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Title: The Burning Spear: Being the Experiences of Mr. John Lavender in the Time of War
Author: Galsworthy, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Burning Spear: Being the Experiences of Mr. John Lavender in the Time of War" ***

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by John Galsworthy

Being the Experiences of Mr. John Lavender in the Time of War

Recorded by: A. R. P—M [John Galsworthy]

    [NOTE: John Galsworthy said of this work: “‘The Burning Spear’ was revenge of the nerves. It was bad enough to have to bear the dreads and strains and griefs of war.” Several years after its first publication he admitted authorship and it was included in the collected edition of his works. D.W.]

                    “With a heart of furious fancies,
                     Whereof I am commander,
                     With a burning spear and a horse of air
                     In the wilderness I wander;
                     With a night of ghosts and shadows
                     I summoned am to tourney
                     Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end
                     For me it is no journey.”

                                    TOM O’BEDLAM


























In the year —— there dwelt on Hampstead Heath a small thin gentleman of
fifty-eight, gentle disposition, and independent means, whose wits had
become somewhat addled from reading the writings and speeches of public
men. The castle which, like every Englishman, he inhabited was embedded
in lilac bushes and laburnums, and was attached to another castle,
embedded, in deference to our national dislike of uniformity, in acacias
and laurustinus. Our gentleman, whose name was John Lavender, had until
the days of the Great War passed one of those curious existences are
sometimes to be met with, in doing harm to nobody. He had been brought
up to the Bar, but like most barristers had never practised, and had
spent his time among animals and the wisdom of the past. At the period
in which this record opens he owned a young female sheep-dog called
Blink, with beautiful eyes obscured by hair; and was attended to by a
thin and energetic housekeeper, in his estimation above all weakness,
whose name was Marian Petty, and by her husband, his chauffeur, whose
name was Joe.

It was the ambition of our hero to be, like all public men, without fear
and without reproach. He drank not, abstained from fleshly intercourse,
and habitually spoke the truth. His face was thin, high cheek-boned, and
not unpleasing, with one loose eyebrow over which he had no control; his
eyes, bright and of hazel hue, looked his fellows in the face without
seeing what was in it. Though his moustache was still dark, his thick
waving hair was permanently white, for his study was lined from floor to
ceiling with books, pamphlets, journals, and the recorded utterances
of great mouths. He was of a frugal habit, ate what was put before him
without question, and if asked what he would have, invariably answered:
“What is there?” without listening to the reply. For at mealtimes it was
his custom to read the writings of great men.

“Joe,” he would say to his chauffeur, who had a slight limp, a green
wandering eye, and a red face, with a rather curved and rather redder
nose, “You must read this.”

And Joe would answer:

“Which one is that, sir?”

“Hummingtop; a great man, I think, Joe.”

“A brainy chap, right enough, sir.”

“He has done wonders for the country. Listen to this.” And Mr. Lavender
would read as follows: “If I had fifty sons I would give them all. If
I had forty daughters they should nurse and scrub and weed and fill
shells; if I had thirty country-houses they should all be hospitals; if
I had twenty pens I would use them all day long; if had ten voices they
should never cease to inspire and aid my country.”

“If ‘e had nine lives,” interrupted Joe, with a certain suddenness,
“‘e’d save the lot.”

Mr. Lavender lowered the paper.

“I cannot bear cynicism, Joe; there is no quality so unbecoming to a

“Me and ‘im don’t put in for that, sir.”

“Joe, Mr. Lavender would say you are, incorrigible....”

Our gentleman, in common with all worthy of the name, had a bank-book,
which, in hopes that it would disclose an unsuspected balance, he would
have “made up” every time he read an utterance exhorting people to
invest and save their country.

One morning at the end of May, finding there was none, he called in his
housekeeper and said:

“Mrs. Petty, we are spending too much; we have again been exhorted to
save. Listen! ‘Every penny diverted from prosecution of the war is one
more spent in the interests of the enemies of mankind. No patriotic
person, I am confident; will spend upon him or herself a stiver which
could be devoted to the noble ends so near to all our hearts. Let us
make every spare copper into bullets to strengthen the sinews of war!’ A
great speech. What can we do without?”

“The newspapers, sir.”

“Don’t be foolish, Mrs. Petty. From what else could we draw our
inspiration and comfort in these terrible days?”

Mrs. Petty sniffed. “Well, you can’t eat less than you do,” she said;
“but you might stop feedin’ Blink out of your rations—that I do think.”

“I have not found that forbidden as yet in any public utterance,”
returned Mr. Lavender; “but when the Earl of Betternot tells us to stop,
I shall follow his example, you may depend on that. The country comes
before everything.” Mrs. Petty tossed her head and murmured darkly—

“Do you suppose he’s got an example, Sir?”

“Mrs. Petty,” replied Mr. Lavender, “that is quite unworthy of you. But,
tell me, what can we do without?”

“I could do without Joe,” responded Mrs. Petty, “now that you’re not
using him as chauffeur.”

“Please be serious. Joe is an institution; besides, I am thinking of
offering myself to the Government as a speaker now that we may use gas.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Petty.

“I am going down about it to-morrow.”

“Indeed, sir!”

“I feel my energies are not fully employed.”

“No, sir?”

“By the way, there was a wonderful leader on potatoes yesterday. We must
dig up the garden. Do you know what the subsoil is?”

“Brickbats and dead cats, I expect, sir.”

“Ah! We shall soon improve that. Every inch of land reclaimed is a nail
in the coffin of our common enemies.”

And going over to a bookcase, Mr. Lavender took out the third from the
top of a pile of newspapers. “Listen!” he said. “‘The problem before
us is the extraction of every potential ounce of food. No half measures
must content us. Potatoes! Potatoes! No matter how, where, when the
prime national necessity is now the growth of potatoes. All Britons
should join in raising a plant which may be our very salvation.

“Fudge!” murmured Mrs. Petty.

Mr. Lavender read on, and his eyes glowed.

“Ah!” he thought, “I, too, can do my bit to save England.... It needs
but the spark to burn away the dross of this terrible horse-sense which
keeps the country back.

“Mrs. Petty!” But Mrs. Petty was already not.

   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The grass never grew under the feet of Mr. Lavender, No sooner had he
formed his sudden resolve than he wrote to what he conceived to be the
proper quarter, and receiving no reply, went down to the centre of
the official world. It was at time of change and no small national
excitement; brooms were sweeping clean, and new offices had arisen
everywhere. Mr. Lavender passed bewildered among large stone buildings
and small wooden buildings, not knowing where to go. He had bought no
clothes since the beginning of the war, except the various Volunteer
uniforms which the exigencies of a shifting situation had forced the
authorities to withdraw from time to time; and his, small shrunken
figure struck somewhat vividly on the eye, with elbows and knees shining
in the summer sunlight. Stopping at last before the only object which
seemed unchanged, he said:

“Can you tell me where the Ministry is?”

The officer looked down at him.

“What for?”

“For speaking about the country.”

“Ministry of Propagation? First on the right, second door on the left.”

“Thank you. The Police are wonderful.”

“None of that,” said the officer coldly.

“I only said you were wonderful.”

“I ‘eard you.”

“But you are. I don’t know what the country would do without you.
Your solid qualities, your imperturbable bonhomie, your truly British
tenderness towards——”

“Pass away!” said the officer.

“I am only repeating what we all say of you,” rejoined Mr. Lavender

“Did you ‘ear me say ‘Move on,’” said the officer; “or must I make you
an example?”

“YOU are the example,” said Mr. Lavender warmly.

“Any more names,” returned the officer, “and I take you to the station.”
And he moved out into the traffic. Puzzled by his unfriendliness Mr.
Lavender resumed his search, and, arriving at the door indicated, went
in. A dark, dusty, deserted corridor led him nowhere, till he came on a
little girl in a brown frock, with her hair down her back.

“Can you tell me, little one——” he said, laying his hand on her head.

“Chuck it!” said the little girl.

“No, no!” responded Mr. Lavender, deeply hurt. “Can you tell me where I
can find the Minister?”

“‘Ave you an appointment?

“No; but I wrote to him. He should expect me.”

“Wot nyme?”

“John Lavender. Here is my card.”

“I’ll tyke it in. Wyte ‘ere!”

“Wonderful!” mused Mr. Lavender; “the patriotic impulse already stirring
in these little hearts! What was the stanza of that patriotic poet?

     “‘Lives not a babe who shall not feel the pulse
     Of Britain’s need beat wild in Britain’s wrist.
     And, sacrificial, in the world’s convulse
     Put up its lips to be by Britain kissed.’

“So young to bring their lives to the service of the country!”

“Come on,” said the little girl, reappearing suddenly; “e’ll see you.”

Mr. Lavender entered a room which had a considerable resemblance to the
office of a lawyer save for the absence of tomes. It seemed furnished
almost exclusively by the Minister, who sat with knees crossed, in a
pair of large round tortoiseshell spectacles, which did not, however,
veil the keenness of his eyes. He was a man with close cropped grey
hair, a broad, yellow, clean-shaven face, and thrusting grey eyes.

“Mr. Lavender,” he said, in a raw, forcible voice; “sit down, will you?”

“I wrote to you,” began our hero, “expressing the wish to offer myself
as a speaker.”

“Ah!” said the Minister. “Let’s see—Lavender, Lavender. Here’s your
letter.” And extracting a letter from a file he read it, avoiding
with difficulty his tortoise-shell spectacles. “You want to stump the
country? M.A., Barrister, and Fellow of the Zoological. Are you a good

“If zeal—-” began Mr. Lavender.

“That’s it; spark! We’re out to win this war, sir.”

“Quite so,” began Mr. Lavender. “If devotion——”

“You’ll have to use gas,” said the Minister; “and we don’t pay.”

“Pay!” cried Mr. Lavender with horror; “no, indeed!”

The Minister bent on him a shrewd glance.

“What’s your line? Anything particular, or just general patriotism? I
recommend that; but you’ll have to put some punch into it, you know.”

“I have studied all the great orators of the war, sir,” said Mr.
Lavender, “and am familiar with all the great writers on, it. I should
form myself on them; and if enthusiasm——”

“Quite!” said the Minister. “If you want any atrocities we can give you
them. No facts and no figures; just general pat.”

“I shall endeavour——” began Mr. Lavender.

“Well, good-bye,” said the Minister, rising. “When do you start?”

Mr. Lavender rose too. “To-morrow,” he said, “if I can get inflated.”

The Minister rang a bell.

“You’re on your own, mind,” he said. “No facts; what they want is
ginger. Yes, Mr. Japes?”

And seeing that the Minister was looking over his tortoiseshell.
spectacles at somebody behind him, Mr. Lavender turned and went out. In
the corridor he thought, “What terseness! How different from the days
when Dickens wrote his ‘Circumlocution Office’! Punch!” And opening
the wrong door, he found himself in the presence of six little girls
in brown frocks, sitting against the walls with their thumbs in their

“Oh!” he said, “I’m afraid I’ve lost my way.”

The eldest of the little girls withdrew a thumb.

“What d’yer want?”

“The door,” said Mr. Lavender.

“Second on the right.”

“Goodbye,” said Mr. Lavender.

The little girls did not answer. And he went out thinking, “These
children are really wonderful! What devotion one sees! And yet the
country is not yet fully roused!”


Joe Petty stood contemplating the car which, purchased some fifteen
years before had not been used since the war began. Birds had nested in
its hair. It smelled of mould inside; it creaked from rust. “The Guv’nor
must be cracked,” he thought, “to think we can get anywhere in this
old geyser. Well, well, it’s summer; if we break down it won’t break my
‘eart. Government job—better than diggin’ or drillin’. Good old Guv!” So
musing, he lit his pipe and examined the recesses beneath the driver’s
seat. “A bottle or three,” he thought, “in case our patriotism should
get us stuck a bit off the beaten; a loaf or two, some ‘oney in a pot,
and a good old ‘am.

“A life on the rollin’ road——’ ‘Ow they can give ‘im the job I can’t
think!” His soliloquy was here interrupted by the approach of his wife,
bearing a valise.

“Don’t you wish you was comin’, old girl?” he remarked to her lightly.

“I do not; I’m glad to be shut of you. Keep his feet dry. What have you
got under there?”

Joe Petty winked.

“What a lumbering great thing it looks!” said Mrs. Petty, gazing

“Ah!” returned her husband thoughtfully, we’ll ‘ave the population round
us without advertisement. And taking the heads of two small boys who had
come up, he knocked them together in an absent-minded fashion.

“Well,” said Mrs. Petty, “I can’t waste time. Here’s his extra set of
teeth. Don’t lose them. Have you got your own toothbrush? Use it, and
behave yourself. Let me have a line. And don’t let him get excited.” She
tapped her forehead.

“Go away, you boys; shoo!”

The boys, now six in number, raised a slight cheer; for at that moment
Mr. Lavender, in a broad-brimmed grey felt hat and a holland dust-coat,
came out through his garden-gate carrying a pile of newspapers and
pamphlets so large that his feet, legs, and hat alone were visible.

“Open the door, Joe!” he said, and stumbled into the body of the
vehicle. A shrill cheer rose from the eight boys, who could see him
through the further window. Taking this for an augury Of success, Mr.
Lavender removed his hat, and putting his head through the window, thus
addressed the ten boys:

“I thank you. The occasion is one which I shall ever remember. The
Government has charged me with the great task of rousing our country in
days which demand of each of us the utmost exertions. I am proud to
feel that I have here, on the very threshold of my task, an audience of
bright young spirits, each one of whom in this democratic country has in
him perhaps the makings of a General or even of a Prime Minister. Let it
be your earnest endeavour, boys——”

At this moment a piece of indiarubber rebounded from Mr. Lavender’s
forehead, and he recoiled into the body of the car.

“Are you right, sir?” said Joe, looking in; and without waiting for
reply he started the engine. The car moved out amid a volley of stones,
balls, cheers, and other missiles from the fifteen boys who pursued it
with frenzy. Swaying slightly from side to side, with billowing bag, it
gathered speed, and, turning a corner, took road for the country. Mr.
Lavender, somewhat dazed, for the indiarubber had been hard, sat gazing
through the little back window at the great city he was leaving. His
lips moved, expressing unconsciously the sentiments of innumerable Lord
Mayors: “Greatest City in the world, Queen of Commerce, whose full heart
I can still hear beating behind me, in mingled pride and regret I leave
you. With the most sacred gratitude I lay down my office. I go to other
work, whose——Joe!”


“Do you see that?”

“I see your ‘ead, that’s all, sir.”

“We seem to be followed by a little column of dust, which keeps ever at
the same distance in the middle of the road. Do you think it can be an

“No; I should think it’s a dog.”

“In that case, hold hard!” said Mr. Lavender, who had a weakness for
dog’s. Joe slackened the car’s pace, and leaned his head round the
corner. The column of dust approached rapidly.

“It is a dog,” said Mr. Lavender, “it’s Blink.”

The female sheep-dog, almost flat with the ground from speed, emerged
from the dust, wild with hair and anxiety, white on the cheeks and chest
and top of the head, and grey in the body and the very little tail, and
passed them like a streak of lightning.

“Get on!” cried Mr. Lavender, excited; “follow her she’s trying to catch
us up!”

Joe urged on the car, which responded gallantly, swaying from side to
side, while the gas-bag bellied and shook; but the faster it went the
faster the sheep-dog flew in front of it.

“This is dreadful!” said Mr. Lavender in anguish, leaning far out.
“Blink! Blink!”

His cries were drowned in the roar of the car.

“Damn the brute!” muttered Joe, “at this rate she’ll be over the edge in
‘alf a mo’. Wherever does she think we are?”

“Blink! Blink!” wailed Mr. Lavender. “Get on, Joe, get on! She’s gaining
on us!”

“Well I never see anything like this,” said Joe, “chasin’ wot’s chasing
you! Hi! Hi!”

Urged on by their shouts and the noise of the pursuing car, the poor dog
redoubled her efforts to rejoin her master, and Mr. Lavender, Joe, and
the car, which had begun to emit the most lamentable creaks and odours,
redoubled theirs.

“I shall bust her up,” said Joe.

“I care not!” cried Mr. Lavender. “I must recover the dog.”

They flashed through the outskirts of the Garden City. “Stop her, stop
her!” called Mr. Lavender to such of the astonished inhabitants as they
had already left behind. “This is a nightmare, Joe!”

“‘It’s a blinkin’ day-dream,” returned Joe, forcing the car to an
expiring spurt.

“If she gets to that ‘ill before we ketch ‘er, we’re done; the old
geyser can’t ‘alf crawl up ‘ills.”

“We’re gaining,” shrieked Mr. Lavender; “I can see her tongue.”

As though it heard his voice, the car leaped forward and stopped with a
sudden and most formidable jerk; the door burst open, and Mr. Lavender
fell out upon his sheep-dog.

Fortunately they were in the only bed of nettles in that part of the
world, and its softness and that of Blink assuaged the severity of his
fall, yet it was some minutes before he regained the full measure of his
faculties. He came to himself sitting on a milestone, with his dog on
her hind legs between his knees, licking his face clean, and panting
down his throat.

“Joe,” he said; “where are you?”

The voice of Joe replied from underneath the car: “Here sir. She’s

“Do you mean that our journey is arrested?”

“Ah! We’re in irons. You may as well walk ‘ome, sir. It ain’t two miles.

“No! no!” said Mr. Lavender. “We passed the Garden City a little way
back; I could go and hold a meeting. How long will you be?”

“A day or two,” said Joe.

Mr. Lavender sighed, and at this manifestation of his grief his
sheep-dog redoubled her efforts to comfort him. “Nothing becomes one
more than the practice of philosophy,” he thought. “I always admired
those great public men who in moments of national peril can still dine
with a good appetite. We will sit in the car a little, for I have rather
a pain, and think over a speech.” So musing he mounted the car, followed
by his dog, and sat down in considerable discomfort.

“What subject can I choose for a Garden City?” he thought, and
remembering that he had with him the speech of a bishop on the subject
of babies, he dived into his bundle of literature, and extracting a
pamphlet began to con its periods. A sharp blow from a hammer on the
bottom of the car just below where Blink was sitting caused him to pause
and the dog to rise and examine her tiny tail.

“Curious,” thought Mr. Lavender dreamily, “how Joe always does the right
thing in the wrong place. He is very English.” The hammering continued,
and the dog, who traced it to the omnipotence of her master, got up on
the seat where she could lick his face. Mr. Lavender was compelled to

“Joe,” he said, leaning out and down; “must you?”

The face of Joe, very red, leaned out and up. “What’s the matter now,

“I am preparing a speech; must you hammer?”

“No,” returned Joe, “I needn’t.”

“I don’t wish you to waste your time,” said Mr Lavender.

“Don’t worry about that, sir,” replied Joe; “there’s plenty to do.”

“In that case I shall be glad to finish my speech.”

Mr. Lavender resumed his seat and Blink her position on the floor, with
her head on his feet. The sound of his voice soon rose again in the car
like the buzzing of large flies. “‘If we are to win this war we must
have an ever-increasing population. In town and countryside, in
the palace and the slum, above all in the Garden City, we must have

Here Blink, who had been regarding him with lustrous eyes, leaped on
to his knees and licked his mouth. Again Mr. Lavender was compelled to

“Down, Blink, down! I am not speaking to you. ‘The future of our country
depends on the little citizens born now. I especially appeal to women.
It is to them we must look——‘”

“Will you ‘ave a glass, sir?”

Mr. Lavender saw before him a tumbler containing a yellow fluid.

“Joe,” he said sadly, “you know my rule——”

“‘Ere’s the exception, sir.”

Mr. Lavender sighed. “No, no; I must practise what I preach. I shall
soon be rousing the people on the liquor question, too.”

“Well, ‘ere’s luck,” said Joe, draining the glass. “Will you ‘ave a
slice of ‘am?”

“That would not be amiss,” said Mr. Lavender, taking Joe’s knife with
the slice of ham upon its point. “‘It is to them that we must look,’”
he resumed, “‘to rejuvenate the Empire and make good the losses in the
firing-line.’” And he raised the knife to his mouth. No result followed,
while Blink wriggled on her base and licked her lips.

“Blink!” said Mr. Lavender reproachfully. “Joe!”


“When you’ve finished your lunch and repaired the car you will find me
in the Town Hall or market-place. Take care of Blink. I’ll tie her up.
Have you some string?”

Having secured his dog to the handle of the door and disregarded the
intensity of her gaze, Mr. Lavender walked back towards the Garden City
with a pamphlet in one hand and a crutch-handled stick in the other.
Restoring the ham to its nest behind his feet, Joe finished the bottle
of Bass. “This is a bit of all right!” he thought dreamily. “Lie down,
you bitch! Quiet! How can I get my nap while you make that row? Lie
down! That’s better.”

Blink was silent, gnawing at her string. The smile deepened on Joe’s
face, his head fell a little one side his mouth fell open a fly flew
into it.

“Ah!” he thought, spitting it out; “dog’s quiet now.” He slept.


“‘Give them ginger!’” thought Mr. Lavender, approaching the first
houses. “My first task, however, will be to collect them.”

“Can you tell me,” he said to a dustman, “where the market-place is?”

“Ain’t none.”

“The Town Hall, then?”


“What place is there, then,” said Mr. Lavender, “where people

“They don’t.”

“Do they never hold public meetings here?”

“Ah!” said the dustman mysteriously.

“I wish to address them on the subject of babies.”

“Bill! Gent abaht babies. Where’d he better go?”

The man addressed, however, who carried a bag of tools, did not stop.

“You, ’ear?” said the dustman, and urging his horse, passed on.

“How rude!” thought Mr. Lavender. Something cold and wet was pressed
against his hand, he felt a turmoil, and saw Blink moving round and
round him, curved like a horseshoe, with a bit of string dangling from
her white neck. At that moment of discouragement the sight of one who
believed in him gave Mr. Lavender nothing but pleasure. “How wonderful
dogs are!” he murmured. The sheep-dog responded by bounds and
ear-splitting barks, so that two boys and a little girl wheeling a
perambulator stopped to look and listen.

“She is like Mercury,” thought Mr. Lavender; and taking advantage of
her interest in his hat, which she had knocked off in her effusions, he
placed his hand on her head and crumpled her ear. The dog passed into
an hypnotic trance, broken by soft grumblings of pleasure. “The most
beautiful eyes in the world!” thought Mr. Lavender, replacing his hat;
“the innocence and goodness of her face are entrancing.”

In his long holland coat, with his wide-brimmed felt hat all dusty,
and the crutch-handled stick in his hand, he had already arrested
the attention of five boys, the little girl with the perambulator, a
postman, a maid-servant, and three old ladies.

“What a beautiful dog yours is!” said one of the old ladies; “dear
creature! Are you a shepherd?”

Mr. Lavender removed his hat.

“No, madam,” he said; “a public speaker.”

“How foolish of me!” replied the old lady.

“Not at all, madam; the folly is mine.” And Mr. Lavender bowed. “I have
come here to give an address on babies.”

The old lady looked at him shrewdly, and, saying something in a low
voice to her companions, passed on, to halt again a little way off.

In the meantime the rumour that there was a horse down in the Clemenceau
Road had spread rapidly, and more boys, several little girls, and
three soldiers in blue, with red ties, had joined the group round Mr.
Lavender, to whom there seemed something more than providential in this
rapid assemblage. Looking round him for a platform from which to address
them, he saw nothing but the low wall of the little villa garden outside
which he was standing. Mounting on this, therefore, and firmly grasping
the branch of a young acacia tree to steady himself, he stood upright,
while Blink, on her hind legs, scratched at the wall, whining and
sniffing his feet.

Encouraged by the low murmur of astonishment, which swelled idly into a
shrill cheer, Mr. Lavender removed his hat, and spoke as follows:

“Fellow Britons, at this crisis in the history of our country I make no
apology for addressing myself to the gathering I see around me. Here, in
the cradle of patriotism and the very heart of Movements, I may safely
assume that you are aware of the importance of Man-power. At a moment
when every man of a certain age and over is wanted at the front, and
every woman of marriageable years is needed in hospitals, in factories,
on the land, or where not, we see as never before the paramount
necessity of mobilizing the forces racial progress and increasing the
numbers of our population. Not a man, not a woman can be spared from the
great task in which they are now engaged, of defeating the common enemy.
Side by side with our American cousins, with la belle France, and the
Queen of the Adriatic, we are fighting to avert the greatest menace
which ever threatened civilization. Our cruel enemies are strong and
ruthless. While I have any say in this matter, no man or woman shall be
withdrawn from the sacred cause of victory; better they should die to
the last unit than that we should take our hands from the plough. But,
ladies and gentlemen, we must never forget that in the place of every
one who dies we must put two. Do not be content with ordinary measures;
these are no piping times of peace. Never was there in the history
of this country such a crying need for—for twins, if I may put it
picturesquely. In each family, in each home where there are no families,
let there be two babies where there was one, for thus only can we
triumph over the devastation of this war.” At this moment the now
considerable audience, which had hitherto been silent, broke into a
shrill “‘Ear, ‘ear!” and Mr. Lavender, taking his hand from the acacia
branch to silence them, fell off the wall into the garden. Seeing her
master thus vanish, Blink, who had never ceased to whine and sniff his
toes, leaped over and landed on his chest. Rising with difficulty, Mr.
Lavender found himself in front of an elderly man with a commercial cast
of countenance, who said: “You’re trespassing!”

“I am aware of it,” returned Mr. Lavender and I beg your pardon. It was
quite inadvertent, however.

“Rubbish!” said the man.

“I fell off the wall.”

“Whose wall do you think it is?” said the man.

“How should I know?” said Mr. Lavender; “I am a stranger.”

“Out you go,” said the man, applying his boot to Blink.

Mr. Lavender’s eyes blazed. “You may insult me,” he said, “but you must
not kick my dog, or I shall do you an injury.”

“Try!” said the man.

“I will,” responded Mr. Lavender, taking off his holland coat.

To what extremities he would have proceeded cannot be told, for at this
moment the old lady who had taken him for a shepherd appeared on the
path, tapping her forehead with finger.

“All right!” said the owner of the garden, “take him away.”

The old lady laced her hand within Mr. Lavender’s arm. “Come with me,
sir,” she said, “and your nice doggie.”

Mr. Lavender, whose politeness to ladies was invariable, bowed, and
resuming his coat accompanied her through the ‘garden gate. “He kicked
my dog,” he said; “no action could be more despicable.”

“Yes, yes,” said the old lady soothingly. “Poor doggie!”

The crowd, who had hoped for better things, here gave vent to a
prolonged jeer.

“Stop!” said Mr. Lavender; “I am going to take a collection.

“There, there!” said the old lady. “Poor man!”

“I don’t know what you mean by that, madam,” said Mr. Lavender,
whose spirit was roused; “I shall certainly take a collection, in
the interests of our population.” So saying he removed his hat, and
disengaging his arm from the old lady’s hand, moved out into the throng,
extending the hat. A boy took it from him at once, and placing it on
his head, ran off, pursued by Blink, who, by barking and jumping up
increased the boy’s speed to one of which he could never have thought
himself capable. Mr. Lavender followed, calling out “Blink!” at the top
of his voice. The crowd followed Mr. Lavender, and the old lady followed
crowd. Thus they proceeded until the boy, arriving at a small piece of
communal water, flung the hat into the middle of it, and, scaling the
wall, made a strategic detour and became a disinterested spectator among
the crowd. The hat, after skimming the surface of the pond, settled like
a water-lily, crown downwards, while Blink, perceiving in all this the
hand of her master, stood barking at it wildly. Mr. Lavender arrived at
the edge of the pond slightly in advance of the crowd.

“Good Blink!” he said. “Fetch it! Good Blink!”

Blink looked up into his face, and, with the acumen for which her breed
is noted, perceiving he desired her to enter the water backed away from

“She is not a water dog,” explained Mr. Lavender to the three soldiers
in blue clothes.

“Good dog; fetch it!” Blink backed into the soldiers, who, bending down,
took her by head tail, threw her into the pond, and encouraged her
on with small stones pitched at the hat. Having taken the plunge, the
intelligent animal waded boldly to the hat, and endeavoured by barking
and making little rushes at it with her nose, to induce it to return to

“She thinks it’s a sheep,” said Mr. Lavender; “a striking instance of
hereditary instinct.”

Blink, unable to persuade the hat, mounted it with her fore-paws and
trod it under.

“Ooray!” shouted the crowd.

