spat over the side of the ship
meditatively. Then he looked the questioner squarely in the eye. He had
taken the measure of his man and he only needed three and a half minutes
more. Any question that could be raised was clear gain; and the cruiser
would probably not use her guns while members of the German crew were
aboard the _Morning Glory_.

"Yes," he said; "and you'd better not use your guns till you get those
confidential papers, for there's not a chance that you'll find them
without my help. They're worth having, and I've no objection to handing
them over, though I don't lay much store by your promise not to shoot
afterward. When you've got them, how am I to know that you won't shoot,
anyway, and--what's the latest language of your diplomacy?--'leave no
traces'? By cripes, there's no mushy sentiment about your officials! No,
sir! Leave no traces!--and they said it about neutrals, remember! Leave
no traces! That's virile! That's red-blooded stuff! The effete
humanitarianism of our democracy, sir, would call that murder. In
England they would call it bloody murder! I don't agree. I think that
war is war. Of course it's awkward for non-combatants--"

"With regard to the crews, it has been announced in Germany that they
would be saved and kept prisoners in the submarines. Your man is taking
too long to find your papers. I can allow you only one minute more."

"He'll be right back, captain, with all the confidential goods you want.
But, say, between one sailorman and another, that story about planning
to hide crews and passengers aboard the submarines must have been meant
for our Middle West. Last time I was on a submarine I had to sleep
behind the cookstove; and then the commander had to sit up all night.
It's the right stuff for the prairies, though. Ever hear of our senator,
cap, who wanted to know why the women and kids on the _Lusitania_
weren't put into the water-tight compartments? They cussed the Cunard
Company from hell to breakfast out Kalamazoo way for that scandalous
oversight. Wonder what's keeping that son of a gun!"

At this moment the son of a gun announced from the companionway that he
was unable to find the confidential papers.

"I can wait no longer. The ship must be searched by my own men," said
the German peremptorily. "Are the papers in your cabin?"

"Sure! But I can save you a lot of time, captain. I'll lead you right to
them."

The _Morning Glory_ had drifted round till her nose was now pointing
towards that of the cruiser. In a minute or two more she would be
pointing directly amidships if the drifting continued. Matthew Hudson
took a long, affectionate look at the guns and the guns' crews that kept
watch over his behavior from the gray monster ahead; then he led the way
below to his cabin.

The Hamburg-Amerika Line had many a less imposing room than this, the
only part of the yacht that retained all its old aspect. It ran the
whole breadth of the ship and had two portholes on each side. There was
a brass bedstead, with a telephone beside it and an electric reading
lamp. There were half a dozen other electric bulbs overhead.

"I don't sleep very well, cap; so I decided to keep this bit of sinful
splendor for my own use. Bathroom, you see." He opened a tiny door near
the bed and showed the compact room, with its white bath-tub let into
the floor. This was too much for the German officer.

"Where do you keep your confidential papers?" he bellowed, leveling a
revolver at the maddeningly complacent American, while three of his men
closed up behind him, ready for action.

"Better not shoot, admiral, for you won't find them without my help; and
I'm going to hand you the goods in half a minute. I can't quite remember
where I put them. There's some confidential stuff in here, I think."

He unlocked a drawer and pulled out a bundle of papers. A small white
object dropped from the bundle and lay on the floor between him and the
German. It was a baby's shoe. Hudson nodded at it as he looked through
the papers.

"Got any kids, cap? That came from Queenstown. Ah, this looks like your
chart. No. Came from Queenstown, I say. It was a little girl belonging
to a friend of mine in the City of Brotherly Love. Lots of 'em on the
_Lusitania_, you know. We collect souvenirs in America, and I asked him
for this as a keepsake when I came on this gunning expedition. He kept
the other for himself. She was a pretty little thing. Only six! Used to
call me Uncle Jack."

He stole a look through the porthole and drew another document from the
drawer.

"Ah! Now I remember. Here's the stuff you want--some of it, anyhow. Tied
round with yaller ribbon. Take it, cap. I wish I hadn't seen that little
shoe; but you've got the drop on me this time and I suppose it's my duty
to save the lives of the men. There's a good bit of information there
about the mine fields."

The German hurriedly examined the papers, while Hudson hummed to himself
as he stared through the porthole:

    _Around her little neck she wore a yaller ribbon;
      She wore it in December and the merry month of May.
    And when, oh, when they asked her why in hell she wore it,
    She said she loved a sailor, a sailor, a sailor;
      But he was wrecked and drownded in Mississippi Bay._

"This is very good," said the German, "and very useful. I think we shall
not require more of you; though it will be necessary to destroy your
ship and make you prisoners."

"Why, certainly! I didn't suppose you could keep your contract in
war-time. You can't leave traces of a deal like this. But while you're
about it, you may as well have all the confidential stuff."

"Good! Good!" said the German, strutting toward him. "So there's more to
come! I am glad you see the advantage in being too proud to fight, my
friend, eh?"

Matthew Hudson's eye twinkled. His slouch began to slip away from him
like a loose coat, leaving once more the quiet upstanding member of the
Century Club.

"Of course," he said, "you would make that mistake. The British made it.
They forgot that it was said about Mexico, at a time when you wanted us
to be kept busy down there. There are times, also, when for diplomatic
reasons it is necessary to talk." He had resumed his natural voice.
"When you are getting ready, for instance. This is where we keep the
real stuff."

He crossed the cabin; and the German watched him closely with a puzzled
expression, covering him with his revolver.

"No treachery!" he said. "What does this mean? You are not the man you
were pretending to be."

Hudson laughed, and tossed him a little scrap of bunting, which he had
been holding crumpled up in his hand.

"Ever seen that flag before?" he said.

The German stared at it, his eyes growing round with amazement.

"The Kaiser's flag has flown on this yacht at the Kiel Regatta many a
time," said Hudson. "His Majesty used to come and lunch with me. I don't
advise you to shoot me. He might remember some of my cigars. He gave me
that flag himself. Of course I shan't use it again--not till it's been
sprinkled with holy water. But I thought you might like a brief
exhibition of shirt-sleeve navalism, as I suppose you'd call it.

"Most Europeans like us to live up to their ideas of us. The British do.
Ever hear of Senator Martin? Whenever he's in London and goes to see his
friends in the House of Commons, he wears a sombrero and a red cowboy
shirt. He says they expect it and like it. He wouldn't care to do it in
New York. As a fact, you know, we invented the electric telegraph and
the submarine, and a lot of little things that you fellows have been
stealing from us. Do you hear that?"

There were two sharp clicks in the bows, followed by a faint sound like
the whirring of an electric fan under water; and Hudson pulled open the
door that led into the fore part of the ship.

"_Gott! Gott!_" cried the German, and his men echoed it inarticulately;
for there, in the semidarkness of the bows of the _Morning Glory_, they
saw the dim shapes of seamen crouching beside two gleaming torpedo
tubes. The torpedoes had just been discharged.

"You're too late to save your ship," said Matthew Hudson. "If you want
to save your own skins you'd better keep still and listen for a moment."

Then came a concussion that rocked the _Morning Glory_ like a child's
cradle and sent her German visitors lurching and sprawling round the
brass bedstead. When they recovered they found a dozen revolvers
gleaming in front of their noses.

"Before we say anything more about this," said Hudson, "let's go on deck
and look.

"Do you mind giving me that little shoe at your feet there?"

The officer turned a shade whiter than the shoe.

Then, stooping, he picked it up and handed it to Hudson, who thrust it
into his breast pocket.

"Thank you!" he said. "Now if you will all leave your guns on this bed
we'll go on deck and see the traces."

When they reached the deck there was something that looked like an
enormous drowning cockroach trying to crawl out of the water four
hundred yards away. Round it there seemed to be a mass of drowning
flies.

"It's not a pleasant sight, is it?" said Hudson. "But it's good to know
they were all fighting men, ready to kill or be killed. No women and
children among them! The _Lusitania_ must have looked much worse."

"My brother is on board! Are you not trying to save them?" gasped the
officer.

Hudson took out the little shoe again and looked at it. Then he turned
to the German boat's crew, where they huddled, sick with fear,
amidships.

"Take your boat and pick up as many as you can," he said.

"It is not safe--not till she sinks," a guttural voice replied.

Almost on the word the cruiser went down with a rush. The sleek waters
and the white mists closed above her, while the _Morning Glory_ rocked
again like a child's cradle.

"That is true," said Matthew Hudson to the shivering figure beside him.
"And we've got as many as we can handle on the ship. If we took more of
you aboard, according to the laws laid down in your text-books, you'd
cut our throats and call us idiotic Yankees for trusting you.

"Please don't weep. We sent out a call a minute ago for the _Betsey
Barton_ and the _Dusty Miller_ and the _Christmas Day_. I'm not an
effete humanitarian myself; but the men on these trawlers aren't bad
sorts. I hope they'll pick up your brother."



V

THE _LUSITANIA_ WAITS


On a stormy winter's night three skippers--averaging three score years
and five--were discussing the news, around a roaring fire, in the parlor
of the White Horse Inn. Five years ago they had retired, each on a snug
nest-egg. They were looking forward to a mellow old age in port and a
long succession of evenings at the White Horse, where they gathered to
debate the politics of their district. The war had given them new
topics; but Captain John Kendrick--who had become a parish councilor and
sometimes carried bulky blue documents in his breast-pocket, displaying
the edges with careful pride--still kept the local pot a-boiling. He was
mainly successful on Saturday nights, when the _Gazette_, their weekly
newspaper, appeared. It was edited by a Scot named Macpherson, who had
learned his job on the _Arbroath Free Press_.

"Macpherson will never be on the council now," said Captain Kendrick.
"There's a rumor that he's a freethinker. He says that Christianity has
been proved a failure by the war."

"Well, these chaps of ours now," said Captain Davidson, "out at sea on a
night like this, trying to kill Germans. It's necessary, I know, because
the Germans would kill our own folks if we gave 'em a chance. But don't
it prove that there's no use for Christianity? In modern civilization, I
mean."

"Macpherson's no freethinker," said Captain Morgan, who was a friend of
the editor, and inclined on the strength of it to occupy the
intellectual chair at the White Horse. "Macpherson says we'll have to
try again after the war, or it will be blood and iron all round."

"He's upset by the war," said Captain Davidson, "and he's taken to
writing poytry in his paper. He'd best be careful or he'll lose his
circulation."

"Ah!" said Kendrick. "That's what 'ull finish him for the council. What
we want is practical men. Poytry would destroy any man's reputation.
There was a great deal of talk caused by his last one, about our
trawler chaps. 'Fishers of Men,' he called it; and I'm not sure that it
wouldn't be considered blasphemious by a good many."

Captain Morgan shook his head. "Every Sunday evening," he said, "my
missus asks me to read her Macpherson's pome in the _Gazette_, and I've
come to enjoy them myself. Now, what does he say in 'Fishers of Men'?"

"Read it," said Kendrick, picking the _Gazette_ from the litter of
newspapers on the table and handing it to Morgan. "If you know how to
read poytry, read it aloud, the way you do to your missus. I can't make
head or tail of poytry myself; but it looks blasphemious to me."

Captain Morgan wiped his big spectacles while the other two settled
themselves to listen critically. Then he began in his best Sunday voice,
very slowly, but by no means unimpressively:

    _Long, long ago He said,
    He who could wake the dead,
      And walk upon the sea--
    "Come, follow Me._

    "_Leave your brown nets and bring
    Only your hearts to sing,
      Only your souls to pray,
    Rise, come away._

    "_Shake out your spirit-sails,
    And brave those wilder gales,
      And I will make you then
    Fishers of men._"

    _Was this, then, what He meant?
    Was this His high intent,
      After two thousand years
    Of blood and tears?_

    _God help us, if we fight
    For right and not for might.
      God help us if we seek
    To shield the weak._

    _Then, though His heaven be far
    From this blind welter of war,
      He'll bless us on the sea
    From Calvary._

"It seems to rhyme all right," said Kendrick. "It's not so bad for
Macpherson."

"Have you heard," said Davidson reflectively, "they're wanting more
trawler skippers down at the base?"

"I've been fifty years, man and boy, at sea," said Captain Morgan;
"that's half a century, mind you."

"Ah, it's hard on the women, too," said Davidson. "We're never sure what
boats have been lost till we see the women crying. I don't know how they
get the men to do it."

Captain John Kendrick stabbed viciously with his forefinger at a picture
in an illustrated paper.

"Here's a wicked thing now," he said. "Here's a medal they've struck in
Germany to commemorate the sinking of the _Lusitania_. Here's a
photograph of both sides of it. On one side, you see the great ship
sinking, loaded up with munitions which wasn't there; but not a sign of
the women and children that was there. On the other side you see the
passengers taking their tickets from Death in the New York booking
office. Now that's a fearful thing. I can understand 'em making a
mistake, but I can't understand 'em wanting to strike a medal for it."

"Not much mistake about the _Lusitania_," growled Captain Davidson.

"No, indeed. That was only my argyment," replied the councilor. "They're
a treacherous lot. It was a fearful thing to do a deed like that. My
son's in the Cunard; and, man alive, he tells me it's like sinking a
big London hotel. There was ladies in evening dress, and dancing in the
big saloons every night; and lifts to take you from one deck to another;
and shops with plate-glass windows, and smoking-rooms; and glass around
the promenade deck, so that the little children could play there in bad
weather, and the ladies lay in their deck-chairs and sun themselves like
peaches. There wasn't a soldier aboard, and some of the women was
bringing their babies to see their Canadian daddies in England for the
first time. Why, man, it was like sinking a nursing home!"

"Do you suppose, Captain Kendrick, that they ever caught that
submarine?" asked Captain Morgan. They were old friends, but always
punctilious about their titles.

"Ah, now I'll tell you something! Hear that?"

The three old men listened. Through the gusts of wind that battered the
White Horse they heard the sound of heavy floundering footsteps passing
down the cobbled street, and a hoarse broken voice bellowing, with
uncanny abandonment, a fragment of a hymn:

    "_While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
      All seated on the ground._"

"That's poor old Jim Hunt," said Captain Morgan. He rose and drew the
thick red curtains from the window to peer out into the blackness.

"Turn the lamp down," said the councilor, "or we'll be arrested under
the anti-aircraft laws."

Davidson turned the lamp down and they all looked out of the window.
They saw the figure of a man, black against the glimmering water of the
harbor below. He walked with a curious floundering gait that might be
mistaken for the effects of drink. He waved his arms over his head like
a windmill and bellowed his hymn as he went, though the words were now
indistinguishable from the tumult of wind and sea.

Captain Morgan drew the curtains, and the three sat down again by the
fire without turning up the lamp. The firelight played on the furrowed
and bronzed old faces and revealed them as worthy models for a
Rembrandt.

"Poor old Jimmy Hunt!" said Captain Kendrick. "You never know how
craziness is going to take people. Jimmy was a terror for women and the
drink, till he was taken off the _Albatross_ by that German submarine.
They cracked him over the head with an iron bolt, down at the bottom of
the sea, because he wouldn't answer no questions. He hasn't touched a
drop since. All he does is to walk about in bad weather, singing hymns
against the wind. But there's more in it than that."

Captain Kendrick lighted his pipe thoughtfully. The wind rattled the
windows. Outside, the sign-board creaked and whined as it swung.

"A man like Jim Hunt doesn't go crazy," he continued, "through spending
a night in a 'U' boat, and then floating about for a bit. Jimmy won't
talk about it now; won't do nothing but sing that blasted hymn; but this
is what he said to me when they first brought him ashore. They said he
was raving mad, on account of his experiences. But that don't explain
what his experiences _were_. Follow me? And this is what he said. '_I
been down_,' he says, half singing like. '_I been down, down, in the
bloody submarine that sank the Lusitania. And what's more_,' he says,'_I
seen 'em!_'

"'Seen what?' I says, humoring him like, and I gave him a cigarette. We
were sitting close together in his mother's kitchen. 'Ah!' he says,
calming down a little, and speaking right into my ear, as if it was a
secret. 'It was Christmas Eve the time they took me down. We could hear
'em singing carols on shore; and the captain didn't like it, so he blew
a whistle, and the Germans jumped to close the hatchways; and we went
down, down, down, to the bottom of the sea.

"'I saw the whole ship,' he says; and he described it to me, so that I
knew he wasn't raving then. 'There was only just room to stand upright,'
he says, 'and overhead there was a track for the torpedo carrier. The
crew slept in hammocks and berths along the wall; but there wasn't room
for more than half to sleep at the same time. They took me through a
little foot-hole, with an air-tight door, into a cabin.

"'The captain seemed kind of excited and showed me the medal he got for
sinking the _Lusitania_; and I asked him if the Kaiser gave it to him
for a Christmas present. That was when he and another officer seemed to
go mad; and the officer gave me a blow on the head with a piece of iron.

"'They say I'm crazy,' he says, 'but it was the men on the "U" boat that
went crazy. I was lying where I fell, with the blood running down my
face, but I was watching them,' he says, 'and I saw them start and
listen like trapped weasels. At first I thought the trawlers had got 'em
in a net. Then I heard a funny little tapping sound all round the hull
of the submarine, like little soft hands it was, tapping, tapping,
tapping.

"'The captain went white as a ghost, and shouted out something in
German, like as if he was calling "Who's there?" and the mate clapped
his hand over his mouth, and they both stood staring at one another.

"'Then there was a sound like a thin little voice, outside the ship,
mark you, and sixty fathom deep, saying, "_Christmas Eve, the Waits,
sir!_" The captain tore the mate's hand away and shouted again, like he
was asking "_Who's there!_" and wild to get an answer, too. Then, very
thin and clear, the little voice came a second time, "_The Waits, sir.
The Lusitania, ladies!_" And at that the captain struck the mate in the
face with his clenched fist. He had the medal in it still between his
fingers, using it like a knuckle-duster. Then he called to the men like
a madman, all in German, but I knew he was telling 'em to rise to the
surface, by the way they were trying to obey him.

"'The submarine never budged for all that they could do; and while they
were running up and down and squealing out to one another, there was a
kind of low sweet sound all round the hull, like a thousand voices all
singing together in the sea:

    "_Fear not, said he, for mighty dread
      Had seized their troubled mind.
    Glad tidings of great joy I bring
      To you and all mankind._"

"'Then the tapping began again, but it was much louder now; and it
seemed as if hundreds of drowned hands were feeling the hull and
loosening bolts and pulling at hatchways; and--all at once--a trickle of
water came splashing down into the cabin. The captain dropped his medal.
It rolled up to my hand and I saw there was blood on it. He screamed at
the men, and they pulled out their life-saving apparatus, a kind of
air-tank which they strapped on their backs, with tubes to rubber masks
for clapping over their mouths and noses. I watched 'em doing it, and
managed to do the same. They were too busy to take any notice of me.
Then they pulled a lever and tumbled out through a hole, and I followed
'em blindly. Something grabbed me when I got outside and held me for a
minute. Then I saw 'em, Captain Kendrick, I saw 'em, hundreds and
hundreds of 'em, in a shiny light, and sixty fathom down under the dark
sea--they were all waiting there, men and women and poor little babies
with hair like sunshine....

"'And the men were smiling at the Germans in a friendly way, and
unstrapping the air-tanks from their backs, and saying, "Won't you come
and join us? It's Christmas Eve, you know."

"'Then whatever it was that held me let me go, and I shot up and knew
nothing till I found myself in Jack Simmonds's drifter, and they told me
I was crazy.'"

Captain Kendrick filled his pipe. A great gust struck the old inn again
and again till all the timbers trembled. The floundering step passed
once more, and the hoarse voice bellowed away in the darkness against
the bellowing sea:

    _A Savior which is Christ the Lord,
      And this shall be the sign._

Captain Davidson was the first to speak.

"Poor old Jim Hunt!" he said. "There's not much Christ about any of this
war."

"I'm not so sure of that neither," said Captain Morgan. "Macpherson said
a striking thing to me the other day. 'Seems to me,' he says, 'there's a
good many nowadays that are touching the iron nails.'"

He rose and drew the curtains from the window again.

"The sea's rattling hollow," he said; "there'll be rain before morning."

"Well, I must be going," said Captain Davidson. "I want to see the naval
secretary down at the base."

"About what?"

"Why, I'm not too old for a trawler, am I?"

"My missus won't like it, but I'll come with you," said Captain Morgan;
and they went through the door together, lowering their heads against
the wind.

"Hold on! I'm coming, too," said Captain Kendrick; and he followed them,
buttoning up his coat.



VI

THE LOG OF THE _EVENING STAR_


We were sitting in the porch of a low white bungalow with masses of
purple bougainvillea embowering its eaves. A ruby-throated humming-bird,
with green wings, flickered around it. The tall palms and the sea were
whispering together. Over the water, the West was beginning to fill with
that Californian sunset which is the most mysterious in the world, for
one is conscious that it is the fringe of what Europeans call the East,
and that, looking westward across the Pacific, our faces are turned
towards the dusky myriads of Asia. All along the Californian coast there
is a tang of incense in the air, as befits that silent orchard of the
gods where dawn and sunset meet and intermingle; and, though it is
probably caused by some gardener, burning the dead leaves of the
eucalyptus trees, one might well believe that one breathed the scent of
the joss-sticks, wafted across the Pacific, from the land of paper
lanterns.

A Japanese servant, in a white duck suit, marched like a ghostly little
soldier across the lawn. The great hills behind us quietly turned to
amethysts. The lights of Los Angeles ten miles away to the north began
to spring out like stars in that amazing air beloved of the astronomer;
and the evening star itself, over the huge slow breakers crumbling into
lilac-colored foam, looked bright enough to be a companion of the city
lights.

"I should like to show you the log of the _Evening Star_," said my
visitor, who was none other than Moreton Fitch, president of the
insurance company of San Francisco. "I think it may interest you as
evidence that our business is not without its touches of romance. I
don't mean what you mean," he added cheerfully, as I looked up smiling.
"The _Evening Star_ was a schooner running between San Francisco and
Tahiti and various other places in the South Seas. She was insured in
our company. One April, she was reported overdue. After a search had
been made, she was posted as lost in the maritime exchanges. There was
no clue to what had happened, and we paid the insurance money,
believing that she had foundered with all hands.

"Two months later, we got word from Tahiti that the _Evening Star_ had
been found drifting about in a dead calm, with all sails set, but not a
soul aboard. Everything was in perfect order, except that the ship's cat
was lying dead in the bows, baked to a bit of sea-weed by the sun.
Otherwise, there wasn't the slightest trace of any trouble. The tables
below were laid for a meal and there was plenty of water aboard."

"Were any of the boats missing?"

"No. She carried only three boats and all were there. When she was
discovered, two of the boats were on deck as usual; and the third was
towing astern. None of the men has been heard of from that day to this.
The amazing part of it was not only the absence of anything that would
account for the disappearance of the crew, but the clear evidence that
they had been intending to stay, in the fact that the tables were laid
for a meal, and then abandoned. Besides, where had they gone, and how?
There are no magic carpets, even in the South Seas.

"The best brains of our Company puzzled over the mystery for a year and
more; but at the end of the time nothing had turned up and we had to
come out by the same door wherein we went. No theory, even, seemed to
fit the case at all; and, in most mysteries, there is room for a hundred
theories. There were twelve persons aboard, and we investigated the
history of them all. There were three American seamen, all of the
domesticated kind, with respectable old mothers in gold-rimmed
spectacles at home. There were five Kanakas of the mildest type, as easy
to handle as an infant school. There was a Japanese cook, who was
something of an artist. He used to spend his spare time in painting
things to palm off on the unsuspecting connoisseur as the work of an
obscure pupil of Hokusai, which I suppose he might have been in a way. I
am told he was scrupulously careful never to tell a direct lie about it.

"Then there was Harper, the mate, rather an interesting young fellow,
with the wanderlust. He had been pretty well educated. I believe he had
spent a year or two at one of the Californian colleges. Altogether,
about the most harmless kind of a ship's family that you could pick up
anywhere between the Golden Gate and the Baltic. Then there was Captain
Burgess, who was the most domesticated of them all, for he had his wife
with him on this voyage. They had been married only about three months.
She was the widow of the former captain of the _Evening Star_, a fellow
named Dayrell; and she had often been on the ship before. In fact, they
were all old friends of the ship. Except one or two of the Kanakas, all
the men had sailed on the _Evening Star_ for something like two years
under Captain Dayrell. Burgess himself had been his mate. Dayrell had
been dead only about six months; and the only criticism we ever heard
against anybody aboard was made by some of Dayrell's relatives, who
thought the widow might have waited more than three months before
marrying the newly promoted Burgess. They suggested, of course, that
there must have been something between them before Dayrell was out of
the way. But I hardly believed it. In any case, it threw no light on the
mystery."

"What sort of a man was Burgess?"

"Big burly fellow with a fat white face and curious little eyes, like
huckleberries in a lump of dough. He was very silent and inclined to be
religious. He used to read Emerson and Carlyle, quite an unusual sort of
sea-captain. There was a _Sartor Resartus_ in the cabin with a lot of
the queerest passages marked in pencil. What can you make of it?"

"Nothing at all, except that there was a woman aboard. What was she
like?"

"She was one of our special Californian mixtures, touch of Italian,
touch of Irish, touch of American, but Italian predominated, I think.
She was a good deal younger than Burgess; and one of the clerks in our
office who had seen her described her as a 'peach,' which, as you know,
means a pretty woman, or if you prefer the description of her own lady
friends, 'vurry attractive.'"

"She had the dusky Italian beauty, black hair and eyes like black
diamonds, but her face was very pale, the kind of pallor that makes you
think of magnolia blossoms at dusk. She was obviously fond of bright
colors, tawny reds and yellows, but they suited her. If I had to give
you my impression of her in a single word, I should say that she looked
like a gipsy. You know the song, 'Down the World with Marna,' don't you?
Well, I could imagine a romantic vagabond singing it about her. By the
by, she had rather a fine voice herself. Used to sing sentimental songs
to Dayrell and his friends in 'Frisco, 'Love's Old Sweet Song' and that
sort of stuff. Apparently, they took it very seriously. Several of them
told me that if she had been trained--well, you know the old
story--every prima donna would have had to retire from business. I fancy
they were all a little in love with her. The curious thing was that
after Dayrell's death she gave up her singing altogether. Now, I think I
have told you all the facts about the ship's company."

"Didn't you say there was a log you wanted to show me?"

"There were no ship's papers of any kind, and no log was found on the
derelict; but, a week or two ago, we had a visit from the brother of the
Japanese cook, who made us all feel like fifteen cents before the wisdom
of the East. I have to go over and see him to-morrow afternoon. He is a
fisherman, lives on the coast, not far from here. I'd like you to see
what I call the log of the _Evening Star_. I won't say any more about it
now. It isn't quite worked out yet; but it looks as if it's going to be
interesting. Will you come--to-morrow afternoon? I'll call for you at a
quarter after two. It won't take us long in the automobile. This is
where he lives, see?"

I switched on the electric light in the porch while Fitch spread out a
road map, and pointed to our destination of the morrow. The Californian
night comes quickly, and the tree-toads that make it musical were
chirruping and purring all around us as we walked through the palms and
the red-tasseled pepper trees to his car. Somewhere among the funereal
clouds and poplarlike spires of the eucalyptus, a mocking-bird began to
whistle one of his many parts, and a delicious whiff of orange blossom
blew on the cool night wind across a ranch of a thousand acres, mostly
in fruit, but with a few trees yet in blossom, on the road to the Sunset
Inn.

I watched his red rear lamp dwindling down that well-oiled road, and let
the _Evening Star_ go with it until the morrow, for I could make little
of his yarn, except that Fitch was not a man to get excited over
trifles.


II

Promptly at the time appointed on the following afternoon, Fitch called
for me; and a minute later we were gliding through orange groves along
one of those broad smooth roads that amaze the European whose
impressions of California have been obtained from tales of the
forty-niners. The keen scent of the orange blossom yielded to a tang of
new incense, as we turned into the Sunset Boulevard and ran down the
long vista of tall eucalyptus trees that stand out so darkly and
distinctly against the lilac-colored ranges of the Sierra Madre in the
distance, and remind one of the poplar-bordered roads of France. Once we
passed a swarthy cluster of Mexicans under a wayside palm. Big
fragments, gnawed half-moons, of the blood-red black-pipped watermelon
they had been eating, gleamed on the dark oiled surface of the road, as
a splash of the sunset is reflected in a dark river. Then we ran along
the coast for a little way between the palms and the low white-pillared
houses, all crimson poinsettias and marble, that looked as if they were
meant for the gods and goddesses of Greece, but were only the homes of a
few score lotus-eating millionaires. In another minute, we had turned
off the good highway, and were running along a narrow sandy road. On one
side, rising from the road, were great desert hills, covered with
gray-green sage-brush, tinged at the tips with rusty brown; and, on the
other, there was a strip of sandy beach where the big slow breakers
crumbled, and the unmolested pelicans waddled and brooded like goblin
sentries.

In three minutes more, we sighted a cluster of tiny wooden houses ahead
of us, and pulled up on the outskirts of a Japanese fishing village,
built along the fringe of the beach itself. It was a single miniature
street, nestling under the hill on one side of the narrow road and built
along the sand on the other. Japanese signs stood over quaint little
stores, with here and there a curious tinge of Americanism. RICE CAKES
AND CANDIES were advertised by one black-haired and boyish-looking
gentleman who sat at the door of his hut, playing with three brown
children, one of whom squinted at us gleefully with bright sloe-black
eyes. Every tiny house, even when it stood on the beach, had its own
festoon of flowers. Bare-legged, almond-eyed fishermen sat before them,
mending their nets. Wistaria drooped from the jutting eaves;
and--perhaps only the Japanese could explain the miracle--tall and
well-nourished red geraniums rose, out of the salt sea-sand apparently,
around their doors. A few had foregone their miracles and were content
with window boxes, but all were in blossom. In the center of the
village, on the seaward side, there was a miniature mission house. A
beautifully shaped bell swung over the roof; and there was a miniature
notice-board at the door. The announcements upon it were in Japanese,
but it looked as if East and West had certainly met, and kissed each
other there. Some of the huts had oblong letter boxes of gray tin,
perched on stumps of bamboo fishing poles, in front of their doors. It
is a common device to help the postman in country places where you
sometimes see a letter-box on a broomstick standing half a mile from the
owner's house. But here, they looked curiously Japanese, perhaps because
of the names inscribed upon them, or through some trick of arrangement,
for a Japanese hand no sooner touches a dead staff than it breaks into
cherry blossom. We stopped before one that bore the name of Y. Kato. His
unpainted wooden shack was the most Japanese of all in appearance; for
the yellow placard underneath the window advertising SWEET CAPORAL was
balanced by a single tall pole, planted in the sand a few feet to the
right, and lifting a beautiful little birdhouse high above the roof.

Moreton Fitch knocked at the door, which was opened at once by a dainty
creature, a piece of animated porcelain four feet high, with a
black-eyed baby on her back; and we were ushered with smiles into a very
bare living-room to be greeted by the polished mahogany countenance of
Kato himself and the shell-spectacled intellectual pallor of Howard
Knight, professor in the University of California.

"Amazing, amazing, perfectly amazing," said Knight, who was wearing two
elderly tea-roses in his cheeks now from excitement. "I have just
finished it. Sit down and listen."

"Wait a moment," said Fitch. "I want our friend here to see the original
log of the _Evening Star_."

"Of course," said Knight, "a human document of the utmost value." Then,
to my surprise, he took me by the arm and led me in front of a kakemono,
which was the only decoration on the walls of the room.

"This is what Mr. Fitch calls the log of the _Evening Star_," he said.
"It was found among the effects of Mr. Kato's brother on the schooner;
and, fortunately, it was claimed by Mr. Kato himself. Take it to the
light and examine it."

I took it to the window and looked at it with curiosity, though I did
not quite see its bearing on the mystery of the _Evening Star_. It was a
fine piece of work, one of those weird night-pictures in which the
Japanese are masters, for they know how to give you the single point of
light that tells you of the unseen life around the lamp of the household
or the temple. This was a picture of a little dark house, with jutting
eaves, and a tiny rose light in one window, overlooking the sea. At the
brink of the sea rose a ghostly figure that might only be a drift of
mist, for the curve of the vague body suggested that the off-shore wind
was blowing it out to sea, while the great gleaming eyes were fixed on
the lamp, and the shadowy arms outstretched towards it in hopeless
longing. Sea and ghost and house were suggested in a very few strokes of
the brush. All the rest, the peace and the tragic desire and a thousand
other suggestions, according to the mood of the beholder, were
concentrated into that single pinpoint of warm light in the window.

"Turn it over," said Fitch.

I obeyed him, and saw that the whole back of the kakemono, which
measured about four feet by two, was covered with a fine scrawl of
Japanese characters in purple copying-pencil. I had overlooked it at
first, or accepted it, with the eye of ignorance, as a mere piece of
Oriental decoration.

"That is what we all did," said Fitch. "We all overlooked the simple
fact that Japanese words have a meaning. We didn't trouble about it--you
know how vaguely one's eye travels over a three-foot sign on a Japanese
tea-house--we didn't even think about it till Mr. Kato turned up in our
office a week or two ago. You can't read it. Nor can I. But we got Mr.
Knight here to handle it for us."

"It turns out to be a message from Harper," said Knight. "Apparently, he
was lying helpless in his berth, and told the Japanese to write it down.
A few sentences here and there are unintelligible, owing to the
refraction of the Oriental mind. Fortunately, it is Harper's own
message. I have made two versions, one a perfectly literal one which
requires a certain amount of re-translation. The other is an attempt to
give as nearly as possible what Harper himself dictated. This is the
version which I had better read to you now. The original has various
repetitions, and shows that Harper's mind occasionally wandered, for he
goes into trivial detail sometimes. He seems to have been possessed,
however, with the idea of getting his account through to the owners;
and, whenever he got an opportunity, he made the Japanese take up his
pencil and write, so that we have a very full account."

Knight took out a note-book, adjusted his glasses, and began to read,
while the ghostly original fluttered in my hand, as the night-wind blew
from the sea.

"A terrible thing has happened, and I think it my duty to write this, in
the hope that it may fall into the hands of friends at home. I am not
likely to live another twenty-four hours. The first hint that I had of
anything wrong was on the night of March the fifteenth, when Mrs.
Burgess came up to me on deck, looking very worried, and said, 'Mr.
Harper, I am in great trouble. I want to ask you a question, and I want
you to give me an honest answer.' She looked round nervously, and her
hands were fidgeting with her handkerchief, as if she were frightened to
death. 'Whatever your answer may be,' she said, 'you'll not mention what
I've said to you.' I promised her. She laid her hand on my arm and said
with the most piteous look in her face I have ever seen, 'I have no
other friends to go to, and I want you to tell me. Mr. Harper, is my
husband sane?'

"I had never doubted the sanity of Burgess till that moment. But there
was something in the dreadfulness of that question, from a woman who had
only been married a few months, that seemed like a door opening into the
bottomless pit.

"It seemed to explain many things that hadn't occurred to me before. I
asked her what she meant and she told me that last night Burgess had
come into the cabin and waked her up. His eyes were starting out of his
head, and he told her that he had seen Captain Dayrell walking on deck.
She told him it was nothing but imagination; and he laid his head on his
arms and sobbed like a child. He said he thought it was one of the
deckhands that had just come out of the foc'sle, but all the men were
short and smallish, and this was a big burly figure. It went ahead of
him like his own shadow, and disappeared in the bows. But he knew it was
Dayrell, and there was a curse on him. To-night, she said, half an hour
ago, Burgess had come down to her, taken her by the throat, and sworn he
would kill her if she didn't confess that Dayrell was still alive. She
told him he must be crazy. 'My mind may be going,' he said, 'but you
sha'n't kill my soul.' And he called her a name which she didn't repeat,
but began to cry when she remembered it. He said he had seen Dayrell
standing in the bows with the light of the moon full on his face, and he
looked so brave and upright that he knew he must have been bitterly
wronged. He looked like a soldier facing the enemy, he said.

"While she was telling me this, she was looking around her in a very
nervous kind of way, and we both heard some one coming up behind us very
quietly. We turned round, and there--as God lives--stood the living
image of Captain Dayrell looking at us, in the shadow of the mast. Mrs.
Burgess gave a shriek that paralyzed me for the moment, then she ran
like a wild thing into the bows, and before any one could stop her, she
climbed up and threw herself overboard. Evans and Barron were only a few
yards away from her when she did it, and they both went overboard after
her immediately, one of them throwing a life-belt over ahead of him as
he went. They were both good swimmers, and as the moon was bright, I
thought we had only to launch a boat to pick them all up. I shouted to
the Kanakas, and they all came up running. Two of the men and myself got
into one of the starboard boats, and we were within three feet of the
water when I heard the crack of a revolver from somewhere in the bows of
the _Evening Star_. The men who were lowering away let us down with a
rush that nearly capsized us. There were four more shots while we were
getting our oars out. I called to the men on deck, asking them who was
shooting, but got no reply. I believe they were panic-stricken and had
bolted into cover. We pulled round the bows, and could see nothing.
There was not a sign of the woman or the two men in the water.

"We could make nobody hear us on the ship, and all this while we had
seen nothing of Captain Burgess. It must have been nearly an hour
before we gave up our search, and tried to get aboard again. We were
still unable to get any reply from the ship, and we were about to try to
climb on board by the boat's falls. The men were backing her in, stern
first, and we were about ten yards away from the ship when the figure of
Captain Dayrell appeared leaning over the side of the _Evening Star_. He
stood there against the moonlight, with his face in shadow; but we all
of us recognized him, and I heard the teeth of the Kanakas chattering.
They had stopped backing, and we all stared at one another. Then, as
casually as if it were a joke, Dayrell stretched out his arm, and I saw
the moonlight glint on his revolver. He fired at us, deliberately, as if
he were shooting at clay pigeons. I felt the wind of the first shot
going past my head, and the two men at once began to pull hard to get
out of range. The second shot missed also. At the third shot, he got the
man in the bows full in the face. He fell over backwards, and lay there
in the bottom of the boat. He must have been killed instantaneously. At
the fourth shot, I felt a stinging pain on the left side of my body,
but hardly realized I had been wounded at the moment. A cloud passed
over the moon just then, and the way we had got on the boat had carried
us too far for Dayrell to aim very accurately, so that I was able to get
to the oars and pull out of range. The other man must have been wounded
also, for he was lying in the bottom of the boat groaning, but I do not
remember seeing him hit. I managed to pull fifty yards or so, and then
fainted, for I was bleeding very badly.

"When I recovered consciousness I found that the bleeding had stopped,
and I was able to look at the two men. Both of them were dead and quite
cold, so that I must have been unconscious for some time.

"The _Evening Star_ was about a hundred yards away, in the full light of
the moon, but I could see nobody on deck. I sat watching her till
daybreak, wondering what I should do, for there was no water or food in
the boat, and I was unarmed. Unless Captain Burgess and the other men
aboard could disarm Dayrell, I was quite helpless. Perhaps my wound had
dulled my wits; for I was unable to think out any plan, and I sat there
aimlessly for more than an hour.

"It was broad daylight, and I had drifted within fifty yards of the
ship, when, to my surprise, Captain Burgess appeared on deck and hailed
me. 'All right, Harper,' he said, 'come aboard.'

"I was able to scull the boat alongside, and Captain Burgess got down
into her without a word and helped me aboard. He took me down to my
berth, with his arm around me, for I almost collapsed again with the
effort, and he brought me some brandy. As soon as I could speak, I asked
him what it all meant, and he said, 'The ship is his, Harper; we've got
to give it up to him. That's what it means. I am not afraid of him by
daylight, but what we shall do to-night, God only knows.' Then, just as
Mrs. Burgess had told me, he put his head down on his arms, and began to
sob like a child.