“Give us a shilling, guv’nor, an’ I’ll get it for yer?”

“Thank you, my boy,” said Mr. Lavender, producing a shilling.

The boy—the same boy who had thrown it in—stepped into the water and
waded towards the hat. But as he approached, Blink interposed between
him and the hat, growling and showing her teeth.

“Does she bite?” yelled the boy.

“Only strangers,” cried Mr. Lavender.

Excited by her master’s appeal, Blink seized the jacket of the boy, who
made for the shore, while the hat rested in the centre of the pond,
the cynosure of the stones with which the soldiers were endeavouring to
drive it towards the bank. By this, time the old lady had rejoined Mr.

“Your nice hat she murmured.

“I thank you for your sympathy, madam,” Lavender, running his hand
through his hair; “in moments like these one realizes the deep humanity
of the British people. I really believe that in no other race could you
find such universal interest and anxiety to recover a hat. Say what you
will, we are a great nation, who only, need rousing to show our best
qualities. Do you remember the words of the editor: ‘In the spavined
and spatch-cocked ruin to which our inhuman enemies have reduced
civilization, we of the island shine with undimmed effulgence in all
those qualities which mark man out from the ravening beast’?”

“But how are you going to get your hat?” asked the old lady.

“I know not,” returned Mr. Lavender, still under the influence of the
sentiment he had quoted; “but if I had fifteen hats I would take them
all off to the virtues which have been ascribed to the British people by
all those great men who have written and spoken since the war began.”

“Yes,” said the old lady soothingly. “But, I think you had better come
under my sunshade. The sun is very strong.”

“Madam,” said Mr. Lavender, “you are very good, but your sunshade is too
small. To deprive you of even an inch of its shade would be unworthy
of anyone in public life.” So saying, he recoiled from the proffered
sunshade into the pond, which he had forgotten was behind him.

“Oh, dear!” said the old lady; “now you’ve got your feet wet!”

“It is nothing,” responded Mr. Lavender gallantly. And seeing that he
was already wet, he rolled up his trousers, and holding up the tails
of his holland coat, turned round and proceeded towards his hat, to the
frantic delight of the crowd.

“The war is a lesson to us to make little of little things,” he thought,
securing the hat and wringing it out. “My feet are wet, but—how much
wetter they would be in the trenches, if feet can be wetter than wet
through,” he mused with some exactitude. “Down, Blink, down!” For Blink
was plastering him with the water-marks of joy and anxiety. “Nothing
is quite so beautiful as the devotion of one’s own dog,” thought
Mr. Lavender, resuming the hat, and returning towards the shore. The
by-now-considerable throng were watching him with every mark of acute
enjoyment; and the moment appeared to Mr. Lavender auspicious for
addressing them. Without, therefore, emerging from the pond, which he
took for his, platform, he spoke as follows:

“Circumstances over which I have no control have given me the advantage
of your presence in numbers which do credit to the heart of the nation
to which we all belong. In the midst of the greatest war which ever
threatened the principle of Liberty, I rejoice to see so many people
able to follow the free and spontaneous impulses of their inmost beings.
For, while we must remember that our every hour is at the disposal of
our country, we must not forget the maxim of our fathers: ‘Britons
never will be slaves.’ Only by preserving the freedom of individual
conscience, and at the same time surrendering it whole-heartedly to
every which the State makes on us, can we hope defeat the machinations
of the arch enemies of mankind.”

At this moment a little stone hit him sharply on the hand.

“Who threw that stone?” said Mr. Lavender. “Let him stand out.”

The culprit, no other indeed than he who had thrown the hat in, and not
fetched it out for a shilling, thus menaced with discovery made use of a
masterly device, and called out loudly:


Such was the instinctive patriotism of the crowd that the cry was
taken up in several quarters; and for the moment Mr. Lavender remained
speechless from astonishment. The cries of “Pro-German!” increased in
volume, and a stone hitting her on the nose caused Blink to utter a
yelp; Mr. Lavender’s eyes blazed.

“Huns!” he cried; “Huns! I am coming out.”

With this prodigious threat he emerged from the pond at the very moment
that a car scattered the throng, and a well-known voice said:

“Well, sir, you ‘ave been goin’ it!”

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender, “don’t speak to me!”

“Get in.”


“Pro-Germans!” yelled the crowd.

“Get in!” repeated Joe.

And seizing Mr. Lavender as if collaring him at football, he knocked
off his hat, propelled him into the car, banged the door, mounted, and
started at full speed, with Blink leaping and barking in front of them.

Debouching from Piave Parade into Bottomley Lane he drove up it till the
crowd was but a memory before he stopped to examine the condition
his master. Mr. Lavender was hanging out of window, looking back, and
shivering violently.

“Well, sir,” said Joe. “I don’t think!”

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender that crowd ought not to be at large. They were
manifestly Huns.

“The speakin’s been a bit too much for you, sir,” said Joe. “But you’ve
got it off your chest, anyway.”

Mr. Lavender regarded him for a moment in silence; then putting his hand
to his throat, said hoarsely:

“No, on my chest, I think, Joe. All public speakers do. It is
inseparable from that great calling.”

“‘Alf a mo’!” grunted Joe, diving into the recesses beneath the
driving-seat. “‘Ere, swig that off, sir.”

Mr. Lavender raised the tumbler of fluid to his mouth, and drank it
off; only from the dregs left on his moustache did he perceive that it
smelled of rum and honey.

“Joe,” he said reproachfully, “you have made me break my pledge.”

Joe smiled. “Well, what are they for, sir? You’ll sleep at ‘ome

“Never,” said Mr. Lavender. “I shall sleep at High Barnet; I must
address them there tomorrow on abstinence during the war.”

“As you please, sir. But try and ‘ave a nap while we go along.” And
lifting Blink into the car, where she lay drenched and exhausted by
excitement, with the petal of a purple flower clinging to her black
nose, he mounted to his seat and drove off. Mr. Lavender, for years
unaccustomed to spirituous liquor, of which he had swallowed nearly
half a pint neat, passed rapidly into a state of coma. Nor did he fully
regain consciousness till he awoke in bed the next morning.


“At what time is my meeting?” thought Mr. Lavender vaguely, gazing at
the light filtering through the Venetian blind. “Blink!”

His dog, who was lying beside his bed gnawing a bone which with some
presence of mind she had brought in, raised herself and regarded him
with the innocence of her species. “She has an air of divine madness,”
thought Mr. Lavender, “which is very pleasing to me. I have a terrible
headache.” And seeing a bellrope near his hand he pulled it.

A voice said: “Yes, sir.”

“I wish to see my servant, Joe Petty,” said Lavender. “I shall not
require any breakfast thank you. What is the population of High Barnet?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir,” answered the
voice, which seemed to be that of his housekeeper; “but you can’t see
Joe; he’s gone out with a flea in his ear. The idea of his letting you
get your feet wet like that!

“How is this?” said Mr. Lavender. “I thought you were the chambermaid of
the inn at High Barnet?”

“No, indeed,” said Mrs. Petty soothingly, placing a thermometer in his
mouth. “Smoke that a minute, sir. Oh! look at what this dog’s brought
in! Fie!” And taking the bone between thumb and finger she cast it out
of the window; while Blink, aware that she was considered in the wrong,
and convinced that she was in the right, spread out her left paw, laid
her head on her right paw, and pressed her chin hard against it. Mrs.
Petty, returning from the window, stood above her master, who lay gazing
up with the thermometer jutting out through the middle of his moustache.

“I thought so!” she said, removing it; “a hundred and one. No getting up
for you, sir! That Joe!”

“Mrs. Petty,” said Mr. Lavender rather feebly, for his head pained him
excessively, “bring me the morning papers.”

“No, sir. The thermometer bursts at an an’ ten. I’ll bring you the

Mr. Lavender was about to utter a protest when he reflected that all
public men had doctors.

“About the bulletin?” he said faintly.

“What?” ejaculated Mrs. Petty, whose face seemed to Mr. Lavender to
have become all cheekbones, eyes, and shadows. Joe never said a about a
bullet. Where? and however did you get it in?

“I did not say ‘bullet in’,” murmured Mr. Lavender closing his eyes! “I
said bulletin. They have it.”

At this mysterious sentence Mrs. Petty lifted her hands, and muttering
the word “Ravin’!” hastened from the room. No sooner had she gone,
however, than Blink, whose memory was perfect, rose, and going to the
window placed her forepaws on the sill. Seeing her bone shining on the
lawn below, with that disregard of worldly consequence which she shared
with all fine characters, she leaped through. The rattle of the Venetian
blind disturbed Mr. Lavender from the lethargy to which he had reverted.
“Mr. John Lavender passed a good night,” he thought, “but his condition
is still critical.” And in his disordered imagination he seemed to see
people outside Tube stations, standing stock-still in the middle of the
traffic, reading that bulletin in the evening papers. “Let me see,” he
mused, “how will they run?” To-morrow I shall be better, but not yet
able to leave my bed; the day after to-morrow I shall have a slight
relapse, and my condition will still give cause for anxiety; on the day
following—What is that noise. For a sound like the whiffling of a wind
through dry sticks combined with the creaking of a saw had, impinged on
his senses. It was succeeded by scratching. “Blink!” said Mr. Lavender.
A heartrending whine came from outside the door. Mr. Lavender rose and
opened it. His dog came in carrying her bone, and putting it down by the
bed divided her attention between it and her master’s legs, revealed by
the nightshirt which, in deference to the great Disraeli, he had never
abandoned in favour of pyjamas. Having achieved so erect a posture
Mr. Lavender, whose heated imagination had now carried him to the
convalescent stage of his indisposition, felt that a change of air would
do him good, and going to the window, leaned out above a lilac-tree.

“Mr. John Lavender,” he murmured, “has gone to his seat to recuperate
before resuming his public duties.”

While he stood there his attention was distracted by a tall young lady
of fine build and joyous colour, who was watering some sweet-peas in the
garden of the adjoining castle: Naturally delicate, Mr. Lavender at
once sought a jacket, and, having put it on, resumed his position at the
window. He had not watched her more than two minutes before he saw that
she was cultivating soil, and, filled with admiration, he leaned still
further out, and said:

“My dear young madam, you are doing a great work.”

Thus addressed, the young lady, who had those roving grey eyes which see
everything and betoken a large nature not devoid of merry genius, looked
up and smiled.

“Believe me,” continued Mr. Lavender, “no task in these days is so
important as the cultivation of the soil; now that we are fighting to
the last man and the last dollar every woman and child in the islands
should put their hands to the plough. And at that word his vision became
feverishly enlarged, so that he seemed to see not merely the young lady,
but quantities of young ladies, filling the whole garden.

“This,” he went on, raising his voice, “is the psychological moment, the
turning-point in the history of these islands. The defeat of our common
enemies imposes on us the sacred duty of feeding ourselves once more.
‘There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads
on to——Oh!” For in his desire to stir his audience, Mr. Lavender had
reached out too far, and losing foothold on his polished bedroom floor,
was slipping down into the lilac-bush. He was arrested by a jerk from
behind; where Blink, moved by this sudden elopement of her master, had
seized him by the nightshirt tails, and was staying his descent.

“Is anything up?” said the young lady.

“I have lost my balance,” thickly answered Mr. Lavender, whose blood was
running to his head, which was now lower than his feet. “Fortunately, my
dog seems to be holding me from behind. But if someone could assist her
it would be an advantage, for I fear that I am slipping.”

“Hold on!” cried the young lady. And breaking through the low privet
hedge which separated the domains, she vanished beneath him with a low
gurgling sound.

Mr. Lavender, who dared not speak again for fear that Blink, hearing
his voice, might let go to answer, remained suspended, torn with anxiety
about his costume. “If she comes in,” he thought, “I shall die from
shame. And if she doesn’t, I shall die from a broken neck. What a
dreadful alternative!” And he firmly grasped the most substantial
lilac-boughs within his reach, listening with the ears of a hare for
any sound within the room, in which he no longer was to any appreciable
extent. Then the thought of what a public man should feel in his
position came to his rescue. “We die but once,” he mused; “rather than
shock that charming lady let me seek oblivion.” And the words of his
obituary notice at once began to dance before his eyes. “This great
public servant honoured his country no less in his death than in his
life.” Then striking out vigorously with his feet he launched his
body forward. The words “My goodness!” resounded above him, as all
restraining influence was suddenly relaxed; Mr. Lavender slid into the
lilac-bush, turned heels over head, and fell bump on the ground. He lay
there at full, length, conscious of everything, and especially of the
faces of Blink and the young lady looking down on him from the window.

“Are you hurt?” she called.

“No,” said Mr. Lavender, “that is—er—yes,” he added, ever scrupulously

“I’m coming down,” said the young lady.

“Don’t move!”

With a great effort Mr. Lavender arranged his costume, and closed his
eyes. “How many lie like this, staring at the blue heavens!” he thought.

“Where has it got you?” said a voice; and he saw the young lady bending
over him.

“‘In the dorsal region, I think,” said Mr. Lavender. “But I suffer more
from the thought that I—that you—”

“That’s all right,” said the young lady; “I’m a V.A.D. It WAS a bump!
Let’s see if you can——” and taking his hands she raised him to a sitting
posture. “Does it work?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Lavender rather faintly.

“Try and stand,” said the young lady, pulling.

Mr. Lavender tried, and stood; but no, sooner was he on his feet than
she turned her face away. Great tears rolled down her cheeks; and she
writhed and shook all over.

“Don’t!” cried Mr. Lavender, much concerned. “I beg you not to cry. It’s
nothing, I assure you—nothing!” The young lady with an effort controlled
her emotion, and turned her large grey eyes on him.

“The angelic devotion of nurses!” murmured Mr. Lavender, leaning against
the wall of the house with his hand to his back. “Nothing like it has
been seen since the world began.”

“I shall never forget the sight!” said the young lady, choking.

Mr. Lavender, who took the noises she made for sobbing, was unutterably

“I can’t bear to see you distressed on my account,” he said. “I am quite
well, I assure you; look—I can walk!” And he started forth up the garden
in his nightshirt and Norfolk jacket. When he turned round she was no
longer there, sounds of uncontrollable emotion were audible from the
adjoining garden. Going to the privet hedge, he looked aver. She was
lying gracefully on the grass, with her face smothered in her hands, and
her whole body shaking. “Poor thing!” thought Mr. Lavender. “No doubt
she is one of those whose nerves have been destroyed by the terrible
sights she has seen!” But at that moment the young lady rose and ran as
if demented into her castle. Mr. Lavender stayed transfixed. “Who would
not be ill for the pleasure of drinking from a cup held by her hand?” he
thought. “I am fortunate to have received injuries in trying to save her
from confusion. Down, Blink, down!”

For his dog, who had once more leaped from the window, was frantically
endeavouring to lick his face. Soothing her, and feeling his anatomy,
Mr. Lavender became conscious that he was not alone. An old lady was
standing on the gardenpath which led to the front gate, holding in her
hand a hat. Mr. Lavender sat down at once, and gathering his nightshirt
under him, spoke as follows:

“There are circumstances, madam, which even the greatest public servants
cannot foresee, and I, who am the humblest of them, ask you to forgive
me for receiving you in this costume.”

“I have brought your hat back,” said the old lady with a kindling eye;
“they told me you lived here and I was anxious to know that you and your
dear dog were none the worse.”

“Madam,” replied Mr. Lavender, “I am infinitely obliged to you. Would
you very kindly hang my hat up on the—er—weeping willow tree?”

At this moment a little white dog, who accompanied the old lady, began
sniffing round Mr. Lavender, and Blink, wounded in her proprietary
instincts, placed her paws at once on her master’s shoulders, so that he
fell prone. When he recovered a sitting posture neither the old lady nor
the little dog were in sight, but his hat was hanging on a laurel bush.
“There seems to be something fateful about this morning,” he mused;
“I had better go in before the rest of the female population——” and
recovering his feet with difficulty, he took his hat, and was about to
enter the house when he saw the young lady watching him from an upper
window of the adjoining castle. Thinking to relieve her anxiety, he said
at once:

“My dear young lady, I earnestly beg you to believe that such a thing
never happens to me, as a rule.”

Her face was instantly withdrawn, and, sighing deeply, Mr. Lavender
entered the house and made his way upstairs. “Ah!” he thought, painfully
recumbent in his bed once more, “though my bones ache and my head burns
I have performed an action not unworthy of the traditions of public
life. There is nothing more uplifting than to serve Youth and Beauty at
the peril of one’s existence. Humanity and Chivalry have ever been the
leading characteristics of the British race;” and, really half-delirious
now, he cried aloud: “This incident will for ever inspire those who have
any sense of beauty to the fulfilment of our common task. Believe me, we
shall never sheathe the sword until the cause of humanity and chivalry
is safe once more.”

Blink, ever uneasy about sounds which seemed to her to have no meaning,
stood up on her hind legs and endeavoured to stay them by licking his
face; and Mr. Lavender, who had become so stiff that he could not stir
without great pain, had to content himself by moving his head feebly
from side to side until his dog, having taken her fill, resumed the
examination of her bone. Perceiving presently that whenever he began
to-talk she began to lick his face, he remained silent, with his mouth
open and his eyes shut, in an almost unconscious condition, from which
he was roused by a voice saying:

“He is suffering from alcoholic poisoning.”

The monstrous injustice of these words restored his faculties,
and seeing before him what he took to be a large concourse of
people—composed in reality of Joe Petty, Mrs. Petty, and the doctor—he
thus addressed them in a faint, feverish voice:

“The pressure of these times, ladies and gentlemen, brings to the
fore the most pushing and obstreperous blackguards. We have amongst us
persons who, under the thin disguise of patriotism, do not scruple
to bring hideous charges against public men. Such but serve the
blood-stained cause of our common enemies. Conscious of the purity of
our private lives, we do not care what is said of us so long as we can
fulfil our duty to our country. Abstinence from every form of spirituous
liquor has been the watchword of all public men since this land was
first threatened by the most stupendous cataclysm which ever hung over
the heads of a great democracy. We have never ceased to preach the need
for it, and those who say the contrary are largely Germans or persons
lost to a sense of decency.” So saying, he threw off all the bedclothes,
and fell back with a groan.

“Easy, easy, my dear sir!” said the voice.

“Have you a pain in your back?”

“I shall not submit,” returned our hero, “to the ministrations of a Hun;
sooner will I breathe my last.”

“Turn him over,” said the voice. And Mr. Lavender found himself on his

“Do you feel that?” said the voice.

Mr. Lavender answered faintly into his pillow:

“It is useless for you to torture me. No German hand shall wring from me
a groan.”

“Is there mania in his family?” asked the voice. At this cruel insult
Mr. Lavender, who was nearly smothered, made a great effort, and
clearing his mouth of the pillow, said:

“Since we have no God nowadays, I call the God of my fathers to witness
that there is no saner public man than I.”

It was, however, his last effort, for the wriggle he had given to
his spine brought on a kind of vertigo, and he relapsed into


Those who were assembled round the bed of Mr. Lavender remained for
a moment staring at him with their mouths open, while Blink growled
faintly from underneath.

“Put your hand here,” said the doctor at last.

“There is a considerable swelling, an appearance of inflammation, and
the legs are a curious colour. You gave him three-quarters of a tumbler
of rum—how much honey?”

Thus addressed, Joe Petty, leaning his head a little to one side,

“Not ‘alf a pot, sir.”

“Um! There are all the signs here of something quite new. He’s not had a
fall, has he?”

“Has he?” said Mrs. Petty severely to her husband.

“No,” replied Joe.

“Singular!” said the doctor. Turn him back again; I want to feel his
head. Swollen; it may account for his curious way of talking. Well,
shove in quinine, and keep him quiet, with hot bottles to his feet. I
think we have come on a new war disease. I’ll send you the quinine. Good

“Wot oh!” said Joe to his wife, when they were left alone with the
unconscious body of their master. “Poor old Guv! Watch and pray!”

“However could you have given him such a thing?”

“Wet outside, wet your inside,” muttered Joe sulkily, “‘as always been
my motto. Sorry I give ‘im the honey. Who’d ha’ thought the product of
an ‘armless insect could ‘a done ‘im in like this?”

Fiddle said Mrs. Petty. “In my belief it’s come on through reading those
newspapers. If I had my way I’d bum the lot. Can I trust you to watch
him while I go and get the bottles filled?”

Joe drooped his lids over his greenish eyes, and, with a whisk of her
head, his wife left the room.

“Gawd ‘elp us!” thought Joe, gazing at his unconscious master, and
fingering his pipe; “‘ow funny women are! If I was to smoke in ‘ere
she’d have a fit. I’ll just ‘ave a whiff in the window, though!” And,
leaning out, he drew the curtains to behind him and lighted his pipe.

The sound of Blink gnawing her bone beneath the bed alone broke the

“I could do with a pint o’ bitter,” thought Joe; and, noticing the form
of the weekly gardener down below, he said softly:

“‘Ello, Bob!”

“‘Ello?” replied the gardener. “‘Ow’s yours?”


“Goin’ to ‘ave some rain?”


“What’s the matter with that?”

“Good for the crops.”

“Missis well?”

“So, so.”

“Wish mine was.”

“Wot’s the matter with her?”

“Busy!” replied Joe, sinking his voice. Never ‘ave a woman permanent;
that’s my experience.

The gardener did not reply, but stood staring at the lilac-bush below
Joe Petty’s face. He was a thin man, rather like an old horse.

“Do you think we can win this war?” resumed Joe.

“Dunno,” replied the gardener apathetically.

“We seem to be goin’ back nicely all the time.”

Joe wagged his head. “You’ve ‘it it,” he said. And, jerking his head
back towards the room behind him, “Guv’nor’s got it now.”


“The new disease.”

“What new disease?”

“Wy, the Run-abaht-an-tell-’em-’ow-to-do-it.”


“‘E’s copped it fair. In bed.”

“You don’t say!”

“Not ‘alf!” Joe sank his voice still lower. “Wot’ll you bet me I don’t
ketch it soon?”

The gardener uttered a low gurgle.

“The cats ‘ave been in that laylock,” he replied, twisting off a broken
branch. “I’ll knock off now for a bit o’ lunch.”

But at that moment the sound of a voice speaking as it might be from a
cavern, caused him and Joe Petty to stare at each other as if petrified.

“Wot is it?” whispered Joe at last.

The gardener jerked his head towards a window on the ground floor.

“Someone in pain,” he said.

“Sounds like the Guv’nor’s voice.”

“Ah!” said the gardener.

“Alf a mo’!” And, drawing in his head, Joe peered through the curtains.
The bed was empty and the door open.

“Watch it! ‘E’s loose!” he called to the gardener, and descended the
stairs at a run.

In fact, Mr. Lavender had come out of his coma at the words, “D’you
think we can win this war?” And, at once conscious that he had not read
the morning papers, had got out of bed. Sallying forth just as he was
he had made his way downstairs, followed by Blink. Seeing the journals
lying on the chest in the hall, he took all five to where he usually
went at this time of the morning, and sat down to read. Once there, the
pain he was in, added to the disorder occasioned in his brain by the
five leaders, caused him to give forth a summary of their contents,
while Blink pressed his knees with her chin whenever the rising of his
voice betokened too great absorption, as was her wont when she
wanted him to feed her. Joe Petty joined the gardener in considerable

“Shan’t I not ‘alf cop it from the Missis?” he murmured. “The door’s

The voice of Mr. Lavender maintained its steady flow, rising and falling
with the tides of his pain and his feelings. “What, then, is our duty?
Is it not plain and simple? We require every man in the Army, for that
is the ‘sine qua non’ of victory. We must greatly reinforce the ranks
of labour in our shipyards—ships, ships, ships, always more ships; for
without them we shall infallibly be defeated. We cannot too often repeat
that we must see the great drama that is being played before our eyes
steadily, and we must see it whole.... Not a man must be taken from the
cultivation of our soil, for on that depends our very existence as a
nation. Without abundant labour of the right sort on the land we cannot
hope to cope with the menace of the pirate submarine. We must have
the long vision, and not be scuppered by the fears of those who would
deplete our most vital industry.... In munition works,” wailed Mr.
Lavender’s voice, as he reached the fourth leader, “we still require the
maximum of effort, and a considerable reinforcement of manpower will in
that direction be necessary to enable us to establish the overwhelming
superiority in the air and in guns which alone can ensure the defeat
of our enemies....” He reached the fifth in what was almost a scream.
“Every man up to sixty must be mobilized but here we would utter the
most emphatic caveat. In the end this war will be won by the country
whose financial position stands the strain best. The last copper bullet
will be the deciding factor. Our economic strength must on no account be
diminished. We cannot at this time of day afford to deplete the ranks
of trade and let out the very life-blood in our veins.” “We must see,”
groaned Mr. Lavender, “the problem steadily, and see it whole.”

“Poor old geyser!” said the gardener; “‘e do seem bad.”

“Old me!” said Joe.

“I’ll get on the sill and see what I can do through the top o’ the

He got up, and, held by the gardener, put his arm through. There was the
sound of considerable disturbance, and through the barking of Blink,
Mr. Lavender’s voice was heard again: “Stanch in the middle of the
cataclysm, unruffled by the waters of heaven and hell, let us be
captains of our souls. Down, Blink, down!”

“He’s out!” said Joe, rejoining the gardener. “Now for it, before my
missis comes!” and he ran into the house.

Mr. Lavender was walking dazedly in the hall with the journals held out
before him.

“Joe,” he said, catching sight of his servant, “get the car ready. I
must be in five places at once, for only thus can we defeat the greatest
danger which ever threatened the future of civilization.”

“Right-o, sir,” replied Joe; and, waiting till his master turned round,
he seized him round the legs, and lifting that thin little body ascended
the stairs, while Mr. Lavender, with the journals waving fanlike in his
hands, his white hair on end, and his legs kicking, endeavoured to turn
his head to see what agency was moving him.

At the top of the stairs they came on Mrs. Petty, who, having Scotch
blood in her veins, stood against the wall to let them pass, with a hot
bottle in either hand. Having placed Mr. Lavender in his bed and drawn
the clothes up to his eyes, Joe Petty passed the back of his hand across
his brow, and wrung it out.

“Phew!” he gasped; “he’s artful!”

His wife, who had followed them in, was already fastening her eyes on
the carpet.

“What’s that?” she said, sniffing.

“That?” repeated Joe, picking up his pipe; “why, I had to run to ketch
‘im, and it fell out o’ me pocket.”

“And lighted itself,” said Mrs. Petty, darting, at the floor and taking
up a glowing quid which had burned a little round hole in the carpet.
“You’re a pretty one!”

“You can’t foresee those sort o’ things,” said Joe.

“You can’t foresee anything,” replied his wife; “you might be a
Government. Here! hold the clothes while I get the bottles to his
feet. Well I never! If he hasn’t got——” And from various parts of Mr.
Lavender’s body she recovered the five journals. “For putting things in
the wrong place, Joe Petty, I’ve never seen your like!”

“They’ll keep ‘im warm,” said Joe.

Mr. Lavender who, on finding himself in bed, had once more fallen into a
comatose condition, stirred, and some words fell from his lips. “Five in
one, and one in five.”

“What does he say?” said Mrs. Petty, tucking him up.

“It’s the odds against Candelabra for the Derby.”

“Only faith,” cried Mr. Lavender, “can multiply exceedingly.”

“Here, take them away!” muttered Mrs. Petty, and dealing the journals a
smart slap, she handed them to Joe.

“Faith!” repeated Mr. Lavender, and fell into a doze.

“About this new disease,” said Joe. “D’you think it’s ketchin’? I feel
rather funny meself.”

“Stuff!” returned his wife. “Clear away those papers and that bone, and
go and take Blink out, and sit on a seat; it’s all you’re fit for. Of
all the happy-go-luckys you’re the worst.”

“Well, I never could worry,” said Joe from the doorway; “‘tisn’t in me.
So long!”

And, dragging Blink by the collar, he withdrew.

Alone with her patient, Mrs. Petty, an enthusiast for cleanliness and
fresh air, went on her knees, and, having plucked out the charred ring
of the little hole in the carpet, opened the window wider to rid the
room of the smell of burning. “If it wasn’t for me,” she thought,
leaning out into the air, “I don’t know what’d become of them.”

A voice from a few feet away said:

“I hope he’s none the worse. What does the doctor say?”

Looking round in astonishment, Mrs. Petty saw a young lady leaning out
of a window on her right.

“We can’t tell at present,” she said, with a certain reserve he is going
on satisfactory.