"'Where are the other men?' I asked him.

"'There's only you and I and Kato,' he said, 'to face it out aboard this
ship.'

"With that, he got up and left me, saying that he would send Kato to me
with some food, if I thought I could eat. But I knew by this time that I
was a dying man.

"There was only one thing I had to do, and that was to try to get this
account written, and hide it somehow in the hope of some one finding it
later, for I felt sure that neither Burgess nor myself would live to
tell it. There was no paper in my berth, and it was Kato that thought of
writing it down in this way.

"_About an hour later._ Burgess has just been down to see me. He said
that he had buried the two men who were shot in the boat. I wanted to
ask him some questions, but he became so excited, it seemed useless.
Neither he nor Kato seemed to have any idea where Dayrell was hiding.
Kato believes, in fact, in ghosts, so that it is no use questioning him.

"I must have lost consciousness or slept very heavily since the above
was written, for I remembered nothing more till nightfall, when I woke
up in the pitch darkness. Kato was sitting by me. He lit the lamp, and
gave me another drink of brandy. The ship was dead still, but I felt
that something had gone wrong again.

"I do not know whether my own mind is going, but we have just heard the
voice of Mrs. Burgess singing one of those sentimental songs that
Captain Dayrell used to be so fond of. It seemed to be down in the
cabin, and when she came to the end of it, I heard Captain Dayrell's
voice calling out, '_Encore! Encore!_' just as he used to do. Then I
heard some one running down the deck like mad, and Captain Burgess came
tumbling down to us with the whites of his eyes showing. 'Did you hear
it?' he said. 'Harper, you'll admit you heard it. Don't tell me I'm mad.
They're in the cabin together now. Come and look at them.' Then he
looked at me with a curious, cunning look, and said, 'No, you'd better
stay where you are, Harper. You're not strong enough.' And he crept on
the deck like a cat.

"Something urged me to follow him, even if it took the last drop of my
strength. Kato tried to dissuade me, but I drained the brandy flask, and
managed to get out of my berth on to the deck by going very slowly,
though the sweat broke out on me with every step. Burgess had
disappeared, and there was nobody on deck. It was not so difficult to
get to the sky-light of the cabin. I don't know what I had expected to
see, but there I did see the figure of Captain Dayrell, dressed as I had
seen him in life, with a big scarf round his throat, and the big peaked
cap. There was an open chest in the corner, with a good many clothes
scattered about, as if by some one who had been dressing in a hurry. It
was an old chest belonging to Captain Dayrell in the old days, and I
often wondered why Burgess had left it lying there. The revolver lay on
the table, and as Dayrell picked it up to load it, the scarf unwound
itself a little around his throat and the lower part of his face. Then,
to my amazement, I recognized him."

"There," said Knight, "the log of the _Evening Star_ ends except for a
brief sentence by Kato himself, which I will not read to you now."

"I wonder if the poor devil did really see," said Moreton Fitch. "And
what do you suppose he did when he saw who it was?"

"Crept back to his own berth, barricaded himself in with Kato's help,
finished his account, died in the night, with Dayrell tapping on the
door, and was neatly buried by Burgess in the morning, I suppose."

"And, Burgess?"

"Tidied everything up, and then jumped overboard."

"Probably,--in his own clothes; for it's quite true that we did find a
lot of Dayrell's old clothes in a sea-chest in the cabin. Funny idea,
isn't it, a man ghosting himself like that?"

"Yes, but what did Harper mean by saying he heard Mrs. Burgess singing
in the cabin that night?"

"Ah, that's another section of the log recorded in a different way."

Moreton Fitch made a sign to the little Japanese, and told him to get a
package out of his car. He returned in a moment, and laid it at our feet
on the floor.

"Dayrell was very proud of his wife's voice," said Fitch as he took the
covers off the package. "Just before he was taken ill he conceived the
idea of getting some records made of her songs to take with him on board
ship. The gramophone was found amongst the old clothes. The usual
sentimental stuff, you know. Like to hear it? She had rather a fine
voice."

He turned a handle, and, floating out into the stillness of the
California night, we heard the full rich voice of a dead woman:

    "_Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low,
    And the flickering shadows softly come and go._"

At the end of the stanza, a deep bass voice broke in with, "_Encore!
Encore!_"

Then Fitch stopped it.

When we were in the car on our way home, I asked if there were any clue
to the fate of the Japanese cook, in the last sentence of the log of the
_Evening Star_.

"I didn't want to bring it up before his brother," said Knight, "they
are a sensitive folk; but the last sentence was to the effect that the
_Evening Star_ had now been claimed by the spirit of Captain Dayrell,
and that the writer respectfully begged to commit _hari kari_."

Our road turned inland here, and I looked back toward the fishing
village. The night was falling, but the sea was lilac-colored with the
afterglow. I could see the hut and the little birdhouse black against
the water. On a sand dune just beyond them, the figures of the fisherman
Kato and his wife were sitting on their heels, and still watching us.
They must have been nearly a mile away by this time; but in that clear
air they were carved out sharp and black as tiny ebony images against
the fading light of the Pacific.



VII

GOBLIN PEACHES


The big liner was running like a ghost, with all lights out on deck and
every porthole shrouded. This might seem to the layman almost humorously
inconsistent; for, every minute or two the blast of her foghorn went
bellowing away into the night, loudly enough to disturb the slumbers of
any U-boat lying "doggo" within five miles.

Duncan Drew and I were alone in the smoking-room when the steward
brought us our coffee. There were very few passengers; and the first
cabin-folk were curiously different from those of peace-time. Most of
them, I fancied, were crossing the Atlantic on some business directly
connected with the war. There was a Belgian professor from Louvain, for
instance, who was taking his family over to the new post that had been
found for him at an American University; and there was the wife of an
Italian statesman, an American woman, who was returning home to raise
funds for the Red Cross of her adopted country. There were others whom
it was not so easy to place; and Duncan Drew would have been among them,
I think, if I had not known him. Nobody could have looked more like a
civilian and less like an officer of the British Navy than Duncan did at
this moment. But I knew the job on which he was engaged. When he found
that I knew the Maine coast, he asked me to help him in a certain
matter.

It was in the days before America entered the war; and his mission was
to present certain evidence of a widespread German conspiracy to the
United States Government. If they approved, he was to cooperate in
unearthing the ring-leaders. The conspiracy was a very simple one. It
seemed likely, at the time, that the U-boats would soon be unable to
operate from European bases; and the German admiralty, always looking a
few months ahead, though perhaps ignoring remoter possibilities, was
calmly planning, with the help of its agents in America, to work from
the other side of the water. The thousand-mile coast line of the United
States had many advantages from the German point of view, especially in
its lonelier regions, where there are hundreds of small islands, either
uninhabited or privately owned, and not necessarily owned by American
citizens. The U-boats, it is true, would have to travel further if they
were to work in European waters. But already they had been forced by the
British patrols to travel more than fifteen hundred miles from their
European bases, far to the north of Scotland and west of Ireland, before
they could operate against the Atlantic shipping. The slight increase in
the distance would be more than repaid by the comparative safety of the
submarines. They planned, in short, to work from American bases, while a
dull-witted British Navy should be vainly endeavoring to close European
doors, which the enemy was no longer using.

We didn't talk "shop" in the smoking-room, even when we were alone, for
the ground had been covered so often. On this particular evening, I
remember, we talked chiefly about food. The dinner had been excellent;
and it had been a curious sensation to pass from the slight but obvious
restrictions of London, to a ship which seemed to possess all the
resources of the United States.

"I've only been in Berlin once," said Duncan, "but I was there long
enough to know that they will feel the pinch first, and feel it worst.
They are rum beggars, the Boches. Think of the higher command marking
out the early stages of the war by the dinners it was going to
have,--every menu carefully planned, one for Brussels, one for Paris,
and probably one for London! I remember lunching at a hotel when I was
in Berlin, and seeing rather a curious thing. There was a table in the
center of the room, laid for what was evidently going to be a very grand
affair. It was laid for about twenty people, and I saw a thing I had
never seen before. Every champagne glass contained a peach. I asked my
waiter what it meant, and he said that von Schramm, the fellow who is
one of the moving spirits behind this new submarine campaign, was
entertaining some of his pals that day; and this was one of his pretty
little fads. He thought it improved the wine, and also that it prevented
gout, or some rot of that sort."

"How very German! My chief objection would be that there wouldn't be
much room left for the champagne."

"Trust the German for that, my lad. The glasses were extra large, and
of a somewhat unusual pattern. As a matter of fact, the decorative
effect was rather pretty. It's queer--the way some things stick in your
memory and others vanish. I believe that my most vivid impression of the
few months I passed in Germany is that blessed table, waiting for its
guests, with the peaches in the champagne glasses. I didn't see the
guests arrive. Wish I had now. There's always something a little stagey,
don't you think, about a table waiting for its guests; but this was more
so. It affected me like the throne of melodrama waiting for its emperor.
Funny that it should have made such an impression, isn't it?"

I thought not; for it was part of Duncan's business to be impressed by
unusual things--more especially when they were symptomatic of something
else. It was this that made him so useful, for instance, in that
exciting little episode of the cargo of onions which was
intercepted--owing to one of his impressions--in a Scandinavian ship.
They were perfectly good onions, the first few layers of them; and they
looked like perfectly good onions when you burrowed into the lower
layers. But Duncan had been seized by an absurd desire to see whether
they would bounce or not; and when he experimented on the deck, they did
bounce, bounce like cricket balls, as high as the ship's funnels.

This capture of one of the largest cargoes of contraband rubber was due
to an impression he got from two innocent cablegrams which had been
intercepted and brought to him at the Admiralty,--one of them apparently
concerning an operation for appendicitis, and the other announcing the
death of the patient. His intuitions, indeed, resembled those of the
artist; and, though he was one of the smartest sailors in the Navy, he
looked more like a pre-Raphaelite painter's conception of Galahad than
any one I had ever seen in the flesh. He looked exceedingly youthful,
and the dead whiteness of his face, which his Philistine brethren
described as lantern-jawed, was lighted by the alert eyes of the new
age. They had that peculiar glitter which one sees in the eyes of
aviators, and sometimes in those of the business men accustomed to the
electric cities of the new world. His hands were like those of a
musician, long and quick and nervous. But I could easily imagine them
throttling an enemy.

We turned in early that night, and I dozed fitfully, revolving fragments
of our somewhat disconnected conversation. The beautiful sea-cry "All's
well" came to me from the watch in the bow, as the bell tolled the
passage of the hours; and it was not till daybreak that I slept, only to
dream of that table in Berlin, waiting for its guests, with a peach in
every champagne glass.


II

As we waited in the cold brilliance of New York harbor, a few mornings
later, and looked with considerable satisfaction at the German steamers
that were huddled like gigantic red and black cattle in the docks of the
Hamburg-Amerika and North German-Lloyd, a telegram was brought aboard
which settled our plans.

Duncan was to go down to Washington that night, while I was to go up to
Rockport, a little fishing village on the coast of Maine. At this place
I was to take a motor-car and drive some fifteen miles to a certain
lonely strip of pine-clad coast. There we were to camp out in a tiny
cottage, which we could rent from an old sea-captain whom I knew before
the war. Two artists, in quest of a quiet place for work, could hardly
find a happier hunting-ground. I was particularly glad to find that we
could hire a trim little motor-launch, in which we could go exploring
among the islands that dotted the blue sea for scores of miles. It was a
beautiful coast, and their dark peaks of pine were printed like tiny
black feathers against a sky of unimaginable sapphire. Nothing could
seem more remote from the devilries of modern war.

Duncan joined me, a week later, in Captain Humphrey's cottage--it was a
small white-painted wooden house among the pine trees on the main land,
built on the rocks which overhung a deep blue inlet of the Atlantic. We
discussed our plans on the little veranda, from which we could see half
a dozen of those pine-crowned islands, which were the objects of
suspicion. There were scores of others we could not see, to north and
south of us, and we checked them off on the map as we sat there under
the dried sunfish and the other queer marine trophies, which the old
skipper had brought back with him from the South Seas.

The nights were quite cold enough for a fire, though it was only
mid-July; and we finished all our plans that evening round the big
stove, the kind of thing you see in the foc'sle of a steam trawler,
which stood in the center of Captain Humphrey's parlor. We were more
than a little glad indeed to let our pipes and the good-smelling pine
logs waft their incense abroad; for--like all the dwellers in those
parts--the old skipper subsisted through the winter on the codfish which
he had salted and stored during the summer in his attic; and though his
abode was clean and neat as himself, it had the healthy reek of a
trawler, as well as its heating apparatus. A large oil lamp, which hung
from the ceiling, was none the worse, moreover, for the moderating
influence of a little wood-smoke.

"To-morrow, then," said Duncan, "we take the motor-launch and have a
look at all the islands between this place and Rockport. They've been
awfully decent down in Washington about it. The only trouble is that
they don't and can't believe it. Exactly the state of mind we were in,
before the war. Everybody laughing at exactly the same things, from
spy-stories to signals on the coast. I met a man in the Government who
had been taken to a window at midnight to see a light doing the Morse
code, off this very coast, and he laughed at it. Didn't believe it.
Thought it was the evening-star. We were like that ourselves. No decent
man can believe certain things, till they are beyond question.

"It's our own fault. We told them all was well before the war; and I
don't see how we can blame them for thinking their own intervention
unnecessary now. We keep on telling America that it's all over except
the shouting. We paint the rosiest kind of picture to-day about the
prospects of the allies; and then we grumble amongst ourselves because
Americans don't turn the whole of their continent upside down to come
and help us. We deliberately lulled America to sleep, and then we kicked
because we heard that she had only one eye open.

"Well,--they've given us a blessing on our wild-goose chase. We may do
all the investigating we like, as I understand the position, so long as
we leave any resultant action to the United States. This means, I
suppose,--in old Captain Humphrey's language--that we may be
'rubber-necks,' but we mustn't shoot. All the same, I brought the guns
with me." He laid two automatic pistols on the table. "It's more than
likely, from what I've been able to gather, that we may have to defend
our own skins; and I suppose that's permissible. Oh, damn that
mosquito!" He slapped his ankle, and complained bitterly that the old
sea-captain's faith in his own tough exterior had prevented him from
providing his doors and windows with mosquito netting.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was on the fourth morning of our search that things began to happen.
For my own part, I had already begun to be so absorbed in the peace of
the world about us, that the whole business of the war seemed unreal and
our own quest futile. I could no longer wonder at those inhabitants of
the new world who were said to look upon our European Armageddon as a
bad dream, or a morbid tale in a book, which it was better not to open.
As we chug-chugged along the coast, close under the thick pine woods,
which grew almost to the edge of the foam, I thought I had never
breathed an air so fragrant, or seen color so brilliant in earth and sky
and sea. Once or twice, as we shut off the motor and lay idle, we heard
a hermit-thrush in the woods, breaking the silence with a peculiarly
plaintive liquid call, quite unlike the song of our thrushes at home,
but very beautiful. Here and there we passed the little red, blue and
green buoys of lobster-pots, shining like jewels as the clear water
lapped about them in that amazing sunlight.

We were making for a certain island about which we had obtained some
interesting details from Captain Humphrey himself. He told us that it
had been purchased two or three years ago by a New Yorker who was
building himself quite a fine place on it. He seemed to be a somewhat
mysterious character, for he was never seen on the mainland, and all his
supplies were brought up to him on his own large private yacht.

"There's a wharf on the island," said Captain Humphrey, "with deep water
running up to it, so that a yacht can sail right up to his porch, as you
might say, and you wouldn't know it was there. The cove runs in on the
slant, and the pines grow between it and the sea. You wouldn't notice
it, unless you ran right in at the mouth. It makes a fine private harbor
for a yacht, and I believe it has held two at a time. There's a good
beach for clams on the west shore, but of course, it's private."

We certainly saw no sign of yacht or harbor as we approached the island
from the landward side; but we made no departure from our course to look
for either. We were bound for clam-beach, where we intended to do a
little clam-poaching.

"It doesn't look promising," said Duncan, as we approached the shore.
"There doesn't seem to be anybody to warn trespassers off. But perhaps
clam-beach is not regarded as dangerous, and the trespassing begins
further on."

In a few moments we had moored the launch in four feet of water, and
were ashore with a couple of clam-rakes. We had dug a hundred, as we
walked towards the pine-wood, when Duncan straightened up and said:

"This makes my back ache, and it's blazing hot. I'm going to have a pipe
in the shade, up there."

I shouldered my rake, and followed him into the wood. As soon as we were
well among the trees, we began to walk quickly up the thin winding path,
which we supposed would lead us to the neighborhood of the house.

"Not at all promising," said Duncan. "They would never let us ramble
about like this if they had anything to conceal. Just for the fun of it,
we'll go up to the house, and ask if Mr. Chutney Bilge, the novelist,
doesn't live there. You want his autograph, don't you?"

In five minutes, we had emerged from the pines, and saw before us a very
pleasant looking wooden house with a wide veranda, screened all round
with mosquito-netting, and backed by glimpses of blue sea between dark
pine-trunks. There was not a soul to be seen, and no sign of its
occupants anywhere. We walked up to the porch, pulled open the netted
door in the outer screen, and knocked on the door of the house, which
stood wide open. We waited and listened; but there was no sound except
the ticking of a clock. There was another open door on the right side of
the hall. Duncan felt a sudden impulse to look through it, and tip-toed
quietly forward. He had no sooner looked than he stood as if turned to
stone, with so queer an expression on his face that I instantly came to
his side to see what Medusa had caused it. It seemed a very harmless
Medusa; but I doubt if anything could have startled me more at the
moment. We stood there, staring at a table, laid for lunch. There were
twelve champagne glasses, of a somewhat unusual pattern; and each of
these glasses contained a peach.


III

Before I could be quite sure whether I was dreaming or waking, Duncan
had dashed into the room on the other side of the hall, and grabbed up a
bundle of papers that had been dropped as if by some one in a great
hurry, all over the table. He glanced at one or two.

"But this,--this--settles it," he cried. "Come out of it quickly." And,
in a few seconds, we were in the cover of the woods again.

"Schramm himself is over here, apparently. He must have come by U-boat,"
Duncan muttered, as we hurried down the path towards our launch. "If
they catch us, we're simply dead and buried, and past praying for."

"But what does it mean? Where are they? Why the devil have they left
everything open to the first-comer?"

"Beats me completely. But we'd better not wait to inquire. The next move
is up to Washington."

"Look here, Duncan, we'd better be careful about our exit from the
woods. If any one happens to have spotted the launch, we may run our
heads into a trap."

I had an uneasy feeling that we were being watched, and that every
movement we made was plainly seen by a gigantic but invisible spectator,
very much the kind of feeling, I suppose, that insects must have under
the microscope. I felt sure that we were not going to have it all our
own way with this quiet island. Duncan hesitated for a moment, but I was
insistent that we should take a look at our landing place before we left
our cover. It was a characteristic of Duncan that as soon as he had
discovered what he wanted, he became as forthright a sailor as you could
wish to find; and I knew that if we were to escape with whole skins, or
even to make use of our discovery, I should have to exercise my own
wits. Fortunately, my own "impressions" began when his finished; for,
after he had yielded to my persuasion, we made a slight circuit through
the woods, and crept out through the long grass on the top of the
little cliff, overlooking the beach where we had landed. Our clams were
still there, in two neat little dumps. So was the launch, but in the
stern of it there sat a tall red-bearded man, who looked like a
professor, and a couple of sailors. They were all three talking German
in low, excited tones, and they were all three armed with rifles.

The launch lay almost directly below us, and we could hear some of their
conversation. I gathered that the luncheon party had gone on board a
U-boat which had just arrived, to inspect the latest improvements.
Something had gone wrong. They had submerged; and it seemed to be
doubtful whether they could get her up again. That, of course, was why
the house was deserted and our trespassing unforbidden. It was probably
also the reason why the sentries had been absent, and had only just
discovered our launch on their rounds. One of the sailors was aggrieved,
it seemed to me, that no effort was being made to obtain other help for
the submerged men than the island itself could lend. His best friend was
aboard; and he thought it wicked not to give them a chance, even if it
meant their internment. The red-bearded professor was explaining to
him, however, in the most highly approved style of modern Germany, that
his feelings were by no means logical; and that it was far nobler to
sacrifice one's friends than to endanger the State.

"But, if the State is a kind of devil," said the sailor, who was a bit
of a logician himself, "I prefer my friends, who in the meantime are
being suffocated."

"That is a fallacy," the professor was answering. Then, from the
direction of the house, there came a confused sound of shouting.

A fourth sailor came tearing down the beach like a maniac.

"Where are the clam-fishers?" he called to the three philosophers. "They
are to be taken, dead or alive."

At the same moment, I saw the glint of the sun on the revolvers of
several other men, who were advancing through the woods towards the
beach, peering to right and left of them. Without a whisper between us,
Duncan and I crawled off along the cliff, through the thick undergrowth.

Obviously, the submarine had come to the surface again, and the whole
merry crowd was on our track. The island was not more than a quarter of
a mile in diameter; and I saw no hope of evading our pursuers, of whom
there must be at least twenty, judging from the cries that reached us.
There was nothing for it, but to choose the best place for putting up a
fight; and, as luck would have it, we were already on the best line of
defense. The undergrowth between the cliff's edge and the woods was so
thick that nobody could discover us, except by crawling up the trail by
which we had ourselves entered. It proved to be the only way by which
the cliff's edge could be explored, and we had a full half-mile of the
island's circumference, a long ledge, only a few feet wide, on which we
could crawl in security for the time being, till the hunt came up behind
us. I remember noticing--even in those moments of peril--that the ground
and the bushes were littered with big crab claws and clam shells that
had been dropped and picked there by the sea gulls and crows; and I was
thinking--in some queer way--of the easy life that these birds lead,
when I almost put my hand on a human skull, protruding from a litter of
loose earth, white flakes of shell and crabs' backs. Duncan pulled a
heap of the evil-smelling stuff away with his clam-rake, and bared the
right side of the skeleton. There was a half-rotten clam-rake in the
bony clutch of the dead man. Evidently, somebody else had paid the
penalty before us. The body had been buried, and rain, snow, or the
insatiable sea-gulls had uncovered the yellow-toothed head.

A few yards further on, the cliff projected so far out that even when
one hung right over the edge, it was only just possible to see where it
met the swirling water, which seemed very deep here. About fifteen yards
out, there was a big boulder of rock, covered with brown sea-weed.

"Look here, Duncan," I said, "there's only one real chance for us. We've
got to swim to the mainland, but we can't do it by daylight. We've got
to pass six hours till it's dark enough, and there's only one way to do
it. How far can you swim under water?"

"About fifty feet," he said. "You're going crazy, old man, it's a mile
and a half to the mainland."

"Duncan, you're a devil of a man for getting into a scrape. But when it
comes to getting out of one, I feel a little safer in my own hands. Can
you get as far as that rock under water?"

"I think so," he said, and caught on to the suggestion at once.

The cries were coming along the cliff's edge now, and it was a question
of only half a minute before some of our pursuers would be on the top of
us.

"Hurry, then. Swim to the north of the rock, and don't come up till
you're on the other side. If you feel yourself rising, grab hold of the
sea-weed, and keep yourself down till you've hauled round the rock.
Quick!"

There was a crashing in the bushes, not fifty yards away, along the
cliff, as we dived into the clear green water. The plunge carried one
further than I expected, and four or five strokes along the bottom of
the sea brought me to the base of the rock. It was quite easy to turn
it, and I was relieved to find that there was a good ledge for landing
on the further side, only an inch or two above the level of the water,
and quite screened from the island by the rock itself, which was about
ten feet in length, and curved in a half-moon shape, with the horns
pointing towards the mainland. In fact, it was like a large
Chesterfield couch of stone, covered with brown sea-weed, and resolutely
turning its back on the island. We were luckier than I had dared to
hope; and when, in a few seconds, Duncan had coiled himself on the ledge
beside me, I saw by his grin that he thought we had solved the problem
of escape. For five minutes we lay dead still, listening to the clamor
along the cliff from which we had just dived.

"Thank the Lord, we get the sun here," said Duncan at last, as the
sounds died away. "There's only one thing that worries me now. What are
we to do when they come round in a boat?"

"They won't think of that for some time," I said, "but when they do, we
must take to the water again, and work round behind the rock. We ought
to be able to keep it between us and the blighters, with any luck. We've
only got to keep enough above water to breathe with; and I've seen some
fine camouflage done with a little sea-weed before now."

We looked at the yard-long fringes of brown sea-weed, and decided that
it would be possible to defy anything but the closest inspection of our
rock by the simple process of sliding down into the water and pulling
the sea-weed over our heads, on the side next to the island. There was a
reef which would prevent a boat passing on that side.

Our clothes were almost dried by the blazing sun before we were
disturbed again. Duncan was ruefully contemplating a corn-cob pipe,
which he affirmed had been ruined by the salt water. He poked the stem
at a huge sea-anemone, which immediately sucked it in, and held it as
firmly as a smoker's mouth, with so ludicrous an effect that Duncan's
risible faculties were dangerously moved. I was half afraid of one of
his volcanic guffaws, when we both heard a sound that struck us
dumb,--the sound of oars coming steadily in our direction. We slipped
into the water, according to plan, hauled ourselves round behind the
rock, and drew the long thick fringes of sea-weed over our heads. We
held ourselves anchored there by the brown stems, and kept little more
than our noses above the water. No concealment could have been more
complete. The boat passed on; and in five minutes we were back again on
our ledge, and drying in the sun.

"Good Lord," said Duncan, suddenly, "that was a near shave. I'd
forgotten that beastly thing."

He pointed to the sea-anemone, which was still sucking at the yellow
corn-cob pipe. It looked like the bristling red mouth of some drunken
and half-submerged sea-god, and could hardly have been missed by the
boat's crew, if they had been looking for anything like it.

"Lord, what a shave!" he said again. "What would Schramm have said if he
had seen it!"

Then, as we stared at the absurd marine creature, we rocked in silent
spasms of mirth--human beings are made of a very queer clay--picturing
the bewildered faces of the Boches at a sight which would have meant our
death.

The sense of humor was benumbed in both of us before long. The sun was
dropping low, and we did not dry as quickly as before. There was a
stillness on the island, which boded no good, I thought, though our
pursuers evidently believed that we had escaped them.

"They probably think we swam ashore earlier in the game," said Duncan.
"They must be sick at not having spotted us."

"I wonder what they are up to now?"

"Probably destroying evidence, and getting ready to clear out, if they
really have a notion that their big men over here may be involved.
Unfortunately, these papers don't give anything away, so far as I can
see except that they're addressed to Schramm; but it's quite obvious
what they were doing."

We lay still and waited, listening to the strangely peaceful lapping of
the water round our rock, and watching the big sea-perch and rock-cod
that moved like shadows below.

"I wonder if that fellow suspects mischief," said Duncan, pointing over
the cliff. "By Jove! isn't he splendid?"

Over the highest point of the island a white-headed eagle was mounting,
in great, slow, sweeping circles, without one beat of the long, dark
wings that must have measured seven feet from tip to tip.

"It's too splendid to be the German eagle. Praise the Lord, it's the
native species; and he's taking his time because he has to take wide
views. He has to soar high enough to get his bearings."

Up and up, the glorious creature circled, till he dwindled in the
dazzling blue to the size of a sea-gull; and still he wheeled and
mounted, till he became a black dot no bigger than an English sky-lark.
Then he moved, like a bullet, due east.

"I almost believe in omens," said Duncan. "Ah, look out! There they
come!"

The masts of a large yacht, which must have emerged from the private
harbor of which Captain Humphrey spoke, came slowly round the island. We
had only just time to slip into the water, behind our rock, before she
came into full view. She passed so near to us that the low sun cast the
traveling shadows of her railing almost within reach of my hand; and the
shadows of her two boats on the port side came along the clear green
water between us and the island, like the gray ghosts of some old
pirate's dinghies.

She must have been still in sight, and we were still in our
hiding-place, when it seemed as if the island tried to leap towards the
sky, and we were deafened by a terrific concussion. Fragments of wood,
and great pieces of stone, dropped all round us in the poppling water,
and more than one deadly missile struck the rock itself.

"They've blown up the whole show!" cried Duncan. "There can't be
anybody left alive on the island!"

We waited--ten minutes or more--to see if other explosions were to
follow. Then we swam for clam-beach to investigate. It was littered with
fragments of the buildings that had been destroyed. The tarred roof of a
shed had been dropped there almost intact, as if from the claws of some
gigantic eagle. The pine-wood looked as if it had been subjected to a
barrage fire; and, in many places, the undergrowth was burning
furiously.

We dashed up the path, with the smoke stinging our eyes, towards the
dull red glow, which was already beginning to rival the deepening
crimson of the Maine sunset. The central portion of the house was still
standing, though much of it had been blown bodily away, and the fire was
laying fierce hands upon it from all sides. We turned to the north,
where we supposed the wharf had been. The remains of half a dozen sheds
were burning on one side of the cove, and it looked as if half the cliff
had been tumbled into it on the other.

The heat of the fire along the wharf was so fierce that we turned back
to the house again.

"Well," said Duncan, "there's evidence enough to give a few good
headlines to the neutral press,--'_Gasoline Explosion on Maine Coast!
Wealthy New Yorker Escapes Death in Fiery Furnace!_' Fortunately,
there's also enough for Washington to lay up in its memory."

Another section of the house fell as we looked at it; and we saw the
interior of the dining-room, with the flames licking up the three
remaining walls. By one of those curious freaks of high-explosive, the
table was hardly disarranged; and our last glimpse of it, through a
fringe of fire, showed us those twelve queer champagne glasses. They
stood there, flickering like evil goblins, a peach in every glass....

We watched them for five minutes. Then the whole scintillating fabric
collapsed; and we sat down to wait for the frantic motor-boat, which was
already thumping towards us, with the reporter of the _Rockport
Sentinel_ furiously writing in her bows.



VIII

MAY MARGARET


    "_Clerk Sanders and May Margaret
      Walked ower yon garden green,
    And sad and heavy was the love
      That fell thae twa between._"

May Margaret was an American girl, married to a lieutenant in the
British Army named Brian Davidson. When the regretful telegram from the
War Office, announcing his death in action, was delivered to her in her
London apartment, she read it without a quiver, crumpled it up, threw it
into the fire, and leaned her head against her arm, under his photograph
on the mantel-piece. When her heart began to beat again, she went to her
bedroom and locked the door. This was not the Anglo-American love-affair
of fiction. Both of them were poverty-stricken in the estimation of
their friends; and it was only by having her black evening dress "done
over," and practising other strict economies for a whole year, that May
Margaret had been able to sail from New York to work in an European
hospital. The marriage had taken place a little more than three months
ago, while Davidson was home on a few days' leave.

After the announcement of his death, she did not emerge from her room
until the usual letter arrived from the front, explaining with the usual
helplessness of the brother officer, that Davidson was really "one of
the best," that "everybody liked him," and that "he was the life and
soul of his company." But the letter contained one thing that she was
not expecting, an official photograph of the grave, a quarter-plate
picture of an oblong of loose earth, marked with a little cross made,
apparently, of two sticks of kindling wood. And it was this that had
brought her back to life again. It was so strangely matter-of-fact, so
small, so complete, that it brought her out of the great dark spaces of
her grief. It reminded her of something that Davidson had once written
in a letter from the trenches. "Things out here are not nearly so bad as
people at home imagine. At home, one pictures the war as a great blaze
of horror. Out here, things become more sharply defined, as the lights
of a city open up when you approach them, or as the Milky Way splits
itself up into points of light under the telescope. I have never seen a
dead body yet that looked more imposing than a suit of old clothes. The
real man was somewhere else."

She examined the photograph with a kind of curiosity. In this new sense
of the reality of death, the rattle of the traffic outside had grown
strange and dreamlike, and the rattle of the tea-things and the smell of
the buttered toast which an assiduous, but discreet landlady placed at
her side, seemed as fantastic and remote as any fairy-tale. All the
trivial details of the life around her had assumed a new and mysterious
quality. She seemed to be moving in a phantasmagorical world. The round
red face of the landlady came and went like the goblin things you may
see over your shoulder in a looking-glass at twilight. And the center of
all this insubstantial dream-stuff was that one vivid oblong of loose
earth, marked with two sticks of kindling wood, in the neat and sharply
defined official photograph.

There was something that looked like a black thread entwining the arms
of the tiny cross; and she puzzled over it stupidly, wondering what it
could be. "I suppose I could write and ask," she said to herself. Then
an over-mastering desire seized her. She must go and see it. She must go
and see the one fragment of the earth that remained to her, if only for
the reason that there, perhaps, she might find the relief of tears. But
she had another reason also, a reason that she would never formulate,
even to herself, an over-mastering impulse from the depths of her being.

May Margaret had no intimate friends in London. She had established
herself in these London lodgings with the cosmopolitan independence of
the American girl, whose own country contains distances as great as that
from London to Petrograd. The world shrinks a little when your own
country is a continent; and it was with no sense of remoteness that she
now went to the telephone and rang up the London office of the _Chicago
Bulletin_.

"I want to speak to Mr. Harvey," she said. "Is this Mr. Harvey? This is
Mrs. Davidson,--Margaret Grant--you remember, don't you? I want to see
you about something very important. You are sending people out to the
front all the time, aren't you, in connection with your newspapers?
Well, I want to know if you can arrange for me to go.... Yes, as a woman
correspondent.... Oh, they don't allow it? Not at the British front?...
Well, I've got to arrange it somehow.... Won't you come and see me and
talk it over?... All right, at six-thirty. Good-by."

The official photograph was still in her hand when Mr. William K.
Harvey, of the _Chicago Bulletin_, was announced. He was a very young
man to be managing the London office of a great newspaper, but this was
not a disadvantage for May Margaret's purpose.

"So you want to go to the front," he said, settling down into the
arm-chair on the other side of the fire. "It would certainly make a
great story. We ought to be able to syndicate it all through the Middle
West; but you'll have to give up the idea of the British front. We might
manage the French front, I think."

"But I want particularly to go to Arras. Surely, you can manage it, Mr.
Harvey. You must know all sorts of influential people here." Her voice,
with its husky contralto notes, rather like those of a boy whose voice
has lately broken, had always an appeal for Mr. Harvey, and it was
particularly pleasing just then. He beamed through his glasses and ran
his hand through his curly hair.

"I was talking to Sir William Robertson about a very similar proposition
only yesterday, and Sir William told me that he'd do anything on earth
for the _Chicago Bulletin_, but the War Office, which is in heaven, had
decided finally to allow no women correspondents at the British front."

May Margaret rose and went to the window. For a moment she pressed her
brow against the cool glass and, as she stared hopelessly at the busses
rumbling by, an idea came to her. She wondered that she had not thought
of it before.

"Come here, Mr. Harvey," she said. "I want to show you something."

He joined her at the window. A bus had halted by the opposite pavement.
The conductor was swinging lightly down by the hand-rail, a very
youthful looking conductor, in breeches and leggings.

"Is that a man or a woman?" said May Margaret.

"A woman, isn't it?"

"And that?" She pointed to another figure striding by in blue overalls
and a slouch hat.

"I don't know. There are so many of them about now, that on general
principles, I guess it's a woman. Besides, it looks as if it would be in
the army if it were not a woman."

"Yes, but I am an American correspondent," said May Margaret.

"Gee!" said Mr. Harvey, surveying her from head to foot. His face looked
as if all the printing presses of the _Chicago Bulletin_ were silently
at work behind it. She was tall and lean--a college friend had described
her exactly as "half goddess and half gawk." Her face was of the
open-air type. Her hair would have to be cropped, of course. "Gee!" he
said again. "It would be the biggest scoop of the war."

A fortnight later, a slender youth in khaki-colored clothes, with
leggings, arrived at the Foreign Office, presented a paper to a sad-eyed
messenger in the great hall, and was led to the disreputable old lift
which, as usual, bore a notice to the effect that it was not working
to-day. The sad-eyed messenger heaved the usual sigh, and led the way up
three flights of broad stone stairs to a very dark waiting-room. There
were three other young men in the room, but it was almost impossible to
see their faces.

"Mr. Grant, of the _Tribune_, wasn't it, sir?" said the messenger.

"Mr. Martin Grant, of the _Chicago Bulletin_," said May Margaret, and
the messenger shuffled into the distance along a gloomy corridor which
seemed to be older than any tomb of the Pharaohs, and destined to last
as long again.

In a few minutes, a young Englishman, who looked like an army officer in
mufti, but was really a clerk in the Foreign Office, named Julian
Sinclair, was making himself very charming to the four correspondents.
To one of them he talked very fluently in Spanish: to another he spoke
excellent Swedish, bridging several moments of misunderstanding with
smiles and gestures that would have done credit to a Macchiavelli; to
the third, because he was a Greek, he spoke French; and to Martin Grant,
because he was an American, he spoke the language of George Washington,
and behaved as if he were a fellow-countryman of slightly different,
possibly more broad-minded, but certainly erroneous politics.

Then he gave them all a few simple directions. He was going to have the
pleasure of escorting them to the front. It was necessary that they
should be accompanied by some one from the Foreign Office, he explained,
in order to save them trouble; and they had been asked to meet him there
to-day for purposes of identification and to get their passports. These
would have to be stamped by both the British and French military
authorities at an address which he gave them, and they would please meet
him at Charing Cross Station at twelve o'clock to-morrow morning. It was
all very simple, and Mr. Martin Grant felt greatly relieved.

There was a drizzle of rain the next morning, for which May Margaret was
grateful. It was a good excuse for appearing at the station in the
Burberry raincoat, which gave her not only a respite from
self-consciousness, but an almost military air. Her cloth cap, too, the
peak of which filled her strong young face with masculine shadows,
approximated to the military shape. It was a wise choice; for the soft
slouch hat, which she had tried at first, had persistently assumed a
feminine aspect, an almost absurdly picturesque effect, no matter how
she twisted it or pulled it down on her close-cropped head.

She was the first of the party to arrive, and when Julian Sinclair
hurried along the platform with the three foreign correspondents, there
was no time left for conversation before they were locked in their
compartment of the military train. They were the only civilians aboard.

She dropped into a corner seat with her newspaper. But her eyes and
brain were busy with the scene outside. The train was crammed with
troops, just as it had been on that other day when she stood outside on
the platform, like those other women there, and said good-by to Brian.
She was living it all over again, as she watched those farewells; but
she felt nearer to him now, as if she were seeing things from his own
side, almost as if she had broken through the barriers and taken some
dream-train to the next world, in order to follow him.

There was a very young soldier leaning from the window of the next
compartment. He was talking to a girl with a baby in her arms. Her wide
eyes were fixed on his face with the same solemn expression as those of
the child, dark innocent eyes with the haunted beauty of a Madonna. They
were trying to say something to each other, but the moment had made them
strangers, and they could not find the words.

"You'll write," she said faintly.

He nodded and smiled airily. A whistle blew. There was a banging of
doors, and a roar of cheering. The little mother moved impulsively
forward, climbed on to the footboard, threw her right arm around the
neck of her soldier, and drew his face down to her own.

"Stand back there," bellowed the porters. But the girl's arm was locked
round the lad's neck as if she were drowning, and they took no notice.
The train began to move. A crippled soldier, in blue hospital uniform
and red tie, hobbled forward on his crutch, and took hold of the girl.

"Break away," he said gruffly. "Break away, lass."

He pulled her back to the platform. Then he hobbled forward with the
moving train and spoke to the young soldier.

"If you meet the blighter wot gave me this," he said, pointing to his
amputated thigh, "you give 'im 'ell for _me_!"