“It’s not hydrophobia, is it?” asked the young lady. “You know he fell
out of the window?

“What!” ejaculated Mrs. Petty.

“Where the lilac’s broken. If I can give you a hand I shall be very
glad. I’m a V.A.D.”

“Thank you, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Petty stiffly, for the passion of
jealousy, to which she was somewhat prone, was rising in her, “there is
no call.” And she thought, “V.A. indeed! I know them.”

Poor dear said the young lady. “He did come a bump. It was awfully
funny! Is he—er——?” And she touched her forehead, where tendrils of fair
hair were blowing in the breeze.

Inexpressibly outraged by such a question concerning one for whom she
had a proprietary reverence, Mrs. Petty answered acidly:

“Oh dear no! He is much wiser than some people!”

“It was only that he mentioned the last man and the last dollar, you
know,” said the young lady, as if to herself, “but, of course, that’s no
real sign.” And she uttered a sudden silvery laugh.

Mrs. Petty became aware of something tickling her left ear, and turning
round, found her master leaning out beside her, in his dressing-gown.

“Leave me, Mrs. Petty,” he said with such dignity that she instinctively
recoiled. “It may seem to you,” continued Mr. Lavender, addressing the
young lady, “indelicate on my part to resume my justification, but as
a public man, I suffer, knowing that I have committed a breach of

“Don’t you think you ought to keep quiet in bed?” Mrs. Petty heard the
young lady ask.

“My dear young lady,” Mr. Lavender replied, “the thought of bed is
abhorrent to me at a time like this. What more ignoble fate than to die
in, one’s bed?”

“I’m only asking you to live in it,” said the young lady, while Mrs.
Petty grasped her master by the skirts of his gown.

“Down, Blink, down!” said Mr. Lavender, leaning still further out.

“For pity’s sake,” wailed the young lady, “don’t fall out again, or I
shall burst.”

“Ah, believe me,” said Mr. Lavender in a receding voice, “I would not
pain you further for the world——”

Mrs. Petty, exerting all her strength, had hauled him in.

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, sir,” she said severely, “talking to a
young lady like that in your dressing-gown?

“Mrs. Petty,” said Mr Lavender mysteriously, “it might have been
worse.... I should like some tea with a little lemon in it.”

Taking this for a sign of returning reason Mrs. Petty drew him gently
towards the bed, and, having seen him get in, tucked him up and said:

“Now, sir, you never break your word, do you?”

“No public man——” began Mr. Lavender.

“Oh, bother! Now, promise me to stay quiet in bed while I get you that

“I certainly shall,” replied our hero, “for I feel rather faint.”

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Petty. “I trust you.” And, bolting the window,
she whisked out of the room and locked the door behind her.

Mr. Lavender lay with his eyes fixed on the ceiling, clucking his
parched tongue. “God,” he thought, “for one must use that word when the
country is in danger—God be thanked for Beauty! But I must not allow it
to unsteel my soul. Only when the cause of humanity has triumphed, and
with the avenging sword and shell we have exterminated that criminal
nation, only then shall I be entitled to let its gentle influence creep
about my being.” And drinking off the tumbler of tea which Mrs. Petty
was holding to his lips, he sank almost immediately into a deep slumber.


The old lady, whose name was Sinkin, and whose interest in Mr. Lavender
had become so deep, lived in a castle in Frognal; and with her lived her
young nephew, a boy of forty-five, indissolubly connected with the
Board of Guardians. It was entirely due to her representations that he
presented himself at Mr. Lavender’s on the following day, and, sending
in his card, was admitted to our hero’s presence.

Mr. Lavender, pale and stiff, was sitting in his study, with Blink on
his feet, reading a speech.

“Excuse my getting up, sir,” he said; “and pray be seated.”

The nephew, who had a sleepy, hairless face and little Chinese
eyes, bowed, and sitting down, stared at Mr. Lavender with a certain

“I have come,” he said at last, “to ask you a few questions on behalf

“By all means,” said Mr. Lavender, perceiving at once that he was being
interviewed. “I shall be most happy to give you my views. Please take a
cigarette, for I believe that is usual. I myself do not smoke. If it is
the human touch you want, you may like to know that I gave it up when
that appeal in your contemporary flooded the trenches with cigarettes
and undermined the nerves of our heroes. By setting an example of
abstinence, and at the same time releasing more tobacco for our men, I
felt that I was but doing my duty. Please don’t mention that, though.
And while we are on the personal note, which I sincerely deprecate,
you might like to stroll round the room and look at the portrait of my
father, behind the door, and of my mother, over the fireplace. Forgive
my not accompanying you. The fact is—this is an interesting touch—I have
always been rather subject to lumbago.” And seeing the nephew Sinkin,
who had risen to his suggestion, standing somewhat irresolutely in front
of him, he added: “Perhaps you would like to look a little more closely
at my eyes. Every now and then they flash with an almost uncanny
insight.” For by now he had quite forgotten his modesty in the
identification he felt with the journal which was interviewing him. “I
am fifty-eight,” he added quickly; “but I do not look my years, though
my hair, still thick and full of vigour, is prematurely white—so often
the case with men whose brains are continually on the stretch. The
little home, far from grandiose, which forms the background to this most
interesting personality is embowered in trees. Cats have made their mark
on its lawns, and its owner’s love of animals was sharply illustrated
by the sheep-dog which lay on his feet clad in Turkish slippers. Get up,

Blink, disturbed by the motion of her master’s feet, rose and gazed long
into his face.

“Look!” said Mr. Lavender, “she has the most beautiful eyes in the

At this remark, which appeared to him no saner than the others he had
heard—so utterly did he misjudge Mr. Lavender’s character—the nephew put
down the notebook he had taken out of his pocket, and said:

“Has there ever been anything—er—remarkable about your family?”

“Indeed, yes,” said Mr. Lavender. “Born of poor but lofty parentage
in the city of Rochester, my father made his living as a publisher; my
mother was a true daughter of the bards, the scion of a stock tracing
its decent from the Druids; her name was originally Jones.”

“Ah!” said the nephew Sinkin, writing.

“She has often told me at her knee,” continued Mr. Lavender, “that there
was a strong vein of patriotism in her family.”

“She did not die—in—in——”

“No, indeed,” interrupted Mr. Lavender; “she is still living there.”

“Ah!” said the nephew. “And your brothers and sisters?”

“One of my brothers,” replied Mr. Lavender, with pardonable pride, “is
the editor of Cud Bits. The other is a clergyman.”

“Eccentric,” murmured the nephew absently. “Tell me, Mr. Lavender, do
you find your work a great strain? Does it——” and he touched the top of
his head, covered with moist black hair.

Mr. Lavender sighed. “At a time like this,” he said, “we must all be
prepared to sacrifice our health. No public man, as you know, can call
his head his own for a moment. I should count myself singularly lacking
if I stopped to consider—er—such a consideration.”

“Consider—er—such a consideration,” repeated the nephew, jotting it

“He carries on,” murmured Mr. Lavender, once more identifying himself
with the journal, “grappling with the intricacies of this enormous
problem; happy in the thought that nothing—not even reason itself—is
too precious to sacrifice on the altar of his duty to his country. The
public may rest confident in the knowledge that he will so carry on till
they carry him out on his shield.” And aware subconsciously that the
interview could go no further than that phrase, Mr. Lavender was silent,
gazing up with rather startled eyes.

“I see,” said the nephew; “I am very much obliged to you. Is your dog
safe?” For Blink had begun to growl in a low and uneasy manner.

“The gentlest creature in the world,” replied Lavender, “and the most
sociable. I sometimes think,” he went on in a changed voice, “that
we have all gone mad, and that animals alone retain the sweet
reasonableness which used to be esteemed a virtue in human society.
Don’t take that down,” he added quickly, “we are all subject to moments
of weakness. It was just an ‘obiter dictum’.”

“Make your mind easy,” said the nephew, rising, “it does not serve my
purpose. Just one thing, Mr. Lavender.”

At this moment Blink, whose instinct had long been aware of some
sinister purpose in this tall and heavy man, whose trousers did not
smell of dogs, seeing him approach too near, bit him gently in the calf.

The nephew started back. “She’s bitten me!” he said, in a hushed voice.

“My God!” ejaculated Mr. Lavender and falling back again, so stiff was
he. “Is it possible? There must be some good reason. Blink!”

Blink wagged her little tail, thrust her nose into his hand, removed it,
and growled again.

“She is quite well, I assure you,” Mr. Lavender added hastily, “her nose
is icy.”

“She’s bitten me,” repeated the nephew, pulling up his trouser leg.
“There’s no mark, but she distinctly bit me.”

“Treasure!” said Mr. Lavender, endeavouring to interest him in the dog.
“Do you notice how dark the rims of her eyes are, and how clear the
whites? Extraordinarily well bred. Blink!”

Aware that she was being talked of Blink continued to be torn between
the desire to wag her tail and to growl. Unable to make up her mind,
she sighed heavily and fell on her side against her side against her
master’s legs.

“Wonderful with sheep, too,” said Mr. Lavender; “at least, she would
be if they would let her.... You should see her with them on the Heath.
They simply can’t bear her.”

“You will hear from me again,” said the nephew sourly.

“Thank you,” said Mr. Lavender. “I shall be glad of a proof; it is
always safer, I believe.”

“Good morning,” said the nephew.

Blink, who alone perceived the dark meaning in these words, seeing him
move towards the door began to bark and run from side to side behind
him, for all the world as if he had been a flock of sheep.

“Keep her off!” said the nephew anxiously. “Keep her off. I refuse to be
bitten again.”

“Blink!” called Mr. Lavender in some agony. Blink, whose obedience was
excessive, came back to him at once, and stood growling from under her
master’s hand, laid on the white hair which flowed back from her collar,
till the nephew’s footsteps had died away. “I cannot imagine,” thought
Mr. Lavender, “why she should have taken exception to that excellent
journalist. Perhaps he did not smell quite right? One never knows.”

And with her moustachioed muzzle pressed to his chin Mr. Lavender
sought for explanation in the innocent and living darkness of his dog’s

On leaving Mr. Lavender’s the nephew forthwith returned to the castle in
Frognal, and sought his aunt.

“Mad as a March hare, Aunt Rosie; and his dog bit me.”

“That dear doggie?”

“They’re dangerous.”

“You were always funny about dogs, dear,” said his aunt soothingly.
“Why, even Sealey doesn’t really like you.” And calling to the little
low white dog she quite failed to attract his attention. “Did you notice
his dress. The first time I took him for a shepherd, and the second
time—-! What do you think ought to be done?”

“He’ll have to be watched,” said the nephew. “We can’t have lunatics at
large in Hampstead.”

“But, Wilfred,” said the old lady, “will our man-power stand it?
Couldn’t they watch each other? Or, if it would be any help, I could
watch him myself. I took such a fancy to his dear dog.”

“I shall take steps,” said the nephew.

“No, don’t do that. I’ll go and call on the people, next door. Their
name is Scarlet. They’ll know about him, no doubt. We mustn’t do
anything inconsiderate.”

The nephew, muttering and feeling his calf, withdrew to his study.
And the old lady, having put on her bonnet, set forth placidly,
unaccompanied by her little white dog.

On arriving at the castle embedded in acacias and laurustinus she asked
of the maid who opened:

“Can I see Mrs. Scarlet?”

“No,” replied the girl dispassionately; “she’s dead.”

“Mr. Scarlet, then?”

“No,” replied the girl, “he’s a major.”

“Oh, dear!” said the old lady.

“Miss Isabel’s at home,” said the girl, who appeared, like so many
people in time of war, to be of a simple, plain-spoken nature; “you’ll
find her in the garden.” And she let the old lady out through a French

At the far end, under an acacia, Mrs. Sinkin could see the form of a
young lady in a blue dress, lying in a hammock, with a cigarette between
her lips and a yellow book in her hands. She approached her thinking,
“Dear me! how comfortable, in these days!” And, putting her head a
little on one side, she said with a smile: “My name is Sinkin. I hope
I’m not disturbing you.”

The young lady rose with a vigorous gesture.

“Oh, no! Not a bit.”

“I do admire some people,” said the old lady; “they seem to find time
for everything.”

The young lady stretched herself joyously.

“I’m taking it out before going to my new hospital. Try it,” she said
touching the hammock; “it’s not bad. Will you have a cigarette?”

“I’m afraid I’m too old for both,” said the old lady, “though I’ve often
thought they must be delightfully soothing. I wanted to speak to you
about your neighbour.”

The young lady rolled her large grey eyes. “Ah!” she said, “he’s
perfectly sweet.”

“I know,” said the old lady, “and has such a dear dog. My nephew’s very
interested in them. You may have heard of him—Wilfred Sinkin—a very
clever man; on so many Committees.”

“Not really?” said the young lady.

“Oh, yes! He has one of those heads which nothing can disturb; so
valuable in these days.”

“And what sort of a heart?” asked the young lady, emitting a ring of

“Just as serene. I oughtn’t to say so, but I think he’s rather a
wonderful machine.”

“So long as he’s not a doctor! You can’t think how they get on your
nerves when they’re, like that. I’ve bumped up against so many of them.
They fired me at last!”

“Really? Where? I thought they only did that to the dear horses. Oh,
what a pretty laugh you have! It’s so pleasant to hear anyone laugh, in
these days.”

“I thought no one did anything else! I mean, what else can you do,
except die, don’t you know?”

“I think that’s rather a gloomy view,” said the old lady placidly. “But
about your neighbour. What is his name?”

“Lavender. But I call him Don Pickwixote.”

“Dear me, do you indeed? Have you noticed anything very eccentric about

“That depends on what you call eccentric. Wearing a nightshirt, for
instance? I don’t know what your standard is, you see.”

The old lady was about to reply when a voice from the adjoining garden
was heard saying:

“Blink! Don’t touch that charming mooncat!”

“Hush!” murmured the young lady; and seizing her visitor’s arm, she drew
her vigorously beneath the acacia tree. Sheltered from observation by
those thick and delicate branches, they stooped, and applying their eyes
to holes in the privet hedge, could see a very little cat, silvery-fawn
in colour and far advanced in kittens, holding up its paw exactly like a
dog, and gazing with sherry-coloured eyes at Mr. Lavender, who stood in
the middle of his lawn, with Blink behind him.

“If you see me going to laugh,” whispered the young lady, “pinch me

“Moon-cat,” repeated Mr. Lavender, “where have you come from? And what
do you want, holding up your paw like that? What curious little noises
you make, duckie!” The cat, indeed, was uttering sounds rather like a
duck. It came closer to Mr. Lavender, circled his legs, drubbed itself
against Blink’s chest, while its tapered tail, barred with silver,
brushed her mouth.

“This is extraordinary,” they heard Mr. Lavender say; “I would stroke it
if I wasn’t so stiff. How nice of you little moon-cat to be friendly to
my play-girl! For what is there in all the world so pleasant to see as
friendliness between a dog and cat!”

At those words the old lady, who was a great lover of animals, was so
affected that she pinched the young lady by mistake.

“Not yet!” whispered the latter in some agony. “Listen!”

“Moon-cat,” Mr. Lavender was saying, “Arcadia is in your golden eyes.
You have come, no doubt, to show us how far we have strayed away from
it.” And too stiff to reach the cat by bending, Mr. Lavender let himself
slowly down till he could sit. “Pan is dead,” he said, as he arrived on
the grass and crossed his feet, “and Christ is not alive. Moon-cat!”

The little cat had put its head into his hand, while Blink was thrusting
her nose into his mouth.

“I’m going to sneeze!” whispered the old lady, strangely affected.

“Pull your upper lip down hard, like the German Empress, and count
nine!” murmured the young.

While the old lady was doing this Mr. Lavender had again begun to speak.

“Life is now nothing but explosions. Gentleness has vanished, and beauty
is a dream. When you have your kittens, moon-cat, bring them up in
amity, to love milk, dogs, and the sun.”

The moon-cat, who had now reached his shoulder, brushed the tip of her
tail across his loose right eyebrow, while Blink’s jealous tongue avidly
licked his high left cheekbone. With one hand Mr. Lavender was cuddling
the cat’s head, with the other twiddling Blink’s forelock, and the
watchers could see his eyes shining, and his white hair standing up all

“Isn’t it sweet?” murmured the old lady.

“Ah! moon-cat,” went on Mr. Lavender, “come and live with us. You shall
have your kittens in the bathroom, and forget this age of blood and

Both the old lady and the young were removing moisture from their eyes
when, the voice of Mr. Lavender, very changed, recalled them to their
vigil. His face had become strained and troubled.

“Never,” he was saying, “will we admit that doctrine of our common
enemies. Might is not right gentlemen those who take the sword shall
perish by the sword. With blood and iron we will ourselves stamp
out this noxious breed. No stone shall be left standing, and no
babe sleeping in that abandoned country. We will restore the tide of
humanity, if we have to wade through rivers of blood across mountains of

“Whom is he calling gentlemen?” whispered the old lady.

But Blink, by anxiously licking Mr. Lavender’s lips, had produced a
silence in which the young-lady did not dare reply. The sound of the
little cat’s purring broke the hush.

“Down, Blink, down!” said Mr. Lavender.

“Watch this little moon-cat and her perfect manners! We may all learn
from her how not to be crude. See the light shining through her pretty

The little cat, who had seen a bird, had left Mr. Lavender’s shoulder,
and was now crouching and moving the tip of its tail from side to side.

“She would like a bird inside her; but let us rather go and find her
some milk instead,” said Mr. Lavender, and he began to rise.

“Do you know, I think he’s quite sane,” whispered the old lady, “except,
perhaps, at intervals. What do you?”

“Glorious print!” cried Mr. Lavender suddenly, for a journal had fallen
from his pocket, and the sight of it lying there, out of his reach,
excited him. “Glorious print! I can read you even from here. When the
enemy of mankind uses the word God he commits blasphemy! How different
from us!” And raising his eyes from the journal Mr. Lavender fastened
them, as it seemed to his anxious listeners, on the tree which sheltered
them. “Yes! Those unseen presences, who search out the workings of our
heart, know that even the most Jingo among us can say, ‘I am not as they
are!’ Come, mooncat!”

So murmuring, he turned and moved towards the house, clucking with his
tongue, and followed by Blink.

“Did he mean us?” said the old lady nervously.

“No; that was one of his intervals. He’s not mad; he’s just crazy.”

“Is there any difference, my dear?”

“Why, we’re all crazy about something, you know; it’s only a question of

“But what is his what?”

“He’s got a message. They’re in the air, you know.”

“I haven’t come across them,” said the old lady. “I fear I live a very
quiet life—except for picking over sphagnum moss.”

“Oh, well! There’s no hurry.”

“Well, I shall tell my nephew what I’ve seen,” said the old lady.

“Good-bye,” responded the young; and, picking up her yellow book, she
got back into the hammock and relighted her cigarette.


Not for some days after his fall from the window did Mr. Lavender begin
to regain the elasticity of body necessary to the resumption of
public life. He spent the hours profitably, however, in digesting the
newspapers and storing ardour. On Tuesday morning, remembering that no
proof of his interview had yet been sent him, and feeling that he ought
not to neglect so important a matter, he set forth to the office of the
great journal from which, in the occult fashion of the faithful, he was
convinced the reporter had come. While he was asking for the editor
in the stony entrance, a young man who was passing looked at him
attentively and said: “Ah, sir, here you are! He’s waiting for you. Come
up, will you?”

Mr. Lavender followed up some stairs, greatly gratified at the thought
that he was expected. The young man led him through one or two swing
doors into an outer office, where a young woman was typing.

Mr. Lavender shook his head, and sat down on the edge of a green leather
chair. The editor, resuming his seat, crossed his legs deferentially,
and sinking his chin again on his chest, began:

“About your article. My only trouble, of course, is that I’m running
that stunt on British prisoners—great success! You’ve seen it, I

“Yes, indeed,” said Mr. Lavender; I read you every day.

The editor made a little movement which showed that he was flattered,
and sinking his chin still further into his chest, resumed:

“It might run another week, or it might fall down to-morrow—you never
can tell. But I’m getting lots of letters. Tremendous public interest.”

“Yes, yes,” assented Mr. Lavender, “it’s most important.”

“Of course, we might run yours with it,” said the editor. “But I don’t
know; I think it’d kill the other. Still——”

“I shouldn’t like——” began Mr. Lavender.

“I don’t believe in giving them more than they want, you know,” resumed
the editor. “I think I’ll have my news editor in,” and he blew into a
tube. “Send me Mr. Crackamup. This thing of yours is very important,
sir. Suppose we began to run it on Thursday. Yes, I should think they’ll
be tired of British prisoners by then.”

“Don’t let me,” began Mr. Lavender.

The editor’s eye became unveiled for the Moment. “You’ll be wanting to
take it somewhere else if we——Quite! Well, I think we could run them
together. See here, Mr. Crackamup”—Mr. Lavender saw a small man like
Beethoven frowning from behind spectacles—“could we run this German
prisoner stunt alongside the British, or d’you think it would kill it?”

Mr. Lavender almost rose from his chair in surprise. “Are you——” he
said; “is it——”

The small man hiccoughed, and said in a raw voice:

“The letters are falling off.”

“Ah!” murmured the editor, “I thought we should be through by Thursday.
We’ll start this new stunt Thursday. Give it all prominence, Crackamup.
It’ll focus fury. All to the good—all to the good. Opinion’s ripe.” Then
for a moment he seemed to hesitate, and his chin sank back on his chest.
“I don’t know,” he murmured, “of course it may——”

“Please,” began Mr. Lavender, rising, while the small man hiccoughed
again. The two motions seemed to determine the editor.

“That’s all right, sir,” he said, rising also; “that’s quite all right.
We’ll say Thursday, and risk it. Thursday, Crackamup.” And he held out
his hand to Mr. Lavender. “Good morning, sir, good morning. Delighted to
have seen you. You wouldn’t put your name to it? Well, well, it doesn’t
matter; only you could have written it. The turn of phrase—immense!
They’ll tumble all right!” And Mr. Lavender found himself, with Mr.
Crackamup, in the lobby. “It’s bewildering,” he thought, “how quickly he
settled that. And yet he had such repose. But is there some mistake?”
He was about to ask his companion, but with a distant hiccough the small
man had vanished. Thus deserted, Mr. Lavender was in two minds whether
to ask to be readmitted, when the four gentlemen with notebooks repassed
him in single file into the editor’s room.

“My name is Lavender,” he said resolutely to the young woman. “Is that
all right?”

“Quite,” she answered, without looking up.

Mr. Lavender went out slowly, thinking, “I may perhaps have said more in
that interview than I remember. Next time I really will insist on having
a proof. Or have they taken me for some other public man?” This notion
was so disagreeable, however, that he dismissed it, and passed into the

On Thursday, the day fixed for his fresh tour of public speaking,
he opened the great journal eagerly. Above the third column was the
headline: OUR VITAL DUTY: BY A GREAT PUBLIC MAN. “That must be it,” he
thought. The article, which occupied just a column of precious space,
began with an appeal so moving that before he had read twenty lines
Mr. Lavender had identified himself completely with the writer; and if
anyone had told him that he had not uttered these sentiments, he would
have given him the lie direct. Working from heat to heat the article
finished in a glorious outburst with a passionate appeal to the country
to starve all German prisoners.

Mr. Lavender put it down in a glow of exultation. “I shall translate
words into action,” he thought; “I shall at once visit a rural district
where German prisoners are working on the land, and see that the farmers
do their duty.” And, forgetting in his excitement to eat his breakfast,
he put the journal in his pocket, wrapped himself in his dust-coat and
broad-brimmed hat, and went out to his car, which was drawn up, with
Blink, who had not forgotten her last experience, inside.

“We will go to a rural district, Joe,” he said, getting in.

“Very good, sir,” answered Joe; and, unnoticed by the population, they
glided into the hazy heat of the June morning.

“Well, what abaht it, sir?” said Joe, after they had proceeded for some
three hours. “Here we are.”

Mr. Lavender, who had been lost in the beauty of the scenes through
which he was passing, awoke from reverie, and said:

“I am looking for German prisoners, Joe; if you see a farmer, you might

“Any sort of farmer?” asked Joe.

“Is there more than one sort?” returned Mr. Lavender, smiling.

Joe cocked his eye. “Ain’t you never lived in the country, sir?”

“Not for more than a few weeks at a time, Joe, unless Rochester counts.
Of course, I know Eastbourne very well.”

“I know Eastbourne from the inside,” said Joe discursively. “I was a
waiter there once.”

“An interesting life, a waiter’s, Joe, I should think.”

“Ah! Everything comes to ‘im who waits, they say. But abaht
farmers—you’ve got a lot to learn, sir.”

“I am always conscious of that, Joe; the ramifications of public life
are innumerable.”

“I could give you some rummikins abaht farmers. I once travelled in

“You seem to have done a great many things Joe.”

“That’s right, sir. I’ve been a sailor, a ‘traveller,’ a waiter, a
scene-shifter, and a shover, and I don’t know which was the cushiest
job. But, talking of farmers: there’s the old English type that wears
Bedfords—don’t you go near ‘im, ‘e bites. There’s the modern scientific
farmer, but it’ll take us a week to find ‘‘im. And there’s the
small-‘older, wearin’ trahsers, likely as not; I don’t think ‘e’d be any
use to you.

“What am I to do then?” asked Mr Lavender.

“Ah!” said Joe, “‘ave lunch.”

Mr. Lavender sighed, his hunger quarelling with his sense of duty. “I
should like to have found a farmer first,” he said.

“Well, sir, I’ll drive up to that clump o’beeches, and you can have a
look round for one while I get lunch ready.

“That will do admirably.”

“There’s just one thing, sir,” said Joe, when his master was about to
start; “don’t you take any house you come across for a farm. They’re
mostly cottages o’ gentility nowadays, in’abited by lunatics.”

“I shall be very careful,” said Mr. Lavender.

“This glorious land!” he thought, walking away from the beech clump,
with Blink at his heels; “how wonderful to see it being restored to its
former fertility under pressure of the war! The farmer must be a happy
man, indeed, working so nobly for his country, without thought of
his own prosperity. How flowery those beans look already!” he mused,
glancing at a field of potatoes. “Now that I am here I shall be able
to combine my work on German prisoners with an effort to stimulate food
production. Blink!” For Blink was lingering in a gateway. Moving back to
her, Mr. Lavender saw that the sagacious animal was staring through the
gate at a farmer who was standing in a field perfectly still, with his
back turned, about thirty yards away.

“Have you——” Mr. Lavender began eagerly; “is it—are you employing any
German prisoners, sir?”

The farmer did not seem to hear. “He must,” thought Mr. Lavender, “be of
the old stolid English variety.”

The farmer, who was indeed attired in a bowler hat and Bedford cords,
continued to gaze over his land, unconscious of Mr. Lavender’s presence.

“I am asking you a question, sir,” resumed the latter in a louder voice.
“And however patriotically absorbed you may be in cultivating your soil,
there is no necessity for rudeness.”

The farmer did not move a muscle.

“Sir,” began Mr. Lavender again, very patiently, “though I have always
heard that the British farmer is of all men least amenable to influence
and new ideas, I have never believed it, and I am persuaded that if you
will but listen I shall be able to alter your whole outlook about the
agricultural future of this country.” For it had suddenly occurred to
him that it might be a long time before he had again such an opportunity
of addressing a rural audience on the growth of food, and he was loth to
throw away the chance. The farmer, however, continued to stand with
his hack to the speaker, paying no more heed to his voice than to the
buzzing of a fly.

“You SHALL hear me,” cried Mr. Lavender, unconsciously miming a voice
from the past, and catching, as he thought, the sound of a titter, he
flung his hand out, and exclaimed:

“Grass, gentlemen, grass is the hub of the matter. We have put our hand
to the plough”—and, his imagination taking flight at those words, he
went on in a voice calculated to reach the great assembly of farmers
which he now saw before him with their backs turned—“and never shall we
take it away till we have reduced every acre in the country to an arable
condition. In the future not only must we feed ourselves, but our dogs,
our horses, and our children, and restore the land to its pristine glory
in the front rank of the world’s premier industry. But me no buts,” he
went on with a winning smile, remembering that geniality is essential in
addressing a country audience, “and butter me no butter, for in future
we shall require to grow our margarine as well. Let us, in a word, put
behind us all prejudice and pusillanimity till we see this country of
ours once more blooming like one great cornfield, covered with cows.
Sirs, I am no iconoclast; let us do all this without departing in
any way from those great principles of Free Trade, Industrialism, and
Individual Liberty which have made our towns the largest, most crowded,
and wealthiest under that sun which never sets over the British Empire.
We do but need to see this great problem steadily and to see it whole,
and we shall achieve this revolution in our national life without
the sacrifice of a single principle or a single penny. Believe me,
gentlemen, we shall yet eat our cake and have it.”