It was a primitive appeal, but the boy pulled himself together
immediately, as the veteran face, so deeply plowed with suffering,
savagely confronted his own. And, as the train moved on, and the wounded
man stood there, upright on his crutch, May Margaret saw that there were
tears in those fierce eyes--eyes so much older than their years--and a
tenderness in the coarse face that brought her heart into her throat.

The journey to Folkestone was all a dream, a dream that she was glad to
be dreaming, because she was now on the other side of the barrier that
separated people at home from those at the front. The queerest thoughts
passed through her mind. She understood for a moment the poor groping
endeavors of the war-bereft to break through those darker barriers of
the material world, and get into touch, no matter how vaguely, with the
world beyond. She felt that in some strange way she was succeeding.

They had lunch on the train. She forced herself to drink some black
coffee, and nibble at some tepid mutton. She was vaguely conscious that
the correspondents were enjoying themselves enormously at the expense of
the State, and she shuddered at the grotesque sense of humor which she
discovered amongst her thoughts at this moment.

The Channel-crossing on the troop-ship brought her nearer yet. There was
hardly standing-room on any of the decks, and the spectacle was a very
strange one, for all the crowded ranks in khaki, officers and men, had
been ordered to wear life-belts. A hospital ship which had just arrived
was delivering its loads of wounded men to the docks, and these also
were wearing life-belts.

The sunset-light was fading as the troop-ship moved out, and the seas
had that peculiar iridescent smoothness, as of a delicately tinted skin
of very faintly burning oils, which they so often wear when the wind
falls at evening. On one side of the ship a destroyer was plowing
through white mounds of foam; and overhead there was one of the new
silver-skinned scouting air-ships.

Away to the east, a great line of transports was returning home with the
wounded, and the horizon was one long stream of black smoke. It was all
so peaceful that the life-belts seemed an anomaly, and it was difficult
to realize the full meaning of this traffic. The white cliffs of England
wore a spiritual aspect that only the hour and its grave significance
could lend them; and May Margaret thought that England had never looked
so beautiful. There were other troop-ships all crowded, about to follow,
and their cheers came faintly across the water. The throb of the engines
carried May Margaret's ship away rhythmically, and somewhere on the
lower deck a mouth organ began playing, almost inaudibly, "It's a Long,
Long Way to Tipperary." The troops were humming the tune, too softly for
it to be called singing, and it all blended with the swish of the water
and the hum of the engine-room, like a memory of other voices, lost in
France and Flanders. May Margaret looked down at the faces. They, too,
were grave and beautiful with evening light; and the brave unquestioning
simplicity of it all seemed to her an inexpressibly noble thing. She
thought for a moment that no pipes among the mists of glen or mountain,
no instrument on earth, ever had the beauty of that faint music. It was
one of those unheard melodies that are better than any heard. The sea
bore the burden. The winds breathed it in undertone; and its message was
one of a peace that she could not understand. Perhaps, under and above
all the tragedies of the hour, the kingdom of heaven was there.

The cliffs became ghostly in the distance, and suddenly on the dusky
waters astern there shone a great misty star. It was the first flash of
the shore searchlights, and May Margaret watched it flashing long after
the English coast had disappeared. Then she lost the searchlight also;
and the transport was left, with the dark destroyer, to find its way,
through whatever perils there might be, to the French coast. Millions of
men--she had read it--had been transported, despite mines and
submarines, without the loss of a single life. She had often wondered
how it was possible. Now she saw the answer.

A little black ship loomed up ahead of them and flashed a signal to
their escort. Far through the dusk she saw them, little black trawlers
and drifters, _Lizzie_ and _Maggie_ and _Betsy Jane_, signaling all that
human courage could discover, of friend or foe, on the face of the
waters or under them.

In a very short time they caught the first glimpse of the searchlights
on the French coast; and, soon afterwards, they drew into a dark harbor,
amid vague cheerings and occasional bursts of the "Marseillaise" from
wharves thronged with soldiers of a dozen nationalities. A British
officer edged his way through the crowd below them on the quay, and
waved his hand to Julian Sinclair.

"Ah, there's our military guide, Captain Crump. Now, if you'll follow me
and keep together, we'll get our passports examined quickly, and join
him," said the latter, obviously relieved at the prospect of sharing his
neutrals with a fellow-countryman.

There followed a brief, but very exact, scrutiny and stamping of papers
by an aquiline gentleman whose gold-rimmed spectacles suggested a
microscopical carefulness; a series of abrupt introductions to Captain
Crump on the gloomy wharf; a hasty bite and sup in a station restaurant,
where blue uniforms mingled with khaki, and some red-tabbed British
staff-officers, at the next table, were drinking wine with some turbaned
Indian Princes. It was a strange glimpse of color and light rifting the
darkness for a moment. Then they followed Captain Crump again, through
great tarpaulined munition-dumps and loaded motor-lorries, to the two
motor-cars behind the station. In these they were whirled, at forty
miles an hour, along one of the poplar-bordered roads of France that
seemed to-night as ghostly as those titanic alleys of Ulalume, in the
song of May Margaret's national poet. Once or twice, as they passed
through a cluster of cottages, the night-wind brought a whiff of
iodoform, and reminded her that flesh and blood were fighting with pain
and death somewhere in that darkness.

Every few minutes they passed troops of dark marching men. Several times
it seemed to her that she recognized the face for which she was looking,
in some momentary glimmer of starlight.

At last they reached the village where the guests of G. H. Q. were to be
quartered. The foreigners were assigned to the château which was used as
a guest-house; but there had been one or two unexpected arrivals, and
Captain Crump asked the American correspondent if he would mind
occupying a room in the house of the curé, a hundred yards away up the
village street. The American correspondent was exceedingly glad to do
so, and was soon engaged in attempts at conversation with the friendly
old man in the black cassock who did his best to make her welcome. There
were no more difficulties for her that night, except that the curé had
very limited notions as to the amount of water she required for washing.

They set out early the next morning on their way to that part of the
front which she had particularly asked to see. The long straight
poplar-bordered road, bright with friendly sunshine now, absorbed her.
She heard the chatter of the correspondents at her side as in a dream.

"Have you read Anatole France?" said the Spaniard. (He was anxious for
improving conversation, and wore a velvet coat totally unsuited to the
expedition.) But May Margaret's every thought was plodding along with
the plodding streams of dusty, footsore men, in steel hats, and she did
not answer. She pointed vaguely to the women working in the fields to
save the harvest, and the anti-aircraft guns that watched the sky from
behind the sheaves. At every turn she saw something that reminded her of
things she had seen before, in some previous existence, when she had
lived in the life of her lover and traveled through it all with his own
eyes. She was passing through his existence again. He was part of all
this: these camps by the roadside, where soldiers, brown as gipsies,
rambled about with buckets; these endless processions of motor-lorries,
with men and munitions and guns all streaming to the north on every
road, as if whole nations were setting out on a pilgrimage and taking
their possessions with them; these endless processions of closed
ambulances returning, marked with the Red Cross.

Once, over a bare brown stretch of open country, a magnificent body of
Indian cavalry swept towards them, every man sitting his horse like a
prince; and the British officers, with their sun-burned faces and dusky
turbans, hardly distinguishable from their native troops.

"Glorious, aren't they?" said Sinclair, leaning back from his place
beside the chauffeur. "But they haven't had a chance yet. If only we
could get the Boches out of their burrows and loose our cavalry at
them!"

She nodded her head; but her thoughts were elsewhere. This picturesque
display seemed to belong to a bygone age; it was quite unrelated to
this war of chemists and spectacled old men who disbelieved in chivalry,
laughed at right and wrong, and had killed the happiness of the entire
world.

She noticed, whenever they passed a village or a farm-house, or even a
cattle-shed now, that the smell of iodoform brooded over everything. All
these wounded acres of France were breathing it out like the scent of
some strange new summer blossoms. A hundred yards away from the ruined
outhouses of every village she began to breathe it. Her senses were
unusually keen, but it dominated the summer air so poignantly that she
could not understand why these meticulously vivid men--the foreign
correspondents--were unaware of it. It turned the whole countryside into
a series of hospital wards; and the Greek was now disputing with the
Spaniard about home-rule for Ireland.

At last, in the distance, they heard a new sound that enlarged the
horizon as when one approaches the sea. It was the mutter of the guns, a
deep many-toned thunder, rolling up and dying away, but without a single
break, incessant as the sound of the Atlantic in storm.

The cars halted in what had once been a village, and was now a rubbish
heap of splinters and scarred walls and crumbling mortar.

The correspondents alighted and followed Captain Crump across a broad
open plain, pitted with shell-holes. The incessant thunder of the guns
deepened as they went.

"Don't touch anything without consulting me," snapped Crump at the
Spaniard, who was nosing round an unexploded shell and thinking of
souvenirs. "The Boches have a charming trick of leaving things about
that may go off in your hands. A chap picked up a spiked helmet here the
other day. They buried him in the graveyard that Mr. Grant wants to see.
It's a very small grave. There wasn't much left of him."

The burial-ground lay close under a ridge of hills, and they approached
it through a maze of recently captured German trenches. It was a strange
piece of sad ordered gardening in a devastated world. Every minute or
two the flash and shock of a concealed howitzer close at hand shook the
loose earth on the graves, but only seemed to emphasize the still sleep
of this acre. It held a great regiment of graves, mounds of fresh-turned
earth in soldierly ranks, most of them marked with tiny wooden crosses,
rough bits of kindling wood. Some of the crosses bore names, written in
pencil. There was one that bore the names of six men, and the grave was
hardly large enough for a child. They had been blown to pieces by a
single shell.

They passed through the French section first. Here there was an austere
poetry, a simplicity that approached the sublime in the terrible
regularity of the innumerably repeated inscription, "_Mort pour la
France_." In the British section there was a striking contrast. There
was not a word of patriotism; but, though the graves were equally
regular, an individuality of inscription that interested the Spanish
correspondent greatly.

"It is here we pass from Racine to Shakespeare," he said, pointing to a
wooden cross that bore the words:

    "_In loving memory of Jim,
    From his old pal,
    The artful dodger,
    'Gone but not forgotten.'_"

"No, no, no," cried the Greek correspondent, greatly excited by the
literary suggestion. "From Flaubert to Dickens! Is it not so, Captain
Crump?"

Captain Crump grunted vaguely and moved on towards the soldier in
charge. May Margaret followed him, the photograph in her hand.

"We want to find number forty-eight," said Captain Crump.

The soldier saluted and led the way to the other end of the ground. Many
of the graves here had not been named. There had evidently been some
disaster which made it difficult. Some of them carried the
identification disc.

"This is number forty-eight, sir," said the soldier, pausing before a
mound that May Margaret knew already by heart. "May I look at the
photograph, sir? Yes. You see, that's the rosary--that black
thing--round the cross."

"The rosary! I don't understand." May Margaret looked at the string of
beads on the cross that bore the name of Brian Davidson.

"I suppose he was a Roman Catholic, sir. They must have taken it from
the body."

"No, he was not a Catholic," whispered May Margaret. She felt as if she
must drop on her knees and call on the mute earth to speak, to explain,
to tell her who lay beneath.

"There must be a mistake," she said at last, and her own voice rang in
her ears like the voice of a stranger. "I must find out. How can I find
out?"

Her face was bloodless as she confronted Captain Crump.

"There's some terrible mistake," she said again. "I can't face his
people at home till I find out. He may be--" But that awful word of hope
died on her lips.

"I'll do my best," said Captain Crump. "It's very odd, certainly; but I
shouldn't--er--hope for too much. You see, if he were living, they
wouldn't have been likely to overlook it. It's possible that he may be
there, or there." He pointed to two graves without a name. "Or again, he
may be missing, of course, or a prisoner. His lot are down at Arras now.
We'll get into touch with them to-morrow and I'll make inquiries. You
want to pass a night in the trenches, don't you? I think it can be
arranged for you to go to that section to-morrow night. Then we can kill
two birds with one stone."

May Margaret thanked him. Behind them, she heard, with that strange
sense of double meanings which the most commonplace accidents of life
can awake at certain moments--the voice of one of the correspondents,
still arguing with the others. "Here, if you like, is Shakespeare," he
said:

    "_How should I your true love know
      From another one._"

The quotation, lilted inanely as a nursery rime, pierced her heart like
a flight of silver arrows.

"You have not a very pleasant business," the correspondent continued,
addressing a soldier at work in an open grave.

"I've 'ad two years in the trenches, sir, and I'm glad to get it," he
replied.

"Little Christian crosses, planted against the heathen, creeping nearer
and nearer to the Rhine," murmured Julian Sinclair, on the other side of
May Margaret.

The multiplicity of the ways in which it seemed possible for both
soldiers and civilians to regard the war was beginning to rob her of the
power to think.

On their way back, through the dusk, they passed a body of men marching
to the trenches, with a song that she had heard Brian humming:

    "_Fat Fritz went out, all camouflaged, like a beautiful bumble-bee,
    With daffodil stripes and 'airy legs to see what he could see,
    By the light of the moon, in No Man's Land, he climbed an apple tree
    And he put on his big round spectacles, to look for gay Paree._

        _But I don't suppose he'll do it again
          For months, and months, and months;
        But I don't suppose he'll do it again
          For months, and month, and months;
        For Archie is only a third class shot,
          But he brought him down at once,_

                    _AND_

        _I don't suppose he'll do it again
          For months, and months, and months._"

Soon afterwards, with all these themes interchanging in her bewildered
mind, May Margaret heard Julian Sinclair calling through the dark from
the car ahead: "Take a good look at the next village; it's called
Crécy." The stars that watched the ancient bowmen had nothing new to
tell her; but a few minutes later, as another body of troops came
tramping through the dark to another stanza of their song, there seemed
to be an ancient and unconquerable mass of marching harmonies within the
lilt of the Cockney ballad; like the mass of the sea behind the breaking
wave:

    "_'E called 'em the Old Contemptibles,
      But 'e only did it once,
    And I don't suppose 'e'll do it again,
      For months, and months, and months._"

They dined at the château, and she slipped away early to the house of
the curé. Before she slept, she took out Brian's last letter and read
it. She sat on the narrow bed, under the little black crucifix with the
ivory Christ looking down at her from the bare wall. She was glad that
it was there; for it embodied the master-thought of that day's
pilgrimage. Never before had she realized how that symbol was dominating
this war; how it was repeated and repeated over thousands of acres of
young men's graves; and with what a new significance the wayside crosses
of France were now stretching out their arms in the night of disaster.

In Brian's letter there was very little about himself. He had always
been somewhat impatient of the "lyrical people," as he called them, who
were "so eloquently introspective" about the war, and he had carried his
prejudice even into his correspondence. She was reading his letter again
to-night because she remembered that it expressed something of her own
bewilderment at the multiplicity of ways in which people were talking
and thinking of the international tragedy. "I have heard," he wrote,
"every possible kind of opinion out here, with the exception of one. I
have never heard any one suggest any possible end for this war but the
defeat of the Hun. But I _have_ heard, over and over again, ridicule of
the idea that this war is going to end war, or even make the world
better.

"Along with that, I've often heard praise of the very militaristic
system that we are trying so hard to abolish altogether. Of course, this
is only among certain sets of men. But this war has become a war of
ideas; and ideas are not always contained or divided by the lines of
trenches. We are fighting things out amongst ourselves, in all the
belligerent countries, and the most crying need of the Allies to-day is
a leader who can crystallize their own truest thoughts and ideals for
them.

"You know what my dream was, always, in the days when I was trying my
prentice hand in literature. I wanted to help in the greatest work of
modern times--the task of bringing your country and mine together. Our
common language (and that implies so much more than people realize) is
the greatest political factor in the modern world; and, thank God, it's
beyond the reach of the politicians. In England, we exaggerate the
importance of the mere politician. We do not realize the supreme glory
of our own inheritance; or even the practical aspects of it; the
practical value of the fact that every city and town and village over
the whole of your continent paid homage to Shakespeare during the
tercentenary. Carlyle was right when he compared that part of our
inheritance with the Indian Empire. It is in our literature that we can
meet and read each other's hearts and minds, and that has been our
greatest asset during the war. Think what it will mean when two hundred
million people, thirty years hence, in North America, are reading that
literature and sharing it. Shelley understood it. You remember what he
says in the 'Revolt of Islam.' The Germans understand, that's why
they're so anxious to introduce compulsory German into your schools and
colleges. But our own reactionaries are afraid to understand it.

"After all, this war is only a continuation of the Revolutionary war,
when the Englishmen who signed the Declaration of Independence fought an
army of hired Germans, directed by Germans. Even their military maps
were drawn up in German. It's the same war, and the same cause, and I
believe that the New World eventually will come into it. Then we shall
have a real leadership. The scheming reactionaries in Europe will fail
to keep us apart. We shall yet see our flags united. And then despite
all the sneers of the little folk, on both sides of the Atlantic, we
shall be able to suppress barbarism in Europe and say (as you and I have
said): _Those whom God hath joined let no man put asunder._

"There seems to be an epidemic of verse among the armies. I haven't
caught it very badly yet; but these were some of my symptoms in a spare
moment last week:

    "_How few are they that voyage through the night,
      On that eternal quest,
    For that strange light beyond our light,
      That rest beyond our rest._

    _And they who, seeking beauty, once descry
      Her face, to most unknown;
    Thenceforth like changelings from the sky
      Must walk their road alone._

    _So once I dreamed. So idle was my mood;
      But now, before these eyes,
    From those foul trenches, black with blood,
      What radiant legions rise._

    _And loveliness over the wounded earth awakes
      Like wild-flowers in the Spring.
    Out of the mortal chrysalis breaks
      Immortal wing on wing._

    _They rise like flowers, they wander on wings of light,
      Through realms beyond our ken.
    The loneliest soul is companied to-night
      By hosts of unknown men._"


II

At ten o'clock the next morning, the two cars were moving at sixty miles
an hour along a road that ran parallel with the German trenches. There
was a slight screen of canvas to hide the traffic, for the road by
Dead-Man's-Corner was not the safest way into Arras at that time. But
they reached the city without misadventure, and May Margaret felt nearer
now than ever to the secret of the quest.

No dream was ever so strange as this great echoing shell of the deserted
city where he, too, had walked so recently. He, too, had passed along
these cracked pavements, keeping close to the wall, in order to escape
observation from the enemy, whose lines ran through one end of the city
at this moment. He had seen these pitiful interiors of shattered houses,
where sometimes the whole front had been blown away, leaving the
furniture still intact on two floors, and even pictures, a little askew,
on the walls. He had seen that little black crucifix over that bed;
crossed this grass-grown square; and gone into the shattered
railway-station, where the many-colored tickets were strewn like autumn
leaves over the glass-littered floor. The Spaniard filled his pockets
with them.

They went down a narrow street to the ruins of the cathedral. On one of
the deserted houses there was a small placard advertising the Paris
edition of a London paper, the only sign of the outside world in all
that echoing solitude. The neutrals rejoiced greatly before a deserted
insurance office, which still displayed an advertisement of its
exceedingly reasonable rates for the lives of peaceful citizens. Their
merriment was stopped abruptly by a hollow boom that shook the whole
city and rumbled echoing along the deserted streets from end to end.

"That's a Boche shell," said Crump. "It sounds as if they've got the
cathedral again."

At noon they lunched under the lee of a hill just outside Arras, that
had been drenched with blood a few weeks earlier. The great seas of
thunder ebbed and flowed incessantly from sky to sky, as if the hill
were the one firm island in the universe and all the rest were breaking
up and washing around them. The amazing incongruity of things bewildered
May Margaret again. It was more fantastic than any dream. They sat there
at ease, eating chicken, munching sandwiches, filling their cups with
red wine and white, and ending with black coffee, piping hot from the
thermos bottle. Great puffs of brown smoke rose in the distance where
our shells were dropping along the German line. It looked as if the
trees were walking out from a certain distant wood. Little blue rings of
smoke rose from the peaceful cigarettes around her. Bees and butterflies
came and went through the sunshine; and, in the stainless blue sky
overhead there was a rush and rumor as of invisible trains passing to
and fro. The neutrals amused themselves by trying to distinguish between
our own and the enemy shells.

At two o'clock Crump rose. "I'll take you along now, Grant, if you are
ready," he said. "The rest of you wait here. I shall be back in about
ten minutes."

May Margaret stumbled after him down the hill. At the foot, a soldier
was waiting; and, hardly conscious of the fact that she had exchanged
one guide for another, she found herself plodding silently beside him on
her unchanging quest, toward the communication trenches.

"What do they think about things in England, sir?" said her new
companion at last, with a curiously suppressed eagerness.

"They are very hopeful," said May Margaret.

"When do they think it will be over?"

"Some of them say in six months."

"Ah, yes. I've been here three years now, and they always say that. At
the end of the six months they'll say it again."

It was the first open note of depression that May Margaret had heard.
"Do most of the men feel like that?" she said.

"They don't say so, sir, but they all want it to be over." Then he
added, with the doggedness of his kind, "Not till we get what we're
fighting for, of course. You're a correspondent, sir, aren't you? Well,
I never seen the real fax put in the papers yet. There was one of these
soldier writers the other day. I saw his book in the Y. M. C. A. hut. He
said that the only time he nearly broke his heart was when there was a
rumor that Germany was asking for peace before he was able to get into
it hisself. That's what I call bloody selfish, sir. All this poytry! (he
spat into a shell-hole) making pictures out of it and talking about
their own souls. Mind you I'm all for finishing it properly; but it
ain't right, the way they look at it. It's like saying they're glad the
Belgians had their throats cut because it's taught their own bloody
selves the beauty of sacrifice. If what they say is true, why in the
hell do they want the war ever to stop at all? P'raps if it went on for
ever, we should all of us learn the bloody beauty of it, and keep on
learning it till there wasn't any one left. There was a member of
Parliament out here the other day. He saw three poor chaps trying to
wash in a mine-crater full of muddy water. Covered with lice they was.
The paper described it afterwards. The right honorable gentleman laughed
'artily, it said, same as they say about royalty. Always laughing
'artily. P'raps he didn't laugh. I dunno about that. But if he did, I'd
like him to 'ave a taste of the fun hisself."

They were entering the long tunnel of the communication-trench now. The
soldier went ahead, and May Margaret followed, through smells of earth,
and the reek of stale uniforms, for a mile or more, till they came to
the alert eyes along the fire-step of the front-line trench.

"Here's Major Hilton, sir." A lean young man with a thin aquiline nose
and a face of Indian red approached them, stepping like a cat along the
trench.

"Mr. Grant," he said.

May Margaret nodded, and they were about to shake hands, when one side
of the trench seemed to rise up and smash against their faces, with a
roar that stunned them. May Margaret picked herself up at once, wiping
the bits of grit out of her eyes. The bombardment appeared to be growing
in intensity.

"That was pretty near," said Major Hilton. "You'd better come into my
dugout till this blows over."

He led the way into his gloomy little cavern. It was not much of a
shelter from a direct hit; but it would protect them from flying
splinters at least.

"Mr. Davidson was my friend," said May Margaret at once. "I know his
people. I think there must be some mistake about ... about the grave."

"You're not a relative of his, are you?" said Major Hilton. "Had you
known him for long?"

"No. Less than a year."

"Well, I don't mind telling _you_ that there _was_ a mistake. We
discovered it a few hours after it was made; but we thought it better
not to upset his people by giving them further details."

"He was killed, then," May Margaret whispered; and, if the darkness of
the dugout had not veiled her face, Major Hilton would not have
continued.

"Yes. It was a trench raid. The Boches took a section of our trenches.
When we recovered it, we found him. You'd better not tell his people,
but I don't mind telling _you_. It was a pretty bad case."

"What do you mean?"

"One of those filthy Boche tricks. They'd nailed him up against the
lining of the trench with bayonets. He was still alive when we found
him. But they'll get it all back. We're going to give 'em hell
to-night."

May Margaret was silent for so long that Major Hilton peered at her more
closely. Her white face looked like a bruised thing in the darkness.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Perhaps I shouldn't have told you. They have done
so much of that kind of thing, I suppose we've got used to it. Well,
you've been tramping about all day, and if I were you, as you're going
to spend the night here, I should settle down for a bit in the dugout.
The bombardment seems to be easing off a little, and you'll want to be
awake all night. There'll be some sights coming on of the picturesque
kind--fireworks and things, which is what you want, I suppose, for the
blessed old public."

Far away, in another section of the trenches, there was a burst of
cheering. Major Hilton pricked up his ears to listen; but it was drowned
immediately in another blast outside that sealed the mouth of the dugout
like a blow from a gigantic hammer and plunged them into complete
darkness thick with dust and sand.

"Are you all right?" said Hilton, in a moment or two. "They've blown the
parapet over us. Our chaps will soon get us out."

They sat down and waited. The sound of their rescuers' shovels was
followed almost immediately by the pulling away of a sandbag, and the
dusty daylight filtered in again, bringing with it another roar of
cheering, nearer now, and rolling along the trenches like an Atlantic
breaker.

"What the hell are they shouting about?" Hilton grunted, as he scrambled
through the opening. May Margaret was about to follow him, when the
abrupt answer struck her motionless.

"America has declared war, sir."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, sir. They are passing the President's message along the line. It
looks as if they mean business."

May Margaret had moved further back into the darkness of the dugout. She
was breathing quickly, panting like a thirsty dog. She dropped on her
knees by an old packing-case in the corner.

"Thank God. Thank God," she repeated, with her eyes shut. Then the tears
came, and her whole body shook.

A hand touched her shoulder. She rose to her feet and saw the bewildered
face of Major Hilton, peering again at her own.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It's the first time I've done it since I was a
kid; but I've been hoping for this ever since the beginning. It's my
country, you see."

"I've just been looking at the President's message," said Hilton. "I'm
an Englishman, but--if a democracy can discipline itself--I'm not sure
that yours won't be the greatest country in the world. I suppose it must
be, or the Lord wouldn't have entrusted so much to you. He gave you the
best that we ever had to give, and that was our Englishman, George
Washington; and the best thing that George Washington ever did, was to
fight the German King and his twenty thousand Hessians. Eh, what?"

It was a little after dusk when the unexpected happened. There had been
a lull in the bombardment; and, on Major Hilton's advice, May Margaret
was resting in the dugout in readiness for the long wakeful night of the
trenches.

She lay there, dazed as from shell-shock by the account of Brian's
death; and the declaration of war from her own country had burst upon
her with an equal violence, leaving her stunned in a kind of "No Man's
Land," a desolate hell, somewhere between despair and triumph. Her world
had broken up. Her mind was no longer her own. Her thoughts were
helpless things between enormous conflicting forces; and, as if to
escape from their rending clutches, as if to cling to the present
reality, she whispered to herself the words of the wounded soldier at
Charing Cross station: "If you meet him, give him hell for _me_! Give
him hell for _me_." It seemed as if it were Brian himself speaking.
Once, with a swift sense of horror, catching herself upon the verge of
insanity, she found that her imagination was furtively beginning to
picture his last agony, and she stopped it, screwing her face up, like a
child pulling faces at a nightmare, and making inarticulate sounds to
drive it away.

Of one thing she was quite certain now. She did not wish to live any
longer in a world where these things were done. She meant, by hook or by
crook, to get to the dangerous bit of the trench, where our men were
only separated by six yards from the enemy, and to stay there until she
was killed. Even if she couldn't throw bombs herself, she supposed that
she could hand them up to others. And any thought that conflicted with
this idea she suppressed, automatically, with her monotonous echo of the
wounded soldier, "Give them hell for _me_."

But she was spared any further trouble about the execution of her plans;
and she knew, at once, that she had come to the end of her quest, when
she heard the quick sharp cries of warning outside.

It was a trench-raid, brief, and unimportant from a military point of
view. The newspapers told London, on the next day, that nothing of
importance had happened. Half a dozen revolvers cracked. There were
curses and groans, a sound of soft thudding blows and grunting, gasping
men, followed by a loud pig-like squeal. Then May Margaret saw three
faces peering cautiously into the dugout, faces of that strange
brutality, heavy-boned, pig-eyed, evil-skulled, which has impressed
itself upon the whole world as a distinct reversion from all civilized
types of humanity. She knew them, as one recognizes the smell of
carrion; and her whole soul exulted as she seized her supreme chance of
striking at the evil thing. She had picked up a revolver almost
unconsciously, and without pausing to think she fired three times with a
steady hand. Two of them she knew that she had killed. The third had
been too quick for her, and in another second she was down on her back,
with a blood-greased boot on her throat, and a throng of evil-smelling
cattle around her. Unhappily, they did not kill her at once; and so the
discovery was made, amidst a storm of guttural exclamations.

When the trench was retaken, half an hour later, a further discovery was
made by Major Hilton. A locket containing a photograph of Brian Davidson
was buried in what remained of her left breast, as if it had been trying
to hide in her heart. It was almost the only thing about her that was
unhurt.

Major Hilton made no explanations; but when the body was removed, he
gave strict orders for it to be buried by the side of Lieutenant
Davidson.

       *       *       *       *       *

A week later, Mr. Harvey, of the _Chicago Bulletin_, was informed that
his correspondent, Mr. Martin Grant, had died of pneumonia. The
authorities left the responsibility of informing others, who might be
interested, to his capable hands.

He went to see Julian Sinclair about it; but he could not discover
whether that sincerely regretful young diplomat with the dazzling smile
and the delightful manners knew anything more. It may have been a
coincidence that, shortly afterwards, Mr. Harvey was recalled to the
shores of Lake Michigan, and replaced by another manager.



IX

MAROONED


I

Rachel Hepburn believed that her first lover had been drawn to her--when
she was twenty-two years old--by the way in which she played the violin.
She played it remarkably well; and she was also exceedingly pretty, in a
frank open-air fashion. Until she was seventeen, she had lived on the
mountainous coast of Cumberland, where she rode astride, and swam half a
mile every morning before breakfast. Her family nicknamed her "the
Shetland Pony"; and that was her picture to the life, as she used to
come in from her swim, with her face glowing and her dark eyes like
mountain pools, and the thick mane of hair blowing about her broad
forehead. Her sturdy build helped the picture at the time; but she had
shot up in height since then, and the phrase was no longer applicable.
At twenty-four, she became beautiful, and her music began to show
traces of genius. Unfortunately, she had the additional attraction of
ten thousand pounds a year in her own right; and, when the marriage
settlement was discussed, she proposed to share the money with her three
younger sisters.

The young man behaved very badly. She told him--very quietly--that this
was the result of her own folly; for, in her family, hitherto, marriages
had always been "arranged." He replied--for he was an intellectual young
man, who understood women, and read the most advanced novelists--that
she was one of those who were ruining England with their feudal ideas.
Then they parted, the young man cursing under his breath, and Rachel
lilting the ballad to which she had hitherto attributed her good
fortune.

    "_Maxwelton's braes are bonnie, where early fa's the dew,
    And it's there that Annie Laurie gi'ed me her promise true,
    Gi'ed me her promise true, which ne'er forgot shall be,
    And for bonnie Annie Laurie, I'd lay me doon and dee._"

He had quoted it so often in his letters that she was justified,
perhaps, in thinking that it had influenced her fate. "You know,
darling, that those words were supposed to tell the love of a soldier,
who died in Flanders, fighting for England, more than a hundred years
ago, and when you sing them, I feel that I, too ..." So it was the
obvious thing to toss at him as she went through the door, holding her
head up almost as gallantly as a soldier. But he didn't seem to mind,
and the parting was final.

Rachel, apparently, minded very much indeed; but she kept it to herself
and her violin, till on a certain day, she decided that she must escape
from all her old surroundings and forget.

Her guardian was the only person she consulted, and he made no criticism
of her scheme of travel so far as she divulged it. She had been brought
up to complete freedom, while her parents were alive, and in the six
years since their death, she had proved that she was capable of taking
care of herself. He was wise or unwise enough not to let her know that
he understood her trouble. But he tried to express a certain sympathy in
his gruff parting words, "London is a grimy cavern."

"Yes, and the people are grimy, too," she replied, waving her hand to
him, as she went out into the fog. She looked brighter than she had
looked for months past. His last impression of her was that she looked
as roses would look if they could wear furs and carry stars in their
eyes.

She had been studying the sailings of the ocean-steamers for some time,
but it was not her intention to follow the traveled routes more than was
necessary. Her brain was busy with a new music, the music of the names
in a hundred tales that she had read. The Golden Gate and Rio Grande
called to her like chords in a Beethoven symphony. Yokohama and
Singapore stirred her like Rossini. But it was the folk-song of travel
that she wanted, something wilder and sweeter even than Tahiti, some
fortunate Eden island in the South Seas.

Egypt and Ceylon were only incidents on her way. They only set the fever
burning a little more restlessly in her veins; and her first moment of
content was when the yacht of thirty tons, which she chartered in San
Diego, carried her out to the long heave of the Pacific, and turned
southward on the endless trail to the Happy Islands.

This was a part of her scheme about which she had not consulted any one
at home, or she might have received some good advice about the choice of
her ship. It was a sturdy little craft, with small but excellent cabins
for herself and her maid. The captain and his wife were apparently
created for her special benefit, being very capable people, with the
quality of effacing themselves. The crew, of half a dozen Kanakas in
white shirts and red pareos, was picturesque and remote enough from all
the associations of cities to satisfy her desire for isolation.

The maid was the only mistake, she thought, and she did not discover
this until they had been a fortnight at sea. Her own maid had fallen ill
at an early stage of her travels, and had been sent home from Cairo.
Rachel had engaged this new one in San Diego, chiefly because she
thought it necessary to take somebody with her. When Marie Mendoza had
come to do Rachel's hair at San Diego, she had a somewhat pathetic story
to tell about a husband who had deserted her and forced her to work for
her living. Rachel thought there might be two sides to the story when
she discovered that the captain was playing the part of Samson to this
Delilah. It was a vivid moonlight picture that she saw in the bows one
night, when she had come up on deck unexpectedly for a breath of air.
Captain Ryan was an ardent wooer, and he did not see her. Marie Mendoza
looked rather like a rainbow in the arms of a black-bearded gorilla, and
Rachel retired discreetly, hoping that it was merely a temporary
aberration.

She would have been more disturbed, probably, if she had heard a little
of the conversation of this precious pair.

"I tell you, it's a cinch, Mickey. I never seen pearls like 'em. They're
worth fifty thousand dollars in Tiffany's, if they're worth a cent. She
keeps 'em locked up in her steamer-trunk, but I seen her take 'em out
several times."

"Well, I've been hunting pearls up and down the South Seas for twenty
years, and never had a chance of making good like this."

But Rachel did not hear the conversation, or she might have been able to
change the course of events considerably. She might even have taken an
opportunity of explaining to Marie that the real pearls were in the bank
at home, and that the necklace in her trunk was a clever imitation,
useful when she wished to adorn herself without too much
responsibility, and worth about thirty-five pounds in London, or perhaps
a little more than one hundred and fifty dollars in New York.

But Rachel knew nothing of all this; and so, on a certain morning, when
the _Seamew_ dropped anchor off the coral island of her dreams, she went
ashore without any misgivings. It was an island paradise, not recognized
by any map that she had seen, though Captain Ryan seemed to know all
about it. Rachel had particularly wanted to hear the real music of the
islanders, and Captain Ryan had assured her that she would find it at
its best among the inhabitants of this island, who had been unspoiled by
travelers, and yet were among the most gentle of the natives of the
South Seas. Marie Mendoza pleaded a headache, and remained on board; but
the Captain and his wife accompanied Rachel up the white beach, leaving
the boat in charge of the Kanakas. A throng of brown-skinned,
flower-wreathed islanders watched them timidly from under the first
fringe of palm trees; but the Captain knew how to ingratiate himself;
and, after certain gifts had been proffered to the bolder natives, the
rest came forward with their own gifts of flowers and long stems of
yellow fruit. Two young goddesses seized Rachel by the hands, and
examined her clothes, while the rest danced round her like the figures
from the Hymn to Pan in "Endymion."

Before the morning was over, Rachel had made firm friends of these two
maidens, who rejoiced in the names of Tinovao and Amaru; and, when she
signified to them that she wanted to swim in the lagoon, they danced off
with her in an ecstasy of mirth at the European bathing dress which she
carried over her arm, to their own favorite bathing beach, which was
hidden from the landing-place by a palm-tufted promontory.

It was more than an hour later when she returned, radiant, with her
radiant companions. She was a superb swimmer, and she had lost all her
troubles for the time in that rainbow-colored revel. She thought of
telling the Captain that they would stay here for some days. She wanted
to drink in the beauty of the island, and make it her own; to swim in
the lagoon, and bask in the healing sun; to walk through the palms at
dusk, and listen to the songs of the islanders. But where was the
Captain? Surely, this was the landing-place. There were the foot-prints
and the mark of the boat on the beach. Then she saw--with a quick
contraction of the heart--not only that the boat was missing, but that
there was no sign of the yacht. She stared at the vacant circle of the
sea, and could find no trace of it. There was no speck on that blazing
sapphire.


II

Her last doubt as to whether she had been deliberately marooned was
removed by Tinovao, who pointed to a heap of her belongings that had
been dumped on the beach, all in accordance with the best
sea-traditions, though it was due in this case to a sentimental spasm on
the part of Marie Mendoza, who remembered the kindness of Rachel at San
Diego.

The heap was a small one. But Rachel was glad to see that it included
her violin-case.

She knew that her stay was like to be a long one. They had been looking
for islands out of the way of ships; and she knew that it might even be
some years before another sail appeared on that stainless horizon. The
thieves would disappear, and they were not likely to talk. Her own
movements had been so erratic that she doubted whether her friends could
trace her. But she took it all very pluckily; so that the round-eyed
Amaru and Tinovao were unable to guess the full meaning of her plight.
They came to the conclusion, and Rachel thought it best to encourage
them in it, that she was voluntarily planning to live amongst them for a
little while, and that the yacht would of course return for her. They
had heard of white people doing these strange things, and they were
delighted at the prospect.

In a very short time, they had lodged Rachel in a hut of palm leaves,
with all the fruits of the island at her door. They carried up the small
heap of her possessions, and she gave them each a little mirror from her
dressing bag, which lifted them into the seventh heaven. Thenceforward,
they were her devoted slaves. Rachel discovered, moreover, while they
were turning over her possessions and examining her clothes, that her
ignorance of their language was but a slight barrier to understanding.
They communicated, it seemed, by a kind of wireless telegraphy, through
that universal atmosphere of their sex. They helped her to do her hair;
and, as it fell over her shoulders, they held it up to one another,
admiring its weight and beauty. When it was dark, there came a sound of
singing from the beach; and they crowned her with fresh frangipanni
blossoms, and led her out like a bride, to hear the songs of the
islanders.

It was a night of music. In the moonlight, on the moon-white sands, a
few of the younger islanders, garlanded like the sunburnt lovers of
Theocritus, danced from time to time; but, for the most part, they were
in a restful mood, attuned to the calm breathing of the sea. Their
plaintive songs and choruses rose and fell as quietly as the night-wind
among the palms; and Rachel thought she had never heard or seen anything
more exquisite. The beauty of the night was deepened a thousand-fold by
her new loneliness. The music plucked at her heart-strings. Beautiful
shapes passed her, that made her think of Keats:

    "_Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
        To cease upon the midnight with no pain._"

She murmured the lines to herself; and while her lips yet moved, a
young islander stood before her who might have posed as the model for
Endymion. He was hardly darker than herself, and, to her surprise, he
spoke to her in quaint broken English.