Mr. Lavender paused for breath, the headlines of his great speech in
tomorrow’s paper dancing before his eyes: “THE CLIMACTERIC—EATS CAKE AND
HAS IT—A GREAT CONCLUSION.” The wind, which had risen somewhat during
Mr. Lavender’s speech, fluttered the farmer’s garments at this moment,
so that they emitted a sound like the stir which runs through an
audience at a moment of strong emotion.

“Ah!” cried Mr. Lavender, “I see that I move you, gentlemen. Those have
traduced you who call you unimpressionable. After all, are you not the
backbone of this country up which runs the marrow which feeds the
brain; and shall you not respond to an appeal at once so simple and so
fundamental? I assure you, gentlemen, it needs no thought; indeed, the
less you think about it the better, for to do so will but weaken your
purpose and distract your attention. Your duty is to go forward with
stout hearts, firm steps, and kindling eyes; in this way alone shall we
defeat our common enemies. And at those words, which he had uttered
at the top of his voice, Mr. Lavender stood like a clock which has run
down, rubbing his eyes. For Blink, roaming the field during the speech,
and encountering quadruped called rabbit, which she had never seen
before, had backed away from it in dismay, brushed against the farmer’s
legs and caused his breeches to fall down, revealing the sticks on which
they had been draped. When Mr. Lavender saw this he called out in a loud
voice Sir, you have deceived me. I took you for a human being. I now
perceive that you are but a selfish automaton, rooted to your own
business, without a particle of patriotic sense. Farewell!”


After parting with the scarecrow Mr. Lavender who felt uncommonly
hungry’ was about to despair of finding any German prisoners when he
saw before him a gravel-pit, and three men working therein. Clad in
dungaree, and very dusty, they had a cast of countenance so unmistakably
Teutonic that Mr. Lavender stood still. They paid little or no attention
to him, however, but went on sadly and silently with their work,
which was that of sifting gravel. Mr. Lavender sat down on a milestone
opposite, and his heart contracted within him. “They look very thin and
sad,” he thought, “I should not like to be a prisoner myself far from my
country, in the midst of a hostile population, without a woman or a dog
to throw me a wag of the tail. Poor men! For though it is necessary to
hate the Germans, it seems impossible to forget that we are all human
beings. This is weakness,” he added to himself, “which no editor would
tolerate for a moment. I must fight against it if I am to fulfil my duty
of rousing the population to the task of starving them. How hungry they
look already—their checks are hollow! I must be firm. Perhaps they have
wives and families at home, thinking of them at this moment. But, after
all, they are Huns. What did the great writer say? ‘Vermin—creatures
no more worthy of pity than the tiger or the rat.’ How true! And
yet—Blink!” For his dog, seated on her haunches, was looking at him with
that peculiarly steady gaze which betokened in her the desire for food.
“Yes,” mused Mr. Lavender, “pity is the mark of the weak man. It is a
vice which was at one time rampant in this country; the war has made one
beneficial change at least—we are moving more and more towards the manly
and unforgiving vigour of the tiger and the rat. To be brutal! This
is the one lesson that the Germans can teach us, for we had almost
forgotten the art. What danger we were in! Thank God, we have past
masters again among us now!” A frown became fixed between his brows.
“Yes, indeed, past masters. How I venerate those good journalists and
all the great crowd of witnesses who have dominated the mortal weakness,
pity. ‘The Hun must and shall be destroyed—root and branch—hip and
thigh—bag and baggage man, woman, and babe—this is the sole duty of the
great and humane British people. Roll up, ladies and gentlemen, roll up!
Great thought—great language! And yet——”

Here Mr. Lavender broke into a gentle sweat, while the Germans went on
sifting gravel in front of him, and Blink continued to look up into his
face with her fixed, lustrous eyes. “What an awful thing,” he thought,
“to be a man. If only I were just a public man and could, as they do,
leave out the human and individual side of everything, how simple it
would be! It is the being a man as well which is so troublesome. A man
has feelings; it is wrong—wrong! There should be no connection whatever
between public duty and the feelings of a man. One ought to be able to
starve one’s enemy without a quiver, to watch him drown without a wink.
In fact, one ought to be a German. We ought all to be Germans. Blink,
we ought all to be Germans, dear! I must steel myself!” And Mr. Lavender
wiped his forehead, for, though a great idea had come to him, he still
lacked the heroic savagery to put it into execution. “It is my duty,” he
thought, “to cause those hungry, sad-looking men to follow me and watch
me eat my lunch. It is my duty. God give me strength! For unless I make
this sacrifice of my gentler nature I shall be unworthy to call myself a
public man, or to be reported in the newspapers. ‘En avant, de Bracy!’”
So musing, he rose, and Blink with him. Crossing the road, he clenched
his fists, and said in a voice which anguish made somewhat shrill:

“Are you hungry, my friends?”

The Germans stopped sifting gravel, looked up at him, and one of them

“And thirsty?”

This time they all three nodded.

“Come on, then,” said Mr. Lavender.

And he led the way back along the road, followed by Blink and the three
Germans. Arriving at the beech clump whose great trees were already
throwing shadows, denoting that it was long past noon, Mr. Lavender saw
that Joe had spread food on the smooth ground, and was, indeed, just
finishing his own repast.

“What is there to eat?” thought Mr. Lavender, with a soft of horror.
“For I feel as if I were about to devour a meal of human flesh.” And he
looked round at the three Germans slouching up shamefacedly behind him.

“Sit down, please,” he said. The three men sat down.

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender to his surprised chauffeur, “serve my lunch.
Give me a large helping, and a glass of ale.” And, paler than his
holland dust-coat, he sat resolutely down on the bole of a beech, with
Blink on her haunches beside him. While Joe was filling a plate with
pigeon-pie and pouring out a glass of foaming Bass, Mr. Lavender stared
at the three Germans and suffered the tortures of the damned. “I will
not flinch,” he thought; “God helping me, I certainly will not flinch.
Nothing shall prevent my going through with it.” And his eyes, more
prominent than a hunted rabbit’s, watched the approach of Joe with
the plate and glass. The three men also followed the movements of the
chauffeur, and it seemed to Mr. Lavender that their eyes were watering.
“Courage!” he murmured to himself, transfixing a succulent morsel with
his fork and conveying it to his lips. For fully a minute he revolved
the tasty mouthful, which he could not swallow, while the three men’s
eyes watched him with a sort of lugubrious surprise. “If,” he thought
with anguish, “if I were a prisoner in Germany! Come, come! One
effort, it’s only the first mouthful!” and with a superhuman effort,
he swallowed. “Look at me!” he cried to the three Germans, “look at
me! I—I—I’m going to be sick!” and putting down his plate, he rose and
staggered forward. “Joe,” he said in a dying voice, “feed these poor
men, feed them; make them drink; feed them!” And rushing headlong to
the edge of the grove, he returned what he had swallowed—to the great
interest of Brink. Then, waving away the approach of Joe, and consumed
with shame and remorse at his lack of heroism, he ran and hid himself
in a clump of hazel bushes, trying to slink into the earth. “No,” he
thought; “no; I am not for public life. I have failed at the first test.
Was ever so squeamish an exhibition? I have betrayed my country and
the honour of public life. These Germans are now full of beer and
pigeon-pie. What am I but a poltroon, unworthy to lace the shoes of the
great leaders of my land? The sun has witnessed my disgrace.”

How long he stayed there lying on his face he did not know before he
heard the voice of Joe saying, “Wot oh, sir!”

“Joe,” replied Mr. Lavender faintly, “my body is here, but my spirit has

“Ah!” said Joe, “a rum upset—that there. Swig this down, sir!” and he
held out to his master, a flask-cup filled with brandy. Mr. Lavender
swallowed it.

“Have they gone?” he said, gasping.

“They ‘ave, sir,” replied Joe, “and not ‘alf full neither. Where did you
pick ‘em up?”

“In a gravel-pit,” said Mr. Lavender. “I can never forgive myself for
this betrayal of my King and country. I have fed three Germans. Leave
me, for I am not fit to mingle with my fellows.”

“Well, I don’t think,” said Joe. “Germans?”

Gazing up into his face Mr. Lavender read the unmistakable signs of
uncontrolled surprise.

“Why do you look at me like that?” he said.

“Germans?” repeated Joe; “what Germans? Three blighters workin’ on the
road, as English as you or me. Wot are you talkin’ about, sir?”

“What!” cried Mr. Lavender, “do you tell me they were not Germans?”

“Well, their names was Tompkins, ‘Obson, and Brown, and they ‘adn’t an
‘aitch in their ‘eads.”

“God be praised!” said Mr. Lavender. “I am, then, still an English
gentleman. Joe, I am very hungry; is there nothing left?”

“Nothin’ whatever, sir,” replied Joe.

“Then take me home,” said Mr. Lavender; “I care not, for my spirit has
come back to me.”

So saying, he rose, and supported by Joe, made his way towards the car,
praising God in his heart that he had not disgraced his country.


“Yes,” said Mr. Lavender, when they had proceeded some twenty miles
along the road for home, “my hunger is excessive. If we come across an
hotel, Joe, pull up.”

“Right-o, sir,” returned Joe. “‘Otels, ain’t what they were, but we’ll
find something. I’ve got your coupons.”

Mr. Lavender, who was seated beside his chauffeur on the driving-seat,
while Blink occupied in solitude the body of the car, was silent for a
minute, revolving a philosophic thought.

“Do you find,” he said suddenly, “that compulsory sacrifice is doing you
good, Joe?”

“It’s good for my thirst, sir,” replied Joe. “Never was so powerful
thirsty in me life as I’ve been since they watered beer. There’s just
‘enough in it to tickle you. That bottle o’ Bass you would ‘ave ‘ad at
lunch is the last of the old stock at ‘ome, sir; an’ the sight of it
fair gave me the wind up. To think those blighters ‘ad it! Wish I’d
known they was Germans—I wouldn’t ‘ave weakened on it.”

“Do not, I beg,” said Mr. Lavender, “remind me of that episode. I
sometimes think,” he went on as dreamily as his hunger would permit,
“that being forced to deprive oneself awakens one’s worst passions; that
is, of course, speaking rather as a man than a public man. What do
you think will happen, Joe, when we are no longer obliged to sacrifice

“Do wot we’ve been doin all along—sacrifice someone else,” said Joe

“Be serious, Joe,” said Mr. Lavender.

“Well,” returned Joe, “I don’t know what’ll ‘appen to you, sir, but I
shall go on the bust permanent.”

Mr. Lavender sighed. “I do so wonder whether I shall, too,” he said.

Joe looked round at him, and a gleam of compassion twinkled in his
greenish eyes. “Don’t you worry, sir,” he said; “it’s a question of
constitootion. A week’d sew you up.”

“A week!” said Mr. Lavender with watering lips, “I trust I may not
forget myself so long as that. Public men do not go ‘on the bust,’ Joe,
as you put it.”

“Be careful, sir! I can’t drive with one eye.”

“How can they, indeed?” went on Mr. Lavender; “they are like athletes,
ever in training for their unending conflict with the national life.”

“Well,” answered Joe indulgently, “they ‘as their own kind of
intoxication, too—that’s true; and the fumes is permanent; they’re
gassed all the time, and chloroformed the rest.

“I don’t know to what you allude, Joe,” said Mr. Lavender severely.

“‘Aven’t you never noticed, sir, that there’s two worlds—the world as it
is, and the world as it seems to the public man?”

“That may be,” said Mr. Lavender with some excitement. “But which is
the greater, which is the nobler, Joe? And what does the other matter?
Surely that which flourishes in great minds, and by their utterances
is made plain. Is it not better to live in a world where nobody shrinks
from being starved or killed so long as they can die for their kings and
countries, rather than in a world where people merely wish to live?”

“Ah!” said Joe, “we’re all ready to die for our countries if we’ve got
to. But we don’t look on it, like the public speakers, as a picnic.
They’re a bit too light--light- light-’earteartearted.”

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender, covering his ears, and instantly uncovering
them again, “this is the most horrible blasphemy I have ever listened

“I can do better than that, sir,” answered Joe. “Shall I get on with

“Yes,” said Mr. Lavender, clenching his hands, “a public man shrinks
from nothing—not even from the gibes of his enemies.”

“Well, wot abaht it, sir? Look at the things they say, and at what
really is. Mind you, I’m not speakin’ particular of the public men in
this country—or any other country; I’m speakin’ of the lot of ‘em in
every country. They’re a sort of secret society, brought up on gas.
And every now and then someone sets a match to it, and we get it in
the neck. Look ‘ere, sir. Dahn squats one on his backside an’ writes
something in ‘igh words. Up pops another and says something in ‘igher;
an’ so they go on poppin’ up an’ squattin’ dahn till you get an
atmosphere where you can’t breathe; and all the time all we want is to
be let alone, and ‘uman kindness do the rest. All these fellers ‘ave
got two weaknesses—one’s ideas, and the other’s their own importance.
They’ve got to be conspicuous, and without ideas they can’t, so it’s a
vicious circle. When I see a man bein’ conspicuous, I says to meself:
‘Gawd ‘elp us, we shall want it!’ And sooner or later we always do. I’ll
tell you what’s the curse of the world, sir; it’s the gift of expressin’
what ain’t your real feeling. And—Lord! what a lot of us ‘ave got it!”

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender, whose eyes were almost starting from his head,
“your words are the knell of poetry, philosophy, and prose—especially of
prose. They are the grave of history, which, as you know, is made up
of the wars and intrigues which have originated in the brains of public
men. If your sordid views were true, how do you suppose for one minute
that in this great epic struggle we could be consoled by the thought
that we are ‘making history’? Has there been a single utterance of any
note which has not poured the balm of those words into our ears? Think
how they have sustained the widow and the orphan, and the wounded lying
out in agony under the stars. ‘To make history,’ ‘to act out the great
drama’—that thought, ever kept before us, has been our comfort and
their stay. And you would take it from us? Shame—shame!” repeated Mr.
Lavender. “You would destroy all glamour, and be the death of every

“Give me facts,” said Joe stubbornly, “an’ you may ‘ave my principles.
As to the other thing, I don’t know what it is, but you may ‘ave it,
too. And ‘ere’s another thing, sir: haven’t you never noticed that when
a public man blows off and says something, it does ‘im in? No matter
what ‘appens afterwards, he’s got to stick to it or look a fool.”

“I certainly have not,” said Mr. Lavender. “I have never, or very
seldom, noticed that narrowness in public men, nor have I ever seen them
‘looking fools’ as you rudely put it.”

“Where are your eyes, sir?” answered Joe; “where are your eyes? I
give you my word it’s one or the other, though I admit they’ve brought
camouflage to an ‘igh art. But, speaking soberly, sir, if that’s
possible, public men are a good thing’ and you can ‘ave too much of it.
But you began it, sir,” he added soothingly, “and ‘ere’s your hotel.
You’ll feel better with something inside you.”

So saying, he brought the car to a standstill before a sign which bore
the words, “Royal Goat.”

Mr. Lavender, deep sunk in the whirlpool of feeling which had been
stirred in him by his chauffeur’s cynicism, gazed at the square redbrick
building with bewildered eyes.

“It’s quite O. K.,” said Joe; “I used to call here regular when I was
travellin’ in breeches. Where the commercials are gathered together the
tap is good,” he added, laying a finger against the side of his nose.
“And they’ve a fine brand of pickles. Here’s your coupon.”

Thus encouraged, Mr. Lavender descended from the car, and, accompanied
by Blink, entered the hotel and sought the coffee-room.

A maid of robust and comely appearance, with a fine free eye, divested
him of his overcoat and the coupon, and pointed to a table and a pale
and intellectual-looking young man in spectacles who was eating.

“Have you any more beef?” said the latter without looking up.

“No, sir,” replied the maid.

“Then bring me the ham and eggs,” he added.

“Here’s another coupon—and anything else you’ve got.”

Mr. Lavender, whose pangs had leaped in him at the word “beef,” gazed at
the bare bone of the beef-joint, and sighed.

“I, too, will have some ham and a couple of poached eggs,” he said.

“You can have ham, sir,” replied the maid, “but there are only eggs
enough for one.”

“And I am the one,” said the young man, looking up for the first time.

Mr. Lavender at once conceived an aversion from him; his appearance was
unhealthy, and his eyes ravened from behind the spectacles beneath his
high forehead.

“I have no wish to deprive you of your eggs, sir,” he said, “though I
have had nothing to eat all day.”

“I have had nothing to eat to speak of for six months,” replied the
young man, “and in a fortnight’s time I shall have nothing to eat again
for two years.”

Mr. Lavender, who habitually spoke, the truth, looked at him with a sort
of horror. But the young man had again concentrated his attention on his
plate. “How deceptive are appearances,” thought Mr. Lavender; “one would
say an intellectual, not to say a spiritual type, and yet he eats like a
savage, and lies like a trooper!” And the pinchings of his hunger again
attacking him, he said rather acidly:

May I ask you, sir, whether you consider it amusing to tell such
untruths to a stranger?

The young man, who had finished what was on his plate, paused, and with
a faint smile said:

“I spoke figuratively. You, sir, I expect, have never been in prison.”

At the word ‘prison’ Mr. Lavender’s natural kindliness reasserted itself
at once. “Forgive me,” he said gently; “please eat all the ham. I can
easily do with bread and cheese. I am extremely sorry you have had that
misfortune, and would on no account do anything which might encourage
you to incur it again. If it is a question of money or anything of
that sort,” he went on timidly, “please command me. I abhor prisons;
I consider them inhuman; people should only be confined upon their

The young man’s eyes kindled behind his spectacles.

“I have been confined,” he said, “not upon my honour, but because of my
honour; to break it in.”

“How is that?” cried Mr. Lavender, aghast, “to break it in?”

“Yes,” said the young man, cutting a large slice of bread, “there’s no
other way of putting it with truth. They want me to go back on my word
to go back on my faith, and I won’t. In a fortnight’s time they’ll gaol
me again, so I MUST eat—excuse me. I shall want all my strength.” And he
filled his mouth too full to go on speaking.

Mr. Lavender stared at him, greatly perturbed.

“How unjustly I judged him,” he thought; and seeing that the maid had
placed the end of a ham before him he began carving off what little
there was left on it, and, filling a plate, placed it before the young
man. The latter thanked him, and without looking up ate rapidly on. Mr.
Lavender watched him with beaming eyes. “It’s lovely to see him!” he
thought; “poor fellow!”

“Where are the eggs?” said the young man suddenly.

Mr. Lavender got up and rang the bell.

“Please bring those eggs for him,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” said the maid. “And what are you going to have? There’s
nothing in the house now.”

“Oh!” said Mr. Lavender, startled. “A cup of coffee and a slice of
bread, thank you. I can always eat at any time.”

The maid went away muttering to herself, and bringing the eggs, plumped
them down before the young man, who ate them more hastily than words
could tell.

“I mean,” he said, “to do all I can in this fort-night to build up my
strength. I shall eat almost continuously. They shall never break me.”
And, reaching out, he took the remainder of the loaf.

Mr. Lavender watched it disappear with a certain irritation which he
subdued at once. “How selfish of me,” he thought, “even to think of
eating while this young hero is still hungry.”

“Are you, then,” he said, “the victim of some religious or political

“Both,” replied the young man, leaning back with a sigh of repletion,
and wiping his mouth. “I was released to-day, and, as I said, I shall be
court-martialled again to-day fortnight. It’ll be two years this time.
But they can’t break me.”

Mr. Lavender gasped, for at the word “courtmartialled” a dreadful doubt
had assailed him.

“Are you,” he stammered—“you are not—you cannot be a Conscientious

“I can,” said the young man.

Mr. Lavender half rose in horror.

“I don’t approve,” he ejaculated; “I do not approve of you.”

“Of course not,” said the young man with a little smile at once proud
and sad, “who does? If you did I shouldn’t have to eat like this, nor
should I have the consciousness of spiritual loneliness to sustain me.
You look on me as a moral outcast, as a leper. That is my comfort and
my strength. For though I have a genuine abhorrence of war, I know full
well that I could not stick this if it were not for the feeling that
I must not and will not lower myself to the level of mere opportunists
like you, and sink myself in the herd of men in the street.”

At hearing himself thus described Mr. Lavender flushed.

“I yield to no one,” he said, “in my admiration of principle. It is
because of my principles that I regard you as a——”

“Shirker,” put in the young man calmly. “Go on; don’t mince words; we’re
used to them.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Lavender, kindling, “a shirker. Excuse me! A renegade
from the camp of Liberty, a deserter from the ranks of Humanity, if you
will pardon me.”

“Say a Christian, and have done with it,” said the young man.

“No,” said Mr. Lavender, who had risen to his feet, “I will not go so
far as that. You are not a Christian, you are a Pharisee. I abhor you.”

“And I abhor you,” said the young man suddenly. “I am a Christian
Socialist, but I refuse to consider you my brother. And I can tell
you this: Some day when through our struggle the triumph of Christian
Socialism and of Peace is assured, we shall see that you firebrands
and jingoes get no chance to put up your noxious heads and disturb the
brotherhood of the world. We shall stamp you out. We shall do you in. We
who believe in love will take jolly good care that you apostles of hate
get all we’ve had and more—if you provoke us enough that is.”

He stopped, for Mr. Lavender’s figure had rigidified on the other side
of the table into the semblance of one who is about to address the House
of Lords.

“I can find here,” he cried, “no analogy with religious persecution.
This is a simple matter. The burden of defending his country falls
equally on every citizen. I know not, and I care not, what promises
were made to you, or in what spirit the laws of compulsory service were
passed. You will either serve or go to prison till you do. I am a plain
Englishman, expressing the view of my plain countrymen.”

The young man, tilting back in his chair, rapped on the table with the
handle of his dinner-knife.

“Hear, hear!” he murmured.

“And let me tell you this,” continued Mr. Lavender, “you have no right
to put a mouthful of food between your lips so long as you are not
prepared to die for it. And if the Huns came here tomorrow I would not
lift a finger to save you from the fate you would undoubtedly receive.”

During this colloquy their voices had grown so loud that the maid,
entering in dismay, had gone into the bar and informed the company that
a Conscientious Objector had eaten all the food and was “carrying on
outrageous” in the coffee-room. On hearing this report those who were
assembled—being four commercial travellers far gone in liquor—taking
up the weapons which came nearest to hand—to wit, four syphons—formed
themselves two deep and marched into the coffee-room. Aware at once
from Mr. Lavender’s white hair and words that he was not the Objector
in question, they advanced upon the young man, who was still seated,
and taking up the four points of the compass, began squirting him
unmercifully with soda-water. Blinded and dripping, the unfortunate
young fellow tried desperately to elude the cordon of his persecutors,
only to receive a fresh stream in his face at each attempt. Seeing
him thus tormented, amid the coarse laughter of these half-drunken
“travellers,” Mr. Lavender suffered a moment of the most poignant
struggle between his principles and his chivalry. Then, almost
unconsciously grasping the ham-bone, he advanced and called out loudly:

“Stop! Do not persecute that young man. You are four and he is one. Drop
it, I tell you—Huns that you are!”

The commercial fellows, however, laughed; and this infuriating Mr.
Lavender, he dealt one of them a blow with the ham-bone, which, lighting
on the funny point of his elbow, caused him to howl and spin round the
room. One of the others promptly avenged him with a squirt of syphon
in Mr. Lavender’s left eye; whereon he incontinently attacked them all,
whirling the ham-bone round his head like a shillelagh. And had it not
been that Blink and the maid seized his coat-tails he would have done
them severe injury. It was at this moment that Joe Petty, attracted by
the hullabaloo, arrived in the doorway, and running up to his master,
lifted him from behind and carried him from the room, still brandishing
the ham-bone and kicking out with his legs. Dumping him into the car,
Joe mounted hastily and drove off. Mr. Lavender sat for two or three
minutes coming to his senses before full realization of what he had done
dawned on him. Then, flinging the ham-bone from him, he sank back among
the cushions, with his chin buried on his chest. “What have I done?” he
thought over and over again. “What have I done? Taken up the bone for a
Conscientious Objector—defended a renegade against great odds! My God! I
am indeed less than a public man!”

And in this state of utter dejection, inanition, and collapse, with
Blink asleep on his feet, he was driven back to Hampstead.


Though habitually abstemious, Mr. Lavender was so very hungry that
evening when he sat down to supper that he was unable to leave the
lobster which Mrs. Petty had provided until it was reduced to mere
integument. Since his principles prevented his lightening it with
anything but ginger-beer he went to bed in some discomfort, and, tired
out with the emotions of the day, soon fell into a heavy slumber, which
at dawn became troubled by a dream of an extremely vivid character. He
fancied himself, indeed, dressed in khaki, with a breastplate composed
of newspapers containing reports of speeches which he had been charged
to deliver to soldiers at the front. He was passing in a winged tank
along those scenes of desolation of which he had so often read in his
daily papers, and which his swollen fancy now coloured even more vividly
than had those striking phrases of the past, when presently the tank
turned a somersault, and shot him out into a morass lighted up by
countless star-shells whizzing round and above. In this morass were
hundreds and thousands of figures sunk like himself up to the waist,
and waving their arms above their heads. “These,” thought Mr. Lavender,
“must be the soldiers I have come to speak to,” and he tore a sheet off
his breastplate; but before he could speak from its columns it became
thin air in his hand; and he went on tearing off sheet after sheet,
hoping to find a speech which would stay solid long enough for him to
deliver it. At last a little corner stayed substantial in his hand, and
he called out in a loud voice: “Heroes!”

But at the word the figures vanished with a wail, sinking into the
mud, which was left covered with bubbles iridescent in the light of the
star-shells. At this moment one of these, bursting over his head, turned
into a large bright moon; and Mr. Lavender saw to his amazement that
the bubbles were really butterflies, perched on the liquid moonlit mud,
fluttering their crimson wings, and peering up at him with tiny human
faces. “Who are you?” he cried; “oh! who are you?” The butterflies
closed their wings; and on each of their little faces came a look so
sad and questioning that Mr. Lavender’s tears rolled down into his
breastplate of speeches. A whisper rose from them. “We are the dead.”
And they flew up suddenly in swarms, and beat his face with their wings.

Mr. Lavender woke up sitting in the middle of the floor, with light
shining in on him through a hole in the curtain, and Blink licking off
the tears which were streaming down his face.

“Blink,” he said, “I have had a horrible dream.” And still conscious of
that weight on his chest, as of many undelivered speeches, he was
afraid to go back to bed; so, putting on some clothes, he went carefully
downstairs and out of doors into the morning. He walked with his
dog towards the risen sun, alone in the silvery light of Hampstead,
meditating deeply on his dream. “I have evidently,” he thought, “not yet
acquired that felicitous insensibility which is needful for successful
public speaking. This is undoubtedly the secret of my dream. For the
sub-conscious knowledge of my deficiency explains the weight on my chest
and the futile tearing of sheet after sheet, which vanished as I tore
them away. I lack the self-complacency necessary to the orator in any
surroundings, and that golden certainty which has enchanted me in the
outpourings of great men, whether in ink or speech. This is, however,
a matter which I can rectify with practice.” And coming to a little
may-tree in full blossom, he thus addressed it:

“Little tree, be my audience, for I see in you, tipped with the
sunlight, a vision of the tranquil and beautiful world, which, according
to every authority, will emerge out of this carnival of blood and iron.”

And the little tree lifted up its voice and answered him with the song
of a blackbird.

Mr. Lavender’s heart, deeply responsive to the voice of Nature, melted
within him.

“What are the realms of this earth, the dreams of statesmen, and all
plots and policies,” he said, “compared with the beauty of this little
tree? She—or is it a he?—breathes, in her wild and simple dress, just
to be lovely and loved. He harbours the blackbird, and shakes fragrance
into the morning; and with her blossom catches the rain and the sun
drops of heaven. I see in him the witchery of God; and of her prettiness
would I make a song of redemption.”

So saying he knelt down before the little tree, while Blink on her
haunches, very quiet beside him, looked wiser than many dogs.

A familiar gurgling sound roused him from his devotions, and turning his
head he saw his young neighbour in the garb of a nurse, standing on
the path behind him. “She has dropped from heaven,” he thought for all
nurses are angels.

And, taking off his hat, he said:

“You surprised me at a moment of which I am not ashamed; I was communing
with Beauty. And behold! Aurora is with me.”

“Say, rather, Borealis,” said the young lady. “I was so fed-up with
hospital that I had to have a scamper before turning in. If you’re going
home we might go together?”

“It would, indeed, be a joy,” said Mr. Lavender. “The garb of mercy
becomes you.”

“Do you think so?” replied the young lady, in whose cheeks a lovely
flush had not deepened. “I call it hideous. Do you always come out and
pray to that tree?”

“I am ashamed to say,” returned Mr. Lavender, “that I do not. But I
intend to do so in future, since it has brought me such a vision.”

And he looked with such deferential and shining eyes at his companion
that she placed the back of her hand before her mouth, and her breast

“I’m most fearfully sleepy,” she said. “Have you had any adventures
lately—you and Samjoe?

“Samjoe?” repeated Mr. Lavender.

“Your chauffeur—I call him that. He’s very like Sam Weller and Sancho
Panza, don’t you think, Don Pickwixote?

“Ah!” said Mr. Lavender, bewildered; “Joe, you mean. A good fellow. He
has in him the sort of heroism which I admire more than any other.”

“Which is that?” asked the young lady.

“That imperturbable humour in the face of adverse circumstances for
which our soldiers are renowned.”

“You are a great believer in heroics, Don Pickwixote,” said the young

“What would life be without them?” returned Mr. Lavender. “The war could
not go on for a minute.”

“You’re right there,” said the young lady bitterly.

“You surely,” said Mr. Lavender, aghast, “cannot wish it to stop until
we have destroyed our common enemies?”

“Well,” said the young lady, “I’m not a Pacifist; but when you see as
many people without arms and legs as I do, heroics get a bit off, don’t
you know.” And she increased her pace until Mr. Lavender, who was not
within four inches of her stature, was almost compelled to trot. “If I
were a Tommy,” she added, “I should want to shoot every man who uttered
a phrase. Really, at this time of day, they are the limit.”

“Aurora,” said Mr. Lavender, “if you will permit me, who am old
enough—alas!—to be your father, to call you that, you must surely be
aware that phrases are the very munitions of war, and certainly not less
important than mere material explosives. Take the word ‘Liberty,’ for
instance; would you deprive us of it?”

The young lady fixed on him those large grey eyes which had in them the
roll of genius. “Dear Don Pickwixote,” she said, “I would merely take it
from the mouths of those who don’t know what it means; and how much do
you think would be left? Not enough to butter the parsnips of a
Borough Council, or fill one leader in a month of Sundays. Have you
not discovered, Don Pickwixote, that Liberty means the special form of
tyranny which one happens to serve under; and that our form of tyranny
is GAS.”

“High heaven!” cried Mr. Lavender, “that I should hear such words from
so red lips!”

“I’ve not been a Pacifist, so far,” continued the young lady, stifling
a yawn, “because I hate cruelty, I hate it enough to want to be cruel
to it. I want the Huns to lap their own sauce. I don’t want to be
revengeful, but I just can’t help it.”

“My dear young lady,” said Mr. Lavender soothingly, “you are not—you
cannot be revengeful; for every great writer and speaker tells us that
revengefulness is an emotion alien to the Allies, who are merely just.


At this familiar word, Blink who had been following their conversation
quietly, threw up her nose and licked the young lady’s hand so
unexpectedly that she started and added:


Mr. Lavender, who took the expression as meant for himself, coloured

“Aurora,” he said in a faint voice, “the rapture in my heart prevents my
taking advantage of your sweet words. Forgive me, and let us go quietly
in, with the vision I have seen, for I know my place.”

The young lady’s composure seemed to tremble in the balance, and her
lips twitched; then holding out her hand she took Mr. Lavender’s and
gave it a good squeeze.

“You really are a dear,” she said. “I think you ought to be in bed. My
name’s Isabel, you know.”

“Not to me,” said Mr. Lavender. “You are the Dawn; nothing shall
persuade me to the contrary. And from henceforth I swear to rise with
you every morning.”

“Oh, no!” cried the young lady, “please don’t imagine that I sniff the
matutinal as a rule. I just happened to be in a night shift.”

“No matter,” said Mr. Lavender; “I shall see you with the eye of faith,
in your night shifts, and draw from the vision strength to continue my
public work beckoned by the fingers of the roseate future.”

“Well,” murmured the young lady, “so long for now; and do go back to
bed. It’s only about five.” And waving the tips of those fingers, she
ran lightly up the garden-path and disappeared into her house.

Mr. Lavender remained for a moment as if transfigured; then entering
his garden, he stood gazing up at her window, until the thought that she
might appear there was too much for him, and he went in.


While seated at breakfast on the morning after he had seen this vision,
Mr. Lavender, who read his papers as though they had been Holy Writ,
came on an announcement that a meeting would be held that evening at a
chapel in Holloway under the auspices of the “Free Speakers’ League,” an
association which his journals had often branded with a reputation, for
desiring Peace. On reading the names of the speakers Mr. Lavender felt
at once that it would be his duty to attend. “There will,” he thought,
“very likely be no one there to register a protest. For in this country
we have pushed the doctrine of free speech to a limit which threatens
the noble virtue of patriotism. This is no doubt a recrudescence of
that terrible horse-sense in the British people which used to permit
everybody to have his say, no matter what he said. Yet I would rather
stay at home,” he mused “for they will do me violence, I expect;
cowardice, however, would not become me, and I must go.”

He was in a state of flurry all day, thinking of his unpleasant duty
towards those violent persons, and garbishing up his memory by reading
such past leaders in his five journals as bore on the subject. He spoke
no word of his intentions, convinced that he ran a considerable risk
at the hands of the Pacifists, but too sensible of his honour to assist
anyone to put that spoke in his wheel which he could not help longing

At six o’clock he locked Blink into his study, and arming himself with
three leaders, set forth on his perilous adventure. Seven o’clock saw
him hurrying along the dismal road to the chapel, at whose door he met
with an unexpected check.

“Where is your ticket?” said a large man.

“I have none,” replied Mr. Lavender, disconcerted; “for this is a
meeting of the Free Speakers’ League, and it is for that reason that I
have come.”

The large man looked at him attentively. “No admittance without ticket,”
he said.

“I protest,” said Mr. Lavender. “How can you call yourselves by that
name and not let me in?”

The large man smiled.

“Well, he said, you haven’t the strength of—of a rabbit—in you go!”

Mr. Lavender found himself inside and some indignation.

The meeting had begun, and a tall man at the pulpit end, with the face
of a sorrowful bull, was addressing an audience composed almost entirely
of women and old men, while his confederates sat behind him trying to
look as if they were not present. At the end of a row, about half-way up
the chapel, Mr. Lavender composed himself to listen, thinking, “However
eager I may be to fulfil my duty and break up this meeting, it behoves
me as a fair-minded man to ascertain first what manner of meeting it
is that I am breaking up.” But as the speaker progressed, in periods
punctuated by applause from what, by his experience at the door, Mr.
Lavender knew to be a packed audience, he grew more and more uneasy. It
cannot be said that he took in what the speaker was saying, obsessed as
he was by the necessity of formulating a reply, and of revolving, to
the exclusion of all else, the flowers and phrases of the leaders which
during the day he had almost learned by heart. But by nature polite he
waited till the orator was sitting down before he rose, and, with the
three leaders firmly grasped in his hand, walked deliberately up to the
seated speakers. Turning his back on them, he said, in a voice to which
nervousness and emotion lent shrillness:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is now your turn, in accordance with the
tradition of your society, to listen to me. Let us not mince matters
with mealy mouths. There are in our midst certain viperous persons,
like that notorious gentleman who had the sulphurous impudence to have a
French father—French! gentlemen; not German, ladies-mark the cunning and
audacity of the fellow; like that renegade Labour leader, who has never
led anything, yet, if he had his will, would lead us all into the pit
of destruction; like those other high-brow emasculates who mistake their
pettifogging pedantry for pearls of price, and plaster the plain issue
before us with perfidious and Pacifistic platitudes. We say at once, and
let them note it, we will have none of them; we will have——” Here his
words were drowned by an interruption greater even than that; which was
fast gathering among the row of speakers behind him, and the surprised
audience in front; and he could see the large man being forced from the
door and up the aisle by a posse of noisy youths, till he stood with
arms pinioned, struggling to turn round, just in front of Mr. Lavender.
Seeing his speech thus endangered, the latter cried out at the top
of his voice: “Free speech, gentlemen, free speech; I have come here
expressly to see that we have nothing of the sort.” At this the young
men, who now filled the aisle, raised a mighty booing.

“Gentlemen,” shouted Mr. Lavender, waving his leaders, “gentlemen—-” But
at this moment the large man was hurled into contact with what served
Mr. Lavender for stomach, and the two fell in confusion. An uproar
ensued of which Mr. Lavender was more than vaguely conscious, for many
feet went over him. He managed, however, to creep into a corner, and,
getting up, surveyed the scene. The young men who had invaded the
meeting, much superior in numbers and strength to the speakers, to
the large man, and the three or four other able-bodied persons who had
rallied to them from among the audience, were taking every advantage of
their superiority; and it went to Mr. Lavender’s heart to see how they
thumped and maltreated their opponents. The sight of their brutality,
indeed, rendered him so furious that, forgetting all his principles
and his purpose in coming to the meeting, he climbed on to a form, and
folding his arms tightly on his breast, called out at the top of his

“Cads! Do not thus take advantage of your numbers. Cads!” Having thus
defended what in his calmer moments he would have known to be the wrong,
he awaited his own fate calmly. But in the hubbub his words had passed
unnoticed. “It is in moments like these,” he thought, “that the great
speaker asserts his supremacy, quells the storm, and secures himself a
hearing.” And he began to rack his brains to remember how they did it.
“It must require the voice of an ox,” he thought, “and the skin of
an alligator. Alas! How deficient I am in public qualities!” But his
self-depreciation was here cut off with the electric light. At this
sheer intervention of Providence Mr. Lavender, listening to the
disentangling sounds which rose in the black room, became aware that he
had a chance such as he had not yet had of being heard.

“Stay, my friends!” he said; “here in darkness we can see better the
true proportions of this great question of free speech. There are some
who contend that in a democracy every opinion should be heard; that,
just because the good sense of the majority will ever lead the country
into the right paths, the minority should be accorded full and fair
expression, for they cannot deflect the country’s course, and because
such expression acts as a healthful safety-valve. Moreover, they say
there is no way of preventing the minority from speaking save that of
force, which is unworthy of a majority, and the negation of what we are
fighting for in this war. But I say, following the great leader-writers,
that in a time of national danger nobody ought to say anything except
what is in accord with the opinions of the majority; for only in this
way can we present a front which will seem to be united to our common
enemies. I say, and since I am the majority I must be in the right, that
no one who disagrees with me must say anything if we are to save the
cause of freedom and humanity. I deprecate violence, but I am thoroughly
determined to stand no nonsense, and shall not hesitate to suppress by
every means in the power of the majority—including, if need be, Prussian
measures—any whisper from those misguided and unpatriotic persons whose
so-called principles induce them to assert their right to have opinions
of their own. This has ever been a free country, and they shall not
imperil its freedom by their volubility and self-conceit.” Here Mr.
Lavender paused for breath, and in the darkness a faint noise, as of a
mouse scrattling at a wainscot, attracted his attention. “Wonderful,”
he thought, elated by the silence, “that I should so have succeeded in
riveting their attention as to be able to hear a mouse gnawing. I
must have made a considerable impression.” And, fearing to spoil it by
further speech, he set to work to grope his way round the chapel wall
in the hope of coming to the door. He had gone but a little way when his
outstretched hand came into contact with something warm, which shrank
away with a squeal.

“Oh!” cried Mr. Lavender, while a shiver went down his spine, “what is

“Me,” said a stifled voice. “Who are you?”

“A public speaker, madam,” answered Mr. Lavender, unutterably relieved.
Don’t be alarmed.

“Ouch!” whispered the voice. That madman!

“I assure you, madam,” replied Mr. Lavender, striving to regain contact,
“I wouldn’t harm you for the world. Can you tell me in what portion of
the hall we are?” And crouching down he stretched out his arms and felt
about him. No answer came; but he could tell that he was between two
rows of chairs, and, holding to the top of one, he began to sidle along,
crouching, so as not to lose touch with the chairs behind him. He had
not proceeded the length of six chairs in the pitchy darkness when the
light was suddenly turned up, and he found himself glaring over the
backs of the chairs in front into the eyes of a young woman, who was
crouching and glaring back over the same chairs.

“Dear me,” said Mr. Lavender, as with a certain dignity they both rose
to their full height, “I had no conception——”

Without a word, the young woman put her hand up to her back hair, sidled
swiftly down the row of chairs, ran down the aisle, and vanished.
There was no one else in the chapel. Mr. Lavender, after surveying the
considerable wreckage, made his way to the door and passed out into
the night. “Like a dream,” he thought; “but I have done my duty, for no
meeting was ever more completely broken up. With a clear conscience and
a good appetite I can how go home.”


Greatly cheered by his success at the Peace meeting, Mr. Lavender
searched his papers next morning to find a new field for his activities;
nor had he to read far before he came on this paragraph:

   “Everything is dependent on transport, and we cannot sufficiently
   urge that this should be speeded up by
   every means in our power.”

“How true!” he thought. And, finishing his breakfast hastily, he went
out with Blink to think over what he could do to help. “I can exhort,”
he mused, “anyone engaged in transport who is not exerting himself to
the utmost. It will not be pleasant to do so, for it will certainly
provoke much ill-feeling. I must not, however, be deterred by that,
for it is the daily concomitant of public life, and hard words break no
bones, as they say, but rather serve to thicken the skins and sharpen
the tongues of us public men, so that, we are able to meet our opponents
with their own weapons. I perceive before me, indeed, a liberal
education in just those public qualities wherein I am conscious of being
as yet deficient.” And his heart sank within him, thinking of the carts
on the hills of Hampstead and the boys who drove them. “What is lacking
to them,” he mused, “is the power of seeing this problem steadily and
seeing it whole. Let me endeavour to impart this habit to all who have
any connection with transport.”

He had just completed this reflection when, turning a corner, he came on
a large van standing stockstill at the top of an incline. The driver was
leaning idly against the hind wheel filling a pipe. Mr. Lavender glanced
at the near horse, and seeing that he was not distressed, he thus
addressed the man:

“Do you not know, my friend, that every minute is of importance in this
national crisis? If I could get you to see the question of transport
steadily, and to see it whole, I feel convinced that you would not be
standing there lighting your pipe when perhaps this half-hour’s delay in
the delivery of your goods may mean the death of one of your comrades at
the front.”

The man, who was wizened, weathered, and old, with but few teeth, looked
up at him from above the curved hands with which he was coaxing the
flame of a match into the bowl of his pipe. His brow was wrinkled, and
moisture stood at the comers of his eyes.

“I assure you,” went on Mr. Lavender, “that we have none of us the right
in these days to delay for a single minute the delivery of anything—not
even of speeches. When I am tempted to do so, I think of our sons and
brothers in the trenches, and how every shell and every word saves their
lives, and I deliver——”

The old man, who had finished lighting his pipe, took a long pull at it,
and said hoarsely:

“Go on!”

“I will,” said Mr. Lavender, “for I perceive that I can effect a
revolution in your outlook, so that instead of wasting the country’s
time by leaning against that wheel you will drive on zealously and help
to win the war.”

The old man looked at him, and one side of his face became drawn up in
a smile, which seemed to Mr. Lavender so horrible that he said: “Why do
you look at me like that?”

“Cawn’t ‘elp it,” said the man.

“What makes you,” continued Mr. Lavender, “pause here with your job half
finished? It is not the hill which keeps you back, for you are at the
top, and your horses seem rested.”

“Yes,” said the old man, with another contortion of his face, “they’re
rested—leastways, one of ‘em.”

“Then what delays you—if not that British sluggishness which we in
public life find such a terrible handicap to our efforts in conducting
the war?”

“Ah!” said the old man. “But out of one you don’t make two, guv’nor. Git
on the offside and you’ll see it a bit steadier and a bit ‘oler than you
‘ave ‘itherto.”

Struck by his words, which were accompanied by a painful puckering of
the checks, Mr. Lavender moved round the van looking for some defect in
its machinery, and suddenly became aware that the off horse was lying on
the ground, with the traces cut. It lay on its side, and did not move.

“Oh!” cried Mr. Lavender; “oh!” And going up to the horse’s head he
knelt down. The animal’s eye was glazing.

“Oh!” he cried again, “poor horse! Don’t die!” And tears dropped out of
his eyes on to the horse’s cheek. The eye seemed to give him a look, and
became quite glazed.

“Dead!” said Mr Lavender in an awed whisper. “This is horrible! What a
thin horse—nothing but bones!” And his gaze haunted the ridge and furrow
of the horse’s carcase, while the living horse looked round and down at
its dead fellow, from whose hollow face a ragged forelock drooped in the

“I must go and apologize to that old man,” said Mr. Lavender aloud, “for
no doubt he is even more distressed than I am.”

“Not ‘e, guv’nor,” said a voice, and looking beside him he saw the aged
driver standing beside him; “not ‘e; for of all the crool jobs I ever
‘ad—drivin’ that ‘orse these last three months ‘as been the croolest.
There ‘e lies and ‘es aht of it; and that’s where they’d all like to be.
Speed, done ‘im in, savin’ ‘is country’s ‘time an’ ‘is country’s oats;
that done ‘im in. A good old ‘orse, a willin’ old ‘orse, ‘as broke ‘is
‘eart tryin’ to do ‘is bit on ‘alf rations. There ‘e lies; and I’m glad
‘e does.” And with the back of his hand the old fellow removed some
brown moisture which was trembling on his jaw. Mr. Lavender rose from
his knees.

“Dreadful!—monstrous!” he cried; “poor horse! Who is responsible for

“Why,” said the old driver, “the gents as sees it steady and sees it
‘ole from one side o’ the van, same as you.”

So smitten to the heart was Mr. Lavender by those words that he covered
his ears with his hands and almost ran from the scene, nor did he stop
till he had reached the shelter of his study, and was sitting in his
arm-chair with Blink upon his feet. “I will buy a go-cart,” he thought,
“Blink and I will pull our weight and save the poor horses. We can at
least deliver our own milk and vegetables.”

He had not been sitting there for half-an-hour revolving the painful
complexities of national life before the voice of Mrs. Petty recalled
him from that sad reverie.

“Dr. Gobang to see you, sir.”

At sight of the doctor who had attended him for alcoholic poisoning Mr.
Lavender experienced one or those vaguely disagreeable sensations which
follow on half-realized insults.

“Good-morning, sir,” said the doctor; “thought I’d just look in and make
my mind easy about you. That was a nasty attack. Do you still feel your

“No,” said Mr. Lavender rather coldly, while Blink growled.

“Nor your head?”

“I have never felt my head,” replied Mr. Lavender, still more coldly.

“I seem to remember——” began the doctor.

“Doctor,” said Mr. Lavender with dignity, “surely you know that public
men—do not feel—their heads—it would not do. They sometimes suffer from
their throats, but otherwise they have perfect health, fortunately.”

The doctor smiled.

“Well, what do you think of the war?” he asked chattily.

“Be quiet, Blink,” said Mr. Lavender. Then, in a far-away voice, he
added: “Whatever the clouds which have gathered above our heads for the
moment, and whatever the blows which Fate may have in store for us, we
shall not relax our efforts till we have attained our aims and hurled
our enemies back. Nor shall we stop there,” he went on, warming at his
own words. “It is but a weak-kneed patriotism which would be content
with securing the objects for which we began to fight. We shall not
hesitate to sacrifice the last of our men, the last of our money, in the
sacred task of achieving the complete ruin of the fiendish Power which
has brought this great calamity on the world. Even if our enemies
surrender we will fight on till we have dictated terms on the doorsteps
of Potsdam.”

The doctor, who, since Mr. Lavender began to speak, had been looking at
him with strange intensity, dropped his eyes.

“Quite so,” he said heartily, “quite so. Well, good-morning. I only just
ran in!” And leaving Mr. Lavender to the exultation he was evidently
feeling, this singular visitor went out and closed the door. Outside the
garden-gate he rejoined the nephew Sinkin.

“Well?” asked the latter.

“Sane as you or me,” said the doctor. “A little pedantic in his way of
expressing himself, but quite all there, really.”

“Did his dog bite you?” muttered the nephew. “No,” said the doctor
absently. “I wish to heaven everyone held his views. So long. I must be
getting on.” And they parted.

But Mr. Lavender, after pacing the room six times, had sat down again in
his chair, with a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach, such as other
men feel on mornings after a debauch.


On pleasant afternoons Mr. Lavender would often take his seat on one of
the benches which adorned the Spaniard’s Road to enjoy the beams of the
sun and the towers of the City confused in smoky distance. And strolling
forth with Blink on the afternoon of the day on which the doctor had
come to see him he sat down to read a periodical, which enjoined
on everyone the necessity of taking the utmost interest in soldiers
disabled by the war. “Yes,” he thought, “it is indeed our duty to force
them, no matter what their disablements, to continue and surpass the
heroism they displayed out there, and become superior to what they once
were.” And it seemed to him a distinct dispensation of Providence when
the rest of his bench was suddenly occupied by three soldiers in the
blue garments and red ties of hospital life. They had been sitting there
for some minutes, divided by the iron bars necessary to the morals of
the neighbourhood, while Mr. Lavender cudgelled his brains for an easy
and natural method of approach, before Blink supplied the necessary
avenue by taking her stand before a soldier and looking up into his eye.

“Lord!” said the one thus accosted, “what a fyce! Look at her moustache!
Well, cocky, ‘oo are you starin’ at?”

“My dog,” said Mr. Lavender, perceiving his chance, “has an eye for the
strange and beautiful.

“Wow said the soldier, whose face was bandaged, she’ll get it ‘ere,
won’t she?”

Encouraged by the smiles of the soldier and his comrades, Mr. Lavender
went on in the most natural voice he could assume.

“I’m sure you appreciate, my friends, the enormous importance of your
own futures?”

The three soldiers, whose faces were all bandaged, looked as surprised
as they could between them, and did not answer. Mr. Lavender went on,
dropping unconsciously into the diction of the article he had been
reading: “We are now at the turning-point of the ways, and not a moment
is to be lost in impressing on the disabled man the paramount necessity
of becoming again the captain of his soul. He who was a hero in the
field must again lead us in those qualities of enterprise and endurance
which have made him the admiration of the world.”

The three soldiers had turned what was visible of their faces towards
Mr. Lavender, and, seeing that he had riveted their attention, he
proceeded: “The apathy which hospital produces, together with the
present scarcity of labour, is largely responsible for the dangerous
position in which the disabled man now finds himself. Only we who have
not to face his future can appreciate what that future is likely to be
if he does not make the most strenuous efforts to overcome it. Boys,” he
added earnestly, remembering suddenly that this was the word which those
who had the personal touch ever employed, “are you making those efforts?
Are you equipping your minds? Are you taking advantage of your enforced
leisure to place yourselves upon some path of life in which you can
largely hold your own against all comers?”

He paused for a reply.

The soldiers, silent for a moment, in what seemed to Mr. Lavender to be
sheer astonishment, began to fidget; then the one next him turned to his
neighbour, and said:

“Are we, Alf? Are we doin’ what the gentleman says?”

“I can answer that for you,” returned Mr. Lavender brightly; “for I can
tell by your hospitalized faces that you are living in the present; a
habit which, according to our best writers, is peculiar to the British.
I assure you,” he went on with a winning look, “there is no future in
that. If you do not at once begin to carve fresh niches for yourselves
in the temple of industrialism you will be engulfed by the returning
flood, and left high and dry upon the beach of fortune.”

During these last few words the half of an irritated look on the faces
of the soldiers changed to fragments of an indulgent and protective

“Right you are, guv’nor,” said the one in the middle. Don’t you worry,
we’ll see you home all right.

“It is you,” said Mr. Lavender, “that I must see home. For that is
largely the duty of us who have not had the great privilege of fighting
for our country.”

These words, which completed the soldiers’ conviction that Mr. Lavender
was not quite all there, caused them to rise.

“Come on, then,” said one; “we’ll see each other home. We’ve got to be
in by five. You don’t have a string to your dog, I see.”

“Oh no!” said Mr. Lavender puzzled “I am not blind.”

“Balmy,” said the soldier soothingly. “Come on, sir, an’ we can talk
abaht it on the way.”

Mr. Lavender, delighted at the impression he had made, rose and walked
beside them, taking insensibly the direction for home.

“What do you advise us to do, then, guv’nor?” said one of the soldiers.

“Throw away all thought of the present,” returned Mr. Lavender, with
intense earnestness; “forget the past entirely, wrap yourselves wholly
in the future. Do nothing which will give you immediate satisfaction.
Do not consider your families, or any of those transient considerations
such as pleasure, your homes, your condition of health, or your economic
position; but place yourselves unreservedly in the hands of those who by
hard thinking on this subject are alone in the condition to appreciate
the individual circumstances of each of you. For only by becoming a
flock of sheep can you be conducted into those new pastures where the
grass of your future will be sweet and plentiful. Above all, continue to
be the heroes which you were under the spur of your country’s call, for
you must remember that your country is still calling you.”

“That’s right,” said the soldier on Mr. Lavender’s left. “Puss, puss!
Does your dog swot cats?”

At so irrelevant a remark Mr. Lavender looked suspiciously from left to
right, but what there was of the soldiers’ faces told him nothing.

“Which is your hospital?” he asked.

“Down the ‘ill, on the right,” returned the soldier. “Which is yours?”

“Alas! it is not in a hospital that I——”

“I know,” said the soldier delicately, “don’t give it a name; no need.
We’re all friends ‘ere. Do you get out much?”

“I always take an afternoon stroll,” said Mr. Lavender, “when my public
life permits. If you think your comrades would like me to come and
lecture to them on their future I should be only too happy.”

“D’you ‘ear, Alf?” said the soldier. “D’you think they would?”

The soldier, addressed put a finger to the sound side of his mouth and
uttered a catcall.

“I might effect a radical change in their views,” continued Mr.
Lavender, a little puzzled. “Let me leave you this periodical. Read it,
and you will see how extremely vital all that I have been saying is. And
then, perhaps, if you would send me a round robin, such as is usual in
a democratic country, I could pop over almost any day after five. I
sometimes feel”—and here Mr. Lavender stopped in the middle of the road,
overcome by sudden emotion—“that I have really no right to be alive when
I see what you have suffered for me.”

“That’s all right, old bean,”, said the soldier on his left; “you’d ‘a
done the same for us but for your disabilities. We don’t grudge it you.”

“Boys,” said Mr. Lavender, “you are men. I cannot tell you how much I
admire and love you.”

“Well, give it a rest, then; t’ain’t good for yer. And, look ‘ere! Any
time they don’t treat you fair in there, tip us the wink, and we’ll come
over and do in your ‘ousekeeper.”

Mr. Lavender smiled.

“My poor housekeeper!” he said. “I thank you all the same for your
charming goodwill. This is where I live,” he added, stopping at the gate
of the little house smothered in lilac and laburnum. “Can I offer you
some tea?”

The three soldiers looked at each other, and Mr. Lavender, noticing
their surprise, attributed it to the word tea.

“I regret exceedingly that I am a total abstainer,” he said.

The remark, completing the soldiers’ judgment of his case, increased
their surprise at the nature of his residence; it remained unanswered,
save by a shuffling of the feet.

Mr. Lavender took off his hat.

“I consider it a great privilege,” he said, “to have been allowed to
converse with you. Goodbye, and God bless you!”

So saying, he opened the gate and entered his little garden carrying his
hat in his hand, and followed by Blink.

The soldiers watched him disappear within, then continued on their way
down the hill in silence.

“Blimy,” said one suddenly, “some of these old civilians ‘ave come it
balmy on the crumpet since the war began. Give me the trenches!”


Aglow with satisfaction at what he had been able to do for the wounded
soldiers, Mr. Lavender sat down in his study to drink the tea which he
found there. “There is nothing in life,” he thought, “which gives one
such satisfaction as friendliness and being able to do something for
others. Moon-cat!”