"Make us the music of your own country," was what she understood him to
say, and Tinovao confirmed it by darting off to the hut and returning
with the violin. Rachel took it, and without any conscious choice of a
melody, began to play and sing the air which had been pulsing just below
the level of her consciousness ever since she had left England:

    "_Like dew on the gowan lying is the fa' of her fairy feet,
    And like winds in simmer sighing, her voice is low and sweet,
    Her voice is low and sweet, and she's a' the world to me,
    And for bonnie Annie Laurie, I'd lay me doon and dee._"

The islanders listened, as if spellbound; but she could not tell whether
the music went home to any of them, except the boy who lay at her feet
with his eyes fixed on her face. When the last notes died away, the
crowd broke into applause, with cries of "Malo! Malo!" But the boy lay
still, looking at her, as a dog looks at his mistress. Then the
moonlight glistened in his eyes, and she thought that she saw tears.
She bent forward a little to make sure. He rose with a smile, and lifted
her hand to his face, so that she might feel that his eyes were wet.

"Tears," he said, "and I only listen. But you--you make the music, and
no tears are in your eyes." He looked into her face.

"No," she said, "there are no tears in my eyes." Then she continued
hurriedly, as if speaking to herself (and perhaps only a musician would
have felt that the catch in her voice went a little deeper than tears):
"That's one of the things you lose when you go in for music. It used to
be so with me, too."

"I like your music," the boy went on. "My father--English sailor. My
mother--learn speak English--from him. She teach me. My father only stay
here little time. I never see English people before this."

Rachel looked at him with a quick realization of what his words meant.
The boy was at least eighteen years old.

"You remember no ship coming to this island?" she said.

"No. I never see my father. He only stay here little time. My mother
think for long time he will come again. That is how she die, only a
little time ago. Too much waiting. Make some more music. You have made
my ears hungry."

But Rachel was facing the truth now, and she played and sang no more
that night.


III

For a week or two, Rachel spent much time alone, thinking hard, thinking
things out as she had never done before. She did not quite understand
her isolation till the first shock of the full discovery had passed.
Then, one morning, sitting alone, and gazing out over the spotless blue,
she found herself accepting the plain fact, that this might indeed be
for ever. She found herself weighing all the chances, all that she had
lost, and all that yet remained to her. It dawned upon her, for the
first time, that youth does not lightly surrender the fulness of its
life, at the first disillusionment. She knew now that she would have
recovered from that first disastrous love-affair. She knew now that she
had always known it, and that her search had been only for some healing
dittany, some herb of grace that would heal her wound more quickly. She
faced it all--the loss of her birthright as a woman, the loss of the
unknown lover. She saw herself growing old in this loneliness.

She weighed everything that was left to her, the freedom from all the
complications of life, the beauty of her prison, the years of youth and
strength that might yet rejoice in the sun and the sea, and even find
some companionship among these children of nature that rejoiced in them
also. She compared them with the diseased monstrosities, the hideous
bodies and brutal faces that swarmed in the gray cities of Europe. She
saw nothing to alter her former opinion here. She was condemned at any
rate to live among a folk that had walked out of an ode by Keats. But
always, at the end, she pictured herself growing old, with her own life
unfulfilled.

Then, one day, a change came over her. She had lost all count of time in
that island of lasting summer; but she must have been marooned for many
months when it happened.

One afternoon, when she had been swimming with Tinovao and Amaru, the
two girls had run up into the woods to get some fruit, leaving Rachel to
bask on the beach alone. The sunlight of the last few months had tinted
her skin with a smooth rosy brown that would have made it difficult to
distinguish her from a native, except for the contours of her face and
the deep violet of her eyes, as she lay on that milk-white sand. Before
she followed her friends, she thought she would take one more ride
through the surf. She made her way out, through the gap in the reef,
till she had reached the right distance. Then she rested, treading
water, while she waited for the big comber that was to carry her back
again.

It was her civilized intelligence, perhaps, that betrayed her now, for
she turned her back to the sea for a moment, while she drank in the
beauty of the feathery green palms and delicate tresses of the ironwood
that waved along the shore. She was roused from her dreams by the
familiar muffled roar of the approaching breaker, and she turned her
head a few seconds too late to take the rush of it as it ought to have
been taken. It was a giant and, for almost the first time in her life,
she knew the sensation of fear in the sea, as the green crest crumbled
into white high over her. In that instant, too, she caught a glimpse of
a figure on the reef watching her. It was the figure of Rua, the boy
who spoke English; and, as the breaker crashed down with all its tons of
water over her head, she carried with her the impression that he was
about to dive to her rescue. She was whirled helplessly, heels over
head, downward and downward, then swept forward with the rushing
whirlpools in the blackness below, like a reed in a subterranean river.
She knew that if she could hold her breath long enough, she would rise
to the surface; but she had reckoned without the perils of the gap in
the reef. Twice she was whirled and caught against a jagged piece of
coral, which would probably have killed her if it had struck her head.
She took the warning, and held her arms in the best way she could to
ward off any head-blow. A lacerated body would not matter so much as the
momentary stunning that might prevent her from keeping afloat when she
rose. At last, when it seemed that she could hold her breath no longer,
she shot with a wild gasp to the surface again.

She found that she was only half-way through the gap, not in mid-stream
where she would have been comparatively safe, but in an eddy of boiling
water, close to the reef and among sharp fangs of coral that made it
impossible to swim. All that she could do, at the moment, was to hold on
to the coral and prevent herself from being lacerated against it. The
sharp edges of the little shells, with which it was covered here, cut
her hands, as the water swirled her to and fro; but she held on, and
looked round for help.

Then she saw that she was not fated to receive help, but to give it;
and, like lightning in a tropic night, the moment changed her world. She
had no time to think it out now; for she saw the face of Rua, swirling
up towards her through the green water, and it looked like the face of a
drowned man. His head and arms emerged, and sank again, twice, before
she caught him by the hand and drew him, with the strength of a woman
fighting for life, to her side.

She was not sure whether he was alive or dead; but she saw that, in his
hasty plunge to help her, a dive that no native would have taken at that
place in ordinary circumstances, he had struck one of the coral jags.
Blood was flowing from his head and, as she held him floating there
helplessly for a minute, the clear water went away over the white coral
tinted with little clouds of crimson. She waited for the next big wave,
thinking that it would save or destroy them both. Happily, it had not
broken when it reached them; and, as they rose on the smooth back of it,
she held her companion by the hand, and struck out fiercely for a higher
shelf of the reef. It had been out of her reach before; but the wave
carried them both up to its level, and left them stranded there.

From this point, the reef rose by easy stages; and, with the aid of two
more waves, she was able to lug Rua to a point where there was no risk
of their being washed away, though the clear water still swirled up
about them, and went away clouded with red. She lay there for a moment
exhausted; but, as her strength came back to her, the strange sensation
that flashed through her when she had first come to the surface returned
with greater force. Much has been said and sung about the dawn of wonder
on the primitive mind. This was an even stranger dawn, the dawn of
wonder on a daughter of the twentieth century. It seemed to her that she
was looking at the world for the first time, while she lay there panting
and gazing out to sea, with those red stains on the white coral, and
her hands gripping the slender brown hands of the half-drowned islander.
It seemed that she had returned to her childhood, and that she was
looking at a primal world that she had forgotten. She saw now that Rua
was breathing, and she knew instinctively that he would recover. The
wave of joy that went through her had something primitive and fierce in
it, like the joy of the wild creatures. She felt like an islander
herself, and when the sea-birds hovered overhead, she called to them, in
the island tongue, and felt as if she had somehow drawn nearer to them.
She looked at the sea with new eyes, as if it were a fierce old
play-mate of her own, an old tiger that had forgotten to sheath its
claws when it buffeted its cubs. There was a glory in the savor of life,
like the taste of freedom to a caged bird. Only it was Europe now, and
the world of houses, that seemed the cage. The sea had never been so
blue. The brine on her lips was like the sacramental wine of her new
kinship with the world....

Then, looking at Rua's face, as the life came back to it, a wave of
compassion went through her. Every contour of that face told her that
this boy also was a victim of her own kindred. He, too, was marooned,
and more hopelessly than herself, for there must be a soul within him
that could never even know what it had lost or what it hungered for,
unless, ... unless, perhaps, she could help him out of the treasures of
her own memory, and give him glimpses of that imperial palace whence he
came.

It was growing dark when they slipped into the water of the lagoon and
swam slowly towards the beach. There, she helped him to limp as far as
his hut, neither of them speaking. He dropped on his knees, as she
turned to go, and laid his face at her feet. She stayed for a moment,
looking at him, and half stooped to raise him; but she checked the
impulse, and left him abruptly.

At the edge of the wood, she turned to look again, and he was there
still, in the same attitude. There was a dumb pathos in it that reminded
her curiously of certain pictures of her lost world, the peasants in the
Angelus of Millet, though this was a picture unmarred by the curse of
Adam, the picture of a dumb brown youthful god, perfect in physical
beauty, praying in Paradise garden to the star that trembled above the
palms.

Many women (and most men) in their unguarded moments, impute their own
good and evil to others; read their own thoughts in the eyes around
them; pity their own tears, or the tears of Vergil, in the eyes of
"Geist." But Rua was praying to the best he knew.


IV

The prayer was a long one. It lasted, in various forms, for more than a
year. At dawn, she would wake, and find offerings of fruit and flowers
left at her door by her faithful worshiper; and often she would talk
with him on the beach, telling him of her own country, about which he
daily thirsted to hear more; for the more he learned, the more he seemed
to share her own exile. Music, too, they shared, that universal language
whose very spirituality is its chief peril; for it is emotion unattached
to facts, and it may mean different things to different people; so that
you may accompany the sacking of cities by the thunders of Wagner, or
dream that you see angels in an empty shrine. Sometimes, in the evening,
Rua would steal like a shadow from the shadows around her hut, where he
had been waiting to see her pass, and would beg her to play the music
of her own country. Then she would sing, and he would stand in the
doorway listening, with every pulse of his body beating time, and one
brown foot tapping in the dust.

One night, she had been wandering with Tinovao and Amaru by the lagoon,
in which the reflected stars burned so brightly that one might easily
believe the island hung in mid-heaven. She looked at them for a long
time; then, with her arms round the two girls, who understood her words
only vaguely, she murmured to herself: "What does it matter? What does
anything matter when one looks up there? And life is going ... life and
youth."

She said good-night to her friends, and laughingly plucked the red
hibiscus flower from behind the shell-like ear of Tinovao as they
parted. When she neared her door, a shadow stole out of the woods, and
stood before her on the threshold. His eyes were shining like dark
stars, the eyes of a fawn. "Music," he pleaded, "the music of your
country."

Then he saw the red flower that she wore behind her ear, exactly as
Tinovao had worn it. He stared at her, as Endymion must have stared at
Diana among the poppies of Latmos, half frightened, half amazed. He
dropped to his knees, as on that night when she had saved him. He
pressed his face against her bare feet. They were cold and salt from the
sea. But she stooped now, and raised him.

"In my country, in our country," she said, "love crowns a man. Happy is
the love that does not bring the woman to the dust."

       *       *       *       *       *

There followed a time when she was happy, or thought herself happy. It
must have lasted for nearly seven years, the lifetime of that dancing
ray of sunlight, the small son, whom she buried with her own hands under
a palm-tree. Then Rua deserted her, almost as a child forsakes its
mother. He was so much younger than herself, and he took a younger wife
from among the islanders. When she first discovered his intention,
Rachel laughed mockingly at herself, and said--also to herself, for she
knew that she had somehow lost the power to make Rua understand
her,--"Have you, too, become an advanced thinker, Rua?"

But Rua understood that it was some kind of mockery; and, as her mockery
was keeping him away from his new fancy, and he was an undisciplined
child, he leapt at her in fury, seized her by the throat, and beat her
face against the ground. When she rose to her feet, with the blood
running from her mouth, he saw that he had broken out two of her teeth.
This effectively wrecked her beauty, and convinced him, as clearly as if
he had indeed been an advanced thinker, that love must be free to
develop its own life, and that, in the interests of his own soul, he
must get away as quickly as possible. Thereafter, he avoided her
carefully, and she led a life of complete solitude, spending all her
days by the little grave under the palm-tree.

She lost all count of time. She only knew that the colors were fading
from things, and that while she used to be able to watch the waves
breaking into distinct spray on the reef, she could only see now a blur
of white, from her place by the grave. She was growing old, she
supposed, and it was very much like going to sleep, after all. The slow
pulse of the sea, the voice of the eternal, was lulling her to rest.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the schooner _Pearl_, with its party of irresponsible European
globe-trotters, dropped anchor off the island, it was the first ship
that had been seen there since the arrival of the _Seamew_, the first
that had ever been seen there by many of the young islanders.

The visitors came ashore, shouting and singing, the men in white duck
suits, with red and blue pareos fastened round their waists; the women
in long flowing lava-lavas of yellow and rose and green, which they had
bought in Tahiti, for they were going to do the thing properly. The lady
in yellow had already loosened her hair and crowned herself with
frangipanni blossoms. The islanders flocked around them, examining
everything they wore, and decorating them with garlands of flowers, just
as they had done with Rachel's party. The new arrivals feasted on the
white beach of the lagoon, in what they believed to be island fashion;
and when the stars came out, and the banjos were tired, they called on
the islanders for the songs and dances of the South Seas. The lady in
yellow tittered apprehensively, and remarked to her neighbor in green,
that she had heard dreadful things about some of those dances. But she
was disappointed on this occasion. The plaintive airs rose and fell
around them, like the very voice of the wind in the palm trees; and the
dancers moved as gracefully as the waves broke on the shore.

When the islanders had ended their entertainment, amidst resounding
applause, one of the young native women called out a name that seemed to
amuse her companions. They instantly echoed it, and one of them snatched
a banjo from the hands of a white man. Then they all flew, like
chattering birds, towards a hut, which had kept its door closed
throughout the day.

They clamored round it, gleefully nudging each other, as if in
expectation of a huge joke. At last, the door opened, and a gray, bent
old woman appeared. She was of larger build than most of the islanders,
and there was something in her aspect that silenced the chatterers, even
though they still nudged each other slyly. The native with the banjo
offered it to her almost timidly, and said something, to which the old
woman shook her head.

"They say she is a witch," said the Captain of the _Pearl_, who had been
listening to the conversation of the group nearest to him. "They want
her to give us some of her music. She used to sing songs, apparently,
before her man drove her out of his house, in the old days, but she has
not sung them since. They think she might oblige our party, for some
strange reason. Evidently, they've got some little joke they want to
play on us. You know these Kanakas have a pretty keen sense of humor."

The visitors gathered round curiously. An island witch was certainly
something to record in their diaries. The old woman looked at them for a
moment, with eyes like burning coals through her shaggy elf-locks. They
seemed to remind her of something unpleasant. A savage sneer bared her
broken teeth. Then she took the banjo in her shaking hands. They were
queerly distorted by age or some disease and they looked like the claws
of a land-crab. She sat down on her own threshold, and touched the
strings absently with her misshapen fingers. The faint sound of it
seemed to rouse her, seemed to kindle some sleeping fire within her, and
she struck it twice, vigorously.

The banjo is not a subtle instrument, but the sound of those two chords
drew the crowd to attention, as a master holds his audience breathless
when he tests his violin before playing.

"Holy smoke!" muttered the owner of the banjo, "where did the old witch
learn to do that?"

Then the miracle began. The decrepit fingers drew half a dozen chords
that went like fire through the unexpectant veins of the Europeans, went
through them as a national march shivers through the soul of a people
when its armies return from war. The haggard burning eyes, between the
tattered elf-locks, moistened and softened like the eyes of a Madonna,
and the withered mouth, with its broken teeth, began to sing, very
softly and quaveringly, at first, but, gathering strength, note by note,
the words that told of the love of a soldier who fought in Flanders more
than a hundred years ago:

    "_Maxwelton's braes are bonnie, where early fa's the dew,
    And it's there that Annie Laurie gi'ed me her promise true._"

"But it's a white woman," said the lady in the yellow lava-lava, who had
expected only the islanders to shock her, "a white woman gone native!
How disgustin'!"

"Ssh!" said somebody else, "she's going to give us more."

The old witch hardly seemed conscious of their presence now. The
slumbering sea of music within her was breaking up the ice which had
sealed and silenced it for so long. She nodded at them, with shining
eyes, and muttered thickly, an almost childlike boast:

"Oh, but I could do better than that once. My fingers are stiff. Wait!"

She went into her hut, and returned with the violin. Tremblingly, she
opened a little packet of violin strings.

"It's my last," she said. "I've kept it very carefully; but it won't be
as good as it used to be."

The throng watched her breathlessly, as she made ready, and the
trade-wind hushed itself to sleep among the palms.

"When I was in Europe last," she said, "it seemed to me there was
darkness coming. People had forgotten the meaning of music like this.
They wanted discord and blood and wickedness. I didn't understand it.
But you could see it coming everywhere. Horrible pictures. Women like
snakes. Books like lumps of poison. Hatred everywhere. Even the
musicians hated each other; and if they thought any one had genius, O
ever so little of that--do you know--I think they wanted to kill. Of
course, I chose wrong. I ought to have stayed and fought them. It's too
late now. But you know the meaning of this? It's the cry over the lost
city, before the windows were darkened and the daughters of music
brought low."

"Crazy as a loon!" whispered the lady in the yellow lava-lava.

The old woman stood upright in the shadow of a tall palm-tree, a shadow
that spread round her on the milk-white beach like a purple star. Then
her violin began to speak, began to cry, through the great simple melody
of the _Largo_ of Handel, like the soul of an outcast angel.

At the climax of its infinite compassion, two strings snapped in quick
succession, and she sank to the ground with a sob, hugging the violin to
her breast, as if it were a child.

"That was the last," she said.

They saw her head fall over on her shoulder, as she lay back against the
stem of the palm, an old, old woman asleep in the deep heart of its
purple star of shadow; and they knew, instinctively, even before the
Captain of the _Pearl_ advanced to make quite sure, that it was indeed
the last.



X

THE GARDEN ON THE CLIFF


"I don't know about three acres and a cow, but every man ought to have
his garden. That's the way I look at it," said the old fisherman,
picking up another yard of the brown net that lay across his knees.
"There's gardens that you see, and gardens that you don't see. There's
gardens all shut in with hedges, prickly hedges that 'ull tear your hand
if you try to make a spy-hole in them; and some that you wouldn't know
was there at all--invisible gardens, like the ones that Cap'n Ellis used
to talk about.

"I never followed him rightly; for I supposed he meant the garden of the
heart, the same as the sentimental song; but he hadn't any use for that
song, so he told me. My wife sent it to him for a Christmas present,
thinking it would please him; and he used it for pipe-lights. The words
was very pretty, I thought, and very appropriate to his feelings:

    _'Ef I should plant a little seed of love,
      In the garden of your heart._

That's how it went. But he didn't like it.

"Then there's other gardens that every one can see, both market-gardens
and flower-gardens. Cap'n Ellis told me he knew a man once that wore a
cauliflower in his buttonhole, whenever he went to chapel, and thought
it was a rose. Leastways, he thought that every one else thought it was
a rose. Kind of an orstrich he must have been. But that wasn't the way
with Cap'n Ellis. Every one could see _his_ garden, though he had a nice
big hedge round three sides of it, and it wasn't more than
three-quarters of an acre. Right on the edge of the white chalk coast it
was; and his little six-room cottage looked like a piece of the white
chalk itself.

"But he was a queer old chap, and he always would have it that nobody
could really see his garden. I used to take him a few mackerel
occasionally--he liked 'em for his supper--and he'd walk in his garden
with me for half an hour at a time. Then, just as I'd be going he'd give
a little smile and say, 'Well, you haven't seen my garden yet! You must
come again.'

"'Haven't seen your garden,' I'd say. 'I've been looking at it this half
hour an' more!'

"'Once upon a time, there was a man that couldn't see a joke,' he'd say.
Then he'd go off chuckling, and swinging his mackerel against the
hollyhocks.

"Funny little old chap he was, with a pinched white face, and a long
nose, and big gray eyes, and fluffy white hair for all the world like
swans' down. But he'd been a good seaman in his day.