The moon-cat, who, since Mr. Lavender had given her milk, abode in his
castle, awaiting her confinement, purred loudly, regarding him with
burning eyes, as was her fashion when she wanted milk, Mr. Lavender put
down the saucer and continued his meditations. “Everything is vain; the
world is full of ghosts and shadows; but in friendliness and the purring
of a little cat there is solidity.”

“A lady has called, sir.”

Looking up, Mr. Lavender became aware of Mrs. Petty.

“How very agreeable!

“I don’t know, sir,” returned his housekeeper in her decisive voice;
“but she wants to see you. Name of Pullbody.”

“Pullbody,” repeated Mr. Lavender dreamily; “I don’t seem——Ask her in,
Mrs. Petty, ask her in.”

“It’s on your head, sir,” said Mrs. Petty, and went out.

Mr. Lavender was immediately conscious of a presence in dark green
silk, with a long upper lip, a loose lower lip, and a fixed and faintly
raddled air, moving stealthily towards him.

“Sit down, madam, I beg. Will you have some tea?”

The lady sat down. “Thank you, I have had tea. It was on the
recommendation of your next-door neighbour, Miss Isabel Scarlet——”

“Indeed,” replied Mr. Lavender, whose heart began to beat; “command me,
for I am entirely at her service.”

“I have come to see you,” began the lady with a peculiar sinuous smile,
“as a public man and a patriot.”

Mr. Lavender bowed, and the lady went on: “I am in very great trouble.
The fact is, my sister’s husband’s sister is married to a German.”

“Is it possible, madam?” murmured Mr. Lavender, crossing his knees, and
joining the tips of his fingers.

“Yes,” resumed the lady, “and what’s more, he is still at large.”

Mr. Lavender, into whose mind there had instantly rushed a flood of
public utterances, stood gazing at her haggard face in silent sympathy.

“You may imagine my distress, sir, and the condition of my conscience,”
pursued the lady, “when I tell you that my sister’s husband’s sister is
a very old friend of mine—and, indeed, so was this German. The two are
a very attached young couple, and, being childless, are quite wrapped
up in each other. I have come to you, feeling it my duty to secure his

Mr. Lavender, moved by the human element in her words, was about to say,
“But why, madam?” when the lady continued:

“I have not myself precisely heard him speak well of his country.
But the sister of a friend of mine who was having tea in their house
distinctly heard him say that there were two sides to every question,
and that he could not believe all that was said in the English papers.

“Dear me!” said Mr. Lavender, troubled; “that is serious.”

“Yes,” went on the lady; “and on another occasion my sister’s husband
himself heard him remark that a man could not help loving his country
and hoping that it would win.”

“But that is natural,” began Mr. Lavender.

“What!” said the lady, nearly rising, “when that country is Germany?”

The word revived Mr. Lavender’s sense of proportion.

“True,” he said, “true. I was forgetting for the moment. It is
extraordinary how irresponsible one’s thoughts are sometimes. Have you
reason to suppose that he is dangerous?”

“I should have thought that what I have said might have convinced you,”
replied the lady reproachfully; “but I don’t wish you to act without
satisfying yourself. It is not as if you knew him, of course. I have
easily been able to get up an agitation among his friends, but I should
not expect an outsider—so I thought if I gave you his address you could
form your own opinion.”

“Yes,” murmured Mr. Lavender, “yes. It is in the last degree undesirable
that any man of German origin should remain free to work possible harm
to our country. There is no question in this of hatred or of mere rabid
patriotism,” he went on, in a voice growing more and more far-away; “it
is largely the A. B. C. of common prudence.”

“I ought to say,” interrupted his visitor, “that we all thought him, of
course, an honourable man until this war, or we should not have been his
friends. He is a dentist,” she added, “and, I suppose, may be said to
be doing useful work, which makes it difficult. I suggest that you go to
him to have a tooth out.”

Mr. Lavender quivered, and insensibly felt his teeth.

“Thank you,” he said, “I will see if I can find one. It is certainly a
matter which cannot be left to chance. We public men, madam, often have
to do very hard and even inhumane things for no apparent reason. Our
consciences alone support us. An impression, I am told, sometimes gets
abroad that we yield to clamour. Those alone who know us realize how
unfounded that aspersion is.”

“This is his address,” said the lady, rising, and handing him an
envelope. “I shall not feel at rest until he is safely interned. You
will not mention my name, of course. It is tragic to be obliged to
work against one’s friends in the dark. Your young neighbour spoke in
enthusiastic terms of your zeal, and I am sure that in choosing you for
my public man she was not pulling—er—was not making a mistake.”

Mr. Lavender bowed.

“I hope not, madam, he said humbly I try to do my duty.”

The lady smiled her sinuous smile and moved towards the door, leaving on
the air a faint odour of vinegar and sandalwood.

When she was gone Mr. Lavender sat down on the edge of his chair before
the tea-tray and extracted his teeth while Blink, taking them for a
bone, gazed at them lustrously, and the moon-cat between his feet purred
from repletion. “There is reason in all things,” he thought, running his
finger over what was left in his mouth, “but not in patriotism, for
that would prevent us from consummating the destruction of our common
enemies. It behoves us public men ever to set an extreme example. Which
one can I spare, I wonder?” And he fixed upon a large rambling tooth on
the left wing of his lower jaw. “It will hurt horribly, I’m afraid; and
if I have an anaesthetic there will be someone else present; and not
improbably I shall feel ill afterwards, and be unable to form a clear
judgment. I must steel myself. Blink!”

For Blink was making tremulous advances to the teeth. “How pleasant to
be a dog!” thought Mr. Lavender, “and know nothing of Germans and teeth.
I shall be very unhappy till this is out; but Aurora recommended me, and
I must not complain, but rather consider myself the most fortunate of
public men.” And, ruffling his hair till it stood up all over his head,
while his loose eyebrow worked up and down, he gazed at the moon-cat.

“Moon-cat,” he said suddenly, “we are but creatures of chance, unable to
tell from one day to another what Fate has in store for us. My tooth
is beginning to ache already. That is, perhaps, as it should be, for I
shall not forget which one it is.” So musing he resumed his teeth; and,
going to his bookcase, sought fortitude and inspiration in the records
of a Parliamentary debate on enemy aliens.

It was not without considerable trepidation, however, on the following
afternoon that he made his way up Welkin Street, and rang at the number
on the envelope in his hand.

“Yes sir, doctor is at home,” said the maid.

Mr. Lavender’s heart was about to fail him when, conjuring up the vision
of Aurora, he said in a faint voice: “I wish to see him professionally.”
And, while the maid departed up the stairs, he waited in the narrow
hall, alternately taking his hat off and putting it on again, so great
was his spiritual confusion.

“Doctor will see you at once, sir.”

Putting his hat on hastily, Mr. Lavender followed her upstairs, feeling
at his tooth to make quite sure that he remembered which it was. His
courage mounted as he came nearer to his fate, and he marched into the
room behind the maid holding his hat on firmly with one hand and his
tooth in firmly with the other. There, beside a red velvet dentist’s
chair, he saw a youngish man dressed in a white coat, with round eyes
and a domestic face, who said in good English:

“What can I do for you, my dear sir? I fear you are in bain.”

“In great pain,” replied Mr. Lavender faintly, “in great pain.” And,
indeed, he was; for the nervous crisis from which he was suffering had
settled in the tooth, on which he still pressed a finger through his

“Sit down, sir, sit down,” said the young man, “and perhaps it would be
better if you should remove your hat. We shall not hurd you—no, no, we
shall not hurd you.”

At those words, which seemed to cast doubt on his courage, Mr. Lavender
recovered all his presence of mind. He took off his hat, advanced
resolutely to the chair, sat down in it, and, looking up, said:

“Do to me what you will; I shall not flinch, nor depart in any way from
the behaviour of those whose duty it is to set an example to others.”

So saying, he removed his teeth, and placing them in a bowl on the
little swinging table which he perceived on his left hand, he closed his
eyes, put his finger in his mouth, and articulated:

“‘Ith one.”

“Excuse me, sir,” said the young German, “but do you wish a dooth oud?”

“‘At ish my deshire,” said Mr. Lavender, keeping his finger on his
tooth, and his eyes closed. “‘At one.”

“I cannot give you gas without my anaesthedist.”

“I dow,” said Mr. Lavender; “be wick.”

And, feeling the little cold spy-glass begin to touch his gums, he
clenched his hands and thought: “This is the moment to prove that I,
too, can die for a good cause. If I am not man enough to bear for my
country so small a woe I can never again look Aurora in the face.”

The voice of the young dentist dragged him rudely from the depth of his

“Excuse me, but which dooth did you say?”

Mr. Lavender again inserted his finger, and opened his eyes.

The dentist shook his head. “Imbossible,” he said; “that dooth is
perfectly sound. The other two are rotten. But they do not ache?”

Mr. Lavender shook his head and repeated:

“At one.”

“You are my first client this week, sir,” said the young German calmly,
“but I cannot that dooth dake out.”

At those words Mr. Lavender experienced a sensation as if his soul were
creeping back up his legs; he spoke as it reached his stomach.

“Noc?” he said.

“No,” replied the young German. It is nod the dooth which causes you the

Mr. Lavender, suddenly conscious that he had no pain, took his finger

“Sir,” he said, “I perceive that you are an honourable man. There is
something sublime in your abnegation if, indeed, you have had no other
client this week.

“No fear,” said the young German. “Haf I, Cicely?”

Mr. Lavender became conscious for the first time of a young woman
leaning up against the wall, with a pair of tweezers in her hand.

“Take it out, Otto,” she said in a low voice, “if he wants it.”

“No no,” said Mr. Lavender sharply, resuming his teeth; “I would not for
the world burden your conscience.”

“My clients are all batriots,” said the young dentist, “and my bractice
is Kaput. We are in a bad way, sir,” he added, with a smile, “but we try
to do the correct ting.”

Mr. Lavender saw the young woman move the tweezers in a manner which
caused his blood to run a little cold.

“We must live,” he heard her say.

“Young madam,” he said, “I honour the impulse which makes you desire
to extend your husband’s practice. Indeed, I perceive you both to be so
honourable that I cannot but make you a confession. My tooth is indeed
sound, though, since I have been pretending that it isn’t, it has caused
me much discomfort. I came here largely to form an opinion of your
husband’s character, with a view to securing his internment.”

At that word the two young people shrank together till they were
standing side by side, staring at Mr Lavender with eyes full of anxiety
and wonder. Their hands, which still held the implements of dentistry,
insensibly sought each other.

“Be under no apprehension,” cried Mr. Lavender, much moved; “I can see
that you are greatly attached, and even though your husband is a German,
he is still a man, and I could never bring myself to separate him from

“Who are you?” said the young woman in a frightened voice, putting her
arm round her husband’s waist.

“Just a public man,” answered Mr. Lavender.

“I came here from a sense of duty; nothing more, assure you.”

“Who put you up to it?”

“That,” said Mr. Lavender, bowing as best he could from the angle he was
in, “I am not at liberty to disclose. But, believe me, you have nothing
to fear from this visit; I shall never do anything to distress a woman.
And please charge me as if the tooth had been extracted.”

The young German smiled, and shook his head.

“Sir,” he said, “I am grateful to you for coming, for it shows us what
danger we are in. The hardest ting to bear has been the uncertainty of
our bosition, and the feeling that our friends were working behind our
backs. Now we know that this is so we shall vordify our souls to bear
the worst. But, tell me,” he went on, “when you came here, surely you
must have subbosed that to tear me away from my wife would be very
bainful to her and to myself. You say now you never could do that, how
was it, then, you came?”

“Ah, sir!” cried Mr. Lavender, running his hands through his hair and
staring at the ceiling, “I feared this might seem inconsistent to your
logical German mind. But there are many things we public men would never
do if we could see them being done. Fortunately, as a rule we cannot.
Believe me, when I leave you I shall do my best to save you from a fate
which I perceive to be unnecessary.”

So saying, he rose from the chair, and, picking up his hat, backed
towards the door.

“I will not offer you my hand,” he said, “for I am acutely conscious
that my position is neither dignified nor decent. I owe you a tooth that
I shall not readily forget. Good-bye!”


And backing through the doorway he made his way down the stairs and out
into the street, still emotionalized by the picture of the two young
people holding each other by the waist. He had not, however, gone far
before reason resumed its sway, and he began to see that the red velvet
chair in which he had been sitting was in reality a wireless apparatus
reaching to Berlin, or at least concealed a charge of dynamite to blow
up some King or Prime Minister; and that the looking-glasses, of which
he had noticed two at least, were surely used for signalling to Gothas
or Zeppelins. This plunged him into a confusion so poignant that, rather
by accident than design, he found himself again at Hampstead instead of
at Scotland Yard. “In the society of Aurora alone,” he thought, “can I
free myself from the goadings of conscience, for it was she who sent me
on that errand.” And, instead of going in, he took up a position on his
lawn whence he could attract her attention by waving his arms. He had
been doing this for some time, to the delight of Blink, who thought it
a new game, before he saw her in her nurse’s dress coming out of a
French-window with her yellow book in her hand. Redoubling his efforts
till he had arrested her attention, he went up to the privet hedge, and
said, in a deep and melancholy voice:

“Aurora, I have failed in my duty, and the errand on which you sent me
is unfulfilled. Mrs. Pullbody’s sister’s husband’s sister’s husband is
still, largely speaking, at large.”

“I knew he would be,” replied the young lady, with her joyous smile,
“that’s why I put her on to you—the cat!”

At a loss to understand her meaning, Mr. Lavender, who had bent forward
above the hedge in his eagerness to explain, lost his balance, and,
endeavouring to save the hedge, fell over into some geranium pots.

“Dear Don Pickwixote,” cried the young lady, assisting him to rise,
“have you hurt your nose?”

“It is not that,” said Mr. Lavender, removing some mould from his hair,
and stifling the attentions of Blink; “but rather my honour, for I have
allowed my duty to my country to be overridden by the common emotion of

“Hurrah!” cried the young lady. “It’ll do you ever so much good.”

“Aurora!” cried Mr. Lavender aghast, walking at her side. But the young
lady only uttered her enchanting laugh.

“Come and lie down in the hammock!” she said you’re looking like a
ghost. “I’ll cover you up with a rug, and smoke a cigarette to keep the
midges off you. Tuck up your legs; that’s right!”

“No!” said Mr. Lavender from the recesses of the hammock, feeling his
nose, “let the bidges bide me. I deserve they should devour me alive.”

“All right,” said the young lady. “But have a nap, anyway!” And sitting
down in a low chair, she opened her book and lit a cigarette.

Mr. Lavender remained silent, watching her with the eyes of an acolyte,
and wondering whether he was in his senses to have alighted on so rare a
fortune. Nor was it long before he fell into a hypnotic doze.

How long Mr. Lavender had been asleep he could not of course tell before
he dreamed that he was caught in a net, the meshes of which were formed
of the cries of newspaper boys announcing atrocities by land and sea. He
awoke looking into the eyes of Aurora, who, to still his struggles, had
taken hold of his ankles.

“My goodness! You are thin!” were the first words he heard. “No wonder
you’re lightheaded.”

Mr. Lavender, whose returning chivalry struggled with unconscious
delight, murmured with difficulty:

“Let me go, let me go; it is too heavenly!

“Well, have you finished kicking?” asked the young lady.

“Yes,” returned Mr. Lavender in a fainting voice——“alas!”

The young lady let go of his ankles, and, aiding him to rise from the
hammock, said: “I know what’s the matter with you now—you’re starving
yourself. You ought to be kept on your back for three months at least,
and fed on butter.”

Mr. Lavender, soothing the feelings of Blink, who, at his struggles, had
begun to pant deeply, answered with watering lips:

“Everyone in these days must do twice as much as he ought, and I eat
half, for only in this way can we compass the defeat of our common
enemies.” The young lady’s answer, which sounded like “Bosh!” was lost
in Mr. Lavender’s admiration of her magnificent proportions as she bent
to pick up her yellow book.

“Aurora,” he said, “I know not what secret you share with the goddesses;
suffer me to go in and give thanks for this hour spent in your company.”

And he was about to recross the privet hedge when she caught him by the
coat-tag, saying:

“No, Don Pickwixote, you must dine with us. I want you to meet my
father. Come along!” And, linking her arm in his, she led him towards
her castle. Mr. Lavender, who had indeed no, option but to obey, such
was the vigour of her arm, went with a sense of joy not unmingled with
consternation lest the personage she spoke of should have viewed him in
the recent extravagance of his dreaming moments.

“I don’t believe,” said the young lady, gazing down at him, “that you
weigh an ounce more than seven stone. It’s appalling!

“Not,” returned Mr. Lavender, “by physical weight and force shall we
win this war, for it is at bottom a question of morale. Right is, ever
victorious in the end, and though we have infinitely greater material
resources than our foes, we should still triumph were we reduced to the
last ounce, because of the inherent nobility of our cause.”

“You’ll be reduced to the last ounce if we don’t feed, you up somehow,”
said the young lady.

“Would you like to wash your hands?”

Mr. Lavender having signified his assent, she left him alone in a place
covered with linoleum. When, at length, followed by Blink, he emerged
from dreamy ablutions, Mr. Lavender, saw that she had changed her
dress to a flowing blue garment of diaphanous character, which made her
appear, like an emanation of the sky. He was about to say so when he
noticed a gentleman in khaki scrutinizing him with lively eyes slightly
injected with blood.

“Don Pickwixote,” said the young lady; “my father, Major Scarlet.”

Mr. Lavender’s hand was grasped by one which seemed to him made of iron.

“I am honoured, sir,” he said painfully, “to meet the father of my
charming young neighbour.”

The Major answered in a voice as clipped as his grey bottle-brush
moustache, “Delighted! Dinner’s ready. Come along!”

Mr. Lavender saw that he had a mouth which seemed to have a bitt in
it; several hairs on a finely rounded head; and an air of efficient and
truculent bonhomie tanned and wrinkled by the weather.

The table at which they became seated seemed to one accustomed to
frugality to groan with flowers and china and glass; and Mr. Lavender
had hardly supped his rich and steaming soup before his fancy took fire;
nor did he notice that he was drinking from a green glass in which was a
yellow fluid.

“I get Army rations,” said the Major, holding a morsel of fillet of beef
towards Blink. “Nice dog, Mr. Lavender.”

“Yes,” replied Mr. Lavender, ever delighted that his favourite should
receive attention, “she is an angel.”

“Too light,” said the Major, “and a bit too narrow in front; but a nice
dog. What’s your view of the war?”

Before Mr. Lavender could reply he felt Aurora’s foot pressing his, and
heard her say:

“Don Pickwixote’s views are after your own heart, Dad; he’s for the
complete destruction of the Hun.”

“Indeed, yes,” cried Mr. Lavender with shining eyes. “Right and justice
demand it. We seek to gain nothing!”

“But we’ll take all we can get,” said the Major.

“They’ll never get their Colonies back. We’ll stick to them fast

Mr. Lavender stared at him for a moment, then, remembering what he had
so often read, he murmured:

“Aggrandizement is not our object; but we can never forget that so
long as any territory remains in the hands of our treacherous foe the
arteries of our far-flung Empire are menaced at the roots.”

“Right-o,” said the Major, “we’ve got the chance of our lives, and we’re
going to take it.”

Mr. Lavender sat forward a little on his chair. “I shall never admit,”
he said, “that we are going to take anything, for that would be contrary
to the principles which we are pledged to support, and to our avowed
intention of seeking only the benefit of the human race; but our inhuman
foes have compelled us to deprive them of the power to injure others.”

“Yes,” said the Major, “we must just go on killing Germans and collaring
every bit of their property we can.”

Mr. Lavender sat a little further forward on his chair, and the trouble
in his eyes grew.

“After all’s said and done,” continued the Major; “it’s a simple war—us
or them! And in the long run it’s bound to be us. We’ve got the cards.”
Mr. Lavender started, and said in a weak and wavering voice:

“We shall never sheathe the sword until——”

“The whole bag of tricks is in our hands. Might isn’t Right, but Right’s
Might, Mr. Lavender; ha, ha!”

Mr. Lavender’s eyes lighted on his glass, and he emptied it in his
confusion. When he looked up again he could not see the Major very well,
but could distinctly hear the truculent bonhomie of his voice.

“Every German ought to be interned; all their property ought to be
confiscated; all their submarines’ and Zeppelins’ crews ought to be
hung; all German prisoners ought to be treated as they treat our men.
We ought to give ‘em no quarter. We ought to bomb their towns out of
existence. I draw the line at their women. Short of that there’s nothing
too bad for them. I’d treat ‘em like rabbits. Vermin they were, and
vermin they remain.”

During this speech the most astounding experience befell Mr. Lavender,
so that his eyes nearly started from his head. It seemed to him, indeed,
that he was seated at dinner with a Prussian, and the Major’s voice had
no sooner ceased its genial rasping than with a bound forward on his
chair, he ejaculated:

“Behold the man—the Prussian in his jack-boot!” And, utterly oblivious
of the fact that he was addressing Aurora’s father, he went on with
almost terrible incoherence: “Although you have conquered this country,
sir, never shall you subdue in my breast the sentiments of liberty
and generosity which make me an Englishman. I abhor you—invader of the
world—trampler underfoot of the humanities—enemy of mankind—apostle of
force! You have blown out the sparks of love and kindliness, and have
for ever robbed the Universe. Prussian!”

The emphasis with which he spoke that word caused his chair, on the edge
of which he was sitting, to tilt up under him so that he slid under the
table, losing the vision of that figure in helmet and field-grey which
he had been apostrophizing.

“Hold up!” said a voice, while Blink joined him nervously beneath the

“Never!” cried Mr. Lavender. “Imprison, maltreat me do what you
will. You have subdued her body, but never will I admit that you have
conquered the honour of Britain and trodden her gentle culture into the

And, convinced that he would now be dragged away to be confined in some
dungeon on bread and water, he clasped the leg of the dining-table with
all his might, while Blink, sagaciously aware that something peculiar
was occurring to her master, licked the back of his neck. He had been
sitting there perhaps half a minute, with his ears stretched to catch
the half-whispered sounds above, when he saw a shining object appear
under the table, the head, indeed, of the Prussian squatting there to
look at him.

“Go up, thou bald-head,” he called out at once; “I will make no terms
with the destroyer of justice and humanity.”

“All right, my dear sir,” replied the head.

“Will you let my daughter speak to you?”

“Prussian blasphemer,” responded Mr. Lavender, shifting his position so
as to be further away, and clasping instead of the table leg some soft
silken objects, which he was too excited to associate with Aurora,
“you have no daughter, for no woman would own one whose hated presence
poisons this country.”

“Well, well,” said the Major. “How shall we get him out?”

Hearing these words, and believing them addressed to a Prussian guard,
Mr. Lavender clung closer to the objects, but finding them wriggle in
his clasp let go, and, bolting forward like a rabbit on his hands
and knees, came into contact with the Major’s head. The sound of the
concussion, the Major’s oaths, Mr. Lavender’s moans, Blink’s barking,
and the peals of laughter from Aurora made up a noise which might have
been heard in Portugal. The situation was not eased until Mr. Lavender
crawled out, and taking up a dinner-knife, rolled his napkin round his
arm, and prepared to defend himself against the German Army.

“Well, I’m damned,” said the Major when he saw these preparations; “I am

Aurora, who had been leaning against the wall from laughter, here came
forward, gasping:

“Go away, Dad, and leave him to me.”

“To you!” cried the Major. “He’s not safe!”

“Oh yes, he is; it’s only you that are exciting him. Come along!”

And taking her father by the arm she conducted him from the room.
Closing the door behind him, and putting her back against it, she said,

“Dear Don Pickwixote, all danger is past. The enemy has been repulsed,
and we are alone in safety. Ha, ha, ha!”

Her voice recalled. Mr. Lavender from his strange hallucination. “What?”
he said weakly.

“Why? Who? Where? When?”

“You have been dreaming again. Let me take you home, and tuck you
into bed.” And taking from him the knife and napkin, she opened the
French-window, and passed out on to the lawn.

Lavender, who now that his reason had come back, would have followed her
to the death, passed out also, accompanied by Blink, and watched by the
Major, who had put his head in again at the door. Unfortunately, the
spirit moved Mr. Lavender to turn round at this moment, and seeing the
head he cried out in a loud voice:

“He is there! He is there! Arch enemy of mankind! Let me go and die
under his jackboot, for never over my living body shall he rule this
land.” And the infatuated gentleman would certainly have rushed at his
host had not Aurora stayed him by the slack of his nether garments. The
Major withdrawing his head, Mr. Lavender’s excitement again passed from
him, and he suffered himself to be led dazedly away and committed to the
charge of Mrs. Petty and Joe, who did not leave him till he was in bed
with a strong bromide to keep him company.


The strenuous experiences through which Mr. Lavender had passed resulted
in what Joe Petty called “a fair knock-out,” and he was forced to spend
three days in the seclusion of his bed, deprived of his newspapers. He
instructed Mrs. Petty, however, on no account to destroy or mislay any
journal, but to keep them in a pile in his study. This she did, for
though her first impulse was to light the kitchen fire with the five
of them every morning, deliberate reflection convinced her that twenty
journals read at one sitting would produce on him a more soporific
effect than if he came down to a mere five.

Mr. Lavender passed his three days, therefore, in perfect repose,
feeding Blink, staring at the ceiling, and conversing with Joe. An
uneasy sense that he had been lacking in restraint caused his mind to
dwell on life as seen by the monthly rather than the daily papers,
and to hold with his chauffeur discussions of a somewhat philosophical

“As regards the government of this country, Joe,” he said, on the last
evening of his retirement, “who do you consider really rules? For it is
largely on this that our future must depend.”

“Can’t say, sir,” answered Joe, “unless it’s Botty.”

“I do not know whom or what you signify by that word,” replied Mr.
Lavender; “I am wondering if it is the People who rule.”

“The People!” replied Joe; “the People’s like a gent in a lunatic
asylum, allowed to ‘ave instinks but not to express ‘em. One day it’ll
get aht, and we shall all step lively.”

“It is, perhaps, Public Opinion,” continued Mr. Lavender to himself, “as
expressed in the Press.”

“Not it,” said Joe, “the nearest opinion the Press gets to expressin’ is
that of Mayors. ‘Ave you never noticed, sir, that when the Press is ‘ard
up for support of an opinion that the public don’t ‘old, they go to the
Mayors, and get ‘em in two columns?”

“Mayors are most valuable public men,” said Mr. Lavender.

“I’ve nothin’ against ‘em,” replied Joe; “very average lot in their walk
of life; but they ain’t the People.”

Mr. Lavender sighed. “What, then, is the People, Joe?”

“I am,” replied Joe; “I’ve got no opinions on anything except that I
want to live a quiet life—just enough beer and ‘baccy, short hours, and
no worry.”

“‘If you compare that with the aspirations of Mayors you will see how
sordid such a standard is,” said Mr. Lavender, gravely.

“Sordid it may be, sir,” replied Joe; “but there’s, a thing abaht it
you ‘aven’t noticed. I don’t want to sacrifice nobody to satisfy my
aspirations. Why? Because I’ve got none. That’s priceless. Take the
Press, take Parlyment, take Mayors—all mad on aspirations. Now it’s
Free Trade, now it’s Imperialism; now it’s Liberty in Europe; now it’s
Slavery in Ireland; now it’s sacrifice of the last man an’ the last
dollar. You never can tell what aspiration’ll get ‘em next. And the ‘ole
point of an aspiration is the sacrifice of someone else. Don’t you make
a mistake, sir. I defy you to make a public speech which ‘asn’t got that
at the bottom of it.”

“We are wandering from the point, Joe,” returned Mr. Lavender. “Who is
it that governs, the country?”

“A Unseen Power,” replied Joe promptly.


“Well, sir, we’re a democratic country, ain’t we? Parlyment’s elected by
the People, and Gover’ment’s elected by Parlyment. All right so far;
but what ‘appens? Gover’ment says ‘I’m going to do this.’ So long as it
meets with the approval of the Unseen Power, well an’ good. But what
if it don’t? The U.P. gets busy; in an ‘undred papers there begins to
appear what the U.P. calls Public Opinion, that’s to say the opinion
of the people that agree with the U.P. There you ‘ave it, sir, only
them—and it appears strong. Attacks on the Gover’ment policy, nasty
things said abaht members of it that’s indiscreet enough to speak aht
what, they think—German fathers, and other secret vices; an’ what’s more
than all, not a peep at any opinion that supports the Gover’ment. Well,
that goes on day after day, playin’ on the mind of Parlyment, if they’ve
got any, and gittin’ on the Gover’ment’s nerves, which they’ve got weak,
till they says: ‘Look ‘ere, it’s no go; Public Opinion won’t stand it.
We shall be outed; and that’ll never do, because there’s no other set of
fellows that can save this country.’ Then they ‘ave a meetin’ and change
their policy. And what they’ve never seen is that they’ve never seen
Public Opinion at all. All they’ve seen is what the U.P. let ‘em. Now if
I was the Gover’ment, I’d ‘ave it out once for all with the U. P.”

“Ah!” cried Mr. Lavender, whose eyes were starting from his, head, so
profoundly was he agitated by what was to him a new thought.

“Yes,” continued Joe, “if I was the Gover’ment, next time it ‘appened,
I’d say: ‘All right, old cock, do your damnedest. I ain’t responsible to
you. Attack, suppress, and all the rest of it. We’re goin’ to do what
we say, all the same!’ And then I’d do it. And what’d come of it? Either
the U.P. would go beyond the limits of the Law—and then I’d jump on it,
suppress its papers, and clap it into quod—or it’d take it lyin’ down.
Whichever ‘appened it’d be all up with the U. P. I’d a broke its chain
off my neck for good. But I ain’t the Gover’ment, an Gover’ment’s got
tender feet. I ask you, sir, wot’s the good of havin’ a Constitooshion,
and a the bother of electing these fellows, if they can’t act according
to their judgment for the short term of their natural lives? The U.P.
may be patriotic and estimable, and ‘ave the best intentions and all
that, but its outside the Constitooshion; and what’s more, I’m not goin’
to spend my last blood an’ my last money in a democratic country to suit
the tastes of any single man, or triumpherate, or wotever it may be made
of. If the Government’s uncertain wot the country wants they can always
ask it in the proper way, but they never ought to take it on ‘earsay
from the papers. That’s wot I think.”

While he was speaking Mr. Lavender had become excited to the point of
fever, for, without intending it, Joe had laid bare to him a yawning
chasm between his worship of public men and his devotion to the Press.
And no sooner had his chauffeur finished than he cried: “Leave me, Joe,
for I must think this out.”

“Right, sir,” answered Joe with his smile, and taking the tea-tray from
off his master, he set it where it must infallibly be knocked over, and
went out.

“Can it be possible,” thought Mr. Lavender, when he was alone, “that
I am serving God and Mammon? And which is God and which is Mammon?” he
added, letting his thoughts play over the countless speeches and leading
articles which had formed his spiritual diet since the war began. “Or,
indeed, are they not both God or both Mammon? If what Joe says is true,
and nothing is recorded save what seems good to this Unseen Power, have
I not been listening to ghosts and shadows; and am I, indeed, myself
anything but the unsubstantial image of a public man? For it is true
that I have no knowledge of anything save what is recorded in the
papers.” And perceiving that the very basis of his faith was endangered,
he threw off the bedclothes, and began to pace the room. “Are we, then,
all,” he thought, “being bounded like india-rubber balls by an unseen
hand; and is there no one of us strong enough to bounce into the eye
of our bounder and overthrow him? My God, I am unhappy; for it is a
terrible thing not to know which my God is, and whether I am a public
man or an india-rubber ball.” And the more he thought the more dreadful
it seemed to him, now that he perceived that all those journals,
pamphlets, and reports with which his study walls were lined might not
be the truth, but merely authorized versions of it.

“This,” he said aloud, “is a nightmare from which I must awaken or lose
all my power of action and my ability to help my country in its peril.”

And sudden sweat broke out on his brow, for he perceived that he had
now no means of telling even whether there was a peril, so strangely had
Joe’s words affected his powers of credulity.

“But surely,” he thought, steadying himself by gripping his washstand,
“there was, at least, a peril once. And yet, how do I know even that,
for I have only been told so; and the tellers themselves were only told
so by this Unseen Power; and suppose it has made a mistake or has some
private ends to serve! Oh! it is terrible, and there is no end to
it.” And he shook the crockery in the spasms which followed the first
awakenings of these religious doubts. “Where, then, am I to go,” he
cried, “for knowledge of the truth? For even books would seem dependent
on the good opinion of this Unseen Power, and would not reach my eyes
unless they were well spoken of by it.”

And the more he thought the more it seemed to him that nothing could
help him but to look into the eyes of this Unseen Power, so that he
might see for himself whether it was the Angel of Truth or some Demon
jumping on the earth. No sooner had this conviction entered his brain
than he perceived how in carrying out such an enterprise he would not
only be setting his own mind at rest, and re-establishing or abolishing
his faith, but would be doing the greatest service which he could render
to his country and to all public men. “Thus,” he thought, “shall I
cannonize my tourney, and serve Aurora, who is the dawn of truth and
beauty in the world. I am not yet worthy, however, of this adventure,
which will, indeed, be far more arduous and distressing to accomplish
than any which I have yet undertaken. What can I do to brighten and
equip my mind and divest it of all those prejudices in which it may
unconsciously have become steeped? If I could leave the earth a short
space and commune with the clouds it might be best. I will go to Hendon
and see if someone will take me up for a consideration; for on earth I
can no longer be sure of anything.”

And having rounded off his purpose with this lofty design, he went back
to bed with his head lighter than a puff-ball.


On the morning following his resurrection Mr. Lavender set out very
early for the celebrated flying ground without speaking of his intention
to anyone. At the bottom of the hill he found to his annoyance that
Blink had divined his purpose and was following. This, which compelled
him to walk, greatly delayed his arrival. But chance now favoured him,
for he found he was expected, and at once conducted to a machine which
was about to rise. A taciturn young man, with a long jaw, and wings on
his breast, was standing there gazing at it with an introspective eye.

“Ready, sir?” he said.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Lavender, enveloped to the eyes in a garment of fur
and leather. “Will you kindly hold my dog?” he added, stroking Blink
with the feeling that he was parting for ever with all that was most
dear to him.

An attendant having taken hold of her by the collar, Mr. Lavender was
heaved into the machine, where the young airman was already seated in
front of him.

“Shall I feel sick?” asked Mr. Lavender.

“Probably,” said the young airman.

“That will not deter me, for the less material I become the better it
will be.”

The young airman turned his head, and Mr. Lavender caught the surprised
yellow of his eye.

“Hold on,” said the airman, “I’m going to touch her off.”

Mr. Lavender held on, and the machine moved but at this moment
Blink, uttering a dismal howl, leapt forward, and, breaking from the
attendant’s grasp, landed in the machine against Mr. Lavender’s chest.

“Stop! stop he cried!” my dog.

“Stuff her down,” said the unmoved airman, “between your legs. She’s not
the first to go up and won’t be the last to come down.”

Mr. Lavender stuffed her down as best he could. “If we are to be
killed,” he thought, “it will be together. Blink!” The faithful
creature, who bitterly regretted her position now that the motion had
begun, looked up with a darkened eye at Mr. Lavender, who was stopping
his ears against the horrible noises which had now begun. He too, had
become aware of the pit of his stomach; but this sensation soon passed
away in the excitement he felt at getting away from the earth, for they
were already at the height of a house, and rising rapidly.

“It is not at all like a little bird,” he thought, “but rather resembles
a slow train on the surface of the sea, or a horse on a switchback
merry-go-round. I feel, however, that my spirit will soon be free, for
the earth is becoming like a board whereon a game is played by an unseen
hand, and I am leaving it.” And craning his head out a little too far he
felt his chin knock against his spine. Drawing it in with difficulty he
concentrated his attention upon that purification of his spirit which
was the object of his journey.

“I am now,” he thought, “in the transcendent ether. It should give me
an amazing power of expression such as only the greatest writers and
orators attain; and, divorced as I am rapidly becoming from all sordid
reality, truth will appear to me like one of those stars towards which I
am undoubtedly flying though I cannot as yet see it.”

Blink, who between his legs had hitherto been unconscious of their
departure from the earth, now squirmed irresistibly up till her forepaws
were on her master’s chest, and gazed lugubriously at the fearful
prospect. Mr. Lavender clasped her convulsively. They were by now
rapidly nearing a flock of heavenly sheep, which as they approached
became ever more gigantic till they were transformed into monstrous
snow-fleeces intersected by wide drifts of blue.

“Can it be that we are to adventure above them?” thought Mr. Lavender.
“I hope not, for they seem to me fearful.” His alarm was soon appeased,
for the machine began to take a level course a thousand feet, perhaps,
below the clouds, whence little wraiths wandering out now and again
dimmed Mr. Lavender’s vision and moistened his brow.

Blink having retired again between her master’s legs, a sense of
security and exaltation was succeeding to the natural trepidation of Mr.
Lavender’s mood. “I am now,” he thought, “lifted above all petty plots
and passions on the wings of the morning. Soon will great thoughts begin
to jostle in my head, and I shall see the truth of all things made clear
at last.”

But the thoughts did not jostle, a curious lethargy began stealing over
him instead, so that his head fell back, and his mouth fell open. This
might have endured until he returned to earth had not the airman stopped
the engines so that they drifted ruminantly in space below the clouds.
With the cessation of the noise Mr. Lavender’s brain regained its
activity, and he was enchanted to hear the voice of his pilot saying:

“How are you getting on, sir?”

“As regards the sensation,” Mr. Lavender replied, “it is marvellous, for
after the first minute or two, during which the unwonted motion causes
a certain inconvenience, one grasps at once the exhilaration and joy of
this great adventure. To be in motion towards the spheres, and see the
earth laid out like a chess-board below you; to feel the lithe creature
beneath your body responding so freely to every call of its gallant
young pilot; to be filled with the scream of the engines, as of an eagle
at sport; to know that at the least aberration of the intrepid airman
we should be dashed into a million pieces; all this is largely
to experience an experience so unforgettable that one will
never—er—er—forget it.”

“Gosh!” said the young airman.

“Yes,” pursued Mr. Lavender, who was now unconsciously reading himself
in his morning’s paper, “one can only compare the emotion to that which
the disembodied spirit might feel passing straight from earth to heaven.
We saw at a great depth below us on a narrow white riband of road two
crawling black specks, and knew that they were human beings, the same
and no more than we had been before we left that great common place
called Earth.”

“Gum!” said the young airman, as Lavender paused, “you’re getting it
fine, sir! Where will it appear?”

“Those great fleecy beings the clouds,” went on Mr. Lavender, without
taking on the interruption, “seemed to await our coming in the morning
glory of their piled-up snows; and we, with the rarefied air in our
lungs, felt that we must shout to them.” And so carried away was Mr.
Lavender by his own style that he really did begin to address the
clouds: “Ghosts of the sky, who creep cold about this wide blue air, we
small adventuring mortals great-hearted salute you. Humbly proud of our
daring have we come to sport with you and the winds of Ouranos, and, in
the rapturous corridors between you, play hide-and seek, avoiding your
glorious moisture with the dips and curves and skimming of our swallow
flights—we, the little unconquerable Spirits of the Squirth!”

The surprise which Mr. Lavender felt at having uttered so peculiar
a word, in the middle of such a flow of poetry reduced him to sudden

“Golly!” said the airman with sudden alarm in his voice. “Hold tight!”
And they began to shoot towards earth faster than they had risen. They
came down, by what seemed a miracle to Mr. Lavender, who was still
contemplative, precisely where they had gone up. A little group was
collected there, and as they stepped out a voice said, “I beg your
pardon,” in a tone so dry that it pierced even the fogged condition
in which Mr. Lavender alighted. The gentleman who spoke had a dark
moustache and thick white hair, and, except that he wore a monocle, and
was perhaps three inches taller, bore a striking resemblance to himself.

“Thank you,” he replied, “certainly.”

“No,” said the gentleman, “not at all—on the contrary, Who the hell are

“A public man,” said Mr. Lavender, surprised; “at least,” he added
conscientiously, “I am not quite certain.”

“Well,” said the gentleman, “you’ve jolly well stolen my stunt.”

“Who, then, are you?” asked Mr. Lavender.

“I?” replied the gentleman, evidently intensely surprised that he was
not known; “I—my name——”

But at this moment Mr. Lavender’s attention was diverted by the sight of
Blink making for the horizon, and crying out in a loud voice: “My dog!”
he dropped the coat in which he was still enveloped and set off running
after her at full speed, without having taken in the identity of the
gentleman or disclosed his own. Blink, indeed, scenting another flight
in the air, had made straight for the entrance of the enclosure, and
finding a motor cab there with the door open had bolted into it, taking
it for her master’s car. Mr. Lavender sprang in after her. At the shake
which this imparted to the cab, the driver, who had been dozing, turned
his head.

“Want to go back, sir?” he said.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Lavender, breathless; “London.”


“I fear,” thought Mr. Lavender, as they sped towards Town, “that I have
inadvertently taken a joy-ride which belonged to that distinguished
person with the eyeglass. No matter, my spirit is now bright for the
adventure I have in hand. If only I knew where I could find the Unseen
Power—but possibly its movements may be recorded in these journals.” And
taking from his pocket his morning papers, which he had not yet had
time to peruse, he buried himself in their contents. He was still deeply
absorbed when the cab stopped and the driver knocked on the window. Mr.
Lavender got out, followed by Blink, and was feeling in his pocket for
the fare when an exclamation broke from the driver:

“Gorblimy! I’ve brought the wrong baby!”

And before Mr. Lavender had recovered from his surprise, he had whipped
the car round and was speeding back towards the flying ground.

“How awkward!” thought Mr. Lavender, who was extremely nice in money
matters; “what shall I do now?” And he looked around him. There, as it
were by a miracle, was the office of a great journal, whence obviously
his distinguished colleague had set forth to the flying grounds, and to
which he had been returned in error by the faithful driver.

Perceiving in all this the finger of Providence, Mr. Lavender walked in.
Those who have followed his experiences so far will readily understand
how no one could look on Mr. Lavender without perceiving him to be a man
of extreme mark, and no surprise need be felt when he was informed that
the Personage he sought was on the point of visiting Brighton to open a
hospital, and might yet be overtaken at Victoria Station.

With a beating heart he took up the trail in another taxi-cab, and,
arriving at Victoria, purchased tickets for himself and Blink, and
inquired for the Brighton train.

“Hurry up!” replied the official. Mr. Lavender ran, searching the
carriage windows for any indication of his objective. The whistle
had been blown, and he was in despair, when his eye caught the label
“Reserved” on a first-class window, and looking in he saw a single
person evidently of the highest consequence smoking a cigar, surrounded
by papers. Without a moment’s hesitation he opened the door, and,
preceded by Blink, leaped in. “This carriage is reserved, sir,” said the
Personage, as the train moved out.

“I know,” said Mr. Lavender, who had fallen on to the edge of the seat
opposite; “and only the urgency of my business would have caused me
to violate the sanctity of your retreat, for, believe me, I have the
instincts if not the habits of a gentleman.”

The Personage, who had made a move of his hand as if to bring the
train to a standstill, abandoning his design, replaced his cigar, and
contemplated Mr. Lavender from above it.

The latter remained silent, returning that remarkable stare, while Blink
withdrew beneath the seat and pressed her chin to the ground, savouring
the sensation of a new motion.

“Yes,” he thought, “those eyes have an almost superhuman force and
cunning. They are the eyes of a spider in the centre of a great web.
They seem to draw me.”

“You are undoubtedly the Unseen Power, sir,” he said suddenly, “and I
have reached the heart of the mystery. From your own lips I shall soon
know whether I am a puppet or a public man.”

The Personage, who by his movements was clearly under the impression
that he had to do with a lunatic, sat forward with his hands on his
knees ready to rise at a moment’s notice; he kept his cigar in his
mouth, however, and an enforced smile on the folds of his face.

“What can I do for you, sir?” he said.

“Will you have a cigar?”

“No, thank you,” replied Mr. Lavender, “I must keep the eyes of my
spirit clear, and come to the point. Do you rule this country or do you
not? For it is largely on the answer to this that my future depends.
In telling others what to do am I speaking as my conscience or as your
conscience dictates; and, further, if indeed I am speaking as your
conscience dictates, have you a conscience?”

The Personage, who had evidently made up his mind to humour the
intruder, flipped the ash off his cigar.

“Well, sir, he said, I don’t know who the devil you may be, but my
conscience is certainly as good as yours.”

“That,” returned Mr. Lavender with a sigh, “is a great relief, for
whether you rule the country or not, you are undoubtedly the source
from which I, together with the majority of my countrymen, derive our
inspirations. You are the fountainhead at which we draw and drink.
And to know that your waters are pure, unstained by taint of personal
prejudice and the love of power, will fortify us considerably. Am I
to assume, then, that above all passion and pettiness, you are an
impersonal force whose innumerable daily editions reflect nothing but
abstract truth, and are in no way the servants of a preconceived and
personal view of the situation?”

“You want to know too much, don’t you think?” said the Personage with a

“How can that be, sir?” asked Mr. Lavender: “If you are indeed the
invisible king swaying the currents of national life, and turning its
tides at will, it is essential that we should believe in you; and before
we can believe in you must we not know all about you?”

“By Jove, sir,” replied the Personage, “that strikes me as being
contrary to all the rules of religion. I thought faith was the ticket.”

By this answer Mr. Lavender was so impressed that he sat for a moment in
silence, with his eyebrow working up and down.

“Sir,” he said at last, “you have given me a new thought. If you are
right, to disbelieve in you and the acts which you perform, or rather
the editions which you issue, is blasphemy.”

“I should think so,” said the Personage, emitting a long whiff of smoke.
“Hadn’t that ever occurred to you before?”

“No,” replied Mr. Lavender, naively, “for I have never yet disbelieved
anything in those journals.”

The Personage coughed heartily.

“I have always regarded them,” went on Mr. Lavender, “as I myself should
wish to be regarded, ‘without fear and without reproach.’ For that is,
as I understand it, the principle on which a gentleman must live, ever
believing of others what he would wish believed of himself. With the
exception of Germans,” he added hastily.

“Naturally,” returned the Personage. “And I’ll defy you to find anything
in them which disagrees with that formula. Everything they print refers
to Germans if not directly then obliquely. Germans are the ‘idee fixe’,
and without an ‘idee fixe’, as you know, there’s no such thing as
religion. Do you get me?”

“Yes, indeed,” cried Mr. Lavender, enthused, for the whole matter now
seemed to him to fall into coherence, and, what was more, to coincide
with his preconceptions, so that he had no longer any doubts. “You,
sir—the Unseen Power—are but the crystallized embodiment of the national
sentiment in time of war; in serving you, and fulfilling the ideas which
you concrete in your journals, we public men are servants of the general
animus, which in its turn serves the blind and burning instinct of
justice. This is eminently satisfactory to me, who would wish no better
fate than to be a humble lackey in that house.” He had no sooner,
however, spoken those words than Joe Petty’s remarks about Public
Opinion came back to him, and he added: “But are you really the general
animus, or are you only the animus of Mayors, that is the question?”

The personage seemed to follow this thought with difficulty. “What’s
that?” he said.

Mr. Lavender ran his hands through his hair.

“And turns,” he said, “on what is the unit of national feeling and
intelligence? Is it or is it not a Mayor?”

The Personage smiled. “Well, what do you think?” he said. “Haven’t you
ever heard them after dinner? There’s no question about it. Make your
mind easy if that’s your only trouble.”

Mr. Lavender, greatly cheered by the genial certainty in this answer,
said: “I thank you, sir. I shall go back and refute that common scoffer,
that caster of doubts. I have seen the Truth face, to face, and am
greatly encouraged to further public effort. With many apologies I can
now get out,” he added, as the train stopped at South Croydon. “Blink!”
And, followed by his dog, he stepped from the train.

The Personage, who was indeed no other than the private secretary of the
private secretary of It whom Mr. Lavender had designated as the Truth
watched him from the window.

“Well, that WAS a treat, dear papa!” he murmured to himself, emitting a
sigh of smoke after his retreating interlocutor.


On the Sunday following this interview with the Truth Mr. Lavender, who
ever found the day of rest irksome to his strenuous spirit, left his
house after an early supper. It, had been raining all day, but the
sinking sun had now emerged and struck its level light into the tree
tops from a still cloudy distance. Followed by Blink, he threaded the
puddled waste which lies to the west of the Spaniard’s Road, nor was
it long before the wild beauty of the scene infected his spirit, and
he stood still to admire the world spread out. The smoke rack of misted
rain was still drifting above the sunset radiance in an apple-green sky;
and behind Mr. Lavender, as he gazed at those clouds symbolical of the
world’s unrest, a group of tall, dark pine-trees, wild and witch-like,
had collected as if in audience of his cosmic mood. He formed a striking
group for a painter, with the west wind flinging back his white hair,
and fluttering his dark moustache along his cheeks, while Blink, a
little in front of him, pointed at the prospect and emitted barks whose
vigour tossed her charming head now to this side now to that.

“How beautiful is this earth!” thought Mr. Lavender, “and how simple to
be good and happy thereon. Yet must we journey ten leagues beyond the
wide world’s end to find justice and liberty. There are dark powers
like lions ever in the path. Yes,” he continued, turning round to the
pinetrees, who were creaking slightly in the wind, “hate and oppression,
greed, lust, and ambition! There you stand malevolently regarding me.
Out upon you, dark witches of evil! If I had but an axe I would lay you
lower than the dust.” But the poor pine-trees paid no attention save
to creak a little louder. And so incensed was Mr. Lavender by this
insensibility on the part of those which his own words had made him
perceive were the powers of darkness that he would very likely have
barked his knuckles on them if Blink by her impatience had not induced
him to resume his walk and mount on to the noble rampart of the
Spaniard’s Road.

Along this he wandered and down the hill with the countless ghosts
and shadows of his brain, liberating the world in fancy from all the
hindrances which beset the paths of public men, till dark fell, and he
was compelled to turn towards home. Closely attended by the now sobered
Blink he had reached the Tube Station when he perceived in the inky
war-time dusk that a woman was following him. Dimly aware that she was
tall and graceful he hurried to avoid her, but before long could but
note that she was walking parallel and turning her face towards him. Her
gloved hand seemed to make a beckoning movement, and perceiving at once
that he was the object of that predatory instinct which he knew from
the many letters and protests in his journals to be one of the most
distressing features of the War, he would have broken into a run if he
had not been travelling up-hill; being deprived of this means of escape,
his public nature prevailed, and he saw that it was his duty to confront
the woman, and strike a blow at, the national evil stalking beside
him. But he was in a difficulty, for his natural delicacy towards
women seemed to preclude him from treating her as if she were what she
evidently was, while his sense of duty—urged him with equal force to do

A whiff of delicious scent determined him. “Madam,” he said, without
looking in her face, which, indeed, was not visible—so great was the
darkness, “it is useless to pursue one who not only has the greatest
veneration for women but regards you as a public danger at a time when
all the energies of the country should be devoted to the defeat of our
common enemies.”

The woman, uttering a sound like a laugh, edged towards him, and Mr.
Lavender edged away, so that they proceeded up the street crabwise, with
Blink adhering jealously to her master’s heels.

“Do you know,” said Mr. Lavender, with all the delicacy in his power,
“how terribly subversive of the national effort it is to employ your
beauty and your grace to snare and slacken the sinews of our glorious
youth? The mystery of a woman’s glance in times like these should be
used solely to beckon our heroes on to death in the field. But you,
madam, than whom no one indeed has a more mysterious glance, have turned
it to ends which, in the words of a great public man, profane the temple
of our—our——”

Mr. Lavender stopped, for his delicacy would not allow him even in so
vital a cause to call bodies bodies. The woman here edged so close that
he bolted across her in affright, and began to slant back towards the
opposite side of the street.

“Madam,” he said, “you must have perceived by now that I am, alas! not
privileged by age to be one of the defenders of my country; and though
I am prepared to yield to you, if by so doing I can save some young hero
from his fate, I wish you to clearly understand that only my sense of
duty as a public man would induce me to do any such thing.” At this he
turned his eyes dreadfully upon her graceful form still sidling towards
him, and, conscious again of that delightful scent, felt a swooning
sensation which made him lean against a lamp-post. “Spare me, madam,” he
said in a faint voice, “for my country’s sake I am ready to do anything,
but I must tell you that I worship another of your sex from afar, and if
you are a woman you will not seek to make me besmirch that adoration or
imperil my chivalry.”

So saying, he threw his arms round the lamppost and closed his eyes,
expecting every moment to be drawn away against his will into a life of

A well-known voice, strangled to the pitch almost of inaudibility, said
in his ear:

“Oh, Don Pickwixote, Don Pickwixote, you will be the death of me!”

Electrified, Mr. Lavender opened his eyes, and in the dull orange rays
of the heavily shaded lamp he saw beside him no other than the writhing,
choking figure of Aurora herself. Shocked beyond measure by the mistake
he had made, Mr. Lavender threw up his hands and bolted past her through
the gateway of his garden; nor did he cease running till he had reached
his bedroom and got under the bed, so terribly was he upset. There, in
the company of Blink, he spent perhaps the most shame-stricken hours of
his existence, cursing the memory of all those bishops and novelists who
had caused him to believe that every woman in a dark street was a danger
to the State; nor could the persuasion of Mrs. Petty or Joe induce him
to come out, so that in despair they were compelled to leave him to pass
the night in this penitential position, which he did without even taking
out his teeth.


Fully a week elapsed before Mr. Lavender recovered from the effects of
the night which he had spent under his bed and again took his normal
interest in the course of national affairs. That which at length tore
him from his torpid condition and refixed his imagination was an article
in one of, his journals on the League of Nations, which caused him
suddenly to perceive that this was the most important subject of the
day. Carefully extracting the address of the society who had the matter
in hand, he determined to go down forthwith and learn from their own
lips how he could best induce everybody to join them in their noble
undertaking. Shutting every window, therefore and locking Blink
carefully into his study, he set forth and took the Tube to Charing

Arriving at the premises indicated he made his way in lifts and
corridors till he came to the name of this great world undertaking
upon the door of Room 443, and paused for a moment to recover from the
astonishment he felt that the whole building at least was not occupied
by the energies of such a prodigious association.

“Appearances, however, are deceptive,” he thought; “and from a single
grain of mustard-seed whole fields will flower.” He knocked on the door,
therefore, and receiving the reply, “Cub id,” in a female voice, he
entered a room where two young ladies with bad colds were feebly tapping

“Can I see the President?” asked Mr. Lavender.

“Dot at the bobent,” said one of the young ladies. “Will the Secretary

“Yes,” replied Mr. Lavender “for I seek information.”

The young ladies indulged in secret confabulation, from which the
perpetual word “He” alone escaped to Mr. Lavender’s ears.

Then one of them slipped into an inner room, leaving behind her a
powerful trail of eucalyptus. She came back almost directly, saying, “Go

The room which Mr Lavender entered contained two persons, one seated at
a bureau and the other pacing up and down and talking in a powerful bass
voice. He paused, looked at Mr. Lavender from under bushy brows, and at
once went on walking and talking, with a sort of added zest.

“This must be He,” thought Mr. Lavender, sitting down to listen, for
there was something about the gentleman which impressed him at once. He
had very large red ears, and hardly a hair on his head, while his full,
bearded face and prominent eyes were full of force and genius.

“It won’t do a little bit, Titmarsh,” he was saying, “to allow the
politicians to meddle in this racket. We want men of genius, whose
imaginations carry them beyond the facts of the moment. This is too big
a thing for those blasted politicians. They haven’t shown a sign so far
of paying attention to what I’ve been telling them all this time. We
must keep them out, Titmarsh. Machinery without mechanism, and a change
of heart in the world. It’s very simple. A single man of genius from
each country, no pettifogging opposition, no petty prejudices.”

The other gentleman, whom Mr. Lavender took for the Secretary, and who
was leaning his head rather wearily on his hand, interjected: “Quite so!
And whom would you choose besides yourself? In France, for instance?”

He who was walking stopped a moment, again looked at Mr. Lavender
intently, and again began to speak as if he were not there.

“France?” he said. “There isn’t anybody—Anatole’s too old—there isn’t

“America, then?” hazarded the Secretary.

“America!” replied the other; “they haven’t got even half a man. There’s
that fellow in Germany that I used to influence; but I don’t know—no, I
don’t think he’d be any good.”

“D’Annunzio, surely——” began the Secretary.