"He'd sit there, in his porch, with his spyglass to his eye, looking out
over his garden at the ships as they went up and down the Channel. Then
he'd lower his glass a little to look at the butterflies, fluttering
like little white sails over the clumps of thrift at the edge of the
cliff, and settling on the little pink flowers. Very pretty they was
too. He planted them there at the end of his garden, which ran straight
down from his cottage to the edge of the cliff. He said his wife liked
to see them nodding their pink heads against the blue sea, in the old
days, when she was waiting for him to come home from one of his voyages.
'Pink and blue,' he says, 'is a very pretty combination.' They matched
her eyes and cheeks, too, as I've been told. But she's been dead now
for twenty-five years or more.

"He had just one little winding path through the garden to the edge of
the cliff; an' all the rest, at the right time of the year, was flowers.
He'd planted a little copse of fir trees to the west of it, so as to
shelter the flowers; and every one laughed at him for doing it. The sea
encroaches a good many yards along this coast every year, and the cliffs
were crumbling away with every tide. The neighbors told him that, if he
wanted a flower-garden, he'd better move inland.

"'It was a quarter of a mile inland,' he says, 'when Polly and me first
came to live here; and it hasn't touched my garden yet. It never will
touch it,' he says, 'not while I'm alive. There are good break-waters
down below, and it will last me my time. Perhaps the trees won't grow to
their full height, but I shan't be here to see,' he says, 'and it's not
the trees I'm thinking about. It's the garden. They don't have to be
very tall to shelter my garden. As for the sea,' he says, 'it's my
window, my _bay_-window, and I hope you see the joke. If I was inland,
with four hedges around my garden, instead of three,' he says, 'it would
be like living in a house without a window. Three hedges and a big blue
bay-window, that's the garden for me,' he says.

"And so he planted it full of every kind of flowers that he could grow.
He had sweet Williams, and larkspurs, and old man's beard, and lavender,
and gilly-flowers, and a lot of them old-fashioned sweet-smelling
flowers, with names that he used to say were like church-bells at
evening, in the old villages, out of reach of the railway-lines.

"And they all had a meaning to him which others didn't know. You might
walk with him for a whole summer's afternoon in his garden, but it
seemed as if his flowers kept the sweetest part of their scents for old
Cap'n Ellis. He'd pick one of them aromatic leaves, and roll it in his
fingers, and put it to his nose and say 'Ah,' like as if he was talking
to his dead sweetheart.

"'It's a strange thing,' he'd say, 'but when she was alive, I was away
at sea for fully three parts of the year. We always talked of the time
when I'd retire from the sea. We thought we'd settle down together in
our garden and watch the ships. But, when that time came, it was her
turn to go away, and it's my turn to wait. But there's a garden where
we meet,' he'd say, 'and that's the garden you've never seen.'

"There was one little patch, on the warmest and most sheltered side that
he called his wife's garden; and it was this that I thought he meant. It
was just about as big as her grave, and he had little clusters of her
favorite flowers there--rosemary, and pansies and Canterbury bells, and
her name _Ruth_, done very neat and pretty in Sussex violets. It came up
every year in April, like as if the garden was remembering.

"Parson considered that Cap'n Ellis was a very interesting man.

"'He's quite a philosopher,' he said to me one day; and I suppose that
was why the old chap talked so queer at times.

"One morning, after the war broke out, I'd taken some mackerel up to
Cap'n Ellis.

"'Are you quite sure they're fresh,' he said, the same as he always did,
though they were always a free gift to him. But he meant no offense.

"'Fresh as your own lavender,' I says, and then we laughs as usual, and
sat down to look at the ships, wondering whether they were transports,
or Red Cross, or men-of-war, as they lay along the horizon. Sometimes
we'd see an air-plane. They used to buzz up and down that coast all day;
and Cap'n Ellis would begin comparing it through his glass with the
dragon flies that flickered over his gilly-flowers. There was a
southwest wind blowing in from the sea over his garden, and it brought
us big puffs of scent from the flowers.

"'Hour after hour,' he says, 'day after day, sometimes for weeks I've
known the southwest wind to blow like that. It's the wind that wrecked
the Armada,' he says, 'and, though it comes gently to my garden, you'd
think it would blow all the scents out of the flowers in a few minutes.
But it don't,' he says. 'The more the wind blows, the more sweetness
they give out,' he says. 'Have you ever considered,' he says, 'how one
little clump of wild thyme will go on pouring its heart out on the wind?
Where does it all come from?'

"I was always a bit awkward when questions like that were put to me;
so--just to turn him off like--I says 'Consider the lilies of the
field.'

"'Ah,' he says, turning to me with his eyes shining. 'That's the way to
look at it.' I heard him murmuring another text under his breath, 'Come,
thou south, and blow upon my garden.' And he shook hands with me when I
said good-bye, as if I'd shown him my feelings, which made me feel I
wasn't treating him right, for I'd only said the first thing that came
into my mind, owing to my awkwardness at such times.

"Well, it was always disturbing me to think what might happen to Cap'n
Ellis, if one day he should find his garden slipping away to the beach.
It overhung quite a little already; and there had been one or two big
falls of chalk a few hundred yards away. Some said that the guns at sea
were shaking down the loose boulders.

"Of course, he was an old man now, three score years and ten, at least;
and my own belief was that if his garden went, he would go with it. The
parish council was very anxious to save a long strip of the cliff
adjoining his garden, because it was their property; and they'd been
building a stone wall along the beach below to protect it from the high
tide. But they were going to stop short of Cap'n Ellis's property,
because of the expense, and he couldn't afford to do it himself. A few
of us got together in the _Plough_ and tried to work out a plan of
carrying on the wall, by mistake, about fifteen feet further, which was
all it needed. We'd got the foreman on our side, and it looked as if we
should get it done at the council's expense after all, which was hardly
honest, no doubt, in a manner of speaking, though Cap'n Ellis knew
nothing about it.

"But the end came in a way that no wall could have prevented, though it
proved we were right about the old man having set his heart in that
garden. David Copper, the shepherd, saw the whole thing. It happened
about seven o'clock of a fine summer morning, when the downs were all
laid out in little square patches, here a patch of red clover, and there
a patch of yellow mustard, for all the world like a crazy quilt, only
made of flowers, and smelling like Eden garden itself for the dew upon
them.

"It was all still and blue in the sky, and the larks going up around the
dew-ponds and bursting their pretty little hearts for joy that they was
alive, when, just as if the shadow of a hawk had touched them, they all
wheeled off and dropped silent.

"Pretty soon, there was a whirring along the coast, and one of them
air-planes came up, shining like silver in the morning sun. Copper
didn't pay much attention to it at first, for it looked just as
peaceable as any of our own, which he thought it was. Then he sees a
flash, in the middle of Cap'n Ellis's garden, and the overhung piece,
where the little clumps of thrift were, goes rumbling down to the beach,
like as if a big bag of flour had been emptied over the side. The
air-plane circled overhead, and Copper thinks it was trying to hit the
coast-guard station, which was only a few score yards away, though
nobody was there that morning but the coast-guard's wife, and the old
black figurehead in front of it, and there never was any guns there at
any time.

"The next thing Copper saw was Cap'n Ellis running out into what was
left of his garden, with his night-shirt flapping around him, for all
the world like a little white sea-swallow. He runs down with his arms
out, as if he was trying to catch hold of his garden an' save it. Copper
says he never knew whether the old man would have gone over the edge of
the cliff or not. He thinks he would, for he was running wildly. But
before he reached the edge there was another flash and, when the smoke
had cleared, there was no garden or cottage or Cap'n Ellis at all, but
just another big bite taken out of the white chalk coast.

"We found him under about fifteen ton of it down on the beach. The
curious thing was that he was all swathed and shrouded from head to foot
in the flowers of his garden. They'd been twisted all around him,
lavender, and gilly-flowers, and hollyhocks, so that you'd think they
were trying to shield him from harm. P'raps they've all gone with him to
one of them invisible gardens he used to talk about, where he was going
to meet his dead sweetheart.

"They buried him on the sunny side of the churchyard. You can see a bit
of blue sea between the yew trees from where he lies, so he's got his
window still; and there's a very appropriate inscription on his
tombstone:

"_Awake, O north wind, and come, thou south: Blow upon my garden, that
the spices thereof may flow forth._"



XI

THE HAND OF THE MASTER


It was on Christmas Day, 1914, that I received one of the strangest
documents I had ever read. It was in the form of a letter from Jonathan
Martin, who had made himself a torch of ambition and fear to many moths
in London by painting portraits that were certain to be the pictures of
the year, but also certain to reveal all the idiosyncrasies, good and
bad, of their subjects. It was the fashion to call him cynical. In fact,
he was an artist, and a great one.

His unusual power of eliciting unexpected meanings from apparently
meaningless incidents and objects was not confined to his art. In
private conversation, he would often startle you with a sentence that
was like the striking of a match in a dark room. You didn't know that
the room was dark until he spoke; and then, in a flash, mysterious
relationships at which you had never guessed, were established. You
caught a glimpse of an order and a meaning that you had not discerned
before. The aimless thing over which you had barked your shin became a
coal scuttle; the serried row of dark objects that irritated your left
elbow became the works of Shakespeare; and, if you were lucky, you
perhaps discovered the button by which you could switch on the electric
light, and then sit down by the hearth and read of "beauty, making
beautiful old rhyme."

But this is a very faint hint of the kind of illumination with which he
would surprise you on all kinds of occasions. I shall never forget the
way in which he brought into a queer juxtaposition "the Day" that
Germany had been toasting for forty years and the final request for an
answer before midnight, which was embodied in the British ultimatum. He
would give you a patch of unexpected order in the chaos of politics, and
another in the chaos of the creeds--patches that made you feel a
maddening desire to widen them until they embraced the whole world. You
felt sure that he himself had done this, that he lived in a
re-integrated universe, and that--if only there were time enough--he
could give you the whole scheme. In short, he saw the whole universe as
a work of art; and he conceived it to be his business, in his own art,
to take this or that apparently isolated subject and show you just the
note it was meant to strike in the harmony of the whole. He was very
fond of quoting the great lines of Dante, where he describes the
function of the poet as that of one who goes through the world and where
he sees the work of Love, records it. But, please to remember, this did
not imply that the subject was necessarily a pleasant one. Beauty was
always there, but the beauty was one of relationships, not of the thing
itself. As he once said, "an old boot in the gutter will serve as a
subject if you can make it significant, if you can set it in relation to
the enduring things." It is necessary to make this tedious preface to
his odd letter, or the point of it may be lost.

"I want to tell you about the most haunting and dramatic episode I have
encountered during these years of war," he wrote. "It was a thing so
slight that I hardly know how to put it into words. It couldn't be
painted, because it includes two separate scenes, and also--in
paint--it would be impossible to avoid the merely sentimental effect.

"It happened in London, during the very early days of the struggle. One
afternoon, I was riding down Regent Street on the top of a bus. The
pavements were crowded with the usual throng. Women in furs were peering
into the windows of the shops. Newspaper boys were bawling the latest
lies. Once, I thought I saw a great scribble of the Hand that writes
history, where a theater poster, displaying a serpentine woman, a kind
of Aubrey-Beardsley vampire, was half obliterated by a strong diagonal
bar of red, bearing the words, '_Kitchener wants a hundred thousand
men_.' My mind was running on symbols that afternoon, and I wondered if
it did perhaps mean the regeneration of art and life in England at last.

"Then we overtook a strange figure, a blind man, tapping the edge of the
pavement with a rough stick, cut out of some country hedgerow. He was
carrying, in his left hand, a four-foot pole, at the top of which there
was nailed a board, banner-wise, about three feet long and two feet
wide. On the back of the board, as we overtook him, I read the French
text in big red letters: 'VENEZ A MOI, VOUS TOUS QUI ETES TRAVAILLÉS ET
CHARGÉS, ET JE VOUS SOULAGERAI.'

"On the other side of the board, as we halted by the curb a little in
front of him, there was the English version of the same text, in big
black letters: 'COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOR AND ARE HEAVY-LADEN, AND
I WILL GIVE YOU REST.'

"The blind man was tall and lean-faced, and held himself very upright.
He was poorly dressed, but very clean and neat. The tap of his stick was
like the smart tap of a drum, and he marched more rapidly than any of
those who were going in the same direction.

"There were several things about him that puzzled me. There was no
advertisement of any sect, or any religious meeting, nothing but the two
texts on his placard. He went past us like a soldier, and he carried it
like the flag of his regiment. He did not look as if he were asking for
alms. The pride on his face forbade the suggestion; and he never
slackened his quick pace for a moment. He seemed entirely unrelated to
the world around him.

"Possibly, I thought, he was one of those pathetic beings whose emotions
had been so stirred by the international tragedy that, despite their
physical helplessness, they were forced to find some outlet. Perhaps he
was an old soldier, blinded in some earlier war. Perhaps he was merely a
religious fanatic. In any case, in the great web of the world's events,
he seemed to be a loose fantastic thread; and although he was carrying a
more important message than any one else, nobody paid any attention to
him.

"In a few moments, the bus had carried my thoughts and myself into other
regions, and, for the time, I forgot him. I occupied myself, as I often
do, in composing a bit of doggerel to the rhythm of the wheels. Here it
is. It is pretty bad, but the occasion may make it interesting:

    _Once, as in London busses,
      At dusk I used to ride,
    The faces Hogarth painted
      Would rock from side to side,
    All gross and sallow and greasy,
      And dull and leaden-eyed._

    _They nodded there before me
      In such fantastic shape,
    The donkey and the gosling,
      The sheep, the whiskered ape,
    With so much empty chatter,
      So many and foolish lies,
    I lost the stars of heaven
      Through looking in their eyes._

"Late in the afternoon, I was returning westward, along the Strand. I
remember walking slowly to look at the beauty of the sunset sky, against
which the Nelson column, in those first days of the fight, rose with a
more spiritual significance than ever before. The little Admiral stood
like a watchman, looking out to sea, from the main mast of our Ship of
State, against that dying glory. It was the symbol of the national soul,
high and steadfast over the great dark lions, round which so many
quarreling voices had risen, so many quarreling faces had surged and
drifted away like foam in the past. This was the monument of the
enduring spirit, a thing to still the heart and fill the eyes of all who
speak our tongue to-day.

"I was so absorbed in it that I did not notice the thick crowd, choking
the entrances to Charing Cross Station, until I was halted by it. But
this was a very different crowd from those of peace-time. They were all
very silent, and I did not understand what swarming instinct had drawn
them together. Nor did they understand it themselves--yet. 'I think they
are expecting something,' was the only reply I got to my inquiry.

"I made my way round to the front of the station, but the big iron gates
were closed and guarded by police. Nobody was allowed to enter the
station. Little groups of railway porters were clustered here and there,
talking in low voices. I asked one of these men what was happening.

"'They're expecting something, some train. But we don't know what it is
bringing.'

"As he spoke, there was a movement in the crowd. A compact body of about
forty ambulance men marched through, into the open space before the
station. Some of them were carrying stretchers. They looked grave and
anxious. Some of their faces were tense and white, as if they too were
expecting something, something they almost dreaded to see. This was very
early in the war, remember, before we knew what to expect from these
trains.

"The gates of the station swung open. The ambulance men marched in. A
stream of motor ambulances followed. Then the gates were closed again.

"I waited, with the waiting crowd, for half an hour. It was impossible
now to make one's way through the dense crush. From where I stood,
jammed back against the iron railings, in front of the station, I could
see that all the traffic in the Strand was blocked. The busses were
halted, and the passengers were standing up on the top, like spectators
in some enormous crowded theater. The police had more and more
difficulty in keeping the open space before the station. At last, the
gates were swung apart again, and the strangest procession that London
had ever seen began to come out.

"First, there were the sitting-up cases--four soldiers to a taxicab,
many of them still bandaged about the brows with the first blood-stained
field dressings. Most of them sat like princes, and many of them were
smiling; but all had a new look in their faces. Officers went by,
gray-faced; and the measure of their seriousness seemed to be the
measure of their intelligence, rather than that of their wounds. Without
the utterance of a word, the London crowd began to feel that here was a
new thing. The army of Britain was making its great fighting retreat,
before some gigantic force that had brought this new look into the faces
of the soldiers. It was our first real news from the front. From the
silent faces of these men who had met the first onset with their bodies,
we got our first authentic account of the new guns and the new shells,
and the new hell that had been loosed over Europe.

"But the crowd had not yet fully realized it. A lad in khaki came
capering out of the station, waving his hands to the throng and shouting
something that sounded like a music-hall jest. The crowd rose to what it
thought was the old familiar occasion.

"'Hello, Tommy! Good boy, Tommy! Shake hands, Tommy! Are we downhearted,
Tommy?' The old vacuous roar began and, though all the faces near me
seemed to have two eyes in them, every one began to look cheerful again.

"The capering soldier stopped and looked at them. Then he made a
grotesque face, and thrust his tongue out. He looked more like a
gargoyle than a man.

"The shouts of 'Tommy, Tommy,' still continued, though a few of the
shouters were evidently puzzled. Then a brother soldier, with his left
arm in the sling, took the arm of the comedian, and looked a little
contemptuously at the crowd.

"'Shell-shock,' he said quietly. And the crowd shouted no more that day.
It was not a pleasant mistake; and it was followed by a procession of
closed ambulances, containing the worst cases.

"Then came something newer even than wounded men, a motley stream of
civilians, the Belgian refugees. They came out of the station like a
flock of sheep, and the fear of the wolf was still in their eyes. The
London crowd was confronted by this other crowd, so like itself, a crowd
of men in bowler hats and black coats, of women with children clinging
to their skirts; and it was one of the most dramatic meetings in
history. The refugees were carrying their household goods with them, as
much as could be tied in a bundle or shut in a hand-bag. Some of the
women were weeping. One of them--I heard afterwards--had started with
four children but had been separated from the eldest in the confusion of
their flight. It was doubtful whether they would ever be re-united.

"Now, as this new crowd streamed out of the gates of the station towards
the vehicles that had been prepared for them, some of their faces lifted
a little, and a light came into them that was more than the last
radiance of the sunset. They looked as if they had seen a friend. It was
a look of recognition; and though it was only a momentary gleam, it had
a beauty so real and vivid that I turned my head to see what had caused
it.

"And there, over the sea of faces that reached now to the foot of the
Nelson column, I saw something that went through me like great music.
Facing the gates of the station, and lifting out of the midst of the
crowd like the banner of a mighty host, nay, like the banner of all
humanity, there was a placard on a pole. The sunset-light caught it and
made it blaze like a star. It bore, in blood-red letters, the solemn
inscription that I had seen in the earlier part of the day: 'VENEZ A
MOI, VOUS TOUS QUI ETES TRAVAILLÉS ET CHARGÉS, ET JE VOUS SOULAGERAI.'

"My blind man had found his niche in the universe. It was hardly
possible that he was even conscious of what he was doing; hardly
possible that he knew which side of his banner was turned towards the
refugees, whether it was the English, that would mean nothing to them,
or the French that would speak to them like a benediction. He had been
swung to his place and held in it by external forces, held there, as I
myself was jammed against the iron railings. But he had become, in one
moment, the spokesman of mankind; and if he had done nothing else in all
his life, it had been worth living for that one unconscious moment.

"You may be interested to hear the conclusion of the doggerel which came
into my head as I went home:

    _Now, as I ride through London,
      The long wet vistas shine,
    Beneath the wheeling searchlights,
      As they were washed with wine,
    And every darkened window
      Is holy as a shrine._

    _The deep-eyed men and women
      Are fair beyond belief,
    Ennobled by compassion,
      And exquisite with grief.
    Along the streets of sorrow
      A river of beauty rolls.
    The faces in the darkness
      Are like immortal souls._"

       *       *       *       *       *

    _WORKS BY ALFRED NOYES_

    Collected Poems--_2 Vols._
    The Lord of Misrule
    A Belgian Christmas Eve (Rada)
    The Wine-Press
    Walking Shadows--_Prose_
    Open Boats
    Tales of the Mermaid Tavern
    Sherwood
    The Enchanted Island and Other Poems
    Drake: An English Epic





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