“D’Annunzio? My God! D’Annunzio! No! There’s nobody in Italy or
Holland—she’s as bankrupt as Spain; and there’s not a cat in Austria.
Russia might, perhaps, give us someone, but I can’t at the moment think
of him. No, Titmarsh, it’s difficult.”

Mr. Lavender had been growing more and more excited at each word he
overheard, for a scheme of really stupendous proportions was shaping
itself within him. He suddenly rose, and said: “I have an idea.”

The Secretary sat up as if he had received a Faradic shock, and he who
was walking up and down stood still. “The deuce you have, sir,” he said.

“Yes,” cried Mr. Lavender and in concentration and marvellous
simplicity, “it has, I am sure, never been surpassed. It is clear to me,
sir, that you, and you alone, must be this League of Nations. For if it
is entirely in your hands there will be no delay. The plan will spring
full fledged from the head of Jove, and this great and beneficial change
in the lot of mankind will at once become an accomplished fact. There
will be no need for keeping in touch with human nature, no call for
patience and all that laborious upbuilding stone by stone which is so
apt to discourage mankind and imperil the fruition of great reforms. No,
sir; you—you must be this League, and we will all work to the end that
tomorrow at latest there may be perfected this crowning achievement of
the human species.”

The gentleman, who had commenced to walk again, looked furtively from
Mr. Lavender to the Secretary, and said:

“By Jingo! some idea!”

“Yes,” cried Mr. Lavender, entranced that his grand notion should be
at once accepted; “for it is only men like you who can both soaringly
conceive and immediately concrete in action; and, what is more, there
will be no fear of your tiring of this job and taking up another, for
you will be IT; and one cannot change oneself.”

The gentleman looked at Mr. Lavender very suddenly at the words “tiring
of this job,” and transferred his gaze to the Secretary, who had bent
his face down to his papers, and was smothering a snigger with his hand.

“Who are you, sir?” he said sharply.

“Merely one,” returned Mr. Lavender, “who wishes to do all in his power
to forward a project so fraught with beneficence to all mankind. I count
myself fortunate beyond measure to have come here this morning and found
the very Heart of the matter, the grain of mustard-seed.”

The gentleman, who had begun to walk again, here muttered words which
would have sounded like “Damned impudence” if Mr. Lavender had not been
too utterly carried away by his idea to hear them.

“I shall go forth at once,” he said, “and make known the good tidings
that the fields are sown, the League formed. Henceforth there are no
barriers between nations, and the reign of perpetual Peace is assured.
It is colossal.”

The gentleman abruptly raised his boot, but, seeming to think better of
it, lowered it again, and turned away to the window.

Mr. Lavender, having bowed to his back, went out, and, urged on by his
enthusiasm, directed his steps at once towards Trafalgar Square.

Arriving at this hub of the universe he saw that Chance was on his side,
for a meeting was already in progress, and a crowd of some forty persons
assembled round one of the lions. Owing to his appearance Mr. Lavender
was able without opposition to climb up on the plinth and join the
speaker, a woman of uncertain years. He stood there awaiting his turn
and preparing his oration, while she continued her discourse, which
seemed to be a protest against any interference with British control of
the freedom of the seas. A Union Jack happened to be leaning against the
monument, and when she had at last finished, Mr. Lavender seized it and
came forward to the edge.

“Great tidings!” he said at once, waving the flag, and without more ado
plunged into an oration, which, so far as it went, must certainly be
ranked among his masterpieces. “Great tidings, Friends! I have planted
the grain of mustard seed or, in common parlance, have just come from
the meeting which has incepted the League of Nations; and it will be my
task this morning briefly to make known to you the principles which in
future must dominate the policy of the world. Since it is for the
closer brotherhood of man and the reign of perpetual peace that we are
struggling, we must first secure the annihilation of our common enemies.
Those members of the human race whose infamies have largely placed them
beyond the pale must be eliminated once for all.”

Loud cheers greeted this utterance, and stimulated by the sound Mr.
Lavender proceeded: “What, however, must the civilized nations do when
at last they have clean sheets? In the first place, all petty prejudices
and provincial aspirations must be set aside; and though the world must
be firmly founded upon the principle of nationality it must also act as
one great people. This, my fellow-countrymen, is no mere contradiction
in terms, for though in their new solidarities each nation will be
prouder of itself, and more jealous of its good name and independence
than ever, that will not prevent its’ sacrificing its inalienable rights
for the good of the whole human nation of which it is a member. Friends,
let me give you a simple illustration, which in a nutshell will make the
whole thing clear. We, here in Britain, are justly proud and tenacious
of our sea power—in the words of the poet, ‘We hold all the gates of the
water.’ Now it is abundantly and convincingly plain that this reinforced
principle of nationality bids us to retain and increase them, while
internationalism bids us give—them up.”

His audience—which had hitherto listened with open mouths, here closed
them, and a strident voice exclaimed:

“Give it a name, gov’nor. D’you say we ought to give up Gib?”

This word pierced Mr. Lavender, standing where he was, to the very
marrow, and he fell into such confusion of spirit that his words became

“My God!” he thought, appalled; “is it possible that I have not got to
the bottom of this question?” And, turning his back on the audience, he
gazed in a sort of agony at the figure of Nelson towering into the sky
above him. He was about to cry out piteously: “Countrymen, I know not
what I think. Oh! I am unhappy!” when he inadvertently stepped back over
the edge of the plinth, and, still entangled in the flag, was picked
up by two policemen and placed in a dazed condition and a deserted spot
opposite the National Gallery.

It was while he was standing there, encircled by, pigeons and forgotten
by his fellow man, that there came to him a spiritual revelation.
“Strange!” he thought; “I notice a certain inconsistency in myself, and
even in my utterances. I am two men, one of whom is me and one not me;
and the one which is not me is the one which causes me to fall into the
arms of policemen and other troubles. The one which is me loves these
pigeons, and desires to live quietly with my dog, not considering public
affairs, which, indeed, seem to be suited to persons of another sort.
Whence, then, comes the one which is not me? Can it be that it is
derived from the sayings and writings of others, and is but a spurious
spirit only meet to be outcast? Do I, to speak in the vernacular, care
any buttons whether we stick to Gibraltar or not so long as men do but
live in kindness? And if that is so, have I the right to say I do? Ought
I not, rather, to be true to my private self and leave the course of
public affairs to those who have louder voices and no private selves?”
The thought was extremely painful, for it seemed to disclose to
him grave inconsistency in the recent management of his life. And,
thoroughly mortified, he turned round with a view of entering the
National Gallery and soothing his spirit with art, when he was arrested
by the placard which covered it announcing which town had taken which
sum of bonds. This lighted up such a new vista of public utility that
his brain would certainly have caught fire again if one of the policemen
who had conducted him across the Square had not touched him on the arm,
and said:

“How are you now, sir?”

“I am pretty well, thank you, policeman,” replied Mr. Lavender, “and
sorry that I occasioned so much disturbance.”

“Don’t mention it, sir,” answered the policeman; “you came a nasty

“Tell me,” said Mr. Lavender, suddenly looking up into his face, “do
you consider that a man is justified in living a private life? For, as
regards my future, it is largely on your opinion that I shall act.”

The policeman, whose solid face showed traces of astonishment, answered
slowly: “As a general thing, a man’s private life don’t bear lookin’
into, as you know, sir.”

“I have not lived one for some time,” said Mr. Lavender.

“Well,” remarked the policeman, “if you take my advice you won’t try it
a-gain. I should say you ‘adn’t the constitution.”

“I fear you do not catch my meaning,” returned Mr. Lavender, whose whole
body was aching from his fall; “it is my public life which tries me.”

“Well, then, I should chuck it,” said the policeman.

“Really?” murmured Mr. Lavender eagerly, “would you?”

“Why not?” said the policeman.

So excited was Mr. Lavender by this independent confirmation of his
sudden longing that he took out half a crown.

“You will oblige me greatly,” he said, “by accepting this as a token of
my gratitude.”

“Well, sir, I’ll humour you,” answered the policeman; “though it was
no trouble, I’m sure; you’re as light as a feather. Goin’ anywhere in
particular?” he added.

“Yes,” said Mr. Lavender, rather faintly, “the Tube Station.”

“Come along with me, then.”

Mr. Lavender went along, not sorry to have the protection of that
stalwart form, for his nerve was shaken, not so much by physical
suffering as by the revelation he had received.

“If you’ll take my tip, sir,” said the policeman, parting from him, “you
won’t try no private life again; you don’t look strong.”

“Thank you, policeman,” said Mr. Lavender musingly; “it is kind of you
to take an interest in me. Good-bye!”

Safely seated in the Tube for Hampstead he continued the painful
struggle of his meditations. “If, indeed,” he thought, “as a public
man I do more harm than good, I am prepared to sacrifice all for my
country’s sake and retire into private life. But the policeman said that
would be dangerous for me. What, then, is left? To live neither a public
nor a private life!”

This thought, at once painful and heroic, began to take such hold of him
that he arrived at his house in a high fever of the brain.


Now when Mr. Lavender once slept over an idea it became so strong that
no power on earth could prevent his putting it into execution, and all
night long he kept Blink awake by tramping up and down his bedroom and
planning the details of such a retirement as would meet his unfortunate
case. For at once he perceived that to retire from both his lives
without making the whole world know of it would be tantamount to
not retiring. “Only by a public act,” he thought, “of so striking a
character that nobody can miss it can I bring the moral home to all
public and private men.” And a hundred schemes swarmed like ants in his
brain. Nor was it till the cock crew that one adequate to this final
occasion occurred to him.

“It will want very careful handling,” he thought, “for otherwise I shall
be prevented, and perhaps even arrested in the middle, which will be
both painful and ridiculous. So sublime, however, was his idea that he
shed many tears over it, and often paused in his tramping to regard the
unconscious Blink with streaming eyes. All the next day he went about
the house and heath taking a last look at objects which had been dear,
and at mealtimes ate and drank even less than usual, absorbed by
the pathos of his coming renunciation. He determined to make his
preparations for the final act during the night, when Mrs. Petty would
be prevented by Joe’s snoring from hearing the necessary sounds; and at
supper he undertook the delicate and harrowing task of saying good-bye
to, his devoted housekeeper without letting her know that he, was doing

“Mrs—Petty,” he said, trifling with a morsel of cheese, “it is useless
to disguise, from you that I may be going a journey, and I feel that
I shall not be able to part from all the care you have, bestowed on me
without recording in words my heartfelt appreciation of your devotion. I
shall miss it, I shall miss it terribly, if, that is, I am permitted to
miss anything.”

Mrs. Petty, whose mind instantly ran to his bed socks, answered: “Don’t
you worry, sir; I won’t forget them. But wherever are you going now?”

“Ah!” said Mr. Lavender subtly, “it is all in the air at present; but
now that the lime-trees are beginning to smell a certain restlessness is
upon me, and you may see some change in my proceedings. Whatever happens
to me, however, I commit my dear Blink to your care; feed her as if she
were myself, and love her as if she were Joe, for it is largely on food
and affection that dogs depend for happiness.

“Why, good gracious, sir,” said Mrs. Petty, “you talk as if you were
going for a month of Sundays. Are you thinking of Eastbourne?”

Mr. Lavender sighed deeply at that word, for the memory of a town where
he had spent many happy days added to the gentle melancholy of his
feelings on this last evening.

“As regards that I shall not inform you at present; for, indeed, I am
by no means certain what my destination will be. Largely speaking, no
pub—public man,” he stammered, doubtful whether he was any longer that,
“knows where he will be going to-morrow. Sufficient unto the day are the
intentions in his head.

“Well, sir,” said Mrs. Petty frankly, “you can’t go anywhere without Joe
or me, that’s flat.”

Mr. Lavender smiled.

“Dear Mrs. Petty,” he murmured, “there are sacrifices one cannot demand
even of the most faithful friends. But,” he went on with calculated
playfulness, “we need not consider that point until the day after
to-morrow at least, for I have much to do in the meantime.”

Reassured by those words and the knowledge that Mr. Lavender’s plans
seldom remained the same for more than two days, Mrs. Petty tossed her
head slightly and went to the door. “Well, it is a mystery, I’m sure,”
she said.

“I should like to see Joe,” said Mr. Lavender, with a lingering look at
his devoted housekeeper.

“The beauty!” muttered Mrs. Petty; “I’ll send him,” and withdrew.

Giving the morsel of cheese to Blink, who, indeed, had eaten practically
the whole of this last meal, Mr. Lavender took the moon-cat on his
shoulder, and abandoned himself for a moment to the caresses of his two

“Blink,” he said in a voice which trembled slightly, “be good to this
moon-cat while I am away; and if I am longer than you expect, darling,
do not be unhappy. Perhaps some day you will rejoin me; and even if we
are not destined to meet again, I would not, in the fashion of cruel
men, wish to hinder your second marriage, or to stand in the way of your
happy forgetfulness of me. Be as light-hearted as you can, my dear, and
wear no mourning for your master.”

So saying, he flung his arms round her, and embraced her warmly,
inhaling with the most poignant emotion her sheep-like odour. He was
still engaged with her when the door was opened, and Joe came in.

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender resolutely, “sit down and light your pipe. You
will find a bottle of pre-war port in the sideboard. Open it, and,
drink my health; indeed, I myself will drink it too, for it may give
me courage. We have been good friends, Joe,” he went on while Joe
was drawing the cork, “and have participated in pleasant and sharp
adventures. I have called you in at this moment, which may some day seem
to you rather solemn, partly to shake your hand and partly to resume the
discussion on public men which we held some days ago, if you remember.”

“Ah!” said Joe, with his habitual insouciance, “when I told you that
they give me the ‘ump.”

“Yes, what abaht it, sir? ‘Ave they been sayin’ anything particular
vicious?” His face flying up just then with the cork which he was
extracting encountered the expression on Mr. Lavender’s visage, and he
added: “Don’t take wot I say to ‘eart, sir; try as you like you’ll never
be a public man.”

Those words, which seemed to Mr. Lavender to seal his doom, caused a
faint pink flush to invade his cheeks.

“No,” continued Joe, pouring out the wine; “you ‘aven’t got the brass
in times like these. I dare say you’ve noticed, sir, that the times
is favourable for bringing out the spots on the body politic. ‘Ere’s

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender, raising the glass to his lips with solemnity,
“I wish you a most happy and prosperous life. Let us drink to all those
qualities which make you par excellence one of that great race, the best
hearted in the world, which never thinks of to-morrow, never knows when
it is beaten, and seldom loses its sense of humour.

“Ah!” returned Joe enigmatically, half-closing one of his greenish eyes,
and laying the glass to one side of his reddish nose. Then, with a quick
movement, he swallowed its contents and refilled it before Mr. Lavender
had succeeded in absorbing more than a drop.

“I don’t say,” he continued, “but what there’s a class o’ public man
that’s got its uses, like the little ‘un that keeps us all alive, or
the perfect English gentleman what did his job, and told nobody nothin’
abaht it. You can ‘ave confidence in a man like that——that’s why ‘e’s
gone an’ retired; ‘e’s civilized, you see, the finished article; but all
this raw material, this ‘get-on’ or ‘get-out’ lot, that’s come from
‘oo knows where, well, I wish they’d stayed there with their
tell-you-how-to-do-it and their ‘ymns of ‘ate.”

“Joe,” said Mr. Lavender, “are you certain that therein does not speak
the snob inherent in the national bosom? Are you not unconsciously
paying deference to the word gentleman?”

“Why not, sir?” replied Joe, tossing off his second glass. “It’d be
a fine thing for the country if we was all gentlemen—straight, an’ a
little bit stupid, and ‘ad ‘alf a thought for others.” And he refilled
his master’s glass. “I don’t measure a gentleman by ‘is money, or ‘is
title, not even by ‘is clothes—I measure ‘im by whether he can stand
‘avin’ power in ‘is ‘ands without gettin’ unscrupled or swollen ‘eaded,
an’ whether ‘e can do what he thinks right without payin’ attention,
to clamour. But, mind you, ‘e’s got to ‘ave right thoughts too, and a
feelin’ ‘eart. ‘Ere’s luck, sir.”

Mr. Lavender, who, absorbed in his chauffeur’s sentiments, had now drunk
two glasses, rose from his, chair, and clutching his hair said: “I will
not conceal from you, Joe, that I have always assumed every public man
came up to that standard, at least.”

“Crikey said Joe. ‘Ave you really, sir? My Gawd! Got any use for the
rest of this bottle?”

“No, Joe, no. I shall never have use for a bottle again.”

“In that case I might as well,” said Joe, pouring what remained into
a tumbler and drinking it off. “Is there any other topic you’d like to
mention? If I can ‘ave any influence on you, I shall be very glad.”

“Thank you, Joe,” returned Mr. Lavender, “what I have most need of at
this moment is solitude and your good wishes. And will you kindly take
Blink away, and when she has had her run, place her in my bedroom, with
the window closed. Good-night, Joe. Call me late tomorrow morning.

“Certainly, sir. Good-night, sir.”

“Good-night, Joe. Shake hands.”

When Joe was gone, accompanied by the unwilling Blink, turning her
beautiful dark eyes back to the last, Mr. Lavender sat down at his
bureau, and drawing a sheet of paper to him, wrote at the top of it.

   “My last Will and Testament.”

It was a long time before he got further, and then entirely omitted
to leave anything in it, completely preoccupied by the preamble, which
gradually ran as follows:

   “I, John Lavender, make known to all men by these presents that the
   act which I contemplate is symbolical, and must in no sense be taken
   as implying either weariness of life or that surrender to misfortune
   which is unbecoming to an English public gentleman.” (Over this
   description of himself Mr. Lavender was obliged to pause some time
   hovering between the two designations, and finally combining them as
   the only way out of his difficulty.) “Long and painful experience
   has convinced me that only by retiring from the former can I retain
   the latter character, and only by retiring from both can I point the
   moral ever demanded by my countrymen. Conscious, indeed, that a
   mere act of private resignation would have no significance to the
   body politic, nor any deflecting influence on the national life, I
   have chosen rather to disappear in blue flame, so that every
   Englishman may take to heart my lesson, and learn from my strange
   fate how to be himself uninfluenced by the verbiage of others. At
   the same time, with the utmost generosity, I wish to acknowledge in
   full my debt towards all those great writers and speakers on the war
   who have exercised so intoxicating an influence on my mind.” (Here
   followed an alphabetical list of names beginning with B and ending
   with S.)

   “I wish to be dissociated firmly from the views of my chauffeur Joe
   Petty, and to go to my last account with an emphatic assertion that
   my failure to become a perfect public gentleman is due to private
   idiosyncrasies rather than to any conviction that it is impossible,
   or to anything but admiration of the great men I have mentioned. If
   anybody should wish to paint me after I am dead, I desire that I may
   be represented with my face turned towards the Dawn; for it is at
   that moment so symptomatic of a deep adoration—which I would scorn
   to make the common property of gossiping tongues—that I intend to
   depart. If there should be anything left of me—which is less than
   probable considering the inflammatory character of the material I
   design for my pyre—I would be obliged if, without giving anybody
   any trouble, it could be buried in my garden, with the usual
   Hampstead tablet.

               “‘JOHN LAVENDER,

   “In conclusion, I would say a word to that land I have loved and
   served: ‘Be not extreme! Distrust the words, of others. To
   yourself be true! As you are strong be gentle, as you are brave be
   modest! Beloved country, farewell!’”

Having written that final sentence he struggled long with himself before
he could lay down the pen. But by this time the port he had drunk had
begun to have its usual effect, and he fell into a doze, from which he
was awakened five hours later by the beams of a full moon striking in on

“The hour has come,” he thought, and, opening the French-window, he went
out on to the lawn, where the dew lay white. The freshness in the air,
the glamour of the moonlight, and the fumes of the port combined to
make him feel strangely rhumantic, and if he had possessed a musical
instrument he would very likely have begun to play on it. He spent some
moments tracking to and fro in the dew before he settled on the centre
of the lawn as the most suitable spot for the act which he contemplated,
for thence he would be able to turn his last looks towards Aurora’s
bedroom-window without interference from foliage. Having drawn a
twelve-foot circle in the dew with his toe he proceeded in the bright
moonlight to the necessary accumulation of his funeral pile, conveying
from his study, book by book, journal by journal, pamphlet by pamphlet,
the hoarded treasures of the last four years; and as he carefully placed
each one, building up at once a firm and cunning structure, he gave a
little groan, thinking of the intoxications of the past, and all the
glorious thoughts embodied in that literature. Underneath, in the heart
of the pile, he reserved a space for the most inflammable material,
which he selected from a special file of a special journal, and round
the circumference of the lofty and tapering mound he carefully deposited
the two hundred and four war numbers of a certain weekly, so that a ring
of flame might lick well up the sides and permeate the more solid matter
on which he would be sitting. For two hours he worked in the waning
moonlight till he had completed this weird and heroic erection; and just
before the dawn, sat down by the light of the candle with which he meant
to apply the finishing touch, to compose that interview with himself
whereby he intended to convey to the world the message of his act.

“I found him,” he began, in the words of the interviewer, “sitting upon
a journalistic pile of lovely leaves of thought, which in the dawning
of a new day glowed with a certain restrained flamboyance, as though the
passion stored within those exotic pages gave itself willingly to the
‘eclaircissement’ of the situation, and of his lineaments on which
suffering had already set their stamp.

“‘I should like you,’ I said, approaching as near as I could, for
the sparks, like little fireflies on a Riviera evening, were playing
profoundly round my trousers, ‘I should like to hear from your own lips
the reasons which have caused you to resign.’

“‘Certainly,’ he replied, with the courtesy which I have always found
characteristic of him in moments which would try the suavity of more
ordinary men; and with the utmost calm and clarity he began to tell me
the inner workings of his mind, while the growing dawn-light irradiated
his wasted and expressive features, and the flames slowly roasted his
left boot.

“‘Yes,’ he said quietly, and his eyes turned inwards, ‘I have at last
seen the problem clearly, and seen it whole. It is largely because of
this that I have elected to seek the seclusion of another world. What
that world contains for me I know not, though so many public men have
tried to tell me; but it has never been my way to recoil from the
Unknown, and I am ready for my journey beyond the wide world’s end.’

“I was greatly struck by the large-hearted way in which he spoke those
words, and I interrupted him to ask whether he did not think that there
was something fundamental in the British character which would leap as
one man at such an act of daring sacrifice and great adventure.

“‘As regards that,’ he replied fearlessly, while in the light of the
ever-brightening dawn I could, see the suspender on his right leg
gradually charring, so that he must already have been in great pain, ‘as
regards that, it is largely the proneness of the modern British to
leap to verbal extremity which is inducing me to afford them this
object-lesson in restraint and commonsense. Ouch!’

“This momentary ejaculation seemed to escape him in spite of all his
iron control; and the smell of burning flesh brought home to me as
nothing else, perhaps, could have done the tortures he must have been

“‘I feel,’ he went on very gravely, ‘that extravagance of word and
conduct is fatal to my country, and having so profoundly experienced
its effects upon myself, I am now endeavouring by a shining example
to supply a remedy for a disease which is corroding the vitals and
impairing the sanity of my countrymen and making them a race of
second-hand spiritual drunkards. Ouch!’

“I confess that at this moment the tears started to my eyes, for a more
sublime show than the spectacle of this devoted man slowly roasting
himself to death before my eyes for the good of his country I had seldom
seen. It had a strange, an appalling interest, and for nothing on earth
could I have torn my gaze away. I now realized to the full for the first
time the will-power and heroism of the human species, and I rejoiced
with a glorious new feeling that I was of the same breed as this man,
made of such stern stuff that not even a tear rolled down his cheeks to
quench the flames that leaped around him ever higher and higher. And
the dawn came up in the eastern sky; and I knew that a great day was
preparing for mankind; and with my eyes fixed upon him as he turned
blacker and blacker I let my heart loose in a great thanksgiving that
I had lived to see this moment. It was then that he cried out in a loud

“‘I call Aurora to witness that I have died without a falter, grasping a
burning spear, to tilt at the malpractice which has sent me mad!’ And
I saw that he held in his fast-consuming hand a long roll of journals
sharpened to a point of burning flame.

“‘Aurora!’ he cried again, and with that enigmatic word on his lips was
incinerated in the vast and towering belch of the devouring element.

“It was among the most inspiring sights I have ever witnessed.”

When Mr. Lavender had completed that record, whose actuality and wealth
of moving detail had greatly affected him, and marked it “For the
Press-Immediate,” he felt very cold. It was, in fact, that hour of
dawn when a shiver goes through the world; and, almost with pleasurable
anticipation he took up his lighted candle and stole shivering out to
his pile, rising ghostly to the height of some five feet in the middle
of the dim lawn whereon a faint green tinge was coming with the return
of daylight. Having reached it, he walked round it twice, and readjusted
four volumes of the history of the war as stepping-stones to the top;
then lowering the candle, whose flame burned steadily in the stillness,
he knelt down in the grey dew and set fire to an article in a Sunday
paper. Then, sighing deeply, he returned to his little ladder and, with
some difficulty preserving his balance, mounted to the top, and sat
down with his legs towards the house and his eyes fixed on Aurora’s
bedroom-window. He had been there perhaps ten minutes before he
realized that nothing was happening below him, and, climbing down again,
proceeded to the aperture where he had inserted the burning print.
There, by the now considerable daylight, he saw that the flame had gone
out at the words “The Stage is now set for the last act of this colossal
world drama.” And convinced that Providence had intended that heartening
sentence to revive his somewhat drooping courage, he thought, “I, too,
shall be making history this morning,” and relighting the journal, went
on his hands and knees and began manfully to blow the flames....

Now the young lady in the adjoining castle, who had got out of bed,
happened, as she sometimes did, to go to the window for a look at the
sun rising over Parliament Hill. Attracted by the smell of burning paper
she saw Mr. Lavender in this act of blowing up the flames.

“What on earth is the poor dear doing now?” she thought. “This is really
the limit!” And slipping on her slippers and blue dressing-gown she
ensconced herself behind the curtain to await developments.

Mr. Lavender had now backed away from the flames at which he had been
blowing, and remained on his hands and knees, apparently assuring
himself that they had really obtained hold. He then rose, and to her
intense surprise began climbing up on to the pile. She watched him at
first with an amused astonishment, so ludicrous was his light little
figure, crowned by stivered-up white hair, and the expression of eager
melancholy on his thin, high-cheekboned face upturned towards her
window. Then, to her dismay, she saw that the flame had really caught,
and, suddenly persuaded that he had some crazy intention of injuring
himself with the view, perhaps, of attracting her attention, she ran out
of her room and down the stairs, and emerging from the back door just
as she was, circled her garden, so that she might enter Mr. Lavender’s
garden from behind him, ready for any eventuality. She arrived within
arm’s reach of him without his having heard her, for Blink, whose
anxious face as she watched her master wasting, could be discerned at
the bedroom-window, was whining, and Mr. Lavender himself had now broken
into a strange and lamentable chantey, which, in combination with the
creeping flutter of the flames in the weekly journals encircling the
base of the funeral pyre, well-nigh made her blood curdle.

“Aurora,” sang Mr. Lavender, in that most dolorous voice,

     “Aurora, my heart I bring,
     For I know well it will not burn,
     Oh! when the leaves puff out in Spring
     And when the leaves in Autumn turn
        Think, think of me!
     Aurora, I pass away!
     Upon my horse of air I ride;
     Here let my grizzled ashes stay,
     But take, ah! take my heart inside!
        Aurora! Aurora!”

At this moment, just as a fit of the most uncontrollable laughter was
about to seize her, she saw a flame which had just consumed the word
Horatio reach Mr. Lavender’s right calf.

“Oh!” he cried out in desperate tones, stretching up his arms to the
sky. “Now is my hour come! Sweet-sky, open and let me see her face!
Behold! behold her with the eyes of faith. It is enough. Courage,
brother; let me now consume in silence!” So saying, he folded his arm
tightly across his breast and closed his lips. The flame rising to the
bottom of the weekly which had indeed been upside down, here nipped him
vigorously, so that with a wholly unconscious movement he threw up his
little legs, and, losing his balance, fell backwards into the arms of
Aurora, watchfully outstretched to receive him. Uplifted there, close to
that soft blue bosom away from the reek of the flame, he conceived that
he was consumed and had passed already from his night of ghosts and
shadows into the arms of the morning, and through his swooning lips came
forth the words:

“I am in Paradise.”

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Burning Spear: Being the Experiences of Mr. John Lavender in the Time of War" ***

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